Customers Want You to Understand Their World

I want to tell you the tale of two companies both trying to reach part of the community they serve and how one failed and the other nailed it. Why this is important is because it ties closely to the way customers choose to spend their money these days. They want companies who understand their world, and they want to feel like they’re with a company that cares about what they like.

This isn’t really a story about Fortnite, but it is

If you have a kid between 8 years old and 50, you might have already heard about Fortnite. The video game which launched in 2017 has already raced to 200 million active users (75 million in just the last six months). They passed a billion dollars in revenue last July, and will quite likely make a big year end revenue goal announcement.

For this story, the game’s not important. What’s important is that it’s the hottest game in the world right now. And as such, companies are trying to relate. Now, I want to show you two examples in these graphics:


This is Walmart on Twitter. Whoever’s representing the brand on the keyboard at this moment has clearly heard of the game, but knows nothing at all about it. Summarily, they come off looking like out of touch doofuses. It’s not a good look.

By contrast, look at this:


Without knowing anything about the game, it’s clear that Wendy’s not only knows Fortnite but talks like they play it five hours a day every day. This garners a lot of social interactions, lots of more positive touchpoints and reactions, and ultimately, revenue.

Understand The Customer’s World

The way Wendy’s treated an interaction online around Fortnite showed that the company (and remember, technically it’s just a person or team representing the company) knew what was current, knew the lingo, and could interact well. You don’t have to know everything but it might be helpful to know a lot about the world of the person you want to serve.

No matter what you sell, there’s a buyer who has their own world outside of that product. The more you can talk to that, know about that, and can align with that, the better your chances to deliver value will be.

The easiest takeaway: stay current. It takes 10-20 minutes a day to read what’s hot in the marketplace. Need extra eyes on all this? Follow me on Twitter. I love sharing trends and interesting business stories.

Avoid looking like the fuddy duddy and figure out where your customer is dropping. It’ll help immensely!

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Digital Marketing News: Google Updates Search Console & Map Hashtags, MarTech’s Growth, Blogging Trends & Color Psychology

2018 November 30 DesignAdvisor Image

Google Search Console To Replace Search Analytics With Performance Report
Google has given notice that a new performance report will soon replace the existing search analytics collection of data in its popular Google Search Console tool. Search Engine Roundtable

[embedded content]

40 Facts About How Color Psychology Can Boost Your Website Conversions [Infographic]
Color has long been known for playing a role in how we feel about marketing campaigns, and a new infographic explores a slew of information about the psychology of colors. Social Media Today

Blogging Statistics and Trends: The 2018 Survey of 1000+ Bloggers
What works well among successful bloggers was examined in a recent survey, revealing numerous fascinating trends and statistics relevant to digital marketers. Orbit Media Studios

Facebook Begins Rolling Out New Dashboards Tracking Time Spent in App
Facebook has begun to offer users information tracking the time they spend using the social giant’s services, following on the heals of a similar rollout recently on Instagram. Social Media Today

Building the Best B2B Marketing Technology Stack
Report data offers up details on what tools, skills, and technologies comprise the ideal B2B marketing stack, including a look at evaluating needs. Business 2 Community

TikTok is the latest social network sensation
Mainstream attention has recently come the way of Tik Tok, a video-heavy app launched in 2016 in China that’s been downloaded nearly 800 million times, and which has attracted a growing number of marketers. CNN Business

YouTube has started testing ‘ad pods’: 2 skippable ads delivered back-to-back
YouTube has tested back-to-back mid-and-pre-roll “ad pods,” in an effort to drop content abandonment rates. The update will deliver the new ad types based in part on video length. Marketing Land

Facebook launches Watch Party for all, tests Live PiP commentating
Live picture-in-picture commenting has come to Facebook’s co-viewing Watch Party feature, which will also soon be available to both business Pages and Groups. TechCruch

2018 November 30 Statistics Image

Google Maps biz reviews can now include hashtags
Google has begun offering certain users in its Local Guides program the ability to use hashtags in Google Maps business reviews. TechCrunch

Martech jumps to 29% of the CMO’s budget in Gartner’s 2018-2019 survey
Marketing technology spending has risen to 29 percent of surveyed CMO’s budgets, one of several interesting results outlined in Gartner’s recently released 2018-2019 CMO Spend Survey. Chief Marketing Technologist


2018 November 30 Marketoonist Cartoon

A lighthearted look at black friday & holiday shopping by Marketoonist Tom Fishburne — Marketoonist

World’s Programmers Vow Not to Rest Until Every App Allows You to Swipe Left into Useless Feature — The Hard Times

Horrified Nation Wakes Up On Cyber Monday To Find Amazon Echo Devices Embedded Beneath Skin — The Onion

The Infinite Lifespan of Memes — Wired


  • Lee Odden — Choices: 12 Best Marketing Blogs & Newsletters —
  • Lane R. Ellis — What’s Trending: ‘Tis the Season to Dial In Your Digital Marketing Strategy — LinkedIn (client)
  • Lee Odden — Adam Singer: The Kids Aren’t So Alright — Instil Strategy
  • Lee Odden — So You’re A #MKTGnerd: Top List of Marketing Nerds — Lattice Engines
  • Lee Odden — Marketing on Tap Episode 19: Social Influencers or Media Buying – Has Influence Marketing Lost Its Way? — Sensei Marketing
  • Joshua Nite — Attitude Over Intelligence / Comedy Principles / Gesture Power — Dr. Doug Green
  • Lee Odden — B2B Influencer Marketing Insights from an Expert Panel — Leadtail
  • Lee Odden — 2019 Predictions: CMOs Look to Prioritize the Customer Experience to Regain Trust, Authenticity and Relevancy — PANcomm

Do you have your own favorite influencer marketing news items for the week?

Thanks for joining us, and we hope you’ll return next week for a new array of the most relevant digital marketing industry news, and in the meantime you can follow us at @toprank on Twitter for even more timely daily news. Also, don’t miss the full video summary on our TopRank Marketing TV YouTube Channel.

Local Search Ranking Factors 2018: Local Today, Key Takeaways, and the Future

In the past year, local SEO has run at a startling and near-constant pace of change. From an explosion of new Google My Business features to an ever-increasing emphasis on the importance of reviews, it’s almost too much to keep up with. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, we welcome our friend Darren Shaw to explain what local is like today, dive into the key takeaways from his 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors survey, and offer us a glimpse into the future according to the local SEO experts.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans. I’m Darren Shaw from Whitespark, and today I want to talk to you about the local search ranking factors. So this is a survey that David Mihm has run for the past like 10 years. Last year, I took it over, and it’s a survey of the top local search practitioners, about 40 of them. They all contribute their answers, and I aggregate the data and say what’s driving local search. So this is what the opinion of the local search practitioners is, and I’ll kind of break it down for you.

Local search today

So these are the results of this year’s survey. We had Google My Business factors at about 25%. That was the biggest piece of the pie. We have review factors at 15%, links at 16%, on-page factors at 14%, behavioral at 10%, citations at 11%, personalization and social at 6% and 3%. So that’s basically the makeup of the local search algorithm today, based on the opinions of the people that participated in the survey.

The big story this year is Google My Business. Google My Business factors are way up, compared to last year, a 32% increase in Google My Business signals. I’ll talk about that a little bit more over in the takeaways. Review signals are also up, so more emphasis on reviews this year from the practitioners. Citation signals are down again, and that makes sense. They continue to decline I think for a number of reasons. They used to be the go-to factor for local search. You just built out as many citations as you could. Now the local search algorithm is so much more complicated and there’s so much more to it that it’s being diluted by all of the other factors. Plus it used to be a real competitive difference-maker. Now it’s not, because everyone is pretty much getting citations. They’re considered table stakes now. By seeing a drop here, it doesn’t mean you should stop doing them. They’re just not the competitive difference-maker they used to be. You still need to get listed on all of the important sites.

Key takeaways

All right, so let’s talk about the key takeaways.

