7 Must-See #MPB2B Sessions Plus Exclusive Insights From Top B2B Marketing Speakers

The air is crisp and the leaves have fallen which means it’s time for one of my favorite Fall events: MarketingProfs B2B Forum.

Each year, B2B marketers from around the globe gather for this epic event. And this year, the forum is moving to San Francisco (we’ll miss you Boston) for the very first time.

At the conference, TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden will be guiding an expert panel of B2B influencer marketers who will dig into what it REALLY takes to create and scale a successful program. Shortly after, I will be taking the stage to share how you can identify influencers and tap into their superpowers with my Stranger Things themed presentation. We’d love to see you at both sessions if you can make it!

Speaking of sessions: If you’re like me, you want to attend every session on the list and absorb as much as you can while at the conference. Unfortunately, unless you’ve found a way to clone yourself, that’s not possible. So, to help you navigate your way through MPB2B, I’ve included a preview of 7 must-see sessions for the event. And, as an added bonus, some of the top speakers at the event were kind enough to share some exclusive insights about their session topics. Hopefully, this will help alleviate any potential FOMO you felt coming on.

But first, a word from B2B content queen Ann Handley.

What is Ann looking forward to most at MPB2B?

“The theme for this year’s MarketingProfs B2B Forum is Learning Changes Lives. So I’m looking forward to changing my own life by learning from the world’s smartest and most accomplished B2B marketers on the planet!

I’m looking forward to meeting and greeting attendees who are leading the B2B marketing forward.

And I’m looking forward to going home.

That last one might seem like an odd thing for me to say. I live in Boston, and for the first time in 12 years the B2B Forum is on the West Coast, far away from my hometown of Boston! But the Forum is home nonetheless.

We’ve swapped coasts, but we are still framing our kickoff party as a Welcome Home, because home is wherever I’m with you…! (To quote the famous B2B marketing band, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros!)”

7 Must-See Sessions at MPB2B

The Confluence Equation: How Content & Influencers Drive B2B Marketing Success

Thursday 11/15 @ 11:15am


 
Lee Odden – CEO, TopRank Marketing
Dr. Konstanze Alex – Head of Corporate Influencer Relations, Dell (client)
Amisha Gandhi – Vice President, Influencer Marketing, SAP Ariba (client)
Luciana Moran – Senior Vice President, Content & Creative, Dun & Bradstreet

Creating and scaling an influencer marketing program that gets results within an enterprise organization is no easy undertaking. But this group of heavy hitters have managed to do just that. Join this panel as they discuss how working with influencers can help successfully scale B2B content.

For B2B marketers struggling to scale their content operation, how can incorporating influencers help them bridge the gap and improve program success?

Lee Odden:
“According to a study by CMI/MarketingProfs, 50% of B2B companies say creating content on a consistent basis is one of their top challenges. That’s why identifying, qualifying and engaging industry experts who have both content creation skills and active audiences hungry for that content has become one of the biggest opportunities to improve B2B marketing. Working with relevant influencers, B2B brands can scale the most important elements of successful content marketing programs: quality content that reaches and engages interested buyers.”

Advocacy in a Box

Friday 11:16 @ 10:45am


Stephan Hovnanian – Social Strategy Consultant, Sprout Social

One of the biggest barriers to advocacy is adoption. If employees, customers or influencers aren’t bought in, your chances of success are slim. In this session, you’ll learn how to provide value to your audience in a way that inspires participation.

What is one way B2B brands can inspire advocacy in a way that is meaningful and authentic?

“Advocacy happens when the culture is there to support it. Not just employee culture, but the customer experience and transparency that make us want to be an advocate. When you have the culture, empowering participation comes down to keeping it simple and focused on delivering personal value. The personal value piece is the hardest, especially at scale, but without it you’re stripping your advocacy program of the emotional connection to your brand that translated into authentic and influential word of mouth in the first place.”

Effective Video on a Shoestring Budget

Thursday 11/15 @ 10am


Sean Callahan – Content Marketing Manager, LinkedIn Sales & Marketing Solutions (client)
Steve Kearns – Global Social Media Lead, LinkedIn Sales & Marketing Solutions (client)

It’s no secret that content has become an essential part of content marketing. In fact, many platforms (like LinkedIn) are prioritizing good video over other types of content. If you’re looking to begin successfully incorporating video into your strategy without overspending, this is a must-see session.

What is one tip for creating great B2B video when you have limited time, budget and resources?

