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4 Simple Tips for Effectively Managing Contact Lists

effectively-managing-contact-listWhen I tell people I’m involved with online marketing, their eyes immediately widen and they start visualizing space-age computer code and Facebook icons. In reality, it isn’t that glamorous, and list management is one of those non-glamorous tasks. Much like getting a yearly physical or balancing a checkbook, managing a contact list isn’t something that anyone really wants to do, but it’s something that needs to get done, regardless.

A well-maintained contact list is one of the more important end results of your marketing activities (sales being the most important, of course). This is the data that you will use to grow a business, sell products and services, and otherwise move a business forward. These people are your market (or at least they should be). Not managing a list well means you are working with bad information, which is not good in a sales setting.

cleaningClean House

Working with current information means greater efficiency and less embarrassment. Routinely updating your contact list will help you avoid marketing to people whose information is no longer accurate.

  • Remove bad information like bounced or inactive emails after each campaign
  • Clear out people who have opted not to receive emails from you
  • Update contacts that have changed roles in a company
  • Move contacts to different market segments when they change (i.e. prospect to current customer)
  • Add information when you receive it. For instance, more phone numbers, alternate emails or additional addresses.
  • Add notes about your contacts that could be relevant for future communications. For instance, maybe you received a response to an email campaign or a sales call from a contact that contained important information for sales down the road.

If you don’t perform any of the other tasks featured in this post for managing your contact list, you should at the very least keep your data current. When you have good information about your market, then you look like you know what you’re talking about in your marketing. 

customer-relationship-managementUse a CRM

Nothing makes cleaning your data easier than a Customer Relationship Management system. It used to be that these systems just helped you organize data, but they do a lot more than that now. On the data cleansing side, though, CRMs can help you:

  • Easily update basic information
  • Integrate customer information into your marketing activities
  • Categorize data and otherwise organize it in a way that is best for your workflow

Although it may not seem like much, a huge benefit of CRM software is that all of your customer and prospect information is in one central location. Rules and processes that can be used on one contact can be used for all others.

Conversely, if you store your contacts in an Excel spreadsheet, it’s much more tedious and time consuming to go through and manage them. It will also drive you nuts. 

Image represention email newsletter templateUse Email Marketing Software to Manage Lists

CRMs can be overkill if all you want to do is manage some opt-ins or perform other simple tasks. Look into using an email marketing program instead. The following platforms are great for managing contacts in terms of maintaining a good list of active and willing email marketing participants.

There are a ton of other choices, as well. Search for email marketing programs on the web and you will instantly numerous options to sift through. The programs named above (especially the first three) are inexpensive, easy to use and great for managing contact information. 

Segment Your Email Lists

Just getting good information into a list can be daunting enough, so make sure you have that down before you move on to organizing everything. Once you’re there, though, segment your email list according to who your market is and how your business operates.

For example, if your business sells different products or services to people with different buying interests, those contacts should be in separate lists because they should be receiving different messaging.

When you segment your lists, it makes marketing easier and more effective. People who are interested in a particular product or service won’t be receiving messages that aren’t relevant to them, and therefore will be less likely to opt out of receiving communications from you.

 

What tips do you have for managing a contact list? Join in the conversation by commenting below.

9 Things You Can Do Today To Make Your Written Content Actionable

Make Your Written Content ActionableIt’s great that you have a steady stream of eyeballs on your content, but what’s that really worth if readers aren’t performing some sort of action? After all, you’re not spending precious marketing dollars on content creation for nothing. Whether you’re producing blog posts, articles, white papers, eBooks, or other types of content, there should be several points of interaction—elements that persuade your audience to complete tasks that inevitably result in leads, revenue, and advocacy.

Besides producing impactful content filled with tips, advice, and ideas your readers can practically implement in the real world, here are nine more ways to create opportunities for action on your written content.

1. Create a Comment Section

Astonishingly, many business sites still lack comment sections. The writing simply draws to its conclusion with no place for readers to contribute their ideas. Besides being bizarre in an age when generating online conversation is crucial for brands, it can be highly frustrating for readers who want to make their voices heard. If you’re developing stimulating content (which you should be), be sure to provide a space where people can leave their opinions without having to publish an article of their own.

