Content Conversations: How to Hit the Ground Running with Content Marketing in 2018

We are in the final stretch of 2017 which means 2018 will be here before we know it. And unfortunately, Q2 will be here in the blink of an eye.

All too often we spend weeks or even months creating a content strategy, and quickly find that by the middle of March, we’ve already abandon our best laid plans. Instead, we should be spending our efforts developing a plan that is tied to a core group of objectives that we can reference as soon as it feels like things may be getting off track.

It’s no surprise that one of the key themes for content marketing in the coming year is working harder to tie marketing activities to objectives and measuring TRUE content impact.

To help you figure out how to start 2018 off with a bang, we bring you part 2 of Content Conversations. Last week we tapped into our content experts for insights into top content lessons learned in 2017. This week we take a dive into essential steps to help you hit the ground running with content in 2018.

Always Think of Your Audience First

Sounds easy enough right? You’d think so. But unfortunately, many brands are still creating very brand and product centric content.

Instead, focus on creating content that answers the top questions that your audience is asking. If you don’t know what those questions are, speak with your customers and use tools like Answer the Public to determine demand.

Ann Handley
Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs

“If your content isn’t of value to your audience, then it’s not effective.” @annhandley tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • What are the top three pain points that our product/solution/service solves for our customers?
  • Which of my current content appears to be resonanting best with our target audience?
  • What does an ideal customer look like?

Simplify & Focus on Content Impact

Regardless of resources and budget, content marketers want to do it all. Often, we become spread too thin because we’re trying to focus on too many channels and too many tactics.

Let data be your guide for determining where to focus in 2018. Use this information to decide which channels and tactics are performing and fully invest your time and effort in the coming year into these data-driven and focused approaches for maximum impact.

Joe Pulizzi
Author & Keynote Speaker

“Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint.” @joepulizzi tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • Would our content benefit from an audit?
  • Which tactics do we know perform best for our brand?

Tie Content Marketing to Revenue

Let’s face it, there are a lot of marketers secure in their positions that are not at all responsible for the performance of their marketing. Because content objectives can sometimes appear “fuzzy”, many marketers are not moving the needle in the right direction.

It doesn’t matter if your content budget is large or small, it’s important to tie all tactics and activities to a desired outcome. Now that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for testing and creativity which is essential for standing out against the competition.

Chris Brogan
CEO, Owner Media Group

“The biggest companies in the world want more passionate people, not spreadsheet watchers.” @chrisbrogan tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • Have we identified the true performance and value of our content marketing activities?
  • Are we all holding each other accountable to marketing performance?

Create Content Benchmarks

How will you ever know where you’re going unless you understand where you’ve been? Instead of setting arbitrary performance content goals, review performance of previous campaigns or tactics to create a benchmark.

Also, once content has gone live, be sure to review what worked (and what didn’t) so that you can optimize the performance going forward. Content is not a “set it and forget it” tactic so it’s important to edit to improve marketing performance.

Alexandra Rynne
Content Marketing Manager – Marketing Solutions, LinkedIn

“Look back at how your content has performed and optimize your approach.” @amrynnie tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • What similar content have you published that can be used as a benchmark for future content?
  • What are reasonable goals for improving content performance?

Be Creative & Experiment

It’s time for content marketers to begin pushing boundaries. Instead of focusing on getting the content published, take a look at what has been created and what is planned to determine if it is a piece of art, or something anyone could make.

Depending on the size of your organization, you may not have a dedicated creative or design staff. Spend time finding outside freelancers or agencies that can help turn your content from good to mind blowing.

Tim Washer
Writer & Producer, Cisco

“Content goals that are clear are publishing deadline and budget, but many can’t tell if they’ve created something meaningful.” @timwasher tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • What is one test or bet that you can make early in the year on a creative piece of content?
  • What budget can you set aside for experimenting with super creative content?

Determine Your Measurement Strategy

Content success looks different for every brand. Defining your goals for content in different funnels of the buying cycle are critical to content success.

Every piece of content that you create and publish should be directly tied to goals and should be relentlessly measured against those goals.

Dayna Rothman
VP of Marketing & Sales Development, BrightFunnel

“Have goals in place for every piece of content you create.” @dayroth tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • What are the most important KPIs for our brand that content should be measured against?
  • What tools do we have/need in order to effectively measure content?

Understand the Waterfall

As you know, digital marketing is a multi-touch process. The vast majority of time, prospects don’t convert into customers just from reading a single blog post.

Plan for the different stages of the customer journey to make sure that you have compelling (or even personalized) content for each stage of their vetting process.

Chris Moody
Content Marketing Leader, GE Digital

“Everything you do as a marketer, can be anchored into something that is actual ROI.” @cnmoody tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • Do we know what the typical customer journey looks like for our brand?
  • Do we have anchor content at each stage to keep moving them through the funnel?

How Do You Plan to Hit the Ground Running in 2018?

The verdict is in and 2018 appears to be the year that marketers MUST focus on content measurement outside of basic KPIs. The marketplace is becoming increasingly competitive so it’s essential to define your content measurement strategy by the end of the year in order to remain relevant.

What advice do you have for other content marketers to hit the ground running in 2018?

Disclosure: BrightFunnel & LinkedIn are TopRank Marketing clients.

12 Industry-Specific Opportunities for Boosting Social Media Engagement

In the ever-changing social media landscape, we marketers are often on the prowl for meaningful data and insights to understand what works, what doesn’t and where our opportunities may lie. As a result, we often turn to industry research and studies, which often feature benchmarks that help us better internalize our own metrics and understand how we stack up to the competition.

