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The $100,000 Challenge: December Update

We just wrapped up our ninth month of the $100,000 challenge. December was a decent month, considering that the holidays slowed down our sales and traffic.

In the month of December, traffic grew to 69,813 visitors. That’s not too shabby, taking into account that a large part of December was slow due to the holiday. The overall traffic grew by 19.8% over the previous month.

As for revenue, sales in December hit $22,702 dollars. The real number, however, is actually lower than that, which I will go into in a bit. But first, let's discuss the traffic and what’s coming up.


In December, the blog had 69,813 visitors, and 60,155 of those visitors were unique. Although the blog is receiving a decent number of visitors, the returning visitor count is low.

As you can see from the image above, only 16.2% of the visitors are returning. There are a few reasons for this…

The first reason is poor collection of emails. Typically, you will generate more returning visitors by sending out an email blast every time you write a new blog post. And to collect those emails, you have to leverage pop-ups and opt-ins.

The pop-up on the blog is an exit pop-up, but it doesn’t get triggered on mobile devices, which make up 66.8% of the total traffic.

In addition to that, the blog isn’t optimized for email collection. The offer isn’t very strong, so in the next week or so, it will be updated.

The homepage won’t be the blog; instead, it will be an email collection offer. In addition to that, the posts will have an email opt-in offer at the top. It will be something similar to what I use on

As for January, traffic should be much better as we make these design changes. Plus, January is a hot time for health and nutrition. I’m already estimating that the blog will generate over 100,000 visitors for that month as the stats show that the blog is generating in excess of 4,000 visitors a day.

Content production

If you look at the content production, it’s slowed down. Mike went from posting 7 times a week to 3 times a week. He has been working on increasing the production back up to 7 posts a week, which you’ll see at some point in January.

If you look at the previous months, traffic grew faster, but we were also producing more content. It just goes to show that the higher quality content you create, the more search traffic you will receive.

As we generate more income, you’ll also see new types of content on the blog, e.g., infographics. They do really well in most spaces, but it costs money to create them.


December was a decent month for fish oil sales. On Amazon, we generated $22,702 in sales.

Now, although that figure looks great, a lot of those sales came from coupons (we slowed down providing them now). Nonetheless, $11,516.16 came from sales that didn’t use the coupon code.

The overall number of sales should start going up in the upcoming months as we promote the product more aggressively to our email list as well as on the site.

In addition to that, you’ll see direct sales taking place on the site as we are adding e-commerce functionality and will start running paid ads. This should help boost the revenue. My overall goal for January is to hit at least $46,064 in sales…which is 4 times the amount of the previous month.

One of the things that should help with the sales is the bottle design. Now that we are generating income, I was able to use $500 of it for new designs.

Once the copy for the Amazon page is fine-tuned, it should also help boost the sales numbers.

Here is a list of our expenses:

Fish oil – $6,924.59 (including Amazon fees and shipping to Amazon for prime) Aweber – $69 Designer – $500 (better bottle design) Hosting – $249 (just switched to a bigger server to handle January's growth) Mike – free (Mike doesn't get paid, but he owns a percentage of the blog for putting in time as I discussed earlier. I did this because you didn't want me to use my name for the challenge, so I found someone else to be the face of the blog.) Accounting – $185 (to help out with the books—we are now paying a bookkeeper)

Total expenses for the month were 7,927.59. Which means the total profit was $3,588.57.


The big focus over the next 30 days is going to be fine-tuning the site to be more like Quick Sprout and when it comes to optimizing for conversions and email collection.

It will take some time to run A/B tests, but I’m fairly confident that the numbers for January (on all fronts) will be improved because January is the most lucrative month of the year in the health and fitness space.

I know I could be doing more with and I am not following most of my own advice that I use on my personal blogs, but you have to keep in mind that I focus all my energy on my software companies as that’s what generates my income.

Mike is a newbie to the marketing world, so it takes some time to get him up to speed…especially with my hectic schedule. But overall, the progress isn’t too bad.

What do you think of the progress so far?

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Giving Searchers a Reason to Prefer Your Brand - Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

It's the season of giving, and that notion extends to search! Brand preferences have an almost tangible impact on several levels, from consumer affinity to a rankings boost on Google. In this holiday edition of our now-traditional Whitebeard Friday, Rand explains why it's important to keep brand recognition at the forefront of your strategy, and offers up a framework on how to get started on giving searchers a reason to prefer your brand.

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

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to the special Christmas edition of Whiteboard Friday. Now, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, my family is Jewish, at least ethnically, but we still love Christmas. We used to get a tree and presents and all that kind of stuff. But Merry Christmas to all those of you who celebrate religiously or non-religiously, and to all the rest of you, hopefully you're having a lovely and wonderful December holiday break time, middle of wintertime. The sun's going to start getting a little higher in the sky. The days get a little longer. I'm really looking forward to that, especially being here in Seattle.

I want to talk today about giving searchers something, a reason to prefer your brand. This is why it is so critical going forward into the next year, into 2016. We have seen that the last few years have been years where Google, where social media sites, where consumers and customers, web users of all kinds and platforms of all kinds have given brands — especially brands that have recognition, that people have an affinity for — they give them a lot of preference. I'll show you what I mean.

Even small brand preferences can yield these sort of remarkable and amazing results because of the amplification that they receive all the way down the line in your marketing effort. Let's say, for example, that you are able to get a slight lift in brand recognition, in brand affinity, in recall, and in positive associations. It's going to do a few things for you.

Raise CTR in search resultsFirst off, it'll raise your average click-through rate in search results. As a searcher is performing whatever queries they are, the hopefully many thousands of queries that lead to your site, if you appear in position four, five, or six, you might see a slightly higher click-through rate than what you would normally see for an average website ranking in that position because of the brand preference. What this does, actually, is over time it results in higher rankings because Google is set up to reward a long-term click-through rate bump and all the other signals that come with that into higher ranking

So even if you are someone who says, "Ah, I'm not really sure whether Google's using click-through rate models in my stuff," they are in a lot of stuff now. Even if you don't believe that, what's happening is you're getting a slightly higher share of visits, which means a slightly higher share of people who can amplify your brand, link to your brand, all those kinds of things. All of those signals over time slowly, positively increase your potential ranking.

Increase return visits to site

Next up, if you have that slight brand preference, you're going to increase the rate at which visitors return to your site, come back to you through bookmark, through type-in, through branded search, all of those kinds of things. Those forms of returning visits, whether it is branded search or direct visit or a bookmark, that will lead to browser and search biasing. You can see this in all of your browsers.

If I'm on my iPhone or my Android device, if I'm in Google Chrome on a laptop or desktop, and I start typing something, all of those browsers and all of those systems will look for previous patterns that start to match what I'm typing in or voice searching, and they will be more likely to bias to show me those kinds of things. If I've been to Moz in the past and I type just "M" into my Chrome browser, I'm likely to see Moz in that dropdown list of things that it suggests to me, particularly if I visit with some real frequency. So you get that preferential treatment.

But this also goes back to helping your rankings up here because brand-based search queries, as Google has shown, can have an impact on non-branded, unbranded query ranking. If lots of people are searching for let's say "Virgin America flights to San Francisco," when Google sees the query of flights to San Francisco, they might say, "Hey, you know what, Virgin America should rank a little bit higher because we've seen lots of branded search volume for them."

Improve conversion likelihood & likelihood for social, press, and WoM AamplificationObviously, brand lift can help conversion likelihood which leads to more sales. That's one of the most direct and obvious ones. That's one of the reasons that big brand marketers invest so much in it. But it's also the case they will increase the likelihood, so let's say that you are reaching out through social media or amplifying messages through social media, through press, obviously through word of mouth which may be somewhat under your control and a lot not in your control, all of that amplification will be slightly enhanced each time with additional brand preference, and that means that in the future you have a larger audience for future marketing, future targeting. It's hugely helpful there.
Perception of value and quality improvesAlso, you can see that perception of value and quality actually improves as brand affinity and recall and recognition goes up. You've seen this in lots of consumer tests. One of my favorite examples is the Bing study, where Bing looked at replacing Google's results with Bing's results, but they had the Google logo and the Google layout, and then they showed Google's results in Bing. No matter whose results they showed, if they showed the Google logo next to it, people said those were the better results. So essentially, the brand is part of how we judge the quality of something. It is part of that.

This goes to some consumer-based tests around wine, the flavor that you get from wine or the enjoyment you get from wine. If you set something down and it is a recognized bottle known to be very high in price, known to be hard to get, you will actually see areas of the brain light up and perceive that wine to be better tasting and to provide more enjoyment, even if it's actually filled with cheap $5.00 wine. This psychological preference is actually improving our perception of quality from the brand perspective, and because of that we get higher retention, more recidivism.

So brand can help you in a huge number of ways, both technical through algorithmic and social means, and also psychological means. Worth investing in absolutely, for the years to come, and certainly as the last few years have pushed more and more stuff in web marketing, it becomes essential for all of us.

But how do we do this? I'm not going to be able to get into all the tactical details today. I mean, we could spend a whole Whiteboard Friday on any one tactic in these groups, but I wanted to provide some framework around these groups for you to think about and add potentially to your strategy going into the new year.

Brand values

Things like brand values matching customer values or overlapping with them, or working against them, can impact how a brand is perceived. Most obviously, many consumers are very frustrated with brands like Volkswagen or Enron before that, who we feel like they've pulled the wool over our eyes and they've been dishonest. Cigarette marketing in the tobacco industry turned off many, many consumers in the western world to a lot of those brands. Then brands that have values that we recognize and respond to, we can see those getting brand lift.

Voice, tone, and visuals

Voice, tone and visuals, this is essentially the style of how you present yourself and whether that matches and has resonance with your audience's preferences, with their own styles, and with existing cultural cues. So you can see that it's like speaking the language of your customer, but we're not talking about a verbal language like English versus Hindi versus Spanish versus German. We're talking about the resonance on the cultural language level. Are we in the same cultural zeitgeist? Do we have the same cues and recognition? Do we have the same things around nostalgia and associations between concepts, all those kinds of things?


Content, this is one that we talk about a lot, matching your content to your audience's potential needs, their desires, things they enjoy, their influencers and what their influencers are going to amplify. This is really where content strategy comes into play, because if you take content down to the tactical level only, you are not thinking about the overlap. Well, many times when you're doing tactical content creation and content amplification, you're not thinking about the strategic overlap with what's my audience's needs, what do they desire, what do they have associations with, what do they enjoy, what do their influencers enjoy, all of that kind of stuff. When you do this, you get closer and closer to making that Venn diagram match, and your content is much more likely to have a strategic, positive impact on brand association.

Brand representatives

Brand representatives, the human beings that we associate with a brand are critically important. In fact, I would say, and many, many marketers have been talking about this for the last couple of years, but more important to a brand's presence than ever before. We are getting to build brand associations through human associations. Oftentimes that's founders and CEOs, but many times it is also brand representatives, which can include a large number of people. It can include people who are amplifiers of that brand, not necessarily people who work at the brand, but amplifiers. It can include the testimonials that are present in the marketing messages. It can include brand contributors, whether those are guest contributors or full-time, and of course team members. The big one is often founders and CEOs and sort of the leaders of an organization, but many of these others have influence as well. If those match well to who your customers' influencers are or the zeitgeist of your customers' world, that can create additional brand resonance as well.

Pricing and positioning

Pricing and positioning, this is sort of the classic, old-school four P's of marketing, but the value perceived and the value that is quantifiable against the pricing and the cost associated with the service. Costs, I don't just mean financial cost, but also setup cost and work-wise and process cost and customers' own self-perception, meaning that if a customer believes that they are a medium-sized business but you're selling them a package that's called enterprise, they may perceive that they're paying too much. They don't think of themselves as an enterprise. Even though the enterprise package is right for them and it's providing the right kind of value, you're now sort of disconnecting the language of the positioning from what the customer actually thinks of themselves as. That can potentially harm brand affinity.

Psychological nudges

Then, of course, lots and lots of psychological nudges that build associations around a brand. So these are things like familiarity, liking, processing fluency, which we've had a whole Whiteboard Friday on processing fluency, I think last year in 2014. Those kinds of things, when I say "processing fluency," what I'm talking about is the ease with which I recognize something and can make an association. For example, one of my favorite studies around this was the correlation between stock prices of companies that have easily pronounceable names versus hard-to-pronounce names, and you can see that the easier processing fluency of an easier-to-pronounce name over time tends to correlate with higher stock value. Weird. Seems like markets would be more sophisticated than that, but human beings are subject to this stuff. User experience flow, that also fits into the psychological nudges.

As we're thinking about influencing all this stuff, a lot of times when people talk about brand and building brand, they talk exclusively about brand advertising. But as you can see from all of these categories there's a lot of organic work that we can do in SEO, in social, in content, in email, in community, in all the channels that we talk about here at Moz that can have a big influence on your brand, and that can have a big influence over time on all of these things positively as well.

All right, everyone. Merry Christmas. If you are celebrating another holiday, may you have a great holiday, and we'll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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MozCast's Year in Review (Infographic)

Posted by Dr-Pete

It's been 3 1/2 years since we launched the MozCast project, and one request I hear a lot is if we can make more than 30 days worth of data available. So, working with Dave Snyder and the team at CopyPress, we've put together the highlights of 2014 and 2015 — the confirmed algorithm updates you already know, and the ones you might have missed. The data is mine, but credit for everything else goes to CopyPress (Thanks, Dave!). If you have any questions about specific events or dates, feel free to comment, and I'll do my best to follow up with any available data.

