Content Creation, Content Promotion

The Beginner’s Guide to Expert Roundup Posts & Group Interviews

The Begginer's Guide to Expert Roundups & Group Interviews

If you’re in the online marketing space, you’ve no doubt seen a hundred “expert roundups” or as I like to call them “group interviews.” You might have participated in a few. You may even be extremely sick of them and you may not want to participate in them or create them anymore.

Regardless of your opinion of them, though, the reality is this: if your objective is to get shares and traffic for your content, they tend to work quite well. We use them on this site. Popular blogs in the marketing niche still do as well.

And in other niches outside of online marketing, the tactic is frequently more seldom used and even more effective. The benefits are fairly straight forward: this post style allows you to get a number of smart folks to contribute content for you. They get exposure through your post, and you get a post chock full of different perspectives on a relevant topic to your audience that has built-in distribution.

If you’re not leveraging it, it’s something you may want to consider adding to your content arsenal. There are already a number of great guides to create your own with some excellent tips and tricks:

We execute a number of these kinds of posts for our own publishing properties and on behalf of clients, and have our own methodology we thought was worth sharing. As with “best of lists,” this post type isn’t always a home run. Frequently these assets will drive hundreds of shares for a domain that’s never had more than a handful for their content. They can generate into the thousands of passive unique visitors each month through search traffic.

And they can be time-consuming to create and promote, and fall relatively flat.

This is why we encourage folks to take more of a portfolio approach to content efforts: evaluate your content production and promotion based on your aggregate inputs and aggregate results. Understand that not all content succeeds, analyze results, and iterate over time.

You should do that with group interviews / expert roundups as well, but you can’t start evaluating until you get started testing the tactic. In this post you’ll learn how to walk through the ideation process to come up with a huge list of great group interview topics so that you can produce engaging expert roundups on a regular basis, how to contact possible participants, and how to promote the content once your posts are live.

Let’s dig into the process.

Step 1: Expert Roundup Topic Ideation

For the most part great topics for expert roundups are pretty similar to great topics for any content: I’m looking for ideas that are helpful to potential prospects. Things they’ll search for, problems they have that I can help solve, etc.

And as with general content ideation, there are a lot of different ways I can come up with great group interview topics.

1) Answer My Own Questions

If I have domain expertise, I can come up with some great ideas for group interviews by thinking about the things that I have problems with. For instance let’s say I’m a content marketer launching a product for other content marketers. Any time I encounter a problem and start to:

  • Consider Emailing a colleague to get advice
  • Posting on a forum for those folks’ two cents
  • Dropping a quick query into Google

About something related to my business, that’s probably a great topic to “crowd source” via group interview and get a piece of content around, because if I have the question or problem other content marketers probably do too. Some examples of things I’m always curious about and/or struggling with that I could (and might) turn into group interviews might be:

  • The best ways to get great survey data on a topic when you don’t have a list or existing proprietary data
  • Quick hacks for getting great images and visuals on a specific topic (how to find the perfect blog images)
  • Tips for running contests if you don’t have an established audience or brand (or if you should even bother)

Those could all be awesome topics to get input from a bunch of experts on, and are probably things that other folks would like to get some additional viewpoints on as well.

Similarly, even if I were totally new to content marketing, those questions could be interesting as well if my audience is beginners. In fact, if my audience is mainly beginners, I might be better off polling someone brand new to field and asking them what they struggle with or what they think they would have the hardest time doing if I asked them to go and start work creating and promoting content for a site today (again: it depends on my audience!). Finding folks inside an industry to talk to and ask about the things they struggle with (whether that’s a client, someone you’re connected with on LinkedIn, someone you hire for a consultation – whatever) is always a great way to start to brainstorm content ideas.

Grab someone with very limited or no experience on a topic (your friends, a junior resource in your company, etc.) and explain a fairly complex topic related to your business to them. Encourage them to stop you every time they have any kind of question. Write the questions down – these could all be great expert roundup questions!

2) Look at Tool Lists

Once I’ve recorded a lot of my own questions and the questions and problems that actual prospects and/or or folks who are very similar to my prospects would have, another way I’ll find ideas for great group interview topics is to look at lists of tools within my niche. Looking at categories of tools and software can be a great way to unearth topics for group interviews, because software is (frequently) developed in response to a problem. I can start hunting here with my old pal Google (NOTE: ads in the screenshot below have been removed to make things fit more nicely and because I think G is squeaking by OK without any additional free distribution for their sponsors):

A screenshot of the search results for content marketing tools.

I’ll click on WordStream’s list of tools to start since I used to work there, and as soon as I do I immediately find a few subcategories of tools:

A screenshot of how you can use subcategories from tool posts for topic ideas.

Each of these subcategories could represent an interesting group interview question (or a few) – for instance:

  • What’s your favorite content curation tool?
  • What’s the biggest mistake marketers make when curating content?
  • What’s your favorite content curation hack?

And similar (I’ll walk through some common formulas for questions in a few paragraphs, but many of the formulas I’m listing and would come up with would work with a lot of these topic areas).

Drilling into the specific tools lets me uncover even more interesting topic areas – I want to really look through a lot of the tools listed here and in other lists and look closely at their title tags and benefit statements:

An example of using software messaging to get content topic ideas.

Buzzsumo was on WordStream’s list. I love BuzzSumo and use it a lot, but I don’t often spend much time thinking about how they’d categorize themselves or describe the problem they’re solving. When I look at their home page I see lots of topics that are probably things content marketers find interesting and in some cases struggle with. Their title tag reads:

Find the Most Shared Content & Key Influencers

And the headline highlighted above is similar. So based on Buzzsumo’s popularity (and my own need for it) it’s a pretty good bet that content marketers might want to hear from other content marketers about:

  • How to come up with viral, sharable content topics?
  • How to identify key influencers in a niche quickly?

And others like these. I can drill into lots of other specific tools to find great group interview topics.

Similarly, looking at a list of features for a specific product can also serve as a good means of identifying more topics – for example if they feature a content calendar, content collaboration features, etc. each of those is likely a pain point you can turn into a useful question.

3) Look at Categories on Blogs

Similar to tool categories, you can find some categories that you can spin into lots of great group interview questions by looking at the categorization on popular blogs in a niche:

An image example of using categories to get topic ideas.

Problogger has a great footer that includes a list of categories – again as with the tool categories, lots of these could be interesting interview topics:

  • What’s the Number 1 Mistake Blogger’s Make with Blog Design?
  • What’s Your Number 1 Tip for Conducting Great Podcast Interviews?

4) Look at Most Popular Posts on Popular Blogs

Similarly, looking at the most popular articles on blogs in your niche can give you a great idea of what readers of these blogs (likely your prospects) are most likely to be sharing and reading:

Using popular posts to get content ideas for expert roundups.

Now I know the Problogger audience is interested in topics like making money blogging, growing community, Amazon’s affiliate program (and others, presumably), and starting their first blog. Assuming I know or am at least really confident my audience has a lot of overlap with Problogger’s, that’s another batch of potentially interesting topics to get a variety of expert opinions on.

5) Look at Agendas for Conferences

The people who organize conferences spend a lot of time thinking about what the folks who attend will want to see, and what they’re thinking about. If there’s a lot of overlap between conference goers at a specific event and your prospects, the agenda for that conference is probably chock full of topics that would be great group interview subjects:

A screenshot example of using conference agendas for expert round up ideation and looking for possible interviewees.

Above are some of the breakout sessions from Content Marketing World’s conference agenda (listed on their site). Topics like B2B content marketing strategy, video strategy on a budget, content audits, etc. could all be great group interview topics (again: I’ll really need to know which end of the market and who specifically my prospect is to best understand which of these would be better or worse – the folks who might be interested in a B2B content marketing strategy might be quite different than the folks who were interested in affiliate programs we found in the popular posts method above – I’ll really only know which topic is best for me to create a group interview around by knowing my audience and what their problems are).

6) Use Your Core Keywords to Get Ideas

The keywords I want to target via SEO can also make for great interview topics (and have the added bonus of potentially sending you some really specific, valuable, and continuous SEO traffic once you have the group interview live).

If I’m hoping to rank well for “content marketing software” my salesy product page isn’t likely to rank well, but a strong group interview question with a lot of great responses could rank well for that term, so I’ll consider wrapping up some of my core keywords in a solid group interview question formula (again a bit more on formulas below) – the good news here is that most of the questions I’d ask will probably be really relevant for my prospects (if you’re interested in tips for buying content marketing software, mistakes people make leveraging content marketing software, or similar, you’re probably at least potentially in the market for the stuff).

7) Identify Some Good Group Interview Formulas

As I think about different group interview topics, I’ll want to be aware of some good “formulas” for creating good group interview questions.

