Sometimes we forget how effective case studies can be
Rather than just telling your audience what you do, case studies are opportunities to actually demonstrate your ability to effect change, to showcase your expertise, to document how you’ve successfully helped your clients increase revenue.
An audit to understand marketing effectiveness
I’ve been working with one client for seven years. When we began working together, I did an audit to understand how they were spending their marketing dollars and how effective that investment was. They had a website and a presence on Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter, but posts were sporadic and haphazard. The person who had been writing blogs was neither local nor generating content that was relevant to their Bay Area clients. A monthly newsletter wasn’t showcasing their range of services.
Blogs became the workhorse of their content marketing program
My immediate goal was to improve the quality of their weekly blogs, which became the workhorse of our content marketing program. Well-written blogs accomplish a few things. They provide fresh content for your website and increase your SEO value, helping it rank in search engines. A blog is also an opportunity for you to share your expertise and position yourself as a thought leader. It doesn’t stop there. Your blog can be repurposed in your monthly newsletter. Excerpts can be used in social media posts. Add a link back to your website to drive traffic to your site.
Increased web referrals by 50%
Over the course of the next year or so, our metrics showed that our steady efforts were paying off. Our website referrals increased by 50%. Since then, we’ve created a brand new website and rewritten the content, but we’ve continued to stick with our quality blogs, social media posts and monthly newsletter.
Things that I do to help raise SEO value and clickthrough rates
- Create crisp, attention-getting subject lines for blogs and newsletters
- Identify and deploy keywords/phrases liberally throughout all content.
- Write consistently high-quality content.
What we’re doing during the coronavirus lockdown
This client has closed down one office, has most of his team working virtually and is expanding to new locations. Staying nimble and making critical business decisions as the economic landscape shifts is not something everyone can do. One thing I’ve always admired about this client is his ability to make decisions. No tortured conversations or looking back with regret.
We’re also rebranding
We’re developing a new logo, which means new marketing collateral and a new website. In the virtual world that is the new norm—at least for the foreseeable future–we’re rethinking the way we’re perceived in the marketplace and the value we bring to our clients. Like every business owner these days, we’re identifying the pain point. When you break it down, it’s nearly always that simple. What is the problem that we can solve?
Now is the perfect time to work on your marketing!
Influencers have Instagram accounts, YouTube channels, social sites, and blogs. They’ve spent time developing their communities and built their brands that make fellow travelers or wannabes want to follow them for their content—not just their words.
A LinkedIn company page is about your company rather than you, as an individual. Let’s optimize that page so it’s consistent with your brand and overall online presence and contributes to your Google authority.
Anyone who’s worked in print or electronic media—which is pretty much everyone these days–knows that finding good stockphoto images is a challenge. I find myself on a mission every week looking for authenticity–images that feature real people doing real stuff. I avoid those shots of insanely beautiful white people posing for the cameras. We’re a multiethnic community, so I also need images that reflect diversity as I enjoy my stunning free stock photo images!
Happily, we may be getting closer to sunsetting the uninspired stockphoto images we’re accessing now. Kudos to those who are taking stunning pictures 24/7 and sharing their work. Take a minute to thank them–each site provides the opportunity when you download your free stockphoto images.
These are some of the free stockphoto sites.
- Pexels. An extensive, free collection of beautiful, high-quality stock photos. Includes a useful feature that presents similar photos to the one you’re reviewing.
- Unsplash. A handy search bar to find exactly what you’re looking for. Take a look at the Collections of photos, such as Green, Workplace, Minimal, etc. This feature can help you identify a large collection of images at once.
- Pixabay. High-quality vectors and illustrations as well photos. Pixabay makes it easy to make a small donation to the artist by buying them a coffee.
- Stock Vault. A large collection of free textures work as backgrounds for text-based Instagram posts. 100% free; noattribution necessary for any images you find on the site.
- Burst by Shopify. A great source for free Instagram photos. An ecommerce platform, Burst hasbusiness-related stock images to help you create better social-media campaigns, websites and marketing materials.New images added every week.
- Gratisography. An especially great photo source if you run a travel, nature, or animal-related Instagram account. New photos are added weekly. Use them without attribution.
- Death to the Stock Photo. You need to become a member to access this highly curated selection of images, but you can still do this for free. Premium photos, videos, graphics, and media downloads. You’ll only get a certain selection of images per month at the free membership level.
- Foodie’s Feed. Professional-quality food pics for foodies. These images are stunning, though the quantity is limited. Use these to supplement your own food images.
- StyledStock. Think female entrepreneur vibe for your Instagram feed or blog. Collection is small, but quality is high.
- FreePhotos. A mix of both free and paid content, but a good selection of quality free photos. Easy search by category.
