Visual Content Formats That You Want to be Part of Your Marketing

Text is boring. I can tell that the negligible effort required for you to scan these little words is grating away at your very soul.

And I agree. If a picture tells a thousand words, that does seem the more efficient way of digesting information. Visual content allows for maximum punch with minimum fuss. You are able to convey so much more with visual content that you can with other forms, such as audio and text.

Unfortunately for you, I neither have the talent, will or equipment to compress this entire article into a snappy piece of visual content, so I’m going to lay down the following bits of information in the most antique, out-dated way possible.

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Through freakin’ words man.

Don’t you worry. The irony of describing the benefits of visuals by not really utilising them is not lost on me.

So how can you use visual content? What are your options?

Infographics

8448339735_e6626c28ff_bWhen someone references visual content, most minds will wander to the humble infographic.

Infographics are an online marketing home run. They allow for a lot of information to be conveyed in an interesting and entertaining way, and are able to be easily branded, ensuring that you organization is forever linked to the work.

All this comes together to create something that is eminently shareable. At last count, over 350,000 tweets featuring infographics are shared every month. Because of this shareability, publishers who choose to utilize infographics grow traffic an average of 12% more than those who don’t.

Where did I get all this information? This infographic about infographics.

It’s inception.

Video

Many brands, particularly smaller ones, may see video as an unneeded luxury. It’s easy to be of the opinion that you need a lot of money to produce a decent video. That the process – from storyboarding to filming to editing – is too long and arduous to bother with.

Reach into your pocket or purse. Pull out your phone. Record a HD video. This is the reason that these ideas are antiquated.

If a picture tells a thousand words, how about 25 of them per second? Video is the most effective form of marketing hand-down, and right now it is easier than ever to take part.

Platforms like Vine make amateur video as legitimate a marketing tool as a high-production-value masterpiece directed by an Oscar winner. And YouTube allows you to reach the entire online world for free, providing your content is shareable enough.

Creativity will comfortably outshine high-production-value every day of the week. Video is a visual content format that you’d be silly to overlook.

Data Visualizations

What’s more dramatic: Writing “and then the stocks went up”, or showing a graph with a red line heading toward the ceiling. The fact is, people remember information far better if it is represented visually.

Where data visualizations differ from infographics is that they only display standalone information in an objective way. In comparison, infographics will riff on a theme, spouting a series of facts (more than likely using a few data visualizations along the way). Graphs, maps and diagrams are all examples of data visualizations.

They can help simplify information that may otherwise be difficult to convey. They can also be easily branded and are just as shareable as infographics when used in the right context.

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Slideshows

Welcome to the age of instant gratification, and, it follows, short attention spans.

As Homer Simpson said, “Oh look, a bird.”

If you’ve got a somewhat long-winded blog post that is nonetheless full to the brim with useful information, why not visualize it? In this case, the humble slideshow may be of assistance.

No, we’re not talking about a star-swipe riddled Microsoft PowerPoint presentation; we’re talking about creating and sharing an exciting online slideshow. Platforms like LinkedIn’s slideshare make this process unbelievably easy.

Slideshows can be a great way to repurpose old material. If you’ve got an old blog that has a lot of merit but is sitting forlornly at the back of the archives, bring it to the front by converting it into a slideshow!

Now it’s just a matter of me taking my own advice. Keep your eyes peeled for a mind-blowing video/slideshow/infographic/data visualization set of this very article on your screen soon.

Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

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How to Make the Most of Web Design and Branding for Maximum Online Impact

What is Branding?

Firstly, what do we mean when we talk about “branding?” Branding uses consistent imagery, sounds, logos, and phrases to represent the associations and characteristics of a company. Brands set expectation, and through exposure to your branding, customers are likely to choose your product due to the familiarity they have with your brand. Branding is crucial to winning new customers and retaining old ones – people know what to expect when they see your name and your logo.

To maintain this consistency and exposure, branding needs to be used across all aspects of your company – from product packaging, to TV ads, to your store fronts, and, of course, your web design.

No matter what your business, developing a brand identity that reflects your products, services, and mission statements is essential.

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Why is Web Design So Important for Branding?

Your website is not a place to simply put your contact details, slap your logo on, and be done with it. Your website brings together all aspects of your brand identity. Far more complex than a TV ad or a store-front, good web design can highlight all kinds of aspects of your brand identity, from the text in your blog to the images in your gallery. Every single aspect of your website can support your brand identity.