If there's anything that I've learned from the MozCast project, it's that the updates that get named aren't always as big as we think, and many nameless changes have major impacts on rankings. Google probably makes over 600 changes per year at this point, and if we only focus on the ones they name, we're letting them control the conversation. Collect your own data, draw your own conclusions, and remember that not every dangerous animal is a Panda or a Penguin.

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Why You Must Become a 10x Brand

Posted by EricEnge

The past 20 years have seen the fastest rate of change in human history. Breathtaking as that may have been, the reality is, that was just the beginning. In fact, the pace of change is going to continue to accelerate. Because of these changes, I see the need for brands to evolve into what I am calling a 10x brand.

This is an expansion of the concept of 10x Content that Rand Fishkin discussed in a recent Whiteboard Friday video. During this WBF, Rand showed why brands now need to produce content ten times better than anything else showing up in search. In this post, I’m proposing that not only do you need to have 10x content (as Rand called it), but you need to be a 10x brand. In other words, it's becoming necessary that your brand must be ten times better known, ten times more trusted, ten times more referenced than any of your competitors' brands.

Because of the three trends I’m about to share with you, just being “better” is no longer good enough. I'll conclude the post with a set of actionable steps you can take that will help you become such a brand. So get ready, hold on tight, and prepare to enjoy the ride!

Change #1: The rise of the millennials

It's Duane Forrester that deserves credit for forcing this change into my consciousness. The millennials are the first generation that has grown up in a world with this incredible pace of change:

Image Source: Bloomberg

Don't skip past the significance of that. Change is the norm for this generation. If you are Gen X, or a baby boomer like me, there was some real stability in the world of tech. Things changed, but not every single year as seems to happen today.

According to the above-referenced Bloomberg article, the millennials in North America stand to inherit $30 trillion in wealth from the baby boomer generation. This will be the largest generational transfer of wealth in the history of mankind, and is in addition to their own earnings. This will give them unprecedented spending power. So yes, you should care about them.

Next, consider the impact of the changes that have already occurred. The two biggest ones of these are:

The practical impact of these two things are:

Nearly all the world's information at your fingertips Dozens or hundreds of options to consider in regards to any purchase or action you might want to make Immediate connectivity with your friends and others for real-time feedback and information

These factors have all led to changes in consumer behavior — not just for millennials, but for any hyper-connected person. Here are some of the key characteristics of this modern consumer:

Demand for high quality

The demand for quality is higher than it has even been before, largely because accessing alternative choices is easier than it's ever been before.

Engagement or entertainment

They want to be engaged or entertained by the companies they do business with. This expectation has arisen because there are so many progressive brands that are willing to do it, so those that don't look stale in comparison.


All communications need to be authentic and backed by behavior, because there are so many ways that inauthentic behavior can get exposed.


When they want something, be prepared to give it to them now. If you don't, someone else will.

Short attention span

You will need to work very hard to keep their attention. There are just too many enticing options available to them.

The desire for these things is not new, but the instant availability of alternative options is what has changed. Any failure to deliver on your part, is immediately actionable by the consumer - they get what they want from someone else.

Change #2: The rise of new Internet-connected devices and voice-driven interactions

Forecasts for device sales over the next 5 years show a stunning rise in the sale of new types of Internet-connected devices: wearables, smart TVs, thermostats, refrigerators, and more. This environment has given raise to the phrase "The Internet of Things."

If you look at the above chart closely, you will see that by 2020 the cumulative installed base of PCs, tablets, and smartphones (all the stuff we actively use today) will be less than 1/3 of the total Internet-enabled devices. The overwhelming majority of the new devices will have no keyboards, and they will instead rely on voice commands for interaction.

For years, people have argued that voice search will be limited because people won't want to use it in public places, but that concern appears to be becoming less of an issue. A study comissioned by Google in 2014 showed that 55% of teens and 41% of adults use voice search at least once a day. It also appears that the times and places where people are willing to use voice search are increasing:

The Google study also shows interesting data on why people use voice search:

In case you think the Google study is biased, data supporting the rise of voice search is available from other sources, such as this one from

These two studies show increases in usage of voice search on a smartphone. The trend in this direction, in my opinion, will be rapidly accelerated by the new types of Internet-connected devices. Most of these devices will have no keyboard for input. For example, if you are wearing a smartwatch, or interacting with your refrigerator, voice-driven interaction will pretty much be your only option for most functions.

Change #3: Fundamental changes in advertising models

One of the biggest drivers of Google's success on the World Wide Web has been their AdWords advertising system. It offered a brilliant model where advertisers paid on a per-click basis, and provided a massive source of revenue to the company. For the most part, this relies on people clicking on an AdWords ad in the search results, or an AdSense ad on third-party websites.

Even with the advent of the smartphone, the screen real estate needed for much of this advertising model has shrunk dramatically. In wearable devices and embedded devices, that screen real estate is gone.

It's not 100% clear how the new economic models will work in this new world. In a smartphone environment, where we still have some screen real estate, the number of ads that can be shown are greatly reduced. There are many that believe that success in this environment will depend on personalization. For this reason, major advantages come to those who have people actively using apps (where those people stay logged in by default), as they can continuously collect information about you. For reference, here are the most popular apps in 2015 accoring to comScore:

It also matters what types of information those apps are able to collect along the way. Because they know so much about you, Facebook has an extremely strong position in this new world, and Google is arguably playing catch-up. This entire story becomes even more complicated when you get to the world of wearables and embedded devices. For some of these, there may be zero real estate available for ads. This will further complicate the world of monetization, and it may all morph into affiliate models.

How will all this end up? I honestly don't know, but fundamental change is a given.

(Thanks are due to Mike Grehan for stimulating some of my thinking in this area at Pubcon.)

Why should I become a 10x brand?

The world that Google currently dominates is the World Wide Web, a world which is navigated by the browser. That world is not going to disappear, but its share of people's attention will diminish over time. Google may still be a huge player in this new world, but they will have significant competition. And, even if Google is the leading player in it, the shape of how digital marketing is done will be substantially different.

In short, the tactics that work for promoting your business in a web-driven world won't apply. You will need to view this new environment as a massively connected ecosystem. Any, and all, of your imperfections are likely to be found out and exposed. From a content marketing perspective, the landscape will look something like this:

At each corner of the Internet you touch, you have to view what you are doing as visible in every other corner. Your messaging needs to focus on building relationships across the spectrum of all that you do. For that reason, find ways to add value and help others, find ways to engage and interact, and find ways to entertain.

Why do I think this is the case? In a shifting landscape, your best defense (and your best offense) is a passionate audience. People who believe in what you do. People who believe in who you are. And, in a world where personalization is a huge factor in how information is delivered, having that audience that wants to remain connected with you is huge. In short, if a service provider does not make your products and or services available to people who want them, then those people may become dissatisfied with that service provider. What will those people do then? They might switch to another service provider.

The competition between Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and others for the future is ON. They all see it coming, and how this will shake out is not at all certain. This means competing for audiences and securing their own market share. Building your own passionate, connected audience is your clear path for surviving and prospering.

Your goal needs to be becoming a 10x brand. You need to go above and beyond what others do. You don't want to simply be good; you need to be outstanding.

What does it take to be a 10x brand?1.) View every touchpoint as an opportunity to build or enhance relationships.

By everywhere, I mean everywhere. That includes offline. Have stores? Then interactions within those stores are an opportunity. Have a customer service function? Use it to build trust and perceived value. And, of course, anything you do in social media, on your site, or through content marketing, as well.

Two brands that do this really well are Whole Foods and Marathon Petroleum. You can read more about how they engage with people both online and offline below:

Interview with Whole Foods' Natanya AndersonInterview with Marathon Petroleum's Brandon Daniels2.) Solve problems for others via content and interaction.

Do this everywhere you are present online.

Create 10x content that helps users on a regular basis (at least once per month). As mentioned earlier in this article, Rand made a great argument for why 10x content is a requirement.

Publishing great content is an awesome way to add value to the overall market ecosystem in which you live.

10x content is a baseline requirement for a 10x brand.

3.) Stop producing any sub 1x content whatsoever.

Quality is far more important than quantity. In your content marketing efforts, stop creating OK content, or 1x content — it's a waste of your time. It will not help you grow. Note: what you put on product pages will probably be more focused on driving conversion, and is likely to be more basic; the focus here is on what you do in content marketing.

4.) Freely share the best content covering your market, including that created by others.

So many brands are not willing to share great content published by others, but if it's valuable to your audience, it will help enhance your relationship with that audience. In addition, it will help grow you grow your social media audience.

5.) Build genuine relationships with other progressive industry thought leaders (influencers).

There are so many reasons to do this:

Close cooperation with other well-known experts is awesome for your own reputation and visibility It opens doors to a wide range of joint promotional opportunities It can lead to their sharing your content through your social channels Ultimately, these factors all play into improved SEO

6.) Proactively engage with others on social media, including customers and prospects.

It's great to interact with influencers, but you can't make it only about them. As noted above, every interaction is a chance to build a relationship. In addition, every interaction in most places online, such as social media, takes place on a public stage.

How you treat others is public information in these environments. Take advantage of the opportunity that represents.

7.) Develop key employees into public faces for your company (what Mark Traphagen calls a PBR, or "personal brand rep").

Every company has limited funds. Enabling your employee base to participate in building your brand can dramatically increase the effectiveness of your efforts.

This should extend beyond social media and into your offline activities, as well.

8.) Stop any edgy business (including SEO) practices you have been using.

The downside risk of public exposure is way too high:

Questionable business practices designed to get you an unfair edge just aren't worth it. Just ask Volkswagen about the downside of skirting the rules.


You may want to argue with me about being a 10x brand, asking why being a 2x brand isn't enough. There's merit to the argument, but the challenge for you is that the basic channels for information discovery are shifting underneath our collective feet.

If you are seeing success in today's channels, this is a threat to you. If you don't have passionate loyal fans, those new channels have no real need to make information about you available. People won't miss you if you're not there.

That's the key. You need to be in-demand. If some channel does not make it easy to find you, you need people to miss you. That's why you must behave like an authentic, engaged member of the overall community. Having a great product or service will be a requirement, but that's just table stakes — you need to be a 10x brand. If you can create this position for yourself, you win.

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Why You Should Use Adjusted Bounce Rate and How to Set It Up

Posted by RobBeirne

We need to talk about bounce rate.

Now, before I begin ranting, I'd just like to put on the record that bounce rate can, in certain cases, be a useful metric that can, when viewed in the context of other metrics, give you insights on the performance of the content on your website. I accept that. However, it is also a metric which is often misinterpreted and is, in a lot of cases, misleading.

We've gone on the record with our thoughts on bounce rate as a metric, but it's still something that crops up on a regular basis.

The problem with bounce rate

Put simply, bounce rate doesn't do what a lot of people think it does: It does not tell you whether people are reading and engaging with your content in any meaningful way.

Let's make sure we're all singing the same song on what exactly bounce rate means.

According to Google, "Bounce Rate is the percentage of single-page sessions (i.e. sessions in which the person left your site from the entrance page without interacting with the page)."

In simple terms, a bounce is recorded when someone lands on your website and then leaves the site without visiting another page or carrying out a tracked action (event) on the page.

The reality is that while bounce rate can give you a useful overview of user behaviour, there are too many unknowns that come with it as a metric to make it a bottom-line KPI for your advertising campaigns, your content marketing campaigns, or any of your marketing campaigns, for that matter.

When looked at in isolation, bounce rate gives you very little valuable information. There is a tendency to panic when bounce rate begins to climb or if it is deemed to be "too high." This highly subjective term is often used without consideration of what constitutes an average bounce rate (average bounce rate for a landing page is generally 70-90%).

There's a school of thought that a high bounce rate can be seen as a good thing, as it means that the user found no need to go looking any further for the information they needed. While there is some merit to this view, and in certain circumstances it can be the case, it seems to me to be overly simplistic and opaque.

It's also very important to bear in mind that if a user bounces, they are not included in site metrics such as average session duration.

There is, however, a simple way to turn bounce rate into a robust and useful metric. I'm a big fan of adjusted bounce rate, which gives a much better metric on how users are engaging with your website.

The solution: adjusted bounce rate

Essentially, you set up an event which is triggered after a user spends a certain amount of time on the landing page, telling Google Analytics not to count these users as bounces. A user may come to your website, find all of the information they need (a phone number, for example) and then leave the site without visiting another page. Without adjusted bounce rate, such a user would be considered a bounce, even though they had a successful experience.

One example we see frequently of when bounce rate can be a very misleading metric is when viewing the performance of your blog posts. A user could land on a blog post and read the whole thing, but if they then leave the site they'll be counted as a bounce. Again, this gives no insight whatsoever into how engaged this user was or if they had a good experience on your website.

By defining a time limit after which you can consider a user to be 'engaged,' that user would no longer count as a bounce, and you'd get a more accurate idea of whether they found what they were looking for.

When we implemented Adjusted Bounce Rate on our own website, we were able to see that a lot of our blog posts which had previously had high bounce rates, had actually been really engaging to those who read them.

For example, the bounce rate for a study we published on Facebook ad CTRs dropped by 87.32% (from 90.82% to 11.51%), while our Irish E-commerce Study dropped by 76.34% (from 82.59% to 19.54%).

