Category Archives: BUSINESS

Digital Marketing News: Predictive Analytics, Blockchain and Email Marketing Industry Report

Predictive Analytics: Predicting Customer Behavior to Improve ROI
As marketers, we’re always trying to stay ahead of the curve. But, does that curve factor in what customers or clients are looking for? This infographic shows us how predictive analytics can help do just that. Business 2 Community

IAB sets up Blockchain Working Group for advertising
Does blockchain have a place in marketing? According to recent reports, blockchain is no longer only for those trading bitcoin, it can provide a highly secure and transparent way to manage funds. MarketingLand

2017 Email Marketing Industry Report
Marketers are feeling overwhelmed. They don’t have the resources needed to do the marketing they’d like to do. This is evident in email marketing particularly because many marketers surveyed say email marketing drives ROI but it’s not integrated with their marketing strategy overall. Digital Marketing Depot

[REPORT] The State of Social Video 2017: Marketing in a Video-First World
“According to Cisco, video will make up 80% of consumer online traffic by 2020, and Mark Zuckerberg said he sees video ‘as a mega trend on the same order as mobile.’ Animoto set out to shed light on the video-first landscape.” Animoto

Apple’s New Animojis Are the Latest Sign That Brands Need to Embrace Augmented Reality
Tailing on the news of the release of Apple’s new iPhones, there is an exciting new development. What happens when you mix artificial intelligence and a leading technology company? You get, animojis! Apple’s version of the Snapchat’s Lens, this feature enables brands to connect with younger audiences in a meaningful way. AdWeek

Email Marketing To Total $22.2 Billion In 2025: Study
MediaPost reports: “The total dollar volume of email marketing will hit roughly $22.2 billion by the end of 2025, for a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19.60%, according to a study by Transparency Market Research. Last year, the annual total was U.S. $4.5 billion.” MediaPost

Google Offers Olive Branch to Publishers by Relaxing Policy on Subscription Sites
According to The Wall Street Journal – but not yet confirmed by Google – Google is ending their ‘First Click Free’ policy on paywall gated articles through SERPs. This could reportedly help publishers boost subscriptions. The Wall Street Journal

Google Search App to Suggest Related Content
Content creators rejoice! Google is reportedly now showing related content in Google searches based on what content other searchers have viewed based on their related searches. Search Engine Journal

What were your top digital marketing news stories this week?

We’ll be back next week with more top news! Need more in the meantime? Follow @toprank for daily updates.

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LinkedIn Native Video: What Works, What Doesn’t, What Marketers Need to Know

Video content is eating the internet. It started with video-specific platforms like YouTube and Vimeo. Then Twitter and Facebook added support for live and pre-recorded video. Now these insatiable moving pictures are becoming serious business: LinkedIn now supports native video.

What would compel a buttoned-down, professional networking site like LinkedIn to embrace video? Simply put, people—even businesspeople—want to watch. Fifty-nine percent of executives say that if text and video are available on the same topic, they’re more likely to choose video.

There’s no denying that marketers should embrace video content as a general rule. If your audience wants video, it’s wise for your brand to be the one supplying it. But why publish natively on LinkedIn?

Here are the upsides, downsides, and what-you-need-to-know-sides.

How to Create a LinkedIn Video

LinkedIn has been slowly rolling out its video capabilities, starting with a few influencers and expanding out from there. Most members who have the most recent version of the mobile app should have the capability now.

If your account has video enabled, you will see a camera icon available where you normally post to your feed. On mobile, you can create a video (not a live stream…yet) or upload from your photo gallery. On desktop, you can only upload a pre-recorded video. Nearly every common form of video file is supported.

To record a video, just tap the camera icon, give the app permission to access your camera, and go. To upload video, just navigate to the file you want to add and select it—there’s no learning curve there.

Your file must be at least three seconds long and no longer than 10 minutes, but LinkedIn suggests between 30 seconds and 5 minutes for better engagement. The maximum file size is five gigabytes, which should be plenty of space.

Your post will look…well, a lot like a post with an embedded video, just without the link out at the bottom:

Why Marketers Should Care about LinkedIn Video

You can already embed YouTube video in your LinkedIn feed posts, of course. But posting native video may get you more engagement. On Facebook, native videos typically get 10x more shares than embedded videos. If that trend holds for LinkedIn, you could be missing out on a substantial chunk of potential audience by linking to a YouTube video.

So native video matters—and for virtually all B2B marketers, LinkedIn matters. While Facebook videos can be dominated by memes and entertainment, the LinkedIn audience is specifically there for business. They’re browsing their feeds looking for something that can help advance their career, give them a competitive edge, or just do their jobs better. Useful, professional video content is likely to fare better on LinkedIn than on Twitter or Facebook.

The other reason to go native on LinkedIn video is LinkedIn’s analytical capability. Their demographic data is likely to be more useful to B2B marketers than Facebook’s data is. You can zero in on job function, job title, and seniority of the people who view your video. That data will help you adjust your strategy to hit and engage the right audience.

