Posts Tagged: content

140 Characters: Mise en Place for Content Marketing

mise en place for content marketing

“What a pain. It takes so much time to make a short tweet, and I have so much to say.” ~ every person who represents a brand online since 2006.

Hard Truth #1: No one cares about your manifesto.

Going strictly by anecdata, let’s accept as true that many people like to hear themselves talk. Why say something in 10 words when you can break out the thesaurus and say it in 4 pages? That advanced degree or extended training program isn’t going to pay for itself. In general, it makes people feel better to validate the time they spent learning by sounding smart and taking an extra hour of [someone else’s] time to reach a clarity of message and brand voice.

Your content must build your own business, not someone else’s

Leslie Poston' dog Faulkner, © Leslie Poston, Not for reuse

Leslie Poston’s dog Faulkner, © Leslie Poston, Not for reuse

Mark Schaefer wrote a post advising a “liquid” content strategy, with content posted only on various rented, third party platforms and not on a site that you own. This is diametrically opposed to the hub and spoke (or “spine”) strategy I support. In the hub and spoke model, your content lives in your hub (usually a website or blog) and is shared elsewhere (third-party spokes). Imagine your entire content team spinning their wheels — and your budget — in a constant search for “woo” to accommodate this pseudo strategy. It’s not sustainable.

tweeeeeesample

This concept might work quite well for companies like Groupon, but B2B companies or companies that need to convey complex ideas will find little success scrambling after the next shiny object that has captured the public’s attention. Rather than frantically posting original content on third-party platforms first, like so many corporate lemmings, consider the fickle audiences the platforms are attempting to capture and realize that to do so is to support the quest of the platform for relevance and business longevity in the face of mutable tribes – not necessarily to support your company’s best interest.

Fear is your frenemy

Leslie Poston's dog Faulkner © Leslie Poston, Not for reuse

Leslie Poston’s dog Faulkner © Leslie Poston, Not for reuse

What did you run from today? As my puppy ran from a loud noise three stories below, I teased him for being ridiculous (my pit bull is a lover, not a fighter). It dawned on me immediately that none of us are immune to these ridiculous moments.

In my work through the years, I’ve often expected executives and business leaders to be fearless. With decades of experience and vast stores of knowledge, telling the story of your work — whatever that work is — should be effortless. Instead, those few that are fearless are met with legal teams, media teams, branding specialists, multiple editors, and accountants. By the time the intrepid few have run that gauntlet, they are often completely turned off by the effort it takes to tell their business story. Their strife echoes through a canyon of cubicles, creating an environment where the the more timid among them get the clear message that one carefully produced pre-approved message for all is “good for you”, going down like medicine.

What would happen if you chose the bold statement, the action words? Would the sky fall from your declarative sentence? I don’t mean adding a layer of buzzwords to your headlines, or linkbaiting. I mean digging deep, and releasing the barbaric yawp of your full experience. I’m not talking about a late night taxi confession, a regrettable drunk dial to your less guarded inner self. Instead, simply saying what you mean, revealing what your decisions cost you and what your successes gifted you. I mean helping those who are trying to find your work understand how they can connect with you beyond your price sheet.

Try an exercise with me. For one week, pay attention to every word you don’t say. If you want to write it down, even better. But for one week be mindful of when you are silent. Also be mindful of when you self-edit — be it on social media or in the boardroom. What did you lose in your silence; what opportunity was missed? When you self-edited, was your point softened to the point where it caused meetings to end without action, or a project to extend another week in indecision, destined to die in committee?

As you begin to see the toll self-censorship creates in your everyday life, take a look at your brand storytelling. Does it seem rote and disconnected? That means you are allowing fear to take the lead, instead of clear conviction and knowledge. I propose that what makes you afraid is exactly what should be said. Am I advocating for disclosure of corporate secrets, or mishandling of client trust? Of course not. I am advocating for clarity, purpose, brevity and as much truth as you can tell in your corporate communications. That’s the “secret” that makes people who read your words come back for more.

This post also appeared on LinkedIn and Medium today

Hummingbird Helping Long Tail and Mobile Content

Write Great ContentGoogle released the latest iteration of its algorithm, Hummingbird, in late Summer. Most people focused on the deprecation of keywords and key phrases in the report, lamenting the rise of (not provided) data as a percentage of visitors to their site. Savvy marketers know that this has been a long time coming, as Google pushes its focus to a more semantic and mobile web. In fact, even non-savvy web users have known it was coming, as Google has done an ever-better job fine tuning search results and tracking search terms. There is even a trend emerging where people use Google’s search box auto-fill showing the most popular searches to make videos about sociological changes or issues in society. How does a content marketer excel in the new age of Hummingbird? How does Hummingbird change SEO tactics?

