Category Archives: BUSINESS

Values in Marketing: How Taking a Stand Boosts Your Business

What do Home Depot, Ikea, Dillard’s and REI have in common?

They all will be closed for Thanksgiving this year, joined by dozens more major retailers. REI in particular will remain closed through Black Friday as well. On some of the biggest shopping days in the U.S., these retail giants are encouraging potential customers to stay home.

On the surface, it seems like a risky move. At worst, these brands risk losing customers to competitors, and at best they’re out a substantial chunk of sales revenue.

But major players in the industry don’t get that way by giving away money. They know that leading with their values is good for business. They saw Black Friday slowly encroach into Thanksgiving, and chose to support the idea that the holiday should be a day of rest, not a marathon of bargain-hunting.

As an early adopter, REI serves as a case study to the business power of leading with your values. The sporting goods retailer stayed closed on Thanksgiving and Black Friday in 2015, branding the initiative the Opt Outside campaign. The message was simple: Instead of shopping, go out and get in touch with nature. It was a potent idea, perfectly consistent with the brand’s core values. And the gamble paid off: REI saw a 9.3% increase in revenue, a 7% increase in store sales, and a 23% increase in digital sales for 2015.

It’s not just about choosing to close your business on a particular day, of course. It’s about broadcasting your brand’s values, and showing the courage of your convictions by following through on them. Consumers tend to favor that kind of boldness.

Here’s why leading with your brand’s values can be a boost to your marketing.

Differentiate Your Business

In the always-on digital world, a lot of the key differentiators brands used to rely on cease to matter. The hardware store downtown is open an hour later, so you shop there. The bank down the street always has extra tellers and shorter lines, so you choose to bank there. The local supermarket has the best deals on produce, so get your apples and bananas there.

Price and convenience are getting harder to compete on. One of the few remaining differentiators is what a brand stands for. TOMS shoes, Dove, Always and adidas are just a few brands using culture as a content marketing strategy. And the strategy is paying off – a recent study from Cone Communications found that 87% of consumers use values as a guide for making purchase decisions.

Define Your Audience

Some brands focus on pulling in the largest audience possible. To avoid turning off any potential customers, they avoid making controversial statements – and eventually statements of any kind. The problem is, “inoffensive” can quickly turn into “bland.” Sure, no one hates a bland brand. But no one loves them, either. And the worst part is, the majority of people that might be turned off by a brand’s values were likely never going to be customers in the first place.

When you lead with your values, you may turn away some people. But the trade-off is energizing the people who share your values, inspiring brand loyalty and ambassadorship. Starbucks is a perfect example of this phenomenon. When they announced they would hire 10,000 refugees, some people boycotted the brand. But a far larger group became more loyal, resulting in a net win for the company.

Inspire Your Employees

The people who work for your organization are the single largest underutilized marketing force you have. On average, employees tend to have ten times the connections on social media than the brand they work for. And people are more likely to trust messaging that comes from other people rather than a brand’s social accounts.

If you can inspire your employees to be brand ambassadors, you can be more credible to your existing audience and reach vast untapped audiences as well. Leading with your values is one way to give employees that inspiration. Communicate your brand values internally to make sure everyone shares the vision, then encourage employees to post on social media when they see those values in action.

Go Against the Flow

When some retailers started opening earlier and earlier on Black Friday – eventually cutting into Thanksgiving itself – most businesses followed suit. But a special few had the courage to lead with their values, buck the trend, and start a counter-movement, and their efforts have paid off. That kind of values-based marketing has proven to be a powerful differentiator, helping businesses find new audiences and inspire their employees to be brand ambassadors.

Whether you spend your weekend shopping or relaxing with family, come back to work Monday ready to put your brand’s values in action. Because values-driven, purpose-led marketing is something we all can be thankful for.

What’s your favorite story of a brand taking a values-driven stand? Let me know in the comments.


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Content Conversations: Top Content Marketing Lessons Learned in 2017

One of the best ways to improve your skills as a content marketer is to learn from the successes and failures of other marketers. And as we near the end of 2017, many marketers are reflecting on what has (and hasn’t) worked in the past year and looking to what this means for content goals and plans for the coming year.

It doesn’t matter if you are a team of one or a team of one hundred, outside insights can be incredibly valuable for improving your approach to content marketing.

Since we know you’re likely busy working, wrapping up 2017 and planning for 2018, we’re here to help. Recently we had the chance to sit down (or stand up?) for some great content conversations with some of today’s top marketers.

Below you’ll find their top content lessons learned in 2017 as well as how you can apply these insights to your own content marketing approach.

Don’t Be Afraid to Take Risks

In a profession with so many moving parts and fast-paced changes, it can be easy to become risk averse. The problem is, if you don’t take risks to create great, more impactful content, your competition will, and your audience will follow.

Content risks don’t have to mean completely changing your approach. It can be slight tweaks and tests along the way to improve performance and innovate.


