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Biggest Online Marketing Campaign Flops

It doesn’t matter if you’re a multi-million dollar company or a small business: bad marketing is just bad marketing. Such is the case for the companies featured in this post. Not all of these campaigns are recent, and some of them weren’t made for businesses at all. One thing they all share in common, though, is that those who designed them should have given a little more thought to their efforts.

att-twitter-picAT&T Tweet for 9/11 Tribute

AT&T is one of the world’s most prominent and storied communications companies. I’m sure they have some of the brightest and best marketing folks in the world working for them. Despite that, there is still the potential for ill-considered actions to take place in the public eye.

An example is the tweet posted by the company in an effort to commemorate the anniversary of 9/11. The text in the tweet was fine but it was the image of a handset that portrayed the company as less than caring. They used the tragedy (which happened to be trending on Twitter) as an opportunity to sell their products.

Don’t get me wrong. Riding the coattails of a trending topic is a great way to get more exposure for a brand in social media and on the web, in general. It is in poor taste, however, to do so on the heels of an event where thousands of people were murdered and our country changed forever.

To AT&T’s credit, they removed the tweet and apologized.

walmartWalmart People Who Traveled across America

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. That is what Walmart corporate marketing folks discovered when they concocted a scheme to have two working-class individuals (Jim and Laura) trek across the country and blog about their experiences parking their RV in Walmart parking lots along the way.

Promotional campaigns like these are not uncommon, and, for the most part, they are highly successful as long as there is one crucial component: authenticity. And that was the one part Walmart’s campaign was missing.

It was found out that Jim and Laura were not the friendly travelers they were made out to be in their blog posts. They had never met with Walmart employees or listened to stories about how great it was to work at the Supercenter. They hadn’t done this because the entire thing was a sham. Some on the web even put out an open letter  to the duo asking them to reveal themselves as being genuine.

Consumers respond well to human stories that have brand involvement intertwined. They also hate it when they are lied to.

Helter Skelter X (Mike Gravel)

Viral video has worked well for politicians. When you can create that magical formula making people share your video over and over again, it’s a PR bonanza. Unfortunately, a huge potential exists for you to fall flat on your face.

That is what happened to a then 78-year-old former senator from Alaska when he tried to use viral video to overcome a severe brand identity deficit. The video , Mike Gravel – Rock, features Gravel staring at the camera for an eternity before he turns to grab a large rock, heaving it into a pond and then walking away.

The video did get over a million views, but it didn’t carry him to the White House by any means. The video below (also starring Gravel) is even more embarrassing  to watch.

Chevy User-Generated Advertising

Engaging your audience online is an effective way to market a company, but you have to be careful about how you do it. For example, you don’t give your market free reign to create whatever messaging they want about your brand.

General Motors learned that lesson the hard way when it launched its Chevy Tahoe user-generated advertising campaign  in 2007. The company showed users a website where they could upload their own videos, images and audio to make a commercial for the new vehicle.

tahoeIn theory, this sounds like a great idea, but it backfired. Visitors uploaded a host of negative videos related to the gas mileage and overall adverse environmental impact of the Tahoe. The website is no longer available, and at the time, GM had not planned on taking the videos down.

It’s campaigns like these that underscore the delicate balance companies are forced to negotiate when handing over their brands to consumers.

The Matrix Super Bowl Commercial

Disclaimer: this video received (at the time of this writing) more than 4 million views, which is a success in any company’s book.

That being said, the spot was as untimely as it was outlandish and cheesy. The last Matrix installment in the film franchise was released more than 10 years before this commercial aired. Granted, there are lots of ads that reference old films, but to base a Super Bowl ad around a movie title that is just now being forgotten is in poor judgment. Sports fans who aren’t into the sci-fi fantasy culture probably didn’t even understand half the commercial.

The whole campaign might not have been a complete misstep by Kia had it not cost the company 4 million dollars for one 30-second TV spot. If you missed it, feel free to judge for yourself.

Bad Spots for QR Codes

This last flop doesn’t showcase any major companies or well-known marketing mistakes. QR codes have been around for a little while with mixed reviews regarding their effectiveness.  I’m in the camp that believes there is still a time and place for the QR code to be successful, but a billboard is not that place.

On more than a few sites around the web, I’ve seen QR codes on billboards actually mentioned as a viable tactic. I don’t know about you, but I can hardly get these things to register on my phone holding a piece of paper perfectly still at a table let alone with one hand through a windshield while in motion. Using a QR code requires concentration and time, which are two things that are in short supply while driving by a sign at 70 miles per hour.

QR-code-billboard

QR codes can be effective if you are creative and logical. By nature, they require effort on the part of the audience. If your audience is busy driving, chances are your campaign won’t be that successful.

 

What marketing campaigns have you seen in recent years that have totally tanked? Do you disagree with any of the opinions in this post? Join in the conversation by commenting below.

Content Readability: The Success Factor You Can’t Ignore

Are you paying attention to the readability of your content?

Tips to Improve Content ReadabilityIf your focus is on technical terminology and a beautiful page design, then the chances are that readability is a little further down your priority list. Unfortunately, it might be the element of quality content you need to master before you find success online. After all, if readers can’t enjoy what you’ve written, you can’t expect them to stay on your page and remain engaged.

What Is Readability?

In essence, readability is the quality of writing and language use that makes it easy to read, as well as understand.

Wikipedia expands on this concept by detailing metrics observed in an effort to measure readability. These include…

“…speed of perception, perceptibility at a distance, perceptibility in peripheral vision, visibility, the reflex blink technique, rate of work (e.g., speed of reading), eye movements, and fatigue in reading.”

Although there are many formulas to score readability, few of them factor in the design, organization, visual elements, content, and purpose of a text.

What Affects The Readability Of Your Writing?

Readability takes into account reading ease, your writing style, the quality of your language, and the level of reading comprehension. However, it also factors in the design and presentation of your writing. While these latter elements technically fall into the category of legibility, they aid in improving the readability of a text as they influence user experience. How the words on your page look can affect the speed at which a reader is able to work through a piece of text. Although you can’t control every aspect of readability, there are some things you can do to enhance a reader’s enjoyment.

Why Is Readability So Important?

The reality is that very few people read web pages word by word these days. Instead, they prefer to scan for words and phrases that help them get the gist of what you’re saying without wasting precious time. It’s for this reason that readability has serious implications for the way you structure your content marketing messages.

When we read, our eyes don’t move across a page smoothly. Rather, our eyes make discreet jumps from word to word, fixating on each one for approximately 200-250 milliseconds. While this is happening, there’s a cognitive process taking place that allows us to recognize the shape of a word and then translate it into something that has meaning. When we scan or speed read, we expand our eye span to incorporate clusters of words so that there are fewer eye movements.

Good readability ensures readers are able to scan quickly, process the piece of text they’re seeing, and then understand its meaning. As a result, readability should be a priority if you hope to influence as many people as possible with your message.

18 Tactics to Help Get Your Content Read

To ensure your content is not only easy to read, bust also remains competitive within a noisy online environment, here are 18 best practices for improving the readability of your writing:

1. Use a good font size

While you don’t want your text to be too big, you also don’t want it to be too small, as it can lead to eyestrain. Thankfully, modern web design not only caters to a variety of devices and display resolutions, but it also allows for a flexible, scalable approach that adapts to personal browser settings. Use percentages rather than absolute sizes when setting the size of your fonts. 

