Columnist Sherry Bonelli provides an overview of Google Tag Manager, including how get started with it.
Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.
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Keyword research is always a hot topic in content marketing circles.
Wondering how to find the “right” words to optimize your business’s content? Here are three quick tips for solid keyword research.
My friend Shawn, whose company Clear Harmonies creates custom a cappella arrangements for vocal groups, learned an interesting marketing lesson after performing some focused keyword research and talking to his customers.
He thought that his prospects searched for the term “a cappella arrangements” when they looked for arrangement services online. But he discovered they actually searched for the term “a cappella sheet music” much more often.
Shawn’s story illustrates why it’s important that you discover the actual language your potential customers use when they search for information about your topic (or look for vendors who provide your services).
This is not a time to guess or assume you know your audience so well that you know what they’re thinking.
In addition to online keyword research tools, you can also:
Great copywriters thoroughly research their topics before they start writing projects.
Copywriters want to make sure they understand the language their prospects use before they craft their copy, because without that knowledge, they know their copy won’t convert.
You need to do the same thing with your keyword research. Read the articles your prospects read and study the language the authors use.
Find out which social media platforms your customers prefer and hang out on those sites. Watch for discussions where people ask questions or debate each other.
Popular videos, webinars, and podcasts in your niche are other resources. You can even review social media ads that target your ideal customer.
This technique will not only enhance your keyword research process, it will also ensure that you’ll never run out of content ideas!
Search terms are always evolving and the way your customer speaks about your topic will change over time, too.
It’s smart to repeat your keyword research on a regular basis to make sure you stay current on the language people use.
To incorporate keyword research into your content marketing routine:
By discovering the language your customers already use, consuming the content that’s popular with your audience, and cultivating consistent research habits, you keep keyword research at the top of your business’s priority list.
Which is smart, because keyword research doesn’t only help you rank higher in search engines, it can also give you an endless supply of content topics and product ideas.
How has keyword research helped you optimize your content? What are your favorite tips? Share in the comments below.
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Are you struggling to keep pace with rapidly changing customer needs and market demands? Are you slowed down by organizational silos, hierarchies and processes? It may be time to get agile. More than 90 percent of marketers who have adopted agile marketing say it has improved their speed to market…
Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.
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Israeli researchers studied 200 of the best ads in 1999.
These were the top finalists and award winners, like the infamous “This is Your Brain on Drugs” campaign from years ago.
The most surprising thing? They weren’t ‘creative’.
89% of them could be classified into six ‘templates’, which were classified in the excellent Made to Stick.
Ideas aren’t in short supply today. Execution is.
The reason results aren’t kicking in like you expect is NOT because you’re missing some mythical growth hack. It’s because you’re not executing on the basics right in front of your face.
Here’s why, along with a few examples to get started.
A 500-word blog post used take an hour or two to complete.
Problem? Nobody writes 500 words anymore. At least, not if they want results.
Which means, they take longer to write, too. Today’s average blog post takes 3 hours 16 minutes to write (26% increase over 2015).
The bar is high.
And it keeps getting higher.
We haven’t even touched on the quantity: two million blog posts published each day. (And that was already a few years ago in 2015!)
Not seeing results from blogging?
How much time are you spending on each post?
Most likely, it’s not enough. Because you’re too busy responding to client calls, boss’s emails, memes on Slack, or scouring Inbound.org and Growth Hackers for the latest silver bullet hack that will deliver instant success.
When the brutal truth is that the only way out, is the one path in front of you.
It’s the most obvious, yet least exciting option.
Don’t look at what those Inbound & Growth Hackers posts say. Look at what they’re doing.
The depth. The insight (based on real-world experience). The multimedia. And then replicate it.
Trouble is, there ain’t anymore hours in the day.
How are you supposed to do it?
Back in the old days, AdWords was more of a straight-forward auction.
That meant anyone could bid as much as they wanted on whichever keyphrases they chose in order to generate more results.
But that came at the expense of relevance for us consumers.
Now, the Google’s ain’t dumb. So they introduced a few tweaks to the system, including the Quality Score.
Today it’s an approximation for how your results should perform in aggregate. And one of the things it looks for, is message match.
That is, an alignment between:
Long story short, this little guy plays a role in determining what you pay. The higher that number goes, based on a better ‘alignment’ between those three variables above (and a few more), the less you pay to drive traffic, net leads, and close sales.
Here’s the best news.
Quality Scores aren’t secret. Unlike Google’s organic algorithm, they tell you pretty much how it’s determined. Which means it should be a straightforward path to fixing.
