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How and Why to Conduct a Meaningful Content Audit

It’s guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest post is from Liz O’Neil Dennison – Enjoy!

Content AuditYou’ve probably heard that a content audit is essential for driving engagement and revenue with content. But what is it, exactly? Why do you need one? And how do you do begin to tackle such a laborious task?

Read on.

What Is a Content Audit?

A content audit is a qualitative analysis of all the content your company has ever published online. It exposes where your content actually lives, how it’s performing, and where the thematic gaps are.

Before you can audit your content, you need to create a content inventory, a comprehensive list of the name, location, and description of each asset published by your brand.

Why Conduct a Content Audit?

If you don’t know what content you have, and how it’s performing, you can’t improve. The key to driving more leads, traffic and revenue through your content marketing is by identifying holes in your content deliverables.

With the content audit, you can understand which buyer personas and buying stages are poorly resourced, find and share content internally, access historical performance data, and identify what content should be archived or removed entirely.

Despite the clear values of the content audit, very few marketers actually conduct one. That’s because auditing content is a notoriously painful process. It can take weeks, or even months, to find, analyze, and document each asset your company has ever published online. But it doesn’t have to.

How to Conduct a Content Audit without Pulling Your Hair Out

Auditing your content isn’t rocket science. But there are critical steps all marketers must take to ensure their audit will be actually be useful. Here are the top five:

Step 1. Create Your Inventory

Before analyzing your content, you need a comprehensive list of it. Perform an inventory of all of your content across all of your brand domains, including social. If you’re going about this manually, document the name, URL, and description of each content asset in a spreadsheet.

If you have a significant body of content to manage, you’re better off just typing your brand URLs into a tool like The Content Auditor, which will automate this inventory process for you.

Step 2. Identify What Content Categories Matter Most

Get the most out of your audit by understanding what content categories are most important, both internally and externally. Your audit should provide a map of those attributes across your entire content library so you can see where the holes are.

For example, tagging content to buyer personas allows you to see what personas you’re ignoring. Tagging content to your buying cycle tells you if you need to dedicate more resources to building top-of-funnel, middle-of-funnel, or bottom-of-funnel content. Common content categories to tag include:

  • Author
  • Publish date
  • Persona
  • Buying Stage
  • Theme
  • Buyer-centric or product-centric
  • Product line
  • Blog category
  • Keywords
  • Content type
  • Competitor
  • Primary call to action
  • Content pillar
  • Social shares
  • Comments
  • Redundant, outdated, or trivial (ROT)

Include these categories in your excel spreadsheet and tag each asset appropriately or, if you’re using an automated tool, scroll through your online inventory to tag content.

Step 3. Map Your Content

When you’ve tagged all of your assets, you’ll end up with a pretty cool content map. You’ll be able to see which personas, buying stages, and themes you’re serving with content, and where you need to step up.

Sift through your content map and identify where the holes are. Then, brainstorm easy ways you can fill those gaps. Perhaps there’s a whitepaper or eBook you can repurpose to serve a different audience. Or you can plan to ramp up your social promotion to feed the top of your sales funnel.

Content Audit

photo creditcontentauditor.com

Step 4. Analyze the Performance of Your Content

What content is performing well, and what isn’t? Your audit should include key content KPIs so you can see what themes, content types, and messages are resonating with your target audience.

Track metrics like social shares, traffic, leads, and revenue. And align your findings around four key areas: production, engagement, performance, and content scoring. This way, you can make informed decisions about future content marketing efforts.

Step 5: Present Your Findings

Once you map your content through your audit, present your findings in a coherent way.

Don’t just include the data from your audit. Suggest what that data means for your company’s future marketing strategy.

Expose the content holes in your major themes, personas, and buying stages. Suggest how you’ll fill these gaps by repurposing existing content, archiving or removing irrelevant content, and producing more of the kinds of content that have proved successful. Propose new processes to support these changes.

