SEO Speaker at Content Marketing World 2014 Workshop – Promo Code

As an SEO speaker, I’ll be leading a half day workshop at Content Marketing World 2014.

It’s not until September, but you can register now (prices keep increasing over time).

Register here (the SEO workshop is an extra cost beyond the regular conference).

Promo code: MurrayCMW (save $100).

I’ll help marketers look way beyond all of the hype, myths and basics with the hands-on SEO workshop that will show you how to leverage your expertise to define, shape, refine or repair your company’s SEO strategy.

You will walk away with rich insights and tips about practical keyword research and selection tactics that you can easily pick up take to your office to reinforce your brand, develop more leads and boost your sales.

Explore an array of sensible inbound link building methods that you can use on-the-spot.

I’ll also dive into web site analytics and help you connect the data with suitable KIPs that work for your company.

I’m looking forward to being an SEO speaker again at the popular content marketing event.

Native Advertising for Content Marketing in 2014: Use Caution with Ad Format

Native advertising trendsNative advertising continues to get a great deal of attention throughout online and content marketing circles.

Publishers love it as a source of new revenue. Some marketers can’t get enough of it either as they enjoy finding new ways to call attention to their brands.

Like any marketing opportunity, you will want to think through the opportunity. Does native advertising make sense for your business and in what context? How can you make sure it doesn’t backfire?

For simplicity sake, I’m primarily referring to the form of native ads that appear with news publishers’ web site editorial content (not Twitter promoted tweets or Facebook sponsored stories). It’s “native” because the reader typically sticks with the web site page instead of rushing off to the web site for the brand.

Here are a few ideas to consider followed by additional viewpoints:

1. Provide exceptional content.

Readers will decide whether they like the native advertising model. They will grow distrustful of publishers and advertisers if they feel they are duped.

If you write about a sensitive topic or try to pass off a fluff piece as quality editorial, readers may be disappointed.

In January, critics assailed The Atlantic for publishing an article by the Church of Scientology. The piece revealed a huge disconnect with readers before it was removed. The controversy was compounded by how comments were moderated and whether the sponsored content label was evident enough.

2. You won’t get a free pass by simply aligning native advertising with the value of good marketing.

Native ads should feature quality content marketing produced by brands that tell great stories.  Don’t be too overt with your messaging because that can annoy readers.

3. Take baby steps with native advertising.

If you’re itching to give native advertising a shot, go slow – really slow. Start with publishers who demonstrate that they respect their readers who expect to see content that’s first rate and well suited for them.

4. Make the content sharable.

If you’re going to the trouble of creating compelling content, you may well come up with a catchy headline. But don’t oversell the article. The Huffington Post and other news sources use headlines that really grab your attention. But readers may kick themselves for getting sucked into stories that don’t match the headline.

Mark Sherbin’s Content Marketing Institute posts go into more detail about native advertising – one as an overview and one on the native advertising opportunity at LinkedIn.

In “How Your Content Distribution Can Use Native Advertising,” Mark provides successful examples and outlines benefits of native advertising, such as:

“Reaching audience members outside your channels: Until now, content marketers have been happy to focus on owned and earned media. Paid media brings its own benefits to the table, including the opportunity to extend your reach to your intended audience across trusted channels.

Extending the life of content: Today, publishers accept that the life span of a blog post or other piece of content is unpredictable. Through native advertising, there’s a clear opportunity to bring dusty (but still powerful) content back to the forefront.

Retargeting leads and prospects: The evolving nature of content personalization and context marketing means we have the ability to apply these concepts to native advertising, assuring we’re guiding advertising prospects through the sales funnel.”

Mark offers a great primer with “4 Tips for Native Advertising With LinkedIn Sponsored Updates.”

He goes over budgeting and notes that the program provides targeted distribution without disrupting a reader’s regular experience with LinkedIn. “Sponsored updates appear in the natural flow of a member’s newsfeed among other shared pieces of content and profile updates.” Additionally, LinkedIn members can click a “hide” button.

Robert Rose takes issue with use of native advertising in his article, “Why Native Advertising Is Neither.”

“You might as well call it “invisible” advertising. See, native advertising advocates say that, from a consumer’s experience, the promoted content should be so completely contextualized that it is indistinguishable from the editorial content featured in the publication.

As a content marketer, this proposition runs completely contrary to my goals. I always want my content to be so remarkable that it stands out and compels the reader to take an action. In short, if I’m expected to be successful in native advertising, I would WANT that content to stand out and effectively compete for attention against every other piece of editorial that’s there. In fact, as a marketer, I wouldn’t even need to care if readers ignore all the other articles — as long as they read mine.”

Here are a few other perspectives.