You simply identify a few popular campaigns that are underperforming…
Spin those out into their own campaigns to improve the keywords you’re targeting, the ads you’re showing, and the landing pages visitors are finding, in order to increase their overall experience.
Sure. There’s a little more involved. But that’s the basics. And just making those basic improvements can increase AdWords lead conversion rates 900% while also dropping Cost Per Conversions 99%.
No tricks or hacks. Just execution.
It’s easy. All the information is out there in the open.
Take ad copy specifically.
These are a B– to write.
Only a few short characters. You’d think it’d be easy.
But you sit there and stare at a blank screen for twenty minutes before ever writing down a single headline variation or two.
Here’s the secret though.
Even if you’ve worked in this space for years, you have no idea how it’s going to work. You kinda do, but no guarantees in this game.
So relax. Use a system.
Digital Marketer’s Ad Grid is one of the best ‘frameworks’ to base your ad writing.
At the top of a grid, list out your customer personas. On the left, just simply copy-and-paste what they’re already spoon-feeding you: different proven ‘hooks’ that each tug at your prospect’s emotional, lizard brain telling them WHY they should care (to click, sign up, or change their ways).
We’re not going into tactics here. But we don’t have to. It’s all there in that article. One of the keepers to follow and rip off (or emulate).
Now, ad writing should be easy. The hooks and messaging are in place for each segment or persona. Obviously adapted depending on the industry you’re working in.
Let’s use an example from my friends, The Yes Girls.
You can try the ‘zen’ approach, simplifying the life of consumers so they don’t have to worry ‘bout a thing.
Or you can go the complete opposite route, focusing instead on helping people protect themselves from mistakes they’re making.
This gets even easier in some highly formulaic industries.
Take local businesses. People look for these companies by searching for: [Location] + [Service]. So guess what keyphrases to choose, what to write in your ads, and what to put smack-dab on the middle of your landing page headline?
In these cases you don’t even have to reinvent the wheel. Click-through rate busting ads aren’t far away. It’s just a matter of writing a few variations (based on a solid framework or process) and then letting the winner surface to the top after a few days-to-a-week.
Processes are mechanical. They’re routine. And they kinda suck to write.
But they’re the only way out.
If you (a) can’t work anymore hours in a day without dropping dead or getting divorced, and (b) need to UP your execution game so that results come quicker for clients and bosses, there’s only one solution my friend.
Ok. So where to start.
It’s tempting to org-chart the hell out of your biz, but it’ll only stress you out more. It’s too much. Too big of a chunk.
Take something small. Like PPC ad writing. Or blog content.
And from A to Z, list out the steps you already take. OR, the steps you’d like to take based on the excellent example you see somewhere online already. Whatever. Doesn’t matter.
Here, I’ll even give you an internal example.
Step 7 of our “How to Create a Blog Post” process is about creating headlines. And I just straight stole the answers from Jon Morrow’s Headline Hacks – because it’s amazing, simple and straightforward. Someone with little-to-no blogging skillz can follow one of these and churn out a not-terrible headline on their first try.
Zooming into a specific step or activity helps you see how tired, boring-old processes can deliver the goods.
But the real benefit in comes when you see the transitions; how you go from completing one thing to starting the next.
Mind mapping can help you visualize how all of these pieces fit together. XMind is one, but certainly not the only, option.
Here’s another personal example of the customer journey, along with How and What and Who from our side will align with each step.
So peeps complete Steps 1, 2, and 3. Great. Then what?
Processes create systems. And the best systems are a collection of subsystems. I think I just plagiarized that from Work the System.
The point, though, is not to lose sight of the forest for the trees.
Next step is to make this idea come to life. A Word doc is great… for getting lost on your hard drive somewhere.
But the next step is to use some tool – again, doesn’t matter which – to capture and manage and assign and enforce the system you just created.
My favorite is Pipefy. It’s amazing. Time-consuming to get right. But powerful once you get workflows up-and-running which allow other team members or contractors to step into various parts and do the job 80% as well as you.
Because that’s the goal at first. 80%. Transferring your years of experience and pattern matching and hard lessons isn’t easy. But over time you’ll learn how to create a process that enforces good habits and helps people bypass that learning curve.
Pipefy even has a few templates you can import to get started. Including, an SEM management one. How apropos.
The individual step (in the image above) can’t be completed until someone fills out each text box with an answer.
