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The changing face of content marketing

September 11, 2014 by Charlie Phair

The changing face of content marketing{{}}Over the past year, tactical guest posting of duplicate content has become synonymous with bad spammy SEO practice. Google has publicly expressed disdain for the practice and the recent Panda and Penguin algorithm updates have taken further measures to penalise those engaged in bad practices.

Once upon a time, guest posting was an effective system to build links to your website, but as it became more popular we inevitably witnessed a growth in black hat techniques gaining unnatural links at high velocities and unfairly ranking over competitors and effectively demeaning the quality of search queries. The Panda 4.0 website has taken a harsher stance on content aggregator websites, penalising automated and duplicate content with non-existent signs of community engagement.

Where does content marketing stand now?

Pick your subject and delivery carefully

By all means, produce content that expresses the benefits of your products and services but be wary of producing advertorials and promotional content. Online audiences are becoming more resistant to blatant advertising, they know when they are being sold to and they don’t like it — this is why Adblock has become so popular. Always look to engage your audience by targeting their interests and getting creative with your content.

Where 300-400 word articles were the norm, now more comprehensive pieces of 2,000 words or more are in favour. Interactive elements and a focus on visual design are also becoming increasingly prevalent. So don’t be afraid of building the resources for longer-term gains with your content.

Choose your resources carefully

Increasingly, small businesses have to consider the validity of the websites they post to. If a website looks out of date, is unresponsive and unsupported by social media, it is probably not worth your time. If, however, a website does have a modern responsive design and an active community, go for it!

Moz’s Domain Authority has long been the standard metric for deciding whether a website is worth your attention, however traffic and community engagement are become more important and DA largely overlooks these elements.

Follow through

Individual page metrics are becoming more important for Google when it measures what is and what isn’t a good link. Once posted, you need to support your content through social media sharing and outreach to authorities in your field.

The objective of good quality content marketing hasn’t really changed. Never write for the sake of a link and always think about the bigger picture. Create engaging content that is unique to your brand and of real interest to an audience. Then take active steps to support your content on social media in order to create organic discussion.

Copyright © 2014 Charlie Phair, digital marketing executive, The Workplace Depot.

 

Why Albert Einstein knew a thing or two about measuring social media

September 10, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

Why Albert Einstein knew a thing or two about measuring social media{{}}Albert Einstein said: “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts”.

Einstein has hit the social media nail on the head. The benefits of social media can be both tangible and intangible and not every aspect of your social media success can be measured. So how can you ensure you’re getting a clear ROI — or “return on Involvement” in social media.

There are many ways to measure your social media success. Getting a positive mention from an industry expert or getting your content in front of key people can be invaluable. Social media gives you easy access to specific audiences so if you are using social media for business, the first thing you need to do is ensure you’re fishing in the right pond. There are many social media sites, all with different purposes and audiences; find out where your audience is lurking and then focus your efforts here.

But once you’ve got a social media strategy, how do you measure its effectiveness?

Set clear and realistic targets

Set clear objectives and realistic goals and understand why each is a measure of success. Targets could include: reaching a certain number of new followers, achieving lead conversions or re-tweets. If you’re hitting these then you’ll know your social activity is working, and if you’re not, look at where you’re focusing your efforts. Keep pushing yourself by gradually making these objectives harder to achieve and as your social media skills increase so will your business success. One measure to employ is by asking: “Where were we able to start this conversation that led to the sale?”.

Social media measuring tools

There are many social media management tools out there to enable you to monitor every aspect of your social activity. These include measuring your click-through stats, likes, re-tweets, follower growth and post shares:

  • Facebook’s metrics are great for showing you how successful your social media activity is.
  • Twitter search your company name — this allows you to monitor your Twitter reputation by bringing up news, pictures and tweets that your brand has been mentioned in. By adding the # before your name you can see all tweets that directly reference you.
  • Technorati will notify your brand when it has been mentioned in the blogosphere.
  • Monitor This is a little more technical but worth it. You can have it watch over 20 different search engine feeds and make an .opml file that you can put into your RSS Feeder to display any results.

Sites like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, Sprout Social and Meltwater Buzz offer social media “dashboards” that allow you to post and monitor the success of all your posts, showing conversation volume and the sentiment of mentions. These platforms can also flag up all mentions of search queries you enter.

