Trailblaze & Grow Month: March 2015

Google Makes Content Marketing Better

Why Google Makes Content Marketing Better For Everyone

Google is perhaps the most well-known Internet company on the face of the Earth. It is by far the largest search engine in the world (by a large margin), and where a Web page ends up on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs) can be the difference between success and failure. With such importance, it stands to reason that Google has an impact on a wide range of business aspects, including the content marketing industry.

Ongoing Evolution

Google’s search engine is constantly being updated, the most recent series of updates being known collectively as the “Penguin” updates. Google’s primary goal is keeping and growing its share of the search engine industry, particularly because Google’s search engine remains its primary revenue driver. This means that Google is in a constant battle with individuals and organizations that want to manipulate Google’s search engine algorithm to their benefit.

Google has constantly made updates and iterations to its algorithm with one primary goal in mind: improving the quality of search results. Over time, this has meant an increasing focus on high-quality, unique and lengthy content as opposed to generic content filled with the “perfect” cocktail of keywords.

These changes are a good thing for everyone (except those who were used to exploiting Google’s algorithm). Google benefits because it is able to provide a higher-quality experience for its users while the users themselves are able to find better content from their searches.

That being said, the question of companies that do not aim to “game” Google’s algorithm but simply want to generate traffic through Google searches should be considered, as well.

How Companies and Marketers Adapt

Back in 2013 and 2014, when Google made major changes to its algorithm, many companies were terrified to see that their website traffic dropped dramatically. It seemed like overnight, the number of hits their pages were receiving from Google cratered almost to nothing, and many were frantic to understand exactly how this could happen. As it turned out, many companies had trusted their Internet marketing strategies to companies that had simply posted low-quality, generic fluff on their clients’ websites while charging exorbitant premiums for the content. While this strategy had worked in the past, Google’s algorithms were updated to no longer allow this type of practice to be effective.

The digital marketing industry was forced to adapt. Those who were unwilling or unable to do so lost business (and ultimately went or will go out of business themselves) while those who were able to adjust to the new reality of “quality and quantity” were able to thrive. This, in turn, caused what could be called a renaissance in the content marketing industry.

Quality Is King

Content marketing in 2015 looks completely different than it did just a few short years ago. Today, content marketing is all about providing high-quality, unique, sharable content for readers. Instead of trying to game the system by keyword stuffing, content marketing is about providing real value.

It is worth noting that the ultimate goal of content marketing has remained largely unchanged. That is to say, content marketing is still about driving traffic and conversions for a company. However, the method for accomplishing that goal is now audience-focused instead of simply focused on how to manipulate Google’s search engine algorithms to artificially boost a website’s traffic and SERP ranking.

For companies willing to adjust to the new realities of content marketing, the future is certainly bright. The key is learning to evolve alongside Google’s constantly improved algorithms. While it might seem like a lot of work, it truly is a win-win for everyone involved.

Sources:

http://www.internetlivestats.com/google-search-statistics/
http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/by-the-numbers-a-gigantic-list-of-google-stats-and-facts/

Photo credit: MoneyBlogNewz / Foter / CC BY

_81434915_kash2

Don’t #BeSomebody

An integrated approach is essential to every marketing strategy.  As the internet of things has grown, a marketer must consider how offline activities will affect online activities, and vice versa.  With marketing undergoing rapid and massive changes, it is inevitable that there will be the occasional high-profile slip-up.

One of the biggest risks that any campaign faces, particularly when targeting younger demographics, is the risk of coming across as tone-deaf or otherwise hypocritical. This is exactly what happened when an experienced and highly successful marketing professional, Kash Shaikh, launched his much-maligned “inspiration” company, #BeSomebody (yes, it’s a hashtag and the company name).

The idea behind #BeSomebody was fairly simple. Connect aspiring hobbyists or professionals in everything from piano playing to scuba diving with actual experts who can teach them how to be successful in those fields. In order to market their company, #BeSomebody had the fairly unique idea of conducting inspirational assemblies at high schools throughout Texas and (eventually) the rest of the United States.