Interest and Relevance Matters

One of the more interesting changes for marketers and SEOs is the move to encrypted search. This is the trigger that Google pulled that made blogs suddenly see (not provided) as anywhere from 60 – 90% of the analytics for their site. By doing this, Google is forcing marketers to stop using keywords as a quick metrics for proof of success to the C-suite, as well as causing them to dig deeper to show actual tie-ins between content, social, sales, leads, downloads and other actions and conversions. It’s also increasing the relevance of the “stickiness metrics”: time on site, return visits, remarketing data, device data, and conversion drop point data. By creating compelling content and improving the metrics you are tracking, the shift away from keywords will improve your content and overall site quality and your conversion rates.

Encrypted search is not new, by any means. Google has been experimenting with this in various degrees since 2010. It’s worth noting that not every user’s search data is encrypted. You’ll still be able to get light keyword data – just not the extensive keyword lists people have grown used to. There is a way to get around this (somewhat) if you are a Google Webtools and Google Analytics power user. For the work around you’ll need to create two reports in your browser, while logged in to your Google account(s), then utilize a tool like VLOOKUP or GA DataGrabber tool to glean useful information from the reports. Search Engine Watch has a great step by step with screenshots that will help you set this up.

All of these changes mean that your content is going to have to compete on quality, not quantity. Providing a wide variety of useful, interesting content in many formats will help keep you relevant. Authorship is as important as quality content now, as well, so making sure all of your blog authors have a strong, linked social presence (especially on Google) will help build that foundation. In fact, the more links to valid publications your authors have, and the longer their web history, the more it will help your search results.

Long Tail Content

Why did Google make such a sweeping change to keywords and search data? There are several reasons. Some are speculative, such as the desire to push people into using Google Plus, and some are concrete, such as the changes in the way people search. It is less and less common for people to search simple keywords or key phrases (“high heeled shoes” or “red pumps”) and much more common for people to search the same way they talk (“Where can I get red heels in New York?”). The search engine has become a “trusted friend”, especially since the rise of Siri and Google’s voice activated tools like Google Glass.

The best content creators out there can anticipate what questions their potential customers will ask, then create content that will remain relevant to answering those questions, standing the test of time. Gone are the days of the SEO content farm with robotic, shallow content. Now people are looking for deeper content, content that anticipates and answers their needs, content that entertains in a meaningful way. Content marketers need to create content that can be expanded over time, and used in a variety of platforms and media types.

Mobile Content

Hummingbird also gives more weight to mobile content. It used to be enough to make a scaled down, less feature rich version of your website for viewing on mobile phones. Now customers are more interested in a fully responsive web site that is scaled up and feature rich, that automatically recognizes their device and adapts the design accordingly without sacrificing features. Google Hummingbird is designed to encourage that behavior, giving sites with a combination of great content and a great mobile site precedence over sites that falter in mobile.

Mobile site access is also a great reason to offer balanced content for a variety of audiences. Longer, more in depth pieces are essential for both SERPs and thought leadership, however; shorter content designed with mobile readers in mind is ideal for added mobile reach. Interest pieces and visual content are fantastic for addressing the needs of your mobile readership.

SEO

SEO as we knew it is effectively over, thanks to Hummingbird. There are some tried and true tactics that will stay in place, but this is the first big push away from SEO and into more semantic web results that include not just keywords, but sentiment and grammatical patterns, as well as a push to be mobile friendly.

In fact, you can achieve two goals – getting more people to your content via mobile devices and increasing your mobile SEO – simply by combining short and long form content. By creating image-based, easily consumable short form content as a mobile gateway to your longer, more in depth pieces you can increase conversion from click to engagement on mobile, and increase the traction of your site content.

Google Hummingbird is a dramatic change, but not a fatal one. The smart, agile company that is focused on a multi-faceted content strategy including deep content, snackable content, visual content and mobile will succeed in this new SEO landscape.

(Einstein image made with the fun Einstein Image Generator)

 

A Month of Listening

Recently, I took a month (well, 40 days, to be exact) to just listen online instead of blogging. It gave me a unique opportunity to examine how much content and interaction out there is of value and how much is just so much regurgitated noise.

While I was listening, I also turned off all of my online filters. I do that periodically to make sure I am in touch with how the internet and social media appear to someone who may be new at it.

Some of the things I saw people new to this more social, more vocal, more prolific internet struggle with include:

  • Repetition
  • Relevancy
  • Source Trust
  • Filtering
  • Time Management
  • Boundaries
  • Data Ownership
  • Legal Issues
  • Human Resources Issues
  • Tool Choice
  • Engagement Levels
  • Rate of Return

That means over the next few posts I’ll try and address these issues in such a way that you and your business can glean benefit. I want to give you steps toward being online without sinking your business from spinning your wheels.  I do this at least once every year, and I am always so happy when it’s time to turn my own filters back on.  Interestingly, I also noticed a dramatic increase in the number of web savvy people who are starting to buckle under the weight of shifting filter needs as well, so I won’t be leaving the more advanced users out of these posts.

If you or your company struggle with these issues and more, and want to know how this internet and mobile focused word can help you reach success in spite of it’s challenges, you can trust us to help you navigate your way through and build a stronger business.