While most studies offer incredibly insightful and useful information, one component may be missing: industry context.

Earlier this year, Rival IQ released its 2017 Social Media Industry Benchmark Report, featuring unique benchmark data for six different industries: Media, Higher Education, Non-profits, Food & Beverage, Fashion and Health & Beauty.

Why is context so important? As Rival IQ so eloquently said:

Key performance indicators like engagement rate, the number of clicks on a social post, or hashtag engagement rates tells a lot about what is happening as a result of activities. But it says nothing regarding whether the efforts are successful, failing, or where to focus on closing those gaps. Why? Because benchmarks are relative. … It’s easy to compare against the best, we all know those brands. That comparison often proves worthless. Comparing yourself to only the best and biggest brands is a disservice to the work your team has invested in social media.

As we near the end of the year, you’re undoubtedly preparing your 2018 social media marketing strategy. Below I share some of the report’s industry-specific opportunities for upping social engagement that deserve your consideration.

Media

Opportunity #1: Use more video on Facebook and Twitter.

According to the study, media companies boast the highest number of posts per day on Facebook and Twitter, but also the lowest engagement rates at .12% and .015%, respectively.

Social Engagement for Media Companies

Coming from a journalism background, this certainly didn’t surprise me. As the news happens, media organizations use social media to spread the word—and even a slow news day produces plenty of shareable fodder. But most of that shared content are links to on-site content, which requires the user to take another step to consume the content.

As a result, media companies have the opportunity to not only draw more eyeballs in, but keep them there longer by incorporating more video into their social media strategy.  

Opportunity #2: Invest in Instagram.

This finding is pretty straight forward. According to the report, Instagram gets the least amount of love on a daily basis, with the average post per day being just .8. However, the engagement rate on Instagram is exponentially higher at 1.25%, signaling that Instagram audiences are ripe for more content.

Non-profits

Opportunity #1: Repurpose Facebook videos for Twitter.

According to the report, non-profits are “owning” native video, but they may not be utilizing it effectively across all their social channels. As you can see from the graphs below, video is much more prevalent on Facebook than on Twitter, but engagement in that type of content is high on both platforms.

Facebook Engagement Metrics Nonprofits

Twitter Engagement Metrics for Nonprofits

Based on the findings, Rival IQ suggested repurposing Facebook video content (or perhaps going native) for Twitter to help up engagement rates.

Opportunity #2: Leverage high-performing hashtags.

Like the media industry, non-profits have some opportunity with Instagram. According to the report, by just increasing posts per day by .2 (one more post every five days) non-profits could see a lift in engagement. Furthermore, using trending and high-performing hashtags (and related subject matter) such as #VeteransDay in their posts could lend a boost, too.

Higher Education

Opportunity #1: Up the number of status updates on Facebook.

According to the report, colleges and universities boast some of the highest engagement rates compared to the other industries in the study.

Social Engagement for Media Companies

But what’s most interesting is that simple status updates do almost as well as video and photos. As a result, Rival IQ suggests that higher education organizations could up the number of status updates on Facebook and still receive great engagement.

Opportunity #2: Add visual elements to tweets.

While visuals aren’t necessarily an essential for higher education Facebook audiences, they’re a big opportunity for Twitter audiences. As you can see in the graph below, tweets with videos or photos have a significantly higher engagement rate.

Higher Ed Twitter Engagement Rates

Fashion

Opportunity #1: Incorporate more video across social channels.

Social posts featuring images are the most common type of posts among fashion brands, and while they get the most engagement, video is a close second—but less posts contain videos.

As the power of video becomes increasingly evident, fashion brands may want to incorporate more into their social strategy to drive more overall engagement.

Opportunity #2: Re-evaluate hashtags to make sure they are relevant to the audience.

According to the report, the top hashtags that fashion brands are currently using only provide slightly higher engagement compared to the other industries studied. Some of those top hashtags include a mix of holiday, lifestyle and fashion-related hashtags.

Top Hashtags for Fashion Brands

As a result, it may be worth it to go more industry-specific and focus on those fashion-related hashtags to be more relevant and boost engagement.

Health & Beauty

Opportunity #1: Focus on photos.

Video is undoubtedly an engagement driver and opportunity for most industries, but according to the study, that’s where the health and beauty industry differs. In fact, photos trump video in engagement on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook Engagement Rates for Health and Beauty Brands

Twitter Engagement Rates for Health & Beauty

This signals that health and beauty brands should double-down on the creation of quality, compelling photos for use across their social channels.

Opportunity #2: Use industry-related hashtags.

When it comes to Instagram, Rival IQ’s study found that industry-related hashtags such as #moisturizer or #healthyskin—rather than just top-performing or trending hashtags like #ValentinesDay—get better engagement. So, health and beauty brands should absolutely be leveraging those industry-related hashtags to stay relevant and encourage engagement.

Food & Beverage

Opportunity #1: Invest in compelling imagery for use across channels.

Photos are the most common type of social posts for food and beverage companies—and for good reason. They drive high engagement. As a result, food and beverage brands should absolutely be investing in high-quality, compelling imagery that will resonate with their audience.

Food & Beverage Industry Social Engagement Rates

Opportunity #2: Get on the Twitter bandwagon.

According to the report, food and beverage companies are rocking it on Twitter, significantly outperforming other industries. So, if you’ve been wondering whether Twitter is worth the investment, it may be a good time to incorporate Twitter into your strategy.

Read the full Rival IQ report here.

