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3 Life Lessons I Learned the Hard Way

life lessons

Some of us discover our purpose in life at an early age.

It might be writing, playing the violin or the driven and passionate artist.

That is unusual and rare.

And they are the lucky few.

The rest of us have to stumble through life trying to find our “why”.

Some of us don’t bother.

Being secure and safe is enough. We don’t feel the urge to move up the ladder.

To reach the top of Maslow’s pyramid.

His theory of the journey that we aspire to was outlined in his 1943 paper, “A Theory of Human Motivation”.

Initially the top of the pyramid for him was listed as “self-actualization”

But later in life he saw transcendence as the ultimate aspiration for becoming fully human.

To leave a legacy and make a difference.

To go beyond the self.

To change humanity maybe in some small way.

So what is life about and what were the lessons that I needed to discover and learn?

Passionate purpose

One of my first romantic interests was Priscilla.

Her father was a rich doctor.

They had expensive cars and a big house.

I was impressed.

Hard not to be when you are just 7.

It was all about the money.

And aspiring to be a medical practitioner had now become a career goal.

But after performing a science experiment at the age of 14 which involved cutting up mice and frogs I discovered something.

I hated the site of blood.

So….a change of direction.

So my next goal in life was to become an accountant.

They looked after the money.

But after starting my accounting degree something else became clear.

My inclination wasn’t attention to detail and balancing the books needed that.

Ledgers and debits and credits were the stuff off nightmares.

When that realization dawned I made a hard choice and settled for a teaching career.

I wasn’t sure but it was the only reasonable option at the time.

But that lasted a few brief years until I transitioned to the tech industry as I participated in the PC revolution.

This was my first career I really loved.

Sales and marketing were my new and exciting path.

This was far from a straight line to finding my “why” but later I discovered that all these experiences were part of my future.

A few decades later I stumbled into my life purpose.

It was an intersection of decades of experience, expertise and passion.

Fumbling and sometimes failing.

But I had never stopped looking.

Pivoting, prodding and often being found wanting. Falling short..

And it took me over 50 years.

Aspiring to be as fully human as you can is a marathon.

And failed dreams sit in that mix.

Your first goal in life is to discover “Why” you are here.

Unearthing your superpowers that you need to share with the world.

For many they are hidden from view.

So don’t settle.

Keep asking and keep looking.

Don’t settle for ordinary when the world is wanting and waiting to see the real you.

Persistent action

A passionate purpose without action is just a good idea.

We have all listened to the well meaning wannabe.

Good intentions and grand schemes..

And many of us have those.

Ideas to burn.

They pile up on our desk and in the recesses of your mind.

Discussed over coffee with friends.

But many of us get distracted and park them in quiet dark corners that never see the light of day.

At some stage we need to make a call.

Take action.

It may be the wrong one. Or it might be your next big thing.

The reality is that many of us come up with excuses that stop us.

Too busy.

Not enough money.

I’m too old.

Friends and family will all tell you that it is a mad idea

But don’t die wondering.

Success is about taking action.

Despite the doubts and naysayers.

Then persisting.

Tenacious action is where your magic is revealed.

And it’s never too late.

Pain solving

So we have stumbled into our passionate purpose and taken action.

Life is good.

It’s all going to plan.

Then you get “that” phone call.

Something has happened.

It’s not good.

Ever had one of those days. That week, month or year?

Where order descends into chaos.

Your stable relationship ends with a messy affair.

You discover your business partner is stealing your money

Or that first world problem. Facebook changes its algorithm that disrupts your business growth and sales.

There is one constant in life and business.

There will be pain and suffering.

Change.

Sometimes imposed by others.

Its your attitude to that challenge whether your life is a success.

Will you wallow or will you rise?

My solution to that challenge.

Here are my 3 simple steps. Easy to say but hard to do.

Read books that inspire you. Everyday.

Exercise. Not once a week but be active every day.

Distract yourself. For me that was done by hanging out with fun and successful people.

These worked for me and maybe you have your own methods.

But no matter what, you need to find a way to soar.

Pain is the big stick that can you move from mediocrity to life changing success.

Comfort is overrated.

Final words

Transformation starts with the journey of discovering your  “Why” and finding the answer.

Then strap yourself in, sit down and do the work despite the doubters and hecklers.

See pain as inevitable and work out a way to rise above the lows that will show up.

And they will.

In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer” – Albert Camus

In the middle of the life’s chaos and confusion the real you is waiting to be that hero.

Are you ready to make a difference…..leave your legacy?

The post 3 Life Lessons I Learned the Hard Way appeared first on Jeffbullas’s Blog.

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Content Marketing 101: All You Need To Know To Grow Your Business

Content Marketing 101 - All You Need To Know To Grow Your Business

It was a paperback book that someone I trusted and respected had recommended.

Its title was good but not great.

The headline wasn’t so compelling that it would stop you in your tracks. But something about it made me want to start reading and open the cover.

Most of it was read in coffee shops near my home. I had plenty of time as I was between jobs.

But it made a big promise.

If you created great engaging content online then you would attract leads and sales.

The term used to describe that was “inbound marketing”.

New Rules of Marketing and PR - Content Marketing 101

The book?

“The New Rules of Marketing and PR” by David Meerman-Scott.

As a sales and marketing professional it seemed to make a lot of sense. I certainly liked the idea of attracting customers rather than chasing them.

Over my career I had used newspaper advertising, radio ads, cold calling, fax broadcasting and even door knocking to grow sales.

But outbound marketing often meant that you had to pay gatekeepers to get your business and brand in front of an audience.

The media moguls had the distribution and access to the customers that wanted to buy your products.

But things had changed.

The Internet had emerged, and websites, search engines and online publishing were becoming mainstream. Online stores were becoming trusted and normal.

New tools and platforms had evolved.

But the real kick-starter to make it easy to publish and get attention had gone from a fad to a global trend.

That was the fast emerging social media networks.

I was so intrigued by the discovery and its potential that I started a blog on the topic. It was an experiment.

It was the start of a journey to see if David’s premise stacked up.

Could it deliver?

The big questions

The passion project started and content creation commenced.

But one big question was “would my amateur articles attract an audience?”

The other burning questions?

  • Can you grow revenue from content creation?
  • Can you build a business around it?
  • Is this a passing fad?

As I started publishing I also started sharing my creation with a few followers on Twitter. They responded.

The few turned into many and then into millions of readers a year.

The first big question had been answered.

One year later I found an email in my inbox asking me to speak in Italy. They offered to pay me. Another question had a response that I liked.

A few years later I left my day job and struck out on my own. The sustainable business question had been resolved.

This had all happened around a content publishing hub that had been started with a $10 investment. That was a domain name.

There are many other questions that I am sure you have asked while reading this, so for the rest of this article, I will endeavor to answer them.

It is going to be pretty comprehensive; a guide to Content Marketing 101 – everything you need to know.

I will talk about the basics of content marketing and the many ways it can help you grow your business. I will focus on a “do it yourself” approach that minimizes the costs and helps you understand what keeps your customers interested and engaged with your brand.

So grab a cup of tea, make yourself comfortable, and let’s dive right in.

Table of Contents

What is content marketing?

The importance of content marketing

The benefits of content marketing

Building your content marketing foundation

How to create a content marketing strategy

What content to create (and how)

Where to distribute your content

How to manage your content marketing on a limited budget

Content analysis and measuring ROI

Conclusion

What is content marketing?

Content marketing focuses on the creation and distribution of relevant and valuable content, with the purpose of attracting a clearly-defined audience, building a long-term relationship with them and, ultimately, turning them into loyal customers.

The keywords you need to remember are “relevant”, “targeted” and “relationship.” Simply creating content without a solid understanding of your audience’s needs and interests will not help you grow your business. At best, you will generate unqualified traffic; at worst, you are wasting valuable time and resources on creating content for the wrong audience.

Done right, content marketing is the effective use of content that informs, educates (and sometimes entertains and inspires) customers to discover you, trust you and buy from you.

Content Marketing 101 quote 1

The great part that isn’t often appreciated is that if it is done with persistence and with the long game in mind, the content becomes an asset that keeps giving.

  • People will find answers (in the form of content) from your blog or website when performing a Google search.
  • They will discover your YouTube video in a tweet or on Facebook.
  • They will register for your webinar and buy your product or service.

But to be successful with content, you need a mindset of pull, not push.

A vision for next year, not next week.

An approach that revolves around building digital assets that accrue in value over time, rather than expiring digital assets that become obsolete and die when you turn off the advertising.

Back to the Table of Contents.

The importance of content marketing

One of the primary reasons content marketing works is that it focuses on telling stories and building narrative, rather than just bombarding prospects with sales messages

People are more likely to engage with a brand that delivers quality, educational content than one that only focuses on selling its products.

Purchasing decisions aren’t always, if ever, rational. It’s not facts that get prospects to choose a brand over another. The emotions and personal beliefs that come with the story are the main factors that motivate people to take action. Consumers usually choose the brands whose narratives reflect their views and embody their ideal principles of life.

That’s not just a theory; there are numbers to prove it…

  • According to DemandMetric, content marketing costs 62% less than traditional advertising.
  • It also generates three times more leads.
  • Businesses that use content marketing have six times higher conversion rates than non-adopters, according to Aberdeen.
  • A Custom Content Council study found that 72% of businesses think content marketing is more effective than advertising in a magazine.
  • 62% claim it generates better results than advertising on TV.
  • 69% of marketers say branded content is superior to both direct mail and public relations.

These examples are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to studies that prove the effectiveness of content marketing. Here you can find more statistics that support its worth.

Still not convinced? Let’s take a look at the benefits.

Back to the Table of Contents.

The benefits of content marketing

From a distance, the benefits of content marketing are not all that obvious or apparent.

But here are some of the benefits I have experience personally on this journey:

  • Content builds a digital asset hub that attracts leads and sales.
  • It grows credibility and trust as you publish content that answers customer questions.
  • Quality content can establish you and your brand as a thought leader in your industry that spreads influence and authority.
  • It educates your prospects and clients, building loyalty that turns them into fans and advocates.

The core of content marketing really comes down to one simple idea: thought leadership vs. selling.

Selling is an immediate call to action, a proposition that needs to end with a clear decision. The customer will buy or will not buy the product or service. More than that, the effectiveness of a sales-centric strategy will end the moment you stop pouring money into it. Your pay-per-click marketing or Facebook ads will stop generating leads the moment your campaign ends.

Content marketing, on the other hand, is the gift that keeps on giving. A high-quality article can generate return one week, one month or even one year after you’ve created it. That’s because quality content enables you to create a bond with your audience that goes beyond the simplistic purpose of buying and selling.

Content Marketing 101 quote 2

Hopefully, by now you’re on the content marketing bandwagon with me… If so, how do you build a content strategy and make the most of this approach to business growth?

Back to the Table of Contents.

Building your content marketing foundation

A common mistake people make when it comes to content marketing is that they jump right in without building a foundation first. Here’s what you need to do to ensure your strategy is going to be effective.

Hire the right team

Content marketing can feel a bit overwhelming, especially if it’s a new concept and you have no idea where to start. Getting help from others to outline and execute on your plan is not only smart but also encouraging.

But, make sure to choose your team carefully. Talk about your brand’s identity, your value set, your ideal customer profile, and what you are looking to achieve as a business. Help them relate to a vision for your brand that inspires them to want to work with you.

