Monday, 19 March 2018

3 Reasons B2B Marketers Need Optimized & Influencer Activated Content

B2B content optimized influencer activated

We’ve all read the headlines about the death of organic social media and BuzzSumo’s recent report on the huge drop in social sharing reinforces the news that the free for all days of social media are coming to a close. Add to that the distrust of branded content and advertising and it’s easy to see that marketers need to rethink their approach.

If buyers are not engaging with brand social media and content, then where is their attention?

This is not a new question and the way we’ve been finding the answer is through insights about buyer preferences for solutions content: discovery, consumption and action.

The Customer Information Journey. Buyers pulling themselves through the majority of the research process for finding solutions do so with content. But where do they discover that content? What are their preferences for content types, topics and platforms for consumption? What sources do they trust? Of equal importance is what signals of credibility produce the confidence to inspire action within that content?

Customer Empathy. As B2B marketers are faced with an ever growing list of demands for content and channels, empathy with the customer experience is more important now than ever. What’s also important are the solutions for attracting, engaging and inspiring action that actually work.

Optimized And Influencer Activated Content. At TopRank Marketing we are fortunate to work with an innovative team and brave clients that trust our advice on how to optimize B2B buyer experiences. By leveraging integrated SEO, Content and Influencer programs, we’ve been able to achieve marketing performance results like 550% more leads and generating 22% of all new revenue for the year from a single integrated content program.

To help marketers make the shift from dead end social media and brand-centric content that buyers don’t turst, here are 3 reasons why now is the time for B2B brands to capitalize on content optimized for search and influence:

1. Keywords are King:

Ignoring social and brand content means paying attention to something else. It comes down to trust and credibility. At every stage of the buying cycle from awareness to consideration to purchase, buyers use search engines to find solution content.

WIth everyone on the content marketing bandwagon, many B2B marketers are so focused on creating content they’re not allocating much more than an afterthought of paid social and ads to content promotion.

With content optimized for the solutions information and keywords that buyers are looking for, B2B brands can be useful at the very moment of need. That kind of credibility is what drives confidence, engagement and action.

The challenge: Is your content optimized for specific solutions keywords? Have you done the homework to find out if those are the keywords buyers are using? That are in demand? Are you creating topical hub and spoke content for focused internal linking that drives organic search visibility?

2. Influence is Queen:

B2B marketing industry research shows buyers trust peers and experts more than advertising. Whether it’s a question to an expert in a forum or reading expert advice in an industry publication, B2B buyers seek useful information from credible sources.

B2B brands are still behind when it comes to engaging influencers to add expertise and credibility to content. Our research with Traackr and Altimeter found that only 11% of B2B companies have ongoing influencer programs vs. 48% of B2C companies. B2B content without influencer contributions is like eating a baked potato plain. Boring! Including influencer contributions to B2B content is like adding your favorite toppings (salt, butter or sour cream) to that potato.

The challenge: Who are your brand’s influencers? Who is actively evangelizing your products or services? Which influencers could really make a difference for your marketing if they were associated with your brand? What are you doing to build quality, ongoing relationships with industry experts?

3. Activate Influencers & Optimize for Search:

When content programs leverage keyword research to optimize content and use those same keywords to help identify credible industry experts to contribute to that optimized content, it creates information that is both trusted and credible.

Many B2B brands do optimize their content for customer focused keywords. Others are moving from experiments to ongoing influencer programs. B2B brands that integrate both SEO and influence create a compelling opportunity to be found when it matters and to be trusted when it matters more.

The challenge: Are you leveraging your keyword research for SEO to also find influencers that are relevant for the same topics? Are you engaging those influencers to co-create content on those topics? Are you inspiring the influencers to publish keyword rich content on their websites linking back to your brand? Are those influencers also engaged for earned media in industry publications and blogs on target topics with links back to your brand?

With an understanding of keyword demand, B2B marketers can tap into the opportunity to be the best answer for buyers with content at the very moment of need. Even better is that influencer contributions to that optimized content will give it the credibility and engagement needed to inspire action.

Here are a few steps to get started:

  1. Identify top, relevant search keywords
  2. Create hub and spoke content architecture (big topic & derivatives)
  3. Map keywords to to content
  4. Keyword optimize content + links
  5. Leverage keywords to identify & recruit relevant influencers
  6. Ask influencers keyword rich questions
  7. Incorporate influencer contributions in mapped content
  8. Encourage influencer promotion and linking to content
  9. Implement media and blogger relations using influencer content
  10. Repurpose content according to best performing keywords/influencers

You can go a lot deeper than this and there are a number of sub-steps, but this list should provide a good overview. Of course we specialize in B2B programs that integrate SEO, content and influencers, so feel free to check out our influencer content marketing case studies for inspiration.