The Bottom-Line

Simply put, there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for fostering engagement on social media. While many industries have the same high-level opportunities for adding video, producing quality images and refining hashtagging strategies, there are nuances and caveats that are industry-unique.

So, as you work to refine your strategy today, tomorrow and beyond, do so with your unique industry and audience at the forefront of your mind. However, don’t neglect the great things happening outside your industry bubble. After all, a little inspiration can go a long way.

Looking for a little of that inspiration? Check out our post What All Marketers Can Learn from Fast Food Giants Crushing Twitter.

Have some insight to lend on this subject? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

4 Significant Marketing Channels You Should Adopt in 2018

Regardless of whether you’re a B2B or B2C marketer, your audience is always on the move. With changing devices, interests, and behaviors it’s increasingly difficult to stay in front of your target audience. As the saying goes, ‘a moving target is harder to hit.’

To increase our chances of hitting our targets, we often weave several channels into our marketing strategy, putting our brand in front of more potential leads. However, in today’s digital landscape, it can feel like new platforms and social networks pop up daily leaving you to wonder if you need to change up your strategy.

Below, we gathered our top four emerging digital marketing channels to help you decide which channels are worth focusing on and stay top of mind with your target audience. Read on to learn how you can adopt them into your 2018 marketing plan.

1. Messaging Apps

Messaging apps are now 20% bigger than social networks, creating new pathways where you can target your audience. This includes messaging apps like WhatsApp, Slack, WeChat, and Facebook Messenger. Facebook Messenger alone is on the phones of over 1.2 billion people and with mobile now accounting for 57% of internet traffic, it’s important for your brand to be visible on the mobile apps your audience uses.

Through strategic advertising and integrated chatbots, your brand can attract and support more customers through messaging apps. For example, you can send sponsored, personalized messages to people who have messaged your brand in the past to start a dialogue. Then, with well-designed and thoughtful bot, you can automate the conversations and interactions your brand has with your audience to draw them closer to converting.

2. Medium

With 91% of B2B marketers stating that they use content marketing, odds are you already create noteworthy content for your brand. Medium, a publishing platform where people “read and write things that matter,” allows you to distribute that content with an engaged and thoughtful audience. And through Medium’s priority on quality content, the size of your audience doesn’t affect the virality of what you have to say, which differs from how other publishing sites and networks work.

As a platform for individuals and their opinions, Medium is a place for your brand’s thought leaders to share their progressive ideas. Instead of publishing content as a business, ask your brand’s top minds to post content that is thought provoking, yet relevant to your industry or business. With over 126 million website visits to date and growing, Medium’s active users will highlight and interact with your content, increasing the visibility of your content on the platform.

3. Reddit

Boasted as “The Front Page of the Internet”, Reddit provides another unique opportunity for brands to engage new, active audiences. With over 250 million users to date, Reddit allows users to create, share, and discuss online content and vote on their submissions. This has resulted in an active, loyal, and engaged community full of user-generated content. In fact, after 1.69 billion website visitors to date, Reddit has an average site visit duration of over 10 minutes.

Get started with Reddit by selecting a few subreddits (i.e. threads dedicated to specific topics) that are appropriate for you to share your content in. You can also try out Reddit’s advertising features which allow you to sponsor a post to the front page of a subreddit. And if you’re feeling extra brave, you can host an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit, which allows you to have a Q&A session with Reddit’s community. Be warned, however: posting on Reddit can be a bit like walking through a minefield—you never know what you’re going to get.

4. YouTube

Video accounts for 74% of all internet traffic, meaning your audience spends a majority of their time online watching a video. While YouTube has been around for over a decade, it still hasn’t made it into many marketing strategies with only 30% of B2B marketers believing video will be critical to their content marketing. Today, YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine and second most visited site, making it a prime place to distribute video content and engage audiences.

While producing your own video may seem daunting, video creation has never been more accessible through new SaaS offerings and sophisticated phone cameras. Plus, your videos don’t need to be overly complicated. Showcase your company’s thought leaders through one on one interviews, live streamed Q&A’s, or webinars. In addition, you can create in-depth tutorials that walk your audience through difficult problems, highlighting your expertise and educating your audience. For more ideas on the types of videos you can create, see how seven brands are using long-form video content to connect with audiences.

Mix Up Your Content Marketing Game

Finding the right content marketing mix that successfully engages the right people isn’t an exact science. For more tips and ideas on how to find that perfect balance, check out these content marketing mix tips.

Digital Marketing News: Tech & ABM, Top Search Ranking Factors and 2017 Consumer Trends

How New Tech Trends Can Amplify Your Marketing Strategy [Animated Infographic]
How can technology help your account based marketing be more efficient and more personal? This infographic answers that question and more about marketing technology trends, AI and machine learning. MarketingProfs

Top 17 Organic Search Ranking Factors [STUDY]
A new study from SEMRush shows the top search ranking factors for 2017. These factors heavily favor engagement and quality of content – with factors like bounce rate, time on page and direct visits dominating the top of the list. Having the appropriate keywords in the title, meta description and page content were near the bottom. Search Engine Journal

No One Trusts Social Media, but They’ll Keep Using It Anyway [New Data]
Distrust for social media is on the rise, with close to half of survey respondents saying that Google, Facebook and Twitter are ‘untrustworthy.’ However, despite the distrust, few plan to stop using social networks and Google. HubSpot

