Ally or Adversary? How Our Marketing Fears Can Be Wielded for Good

Now Fear This: Kicking Fear to the Marketing Curb

Now Fear This: Kicking Fear to the Marketing Curb

B2B marketers are a special breed: We’re relentlessly self-improving.

We look to our industry peers and thought leaders for wisdom. We scour data for opportunities and insight. We keep tabs on rising trends and emerging tools. We tirelessly strive to adapt our strategies to the evolving needs of our customers and prospects.

Without a doubt, we’re ambitious. But despite that ambition, we’re only human. Fear can easily creep in—which can become a helpful tool or a crippling bad habit.

Fear Itself

Fear is the most natural human emotion in my opinion. The presence of fear in our marketing minds not only signals self- and spatial-awareness, but also benevolence. We deeply care about what we do and who (i.e. our brands, co-workers, and buyers) we serve, and we want to do our absolute best to drive results and offer solutions.

With the right focus, fear can be an unexpected ally. But the problem is that fear lurks everywhere.

A recent survey by Workfront and MarTech Today specifically asked marketing operations leaders about their top fears. The largest percentage (nearly a quarter of respondents) said having someone publically point out in a discrepancy in a report as a top fear. Coming in second with 20% of the vote was fear of not being able to prove their own or their team’s value.

I’d wager that an expanded survey would likely reveal other terrifying scenarios such as discussing poor results, getting budget or strategic buy-in, trying and potentially failing at a new content type—and the list goes on.

Workfront Survey

Now, while the report overall aimed to provide insight into the workplace challenges marketers face as data and technology drive change, this particular section provides a glimpse into how fear can manifest on both grand and granular scales within our psyches.

Of course, in addition to being the most natural human emotion, fear is perhaps the most powerful, too. So, how do you wield your fears for good?

Looking Within

Some of the best advice I’ve ever received on this front came from comedian and seasoned B2B marketer, Tim Washer.

“[Marketers need to stop] letting fear have too much influence over their decisions—and dropping this habit certainly requires some deep personal reflection,” he told me.

Truth. So, where do you start? With the first step.

“Ask yourself how does fear hold me back in my job? Is it a risk-averse boss? Is it fear of failure?”

And here’s the kicker:

“You need to figure out how fear is impacting you right now, in this very moment. Then you can start to find solutions to work around it.”

[bctt tweet= »You need to figure out how fear is impacting you right now, in this very moment. Then you can start to find solutions to work around it. @timwasher » username= »toprank »]

From my perspective, mastering this in-the-moment-recognition can be the difference maker on whether you can use fear as a driver rather than a deterrent.

Becoming the Master of Your Fears

Marketers: Whatever it is that keeps you up at night, remember that fear comes with the territory.

We all have our dark and stormy moments. Not only do we face an increasingly challenging and complex industry landscape, but we also face increasing pressure from our companies, buyers, and ourselves to be the best.

When we recognize and embrace our fears, we can do amazing things. When harnessed for good, our fear help us see innovation possibilities. It can encourage us to place smart bets or take on a risk or two. It can strengthen our resolve and ambition.

But when fear takes over as the primary decision-making factor—or leads to indecision—that’s when problems arise. We get restless. We lose confidence. We lose our luster for innovation. And honestly, we fear and worry more, and fear becomes a crippling habit.

So, for anyone out there who needs to hear this right now: You got this.

Are you afraid to go bold with your B2B content marketing efforts? Learn why it’s time to break free of boring B2B with insights from marketing industry leaders … and Laser Bear.

The post Ally or Adversary? How Our Marketing Fears Can Be Wielded for Good appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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Studies Suggest Your Business Needs a Blog

Blogging has been a hot-button topic among Portent’s clients for the last decade, with no signs of abating. And given the evidence that shows a blog is beneficial for your brand, it’s not surprising why so many people are passionate about creating one for their business.

Blogging can generate brand awareness, engage your customers on a more authentic and intimate level, create new opportunities to generate sales leads, and improve the overall optimization of your website.

