5 Common Writing Clichés to Avoid for Better Content Marketing

blogging clichesEvery piece of content we produce as marketers makes an implicit promise to our audience. From beginning to end, each asset that is researched, created and published should be interesting, relevant, help solve a current pain point. The content will be informative, easy to read and provide value.

We must honor that promise to hold the reader’s attention and provide them with useful information. As Copyblogger founder Brian Clark says, “A great headline mixed with a lame opening is like inviting someone into your house, only to slam the door in their face as they approach.” Once you slam the door in a reader’s face, they’re not going to accept future invitations.

Our goal should be to create content that holds the door open, invites the reader in, and serves them tea and cakes. They should be better off because of the time they entrusted to us. We must be ever vigilant against bland, empty, awkward or confusing writing. Avoiding the following clichés can help your content make good on its promise to be worth the reader’s time.

#1 – The 30,000 Foot Introduction

In high school, well-meaning teachers told us introductions should start wide and then narrow down to our topic. So we went all the way up to 30,000 feet to get the big, really big picture. We wrote, “Waste disposal has historically been a huge problem in the world, and it continues to this day.” Or, “Most scientists agree that electricity is important.” Sometimes, years later, it can be difficult to shake the urge to start with a bird’s-eye view.

Why It’s Less Effective: 30,000 Foot introductions are so broad that they fail to introduce the reader to your specific topic. They also tend to be full of information the reader already knows, which is less likely to inspire them to keep reading.

What to Do Instead: When you realize you’ve written 30,000 foot introductions, start by writing a second paragraph to actually introduce the article. Many times, you can just delete the original paragraph and go with the more detailed introduction.

If you’re having trouble introducing a topic without going up to 30,000 feet, create specificity and 3rd party credibility by adding a statistic or quote.

#2 – We All Know That…

The “we all know” or “as [members of a group], we all know” construction usually pops up when a writer is trying to empathize with the readers. While the intention may be good, execution can read a little clumsy.

Why It’s Less Effective: If we all know it, then the reader knows it, too. If the reader knows it, they may feel like we’re wasting their time. When you need to state the obvious in a post, it’s better to find an angle that adds something extra to what “we all know.”

What to Do Instead: As with the 30,000 Feet Introduction, use a quote or a statistic. Instead of, “we all know that content marketing is important,” go for, “as Michael Brenner says, ‘Content is the atomic particle of all marketing across paid, owned, and earned channels.’” Now you’ve made your point, given new information, and added credibility to your piece.

Or, you can just eliminate the “We All Know” and make your statement to sound more authoritative: “Content marketing is a vital piece of any marketing mix.”

#3 – In This Article, I Will…

Here’s another holdover from our five-paragraph-essay days. It’s a hard habit to break, because it seems like the easiest way to transition into the body of your content. It previews the structure of the article and moves you to your first subheading.

Why It’s Less Effective: A good introduction casts a spell on the reader, compelling them to keep reading. “In this article, I will…” is an awkward transition that breaks the spell. Even worse, it puts the focus on you, the author, instead of the reader.

What to Do Instead: Ask the reader to do what you want them to do: Read on. “Read on to learn X, Y, and Z.” Or make it inspirational: “You can do x, y, and z. Here’s how.” Or, “doing [these/the following] five things can help you accomplish X.” Show the reader what’s in it for them and they’ll be more likely to keep reading.

#4 – Rhetorical Questions

Who doesn’t love rhetorical questions? They seem like a great tool for getting your reader to ponder the topic you’re discussing. But should you avoid them? And how can you? (Sorry, last one, I promise).

Why They’re Less Effective: When I write a rhetorical question, I imagine my reader leaning forward, eyes wide in childlike wonderment, saying, “Golly gee, mister, how CAN I write better content?” I’m trying to create drama, but really I’m underestimating the reader’s intelligence.

People who take the time to read a blog post are smart (take you, for example. You’re reading this post, and I have no doubt you’re startlingly intelligent). Rhetorical questions invite your audience to come up with a different answer than the one you’re leading to, which can derail the point you’re trying to make.

What to Do Instead: The antidote for this one is easy: Turn your questions into statements. Instead of, “How can you avoid clichéd writing?” say “It’s important to avoid clichéd writing. You can ditch clichés by…” As a general rule, unless you’re inviting readers to actually respond to your question, make it a statement.

#5 – Alphabet Soup

My wife is a middle-school teacher. We have a game where we string together as many acronyms from our respective professions as we can. So I’ll say, “With a little CRO, you can tweak your CTA to increase the CTR of your PPC, getting a better ROI on your CPC.” And she’ll say, “The kid with the IEP clearly had ODD, but his FSP didn’t modify his CBA.” And we laugh. Oh, how we laugh. But the alphabet soup is less funny when you’re trying to glean information from an article.

Why It’s Less Effective: Acronyms aren’t universal. The same three or four letters can mean something radically different—or nothing at all—to a reader, depending on their background. Take the two alphabet-soup sentences above: some readers will get one and not the other, and many won’t understand either sentence.

What to Do Instead: First, keep your audience in mind. If they’re not marketers, avoid marketing jargon and acronyms entirely. Then make sure to spell out the first instance of an acronym, like “with a little conversion rate optimization (CRO)…”

It can’t hurt to spell out even the most obvious acronyms. Most readers know that ROI means return on investment, but you may have a French reader who thinks you’re shouting about a king (you see, in French “Le Roi” is the King, and…never mind). If you find you’re introducing three acronyms in a single sentence and spelling them all out is getting awkward, that’s a good indication you should break the sentence up.