As native video is more widely adopted by its userbase, LinkedIn is likely to give it preferential treatment over embedded video. LinkedIn has already switched from a pure timeline feed to an algorithm-based feed. Just as Facebook currently gives pride of place to native videos, LinkedIn is likely to prioritize it in their feeds, too.

Downsides to LinkedIn Video

Since this is a new feature, there are some still some quirks to be ironed out, and a few features that are missing. These negatives won’t keep your video from being seen and appreciated, but they’re worth noting:

  1. No playback speed or picture quality settings. Users can’t customize the viewing experience the way they can on YouTube.
  2. It’s hard to link out. the URLs for a video-embedded post are unwieldy: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6316276929771245568/, for example.
  3. The video isn’t embeddable on other sites. It’s definitely intended for consumption on LinkedIn.
  4. Only members can post, not companies.
  5. There’s no dedicated video tab, which can make video content hard to find. I’m willing to bet some kind of tab or filter is in the works, but we don’t have it yet.

What to Use LinkedIn Video For:

Given the limitations of the format, it’s best to think of video on LinkedIn as an add-on to your current marketing strategy. Use it to build your personal brand, or go behind-the-scenes at your company, or interview co-workers and executives.

Many users are already using the format to do quick tips, like this video from Viveka Von Rosen. That kind of informal, live-shot video is an easy way to get started.

There are a few people attempting to create series on the platform, too. Building an audience for a series could be tricky without a dedicated video tab, but Mike Morgan’s Humans of LinkedIn series is making a go of it. If more people start serializing their videos, LinkedIn is likely to add tools that support the practice.

LinkedIn to the Future

If you’re marketing to a B2B audience, native video on LinkedIn is well worth a try. Instead of linking out to YouTube, upload the video natively to LinkedIn and keep an eye on how it performs. Make sure to include keywords and relevant hashtags in the post so your video is easier to find, keep an eye on your analytics, and let the data guide your next steps.

Need more help? Check out these easy ways to get started with video content marketing.

Disclosure: LinkedIn Marketing is a TopRank Marketing client.


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Top Insights, Takeaways & Favorite Moments from #SocialBrand17

For the past six years Nick Westergaard has brought speakers from around the United States to the good people of Iowa for his annual Social Brand Forum.

This event has drawn speakers like Lee Odden, Ann Handley, Joe Pulizzi, Jay Baer, Tim Washer, Scott Monty, Mitch Joel, Chris Brogan and many more!

This year, I was lucky to join some amazing speakers including Robert Rose, Melissa Agnes, Jason Falls and Marcus Sheridan as one of the speakers at this premiere Midwest event.

Since I know that many of you weren’t able to attend this awesome event, I’ve taken the liberty of pulling some of my favorite takeaways and moments from #SocialBrand17.

Nick Westergaard – The Man Who Made it All Happen

If you haven’t met Nick before, you should. He made every part of this experience amazing for speakers and attendees alike.

In addition to serving as a Chief Brand Strategist, Nick is also an author, professional speaker and an Associate Director, MBA Business Communication at the University of Iowa.

Nick believes that a scrappy approach to B2B marketing can help teams large and small get smarter with their digital marketing. His book, Get Scrappy is filled with great ideas and examples for brands looking to do just that.

Robert Rose – Reinventing Trust: The New Value of Brand Audiences & Owned Media

One of the key points of Robert’s presentation that stood out to me, was his thoughts on how technology has impacted the way we work (both positively and negatively).


Technology has enabled us to do so much that it has become a weakness. @Robert_Rose
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As we start each year, we plan to accomplish great things with our content but quickly realize we need more content, more technology and more people to get it done. But the honest truth is, more isn’t always better.

Content teams should not become asset generators that simply pump out content, the focus should be on becoming more strategic and purposeful with content planning, creation, promotion and measurement.

Yesterday also marks the release of Robert Rose and Joe Pulizzi’s new book, Killing Marketing. Keep your eye out for a review of this new book on our blog in coming weeks.

Melissa Agnes – Crisis Ready: Essential Strategies for Every Business

For most of us, the thought of a crisis doesn’t even cross our minds until we’re in the midst of experiencing one. And that is something Melissa Agnes set out to change in her presentation.

Key to successfully managing a crisis is having a crisis ready culture. A crisis ready culture is one that has developed a plan, shared the plan with the team and keeps the plan closeby in case it is needed.


Issues can escalate to a crisis but they can also present us with an opportunity. @Melissa_Agnes
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One of the biggest takeaways for the audience was the fact that an issue and a crisis are not the same and how to deal with each scenario effectively.

Jason Falls – Hacking the Conversation

True to form, Jason started off his presentation telling jokes, stories and commenting on how hot it was on stage (I can attest, it was). I have seen Jason present a few times and each time is a great experience, but there was something extra special about this presentation.

In order to participate in or “hack” conversations your customers are having, you first need to know what they are. Unfortunately a lot of these conversations happen on more closed networks like Facebook which can make it difficult to uncover what is being said.


