MNSearch-Summit-2015

In order to be an effective digital marketer, it’s imperative that you understand the role that search plays in all of your marketing initiatives. The search landscape is quickly evolving and sometimes what you need is a helping hand from some industry experts to set you down the path to success.

Amazingly, that is just what we experienced at this years MNSearch Summit. Alexis Hall, Evan Prokop, Joel Carlson, Kat Steiner and I took a leap across the river into St. Paul Minnesota for a day filled with actionable information that can be used to improve any digital marketing program.

If you were not able to attend, or maybe didn’t get to see all of the sessions that you would have liked, we’ve provided a helpful roundup of 5 of the takeaways that we believed were most impactful for digital marketers.

ahall

Team Member: Alexis Hall

Session: The Data-Driven Content Marketer – Sean Callahan, LinkedIn

The statement exemplifies the pain marketers have been feeling for over 75 years. Imaging the glory days of a 1950s Don Draper, when advertising was based on gut feel, seeing into the soul of the customer. Some things worked and some things didn’t.  The problem was – it was very difficult to tell which was which.

As savvy content marketers today, we certainly know more about performance than the 1950s ad man, but many of us still feel a gap when it comes to measuring content. We are ready to move beyond page views and social shares to find out if our content is really working.

Enter – big data. It’s no surprise that the amount of data is ramping up:

  • 5 Quintillion bytes of data created every day across the globe
  • 90% of existing data has been created in the last 2 years
  • 90% of buyer journey completed by the time a prospect reaches out to a salesperson

Throughout his presentation, Sean provided examples of companies like Netflix, Google, Zendesk and many more that are using data to guide their content marketing strategy.

He explained that one approach to creating relevant content is the Big Rock Approach, when one big piece of content in a period feeds other content marketing efforts.

The Big Rock Approach follows these steps:

  1. Start with keyword research: Find out what your customers asking and where that intersects with your business.
  2. Repurpose content like leftover turkey: Use tactics such as slide presentations, blogs, infographics, webinars and videos. Then drive your audience back to a gated piece of content to drive conversions.
  3. Use turkey slides to fuel your content hubs: Examples would include:
    1. Company pages
    2. Sponsored updates
    3. LinkedIn Groups
    4. SlideShare

When you are able to merge a data driven approach with truly relevant content then you can make your marketing really meaningful.

ksteiner

Team Member: Kat Steiner

Session: How to Win with the Unexpected in PPC – John Gagnon, Bing

In his session, Bing Ads Evangelist John Gagnon offered sound advice to help marketers look at solving problems in unique ways.

There were three strategies that John discussed including voice search, brand term bidding and offsite tagging. All of which can be used to help companies stay competitive with their online properties in the current digital landscape.

Voice Search

According to Gagnon, the increase in the use of voice search will alter how marketers strategize on behalf of their clients. Currently, 25% of inquiries come from a voice search. It is essential that steps are taken to target this specific audience segment.

The use of voice search is different from a typed inquiry in the following ways:

  • A searcher is mobile, so the results will change accordingly
  • A searcher is looking for local results
  • The search inquiry is shaped in a more conversational format

Brand Term Bidding

When looking to attract traffic for branded search, companies still need to utilize paid search opportunities in addition to organic strategies. By bidding on the highly visible paid space, companies can ensure less clicks go to their competitors.

Brand term bidding gives marketers control of what landing page a visitor arrives on. By maintaining visibility in the paid space for branded terms, a marketer can influence the first impression a visitor has when they arrive on their website.

Offsite Tagging

When looking for remarketing opportunities, marketers can utilize the websites of relevant business partners to gain insights. Marketers can tag the site of the business partner to see how visitors are interacting, then start collecting information to build out the audience and report on their behavior. Once relevant audience members are identified, these individuals can be retargeted at a later date.

azeckman

Team Member: Ashley Zeckman

Session: Email Marketing Trends, Tactics & Opportunities for Search Marketers – Loren McDonald, Silverpop

Loren McDonald provided some great insight into email marketing trends, as well as the convergence of email marketing and search. What stuck with me the most from his session was the opportunity for email marketing and search teams to work together, and the fact that most simply aren’t.

Below is some of the low hanging fruit that Loren mentioned in his presentation:

  1. Landing Pages: You can build a dynamic email based on the search terms that consumers used to get to your landing page.
  2. Lead Scoring: If marketing automation is being used, begin incorporating keywords into lead scoring. Keywords can be scaled higher or lower based on what was used to drive the consumer to your website.
  3. Keyword Driven Email Content: There is also an opportunity to incorporate the keywords used in search results to drive the content of your email campaigns.

eprokop

Team Member: Evan Prokop

Session: How we Can Tell a Compelling Story with our Google Analytics Data – Jeff Sauer, Jeffalytics

There are many steps involved in collecting, cleaning and categorizing data in a way that makes it prime for storytelling. Jeff Sauer provided many actionable tips in his presentation to help marketers get more from their Google Analytics data. When it comes down to it, how can marketers use data to tell a compelling story?

In order for data to be valuable, it needs to tell a story. “Traffic is up 50% over last month” doesn’t say much, but “referral traffic from the ebook campaign we launched last month helped to drive a 50% increase in total website traffic, 20% increase in soft leads and 10% increase in revenue compared to the previous month” tells a much more compelling story.

A good web analytics story not only summarizes the current situation, it leads to actionable next steps. Taking the example above, a logical and actionable next step would be to allocate additional budget to the content marketing team to concept and launch additional ebook campaigns.

That’s the kind of story that drives business decisions and leads to results, and that’s what all digital marketers should be striving for from their web analytics.

jcarlson

Team Member: Joel Carlson

Session: The Power of Real-Time Content For Any Organization – Bob Stanke, Minnesota Timberwolves

The ability to respond to a story in real-time is an incredibly difficult task. In fact, AdWeek reported that only 4% of marketers are able to create content for breaking news in real-time.

Bob Stanke opened up his session by reminding the crowd of the heart wrenching story of the Chilean miners that were stuck underground for two months in 2010. He also highlighted that Oakley quickly jumped into action and provided the miners with sunglasses to help their eyes adjust once they were finally freed. This seemingly small investment and goodwill move on Oakley’s part led to an approximately $41 million return for the company.

