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These days, everyone knows about content marketing in some form. Whether you’re a business releasing blog posts and videos, or a consumer downloading ebooks and clicking on sponsored posts, there’s no denying that content marketing is ubiquitous in the modern day.

But, you might be surprised to learn this isn’t a new phenomenon. Content marketing has been around long before the social media, blogs, or even the internet.

It would be hard to pin down exactly when someone got the idea to promote something through content in some form, but Uberflip suggests content marketing’s seeds go all the way back to cave paintings in their Back to the Future themed infographic.

Let’s hop in the Delorean and check out all the landmarks and milestones that have shaped our modern content obsessed culture with A Visual History of Content Marketing:

A Visual History of Content Marketing

It may seem like everyone is online these days, but somehow some businesses still don’t have websites. Your business might even be one of them.

If your business has gone this long without a website, you probably have your reasons. You may think you don’t have the money or you simply don’t need one. Neither of those is correct.

A website is a fundamental part of running a business in 2016 and many consumers won’t consider purchasing from a business if they can’t find information about them online. That’s true even for brick and mortar stores. In this connected age,people will even Google stores from their parking lot to make sure the trip inside will be worth their time.

Rapid Web Launch put together an infographic breaking down every reason you might have for not having a website and why it is wrong. I know you’ve gone this long without one and your business may be doing fine, but there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain by getting one set up today.

Check out the infographic below or at Rapid Web Launch.

NoWebsite

As online marketing tries to adapt to smartphones and social media, another burgeoning opportunity to establish a brand is growing. Apps are quickly becoming part of every day life for many people, and a new analysis from Localytics shows that people are spending more time with them than ever. In the past year, time spent with apps has risen 21 percent.

Another recent report from comScore also suggests app usage now makes up more than half of the total time people spend with digital media.

According to Localytics’ report, app session has remained fairly constant since the past year, but users are checking in more often. People are not opening apps 11.5 times per month vs. 9.4 times in 2013.

The question most pertinent to readers is whether an app can benefit your business. That answer depends on a few factors. Even local businesses can benefit from apps if they have a tech-savvy audience and they work in the right industry.

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The chart shown above shows which app categories have seen the biggest increases in usage over the past year, while the graph below compares average session length (orange) number of app sessions per month (blue).

Unsurprisingly, social networking apps have the shortest session length, but the highest number of app openings. However the music category saw the most growth in time spent over the past year which shows that users are expecting apps with depth to them in that market.

Localytics_Time-in-App-Engagement-800x391

While the app store may seem to be already flooded with apps, it is clear that smartphone owners are trusting apps more and investing more of their time viewing content through them. But, users are only looking at apps that are relevant to their on-to-go needs and interests.

If you have content or a service that users want on a day-to-day or immediate basis, an app could likely be a smart investment for your brand.

Think you can get away with not responding to tweets directed at your brand’s Twitter account? It shouldn’t come as a surprise that ignoring those tweets or even putting off responding, can be terribly damaging to your brand. Social media users have come to expect brand interaction, and Lithium Technologies has released findings that say more than 70 percent of Twitter users have come to expect a response from any brand they’re interacting with. On top of that, 53 percent expect that response within the hour.

Twitter users expect responses even more when they are complaining to a brand. When users are upset, 72 percent think it is reasonable to expect a response within the hour. On the other hand, responses are less expected when users are giving positive feedback or comments.

If you’re dealing with complaints, putting off responding can quickly turn damaging. Over half of the respondents said they would begin to create negative consequences such as telling their friends about their bad experience and expressing concerns through even more channels. One complaint on Twitter can turn into terrible word of mouth rather quickly.

Search Engine Watch has more details from the survey, but it is fairly clear that Twitter users expect interaction, and you’re hurting yourself by not engaging them back.

You may remember that Google recently started testing large banner ads on branded searches. It raised quite a stir in the online community, mostly because it seemed that Google blatantly broke an older promise to never show banner ads. But, Bing is taking branded search result ads to the next level.

