Your Days Of Struggling With Content Creation Are Over

overcome-struggleI hate keywords. Yes, I just wrote the words that could very well get me kicked out of content marketing. You know what? Your prospects hate keywords, too. If you doubt those words, visit Google Analytics and look at your main product/service pages, then look for pages with the highest bounce rates.

Now visit the top three pages on this list.

You likely see something that reads like this: “Looking for cupcakes in Las Vegas? ABC cupcakes has the best cupcakes in Nevada.” Plug your products in for cupcakes, and you get the idea. I’ve audited websites with pages stuffed with 85 exact match keywords in 800 words of text.

This isn’t the “olden days” of SEO, so why are you still writing pages that read like they were written for the monster from The Odyssesy, not for humans? Please don’t say you’re writing to appease the Google robots. You think a company with a market capitalizing of nearly $400 billion doesn’t have sufficient technology to see through such crap?

They do, and so does your prospects, who likely never return after encountering such pages. There’s a better, easier path to successful content creation.

You Say Keywords, I Say Hummingbird

HummingbirdI don’t hate keywords because they are wholly ineffective; I hate keywords because of how they are often used:

  • As if they are the be-all and end-all for organic search and
  • To an extent that ignores the needs of potential customers

To create content that moves the needle for our businesses, we must move beyond keywords and cater to the language prospects are using in organic search when looking for similar products and services.

When Google dropped in a supercharged new engine, Hummingbird, late last year, they gave content marketers a huge leg up with regard to content creation for their businesses.

With Hummingbird, conversational speech is now a biggest part of search queries, which should serve to make the searches more accurate.

Whereas in the past, a search for “The closest bakery that sells cupcakes on my house?” might have singled out only “sells” and “cupcakes,” now such a search is expected to take into account the likely intent of the user and return a result that ties in the location of your residence, a physical bakery and one that carries cupcakes.

This is good news for you and your business, for you can now get to the meat of delivering the information prospects and existing customers are searching for.

A Simple Content Creation Plan That Yields Big Results

This is a plan I’ve seen be effective for businesses large and small.

  • Create a Google Spreadsheet that lists the main product/service categories of your business
  • Share the document with everyone in the company, asking that they list questions they’ve been asked by prospects and customers under one or more of the product/service category headings
  • When you’ve amassed a handful of questions under one or more of the  headings, you’re ready to start creating content

Let’s say one of the questions reads like this: “How long will a mattress last?”

You could create a blog post: “How Long Should My Mattress Last?”

That turns into a blog series:

  • “How Long Should My Mattress Last?”
  • “What Can I Do To Extend The Life Of My Mattress?”
  • “Does Turning My Mattress Help It Last Longer?”
  • “Should I Expect A More Expensive Mattress To Last Longer?”
  • “What’s The Best Way To Safeguard My New Mattress From Spills?”

That becomes an eBook: “The Five Things Everyone Asks After Buying A New Mattress?”

As you can see, this goes well beyond keywords, and the content you’re able to create extends well past blogs.

What I’ve seen is that once the Google Spreadsheet is created, team members continue to add questions daily or weekly, ensuring you never run out of ideas.

In addition to relying on the questions of team members, a few other places you should look include:

  • Social media – (e.g., plug in your main keywords into the search function of the platform of your choice)
  • Forums – (e.g., become an active participant on the forums in your vertical)
  • Review and discussion boards – (e.g., these are full of nuggets from community members hungry for information)
  • In-person conversations – (e.g., use a notepad or Evernote to jot down questions and comments you hear from friends and acquaintances)

Two quick points…

I’m in no way suggesting you turn away from keywords entirely. The plan of attack I outline is meant as an addendum to an overarching keyword strategy. Also, I’d would highly recommend you look into the Keyword Eye Tool, a new tool with a cool feature, Question Finder, that gathers informational queries from organic search. Matthew Barby has thoroughly covered the tool (see below), and I’ll be taking a closer look at it in the near future.