I want to make sure to:

  • Avoid any questions that are too easily answered with a yes or no
  • Have something sufficiently broad that there isn’t a single repeatable answer
  • Avoid anything where the range of answers would be really limited (seeing variations on the same basic answer or two isn’t particularly helpful or interesting)

Having worked on a bunch of these, here are a few good basic formulas I can apply to lots of different topics (with the formula, a sample question I could apply to my fictitious content marketing software company, and real example from a post “in the wild”):

Biggest Mistake(s)

Best Tips / Hacks

Favorite Tools

  • General Formula: “What’s your {Favorite / Most Used} tool for {Concept or Process}”
  • Sample Question: What is the single most valuable content curation tool you’ve discovered?
  • Real Example: http://www.clambr.com/link-building-tools/

You can also learn more about how well that link building tools post did in Brian Dean’s post on Richard’s process and results, and as I mentioned earlier you can check out Richard’s great in-depth guide on expert roundups for free on his site as well.

Successful Examples / Success Stories

Most Creative

Top Traits of the Highly Successful

Obviously there are a ton of question permutations that could work well – if you have a favorite formula and/or some examples of group interviews that did great or that you loved drop a note in the comments (we’ll promote any that make sense to the main post here).

Finding the Interview Prospects

Once I have a great question researched and lined up, I need to go out and track down interview prospects. What I’m looking for here are obviously smart folks, and of course I want to identify thought leaders who have distribution and a familiar name so that anyone nice enough to promote their participation in my post will help amplify the content’s reach, and also help lend credibility to the document.

I may think I have a pretty good handle on the top influencers in my niche, but ideally I want to identify something in the range of 100+ group interview targets, because as with everything not everyone I include will respond.

There are a lot of different ways to track down great group interview candidates.

  • Other Group Interviews – With some simple Googling around terms frequentl used in group interviews (like experts {your topic}) in many niches I can find existing group interviews. As soon as I find an existing group interview I immediately have a list of folks who are related to my subject, and I already know are willing to participate in group interviews.
  • Top Blog Lists – Popular blogs are home to popular bloggers, so finding a list of the most popular blogs in my niche (which I can find by simply searching for “best {topic} blogs” or looking someplace like Alltop) gives me another batch of great targets.
  • Power Users on Niche Social Sites – If my niche has a popular social site or Subreddit or similar, power users there are likely interesting targets and obviously have a certain amount of influence (for the group interviews I’m setting up for my hypothetical content marketing software company, looking at the top members on Inbound could be a good start).
  • Contributors on Major Multi-Author Sites – As I look for popular blogs, a great find is always a really popular, relevant, multi-author site. The folks contributing content these places are frequently experts looking for exposure and willing to share their thoughts. For example any of the folks who have contributed to Content Marketing Institute recently would potentially be great candidates to include in a group interview on a content marketing topic.
  • Conference Speakers – Similarly I could revisit Content Marketing World’s site, but this time look at the list of speakers there. Again the fact that they’re presenting at a well-respected conference likely means that they have expertise in my subject area, they’re willing to share ideas with folks, and they’re looking for exposure.
  • Get Some “Inbound” Interest – If my site meets the requirements for the various platforms, an additional way to get expert opinions on my topic is to post an inquiry as a publisher for contributions on sites like HARO, Source Bottle, or ProfNet.

Finally, just an additional note on determining who to include in group interviews: in general unless a respondent really sends something back that’s totally useless and/or inaccurate, my approach is to be really inclusive and assume “the more the merrier” as the more folks who are included, the more likely they are to help me promote – if I run into issues with or am concerned about quality control, I can always be careful and specific with who I invite to participate.

Reaching Out to Possible Contributors

Now I have a nice big list of potential contributors and an awesome question – next I need some responses. I’m going to start to reach out to folks on my list and ask them for a contribution. When I do I’ll generally use a really simple Email template. There’s a couple flavors I can try:

Short & To the Point

Hi X,

My name is Tom Demers, I’m the founder of Awesome Content Marketing Software, a content marketing software company. We’re asking content marketing experts like yourself to offer their take on a quick question:

{Question Here}

If you have a moment I’d love to have you contribute – we’ll be doing a lot of promotion around the post and obviously you’re welcome to link to and promote whatever you like in your bio along with your answer.

Thanks for considering!

Tom

Qualify Some & Ask for All of the Information Up Front

Generally I find shorter notes lead to better responses, but I can also consider or test adding in pieces like:

  • Asking for a headshot and bio up front
  • Linking to a previous interview that did well as a proof of concept
  • Including a date I plan to publish to encourage a quicker turnaround

Once I send a note, I’ll typically follow up once via Email. In the Backlinko post on Clambr’s group interview they also mentioned that Richard pinged people on Twitter as well, which is another great idea – particularly if the question lends itself to a quick answer like his did (again you can get a really detailed description of Richard’s process free on his site).

How to Create the Content

Once I’ve decided on a question and done my outreach, I have all of the content to create a really great asset. Typically I’ll want at least 15-20 folks contributing to really get a nice diversity of opinion and to have enough folks helping distribute the post to have it get good social and traffic traction, and ideally I’d get something north of that (for some niches that’ll be easy, for some it may be impossible to get 40 responses).

Now I need to format the post. There are a number of things I want to be sure to include:

  • A brief intro
  • A table of contents listing the contributors and linking to their answers
  • Everyone’s answers!
  • Headshots for every contributor
  • Contributor bios

And a number of things that can really help the post that I’ll create / include:

  • A custom banner or graphic at the top of the post
  • A nice mash up of all of the contributor photos
  • A badge the experts can share with their audience if they like
  • A specific offer and call to action (this might be a simple but highly relevant content upgrade like a PDF, check-list version of the post, some raw data on how many of the experts answered with what types of answers, etc.)
  • A twitter list with all of the folks who contributed

How to promote the list

Now I just hit publish and wait, right? I did promise you “built in distribution,” after all.

Almost! There’s still a bit more to do once I have all of the answers collected and formatted: I need to actually promote the post!

  • Email Everyone – Obviously I want to reach out to everyone on the list and let them know the post is live – I might also give them a link to my tweet of the post so that’s easy to retweet and if appropriate a link to the post submission on a relevant social media site to vote up if they like (important note here though: I don’t want to give them 8 different things to do – pick the one or two most important actions to highlight and let them decide what to do next).
  • Twitter – I’ll also queue up a number of tweets, and @ some folks who participated in the interview in the tweets so that they see the mention there and can easily retweet that if they want to share that way.
  • Paid Social Promotion – Depending on the topic, I may also consider some paid social promotion via Stumble, Reddit, or Twitter Sponsored Ads to get some additional distribution for my content there.
  • Additional Outreach – Another trick that takes a bit more time but can net some really high quality links: after asking permission in the outreach process, I’ll often reach out to each contributor’s alma matter and hometown newspaper. This requires a good bit of leg work (and on the alma matter front be careful of the season) but can net some great .edu links and awesome links and citations from quality local publications.

The final step here is often the most valuable: as you let people know they’re participating, be sure to note anyone who is interested in participating in future interviews, and (genuinely) offer to help anyone who has helped you here. Look at their Twitter bios. Start following their blogs and share their stuff, as well. Offer to try to be of use to them in future. These folks have contributed to a piece of content for you, and helped you promote it: be grateful, and take the opportunity to be of use and develop a real relationship that will benefit all of your content.

How Getting 7 SEO Visits Can Bring You 40,000: Driving SEO Traffic with Best of Lists

How getting 7 SEO visits can bring you 40,000

In this post, I’m going to show you a tactic that I’m using a lot to get links, shares, great engagement and thousands of visitors a month from organic search that anyone can do.

Anyone can do it, but it takes a bunch of work and will fail sometimes.

I’m an online marketer who does a lot of work in SEO. As an SEO the last couple years have been…interesting. Google has cracked down on a lot of stuff that used to work very well in getting targeted search traffic to sites. “Link building” is still extremely important, but has become less predictable, more expensive, and really just harder and riskier.

Some of those things that used to work can still get results, but the risk is so high that for me (and for many) those tactics really just aren’t worth it.

So if I don’t have a predictable, scalable means of getting links placed on other sites, what can I do to consistently get traffic from organic search?

There are still lots of different tactics that work, but many of them are fairly daunting (particularly for new sites and small businesses) so like I said: I’m going to show you a tactic that I’m using a lot to get links, shares, great engagement and thousands of visitors from organic search that anyone can do.

BUT, and I’ll have more on this in the final “results” section of the post: you will have to do a bunch of work and this won’t work every single time – you’ll need to think of your content marketing efforts as a sort of portfolio where some content will hit and some will flop, and you’re evaluating the aggregate impact of the time you’re spending and the output you’re getting.

And one more time: you’ll have to do a bunch of work.

The good news is I’ll detail the process very specifically and step-by-step for you here and share the results (the good, the bad, and the ugly) of 36 of these types of posts at the end, and you can decide whether to try it or not (feel free to do something else – if you don’t like work but are OK with variance and poor odds there are other options you might like, for instance).

Below is a process for how to create what I call “best of lists,” or really comprehensive list posts that round up a large number of tools, blogs or resources.

Ideation

First I need to do something I should do for any content creation process: figure out who is going to buy my stuff! Through this example I’m going to assume I’m trying to get traffic, leads, and customers for my accounting software (generally a pretty boring subject that a marketer might say “it’s SO HARD to come up with good content ideas for”, right?)

My job now is to create content that people who buy accounting software will love and find useful, while also getting some folks who have those same prospects’ attention to share my content for me.

