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How Usable Is Your Website? A No-Excuses Plan for Uncovering Issues

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If you sit some people down and have them use your site, you’ll figure out very quickly where people are getting hung up.Good usability is properly managing people’s expectations. Not surprisingly, websites that are easier for people to use almost always deliver higher conversion rates because it’s easier for visitors to complete their desired task.

Usability testing is the most powerful and effective thing you can do for your website. The magic of usability testing is that it removes all the personal bias that might have gone into the development of your site, ensuring that it meets the needs of the visitor – which will ultimately also meet the business goals of your organization.

Despite this obvious benefit, many organizations skip usability testing altogether, citing lack of time, lack of money, or both. There’s a common fallacy that the process has to be expensive and complicated.

Oddly, it took someone who does usability testing for a living to question that notion. In his book “Rocket Surgery Made Easy,” usability consultant Steve Krug (who also wrote “Don’t Make Me Think”) lays out a very simple, inexpensive formula for conducting your own usability tests. According to Krug, usability testing doesn’t have to be that complicated, and almost anyone can do it in about three weeks, start to finish. The underlying premise is this: if you sit some people down and have them use your site, and have them think out loud while they’re doing it, you’ll figure out very quickly where people are getting hung up.

Basic Ingredients

Here’s what you’ll need to create an effective, ongoing usability testing program without much money:

  • One morning a month
  • Three volunteers, and some sort of incentive to get them to do it (gift certificate, etc.)
  • A list of core tasks that are consistent with the business goals of your website, and a script to coach them through the process
  • A conference room, a webcam, and some inexpensive software
  • A group of people from your organization who are involved in your website content, design, and functionality

That’s it. No laboratory. No two-way glass. No expensive moderator.

Week 1 – Plan, Recruit, and Build Your Team

First decide what you’re testing. Is it your live site, a prototype, or just wireframes? Most people doing usability testing for the first time are testing their live site. Next you’ll need to figure out what tasks you want to test. Determine at least 10 (but no more than 15) tasks that a user should be able to successfully execute to get the most out of your site. Take time to select tasks based on what actual users of the site would do. These could include things such as buying a specific product in a specific color and size, downloading a white paper, or even just learning about what the organization does or finding your phone number.

You’ll also need to recruit your participants. But don’t get too hung up on this process. While it’s good to have some people from your target audience, Krug says you don’t have to worry about that nearly as much as you’d think, especially if you’re starting out and getting the hang of it. “What you’re looking for first of all are the problems that anybody is going to encounter, such as a confusing interface,” says Krug. “It doesn’t matter whether they’re from your target audience or not. Your grandmother could try using the site and she would run into those problems.”

Finally, figure out who from your organization should be involved in the tests. Get as many people as possible on your team, especially all the folks who have had strong opinions about the website in the past. Believe me, watching people struggle to use your site is an extremely effective way to solve internal power struggles.

Week 2 – Refine Your Plan

Now that you’ve put together your internal team, get their feedback on the list of tasks you developed. Make sure everyone has a say in what they think are the highest priorities.

You’ll also need to develop the script you’ll use when working with each participant. Krug makes this easy by providing a sample script (and other helpful resources) on his website. Once you finalize your tasks, you’ll need to adapt the script so that it includes your specific tasks, but that’s easy and can be done at any time in the next week.

This is also a good time to determine how you’ll be doing the testing. Will participants be coming into your office, or working remotely? Either will work fine if you have the right software. If participants are coming into your office, have a webcam set up on the testing computer so that your team (who will be assembled in the conference room down the hall) can watch the volunteer and hear her comments. You’ll also want to install some sort of screen sharing software (GoToMeeting works well) so that your observation team can watch as the volunteer clicks through the site. GoToMeeting is also a good solution if you run your tests remotely. It will not only allow your observation team to tune in “live,” but it also gives you the opportunity to record the entire session, including the dialogue between test moderator and volunteer and how the participant navigates through the site.