1. Google My Business

The real story this year was Google My Business, Google My Business, Google My Business. Everyone in the comments was talking about the benefits they’re seeing from investing in a lot of these new features that Google has been adding.

Google has been adding a ton of new features lately — services, descriptions, Google Posts, Google Q&A. There’s a ton of stuff going on in Google My Business now that allows you to populate Google My Business with a ton of extra data. So this was a big one.

✓ Take advantage of Google Posts

Everyone talked about Google Posts, how they’re seeing Google Posts driving rankings. There are a couple of things there. One is the semantic content that you’re providing Google in a Google post is definitely helping Google associate those keywords with your business. Engagement with Google Posts as well could be driving rankings up, and maybe just being an active business user continuing to post stuff and logging in to your account is also helping to lift your business entity and improve your rankings. So definitely, if you’re not on Google Posts, get on it now.

If you search for your category, you’ll see a ton of businesses are not doing it. So it’s also a great competitive difference-maker right now.

✓ Seed your Google Q&A

Google Q&A, a lot of businesses are not even aware this exists. There’s a Q&A section now. Your customers are often asking questions, and they’re being answered by not you. So it’s valuable for you to get in there and make sure you’re answering your questions and also seed the Q&A with your own questions. So add all of your own content. If you have a frequently asked questions section on your website, take that content and put it into Google Q&A. So now you’re giving lots more content to Google.

✓ Post photos and videos

Photos and videos, continually post photos and videos, maybe even encourage your customers to do that. All of that activity is helpful. A lot of people don’t know that you can now post videos to Google My Business. So get on that if you have any videos for your business.

✓ Fill out every field

There are so many new fields in Google My Business. If you haven’t edited your listing in a couple of years, there’s a lot more stuff in there that you can now populate and give Google more data about your business. All of that really leads to engagement. All of these extra engagement signals that you’re now feeding Google, from being a business owner that’s engaged with your listing and adding stuff and from users, you’re giving them more stuff to look at, click on, and dwell on your listing for a longer time, all that helps with your rankings.

2. Reviews

✓ Get more Google reviews

Reviews continue to increase in importance in local search, so, obviously, getting more Google reviews. It used to be a bit more of a competitive difference-maker. It’s becoming more and more table stakes, because everybody seems to be having lots of reviews. So you definitely want to make sure that you are competing with your competition on review count and lots of high-quality reviews.

✓ Keywords in reviews

Getting keywords in reviews, so rather than just asking for a review, it’s useful to ask your customers to mention what service they had provided or whatever so you can get those keywords in your reviews.

✓ Respond to reviews (users get notified now!)

Responding to reviews. Google recently started notifying users that if the owner has responded to you, you’ll get an email. So all of that is really great, and those responses, it’s another signal to Google that you’re an engaged business.

✓ Diversify beyond Google My Business for reviews

Diversify. Don’t just focus on Google My Business. Look at other sites in your industry that are prominent review sites. You can find them if you just look for your own business name plus reviews, if you search that in Google, you’re going to see the sites that Google is saying are important for your particular business.

You can also find out like what are the sites that your competitors are getting reviews on. Then if you just do a search like keyword plus city, like “lawyers + Denver,” you might find sites that are important for your industry as well that you should be listed on. So check out a couple of your keywords and make sure you’re getting reviews on more sites than just Google.

3. Links

Then links, of course, links continue to drive local search. A lot of people in the comments talked about how a handful of local links have been really valuable. This is a great competitive difference-maker, because a lot of businesses don’t have any links other than citations. So when you get a few of these, it can really have an impact.

✓ From local industry sites and sponsorships

They really talk about focusing on local-specific sites and industry-specific sites. So you can get a lot of those from sponsorships. They’re kind of the go-to tactic. If you do a search for in title sponsors plus city name, you’re going to find a lot of sites that are listing their sponsors, and those are opportunities for you, in your city, that you could sponsor that event as well or that organization and get a link.

The future!

All right. So I also asked in the survey: Where do you see Google going in the future? We got a lot of great responses, and I tried to summarize that into three main themes here for you.

1. Keeping users on Google

This is a really big one. Google does not want to send its users to your website to get the answer. Google wants to have the answer right on Google so that they don’t have to click. It’s this zero-click search result. So you see Rand Fishkin talking about this. This has been happening in local for a long time, and it’s really amplified with all of these new features Google has been adding. They want to have all of your data so that they don’t have to send users to find it somewhere else. Then that means in the future less traffic to your website.

So Mike Blumenthal and David Mihm also talk about Google as your new homepage, and this concept is like branded search.

  • What does your branded search look like?
  • So what sites are you getting reviews on?
  • What does your knowledge panel look like?

Make that all look really good, because Google doesn’t want to send people to your new website.

2. More emphasis on behavioral signals

David Mihm is a strong voice in this. He talks about how Google is trying to diversify how they rank businesses based on what’s happening in the real world. They’re looking for real-world signals that actual humans care about this business and they’re engaging with this business.

So there’s a number of things that they can do to track that — so branded search, how many people are searching for your brand name, how many people are clicking to call your business, driving directions. This stuff is all kind of hard to manipulate, whereas you can add more links, you can get more reviews. But this stuff, this is a great signal for Google to rely on.

Engagement with your listing, engagement with your website, and actual humans in your business. If you’ve seen on the knowledge panel sometimes for brick-and-mortar business, it will be like busy times. They know when people are actually at your business. They have counts of how many people are going into your business. So that’s a great signal for them to use to understand the prominence of your business. Is this a busy business compared to all the other ones in the city?

3. Google will monetize everything

Then, of course, a trend to monetize as much as they can. Google is a publicly traded company. They want to make as much money as possible. They’re on a constant growth path. So there are a few things that we see coming down the pipeline.

Local service ads are expanding across the country and globally and in different industries. So this is like a paid program. You have to apply to get into it, and then Google takes a cut of leads. So if you are a member of this, then Google will send leads to you. But you have to be verified to be in there, and you have to pay to be in there.

Then taking a cut from bookings, you can now book directly on Google for a lot of different businesses. If you think about Google Flights and Google Hotels, Google is looking for a way to monetize all of this local search opportunity. That’s why they’re investing heavily in local search so they can make money from it. So seeing more of these kinds of features rolling out in the future is definitely coming. Transactions from other things. So if I did book something, then Google will take a cut for it.

So that’s the future. That’s sort of the news of the local search ranking factors this year. I hope it’s been helpful. If you have any questions, just leave some comments and I’ll make sure to respond to them all. Thanks, everybody.

Video transcription by

If you missed our recent webinar on the Local Search Ranking Factors survey with Darren Shaw and Dr. Pete, don’t worry! You can still catch the recording here:

Check out the webinar

You’ll be in for a jam-packed hour of deeper insights and takeaways from the survey, as well as some great audience-contributed Q&A.

Step Right Up! 8 Content Promotion Showstoppers For 2019

6 photo collage image.
Welcome to the fifth installment in our “Collective Wisdom” series of content marketing strategy articles. In this issue, we’ll dig into the multifaceted and sometimes daunting world of promoting content, featuring wisdom and examples from some of the world’s top digital marketers.

Previously we’ve covered pre-planning for content marketing success, the art of crafting powerful content, along with enduring and often-overlooked content creation best practices. Now it’s time to move on and tackle show-stopping content promotion.

Below we explore eight helpful tactics used by some of the best in the business when it comes to the art of promoting your content, with methods that will make your audience stop, look, and engage.

Showstopper 1: Unleash the Influencer Marketing Kraken

Kraken Sea Creature Image

The most basic premise of influencer marketing is all about harnessing the power of people who hold real and relevant influence for your target audience. But when done smartly, influencer marketing can also be a strong content promotion tactic, which is why it’s become highly effective for both B2B and B2C brands of all sizes.

