Exciting content marketing ideas for your website, social media and email campaigns. Castleford is a content marketing business. We support our clients by building strategies, creating content and providing expert advice and consultancy.
Sorry to break it to you, but even your most loyal customers don’t want to hear about your brand all day long.
What your audience won’t mind, however, is leaning on your social channels, newsletters, blogs and other outlets as sources of valuable, relevant information. Hence why content curation is the yin to content creation’s yang.
Sharing content from other sources helps shed any sense of a self-centered brand, showing that the company respects varying perspectives, stays up to date on current trends and values providing useful content to its audience.
Ready to start curating content? With these examples as guides, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a savvy content curator.
Content curation introductions come first
Curated contentis created by a reputable source and shared by another brand. Think blog posts, news stories, research reports, industry updates and so on.
Of course, the curated post should give credit where credit is due. (We’re not fans of plagiarism in the content marketing world.) While it’s someone else’s original content, borrowing it can be beneficial if you think your followers will find the information interesting or valuable. Plus, you can start a conversation with your audience and add value to the curated post by including original commentary and introductory blurbs in your own voice.
What is content curation?
Continuing with that logic, content curation is the process of finding relevant content from external sources and sharing it with your audience. Common destinations for these curated posts are social media, email newsletters and blog posts – but you can really slot them in anywhere on your content calendar that makes sense for your audience.
With so much information available on the internet, your job is to make it as easy as possible for your audience to engage with the content that’s most useful to them. Content curation only adds fuel to that fire, allowing you to get more relevant information in front of your followers.
Still not convinced? Here’s why introducing content curation to your strategy is a worthwhile decision:
Put time back in your day: Content curation takes significantly less time (and money!) to put together than original content creation.
Fill up your content calendar: If you don’t have enough resources to create original content at the pace you need, curated posts can help fill the gaps.
Make a good impression: Your followers will see your brand as a thought leader when they can rely on you to share the good stuff from around the web. Plus, they’ll appreciate that you did the legwork of scouring the internet for them.
Stay relevant: When you choose your curated posts wisely, you can make it clear that you’re up to date on the trends that matter to your audience. Personal bonus: It will help you stay as informed as you should be to continue growing the brand.
Connect with influencers: Share their content and you’ll be on their radar. The same goes for user-generated content straight from your audience.
Start by looking for content to share on relevant social media pages, news sites, blogs and other industry resources. You’ll know you’ve found a winner when it feels relevant and personal to your audience. Add some context in your own words, and then schedule the post.
A common method is re-sharing social posts or linking out to another source, using original copy for context in the post itself. Take this example from LUSH Cosmetics, where the brand shared content from onePULSE Foundation:
As you get into the swing of curating content, create a list of all the trustworthy resources you can refer to when you’re looking for content to share. Sign up for newsletters and follow influencers on social media so relevant content goes straight to your inbox and feeds.
The curation tools to help
An effective content curation strategy calls for sharing curated posts at scale. Naturally, there are tools that can help accelerate, and even automate, the process.
For instance, some curation tools help you save content for sharing at a later date for better planning and organisation while other platforms generate curated content for you to select from. Some are like RSS feeds that allow you to cut through the noise, sifting through content based on your chosen filters.
You don’t have to choose between content curation and content creation. The better move is to aim for a healthy mix of curated and original content, keeping engagement high with a diverse and consistent flow of relevant information.
Of course, testing and measuring will help you find the most effective ratio for your audience.
Another important mix to keep in mind: Make sure you’re not favoring one source or topic too heavily. The lack of diversity can take away from your relevant thought-leadership vibes.
Now for the content curation examples
So what exactly does curated content look like in the wild? Here are the examples you’ve been waiting to see:
1. The SanDisk Instagram play
Instagram is all about the flashy photos, and poor SanDisk can only share so many images of memory cards and flash drives before boring its followers to tears. Instead, the brand spices up its Instagram feed with user photos.
A post shared by SanDisk (@sandisk) on Apr 22, 2019 at 9:34am PDT
As you can see, SanDisk always gives credit to the original photographer. As with any influencer marketing campaign, SanDisk benefits not only from featuring quality, eye-catching content on its Instagram page but also from connecting with the original photographer’s social network.
SanDisk sprinkles in original product photography throughout its feed, but the curated images help them post more frequently without tiring out their collection of photos.
2. The retweet action
The retweet button is about to become your favorite feature on Twitter. When you can’t create enough witty, engaging tweets to keep up with your audience, sprinkle in some retweets to fill your feed.
Of course, there is some effort involved in hitting the retweet button. You should only feature posts on your feed that are relevant to your business, industry or audience. An out-of-the-blue retweet will throw your viewers off, while a curated one brings a relevant and useful post to their attention. For instance, when a company, influencer, employee or customer mentions your brand in a post, they provide you with a golden retweet opportunity.
Here are some examples of curated retweets in action:
While it may be tempting, don’t go overboard with the retweets and forget to send out original posts. Plus, you may want to add some original copy rather than simply retweeting.
3. The Brain Pickings empire of content curation
Back in 2006, Maria Popova started sending a weekly email to seven of her friends. Now, she runs the Brain Pickings blog and sends out weekly digest emails to millions of followers. The blog itself is a home for curated content, as well as Maria’s original articles.
The Sunday Digest email newsletter features a roundup of the week’s most interesting and inspiring articles across art, science, philosophy, creativity, children’s books and other standout content in the search for truth, beauty and meaning. It’s a handpicked list curated from billions of articles across the web – and it’s totally free for anyone with an email address.
As a queen of both curating content and writing original blog posts, Maria can be a source of inspiration for all of us marketers. She uses social media to distribute Brain Pickings content, but like the savvy curator she is, Maria also sprinkles in content from other sources.
Somehow I’ve only just discovered the wonderful Species Unite podcast—a moving embodiment of what Dr. King called our “inescapable network of mutuality,” which he meant about human society but which in reality extends to the rest of the natural world https://t.co/1AZOBIUFQJpic.twitter.com/qE3qTTYgF6
Now a trustworthy thought leader, Maria’s followers seek out her recommendations, making the curated posts and newsletters feel just as natural and genuine as her original content.
4. The IBM social suite
Even one of the world’s greatest technology giants is in the business of curating content across its social media platforms. Not only do the curated posts help boost engagement, but they also give the company a humble edge that’s well suited to social platforms.
The company even avoids heavy tech jargon on LinkedIn, sharing posts that appeal to future employees, current team members and potential business partners alike. In this post, the company even shared a photo taken by the Senior Vice President of Research at 451 Research.
Here are some other examples of curated posts from IBM feeds:
5. The Moz’s magical curation
As a marketing analytics software provider, Moz has a rightful place in the thought leadership sphere. However, the company’s content curation strategy has a lot to do with its trustworthy status.
For starters, the Moz blog is a curated masterpiece, featuring several posts written by SEO and marketing professionals from various companies in addition to content written by Moz employees. The curated blog is so well known at this point, that many marketing experts reach out to Moz and ask to contribute.
Once they’re in, these contributors tend to publish multiple articles on the Moz blog. They even earn MozPoints, which alert readers to their level of experience and expertise within the Moz community. Check out our very own Jeff Baker’s profile:
The content curation continues with The Moz Top 10 email newsletter. Delivered to inboxes every two weeks, the newsletter curates the 10 most valuable articles about SEO and online marketing, with content from other sources just as likely to make the list as articles on the Moz blog. The idea is that Moz hunts down the articles, and their subscribers simply reap the reward.
It’s worth noting that while social media is often the shining star of curated content, email newsletters are far from dull in comparison – and the Moz Top 10 proves it. The newsletter is a valuable resource for marketers, adding to the company’s trustworthy reputation.
6. Inc. magazine’s contributing writers
Remember when we talked about sharing content created by influencers? Inc.com’s content curation strategy is a perfect example.
The online magazine recruits a long list of contributing writers to create content for the site alongside its in-house writers and editors. The contributors write about the topics and industries that are closest to their own areas of expertise, meaning they know exactly what they’re talking about.
Here’s an example: Amy Webb is the founder of Future Today Institute, a consulting agency that advises clients on emerging technologies and digital media trends. She’s also the brains behind a recent Inc.com article about voice search.
The tradeoff is that brands and influencers benefit from Inc.com’s wide-reaching audience, while Inc.com shares insights straight from the experts about topics that are of immediate interest to its readers.
It’s a similar idea to college classes taught by adjunct professors. They work in the field by day and teach by night, meaning students benefit from firsthand perspectives relative to the current state of the industry.
Chances are readers like you will trust an expert’s opinion more than a random writer’s, right? (No offense taken. I write about content marketing because I know about content marketing. And I realise exactly what’s happening when I ghostwrite for subject matter experts.)
So you’ve got a website but no idea what to put on it.
You’ve got several social media feeds but don’t know what to post.
Someone told you that you need “SEO”, but you couldn’t begin to plan out a content marketing strategy without double-checking what that acronym stands for.
OK, we may be laying it on a bit thick here.
But really, if your boss walked up to you right now and said, “We need to ramp up our web content – where do we start?” would you be able to answer confidently? Could you answer at all?
There are so many website content writing services
How many do you need?