2. Maintain a reasonable line height

The line-height property establishes the amount of white space above and below each line of text. Also called leading, a good line height provides clarity by ensuring the shapes of letters and words are recognizable. Although your line spacing will depend on your font size, the following example shows you how leading can hamper readability.

Content readability tip - line-height or leading

Be careful not to provide too much line height as it makes your use of vertical page space inefficient.

3. Use a clean and simple font style

There’s no denying that font styles can get complicated, resulting in bad design choices that destroy the legibility of a text. Even in cases where the most legible typeface is used, a font’s creative elements might not lend itself to easy reading.

As a result, you should avoid styles that are too edgy, fancy, or decorative. Differentiate between headlines and the paragraphs that follow, but make sure you use a typeface that’s compatible with good web design and user experience. Consider using sans serif fonts like Arial, Geneva, Helvetica, Verdana, Trebuchet, or Tahoma as they lack small finishing strokes that easily blur together. Alternatively, you can try a reasonably designed serif font with as little distinct flair as possible.

4. Use short sub-headlines

Since people tend to skim content, it’s crucial to use short, meaningful headlines to break up monotonous text patterns. Besides making a web page easier to read, sub-headlines act as a teaser and indicate that the following paragraphs contain a new idea. Ideally, a sub-headline should be bold and slightly larger than the content below it.

5. Be smart about paragraphs

Most readers find that large blocks of text are hard to digest. Thankfully, chunking can help alleviate this problem. Besides adding necessary white space for improved scannability and readability, paragraphs give structure to your written work.

Here are some things you should know about creating smart paragraphs:

  • While conventions for length vary, paragraphs should be adapted according to medium, subject, and audience. Ideally, a paragraph should be no less than three sentences and no more than six.
  • Try not to add more than three paragraphs under a single heading.

  • Make sure each paragraph contains a single, developed idea.
  • Use connectives like “Nonetheless,” “Besides,” “However,” “Furthermore,” and “Alternatively” to unify your writing between and within paragraphs.
  • Paragraph shape can vary depending on the text you’re chucking together. While APA guidelines call for an indent on the first line of text and no white space between paragraphs, block paragraphs are more appropriate for readability on the web.

Content readability tip - paragraphs

6. Keep your writing simple and consistent

Concise, simple, and focused writing keeps your message clear. Jargon throws readers off while inconsistency confuses them. As a result, you should keep your sentences short and get to the point quickly. Bear in mind that your tone and use of punctuation also affects the readability of your content.

7. Use bullet points and numbered lists

Bullet points and lists grab attention, create white space, help structure content, and aid in the consumption of information quickly. All of these benefits contribute to easy reading and better comprehension.

8. Use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters

A mixture of capital and lowercase letters is easier to read than sub-headlines and content that consists purely of uppercase text. The difference in letter height assists with scanning while a combination of cases gives words shape. In turn, readers recognize words quickly, which makes for easier reading.

9. Apply style choices appropriately

Using italics, making certain words bold, or highlighting keywords can help emphasize the information you’re trying to deliver. However, you need to consider these style choices carefully as they can help with scannability, but hinder readability if there are too many.

10. Avoid poor contrast

In addition to annoying readers and weakening engagement levels, low contrast text can cause eye fatigue. This is especially true for readers who are visually impaired. Therefore, you should think about readability first and visual appeal second. If you opt against classic color combinations that include darker text on a lighter background, be sure to consider things like color brightness.

Content readability tip - color contrast

Examples of high and low color contrasts

You might also want to think about building typographic contrast into your headlines and sub-headlines by making them noticeably different to the type you’ve used for your paragraph text. A larger or darker text for headlines is ideal for guiding readers through your content.

11. Avoid busy backgrounds

There’s nothing like a noisy background to distract visitors and hinder readability. Case in point:

Content readibility tip - avoid busy backgrounds

If your website or blog has a creative background image, make certain that the layer behind your text doesn’t interfere with the way words look or an individual’s ability to read them.

12. Leverage images with captions

Breaking text patterns with visual stimuli like images can make a piece of content easier to read, as well as help readers remain focused. Captions on images are also a popular reference point for scanners since an individual’s eyes tend to drift down naturally when seeing an image. Therefore, you should not only consider images that support your text, but you should also include persuasive, interesting captions that compel people to read further.

13. Avoid awkward text wraps

Wrapping text around images or other elements often causes text to break awkwardly. This interrupts a reader’s rhythmic eye movement and interferes with an individual’s scanning speed. Text wraps also create blank lines, thin columns of text, and issues with hyphenation. If you do choose to use a text wrap, make sure it lends itself to a well-balanced design and that it enhances readability rather than hinders it.

14. Use an inverted pyramid

If you’re unfamiliar with the inverted pyramid, then look at this eye tracking research published by the Nielson Norman Group.

Reading habits - eye-tracking studies

Eye tracking study: Heatmaps from three different websites indicate where readers focused most. Gray areas failed to attract fixations while red areas were looked at the most.

If you scour the web, you’ll find many different opinions regarding the inverted pyramid as a style of writing. Since most readers search for the content they read, the belief is that they’re already interested in what you have to say. However, it’s crucial to realize that the hook and setup for a good piece of writing needs to be at the top of the page where a reader’s eyes naturally go when viewing content. Other readability factors and your call to action won’t matter if you can’t get people to move past the headline and first few paragraphs.

15. Keep lines of text a reasonable length

Long lines of text that travel across an entire web page are frowned upon when it comes to reading comfort. They’re hard on the eyes, and they cause fatigue. You also increase the chance of readers losing their place. Although you don’t necessarily want multiple columns, you should at least use a single column to control the width of your text. Ideally, you want to aim for 50-60 characters before the sentence breaks off onto the next line.

16. Avoid clutter

Clutter can affect the readability of your text, as well as dilute its relevancy. A clean, professional, and streamlined look will prevent distractions and improve a reader’s experience.

17. Make sure links look like links

Although there are many conventions for making a link look like a link, the important thing here is to use them wisely when assessing the readability of a page. Too many links can be distracting, affecting a person’s retention of information and drawing readers away from your article. Links placed appropriately within your text can improve scannability. Words or phrases that are underlined but aren’t clickable can frustrate readers and decrease user experience. Therefore, you should pay attention to your linking habits and only use links when necessary.

18. Check your text with a test

Readability tests and standards can help ensure your writing style meets the reading level of your target audience. While formulas and scoring measures may differ, these tools provide similar results in terms of understanding the reading ease of your content. Most word processing software contains built-in readability tests these days, but you can always search for testing tools online to check your text.

Common readability tests include:

  • Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease: This formula produces a result that’s measured on a scale of 1-100. The higher the score, the easier the content is to read.
  • Flesch Kincaid Grade Level: Results are given according to academic grade level, with a 7th-8th grade reading level being a recommended standard.
  • SMOG Index: This test also scores text based on a grade level between 1 and 12.
  • Cloze test: This formula offers a great way to measure readability and reading comprehension. You should aim for a score of 60% or more.
  • Gunning Fog Index: While this scoring scale starts at 1, complex text can reach index readings in the high teens. However, you should aim for an index reading of 8 or less for a universal understanding of a specific piece of content.

Online tools you might want to try:

The great thing about many of these tools is that they allow you to measure content you’ve already published. When the option is available, simply insert the relevant URL into the search field, click the accompanying button, and then wait for the tool to work its magic. This gives you an opportunity to find blog posts or pages of content that require improvements in the readability department. As you practice with these tools, you’ll find it becomes easy to write content at a comfortable reading level.

