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Less Is More: Time to Cut Content Bloat & Create Content Connections

When it comes to the craft of writing, my favorite luminary is the late William Zinsser. His book, On Writing Well, is — in my opinion — the definitive work covering its stated subject.

On Writing Well is an essential read for anyone who wants to elevate their prose. Zinsser’s primary focal area is word economy. “Look for the clutter in your writing and prune it ruthlessly,” he implores. “Be grateful for everything you can throw away. Reexamine each sentence you put on paper. Is every word doing new work?”

That last question is especially pertinent to B2B marketing writers. The reader should always be our top concern when penning copy, but in this case, the stakes are even higher. Attention is at a premium with business professionals, so wasted words are especially costly. Content bloat leads to audience abandonment.


In the spirit of Mr. Zinsser, we’re offering up tips on trimming down your writing to make it more punchy and concise. And to do so, we’ll curate advice from top wordsmiths in the marketing game, with a key emphasis on overcoming the most prevalent pitfalls for today’s content creators.

3 Keys to Concise and Compelling B2B Marketing Copy

Rigid formats, giant blocks of text, and unnecessary filler words are banes of succinct writing. Here are some pointers from the experts on conquering them.

#1 - Nix Stringent Word Counts

So many writers are at the mercy of word counts, and it’s a tragedy. We’re told we need to produce at least 1,500 words, so we inject a bunch of unnecessary filler to get there. Does this serve our audience in any way? Hell no.

The conundrum is that numerous studies show higher word counts correlating with higher SERP placements. However, this is misguided thinking. Long-form content is fantastic and it’s certainly part of our mix here at TopRank Marketing, but it needs to be valuable. Don’t take my word for it; here’s what Rand Fishkin — co-founder of Moz, and one of the planet’s top authorities on SEO — has to say:

“700 more words will not help you reach your goals any more than 7 more words. Create content that helps people. Do it efficiently. Never write an ultimate guide where a single image could more powerfully convey the same value. Trust me; your audience and your bottom line will thank you.”

[bctt tweet="700 more words will not help you reach your goals any more than 7 more words. Create content that helps people. Do it efficiently. @randfish" username="toprank"]

According to SEMrush’s hierarchy of ranking factors, content length falls below time on site, pages per session, bounce rate, and backlinks in SEO importance.

In other words, if excessive wordiness is turning readers away, the number doesn’t really matter all that much. Delivering a quality experience is vastly more valuable.

To see what high-performing short-form content looks like in action, check out these examples from IFL Science, courtesy of BuzzSumo.

#2 - Use Every Bit of Space Intentionally

It might not be a writer’s first instinct, but visualization is a helpful practice. Take a step back and look at your content — how it really appears on the page. Are you making the best use of your digital real estate?

Ann Handley suggests we take a page from the lead character in Charlotte’s Web, who she says might be the best content marketer in the world:

“Think of how Charlotte was able to save a life with just [a few] words,” Handley said during a session at Content Marketing World a couple years back, as relayed by our own Caitlin Burgess. “How can we use our words more intentionally? How can we make a difference?”

[bctt tweet="How can we use our words more intentionally? How can we make a difference? @annhandley @MarketingProfs" username="toprank"]

Think of each page on the worldwide web as a finite spider web. You only have so much space, and so much thread, to get your points across. Make it count. You might not be saving the life of a radiant pig, but you will be more likely to delight and connect with your audience.

#3 - Banish Buzzword Banality

To celebrate the NCAA Tournament earlier this year, our friends and clients at LinkedIn Marketing Solutions* put together a lighthearted marketing madness bracket, calling out the most overused jargon in the profession. If you find yourself leaning too heavily on any terms listed there, you might want to rethink.

LinkedIn Marketing Buzzwords

It’s not just marketing buzzwords that drag down our copy, though. Content Marketing Institute (CMI)* recently published a rundown of 25 words and phrases to avoid.

“Stuffing your sentences and paragraphs with filler and fluff — words and phrases that add zero meaning to what you’re trying to say — is the opposite of clear writing,” author Julia McCoy writes.

Many of the items she includes are extremely common, and the types you’re likely to summon out of sheer habit and routine. For instance:

  • In order to
  • Really
  • That
  • Then
  • Just

They seem harmless on the surface, barely taking up space. But this is exactly what makes them so insidious. Most often, you can make the exact same point while deleting these words, and you’ll provide a much more crisp and efficient experience for the person on the other end.

Here’s an example: In order to write great copy, you’ll really want to avoid using words that you don’t need. If your goal is to be efficient, then it’s just the best choice.