When I say “team”, I don’t necessarily mean you need to go out there and hire 10 full-time staff members. If you are a small business or entrepreneur, consider other options you have available to you to build the skill set you are going to need to be successful – outsourcing to freelancers and contractors, for example.

Here are some of the “roles” that you, your team, or your outsourced partner will need to play to execute your content marketing strategy:

  • Content marketing manager or project coordinator
  • Content creator or copywriter
  • Graphic designer
  • Content curator
  • Researcher
  • Community manager
  • Brand monitor
  • Influencer and partnerships manager

Think about your brand’s voice

How do you want prospects to perceive you? Do you want to be seen as a friendly brand or a professional business?

Develop a brand voice and stick to it across all channels. Create guidelines for you and your team to follow in terms of brand colors, use of fonts, language do’s and don’ts, and other things that influence your perception of the market.

Document content marketing goals

Look to document content marketing goals and tie them back to your primary business objectives. Here are some common examples of areas you may like to set content marketing goals for as a starting point:

  • Brand awareness
  • Authority and influence
  • Social proof and case studies
  • Market research and product ideation
  • Customer research
  • Website traffic
  • Lead generation
  • Customer acquisition
  • Brand loyalty and customer retention
  • Customer referrals
  • Customer service
  • Customer onboarding

Research by Statista found that Lead Generation, Brand Awareness, and Engagement were the top content marketing goals for companies in North America:

Statistic: What are the goals for content marketing in your company? | Statista
Find more statistics at  Statista

Create a customer profile

A customer profile, or buyer persona, is a fictional representation of your ideal customer.

An effective customer profile goes beyond demographic information and documents things like interests, hobbies, fears, hopes, and dreams – helping you truly understand how your customers tick.

A well-constructed customer profile will help you do everything a little bit better. Your content will resonate more with your audience, which will result in more engagement, more traffic, and inevitably more purchases. Without a good understanding of your ideal customer, your content marketing strategy is likely to fall flat.

To create a buyer persona, here is a brief process to follow:

  1. Find a buyer persona template that suits your business and industry.
  2. Start researching your customers to fill in this template, on social media, search engines, and via customer surveys.
  3. Consolidate your research into at least one simple buyer persona, or several if you need to.
  4. Use your buyer persona to guide your content marketing activity.

HubSpot has a cool online tool called “Make My Persona” where you can fill in a few key details and automatically generate a customer profile for your business:

Content Marketing 101 persona

Back to the Table of Contents.

How to create a content marketing strategy

Once you have established a strong foundation, here are the steps I recommend you take to create an effective content marketing strategy:

Map out content that aligns with the buyer’s journey

Just because “content marketing” is a fairly new concept, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t maintain many of the core aspects of an effective marketing strategy.

You should still spend time getting to know your customers and understanding the typical process they go through before buying from you.

Whether you call this a sales funnel, buyer’s journey, or something else entirely, at its core this concept simply captures the idea that individuals go through a certain rational and emotional process before they make a purchase decision.

At each stage of this process, they are looking for information and guidance that leads them to the next step. It’s your job, as the content marketer, to provide relevant and helpful content at each of these important stages in their journey.

For example, prospects at the top of the funnel have only just discovered your brand or realized that they have a problem. Bombarding them with sales messages is a surefire way to drive them away. Instead, you should provide educational content that answers their questions.

People in the middle of the funnel are evaluating their options, trying to decide if a product is useful or whether they can trust the brand behind it. Create content at this stage that proves your expertise, such as in-depth articles, white papers, competitive comparisons, or eBooks.

People at the bottom of the funnel have made their decision and are ready to buy, but oftentimes they need help making that final commitment. Provide them with case studies, testimonials, or tailored offers to get them started.

Below is a visual representation of this concept created by Bluewire Media:

Content Marketing 101 sales funnel

Once a prospect becomes a customer, your goal should be to reinforce their decision to buy your offer and turn them into a raving fan of your business. Your job doesn’t end once they sign up, it then becomes an issue of retention and engagement, which content can help with too.

Brainstorm content ideas and create a content calendar

Once you have created an understanding of your customer’s typical journey towards a purchase, you then want to come up with content ideas that will satisfy each stage of that journey.

Get creative, loosen up and write down all the ideas that might inspire your strategy. Think of the essence of what you want to broadcast to the world. Don’t hesitate to look around online for inspiration. After all, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

Here are some other proven ways for coming up with content ideas:

  • Conduct keyword research to see what people are searching for in search engines.
  • Determine a list of your customers’ most common questions; before, during, and after a sales or customer service conversation.
  • Identify the problems and subproblems your product or service solves.
  • Create case studies.
  • Research competitors, industry influencers, and thought leaders to find out what their most successful content has been.

When you are finished brainstorming content ideas, use an editorial calendar to capture these ideas and plan when you are going to publish them.

Using an editorial calendar can make the difference between a content marketing strategy that brings results and one that falls flat. It enables you to prepare all of the steps beforehand and concentrate your resources on what counts. Plus it creates accountability for meeting deadlines.

Here is a calendar view of the editorial schedule here at JeffBullas.com:

Content Marketing 101 editorial calendar

Back to the Table of Contents.

What content to create (and how)

What will appeal more to your customers: visual content or informative, in-depth articles? Do they read their emails more than they log in on Facebook? Would your prospects engage more with video content or text?

These are some of the questions you need to ask yourself to decide which content types will resonate with your audience best.

Let’s take a closer look at your options.

Evergreen Content

If you want to bring solid, steady traffic to your website, then you need to focus on creating evergreen content.

As the name suggests, evergreen content is timeless. For example, an article about “What Is Content Marketing” will always be relevant because the definition is unlikely to change anytime soon. On the other hand, an article about “The Best Content Marketing Tips for 2018,” is not necessarily an evergreen topic, as trends change and you need to monitor and update the techniques you’re using.

Written content

Most content marketing involves some element of written content. And it doesn’t matter how well-researched your articles are, if prospects have a difficult time reading them or digesting the information, they won’t read and engage with your content.

The main challenge is keeping the content simple, yet engaging. You also need to ensure that your writing style fits your brand’s personality and audience. You don’t need to be an expert writer, but having a strong grasp of the written word is certainly going to be helpful. Alternatively, you can always hire someone to help.

One way to approach written content is to document a brand voice and writing guidelines, then write the articles yourself, or find a team of writers that can deliver content on a regular basis.

Visual content and design

Here’s the thing: if the platform where you’re publishing your articles looks like it is stuck in a time warp, then your audience will leave your site without giving it a second thought.

Make sure that your website has a clean, professional design. Keep in mind that online users enjoy a cohesive style that they can immediately connect with your brand. If your design is changing all the time, it will become confusing and undesirable.

Also, consider how you can integrate design elements and branding into your content creation. Things such as on-brand visuals, company colors, and custom graphics are a great example of this.

Research by Orbit Media found that in 2017, more bloggers were using multiple images in their articles than in any previous year.

Content Marketing 101 Visuals

Content curation

Although creating high-quality content is a crucial component of content marketing, it’s not the only tactic. Content curation, or the process of discovering, compiling, and sharing existing content with your audience, can work just as well. However, make sure that the content you curate is relevant to your audience’s needs and expectations.

A great tool for automatically curating content and sharing it with your audience on social media is Dlvr.it:

Content Marketing 101 Dlvr.it

User-generated content (UGC)

Another brilliant way to engage your customers is to let them generate the content themselves.

GoPro is a master at user-generated content (UGC) marketing. They have built a community that is excited to create and share adventure videos, all while promoting the GoPro brand in the process. The strategy is so effective that people post about 6,000 GoPro videos every day.

Below is a collated video created by GoPro that captures the best of their user-generated content from 2017:

So, how can you use UGC?

For example, you could organize a contest and encourage prospects to send pictures of themselves using your product. Offer something of value in return, such as a discount, coupon, or maybe a visit to your offices.

You can apply this idea to any content and distribution channel. Although social media makes it incredibly easy to engage fans and persuade them to send user-generated content your way.

Back to the Table of Contents.

Where to distribute your content

Imagine if Forever 21, a fashion brand that targets teens and young adults, would air a commercial on the CNN money channel or Bloomberg, two media outlets that cater to business professionals in the financial sector.

It wouldn’t make sense, right?

The same goes for your content distribution. If you want your content marketing to work, then you need to choose the right distribution channels for your brand.

Here are the most important distribution channels to consider.

Social media

If you’re looking for a free, fast and effective way of distributing your content to a broad audience, then social media holds the answer.

With more than 2.6 billion users worldwide, social media is one of the best content distribution channels. But, unless you are a large business with a dedicated social media team, you need to be smart about the channels you choose. Pick the platforms that make the most sense to your audience and business needs.

For example, look at user demographics to ensure that your audience is active on the platforms you’re using. Then, look at the type of content your audience prefers. For example, Instagram is all about visual content while Twitter focuses on delivering bite-sized information.

Also, consider the type of content you plan to create. If you want to focus on video, for example, then Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook are the best options. But if you are mainly creating infographics, then maybe something like Pinterest would work.

Check out this social media marketing guide to get an idea of how to use social media effectively.

Email

Don’t make the mistake of dismissing email marketing as obsolete. As one of the most effective strategies out there, email marketing is perfect for small businesses that must stick to a tight budget. Even today it remains one of the most effective channels of communication between companies and consumers.

If done right, email marketing can help you nurture your leads and turn them into loyal customers.

The prospects you reach through email are already interested in your brand because they opted in to receive content from you. Take advantage of this to build and nurture a lasting relationship.

The best way to leverage email in collaboration with content marketing is to optimize your website for capturing email addresses, using things such as popup forms and free downloadable resources like eBooks.

You can see how I have optimized JeffBullas.com to capture emails in multiple places on every page:

Content Marketing 101 Email Optins

Once your website is optimized, use content to drive people to your website and entice them to sign up to your email list with these offers. Then when they are on your list, keep communicating with them on a regular cadence to build trust and credibility.

Blogging and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Building your blog and integrating it with an SEO strategy is the foundation of a good content marketing plan. While you can publish content on third-party sites, a blog on your own website can bring numerous benefits to your business.

A static website with no updates is as good as dead in the eyes of both Google and your audience. On the other hand, the more content you publish on your blog, the more frequently search engines will stop by to visit your domain. That can translate into increased rankings, more traffic, and ultimately more leads.

With every new article Google indexes, your chances of converting prospects into customers increases. In fact, SEO leads have a 14.6% better close rate, compared with outbound leads that have just a 1.7% close rate.

For a comprehensive beginner’s guide to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), check out this article.

Other content distribution tactics

Syndication: Content syndication is the process of re-posting your blog content on other websites, who have an established process for doing so without affecting your SEO performance.

Influencers: Building relationships with influencers and encouraging them to mention your content on their website is a high-impact approach to content distribution. To find relevant influencers, consider using a search engine such as BuzzSumo:

Content Marketing 101 - BuzzSumo

Advertising: You may choose to combine the benefits of content marketing with the immediate impact of traditional advertising to get the best of both worlds.

