Social Media Consultants, Experts & Gurus – Oh My!

May 31, 2011 by  
Filed under Online Marketing, Social Media

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Photo Credit: ISD 191 Performing Arts Programs

Most of the people that I know who are really making an impact for companies in the social media space see themselves as marketers, vs. singling themselves out as specific to social media. Obviously the demand for social media specific expertise is high, so one must self-identify with that area of focus.

But when it comes down to providing social media consulting, it’s part of an overall online marketing strategy that involves social media, SEO, email, display, PPC etc as appropriate to reach business goals, not just “social media”. Granted, there are changes in social consumer behavior and technology that must be accounted for, but an adaptive online marketing strategy accounts for those changes anyway. Focusing solely on social media or as an independent activity is a disadvantage.

Like many bloggers that have started to experience increased influence, credibility and authority, so too have consultants that work with social media applications and communities. Jason Falls pointed out in his BWE NY presentation that while this newfound importance seems significant to the individual, it’s nowhere near what most brands find useful.

There has been a bit of “big fish, small pond” syndrome going on with a lot of the consultants and agencies that self-identify as experts or gurus in the social space, when really, they’re more like super users vs. social strategists. Not only is effective social media marketing strategic, it’s also a team effort.

Being a “super user” of social applications is a very valuable skill and essential for many roles like Community and Social Media Marketing Manager.  However, social media application super user skills are most valuable when directed by an approach of aligning target audience needs with business goals – i.e. a sound marketing strategy.  They’re mistakenly useful when used to create uncoordinated Blog, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Bookmarking and other social destinations.

For example

Brand: We need a Facebook Fan Page, our competition has 1,500 fans already.  Let’s hire a social media expert.

Social Media Expert: Let’s set up a landing page for people who haven’t “liked” you yet, add “like” “share” and “send” widgets to your website and start a few contests and promotions to attract fans. Schedule useful posts at ideal times of the day and run Facebook ads to drive traffic to your page. We can also run a few promotions to your prospect or client email list to attract fans.  You’ll be at 1,501 fans in no time!

What’s wrong with this example? As a tactic, not much. But when you extend this process between a brand and internal or external social media experts, each setting up social applications for the company and focusing on superficial KPIs like Fans, Friends and Followers without coordination between them, lack of ROI or competitive business value is inevitable.

Many social media experts (but certainly not all) will respond to the brand’s request and make them exactly what they asked for – without seeking to understand where the tactic fits within the overall strategy or what business outcomes should occur as a result. Why? The social media consultant doesn’t want to lose the consulting project, they don’t know how or don’t have the backbone to push back and take a position to educate the brand about a more strategic approach.

Another example:

Brand: We need a Facebook Fan Page, our competition has 1,500 fans already.  Let’s hire a social media expert.

Social Media Expert: Why?

From there, the brand and the social media expert can have a discussion to understand  what the brand is really after. Is it really 1,500 fans or is it being useful and creating more value for a quantity of qualified Facebook community members?

What happens at 1,500? What about 15,000? What business goal will be affected? Is Facebook the best way to achieve that goal? Can Facebook work more efficiently and effectively in concert with other social promotions to achieve said goals? Who will be involved internally? How will you measure? What are the benchmarks and milestones? Who will sponsor? What are the short term and long term wins? There are many questions to answer and if your social media consultant is weak, they’ll pooh pooh the need to think about the bigger picture in favor of “crack-like” spikes in FFF counts.

What I’m getting at with this post is simply: Companies that want to explore and succeed in social business can approach it as a series of disconnected experimental tactics and evolve through social media expert “super user” expertise. Or they can approach their social media marketing efforts as a component within the overall marketing strategy with coordinated and connected efforts that are designed to directly achieve and/or influence business goals both in the short and long term.

From the brand point of view, this can feel like more than what marketing departments can get approved, so they go after tactics instead – hoping some measure of success can justify increased budget and program growth.

From a consultant point of view, going through a few siloed tactical implementations are necessary to gain the brand’s trust in your social media marketing expertise so you can grow the program into something more strategic.

Can we have our cake and eat it too? Can wise social media marketers provide both tactical execution advice to build a business case at the same time as strategic marketing and change agent services to determine where social fits within overall marketing strategy?

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Blog Marketing Strategy: 7 Steps to Social SEO Success

Blog Marketing Social SEO At BlogWorld Expo in New York this week I presented a session about Dominating Your Niche with Social Content and SEO.  It was crammed with information and I know there are many online marketers looking for practical advice on business blogging and blog marketing that didn’t attend.  Based on the blog marketing we do here at Online Marketing Blog and in the consulting that I do, here are  7 practical steps online marketers can take for social media and SEO success with a blog.

All marketing efforts should start with a goal and means for measuring success, so I do not get into specifics on those tasks in this list, but focus more on the content and promotion.

1.  Social SEO Personas

Personas Social Media SEO

While blogging evolved out of personal expression, business blogging is less about corporate egocenticism and more about empathy with customers. Customer centric content for blogging is more relevant and does a much better job of engaging. In the way that direct marketers segment customers by key characteristics, online marketers that blog can create buyer personas to create more relevant experiences for their readers.

Personas are customer profiles (preferences for information discovery, consumption & sharing) that represent groups of customers that a brand wants to engage and do business with.  Information from Personas drives keyword research & optimization, content plan and promotion. More about persona creation here. So one of the first things a blogger should do after defining objectives and general audience, is to understand who they’re trying to reach by developing personas.

Collect data through reader / customer surveys, analytics, social monitoring and other tools to form a profile. That profile represents topics, behaviors and preferences that can translate into search keywords, social topics, social channels, editorial calendar and promotion plans.

2.  What is your unique selling proposition?

USP - unique selling proposition

When people (or search engines) visit your website, is the primary topic crystal clear? With the increased competition in search and for attention in social conversations, it’s essential for blogs to stand out.  Being able to articulate your Unique Selling Proposition helps distinguish your content the value of your blog content for people and search engines. The screenshot above shows a blog that is crystal clear in it’s focus. The result is reflected both in popularity and search visibility (#1) for highly competitive phrases like “digital photography“.

Developing a Unique Selling Proposition for your blog (h/t SEOBook) is pretty straightforward: Identify the key benefits of your blog’s content and how you will address customer/reader pain points. As you communicate your USP, be specific, concise & show proof. It’s also important to live your USP so that it’s a key component of your messaging.

3.  Search & Social Media Keywords

Keywords SEO Social Media

Personas and your USP represent the intersection of customer interests and the goals for your blog. In order to activate your blog content for effective discovery via search and social media channels, it’s essential to create a search phrase keyword glossary for Search Engine Optimization purposes and a social media topic glossary for Social Media Optimization.

SEO Keywords: Resources like Google’s keyword research tool are a great start for finding which words and phrases are in demand, relevant to the content you’re publishing on your blog. It’s tempting to be egocentric and use whatever language you want, but if there is an expectation to attract significant search traffic and an interest in using language that resonates with a community in search of what you have to offer, keyword optimization of content is very appropriate.