After reading this blog, I hope it’s a little more clear that you and your staff can create the content that compels customers to seek out your business.

I’d love to hear similar strategies you’re using successfully.

Data Visualization Guide for Marketers

My goal for this guide is to show Internet marketers how they can use all of the various types of charts and graphs at their disposal to visualize their data and find actionable insights. I used Annie Cushing’s MozCon 2014 presentation and her Comprehensive Guide to Excel Charts for Marketers video, along with Microsoft’s guide for available charts in Excel to compile this manual.

Column & Bar Charts

Column charts are best for data that is not continuous and is better shown separate.

“For the most part, the column chart is my go-to chart.” – Annie Cushing

column chart

Bar charts work for the same situations as column charts, but should really only be used if axis labels are long.

bar chart

Line & Area Charts

Line charts can show continuous data over time, so they’re ideal for showing trends in data at equal intervals, like months, or years.

line chart

Stacked area charts are great for showing how different groups comprise a whole over time.

area chart

Pro Tip: Stacked line charts are hard to decipher, and are better as stacked area charts. Likewise, area charts can be misleading if they aren’t stacked.

Pie & Donut Charts

Pie charts are used for displaying data that adds up to 100%. The chart uses angles to show the relative size of each value.

pie chart

Donut charts use the length of an arc to indicate the size of the value. Donut charts are essentially the same as pie charts but they have a hole in the middle and categories can be shown separately to focus on their values.

—-donut chart

Radar & Scatter Charts

Radar charts can work well when comparing multiple data sets. Category labels are at the tip of each spine, with the incremental line values indicated.

radar chart

Scatter charts are great for comparing data series and seeing if they have a positive or negative correlation between their data points.

scatter chart

Pro Tip: Add a trendline to scatter charts to see the general correlation of data points.

Check out Annie Cushing’s Guide to Excel Charts for Marketers video to learn how to make all of the charts pictured above.

Crazy Cool Charts

These charts show unique ways to visualize data using some of the chart styles shown above.

  • Speedometer charts are nice for showing whether a data value is where your company wants it to be, or if it’s lagging in the danger zone.
  • Bullet column and bullet bar charts show progress against a goal with a target value and the actual value displayed.
  • Thermometer charts are another way to show progress against a goal. You would have the top value of the chart be your goal value and show the actual value represented by the mercury.
  • Two-sided bar charts allow you to compare two different data series side-by-side.
  • Scrolling charts are a cool solution for when you have a huge data set but don’t want an excessively wide chart. Horizontal scroll bars can work for line, area, and column charts while vertical scroll bars are great for long tables on dashboards.

That’s my basic overview of charts and some of the fun things you can do with them. If you’d like to delve deeper into data visualization, I highly recommend checking out Tori Cushing’s tutorials on pivot tables and pivot charts! You can also have visualizations made for you by the free data visualization tools listed in my previous blog post.

5 Marketing Lessons from Jiro Dreams of Sushi

JIRO

Image courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

If you haven’t seen the beautifully shot documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi by David Gelb, I highly suggest you set aside some Netflix time in the near future to do so. The movie is touching, gorgeous and inspiring.

That being said, I also found myself thinking about the documentary for days afterwards – and applying the lessons from the film to a variety of different pursuits – including marketing.

A little background:

The film follows Jiro Ono, an 85-year-old sushi master who has spent his life perfecting his craft at his deceptively modest 3-star Michelin restaurant in Tokyo. Jiro is supremely dedicated to the art of sushi (some would say obsessed) – and has earned a reputation for serving the best sushi in the world.

So, what does sushi have to do with marketing? The more I thought about Jiro’s story, the more I realized the parallels between his life’s work and success and great marketing. Here are a few lessons we can take from the movie and apply to the marketing world:

Focus On What You Do Best

Perhaps what’s given Jiro the reputation he has today was his desire to only serve sushi at his restaurant. There are no appetizers and no menu. Guests are served the sushi Jiro has prepared that day, in the order he has decided. This allows Jiro to focus entirely on a single menu of sushi every day – and ensuring the perfection of each piece.

