Tag Archive | "learned"

3 Things I Learned Moving from Content Marketer to Thriller Novelist

I started working in the content marketing industry 20 years ago. Everything I did from the start until 2018 revolved…

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INBOUND 2019: What We Learned

INBOUND 2019 is on the books and it was probably the best year yet. This marketing event has changed over the years, and there were more than 26,000 people attending this year, up from just a few thousand in the first year. There were two main things I really liked at this conference. One was that Alexis Ohanian talked about fatherhood and how men aren’t a babysitter, a theme that constantly comes up in my own life as a father. The second was when Sal Khan, Founder of the popular online school Khan Academy, talked about what it was like to hear that his company was being talked about by Bill Gates and further showed the power of being excited about education, showing videos from all over the country and the world with students celebrating their grades. INBOUND2019 was full of inspirational moments and real, valuable connections.

There are always new ideas and products to learn about at INBOUND, and sometimes that interaction is what gets people there in the first place.

“This was the first year that we were able to let our customers pick what was on the announcement list,” says Meghan Keaney Anderson, VP of Marketing at HubSpot. “We were able to announce a slew of improvements like attribution reporting for marketers — the thing that allows you to say that this social media post or this video or this email actually contributed to revenue — you are able to draw the line down all the way to dollars. You’re able to justify your work and to get credit for it.”

“Then there was advocacy automation,” says Anderson. “Our customers are our best marketers. You go out there and trust a friend for a recommendation on what to buy, and this helps you to surface customers who are really happy. Then you can ask those customers to share their experiences on review sites. On the inverse, you can also find customers who are less happy and reach out to find why they aren’t happy and try to turn that around. Customers are what really build momentum for your business, and by getting really smart and tailored around who’s doing well and who’s not we can then empower those people.”

LinkedIn and Customer Experience at INBOUND

Bringing marketing inline with sales is a key feature of this event. These are often two parts of a business that don’t always agree, so forming new channels to keep them in line with each other can lead to greater business success. In the LinkedIn Lounge, this was the top priority.

“At a high level we are really talking about how sales and marketing come together to create better customer experiences to drive business growth forward,” says Kelly Mcettrick Head of Adtech Channel Sales for LinkedIn Marketing Solutions. “On the marketing side, it’s really about getting started with your page and business presence on LinkedIn to establish that foundation. Then, how do you really get started with ads to accelerate that foundation that you have built. So we have a lot of programming about lead generation, branding, and all those important parts for building successful long-term sustainable businesses. Then we talk about how to tie that back to your sales team to make those things work together as core pillars of business.”

“I particularly like our lounge space that we have created, but I also like how when Inbound creates their content and you look at the sessions they have created they are doing a really great job of bringing in practitioners on the marketing front but also inspirational speakers to talk about how marketing can better connect with their customers,” says Kaitlin Stich, Partner Marketing Lead for LinkedIn Marketing Solutions. “That’s incredibly valuable and they bring all types of industry experts to do that — my favorite is Chip and Joanna Gaines on Friday — I think bringing in speakers like that highlights the opportunity for businesses to be more conversational with their customers. That is really what this conference is about and that’s some of the value that LinkedIn is bringing with the products we are demonstrating here.”

Lessons From INBOUND 2019

This conference has proven to be especially valuable to marketers and general businesspeople over the years, and each year’s offerings seem to increase in value. Here’s what some other participants had to say about INBOUND 2019:

“There is so much new technology being rolled out every single day and sometimes it’s overwhelming,” says Tayla Andrè, Speaker, Media personality, and Real estate agent.

“These past four days really put in perspective how to properly roll out content that will increase my productivity visibility and connectivity to my followers.”

“The value of INBOUND for us is multifaceted,” says Nili Molvin Zaharony, Co-Founder and CMO of Penguin Strategies, HubSpot Diamond Agency Partner. “Over the course of four days, we are able to expand our agency’s offerings with new partnerships, share knowledge with other marketers as speakers, learn from our peers, and meet 1:1 with members of HubSpot’s executive staff to share ideas that directly translate into action and improvements. It is a truly unique opportunity for us to grow our business and share with the marketing community.”

“I have attended many conferences in social media marketing,” Says Adobe Education Leader and Founder of Classroom Without Walls, Dr. Ai-Addyson Zhang. “However, few truly create a wow-experience. Inbound is such an exceptional conference that educates, entertains, and inspires! I love the diverse range of speakers that come from a variety of backgrounds. You learn a lot about social media and digital marketing, but you also feel so inspired by the individuals who have made a mark in their industry. I especially love how HubSpot and HubSpot Academy are making an effort to diversify their selection of speakers and to walk their talk of the importance of diversity. Kudos to INBOUND19. I cannot wait for INBOUND20.”

Photos Courtesy of HubSpot

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New Things I’ve Learned About Google Review Likes

Posted by MiriamEllis

Last time I counted, there were upwards of 35 components to a single Google Business Profile (GBP). Hotel panels, in and of themselves, are enough to make one squeal, but even on a more “typical” GPB, it’s easy to overlook some low-lying features. Often, you may simply ignore them until life makes you engage.

A few weeks ago, a local SEO came to me with a curious real-life anecdote, in which a client was pressuring the agency to have all their staff hit the “like” button on all of the brand’s positive Google reviews. Presumably, the client felt this would help their business in some manner. More on the nitty-gritty of this scenario later, but at first, it made me face that I’d set this whole GBP feature to one side of my brain as not terribly important.