How to Establish Brand Identity through Web Design

Logo

One of the major tools in your branding toolbox, your logo is the visual representation of your company name. You can’t think of Coca Cola, Google, or Apple without the logo automatically appearing in your mind. On your website your logo should appear on every page and be prominent on the first page.

Logo size and position is important too. The top left hand corner is the most common position for the logo, and you should aim to have it big enough that it’s the second or third thing that the visitor’s eye is drawn to. It’s best practice to make the logo link back to the home page, too.

Keeping your logo consistent across all forms of media is important, but to bring it into the digital age you may need to think about how you can make a “short hand” version to be your icon. Think of the Facebook “f”, the Twitter bird, or the SnapChat ghost. Small, simple icons are used everywhere these days, from bookmarks and tabs to thumbnails on tablets and phones. Having an icon makes your logo quickly recognizable and portable across the web.

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Colors and Fonts

If you’ve already got fonts and colors used consistently throughout your offline branding, it is best to continue using them on your website too. They should complement your brand identity – green colors and earthy tones for a gardening company, sleek san serif fonts for interior design firms.

It is a good idea to keep in mind that colors can elicit emotional responses and subconscious reactions. Red symbolizes energy, power, passion and excitement – it can quicken viewers’ heart rates and respiration. Therefore, red is probably not a great choice for a dental clinic!

Similarly, green represents money, profit, nature, health, and the environment. It’s a calming color. Great for a lawn care company or even accounting firm, probably not the best choice for a sky-diving business!

Colors can represent different things and elicit different emotions in various cultures, so it’s best to research these things before you settle on a color scheme for your web design.

Tone of Voice

It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. Tone of voice across your website demonstrates the character and personality of your brand. Think about your target audience. Are they millennials in the entertainment industry? Are they executives working in commerce? The language you use in all of your content should reflect this.

This could range from being informal, fun and entertaining, to formal, concise, and business-oriented.

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Content

Here is where websites can offer so much more when it comes to branding. The multiple page, updateable nature of them means that there are a multitude of places where your branding can come to the fore.

High quality photos and images should reflect the meaning and feeling you want to portray. A regularly updated blog that utilizes the aforementioned tone of voice demonstrates all of the characteristics of your brand identity while providing information for the visitor.

Uniqueness

Naturally, every gardening company will have a green-and-earthy-tones color scheme, because they’re the colors which represent the company’s service. If you’re a gardening company, it’s not a good idea to change your color scheme to red and black purely to stand out from your competitors, however, finding a unique angle in your branding and web design is critical.

Incorporating some unique design features will make you memorable and allow your customers to differentiate between you and the competition. Cementing your brand identity in your customer’s mind will have them thinking of you next time they need your particular product or service, rather than your competitors.

Value Proposition

On your website next to your logo there should be a value proposition. This is a short, concise statement which tells visitors what this site can offer and why they should stay on it. There’s a dearth of information on the web and when people are looking for answers they don’t want to waste time on sites that aren’t useful to them. With an eye-catching statement that tells visitors what your site can provide them, they’re likely to keep reading.

Incorporate the colors, fonts, and tone of voice from the rest of your web design. This value proposition may be what sticks in people’s minds as a description of what your company offers.

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Good Web Design IS Branding

Done well, web design and branding becomes a chicken and the egg situation. If your website is easy to navigate, provides the information the visitor is looking for, and adds value to their experience, that is sending a message that your brand is helpful, useful, and valuable.

Delivery of Information

When someone lands on your website, good web design should convince them that the website will deliver the information they want; through the text, the logo, the layout etc. However, if the information they are looking for is not easily found, they’ll leave.

Make the information simple and easy to find. Just like a traditional TV ad – grab attention, deliver the message.

Then, when you have their attention, give them more than what they came to your site for…

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Add Value

Your visitor came to your site looking for one thing. You gave it to them, then led them on to another one of your pages that gave them extra information, or information on a different topic. “Wow! What a useful website! So glad I visited!”, is what that person is thinking. Your website, and therefore brand, is cemented in their mind as valuable.

Even if they don’t buy from you in that very moment, they’ve been exposed to your branding, they’ll remember your name, logo, and website, and you’ll be at top-of-mind when it does come to purchasing.