Week 3 – Execution and Debrief

By the third week, you’re ready to do your tests. Bring in three volunteers in one-hour shifts each. Don’t worry that a sample size of three isn’t statistically valid. Usability experts who have done testing for years, including Krug, agree that if you watch three people try to use your site, you’re going to discover most of the more serious problems in your site. If you schedule more than three, by the time you get to the fifth person you’ll be seeing the same problems arise again and again.

Take care to moderate each participant session exactly the same, following the script verbatim even though it feels weird to do so. Krug cautions against ad-libbing, because you could inadvertently provide different information to the participants that will affect the results of your test.

Meanwhile, have your team assembled in the conference room to watch and take notes. The importance of this can’t be overstated. With everyone’s busy schedule, it’s tempting to have one person conduct the tests and report the findings to the rest of the team. Don’t fall into this trap. Seeing is believing, and nobody will doubt the validity of the findings if they watch for themselves as users struggle to accomplish the most seemingly simple tasks.

At the end of each session Krug recommends you get your observation team to write down the three most significant usability issues they’ve observed. There shouldn’t be much discussion at this point because you want to be able to compare everyone’s individual observations apart from any group influence. Once the three sessions are over, order lunch and begin your debrief. Have the group discuss what they observed and look for the common themes. Together, decide on the overall top three and make a list of the most serious problems in descending order. This last point is critical. It’s easy to get distracted by, and subsequently bogged down with, issues that are “easy” to fix. But remember why you are doing this yourself: you’re resource constrained. Stay focused on the top issues that will make the most measurable impact on your site’s usability.

No More Excuses!

By now you’re probably wondering if it could really be this fast, easy, and inexpensive. The answer is – unquestionably – yes! You can get meaningful, insightful, and actionable user feedback in about four hours every month, at very minimal expense. The most difficult part of the whole process is shedding your ego long enough to value, rather than dismiss, what you learn. Remember that you and your team members are blinded by what you already know about your site. That makes it nearly impossible for you to comprehend why your visitors can’t see the gigantic red button you wanted them to click, or why they don’t understand that the cute magnifying glass icon means “search.” Things that are obvious to you, either because you thought of them or just got used to them, may not be quite as apparent to others. And no matter how robust your analytics package is, the only way you’ll learn about these disconnects is from watching real human beings use your site.

 

Thank you Tim Ash

 

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Bounce Rate vs Exit Rate

Bounce Rate

Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is the percentage of people who landed on a page and immediately left. Bounces are always one page sessions.

High bounce rates are often bad, but it’s really a matter of context. Some queries may inherently generate high bounce rates. Specific informational queries (e.g. – What are the flavors of Otter Pops?) might yield high bounce rates. If the page fulfills the query intent, there may be no further reason for the user to engage. It doesn’t mean it was a bad experience, it just means they got exactly what they wanted and nothing more. (I was always partial to Louie-Bloo Raspberry or Alexander the Grape.)

A high bounce rate on a home page is usually a sign that something is wrong. But again, make sure you take a close look at the sources and keywords that are driving traffic. You might have a very low bounce rate for some keywords and very high for others. Maybe you’re getting a lot of StumbleUpon traffic which, by its very nature, has a high bounce rate.

Bounce rate is important but always make sure you look beyond the actual number.

Exit Rate

Exit Rate

Exit rate is the percentage of people who left your site from that page. Exits may have viewed more than one page in a session. That means they may not have landed on that page, but simply found their way to it through site navigation.

Like bounce rates, high exit rates can often reveal problem areas on your site. But the same type of caution needs to be applied. If you have a paginated article – say four pages – and the exit rate on the last page is high, is that really a bad thing? They’ve reached the end of the article. It may be natural for them to leave at that point.

Of course, you’ll want to try different UX treatments for surfacing related articles or encourage social interactions to reduce the exit rate, but that it was high to begin with shouldn’t create panic.

