One of the many great things about apps and an iPhone is that you can be productive or at least productively kill time, should you ever be blessed with such a thing as “free time”. Mobile social media usage is on the rise and one of the most productive opportunities to be creative is using your iPhone at conferences to create interesting and fun graphics. At Content Marketing World, Intel’s Pam Didner commented “Content is King, Creativity is Queen” and I sincerely believe that a competitive advantage can be gained in the content marketing space by being smarter through analytics and especially by being more creative.
There are numerous apps one could use to modify photos, but what I find interesting are apps that use photos to create an end product like a Comic, Collage or even an Infographic – all from your iPhone. Below are 5 examples of graphics (using my very limited creative skills) and the iPhone apps used to create them – each with some level of social sharing built-in.
This is a feature rich app that is only limited by your own creativity. While I’ve only ever used this app for “Conference Comics” with single graphics, I could see someone creating multi-page comics with the app and putting them together into an interactive experience (using some other tools) that would allow viewers to turn pages, tag people and share easily on social sites. As it stands, I’ve really just started experimenting, but my running “Theme” is Conference Comics. What theme could you see using using Comic Book? Here’s more info on ComicBook!.
This is a fun app that uses word sets to re-create images that you import. You’re unlikely to achieve “a picture made of a 1,000 words” but the words you do use, can add context to the photo. This app works best with images that have balanced contrast and simple segments of color. A complicated group shot of 20 people isn’t going to work as well as a portrait shot of someone’s face. Here’s the info page for WordFoto.
You’re on the road, so why not send a post card from the event you’re attending? Well, maybe not a “snail mail” postcard, but a virtual card using this handy tool. I don’t find the card options outside of “AirMail” very interesting, but that’s enough for a few creative uses of this app to highlight a photo and message for use in email or as an illustration in a blog post. Here’s more info on Postale.
I wouldn’t exactly call the images and video you can shoot with this app a cartoon exactly, but it’s an interesting effect – especially since you can shoot both video and images with it. Images in your photo library can be converted one by one as well. There are also varying effects in color and black & white. You can get these effects with several other apps but they don’t offer the video option. Here’s more info on ToonCamera.
Pic Collage (Free)
This is a very simple tool for creating a collage from various photos, slightly similar to Comic Book! but without the comic effects. It’s a great way to summarize key images from an event. Photos can come from your photo library or Facebook. What’s lacking is the ability to overlay a title, but there are other iPhone graphics programs that you can use to do that. Sometimes a super simple app is all you need and for those times Pic Collage fits the bill. Here’s more info.
Hopefully I can do another roundup of creative iPhone apps that focus on interesting video effects.
What are your favorite creative iPhone apps for graphics and photo editing? If anyone has iPhone infographic creation apps they’re aware of, please share. If you have examples of creative graphics generated from an iPhone app on your blog, please describe and link to them in the comments. (Excluding spammy stuff of course)
© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
5 iPhone Apps for Creating Fun Social Media Graphics at Conferences | http://www.toprankblog.com
The B2B Track during day one of Content Marketing World in the “Gold Room” was jam packed for each session. That includes this session about Corporate Blogging and Globalizing your Editorial with two speakers from SAS and Intel. Since the topics were so different, I decided to split the liveblog post into two. This is part one.
Speaker: Alison Bolen @alisonbolen Content Editor SAS
Presentation: Results-Driven Blogging for B2B Brands
Alison’s presentation focused on corporate blogging and the blog program at SAS (a $2 billion business analytics company).
The history of SAS and social media started in 1976 with the first SAS Global Forum, 2004 internal blog program, 2006 SAS communities launched, 2007 the first external blog launched and in 2011 the transition to the WordPress platform. You can find SAS blogs here: blogs.sas.com
Alison works in the Public Relations organization at SAS along with 8 other corporate journalists.
How to Grow a Corporate Blogging Program
Develop a strategy: Find out where the current corporate strategies are and find a hook into them. For the SAS blogging program, there were 3 main goals: to align with PR, Marketing and Customer Support.