Fast forward a bit, and I’ve now spent a couple of days looking more closely at the review like button, its uses, abuses, and industry opinions about it. I’ve done a very small study, conducted a poll, and spoken to three different Google reps. Now, I’m ready to share what I’ve learned with you.

Wait, what is the “like” button?

Crash course: Rolled out in 2016, this simple function allows anyone logged into a Google account to thumbs-up any review they like. There is no opposite thumbs-down function. From the same account, you can only thumb up a single review once. Hitting the button twice simply reverses the “liking” action. Google doesn’t prevent anyone from hitting the button, including owners of the business being reviewed.

At a glance, do Google review likes influence anything?

My teammate, Kameron Jenkins, and I plugged 20 totally random local businesses into a spreadsheet, with 60 total reviews being highlighted on the front interface of the GBP. Google highlights just three reviews on the GBP and I wanted to know two things:

  1. How many businesses out of twenty had a liked review anywhere in their corpus
  2. Did the presence of likes appear to be impacting which reviews Google was highlighting on the front of the GBP?

The study was very small, and should certainly be expanded on, but here’s what I saw:

60 percent of the brands had earned at least one like somewhere in their review corpus.

15 percent of the time, Google highlighted only reviews with zero likes, even when a business had liked reviews elsewhere in its corpus. But, 85 percent of the time, if a business had some likes, at least one liked review was making it to the front of the GBP.

At a glance, I’d say it looks like a brand’s liked reviews may have an advantage when it comes to which sentiment Google highlights. This can be either a positive or negative scenario, depending on whether the reviews that get thumbed up on your listing are your positive or negative reviews.

And that leads us to…

Google’s guidelines for the use of the review likes function

But don’t get too excited, because it turns out, no such guidelines exist. Though it’s been three years since Google debuted this potentially-influential feature, I’ve confirmed with them that nothing has actually been published about what you should and shouldn’t do with this capability. If that seems like an open invitation to spam, I hear you!

So, since there were no official rules, I had to hunt for the next best thing. I was thinking about that SEO agency with the client wanting to pay them to thumb up reviews when I decided to take a Twitter poll. I asked my followers:

Unsurprisingly, given the lack of guidelines, 15 percent of 111 respondents had no idea whether it would be fishy to employ staff or markers to thumb up brand reviews. The dominant 53 percent felt it would be totally fine, but a staunch 32 percent called it spam. The latter group added additional thoughts like these:

I want to thank Tess Voecks, Gyi Tsakalakis, and everyone else for taking the poll. And I think the disagreement in it is especially interesting when we look at what happens next.

After polling the industry, I contacted three forms of Google support: phone, chat, and Twitter. If you found it curious that SEOs might disagree about whether or not paying for review likes is spam, I’m sorry to tell you that Google’s own staff doesn’t have brand-wide consensus on this either. In three parts:

1. The Google phone rep was initially unfamiliar with what the like button is. I explained it to her. First, I asked if it was okay for the business owner to hit the like button on the brand’s reviews, she confirmed that it’s fine to do that. This didn’t surprise me. But, when I asked the question about paying people to take such actions, she replied (I paraphrase):

“If a review is being liked by people apart from the owner, it’s not considered as spam.”

“What if the business owner is paying people, like staff or marketers, to like their reviews,” I asked.

“No, it’s not considered spam.”

“Not even then?”

“No,” she said.

2. Next, here’s a screenshot of my chat with a Google rep:

The final response actually amused me (i.e. yeah, go ahead and do that if you want to, but I wouldn’t do it if I were you).

3. Finally, I spoke with Google’s Twitter support, which I always find helpful:

To sum up, we had one Google rep tell is it would be fine and dandy to pay people to thumb up reviews (uh-oh!), but the other two warned against doing this. We’ll go with majority rule here and try to cobble together our own guidelines, in the absence of public ones.

My guidelines for use of the review likes function

Going forward with what we’ve learned, here’s what I would recommend:

  1. As a business owner, if you receive a review you appreciate, definitely go ahead and thumb it up. It may have some influence on what makes it to the highly-visible “front” of your Google Business Profile, and, even if not, it’s a way of saying “thank you” to the customer when you’re also writing your owner response. So, a nice review comes in, respond with thanks and hit the like button. End of story.
  2. Don’t tell anyone in your employ to thumb up your brand’s reviews. That means staff, marketers, and dependents to whom you pay allowance. Two-thirds of Google reps agree this would be spam, and 32 percent of respondents to my poll got it right about this. Buying likes is almost as sad a strategy as buying reviews. You could get caught and damage the very reputation you are hoping to build. It’s just not worth the risk.
  3. While we’re on the subject, avoid the temptation to thumbs-up your competitors’ negative reviews in hopes of getting them to surface on GBPs. Let’s just not go there. I didn’t ask Google specifically about this, but can’t you just see some unscrupulous party deciding this is clever?
  4. If you suspect someone is artificially inflating review likes on positive or negative reviews, the Twitter Google rep suggests flagging the review. So, this is a step you can take, though my confidence in Google taking action on such measures is not high. But, you could try.

How big of a priority should review likes be for local brands?

In the grand scheme of things, I’d put this low on the scale of local search marketing initiatives. As I mentioned, I’d given only a passing glance at this function over the past few years until I was confronted with the fact that people were trying to spam their way to purchased glory with it.