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Friday, 16 March 2018

Digital Marketing News: YouTube Beats Facebook, Twitter Verify for All, Gen Z Bailing on Social

Social Media Statistics 2018

Social Networking Platforms’ User Demographics Update 2018 –  The most widely-used social media platform in the US isn’t Facebook. It’s YouTube. This new report from Pew Research explores data from the top social networking platforms for 2018 including YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Twitter and WhatsApp. MarketingCharts

Forrester Says Only 15% of B-to-B Marketers Are Fully Compliant With GDPR – According to results of a report released this week by Forrester, only 15 percent of b-to-b marketers are fully compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), while 18 percent are still wondering what to do. In fact, of the 66 marketing professionals surveyed in January, less than half of marketers had even even assessed all points from which they collect data. AdWeek

Why Consumers Leave E-Commerce Sites and Apps Without Purchasing – An item’s price and its shipping costs, along with not being able to find the right item are among the top ten reasons why consumers have abandoned a brand’s online shopping system, according to an Episerver report compiled from a survey of over 4,000 consumers worldwide. Ayaz Nanji of MarketingProfs takes a look at this report in his recent piece “Why Consumers Leave E-Commerce Sites and Apps Without Purchasing.” Marketingprofs

Twitter may eventually let anyone become verified – Someday Twitter may allow any user to get a verified account, If the intentions company chief executive Jack Dorsey recently made come to pass. During a recent livestream Dorsey expressed a desire to allow more Twitter users to achieve the blue checkmark giving to verified profile, as part of a goal to increase openness through the firm’s health metrics proposal. Colin Lecher explores Dorsey’s statements in his recent article in of The Verge, “Twitter may eventually let anyone become verified.” The Verge

Twitter moves to boot meme stealers and accounts that force tweets to go viral – Twitter has taken suspended the accounts of several users with hundreds of thousands and up to millions of followers in an attempt to counter so-called “tweetdecking” and other methods for gaming the firm’s current system. Adam Rosenberg takes a look in his Mashable piece, “Twitter moves to boot meme stealers and accounts that force tweets to go viral.” Mashable

Gen Z is quitting social media in droves because it makes them unhappy, study finds – Generation Z consumers may be spending less — or in some cases no — time on social media, because the platforms can make them unhappy, according to recent research from Hill Holliday, despite nearly 80 percent of participants in the study noting generally more benefits than drawbacks to social media site use. Oliver McAtee takes a closer look in Campaign US’s “Gen Z is quitting social media in droves because it makes them unhappy, study finds.” Campaign

‘An engineered feel-good factor’: Why autoplay video will persist – Autoplay video ads may be one of the industry’s biggest collective sins yet are not likely to go away anytime soon, according to a survey explored by Lucinda Southern in her recent Digiday piece “‘An engineered feel-good factor’: Why autoplay video will persist.” Digiday

Content Marketing Statistic

The 5th Wave Of Branding: Brands That ‘Do’ – The latest insight into five waves of branding first begun by emotional branding pioneer David Ogilvy are being continued and expanded in Ogilvy & Mather chief executive Miles Young’s newly-released “Ogilvy on Advertising in the Digital Age.” Joe Mandese takes a look at some of the book’s new research in MediaPost’s “The 5th Wave Of Branding: Brands That ‘Do’” MediaPost

Why So Many High-Profile Digital Transformations Fail – Harvard Business Review examines the failure of several high-profile firms to successfully implement meaningful digital transformations, laying out the lessons we can learn from strategies that didn’t pay off. Thomas H. Davenport and George Westerman explore the details in “Why So Many High-Profile Digital Transformations Fail.” Harvard Business Review

AI, Content & Search: 5 Macro Market Trends for Micro Marketing – AI-enhanced content marketing campaigns, personalization, and increased awareness of the customer journey are all pieces of today’s online selling puzzle, each explored in the new piece by Andy Betts in Search Engine Journal’s “5 Macro Market Trends In AI, Content & Search.” Search Engine Journal

Google Images update: Captions added to images, pulled from the page title tag – Google Images has moved to show captions alongside mobile search results, and Michelle Robbins of Search Engine Land takes a look here. Search Engine Land

Google search results page displays answer without any search results – Google is showing answers in the search results without showing any organic listings or ads or anything but the answer. Search Engine Roundtable

On the Lighter Side:

Welcome to the world of “micro-influencers” and “nano-influencers” – Marketoonist

Amazon Says It Has Fixed Randomly Laughing Alexa Speakers – Bloomberg

TopRank Marketing (And Clients) In the News:

  • Steve Slater – Top 3 Tools For SEO – Digital Kaizen
  • Rachel Miller & Lee Odden – Top 100 Social Media and Marketing Influencers – Digital Scouting
  • Lee Odden – Top 30 Marketing Influencers for 2018 – ExoB2B
  • LinkedIn – Hotter than Hot: Introducing the New Secret Sauce Recipe for Marketing on LinkedIn – LinkedIn Marketing Solutions Blog

Be sure to check in next week when we’ll be sharing all new marketing news stories or you can follow us at @toprank on Twitter for daily news. Also, be sure to check out the full video summary on our TopRank Marketing TV YouTube Channel.

