A practical lead conversion guide
The definition of a lead is a common area of disagreement between marketing and sales. Marketing is often focussed on generating relevant response based on interest in a certain topic. But the sales team is only interested in those leads that are ready to talk business. To align marketing and sales in terms of lead generation we therefore need to look at the different stages of a lead. It’s good to realize that marketing will look at these stages in a different way than sales. As sales typically looks at the ‘leaking’ sales funnel, while marketing likes to talk about the stages in the buyer journey. But luckily both departments will have an idea of the difference between a marketing qualified lead (MQL) and a sales qualified lead (SQL).
Lead stages in the leaking sales funnel
In order to manage the conversion process from ‘market’ to ‘customer’, a tool known as the ‘sales funnel’ is often used. This is the ‘funnel’ of potential customers that have been identified within the sales process. The following classification can be used here:
- Market: the entire market the that organization is focused on.
- Suspects: the companies that are potential customers within the target market, because they, for example, fulfill a number of specific criteria.
- Leads: marketing qualified leads includes companies in the category of ‘suspects’ that have indicated that they could be interested in the products and services of the organization.
- Prospect: sales qualified leads are prospects in the sales funnel. These includes companies that have shown a serious interest in the products and services of the organization.
- Customers: companies with whom there is a customer-provider relationship.
With each step in the conversion process, the likelihood that a lead becomes a customer increases. More and more companies, however, drop out of the sales process, this is called ‘leakage’. This leakage is caused, for example, because the company:
- has no need for the service or product
- doesn’t seek contact with the organization
- opts for a different provider or solution
When there is a good overview of the percentages of this leakage, sales management can better adjust the sales process through KPI’s: for example, when it’s known that 50% of prospects opt for something else, or 50% of qualified leads do not seek any serious form of contact, or when the quality leads are required to generate one sale. The organization can take steps to improve these conversion ratios, modern marketing can play a role in this. Depending on the specific situation, sub qualifications can be added to the sales funnel management.
The sales funnel is mirrored as soon as the sale takes place. Conversion takes place with existing customers: positive conversion with repeat business (another sale) or additional services, and negative conversion when the customer breaks the customer-provider relationship. Satisfied customers can be converted to fans. The ultimate scenario then is that they promote the organization and recommend products and services actively.
- Repeat: the number of customer that repeat-buy.
- Churn: the number of customers that cut ties.
- Fans: the number of customers that reach a particular level of customer satisfaction.
Lead stages in the buyer jouney
The sales funnel is language from the sales team. However, marketingpeople think in terms of a Buyer Journey. Business investment decisions are generally not made overnight. Decision-makers undergo a process known as the buyer journey. Before making investment decisions, people first discover a challenge, problem or idea. For example, the current situation is no longer sufficient or external developments created the possibility for new opportunities – or threats – which need to be dealt with or anticipated. Subsequently, different scenarios are considered for which improvements can be made and implemented. Finally, the various options are assessed and decisions are made. This journey can be divided into the following stages:
- Discovery: The starting point is the recognition or acknowledgement of a problem or challenge. Following that is acceptance that a solution must be found.
- Consideration: Next it’s necessary to find solutions. Internally, the wishes and requirements are reviewed and externally all the possibilities are lined up. This search generally ends with the preference for one, or a limited number of, suppliers.
- Decision: Finally, you move toward the execution of a choice. The chosen option must be justifiable and give the feel-good factor.
- Implementation: After the actual purchase, the product or service needs to be implemented or put into use. As supplier, it’s key to optimize this process.
- Usage: Lastly, the service or product is put into use. Now it’s essential to turn users into fans!
Lead nurturing to convert MQLs to SQLs
There’s often a long way to go to get from incoming leads to a sales qualified lead. As modern marketing uses as a starting point the buyer journey of the customer, the first contact (or conversion) can happen at an early stage of the buying process. When a suspect downloads a trend report, it can be a signal that in the coming year there will be significant demand for certain products or services. At this early stage of the buying process however, it can still take a long time before the leads is sales qualified and interested in a quote or contact with an account manager. The follow-up on modern marketing leads needs to take into account the lead status.
In this early stage of discovery, the potential customer can still be busy trying to figure out their actual need in the situation. Content that helps them along in this process is relevant. A good modern marketing program can help the potential customer, for example via a newsletter, whitepaper or webinar. The structures development of potential clients, without the need to currently buy, is also known as lead nurturing. In this nurture process, somewhere in between generating a lead and a the readiness to talk to sales, the lead passes from the marketing team to the sales division. In order to determine the timing, a division can be made between marketing qualified leads and sales qualified leads.
- Marketing qualified leads (MQL) – These are leads with a low account score, for example because they are in an early phase of the buying process. This pool of leads lends itself to lead nurturing initiatives, it’s the marketer’s primary responsibility to develop these leads further. When the lead- or account score reach a certain point, they are taken over by sales.