Social Topics: Social topic tools that work like a SEO keyword tool are very rare and a to really get into useful source information, there’s a lot of manual research necessary. However, to get started, tools like offer a list of social keywords (bottom left of search results page) that can be downloaded as a CSV file for use in your Social Topic Glossary. Social keywords represent topics of interest to the people your blog is intended to reach and engage. By researching these topics and the specific language the community uses to express their interest, your blogging can be more effective at being relevant and shared on the social web.

The SEO Keyword and Social Topic glossary provide guidance towards editorial plans and specific phrases/topics can be mapped to content for search and social media optimization. It’s a great management tool that keeps SEO and SMO efforts accountable.

4.  Create a Content/Editorial Plan

Editorial Plan

Keywords inform content and documenting an Editorial Plan for your blog can ensure that content is true to the goals of the business and interests of the community that reads it. An content plan also offers ideas and guidance, months in advance, which is priceless when bloggers hit creative roadblocks. This is inevitable, and after 7+ years of blogging myself, I can’t vouch enough for the guidance of an Editorial Plan.

Keep in mind, such a plan is a guide – not a set of hard and fast rules.  It’s effective to schedule recurring themes with posts, like “Thought Leadership Monday”, “Practical Tips on Tuesdays”, “News Roundup on Fridays”. But it’s also important to allow for wildcards, because opportunities will come up spontaneously based on events within your company or the industry that require blogging. And you don’t want to delay publishing important news or a reaction to news, just because it wasn’t planned for that day.

The Editorial Plan defines the application of keywords in topics to be covered, categories, titles, tags and how/where/when the posts will be promoted. It also allocates for the future repurposing of appropriate blog posts.

5.  Search & Social Media Optimization

SEO Social Media Optimization

Optimizing content for search on websites like Google and optimizing social content for ease of discovery and sharing within social channels is essential for reach and engagement of blog content. Optimizing for search & social media is the one two punch of blog marketing. If SEO efforts are initiated with an existing blog, then a SEO audit would be completed, including a review of the blog templates and configuration, existing content, internal links and links from other websites. If you’re starting a new blog, then SEO would be baked in to the editorial plan via the keyword glossary.

Optimizing for search is about helping search engines do a better job of connecting readers with your content. It’s not about tricks or manipulations. It’s about providing search engines and people what they need to find, consume and be inspired to share your blog content.

Optimizing for social media is about search as well, as in the search that’s possible within Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, etc. But SMO is also about optimizing content editorially to resonate with social audiences. It’s about ease of discovery and sharing through things like feed distribution and widgets that make it easy to ReTweet or post to the reader’s favorite social sites.

SEO and SMO are about making life easy for both search engines and people to connect with, interact and share your blog content.

6.  Links: Internal and External Acquisition

SEO Link Building

Links between pages and links acquired from relevant websites in the industry provide a good user experience and strong signals for search engines when they crawl, index and rank web pages. Following best practices for internal linking is one of the most impactful things a blog can do to help website realize SEO benefit.  For example, a tips blog that cross links the keywords relevant to specific products being sold gives readers and search engines a quick and relevant way to move from editorial about how to use and get benefit from a type of product to a page that actually sells the product.

Attracting links from other relevant websites as pictured in the diagram above is essential for attracting new visitors to your blog, directly and indirectly because of the effect relevant links have on search engine visibility.  What’s important to remember is that links to your blog home page are important, but relevant links into specific category or individual blog posts is essential  External link sources that are relevant to broad topics that link to your home page or category pages provide the user (and search engine) with a very relevant connection.  Links from niche sites to your specific blog posts do the same.

There are myriad ways to attract links for blogs ranging from commenting and guest posting to creating content that attracts links from other bloggers and the media.

7.  Content Promotion

Content Promotion

Content isn’t great until it gets shared. A lot. That doesn’t mean a blogger should aggressively promote every post. It does mean that when a particular post is especially promotable (you would know this because you planned for it in your Content Plan) then it warrants special attention.  Blog content can be promoted in a variety of ways and effective promotion is tied to the quantity and quality of the networks you’ve built. That includes readers and subscribers of your own blog, an email list, Facebook Fan page, Twitter, LinkedIn and other relevant sites where people with common interests interact and share.

Some content promotion is automatic, like RSS feeds, syndication of blog posts to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn or content syndication partnerships. Other content promotion might be tied to the content itself, like using industry thought leaders to crowdsource insights into a topic (your keywords) of importance to your readers. Those participants will often help you promote the post. You can also reach out to your network and suggest or share relevant posts they might be interested in. Commenting and being social on/offline are also effective promotion methods.

The bottom line with content promotion is that great content that isn’t promoted vs. mediocre content that is promoted in a relevant way, will often lose in terms of traffic and therefore meaningful engagement with a greater number of readers. The amount of content being published on a daily basis creates levels of competition never before experienced, so promotion is essential to stand out and get noticed. But it has to be content that’s WORTH promoting.

Summing it all up.

The implementation and refinement of these steps is a work in progress. The web continues to change in terms of technology and how people use it. It’s essential that companies follow an adaptable online marketing strategy when focusing on the social web and search engines. Opportunities will reveal themselves in web analytics and social media monitoring and the promotion efforts outline above apply to those real-time marketing situations just as well as tasks included in a Content Plan. Hopefully these guidelines are useful to you and if you need more specific information, you’ll likely find it in blog posts we’ve published in the past. At TopRank Marketing we do this kind of consulting on a daily basis so there’s a lot of rich information published in our archives.

What other types of insight about blogging and blog marketing would you like to see? What are some of the biggest obstacles you’ve had (and maybe overcome) when it comes to implementing blog marketing tactics like those mentioned in this post?

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Blog Marketing Strategy: 7 Steps to Social SEO Success |

BlogWorld NY: @JasonFalls No BS Guide to Advertising & PR for Bloggers

May 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogging

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Jason FallsWhile initially sitting in a SEO session, I quickly switched once I saw that Jason Falls was presenting. Jason is one of those speakers that gives great advice and he’s funny.

The lowdown on this session: How bloggers can better understand the world of advertising, marketing and PR to avoid common mistakes.  How can we learn from the crappy behavior of the bloggers before us.

There’s a low cost of entry to become a blogger. Basically, all you need is a pulse and an internet connection. But, just because you’re a blogger, doesn’t mean you’re a diva. When you start to evolve as a blogger is when you attract an audience. You’re still not a rockstar, but you’ll be making progress when people are paying attention to you and engaging.  For perspective, many advertisers require a minimum of 100k pageviews per month. If your blog isn’t at that level, you’re still building.

Blogger eg0 = trouble. Getting some attention and audience is an accomplishment but it’s not a reason to be a dick.  Jason statistic: 15-20% of people in a given vertical think they’re god’s gift to blogging.

The conflict comes for the vast majority of bloggers who are not marketing bloggers or have marketing expertise.  They don’t understand how the world of marketing and advertising works.