Adding value through providing lots of useful, free content, you’re establishing an affinity with your brand identity. So you have to make sure that your visitors are easily led to this added value content

Easy to Navigate

A website that is easy to navigate is the first rule of good web design regardless of whether you’re talking about branding or not. You’ve got good, valuable content, you’ve got visually appealing pages, but they don’t lead to each other easily? Then they’re not reaching their full potential.

You want visitors to naturally be lead from one page to the next. You want them to easily be able to find what they’re looking for and more. No one wants to get lost on a website. The way you get un-lost from a website is to simply leave it. And that’s the last thing you want your visitors to be doing.

With these three elements of web design in place, your website will contribute to your brand identity, rather than just be a place where it is demonstrated. A website where sought information is delivered, extra valuable content is provided, and all of these pages are easy to navigate through will cement your brand in visitors minds as being useful, valuable, and professional.

What is the Difference Between SEO and SEM?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) versus Search Engine Marketing (SEM). It sounds like an inter-association wrestling showdown. “Oooh lawd, SEO is gunna CRUSH IT this year.”

But that really couldn’t be further from the truth. Search engine optimization versus search engine marketing is not a battle to the death at all. It’s about comparing the two strategies, and seeing how each can uniquely assist you with your marketing, and how they might be able to work together.

No choke holds here.

For those unfamiliar with the terms (and from here on in you’ll just have to find a way to cope with the acronyms), SEO and SEM are just two simple strategies that enable you to market yourself through search engines.

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SEO is all about optimising your website so it ranks as high as possible in the search results. There are a whole host of strategies that will assist in bumping up your ranking by making your site Google beautiful. While you’d normally pay for a professional to optimize your site, there are no marketing dollars going directly to the search engine, and your search engine ranking is an organic result of your behind-the-scenes efforts.

SEM, on the other hand, is the option in which you pay Google directly to ensure you show at the very top of the page when your specific keywords are typed. A pay-per-click fee is usually charged, and you have full control over what keywords you’d like your site to be aligned with, as well as controlling a host of other variables to get the exact audience you desire.

So what is better?

The Costs

One of the first considerations when deciding on your online marketing strategy will be to figure out what the constraints of your budget are, and how you’d like to spend it.

I’ll come right out and say it – SEM is a far easier system to track the results of when compared to SEO. If you’re looking for hard numbers on how fruitful your marketing investment was, it’s a no contest. SEM options such as Google Adwords give you a mess of analytics with which to judge your success, and by choosing a pay-per-click version, you can ensure that you’re only paying for those who actually used the link provided, rather than those that just blindly scrolled past your ad.

SEO, on the other hand, requires a little more faith. The investment is spent on ensuring the cogs are well-oiled in the back room, and how that transfers to the front is a little harder to gauge. There are ways to track the search engine performance and click-through rate of your site pre- and post-SEO, but the numbers just aren’t as hard and fast as those with SEM, so it is far more difficult to track performance.

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The Process

SEM is instant gratification. You can set up an SEM campaign in the time it takes you to boil a kettle. You can start to get results from an SEM campaign while you’re drinking your fresh-brewed coffee. You could be done with your SEM campaign when you wash your mug three days later.

A three day dishwashing turnaround is normal, yeah?

An SEO option is a comparative long game. It’s about getting the core and the structure of your site to a point where quick-fire SEM campaigns aren’t required at all. You can wait up to a year for the fruits of your labour to materialize into a result, but what comes to those who wait?

Good things.

The Results

And those good things are worth waiting for. Think about it. How often do you mindlessly scroll past those sponsored ads at the top of your search results? Often? Internet users have learnt, subconsciously or no, that you can scan straight past those first few results with the yellow ad square next to them without paying them any sort of heed.

What SEO does, is put your website as an uncontrived, legitimate option to the searcher’s query. Sure, it is harder to track results. Sure, you’ll have to play the long game and can’t expect instant success. But it is an investment in your organization’s online future.

Both SEM and SEO have their place. They are very different strategies that seek to solve the exact same problem. Using them in tandem is as good a strategy as any. Why not get started on SEO development, and use SEM to hit the first page of results while you’re waiting for it to gather steam?

There’s no right or wrong answer to the question of search engine marketing. As long as that question isn’t “should I bother with online marketing?

Then the answer would be a fervent YES.