The photography is clever, creative and original
These sites are a big step up from traditional stockphoto sites. Drawbacks? For one of my clients, I need to find blog and social images every week for a demographic that is laughingly underrepresented on these sites—those 40 and older! Also missing are business photos showing job variety. These sites also don’t have huge volumes of images. But key in your search word and see what happens. They’re well worth the effort–the images are beautiful.
If one of your New Year goals is to begin or beef up your content marketing program, here are some tips.
Content marketing propels awareness, builds trust and drives sales
Content is the backbone of the web and includes landing pages, blogs, whitepapers, eBooks and social media posts. Content is what generates organic SEO for your website. Questions surface about whether or not blogs are still important–remember that search-engine ranking starts with keywords—blogs remain the best way to populate your site with quality content.
Websites have become increasingly visual, and those with images perform better than those without. But think about mixing up visual content.
- Infographics are very effective and easy to create. I’ve been using a free app called Piktochart that’s ridiculously easy to use and I’m finding new ways to use it.
- Use a quote or testimonial as a pullquote—it becomes a graphic and it’s a great way to draw attention to an important statement while also providing visual appeal.
- Slide presentations. Upload slide presentations as pdf files. Provide an overview and a key image to entice your readers.
- Animated GIFs have become part of the landscape.
Videos have become very popular—especially among younger users. They also boost your SEO value. There are many DIY tools for creating your own videos, but the quality can be marginal. Think about what you want your ideal clients to be viewing. Videos can be:
- How to/instructional
- Quick tips
- Webinar recordings
YouTube and Facebook are the most popular channels for publishing video content. YouTube tends to do better with longer-form video.
Electronic books—eBooks–have become incredibly popular. They provide significant value by offering long-form topical discussion. Ebooks are typically PDF files and include a mix of text and images.
White papers are longer-form content used to convey data-driven insights or case studies. Like eBooks, white papers are also great lead magnets.
Using keywords correctly will help your content rank higher. Doing keyword research is an important part of every content marketing program. Use free tools such as Google Keyword Planner or Ubersuggest.
- Use keywords in the title of your content.
- Mention keywords at least once in the first paragraph of your post.
- Use your keyword in at least one H2 heading.
- Maintain a keyword ratio of 2% of total word count.
Note that search engines are becoming smart and intuitive. They know the difference between natural keyword usage and keyword stuffing.
Longer blog posts typically perform best
When writing blog posts, longer is usually better–2,000 words is good minimum target for your articles. You’re thinking “Nobody is ever going to read this!” Buzzsumo analyzed 100 million articles, and found that people are more likely to share longer articles. I believe you need at least 300+ words to rank well. Frontload your article, with the most important information in the first couple of paragraphs.
Search has changed, which means it’s time to rethink the way we create content.
Google has gotten a lot smarter about making associations
Google’s algorithm is constantly evolving to provide the best possible answers to searchers’ queries. If you search for “running shoes,” Google will now also serve up results for related words, such as “sneakers.” Google is now interpreting conversational queries as entire thoughts rather than individual keywords. An estimated 64% of searches are four words or more.
Organize websites according to main topics
As a result of Google’s evolution and our subsequent behavior, websites need to be organized according to main topics. In the current model, we create individual blog posts that rank according to specific keywords. The result is disorganized, difficult for users to find the exact information they need. It also results in our own URLs competing against one another in search-engine rankings because we produce multiple blog posts on similar topics.
A better solution: Creating pillar pages with links to more specific topic clusters
The first step in creating a pillar page is to stop thinking about your site in terms of just keywords. Start thinking about the topics you want to rank for first. Choose a topic that’s broad enough that it can generate more related blog posts that will serve as cluster content, but not so broad that you can’t cover the entire topic on a single pillar page.
- Let’s say you write a pillar page about content marketing. It’s a very broad topic, so your cluster topics might be about blogging or social media.
- Fundamental to the pillar-page concept is a comprehensive linking strategy among the pillar page and its cluster topics.
- A pillar page should answer questions about a particular topic but leave room for more detail in subsequent, related cluster topics.
Pillar pages and SEO: More inbound links = higher placement in search
Pillar pages help position your content so users can easily browse your website and consume your blog posts, videos and infographics. There’s a lot of clutter online, and it can confuse Google’s algorithms. Google loves a clean website experience with a thoughtful linking strategy that tells it exactly what each piece of content is about. Inbound marketing and sales expert HubSpot experienced an increase in their rankings when they used more internal links.
Use personas to help identify the interests and challenges of your audience
If you haven’t created personas, this is a great time to do it. Your personas will help identify the top interests and challenges of your audience, providing topics for pillar-page content.