Get Auditing

You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you are. And with tools like The Content Auditor, marketers no longer have an excuse for avoiding what Rebecca Lieb calls “the cornerstone of content strategy.” What you don’t know can kill you. Stop living in the dark, and get auditing.

Content Audit AuthorAbout Liz O’Neil Dennison – Liz is content marketing manager at Kapost, a software that allows marketers to develop, manage, distribute and analyze their content from one place. Prior to Kapost, she advised big brands like AT&T on their content strategy at Location3 Media, a digital marketing agency. And before that, she spearheaded global marketing campaigns for ONE, an anti-poverty advocacy organization co-founded by Bono. She loves beekeeping, running and exploring the mountains with her dog. Follow her at @lizkoneill

Copywriting Tips and Tricks in a Digital World

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Christopher McMurphy – Enjoy!

images-2As a marketing tactic, copywriting has been around since the days when the Mad Men of advertising were knocking back highballs in the afternoon. But times they do change, and the ad world has evolved dramatically since its heyday when television was the dominant technology. These days, the Internet reigns supreme. While we are living in a digital world where social media dominates, the core principals of creating good copy remain the same: attract the attention of the reader, arouse interest in the product or service, and convert that reader into a customer.

Of course, how best to accomplish this is tied directly to the World Wide Web and its shifts in landscape and changing trends. Those marketers who do wish to create compelling, effective copy that reaches the masses would do well to keep some modern tips and tricks in mind. Here are just a few. 

Relate to the reader

We may live in an ever more connected world, but people still yearn for that human interaction. Copywriters can create a direct line to their readership by producing not just quality copy, but personal and emotionally compelling content as well. Data show that copy with just such a personal touch – focusing on a company’s employees, for example – helps to develop a level of trust with the reader. Testimonials can be a useful weapon in the arsenal of the modern copywriter as well. All testimonials should tell a relevant, positive story and be 4-6 sentences in length.

Go visual

At least to a point. Images and advertising have always gone hand in hand, but most copywriters have always felt their job responsibilities began and ended with the written word. Not anymore. It’s no secret that social networking sites such as Pinterest, Slideshare and Tumblr are exploding in popularity, and it’s due to the public demand for images. Even YouTube came into its own as a full-fledged social networking clip site in 2013. For the foreseeable future, how “share-able” a piece of content is will in part be decided by how many images it contains. The key for the modern copywriter is to provide accompanying images that complement the content.

Vital stat: landing pages that include videos see an 86% increase in conversions (Social Media Today).

Be useful

This is the lynchpin on which all successful modern copy hangs. The hard sell is dead as far as modern copy is concerned, and readers aren’t likely to respond to content that isn’t of use to them. That means no sharing and no conversion. The way copywriters can be successful in grabbing the reader’s attention in today’s landscape is by being helpful. An appliance manufacturer, for example, will get much more mileage out of a how-to tutorial on a home improvement site than they will with an email blast campaign touting the merits of their product.

By adhering to the principals listed above, advertisers will stand the best chance of reaching that 61% of global Internet users who search for products online (Hubspot). Moreover, staying abreast of social patterns and the evolution of popular networking sites is not only a winning strategy for today’s copywriters, but a necessary one as well.

photo (83)Christopher McMurphy is a blogger operating in the sphere of tech and marketing. When he’s not pontificating, he’s offering blog writing services to eager clients.

The Secret to Writing Copy that Will Have People Begging to Buy

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Sonja Jobson – Enjoy!

vintage-women-ads-1

photo credit: shockblast.net

Please raise your hand if you’ve ever purchased something based on an emotional whim.

If you didn’t raise your hand, I am seriously doubting your honesty.

We all buy based on emotions sometimes – most of us do it regularly.

We purchase clothes that we think will make us look attractive, we buy movie tickets to escape reality for approximately 120 minutes – even our morning latte is generally linked to an emotion (although sometimes, I suppose, that one has more to do with survival).

If you can’t take my word for it, how about Zig Ziglar’s?

“People don’t buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons.”  – Zig Ziglar

Or this article on Psychology Today:

“In reality… emotions greatly influence and, in many cases, even determine our decisions.”