When you enable public comments, keep in mind that there are those who will want to submit their thoughts privately. Make certain you provide that option, even if it’s through your contact page or social media properties.

2. Include an Actionable Summary

Tell your readers what the next steps are. Identity specific behaviors you’ve outlined in your post—the ones your audience should carry out in order to achieve the goal of your article—and then list them in a bulleted or numbered format.

Sarah Arrow does a great job of this at the end of her SteamFeed blog post on the connection between blogging and Kindle. Not only did she follow on with a brief list of links to resources (another point of interaction), but she also included a call to action for comments. Note how she slips in a bullet point that tells readers to subscribe.

Actionable content - action summary

3. Incorporate Powerful Calls to Action

Actionable content drives a response. It’s your job to engage readers and move them further down the conversion funnel with a compelling call to action (CTA) that consists of a short, explicit instruction. Whether that actionable step is clicking, downloading, commenting, taking a tour, starting a trial, or signing up depends on your agenda.

HubSpot excels in this area, placing a relevant lead-capturing CTA at the end of each blog post. The beautifully designed, clickable image contains a persuasive message to take action. It’s always related to the topic the author has covered in the post, and it always leads to a gorgeous landing page where a reader’s email address and other details are captured.

4. Add Subscription Options

Actionable content - subscription optionsThere are two ways visitors can subscribe to your content: RSS and email. Both can drive tons of traffic to your blog each day—traffic you can potentially nurture through a well organized marketing funnel. In the image on the left, you’ll notice that HubSpot offers both methods. Their CTA is prominently placed on the right-hand side of the blog, ensuring all new visitors have easy access to it.

The inbound marketing experts also place a CTA for blog subscription at the bottom of each post. While the CTA in the right-hand panel can be completed without leaving the page, the CTA at the end of the post leads to a landing page that allows readers to enter their email address, set the frequency of email notifications, or subscribe to their RSS feed.

Alternatively, you can go for something simple and effective like this signup form Derek Halpern at Social Triggers uses.

Actionable content - sign up form

Besides blog posts, subscribers regularly receive helpful content, advice, and updates right to their email box. It’s all part of a wonderful content marketing machine.

5. Include Internal Links to Related Content

Internal links carry a bevy of benefits, ranging from an improvement in user-friendliness and a reduction in bounce rate to an increase in page views and a boost in link juice. Readers know you’ve put a link within your text for a reason. That link acts as a CTA, telling them you want them to click on it because there’s something relevant on the other end. Get wise about your linking strategy and use internal links within an article sparingly, but strategically.

6. Make Suggestions for Other Relevant Content

Every clickable link presents the potential for an action to take place. There’s no better way to keep readers on your site and engaged than with a list of relevant content suggestions. “Most Popular Posts,” “Related Posts,” and “Other Posts You Might Like” are just few common examples you’ll see on sites optimized for action. Available plugins and built-in options will vary depending on the content management system you use, so be sure to check them out and choose one that suits your web design needs.

7. Integrate the “Send to Kindle Button” Into Your Site or Blog

In early 2013, Amazon.com released a “Send to Kindle” Button for publishers. For content marketers, this is a great way to offer an audience convenient reading anytime, anywhere. Rushed readers who can’t enjoy your content right then and there can simply send the article directly to their Kindle for reading on the go.

If you’re a website owner, you can visit Actionable content - send to Kindle buttonwww.amazon.com/gp/sendtokindle/developers/button to generate a widget code. If you’re a WordPress blogger, you can visit http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/send-to-kindle/ to install the button.

8. Use the “Click to Tweet” Plugin or Similar Tools

“Click to Tweet” serves as a fabulous little CTA all on its own. When you have valuable insights, original data, or interesting facts scattered throughout your text, they offer an ideal opportunity to encourage promotion of your content on Twitter. Readers can quickly and easily Tweet the info to their followers, along with a link to your post.