Multiple studies by HubSpot reveal that businesses with quality blogs have better digital marketing results than their counterparts without blogs. Hubspot’s researchers concluded that, on average, a business with a high-quality blog earns:

  • 55 percent more online visitors;
  • 97 percent more inbound links;
  • 434 percent more indexed pages; and
  • 67 percent more leads.

Although blogging can provide significant benefits, the investment is not a universal lifeline for all businesses and industries.

For example, the fabless semiconductor manufacturer TSMC, which produces high-performance computer parts for companies like AMD and Qualcomm, doesn’t have a blog. And they shouldn’t. As a niche, complex business, TSMC’s content resources are better spent on creating white papers and case studies that show data-driven benefits of their services.

However, a B2C brand like REI has an excellent blog, and they need it. REI’s content marketing efforts are well-spent by connecting with consumers via educational articles and videos about outdoor hobbies, many of which REI happens to sell products for.

So how do you know if a blog is going to help your company?

Does Your Business Need a Blog?

The first step to answering this question … is answering other questions. It’s crucial to determine if blogging is an intelligent fit for your industry and your customers. We recommend you answer the following three questions:

  • Why do you want a blog?
  • What type of content would you produce?
  • Do your customers want this content?

These three questions keep your eyes focused on meaningful content marketing KPIs, allowing you to evaluate if blogging is a smart investment of your time and effort. If you can’t answer the questions, or the answer to one of them is “no,” your business’s resources are likely better spent on other content marketing efforts, like a content hub strategy.

Before you can reap the benefits of blogging, which we’ll discuss in the next section, there are two additional factors you should consider.

Good Blog Posts Require Time

Bloggers who self-report “strong results” from their content marketing efforts are spending more time than ever on creating articles.

Each year, Orbit Media polls more than 1,000 bloggers to learn how content marketing is evolving. Based on their 2014 survey, the average blog post took about 2.5 hours to write and was roughly 800 words long. In 2018, bloggers spent 44 percent more time writing an article, with the average post taking 3.5 hours to write and surpassing 1,150 words in length.

The additional time spent writing creates positive results. According to Orbit’s survey, 25.8 percent of content creators say they saw “strong results” on posts when they spend 3-4 hours writing each article, and 56 percent of authors who spend 6 or more hours on a 2,000-plus word post say they see quality ROI for their efforts.

On the flip side, although businesses are investing more time into blogging, they’re publishing less frequently while maintaining good results. In 2014, survey respondents often published posts several times per week. In 2018, most people are publishing articles several times per month.

Quality Content is Non-Negotiable

The tough reality of blogging is that most of your posts won’t achieve meaningful results simply by publishing random content to your website.

More than 2 million blog posts are published daily, and based on an analysis by the SEO tool Ahrefs, 90.88 percent of all pages online get zero traffic from Google. Of the posts that do get organic search traffic, 4.5 percent of them get fewer than ten visits per month.

For your blog posts to join the ranks of the coveted 4.62 percent of pages that do get significant web traffic, you’ll need to create quality content.

You’ll have the best chance at success if your blogging process contains the following attributes:

  • Customer-focused, data-driven topic selection
  • Keyword research
  • Robust writing and editing processes
  • Social media amplification
  • Outreach or link building

Although creating good blog content isn’t an easy process, (which is why 64 percent of B2B companies outsource their blog writing,) there is good news: The benefits of creating thumb-stopping blog content are worth the effort.

The Benefits of Having a Blog

The benefits your business can get from blogging depends on what your answer is to the first question we posed: why do you want a blog? Your goals dictate what content you need to produce, which in turn will create the specific benefits you can reap.

For example, if you sell audiophile-grade headphones and want your blog to increase sales, you could create a blog post that breaks down the technical differences of high-quality Bluetooth headphones vs. AirPods, drawing users toward your content because they’re looking to replace the shoddy equipment they currently have. If your post begins ranking well on search engines, you’ll see increased website traffic and potentially increased sales, too.

Ultimately, the benefits of your blog depend on its purpose and your goals.

However, quality blog posts do offer several near-universal boons.