Read Critically for Better Writing

Writing engaging content is a learned skill, like playing the violin or juggling live turtles. Or doing both at the same time, if you’re an overachiever. Avoiding these five clichés will help you write content your audience will enjoy reading. But these five are just the tip of the iceberg (which is also a cliché, if you’re counting). So continue honing your skills by writing, of course, but also by reading with a critical eye. When you go through your daily blog and news site crawl, look for overused phrases, convoluted sentences, and anything else that seems out-of-place.

What clichés do you struggle with in your writing? How do you keep your content fresh and relevant? Let me know in the comments.

Image: Shutterstock


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Online Marketing News: Twitter Gets Googled, Meerkat Makes A Cameo, Facebook Floats

The Science Behind Buyer Personas

How to Create Buyer Personas [Infographic] – Buyer personas give you insight into how to best engage with your various customer types. But before you start creating those personas, take time to do the research. Check out this infographic to find out. MarketingProfs

Twitter Officially Launches Ads Companion For Mobile Campaign Management – New tool, unveiled as a test last week, gives advertisers the ability to monitor and adjust campaigns from Twitter iOS and Android apps. Twitter

Facebook Gives Users More Control Over Their News Feeds – On Thursday, Facebook announced a set of features that will give each person more control over what he or she wants to see. In essence, you get to reprogram the algorithm. Facebook

TV Becomes Major Driver of Social Activity [Study] – A new study from ShareThis shows that traditional TV-watching has evolved to become a multi-screen social experience. How can networks leverage social to stay relevant? ClickZ

STUDY: Facebook Video Ads Thrive; Twitter Advertisers Must Go Mobile – Social advertising and data company Kinetic Social, a Facebook Marketing Partner, offered a look at first-quarter-2015 ad performance on Facebook and Twitter. SocialTimes

Only 20% of Marketers Use Behavioural Triggers In Email Marketing: Report – Behavioural marketing technology allows brands to provide targeted, relevant communications based on a user’s web activity. See why you should be using it. Econsultancy

Twitter Sets Birthday Balloons As Bait To Reel In More Personal Data – Company adds profile design flourish to encourage people to share their birthdates. The information will be used to serve more relevant information, including advertising. Twitter

Facebook Becomes the Fastest Growing Global Media Company – Facebook has long been a dominant social media platform, but now the brand has grown to be one of the most profitable media companies in the world, according to ZenithOptimedia. ClickZ

Meerkat Introduces Cameo, a Way for Viewers to Interact With Stream — and Facebook Integration – Meerkat this week introduced a new feature that allows viewers to take over and contribute to a live feed on the app. Called Cameo, the feature allows the filmer to select a viewer to appear on screen for up to 60 seconds. Meerkat

Facebook Adds ‘Videos’ Tab to Page Insights: Track Metrics Across Custom Date Ranges – Facebook announced a useful new addition today that will help page owners measure the success of their videos across custom date ranges. Facebook

Facebook Changes How It Charges Brands for Clicks on Their Ads – Facebook is changing how it charges advertisers for click-based campaigns to make sure that, in return for their money, marketers are getting more than social currency. Ad Age

Google Now Indexing 466% More Tweets, Still Favoring Higher Authority Users [Study] – Google is now indexing nearly 5x the Tweets as four months ago, yet more than 96% of Tweets still go unindexed. Search Engine Land

Twitter Introduces Video App Ads, Bidding Based On Actions & Installs – A year after launching its app install ad feature, Twitter says advertisers are getting strong ROI from the program. Marketing Land

Facebook Introduces New “Floating” Video Player, Continues Push on Video Content – Facebook’s march towards online video dominance continues, with another new feature added into the mix to get users viewing more video content. This week, Facebook is testing a new video player option where users can detach a video from the News Feed and move it to your preferred viewing location within the browser window. Social Media Today

What were the top online and digital marketing news stories for you this week?

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Infographic: WSI


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4 Steps Marketers Can Take Towards Increasing Their Digital Marketing Budget

Marketing Budget

Raise your hand if you’ve ever encountered a situation like the one described below:

It’s time again for your annual marketing budget meeting. You’re confident that what you’ve put together is going to knock the leadership team’s socks off.

You begin rocking through your amazing slide deck, chock full of powerful data points such as the number of Facebook Likes and banner ad clicks. Everything seems to be going great, and you know that this is the year you’ve finally proven the value of digital marketing and will win more budget. This means more budget to create additional content, place more ads and maybe even hire a great agency to help augment internal marketing efforts.

“Sure.” your CEO says, “That all looks great, but what are we going to get out of it?”

“Brand awareness, views, clicks, shares” – you say.

“No.” they say pointedly, “What are we really going to get out of it in terms of new customers, revenue and sales?”

A recent study from Econsultancy found that only 44% of marketers surveyed believe that the C-Suite really gets digital marketing and is developing an effective strategy. This can create many challenges for today’s digital marketers.

So how do you convince the C-Suite of the power of digital marketing when it comes to meeting business objectives and win that bigger budget?

Step 1: Become Fluent in CEO Speak

In my day to day, I spend most of time talking with other agency and client side marketers. Fortunately we are all speaking the same marketing lingo of conversions, page views and bounce rates. However, in order to get your CEO on board, you’ll need to step away from the marketing speak and dial into language which resonates with your audience:

For example:

speak CEO language

Step 2: Do a Landscape Audit, Don’t Forget Your Competition

Try to remember that most CEO’s don’t live and breathe digital marketing. They may not be aware that 83% of B2B marketers have a content marketing strategy in place. Or that there are 350 million users on LinkedIn. Set the stage by letting them know what is going on in the industry.

Keep in mind however that all the 3rd party research in the world won’t lead to an increase in budget, but showing a competitor that is applying a similar tactic and doing well will. C-suite is often intrinsically motivated by the idea that their competitors may know something they don’t.

Create a simple matrix of your top competitors and who is using which tactics. Then use a competitive audit tool like SEMrush to find data for PPC ad spend and traffic volume. Pull this data into a PowerPoint deck, and include screen shots of impressive ad campaigns or downloads to show value to your CEO.