Exit rate should be looked at within a relative navigation context. Pages that should naturally create further clicks, but don’t, are ripe for optimization

 

Thank you AJ Kohn

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Reduce Website Bounce Rate: 20 Things to Consider

bounce-balls

Website bounce rate is one of those quality metrics that gets tossed around a lot in the search engine space. People are almost always talking about absolutes in terms of “this is how XYZ will reduce your bounce rate,” and so on.

I don’t subscribe to this school of thought; bounce rates need to be looked at subjectively.

While there are some general best practices, for the most part certain activities prescribed as absolute can both hurt and help websites.

Hence the title of this post. I don’t want to stand on my bounce rate soapbox and preach to you that everything in this post is going to help you, so I’m approaching this from a more realistic standpoint; the items on this list are worth thinking about, and probably trying – but this isn’t some magic wand from the land of unicorns and bounce rates under 5 percent.

A high bounce rate can be indicative of a number of things but usually falls into one of two categories:

  1. You’re acquiring the wrong kind of traffic to your page(s), or
  2. You’re acquiring exactly the right kind of traffic to your page(s).

Did number 2 throw you for a loop? Most people forget about the second scenario, since most websites tend to fall victim to the first.

But think about this for a second: if a user comes into your site and finds exactly what they were looking for; an answer to their question or solution to their problem, why should they stay a moment longer or look around on other pages?

Websites that are excellent at solving information problems quickly often have high bounce rates, for example here is a website that is designed to rank for question queries, offering specific and succinct answers:

bounce-rate-71-percent

Users come in, get the answers they need, and leave; but come back often.

On the Flipside

You have websites where it is critical to get your visitors to stick. You want them to spend time clicking around the site, perusing content, and build toward a conversion.

In these instances high bounce rates are a conversion killer, and anything you can do to increase the time on site and number of pageviews will most likely directly correlate to your site’s success and your bottom line.

Before we can approach improving something, it is important to make sure you have a firm grasp on what it is.

Bounce rate is often confused with exit rate, and the difference is important; bounce rate is a measure of people who bounced off a single page (i.e., they did not visit any other pages within your website), whereas exit rate is simply a measure of the percentage of visitors who left your site from that page.

Why It’s Important to Reduce Your  Website Bounce Rate

Reducing the bounce rate on pages that have the highest volume of traffic from your highest converting sources means more engaged visitors and a greater chance of conversion.

What follows is a list of 20 considerations for reducing your bounce rate. These are by no means absolutes and are relative to everyone’s unique value propositions and audience, but generally speaking, these are worth thinking about.

1. You Should Probably Avoid Pop-ups

Pop-up ads annoy people. In some rare cases they offer something worth the roadblock, but usually they disrupt the user experience.

2. Use Intuitive Navigation for Important Items

Don’t make your visitors feel dumb (or think you’re dumb) for not providing them with clear and obvious paths to get the content they may be looking for.

The most common reaction to not being able to find something that should be obvious is frustration – and if you’ve ever been on a web page where you can’t figure out how or where to navigate, this is exactly how you feel.

Heatmaps are a great way to gain visibility into where user’s might be trying to click, giving you insight into what should be clickable. A great tool for this is Crazy Egg.

3. Poor Design is Increasingly Less Tolerable

I’m not just talking about gradients and drop shadows; design now transcends the whole user experience. Your content needs to be attractive; both in terms of graphical treatments and readability.

Design for your target audience, which may not necessarily be the audience you already have, or at least not the majority of it. Design has become a legitimacy signal and the lack thereof can directly impact visitors (and prospects) perceptions of the quality of your business and services.

4. Speed

This pretty much goes without saying these days but nothing really effects bounce rate like having a web page that takes 10 seconds to load.

Not only is this a confirmed ranking factor and lends directly to user experience, but it can cause your follower reach to stall, negatively impact your search rankings, and destroy your conversion rate.

5. Is Your Website Mobile Usable

I realize that is far from proper English, but I feel it makes my point. Being mobile friendly is ideal, but being mobile usable is critical.

Websites can still be effective as long as content can be accessed and used from a mobile device or tablet.