Larry Kim reports that last week, at the Bing Ads Next conference, Bing Ads announced their new ad format for exact match keyword searches, specifically those done within the latest Windows 8 update. Instead of a relatively small banner ad, Bing Ads are rolling out Bing Hero Ads, a full landing-page like layout that aggressively promotes the exact brand.

Just as with Google’s banner ads, Bing Hero Ads are only starting with a small number of prominent brand advertisers, such as Disney, Home Depot, Land Rover, and Volkswagen. It will also be a while before you can expect to see Hero Ads on your average search. For the moment, they are only appearing in a small selection of searches done in Windows 8.1 within the US.

It will be interesting to see how the public reacts to these types of branded semi-landing pages. Google’s banner ads looked fairly customized for each brand, , and only take up a relatively small amount of on-page real estate. A full-page ad experience for exact match branded searches may be welcomed as a quick and efficient way to connect with the brand searchers are looking for. It is also possible that consumers will be turned off by the seemingly uniform ad experience.

The one clear advantage Bing’s Hero Ads have over Google’s banner ads is their ability to deep link directly to a larger amount of pages on a site. They offer links such as “contact us”, “find a store” and “request a quote” which speed up users experiences and allow them to convert more quickly.

Last week some people began noticing that large banner ads were appearing on Google for a select few branded search results. This test of huge banner ads has caused quite a bit of a stir across the internet, especially because it seems to break a promise Google made all the way back in 2005.

When Google partnered with AOL eight years ago, Marissa Mayer, then Google VP of search products and user experience, issued a promise that users would never see banner ads on their results. She said:

“There will be no banner ads on the Google homepage or web search result pages. There will not be crazy, flashy, graphical doodads flying and popping all over the Google site. Ever.”

One could argue that some of the Google Doodle homepage logos commemorating special events would qualify as “crazy, flashy, graphical doodads”, those have never caused any worry because they are simply a flourish added to the homepage logo. However, it is indisputable that the new ad tests Google is running breaks their “no banner ads” promise outright. But, is it a bad thing?

The most notable aspect of the banner ads is that they only appear for branded searches. That means, if you search for Crate & Barrel, you might be shown the banner for Crate & Barrel. You won’t, however, be seeing any ads for random companies unrelated to your search, as you would normally associate with the term ‘banner ad’.

These ads are also linked to the brand’s website, providing users with an obvious, visually pleasing way to immediately find the business they are looking for. With careful moderation of banners, they could potentially allow businesses to essentially own their branded searches.

One of the biggest concerns for consumers regarding these ads is how they are used. Few users will be upset for the easily identifiable link with an aesthetically pleasing image showing when they search for a specific brand. However, if this test expands and advertisers are ever allowed to use these banners to advertise sales or other more advertising-styled banners, there may be a backlash.

Currently, it is estimated that 30 advertisers are currently being involved in the test, including Southwest Airlines, Virgin America, and Crate & Barrel. The test banner ads are also only being shown for 5 percent or less of search queries, so it is entirely possible you won’t run into one for quite a while.

Search Engine Land has created a FAQ for advertisers curious how this might affect the future of Google marketing, and Google released a statement on Friday, which read:

“We’re currently running a very limited, US-only test, in which advertisers can include an image as part of the search ads that show in response to certain branded queries. Advertisers have long been able to add informative visual elements to their search ads, with features like Media Ads, Product Listing Ads and Image Extensions.”

SEO Waving Icon

 

We’ve all seen the cycle of Google updates. Every time there is a change to the algorithms, the blogs all light up with announcements, a fair sized group panics while the rest ride out the storm, and then the “how to recover” posts start rolling in. Eventually the excitement tapers off, and then it is time for a new update.

Probably the most shocking thing about all the commotion is how many people freak out in the first place. While some of Google’s changes are pretty significant, it isn’t like they don’t warn webmasters ahead of time with what direction they are headed for ranking websites. They won’t give the specifics, but they normally denounce a practice well before they start penalizing for it.

That is all my long-winded way of saying we don’t all have to be afraid of the next Penguin or Panda update. By simply following the best practice guidelines and keeping some solid tips in mind, you’ll find you have no reason to worry. Erin Everhart recently shared some great tactics you can use to keep your website in Google’s good graces.