This is actually a bit easier to do than you might think.

We’ll assume here my accounting software is a low priced SaaS product that I want small to mid-sized accountants to buy. Now I need to figure out what specific problems and questions these folks have that I can help them solve by presenting them with a great curated collection of resources.

Right off the bat there are some obvious best of lists I could probably create that accountants might look for and find useful – like best accounting blogs. But I want to come up with a big list of ideas that I can whittle down and create a series of content pieces around.

As with all things on the Internet, I can start with Google. I want to start by looking for things like:

  • Best blogs for accountants
  • Best software for accountants
  • Best software for small accounting firms

As is often the case, a lot of the initial links I find here aren’t particularly useful for my purposes (I cropped the ads out of the screenshot below or I wouldn’t be able to fit it onto the page – keep gettin’ dem checks Google!):

Best of list ideas for SEO friendly content

A lot of the results here are obviously more oriented around accounting software for small businesses (versus accounting firms specifically) but one result here can start to give me some initial insight, since I’m new to this niche: the CPA accounting software link.

This particular link is mainly a lead gen piece for accounting software (you’ll find a lot of these in best / top / generic software listings – that search traffic is part of the reason we’re going to try to create a more comprehensive / less biased version of these kinds of lists ourselves) but they’ve already given me a better search query to try (CPA accounting software versus best accounting software for accountants), and down the page a bit they’ve done a quick high-level break down of some CPA-specific functionality that’s a nice starting point:

An example of using job information to get keyword and topic ideas

Now I’ve got some nice possible list ideas and additional searches I can run to try to find some other search candidates:

  • Best Multi-Company Accounting Software
  • Best Tax Preparation Software {for accountants}
  • Best Time & Billing Software {for accountants}
  • Financial Reports {for accountants}

An important reminder here: I know that not all of these will be winners. This is the ideation phase so I want to run through these SERPs and try to find other best of lists and category descriptions to find a lot of possible ideas for great tool and resource lists.

From here I want to really try to dig in and look at anything that could get me more information – I’ll run all of these searches and click through to anything that could give me more insight into the different features and categories of tools accountants are using.

Since I’m selling accounting software, a generic list like “best accounting software” is something I want to stay away from since I’d have to list every competitor (if it were my business I’d probably make the list anyway because I can build some good relationships and own the conversation and search results around that term by doing a great job with it and because sometimes you have to recommend other people’s products, and you don’t need to pretend your competitors don’t exist, but if you’re an employee or consultant there’s a strong chance the folks paying you won’t want to tick off competitors in a round-up of the best software options in your niche), but I definitely might be able to identify some areas where point solutions that overlap with a feature or two of my software but aren’t strictly competitive (like time and billing software, for instance) could be a great list that solves a pain point for my audience without turning into a big list of competitors.

As a software company I can also find a lot of great stuff by chasing down search queries that turn up great publishers who focus on creating content for accountants:

  • Best CPA blogs
  • Best blogs for accountants
  • Best accounting publications

I’ll use these searches, I’ll also look at places like Alltop and actually dive into the content to try to understand which publications are the most respected and creating the highest quality content in the niche. I’ll also use BuzzStream’s great free blogroll list builder to see who gets included in blogrolls from major blogs (the places being linked to from influential places will typically be high quality and influential themselves).

Once I find some quality publishers, I can leverage their hard-earned knowledge and data to get more ideas for topics. One example in these SERPs is a site called CPA Practice Advisor (http://www.cpapracticeadvisor.com/):

How to use blog categories to help generate content topics.

I could leverage some of these specific categories like “best payroll tools” or “best CPA firm management resources” for ideas for best of lists.

Who Am I Trying to Reach, Again?

Another good idea for best of lists is to simply use the title of the person I want to sell to – in this case it’s fairly straightforward, so I might just add “Best Tools / Resources for Accountants” and/or “Best Tools / Resources for CPA Firms,” but if there are other positions to target creating a list of helpful tools and resources for those folks could also make strong, simple topic areas (you or a client or your company should obviously have a sense of what this information is already).

There are Ideas in the Real World Too!

A final great source of topics can be to find the Websites and agendas for the leading conferences in the niche. These are put on by folks who have a strong financial interest in having their finger on the pulse of the industry, and they’re attended by your prospects. You can ask someone within a niche if you’re not familiar, or Google around to identify some lists like this. Once you find a conference that seems to be doing a good job serving your market, hone in on their agenda. Each of the highlighted topics below (highlighting is mine) could be re-worked into interesting and useful best of lists:

Using conference agendas to get SEO keyword and content  topic ideas

With just a quick scan at one conference agenda some nice possible topics pop up:

  • Best tools / resources for recruiting and training tax preparers
  • Best tools / resources for automating your CPA firm’s back office processes
  • Best marketing tools for CPA firms

Qualifying & Prioritizing My List of Ideas

Next I need to decide where to spend my time in actually creating some of these lists. I need to think about a few key factors.

First I want to answer the question: is there any demand for this topic? I’m not just creating these for search traffic, but that’s certainly a component, and looking at estimated search traffic using Google’s keyword estimates can give me a (rough and directional) sense of which core terms are more popular.

First I need to take some of my more complicated, multi-part post ideas from my research and brainstorming and distill them down into simple terms to get traffic estimates for. For instance this possible focus area:

Best tools / resources for recruiting and training tax preparers

Is something I’ll break down into the following terms to get search estimates for:

  • Tools for recruiting tax preparers
  • Tax preparer recruiting tools
  • Tools for training tax preparers
  • Tax preparer training tools
  • Recruiting tax preparers
  • Training tax preparers

I want to do this break down and distillation for all of my topic ideas and then drop this list of broader topics into Google’s Keyword Planner (you can use a different keyword tool if you like – to get to the planner you can create an AdWords account and keep everything paused, then navigate to Tools > Keyword Planner and click Get search volume for a list of keywords):

Get search volume for your content topics and keyword ideas

The targeting and date range settings aren’t particularly important here – the numbers I’m getting from Google (or from other keyword tools) are very rough estimations, so I’m really just trying to get a rough sense of the relative volume of the different terms. Once I hit Get Search Volume I can toggle over to keyword ideas and start to see the data I’m looking for here:

Relative search volume for a list of keyword ideas or topic ideas

Based on the quick list of ideas I came up with above, I have some very low volume search topics. Ideally with a larger sample I’d start to hit on some ideas that had higher demand, but I’m not going to throw anything out just based on low search volume. Remember my main objective is to solve a real problem and create a really valuable resource for my prospects while creating something that will get shared and linked to. Search traffic is just a nice way to help me gauge the relative interest in these topics.

Also: I’ve seen core topics that showed 50-100 estimated searches per month drive thousands of unique visitors per month from search using this tactic: the search volume estimates are very rough and don’t account for lots of long tail phrases that the lengthy resource I’m going to create will attract.

For that reason I’ll also layer on a qualitative aspect to this prioritization process. Namely: which of these would be most valuable to small to mid-sized accounting firms? If this is my business, I should know this (or have access to some accountants who could help me answer the question), but if I’m a marketer inside the company I might ask the product and services teams and if I’m an agency I’ll want to get feedback from the client. If I have an audience already (via social media / a blog / an Email list / etc.) I could potentially survey them on which topic they’d most like to see a comprehensive guide created around.

Anything that is a topic that’s both identified as a major pain point by people who are or are exactly like the people I want to sell to moves right to the top of the list – particularly if that topic doesn’t have a lot of quality resources already created around it.

Creating the Actual List

Researching the list of actual tools and resources is obviously a key component here. I’m looking to make the list a few things, whenever possible:

  • Comprehensive – I want to really include a huge list of resources so that my list is a “one-stop-shop” for my prospect looking for information about the topic. For most lists I should be able to find at least 50 resources. I don’t want to cram anything onto the list that is low quality or irrelevant just to pad the numbers, but really the more useful resources / tools the better here – ideally I’ll make sure to go further than any similar resource I find so that I can build a skyscraper.
  • Unbiased – I might be tempted to only include more authoritative sites or to really talk up the resources I’d most like to get a link or a share from, but in general I’ll get the most traction (and provide the most value for my readers) if I stick to a neutral position and just list the facts about each of the tools (more on what facts, specifically, I’ll want to include in the next section). If I have time to really test all of the tools including a brief review is great, but even if I’m just listing specs and linking to more in-depth reviews for each that’s usually
  • Highly Valuable – Again the beauty of this type of list is that it gives me a great opportunity to solve a problem for my prospects and build trust with them, so I want to constantly be thinking about what would make the list more valuable to an accountant / small accounting firm.