Furthermore, mobile usability does not necessarily mean from a design compatibility and accessibility standpoint, in many cases it means is the language on your site simple and clear enough that people on the go (on mobile devices) can still make sense of what they need to do to find information and at the very least contact you if necessary.

6. Design Information Around Priorities

This comes back to the last consideration, are your target conversion or content points clearly presented on your pages? Can users immediately get a sense of what they should expect to find or are expected to do while on the page?

Websites tends to have two paths to conversion:

  • Landing pages (short direct sales path)
  • A conversion funnel (longer process of qualifying visitors through a collection of pages that drive toward conversion)

Are you effectively managing the expectations of your visitors? A good litmus test for this is if you are able to trigger your primary page conversions more than 20 percent of the time.

7. Segment Information

This is another perspective on creating content that is designed to be digested and consumed. Readability is important here but so is the idea of grouping content into segments or categories – this is most often seen in blog posts where header tags are used to break apart large walls of text.

8. Optimize For Intent

This is a more detailed take on information design, and ensuring that based on the keywords your visitors are using to get to your pages, you are serving them an experience that address their expectations.

This is often talked about in paid search and display advertising, where the highest bounce rates are created from advertisers not closing the loop between the ad copy and the landing page copy and design. The experience needs to be consistent from start to finish or you risk breaking the user’s intent loop.

9. Be Mindful of Ad Placement

This is still a bit of a new idea (especially to advertisers) but if possible avoid the standard ad units. Not only have web users developed ad blindness but Google has also started penalizing pages that have too many ad units above the fold, and hint: they are looking for standard ad unit sizes.

Furthermore, from a publisher perspective, I can understand it’s great to squeeze an extra handful of impressions in per pageview, but if you look at some of the high performing niche ad networks, you will notice there publisher websites have a general lack of intrusive ads.

10. Lazy Load Third Party Content

Lazy loading, in case you’re unfamiliar, is a design pattern process for deferring the loading of objects until they are needed. Mashable is a fantastic example of this in action, notice how their pages load almost instantly and then new content is loaded as it is needed (as your scroll position advances toward those pixels).

This is done both for speed and user experience, and can be specified programmatically on a component by component basis.

11. Color Contrast

Readers need contrast. Contrast between colors can make a dull story into an exciting one and conversely can turn the most exciting content in the world into a palette of indiscernible whites and grays if not given proper consideration.

Contrast is important to consider as the web moves faster towards different mediums of content, with more and more happening on the pages, it is important to use colors and patterns to draw your reader’s eyes toward the important parts of the page.

12. Messaging is Blatantly Obvious

This is another consideration when it comes to focus and attention. Remember you only have a few seconds to translate value to a new visitor, so don’t make them guess.

Taglines are a great way to quickly translate purpose, but if you don’t have one another simple way is to place your site’s purpose in plain text in an obvious place (like the header or the top of the sidebar). If you sell something, say that.

13. Cut Out Distractions

I wish I could say this goes without saying, but I still run into website on a weekly basis that autoplay audio and video. These are distractions and intrusions that aren’t expected and break the experience.

Cutting out distractions not only leads to better bounce rates, but usually dramatically increases your conversion rates.

14. Offer Related Content Based on Personas

If you don’t offer related content on your pages, or intuitive navigation (hopefully with some sort of hook or teaser) then you’re missing out on a substantial number of pageviews and the opportunity to be more of a sticky resource.

Related content gets really powerful when you’re able to target it within the same categories or tags, as these segments of content tend to be attractive to visitors who make it through related posts in the same content stack.

15. Leverage Internal Search

If you don’t currently offer search functionality on your website or if you don’t regularly review internal search analytics, then you’re missing the boat. Web users have become so used to search that it is an easy behavioral pattern to accommodate and leverage for improved experience.

To take this a step further, you can use newer tools for crowdsourced FAQs to literally create a content roadmap for what matters most to your audience.