When we look at Moz's own Google Analytics for Whiteboard Friday, we can see that they often see bounce rates of over 80%. While I don't know for sure (such is the uncertainty surrounding bounce rate as a metric), I'd be willing to bet that far more than 20% of visitors to the Whiteboard Friday pages are interested and engaged with what Rand has to say.

This is an excellent example of where adjusted bounce rate could be implemented to give a more accurate representation of how users are responding to your content.

The brilliant thing about digital marketing has always been the ability of marketers to make decisions based on data and to use what we learn to inform our strategy. Adjusted bounce rate gives us much more valuable data than your run-of-the-mill, classic bounce rate.

It gives us a much truer picture of on-site user behaviour.

Adjusted bounce rate is simple to implement, even if you're not familiar with code, requiring just a small one-line alteration to the Google Analytics code on your website. The below snippet of code is just the standard Google Analytics tag (be sure to add your own tracking ID in place of the "UA-XXXXXXX-1"), with one extra line added (the line beginning with "setTimeout", and marked with an "additional line" comment in the code). This extra line is all that needs to be added to your current tag to set up adjusted bounce rate.

<script type="text/javascript"> var _gaq = _gaq || []; _gaq.push(['_setAccount', 'UA-XXXXXXX-1']); _gaq.push(['_trackPageview']); setTimeout("_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', '15_seconds', 'read'])",15000); // --additional line (function() { var ga = document.createElement('script'); ga.type = 'text/javascript'; ga.async = true; ga.src = ('https:' == document.location.protocol ? 'https://ssl' : 'http://www') + ''; var s = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s); })(); </script>

It's a really simple job for your developer; simply replace the old snippet with the one above (that way you won't need to worry about your tracking going offline due to a code mishap).

In the code above, the time is set to 15 seconds, but this can be changed (both the '15_seconds' and the 15000) depending on when you consider the user to be "engaged". This ‘15_seconds’ names your event, while the final part inside the parenthesis sets the time interval and must be input in milliseconds (e.g. 30 seconds would be 30000, 60 seconds would be 60000, etc.).

On our own website, we have it set to 30 seconds, which we feel is enough time for a user to decide whether or not they're in the right place and if they want to leave the site (bounce).

Switching over to adjusted bounce rate will mean you'll see fewer bouncers within Google Analytics, as well as improving the accuracy of other metrics, such as average session duration, but it won't affect the tracking in any other way.

Adjusted bounce rate isn't perfect, but its improved data and ease of implementation are a massive step in the right direction, and I firmly believe that every website should be using it. It helps answer the question we've always wanted bounce rate to answer: "Are people actually reading my content?"

I firmly believe that every website should be using adjusted bounce rate. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating an Autoresponder That Subscribers Can’t Wait to Open

Email autoresponders are the holy grail of marketing.

You set up a sequence of emails once, and you’re done.

Thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, of people will get exactly the same emails from you, in the same order.

This allows you to create an unbelievably consistent level of service.

Perhaps the most underrated benefit of autoresponders is that they exist within email marketing, the most profitable channel of marketing.

Capterra found that every one dollar spent on email marketing resulted in $44.25 of revenue. So, not only can autoresponders save you a lot of time, but they can also be extremely effective in driving profit for your business.

Of course, there are two sides to everything, and autoresponders are no exception: they have some limitations.

If you don’t understand these limitations and take appropriate action, you will end up with autoresponders that suck.

Remember that an autoresponder is just a tool. It’s how you use it that counts.

One marketer can achieve amazing long-term success with an autoresponder, while another will never make a sale.

I want you to be in that first group.

And if you follow the five steps in this post, you’ll be well on your way to efficient and effective communication with your email subscribers. 

How does an autoresponder fit into your business

As you might know, there are two main types of emails you can send with any email marketing platform:

broadcasts autoresponders

Broadcast emails are written to your list and sent once at a particular time.

Autoresponders, on the other hand, are all automated. You create a sequence of emails to send to your subscribers after they sign up for a list.

The downside of using broadcasts to email your list is obvious: it takes time—time to create emails on a regular basis.

Sometimes you should use broadcasts—typically for one-time, time-sensitive events and news.

However, a few situations are perfect for autoresponders, and that’s what I’m going to focus on in this post.

Situation #1 – Introduce new subscribers to your content: In a distant past, any new subscriber you got already knew your content and loved it. They had to; otherwise, they would have never filled out a plain opt-in form.

But now, with the use of tactics like content upgrades, blog owners can double, triple, or even quadruple their opt-in rates.

You offer an attractive free bonus in exchange for a reader’s email address. As a result, you get way more opt-ins.

This is great!

However, there’s a downside to this.

A large portion of your subscribers have only read one or two pieces of content on your site.

So while they might like you, they mainly signed up because of the free bonus. In other words, you don’t really have much of a relationship with them.

To fix this, you want to show them your absolute best content that you’ve written over the years.

Blow them away so that they recognize the value you have to offer and let you start building a relationship.

Obviously, you don’t want to have to send each new subscriber an email of your best posts manually.

And since you want to deliver it soon after they sign up, an autoresponder is perfect.

A great example of it is this email you receive from James Clear after you join his email list.

He sends an email early on dedicated to his best articles:

Not only does he show his subscribers his best content, but he also organizes it by category so that the subscriber has the best chance of finding content they are most interested in.

Situation #2 – Create an automated sales funnel: Selling a product through an email sales funnel is a delicate process.

You need to consider the types of emails you send as well as their timing.

With some launches, you have no choice but to send emails manually. If you open and close a course at specific times, you have to stick to broadcasts.

However, if you’re selling a product or service continuously, you can build it right into your autoresponder (which is what I do at

Situation #3 – Use it as a lead magnet course: In general, the more valuable the free bonus you offer to your new subscribers, the more likely they are to opt in.

The most valuable thing that most bloggers could offer would be coaching or consulting help. But giving that away just isn’t viable. Not only would it take a ton of time, you’d sacrifice a lot of profit as well.

However, with an autoresponder, you can provide a fairly good level of coaching or training and automate it.

Email courses are highly valued in many different niches.

Assuming your course is actually good, you get one more benefit: you’ll “train” your subscribers to anticipate and open your emails.

Step 1: Understand the 4 factors that affect open rate over time

Before even thinking about making any sales through email marketing and using autoresponders, you need to get your emails opened.

There are many reasons why subscribers might want to open your emails:

Your name is an obvious one, but it is often messed up, even today.

If you write all the content on your site under your name, your subscribers expect (and want) to get emails from you.

They don’t want to get emails from “support,” “customer service,” or someone else they don’t know even if that person works with you.

People mainly open emails because of relationships, so always send them your emails using a name they know.

Beyond that, four other factors influence long-term open rates (which is what you should be aiming for).

Factor #1 – Enticing subject lines: In a typical email box, a user will see the subject line of an email, followed by the sender.

In certain emails, they will also see the first line of the message, but it’s not as prominent.

Obviously, the subject line matters a lot.

Somewhere around 35% of email users will open emails based on the subject line alone.

So, how do you create a good email subject line?

First, make is short.

Subject lines with 6 to 10 words get the highest open rate.

This is mostly because most email inboxes only show about 10 words at the max before cutting off the rest of the subject line.

The second important part of a good subject line is that it induces some curiosity—it’s interesting.

Here’s where many email marketers mess up.

They see that they can use certain tricks to get great open rates.

For example, if you send an email with “(No subject)” as the subject line, it will get opened by nearly everyone.

But that’s the wrong kind of curiosity.

With tricks like these, the reader opens your emails just to see what they are.

Unless you have the most interesting, compelling content inside, the reader will feel tricked. Tricked readers are not happy ones and won’t be opening your emails much in the future.

If you’re going to use tricks like these, use them very sparingly.

The alternative, and better, option is to send your readers valuable content they are interested in.

If you’re on any of my email lists, you know that I don’t get cute with subject lines. I simply put the name of the post or topic I’m writing about in the email:


For two main reasons. First, I know you’re already interested in the topics I’m writing about if you’re on my email list. As long as it’s clear that I’m writing about a relevant topic, emails will get opened.

Secondly, I’ve already spent a good amount of time crafting a powerful headline. Because of that, I know that the message will be clear, and there will be some sort of a curiosity gap built-in.

Getting emails opened is not about tricks.

Factor #2 – Your topic matters: Although you may want to send all your most popular posts at once, you can also spread them out over time.

As we’ve discussed, sending information on interesting topics is the best way to build a relationship with your readers and get your emails opened now and in the future.

The best place to get the best email ideas is from your most popular posts.

Go to Google Analytics, and navigate to “Behavior > Site Content > All Pages.”

You’ll see a list of all your posts sorted by pageviews. Make sure that you set the time period to at least the last year.

Use these top posts as your email content, or just give these links to your subscribers. You can be reasonably confident that they will enjoy them just as much as your past visitors did.

Factor #3 – Deliver on your promise: I’ve mentioned that you need to be building a relationship with your subscribers over time.

You need to prove that you can be trusted on an ongoing basis.

As soon as you betray that trust by tricking your subscribers or not living up to your word, you destroy that trust and the relationship.

So yes, sending emails about interesting topics is important. But so is what happens after that.

If I wanted a great open rate for an email, all I would have to do is make a crazy promise in the subject line.

If I delivered, readers would, of course, love it. But if my content didn’t live up to that promise, I would lose a lot of trust immediately.

An email by CoSchedule promised 21 ways to increase an email list by 552%.

That’s a big promise:

Did they deliver?

You bet. You can see so in the comments of the article they linked to in that email:

The next time CoSchedule sends an email, those happy readers will be excited to open it. That’s how you build a relationship.

Factor #4 – Give much more than you take: At the end of the day, email marketing needs to produce sales.

And it can.

But you need to be careful about how often you’re promoting products.

In general, subscribers don’t like pitches, but they don’t mind them as long as the value of your overall communication heavily outweighs the pitches you are sending.

If you look at the emails that someone like Bernadette Jiwa sends, you’ll see they are almost all value, no pitch:

Over time, your subscribers will see that you’re not just trying to make a sale from them, but that you actually care about improving their lives.

Once that barrier of skepticism gets knocked down, your subscribers will start opening your emails without worrying that you’re just trying to profit from them.

Future pitches will be much more welcome because subscribers understand that you want to help them, not take advantage of them.

Step 2: The often misunderstood purpose of emails

The first lesson of all modern copywriting is that you should write to your readers in a conversational tone.

Your blog posts as well as your emails should sound like something you’d send to a friend.

It’s not bad advice, but you need to remember that you can have many different levels of friends.

You wouldn’t talk to someone you’ve just met (even if you liked that person very much) like you would talk to a close friend you’ve known for years.

But, of course, some marketers take this advice way too literally.

They’ll send their new subscribers something like:

Hi (name),

What’s up? Just heading out for the weekend to the cottage! :p

If you’re in San Diego next weekend, let’s grab dinner.


That might be okay if you were writing to a really close friend with whom you talk often.

For a new relationship, this is not even close to being okay. New subscribers would think, “Ummm..okay? What the heck was that?” and be creeped out by it. Unsubscribes would follow.

Bottom line: Be friendly, write in a conversational tone, but remember that there are many stages to a friendship. Your typical email subscriber is a good acquaintance at the most.

Your style reflects you: For some reason, many marketers have a hard time writing good emails.

They write great blog posts, but when it comes to composing an email, they panic and end up producing emails that sound as if a robot wrote them.

Email may be a different from a blog channel, but you should write emails just like you write any of your other content.

Your subscribers opted in because they like how you write.

Why would you change that?

Your emails should both sound and look like you (the way you write on your blog).

Let’s look at an example…

Brian Dean writes in a unique style on Backlinko. He uses extremely short sentences and paragraphs as well as very casual phrases like “I’m pumped”:

You’ll even notice in the above picture that he capitalizes words to add emphasis.

Guess how he writes his emails?

You guessed right—exactly the same way:

He uses short sentences, casual language, and a similar font and even capitalizes “PUMPED!” to add emphasis.

An email doesn’t have to be an announcement: There’s one part of writing a great blog post that is always difficult to overcome.

Blog posts are typically one-sided: the writer writes, and the reader reads.

This can make it difficult to get your readers to engage with your content. Additionally, you can’t build a relationship without having some communication from both sides.

That’s why email is an amazing medium.

It’s designed so that people can respond to your communication—they expect a two-way conversation.

But if all you do is write your content and link to your posts in your autoresponder, you’ll get some replies, but not many.

To fix this, you need to encourage responses and actually reply back to any emails you get. Although this will take time because you can’t automate it, these interactions will help you build strong customer loyalty.

You can encourage a reply by asking your subscriber to either answer a question you pose in your email or let you know something.

For example, in one of the first emails Derek Halpern sends his new subscribers, he asks if there is anything they are struggling with:

He specifically asks his subscribers to reply to him to begin a dialog.

Step 3: You don’t need to sell in your emails

Email is amazing for driving sales, which you probably already know.

The mistake, though, that most marketers make is selling directly in an email.

People don’t really buy in emails.

They discuss ideas, they learn new things, but they don’t buy.

People are wary of email scams these days and don’t want to purchase anything through links placed directly in emails.

So, how do you make money from email marketing if you can’t sell in an email?

You send subscribers to pages, where they can buy safely and confidently.

Essentially, you want to use your emails as a pre-sell to warm up your subscribers before they get sent to a landing page.

