Overcoming Marketing Immunity with Killer Content

How many email marketing messages do you see in a day? How about ads on Facebook, Twitter and other social media streams? If you don’t use ad-blocking software, go ahead and add all the banner and sidebar ads you see during a day. Then consider all the billboards you see on your daily commute and the TV spots you watch while catching up on your favorite shows. What would you guess your number would be? Most people assume they see a few hundred ads a day, but that’s not accurate.

We see thousands.

Of course, not every ad makes an impression; most are incidental glimpses we catch while heading into the office or while fast-forwarding on our DVRs. Even those minimal exposures, though, lead to marketing immunity. Just as we tend to tune out constant background noise, we suppress the mental noise ads create. If you’re like most people, you decide within a second and a half if you’re going to open an email, save it for opening later or delete it unread. You take only a few seconds longer to decide whether to read an article or bounce off the page. That’s a tiny window for content marketers to hit – tiny, but not impossible. If your audience likes you, they’ll keep reading.

Your content matters because it’s the only thing that sets you apart in the long term. Your customers have become immune to most advertising gambits; they’ve seen the hype literally thousands of times before. Even if they give in with a click, they quickly move on if they feel they’ve been suckered in with a click-bait title or subject line. They stay only if they feel they’re getting something of value from what you’re serving them. Here’s how you can give your customers content that keeps them in place and sets your message apart from advertising clutter.

 Make It Easy

The best content goes straight from readers’ screens to their brains without getting snagged on poor grammar, bad spelling or ugly word choices. Your audience has limited patience for your content, and if they expend half of it just wading through awkward English and clumsy typos, they aren’t going to have much left over for listening to the message itself. Give your readers a break and hire content writers whose English skills don’t get in the way of the story you want to tell your audience.

Use Your Voice

Louis Armstrong and Lana del Rey couldn’t sound more different, but they have one thing in common: They’re unmistakably distinctive. Good content informs, but great content also entertains, and that’s what having a distinctive brand voice can do for you. Coming up with a content marketing strategy that reinforces who you are with a strong, memorable voice sets you apart in a large crowd of companies competing for a limited audience that’s increasingly immune to conventional marketing tactics.

Inform Your Readers

Too often, content marketing forgets the content and focuses on the marketing. The point of what you publish isn’t to disguise advertising as content but to give your audience useful information. Content marketing moves away from the old concept of positioning a product as the only solution to a problem described in the ad and toward genuinely helpful information that turns a blog into a destination site.

Respect Your Audience

You know advertising when you see it, and so does your audience. They don’t mind a plug or two when it makes sense and is honest, but they do object to feeling tricked. Some companies falter close to the finish line by developing useful, relevant content and later hiding advertising inside it instead of putting useful information available and clearly branding it. Content marketing is still marketing, and it’s fine to let your readers know who’s bringing them the information they want – but not if all you’re bringing them is a different kind of ad. Your dog might be fooled into swallowing a pill if you smear peanut butter on it, but your audience is smarter than that; be honest with them and don’t use content to conceal ads.

How Google’s Latest Algorithm Could Transform Content

For years, Google and other search engines have looked for signals of websites’ quality to rank them, and they developed a number of useful strategies. The problem is that black-hat site creators engaged in an arms race with them, changing their tactics with every move the search engines made and propelling low-value sites to the top of the rankings – at least temporarily. Site traffic, keywords, backlinks, semantic indexing, guest bloggers and social signals have all had their time as signifiers of quality, but Google’s researchers are looking in a new direction to add utility to their rankings: facts.

With Knowledge-Based Trust scores assuming a place alongside other signals, Google hopes to weed out the thin content and heavily padded writing that come from content mills and the writers who work for them. A site’s depth of research and verifiability will now count toward its page rank. While the new algorithm set isn’t ready to roll out yet, the search engine’s next major update will incorporate the Knowledge Vault Google’s been building for years as a yardstick against which sites will be measured for factual accuracy.

