Archive for July, 2012

Words are key to customers: keyword research for content marketing

online marketer reading about keyword research

Online marketers interested in integrating their SEO, social media and content marketing – making it more awesome – will want to study Lee Odden’s new book Opitmize.

One of my blog readers has a daughter who is a marketing major in college. She encouraged her to check out one of my posts. The daughter’s reaction was that I should be teaching social media marketing because they don’t cover it in their coursework.

This surprised me for two reasons. One, because marketing grads really need to enter the workforce schooled in new media marketing. And two, because I consider myself to be an ongoing student on the subject.

Toward my continued learning, I just finished reading Lee Odden’s new book Optimize: How to attract and engage more customers by integrating SEO, social media and content marketing. If you are looking to pick up some new ideas, I recommend reading it also.

Odden champions a holistic approach to SEO that goes beyond the search engine-oriented tactics many experts teach. This perspective offers a blueprint for integrating SEO into the planning and implementation of your social media and content marketing strategy. The book is full of insights, but I especially learned a lot from the chapters on how buyer personas can guide keyword research and combine to build an optimized content plan.

Conducting keyword research

Optimize lays the groundwork for planning with tips on developing personas of desired customers based on identifying key motivators and behaviors. Customer attributes for personas are compiled from demographic data that helps to understand their responsibilities, decision-making role, social media preferences and other information that offers insight into search intent. This is augmented by getting voice-of-customer insight from frontline employees to anticipate the language prospective customers may use in searching for content.

This sets the stage for the next steps of evaluating metrics and brainstorming a keyword glossary. The baseline metrics establish keyword popularity, global monthly search volume and competitive ranking using Google AdWords and other keyword tools. The book outlines several considerations for this process, some of which include:

  • Seasonality, news and search trends that could affect keyword popularity
  • Search engine algorithms for geography and personalization that affect rankings
  • Competitiveness of search categories
  • Likelihood of ranking on page one of search results
  • The sources and types of content appearing in searches

Odden sums up the process this way:

What you are building is a keyword list that will remain in place as a reference for your content optimization, social media optimization and link building for the next 6-12 months.

In this video, Lee Odden talks about ideas for a achieving an optimized state of mind outlined in his book.

This review just scratches the surface of what you will find in Optimize. To close, let me offer a few more takeaways on optimized and socialized content you will get from reading it.

6 reasons you will want to read Optimize

  1. book cover for Optimize by Lee OddenIt provides a clear path for assessing your website, social media, PR and other content objects to identify gaps and opportunities to improve search optimization.
  2. It helps you keep focused on creating relevant content for your target audience.
  3. It gives you an approach for integrating digital content with your other marketing, branding and PR.
  4. It offers numerous ideas on tactics for promoting your content on social media.
  5. It helps you establish a disciplined planning process to measure your business outcomes.
  6. It enables you to develop a big picture SEO and content strategy that allows you to adapt to rapid changes in technology that may impact the popularity of current search engine or social media platforms.

A recurring theme in the book is “whatever can be searched, can be optimized” and Odden provides plenty of advice and examples for you to apply to your business. This is a book you don’t want to keep on the shelf. Rather, you’ll want to keep it open on your desk.

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How to succeed at generating B2B leads on social media

2012 looks to be the year B2B cracks the code on social media marketing. Until now, much of the focus for business has been on building brand awareness. A new report shows more B2B companies are testing the potential for lead generation and nurturing via social media.

How to succeed at generating B2B leads on social media

Marketers are looking at ways to use social media to expand reach, spread word-of-mouth and nurture B2B leads in the marketing funnel.

The 2012 report on The State of B2B Lead Generation by Buyer Zone finds over 50 percent of businesses surveyed are now testing lead generation on social media platforms. Twelve percent of them identified social as a core part of their lead generation activity.

Those companies testing social media marketing struggle with measuring ROI. According to the survey 50 percent indicate they are not or cannot track ROI of online lead generation from social media. One factor is certainly the more complex, multi-layered decision-making process of prospective customers in B2B markets.

The buying stages in lead generation

Companies selling B2B must accommodate several levels of decision makers at various stages in the buying process and manage leads accordingly. Typically, the decision process follows these stages:

  • Awareness. The prospect is in browsing mode, not actively pursuing a solution or aware of a concrete need. Messages should focus on industry-level information covering trends, innovations and business problems.
  • Need identification. Prospects become aware of a need and begin educating themselves on problem-solution benefits. Messages should focus on solutions and benefits.
  • Research. The prospect moves to evaluating options for filling the need. Messages should focus on your expertise and solutions.
  • Reassurance. The prospect starts comparison shopping seeking proof of the merits offered by various providers. Messages should focus on case studies and demos that distinguish you from the competitive field.
  • Validation. The prospect has decided on the field of candidates that offer a solution to the need. Messages should focus on your thought leadership, value and testimonials.