9. Invite Readers to Share

Many readers barely take cognizance of social sharing widgets when their focus is solely on consuming information. They forget you’d like them to spread the word; share a link. Therefore, you have to remind them by inviting them to make use of those powerful little buttons. Ask people to share your post with their networks if they believe others will find it helpful.

As a final note on actionable content, users must understand the points of interaction in order to complete the task. Therefore, navigation and functionality are essential. Spend time evaluating your content for interaction points, make sure they’re clear and understandable, and then check that they work correctly. If you want readers to click on a link, subscribe, share your content, or leave a comment, then they shouldn’t have a hassle performing the task. Most importantly, ask yourself whether you’ve written something that will make people want to take action.

 

How do you ensure your content is actionable? Is there anything you’d add to our list? Share your thoughts in a comment.

Why Publishing Primary Research Is Content Marketing Gold

According to WordPress.com’s latest stats, more than 38.7 million blog posts were published across its network in February, 2014. Considering that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of total content published online during that month, it’s safe to say that each piece of content you create is unlikely to remain visible for very long in today’s somewhat turbulent SERPs and burgeoning social media streams. As monthly posting averages continue to increase, the odds of gaining traction—let alone viral traction—tend to decrease.

WordPress posting activity

Posting Activity: Figures include posts published on blogs hosted by WordPress.com, as well as those posted on externally-hosted blogs using the platform’s Jetpack plugin.

So, what’s a B2B content marketer to do?

“Now that so many B2B marketers are focused on content marketing, you have to get creative if you want to elevate yourself above the competition. By investing in primary research, you can produce more compelling and original content that is backed by quantitative analysis,” says Derek Singleton, Analyst at Software Advice and Managing Editor of The B2B Marketing Mentor Blog. “Investing in this type of content can help build the authority of your brand, as well as trust with your target buyers.”

We tend to agree. Content is simply content until people care about it, which is why it’s so crucial to publish valuable information that compels conversation while establishing your brand as an industry leader. Original market data that assists your target audience in what they do accomplishes that and more. In case you’re not convinced, consider these additional advantages of primary research and you’ll quickly see why it’s content marketing gold.

Sharpen Your Positioning

Besides boosting your brand’s authority, credibility, reputation, and influence, this tactic offers another significant benefit. Making a firm commitment to primary research and the development of content around resulting data allows you to sharpen your brand’s positioning. It gives you an opportunity to define your niche clearly, as well as shape your thought leadership.

Challenge the Status Quo

It’s not enough to prove your intellect these days. You have to be thought provoking and provide meaningful information that challenges the status quo. Original research can help you identify future trends and show your target audience where changes need to be made now rather than later when opportunity cost may be greater. That’s where true value lies.

Stretch Your Marketing Dollars FurtherStretch Your Marketing Dollars Further

Perhaps the biggest pull to champion an investment in primary research is that brands can generate plenty of spin-off content. Over time, a single piece of research has the ability to spawn multiple blog posts, articles, webinars, infographics, videos, news releases, podcasts, Slideshare presentations, and more.

Atomizing your research report to fuel your blog and other content marketing channels ensures your feeds stay relevant and active while your brand gets the biggest bang for its marketing buck. Don’t forget that analyzing results, explaining your research methodology, or identifying, dissecting, and understanding trends offers plenty of fodder for interesting topics. In the context of your entire content marketing program, the budget required for original research is relatively negligible.

Drive Conversation in the Right Direction

Depending on how you release your research, you can leverage the data to engage in one-on-one, in-depth conversations with leads and prospects. This is an ideal opportunity to engage in conversation that points to a solution—your solution. In the end, it’s all about turning content into conversation and then converting that conversation into revenue.

Retain More Clients

Primary research as part of a robust content marketing strategy can be great for acquisitions, but that doesn’t help the C-level crowd who wonder whether yours is still the best team to help grow their business. Relevant research can help you create content that convinces existing clients you’re still worth it—that you know what you’re doing. Done the right way, your research won’t only improve retention rates, but it’ll help you upsell new services, too.

