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How to Craft Content That Works for Your Content Marketing Campaign

April 24th, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

The essence of any content marketing strategy is, of course, content. But for small business owners, this is often the biggest stumbling block. Chances are you’re not a writer, so how do you and your team craft content that will work to improve your website’s SEO and drive traffic and sales? Here are some tips.

Focus on quality. You may read articles that give you the idea your content has to be stuffed with keywords. In reality, this leads to articles that make no sense (we’ve all read them—those blog posts that sound like they were written by someone who didn’t speak English). Think about what your audience wants to know, and write articles that answer their questions. For example, if you own a lawn care and landscaping business, your customers might want to know how to keep their lawns green, how to prevent weeds, what types of grass are best for the local climate, etc.

Include both timely and timeless content. You don’t want every article you write to become outdated in a month. However, tying your content to current trends (such as seasons, holidays or hot topics online) does help boost your SEO and make your site seem fresh. Aim for a mix of timeless topics (such as what types of grass are best for the climate, or how often to mow a lawn) and timely ones (such as popular plants this summer, or how to prepare your garden for winter).

Use keywords. I mentioned not stuffing your articles with keywords, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to use them. Figure out what keywords you want to be found for (for example: San Francisco lawn care, landscaping service, best landscaping company) and use those keywords in the headlines, subheads and first paragraphs of your articles. If you use photos or graphics, you should also use keywords in the captions, descriptions and tags of the artwork.

Enlist your staff. If you’re not a good writer, do you have someone who is on your team? Remember, content isn’t just words, so see what kind of talent exists on your staff. You might have someone who’s great at shooting videos or taking photos. Used properly on your website and social media accounts, these can be excellent traffic drivers.

Get professional help. Creating content, especially blog posts, articles and newsletters, can be time-consuming and stressful if you don’t have an experienced writer on staff. Consider outsourcing to a freelance writer or marketing copywriter. You can find tons to choose from on sites like Guru.com, Elance.com or Freelancer.com.

Image by Flickr user mrsdkrebs (Creative Commons)

Web.com Small Business Tip of the Day: Content Marketing

April 23rd, 2013 ::

Have you taken the content marketing plunge yet? Whether it’s using content to gain a social media following or posting helpful articles to your website, content marketing is the hot marketing trend everyone’s buzzing about, already accounting for 25 percent of the budget of small businesses with 10-99 employees. But the Content Marketing Survey Report from Econsultancy and Outbrain says although 90 percent of those surveyed believe content marketing will be even more important in the coming year, only 38 percent have a strategy in place. When crafting your content marketing strategy, remember to deliver the content in an informational but entertaining format. Also provide content that focuses on helping your customers instead of selling your product or service.

U.S. Crowdfunding More Than Doubled Last Year

April 23rd, 2013 ::

By Maria Valdez Haubrich

Crowdfunding—a method of soliciting small donations of money from large groups of people online—is growing exponentially, according to new data from research firm massolution. According to the company’s annual 2013CF – Crowdfunding Industry Report of more than 308 crowdfunding platforms (CFPs), CFPs worldwide raised $2.7 billion in 2012–an 81 percent increase compared to 2011.

CFPs successfully financed more than 1 million crowdfunding campaigns, with 95 percent of these taking place in North America and Europe.  In North America alone, crowdfunding volume more than doubled, growing by 105 percent to hit $1.6 billion. This year, massolution expects worldwide crowdfunding volume to top $5 billion, largely thanks to new laws in the U.S. that will enable crowdfunding to expand beyond simply seeking donations or rewards-based contributions, and actually seek equity investments.

The current report focused on lending-based, donation-based and reward-based crowdfunding. However, thanks to the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act signed into law last April, which will allow non-accredited investors to make investments in companies in return for equity, equity-based crowdfunding is expected to grow substantially in 2013 and beyond.

The SEC still needs to revise several key sections of the act before equity-based crowdfunding can take place in the U.S. While the SEC has failed to meet deadlines for doing so, the regulations are expected to be set by the end of the year.

What types of campaigns are most likely to get funded via crowdfunding? Massolution identified the five most popular types of crowdfunding campaigns and found social causes still lead the pack; nearly 30 percent of all crowdfunding activity involves social issues.

However, business and entrepreneurship campaigns are moving up in the ranks, with 16.9 percent of crowdfunding activity last year coming from this category. In fact, massolution reports that last year’s growth in lending volumes was primarily due to crowdfunded microloans and community-driven loans to small and midsized businesses.

Films and performing arts accounted for 11.9 percent of all crowdfunding activity in 2012, and music and recording arts accounted for 7.5 percent. The emerging category last year was energy and environment, which accounted for 5.9 percent of crowdfunding activity.

