Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Quality Content, Content Marketing, and Facebook's Changing Algorithms

Content is everywhere; quality content isn't. Content marketing is using content to draw prospects and customers into (or deeper into) your sales funnel. If marketing is like fishing (can you stand another fishing analogy?) then content is your bait. And the pond is littered with bait, good and bad.

Of course, you're not fishing for fish, you're hoping to hook human customers. So you should know that humans now have an attention span of 8 seconds, or 4 seconds less than goldfish (thus muddying the waters of this whole fishing analogy).

Obviously, your content must not only be good enough to attract prospects, it needs to placed properly and used wisely. For the sake of this article, we'll assume you're convinced that using Facebook to attract prospects is a good idea.*

Good Content is Good Content (and Facebook Knows It)

Facebook is always making changes. (<-- File under "Duh.")  Yet another algorithm change this spring focused (yet again) on keeping users happy. No surprise there, because Facebook does what it does in order to keep users happy. User activity (engagement) is the product that Facebook sells.

So changes announced in April 2019 were designed to improve rankings of content that users really want to see and engage with. "You'll see more posts from friends you want to see posts from," Facebook told users. The company also said those changes were not intended to affect Pages in a specific way. But ;) they have and they will.

The good news is that the definition of good content hasn't changed. The better news is that you may not need to make any changes at all, assuming your content is good and relevant to your audience. The tips below are in line with both Facebook's latest changes and good content practices in general.

  1. Be Helpful  -  Good content is good content. Good content is helpful content. Ergo, your goal is to share content that is HELPFUL to your best prospects. That might include sharing a recipe for S'mores when what you're selling has nothing to do with S'mores. Striking a balance in your content mix is the key. 
  2. Share Smart - Speaking of sharing, Facebook announced that it is placing a higher value on original content, but frankly, that's not "new" to the platform or to human behavior in general. Original content should, by definition, be more valuable to your (identified) prospects and set you apart from your competition by highlighting your unique offerings. So, don't be afraid to share (attributed) content from other sources, in keeping with a solid content plan. 
  3. Images AND Video - Video is the best content, except when it isn't.  Images still get better reach than videos on Facebook -  but keep in mind, that's a pretty non-specific statistic. Remember, the best content for your prospects is what they want and need. (<-- Also file under "Duh.") Experiment with video, both original and from other sources. Look for opportunities to schedule Facebook Live events, but don't invent flimsy reasons to do so - remember, quality content is your goal. Watch your responses (you do analyze your Insights, don't you?) and build on those that get good results for you. 

*Should I Really Use Facebook for My Business?

For most businesses and organizations, Facebook is a worthwhile channel. If you're not sure it's good for your business, or you think it is but you'd like to see a better return on your Facebook efforts, get in touch

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Avoid Content Overload & Social Media Burnout

Content overload is real. Content's value is also real - and considerable, especially when it's used well to attract prospects and to turn them into customers.

            On the other hand, can content be counterproductive? On 4/8/19, cosmetic brand Lush announced that it's quitting social media. Time will tell how the company's experiment (or social media ploy) works out. My guess is, at the very least, the company is reevaluating its content management plans.

In the face of "more is better" content marketing strategies, I tell clients to consider their own sanity, budget, and what they know about their business before they commit to a blog or another social media channel. 

The Cold, Hard Truth About Business, Life & Content Marketing

Cold hard truth 1 - We all get the same 24 hours a day to work, shop, eat, sleep, play, and read scintillating blog posts. People who are not in the market for a kitchen sink will not spend a lot of time reading blogs or social media posts  - however witty - about kitchen sinks. 

Cold hard truth 2 - Content sells. It also takes time to deliver on its potential - which is huge, Forbes notes. So while witty writing about kitchen sinks can, in fact, sell kitchen sinks, without a good content marketing plan, those sinks are...sunk.

Content Marketing is important because, when done right, it will: 
  • Build relationships with existing and potential customers at every point in the sales cycle
  • Increase your sales 
  • Highlight new opportunities and 
  • Offer additional insight into your market
In other words, content IS marketing - when it's done well. 