Guest Posting: There are a number of high-traffic and credible websites in just about any niche you can think of that accept guest author contributions. Consider writing for these publications to boost your brand visibility and get referral traffic back to your website. To find guest post opportunities you may like to use a service like Guest Post Tracker which has over 1,400 featured sites:

Content Marketing 101 - Guest Post Tracker

Sponsored Content: Paid content on other people’s websites can be just as effective as the organic content you publish yourself. As long as the content is high-quality and relevant, it can help advance your business goals.

Back to the Table of Contents.

How to manage your content marketing on a limited budget

The time and financial resources you allocate to content marketing are not endless, so you need to find ways to implement these strategies without sending your accountant crazy and burning a hole in your back pocket.

One possible solution is to simplify the content management process. Build a routine and stick to it. For example, Mondays are for researching new topics; every Tuesday you create a new article for your blog. Then, on Wednesday you focus on content distribution, responding to your followers, checking your stats, following-up on a previous content campaign, and so on.

Whatever rhythm you choose, aim to document all of the little processes you use to deliver on this strategy. Everything from coming up with content ideas, to researching articles, and promoting your content can be defined in a sequential process. By defining this process and documenting it, you can improve the way you approach things over time so it saves you time. You can also more easily outsource parts of this process to freelancers and contractors without needing to hire a full-time content team.

Tools and technology

A big part of effectively executing on your content marketing strategy is also about finding the right tools and technology to automate and amplify the use of your time.

Content Marketing 101 Quote 3

Without the help of technology, you are unlikely to effectively deliver on your content marketing strategy. So you need to put together a suite of content marketing tools that will make things easier and track your efforts.

Here are some to consider:

Back to the Table of Contents.

Content analysis and measuring ROI

You’ve defined your strategy, built the foundation, picked the right channels, and have started creating quality content for your audience. But how can you tell if your efforts are worth it?

That’s where content analysis and measuring ROI becomes so important.

Define and track your metrics

Measuring the impact of your content marketing strategy is no easy task.

The problem is that a lot of small business owners let vanity metrics, such as likes, shares, and comments derail them from their goals.

Yes, getting tons of likes and traffic to an article is certainly something to be proud of, but that’s not the ultimate goal. You don’t want people to share your content and then forget about your business the next day. You want loyal customers that engage with your brand, buy your products and tell their friends about it.

Let’s say your primary business goal is to double your sales by the end of the financial year. How does that translate into hard metrics that you can track?

It may be that you track mini-goals that contribute to this master goal. Website traffic, that leads to email subscribers, that lead to sales calls, that inevitably lead to sales. Thinking about it this way will allow you to see a direct correlation between your content marketing and traffic building strategy, and the business outcomes it is generating.

You can track all of this in Google Analytics using the “Goal” parameters in the “Admin” area:

Content Marketing 101 Analytics

Tracking your results will make it easier to identify certain patterns or changes in customer behavior. Not to mention, you will be able to adjust your strategy on the go rather than investing time and resources only to discover that your audience didn’t respond to your content as expected.

Back to the Table of Contents.

Conclusion

It was a book that changed my life…

I had a new purpose. A new reason to get up every morning.

But if there is one thing I have taken away from this whole experience, it is that anyone can do it.

I wasn’t a writer. But I had stories to tell, battle scars to share, and a new sense of vulnerability that captured an audience.

Don’t let insecurity and fear hold you back from giving this content thing a shake. The influence it will have on your business, those around you, and your personal confidence and sense of accomplishment is quite amazing.

But don’t go at it blindly. Think about WHY you are doing it in the first place. Document your goals. Create a strategy. Measure your results. Improve when you can.

Be the difference that your customers and audience are looking for. Add value to their lives and businesses. They will love you for it.

The post Content Marketing 101: All You Need To Know To Grow Your Business appeared first on Jeffbullas’s Blog.

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9 Web Design Trends That Will Change The Way You Interact Online This Year

9 Web Design Trends That Will Change The Way You Interact Online This Year

Making predictions about web design trends is not an exact science, but neither is design itself – so what’s wrong with a little creative conjecturing about 2018.

2017 saw a number of web design trends pop up. Including a wave of 3D design as designers started to get on board and familiar with WebGL and 3D rotatable renders, an increased use of the parallax effect, and a little surge for high-quality cinemagraphs to add a little dynamism to a site beyond simple hero image photography.

As we recalibrate on what is important this year, it’s fascinating to ponder which of these trends will carry on, which will fizzle out, and what new design approaches will take the online world by storm over the coming 12 months.

Here are 9 web design trends that I believe will be popular this year.

1. Data storytelling

Data storytelling is web design that places narrative at the forefront. Allowing site visitors to scroll through engaging visual and written copy, it’s a digital timeline people can follow. It’s a format that’s been popular with illustrators and writers looking to move into online spaces, like the SBS Online animated adaptation of writer Nam Le’s The Boat.

However, brands have recently found this scrolling storytelling format great for hooking site visitors in while giving them information. Like with smartphone security software Ben The Bodyguard’s homepage, which uses a noir aesthetic and graphic novel sensibility to illustrate the need for a “bodyguard” software.

2. Animation

While not exactly a new trend, animation is an evergreen one, and with each coming year, both the technology and designers themselves are getting better at working with it.

Specifically, I anticipate a greater union between animation and content, with conceptual animation being used to illustrate processes, journeys and product evolutions (e.g. the below “conveyor belt” animated analogy for a web design company that targets small to medium business).

Additionally, rather than a static web page with animated panels, growing animation literacy among web designers means we anticipate everything from animated backgrounds utilizing parallax effect, through to animated hover effects being layered to create a cohesively engaging site with plenty of moving parts. The combo of animated text and the animated tablet for the Squarespace homepage is a great example of this.

3. Broken grid layouts

A broken grid layout offers an interesting way to add dimension to a page, along with a visually interesting journey for your eyes to go on – particularly when combined with a parallax effect or an animation.

Whether you’re marketing specifically to digital natives or not, the fact is that most people using the internet have been for a decade at least – making simple and rigid layouts less of the necessity they were for the early days of disoriented internet newbies.

In fact, broken grid layouts represent one part of a growing reactionary wave against the status quo in web design, a response grounded in artistic traditions of collage and remixing. As 2018 passes we expect broken grid layouts will become an increasingly common layout practice to see, particularly for product pages and lookbooks, as with clothing brand Quechua’s Nature Hiking lookbook page.

Another great example we’ve found is the Kitchen Of Uber Eats page, which layers images, text of different sizes and numbers to create amazing depth.

4. Illustrations

Cameras have never been better, photo editing software has never been more advanced, and internet loading speeds have never been more accommodating of high-res media. So it might seem counterintuitive that illustration would be making a comeback in web design. However, a clear illustration style cannot only illustrate a concept, but also a brand identity.

Take, for instance, this jobs page for French digital design agency Octave & Octave. Rather than a beautiful yet potentially bland stock photo, these illustrations capture a sense of childlike creativity, humor, and fun which lets you know a lot about the brand. While setting the site visually apart from the 95% of sites that would have just got a stock photo. This is the kind of smart design branding that I expect will grow throughout 2018.

Illustration can also be a great way to connect with all age groups, as can be seen in the site design for Slurpee.

5. Page transitions

Most designers simply think about ensuring each page of their website looks as good as possible. But what about what happens between pages – when a site visitor clicks to another page in your menu? It’s usually the same for every website, from blogs to some of the world’s biggest brands. You click the link, your browser goes blank while the next page loads.

But that’s not the only way to go between pages. Page transitions allow a seamless motion between elements of your site, and make browsing a site continuous – helping people stay browsing for longer. In 2018, we expect more sites taking up the page transition approach, as can be seen here on digital communication studio Reed.be’s site.

Or, for an inventive (and slightly trippy) wave effect, filmmaker Tao Tajima’s website offers a great source of web design inspiration that incorporates transitions with video content.

6. Dynamic gradients

Shifting gradients are sure to be much more common throughout 2018. A gentle form of animation often utilized in site backgrounds, dynamic gradients play with color in a way which engages audiences without oversaturating them with flashy, moving parts, as seen in the slow-flowing homepage for Elje Group.

Want to get it for yourself? There are free gradient code snippets on CodeMyUI that are easy to use – get on board with this 2018 trend now.

7. Chat UI

Artificial intelligence is getting better and better, and while we’re not predicting a complete Skynet takeover for 2018, simple call-and-response AI will likely become more and more common through the humble on-page chatbot.

Globally there’s a general trend away from actually calling a business towards these simple messenger interfaces (honestly, what do you use your phone for more – actually phoning someone or messaging them?).

Advancements in machine learning mean crafting chatbots which capture the personality and brand identity of your company is easier than ever, and the immediate reply rate chatbots offer, mean you can capitalize on the momentum of someone visiting your site – rather than having them lose interest waiting for an email reply or, god forbid, putting them on hold.

Chatbots aren’t perfect yet, and they can take a lot of work to get on track. However, even a simple chat widget (albeit operated by a human) can greatly improve the usability of your site.

8. Web VR

There aren’t many sites that are VR ready, but those that are ready are capitalizing on the growing availability of dedicated VR hardware and VR ready smartphones. Simple, cheap cardboard glasses can be put together to turn most modern smartphones into VR goggles.

The in-depth experience of VR offers unparalleled user engagement, and larger brands have begun to take advantage of this for branded content and product displays. As VR becomes more and more popular, we anticipate VR ready web design will become more common through 2018.

9. Voice UI

Voice assistants are trending across hardware like Amazon Echo (“Hello, Alexa”) and smartphones like OK Google. As people’s comfort with commanding their technology increases, we’re likely to see a rise in site-specific Voice UIs.

With similar benefits to AI chatbots, these could help people navigate sites – particularly those with vision impairments and other accessibility needs. Looking into 2018, don’t be surprised if you click onto a site and find it talking back to you.

Wrapping up

These have been my 9 web design predictions for 2018. What do you think the year ahead will hold for the digital landscape? Let me know in the comments below.

Guest Author: Saijo George works as an SEO Strategy Director for Melbourne based award-winning marketing agency Supple. When he is not reading up on web design and digital marketing, he is either working on side projects OR playing Hearthstone. You can find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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How Niche Influencers Can Boost Your Content Marketing ROI (Tips, Case Studies and Tools)

How Niche Influencers Can Boost Your Content Marketing ROI (Tips, Case Studies and Tools)

For years I have been saying the same thing: content is king. No matter what changes are made in the marketing world (and it tends to move fast) content is still the number one way to engage with your audience and help elevate your brand.

With this in mind, it isn’t always easy to create engaging, effective content at every turn. Finding topics, time and energy is a massive undertaking, often too big for a single person. Which is why you need to extend outward and let others do it for you.

Enter niche influencers…

Let’s take a look at how you can leverage niche influencers to boost your content marketing ROI:

1. Understand the true power of influencers

On top of content, we have social media topping the list in terms of the most effective means of engagement. Influencers have become a staple in that movement, giving brands a chance to expand to a new audience on the coattails of an established social presence. This is good for the influencer as well, giving them greater brand connections across the board.

But having influencers on your side is more than just getting the word out about your product or service. You can get these media moguls to combine tactics and create valuable, far-reaching content that you can post on your blog, social pages and more.

Here are a few examples of how influencers can contribute to your site content assets:

According to the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) report, The Value of Influencer Content 2017 from Linqia, 57% of survey respondents indicated that influencer content either somewhat or greatly outperforms brand created content:

  • Influencer-powered content is more authentic and trusted than brand-created content;
  • Influencer-powered content sparks audience engagement;
  • Influencer-powered content provides higher ROI.