If you can tap into this emotional motivation in your customers, you can create copy that will have people eager for more.  Here’s how.

Find your customer’s biggest fear or desire

What is your prospect afraid of that your product or service can help eliminate?  Or, what do your prospects dream about that your product or service can help bring to reality? Hint: some of the most powerful emotional triggers are fear, anger, love, curiosity, and trust.

The first step in creating compelling copy is determining the problem or desire your message will be based on.

This copywriting technique has been successful since the early days of advertising.  Take this vintage (and entirely sexist – funny, what they could get away with then) ad, for example.

While the message might be offensive to modern women the world over, it did a marvelous job of appealing to then-current day emotional pulls.

The copy in this advertisement has almost nothing to do with what it was actually selling: vitamins.  It focused on the emotions that were close to their buyers hearts, and then presented their product as the solution.

You can use that very same strategy in your own marketing (but more appropriately, I would advise).

Find the problem your offer solves or the dream your product/service brings to life and you’ve found your compelling message.

Build your copy around your emotional message

Once you’ve homed in on a powerful emotion, it’s time to build your copy around it.

Start by creating some common ground.

Let your prospect know that you understand where they are at. Sympathize, commiserate, or tell the “I’ve been there” story.  However it fits best into your overall brand and style, create some common ground between you and your prospect.  How can they trust you to offer a valid solution if you don’t deeply understand what they’re going through? Powerful copy builds a connection.

Next, develop the problem.

Chances are, your visitors already know what their problem is and are eager to solve it.  But sometimes people don’t know exactly what’s holding them back or causing them friction. Draw on the fear, frustration, or obstacle you identified and show people how it’s negatively affecting their lives. Alternately, if you identified a curiosity, hope, or ambition, show people how lacking that result could be holding them back.

Then, show them what’s possible.

Paint a picture of life after their problem is solved or their goal is achieved.  You need to demonstrate how your product or service can be the solution they’ve been looking for. Answer questions like: How will you help them?  Why are you the best option? What will their life be like after their problem is gone or their goal is achieved?

The last piece of the puzzle

People decide whether or not they want to buy something based on emotion, but – especially with big ticket items — they back that emotional decision up with logic.

If you’ve done a great job of appealing to your audience’s emotions, chances are they are going to find a way to justify the purchase whether you provide those reasons or not.  But if you can back up your emotional message with logical selling points, you’re in an even better position to seal the deal.

Logical selling points include things like case studies that show how your product or service worked for others, descriptions of features, product samples or free consultations, and money-back guarantees.

Emotions are powerful, and people rely on them every day to make purchasing decisions.  Choose one section or page on your website, and rework the copy to focus in on your visitor’s emotions.  Once you start seeing an improvement in your conversions, I’ll bet you’ll be eager to apply this technique to all your copy.

Remember:

  • Find and develop the problem, fear, or dream
  • Build a connection
  • Offer your product or service as the solution

SonjaJobson-BioPicSonja Jobson is a copywriter who helps small business owners and entrepreneurs become Incredible on the Internet.  She shares her best marketing advice in her free, weekly Insider Emails.

5 Tips for Writing Survey Questions that Don’t Yield Statistical Garbage

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from Josh Pigford – Enjoy!

Survey Question GarbageWhile the end result of a survey might make the conclusions look cut and dry, there are many ways that data can be manipulated or misrepresented to change the truth. However, the sloppiest (and probably most common) method of fumbling the truth is when data is simply misunderstood.

Even if your survey questions sound great, if they’re not credible they won’t produce valid results. In case you don’t know the difference between discriminant and regression analyses (really, who does?), this post will cover five tips to make sure that your sweet survey doesn’t turn into a statistical bummer.

1. Think First, Ask Second

Think broadly about why you’re creating a survey. What are you really trying to figure out? When you have a clear idea, make a list detailing the kind of information that you’re setting out to look for. Now you can begin to write your questions, always keeping in mind that they must match your original informational targets.