Step 3: Show Them What They Stand to Gain (Or Could Lose)

When preparing to present to your leadership team, make sure that you:

Know what your CEO really cares about. Sometimes we assume CEO’s only care about the bottom line, but they may have many other objectives for the upcoming year. Examples could include: increasing brand visibility, attracting new customers from top competitors, or a higher volume of product sold.

Nail down tracking. If you don’t have the tracking in place to tie back each of your marketing tactics to an objective your CEO really cares about, then make sure you laser focus on making that a reality. Leverage custom tracking URLs and some advanced Google Analytics segments to document tracking of visitor flow and conversions from pretty much any digital marketing tactic. If you need more advanced tracking, begin researching marketing automation systems, and plant the seeds for a big investment in 2016.

Perhaps you already have tracking in place. The next step is to show your team what they stand to gain.

For example:

  • 2015: Created 4 gated downloads = 800 leads
  • 2016 (Double the investment): 8 gated download = 1,600 leads

If you can present a case for investing in 4 additional content marketing assets, and the standard cost per lead, then you can show the potential ROI on additional content objects.

Now let’s flip that on its head. By not investing these dollars in 2016, you stand to lose 800 new leads. Psychologically, showing what your boss stands to lose is often more compelling than a potential reward.

Step 4: Start Small to Win Big

When testing a new tactic or platform, like Google AdWords or co-created content, I always advise clients to start small.  You must invest enough to run a true test, but consider it in terms of percentage of available budget.

I recommend that companies invest 70% of available budget in tried and true tactics that you know produce results, 20% on medium risk tactics, and only 10% on those brand new, high-risk tactics. This strategy ensures marketing is creating the results you need, while still making room for testing new tactics that have the potential to drive big results.

If you are asking for a 25% increase in budget, show your CEO the breakdown of how you will be spending that budget. Knowing you are investing the lion share in proven tactics, can help show that you are aiming to make a sound investment.

If you’re looking for more help crafting your pitch, speak with your current agency and have them provide you with more results from the previous year and their recommendations for next steps.

If you’re not working with an agency, reach out to an agency like TopRank Marketing and see what recommendations they have or what they would provide you if you worked with them.

Image: Shutterstock


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Social Media Marketing for Business: Expectation Vs. Reality

Social-Media-Expectations-vs-Reality-Header-Image

When a fast food chain releases a new menu item, there is typically a lot of hype and promotion around the product. These efforts can lead to certain expectations of what consumers can expect when purchasing the item.

Sometimes reality meets the expectation, but more often than not, it doesn’t.

Anytime you explore new opportunities within digital marketing, it can lead way to a certain set of expectations for performance, audience reaction and a host of other variables.

While the reality may not always meet the expectation, there are many benefits to incorporating social media into your digital marketing routine. According to Social Media Examiner’s latest report, these benefits include:

  • Increased exposure
  • Increase in website traffic
  • Development of loyal fans
  • Access to marketplace insight
  • Lead generation

That same report found that Facebook (52%), LinkedIn (21%) and Twitter (12%) are the most important social media platforms for marketers.

The examples below provide a glimpse into some common expectations that new (and even more seasoned) marketers have about social media marketing and the sometimes harsh reality.

#1 – Set Publishing Expectations

Social-Media---EVR-2

Expectation: When tackling social media for business, it can be easy to assume that you’ll have endless ideas for content and will be a publishing machine.

Reality: More often than not, companies are strong out of the gate and then quickly tire from the attention needed to create and curate compelling content.

Solution: One way to engage your audience is to consistently publish content on your social channels. If you create a routine for publishing, they’ll know what to expect. Tools like Buffer are great for scheduling out your social media content for the week. You can also set up rules for posting frequency and time of day within your preferences. Additionally, Buffer has a handy content curation feature that makes it simple to choose a piece of content that is relevant for your audience and incorporate it into the publishing schedule.

#2 – Assess Organic Conversions

Social-Media---EVR-3

Expectation: Based on all of the awesome content you’re producing, it’s only a matter of time before those contact forms are flying in!

Reality: More realistically, a strong social media presence will likely lead to an increase in referral traffic to your website (if that is where you’re pointing followers).

Solution: An organic social media can be used in combination with content marketing efforts to drive lead generation. While it may not always be a direct conversion to sign up for services, there are other conversion opportunities. For example, use social media to lead your audience to gated content on your website or to a subscribe form to receive updates from your company.

#3 – Effective Community Management

Social-Media---EVR-4

Expectation: Responding to brand mentions and inquiries is easy.

Reality: Keeping up with brand mentions manually can become incredibly overwhelming.

Solution: Continue to create quality content that your community will find useful and use Social media monitoring tools like SproutSocial, Topsy and Social Mention to help identify and respond to mentions of your brand.

#4 – Improve Advertising Effectiveness

Social-Media---EVR-5

Expectation: Using paid social automatically means that you’ll have more conversions (likes, shares, comments) for your facebook page and website.

Reality: Social advertising merely provides access to more people, it doesn’t change the quality of your message.

Solution: To get the most out of social media advertising consider the following best practices:

  • Use clear and concise messaging
  • Incorporate strong visual assets
  • Beta test ads by publishing organically first
  • Use platform targeting features
  • Rotate ads frequently to avoid ad fatigue
  • Design ads with mobile users in mind

#5 – Don’t Take the One & Done Approach

Social-Media---EVR-6

Expectation: You can successfully publish all of the exact same social messages on every platform.

Reality: People use different social media sites for different reasons.

Solution: You need to understand your audience and the social media sites that they use in order to get a true sense of how to position messaging for each platform. The way that most users interact on LinkedIn is vastly different than they would use an Instagram account. Keep this in mind when creating messaging for your business social media profiles and pages.