If reputation is a major focus for your brand (and it should be!) I’d invest more resources into creating excellent in-store experiences, review acquisition and management, and sentiment analysis than I would in worrying too much about those little thumbs. But, if you have some time to spare on a deep rep dive, it could be interesting to see if you can analyze why some types of your brand’s reviews get likes and if there’s anything you can do to build on that. I can also see showing positive reviewers that you reward their nice feedback with likes, if for no other reason than a sign of engagement.

What’s your take? Do you know anything about review likes that I should know? Please, share in the comments, and you know what I’ll do if you share a good tip? I’ll thumb up your reply!

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Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

The lessons Rand has learned from building and growing Moz are almost old enough to drive. From marketing flywheels versus growth hacks, to product launch timing, to knowing your audience intimately, Rand shares his best advice from a decade and a half of marketing Moz in today’s edition of Whiteboard Friday.

Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we are going to chat about some of the big lessons learned for me personally building this company, building Moz over the last 16, 17 years.

Back in February, I left the company full-time. I’m still the Chairman of the Board and contribute in some ways, including an occasional Whiteboard Friday here and there. But what I wanted to do as part of this book that I’ve written, that’s just coming out April 24th, Lost and Founder, is talk about some of the elements in there, maybe even give you a sneak peek.

If you’re thinking, “Well, what are the two or three chapters that are super relevant to me?” let me try and walk you through a little bit of what I feel like I’ve taken away and what I’m going to change going forward, especially stuff that’s applicable to those of us in web marketing, in SEO, and in broader marketing.

Marketing flywheels > growth hacks

First off, marketing flywheels, in my experience, almost always beat growth hacks. I know that growth hacks are trendy in the last few years, especially in the startup and technology worlds. There’s been this sort of search for the next big growth hack that’s going to transform our business. But I’ve got to be honest with you. Not just here at Moz, but in all of the companies that I’ve had experience with as a marketer, this tends to be what that looks like when it’s implemented.

So folks will find a hack. They’ll find some trick that works for a little while, and it results in this type of a spike in their traffic, their conversions, their success metrics of whatever kind. So they’ve discovered a way to game Facebook or they found this new black hat trick or they found this great conversion device. Whatever it is, it’s short term and short lasting. Why is this? It tends to be because of something Andrew Chen calls — and I’ll use his euphemism here — it’s called the “Law of Shitty Click-through Rates,” which essentially says that over time, as people get experienced with a sort of marketing trend, they become immune to its effects.

Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz - Whiteboard Friday

You can see this in anything that sort of tries to hack at consciousness or take advantage of psychological biases. So you get this pattern of hack, hack, hack, hack, and then none of the hacks you’re doing work anymore. Even if you have a tremendously successful one, even if this is six months in length, it tends to be the case that, over time, those diminish and decline.

Conversely, a marketing flywheel is something that you build that generates inertia and energy, such that each effort and piece of energy that you put into it helps it spin faster and faster, and it carries through. It takes less energy to turn it around again and again in the future after you’ve got it up and spinning. This is how a lot of great marketing works. You build a brand. You build your audience. They come to you. They help it amplify. They bring more and more people back. In the web marketing world, this works really well too.

Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz - Whiteboard Friday

So most of you are familiar with Moz’s flywheel, but I’ll try and give it a rough explanation here. We start down here with content ideas that we get from spending lots of time with SEOs. We do keyword research, and we optimize these posts, including look at Whiteboard Friday itself.

What do we do with Whiteboard Friday? You’re watching this video, but you’ll also see the transcript below. You’ll see the podcast version from SoundCloud so that you can listen to the text rather than watch me if you can do audio only for some reason. Each of these little images have been cut out and placed into the text below so that someone who’s searching in Google images might find some of these and find their way to Whiteboard Friday. A few months after it goes up here, hosted with Wistia on Moz, it will be put up on YouTube.com so that people can find it there.

So we’ve done all these sorts of things to optimize these posts. We publish them, and then we earn amplification through all the channels that we have — email, social media, certainly search engines are a big one for us. Then we grow our reach for next time.

Early in the days, early in Moz’s history, when I was first publishing, I was writing every blog post myself for many, many years. This was tremendously difficult. We weren’t getting much reach. Now, it’s an engine that turns on its own. So each time we do it, we earn more SEO ranking ability, more links, more other positive ranking signals. The next time we publish content, it has an even better chance of doing well. So Moz’s flywheel keeps spinning, keeps getting faster and faster, and it’s easier and easier. Each time I film Whiteboard Friday, I’m a little more experienced. I’ve gotten a little better at it.

Flywheels come in many different forms

Flywheels come in a lot of forms. It’s not just the classic content and SEO one that we’re describing here, although I know many of you who watch Whiteboard Friday probably use something similar. But press and PR is a big one that many folks use. I know companies that are built on primarily event marketing, and they have that same flywheel going for them. In advertising, folks have found these, in influencer-focused marketing flywheels, and community and user-generated content to build flywheels. All of these are ways to do that.

Find friction in your flywheels

If and when you find friction in your flywheel, like I did back in my early days, that’s when a hack is really helpful. If you can get a hack going to grow reach for next time, for example, in my early days, this was all about doing outreach to folks in the SEO space who were already influential, getting them to pay attention and help amplify Moz’s content. That was the hack that I needed. Essentially, it was a combination of the Beginner’s Guide to SEO and the Search Ranking Factors document, which I’ve described here. But that really helped grow reach for next time and made this flywheel start spinning in the way that we wanted. So I would urge you to favor flywheels over hacks.