Study Finds Sharp Drop in Time Spent on Facebook
eMarketer reports: “Facebook users in the US spent more time with the platform than users of any other social network, 18 hours, 24 minutes. But that was a significant drop from the 32 hours, 43 minutes recorded by Verto Analytics a year ago.” eMarketer

2017 Consumer Trends Report
What do US consumers care about in 2017? In this new study, social media data shines some light onto what topics of conversation are most prevalent and what conversations are emerging. Crimson Hexagon

The State of E-Commerce in Fast-Moving Consumer Goods [Infographic]
According to MarketingProfs, this infographic “offers insights into the current state of e-commerce in FMCG, also known as CPG (consumer packaged goods), as well as why e-commerce is no longer just an option for FMCG (it’s a must-have) and which verticals have seen the most growth.”  MarketingProfs

Facebook debuts web-based VR experiences within standard News Feed
Facebook has recently released examples of brands who have developed VR apps with which users can interact in the Facebook News Feed and mobile app. Facebook is calling them “360 experiences”. MarketingLand

Google AdWords Editor updates to support budget type option for video ads & more
Google has announced even more updates to their AdWords Editor program. These updates will support new features like Gmail asset-based ads, video extensions and a new budget type option for video ads. Search Engine Land

What were your top digital marketing news stories this week?

We’ll be back next week with more digital marketing news. Have something to share? Tweet to @toprank!

4 Ways to Use Typefaces on Your Landing Page to Elevate Your Brand

There’s a reason you can recognize an Apple ad right away. Same with Nike and Airbnb. A big part of that is because of imagery, copy, and layout, but typefaces play a huge role as well.

Although the ROI of having a strong brand is harder to measure than, say, clear button copy, it’s telling that some of the most respected companies in the world have strong design cultures and distinct aesthetics.

Brand recognition via typefaces and design

Examples of Apple and Nike’s on-brand design aesthetics.

When designing landing pages, you need them to be on-brand, pixel for pixel. Great design is often a tell-tale sign of more sophisticated marketing (and can give you an easier time getting conversions as it can help convey that you’re well established). One of the most obvious elements that need complete design versatility on your landing pages is your typeface.

This is why Unbounce launched built-in Google fonts in September of this year. Now there are 840+ fonts to choose from for all your text and button needs, straight from the text editor’s properties panel:

New Google Fonts in the Unbounce builder

For some inspiration on how to best use this newfound world of hundreds of fonts, we’re passing the mic to some of our in-house designers at Unbounce. See what they have to say about everything from the best fonts for creating a visual hierarchy to how your text can communicate emotion. Plus see what types of fonts they’re excited to use in their upcoming design work in the builder.

Break the rules where possible

Cesar Martinez, Senior Art Director here at Unbounce, hears a lot of talk about rules. But they’re not the be-all-and-end-all. As he tells us:

“Often when discussing typography with my peers, I hear about all sorts of design principles, some of which I’ve always challenged myself to learn almost as commandments. I realized that is very easy to fall into a vortex of overused principles of visual communication that can potentially damage your integrity (or what some call originality) as a brand.

When designing landing pages that need to feel especially branded or out of the box, try breaking these rules every now and then
(then A/B test to see what works and doesn’t). For example, you could use more than two typefaces in one paragraph, break the kerning on your headers, use a big bold-ass serif on a semi-black background and see how it looks with a thin handmade brushed calligraphic font as the subheader…I know it sounds crazy, but this can lead to unexpected results and it’s something I’m really looking forward to doing with the builder’s new built-in Google fonts.”

Some of Cesar’s favorite out-of-the-box examples of typography?

“I love what ILOVEDUST does when it comes to typography. I also recommend reading Pretty Ugly2 as an introspection of “bad” typography applications that succeed in the way they communicate a visual idea.”

Which font is Cesar most excited to use in the builder? A few: Roboto, Playfair, and Abril Fatface.

Use fewer fonts to clarify information hierarchy

Denise Villanueva, a Product Designer, created our Unbounce Academy with clear and consistent hierarchy in mind.

“Good typography is the most straightforward way to create a clear content hierarchy. That, above anything else, should be the main criteria of choosing typefaces for your brand.”

Denise provided some specific pointers to help you achieve sound content hierarchy on your landing pages:

Denise

“When in doubt, using one font family in 2–3 weights (or two font families in 1-2 weights) will work the vast majority of the time. Using more than three typefaces can be distracting and chaotic — avoid doing it.”

As an example, Unbounce’s Fitspo template features the Raleway font (in all caps for headers and sentence case for regular body copy) and a clear, attention-grabbing header with supporting sections that guide you further down the page. Think of it as presenting your information in clearly defined levels that are easy to read.

Unbounce's Fitspo landing page template

Give someone all the feels with typographic details

For Denis Suhopoljac, our Principal User Experience Designer, using the right typography can evoke feelings in your audience:

Denis Suhopoljac

“Typefaces are all about composition, harmony, and mood rolled into one. By matching the right typography traits with voice, style and tone of a brand, you can enhance the wit, humor, or seriousness of a piece of copy. When it’s done right, typography makes your copy (and your entire brand experience) legible, readable, and appealing.”

Typefaces can convey emotion

Different fonts convey different types of emotions via text — what do these typefaces make you think of? Professionalism? Reliability? Playfulness? Timelessness?

Try incorporating typeface as part of your message

To Ainara Sáinz, our Interactive Designer, good typography can do double duty and save you from having to use other supporting imagery.

Ainara Sainz“If typography is done well, you don’t always need extra elements like images, backgrounds or even colors to reinforce the message. And sometimes, the execution is so flawless that the audience might not even need to know how to read to understand and feel the message behind it. Like Ji Lee’s Word as Image project—just… wow.”