We’ve got a helpful eBook on all the options available to you.
Long story short, the language that search engines use to crawl, understand and index your web pages is a combination of on-page copy and structured data.
While implementing data markup on your site will require some level of coding experience, CMS proficiency or plugin, your on-page text is easily manipulated by you yourself, or whomever you’ve employed to create your written content.
Without high-quality content that’s optimised for search, your web pages will live a lonely existence – no contact with the outside world beyond your own domain, with scant avenues for searchers to actually find and land on your content.
So, you’re going to need various types of content to satisfy human searchers as well as search engines.
That’s how you compete online.
Just as you refine your core products, streamline your internal workflows and strive to generate as much profit as possible, you should pursue your digital dominance with the same level of determination and zeal.
Here’s how to accomplish that in 2019:
Your site architecture is essentially a hierarchy of interlocked landing pages, each having some sort of connection to the ones preceding and following it. Without them, Google’s crawlers won’t be able to recognise a clear path through your website, making it highly unlikely that you’ll be able to rank for anything at all.
Optimised landing pages are absolutely essential to both paid and organic content marketing. Any baseline content writing service should be able to articulate this clearly. Vendors of a higher caliber may recommend a certain number of total landing pages and tie those to specific target keywords.
While too many landing pages may be just as bad as too few, your first objective when writing is to simply plan out a dedicated page for each of your services, in addition to other helpful resources like Contact Us, About Us and FAQ pages.
Insert internal links to your core landing pages in your blog posts to ensure the traffic you’re generating in search has somewhere to go once visitors have finished reading – landing pages are a logical next step for those interested in potentially doing business with you.
Speaking of blogs, you’re looking to produce buzz on social media and rank on page one of Google, right?
Blog content can help you achieve these tandem goals.
Think of blogs as the front door of your website, the entryway through which most visitors will first interact with your brand and engage with your content.
Consistently publishing blog posts, thought-leadership articles, opinion pieces and other forms of shareable, linkable content does several things:
Keeps your domain-wide authority and search presence fresh in the eyes of search engines.
Provides your target audience and existing customers valuable resources to use and reuse over time.
Allows your company to rank for competitive keywords.
Draws steady flows of intent-driven traffic to your site, which can then be nurtured toward sales-focused landing pages.
Fuels non-domain content marketing objectives like email and social media campaigns, webinar presentations and podcasting opportunities.
Your copywriters should be able to operate along the full spectrum of blog content needs and lengths, from 300-word roundups to 3,000-word epics.
Quickly becoming the go-to format for gated content, eBooks add a visual flair to your content marketing.
Because eBooks live within the middle of the sales funnel, they make for excellent lead-generation tools by prompting prospects and potential customers to hand over their contact information to gain access to the full, downloadable versions which they can then circulate at will.
The key to a good eBook is to understand that text and design should complement one another, meaning there shouldn’t be too much copy on any given page lest you subvert how impactful the illustrations can be.
The ones you can email to prospects. So, think large, relevant pain points your industry faces. Ones that are so pervasive that an email subscriber couldn’t resist reading the title and clicking on it.
Similar to eBooks, whitepapers play a pivotal role in lead gen. However, they differ in their format.
Whitepapers are intended to be deep-dives into a research-heavy topic and may or may not include additional branding, formatting or illustration. They’re basically long-form blog posts for a more savvy industry audience.
Do you have compelling, proprietary data you’d like to share? Great ideas from your execs that the rest of the industry should hear? An insightful opinion on a prominent new technology soon to reshape the marketplace?
Funnel those thoughts into a whitepaper, gate it and make it easily accessible throughout your website, email campaigns and social media channels.
Sometimes it’s best to let others sing your praises.
That’s what a great case study or customer testimonial can do for your brand.
Using more of a first-person, storytelling voice, a case study intertwines your company’s success with a customer’s quotes. This gives you a strong asset to show prospects and their respective stakeholders as they move further down the funnel.
Better yet, a case study that includes key data points and selective formatting can bring to life otherwise innocuous information.
Use your case studies to present your excellence without coming across as opportunistic or salesy.
Content creation is only measurable if you’ve benchmarked it against a valuable conversion metric.
More often than not, your conversion goal for your content is the click of a call-to-action button, which likely leads to a form fill of some sort.
CTA writing is a specialisation of its own, requiring strengths akin to traditional ad copywriting and leveraging the brevity of character restrictions.
Embedding a clickable CTA that utilises action-oriented verbiage, dynamic colors and clear directives gives readers a next step to take on the page, whether it be a blog post, an eBook, web copy or what have you.
Though primarily a visual asset, an infographic still relies on a wireframe of copy to convey meaning and context.
With that in mind, your words should be pulling double duty: getting your point across with data, concise language and metaphors, while also setting the stage for custom illustrations to accompany the text. The infographic is the perfect format to experiment with new styles and ideas for engaging content. Dense subject matter can easily be distilled in an infographic, as can high-level information – it’s completely versatile and transferable to any type of industry or customer.
#Infographics are powerful because they tell a story, offering information in the form of vibrant images. But there’s a big difference between a successful infographic and one that fails to fly. The key is tailoring them to your audience. https://t.co/VAUW6XBqI1
Already have a listicle? You can easily turn it into an infographic, letting the design and subheads speak for themselves.
Want a more dynamic email newsletter? Use infographics in addition to blog posts or other text-heavy content.
Because they’re so practical and useful, post your infographics within your blogs, on landing pages and on your social feeds.
Video scripts count as web content writing, too!
Scripts for animations, specifically, are used for narration voiceovers and subtitles, which means the written word should be treated more as the spoken word.
The use of flow, rhythm and cadence are more distinct features when writing for video as opposed to writing for, say, a blog. And because animations condense complex subjects into presentable ideas, you can use them to explain your products and services in short 2-minute videos.
If you’re hiring professional writers to articulate the core tenets of your content strategy, they should be capable of shifting from an inbound marketing to an outbound marketing mindset.
Paid ads differ from traditional content writing services because they are deployed in a disruptive way. These ads are effective only for the duration of time they are paid for – aka, they are not evergreen like many organic assets.
Ads need to be hard-hitting and concise, getting to the point very quickly and in few words. And they can be worthwhile adjuncts to your organic efforts, broadening your brand reach and enabling you to own keywords over your competitors.
Think of paid ads not just as a recurring monthly investment but as a tool for solidifying your total online presence. Because search engine results pages (SERPs) often display three or more ads at both the top and bottom – sandwiching organic listings – you can gain valuable digital real estate with paid advertising.
But don’t stop there – promote and distribute via email and social
High-quality, relevant content is the crux of any successful content marketing strategy in 2019, but it still isn’t enough to elevate your brand and produce tangible ROI. You need strong promotion and distribution as well.
You paid for custom writing services, so customise your email and social media marketing strategies to get the most bang for your buck. To get started, you can:
Share your content on each of your social channels depending on where your target audience interfaces with your brand online.
Send out a newsletter via email so that you’re actually adding value to inbox-overloaded prospects.
Use social platforms to converse with industry influencers and those with large social followings – you might get a backlink or a guest-posting opportunity out of it.
Nurture leads with various forms of content tailored toward their stage in the sales funnel. You can easily set up an automated email campaign through MailChimp, Campaign Monitor or Hubspot.
If you need more tips on SEO, content writing and marketing in general, you know where to find us.
As much as I hate to admit it, I’d be lost without good content briefing. In fact, if this article about briefs wasn’t so well briefed, it wouldn’t have a chance of ranking, meaning you probably wouldn’t be reading it.
This is no chicken and egg conundrum: The brief has to come first.
Not only does the brief have to come first, it also has to be on point – and this is what we’re going to cover today. Read on to find answers to the questions:
A content brief lays out the whos, whats, whens, whys and hows for a piece of content. This could be anything from a blog article or ebook to an infographic or webinar. When done correctly, a brief should be a set of instructions a producer can follow to create an asset that exactly meets your marketing goals.
Who writes content briefs?
We’ve written before about the role of content strategists. These data-driven individuals are perfectly placed to turn insights gleaned from their close relationship with your website content into actionable briefs for producers to execute.
In other words, the person writing content briefs in your organisation needs to be someone with a complete grasp of your marketing goals, combined with a fluent understanding of the role content can play in meeting them.
Top tip: Whoever ends up as the brief boss in your company, we advise they create a template for these documents. Many of the vital details producers need will often remain broadly similar from piece to piece, so having a template (which you can tweak as necessary) will be a real time-saver.
Every content brief you produce should incorporate:
1. The target audience
This article would read very differently if it was aimed at older CEOs as opposed to hip, young marketers (stop blushing). Not only might I need to explain more about digital marketing to provide context, but turns of phrase such as ‘on point’ would be less appropriate.
See what I’m getting at? Your producer needs to know exactly who will view their content if they’re to nail tone, style and subject matter.
So, where do you get the information on your target audience? Two words: User personas. These are essential documents your strategist should compile containing details such as:
Interests and education
Values and beliefs
Common pain points
Ideally, you’ll use this information to create specific personas for each campaign. For example, if you’re a real estate company you may be specifically targeting first-time buyers, or families wishing to upgrade. You need to include this audience information in your brief.
