Viewing all posts by Leslie Poston.

Reconciling Two Vastly Different Content Trends: Mobile and Long Form

oppositeIf you’ve been paying attention this year, you’ve noticed two distinct trends in content: content made for mobile devices, and long-form, deep-diving content made for quality. If your content is image- or video-heavy, you have a bit of a leg up, though you still need text to bolster it.

For most people, content is first based on the written word, however (blogs, white papers, ebooks). If you are a busy small business owner or a freelancer, how do you find ways to optimize your writing for both types of content?

It’s difficult to think of both at the same time, but my recommendation is to first write for depth and quality in order to optimize for recent changes such as Google’s Hummingbird, and then go back and structure your content for mobile. Start with an outline, shaping your thoughts into a coherent structure. This allows you to look at your content with a bird’s eye view of its clarity. You can spot weaknesses in your content and strengthen your points while your content is still a skeleton.

Follow your outline by sourcing copyright-free images or creating your own. Each main point should have a clear image outlining it, and your post, paper or ebook should also have a main, featured image that will optimize sharing. Why source the images second? Because they will serve the dual purpose of breaking up a lengthy thought leadership piece on a desktop or laptop, making it easier to read, and also provide a visual story on a mobile device. Telling your story visually is essential for success, both online and in a reader’s pocket.

Once you have your outline and visuals ready, it’s time to start pacing your story. To write for a combination of mobile and browser, you need a strong first paragraph. Assume that on a mobile device, your first paragraph may be all that people read, while on a desktop, your first paragraph should entice people to read further (and, hopefully, engage). This means you have to walk a fine line between summarizing your story and valid points (mobile) while not giving away the meat of your argument (desktop or laptop). Think of the first paragraph as your elevator pitch.

Once your first paragraph is ready, you will need to structure the rest of your article or book with headlines and/or chapter breaks, as well as images. On a browser this will help draw the eye through the piece. On a mobile device, a good headline acts as a placeholder during a scroll – if you scroll too far, you can easily find a place of return to continue reading.

I find it’s nice to pepper your writing with “shareable moments” as well. If you think a point is particularly valid or pithy, call it out with a “Tweet this” button, for example, to keep people engaged throughout. You’ll find that people enjoy having sharing made simple, and will use this as way to easily engage with your content, at a low cost of entry (little effort expended). Apply the same logic to your visuals by offering a “pin this” option as well.

The key to getting engagement on both platforms of consumption is to close a solid article with an emotion-inducing, compelling last paragraph that wraps your argument nicely, yet still leaves a reader compelled to comment. You’ll see this style of writing on political sites often, but you don’t have to be controversial to be engaging. Try using the Facebook trick of ending with a question, or asking the reader to contribute a thought for a future infographic or thought piece that will be a follow-up to the one they just read (and then follow through later – no one likes a broken promise).

Try this method on a few posts, measuring the impact via your analytics. Set up a campaign to track this method versus your usual method (whatever that may be), and let me know if this works for you as well as it has worked for me. I want to hear about your successes with structured posts aligned with mobile and browser-based content models.

About the Author

Author Leslie Poston wrote Social Media Metrics for Dummies, co-authored Twitter for Dummies, and has been writing for hire and leading content marketing initiatives as a consultant since the ’90s. She is Senior Social Media Editor for McKinsey & Company and also runs a content marketing consultancy. She’s an avid Twitter user, so be sure to say hello on Twitter: @leslie

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Photo thanks to Capture Queen (Whatever you think … think the opposite)

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Content and SEO Tips for 2014

Things change - here are SEO tips for 2014

Don’t fear SEO change! We’ve got some 2014 tips for you.

1. Lay A Foundation

Create your content calendar for the year now. In January, it will just be a skeleton, but the skeleton is what will hold the body of your content plan together as you build it out month by month throughout the year. If you can afford an enterprise tool to handle your content calendar and publication to multiple platforms, that’s fantastic. If you are like most people; however, you’ll need to rely on a spreadsheet.

Your spreadsheet should include:

- Month-by-Month Breakout of Content Goals (I make each month a tab of its own when creating a sheet for one brand. For multiple brands it gets more complex.)

- List of major events, holidays and brand-sponsored events in each month, as well as any speaking gigs at which your brand may be presenting and any events you sponsor or host (these will have content tie-ins and will also affect your publication schedule)

- List of planned topics

- List of planned keywords, keyphrases and other SEO-related data

- A column to track content across social shares, downloads, conversions, etc.

- A column for notes to track suggestions for improvement

- Author and author popularity and shareability rankings

- Type of content (video, audio, blog, tweet, display ad, micro content, image, etc.)

- Share checklist (What happens to each piece of content after it’s uploaded to the site or published to a blog, for example? Where is it shared and when?)

2. Practice Versatility

Gone are the days when “content” meant “blog post”. Often, great content plans include blogging, but now content also includes podcasts, infographics, micro graphics, memes, videos, ebooks, white papers, e-newsletters and much more. Even if you have a team of people working with you, you still need to be able to ramp up and master new formats and new media quickly. I advise constant self-education in new media formats, as well as keeping the names and qualifications of an army of freelancers and subcontractor agencies handy to call on in a pinch.

3. Plan Ahead

Related to Tip 2, use January to get your ducks in a row. After looking at your content plan and event calendar, map your needs now. Think a project might grow? Reach out to your army of freelancers and subcontractors for rate sheets and capabilities now. Don’t wait until the last minute and hope that your favorite copywriter or developer will have some extra time to slot you in.