In his position at the Minnesota Timberwolves, Stanke and his team have to be able to respond quickly and effectively to breaking news. Below are some of the ways that they are able to set their team up for success:

Real-Time Content the Timberwolves Way

  • Conduct weekly content meetings
  • Include representatives from over 7 different departments
  • Discuss various what-if scenarios
  • Give attention to crossing storylines (Ex. Does a current player live or did they live in an area that was just hit by a disaster)
  • Focus on human-interest topics as they relate to the organization
  • Discuss ways to use exclusive content and how will it be distributed

A Behind-the-Scenes Snapshot of #MNSummit

MNSearch-Summit-Collage

The speakers at MNSearch Summit covered email marketing, PPC, using data for storytelling and so much more. Which tip above most closely aligned with your current digital marketing needs?

Disclosure: LinkedIn is a TopRank Online Marketing client.

Header Image: Shutterstock


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content marketing sommelia

A sommelier is known for having extensive knowledge about wines, and how to complement the sensory experience of each type with perfect food pairings. Many train for years in hopes of finally becoming a Master Sommelier.

When embarking on a content marketing initiative, it’s important to know how to maximize the sensory experience of your content. A Master Content Marketing Sommelier knows what will best engage their customers, be it a complex, full-bodied blog post or a light, crisp infographic.

Demand Metric found that content marketing generates 3 times as many leads as traditional outbound marketing but costs 62% less. This means marketers have a ripe opportunity to create content that expertly meets the needs of their audience.

Below are 6 tips to help you become a sommelier of content marketing.

#1 – Balance: The level of harmony between acidity, tannins, fruit, oak, and other elements in a wine; a perceived quality that is more individual than scientific.

wine balance

Content marketing can be a great tool for lead nurturing if implemented correctly. Successful content will harmoniously create value for your audience and move them toward a purchasing decision.

First and foremost, it is essential that your content offer useful and relevant information for your audience. If your message doesn’t help them solve their problem or meet a current need, they’ll move on to someone who does.

However, that does not mean there isn’t an opportunity to incorporate a call to action, where it makes sense. In fact, many marketers are leaving leads on the table by offering a piece of content without asking for contact information in exchange for the download.

Another often overlooked opportunity is adding calls to action within your blog post. This can be as simple as asking a question that helps your reader internalize the information and engage with your content by sharing their opinion. As long as you achieve balance between your promotional element and the value you add for the reader, you’ll create a pleasant experience.

#2 – Blend: The process whereby two or more grape varieties are combined after separate fermentation; common blends include Cotes de Rhone and red and white Bordeaux.

wine blend

Content marketing should not be a stand-alone program within digital marketing. In order to truly be masterful, it must be combined with other digital marketing efforts such as:

  • SEO
  • Influencer Marketing
  • Social Media
  • Paid Search & Social Media Advertising
  • Conversion Optimization
  • Website Analytics

Just as a good blended wine combines the strengths of each vintage to enhance the flavor experience, a good marketing blend puts the different elements of marketing to work to amplify your message.

#3 – Legs: A term used to describe how wine sticks to the inside of a wineglass after drinking or swirling.

wine legs

Even if your customers aren’t ready to buy right now, you want to remain top of mind when they are ready to make the leap. So the question is; how can you create stickiness with your content marketing?

One simple way is to create a consistent posting schedule. If you continue to offer relevant information and sound advice on a consistent basis, your customers will come back to you when they have another need.

#4- Table Wine: A term used to describe wines of between 10 and 14 percent alcohol; in Europe, table wines are those that are made outside of regulated regions or by unapproved methods.

Table Wine Image

If you are an avid wine drinker (like myself) then you know that you’re typically better off skipping the table wine or house wine. It’s usually the cheaper option, but it’s definitely made for quantity rather than quality.

When it comes to your content marketing, you’re better off doing a few things very well, than trying to do too much and falling short. Prioritize your content marketing for impact and form an understanding of what you can handle in-house, what may need to be outsourced and what needs cut from your plan. A few high-quality pieces of content are more valuable in the long-run than high-quantity “table wine” content.

# 5 – Yield: The amount of grapes harvested in a particular year.

Yield Vineyard

The vintner who fails to measure their vineyard’s yield and adjust their plans accordingly won’t be in business for long. If you don’t measure the yield of your content marketing, it will be difficult to see how it is performing and what you can do better. As with any sales or marketing program, you must:

  • Determine your critical measurements based on business goals
  • Define both short and long-term goals
  • Tie performance back to leads and sales metrics

There is no replacement for content marketing measurement and it should always remain top of mind when deploying new tactics. For each piece of content you create, make sure to ask yourself: Does this align with my objectives, and what do I hope to achieve?

#6 – Pruning: The annual vineyard chore of trimming back plants from the previous harvest.

pruning vines

Vintners prune their plants to enable them to grow and thrive. Once you’ve given your content marketing time to mature, it’s time to go back and decide where to “prune” your program. You may find that your audience responds really well to long-form blog content but does not care much for video, for example.

Take the time to find which tactics are performing the best and weed out those that are not effective. A little strategic pruning can make sure that you focus on creating the content that resonates most with your audience.

Pour Yourself a Nice Crisp Glass of Content Marketing

Understanding what makes a successful content marketing strategy can be as tricky as mastering the appreciation of fine wine. Both take practice, dedication and attention to detail. What have you found is your biggest challenge in creating successful content marketing that inspires action?

All definitions are courtesy of WineEnthusiast

Photos via Shutterstock: First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh


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Engage More Customers By Becoming a Content Marketing Sommelier | http://www.toprankblog.com

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LinkedIn Company Page

It’s undeniable that LinkedIn is leading the pack for professional social networks. In fact, more than half of all of the business in the world have created a business page on LinkedIn. With over 4 million business pages on LinkedIn, the competition for the attention of potential clients and job seekers is at an all-time high.

One way to take a critical look at your LinkedIn business page is to conduct a social media audit and identify areas for improvement. Understanding the elements that will help you build trust with your audience and provide a seamless brand experience for visitors navigating between your website and LinkedIn business page are incredibly important in creating a cohesive strategy.

If you know that your LinkedIn Business Page could be better, but you don’t know where to start, this guide is for you. The social media audit below identifies nine important elements of LinkedIn business profiles that can be improved in order to get more engagement from your audience, and referral traffic back to your website. Ready to see how many of these items you’re executing successfully and how many are an opportunity for improvement?