A true understanding of your customers will make your marketing much more impactful. @JasonFalls
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Ultimately, marketers need to understand that keywords do not equal themes and raw data is not the same as actual insights.  

Marcus Sheridan – We’re All Media Companies

Marcus is a strong proponent of truly integrated sales and marketing teams. And he’s right, he’s proven how effective this approach can be. In today’s digital landscape, media is no longer reserved for publications.  

Brands have become publishers and let’s be honest, are publishing content at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, Marcus has found that most content starts as fluff when it should always start at the buyer.


More often than not, digital marketing is a program. It starts and then it ends. @TheSalesLion
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Teams must begin thinking more strategically and utilizing content intentionally in the sales process and beyond to better meet the needs of today’s savvy buyers.

Ashley Zeckman – Your Marketing Golden Ticket

When I was creating my presentation for the Social Brand Forum, I began building out some tactics that I thought the audience would find interesting, then as I thought about it further, I decided that instead of tactics, we should focus on the common hurdles that content marketers face.

As a special treat, I’ve included a copy of my deck below so that you can experience the world of Wonka on your own time (if only I could get the GIFs to work in SlideShare!).

Additional Insights From the Attendees

Below are a few of my favorite tweets shared by the conference attendees:

What Did You Learn?

Whether you were able to attend in-person, or followed along online, I’m curious to know what you found to be the most interesting tidbits of information offered at the annual Social Brand Forum.


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6 Questions to Ask Yourself When Setting Social Media Marketing Goals

In today’s digital landscape, chances are social media is a vital piece of your marketing mix. After all, people live on social platforms these days and projections show that worldwide social media users will surpass 3 billion by 2021.

But as brands and marketers fight for visibility in crowded, “algorithm-enhanced” news feeds, how many of you are actually reaching your strategic social media marketing objectives? Better yet, how many of you can say you have well-defined, relevant and measurable goals outlined within your social strategy?

As a marketer, you know there can be no strategy without goals. Goals are the foundation of your strategy, guiding every decision and tactic that comes next. But how do you define those goals?

The truth is there’s a lot to consider such as your industry, overall business objectives, budget and resources. With that said, whether you need to start from scratch or it’s time to give your goals a refresh, here are a few questions you should be asking yourself along the way:

#1 – How does social media map to my overall marketing objectives?

Your social media marketing efforts are an integral part of your entire marketing strategy. As such, the goals you set should absolutely support what you’re trying to achieve at a high level. It’s as simple as that.


Your #socialmedia goals should absolutely map to your overall #marketing objectives.
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#2 – Who is my social audience?

You know that the foundation of any marketing initiative is understanding your audience’s pain points, motivations, interests and needs. But those defining characteristics may manifest themselves a bit differently on social media. After all, social media is a personal outlet for many, so their motivations for engaging with a brand may be different than if they received an email from you or found you via search.

As a result, in order to define your social media objectives, you need to understand why your audience is on social media and what they care about most on those platforms.

#3 – How does my audience differ across social channels?

Every social media channel offers something a little unique, which means your audience may differ from channel to channel. As a result, your goals—as well as your strategy to reach those goals—should reflect that.

#4 – What does my audience expect from me?

Let’s face it. The goals you set are going to be rooted in some type of audience action. But to inspire that action, you need to think about what your audience’s expectations are and how you’ll meet them. Is it quick and empathetic customer service? Conversation? Entertainment? Helpful information and resources?

#5 – What do I really want from my social media efforts?

Brand awareness and audience engagement are typically the top goals of any social media marketing strategy. But challenge yourself to go deeper as you define your goals. For example, if community engagement is a top priority, what does that actually look like to you? Is it likes, shares, comments, reviews, website traffic or a combination of them all?


As your define your #socialmedia goals, challenge yourself to go deeper & deeper.
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#6 – Are my goals measurable?

At the end of the day, your goals have to be measurable. How else are you going to know if you’ve actually achieved what you set out to do?

In Need of More Social Media Marketing Inspiration?

Then check out these helpful resources:


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The Mighty Cheeseburger: How to Construct Your Content for the Perfect Bite

You might not know this but today, Sept. 18, is a national holiday to remember: National Cheeseburger Day. We know, we know, everyday now has an arbitrary national holiday that has little to offer outside of free food or funny tweets. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth celebrating.

For our own National Cheeseburger Day celebration, we took a look at what makes a great burger. From a perfectly toasted bun to secret sauces, there is a lot that goes into creating the perfect staple of American food. And as content marketers, we could relate to trying to find the perfect mixture of ingredients and techniques to create something that people love.

In content marketing, much like cooking, there is an overwhelming amount of options for composing content or content strategies. It can feel like there are too many cooks in the kitchen, countless ingredients to choose from, or numerous recipes to follow that it becomes impossible to form a cohesive content plan.

So to help you break down the necessities and create captivating content, we gathered four tips for constructing delicious content inspired by—you guessed it—cheeseburgers.