This same principle can be applied to marketing. Stop focusing on the things that don’t matter (i.e. the fluff). When marketing your product and/or services, focus on the narrow message you want to deliver. Don’t make an audience think too much about what you are offering. Too many choices leads to paralyzation. Provide an experience that focuses on exactly what you are trying to communicate and limit anything that distracts from this core message.

Much like Jiro found appetizers filled diners up too much to truly enjoy the sushi, you don’t want bloated marketing to fill your audience up too much to understand your message.

What does your business/product/client do exceptionally well? What message or benefit are you trying to communicate? Focus in on these elements and the resulting marketing efforts will be tight, easily digestible and often very effective.

The Details Matter

Jiro thinks about every single detail that goes into his sushi. From the seating arrangements to the ingredients to the temperature of the rice – absolutely nothing is overlooked.

In marketing, the same attention to detail can make the difference between a mediocre campaign and a great one.

I was recently part of a team that helped with the redesign of the Virgin America website. What resonated with audiences about the new site was not only the overall look, feel and function, but also the attention to all of the small details. Instead of standard (and boring) copy to alert passengers they had completed a step in booking a flight, we wrote cheeky, on-brand and fun messaging that made the experience feel completely Virgin.

It was a little detail that went a long ways in creating a holistic experience. Which brings us to….

It’s All About a Holistic Experience

Jiro thinks about EVERYTHING when it comes to his guests’ experience. He serves one piece of sushi at a time to every customer that sits in his tiny, 11-seat restaurant. He’s focused on ensuring all patrons finish eating at the same time, so he makes bigger sushi for bigger people and smaller sushi for smaller people, adjusting on the fly.

He also notices which hand people use to eat their sushi, and then places each piece on the plate accordingly to make it easier to pick up. Everything from seating arrangement to portion size is handled in the background by Jiro and his staff so customers can focus on the one thing they came to do: eat the best sushi in the world. Jiro understands that it’s all of these components that contribute to the experience – not just the output (the sushi).

In marketing, we may not be able to sit and closely observe the way an audience is consuming our efforts, but with today’s technology, we do have powerful analytics and data that can help inform you of an audience’s interaction with your marketing and their experience. Smart marketers will use these insights to adjust tactics on the fly in order to create the best, most effective experience.

Simplicity Leads to Purity

All of Jiro’s sushi is extremely simple. This not only allows the ingredients to shine through, but makes the end result pure (and delicious. and beautiful). Essentially, Jiro edits his sushi down to only the most crucial elements – and then makes sure those elements are perfect.

Do the same with your marketing: Edit. Remove. Repeat.

Reduce your marketing and messaging down to its most essential and important elements. Allow the “ingredients” of your marketing shine through. Focus on making each piece of marketing boil down to only the most essential elements. This will help drive a clear, easily digestible and effective marketing messaging and strategy.

Never Stop Improving

At 85 years old Jiro is the best sushi chef in the world. And yet, he proudly states that he is not perfect and there is always room for improvement. Jiro was nine years old when he left his home, and he has only done one thing since then: keep improving. Even after he received an award from Japan declaring him a national treasure, he returned to work the same day to further improve his skills.

You can apply this same attitude towards your marketing. So what if you ran a great campaign last month? Even if your CTR is great, or your impressions have gone through the roof, or you are driving tremendous inbound leads, there is always room for improvement. You can always look at what’s working and find a way to improve and expand upon it. Your job as a marketer is never “done.”

Why Your Business Must Adopt A Tough Medicine Mindset

Blogs don’t normally keep me up at night, but two posts I read last week did just that. One was a LinkedIn post from Mark Traphagen who shared a tip he picked up from a podcast with Jay Baer about the value of providing “…and therefore” content, which is essentially highlighting what the information means and how readers can use it to their benefit.