Whether you’re briefing up a whitepaper on generating ROI from SMART technology, or a custom graphic showing how curtain materials impact lighting in a room, every single piece of content you create should fulfil a specific mission.
This is another area where your strategy team plays a key role. They should already be analysing all aspects of your website content to establish:
What content has performed well in the past.
What gaps currently exist in your content.
What types of content would best achieve this.
The content marketing funnel is a good way to set goals for individual pieces:
1. The top: This is where you have content aimed at thought leadership. You won’t namedrop individual products or services, and your Call To Action (CTA) might encourage people to simply read more about a subject on your blog page.
Top-of-funnel content is great for raising brand awareness, positioning yourself as thought leaders in your industry and answering common audience queries. Note: With the right SEO tactics, thought leadership content can be great for boosting your organic search rankings.
2. The middle: Production aimed at mid-funnel objectives will retain some thought leadership elements, but is for searchers who’ve gone passed basic questions. Now, they want more information on solutions to a pain point.
The idea here is to guide prospects towards the bottom of the funnel, without scaring them off with a hard sell. You can start to introduce your offering, perhaps as the best among a group of alternatives, but aim to keep an educational tone.
A mid-funnel CTA might be downloading a higher value asset, for example an eBook, that will entrench your knowledgeable status further in their minds.
3. The bottom: This is where the magic (hopefully) happens. Following careful nurturing, your leads should by now recognise your brand as an authority in a given area, and you can present them with an offering that will meet their needs.
A CTA with bottom-funnel goals could be a link to a specific product landing page or booking a meeting with a sales representative.
For your producer, knowing where in the funnel a piece is supposed to sit will help them find the right tone, and will also guide their research. For example, should they be reading up on product specs for a bottom-funnel piece, or delving into reputable sources to use in thought leadership?
Finally, the brief should also allow them to choose a suitable CTA to drive desirable reader actions.
A content planner keeps your #content aligned with your commercial goals, ensures blogs are published in time, and allows for transparency. It's an essential tool. Here are our best tips and tricks for creating a really effective blog content calendar: https://t.co/1ZtHu9Z0jz
The other element that all content briefs must contain is a deadline.
This is particularly important for time-sensitive pieces – for example, content aimed at supporting a product launch – but applies to every asset you create.
The reason is simple: You want your marketing campaign to stay on track, right?
Specifics to include for a content writer’s brief
A content writer’s brief should include all the above, and:
1. Word count allocations
While this may feel like an editorial decision, it’s vital you set word count allocations at a strategic level.
This is because word counts can impact SEO. One of the criteria Google’s algorithm uses to rank written content is how informative it is – the more information you provide to your readers the better. The idea is to be as comprehensive as possible. Of course, this is generally easier to achieve if you give your writers more words to play with.
However, don’t take this to mean:
That longer is always better – Your content also needs to be full of value takeaways and well written. Rambling, unfocussed articles that lack purpose won’t do you any favours in Google’s eyes.
That you can never write shorter copy – It really depends on the competing content. If you’re up against an article that’s sitting on 1,800 words, and you only plan to write 600, you’ll likely struggle to beat it. However, if your content is really unique then this isn’t as important.
Wondering where to begin in calculating appropriate word counts? MarketMuse can give you topic specific suggestions to help you outrank your competitors.
2. Necessary collateral
If your writer requires particular collateral to complete their work, this needs to go in the brief.
Common examples include:
Contact information for internal external experts writers might reach out to for quotes or insights.
Access to reports or statistics they will use for writing.
Custom images created by the graphics team to exemplify points in the article.
Do not push work into your production system if you’re yet to finalise this sort of collateral in the brief – you’ll only have yourself to blame when it causes bottlenecks down the track!
Ideally, you’ll already have a company style guide that your designers follow religiously. However, it’s still important to properly brief each piece of content your in-house team creates.
The vital elements are:
1. Image specifications:
The most important details here are the size and resolution of the image. If you’re creating something to use as a website banner, the specs will be radically different to a small thumbnail that you might include as part of a clickable CTA.
2. Any deviations from brand guidelines
Your brand guidelines should include precise requirements in terms of fonts, colours and logos that your designers will use in the vast majority of their content.
However, if you want a particular piece to diverge from these in anyway, this info has to go into your design brief, otherwise your team will go on autopilot!
You can also instruct your designers here on the specific tone you want a given piece to convey, and what mood you aim to inspire in viewers.
In 2019, you need to be using video marketing. Why? Because it works. In fact, according to a 2018 survey from Brightcove, 53% of respondents reported engaging with a brand after viewing one of its videos on social media.
What’s more. 83% of marketers last year told Demand Metric that they thought this medium is going to become more important in future.
However, you’re only going to see ROI on your video content if you brief it correctly in the first place. Here’s how Spielberg would do it:
The videographer’s equivalent of a word count, the length will dictate how much detail the content can go into.
So, what’s the perfect duration? According to Wistia, videos up to two minutes long get a lot of engagement, but if you get more towards the three minute mark, you’re likely to experience a drop off in attention spans.
However long you decide to make it, just make sure that information is in the brief.
If you want the video to contain interviews with experts, product managers or members of the public, you need to tell your producers who these people are and how to contact them.
For content requiring a narrator, define any stylistic requirements – i.e. do you need a particular accent if your customers are based overseas? Similarly, are you going to seek someone to read a script in a foreign language, or provide subtitles?
If it’s important to the target audience or video’s purpose, specify where the shoot should take place.
Think about the message you’ll send – B2B companies will likely want to highlight professionalism by shooting in an office environment, while B2Cs may wish to show off their fun side by going somewhere a little off the wall.
Ever seen an ad pop up at the bottom of the YouTube video you’re playing? How about a banner ad that appears at the top of the screen of the page you’re reading? Well, unless you’re using an ad-blocker, it’s more than likely — almost guaranteed — you’ve had an experience with the Google Display Network (GDN).
Perhaps the less heralded of the two Google ad platforms, the other being Search, GDN is an entryway to reaching massive online audiences with display ads. Advertising through the display network ensures your campaigns find diverse consumer groups across daily internet activity, whether they are reading up on the news, watching a cooking video or browsing cat pictures.
However, while GDN represents a powerful medium for increasing brand awareness, many marketers may be unfamiliar with the platform and how to optimise campaigns for superior ROI. To help, here are our five GDN best practices:
What is the Google Display Network?
But first, a bit of an intro to the Google Display Network. Essentially, it’s a service for displaying online ads to users based on context, location or personal demographics. Whereas the Google Search Network places text ads on search result pages, GDN ads are displayed across websites, apps and videos.
There’s a bit of a trade-off in that relationship. Search ads will reach users who are active in buying or researching products and brands that are similar to your own. The Google Display Network is more passive, but can be a strong driver of brand awareness. According to Google, its display network comprises more than 2 million websites and reaches more than 90% of internet users. Ads you place through GDN have incredible potential to find relevant audiences early in the buying cycle, which marketers can achieve using targeting settings and other available tools.
For instance, you can:
Re-engage users who have visited portions of your site;
Target broad match categories such as footy fans or millennials;
Or display ads based on websites they’ve visited.
Marketers almost have too many options for supercharging display advertising campaigns, but these five best practices will help you get the most out of your Google Display Network efforts.
1. Use dynamic remarketing
Have you been served an ad based on prior browsing or search history?
That’s remarketing, and in this context it’s when display ads are shown to previous website or mobile app visitors.
Consumers, when researching or buying, visit multiple pages multiple times. Remarketing is a way to bring those audiences back; and dynamic remarketing is a way to leverage GDN for higher campaign ROI.
Remarketing begins with tagging your desktop and mobile site thoroughly. Google has some tips for making this less time-consuming (hint: container tags), but having your entire site tagged means visitor cookies will create better records of visits and return better data. With that information you can segment remarketing lists, remove inhibiting language or location exclusions and develop informed ads.
When launched, your campaign may reach users in a mobile game or an ecommerce site and remind them about your brand and products, potentially even offering an incentive such as a discount.
Dynamic remarketing takes all this one step further by making the ad experience more personalised.
By setting custom parameters in your site tags, you can reach past visitors with ads about the exact products or services they viewed previously. If you have multiple categories, dynamic remarketing could help hyperfocus campaigns.
2. Create responsive ads
While search ads are mainly text, the responsive format combines both text and image ads, and are a must in display campaigns. In fact, responsive ads are becoming the default for the Google Display Network, so you better upgrade sooner or later.
There are a good number of different ad formats and sizes, but creating content for all the permutations can be difficult.
Responsive ads solve that challenge.
You write your descriptions and headlines, choose imagery and upload your logo, and Google will optimise them for performance. The ideal result is an ad that blends in with the main website.
The responsive ad format is an asset-based one, meaning the images you choose have to be high-quality and relevant.
While you could certainly find that in Google’s free library, uploading your own images is the best route, as it gives Google options. If you’re a sports equipment business, pictures of athletes in action are a good way to elicit reactions or click-throughs from visitors. Video content is also supported as responsive ads, which can add variety to what remarketed or new users will experience.
3. Expand your audience targeting
While remarketing is a powerful tool, the sheer reach of GDN across millions of websites and apps makes it a bountiful platform through which to find new and related audiences.