Blogging supports each stage of the funnel:
- Identify the problem / opportunity
- Research solutions
SAS blog efforts are meta data enabled: by persona, by category, by industry. For content to be relevant and valuable it must be persona based and aligned with steps in the buying process.
The next step in corporate blogging strategy development is to find the right content. Ask these important questions: Where do stories live? (Word Docs, PPTs, Videos, Live Events) Where does knowledge live? (Sharepoint, White papers)
Now it’s time to find the right people. Alison gave the example of two SAS bloggers that write for distinct audiences.
Blog Planning with Monthly Assignments. All posts are due on a specific date each month. The most timely posts are published first. Breaking news and fillers are published as relevant. A schedule ensures there is content to work with each month.
Another planning option is to focus on one specific topic. For example, each Quarter, focus on a specific topic for each blogging contributing to that particular blog.
Another angle on corporate blog planning involves themes every week. Example: Monday (Getting Started Articles) Wednesdays (Topics the Blogger is Trying to Learn & Documenting that Process) Friday (Posts in reaction to a particular topic from other blogs)
Tap Internal Subject Matter Experts: If the organizational structure supports it, you can divide blogging assignments by areas of specialization. Example: 16 Think Tank team members for healthcare at SAS that includes authors who specialize in specific areas. They are assigned to blog on their area of expertise at least once a month.
Have a blog that new bloggers can contribute to in order to show their commitment. SAS also has an internal blog network of 700+ bloggers that also acts as a testing ground.
If you have a group blog, you must have an editor. No assignments and nobody in charge = NO CONTENT. A blog editor is a content chaser, people watcher and project manager – not necessarily a corporate communications person.
For events, plan across blogs as needed. Map topics and aspects of the events to be covered by the different blogs in your organization to ensure coverage.
If blogs don’t work out, retire them.
Coach and advise, don’t micromanage. Be patient with different learning styles. Don’t pre-judge and expect too much.
Results: Customer Support – Positive comments and links to your blogs.
Results: Marketing – Bloggers invited to speak at conferences, getting calls from journalists, posts picked up by industry publications and bloggers getting invites to write books
Results: The New PR – Journalists contacting SAS after seeing blog posts. It’s the new PR.
Results: The Blog is the top news source on the sas.com website. In fact. compared to other news pages on the SAS site, the blogging effort is blowing other content out of the water in terms of traffic.
I think Alison gave some really useful ideas for blog content and planning. One of the most common objections I hear from companies that really should be blogging (and not all companies should) is that they have difficulty with creating content on an ongoing basis. It’s a big mind shift and kudos to SAS for having 8 Corporate Journalists on staff.
© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
SAS on Results-Driven Blogging for B2B Brands #cmworld | http://www.toprankblog.com
At the SES conference this week I gave several presentations on Content Marketing: “Content Marketing Optimization” and “The Convergence of Search, Social & Content Marketing”. In the CMO session, I provided SEO tips for each spoke in a hub and spoke model. The hub in this situation was a blog and one of the most common issues with business blog success is fresh content. In fact, one of the most common reasons companies don’t start a blog is over their concerns with creating useful content.
I can empathize with that concern and have addressed it with many companies over the past 7+ years that I’ve been blogging here on TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog. To help anyone interested in ideas for creating business blog content, check out the following 8 tips. They’ve worked for us and for many of our clients and may very well work for you too.
Oreo Cookie News Posts - Set up Google Alerts for keywords you’re tracking and when an article or blog post surfaces that meets your editorial criteria, excerpt in a blog post using your own intro and conclusion. That’s the “oreo cookie”, sandwiching a portion of the Google Alert with your own copy setting up why it’s important and your own conclusion or opinion. Always cite the source of course.
Short Lists – (Like this one) Create short lists of tips according to keyword themes, especially information that is in high demand but short supply. You can also focus on the kind of information that could help customers during various stages of the buying cycle: 5 Tips on How to Buy a New Widget, 5 Tips on Getting the Most Out of Your New Widget, 5 Things You Can Do With Old Widgets, 5 Common Problems with Widgets and How to Solve Them, etc.