Toasted to Perfection

Similar to the bun on a burger, the introduction and conclusion to your content supports the meat of your message. Set yourself up for success with attention grabbing, empathetic introductions and conclusions to drive your point home. While supporting the content on the page, the introduction and conclusion sections are also great opportunities to support your business as a whole. Mentioning your experience, products, or services help highlight your expertise and reinforce your credibility.

Even more important, no one likes a soggy bun! That’s why the best chef’s place the lettuce directly underneath the patty—it keeps the juices from seeping into the bun. Keep your content clean and clear and by writing distinct section headers. This will help structure your content in an easily digestible way and make sure your thoughts are well-organized.

Grade-A Beef

Just like a burger, content without meat (or protein for our vegetarian and vegan readers) just doesn’t cut it. Your content needs to be worth your audience’s time or else it won’t produce results. The secret to noteworthy, memorable content is offering hearty advice to your readers in the form of listicles, steps, tips, or guides.

One of the best ways to create valuable content is to answer common questions your audience might have and pack your answers with statistics, quotes, and anecdotes that validate your point of view. This ensures that your audience can find a solution to their problems with your content. And because you’re answering a specific, commonly asked question, this strategy could also help improve your ranking in voice search results.

The Right Amount of Crunch

Burgers are commonly found in grills and restaurants across the country, so to keep surprising guests with new inventions, Chef’s often experiment with different food textures. The same should be done with your content marketing. As content marketers ourselves, we know that reading several blog posts each day can get boring, so why should we put our audiences through that? We need to surprise them with something different.

Create crunchy content moments of your own by producing a mix of blog posts, podcasts, videos, case studies, and more. The variety helps break up any monotony in your current content strategy and entices audiences with new formats. In fact, four times as many customers would rather watch a product video than read about it, according to Animoto. And in addition, your mix of content creates cross-linking opportunities that will potentially boost your search rankings or traffic.

Secret Sauce

A good sauce is the difference between a great burger and an excellent one. It is one of the only burger ingredients that can completely change the flavor of each bite. In terms of content, we believe that the difference between great and excellent content is an oft-talked about, yet little utilized tactic: SEO.

Add search engine flavor to your content with SEO strategies like internal linking and optimized meta descriptions, tags, and headers. But before you start jam packing your content with keywords and links, make sure your internal linking fits naturally and has keyword optimized anchor text. And because engagement and external linking is an increasingly large factor in search rankings, add click to tweets and other easy-to-share links that make it simple for readers to circulate your content.

Need More Ingredients for Your Content Marketing Recipe?

If you’re starving for more content marketing tips, learn how to master the perfect content marketing recipe with these 30 savory and sweet content ingredients.


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Digital Marketing News: Better Text Ads, Lifestyle Templates & AMP for AdWords

Seven Tips for Writing Better-Performing Expanded Text Ads [Infographic]
Writing text ads is a challenge – how can you be compelling enough to drive a conversion with such limited space? There are several tricks of the trade explored in this new infographic. MarketingProfs

Google to Advertisers: Get Your Mobile Landing Pages Ready
Google recently announced that in two weeks, AdWords advertisers can use AMP pages as landing pages for their ads. This provides a seamless user experience when searching through Google and could have implications for page rank. Search Engine Journal

The print catalog era is over — but Facebook wants to revive it on your iPhone
Do you miss the good old days of ordering from a catalog? Not many do. However, the lifestyle inspiration we all get from magazines is something that we haven’t been able to replicate as well with our digital ads. Facebook is trying to close that gap with their new ‘Lifestyle Templates’. Business Insider

Amazon Is Opening Up Its Ads Business, and Marketers See a Big Opportunity to Shake Up Search
According to AdWeek, “After testing search-based ads with agencies and brands, Kenshoo (a company that helps marketers manage search spend across platforms) is making Amazon ads readily available to all marketers through an API integration today.” AdWeek

Instagram Expands Access to Branded Content Tools
After months of testing, Instagram has granted access to advertisers to its Branded Content tools. These will allow advertisers simplify the process for working with creators (and vice versa). Social Media Today

Google responds to Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention with AdWords tracking update
The news of Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention in Safari has upset the advertising industry – but as usual, we have Google to the rescue. According to Search Engine Land, “Google has developed a new Google Analytics cookie that will be used to capture campaign and conversion data from Safari in a way that conforms with ITP.” Search Engine Land

Amazon ‘1-Click’ patent expires today, get ready for faster web-wide checkout
Amazon’s patent on ‘1-Click’ checkout has expired – this means that eCommerce platforms can now duplicate this functionality on their own sites. This is expected to reduce cart abandonment for shopping sites and make a more convenient user experience. Marketing Land

73% Of Broadband Consumers Want To Tightly Control Their Personal Data
According to MediaPost: “A large majority (73%) of U.S. broadband consumers express a desire to keep tight control over access to their personal data, with nearly half being very concerned that someone will access the data without their permission, according to a new report by Parks Associates.” MediaPost

What were your top digital marketing news stories this week?

We’ll come back next week with more top digital marketing news. Have something to share? Email the newsroom or Tweet to @toprank.