To do it well, you must have a plan. 

As Alli Berry of The Motley Fool explains,  "every single piece of content you create needs to be mapped to a goal." 

I'm not a Lush cosmetics follower (apparently a lot of people can say that today!) but my best guess is Lush didn't follow a good content marketing plan. 

Balancing Your (Time and Money) Investment in Content and Social Media

I don't have any clients with unlimited budgets. (If you know any, please send them my way.) When making a marketing budget, I advise my clients that their content marketing plan needs to take care of three things:
  1. Determine what your prospects want and need to know.
  2. Know how to get that information to them (online and off).
  3. Create and deliver that content to them - and be ready to follow up. 
If you're wondering why I didn't mention keyword research, PPC advertising, or SEO, see step 1. And 2. And 3.

It's all related, folks. But without a good content marketing plan, trust me, you can waste a lot of money on advertising. And without a thorough understanding of your prospects and buying cycle, you can lose a lot of sales.

Content Marketing for Small Businesses: Play to Your Strengths

You need a website. Maybe you need a blog. And a Facebook Page. Or Instagram. Or Pinterest. Or YouTube. Or not. What about Twitter? Instagram? YouTube?

Don't go with a knee-jerk answer. Don't rely on the last study you read on internet shopping habits. Spend some time analyzing your market, your prospects, and your organization. That's how to plan a  marketing content program that will deliver your best results.

If you don't have a marketing/content plan that supports your business plan, or you need help executing and making adjustments, get in touch.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Keywords in Content, or SEO 2019 Style

As search evolves to favor natural language, is it worth your time to select and incorporate keywords in your web content? 

That question came up in a blogging presentation I lead earlier this year. My short answer ("yes") was met, surprisingly, with some resistance from other marketing folks who suggested that the returns were hard to justify. For small businesses, and particularly small local businesses with equally small marketing budgets, I understand a reluctance to spend a lot of money on keyword research. But spending more than a few minutes on it in the content development process is still important - even in 2019.

We agreed to moved the presentation along with a factual and accurate compromise of sorts - "Writing for your readers (prospects) is more important than writing for search engines."  

But this is my blog so let me be clear: yes, keywords still matter in 2019.  Small businesses can and certainly should spend the time necessary to use keywords and phrases (naturally, and helpfully) in their marketing content.

Good Business Copywriting Helps Prospects and Customers

Auto Parts Warehouse provides an excellent example of how keywords (in this case, longtail keywords) can be used in truly useful blog content. Headlines like "Where to Buy Wiper Blades" and "Grinding Noise When Braking" get the attention of humans and search engines alike.

I'm willing to bet Auto Parts Warehouse puts more than a little bit of loose change into advertising, link building and other SEO endeavors, too. But let's focus on the humble human with squeaky breaks.

"Grinding Noise When Braking" strikes the right note with said human. In fact, it's probably exactly what he typed in to search. (Hello, keywords.) And when the reader clicks on that search result, guess what happens? That human with squeaky brakes is rewarded with a legitimate article (not an ad or a screaming landing page) chock-full of helpful information. The format is important, too. The article is easy to read with very scannable subheads, sprinkled with keywords, like:

"Worn out wheel bearing"
"Faulty brake pads"
"Rusty Rotors"

See what Auto Parts Warehouse did there? It's the perfect trick, because it's not a trick. The human gets what the human wants: information on the web. The search engines reward Auto Parts Warehouse because the click delivers on those keyword promises. It meets the EAT guidelines in Google's 2018 Q3 update, providing Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. 

Creating good content that's useful and establishes your business as an authority (thereby making people want to do business with you, and refer other customers to you) isn't rocket science, but it takes a little time and planning.

If you know a blog could help grow your business, but don't have time to do it yourself, step on the brakes long enough to get in touch. I'd love to help drive your business forward.

Want to learn more about Semantic Search? Search Engine Journal's article is a good place to start. Really big on DIY projects? You can learn how to create a natural language search for arbitrary objects with deep learning (in 5 easy steps) on Towards Data Science. Just need a copywriter who can reach your customers? I'm right here.

