Rather than a weekly top 5 list, I thought I’d try something new. Although I’m always reading things about content marketing, social media, design and more, getting to the top 5 list each week is proving to be challenging to say the least.
So instead of weekly, I’m trying a monthly roundup of important stories I would recommend to anyone who is trying to cut through all the noise and find reliable, actionable information.
Continue reading for this month’s recommended reading list broken down by category for easier viewing. In addition to this list, I also hope to develop an expert roundup each month with insights from well-known thought leaders.
1. 5 Obvious Content Marketing Strategies Most Companies Overlook – Although 86% of B2B and 77% of B2C firms are employing content marketing in some form or fashion, most are overlooking at least one of 5 attributes outlined in this piece from Neil Patel. Frustrated that your blog isn’t driving many leads? It could be because you’re not sharing it in the right places. Are you only using generic visuals? Spice up your images with infographics, charts or custom pictures.
2. Why Inbound Annihilates Traditional Sales Models – If you’re a marketing manager or otherwise trying to convince your company to adopt inbound/content marketing, you should read over this piece from Ian Blake. The growth of the web has brought with it an increased skepticism of traditional “advertising.” People have zero trust for those who just claim value. So instead of using the same old sales models, develop educational content to help assure your audience you’re trustworthy and have the right solution to their needs. Instead of selling products, provide solutions.
3. The Benefits of Combining Content Marketing and Segmentation – Content marketing is by far the biggest, most talked-about marketing trend of the day. However, most businesses are simply posting content without much thought as to the audience. When it comes to generating leads, content “…is really everything you have as a marketer to address various segments,” explains Stephen Bruner, Marketing Manager for Precor. Bruner and Precor take things a step further by developing personas and then segmenting them by their personal concerns, professional concerns, or the overall goals of their organization. Check out this quick interview from MarketingSherpa’s Email Summit.
4. 6 Absolutely Free Ways to BuildCommunity Around Your Blog – How do you measure the success of your blog? Most would answer the number of shares, tweets or comments. But as Ann Smarty explains, building a sense of community is really the core of a successful blog. While traffic, shares and links are important, they should come secondary to building a sustainable, long-term community. Be helpful, reply to comments and having regular meetups on Google or Twitter chat are just a few ways to build community around your blog.
5. Quality vs. Quantity: A 6-Month Analysis of the Age-Old Blogging Debate – It’s an age-old debate indeed – should I publish more posts at a lower quality or publish fewer, but more in-depth posts? While we can’t answer that question entirely for your blog, we can take a look at a recent experiment by Hubspot that set out to determine which approach garnered more leads (benchmark, low & high volume). They found that low volume resulted in 32% less traffic than the benchmark but fewer email unsubscribes. However, high frequency received about the same amount of traffic. Hubspot found that the low volume approach would be too costly in terms of traffic and leads.
6. Here’s One Celebrity Trend You Don’t Want to be Following: Buying Social Media Followers – While it may be tempting to buy social media followers, this article from Express Writers explains why you shouldn’t go down that road. Although many Hollywood celebrity accounts have bought followers, it can do more harm than good, especially for ordinary businesses. Not only are individuals who work at these “like farms” paid very little, the inflated number of fake followers will not help your bottom line. They also drive away real followers who may want to actually interact with your company. Lastly, the more fake fans you have, the harder it will be to determine where your high-value traffic is coming from.…Facebook: up to 14.1 million of its more than 1 billion users are fraudulent - @Alecs_Ianko Click To Tweet
7. How to Use Images on Twitter to Make Us Stand to Attention – In its infancy, Twitter was strictly a text-based platform, but over time, it has gradually become more visual in nature. Tweets with an image generally see about twice the number of “retweets.” Besides standard images with a quote, tip or promotional image, there are other tactics you can employ to build more engagement explains Donna Moritz. Consider a quick, personal “thank you” video when someone shares your post. Or, play around with images of differing shapes (i.e. round rather than the typical rectangular). The biggest thing you can do is step out of your norm and start experimenting with images of different shapes, sizes, and colors.