Sean Callahan:
“The thing to remember about video is that you can use your mobile phone to create compelling video for a business audience for almost nothing. A great example is Allen Gannett, who is the CSO at Skyword. Allen committed to shooting regular, selfie Q&A videos with his mobile phone, shooting short interview sessions with customers, employees, and influencers. He posted these videos to LinkedIn where he now has almost 70,000 followers. Video works, and it doesn’t demand a lot of dough. It just requires some imagination, some commitment, and some content that’s useful for your audience.”

Steve Kearns:
“Don’t boil the ocean — start small and start simple to find out what works for your audience. And remember that a video shot on your mobile phone (with decent lighting and sound) can be just as effective as a big-budget piece. After all, shooting video (and promoting it on social media) is free in its simplest form!”

Killing Marketing: The Great Content Marketing Reboot

Friday 11/16 @ 9:30am


Robert Rose – Chief Strategy Advisor, The Content Advisory

B2B marketers are struggling to get results from the large amount of time and resources they spend developing content. Fortunately, there is a way to approach content more strategically in a way that can help brands become more profitable. If you’re ready to flip your content, Robert is the man to help.

What is one way B2B brands can approach content more strategically so that it drives profitability?

“The best way is to look at Content as an internal business model.  How can you develop an entire business model – that produces products and is measured as such – for content?  A great content marketing strategy develops an audience that you can monetize in multiple ways. Certainly, an audience can help facilitate more efficient or effective campaign-oriented goals such as more, or better, leads. However, perhaps the best strategic content programs do more. They are an integrated business strategy that helps to make the organization smarter, more efficient, develop better products, and service customers more effectively.”

The Present and Future of B2B Analytics and AI

Thursday 11/15 @ 1:30pm


Chris Penn – Co-Founder & Chief Innovator, Brain+Trust Insights

When you’re looking for someone to turn to for questions about marketing and AI, Chris Penn is always at the top of the list. The impact of AI on marketing has only just begun. If you’re looking for insights into how to adapt to AI now and in the future, be sure to attend this session.

What is one step B2B marketers should be taking now to adapt to and plan for the future of analytics and AI?

“All AI and machine learning is predicated on data. Data is what machine learning learns from, what it trains on. The key question for every business considering using machine learning and AI – whether through a vendor, an agency, or building a custom solution – is the same:

What condition is our data in?

If data is corrupted, incomplete, or biased, no amount of machine learning and AI will fix it. Data must be clean, complete, and checked for quality with bias mitigated or eliminated before undertaking even a proof of concept for an AI project, or else the results could be disastrous.”

Stranger Things Have Happened: How Collaborating With Influencers Can Help You Save the Day and Change the World

Thursday 11/15 @ 2:30pm


Ashley Zeckman – Senior Director of Digital Strategy, TopRank Marketing

It’s time to turn the B2B influencer marketing world upside-down. In this Stranger Things themed presentation, we’ll discuss ways to tap into influencer’s superpowers to create epic B2B content. Additionally, we’ll walk through three stories of successful B2B influencer marketing in action and steps for creating a stellar experience for audiences and influencers alike.

Why is it important to work with different influencer types to co-create B2B content?

“All influencers are NOT created equal. But, every person has the potential to be influential about something to someone.

Depending on your content objectives, you’ll want to work with a few different influencer types. Well-known experts with an extensive social reach can help drive new audiences to your content. But what if you want to cast a more narrow net and bring in a very targeted audience? Then, you’d want to make sure to incorporate niche influencers that have very deep expertise on a specific topic. Everyone from the person sitting next to you, to a great customer to a rising star in your industry all have the potential to influence your audience in a meaningful way.”

The Art of Breaking Sh*t: Strategies for Transforming the Broken Sales and Marketing B2B Model

Wednesday 11/14 @ 4:15pm


Aaron Dun – CMO & Growth Advisor, Jobiak

What if someone told you to take everything you knew about B2B marketing and throw it out the window? Well that’s just what companies like SnapApp have done, and believe it or not, their results improved significantly. Ready to break your B2B marketing?

What is one habit or process that marketers need to break that’s killing their marketing and why?

“The short answer: Thinking incrementally.