What does this mean for content marketing and SEO strategies? If you’ve hired content experts and professional writers to handle your content, you’re in luck. Verifiable statements, valid knowledge and quotes happen naturally in writing that’s based on even cursory research. Sites that have become knowledge repositories themselves after months or years of regular blog posts, white papers and articles are in even better shape as they may have had a hand in creating the Knowledge Vault. The biggest winners, at least if the fact-based algorithm works as intended, will be the most authoritative sites, many of which have .gov and .edu extensions.

Even large sites that regularly pop up in search engine results pages may be in for some surprises. Aggregate sites are only as good as the articles they curate, which could cost crowd-sourced answer websites vast volumes of traffic. Information on social media channels may likewise take a hit as they contain such an assortment of information that separating fact from fiction may be impossible.

The change also raises questions about what the Knowledge Vault contains and how Google assesses valid facts versus speculation, misinformation or outright falsehoods. Most Google users would agree, for example, that the Flat Earth Society’s geology articles should rank below the U.S. Geological Survey’s information, but not every fact is as clear-cut. Achieving consensus on hot-button political issues could be a challenge even Google’s team of researchers has trouble managing.

For B2B content creators, the story’s a little more straightforward. If you showcase your industry knowledge and facts about your product line, you’re probably in good shape – that is, unless your business involves selling maps of a flat Earth. You could be in trouble, though, if you’ve relied on inexpensive mill content or penny-a-word writers to handle your online content. No one who works for a few dollars an article has time for extensive research, and it shows. The good news is that it isn’t too late. Google doesn’t plan on rolling out their Knowledge-Based Trust scoring system for months, and that’s enough time to upgrade your content to lean more heavily on knowledge than on meeting a word count.

The most popular answers aren’t always the right ones, and Google’s trying to serve users the most accurate content instead of the most clicked content. While it’s a safe bet facts won’t be the sole quality index for search engine results pages, it’s something you and your content team should think about today to avoid scrambling to rewrite your blog in six months.

Building Customer Retention with Your Content

 

Content marketing is changing the way you talk with your audience. Through SEO, email marketing and social media, your content works hard to gather new prospects and bring them into your orbit. Where a lot of otherwise sound content marketing strategies fail is with retention, the ability to hang onto the customers you have and continue to keep them interested in what you have to say. It’s a real challenge, especially for companies that were early adopters of content marketing who find themselves reaching for something more to say.

If your recent SEO campaign brought in good traffic that has since leveled off, your content marketing team is straining for new ideas, or your customers feel as though you invest more in finding new business than in nurturing the clients you have, it’s time to focus on content marketing for customer retention.

 Branch out with Topics

Sometimes, marketers are too attached to the “marketing” part of content marketing; they want every blog post to lead customers directly to a landing page or an e-commerce listing. While it’s a good idea to lead readers to a relevant page or product, most of your blog posts should be informative, not ad-heavy. That opens your content creation team’s horizons and lets them write about subjects that interest all your customers, not just your newest visitors who are more sensitive to sales techniques.

An Italian restaurant’s blog doesn’t just have to focus on pizza and pasta, for example. Going farther afield to talk about how Parmigiana Reggiano is made or how the ancient Romans opened some of the world’s first fast food stands gives your blog lasting appeal. For B2B businesses, it’s even more important to broaden your subject matter. You see it in this blog too as we discuss everything from quirky grammar to SEO content to reputation management. Build variety into your blog, and it becomes a destination, a place your clients check regularly to learn something new.

 Reward Loyalty

Loyalty programs are a proven customer retention strategy. Companies that give their long-time customers an occasional free gift or discount encourage repeat business. Your content’s valuable too, and it makes an excellent way to reward your brand loyalists. Giving them a free white paper, e-book or magazine subscription that your newer customers have to wait to see is a worthwhile perk. If you have digital content for sale on Amazon.com or books in print, you have an outstanding opportunity to give your best customers a gift without costing yourself much.

