Content is king, engagement is queen.

How do you get your business found online? The answer is content marketing. But before we jump into how to develop your content marketing strategy, let’s talk about what content marketing actually is. Because you’ve got less time than the attention span of a goldfish to capture your target audience’s attention, and if you don’t someone else will.

Defining Content Marketing

More than 3 billion people use the internet every day to find answers to questions, keep in touch with friends, play games, and more. And your goal is to capture a tiny percentage of that traffic and redirect it to your call-to-action. Content marketing is the practice of establishing yourself as a go-to resource for the types of content that will catch your target audience’s attention. Various content marketing tactics could include:

  • Positioning yourself as an online thought leader and expert by answering user questions in forums and discussion groups (for example, on Quora, LinkedIn, Reddit, etc.)
  • Providing fun, shareable entertainment content such as games, memes, or videos (you may want to check out our Six Video Marketing Best Practices)
  • Posting aspirational lifestyle images (of food, decor, etc.), along with how-to tips (we’ll call this the Pinterest/Instagram approach)

But whichever channel you choose, remember that the goal of content marketing is to encourage your audience to take action and join a conversation with you – this could range from signing up for a newsletter, liking a status, or sharing a blog. And that means that you need to give your audience what they want, not what you think they want.

Content marketing is the billboard of the internet, there to catch people’s attention as they whiz by

In a competitive web environment, developing a content marketing strategy requires careful planning and proper execution. The following five content marketing tips will guide your content marketing strategy so you can outwit the competition.

1. Focus Your Content Marketing on the Right Keywords

Many marketers make the mistake of using content keywords that don’t reflect the words their target audience actually uses to describe the product or service they’re looking for (and thus the terms they use to search for it). These keywords could be irrelevant to their products or services, too broad, or too specific. To address this issue, you can research what keywords are popular among your target audience by using a secret weapon: Google AdWords’ Keyword Planner tool. Typing your content topic or target URL into the Keyword Planner will bring up monthly search volume forecasts, which serve as a proxy for the popularity of the terms you’re using.

The example below shows that, if we’re targeting our content toward, well, content marketing, we need to word it properly because much smaller numbers of people are searching for “marketing content”.

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Google AdWord’s Keyword Planner provides you with keyword ideas for your content marketing strategy

2. Monitor Traffic Driven by Your Content Marketing Efforts in Google Analytics

Content Marketing: Developing a Strategy that Sticks

Where to find your top performing content in Google Analytics

Forecasting hypothetical search traffic volume is one thing. Monitoring how your content marketing efforts perform “in the wild” gives you actual data on what specific content your target audience is most interested in consuming from your own efforts.

To access this information, make sure to install Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools/Search Console on your site. Then, navigate down to Behavior/Site Content/All Pages. This data will show you what content is receiving the most traffic.

A bit further up in the left-hand menu, under Acquisition, you’ll also see a tab titled “Search Console”. If you’ve set up your Google Search Console, this tab will show you how well you’re performing against your specific target keywords.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all of the features that Google Analytics has to offer, but if you’re focused on content marketing these reports are ones that you don’t want to overlook.



3. Plan Ahead by Setting up Your Content Marketing Calendar

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Use Facebook’s post scheduling tool to schedule content before your vacation

Creating a content calendar is an excellent but often-overlooked organizational tool to ensure you never miss a posting. Planning ahead is also essential during the summertime. If you know you’ll be on vacation, create content in advance and schedule appropriate times and dates for your posts. You can schedule posts within WordPress and Facebook, but you may want to use a management app such as Postfity if you have multiple platforms for your content.

You also want to be thinking about important dates for your target audience. Think about dates such as when their fiscal year ends and when holidays are. For example, you may want to get your content out in front of July 4th so you can capture the most search traffic. As we’ve previously discussed, you can also use Google Trends to identify when your target keywords are in heaviest demand.


