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12 Content Marketing Lessons Learned in 12 Years of Blogging

Content Marketing Lessons LearnedHappy 12th Birthday to TopRank Marketing’s Online Marketing Blog!

In Malcom Gladwell’s book, Outliers: The Story of Success, he mentions the “10,000-Hour Rule”, which describes the key to achieving world class expertise in any skill as a matter of practicing for a total of 10,000 hours or so.

By many definitions, this humble marketing blog has involved many more than 10,000 hours of practice. While we’ve achieved many milestones from being the only blog ranked the #1 content marketing blog three times by CMI to helping our boutique digital marketing agency reach a worldwide audience, it continues to be a work in progress.

There are multiple dimensions for evaluating a blog’s impact. Here is some statistical trivia about TopRank’s Marketing Blog (thanks to BuzzSumo) representing some of this “practice makes expert” effort.

  • 3,943 posts and 1.9 million words (overall)
  • 1,026 average social shares per post in 2015
  • 1.5 million+ unique visitors in 2015
  • Lists and How to Posts attract the most average social shares in 2015
  • Monday and Thursday are the top days for social shares in 2015
  • Posts with 3-10k words attract the most shares in 2015

Our industry is in a constant state of flux and many companies continue to come in and out of the blogging world. We’ve found blogging to be effective in numerous ways, long before the popularity of social media, content marketing and influencer marketing.

From recruiting to reinforcing customer relationships to growing industry thought leadership to direct customer acquisition, blogging is one of the most demanding yet rewarding marketing investments a company can make. Some of that popularity is measured through social media and to get a sense for what kind of content resonates with our community, here are the top 10 most popular posts for 2015 (by social shares)

  1. 50 Influential Women in Digital Marketing – 6,283 shares
  2. Social Media Marketing Management Tools List – Updated! – 4,259 shares
  3. 5 Social Media Marketing Tips for Business – 2,928 shares
  4. Where Social Media and SEO Fit in Today’s Content Marketing Mix – 2,688 shares
  5. 6 Steps to Build a Massive Audience with Content Marketing – 2,674 shares
  6. Content Marketing Tools A to Z That You Can Use in 2015 and Beyond – 2,624 shares
  7. 4 Digital Marketing Investments All Companies Need to Make – 2,562 shares
  8. 25 Inspiring & Actionable Content Marketing Tips – 2,421 shares
  9. Report: True Impact of Social Media Marketing for Business – 2,301 shares
  10. 6 Bad Content Marketing Habits – 2,225 shares

The dynamic of being active in the industry and sharing insights as well as lessons learned is essential of a longstanding blog. Along those lines, here are a few insights you may find useful whether you’re just starting a new business blog or evaluating the direction of your current blog.

12 content marketing lessons I’ve learned from 12 years of blogging:

“Be the best answer.”

1.  Decide what you stand for and aspire to becoming the best resource for your community on that thing. To many companies try to be all things to all people with their blog, emphasizing a “more is better” approach. Specificity rises to the top in all things – especially in social media, search and the offline world.
2. Document your success in a specialty area and then duplicate that success in others. Expand your scope of knowledge and industry thought leadership following your own lessons learned in the process of  becoming “the best answer” for your community.
3. Optimize for answers in your blog content planning. Leverage search keyword data as well as social topic trends for voice of the customer insights you can use in content optimization. You can also monitor questions being asked and answered between customers and your sales and customer service teams. Being the best answer is a continuous effort of understanding the questions your audience is asking and optimizing your answers through content in an info-taining way.

“A blog is only as interesting as the interest shown in your community.”

4. Recognize your community by featuring influencers, internal team members, customers, members of the media, your community, or prospective customers in your blog content. Make lists, co-create, do interviews, liveblog and get quotes for blog posts to shine a light on talent. Becoming influential is great. Helping others become influential is how you gain true influence. Show an interest in your community, engage and recognize. Do that, and you will never run out of relevant topics to blog about.
5. Listen to your community through social media monitoring tools, sentiment analysis of blog comments, and contact forms, using social search tools like BuzzSumo and reviewing your own web and search analytics. Understand what your blog community is interested in and give it to them through blog content.
6. Inspire others by actively engaging on social networks, at industry events and in the right places where your community can participate. Social engagement can be overwhelming for many understaffed business blogging departments. Focus on just a few minutes a day consistently and use tools like social media monitoring or social search to uncover opportunities to poll your community, recognize their interactions with your brand and to answer questions – be useful.

“Great content isn’t great until people find, consume and act on it.”