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Wednesday, 14 March 2018

B2B Podcasting: What, Why and How

The What, Why & How of B2B Podcasting

The What, Why & How of B2B Podcasting Okay, B2B marketers, time for a pop quiz:
  1. Which content marketing tactic can hold an audience’s attention for a half hour or more at a time?
  2. Which tactic inspires an audience to subscribe to your content and make a regular appointment to consume it?
  3. Which tactic can help boost thought leadership, raise awareness and engage influencers in your industry?
  4. Which tactic is in the title of this blog post?
The answer, of course, is podcasting. These long-form audio programs first emerged in the early 2000s. Back then, they were a niche format for hobbyists and tech nerds (like me). But the rise of the smartphone brought podcasts to the masses. Now, there are hundreds of hours of programming available on every conceivable subject, in every genre from true crime to horror to musical.  But we haven’t hit content shock for podcasts it’s still a growing market. If your brand is looking to boost thought leadership and reach a new audience, now is the perfect time to add a podcast to your content marketing mix. Here’s what you need to know to get started.

What Is a Podcast, Anyway?

There’s a wide variety of types of podcast out there, so it can seem tricky to find a definition that covers everything. Some are live interviews or panel discussions; some are fully scripted and produced audio plays; some are cryptic monologues about a bizarre southwestern town.  But they all share two attributes:
  1. There are multiple recordings for each title, and
  2. They’re organized in an RSS feed you can subscribe to.
Whatever genre the audio is, whatever platforms it’s available on, as long as you have multiple recordings brought together by an RSS feed, you have a podcast.

Why Should B2B Content Marketers Care about Podcasts?

The way that people consume podcasts make them an ideal channel for your high-quality content. People tend to listen while working out, driving, cooking dinner — in other words, podcasts fill sizable chunks of otherwise idle time. You wouldn’t expect someone to read your white paper or eBook during their morning commute, but they might settle in with your latest episode. The demographics for podcast listeners are attractive for B2B marketers, too. Edison Research’s Podcast Consumer 2017 report found that:
  • 24% of people ages 18-54 listen to podcasts monthly
  • Podcast listeners are almost evenly split between men and women
  • Podcast listeners tend to be affluent, educated consumers
  • In the 25-54 demographic, monthly listening has grown year over year for the past four years
In other words, your target audience is likely spending a significant amount of time listening to podcasts already. And those who already listen to at least one podcast are likely to be on the lookout for more.

What Marketing Goals Can a B2B Podcast Serve?

Podcasts work best for the attract and engage phases of the customer journey. You can use your podcast to build brand awareness and establish thought leadership in your industry. Thoughtful, valuable content can help your brand stand out from the competition, and encourage listeners to build a relationship with the brand. The most successful B2B podcasts tend to be in the Q&A or panel discussion style. Hosts can welcome new guests each week to share their insight. This type of format is perfect for influencer marketing: You can boost your internal subject matter experts, form relationships with influencers in the industry, even feature your potential prospects. The Dell Luminaries* podcast is a great example of thought leadership B2B podcasting. Each episode features a guest with useful and often fascinating — thoughts to share with the audience. Some guests are internal experts at Dell, while others are influential entrepreneurs and executives from across the tech industry. Dell Luminaries Podcast Since podcasts have a low barrier of entry, they’re a good way to reach a niche audience, too. SAP’s recently-launched Customer Support Podcast * is a worthy example. Each episode features quotes from a wide array of influencers, internal and external. SAP Customer Support Podcast These podcasts succeed because they do what all great content does: deliver valuable information to a specific audience in an entertaining format.

How Do I Get Started?

It’s never been easier to launch a podcast. There are dozens of free and low-priced tools available to streamline every part of production, from recording to amplification. Here’s a quick rundown.

#1: Recording

To start recording, all you really need is a laptop and a decent-quality USB microphone. We get professional-sounding results with a Blue Yeti. For my personal podcast, I use an MXL 770. Either are more than adequate to get you started. Later you can invest in a whole sound studio’s worth of mixing boards, microphones, and accessories if you like, but start simple. If you plan to interview guests on the show, likely you will be recording remotely over Skype, Google Hangout, or another VOIP. Don’t try to record your guest’s audio through your computer speakers or phone; have them create their own recording on their end, then edit the conversation together. We've been experimenting with Zencastr, which handles recording and VOIP coordination automatically, and have been pleased with the results. For recording software, Audacity is still the best entry-level program. It’s free, has a host of useful features, and you don’t have to be a sound engineer to get great audio.