The second blog that had me tossing and turning was Joel Klettke’s “You Don’t Really Know Your Audience, Unless,” which is his smart take on the need for businesses to create compelling calls to action. His advice is for business owners to finish the following sentence: “I want….”

Strong, simple and easy to follow.

Tough mindset

When I read Traphagen’s post, it struck a chord by highlighting what I’ve long believed to be a hole in the content marketing game: opinion masquerading as fact. Yes, distilling and defining meaning for your audience can be and often is opinion-laden, but it does deliver real value beyond the overdone list posts and mind-numbingly common how-to posts.

At least with “…and therefore” content, readers walk away with a stronger attack plan.

Then, upon reading Klettke’s post, the problem I’ve been alluding to for over a year reared its head:

Content marketers have a “miss-the-mark” and a “miss-the-audience” problem:

  • Miss the mark: Refers to information that, while not invalid or inaccurate, it is often lacking in sufficient depth or nuance to be truly beneficial to the person consuming the information (e.g., “Your business needs to be on social media”).
  • Miss the audience: Refers to delivering the right information but to the wrong audience (e.g., “Learn SEO in just 30 minutes a day with our free ebook”)

In each of these instances, the information can be entirely valid, but more often than not it is provided to an audience that either needs more information to make an informed decision (miss the mark) or is delivered via the wrong platform or at a less-than-optimal point in the information-gathering journey (miss the audience).

Delivering The Tough Medicine We’ll All Prosper From

Looking back, these two blogs resonated so much with me mainly because they speak to the conversations I have every day with business owners.

Two of the biggest complaints I hear from CEOs and marketing directors go something like this…

  1. “I read [SEO, inbound marketing and content marketing blogs], but all I get is a lot on conflicting information that tells me nothing about how to run my business…what will help me be successful. That makes it tough for someone like you. How do I know you want just feed me a load of bull and take my money?”
  2. “All I hear about is content. That’s blogs, right? I have a blog now. It just sits there on the site gathering dust. How is all this content helping other businesses but not mine?”

Have enough of those conversations and things start to crystallize.

I’m now convinced businesses need more “Yes, but” content.

As marketers sharing information, we owe it to our audience to share factually accurate, thorough and honest information, even if it provokes disagreement. Also, we must be explicit in highlighting to business owners that a focus on their customers, not on their marketing efforts, must be the way forward, even if they don’t want to hear it.

As regards content, it’s not about the needs of the business.

To highlight how the above points play out in real life, I’ll use a personal example from an encounter I had with a successful small business owner less than a week ago..

Him: “I’m already blogging, but I need to be on social media and have my website sorted out. I’m no longer ranking for many of my ‘money’ keywords, so something is definitely [wrong]. One of the articles I read said my site could have been [penalized by Google] …  I know we bought links in the past. How do I get started in social? That’s my main goal. Where do I start? Can you help with that?”

Me: “Let’s break this up a bit. Your business is doing quite well without social media, so: (a) What do you think being active on social will do for your company? (b) You said earlier in the conversation that the last year has been the most profitable in your 15-year history, and that’s the same timeframe you list as having most of your keywords fall to the [second page of Google]. Hmm…”

Him: “I had this social media [consultant] tell me that, because my blog is strong, I’m missing out on business because I’m not getting any social signals, which are basically the same as links, right? Look, if I’m doing well now, social could put me just that much higher. You can’t argue with that. You have to agree…social would only help my business. Right?”

Me: Yes, but likely not in the way you assume. First, the consultant was wrong: Social signals are not links. Also, if you are doing better than ever, I doubt all your main keywords have really dropped off the first page of Google. I’d want to see that for myself. The bigger question would be, ‘Were you actually seeing conversions from those keywords, when they were ranking?’ Yes, social can be a strong, viable addition to your digital footprint, but that’s not anywhere near where I’d focus my energy right now.”

What I needed to ferret out was (a) what he saw as success in social and (b) would he be happy if his keywords were on the first page but his business was no longer successful.

