22 10, 2019

Trick or Treat: A Spooktacular Guide to Good Content

By | 2019-10-24T09:27:30+00:00 October 22nd, 2019|Categories: Digital Marketing, Ecommerce, SEO|Tags: , , |

There is so much marketing information out there these days. Blogs, websites, articles, white papers, podcasts, videos… many of them developed and deployed to convince you to part with your hard-earned money on just the right products.

Indeed, content marketing is all the rage. But not all content is created equal. In fact, there is a lot of bad content out there. So, what makes for great content?

There’s no single, easy answer. And the replies you’ll receive are likely to differ, sometimes wildly, depending on whom you may ask. But, the question becomes less abstract and more actionable when we narrow down the scope of the query: how do you go about creating great content for the web?

At the core, all great web content accomplishes one thing – informs, or educates, the reader via relevant, useful and organized information. For us marketers, however, content also has to drive action – be it a sign-up for a newsletter, a download of a white paper or (most preferred) a purchase of a product or service.

So, let’s discuss how best to create content with good-to-great potential for conversion. With candy on our minds and Halloween just around the corner, we’ll use the holiday as a surprisingly good metaphorical vehicle to parse the subject.

Shop for the Right Candy

Starting on a new piece of content can seem daunting at first. Trust us, no one enjoys a blank screen staring them in the face. It can be as scary as a haunted house.

What’s even scarier is wasting time writing content that no one will bother to read. So, before you start putting words on a page, you should know a bit about who you are writing for and why.

Know Your Audience(s)

Question: when your trick-or-treat guests ring your doorbell, do you think they’d be satisfied if you offered them an apple?

Unlikely, at best, right? The kids put effort into their costumes, they’re out there hustling from house to house… They’re definitely not doing it for fruit. They want the CANDY!

Same with your primary audience. They’ve come online with a purpose. Typed a query into a search engine for a reason. Clicked on your link with expectation. If you serve them an apple, it’s a safe bet that that’s the last you’ll see of them.

Ok, let’s take it one step further. Kids don’t go to strangers’ homes by themselves. They’re usually accompanied by their parents. And parents have a whole different set of needs.

If you’re a nice, thoughtful host, you’ll consider the needs of your secondary audience. Maybe a warm beverage or a non-candy snack will help them endure the chilly, late-October evening.

People recognize when you go the extra mile, or do something special. And that helps to establish trust, a necessary starting point for any budding relationship.

Be Prepared to Answer Their Most Pertinent Questions

The obvious question your Halloween guests have is, of course: “trick or treat?”. Translated into vernacular it means: “do you have candy for me?”. (For the spoiled audiences, it might be “do you have good candy for me?”.)

It’s not hard to anticipate this question on October 31. But, not all circumstances and audience are that easy.

When producing high quality content, it’s necessary to put yourself into the shoes of your audience and ask yourself what is it that they are looking to find out. The more you’re able to visualize yourself as part of the audience, the better you’ll be able to anticipate their needs.

Do Your Research

Just because you know the questions, doesn’t mean you know the answers.

Before you start writing, be sure you have the right information to present to your audience. This may involve online research, consulting with a co-worker who possesses specialized knowledge in the right subject area or even an interview with a subject matter expert outside of your organization.

You definitely don’t want to take your eye off the ball here… again, keep the fruit out of the candy bowl.

Dress Up

So, you know there are going to be kids out in the neighborhood, hungry for candy. And you know they’ll be accompanied by supervising adults. But, can you be sure that they’re not just going to stroll right past your house? 

If there are no lights on and it doesn’t look like anyone’s home, your doorbell may never get rung. And if your house looks too creepy (in a non-Halloween way), the parents may actively want to skip it. You’ve got to do something to entice the trick-or-treaters to make it down your long driveway and to your door.

That means, you’ve got to make your home appear welcoming by putting up some house decorations – the more extravagant, the better. Preferably, something that points the way to the candy bowl by your door. And, if you want to make the experience even more memorable for your guests, you should wear a creative costume that leaves an impression.