Begin Setting Realistic Expectations for Social Media Marketing

True social media marketing success requires hard work, patience and attention to detail. Chances are, if you invest your time and money wisely, you’ll begin to see some of your social media expectations become realities.

What have you found to be the most shocking reality about social media that you hadn’t expected?

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7 Ideas for Keeping Your Brand’s Content Marketing Fresh & Relevant

vegetable dish

Have you ever opened the fridge and realized that all of the produce that you painstakingly picked out at the farmers market had gone bad? Maybe there were a few items that were salvageable but the rest had to be tossed. You wouldn’t want to serve your guests a rotten ratatouille would you?

Today’s content marketers should be using only the freshest of ingredients (tactics) to keep their audience engaged and coming back for seconds.

Keeping an online audience engaged is getting harder and harder. They are constantly bombarded with an overwhelming amount of content which makes it very difficult to hold their attention. In fact, the Statistic Brain Research Institute found that the average attention span in 2015 is 8.25 seconds and only 4% of page views on the internet last longer than 10 minutes. Remember that blog post it took you 3 hours to write? Chances are your customers are speed reading and moving on.

However, there are steps that you can take to keep your content marketing fresh, interesting and innovative for your audience. In today’s market, Content marketing can take on many different forms and be published on a variety of platforms. The possibilities are nearly limitless.

Below are some of the ideas for how you can keep your content marketing program fresh and delicious. Bon apetite!

#1 – Study the Works of Other “Chefs”

Today’s foodies love everything from Indian street food, to fine French dining. What has become even more popular over the past few years is the concept of food fusion, which takes notes from different types of cuisines and mashes them together to produce the best possible dishes.

In order to create these tasty recipes, chefs had to go outside of their base knowledge of a particular cuisine and incorporate ideas from other cultures.

It can be easy to fall into a routine of strictly following what other marketers in your industry are doing to help determine your content marketing strategy.

Instead, look for innovative ideas that are outside of your industry and may not even be a part of marketing. For example, take a look at your personal email inbox, is there anything that caught your eye as a consumer or that you found to be an interesting concept? Use these ideas that you find in other industries to fuel your content marketing ideas.

#2 – Ditch the Recipe Book & Try Something New

Some of my best dishes have come from throwing together ingredients that I thought went well together. Other times I have been left with an inedible goopy mess. But at least I knew not to do it again.

Believe it or not, failure can be a good thing. Why? Because if you failed, that means that you made an attempt. One of the worst things you can do as a marketer is to remain stagnant and keep executing on the same old safe, tried and true digital marketing tactics.

Now that doesn’t mean that you should just go chasing after any idea. You should still be mindful of your approach and determine what it is that you expect to get out of it.

#3 – Mother Sauces Require Key Ingredients

You can’t make a bechamel sauce without butter and a hollandaise without lemon just isn’t quite right. While there are variations of these mother sauces, there are core ingredients that bring them together and make your tastebuds sing.

One of the most overlooked opportunities for marketing is combining your different digital teams (either internal or external). The convergence of search, social and content is not a new concept. However, there is a big difference between creating an integrated digital marketing strategy, and getting your different teams together to collaborate.

It doesn’t matter if you have a large team, a small team or are working with an outside digital marketing agency, there is always an opportunity to collaborate. This approach will help each team understand what it is that the other is working on and can lead to some creative brainstorming for content marketing solutions.

#4 – Small Touches Create a Better Diner Experience

Personally, I eat just as much with my eyes as I do with my mouth. There is almost no replacement for a beautiful plate of food that tastes equally delicious. The perfect combination of ambiance, a beautiful table, good parking and alluring food can create a truly epic dining experience.

Similarly, you should always use content marketing to create a good customer experience.

This means:

  • Create Content for Need: Does your content marketing program help solve a business problem or meet a customer need?
  • Optimize for Device: Can your customers access your website, blog and any other assets both on desktop and a mobile device?
  • Incorporate Storytelling: Connect customers to your content by incorporating storytelling into your strategy.

#5 – Do Your Customers Like Their Steak Rare, Medium or Well Done?

Let’s pretend that you went out to the nicest steak restaurant in town and everyone in your party ordered a nice juicy steak. Now imagine that the server assumed that everyone at the table wanted their steak well done without asking? Chances are, there would be some pretty unhappy people at the table.

Many companies are afraid of asking current customers simple questions about the helpfulness of their content. There is the fear of negative feedback or that the customer will decide that they no longer want to do business with you.

Instead of being fearful, consider this an opportunity to improve your marketing program by better providing your customers what they need. They’ll also appreciate your willingness to hear what they have to say. Ultimately, this temperature check will tell you what you’re doing well (and need to do more of) as well as opportunities for improvement for content.

You can either contact customers directly and ask them or survey your community at large through email, social media or other means.

#6 – Add Your Own Flair

Part of what makes celebrity chefs so great is that you get to experience “what they’re really like” simply by tuning in to the Food Network or Cooking channel. In all fairness, their cooking chops is largely what got them to where they are today, but their personalities are what have made them celebrities.

Few brands are able to inject the proper amount of personality and authority into their content marketing. Often, brands are fearful of towing the line and offending the audience. Always err on the side of professionalism but don’t be afraid to use humor, personality and wit where appropriate.

Another option is to provide your audience with a “behind the scenes” look at your organization. This can be accomplished through “candid” videos, images shared on social media and contributions from team members from across the organization on their experience working with the company.

#7 – Throw Spaghetti at the Wall & See What Sticks

While you want your noodles al-dente, crunchy just won’t cut it. Sometimes the only way to tell if they’re good is to throw them at the wall and see if they stick.