With global influencer marketing advertising spending forecast to double from $5 billion to $10 billion over the next five years (Mediakit, 2018), and 65% of global brands planning to increase their influencer marketing spending over the next year (World Federation of Advertisers), the time to release your influencer marketing Kraken could hardly be better.

Two men with bubble quotes.

Numerous studies from Nielsen and others over the years have continued to show that our trust in our fellow real human beings is roughly twice that we generally have for brands or organizations — or, most certainly, the Kraken — and influencer marketing has grabbed hold and run with this natural preference for people.

Noted marketing speaker and author Jay Baer, founder of Convince and Convert, encourages thinking long-term when it comes to influencer marketing.

“At the heart of both paid and earned influencer campaigns is creating long-lasting relationships.” — Jay Baer @jaybaer Click To Tweet

How to nurture these relationships early and often is featured heavily in “Words of Wisdom: Lee Odden’s Top 9 Insights on How to Succeed at Influencer Marketing 2.0,” by TopRank Marketing senior content marketing manager Caitlin Burgess, a great resource for learning more about the specifics and nitty-gritty of developing your own smart and successful influencer marketing campaign.

One of our most popular annual collections of the very best content marketing influencers was recently released, and it offers a great way to find and easily follow many of the brightest professionals in the influencer marketing world: “50 B2B Marketing Influencers and Experts to Follow Into 2019.”

Influencer marketing’s use as a robust promotional tactic is explained further in the following six resources.

Six Kraken-Approved Influencer Marketing Resources For Your Toolkit

  1. Get your feet wet with our CEO Lee Odden’s “Just Getting Started with Influencer Marketing? 6 Things You Should Know,” which is a fine introduction to successfully working with influencers, including best practices and prime opportunities.
  2. Gaze into the far reaches of influencer marketing possibilities with our own content marketing manager Joshua Nite, as he goes “Beyond the Hype Cycle: It’s Time to Redefine Influencer Marketing,” with a selection of helpful methods to make the practice a trusted part of a newer and better integrated marketing strategy.
  3. It’s been a strong year for influencer marketing, and our content strategist Anne Leuman explores a fascinating array of trends for brands and beyond, in “7 Influencer Marketing Trends That Will Rule 2018.”
  4. Global enterprise B2B firms are reaping the benefits of influencer marketing as well, and our series of interviews by Lee with leading figures digs into the details, including expert marketers from IBM, Adobe, Cox Communications, SAS, Dun & Bradstreet, and others.
  5. A primer of some of the many specialty influencer marketing tools is laid out in infographic format by IZEA, which has also recently released a report showing influencer marketing near the top of the marketer effectiveness rating chart.

The B2B side of influencer marketing is the subject of Lee’s “What B2B CMOs Need to Know About Successful Influencer Marketing,” with special focus on how today’s chief marketing officers can benefit.

Showstopper 2: Invade Social Media with Hyper-Specific Promotion

UFOs over field of grass image.

Every social media platform offers its own unique twist and flavor — which is a big part of what makes the social landscape so rewarding, thrilling, and at times challenging — and you should use these differences to your advantage by tailoring your own bespoke promotional messaging for each platform’s unique audience.

Author and speaker Guy Kawasaki suggests that smart marketers strive for a greater dose of the human factor in social promotion.

“Brands are built on what people are saying about you on social media, not what you’re saying about yourself.” — Guy Kawasaki @GuyKawasaki Click To Tweet

Making your social promotion hyper-focused with a human touch starts with the basics of ensuring that your textural messaging elements fit a social platform’s limits, and recognizes the differing user demographics of each when writing promotional copy for social media.

Keep track of the latest image and video sizing recommendations and create pixel-perfect visuals tailored specifically for each social media platform you plan to use for promotion. SproutSocial’s “Always Up-to-Date Guide to Social Media Image Sizes” is one of many similar guides, and a good jumping off point when trying to track down the latest Pinterest pin dimensions or Twitter in-stream photo sizes.

In addition, also make a point to stay informed on new promotional elements that platforms roll out, and incorporate them in a well-thought-out manner in your promotions.

Stay up on these by finding out where each social platform announces its new features and beta tests, whether it’s the platform’s blog, website newsroom, fan newsletters, or specific social profiles made to inform marketers and users of feature additions and changes. Twitter, for example, offers several media best practices guides.

There are more social media places than ever to promote your content, and Anne has a list of some you’ve likely used in past promotions, and several that may be new opportunities you’ll want to explore, in her look at “4 Significant Marketing Channels You Should Adopt in 2018.”

Showstopper 3: Go For the Win with Awards

2019 numbers by mountaintop sunset image.

You’ve taken great care to craft enchanting and relevant content. Now it may be time to submit your finest works to one or more of the many marketing awards programs.

Winning a category or even being named as a short-list entry can both be fantastic ways to help promote your content, and although the competition can be strong, the potential boost you can achieve is well worth consideration.

Whether B2B or B2C and whatever your industry, chances are good that there’s at least one annual awards competition where you can showcase your best work, whether it’s the Interactive Marketing Awards, the Digiday Awards, or Cannes Lions.

Examples of how top-notch marketing work can garner awards is shown in one of our most popular posts of 2018, Lee’s “32 B2B Content Marketing Case Studies for 2018,” featuring our client Cherwell Software and its recognition at the 2018 Killer Content Awards.

The sky’s the limit when you start entering and winning marketing awards, so don’t overlook these opportunities in your own content promotion.

“Awards give recognition to great work and they also give us a look inside what’s really working in the industry.” — Lee Odden @LeeOdden Click To Tweet

Showstopper 4: Practice Promotional Thankfulness

Hands writing thank you in a book surrounded by flowers image.

Incorporating thanks to those who have helped you along the way within your social promotions offers a number of benefits, including reaching new audiences you may not have previously considered.

Who has helped you create the work you’re promoting?

There will be people, services, and companies who had a direct impact on the content you’re promoting, and thanking them by name as a part of your promotional campaigns can be rewarding both on a personal and professional level.

Think also of the people who, although probably not involved directly in your present campaigns, helped you grow into the stellar content crafter you are today. Whether it’s an old college marketing professor who instilled a sense of curiosity you’ve carried for years, a professional mentor whose help guided you, or a former associate who taught you something wonderful you use to this day, finding and thanking them is a win-win-win situation for you, the people who inspired you, and for the latest content you’re promoting if you choose to give them a shout-out in your social messaging.

Here at TopRank Marketing we recently honored a Thanksgiving tradition by taking the time to say thanks, which is always a worthwhile endeavor.

Scott Monty, neoclassical marketer and former head of social at Ford, regularly quotes Cicero in his keynote addresses, and one about thankfulness from the Roman statesman and philosopher comes to mind:

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others..” — Cicero Click To Tweet

Scott also sees value in expressing human emotions such as gratitude.

“We can teach machines how to learn, how to respond to questions, to perform mail merges, & to anticipate our needs, but we can’t teach them to do what it takes to be truly human: that is, to feel & express emotions.” @ScottMonty Click To Tweet

Showstopper 5: Crank Up Your Crew & Turn Up Your Team

Women's rowing team image.

Whatever the size of your team, when used in the right ways, its members can be an invaluable resource in your promotional toolkit, whether through employee advocacy, engagement, or as a source of inspiration.

Some may be bona fide mega-influencers, others micro-or-nano-influencers, but all can help in their own way with your promotion efforts, so take the time to learn all you can about your team, and work with each of them as appropriate to help them best share and amplify your content.

Three Resources For Cranking Up Your Team For Content Promotion

  1. In “Teamwork Makes the Dream Work: 6 Tips for Helping Your Marketing Team Work Better Together,” Caitlin dives into the power of teamwork and the importance of individual and team goals.
  2. What can Spider-Man and Captain America teach us about content promotion? Josh looks at how teams wield more power than simply the sum of the individuals they contain, in his insightful “Marketers, Assemble! The Super-Powered Team-Up of Content Marketing Confluence.”
  3. How employees can benefit marketing efforts is explored in detail in Caitlin’s “How Employee Engagement Helps Drive the Success of Your Marketing Efforts.”