That way, they don’t just get a buy button slapped in their face without expecting it.

You can pre-sell in emails in a few main ways.

Option #1 – Link to reviews: If you’re promoting an affiliate product, you can either link directly to a landing page for it, or you can create a review of a certain product and include affiliate links throughout it.

A few weeks ago, Jon Morrow created a new list for subscribers who care about WordPress site speed.

In all his emails about this topic, he linked to a thorough review:

In the article he linked to, there are several affiliate links pointing to the hosting company he is promoting. He gets paid whenever someone signs up through those links:

Option #2 – Link directly to a landing page: Alternatively, you can warm up your subscribers and send them to one of your landing pages.

Talk about the benefits of your product or service, and tell your subscribers that if they want to learn more or to purchase, they can check your landing page.

Instead of feeling tricked or pressured, the subscribers will feel in control. Since you’ve hopefully built a relationship before pitching something, they will typically give your offer a fair shot.

Here’s an example: Peep Laja is a conversion rate expert. When promoting his coaching program, he sent an email with the most important details and benefits of his coaching.

Then, at the bottom of the email, he made it clear that anyone who clicks the link would be going to a landing page about his program.

No one gets tricked, and you still drive a lot of targeted traffic to your landing page.

Step 4: Don’t be the “boring” friend

We talked about the fact that you need to write emails as if you’re writing to a friend.

There’s one part of it that we haven’t looked at:

Don’t you like getting emails from certain friends more than others?

Maybe you wouldn’t tell them that to their face, but I bet you occasionally ignore emails or other types of messages from certain friends (or at least delay your response).

Conversely, you probably get excited when other friends send you a message.

Obviously, you want your autoresponder emails to fall into this second group of emails.

To do so, you need to avoid all the things that your “boring” friends do.

Emails are reserved for value: I realize that everyone is different, but for the most part, email isn’t used for much “chit chat.”

If you want to ask someone about their day, you text them or use some other messaging app.

Over time, you get conditioned to pay attention to those emails that you know will give you some value.

This also means that when you read an email that just wastes your time, you are less likely to open another one from the same sender (your “boring” friend).

Here’s what you shouldn’t do:

Email frequently about nothing in particular Send any email without a point Send emails about everyday topics (not of high interest)

My subscribers want to learn about SEO, marketing, and a few other related topics.

Every single one of my emails needs to be about one of those topics.

It’s fine to include some personal details to try to build more of a connection with your subscribers, but you need to always tie those back in with your main topics.

Do you only contact “friends” when you need something? Everyone knows that one person from school or work who only ever talked to their peers when he needed help with something.

The first few times, you’d give that person the benefit of the doubt and just assume they are having an unusually difficult time with something.

However, as time goes on and behavior doesn’t change, you realize that if this person gives you a call, comes up to you, or sends you an email, she wants something.

Don’t be this person.

Everyone gets sick of them at some point and stops giving them any attention.

Instead, be the person who gives others value and offers assistance more often than asks for help.

Fifteen out of the 17 emails in the picture above are asking the subscriber to do something.

If you do that, most subscribers will either unsubscribe soon after they realize what’s going on or just mark your messages as spam.

Step 5: Don’t let your emails lose their impact

There’s one last main problem we need to address.

Have you ever been excited to sign up for a list in the past, only to slowly lose interest?

I know you have because we all have.

As the email sender, you’ll find it’s one of the hardest things to prevent, but it is possible.

Length should match value: When it comes to the length of your communication, you need to consider two aspects.

First is the length of your emails.

Second is the length of your autoresponders.

Despite what some will claim, there’s no perfect length for an email.

The length of your emails should depend on a few key factors:

How interesting your topic is - the more interesting it is, the more willing people are to read more about it What they expect – if you always write short emails, subscribers will expect short emails. Don’t expect long ones to get as much attention as your regular email would. What needs to be said - If you’re simply linking to another page that you want your subscribers to visit, less is more. Only include what is necessary to prepare your readers and build up curiosity for that page.

The last point is perhaps the most important.

If you send an email with a lot of fluff in it, you might not realize the problem at first.

Your readers will still read it if the topic is interesting enough.

However, they will lose interest in your emails over time. It will become a chore for them to sort through the junk in order to find the gold.

If you see your open rates decline significantly over time, that means you are driving off your subscribers for one reason or another.

What about the length of your autoresponders?

If you’re offering a course or introduction to your content, your autoresponder has to cover that specific topic.

If it’s a complex topic, it might take 30 emails to cover it.

If it’s a simple product, it might only be a 5- or 7-email series.

Match the complexity of the product and the interest your subscribers have in it with the length of your autoresponder.

If you create an autoresponder course about “how to format a blog post,” don’t send 50 emails.

By the time you get to your third or fourth email on a simple topic, most subscribers will lose interest.

All autoresponders must come to an end: All autoresponders should be about one or two specific topics.

They should be used only for those cases when visitors to your website want to learn about a specific topic and signing up for those targeted emails will give them those answers. 

We just discussed what happens if you send too many emails about a topic.

In addition, if you start talking about different topics, most readers will stop reading your emails.

They’ve learned what you have to offer about topic “A,” and that’s what they wanted. They didn’t ask to learn about topic “B,” which is why they are no longer interested.

Whenever you create an autoresponder, determine the scope of what you’re covering, and divide the material into however many emails you think is necessary.

Then, write those emails. Don’t add more emails to the autoresponder in the hope of automating 100% of your email marketing.

What happens at the end of an autoresponder? You’re probably wondering what happens to these subscribers once they hit the end of an autoresponder.

That’s a great question.

There are two main options that you can use either individually or together.

The simplest option is to move your new subscribers to your main subscriber list. Then, you can continue sending them emails when you publish a new post or want to send out another broadcast email.

If you’re on my main broadcast list on Quick Sprout, for example, you get three emails per week letting you know there’s a new post published.

The second option is to give your autoresponder subscribers the chance to join a new autoresponder.

Instead of assuming that they would also be interested in topic “B,” you can send them an email saying something like:

This is the end of your course, and I hope you got a lot out of it.

I also have a few other free email courses you might be interested in. If you are, just click the link below, and sign up for the one(s) you’re interested in:

Email course about topic “B”

Email course about topic “C”

Email course about topic “D”

I mentioned Jon Morrow in this post. He did something very similar.

He knew that a large portion of his broadcast list is interested in WordPress hosting. So he sent a broadcast email that offered a free email course about this specific topic.

So, although all autoresponders must end, that doesn’t mean that a subscriber couldn’t keep signing up for other autoresponders you’ve created.

They’re an easy way to continue to provide value and generate sales without any repeated effort.


Autoresponders are a fantastic tool for businesses to use in their email marketing.

However, it’s still just a tool.

If you want to get great results, you need to know how to use it properly.

If you follow the principles and concepts that I’ve broken down in the five steps in this article, you’ll be able to create an autoresponder that subscribers enjoy and that actually produces revenue for your business.

Creating a solid autoresponder isn’t easy, so if you have a question about any part of the process, leave it below in a comment, and I’ll try to answer it.

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Break These 6 Bad Content Marketing Habits to Set Your Content Free

It’s a feeling that all content marketers have experienced, and it’s not a pleasant one. You research your audience, you create content that speaks directly to their needs, and you say “Fly and be free!” as you release it into the world.

And then it falls flat on its metaphorical face. If this has happened to you, you’re not alone: Over half of marketers say they struggle with making their content effective.

There are chains that keep content marketing from soaring. They’re bad habits that you might not even know you’ve developed. Let’s shine a light on these chains and break them—with light? Special chain-breaking lights? Maybe lasers. Lasers break chains, right?

We’ll address the perils of mixed metaphors in another post. For now, let’s focus on breaking six bad content marketing habits to help your content soar.

Bad Habit 1: Trying to Be Trendy

Hey kids, you know what’s totally dope and superfly right now? Writing in that extra-salty, shade-throwing voice that appeals to youngsters like you—er, us. We’re hip. We’re with it. We’ve got the 411.

The previous paragraph was painful, right? Instead of writing in my own voice, I was trying to be something I’m not. Even if you’re marketing to Millennials, teens, and tweens, keep it real. No one wants to buy from the “cool dad” trying to keep up with the latest slang.

A New Habit: Be Consistent and Authentic

Establish a baseline for your brand—what it is, what it’s about, who your audience is. Then keep your writing natural and timeless.

Bad Habit 2: Posting Huge Blocks of Text

Some of the best ideas in the world may be buried in the sixth extra-long paragraph of a blog post without any organizational cues. But we’ll never know. Reading online is fundamentally different from reading printed matter. If your audience can’t easily scan your content, they’ll bounce.

A Better Habit: Web-Optimized Writing

To make sure your content gets a chance to shine, stick with short paragraphs. Use headers before each major point, so readers can scan quickly and see if they want to read further. Use bulleted or numbered lists to quickly make multiple points. And add visuals to really make it pop.

Bad Habit 3: Chasing Clicks

10 reasons you should ditch content that doesn’t provide value: Number 5 will have you in tears! Every marketer has heard the siren song of clickbait viral content. “Come with meeee,” it sings, “I will bring you soooo many cliiiiicks…”

While clickbait can get you a quick surge of popularity, the Internet hivemind quickly forgets and moves on to the next distraction. Remember that OK Go video with the Rube Goldberg machine? Maybe. Remember what car company sponsored it? Probably not.

A Better Habit: Content that Delivers

Make sure your content fulfills the promise in the headline. Content that delivers real value will stick around long after the latest fad is gone. Building a reputation as a trusted resource will pay far more dividends than trending on Twitter.

Bad Habit 4: Posting the Same Content across Networks

Automation software is a boon for busy marketers. But as you automate, make sure you keep a personal feel to your posts. If you post the exact same content on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram—same words, same links, same visual—your most engaged fans just got the same message four times.

A Better Habit: Tailor Content to the Platform

It’s important to vary your approach for each outlet, using the text and visuals that best suit the audience for each one. That way you can stay relevant and avoid looking like a robot.

Bad Habit 5: Being Overly Promotional

Sure, every piece of content we create is promotional in some sense. We’re not just publishing out of the goodness of our hearts; at the end of the process, we want the reader to take action. But social media is a conversation; if you only talk about yourself, you may end up only talking to yourself.

A Better Habit: Be Useful

The beating heart of content marketing is helping the reader with high-quality, useful information. Establish your brand as a trusted resource and your audience will grow. People are more likely to engage with and share content that helps them solve a problem.

Bad Habit 6: Writing without Personality

Bland writing is the scourge of B2B content marketing, but the B2C marketers aren’t completely innocent, either. It starts with the best of intentions—you want to be informative, you don’t want to offend anyone—but ends with content so dry a robot could have written it.

A Better Habit: Make Your Writing for People, by People

Keep in mind that “professional” doesn’t have to mean “boring.” Bring an authentic human voice to your writing. Write for the specific people who will be reading it, not to some faceless corporate conglomerate. Sure, if you give your brand some personality, it might turn some people off. But with them gone, you can focus on the people far more likely to be your customer.

Success is Habit-Forming

They say—and why would they lie?—that it takes 28 days to break a bad habit and start a new one. So start today making your content more authentic, valuable, and easier to read. By the end of the month, these laser-powered chain-breaking habits will be your new norm.

What other bad habits do content marketers need to break? Let me know what I missed in the comments.

Image via Shutterstock

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Don’t Get Fooled: 17 Questions to Ask Before Hiring an SEO Company

Pretty scary, right?

Hiring SEO help can make or break your company.

A good SEO will get you on the path to making tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars per month, but a bad SEO could cripple any existing search traffic you get.

It’s important to choose carefully, and that’s what I want to show you how to do today.

If you’re thinking about hiring an SEO company, I’ve put together 17 questions that can help you make the right choice.

You should ask these questions before hiring anyone so you know exactly what to expect.

Finally, you don’t need to ask all of these questions, but I’ll explain why each is important so that you can decide if a question is relevant to your situation. 

Types of SEO help

Before we get into the questions, I want to go over the different types of SEOs:

individual SEO consultants - these are freelancers who offer their SEO services. SEO companies/agencies - these companies have teams of SEOs and standardized SEO processes for the most part. They typically work with businesses of a decent size (with budgets of at least a few thousand dollars per month for SEO). in-house SEOs - if your business is very large or is growing rapidly, it often makes sense to hire an in-house SEO team. You can set it up yourself or hire an SEO consultant to help put things into place and come up with an initial strategy.

The questions in this post are primarily for the first two types of SEOs.

There is a lot of variation in freelancers and SEO agencies. Some are great, others are terrible.

Here’s what I can say: a great SEO will never charge low prices. If you’re hunting for a discount, chances are you’ll end up with an SEO who cuts corners and hurts your site in the long run.

That being said, a high price doesn’t guarantee quality work either. Many agencies will mark up prices of basic work by an obscene amount. Since most website owners don’t know how to evaluate SEO work, these SEO companies can get away with a lot.

Luckily, you’re not an average website owner.

At the very minimum, just by reading this article, you’ve shown that you’re taking initiative to carefully weed out bad SEOs.

As long as you ask the right questions and pay attention to the answers (I’ll show you how now), you should be able to find an SEO that makes a positive impact on your business.

Ready? Let’s start…

1. How will you improve our search engine rankings?

You don’t get any significant results without a serious SEO strategy.

If you decide to randomly target keywords or to build links, you might see some small sporadic results, but you’ll never see consistent traffic increases.