Saving time and money

Social media provides cost effective access to powerful marketing, networking and lead generation tools. It has truly levelled the playing field for small businesses but it’s essential to have a strategy. By measuring how much time and money your business has saved by using social media to achieve its goals faster, you can see a clear “return on involvement”. If you are spending hours on social media with very little to show for it, then you are doing something wrong. One quick and easy time saving exercise is to schedule “proactive” tweets and posts (without looking like a robot); then you can engage more “reactively” as required.

Analysing brand recognition

Social media is a great way for a business to raise brand awareness. Use monitor tools to search for your brand name. Monitoring your Twitter mentions allows you to see when and why people are talking about you.

Mentions by influencers

Positive mentions are difficult to measure; if you are being re-tweeted and discussed by industry experts then you know you’re “doing” social media right. This shows that you’re creating and sharing engaging content that others find useful. Ensure you set clear goals for who you would like to interact with online and if your content is being picked up by these people then this is a clear measurement of your social success.

Follower growth

After you post content about a specific subject, you may see your followers, likes and favourites increase. This is because people follow feeds and people who provide rich and interesting online content. If your followers/connections are constantly increasing and, in particular, you’re getting lots of new professionals in your sector, then your social media activity is clearly working. Keep posting engaging content — including your company blogs and news as well as third party content— to give people a reason to continue following you.

Better internal collaboration

Social media can foster better employee engagement and communication between departments. Businesses that use social media often have a better collaborative working environment as they reap the rewards of the cost and time efficiencies that social media can bring. And through better internal communications you will soon see better external communications.

Copyright © 2014 Emma Pauw, social media writer, We Talk Social.

Three ways to find out if your website is harming your business

September 08, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

Three ways to find out if your website is harming your business{{}}

It’s an easy mistake to make.

You publish your shiny new website. You wait for the orders to flood in. Then… nothing happens.

It can be really frustrating, especially if you’re a new business.

But why is this? Your website looks great. Your friends and family all agree it looks amazing. But that doesn’t seem to cut any ice with the people who really matter — your customers.

So what is the solution? How do you turn things around without breaking the bank?

Your website needs to perform only three tasks

All you need to do is to focus on three basic functions: prospect, convert and grow.

It’s that simple. Let’s examine them in more detail.

Prospect

All we mean here is that you can attract visitors to your website. Sure, you need to put in some effort, but it is not difficult.

I have analysed thousands of websites and I see the same mistakes. Fix these and you are halfway there.

The most common is the wrong choice of keywords. Once you’ve chosen the best keywords for your business, you need to include them in the metatags, in the URLs, in the text links between pages and in the text of your website itself.

Also, set up a blog. The evidence is overwhelming — websites with a blog do better than those that don’t. Why? Google loves content.

Convert

You’re getting a steady stream of visitors. But you’re not there to greet them.

The next best thing? Create trust. Here’s how…

Don’t say “welcome to our website”. Give them a promise. Think of your customer’s biggest need and tell them how you will address it.

But why should they believe your claims? Use customer testimonials to sell for you. If you ask for them you’ll be surprised.

Add live chat to your site and you’ll be amazed. It’s fast, it’s instant and it gets results.

Offer something for free. Remember your promise to solve the biggest need of your customers? Create a report that solves that issue. Offer it in return for their contact details and you can follow up with them. This can be automated very easily.

People rarely make their minds up instantly, but they now see you as an expert and you are pushing at an open door.

Grow

Now you either have a customer or someone who is on your emailing list. Now you can build that relationship with them.

Remember your blog? This is where you can develop that long-term relationship with them. Keep them up-to-date with developments by email and regular correspondence and you will reap the rewards.

And finally…

Many people get disillusioned with online marketing but it is a vital part of being in business these days. The important point is to think about the purpose of your website and just repeat these three words to stay on track: Prospect, convert, grow.

Copyright © 2014 Tony Messer, founder of www.pickaweb.co.uk and author of The Lazy Website Syndrome.

Clever ways with content marketing for start-ups

September 04, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

164492432{{}}Content marketing is a great way for start-ups to promote their business but the opportunities extend beyond the main social media sites. Here are some key tools — and inspirational examples — that can help you build your brand presence using online content.