How can you dress up your content to be presented at it’s most appealing?

Keeping your paragraphs short for easy readability is a good start. Adding captivating images or videos can also help your readers engage with your page. Providing internal links and easy to see call-to-action buttons are great ways to point your audience to additional relevant content and highlight the final action they’ll need to take.

Give Out the Good Candy So They Come Back Next Year

Ok, you’ve got them at your door and perusing your candy offering. This is the moment of truth. You want the kids to take the candy, the adults to appreciate the warm beverage, and both groups to have a fun experience that stands out to them.

You’re serving candy and not fruit, your house is lit up and decked out with witches on brooms, you’re wearing your finest Halloween attire… you’re sure to get record visitors, right?

Not so fast. You can do everything right up to this point and still not meet your goals if your offering is not up to the standards or expectations of your guests.

Just because it’s candy, doesn’t mean it’s the right candy, or good candy. If the candy looks old, or has a torn wrapper, you might just lose your credibility on the spot – despite all the hard work you’ve put in.

Same with content. The presentation has to be as good as everything else.

That means writing a great headline, structuring your content clearly with proper usage of headings (H2s, H3s, H4s, etc), keeping an active voice and maintaining a reasonable word count. More importantly, your content has to stay on topic, do a great job educating on the most pertinent subjects and fulfill your users’ intent.

Your readers should reach the end of the page with a clear idea of what they’ve just read and an understanding of what they should do next. If you can do all that, you might just gain the trust of your readers and improve your chances of creating a repeat customer.

Beacon Knows Great Content

Is your site content in the best shape it could be? Not sure? One way to find out is with a complimentary content audit. Request one today from Beacon’s content strategy experts.

20 03, 2018

SEO for Higher Ed: 3 Steps to Increase Enrollment

By | 2018-03-20T09:36:17+00:00 March 20th, 2018|Categories: SEO|Tags: , , |

Of all the ways to market to prospective students, the most cost efficient may be SEO. Optimizing for organic search doesn’t require the monthly cash outlay that PPC does (although you want to be doing that, too). And improving your ranking in search engines can improve brand recognition and produce actual recruiting leads.

If you focus on these three elements of SEO, you can increase enrollment and your website search rankings. It all starts with effectively targeting keywords that pay.

Step One: Organic Search Optimization

Perform a complete review of your title tags and meta descriptions to make sure you’re taking full advantage of target keywords. Google has recently increased the size of their search descriptions, meaning that you should do the same. Meta descriptions can be as long as 300 words so review yours to make sure you’ve taken advantage of this additional real estate.

Review your H1 and H2 headlines to make sure they’re keyword rich as well. Keywords should also be present within the body of your content. Finally, make sure your content links to other relevant pages within your site.

Step Two: Optimize forms and applications

Short attention spans require short forms. This is not an indictment of this generation of student. It’s simply an acknowledgement that we absorb information in smaller bites these days. Ask as little as you can to get the prospect to hit the submit button.

Consider a multi-step form process. Research indicates that when prospects are confronted by two short forms, they often feel less encumbered by the number of questions. Split test to tweak your message and maximize response. Form optimization is perhaps the most direct way you can influence conversions.

Step Three: Content Marketing – blog posts and social media

Creating meaningful content can be labor intensive. However, compelling content is perhaps the most sure-fire way of engaging the target audience and getting results – and not just soft stats.  We’re talking applications, here. Good content will give you a boost in the short and long term, so long as it is a consistent, ongoing exercise. Stop creating new content and you’ll fade into obscurity.

Whether this new content consists of testimonials, interviews with alumni or a campus survival guide from current students, make it timely and authentic, not salesy. This type of content is highly shareable. Develop a sound social media content strategy to maximize the visibility of this new content. It’s your chance to engage potential students who may have questions. Get back to them in real time. Be responsive.

Speaking of Responsive….

I’m assuming that by now your college or university website is responsive, enabling potential students to access your information on any device. If not, this supersedes everything above.

Still have questions?