In terms of actually finding all of the resources, there are a lot of ways to compile the list, including:

  • Our Old Friend Google – I can run a series of searches for things like best software for accountants, software for accountants, etc. and start to compile all of the individual products I find as well as all of the tools listed in other lists folks have pulled together (if I find a list that’s ranking particularly well and getting particularly good traffic in my travels, I’ll be sure to note that and see if I can piggy back on their success a bit by reaching out to folks who linked to them once my list is complete).
  • A Real Live Person – I’m not an accountant, so I’ll go to actual people and find out what they use. If I have a list I can survey I might start there, or I could just see who is in my network (my accountant and his/her colleagues, friends, relatives, anyone I’m connected with on LinkedIn, etc.) and find out what tools they use. Remember: I’m trying to get actual people to my site, so talking to actual people about content ideas and things that work for them often works really well!
  • Aggregator Sites & Directories – These can be a bit hit or miss, but sites like Alltop or Blog Rank can be a great place to find resources on a topic, and could even lead me to lists of tools. For tools / software drilling down into directories (yes they still make those!) and for software lists places like Capterra, BuyerZone, and Resource Nation have lots of products listed on a variety of different topics.

How to Format the Contents of the Post

Once I have an idea of what I’ll include on my list, I have to determine what information to include for each tool or resource, and how to format all of the information so that my post is extremely valuable, and so that it’s likely the folks I include will share the post.

First on what information I’ll include:

For Resource / Blog Lists

  • A unique image for every single resource or blog listed (screenshots of the site work well here)
  • A link to the resource itself
  • A brief description of the type of content the reader will find
  • Three to five great examples of the types of content they produce (I might dig into the site, look at posts they highlight themselves, or use a tool like BuzzSumo to get a sense of their most popular posts)

For Tools / Software Lists

  • A unique image for every single tool listed (screenshots of the product are ideal here)
  • A link to the tool itself
  • A brief description of what the tool does / purports to do (again if I haven’t actually trialed the tool I’ll work to tone down any hyped up adjectives and stick to what category of product it belongs to and what it claims / aspires to do in terms of the benefits of the product for readers)
  • Pricing Information & Features
  • Links to any more in-depth, unbiased reviews I can find

In terms of formatting the post, a few things I want to do (or at least consider):

  • A Table of Contents with Jump Links – A nice table of contents with jump links to headers for each of the tools mentioned makes things easier to read and navigate for my readers, and for the companies gives me a custom link to send them that jumps them right to their section and lets them see their write up quickly.
  • Great Spacing & Clear Headlines – Here I’m mainly going to going to use basic Web formatting best practices: lots of bullets, headlines, and images to make the post easy to read or scan and as visually attractive as possible.
  • Badges – In most niches having a badge with my branding and logo as well as the title of the post “Best Accounting Software” increases the odds that those included will share with their audience (since I’m providing them with a nice social proof element) which can help net me some nice branding as well as making it more likely that they’ll link. Important note: I’ll stay away from any tricky anchor text here and only link to the actual list or my site’s home page when I create an embed code for my badge, since Google doesn’t like some types of widget links.
  • Twitter List – Creating a twitter list with all of the sites / individuals included in my post is a good way for me to get on the radar of the folks on my list through another channel, and is also really useful to expose within my post for my readers (particularly for a list of blogs / resources).
  • Tweet This Buttons – Building in lots of great ways to share your content is always a win, obviously. Here’s a nice example of this that Hubspot incorporated into their own best of list. Sumo me has a great free and easy way to incorporate sharing into your posts if you’re not sure how to enable this kind of functionality.
  • A Custom Search Engine – Google lets me quickly create free custom search engines (note: they’ll show ads against the search results in the free version) where I can have search results just show results from the sites included on my list. For a best blogs or best resources list this can be a pretty handy feature that gets my readers better search results on topics related to their niche (instead of sifting through search results that include all of the crap Google has in its index, they can search my list of the highest quality accounting resources for an answer when they have a question or want more information). This is another example of how I can “level up” my content and make it a particularly valuable resource.

One important thing I won’t do when I format my post (which I learned the hard way): numerical listings. Unless I have some sort of metric for an actual ranking system, in formatting the post I want to stay away from using numbers in listing the tools – in the past even when I’ve created a numbered list – even when I spelled out that the tools were listed in no particular order – the folks listed 50 out of 50 weren’t particularly excited to share that with their audience (I’ve even gotten angry notes back when I let them know they made the list!). I’ll use bullets, or just break out the headline for each listing.

How to Promote My List

Once I have a nicely formatted, high quality list of resources I need to actually launch and promote it. By creating a list of tools or resources, I’ve created something with built-in distribution. It’s not quote “fail-proof” (more on results from these types of posts in a bit) but it means that more often than not I’ll get help promoting my content from the folks on the list if I help them help me. As a result I need to:

What Kind of Results Can I Expect?

You were promised some results!

The data below includes 36 Best of Posts from 7 different sites in a range of industries – none of the sites are super authoritative, a few are brand new, and the two best traffic results came from two of the newest sites.

  • Total Organic Traffic in the Last 30 Days Across 36 Posts: 39,714
  • Average Organic Traffic Per Post: 1,103
  • Highest Traffic Total for a Single Post From Organic Search in the Last 30 Days: 8,820
  • Lowest Traffic Total for a Single Post From Organic Search in the Last 30 Days: 7

Some additional important facts to keep in mind:

  • Some of these posts don’t get any links at all
  • One post that drives over 5,000 unique visitors a month from search only has 4 links to it
  • The most trafficked 8,820 unique a month post was only shared 15 times

For the most part these are sites where we’re consistently publishing this kind of content (other assets as well – not just best of lists) and are seeing aggressive overall traffic growth as well. This is largely because these posts (and similar assets) have a lot of things going for them that Google is moving towards with Panda and Penguin updates:

  • There’s lots of meaty, unique content
  • Engagement metrics are typically great because the content is exactly the type of thing folks are looking for and provides a large number of resources and lots of detail
  • The content (generally) gets shared
  • Links you’ll get won’t be manipulative, will be relevant (and actually drive traffic!), and you’re not picking the anchor text so you don’t need to worry too much about scary penguins.

So go crank out some great best of lists and measure your results! Or you know: try something else.

7 Content Marketing Tips for Pinterest

It’s hard not to agree that there is more to Pinterest than just pretty pictures.

Although at the start it might seem otherwise.

Launched in 2010 this social networking site indeed took the world by storm. But it also took content marketers a while to fully realize its potential.

Today, the site is probably 2nd or 3rd largest social networking site on the planet (depending which sources you check).

And those who still ignore it, miss on some great opportunities.

Because Pinterest may be an ideal tool to promote your brand. With its large following and heavy engagement (a typical visitor spends on average 3 minutes more on the site than Facebook and 12 minutes more than on Twitter), it is a great way to spread the word about your products or services.

It can also help you demonstrate your expertise in your area. Many companies turn their knowledge into visual content and showcase it on Pinterest to build their image of authority.

It increases brand visibility. Pinterest images get shared and forwarded between users. You really never know where your image might end up.

Moreover, Pinterest is an excellent way to showcase your products. After all, an experience of real product is what ecommerce stores lack. Customers can only see images supplied by a producer, often generic ones and revealing very little of the experience of a product in use.

Contrast that with images submitted by actual product users showcasing how it helps them or enhances their lives and you’ll know why the site offers so many possibilities to online retailers.

Lastly, Pinterest can drive traffic to your site too. In fact, some brands report it driving more of it than Twitter or Facebook.

OK, but what exactly is Pinterest?

This relatively new social networking site has indeed taken the world by storm. Launched only couple of years ago (2010), it attracted more than 85 million users in less than three years.

And, it is still growing, fast.

Perhaps part of this success is because the idea behind Pinterest is so simple.

The site allows you to create image posts, called pinboards and share them with other Pinterest users. Moreover, you can organise those images in “boards” and add photos or videos to them. This process is known as “pinning” to the board. And if you thought of a corkboard when reading this description, you are just about right.

But behind all those lovely images Pinterest is a powerful marketing tool, one that brands use to connect and increase engagement with their audience.

Interested in doing the same? Here are some ideas for promoting your brand on Pinterest:

Showcase Images of Your Products in Use

Given the image based nature of Pinterest, it makes sense to use it to showcase your products in use. And there is an unlimited number of things you can do here. You can post images of products in use in clients homes. Or showcase it from their shelf life to being packaged and shipped to a customers. You can then ask your customers to send pictures of them using it to complete the picture. If you sell cake decorations, showcase your clients cakes. Tattoo parlour can showcase the best tattoos they did for their clients and so on. The possibilities are truly endless.

productsinuse

Publish Customer Testimonials

Pinterest is for images only, right? So how could you present an actual testimonial from a client then? It’s all words after all. Well, how about posting a picture of your client with a testimonial? Of course you would have to do it with the clients permission but if you can, these pins could have a very strong impact on how your prospects trust your brand.

testimonials

Highlight a Product’s Feature

Is your product complex to use? Or even to fully communicate all that you could do with it? Why don’t you then highlight its features with images? Kreg does it with their feature highlight series of pins, each highlighting one particular aspect of the product (or offering a super quick tip how to use it).

feature highlight

Make Your Audience Laugh

Your audience rarely uses social media for information. Most people are on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest for entertainment. And if that’s the case, why not giving it to them? Hubspot created a pinboard dedicated to memes, cartoons and other fun online marketing related content.

memes

Teach Them Something Too

Images are worth more than words. In fact, to use, images are worth more than 60000x more than words. That’s how much quicker we humans process visual information compared to text. It comes as no surprise then that so many of us prefer visual tutorials rather than text based manuals.