Amplify Attention

Primary Data Can Generate AttentionBesides serving as excellent link bait, research generates social sharing. High-value, unique data is both useful and interesting, which are two characteristics people look for when deciding to share content with their online communities. The result is better rankings, greater awareness, and more eyeballs on your content.

Rake In Tons of User-Generated Content

Research can be a powerful enabler of user-generated content. Depending on your topic, research techniques, and methods for gathering data, responses serve as a great source of this content type. Get creative about the way you pose questions, and you’re sure to have plenty of original ideas and opinions voluntarily submitted to your entity along with built-in data you can use in your next report.

Build Social Proof

You know what all those likes, shares, +1s, comments, and pins amount to? You guessed it—social proof that carries plenty of persuasive power.

Generate More Leads

Highly focused research neatly packaged in a downloadable white paper is generally a great lead generator. Be sure to add lots of visual content to make your report easy to digest.

But Research Is Expensive, Right?

Not necessarily. Yes, access to data, deeper intelligence, and the sharp eye of experienced industry analysts will require a bigger portion of your budget if you’re looking to create something that’s more complex in nature. However, in-house experiments, analytics, A/B testing, and other online research tools offer inexpensive, alternative solutions that also produce compelling results. Combine that data with your unique perspective and expert advice and you’ll have new material for an array of content archetypes. In fact, the folks at Software Advice have built their own survey tool that collects responses and analyzes them in real time.

“We recently decided to invest in user surveys to track the benefits of software from a user’s perspective. As a result, we’re developing content that speaks directly to the needs of software end users and gauges the effectiveness of some of the most popular products on the market.”

If you want to weigh in on CRM software and make your opinion matter, consider taking Software Advice’s survey.

The bottom line: get clever about your content marketing. You can add to the noise with recycled information no one cares about, or you can invest in unique insights that are sure to give your campaign a few extra marketing miles.

 

What do you think? Is primary research an effective content marketing tactic or do you have a few tricks up your sleeve that are just as powerful? Make your voice heard by leaving a comment below. Don’t forget to hit the share button if you know others who will find this post useful.

How to Make Content Silos

An image representing content silosIt is much easier for search engines to find and deliver a relevant document when it is focused and organized around a singular topic. That is the basic underlying theory of content silos. These categories of content can be made through linking practices, through file structures or both. Arranging your content in this way makes it easier for search engines to clearly see what’s relevant to user queries (as well as what’s not).

How Search Works

I’m sure that only the brightest engineers and mathematicians truly understand how Google’s algorithm works, but in terms of how it sees content, pages rank better when they’re more focused.

When you visit a search engine and type in a word or phrase, the engine tries to return the most relevant (single) document to you. For example, if you entered “stainless steel ball point pens,” the search engine wouldn’t display the home page of a pen manufacturer unless the page contained that specific phrase (even if the manufacturer in question was the most relevant company for the query).

Instead, the engine would return the most relevant web page (which could include a PDF) that was about that phrase. The page could be part of an entire website that had nothing to do with pens, and it would still show up (all else being equal) because it is relevant to the query.

Image of a messy room representing disorganized contentMost Websites Are Disorganized

When we create websites, we do our best to categorize content based on what we know. We might set things up based on how we run our business or organize the site based on what we think our customers would like.

Even if a site is organized well in terms of usability, it’s easy to overlook the bigger picture regarding the layout of the content and its theme. Some websites don’t feature an overall theme. Instead, they offer a clunky combination of content based on any number of variables. Subsections may not relate to the overall theme, and some content may be organized improperly when taking into account the overall theme of the site.

How to Make Content Silos

The definition of themeContent siloing is a method of applying an overarching theme to a website, which then flows down to related subsections. The purpose is to ensure that a site’s pages contain content relevant to the subjects that will allow it to rank well in search. Creating content silos is tedious (especially if you have to rip apart your entire site to do it, or if you have a number of different subject areas), but the concept is quite simple.