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Digital Marketing Tools & Tactics: What the Trends Tell Us

Digital Marketing Trends, Tools & TacticsAs the old saying goes: the more things change, the more they stay the same — a saying that certainly has resonance across the marketing industry right now.

As it stands, the top challenges many of us are facing in 2017 are, in essence, the same ones we’ve been battling for years. According to an expansive aggregation of digital marketing studies and reports from Getapp Lab, the industry’s top pain points include: lack of time, knowledge, and resources; difficulty converting leads into customers; and diminishing reach in an increasingly crowded digital environment.

The analysis offers a widescreen view of the current landscape for businesses, highlighting tactics that are leading the way, solutions being embraced to overcome prevalent hurdles, and emerging technologies that hint at the direction of the marketing industry for startups and enterprises alike.

With that said, below we run through some key takeaways from the roundup, as well as provide some additional insight and resources.

Don’t Sweat the Individual Techniques

Which digital marketing techniques are leading the way in 2017? Getapp shares a report from Smart Insights showing that content marketing and big data are leading the way in a preference poll, with marketing automation, mobile marketing and social media marketing not far behind.

(Photo Credit: Smart Insights)

Of course, none of these should really be viewed as disparate practices — rather quite the opposite. TopRank Marketing firmly believes in approaching digital marketing with an integrated strategy. For example, data ought to touch every branch of your marketing strategy. Mobile should be top-of-mind with all digital assets you produce. Automation can be integrated into almost every tactic for added efficiency.

But, with that said, it comes as no surprise that content and data lead the way as prioritized techniques. As our own CEO, Lee Odden, often says: “Content isn’t king. It’s the Kingdom.” So for us, these two cornerstones speak to the fundamental essence of modern marketing: understanding your audience and reaching them with relevant, best-answer content that informs, engages and inspires action.

Mobile is a Must

In today’s digital world, I think it’s safe to say that all marketers know the importance mobile plays in their digital marketing initiatives. But when companies or agencies devise and execute their marketing strategies, it typically happens in offices stocked with powerful computers and large monitors. As such, without concerted effort, it’s difficult to gain end-user perspective. But to put it bluntly, it’s no longer an option. It’s an imperative for success.

As Getapp’s report notes, mobile usage surpassed desktop a few years ago and now the gap is growing. Google’s mobile-first index punishes websites that aren’t responsive, and so do the users themselves, who are five times more likely to leave a site that hasn’t been optimized for the small screen.

via GIPHY

Check out our post 4 Elements of a Mobile Strategy That All Marketers Should Pay Attention To for more insight.

Tools of the Trade

Operating in this constantly shifting domain can test one’s mettle. As a marketer, you’re busy enough doing your job and servicing clients or customers; add in a perpetual need to adapt as trends evolve, and nobody could be blamed for feeling overwhelmed.

The good news it that we live in an age of accessible tools for everything. The Getapp Lab report helpfully lists several solutions across categories such as Hootsuite for social media management, HubSpot for marketing automation and MailChimp for email marketing.

So, if you’re struggling with any of the three core challenges mentioned at the outset — lacking resources, conversion gridlock and dwindling reach — it’s worth investigating how new or additional tools might aid your efforts and enable you get more out of existing assets.

If you’re looking for a little help, check out our post on 100+ Digital Marketing Tools to Help You Become A More Effective Marketer.

Other Nuggets Worth Noting

Among the many digital marketing trends in the Getapp report, here are a few others that caught our eyes:

  • Segmented email campaigns have a 14.3% higher open rate than non-segmented campaigns. Are you still relying on spray-and-pray? (Source: MailChimp)
  • Twenty eight percent of marketers consider video to be a key channel for driving growth. I’d wager this figure will at least double within the next year or two. (Source: GetResponse)
  • Technical SEO is important, but 72% of marketers still say relevant content creation is their most effective draw for search traffic. (Source: HubSpot)

Future Fix

In wrapping up its snapshot of where digital marketing stands in 2017, Getapp’s aggregated report concludes with a look ahead, highlighting three frontiers that are distinctly visible on the horizon: artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality and virtual reality.

While they’re still in relatively youthful stages, these technologies open new possibilities surrounding automated customer service (chatbots!), interactive or experiential marketing (glasses and headsets), gamification and more. For example, when it comes to AI search engine developments at Google, our own Kevin Cotch, SEO Manager, said it best:

“Artificial intelligence will change, and has been, changing how search marketers should be optimizing websites [and content],” he says. “We have a lot of opportunity to focus on aspects that will provide a better experience for our users than traditional tactics like optimizing the metadata of a page. Of course, those metrics will still hold some relevance to search engines, but we can instead focus on what really matters to users.”

Check out our post, Back to the Future: 5 Marketing Predictions That Were Right on the Money, to get a look at where we’ve been, where we’re going and gain hopefully gain some insights that will allow you to put some of the recurring challenges you’re facing to bed for good.

Interested in reading the entire report from GetApp Lab, check it out here.

Right now, what are your biggest marketing obstacles and favorite tools for overcoming them? Feel free to share in the comments section below.