If you sell products that could be used to create or repair something, posting a visual tutorial how to do it on Pinterest is bound to attract attention. Just check what Liagriffith did with this simple guide:

tutorial

Show Your Company Behind the Scenes

Many customers want to see your real, human side not just the brand image you maintain. Hubspot recognizes this by creating a dedicated behind the scenes pinboard and showing the company’s everyday life.

behind the scenes

Pat Your Clients on the Back

Your marketing should not only be about you. Your customers are equally important to promoting your brand and in such case, why not make put them in the spotlight? Constant Contacts features a pinboard with tips from their customers.

customers

Conclusion

Pinterest users spend on average 3 minutes more on the site than Facebook and 12 minutes more than on Twitter. This is a highly engaged audience seeking entertainment. Such audience offers enormous opportunities for engagement and connection to any brand. And the key to them lies in what content you post.

A Kick-start Guide to Content Marketing on Facebook

It’s a fact – content rocks todays marketing. It costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates 3 times as many leads (DemandMetric). It’s no surprise that according to Content Marketing Institute, 93% of B2B marketers rely on content to promote their brands.

But, given the wealth of different platforms, in order to fully avail of it’s abilities; you need to understand each one and create strategies to best avail of it’s abilities.

Over the last few weeks I outlined basic strategies for content marketing on Twitter and Pinterest. Today I want to tackle the biggest social network of all – Facebook.

What drives Facebook CM?

A wise person once said that just like Pinterest is for creativity, Facebook on the other hand is for communication. And, it seems just about right. In the recent study by Vision Critical, 80% of Pinterest users say the network is useful for generating ideas and projects while 63% of Facebook users say that their network makes them feel connected.

And what else drives connection better than content these days?

After all, it is content that gets Facebook audience to like a post, comment on it or share it. And unlike other social networks, Facebook offers a plethora of options and content types you can use to engage with your audience.

To begin at the beginning, what make a good content for Facebook?

In short, it would be one that relates to the interests of your audience and engages them because it relates to real life. A good content tells stories, asks the audience for their opinion and provokes them to share their personal opinion.

Types of content for Facebook

Before you start planning your content strategy, let’s first discuss different content types you could post on your Facebook Page.

Facebook offers 4 distinct options for those content types:

Single Image

Photos are one of the most engaging content types. They are quick to absorb and digest their meaning. Not to mention that they take up a considerable space on the users news feed, making them highly noticeable and sticking out more than text. By using photos, you can boost the attention your posts receive from users.

Moreover, Facebook images generate 120% more engagement than an average post.

There are different types of images you could post on your Page:

  • Photos
  • Memes
  • Product Images
  • Ads
  • Press clips and many more

Facebook content: single image

Photo Album

Photo albums allow you to post multiple images at once in a single post. Images collected into a specific album are a great way to promote content from events, promotions, product lines and more.

Facebook photo album

Videos

Videos have become one of the most engaging content type today, and to no surprise. 93% of marketers use video for promotion and 52% of them name video as a content type delivering the best ROI (Brainshark) 100 million users watch online videos each day (VideoBrewery)

Video is also a powerful communications tool. A single minute of video can convey the same message as 1.8 million words (VideoBrewery).

It comes to no surprise then that videos are a highly engaging content on Facebook. In fact, videos posted to the site receive 40% higher engagement rate compared to Youtube for instance (SocialBakers). They also account for 93% of the most engaging content on the site (FastCompany).

When posting your video to Facebook, make sure to stick to these rules:

  • Include eye catching default image
  • Make it short
  • Make it simple to absorb and relevant to your audience

Facebook video

Text

Lastly, text based content. Even though Facebook allows posting long content, it’s the short text that gets the most engagement from the site. Updates up to three lines of text see 60% more engagement than any longer content. Cutting your text even shorter, below 80 characters might result in 66% more engagement (FastCompany).

The best text based updates to drive engagement are questions, which receive 100% more engagement than other types of text-based content (Hubspot).

Facebook text post

How to make your content relevant to your audience

Before you start posting to Facebook you should define who you want to engage with on the site and what content themes would achieve this objective.

When defining your audience, don’t just look at their age, location and other demographic factors. When it comes to Facebook, its user base crosses many geographic boundaries, and thus your best bet is to target their interests as well.

To post relevant content, focus on:

  • Focus on your audience’s common interests
  • Target their most common problems
  • Deliver news relevant to them
  • Offer advice on making their lives better
  • Entertain them too, after all, you can’t be serious all the time.

When an how often should you post to you Facebook Page

Timing is everything, fact. Having your post appear on your audiences News Feeds right when they are the most receptive to your message would be ideal. But even though it would be ideal, there is no single ideal time to post to Facebook. Even though there are so many studies on the subject, there is no unified opinion what day and time would generate the most engagement from users.

In spite of that, you can still find your best time to post to the site by doing the following:

Understand your audience. It’s hard to decide on the best time to post if you don’t know who’s on the other side, listening. Define your audience and try to understand their habits.

Think about how their day looks like. Once you know who your audience is, think how their typical day might look like. What are their productive times? When would they be trying to unwind and relax? All these factors will help determine the best time to post.

Post within what you think is their most receptive time during their day. Use the information about your audience to define times you will be posting at. Of course, you should measure and refine your strategy to find the most optimum time.

Posting About Yourself

Even though, as we’ve seen, your content should target your audience and their interests, needs and problems, there will be times when you’ll want to post about yourself. You may have a new product line coming out or will want to promote the company. On Facebook however, there is a fine line between informing users and being overly too promotional. And needless to say, the latter usually moves people away from a brand at an instant.

Facebook fans don’t care about you they care about themselves. Therefore,

  • keep posts about your company to absolute minimum.
  • if you need to post something about your company, try to make it relevant to your audience or at least entertaining
  • when posting about your products, always show them at an angle how they could help the audience

Promoting Your Content

This might come as a surprise but your posts reach only a fraction of your fan base. In fact, according to official data from Facebook, posts on company Pages appear on only 16% of their fans News Feeds.

Therefore, if you want to reach more people, you need to promote your posts.

There are two ways you could do so with:

–       Promoted Posts

–       Promoted Page Posts

Promoted Posts allow you to promote your content directly to your fans’ News Feeds as opposed to the sidebar where the majority of standard Facebook Ads appear.

Promoted Page Posts appear in the sidebar on the site, making them less effective when promoting your content. On the other hand, they allow you to reach people who are not your Page fans yet and be laser focused with what demographics you target with your ads.

Monitoring your actions

One of the greatest advantages of using Facebook for engaging with audience is the ability to gain insights and data to monitor and analyze your actions.

Facebook Insights make it easy to monitor the performance of your content marketing strategies in real time. Thanks to this data you can quickly see which type of content engaged your audience the most (and thus which one you could promote even further to them).

Here are some of the data types you can monitor in Insights:

Reach – the number of unique people who have seen your content,

Organic – the number of people who’ve seen your content in their NewsFeed or on your page.

Paid – the amount of people who’ve seen your post from paid ads.

Viral – the amount of people who’ve seen your content because one of their friends interacted with it in some way (liked it, commented on it or shared it).

Quick and Dirty Viral Content Types You Probably Ignore

viral-content

*

While content marketers swear that you need so called long form content the social Web proves them wrong by

spreading tiny information chunks you can come up with quickly.

How to create text images, animated gifs and other memes that carry your message.

 

Essays on cats vs cat pics

Yeah, I really enjoy reading essays – on paper. Indeed I read a book 500 pages strong every second week as long as it’s entertaining. I do it off screen and after work. On the Web I’m quick just like everybody else. I skim pages, scan content and only read a few words here and there.

I want quick solutions, insights or entertaining tidbits. In short memes as in smallest information carrying units. I’m not the only one. User testing has proven that again and again. Thus some types of content just fit the Web better than others.

  • text images
  • comics
  • animated gifs
  • selfies

are just some of the most common type of “content” that spreads like wild fire for different reasons. What they’ve got in common is that they are small and portable. They are

  • quick to digest
  • easy to replicate
  • comparatively small in (file) size.

Initially the word meme has been used by obscure linguists, activists and military strategists (see “meme warfare”). On the modern Web it’s widely used for anything that is most often

  • entertaining
  • funny
  • intriguing

and spreads virally over the Intertubes. Some types of memes are more successful than others. That’s why I picked the four examples from above to show the ones more prone for wider acclaim.

 

Why do text images spread that well? It’s not just Tumblr and Pinterest although those two sites have certainly helped to establish “picture quotes” as one of the most popular online memes. Sure, they’re readable almost at once with short lines and large uppercase letters in most cases. That’s not all though.

Such text images often feature quotes by some of the most respected personalities from human history. These are often words of distilled true wisdom. They are often figures of speech (like metaphors or oxymorons) that sound very intriguing. Unlike retyped quotes in HTML they have some integrity as you can’t simply change the words by copy and pasting.

You can use image quotes as posters, postcards or t-shirts. Thus there is a big market by now for those who design and print them. Sites like Behappy.me are not the exception. This quote by Maya Angelou I shared on Pinterest a while ago got over a 500k “impressions” and more than 4000 repins. My quotes board is my most popular one despite me pinning more on other boards.