Image via Ji Lee’s Word as Image project.

Your landing pages can make use of stunning fonts too

Having solid branding does wonders for a brand’s credibility, and our customers have been telling us that they want to get in on the action. Get into the builder today to explore the 840+ new typeface options available, and find your favourite pairings for your next landing page.

The TopRank Marketing Team Reflects & Gives Thanks

Today is a day that has become a cornerstone of American tradition and many of you are preparing for a day of fun and feasting with your love ones.

Every family has their own Thanksgiving traditions. For many families, you spend the day cooking, eating, conversing and eating some more. Others (like myself) take a more non-traditional approach and host a Friendsgiving with no turkey (don’t worry, there is prime rib).

The team at TopRank Marketing has our own Thanksgiving tradition which includes asking our team members to share thanks on a specific topic each year. Last year we shared why we were thankful for our clients and the year before we focused on why we were thankful for our team members.

This year, we decided to focus on what we are most thankful for in our career and what we’ve learned in our time at TopRank Marketing.

So sit back, put on your stretchy pants and take a moment to digest what some of our team members are most thankful for this year.

Steve Slater
Digital Advertising Manager

I’m thankful to have a career that is constantly changing and challenging me to change with it. I’m thankful to be at TopRank Marketing because it’s a company where open feedback and communication is valued. It’s also a company where personal growth and collaboration is baked into the culture.

Lee Odden
CEO

I am incredibly thankful to work in an industry where curiosity, passion, creativity and a focus on marketing results can be rewarded in so many ways. Not only do I have the opportunity to gain digital marketing knowledge working with first class clients and an amazing team at our agency, but I get to share their success stories at marketing conferences all over the world.

Josh Nite
Content Marketing Manager

TopRank Marketing has been a career rebirth for me. In two years I learned more than I did in a decade at my old job. I’m so thankful for leadership that cares about nurturing talent, and for the incredibly smart team I work with. Everyone is so generous with their knowledge, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Myrle Croasdale
Copywriter

I am thankful to be part of a team that is leading in the digital marketing arena. The TopRank Marketing team intentionally works to stay ahead of emerging trends to deliver concrete results for clients. It great to be part of such a dynamic team.

Mike Odden
Research Analyst

As working at TopRank Marketing is my second career ( I taught in public schools for 31 years ) I feel very  blessed to have the opportunity. To see TopRank  Marketing grow and to be part of this team of super professionals is fantastic!

Caitlin Burgess
Senior Content Marketing Manager

I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to work and grow with so many amazing, talented people. Thanks to the support and nurturing I’ve received, I’ve cultivated great friendships and had the opportunity to grow and refine many areas of my marketing skillset. So, a big thank you to every TopRank Marketing team member. I couldn’t do what I do without you.

Debbie Friez
Social Media Lead

I am thankful for the opportunity to learn from the great minds at TopRank Marketing every day. When you work with creative intelligent people you can’t help but cultivate new ideas and push to do better work. I’m really looking forward to the new opportunities 2018 will bring!

Elizabeth Williams
Account Manager

I feel so wonderfully blessed to have the opportunity to work at TopRank Marketing. I am thankful to be surrounded by such outstanding, industry-leading digital marketing professionals. I love to learn alongside and from the expertise of my team as we take on big challenges and drive results for our clients. I can’t wait to see how we can continue to grow and improve in 2018.

Ashley Zeckman (That’s Me!)
Director of Agency Marketing

Where do I start? I am incredibly thankful for the various mentors and teammates that I have had throughout the years. Without these people who have helped guide me, I would know far less than I do today.

My time at TopRank Marketing especially has been filled with opportunities that I feel incredibly lucky to have. Lee our CEO has been a fantastic mentor and has bestowed an incredible amount of knowledge on me related to all things digital marketing, but especially around the topics of content marketing and influencers. The team members that I have the opportunity to work with every day are some of the top in their field and I am fortunate to learn something new each day. I would also like to thank the amazing people who have given me a chance and helped me step outside of my comfort zone to get up in front of audiences and speak on topics relating to content and influencers including Ann Handley and Nick Westergaard (you guys are amazing!).

Rachel Miller
Influencer Marketing Manager

I am thankful for the opportunity to meet and learn from so many top minds. I am truly grateful that my role allows me to build relationships and learn new skills on an almost a daily basis.

Amy Higgins
Account Manager

I’m thankful for the relationships that I have built with my clients. 

Together, we have launched amazing, thought provoking campaigns — ones that exceed audience expectations and engage interesting conversations with a ton of thought leaders in the market.

Nick Nelson
Content Strategist

I know this response will sound cliché, but it is amazing to do work that you genuinely enjoy, and are passionate about.

I’ve been writing relentlessly since the days when I’d print out a neighborhood newspaper as a 9-year-old and deliver it to doorsteps around the block (“The Daily Mouse,” we named it). I’m beyond grateful to now have a career in which I get to write creatively on a regular basis, helping clients articulate their brand narratives and reach people in unique new ways.

I know from my own past experience, and from conversations with many others, that it’s not exactly common to have a job you wake up and look forward to each day. That isn’t lost on me, and never will be as long as I’m lucky enough to be doing what I do.

Anne Leuman
Copywriter

I am thankful for all of my awesome TopRank Marketing coworkers who afford me the opportunity to learn from them each and every day. They truly put the “top” in TopRank (for the record, they also put the “prank” in TopRank).