 

Conclusion

Effective communication is essential for content marketing success. The way you write and structure your content influences the way readers consume your message. By practicing design literacy and making readability a priority, you ensure your target audience enjoys your content and receives your key message even when they’re simply scanning.

 

How do you ensure your content is easy to read? Share your tips and thoughts on this topic in the comment section below.

What You Should Know About Findable Content

findable-contentSearch has become the dominant method by which people find what they’re looking for online. People misunderstand the web. They think that having a website, social media account or any kind of presence online automatically means everyone is looking at it. In reality, you could put up the snazziest, most interesting website ever, and it would be akin to building a beautiful billboard in the middle of a remote forest.

True, there are a ton of factors that influence how well-known a brand is online, but having findable content is a cornerstone of web marketing. It is estimated that more than 70% of Internet users leverage search to find things they are looking for. If you can’t be found there, you probably aren’t relevant in their decision making processes.

So, What Is Google’s Definition of “High-Quality Content?”

While the company does not disclose the ranking signals used in its algorithms, several official sources do outline what Google views as high-quality web content. The following factors can help content marketers distinguish between high-quality articles and low-quality articles.

The future of search isn’t going to be about how articles are constructed or how many links webmasters can get leading to their pages. It’s going to be about high-quality, well-researched, useful content that people like. In a way, Google is attempting to indirectly shed the unprofessional nature of the web and include only those shining gems of content that are worthy of a mainstream audience.

text-based-contentQuality text-based content should:

  • Be written by an expert in the field
  • Be well researched and comprehensive
  • Be useful to the person looking for it
  • Be worthy of publication in books, journals, encyclopedias or other traditional publications
  • So valuable people can’t believe it’s free
  • Well rounded
  • Free from error

 

 

The impact that a quality piece of content can have is diluted by other external factors such as:

  • Excessive advertising on the page
  • Overuse of relevant keywords
  • Improper use of pop-ups
  • Factual errors

All of this speaks to the notion that online publishers and content creators should be thinking of their users and how those people can be helped above all else. Optimization is great and necessary, but it should not be a core focus.

keyword-placementOn-Page Factors That Still Matter

Yes, writing great stuff is paramount, but there are also some technical and structural components that can’t be ignored. Search engine spiders still have a method by which they find and index content.  What’s more, humans still need to know they are in the right place online. With these things being true, the following best practices still apply to your carefully crafted pages.

Page Titles

Keywords in your page title add to the overall relevance of the page. They also show up in search for users and help them determine if a listing in a SERP is relevant to their query. You should front-load your title tags, placing your target keyword for the page first, followed by either a variant or your brand name.

Meta Descriptions

This is your one chance to market your web page in search. Meta descriptions don’t affect rankings, but they do influence people. Users scan SERPs from left to right, reading rich snippets. Your target keyword for the page should also be here, placed near the beginning of the snippet. More importantly, your snippet should be enticing enough to get people to click through to your webpage.

Headers

Search spiders crawl web pages to interpret the content contained on them. Ideally, one of your headings should contain your target keyword for the page, and others might contain variants. The content underneath those headers should be about the keyword and about what the header alludes to.

Headers also help human users scan web pages. Huge blocks of text cause anxiety, making it much harder to decipher where relevant information is located on the page.

imagesImages

Images play an important role in contributing to the overall relevance of a web page. They contain components such as their file names as well as their alt attributes that indicate to search engines what they are about.

Be careful not to abuse these. Over optimization penalties result because webmasters stuff irrelevant keywords into alt attributes.

Keyword Strategy

Your site should have an overarching keyword strategy. A list of keywords that relate to the content of your site should be generated. Once you have keywords selected that you would like to rank for in search, target pages where they can be used. Ideally, each page should have its own “theme” and be about a specific topic.

They keyword strategy should be reflected in different components of the pages of your site. For instance, one page should have a target keyword phrase positioned in the title, in headers, in the meta description, copy, images and links pointing at the page from outside sources.

Page Speed

Users don’t like slow-loading pages. Google doesn’t like giving users content they don’t like. Ensure that each page of your site is optimized to load quickly. Look at things that need to be rendered on the page like CSS and Javascript, as well as the size of images and how they are rendered.

Google Page Speed Insights is a good tool for measuring the speed of pages. Google also provides tips on how to fix issues with your pages.

URLs

Keywords should be present in URLs for relevant pages. Like other factors, this one element isn’t going to make or break your ability to rank, but it will be one more small piece in the puzzle. While URL paths and file names are important for ranking in search, there is also a user experience component.

Google put out a webmaster video talking about the user experience implications of having file paths vs file names in URLs. This may be more of a factor for educated users who are wise to the fact that search rankings can be manipulated, and a target keyword as the file name of a page looks spammy.

rel-confusedCanonicalization

You might not be able to say it, but you should configure your URLs with canonicalization in mind. Even though some URLs might seem similar (i.e. www.example.com vs example.com), they are, in fact, different locations. So, what does canonical mean as it relates to search? Simply put, a canonical URL is one that a webmaster has indicated as the preferred one to index.

Identifying canonical pages on your website can help avoid issues like duplicate content (which runs the risk of not being indexed) or URLs that are not duplicated from being excluded from the index altogether. Google has an excellent post on proper uses of the rel=canonical tag.

On-Site Considerations

You’ll hear on-site and on-page used interchangeably. While there may be other definitions you’ve heard, to me, on-page means factors that have to do with pages, while on-site means factors that impact all the pages of a site as a whole.  The header says “considerations” because there are some things you can do to a website as a whole that may not make it rank any better, but still affect how and when it appears in search.

Robots.txt

There are a lot of misconceptions about the robots.txt file. I’ve seen people say it’s required, and I’ve seen people write about how not having one means you won’t rank well or won’t be indexed in search.

So should you have one at all? According to Google’s Matt Cutts, it’s good to have one that is configured very specifically just so nothing is left to chance. If you haven’t had one for some time, chances are pretty low that it has negatively impacted your site. The risk comes in the form of a web host inserting something for you when Googlebot (or other spiders) go to look for the file. In other words, Google is going to look for the file – would you rather tell them what to do or leave it to chance?

Rel and Meta No Follow

The no-follow tag became recognized by search engines in 2009. Google and other search providers stated that they would not pass PageRank or its equivalent to target pages when the rel=nofollow attribute was present. Up until that time, the meta=nofollow tag was used; however, it instructed search engines to ignore all links on the page where the meta tag was present.

No-follow plays a couple of important roles. It keeps sites protected from other domains that may be spammy or untrustworthy in nature. It also helps webmasters shape the flow of PageRank through their websites.

Matt Cutts wrote a good (but dated) post on the topic of PageRank flow. While the content is old, the concepts are pretty much still the same. There is also a disclaimer (written at the time of posting) stating that the company has become far more advanced in its ability to identify and analyze links of value.

sitemapSitemap

A sitemap is important for indexability of your site in search. It’s essentially a road map for Google and other search engines to follow when indexing your site. Typically, search engines will find new pages and add them to their index without you having to do anything.

When you can submit a site map, though, you can ensure that all of your URLs get found quickly. Sitemaps provide a ton of other useful information about your pages to Google. For example, you can include markup about certain content, or let search engines know how often a resource changes. Google has some good documentation on why sitemaps are necessary.

Internal Linking

The linking strategy and architecture of your site plays an important role in its search performance. Mainly, they help establish a hierarchy on your website. For instance, when building content silos, you can do so through a directory structure or through the way pages are linked together.