Infographics

Infographics are ideal for visualising big data and complicated concepts in a simple, fun way. Despite their increasing popularity, the best examples still have the power to command attention and — importantly — get those much-valued social shares.

Many infographics now provide an interactive element, such as Animagraffs’ How a Car Engine Works. With shares across various social sites already well into the “viral” zone, this is an example of how far and wide an infographic can reach. All with an important added SEO benefit: they can be picked up by publications that are relevant to your industry.

Online resources

PDFs, ebooks and guides — when executed with panache — are all fantastic online resources and a great way to get your business in front of new customers’ eyes.  A good example of this in practice is software company Hubspot’s online marketing library. Offering templates, guides, webinars and ebooks on everything from ecommerce to social media, the library’s resources are available at no cost. All you need is your email address. Hubspot is one of the most respected marketing websites around, so what you’re getting here is a lot of great expertise and insight, at zero cost.

Google+ Hangouts

The Google+ Hangout can be perfect for providing an immersive and engaging user experience. Both of these were factors in the massive success of Cadbury UK’s Google+ Hangouts, which involved fun stuff like live tasting sessions and boosted their follower count by 150,000 people. Google has also started pushing Hangouts into the enterprise space. It has recently announced that customers will no longer need a Google+ profile to use Hangouts, making it a more viable option for business users. Business customers can now use their existing login details and invite up to 14 others to join their HD video chats.

YouTube

YouTube provides some really interesting opportunities for content marketing and with the right strategy in place, it can be a wonderful place to encourage creative customer interaction with your brand. For a striking example of YouTube content marketing in action, check out high-definition photography brand GoPro’s YouTube channel, which encourages anyone with a GoPro device to record their experiences. The videos show a wide range of spectacular stuff — from feeding cougars to bungee jumping. And with the GoPro logo and slogan bookending each clip, the brand name is prominent but unobtrusive.

Blogging

Blogging continues to be a huge deal in content marketing and there’s no sign of that changing any time soon. An engaging and very modern approach to blogging forms the basis for the Guardian Angel content hub from financial services provider AXA Business. The hub is home to an array of accessible and highly relevant content, including blogs, video clips, downloads and guides designed to support and inspire new business owners. Supplying clear, useful and relevant content on everything your customers might be looking for, presented in a user-friendly and engaging way, is a great way to encourage customer loyalty.

SlideShare

In terms of popularity, SlideShare is the YouTube of presentations. It’s a great place to impart concise, easily digestible information about what your company does — and it’s especially good for B2B presentations. Your presentations can be accessed easily — all you need to supply is a link and your presentations are instantly viewable.

Content amplification

Once you’ve created your content, it’s time to share it. The more awesome your content is, the greater the number of potential links, views, shares and engagement it will receive.

Putting your content out there goes way beyond just Facebook and Twitter. In fact, these days it seems that Facebook is becoming (whisper it) obsolete when it comes to content marketing. Paid-for content recommendation platforms such as Outbrain, Nrelate and Taboola are also a great way to promote your content to a number of very high quality media sites etc and operate on a Cost Per Click basis.

Copyright © 2014 Matthew Marley, a digital marketing blogger.

Choosing brand colours to generate more sales

September 03, 2014 by Fiona Humberstone

Choosing brand colours to generate more sales{{}}Whether you’re launching a new business or rebranding your website, the chances are you’ll need to make some decisions about colour at some point along the line.

And, whilst colour will make your business look more exciting, interesting and engaging, the right colours can also help you sell more products and services. Colour psychology can help you communicate consistently and coherently and compel your customers to buy.

It would be lovely if I could tell you that picking red will grab attention and that’s the colour you must put on your website, but the truth is that it’s a little more complicated than that.

There is no list of must-have colours for every business. Just as your business is unique, so are the colours that’ll work for you. But with some thought, you can create a colour palette to help attract customers and build your brand.

Start by defining your intention. What makes your business unique, why do your customers love what you do and what impression do you want to create? Make a list of key words and pick just three that encapsulate what you’re trying to do.

Now, take advantage of colour psychology — it’s a great framework to create colour palettes that work. In particular, you can consider which seasonal personality best represents your business.