Soliciting money is advertising sales. (Paid Media) Any time you solicit money from an organization for space or exposure on your blog, that’s advertising. FTC requires disclosure of any kind of advertorial or ads.  When you take money for publishing editorial content, you will degrade some trust with your audience – but not lose it.

The discussion you have with securing advertising on your blog might be with a media buyer, or with a larger organization, a media agency.  This includes ads for media as well as advertorial.

Public relations is earned media.  PR agencies or staff within companies may pitch stories to bloggers. There are PR software companies like Vocus, Cision and My Media Info that will aggregate contact information for influential bloggers within particular verticals. PR can be an information resource and go between with a brand that you want to write about. PR doesn’t buy advertising (or they shouldn’t).

Blogger Horror Story 1: After being pitched, a blogger responded demanding that instead of the blogger writing about the brand, that the brand should advertise on his blog.  While the blog was topically relevant, it didn’t have anywhere near the audience that the brand’s media buyers would consider.

Blogger Horror Story 2: Jason pitched a blogger about a brand he represented and the blogger responded saying that to have a conversation, she’d charge a consulting fee.  Basically, this blogger responded to PR pitches with a consulting pitch.

The situation where bloggers have built up a certain size of audience and consider themselves a diva is where blogging douchebags came from.

Blogger Horror Story 3: Fortune 25 company, big brand, wide array of products. Identified 15 bloggers and pitched them to go to an industry conference – all expenses paid (airfare, hotel and conference). While at the event, the brand wanted to show the bloggers their products.

A week before the event, one of the bloggers left a message saying they’ve decided to turn the trip into a family vacation and requested more airline tickets. Then the blogger threatened that if the brand didn’t do this, there would be editorial repercussions on her blog.

Jason says there’s a high concentration of this type of blogger in the gaming and the mommy blogger groups.

The problem with this minority of bloggers is that brands end up not wanting to deal with bloggers at all.

As you build an audience and gain reputation, it’s important that there’s a difference between being a proud person and being a jackass. There’s an attitude of entitilement plus ignorance about how advertising and public relations works.

Trust: Your audience trust you less if you’re paid for creating brand content. There’s a perceived bias.
Respect: Mutual between bloggers and the brands that communicate with them. Loss of respect means loss of relationship and the benefits that come with that.
Reality: Jason shows a series of graphs that represent mainstream media reach compared to blogs – blogs barely show up, let alone compete. (There were no sources cited in these graphs and that was very disappointing, especially from a professional like Jason)

Bloggers have a place in the advertising and media world online, but in the majority of cases, do not come close to having the same reach or clout as mainstream media. Many bloggers that gain a certain size of audience and degree of influence start to overestimate their authority and impact, plus many don’t understand how relations between advertising and advertisers, media/publishers and public relations work.

What Bloggers and Brands need to consider:

  • Ethics and impact of pay for play – disclosure
  • Think of bloggers as journalists
  • The effect of advertising and PR on your audience
  • There’s no right way, only a right way for you

Opportunities for bloggers:

  • Make PR be helpful. When you get an irrelevant pitch, offer PR feedback.
  • If you want advertising, ask for the media buyer, not the PR person.
  • When discussing advertising opportunity with a brand, make a compelling argument with facts from a third party on your audience and community.
  • Partner with other blogs.

Opportunities for brands:

  • Understand the power of niche
  • Make all outreach relevant. This is a huge problem and persists across many verticals.
  • Know & respect bloggers have differences. Some bloggers are not PR friendly, so don’t pitch them.
  • Have a plan for when you get requests for advertising

Check out Jason’s community online:

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BlogWorld NY: @JasonFalls No BS Guide to Advertising & PR for Bloggers |

19 Ways to Promote Your Next Speaking Event

May 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Online Marketing

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conference speaker marketing tipsAttending and speaking at conferences can be a goldmine for content, networking, publicity and lead generation. While many companies might rate a “B” on achieving these outcomes, the speakers could do a lot better by effectively promoting their presentations. The more people that attend a presentation, the more opportunity there is for:

  • Your session to be liveblogged or covered by an industry journalist
  • To persuade prospects to contact you
  • To persuade clients to explore other services
  • Attract new employees
  • Inspire new vendor and partner relationships

There are many other possible outcomes, but I think you get the idea. Here’s a list of 18 ways to promote your next speaking engagement and possibly make it a more meaningful and relevant experience for those attending.

  1. Submit to event listing websites like Upcoming and lanyrd
  2. Contribute a guest post to the conference blog
  3. Run a house ad in your newsletter
  4. Publish on your Newsroom
  5. Promote the event on your own blog
  6. Publish a “Top 10 List” of resources relevant to your industry that would cause those resources to link back to you
  7. Distribute press release(s) through a news distribution service (We like our client, PRWeb for that)
  8. Create a fulfillment piece (Report or Guide) to act as a giveaway for promotions and during the presentation
  9. Find a way to identify attendees and make them an offer
  10. Incent any tweeting or liveblogging during the session
  11. Guest post on other industry blogs & mention your session
  12. Collect speaking endorsements
  13. Run Social Ads on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn (appropriate to your audience)
  14. Do a giveaway during the session
  15. Ask attendees of the session to do something, where the outcome is a creation that benefits all, & recognizes the participants
  16. Promote your speaking testimonials from conference organizers, industry influentials and attendees
  17. Invite journalists and bloggers that are on the press list to sit in on your session and then do an interview after
  18. Tweet and update Facebook, LinkedIn that you are speaking, about what and when. Tweet during the intermission right before your session using the conference #hashtag. Many people don’t plan what sessions they’ll attend and “go with the crowd”. A last minute tweet may catch their attention
  19. At the end of your presentation, mention the next event you’ll be speaking at

What did I miss? What tactics do you find to be the most effective for promoting speaking events at conferences?

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19 Ways to Promote Your Next Speaking Event |

Dominate Your Niche with Social SEO & Blogging – BlogWorld Expo New York

Social Media SEO & BloggingBlogWorld Expo is holding it’s first conference in New York this week and I’ll be presenting “Dominate Your Niche with Social SEO & Blogging” on Tuesday at 10:15am as part of the Social Business Track. This post is a light preview of that session and I hope to see you there.

Is blogging dead? A number of high profile bloggers and news media sites from Scoble to Wired to the New York Times have opined the demise of blogging as a consequence of growing social destinations like Twitter and Facebook.

The reality is that like many other forms of media, blogging is evolving and with the right strategy, highly effective. Short attention spans are served by short form content like Tweets and status updates. When it comes to influence on business, longer form content like that found on blogs serves an essential purpose. Rather than displace the most valuable attention spent on blogs, social sites like networks, microblogging, media sharing, news and bookmarks facilitate awareness and engagement with blog content.

Smart online marketers see this and are putting their budgets and priorities where it matters. According to eMarketer, 1 in 3 businesses publish blogs for marketing and HubSpot’s recent  2011 State of Inbound Marketing reports that more companies rated blogs as “critical or important” (62%) than any other social channel. These investments are paying off: AdWeek’s “Changing Scope of Advertising” infographic cites blogs as the leading source of customer acquisition over any other social channel.