Adding social media as a lead generating/lead nurturing vehicle to feed the marketing funnel is one more challenge to effectively managing the process and tracking ROI.

B2B lead management

Whether a company is using marketing automation or another system, it is critical for sales success to manage leads effectively. Minnesota-based OppSource has published a white paper outlining Lead Management Best Practices. The paper identifies six pillars of success:

  1. Content marketing – mapping content to the buying cycle focusing on the prospects’ need for information that educates, builds interest and establishes preference.
  2. Lead capture – a centralized database that enables tracking and qualifying leads as they move through the funnel.
  3. Lead nurturing – the process of converting leads into qualified sales opportunities using digital and personal contacts with the prospect.
  4. Lead scoring – applies a common set of criteria for qualifying behaviors that lead to the next action in the nurturing process.
  5. Opportunity handoff – the seamless, automated transition from the marketing environment to the sales environment.
  6. Lead funnel measurement – allows ongoing tracking and monitoring of the effectiveness of leads as they progress through the funnel.

This process for viewing lead generation and nurturing represents a framework for maximizing sales opportunities, whether it is outsourced or done in-house. It also provides guidance for incorporating social media into lead generating strategies.

Social media business tactics for lead generation

Social media has come a long way since the days of message boards. Businesses employing social media marketing now have Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and business blogs at their disposal. The great potential lies in the expanded capacity for reach through paid, earned and owned media (see diagram below).

extend social media reach with paid, earned and owned media

With this array of options, it can be overwhelming to decide where to start and what to do. Here are some ideas for getting started with social media for B2B lead generation.

  • Choose the social channels best suited to delivering your content marketing strategy for messages at each buying stage.
  • Use the channels your prospects are on. Not all social channels will be appropriate for your business.
  • Think about reach beyond your prospects to include anyone who might influence your prospects through word-of-mouth.
  • Integrate social media with email nurturing by adding follow widgets and share buttons to emails.
  • Integrate sharing and following options with landing pages/thank you messages from download offers to provide additional ways to interact.
  • Remember the unique opportunity social media offers for engagement. Monitor for sales readiness messages and engage prospects where they are in the decision process.

Social media offers marketers more than a new channel for expanding word-of-mouth and generating leads. It also provides a new way to interact with prospects and nurture leads with real time engagement.

What about you? Are you using social media for generating or converting business leads? What are your toughest challenges?

Related article: 4 Ways social media can help you close more sales

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21-point guide to website optimization for the busy marketer

How to optimize a website for the short attention span world

Web visitors today arrive at a site with an eight second attention span. Marketers must optimize their website to keep them from clicking away.

According to one study we now have a shorter attention span than a goldfish.

In May, The Associated Press (AP) re-published some intriguing statistics showing our dwindling attention span and compared the data to web user activity. Our average attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds in 2012. By comparison, a goldfish has a nine second attention span.

Additional AP data finds on average, people check email 30 times an hour. Web page viewing trends show only four percent spend more than 10 minutes on a page and only 28 percent of words on an average page are read.

That’s enough to make a busy marketer stop and think – even if just for eight seconds. This data emphasizes the importance of website optimization to capture and hold the attention of visitors in order to achieve the desired marketing results.

As a marketer, you think about setting goals for your site and mapping out key activities that need to occur to reach them. You think about ways to get found through organic search. You think about how to get that first click towards conversion and how to simplify the conversion path with appropriate calls-to-action. However, when evaluating your website it’s important for you to also think like a web user.

Web user experience

When you view your website as frequently as you do, it can be difficult to anticipate the user experience for a first time visitor. Usability testing has found the highest level of satisfaction for web users is achieved when content on the site is:

  • Findable
  • Useful
  • Valuable
  • Accessible/usable
  • Credible

Optimizing user experience requires the right combination of content and navigation. Hitting the sweet spot will help you hold attention and gain higher conversion rates. Optimization also involves structuring your content so search engines can easily crawl and index pages and ultimately bring traffic to your website. That gives you a lot to consider when conducting web analysis.

Like most marketers, your day is filled with revenue reports, market analysis, campaign planning, meetings and checking email 30 times an hour. Clearly you don’t have time to become expert in SEO or web usability. Here is a marketer’s checklist to help with website evaluation to identify opportunities for search and conversion rate optimization.

marketer analyzing web pages for search and conversion optimization

Site-wide web optimization

Keyword strategy. On smaller sites (less than 100 pages) keywords should be mapped to single pages with no more than three keyword phrases on a page. On larger sites they should be mapped to categories. This degree of focus benefits both visitors and search engines.