We can pare that down to: To write great copy, you’ll want to avoid using words you don’t need. If your goal is to be efficient, it’s the best choice.

Six words removed, zero substance lost. Over the long haul, you’ll save readers a lot of time — and keep them more engaged — by adhering to this mindset.

Writing Well (Usually) Means Writing Less

To be clear, long-form writing isn’t always unnecessarily drawn out. In many cases, exploring the full breadth of a subject requires it.

Recently I wrote about the example of Backlinko’s Brian Dean, who puts together massive power pages spanning thousands of words. These posts rank and perform so well not because of their word counts, but because of what those words accomplish: they comprehensively break down important topics and provide credibility-building best-answer content for his audience. If you scan through one of these pages, you’ll find the copy is actually quite sparse in its arrangement, divvied into small chunks and broken up by plenty of visuals.

The Final Word

  1. Forget word counts — maximum or minimum. Write as much as it takes to deliver a satisfying best answer, and no more.
  2. Be mindful of space on the page. Keeping in mind that a majority of users don’t make it very far into online articles, consider leading with your most critical points, or even offering a brief summary atop each new piece of content.
  3. And before you hit publish, challenge yourself to delete every single word throughout that isn’t tied to a specific, tangible purpose. You might even consider printing out the jargon lists from LinkedIn and CMI as references for your cleaning.

The three guiding principles above might sound simple, but they don’t come naturally to even the most seasoned writers. And overthinking word economy during the drafting process can badly hamper creativity and productivity. Focus first on getting your thoughts on the page, clearly and coherently. Later, you can go back and — as Zinsser puts it — prune ruthlessly.

“Writing is hard work,” says Zinsser. “A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this in moments of despair. If you find that writing is hard, it’s because it is hard.”

Indeed it is. But in the immortal words of Jeff Bezos, “You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.” You also earn trust, authority, and — ultimately — business. So, grab your shears and let’s get to work.

Pruning and optimizing your content can happen post-launch, too. Check out our piece on why refreshing existing content is great for your audience and results.

* Disclosure: LinkedIn and CMI are TopRank Marketing clients.

The post Less Is More: Time to Cut Content Bloat & Create Content Connections appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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8 Best Free WordPress Themes of 2019 (Chosen by Experts)

If you’re starting your blog on a budget, a free WordPress theme is a great way to keep costs down. The problem? There are literally thousands of free WordPress themes to sort through. And when you search for guidance on Google, you’re greeted with articles offering dozens (or hundreds) of free WordPress theme options. Let’s be(...)

The post 8 Best Free WordPress Themes of 2019 (Chosen by Experts) appeared first on Smart Blogger.

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Clarity Trumps Persuasion: 5 examples where clarity soundly beat out persuasion tactics

Flint McGlaughlin and participants from YouTube Live work together to create a Facebook ad that achieves the one element that is so often missing from our emails and webpages – Clarity.

The post Clarity Trumps Persuasion: 5 examples where clarity soundly beat out persuasion tactics appeared first on MarketingExperiments.

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How to Promote Your B2B Podcast

How to Promote Your B2B Podcast

How to Promote Your B2B Podcast

Over 1/4th of the entire population of the United States listens to podcasts at least monthly. That's over 81 million people. What's more, the most avid listeners log six and a half hours a week of listening time. Eighty percent finish every episode in its entirety.

There's enormous potential here for engaging an audience. Think about how long someone might stick with a 1,000 word blog post (like this one). Five minutes? Ten? But they might listen to a 25-30 minute podcast on the same topic.

Podcasting holds a lot of promise for marketers, especially in the B2B space. Our agency has helped multiple B2B Fortune 500 companies produce and find an audience for their podcasts. It takes strategy and coordination, but the barrier to entry is relatively low. Of course, "making" the podcast is the easy part. As with any content, the challenge is successfully getting it to your target audience.

Here are a few things we've learned about B2B podcasting promotion through our production and amplification work.

How to Promote Your B2B Podcast

Some of the tactics you will use to amplify your podcast are familiar, but the channel does have unique properties that require new approaches. We’ll start with adapting traditional tactics, then we’ll finish with the podcast-specific ones.

Adapting Traditional Promotional Tactics for B2B Podcasts

#1: Start with Audience Demand

As with any content, your podcast should begin with research. See what questions your audience has, what they need to know, and what they want to hear. Aim to generate a topic list that highlights your brand’s expertise and your subject matter experts’ insights to create something of value to your audience. Once your research is complete, it's also well-worth documenting your findings, goals, and promotional plans in a creative brief. This will serve as a guide as you go forth and create.