1) Focus on Branding, Not on Ranking

It is no secret that Google isn’t actually a fan of a lot of what constitutes search engine optimization, mostly because of the way many try to take advantage of every loophole to get rankings. The common idea of SEO focuses solely on improving rankings, while Google wants to rank sites based on value to their consumers.

To start thinking like Google, you need to get your mind off of ranking and focus more on building your brand. If you search for any type of product like a flat screen TV, the results will be almost entirely brand names. Google views brand names as trustworthy and valuable parts of their community, and that goes for small businesses as well as large companies. Simply sponsoring events in the community and interacting with users in positive ways go a long way with search engines.

Of course, it would be naive to say the big brands don’t have advantages, but it isn’t the reason you think. Google evaluates them the same way they evaluate everyone else, but these brands are large enough that they never resort to the keyword stuffing, anchor text over-optimizing stuff that so many SEO professionals try to use.

2) Create a Good User Experience

Along the lines of taking your focus off of rankings, Google has been pleading with the SEO community to take their attention to actually delivering quality experiences for users. The search engine wants to deliver great sites that users will enjoy being on, not low quality pages with the most optimization. To achieve this, the engine made site quality more important than link profiles and has been refining their guidelines to push for faster sites with better content.

For marketers and optimizers, this can be a little confusing. Who exactly defines a “high quality site” and what are the criteria? Well we know the faster your site is, the better off it will fare. But, there are many more amorphous factors to deal with. The only real way to find out exactly what your users will like and how to make the highest quality site for them is testing. Run every type of test you can. Do user testing. Do split testing. Research your market.

3) Preserve Your URLs

It is a little bit of an outdated practice at this point, but it remains true that old URLs still rank the best. The only reason you should resort to changing your URLs is to fix an absolute mess of site architecture or absolutely have no choice. But, if there is any way you can avoid it, do. Canonicals and 301s reduce equity that you’ve built up, and new pages have to start all over again.

Instead, bigger companies like Apple use the same page for every new product launch, unless they release an entirely new product like the rumored upcoming smartwatch. They simply update the existing page to reflect the new product, while the old iPhone gets pushed to a new page. This way, you can take advantage of the equity you already have.

Conclusion

Focusing your SEO efforts on rankings isn’t sustainable any longer. You may shoot up the rankings more quickly than those creating a high quality campaign, but you’ll live in fear of every algorithm update, and eventually you will get hit. Chances are, you probably already have been penalized once, unless you’re walking the straight and narrow.

Blogger Portrait

Source: Marisa Vasquez

Content marketing is all the rage in SEO right now. As links continue to get devalued (though they can still be potent if gained properly), optimizers and marketers are moving their focus to the actual content you see on the page. This is potentially a great shift to providing consumers with real value, but generating content on a regular basis is costly and intensive. If you slack, it can be worthless at best, and damaging to your rankings at worst.

This isn’t to say you shouldn’t do it. But, content marketing has to be done right, with smart choices about how to spend your time and efforts. All it takes is some planning and extra thought that too many forget to do. If you think ahead, you can avoid most of the common content marketing mistakes far too many make. Jayson DeMers pinpointed some of those common mistakes, and if you know how to identify them, you can fix them.

1) Writing for the Wrong Audience

Every article or piece of content you put out there should be of value to someone, but that audience shouldn’t be arbitrary. As a business, you have a specific audience that you should be paying attention to. If you understand your audience, you can better choose topics and write in the appropriate tone for who you are trying to connect with. Home services such as plumbing and roofing have very different consumers and audiences than tech startups.

One of the most common ways to forget to write for consumers. We tend to get excited about the content we are putting out and the work we’ve put in – and that is great – but we also tend to geek out and write for those who are spending hours scouring blogs like us. We forget to communicate with the actual people needing their services. For every article, you need to ask, are we writing for our consumers or our peers?