The same can be said for creative content marketing brainstorms. It’s better to throw in a bunch of ideas and see which ones end up sticking.

To keep your content marketing fresh, consider adding some impromptu brainstorming sessions when needed. Consider inviting team members outside of the marketing department for a fresh set of eyes, ears and brains.

Provide the team an overview of what you’re hoping to accomplish as well as any relevant information about the target audience. Then, set them loose. Truthfully, you won’t use every idea that is concocted during your session, but there is always something useful that comes out of a brainstorm. Even if it’s just inspiration.

Are You Hungry to Innovate Your Content Marketing Program?

I don’t know about you, but this blog post is making me incredibly hungry. If you’re stuck in a content marketing rut, hopefully this post has helped you think of some different ways that you can innovate your marketing, without getting egg on your face.

What have you found to be the best way to get your creative content marketing juices flowing?

Image: Shutterstock


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Using Solar Power in Your Home



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Residential solar power is becoming an attractive option for many people. They can use the sun’s energy to operate various devices and to heat their homes. It is also earth-friendly and economical way to bring the power in your home. Solar energy can help reduce external energy consumption by 50-70 percent. There are several different ways you can use solar energy in your home, which may include the use of solar panels and solar thermal systems to produce electricity.

Once you have installed solar power in your home, you can use water heated by solar energy to produce hot water and heat your home. There will be a collector mounted on an elevated area, such as the roof, and is used to absorb thermal energy from the sun. Often increases the heat and stores the resulting hot water. This heat can be piped through radiators to heat the house and provide hot water. Besides reducing your electricity bills, it can add value to your home if you decide to sell your home.

The main reason why many people are using residential solar power is helping to reduce the cost of their utility bills. Depending on the type of solar system used in a dozen years, the solar panels can pay for themselves. The Department of Energy United States hopes that by 2020, solar energy will become common place in homes. They also expect to see the normal cut energy consumption by seventy percent in that time.

The solar electric panel is the technology used in solar power, which uses photons to produce electricity. Solar electric panels, known as photovoltaic panels (PV) can be installed in a variety of ways, such as:

• Free standing rigid sheets

• Adjust your ceiling

• peel and stick laminate

How dependent are installed ceiling. The captured energy is converted into electricity through a modified grid system. It has an installed meter that reads the amount of solar energy used in your home compared to normal electricity used. The meter will then subtract the power of solar energy is used and what is left is then applied to your electric bill.

Most solar energy systems that are used are also able to store some of the energy they generate so if there is a surplus of energy can be used at a later time. Besides using the stored energy to generate rooms hot water and heat, it can also supply for other electronic equipment and light your home. The main cost of solar energy is the cost of installing the system and solar panels.

Online Marketing News: G+ Brands Stripped, The Mayor Has Returned, Facebook Gives You A Cut

Social Media Acronyms

The 75 Most Important Social Media Acronyms – Acronyms are a natural fit for social media networks. These platforms are based on short and snappy communication, so it makes sense for people to rely on abbreviations, especially for common phrases. Check out this infographic and see how many you know. Sprout Social

Google+ Brand Posts Have Been Stripped From Knowledge Graph Cards – Brand posts on Google+ will no longer be displayed in the Knowledge Graph cards, instead they’ll be treated like all other social updates in the traditional search results. Search Engine Land

Facebook Pages See Organic Likes Rise 0.2% in May (Report) – A total of 43.36 percent of Facebook pages advertised on the social network in May, according to the latest research from social analytics and reporting firm Locowise. SocialTimes

Move Over YouTube: Facebook Will Offer Video Creators A Share Of Ad Revenue – Video publishers will get 55% share of revenue for ads that appear near their content in a new algorithmically created Suggested Video feed. Marketing Land

Facebook Taking into Account More Actions on Videos – Facebook has begun to take other actions outside likes and comments into account from those viewing their videos. See what they are. Facebook

Snapchat Launches Native Video Ads – Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel has been talking vision a lot recently. Just last month, he spoke about the future (aka: business model) for Snapchat being advertising. This week Spiegel took his pitch to the Cannes Lions Festival to talk more about turning Snapchat into a platform for storytelling. SocialTimes

Google Offers Olive Branch To Journalists & News Publications With Launch Of Google News Lab – Google says it wants to collaborate with journalists and entrepreneurs to help build the future of media. Marketing Land

The Google Mobile Search Carousel Adds Pinterest Pins, Vines, Houzz & Food Network Recipes – The Google Search news carousel gets a bit more social with Pinterest Pins, Vines and more. Search Engine Land

Claim That Crown: Swarm Mayorships Are Back – When Swarm/Foursquare first launched Swarm, you fiercely battled your friends for a chance at a Mayor crown. But it just wasn’t as much fun. That’s why today we’re upping the ante and letting you compete for mayorships against everyone. Foursquare

Facebook Testing ‘See First’ News Feed Customization Feature – Facebook continues to experiment with ways to let users customize their News Feeds, and See First, which appears to be an expansion of a test that was spotted in April, is the latest example. SocialTimes

Microsoft Signs 10-Year Deal For AOL To Use Bing’s Ads & Listings – Google loses deal it held since 2002, but AOL matters far less than it once did. Search Engine Land

What were the top online and digital marketing news stories for you this week?

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Infographic: Sprout Social


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Online Marketing News: G+ Brands Stripped, The Mayor Has Returned, Facebook Gives You A Cut | http://www.toprankblog.com

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5 Impactful Digital Marketing Takeaways from MNSearch Summit

MNSearch-Summit-2015

In order to be an effective digital marketer, it’s imperative that you understand the role that search plays in all of your marketing initiatives. The search landscape is quickly evolving and sometimes what you need is a helping hand from some industry experts to set you down the path to success.