A few interesting trends massolution points out that could have implications for small businesses:

  • Crowdfunding is no longer just for small companies seeking to fund individual projects, but is poised to become a means by which big corporations and even institutions could raise funds. This could mean even greater competition in the crowdfunding space, making it harder for small companies to stand out.
  • At the same time, new platforms are likely to emerge dedicated to smaller companies and even specific industries, which could make it easier to find financing within these platforms.
  • In fact, there’s even opportunity for entrepreneurs to start their own crowdfunding platforms to target underserved niches.

Image by Flickr user James Cridland (Creative Commons)

5 Easy Social Media Marketing Tips From the Experts

April 22nd, 2013 ::

Ask an expert!I am constantly scanning blog posts and online articles for new social media marketing tips. So many people have great ideas that I have never considered – especially the experts who live, breathe, and sleep social media.

In a recent post from Social Media Examiner, I was inspired by the following advice from 5 social media marketing experts:

1 – Try Facebook Offers

Facebook Offers are different from ads, as they appear in your news feed. According to Amy Porterfield, a social media strategist, they’re a “triple threat” – 1), they can get up to six times as much engagement as an ad; 2), when a user clicks on your offer, they get an email in their personal email account; and 3), they can be hyper-targeted.

2 – Don’t ask for a follow without explaining why

Melanie Duncan, a serial entrepreneur, made this point, and it’s something I have been pushing around content for a long time – always explain the benefit when you are asking someone to say “yes.” When it comes to social media, tell people what they will get from following you on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, etc.

3 – Become a Q&A site

No matter what your business does, people have questions about it. Where do they go when they have a question? A search engine. Marcus Sheridan, the Sales Lion, pointed out that the more questions you can answer via social media and on your site, the better your search rankings will be. You will also turn yourself into a go-to source of information on that topic.

4 – Take a two-step approach to content sharing

Freely sharing content with your audience is something I advocate for all the time. John Jantsch of DuctTape Marketing likes a two-tiered approach in order to encourage more social followers. Share some content with no restrictions, but then share other, highly valuable content only with those who like your Facebook page or visit a landing page and submit contact info.

5 – Think of social media as a cocktail party

I really love this analogy from business coach and strategist Sarah Robinson. When you are at a cocktail party, do you just stand there with a megaphone talking about yourself nonstop? Of course not! The same holds true for social media. Talking about yourself a little is OK, but having a two-way conversation is the way to go. Tell stories, share resources, and solve problems, and you’ll be golden.

What is your favorite social media marketing tip? Do you have your own to share?

Image courtesy of ruziomedia.com

What Do Women Want When They Shop?

April 22nd, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

The way women shop is changing, with brick-and-mortar stores no longer the focus, reports the second annual SheSpeaks/Lippe Taylor Women’s Buying Behavior Index. The study polled some 2,152 women in the past two months about their buying habits and future purchasing plans.

The biggest finding? Shopping no longer starts in stores, but online. Asked how they most often research products, some 71 percent of women say they use their desktop/laptop and 18 percent chose a mobile phone or tablet. Just 6 percent said they research by actually browsing in a physical store; amost as many (5 percent) say they ask friends and family.

Where do women most often make the actual purchase? Even when it comes to buying, digital still has a slight edge, with 47 percent saying they most often buy via desktop/laptop. Forty-five percent most often go to the store. Just 8 percent say they most often buy via mobile phone or tablet.

While mobile devices aren’t women’s top choice for making the purchase, they are heavily used for other types of shopping behavior:

  • 53 percent use phones and other devices to find store locations and hours
  • 49 percent use mobile devices in-store to look up and compare prices
  • 46 percent use them to search for coupons
  • 41 percent use them to get detailed product information
  • 24 percent use them to make purchases

If you’re trying to target women with your marketing messages, you’ll want to know when they typically do their research. Most (43 percent) said they research at home during the day; 42 percent say they research at home at night. Just 9 percent did product research at work and only 7 percent did so at home on the weekends.

Women’s purchasing habits don’t just affect the products and services they buy for themselves. Women not only wield major influence over men, they actually buy for them. Asked in what categories they are the primary shopper for their husband or boyfriend, 71 percent say apparel; 69 percent say grooming products; 51 percent cited travel; 39 percent said technology products; 29 percent said financial products and services and 18 percent said cars.

What does it mean to your business?

Online research is a huge factor in the purchasing process for women, with nearly 90 percent of women regularly going online on computer, tablet or phone before they buy. Make sure you provide all the information women need to make their decision, including:

  • Reviews and ratings of your business
  • Local search information about your business so women can more easily find you
  • Search-optimized website that drives women to your site when they use the keywords relevant to your business to search for information

Another huge takeaway? Even if you sell products and services for men, you need to take women into account, since women are buying just about everything for men (and, if not actually buying, most likely having input into the decision). When you picture your target customer, picture his wife or girlfriend, too, and target specific marketing messages to her.