The only caveat here is that your content needs to be worth your customers’ time. No one wants to get an ad in book form, and if you’re handing out information that does you more good than your clients, you’re breaking one of the primary rules of content marketing. If your content creators are on the ball, you’ll amass a respectable content library of relevant information you can gift-wrap for your most valuable customers.

Create a Support System

When customers pop out of the narrow end of your sales funnel, receipt in hand, give them a soft landing. FAQs, how-to videos and articles with tips on using your products confirms to buyers that they’ve made the right choice. When they know they’ve picked well, they’re more likely to choose you again, especially if they know you’re still there for them with answers to all their questions. The more complex your product or service is, the more your customers rely on the content you give them. There’s no substitute for live tech support and customer service, but a great content library can head off many customer concerns even before they pick up the phone to call your help desk.

 Establish Perceived Value

Even your best clients get value fatigue. When they first buy from you, they’re ecstatic – you’ve just solved a big problem for them and given them outstanding service. They can’t wait to tell everyone. After you continue to deliver, though, they tend to take that high level of performance for granted. The extraordinary has become everyday, and they no longer perceive the full value of what you give them. Content can change that by reminding them of what else you have to offer – your expertise, industry knowledge, customer support programs, loyalty benefits and access to your extensive library.

Email retargeting programs that maintain contact with your customers during those critical post-sale and between-sale periods are excellent for reminding your clients why you’re valuable to them. Marketing automation can orchestrate your retargeting efforts to ensure your customers get personalized information when they need it. For example, if you know your client places quarterly orders for supplies, your email marketing software can set triggers to send customized messages automatically. Establishing value isn’t something you do once but something you prove again with every contact you have with your clients.

It’s Time to Stop Verbing Nouns in Digital Content

Read most business content, and you’re almost certain to come across some impacting and trending. You might see leveraging, trialing and even dog-fooding if the content creator’s really fond of the corporate habit of verbing nouns. The problem with turning nouns into verbs isn’t that it goes against dictionary definitions; it’s that it weakens strong writing and obscures meaning. Here’s why your content should skip the corporate conventions and use straightforward language.

 

 What’s a Verbed Noun, Anyway?

Essentially, nouns are names, and verbs are actions. When verbs describe a particular activity, they sometimes expand into noun territory, becoming the name for that activity. It happens especially often with new activities because these actions don’t yet have names of their own. That’s how sending email or text messages have become emailing and texting. You’ll also see it often in sports where the name of the equipment becomes the verb, as in snowboarding or rollerblading. These verbs’ evolution into nouns expands the language and makes it easier to communicate. It’s shorter to say ″I’ll email you″ than ″I’ll send you an email,″ and everyone knows what it means.

Some verbs are the wallpaper paste of language, holding sentences together but without adding much interest of their own. Forms of ″to be″ verbs such as ″is″ and ″are″ have become practically invisible because we see them all the time. ″To be″ verbs also find their way into passive-voice constructions that sap the life out of any content if writers overuse them. To spice things up, business content writers reach for more interesting verbs – but sometimes they reach too far. Instead of letting verbs naturally shift into nouns, they force them into that mold, which is how dog-fooding and donutting happen.

 

Solving the Wrong Problem

Business writing isn’t always filled with page-turning excitement. PowerPoint presentations of budget forecasts and analytics of SEO content need something to keep corporate audiences engaged, and one way business writers do that is with exciting language. In a boardroom presentation, that’s fine; anyone who’s sat through a dry, passive presentation would welcome a few newly minted verbs. For digital content you serve your audience, including SEO, blog posts, white papers and other branded copy, these new verbs don’t add to the conversation. In fact, they take away from meaningful content by making the conversation about themselves.

We’ve used it as an example already, so let’s take a closer look at dog-fooding. It’s certainly memorable, but what does it mean? Dog-fooding just means using your own company’s products and services. You see it in action on this website and blog because the same writers who work for you create the content you see on the page. Unless you knew that, though, this verbed noun doesn’t make much sense. How about donutting? That’s just forming up in a circle and discussing a project.