TopRank Social Hub

Key Messages of Your Niche Provide Focus for Content Promoted from the Blog to Networks and Channels of Distribution.

Blogs are perfectly suited as social media information hubs for companies or individuals that want to dominate their niche online. Blogs can play an essential role in an integrated search, social media and content marketing strategy that directly influences consumer information discovery, consumption and sharing. But with literally millions of blogs published online and mainstream media getting involved, how does a blog stand out, let alone dominate their niche?

The first step is to understand what your niche is.  Formalize your unique selling proposition (USP):  How is your content unique and how does it serve the needs of the people you’re trying to reach better than any other blog?  What does your blog stand for?  What specific can you focus on that represents demand (search keywords) and topical discussion (social)?

The mechanics of a coordinated blogging effort that leverage search, social and content marketing involves:

  • Goals & objectives
  • Key message and differentiator – USP
  • Persona development
  • Search and social keyword research
  • Editorial plan mapped to search and social content
  • Optimization
  • Link analysis
  • Social channel development
  • Intersection with online PR, media relations, advertising
  • Content promotion
  • Real-time, adaptive
  • Monitoring, measurement & refinement

Whether you’re frustrated with the performance of current blogging efforts or you’re starting a new blog and want to maximize effectiveness, following a coordinated online marketing approach with a focus, can force multiply the effect of a company’s ability to “Be where customers are looking” (search), “Be where customers are talking” (social) “Be a source of influence, trust and engagement” (content). The result? You dominate your niche because all signals of credibility point to your social hub whether it’s via search, social, media – push or pull.

For the full presentation, you’ll have too attend BlogWorld New York this week. Hope to see you there.

Sometimes I like to open presentations common questions people have on the topic. What questions do you have about making more out of your business blogging effort? What challenges do you have in your efforts to dominate your niche?


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Dominate Your Niche with Social SEO & Blogging – BlogWorld Expo New York |

SEO Considerations in a Connected Consumer World

May 20, 2011 by  
Filed under Google, Online Marketing, SEO

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Mike Grehan On a sunny, warm day in Minneapolis, marketers gathered near one of the city’s best attractions – LakeCalhoun – to learn about “Search and the Connected Consumer”, a view of how people retrieve information online and what that means for the future online and search engine marketing.

Hosted by MIMA, the event featured Mike Grehan, Global VP Content, Search Engine Watch, ClickZ & Search Engine Strategies.

Mike started by educating the audience on the history of the World Wide Web and the Internet (note: they are not one in the same).

The idea of collecting information and making it available to the masses was on the minds of intellectuals/scientists long before it came to fruition into the World Wide Web. For example, in 1945 Vannevar Bush – a prominent scientist and a key person behind the creation of the Atomic Bomb – argued that as humans turned from war, scientific efforts should shift from increasing physical abilities to making all previously collected human knowledge more accessible.

Fast forward to 1998 and consider Google’s mission statement: “To organize the world’s information make it universally accessible and useful” and it sounds pretty familiar.

Next, Grehan spent a few minutes explaining how search engines work via the following 3 steps:

1. Crawling the Web
Most people are aware that Google ‘crawls the web’, the crawlers follow links and collect text. However, the crawlers themselves have very little to do if anything with ranking.

2. Indexing the Web
A crawler comes to a website, content is parsed out and an inverted index is created to identify what terms exist on what pages/documents. Think of an index in the back of a book – “chocolate” appears on pages 32, 157 and 256.

3. Analyzing the Web
Ranking content based solely on instances of keyword phrases on a web page quickly proved to be a flawed method because all a site had to do to improve its ranking was have more instances of the term on a page, whether relevant or not to the end user.

This is where hyperlink analysis for the web came into play as well as the idea of hubs, authorities and communities which identifies how and where different sites within similar communities, are linking and related to each other. Not all links are equal – some links are more equal than others. And some are infinitely more equal.

Hyperlink analysis algorithms make either one or both of these assumptions:
Assumption #1 – A hyperlink from page A to page B is a recommendation of page B by the author of page A

Assumption #2 – If page A and page B are connected by a hyperlink, then they might be on the same topic – they’re related

Search engines look further into link relationships to understand: If page C cites pages A and B, then A and B are said to be co-cited by C

Page A and B being co-cited by many other pages is evidence that A and B are somehow related to each other

Confused? Grehan breaks it down into this easier to understand statement:
Company websites can use keyword phrases and position themselves as the ‘Leader of Whatever’, but Google is asking ‘who else says so?’.

Links help distill the picture and identify votes of authority about your content by others.

The new science of networks and the addition of cyber communities has further impacted the need for quality, relevant links over quantity.

Other factors that influence ranking include Query Chains and User Trails.

Query Chains are Google’s ability to understand the cognitive processes a human will undertake when searching for information.

For example, if ‘enough’ people search for ‘special edition’, then ‘special collections’ and then ‘limited editions’ to find the result they want for limited edition books, Google will eventually serve the results for ‘limited editions’ when someone types in ‘special edition’ knowing what content they are most likely looking for.

Next is User Trail data which is collected by understanding what searchers click on and continue clicking links to additional content vs what they click on and hit the ‘back button’. Too many clicks to the back button for any particular search result can potentially lead to a dip in ranking position.

Now, that the audience was up-to-speed on how search engines work (or have worked to-date) the conversation turned toward the changing end user, aka “The Connected Consumer”.

In short, the end user – me, you, your prospects, grandma and everyone in between has changed and so too did the search experience.

We went from being satisfied with 10 blue links on a search results page to wanting more options and more ways to interact with information more quickly. The now ‘old-news’ roll out of Universal Search is still a significant change in the search experience if we are looking back of the evolution of search.

Images, video and now social updates appearing directly on the SERP (search engine results page) provide a quite different experience for the searcher.

So what can we gain from understanding the premise of compiling the world’s information, knowing how the search engines work and how they are changing? Better insight into how we better approach online marketing and specifically content marketing activities.

According to Grehan, to do this most effectively companies will need to transition from creating content for Google and rather focus on the people they are trying to reach (not the channels in which you try to reach them).

To do this, we need to understand user intent.

“This applies to the surfer who is really looking for factual information on the web. So they make a query like ‘low hemoglobin’ for instance. This is a medical condition. They are looking for specific info about this condition. That’s very close to classical information retrieval.”

“When a surfer really wants to reach a particular website. If they do a query for Best Buy for example. What they probably want is to go directly to the website, as opposed to find a Wikipedia page on the history of the company.”

“Transactional searches are when the surfer wants to do something on the web, through the web. Shopping, downloading a whitepaper, finding a service. In this case the searcher wants to find a search result that helps them complete the action or satisfies a need.”

What we do with this information is create content to help satisfy the intent of the searcher, thereby creating quality content that people will find helpful and ultimately may link to/share with their community. And this is perhaps the biggest change in search which is the shift toward information-seeking on social sites. No longer does the end user have to go Google or any other search engine to find information.