For Podcasts: Stay closer to top-of-funnel with your podcast ideas. It’s far better to educate, inspire, and entertain your audience than to try and sell them something. A 25-minute-long advertisement for your solution is likely to drive people away.

#2: Add Influencers for Amplification

We’re big believers in influencer marketing, and we have plenty of results to back that up. When you co-create content with influencers you get higher-quality, dynamic content that has built-in amplification. Here's an example from 3M's* Science Champions podcast, featuring the brand's own amplification of a recent episode as well as the influencer interviewee's amplification.

3M Science Champions Podcast on Twitter

For Podcasts: We've often found that many industry influencers and experts would rather do an audio interview than a written one. So it should be easy to get experts whom you have a solid relationship with to commit to a 30-minute interview, which can be recorded and processed into a podcast.

If you're looking to work with new folks in the field, we recommend taking the time to nurture the relationship (e.g. like and share their social content, engage them in conversation on social or their blogs, or reach out via email to introduce yourself and let them know you're a fan of their work) before reaching out cold.

Another way to incorporate an influential voice and extend the potential reach of your podcast is to tap industry influencers to host or co-host the podcast. The Dell Luminaries* podcast is a great example of this, featuring two thought leaders as hosts: Seasoned marketer and author Mark Schaefer and marketing and technology strategist Douglas Karr.

Dell Luminaries Podcast

When it comes to conducting the interview, use a tool like Zencastr to make sure you get high-quality audio. Unsurprisingly, audio quality is absolutely critical for a podcast endeavor.

#3: Use Internal Promotion to Boost Awareness

If you’re at an enterprise-level organization, you have a built-in audience. Encourage your employees to listen to each episode and share it with their social networks.

For Podcasts: The first 2-3 weeks after publication are a crucial time to get your podcast seen. In addition to listening and sharing, encourage employees to write a review on iTunes and other podcast platforms. Reviews, especially on iTunes, play a big part in determining which podcasts the platform recommends to its existing users.

#4: Optimize for Search

As with written content, you’ll want to make sure you’re including keywords, a compelling visual, and a descriptive title on each episode. Use keyword research tools, existing analytics data, and other appropriate tools and resources to determine a list of target words. Then, test them out on podcast platform search engines to make sure you’re hitting the right intent.

For Podcasts: Since search engines can’t crawl your audio, it’s doubly important to make every word count on your podcast description and title, episode descriptions and titles, and what categories you choose in podcast directories.

Podcast-Specific Promotion Tactics

#1: Publish Transcripts as Blog Posts

As I said above, search engines can’t crawl audio. And competition is fierce for visibility on podcast platforms like iTunes and Google Play. You can use your blog to help drive subscriptions, which will help your podcast gain traction. Make a post for each episode with a summary, key takeaways, and full transcription. Embed the podcast stream on the post, and make the CTA to subscribe to the podcast.

#2: Commit to a Cadence

Podcast promotion is all about building a habit for your audience. You want them to subscribe, stay subscribed, and listen to every episode. To make that happen, you need to publish consistently. It’s better to post an episode every two weeks for a year than to publish weekly and take a 6-month hiatus at the end.

It’s best to start with at least three episodes available for download (required to make Apple’s New and Notable list) and several more to act as a buffer. Then you can determine the cadence that will enable you to publish without pausing.

#3: Submit to Podcast Directories

Much of your initial subscriber base will likely come from your existing audience, through your blog posts. But the goal is to build a subscriber base wherever people listen to podcasts, so you can capture a net new audience.

To that end, it’s important to register your podcast with Apple Podcasts, Google Play Podcasts, Spotify, TuneIn, Stitcher, and Podbean. These platforms together account for the vast majority of podcast listeners. Registration on each of these services is free, and it makes finding your podcast a seamless experience for every user.

Submitting a Podcast to iTunes

#4: Look for Cross-Promotional Opportunities

The majority of people who listen to podcasts don’t just listen to one. In fact, it seems the more podcasts someone listens to, the more likely they are to try out a new one. So you’re not trying to lure people away from someone else’s podcast to listen to yours — it’s not a zero sum game.

Podcasting is therefore less competitive than other media might be. It’s worth checking with established podcasts to see if there are opportunities for cross-promotion. Subject matter experts in your company could appear on their podcast, or you could interview another host in a relevant industry for yours. Either way, both of your podcasts gain exposure to a new audience.

Rise of the Pod People

Podcasting is one of the biggest marketing opportunities for B2B businesses right now. Even as saturated as the B2C market is, there’s still room for new breakout stars. By comparison, the B2B space has even more room to grow. It’s a channel that has yet to suffer from fatigue or content shock.