I couldn’t get there with many more “yes, but” responses.

Solving For Prospects’ Pain Isn’t The Same As Solving For Every Problem

Getting to the “yes, but” means you’re getting closer  to the crux of the issue, not just blindly looking for problems that may or may not exist. I see too many agencies and consultants spending time on efforts that will yield very little return for their clients.

Why? Because the client said so.

By adding “yes, but” to our vocabulary we not only get the work we need, we likely get to keep it longer. Instead of going down a rabbit hole to nowhere, we must be willing to push back, making it clear that satisfactory results are what we’re in it for. That will likely mean those clients looking for someone to freely say yes to everything will pass us by.

However, those are the clients we weren’t going to be able to help long-term anyway.

Some of the onus falls on the shoulders of the clients, too, who must be willing to hear discordant voices, those that might share information they haven’t heard elsewhere but that they desperately need.

I’m passionate about  the need for more “yes, but” information, mainly because I see how the absence of such information plays out daily:

  • Client A asks for blogs. We know they need a content audit and a competitive SEO assessment first. We provide the blogs, but the client complains she’s still not converting for his main keywords. See the disconnect? “Yes, but” ensures we never get to this point without the client being aware of what’s ahead
  • Client B says his site needs a redesign to aid tanking conversions, but only has money for a “re-skin,” meaning the main elements of the site, including the content, will have to stay the same. “Yes, but” could make them aware of the need to take a deeper look at why conversions are ailing and, just as important, of how leaving non-performing content on the site isn’t part of the solution.

In a followup post, I’ll tackle how consultants and writers can begin sharing more “yes, but” information and how business owners can open themselves up to freely receive it.

In the end, we all need businesses to be successful.

Being afraid to ask the tough questions and afraid to share unpopular information aren’t much help in this regard.

What are your thoughts? Do you share “yes, but” information? Are you a business owner who’s willing to hear “yes, but” responses from contractors and agencies?

Excel 105: PivotCharts Tutorial [Video]

In my last post I discussed creating Pivot Tables on Mac and PC. Today we will take the next step in Excel,  PivotCharts! Ironically, I find that charts are much easier to work with. But, only if the PivotTable is set up correctly to start with. So, if you missed the creating pivot tables post please watch that video first and then come back and watch today’s video.

Why should I use PivotCharts?

  • Flexibility
  • Filtering inside the chart
  • Formatting

The best reason, in my opinion, to use a PivotChart is the filtering. It basically gives you dynamic chart options with minimal work. Below you can watch my video on how to create PivotCharts or I have a breakdown of the steps you need to take and I have included screenshots.

Step 1: Create PivotTable

Reference Excel 104: PivotTables if you need a refresher. But it should be set up something like this.

105-step1

Step 2: Select which type of PivotChart

Here I selected a combo chart to show the session and goal completions on in the column graph.

105 step2

Step 3: Move data around

I moved the bounce rate onto its own (secondary) axis.

step 3

Step 4: Format

You have all the same formatting options in PivotCharts that you have with regular charts. It’s best to make it a client’s business colors.

step 4

Step 5: Filter

Now that you have your chart all set up, you can filter by your medium values/metric.

step 5

Google Webmasters Video, Best Practices and Mistakes in SEO

During their Office Hours Hangout the Google Webmaster Central team goes over what you need to know and do in regards to mobile, multi-regional/multilingual SEO and monitoring your site for spam. Take some time to learn from these great suggestions that will help you rank better. This video will go over the following:

Mobile configurations, mistakes and best practices:

  • Playable content
  • Blocked content
  • Misdirected Content

Multi-regional/multilingual:

  • How to reach people in different markets
  • How to tell Google you have multilingual pages and language selectors
  • Geotargeting
  • Missing backlinks to global pages

Keeping your site spam free:

  • Security issues
  • Manual actions viewer
  • Content Keywords Tool

Did you have a favorite tip? Let us know what you think of the suggestions.