7. Use search, social and target audience data to inspire content themes, topics and keyword optimization. Topical relevance is as important as keyword relevance for blog content discovery. Far too many companies focus entirely on content creation without considering blog content promotion. Make sure the blog content is what your community is actively looking for and talking about on the social web. Being relevant in this way will fuel inbound traffic and social sharing, which will attract even more blog traffic.
8. Empathize with your readers and create relevance through context and content that is meaningful. Learn the content preferences of your audience from topics to visuals to what devices they most often use to consume your blog. Go beyond thinking about your blog as a marketing tool and consider what would be the best experience for your readers.
9. Continuously review blog content promotion efforts and traffic sources to optimize performance. Conduct SEO, Content, Social Media and Conversion audits on your blog at least quarterly. With specific goals in mind for your blog, you should be able to tie blog performance back to goals. Performance is not just contribution to marketing, but the ability of your blog to satisfy the information needs of your community.

“If you want your content to be great, ask your community to participate.”

10. Identify the distinct audiences of your blog and create ways for those specific communities to contribute. Content co-creation can inspire promotion and improve blog quality. Most blogging efforts within companies are understaffed with high expectations. The most effective way to scale quality blog content and promotion is to involve the very community you’re trying to reach in the content creation.
11. Develop a mix of specialty post and recurring posts that allow you to attract new contributors and co-creators as well as a platform for return contributors. Content is a great relationship builder between any constituent audience and your brand whether they contributors are prospective clients, members of industry media or potential business partners.
12. Recognize contributors in a meaningful way. Share quantitative performance as well as qualitative feedback. People will work for a living, but die for recognition – as long as it means something.

Thank you to our community for being supportive of TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog over the past 12 years. Thank you to the candidates and companies that have taken that important step of following TopRank Marketing’s point of view on marketing through our blog and then engaging as an employee or customer.

I can’t tell you how many people have approached me over the years or who have sent letters and emails to say they’ve been reading our blog for years and that it has helped them in their marketing careers. It is very satisfying to know that something like a blog can both help you grow your business but also positively impact your industry.

A BIG THANKS to the TopRank Marketing agency team of blog contributors in 2015 including:

  • Ashley Zeckman, who has made a huge contribution in 2015 with over 75 posts including the most popular post of the year. This is the first time someone has published more posts than me  and it feels great!
  • Ben Brausen for consistently publishing helpful Friday news roundups. (54 posts)
  • Josh Nite who has raised the bar on TopRank Blog content and has inspired the rest of us to improve our writing and content quality. (13 posts)
  • Alexis Hall who has shared posts on client side marketing, marketing automation and has helped with livebloging. (11 posts)
  • Evan Prokop who has found the time to share his SEO expertise and help with liveblogging. (11 posts)
  • Debbie Friez who has done a great job with sharing her social media marketing smarts and liveblogging. (7 posts)
  • Michael Bak who has shared his online advertising expertise for search and social media. (5 posts)
  • Leila De La Fuente who has shared a mix of digital marketing expertise including online advertising, search marketing and ecommerce. (4 posts)
  • Joel Carlson who has contributed several highly useful social media marketing posts. (4 posts)
  • Caitlin Burgess who has jumped right into one of the toughest types of posts not long after coming on board at TopRank Marketing. (3 posts)
  • Nick Ehrenberg who has published some very popular social media marketing posts. (3 posts)
  • Jolina Pettice who is the busiest person I know at our agency (besides Susan Misukanis) and still found time to contribute (1 post)

What does 2016 have in store for TopRank’s Online Marketing Blog? A long overdue re-design, more contributions from the fast growing team at TopRank Marketing and even more useful insight to help our community become smarter and more creative marketers that can achieve real business results.

Thank you for reading, sharing, commenting and being a part of our community!

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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2015. |
12 Content Marketing Lessons Learned in 12 Years of Blogging | http://www.toprankblog.com

The post 12 Content Marketing Lessons Learned in 12 Years of Blogging appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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About Daniel Rodgers

A lot of news that you will not see in the paper. A lot of technology that is coming out that will not see in the paper.

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5 Key Traits of the Best B2B Influencers

Traits B2B Influencers

Traits B2B Influencers

Marketers are still asking, what is B2B influencer marketing? Here’s a definition I’ve been using over the past 5 years or so:

B2B influencer marketing is activating internal and external subject matter experts with engaged networks to advocate and co-create content of mutual value that drives measurable business goals.

As the groundswell around influencer marketing rises and becomes a normal part of the B2B marketing mix, the volume of information and misinformation on the topic also increases.