I’m doing some reorganization of my own website to more closely follow the pillar-page concept, and I’m finding it helpful to create an organizational chart that maps out broad topics that are my pillar pages and the cluster topics that support them.
Your pillar page will gain Google authority through the quality inbound links from your subtopic content.
Need help rethinking your website content? Give me a call—let’s strategize about how we can make your content work for you.
The Super Bowl is over for another year. Enough of Tom Brady and the Patriots; this year we handed the Lombardi trophy over to the Philadelphia’s Eagles, the underrated underdog that never stopped winning. And now it’s over. Hundreds of players can begin to heal their bruised and battered bodies before another violent season starts again in the fall.
Not a fan? Not a problem. Tune in for superbowl parties and ads
But the SuperBowl is so much more than a ballgame. This has been a year of political upheaval, so we expected advertisers to be sharing their not so subtle anti-Trump views throughout the game. We started out with an ad from Mass Mutual that had an overarching theme of people reaching out across demographics to help others, to create community. I thoroughly expected this to set the tone for the evening, but there were relatively few of these kinds of ads.
The NFL scored big with Odell and Eli
Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. teamed for a Dirty Dancing tribute to the new touchdown celebrations that emerged across the league this season. But there was another takeaway. It clearly illustrated the relationship between dancing and athletics. Don’t underestimate the strength and athleticism of dancers . The Giants had a miserable season. Odell suffered an early season-ending injury and Eli sat out at least one game. I’m looking for the Giants to stage a comeback next year.
There was T-Mobile ad with adorable little babies
Notable was the T-Mobile ad, featuring a lineup of adorable little cross-cultural babies. “Some people may see your differences and be threatened by them, but you are unstoppable. You’ll love who you want. Change starts now.” The ad created a Tweet storm from Trump supporters who promised to end service with T-Mobile. This was clearly not the way to MAGA. These people accused the T-Mobile folks of being SJWs–Social justice warriors.
Tide may have been the big winner
Procter & Gamble, the company that’s not afraid to spend big on advertising, scored a win with their stealth campaign, starring David Harbour. Their four terrific commercials spaced across four quarters was easily the game’s best campaign. You have to hand it P&G—making laundry detergent fun and interesting ain’t easy.
- Kudos to Toyota, who made a social statement by focusing on inspiring athletes with artificial limbs. “When you’re free to move, anything’s possible.”
- Danny DeVito starred as an M&M, which dovetails with my curiosity about M&Ms—when did these little candy-coated chocolate morsels become cartoon characters?
- We learned about the efficiency of a Pringles stack: Create all the flavors of a pizza by stacking three Pringles—spicy cheese, pizza and barbecue.
- Coke introduced their four new diet coke flavors— Ginger Lime, Feisty Cherry, Zesty Blood Orange and Twisted Mango. I just learned that Coke tested more than 30 flavors with 10,000 people before deciding on these flavors which they hope will bring new fans to the brand.
- Oz was the spokesperson for Turkish Airlines. Exotic Turkey, with one foot in the east and the other in the west. Dr. Oz, of course, is from Turkey.
- Sadly, Budweiser chose to do endless dilly-dilly ads for Bud Light rather than the warm, fuzzy ads with puppies and horses that we have come to expect. Big disappointment from the Bud folks.
One final thought
It appears that Tom Brady, unlike the rest of us, hates to lose. He refused to shake hands with Nick Foles. Instead, he sulked on his way to the locker room. Definitely time to pass the mantle.
One year into the Trump administration and it feels like a lifetime. You’d think we’d be immune to it all, but we’re not. We’re shell-shocked. Crises followed by unspeakable tragedies. The assault on our democratic institutions is constant and aggressive. We’d never heard of fake news until Donald moved his ill-prepared advisers, family and hangers-on into the White House. Donald’s constant assault on highly regarded newspapers such as The Washington Post and The New York Times, calling them “failing” is his way of undermining our freedom of speech, a basic right guaranteed by our constitution.
Instead, Donald is glued to the real fake news . . .
Donald gets his news from Fox, Breitbart and other negligible institutions which have legitimized these “alternative facts”. So yes, fake news is a big problem. But the people who believe fake news are the same ones who believe everything they see in print. “I read it on the Internet”—so it must be true, right? Really, really wrong. They read the tabloids, the sleeze sheets at the checkout counters, and believe the headlines.
What’s most disturbing is the we’ve raised a generation of people who have lost the ability to think, to question, to differentiate between legitimate reporting and that which is pure fabrication. People should have a fundamental sense of media literacy. A recent study released by Stanford University researchers, showed that many people don’t.
If you’ve completely lost hope, here are some ways to prove the legitimacy of a news story.