Ann Handley
Chief Content Officer, MarketingProfs

“More marketers are getting comfortable taking risks because sometimes our very best work comes out of us taking a risk.” @annhandley tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • What are some small risks that you can begin taking today to improve your approach to content marketing?
  • How can you work testing new content approaches into your routine?
  • What can you learn from other marketers that are having success with innovation?

Make Owned Content a Cornerstone

It’s no secret that social networks and content on 3rd party websites are a great way to attract your audience. Ultimately though, these approaches should be used as a means to draw people to owned content on your website.

Social algorithms change constantly and you’ll find that if you put the majority of your efforts into building relationships on those platforms, you can lose that audience faster than you gained it.


Joe Pulizzi
Author & Keynote Speaker

“Use social media platforms to get your audience to your own content so you create a direct connection.” @joepulizzi tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • Which platforms are currently the biggest drivers of audience members to your owned content?
  • How can social networks and other credible websites become part of your strategy for driving visitors to your website?

Focus on Quality Content

As more and more brands become publishers, that means that a huge influx of content has been hitting the search results and inboxes of your target customers. Unfortunately, a lot of what is out there is not at the level of quality that it needs to be to provide value.

That means, customers are becoming overwhelmed by crappy content and are in dire need of quality content created for them by marketers who understand their top needs.


Chris Brogan
CEO, Owner Media Group

“There should be a big, wide-open playing field for marketers that are passionate and make real business happen.” @chrisbrogan tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • What would it take to create high-quality content on a consistent basis?
  • Should content quantity be reduced in order to focus on impact?
  • Can your team truly identify the difference between low and high-quality content?

Pay Attention to Distribution

All too often, content distribution and amplification are either ignored, or treated as an afterthought when creating content. At the end of the day, we are marketers that are responsible for the performance of the content that we creates which means giving distribution the time and attention it deserves.


Alexandra Rynne
Content Marketing Manager – Marketing Solutions, LinkedIn

“Give your content room to breathe and focus on what works and what doesn’t so you can approach it better next time.” @amrynnie tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • Are you creating content for content’s sake or is your content tied to business objectives?
  • How can you give content distribution and amplification the same attention as creation?
  • Are you documenting which forms of content distribution are effective? And which ones aren’t?

Eliminate Marketing Buzzwords

It doesn’t matter if you create content for a B2C or B2B audience, the key is connecting with people. When marketers focus on creating product, solutions or services based content, they’re ignoring the true needs of their audience.

Buying audiences don’t care about marketing buzzwords, they want to know what problems you can help them solve. This requires creating a true connection and providing honest and helpful content based on what their top needs are.


Tim Washer
Writer & Producer, Cisco

“Instead of trying to change what people say, we need to change how people think.” @timwasher tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • Is our content focused on the message we want to send or the true needs of our customers?
  • How much do we actually know about what our target audience wants and needs?  

Invest in Dedicated Content Marketing Staff

You wouldn’t hire a plumber to do your drywall or a professor to act as an electrician. The same can be said for your marketing team. While there are some marketers that can fulfill multiple roles, now more than ever it’s critical to work with a dedicated content marketing staff.

That can mean hiring full-time resources in-house and/or partnering with an agency that has expertise in your industry.


Dayna Rothman
VP of Marketing & Sales Development, BrightFunnel

“One of the most important things your team needs is a dedicated resource to run content.” @dayroth tweet this

Ask Yourself:

  • Who in my organization is truly responsible for content?
  • Are we setting content teams up for success?
  • Do we need outside help to scale our content marketing program?

Document Your Content Strategy

While we are seeing a 1-2% increase each year in marketers who have a documented content strategy, we are still nowhere near to 50%. Your content strategy should be your guide for all content you create and serve as an anchor point if your team ever starts to get off track.

Without a documented strategy, it is MUCH more difficult to meet business objectives and make a case for content’s place within your organization.


Chris Moody
Content Marketing Leader, GE Digital

“Your content strategy is the single most important document you’ll create. It’ll make you more productive and it’ll be used internally on a regular basis.” @cnmoody tweet this

What Content Lesson Did You Learn in 2017?

If we are going to move forward and improve content in 2018, it’s essential to reflect on what we’ve learned in 2017. Some lessons are easy and others are plagued with difficulty. As you reflect on the past year, think about your biggest content lesson learned. Feel free to share in the comments below!

Disclosure: BrightFunnel is a TopRank Marketing client.


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What All Marketers Can Learn from Fast Food Giants Crushing Twitter

There’s little doubt among marketers that social media is an important part of their strategic digital marketing mix. After all, social media is part of the fabric of our daily lives—and arguably our identities. In fact, it’s estimated that there are 1.96 billion social media users worldwide—with that number expected to grow to 2.5 billion by 2018.

But increasing adoption and content saturation, as well as changing algorithms and the rising tide of paid social advertising, means all brands are facing stiff competition for audience attention and engagement. So, what’s a marketer or brand to do?