- Sales qualified leads (SQL) – When there is an actual need, the function is relevant and the lead fulfills the necessary criteria, it’s a case of a sales qualified lead. This is the moment the lead is passed on to the sales department.
The coordination between marketing and sales is crucial for good conversion. Therefore, it should be clear to everybody when a lead is pass on from marketing to sales. Aside from that, the follow-up by the sales division needs to be in place and tightly managed. Leads can cool off quickly and evaporate.
The theory, however, is less manageable than in practice. The trend report that was aimed at business decision makers in the discovery stage, could be requested by a technical decision maker in the consideration phase. Or organizations that are regarded as prospects can suddenly delay the procedure or, even, call the whole thing off. The reverse can also happen, where unfamiliar parties suddenly convert to hot prospects: they had informed themselves elsewhere, but want to see what alternatives there are out there and display an actual need for a service or a product. In short, what appears to be a structure one minute, can be completely out of date the next. Lead management is a dynamic process, in which an actual insight into the lead status of potential customers is essential.
MQL lead scoring and account scoring
There are certain ‘lead scoring’ techniques to gain valuable insight into the lead status. Lead scoring is a method that rates potential customers against a sliding scale in which the value of the lead for the organization increases. Depending on this lead score, subsequent steps can be determined within the commercial process. If the score is low the leads can be qualified as MQL, then a program of lead nurturing can be implemented and the lead can be invited, for example, for an event or a webinar. If the score is high, then the leads is sales qualified and the sales team can be called upon.
The best techniques for lead scoring make use of explicit, as well as implicit, information. Explicit scores are based on information about the lead, for example the size of the organization, the industry or role. Implicit scores are based on the behavior of the lead, for example the websites they visit, ’email opens’ and whitepaper downloads. A new lead score is based on activities of the leads on social media, the so-called ‘social score’.
Many investments involve more than one decision maker within one organization: the decision making unit. Therefore it can be relevant to make known the activities of individual leads from the same organization surrounding the same themes. When a marketing manager for example, downloads a whitepaper about the integration of email marketing and CRM, and the IT manager in the same organization downloads an article about ‘CRM as a service’, this can indicate that a CRM project is taking place with the company. Account scoring brings all these signals at an organization together in the account score.
KPI’s and ROI in modern marketing
In summary, it can be said that the choice in KPI’s whereby the modern marketing initiatives can be measured, depends on the modern marketing objectives. Aside from that, the KPI’s differ per phase in the buyer journey. The table below gives an overview of the most common occurrences.
In an ideal situation, the ROI of the modern marketing initiatives is steered in the mid-long-term, in financial terms. A basic formula can be, for example, the costs of modern marketing as a percentage of the achieved revenue.
Direction in the (too) short-term ROI objectives within the modern marketing process is not always sensible, as the following aspects need to be taken into consideration:
- Modern marketing activities are aimed at the entire buyer journey. When, in the initial period, marketing leads are being generated that are at an early stage in the buyer journey, but there are relatively little sales qualified leads or customer conversions, the turnover cannot yet be measured. The period for measuring turnover should therefore be aligned with the buyer journey.
- When setting up modern marketing, there will be a limited amount of content in the start phase. In subsequent periods previously created content can be capitalized upon, which has a positive effect on the ROI.
Finally, it should be taken into account that turnover cannot always be assigned to one channel. A modern marketing lead, after all, could have converted to a customer by recommendation from another customer, or a customer that enters upon recommendation could have regularly read a particular blog without this being included in the methods for measuring. The method and the timing of measurement, therefore, are somewhat arbitrary if no foolproof systems and definitions are used, for measurement purposes.
A Review of MailChimp as Marketing Automation Tool
MailChimp is a great tool, and we love it at Manceppo. It’s easy to use and has solid functionality and a reliable deliverability. To get started with marketing automation, MailChimp offers a good beginning but, fundamentally, it’s focused on executing basic drip campaigns. Marketing automation and drip campaigns are not the same thing. A drip campaign is a set of marketing emails that will be sent out automatically on a schedule. Marketing automation, however, is a much broader concept. Its objective is to automate a series of repetitive tasks such as emails, social media and other website actions.
What Mailchimp defines as marketing automation is a series of static campaigns connected to separate lists rather than dynamic campaigns applicable to your overall subscriber or user base. This setup isn’t an effective way of communicating and monetizing your audience. Dynamic campaigns across all your contacts enable you to send more optimized and personalized communications based on where the contact is in their journey and the actions they take on your site.
In this blog, we look at the marketing automation functionality MailChimp offers then we address what’s missing and how to fix it.
MailChimp Basic Marketing Automation Functionality
Email drip campaigns consist of a series of emails sent to members of a specific list or segment. They can be sent to all members, new members or members for whom a certain field is identified.