What this means is that all good SEOs have a process, whether they freelance or work for an agency.

They probably won’t be able to tell you: “We’re going to get links from X, Y, and Z websites.”

What they can tell you, however, is something along the lines of: “We’ll start with an on-site technical SEO audit to identify any areas for quick wins. Then, we’ll identify the best keywords to target.”

Ask about the links: Backlinks have been a big part of search engine algorithms for a long time and will continue to play a big role in the future. All SEOs will “build” links to your website in order to attempt to improve rankings.

As you might know, not all backlinks are created equal.

One good backlink is worth more than thousands of low-quality backlinks.

Low-quality backlinks are the ones that can be automated and are often used for spam link building. Think of the typical gigs you see on Fiverr where you can buy hundreds or thousands of good links for $5-10.

A single good link will cost a minimum of $20, and that’s a best case scenario. Usually, a link from an agency will cost you more than $100 each.

If someone is promising you a large number of links, and it works out to $1 or less per link, run the other way.

2. How will you keep me informed of changes you make to our website?

A good SEO company will send you regular reports. The most common frequency is once per month (typically at the end), but some will send you quick weekly updates as well.

The first thing you’ll need to give an SEO company is access to your website (at least part of it). This is one of the main reasons it’s important to hire an SEO company that you can trust.

You can mitigate any risks, if you like, by having all website changes made by an in-house developer. The obvious consequence is that changes will be made slower, and you will have to make sure there is an open and constant line of communication between your developer and your SEO company.

Some SEO consultants won’t ask for any website changes to be made. If this happens, it’s another red flag. While off-site work is a large part of SEO, on-site work is often more important, especially at the start.

Changes need to be tracked: You need to make sure that your SEO company is diligent about any website changes they make.

If something goes wrong, you need to know exactly what caused it.

If an SEO company says that they track changes internally, that’s not good enough.

Think about what would happen if your SEO freelancer or agency suddenly became non-responsive (yes, it does happen) and you were stuck with a broken or damaged site.

In order for you or an emergency consultant to fix the problem, you need to know what caused it.

Any good SEO company will be prepared to send you a detailed log of any website changes they make.

3. Can you share information on some of your past clients and their results?

Shopping for an SEO company is just like shopping for anything else. You want to see reviews, testimonials, case studies, and who their past clients were.

You shouldn’t expect an SEO company to hand over their entire address book, but most will be happy to give examples of 2-3 big name clients. In addition, they should be able to easily show their results (ideally over a long time period).

If they can’t give you any examples of clients who are legitimate businesses, that’s a pretty big warning sign. Either they weren’t able to deliver for big clients in the past, or they don’t have the experience for that level of SEO.

Then, follow up by asking who their longest active client is: I’ve already mentioned that one of the biggest problems with shady SEO firms is that they use short-term risky tactics.

They want to show clients quick results, not caring if they’re doing anything that jeopardizes the site in the future.

If you’re interviewing an SEO company that has been around for a while and their longest active client has been with them for under a year, that’s a red flag.

A good SEO consultant or team is worth their weight in gold. Good SEO alone can grow a business by 5-15% per month. And I’m talking about on a consistent basis, year after year.

No sane client is going to give up an SEO firm that produces great results unless they decide to build an in-house SEO team or the SEO company decides to end things.

4. Do you always follow Google’s best practices?

Following Google’s (and to a lesser extent Bing’s and Yahoo’s) best practices is crucial to long-term traffic growth.

Google applies approximately 500 algorithm updates per year. All of these updates are for one purpose: to provide better results for searchers.

The guidelines are essentially the “golden rules” of user search, published by each respective search engine.

When you violate the rules, Google isn’t happy.

That’s why it has released certain algorithms that have penalized a large number of manipulative sites. On-page violations are penalized by algorithms such as Panda, while off-page violations are penalized by updates such as Penguin.

When you get hit by one of these, your traffic will be hit hard.

The biggest problem is that it can take months or even years of recovery work (depending on the skill of your next SEO) to correct the penalty. You’ll miss out on tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue during this time, which is why emphasizing the long-term results in SEO is typically best.

5. Which tools do you use?

While many people are under the impression that any SEOs that use tools are “blackhat” SEOs, that’s not the whole story.

The word “tool” typically describes a wide variety of applications when talking about SEO.

Tools allow you to process lots of information in a short amount of time. This can save a ton of time and money, which is good for everybody.

But there are different tools:

Reporting tools - While reports could be created manually, it’s a lot easier to create a custom report that combines analytics, keyword rankings, and other SEO metrics. Most of the report can be automated, which saves time, plus you know exactly what to expect as a client.

Link building tools - These allow you to create hundreds or thousands of links with the click of a button and a few proxies (more on these below). Technical SEO tools - Tools such as Screaming Frog allow SEOs to crawl large sites quickly for a variety of technical issues. This would take a long time to do manually, and you can often find important problems that need to be fixed. Research tools - There are now tools such as BuzzStream that allow you to gather contact information of a large number of people in minutes. These tools in general help you gather prospects and conduct keyword research.

Most of these tools are good. They help you comply with Google’s guidelines for good SEO. However, pure link building tools are bad…very, very bad. (Did I mention that they’re bad?)

These tools are designed to comment on hundreds or thousands of blogs, forums, or web 2.0 websites (think Blogger, Weebly, etc.). These are the lowest quality links you can build, which can easily lead to penalties.

If your SEO company mentions tools such as Xrumer, SE Nuke, or Bookmarking Demon, stay away.

One more tool I want to mention is Scrapebox. Scrapebox can be used for spam blog comments, but it can also be used for legitimate research and reporting activities. If your SEO company specifically mentions Scrapebox, ask for more details on how they use it.

6. What types of SEO work will you do?

This may come up when you ask other questions on this list, but if it hasn’t yet, make sure to ask this question at some point.

There should be at least a basic technical SEO audit done once you hire a company. If this isn’t part of their process, they likely aren’t very good SEOs.

Technical SEO involves all of the background aspects of SEO that search engines still care about. Finding and addressing web crawler errors, 404 pages, redirect problems, and evaluating site navigation are all part of basic technical SEO.

7. Can you guarantee that our site will rank #1 for a major search term?

This is the easiest way to weed out the SEO salesmen from legitimate SEOs.

If an SEO freelancer or company is simply trying to make a sale, they’ll typically be happy to say that they guarantee #1 rankings (in Google).

Here’s the thing though: no one can guarantee #1 rankings every single time—especially not in any specific time period. Here are a few reasons why:

No SEO knows the exact Google algorithm - Google had a revenue of $17.3 billion in the first three months of 2015. Most of this revenue is only possible because of Google’s search engine. Suffice to say, they protect the exact algorithm closely. If anyone claims to know the exact algorithm, they’re lying. (If you knew the algorithm, you could make way more than you could as an average SEO consultant). No one knows how Google’s algorithm will change – Google pushes out more than one algorithm change per day on average. Unless you’re working at Google, you can’t know when or how Google will change in the future. You can certainly guess, but be prepared to be wrong quite often. Penalties can come out of nowhere - Penalties can be algorithmic (like from Panda or Penguin) or manual. Google doesn’t often say when certain algorithms will be run. The next Penguin could be run in a week, a month, or a year. In addition, manual reviews and penalties can be triggered at any time.

What all of this means is that while SEOs should be able to increase your search traffic consistently over time, they can’t guarantee specific keyword rankings. If that’s their main promise: run the other way.

There’s one important caveat though: Some SEOs might ask you which keyword you’re targeting or might suggest one. If you’re targeting a very easy keyword, they might offer a guarantee.

Note that offering a guarantee and guaranteeing a #1 ranking are two different things. Offering a guarantee typically means that they expect that you will rank #1 for an easy term, but if they can’t help you do that, they’ll give you some sort of refund.

This type of guarantee is okay although you need to be careful because it might lead to them being overly aggressive to get short term results, which could be dangerous.

8. How often will you report on your work, and what will it look like?

We talked about SEO companies reporting on any website changes they make, but they should also report on their activity and results.

I’d say that you should look for a monthly report—that’s pretty standard. If you prefer a different reporting frequency, most SEOs will try to accommodate you.

All SEO reports should include a few things:

summary of activities – this should include things such as details about email outreach campaigns, content creating, and how many new links came into the site. search traffic – one of the most important markers of progress is an increase in search traffic. A report should show your search traffic for the month as well as the percentage change from last month and last year (the same month). search rankings - if you’re targeting any main keywords, you should get a quick update in each report. conversions – The most important of all: how many search visitors are converting to the next step(s) in your sales funnel? Without conversion, there is no return on investment, regardless of search traffic quantity.

This question won’t typically help you tell a good SEO from a bad one, but it will tell you what to expect from the company if you hire them. Having clear expectations from the start will minimize frustrations on both sides in the future.

9. What is your payment structure?

Different SEO companies use different payment structures.

It’s important to know how much and when exactly you will need to pay so that you can factor it into your budget.

Because SEO can be done in so many different ways, many consultancies will charge by the project. In fact, according to a Moz survey, 70.1% of SEOs offer project-based pricing. If this is something you’re interested in, you can find someone who offers it. Expect to pay between $1,000 and $7,500.

The survey also revealed that retainers range anywhere from under $500 to $2,501-$5,000. A retainer is a monthly payment that essentially reserves time of an SEO to work on your site.

Another option is to pay by hour, which is a popular option if you’re dealing with freelancers (although agencies also offer it). Expect to pay $76-$200 per hour for a good SEO.

Finally, find out when you’ll have to make your payments. Freelancers typically like to be paid as soon as possible, but paying 30, 60, or even 90 days after an invoice isn’t unheard of. Find out if there is an interest fee for late payments.

10. How will we contact you?

SEO is different from other services in that you don’t typically need to contact your SEO company more than a few times a month.

However, if something does go wrong, or you have an important issue to discuss, you want to be able to get a hold of them as soon as possible.

Find out which methods of communication they prefer, and also tell them yours (they should ask you at some point anyway). Also ask how to contact them in case of emergencies (if the site went down or if search traffic dramatically declined).

11. How will your work tie into our other marketing efforts?

SEO is no longer separate from marketing—it should be one seamless system. It doesn’t always work like that, of course, but that’s the goal.

Because of this, many SEO agencies or consultants have rebranded themselves as digital marketing or inbound marketing specialists.

While they are similar, here’s a quick definition of each:

inbound marketing - focuses on creating content of all kinds that attracts links, which can then improve search traffic. digital marketing - essentially covers all parts of marketing online, including inbound marketing. They will typically have experience in PPC, email marketing, SEO, and other branches of marketing.

So, when you’re looking for an SEO company, don’t automatically rule out agencies that primarily brand themselves as marketing consultancies. They often still have SEO specialists on board but can provide other highly valuable services.

12. What happens if we terminate the contract?

This is for your own protection. It’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into.

Understandably, most SEOs want you to sign on for at least a minimum period (usually at least a few months). It takes time for SEOs to make changes, and it takes even longer for those changes to produce significant results.

At the same time, if your company has a crisis and suddenly can’t afford to pay for SEO services, you need to know your options. (It’s rare but it does happen.)

There are other scenarios in which you would want to break the contract. Maybe you’re disappointed with the work the SEO has produced, or maybe your marketing department wants to focus resources on a different traffic source.

Regardless, find out if there are any fees written into the contract for early termination. Have them changed if you need to.

13. Have you worked with penalized sites? If so, how did you fix them?

Penalties weren’t really part of the SEO landscape until a few years ago.

Instead of penalizing sites for violating certain guidelines, like building backlinks, Google used to devalue the backlinks. Once Google was able to accurately determine which sites were using spam tactics, it started penalizing sites (like with Penguin).

Since 2011 or so, both manual and algorithmic penalties have skyrocketed. If your SEO has been working for at least a few years, they’ve no doubt been involved in working with a penalized site.

Once a site has been hit with a penalty, it’s not easy to recover it. However, good SEOs can still achieve a pretty high success rate.

Find out how successful your potential SEO has been at bringing sites back from the brink as well as how they will prevent those penalties from occurring in the future (to your site).

14. Are you up to date with the latest algorithm changes?

While I told you earlier that Google releases about 500 algorithm changes per year, they aren’t all significant.

Most of them have a very minor impact on any one site.

There are, however, a select group of algorithm updates that were significant enough to deserve being named. All SEOs should be familiar with all of these.

You can see an updated list of algorithms at Search Engine Land:

Ask your SEO to describe a few of them, and then confirm that they know what they’re talking about by reading through those links.

All you’re trying to do here is filter out incredibly inexperienced SEOs or the ones that are just trying to make a quick buck without having much expertise in the field.

I don’t know if it needs to be said, but ask these over Skype/phone or in person so that they can’t just Google an explanation and email it back.

In addition, you want an SEO that stays up to date with SEO news. Ideally, they should be active in forums and other SEO communities.

One way to quickly test this is to ask them to name a few of the most recent major algorithm updates.

Moz keeps an updated list of all major algorithm updates that you can use to check if they’re correct:

It’s not important that they know the exact date of an update, but if they can say: “There was a Panda update in July and a Quality update a few months before that,” they obviously know their stuff.

15. How will your team adapt your strategy to my industry?

In my experience, most small to medium sized business owners are hesitant to invest in SEO because they’re not sure that it will work for their industry.

If that’s you, you’re not necessarily wrong; some SEO strategies and tactics will not work in your industry.