The same end user which is placing more trust in 3rd party content and reviews is also finding ways to side-step browsers and instead accomplishing goals through the Internet/Apps.

In summary, the Connected Consumer is finding new ways to discover and interact with information, placing more value in non-traditional sources. Decision makers no longer act independently of each other but are all the more connected to other consumers, to other channel members and often to brands.

In turn, brands and companies are now vying for central position inside consumer networks and need to determine how they can best create information that satisfies the user intent, is recognized as valuable by other sources and available to the audience in the formats they prefer. This is a model not unlike the Persona Discovery, Consumption and Sharing approach we promote at TopRank Marketing.

Have thoughts on the best ways to connect with the Connected Consumer? Share them in the comments below!

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SEO Considerations in a Connected Consumer World |

Infographic Marketing Tips: 11 Ways to Promote

May 19, 2011 by  
Filed under Content Marketing, Online Marketing

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Profile of a twitter user Infographics are a hit with online marketers this year and as more companies hire designers to artfully represent data in creative and engaging ways, many fall short when it comes to infographic promotion. It’s the old “great content will attract it’s own audience” scenario. As I’ve always said, “Content isn’t great until someone shares it.”

While there are many other smart posts about creating compelling infographics to attract attention, links and traffic, the information on promoting that type of content seems a bit light. If you’ve invested in creating great infographic content and need advice on how to promote, here are a few ideas:

1. Involve credible sources in the data collection and then encourage those sources to help you promote the resulting graphic.

2. Create a blog post for the infographic and support promotion through the blog’s social channels (Facebook, Twitter, Email, social news & bookmarking sites)

3. Segment the infographic into screen shots which can be used in blog posts and shared on image hosting sites like Flickr with links back to the main page hosting the full infographic. A week or two after publishing and promoting the infographic, upload the full image and unique description to Flickr with a link back to the original web page.

4. Schedule tweets of specific data points mentioned in the infographic over time with a link back to the full infographic. 10 data points/statistics = 10 tweets. A similar, but more conservative approach can work with Facebook as well.

5. Submit the infographic to aggregators and directories. Here is a short list:

6. Promote the infographic with an article/news release that includes a link to the full infographic and distribute through a news distribution service like our client PRWeb.

7. Highlight the infographic in an email promotion to your in-house prospect and/or customer list. Include a segment of the graphic and a link for readers to see the full image on your website or blog.

8. Pitch relevant industry bloggers and media on the story behind the data included in the infographic. Focus on relevant, personalized emails and offer previews or pre-release opportunities for more influential sources.

9. Share the infographic with influential users of social news & bookmarking sites: StumbleUpon, Delicious, Reddit, or Digg. Or enlist a connected social media marketing service to do it for you.

10. Create a screencast video version of the infographic and promote through YouTube and other video hosting services.

11. Deconstruct the infographic into a PowerPoint and PDF document and share on Slideshare, Scribd, Docstoc and other document hosting services.

Additional tips that can help promotion include: Make sure the file name includes relevant keywords as well as the text on the web page used to describe the infographic. Social sharing buttons on the page that hosts the infographic should be easy to see and use. Include a text area form element with code that users can copy to embed the infographic (with link back to your site) on their own website or blog.

Obviously there are many other ways to promote and re-purpose great content. I have to say, at TopRank Marketing, we’ve had many opportunities to develop our content marketing and promotion skills as well as content re-purposing. It’s an essential part of an efficient marketing program.

If you’ve been successful at marketing content through infographics, what promotion tactics worked best? What additional ways do you think infographics could be useful on their own or as part of a coordinated content marketing effort?

Profile of a twitter user Infographic courtesy by GDS Infographics, on Flickr

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Infographic Marketing Tips: 11 Ways to Promote |

Search Engine Optimization and Social Networking – Friends with Benefits

May 18, 2011 by  
Filed under Link Building

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In this day and age, it seems that almost everybody has signed up to various social networking sites on the web, regardless of age group or social class. It is without a doubt that logging in to these sites has become a part of one’s everyday life. With millions of members worldwide, it is but an integral part of your search engine optimization and marketing plan to take advantage of the huge traffic that these social networking sites generate every minute, and redirect visitors to your own web site.

Most Popular Social Networking Sites                                    

Social networking sites have indeed presented a whole new way to interact with friends, family members, loved ones, and random people of same or opposing interests. In addition, it is also a good thing to note that social networking sites can be easily accessed through mobile phones, tablets, and laptops. To say that social networking sites have become a huge craze nowadays is definitely an understatement as visiting social networking sites has become a daily routine to most people.

Two of the most popular social networking sites are Facebook and Twitter, with billions of members all over the world. It is because of this fact that made it possible for a lot of business professionals to reach out to their target audience by using social networking sites to spread the word regarding their products and develop strategies for search engine optimization.

Incorporating Search Engine Optimization Techniques to Social Networking

The very first step that you have to do is to sign up to different social networking sites, which is for free. Once you have signed up, fill in necessary information and provide a brief description about the company that you represent. Making new friends and acquaintances should be on the top of your list, thus it is essential to invite a lot of people and get connected. You can also introduce your products by creating articles or testimonials to entice people in making a purchase. It is also a plus to include images of the products that you sell to give customers an idea of what they can expect. For potential customers to visit your site, it is necessary to place links to your official web site.

Once you have established your presence to the online community, you must then stay engaged with these groups of people to ensure growth on your business. You also have the option to join networking groups as well as participate to discussions or forums on social networking sites and give unsolicited pieces of advice with reference to the products or services that you are offering.

Indeed, social networking sites have paved the way for business professionals to develop effective search engine optimization and marketing strategies to attract more visitors to their web site. This is definitely a great opportunity to locate target markets efficiently and effectively. Since social networking sites are all about building relationships, it is also critical to the business to develop open communication channels to meet the needs and demands of new and existing customers. The advent of social networking has made search engine optimization very easy.


With the power of the social medias to boost your search engine optimization (interesting to know is that the Danish term is søgemaskineoptimering) campaign is a great idea. Read some more social media tips from this great article.

Core Content SEO Tools: Keyword Glossary & Editorial Plan

Content SEO ToolsIt’s funny when you work in an industry for a long time that the basic things you create to make life a little easier can save others who are new to the field, a lot of time. I’ve done a few webinars and speaking events in the past few months where one of the tools suggested was a Keyword Glossary (spreadsheet) for managing category and page level optimization, keyword mapping and competitor keyword mapping.

Another tool was an Editorial Plan that documents articles/blog posts, media, promotion and planned re-purposing. There are basic building blocks for becoming more efficient with search engine optimization tasks, but I’ve received a lot of requests for them.  I thought they might be useful to our readers to use for inspiration to create their own and maybe even modify and mashup into something better.

Below are screen shots which you can click to see larger versions.

SEO Tool: Basic Keyword Glossary @TopRank
Basic Keyword Glossary

After conducting research using one of the various keyword research tools, organizing that information in a useful format like a Keyword Glossary helps SEOs manage their on page optimization and it brings a measure of accountability as well. The example of above shows a matrix of competitors sites that have been optimized for the target phrases, a list of primary and secondary phrases with measures of popularity and competitiveness. The phrases are also mapped to category levels or individual pages so you know which pages are being optimized for what keywords.