Triggers for drip campaigns in MailChimp include:
- Campaign Activity: These triggers help you target subscribers who are on your email marketing list, are identified as “opened,” “clicked” or “not opened” or found you through a specific link.
- List Management: These triggers help you target subscribers who signed up for your MailChimp list or whose list data has changed recently such as those who were added, one of their fields changed or those who recently joined.
- Queue Activity: These triggers help you target subscribers who are already in the queue of your automation series such as opened previous email or clicked on a specific link in previous email.
- E-Commerce: These triggers help you target customers from your connected e-commerce platform such as Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce or Magento.
- Integrations: These advanced triggers help you target subscribers who meet criteria you establish based on custom API integrations.
- Date-Based: These triggers help you target subscribers based on a specific date field in your list like a birthday or an anniversary. This trigger type is exclusively available for date-based automations.
To see how this marketing automation in MailChimp works, Media Leaders offers this great instruction video on YouTube:
Profile Rating Versus Lead Scoring
The key to managing dynamic campaigns across all your contacts to enable personalized communications is the ability to identify individual profile characteristics within your lists and segments. In marketing automation systems, this is done by applying lead scoring mechanisms. Lead scoring is a way to measure the likeliness of a commercial opportunity for a potential customer. Depending on this lead score, the next best step can be determined — for instance, transferring a lead to the sales department or triggering a certain nurture flow. But MailChimp only shows a simple “contact rating” indicating the activity level of a subscriber. This isn’t a true indicator of specific interests. Here’s an example:
Lead scores on the different conditions of a profile can typically be categorized as “critical,” “important,” “influential” or “negative.” A more positive condition will typically receive a higher score. Negative criteria have a negative score. Critical conditions can imply a “go” or “no-go” decision. For instance, when a company is not based in the U.S., it’s not considered a lead at all.
But a flat “overall” score isn’t very intelligent. Although easy to use and better than nothing, a unified score doesn’t say much about interest in specific topics, the type of persona or the phase a lead is in within the buyer journey.
In many marketing automation systems, lead score techniques use both explicit and implicit information. This is where lead scoring becomes interesting. Explicit scores are based on specific profile characteristics that are generally available. Think of intelligence regarding buying authority, position or presence of social media accounts. Implicit scores are based on lead behavior such as website visits, email opens and white paper downloads. Here’s one example:
|Reads a relevant blog||5|
|Opens an email||10|
|Downloads a white paper or e-book||20|
|Joins a webinar||25|
|Checks pricing information||35|
This singular way of scoring behavior is logical when your company sells one type of product like a CRM system. But when you sell both CRM and ERP systems it makes more sense to set up a behavioral score per product line or, even better, per area of interest. For this, your content or campaign assets (like landing pages, emails and webinars) need to be tagged per topic or offering. Also, your marketing automations system needs to support multiple lead scores.
Together, implicit and explicit scores can give a good indication of the interests and characteristics of an individual person. This interest score provides a good opportunity to determine your next best step in communication with your contact. And this is core to marketing communication — sending the right message to the right person at the right moment. As discussed above, in marketing automation, lead scoring based on profile information and behavior across channels plays a crucial role. The problem with the profile information in MailChimp is that it is based on email behavior, and, therefore, isn’t complete.
Adding Behavior Tracking to Trigger Automation
When you use MailChimp and have a WordPress website you can use Manceppo to trigger automation in MailChimp workflows. By adding Manceppo, you can typically use triggers like:
- Website visits on a page level
- Downloads of white papers, reports or e-books
- Opens and clicks of emails from MailChimp
- Profile information from forms
Now, with all your contact information in one place, you can start triggering cross-list or segment actions without investing in a high-end solution. You can track critical moments like views or interest in specific topics to trigger drip campaigns in MailChimp.
Forms, Downloads and Social Posts
Once you have implemented Manceppo, you can start using many other marketing automation features as well. Using the Manceppo WordPress plug-in, you can turn WordPress pages into effective landing pages for your white papers and e-books. Or you can easily share, optimize and schedule your content on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Get started with your free account today!
Your content is useless when no one is engaging with it. So you’ll need a combination of media to draft your communication strategy. The dividing lines between earned, paid and owned media are not 100% definitive. An overlap exists in numerous areas, such as:
- Owned media is promoted via paid media.
- Owned media is optimized for earned media.
- Earned media is responded to via owned media.
- Positive earned media can be promoted via paid media.
- Social media advertising can be engaged via earned media.
A recurring factor when considering the use of media channels is the tension field between reach and control. Reach means the number of people reached via the channel. Of course, it primarily concerns itself with people who are potential DMU members for the products and solutions that are being sold. Control involves the measure of influence that the organization can have in the presentation of the message or content.