16. Open External Links in New Windows

This is an incredibly simple concept that is still often overlooked, but if you’re going to link out to a resource on your website, make sure you have it open a new window instead of redirecting the user off your site.

The best (and easiest way) to do this is to simply add target=”_blank” into the link’s <a> tag. So for example; <a href=”http://example.com” target=”_blank”>anchor text</a>.

17. Prominently Display Your Search Box

This is a separate consideration from leverage internal search that has more to do with number 2 on this list; if you are going to offer helpful functionality like site search on your website, don’t make users have to search for your search box.

18. Offer a Helpful 404 Page

Nobody likes to think of instances where their website or pages may greet users with a 404 page, but these things happen.

The best thing you can do to turn a negative experience into a potentially positive one is a few things:

  • Use Google’s suggestive snippet for creating useful 404 pages. Visit the “Enhance 404 pages” section in Google Webmaster Tools, which allows you to generate a JavaScript snippet.
  • Add a search box and a link to the homepage
  • If nothing else, add a bit of design and humor.

19. Keep it Readable, Will help Reduce  Website bounce rate

This isn’t a duplicate of number 3. In this consideration I’m talking specifically about your page’s Flesch-Kincaid score, or the level of difficulty for comprehension of your content.

There are two tests used to determine both the ease of reading and the average grade-level required for comprehension. Both of which have been baked into a very helpful index calculator.

20. Split Up Long Posts

People have shorter attention spans than ever before. So when they see long posts they are immediately reminded of times in high school trudging through massive texts of traditional English literature.

Consider instead splitting these up either into separate posts in a series or adding pagination to break up the content into smaller and more digestible chunks. This New York Times piece does a fantastic job (with an absolutely incredible story) of consolidating their story into chapters and breaking up a substantial and engaging experience across several views and interactions.

 

 

Thank you Nick Eubanks,

 

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Why Content Strategy, Content Marketing and SEO Are The Future For Small Businesses

Future of Small Businesses,SEO Content Marketing

Future of Small Businesses,SEO Content Marketing

Content Marketing is the new form of advertising and future of small businesses in 2014. Rather than creating ads that are shoved in the faces of consumers during commercial breaks, companies are now seeking to create value-added content that informs, entertains and drives traffic to their web presence. They call it branded content. Why businesses are focusing on such activities? Because they work. Specifically, there are a wealth of tactics that work for small businesses with limited budgets all related to content such as blogs, eBooks, podcasts, infographics and (viral) videos. Problem is how to get the most out of them, especially if this is your first time kicking-off a strategy for your online contents.

The 3 Pillars You Ought Master To Start Any Strategy

There is often too much information out there around what is the best solution for your business – making it overwhelming and difficult to know where exactly you should start. No matter what others write or tell, it all comes to 3 main ideas, thus business areas upon which any strategy aimed at your content creation, development and maintenance is up to:

  • Content Strategy: “the big picture” and covers the planning, goals, type of contents, publishing schedule, and governance
  • Content Marketing Strategy: the active result of your planning and take into consideration the creation of the content to achieve your business goals
  • Content SEO: the metrics upon which test and evaluate your strategy and efforts

These three core concepts should be employed to create successful online content. Having an intimate knowledge of the keywords that work for your business, the most effective types of content and having the systems in place to track your results are the first steps in positioning your web content to rank better, generate more leads and grow your sales. That being said, I’ve taken this information and broken it down into 3 simple steps that ANY business can follow to begin creating a strategy that works.

Step 1: Lay The Foundation

Before diving right into content creation, it is important to take a step back from your business and have a firm understanding of the “space” you operate in. You have to know what exactly your audience wants, the keywords that will connect them with your content and which systems to implement in order to track that information.

Fortunately, there are plenty of great (and free) tools that can help get you there. Google Analytics is a great tracking tool (available as WordPress plugin as well) that gives you the ability to view your website traffic volume as a whole, traffic on a specific page or see some of the keywords that drive traffic to your website.