SEO Tool: Basic Editorial Plan @TopRank
Basic Content Plan for a Blog

It’s no mystery that we like blogs as an online marketing, Social, SEO and content marketing tool. Planning content through an editorial calendar (as a magazine other publication would) is essential for producing content that is of interest to the target audience, that represent target keywords, and keeps authors on track and flush with ideas on what to write about.

The spreadsheet above shows dates for publishing, titles, keywords, categories, media used, cross-posting, promotion channels/tactics and future re-purposing of the content.  Organizing an editorial plan like this helps online marketers gain maximum value for their investment into content creation and also makes curation more valuable.

The best tool or format depends on your own needs and applications. That’s why I don’t link to the actual spreadsheets – at least part of the reason. :)

However, will be making the actual spreadsheets available at BlogWorld New York and the Vocus User’s Conference in Baltimore.  Be sure you check out my sessions if you’re attending those events.

What kinds of templates have you created for managing SEO and content marketing tasks?

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Core Content SEO Tools: Keyword Glossary & Editorial Plan |

Social SEO & PR Events: BlogWorld New York, OMS Minneapolis, SES Toronto, Vocus Users Conference

May 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogging, Online Marketing, social SEO

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The disciplines of search, social media, content marketing and online PR continue to intersect and often combine to create a powerful mix. Besides leveling the playing field, companies and individuals are creating competitive advantages as they adapt to shifts in technology and consumer behavior. Learning and mastering the ability to integrate should be top of the personal development list for marketing and communications professionals.

Here are the details for four upcoming events to do a deep dive into Optimized Online Marketing and PR. I hope to see you there:

Blogworld New York 2011

Event: Blogworld Expo New YorkSocial Media Business Summit
May 24-26, 2011
TopRank Presentation: Dominate Your Niche with Social Media, SEO & Blogging

Blogging and other social media channels continue to attract attention and rather than focusing on single social applications and platforms for marketing success, the masters of the social web are integrating channels and tactics. A customer centric approach optimizes the right mix of content for push and pull discovery, topics that influence engagement and conversions, plus sharing to extend the reach and lifetime value of useful content.

As marketers begin to understand the myriad options available for data and marketing communications channels in today’s social web, it must feel overwhelming and not unlike jumping into a blender. This session provides a roadmap to optimized online marketing integrating SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing to build authority, acquire and engage new customers.

More info: Dominate Your Niche with Social Media, SEO & Blogging – BlogWorld New York

OMS Minneapolis 2011

Event: OMS Minneapolis
Date: June 6-8, 2011
TopRank Presentation: Develop a Killer Social SEO Strategy

Learn how large and small brands alike have integrated Social Media, SEO and Content Marketing to increase sales and improve customer engagement. This session will provide practical examples of BtoB and BtoC companies overcoming the competition with an agile, customer focused content marketing strategy that’ search engine optimized for the social web.

More info: Develop a Killer Social SEO Strategy – OMS Minneapolis

SES Toronto

Event: SES Toronto
Date: June 13-15, 2011
TopRank Presentation: Content Marketing Optimization

The core of any search or social media marketing program centers on content. Digital assets, rich media, web pages, MS Office and PDF docs as well as content created and shared by consumers all offer opportunities for optimization. If it can be searched, it can be optimized!

Online marketing is increasingly competitive and brand marketers world-wide are seeking real advantages that will improve the efficiency and impact of their Social Media and SEO efforts. This presentation will provide unique insight into content based optimization strategies and processes as well as tactics for sourcing, creation and promotion of optimized content on the social web.

More info: Content Marketing Optimization & SES Toronto

Vocus User's Conference

Event: Vocus User’s Conference
Date: June 16th, 2011
TopRank Presentation: Integrated Social, SEO & PR

Information overload: Facebook has over 600 million users and Google handles over 10 billion queries per month. Every two days there is more information created than between the dawn of civilization and 2003. The age of communications and digital relationships between brands, the media and consumers has changed faster and in ways few could have anticipated.

Now is the time for PR and communications professionals to master the new rules for consumer information discovery, consumption and sharing. As participants and content creators savvy about the search and social web, PR professionals can directly impact online brand visibility, customer engagement and acquisition.

This presentation will cover how the intersection of search and social media provides a powerful means to reach and engage media and consumers that inspires interaction, sharing and meaningful business outcomes.

Key Takeaways:

  • Learn future trends in search and social media for PR
  • Develop search & social personas
  • Research Keywords for Social SEO
  • Social media optimization best practices
  • SEO for Blogs, YouTube, Twitter, & Facebook
  • High impact & low cost tools

More info: Integrated Social, SEO & PR at Vocus User’s Conference

After all that I’ll get to take a break until the Intel Social Media Summit in July. Whew! I hope to see you at one of these upcoming events.

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Social SEO & PR Events: BlogWorld New York, OMS Minneapolis, SES Toronto, Vocus Users Conference |

Is Your SEO Program Chasing Unicorns?

May 12, 2011 by  
Filed under Online Marketing, search engine optimization, SEO

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Keyword UnicornThere are many reasons companies invest in Search Engine Optimization ranging from a desire to attract new customers through online marketing channels to diversifying customer acquisition to ego.  That’s right, ego. Not every marketer makes SEO investment decisions based on pulling in prospects and customers to brand content for engagement and conversions.

Often times, brands think of themselves as the leader in their category and therefore think their website should top Google’s list for queries on generic industry terms. The trouble is, leading an industry offline isn’t the same thing as being the BEST answer for a search query online.  Chasing after such terms is very much driven by ego and not unlike a fairy tale of chasing after unicorns where there’s an expectation that being #1 on a single word will magically solve their problems.

However, going after broad industry terms isn’t a complete waste of time. When ego-driven SEO is productive, it’s geared towards building brand reputation and PR value. Of course, by “PR” I mean public relations, not page rank.  The affinity and credibility that comes from being in a top position for a generic industry term can add a lot of value to online public relations efforts, recruiting and investor relations.

Achieving top placement on broad keywords can certainly drive a substantial amount of website traffic. In fact, TopRank Marketing has quite a few clients that have top spots for generic industry phrases and some with single word terms sending  a good portion of organic search visitors.

In terms of buying cycle, broad queries tend to be “tire kickers” and have value for creating awareness and education but not conversions. And that’s ok, because the search experience isn’t just a single event – especially in B2B or with more sophisticated buying decisions. But brands that want those top spots need to understand what it takes to translate their offline industry dominance to search engines like Google and Bing.

A while back I had a customer that said he wanted to be #1 on Google for the word “brain”. This client had a blog with a few thousand uniques per month.  While many SEO consultants will talk about how tough that will be and suggest options, my first response is to always ask “Why?”. Understanding motivation (chasing unicorns vs. a fighting chance at achieving goals) is essential for assessing the value and contribution to business goals.