You should have clear information architecture on your site where there is one main theme and several sub-themes. The main page (typically the home page) should be linked to sub-pages, which, in turn, link to other sub-pages. If you are interested in learning more about content silos, Bruce Clay is an authority on the topic.

Search results with author rankGoogle Authorship

Google Authorship will be a factor in how the future of search shapes up. With each change that comes to the algorithm, the company tries to make it think and behave more like a human would. Authorship relies on the notion that publishers are creating good content that is linked to their profiles. Those connections are then used to deliver potential results to people looking for content that might be relevant.

If you haven’t configured authorship already for your site, you should. It is a very simple process, and it gives publishers all sorts of benefits in search.

Schema Markup

Search engines have become pretty savvy at deciphering content on web pages. That doesn’t mean you should make it hard for them to do. Schema markup is a general standard recognized by browsers and search engines. It allows webmasters to tailor how content is displayed in search. Marking up content is also important for mobile applications like maps, where structured data is very important.

You aren’t going to rank any better in search by implementing schema markup, but there are some other benefits to using it. For example, in SERPs, there are areas where additional information is displayed, such as address information, movie listings, reviews and other data that won’t show up if Google doesn’t know how to interpret it. In this regard, you can be showing up in search where before you might not have otherwise.

Length

Longer pieces are preferred to shorter, superficial articles. Some of the top ranking websites contain content consisting of 2000 words or more on many of their pages. Since people view longer articles as being more valuable, they are more likely to link to it – there’s a direct correlation between an article’s length and the number of people linking to it.

Does that mean that having 2000 words of nonsensical gibberish will make your web page rank well? Absolutely not. Even having a lot of content that is shallow with no real substance will not rank better than a shorter, well-written counterpart. The content should be concise.  Avoid fluff words and phrases. These are words that don’t add any meaning to a sentence. The overall length should be relative to the value of the article.

Off-Site Considerations

Making content findable means using tactics that are configured off of your website domain. These (by nature) are more difficult to control and/or influence. Just like with on-page and on-site components, writing quality content is paramount, but these elements still play a role in search visibility.

outbound links

Inbound Links

Backlinks remain a very important signal as to the popularity of a particular web page. When there are numerous links from lots of high-quality and trustworthy websites, the page being linked to becomes high quality and trustworthy as well. Building backlinks can be one of the most impactful activities for SEO in terms of ranking a site well in search.

Having a presence on some sites is still beneficial. For example, business listings, directories or even press releases are great for more exposure on the web, but as far as links go, they aren’t high impact. Make inbound linking to your website part of your strategy, and focus on obtaining high-quality links. These could come from:

  • Networking with other website owners
  • Guest blogging
  • Creating an embeddable infographic
  • Making really useful content that others want to link to

If you are building links manually, focus on following a specific pattern and avoid drastic changes in your behavior. For example, don’t build one link a week for several months and then all of a sudden acquire 200 links in a day. Of course, if the occurrence is natural, so be it. This will draw attention to you, though, so make sure the activity is legitimately natural.

other social networksSocial

Social won’t be ignored any longer, and many professionals feel it has a strong influence over organic search – especially when you are talking about sites run by search engine companies. Moz has done a number of correlation studies, and (while causation cannot be proven as they would say) the results are intriguing, to say the least. Cutts has come right out and said that Google does not use social indicators (namely +1s) in its algorithm.

The general theory is that good content also happens to be shared and liked a lot on social media. It isn’t the fact that the content was interacted with in that way that makes it rank well. Authorship is a ranking factor, however, and it can sometimes be confused with Google Plus, since users have to go to the platform to initiate the connection and because a Google Plus profile is used to make the association between content and publisher.

If you are doing business online, or just have an interest in being found there, you cannot ignore search. It is one of the easiest methods for finding content. Now that search companies have gotten popular and more sophisticated at stopping web spam, users have a wealth of information literally at their fingertips. You have to know how to be findable online to be successful at marketing yourself in search. You can have a beautiful and very functional website, but if no one knows it’s there, it might as well be a billboard standing in a forest.

 

What tips do you have for making findable content? Join in the conversation by commenting below.

10 Examples of Content Your Audience Will Love

In the ever-challenging quest to reign as king of the Internet, businesses and online marketers are constantly searching for ways to captivate and connect with their audience members. Experts encourage the creation of engaging content, but that can be a complex undertaking if you’re not sure what that type of content should look like.

In this post, we break down 10 key elements of remarkable content that’s destined to be remembered, as well as provide examples you can use as inspiration.

1. Content That Educates

Content that educates

Let’s face it: you’re bound to remember a massive gold billboard with a fun, interesting fact in raised lettering. Science World excels at creative and educational content that attracts attention and gets the brain juices flowing. Check out a Google image search of their ads for more inspiration. You might want to create tutorials in a visually appealing format like an infographic, tackle an engaging how-to blog post that provides the kind of insight readers won’t find anywhere else on the web, or reveal tips, secrets, tactics, and strategies that turn conventional thinking on its head.

2. Content That Tells a Story or Takes Audiences on a Journey

Combine a relevant song, great animation, and a plotline about the goodness of old-school farming and you have a recipe for success. From how it all started to behind-the-scenes footage, the creative marketing team at Chipotle appears to have a knack for telling the brand’s story. Are you taking your audience on a journey that tells them about the birth of your brand or what you’re currently doing to improve your products?

3. Content That Encourages

Whether it’s to be brave, never give up hope, or do something to make someone else’s life better, the message your content sends can be encouraging and powerful. With nearly four million views for this upload alone, Pfizer hits the nail on the head with a tearjerker that encourages us to work together for a healthier world.

4. Content with an Element of Surprise or an Unexpected Ending

There’s nothing like a good plot twist or unexpected ending to captivate the mind. This one is not only sweet and memorable, but it’ll make you want to pick up the phone and call your dad. Not before downing some Robinsons double concentrated orange juice, of course.

5. Content That Offers a Different Perspective or Confirms a Belief

Content that shows different perspectives

With more than 750,000 people watching live online, an additional 100,000 views in the following days, loads of press coverage, tons of user-generated content, and follow-up merchandise like DVDs and video downloads, many would agree that the “Creation vs Evolution Debate” was a raging viral success. All it took was two different opinions and a controversial topic.

While there’s no denying you can find steadier ground in terms of subject matter, adding a new perspective to an industry-related conversation can be a great way to generate buzz for your brand. Entice a few industry experts with differing view points, set up a Google Hangout, and let your content do the rest. If you’re not comfortable with a live audience, record a video or write a great blog post that explains your perspective or beliefs on a particular topic.

6. Content That Brings On the Feels

Okay, so we’re cheating a little here because we’re not just talking about one piece of content. We’re talking about hundreds of YouTube stars who spend their waking moments creating content that makes an impact on millions of people every day. They share their lives, they share their creativity, and they connect with viewers. Most importantly, they make people care about them.

It’s because of this emotional investment that their new vlogumentary is geared for success. The trailer alone hits all the right triggers. While these YouTubers haven’t necessarily established business brands, their personal brands have enough pulling power to attract promotional deals and other revenue-generating opportunities–all because they make people feel.

Start thinking about ways you can produce content that evokes the right emotions. Consider a piece that incites action, raises awareness, reminds people that they’re beautifully unique, shows the underdog winning, throws out a challenge, or reminds people they can achieve anything. If you can do that, you’ll soon have people invested in you, your brand, and your products or service offerings.