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An example of a content calendar


4. Keep Your Content Marketing Theme Consistent Over Time

Content Marketing: Developing a Strategy that Sticks Snowball

Content marketing. It’s kind of like a snowball rolling down a mountain.

When you’re planning your content strategy, keep in mind that repetition and consistency will carry the day. Your theme and viewpoint should remain the same over time, which will allow you to generate enough impressions on your content to capture meaningful traffic. That means that your themes need to stay consistent across social media channels.

It can be very easy to get distracted by posting interesting pictures on Instagram that don’t support your brand’s message, but your topics and themes should address the same topics for your target audience, even if your video and blog executions are completely different. Inconsistent themes confuse your audience about what your company does and how they can help them, which is the last thing you want.

5. Make the Most of Your Content: Leverage by Leveraging it Multiple Times

Content on the internet is a living thing. Data will change, perspectives will change, and once you’ve written something it doesn’t need to stay static. So, make the most of your content by posting it across numerous channels while consistently measuring performance. Make tweaks and changes to your blogs and share them on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and any other channel in order to reach as much of your audience as possible. Break down different elements and share them across channels, while keeping a close eye on metrics such as what content got you the most clicks, how particular traffic behaved on your site, and how your audience interacted on each channel to refine your posts. Social media analytics tools such as Klout will assess your performance across channels, but we’ll talk about that more next week.

We hope these tips gave you a basis for developing a content marketing strategy that sticks. Look out for next week’s blog post on tracking social media marketing metrics.

Search is the top traffic driver to content sites

Most people understand the importance of having a search engine optimization strategy. But why isn’t your strategy working? SEO is complex and ever-changing, so it could be failing for many reasons. If you aren’t seeing results, it may be time to take a step back and identify what mistakes you could be making.

Here are some common SEO mistakes you should avoid:

1. You’re impatient with your SEO plan

In a perfect SEO world, every business would see their search rankings and traffic volume improve as soon as they posted their content. Unfortunately, SEO isn’t an overnight fix. Search engine rankings are the web equivalent of a personal reputation, and like a reputation they take months (and sometimes years) to build. An SEO strategy is not a quick fix – you’re competing with thousands of other sites for keyword-based virtual real estate, and much of that competition depends on how others view (and share) your content. It’s also hard to predict when you’ll see search traffic increases from your strategy. So, the first thing you need to do to have a successful SEO strategy is remember that you’ll need to stick with your plan for six months, minimum.

SEO strategies typically take 6 months to show results.

2. You don’t use analytics to refine your SEO

If you are’t using a web analytics tool such as Google Analytics (and its close cousin Google Search Console)Why Your SEO strategy is failing, you’ll have no idea how well any of your content is performing in drawing traffic. Analytics allows you to set up goals and monitor metrics such as site and page traffic, bounce rates, and page conversions which are factored into Google’s search rankings. Search Console shows you which keywords are appearing in greater or lesser density on your page, as well as how your site ranks for your focused terms.

But most importantly, simply creating an SEO plan won’t get you results. Creating engaging content that draws in traffic and converts that traffic is truly a trial and error process, and analytics allow you to make subtle tweaks that will make your SEO strategy more and more effective. For example, if your search rankings are high but you aren’t seeing conversions, this might be a sign that it’s time to improve your site’s design. If you’re finding that for some reason people attach to certain topics on your site but not others, then you’ll know you can’t go wrong by giving your audience more of that content. Monitoring analytics on a regular basis allows you to make continuous tweaks based on your traffic data, which is the core of any SEO strategy.

3. You’re not posting content regularly

Why SEO Strategies Fail - a Googlebot

Googlebots love fresh content

The more engaging, fresh content you provide, the more likely users will be to find that content, and the more site traffic you’ll receive. Googlebots love fresh content, and frequently updated sites have better chances at higher search rankings. Now, you don’t need to blog every single day, but you should strive to maintain at least a weekly rhythm to your posting. Creating a content calendar can help you maintain a regular posting schedule.