The client wanted to have top visibility for “brain” because it was a fairly relevant and highly popular search term. Top placement for such a word would send a significant amount of traffic and hopefully sales.  A few things to consider in such a situation include:

  • What is the potential contribution to website goals in what timeframe for a first page or top of fold position for the phrase?
  • What resources in what timeframe might it take to achieve this goal?
  • What are the current brand content and digital assets available to work with?
  • What is the current inbound link profile for the brand site?
  • What is the current position for brand content on the desired keyword(s)?
  • How many search results pages (SERPs) are there for the keyword(s)?
  • How many of those SERPs contain the exact match keyword(s) in title tags, on-page titles, in URLs?
  • How many inbound links are there to the top ranking pages for the target keyword(s)?
  • How many inbound links contain the exact match keyword(s)?
  • What is the distribution of website types as link sources? (news, blogs, web pages, .edu, .gov, etc)
  • How often are the top webpage URLs mentioned in Tweets, FB updates and other social streams?
  • What is the link acquisition growth over time for the current top pages for the target keyword(s)?
  • How many pages on the current websites showing well for the target keyword(s) are specifically optimized for those terms?
  • How old are the sites currently showing well for the target keyword(s)?
  • How much content is dedicated to the target keyword(s) on and offsite for top pages?
  • What is the difference on key metrics like quantity/quality of optimized pages, inbound links and social mentions of brand content vs. pages that occupy the top 5-10 positions for the target keyword(s)?

A competitive assessment plus a forecast of resources, timeframe and business impact can paint a clearer picture for brands that want to chase after “unicorn” keywords and SEO.  When budget is not an issue at all, then by all means, satisfy basic business case requirements and go for it. But unlimited budget is rarely the situation.  Most SEO programs operate within a scope of work and resources must be allocated according to the SEO strategy.

In the case of the “brain” client, a presentation of the numerous hospitals, universities and government websites plus the websites that had thousands of pages and many years head start with link building resulted in the conclusion that going after “brain” would be a losing proposition. Especially within the scope of available hours. The decision was made to go after a mix of keyword phrases representative of the interests potential customers might have in the cilent’s offering.   Better to go after keyword phrases that are achievable within a shorter time frame resulting in business outcomes like sales, than allocating a substantial portion of the program to a keyword that might take a year or years to achieve a first page placement on. This client’s blog has now achieved upwards of 350,000 uniques per month focusing on long tail phrases and opened up a new business model for advertising.

Does this mean, going after all broad industry keyword terms is chasing keyword unicorns? No.  Go after the broad phrases or word(s) if:

  • There are substantial resources for content creation (creativity and diversity), link building, online PR, social media and networking and reverse link engineering.
  • The brand site is nearly the online leader in content and links for the desired keyword(s) and simply needs SEO refinement, targeted link building and process adjustments internally
  • The acquisition of top placement for the broad phrases is forecast within a reasonable time period and with a desirable outcome in comparison to resources and budget necessary.

Companies that expect to drive customer acquisition and ongoing engagement through search should be focusing on customer-centric keywords anyway and not on ego phrases that give them a warm fuzzy with little chance of returning business value.  We’ve experienced a focus on keywords that represent consideration and purchase buying cycle behaviors to be more achievable more quickly. The interesting thing is, over time, broad phase visibility can still occur.

The fork in the eye of my logic is when a senior executive with the brand simply wants the unicorn, period. They want that trophy and the internal marketer/SEO vendor are charged with finding a way to make it happen. If budget and resources can allow for succes – great. If not and logic fails, there’s not much more you can do.

What’s your decision process for going after broad or single terms in a keyword mix? Do you dismiss in favor of long tail? Do you see it as a challenge and go after it anyway? Do you evaluate on the criteria I’ve listed above? What additional criteria would you include?


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Is Your SEO Program Chasing Unicorns? |

Wicked Smart Interview with Ann Handley of MarketingProfs

May 9, 2011 by  
Filed under Content Marketing, Online Marketing

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Ann HandleyIf you’re looking for one of the most influential and “wicked smart” voices in online marketing, Ann Handley is an easy conclusion. Add a sense of humor and brilliant writing skills and she’s easily #1 in my book. A journalist and co-founder of ClickZ, you’re more likely to know Ann as the Chief Content Officer for the wildly popular MarketingProfs which boasts over 388,000 subscribers. Ann is also co-author with C. C. Chapman of one of my favorite marketing books, Content Rules.

A perk I enjoy most from blogging and working in this industry is getting to meet and know smart marketers. Smart + funny just takes it to another level and you can count on Ann for plenty of both. Along with the accomplishments, contributions, influence and energy she brings to our industry, Ann is genuine and grounded, plus she’s not afraid to “tell it like it is”. I appreciate those qualities a great deal.

Read on to learn more about Ann plus her tips for marketers, brands, publishers and of course what’s hot in the future of online marketing:

Besides being the goddess of marketing and diva book author, where do you spend your time?

I spend most of my time right where I am right now: Online. In this case, I’m talking to you. But I spend a lot of time writing, connecting, emailing, creating online content, on Twitter and other social channels, and exploring new platforms, also known as “indulging my ADOS” (Attention Deficit… Ooh! Shiny!).

My latest shiny object is Instagram. I’m using it personally, but I’m always thinking about how brands can use it and other publishing tools. That kind of thing is endlessly interesting to me.

When I’m not right here, in front of the computer, I’m hanging out with my family—and trying to maintain eye contact with them even though I’m dying to check my iPhone (I keed!). At the risk of sounding like an eHarmony ad, I like walking my dogs, reading books with compelling characters, and taking walks on the beach.

What would you like to be doing in 2 years?

I have the best job in the world, so it’s hard for me to imagine doing anything different. Is “more of the same” a goal? : )

I’ve had such an amazing year: Our book is a best-seller, MarketingProfs continues to grow in interesting ways, and I feel lucky to be where I am. So I’d be thrilled to have this same level of energy for my work life in two years.

Lee Odden & Ann Handley SXSWi 2011

Besides smarts, writing skills and a sense of humor, what are the qualities great content marketers should have?

I love this question. And I love that you included a “sense of humor,” because I do think having a sense of humor and fun is critical. I’ve been talking for a long time about what to look for in a content hire, both 11 years ago and 11 (ish) days ago!  But I think the most important qualities include training as a journalist, writer, or similar, as well as business acumen, social DNA, and an amateur’s passion. Especially that last one: Is the person you want to hire already creating content just for the love of it, and not just because they get paid to do it? Have you heard them utter phrases like, “I am soooo blogging that…!”

Marketing has changed so much since 2000. What advice do you have for marketers to stay current and relevant?

It really has. But, at the same time, the fundamentals remain. What’s new is that we have new ways of communicating with customers or prospects… and them with us. That’s created all kinds of opportunities and helped marketing evolve in interesting ways.

The easiest way to stay current and relevant is to read MarketingProfs. I know that sounds like a pitch, but I’m quite sincere: We see our mission as educating marketers on what matters. We are constantly surveying the marketing landscape and bringing our readers information and know-how on the stuff they need to know, and not just the stuff that’s cool. In other words, we pay attention to all of it so you don’t have to… Isn’t that a relief?