If you realize after collecting all your responses that your questions are actually asking something rather different from what you originally intended, then your data will also be telling something rather different from what you intended. You’ll have to settle for either “different,” or a big lie.

2. Ratings vs. Rankings

Depending on the kind of information you’re looking for, you can either ask your respondents to rate or rank several items in a list. However, it’s important to realize the difference between these two types of questions.

A ranking will only tell you which items are more or less preferred relative to each other, but you won’t actually know from a ranking if a respondent likes or dislikes any items. For this latter purpose, you must use a rating question.

3. The Multiple Choice Golden Rule

Most surveys depend heavily on multiple choice questions since prepping for standardized tests have wiped out this country’s ability to formulate an original answer. Or we’re too lazy. Either way, the possible responses to any multiple choice question must be mutually exclusive. This means that no two answers could equally serve as appropriate responses.

Not only do non-exclusive answers annoy people (you’ve made them think too hard!), but they’ll make accurately analyzing your data nearly impossible. If someone could choose one of two answers and feel good about either response, you won’t be able to determine the respondent’s actual preference.

4. Surveys Are Not Like Airplane Exit Rows

More “legroom” in your question doesn’t make it better. You wrote your survey with a specific purpose, so make sure your questions are direct without giving your respondents too much leeway in answering.

If you want to know how to make your company’s logo look more cutting edge, make sure you specify your desire for responses regarding the logo’s impact, not simply ask about the company in general.

5. Don’t Get Too Excited in One Question

Surveys are awesome, we know, but that’s no excuse for asking more than one question at a time. Each question you ask needs to be aimed at collecting one unique point of information, or else you’ll end up skewing your data by mixing results that should be separated.

It’s even possible to get so excited that in a fit of survey-exuberance you accidentally put two contradictory questions together. That’s not only pretty weird, but it will also void the results for that part of the survey.

Statistics and the wild field of data analysis include another laundry list of Dos and Don’ts, but hopefully these five tips can get you started on creating surveys that also produce credible results.

If you’re ever in doubt about how a question comes off, ask some friends to test it out. If you don’t have any friends, well then you’ve got bigger problems than that tricky survey question.

Josh PigfordJosh Pigford is co-founder + CEO of  PopSurvey, where they’re building online survey software to try and make the survey industry a little less coma-inducing. They’ve got a huge collection of survey templates to help you get started with the click of a button!

The New Marketing Machine

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is from Aaron Dun – Enjoy!

“Don’t Wake Up With Your Website in a Ditch” Expand Your Content & Your Contributors to Keep Your Content Marketing Strategy Humming

As content explodes around you, if you are the only person contributing to your content marketing strategy, I hate to break it to you, but you’re going to be in trouble–just like the characters in recent television ads from DirectTV.

Between the “always on” nature of mobile, and the many interactive, online social platforms available, marketers face enormous pressure to continuously deliver compelling, cross-channel experiences to their customers, and keep them interested and engaged. Yet, most organizations, big and small, aren’t set up to optimize their content ownership, authorship, and delivery engines.

In the ongoing effort to get found faster, and to convert more suspects into prospects, companies now need to use all of their resources to publish more content, in more places, more rapidly than ever before. And if you don’t, you may wake up with your website in a ditch!”

“Don’t Fall Into a Dinner Party”

The old saying “many hands make light work” easily applies today to a company’s content marketing strategy.

It seems like content became the new hub of marketing virtually overnight. But in fact content has actually been the lynchpin of the commercial internet virtually since its inception. I suspect that even before that, the real-life inspirations of Mad Men would recognize a good story to be told, even if that story required a three martini lunch to be discovered. Consider then, what the DirectTV ads themselves say about the brand, and how they encourage engagement.

The marketing landscape has continued to evolve and old rules no longer apply – meaning the marketer’s imperative to use content to tell their brand story, and engage with potential buyers has had a dramatic impact on content strategy. There are new digital customer behaviors and expectations, increasing social channels popping up, and evolving SEO rules to abide by. Keeping up with these changes and being prepared for what’s next on the web requires a web content marketing blueprint for success.