Contextual targeting, ad groups and the Similar Audiences feature give marketers precise tools with which to discover and convert potential customers.
Firstly, contextual ads depend on keywords and topics you input to find relevant sites that track with your brand. The relevancy of keyword or topic to central themes of a website decide whether your ad is displayed, so be as accurate and specific as possible when classifying ad groups.
Also, remarketing comes into the picture here, as similar audience profiles can be generated by using remarketing data from past traffic. Google Ads then analyses the browsing history of your remarketing list to develop characteristics and shared interests of similar audiences. Machine learning keeps this audience list updated as it continually gleans more about your existing base to identify potential customers.
Some recommendations Google makes for similar audience targeting is to:
Use automated bidding. Google has different costing modes depending on whether clicks or conversions is the goal;
Keep growing your remarketing, not only to meet minimum requirements, but also to increase the pool and develop better insights;
Optimise landing pages associated with display ads to create a better pitch or ad experience.
4. Leverage managed placements
Most display ads are based on keywords or topics, but there’s a way to further pinpoint specific websites and apps within the network that you want to display on: managed placements.
With managed placements, you choose on which website page, mobile app, video or ad unit your display ad shows, allowing you to gain exposure on targeted sites, either because of high traffic or relevance to your brand.
If you’ve done research to build buyer personas, you might have developed a list of publications your audience spends time on.
Maybe your financial services startup targets customers who subscribe to The Financial Review, or visit Business Insider or Entrepreneur.com. Managed placements can get your display ads in front of those exact readers.
Alternatively, if you know subscribers to your health and beauty services watch makeup tutorials, you can target those videos within the Google Display Network.
One thing to keep in mind is competition can be high depending on the site or app you choose.
Displaying on high-profile sites can be accomplished, however, by upping your bids. You can adjust them over time, but increasing bids could get you over the hump to begin with as you increase exposure.
5. Get sponsored on Gmail
Not only can Google Display Network campaigns gain access to millions of sites and mobile apps, but also Google properties — like Gmail.
The email platform, among the most popular options for businesses and consumers, is included in the display network, allowing marketers to appear at the top of the inbox. Such a position is highly valuable: According to Adobe, Americans spent an average of more than 5 hours a weekday in email, 3 hours in work inboxes and 2 hours in personal mail.
Gmail ads give brands a way to connect with potential customers through a more personal forum, and different ways to engage. Sponsored ads look like a collapsed email at first, but when clicked on can open to a landing page, a video, or a form.
Affinity audiences: users with shared interests or who are interested in topics relevant to your business.
In-market audiences: users who are actively considering buying a similar product, or who’ve submitted a related search query.
Customers going through life events: users whose browsing and search history indicate they may be moving, starting a family, graduating university, starting a retirement savings account or getting married.
Other ways to focus a Gmail campaign include automated targeting and customer matching. These Google features help optimise your targeting across Gmail and show ads to users based on existing audience data, respectively.
The Google support pages and forums for display network campaigns and ads can be a bit of a rabbit hole. But poring through the guides and best practices can only help your campaign performance through the GDN. Just remember that responsive ads, managed placements and similar audience targeting are all good places to start.
Copywriter, content writer. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to? Not necessarily. So what makes them different? It’s all about the intent.
A professional copywriter basically pitches your brand to a target audience. They promote or sell a product or an idea directly through some type of creative campaign. These could be ads on the subway, social media or in a magazine, a commercial for TV, a direct marketing email and so on.
A content writer, on the other hand, creates copy (mostly for the web) that provides deeper context for what your brand does. The goal is to generate top-of-funnel interest and establish a sense of authority that will lead prospects deeper into the buyer journey.
Copywriting conveys an impression, whereas content writing tends to be more in-depth and explanatory. This Snickers commercial is copywriting:
SNICKERS® Recovery Room - YouTube
This online guide to brewing beer is content writing:
One might say that copywriting is “sexier” but perhaps a bit superficial compared to content writing.
This isn’t to rag on copywriting for being “shallow,” or conversely, to say that content writing can’t be downright compelling. We’ve all seen enough commercials and read our share of listicle content to know that’s just not true.
Not to mention, they play for the same team: your business. Content marketers and copywriters frequently collaborate, and as the lines between the physical and digital become increasingly blurred, so do the lines between their work.
But first, a quick note about copyright law
Skip ahead if you already understand the difference between “copywrite” and “copyright.”
And if you don’t, rest assured, you’re not the first to make this mistake. They are homophones, after all.
When content is copyrighted (as opposed to copywritten), it is protected as an author’s original expression, meaning it cannot be reproduced, published or sold without permission. More simply, copyright law is how content creators protect ownership of the things they make. This includes written copy and even emails that have been sent, but also visual and audio content.
Once a copyright expires (70 years after the death of the author), the content enters the public domain, meaning no one has exclusive property rights.
And, for the sake of complete clarity, copyediting refers to the practice of editing written copy to improve readability, style consistency and overall content quality.
With that out of the way, we can move on.
Where copywriters belong on a content marketing team
Let’s begin by listing off the typical content marketing team dynamic (click here for the long version):
Strategy: Define content marketing’s role in your bigger business objective (domain of marketing directors and content strategists);
Ideation and execution: Translate those objectives into a creative vision and roadmap for execution (creative directors, project managers, content writers, managing editors);
Production: Create and revise the actual content (content writers, copy editors, designers, project managers);
Promotion: Share your content via email campaigns and social posts (social media strategists, content writers).
Finally, this process circles back around to the strategists, who perform analysis to determine how that content is performing.
Executive buy-in is essential to the success of any #contentmarketing plan. We’re helping you answer all the common questions and we’re sharing our tips for making a business case for content marketing. https://t.co/Bgk143hOGX
Historically, copywriters didn’t necessarily have a role in the above dynamic. But that’s drastically changed over the past few years as the content marketing agency model has matured.
In the old days, content marketing was treated like “the poor man’s copywriting” or pigeonholed into the realm of B2B marketing. It was entirely removed from copywriting. Organisations paid huge premiums to advertising agencies for access to a junior or senior copywriter – or they would commission freelance copywriters for a pretty penny.
But if they wanted web content marketing, they had a number of cost-effective options:
Create content in house;
Pay freelancers ad hoc to fill content needs;
Outsource content creation to a third-party agency writer.
And yes, these same options are still available. However, the expectations for the end product have dramatically evolved.
Search engines are getting smarter by the day so they can populate SERPs with web content that aptly corresponds to what they think the user is searching for. This means content has to be good. Really good.
More than that, though, it means content has to be exceptionally well-promoted on the web and through digital channels (e.g. email) that have traditionally been considered the domain of the content writer.
So we ask again: What does a copywriter do for content marketing?
A writer who’s wearing his or her content marketing hat will attempt to create something that is informative and has direct utility to the reader. That’s why you’ll see a lot of how-to blog posts, listicles (“10 ways the cloud saves your business money” or “A comprehensive to-do list for the first-time homebuyer”), etc. The SEO element is always top of mind here, too, so there’s keyword research to consider: What terms map to the subject matter you’re trying to become an authority on? Who’s getting the most backlinks on their website, and why?
With content writing, you also want to be mindful of the types of questions the audience is asking. Don’t be afraid to create long-form content that hits all the major points of a given topic.
When that writer puts on his or her copywriting hat, on the other hand, he or she thinks more promotionally.The aim shifts to creating a message that is concise, powerful and, in a sense, irrefutable. The copywriter creates pithy one-liners and laconic imagery that convey brand identity and values; not 1,000-word blog posts that position a brand as a thought leader on a particular subject.
Content writing lures interest. Copywriting commands action. You need to do both in a modern content marketing campaign.
In this sense, copywriting and content marketing are more like skills than roles. An effective content writer knows when to think like a copywriter, and vice versa. Both need to understand brand identity as they write in order to create a tone of voice that will convey brand values and resonate with the target audience.
More simply, promotional copy is a type of content that plays a specific role in a content marketing strategy.
Let’s look at an example
A whitepaper about how cloud-based CRM saves money calls for the content marketing mindset. It will be long, informative, useful and will rely on trusted sources and well-developed arguments to make the point.
But say you want to do a paid ad campaign on Facebook to promote that whitepaper. Maybe you orchestrate a “Things that cost more per month than your new cloud-based CRM” campaign. Each ad can depict a monthly cost estimate of an activity for comparison such as refilling your gas tank, doggy daycare, grocery shopping, etc. This is copywriting used in content marketing.
Another example is email marketing, which has the highest ROI of any content marketing channel. You’re soliciting a direct action on the part of the recipient. Traditionally, this was the role of the “direct marketing copywriter”. It still requires direct marketing copy, and for that matter, direct response marketing (following up to emails with other content to pull a lead deeper into the funnel).
The only difference is that these conversations are often deeply integrated into a larger web content marketing campaign that is spearheaded by an in-house content marketing team or a third-party content marketing agency.
In other words, content marketing has adopted copywriting into its processes.