Looking at the different media options, the advantage of owned media is optimal control. The message, the design, the tone of voice and the format are completely in the hands of the organization. The flipside to this is that the reach is limited mainly to existing relations. To generate new business, it’s vital to involve paid and earned media.
Traditionally, paid media was always seen as the most obvious media channel. The rise of social media and content marketing has given owned media and earned media a bigger share in the mix. Owned media is growing because of the increasing value placed by organizations on the production of valuable and relevant content. Earned media is gaining attention due to its potentially huge reach using the relatively low threshold involved in social media, blogs and communities. In practice, though, it’s still very difficult to run effective, large-scale campaigns without involving paid media in some sort of capacity.
Beside looking at media as either owned, earned and paid, it can also be looked at from a push and pull approach. With push communication, the sender determines the content and the timing of the message. If you receive a weekly e-newsletter, then you know beforehand what the editorial team will have in store for you and when it’s going to land in your inbox. In pull communication, the initiative is with the receiver of the communications. For example, you can search for a certain topic on Google and arrive at a relevant publication that way.
|Pull: unsolicited presented content (requested)||Push: unsolicited presented content (with permission)|
|Owned||SEO (search engine optimization)||Newsletter|
|Paid||SEA (search engine advertising)||Advertorials|
In content marketing, pull and push mechanisms have their pros and cons. A big advantage of the pull mechanism is that visitors are searching for a specific topic. When they find it, the conversion from site visit to lead is high as the correlation between the visitor’s interest and content offered is significant. The big drawback of the pull mechanism is that the number of people who search at random moments for a certain topic is relatively low. The advantage of push media is that within a short amount of time you can achieve a large reach with a quick response. The disadvantage of push media is that since the communication is initiated by the sender, the receiver will not always be open to this communication.
When planning media, it is sensible to take into account the differences in response expectation. This is particularly relevant for the follow-up. When you provide white paper downloads in a newsletter but during the week that the newsletter is sent there is insufficient time for follow-up, then you’re missing the boat. Leads fall behind quickly and quickly become irrelevant.
However, when you offer one or more white papers on multiple portals that are designed for search engine marketing, people will continuously request them. The follow-up process should be the continuous filtering of leads.
When setting up the media, you should combine push and pull mechanisms. Many content marketing initiatives start by posting content via their own media, such as their blog or in the knowledge section of their website which gets picked up by search engines – this pull gets you traffic over time. To have direct traffic on your content you can add push mechanisms, like your newsletter and direct promotion in paid media.
In B2B content marketing the production of sufficient, appealing high quality content has been one of the biggest challenges. Additionally, the best content is in the heads of different employees, and not everyone is keen to start writing blogs, participating in webinars and taking part on social media. Facilitating the organization is of great importance. And when the decision is made to outsource the creation of content, the message and tone of voice need to be on target.
The production of content and the management of a content marketing process requires new skills and competencies from the organization. The content marketing process shares parallels with a publishing company, but most organizations are not (yet) publishers. The different skills are contained in silos. As such, different people or departments are responsible for SEO, PR, social media, product marketing and the customer magazine. This chapter delves into the roles and functions required for content marketing, forming multidisciplinary teams and the question of outsourcing.
Roles and positions in B2B content marketing
The roles that need to be filled in an extensive content marketing organization can be linked to the seven steps of B2B content marketing discussed in this e-book. This paragraph describes the various roles that are assembled based on the setup recommended by the Content Marketing Institute. It’s a vision of the marketing department of 2025.
Each role need not be a position. In practice, various roles will be carried out by one person or undertaken by existing people in other positions. In small organizations, all the roles can be taken on by one content marketer. He or she will never be short on work!
Chief content officer (CCO)
The position of chief content officer has gained ground as a result of strategic choices made by more and more organizations in terms of content marketing. The position is also known as content strategist or VP of content. This is the person who is ultimately responsible for content marketing within the organization.
The responsibilities and roles for the CCO include:
- Drafting a modern content marketing strategy
- Translating the mission and strategy into corporate stories or “the big story”
- Making strategic choices in the concept development, content formats and media channels
- Defining and steering KPIs
- Developing, recruiting, employing and directing the content marketing team
- Ensuring a good technical infrastructure for content marketing
The chief content officer doesn’t create content himself/herself but an affinity with content creation is a must in for the role. Thinking in terms of content or its creation is in this person’s DNA. The CCO is comparable to a publisher. He is the gatekeeper of the corporate story, the ambassador of all the content. The CCO guarantees that locally created content from different silos of the organization is consistent with editorial guidelines and aligned with the audience. Not only does he or she have a pulse on the market but they provide support in the content strategy within the organization.