By being open to and fostering the content promotion boost your team members can provide, you’ll have an advantage over those who forge ahead alone.

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” — Helen Keller Click To Tweet

Showstopper 6: Use Paid Booster Rockets

Rocketship and booster rockets image.

Even the most successful organic promotions can make gains by adding smartly-placed paid promotion to the mix. When combined as a part of traditional search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, paid promotions can be especially effective, as Anne explored in “SEO + Paid Search: An Aristotelian Lesson in Search Marketing Integration.”

Google digital marketing evangelist and noted author Avinash Kaushik has over the years cautioned against using the power of paid search advertising without first having stellar content, urging digital marketers to outsmart instead of trying to outspend.

“Never let ads write checks your website can’t cash.” — Avinash Kaushik @avinash Click To Tweet

Pay-per-click (PPC) and other varieties of paid advertising are quickly-changing and oftentimes walled communities, and knowing when and how to best use each is a bit of a digital art-form.

Matthew Gratt, digital marketing manager at Continuum Analytics, sees paid promotion as complementary to organic methods, noting that:

“People don’t find content by mistake, or by accident. Every content plan needs a complementary promotion plan that combines paid, owned, and earned media.” — Matthew Gratt Click To Tweet

Showstopper 7: Test Out Promotion on New Social Frontiers

Doorway open to green pastures in an urban cityscape image.

Whenever a new social media platform launches it opens the door to new promotional frontiers for those willing to dedicate the time and effort to learning its rules of road, and when done well you could find yourself with big promotion success.

CNN recently brought mainstream attention to Tik Tok, a video-heavy app launched in 2016 in China that’s been downloaded nearly 800 million times and which has attracted a growing number of marketers. This is just one example of the type of new digital marketing frontier to be on the lookout for, even if we can’t be certain which new platforms will eventually make the annual global social usage lists such as those Hootsuite releases annually.

Hootsuite graph of global social media usage.

Although not as new as Tik Tok, live-streaming video platform Twitch has increasingly caught the attention of savvy marketers, as our Senior Content Strategist Nick Nelson explored recently during Content Marketing World in “How Twitch is Breaking New Ground In Audience Engagement #CMWorld.”

“Beyond potential utility, #marketers can benefit from simply studying @Twitch’s highly effective audience #engagement methods and stellar use of customer insights.” — Nick Nelson @NickNelson Click To Tweet

Showstopper 8: Take It To The Next Level With Professional Promotion

Guage showing levels from novice to master image.

What else can you do once you’ve meticulously implemented all seven of our showstoppers? Or perhaps you don’t have the time or resources to dedicate to doing them all to the highest level — what then?

Working with a top-notch professional marketing agency that offers a full stack of digital marketing services is the most sure-fire way to make certain that your message gets out to the right people — making your solution the best answer to the needs of your target audiences.

For many reasons, sometimes it just makes sense to make use of an agency, as Alexis Hall, our vice president of client accounts, recent examined in “Want to Go Stress Free? Here Are 6 Reasons to Hire A Digital Marketing Agency.”

“An experienced digital marketing agency can give you the lay of the land and provide strategic guidance for how best to dip your toes into new waters.” — Alexis Hall @Alexis5484 Click To Tweet

Expanding With Further Tactics For Successful Content Promotion

By unleashing the influencer marketing Kraken, invading social media with hyper-specificity, going for the win with awards, practicing thankfulness, cranking up your crew, boosting with paid, testing new frontiers, and using professional help when appropriate, your content promotion campaigns will have a sizeable advantage.

Next up in our “Collective Wisdom” series we’ll explore even more proven  and relevant tactics for providing the best content promotion.

If you haven’t yet caught our previous episodes in this series, hop back and study up with “How to Boost Your Content Marketing Efforts By Planning Ahead,” “The Art Of Crafting More Powerful Content: 5 Top Tactics from the Experts,” “5 Powerful Messaging Tactics For 2019 And Beyond From Marketing Experts,” and finally “Don’t Blink: 3 Often-Overlooked Practices for Highly-Effective Content Creation.”

The State of Local SEO: Industry Insights for a Successful 2019

A thousand thanks to the 1,411 respondents who gave of their time and knowledge in contributing to this major survey! You’ve created a vivid image of what real-life, everyday local search marketers and local business owners are observing on a day-to-day basis, what strategies are working for them right now, and where some frankly stunning opportunities for improvement reside. Now, we’re ready to share your insights into:

  • Google Updates
  • Citations
  • Reviews
  • Company infrastructure
  • Tool usage
  • And a great deal more…

This survey pooled the observations of everyone from people working to market a single small business, to agency marketers with large local business clients:

Respondents who self-selected as not marketing a local business were filtered from further survey results.

Thanks to you, this free report is a window into the industry. Bring these statistics to teammates and clients to earn the buy-in you need to effectively reach local consumers in 2019.

Get the full report

There are so many stories here worthy of your time

Let’s pick just one, to give a sense of the industry intelligence you’ll access in this report. Likely you’ve now seen the Local Search Ranking Factors 2018 Survey, undertaken by Whitespark in conjunction with Moz. In that poll of experts, we saw Google My Business signals being cited as the most influential local ranking component. But what was #2? Link building.

You might come away from that excellent survey believing that, since link building is so important, all local businesses must be doing it. But not so. The State of the Local SEO Industry Report reveals that:

When asked what’s working best for them as a method for earning links, 35% of local businesses and their marketers admitted to having no link building strategy in place at all:

And that, Moz friends, is what opportunity looks like. Get your meaningful local link building strategy in place in the new year, and prepare to leave ⅓ of your competitors behind, wondering how you surpassed them in the local and organic results.

The full report contains 30+ findings like this one. Rivet the attention of decision-makers at your agency, quote persuasive statistics to hesitant clients, and share this report with teammates who need to be brought up to industry speed. When read in tandem with the Local Search Ranking Factors survey, this report will help your business or agency understand both what experts are saying and what practitioners are experiencing.

Sometimes, local search marketing can be a lonely road to travel. You may find yourself wondering, “Does anyone understand what I do? Is anyone else struggling with this task? How do I benchmark myself?” You’ll find both confirmation and affirmation today, and Moz’s best hope is that you’ll come away a better, bolder, more effective local marketer. Let’s begin!

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25 Influential Women in Digital Marketing Who Rocked and Inspired in 2018

25 Women Digital Marketing

The Digital Marketing industry is like no other and one of the great joys of publishing a top marketing blog is the opportunity to shine a light on top talent. People who are doing great work, inspiring others to do great work and making a difference in marketing.

Working in this industry over the past 20 years has provided numerous opportunities for me to connect with, learn from and be inspired by incredibly talented marketers. Many of them women.

And so, for the 9th year in a row, TopRank Marketing is publishing it’s annual influential women in digital marketing list.

In the past we’ve had previous honorees nominate others, picked those that were most influential using software and even asked C-Level male marketing executives to nominate their female peers. This year, I’m taking a different approach. I’m going back to the origins of the very first list back in 2010 and showcasing women in digital marketing that I know and have been inspired by.

Here is this year’s list of 25 (out of many more) women in digital marketing who have inspired me in 2018 to be a better marketer and in some cases, a better person.

Mina Seetharaman
Mina Seetharaman
– EVP, Global Managing Director, Content and Marketing Solutions at The Economist
Getting to know Mina as fellow advisory council members for Digital Marketing Institute, I’ve learned that she is a fountain of knowledge on many topics including all things digital marketing. I marvel at Mina’s willingness to entertain meeting with me to share marketing and health tips alike. As a leader in her company and industry, she is a passionate public speaker, advocate and lifelong learner that inspires me to continuously improve.