When #copywriting is done right it woos your site's 2 most important audiences: search engines and prospects. Companies with value-adding copy rank and they convert. https://t.co/B6vkcAxrK3
Numbers one and three err on the side of copywriting, whereas two and four very clearly qualify as content writing. Again, all of them have a place in a content marketing strategy.
Do you need a copywriter who can write content, or vice versa?
The job functions of “content writer” and “copywriter” are now often used interchangeably. You may have even come across the job title “digital copywriter” or “SEO copywriter” which, upon closer inspection, basically describe a content writer who maybe has some copywriting responsibilities.
Conversely, a “content writer” posting might request experience writing email copy, Twitter copy, and quite possibly even sales copy. You may even hear of advertisers tasked with “SEO copywriting”.
My point? A career in content writing will invariably lead to copywriting experience, and vice versa. Because content writers need copywriters, and copywriters need content writers. The trick is finding someone who can do both. A professional copywriter or content writer will typically have a bachelor’s degree in English, literature, journalism or creative writing, but they don’t necessarily have to. A strong writer’s portfolio speaks for itself. More specifically, look for writers who have hands-on experience, and who can demonstrate an ability to adopt, or even patent, client voice.
And, sure, you’ll certainly still find old-school ad agencies that do TV commercials, YouTube ads and billboards for big-name brands. This is the domain of the advertising copywriter. They might be freelance or in-house, but more often will work for an agency. Either way, the most competitive candidates for this role typically have a master’s degree in business or communication. But again, paper isn’t a substitute for experience or for talent. Not to mention, your business might not be in a place where it needs to spend several million gold doubloons on a video series produced by the most elite advertisers in the country.
Agency vs. in-house vs. freelancing: Is one option best?
You may be able to find freelance copywriters who charge much less than an established agency writer working at a reputable firm. However, this is a classic case of “you get what you pay for” – especially considering many freelance content writers will call themselves copywriters because they believe the title sounds more distinguished.
Remember, copywriting is a particular type of content writing, and not all freelancers will necessarily make that distinction. If you do go with a freelancer, just make sure you very clearly outline the types of projects they’ll work on and that you adequately review their portfolio and qualifications.
Hiring in-house may make sense in some contexts, but agencies and freelancers will usually be the more cost-effective option.
Content writing used to be significantly cheaper than copywriting. It was easier to game Google in the early days of the web. Stuffing rehashed news articles with keywords was the go-to SEO strategy for many brands circa 2008.
And unlike copywritten ads that were meant to be more heavily promoted through paid channels (magazines, YouTube ads, commercials on TV or streaming services, etc.), organic web content could be posted and promoted cheaply. Up until the early 2010s, content writers really just needed Microsoft Word and a search engine to do their jobs.
Today, you can still find freelance content writers with low rates (one cent per word, in some cases). But the web is saturated with marketing content. Creating content that will rank organically on search engines and build trust among the right people requires perfect synchronisation between strategists and creatives, which is hard to achieve with a cobbled-together team of freelancers.
An agency will likely charge more than freelancers, but typically much less than it would cost to create an in-house content marketing team from scratch. It would also focus on results-driven content creation as opposed to content for the sake of content.
Just as importantly, content marketing agencies have already begun offering copywriting services.
Because at the end of the day, the evolution of the digital world is clearly leading to a dynamic where content writing and copywriting both have their place in the grander universe that is the internet.
You can get a lot more bang for your buck working with an agency with staff writers who understand that.
These days, content marketing is marketing. Modern buyers know an advertisement when they see one, and more often than not, they’re not interested in hearing a sales pitch. Content solves this problem by creating value for buyers before they make a purchase – sometimes before they’ve even considered making a purchase.
Content that answers questions, addresses pain points or provides relevant information is content that buyers want to read. Brands that can provide helpful and insightful content are more likely to appeal to people who are ready to make a purchase.
In short, content marketing supports sales goals by:
However, content without a strategy behind it isn’t much better at driving sales than a flier stapled to a telephone pole. (Well, maybe it is, I haven’t done the research.) To be effective, marketers must think about how their content satisfies their readers’ interests, and systematise the way they appeal to their audience to move them closer to a transaction.
Marketing flywheels, funnels and buyer journeys
Marketers have different ways of thinking about their content marketing strategies. Some like to imagine their content as milestones along the buyer journey; others prefer to construct a marketing funnel that encourages prospects to take steps toward a purchase decision; others yet use Rand Fishkin’s marketing flywheel model to build momentum over time.
There’s no one right way to utilise content marketing to drive sales, but whatever model you use should be consistent with itself. To explain, let’s briefly examine these three models.
The buyer journey
In this model, prospects are like the main character of an epic journey. Rather than traveling across foreign lands at great peril, buyers are lost in the wilderness of the web, searching for answers that will solve their problems.
Like a knight errant finding a worn and moss-covered signpost at a fork in the trail, buyers approach content as helpful assets that will speed their journey to its conclusion. Blog articles and social media posts can aid the discovery process by spreading brand awareness and establishing thought leadership. Further along the journey, whitepapers and case studies can help buyers evaluate companies so they can ultimately make an informed decision.
A marketing or sales funnel has a construction similar to a tailored buyer journey, but they aren’t the same thing. Buyers will go on journeys whether or not they ever interact with your organisation. A sales funnel leads buyers off the beaten trail and into a more personalised and brand-specific excursion.
Funnels are built around different types of content which are relevant to readers at various stages of the buying cycle. For instance, an email campaign might catch buyer interest and tell them exactly what step they need to take next. In a traditional funnel, that step is usually to consume another piece of content, like a blog post. That post will in turn direct the reader to take another action, such as submitting their email address in exchange for a detailed whitepaper. As you can see, this approach is much more focused on the company’s needs, as it constantly encourages buyers toward the next step that can produce value for the organisation.
The marketing flywheel
In the world of engineering, a flywheel is a revolving device used to increase the momentum of a machine by storing a reserve of power. A flywheel is difficult to start moving, but once it’s in motion, keeping it going becomes easier.
Organic marketing is like a flywheel in that the first engagements with your content are the most difficult to earn – but the more work you put into your campaigns, the easier they will drive engagements in the future. Page authority is an obvious example of this concept. A brand new webpage will take months to gain links and authority until it reaches the top of a search engine results page (SERP). However, adding content to an existing page can make that page shoot to the top of a SERP much more quickly. Here, each piece of content is like an extra shove to the flywheel – each email, article and social post adds momentum and generates lift along the whole strategy.
However your organisation approaches content marketing, the elements will be roughly the same. Before we discuss how each type of content drives sales, let’s take a look at some of the potential goals of a content marketing strategy.
Content is a tool for sales enablement
Sales may be the ultimate goal, but they aren’t the only aim of a content marketing campaign. To build momentum in your flywheel, drive readers down the sales funnel or help buyers reach the end of their journeys, content marketers need to meet certain objectives first.
It can help to think backwards from the point of sale. What needed to happen for your most recent sale to close? What questions did you need to answer? Which pain points was the client most concerned with? How many conversations did it take? What could have sped up the process?
Content marketing drives sales by meeting goals along the sales cycle. Here are some examples:
Spreading brand awareness: Customers discover and learn about your brand through content they encounter organically through search or by clicking on paid advertisements;
Lead generation: The internet is a big place, and not everyone is relevant to your sales goals. Content qualifies leads by providing a way to gauge visitor interest in your company’s solutions;
Establishing authority: In a competitive market, content that demonstrates your brand’s thought leadership helps buyers decide who they want to work with;
Building audience engagement: B2B sales can take months to close, and you don’t want to lose the interest of your leads along the way. Interesting content builds engagement and keeps the conversation moving forward;
Increasing conversion rates: The final sale often requires many smaller conversions along the way. Content can benefit the sales team by bringing in more newsletter subscribers, eBook downloads, inbound sales inquiries and more.
Now let’s examine how different types of content achieve these goals.
Blog articles are the quintessential content marketing asset because they can be one of the most valuable sources of site traffic – if they’re constructed properly. People read them every day, often without realising they’re doing so. People have questions, so they type them into Google and get an answer, which is often found within an article. While they get the answer to their question, they also learn about the brand that supplied the answer. You want to be that brand.
If you believe that the average person doesn’t like reading and won’t read the content on your site, think again. Today’s readers are interested in long-form content that thoroughly answers their questions. In fact, we’ve found readers in the tech and real estate industries prefer blog articles that are up to 2,000 words long. If you want to generate brand awareness and become a known authority in your industry, in-depth content is always better. Consider experimenting with articles of varying lengths and check your Google Analytics dashboard to see which get the most engagement.
If you’re using the sales funnel approach, eBooks tend to fall somewhere in the middle. They should contain valuable content that appeals to readers who already have some familiarity with your brand and offerings. An eBook won’t make a great first impression, but it can make your second impression a lot more valuable.
As a piece of gated content – e.g. readers have to input their contact information to download the asset – eBooks tend to perform very well. Compared to emails and blogs, they are much more polished and can provide deep insights into a particular topic.
An eBook is also a great way to repurpose content from your website. For example, if a thought leader at your organisation hosted a webinar, you could condense that information into a short eBook. Or you could compile a blog series into a graphic-rich downloadable.