Unfortunately for Kash Shaikh and #BeSomebody, their message fell on unbelieving ears when they conducted an assembly at Austin High. Instead of finding the assembly inspirational, the students felt like Mr. Shaikh was using his particularly privileged experience (in the form of an impressive resume, extensive travel, and ability to live with his parents well into his adulthood) to connect with high school students, many of whom had little to none of the privileges that Mr. Shaikh had available to him.

Ultimately, the students at Austin High launched a robust campaign of mockery, in which the hashtag #Lookadouche was used to disseminate parody videos and other derisive material.

What we can learn from #BeSomebody

While #BeSomebody ultimately had a fairly bad reaction to their marketing strategy, there is still a great deal that we can learn not only from what #BeSomebody did wrong, but what they did right as well.

What #BeSomebody did wrong

Clearly, #BeSomebody made mistakes in the execution of their marketing plan. Perhaps the most egregious mistake they made was failing to test properly their message before going out to schools such as Austin High. If they had tested their message in a smaller, more focused setting, they probably would have found that their message came across as out of touch and hypocritical, and could have adjusted it (or scrapped it altogether).

The other misstep that #BeSomebody made was their reaction after the mocking campaign from the students at Austin High. Instead of taking the message in stride, Kash Shaikh acted fairly petulant, mocking everything from grammatical mistakes to the overall reaction of the students, including claims that the students simply lacked the proper passion and motivation. Clearly, this was not the right approach to take, which was proven by the fact that Mr. Shaikh later went on to apologize and thank Austin High for their “tough love”.

#BeSomebody could have even turned this situation around.  The company could have accepted the criticism and positively engaged in the conversation.  In 2005, a journalist created a blog called Dell Hell that chronicled the horrible customer service that he experienced.  Dell Hell caught fire, and many unhappy customers jumped on board.  However, Dell turned lemons into lemonade.  A couple of takeaways from the event include:

  • Real conversations are two-way.
  • Think before you talk—but always be yourself.
  • Don’t be afraid to apologize.

These were a lesson the Dell learned in 2007, and it is just as powerful today.

What #BeSomebody did right

Despite the outcome, there is still a lot that can be learned about what #BeSomebody did well. For starters, they used a very creative marketing tool – high school assemblies – to reach their target market. If their message had gone over well, this would have proven to be an incredibly cost-effective way to build an audience for their app and their company. Additionally, #BeSomebody was able to execute a plan using a very small team and utilizing very little overhead.

At the end of the day, #BeSomebody is a lesson in testing one’s message and ensuring that the message actually resonates with the target audience. While they did make mistakes, #BeSomebody has a great team of creative and marketing experts. Whether or not #BeSomebody ultimately turns out to be a successful company, the team will find success one way or another. That being said, we should all look closely at what they did wrong and right, so we can avoid, or replicate, where appropriate.

Sources:

http://customerthink.com/you_can_learn_dell_hell_dell_did/
http://www.texasmonthly.com/daily-post/austin-tech-bros-besomebody-are-losing-fight-they-picked-against-local-high-school
http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-31754918

Online Marketing

Online Marketing Trends in 2015

Online marketing, or digital marketing, has grown rapidly in recent years.  Two things are clear: online marketing is here to stay, and its growth is only set to accelerate in the future. The following are four of the trends expected to show themselves in 2015.

1. Content marketing will become increasingly important

Content marketing was one of the stars of 2014, and 2015 is set to continue and accelerate that trend. According to recent reports, more than half of business-to-business marketers are significantly increasing their budgets for content marketing in 2015. In addition, the type of content will shift toward long-form content, such as white papers, long blog posts and in-depth articles. Content marketing is becoming a vehicle not only for companies to market themselves but also to establish themselves as thought leaders in their niche or industry while also generating a loyal community or readership.

At the same time, there will still be a significant market for short-form content, which will primarily be utilized on social media platforms as a way to generate viral content.

2. Social media marketing will increasingly focus on mobile marketing

There are now more than 1 billion smartphone users worldwide. These users represent the most important segment of the Internet economy, as they are the ones who use the Internet the most, are the most engaged, and are most willing to post and share content – thereby contributing to content going viral. As a result, online marketing will continue to focus on content that is optimized for the mobile format, which includes short-form content marketing, as well as social media advertising that is focused on the mobile platforms.