The answers don’t lie in posting more frequently, adding more visuals or adding more channels to your mix. From my perspective, it’s all about developing your brand’s identity in a way that not only provides a real-time glimpse into what your company is all about, but also gives your audience a unique and tasty experience. And that’s where some of our favorite fast food brands such as Wendy’s, KFC and McDonald’s can provide us a little food for thought.

How? Read on to get a taste of what we can all learn from three recognizable fast food brands.

#1 – Acknowledging and engaging your competitors can actually help you stand out.

For some time now, Wendy’s—known for their motto of “fresh never frozen beef”—has been heralded as a leader in, well, roasting anybody and everyone on Twitter—including the trolling of its competition.

Most recently, Wendy’s was challenged to a duel with Wingstop, a chicken wing restaurant chain that grown to more than 1,000 locations around the world.

Wingstop put out a poetic, rap-style tweet in early October. Another user, @Fatlaz901, brought Wendy’s into the mix by challenging them to “step up” their game.

Wendy's Trolling on Twitter

And then the rap battle ensued over who had the better product ensued. Here’s one of my favorite excerpts—and the engagement metrics speak for themselves:

Wendy's & Wingstop Twitter Battle

The takeaway here is not to simply start trolling your competition. The point is that a little friendly competition can go a long way—and I think that can extend beyond your social channels, too.

#2 – Social customer care is an opportunity ripe for the taking.

Currently, McDonald’s is the world’s second largest restaurant chain, coming in behind Subway and boasting more than 36,000 outlets in 119 countries. For years, McDonald’s trademark “I’m lovin’ it” slogan has helped convey its desire to make quality food and deliver quality service that their customers will love—and that commitment is an intrinsic part of their social media strategy.

In addition to its official Twitter page for the USA, McDonald’s actually has another handle, @Reachout_mcd, dedicated to fielding customer gripes and answer questions. Most recently, McDonald’s announced that it would be bringing back its Szechuan Sauce in a “super-limited” fashion—aka releasing the sauce for just one day at select stores. Well, Szechuan Sauce lovers everywhere were not only miffed about the limited release, but also how quickly it “sold out” of participating locations.

Not only did McDonald’s openly address many of its customers public dismay on Twitter, it got to work to fix the problem.

McDonald's & Szechuan Sauce

What can marketers learn from this example? Marketers, particularly those managing social media, have to stop thinking customer service is not “someone else’s problem.” As social customer care expert and McDonald’s Senior Director of Global Social Media, Dan Gingiss, told me in his Behind the Marketing Curtain interview earlier this year:

“When we interrupt people’s social media feeds with marketing messages, we hope that they will engage with our fun and interesting marketing content. But sometimes, all we do is remind them that they had some other problem with our brand. Since social media is the first and only channel where customers can talk back, marketers need to listen and engage.”

#3 – Social media can be a vivid extension of your brand.

Finally, last month, the internet went bonkers after Twitter user Mike Edgette discovered that KFC’s official Twitter account followed just 11 people: All five members of 90s pop group the Spice Girls, as well as six random guys named Herb. Of course, this cleverness pays homage to the secret blend of 11 herbs and spices used in the making of KFC’s chicken. On the off chance you didn’t see this, here’s how Edgette broke the news to the world.

KFC 11 Twitter Followers

But, as you may already know, the story doesn’t stop there. KFC reportedly went above and beyond to recognize Edgette’s discovery, tracking him down and sending him an unbelievably awesome and hilarious gift:  A personalized letter from Colonel Sanders “himself,” a boat load of gift cards, and perhaps the most amazing of all, a painting featuring Edgette triumphantly receiving a piggy back ride from the Colonel.

Colonel Sanders & Mike Edgette Painting Tweet

For me—and I’m sure you may agree—this serves as an ultimate example of thinking outside the box, and intertwining your brand’s core messaging and mission across channels to bring it to life.

Find Your Unique Flavor

Every brand has a story to tell—and social media platforms can help you bring that story to life and season it with the voices of your community. If you’re looking to craft your recipe for success, check out our post 8 Important Questions Your Social Media Marketing Strategy Must Answer.

What other fast food restaurants have you grown to admire on social media? Tell us in the comments section below.


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Digital Marketing News: Social Storefront, The Trust Project and Facebook’s New App

Social Content is the New Storefront [Infographic]
Regardless what others might say, social content is here to stay. Instead of heading to local storefronts, consumers are now heading to social media platforms to find what they need in the in and off-season. Social Media Today

Google tries to bring more transparency to news content with help from The Trust Project
Google has teamed up with The Trust Project that works with over 75 news organizations to determine the difference between quality and promotional content that may be plagued with misinformation. Search Engine Land

Facebook’s New App Connects Creators With Video, Fans And Watch Shows
Facebook is on the hunt for new influencers and wants to see how these experts interact with their networks. Their new app will give “internet stars” a chance to publish, edit and film live video with their audiences. AdAge