Let’s break down this new marketing landscape to get a better understanding of these challenges so you can address them head on. Four key drivers are:

  • Interactive Digital Customer: We’re living in a highly- connected world where the customer is online (mainly through mobile devices). This enables instant access to information 24/7, and offers multiple channels for formulating opinions, sharing, and influencing others via Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, Slideshare, Quora, and more. Traditional one-way blasting of messages no longer builds brand awareness. Prospects and customers expect more; they want to engage with their brands, they want to “talk back” and even challenge companies with questions and comments.
  • Stiffened Competition: Social’s explosion also presents an unprecedented opportunity for businesses to connect people with brands and build relationships and engagement without being intrusive. However, because the digital era has made it easier for small businesses to look larger than life, competition has stiffened as well. Businesses are competing to capture the attention of the same shareholders in the same online channels.
  • New SEO Rules: Keeping pace with evolving SEO demands presents another challenge for marketers. Google continues to change its algorithm in an attempt to help fresh, quality content shine and penalize those who do not stay current. In fact, these changes require that you shift your content marketing strategy from merely thinking about Page Rankings to how you drive inbound traffic through fresh, incisive and relevant content that engages online audiences. (Read more about the New Rules of SEO on my company’s blog.) http://www.percussion.com/community/blogs/web-content-management/20121030-content-marketing-drives-seo-results-three-themes-and-the-proof-part-2
  • Complex Technology: In larger organizations, traditional web content technology bottlenecks the content marketing machine: it’s too hard to use, or the workflow process is too hard to manage, deterring those outside of marketing and IT from joining the team of contributors. If the end user feels threatened by complex technology, content delivery gets pushed back through a single resource (marketing and/or IT) to post and publish to the site. For smaller companies updating the web site ranges from the simple to the impossible depending on the skill level of the team.

“Don’t Attend Your Own Funeral as Phil Shifley”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcYWvvv75dM&feature=plcp

So how does a company proceed given this laundry list of obstacles today? You’ll notice the common denominator is the need for providing good, quality content, and lots of it! This can be a daunting task, especially for smaller businesses short on resources and budgets.

However, many content savvy companies have found that by deepening their contributor bench, they can deliver better content — whether it’s articles, blog posts, video, podcasts, etc. — more quickly, and push it out to their social channels where customers are engaging.

Follow these four simple steps to ensure your scaling your content engine.

Step 1: Break Down Silos: No matter how small or how big your company, content typically exists in silos. That content may sit with one team or another, or simply a person without the time to get it online. That content just doesn’t have any impetus to become part of the company story. Your job as a savvy content marketer is to harness all of that hidden content, and bring it out into the open so you can use that content to engage with your community.

Step 1A: Break Down Silos (Again): Stop thinking of your website as discrete from your blog, or your social channels as distinct from your blog. All of those are simply channels to tell your story. If they are not synched, you are missing a huge opportunity to engage with your customers across your community.

Step 2: Enable More Internal Contributors: It’s amazing to me how many people we talk to who are perfectly content being the only person with access to post content to the site. They spend all day editing word docs and patiently explain that the challenge with more contributors has nothing to do with technology or process. People just won’t take the time to write because it seems too laborious to them. Yet, those same “non-contributors” are tweeting 5x a day, and posting 3 updates to Facebook and LinkedIn daily. Make it easy and compelling to contribute, and they will come.

Step 3: Enable More External Contributors: This is the hardest area for many to conceive—why on earth would anybody want to contribute to my blog or my site? Just ask. — There is always something in it for them like incoming links or authorship, etc. Ask your customers or others in your industry to contribute, and once they do, promote the *$%$& out of it. Most people like to see their name in lights. Why do you think I am writing this post?

Step 4: Everything is Content: Stop looking for discrete pieces of content. Start by reshaping your definition of content and you will begin to see all of the content that is around you today. Customer support calls are content, blog comments are content, photos from an event are content…and on it goes. Once you realize that all of these daily moments are in fact discrete pieces of content, you will never worry about having enough content again.