Marketing an MVP is hard

Second one, marketing an MVP kind of sucks. It’s just awful. Great products are rarely minimum viable products. The MVP is a wonderful way to build. I really, really like what Eric Ries has done with that movement, where he’s taken this concept of build the smallest possible thing you can that still solves the user’s problem, the customer’s problem and launch that so that you can learn and iterate from it.

I just have one complaint, which is if you do that publicly, if you launch your MVP publicly and you’re already a brand that’s well known, you really hurt your reputation. No one ever thinks this. No one ever thinks, “Gosh, you know, Moz launched their first version of new tool X. It’s pretty terrible, but I can see how, with a few years of work, it’s going to be an amazing product. I really believe in them.” No one thinks that way.

What do you think? You think, “Moz launched this product. Why did they launch it? It’s kind of terrible. Are they going downhill? Do they suck now? Maybe I should I trust their other tools less.” That’s how most people think when it comes to an MVP, and that’s why it’s so dangerous.

Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz - Whiteboard Friday

So I made this silly chart here. But if the quality goes from crap to best in class and the amplification worthiness goes from zero to viral, it tends to be the case that most MVPs are launching way down here, when they’re barely good enough and thus have almost no amplification potential and really can’t do much for your marketing other than harm it.

If you instead build it internally, build that MVP internally, test with your beta group, and wait until it gets all the way up to this quality level of, “Wow, that’s really good,” and lots of people who are using it say, “Gosh, I couldn’t live without this. I want to share it with my friends. I want to tell everyone about this. Is it okay to tell people yet?” Maybe it’s starting to leak. Now, you’re up here. Now, your launch can really do something. We have seen exactly that happen many, many times here at Moz with both MVPs and MVPs where we sat on them and waited. I talk about some of these in the book.

MVPs, great to test internally with a private group. They’re also fine if you’re really early stage and no one has heard of you. But MVPs can seriously drag down reputation and perception of a brand’s quality and equity, which is why I generally recommend against them, especially for marketing.

Living the lives of your customer/audience is a startup + marketing cheat code

Last, but not least, living the lives of your customers or your audience is a cheat code. It is a marketing and startup cheat code. One of the best things that I have ever done is to say, “You know what? I am not going to sequester myself in my office dreaming up this great thing I think we should build or I think that we should do. Instead, I’m going to spend real time with our customers.”

Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz - Whiteboard Friday

So you might remember, at the end of 2013, I did this crazy project with my friend, Wil Reynolds, who runs Seer Interactive. They’re an SEO agency based here in the United States, in Philadelphia and San Diego. They do a lot more than SEO. Wil and I traded houses. We traded lives. We traded email accounts. I can’t tell you how weird it is answering somebody’s email, replying to Wil’s mom and being like, “Oh, Mrs. Reynolds, this is actually Rand. Your son, Wil, is answering my email off in Seattle and living in my apartment.”

Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz - Whiteboard Friday

That experience was transformational for me, especially after having gone through the pain of building something that I had conceptualized myself but hadn’t validated and hadn’t even come up with the idea from real problems that real people were facing. I had come up with it based on what I thought could grow the company. I seriously dislike ideas that come from that perspective now.

So since then, I just try not to assume. I try not to assume that I know what people want. When we film a Whiteboard Friday, it is almost always on a topic that someone I have met and talked to either over email or over Twitter or in person at an event or a conference, we’ve had a conversation in person. They’ve said, “I’m struggling with this.” I go, “I can make a Whiteboard Friday to help them with that.” That’s where these content ideas come from.

When I spend time with people doing their job, I was just in San Diego a little while ago meeting with a couple of agencies down there, spending time in their offices showing off a new links tool, getting all their feedback, seeing what they do with Open Site Explorer and Ahrefs and Majestic and doing their work with them, trying to go through the process that they go through and actually experiencing their pain points. I think this right here is the product and marketing cheat code. If you spend time with your audience, experiencing their pain points, the copy you write, what you design, where you place it, who you try and get to influence and amplify it, how you serve them, whether that’s through content or through advertising or through events, or whatever kind of marketing you’re doing, will improve if you live the lives of your customers and their influencers.

Whatever kind of marketing you’re doing will improve if you live the lives of your customers and their influencers.

All right, everyone. Hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. If you have feedback on this or if you’ve read the book and checked that out and you liked it or didn’t like it, please, I would love to hear from you. I look forward to your comments. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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How I Learned to Love (Ruthless) Editing

I love editing. It is, by far, my most favorite part of writing. I love editing my own work, other people’s work, bad copy on my dentist’s website … Give me a rough draft with poor sentence structure and I’ll entertain myself for hours. Most writers seem to have a tenuous relationship with editing. And
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11 Lessons Learned from Failed Link Building Campaigns

Posted by kerryjones

We’ve created more than 800 content campaigns at Fractl over the years, and we’d be lying if we told you every single one was a hit.

The Internet is a finicky place. You can’t predict with 100% accuracy if your content will perform well. Sometimes what we think is going to do OK ends up being a massive hit. And there have been a few instances where we’d expect a campaign to be a huge success but it went on to garner lackluster results.