Ann Handley
Ann Handley
– Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs
While I’ve known Ann for many years, she’s continued to be a great friend and supporter (and co-presenter). But what’s inspired me is how she continues to optimize herself and her speaking skills as a professional keynote speaker. Watching her present at numerous events in more than one country has helped me elevate my speaking game as well. Plus she’s smart and funny as hell! You should subscriber to her newsletter for weekly inspiration.

Ty Heath
Tyrona (Ty) Heath
– Global Lead, Market Development at LinkedIn Marketing Solutions
I am fortunate to serve on an industry advisory council together with Ty where I’ve seen her in action as a passionate advocate, marketing thought leader and communicator. Further having a chance to share ideas and brainstorm with Ty had my brian popping like popcorn, which I suppose is another way of saying I was both energized and inspired 🙂

Kirsten Allegri Williams
Kirsten Allegri Williams
– CMO at SAP SuccessFactors (and Opera Singer)
At a busy conference like SAP’s SAPPHIRE event it is easy to be distracted. That’s why I was impressed by how present Kirsten was on our first meeting. Of course she’s incredibly smart as well. Since then we’ve had a few opportunities to communicate but what has inspired me most about her is the content she shares on her social channels. It is consistently positive, uplifting and optimistic – all things that inspire me to do the same.

Alison Herzog
Alison Herzog
– Marketing Director, Global Social Business and Digital Strategy at Dell
Conversations with Alison are inspiring to me because she is incredibly smart, thoughtful and generous. My team had the opportunity to work with her when she was at FamilySearch and we’ve had many opportunities to connect since then and the response is always the same: what a delightful, wonderful, person!

Amisha Gandhi
Amisha Gandhi
– VP Influencer Marketing at SAP Ariba
As the pioneer behind SAPs influencer marketing program, Amisha has been a spark that has ignited many of the most referenced case studies in the B2B influencer marketing space. She is very passionate about her work and life and is always working to improve. Her ability to empathize with other people has made her a very effective negotiator and wrangler of resources to get work done and done well. It has been a pleasure for me and my team to work with her both at SAP and now at SAP Ariba.

Dorie Clark
Dorie Clark
– Author, Keynote Speaker, Adjunct Professor Duke University, Investor
My first exposure to Dorie was her writing for Harvard Business Review, through mutual connections on the social web and her active public speaking. When I finally had a chance to connect in person at a professional speakers’ group that we’re both a part of, I found her to be genuine, thoughtful, smart and generous with her advice. All qualities that I am inspired to exhibit more of myself.

Konstanze Alex
Konstanze Alex, PhD
– Director B2B Influencer Relations at Dell
Konnie is a true professional who has high standards, cares deeply about relationships and is very loyal to those on her team. Luckily, some of my team are also part of Konnie’s team in our work to support some of Dell’s work with tech industry influencers. Konnie’s dedication is an inspiration for us all.

Margaret Molloy
Margaret Molloy
– Global Chief Marketing Officer, CMO, Siegel+Gale
Margaret is elegant, sophisticated and yet still approachable. When I saw her do a keynote interview recently, the first words I shared with the conference organizer was “now that was pure class”. She is one of the most thoughtful and impressive communicators I’ve seen on a marketing stage and that has inspired me to level up my communications game.

Carla Johnson
Carla Johnson
– Keynote Speaker, Author and Programmer Director, Digital Marketing at HARBOUR.SPACE
Carla is one of those rare people in marketing that can “walk the talk” with marketing strategy and equally “talk the talk” as a professional marketing keynote speaker. That ability to do both is very inspiring to me. She is as smart as she is friendly and also a true professional. It has been a real pleasure to know her and see her grow over the years.

Beverly Jackson
Beverly Jackson
– VP Social Portfolio Strategy at MGM Resorts International
Several years ago I had an opportunity to fill-in on a keynote for Beverly and was then able to see her do her magic on stage. It was clear that all I filled in was her left shoe compared to the energy, charisma and confidence she brought to the marketing stage. But what is most inspiring is her incredible work ethic. I’m not sure she sleeps or if there is anyone that works harder than BevJack.

Ursula Ringham
Ursula Ringham
– Head of Global Influencer Marketing at SAP
Working with Ursula on influencer marketing projects and being connected on social network sites makes it easy to see she is as enthusiastic about her work as she is about being in the outdoors. She is incredibly driven and motivated to create impact and that is inspiring to me. For even more good stuff about Ursula, read the interview.

Rani Mani
Rani Mani
– Head of Social Influencer Enablement at Adobe
The only woman on this list I have not met personally (yet) is Rani. I interviewed her recently and when doing my background research found her amazing and inspirational personal story. From her journey with cerebral palsy to her work with Mother Theresa to inspiring her team at Adobe that “there is nothing you can’t do”, Rani is someone we can all learn from.

Kate O'Neill
Kate O’Neill
– Professional Speaker, Founder at KO Insights
I first met Kate back in my SEO days and have recently reconnected to find she is a renaissance woman on fire. She is a strategy consultant to Fortune 500 companies helping to navigate digital transformation in a human-centric way., author, and active keynote speaker. Her latest book, Pixels and Place is about how online and offline experiences are becoming increasingly interwoven. More than anything is Kate’s positive energy. In her presence you cannot help but be inspired to tackle your day with optimism.

Olga Andrienko
Olga Andrienko
– Head of Global Marketing at SEMrush
My recent re-entry into the search marketing conference world has exposed me again to some of the most talented marketers in the world. I am a longtime fan of SEO software SEMrush and have see Olga’s inspiring work with content, media, influencers, winning numerous industry awards and maximizing exposure at events. She is kind, super smart and her marketing leadership has really put SEMrush on the martech software map and that should inspire every marketer.

Amanda Todorovich
Amanda Todorovich – Senior Director, Content & Creative Services at Cleveland Clinic
At the top end of our content marketing maturity model, we talk about “Monetization”, content marketing that is so good, it becomes it’s own revenue generator besides leads and sales. What Amanda has created at Cleveland Clinic represents that level of content marketing excellence exactly. Of course besides being an award winning marketer, she’s also generous with advice, empathetic to others and genuinely a good person.

Sarah Wells
Sarah Wells
– Olympian at Athletics Canada
As you may have guessed, Sarah is not a marketer. Not exactly. She’s an olympic athlete who runs the 400 meter hurdles for Canada. Sarah is also an evangelist for her Believe Initiative, which is a program that challenges young people to make choices over sacrifices, relentlessly pursue their goals and learn from past obstacles. Sarah overcame incredible obstacles herself as an Olympic athlete and she has developed impressive marketing chops as she promotes Believe and impacts and inspires thousands of kids every year.

Rashmy Chatterjee
Rashmy Chatterjee
– Global Sales Leader, IBM Security
Where do I start with Rashmy? I learned recently she was the first woman in the Indian Navy, speaks at least 5 languages and has worked in leadership positions as an engineer, a marketer and now in sales. I first saw Rashmy present during Advertising Week when she was CMO of IBM North America. Most recently I saw her during a keynote interview at MarketingProfs B2B Forum and was reminded of her depth of knowledge combined with wisdom, character and laser focus on results: “All marketing is sales. At the end of the day, marketing must show results in the sales ledger or nothing else matters.”

Ardath Albee
Ardath Albee
– CEO at Marketing Interactions
Ardath is the queen of B2B marketing in my book. I have learned so much from her over the years. Not only does she continue to stay on the front lines of B2B marketing consulting, she shares those insights generously through her consulting, speaking, blogging and her books. When I attend B2B conferences, Ardath is a speaker I always find a way to see present, no matter how many other top speakers are in the same time slot.