Amazingly, that is just what we experienced at this years MNSearch Summit. Alexis Hall, Evan Prokop, Joel Carlson, Kat Steiner and I took a leap across the river into St. Paul Minnesota for a day filled with actionable information that can be used to improve any digital marketing program.

If you were not able to attend, or maybe didn’t get to see all of the sessions that you would have liked, we’ve provided a helpful roundup of 5 of the takeaways that we believed were most impactful for digital marketers.

ahall

Team Member: Alexis Hall

Session: The Data-Driven Content Marketer – Sean Callahan, LinkedIn

The statement exemplifies the pain marketers have been feeling for over 75 years. Imaging the glory days of a 1950s Don Draper, when advertising was based on gut feel, seeing into the soul of the customer. Some things worked and some things didn’t.  The problem was – it was very difficult to tell which was which.

As savvy content marketers today, we certainly know more about performance than the 1950s ad man, but many of us still feel a gap when it comes to measuring content. We are ready to move beyond page views and social shares to find out if our content is really working.

Enter – big data. It’s no surprise that the amount of data is ramping up:

  • 5 Quintillion bytes of data created every day across the globe
  • 90% of existing data has been created in the last 2 years
  • 90% of buyer journey completed by the time a prospect reaches out to a salesperson

Throughout his presentation, Sean provided examples of companies like Netflix, Google, Zendesk and many more that are using data to guide their content marketing strategy.

He explained that one approach to creating relevant content is the Big Rock Approach, when one big piece of content in a period feeds other content marketing efforts.

The Big Rock Approach follows these steps:

  1. Start with keyword research: Find out what your customers asking and where that intersects with your business.
  2. Repurpose content like leftover turkey: Use tactics such as slide presentations, blogs, infographics, webinars and videos. Then drive your audience back to a gated piece of content to drive conversions.
  3. Use turkey slides to fuel your content hubs: Examples would include:
    1. Company pages
    2. Sponsored updates
    3. LinkedIn Groups
    4. SlideShare

When you are able to merge a data driven approach with truly relevant content then you can make your marketing really meaningful.

ksteiner

Team Member: Kat Steiner

Session: How to Win with the Unexpected in PPC – John Gagnon, Bing

In his session, Bing Ads Evangelist John Gagnon offered sound advice to help marketers look at solving problems in unique ways.

There were three strategies that John discussed including voice search, brand term bidding and offsite tagging. All of which can be used to help companies stay competitive with their online properties in the current digital landscape.

Voice Search

According to Gagnon, the increase in the use of voice search will alter how marketers strategize on behalf of their clients. Currently, 25% of inquiries come from a voice search. It is essential that steps are taken to target this specific audience segment.

The use of voice search is different from a typed inquiry in the following ways:

  • A searcher is mobile, so the results will change accordingly
  • A searcher is looking for local results
  • The search inquiry is shaped in a more conversational format

Brand Term Bidding

When looking to attract traffic for branded search, companies still need to utilize paid search opportunities in addition to organic strategies. By bidding on the highly visible paid space, companies can ensure less clicks go to their competitors.

Brand term bidding gives marketers control of what landing page a visitor arrives on. By maintaining visibility in the paid space for branded terms, a marketer can influence the first impression a visitor has when they arrive on their website.

Offsite Tagging

When looking for remarketing opportunities, marketers can utilize the websites of relevant business partners to gain insights. Marketers can tag the site of the business partner to see how visitors are interacting, then start collecting information to build out the audience and report on their behavior. Once relevant audience members are identified, these individuals can be retargeted at a later date.

azeckman

Team Member: Ashley Zeckman

Session: Email Marketing Trends, Tactics & Opportunities for Search Marketers – Loren McDonald, Silverpop

Loren McDonald provided some great insight into email marketing trends, as well as the convergence of email marketing and search. What stuck with me the most from his session was the opportunity for email marketing and search teams to work together, and the fact that most simply aren’t.

Below is some of the low hanging fruit that Loren mentioned in his presentation:

  1. Landing Pages: You can build a dynamic email based on the search terms that consumers used to get to your landing page.
  2. Lead Scoring: If marketing automation is being used, begin incorporating keywords into lead scoring. Keywords can be scaled higher or lower based on what was used to drive the consumer to your website.
  3. Keyword Driven Email Content: There is also an opportunity to incorporate the keywords used in search results to drive the content of your email campaigns.

eprokop

Team Member: Evan Prokop

Session: How we Can Tell a Compelling Story with our Google Analytics Data – Jeff Sauer, Jeffalytics

There are many steps involved in collecting, cleaning and categorizing data in a way that makes it prime for storytelling. Jeff Sauer provided many actionable tips in his presentation to help marketers get more from their Google Analytics data. When it comes down to it, how can marketers use data to tell a compelling story?

In order for data to be valuable, it needs to tell a story. “Traffic is up 50% over last month” doesn’t say much, but “referral traffic from the ebook campaign we launched last month helped to drive a 50% increase in total website traffic, 20% increase in soft leads and 10% increase in revenue compared to the previous month” tells a much more compelling story.

A good web analytics story not only summarizes the current situation, it leads to actionable next steps. Taking the example above, a logical and actionable next step would be to allocate additional budget to the content marketing team to concept and launch additional ebook campaigns.

That’s the kind of story that drives business decisions and leads to results, and that’s what all digital marketers should be striving for from their web analytics.

jcarlson

Team Member: Joel Carlson

Session: The Power of Real-Time Content For Any Organization – Bob Stanke, Minnesota Timberwolves

The ability to respond to a story in real-time is an incredibly difficult task. In fact, AdWeek reported that only 4% of marketers are able to create content for breaking news in real-time.

Bob Stanke opened up his session by reminding the crowd of the heart wrenching story of the Chilean miners that were stuck underground for two months in 2010. He also highlighted that Oakley quickly jumped into action and provided the miners with sunglasses to help their eyes adjust once they were finally freed. This seemingly small investment and goodwill move on Oakley’s part led to an approximately $41 million return for the company.