9 Step LinkedIn Company Page Audit

#1 – Identify the Right Content Mix

“Content mix” refers to the different types of content posted on your LinkedIn Company page. The first step is to analyze what types of content are published to your business page on a regular basis.

Content types can include:

  • Promotional content
  • Industry news
  • Images
  • Videos
  • Links to helpful articles

Ideally, all of these content types should be present in your content mix. Posting only one or two types of content will bore your audience. Engage your audience by posting a variety of content to your LinkedIn business page. Don’t forget to include visual content in your mix: posting images on LinkedIn can increase engagement and comments by as much as  98%!

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#2 – Establish a Cadence

How often does your brand post on LinkedIn? Are your updates posted regularly, or do days or weeks pass by with no updates? Aim to post at least one message a day on your LinkedIn business page in order to begin engaging your audience and create the expectation that visitors can discover new content on a daily basis. Posting intermittently can cause visitors to think that your LinkedIn page is unmaintained or out of date.

#3 – Post at Optimal Times of Day

Now that you know how often you’re posting, consider what time of day updates are typically posted. Do you use a social media management tool to schedule updates at specific times, or do you post updates whenever you can find the time? Scheduling your updates to post at a time of day when the majority of your followers are on LinkedIn is a great way to increase engagement with your content.

According to Fannit, the best times to post updates on LinkedIn are between 7-8 am and 5-6 pm. That’s because many LinkedIn users check their profile at the beginning or end of their work day. 

Image courtesy of QuickSprout

Image courtesy of QuickSprout

#4 – Create Consistency with Your Company Name

This seems like an easy one, but it can have a huge impact on how visitors find and perceive your LinkedIn Company page. First, search for your company’s name on LinkedIn. How many results appear? Some brands have multiple pages on LinkedIn, which can make it very difficult for visitors to know which page is the “correct” LinkedIn business page to visit. If your brand has multiple LinkedIn business pages, consider consolidating into one just one page. If your brand has multiple markets, products, or business units, create showcase pages to speak to those different segments.

Finally, ensure that the spelling on your LinkedIn business page matches the branding on your website. This will provide a consistent experience for visitors, and help them understand that this page is the “official” LinkedIn page for your brand.

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#5 – Find the Perfect Profile Picture

Take a critical look at the profile picture on your LinkedIn company page. It should be a clear, well-cropped image that showcases what your brand is all about. What’s most important is to ensure that your audience can easily recognize the profile image. Most companies opt to use the brand logo for their LinkedIn profile. This is a great way to improve brand recognition.

The image should be high resolution, and perfectly cropped. Grainy, off-centered images may give your business page an unprofessional or sloppy appearance. The size of LinkedIn profile pictures is 50×50 pixels.

eb image 4

#6 – Use a Banner Image to Create Continuity

The banner image should in some way indicate what your company does. If you work for a healthcare organization, an image of a hospital may be appropriate. They say that one image is worth 1,000 words, so use an image that speaks to your company’s area of expertise. Create a custom image that overlays text over an image in order to include a message, or information about your brand in the banner image. LinkedIn banner images should be a minimum of 646×220  .

Consider changing the banner image on your LinkedIn business page on a quarterly basis to give your page a fresh, updated appearance. The banner image may correspond to a season, event, or important product offering.

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#7 – Provide a Detailed Description

Use the description section of your profile to explain what your company does. Avoid vague, industry jargon in favor of precise language and keywords that explain how your company provides value to your customers. Don’t forget that LinkedIn business page descriptions are crawled by Google, which means that you should include keywords in the description section. You should also fill out the sections provided for specialties, website, industry, type of business, address, and company size.

eb image 6

#8 – Include a URL in the First Sentence of the Description

When you visit LinkedIn company pages, you’ll notice that only the first one or two sentences of the description appear, unless you click “see more.” If you’d like to drive more referral traffic to your website, either include your brand’s URL in the first sentence of the description, or keep the description short enough that visitors won’t have to click “see more” to find your website URL .

#9 – Dive Into LinkedIn Analytics

LinkedIn business page administrators should take advantage of the data collected within LinkedIn analytics. Get insight into which updates are performing best by viewing impression, click, and engagement metrics for each update. You can also see how much reach and engagement your updates receive over time. LinkedIn’s unique demographic data can show you what industries your fans and visitors are from, what their job functions are, what their seniority level is, and what size company they work for. This information can help you understand more about your audience, and their interests.

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Know When to Call in the Professionals

If you’re overwhelmed by how much time and effort it takes to conduct a social media audit, or to optimize your LinkedIn company page, it may be a sign that it’s time to call in the reinforcements. Do you feel that your LinkedIn company page could be better, but don’t have the time it takes to update and maintain it? Do you crave more expert insights and tips for improving your brand’s social media profiles? Contact TopRank Online Marketing to learn more about our social media audit services .

What are some examples of LinkedIn Company Profiles that you think are well optimized and have followed the checklist above?

Disclosure: LinkedIn, Innovatech and Uponor are all TopRank Online Marketing clients.

Header Image: Shutterstock


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Content Marketing World Infographic Header

There’s a special kind of magic to behind-the-scenes photos from movie sets. You can see how a team of special effects wizards transforms a toy model into a spaceship hurtling towards an alien planet, or a lifeless doll into a skyscraper-climbing giant gorilla. Knowing how the trick is done somehow makes the finished product even more satisfying. That’s especially true if you’re a kid with a camera trying to bring your own dreams to the silver screen.

In the newest eBook series co-produced by TopRank Marketing and Content Marketing Institute, we asked content marketing wizards to take us behind-the-scenes and show us how they make their own brand of magic. Their advice is inspiring to anyone who wants to create great content that connects with an audience.

The infographic below contains content marketing tips from the entire eBook triple feature and features 12 of the speakers from the upcoming Content Marketing World conference. Let their expert advice inspire you to create your own blockbuster content marketing.