3. Email marketing will evolve

Email is one of the oldest technologies of the Internet and is sometimes overlooked by marketing agencies and departments that might prefer to utilize flashier and more cutting-edge digital marketing strategies. Nevertheless, email remains one of the most important marketing tools available, and 2015 promises to be another big year for email marketing.

That being said, email marketing will also see a significant increase in the number and quality of tools available for marketing campaigns. One of the most significant trends is an increase in email analytics data, which helps marketers determine how often emails are opened and how often the links within those emails are clicked. The ability to determine which emails are most effective can then be used to create more effective email campaigns.

Email is also increasingly being used as a gateway to social media channels. In the past, email was largely considered its own section of an overall marketing strategy. However, the goal of email marketing campaigns is increasingly to drive traffic to social media platforms, where that traffic can be presented with a company’s social media marketing campaign.

4. Digital marketing budgets will increase

Perhaps the most fundamental trend in digital marketing is the fact that the industry is growing rapidly. With the number of Internet users increasing and knowledge about how to monetize that traffic increasing at the same time, it makes sense that budgets directed toward these efforts would grow as well.

According to recent reports, about 80 percent of companies are expected to increase their digital marketing budgets in 2015, with the vast majority of those companies expecting to increase their budgets between 5 and 15 percent.

At the same time, the number of workers in the digital marketing industry is expanding as well, with digital/social, content creation, data/analytics and mobile strategy among the skills most highly valued by marketing agencies hiring new employees.

Sources

Photo credit: Will Lion / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Is your marketing budget working?

Marketing Budgets: A Roadmap to Revenue

Research has shown that a majority of companies have increasing budgets, with only roughly 9% experiencing a decreasing budget. With your budget laid out before you, you’ll have a roadmap of where your growing company is headed and how much luggage you can need for the next year.

Understanding What a Marketing Budget Is

It’s essential that you draw up a written plan to accompany your marketing budget in order to know exactly when and how to execute your specific strategies. When you create a budget, you’ll list your tactics, costs and the results that you’re expecting to yield. You’ll also want to make sure that you account for administrative costs, such as postage and subscriptions. Just like when you drive a car cross-country, when you plan out a marketing budget, you have to think about the long haul. You must determine how many miles you have to drive, so to speak, before you need to switch lanes or take an off-ramp. Otherwise, there’s a chance you might be lulled into a false sense of security while coasting and miss your turn. In the business world, this can have devastating long-term consequences.

Creating a Sound Plan

The first thing you need to know about creating a sound marketing plan is that they take time to prepare, which is why it’s good to get started on them early. Specifically, you’ll want your plan to include:

  • A set of dates to examine the progress you’ve made
  • A list of financial goals
  • A brand strategy
  • A revenue generation strategy
  • A positioning plan
  • A general overview of your products and/or services

Make sure that you include your employees in the budgeting process. They should know which goals they need to set for themselves, so that they can start making plans of their own. Including employees with the planning process is that they can help you generate new ideas and goals. When everyone is on the same page, you and your company stand a better chance of success.

Central Concepts of Your Budget

Creating marketing budgets involves setting annual objectives, which include both strategic and quantitative goals. To simplify the process, I like to split the budget between brand awareness, lead generation, partner marketing and administrative activities.

At the beginning stages of drawing up your budget, it’s good to revisit your brand strategy, product roadmap, pricing strategy and distribution channels. How does your current position in your industry influence your overall budget? What is it that sets you apart from all other companies in the marketplace, and how do you plan on conveying that to your target audience?

Take a long and honest look at your line of products and services and ask yourself if you’ll need to devote space on your budget to make your products or services stronger. Will you need to hire more marketing support, sales representatives or specialists to help you move your products or services?

Your next step should be to map out your top three marketing campaigns. Even if you have several campaigns, it’s best to focus on your top three. Always set aside a testing budget for new tactics, new products and unforeseen competitive situations.   Once you’re done with your marketing budget and your written plan, regularly revisit your plan throughout the year to make sure you’re on track.

Photo credit: pasukaru76 / Foter / CC BY