- Pay attention to the domain and URL. Established news organizations usually own their domains and they have a standard look with which you are probably familiar. Sites that end with .com.co should tip you off that they may not be legitimate. This is true even when the site looks professional and has semi-recognizable logos. An example: abcnews.com is a legitimate news source, but abcnews.com.co is not, despite its similar appearance.
- Read the “About Us” section. Most sites will have a lot of information about the news outlet, the company that runs it, its leadership, and the mission and ethics statement behind an organization. The language used here is straightforward. If it’s melodramatic and seems overblown, it’s a red flag. You should be able to find out more information about the organization’s leadership in places other than that site—it should be all over the web. Google the leadership and look at their credentials. If it’s questionable, so is the publication.
- Be wary of the lack of quotes. Most publications have multiple sources in each story who are professionals and have expertise in the fields they discuss. If it’s a serious or controversial issue, there are more likely to be quotes–lots of them, from industry experts. Look for professors or other academics who can speak to the research they’ve done. And if they are talking about research, look up those studies.
- Be equally wary of the source of quotes. Check the sourcing. Is it a reputable source with a title that you can verify through a quick Google search? Let’s say you’re looking at an article that says President Obama wants to take everyone’s guns away. And then there’s a quote. Obama is an official who has almost everything he says recorded and archived. There are transcripts for pretty much any address or speech he has given. Google those quotes. See what the speech was about, who he was addressing and when it happened. Even if he did an exclusive interview with a publication, that same quote will be referenced in other stories.
The internet means that content lives forever; we now have the ability to validate the news we’re receiving. It’s up to each of us to be a critical thinker. To support free and independent journalism. Our founding fathers understood its importance to a system of healthy checks and balances, the fundamentals of democracy.
Need help creating real news?
And the winner is . . . “Complicit”. Every year Dictionary.com identifies the one word that has impacted us the most. At Dictionary.com, the Word of the Year serves as a symbol of the year’s most meaningful events and lookup trends. Just as Time magazine names its person of the year–that individual who has most influenced the world’s news–the Word of the Year is that word that has popped up in the most conversations. Dictionary.com’s decision is data-based; they can track and review the number of searches over the course of the year.
Complicit means “choosing to be involved in an illegal or questionable act, especially with others; having partnership or involvement in wrongdoing.” Being, at some level, responsible for something . . . even if indirectly. Those who stay silent and do not speak out are also complicit; by not being against something, we are condoning it.
A year filled with political chaos
In a year that has been filled with an unprecedented level of political chaos, “complicit” is a word that has filled the headlines for a year. It began with the inauguration, and it steadily gained momentum. From Russian mafia to officials at the highest levels of government, the Trump administration seemed to be complicit with all of them.
Complicit experienced a huge spike on April 5
The largest increase in lookups for complicit–up more than 11,000%–was on April 5, when Ivanka Trump tried to redefine complicit. CBS’ Gayle King asked her about the accusations that she and her husband, Jared Kushner, were complicit in the actions of her father. Her response: “If being complicit is wanting to be a force for good and to make a positive impact, then I’m complicit.”
It’s important to note that complicit is not one of those words that can have both positive and negative connotations, depending on your orientation. There’s nothing positive about this word. Being complicit is negative. It means that a person is involved with someone or something that’s wrong. Politics aside, whether you’re a conservative or a liberal, the meaning of complicit cannot be construed subjectively. Ivanka Trump went on to cap off her own personal definition of complicit with “I don’t know what it means to be complicit.”
Climate change and the Trump administration’s complicity
For years we’ve been learning about climate change and how we’ve damaged our environment. We all have worked to decrease our footprints, determined to become better stewards of the environment. Companies began rethinking their business models, communities incenting their citizens for embracing clean energy. Solar power and windmills became more affordable and the technology improved. Yet Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, and his EPA chief has been complicit in his refusal to acknowledge that humans play a primary role in climate change. Information on climate change was removed from the government’s website this year. If only it were that easy. Removing it from a website won’t make it go away.
During the past year we have seen the extreme weather conditions that have brought widespread destruction that climate change can wreak. Terms like climate change, global warming, and carbon dioxide all showed up trending searches this year.
Power and sexual assault
In 2017, allegations of sexual assault were made against a growing number of powerful men, resulting in the resignation and firing of people across multiple industries. Film executive Harvey Weinstein emerged as a longtime predator after numerous women stepped up to tell their stories of sexual assault that lasted for decades. Even worse—his complicit staff covered up for him, often arranging his sexual shenanigans. Weinstein’s downfall inspired other assault survivors to come forward with their own stories.
Dictionary.com has used its platform to make a data-driven political statement. But the bigger message may be something we’ve always known, that words have the power to shape dialog and the way we interpret events.
Having trouble harnessing the power of words for your business? Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and internet marketing experts.