As a content marketer, much of what you already know about content applies to promoting podcasts: Be relevant, be valuable, work with influencers, promote on social media, etc. With a few new tactics combined with the old standbys, you can make sure your podcast has everything it needs to find a long-term sustainable audience.

Want to find out more about B2B podcasting and whether it's a fit for your B2B brand? Learn the what, why, and how of B2B podcasting by checking out my post on the subject.

*Disclosure: Dell and 3M are TopRank Marketing clients.

The post How to Promote Your B2B Podcast appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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3 Ways to Use Facebook Ads to Promote Your Products

Want to run Facebook ads to promote your products or services? Wondering which type of Facebook ad campaigns to start with? In this article, you’ll discover three types of Facebook advertising campaigns you can use to start promoting your products and services on Facebook. #1: Advertise to People Who Visit Your Website If you’ve already […]

The post 3 Ways to Use Facebook Ads to Promote Your Products appeared first on Social Media Marketing | Social Media Examiner.

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How to create a YouTube Business account: a step-by-step guide

If you still don’t know how to create a YouTube account for your business, it’s not too late to get started. But for businesses Read more...

This post How to create a YouTube Business account: a step-by-step guide originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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How to Add (and Price) Landing Page Services to Your Agency Offering

When you offer landing pages and conversion optimization as a service to your clients, you can generate account growth, client loyalty, and shared ROI. Learn how you can add these services to your menu of digital agency offerings (and how to price them).

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9 stats social media marketers need to show their bosses ASAP

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This post 9 stats social media marketers need to show their bosses ASAP originally appeared on Sprout Social.

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6 Ways to Bring More Boom! & Less Boring to Your B2B

Lit firecracker and yawning man image.

Lit firecracker and yawning man image.

Is your B2B marketing on the boring side? Here’s how you can ignite a powder-keg of inspiration and burst forth with new content marketing energy to bring more boom and less boring to future B2B marketing efforts.

We have six boom-including content marketing antidotes to replace the status quo with inspiration, joy, laughter, energy, enchantment and other powerful marketing elixirs that can help you create relevant, informative, and — above all — memorable content.

#1 — Get An Inspiration Infusion From Experts


  • Oftentimes you don’t have far to go to find inspiration for your B2B content marketing.
  • Inspiration abounds if you look to your heroes, past mentors, and the industry influencers and business associates whose work you admire the most.
  • We occasionally research and publish lists of top experts in several areas of marketing, which are great starting points for finding examples of marketers who inspire. Here are a few of our most recent compendiums:

2019 TopRank Marketing Social Media Marketing Influencers

This robust recent list, “Our 2019 List: The Top 50 Social Media Marketing Influencers,” includes 50 top social media marketing influencers, researched and ranked using influencer relationship marketing platform Traackr and numerous other social signal metrics.

LinkedIn’s 24 B2B Marketers You Need to Know

Recently LinkedIn* published its new edition of The Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide to LinkedIn, a list of 24 B2B marketing experts, who all represent great examples of how to incorporate inspiration into you marketing, and we took a look at this group in “LinkedIn’s List of 24 B2B Marketers You Need to Know.”

25 Women Digital Marketing

For the past nine years we’ve also put out a helpful list of some of the most influential women in digital marketing, “25 Influential Women in Digital Marketing Who Rocked and Inspired in 2018,” also an excellent source for finding experts who are highly skilled at using inspiration in content marketing.

#2 — Find Your Joy Elixir


  • Try looking at your content marketing practices in new ways, with fresh eyes, and with an open heart.
  • As you tell your marketing stories, make a conscious effort to incorporate joy’s inherent happiness and exuberance in your efforts where appropriate.
  • Joy is a powerful emotion that can have a home in many B2B marketing campaigns — as you’re creating, look for opportunities to use it.
  • Are your own content marketing efforts sparking joy for your audience, à la Marie Kondo? Our own Anne Leuman examines how joy can help deliver amazing personalized B2B experiences, in “B2B Marketers, Are Your Content Marketing Efforts Sparking Joy for Your Audience?
  • Share joy with your target audience and you’ll both benefit, as Mark Twain once suggested when he wrote:

[bctt tweet="“To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” — Mark Twain" username="toprank"]

Research has shown that happiness is the top factor among U.S. mobile users when it comes to being receptive to advertisements, as the following chart from eMarketer demonstrates:

eMarketer State of Mind Chart Image

#3 — Create a Contagious Laughter Tonic


  • Recognize the difference between joy and laughter, and realize that although separate, the two play off of one another, as Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh has said.