In his position at the Minnesota Timberwolves, Stanke and his team have to be able to respond quickly and effectively to breaking news. Below are some of the ways that they are able to set their team up for success:

Real-Time Content the Timberwolves Way

  • Conduct weekly content meetings
  • Include representatives from over 7 different departments
  • Discuss various what-if scenarios
  • Give attention to crossing storylines (Ex. Does a current player live or did they live in an area that was just hit by a disaster)
  • Focus on human-interest topics as they relate to the organization
  • Discuss ways to use exclusive content and how will it be distributed

A Behind-the-Scenes Snapshot of #MNSummit

MNSearch-Summit-Collage

The speakers at MNSearch Summit covered email marketing, PPC, using data for storytelling and so much more. Which tip above most closely aligned with your current digital marketing needs?

Disclosure: LinkedIn is a TopRank Online Marketing client.

Header Image: Shutterstock


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5 Impactful Digital Marketing Takeaways from MNSearch Summit | http://www.toprankblog.com

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9 Step Social Media Audit for Improving LinkedIn Business Page Results

LinkedIn Company Page

It’s undeniable that LinkedIn is leading the pack for professional social networks. In fact, more than half of all of the business in the world have created a business page on LinkedIn. With over 4 million business pages on LinkedIn, the competition for the attention of potential clients and job seekers is at an all-time high.

One way to take a critical look at your LinkedIn business page is to conduct a social media audit and identify areas for improvement. Understanding the elements that will help you build trust with your audience and provide a seamless brand experience for visitors navigating between your website and LinkedIn business page are incredibly important in creating a cohesive strategy.

If you know that your LinkedIn Business Page could be better, but you don’t know where to start, this guide is for you. The social media audit below identifies nine important elements of LinkedIn business profiles that can be improved in order to get more engagement from your audience, and referral traffic back to your website. Ready to see how many of these items you’re executing successfully and how many are an opportunity for improvement?

9 Step LinkedIn Company Page Audit

#1 – Identify the Right Content Mix

“Content mix” refers to the different types of content posted on your LinkedIn Company page. The first step is to analyze what types of content are published to your business page on a regular basis.

Content types can include:

  • Promotional content
  • Industry news
  • Images
  • Videos
  • Links to helpful articles

Ideally, all of these content types should be present in your content mix. Posting only one or two types of content will bore your audience. Engage your audience by posting a variety of content to your LinkedIn business page. Don’t forget to include visual content in your mix: posting images on LinkedIn can increase engagement and comments by as much as  98%!

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#2 – Establish a Cadence

How often does your brand post on LinkedIn? Are your updates posted regularly, or do days or weeks pass by with no updates? Aim to post at least one message a day on your LinkedIn business page in order to begin engaging your audience and create the expectation that visitors can discover new content on a daily basis. Posting intermittently can cause visitors to think that your LinkedIn page is unmaintained or out of date.

#3 – Post at Optimal Times of Day

Now that you know how often you’re posting, consider what time of day updates are typically posted. Do you use a social media management tool to schedule updates at specific times, or do you post updates whenever you can find the time? Scheduling your updates to post at a time of day when the majority of your followers are on LinkedIn is a great way to increase engagement with your content.

According to Fannit, the best times to post updates on LinkedIn are between 7-8 am and 5-6 pm. That’s because many LinkedIn users check their profile at the beginning or end of their work day. 

Image courtesy of QuickSprout

Image courtesy of QuickSprout

#4 – Create Consistency with Your Company Name

This seems like an easy one, but it can have a huge impact on how visitors find and perceive your LinkedIn Company page. First, search for your company’s name on LinkedIn. How many results appear? Some brands have multiple pages on LinkedIn, which can make it very difficult for visitors to know which page is the “correct” LinkedIn business page to visit. If your brand has multiple LinkedIn business pages, consider consolidating into one just one page. If your brand has multiple markets, products, or business units, create showcase pages to speak to those different segments.

Finally, ensure that the spelling on your LinkedIn business page matches the branding on your website. This will provide a consistent experience for visitors, and help them understand that this page is the “official” LinkedIn page for your brand.

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#5 – Find the Perfect Profile Picture

Take a critical look at the profile picture on your LinkedIn company page. It should be a clear, well-cropped image that showcases what your brand is all about. What’s most important is to ensure that your audience can easily recognize the profile image. Most companies opt to use the brand logo for their LinkedIn profile. This is a great way to improve brand recognition.

The image should be high resolution, and perfectly cropped. Grainy, off-centered images may give your business page an unprofessional or sloppy appearance. The size of LinkedIn profile pictures is 50×50 pixels.

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#6 – Use a Banner Image to Create Continuity

The banner image should in some way indicate what your company does. If you work for a healthcare organization, an image of a hospital may be appropriate. They say that one image is worth 1,000 words, so use an image that speaks to your company’s area of expertise. Create a custom image that overlays text over an image in order to include a message, or information about your brand in the banner image. LinkedIn banner images should be a minimum of 646×220  .

Consider changing the banner image on your LinkedIn business page on a quarterly basis to give your page a fresh, updated appearance. The banner image may correspond to a season, event, or important product offering.

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#7 – Provide a Detailed Description

Use the description section of your profile to explain what your company does. Avoid vague, industry jargon in favor of precise language and keywords that explain how your company provides value to your customers. Don’t forget that LinkedIn business page descriptions are crawled by Google, which means that you should include keywords in the description section. You should also fill out the sections provided for specialties, website, industry, type of business, address, and company size.