#2: Syndication

Once your audio is recorded and edited, you need a place to host the file, and an RSS feed to submit to podcast directories.  You can host the files locally and create your own RSS feed in raw html, but there are plenty of free-to-cheap platforms that can handle the grunt work. Most use an uploading interface similar to publishing on WordPress. So if you know how to upload a blog, you can create a podcast feed. We have had good results with both Libsyn and Podbean. Both have free options and inexpensive paid plans with a few added features, and both provide stats that can help you track listenership. Most importantly, they both will walk you through the process of listing your podcast on various directories: Google Play, iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, and more. That’s a crucial step in making sure your podcast is available on your audience’s preferred listening platform.

#3: Amplification

Once your podcast is published, there are a few easy ways to get the word out and start building your audience. First, activate your existing blog audience: Post a blog post for each episode with the audio embedded (Libsyn and Podbean both enable live-streaming embedded audio). Include an optimized title and meta description and a transcript or SEO-optimized introduction. And, of course, make sure to include a call to action to subscribe! If your podcast includes influencers, create social media assets for them to share, including messaging and custom images. Share the podcast on your social channels as well, making sure to tag your influencers.

Cast Your Pods to the Wind

Podcasts are a rare type of content marketing: Interest in them is steadily growing, people go out of their way to seek out new content, and they’re relatively cheap and easy to produce. B2B marketers are constantly challenged to deliver the right content to people in the right format to earn their attention. If your target audience has a morning commute, a workout schedule, or other quiet time to fill, your podcast may be just what they’re waiting for. Try these 10 marketing podcasts to make your own free time more productive. *Dell and SAP are TopRank Marketing clients.

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Monday, 12 March 2018

4 Integrated Content Marketing Insights From the Trenches of Online Dating

Left. Left. Left. Right. Left. No, this is not an army drill. These are the swiping habits I’ve picked up from my time online dating. Done in a split second, I can swipe faster than most people can snap their fingers. If you’ve ever dabbled with dating apps or online dating, you know that these snap judgements start to become second nature.

With the average human attention span lasting just 8.25 seconds, there’s something to be said about those snap judgements. As a marketing copywriter who’s working day in and day out to woo my audience with clever prose and charming insights, it’s my job to make a great first impression on my audience. If I fail, they’re going to move on to something (or someone) else. And I don’t want my audience dating around — I’m after that exclusive kind of relationship.

However, simply writing great content won’t get the job done. You need to have multiple tactics in play from SEO to social and beyond to really woo your audience whenever and wherever they are. It’s why our own client programs at TopRank Marketing have an integrated content marketing strategy driving them. Content, while a key component, is only a piece of our formula for fueling results.

To help you elevate your content marketing efforts to “swipe-right” status and spark instant chemistry with your audience, here are a few of my tips inspired by my time on the front lines.

#1 – Looks are everything, which means visual and visually appealing content is an imperative.

In the app and online dating world, looks are everything when it comes to make a first impression. Profile pictures are your first glimpse into who your dating prospects are, and the more interesting and compelling, the more likely it is that I’ll stop and give the full profile my time. And, as you may have already guessed, the same can be said for your content when it comes to visual appeal.

If visual content isn’t a key component of your content marketing mix — from native or produced video on social to the actual structure of your content — it probably won’t do much to stop scrolling thumbs from passing over you. What kind of visual content am I talking about? A header image should always be included, but in today’s digital marketing landscape video, infographics, charts, tables, and even special formatting. Bulleted lists, article structure, broken up paragraphs, and other formatting elements give readers the impression that your content is easy to digest. A wall of text is a huge turnoff.

For images that really stand out, avoid using common stock photography — odds are, someone else has already used it for a similar topic, which rings a little too close to catfishing for my taste. Instead, go for sources that other brands avoid like Flickr’s creative commons, make your own custom image in Canva, or get out your smartphone and snap your own pic. Even better, if you have an in-house designer, take advantage of their talents to create something custom.


#2 – Your average pick-up line isn’t going to cut it on social media.

Nothing is more annoying than thinking you’ve found a good candidate only to find out their bio has a solitary ? emoji in it (this really happened, by the way). That does nothing to pull me in. Instead, it makes me immediately want to swipe left. (Is the thumbs up saying they’re a good person? Saying I’ll have a good time with them? Letting me know that they will only communicate in emojis? What does it mean?!)

Whether your audience enjoys longer form content or want you to keep it short and sweet, organic visibility is next to zero on Facebook these days, and Twitter and LinkedIn feeds move fast and have their own ways of prioritizing content.

At the most basic level, this means that perceived value, engaging messaging and visuals, proper hashtag usage, and authenticity are non-negotiables. Next, this means that paid social promotion is a new norm for achieving reach. And finally, influencers can provide a killer hook to capture attention and inspire action.

#3 – Cease and desist all SEO catfishing.

When it comes to online or app dating, catfishing is always a risk — which adds a level of skepticism in the minds of any single looking for love. If someone has a profile picture I’ve seen associated with a different name, comes across as fake, or is just crazy out of my league, I’m definitely not swiping right in an effort to avoid a catfish.