Google’s Big Daddy Update: Big Changes to Google’s Infrastructure & the SERPs
Big Daddy has been on the scene since 2005 as part of infrastructure changes. And while it hasn’t always been a fan favorite, it has impacted the approach to SEO. Search Engine Journal

The State Of Subscription Video, In 5 Charts
With more and more content publishers and brands looking to video as the new frontier, many are also looking to monetize their offerings. But how well does subscription video perform in our current content landscape? Digiday

Google aims to make apps for Google Assistant more functional and discoverable
Are homes getting smarter with the help of Google? According to Google, they are making a number of updates to make it easier for third party apps to integrate and develop specific items for key users. Search Engine Land

The Huge Impact of Amazon This Holiday Season (And How Retailers Can Compete)
It’s getting even harder to compete with larger retailers during the holiday season. In fact, a new report found that shoppers expect to make at least one purchase for Amazon. Where does that leave other retailers during the holiday season? MarketingProfs

LinkedIn lets advertisers generate leads from Sponsored InMail, Dynamic Ad campaigns
As of April (no fools) LinkedIn launched their lead gen forms which let advertisers collect information through Sponsored Content Ads.Now, these options are available to members using the Sponsored InMail ad format which has enabled brands to add their own questions to the forms. MarketingLand

What were your top digital marketing news stories this week?

We’ll be back next week with more digital marketing news! If you need more in the meantime, follow @toprank on Twitter or leave your thoughts in the comments.

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How B2B Brands are Getting Creative on Twitter with 280 Characters

Could you imagine pulling an Oreo cookie out of its sleeve to find four chocolate wafers and two layers of cream filling? Or taking home a six-pack of beer and somehow discovering 12 bottles crammed inside?

It’d be discombobulating to say the least, and that’s how many of us marketers are feeling about Twitter’s recent decision to double its character limit to 280. The 140-character tweet felt as natural and familiar as 10 organic listings on a search engine results page. Now, the game has changed completely.

Bigger isn’t always better, of course. If brands simply take this opportunity to double down on their promotional messaging or stack hashtags, it’s not going to create a better experience for users. The real opportunity, as our Caitlin Burgess explained last month when previewing the Twitter character expansion, “is to discover whether or not you can use that extra space to deliver more value and resonance to your audience.”

Now that the 280-character format has been rolled out in earnest, we thought we’d find a few examples of B2B brands that are taking advantage in creative and exemplary ways. If you’re trying to determine how this alteration can fit within your social media marketing approach, take a cue from the clever uses below.

Quirky Brand Plays

What does your company represent? What’s a gag that only people within your niche will truly understand? The character extension opens up new avenues for playful punnery with your followers.

For instance, this was tech conglomerate Cisco’s first foray into the #280characters hashtag:

Illumina, a genetic research solutions firm, took a similar tact with this gloriously geeky genome sequence:

Demonstrate Practical Uses

As a social media management platform, HootSuite is uniquely invested in Twitter’s latest pivot, so when announcing they’d integrated the update for their users, they also showed off a smart way to utilize the extra space:

One of the imperatives for online writing is to keep blocks of text in short, digestible chunks so that scanning readers won’t gloss over them. As this tweet shows, you can now incorporate that mindset on Twitter.

Add Substance to Your Link Teases

Properly setting up an article link with an informative and compelling tease could be challenging when you only had 120 characters (the link itself, of course, would take up 20). Now, we have much more room to summarize our content and explain why people should click. John Flannery, CEO of General Electric, exemplifies the ability to elaborate with this tweet linking to his investors presentation:

Make Tweets More Diverse and Robust

Admittedly, all-text tweets like the one above are going to cause some users scrolling their feeds to keep on moving; this is a danger of the expanded character count. The beauty of 140 was that it kept everything very bite-sized.

In order to keep people engaged with longer messages, you can incorporate several different elements to make them pop. For example, in the tweet below via Dell’s CSR branch, you’ll find multiple hashtags, a user handle, a link, and an image — all within a complete mini-narrative:

Quotes PLUS Descriptions

Under the previous tweeting parameters, we often had to make a decision: pull a quote to generate interest in an article, or include a description of what’s inside? Now, you can do both, as Salesforce shows in this example, where they’re able to both feature a full quote and set up the link while also sprinkling in a couple of emojis and a hashtag:

Finally, A Few Things to Keep In Mind

  • Don’t feel like you have to use up all 280 characters just because they’re available to you. At the end of the day, Twitter users prefer brevity and that’s why they love the platform.
  • In fact, one can argue that it’s now more important than ever to try and condense your message into the shortest possible package. On feeds full of longer tweets, the extremely short ones will stand out even more.
  • One of the less talked about aspects of this revamp is that Twitter also expanded the name length for users to 50, up from 20. This opens the door to plenty of new branding possibilities.

How will you make use of all the new real estate on Twitter? This is one key question you should ask before setting your social media strategy. Hopefully these examples and pointers will help you uncover some answers.