Once that’s done, you move onto the next step which will then bring up a new list of instructions, video tutorials, image examples, and more for the next person to know exactly what’s expected of them.
Which brings us to people.
Marketers live in a results-driven business. The pressure’s on.
One study says working in media is almost as stressful as flying a plane or cutting into people!
Which means we usually have a short leash (and shorter temper) when it comes to those around us. If they can’t keep up, they’re not around long. #realtalk
Good people are hard to find. The ones who can read your thoughts and are already a step ahead.
These people should also be incredibly cheap in the grand scheme of things. Like, you can’t afford not too, cheap. That’s meant in a rational businessperson, not insensitive, way. They’re an asset, not an expense.
But they can’t be thrown into the deep end. Even contractors, who’re subject-level experts, need help understanding what you’re thinking and what you’re looking for. They won’t get it on the first try.
So whether you’re hiring new marketers or working with outside people (I’ve had great experiences so far with Worldwide101 ← and I don’t receive anything for saying that), the best thing you can do is plug them into a process.
People shouldn’t cause you to take more time out of your already busy schedule. They should add back chunks of time, while multiplying and leveraging your ability to execute.
But that’s only possible if they know exactly, step-by-step, what to do and why.
I hope this doesn’t come off as preachy. That wasn’t the intent.
I’ve personally wasted (and continue to waste) countless hours reading, instead of doing.
Chances are, you’re similar. You already know what it takes, or where to find it.
And there’s only so many hours in the day. You can’t possibly put in anymore.
So piling on another ‘hack’ to your already overflowing to-do list isn’t going to help.
Bookmark it. Save it in Evernote. Someday/Maybe it. And revisit it later.
For now, focus on improving your processes to get vastly more done in less time.
Execution dictates results. Not hacks.
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Search engine optimization — SEO — is one of those “you love it or you hate it” topics.
Some get a charge out of the challenge of keeping up with those wily engineers at Google.
Others would rather eat a bug than try to figure out what “headless crawling” means and which redirect is the right one to pick in months that end in R.
I have to confess, I’m in the bug-eating camp on this one.
Fortunately, although technical SEO is still important for some sites, there’s a crazy-powerful optimization technique that people like me can get really good at.
Yes, it’s content. (You already knew that, because you’re smart.) Yes, it has to be good content. And yes, I’m going to talk about what, specifically, “good” means.
But first, I’m going to talk about my most important search optimization rule.
My first and primary rule, when thinking about search engines, is never to do anything for the sake of SEO that screws up the experience for the audience.
That cuts out some downright dumb behavior, like overstuffing your content with keywords.
But it also helps you evaluate new advice that comes along. If it makes your site less useable, if it makes your message less effective, or if it alienates or confuses your audience … you should probably skip it.
Here are nine SEO recommendations that also work to make your site experience better for the human beings who read your content, listen to your podcasts, and actually pay for your products and services.
Want lots and lots of people to visit your site, and stick around once they find you? Answer their pressing questions, and you’ll get your wish.
People fire up a search engine because they have unanswered questions. If you’re smart and knowledgeable about your topic, you can help with that.
Tutorial content is wonderful, but also think about questions like:
Hand in hand with answering real audience questions is using your audience’s language.
That brings us to our friend keyword research. (Check out Beth’s post tomorrow for more on that.)
It’s too bad that some people still think keyword research means looking up a bunch of word salad that makes sense to rooms of computers in Silicon Valley.
Keyword research means figuring out the language that real human beings enter into search engines to find your stuff.
There are great tools out there for finding those turns of phrase. You can also add in some smart social media listening and pay attention to how people talk on the web about your topic. (This is also a good way to find more of those “problems people care about” I talked about in the last point.)
By the way, you don’t have to feel chained to a narrow set of word combinations that you found with your keyword research tool. Use the keyword phrases you find, absolutely, but don’t use them so much that it gets weird. You don’t have to do an in-depth study of latent semantic indexing — just use synonyms.
(Kind of like a real writer does. Golly.)
Use metaphors and analogies. Use a few big or unusual words (if they’re natural to your voice). Flesh out your list of keywords with all of the fascinating and creative things that writers and artists do.
Content and SEO experts love to write articles about precisely how long your content should be. Over the years, the recommendations have gone up, and then down, sideways, and any other direction you might think of.
My advice: your content should be as long as necessary to make your point.
Some ideas can be expressed quickly, with punchy, interesting little posts.