Increased Website Traffic

Increased website traffic, in the form of pageviews from organic and social sources, is the first quantifiable reward from your blog. Every time you publish a new post, you get another opportunity for web crawlers to discover your website and suggest it to users who search for relevant queries.

How much traffic you can earn from your blog depends on the topics you choose to discuss, how much you promote the articles, and how good the content is. Marketing researchers and publications have wildly ranging stats on how much traffic you can expect.

As we mentioned earlier, HubSpot says the average business can get 55 percent more visitors with a blog, whereas Impact claims you’ll see a 30 percent traffic increase after writing 21 to 54 blog posts. Marketing gurus like Brian Dean and Neil Patel say your blog can increase website traffic by 200,000 visitors a month or up to 206 percent, respectively.

Here’s the catch: the results you’ll uncover in any article won’t mirror the exact amount of traffic you’ll gain. Some of them might not even be close, so don’t jump too far down the traffic rabbit hole bounding after what stats one person tells you to expect.

The best way to determine how much traffic you might receive is by researching traffic estimations for content that discusses the same topic as your article. There are plenty of tools to help you gather this information. Our recommendations are Ahrefs, Buzzsumo or SEMRush.

Screenshot from Ahfrefs Content ExplorerScreenshot from Ahfrefs Content Explorer

 

The above screenshot is from Ahrefs’ Content Explorer, which shows data for a chosen content topic. Using the provided information, you can estimate your blog’s potential to gain organic traffic, keywords, and backlinks based on what currently ranks well. If you’re able to rank higher than the content you’re evaluating, over time you should begin earning similar KPI metrics.

However, if you’re on a budget and don’t want to splurge on an all-in-one tool, you can get a ballpark estimate of the potential web traffic increase by evaluating keyword traffic with Moz Keyword Explorer. An alternative is Keywords Everywhere, a free web browser plugin that shows you relevant search volume data while you’re exploring Google rankings.

And the best part? Top-performing blog posts typically earn compounded organic traffic, giving you increased month-over-month traffic, social shares, and leads.

Create Long-Term Relationships and Trust with Customers

Online, people flock to authority figures. If you have useful, authoritative content that connects with users and helps them, they’re more likely to see your content as the resource to answer whatever burning questions they have. The better you answer their questions, the more likely it will be that those users will return whenever a new question surfaces.

For some people, evaluating blog posts to establish trust is necessary before engaging with your company in more meaningful ways. According to research by DemandGen, 47 percent of B2B customers read 3-5 blog posts or content pieces prior to contacting a company or talking with a salesperson.

As an additional bonus, blog posts make great opportunities for your social media team to share fresh content and ideas with users. Plus, loyal users are more likely to share your content on social media, and 94 percent of people who share blog articles on social media do so to help other people, which creates a cyclical feedback loop of increased traffic and shares.

Improved Brand Awareness Through Share of Voice

Blogs also increase your website’s authority in search engines. The more quality content you produce, the higher your domain authority grows and the easier it will be to get future content ranking.

As your content rankings improve, your blog and website begin accumulating more keywords, which allow your content to show up more frequently and furthers your authority among search engines and searchers alike.

This authority is known as share of voice, a measurement you can track with the SEO tool STAT. Share of voice evaluates how visible your brand is in organic search results for a predetermined set of keywords.

A strong share of voice means your content ranks well for competitive, high-volume keywords. While your share of voice improves, your other organic-focused KPI’s often mimic that improvement.

Internal Linking and Content Hubs

Blog articles are an excellent way to bolster the page authority of important webpages with internal linking strategies.

You can interlink a set of topically-related blog articles to a single page on your website. Product pages or business solutions are common choices. This results in a hub-and-spoke structure that funnels link authority into the chosen page. The more authority that webpage has, the more likely it will rank well on search engines. This is the basic model of a content hub strategy. Below is a visual representation of how this technique works.

Example content hub diagramExample content hub diagram

 

Using blog posts, white papers and case studies to improve the page authority of other important pages on your website is an often-forgotten benefit of content marketing. However, when you’re making a blog, this technique is one of the most valuable SEO tricks you can do.