Katie Uphus
Vice President of Operations

I am thankful for the opportunity to join the TopRank Marketing team and help set them up for growth and greater success!

Have a Safe, Happy & (Somewhat)Healthy Thanksgiving

Thank you to our amazing clients, influencers and followers for everything that you do. Without all of you, we literally wouldn’t be here.

Whatever your plans are for the long weekend, we hope that you set aside some time to relax and unwind. You’ve earned it.

Happy Thanksgiving!
The Team at TopRank Marketing

Set Up a Website Quickly with StudioPress Sites

I shot a quick video showing just how easy it is to build a WordPress website fast using StudioPress Sites. I’ve been promoting and marketing their products for years because I think they’re great. Let me show you why.

Set up a Website Quickly with StudioPress Sites

Watch this video. It’s reasonably brief. I shot it in real time, mistakes and all.

What I like most are things that aren’t sexy to talk about: the servers are stable, there’s great security protection, etc. But I also love how fast you can put something together using their themes.

If this looks interesting to you, I recommend checking out StudioPress Sites for yourself and getting started.

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Smart Cities. Companies Using Your Face. A Primer on AI – The Brief for 11.22.17

Here are the notes from the Chris Brogan Media broadcast for 11/22/17. (You can watch this on my Facebook account).

The goal of these posts is that there are trends and ideas here that might impact your business now or soon. Think on the stories here and look for ways to adjust your business accordingly. If ever you’re stuck, get in touch with me and I can help.

This live video was all shot using Ecamm Live (client), the best way to do Facebook Live for Mac.

Please note that all links may be affiliate links. If someone is a client, I’ll call that out specifically.

Stories Shared

What will it mean to have smart cities? For one, it’s going to require leadership to make it all gel.

But if we’re living in smart cities, we’ll need some futuristic jobs.

Artificial and augmented intelligence will be needed. What’s that about? Here’s a primer for AI.

Oh, and if you’re an Android phone user (like me), Google’s slurping a lot of data that it’s not telling you about.

Not just them, though. Your face data is going to be a thing. A kind of spooky thing in some ways. (I already showed you slaughterbots but it’s worth a reprise.)

Let’s have some good news. WeWork is sponsoring a female only club as a way to promote women in business.

Now for some immediately practical future news. Here’s how to build a chatbot to use it for growing your list.

And here’s the basic elements of developing your own visual brand. Really cool tool here.

In plant-based news, more reports of the meat industry up in arms over plant versions of meat.

But don’t forget. Industries tend to want to protect their domains and YOUR health and safety aren’t anyone’s concern.

Lastly, and apropos of nothing else, a really cool cosplay because that’s a thing I like to share.

Hey, if this has been interesting, consider picking up my weekly newsletter. It’s all unique ideas by me about how to improve buyer interactions and grow your business. Give it a peek

What ELSE is News?

You want to get featured on the Chris Brogan Media show? Drop me an email: chris@chrisbrogan.com and let me know what’s news!

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Values in Marketing: How Taking a Stand Boosts Your Business

What do Home Depot, Ikea, Dillard’s and REI have in common?

They all will be closed for Thanksgiving this year, joined by dozens more major retailers. REI in particular will remain closed through Black Friday as well. On some of the biggest shopping days in the U.S., these retail giants are encouraging potential customers to stay home.

On the surface, it seems like a risky move. At worst, these brands risk losing customers to competitors, and at best they’re out a substantial chunk of sales revenue.

But major players in the industry don’t get that way by giving away money. They know that leading with their values is good for business. They saw Black Friday slowly encroach into Thanksgiving, and chose to support the idea that the holiday should be a day of rest, not a marathon of bargain-hunting.

As an early adopter, REI serves as a case study to the business power of leading with your values. The sporting goods retailer stayed closed on Thanksgiving and Black Friday in 2015, branding the initiative the Opt Outside campaign. The message was simple: Instead of shopping, go out and get in touch with nature. It was a potent idea, perfectly consistent with the brand’s core values. And the gamble paid off: REI saw a 9.3% increase in revenue, a 7% increase in store sales, and a 23% increase in digital sales for 2015.

It’s not just about choosing to close your business on a particular day, of course. It’s about broadcasting your brand’s values, and showing the courage of your convictions by following through on them. Consumers tend to favor that kind of boldness.

Here’s why leading with your brand’s values can be a boost to your marketing.

Differentiate Your Business

In the always-on digital world, a lot of the key differentiators brands used to rely on cease to matter. The hardware store downtown is open an hour later, so you shop there. The bank down the street always has extra tellers and shorter lines, so you choose to bank there. The local supermarket has the best deals on produce, so get your apples and bananas there.

Price and convenience are getting harder to compete on. One of the few remaining differentiators is what a brand stands for. TOMS shoes, Dove, Always and adidas are just a few brands using culture as a content marketing strategy. And the strategy is paying off – a recent study from Cone Communications found that 87% of consumers use values as a guide for making purchase decisions.

Define Your Audience

Some brands focus on pulling in the largest audience possible. To avoid turning off any potential customers, they avoid making controversial statements – and eventually statements of any kind. The problem is, “inoffensive” can quickly turn into “bland.” Sure, no one hates a bland brand. But no one loves them, either. And the worst part is, the majority of people that might be turned off by a brand’s values were likely never going to be customers in the first place.

When you lead with your values, you may turn away some people. But the trade-off is energizing the people who share your values, inspiring brand loyalty and ambassadorship. Starbucks is a perfect example of this phenomenon. When they announced they would hire 10,000 refugees, some people boycotted the brand. But a far larger group became more loyal, resulting in a net win for the company.