Here are a couple of case studies on how inviting influencers to your blog can boost your online presence:

  • Here’s how an influencer-powered article led to over 80% boost to the blog’s organic search engine traffic.
  • Here’s another case study on creating an influencer-powered roundup that got the host 11,065% more organic traffic in 6 months.
  • And here’s how Sam Obrart increased his inbound links by 310% in 21 days by having influencers contribute for his blog.

Do you want to achieve similarly impressive results?

Read on!

2. Come up with a great topic

Why do some bloggers say inviting influencers to their blogs didn’t work for them? Some people would claim that the tactic has been overused, which is only partly true.

Influencer-powered content has been widely used recently, mostly by people who don’t get it. They don’t get personalized outreach and relationship building, but more importantly, they don’t get what lies at the foundation of successful influencer-powered content.

The key to influencer-powered content is finding an interesting and engaging topic. In fact, most people who plan to include influencers in their content marketing strategy think too much about influencers and totally forget about a more important part of the process: What the content is actually going to be about.

It’s still content, so unless you find an interesting question to discuss in your future article, you’ll see:

  • Most influencers ignoring your pitch.
  • Much fewer shares from social media users.

Make sure to run thorough keyword research before you start reaching out to influencers. I use Serpstat for that because of the variety of content marketing tools they provide:

  • You can research popular niche questions.
  • You can find related keywords.
  • You can filter keywords in many ways: I usually try to see keywords that trigger “People also ask” boxes:

These give me plenty of inspiration too:

Make sure to search Google for your chosen queries to check what has already been written.

General tips on picking expert roundup topics:

  • Avoid closed-ended questions (those that can be answered with yes or no). Stick to topics that are intriguing and interesting to answer in much detail.
  • Avoid edgy and political questions: You don’t want to spoil your relationships with anyone featured by dragging them into an unnecessary argument.
  • Consider questions around trending topics and tools: Those two are usually very interesting to answer.
  • Don’t get too complicated: You don’t want a boring discussion!
  • Don’t pick something that has already been discussed a lot in your niche. Don’t create yet another expert roundup: Try to stand out with your questions and topic!

Here are a few good examples that stood out to me in the marketing industry:

3. How to connect with niche influencers

The primary reason people don’t use influencers is that they don’t know how to go about making that first push for contact. Chances are you already know several people in your niche or related industries that have a massive social media presence.

Start by making a list of those names, in order of most desirable. This gives you a point, to begin with.

MyBlogU is always a place where I start my outreach because it’s full of people who are actually eager to participate in your content ventures. When you have a few participating experts, it’s easier to branch out to more influencers.

Actually, one of the case studies above is built exactly on the use of MyBlogU: Here’s the published MyBlogU-assisted piece that brought the amazing 80% boost. MyBlogU also helps with many other stages of putting collaborative content together. It allows bulk emailing and auto-notifies participants of the published piece.

Now, that you have MyBlogU collecting responses for you, add some independent outreach to get more contributors on board.

A good place to find more influencers is BuzzSumo. Search the primary topic of your future article and use “Interviews” filter to find people who don’t mind contributing their answers to blog roundups:

You can see when the interview was published, so you’ll know if those influencers have been recently active contributing to other people’s blogs

Second, you should make yourself known for awhile. Interact with them on their social media pages. Read their blogs and leave comments. Share their content. Within a couple of weeks you will be firmly on their radar. If they are also interacting back you have established back and forth communication.

From there, all you have to do is message them. This could be on their social page, but the better option would be to use their contact information provided on their site or in their About section.

You’ll need to experiment with different email templates. One of the most useful articles I’ve seen on this was this one by @anthonydnelson. The trick is including well-known names in your email who have already agreed to answer your questions:

Once you have the connection made it isn’t just about getting them to make content on your behalf. It is about deepening the relationship between the influencer and your brand. This isn’t just important in terms of business behavior, it is crucial because without a solid foundation of understanding between yourself and the influencer, they can’t be expected to make genuine, effective content related to your brand.

The more in tune with one another you are, the better and more genuine that content is going to be.

A few more featured tools in this section:

  • If you are working on an influencer-enhanced survey, here are plenty of WordPress surveying tools for you to choose from.
  • You may want to use FlypChart or ContentCal.io to better organize your content planning.
  • If you are planning video interviews (or mini video conferences), you can use Youtube Live or choose one of more advanced webinar tools from here.
  • If you have a few team members helping you manage your influencer outreach, make sure you have a solid relationship management and onboarding solution. I’ve tried Hubspot for analytics and relationship management and Salesmate for onboarding. Salesmate, for example, makes it easy to track which influencers you have contacted, what was the response and what you are planning to do next. It also saves all the contact info, message history and notes. It’s really a life saver if you plan several collaborative pieces a year to develop those connections further (which is a good idea):

4. Go quid pro quo

You can’t just get an influencer on board with promoting you for a smile and a handshake. Be prepared to offer perks they can’t ignore. Free stuff is usually a good thing to do if you have merchandise. Otherwise you may want to consider giving content in return.

Offer to write something promoting their site. Think of collaborative content that can work for both brands. Get them started on a new platform they may not be familiar with (a lot of Twitter/Instagram influencers have gotten their start on YouTube thanks to branding). You may even want to write a guest post for their own blog, or offer exclusive information and access.

Remember, the more you try and experiment, the better you know those influencers. Next time you reach out, many of them will be happy to help you for free. It’s all really about the relationships.

5. Start thinking outside the (text) box

You don’t have to rely on text posts for influencer content. They write all the time, maybe they want a break. So why not suggest something a little different?

  • Invite them to do a video/audio interview.
  • Put their quotes on an infographic.
  • Turn the interview into a slideshow, Pinterest board or visual story involving your brand.

A great example of how this was used is from Kotex. The brand wanted to target influencers on Pinterest. So they went through the boards of the most influential pinners and put together gift boxes of some of the items they had pinned. They put together a video to tell their story which was picked up by the biggest media outlets.

It was a huge success and those Pinterest users made a ton of valuable content, such as videos of their gift boxes. Almost all of the featured women shared it on social media platforms including Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The campaign resulted in over 2,000 interactions and almost 700,000 impressions.

Remember your participating influencers are your biggest assets: Incorporate their branding and headshots into your blog post visuals as well as all the social media images you’ll use to market the content. Also, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram properly tag those pictures with notable names that were featured in the article. I use Bannersnack to create social-media-friendly images. I prefer using it because I can create lots of images (including banners to market the article) with basically one click of a button (thanks to its bulk editing feature).

6. Get your niche influencers talking

To one another, specifically. Alright, so you are working with two influencers and they are great apart. But they would be even better together. Remember what I said about building relationships? That doesn’t just have to be your relationship, you know.

By introducing your influencers to one another you are creating a whole network or community. That is a powerful tool to have at your disposal and a way of getting in touch with even more influencers who can help your branding efforts.

Being a connector is the most powerful way to build a strong community.

As an example, Viral Content Bee hosts a weekly content marketing Twitter chat interviewing an influencer a day. All the interviewees are then invited to a private Facebook group where they can ask for help and support from each other.

Whenever you start working with influencers, think how you can extend and strengthen that connection.

Influencers: The real marketing goldmine

Influencer marketing is a powerful tool that provides a whole new way of promoting your brand. Best of all it is all done through one on one engagement, yet it encompasses both a social and content strategy, all rolled into one.

There are many ways to boost your site’s appeal and status, but this is probably the most beneficial thanks to its two-pronged approach to the issue.

So don’t wait around for the influencers to approach you. Go out there and start making some relationships!

Guest Author: Jessy Troy is co-owner of Hire Bloggers, a blog dedicated to helping bloggers find paid gigs or even full-time jobs. You can catch up with me on Twitter as @JessyTroy

The post How Niche Influencers Can Boost Your Content Marketing ROI (Tips, Case Studies and Tools) appeared first on Jeffbullas’s Blog.

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4 Obsolete SEO Tactics That You Shouldn’t Be Using If You Want To Rank

4 Obsolete SEO Tactics That You Shouldn’t Be Using If You Want To Rank

This time next year, your business will rank No. 1 in search results! – Every SEO company ever.

Why do they all sound the same? Because it’s these magic words that attract new clients.

Small-to-medium-sized businesses (and even big players) rarely understand what SEO really implies; what they know are merely statistical results they are bombarded with at every corner:

The no. 1 position in Google will get you nearly 33% of clicks; 75% of users never scroll past the first page of search results; almost 80% of searchers say they commonly choose to click on the organic results.

Image Source: Illumination Consulting

Basically, all you know is that you have to find a way to get to that first page (ideally, first place), no questions asked (aside from the one regarding the price of SEO services, of course). But what that agency actually does to get you to the top is none of your concern.

Well, let me tell you a little secret – it should be. Many are those in the digital industry taking advantage of unethical practices in order to deliver their clients the desired results almost instantly. However, quick fixes and shortcuts don’t bring any good in the long run. Au contraire – they can bury your website deep in the rankings, or even remove it for good.

And it’s not just unethical practices one should steer away from – it’s the outdated ones that are (not so) slowly but surely crossing over to the dark side.

1. Guest blogging is dead

What this statement meant for link builders was that the world was coming to an end. Just as they thought they’d found a loophole in Google’s system, one of search engine’s top people announced all those who earn their backlinks through this method will be penalized.

Now, this actually sounded much worse than it should have. Namely, this did not mean we have to turn to creating quality content and releasing it to the online world, hoping someone will come across it and link to it. No, this algorithm change did not tie our hands; Google targets only irrelevant, low-quality content which contains links that have nothing to do with websites they are posted on.

The solution is to craft unique, informative content that will appeal to wider audiences and offer them answers to their queries. As a result, you’re bound to see increased traffic on your blog and more natural backlinks, which Google is going to reward with higher rankings. Oh, and check out Brian Dean’s post on non-guest posting techniques which can earn you quality backlinks.

2. More is always better

This has been the mantra of many SEOs since the beginnings of digital marketing. The more websites you get to point to you, the more valuable you will be in the eyes of Google. Though this claim has been denied on numerous occasions, many are still exchanging and buying links, posting them in comments, forums, and directories, etc.

Then the Penguin was released to attack those who have concentrated on building as many links as possible in the least amount of time; and yet, links are still listed as one of the strongest ranking factors. Evidently, these situations leave link builders clueless of what their approach should be.

Image Source

The solution is to (as it was the case with content creation) focus on quality. When you have a piece worth linking to, something others will consider worthy of presenting to their audiences, instead of defining a certain number of links to build to it, make a list of possible websites where you could offer your content as a relevant source of information. Target high-quality sites and industry influencers – this method won’t bring as many backlinks, but the ones you do acquire will prove more beneficial.

3. Keeping count of keywords

With most agencies, optimization of a website begins with keyword research and analysis in order to determine the relevant phrase a business should rank for. The myth you’ve likely come across in your life is that the more times you repeat a keyword, the higher you will rank for that term. Again, this has been debunked by Matt Cutts himself, who says there is no recipe – it’s not like baking cookies.