It goes without saying that in a fast-moving, content-driven, web content marketing world your technology better not get in the way. So once you have defined your content strategy, make sure your technology has the horsepower to enable more contributors and is easy enough for these new contributors to engage. Otherwise your shiny new process will careen into the same ditch as your website.

Upholding the spirit of the DirectTV ads, “Don’t let your shiny new process careen into the ditch.” Follow the four simple steps here and get your content marketing engine up and running!

Aaron is Vice President of Marketing and Strategy for Percussion Software www.percussion.com, a provider of web content management and content marketing software. He is an avid Boston sports fan, and is known to enjoy a good marketing book or two in his free time. Follow him on Twitter @ajdun.  He can also be reached at [email protected].

Live blogging the Thanksgiving drive

I’m headed down I-35 somewhere south of Oklahoma City fully wireless and blogging – don’t worry I’m not driving.

But here’s the thought I wanted to share. Two of my daughters are sitting in the back seat plugged into a movie – TranFormers (they’re really too old for that, but that’s another story.) The point is that they both have headsets on and occasionally they erupt into various forms of giggles at something that happened in the movie. It’s kind of sweet to hear these spontaneous giggles, but the odd thing is that they giggle at different times. In other words, what they think is funny is different for them.

I wonder how many people visit our web sites, read our sales copy and listen to our pitches and, effectively, laugh at different parts, and maybe not the parts we thought they would laugh or not at.

Test, test, test everything. It’s a amazing how different the same web page can appear to different people. Know what you want people to do when you make a point, create a web page, write a sales letter and then get some people together to see if they get it. You are probably too close to know what the funny parts are anymore.

By the way, some of the roadkill out here in North Texas looks pretty good for T-day.

Want to write better – read better

On WritingWriting is an essential marketing skill – pretty hard to be very effective without it – whether that’s actually writing the words yourself or being able to recognize a well written sales letter from a freelancer. Most every high school English teacher in the world will give you the same advice: if you want to be a good writer, you have to read a lot. Two of my favorite books on writing, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and On Writing by Stephan King offer this as a key.

Just about any reading will improve your writing, but reading advice and examples from master copywriters will really help your marketing writing. My friends Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg have assembled a tremendous cheat sheet for anyone who wants to head my advice.

Online Copywriting 101: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet Part 1 and Part 2 should take you well into the new year when it comes to consuming some great reading on the subject of writing.

Two Questions That Matter Most

When you consider writing marketing copy, throw out all your notions about features and benefits, riveting, detailed descriptions and techno jargon and focus on answering the only two questions that really matter – and do it before you pass go.

1. What are your prospects and clients saying to themselves as they consider purchasing your type of product or service? What are the actual words they think in their heads? (visualize the cartoon bubble floating above) Chances are it’s not – “gee, I wish I had a new fangled Acme gizmo #156.” No, chances are, it’s more like – “gee, I wish I had more time off or why is running my own business so hard” So, you must discover their conversations and use them as your copy.

I’ve discovered over the years that my prospects are asking something along the lines of “Why is marketing a business so hard or I just don’t know anything about marketing.”

So I might start an introduction to Duct Tape Marketing by posing this question – “Have you ever said “I’m just no good at marketing” or “Have you ever wondered why marketing your small business is so hard?”

2. What would they like to say to themselves if they actually got the result they are seeking? In other words, what would success sound like to them.

I’ve discovered that what my prospects would like to say to themselves is that “marketing can be simple, almost automatic once you understand what to do.”

In this instance it’s essential that I am able to paint a picture of what their world could be like if they had the magic sauce.

These are the mysteries rolling around in the minds of your prospects, but you must find ways to discover, unlock, and communicate the answers in your marketing and sales materials or your copy will never move beyond the level of static.

Oh, and by the way, I just happen to be holding a three session teleseminar on the subject of creating these kinds of education based marketing materials – check it out here – it’s possible we will get into the very subject of this post!