Inspire Your Employees

The people who work for your organization are the single largest underutilized marketing force you have. On average, employees tend to have ten times the connections on social media than the brand they work for. And people are more likely to trust messaging that comes from other people rather than a brand’s social accounts.

If you can inspire your employees to be brand ambassadors, you can be more credible to your existing audience and reach vast untapped audiences as well. Leading with your values is one way to give employees that inspiration. Communicate your brand values internally to make sure everyone shares the vision, then encourage employees to post on social media when they see those values in action.

Go Against the Flow

When some retailers started opening earlier and earlier on Black Friday – eventually cutting into Thanksgiving itself – most businesses followed suit. But a special few had the courage to lead with their values, buck the trend, and start a counter-movement, and their efforts have paid off. That kind of values-based marketing has proven to be a powerful differentiator, helping businesses find new audiences and inspire their employees to be brand ambassadors.

Whether you spend your weekend shopping or relaxing with family, come back to work Monday ready to put your brand’s values in action. Because values-driven, purpose-led marketing is something we all can be thankful for.

What’s your favorite story of a brand taking a values-driven stand? Let me know in the comments.

Get Better Landing Pages for AdWords with 3 Techniques to Try Today

If you’re a PPC strategist, your client’s campaigns live and die by the strength of the landing pages. If you drop the perfect paid audience on a page with no offer (or an unclear one), you’ll get a 0% conversion rate no matter how your ads perform.

The problem is that as AdWords account managers, we can be pretty limited in our ability to change landing pages. In this role, we typically lack the budget, resources, and expertise needed to affect what’s often the root cause of failing campaigns.

So how do you rescue your AdWords campaigns from bad landing pages without also becoming a landing page designer or a conversion rate optimization expert?

Below are three techniques you can use to reveal some insight, change performance yourself, or influence more relevant, better converting landing pages for AdWords.

1. Cut spend & uncover priority content with the ugly duckling search term method

Many AdWords accounts have rules that look something like this:

If the keyword spends more than $100 and doesn’t result in a sale, remove keyword.

Whether it’s automated or a manual check, the process is the same: “optimize” by getting rid of what doesn’t convert.

But this assumes that the landing page your ad points to is perfectly optimized and relevant to every keyword that might be important to your audience — a pretty tall order. But what if your target audience is searching for your offer with your seemingly “dud” keyword, and you’re driving them to an incorrect or incomplete landing page that doesn’t reflect the keyword or the search intent behind it?

The “Ugly Duckling” is a check you can do when your keyword isn’t hitting the performance metrics you want. It will help you figure out if your keyword is a swan, or a wet rat you need to purge from your aquatic friends.
Ugly duckling adwords landing page trick

As an example, let’s say your client is a fruit vendor, with an AdWords campaign driving coupon downloads. Here’s the ad group for concord grapes:

Concord Grape Ad Group

The Ad Group for Concord Grapes

The keyword phrase ‘organic concord grapes’ has a lot of search volume, but it’s performing horribly at $695 per coupon download!

An AdWord’s “rule” pausing or deleting what doesn’t work would wipe out this keyword in no time. But, before assuming a wet rat, this is where you’d take look at the (hypothetical) landing page:

the corresponding landing page

The hypothetical landing page for the fruit vendor’s Ad campaign.

The landing page never mentions your grapes are organic! No wonder your visitors aren’t converting. This is poor message match from your ad.

In this case, simply adding the high-volume, highly relevant term “organic” to your landing page is much smarter than negative matching the term your audience is using to find your product. There could be several keywords you’re bidding on that could use this swan/wet rat treatment.

Applying swan or wet rat to your AdWords landing pages

Instant wet rat: If your poor performing keyword doesn’t reflect your offer at all (ie: your grapes aren’t organic), then the keyword is a wet rat. Don’t bid on it, and consider negative matching to avoid further traffic.

Further investigation needed: Assuming your grapes are organic (or more broadly, the keyword is indeed relevant to your offer), there are several things you can try, such as:

  • Altering your ad headline: If it’s not already in there, test adding your keyword to your ad’s headline. This should drive a better quality score and cost per click, and you can see whether it affects CTR for the keyword. Because making changes to your landing page could require more rigorous review than changing ad copy, this can be a good first step.
  • Ad group break-out: If your keyword phrase is particularly long or is unrelated to the other keywords in your ad group, break it into a new ad group before including it in your headline.
  • Data-based landing page recommendation: If your keyword performance improves with the ad-specific steps above, you should now have the data you need to get your client or designer/team to feature the keyword prominently on the landing page. In the case of our example, “organic” can be easily added to the headline on the landing page.
    • In other cases, building out a separate, more specific landing page to address individual keywords could be more appropriate.
    • Depending on relevancy and search volume, you can incorporate the theme of the keyword throughout the landing page and offer.
  • Search term deep dive: Go a step further and examine the search terms, not just the keywords, following the same process. Looking at the actual search terms that do drive spend and traffic can reveal potential exclusions, match type tightening, and keywords to add.

Hypothetically, here’s what performance could look like for our keyword once we’ve optimized the ad and resulting landing page to better reflect the product:

hypothetical before and after

This keyword we were about to pause is now driving 1400+ downloads with a cost per download of the coupon. That’s below our target. Swan after all!