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How to Use Big Wins to Drive Continuous Content Marketing Performance

Like all brands or marketers, you’ve likely experienced a few content marketing campaign mishaps in your day. Despite your best efforts, sometimes a campaign just doesn’t quite reach its objective or it outright flops. And when this happens your disappointment typically spurs you into action as you work furiously to pin down exactly where you went wrong.

On the flip side; however, you’ve also experienced some big wins in your day. Some of those wildly successful content campaigns that crushed objectives and had the entire organization riding high. But in these situations, how often can you say that you dug into what made things go oh so right? Or regrouped and committed to keeping the momentum going?

From our perspective, those big wins can often teach you the most, not only providing helpful insights to keep things rolling, but also help you identify actionable next steps to make your next campaign just as—if not more—successful.

But how? Here are some tips to help you learn from your best content marketing work and continue to drive its performance.

Driving Continuous Success

Regardless of how successful a campaign is out of the gate, your work shouldn’t stop once you’ve released everything into the wild. But for those campaigns that are really flying high, they present the biggest opportunity to drive bigger and better results. So, you should continue to optimize and amplify these campaigns using a mix of content marketing tactics. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Test a new paid channel. If a campaign is already exceeding objectives and expectations, consider pushing the limits a bit by experimenting with paid tactics. For example, if you’ve had great success with LinkedIn, consider building a similar audience on Twitter. Or add more budget and expand your audience on the channels that are already working.
  • Repurpose campaign content. Repurposing content will not only add some freshness, but also help drive more traffic and signals to your main landing page or content asset. For example, consider creating an infographic or a motion graphic. Or put together a webinar that infuses existing and new related content or thought leaders.
  • Audit other existing content for cross-linking opportunities. Your campaign is successful for a reason, so why not add a little extra boost by helping direct more eyeballs and authority to your campaign content through cross-linking? So, take a look at other existing, relevant content and add an inline ad, CTA or link to it.
  • Try to secure third-party coverage or links. Pitch a guest blog or try to secure a third-party editorial to grow off-site links to your campaign content.

High-flying #marketing campaigns present the biggest opportunity to drive bigger, better results.
Click To Tweet


Uncovering the Why Behind the Win

While we all know that failure can unleash some of the greatest learning opportunities, the same holds true for success. So, when it comes to learning from your biggest marketing campaign wins, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Did I reach or exceed my objective? For example, if your objective was to drive brand awareness, which metrics can you point to that bolster achievement? Did you actually achieve other KPIs such as MQLs or SQLs?
  • How did I reach my objective? Some things to consider are: your content mix, top-sharing influencers, where the traffic came from (i.e. organic, social, etc.), the internal resources you leveraged, timing or seasonality, and so on.
  • What hurdles did I encounter? Even your most successful campaigns likely hit a snag or two along the way to launch. So, think about any hurdles you encountered and how you overcame them, and document opportunities to streamline your processes going forward.
  • How can I do even better next time? Use what you uncover from the “how” to document must-dos for the next campaign. For example, if a particular influencer was instrumental in driving shares, consider a full-length interview with them if relevant for your next campaign. As another example, if Twitter was your top-referring social channel, consider budgeting for some sponsored posts for the next campaign to get more traction.

Failure provides great learning opportunities, but the same holds true for success. @Alexis5484…
Click To Tweet


The Success Factor

Simply put, by continually refining and evaluating your top-performing marketing initiatives, you’re not only capitalizing on the great work you’ve already done, but also laying the foundation for the next big success.

Speaking of learning from big wins, check out our Case Studies to learn how we’re helping our clients reach and exceed their objectives.


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How We’re Building a Digital Advertising & SEO Dream Team

In today’s competitive and content-saturated digital landscape, SEO is no longer a stand-alone, sure-fire way to grab audience attention in the search results. As a result, the role of a search marketer is transforming beyond the traditional walls of organic SEO and merging with the world of digital advertising — and the hunt for skilled marketers with the right mix of both skillsets is heating up.

At TopRank Marketing, we’re taking part in that hunt.

After more than 15 years as a digital marketing agency, if there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that the collective talent of our team members is what drives our clients’ success and our company’s success. And we have our sights set on building a dream team.

As a member of the digital advertising and SEO teams, I was recently asked what great search marketing talent looks like. While I’m certainly not the ultimate judge of talent and skill, I will say that I’ve been in this industry since 2013, and I’ve seen many people come and many people go. I’ve seen careers fade out quickly, and I’ve seen other seemingly “overnight success stories” that take off like a rocket.

In my time in the industry, I have tried my hardest to learn from all of those people; learn why some people have fizzled out quickly and why others seem to hit the ground running. With that experience, as well as some of the core building blocks TopRank Marketing has outlined, below I share some of those skills and characteristics that we’re looking for and, really, every company should be looking for in SEO and digital advertising talent.