The managing editor is essentially the editor-in-chief. This person is responsible for the production of the content according to the ideas, editorial guidelines and strategy developed with the CCO. The managing editor is the project manager that, on behalf of the CCO, steers and manages the editorial calendar. He or she directs the content creation team, which can consist of editors, designers and producers. The setup of the team depends on the content formats and the size of the organization. Roles and responsibilities of the managing editor include:
- content production
- content planning
- search engine optimization
- content design and layout
- content presentation
Where the CCO focuses on the strategy, the managing editor deals with the execution. In smaller organizations, the position of managing editor and CCO are generally carried out by the same person.
Content creation team
The managing editors are generally content creators themselves but, depending on the amount of content, the type of content and the format, they will need to involve other people in the process. This can be their own editorial team but valuable contributions generally come from the so-called subject matter experts within the company. These could be consultants, product managers, innovation managers, C-level managers or analysts. These content creators needn’t be born writers; it’s up to the managing editor to translate these stories into content. They have their feet firmly rooted in the organization and can share knowledge, expertise and experience in the most relevant and transparent way via working with ghostwriters, conducting interviews or editing existing pieces.
Content doesn’t merely consist of copy. Depending on the medium and format, content needs to be made as appealing as possible through the design and visuals. For the various formats, this can involve different roles with different purposes, such as:
- Events: conference producer, conference logistics, chairman, program board
- Visual: photographer, designer, illustrator
- Moving media: producer, director, sound technician, camera man, editor, animation designer
- Virtual event: moderator, director, studio technician
The content curator searches online for news, trends and developments that are relevant to the target audience. The curator is generally not a standalone position but a role adopted in the content creation or social media team. Relevant input is brought to their attention via social media channels or from the content creation team. Curation can be used effectively to enrich your own content, remain current and increase cohesion between existing content items.
Chief listening officer (CLO) or social media coordinator
The social media coordinator is the roaming gatekeeper between the (social) media channels and the organization. This person follows and participates in the conversation on social media on behalf of the organization and involves the relevant departments for specific questions and discussion points.
For the content marketing team, this person is an important source for new information regarding what engages the target group so the marketing team can respond accordingly and continue to produce relevant content.
The audience manager is responsible for monitoring and honing in on the target groups, the decision-making units and the buyer personas. The core of content marketing is anticipating demand, questions, needs and dreams of the target audience. So, it’s important to continue to guarantee this and anticipate new triggers in time. The audience manager is closely involved with segmenting and increasing the database.
The investment in high-quality content is big, but small adjustments in the title, management summary or visuals can significantly affect responsiveness. The appeal to share messages via social media can be strongly influenced by adding just the right twist. The first responder puts the content under the microscope before it’s published and optimizes it for maximum effect. A lot of content can be reused in different channels and each channel has its own set of characteristics. The first responder works closely with the channel marketer to optimize content for each channel.
Content reaches a target group via different channels – the owned, earned and paid media. This can include your own online channels, social media, apps, magazine or events. Each channel has its own set of characteristics, content specifications and promotion possibilities. Channels can also differ in the timing of use or popularity among the buyer personas. The channel marketer is responsible for channel optimization.
For stimulating messaging and reach of specific or new target groups, paid media remains an important part of the communication mix. The media buyer/planner is responsible for the purchase and optimization of paid media.
Where the curator is responsible for gathering external content, the syndicator ensures that self-developed content is shared on third-party channels as much as possible. The content syndicator is responsible for generating maximum exposure via earned media by ensuring that what he is sharing is straightforward and appealing. This person can be responsible for a subset of the content or all its assets.
Beside maintaining media contacts, the traditional PR officer increasingly focuses on maintaining contact with influencers. This person takes care of a network of relevant contacts with media, thought leaders, subject matter experts and recognized trendsetters.
The gap between marketing and sales is reduced by organizing a process to transfer marketing-ready leads to the sales team at the right moment. The lead manager is responsible for the qualification and nurturing of the marketing leads and the comprehensive transfer to the sales division.
The analytics expert takes care of substantive reporting of KPIs and interprets the results. This expert keeps a watchful eye on achieving the set objectives and analyses discrepancies.
Supplier relationship manager
Not only will the content production be done by the organization itself but, as content marketing activities grow, outsourcing to third parties will increase. Freelancers can be called upon to write content on specific topics to carry out specialist work, such as the creation of animations. Agencies will also come into play to set up and execute content marketing campaigns or to advise. The supplier relationship manager is responsible for recruiting this network of specialists and forming the organizational processes that require collaboration.
Training and coaching lead
The adoption of content marketing requires the development of new competencies within the whole organization. In-depth expertise of content marketing can be expected from the content marketing team, but the requirements extend further. From subject matter experts to product managers and C-level employees, substantial contribution is expected for content to tell the story and distribute the messages of the organization. And employees can be expected to engage their network via social media and share content in a personal way. But this has to be according to the guidelines of the organization. The training and coaching lead takes care of the development of competencies of the organization.