4k-repins

There are plenty of free tools that let you type in a quote and spit out a ready-made image. Ideally you use a photo editor, there are a lot free ones too so that your quote does not look like many other quotes. I use Paint.NET on Windows. There are very advanced online tools like Sumo Paint too.

 

Comics are short and funny. You can put complex insights into a few pictures and speech bubbles. Also they have been always popular even in print. On the Web they have become even more widely viewed because again, it’s often just image to share that contains a whole story or sophisticated message.

Ideally the images have some intrinsic aesthetic value but I’ve often seen rather clumsy comics become widely shared just because of their funny or on point message. There are people who make a living online by simply drawing humorous comics for the Web.

In the tech realm we have seen many successful comics over the years. The Joy of Tech is one of the most popular along with Dilbert facing common pitfalls of the modern office lifestyle. In marketing and specifically content marketing we have seen many attempts of using comics but the success has been limited until now. Apparently marketers are still too serious to create funny comics.

comics-in-b2b

 

Animated gifs are like videos for the fast and furious. Most people do not have the time to watch whole videos online, especially at work. Thus animated gifs often feature the funniest, strangest or most outrageous scenes from videos. This might be a fat cat jumping from space, or a parkour professional doing some gravity defying stunt.

In many cases the animation shows just a scene from a movie with or without a subtitle. It may be as simple as a rare facial expression. People enjoy viewing such animations again and again because they often feature funny or incredible things.

Some movies get promoted by using animated gifs in recent years. It works find on Tumblr for sure where I have watched movie scenes from movies I would have otherwise never noticed or cared about. The animation is so short that before you can move you’ve already seen it and laughed. There are tools that let you create animated gifs out of anything.

 

Selfies are often low quality images made from phones at the toilet or in other unfavorable conditions. They feature “authentic” people in all kinds of poses and situations. Most selfies are the exact opposite of the advertising and movie images we are fed all the time. There is some raw imperfection in them.

Even superstars and celebrities post selfies to prove they look good or sexy for real.

Otherwise you might assume it’s just Photoshop and the excellent work of a professional photographer. Selfies have a touch of intimacy. It’s not just the authenticity of looking into a mirror beside your toilet seat. Selfies make loneliness of modern “singles” bearable. You get yourself out there and other people approve of you.

To create such quick and dirty self-portraits all you need is a mobile phone with a camera and a mirror. You can make a selfie without a mirror too, I’ve been doing that before the term has been coined. You may need a few attempts then because it’s hard to assess whether your face or whichever body part you want pictured  is still visible or not.

In case you want make your product appear more authentic encourage people to make selfies

while holding it in their hand and dressed in it. So you don’t even have to make blurry pictures of your private parts yourself. You can ask your customers and supporters to do so. They probably already do. Finding out whether they do it may be as simple as asking them on Facebook, Twitter or wherever you socialize online.

You probably think product selfies are just about fashion or beauty products and exhibitionists.

Well, here is an example from Google+ where acclaimed search expert David Amerland made people photograph his book on arrival. While many of the images do not feature the person who shoots it the authenticity transfer is still there.

* The “viral content” illustration has been created by the team of Freepik.com

How to Use Eye Catcher Images to Get People’s Attention

dog*

One of the often neglected content best practices is the usage of eye catcher images. Everybody in print media does it for ages but on the Web most website owners fail at it. It’s really easy by now. Free images are widely available and can attract readers who otherwise would ignore you.

 

Show People

You know it from magazines. Why do you think most magazine covers show pretty young women smiling? No, it’s not just because women are predominantly buying them. Studies have shown that both women and men get attracted to beautiful females portraits.

Photographs of men have been far less successful but still performed better than image of things, landscapes or motifs. One of the blogs that uses images of people very successfully is Boost Blog Traffic:

boost-blog-traffic-people

 

Use Colors

While artsy black and white images work well in art galleries or on Ello it’s not what people in a hurry on the Web look for. Striking colors like red, green or blue stand out in the often dull daily grind of the Web. When you are looking for hours for useful material for your next task you are scanning faster and faster until some strong visual clues grabs your attention. Then you stop just long enough to check out the headline.

colors-contrast

Use Contrast

Just using a bloat of color doesn’t suffice. You need to show something people can distinguish when scanning large amounts of content on Pinterest and elsewhere. The image needs a main motif, ideally a person, as suggested above already and some contrasting background. When someone dressed in green gets pictured in front of a wood people won’t recognize much of course.

 

Use White Space

crying-kid

**

A lot of clutter makes not only a bad impression it literally fractures the attention of the viewer in so many directions at the same time that we don’t see anything at all at the end and move on. On my cycling blog I often deal with that issues.

Bike manufacturers send me photos of bikes in front of colorful walls or even whole cityscapes so that you can miss the bike altogether.

I can’t use such images at all in many cases. What I need is less distraction. You don’t have to edit everything and just show a white background. So called white space is just empty space for the eyes to rest. Make sure to provide it to highlight the main motif.

 

Don’t be Obvious

When you write about Google please don’t use a Google logo to “visualize” your topic. We see the Google logo dozens of times a day. Yes, we recognize it but we’re so used to it that we do not assign any importance to it anymore. Why should we interrupt our work to take a closer look at something we see all the time?

 

Intrigue

darth-vader-statue-of-liberty

***

Show more by not showing something. Yes, you can hide part of the motif in order to intrigue. You can also show something that is on the verge of being abstract or an item that isn’t really matching the topic at first sight. We then wonder “what happens here” and take another look. One surefire way to intrigue people is to show them something they think they know but differently. Artists do it a lot. The Darth Vader Statue of Liberty mix is a perfect example of this technique.

 

Don’t Use Text Inside Images

Many bloggers add the headline or topic of their post to the header or eye-catcher image. That may work in some instances but why would someone pin it on Pinterest for example? Also the text often distracts from the main message of the picture. Text images or quotes work well on Pinterest when the aphorism is meaningful by itself. A headline that doesn’t explain anything on its own won’t work.

 

Use Metaphors

In many industries and for many topics there are no accurate or attractive images. You can’t show much when dealing with technology for example. Showing code snippets, screen shots or other workarounds will only get you so far. The best alternative in my experience is the metaphor, as long as it’s fresh and not a cliché already. When dealing with links (hyperlinks) for example you can show people holding hands instead of the obvious chain links.

 

Check Other Resources

  1. Photos as Web Content
  2. A Complete Guide to Visual Content 
  3. 5 Ways to Make Shareable Images That Drive Traffic
  4. The Do’s and Don’ts of Blog Images
  5. Make your products the star – The art of getting product images that really sell
  6. How to Use Images in Your Link Building Campaigns
  7. Pinterest Optimization What Tactics, Topics and Media Formats Get Shares
  8. 8 Sites For Free Stock Photos That Don’t Look Like Free Stock Photos
  9. 12 Amazing Sites With Breathtaking Free Stock Photos
  10. 18 Sites with Beautiful Free Stock Photos

 

* Creative Commons image by João Paulo Corrêa de Carvalho

** Creative Commons image by binu kumar

*** Creative Commons image by Star Wars

4 Most Common Corporate Blogging Mistakes (with Solutions)

corporate_blog
image via: writerway.com

I gotta say this, to me most corporate blogs suck.

Of course there are some exceptions but the majority are just unreadable. Their authors either talk about the company, write on random topics, often without offering any educational value at all or post blatant sales pitches that only scare their readers away.

But what else to expect however if in majority of corporations, blogging looks like this:

or this:

In other words:

Employees often perceive it as either a nuisance or a forced upon strategy nobody has any interest in.

The result? Lack of enthusiasm, taking shortcuts, confusing the role blogging plays in the marketing process and committing to some really poor blogging strategies, like these most common ones for instance:

Copying the Competition

In a corporate world safer is often better.

And copying someone who has done it already is the safest strategy of all. After all, whatever the competitor has been doing seems to work if they are still doing it.

There are however many underlying problems with this approach:

Your blog will lack originality. How original is your blog going to be if you are only copying someone else’s ideas? Yet for today’s audience, it’s the originality that matters. As a result, your audience will see the two blogs as alike and most likely, will focus towards your competitor, who has already built some reputation in this field.

You could copy bad blogging practices too. After all, who said that what your competitor is doing is right?

You will not inspire enthusiasm in your staff. People want to be creative. Especially those involved in what may feel like a creative pursuit want to be given an opportunity to come up with their own ways to do things. Forcing them to just merely copy someone else is highly unlikely to make them enthusiastic about the project. And this will show.

Alternative Solution:

Create a dedicated content plan for your company. You can use your competitor as a guidance if you have to but develop your own voice, content personas and content strategy. And don’t launch a blog until you have a complete research and ideas for posts for at least the next few months.

Getting Too Many People To Contribute

Not everyone in the company should blog. Not everyone can write well, or has any interest in doing so. Not to mention that to many people, blogging will interfere with their already busy schedule.

Yet many companies try to force all their staff to contribute to the blog. They take the “everyone should blog” for many reasons:

They try to save cost on hiring a dedicated writer. After all, if everyone writes a post a week or even month, there will be no need to hire someone else to do it.