Photo credit: Auto Parts Warehouse blog January 24, 2019

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Blogging as More Than a Sales Tool

I recently spoke to a group of small business owners about blogging. The focus was that in addition to being a big-payback element of your content marketing mix, blogging can also help integrate customer service, operations, and other departments with sales and marketing to create a more effective, efficient organization.

Sure, that sounds a little bit pie-in-the-sky, but I'm telling you, I've seen it happen.

Turns out I'm not the only one.

Blogging for Sales & Marketing & Everything Else

Buried in some very good articles (like this one from Moz) are suggestions that blog content isn't "just" good for generating leads and turning prospects into customers.
blogging content for small business

Here's the key: while your blog content is developed for leads and prospects, it can also be useful to YOUR organization, from the inside out.

A blog post about what to do when your widget fails unexpectedly - directed at your prospects - can also be required reading inside your organization. Then, when a customer comes in complaining that a widget failed unexpectedly, no matter who handles that complaint, they'll be prepared.

Blog posts about services you provide, or high-end products that are new to your mix, are another good example.

Again, the content created with your prospects in mind should be required reading within your company. That will ensure that everyone in your organization is on the same page - so when a sales opportunity presents itself, whoever recognizes that opportunity is ready with a response that advances the sales process.

Make Your Blog Useful, Inside and Out

I'm a big proponent of cross-training and think silos are silly (except on farms). I've found that blogging about a problem is a great way to solve (or at least, productively address) that problem.

Look no further than your complaint box (or Twitter feed) and you'll see plenty of fodder for your next few (dozen) blog posts.

Cross-training sometimes gets a bad reputation. In some cases, it can be used to train highly competent people to do the jobs of their less-productive co-workers. But when used as a tool to improve overall operations, it really rocks. 

For help creating a content mix that works for you and your customers and your employees, contact a writer who understands business. That's me. Get in touch.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Excellent Example from Neiman Storyboard

I appreciate writing about writing that's really worth reading. Nieman Storyboard delivers, often. I found a recent article about how to get the attention of an editor at Smithsonian magazine especially instructive.

Hope you do too!

It's hard to ignore Smithsonian's great graphics.  Cover image from the article by Katia Savchuk

Here's to a holiday season filled with great reading and writing.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Your Website Doesn't Have to Be Fancy to Be Fantastic

Here's another #ExcellentExample - in this case, a good-looking website that does its job.

Take a look at the Halvorson Design website. It's not fancy, but fancy isn't the point.

The point is to get prospects to call the firm.

So Why Does This Website Work? 

  • It's clean, easy to navigate and understand. (Life is distracting enough.) Hint: white space helps!
  • It's up-to-date! Prospects can see right away that the firm is busy and on the ball. Sharing succinct messages about recently-completed projects tells the world: we get things done.
  • A site visitor's next step is obvious. In this case, the call to action is subtle, but clear. (For professional services, subtle is good. If you're selling consumer goods, you'll NEED TO BE A LITTLE LOUDER.)  On each page of the design firm's site, the contact is clearly listed on the right of the page. With a lot of white space...nothing to get in the way of your decision to call. Nice.
#ExcellentExample, Halvorson Design!

If You Don't Have a Website, Don't Panic

You don't need an expensive website. You do need a plan. Clean design and updated content gives prospective customers confidence; it makes them want to work with you. 

You can do this. We can do this. Not sure? Here's a shot of confidence for you.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Website Reality Check summer special

Do you need a little help with your website? Have you been managing your site in-house and find you're falling behind?

Want a different set of eyes and a fresh perspective on your site?

A Website Reality Check can make a BIG difference, and through the end of the month, it comes at a much lower rate. Find out more; book now to save.

What do you get from a Website Reality Check? 

  • Broken links, typos, missing tags identified
  • Initial review of UX/UI 
  • More...
What's the discount?
More than 50%! The initial consultation is reduced to $45; per-page rate just $35* for the month of July only

*Limited to the first 5 projects booked. 

Remember: in most cases your website is the first impression customers get of your business. Make sure it's a good one.