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Our Top 11 Content Marketing Takeaways from #CMWorld 2017

Last week, thousands of marketers from all over the world descended on the Rock N’ Roll capital of the world, Cleveland, OH, for the seventh annual Content Marketing World Conference and Expo.

Featuring more than 130 speakers, keynotes and panelists, dozens of different tracks, and a whole lot of orange, the four-day event was exciting and inspiring. And the TopRank Marketing team was out in full-force, providing live coverage, learning from some of the best in the business, dancing to 80s classics and making new connections.

While it’s nearly impossible to distill all the inspiring insights we collected during the event into this one post, we’re going to try. Below we share a handful of insights that really resonated with our team.

#1 – Shoot for resonance — not reach.

Content marketing was born out of the need to satisfy our audience’s thirst for knowledge and to satisfy their questions. But with so much content out there these days — it’s more important than ever to ensure your strategy is hyperfocused on who you audience is, what they need from you, and what will truly resonate — not just reach — your audience.

During his keynote address on opening day, Jay Acunzo, creator and host of Unthinkable.fm, encouraged the room to start thinking ourselves — not just rely on industry best practices — and have a renewed focus on creating content that makes meaningful connections with our audience.

“When we pay more attention to the customer than to the industry, then the customer will pay more attention to us,” Acunzo stated. “[We need to] stop focusing on reach and start focusing on resonance.”


Stop focusing on reach & start focusing on resonance. – @jayacunzo #CMWorld
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#2 – All you need is less.

It’s certainly no secret that we’re living in a world of content abundance. But if we want to create content that really resonates and makes our audience feel something, we need to remember that less is more, according to prolific writer, marketer and speaker Ann Handley.

Using the classic E.B. White novel, Charlotte’s Web, Handley declared the title character the best content marketer in the world. Using just four phrases — Some pig, terrific, radiant and humble — Charlotte was not only able to save little Wilbur’s life, but also make Farmer Zuckerman believe and feel he had something special.

“Think of how Charlotte was able to save a life with just [a few] words,” Handley challenged her audience. “How can we use our words more intentionally? How can we make a difference?”

The bottom line? You don’t need more content. You need better content. Content that helps your audience see, feel, taste, hear and touch the story you’re telling.


How can we use our words more intentionally to make a difference with our content? @annhandley #CMWorld
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#3 – Stories are all around you — and mostly right under your nose.

Marketers often feel they don’t have the time, budget or resources to effectively create compelling, story-driven content. But, according to GE’s Chief Marketing Officer Linda Boff, inspiration is closer than you may think.

As Boff imparted her experience and knowledge onto the crowd during her keynote address, one of her most compelling slides simply said: “Stories are right under your nose — we just might need to change the lense every now and then.”

So, leverage the people, resources and data that you do have to iterate on how you tell your story and come up with new ideas.


Stories are right under your nose. – @lindaboff #CMWorld
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#4 – Give everyone a seat at the content marketing table.

Quality content is the foundation of every marketing strategy. And while you may think the success of your content marketing initiatives rests in the capable and creative hands of your marketing team members, you may be missing out on a big internal opportunity.

According to Jillian Hillard, the Director of Brand and Product Marketing for Electrolux Home Care and SDA, North America, getting the content marketing buy-in of key players from multiple departments can give your strategy wings.

“Everyone needs to have a seat at the table in the beginning,” Hillard said. “This creates community of openness, trust, camaraderie, support and gets everyone excited about the new journey.”

Some of the departments — or characters as Hillard said — that need your consideration could be: product development, sales, finance and customer service.

“Once your organization [as a whole] sees the value, then content marketing becomes contagious,” she said.


Once your org sees the value, then #contentmarketing becomes contagious. – @JillianHillard
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#5 – Design video content to hold attention.

Video content marketing has gone from the next big thing to the current big thing. Brands that pump out a ton of text-based content are now flooding the attention marketplace with video. And just as we had to learn how to make content work for marketing, we’re all still figuring out how to make effective marketing video. That’s where the incomparable Andrew Davis, an author and in-demand speaker, provided some insight.

While we like to think our audience will click play and hang on to the end where our CTA lives, we know they bail early. So, our goal needs to be to occupy their interest and their desire to know over time. And to put it simply, it’s not lack of attention span that causes our audience to bail or become disinterested. It’s the lack of content designed to hold attention.


We earn attention by satiating the audience’s desire to know over time. @DrewDavisHere #CMWorld
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#6 – Influencer marketing success is built on relationships.

Influencer marketing is booming — and it’s not hard to see why. Influencers add insight, credibility and authority to content, as well as help spread your message to new and larger audiences.

But as TopRank Marketing’s own CEO, Lee Odden, said during his presentation on enterprise influencer marketing: “There are a lot of cowboys out there. … A lot of people are just shooting from the hip when it comes to influencer marketing.”

As a result, if you want to create a dynamic influencer program, your strategy needs to have the perfect balances of great content and strong influencer relationships.

“The stronger your relation and community, the stronger the amplification of the content will be,” he said.