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#8 – Include a URL in the First Sentence of the Description

When you visit LinkedIn company pages, you’ll notice that only the first one or two sentences of the description appear, unless you click “see more.” If you’d like to drive more referral traffic to your website, either include your brand’s URL in the first sentence of the description, or keep the description short enough that visitors won’t have to click “see more” to find your website URL .

#9 – Dive Into LinkedIn Analytics

LinkedIn business page administrators should take advantage of the data collected within LinkedIn analytics. Get insight into which updates are performing best by viewing impression, click, and engagement metrics for each update. You can also see how much reach and engagement your updates receive over time. LinkedIn’s unique demographic data can show you what industries your fans and visitors are from, what their job functions are, what their seniority level is, and what size company they work for. This information can help you understand more about your audience, and their interests.

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Know When to Call in the Professionals

If you’re overwhelmed by how much time and effort it takes to conduct a social media audit, or to optimize your LinkedIn company page, it may be a sign that it’s time to call in the reinforcements. Do you feel that your LinkedIn company page could be better, but don’t have the time it takes to update and maintain it? Do you crave more expert insights and tips for improving your brand’s social media profiles? Contact TopRank Online Marketing to learn more about our social media audit services .

What are some examples of LinkedIn Company Profiles that you think are well optimized and have followed the checklist above?

Disclosure: LinkedIn, Innovatech and Uponor are all TopRank Online Marketing clients.

Header Image: Shutterstock


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Content Marketing: 4 Tips for Creating B2B Content When You’re at a Loss for Words

writers-block

Content marketing has rapidly become an essential piece of the B2B marketing puzzle. Buyers are more connected and more self-directed than ever before, and informative, engaging content is key to making sure your organization becomes part of the buyer journey.

Creating a steady stream of quality content can be challenging for any marketer, but especially for those in B2B marketing, where buyers expect to be informed and entertained at the same time. So it’s no surprise that Content Marketing Institute’s latest report found that 54% of B2B Marketers rated producing engaging content as a top challenge, and 50% said producing content consistently is a challenge.

If you’re a B2B content marketer, sooner or later you’ll likely find yourself facing a blank screen with a head full of complex information that won’t move to the keyboard. So what do you write when you don’t know what to write? Here are a few strategies to remove the block between your brain and your fingertips:

#1 – Start with Structure

If you’re like me, you hated writing outlines for school assignments. I would always draft first, then reverse-engineer the outline.

But as a professional content creator, outlines are your new best friend. Take your complex topic and imagine what your sub-headings should be to discuss the topic. That way, you won’t get hung up on word choice or phrasing and can focus on the key information you want to get across. Once the structure is in place, it will be far easier to fill in the content.

#2 – Write the 5-Year-Old Version

Recently I was writing content for a client about the importance of balancing marketing efforts across the top, middle, and bottom of the sales funnel (sometimes called ToFu, MoFu, and BoFu marketing). I was having trouble explaining it in a clear and concise way. Finally, I thought, how would I explain this to my 5-year-old son? In a matter of minutes, I wrote the following little fairy tale:

“Once upon a time there were three little goats named Tofu, Mofu, and Bofu. Tofu trip-trapped happily through the meadow all day, blissfully unaware of the troll under the bridge nearby. Mofu knew the troll lived under the bridge, but wasn’t sure how the troll affected his day-to-day life and wasn’t ready to do anything about the monster. Only Bofu had seen across the bridge to a beautiful meadow of green grass, and was ready to take steps to get rid of the troll.

The local heroes who got rid of trolls focused their attention on Bofu exclusively. He knew he had a problem and wanted someone to solve it. The heroes didn’t see that it was important to offer their services to Tofu and Mofu, and so they missed out on getting the other two goats to start thinking about their troll problem. The heroes would have had better luck selling their services to all three goats.”

Obviously, I didn’t forward my fairy tale to the client. But writing it enabled me to lay out the argument for full-funnel marketing that I was trying to make, and I finished the client draft within the hour.

The “5-year-old-version” strategy helps you to explain what you’re trying to write to yourself, which makes the grown-up version far easier to write.

#3 – Write the Conversational Version

If you don’t have a 5-year-old in your life to use as an imaginary sounding board, write the way you would talk to an old friend. You don’t ever have writer’s block in a casual conversation, right? So write the way you would talk. Even better, exaggerate the tone—let yourself be silly. Try to make yourself smile.

For example, when I get stuck I’ll write something like: “Okay, so check it out bro, this new eBook is the bomb dot com. I know you’ve got some mad problems with your content marketing, but this book is gonna drop knowledge on you. Get it, yo!” After about a paragraph of that, I’m ready to reign it in and write the professional version.

#4 – Write the Garbage Version

Voltaire said, “Perfect is the enemy of good.” Sometimes the source of writer’s block is that perfect version of the content you see in your head. So you write a few lines, they don’t measure up to the standard, and you erase everything. It’s easy to convince yourself that the version in your head is so much better than anything you could put on the screen.

But the truth is, any version of the content that exists is better than something that isn’t real. So don’t let that imaginary ideal form of the content stop you from writing.

When you get stuck trying to write the perfect words, turn off your inner editor and just write garbage. Type with your eyes closed if you can, so you’re not tempted to edit. Whatever clumsy, error-riddled, clichéd garbage you put on the screen is still better than a non-existent perfect piece. And now you have a start, something you can edit and refine until it’s worth showing to the world.

Content marketing is a business function, but it’s also a creative endeavor. As such, it’s just as subject to writer’s block as any other form of writing. When you’re stuck with that blank screen, stop thinking about creating the perfect finished piece and try for a different perspective. Write an outline to make sure your structures solid, or write a simplified version to help organize your thoughts. Write a silly version, bro, for reals. Write absolute trash. Just write something. Even the messiest first draft is the start of creating an amazing piece of content.

What is your favorite way to get past a block in your writing?

Image: Shutterstock


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