How to Improve Your Content Marketing

Not using analytics for your content marketing is like sending a message in a bottle out to sea – once you’ve put that piece out into the world you don’t know where it’s going, who’s seeing it, or what impact it’s having.

Content marketing analytics are essential for measuring the success of your campaign, understanding what makes your prospects tick, and informing the future direction of your marketing.

There are a lot of analytics programs, including Google Analytics, KISSMetrics, and ChartBeat, and sometimes it can feel like you need to study a Masters to be able to use them. But a firm understanding of some basic metrics can help enormously when trying to understand content marketing analytics, and will put you in good stead to make future decisions based on this data. Let’s have a look…

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Basic Analytic Metrics to Understand

Website Analytics

Page views
This is a simple one – this is how many visitors visited each page. You can use this to gain an understanding of which blogs or pages (it could be as simple as Contact Info or Gallery) reached more people.

Bounce Rate
Bounce rate is the number of visitors who did not click through to any other pages than the one that they landed on. This can help you to question what is not working and how you could improve your site to make click-through pathways clearer.

Traffic Flow
Traffic flow shows you how visitors navigate through your site. This can show you the pathway to conversion and where you are losing visitors before the conversion process.

Referrals
This indicates who’s linking to your page and how visitors are arriving at your page. It is essential to look at these referrers to get an idea of the kind of person who is visiting your site. Referrals give insight into who is interested in you.

Time on Page and Total Time Reading
These metrics are some of the best indicators of what people like. If someone only spends ten seconds on your page, you know that they’re not enjoying your article or reading it to the end. If they’re spending minutes on end visiting multiple pages it’s a good indicator that they’re enjoying your page.

New and Returning Users
This is self-explanatory – this is the number of visitors who have been to your site before as opposed to the number of new users. Either one can be helpful depending on your goal – are you aiming for retention or reaching fresh eyes? Everyone’s interpretation of ‘success’ will be different.

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Shares by Content Length
This is an important metric for informing future posts. The length of a post that was most shared is probably a good indication of how long you should aim for your posts to be.

Click Through Rate
CTR shows how many people are clicking through to sign up to mailing lists or lead generation lists.

Keyword Goals
You can set goals for which keywords you would like to improve your exposure for. With this metric you can see who is visiting your page through which search terms and measure if visits to your content have increased or decreased for particular search queries or keywords.

Geography
Geography is great for understanding where your visitors are and whether you’re reaching the audience you want.

Mobile Readership
It’s important to check how visitors have accessed your site. With particular analytics apps or systems you can measure time on site and other metrics against mobile readership, which can indicate whether mobile viewers are getting as much out of your site as desktop users.

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Social Media Metrics

Likes, Retweets, Repins, etc
Social media platforms are often easiest to measure success because the numbers are right there in front of you. These sharing or liking metrics are important for gauging what your audience liked or found interesting.

Comments
Comments on Instagram or Facebook, or Mentions on Twitter all take more energy than a simple like or retweet. These are a good measure of how engaged your audience is.

Follower Growth
Follower growth (or loss) across social media platforms is a very simple yet very important indicator of how well your content marketing is doing.

Conversion Tracking
If you’re paying to promote content on Facebook or Twitter there is a metric which they provide to measure what actions visitors are taking after clicking through on your promoted content. It’s very useful for working out Return on Investment (ROI), although Facebook is phasing this metric out by the end of 2016.

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Email Metrics

Open Rates
Open Rates are an excellent tool for measuring what subject lines were effective and which weren’t (these are content too, after all). It’s a good idea to A/B test subject lines so that you can easily measure which is most successful.

Clicks
When your emails include links to various blog posts or site pages, it’s a good idea to measure where your email readers are clicking through to.

Unsubscribes or Opt-Outs
Although they can be a bit of a downer, keeping an eye on your unsubscribes is one of the most critical ways of learning what your audience are and aren’t engaging with and how they are responding to your email content.

Subscriber Growth
Far more fun than unsubscribers, checking out who is signing up to your emailing list is important to understand the type of people who have actively chosen to seek your content.

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How to Use These Content Marketing Analytics Metrics Effectively

Now that you have an understanding of the most important analytics metrics and why they are so, analyzing your data should be much easier. Although, when you’re not an IT guru or statistics buff, it can be hard to interpret some of the more complex ones to guide meaningful change. An increased number of likes on your Instagram picture is easy to measure – people like that type of picture!