Email me or speak with a member of our SEO team at 336-447-3379. Let’s discuss your website and enrollment goals. Together, let’s figure out how your website can help your recruiting efforts and meet your expectations.

 

19 11, 2015

How to Craft a Social Media Content Strategy

By | 2016-11-18T12:09:54+00:00 November 19th, 2015|Categories: Social Media|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

 

It is true that social media can be beneficial to a business, but it can also cause a migraine at the same time. If not implemented properly it can damage your business’ reputation or become a waste of time. Here are some important steps to keep in mind when developing a social media content strategy. This will help keep your content relevant and work to amplify your postings. Some steps to include are brainstorming, research, and determining which platforms to use.

Brainstorming 

First, let’s start off with brainstorming potential content ideas. These will help build shareable content. In this stage it is important to think broadly about your industry. It is necessary to think about how you can branch out to reach a wider audience. It is a good idea to not have a narrow view of your business when brainstorming content topics at first. Once you build out a variety of topics and ideas you can always go back and decide what fits your brand image. Try to think of all the components that work together to make up your business. For example, let’s say I own a skateboard shop. I might produce content about skateboard maintenance or the benefits of skateboarding. This tactic will help you build a diverse social media content strategy.

Here is a visual representation of my thought process when brainstorming content:

Content Map

 

Research 

Once you have spent time brainstorming, then it’s time to move on to the next phase, research. We want to learn what types of content are performing well in our industry.

In continuing on with our skateboarding example, let’s say I am done brainstorming. Now I have some topics I want to build out content around. It’s time to dive into some content research so I have a better idea of what performs well. This will vary by industry and whether you’re a B2B or B2C business.

When conducting my research, I use several tools to learn what is performing well. For this, I am going to start with a neat and free tool called Epicbeat, which I think is an appropriate name for a social media tool. Epicbeat will help you discover popular content, influencers, and industry insights.

First, I want to enter in the term I will be researching.

Social Media Content StrategyThen, I am directed to a dashboard that gives a quick view of several key factors. These factors will help me find content to re-share and give me greater insight into what I need to create.

Social Media Research Which Platforms? 

The few things I want to get insight into are which platforms are popular and what types of content perform best. Then, I want to know when I should be posting to my platforms.

Social Media Content ResearchRight away I see that Facebook is the most popular channel followed by Vine and Instagram. I also get some other metrics such as average shares per post and a few other engagement metrics which is great. This tells me the type of engagement I can expect from each social platform. I also want to look for what type of content is most popular within this industry.

Now from my research, I know I should focus on Facebook and maybe Instagram as well. This will help get my social media content strategy off to a great start. After reviewing the engagement metrics, I know where I need to be to have an impact. Keep in mind, it is important to start a social media campaign small and scale up. In most cases, it is better to have one or two social profiles than five that you rarely engage with users on.

Content ResearchEpicBeat is nice enough to give me the distribution by content type for skateboarding. This gives me a better idea of the types of content to either begin producing or re-sharing. Right away I see that ‘how’ articles are trending with Listicles, and Interviews trailing. If I skipped this step and ran giveaways and produced guides, I would have missed a lot of engagement. This is why research is so crucial so you are not fumbling around in the dark.

I’m at a great starting point now I have my topics I want to build content around. I also have a better idea of which social platforms my target audience are active on. Now I have a better understanding of the content types I will begin curating. I even have an idea of what I can re-share to my platforms to further encourage engagement too.

Tools make research easier, but you should still browse followers to gain more insight. Look for what they are sharing and engaging with, and news they consider important. This will help you plan your social media content strategy in an effective manner. As an added bonus, I like to use Klout to spot trending content pieces and re-share them with my followers. Only use this platform once you have taken the time to research your industry and build out topics. This can be a great way to find relevant news about your industry.

Klout Content ResearchKlout shows content to reflect the best trending pieces related to your industry. Klout also includes a search function as well so you can do further research. This allows me to take topics I built out earlier and search for trending articles. Another feature like EpicBeat is the ability to find influencers within your niche. You can even research influencers within your industry and see content they engage with.