2) Using the Wrong Metrics

Creating content takes a ton of time. You have to research, try to brainstorm unique topics, follow all the social media feeds. It would be tragic if all those efforts weren’t being properly measured and fine-tuned. However, getting started with the right metrics for your business at first can seem even more troublesome than making all that content.

Getting started, it is common to focus on measuring outputs rather than results. It helps ensure you follow through on your content marketing efforts and are achieving the basic creation aspect. But, once you’re in the flow of creating content you have to evolve your metrics to ensure they are actually achieving the larger desired results. You have to make sure you’re getting an actual return on your investment.

Not only do you want to make sure that you are strengthening your front on using the right keywords, you want to be checking on your conversions. You’re content isn’t successful if it isn’t helping direct people to the next step. Are you including clear calls to action? Are you getting people to make the next step you want? If not, you may want to change your strategy.

3) Failing to Focus on Branding

Content serves the purpose of making your brand trustworthy to consumers. Brand development can help build your brand as a leader in your market, or it can build the reputation of a service or product. Simply put, creating content allows you to build your brand as a leader in your industry to those who haven’t used your product or service yet. Writing as a leader or member of your business should showcase your expertise and make consumers trust you. The trick is doing it in a professional way, without being heavy handed.

Trying to make a hard sell with your content isn’t advised, so you have to achieve these goals much more subtly. The primary goal is educating and informing, but that has to be put in a package that will also strengthen your brand. It is a difficult line to walk, but with focus on your brand and the audience, you will find the proper mix.

Social media has gone from internet oddity to one of the strongest tools in an online marketer’s toolbox. These days, social media presence can be just as important to your online marketing as your website. In some markets, social presence can be even more vital.

Many companies have already stepped up the the plate to meaningfully incorporate social media marketing into their brand experience, and they’ve found that the tactic can be a serious powerhouse for marketing at a fraction of the cost of many campaigns. The trick is knowing exactly how to use the medium.

The successful marketers on social media aren’t yelling about their products at every turn, they aren’t taking part in silly novelty marketing attempts (Chipotle’s recent Twitter “hacking” …), but most importantly they aren’t ignoring their customers. Social media creates a brand new opportunity for consumers to directly interact with the brands they purchase and create a real relationship between businesses and their audience.

Social media is new, and the companies finding success are experimenting and taking advantage of the real benefits the platforms provide, but they aren’t playing completely by ear. There may not be a rule book set in stone for social media marketing yet, but there are definitely some guidelines.

MarketingProfs tried to tie down some of these guidelines and guiding traits of successful social media marketers, and they put the results into an infographic (seen below). If you’re struggling to find your brand’s voice in the social arena or simply haven’t lept into action yet, this infographic will help you develop a useful approach.

10 Superpowers of Social Media Marketers

Want to know if your company understands branding? Just ask if you have a brand bible. If you don’t, your business probably has some large flaws in their branding and their marketing.

Every brand, from the smallest startups to the giants you see on your drive to work, should have their “bible” establishing the guidelines and rules of maintaining their corporate image.

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What is a Brand Bible?

A brand bible is a document shared throughout the company that lays out how the company achieves its personality and public voice across many individuals and different departments. It is, as Designshack explains, “the basis for all interactions on behalf of the company.”

These documents, which range from a few pages to a couple hundred depending on the size and needs of the company, cover every sort of public interaction. Brand bibles or books distinguish what types of marketing should be pursued or taken off the table, letterhead, logo usage, and even the specific colors that can be used for corporate design. This book is how every Facebook employee knows exactly what color blue is Facebook Blue.

Creating a Brand Bible

See, above all, a brand bible is about cohesion and consistency. From the first design or memo you send out, creating a brand bible is as easy as keeping notes on what fonts you use, how you lay out public documents, and how letterhead is arranged. Over time, if you keep good notes, putting together your brand bible will be as easy as arranging these notes into a document to share with your employees.

If you’ve waited to create these guidelines, it isn’t much more difficult. Start keeping notes. Set a standard. It may take longer to get established across the company, but it will speed up marketing and design. If you need more specific ideas on how to establish a brand book, Designshack has a few suggestions in their article.