Here are some tweetable takeaways from the infographic:

Sarah C- 062815

Sarah Compagnoni: “Great content marketing strategy starts well before anyone clicks a link.” @SarahCompagnoni tweet this

j moat

James Moat: “The power of employees generating & sharing content is a greatly undervalued strategy.” @digecomm tweet this

b clark

Brian Clark: “Put yourself in the customers’ shoes to experience the content marketing journey from their perspective.” @brianclark tweet this

cleve g

Cleve Gibbon: “Be clear on what you need to say & why it’s relevant to your audience at that point in their lives.” @cleveg tweet this

a handley 62815

Ann Handley: “Your story is the thing that sets your content marketing apart. What’s your story? And how do you tell it?” @annhandley tweet this

j rohrs 62815

Jeffrey Rohrs: “Scene stealing content marketing is sales activated, marketing promoted, optimized & reported.” @jkrohrs tweet this

a higgins 62815

Amy Higgings: “Before publishing content, follow a launch plan checklist to make sure you haven’t left out steps.” @amywhiggins tweet this

k wincko 62815

Ken Wincko: “Successful content needs to be the 3 C’s: Credible, Compelling, & Consistent.” @KenWincko tweet this

LOdden-619

Lee Odden: “For content marketing success, make all content accountable & measurable to attract, engage, & convert.” @leeodden tweet this

TWheatland-619

Todd Wheatland: “Link content marketing strategy to results by using a repeatable process & collecting the measurements that matter, in real-time.” @ToddWheatland tweet this

JFleischer-619

Julie Fleischer: “Content marketing success starts by first determining what critical measurements drive spending decisions.” @jfly tweet this

jpulizzi - 0619

Joe Pulizzi: “If you’re trying to measure the value of your content marketing, create a subscription program.” @joepulizzi tweet this

View the Full Infographic Feature

Experience the entire thrill-a-minute eBook trilogy on-demand:

The Big Picture of Content Marketing Strategy

Making Content Marketing the Star of Your Marketing

Measuring Content Marketing Box Office Success

For more information on the speakers and their sessions, check out the Content Marketing World 2015 website.

See you at the movies!


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#CMWorld Infographic: 12 Marketing Box-Office Titans Share Tips For Creating Blockbuster Content Marketing | http://www.toprankblog.com

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Loren Mcdonald“Good morning Mumbai! Wait, I’m in Minnesota.”

Loren McDonald, VP of Industry Relations for Silverpop has been on a worldwide tour travelling from India to London and finally here to the Midwest. Loren was not shy about admitting that he feels a bit like a fish out of water, he’s an email-marketing guy, surrounded by search marketers at MNSearch Summit.

In Loren’s compelling presentation we found out why email still rocks, the difference between smartphone and tablet users and creating actionable data. Below are some of the highlights:

Trend #1 – Email Still Rocks

According to a recent study by Marketing Sherpa, 7 in 10 consumers have made a purchase influenced by email marketing. There is no denying that email is still very much alive, and has a significant impact on purchasing decisions.

Still not convinced? McKinsey & Company found that email conversion rates are 3x higher than social media and the value of an email conversion is 17% higher than that of social media.

Trend #2 – Mobile Usability

Mobile email activity is not closing in on desktop usage; it has already surpassed desktop usage. Consumers are getting more and more used to browsing on their smartphone or iPad to find the information that they need.

Approximately 53% of emails are now opened on mobile devices. Only three years ago, that number was less than 20%.

Now in all fairness, the increasing use of Phablets (a smartphone with a screen sized between a standard smartphone and a tablet) may be slightly skewing the number of smartphone opens and interactions.

We need to eliminate the friction for our users to improve engagement. If there are too many barriers for the user, than they are never going to engage.

Trend #3 – Responsive Design

Unfortunately, many designers focus too much on the coding and design concept of responsive design for email marketing. This approach typically results in the simple restructuring of the size of images or text on the email that will be viewed different depending on if someone is using a desktop or a mobile device.

More importantly, email marketers need to be not only considering design structure, but how their consumers are using email.

A mobile user walks into a coffee shop…

There’s nothing worse than walking into your favorite coffee shop and realizing there is a line of other zombie-like individuals waiting to get their morning drip. While you’re waiting in line and trying to pass the time and ignoring your quickly approaching coffee craving hysteria, what are you going to do?

If you’re like most people, you may open some apps or games on your smartphone. Like it or not, you’re also going to check your email. While waiting in a situation like the one mentioned above, you’ll likely delete the emails that don’t catch your attention, mark some for discovering later and forward or reply to those that are relevant to you.

The likelihood that you’ll see an email advertising $350 Michael Kors black leather booties and pull out your credit card right then and there is highly unlikely.

A tablet user takes a break…

Unlike their smartphone counterpart, tablet users are not traditionally on the go. Let’s assume for a second that a tablet user has just kicked their feet up on the back porch with a cold adult beverage in-hand and receives the same Michael Kors black leather bootie email.

The likelihood that this user (assuming of course that they really are coveting those black booties) will make a direct purchase at that time, significantly increase.

The most important thing to understand about responsive design is that people will do things differently and act differently with different devices.

Trend #4 – Making Data Actionable

“To know a person…watch what they do, not what they say. “

– Danny Santagato

Behavior gives us a lens into our audience’s purchase intent. The major shift we are seeing is the idea that when you grab hold of a concept of focusing on an individual’s customers behavior is not what you’re trying to sell, but what each customer is looking for.

Email marketers need to begin reacting in real-time to individual’s behavior. Email marketing automation is a tool that enables companies with the scale to achieve this objective.

Sometimes, broadcast email works. However, marketing teams may not always understand the negative repercussions of over-emailing and under-targeting. There are two types of email marketing approaches:

Traditional Marketing: It’s all about “the plan”: The objective is to fill up the email-marketing calendar with X emails per week. All email communications will be created and sent based on that calendar. Unfortunately, that approach is very much “us” based, and has nothing to do with the needs of our customers.

Behavioral Marketing:This approach is all about the customer. In fact, think of yourself as acting like a great concierge to meet the needs of your customers. In addition to the calendar based programs, your team can create 40+ automated email programs that will go out 24/7 365 to whomever based on a behavior or an event.

The behavioral marketing approach requires automation to provide scale. Loren used an example of a small company they were working with that used to send birthday emails manually to each and every customer. That is the definition of manual.

Bonus: The Integration of Search & Social

There are quite a few low hanging opportunities to integrate search and social with email marketing including:

  1. Landing Pages: You can build a dynamic email based on the search terms that consumers used to get to your landing page.
  2. Lead Scoring: If marketing automation is being used, begin incorporating keywords into lead scoring. Keywords can be scaled higher or lower based on what was used to drive the consumer to your website.
  3. Keyword Driven Email Content: There is also an opportunity to incorporate the keywords used in search results to drive the content of your email campaigns.