7. Content That Induces Laughter

Just when you think you’re watching the trailer for a new horror film this happens…


Although this ad is fairly old, Dirt Devil has managed to rake in more than 30.3 million plays on Vimeo, as well as millions more on social media sites like YouTube. Their commercial parody of The Exorcist may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but people are still commenting on its ability to incite giggles more than two years down the line. A successful piece of content? We’ll let you decide.

8. Content That Entertains

Content that entertains

Besides creating awesome educational content that captivates audiences worldwide, the Discovery Channel develops plenty of interactive content that they heavily promote across their marketing platforms. The screenshot you see above is one of the games the brand has developed around its programming. They also publish trivia sheets and post polls that generate good feedback and entertain followers.

9. Content that’s Unexpected


AXE campaigns are usually centered on the “ladies’ man,” so when the brand breaks away from its usual style, people tend to notice. Surprise your fans and take a risk. Create content that successfully catches people off guard, and you might just have a viral hit on your hands.

10. Content That Reinforces the Value of Life


“Help save the birthdays.” That’s a heavy reminder that life is short—and in some cases, shorter than we ever expect. Most of us will always want another moment with a loved one, another milestone to celebrate, and another day to see dreams come true. The ad is only 15 seconds long, but the American Cancer Society does a great job of reinforcing the value of life while encouraging us to donate to a worthy cause.

Which elements would you add to our list? Have you recently seen a memorable piece of content you’d include as an example? We’d love to hear your take on what makes a great piece of content so join the conversation by leaving your comment below.

The Best Email Subject Lines

inbound-for-email-marketingAs I scan my email inbox, I definitely prioritize what gets opened first, and what can wait until later. Those emails from people or companies I don’t recognize or am not expecting correspondence from definitely get ignored. That is a pretty steady rule for myself and probably for most busy consumers, but I do pause when scanning recipients and subject lines if there is one that is compelling, clever or otherwise captures my interest. Basically, the best email subject lines are the ones that are going to cause me to open an email I might otherwise ignore.

Your email subject line is arguably the most important part of your entire email. After your message has weaved its way past spam filters, the only thing standing in the way of delivering your awesome message to your prospect are the first words your recipient reads.

Here are some best practices for writing email subject lines that will increase your open rates.

B2B Email Marketing Best PracticesPersonalize Your Subject Line

Try adding the first or last name of your recipient. When people see that the sender knows their name, they may be thinking that they should be receiving the communication for some reason. Personalization just makes the whole experience better for the recipient.

Keep it Short

Not only will your subject get cut off after about 60 or 70 characters, people will also not read that much content. Select only the words that are most important to include. Note that if your audience is highly targeted, you might be able to get away with slightly longer subject lines. For the most part, though, keep them short and sweet.

ValueState Your Value Proposition

If you are doing email marketing, you’re probably selling something or in some way asking someone to do something. Assuming that you have some sort of benefit for your prospect already, make sure it is stated in the subject line.

Our basic human instinct is to maximize pleasure and avoid pain. If people can see in the subject line what they might gain by opening the email, they are more likely to do so.

What Not to Include in Your Subject Line

It’s difficult to know exactly what will cause your target market to respond favorably, but there are certainly words that can cause a negative response from people (and spam filters). HubSpot has a pretty comprehensive list of terms that might trigger a recipient’s spam filters.

In general, avoid using words like:

  • Guaranteed
  • Free
  • No Gimmick
  • Final Offer
  • No Obligation
  • Amazing Opportunity
  • Make Money
  • Limited Time Only
  • Important Open Immediately

It doesn’t help legitimate retailers of some of these related products and services that they are some of the most heavily spammed categories in online marketing. Although you should think carefully about what words to use so your recipients will open your message, you may not have to worry about it much more from spam filters. Research in the area of spam detection for email suggests that using methods to detect both text and image-based content when looking for spam messages is far more effective than looking for either on its own.

The best email subject lines for marketing are the ones that give recipients the truth about what is contained in the email message. State your value proposition clearly, and be genuine, clever and creative. Also, watch your open rates and other metrics closely. Adjust accordingly until you reach your goals.

 

Which email subject lines have you found success with? Join in the conversation by commenting below.

 

10 Responsive Email Newsletter Templates

Image represention email newsletter templateEven if you know how to program in HTML for web pages, making email templates for newsletters is a challenge. There are different rules when it comes to email, and sometimes it’s just a whole lot easier to buy a template. Of course, if you don’t have the budget, you can always find free email templates on the web, but if you want to avoid embedded branding that isn’t yours and/or limited functionality and options, here are some premium email newsletter templates.

 

 

litta email newsletter template screenshot

Litta

Litta is responsive for mobile platforms. It can be used for newsletter campaigns, but also for product promotion. It has a modular design so you can rearrange things easily. It’s also compatible with leading email marketing platforms like MailChimp and clients like Outlook.

 

Note email newsletter template screenshot

Note

This one is a little better for product showcasing, but it works well for livelier newsletter designs. It has a large background image instead of white space or solid colors, making the design eye catching and appealing.

 

Market Email Newsletter Template Screenshot

Market

Market features eight prebuilt layouts and more than 700 HTML files that include inline CSS and layered PSD files. If you are good with PSD, a lot of these templates’ images can be modified to your specifications.

 

Festive Email Newsletter Marketing Screenshot

Festive

Every business should have a holiday template up its sleeve. Festive features responsive design and six different templates. What’s more, it is supported by leading email clients.

 

Sweet17 Email Newsletter Template

Sweet17

Minimalist design is the new trend in marketing and content distribution. Apple does a good job of this, even in its content-heavy marketing pieces. If you want to do a bare-bones email newsletter that cuts down on the clutter, check out the Sweet17 template.

 

Guttis Email Newsletter Template

Guttis

Guttis has an ultra-modern design, and is compatible in all major browsers. Similar to Note, it features large background images for templates.

 

Retinadore email newsletter template

Retinadore

Retinadore’s claim to fame is its optimization for retina displays on Apple products. You can also edit it using MailChimp’s template builder IDE (which requires no knowledge of HTML or CSS code).

 

Fusion email newsletter template

Fusion

Fusion features responsive design and oodles of documentation. The Metro style design is similar to the tiles you see on Windows software interfaces.

 

Arini Email Newsletter Template

Arini

Here’s another template with modular design layout. It is suitable for newsletter purposes, but excels for product/service type purposes.

 

Flexa Email Newsletter Template

Flexa

The name says it all. This theme is flexible with 7 different color schemes, the ability to delete, copy and replace table rows and 12 responsive templates. It’s also been tested with Litmus and Email on Acid testing tools.

Coming up with content is challenging enough; you shouldn’t have to worry about creating email newsletter templates. You can find these and a ton of other paid or free templates at themeforest.com.

 

What email newsletter templates do you use for your content? Join in the conversation by commenting below.

Hosting a Successful Webinar: A Checklist for Before, During, and After

Hosting a successful webinar can be stressful, especially if you’re new to this increasingly popular marketing platform. However, if you’ve been following our webinar series for the last few months, you’ll know how to develop and implement a webinar plan from scratch, create the necessary assets for effective promotion and content delivery, and attract highly targeted individuals who are ready to hear your presentation from beginning to end.

As a final control measure before you go live for the first time, here’s a checklist of items you shouldn’t forget before, during, and after your event.