Stephanie Stahl
Stephanie Stahl
– General Manager at Content Marketing Institute, UBM
Taking over the content marketing conference machine that Joe Pulizzi created is no easy task. But Stephanie has done it with class! Most people will never speak at, let alone run an industry conference. There is an incredible amount of work that goes on behind the scenes and in front. Stephanie has managed to do both with Content Marketing World and I am very happy to continue our relationship with CMI going into 2019!

katie martell
Katie Martell
– Speaker and Emcee, Marketing Consultant at On-Demand Marketing
Sure, Katie has roasted me in her introduction before giving a keynote, but that’s Katie. She irreverent, smart and entertaining – a perfect Emcee. But she’s also an entrepreneur, advocate, connector of people and a super smart marketer. Katie runs Boston Content, the region’s largest community of content professionals and has been hailed as a “marketing expert to follow” by CIO Magazine. Katie brings energy into every room and conversation she’s a part of and challenges you to be and do better.

andrea vahl
Andrea Vahl
– Author, Consultant, Strategist, Speaker at Andrea Vahl, Inc.
This book author and marketing consultant is also a talented stand-up comedian! It’s inspiring to me when people can become successful in both their main career and their side hustle. I’ve known Andrea for many years and she is consistently thoughtful, funny, smart and genuine. Even as “Grandma Mary“.

purna virji
Purna Virji
– Sr. Manager, Global Engagement at Microsoft
I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Purna speak in multiple countries, mostly at search marketing conferences, but rarely about “traditional” search marketing. Purna has deep knowledge of AI, mobile, voice and customer experience and I learn from her every time. Her pursuit of and sharing of knowledge is inspiring.

amanda brinkman
Amanda Brinkman
– Chief Brand and Communications Officer at Deluxe
Based in Minnesota, Amanda has led an incredible multi-year transformation of a 100 year old check printing company into the digital marketing age. Her work creating the Small Business Revolution to tell the stories of America’s small businesses has generated phenomenal results. I am inspired as much by her brand and marketing savvy as I am by her focus on purposed driven marketing.

Lucy Moran
Luciana Moran
–  SVP, Digital, Content & Creative at Dun & Bradstreet
While my agency has worked with Lucy on an influencer marketing project in the past, it is my recent experience working with her on a conference panel that gave me cause to be inspired. First, Lucy went above and beyond answering interview questions, promoting the interview article and our panel at the conference. Second, during the panel she stuck to what she knew and didn’t try to be more or less than that – a lesson for many in the marketing spotlight, including me!

Another group of women that inspire me are the amazing marketers at TopRank Marketing! I am fortunate to work with these marketing professionals who not only go to bat for their clients but for each other. In a recent leadership meeting, I finally noticed that I was the only man in the room. They include:

  • Susan Misukanis – President and co-Founder
  • Alexis Hall – VP Client Accounts
  • Amie Krone – Operations Director
  • Ashley Zeckman – Senior Director of Digital Strategy
  • Caitlin Burgess – Senior Manager of Content Marketing
  • Tiffani Allen – Senior Account Manager
  • Elizabeth Williams – Account Manager
  • Jane Bartel – Account Manager
  • Claire O’Neil – Account Manager
  • Debbie Friez – Influencer Marketing Strategist
  • Allysia Kveberg – Senior Analytics Strategist
  • Anne Leuman – Content Strategist

To see the women in social and digital marketing who have been recognized in our lists from past years, here you go:

2010 – 25 Women That Rock Social Media

2011 – 25 Women Who Rock Social Media

2012 – 25 Women Who Rock Social Media

2013 – 25 Women That Rocked Social Media

2014 – 25 Women Who Rock Social Media

2015 – 50 Influential Women in Digital Marketing

2016 – 50 Influential Women in Digital Marketing: North Stars & Rising Stars

2017 – 25 Women Who Rock at Digital Marketing in 2017

Who inspires you to be a better marketer? Feel free to share in the comments. 

Using a New Correlation Model to Predict Future Rankings with Page Authority

Correlation studies have been a staple of the search engine optimization community for many years. Each time a new study is released, a chorus of naysayers seem to come magically out of the woodwork to remind us of the one thing they remember from high school statistics — that “correlation doesn’t mean causation.” They are, of course, right in their protestations and, to their credit, and unfortunate number of times it seems that those conducting the correlation studies have forgotten this simple aphorism.

We collect a search result. We then order the results based on different metrics like the number of links. Finally, we compare the orders of the original search results with those produced by the different metrics. The closer they are, the higher the correlation between the two.

That being said, correlation studies are not altogether fruitless simply because they don’t necessarily uncover causal relationships (ie: actual ranking factors). What correlation studies discover or confirm are correlates.

Correlates are simply measurements that share some relationship with the independent variable (in this case, the order of search results on a page). For example, we know that backlink counts are correlates of rank order. We also know that social shares are correlates of rank order.

Correlation studies also provide us with direction of the relationship. For example, ice cream sales are positive correlates with temperature and winter jackets are negative correlates with temperature — that is to say, when the temperature goes up, ice cream sales go up but winter jacket sales go down.

Finally, correlation studies can help us rule out proposed ranking factors. This is often overlooked, but it is an incredibly important part of correlation studies. Research that provides a negative result is often just as valuable as research that yields a positive result. We’ve been able to rule out many types of potential factors — like keyword density and the meta keywords tag — using correlation studies.

Unfortunately, the value of correlation studies tends to end there. In particular, we still want to know whether a correlate causes the rankings or is spurious. Spurious is just a fancy sounding word for “false” or “fake.” A good example of a spurious relationship would be that ice cream sales cause an increase in drownings. In reality, the heat of the summer increases both ice cream sales and people who go for a swim. That swimming can cause drownings. So while ice cream sales is a correlate of drowning, it is *spurious.* It does not cause the drowning.

How might we go about teasing out the difference between causal and spurious relationships? One thing we know is that a cause happens before its effect, which means that a causal variable should predict a future change.

An alternative model for correlation studies

I propose an alternate methodology for conducting correlation studies. Rather than measure the correlation between a factor (like links or shares) and a SERP, we can measure the correlation between a factor and changes in the SERP over time.

The process works like this:

  1. Collect a SERP on day 1
  2. Collect the link counts for each of the URLs in that SERP
  3. Look for any URLs are out of order with respect to links; for example, if position 2 has fewer links than position 3
  4. Record that anomaly
  5. Collect the same SERP in 14 days
  6. Record if the anomaly has been corrected (ie: position 3 now out-ranks position 2)
  7. Repeat across ten thousand keywords and test a variety of factors (backlinks, social shares, etc.)

So what are the benefits of this methodology? By looking at change over time, we can see whether the ranking factor (correlate) is a leading or lagging feature. A lagging feature can automatically be ruled out as causal. A leading factor has the potential to be a causal factor.

We collect a search result. We record where the search result differs from the expected predictions of a particular variable (like links or social shares). We then collect the same search result 2 weeks later to see if the search engine has corrected the out-of-order results.

Following this methodology, we tested 3 different common correlates produced by ranking factors studies: Facebook shares, number of root linking domains, and Page Authority. The first step involved collecting 10,000 SERPs from randomly selected keywords in our Keyword Explorer corpus. We then recorded Facebook Shares, Root Linking Domains, and Page Authority for every URL. We noted every example where 2 adjacent URLs (like positions 2 and 3 or 7 and 8) were flipped with respect to the expected order predicted by the correlating factor. For example, if the #2 position had 30 shares while the #3 position had 50 shares, we noted that pair. Finally, 2 weeks later, we captured the same SERPs and identified the percent of times that Google rearranged the pair of URLs to match the expected correlation. We also randomly selected pairs of URLs to get a baseline percent likelihood that any 2 adjacent URLs would switch positions. Here were the results…

The outcome

It’s important to note that it is incredibly rare to expect a leading factor to show up strongly in an analysis like this. While the experimental method is sound, it’s not as simple as a factor predicting future — it assumes that in some cases we will know about a factor before Google does. The underlying assumption is that in some cases we have seen a ranking factor (like an increase in links or social shares) before Googlebot has and that in the 2 week period, Google will catch up and correct the incorrectly ordered results. As you can expect, this is a rare occasion. However, with a sufficient number of observations, we should be able to see a statistically significant difference between lagging and leading results. However, the methodology only detects when a factor is both leading and Moz Link Explorer discovered the relevant factor before Google.