When it comes to infusing SEO into your content, the days of prioritizing the search engine above your audience are long gone. Not only are old-school tactics like keyword stuffing make for the most enticing or accurate read, you’re just asking for search engines to put a permenant swipe-left on all your content.

In addition, clickbait title tags and meta descriptions need to go to (this goes for any social promotion, too. Simply put, you need to be walk the line of honesty and intrigue with your audience, or else you’re no better than a catfish and you’re audience will bounce.

A great example of transparency and piquing interest comes from fellow TopRank Marketing employee Joshua Nite. He’s the king of injecting humor into his writing, which translates into his title meta content to pull people in from search (see picture below). Not only are his descriptions funny, but they’re also accurate to what’s on the page. And it works, too, because his posts have some of our highest organic traffic. In fact, his post, 20 Jokes Only a Marketer Could Love, had an average CTR of 11.42% in SERPs over the last 90 days.


#4 – Know your type to find perfect matches with digital advertising.

If someone’s a gym junkie, I’m swiping left. If someone’s a big football fan, I’m swiping right. Why is this? One’s my type and one isn’t. And knowing my type, I can widdle down my options and find a better match than if I was just playing a guessing game. If I give my own profile the same treatment, I can expect I am attracting a like-minded person.

Understanding who I want to attract and who I don’t, ensures that I am only receiving quality matches and gives me ammo to reach out to them with. This same practice should be applied to your paid social promotion where you can target specific audience segments with customized messages.

Before launching paid content promotion, you should know the audience segments you want to target using their job title, company size, age, location, values, and interests using your website analytics service. And if you have a Facebook Pixel on your site, you can discover even more helpful information about your audience and how to target them. Once those segments are defined, you can use solutions like LinkedIn Campaign Manager or Facebook Ads to target those individuals with personalized posts that are more relevant to them. Through targeted posts, you can feel confident that you’re attracting the right audience.


Entice the “Swipe”

When it comes to reaching, resonating, and captivating your audience, you know simply publishing a good piece of content isn’t enough. Like creating swipe-right-worthy profile, you need to go beyond a simple photo and one-sentence bio if you want to attract well-matched prospect.

Integrating a mix of interconnected tactics such as compelling visual content and content infrastructure, honest and intriguing SEO, smooth social promotion, and digital advertising that hones in on your perfect match, are key for enticing your audience.

Once you’ve gotten the “swipe,” what comes next? Captivate them with good conversation (aka: get them to stick around for all 800+ words.). For your best chance at retaining your audience, check out these pointers for consistently creating quality, engaging content.

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Friday, 9 March 2018

Digital Marketing News: International Women’s Day, Google Warning, Facebook Tops YouTube

McDonald's International Women's Day

McDonald’s Flipped Its Famed Golden Arches for International Women’s Day – McDonald’s made a major play to celebrate International Women’s Day this year, taking its famed golden arches and turning them upside down across social media and at an owner-operated location in Lynwood, Calif. The effort is getting both kudos and criticism as a marketing ploy. Of course it is, but that doesn’t have to mean it’s bad, right? AdWeek

Also drawing attention to International Women’s Day: Here are two thoughtful videos from TopRank Marketing co-founder Susan Misukanis and Content Marketing Manager Christine Berres on the importance of women in the workplace and how to be the best you.

The 2017 Inc. 500 & Social Media: Finding Its Place in the Marketing Mix – LinkedIn and Facebook are reported as the most effective social media platforms while Twitter and YouTube are ranked among the least effective platforms for the Inc 500 companies. UMass Dartmouth

Analytics 360 Suite customers can now set up ‘user groups’ in Google Analytics – Individuals on internal teams at agencies and consultancies often have various levels of access to a Google Analytics account. Overseeing all those individual permissions — particularly as people come and go — is getting easier with the introduction of user groups in Google Analytics. Marketing Land

Google Engineer Issues Warning About Google Crawler – A Google engineer issued a “public service announcement” notifying web publishers that Google does not support CSS custom properties which means that Google’s crawler will not be able to render the web page properly and that can mean a lower ranking. Search Engine Journal

Google Is Helping the Pentagon Build AI for Drones – Wait, what? Anybody else think Google should stick to search and Pixel phones? The DoD partnership is to help develop AI for analyzing drone footage and quite a few Google employees are not happy about it. Gizmodo

Pew Research Social Media 2018

Facebook Tops YouTube In Branded Video Space -According to a survey by video ad-tech company Clinch, Facebook’s platform is home to some 46% of all branded video campaigns, topping YouTube, which has 41% of the campaigns. Digital News Daily

Facebook’s Testing a New Option Which Enables Brands to Mass-Send Promotions via Messenger -Facebook’s rolling out a new test of a self-serve sponsored messaging tool, which will enable brands to mass-send promotional messages to anyone who’s already initiated a conversation with them on the platform. Social Media Today