That being said, a good SEO/marketer knows how to adapt an SEO strategy to work for virtually any industry. If you ask them this question, they should be able to address your concerns.

16. How do you determine if you’re successful?

If your expectations are not met, you’ll feel frustrated.

The clearer you are on what to expect from your SEO, and the better they understand what you need from them, the less frustration both of you will experience.

This question is designed to shed some light on how your potential SEOs determine if their work has been successful.

Do they aim to increase traffic by %X in Y months? Do they want to see a %X increase in a specific metric? Do they consider themselves successful if they can get a main keyword onto the first page? top 3 rankings? number 1?

Whatever their answer is, it will help you determine if you think a successful result on their end would justify the investment you’re about to make on yours.

Also, ask: “Which metrics do you track?” If this didn’t come up when you asked them about reporting, ask it now.

This is a really easy way to differentiate between experienced, successful SEOs/marketers and the rest.

Pretty much any SEO will include the following:

keyword rankings search traffic on-page metrics (bounce rate, time on page, etc.)

But for the most part, only solid firms and freelancers will mention one of two things: either return on investment (ROI) or conversions, possibly both.

Although keyword rankings and traffic increases are nice, they don’t really mean anything. You want traffic that actually builds your business.

Yes, those metrics all go hand-in-hand most of the time, but experienced SEOs and marketers know that they don’t always, which is why more attention needs to go to ROI and/or conversions.

17. Why should we hire you over other SEOs?

This is obviously a very open-ended question. It doesn’t have a right answer.

What you’re really looking for are a few red flag answers. If they respond with anything involving:

we’re cheaper than other options we can build you more backlinks (instead of better quality) we don’t know we can get you faster results,

then you need to proceed cautiously.

Good SEO will not come cheap. Why? Because as I said, good SEO work can add tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to your bottom line. It is an investment that takes at least a few months to see significant results.

If the SEO you’re interviewing is advising you to cut corners or be extremely aggressive with link building, it’s best to move on to the next candidate.

Ideally, when you ask this question, they will respond by pointing to their track record that should include their past successes, current and past happy clients, and the respect their name and brand have in the industry.


Remember that SEO is a long-term investment.

It’s going to take months before results, or a lack of results, become apparent. One of the biggest reasons why shady SEO firms continue to stay in business is because they aren’t found out for many months.

Many of the 17 questions I’ve laid out for you in this post are designed to help you weed out those shady SEO companies and individuals.

The other questions will help you decide if a particular company offering SEO help is worth hiring for your business.

Use as many or as few of these questions as you need to ensure you find SEO help you can trust.

It may be a pain, but trust me, a good SEO team can be essential to building a business to 7 figures or more.

If you have any questions about these points, or if you think I forgot to mention something important on the topic, leave me a comment below.

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12 Content Marketing Lessons Learned in 12 Years of Blogging

Happy 12th Birthday to TopRank Marketing’s Online Marketing Blog!

In Malcom Gladwell’s book, Outliers: The Story of Success, he mentions the “10,000-Hour Rule”, which describes the key to achieving world class expertise in any skill as a matter of practicing for a total of 10,000 hours or so.

By many definitions, this humble marketing blog has involved many more than 10,000 hours of practice. While we’ve achieved many milestones from being the only blog ranked the #1 content marketing blog three times by CMI to helping our boutique digital marketing agency reach a worldwide audience, it continues to be a work in progress.

There are multiple dimensions for evaluating a blog’s impact. Here is some statistical trivia about TopRank’s Marketing Blog (thanks to BuzzSumo) representing some of this “practice makes expert” effort.

3,943 posts and 1.9 million words (overall) 1,026 average social shares per post in 2015 1.5 million+ unique visitors in 2015 Lists and How to Posts attract the most average social shares in 2015 Monday and Thursday are the top days for social shares in 2015 Posts with 3-10k words attract the most shares in 2015

Our industry is in a constant state of flux and many companies continue to come in and out of the blogging world. We’ve found blogging to be effective in numerous ways, long before the popularity of social media, content marketing and influencer marketing.

From recruiting to reinforcing customer relationships to growing industry thought leadership to direct customer acquisition, blogging is one of the most demanding yet rewarding marketing investments a company can make. Some of that popularity is measured through social media and to get a sense for what kind of content resonates with our community, here are the top 10 most popular posts for 2015 (by social shares)

50 Influential Women in Digital Marketing – 6,283 shares Social Media Marketing Management Tools List – Updated! – 4,259 shares 5 Social Media Marketing Tips for Business – 2,928 shares Where Social Media and SEO Fit in Today’s Content Marketing Mix – 2,688 shares 6 Steps to Build a Massive Audience with Content Marketing – 2,674 shares Content Marketing Tools A to Z That You Can Use in 2015 and Beyond – 2,624 shares 4 Digital Marketing Investments All Companies Need to Make – 2,562 shares 25 Inspiring & Actionable Content Marketing Tips – 2,421 shares Report: True Impact of Social Media Marketing for Business – 2,301 shares 6 Bad Content Marketing Habits – 2,225 shares

The dynamic of being active in the industry and sharing insights as well as lessons learned is essential of a longstanding blog. Along those lines, here are a few insights you may find useful whether you’re just starting a new business blog or evaluating the direction of your current blog.

12 content marketing lessons I’ve learned from 12 years of blogging:

“Be the best answer.”

1.  Decide what you stand for and aspire to becoming the best resource for your community on that thing. To many companies try to be all things to all people with their blog, emphasizing a “more is better” approach. Specificity rises to the top in all things – especially in social media, search and the offline world.
2. Document your success in a specialty area and then duplicate that success in others. Expand your scope of knowledge and industry thought leadership following your own lessons learned in the process of  becoming “the best answer” for your community.
3. Optimize for answers in your blog content planning. Leverage search keyword data as well as social topic trends for voice of the customer insights you can use in content optimization. You can also monitor questions being asked and answered between customers and your sales and customer service teams. Being the best answer is a continuous effort of understanding the questions your audience is asking and optimizing your answers through content in an info-taining way.

“A blog is only as interesting as the interest shown in your community.”

4. Recognize your community by featuring influencers, internal team members, customers, members of the media, your community, or prospective customers in your blog content. Make lists, co-create, do interviews, liveblog and get quotes for blog posts to shine a light on talent. Becoming influential is great. Helping others become influential is how you gain true influence. Show an interest in your community, engage and recognize. Do that, and you will never run out of relevant topics to blog about.
5. Listen to your community through social media monitoring tools, sentiment analysis of blog comments, and contact forms, using social search tools like BuzzSumo and reviewing your own web and search analytics. Understand what your blog community is interested in and give it to them through blog content.
6. Inspire others by actively engaging on social networks, at industry events and in the right places where your community can participate. Social engagement can be overwhelming for many understaffed business blogging departments. Focus on just a few minutes a day consistently and use tools like social media monitoring or social search to uncover opportunities to poll your community, recognize their interactions with your brand and to answer questions – be useful.

“Great content isn’t great until people find, consume and act on it.”

7. Use search, social and target audience data to inspire content themes, topics and keyword optimization. Topical relevance is as important as keyword relevance for blog content discovery. Far too many companies focus entirely on content creation without considering blog content promotion. Make sure the blog content is what your community is actively looking for and talking about on the social web. Being relevant in this way will fuel inbound traffic and social sharing, which will attract even more blog traffic.
8. Empathize with your readers and create relevance through context and content that is meaningful. Learn the content preferences of your audience from topics to visuals to what devices they most often use to consume your blog. Go beyond thinking about your blog as a marketing tool and consider what would be the best experience for your readers.
9. Continuously review blog content promotion efforts and traffic sources to optimize performance. Conduct SEO, Content, Social Media and Conversion audits on your blog at least quarterly. With specific goals in mind for your blog, you should be able to tie blog performance back to goals. Performance is not just contribution to marketing, but the ability of your blog to satisfy the information needs of your community.

“If you want your content to be great, ask your community to participate.”

10. Identify the distinct audiences of your blog and create ways for those specific communities to contribute. Content co-creation can inspire promotion and improve blog quality. Most blogging efforts within companies are understaffed with high expectations. The most effective way to scale quality blog content and promotion is to involve the very community you’re trying to reach in the content creation.
11. Develop a mix of specialty post and recurring posts that allow you to attract new contributors and co-creators as well as a platform for return contributors. Content is a great relationship builder between any constituent audience and your brand whether they contributors are prospective clients, members of industry media or potential business partners.
12. Recognize contributors in a meaningful way. Share quantitative performance as well as qualitative feedback. People will work for a living, but die for recognition – as long as it means something.

Thank you to our community for being supportive of TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog over the past 12 years. Thank you to the candidates and companies that have taken that important step of following TopRank Marketing’s point of view on marketing through our blog and then engaging as an employee or customer.

I can’t tell you how many people have approached me over the years or who have sent letters and emails to say they’ve been reading our blog for years and that it has helped them in their marketing careers. It is very satisfying to know that something like a blog can both help you grow your business but also positively impact your industry.

A BIG THANKS to the TopRank Marketing agency team of blog contributors in 2015 including:

Ashley Zeckman, who has made a huge contribution in 2015 with over 75 posts including the most popular post of the year. This is the first time someone has published more posts than me  and it feels great! Ben Brausen for consistently publishing helpful Friday news roundups. (54 posts) Josh Nite who has raised the bar on TopRank Blog content and has inspired the rest of us to improve our writing and content quality. (13 posts) Alexis Hall who has shared posts on client side marketing, marketing automation and has helped with livebloging. (11 posts) Evan Prokop who has found the time to share his SEO expertise and help with liveblogging. (11 posts) Debbie Friez who has done a great job with sharing her social media marketing smarts and liveblogging. (7 posts) Michael Bak who has shared his online advertising expertise for search and social media. (5 posts) Leila De La Fuente who has shared a mix of digital marketing expertise including online advertising, search marketing and ecommerce. (4 posts) Joel Carlson who has contributed several highly useful social media marketing posts. (4 posts) Caitlin Burgess who has jumped right into one of the toughest types of posts not long after coming on board at TopRank Marketing. (3 posts) Nick Ehrenberg who has published some very popular social media marketing posts. (3 posts) Jolina Pettice who is the busiest person I know at our agency (besides Susan Misukanis) and still found time to contribute (1 post)

What does 2016 have in store for TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog? A long overdue re-design, more contributions from the fast growing team at TopRank Marketing and even more useful insight to help our community become smarter and more creative marketers that can achieve real business results.

Thank you for reading, sharing, commenting and being a part of our community!

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© Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®, 2015. | 12 Content Marketing Lessons Learned in 12 Years of Blogging |

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'Twas the Night Before Christmas... Moz-Style

Posted by FeliciaCrawford

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all throughout Moz
Not a laptop was whirring, the office on pause.
The colorful Great Wheel spun slow on the pier,
Downtown Seattle alive with good cheer.

The Moz Dogs were nestled at home in their beds,
Dreams of dropped tacos alive in their heads.
And I, staying late to write on the blog,
Had just closed my MacBook, and downed my eggnog.

Whence from down the hall came a soft pitter-patter;
I arose from my desk to spy what was the matter.
Peering ‘round corners, obscured by the dark,
Though I couldn’t see who, something gave a small bark.

Then, lit by the glow of some USB lights,
To my eyes did appear a confusing sight.
With a fuzzy red cap and Muppet-like paws,
Lettie Pickles the Moz Dog looked like...Santa Claus?

Though smaller in stature, with pointier teeth,
Her red hat the colorful glow did enwreathe.
With a very stuffed sack and a beard mighty thick,
No way to deny, she looked just like St. Nick!

As I watched from the shadows, her night’s work begun,
St. Pickles took off with her bag at a run.
From desktop to desktop, from seat to seat,
All Mozzers were gifted with savory treats.

While the flavor of liver won’t everyone please,
To give with abandon, the spirit it frees.
As she sprinted around with a comical gait,
From her magical gift bag did drop some small freight.

Creeping forward to read the scribbled-upon note,
(No crying, I swear! In my eye, a dust-mote).
The night’s giving detailed, no naughty or nice,
Just a list of those needing some holiday spice.

All over the world, dogs old and dogs young,
St. Pickles some holiday cheer will have brung.
As I stood there agape, the note in my hand,
Silent beside me Lettie Claus did stand.

With a wag of the tail and a sparkle of tooth,
No words were required to feel out the truth.
From Moz to the streets, from my home to yours,
It’s all about helping folks win their hard wars.

With all treats delivered and message made clear,
Lettie Pickles leapt off, other homes to appear.
So take just a moment, and Google a cause
Whether for those with two feet, roots, or four paws.

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The Day Remarketing Changed Forever

Posted by cmurf

Today, we're talking about June 25th, 2015: the day Google AdWords changed forever to allow Analytics remarketing audiences to be available for advertisers on search.

In our video blog, we'll begin by telling you why this is important and explain some problems it solves. We'll give you some examples of how you can use RLSAs, along with four benefits of using them. We've also included a simple example of how you can create one audience. And we'll conclude with the sequel to The Day Google AdWords Changed Forever.

This video is about 25 minutes long — if this hits your TLDW (too long, didn’t watch) limit, you can check out a shortened, related video on elegant remarketing on search, or read through the summary below.

1. AdWords Problems

Those familiar with Google AdWords will be aware that it is your website’s best (or second-best, behind organic) converting source of traffic. However, that's not to say that Google AdWords isn't without its problems.