Spring businesses are creative, inspiring communicators who value simplicity and clarity and the spring personality is often described as spontaneous, proactive and forward-thinking. Use light, bright, clear and warm colours with a softness and delicacy about them.

Summer businesses are organised, efficient, romantic, graceful and elegant. The Summer personality is reserved, thoughtful and intuitive. It also feels a strong sense of responsibility and will never let you down. Use delicate, cool and muted shades. Flowing lines and a softness of tone is very Summer and a soft, watercolour style works well.

Autumn businesses are earthy, organic, community-minded and value-driven. Autumn brands have a strong connection to nature, a love for the past, a thirst for understanding how and why things work and they often enjoy challenging the status quo. The Autumnal personality makes a great campaigner. As you might expect, shades are warm, intense and muted.

Finally, Winter businesses are dynamic, distinctive, dramatic and luxurious. Winter is a season of extremes and the Winter personality is usually highly focused on the task in hand and excellent at both the big picture and drilling down into the detail. Pick cool, bright and intense shades — this is the only season you should use black for.

By using colours from just one season you can communicate a highly confident and powerful message.

Once you’ve picked your season, select colours that will support your brand messages. For example, yellow will communicate confidence, optimism, self-esteem and happiness. Red is a great colour to communicate energy, strength and vitality. Blue is good for communication, clarity, logic or efficiency. Orange is great for creativity, abundance and fun while green is restful and represents balance and harmony.

So why not take a more considered approach to colour next time you work on your brand identity? It’ll make the world of difference.

Copyright © 2014 Fiona Humberstone. Fiona is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and heads a creative and branding consultancy. She is running a colour psychology workshop in London on 30th September.

Six subtle signals that could be damaging your business

September 01, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

Six subtle signals that could be damaging your business{{}}Are you giving off subtle signals that are putting off potential customers? And are these signals building confidence or wariness among your staff? Subtle signals are often more powerful than overt ones. So how do you avoid sending the wrong signals?

1. It's not about you

If you spend too much time telling and not enough asking, then the subtle message is that the buyer is a sales target. The same applies to staff. At a recent restaurant launch the owner talked about the brilliant things that had been done but that one group of people had made it harder and needed to do better. The good news motivated, but the subtle message, sucking energy from the room, was “we bear grudges”.

Advice: Always stay focused on others. Keep your disappointments private.

2. It doesn't matter if you are right

Doing the right thing is assumed — but putting extra attention on having done the right thing may give the subtle message that it is special. It could suggest that you done the right thing this time, but normally you don't.

Advice: Help people to see that you always do the right thing by your actions, not your words.

3. Outcomes matter, inputs don't

In business we care far more about whether the job is done well, than whether there was a challenge on the way. Customers aren't going to buy it because they are sympathetic about the problems you had. So focus on the outcomes, not the journey. Tell people what they want and need to know — the job has been done and it has been done well.

Advice: Quality matters and so does the perception of quality.

4. You can't control the choices others make, only influence them

The subtle signals in phrases like “I think you should” and “what you need to do now” highlight your desire to make choices for others, for the right reasons perhaps, but in the wrong way. Customers like to make their own choices. So facilitate these choices by asking questions to help them make their own decision — and support the choices they do make.

Advice: Influence comes more from supporting small choices, not defining large ones.

5. People don't know what to ask

Most conversational questioning isn't deeply considered and an off the cuff reply can send a damaging subtle message.  For example, “how many employees do you have?” assumes a business model that relies on internally-resourced work, but perhaps you use efficient outsourcing arrangements. If so, then the subtle message in a reply of, say, “four” is that you’re a very small business. Is that really representative?

Advice: Be alert to the underlying question and give a considered response that answers that question.

6. Assumptions are inevitable

As humans we have to make assumptions all the time, usually based on some internal model of how the world works. A statement that means one thing in our model of the world may mean something very different in the other person's world. Therefore checking what assumptions have been made is always worthwhile. Do this by asking clarifying questions.

Advice: Check understanding. Often.

When you align the subtle signals to the overt ones you'll be seen as consistent and always on message, and that's something the truly great businesses do brilliantly.

Copyright ©2014 William Buist, ceo of Abelard and Founder of xTEN Club.

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