Before

Test webinar equipment and sound qualityConduct A Final Equipment and Volume Check – Besides ensuring all guest speakers, moderators and other participants join early and that you have your digital and hard copy materials ready, it’s crucial to check sound quality, microphones, recording equipment, and the webinar technology you’re using. If anything goes wrong during a webinar, it usually stems from a technical issue. You can save yourself embarrassment and limit potential problems by testing these things before you go live.

Get Active on Social Media – Connect with attendees using a dedicated hashtag, build excitement, start a countdown, or release a few interesting snippets about the topic you’ll be discussing.

During

Stick To A Basic Script – For the most part, you should let your presentation slides guide the conversation naturally. However, it’s far too easy to go off on a tangent and confuse your audience. To be on the safe side, take the time to develop a script around some key items like your opening, closing, and key points. You’ll not only help everyone stay on track, but you’ll also ensure your guest speakers know their cues.

Keep Abreast Of Social Conversations – Make sure someone monitors your social media streams for questions or comments you can address towards the end of the event.

Manage Discussion And Interaction Effectively – Depending on your format, you need to ensure all interactive features like polls are working and encourage participants to make use of them. You also want to ensure that no one is bombarding the chat box with comments or questions that may stop others from participating in the conversation.

Make Your Call To Action Clear – Prior to closing your session, let attendees know how they should proceed and why they should take action. Whether you want them to download a whitepaper, fill in a survey, book a demo, or visit a product page for more info, be explicit and explain the benefits. If your CTA isn’t clear, you’re unlikely to generate a response that’ll get you one step closer to achieving your webinar objectives.

After

Conduct A Webinar Survey – Most software providers allow you to survey attendees immediately after the webinar has ended. This is a great way to gain valuable feedback you can use to improve your webinars in the future.

Get In Touch With No-Shows – Never forget about registrants who fail to attend. A no-show doesn’t necessarily mean the person has lost interest in the topic, which is why you should send an invite for the on-demand version of your event as soon as possible. Most people who couldn’t make it for reasons such as unexpected schedule conflicts will appreciate the opportunity to catch up.

Respond To Queries and Other Interactions Immediately – Attendees who submitted a request, asked a question, or performed an action that demonstrates an interest in your content, business, or offerings, should be a priority. Therefore, you should make certain you contact them with answers or an offer of assistance shortly after your event.

Practice Good Etiquette – When you’ve wrapped up your webinar, be sure to thank anyone who helped make your event a success. Consider sending guest speakers a gift or offering something of value in return for their time and expertise.

Make Your Recording Available ASAP And Promote Your Archived Download – Whether you’re making your webinar available to the public at large or to paying attendees only, you should make certain you post your recording within a timely manner. While you should send a direct link in follow-up emails to attendees, you should promote a compelling landing page with a lead capture form to the public. It’s also a good idea to distribute or make your slidedeck and other materials available through platforms like SlideShare.

webinar lead nurturing planImplement Your Follow-Up And Lead Nurturing Plans – When it comes to live events, you have to strike while the iron is hot. Soon after you wrap up your webinar, you should follow up with emails, additional content, and other tactics that form part of your lead management strategy. If you leave it for too long, you may find your leads lose interest.

Hosting a successful webinar (or any live event for that matter) essentially boils down to planning. You’ve heard it before: if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Be sure to keep a cool head if issues do arise—remaining professional is key.

 

How do you manage your live online events? Share your tips and advice with us in the comment section below.

25 of The Most Viral Videos of 2013

Video is some of the most influential content on the web. It is the number-one activity we participate in online. We thought it would be fun to showcase some of the most viral videos of 2013. The order they are in isn’t necessarily because of how many views they got, and this list is by no means the authority on the topic. Instead, we have an eclectic and fun mix of videos that made us laugh, that were clever marketing pieces, that were inspirational and that reflect our culture and the time in which we live.

“What Does the Fox Say?”

Remember when you had to watch MTV or VH1 for your music videos? Today, you can play them over and over and over again on YouTube, and that is exactly what everyone does. They did it in 2012 with Psy’s Gangnam Style and this time it’s What Does the Fox Say by Ylvis.

I’ll admit I contributed one of those over three-hundred-million views. Despite the ridiculous topic of the song, the clever nature by which the artist is able to craft an entire tune out of a simple question that a child might ask (and make it catchy, as well) is pure genius. The video takes the cake as one of the most watched videos of 2013.

Twerking

In the 1970s, it was the funky chicken. In the 80s, Michael Jackson made the Moonwalk a fad. Today, it’s “twerking,” and the viral video below adds some extra humor to the popular dance move. The star’s unexpected guest probably feels bad enough that she knocks over her friend, but what happens next makes everything worse.

This is one of those videos that proves high-end productions and clever scenarios are sometimes no match for classic slapstick humor caught on tape by accident.

Miley Cyrus — “Wrecking Ball”

One of the most successful artists of 2013 is arguably Miley Cyrus. The former child star came out of nowhere with her risqué music videos and live performances. While many questioned her tactics, some called her a marketing genius as she held huge media outlets captive with her behavior and sold out shows from coast to coast. Her video on YouTube was another one of the most viewed for 2013.

“Harlem Shake”

You know a video is viral when it gets viewed and shared a ton of times, but what about when people copy it over and over again. That’s what happened with the Harlem Shake.  The original below was one of the most copied videos of 2013. Everyone from members of the military to professional sports teams parodied the video.

“I Quit” Video

Resigning from a job isn’t an uncommon thing, but when you do it on YouTube with a creative and well-made music video, it tends to draw some attention. That’s what Marina Shifrin did when she wanted to leave the news organization she worked for over “creative differences.”

Part of the reason this video became so popular (other than the fact that it was entertaining) was that it made a bold statement. Here is someone who isn’t afraid to stand up for what they believe in, even if it means losing their income.

Chuck Norris Van Damme Video

In this video, martial arts professional and actor Chuck Norris stars in a parody of Jean Claude Van Damme’s impressive stunt between two Volvo semi trucks. The video was a Christmas message put out by Delov Digital, and features Norris doing the splits between two cargo planes with a half dozen pilots doing a pyramid while balancing on his head.

How Houdini Died

Educational videos (if done well) often get shared a lot. Destin from Smarter Every Day has a lot of educational videos that get a ton of views. His video on how Houdini died is especially interesting. Harry Houdini was one of the most celebrated and interesting escape artists of his time. Crowds marveled at his ability to get out of seemingly impossible situations. He was also famous for being able to take severe trauma to the stomach and still stand on two feet. Ironically (and according to the video), it was a punch to the stomach that killed him.

Fox 5 News Jet Pack Fail

For some reason, we all like to see people make mistakes. Videos of people screwing up (especially in “epic” ways) go viral pretty quickly. That special viral sauce was created when Fox 5 news San Diego was shooting on location at the San Diego Yacht and Boat Show.

They thought it would be so cool to have a guy wearing a water-powered jet pack launch off the doc after saying the station’s slogan, but instead some kind of misfire happened, and he plunged into the bay.

“People of Walmart” Version 3

You can tell the diehard YouTube creationists when you see them. They often have tons of videos and make it their full-time job to entertain their subscribers. Jessica French does this by making light of the questionable characters that frequent Walmart stores.

She actually has two other videos that have garnered millions of views, but they weren’t uploaded in 2013.

Carrie Coffee Shop

YouTube started as a place for regular users to share videos they had made themselves. Now that it has exploded in popularity to become the most recognized video sharing platform on the planet, organizations are having professional videos produced to promote products and services.