We term the three most common issues we see with AdWords as:

The Leaky Bucket The Generic KeyWord Conundrum You Say Tomato The Leaky Bucket

The Leaky Bucket refers to instances where your AdWords budget is insufficient to cover all searches for your keywords. This means that you could potentially miss out on conversions due to your ad not showing along a user’s path to purchase.

The Generic Keyword Conundrum

We coined the phrase "Generic KeyWord Conundrum" for keywords that are relevant to your business and which will drive a lot of traffic to your website. However, this traffic can be top-of-funnel and less likely to convert. So, when you have a set budget, it may not always make sense to bid on generic keywords.

You Say Tomato

Then we come to the issue of the keyword itself. The best thing about AdWords is that it's based on keywords. You choose your keywords, set your bid, and off you go driving traffic to your website. Yet, it can often be difficult to understand the intent behind a user’s search term. For example, if a user searches for "pizza," it's difficult to know if they're searching for "pizza delivery," a nearby restaurant, or a recipe.

Encapsulating these issues, we can say that the biggest limitation for AdWords has been that we can only target by words (excluding the obvious targeting options of location, device, etc).

2. RLSAs & Google Analytics

We're always striving to innovate for our clients here at Wolfgang Digital; to this end, we have weekly learning sessions where we discuss the latest changes in AdWords and how we can introduce these to our clients’ accounts. So we were extremely excited when it was announced on June 25th that Analytics audiences would now become available within Remarketing Lists for Search Ads. Up to that point, you could use RLSAs only with your AdWords remarketing tag. This would now mean that we could use over 200 Google Analytics dimensions and metrics to create audiences for RLSAs.

Building out these audiences meant that we could effectively target people at all stages across the purchase funnel.

3. RLSAs & Audience building

Audience of website visitors

We could create an audience for past website visitors on the awareness stage. This means when we bid on keywords, we know that the user has been on our website and are familiar with our products, services, and price range. This user is more qualified and we can now tackle the Generic KeyWord Conundrum and also ensure that we do not suffer from the Leaky Bucket.

We can target Facebook traffic within the interest stage. Facebook drives lots of quality traffic, but it still suffers from lower conversion rates. Capturing this audience in Analytics and remarketing to them on search will allow advertisers to extract more value from their Facebook activity.

Case study 1: Brown Thomas

Our first case study comes from a department store in Dublin who wanted visibility on highly competitive keywords for cosmetic keywords. We knew from past AdWords performance and insights from their Google Analytics that we would have a tough time getting good coverage on these keywords, while keeping the campaigns profitable — so we decided to overlay the campaign with a remarketing list for people who had previously visited the website. This enabled us to improve conversion rate by 1,500% and reduce cost-per-sale by 94%.

Case study 2: iClothing

Our second case study comes from an online clothes retailer called iClothing. We manage their social accounts as well as their AdWords account, and could see that while social conversion rates were low, it was often a touchpoint on a user’s path to purchase. We created a list of users who had come to the iClothing website from one of our Facebook ads. Using this list within AdWords, we were able to show these users specific, Facebook-related ads encouraging them to return to the website to complete their purchase. This strategy allowed us to boost conversion rate by 165%, while reducing cost-per-sale by 84%.

Past purchases & repeat customers

Another smart way to capture an audience is to look at past purchasers and repeat customers. You can define these audiences based on users who have made exactly one purchase as a "past customer," and users who have made more than 1 purchase as "repeat customers." There are lots of studies that indicate customers will convert at a higher rate and spend more, so it makes sense to target customers differently than non-customers.

Case study 3: McElhinneys

Based on these studies, as well as our own insights from Google Analytics, we implemented a strategy for another one of our clients, McElhinneys, to break our audience down into 2 distinct categories: one for past customers, and one for users who were yet to purchase from us. This allowed us to target the 2 audiences in different ways and with different messages, as well as allowing us to split our budget as efficiently as possible. The implementation of this strategy led to a 324% boost in conversion rate, a 75% drop in cost-per-sale, and a 300% boost in Return On Ad Spend (ROAS).

Other audiences

There are a few other types of audiences to take note of that you might want to target. These could be cart abandoners, those who've visited a certain number of pages, or those who have spent a certain amount of time on your site — these people are more likely to be engaged with your site and your products.

4. How to create an audience

Make sure your Google Analytics account is linked to your Google AdWords account. Make sure Remarketing is on in the Data Collection setting in your Analytics account (this is essential!). Go to the "Audiences" settings in the Remarketing section of the Property column on the Admin page of your Google Analytics account. Click on "+New Audience." Select the Analytics view that you want to take this audience from and the AdWords account where you want to use the audience. You can then either create a new audience based on a number of characteristics, or import an existing segment as an audience. Once the audience is created, you’ll be able to see it in the Shared Library of your AdWords account.

Creating the audiences is a straightforward process. You need to visit the Remarketing section within Admin in Google Analytics. You then link with the appropriate AdWords account. Next, you can decide whether to use some available audiences, or import some segments already active within your Analytics account — or you can create a new audience.

Creating a new audience is easy. You can build an audience based on demographics, technology, behavior, date of first session, or traffic source. For example, we can create an audience for traffic that arrives from source = Facebook & Medium = CPC and this will create an audience of all Paid Facebook traffic (assuming you use GTMs to tag your Facebook Paid traffic with Medium = CPC).

The next time you visit the Audience section of your AdWords Shared Library, you'll see your new Analytics audience available.

5. Benefits of RLSAs

Now we'll look at four benefits of using RLSAs.

Control budget

First up, it allows us to control budget. We can ensure that we place sufficient budget on our best-performing campaigns. We have mentioned using RLSAs for past purchasers — in this case, we can ensure that any campaign targeting past purchasers has full impression share, as this campaign will be most likely to convert.

Control ad message

Our second benefit is that we can control our ad message. For example, after capturing a Facebook audience who has viewed our Spring/Summer dresses, we can tailor our creative by referencing Facebook and a Summer Sale.

Control KPIs

The third benefit is that we can control KPIs. We can now differentiate our campaigns between customer retention and customer acquisition, and designate our KPIs accordingly.

Control targeting

Finally, the fourth benefit allows us to control targeting. We can decide exactly what audiences we are showing our search ads to. We can move beyond mere keyword targeting and now add the layer of an audience, making Google AdWords even more powerful.

6. The Day Adwords Changed Forever: Further developments with RLSAs

But, like all great stories, there is a sequel. The Day AdWords Changed Forever, Part II was when Google moved beyond audience targeting based on Analytics and introduced first-party data with Customer Match. Having witnessed the success of Facebook’s and Twitter’s use of email lists within their platform, it became inevitable that AdWords would allow advertisers to use email lists on search.

Building audiences via Analytics has its limitations. It is cookie-based, so a user could delete their cookies and we would lose them. They also do not cross devices so again we might be missing our audience when they switch devices. This makes email lists much more powerful, as we can now target users across devices when they're logged into Google.

There are requirements to enable Customer Match, but if you go through the video blog above, we include a way to hack these requirements.

Customer Match

Go to the Audiences section of the Shared Library of your Google AdWords account, click on "+Remarketing List" and click on "Customer Emails." You can then name your list and upload a .csv file with the email addresses on it. You also need to provide a URL where users can unsubscribe from the list. Define the duration of this audience, i.e. how long a user will remain part of this audience. Click "Upload and save list." Wait until your list has been processed and if there are enough valid email addresses, you can then start to advertise to that list.

Thanks for watching and reading along today. We'd love to hear your thoughts on RLSAs and AdWords — sound off in the comments section below!

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Announcing Moz's New Beginner's Guide to Content Marketing

Posted by Trevor-Klein

I'm thrilled to announce the next in Moz's series of beginner's guides:
The Beginner's Guide to Content Marketing.

Content marketing is a field full of challenges. Creating content that provides great value to your audience what we've come to call 10x content is difficult enough, but content marketers also regularly encounter skeptical employers and clients, diminutive budgets, and you guessed it a noted lack of time to get it all done. You're not alone. You're fighting the good fight, and we're here to back you up. So is Carl.

Meet Carl, the Content Cat. He'll show up in every chapter of the guide for a little levity and to remind you that you're in good company.

There's no denying the importance of content marketing. In its annual study of more than 5,000 marketers, the Content Marketing Institute showed that about 70% of all marketers, B2B and B2C, are creating more content than they did one year ago. Nearly half of B2C marketers have a dedicated content marketing group in their organizations. While this guide is written primarily for those who are relatively new to content marketing, we'd certainly recommend that more advanced marketers take a look through, as we often find veteran teams are missing some key fundamentals.

Say no more; show me the guide!

What you'll learn

The guide has nine chapters, and we've organized them in the order we think folks should think about them when they're approaching content marketing. Start with planning and goals, move through ideation and execution, then wrap up with analysis and revisions to the process.

1. What is content marketing? Is it right for my business?

Before we dive too deep into strategy and tactics, there's something we need to clear up: What in the world is content marketing, anyway? Look it up in 10 different places, and you'll get 10 different answers to that question. In this chapter, we break it down and offer a look into whether or not it's a worthwhile investment of your time (spoiler alert: It is).

2. Content strategy

Arguably the most important part of any content marketing effort, your content strategy is what keeps you aligned with your company's goals, ensuring you're putting your time and effort into areas that will help move needles and earn you the recognition you deserve. There's more to it than meets the eye, though, and this chapter paints a holistic picture to get you started.

3. Content and the marketing funnel

Most folks who are new to content marketing assume that it belongs right at the top of the marketing funnel. We'd like to bust it out of that pigeonhole. The truth is that content belongs at every stage of the funnel, from brand awareness and early acquisition to retention of loyal customers. This chapter shows you which kinds of content typically work well for each major phase of the funnel.

4. Building a framework and a content team

There are some things you'll need to figure out before you even start coming up with ideas for your content. What tools will you use to create it? What processes and standards will you put in place? Who will you work with, and how can you get them aligned with your goals? Setting the framework for your future success will save you from major headaches, and this chapter aims to make sure there's nothing you're overlooking.

5. Content ideation

We've all had it happen. We need to write something be it a blog post, a whitepaper, even an email and when we sit down to make it happen, nothing. No ideas come to mind. Coming up with ideas for content that really resonates is deceptively difficult, but there are many tricks that'll help get the proverbial gears turning. We'll go through those in this chapter.

6. Content creation

After all that planning, it's finally time to dive in and do the hard work of actually creating your content. From getting the formatting right and working with design/UX teams to the most important cliche you can remember — to focus on quality, not quantity — this chapter will help you make the most effective use of your time.

7. Content promotion

You've done it. You've put together a wonderful piece of 10x content, and can't wait to see the response. Only one thing stands in your way: Getting it in front of the right people. From working with industry influencers to syndication and social promotion, there are a great many ways to connect your content with your audiences; it's just a matter of choosing the right ones. This chapter aims to point you down the right path.

8. Analysis and reporting

Nobody (seriously, nobody) is able to perfectly target their audiences. We make assumptions based on what we know (and can surmise) about the things readers will find valuable. The only way we can get better is by taking a look at how our past content performed. That's easier said than done, though, and data can often be misleading. This chapter shows you the basics of measurement and reporting so you can get an accurate picture of how things are going.

9. Iteration, maintenance, and growth

Like all aspects of marketing, content should be iterative. You should take a close look at how your past work resonated with your audience, learn from what went right (and what went wrong), and revise your approach next time around. It also pays to revisit your processes from time to time; as your organization and your audience grow, the tactics that served you well at the beginning could well be holding you back now. This chapter explores how you can scale your content efforts without sacrificing the quality you've worked so hard to instill.

What are we waiting for? Let's get started!


The biggest thanks and the majority of the credit for this guide go to Isla McKetta. She was an immense help with early planning, and wrote the lion's share of the guide. Derric Wise led the UX efforts, illustrating much of the guide and bringing Carl the Content Cat to life. Huge thanks also go to both Kevin Engle and Abe Schmidt for their fantastic illustrations. Thanks as well to Lisa Wildwood for her keen editing eyes, and to Ronell Smith and Christy Correll for their additional reviews. This guide never would have happened without all of you. =)

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Using Social Media as Your Primary (or Only) Link Building Tactic Probably Won't Work - Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

A concept we've covered regularly is what we call flywheel marketing, where the organic traffic, shares, and links you get from publishing one piece of content makes it easier for later pieces to see some success. One of the key pieces of that flywheel is the ability to get those social shares, and based on a recent study, we're ready to admit it: We were completely wrong about that key piece.

In today's Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains why, and that the real value may lie in engagement.

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

Video transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we're talking about an assumption that I think many of us have made over the years. I know I have. In fact, I've amplified that. I might have even covered it on Whiteboard Friday. Thanks to some research that we've done together with BuzzSumo, as well as some research we've seen from our correlation study this summer, you know what? It's looking like we were just dead wrong on this very important aspect of how SEO and social media and content marketing fit together.

You've probably seen me present on this either here on Whiteboard Friday or in one of my slide decks or in a blog post. It's this idea of flywheel marketing, where you create some great content, you amplify that content via social media and your social channels, you attract visitors through that, you naturally earn links from some of those people who visit your site, and you grow your social following. Now, the next time your audience potential is bigger and your rankings potential is also bigger, because you have more links coming to your site, and that helps all the other pages on your site. You have a bigger social audience, so now there are more people to amplify to.