You can stop counting how many times you’ve mentioned a particular phrase on your page and in other elements, like meta tags or alt attributes of images. Still, experts prefer to highlight that although there is a minimum number that has to be satisfied (after all, you need to give Google a hint about what you’re talking about) that doesn’t mean you should follow the advice which states your keyword should be found once in every 100 words, or in every title, meta, H tag. Once you go overboard, you’ll be labeled “spammer”, not just in the eyes of search engines, but users as well.

Image Source: Neil Patel

The solution is to decide upon a keyword that best describes your product, services or topic you are writing about, and sees that it naturally fits the content you are creating.

4. It’s no longer just about on-page optimization

A few years ago, Wikipedia and other big fish ruled the search results simply because of their high domain authority (DA). That is no longer the case – even though DA is still a ranking factor, search engines no longer look at the size of the website or its overall popularity. These days you’re likely to hear content strategists convincing webmasters they need to focus on a topical authority, that is, one prevalent topic your site should focus on.

What this means is that on-page optimization has extended to on-site optimization. In layman’s words, it’s not so effective to focus all your efforts on optimizing one page for a particular keyword and trying to earn links to it but should instead work on building your entire brand around a relevant phrase.

The solution is to work on establishing yourself as an authority in your industry. You will need to go far beyond an on-page SEO checklist and anchor text links. It’s essential that you start creating associations between your website and your business niche through quality content that will indicate to search engines you are the one who can be trusted on industry topics.

Wrapping up

For the end, a cliché – change is the only constant in the SEO world – and if you’re not following the trends, you’re falling behind.

Any tactics you notice are no longer working to your advantage? Share with us in the comment section and help your fellow marketers keep up with the trends.

Guest Author: Chloe Smith is a cycling enthusiast, business consultant for an SEO agency in Perth and a part-time writer always willing to share tidbits of advice. She believes that passion, courage and, above all, knowledge breed success.

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How to Boost Customer Retention With Web Push Notifications

How to Boost Customer Retention With Web Push Notifications

Do you find new friends and forget the old ones as you move through life? Or do you maintain a loyal squad that sticks with you?

Just like in life, businesses have different approaches to relationship building and customer acquisition. Some businesses focus all of their effort and resources on finding new customers, and some prefer to lean towards customer retention.

The balancing act between customer acquisition and customer retention is an interesting dilemma that any marketer needs to confront as they are identifying new marketing channels or attempting to optimize old ones.

In this article, I’d like to talk more about customer retention and how you can use web push notifications to keep customers hanging around for longer, and spending more money with your business.

But first, why is customer retention so important?

Why focus on customer retention?

Currently, only 8.5% of decision-makers in marketing consider customer retention as their top priority. Yet, returning customers not only bring in twice as much revenue as new customers but are also more likely to recommend you to others.

They also spend more time on your website and give a higher conversion rate. It is old news that marketers who work on retention marketing see an ROI of up to 15x, compared to the 4 to 6x ROI for new customer acquisition campaigns.

So how do you up your retention game without investing too many resources in setting up a new channel, and then spending some more time on artfully crafting communications like emails or social media posts? This is where Web Push Notifications come in.

Web or browser push notifications are instant not only to set up but also in composition as well as delivery. Set up is usually a five to ten-minute process if you sign up with any of the numerous notification service providers. Composing a notification also doesn’t eat into your time because there’s only so much copy you can fit into one. Once you hit send, it gets instantly delivered to your subscribers if they’re online.

Do they help you bring back visitors to your website? Oh yes, they do. But first, let me give you a brief introduction to this medium.

What are Web Push Notifications?

Web push notifications, for the uninitiated, are notifications sent by websites instead of mobile applications. When you click on them, they take you to a landing page as opposed to opening an app. They work on desktops as well as mobile web browsers.

At first, they used to be just clickable messages with a thumbnail image, a title, and the notification copy, along with the URL of the sending website. They would be linked to a single landing page.

Anatomy of a web push notification

Now, notifications also come in several rich formats that support CTA buttons and banner images. The CTA buttons allow the notification to be linked to as many as three landing pages. The banner images jazz it up and help in setting the context of the message with ease. All these elements contribute towards making web push notifications a very crisp and functional retention marketing channel.

How are they different from your other channels?

App users on Android usually get opted in to receive push notifications as soon they download and install an app. But users must explicitly opt-in to receive notifications from a website on both desktop and mobile. This makes it a permission-based medium right from the first touch point. It doesn’t stop there. Web push notifications also require very little commitment from the subscriber.

The opt-in does not ask website visitors for an email id, a phone number, or a login unlike newsletters, SMS, or social media. All they need to do is click a button to subscribe to it or block it.

Anatomy of an opt-in request

However, what truly sets apart this channel is the way it solves the problem of inertia. Normally, people who are busy doing other things continue being busy when an email gets delivered to their inbox, stays unopened, becomes outdated, and joins hundreds of other unread emails. Web push, on the other hand, appears on their screens or browsers, in front of their eyes even when that particular website isn’t open.

It comes with a brief message that tells users the gist of all they need to know and fades away into oblivion in a few seconds if they don’t click on the Close button. This attribute has another benefit. If you send multiple emails about the same matter, be it a discount offer or a recent blog post, they remain in the inbox adding to the clutter. A notification, on the other hand, doesn’t remain in the virtual collective memory for long even if it is delivered or not. While sending a notification, the sender can assign a TTL (Time to Live). This makes sure that:

  • The delivery of a notification is halted after a pre-defined interval and the sender can now send fresh notifications to users who didn’t receive the first one.
  • A time-bound notification like a seasonal offer or breaking news doesn’t get delivered late after the offer has expired or the news has become stale.

These attributes make it a very effective tool to bring users back to a website.

How are they bringing users back?

Image Source: The State of Web Push Notifications

As you can see, web push notifications have early adopters across several industries. To understand how they are acting as a retention marketing tool, let’s look at the industries themselves. We can broadly put them into two different groups.

  • Those that intend to turn a website visitor into a customer through push notifications (eCommerce websites, online travel companies, etc.)
  • The ones that use push notifications as a gateway of engagement with the website (blogs, news and media websites)

Your website might not be an online retail store or a content publishing site. Still, you can ask yourself what the ultimate objective of your marketing communication is – Is it to sell? Or is it engage users?

If you fall into the first category, here are some of the ways in which you can use web push notifications to your advantage:

  • Announcing arrival of new products or features.
  • Sending across discount offers, seasonal or otherwise.
  • Making product recommendations.
  • Sending reminders to finish a checkout process.
  • Sharing the status of packages that are in transit.
  • Creating a feedback loop by running quick surveys or asking for product reviews of a recent purchase.

If you’re aiming at improving user engagement, here’s what you can do.

  • Tell your subscribers what’s new on your website. It could be a new blog post, a news article, or an eBook that can help you generate leads.
  • Share content from the past that new users might have missed or distribute updated content that’s still useful for your loyal readers.
  • Break news.
  • Announce an upcoming content.
  • Send transactional information like reminders to renew a subscription.
  • Send educational content that can nudge casual readers to become subscribers or prospects to understand your business better.

You may be doing the same activities through your existing marketing channels. Then why do you need web push notifications? Simply put, people respond more to push notifications. They get an average click rate of 11-12%. On the other hand, the average click rate for emails is 3-4%. Of course, your other marketing matters. But push notifications give a much-needed shot in the arm in terms of response and engagement.

Is setting up all it takes?

We talked about how easy it is to set up web push notifications for your website. All it requires is adding a piece of smart code to your web pages. But is that all that’s needed to get high click rates and keep your website visitors engaged? No. Here’s what you have to pitch in from your side.

Lay down an opt-in strategy

The opt-in request is the first touchpoint between your potential subscriber and push notifications. How you ask and when you ask matter.

Make it very clear in the opt-in what subscribers can expect. If you’re planning to send push notifications about new blog posts, say that. If you’re planning to send them exciting offers, tell that too. It helps in increasing the opt-in rate.

Opt-in request on the Leadpages blog

Depending on the nature of your website, some pages get more traffic than others. The average time spent on each page also varies. Then there are some pages where you don’t want to disturb or distract the user from moving away to another page. Look at these factors and decide whether you want to show the opt-in as soon as a visitor lands on your website or you want to wait and time it strategically.

Plan your frequency and timing

Sending notifications daily makes sense if you’re a News website. But if you aren’t breaking news, it’s okay to not reach out to your subscribers every day. You may appear spammy if you send too many notifications. Try different frequencies and find out what works best for you. It could be anywhere between once in two days to once or twice a week.

Another important aspect is timing. Both seasonal and daily. Respect the time zone and geography of your customers. Do not send offers on winter clothing when someone is sweating it out in fine tropical weather. Sending product recommendations in the middle of the night is also not appreciated by many.

Segment your subscribers

Segment your customers based on geography, time zones, devices or browsers used, on-site behavior, purchase history, and so on. All the factors that you keep in mind while running a remarketing campaign are applicable here too. This helps in sending personalized and targeted notifications.

Compose notifications that grab attention

Use power words and calls to action that nudge your subscribers into clicking on the notification. Be witty and creative. Use emojis if it goes with your brand image. You’re restricted by a character limit, so try to convey your full message by making use of the title, copy, and images.

Cultivate symbiotic relationships

Push notifications aren’t here to take over your other online marketing channels. Like I said before, your other marketing channels matter. Push notifications can be used to promote your email newsletters. Emails can be used to promote opting in for your notifications. What matters the most is the objective of your marketing plan and how you can wield these channels to achieve it.

Wrapping up

Web push notifications are new. However, they’re starting to appear in almost every smart marketer’s arsenal. By now you must have formed a brief idea whether it’s your cup of tea or not. And if it is, you now know how to use it to keep bringing visitors back to your website.

Guest Author: Megha Rajeev is the Content Marketing Lead at PushCrew.

The post How to Boost Customer Retention With Web Push Notifications appeared first on Jeffbullas’s Blog.

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The 10 Laws of Content Marketing Mastery

Content marketing is just two words.

But it has evolved to become a complex intersection and eco-system of art and science.

For many of us it is a confusing mess of different opinions and disciplines fighting for our attention.

We need to distill the clutter and noise of shiny new ideas and distractions into the essential elements you need to foster and develop for content marketing mastery.

These are the mindsets, habits and skill-sets you will need to develop to succeed as a content marketer in an age of machines.

And you need to hug the geeks, build the robots and nurture the creatives.

Here are my 10 laws for content marketing mastery.

#1. Be paranoid

Andy Grove in his book “Only the Paranoid Survive” fosters the idea of healthy paranoia in a world that keeps changing.

The internet used to be just a universe of websites. Today the smartphones rule the world.

It is a web of apps and platforms.

We order an Uber with an app.

We get our food delivered using our smartphone

But the reality is that the digital world will keep changing.

So you can never relax and and settle.

We can no longer  rely on one platform.

Facebook doesn’t care about you.

Neither does LinkedIn.

Or Snapchat.

The battle of the algorithms

Algorithm changes effect everything.

Search, Facebook news feeds, the Twitter stream and even email has been disturbed.

The Gmail tabs of primary, social and promotions changed the email marketing game.

Even LinkedIn is not immune.

Long form articles were given priority but now it is the 1,300 character posts that are given prominence.

The only path  is one of vigilance and monitoring the channels and results and adapting your tactics.

You can’t beat them so you have to work with the platforms.

The battle of the algorithms is your ongoing challenge.

Being slightly paranoid is required.