SEO strategies also extend to social media, where posting regularly on publicly searchable platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter is just as important as posting on your blog. Getting your content shared on social media (and having users visit your site from these platforms) is one of the quickest ways to grow your search rankings, and so as tedious as it might seem you do need to schedule regular updates for the major social media platforms to drive traffic to your blogs.

4. Your SEO strategy is targeting the wrong audience

Identifying your target audience is the core of all marketing, including SEO. If you don’t understand who your customer is, there is no doubt that your SEO strategy will fail. One way to identify your target audience is to use Google Analytics’ demographic feature. Your customer’s age, gender, sex, and location can tell you a lot about how they behave on the web. Someone who is 70 years old behaves differently on the web than a 25-year-old.  Knowing who your customer is also allows you to identify what what keywords you should be using and what you should be posting.

Your site’s bounce rate is a good indicator of whether your SEO strategy is targeting the right audience or not. A bounce rate is a measure of single interaction visits to a website, and is provided by Google Analytics and other tools. An average site bounce rate is about 40-55%, and anything lower is considered excellent. Alarmingly high bounce rates indicate that you’re receiving large volumes of poor traffic, which means that your SEO strategy is not targeting the right audience.

If you don’t know who you’re writing for, your SEO strategy is doomed

5. You’re using the wrong keywords

When choosing SEO keywords, remember to focus on what your target audience thinks you’re selling, not what you think you do

Keywords are the cornerstone of any SEO strategy, and the keywords you feature in your content need to be relevant to your target customers’s needs. The best way to identify your target keywords is to use keyword search tools such as Google AdWord’s Keyword Planner to identify the most commonly searched terms that are related to your business. One of the most common mistakes we see are businesses who insist on describing their products or services in ways that their target audience just doesn’t search for. Your goal is to find a balance between keywords that are descriptive for what you do and in high search volume. If your keywords are too specific, customers will have a difficult time finding you and those who do will be a narrow audience. If your keywords are too broad, you may get lost in the competition.


An example of Google AdWords’ Keyword Planning Tool

And a last note here – avoid keyword stuffing at all costs. Keyword stuffing is when content or meta tags are loaded with keywords in an attempt to boost rankings. This tactic will backfire because it’s picked up by web crawlers as spam and puts you at the bottom of rankings.

We hope that these tips help you better understand how to improve your search rankings. If you feel like you could still use a hand with your SEO strategy, why not contact Young Marketing Consulting?

“Your brand is your promise”

Why Brand Identity Matters for Small Business - Cattle Brand

A cattle brand, one of the world’s first marketing tools

Branding is likely the oldest form of marketing in the world. The practice of using a mark to indicate ownership or craftsmanship has been in use for thousands of years, with the word itself coming from the Old Norse verb “to burn” and likely originating from the practice of branding livestock. But what began as a signifier of cattle ownership and craftsmanship has evolved into something much different in the modern era, and it’s fair to wonder, how, exactly, a brand can help your business.

If you ask people to define a brand today, the first thing that many of them point to would be aesthetics: colors, fonts, a logo design. These are the kind of details that companies spend many thousands of hours and dollars pouring over in the hope that their choices will drive increased sales in some indirect fashion. And because of branding’s indirect link to results, the practice is often dismissed by smaller businesses who have a more immediate focus on marketing activities that drive measurable results. But a brand is much, much more than its aesthetics. And today, we’ll examine three ways in which branding can help your small business.

Why Brand Identity Matters for Small Business

The Stella Artois logo, which was first used in 1366


1. Branding distinguishes you from your competitors.

Brand aesthetics catch the eye. Brand experience drives loyalty.

Good branding is much more than just a memorable logo, it’s how you do business and differentiate yourself from competitors. Branding encompasses the characteristics and values of your organization, helping you to distinguish your offering in the marketplace with a brand identity. If your brand identity reflects your target audience’s values and needs, it will make consumers will feel connected to the brand. In fact, 64% of people say that shared values are the primary reason they have a relationship with a brand. However, if your brand identity isn’t clearly defined and expressed, don’t expect to have strong, long-lasting relationships with your customers or clients.