They think this will create a diverse content, since everyone will write on different topics they are interested in. And lastly,

They will quickly build up a massive amount of content. And as they say, it’s good to have a lot of content on your site.

Alternative Solution:

Ask your staff members who’d like to join the project. Simply. Don’t force anyone to blog but offer an opportunity to those who want to.

Having Too Many Decision Makers

Too many chefs spoil the meal. I am sure you heard this old adage before.

Many companies involve too many departments in running the blog. This often results in department wars, ego clashes and people trying to push their ideas forward for the benefit of their departments.

Sales people will perceive a blog as another sales channel and will insist on head on sales messages. PR department will try to use it for announcements and press releases, whereas creative department will try to squeeze in as much of the design and layout for themselves. Online marketing will try to over-optimise post to gain more traffic and so on.

As a result content quality suffers, there is no unity in terms of what information should be posted in the first place and what goals the company must achieve through blogging.

Alternative Solution:

Hand over the responsibility over the blog to a single department only, ideally marketing and let them liase with other departments when the need arises.

Outsourcing

Lastly, some companies decide to buy content at a large scale from sites like oDesk or WriterAccess. There are obviously some benefits of this approach:

This content is dirt cheap.

This approach scalable. You can order anything from 1 to 100 articles and have them delivered relatively fast. Yet even if a number of your employees post to the blog, you will not build content numbers as fast.

This strategy requires very little input. You just need to place the order for your content and let the other company do everything for you.

But there are problems with outsourcing too.

No quality. You can’t expect it if you buy cheap and quickly produced content. In many cases, your content might be outsourced to non-native speakers, college students and non-professional writers who try to write as many posts as possible as quickly as possible too.

No dedication. Moreover, none of those writers your content will be sent to has any interest in your company and building your brand reputation. They just want to churn out the minimum required words as quickly as possible and loosely on topic. This usually result in a cheap voice and content that rather diminishes your brand authority rather than supporting it.

No results. With low quality comes lack of results from your content efforts. Audiences are quickly to spot poor content and usually assign it with the brand.

Alternative Solution:

If you want to outsource your content somewhere, look for reputable places where you can get to know the person who will be writing it. There are a lot of companies that offer blogging services for corporations, assign a writer to you and you work with them at achieving the best results for your blog.

Branding Best Practices: “About” Pages that Rock

store-owner*

One of the most neglected parts of many websites is still the about or team page. To establish credibility from the start it has to be very appealing though.

I have collected some good examples to show you so that you can follow in their footsteps.

The about page ideally makes you likeable, memorable and trustworthy.

Do you live in a remote village? Then you may have only one store in you vicinity. You may know the store owner by name. You know the whole family. Your kids may play with them. In such circumstance branding is not necessary. Everybody already knows who the store owner is. Also there is no competition you have to differentiate from. So why bother?

The exact opposite is the humongous corporation. Whether it’s Walmart, Nike or Apple we know their brands and what they stand for unless of course you look behind the scenes. Their branding is the result of enormous advertising budget earned on the backs of millions of minimum wage workers. These companies manufacture or rather buy products from third parties for a few bucks and sell them for ten times the money they paid. So they have a lot of funds to spend on their image.

You are in-between the two. As a small business owner you are like the store oner from the first example, you want to get known and liked by the people but you have to get the word out without a spectacular budget.

The global village is very crowded with businesses similar to yours.

It’s extremely hard to differentiate them let alone remember them. You may be just one of dozens, hundreds, thousands or even more depending on the context. Locally you may one of a few, in your region you will probably already compete with dozens. In the whole country hundreds of other vendors may try to get the attention of potential visitors.

 

Design the about content

One of the issues I often encounter with websites is that the designers do not want to design the actual content. They prefer to put some “Lorem Ipsum” dummy text on your site instead of copying the actual one from your old site for example. While there are design and readability best practices that always apply

you can’t expect proper branding from your about or team page when you just replace dummy text with some of your own.

In most cases the actual content is also so different from the Lorem Ipsum standard that it doesn’t even look good at all let alone leave a positive impression on your visitors. When planning a redesign do not forget the about page or require the designer to provide a custom made one from the start.

Adapt the web design to the actual content, not the other way around. Websites are like trucks, without content they are empty and do not really work. It’s the content that makes them useful. You wouldn’t break up your furniture to fit in the delivery truck would you?

 

Display your core values

You do not only want to appear different by the way your site as a whole – and the about section specifically – are designed. You also have to express why you are actually different than the others. You are not Walmart or a franchise so that you have to consider what your core values are and how express them. Otherwise you can only compete by location and price.

On the Web without branding you would have to rely mostly on generic search traffic.

You can’t compete with the global players who will move from China to Bangladesh once their workers in China demand to get a living wage. Sustainability can be core value. Doing business without killing the planet. Availability 24/7 can be. Just think firemen. Even excellent customer service can be one. Caring for the people who trusted you once.

In case the only reason you started a business is to make money you are doing it wrong. Consider how you want to change the world to the better and communicate it.

 

Show who you are

simply-measured-team-holds-hands

On the Web anonymity and identity can be a slippery slope. As a business person it is often advisable to show your face, your real one. You ideally hire a professional photographer to take pictures of you. There are also other ways to show yourself and more importantly who you are too. You could hire an illustrator who can draw you and your team members. You can even dress up like on Halloween.

curalate-meet-us-dress-up

It’s crucial to prove that real people are behind your business. Nobody trusts generic stock images. Usability studies even have shown that such images get ignored straight away. It’s the same effect we know from banner blindness.

You can show your tools, machinery or team at work while actually doing something.

zomato-strangers-vs-friends

It’s important to be real and prove it. Without real life images your business may be just another website someone built using a free template. Even free templates may be good but they need to be filled with actual representations of real people, be it drawings, videos, illustrations.

In case people are not an option (you may feel too old, ugly or shy for example) items you work with may be sufficient proof that the business is operating for real.

  • Tools
  • machinery
  • your products

may be attractive enough to be shown off and give the reassuring impression of a real business “not jut a website”.

push-people

On the other hand you don’t need to be a model to have your image shown on an about or team page. I love how the people from Push look both perfectly natural and not like a bunch of hipsters so they are even more trustworthy. They are both young and old for sure and some exceptionally pretty women are among them but the lady above left is the “Director of Finance”, a job you wouldn’t entrust a young inexperienced girl would you?

 

Tell your story

Studies have shown that storytelling is one of the most important factors to make people listen to you and remember what you’ve said. That’s why we prefer to watch movies with heroes fighting against all odds instead of factual but boring representations of “big data”.

Yes, I know. Captain Obvious strikes again but the latest data hype had me almost convinced that it’s all about about numbers these days.

It’s not. We’re still humans. We want to deal with other people not companies and we want to know who they are by learning something about their background.

curalate-story-video

What is your story? It can by anything worthwhile to tell about you and your business. It can be the difficult path you had to walk through before starting your business. It could be the process you went through to come up with your actual product idea.It can be the historical or personal context.

push-chris-robb-story

 

More Resources on About and Team Pages Elsewhere

  1. Guidelines for Writing a Good About Page
  2. Creating Creative ‘Meet The Team’ Pages (With 13 Awesome Examples)
  3. How to Create a Great About Page
  4. 20 Creative & Useful “About” Pages
  5. Are You Making These 7 Mistakes with Your About Page?
  6. Write a Better About Us Page – It’s Not About Us, It’s About You!
  7. How To Use Your ‘About Us’ Page To Acquire Customers

 

 

* Creative Commons image by Foo Connor

10 Tips for Building Solid Relationships With Your Content

Anyone can create content today. Tools are easy to use, publishing platforms wildly accessible, research materials plenty. Even the expectation of quality isn’t as high as it used to be. And so business after business jump on the content marketing craze, hoping to gain from this new marketing phenomena.

But most of them fail. Miserably.

No reader visits their blogs, videos gain no traction and presentations gather dust in a dark corner of an obscure server somewhere.

All for a simple reason – failure to build relationships with an audience.

Why promote your brand with content.

Content is a powerful tool. It increases your brands visibility, widens your reach and inspires word of mouth.

But that’s not all.

Content can help you engage an audience and grow a customer base. It can position your company or brand as an influencer. And the connection you build through it helps you build a buyers trust.

But none of this will ever happen, unless you build relationship with your audience first. 

When you do so, you turn complete strangers in powerful allies. They’re more likely to pay attention to what you say, stand by your ideals and consider you when looking for products or services.

5 Content Types that Build Relationships

1. Educational Resources

When most people search online, they are looking for answers or information about a specific problem. Moreover, visitors to your site are not interested in your products. They come in search of a solution or answer to a particular problem.

Create a platform to educate people on those issues. By teaching and helping them to overcome those issues you make them see you as a trusted resource. One they will be glad to refer to in the future.

There are two approaches you can take to educate your audience: webinars and online courses.

A webinar is an online version of a typical seminar run at colleges and other educational institutions online. The only difference is that unlike with offline seminar, webinars can be attended by unlimited participants from around the globe.