#2. Build your authority

It was meeting of PR professionals. The big end of town and the boutiques.

How do you become and influencer. An authority. A thought leader?

Their advice?

Get an article in big media, that prominent newspaper and you have arrived.

But in world of clutter and noise you have just started.

Authority is earned.

One piece of content at a time.

A tribe of loyal followers on Twitter built day at a time.

One email subscriber after the other.

Despite the flaky SEO companies promising the page one ranking next week or next month there is a bigger game. Search engine authority is a work of technical website design backed up by persistent content creation.

Earned authority is spread across multiple channels, search engines, email lists and your tribes on social media.

Thought leadership and influence in any discipline is not a one hit wonder but a journey of earned authority.

#3. Measure what matters

Jean-Claude Van Damme was the star of a TV advertisement that currently has over 88 million views on YouTube. It was all about a new breed of Volvo Trucks.

That is a lot of traffic. It won a Cannes Award. Created a ton of brand awareness.

But if that is all it achieves then it is just noise.

Vanity metrics are about ego not results. It makes the CEO feel good. The CMO  feel warm and fuzzy.

But if brand awareness is where you start and stop then you have a problem.

3 key metrics that matter in a digital world?

Traffic, leads and sales.

The combinatorial optimising between these three are the secret to digital world success.

Is you content just getting traffic?

#4. Embrace continuous learning

He was bullied so much at school that he was once thrown down a flight of stairs, then beaten until he was unconscious and hospitalized.

But despite the outsider tag he had a passion.

Born in a small town in South Africa and to the son of a dietitian he had a love of reading.

His brother revealed that he read up to two books a day on a wide range of topics. That means he read 60 times the number books that most of us read in a month.

He completed 2 bachelor degrees and was selected to start a PhD at Stanford University. After two days he quit to start his entrepreneurial career.

By his mid 40’s he had started and built four multi-billion dollar companies. These are in four diverse fields of software, energy, transportation and aerospace.

His name? Elon Musk.

College is just the start

University degrees are a discipline and a framework for learning that can be a ticket to that dream job.

The tragedy? That is where most people stop.

They have been seen as the ticket to corporate or academic nirvana. But in a world that is always evolving and changing that is not an option as you need to keep learning and never stop. The other choice is to calcify and become irrelevant. But some of us do have a dinosaur gene or a success death wish.

You need to embrace a content marketing success habit that today is the difference between average and awesome.

Continuous learning.

It’s never been easier

Many people sign up for  degree and then progress to an MBA or even another qualification. Some never leave college. And that is what the typical pathway to business and corporate success has always been. Often it costs big bucks and you need to pre-qualify.

But the game is changing.

Education is now online and everywhere. The formal path is no longer your only option. Today there are no excuses to not be always learning.

What’s continuous learning look like?

Books are the distillation of the lessons of decades of life by the smartest people on the planet. And it is all packed into just a few pages. Between the covers you will discover what has worked and the key elements to their inspiration and success. But they are not the only means for insights and lessons.

We all have different learning modalities and preferences.  Some like listening, others prefer watching and many of us love reading. So we all need to select our learning weapon(s) of choice.

Here are a few.

YouTube and video

My son is dyslexic and reading is tough. But when he looks up a video on how to play a guitar or mix music then he can learn. Online video lessons and “how to’s” have been a godsend for those of us who maybe don’t like reading or find it hard.

Online courses

No longer do you need to get permission to be able to start a course, or achieve a certain grade to qualify. You can sign up for free and paid courses whenever you like.

Podcasts

Theses are the learning media of choice for many commuters, gym junkies and travellers. Want to learn faster? Crank up the pace and play at 2 times normal speed and it’s double the learning in the same amount of time.

Blogs

Online publishing brings you the latest news and information without waiting for editors and the print copy to be distributed to your bookshop or store. So…….subscribe, read, curate, create and share.

Curation apps

We are transforming from a web world that is transitioning from an Internet of websites to an internet of apps. Some of these include Flipboard and Anders Pink. Technology and education have intersected.

 Email

Sometimes we need an information drip fed to our devices to facilitate education. Maybe we need a little inspiration reminder. Subscriptions to educational blog posts and websites can help.

Masterminds

Hanging with the smartest people in your industry for a couple of days can accelerate learning and transformation. These can cost but can tip you from ideas into action.

Some of us are using all of these.

This is where the magic happens

Absorbing the insights, lessons and the learning is one thing but making sense and structure is another. You need to take the fogginess of information and complexity and give it structure and clarity.

This means absorbing the avalanche of information.

So…..writing it down and sharing it with the world is the next step. Powerful supercharged learning (and success) comes from creating and acting.

Elon Musk decided that a PhD was a luxury that was stopping him doing and implementing what he had learned.

A university degree is just a ticket for entry.

Then you start learning as you “do”.

Content marketing mastery needs you to keep learning.

#5. Use AI to be more human

The robots are taking our jobs.

They are…..but is that a good thing or a bad thing?

The fear that surrounds the rise of “AI” is like the rioting Luddites that went and smashed machines during the rise of the industrial age.

Machines are meant to be our servants and not our masters.

Extensions of who we are.

Artificial intelligence offers the same promise.

How can “AI” make our marketing more human?

Using AI in marketing can be applied to but not limited to the following:

  • Improve customer satisfaction
  • Increase engagement
  • Build smart and personalised experiences

Artificial Intelligence can make your messages more human and personalised. Gain human insights that are lost in a million data points of noise and bits and bytes.

But there is a problem.

The noise and data challenge

It is estimated that in just the last five years we have created as much data as the entire history of mankind. The scale of the data, its management and complexity requires an enhancement to our human limitations.

We need to use the power of AI to gain insights and create modelling that enables us to make better decisions.

Additionally, customers are starting to expect it as part of service. Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon all have AI powered assistants that are evolving quickly. Consumers will increasingly use digital personal assistants to interact with consumer services in the connected home.

A case study

In one example, the US Bank (the 5th largest bank in the USA) used “AI” to perform lead scoring of 4.5 million leads, which were analysed in just two hours.

The insights from applying artificial intelligence also revealed that a mortgage owner is more likely to increase assets under management if they had a credit card. Human intelligence on its own would not have seen or even have discovered this link.

This insight provided a 230% lift in lead conversion with the financial advisers at US bank.

AI is here and it can make us more human.

This journey is just starting.

#6. Create content of consequence

The battle for attention is never ending. And creating content sometimes seems a fruitless round of activities like a mouse on a wheel.

So we all want content that cuts through.

This is why viral content is often seen as the holy grail of advertisers. Creating Snapchat and Instagram fun images are easy to do. A quick live Facebook video is a content snack. A tweet to you followers keeps people tempted and builds brand awareness.

But there is a type of content that keeps giving is maybe seen as a bit boring.

And it matters.

Its content of consequence.

As time poor entrepreneurs, knowledge experts, marketers and executives taking the time to create content of consequence is not something that should be ignored.

Work and content that makes a difference

In his book “Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World”, Cal Newport dives into the difference between deep work and shallow work. Any of us that are trapped in the never-ending cycles of responding to emails and attending meetings know the feeling.

At the end of the day you are asking “that” question.

What have I done or created today that is of any consequence.

But there is a solution to that nagging question. It doesn’t matter if you are a knowledge worker within the corporate machine, an entrepreneur or a creative.

An approach

According to Cal Newport there are several options to doing “Deep Work”. It is not one size fits all. It depends on how you like working and living and also depends on your particular life circumstance.

Monastic Approach: Cutting yourself off from the world to focus and remove distraction.

Bi-Modal Approach: This is where you may work and perform the day-to-day work in one location and do your deep work at another. You then dive in and out of each space.

Journalist Approach: This is an approach where you seize the opportunity to perform “Deep Work” at random as time and your schedule allows.

Rhythmic Approach: This where you set1 apart a certain time of day to create and block it out every day and commit to that ritual.

These are not the only ways to create “Deep Work” but they provide some ideas for a habit that could change your life.

The habit

In 2009 I started my online publishing portal and my approach was more like a journalist. I often created late at night but also on weekends. But as the journey continued the ritual changed to a rhythmic habit.

I rose early at 4.30am for 5 days a week and turned off all email, social networks and other distractions. The ritual included making a coffee, a mug of lemon and ginger tea and sitting down and strapping myself in.

I researched, wrote and published. The last step was pushing that content out to the waiting world.

When you do that one day at a time for 4 years then things start to happen. A passion project became a serious business. Done part time before most people were awake.

That habit was an investment in me. But when I started I didn’t understand its far reaching consequences.

The power of validation

In 1998 a journalist David Isay decided to capture the stories of ordinary people. He visited the flop houses of New York and sat down with men that had been living and surviving for decades in run down buildings.

After publishing their interviews he went back and showed them their one page stories in print. One man on seeing his name in black and white, seized the book out of David’s hand and ran down the corridor and shouted “I exist…..I exist……I exist!”

These men had to wait for someone else to discover them……to share their story with the world. The visibility had also provided a validation. It is something we as humans crave.

To be acknowledged is a powerful thing.

Choose to be discovered

But on today’s social and mobile web we don’t have to wait for discovery or for permission.

We can create, publish and showcase our own existence without waiting for permission or to be “discovered”

We can choose to start something of consequence. We can choose to create.  When you start sharing that with the planet, the magic of that distillation of your thoughts and genius is a place to grow and to be validated.

The social web with its platforms and networks is a feedback loop that will give you the feedback you need to evolve and grow.

I pose a new mantra. I create, I publish, I exist

Block out your time for “your” creation

So plan your day for making sure you have focused creative space. Block out time for “deep work”. Don’t make success an accident. Design your life, share your expertise, experience and passion.

We all have the opportunity to be craftsmen. To be creators and producers of content and media that belongs to you and not the corporation.

The habit of doing the “deep work” is not just about productivity. It goes much deeper than that.

It is a place where your learning goes to a new level one day at a time. Blocking out some hours for you. For your work. But……don’t keep your creation hidden from the world. Share it. That is where the magic happens.

It will fill the hole that gnaws at you every day if that opportunity to create in concentration is ignored.

Soul food

You will feel a sense of accomplishment as a work that started as raw and rough becomes a piece of art that is yours. It will feed your soul.

That’s your life, your work and your creation.

You will look back in a year and wonder why you didn’t start the habit earlier.

But you must commit to making it happen and to investing in yourself. Responding to other people’s emails and attending meetings is not investing in your work.

It is just busyness.

One of the biggest challenges in life can be the habits that trap us in mediocrity or stop us growing and moving forward8.

But what does content of consequence look like?

Blog posts are just the start of the story. There are many other types media that sit in the content of consequence bucket.

Pillar content that is designed for “Search Engine Authority” (long form blog posts ), ebooks and even training videos

Another type of substantial content that has been used effectively are the industry defining surveys.

Two online publishers that do this well are:

If you really want to put a stake in the ground a hard copy industry changing book works well.

For an insight on that the book by Gary Keller “The One Thing” will convince you of the importance of content of consequence.

The digital business benefits

So what are the benefits?

In a digital world content defines you.

And it has never been easier to publish and promote your insights, experience and expertise.

  • It builds inbound links to grow your search engine authority.
  • It grows relationships, credibility and authority.

And if you don’t need attention but need to generate revenue then you need to start today.

Gary Keller’s book transformed his business and an industry.