Be sure to check out Loren McDonald’s tip in the new #CMWorld eBook – The Big Picture of Content Marketing Strategy

Follow @TopRank, @azeckman, @eprokop1 and @JoelECarlson for live updates from #MNSummit.


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Silverpop’s Loren McDonald Discusses 4 Top Email Marketing Trends – #MNSummit | http://www.toprankblog.com

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Social For Customer Acquisition

How to Utilize Social Media for Customer Acquisition – One of the biggest reasons we all do social media marketing is to find new customers for our products or services. Maybe it is the biggest reason. It comes before social customer service, because without finding customers in the first place, we’d have no one to serve. This infographic from Salesforce Canada gives some insight into the process of acquiring customers via social media. Salesforce Canada

Facebook Makes Ads Manager, Power Editor Easier to Use – Facebook Thursday announced significant updates to its Ads Manager and Power Editor tools to create and manage ads on the social network. SocialTimes

Google Launches YouTube Newswire To Verify Eyewitness Videos – YouTube has started a video news service to showcase the most interesting clips recorded and posted by eyewitnesses at events unfolding around the world. In partnership with the social news group Storyful, YouTube Newswire will be “a curated feed of the most newsworthy eyewitness videos of the day, which have been verified by Storyful’s team of editors,” a blog post said. cnet

Facebook Tests Auto-Filling Marketing Forms With People’s Profile Info – A lot of marketers build their businesses by getting people to sign up for things like email newsletters. It’s a way to get people’s contact information so that the marketer can keep in contact with them and try to make them a customer. Now Facebook’s going to make it easier for marketers to collect that contact information. Ad Age

Introducing Instagram’s All-New Search and Explore – This week Instagram announced two major updates to Instagram: the all-new Explore page, with trending Tags and Places, and more powerful search that makes it easier to find the people, places, and tags you’re looking for. Get more details on the Instagram blog. Instagram

Facebook Rolls Out Author Tags: A New Way to Grow Your Following – Facebook has introduced a way for publishers to grow their audience with a new feature called Author Tags. When implemented on a website, Author Tags allow people to easily follow the author of a piece of content they found on Facebook. Facebook

Twitter To Let Users Follow Live Events, Not Just People – Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) will start curating tweets on live events, the microblogging service said, as it plans major changes to make its real-time news feed more user friendly. Reuters

Facebook Unveils Vision For Immersive Mobile Ads – The social network is showing mockups of interactive mobile ad formats at Cannes Lion advertising festival in France. Marketing Land

Pinterest Streamlines & Simplifies Its Search Interface – New search enhancements from Pinterest make finding the right type of information quicker and more accurate thanks to the first ever inclusion of spellcheck. Marketing Land

Twitter Testing New Ways To Make It Easier To Discover Products and Places – Last week Twitter is beginning to test two ways to make it easier for you to discover rich and relevant content about products and places on Twitter. Twitter

DuckDuckGo Surpasses 10 Million Daily Queries – DuckDuckGo, the privacy focused search engine, hits a major milestone – reaching 10 million daily queries. Search Engine Journal

Instagram Ads to Get More Focused with Facebook Targeting Options – Get ready, your Instagram advertising options are about to get a lot more specific. Ahead of the Cannes Lions Festival this week, Facebook’s Vice President of Global Marketing Solutions Carolyn Everson has said that Facebook’s targeting data will soon be available for use on Instagram.  Social Media Today

Pinterest Announces Marketing Developer Partners for Ads – Pinterest announced that 4C, Adaptly, Ampush, Brand Networks, HYFN, Kinetic Social, SocialCode and SocialFlow are the first Marketing Developer Partners using the company’s ads API. SocialTimes

What were the top online and digital marketing news stories for you this week?

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Infographic: Salesforce Canada


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Jess Sauer

Google Analytics is used by more than 10 million websites, but the majority of digital marketers and businesses are merely scratching the surface of what this powerful free tool can do. As Jeff Sauer says, “any report that is one click away in Google Analytics isn’t worth your time”.

In his fascinating and super actionable presentation at MNSearch Summit 2015, Jeff shared some great tips to help marketers get more value from Google Analytics.

Google Analytics Custom Channel Groupings Jeff Sauer MNSearch 2015

Customize Your Content and Channel Groupings

Out of the box, Google Analytics comes with a default set of traffic channels, including organic search, referral, direct, paid, social and email. While technically these are inclusive of the range of sources which may drive traffic to your site, there is opportunity to break up these broad swaths of visitors into customized segments that are specific to your business by creating customized channel groupings. Doing this can help you efficiently track the performance of your site for visitors that really matter, your customers and prospects.

A few custom channel groupings to consider are:

• Guest posted content referral traffic: tracks referral traffic from domains where you contribute content

• Branded organic search traffic: traffic from search engines to pages on your site which are well optimized for branded keywords (e.g. your about pages)

• Non-branded organic search traffic: traffic from search engines to pages which target non-branded terms (i.e. blog or resource pages)

• Logged in vs. logged out users

• Traffic from a specific target geographic area

Benchmark Against Your Competitors

Did you know that Google Analytics has a built in feature that allows you to benchmark and compare your performance against competitors in your industry category? If you said no, you’re not alone, as the majority of GA users don’t use this feature either. That’s a mistake, because understanding more about your competition is the key to winning in the digital marketplace.

While the data you can glean about your competitors isn’t nearly as comprehensive as what you can see for your own site (probably a good thing), it can provide the extra insights that can help you to more effectively compete in your industry space.

Google Analytics Demographics Report Jeff Sauer MNSearch Summit 2015

Enable Demographics Reporting

Curious to see how your site is performing for a particular age range or gender? Google Analytics can give you these answers in the demographics report if you have it enabled.

The demographics report is another un-utilized feature of Google Analytics, likely because it requires a bit of additional setup in order to start seeing data, but the steps aren’t complicated.

Once you have the demographics report enabled and are seeing some data, make sure you put it to good use. A few tips to get you started with demographics data are:

• Review the demographics of your converting visitors to better understand the makeup of your best potential customers.