Factor Percent Corrected P-Value 95% Min 95% Max
Control 18.93% 0
Facebook Shares Controlled for PA 18.31% 0.00001 -0.6849 -0.5551
Root Linking Domains 20.58% 0.00001 0.016268 0.016732
Page Authority 20.98% 0.00001 0.026202 0.026398


In order to create a control, we randomly selected adjacent URL pairs in the first SERP collection and determined the likelihood that the second will outrank the first in the final SERP collection. Approximately 18.93% of the time the worse ranking URL would overtake the better ranking URL. By setting this control, we can determine if any of the potential correlates are leading factors – that is to say that they are potential causes of improved rankings.

Facebook Shares:

Facebook Shares performed the worst of the three tested variables. Facebook Shares actually performed worse than random (18.31% vs 18.93%), meaning that randomly selected pairs would be more likely to switch than those where shares of the second were higher than the first. This is not altogether surprising as it is the general industry consensus that social signals are lagging factors — that is to say the traffic from higher rankings drives higher social shares, not social shares drive higher rankings. Subsequently, we would expect to see the ranking change first before we would see the increase in social shares.


Raw root linking domain counts performed substantially better than shares at ~20.5%. As I indicated before, this type of analysis is incredibly subtle because it only detects when a factor is both leading and Moz Link Explorer discovered the relevant factor before Google. Nevertheless, this result was statistically significant with a P value <0.0001 and a 95% confidence interval that RLDs will predict future ranking changes around 1.5% greater than random.

Page Authority

By far, the highest performing factor was Page Authority. At 21.5%, PA correctly predicted changes in SERPs 2.6% better than random. This is a strong indication of a leading factor, greatly outperforming social shares and outperforming the best predictive raw metric, root linking domains.This is not unsurprising. Page Authority is built to predict rankings, so we should expect that it would outperform raw metrics in identifying when a shift in rankings might occur. Now, this is not to say that Google uses Moz Page Authority to rank sites, but rather that Moz Page Authority is a relatively good approximation of whatever link metrics Google is using to determine ranking sites.

Concluding thoughts

There are so many different experimental designs we can use to help improve our research industry-wide, and this is just one of the methods that can help us tease out the differences between causal ranking factors and lagging correlates. Experimental design does not need to be elaborate and the statistics to determine reliability do not need to be cutting edge. While machine learning offers much promise for improving our predictive models, simple statistics can do the trick when we’re establishing the fundamentals.

Now, get out there and do some great research!

In Your Ear

Communications and marketing and computing in general is moving beyond the keyboard and text faster and faster. PC and laptop sales continue to decline EXCEPT for 2-in-1s (those laptops that fold into tablets) and hybrids (Microsoft Surface tablets, ipads with keyboards). What’s coming in their place?

In the home, Amazon’s Echo platform (Alexa!) has audio and video models. Google Home does, as well. Facebook is rolling out Portal. All of these respond to your voice.

Mobile phones are VERY close to rolling out foldable phones (think of a book opening) that will usher in a different kind of visual platform. Samsung’s model was briefly demonstrated recently:

In light of this, companies like Snap (makers of Snapchat, which I tend to say bad things about in general) are rethinking their “vertical only” requirements, just like Instagram did a year or two ago, switching from “square only” to “okay, whatever works.”

But with a LOT more voice-controlled systems and keyboard-less interaction and TONS of video seeking to replace text (like this blog post), one concern people keep voicing (and it’s valid) is that we don’t really want to watch video if the sound will bother the people around us. (Okay, yes, there are often jerks who ignore this and play videos anyway, but I don’t mean them).

In Your Ear

Just like Altoids brought a new category to light with “premium mints” because of the rise of Starbucks, I believe that bluetooth earbuds (like the Apple airpod) are going to be a LOT more ubiquitous. I have Google Pixel buds (I don’t recommend them). I found these affordable earbuds with lots of great ratings. I think a lot of the future will be in your ear.

But this means something else.

You know how podcasts seem to be going through their second Renaissance? I think it’ll happen even more. I believe that the audio form AND the video form will thrive. If we evolve our use cases to have a more visual device and personalized speakers, it means we’ll have more audio as well.

The future might well be in your ear.

What Will Suffer?


“Oh nonsense, Chris. I *love* to read.”

You do. You.

The stats say people (in the US, at least) are reading a TOTAL of 19 minutes a day between email/texts/websites and so on. At the same time, we are consuming digital media on an average of 6 hours a day. If we’re online for 6 hours but only 19 minutes on average is reading… uh, where is everyone?

Video. And audio.

You Want to Reach People? Get In Their Ear

It’s just not really an option any longer. That’s where it’s at. Sorry.

Okay, books are a different matter. In fact, PHYSICAL books are outpacing digital books in sales numbers lately. But don’t think of blogs as books. Don’t think that the platform matters. Medium is seeing a lot of attention right now. LinkedIn is cool. Blah blah blah. OVERALL, the larger world not just us nerds… it’s in the ear.

Get there. 🙂

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What B2B CMOs Need to Know About Successful Influencer Marketing

B2B Influencer Marketing for CMOs

65% of multinational brands will increase Influencer Marketing spending in the next 12 months reaching $10 billion over the next 5 years.

With so much at stake for marketing in our fast paced industry, senior marketers must be able to see both the forest and the trees when it comes to influencer marketing in the B2B world. Much of what the marketing industry knows about working with influencers is seen through a consumer marketing lens often with the self-anointed social celebrities publishing ads as content without real passion for the brands.

With so much of influencer marketing akin to “get rick quick” with a shiny marketing object, many B2B marketing leaders can acquire unrealistic expectations about what works and what doesn’t with influencers in the business world.

And yet, collaborating with influencers can open doors for B2B brands to connect their value messaging to an audience that is actually interested.

So what is influencer marketing when it comes to B2B? I define influencer marketing as:

Influencer Marketing activates internal and industry experts with engaged networks to co-create content of mutual value and achieve measurable business goals.

To provide some guidance around influencer marketing specific to business to business marketing executives, here are a few insights on everything from top challenges to brand failures, brand successes, best practices and the future.

Big influencer marketing challenges:

Agencies come in many flavors from specialized to full service to advertising focused to content focused. I think one thread of challenge that runs through all of them is finding the right talent to meet the needs of modern marketing – especially influencer marketing. There just aren’t that many people with years of deep B2B influencer marketing experience – except my team of course :).

For B2C brands, there are big challenges regarding influencer legitimacy and the authenticity of their networks.  Because there is so much ROI for the self-anointed and opportunistic influencers to buy fake followers, this is something B2B marketing leaders need to watch for as the behavior begins to bleed over into B2B.

Compliance enforcement challenges. As FTC guidelines get more specific and the influence of GDPR reaches across the pond to affect data privacy regulations, brands have to figure out their processes and governance.

B2B brands are running a little behind B2C in terms of influencer marketing sophistication and have not been investing as much in technology, staff or the influencers themselves. However that is starting to change and B2B brands are making great progress on engaging influencers for content across the entire customer journey to collaborating with more micro-influencers.

Influencer are challenged too, especially when it comes to ensuring their compliance and “clean” networks to earn and keep brand trust. Big name influencers are now competing against many niche influencers as brands seek to lower their costs and boost engagement levels. Those big names will need to work harder on being effective vs. just being famous.

What brands get wrong with influencer marketing campaigns:

Brands who view influencers purely as an advertising distribution channel really miss the mark on the opportunity that influencer relationships can bring. Pay to play has it’s place in both B2C and B2B influencer engagements, but when brands limit their view to a transactional engagement model only, they’re often disappointed with the results.

There’s an expression I like to use:

Pay an influencer and they’ll be your friend for the day. Help someone become more influential and they’ll be an advocate and friend for life.

More tactically, brands that use a shotgun approach to invite influencers only when they need them won’t see very high recruitment rates. The same goes for non-personalized, ego-centric messages from brands that are only concerned with what the brand wants to get out of the collaboration. For more specific examples, see this post on 50 ways to fail at influencer engagement.