The Wrap Up

As you’ve discovered, there are multiple benefits to blogging as a business. Which ones you take advantage of will ultimately depend on your business goals and marketing KPIs. But unlocking those rewards requires investing time, money, and other resources, as well as a dedication to providing quality content that your audience finds useful. And although blogging isn’t going to be the best solution for every company, it’s a great opportunity for most businesses to begin developing a content strategy and learn what their users want to read.

The post Studies Suggest Your Business Needs a Blog appeared first on Portent.

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Subdirectories vs. Subdomains for 2019 and Beyond

The one topic I’ve seen Google and SEOs disagree on the most is where the best place to host content is. SEOs say subdomains aren’t optimal, and Google says it doesn’t matter because they can read and understand your content wherever it is. Google even put out a video to try to clarify the matter, but no one was satisfied with their answer.

So what’s the disconnect? While it’s true Google has no problem understanding content on subdomains, SEOs say that content doesn’t perform as well in Google’s search engine. Google disagrees and says that subdomains aren’t a problem, yet the SEO industry continues to publish case study after case study that refutes Google’s claim.

Until Google offers an alternative explanation of what the SEO world is seeing, marketers still have to decide how to host their content.

As an SEO, my recommendation is to host your content on your primary domain – unless you have a very good reason not to. Even if Google turns out to be correct, and it doesn’t matter either way for performance, organizing your content in subdirectories on your primary domain is the better decision for your infrastructure and long-term SEO.

It’s a Technical Difference

Example of URL best practices for SEOExample of URL best practices for SEO

 

The difference between placing a blog at blog.brand.com or brand.com/blog seems insignificant. We’re putting blog at the end of the URL instead of the beginning, right?

The distinction goes back to the early days of the internet before the web existed. It was conventional for system administrators to host additional services on subdomains, like mail.domain.com for the email server, or ftp.domain.com to filesystem access.

For the web to come into being, servers needed to be able to deliver HTML files to remote users, so system administrators added web servers to the network and made them available from the www subdomain. That’s why everyone’s URL is www.brand.com. So you’re probably hosting your content on a subdomain already, but it’s your primary subdomain.

What this blog explores is whether you should put things like your blog or international content on subdomains other than your primary.

The Results are In

SEO’s aren’t wrong to believe subdirectories work better for organic rankings. There are several published examples of brands moving their content to their primary domain and seeing performance boosts. Rand Fishkin was gracious enough to compile a list of case studies that document this effect.

The examples in Rand’s list that make the case most clearly are here:

There’s even an example of a brand moving their blog to a subdomain and seeing a performance drop.

Would you see a similar effect if you moved your blog from blog.brand.com to brand.com/blog? Hard to say. Every case is different, and migrating content is rarely the only change being made in these examples.

Keep Your Link Authority in One Place

The case against subdomains is not just about immediate rankings; it’s also about guiding your SEO strategy into the future. This is the main reason why I recommend keeping content on the primary domain whenever possible.

Where would you rather host your content, on two domains with 1,000 backlinks each, or one domain with 2,000 backlinks?

These are the possible futures you’re choosing between when considering using a subdomain for your content. Over the years, your content is going to earn backlinks from all over the web. If your content is in a separate location, like a blog subdomain, you’re splitting your backlinks between the two.

Suppose five years down the line your website is redesigned, and you retire the subdomain and switch to a subdirectory structure for your blog. You’ll be in a situation where you have to redirect all those links from the subdomain to the primary domain, and as we know, redirects waste link authority.

Having to redirect a lot of backlinks is not a great position to be in. You would have been better off if those links pointed to the primary domain in the first place.

Keep Your Overhead Low

How many websites do you want to pay for? How many web applications do you want your engineers to maintain? Every subdomain you add to your website introduces another hosting environment to your technology stack and all the business concerns that come with it.

A new subdomain could mean additional costs for any of these:

  • 3rd party hosting or subscription fees
  • Additional SSL certificates or a wildcard certificate
  • Developer hours for the subdomain CMS
  • Additional colocation space or network hardware

You would also have to manage login credentials, analytics, security, and webmaster consoles for the subdomain. If you have regulatory compliance to worry about, these headaches add up fast.