There is quite a bit of talk currently about new models, and how some of the old approaches to B2B marketing have run their course, and I think there is a lot of validity to that. Certainly, I am a big proponent of moving past the inbound gated content approach to generating leads, and the work that folks are doing with ABM and “conversational marketing” are great steps in a very positive direction. However, in my mind there is a bigger issue in play that goes way beyond the tactical execution of a particular approach. It gets at the very core of how we think about growth opportunities and how we measure results. Too many of us are satisfied delivering incremental gains year over year and it is crushing our ability to create real transformation in our businesses.

I have had the opportunity to talk with 100s of marketers at all types of companies over the past few years and to a person we are overwhelmed by the amount of change required to hit our growth targets. And yet, we are stuck trying to find 10, or 20, or 30% growth. It is fundamentally impossible to incrementally grow any key area and achieve real scale. That will take too long, (30% year over year growth doubles the outcome in a little over 3 years)  and costs too much (can you invest 30% more of your budget on each of your programs every year?) We must go in search of step-wise changes where we can efficiently 5x the outcome while we continue to grow in other areas. You cannot find that type of change by thinking about 30% growth. Here is a simple example.

If your monthly leads target is 1000 per month, and you grow that 30%, you will have reached 1300 by the end of the year (if you hit it). That is a manageable number, and most of us could come up with any number of interesting ideas to reach that goal. But what if our goal isn’t 1300, but instead it is 3000 or even 5000. What would you do then?  The scope and scale of the kinds of programs that you would need to explore are dramatically different and it forces you to fundamentally think differently about everything you are doing. THIS is the kind of change we should be striving for, this is how our companies will reach its goals.

We need to push ourselves out of this incremental mode, and into a scale mode to create real change. And we needed to do it yesterday.”

See You in the Golden City!

If you’re attending MPB2B this week, we hope to see you there! If not, you can follow along online with the hashtag #MPB2B. For live updates from the conference, you can follow  @TopRank, @leeodden@azeckman and @Alexis5484 on Twitter. In addition to speaking and tweeting, team members from TopRank Marketing will be live blogging sessions throughout the conference so be sure to follow the blog for more.

The Advanced Guide to Keyword Clustering

If your goal is to grow your organic traffic, you have to think about SEO in terms of “product/market fit.”

Keyword research is the “market” (what users are actually searching for) and content is the “product” (what users are consuming). The “fit” is optimization.

To grow your organic traffic, you need your content to mirror the reality of what users are actually searching for. Your content planning and creation, keyword mapping, and optimization should all align with the market. This is one of the best ways to grow your organic traffic.

Why bother with keyword grouping?

One web page can rank for multiple keywords. So why aren’t we hyper-focused on planning and optimizing content that targets dozens of similar and related keywords?

Why target only one keyword with one piece of content when you can target 20?

The impact of keyword clustering to acquire more organic traffic is not only underrated, it is largely ignored. In this guide, I’ll share with you our proprietary process we’ve pioneered for keyword grouping so you can not only do it yourself, but you can maximize the number of keywords your amazing content can rank for.

Here’s a real-world example of a handful of the top keywords that this piece of content is ranking for. The full list is over 1,000 keywords.

17 different keywords one page is ranking for

Why should you care?

It’d be foolish to focus on only one keyword, as you’d lose out on 90%+ of the opportunity.

Here’s one of my favorite examples of all of the keywords that one piece of content could potentially target:

List of ~100 keywords one page ranks for

Let’s dive in!

Part 1: Keyword collection

Before we start grouping keywords into clusters, we first need our dataset of keywords from which to group from.

In essence, our job in this initial phase is to find every possible keyword. In the process of doing so, we’ll also be inadvertently getting many irrelevant keywords (thank you, Keyword Planner). However, it’s better to have many relevant and long-tail keywords (and the ability to filter out the irrelevant ones) than to only have a limited pool of keywords to target.

For any client project, I typically say that we’ll collect anywhere from 1,000 to 6,000 keywords. But truth be told, we’ve sometimes found 10,000+ keywords, and sometimes (in the instance of a local, niche client), we’ve found less than 1,000.

I recommend collecting keywords from about 8–12 different sources. These sources are:

  1. Your competitors
  2. Third-party data tools (Moz, Ahrefs, SEMrush, AnswerThePublic, etc.)
  3. Your existing data in Google Search Console/Google Analytics
  4. Brainstorming your own ideas and checking against them
  5. Mashing up keyword combinations
  6. Autocomplete suggestions and “Searches related to” from Google

There’s no shortage of sources for keyword collection, and more keyword research tools exist now than ever did before. Our goal here is to be so extensive that we never have to go back and “find more keywords” in the future — unless, of course, there’s a new topic we are targeting.