Target audience. It should be clear and consistent who the site is intended for: what they want, what they need, and how they pursue their goals online.

Key messages. Have clear, consistent marketing messages on each page highlighting your unique selling proposition and reason why your product/service should be chosen.

Voice, tone and style. Draw on brand identity, purpose for your site and audience expectations to shape your voice and apply all consistently.

Usability. The user should be able to access any main directory within three clicks. Make sure there is a clear path to company information and contact information.

Navigation. Strive for less than seven navigation buttons. Link your logo to the home page. Make links visually consistent and easy to find. Simplicity is the goal.

Internal linking. Make sure links between pages have logical context from the user’s perspective. You want to maximize links to your most important pages. Parent pages should link into child pages and vice versa. Provide a link to the contact page throughout the site.

Social signals. Give visitors an opportunity to share or follow on social media platforms or subscribe to your company blog.

Page-level web optimization

SEO content – These are the SEO copywriting elements that need to be on the page:

  • Header (H1, H2) keyword phrases align with title tags
  • Meta descriptions include key phrase and geographic location
  • Keyword density of 2-4 throughout the page
  • Link anchor text using keywords for destination page ranking

Conversion content – Guides the reader through the conversion path:

  • Word count is between 250-400
  • Important information (marketing and call to action) is above the fold
  • Copy is easily scanned, using headers and bulleted lists to break messages into chunks
  • Short sentences and paragraphs no longer than five lines
  • Copy in each paragraph focuses on one topic and each sentence on one thought
  • Copy flows with logical transitions between paragraphs and from headings
  • Linking best practices avoid duplicate or serial links
  • Links to contact information are on every page
  • Calls-to-action are on each page and in appropriate context for the content

The focus of a website analysis is often on full-scale SEO technical audits and usability testing. This checklist is no substitute for that. However, it gives you a solid guideline for optimizing a website to meet the challenges of driving inbound traffic, catching the attention of visitors and converting them into leads and customers.

The Yahoo! Style Guide
Don’t Make Me Think, Steve Krug
Optimize, Lee Odden

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5 lessons on leadership from the Andy Griffith Show

leadership lessons from the Andy Griffith ShowWhen Andy Griffith died on July 3, the tributes and career retrospectives hit quickly. He is most remembered for the television program bearing his name which ran from 1960-1968. It was widely popular at the time and remains a favorite for new fans in syndication. One reason its popularity has endured is it combined humor with humanity and simple life lessons that resonate over time.

During the series’ run, Sheriff Andy Taylor provided many examples of servant leadership that are a great example for leaders in any capacity today. Here are five examples.

1. Earned authority

Much was made of the fact that he rarely carried a gun. While some might argue it added to the homespun feel of being Sheriff of small town Mayberry, he frequently noted his authority came with the badge he wore and how he wore it. He carried authority by earning the respect of the citizens based on exemplary conduct not by instilling fear.

In one episode he walked directly into the line of fire of a holed-up bootlegger and calmly took the rifle away while other law officers froze under cover. He later explained the shooter could have shot any of them if he’d wanted – he was just trying to scare them off. He respected Andy’s ultimate authority.

2. Let others fail

Sheriff Taylor occasionally had to risk turning over responsibility to his deputy. In one episode he had to leave town for a day and let Barney Fife act as sheriff in his absence. In his zeal to prove himself, the acting sheriff managed to arrest the entire town on minor infractions.

Upon return, Andy had to restore order and taught Barney the importance of exercising judgment in understanding the larger priorities versus going by the book. If a leader is unwilling to assign responsibilities to others, they are not taking enough risk to enable their growth and development.

3. Assume responsibility

In a story involving son Opie, Andy taught responsibility for Opie’s actions with his new slingshot. Opie accidently kills a bird leaving behind a nest of fledglings. With Andy’s prodding, Opie raises the birds himself until they are ready to fend for themselves. In the process, Opie becomes attached to them and wants to keep them as pets. Andy reminds Opie that the mother’s responsibility was to raise them up and let them go. As the surrogate, it was Opie’s responsibility too.

4. Facing fear

There are so many episodes with this theme it is hard to pick one example. One involves Andy receiving a letter from a convict he put away in prison. In the arrest, Andy had injured him in a shoot out. Now the convict was getting out and wanted to “settle some things” by paying a visit. Friends and family urged Andy to leave town to avoid another conflict. He didn’t.

In a poignant talk with Opie, he admitted to being afraid but had to face the fear. In the end the ex-con came to thank Andy for creating the circumstances for him to turn his life around and learn a trade for starting a new life after prison. Andy taught everyone that fear imagined is greater than fear faced.