Because your brand educates your target audience how you’re different (and why it matters), communicating your brand identity is one of the best ways to grow your business. As the below example from Mad Men shows, you’re most likely not offering a unique product so you need to set yourself apart from competitors.

Now, in reality the example above flies in the face of modern branding practice, because it’s a rather cynical take that doesn’t differentiate the business in any real way. But by focusing on what you do differently than a crowded market, you’ll be regularly stressing how much better you are to consumers looking for an improved experience. And when customers identify with your brand message and have a good experience, they will start to promote your products and services. That’s the kind of word-of-mouth marketing that can be crucial for small businesses looking to grow.

2. Branding tells you how to price your products and services

Why Brand Identity Matters for Small Business - Price Tag

Your brand identity sets your pricing expectations

The second, often-overlooked reason why small business branding matters is that your brand identity helps determine price. Apple, for example, is a brand that has made its brand synonymous with innovative products of the highest quality. Apple also delivers a product and service consistency that creates trustworthy relationships with customers. Both of these factors allow the brand to set high prices in order to communicate to consumers that they are receiving the best product available.

But of course, the question is what do you do if you’re not Apple? Let’s say you’re running a quick service salad bar concept restaurant that promises to make healthy eating affordable. Your pricing should follow suit, and be set as low as you profitably can.


Set your brand pricing on a scale that ranges from affordability and accessibility (on the low end) to quality and luxury (on the high end).

3. Branding helps you make internal decisions

The third and final reason why branding matters for small businesses is that the brand identity you create will help your company make internal decisions. Your brand conveys both an identity and a purpose, and by doing so it tells your managers and staff how to act in various situations. For example, if your brand focuses on customer service and you have an employee providing a poor customer experience, you’ll know instantly that that employee is not aligned with your brand and will be able to take corrective steps. If you’re facing a strategic decision about where to invest in resources, a quick check of your brand identity will tell you what areas cannot be touched because they could compromise your ability to deliver on your brand promise.

In many ways, it’s actually easier for small businesses to have good branding because they aren’t trying to convey a message and mode of operation across thousands of employees. So go ahead, get out there and try a brand on for size. And if you’re curious about exactly how to build a brand identity, why not contact Young Marketing Consulting?

In last week’s post, we broke down how to interpret the various email marketing metrics available to marketers, ultimately identifying the single most important email marketing metric (hint: it’s not open or click rates). So now that you know how to evaluate your email marketing campaigns, let’s talk about how to keep improving your email marketing efforts. This week, we’re going to address four email marketing best practices.

Email marketing remains the best outreach tool marketers have.

1. Use Email Marketing to Segment Your Customer and Prospect Lists

When discussing email marketing best practices, it can be easy to jump right into conversations about design and personalization and overlook one of the key benefits that email campaigns provide: the ability to segment your audience. Each time your prospects and customers receive one of your messages, they take an action (even if that action is to ignore your email). And that action allows you to sort your audience into various buckets based on their behavior.

To capitalize on an email campaign’s use as a segmentation tool, begin by reviewing your email open and click rates, tracking your list’s email and web activity at the individual level in order to sort contacts who responded to your emails into buckets such as the example below.

Sample Email Marketing Campaign Activity Distribution

Notice that we’ve highlighted the individuals who always open or click your campaign. If you’re a B2B email marketer, you may want to prioritize these individuals for sales contact. If you’re a B2C company, this segment might turn out to be your evangelists who are primed to respond to new product releases or loyalty offers. The key is to separate your campaign responders and nurture them appropriately. The number of email marketing permutations you can use to speak to different segments of your email lists is limited only by your creativity, so as you build out your email campaigns remember that an email marketing best practice is to do so with the goal of segmenting your audience in order to filter out those most likely to purchase.