B2B marketers often need to appeal to multiple buyer personas within an organisation to make a sale. For instance, SaaS vendors may need to speak with IT stakeholders and operations managers and gain buy-in from the company’s chief financial officer. Each one of these personas has different concerns and levels of knowledge. If you give them all the same piece of content, it’s likely to only resonate with one or two people.
To effectively appeal to each distinct stakeholder, you need to tailor your content strategy accordingly. Case studies are excellent assets for your sales reps to have on hand as they’re speaking with certain prospects. For instance, if the CFO wants to see proof of how your product or service improves productivity, a case study is the perfect vehicle for demonstrating how your solution performs in the real world.
Like case studies, whitepapers appeal to unique buyer personas at a critical stage of the sales process. This type of valuable content provides hard facts and important details about the solutions your company provides. For example, if SaaS marketers are pitching their product to a company, they might give the CFO a case study and give the IT manager a whitepaper detailing the technical specifications of the product.
During the decision-making process, prospects can turn to whitepapers to get the answers to questions that don’t fit well in a blog article. At the same time, whitepapers can also serve the flywheel model by establishing concrete authority on a given subject.
Likewise, whitepapers can enhance your marketing automation process. You can set up an email drip campaign to trigger when users show interest in your services. For instance, if a user has subscribed to your newsletter and then reads a blog series on your site, your CRM solution could automatically deliver a whitepaper covering a relevant topic.
Many of your prospects will be too busy to read long-form content, especially if they don’t yet know your brand well enough. Infographics can capture their attention for a few minutes, deliver insightful data and establish authority quickly.
Aside from being highly shareable assets, infographics are branded content that spread awareness wherever they go. This makes them a valuable tool for inbound marketing – that is, encouraging customers to come to you, rather than reaching out through a cold call. Readers typically click on them to get a piece of data quickly. In the process, they see your company logo, thus making a mental connection between your brand and valuable information. The next time readers need more information on the subject, they’ll think of your organisation.
Social media platforms
Social media is potent because it can be both a platform for your content and it can be content in its own right. For example, if you’ve just published a piece of interactive content on your site and you want readers to engage with it, a social media post can do the trick.
Additionally, social media is a great way to leverage user-generated content. For instance, if your customers are doing cool things with your products, you can encourage them to share photos and videos to your social media pages. This social proof will show prospects that your brand is trusted by the community.
In all its forms, content can drive leads to your sales team. To be effective, your content needs to fit within a consistent strategy. For an in-depth look at how to elevate your brand with content marketing to benefit your bottom line, download our free eBook today.
In 2018, Amazon’s annual revenue exceeded USD 232 billion. That’s more than New Zealand’s GDP. Going by its net worth of over USD 1 trillion, Amazon also has the Netherlands’ GDP beat. The retailer has created its own economy, one with more than 1 million sellers proffering over 12 million products to 300 million-plus users.
And it’s not just the scale that’s outrageous. The average Amazon Prime customer visits Amazon about once a week and spends an average USD 1,500 every year. Forbes has called this level of customer loyalty “astounding”.
What’s more, the success extends beyond consumer goods. Amazon Business has blossomed into a USD 10-billion market in the span of about three years, offering everything from office equipment to autoparts to medical supplies to building materials.
As easy as it is to ooh and aah at Amazon, sellers in B2C and B2B markets can’t presume they’ll be profitable. The online marketplace is competitive, and success requires a strong Amazon marketing strategy.
Getting Started: Selling on Amazon
First things first: Should you sell on Amazon, and how?
Many brands sell their products on the e-commerce platform as a way to tap into its massive customer base and some of its loyalty incentives (e.g., two-day shipping).
But selling on Amazon can be a marketing campaign unto itself. About 66% of customer journeys start on Amazon. And when they start on Amazon, they often end there – with or without your product. This is to say, listing products on Amazon can ultimately improve brand awareness. Not to mention, Amazon is a great place to cultivate influencers by way of positive reviews.
So, assuming your product is not on Amazon’s restricted list, and there’s a market for it on the platform (e.g., you’re not selling industrial automation systems, disaster recovery services or another niche offering), you should probably be using Amazon.
Nearly 90% of consumers say they are more likely to buy products from Amazon than from other online platforms. That alone should tell you all you need to know.
A quick primer on how to sell on Amazon
Brands that make their own products can sell them to Amazon or on Amazon. It’s a subtle but important difference, as it affects which of Amazon’s e-commerce services the seller uses:
Vendor Central: In this invite-only web interface, manufacturers and distributors sell in bulk to Amazon which, in turn, sells to customers. Amazon controls retail pricing under this model.
Seller Central: This interface is open to anyone. Individuals, manufacturers, brands or third-party merchants can sell products on Amazon (or Amazon Business in the case of businesses) directly to customers, giving the seller more control over pricing strategy and inventory.
This practical bench seat cover for pets is sold by Amazon.
This highly impractical pillow case is not sold by Amazon.
Amazon makes more marketing resources available to sellers using Vendor Central – understandable considering Amazon acts as the seller and wants to move more products. But again, the tradeoff is that Amazon has more pricing control, which makes it a little harder for suppliers to manage their margins.
The recurring monthly cost is the same for Vendor Central and Seller Central: $39.99. However, Seller-Central users also have to pay a fee per sale.
Brands can also allow third-party resellers to sell their wares. However, brands that wish to control their presence on the e-commerce platform can restrict third parties from carrying their products.
An important note on two-day shipping
There are more than 100 million Amazon Prime customers, and many of them come for the two-day shipping. Keep this in mind when deciding between FBM (Fulfilled by Merchant) and FBA (Fulfilled by Amazon).
With FBM, the merchant uses its own logistics infrastructure to get the product to the customer. This means that if they want to sell products on Prime with the perk of two-day shipping, they need to work for it.
But with FBA, your brand automatically qualifies for Amazon Prime. The tradeoff, of course, is that you pay fees for FBA. However, it could be worth it if you sell fast-moving consumer goods and want to tap into Amazon’s logistics network.
Whether you opt for FBM or FBA will ultimately depend on your industry, your company’s supply-chain capabilities and how important two-day delivery is to your marketing objectives.
Marketing on Amazon – aka what you came for
Marketing on Amazon requires a little trial and error and a lot of attention to detail. To help break this down for you, we’ve split Amazon marketing into three categories. Let’s take a look at each, and how it contributes to a larger campaign.
1. Amazon search engine optimisation
Astoundingly, Amazon now has more product searches than Google. Organic search engine optimisation is therefore of the essence. Here are the core search factors to consider:
Identify the top search terms that lead to certain types of product pages using tools such as Sonar or Ahrefs. Be sure to add these key terms in your product listing, including the title, descriptions and details.
You can only fit so many relevant keywords on a product listing. But you can still rank for the rest by including them as search terms in the backend. These won’t appear on your page, but they will affect product ranking. Note that word order matters (“pillow Nicolas Cage” vs. “Nicolas Cage pillow”). Also, avoid including keywords used on the page in this list.
Always put keywords first in the product title, since Amazon has different word limits depending on where the product appears (main search results page, mobile search results and side-bar results). This will ensure the most important information comes first.
Bullet points and product descriptions
Try to anticipate the attributes that shoppers care about the most, and if possible, include keywords in the bulleted list and product description. Note that if you enroll in the Amazon Brand Registry, you can add an enhanced product description that includes a “From the manufacturer” section.
Positive product reviews are the cheapest form of influencer marketing. Equally important, Amazon tries to help shoppers find the best products by giving higher-rated items a ranking boost, and vice versa. Quantity of ratings and quantity of reviews are also important. You can encourage customers to review your products by sending post-purchase follow-up emails asking them to share their experience. Here’s what one customer said about his Nicolas Cage pillowcase:
It also helps to respond to negative customer reviews in an attempt to rectify a bad situation and hopefully earn a higher rating. This loyal customer, for instance, could have used some reassurance from the seller after his third – and possibly his final – Nic Cage pillowcase turned out to be a dud:
Drafting reasonable responses can also influence shoppers’ impressions of your brand by making you look more attentive and dedicated to customer satisfaction.
Product listings on Amazon have a Q&A section so that customers can get additional information or ask more specific questions about the product. These details can help shoppers make purchasing decisions.
What’s more, leaving questions unanswered can hurt your ranking. Technically, other customers can answer product questions, but some of those queries may be better left to your brand than someone speaking on behalf of it – and you probably shouldn’t assume that another customer will do that work for you.
It’s also worth noting that the types of questions shoppers ask convey information about their values. You can mine those questions for important details you may have missed or even opportunities to improve your products.
A product image is often the first thing that shoppers will see, so make it high-res, and make sure it’s of the core product – no custom graphics or illustrations allowed. You can add graphics or superimpose information on additional images, but make sure your main image features the core product.
Sometimes, it helps to provide an image that demonstrates a unique selling proposition. For instance, this sequin pillow that reveals Nic Cage’s face when you swipe it:
Nic Cage pillows have really cornered the gag gift market.
Conversion rate and price
No big surprise here. Amazon search favors competitively priced products that drive more sales. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re at a disadvantage if you charge more for premium products that customers love.
Still, it’s worth remembering that Amazon is a business with a long and somewhat contentious history of under-cutting prices to drive up sales.