Promotional events meant to promote movies have great potential to go viral when they use the hidden camera approach and fool regular people. That’s what happened in a promotional video for Carrie, the Stephen King classic brought to film. Actors, stuntmen, and a behind-the-scenes crew helped rig up a coffee shop in Manhatten to make it look like a woman had telekinetic powers.

Needless to say, patrons who weren’t in on the prank were shocked, flabbergasted and downright scared.

I Forgot My Phone

I like this video because it acknowledges an elephant in the room. More and more people are spending more and more time on their smart phones. The presence of smart phones is pervasive and invading our everyday lives.

The video highlights the experience of someone preoccupied with what they are doing on their phone instead of what’s happening right in front of them. I know I’ve been guilty of that, and I’ve seen others do it, as well. For example, we often see people on their phones while ordering food at a restaurant or answering a text while in the middle of a conversation.

Jeff Gordon Test Drive

Here is another hidden-camera promotional video, this time made by the folks at Pepsi Co. Professional race car driver Jeff Gordon goes undercover to fool an unsuspecting car salesman and takes him on the test drive of his life.

This is an example of a really well-made video that doesn’t talk about the company’s product or service, gets tons of shares and views because it’s hilarious, and does a great job of getting some notoriety for the brand. If you are looking for a recipe on how to make a viral video for your brand, this is the model to follow.

“Space Oddity” by Astronaut

Astronaut Chris Hadfield records his version of David Bowie’s Space Oddity high up in the International Space Station. He has made subsequent videos explaining the process, but his original musical version is actually pretty good for someone who has spent their life devoted to science and not music.

“Joking Bad”

If you are a fan of Breaking Bad and haven’t seen this viral video yet, you have to catch it. Jimmy Fallon does a parody of the popular cable TV show on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. You’ll have had to watch almost all of the Breaking Bad series in order to understand the jokes.

The video even features appearances from actors Brian Cranston and Aaron Paul, who portray Breaking Bad’s two main characters. Jay Leno even plays a small part in the 12-minute piece.

Psy “Gentleman”

As mentioned earlier, one of the top music videos for 2012 was Psy’s Gangnam Style.  Since it was uploaded in July of 2012, it has accumulated almost two billion views. The artist’s next song Gentleman hasn’t done nearly as well but it’s still pretty popular. Psy’s videos have a quirky and refreshing style that makes them fun to watch.

Ghost Elevator Prank

Technically, this one was uploaded at the end of 2012, but it still got a ton of attention on news media in 2013. It’s another hidden-camera bit where unsuspecting elevator users experience a brief power outage only to come face to face with the dreaded “little girl ghost.” It’s funny that a little girl placed in the right context could be so darn scary.

YouTube Shutting Down Video

This video didn’t get a lot of views in 2013. In fact, it was less than all other videos in this list; however, it did work to fool people into thinking YouTube was shutting down (at least for a couple minutes). Videos like this showcase the power that social media and the web have over us in terms of the information we consume.

Unlike network television or radio, virtually anyone can publish information to the Internet, and if done right, even incorrect information can look pretty convincing.

Honest Cable Company

This video is absolutely hilarious, and if you have ever purchased high-speed Internet and/or cable services from a local provider, it will resonate well with you. Extremely Decent does a great job of explaining the nature of the highly competitive and revenue-driven focus of large media companies.

Dog Found in Oklahoma Tornado Debris

Heartwarming videos contain another kind of secret sauce for going viral. As humans, we either gravitate toward pain and suffering or triumph and perseverance. The formula works even better when it is unexpected.

When an Oklahoma woman is being interviewed in the aftermath of a tornado, she talks about her dog being lost. Just as she does, she hears a noise and discovers her dog crawling out of the wreckage of her home.

5 Things You Need to Know about Developing a Webinar Registration Page

When it comes to webinar marketing, there’s little more soul crushing than setting up what you believe to be an elaborate presentation only to have your registration page turn into a complete flop. Why isn’t your beautiful landing page converting?

While we could try to answer that by pointing out common mistakes many webinar marketers make, we’re going to give you five tips for developing a killer webinar registration page instead. That way you can compare your current attempt and make necessary changes, or start from scratch the right way.

1. Customize It

Webinar Landing PageAlthough many hosting services provide built-in tools for the creation of signup pages, they usually aren’t as effective as a customized landing page and form. Yes, you’ll need to do a bit more work, but the number of registrations a user-friendly page with relevant fields and a powerful call to action can yield is often well worth the effort. You can also embed the registration form directly on your website and track the performance of your signup page.

2. Keep the Content Simple

By simple, we mean clear and concise. You want to answer the who, what, when where, and why questions, but you also want to ensure your language is devoid of jargon and that you set the right expectations for potential registrants. Whatever you do, don’t use this as an excuse to create a page that’s thin on information. Your webinar registration landing page is a great place to provide brief and compelling bios of your presenters, as well as other morsels of information that explain the value of the webinar’s content. Use this space to build anticipation and encourage people to reserve their spot. Also, don’t forget to include the price of your webinar if you’re charging for it.

3. Keep the Form Simple

Have you ever come across someone who enjoys filling out long forms that require copious amounts of information and a crowbar to jog his rusty memory? Neither have we, so please don’t force your attendee to provide unnecessary detail right off the bat. Unless, of course, it’s crucial to your presentation. People will bolt in the other direction if your complicated registration process takes more than a few clicks, so plan it out properly before you put your landing page and signup form together.

4. Don’t Forget Optimization Basics

You’ll never drive enough registrations if your page barely registers in SERPs. Therefore, you need to consider all SEO factors while ensuring the content is still fit for human consumption. That means eye-catching headlines that contain a keyword or two, compelling copy that delights both readers and search engines, and optimized code.

5. Become Design Savvy

Webinar Registration Page DesignIn order to maximize conversions, congruency and the placement of certain elements is essential. You’ll need to test your page once it’s live, but be sure to follow best practices for things like CTAs, directional cues, supporting video, messaging, social sharing buttons, navigation, etc. All elements should align with the topic of your landing page, as well as your goal to generate registrations. You’ll also want to pay attention to branding elements during the design phase so that your page looks like it belongs to your business.

Ultimately, a targeted webinar registration page can make or break your event. Have a look at examples on the web and then figure out how certain elements may work for your page. You may find you like the idea of soliciting questions for presenters with an extra field in your signup form or that you have social proof you can incorporate into your copy. Keep your post-registration follow-up and reminder emails in mind, too, as you can use these to build excitement and provide additional details to signups.

 

Are there any tips you’d add to our list? Do you use the built-in tools provided by a hosting service or do you develop your own customized pages from scratch? Drop us a line and let us know your thoughts on this topic.

The Best Inbound Marketing Guides

inbound-marketingWe’ve written a lot on inbound marketing, specifically and indirectly, on this blog. Over the past year, there have been tons of posts created on our own views of what our inbound marketing philosophy is and how it should be implemented. I wanted to look for some of the best inbound marketing guides on the web, not only to validate some of what we believe, but also to offer a different perspective to our readers.

I did a little research on this, and one of my first steps was to look for some guides already in existence online. With more than 4 million results in Google’s index, I had no idea the topic was so popular. Ok, I had some idea, but how do you sift through and find “the best” guides? You don’t. You can’t! There is too much information out there, so the three companies and their guides I’ve highlighted in this post are by no means the end-all, be-all best guides out there. Instead, they have information that I think is pretty well-rounded and serves as excellent resources for those looking to learn more or have more data at their disposal to reference.

marketoMarketo – The Inbound Marketer’s Guide to SEO and PPC

Marketo is a marketing automation software company, and they produce content on similar topics at their website. The guide they’ve created (mentioned above) leans heavily on the roles that SEO and PPC play with inbound marketing (even though PPC is technically not inbound, but more on that in a moment).