#7. Play the long game

I walked into the shop and there they were. Lining up. Handing over the coupon.

Their expectant faces were hopeful.

Maybe this was the moment.

Dream realized.

Most were sure this was “the” day.

But they all left disappointed. Back to reality.

The chances for success were low. A professional betting man wouldn’t bother paying the price. Despite that they keep hoping for that pay day when their numbers came up.

Winning the lottery is “that” big dream for many.

That quick fix.

A solution to their financial desperation. But it rarely is.

The long game

According to Bill Gates “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”7

Playing the long game is a trait that many can’t sustain. But it is the secret to success.4

Having the patience to hang in there and keep strapping yourself in and doing the work. Winning at business and life requires patience. That overnight success is rare. Normally it is decades in the making.

Building life transforming habits grow from patient perseverance.

Patience is boring

Success is a game of patience and whether you are a digital marketer, professional or entrepreneur there are some key activities that are worth investing in.

But they take time.

Social media offered a seeming magical solution to our marketing problems and it sometimes can. But the free lunch is turning into a mandatory paid strategy.

The quick fix of instant traffic can be intoxicating but you need money for that. And many small businesses don’t have that spare cash floating around.

But earning traffic, leads and sales can be done. Winning at business is not a lottery. Designing and building a life worth living and celebrating is not found in a coupon.2

The secret to success isn’t a quick fix.

It requires patience. There is no other way. It is essential and often boring.

Here are some skills that you need to earn and persevere with to succeed in a digital world.

Earning authority on search engines

Google doesn’t give your organic search traffic for free.

It comes after months and years of creating great content and making sure it gets discovered. Playing the long game in SEO is essential.

Build a following on social networks

Growing you networks and tribes on social media takes time.

It means you have to engage in continuous marketing. The social networks don’t tolerate silence. Grinding out a big loyal tribe is years in the making.

Grow your email list

An email list isn’t as sexy as SnapChat but it is still one of the best ways to turn your passion into profit.

It means taking the time and the perseverance to learn how to convert traffic and attention into an email list. It means working out how optimise landing pages, create premium content like ebooks, videos and podcasts.

And……. keep going.

Develop your writing expertise

Learning the art of writing is something that many of us can do but not many of us are prepared to pay the price. Steven King still invests in writing 1,000 words a day, 7 days a week.

The investment means reading books on writing, just reading (a lot) and exercising at the keyboard.

Nurturing your communication competence

Some people make standing on stage look easy.

But I can guarantee you that almost all of them have hired multiple coaches, practised often and long and spoken for free until they could command a fee. It is not just bullet points on a PowerPoint.

It is many moving parts and skills.

The skills required include movement, breathing, cadence and storytelling.

Earning entrepreneurial skills

Building a business is for most a journey of ecstasy, graft and pain.

Often is means making mistakes that don’t kill you and just plain hanging in there. Of going to the office or sitting down and doing the many ordinary things that lead to extraordinary.

It means paying the patience price.

Playing the long game.

#8. Optimize your content

Publishing used to be quite a simple game.

Write a compelling headline and tell your story.

In an online world and noisy web where the  battle for attention is fierce the science of optimizing content at every stage is now the difference between success and failure.

The art of writing and publishing now needs science. Tech.

Creating content that attracts traffic and then converts is now a journey of optimization.

It starts with topics that your audience want to read, headlines that gets their attention right through to the landing pages that convert that attention into subscribers, leads and sales.

Content platforms like Contently are even using “AI” such as IBM’s Watson to provide insights into the words that you need to use to stir emotions.

And the data will tell you what is working and what isn’t.

How important is this?

If we just look at just one element the importance becomes clear.

Recently a big brand partnered with a large research agency. An in-depth ebook was created.

We were asked to help in promoting the book.

But there was a problem.

Their landing page converted at 2%. Only 2 in 100 people were handing over their email in exchange for the report.

In another project we partnered with a small company to promote a webinar.

All we were asking was for people to register for the webinar with their email address.

It converted at 50%.

The difference in results was 2500%.

Big brands often don’t measure what matters as they are often stuck in legacy marketing. They just relied on blunt force trauma of big budgets and mass media to win hearts and minds.

Small brands can win if they are smart about optimizing .

#9. Scale your humanity

Ten years ago the social media convention was that your did every thing manually.

Social media was this brand new global playpen and we were able to have worldwide conversations.

It was fun and intoxicating.

The Wild West.

The convention and rules of behaviour back then was that you didn’t use tools to tweet but you did it personally.

But there was a problem.

It didn’t’t scale and you didn’t want to spend your entire day tweeting.

We all had work to do.

The tools for automation were initially very rare and rudimentary

Today there are sophisticated social media marketing automation tools to tweet, run campaigns and promotions. And they are designed and optimised to work within the rules of tweeting as Twitter has written in the policy and user agreement.

Today we need to automate the marketing but not the conversation.

Social media has given us the platforms and the tech to have conversations of “one to many”

Social media offers us a human face to technology but it was a black hole for productivity and time.

It provided us free platforms to have global conversations but we have needed to move on.

So….scale your content distribution.

# 10. Don’t forget that you are human in an age of robots

 I was in the middle of my presentation. Before me was a stadium full of people I barely knew. Then something happened.

It is what all speakers  dread.

My slides disappeared from the big screen behind me.

Gone…….

And they never came back.

It was a moment that all speakers hope will never happen.

But it did.

Stories touch hearts

People will forget what you said but they will never forget how you made them feel“.

In that quote (often attributed to Carl Buechner) is the truth about the art of storytelling.

Touching people’s hearts is at the centre of engagement.

When I  started my online publishing venture it was all about the facts.

Information, data and stats.

When I commenced my speaking career my Powerpoint’s was all about bullet points. More information and more stuff.

When I began writing emails the facts were the main hero.

But if you want to move people, educate and transform you need more than that in your toolbox.

As marketers you need stories to be memorable.

To persuade.

In a digital age and a noisy world we need the art of storytelling more than ever.

Tell your story

In a world where the polished media roams we have also entered a realm of human stories enabled by technology.

The social web is the intersection of that technology and humanity.

It has amplified the evil and the good.

You have to choose which side your on.

Vulnerability is a place of power should you have the courage to reveal your truth, creation and story with the world.

You will change the world when you create, publish and share.

And the world will change you.

The two way conversation of the social web is now in real time.

But you need to create and share your stories. That is where the power of authentic and powerful content marketing really lies.

 

The post The 10 Laws of Content Marketing Mastery appeared first on Jeffbullas’s Blog.

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Why Your Marketing Campaigns Could Put Your Company’s Digital Security at Risk

Why Your Marketing Campaigns Could Put Your Company’s Digital Security at Risk

Successfully executing a digital marketing campaign will result in a number of benefits for your business, such as: increased brand awareness, higher SERP rankings, increased website traffic and most importantly, sales.

But what about the downside of digital marketing?

The more you grow your online presence, the more your website becomes a juicy target for hackers.

I don’t enjoy scaremongering, but data security breaches are a real threat.

Estimates suggest that the worldwide cost of cybercrime will increase to $2 trillion by 2019. Despite this, 87% of CIOs believe their security controls are failing to protect their business.

Here are some of the ways that your digital marketing strategy might be leaving your business vulnerable, and how you can fix them.

Social media

In the modern day, social media should be an integral part of marketing for every business. While social media is a powerful tool for staying connected with your audience, there are also risks that can leave you exposed.

Human mistakes

The most common social media breach is when an employee accidentally shares unacceptable content.

While most accidental status updates are nowhere near as catastrophic as what US Airways posted in 2014, mildly inappropriate or unprofessional content will still erode the integrity of your brand.

Red Cross had a damaging incident when an employee posted an unprofessional update on the brand’s official page when it was intended for their private account.

I recommend creating a documented style guide for social media containing instructions for your tone of voice, images used and preferred methods for interacting with followers.

Everyone who posts on behalf of your brand should read the document thoroughly and receive proper training. One mistake can have a long-lasting impact, so only entrust your social media channels to your most trustworthy employees.

Brand hijacking

When an employee posts something inappropriate on social media, it’s likely to be accidental – but if a hacker takes over your account, you can expect some serious hostility.

A few years ago, a hacker took over the Twitter account of Burger King and rebranded it to look like McDonald’s.

After posting a string of absurd tweets, the account was eventually suspended. It’s believed that a weak password choice for Burger King’s account enabled this breach to take place.

When choosing a password for your social media accounts, include a range of letters, numbers and special characters. Including at least one capitalized letter is well advised.

Common passwords such as your birthday, name, “qwerty” and “123456” should be avoided.

Incredibly, over 50% of people use one of the top 25 most common passwords. Don’t be part of this group.

Also, be careful when clicking on social media links. If you click on the wrong link, you could inadvertently become victim of a malicious attack that will allow a hacker to access you social media account or even worse, your computer.

Not so long ago, the devious Locky app targeted social networks by sneaking malicious code into image files.

Hover over all links before you click to ensure they’re from a reputable website and consider using a link scanner like URLVoid to be extra careful.

For long-term protection, consider purchasing ZeroFox. This tool scans social media every day and detects impersonations as well as other malicious activities.

If you suspect your account has been hacked, I recommend contacting a cyber security consultant immediately.

Telling thieves your location

Be careful when you mention your location on social media. If you’ve made it clear that you’re away from your home or office and won’t be returning anytime soon – this is an invitation for thieves to perform a robbery with a lower threat of being caught.

Numerous soccer players have had their houses raided because their fixture list is public and thieves know exactly when they’ll be away from home.

Thieves are appreciative of status updates that tell your whereabouts.

To keep yourself safe, never mention how long you’ll be away for and consider waiting until you get back home before posting your photos from exhibitions, trade shows and lectures.

WordPress

For marketers looking to promote their businesses using blogging, WordPress is an extremely popular platform. As wonderful as WordPress is for creating and running a functional business blog, the platform does have vulnerabilities.

Interestingly, most hackers use automated bots to trawl through WordPress sites and detect ones with weaknesses. If your WordPress site gets hacked, it’s more likely to be an opportunist rather than personal attack.

Oftentimes, hackers may redirect your site to affiliate sites which provide them with income, or they can infect your downloadable files with malicious code – allowing them to access personal details from your customers.

How to keep WordPress secure

As with social media, picking strong passwords for WordPress is your first line of defence.

Try to avoid using “Admin” as your administrator name, since this will make logging in more difficult for hackers. You should also consider using an email ID instead of a username at your login, since email addresses are harder to predict.

2-factor authentication is another preventative step that I highly recommend. With this type of login interface, users must provide a password in addition to another authentication step, such as an answer to a secret question.

In my opinion, Google Authenticator is a must-have WordPress plugin.

Unfortunately, not all WordPress plugins are from reputable companies like Google. Many plugins contain vulnerabilities that can leave you open to an attack.

Before downloading a plugin, perform a Google search to check that no one else has had problems with the plugin in the past.

To be extra safe, consider only downloading plugins from WordPress.org. Everything uploaded to the Theme Directory or Plugin Directory has been extensively analyzed for malicious code or vulnerabilties.

You’ve probably seen cryptanalytic brute force attacks in your favorite Hollywood movies – they’re based on reality. Using automated software, hackers can relentlessly try to guess your login information using countless attempts.