These don’t work well in digital content your audience reads in SEO articles, email and blog posts because they divert your readers’ attention from your subject to the obscure verb they’re now trying to process. In worst-case scenarios, they may even go to another site to look up definitions – and you never want your audience clicking away from your page unless it’s to more of your content.

Your readers don’t need you to do verbal gymnastics to keep them alert during a meeting or condense concepts to fit a large amount of information into a brief PowerPoint presentation. They need your content creation team to speak clearly to them about what they need to know.

 

Start Making Sense

For some corporate content writers, verbing nouns has become so common that it’s now a textual habit they can’t break. When nouns that already have a perfectly good verb form transform into verbs again, they hide meaning instead of clarifying it. An executive signaturing a document instead of signing it, a group conferencing instead of conferring, a test audience trialing products instead of trying them – these uses are awkward and make readers wonder why the content creator didn’t just use the existing verbs.

A little verbing goes a long way in business content, especially if you’re reaching a diverse audience with your SEO articles and blog posts. The occasional leveraging is fine, but leave the dog-fooding and donutting out of your digital content.

4 Content Marketing Mistakes You May Be Making

Content marketing has become the keystone to modern marketing strategies, especially for brands with a strong digital presence. It’s not as easy as finding some white space and filling it with SEO content and a few video clips you hope will go viral. If your content isn’t giving you the return you expected on your investment, here’s where you may have taken a wrong turn and how a talented content team can change your course.

 

Making It All About You

The biggest issue novice B2B content creators and do-it-yourselfers have is confusing content for advertising. Ads are wonderful for building brand recognition, but they aren’t something your potential customers seek out to educate themselves or inform their business decisions – and that’s where content marketing excels.

Instead of using your content to blast advertising, think of it as a way to help your customers and prospects make important decisions and stay current with industry news. They’ll look to you as an authoritative information source and seek you out when it’s time to buy. You don’t need the hard sell to get them to listen; you just need engaging, creative, relevant content.

 

Not Enough Content

Audiences are voracious beasts, and they have an almost insatiable appetite for novelty. A weekly or bi-weekly blog, a corporate website, SEO – those are just the beginnings of an overall content strategy, not the destination. Human readers aren’t the only ones who crave newness, either; Google values sites that feature regular content updates and ongoing growth more highly than static pages. Your audience will treat you as a destination site instead of a stop-over when you offer them plenty of content.

By giving more to your audience, you can also ask for more from them. Give them new white papers to download, new case studies to pore over and new blog posts to retweet, and they’ll be more likely to share information and referrals with you.

 

Too Much (Low-Quality) Content

At the other end of the spectrum are companies that pump out endless SEO articles and blog posts that do little more than fill white space. If you can’t get your message across effectively, repeating it more frequently and at higher volumes won’t help. Bad content is worse than no content because it actively diminishes your authority with both search engines and your audience. Typos, egregious grammar mistakes and tissue-thin subject matter are sure signs of a company that’s misspent its content marketing budget.

Great content is less expensive than you think, especially when you work with a company that specializes in B2B content creation. Don’t choose a cut-rate content provider for something that defines your company’s brand; saving a few dollars on your weekly blog post isn’t worth losing even one potential customer.

 

Undifferentiated Content

Modern marketplaces are becoming increasingly fractured, and that means an increasing need for better segmentation of your audience. Instead of addressing your whole audience with one piece of content, you want to deliver customized content to each segment. This boutique approach works especially well with B2B companies that serve a wide range of clients in different industries.

All your audience segments want to believe they’re your highest priority, and content tailored to them makes it happen. One newslettter may not be enough to satisfy your whole audience, so your B2B content creation team might write two or three each week. A manufacturer who specializes in HVAC equipment and serves a national audience, for example, might send AC-related newsletters to clients in the south while focusing on ventilation and air quality in regions where air conditioners are a relative rarity.