The prequel to this guide will expand upon keyword collection in depth. For now, let’s assume that you’ve spent a few hours collecting a long list of keywords, you have removed the duplicates, and you have semi-reliable search volume data.

Part 2: Term analysis

Now that you have an unmanageable list of 1,000+ keywords, let’s turn it into something useful.

We begin with term analysis. What the heck does that mean?

We break each keyword apart into its component terms that comprise the keyword, so we can see which terms are the most frequently occurring.

For example, the keyword: “best natural protein powder” is comprised of 4 terms: “best,” “natural,” “protein,” and “powder.” Once we break apart all of the keywords into their component parts, we can more readily analyze and understand which terms (as subcomponents of the keywords) are recurring the most in our keyword dataset.

Here’s a sampling of 3 keywords:

  • best natural protein powder
  • most powerful natural anti inflammatory
  • how to make natural deodorant

Take a closer look, and you’ll notice that the term “natural” occurs in all three of these keywords. If this term is occurring very frequently throughout our long list of keywords, it’ll be highly important when we start grouping our keywords.

You will need a word frequency counter to give you this insight. The ultimate free tool for this is Write Words’ Word Frequency Counter. It’s magical.

Paste in your list of keywords, click submit, and you’ll get something like this:

List of keywords and how frequently they occur

Copy and paste your list of recurring terms into a spreadsheet. You can obviously remove prepositions and terms like “is,” “for,” and “to.”

You don’t always get the most value by just looking at individual terms. Sometimes a two-word or three-word phrase gives you insights you wouldn’t have otherwise. In this example, you see the terms “milk” and “almond” appearing, but it turns out that this is actually part of the phrase “almond milk.”

To gather these insights, use the Phrase Frequency Counter from WriteWords and repeat the process for phrases that have two, three, four, five, and six terms in them. Paste all of this data into your spreadsheet too.

A two-word phrase that occurs more frequently than a one-word phrase is an indicator of its significance. To account for this, I use the COUNTA function in Google Sheets to show me the number of terms in a phrase:

=COUNTA(SPLIT(B2," "))

Now we can look at our keyword data with a second dimension: not only the number of times a term or phrase occurs, but also how many words are in that phrase.

Finally, to give more weighting to phrases that recur less frequently but have more terms in them, I put an exponent on the number of terms with a basic formula:

=(C4^2)*A4

In other words, take the number of terms and raise it to a power, and then multiply that by the frequency of its occurrence. All this does is give more weighting to the fact that a two-word phrase that occurs less frequently is still more important than a one-word phrase that might occur more frequently.

As I never know just the right power to raise it to, I test several and keep re-sorting the sheet to try to find the most important terms and phrases in the sheet.

Spreadsheet of keywords and their weighted importance

When you look at this now, you can already see patterns start to emerge and you’re already beginning to understand your searchers better.

In this example dataset, we are going from a list of 10k+ keywords to an analysis of terms and phrases to understand what people are really asking. For example, “what is the best” and “where can i buy” are phrases we can absolutely understand searchers using.

I mark off the important terms or phrases. I try to keep this number to under 50 and to a maximum of around 75; otherwise, grouping will get hairy in Part 5.

Part 3: Hot words

What are hot words?

Hot words are the terms or phrases from that last section that we have deemed to be the most important. We’ve explained hot words in greater depth here.

Why are hot words important?

We explain:

This exercise provides us with a handful of the most relevant and important terms and phrases for traffic and relevancy, which can then be used to create the best content strategies — content that will rank highly and, in turn, help us reap traffic rewards for your site.

When developing your hot words list, we identify the highest frequency and most relevant terms from a large range of keywords used by several of your highest-performing competitors to generate their traffic, and these become “hot words.”

When working with a client (or doing this for yourself), there are generally 3 questions we want answered for each hot word:

  1. Which of these terms are the most important for your business? (0–10)
  2. Which of these terms are negative keywords (we want to ignore or avoid)?
  3. Any other feedback about qualified or high-intent keywords?

We narrow down the list, removing any negative keywords or keywords that are not really important for the website.

Once we have our final list of hot words, we organize them into broad topic groups like this:

Organized spreadsheet of hot words by topic

The different colors have no meaning, but just help to keep it visually organized for when we group them.

One important thing to note is that word stems play an important part here.