With “Inside Forbes: The Role of Native Advertising in Our Search for a New Media Equation,” Lewis DVorkin outlines how Forbes embraces native ads.

“The native ad business is quickly moving forward. At FORBES, we’re offering marketers (for a price, of course) the ability to use the same tools I do to publish content on our site, always transparently identified and labeled as marketer content. Their posts, just like mine, flow through our content management system and organically across (even in the Most Read module).”

Terri Thornton covers multiple angles (including spending trends, the evolution of native ads, and sponsorship labels) in her MediaShift (PBS) piece, “Native Advertising Shows Great Potential, But Blurs Editorial Lines.”

She notes that native advertising is giving rise to new types of businesses and maybe even an emerging business sector.

“Take, for instance, the success of Sharethrough, which helps increase the reach of sponsored content. For example, if a brand creates a post for one site, Sharethrough carries it to other platforms such as WordPress,, The Awl and Thought Catalog, which direct traffic back to the original post. Videos can be embedded and viewed in a number of blogs and sites. Although it’s only four years old, it’s worked with 20 of the top 25 brands of AdAge magazine’s Megabrands list.”

Apparently, the Federal Trade Commission will continue to explore native advertising. See “Native Ad Workshop Leaves FTC Perplexed.”

I’m certain there will be ongoing debate about the topic. But I’m most interested in how brands can succeed with the format. Inc. magazine recently put native advertising in perspective with “Why You’ll Warm Up to Native Ads in 2014.”

What are your views on native ads? Is your brand using them? How effective have they been or do you think they will be in the future?



SEMPO Study: Online and Content Marketing, SEO Trends in 2014

Eager to perform even better, marketers can take note of trends and glean some key lessons from a SEMPO State of Search Marketing Report 2013, released last month by Econsultancy.

The report, now in its ninth year, offers some good insights about what online marketers worry about and how they’re spending their money on SEO, paid search, social media, mobile, e-mail and digital display marketing. The full report is available to SEMPO members, but an executive summary is available.

The good news is that online marketers clearly value online marketing based on responses from 400 companies and agencies. But they continue to fall short when it comes to integration. Sadly, the silos are apparent. Will that change in 2014?

At least content marketing comes out on top as a discipline that’s “highly integrated” with SEO (45%). Other digital marketing disciplines really don’t have much to do with SEO. For example, marketers say that email marketing is only “highly integrated” with SEO 13% of the time.

sempo online marketing study for seo in 2014

With mobile marketing, there are some contrasting views represented in the study.

For example, 83% of company marketers believe the growing use of mobile by consumers is a “significant” trend that involves SEO. And they say mobile is “somewhat integrated” or “highly integrated” with SEO. But only 3% of their budgets are reserved for mobile.

Here are a few other findings:

  • Nearly half of company budgets are spent on search (31% on paid search and 18% on SEO)
  • In 2014, 63% of businesses plan to increase paid budgets and 47% expect to spend more on SEO
  • Only 47% of company marketers believe Google+ has had a notable impact on SEO
  • Only 56% of company marketers believe the Google “promotional” email ads tab was a significant change

I’m really interested in some of the other details that the study explores. For example, 63% of company marketers and 90% of agency marketers say they’re “successful” or “very successful” with digital marketing.

But when asked about their ability to measure ROI, only 47% of company marketers selected “good” for paid search, down from 79% the previous year. Similarly, 41% selected “good” for email marketing, a decrease from 57% the prior year. SEO fell as well for “good,” dropping from 44% to 25%.

I’m not sure how you can be “successful” if you’re having trouble tracking the ROI.

The study notes that the “use of multiple devices by consumers” and evolving best practices in digital marketing may affect the definition of “good” over time in terms of ROI.

The study doesn’t dive into all of the ROI options, but it does acknowledge different objectives for each of the main marketing channels like:

  • Selling products/services
  • Generating leads
  • Increasing visitors
  • Increasing brand awareness
  • Improve return on ad spend

It’s not enough to simply say a keyword phrase increased in natural search rankings or a click-thru rate improved with paid search. However, you can make web site analytics and marketing automation to establish and track specific goals.

The following posts and articles provide additional insights:

“15 Ways Marketing Automation Can Maximize Your Content’s ROI”

“Measure Your Content Marketing ROI with Call Tracking”

“Measuring the Impact of Your Content Marketing Strategy: The Pyramid Approach”

Social Media ROI: 14 Formulas to Measure Social Media Benefits

Over the years, I’ve been amazed at the number of businesses that don’t track their marketing efforts. They don’t have the right data and it’s sometimes an issue of following through with leads that come in.

For example, a sales rep may not chase down a lead for a $25,000 piece of equipment because he will get a bigger commission by selling a $60,000 machine. The lead stops at his desk and no one is accountable.