Some ideas need more time to develop fully. They deserve a longer format or a content series that gets published over time. You could even dedicate specific months to covering a subject in more depth, like we’re doing this year on Copyblogger. (Have you noticed? Three guesses what March’s topic theme is …)
A strong series can be repurposed into ebooks (or a whole ebook library, once you have a solid archive), podcasts, infographics, SlideShares, videos, and premium products like courses.
Stop falling for the myth of the “goldfish attention span.” Twenty-first-century audiences have plenty of attention for the things they care about, as long as you make the content easy to consume. Which brings us to …
It doesn’t matter how brilliant your content is — if it’s published in walls of tiny gray type, without subheads or line breaks, most users will skip it.
It’s actually really simple to take a strong piece of writing and make it much more accessible by formatting it well.
Make sure everything on your site is easy to read, watch, or listen to. Give everything a clear call to action, so people know what to do next. And establish clear paths to the outcomes your users want … using smart content marketing strategy to present useful options at every point along the way.
While we’re on the subject, if your site looks like it was published in 2003, you need a makeover. Immediately. Premium WordPress themes are a massive bargain for the design expertise (and clean back-end code) they give you in a turnkey package.
Also, users and search engines share a hatred of hacked websites. Use secure tools, including reputable themes and quality hosting, and a good monitoring service like Sucuri to make sure nothing funky is going on.
Covering your topic comprehensively matters, but it’s not just about going deep.
There’s also a real benefit to looking around and going wide with your content.
What’s the context for your topic? Who else is publishing about it? What are the trends? What’s changing? How is the larger environment shaping what’s going on? Who do you agree with? Who do you disagree with?
What do people need to know before they dive into your thing? Where do they start? Where do they go next?
If you write about social media marketing, write about people who have given up on it. Write about people who haven’t started yet. Write about how the larger culture and worldview are changing social media … and how social media is changing the world.
Every topic takes place in a larger context. If that context interests your audience, it should be part of your content mix.
Link-building is one of the most important topics in SEO.
Here’s a secret:
Link-building is community-building.
Even if your competitors aren’t into the whole “co-opetition” idea, there’s a larger community that cares about what you do.
My friend Jim is an orthopedic surgeon who creates YouTube content about surgical procedures. Other surgeons might (but probably won’t) link to him, because he’s a true competitor — you only get your knee operated on once. (We hope.)
But runners would link to him. Skiers would, too. And sites about staying athletic as you age.
Think about the community of web publishers who have the audience you want. Develop relationships with them. Support each other.
This isn’t, of course, about spamming people you don’t know and begging them for links. It’s about making yourself a valued participant in a larger ecosystem.
One terrific way to build amazing connections (and the links that go with them) is to publish guest content on excellent sites. Try it in a lazy, cheap way and it’s spam. Put the effort in to craft genuinely excellent material that serves their audience (and invites them to come check you out), and it’s a winning strategy.
Good technical SEOs know all about creating a logical site structure that’s easy for search engines to parse.
As I may have mentioned, I in no way resemble a good technical SEO. Instead, I rely on the Genesis framework and common-sense tags and categories to keep my site properly organized on the back end.
But it pays to keep yourself organized on the front end as well. That means making sure your navigation makes sense for what your site looks like today, not two years ago. It means you take your most valuable content and get it somewhere people can easily find it. And it means you link to your best content often, so your audience naturally continues to find and benefit from it.
You can do everything “right” for SEO and still get no traction.
Why? Because no one links to you, no one visits your site, and no one recommends your content — it’s too similar to a thousand other sites. It’s boring.
If your niche is incredibly narrow and no one else can write about it, maybe you can get away with boring. Even then, it’s risky.
And the final SEO tip?
Don’t try to make the search engines your only source of traffic.
Relying on one source of customers for your business is unacceptably risky.
Relying on a monolithic megacorporation as your one source of customers is insane.
Google doesn’t care about your business. Not even a tiny bit. Not even if you give them a lot of money every month for ads.
Make sure there are lots of different ways that potential customers can find you. Keep your eyes open for new opportunities. A platform that was a dud for you last year might offer a lot of promise today. And keep growing your email list, so if you do have a traffic hiccup, you still have a way to reach your most loyal audience.
While search engine optimization shouldn’t be the only way you get traffic, it can be an important way for great people to find your site. So this month, we’ll be talking about smart ways to optimize your site for search … without messing up what you’re doing well.
Where are you on the SEO spectrum? Do you enjoy it, maybe even geek out about it, or are you in the eat-a-bug category? Let us know in the comments.
Image source: Jill Heyer via Unsplash.
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