9. Want to Be a Better Writer? Cut These 7 Words – While there isn’t a magic list of words you can add to make your writing better, there are definitely 7 words you can cut. The phrases outlined in this piece from Joe Bunting are vague and add no value to your piece. Joe’s best advice is to be as specific as you can while avoiding words like “one of,” “some,” and words that end in “-ly.”
10. 5 Easy Tricks to Help You Write Better Headlines – The headline is probably the most important part of your article, blog or landing page. It’s what entices the visitor to stay and read your work. If it’s dull, visitors will leave your page just as fast as they arrived. One simple formula you can employ to write better headlines according to Jeff Goins is Number or Trigger Word + Adjective + Keyword + Promise. Using numbers and interesting adjectives like “effortless,” “fun,” or “essential” is also a sure-fire way to grab readers’ attention.
11. Step-by-Step Guide to Scaling a Copy Project – You probably understand that creating content is the core of any content marketing project. However, it can be challenging to generate a sufficient amount, especially if you’re managing a large brand or client base. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make the process run smoother. Collecting information beforehand and vetting your writers are two steps you can take to ensure you’re developing valuable content in an efficient manner. Preparing a test piece to flush out additional details helps you catch major flaws before you dive in on production.
Conversions, Email and Search Optimization
12. Split Testing 101: A Crash Course in Optimization – In order for you to improve the rate of visitors who take a desired action (i.e. conversion), you need to be able to compare different variations of your page and how they impact conversions. Split testing is “…a statistically backed method that tells you if a particular change, usually on your website, will lead to more profit.” For example, if you change the color of a call-to-action button, will the number of conversions increase? Or, what about including an image next to an email signup form? In order to answer these questions, you need to setup a split test, which is much easier today than in years’ past.
13. Four First-Date Tips…Applied to Email Marketing – Dating and marketing share a lot in common. You don’t propose marriage on a first date do you? Many of these same rules can be applied to email marketing. In other words, don’t jump to conclusions with your email subscribers – be open and ask for confirmation. If a subscriber hasn’t opened an email for months, you should remove them from your list. And like dating, you should also give your subscriber a second chance by resending an email. Perhaps they receive too many emails already, or the subject line may not be appealing to a certain customer segment.
14. 7 UX Principles for Building Higher-Converting Landing Pages – A landing page is simply a type of page designed for visitors to take a specific action, be it an email signup or product purchase. Although we have our own individual tastes, there are several things that will stop any of us in our tracks. Distractions on a page for example will kill your conversion rate, while elaborate designs will leave visitors confused. Using industry jargon will turn people away since most will not understand what you’re talking about.
15. 10 Steps a Local Business Can Take Today to Improve Search Rankings – If you’re a local brick & mortar outfit, your chief goal is to keep getting new customers into your shop or restaurant. While there is no shortage of information about general SEO, how local companies harness this tool to build search engine visibility and new leads can differ slightly. Making sure your site is listed on Google Local and having a robust contact page are two easy steps you can take.
16. Work Smarter With This Three Step Productivity Process – Maximizing your productivity on a given day is a constant challenge, especially for myself, which is why I’m glad I recently caught this article on Further. The piece provides some great insights, including research that shows how working really long hours doesn’t equate to increased productivity. Instead of cranking out into the wee-hours of the morning, consider the “Identify, Sprint and Break” approach to working. Identify the most important tasks first, work on them in a focused way for a specific amount of time, then take a break once the allotted time is over.
Well, we’ve reached the end of the required reading for August. It can be difficult to cull through all of the articles, blogs, webinars, videos and podcasts that are available. Hopefully our little list here can help you make sense of all the noise out there.
Don’t worry – I won’t be testing you on any of this. I hope to apply some of the writing tips to my stuff, so perhaps I’ll have an update in the next few weeks. In the meantime, be on the lookout for my review of Success Secrets of the Online Marketing Superstars. I’ll be traveling next week, so I hope to commit some time to it while on my flights.
Until next time, stay cool out there and travel safely!