Webinars happen in real time but once they’re done, that’s it. You can of course repurpose them into other content types but they will always be limited to here and now. Whenever you want to create more permanent and evergreen educational resource, you should consider offering online courses or tutorials accessible online at any time. These courses can focus on a particular issue or teach everything there is to know about the subject. You can make them free or paid as well to better segment your audience.

My friend Chris uses his course teaching how to promote a business with whitepapers to promote his new startup company he’s currently building.

There are some key benefits of engaging users through educational content:

  • it demonstrates your credibility. A person that learnt something from you will always consider you a credible resource.
  • it creates word of mouth. People whom you helped to overcome  problems may be talking about your courses or webinars.
  • it can generate qualified leads. Educational content gives customers a chance to sample your services and set better expectations about you and your service.

2. Graphical Content

Images are easy to consume. Most readers absorb visual data much quicker than written word. According to Zabisco, 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000X faster in the brain than text. Moreover, 40% of people will respond better to visual information than plain text (source: Hubspot).

Some of the visual content types that engage audience include:

Infographics. According to AnsonAlex, publishers who use infographics grow in traffic an average of 12% more than those who don’t.

Infographics stand out from other content types because they are a great vehicle to tell a story. This example from mashable  or this one from visua.ly are great examples of brands telling storiesy through images.

The power of Infographics lies in them focusing on a single topic and presenting data about it in a simple and easy to absorb form.

Videos – Videos convey much more than words, it’s a scientifically proven fact. According to Dr. James McQuivey of Forrester Research, a minute of video carries the same value as … 1.8 million words! Moreover, 85% of the US internet audience watches videos online (source: Nielsen). And, 700 YouTube videos are shared on Twitter every minute (source: Youtube).

Data like this clearly states why videos are a must use content type for engagement.

Slideshare presentations. Slideshare is a popular platform to submit your presentations too. And, it works. It can serve as another PR channel, building your thought-leadership, increase your brand awareness, traffic to the site and needless to say, those presentations are much easier and cheaper to create. You can repurpose old content and even blog posts into successful presentations (here’s my own example of turning a blog post into a presentation).

3. Long Form Content

It can be hard to define long content. For some people it can be anything over 700 words or couple of minutes of video. To others a long form blog post would be one in excess of 2000 words. That’s irrelevant. As the name suggests it has to be a longer content providing more in-depth information.

And, it works. Wordstream noticed that their average time on site tripled after they switched to primarily long form content. They also noticed that long form content formed the majority of posts ranking at number on in Google.

4. Quick Tips

Long content is highly engaging but similarly, a very short, less than 500 words post can make an impact. Kevin Delaney, Editor-in-Chief at a business news site Quartz believes that posts below or over 800 words have the highest likelihood of success.

5. Entertaining Content

Your content shouldn’t be all about educating though. Your audience might need a break from time to time and simply be entertained. After all, entertainment is the second reason people go online, and the first why they go on social media sites.

Therefore, consider using some fun content types too:

Quizzes. Competitions are not only means of promotion. A simple quiz, like this one by SERPs.com, measuring the persons obsession with Google updates can engage your audience while offering some information they might not know in a fun and absorbing way.

The biggest power of quizzes is that they are highly shareable. Not only people will share their results but also talk to their friends about it.

Cartoons and Comic Strips. Often, a single cartoon can tell more than the lengthiest post. And it can also make your audience giggle, like this one I created few months ago.

Games. Everyone likes to play games from time to time. Some of us get even seriously hooked up on them. And I am sure your audience would appreciate a simple game, even though its revolving around your topic of speciality (like this magazine that turned its front cover into a game).

5 More Tips for Building Relationships with Content

6. Be customer centric

Understanding your customers needs and problems is a great start in building relationships. But to make a real impact, try to include your audience in your content. Use customer stories to illustrate your points or show examples of your solutions successes. This will show your audience your dedication and respect for them.

7. Be reliable 

Nothing damages someone’s trust like a broken promise. And content marketing is one way of making promises to your audience. Stick to expectations you set. Publish and deliver whenever and whatever you promised.

8. Never sacrifice the quality

Your audience quickly gets used to your typical level of quality. Yet, it’s easy to sacrifice it and publish a lower quality post just to meet the deadline.

9. Be yourself

Whatever you publish, do it with your own voice. Audiences can tell when someone’s pretending, it shows quite clearly. Instead, stick to your own story, that’s what makes you interesting. And if you don’t know your story yet, consider bringing an external help, a journalist perhaps to observe your work and discover it.

10. Deliver value, every time

Lastly, regardless of what content type you use, focus on delivering value. Don’t publish something only for the sake of meeting the deadline but always put your audience first.

How To Choose The Right Content Type To Turn Visitors Into Customers

contentforcustomers

An abundance of content types allows you to connect with prospective customers. But how do you choose which content types are more suited for achieving certain goals?

Content offers you an opportunity to be a part of a buyers journey. Regardless whether they seek specific answers or to compare alternatives, being where your customers will turn for information gives you a chance to increase brand awareness and likelihood of a purchase.

But is just creating content enough? Does it matter what content type you use? Is a blog, the most popular content type after all, enough to attract new buyers and increase sales?

The answer lies in understanding how people buy online and what motifs drive them to specific content. And then, in mapping different content types to different stages of the buying process.

Understanding Buyer Behavior Online

To plan which content types will work best and you first must understand how customers behave when they shop online. There are 5 distinct stages of a typical buying process:

  1. Need Recognition – this is a stage in which a person realizes a problem or a need.
  2. Information/Solution Search – knowing about a problem, a person starts to gather initial information about its causes as well as available solutions.
  3. Evaluation – next, a person begins to evaluate them to establish which one is the most suitable solution to their problem.
  4. Purchase Decision – this is a stage when the person selects a particular solution and makes a decision to buy it.
  5. Post-Purchase Evaluation (Buyer’s Remorse) – at this stage customers begin to question their purchase decision. This is when they might decide to return an item. It is therefore important to develop systems to reassure customers of their decision.

Those 5 stages of the buying cycle relate to what’s known as buyer intents – objectives every customer has in mind when deciding to search for a specific information.

We distinguish 3 separate buyer intents online.

The Intent to Learn 

Customer with this intent haven’t fully realised the problem they have. They do know there is something wrong but can’t define it yet.

When you create content for this group of customers, your role is to help them to understand their problem, not offer solutions. You need to focus on educating them about their problem, rather suggesting any solutions you may have on offer.

The Intent to Compare

Customers at this level understand their problem and are ready to start evaluating their options. Their buying mood is higher, although they are not ready to make the final decision yet. Therefore content aimed at this group should focus on highlighting benefits of your solution and providing all the information a customer might need to make an informed decision to buy.

The Intent to Order

Lastly, customers with this intent are ready to buy a solution they selected. They already know what they want and are ready to place the order. A content aimed for this group should move them swiftly through the buying process.

What Content Types Work With Each Buyer Intent?


Intent to Learn

Those customers haven’t realized their problem fully, yet. Your job is to educate them about it.

The most effective content types for this include:

  • Blog posts
  • Guides
  • How-to guides
  • Short videos

Intent to Compare

When creating content for this group, you need to focus more on showcasing the benefits of your solution. Ideal content types for this group would include:

  • Videos
  • Presentations
  • Demos
  • Slideshare presentations
  • Testimonials
  • Images of product in use

Intent to Buy

The aim for content targeting this group is to offer the quickest path to purchase. You must use content types that offer almost instantaneous option to buy, before the customer has an opportunity to change their mind. Content types to create for this group:

  • Product pages
  • Sales pages
  • Landing pages

How To Apply This Knowledge To Real Life

Turning this theory into practice, let’s pretend that you run an online store selling smartphones. Your task is to develop content that will engage your audience and will turn them into buying customers. Let’s also pretend that you want to specifically target freelancers and business people who are often on the road and potentially need a solid computer replacement to perform certain tasks while out of the office.

Here is one way to do it:

Content aimed at customers with the Intent to Learn:

  1. Blog post – 10 Ways Smartphones Have Already Replaced Your Laptop at Work
  2. Blog post – Benefits of using smartphones thank computers when on the road
  3. Blog Post – Smartphone Office, Yay or Nay?
  4. Cheat sheet – Things To Pay Attention To When Buying A Smartphone For Work
  5. Cheat sheet – A Typical Smartphone Terminology
  6. Blog post or video – How To Evaluate If A Particular Smartphone Is Good For Me

Customers with the Intent to compare:

  1. Video – A Review Of Two Phones From The Same Range
  2. eBook – What’s Inside My Phone (And Why Knowing This Matters)
  3. Case study – How A Phone Helped This Freelancer Grow Her Business (On Holidays!)
  4. Webinar – Setting Up A Mobile Office In Your Smartphone

Customers with the Intent to buy:

  1. A smartphones product page
  2. Landing Page for a particular line of smartphones
  3. Regular newsletter with new phones, business app reviews as well as tips & tricks and customer stories
  4. In Depth blog post on Samsung Galaxy S4 as a mobile office machine

Conclusion

There is an abundance of content types you can create to be a part of your customers buying journey. Not all of them work on the same stages of the buying cycle. It is imperative though that you educate your customers through appropriate content types mapped to where they are in their journey.