Ask Questions

For a lot of the others, however, it makes more sense to look at them in conjunction with others. The easiest way to approach this is to frame questions and use the data to answer them. For example, “Are mobile visitors enjoying our site as much as desktop users?” Filter your data by mobile readership, look at the bounce rate and the time spent on page. You’ll get a fuller picture by looking at multiple metrics alongside each other to get a better overview and answer to that question.

Look at Social Media Metrics Together

Each social media platform has its own analytics function and they’re great for really free-diving into the data of that platform. It’s a good idea, however, to enlist the help of a program such as Buzzsumo which will analyze the data from all platforms to provide one cohesive social media report.

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Check Regularly, but Also Look at Long Term Trends

Checking your content marketing analytics daily or at least a few times a week is important to keep your finger on the pulse. Things can change quickly in the world of content marketing – if you’re tweeting three articles per day and one does particularly well, you want to be able to continue this trend for your next post, or opposite if a new tactic tanks. However, sometimes this can cause a bit of short-sightedness. What tanks in the first few days could actually perform better than other posts over a longer period of time.

Some trends don’t become apparent over a daily basis, but might only show up when data is viewed as part of the bigger picture. Make a commitment to check your analytics once a month, bi-monthly, and/or quarterly to obtain an understanding of your content marketing’s performance over time.

Analytics are an essential element of the content marketing process. If you don’t know how your content is performing and how your page visitors and social media followers are reacting, how can you determine the success of your campaign?

Unlike traditional marketing, where you’d have to wait for end of financial year figures to measure the result of a campaign as measured against sales figures, there are analytics programs which can provide a myriad of data at the click of a few buttons at any point in your campaign. And that’s a wonderful thing, as long as you can understand them and apply them appropriately.

And now that you’ve read this article, you can!

How User-Generated Content is the Next Big Change in Marketing

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”

Well, if there’s a classier way to start off an article than quoting freakin’ Shakespeare, this young punk hasn’t heard of it.

The Bard seems to have been, yet again, 400 years ahead of his time. Because when you look at the current state of affairs, the stage is in front of any web connected front-facing phone camera in any of the world’s seven billion trouser pockets. Willing or not, men and women find themselves as players on a daily basis.

When you look at some of the numbers, there is a stunning amount of content being created. On average, 80 million Instagram photos are uploaded per day, 400+ hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute, and an STI is traded between Tinder matches every second.

I very much made that last one up, but I feel like the main point was already made.

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And the pure upload numbers are dwarfed by the engagement numbers. It’s not like this content is getting uploaded and forgotten about. On Instagram, 3.5 billion likes are spread throughout the platform every day. Over 1.5 billion Facebookers scroll their feeds for an average of 20 minutes per day. The global internet connected audience is almost 3.5 billion.

All the internet is a stage, and the audience is almost half of humanity.

What’s this got to do with marketing?

“I signed up for an article on changes in marketing, not a stat-fest”, I hear you unashamedly yell. Your concerns are heard.

The online marketing ideal that many have been working toward over the last decade is branded content. It’s based around the idea that the more entertaining and informative you are to customers, the more they’ll like, respect and engage with your brand. It’s a simple premise, and one that has brought success to those who have committed to applying it.

But it is no longer an industry whisper. The branded content cat is very much out of the bag, and with the increased competition to produce terrific content marketing that appeals to your audience, it can be harder for content marketers to stick out from the crowd.

Consequently, thought leaders and innovators are looking to milk the next online marketing dairy cow, whatever that may be. And it seems, ladies and gentlemen, that we may have a winner.

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The User-Generated Content Opportunity

What if, instead of spending countless hours and dollars on producing content yourself, you simply gave your audience a platform on which to do it themselves? What if that were somehow more effective than producing the content yourself anyway?

It sounds too good to be true, but this line of thinking has got content marketers abuzz.

User-generated content (UGC), if played right, could be the single most powerful weapon in an organization’s marketing arsenal. In this 2015 Content Marketing Institute’s benchmarks, budgets and trends report, 78 percent of business to consumer companies said that they were planning to use UGC marketing in 2016. That’s up from last year, where UGC was so insignificant it wasn’t even mentioned in the report.