• Identify which content is the most and least popular with your target demographics.

• Use demographic data in your display and remarketing campaigns.

Clean Up Your Data

Many people tend to treat data from Google Analytics as gospel, but the truth is that metrics that come from GA (or any web analytics platform) will always be approximate. There are many things that cause inaccuracies in Google Analytics reports, such as encrypted browsers, data sampling, blocked cookies or tracking implementation errors.

In recent years, another insidious “dirty data” factor has reared its head, known as referral spam. Caused by malicious spammers that exploit the open nature of the Google Analytics API to inject fake data into webmasters GA accounts, referral spam can cause inflated traffic metrics. It’s easy enough to spot by reviewing your referral traffic report and looking for visits sent from domains like trafficmonetize.com, webmonetizer.net or 100dollars-seo.com.

While there isn’t a perfect solution to the referral spam issue, at the moment the best course of action is to filter spam domains from your GA profile to prevent them from showing up in your traffic reports and skewing metrics.

Unfortunately it’s impossible to have a perfectly clean data set, but taking actions to clean up your data as much as possible can greatly increase its value, which ultimately leads to better business insights.

Periodic Table of Google Analytics Jeff Sauer MNSearch Summit 2015

Tell a Story with Your Data

We’re living in the midst of a veritable web analytics renaissance, with digital marketers having the ability to freely access a vast array of data that was inconceivable to marketers a few decades ago.

However, while data is plentiful, unfortunately meaningful analysis is still scarce, which means that many marketers and businesses are failing to effectively take advantage of web analytics to drive business decisions. Worse still, many have convinced themselves that they are data driven by creating mammoth dashboards stuffed with surface level metrics that lack any real analysis.

In order for data to be valuable, it needs to tell a story. “Traffic is up 50% over last month” doesn’t say much, but “referral traffic from the ebook campaign we launched last month helped to drive a 50% increase in total website traffic, 20% increase in soft leads and 10% increase in revenue compared to the previous month” tells a much more compelling story.

A good web analytics story not only summarizes the current situation, it leads to actionable next steps. Taking the example above, a logical and actionable next step would be to allocate additional budget to the content marketing team to concept and launch additional ebook campaigns.

That’s the kind of story that drives business decisions and leads to results, and that’s what all digital marketers should be striving for from their web analytics.

Looking for Jeff’s Presentation?

You can view Jeff’s entire #MNSummit presentation below:

Need help getting started or elevating your company’s analytics?

The team at TopRank Online Marketing offers a full range of web analytics services to help businesses large and small to get the most from their data.


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writers-block

Content marketing has rapidly become an essential piece of the B2B marketing puzzle. Buyers are more connected and more self-directed than ever before, and informative, engaging content is key to making sure your organization becomes part of the buyer journey.

Creating a steady stream of quality content can be challenging for any marketer, but especially for those in B2B marketing, where buyers expect to be informed and entertained at the same time. So it’s no surprise that Content Marketing Institute’s latest report found that 54% of B2B Marketers rated producing engaging content as a top challenge, and 50% said producing content consistently is a challenge.

If you’re a B2B content marketer, sooner or later you’ll likely find yourself facing a blank screen with a head full of complex information that won’t move to the keyboard. So what do you write when you don’t know what to write? Here are a few strategies to remove the block between your brain and your fingertips:

#1 – Start with Structure

If you’re like me, you hated writing outlines for school assignments. I would always draft first, then reverse-engineer the outline.

But as a professional content creator, outlines are your new best friend. Take your complex topic and imagine what your sub-headings should be to discuss the topic. That way, you won’t get hung up on word choice or phrasing and can focus on the key information you want to get across. Once the structure is in place, it will be far easier to fill in the content.

#2 – Write the 5-Year-Old Version

Recently I was writing content for a client about the importance of balancing marketing efforts across the top, middle, and bottom of the sales funnel (sometimes called ToFu, MoFu, and BoFu marketing). I was having trouble explaining it in a clear and concise way. Finally, I thought, how would I explain this to my 5-year-old son? In a matter of minutes, I wrote the following little fairy tale:

“Once upon a time there were three little goats named Tofu, Mofu, and Bofu. Tofu trip-trapped happily through the meadow all day, blissfully unaware of the troll under the bridge nearby. Mofu knew the troll lived under the bridge, but wasn’t sure how the troll affected his day-to-day life and wasn’t ready to do anything about the monster. Only Bofu had seen across the bridge to a beautiful meadow of green grass, and was ready to take steps to get rid of the troll.

The local heroes who got rid of trolls focused their attention on Bofu exclusively. He knew he had a problem and wanted someone to solve it. The heroes didn’t see that it was important to offer their services to Tofu and Mofu, and so they missed out on getting the other two goats to start thinking about their troll problem. The heroes would have had better luck selling their services to all three goats.”

Obviously, I didn’t forward my fairy tale to the client. But writing it enabled me to lay out the argument for full-funnel marketing that I was trying to make, and I finished the client draft within the hour.

The “5-year-old-version” strategy helps you to explain what you’re trying to write to yourself, which makes the grown-up version far easier to write.

#3 – Write the Conversational Version

If you don’t have a 5-year-old in your life to use as an imaginary sounding board, write the way you would talk to an old friend. You don’t ever have writer’s block in a casual conversation, right? So write the way you would talk. Even better, exaggerate the tone—let yourself be silly. Try to make yourself smile.

For example, when I get stuck I’ll write something like: “Okay, so check it out bro, this new eBook is the bomb dot com. I know you’ve got some mad problems with your content marketing, but this book is gonna drop knowledge on you. Get it, yo!” After about a paragraph of that, I’m ready to reign it in and write the professional version.

#4 – Write the Garbage Version

Voltaire said, “Perfect is the enemy of good.” Sometimes the source of writer’s block is that perfect version of the content you see in your head. So you write a few lines, they don’t measure up to the standard, and you erase everything. It’s easy to convince yourself that the version in your head is so much better than anything you could put on the screen.

But the truth is, any version of the content that exists is better than something that isn’t real. So don’t let that imaginary ideal form of the content stop you from writing.

When you get stuck trying to write the perfect words, turn off your inner editor and just write garbage. Type with your eyes closed if you can, so you’re not tempted to edit. Whatever clumsy, error-riddled, clichéd garbage you put on the screen is still better than a non-existent perfect piece. And now you have a start, something you can edit and refine until it’s worth showing to the world.