Large Collections – Compile large collections of resources according to a search keyword or social topic theme. If you can find disparate resources that don’t normally get included together, it can really resonate as a unique and useful content object that will get bookmarked and shared. Long form and media rich content will often get bookmarked more because readers aren’t likely to consume it in one sitting.
Really relevant, unique and useful collections of resources can be hard to compile in one sitting, so set a task to collect such resources a few at a time, over time. A few minutes a day over 3 weeks is barely noticed compared to 2 uninterrupted hours in one day.
Interview Industry Influentials - First you need to define what influential really means to your particular industry. Those with the most subscribers, friends and fans (in social media terms) may not be the people who can be the most cooperative and giving. When approaching really well known industry people, it’s often easier to ask 10 people 1 question and compile the answers. That makes it easy for them to participate and when they see who else is involved, it can motivate them to participate. That means starting off with a few “internet famous” people that you know will participate, and reference them in requests to others you don’t know as well.
When interviewing subject matter expert “unsung heros”, use more questions and think about using keywords in the questions themselves, structuring the questions so that they might result in keyword rich answers. Of 10 questions asked of 10 people, make sure 2 or 3 questions are very tactical. Aggregate those tactical responses from the 10 interviewees later in a new post. There’s so much more you can do with repurposing content in original ways, but you get the idea. The key is to plan ahead.
Curate Comments – Aggregate the best comments from your blog or even other blogs according to a particular topic. Identify important blogs in your industry, especially those with active commenters. When you cite another blog, the content doesn’t need to be limited to the blog post. It can also include the comments from other blogs. You can chose to organize those comments according to keyword topics (citing the source blog of course) or a particular position that you’re taking.
You can also compile some of the best comments from your own blog as a way to recognize community participation.
Crowdsource Content - Think about doing surveys, polls & contests that result in content. Give readers an incentive to participate in a promotion where entry into the contest is based on some kind of content: short articles, images or video. Enable your blog readers to rate entries and promote the winner. Don’t just do this once, because if it works well at all, you can build momentum by running the promotion annually or quarterly depending on the volume of interest and participation. I recently posted about crowdsourcing content on ClickZ.
Answer with Subject Matter Expertise – Many subject matter experts and business executives are too busy to write blog posts. But if you ask them a question, they’ll talk your ear off. Use that behavior to your advantage and get business blogging staff to ask subject matter experts in the organization questions verbally – in person or on the phone – and use the answers in corporate blog posts.
Frontline Answers – Another goldmine of content for blogs is from frontline employees that interact with prospects and customers. Customer support staff and sales people answer questions all day long. Find a way to harvest that knowledge into edited FAQ’s for your blog. Always make sure you give feedback to whoever helps provide content to your business blog. That will contribute to their feeling of contribution and can help motivate future participation.
These ideas are just an excerpt from one slide of my solo presentation on Content Marketing Optimization. There are many other things you can do to create interesting content for your business blog, especially if you’ve done homework with customer profiles, search keywords and social topics. We’ve created processes around content calendars for blogs and other content marketing efforts that makes this a very straightforward process. Lists like the one above can certainly fuel an initial content calendar to either start a business blog or introduce new content to an existing blog.
Are you facing challenges with your business blog? What’s stopping you from launching a new blog or with content creation? What creative content ideas have you seen on other blogs that you’d like to share?
© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
Content Marketing Optimization: 8 Content Ideas for Business Blogs | http://www.toprankblog.com
At Intel’s first Social Media Conference in Portland this week, 100+ Intel social media practitioners from all over the world came together with about 20 industry subject matter experts to share and engage social media best practices.
One of those speakers was Lionel Menchaca, the Chief Blogger at Dell and a real pioneer in the world of blogging and social media for the enterprise. Lionel told the story of Dell’s initial blogging efforts that turned the tide of Dell Hell as well as other practical insights. Here are his tips on best practices blogging for the enterprise:
1. Write about topics that matter to your customers, especially the tough ones. Dell has a social media command center to track topics and inspire ideas, issues to deal with.