While 0 to 78 in one year might sound like a particularly bad car acceleration test, in marketing terms, that sort of uptake of a new strategy in just 12 months is astounding. While UGC is a relatively new concept, it’s obvious that it is snowballing into an approach that has even the more conservative online marketers excited.

Can You Give Me a Real World Example?

That I can! In fact, I can give you many.

hqdefaultTake Starbucks as a case in point. Back in 2014, they came up with the “White Cup Contest.” The premise was simple – doodle a picture or pattern onto a disposable cup of Starbucks coffee, upload the image onto social media with the hashtag #WhiteCupContest, and go in the running to have your winning design printed on a limited edition Starbucks reusable cup.

The idea for the contest wasn’t even particularly original – many Starbucks customers had been doodling on their cups for years. But the method of the competition was brilliant. Making your customers feel involved with your brand through UGC makes them identify with you in a way that one-way delivered content marketing never could.

The competition was a success, with over 4,000 entries in just three weeks, and a whole heap of cheap publicity off the back of it.

Or, if we’re happy to stay in the refreshments aisle, take the Pepsi MAX campaign, which asked customers to share their reasons for preferring Pepsi MAX over Coke. There were options to upload your reasons to a variety of social platforms, including Instagram and YouTube, as well as a dedicated micro-site that collated all the entries.

Over 7,000 reasons were shared, giving Pepsi Max an immense amount of material for future campaigns. There was also a great level of engagement on the micro-site, with an average of six minutes spent per visit.

While many Pepsi die-hards may have done it out of the goodness of their hearts, the year’s supply of MAX probably helped push the campaign along.

Au revoir, teeth.

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So Why Does User-Generated Content Work?

The psychology of social proof is in the pudding. The fact is that consumers are attracted to products and services that they see others engaging with. If a person appreciates something, whether they be a total stranger or a family member, we are naturally attracted to that thing too.

It’s the review from the independent 3rd party. We’re hardwired to respect it.

Where branded content is about an organization directly trying to show its worth to you, UGC is the organization giving its current customers a stage so that they can testify to the organization’s worth themselves. It’s the online equivalent of walking past a café and hearing a customer on the patio mumble “mmm, that’s some damn good coffee.”

Replace the patio with an online platform like Pepsi MAX’s microsite, and the “damn good coffee” with a snappy, social media friendly hashtag, and you’ve got the basis for a UGC campaign. You just need the customer to use the platform and engage with the hashtag.

This is easier said than done, but history shows that it’s doable.

Some Cold, Hard Facts

The truth about UGC is that it separates the wheat from the chaff. Throwing your online marketing over to your customers can only be done if you have unwavering faith that those same customers aren’t going to drag you over the coals. If you’re great at what you do, and have a whole mess of promoter-level customers who would like to tell the world about you, UGC is a terrific option.

Imagine for a moment though, that Pepsi MAX wasn’t the sort of beverage company that inspired a devoted following. Their MAX vs Coke campaign could’ve opened the floodgates to a huge amount of “Coke is way better” style abuse, and the campaign would’ve done more harm than good.

UGC campaigns can be massaged to minimize risk, but minimising risk can often mean minimising content. Those that are willing to take the plunge on an open (read: risky) campaign can have their faith repaid by huge levels of engagement OR huge levels of abuse.

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People Love Telling Their Story

You know why user-generated content is the future? Because it’s all about you.

Whether they admit it or not, people like being in the limelight. They like to be listened to. They like to spin their yarn. The 65 million people documenting their lives in their Snapchat story will tell you that. If UGC is a way to legitimize people doing that, then it’s the strategy of the future.

And for those in marketing, we needn’t be creating content for that ever-expanding pile. All we need to be creating are opportunities. Opportunities for our customers to engage with us. Opportunities for them to create the content that allows them to share their tuppence-worth. Opportunities for our brand to be discovered by our current customers’ friends, family and followers.

All the men and women are merely players, but they’re some of the most valuable we’ve got.

Is SEO Worth the Time and Money for Contractors?

Yes.

Oh, you wanted an explanation?

Am I untrustworthy? Do I look like a liar to you?

No, I get it. Due diligence and all that. If we believed everything we read on the internet the world would be one questionable place. Thankfully, the cold, hard facts back me up on this opinion. Let’s take a look at the benefits of a solid search engine optimization (SEO) regime.

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The Reality of Googlers

There’s one thing you need to know about people who use search engines (i.e. everyone) – they’re a fickle bunch.