Forget Facebook? Why Marketers are Embracing Both Pinterest and Instagram – Both platforms are interest based and both Pinterest and Instagram provide a better frame of mind for shopping and let’s face it – Facebook just isn’t what it used to be. AdWeek

Forrester Calls Amazon, Voice New Search Opportunities -Findings in a new Forrester report suggest that retail brands will invest 55% more in online marketing and advertising by 2023. Publicis, Omnicom, and WPP plan to boost their ad spending with Amazon between 40% and 100% in 2018, according to Forrester, citing online reports. MediaPost

On the Lighter Side:

  • Heinz Brings in a Real Hostage Negotiator to Resolve Parent-Child Standoffs at Dinner – AdWeek
  • Amazon Says It Has Fixed Randomly Laughing Alexa Speakers – Bloomberg

TopRank Marketing and Clients In the News:

  • 3M has launched the Champions of Science podcast series (client) – 3M State of Science Survey
  • Lee Odden – 5 Expert Tips to Refine Your Content Marketing Strategy for 2018 – Marketing Insider Group
  • Lee Odden – Influencer Marketing Summary of Lee Odden at Social Media Marketing World: EAR Model – JM Internet Group
  • Lee Odden – What’s Trending: Linking Your Social Media Strategy – LinkedIn Marketing Solutions Blog
  • Lee Odden – 20 Inspiring Digital Marketing Experts – VBout
  • Lee Odden – Top 55 Social Media Marketing Influencers to Follow in 2018 – Status Brew
  • Alex Rynne of LinkedIn (client) and Lee Odden – [Video] Millennials & Influencer Marketing: How To Organize & Optimize For B2B (client) – B2BMX
  • Lee Odden – Is less more in content marketing? A data-driven answer –

Be sure to check in next week when we’ll be sharing all new marketing news stories or you can follow us at @toprank on Twitter for daily news. Also, be sure to check out the full video summary on our TopRank Marketing TV YouTube Channel.

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© Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®, 2018. | Digital Marketing News: International Women’s Day, Google Warning, Facebook Tops YouTube |

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Wednesday, 7 March 2018

SEO Certifications: Are They Beneficial & Do They Make You an Expert?


If you’re working on advancing your SEO career, you might have considered earning a certification in the field. There are plenty of different certifications out there to choose from, but picking the right one isn’t always easy, especially because there’s a lot of conflicting information about these programs on the internet. Just how useful are SEO certifications? Will earning one help you achieve your career goals?

The short answer: it depends. Certifications aren’t always necessary to work in SEO. In fact, many expert SEOs manage just fine without ever earning a certification. But getting certified can be helpful in some situations. This article will clear up the issue of SEO certifications and explain when you should (and shouldn’t) consider earning one.

The Purpose of Certifications

Earning an SEO certification can serve a number of purposes. First and foremost, getting certified creates official documentation of your learning. Anybody can claim that they know how to do something, no matter what their skill level actually is. Earning a certification gives you a way to back up your claims. In a field like SEO, where many people are self-taught, this can be very helpful in getting employers to sit up and take notice of you.

Earning some certifications can also help you fill out your resume. If you’ve just launched your SEO career and don’t have a lot of real-world experience to add, certifications can help you get a foothold in the field and land that first job. Earning certifications as a newcomer doesn’t just highlight the skills you’ve worked on – it also shows that you’re committed to learning and able to follow through on what you start.

Finally, some employers prefer to hire people who have certain qualifications. If you’re shooting for a job that favors applicants with specific knowledge, earning a certification in that subject can give you a leg up over your competition. Some employers even require their employees to earn certifications as a form of training.

Do Certifications Make You an Expert?

It’s clear that SEO certifications can be useful. But if you’re currently a beginner or an intermediate-level SEO, can getting certified make you an expert? Unfortunately, the answer is no.

Certifications can only teach you so much because true SEO expertise comes from doing hands-on work. You can learn important principles by earning certifications, but knowing how and when to apply those principles can only come from experience and practice. Think of certifications as a starting point, not as the culmination of your learning.

Getting certified isn’t guaranteed to land you a job, either. Some people cheat on their certification tests, which makes many employers wary of trusting those credentials. Employers also tend to prefer hiring people who have prior experience working and getting results in the field, regardless of what kind of qualifications they have on paper.

None of this necessarily means that you shouldn’t earn a certification. If you have gaps in your knowledge or weaknesses that you’d like to fix, certifications and courses can help you even out your profile of strengths. Working on a certification or course can also be a good choice if you like structured learning environments. However, if your goal is to impress employers or become an expert, certifications should only be a small part of the entire picture.

SEO Certifications and Courses You May Want to Consider

Still think earning a certification might be helpful for you? Here’s a list of popular online certifications and courses that you can look into. Some are free, while others will run you hundreds or thousands of dollars. Of course, you should research any certification thoroughly to make sure it will meet your needs before you sign up for it.