Plan Ahead

The best way to avoid having to deal with the subdomain question at all is starting with a website that does everything you want. Very often, I’ll find brands that try to tack on functionality later due to lack of foresight.

Begin with an infrastructure that will do everything you need. If you’re going to need a blog or eCommerce experience, choose a CMS with those built into the app. Or you could even go with an extensible CMS, like WordPress or Drupal. Shopify has a lot of SEO quirks, but it’s relatively solid and comes with a few site speed improvements out of the box.

Planning ahead also includes anything you’re going to test for your digital strategy. If you’re considering trying out blogging, and I recommend you do if you aren’t, plan how you’re going to proceed after a successful test. You will need to find a way to add a blog to the main domain if the content strategy test works (and it probably will.)

Sometimes a Subdomain is the Right Choice

There are a few cases where a subdomain makes the most sense for your brand outside of technical necessity. Usually, it’s for a sub-brand or a product that is substantially different than what the brand normally sells.

If your content satisfies most of these criteria, then you should probably use a subdomain:

    • The content or branding isn’t different enough to justify an entirely different domain
    • Users would be confused if they navigated between the two content experiences
    • The content sells a completely independent product or is part of a portfolio of products

Google itself is pretty good at this. They have developers.google.com, assistant.google.com, cloud.google.com, store.google.com… and the list goes on. Each subdomain is an aspect of Google, but totally independent and hosts its own thing.

Another valid case for a subdomain is content that will never need to be indexed by a search engine. Paid landing pages, content behind login screens, and company intranets are all good examples.

Mobile and International Considerations

I’ve seen a lot of brands create trouble for themselves by adopting subdomains for mobile and international versions of their websites. They’re the worst option for either strategy and create a lot of headache for your SEO team down the line.

The future of the web is responsive and mobile-first. It’s the easiest and simplest way to adapt to modern internet usage. Brands that disregard this tend to tack on mobile subdomains that plague their technical teams with problems like:

      • Wasted crawl budget and canonicalization issues
      • Server-side device detection and redirect handling
      • Maintaining content parity between mobile and desktop sites
      • Shrinking content and navigation to fit mobile screens

International websites are usually implemented in three ways: ccTLDs, subdirectories, and subdomains. Subdirectories have no upsides over the other two options. ccTLDS aren’t optimal either, but at least they contain a strong signal about which country they’re targeting.

Using a subdirectory strategy for international websites is something I see more brands using every year. I think they are realizing the benefits of having everything in one place: one CMS, one development team, better content parity, and easier management of hreflang tags.

Imagine using a subdomain strategy for your blog, mobile site, and international content. Your URLs would look like this: m.fr.blog.brand.com. What a mess.

The Dispute Will Rage On

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think anyone in the SEO industry has proven the technical reason why subdomains tend to perform worse than subdirectories. I have my suspicions, but nothing that’s easily tested. Google definitely isn’t going to come forward with the mechanism; they never talk about how their systems actually work.

Like Google’s 200+ secret herbs and spices, we’ll never really know for sure.

Unless there is a new wave of case studies concluding that switching to a subdirectory strategy destroyed their rankings or nothing happened, it’s a safe bet to switch to a subdirectory.

The post Subdirectories vs. Subdomains for 2019 and Beyond appeared first on Portent.

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Facebook Attribution Windows: How to Get Started

As mentioned in a previous post, social attribution windows are incredibly important for advertisers to track metrics and maximize performance.

A quick one-sentence recap to save time if you didn’t read that post:

Social attribution windows provide the ability to track user actions within a length of time (view or click) and connect with the source.

Attribution windows are powerful tools you can use to learn more about users’ interactions with your ads, which will help improve results. Attribution windows are not for beginners, but very important to succeed in paid media as more advertisers come to the various social platforms, which in turn increase ad costs.

What’s the Facebook Attribution Window?