[bctt tweet="“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” — Thich Nhat Hanh @thichnhathanh" username="toprank"]

  • Look for areas in your B2B marketing where it would be appropriate to incorporate content that will — with skill and just a little bit of luck — make people laugh.
  • Don’t be afraid to tap into the lighthearted, the childlike, and the playful when looking to make people laugh — sometimes the simplest things can bring out the purest forms of laughter, or at least a wide smile.

For a number of years our own Joshua Nite has written an annual take on the latest marketing humor, with the most recent being “20 More Dumb Jokes for Smart Marketers” and “20 Jokes Only a B2B Marketer Will Get,” good sources for finding the role of wit and comedy in marketing.

[bctt tweet="“I made a joke about organic reach on Facebook… nobody got it.” — Joshua Nite @NiteWrites" username="toprank"]

[bctt tweet="Comedy is the most powerful way to humanize a brand because it demonstrates empathy. @timwasher #B2BContentMarketing" username="toprank"]

#4 — Blast an Energizing Content Path


  • Opening doors, removing obstacles, and solving problems can all be great ways to invigorate B2B marketing campaigns, and can bring out tangible energy when done well.
  • By actively creating marketing that will guide the way and show a path to something that has seemed unattainable to your target audience, you’ll instill a new sense of energy with those you’ve inspired.

Statistics show that creating compelling content for digital experiences is among the top opportunities for companies in 2019, as the following chart from MarketingCharts shows:

Most Exciting Business Opportunity MarketingCharts Image

  • Seek out examples of B2B marketing done by people who are filled to the brim with energy for the work they do and the impact they make through their campaigns. In addition, look to yourself. Not long ago, our team members shared how their personal passions fuel their work in Nick Nelson's post: "Becoming a Better Marketer by Embracing Your Passions Outside the Office."

How Our After-Hours Passions Elevate Us as Marketers

#5 — Present Enchanting Possibilities


  • In the storytelling you use in your marketing, be open to incorporating your own unique touch and style to truly enchant your target audiences, as enchantment opens up a world of connection possibilities.
  • Author and marketer extraordinaire Guy Kawasaki has made a living and written books specifically about enchantment, and it’s easy to see why this emotion is such a powerful method for connecting with people, both in person and in our marketing efforts.

We look more closely at some of the ways Guy likes to bring out enchantment in marketing in “Spicy Twists and Tactics For Unique Content Promotion.”

[bctt tweet="“When you enchant people, your goal is not to make money from them or to get them to do what you want, but to fill them with great delight.” @GuyKawasaki" username="toprank"]

#6 — Make It Share-Worthy & Bookmarkable with Best-Answer Content


  • Sometimes being definitive is the key to crafting marketing gold — the kind of best-answer content that makes you take the extra step of bookmarking a website or social media post URL for coming back to again and again, and for sharing.

Providing the best answer for your customers is a great way to boost brand credibility, and recently we’ve explored just what best-answer content is and some of the ways you can strive to achieve it in your own B2B marketing, including our CEO Lee Odden’s insightful “How A Best Answer Content Strategy Drives B2B Marketing Results.”

Best Answer Content B2B Marketing

[bctt tweet="“If buyers don’t see consistent, credible and engaging best-answer content across channels from your brand, they’ll begin to trust competitors who are.” — Lee Odden @LeeOdden" username="toprank"]

Say Fare Three Well to Boring B2B Marketing

Using the six marketing ideas and tactics we’ve looked at here, the time may have finally come to say goodbye once and for all to many of the most boring elements of traditional B2B marketing.

Inspiration, joy, laughter, energy, and enchantment may not be the right fit for every initiative, but I hope you’ll keep your eyes open for the places that will be ideal to utilize these powerful storytelling elements.

Finally, to bring even more inspiration to your B2B marketing toolkit, check out our recent list of the top social media marketing blogs, in Lee’s “BIGLIST of Top Social Media Marketing Blogs for 2019 and Beyond,” or lend and ear and tune in to our list of “20 Podcasts To Elevate Your B2B Marketing.”

*Disclosure: LinkedIn is a TopRank Marketing client.

The post 6 Ways to Bring More Boom! & Less Boring to Your B2B appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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2019 Social Media Marketing Industry Report

Wondering how fellow marketers are using social media? Want to know what marketers plan to do with organic social activities, video marketing, and social ads? In our 11th annual social media study, we surveyed more than 4,800 marketers who reveal details you won’t find anywhere else. How Are Marketers Using Social Media? To understand how […]

The post 2019 Social Media Marketing Industry Report appeared first on Social Media Marketing | Social Media Examiner.

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