2. Provide context for a range of customers. Be thoughtful about the interests for specific segments of customers. Find a balance that allows you to appeal content to a range of customers. To do that effectively, you must listen online and understand the convergence of issues that you can address with content though the blog.
3. Write to educate and serve. If you’re doing your job correctly you’re doing both. Informing customers about more than products, including industry news and trends as it relates to your customer’s perspective builds trust and makes your corporate blog a source of information that’s meaningful towards what customers care about.
4. Be authentic, be human. If you can look back and see what established a blogger as a personality that audiences engage with, that’s what’s important. Write from a personal perspective, not from a “brand messaging” perspective.
5. Let your passion and personality show through. There will be points that the brand wants to make, but it’s important that the blogger’s personality show through. When tapping Subject Matter Experts for contributed blog posts, coach them on writing from a personal perspective vs. just providing the facts. [This reminds me of the Facts Tell, Stories Tell adage]
6. Provide an inside look. Content should complement, but also offer a different view than corporate website content, press releases, and other brand communications. Examples: Video interviews with internal subject matter experts about product features and what they personally like about them.
7. Don’t be afraid to disagree, if you can back it up. Dell uses Radian6 as a listening tool to monitor for discussions. Techmeme is also a useful site for tracking stories that drive discussion in the tech space. Show that you’re there to be part of the conversation when you find dissent, vs. trying to steamroll it.
While blogging within businesses has been around for a very long time, I think a it’s important for companies to take a second look at how their communicating through blogging platforms. Far too many business blogs are lacking in reach, readership and engagement because of approaching business blogging solely as a distribution channel vs. a platform for engagement. It’s by finding that right mix of personality and brand representation Thanks for the insights Lionel.
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
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?
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
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 socialmention.com 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
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
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
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 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?
© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
Blog Marketing Strategy: 7 Steps to Social SEO Success | http://www.toprankblog.com
While 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: ExploringSocialMedia.com
© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
BlogWorld NY: @JasonFalls No BS Guide to Advertising & PR for Bloggers | http://www.toprankblog.com
BlogWorld 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.
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
- 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?
© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
Dominate Your Niche with Social SEO & Blogging – BlogWorld Expo New York | http://www.toprankblog.com
It’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.
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.
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?
© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
Core Content SEO Tools: Keyword Glossary & Editorial Plan | http://www.toprankblog.com
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:
Event: Blogworld Expo New York – Social Media Business Summit
Date: 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.
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.
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
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.
- 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
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.
© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
Social SEO & PR Events: BlogWorld New York, OMS Minneapolis, SES Toronto, Vocus Users Conference | http://www.toprankblog.com
Concurrent with SXSWi in Austin, Texas this weekend was the TECHmunch event for food bloggers run by Babette Pepaj of Bakespace. Babette rounded up a stellar cast of characters to present on a variety of topics including numerous food journalists from the likes of CNN and the LA Times plus PR pros like Erik Deutch, Sarah Evans and Eric Schwartzman. Of course, no event during the week of SXSW would be complete without appearances from well known digerati like Brian Solis and Robert Scoble.
My task was to talk about SEO with a dash of Social Media and Content for blogs. Knowing just a few things about blogging, I shared the following info with abundant food metaphors to about 150 food bloggers and journalists.
Audience – Who’s Coming to Dinner?
Many bloggers start out writing about their passion and decide topics based on what’s top of mind or as a reaction to others from the community they’re involved with. That is as it should be. But if a blogger expects traffic from search and social channels to be competitive, then it’s important to empathize with the information needs of the people you’re trying to connect with.
Bloggers that say one should never consider keywords or SEO and just write good content are on to something: It’s called pure ego. They are blogging only for themselves and that’s fine. But those bloggers seeking to grow an audience and monetize increasing traffic will see the value in creating content that serves personal interests AND the information discovery, consumption and sharing behaviors of readers.