You know what? It actually looks like this is totally broken and wrong. The idea that you are naturally earning links from people who come via social looks to us like it was a bunk belief in its entirety. Let me show you.

First off, BuzzSumo did the vast majority of the work. I appreciate them including Moz as well. We did participate in some of our link metrics. The BuzzSumo crew did a bunch of this work. They looked at articles that received social shares, in fact a million articles that were taken from their database, and then they looked at the number of shares and the number of links those received.

The vast, vast majority received zero links. In fact, 75% plus of all articles they looked at received zero, not a single one, social shares. Same with links, by the way. I think it was 90% plus for links or maybe even more.

This is a like a power-law distribution. You're essentially seeing that a few articles get all the shares out there. Everything else really gets nothing. If you're not going to be in the top 10% of content that's created, don't even bother. You're not going to get shares. You're not going to get links. You're not going to get traffic. Forget it. A lot of content marketing is probably spent in vain. Granted, maybe a lot of that is learning what actually works and experimenting, and that's fine.

Then they looked at the correlation between links and shares.

As you can see from this crudely drawn scatter plot, no correlation whatsoever. If you were to draw the line here, it would probably be something like, "Oh look at that total crap correlation." Here are the numbers. Facebook, 0.0221. Twitter, 0.0281. Ooh, slightly better, but still in the realm of totally insignificant. Google+ 0.0058. You're just talking about numbers that suggest essentially that there is virtually no correlation between links and shares.

Now they did look at places where there were lots of shares and links, and those tended to be a few things. I'll let you read the report, and you should. I think it's one of the most important reports to come out in our industry in a while. Credit to BuzzSumo for putting it together.

We know from our research. We've done experiments looking at whether anchor text still moves things. We've done experiments looking at whether URL mentions move the needle. URL mentions don't, by the way. Once you turn them into live links, they do. We've looked at whether you can actually rank content without any links at all. It turns out almost impossible, so next to impossible that we couldn't find a single credible example of a page that ranked without any links unless it was on a site that had lots of links pointing to it.

We know we still need links to rank.

In fact, notably ranking correlations with links haven't dropped over the last few years. Even though we all feel like the algorithm's getting a little less link centric, and I think it is, links are still clearly very, very powerful. So we have to worry about things like outreach and link focused content and embeds and tools and badges and competitive link analysis and all the other many link building methods that the marketing industry has come up with over the years.

I have a theory about why this is.

I think Google is honest when they tell us, "We don't look at social shares to determine rankings." I think what Google sees is something Chartbeat showed a few years ago. This was another excellent study that I encourage you to check out. Chartbeat basically analyzed engagement on socially shared content. What they saw was a plot that looks like this. Very, very few social articles have high read time. Even the ones that have lots of social sharing have very little read time.

It turns out a ton of things that people share socially on the Web, they don't read at all. They may click Retweet. They may even include the URL. They might share it on Facebook. But they, themselves, may never have even visited that content. Sounds crazy, but I bet you've done it. I bet I've done it. I bet I've been like well, you know, it was probably a good edition of Whiteboard Friday, I'll go share it out, having not yet watched the video and seen whether I did a good job or not. That's just the way of the Web.

I think Google cares much more about the engagement than they do about the social share counts themselves.

So you can see lots of things with social shares not performing well. But once they start to get engagement and start to earn links from that engagement, now they're suddenly ranking.

Hopefully, with this knowledge in mind, you can go back to the drawing board a little bit if you've built up, like we have, this mental model of how the flywheel works. Look, I'm not saying that this works for no one. This actually works pretty well for Moz. It works pretty well for us in this industry, but I think, and clearly the data is showing, that across the vast majority of the Web it's statistically extremely unlikely this will work for you or for everyone else.

I think we need to revisit this. We probably need to revisit our link building. We need to think about social in a different context of how and whether it's earning people who will actually come to our site and want to link to us and people who will come to our site and want to engage, or whether it's just a vanity metric.

All right, everyone, I look forward to your comments. We'll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by

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Digital Marketing Spotlight: Rishi Dave, CMO at Dun & Bradstreet

Marketing executives are more challenged than ever to create effective organizations and operations to succeed in an increasingly converged, content and inbound marketing world.

In this latest TopRank Marketing Digital Marketing Spotlight interview, Rishi Dave, CMO at Dun & Bradstreet, talks about the strategic responsibility differences of entering a CMO role, advice on creating an effective inbound marketing organization, the importance of content, the convergence of marketing and PR and whether senior executives should focus on their personal brand.

It’s been nearly two years since you moved from being Executive Director, Digital Marketing at Dell to your current role as CMO at Dun & Bradstreet. What are some of the changes you had to make in terms of your responsibilities, marketing organization and the change in industry?

A CMO role differs greatly from a senior marketing role. I cover a much broader scope beyond the digital focus I had at Dell.

As well, as the Dun & Bradstreet CMO, I spend a significant amount of time with my peers driving the broader company strategy beyond the marketing function. However, my modern marketing mindset contributes valuably to the strategy.

I also act in an external capacity, both in the offline and online world. This allows me to remain transparent and accessible to all audiences as the face of the company and its culture.

What are some of the criteria an organization should satisfy to have a CMO level marketing executive, vs. a SVP or VP of Marketing?

The answer depends entirely on the goals of the organization. Does the company merely need a great marketer, or a leader to implement a vision across the entire company with a marketing mindset?

A CMO drives customer experience – the totality of interactions a customer has with the company across all areas.

A CMO drives customer experience – the totality of interactions a customer has with the company across all areas (sales, marketing, service, product, contracting, etc.). Modern CMOs have the skills and authority to integrate all these silos to provide an integrated customer experience while other marketers may not.

While at Dell, you built the digital inbound marketing capability and organization. What advice do you have for other marketing executives challenged now to do the same?

Don’t simply jump into tactics…make sure you have something unique to say.

Don’t simply jump into tactics around analytics, technology, and content operations. Make sure you have something unique to say and that the organization understands what that messaging is. Until you have that, and a culture that supports it, great execution of inbound will not break through the noise.

At Dun & Bradstreet, I focused first on working with the Chief People Officer to drive a clearly defined purpose and values. My team then built a new go to market strategy and associated messaging. Only after this did we start to scale the inbound machine to drive pipeline.

Marketing and communications roles are converging within many organizations as owned, earned, paid and social media intertwine. With PR, AR and Marketing as part of your domain, what does the modern marketing and PR entity look like? Are they converged, independent or something new?

Communications plays a critical role in driving early stage thought leadership for the company as a whole to all the firm’s constituencies. Public relations experts are the storytellers to media, analysts, and influencers, leading to broad marketing and brand awareness, while other disciplines of marketing are concerned mostly with selling to customers.

Both PR and marketing functions leverage the same resources (content, digital, production, creative, etc.) to get things done which ensures integration of efforts and messaging.

According to the annual CMI and MarketingProfs study, fewer marketers are implementing content marketing and yet many organizations are still dealing with content shock (too much content). What role does content play in your demand generation and overall marketing plans?

Content is fundamental. I have a separate organization reporting to me that focuses on content marketing. However, they don’t just create content. They orchestrate the entire content supply chain which consists of coordinating all the people, both internally and externally, who are creating content and ensuring that there is a process from content ideation to creation to promotion.

There may not be a need for more content, but there is a need for higher quality content that delivers new insights.

The study referenced is more reflective of the fact that a handful of marketers are creating too much content that is simply repetitive and uninteresting, repackaging the same messaging in new and faux-clever ways as click bait. There may not be a need for more content, but there is a need for higher quality content that delivers new insights.

How do you balance hiring more marketing staff vs. using outside vendors and agencies? What trends do you see in terms of outsourcing vs. insourcing marketing talent?

External vendors and agencies generally possess a specialized skill or technology that we cannot replicate internally or one that we do not need on a consistent basis. This contrasts from the more general agencies of a long time ago. We evaluate our external provider portfolio constantly and make changes as needed given the rapidity of change.

How important is it for senior marketing executives to pay attention to their own personal brand? Any advice for those ignoring it?

Every marketer must meticulously manage his or her personal brand. I give this advice to undergraduates all the time. If you are not managing your personal brand, especially online, you don’t have a visceral understanding of how marketing works. Also, every hiring manager will look at how you manage your online brand first.

Managing your online profile provides an incredible opportunity to practice everything that makes marketers great.

Managing your online profile provides an incredible opportunity to practice everything that makes marketers great (writing, creative, tech savvy, etc.). In many ways, the CMO represents the company, and must manage his or her profile.

What are some of your top digital marketing priorities for 2016?

We’ll continue to refine our go-to-market messaging and strategy, and part of that work will include an increased and enhanced Web presence.

We will scale marketing more effectively globally, drive pipeline, and build the brand through efficient and effective communications / influencers. We’ve been testing Account Based Marketing successfully and we will look to scale this substantially.

How do you stay current on marketing and technology and what information sources do you find most useful?

I am a voracious consumer of content on the Web and books (mainly psychology and sci- fi). I find blogs and online influencers most useful in learning about the latest thinking in marketing, while books are most useful in understanding dense topics like psychology and the predictions of the future.

Let’s play social media word association. What’s the first word that comes to mind for each of the following social networks or apps?

Facebook – friends
Vine – hard
LinkedIn – B2B content
Twitter – Influencers
Meerkat or Periscope – Wait and see
Google+ – no
Snapchat – youth
YouTube – viral
Instagram – photos
Flickr – photos
Pinterest – beautiful
My Space –consumer

Thanks Rishi!

You can connect with Rishi on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Be sure to watch for the next in our series of digital marketing interviews with senior marketing executives at major B2B and B2C brands.

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© Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®, 2015. | Digital Marketing Spotlight: Rishi Dave, CMO at Dun & Bradstreet |

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3 Examples of How Partnering with Influencers on Content Creates a Winning Combination

“Influencer Marketing” is a phrase that has gained momentum over the past few years. It seems that everywhere you turn, marketers are telling you that you need to incorporate influencers as part of your integrated digital marketing strategy. But the question is, does it really work?

Many companies may not have the staff or resources to run a full-fledged influencer marketing strategy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t begin dabbling in influencer marketing campaigns to help meet marketing and business objectives. A successful approach to influencer marketing provides value for both the company, and the influencers that participate. 

One ripe opportunity for building awareness and integrating influencer marketing into your marketing mix is to use it as a means to help promote events. 

Below are three stories of how TopRank Marketing helped three companies incorporate content and influencer marketing to create a winning combination for event promotion.

#1 – Collaborating with Influencers on a Blog Post to  Increase Target Conversion Pageviews

A leading genealogy research company wanted to leverage their involvement in the annual RootsTech event that averages around 20,000 attendees. In order to take advantage of a clearly identified and qualified audience, this company worked with TopRank Marketing to develop a content and social amplification plan that included contributions from industry influencers.

Objective: Collaborate with influencers to drive traffic to a specific high priority page on the business website.

Campaign elements included:

Content that included tips from influencers on how to best create a genealogy project Thought leader outreach for contribution Social message development to encourage amplification of the content Cross promotion of influencers within social messages to increase reach

Results: Visits to the landing page increased significantly and the social reach exceeded all predictions and expectations. 

#2 – Using Influencers to Create Evergreen Content to Build Credibility

One of the largest healthcare technology companies in the United States participates in an annual event managed by Healthcare Information and Management Systems (HIMSS). Healthcare technology is an incredibly competitive field and marketing is heavily regulated. That means that companies in this industry have a unique opportunity to get creative with their approach.

Objective: Partner with influencers to create awareness at the event and develop evergreen content that is still promotable post-event.

Campaign elements included:

eBook including contributions from top healthcare experts Gated landing page of the eBook on the company website Optimization of the content for search Paid and organic social amplification Banner advertisement on the company blog Supporting blog content

Results: This co-created campaign generated 22x the typical page views of previous landing pages and 3x as many downloads compared to other recent fulfillment pieces. 

#3 – Increasing Event Awareness with Co-Creation

Content Marketing World is the largest content marketing event in the world. But, competition in the digital marketing industry is becoming increasingly fierce, which means they need to find a creative way to provide valuable content for marketers. Content Marketing World partnered with TopRank Online Marketing to create a series of four eBooks (and supporting content) to provide attendees and potential attendees with tips from some of today’s top content marketers.

Objective: Develop an opportunity for influential speakers to participate in content creation that would promote their presentations, the CMWorld conference and create a useful and infotaining resource for all marketers interested in content marketing.

Campaign elements included:

4 Alice in Wonderland themed eBooks co-created with conference speakers 4 infographics that included tips from the speakers Long form interviews to promote speaker sessions and expertise Tweetable quotes to encourage social sharing Paid and organic social amplification

Results: The campaign eBooks have garnered over 200,000 views on SlideShare and captured more than 1,000 leads.

Ready to Embark on Your Own Influencer Marketing Initiative?

These examples only provide a glimpse into the possibilities you can uncover with an influencer marketing program. Over the next few months, TopRank Marketing’s CEO Lee Odden will be speaking at some of the largest national and virtual conferences in the United States on the topic of influencer marketing and how to incorporate it into your digital marketing mix. 

If you’re interested to learn more about the benefits of adding influencer marketing to your integrated digital marketing strategy, please visit our website and learn more about our influencer marketing programs.

Header image via Shutterstock.

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© Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®, 2015. | 3 Examples of How Partnering with Influencers on Content Creates a Winning Combination |

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