Quick note about ‘Amazon’s Choice’
Have you ever noticed some products have the label “Amazon’s Choice”? To the best of everyone’s knowledge, this is an organic designation that is determined by selling a product that meets certain criteria. According to Business Insider, items that qualify for this title are:
Popular and frequently sold;
Positively reviewed by many customers;
Not returned often;
Shipped quickly via Prime.
Otherwise, not a whole lot is known about the label, and as far as we can tell, your best shot at earning it is to do everything right from an SEO and customer experience standpoint (check out our post about Amazon SEO for more details).
2. Amazon Marketing Services
Also known as Amazon Advertising, Amazon Marketing Service (AMS) lets sellers create pay-per-click ad campaigns as part of their e-commerce marketing strategy. The service relies on keywords, related products and shopper interests for placement. Once clicked, the ad leads to the product page.
Merchants can use AMS for several different types of ads, including:
Product display ads
Product display ads may appear on the side or bottom of search results – as in the example above – or in the margins of related product pages.
Sponsored product ads
Sponsored product ads are similar to PPC ads on Google SERPs. They appear in Amazon search results, but also in product pages right above product descriptions.
Headline search ads
Headline search ads – also known as “sponsored brand ads” – appear at the top of SERPs. They’re highly customisable in that they can feature custom ad copy, a link to a branded Amazon landing page and additional links to specific products.
Paid ads on Amazon are no substitution for creating strong product descriptions and following other organic SEO best practices.
Quick note about ‘Amazon Attribution’
Historically, Amazon users have been able to track Amazon ad campaigns and receive Amazon Advertising media reports through the Amazon Advertising console.
However, in 2018, Amazon released Amazon Attribution Beta, a more robust analytics resource that helps sellers understand how shoppers discover, research and purchase products. The platform, which is already available to all US merchants, will also let sellers track sources of traffic outside of Amazon. This includes brand websites but also Google and social media platforms.
TL;DR: Amazon is actively trying to make marketers’ lives easier as they create their Amazon marketing strategies.
3. Digital marketing outside of Amazon
At long last, we arrive at the off-site elements of the Amazon marketing strategy.
For some brands, the bulk of profits will stream in directly from the e-commerce colossus. But the vast majority of Amazon merchants (80%) sell on other channels simultaneously. These include branded e-commerce sites and apps, other online shopping platforms, brick-and-mortar stores and more.
The whole reason for selling on Amazon in the first place is to tap into its massive pool of existing customers. But that doesn’t mean you should forget about the ocean of prospects that exists outside of Amazon.
Furthermore, the strategies you employ across non-Amazon channels can significantly affect your success as a seller on the platform. Email is maybe the best example. Sending post-purchase thank you messages to customers, and reminding them a few days or weeks after purchasing to review your products, helps you create a relationship with those buyers and hopefully turn them into brand advocates.
Social media, meanwhile, can act as a valuable way to promote your products outside of Amazon, announce updates, share company information and cultivate a brand voice. It also gives users yet another way to engage with your brand. After all, there’s no better social media influencer than a genuinely satisfied customer.
In a manner of speaking, your brand is bigger than Amazon
There’s no denying that Amazon provides businesses with an exceptional resource in the form of its e-commerce platform and its humongous base of loyal customers.
But even if most of your sales come from Amazon, your brand is not Amazon, and Amazon is not your brand. You still need to distinguish your presence on the site with SEO-driven product pages, paid campaigns and brand-awareness efforts outside of the platform.
More importantly, your brand must cultivate an identity that is separate from the leviathan. It must demonstrate its values through email campaigns, social media marketing, content marketing and other digital channels.
Because, at the end of the day, if you create a brand customers love, they’ll follow you to the ends of the earth, Amazon or no Amazon.
From the first sitting US leader to step foot in North Korea, to 15-year old Cori Gauff becoming the youngest tennis player to qualify for Wimbledon’s main draw, the last week has produced some stand-out media moments.
Once again, Trump’s Twitter antics have made news headlines – and this time, for reasons that may benefit users like you. In the past, high profile political figures have used the popular social media site to vent and voice concerns; Tweets that have often sparked outrage among users.
Although Twitter was aware of the controversial theme of such tweets, at times, posts were allowed to remain if the site felt it was in the public’s interest to know what was being said.
In recent days however, Twitter announced it is implementing a new notice which will alter how controversial tweets from government officials/politicians are shown on a feed. Instead of displaying the tweet outright, a notice will appear, stating:
“The Twitter rules about abusive behaviour apply to this Tweet. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain available.”
After, users have the chance to view the post, or scroll down without seeing the content.
Unlock the next level of search inventory with Google
On July 2, 2019, Google announced how it hopes to increase the ad inventory available to app advertisers. From now, app ads will start to appear on more iOS mobile web browser searches. This means that campaign reports will now include in-app conversion data – information that wasn’t available before. This aims to make it easier for app advertisers to reach more people who may be looking for what their app has to offer, and can help improve overall campaign and strategy performance.
Best part? App advertisers don’t have to do anything in order to access to this new ad inventory. Instead, app campaigns will automatically receive the updated model in the ‘Conversions’ column of their Google Ads reporting.
Are you up for the challenge?
It’s never too long before the next viral craze crops up and takes social media by storm This week, the ‘bottle cap challenge’ has done just that.
Believed to have started in Kazakhstan, the task involves an individual attempting to perform a rotating kick to the top of the bottle, twisting the cap off in the process.
Along with performing the task, participants have also been posting the hashtag #bottlecapchallenge on their Instagram profiles. As such, the challenge has caught the attention of celebrities who have also given their best shot at this Jackie Chan-esque move. From Jason Statham to Ellie Goulding, Connor McGregor to John Mayer, the world has gone barmy for the bottlecap.
This domino effect is a great example of user-generated content (UGC); a social media marketing tactic that can be quite tricky to pull off. The great thing about UGC is that it builds credibility around your product or service as well as increasing brand awareness.
Despite regularly being dismissed as dead or dying, email marketing is still the traditional and most stable bastion of digital communication. It remains one of the best channels for building authentic and value based connections with customers,
But with so much history behind it finding the best tactics and resources to help perfect your strategy can be like finding a needle in a haystack. The web is full of email marketing advice, some of it super relevant – the rest woefully out of date or simply not well researched.
To help you navigate the wheat from the chaff, here our some of our favourite email marketing resources, designed to make your life easier.
Drip email campaigns can save you time, make better use of your content and drive more leads. But how do you run a successful drip email campaign? You can start by reading this ultimate guide (no download required). https://t.co/0Md9CvJsshpic.twitter.com/uvPd1kQwQG
Six useful resources all email marketers should have up their sleeve1.Mailchimp
Central to your email campaign is automation. While it is technically possible to orchestrate some elements of email marketing from a standard email account, we don’t recommend it. Handling so many details manually will likely blow up into one huge mess where neither you nor your customers are able to derive any value whatsoever – not ideal!
Automation platforms, like Mailchimp, allow you to put all your information together in a single place so that campaigns can be run clearly and effectively. For example, Mailchimp integrates:
CRM systems: So you can store all the relevant contact details, customer journey information and any personal data which may be useful in segmenting your audience.
Marketing channels: So you can see who you have emailed and when. It also allows you to keep track of other outreach methods you have used.
Audience data and analytics: Arguably the most important step in an email campaign is analysing what went well and what could be improved. Mailchimp allows you to visualise all this information and make sense of it for next time.
If you take one thing from this list, make sure it’s finding a good email automation system that integrates well with your business. A suitable platform will save you time and make it easier to optimise the message you want to get across.
It can be too easy to get drawn into the same pattern over and over again with your emails. So why not try a quick freshen up to keep your readers interested? HTML Email Gallery exclusively showcases examples of design-heavy HTML emails which, while you can’t copy verbatim, you can certainly incorporate elements from into your own email layouts.
HTML Email Gallery, and its competitor Really Good Emails’ website, are invaluable resources to give you a flavour of what other forms of email design are being utilised on the market. Make sure to check them out regularly for relevant design ideas and general inspiration.
3. The Hubspot email marketing blog
Keeping your design fresh is one thing, but equally as important is keeping up with good quality content and the latest know how in the industry. Hubspot’s speclaised email marketing blog provides regular inspiration for those struggling to put together new ideas, alongside authoritative updates on what you need to know in the world of email.
Add this blog to your regular reading list to make sure your head is in the game.
4. SendForensics deliverability test
Email’s are a fast and efficient way of communicating … that is when they actually hit the correct inbox. But how can you make sure your emails are going where you want them to?
Fortunately SendForensics has you covered. Their simple and free tool provides you with an email address to incorporate into your contact list. When you send your campaign the success of this pseudo email address will be able to determine your overall deliverability percentage. This will enable you to roughly work out how successful your emails were at getting to the right place.
The end of an email campaign can often turn into a data analysis paradise – after all we marketers love a good statistic. But not all stats are made equally and it’s important to differentiate between those that can seriously benefit your next attempts, and those that effectively mean nothing.
For the many among us who aren’t professionally trained statisticians, there is a great tool to help you determine the validity of your carefully accrued numbers. IsValid requires only your sample size along with the conversions/metrics from both your original data set and any experimental data set. From there it can tell you the degree of statistical significance of your results. With this tool in your resource list you can make sure that you are fully optimising your next campaign – not just adhering to meaningless data.