The Foundation

Like any other profession, there are must-have skills every SEO and/or digital advertising candidate must have. Simply put, I’ve had conversations with some people in hiring positions who simply won’t look at a resume unless it includes these foundational elements:

#1 – Google Certifications

There are numerous industry certifications out there. Honestly, it seems like every tool has their own set of certifications and badges, which may make some candidates think any certification can get your foot in the door. But don’t fall into that false sense of security. At the very least, it’s important to show up for the interview with these two certifications up to date:

  • Google AdWords
  • Google Analytics

#2 – Other Reputable Industry Certifications

Again, there are a ton of these to chose from. But having well-known and reputable certifications on your resume will show that you have the curiosity and the drive to learn and innovate. Some of those include:

The Structure

So you’ve passed the tests, updated your LinkedIn profile and printed the certificates. Now what? Well, now it’s all about you. Do you have the soft skills and personality traits it takes find fulfillment and do the work well? Here are some of the important qualities we look for in someone who’s interested in coming to TopRank Marketing.

#1 – The curiosity of a cat.

Whether it’s SEO, PPC, social media or any other niche in the world of digital marketing, the best in the industry always have a deep sense of curiosity. They want to understand how things work, and once they understand those innerworkings, they want dig deeper and find out why it works that way.

#2 – An analytical mind.

Being comfortable with analytics tools is more than being able to pass a Google Analytics exam. Now, nobody out there needs to be Avinash Kaushik, but the best in the business know how to go beyond the data and pull insights; they’re looking for ways to make that data actionable. They’re running A/B tests (and they want to run more of them) and experiments, and they work hard trying to communicate data in a way that would make Lea Pica proud.

#3 – Creativity in mind, body and spirit.

This might seem obvious, but great digital marketing professionals are really creative. Creativity doesn’t just mean that they are coming up with new and unique marketing ideas, creativity is who they are. They might spend time digging into art or music. Maybe they spend their time tinkering with things and refinishing old furniture (there’s that curiosity again). I follow quite a few digital marketers who exercise their creative muscle in the kitchen experimenting with new recipes. Being comfortable with thinking outside the box and coming up with something new is a skill that you will use often in your digital marketing career.

#4 – A strong business sense.

This doesn’t mean that the best SEOs and digital advertisers need MBAs. It means they understand why they’re doing what they do. It means they understand the impact that their activity has on the business. And it means they can tie KPIs to what matters most to the client/company.

The Spire

The final touch on any magnificent structure is the spire that sits atop. The spire is what stands out across the city skyline. For us, that defining characteristic is simple: An undeniable passion for what you do and who you do it with.

Our company culture is built on the passion our employees have for their work and their respective co-workers. After all, think about how much time you spend at the office. Without some love for the tasks and people who occupy that time, personal satisfaction and excellence can’t be found.

Interested in Joining the TopRank Marketing Dream Team?

That’s fantastic news. We happen to be hiring! Check out our Careers page to see a full list of open positions ranging from digital advertising and SEO to content and design.


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How We’re Building a Digital Advertising & SEO Dream Team | http://www.toprankblog.com

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Do You Really Need Another Blog Post? Why Content Marketing Needs More Flexibility

For at least a decade, the 500-word blog post has been the atomic unit of content marketing. Marketers like Joe Pulizzi and Marcus Sheridan built their entire careers on blogging. In Joe’s case, he started the blog without a business plan or a product, and developed both after building an audience through insightful, valuable blog posts. Even TopRank Marketing relied on blogging as a tactic for building thought leadership and establishing authority.

When new clients partner with our agency, they’re frequently looking to follow in Joe and Marcus’ footsteps. They want 15, 20, 30 short blog posts a month as the foundation of their content efforts.

That typically translates into requests for “X blog posts a month.” However, we’re more likely to think in terms of content units—the amount of effort the content team will put in, rather than the specific output.

Should you focus your time and resources on a blog? Are there better ways to serve your audience? Here’s how our agency is changing the way we think about content.

Why Short-Form Blog Posts Are No Longer the Atomic Unit of Content Marketing Strategy

Short Blog Posts Are Losing Search Visibility
One of the chief purposes of a blog is to capture search engine rankings. You write useful content, people find it via search, they subscribe and keep coming back for more. But short blog posts aren’t great at capturing rankings anymore. There’s just too much short-form content out there for even the most optimized post to rise above it.

Quality Beats Quantity
Longer-form content tends to dominate search rankings. Comprehensive, in-depth best answer content will not only rank higher for the main search term, it’s more likely to include (and rank for) long-term keywords as well.

Just ask Neil Patel, of Kissmetrics fame. He posts 1500+-word blog posts on the regular. You’ll find his posts on any list of highest-ranked or most-shared content on any topic he addresses. 

Most of us don’t have the time and resources to post best answer content every day, but that’s okay—a steady drip of high-quality content is still preferable to a deluge of shallower takes.

Blog Posts Are Temporary by Design
The very structure of a blog means that old posts are less likely to be read than the latest post – and the latest one quickly joins the seldom-seen archives. This kind of content is good for satisfying subscribers, but not great for long-term search visibility. The end goal of repurposing content is to take old blog posts and turn them into evergreen assets – so it makes sense to actually design evergreen assets as part of your strategy. 