Image by Flickr user Kevin Ryder (Creative Commons)

Web.com Small Business Toolkit: Updience.com (Online Marketing Solution)

April 16th, 2013 ::


The best free marketing tool has always been word-of-mouth, and today, more and more innovative entrepreneurs are using social media to create new ways to spread the good word about your business. Updience.com is based on the notion that your happy customers are the best channel by which to find new customers—and a recommendation can spread your reach to all corners of the world. Simply choose the location of your customers (local, state by state or worldwide). Then choose your target market, whether consumer or business to business, by age, gender and/or marital status. Updience.com will then advise you on how many potential customers you can reach through their site—for free.


10 Online Marketing Mistakes That Are Damaging Your Reputation, Part 1

April 15th, 2013 ::
This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series 10 Online Marketing Mistakes

Damaged - ouch!The online reputation you have can make or break your brand. You can only physically be in one place at a time, but online, you are in several places at once and accessible 24/7. Your website, blog, downloadable content, social media accounts – they are always “on” and ready to make a good first impression – or are they?

Here are the first 5 (out of 10) common online marketing mistakes that, if you’re making them, are damaging your reputation:

1 – Not updating or maintaining your website

Because your website is your digital calling card, it is incredibly important to make a strong first impression. Keep your website fresh with new information – new projects, clients, testimonials, press mentions, maybe a Twitter feed.

Web design and development best practices and must-have elements have changed a lot in the past couple of years. If your website includes Flash or is more than a few years old, consider having it redesigned.

2 – Using auto-play video

If you have a video on your website that automatically plays as soon as someone lands on your site (or Web page), for the love of all that is good in the marketing world, please turn it off. It is annoying, and it definitely will not win you any friends.

3 – Neglecting your social presence

Once you start a blog and make your presence known on Facebook, Twitter, etc., don’t stop. The whole point of “going social” is to be social – to have conversations, answer questions, help solve problems, provide resources, and ultimately build a community. You can’t build something by taking frequent and extended vacations.

4 – Over-communicating

This can be interpreted in two ways: sharing too much, and sharing too often.

By sharing too much, I mean sharing personal information that is totally irrelevant and inappropriate or sharing professional information that is angry in nature (like complaining about a bad client).

By sharing too often, I mean posting company-focused news/updates on Facebook and Twitter more than once a day. I have noticed that a social media marketing professional whose brand I “like” on Facebook does this every day – she sends out at least 3 posts on Facebook back-to-back every evening. Hello, un-follow button!

5 – Over-automating social media

When Twitter was first adapted by the business community, it was popular to auto-send a Direct Message to new followers. Amazingly enough, people and brands still do that, even though the practice is highly frowned upon. Do you automate your phone calls to your spouse, mom, or kids? Of course not – you’re not a robot. Well, you shouldn’t do it to your social media followers either.

Do you see these mistakes being made? Which one bugs you the most – and why?

Image courtesy of timelineimages.com

What Can Content Marketing Do for You?

April 15th, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

“Content marketing” is a hot business buzzword these days—and for good reason. The practice of creating online “content,” whether it’s articles and blog posts, social media posts or online videos, can bring a small business big results. If you’re skeptical about whether content marketing can really help you—and whether it’s worth your time—check out BusinessBolts’ Content Marketing Survey Report.

This study specifically focused on how small companies use content marketing and what the payoffs were. Here’s what they found.

It doesn’t have to take a ton of time. The average small business in the survey spent between one and five hours per week on content marketing.

It makes a huge difference. More than three-fourths of small business owners say content marketing improves their website traffic. Seventy-one percent say it boosts their position in search rankings, 70 percent say it improves awareness of their brand, and 59 percent say it increases their sales.

Have I sold you yet? If you’re ready to try content marketing, you should know that articles and blog posts were the most common type of content, used by 74 and 64 percent of small businesses respectively. This could include articles on your own website, on someone else’s website or on your social media accounts.

Less common, but also effective, were email newsletters and online videos. It’s important to note that the highest-earning businesses in the study were more likely to use these types of content marketing.

Content marketing isn’t always easy. It takes time to create good content. Here are some of my ideas for simplifying things:

  • Delegate to someone on staff. Not all business owners are great writers or have the time to write content. Put someone else in charge—you can still come up with ideas, or they can interview you or others on your staff to get fodder for content.
  • Consider outsourcing. It’s possible to find copywriters or bloggers who will create content for a reasonable price. This can be a smart move if you can afford it. Which brings me to my next point:
  • Don’t be stingy. The BusinessBolts study found the businesses that spent more time and more money on creating content, as well as on advertising and marketing in general, had higher incomes. Content marketing pays off.
  • Use podcasts or videos. These can be simple to create and since no writing is involved, they’re often faster. Again, interviewing someone on your team about a topic of interest is a natural for podcasts and videos. This also adds variety to your content and helps your site rank higher in search engines.