Stronger #influencer relationships = stronger the #content amplification. – @leeodden #CMWorld
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#7 – Content should focus on the why — not the what.

During her session, Lisa Mattson, Director of Marketing & Communications for Jordan Vineyard & Winery, shared how their video-centric strategy is winning over their audience. But one insight bomb that she dropped goes beyond video:

Simply put, it all comes down to storytelling. You need a compelling narrative that’s hyper-focused on why your organization does what it does if you want to connect with and engage your audience.


People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. – @lisamattsonwine #CMWorld
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#8 – Prioritize work to guard against burn-out.

As Workfront’s Heather Hurst and Nordstrom’s Erica Gunn put it: It’s time to stop killing your content team. Your copywriters likely have a full plate and asking them to do more with less won’t work for long. So, if you want to keep your team happy and productive, you need to find a balance between what’s urgent and what’s important.

A project management system like Workfront can absolutely help ease this burden, but it’s also essential to make time for unplanned work. Hurst and Gunn suggested planning for approximately 60% of your team’s tasks so you have 40% wiggle room.


Budget time for unplanned work. – @heatherbhurst & Erica Gunn #CMWorld
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#9 – Stop telling your audience how amazing you are.

As comedian and marketer Tim Washer told the room during his session, when we use amazing words over and over again, they have the amazing ability to lose their amazing meaning. So, if you want to create video that is full of joy for your viewer, you need to stop telling people your company is amazing. Rather, you should start telling them stories and let them reach their own conclusion.


Stop telling people your company is amazing. Tell them stories & let them reach their own…
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#10 – Make culture your ‘North Star.’

According to adidas’ Frank Thomas, the digital world is so complex and volatile that our go-to tools for audience identification are no longer sufficient. Personas, scenarios, observed past behavior — they all change as fast as we can construct them.

So, instead of trying to become what an ever-changing audience wants, why not make culture your north star? According to Thomas, if you’re able to define what your brand stands for and you can become a beacon to your most valuable audience.


Instead of trying to become what your audience wants, make culture your North Star. – @framatho #CMWorld
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#11 – Data-driven content isn’t about the facts and figures.

Data. Data. Data. It’s safe to say all marketers agree that data provides the necessary insight to help us optimize content performance, personalize content and prove business value. But the thing is: data in a vacuum isn’t insightful or helpful. In the end, it’s not about the facts and figures themselves; it’s about how we shape that data into compelling stories.

According to Analytics Advocate at Google, Adam Singer, that’s where data visualization can come in pretty handy. Singer recommended “storyboarding” your visualizations before you even pull the data in. Nail down who you’re talking to, what questions you’re answering, and the story you’re telling before you create a single chart.


Storyboard your visualizations before pulling in data. – @AdamSinger #CMWorld #datavisualization
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Share Your Top #CMWorld Takeaways

If you were one of the thousands of content marketers in attendance, we invite you to share some of your favorite moments, insights and takeaways, too. Share them with us in the comments section below.


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4 Tips to Stop Killing Your Content Team from Workfront & Nordstrom

The pressure is on! Content marketers are being expected to create more with less. And often, that means creating more content without adding additional team members.

Unfortunately, the content copywriters are often the ones that bear the brunt of these situations which can be exhausting and cause content burnout.

To help ease the pain, Workfront’s Heather Hurst and Nordstrom’s Erica Gunn shared some great tips to help you scale work with the resources you have in their presentation at Content Marketing World.

Want to keep your content team happy and productive? Here’s what to do:

#1 – Build a Business Case

Ok listen up, this part is important:

Before you start anything, you need to understand why you’re doing it and whether it rolls up to the most important goals of your company.

Once you’ve developed your goals, it’s time to develop a strategic breakdown that will help you execute. Some key questions to ask include:

  • What are you trying to accomplish?
  • How will you measure success?
  • Are you working on the right things?
  • What’s not going to help you succeed? Eliminate it!

Ultimately, customer data should help make content decisions. Traditionally, Nordstrom relied heavily on gut instincts combined with trends to lead their content strategy. Now, they’ve taken a much nimbler approach that includes weekly meetings so that the team can pivot quickly, as well as measurement of content daily, monthly and quarterly. This enables short-term and long term adjustments to planning and creation based on content goals.

#2 – Manage & Prioritize Work Requests

When you have fully tapped content resources, it comes down to finding the balance between what is urgent, and what is important.

Also, utilizing a project management system like Workfront (which we use at our agency), can help teams identify what should be prioritized when there is simply too much to get done.

It’s essential to make time for unplanned work as well. If you’re able to plan for approximately 60% of your team’s tasks, then that leaves 40% of available time to handle last-minute or unplanned items.

#3 – Leverage Existing Content to Build Assets

One of the most overlooked opportunities for creating great content efficiently is to repurpose existing content. And while many marketers talk about content repurposing as a tactic, few are doing it effectively.

To make repurposing simple, start by tagging content appropriately so that you have an easy way to look it up in the future.