2. Learn about your audience with “mini-quiz” ad copy

A strong AdWords landing page isn’t just about following best practices or using slick templates. It should encompass user research, sales data, persuasive messaging, and a compelling offer, but you’ve got a trick up your sleeve: your ad copy.

Think of your ad copy as a quiz where you get to ask your audience what unique selling point is most important to them. With each ad click, you’re collecting votes for the best messaging, which can fuel key messages on your landing page.

To do this right, you have to have distinct messages and value propositions in your copy. For example, it makes no sense to run a test of these ad descriptions:

  • (Version A) Say goodbye to breakouts. #1 solution for clear skin. Try for free today!
  • (Version B) Say Goodbye to Breakouts. #1 Solution for Clear Skin. Try for Free Today!
  • (Version C) #1 solution for clear skin. Say goodbye to breakouts. Try for free today!

One of these ads will get a better click through rate than the others, but you’ve learned nothing.

A good ad copy quiz has distinct choices and results.
You’ll want to challenge assumptions about your audience. Consider this other, better version of the quiz from the text ad example above:

  • (Version A) Say goodbye to breakouts. #1 solution for clear skin. Try for free today!
  • (Version B) Get clear skin in just 3 days. Get your 1st shipment free. Order now!

Whether the winner is “#1 solution” or “Results in 3 days,” we’ve learned something about the priorities of our audience, and the learnings can be applied to improve the landing page’s headline and copy throughout. Rinse & repeat.

Turning your ads into mini-quizzes

See what your audience truly values by letting them vote with their click. Here are some ideas for value propositions to get you started with your ad copy quiz:

Note: I normally don’t suggest including messaging in your ad that isn’t reflected on the landing page (i.e. if your landing page doesn’t mention price, neither should your ad). However, if you don’t control the landing page as the paid media manager, the CTR of an ad copy test can point you in the right direction for what to add to your page, so it’s fair game in this instance.

3. “Tip the scales” with exactly enough information

There’s a widely-spread idea that landing pages for AdWords should be stripped of any features, links, or functionality other than a form. This is just not true, and blindly following this advice could be killing your conversion rates.

Unbounce co-founder Oli Gardner, frequently talks about the importance of landing page Attention Ratio:

Basically, your page should have one purpose, and you should avoid distractions.

This is great advice, especially for people who are tempted to drive AdWords traffic to a home page with no real CTA. But I find it has been misinterpreted and misapplied all over the internet by people who’ve twisted it into an incorrect “formula”, i.e.:

  • He who has the fewest links and options on the landing page wins.

That’s not how it works. People need links, content, choice, and context to make a decision. Not all links are bad; I’ve doubled conversion rates just by diverting PPC traffic from dedicated LPs to the website itself.

The question is, how much information does a visitor need in order to take action?

Ultimately you want to “tip the scales” of the decision-making process for your visitor – getting rid of unnecessary distractions, but keeping those essential ingredients that will help them go from “no” to “yes” or even “absolutely.”

Here are 2 very common mistakes that are killing conversion rates on landing pages across the internet:

Mistake #1: Single-option landing pages

You’ve heard all about the paradox of choice and analysis paralysis. You know that when people have too many options, they’re more likely to choose none at all. But what happens when you have too few?

If you don’t see what you want, you’re also going to say “no.”

As an example (that you probably won’t see in the wild but it’s nice and easy to illustrate), someone’s Googled a pizza delivery service. But the landing page allows someone to order pepperoni and pepperoni only, and our vegetarian searcher leaves to order elsewhere.

At first glance, this might look like our “organic grapes” problem from earlier, but something different is at play.

Many AdWords ads today are driving to single-option landing pages, where the only choice is to take the offer exactly as-is. This can be fine when only one variation exists, or your visitors have a chance to narrow their choices later in the process.

But if your visitors’ search is more broad, don’t take away their options in an effort to simplify the page. You’ll miss out on potential sales, which is kind of the whole point of running a campaign.

Instead, driving to a category page, or one that gives your visitors (gasp) – choice! – will keep them engaged. You may also consider creating several different types of landing pages for each specific option you offer to get specific after someone’s narrowed down their options via a broader landing page.

Mistake #2: The not-enough-info landing page

Another case of “When good landing page principles go bad” is the stripped-down, bare-bones dedicated landing page that has no useful information.

A disturbing and growing trend is for AdWords landing pages to feature no navigation, links, details, or information. There’s not even a way to visit the company domain from the landing page. This is a problem, because as the saying goes: A confused mind says no.

What’s going through your site visitors’ minds when they get to a landing page and can’t find what they need?

A landing page without enough information can be just as bad (or worse) than a landing page with too much.

Whether your traffic is warm or cold, coming from an email campaign or paid ads, arriving at your home page or a dedicated landing page, your visitors need to trust that you can solve their problems before they’ll convert on your offer.

Overall, just because someone’s clicked on an AdWords ad doesn’t mean they have fewer questions or less of a need for product details than if they came in from another channel. Remember to cover all your details of your offer in a logical information hierarchy, and don’t be afraid to give your visitors options to explore important info via lightboxes, or links where appropriate.

Getting control over your landing pages for AdWords

As a PPC manager, you may not directly control the landing page, but you can remind your team to avoid conversion killers like:

  • Key questions from the top keywords that aren’t answered on the landing page
  • No clear reason to take action
  • Landing pages where choice is limited unnecessarily, leaving more questions than answers
  • Landing pages that don’t explain what will happen after a visitor takes action on the offer
  • No way for visitors to have their questions answered

Give your visitors a reason to say yes, remove their reasons to say no, and watch your conversion rates improve.