To combat this, consider installing Login LockDown. This plugin allows you to limit the amount of login attempts from a particular IP address within an allocated time period – dramatically lowering the chances of success for a brute force attack.

I recommend using SSL to encrypt data and keep your admin dashboard secure. Check out this useful guide by Green Geeks to learn how to install an SSL certificate on your WordPress site.

To make your data more secure, consider changing your WordPress database table prefix from wp_ to something random that people won’t guess, such as: N4sit012S6_. If you’re not sure how to do this, download WP-DBManager so you can make the change, repair and backup your database easily.

Finally, ensure you have automatic core updates for WordPress. If you’re using a dated version of WordPress, the security flaws of the platform will be public knowledge – which can leave you vulnerable.

Email marketing

80% of retail professionals state that email is their most effective tool for retention marketing.

Despite this, email has some notorious vulnerabilities. In what was thought to be the largest email breach in the history of the internet, Epsilon became famous for all the wrong reasons.

This is the type of negative publicity your business doesn’t need.

Email security tips

Research indicates that 63% of data breaches are due to poor outsourcing decisions.

Outsourcing comes with tremendous benefits. You don’t have any of the overhead costs that come with in-house employees and you can select skilled, affordable workers from the international labor market.

However, before you choose to outsource your email marketing, ensure that the agency or freelancer has security protocols inline with your own. The cost of a data breach is never worth the money saved on digital outsourcing.

As an email marketer, you’re also a data gatekeeper. The more customer data you have stored, the more you’re at risk – so only solicit the essential information that you need and nothing more.

Always encrypt emails containing sensitive information. This prevents eavesdroppers from gaining access.

You may also wish to send your emails using a VPN for added security.

Do you have any tips for performing marketing safely and securely? Please let me know in the comments below.

Guest Author: Aaron Agius is an experienced search, content and social marketer. He has worked with some of the world’s largest and most recognized brands, including Salesforce, Coca-Cola, Target and others, to build their online presence. See more from Aaron at Louder Online, his blogFacebookTwitterGoogle+ and LinkedIn.

 

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10X Your Instagram Engagement Rate and Create Content At Scale With BetterPost

10X Your Instagram Engagement Rate and Content At Scale With BetterPost

Over the last year and a half I have had the pleasure of helping a large number of customers grow their Instagram accounts through our Instagram growth agency.

We’ve grown accounts from 100 followers, all the way to 300,000+ followers.

The testimonials have been through the roof, with people saying how they have landed influencer deals, grown their business sales, increased their website traffic, and so on.

How did we get such a good Instagram engagement rate and follower growth?

Ever since the implementation of our engagement program, many people have seen a very dramatic increase in engagement and account performance. However, we found that in order to see fast results from this process, they would need to post 3 times a day. This cadence of posting on Instagram is a game changer, because most people don’t do it.

An example of how I implement this is on one of my accounts; @millionaires.

On this account we used to post your typical luxury pictures of fancy homes, jets, luxury cars and all the other fancy stuff that comes along with it. The results were good but not as great as we’d hoped or expected. We knew we had to do something about this. We asked ourselves, “How can we make our content better and have more people engage with it?”

We figured quote images were the next thing to try out. We thought it might’ve been a bit overrated. However, it made sense to us as to why it would work, so we decided to take a unique approach to them by adding the quotes in an elegant way, onto beautiful and very eye-catching images.

We went for it; and the results? Better than we could’ve hoped for!

As soon as we created and starting posting our content, people started tagging others, commenting, liking, and our images even started showing up in the explore page! This is because an inspirational quote with an eye-catching image speaks volumes. It screams at the user, forcing them to say something back. The user will express what they feel by commenting or by sharing it with someone else. At the end of the day it more than doubled our Instagram engagement rate.

But how do you possibly create 3 unique images every single day?

You may ask yourself, “Ok, but how can I create these quote images without sitting behind a computer for 4,325 hours”? That’s exactly what this article is for. So you can do it in the best and most efficient way possible.

Just like we’ve received positive feedback and success stories; we also received a lot of criticism, which I pay very close attention to.

One piece of feedback that kept coming back from our customers of the Instagram growth service was that they couldn’t keep up with the high-level of image creation and post activity required to get results.

How did we do it? The wrong and expensive way, the way we don’t want you to do it. Let me explain further.

We hired a freelancer who would find the images related to our topic of interest online. Then they would do a research of quotes related to the topic and apply each to an image.

Next, they would open up Photoshop and edit each image, one by one. Add a background color, perform research for quotes, find an appropriate one, select a font, then a font size, then a font color; and then export to it to PSD and finally transfer it to JPEG.

This caused a massive problem. It wasn’t scalable because it was a very inefficient use of a graphic designer as it was expensive, per hour and per contract. Plus it took a long time!

This is when we decided to build Betterpost.co, an Instagram content creation tool that comes with with an endless database of quotes that help you create content for Instagram posts and Instagram stories in a scalable manner.

What if you could create all of your content for a month in just one sitting?

Well now you can!

We decided to build it for stories as well because creating a month’s worth of content for stories wasn’t scalable, until now. We will literally create all of our stories posts for one month in one sitting. For example:

Instagram Engagement 2 

Select quotes by choosing between categories that fit your niche and then create highly engaging content that will not only increase your Instagram engagement but also grow your account.

The best part is that this is a perfect tool for agencies that have to come up with lots of content for their clients. No other tool out there lets you create content at scale for Instagram stories.

Make sure you check out the shadow feature on the text – that’s my favorite one.

Remember; quote images, click and connect with people. They express emotion, they tell a story and resonate with people. There is no such thing as too much content, as most of the accounts that get the most engagement, post anywhere from 5-10 times a day. In fact, those who unfollow you because you post 5 times in a day were never a real fan in the first place.

With BetterPost, you don’t build followers, you build fans. You want fans – fans are an audience that will follow whatever you do to whichever platform you move to and they will also buy whatever it is you offer. The ideal end result of any audience is to keep it alive and monetize it.

Most people quit Instagram not because they don’t get it or because it becomes boring. Most people quit Instagram because they can’t be consistent. Inconsistency on Instagram will drive you to a black hole. Instagram’s new algorithm won’t reveal your account to your followers if they’re not engaging with you. Meaning they are not looking at your page enough or liking enough of your pictures. With BetterPost, you can stay relevant, from the comfort of your couch or convenience of your desk. BetterPost is a fully mobile and desktop responsive app.

Feel free to get started with our free plan today, to experience all of the features and how easy it is to create content.

Guest Author: Ramon Berrios is a multi-national serial entrepreneur based in Puerto Rico, and the co-founder of SociallyRich.co – an Instagram Growth service that helps businesses from any industry grow a targeted following, and BetterPost – a simple responsive builder for Instagram posts and stories.

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The 5 Commandments For a High Impact Social Media Presence

The 5 Commandments For a High Impact Social Media Presence

Each second, there are over 61,000 searches made on Google, 7,698 tweets and 794 Instagram posts made

So how can you make sure you stand out in such a concentrated arena? It’s every person for themselves out there and if you don’t stay on top of it, you might get lost in the crowd.

Long gone are the days where posts showed up in chronological order, now each social media platform has their own algorithms, which largely remain a mystery to most of the people using their platforms. The good news is that there are simple things you can do to make sure your posts stay at the top of the feed for as long as possible, so you get plenty of bang for your buck.

1. Post early, post often

Don’t give your readers a reason to forget you. There’s no need to be annoying – Hubspot thinks that the optimal amount is 16 times a month – but posting content regularly means that you stay at the forefront of their mind and the more they see you the more they’ll recognize your brand and trust what you’re telling them. If the optimal amount is 16 times a month, work on an average of about four times each week.

Your posts don’t always need to be articles – although it’s good to keep them as the central part of your content . It’s a good idea to support your articles with Instagram posts, accompanying YouTube videos, tweets and sharing other relevant articles that are helpful for your audience. The balance is up to you, but be an all-rounder!

Sound overwhelming? That’s because it is. Stay on top of it all by preparing early. Write your posts and articles at least a week in advance so that you are staying consistent and there’s no last-minute scramble. There are plenty of tools out there to help you schedule all of your social media posts as well – your social media posting can be relatively hands-free, taking the stress off you week-to-week.

2. Know your audience

If you’re using social media to boost your business, there’s a good chance you already have an idea of your ideal audience. Who are they? What do they want? What kind of article would they like to read? Really zero-in on who they are and what problems they need to be solved.

When you know who your audience is, you can put yourself in their shoes and understand the kind of content that they are used to seeing. From there, you can emulate the tone they are used to, while simultaneously focusing on being different from the content that they may be bored of. Make sure you stand out from the ordinary content so that they have to look twice.

3. Be ready to share

At the end of the day, your post on its own will only reach so many people. By focusing on making your posts shareable, you’re ensuring they’ll reach a wider audience.

What makes a post shareable? Short captions and eye-catching visuals.

Nobody wants to read through a 500-word caption just to know what you’re going to talk about in your article. Keep it short and snappy so that anyone can see what you’re talking about at a glance. If you catch their eye with an interesting or funny caption, they’ll be more likely to click through and read more of the same tone. Once they’ve clicked through, your content should speak for itself and, if you’re doing it right, they’ll want to like, comment or even share.

Images are a given – never post anything on social media (with the exception of Twitter, perhaps) without an image; you’ll be easily lost in the crowd. Take it to the next level with an animated GIF or a video – both of these are often optimized by social media algorithms and keep your reader hooked for a little longer.

4. Keep the conversation going

You can post all you like, be the best at writing captions or find the most eye-catching images to accompany your content but it will all be for naught if you don’t invest in real engagement. In the age of automated responses, everyone is looking for a real conversation.

There are plenty of social listening tools available, like Google Alerts, HootSuite and TweetDeck which allow you to scan digital conversations so you can see what other websites or customers are saying about you online.

Like and reply to these conversations whenever possible and appropriate. If your readers aren’t responding to your content, shake it up so that they know you care about what they want. Take a look at the way Woolworths and the NSW Police Force run their Facebook pages – they’re great examples of businesses and services who are investing in real conversations and engagement.

If you’re a business, consider taking the time to follow other businesses back and initiate conversations – it’s a great way to learn about what others are offering and it could be the beginning of a great business relationship that benefits you both for years to come.

5. Use dollars to drive

Never be flippant about using a bit of money to help your social posts go further. Many of the big name companies have budgets that are far beyond anything a small business will ever consider, but a small amount of money can go a long way if you know how to target your audience.

Think about the specific post and who it would benefit, and tailor all your advertising specifics to that audience. Age, location, interests, occupations – consider all of these things as you set up your paid posts to make sure you’re reaching the right people.

Using retargeting with your ads can also make sure that your potential customers always know where to find you. If your social media posts are working, plenty of potential customers will be making their way over to your website. Unfortunately, not all of them will stay there to buy into your products or services. When those customers are searching through Google, later on, your retargeted ads will pop up to remind them that you exist.

Every business all over the world is struggling against social media algorithms, but if you follow the five commandments above and make sure your content is always amazing, there’s no need to fear getting lost in the crowd.

Guest Author: Faye Ferris is the APAC Sales and Marketing Director for BusinessesForSale.com, one of the world’s largest online global mmarketplacefor buying and selling small-to-medium sized businesses. Faye is passionate about helping Australian small business succeed and regularly writes about entrepreneurship and business management.

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