The Way People Consume Content Is Changing
Last year, mobile internet use outstripped desktop use for the first time ever. In other words, all new internet traffic is happening on mobile devices. That’s significant for content creators, because 84.9% of smartphone time is spent in apps, versus on the mobile web.  While desktop users might have spent more time reading blogs and visiting websites, mobile traffic is concentrated in apps like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. These apps require a different type of content to earn audience attention.

Blogs Are Still a Thing – But Not the Only Thing
That’s not to say that blogging is dead, of course. A blog can be a great place to interact with customers and prospects, build credibility, establish thought leadership, and round up subscribers. But focusing exclusively on creating a ton of blog content is no longer the best strategy.

More Flexible Content Alternatives

Instead of creating a set number of blog posts a month, focus on the outcomes you want to achieve. The deliverable should match your goals, not the other way around. You’ll end up with a more efficient use of your time and resources, and content assets that get the job done.

Long-Form Assets
For example, if your goal is to top the rankings for a specific keyword, roll three posts’ worth of effort into crafting a long-form resource. Then put that resource on your Features page, or give it its own slot on your navigation header – don’t bury it in the blog. The closer your page is to your site’s root directory, the more weight it carries for ranking purposes. That is, Google will give preference to “www.yourcompany.com/awesome-resource” than “www.yourcompany.com/blog/2017/October/awesome-resource.”

Video Content
Trading short-form blog posts for video content is another useful tactic. Video can be embedded in a blog post, but also find another life on Facebook and YouTube. Our client DivvyHQ recently published a video series with the videos hosted on YouTube. They can serve their blog audience, but also reach out to a new audience through the YouTube app. TopRank Marketing creates a weekly news video that we post to Facebook, and each video earns hundreds of views natively on the platform.

 Influencer Content
If your daily blog responsibilities have kept you from exploring influencer marketing, it’s high time to devote attention to it. Influencers can help boost your credibility, increase visibility, and create relationships that will serve your business in the long-term. A single influencer co-created asset can achieve far higher visibility than the most comprehensive blog post.

Blog On – But Blog Wisely

The humble blog post had a good run – it dominated content marketing strategy for the 00s and most of the 2010s. But the content landscape is changing, and we need to change with it. Don’t ditch your blog just yet, but do examine how you’re using the time and resources available to you.

Focus on your desired outcomes rather than a rigid set of deliverables. Give your content team the flexibility to explore new strategies, and you can evolve your content mix along with your audience’s demands.

 


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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2017. |
Do You Really Need Another Blog Post? Why Content Marketing Needs More Flexibility | http://www.toprankblog.com

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Digital Marketing News: Email vs. SMS, Twitter Trolls Itself and Google’s AI Wizard

Email vs. SMS: Battle of the Heavyweights [Infographic]
In a battle of email vs. SMS, who is the winner? This infographic shows the differences between the two tactics in terms of volume, engagement, preferences and effectiveness by medium. MarketingProfs

Twitter trolls itself on new 280 character limit
As you may have heard via everyone’s favorite venting platform, Twitter has increased their allotted character count to 280. While many are happy with this change, some are disappointed or even concerned that it will ruin the value of the platform. CNN Tech

Google’s AI Wizard Unveils A New Twist on Neural Networks
This is a story 40 years in the making. Geoff Hinton (the man behind AI) published two new papers that offers a new twist on neural networks that enable machines to better understand the world via images and video. Wired

Study: Longer Videos Mean Higher Engagement
Even in the age of decreased attention spans, it seems that audiences prefer long-form video over short-form video. In fact, videos over 90 seconds receive 78% more shares and 74% more views. MediaPost

Instagram Stories and WhatsApp Status hit 300M users, nearly 2X Snapchat
When it comes to features, it’s hard to tell the difference between Instagram Stories and Snapchat these days. Now that Instagram Stories has a solid user base, it’s time for Facebook to innovate and move away from copycatting Snapchat. TechCrunch

Facebook Registers Soaring Ad Revenues, Mobile Dominates.
Facebook experienced amazing third-quarter results with almost a 50% increase in advertising revenue. Additionally, 88% of that revenue is represented by mobile advertising. MediaPost

New Salesforce And Google Partnership Shakes Up The Cloud Race
The chocolate and peanut butter of marketing and sales analytics are finally coming together, as Google and Salesforce announce a new joint venture. Salesforce is committing to using Google’s G Suite, while Google Analytics will be fully integrated with Salesforce’s core platform. Salesforce has committed to using Google’s cloud storage as well, but will maintain multiple cloud vendors for the time being. Forbes

Older Photos and Videos Can Now Be Added to Instagram Stories
Instagram is now allowing users to add older photos from their camera rolls into their Instagram Stories. According to AdWeek, “Instagram said it will automatically suggest a new sticker to add context on when older photos or videos were taken, and users can choose to rotate, resize or remove the new sticker altogether before sharing their Stories.” AdWeek

What were your top digital marketing news stories this week?