6. Touchstone subject line analyser
It doesn’t matter how great your email design or your content is if your audience is put off by a frankly weak subject line. Indeed subject line crafting can feel a bit like black magic. It needs to be snappy, attention grabbing and informative all at once.
While it can’t write them for you, Touchstone’s subject line analyser can help you to take your proposed subject lines for a bit of a test drive before you hit send. The tool can show you projected click rates. open rates, and some further helpful stats, all based on Touchstone’s extensive database.
You can even upload your own email data to see how your actual subscribers are responding to your subject lines. This can help you get a real insight into what’s working and what’s not with your specific audience.
The biggest rule in marketing may be that your audience dictates everything – so it’s important you define who your audience is for every email. Segmentation describes the practice of breaking up your single unwieldy email list into specific categories. These categories should be aligned to unique sections of your audience. For example you could separate by:
General demographics i.e. location or age.
Job title or job sector.
Fields of interest.
It is essential that you tailor your messages to these audiences once you have them separated out. Big generic email blasts alienate everyone and runs the risk of losing you subscribers.
Personalisation is really the next level of segmentation. It secures your brand’s human touch and goes a long way to creating a genuine connection with customers. Indeed according to Hubspot, personalised emails have 26% higher open rates than those that are not.
So what are the key ways that you can personalise you emails for a better connection with your audience?
Always address your email to the correct name – sometimes it is also appropriate to use this in your subject line.
Reference any previous engagement that a customer has had with your brand.
Try to use region specific information – so quoting prices in the relevant currency and if possible try to find stats from the country your readers are in.
Send email content that your readers have earmarked as relevant to them or in line with their interests. A good way to do this is to give them a choice of topics they want to learn about when they subscribe.
Sign off your emails with a personal signature – not just from the company.
We touched on this with our Mailchimp discussion, but we wanted to emphasise the importance of automation in the modern email process. Relying on a robust automation system takes time and hassle out of the email marketing mechanics, so that you can concentrate on the important things, like content and personalisation.
The best way to really get the most out of automation is to create a workflow. Workflows are a bit like flow diagrams that execute actions automatically according to certain criteria you have set. Workflow tools can take into account things such as whether an email has been opened or read, and thus a series of actions can be completed automatically based on user behaviour.
For example a workflow could be designed to send a certain email to a segment of your contact list. It could then be programmed to send a follow up email if the original email was read but no action was taken, or send out a welcome email if the CTA was completed by the reader.
Workflows are so valuable because they are adaptable and can be built with your specific marketing goals in mind. They make optimising your email list much easier.
Reporting on the outcomes of digital marketing campaigns is much like stretching after a long run – somewhat tedious, occasionally painful, but vital for future success.
In the same way that a runner looks for niggling aches and pains, without an unblinking analysis of how your campaign performed, you’ll have no idea where your strengths and weaknesses lie, and what you can do differently next time the starting gun sounds.
Today, we’ll be exploring how to write a robust marketing report. We’ll look at what to include, how to demonstrate ROI and some handy tools for getting the job done.
What should you include in every marketing report?
Whether you’re producing a monthly, annual or end-of-campaign report, it should include the following features:
1. An overview
Before you dig down into any precise details, start with a succinct cover page that gives a broad brush idea of how things have gone. Mention any particular wins as well as areas where you were hoping for better results. This means someone who isn’t necessarily familiar with digital marketing – your CEO, for example – can understand the headlines at a glance.
While this overview should come first, you’ll probably write it last as it will be based on the trends you dive into during the meat of the report.
In this overview, you should also briefly outline the campaign strategy, specifically:
The scope and objectives.
The target audience.
The channels you used to reach this audience.
You could probably recite this information in your sleep, but remember those outside your department may have less insight.
From here, we can break things up into specific sub areas.
2. Lead and conversion results
Ever met a senior executive who isn’t interested in ROI? Me neither, and that’s why this needs to be top of your reporting list. The key things to include here are:
Revenue – If you’re selling from an e-commerce store, start this section by demonstrating exactly how much money it has made for the business.
Customer acquisition cost (CAC) – To work out how much your new customers cost, add up the total spend on marketing in this campaign (not just advertising – think staff salaries, bonuses and overheads) and divide by the number of new patrons won in the period.
Estimated customer lifetime value – Working out the lifetime value of a customer involves taking the gross margin of that individual away from the revenue they’ve generated for you, and dividing this figure by their estimated cancellation rate.
Leads and conversion rates per channel – Your readers will want to know where these new customers are coming from. Be sure to include every branch of your strategy, from paid search to email marketing to social media.
Organic vs. paid leads – While they could work it out from above, your CEO will likely be interested in a distinct breakdown of paid vs. organic results, so make it easy for them!
Even if some web traffic didn’t ultimately convert, it’s still important to establish where they came from. Raising brand awareness is a key part of many marketing campaigns, and this will tell you which channels are bringing home the metaphorical bacon.
A lot of this info can be found in Google Analytics. Among the nuggets it can divulge are:
Overall traffic – Ideally, you should see an increase in overall web traffic as a result of your marketing campaigns. However, you should view this in the context of conversions and the actions users take on your page.
Sources -In Google Analytics you can see how users came to your site. Standard routes include:
Organic search – If you’ve been attempting to raise your SEO game, you’d hope to see a marked spike in traffic from blogs and landing pages.
Social media – Social is great for getting your name out there, and if you’ve been targeting these platforms ideally this will be borne out in Analytics.
Paid search – You can filter by Google Ads campaign names in Analytics to see if your paid efforts have delivered ROI.
Direct traffic – You’ll also be able to identify users who’ve come to your site simply by typing in your URL.
Bounce rate – Getting people onto your site is no good if they take one look and run the other way. Don’t panic if this is happening to you – you just need to take some time to improve searchers’ experiences.
Optional extras based on your needs:
From here, the order you take for the remainder of the report is up to you, and will probably reflect the particulars of your last campaign. Standard elements to include are:
4. Social media
Each of the major social platforms has its own analytics hub – think Insights on Facebook and Instagram or LinkedIn Analytics.
These are a veritable gold mine of info for marketers, but you need to know which social media metrics matter. The most important are:
Engagement – One of the best things about social media from a marketing perspective is the chance to have authentic interactions with your target audience. This is where measuring engagement comes in – are people liking, commenting on or (probably best of all) sharing your content?
Reach – Pretty straightforward – how many people are coming across your brand’s content? This is a top-of-funnel metric great for indicating the success of awareness campaigns.
Referrals – Referrals show how many people come to your website from a given social platform.
Click-through rates – CTRs track the number of people clicking on your social media content or ads to access your website or blog.
If improving organic search rankings was a key KPI for your marketing campaign, you’ll need to report on your SEO progress.
The crucial aspects of this section in your marketing report should be:
Ranking improvements – Have you improved your site’s position on Google results pages for target keywords?
Website health – Are there any problems with your site that could impact SEO progress? Think broken links or missing tags.
Organic traffic – Which pages are driving overall traffic numbers, and which are falling behind?
External backlinks – How many external sites are pointing back to your own? Are they high quality? This is a great opportunity to show off the hard work you’ve put into link-building relationships.
Remember, the exercise here isn’t to bamboozle CEOs with intangible graphs and SEO terminology. Making this understandable is the best way to show the importance of SEO to the business’ objectives.
6. Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising
Google Ads provides insights aplenty on the performance of your search and display ads, and is a great tool to use for this part of your report. Here you’ll provide specific details on:
Your ad spend.
Cost per conversion.
Impressions (This is the number of times users view your ad, or how often it displays.)
This section is a really tangible area for demonstrating ROI in your marketing report. Your company is shelling out on these ads, so you need to clearly link this spending with results.
However, it’s important to remind readers of the intent behind the ads. You won’t always be targeting ads directly at conversions, some may have higher funnel objectives – so ensure you set expectations and communicate this properly.
If you’re devoting time and resources to creating and curating blog content, your audience will want to know if it’s proving worthwhile.
As well as demonstrating how the blog is impacting leads and conversions, this will also be a useful exercise to establish what types of posts are working best. Are your target audience engaging most with thought leadership pieces, or are they flocking to practical ‘how to’ articles?
Google Analytics should be your go-to here – you can analyse if people are reading your content in the first place, how long they spend on it, and if they’re taking desired actions such as following links to landing pages.
The best tools for creating marketing reports
Google Analytics and Google Ads are brilliant starting places for creating marketing reports but, in the name of choice, here are some other handy options:
Supermetrics – This app can bring together information from a variety of external tools into a centralised dashboard. A huge timesaver, this means automatic compilation of website and social analytics as well as PPC and SEO results. All of this data can be delivered directly to your inbox!
Cyfe – With similar powerful functionality to Supermetrics, Cyfe allows you to build custom reports related to specific marketing objectives.
Moz – Moz is one of the big names in SEO, and has all the reporting capability you need to track your site’s organic search performance.
DashThis -This focuses on PPC, allowing you to track all your most important paid search KPIs and produce reports from one easy dashboard.