Step One: Determine Your Site’s Overall Theme
The first thing that needs to be done is to choose an overall theme for your website. You probably already have this, but if you are unclear or have a lot going on with your site in terms of content, note that it’s best to focus on one broad theme.

For instance, maybe your business performs furnace repair and installation, air-conditioning repair and installation and duct cleaning. All of that would fall within the HVAC realm. Another company might sell used and new auto parts, accessories and service. Those things could be placed under the broad umbrella of “auto parts and accessories.”

The idea here is not to create a home page with the broad topic areas, but to have a conceptual starting point. From here, you will make sub-categories (pages) that are extensions of the broad theme.

Step Two: Keyword Research
One of the main points of making content silos is to rank better in search. A crucial component of that is optimizing your pages for target keywords. Once you know what your broad theme is, you can go to work selecting target phrases that you want your individual pages to rank for.

Googles Keyword PlannerThis research isn’t an exact science; it’s more of a marketing art.  It involves knowing something about your market and how they might look for your products or services online.  You will want to choose words that have a high search volume, but not a lot of competition. You also want phrases that are branded, or that reflect any branded products or services you sell. You should also look out for keywords that convert well.

A great tool to use for your keyword research is Google’s Keyword Planner, which used to be known as the Keyword Tool. After Google changed it around, it works great for content siloing. The reason is because it will group keywords into categories for you (called AdGroups because they are meant for AdWords).

Even though these groups are meant for AdWords, they work in much the same way as advertisements on the search platform. When someone enters a query, you only want relevant ads appearing for it. The same is true for a page on your website. The painfully obvious fact is that if an ad pops up that has nothing to do with a keyword that someone used, they won’t click on the ad.  The same is true for web pages, although in the case of organic results, Google won’t show web pages unless they are relevant to a query.

During this process, you should also take into account how people will search for the content found on your site. What words or phrases will they use? Understanding searcher intent and methods for finding content is key to being successful in marketing a website using search.

Webmaster tools LogoThere are a variety of resources available to determine the keyword terms and phrases people are using to find your content. If you have your site configured in Google Webmaster Tools, you can see the keyword phrases that visitors have used to find your site. In Google Analytics or other tracking programs, you can view similar data. You might also run PPC campaigns through search that allow you to see which keyword phrases are most successful in creating conversions on your site.

Once you have a list of keywords that you want the pages of your site to rank for, prioritize them in a list. Choose words that are most relevant to the overall theme of your site and start there.

Step Three: Determine What Kind of Silo Can Be Created
There are some variables that come into play here, as well as a couple of different siloing methods. Content can be organized using physical silos or virtual silos. The method you use depends on your current situation.

Physical Silos
A physical silo is one created using the file structure that makes up a website. Instead of organizing content on the website once it is already on the server, you can do it through the way files are structured on the server.

An example of a physical content silo
Virtual Silos
This method is accomplished through linking on a website. That is, a site’s categories are separated by the way they are linked together. Pages about specific topic areas may reside in the same folder on a server, but the way they are linked (as displayed to the visitor) is organized differently.

An example of virtual content silos
So, the method you choose is based mostly on practicality. For instance, some websites have hundreds or even thousands of pages. They are well established with many links across the web. Therefore, upending everything by moving and renaming files on a server is not practical. In cases like these, silos created using links may be a better idea.

Page-Level Optimization

Now you have your site’s theme, your target keywords and your siloing method. It’s time to make your content silos. Regardless of whether you are using a physical or virtual siloing method, your page-level optimization will be the same.

Each page on your site should be configured to target a specific keyword phrase along with its variants. For instance, if your target keyword phrase for one page of your site is “Logitech wireless mouse,” variants would be plural or reordered versions of the phrase.

The graphic below shows how each page of your site should be configured in terms of where your target keyword phrases should go.

A graphical representation of a perfectly optimized pageThere are also some additional keyword placements not seen in the graphic, such as in meta descriptions. Having keyword-rich anchor text pointing at the page is also helpful, but don’t overdo it.