Content Marketing Predictions for 2015

It’s only a few weeks old, but 2015 is already shaping up as a year in flux for SEO and content marketing. Google’s been relatively quiet since its localization-focused Pigeon update in October, and the search engine giant’s spam guru Matt Cutts remains on leave into 2015. With less information about Google’s goings-on, content marketing experts have relied on their own insights to predict what 2015 will bring for SEO. Here’s our take on what you need to know about content for the coming year.

Mobile Marketing a Must

More visitors than ever now see the mobile version of your site, read your emails on mobile devices and check their smartphones for Facebook updates. If you aren’t catering to these customers with mobile-friendly responsive design, you’re missing a huge chunk of your audience. The good news is that responsive web and email design has become accessible for everyone. With current technology, your content marketing team can put together mobile-first designs that welcome your whole audience to visit your site, read your emails and click on your landing pages.

Sleek and Streamlined Content

Responsive design is just the start of the mobile revolution, which is also affecting how sites look. High-contrast color combinations, bold yet simple images and text with plenty of white space are direct results of mobile-first marketing design. From your logo to your layout, the content you present should look as good on a smartphone screen at 9:00 at night as it does on a desktop unit at 9:00 in the morning. Because viewers want streamlined sites that work well on any platform, content has to be concentrated. You don’t have room for padded writing or fluff-filled copy. Every word counts, and your content creator must keep that editing pencil sharp.

Marketing Automation Makes a Splash

At first blush, automation sounds like the antithesis of what content’s about – specificity, relevance and authority. In reality, marketing automation software just takes the guess-work and extra steps out of moving content from your creative team’s brains to your audience’s eyes. With it, you can customize landing pages, email and even your home page with content directed straight at the audience you want to reach. Triggered email events, audience segmentation and lead scoring are simpler with a fully automated system too, but the heart of the process is content – and lots of it. If you plan to upgrade to full-service marketing automation software in 2015, be prepared to supply your new system with plenty of content.

LSI Matters More

Latent semantic indexing, or LSI, has been a driver for SEO and content marketing for years, and businesses can expect that trend to continue. The term sounds complex, but in practice, it’s just a way for search engines to recognize high-value sites by seeing beyond keywords. For example, if you’re in the business of restoring classic cars, your site’s content might include car makes and models, automotive terms and synonyms for restoration. Search engines that use LSI – or at least something like it – pick up on these signals in your content and index your page more highly. Think of LSI as search engines’ natural defense against keyword-stuffing and thin content.

Google Pulls Away from Analytics

Google has already started playing their big data analytics closer to the vest by dropping their Google Keyword tool-set, and content marketers predict an increasing tendency to withhold similar information. From the search engine’s standpoint, freely providing access to this information helped not only legitimate white-hat content marketers but also black-hat SEO who could use the knowledge to game the system. For marketers, that means greater reliance on in-house software to analyze performance.

SPICE Up Your Email Content

Timing, subject lines, a great call to action – they’re all important to your email marketing strategy, but nothing you do is more important than your content. Marketing depends on its message, not just its medium, yet too many companies send email content that doesn’t live up to the promise of a punchy subject line.

To help you and your content marketing team put together irresistible email content, just remember SPICE: segmentation of your audience, personalization that makes each customer feel special, interesting topics that address their needs, creating curiosity with your content and developing empathy with readers.

Segmentation

Until you know your audience, you can’t grab them with great content. Outstanding email content starts before your content marketing specialist writes the first word with proper list segmentation. How you select your audience is complex enough to merit its own series of articles, but the key here is to group people with similar interests together, then mail targeted content to each segment. For example, your budget-conscious customers might respond well to a sale offer while your longtime clients may want to hear more about your loyalty program benefits.

Personalization

Think of personalization as another layer of segmentation – one that segments each email recipient into a group of one. These days, customizing email content is more than just adding the recipient’s name to the header. You can now deliver images, text and calls to action tailored to the person who opens your email. The demographic, firmographic and behavioral data your marketing team gathers translates directly into better personalization, so working from clean, well-maintained lists is a must.