We’ll be back next week with more digital marketing news! In the meantime, if you have something to share Tweet us @toprank or @Tiffani_Allen.

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Report: What Marketers Need to Know About the ‘State of Video Marketing’

These days, there’s little doubt among marketers that video content is an incredibly powerful content marketing tool. After all, humans are visual creatures by nature, so it stands to reason that video often satisfies our content appetite. In fact, according to a Think With Google study, 50% of internet users said they’ve looked for videos related to a product or service before visiting a store.

But as more brands and marketers jump on the video content marketing bandwagon, it’s more important than ever to examine your strategy to ensure you’re getting the most out of your efforts. And a great starting point is to get the lay of the current video marketing land and emerging trends.  

Thankfully, Demand Metric and Vidyard recently published the 2017 Video Content Marketing Benchmark Study, featuring data and insights collected from marketers at B2B or mixed B2B/B2C companies—all of which reported revenue growth in the previous fiscal year, as well as using video to some degree.

Below I highlight some of the findings that I found most interesting, as well as what that means for you as you begin or refine your video marketing efforts.

1. Video marketing usage is not only on the rise, but the amount of video being created is growing rapidly.

According to the study, for the fourth consecutive year, over 90% of study participants reported that video is becoming more important to their efforts. But what’s more, the average number of videos being produced annually jumped from around 29 in 2016 to 38 in 2017.

Video Marketing Production

Of course, smaller companies are producing less video than big companies, but the gap is narrowing. For example, 2016 numbers showed that more than one-third of small companies were producing less than five videos every year. But in 2017 that number shrunk to just one-fifth.

What does this mean for marketers? While video seemed like the answer to overcoming content overload and capturing audience attention, the competition for creating high-quality, engaging and compelling video is growing. So, it’s more critical than ever to make sure you’re not just “doing” video, but that it’s a strategic and thoughtful piece of your overall content marketing mix.


It’s more critical than ever to make sure you’re not just “doing” #video. @CaitlinMBurgess
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2. The types of video marketers are investing in are expanding.

Product, demos and explainer videos lead the pack in terms of the most common types of videos being created, which isn’t a surprise. This type of content highlights a company’s product or service offerings, and expertise in a visual way. However, more forms of video such as how-tos, live streams, social media and those focused on company culture are becoming more widely used.

What does this mean for marketers? To me, this signals that video can and does enhance the customer journey at every stage of the funnel. Just as you craft written content to satisfy your audience’s quest for knowledge at different stages, video can be used in the same way. Furthermore, it can be used to achieve a variety of different marketing objectives such as recruiting new talent, humanizing your brand or sparking real-time engagement.


Video can & does enhance the customer journey at every stage. #videomarketing
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3. Video can inform, engage and convert.

Video, both produced and native, has long-been dubbed as a great way to inform and engage your audience. Studies have shown that we spend a huge chunk of our online time watching video, often multiple times a day. (My personal favorite are all those Tasty videos of recipes I’ll probably never make.)

But if you’ve been skeptical on the conversion power of video, don’t be. According to the report, roughly 70% of participants said video converts better than other forms of content.

Video Marketing ROI

What does this mean for marketers? Building off my point in the previous section, if you really want to commit to video and drive the ultimate objective of getting conversions, you should aim to create relevant, quality video content for every level of buyer’s journey.


70% of marketers say #video converts better than other content forms. @DemandMetric @vidyard
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4. Advanced measurement is key to unlocking the best ROI.

As with any marketing initiative, measurement is critical to understanding how you’re performing and uncovering opportunities for improvement. However, most marketers are just tracking and analyzing the basics such as views or shares—making it difficult to map video to ROI.

According to the report, just 13% of respondents said they’re using advanced metrics such as views by embed location, viewer drop-off rates, heat maps and attribution to sales pipeline. However, of that 13%, 71% say that these metrics help report much better on video ROI.

“A true and accurate measurement of the ROI of video (or any type of content) requires the adoption and use of advanced metrics,” the report states. “When advanced metrics are not in use, ROI determination is an estimate at best. When advanced metrics are in use, marketers have the information they need about video content performance to achieve even better results.”

What does this mean for marketers? Marketers are often looked at as the spenders within an organization. And while video can no longer be considered a “rising” trend, it can still be hard to get buy-in and more budget if you can’t prove its value. According to the report: “The best way to capture and exploit advanced metrics is to integrate video viewing data into Marketing Automation and/or CRM systems.”


Advanced #videomarketing metrics are key to achieving better results. @DemandMetric @vidyard
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Looking for Video Content Marketing Best Practices & Tips?

Check out these helpful resources on the TopRank Marketing blog:

In addition, if you want more on the state of video marketing, read the full report here.


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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2017. |
Report: What Marketers Need to Know About the ‘State of Video Marketing’ | http://www.toprankblog.com

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