While content silos are an advanced SEO topic, the concept is somewhat rudimentary for search. Engines look for the most relevant document to return for a query. That happens when you create a highly-focused document that does not deviate from the subject matter. The more focused you can make your web pages on their respective keyword phrases, the better they will rank in search.

 

What tips do you have for making content silos? Have you found that siloing your content helps you get more traffic from search engines?

8 Questions to Help Determine Whether Your Content Is Understandable

Understandable content - questions to askRecently, we published a piece about content readability and its importance as a content marketing success factor. Equally important is understandability as it can be a barrier to accessibility and usability. After all, if your target audience can’t read or understand the information you publish then why bother creating it?

The last thing you need is poorly conceived and poorly crafted content that leaves readers wondering what you wanted them to learn. While everyone differs in their cognitive abilities, there are ways to improve text so that it’s understood by as many people as possible the first time they read it.

Follow along as we look at eight questions every writer should ask when developing content that doesn’t cause cognitive overload or understandability issues.

1. Have You Used Plain Language?

Plain language contributes to an accessible user experience. It’s clear, it’s easy to read, it’s easy to understand, and it’s inherently usable. These qualities relate to effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction. Unfortunately, information doesn’t automatically conform to these characteristics. It’s your job as a content creator or publisher to make that happen.

How do you ensure your language is simple and easy to understand?

  • Proofread your text for misspellings and commonly confused words. While a spellchecker can help you identify the former, it won’t always identify words that are spelled correctly, but used incorrectly (E.g. “weary” vs. “wary,” “discreet” vs. “discrete,” “for” vs. “fore”). When in doubt, use a dictionary

  • Use active voice rather than passive voice to strengthen your writing. With active voice, you directly link the subject of your sentence with the action, which makes it clear about who is doing what

  • Be concise

  • Avoid long, run-on sentences to help readers remain focused. Short sentences that are no more than 25 words in length are best for readability

  • Eliminate unnecessary adjectives

  • Articulate existing ideas in a new, easy-to-understand way

  • Use conversational language when appropriate

  • Use metaphors and analogies to improve comprehension. Many people understand ideas better when you explain them in everyday terms

  • Don’t oversimplify things. You don’t want to give readers a false sense of understanding what you mean when they really don’t

  • Avoid redundancy

  • Don’t use more than two conjunctions in a sentence

  • Avoid double negatives as they cause confusion and inhibit comprehension

  • Limit your use of jargon, idioms, acronyms, abbreviations, and complex words or phrases. As long as it doesn’t affect the precision of your communication or change its meaning, replace technical or high-level terminology with common terms whenever possible

  • Provide the pronunciation of a word when the meaning of a word is ambiguous without knowing the correct pronunciation

  • Be literal. Some readers have difficulty distinguishing between implied and literal meanings

  • Include the definition of a word or phrase when necessary

  • Avoid using unusual or foreign words

  • Don’t use showy or unfamiliar word combinations to impress readers. Clear communication is essential for full understanding

  • Make sentences easy to process by applying parallel sentence structure conventions

How simply and concisely you write will depend on a range of factors. Most importantly, it depends on your intended reader. Keep in mind that your text should not only be read by humans, but by assistive technology, too.

2. Did You Write For Your Target Audience?

While language might seem plain to one group of readers, it might not seem plain to another. Therefore, you must consider your target audience when writing. Characteristics such as level of education, intelligence, familiarity with the subject matter, motivation to learn, and gender and cultural differences all play a role in your choice of words and writing style.

Understandable content - Target reader personas

Map your user personas to ensure you’re writing for the right people at the right reading level.

A knowledgeable, highly motivated, and educated reader could sweep through a lengthy, intellectually challenging article with ease, understanding every word and concept. An average reader, however, might find the task more taxing. Ultimately, you want to ensure that you write according to your target reader’s level of comprehension. If you’ve already defined your user personas, you should be able to develop content around a topic that your ideal reader will feel comfortable reading and understanding.