While you can’t control the whims of the Internet, you can avoid or include certain things in your content to help your chances of success. Through careful analysis we’ve pinpointed which factors tend to create high-performing content. Similarly, we’ve identified trends among our content that didn’t quite hit the mark.

soup-nazi.gif

In this this post, I’ll share our most valuable lessons we learned from content flops. Bear in mind this advice applies if you’re using content to earn links and press pickups, which is what the majority of the content we create at Fractl aims to do.

1. There’s such a thing as too much data.

For content involving a lot of data, it can be tempting to publish every single data point you collect.

A good example of this is surveying. We’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of not only sharing all of the data we’ve collected in a survey, but also segmenting the data out by demographics — regardless of whether or not all of that data is super compelling. While this can give publishers a large volume of potential angles to choose from, the result is often unfocused content lacking a cohesive narrative.

george-and-jerry.gif

Only include the most insightful, interesting data points in your content, even if that means tossing aside most of the data you’ve gathered.

One example of this was a survey we did for a home security client where we asked people about stalker-ish behaviors they’d committed. The juiciest survey data (like 1 in 5 respondents had created a fake social account to spy on someone — yikes!) ended up getting buried because we included every data point from the survey, some of which wasn’t so interesting. Had we trimmed down the content to only the most shocking findings, it probably would have performed far better.

Furthermore, the more data you include, the more time it takes for a publisher to wade through it. As one journalist told us after we sent over an epic amount of data: “Long story short, this will take too much time.”

Consider this: It shouldn’t take a publisher more than 10 seconds of looking at your project to grasp the most meaningful data points. If they can’t quickly understand that, how will their readers?

2. Turning published data into something cool doesn’t always yield links.

If you’re going to use data that’s already been reported on, you better have a new spin or finding to present. Journalists don’t want to cover the same stats they have already covered.

A great example of this is a project we created about the reasons startups fail. The majority of the data we used came from CB Insights’ startup post mortems list, which had performed really well for them. (As of the time I’m writing this, according to Open Site Explorer it has 197 linking root domains from sites including BBC, Business Insider, Fortune, Vox, CNBC, and Entrepreneur — impressive!)

It worked well once, so it should work again if we repackage it into a new format, right?

We used the startups featured on the CB Insights list, added in a handful of additional startups, and created a sexy-looking interactive node map that grouped together startups according to the primary reasons they went under.

While the content didn’t end up being a failure (we got it picked up by Quartz, woo!), it definitely didn’t live up to the expectations we had for it.

Two problems with this project:

  1. We weren’t saying anything new about the data.
  2. The original data had gotten so much coverage that many relevant publishers had already seen it and/or published it.

But of course, there are exceptions. If you’re using existing data that hasn’t gotten a ton of coverage, but is interesting, then this can be a smart approach. The key is avoiding data that has already been widely reported in the vertical you want to get coverage in.

3. It’s difficult to build links with videos.

Video content can be extremely effective for viral sharing, which is fantastic for brand awareness. But are videos great for earning links? Not so much.

When you think of viral content, videos probably come to mind — which is exactly why you may assume awesome videos can attract a ton of backlinks. The problem is, publishers rarely give proper attribution to videos. Instead of linking to the video’s creator, they just embed the video from YouTube or link to YouTube. While a mention/link to the content creator often happens organically with a piece of static visual content, this is often not the case with videos.

Of course, you can reach out to anyone who embeds your video without linking to you and ask for a link. But this can add a time-consuming extra step to the already time-intensive process of video creation and promotion.

4. Political ideas are tough to pull off.

Most brands don’t want to touch political topics with a ten-foot pole. But to others, creating political content is appealing since it has strong potential to evoke an emotional reaction and get a lot of attention.

kramer-jerry.gif

We’ve had several amazing political ideas fail despite solid executions and promotional efforts. It’s hard for us to say why this is, but our assumption has been publishers don’t care about political content that isn’t breaking (because it’s always breaking). For this reason, we believe it’s nearly impossible to compete with the constant cycle of breaking political news.

5. Don’t make content for a specific publisher.

We’ve reached out to publishers to collaborate during content production, assuming that if the publisher feels ownership over the content and it’s created to their specifications, they will definitely publish it.

In general, we’ve found this approach doesn’t work because it tends to be a drain on the publishers (they don’t want to take on the extra work of collaborating with you) and it locks you into an end result that may only work for their site and no other publishers.

Remember: Publishers care about getting views and engagement on their site, not link generation for you or your client.

6. Hyperlocal content is a big risk.

If you focus on one city, even with an amazing piece of content featuring newsworthy information, you’re limited in how many publishers you can pitch it to. And then, you’re out of luck if none of those local publishers pick it up.

On the flip side, we’ve had a lot of success with content that features multiple cities/states/regions. This allows us to target a range of local and national publishers.

Note: This advice applies to campaigns where links/press mentions are the main goal – I’m not saying to never create content for a certain locality.

7. Always make more than one visual asset.

And one of those assets should always be a simple, static image.

Why?

Many websites have limits to the type of media they can publish. Every publisher is able to publish a static graphic, but not everyone can embed more complex content formats (fortunately, Moz can handle GIFs).

george-and-kramer.gif

In most cases, we’ve found publishers prefer the simplest visualizations. One classic example of this is a project where we compared reading levels and IQ across different states based on a analysis of half a million tweets. Our Director of Creative, Ryan Sammy, spent a painstaking amount of time (and money) creating an interactive map of the results.

What did most publishers end up featuring? A screenshot of a Tableau dashboard we had sent as a preview during outreach…

8. Be realistic about newsjacking.

Newsjacking content needs to go live within 24 to 48 hours of the news event to be timely. Can you really produce something in time to newsjack?