Of course, there are other great sources of more in-depth and specific learning—including TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog ; )

As a publisher, what insights can you share for companies that want to shift toward “brand as publisher” content marketing in terms of strategy and organizational change? Or should they?

Brands really don’t have a choice. If they have a website, they are publishers. So the first thing is, Embrace it!

Then consider what Content can do for your business by answering that Why question: Why are we going to create what we want to create? What are our goals? What do we hope to accomplish?

That sounds obvious, right? But I’ve been speaking all around the country this past winter and early spring, and this is a critical, fundamental step that most companies completely miss. They start a blog because the CEO always wanted to be a writer, or they launch a Twitter stream because their competitors are there. And they have no sense of the strategy behind the tactics. They haven’t answered that Why question.

Organizationally, companies have to deputize a content person. Content won’t just happen unless someone owns it; unless someone is responsible for it; unless someone’s job is to create it, optimize it, share it—to make sure Content Happens.

So do what makes sense for your organization: Hire an editor, a chief content officer, an editor-in-chief, a chief blogging officer, a brand journalist, or whatever. But make sure someone has some power and authority, and the necessary smarts, to get things done.

Let’s say a new business owner asks you for startup marketing advice – a B2B technology company. What are the essential marketing steps they should consider?

Wow—big question! How much time do we have….? ; )

My short answer: Know who you are; know who you are targeting, or who you want to reach along the buying cycle (and how you are going to stand out in their mind through compelling content); and figure out how you are going to measure what works so you can rinse, repeat.

That’s at the strategic level. Then, you have to create your company’s story, and learn how to tell your story well. You then have to pick your tools and create great content, of course—especially with an eye toward search and social media, to reach your intended audience.

And since we are talking B2B, I’ll throw in one more bit of advice: Don’t forget to humanize your marketing and creating your content in an actual accessible, human voice. Even in B2B marketing, you are still talking to humans. So why is it that so many B2B companies talk like robots? I suppose they think it makes them sound more official and trustworthy if they toss around jargon, buzzwords and other Frankenspeak. But it doesn’t: It makes them sound like tools.

With MarketingProfs, how do you stay fresh with content ideas and topics?

We read TopRank’s Blog and other top-shelf publications. [From Lee: Now that’s a compliment, thank you!] We see what resonates on Twitter and in other social channels. We listen to what people are talking about, what our members ask us for, especially when we ask them to identify their biggest marketing challenges. I also do a lot of “social prospecting”: I find a lot of MarketingProfs contributors or uncover hot topics by trolling social channels like SlideShare, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.

At TopRank we’re big proponents of search, social and content marketing but so many companies operate these functions in silos. How do you think marketers can improve their ability to work across channels and departments and get support for a coordinated strategy?

To me, Content is the key. You can’t have an effective Search and Social strategy without first having a sound Content strategy. (Or at least, your search and social won’t be working as well as they could for you.) Content is the glue that knits everything together. Wait. I just totally mixed that metaphor. But you get the point. : )

Eric Schmidt of Google has been quoted saying every 2 days there’s as much information created as since the dawn of civilization to 2003. How do you deal with information overload both personally and in your own marketing?

That’s why the quality of your content is so critical. That’s where your story becomes so important. As Eric points out, all of us are flooded with Content on a regular basis. So the stuff that cuts through is the stuff that’s truly great! Companies that simply repost their press releases on their blogs and then wonder why they don’t get any comments aren’t the ones that are going to succeed.

A lot of time when I refer to content that “cuts through,” companies think I mean “viral.” I don’t.

Instead, I mean content that (as Len Stein says) is “packed with utility, seeded with inspiration, and is honestly empathetic.” Content that meets the needs of your customers in whatever way resonates best with them: that is, it makes them smarter, better educated, wittier, taller, and with better backhands and smarter kids! In other words: How can you help your customers and prospects with your content?

Retargeting, QR codes, social business, curation and gamification are some of the buzzing topics right now. What’s hot on your mind this year? Next?

Storytelling has emerged as a hot topic for marketers. Which makes sense, right? If you are creating content, it helps to get your story straight. ; )

Also: Mobile generally (and QR codes, gaming, social-location platforms like Foursquare).

As I said above, I like the bright and shiny new stuff, and I love to see what’s hot and new and fun.

But to tell you the truth, I think we have so many tremendous tools right now that are being sadly underused, or used in weirdly ineffective ways. I think most marketers feel overwhelmed. There are so many companies still trying to figure out the fundamentals of blogging or other social tools… and at the same time there are companies adopting other bright and shiny objects with no notion of the best way to actually use them.

Here’s an example: The other night we had takeout pizza. There was a QR code on the box that, when I scanned it with my iPhone, opened a Web page that gave me “the opportunity” to join the pizza company’s email list.

There are two problems with that: First, the page gave me no indication of why I should turn over my personal information, other than to vaguely refer to “specials.” Really? What’s in it for me?

The second problem was this: The page had about 10 fields (including my email, full name and address, etc.) Have you ever tried to fill out a form like that on an iPhone? So even if I wanted to give them my information—which I didn’t, by the way—they made it pretty difficult for me. Why make your customer work that hard?

That kind of marketing is pretty close to insane, isn’t it? Yet I see that and similar things all the time.

We’ve reviewed your excellent book with C.C., Content Rules, but what’s your most compelling reason people should buy and read it?

The naked pictures inside.

I’m kidding, of course.

(Or am I…?)

What resources do you rely on to stay current, informed and edu-tained?

I probably read all the same marketing and social media pubs you do. Also, as I said, I get a lot of information from social sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn (especially LinkedIn Answers) and poking around SlideShare when I have the time.

At the same time, I’m a big fan of feeding my brain in other ways: I’m a fan of autobiographies and memoirs (currently reading Tina Fey’s Bossypants) because I’m inherently nosy about other people. It’s interesting to me to see the way life shapes people. I read a lot of fiction of all sorts.

I love The New Yorker (although it’s a constant source of guilt, because I rarely have the luxury of getting through an entire issue).

And I love smart humor: My latest “edu-tainment” online discovery is, for reasons like this:

Dear world,
I dream of a day where we can cross roads without having our motives questioned.
Sincerely, chickens.

Actually, I take that back. It’s pure hilarity. There’s nothing remotely educational about it.

Excellent, thank you Ann!

You can find more from Ann by following her on Twitter (@marketingprofs) as well as at MarketingProfs and her book site, Content Rules.

So now that I’ve had my chance to interview Ann, how would YOU like to ask her a question?  Better yet, how would you like a chance to win a signed copy of Content Rules?

Content Rules Just post your question for Ann below and the best question (picked by TopRank Online Marketing staff) will be selected by Thursday afternoon and answered on Friday along with credit and a link to the winners blog or Twitter account.  So put your thinking cap on and get creative with a question for Ann Handley!

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© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
Wicked Smart Interview with Ann Handley of MarketingProfs |

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