3. Are Your Ideas Presented In A Logical Order?

A crucial cognitive process happens during natural language understanding: the formulation of coherence. For readers to interpret a piece of text correctly, they must link its meaning to the prior context. A reader already assumes that you’ve written with an intention and that each new sentence is relevant to the one before it. Therefore, you should help readers establish relationships between the ideas presented in your paragraphs by writing clear sentences in a rational sequence.

Before you can write in a clear style, you must arrange your thoughts in an orderly manner. This ensures your ideas will flow smoothly and build logical bridges to help readers make sense of your text. Be sure to evaluate your piece for coherence before you publish it.

4. Did You Provide Context?

Context, which refers to the circumstances that establish the setting for your idea or statement, has an influence on the way readers understand what you’re attempting to convey. This relies heavily on the coherent relationship between your sentences. As a result, you should provide sufficient context for even the simplest of thoughts so that readers can fully understand your meaning.

5. Are You Using The Right Content Type?

A moment of comprehension doesn’t always stem from a clearly written text-based piece. Your target readers might have a better understanding of your content if you present it in audio or visual formats. Consider videos, infographics, images, podcasts, slideshows, and similar content types when deciding on presentation mediums. Depending on your subject matter, you might want to try a combination of media to ensure the widest possible audience understands the message you’re trying to convey.

6. Did You Provide Practical Examples Where Applicable?

Articles based on complex or technical subject matter are often abstract, making them difficult to read and understand. To avoid confusing readers further, you should provide practical examples to help them conceptualize an idea, process, event, or problem.

For example, in this piece about writing a job description for a social media manager, the position summary was not only explained, but a solid example was provided so that readers can see what a typical summary for this position looks like.

Understandable content - providing examples

7. Did You Use Alternative Representations To Clarify Meaning Where Applicable?

In addition to practical examples, supplementing your text with visual or audio aids can help clarify the meaning of your content. Diagrams, illustrations, animations, images, symbols, video, and other visual depictions enable people to learn faster and more effectively because the message is communicated in a more concise and simplified way. Make sure you enhance your complicated textual content with formats that improve comprehension.

8. Is The Reading Level Of Your Content Appropriate?

Although you may believe you’ve created simple, clear, and understandable content, the chances are that some readers will still have trouble perceiving the meaning of your text. That’s where readability tests like the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level index can help.

Understandable content - reading level

The algorithms of these tests use mathematical formulas to evaluate a piece of text for reading ease and reading level. The only downside is that they focus mainly on quantitative metrics. Therefore, you can’t rely on a formulaic process alone in order to understand the simplicity and clarity of your content. You must consider all factors as outlined by the eight questions in this blog post.

Even though the results are only superficial measurements of readability, you can use them to gain insight into how readable and understandable your content is. Most experts recommend a 7th-8th grade reading level for general content. Based on your result, you can adjust your writing so that it aligns with the comprehension skills of your target readers. Keep in mind that a lower grade level increases the accessibility of content since a wider audience is likely to understand it.

Conclusion

Writing understandable content for a large audience isn’t always easy. This is especially true for niche topics. While one reader feels you’re writing for first graders, another might feel you’re writing for postgraduate students. The key is to keep the reader, purpose, and context in mind when crafting content. Always aim for simplicity and clarity if you want your content to be accessible and useable. There’s no place for convoluted content when it comes to simple, concise, and understandable text.

What steps do you take to ensure your content is understandable? Share your tips and thoughts with us in the comment section below. Don’t forget to share this post with authors and web content writers who might find it useful.

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.

Tracking Your Webinar’s Performance

Webinars are ideal for generating leads, moving prospects up the interest ladder, and then converting them to customers, but do you know how to measure your event’s success? If you struggle with this aspect of your webinar campaigns, follow along as we cover several marketing metrics you should be tracking, as well as provide tips for ensuring you gain the valuable data you need for improvement. Keep in mind that you should have set benchmarks when you outlined your objectives during strategy development.