Last year, our CEO Lee Odden developed a great blog post that covered 50 influencer marketing fails, many of which came from influencers themselves. After seeing some great success with this post (over 2,000 shares), we decided to turn it into an ungated SlideShare that featured insights from some of the influencers, but also included some new ways to win at influencer marketing. To date this SlideShare has had over 37,000 views!

#4 – Manage Change

In their presentation, Erica and Heather shared three ways to enact change:

  1. Communicate: Create a case and share it with your leadership team that includes recommendations for more structured intake, prioritization and resource management.
  2. Model: Make an effort to change your own intake, prioritization and resource management behaviors. That way everyone else can see that you’re doing it differently.
  3. Reinforce: Reward team members that are following suit or participating in the change of these new behaviors and consider consequences for those who are following the old behaviors.

A Happy Team is a Productive Team

When you get caught up in the day-to-day, it can be difficult to make time for evolving process. However, think about the amount of time you will save by throwing out antiquated content process and let’s be frank, looking for new talent if your team gets burnt out.

Start by collecting data about what is and isn’t working. From there, you can develop your plan, implement and then reassess and optimize your approach.

What have you found to be your biggest challenges in creating a manageable workload for your content team?


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How to Find the Stories in Your Data for Compelling Reporting

Google Analytics Data Visualization Adam Singer

Our hyper-connected digital world is defined by an overabundance of data. Everything’s measurable, trackable, and quantifiable. Want to know how many people died on screen in your favorite movie? Or how much ice cream the average American eats per year? The data’s at your fingertips.

The ready availability of data is great for marketers. It helps us optimize performance, personalize content, and prove our value to the business.

But data in a vacuum isn’t informative or useful. It’s not about the facts and figures themselves; it’s about how we shape that data into compelling stories.

As an Analytics Advocate at Google, Adam Singer has years of experience finding and revealing the meaningful narrative in datasets. His presentation at Content Marketing World 2017 was all about how to create clean, informative, compelling data visualizations.

Here’s a quick visual summary of his entire presentation, courtesy of Kingman Ink:

My favorite part is the lizard that represents your limbic brain. Visuals cut straight to that reflexive part of your brain, making a point quicker than listing facts and drawing conclusions.

Here’s how Adam suggests creating data-based visuals that speak directly to our inner lizards.

#1:  Prepare Data for Analysis

Great data visualization starts with…well…data. More than that, it starts with a meaningful and manageable data set. The data you choose to include should be tailored to both the story you want to tell and the audience that’s going to receive it. For an example, when pulling internal data, your CEO might just want to know whether marketing is contributing to revenue. By contrast, your CMO will want revenue, engagement, and sales enablement data.

Adam recommends these three steps for data analysis:

  1. Filtering: Make sure you’re getting high quality data. For example, in your website analytics, exclude bot and spam traffic from your traffic reports.
  2. Sorting: Use the sorting that makes the most business sense. In most cases, a combined and weighted sort will be the most useful, organizing data along two variables.
  3. Grouping: In Google Analytics, you can group data into categories. This can help you create more specific, focused visualizations.

#2: Tell Your Data Story

With the data in hand, you can create a visualization. Aim to create an image so simple, specific, and clean that it’s readable at a glance. In other words, the opposite of this: 

Notice how your eyes flick back and forth between the legend and the chart, trying to make sense of it all. Compare that chart to this one:

There’s a mountain of data behind that visualization, but you can instantly grasp the point: vaccines eliminate diseases.

Such a stunning visual doesn’t happen by accident. It takes careful planning. Adam recommends “storyboarding” your visualizations before you even pull the data in. Nail down who you’re talking to, what questions you’re answering, and the story you’re telling before you create a single chart.

#3: Best Practices for Compelling Data Reporting

As with any kind of storytelling, the best way to visualize your data depends on your audience and your story. But there are some consistent best practices to follow. Adam recommends following these guidelines for visualizations in your internal reporting, regardless of audience or intent:

  1. Keep charts and graphs simple. Don’t graph every data point–just enough to show the trend. Focus on what matters most to your story.
  2. Tell the user what the point is. Your audience shouldn’t have to guess at the conclusion you want them to draw: Put it right in the title of your visualization.
  3. Don’t spin the data. Ever. The point of data visualization is to get at the facts, not obscure them. Don’t abuse your audience’s trust with misleading visuals.
  4. Make reporting part of your process. It’s easy to think of reporting as something tacked on to the end of a campaign, a final housekeeping task. Better to see reporting as vital to our ongoing marketing efforts and approach it with dedication and enthusiasm.
  5. Use the right data for the right stakeholder. Make sure you personalize your reports for different audiences, sticking with only the most relevant data for each.
  6. Be creative and have fun. Solutions like Google Data Studio make it easy to pull in data and play with visualizations. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Data Points

When done properly, a single chart or graph can convey paragraphs of information at a single glance. Choose your data carefully, keep your visualizations simple and purposeful, and you can create a report far more compelling than a list of stats and figures could ever be.

Speaking of beautiful data visualization, have you seen our interactive influencer marketing infographic?

 

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