FUN FACT: Academic research tells us that 91 percent of people don’t get to the second page of their Google results. If you’re not right there on that first page, you’re left with only nine percent of your potential business who will keep on looking for you. And that number is ever decreasing the further back in the results you sit.

What’s more, over 50 percent of these lazy so-and-so’s don’t even scroll down on the first page. That’s right. They only see the first three results to any query they throw Google’s way.

The Reality of Your Situation

So you’re a contractor. Try this – type in your field of expertise and your location into a search engine (e.g. Carpenter Penrith). Do you rank in those first three results? Do you rank on that first page? If not, you’re missing out on a huge amount of business.

The reality of the situation is this; no matter who a contractor’s customer is – a Mum and Dad homeowner or a multi-national business – one of the first ports of call for anyone looking for goods and services is the internet. The Yellow Pages is dead and buried in the minds of anyone born after the invention of the wheel, and nothing is better than the internet at getting your name out there.

To keep your business growing, search engine optimization is a must.

Versus Pay-Per-Click

tools-1183374__180SEO allows you to position yourself naturally in front of the faces of those who need you. The use of the word naturally here is very important. There is a cheat way of getting atop the search engine rankings. By paying for it. Google Adwords, along with other services offered by Yahoo and Bing, offer search rank topping pay-per-click services that appear super reasonably priced.

But are they really? The problem with these services is who in their right mind clicks on an ad before an actual result? They might get you in front of people’s faces, but the click-through rates are dire. The better investment? Paying for the backroom work that gets you up the rankings under your own steam.

Cautionary Tales

SEO can be a process with a very slow turnaround. Search engines put more emphasis on sites that have been optimized long-term than they do on those that have been recently – this process of building up a history as a search engine optimized site can take anywhere up to a year. SEO is a complicated and lengthy process anyway, and one that is constantly in flux thanks to new algorithms constantly introduced by Google, Yahoo and Bing to keep people on their toes. Unless you’re a part-time computing genius with a spare 40 hours in your week, you’ll need the help of an SEO specialist.

With the length and the complicatedness of the project in mind, it’s important to choose an SEO specialist that has a proven track record of success. While you’re not directly paying for advertising, that is certainly the end goal of optimising of your site. A wise investment in the right firm is key.

A Wise Move

By investing in SEO as a contractor, you’re doing your best to future-proof your business. But it needs to be remembered that getting people to your site is just half the battle. Turning them into customers is an entirely different kettle of fish.

But that’s a story for another time.

How to Boost Your Content Marketing Campaign

Content marketing, done right, can establish brand awareness, improve SEO, and develop a trusting relationship with current and prospective clients. Content can mean different things for different companies in different fields of business, but when it comes to producing content to market your business, good content and good approaches will have some key elements in common.

When it comes to content marketing best practice, there are some features that successful campaigns will have in common. Whether you’re in the midst of navigating a content marketing campaign, or are thinking about embarking on one, keep these best practices at the top of mind to make sure your campaign is on track.

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Before You Begin

I. Gain Stakeholder Support

Content marketing is a long-game approach to marketing. It’s not as simple as creating a slogan, designing a print ad, and buying space for said ad. It’s multifaceted, involves many platforms, requires curating and creating content, and fostering that content so that it is seen and shared and makes an impact on your target audience.

If this is the case, support or even permission from stakeholders in your company is crucial. They need to understand that your campaign will take time and is a more holistic approach to marketing. Some executives without a marketing background might need the benefits of a content marketing campaign explained to them.

If you’re part of a smaller marketing team or are a small business owner looking to run your own content marketing campaign, it is more about making sure that everyone is on the same page and is committed to seeing the campaign through.

II. Create a Strategy

The time invested in a high quality content marketing campaign is really the biggest resource needed. With some creativity and a clever approach you needn’t spend too much money on it. Due to the multi-platform nature of a strong content marketing campaign, it is best practice to develop a clearly thought out strategy.

This strategy should be informed by asking yourself some of the bigger questions:

  • What is your budget?
  • Who are your audience?
  • What are you trying to achieve with this campaign? (i.e. create brand identity, reach new customers, drive sales…)

When you have a firm picture in your mind of what you are trying to achieve, who you are trying to reach, and with what means, you can start to sketch out and idea for your campaign.