The Google Adwords Keyword Planner is another great tool which can give you a sense of the total volume of traffic a specific keyword generates and an estimate for what it would cost to run a paid campaigns based off that keyword (and a way to generate new your editorial ideas). Lastly, SEOMoz has great tools for doing research, one of which is their Open Site Explorer. Here, you can compare your website with up to five competitors and see a breakdown of which website is most effective when it comes to domain authority (which translates directly into better search ranking).

Step 2: Decide On A Strategy

Now that you’re getting your hands dirty with “content” it’s about time to plan your future activities to get results. I’d say start from the first (and immediate) data you already have: keywords. If you have learned that a specific keyword generates decent web traffic volume or leads, be sure to plan your content with the optimization of that keyword in mind. Become eager of knowing who really are the people you’re talking to through preferred channels (blogs, ebooks, videos, etc.) and create specific characters toward the conversation is aimed (build your personas).

At this point, ask yourself this question which is critical to a successful (or failed) execution of your strategy:

Do I have all that’s needed to bring my content strategy to life?

For example: if you want to create videos, can you count on in-house technology and team that knows how to make them? If not, do you have the budget to hire in a third-party video maker? How about writers? Who’s going to be in charge of developing the core message? It is critical to have a basic understanding what a strategy will be in terms of goals and efforts.

Step 3: Get To Work

Once you’ve done your homework and implemented it, the final step is to execute. Don’t know where to begin? Start by writing 2 blog post, the first on your top keyword and one useful, which is sharing an idea on how to use better your product/service. Want another idea? Pull out your camera and prove your prospects with an insider view of your workplace. Then use Social Media or Email Marketing to share your content with your audience and start growing a following that wants to know more about the information you’re making available – which, again, is the ultimate goal of Content Marketing.

While there is no “one-size fits all” Marketing Strategy that will work, through the tactics I outlined, you’ll have a leg-up against your competition and will be better-suited to gain traffic, visibility and exposure for your content across the Web.

 

 

Thank you Matteo Duo

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Content Marketing vs. Social Media Marketing: What’s the Difference?

Difference,Content Marketing,Social Media Marketing

I still come across people who are totally unfamiliar with the term “content marketing.” And as I begin to explain it, they often respond, “Oh, brands publishing content? You mean social media marketing.” Step by step Difference,Content Marketing,Social Media Marketing

Indeed, content marketing heavily involves social media. And, of course, in ssocial media, marketers use content to get their messages across. But although there is plenty of overlap between content marketing and social media marketing, they are actually two distinct entities, with different focal points, goals, and processes. To help clear the confusion, let’s look at the major ways in which they differ:

Center of gravity

In social media marketing, the center of gravity — the focus of the marketing activity — is located within the social networks themselves. When marketers operate social media campaigns, they are operating inside of Facebook, inside of Twitter, inside of Google+, etc. As they produce content, they place it inside of these networks.

 

In contrast, the center of gravity for content marketing is a brand website — whether it be a branded URL like AmericanExpress.com or a microsite for a brand’s specific product, like Amex’s Open Forum. Social networks are vital to the success of content marketing efforts, but here, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are used primarily as a distributor of links back to the content on the brand’s website — not as containers of the content itself.

Types of content

In social media marketing, content is built to fit the context of the chosen social platform: short messages in the 140 characters range for Twitter; contests, quizzes, and games for Facebook, etc. Here, brands model their behavior after that of the individuals using the social networks.

On the other hand, in content marketing, the context of websites permits much longer forms of content. Brands can publish blog posts, videos, infographics, and eBooks, just to name a few formats. Here, brands model their behavior after that of media publishers.

Objectives

While both social media marketing and content marketing can be used for a multitude of purposes, social media marketing generally tends to focus on two main objectives. First, it is used for brand awareness — generating activity and discussion around the brand. Secondly, it is used for customer retention/ satisfaction — brands can use social channels as an open forum for direct dialogues with customers, often around issues or questions that consumers have.