Content marketing is a business function, but it’s also a creative endeavor. As such, it’s just as subject to writer’s block as any other form of writing. When you’re stuck with that blank screen, stop thinking about creating the perfect finished piece and try for a different perspective. Write an outline to make sure your structures solid, or write a simplified version to help organize your thoughts. Write a silly version, bro, for reals. Write absolute trash. Just write something. Even the messiest first draft is the start of creating an amazing piece of content.

What is your favorite way to get past a block in your writing?

Image: Shutterstock


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Joe-Pulizzi---interview-header-

Without anyone accusing me of exaggerating, I can safely say that Joe Pulizzi is a bona fide content marketing visionary. Joe started using the term “content marketing” in 2001, long before the rest of the industry caught on to its potential. In the past decade and a half, Joe has firmly established his thought leadership in the field, earning the nickname “The Godfather of Content Marketing.”

In 2007, Joe founded the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), which has grown into a vital resource for thousands of marketers worldwide. In addition to building a massive hub of marketing resources, classes, and training programs, CMI produces Content Marketing World, the world’s largest content marketing event.

I recently sat down with Joe for a sneak preview of his keynote address at the 2015 Content Marketing World. Read on for Joe’s thoughts on how content marketing is evolving, the strategies that led to CMI’s success, and how to become an “octopus of content love.”

If you focus on a subscriber approach to audience development, you can go deeper with your content and emphasize value.

Without giving too much away from your keynote, what are 3 exciting evolutions for content marketing that you see on the horizon?

  1. I’m really interested in the merger and acquisition scene. It’s going to hit people like a big surprise, especially in B2B. Particularly in tech, companies will see content factories already built and those will be attractive acquisitions when considering the time it takes to build.
  1. Only 30% of marketers have subscription growth as a key metric. It speaks to where we are with content marketing. The notion that we need to build content for the buyer’s journey and different stages has been overblown. It’s easier to simplify that idea and just become an ongoing guide and resource and we touch the customer with value – every day, every week. They’re going to create their own buyer’s journey anyways. If you focus on a subscriber approach to audience development, you can go deeper with your content and emphasize value. Instead of focusing on 57 segments and 5 stages, create an incredible experience for your customers and you’ll have an amazing outcome. Simplify and create more value.
  1. I’m excited about the field of journalism again. Marketers are bringing in professional journalists that have a nose for stories. The media business model is broken, but media itself is flourishing. There’s never been lower barriers to entry and easier ways for customers to access it. The more journalists in marketing, the better. If they want to tell great stories and have funding to do so, the opportunity is there.

Digital publishing has become more popular because we can, and not for the right reasons.

Based on your recent report at CMI, it appears that B2B and B2C marketers alike are continuing to struggle with measurement of content marketing activities. What do you believe are the biggest barriers to either collecting the data or focusing on the right metrics?

The clear majority of marketers have no documented content marketing strategy. If we can start with documenting the why, the business goal and audience, then you can begin to develop an action and execution plan that includes measurement. Digital publishing has become more popular because we can, and not for the right reasons.

People implementing content marketing do so because they’re told to, without understanding why. Content marketers need to ask the right questions relevant to achieving business goals.

We want to be an octopus of content love to provide them with options.

What are the biggest challenges that your own company faces when it comes to content creation, promotion and measurement?

Choosing the right activities – there are so many things we could do. Our key metric to everything is based on subscribers. I’m focused on creating a unique story that subscribers can’t get anywhere else. I’m focused on looking at subscribers and how we can improve.

Those people that engage with at least 3 different types of content, they are way more likely to attend CMI or buy something from us. We want to be an octopus of content love to provide them with options. The more we can do that the more positive results we’ll see.

Brands with huge budgets are struggling because they are so campaign focused.

What is the single most important thing you’ve learned in your journey from publishing to becoming the “Godfather of Content Marketing”?

If you build a loyal audience over time, you can sell them whatever you want. Focus on a content niche relevant to an area of business that you’re focused on, and develop an audience. As you build that audience, you can figure out what best to sell to your community.

Brands with huge budgets are struggling because they are so campaign focused.

There’s convergence – media companies are becoming product and product companies are becoming media companies. Soon you won’t be able to tell the difference.

What Content Marketing mix is CMI currently experiencing the most success with?

The podcast has been a pleasant surprise with a consistent flow of sponsorship that’s growing. In person events that I and Robert Rose speak at. The masterclass series of small workshops in different cities across the U.S. have been successful for driving registrations to the CMWorld event.

We have one person in charge of Internal content curation and repurposing that drives subscribers.

Do you believe that email marketing is dead or still very much alive? Why?

Not at all. It’s the most important thing we do. It’s harder to cut through the clutter but if you do, you get the lion’s share of attention.

Ready to Up Your Content Marketing Game?

Be sure to reserve your space at Content Marketing World for thought-provoking presentations from Joe and over 200 other luminaries in the content marketing industry.

Get a preview of Content Marketing World’s blockbuster lineup with Measuring Your Content Marketing Box Office Success, featuring advice from industry thought leaders Michael Brenner, Julie Fleischer, and of course, Joe Pulizzi.

Access All Three eBooks On-Demand

CMWorld 2015 eBooks

If you missed the premiere of any one of the eBooks in our triple feature, you are in luck! You can access all three of them anytime, anywhere. Select the links below, grab some Junior Mints and dig in.

The Big Picture of Content Marketing Strategy

Making Content Marketing the Star of Your Marketing

Measuring Content Marketing Box Office Success


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JRossignol---interview-header-

Everything is bigger on the silver screen: hopes and dreams, heroes and villains, successes and failures. Simple human drama can become mythical when projected onto a giant movie screen. We go to the movies to laugh, cry, and gasp along with our fellow moviegoers, all of us sitting in the dark together sharing the experience. It’s a powerful example of how great content can create an experience that not only informs, but makes you feel. Creating those experiences is a whole crew of specialists, actors, director and producers, each playing their part.

Similarly, every successful content marketing program has a team of people working behind the scenes to create quality content that connects with customers. One trailblazing example of a marketing leader creating great content experiences is Jeannine Rossignol, VP of Marketing for Large Enterprise Organizations at Xerox.