4. Budget for Content Contingencies

Yes, there is such a thing as a “content emergency”! Life online moves pretty fast. You never know when what I call a perfect “sharable social moment” will arise that might allow your brand to become part of the solution (or, if handled poorly, part of the problem). You want to be able to spot a potentially scalable social moment quickly and be able to act fast. Pad your budget a bit so you can reach out to a visual designer to make a real-time infographic or a video crew to help with a video, for example. This gives you the ability to layer in a little real-time marketing, even if your brand’s pockets aren’t as deep as, say, Oreo.

5. Be Useful

This tip should possibly be Tip 1, but frankly, you have to have your ducks in a row before you can jump in and be useful anytime you see a chance to help online. If you’ve mapped out your content, gotten your team together, planned your SEO and paid media campaigns, budgeted for contingencies and begun generating your solid content for 2014, then “be useful” is your next step.

The Internet has plenty of memes, parodies and “viral” videos. It’s fantastic if you can tap into that energy, but you’re going to convert a lot more people who interact with you into leads or evangelists if you come from a place of helping others first.

One of my favorite companies doing this is Hilton Hotels – empowering employees to be useful. You will often see their employees interacting with customers who aren’t even staying at a Hilton via micro-content and engagement. That sends a powerful message that helps a brand’s bottom line.

See what you can do to add to the Internet’s value in 2014, and your content will find traction that lasts for the long tail.

About the Author

Author Leslie Poston wrote Social Media Metrics for Dummies, co-authored Twitter for Dummies, and has been writing for hire and leading content marketing initiatives as a consultant since the ’90s. She is Senior Social Media Editor for McKinsey & Company and also runs a content marketing consultancy. She’s an avid Twitter user, so be sure to say hello on Twitter: @leslie

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Photo thanks to Gilda (Tip jar at Cult Mountain)

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5 simple steps to sourcing SEO copywriting services

Sourcing SEO copywriters as simple as collecting leaves

Leslie Poston explains how sourcing SEO copywriting services is almost as easy as collecting leaves in the fall. (With better spelling, too!)

Let’s face it, consistently creating excellent, SEO-friendly content for your B2B company can be a daunting task. The person in charge of creating content in-house may not be a great writer or may not understand SEO. Your in-house writing team may not know the best way to reach your niche market online, or it may simply be cost-prohibitive for your in-house team to work on SEO copywriting. You may have written content in the past that talked past your intended B2B audience, instead of with them.

Whatever the reason, it’s completely normal to need to seek outside help with your B2B SEO copywriting. The challenge becomes how to source the best writer for your needs. It helps to have a clear digital marketing plan, clear KPIs, structured campaigns and goals that you set with your analytics teams, and relevant tie-in to other departments, such as sales, to track your content back to your bottom line.

1. Clarity

Once you have a budget in mind (be prepared to adjust your number – quality writing may cost more than you expect), you’re going to need to create a content plan that your SEO copywriter can work from, as well as goals, market segments, keyword and keyphrase lists and more. A great SEO copywriter who really knows your niche can assist with these elements, but the more clarity you have regarding what you want your copy to achieve, the better the results your copywriter can create for you.

2. Research

Take some time to research your potential SEO copywriter. These days, you don’t have to ask for samples of a person’s writing! Their online footprint, website and blog should clearly showcase their expertise. They should have references, samples online, an active blog and – if applicable for your niche – visible certifications relevant to your industry. A simple search should tell you everything you need to know about your potential shortlist of SEO copywriters.

If you don’t have a short list to pull from, you can seek out help on sites like Elance. However, be forewarned that you will need to double check language fluency and competence. Happily, writer-for-hire sites do some of the due diligence for you. Make sure you do your own as well, however.

3. Budget

The old adage “You get what you pay for” absolutely holds true for creative work. SEO copywriting that is obviously SEO driven and is difficult to read or shallow in content relevance sticks out like a sore thumb. Great SEO copywriting is fluid, focused, deeply niche driven, relevant to the CMO- and CEO-level B2B clients you want to connect with, and current. The SEO aspect of the content should never be obvious. If you use a site like NewsCred to find writers, you can expect to pay from $500 on up for articles and blog posts. Individual copywriters and SEO firms may charge more (or less) depending on experience and location.

4. Test

Continuously test for quality before and during your SEO copywriting campaign. First, test your SEO copywriter’s knowledge of your niche before you even hire them. After hiring, test their content. Have them write with A/B testing in mind, which will allow you to maximize results as you get analytics results in. As the results come in, test again. Look to see what pieces of content are actually converting, which are generating actions and which are sitting dormant, not performing. Be prepared to adjust on the fly.

5. Reporting

The final piece in your successful SEO copywriting outsourcing puzzle is reporting. Reporting should be a two-way street! Most SEO copywriting contracts are long term. You want the writer to report to you at least bi-weekly, touching base with metrics related to your content plan. At the same time, your SEO copywriter needs reporting from you on how their content is performing. This will allow them to adjust their content to get the best results for you.

If all of this seems like a gargantuan task, don’t panic. The hardest part of this process will be finding someone who is well-versed in your niche market. This experience and knowledge is essential in reaching the decision-makers with authoritative, interesting content that helps them through the discovery and purchase process. Great SEO content converts, converts, converts!

Leslie Poston

About the Author

Author Leslie Poston wrote Social Media Metrics for Dummies, co-authored Twitter for Dummies, and has been writing for hire and leading content marketing initiatives as a consultant since the ’90s. She is Senior Social Media Editor for McKinsey & Company and also runs a content marketing consultancy. She’s an avid Twitter user, so be sure to say hello on Twitter: @leslie

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Photo thanks to Christopher (Take Em If You Want Em)

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