In contrast, content marketing’s website-based center of gravity enables it to focus more on demand generation. As quality content brings prospects to a brand’s site, brands can develop a relationship with the prospects and nurture them towards a lead conversion or purchase.

Evolution of online marketing

While I don’t know the ratio of brands that practice social media marketing compared to those that practice content marketing, I’d imagine it has to be somewhere around one thousand to one. Social media marketing is top-of-mind for most every marketing department, while content marketing is a (relatively) new term, and a new practice for many.

Yet, I think of the two strategies less as two isolated options and more as interrelated parts of marketing’s ongoing evolution. The internet has unleashed a revolutionary ability for every brand to communicate directly with its customers — without the need for a media industry intermediary.

Social media marketing is the natural first step in this process: Access to users is direct (users spend tons of time on social networks), and content is generally formatted into shorter chunks, which makes the publishing process relatively easy.

But as brands become more familiar with their new role as publisher, the natural progression will be to move toward content marketing. Yes, the bar here is higher: In content marketing, brands must produce longer-form, higher-quality content and build audiences on their own site — they must become true media publishers. But the rewards and results are, arguably, more powerful. Brands can engage more deeply with their customers through content marketing efforts. And by driving consumers to its own website, the brand has a greater opportunity to gain leads and move them down the conversion funnel.

As we all pioneer this new strategy of content marketing, a shared definition of what we do relative to approaches like social media marketing is invaluable. So now your turn: In the comments, feel free to discuss your thoughts. Is this a definition you would use to distinguish the two disciplines? What’s missing?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you CMI

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What exactly is content marketing?

 

Content marketing the strategic marketing approach of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

 

In short, instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent. The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.

 

Do I really need to learn about another form of marketing?

 

Yes! Consumers have simply shut off the traditional world of marketing. They own a DVR to skip television advertising, often ignore magazine advertising, and now have become so adept at online “surfing” that they can take in online information without a care for banners or buttons (making them irrelevant). Smart marketers understand that traditional marketing is becoming less and less effective by the minute, and that there has to be a better way. Thought leaders and marketing experts from around the world, including the likes of Seth Godin and hundreds of the leading thinkers in marketing, have concluded that content marketing isn’t just the future, it’s the present (see the video below on the history of content marketing).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9OHgMMpGLzk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you CMI

 

 

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31 Content Marketing Ideas that Will Revolutionize Your Business

Here’s a list of 31 ideas and thoughts, which I believe will make an immediate impact on your content marketing, even if you only execute a few.

All of these are highly actionable ideas that can inspire innovative, engaging content marketing. Go out and be epic!

  1. Find one or multiple partners and launch a content marketing project together.
  2. Consider that less content could mean more impact.
  3. Find at least three thought leaders in your organization and build them into your content plan.
  4. Send each of those thought leaders to Toastmasters to work on their public speaking skills.
  5. Define your most valuable audience and consider a targeted print publication.
  6. Assign one employee to SlideShare and figure out how to leverage this tool as part of your content marketing.
  7. Develop a series of stories for your industry, on an aspect that has never been covered before.
  8. Make sure that every content landing page you develop this year has only one call to action.
  9. Stop one content initiative this year.
  10. Start working on a book for your business.  Yes, a real, printed book.
  11. Update your social media influencer list before the end of the year.
  12. Compile a substantial piece of influencer content (i.e., an eBook of influencer insights).
  13. Get at least five employees who are not part of marketing involved in your weekly content plan.
  14. Make it a priority to personalize your content by persona.
  15. Sit down with every salesperson and ask them what their customers’ biggest pain points are.
  16. Develop a list of the top 100 questions coming from your customer base.
  17. Commission a piece of art from a local artist to use in your next content piece.
  18. Target one traditional marketing initiative that can be enhanced with content marketing.
  19. Develop a content marketing metrics plan for your CEO or supervisor. It should include only those metrics that will make the case for company business objectives.
  20. Stop doing the same old press releases, and present them as engaging stories.
  21. Find a way to work with the leading trade magazine in your niche on a joint content effort.
  22. Commission a piece of research that is important to your customers.
  23. Commit to smarter usage of images in your content.
  24. Do an audit of all your blog posts and determine which types of titles lead to the right reader behaviors.
  25. If you have the budget, start identifying media companies in your industry that may be ripe for acquisition.
  26. Make sure your content is easy to read on both smartphones and tablets.
  27. Set up an editorial leader in each of your silos and plan to meet at least once per week.
  28. Develop a customer event that doesn’t talk about your projects, but rather educates them on where the industry is going.
  29. Create a piece of content this year that would be completely unexpected and see what happens.
  30. Send a videographer and journalist to the next industry event and cover it.
  31. Whatever you do this year, make sure you are telling a different story than everyone else in your industry — not just the same story told incrementally better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you  Joe Pulizzi