Jeannine will be making her first appearance at Content Marketing World this year, discussing how senior marketers and CMOs can structure marketing around content. I connected with Jeannine to talk about content marketing strategy, top challenges facing content marketers, and content marketing lessons to be learned from Charlotte’s Web.

I work with amazingly talented people to tell stories that start conversations with the right people.

Can you share a little more about your role at Xerox and what you enjoy most about it?

At Xerox I lead demand gen, content marketing, digital, social and sales enablement globally for our Large Enterprise Operations division. I work with amazingly talented people to tell stories that start conversations with the right people. I get a rush when I think about all the changes that have happened to the practice over the past few years and can’t wait to see what the future holds… and maybe even help shape it a bit.

The key is that content provides insight, and valuable information they need.

How do you define content marketing?

Content marketing provides our clients and prospects with the insight they need to make a decision. It doesn’t have to be the decision to buy. The key is that the content – whatever form it takes – provides insight, and valuable information they need. Otherwise, we’d simply keep calling it marketing brochures (collateral). When you’re elbowing for position in the early stages of the consideration, good content marketing works hard. It creates brand awareness, differentiation and credibility.

When it comes to approach, never forget the customer is in charge.

It seems many brands’ approach to content marketing has focused mostly on creating more content with a recent emphasis on better quality content. What do you think are the major drivers for content marketing strategy and approach to content?

I have a hunch that the brands producing the most content are often the ones that lack a clear content marketing strategy. A clear strategy should include who you target, what their buyer’s journey looks like, and most importantly, what are the questions they need to answer to move from one stage in the journey to the next. Every piece of content should go back to that strategy.

When it comes to approach, never forget the customer is in charge. Be engaging. Add humanity.

Content is an integral component of every aspect of marketing.

How does content marketing relate to the overall marketing pie?

Content is the golden thread that brings marketing together, not just marketing but marketing and sales. It isn’t a separate program, but rather an integral component of every aspect of marketing.

Content marketing is growing for two reasons. 1) Many disparate marketing components are now taking roles within a larger content marketing strategy. With some adjustments and refocus on customer interest, they have become content marketing tools. 2) Content marketing is also taking on a bigger role because so much of it can be tied to measurable results.

We have to recognize that not everyone wants to consume information the same way.

How important are non-text content marketing assets to your marketing? For example: audio, video, and interactive.

Critical. We have to recognize that not everyone wants to consume information the same way. Just as important as understanding the type of content your audience wants, you also have to know what format they prefer it in. Added to that, we are a visual society. Memes. Instagram. Buzzfeed. Pinterest. Emoticons. They help us connect in ways that can often feel more real than words. Which is great news for international marketers, by the way.

What are some of your own content marketing examples that you’re proudest of?

In B2B marketing, especially for services, we talk to our clients about their challenges. We took a different angle with Optimism. One that is focused on the opportunities for that business … looking past the challenges and focusing on opportunities … We were excited about it, our management and sales organizations were excited, and the feedback we’ve received from customers demonstrates they like it as well.

We brought the idea of Optimism to life with a publication called Chief Optimist.   We needed to get in front of decisions makers with our content. The idea of the publication seemed like a great way to get past the gatekeeper and end up in the “to-read” pile. We partnered with Forbes to publish the magazine. We knew their name would add credibility to the magazine, and most of all it would help us supplement our original content with theirs. As it turns out by partnering we are more credible than trying to do it on our own.

Do you have any advice for marketers who feel overwhelmed by the challenge of consistently producing a variety of engaging content?

  • Don’t do it alone! Partner – internal SMEs, 3rd party experts, your agencies, trusted business resources, analysts, etc.
  • Editorial calendar – map it out for the year, it won’t seem as overwhelming
  • Remember at the end of the day it is a person reading your content. Make sure it is interesting and has a point.
  • Never be afraid to fail. In today’s digital world it is easy to make course corrections, but you can’t correct (or learn from) what was never done.

Great technology can’t fix bad content, nor can great content deliver results without technology.

What are some of the biggest content marketing challenges facing large companies today? Or the biggest misconceptions. What should they do about it?

Content marketing can expose your “ugly baby.” If you have a product or service that doesn’t have a unique value prop or truly meet the needs of the marketplace, coming up with insightful content will be near impossible.

Great technology can’t fix bad content, nor can great content deliver results without technology.

Data hygiene is critically important. The best content is highly targeted and relevant. But if you can’t trust your data, you can make some silly mistakes on a massive scale.

Forgetting the first rule of content marketing: take your brand out and put the customer in.

Companies seem to be most challenged by measuring content marketing performance and ROI. What advice can you share?

Marketing went from not being able to measure anything, to being able to measure everything. It is overwhelming, but pick a place to start… pick one question you want to answer and go from there. Get it roughly right, and keep refining.

What are you presenting on at Content Marketing World? What do you like best about the conference?

I’m on the panel discussing “How Senior Marketers and CMOs Are Structuring Around Content Marketing. This will be my first CMWorld. I’m beyond excited; it has been on my list to attend for years. I would love to hear from veteran attends, tweet to me what you like best about the conference.

In the spirit of the CMWorld conference theme of vintage Hollywood “Big Lights, Big Content”, what is your favorite movie?

There are so many to choose from… I’m the mother of 4 small children so bear with me; the only movies I see these days are children’s movies! Let me give you a favorite that is not only a great movie/story, but also a great example of content marketing in action: Charlotte’s Web. Charlotte’s content, the words she spun in her web were creative, powerful and beautifully targeted to save the life of Wilbur the pig. It perfectly showcases that content can deliver powerful results, or in this case, save lives!

Ready to Become the Star of Your Brand’s Content Marketing Movie?

Reserve your space at Content Marketing World 2015 to learn strategies from over 200 top experts in the industry.

For a preview of coming attractions before the conference, dim the lights, silence your electronic devices, and read our new eBook, Measuring Your Content Marketing Box Office Success.

Binge Read the Entire Content Marketing World Triple Feature!

eBook covers - cmw15

Sometimes when you get really into a series, there is nothing more tortuous than waiting for the next release. By clicking any of the links below, you’ll get immediate, on-demand access to each of the eBooks in our series.

The Big Picture of Content Marketing Strategy

Making Content Marketing the Star of Your Marketing

Measuring Content Marketing Box Office Success


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