The Benefits of Marketo’s Guide

Overall, you will see a lot of the same underlying theories and concepts in this guide that you see in content from other leading producers, but there were a few things that caught my eye as being unique and very helpful for readers.

Strategy:  I liked that there was an emphasis on strategy in the guide. SEO, social media and other components of inbound marketing (as well as the concept itself) are very new. Just like with any new practice or profession, you don’t really need to be an expert to say you are an expert. Marketo points this out in its guide, and mentions that a strategy should be the first thing you do.

Without a sound strategy, you will flounder with inbound. You will start tasks and not follow through. You will not have as much (or any) success where you might have if you were more focused. You will also become frustrated and lose faith in the power of this strategy for promotion.

An image representing creativityCreativity:  They also talk about creativity with inbound, which I like. Marketing is one of those services that is hard to pre package and sell to everyone. Marketing strategies must necessarily be modeled after the type of business and industry for which it is purposed.

I see a lot of websites, email ads or posts on social media about inbound or inbound-related concepts. They say, “you need to have a blog” and “you need to be active on social” or “you must create ebooks.” While there may be consistent components to inbound that involve these tools, the same tools will not work for everyone. Businesses have to think about how they do business and who they do it with. They have to think about niche opportunities that are available to them only because of the industry they are in. They must then leverage those opportunities to their advantage while applying concepts of inbound at the same time.

For example, many businesses should blog but it’s HOW they blog that is important. A company may leverage social media, but they need to think about how to position themselves in social media in order to be truly effective. And they cannot be averse to ignoring some of these components altogether in an inbound strategy if they aren’t going to generate revenue.

Examples:  Along with their section on creativity, Marketo provides a lot of really great examples of companies who are being creative. This is another aspect of their guide that I like. That is because in most guides (even those from the thought leaders in the industry), companies ARE the experts and don’t offer outside examples or viewpoints. Two heads are better than one, and diverse opinions and examples offer users a clearer picture on how they can model their own strategies.

following-professionalsFollowing the experts:  The last thing I saw in this guide that made it stand out was that Marketo suggested a whole list of people and events that would be good to attend. Here again they are showing users a window into a world of other thoughts and opinions on inbound instead of cramming their own philosophy down the reader’s throat. One might think, “hey, they are sending their potential customers elsewhere.” I would argue they are strengthening their position as an authority in the space by being unafraid to let people explore other options.

Drawbacks

This guide has two bad things about it. First, it is heavily focused on SEO and PPC, and there didn’t seem to be a guide offered by Marketo (that I could find) that had a more holistic approach. Granted, the title does say its about SEO and PPC.

The other thing is that it includes PPC in an inbound marketing piece. Some people may disagree with me, but to my mind, PPC is not an element of inbound marketing. By nature, inbound is supposed to be marketing that draws people in because of content. Conversely, PPC is interruptive advertising and is typically presented when people aren’t looking for it or don’t want to see it at all.

Marketo doesn’t really offer a good explanation as to why PPC is included in their inbound guide either.

hubspotHubSpot — Inbound Marketing Kit

We have to mention HubSpot here because let’s face it, they are one of the driving forces behind inbound marketing online. They have also produced some pretty great content around the subject. When I looked for an inbound marketing guide from them, though, I had a mixed bag of disappointment, frustration and delight.

The Benefits of HubSpot’s Guide (err…approach)

So, HubSpot has the “Inbound Marketing Kit” as opposed to a “guide.” This has a glossary of terms, their State of Inbound Marketing Report as well as an interactive video on actually doing inbound marketing. It is also important to note that HubSpot has several inbound marketing guides that are tailored for specific organizations such as NPOs and large corporations. In this regard, they do a good job of avoiding the one-size-fits-all guide approach.

Hands representing a holistic feelHolistic approach:  The thing I like about the video is that it provides a very holistic approach to inbound. HubSpot always gives a bunch of great stats, and they touch on all the different elements of inbound and how they can be leveraged and/or integrated with one another.

Informative:  The glossary was very informative and has tons of definitions. Granted, they are HubSpot’s definitions to relatively new concepts on the Internet in general, but if you are new to inbound, you can get a good reference guide on what the heck everyone is talking about.

Actionable data:  HubSpot’s State of Inbound Marketing Report is great for making decisions on where to focus your time with inbound. If you are a data hound, it’s the perfect document to show you exactly where you should be placing the most effort.

With inbound marketing, collecting and analyzing data are particularly important tasks. The mere fact that you can collect so much data from online marketing makes it much easier to understand what is working for you and what is a waste of time and money.

Drawbacks

I don’t really like to knock HubSpot because they do what they do very well, and they are very thorough with their data. There were, however, a few things that annoyed me with their approach to making this guide.

Flash logoVideo was in Flash:  Ahhhh!  I can’t comprehend why people are still using this technology. Adobe is huge and well-ingrained, so I get it. It’s hard to stop using what was once so ubiquitous. In some websites I’ve built, I’ve reluctantly had to use Flash for some elements. But when you are making a core piece of content for your viewers to see, it should not be displayed in a proprietary technology. When I went to see the video, I was unable to view it because my player was out of date. Had the video been on YouTube or Vimeo or any other way that didn’t include using Flash, things would have been fine.

Lack of actionable strategies:  Since I couldn’t see the video that was there as the guide, my only go-to docs were the glossary and the (lengthy) State of Inbound Marketing Report. Neither of these documents provide any kind of actionable strategy information.  They are mostly bare-bones definitions and data.

impact-logoImpact Branding and Design — A Beginners’ Guide to Inbound Marketing

I haven’t heard a lot about this company, but I saw that they had a beginners’ guide to inbound. In my experience, it’s good to give less well-known things a try once in a while, and this time I was pleasantly surprised.

The Benefits of Impact’s Guide

simpleSimple:  A lot of guides are good, but they can easily go off on a tangent and talk about theory and philosophy behind their concepts. That’s all great stuff, but sometimes (and especially if you are a beginner in a time crunch), you just want to know what to do.

Impact’s guide does that. They tell you exactly what you need, where to get it and what to do with it. Of course, they include some basic stats at the beginning of their guide, but for the most part, it dives right into what should be happening at your desk instead of theories on consumer buying habits.

Well-rounded:  Another thing I liked about this particular guide was that it adequately hit on key points of inbound marketing without being too detailed about any one concept or task. They start off with what business-related things someone would need to get started with inbound, what tangible tools they would need, how to implement those tools and then how to convert leads to sales.

At the end, they wrap up with how to measure your activities, which is always a crucial component. An added tidbit that you don’t always see in some guides is a section about the website, which is central to any inbound marketing campaign.We are trying to drive people to a website so they can perform some action or see our brand.

Drawbacks

Really the only thing I didn’t like about this guide was that it relied heavily on HubSpot’s data and general stature in the inbound industry. The company was mentioned a number of times, and there weren’t many other outside resources for people to follow up on.

I think it’s good to provide more perspectives than just one, and to definitely use more examples than just a single, leading company. HubSpot does what it does very well, but there are also a lot of other companies that are doing inbound well, too.

 

Are there any inbound marketing guides that you have found useful? Please share in the comments below!