Feeding the Internet Content Beast

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Honey, it’s time!

I remember the night a friend came home from bar hopping and said all she could hear in the background was “wah-wah-wah.com”, “wah-wah-wah.com”. That was the late 90s. I remember the number of cars on the streets of San Francisco tripling overnight. 

Oops … false alarm

I looked into digital jobs, but didn’t understand the value of affiliate marketing or getting “web hits”. I didn’t understand where the money was supposed to come from. I sat out the internet’s shall we say, false labor and started a small business. When tech crashed, the streets of San Francisco positively dried up. The tech workers left, businesses shuttered, and you couldn’t swing a dead cat in this town without hitting an unemployed investment banker.

Congratulations!

But the baby survived to term and was finally born for real. The internet came back in a big way in the early 2000s and I jumped on. I love emerging tech, I love having been in on the early days of web experiences, web analytics, email marketing, marketing optimization technology, social media, big data, content marketing and now content strategy.

What a growth spurt!

To my eyes, the internet is now an adolescent. We’re still not sure what it’s going to be when it grows up. What we do know, is that right now the internet is growing by leaps and bounds every day and it’s always hungry. The internet has an insatiable appetite for content. Content marketers must radically scale their efforts in order to remain relevant to customers—and to the search engines.

But there are terrific tools and resources to help us to do just that. Here are a few I’ve been using and have been super happy with.

What’s in my content marketing toolkit

SEMrush – keyword research, competitive ranking research. I use this tool to vet keywords on my list, decide whether to go after them and how much content I’ll need to start ranking on that keyword.

Google Analytics – tracking and analysis of organic, referral, and paid traffic volume and onsite behavior. I mostly work for startups that depend on this free tool. It’s always been fine for my needs.

CoSchedule – help with optimizing content titles and headlines

WritingBunny – outsourced writing. This resource has affordable articles, blog posts and white papers with a quick turn around time. I’ve been pleased with their work.

WordPress – my favorite CMS. I’ve used it across many clients and use it for my own site.

HubSpot – email marketing. Seems like most of my clients in the past used Marketo. Now, most of my clients use HubSpot. I like it better than Marketo for email marketing and reporting.

Facebook Advertising – building awareness, driving demand. Facebook advertising is inexpensive and their tool is very easy to use. I like the ability to micro-target by location, age and interests.

Google AdWords – pay-per-click advertising. Great for driving traffic to the site, testing messaging and keyword strategies, but have to pay attention to ROI to ensure you’re really getting the traffic you want.

Content Strategy Tip #2: What You Should Know About SEM

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SEM is building, maintaining and optimizing search advertising campaigns with pay-per-click vendors such as Google AdWords, Yahoo! Search, MSN and Facebook.

SEM engagements for me typically involve the following deliverables:

Campaign Build & Management

    • Keyword Strategy | The set of keywords and phrases used in your campaign, organized in ad groups
    • AdCopy | Ad copy for each ad group (in multiples if A/B testing)
    • Landing Pages | Unique landing page design and messaging for each ad group
    • Campaign Build | Uploading structured campaign to search vendors
    • Maintain | Manage bidding and budget, expand/edit keywords and adgroups, manage against cost per acquisition (CPA) goals

Campaign Optimize

    • Test-learn | Introduce new ad copy, test multiple landing pages, target new segments and optimize for improved conversion.

Google and Business: Best Frenemies

google_nyt_articleThose of us making a living in search marketing have long been aware of the pitfalls of doing business with Google which were outlined in a comprehensive look at the search behemoth in this morning’s NYT: Sure, It’s Big. But Is That Bad? Blatant self-interest, sudden unannounced changes in search algorithms and volatile ad rates have kept us on our toes, constantly having to keep up with whichever way the Google wind blows.

But we don’t take our business elsewhere. Most of us easily hand 80% of our paid search budget right over. When Google pulls another fast one – which it inevitably will, we adapt. Competitive behavior in a complex, networked economy is a slippery fish. Networks work because they are large. Networked economies (the Internet) benefit from scale (Google). We Internet marketers, although mostly irked by Google, accept that its very scale works to our benefit.

This morning’s Times article properly asks, “Can there really be monopolies online when the competition is only a click away?” We can move our paid search business away from Google and give it to Yahoo! or Bing at a moments notice. But we don’t.

And why not? Because, for now, Google is where the consumers are. Doing business with Google as advertiser has always been annoying and has certainly always felt unfair, but has it really been unfair? With all the pressure we now see to derive quantifyable ROI from every dollar we spend, we prove time and again that what we spend on Google is worth it no matter how annoying or unfair.

But all is transient – especially in the world of Internet marketing. When it becomes bad business to do business with Google, we’ll stop.

The Utility of Social Media

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Facebook’s arrival as a lifestyle brand was cemented the moment Zuckerberg appeared on Oprah. Having been on Facebook for several years as an Internet marketing professional, one can’t help but notice the sudden barrage of old high school friends (stay at home moms) having suddenly found me on Facebook. A noticeable shift in the FB demographic has taken place in the last six months.

Which makes the brand now part of popular culture, properly cited by Steve Rubel as the key motivation for recent advertiser interest in Facebook. Advertisers from Palm to Sprint are plugging Facebook in TV spots, aligning themselves with the social media icon that touches 200 million everyday.

But even brands who cozy up to Facebook in TV spots don’t promote their own page in the spot. They give no compelling reason to visit them on Facebook, no call to action, in fact no instructions on how or what to do it even if the viewer wanted to connect with them on Facebook. Which infers that that the advertiser isn’t so interested in having folks visit them on Facebook. Which infers that they have yet to realize, quantify or otherwise evaluate the benefit of Facebook interactions.

Again, the social media ROI dilemma.

Social media is difficult to quantify and always will be because it’s a brand play. A positioning play. A PR play. Twitter, Facebook and media-sharing sites are places to listen (market research) make impressions, join and steer conversations, publish information, and drive brand image. Every day, social media looks more and more like broadcast media, facilitating one-to-many interactions.

Because “online marketing” including SEM, SEO, email and affiliate marketing, has grown up as a direct marketing discipline, it doesn’t know what to make of Facebook and Twitter. Neither are demonstrated lead gen or new traffic generating vehicles. Yet as emerging web-based, interactive channels, social media responsibility often falls to the “online marketer”, who ROI-driven by nature, is skeptical (ahem).

Online marketers who are responsible for the total online presence from AdWords to social media often leave the company Twitter profile to an afterthought. A wise friend said to me back in 2005 when the whole of the Internet was surging toward investments in direct, data-driven marketing, that in the total mix, “there will always be a place for brand, there will always be a place for direct and it’s a mistake to divest entirely in brand marketing online.”

The Irony of Social Media

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What a week it’s been for our little blue friend. Everywhere I look, all my favorite sites and blogs are bashing the poor creature. Admittedly, I’ve done a bit of Twitter bashing myself (although I prefer to think of it as critical thought).Like what Mitch Joel has to say about the inherent “volume contradiction” in all social media. Once the volume of any given network (your Facebook friends or Twitter followers) gets to significant levels, the network is no longer “social”. (Check out what I had to say about that a few months ago in ‘Twas the Night Before Twitter Got Monetized.) What may have once been a set of one-to-one interactions by necessity becomes a series of one-to-many broadcasts.

And as a communications channel for would-be marketers, how is that any different from, say, display advertising – also a one-to-many broadcast model?

While marketers clamor to get their social media strategies in place, the irony of social media is that in order for it matter as a channel, it has to start looking like all the others.