Webinar metrics

Use Solid Reporting Software

Thanks to the rising popularity of the webinar, many analytics service providers are incorporating webinar solutions into their offerings. This is over and above any information collected through webinar hosts. As a result, marketers can now identify the most qualified leads based on behavioral and demographic data, track which campaigns are generating these leads, optimize spending for future campaigns, and optimize conversion paths.

Essentially, marketers now have an opportunity to gain a complete picture of their webinar’s performance. Be sure to research your options and select a platform that suits your tracking needs and budget.

Track Your Click-Through Rates

A visit to your registration page doesn’t necessarily result in a registration. Therefore, you want to track your CTR to determine the quality of your message and the effectiveness of your landing page. If you’re not quite where you want to be, you may be targeting the wrong demographics, using subject lines that trigger spam filters, asking too many irrelevant questions, providing vague information, or failing to connect with your audience. There’s also a chance a low CTR indicates your content offer isn’t up to scratch, which is why few people are biting.

Measure Your Attendance Ratio

How many people attended your webinar? Now, compare that to the number of people who registered. When you’ve calculated the percentage, you’ll have a clear idea of whether you managed to maintain your audience’s interest in the emails and interactions leading up to the event. If your attendance ratio is low, you should assess potential reasons your target audience failed to attend. Did the perceived value of your content decrease between the moment of registration and the moment your webinar started? Did someone else cover your topic first? Was your content no longer timely? These are the types of questions you need to be asking when evaluating performance factors.

Giveaways or PrizesConsider the Impact of Giveaways or Prizes

If you’ve chosen to entice prospects with gift cards, prizes, freebies, or surprises, you need to be aware that this tactic will influence your registration and attendance rates. Your ultimate goal should be to convert high quality, warm leads who will eventually contribute to your business objectives. Giveaways and prizes will likely attract people who couldn’t care less about your content, but who are simply in it for the free stuff. Be sure to consider this when measuring registration and attendance rates as success metrics.

Work Out Your Cost Per Lead

Some marketing tactics are more expensive than others, which is why it’s crucial to know your cost per lead and, eventually, your cost per acquisition. You want these numbers to be low so that you know webinars are worth it for your business. If they’re high, you might need to re-evaluate this marketing tactic, as well as your expenditure on hosting and promoting this type of event. A successful webinar will usually have a low cost per lead.

Measure Audience Retention Rates

Great content combined with excellent delivery should keep viewers hooked until the end. Therefore, you want to follow retention rates and peaks during your presentation. If viewers drop off, it could be because you’re not delivering on your promises, you’re not delivering content that meets the expertise level of your audience, or there are other problems like technical issues. Keeping your audience interested in what you have to say is critical to the success of your webinar.

Track Engagement Levels

If you’ve set up polls and other opportunities for real-time interactions, then you need to measure your audience’s level of engagement. If people aren’t voting or responding in some way, you might need to reshape your presentation. Consider how many people interact with you, as well as how you can use the intel they provide for follow-up conversations.

Webinar Exit Survey

Determine Whether You Met Expectations

 

Exit surveys can provide valuable information regarding your level of thought leadership and whether you hit the right spot with your content. First, you want to assess the number of people who take the time to fill out your survey, and then you want to analyze their feedback in terms of satisfaction ratings. Their responses can help you better align your content and promotional messages in the future.

Evaluate Post-Webinar Interest

On-demand viewing stats can provide plenty of insight into the success of your webinar. In addition to generating fresh sales leads, your on-demand version will help you determine post-webinar interest and the value of your content. Have a look at the number of attendees who watched the presentation again, as well as the number of registrants who didn’t make the live event, but watched the posted version.

Be Sure To Split Test

A/B split testing is a must for developing effective promotional messages. Hopefully, you’re already doing this. If not, consider this your reminder.

Finally, don’t forget to evolve your curriculum and tweak your presentations based on your analytics data, survey feedback, and other KPIs. Ensuring your webinars remain relevant and interesting for attendees is the key to leveraging this popular marketing tactic successfully.

 

Are there any metrics or tips you’d add to our list? We’d love to hear your thoughts, so pop them in the comment section below. Don’t forget to share this blog with others who may find it helpful.

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.