  1. Free Inbound Certification Course by HubSpot

Cost: $0

If you want to try earning a certification without making a big financial commitment, HubSpot’s free course is a good place to start. You’ll take 12 classes on various aspects of inbound marketing and then complete a 60-question test to earn your certification.

  1. SEO Training Course by Moz

Cost: $0

Moz’s free Udemy course is another ideal way to brush up on SEO basics or see if online courses are a good option for you. And since the video-based course is three and a half hours long, you can try it out without making a major time commitment.

  1. SEO Courses by DistilledU

Cost: Starting at $33/month

Whether you’re learning SEO from scratch or you want to patch some holes in your knowledge, DistilledU can help you. For a monthly subscription fee, you get access to more than 133 hours of video content about SEO, ranging from basic to advanced topics. The cost is $33 per month if you pay for an annual membership up front, while a monthly membership is $40.

  1. ClickMinded SEO Certification

Cost: $497

ClickMinded’s 7-course program provides an easy-to-follow introduction to all things SEO and digital marketing. You’ll be able to earn a certification for each course, as well as a certification for completing the whole program. The one-time membership fee provides lifetime access to all of the program’s content, so you can return and brush up whenever you need to.

  1. Certificates and Certifications from the Data and Marketing Association

Cost: Starting at $1049

The Data and Marketing Association offers a marketing certification program as well as a variety of shorter certificate programs. If you want a good overall grounding in digital marketing, the certification program may be what you’re looking for. The certificates, while not as in-depth, can help you master specific aspects of marketing. A certificate starts at $1049 for members, while non-members can expect to pay $1799. Earning the full certification costs $1499 for members and $2499 for non-members.

  1. SEO Certification from the Online Marketing Institute

Cost: Starting at $25/month

The Online Marketing Institute’s SEO certification program consists of 14 separate lessons on various aspects of SEO. Participants earn a certificate of completion after successfully finishing the course. A basic subscription costs $25 per month, while a pro subscription is $45 per month.

  1. Advanced SEO Certification Training by MarketMotive

Cost: $299

Market Motive’s SEO certification course offers 17 hours of video that you can watch at your own pace. It also includes 15 hands-on projects, so you can start putting your new knowledge into practice right away. For $299, you’ll get access to the course for 180 days.

  1. Courses and Certifications by Search Engine College

Cost: Starting at $99/month

Search Engine College offers a variety of courses and certifications that will get you up to speed on whatever SEO techniques you’d like to learn about. You can take courses for $99 per month, but if you’d like to earn a certification as well, the cost goes up to $295.

  1. SEO Certificate from the University of California at Irvine

Cost: $3538

If you want your SEO training to carry some serious weight, consider earning a certification or certificate from a university. The University of California at Irvine is one university that offers an SEO certificate, and all the required courses can be taken online. At an average cost of $3538, this program isn’t cheap, and you can expect to spend between six months and a year completing it. However, many employers will take your credentials more seriously if they recognize the institution that awarded them.

The Bottom Line

So, what’s the final word on SEO certifications? First of all, you don’t need one to be successful as an SEO. However, there are some circumstances – such as earning a specific qualification for your job – when getting certified might be worthwhile. And earning a certification probably won’t hurt your resume or job opportunities, as long as you choose one that’s legitimate and well-regarded.

Not sure if a certification is right for you? No worries – you can still build your expertise without one, even if you’re starting as a beginner. A good alternative to earning a formal certification is simply creating and optimizing some websites on your own. This will give you the hands-on experience that employers love, and it will help you strengthen your problem-solving skills in real-life situations. Once you’ve built up some SEO skills on your own, you’ll be able to decide whether certifications will help you improve your knowledge further.

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Content Marketers, This Is Not a Drill: 5 Alarm Bells from BuzzSumo’s Latest Report

Content Marketing Takeaways from BuzzSumo's Content Trends Report AWWOOOOGA! AWOOOOGA! Content marketers, there is a content marketing emergency happening right now. This is not a drill. Please gather your belongings and exit the building in an orderly fashion. Go to your predetermined meeting spots to verify that your co-workers are safe, and start making a plan for the future. I’m not naturally an alarmist. But there’s blood in the water. And smoke on the water. And fire in the sky. BuzzSumo just published their Content Trends for 2018 and the results aren’t pretty. After analyzing 100 million pieces of content for social sharing, social traffic referrals, and backlinks, the team has one clear takeaway: What most content marketers are doing is no longer working. "The key takeaway from our research is that it is much harder to drive referral traffic from social networks than it used to be. Social sharing has halved over the last three years and organic reach has fallen, particularly on Facebook," BuzzSumo's Steve Rayson told us. "To be in the top 5 percent of shared content you needed just 343 shares in 2017. At the same time, content competition continues to increase with an ever increasing number of articles being published each week." So, do we assume crash position and wait for the inevitable? Heck no! Content marketing isn’t dying; it’s evolving. We can evolve our tactics and strategy to recapture our audience’s attention. Those who hear the alarm and take action will thrive, while those who keep snoozing will go down with the ship. As Rayson told us: "The lesson for content marketers is that you must have a content promotion or amplification strategy. You can no longer expect to publish content, share it on social and expect people to find it." [bctt tweet="You must have a content promotion or amplification strategy. You can no longer expect to publish content, share it on social & expect people to find it. - @steverayson #ContentMarketingTrends" username="toprank"] Here’s our look at some key findings from the report, and what smart marketers will do about them.