I’ve audited lead generation forms for clients and increasingly became less surprised when a legitimate prospect complained a third time that no one responded to the first or second inquiry.

When I’ve asked for the average value of a sale of a product, some new clients responded with silence. Really? Or, they’ve said that they sell many products and don’t have an accurate average. At that point, I’ve urged them to target top-performing products or products that haven’t been performing well. The point is to start with something until the data can be gathered, measured and analyzed.

Business can still do well with thought leadership, starting with simple how-to educational guides (no need for a giant white paper). Sure, your well-publicized content may generate 100 downloads in a few days. Although many people won’t be in buying mode, you can succeed with those who are ready. One executive told me he was absolutely thrilled when he started using guides to get in the door with some hot prospects even though other leads weren’t useful.

Years ago, I met with a company that sold gourmet food (including fish) online. If they spent $100 on paid search for a $95 sale, they were ecstatic. How can that be a positive ROI? It’s a matter of knowing the business, consumer behavior and customer retention. When that customer makes 10 more purchases over the next year – all stemming from that $100 investment – the ROI doesn’t look too shabby. Plus, you can incorporate referral programs that new customers support.

A home improvement company specializing in replacement windows can run banner ads on a TV station web site and generate enough new leads and sales. How about taking that up a notch? Have the TV station account rep increase the number of ad impressions when storm warnings are issued? Leads may increase with the heightened attention. The same company could showcase fresh web site content with winterizing tips for saving money. And the business will add another name, phone number and e-mail address that it can use again and again.

For companies that offer services, its important to track the investment in SEO and paid search. For example, you may find that it costs $200 to generate a lead from paid search and $150 from natural searches. But is SEO really the way to go? If it’s profitable, why not spend the $150? At the same time, would you disregard that $200 cost associated with paid search? It all depends on the length of the sales cycle and what you’re selling. Ultimately you’re more profitable clients may come from lead sources that seem more costly. You always need to look beyond the first wave of numbers. Don’t assume one lead source is too expensive; look at what the client ultimately bought.

I’m not saying tracking the ROI is easy or without complications. But you can drill deeper than merely looking at how many unique visitors your web site receives or how many people follow your company through social media.

Studies like the new one from SEMPO are great because they reflect interesting attitudes.

But the best data is in your company and organization. How well are you defining it and sharing it with the people responsible for different online marketing disciplines? Or, like the SEMPO study suggests, are you working in silos and not integrating campaigns? With better communication, you might just help multiple marketing channels at the same time.

What online marketing ROI tactics and strategies to you favor?


Epic Content Marketing Book Review

If you produce content (and want to do a better job of planning, creating and tracking it), get your hands on Epic Content Marketing, a new book by Joe Pulizzi who founded Content Marketing Institute.

Get your copy:
Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less

Joe packs an incredible amount of knowledge in over 300 pages. He doesn’t settle for generalizations or waste any space. Page after page is loaded with practical tips and great insights. He supplements his own wisdom with many examples of how companies are succeeding with content marketing (including Procter & Gamble and Kraft Foods).

I especially like how Joe sets the bar high – very high. He challenges marketers to be the leading authorities in their industries or niches. People should feel like they’re really missing out if they’re not keeping up with what you produce. In other words, creating quality content is OK, but why not make it something everyone can’t wait to read. Joe believes that should at least be the goal – to be an irreplaceable resource. “If you are not striving to be the go-to number one resource for your industry niche, you are settling for the comfortable, whatever that means to you in goal-setting terms.”

Early on, Joe offers caution about why content may not benefit your business: “It’s all about you. Remember, customers don’t care about you; they care about themselves and their problems. We often forget that point when we describe how wonderful out widget is (that no one cares about). The more you talk about yourself and your product, the less the content is spread and engaged in.” Joe explains the origin of content marketing and quickly moves into the business case for content marketing.

He covers everything from audience personas and editorial calendars to defining content assets and measuring your efforts.

Be sure to take in the six principles of epic content marketing that include filling a need, being consistent and having a point of view. Joe also addresses real-time content like Oreo’s Super Bowl tweet, “You Can Still Dunk in the Dark,” which was posted during the blackout at the Ravens-49ers game (it was retweeted over 10,000 times). “While Oreo may have caught lightning in a bottle, the point is clear: those that can create content off the back of popular culture or industry news have a competitive advantage,” Joe writes.

Epic Content Marketing also references countless web sites, resources, tools and other information. You won’t be disappointed.

Buy it today: Epic Content Marketing: How to Tell a Different Story, Break through the Clutter, and Win More Customers by Marketing Less

WordPress Themes