Facebook’s attribution window shows you the number of actions taken directly on your ads within a defined timeframe. Any ad impressions, link clicks, and video views that led to a conversion in the set time period are attributed to the Facebook ad.

Here’s an example scenario:

A Facebook user clicks your ad to visit your website to potentially buy a pair of shoe strings. The user decides not to purchase at that current time. The user then comes back three days later to buy the shoe strings. We can attribute the shoe string purchase to the original ad the user clicked on Facebook.

Facebook Pixel Importance and Setup Basics

As mentioned in the previous section, the attribution window can track conversion events on your website. However, the Facebook pixel will need to be set up and installed correctly in order to get results.

There are two important parts to remember when installing the Facebook pixel:

  1. Your website needs to include the page view pixel code pasted in the website header Facebook Page View Pixel Code Installation Screen ShotFacebook Page View Pixel Code Installation Screen Shot
  2. The most appropriate Conversion Events that align with your goals need to be added to the website. For example, an e-commerce site would at the very least want to add viewed content, add to cart, and purchase events. Facebook Conversion Event Selection Screen ShotFacebook Conversion Event Selection Screen Shot

 

Different Types of Facebook Attribution Windows

The number of attribution windows provided by Facebook is relatively small at seven compared to other social networks (Pinterest = 25 🙃). The fewer number of attribution windows helps to simplify your analysis and make better decisions without being overwhelmed.

The largest Facebook attribution window (28-day click, 1-day view) is the default setting that appears in the Ads Manager, and the smallest is 1-day click. We usually recommend starting with a 7-day click attribution window and then adjust based on the number of paid marketing channels.

Chart showing different type of Facebook Attribution WindowsChart showing different type of Facebook Attribution Windows
 

Facebook Attribution Window Real Life Examples

The first example in the Ads Manager shows why using the Facebook attribution window and referencing all of the metrics is essential. At first glance, the first ad set appears to be performing the worst based on the cost per link click metric. However, using Facebook’s 7-day click attribution window, we can tell it’s the best performing, generating a $4.22 return on ad spend.

Screen Shot of Facebook Attribution Windows in Ads ManagerScreen Shot of Facebook Attribution Windows in Ads Manager
 
The second example highlights the difference between the Facebook ads manager and Google Analytics. It’s important to keep in mind that Google Analytics reports based on a last click attribution window. You’ll notice the purchases reported in Google Analytics (Last Click) is much less than Facebook (7-Day Click).

Screen shot comparing Facebook Ads Manager and Google Analytics Attribution Screen shot comparing Facebook Ads Manager and Google Analytics Attribution

 

We usually see a halo effect that Google Analytics cannot track as a result of Facebook advertising. Someone will visit the website through an ad, but not purchase. That same person will visit the site through organic search two days later and make a purchase. Google Analytics will then attribute the purchase to organic search, and Facebook will assign it to the original ad the person clicked through.

How to Find and Change the Facebook Attribution Window

The setting to adjust the attribution window in Facebook is found in the Ads Manager. The setting is easy to access and change anytime you’d like to monitor a different window.

Follow these three steps to locate:

  1. Go to your Ads Manager account and select the Columns drop-down menu. Screen shot showing how to locate Columns drop-down in Ads ManagerScreen shot showing how to locate Columns drop-down in Ads Manager
  2. From the drop-down menu, select Customize Columns near the bottom. Screen shot showing how to locate Customize Columns option in Ads ManagerScreen shot showing how to locate Customize Columns option in Ads Manager
  3. Finally, click the blue Comparing Windows link, choose the various attribution windows you want to compare, and then click the blue Apply button. Screen shot showing how to locate Comparing Windows link in Ads ManagerScreen shot showing how to locate Comparing Windows link in Ads Manager

The Facebook Attribution Window is an important part of any digital marketer’s toolkit. It provides insights into what’s performing best and how it compares against other third party (i.e. Google) analytics platforms. The flexibility of the seven Facebook Attribution Windows will help make more accurate decisions and campaign adjustments.

The post Facebook Attribution Windows: How to Get Started appeared first on Portent.

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