We’ve found newsjacking is hard to pull off in an agency setting since you have to account for production timelines and getting client feedback and approval. In-house brands have a more feasible shot at newsjacking if they don’t have to worry about a long internal approval process.

9. Watch out for shiny new tools and content formats.

Just because you are using cool, new technology doesn’t automatically make the content interesting. We’ve gotten caught up in the “cool factor” of the format or method only to end up with boring (but pretty) content.

10. Avoid super niche topics.

You greatly increase your risk of no return when you go super niche. The more you drill down a topic, the smaller your potential audience becomes (and potential sites that will link become fewer, too).

There are a ton of people interested in music, there are fewer people interested in rap music, there are even fewer people interested in folk rap music, and finally, there are so few people interested in ’90s folk rap. Creating content around ’90s folk rap will probably yield few to no links.

Some questions to ask to ensure your topic isn’t too niche:

  • Is there a large volume of published content about this topic? Do a Google search for a few niche keywords to see how many results come up compared to broader top-level topics.
  • If there is a lot of content, does that content get high engagement? Do a search in Buzzsumo for keywords related to the niche topic. Is the top content getting thousands of shares?
  • Are people curious about this topic? Search on BloomBerry to see how many questions people are asking about it.
  • Are there online communities dedicated to the topic? Do a quick search for “niche keyword + forum” to turn up communities.
  • Are there more than 5 publishers that focus exclusively on the niche topic?

11. Don’t make content on a topic you can’t be credible in.

When we produced a hard-hitting project about murder in the U.S. for a gambling client, the publishers we pitched didn’t take it seriously because the client wasn’t an authority on the subject.

From that point on, we stuck to creating more light-hearted content around gambling, partying, and entertainment, which is highly relevant to our client and goes over extremely well with publishers.

It’s OK to create content that is tangentially related to your brand (we do this very often), but the connection between the content topic and your industry should be obvious. Don’t leave publishers wondering, why is this company making this content?”

costanza.gif


Learning from failure is crucial for improvement.

Failure is inevitable, especially when you’re pushing boundaries or experimenting with something new (two things we try to do often at Fractl). The good news is that with failure you tend to have the greatest “a-ha!” moments. This is why having a post-campaign review of what did and didn’t work is so important.

Getting to the heart of why your content is rejected by publishers can be extremely helpful — we collect this information, and it’s invaluable for spotting things we can tweak during content production to increase our success rate. When a publisher tells you “no,” many times they will give a brief explanation why (and if they don’t, you can ask nicely for their feedback). Collect and review all of this publisher feedback and review it every few months. Like us, you may notice trends as to why publishers are passing up your content. Use these insights to correct your course instead of continuing to make the same mistakes.

And one last note for anyone creating content for clients: What should you do when your client’s campaign is a flop? To mitigate the risk to our clients, we replace a campaign if it fails to get any publisher coverage. While we’ve rarely had to do this, putting this assurance in place can give both you and your client peace of mind that a low-performing campaign doesn’t mean their investment has gone to waste.

What have you observed about your content that didn’t perform well? Does your experience contradict or mirror any of the lessons I shared?

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An MP3 Website, Activist Community, A Craigslist-Copy Called Yaz.com.au And An English School – These Are My Failures And The Lessons Learned

[ Download MP3 | Transcript | iTunes | Soundcloud | Raw RSS ] Welcome to the EJ Podcast ‘Solo Session 2’, otherwise known as the Failure episode. The episode itself is not a failure, but features business projects that I created during my earlier years as an entrepreneur that did…

The post An MP3 Website, Activist Community, A Craigslist-Copy Called Yaz.com.au And An English School – These Are My Failures And The Lessons Learned appeared first on Entrepreneurs-Journey.com.

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7 Bad Writing Habits You Learned in School

forget these lessons to become a better writer

What is good writing?

Ask an English teacher, and they’ll tell you good writing is grammatically correct. They’ll tell you it makes a point and supports it with evidence.

Maybe, if they’re really honest, they’ll admit it has a scholarly tone — prose that sounds like Jane Austen earns an A, while a paper that could’ve been written by Willie Nelson scores a B (or worse).

Not all English teachers abide by this system, but the vast majority do. Just look at the writing of most graduates, and you’ll see what I mean. It’s proper, polite, and just polished enough not to embarrass anyone. Mission accomplished, as far as our schools are concerned.

But let me ask you something:

Is that really good writing?

I think most good writers listen to the way English teachers want them to write and think, “This isn’t real. It has no feeling, no distinctiveness, no oomph. You’re the only person in the world who would willingly read it. Everyone else would rather chew off their own eyelids than read more than three pages of this boring crap.”

And they’re right.

Create interesting content people want to read

Compare an award-winning essay to a best-selling novel, and you’ll notice that they are written in almost completely different languages.

Some of it has to do with the audience, sure. It’s natural to write differently for academics than you would for everyday people. But my question is: who are you going to spend more time writing for?

My guess: everyday people — your family and friends, your blog audience, your boss at work, maybe even a Letter to the Editor every now and again. None of them are academics. None of them want to read an essay.

Personally, I think good writing doesn’t have to be educated or well-supported or even grammatically correct. It does have to be interesting enough that other people want to read it.

Much of what comes out of high schools and universities fails this test, not because our students are incapable of saying anything interesting, but because a well-meaning but flawed academic system has taught them a lot of bad habits.