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Improve your Targeting and Tell a Story By Creating Buyer Personas

A persona is a research-based profile of an archetypal customer that represents needs of many. Personas work for B2B because they bring focus, empathy, and consensus to your campaigns. When designing a campaign, for example, the tendency is to be broad about what you are going after, but a bigger audience + more targets = less focus. By creating a persona based marketing strategy, you can be more targeted and truly understand who your buyer is. Create a story about who that person is, what his or her lifestyle is like, what are the pain points?

At Marketo, one of our personas is “Molly the Marketer”. By understanding who she is and what makes her tick, we can ask questions–what do I say to her? What messages will resonate? What channels should I use? Because you are creating a more personal profile, you can write content and create marketing programs that comes from an emotional place. You know what they like, as if they are your best friend. Personas bring more of a human touch to your marketing.

How do you start?

To develop your personas you need to determine what their goals and attitudes are. You have to ask yourself, what do you they know? What do they respond to? What are their behaviors? Do qualitative research to gather this knowledge.

How do you get this information?

Interviews! Once you determine your personas, you can schedule user interviews that last about 20 minutes. Make sure whoever is conducting the interview knows what to focus on and what to look for. Your research can be as thorough as you want. Some companies even hire trained anthropologists to watch what people do. The more detailed your personas are, the better your marketing can be. They should feel real, like you have talked to that person.

Make sure to leverage your sales team as well. They are on the front lines talking to customers everyday. Go on an in person sales call or sit in on the phone. And make sure you collaborate with sales throughout your persona development process.

How do I create the personas?

Once you have gathered all of your data and research, start developing unique segments that group goals (what do they want to accomplish), behaviors (what they do), and attitudes (knowledge, perception) into unique segments. The ideal number of personas for a company would be four. A complicated company may have up to six personas, but more may lead to a lack of focus. You know you’ve succeeded if the personas are:

  • Distinct from each other
  • Cover the market
  • Feel real (I’ve talked to that person!)
  • Easy to explain

From there, work to make each persona feel like a real person. Create dossiers on each one, hang posters or cutouts around the office. You can even write a blog for each persona and make it come to life even more. Additionally, make sure you socialize your personas throughout your organization to drive consensus. Your end goal should be to culturally have the company adopt the concept of talking about these personas as real people.

Common mistakes B2B marketers make when creating personas

It is very easy to make something up and skip real research. A good executive could probably get it right about 60% of the time, but the effort to push it through the organization might be more difficult if there isn’t solid and real research behind your efforts.  By skipping the research phase, you are more likely to inadvertently focus on what YOU like vs. the persona. Remember you are not the customer. You are not the persona.

Final tips for creating and using personas

  • Create a comprehensive list of your personas and make them available throughout your organization
  • One program should target one persona–if you are creating an email marketing program that targets three personas, you are probably not effectively targeting anyone
  • Smaller super targeted campaigns are better for keeping a focus on individual personas

And remember, personas are for all sized businesses. They are crucial to getting your positioning right. But personas are really important and rarely urgent. The challenge of current operating businesses is to pull out of the day-to-day in order to spend time on a persona project. But so much knowledge can be gained and your marketing can really improve by doing it right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you Dayna Rothman