For example, consider that all of these words below have the same underlying relevance and meaning:

  • blog
  • blogs
  • blogger
  • bloggers
  • blogging

Therefore, when we’re grouping keywords, to consider “blog” and “blogging” and “bloggers” as part of the same cluster, we’ll need to use the word stem of “blog” for all of them. Word stems are our best friend when grouping. Synonyms can be organized in a similar way, which are basically two different ways of saying the same thing (and the same user intent) such as “build” and “create” or “search” and “look for.”

Part 4: Preparation for keyword grouping

Now we’re going to get ourselves set up for our Herculean task of clustering.

To start, copy your list of hot words and transpose them horizontally across a row.

Screenshot of menu in spreadsheet

List your keywords in the first column.

Screenshot of keyword spreadsheet

Now, the real magic begins.

After much research and noodling around, I discovered the function in Google Sheets that tells us whether a stem or term is in a keyword or not. It uses RegEx:

=IF(RegExMatch(A5,"health"),"YES","NO")

This simply tells us whether this word stem or word is in that keyword or not. You have to individually set the term for each column to get your “YES” or “NO” answer. I then drag this formula down to all of the rows to get all of the YES/NO answers. Google Sheets often takes a minute or so to process all of this data.

Next, we have to “hard code” these formulas so we can remove the NOs and be left with only a YES if that terms exists in that keyword.

Copy all of the data and “Paste values only.”

Screenshot of spreadsheet menu

Now, use “Find and replace” to remove all of the NOs.

Screenshot of Find and Replace popup

What you’re left with is nothing short of a work of art. You now have the most powerful way to group your keywords. Let the grouping begin!

Screenshot of keyword spreadsheet

Part 5: Keyword grouping

At this point, you’re now set up for keyword clustering success.

This part is half art, half science. No wait, I take that back. To do this part right, you need:

  • A deep understanding of who you’re targeting, why they’re important to the business, user intent, and relevance
  • Good judgment to make tradeoffs when breaking keywords apart into groups
  • Good intuition

This is one of the hardest parts for me to train anyone to do. It comes with experience.

At the top of the sheet, I use the COUNTA function to show me how many times this word step has been found in our keyword set:

=COUNTA(C3:C10000)

This is important because as a general rule, it’s best to start with the most niche topics that have the least overlap with other topics. If you start too broadly, your keywords will overlap with other keyword groups and you’ll have a hard time segmenting them into meaningful groups. Start with the most narrow and specific groups first.

To begin, you want to sort the sheet by word stem.

The word stems that occur only a handful of times won’t have a large amount of overlap. So I start by sorting the sheet by that column, and copying and pasting those keywords into their own new tab.

Now you have your first keyword group!

Here’s a first group example: the “matcha” group. This can be its own project in its own right: for instance, if a website was all about matcha tea and there were other tangentially related keywords.

Screenshot of list of matcha-related keywords

As we continue breaking apart one keyword group and then another, by the end we’re left with many different keyword groups. If the groups you’ve arrived at are too broad, you can subdivide them even more into narrower keyword subgroups for more focused content pieces. You can follow the same process for this broad keyword group, and make it a microcosm of the same process of dividing the keywords into smaller groups based on word stems.

We can create an overview of the groups to see the volume and topical opportunities from a high level.

Screenshot of spreadsheet with keyword group overview

We want to not only consider search volume, but ideally also intent, competitiveness, and so forth.

Voilà!

You’ve successfully taken a list of thousands of keywords and grouped them into relevant keyword groups.

Wait, why did we do all of this hard work again?

Now you can finally attain that “product/market fit” we talked about. It’s magical.

You can take each keyword group and create a piece of optimized content around it, targeting dozens of keywords, exponentially raising your potential to acquire more organic traffic. Boo yah!

All done. Now what?

Now the real fun begins. You can start planning out new content that you never knew you needed to create. Alternatively, you can map your keyword groups (and subgroups) to existing pages on your website and add in keywords and optimizations to the header tags, body text, and so forth for all those long-tail keywords you had ignored.

Keyword grouping is underrated, overlooked, and ignored at large. It creates a massive new opportunity to optimize for terms where none existed. Sometimes it’s just adding one phrase or a few sentences targeting a long-tail keyword here and there that will bring in that incremental search traffic for your site. Do this dozens of times and you will keep getting incremental increases in your organic traffic.

What do you think?

Leave a comment below and let me know your take on keyword clustering.

Need a hand? Just give me a shout, I’m happy to help.