Klout Content Research Once inside the platform, there is no need to go back and forth between Hootsuite to schedule a post. You can schedule all your content within the platform as well and save some time. Remember, research is the cornerstone of a successful social media content strategy. Taking the time to brainstorm will lead to unique ideas that may not have developed otherwise.

As a side note, you can have a great social media content strategy but without goals you can get off track. Setting goals that impact your business is important when starting a social media campaign.

By brainstorming, researching, and evaluating platforms, you can start an effective social media campaign.

Happy sharing!

29 10, 2015

Google and Its Book Scanning Initiative – Trick or Treat?

By | 2018-05-01T08:26:50+00:00 October 29th, 2015|Categories: SEO|Tags: , , |

This Halloween, Google has toilet papered your entire yard and the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals just rang the doorbell, left a flaming bag of you-know what on your doorstep and ran like a bat outta’ Hell. Who are you?

You’re an author with a career worth of product, mostly published offline through traditional literary mediums. You have every right to feel that you’ve been wronged. I know I do.

While I don’t advocate for the trampling of anyone’s rights in favor of another (one of my pet peeves), the 2nd Circuit Court decision has some upside. Think Frankenstein and fire.  Let me explain…

poster-art-smallA Quick Overview

As you probably know, the objective of Google’s book scanning initiative is to scan every book available and make the contents available online for educational purposes. The book scanning initiative (the way I understand it) does not make copyrighted materials available online for free to those who wouldn’t otherwise have it available to them. This project is meant to aid libraries in copying their current catalog for use by library patrons who would otherwise have access to already paid for, hard copy versions.

The Authors Guild had taken great exception to the book scanning project, as one might expect. Citing existing laws on copyright infringement (17 U.S.C. § 107) The Author’s Guild has argued that Google’s book scanning initiative deprives writers of revenue from their work.

This court battle started way back in 2005.

The 10 year ordeal appears to be over. The US Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled with Google and its “fair use” defense. The “fair use” defense (admittedly greatly simplified here in the interest of expediency) argues that since the content is being used for educational purposes, it serves a greater good. Additionally, it does not “excessively damage the market” for the current copyright holder.

If you’re not a creator (or even if you are), you’re probably wondering what this means for your website or agency. Will the fire Google started be used for good or evil? Will users see a benefit or will my SEO efforts become a horror show?

The answer is yes, yes, yes and maybe. Let’s talk about the bad first.

More Panda Updates

There is no doubt that while Google may be providing a service through this massive book scanning effort, they’ll get their sweat equity when they use this data to fine tune their algorithm in their pursuit to rid the internet of duplicate content. While this means a better user experience for most (yeah!), it could mean sleepless nights for SEOs and website operators who have used nefarious means to add “new” content to their blogs or websites.

Imagine your agency gets a new client. That’s a good thing. What you don’t know is that this client has in the past employed an SEO firm that had resorted to using re-purposed content from rare books. The next Panda update comes and your client gets slammed. Guess who gets blamed? FIRE, BAD.

However, there’s a great deal of good news too. Consider this:

More Books for the Disabled

In a related ruling, the appeals court decided in favor of HathiTrust Digital Library and their application of “fair use”. A non-profit project, HathiTrust Digital Library consist of a consortium or university libraries with a mission to provide digital books for the disabled. FRIEND, GOOD.

Better Experience for The End User

Less fluff and more real content will result from future algorithm changes. That’s great news for users and all of us who do things the right way. FRIEND, GOOD.

More Work for Content Creators

This is a big maybe but, in theory, this could work to a writer’s advantage. As the algorithm detects new re-purposed copy, something of value has to replace the fluff copy that had previously been used.  FRIEND, GOOD.

In Conclusion

Like the blind man in the original Frankenstein movie, I probably won’t convince any traditional writer that that his or her rights are not being subjugated in favor of commerce and the rights of another. And in the end, you can’t ignore the fact that the “monster” enjoyed a big, fat cigar with a friend. It ain’t all bad.

And on a side note, I hear the new Panda algorithm can scrape poop from shoes.