One of the most popular questions people also ask about B2B influencer marketing focuses on what makes a good business influencer? By now we all know that popularity alone does not make someone influential. It’s certainly important, it's just not the only thing.

As B2B marketers mature in their understanding of the role influence plays and how the dynamic of brand content co-created with industry experts plays out with customers, they begin to realize that other factors matter. Topical relevance matters of course as well as resonance of the topic amongst an influencer’s community.

B2B Marketing Influencers

The intersection of individual expertise, how well that expertise resonates with followers and the size of network creates a baseline of characteristics when evaluating whether a certain influencer might be a match.

But there’s more than that. Understanding what makes a great influencer is both art and science, soft and hard skills. The success of identifying, qualifying and engaging influencers is also directly tied to how they will be engaged and to what end.

Some people reading this might think that influencer marketing isn’t the magic pill some are playing it up to be. There’s a reason for that, because it’s not magic. It’s more like alchemy.

The reality is, there’s no one formula for the perfect B2B influencer, but there are some common characteristics that B2B brands should look for in varying proportions according to what’s important to a program or activation. I call those characteristics:

The 5 Ps of B2B Influence

Proficiency - In B2B marketing, the vast majority of those considered influential possess deep expertise in the field they work in. This is a significant difference from many B2C influencers who are often self proclaimed as influential with clever media creation skills.

As B2C influencer content and engagement tactics evolve, some are crossing over into B2B with a trickle of opportunists successfully creating influence amongst B2B audiences not solely for their expertise, but for a combination of adept social media content creation skills and some expertise. B2B marketers who do their due diligence will be able to filter accordingly.

Popularity - While network size is not the only thing, nor is it the most important thing, it is definitely a metric to consider. Some marketers swing in the direction of ignoring audience size altogether because of lower engagement rates with popular influencers. This is simply foolish. All things being the same, I’ll take 2% engagement of an influencer with a million followers over 2% from someone that has 1,000 followers.

What matters is how network size factors in with the type of influencer you need. For example, popular influencers aka “brandividuals” are often best for top of funnel content. Niche domain expert influencers are better for middle and end of funnel content. Engaging a brandividual and expecting conversions is just naive.

Personality - If you’ve worked in B2C influencer marketing and been exposed to all the characters there, B2B is going to seem a bit dry. Now there are some colorful characters in the B2B influencer community, no doubt. But personality is often a trait that needs to be uncovered when you’re working with some types of business influencers.

The good news is that savvy influencer marketing practitioners know how to plant the seeds that can grow and blossom within an otherwise introverted influencer. You don’t need them to be a colorful character, ripe with personality per se, but you do want them to connect with the passion they have with their craft and how their expertise can help others be successful.

Publishing - Content is the media that conveys the ideas of influence and while B2B influencers are not expected to produce the same types and quantity of content as in B2C, it is ideal when there’s a platform where the influencer publishes. At a minimum, that would be social networks but to be a B2B influencer, it’s most likely that also includes articles contributed to publications if not research, books and presentations.

Promotion - The value a B2B influencer brings beyond adding expertise and credibility to brand content is the ability to share what they helped create with their network. Trust of brand content is at a low, especially with advertising. Customers yearn for authentic content and the right kind of influencer collaboration can give them that, delivered via the influencer’s own distribution channels. That means social networks for course but also potentially blogs, email newsletters, podcast, LinkedIn Live, contributed articles or columns in industry publications.

I know some people reading this are thinking there could be even more P’s like being Prolific, Persuasive or Passion. Yes, there could be so many more but we have to draw the line somewhere! It's important to be able to manage the data and insights necessary to factor these characteristics into selection, qualification and engagement.

Some of these traits will not fully reveal themselves until you work with an influencer on a few content activations. Others will fluctuate over time and that is normal. It's important to understand that influence is a temporal thing. It is not fixed or permanent. It’s important marketers realize that before they disengage an influencer in the short term due to lower performance. The same goes for high expectations after great performance.

Organic influencer engagement is a little dynamic and what you don’t spend on paid influencers like an ad buy you will (in part) need to invest in relationship management, education and even tips that will help the influencers be more effective.

B2B brands with high influencer churn or low performance often apply “ad buy” perspectives to a what is actually a relationship driven effort. Mismatched expectations are not helpful for anyone, so think about the 5Ps as you evaluate and nurture your influencer community. Consider where of each your ideal influencers need to score on the 5 Ps in order to be a good match for the kind of activation you have in mind.

When there’s 5P alignment, there's happiness: for customers, influencers and your B2B brand.

The post 5 Key Traits of the Best B2B Influencers appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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