5. Build up others

One of my favorite episodes is when Andy and his sweetheart get trapped in a cave. Earlier in the day Barney is humiliated when he mistakes the bank president for a bank robber. He is ridiculed by several of the men in town. Later, at a town picnic Andy and Helen venture into a cave and are trapped inside by a rock slide. They manage to escape through another entry, but not before Barney organizes a rescue operation enlisting all the men who had ridiculed him earlier. When Andy realizes this, they return to the cave so they can be saved by Barney.

After they are rescued, Andy tells all the townspeople how fortunate they are to have a take-charge leader like Barney Fife as deputy. He restored Barney’s confidence and stature in the community.


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How to create business blog content that fuels lead generation

Business blogs have tremendous potential to generate leads for the top of the sales funnel. Here are ideas for content that drives the right kind of inbound traffic.

Business blogs have tremendous potential to generate leads for the top of the sales funnel. Here are ideas for content that drives the right kind of inbound traffic.

Business blogging is gaining momentum as a platform for driving inbound traffic. With that, companies are realizing the power of content marketing to generate and nurture sales leads.

Chad Pollitt of Kuno Creative recently published The Content Marketing Manifesto, citing statistics from The Content Marketing Institute on the increasing use of content marketing for lead generation:

  • Lead generation is the stated goal for 66 percent of businesses
  • 49 percent of businesses measure success by lead quality, and 41 percent by lead quantity
  • Nearly 70 percent of businesses blog
  • 66 percent attributed new customer acquisitions from blogs updated weekly

The 2012 State of Inbound Marketing survey by HubSpot found 81 percent of businesses rated their blog as useful or better for delivering on inbound strategies. Fifty-nine percent rated blogs as critical or important.

Content marketing residuals

What makes content marketing so appealing is its scale. Done well, it earns dividends for generating leads beyond initial spend compared to traditional media spend. Your blog is a platform that is owned and its traffic is earned, not bought. Search optimization and referral traffic keep the demand generation pump primed. Content is the keystone to inbound marketing success that goes beyond conversions, leads and direct sales.

Businesses striving to achieve this residual with consistent blogging are challenged to create content that tells a story and builds familiarity, likeability and trust with the audience. Rand Fishkin, co-founder and CEO of SEOmoz spoke about this recently at Search Church 2012. He offers insights on content marketing success in this video of his talk.

Content relevance

Fishkin encourages business bloggers to expand their thinking of content relevance beyond current customers. With the potential for discovery from organic search and viral sharing he suggests creating content that appeals to potential customers and anyone who interacts with potential customers to drive more traffic and generate more leads. He identifies ingredients for dynamic, relevant content as:

  • Exceptional material about your products or services
  • Inspirational/fun
  • Unique
  • Credible
  • Beneficial to share

Blog content that generates leads

With these traits as a backdrop, the challenge remains to find ways to incorporate them into business blog articles. Knowing your market and audience is an important next step to focus your thinking about content strategy for sales leads. Three ways to zero in on the interests of your target audience are:

Keyword research. A critical step in your content strategy is to research keywords and long tail phrases to determine which topics in your industry are most searched. This helps identify topics of interest and the keywords to use when writing for SEO. Optimized content is a must for driving inbound traffic from organic search and referral sites.

Decision personas. Thinking about where visitors are in the sales journey helps target your message. Plan for content and calls-to-action that answer the questions they have at each stage of the decision-making process and you will get more leads into the top of the funnel.

Identify motivators. So far we’ve focused a lot on the logical aspects of blog visitor behavior. It is also vital to remember the emotional elements of persuasion. Lead generating content needs to capture a moment of interest, taking into account basic human motivations to take action.

Starter ideas for business blog topics

With the framework in place for who your audience is and what they are interested in, brainstorming for story ideas becomes easier. The goal for successful blog content is to inform and educate, not to over-promote your company or product. A recent post by Carol Tice on outlines 50 ideas for your business blog. I will share five of them here.

  1. Industry trends. Share statistics, technology developments, demographics, business trends, regulatory issues or other data important to the success of your audience.
  2. Report on an industry conference. Provide news and information from keynote speakers and breakout sessions at events of interest to your audience.
  3. Case study. Make sure the customer is the hero of the story and share a problem-solution scenario the audience will relate to.
  4. Interview a high-profile industry leader. Do a Q & A with a thought leader who can provide a third-party perspective on your industry. This can often be accomplished via email.
  5. Resource list. Compile a list of vendors, business partners and other helpful information related to your business.

SOUND OFF: Tell me what you think. What blog content has been effective for generating leads for you?

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