If you’re planning a dinner at your house and you decide to have your favorite beef pot roast but invite several vegetarians, those guests are unlikely to return. That’s what ego-centric blogging is.
Alternatively, if you make an effort to understand the needs of your intended audience in terms of what they’re interested in, the keywords they use to search and the topics they’re discussing on other blogs and social media sites, you can craft a “menu” of content, aka editorial plan that shows that you have something interesting and important to say as well as empathy for readers’ needs. Listen and give people what they want, even better than the competition, and those “guests” are likely not only to return again, but to say great things to others about you.
Keywords – What Do They Like to Eat?
There’s a lot of competition in the blog space and online content in general. Consumer discovery via search is still the dominant way to find information online. Bloggers can gain essential insight into the words that best represent interest in topics they plan to write about by using keyword research tools to create a keyword glossary. A list of keywords can serve as a guide or reference to word use in content on and off the blog to better represent the interests of the readers you’re trying to reach.
Back to the dinner metaphor: If you say you’re going to have “flesh melon” for an appetizer and your guests only know it as Honeydew melon, they may not be interested. Knowing the keywords readers use to search for information can guide copywriting so that it better informs and also improves search visibility for phrases that are more in demand. Being easy to find via search for more popular and relevant phrases will increase blog traffic and user experience.
Content SEO – Which Ingredients?
Applying the insights gained from keyword research for improved user experience and search visibility comes through incorporating keywords into content planning, categories, copy, links and tags. The most important places for keyword use are the title tag, body copy and links.
The bloggers that have the biggest issue with SEO will often say keyword use compromises their writing style and creativity. WordPress blogs can use the Headspace or AllinOneSEO plugins to enable a literal and keyword-rich title tag for search engines and another more creative title that might be a pun, ironic, inferred meaning or sarcasm, which people understand in context, but search engines usually do not.
Great SEO copywriting is transparent to the reader and should actually improve user experience. It’s as simple as using words in links to give the reader an idea of what to expect when they click vs. just “click here”. Or avoiding the overuse of pronouns and instead using descriptive words (that also happen to be relevant keywords).
Optimizing content is more than text – it means any digital asset that can be published online: audio, video, images and other document types like PDFs and MS Office docs.
As for our dinner metaphor, this means using words we know our guests are interested in, with the communications used to invite them, in our conversations about the dinner and how we present the food during the dinner.
SEO copywriting is like making a promise to the reader. Keywords in copy and links help your blog content show well in search results. Visibility on keyword phrases sets an expectation for the searcher that when they click the link, they’ll find the information and experience you’re promoting. If not, they’ll just go somewhere else.
Links & Social – How Will We Invite Our Guests and Help Them Spread the Word?
Great content is dead unless someone shares it. Blogs include RSS feeds so there is some automatic promotion of content but in a competitive category, it’s important to create, optimize and promote content that attracts readers and inbound links from other relevant websites. People that publish online can link to your content, but only if they know about it a like it. Search engines can see those links, whether they’re present in blog posts or Tweets. Search engines use links as a way to discover new content and as a signal in the search result sorting or ranking process.
Essentially, the more relevant links to your content, the better your content will do in search results. There are many other factors, hundreds, but behaviorally, the thing to focus on is making it easy for both search engines and people to discover and share your content. Assuming you are keeping the promise made through keywords in the form of high quality and relevant content, readers are more than happy to share and link to it. Just make it easy and compelling from them to do so.
That might mean creating content that is unique and cleverly packages to attract social promotion and links. It might mean recognizing collections of influential people and/or blogs in a clever way to attract links. Including social sharing buttons in blog posts also helps extend awareness of your content to new readers and those inclined to link to things they find interesting.
Most dinner parties do not have the objective of attracting as many other people as possible, but if you wanted to reach more of a certain kind of guest, you could make sure the promise of the dinner and the experience are congruent and exceed expectations. You could also do things like give guests recipes of the dishes served to extend the experience or take photos during the party and print them so guests can have them as a momento. A thank you card after the dinner also reinforces the experience and combined, the thoughtfulness, relevance and ease of sharing will inspire word of mouth.