The employees are the core for every service-providing company and the embodiment of the story and the messaging. And as every employee presents a channel in itself, it’s important in content marketing that the thinking is propagated by the HR organization. The HR liaison takes care of HR policy and the requirement for employees to communicate and behave consistently and transparently within the organization.
Technology plays an increasingly important role in the content marketing process, from online marketing tooling – such as content management systems, email marketing tools or marketing automation software – to various internal systems. The chief technologist is responsible for the technical infrastructure and its development. Internally, the team of the chief technologist can include a webmaster and a software developer who work on customized solutions. Externally, this person also steers the external service providers.
To plug and play with your favorite marketing tools, Manceppo helps out with its easy to use platform.
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So what the heck is going on with search engines lately? Previously, life was so easy. You made sure your carefully chosen keywords were properly integrated in your content and that they showed up in the right places in your WordPress website. Plugins like Yoast can help you do just that, and make sure you are all set for optimized titles, URL’s, keyword density and so on. With these basics in place it was time to work on a better PageRank than your competitors. And a topranking website was well on its way!
But the magic of Google is getting smarter. Think of semantic word combinations, the new and ultimate #0 position and the introduction of Rankbrain. And PageRank seems to be dead. So what can you do as a marketer with a limited budget?
At the latest Content Marketing World conference there was a lot of attention for SEO. And rightly so! As search engines are still the main traffic driver for many content marketing initiatives.
Wisedom came from Rand Fishkin (better known as the “Wizard of Moz), Andy Crestodina (author of Content Chemistry) and Arnie Kuenn (author of Accelerate!). The SEO tips that caught my eye are summarized in this blog. Real SEO basics such as keyword selection and the technical constraints of your site aren’t discussed.
Tip 1: Produce the best ever page on a specific topic
Is your aim to rank a first position on a particular keyword combination? Then create the best page ever made on the web about that specific topic. But be aware. Go for it if your site can compete in terms of authority with the current top 20 positions. That’s when you make a chance to score with the most informative and complete version.
As a starting point for creating the best page, aim to answer all relevant questions. And be complete. Pages with more than 2,000 words have a positive correlation with a top 10 position. Also the use of relevant visuals to support your textual knowledge is valued by Google. Furthermore, making other sites link to yours is much easier when you have the best page on the subject. This off course contributes to the authority of both your page and your domain.
Tip 2: Check your Domain Authority to replace PageRank
Search engine marketing is like any other sport you want to win. So look for areas where you have a good chance to win the match, before you start the battle for a top 10 position. Suppose you want to rank for the term “annuity payments” and in the top 10 are all well optimized pages with a domain authority of 50 and above. When your site has an authority of 28, you are starting a match you might not win yet. But when the top 10 search results for “annuity repayment schedule” ranks moderately optimized sites with an authority of 30, you have great opportunities.
Although Google stopped publishing your PageRank, authority of your domain and the page continues to be of great importance to your chances in the top results. So getting links originating from sites with a high authority remains a top priority. Domain and Page Authority can for example easily be identified by using the MOZ toolbar.
Tip 3: Win the #0 position
What’s even better than ranking a number 1 position? Exactly, the zero position! Although Google urges not to scrape content from other sites, Google itself is getting more and more content from other sites. Definitions, flights, sports scores, weather, flight tickets … They often appear above the search results, its content scraped and re-organized by Google. And these #0 positions hijack an increasing part of search traffic. A popular way to get the # 0 position is to be the best answer query: What is XYZ? There you create a page for like discussed in tip 1. Please note that your site must perform very well already in Google to make a chance on the #0 position.
Tip 4: Enrich your results with Google snippets
The #0 position is actually a Google snippet. Snippets are enrichments of your search results, Google supplements. Consider showing a picture, ratings, or additional site links in your search results. This can result in a more attractive representation in search results, and therefor is a way to win more clicks. Do you want a chance to enrich your results with these snippets? Then look how to structure your content at Schema.org and use the “Google Structured Data Tester” to see if Google interprets your site properly. Google however does not follow Schema.org completely, as YouTube (and sometimes Vimeo) are now the only way to obtain a video snippet.
For WordPress site owners there are some awesome plugins to optimally use Google snippets, like; WP SEO Structured Data Schema.
Tip 5: Twitter is Google’s new favorite social platform. Twitter, really?
According to Rand Fishkin, Twitter is Google’s new favorite social platform. 6.5 percent of the top 10 results is a currently a Tweet. Not something you can optimize a page for, but when preparing your tweets, you can keep it in mind. A nice blog about the topic can be found here.
Tip 6: Put all your content in one main domain (domain authority)
We probably all know the trick to start a new initiative on a subdomain. For example, you place a blog on http://blog.website.com to take advantage of the domain authority of the main site. Many HubSpot customers use this technique. Yet the SEO advice from both Andy and Edge is to use a sub-folder on your main domain, so something like http://website.com/blog for optimal results. Rand has recently even devoted a White Board Friday on this topic.