Email #marketing can be a great tool for getting an early read on lead source performance

Want another email marketing tip? If you’re working with lists of prospects, email campaigns can be a great tool to use as an early indicator of a lead source’s viability. If you’ve just run an ad campaign that has brought in hundreds of names, but none of them responds to your email, there’s a good chance your ads aren’t reaching the right audience. Conversely, if you’re seeing record open rates, you’ll know you’ve found a great source of potential customers.


2. Improve Your Email Marketing with Personalized Content that Drives Action

Your customers are smart. They know you, and they expect your business to know them in return. Email is an ideal medium to provide your audience with the level of personalization expected by today’s customer, and an email best practice is to speak to your audience as individuals. Most marketers fail to personalize their email campaigns, yet personalized emails are proven to have higher open and click rates. Experian Marketing determined that personalized promotional emails had 29 percent higher unique open rates and 41 percent higher unique click rates. Personalization can be as easy as adding a name to the subject line. According to HubSpot, click rates are higher when the recipient’s first name is used in the subject line, so it’s high time you started with these easy wins.

Targeted Email Marketing Call to Action

This button doesn’t go anywhere, but a call to action like this should be in every single one of your emails.

But email marketing best practices go deeper. Personalization also means including relevant content for the recipient that compels them to act. You should be tracking your audience’s clicks, browses, purchases, and other indications of interest from your customers in a database that you can access to segment and target these individuals. Prospects interested in webinars, for example, will be ideal fits for a targeted campaign driving them toward a learning event about your new product. Every email you send should be compelling them to take action.


3. Mobile Optimization for Email Marketing is a Must, but It’s Not Quite What You Think

Mobile Optimization for Email Marketing

Optimizing for mobile is a balance between text and images

According to the latest research conducted by Litmus, 55% of emails are opened on a mobile device. If your emails are not optimized for mobile devices, they may end up going directly to the trash. What’s significant for a best practice email marketing campaign is the battle between media-rich emails and image blockers on mobile devices (and email in general).

Research conducted by the Relevancy Group has determined that marketers who use digital media such as videos in their email campaigns note a 40 percent rise in revenue. HubSpot also noted that 65 percent of people prefer emails that contain mostly images rather than mostly text. And yet, the first thing your mobile readers will see is likely text, along with a question about whether they want to load your images at all.

Nearly every email marketing software on the market will automatically format your messages for mobile devices. Your challenge is handling your audience’s first impression on mobile. Best practice email marketing works well in both text-only and graphical formats by using styled text more heavily than large graphics and by incorporating image ALT tags that entice the reader (for example “Click for Fall 2016 deals” instead of a random hash of letters and numbers).


4. Email Marketing is Ideal for A/B Testing

Have you ever gotten into a debate with other staff members about which elements of an email marketing campaign work best? These types of discussions about email marketing best practices aren’t uncommon when every percentage point increase is key. The good news is that A/B testing will help you improve your email marketing strategy by testing multiple versions of an email campaign and settling the argument once and for all.

A number of email marketing tools let you conduct automatic A/B testing on a variety of areas such as those below:

  • Subject lines
  • Sent from name/address
  • Copy
  • Images
  • Send times

The more advanced email marketing software suites allow automated testing that will evaluate open and click-through rates on a small sample of two lists to identify the email most likely to drive response and then send that email to your audience. For example, a retail marketer may want to test its content in order to determine if a coupon elicits a purchase. One email could read “We haven’t seen you in a while. Come back and see us!”. The other email with the coupon may say “Take 20% off your next purchase if you visit us within the next five days”. And rather than debate how either will perform, you can let the software do the work to determine your best offer and format.

Testing email #marketing? Let your software evaluate the As and Bs for you!

So that’s it! Pretty easy right? These four simple (but often ignored) email marketing best practices should put your email campaigns in top shape. If you still need help with your email marketing strategy, feel free to contact Young Marketing Consulting.