Tools – Which Cookware and Dinnerware to Use?
There are a variety of social media SEO tools available for free or low cost to bloggers. Most of the keyword research a blogger may need to do can be accomplished with tools like Google’s Keyword Tool, Google Trends, SEMRush and of course paid tools like Wordtracker.
Social search tools like socialmention.com are handy for social keyword checking and PostRank is useful for measuring on and off-blog social engagement. Alexa Site Audit and Blekko toolbar (not available for Chrome??) offer intersting SEO related information about websites that can help identify duplicate content issues and the need to focus on certain keywords. Google Analytics is an excellent web analytics tool for blogs to measure performance.
For our dinner party, do we need to use professional grade cookware and our best china? It depends on the outcomes you’re after. Most tools are only as effective as the talent of the people using them. There are abundant choices but it comes down to your ability to use those tools to help automate redundancies or create better quality outcomes more efficiently.
Do you have blog content, optimization or link building tips to share? If you’ve experimented with different ways to attract links, what worked? What didn’t?
© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
Recipe for Successful Blog Marketing & SEO at TECHmunch Austin 2011 | http://www.toprankblog.com
After 7+ years, I’ve seen it all in blog comments. Genuine people responding, asking and sharing in ways that inspire streams of comment responses and even blog posts elsewhere on the web.
I’ve also seen far too many bots that automatically find blog posts that are of a certain age, written on a certain keyword topic and that have follow vs. nofollow links. Once found (automatically using software) they scrape parts of previous comments to create a new one with embedded links to their Viagra SEO New Delhi Insurance Leads spam site. Bleh.
Then there are the benign “good job [insert blogger name here] comments or those that have been translated into another language and back into English. Here’s another good one: comments from reputable people from reputable companies that insist on leaving their full email signature in the comment. One link isn’t enough, they must have two or three or more. Greedy.
It’s truly amazing how some people choose to add value (and when doing so it defintely gets on my radar) but that so many choose to be spammy. When people add value, I notice. When they spam, I am quick to blacklist.
What should you write in a comment? Opinion, reaction, questions, resources and most of all, something relevant. There are no bad comments when they come from a real person with real substance related to the blog post.
I understand people blog for a variety of reasons. TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog exists as an information source that gives our community a peek into the expertise and point of view within our marketing consulting agency. It demonstrates thought leadership and serves as a hub for our social media participation. TopRank Marketing’s presence on the social web is to engage with prospective customers, peers, potential employees, marketing partners, vendors and the media.
We do have a comment policy. It’s linked right above the comment box. It serves to provide readers a simple DO’s and DONT’S for commenting that creates value and that supports our purpose for having a blog. Each time I see a new comment without a person’s name or handle in the name field, I have to ask: “Is this a person or a thing?”
We’re here to engage with people, not bots and certainly not comment spammers or greedy link-types. Many, many conversations have been inspired by the thousands of posts authored here over the past 7 years. We welcome them all. Agree, disagree, it doesn’t matter.
Hopefully if you have your own blog, you’ve created your own blog comment policy. It won’t stop the bots or the 5 cents per post offshore outsourced comment spam, but it will provide human readers some guidelines.
Mainstream blogging has been around for about 10 years or so, but there are many people who are new to reading blogs or are not familiar with what’s appropriate. Help them by providing guidelines. The benefits will be improved quality in the comments, which motivates others to join in and revisit the blog.
Some of the best content on a blog is in the comments, not the blog posts. When a comment thread takes off, that’s the magic in blogging (to me). The exchange between an Author and readers is a highly valued outcome. Inspiring exchange and discussion between our readers, between real people with opinions, is priceless.
If you’re a blogger or read blogs fairly frequently, what do you consider comment spam? What kind of comments do you find most useful, interesting and worth responding to?