Tip 7: Revise existing content based on the score
Often, existing non-optimized pages on your site represent the best low-hanging fruit. Optimize these first before you continue to create (even more) new content. The best way to start is to look at what keyword combinations you current site scores a position between 11 and 30. These are the pages that still need an extra push to get into the top 10.
“The best way to hide a dead body is page 2 of Google search results”
You can discover on which keywords you rank between the 11 and 30 scores using your Google Analytics account. For this go to: Acquisition -> Webmaster Tools -> Queries and retrieve them using a query (based on visitors who clicked on them in the past, based on an adequate period).
Tip 8: Review existing pages based on content
Pages that aren’t found yet, can also potentially be turned into great landing pages for relevant keyword combinations you haven’t optimized for. In addition to using common sense when creating a keyword plan, some interesting tools like SEMRush.com and KeywordTool.io can help you in uncovering potentially interesting keyword combinations to start optimizing.
Tip 9: Start using semantic keywords
Google is obviously getting smarter. Where we previously looked at keyword density, this ratio has now become an indication of keyword spam. The use of often repeated keywords is more likely to be punished than rewarded. Of course you should integrate certain keywords in the title, text, and H1 tags, but looking at the actual content you should start using semantic keywords. For example, is your page about shoes, then semantically related words such as for example pumps, high heels, footgear, flip flops and boots. You get the picture.
There are several tools that can help you find related semantic terms such as the “related topics” functionality in MOZ Pro and the Open Calais tagging tool from Thomson Reuters. The Google AdWords tool will give you some suggestions as well, here you can find is a good blog on the topic by Andy.
Tip 10: Make internal linking a priority
When you just invested your time in a new webpage, finished it by adding internal links. Look within your site which pages are most relevant and use text links to connect them. This way you can affect ‘Page Authority’ in an effective way. Did you lose the big picture of your site? And are you missing a search box? Let Google find the relevant pages by searching the keywords on your own domain using Advanced Search.
For WordPress there are some internal linking plugins available, like “SEO Auto Linker”,
Tip 11: Check whether you (still) meet the Google Guidelines
Are you serious about reassessing the optimization of the content on your website? And do you have a spare weekend available? Take the time to read the Google guideline for content quality. You’ll discover the differences of what Google categorizes as high quality ranking, moderate and bad content. But you’ll also find all the ins and outs on for instance mobile content. The full document is freely available and can be downloaded here.
Tip 12: Work on your network as a blogger
You can increase the authority of your domain by making relevant external domains (preferably with high authority) link to you. But how do you get them to do just that? The exchange of irrelevant links you want to avoid. This so-called link spamming is in fact punished. So, it’s time to invest in your network. In this regard social media like LinkedIn can have an important role in your SEO strategy after all.
You can get your content spread over the web using several tactics, for instance by external speaking opportunities or by blogging on external sites. An external blog usually provides a bloggers profile in which you can link to your own site. Sometimes it makes sense to include links to your content. But also provide your own site as a stage for others, by networking this way you will be referred more frequently. Notice for instance how this blog refers to content of Andy and Rand on their sites, after their speaking opportunity at Content Marketing World.
Tip 13: Bold opinions and research data to get the most links
Another way to get links is to optimize your content for it. For example, as indicated in Tip 1: “Produce the best ever page on a specific topic“, of these, Wikipedia is obviously a very good example. But research has shown that content with firm opinions and hard research data get the most mentions. So by using your own market research with striking results or writing bold blogs you can boost your domain authority.
Tip 14: Use “no follow” in a pro-active way
Webmasters can integrate a “no follow” command in their HTML. This way you tell Google not to index a specific page. Your first reaction will probably be: but I want Google to index all the content on my website! However, pages with a very low duration or a very high bounce rate can have a negative impact on your domain score in Google. Therefore, you can consider to get these page out of the search results in a pro-active way.
Tip 15: Start preparing for Rankbrain
And I saved the best tip for last, namely the one you cannot do anything with. Here it is: Prepare for Rankbrain. Rankbrain is the artificial intelligence that Google uses to interpret more complex queries. It aims to give a “human gut feeling” about the intend of a more complex search. In addition, the technology makes use of machine learning. This kind of technology will become increasingly important in the future. And if you do not quite understand how that works, you do not have to doubt yourself. Google itself does not quite know how it really works. As indeed, it is self-learning.
“Google does not fully understand Rankbrain”
But the essence of Rankbrain is again setting the searcher central stage and providing the best answer to the question possible. So when you are the best answer, your chances to be found will grow.
Summing up these SEO tips, SEO does not really become so much more complex, but rather simpler. Because Google is becoming even more intelligent, it distinguishes really good written content from content written for search engines. Actually this is good news for both searchers and all marketing professionals with a passion for great content. Our job as content marketers does not change significantly, we should just be making the best content possible!