Interest

Nothing will save your email from a quick trip to deletion if you don’t hold readers’ interest. That means using lively writing that goes beyond sales cliches. It isn’t enough to tell your readers you’re introducing a new product line; you need to show them why they should care about that with examples that showcase its benefits and create excitement. If you promise your readers a newsletter, don’t give them ads; tell them what they need to know to make decisions. Clear, persuasive writing looks best with plenty of white space around it, so make sure form follows function in your email content.

Curiosity

Headline writers know how to grab attention. They promise to show you five things you can’t believe about Congress or show you one ″weird old tip″ to get healthy, and you click. Email marketing depends on curiosity to get readers to click now instead of waiting. Building curiosity into your subject line is a good start, but your email’s content should sustain that curiosity and make readers eager to click through. While you want to make them curious, though, you don’t want to make false promises; they need to trust that when you tell them you have something amazing to show them, you mean it.

Empathy

The most successful email marketing messages talk to potential buyers as people, not as targets. Think about the email you read and what inspired you to read it. Did it speak to your needs or serve the sender’s? Did it give you a clear message, or did it waste your valuable time? Did the subject fit the content, or did you feel tricked into clicking? Your mail to others should contain the kind of content you’d like to read.

Make Your B2B Content Sing

If you’re selling sporty convertibles, it’s almost impossible not to make your content sexy. How do you make accounting software or medical supplies memorable with your content marketing, though? Transforming B2B content into something exciting takes a little more thought than glossy pictures and marketing hyperbole. Here’s why we believe there’s no such thing as a dull subject – only content marketing teams that don’t know how to handle a challenge.

Show How It Works

People love getting a glimpse of how the magic happens, and your B2B content might be perfect to showcase with a demonstration video. Products that involve many manufacturing steps or undergo dramatic changes during use are especially good candidates for tours and demos. If you have a water jet cutter or electroplating rig, you’re set to go viral if you get creative with your concepts. For products that aren’t as photogenic and for services that don’t lend themselves to demonstrations, animation and infographics can bring your content to life.

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How to Have a Conversation with Your Blog’s Readers

Plenty of businesses understand how important content is, but they don’t know what kind of content they should offer. Blog posts that read more like ad portfolios or lecture notes miss the mark because what customers want something from your blog that they don’t get from company website or landing pages: conversation. Blog posts are your chance to let your customers hear your company’s natural speaking voice. Social media is good for that too, but a blog lets you steer the conversation in ways social media can’t match. Here’s how to keep your company blog exciting enough to attract new readers and welcome them into your brand’s conversation.

Use Keywords Naturally

Businesses don’t just have blogs for human readers; they also want to satisfy their SEO marketing needs. When both purposes come together seamlessly, that isn’t a problem, but too often, blog posts turn into keyword-stuffed blurbs that turn away your regular readers. Keywords are still vital to SEO, but they should happen naturally, not get wedged into every sentence. If you look, you’ll see phrases such as ″business content″ or ″content marketing″ in our posts, but the keywords are just part of the overall conversation, not the sole purpose of it. You wouldn’t enjoy a conversation with someone who always said the same phrases, so don’t make blog readers slog through a sea of keywords either.

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Content Isn’t King

You don’t have to spend much time learning about content marketing to find the phrase “content is king,” but that metaphor doesn’t tell the whole story about your content. In fact, it leaves out one of the key concepts about content. When people stay on your website to read a whole article, take action on your landing page or subscribe to your newsletter, they’re casting a vote. Content isn’t king; it’s democratically elected. With that in mind, what can you do to get your audience’s votes and win their support?

Be Interesting

All the careful content marketing in the world won’t help if the content itself is dull. That doesn’t refer to the subject matter but to the content itself. Too often, B2B companies assume that because their products are utilitarian, the content they supply can’t be creative, colorful and clear. If anything, these subjects take a little extra thought on the part of your content creation team to make them sing. Finding a creative metaphor to link concepts to something concrete or illustrate how a practical application works can turn any subject into an engaging one. One of our most widely shared posts was about the lessons content managers can learn from wine-tasting. Not everyone’s familiar with content marketing, but tastings are familiar territory.

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