Let’s go through seven of them.

1. Trying to sound like dead people

It’s a sad state of affairs when the youngest writer on your reading list has been dead 100 years, but that’s the way it is in school.

I don’t know who exactly decides what’s worth reading and what’s not, but they (whoever “they” are) believe in reading the “classics,” and most of those classics are centuries old. What’s worse is that many teachers hold up the classics as examples of what good writing is, and they expect you to mimic those writers with your essays.

Sure, Chaucer and Thomas More and Shakespeare were the stud muffins of their day, but you don’t see them on the New York Times Bestseller List now.

Not because they aren’t good (they were freaking great), but because people can’t connect with them. By mimicking their style, you might make a few teachers happy, but you’re essentially handicapping your writing in the eyes of the public.

If you want to make a connection, you’re much better off studying hot writers like Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and Seth Godin. Watch what they do, and play with using some of their techniques in your own writing.

Yes, you’ll still be mimicking the works other writers, but at least you’ll be mimicking something people want to read.

2. Expecting someone to hand you a writing prompt

Looking through the eyes of an educator, I can see why telling students what to write about would be useful. You have a bunch of students who couldn’t care less about your curriculum, and making them write a paper about the assigned readings is a great way to force them to read the material.

Makes sense … but it doesn’t make it any less damaging.

One of the biggest challenges of writing is figuring out what to write. Whether you’re writing a memo, an article, or a letter to your mother, the process is always the same: you start out with a blank page, and you decide what to put on it.

Sure, that involves considering what your audience will want to read, but no one but you makes the final decision of what to put on the page. That act of deciding is what writing is all about.

3. Writing long paragraphs

Once upon a time, it was acceptable to write paragraphs long enough to fill multiple pages with big blocks of text.

Not surprisingly, that’s the way most of us were taught to write: long paragraphs, topic sentences neatly organized, lots of supporting evidence in between assertions. It was the “correct” way to write.

Not.

Any.

More.

Nowadays, most paragraphs should be a maximum of three sentences. It’s also a good idea to include some shorter paragraphs with only one or two sentences, using them to punctuate powerful ideas.

It’s not so much about having a “correct” length as using paragraphs to give your writing rhythm.

4. Avoiding profanity at all costs

I admit it; this is a controversial one. Many excellent writers still hold that profanity has no place in professional publications, while others feel comfortable using curse words occasionally.

The rest of us sit around wondering whether it’s okay to express ourselves “that way” or not.

So, who’s right? Well, I think Stephen King says it best:

“Make yourself a solemn promise right now that you’ll never use ‘emolument’ when you mean ‘tip’ and you’ll never say John stopped long enough to perform an act of excretion when you mean John stopped long enough to take a shit. If you believe ‘take a shit’ would be considered offensive or inappropriate by your audience, feel free to say John stopped long enough to move his bowels (or perhaps John stopped long enough to ‘push’). I’m not trying to get you to talk dirty, only plain and direct.”

‘Nough said.

5. Leaning on sources

Most kids I knew hated digging up sources and quoting them in their papers, but not me. No, the sneaky little bugger that I was (and still am) realized that sources were an escape route from creativity. With enough quotations from other writers, I could fill up an entire paper without coming up with a single original thought of my own.

And I was rewarded for it. From kindergarten to getting my degree in English Literature, I got an A on all but like five papers.

Here’s why: a lot of teachers care more about solid research than original ideas. They don’t want to see daring and inventive arguments challenging the foundation of everything we hold to be true and arguing boldly for a new worldview.

To them, it’s much more important that you understand the ideas of others and be able to cite them in MLA format.

But real life is the opposite.

Go around citing the sources of all of your ideas and people will start avoiding you, because it’s boring as hell. They don’t care who said what, and they aren’t interested in hearing the chronology of an idea.

What they want to hear is a new perspective on a favorite topic.

If it comes from you, that’s fine. If it doesn’t, that’s fine too.

6. Staying detached

We are taught that good writing puts the focus on the subject, not the writer. It’s unemotional. It gives equal attention to opposing points of view, presenting them all without singling out one as best.

And sometimes, it’s true. If you’re a scientist, engineer, or a doctor, then maintaining your role as a detached observer is a great idea. For everyone else though, it’s a disaster.

Have you ever read the stuff scientists, engineers, and other so-called “detached observers” write? It’s boring! Outside of their exclusive circles, you couldn’t pay people to read it.

If you want people to want to read what you write, then you should do the opposite. Be more like Oprah Winfrey or Gary Vaynerchuk. They are opinionated, have a unique style, and are prone to emotional outbursts.

It’s no coincidence. That’s what makes them interesting.

7. Listening to “experts” more than yourself

Who am I to criticize the writing habits you learned in school?

Well … nobody.

Yes, I’m a professional writer. Yes, I have a literature degree. Yes, other writers have paid me up to $ 200 an hour to edit their work, and they’ve been amazed when all I did was correct the above mistakes.

But that doesn’t mean I’m right. In fact, that’s probably the most important lesson you can learn about writing:

No one but you is an expert on your writing.

Not me. Not your English teachers. Not Strunk and White and their highfalutin Elements of Style.

The longer you write, the more you’ll realize that other writers can’t tell you what to do. You should listen to more experienced writers, sure, but never more than you listen to yourself.

Great writers don’t learn how to write by sitting in writing courses, reading writing blogs, or browsing Barnes & Noble for yet more books on writing.