The return on modern marketing is rooted in the conversion from unknown vistor, to customer relationship. There are many stages in between however, such as subscribers, followers, leads and prospects. In order to properly measure the performance of the modern marketing process, it’s important to define KPI’s.
By steering according to KPI’s, you can improve the performance, for example, in the form of click and conversion ratios. Improvements can be made in the titles, user interface, alignment with the target audience, response to the device and the use of visuals.
Different types of conversion can be examined depending on the objectives, including;
- Clicks, views and visits
- Likes, fans and followers
- Engagement ratios
- Response and leads
Research shows that content creation is seen as one of the biggest challenges for content marketing. It’s not just authors who suffer from a ‘writers block’, complete organizations face this problem. Creating content in itself is challenging, however, due to the rapid growth of content marketing initiatives, distinctive content is becoming more and more important. When content becomes a repetition of previously published knowledge or facts, the added value is limited. Providing content of high quality, with unique characteristics, increases its appeal. Here is what to create and where to begin.
Which content formats can best be applied, is of course an interesting question. The Content Marketing Institute 2016 carried out relevant research on this subject matter. Approximately 1500 B2B marketers that took part in the survey, were questioned as to the effectiveness and the use of different content marketing tactics. The tactics that are perceived as most effective, are shown in the figure below.
The effectiveness of a format depends very much on the message and the audience, but also, of course, on the quality of the content and reach of the audience. It’s impossible to single out one format or offer advice on the best application thereof. It is possible however, to logically link content formats to the buyer journey. In order to stimulate the discovery process trend analyses, vision and infographics can be suitable. The consideration phase, however, lends itself to formats that can transmit more in-depth messaging, for example, whitepapers, checklists and demos.
Furthermore, the chosen content formats must be suited to the DMU (Decision Making Unit) member they are targeted at. When establishing the framework for the use of online messaging, the DMU members and the phases of the buying process should serve as the starting point. As such, downloadable research reports and vision documentation can be interesting for executive board members, and whitepapers about organizational issues for line managers.
Here, individual content items are not standalone entities, but rather combined in order to reinforce one another. In the example above, research can be combined with roundtable sessions. But that same research, can give rise to, among other things, blogs for blogsites and infographics to be applied on social media. The same basic content is then used in a different context, aimed at different DMU members.
Many B2B marketers are still burying their heads in the sand regarding the possibilities and opportunities offered by mobile devices. Time is running out for those B2B marketers who have not yet embraced the developments in mobile marketing. The time is ripe to explore the potential.
Top Mobile Marketing Tactics
The mobile channel is therefore playing an increasingly important role in marketing, and it deserves special attention. However, B2B marketers who want to use this mobile channel and create an impact are faced with a challenge. Users want relevance, functionality, and access to information on any device, at any time and from any location. So how can this be achieved? Start by considering the following tactics for your mobile presence.
- Responsive website. Make your website responsive to the different devices and adapt content where necessary.
- Mobile-friendly campaigns. Ensure that your campaigns do not run aground on mobile devices, and instead optimize your landing pages. Tailor settings for each type of device for things such as forms.
- Mobile advertising. Mobile advertising can be highly tailored by location, time, and device, resulting in high relevance and therefore high-response rates.
- Mobile e-mail. Reading e-mails is still one of the most used functions on smartphones and tablets. It is therefore essential to ensure that your HTML can be read properly on these devices. For example, use only one column.
- Mobile apps. An app enables you to secure a prominent presence on your customer’s device. But for this you need to do more than simply follow the recommendations given above.
One important recommendation is missing however. As advised by Forrester in the new report “Don’t Confuse Tablet And Mobile Marketing,” a B2B marketer needs to differentiate between smartphones and tablets. Smartphones have a much smaller screen for content experiences and is used “on the go,” while tablets are used more at home and in the office offering rich content opportunities. Tablets are also increasingly differentiated as “lead back” media versus the “lead forward” or “behind the desk” content consumption on the PC or laptop.
Entering the Market With an App
B2B marketers hoping to establish a presence on their customers’ mobile device with an app are faced with new challenges. For example, a mobile app can offer the user distinctive functionality, fun or information. So, to be successful, you first and foremost need to consider how you can offer the user an experience that exceeds his high expectations. And this can differ greatly between the tablet and the smartphone.
Both smartphones and tablets are frequently used to check e-mails and to keep up to date with social media. However, tablets are primarily used at home in a relaxed environment, for instance as a second screen for watching television, work-related activities, shopping and reading background information. Although smartphones are often also used at home, they are strongly associated with being ‘on the go’. By contrast, tablets offer many more opportunities for a visual experience, while smartphones are effective for location-based services.
So as B2B marketer, you have many opportunities to pursue and it’s time to act. The challenge is to find it and start exploring.