III. Use an Editorial Calendar

As you embark on your campaign, it’s time to start documenting. An editorial calendar is one of the most important tools for keeping your campaign on track, your team accountable, and your content posted at the right times on the right platforms. A recent survey by the Content Marketing Institute found that the marketers with a documented plan were more successful than those without. When it comes to content marketing best practices, having a documented plan is up there with the most important.

Content marketing usually involves at least a blog and a Facebook page. On top of that, depending on the company and field of business, there will probably be LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, and/or Google+ accounts to juggle. Keeping track of each of these and managing what content is being posted where and when can be a nightmare. Editorial calendars are the answer.

Creating, posting and sharing content can be time consuming, especially when it needs to be regular and consistent. Creating content when it suits you and scheduling it to be posted by your editorial calendar is the easiest way to ensure that you’re consistently and regularly releasing content. It’ll always be on time and you can schedule according to the optimum engagement times of your audience.

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Now, for the Content…

So, you’ve got support from the bosses, your team is on board and ready to commit, you’ve got your strategy and your documented plan… Now it’s time to talk about content marketing best practices in terms of the actual content. Here are the things to keep in mind when creating content to maximize impact and success.

I. Less Push, More Pull

The whole ethos of content marketing is to provide something of worth to the consumer – whether that be advice, entertainment, or information – to gain their admiration and trust. Content marketing works through consumers viewing your brand positively and greater awareness of your brand putting your company top-of-mind with potential customers. The increased sales are a goal of the long-game of content marketing. The holistic approach of spreading awareness and developing brand identity are the instant impact of the content.

Your content should reflect this. Remember that you’re not trying to push customers to your website or your store with “BUY THIS NOW” traditional advertising messages. You’re trying to draw them to your site and your social media pages by giving them something. It needs to be a gift – something purely for them. Not like the pair of golf clubs you bought your wife for her last birthday.

II. User Generated Content

The discovery of the power of user generated content was like discovering content gold for the marketing industry. User generated content (UGC), that is content which is generated by a user, can be up to 90 percent effective. The social proof garnered from a third party saying how much they like your product or service is astronomical.

There are some superb examples of entire campaigns based on UGC, but for the small business owner or one-man-marketing team, it can be as simple as maintaining a section on your site for testimonials. Across your social media platforms you could share case studies, produce customer videos, or post glowing feedback from your clients.

III. Promote Content Across Multiple Platforms

Part of understanding your audience means understanding what content they enjoy and how they like to consume it. Posting the content on the channels where you audience will see it is the baseline for a good content marketing campaign. But to take your campaign to the next level and to get some new eyes on your content and your company, testing out your content on new platforms can open up whole new worlds of possibilities to expand your audience.

Create a video version of a how-to blog. Do a Q&A session about one of your more debated posts. Share a picture on Instagram of the customer whose profile you just published.

There is a “Rule of Five” in content marketing that suggests that each piece of content should be re-purposed five different ways to get the most mileage out of it. It’s an arbitrary number and depending on the content may be too low or too high, but the point is an important one: redistribute each piece of content in a different format and on a different platform to get the most out of it.

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IV. ‘More’ Content is Not Always Best Practice

“More content!” is what the world of content marketing always seems to cry. But it’s not necessarily true. If you are churning out huge amounts of content that is falling on deaf ears and is not being seen by any of your target audience, you are wasting time and energy for no reward. This comes back to knowing your audience and the over-arching importance of using analytics.

Study your analytics, see where you are going right, see where you are going wrong, and create content accordingly. This doesn’t always mean more content, it might just mean different content, or jazzing up old content.

V. Curate as well as Create

Content marketing best practice includes curating relevant, interesting content as well as creating it. Share images, tweets, videos and articles from reputable sources and sources which reinforce the image you are trying to portray for your brand. This will establish credibility and drive home your brand identity.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, developing and executing a successful content marketing campaign takes time and strategy, but it needn’t cost the Earth or be as complex as rocket science. The way we consume advertising is changing – now, you get out what you put in. And giving your consumers interesting and entertaining content is the best way to cultivate lasting, loyal relationships with new and old customers, promote your brand identity, and secure your top-of-mind position for your company within your industry.

Adhering to best practice guidelines for your next content marketing campaign, or fine-tuning the one you are already running will allow your content to cut through to your audience and drive real results.