Best practices when managing brand and influencer relationships:

Our focus at TopRank Marketing is B2B content marketing collaboration with influencers, so our approach is different than working with consumer focused influencers. Longer sales journeys, larger purchase decisions that are often made by committees vs. individuals make B2B a very different animal in the influencer marketing world. Also, in B2B there is less “pay to play” so the importance of values alignment with the brand and true relationships is very high.

Since B2B influencers tend to have more subject matter expertise than the media creation skills often found in B2C, the approach to recruit them often has to be based on how their collaboration with the brand will create value for their mutual audiences.

B2B influencers will be more invested in the brand when the brand invests more in an ongoing relationship with the influencer.

We’ve found that B2B influencers will be more invested in the brand when the brand invests more in an ongoing relationship with the influencer. One of the most effective ways to engage B2B influencers on an ongoing basis is through content collaboration.  That content doesn’t always need to be a blockbuster campaign, either. Twitter chats, short quotes, quick videos and social engagement are all easy and impactful ways for brands to engage with influencers on an ongoing basis.

Of course, different types of influencers have different motivations so it is important to approach them accordingly. Brandviduals play the exposure and fame game, so engaging them would be very different than engaging a cybersecurity engineer with a niche, but highly active audience.

Always-on social monitoring and engagement are essential for quality interactions with influencers on an ongoing basis and especially when you are not working with them on a campaign. Software is essential for this kind of social CRM, listening and engagement.

Practically, there are three areas of focus for best practices with B2B influencer marketing:

1. Start with topic specificity and goals

  • Identify what your brand wants to be influential about
  • Understand what’s possible when working with influencers
  • Understand what the influencers’ goals might be

2. Pick the right engagement model

  • Find relevant micro-influencers that already love your brand
  • Work with established “brandividual” influencers for compensation
  • Integrate a mix of employee, customer, industry and prospective customer influencers
  • Architect content collaboration opportunities around share interests and values

3. Measure for effectiveness: inputs, outputs and outcomes

  • Monitor influencer effectiveness: participation and content
  • Measure impact of the influencer on 1st, 2nd degree networks
  • Measure performance of influencer content against marketing goals

Opportunity for improvement in the influencer marketing industry:

More effort to validate networks is important and I think social channels are moving in the right direction. Marketplaces that collect influencers for brands to engage need to do more when it comes to ensuring authenticity of networks and compliance.

I’d like to see more improvements with influencer marketing software which tend to be very social media focused. I think there are some significant opportunities to integrate with content marketing platforms, analytics, CRM and marketing automation platforms.

What’s working well with influencer marketing:

When brands “get it right” on recruiting influencers who are authentically interested in both the product/service and are genuinely active in the communities of interest, it’s a win for everyone involved.

By developing relationships with industry influencers as well as internal subject matter experts, influential community members and clients, B2B companies can tap into resources that provide numerous benefits, especially when it comes to collaborations on content and events.

The keys to success in B2B influencer marketing, more than anything, are relevance and relationships.

I also think some of the B2B friendly influencer marketing platforms like Traackr, Onalytica and even our client GroupHigh are doing a fairly good job at innovating and creating features that help brands make the most out of identifying, managing and measuring authentic engagement opportunities.

There are many examples of successful B2B influencer marketing campaigns and I am happy to say that many of these posts on other websites feature work from TopRank Marketing clients like SAP, LinkedIn, Content Marketing Institute, DivvyHQ, Cherwell Software, and Prophix to name a few.

What’s next with B2B influencer marketing:

Everyone is influential about something and with 90% of B2B buying decisions being driven by peer recommendations, I think in the next few years we’ll see a lot more democratized marketing through brand collaborations with their customers and community as much as they do now with micro and macro influencers.

It’s possible that as AI advances, avatar influencers become more accepted and brand mascots or personas come to life to engage customers. I have a feeling those avatar influencers won’t become much more than a novelty in B2B though.

The more likely intersection of AI and influencer marketing is through big data analysis and the machine learning necessary to understand influence beyond social networks like Twitter and Instagram. Also, I think we’ll see greater sophistication with AI and its application to messaging influencers according to personas and rules based engagement models. Communications like information capture and invites to share may eventually be handled (in part) by messenger bots.

B2B Influencer Marketing Maturity

More than anything, the future of influencer marketing will involve greater sophistication: for brands, for influencers and the communities that follow them. CMOs that understand what’s possible and what’s meaningful will see the greatest returns on influencer relationships to their brands and with their customers.

Earn Your Place in the Inbox

I just deleted an email without reading it (like you do). The subject line was “Not your typical Monday email.” I deleted it because I knew without a doubt that it would definitely be a typical email. (I just fished it out of the trash. It was a sales offer. Pretty typical. No?)

I’m told by so many people that email marketing is dead or that they have low open rates or that no one cares about email any more. I’m also told that no one reads email any more.

None of this is true. But there’s a massive catch. You have to actually earn your place in the inbox.

Earn Your Place in the Inbox

What gets someone to open your mail?

First, we have to discount the types of mail you really want to receive. If you LOVE fly fishing and “Fly Fishing Weekly” shows up in the inbox, of course you’ll open it. We can’t talk much about that. There’s no lesson learned by trying to copy something beloved.

But what makes you choose to open those letters that aren’t your top passion?

To earn your place in the inbox, your efforts have to touch on at least a few of these important details and points:

A Great Subject Line Helps

I subscribe to the Lefsetz letter about the music industry and culture in general. What makes me open his emails? The subject line. We are a world of browsing-swipe-right-Netflix people now. If the subject line doesn’t catch us, who’s going to open the letter?

The key to a great subject line is the act of promising something of value will be contained within. OR, if you’re clever and tricky, sometimes a clever subject line will get people in. Here are a few samples of recent subject lines I’ve sent out:

  • Connectivity Drives Repeat Business
  • The Simple Mechanism of Marketing
  • What I Told the Rockstar
  • What to Do When Everything Sucks
  • People Want a Guide

None of the subject lines are especially amazing. They’re all kind of “working class.” That’s an aesthetic I really love and push here. You’re welcome to be a bit more fabulous if you want. But the point is the same. Make sure the subject line earns your way in. Boring subject lines equal easy deletes.

What comes next?

Teach me Something

Whether or not you’re selling something, make sure you teach me something. I asked my fiance Jac what makes her choose which newsletters to open and read and she had three main points: newsletters that give her steps to follow, useful takeaways, or some deep research. Those are her top three reasons to read a newsletter. This makes sense when you see the quality of her Maria & Jane newsletter, covering women in the cannabis business world.

Education in a newsletter is a powerful tool.

Make It Human

For years and years, this has been my battle cry. So many people write newsletters as if they’re sending out a web page. They heavily HTML format the newsletter so that it’s very graphically appealing, and there’s barely a touch of humanity in the letter itself. It feels written by slaves chained to desks in a sweatshop. Here’s a hint: if you hate sending it out, no one’s going to love receiving it.

The best way to make a newsletter human is to write as if you have something to tell to a person who matters a great deal to you. Write the letter to be helpful, informative, and dare I risk it, entertaining.

Lead Somewhere

It’s amazing how many newsletters and emails are sent with not much of a sense of what you want the reader to do afterwards. They’ve read the letter. Now what? For my personal newsletter, I just invite people to hit reply. Unless I’m selling something. Then I invite them to click the purchase link OR hit reply.

But letters that end quickly, abruptly, and with no sense of a next step are a wasted opportunity. Give people a chance to go further with you. It makes a world of difference.

Summary: Earn Your Spot

The inbox is still a very powerful place to earn customers. Much better than any specific social media, that’s for sure. People still do go to their inbox. They do still open, click, reply and the like. But only if you make your work worth it to them. Hopefully this helps a bit.

(And if you want to sample my newsletter, sign up here and check out the process for yourself!)

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