5 Content Marketing Alarm Bells

#1 - Shares Are on the Decline

The Alarm: The median number of shares on content has declined by half since 2015. There has also been a sharp decline in viral posts with hundreds of thousands of shares, and in the effectiveness of “clickbait”-style content. What You Can Do:. Instead of going after huge share counts, we should focus on getting shares from — you guessed it — influencers who have a relevant audience! Influencer marketing makes sure your content gets in front of the right people, and more than 8 of them at a time. Brand amplification of content isn’t enough to earn shares now — the content needs to come from people your audience already knows and trusts. [bctt tweet="Brand amplification of content isn’t enough to earn shares now — the content needs to come from people your audience already knows and trusts. - @NiteWrites #ContentMarketing" username="toprank"]

#2 - Facebook Is Just Not that Into You

The Alarm: Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but organic reach on Facebook has dramatically diminished in the past year and a half. Facebook shows no sign of reversing the trend, either. Quite the opposite; their stated goal is to have fewer (unpaid) brand messages in people’s crowded news feeds. What You Can Do: First, start thinking of Facebook as a pay-to-play platform and adjust budget and expectations accordingly. This is also a good time to evaluate how much of your audience is actually on Facebook and actively engaging with content. The report also shows that LinkedIn* likes and shares are up more than 60% from last year — which means LinkedIn may be a better place to focus your attention.

#3 - Search Beats Social for Traffic Referrals

The Alarm: At the end of 2015, Facebook referral traffic finally rose above Google referral traffic. But Facebook’s dominance was short-lived. Now, Facebook is steadily trending down as Google continues to rise. Graph showing social media shares versus google traffic What happened? Google continued to get smarter about serving up relevant content, as Facebook continued to choke organic traffic from brands. What You Can Do: The amplification model of “post on social media and ask people to click through” has been obsolete for a while now. Instead, focus on building your search equity with "best answer content" that is optimized for human beings. The more your content captures attention — page views, time on page, low bounce rate — the more search engines will serve you up at the top of the SERPs.

#4 - Backlinks Are Hard to Earn

The Alarm: As we refocus attention on search over social, we have to consider backlinks. Links to your site from reputable 3rd-party sources can be a significant ranking factor. Unfortunately, most content earns zero backlinks — 70% have no third-party links. What You Can Do: The majority of content that attracts backlinks is high-quality research or reference content from authoritative sources. Work on building your library of stellar content, optimize it for SEO, and you can begin earning backlinks. In the meantime, your great content will help with search visibility even without the linkbuilding.

#5 - There’s More Content and Fewer People Reading It

The Alarm: Here’s the heart of the matter, the alarm bell to end all alarm bells. Content creation continues to climb, while content consumption declines. We have reached peak content. These two graphs, of content created versus pageviews on, say it all: Graph showing number of wordpress posts increasing over time Graph showing decline in views on WordPress Notice while the volume of content rises, pageviews peaked somewhere around March of last year and are steadily declining. What You Can Do: There are three ways you can combat content shock:
  1. Publish higher-value content at a slower cadence. Take time to deliver authoritative research or reference works rather than lighter, more shallow content.
  2. Repurpose content that drove pageviews in the past. Combine shorter posts into one big post, refresh the stats and links, and re-publish. Get the maximum equity from your existing content before you create new stuff.
  3. Capture your audience. When your high-quality content brings all the boys to the yard, make sure to CTA to your newsletter or email list. That way, you have a built-in audience not dependent on social media algorithms or search engine whims. And given how email marketing is still going gangbusters, you have a much better channel for reaching them.
[bctt tweet="When your high-quality content brings all the boys to the yard, make sure to CTA to your newsletter or email list. @NiteWrites #ContentMarketing" username="toprank"]

Sound the All Clear

The way people consume content is constantly changing. Your content marketing tactics should be just as flexible. As the BuzzSumo report shows, the marketers who hang onto obsolete methods are losing audience now, and will continue to lose over time. Interestingly, the “new” most effective tactics are those that have been steadily working the whole time, while some of us went chasing shiny objects: Create high-quality, best-answer content, leverage influencers for amplification & credibility, capture your audience and serve them engaging emails. Need help creating best-answer content? We’re here for you.   *LinkedIn Sales and Marketing Solutions is a TopRank Marketing client

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