Over the past 7 years of blogging, one could say I’ve become quite familiar. Online Marketing Blog has received a lot of kudos recently but more importantly, our experience with reviewing others’ blogs has been a learning experience to say the least. I’ve looked at over 1,000 blogs to create the BIGLIST and recently reviewed the top UK Online Marketing Blogs as well.
Here are a few key characteristics I’ve found that represent a highly productive blog in terms of branding, community, SEO, PR, recruiting and taking mindshare away from the competition:
1. URL - Pick something short and easy to remember. blog.domainname.com works great, so does domainname.com/blog or even, companynamblog.com. Try to avoid obscure or long URLs like www.domainname.com/files/about/blog?home or worse, companyname.blogspot.com. If you’re a business, then act professionally and use a domain name you control for your blog URL.
2. Blog name - If your blog has a unique name like “GM Fastlane” then it should be prominent with a logo and that logo should link to the home page of the blog. If your blog is just named “Company Name Blog” that’s fine, but offer a “home” to go to. Tag lines to go along with the blog name are useful for readers so they understand what your blog is about. Taglines are also useful for SEO.
3. Design – When a blog works as a direct extension of your brand, then the style guide elements of your brand should carry over to the blog design. However, it shouldn’t be so close as to confuse the reader whether they’re on the company website or the company blog. If the blog serves another purpose, then it’s fine to have a unique style with subtle brand references.
An entire book could be written about user experience and design of a blog, but here are a few key points:
- Stand out – there are millions of blogs out there and competing social channels like Twitter and Facebook. You’d better stand out or be forgotten.
- Add style – make an effort to convey the personality and style of your company
- Easy to read – headlines should be much larger than the body copy of posts. Blog author, date published and other elements like comment count are useful for readers to connect with post authors and know they’re reading fresh content. We remove the dates after a year or so.
- Header – most blogs express their creativity with header graphics or images. If you can’t have a unique logo for your blog, then have a unique header
4. Navigation – I can’t say enough about the need to make it easy to find content on a blog. Useful navigation elements include: Categories, Tags or Tag Cloud, Search Box, Popular Posts, Recent Posts, Most Commented Posts. You don’t need all of these, but most of them are quite useful.
5. Content – create an editorial plan for the blog that supports the customer personas you’re trying to engage and that represents the keywords/topics you want to be known for. After 7 years of blogging, I like to have certain days each week planned out with specific topics and other days as wildcards. Ex: Social Mondays, Tactical Tips on Tuesdays, Thursday Rants and Friday News Roundup. Pay attention to web analytics, off-site citations, comments and social chatter to gauge whether your content resonates or not. Paying attention will also uncover new topics to cover that your readers are interested in. A simple query on your search engine referrer keywords with a filter of “how to” can reveal many topics for tactical posts.
6. Social - we like the blog hub and spoke model that leverages blog content as a destination and off-blog social media participation and other content syndication as the outposts. That means the blog might have a Twitter, Facebook, Slideshare, YouTube, Amplify and similar accounts that are used to extend conversation, re-purpose or mash-up blog content.
As you can see with this blog, we’ve added the Facebook fan box to the sidebar and make it easy to share on Twitter and Facebook with sharing buttons / counters at the top of each post. It’s no wonder that Facebook and Twitter drive a substantial amount of traffic to the blog. That’s not because we offer the sharing buttons as much as the fact that we’re social on Facebook and Twitter. Flair is no substitute for interaction. So if you add social features to your blog, understand that to make them effective, time should be spent on those off-blog social channels.
7. Who – as in, who is behind the blog. This is far too rare a feature on many blogs. Create a page that describes the purpose of the blog and the people behind it. That kind of content makes it clear what readers can expect and gives them something to identify with when reading posts.
There are many, many other tips for effective blogs. Essentially, make sure your blog conveys the brand and message you’re after with its design and content. Make it easy to read, navigate and share content. Within a few seconds, readers should be able to tell what the blog topic is and find something interesting. If not, they’ll move on to someone else.
I know we have a lot of experienced business bloggers reading, what are some of your best tips for a successful business blog? Are there features you’d like us to add to Online Marketing Blog?