They learn how to write by coming to a blank page, writing something down, and then asking themselves if it works.

If it does, they keep it. If it doesn’t, they don’t. Then they repeat the process until they finish something they feel is worth publishing.

Sadly, most writers don’t know this

They labor under the mistaken assumption that there is an invisible standard of good and bad. And they worry that the Writing Police are going to show up at their door any minute, handcuff them, and haul them off to jail for failing to measure up.

If that was true, you wouldn’t see a single writer walking the street without one of those blinking bracelets around their ankle.

The truth is that you’re in charge. You. The blank page is sitting there, and you can fill it up with whatever the hell you want.

So stop sitting there, silly.

Go for it.

Editor’s note: The original version of this post was published on October 28, 2009.

The post 7 Bad Writing Habits You Learned in School appeared first on Copyblogger.


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What I Recently Learned From My New Interviews With Top Internet Entrepreneurs

The Best Way To Learn Is To Teach… One of the aspects of creating products I enjoy the most is the lessons I learn. As they say, the best way to learn is to teach.  This is so true because it forces you to focus and prepare since people are…

The post What I Recently Learned From My New Interviews With Top Internet Entrepreneurs appeared first on Entrepreneurs-Journey.com.

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How I Learned to Start Loving Social Media’s Darkside

I’m baaaaaaack.

Organic Listings

What a fun past couple years it has been in the digital marketing landscape; we’ve seen hummingbirds, ads displacing organic listings, phantoms, ads displacing organic listings, rank brain, and of course ads displacing organic listings. It has been such a long time since my last post that back when I was last writing for SEObook we were still believing in the timelines provided by Google employees on when Penguin was going to run next. Remember that? Oh, the memories.

Idiot Proof SEO Concepts You Better Not Screw Up For Me

The reason I’m back is to share a tip. Normally I don’t share SEO tips because by sharing information on a tactic, I end up burning the tactic and killing whatever potential usable market value remained on its shelf life. Why share then? Because this isn’t something you can kill; it involves people. And killing people is bad. To explain how it works though, I need to explain the two concepts I’m smashing together like chocolate and peanut butter.

Keepin' it REAL.

Chocolate

The chocolate, aka Influencer Marketing – my definition of influencer marketing is having someone tell your story for you. Some people view influencer marketing as paying someone like Kim Kardashian $ 50,000 to post a picture of herself on Instagram holding a sample of your new line of kosher pickles. While that does fit under my definition as well, I consider that aspirational influencer marketing since her audience is primarily comprised of being aspiring to be Kim. Also equally valid is having Sally your foodie neighbor posting that picture in exchange for getting a free jar of those delicious pickles; in this particular case though the influence would be considered peer level influence since Sally’s audience is going to be comprised largely of people that view Sally as their equal, and possibly recognize that Sally as a foodie knows her food. Personally, I am biased, but I prefer lots of peer influence campaigns than a single big budget aspirational influence campaign, but I digress. If you want to learn a lot more about differences in the campaign types, I spoke with Bronco on the ins and outs of influence.

Peanut Butter

The peanut butter, aka Online Reputation Management, aka ORM – while I would hope reputation management doesn’t need to be specifically defined, I’ll define it anyhow as changing the online landscape for the benefit of a client’s (or your own) reputation. Peanut butter is a really good analogy for ORM because a lot of work gets spread around in a lot of directions, from creating hundreds of thousands of properties designed to flood the SERPs and social channels as a tail that wags the dog, to straight up negative SEO. Yeah, I said it. If negative SEO wasn’t made so much more available due to Panda, Penguin, and the philosophical neative a priori shift, in ORM would not be the industry that it is today.

So what’s the tip? You can combine these two concepts for your clients, and you can do it in a variety of different ways. Let’s walk through a few…

POSITIVE/BENIGN Focus

  1. Use aspirational influence to find a blogger/writer to talk about your client or product.
  2. Use peer influence indirectly to let a more difficult to approach blogger/writer “discover” your client and write about him or her.
  3. Use aspirational influence as a means to gain links to some properties. Seriously, this works really well. Some audiences will write a series of articles on whatever certain individuals writes about.
  4. Use peer influence to change tone/meaning of a negative article to something more benign.
  5. Use peer influence to find bloggers/writers to discuss concepts that can only be disucssed by referencing you or your client.

NEGATIVE Focus

  1. Use peer pressure influence to get material removed.
  2. Use aspirational influence to change the mind of blogger/writer (think politics – this works).
  3. Use peer influence to change links from one target to another in source material (this occurs quite a bit on Wikipedia too).
  4. THE TRUMP® CARD©: Use aspirational influence and peer influence in combination, which I call compulsion marketing, to inspire frightening movements and witchunts (coordinated DOS attacks, protests, crap link blasts, et al).

My business partner at my influencer marketing network Intellifluence, Terry Godier, and I also refer to some of the above topics under the umbrella of dark influence. I’m sure this list isn’t even close to exhaustive, mainly because I don’t want to go too deep on how scary one can get. If you need to address such things, I still take on select ORM clients at Digital Heretix and can help you out or refer you to a quality professional that will. Combining concepts and tactics is often a lot more fun than trying to approach a tactic singularly; when possible, work in multiple dimensions.

Think of a way that I missed or some cool concepts that could be paired to be more powerful? Let me know on Twitter.

Cheers,
Joe Sinkwitz

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