Image by Flickr user mkhmarketing (Creative Commons)

Content Marketing Is Marketers’ Top Focus for 2013

April 12th, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

Content marketing is surpassing social media as the number-one marketing focus for businesses this year, a study by CopyPress reports. The Copypress 2013 State Of Content Marketing Study asked marketing decision-makers to pick one “leading focus” for their marketing efforts. In 2012, 18.9 percent of marketers named content marketing, ranking it behind both email and social media and tied with SEO. However, in the 2013 survey, the number of marketers who said content marketing was their leading focus climbed to 34.8 percent–making it the top priority for the greatest number of respondents, ahead of social media and email marketing. Social media is a focus for 24.7 percent of respondents, SEO for 14.6 percent and email marketing for 10.4 percent.

The survey also asked marketers which specific types of content had the best return on investment (ROI). Articles, video and white papers topped the list:

  • Featured articles – 62.2 percent
  • Videos – 51.9 percent
  • White papers – 45.6 percent
  • Photos – 37.8 percent
  • Interactive media – 36 percent
  • Sales copy – 29.7 percent
  • Infographics – 27.9 percent
  • Buyers’ guides – 21.6 percent

Here are some of the challenges marketers faced with regard to specific types of content:

Video – Although video was widely considered to have high ROI, most marketers also felt that this was among the most difficult types of content to create. When pressed more specifically, they seemed to feel that video was too expensive.

White papers and articles – Authorship was a main focus for these types of content. Two-thirds of respondents thought it was important for content to have a specific person’s authorship, as opposed to being generically “from” their business. In general, this means they felt it was important for white papers or articles to be bylined by high-profile people in the company and industry, whose prominence would help in search results. However, only 42 percent were willing to pay more for content authored by high-profile individuals.

What do these trends mean to your business?

  • While video can be expensive if you turn to outside sources to create it, it doesn’t have to be. Videos filmed with a basic video camera or even those filmed on a smartphone can be of adequate quality if the information conveyed is relevant, interesting and useful and the presentation is lively and professional.
  • You may not be able to afford to pay a well-known individual to write content for you, but by writing enough content yourself and promoting it on your website, blog and social media channels, you can eventually raise your own profile as an author. With changes to Google’s search algorithms making authorship more important in search results, this criterion will matter more in the future.

Image by Flickr user Richard_of_England (Creative Commons)

How to Take Advantage of the New LinkedIn Features

April 11th, 2013 ::

LinkedInOver the winter, LinkedIn updated their platform to make it more visual, interactive, and generally easier to use. Here are 7 new features that are a snap to work into your overall marketing and lead generation strategy:

Images and Videos

With the rise of visual content, LinkedIn joins Facebook and Twitter as the social networks look to leverage the high levels of engagement and shareability that photos bring to the table.

Profile photos are given greater prominence in your profile, so you haven’t added a photo yet, do it; otherwise users will encounter a big gray block when they view your profile. Not very engaging – or welcoming.

Because you can also add video, blogs, and presentations (LinkedIn owns SlideShare) throughout your profile, this is a great opportunity to pull in users and showcase your expertise in an engaging, accessible way.


LinkedIn has integrated a little customer relationship management capability with their new notes feature, which lets you add information to the profiles of your connections. It is a great way to keep track of where you met, who you introduced them to and vice versa, future opportunities to work together, etc.


LinkedIn always had a Search feature, but now it’s better, especially if you have a free account. With a free account, you are only allowed 5 introductions (using Get Introduced) a month. Now, you are essentially open to unlimited introductions, because you can search your connections’ connections by keywords and then manually ask for an introduction rather than using Get Introduced.

Interactive Profiles

With the old LinkedIn, if you did a search, a list of names would appear. Now, their profile photos will also appear–a boon to those of us who remember faces better than names. If you scroll over the photo, a mini-profile pops up, saving you the time of clicking through to the profile to make sure you have the right person.


If you haven’t noticed, LinkedIn looks more like Facebook now – your activity on the network shows up in your connections’ news feed. The more you share on LinkedIn, the more visible and thus top-of-mind you’ll be.

Sharing Bookmarklet

One of their new features makes it easy to stay active on LinkedIn – the Sharing Bookmarklet. Drag it to your browser so you can easily share articles, videos, and other content you come across online.

Common Interests

I really like the new Common Interests feature, as it allows you to turn a “cold message” into a warm one. If you don’t have a mutual connection, you can check to see if you have overlapping groups, skills or interests, so that when you reach out, you can really personalize your message (which you should always do!).

Have you used any of these new features yet? What have you found most useful?

Image courtesy of mashable.com