Five Can’t-Miss Sessions from Virtual Pubcon 2020

Lee Odden Speaking at Pubcon

The one silver lining in our current reality is the “virtual event.” Sure, we’re all stuck at home, but at least we can have several entire marketing conferences beamed directly to our laptops. 

Granted, there’s a distinct lack of cocktails and networking opportunities. You have to supply your own drinks and try to convince your own pets to follow you on LinkedIn (currently mine are still mulling it over). 

Two dogs, one white, one ginger colored

“Sorry, we only have Facebark.”

The latest conference to go virtual is industry stalwart Pubcon, celebrating its 20th year. This search-centered event never fails to round up fascinating speakers with a ton of experience in search and content marketing.

Here are my top five can’t miss sessions for Pubcon’s Virtual 2020 Conference.

Keynote: How to Optimize Marketing Experiences with Influencer Content

Speaker: Lee Odden, CEO, TopRank Marketing
Salon A
Time: Thursday, October 15th, 1:00-1:40p (All times Central.)

Our team at TopRank Marketing, under Lee’s leadership, has been perfecting the art and discipline of B2B influencer marketing for at least a decade. Now, fresh off of our 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing, Lee’s ready to take strategic, sophisticated influence to the next level. It’s all about CSI — no, not David Caruso in sunglasses, but Content, Search and Influence working together to drive ROI.

Human-Centered Keyword and Content Strategy

Speaker: Elmer Boutin, SEO Director, GTB
Salon B
Time: Wednesday October 14th, 11:10-11:40a

SEO isn’t about writing for robots anymore; it’s writing for the way humans search and trusting the robots to keep up. This session promises to teach how to create a content strategy for human-centered CEO, including metrics and measurement.

Google Keynote 

Speaker: John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst, Google
Salon A
Time: Wednesday October 14th, 9:00-9:40a

When Google talks, marketers listen. The tech giant never gives away too much of how their algorithm works, of course. But we’ll take whatever we can get. John has over a decade of experience at Google, so his perspective on search trends is sure to be well worth your time.

Developing Eye-Catching Content: Five Timeless Lessons from a Pandemic

Speaker: Phillip Thune, CFO, Textbroker International
Salon B
Time:Wednesday October 14th, 2:30-3:00p

The pandemic didn’t create the need for high-quality content. But like so many other changes, COVID-19 highlighted and magnified that need, and it’s causing marketers to re-evaluate their content strategy. In-person sales conversations and trade shows are off the table. Marketers are cranking up their content production — which means it takes something extra to make your content stand out from the rest. Phillip brings a consultant’s eye to the problem with his session.

Conversational UX, AI and Chatbots

Speaker: John Lawson, CEO, ColderICE
Salon A
Time: Wednesday October 14th, 1:50-2:20p

What does SEO look like when there’s no longer a SERP? Voice search and chat are the next frontiers for intrepid marketers. This session promises to address the shift from visual to voice, including what the big movers and shakers are doing and how marketers can keep up.

Stunning Insights Are Virtually Assured

Tune into Pubcon 2020 for all of the above and more, and keep an eye on the TopRank Marketing blog for highlights and takeaways. 

What sessions are you looking forward to? Let me know in the comments.

5 Powerful Messaging Tactics For 2019 And Beyond From Marketing Experts

Powerful redwood tree forest image.

Welcome to the third installment in our multi-part “Collective Wisdom” series of content marketing strategy articles. In this Pubcon-themed episode, you’ll learn powerful methods for creating engaging and bookmark-worthy messaging, featuring insight from some of the world’s top digital marketers who spoke at Pubcon Pro Las Vegas 2018.

Previously in “How to Boost Your Content Marketing Efforts By Planning Ahead,” we looked at implementing a smart and robust content planning strategy, while “The Art Of Crafting More Powerful Content: 5 Top Tactics from the Experts” began exploring five of the most fundamental content creation methods.

Now it’s time to focus on five additional smart tactics for creating engaging and powerful messaging to help you create a successful content marketing campaign.

Crafting Powerful Messaging — Pubcon Style

As we began exploring previously, smart content crafting is one of the most important steps on a successful content marketing journey, because it’s the centerpiece of what you present — and using the right messaging in your content is also a step you don’t want to skip over.

Insight 1: Use The Right Tone For Dopamine-Inducing Messaging

Woman looking excitedly at phone message image.

The content we create should ideally be the type that creates dopamine in our brains, to get us truly excited and make us want to seek out more.

It’s the type of powerful brand messaging that Mindset Digital Founder Debra Jasper espouses, which she detailed in her recent Pubcon keynote presentation.

It’s never been harder to differentiate your content from the vast digital sea of messages bombarding us from every angle thousands of times every day, yet that’s exactly what we should strive to do, by incorporating smart planning, careful message crafting, and savvy promotion.

When I first connected to the Internet in 1984, it was commonly said that the entire volume of new content created online over the past 24 hours could be downloaded at 300-baud in a relatively small text file easily saved to either an 8” or 5.25” floppy disk, with plenty of room to spare.

This year, by contrast, Cisco has estimated that by 2021 in just one second 105 terabytes will be transferred globally online — including a million minutes worth of video content.

Take heed, as it’s against this daunting backdrop of information overload and mega-competition that your messaging needs to stand out, but don’t worry, as your target audience will likely represent only a small fraction of worldwide Internet traffic, and we’ll look at how to focus on the micro-moments that you can more easily control.

Jasper encourages the use of the SOS methodology for the most effective messaging:

  • Short
  • Organized
  • Skimmable

No matter your intended audience, including the important “what,” “why,” and “now what” elements should also be included near the beginning of any messaging, in a world where today’s professional typically has only an eight-second attention span.

“Today’s clients and colleagues have an eight second attention span. Eight seconds. To break through the noise, you must communicate with more power, clarity and impact.” — Debra Jasper @DebraJasper Click To Tweet

Insight 2: Use Clarity In Your Messaging

Woman with outstretched arms on a clear day image.

What can we learn about content creation from some of the latest research into artificial intelligence, voice search, and chatbots?

Microsoft Senior Manager of Global Engagement Purna Virji sees presenting clear and concise messages as vital both for today’s content marketing and bots, as she explored in “How to Optimize Customer Experience with AI – Top Tips from Microsoft’s Purna Virji” at Pubcon.

Our messaging should include elements of all four of Purna’s principles of conversational design:

  • Clarity
  • Compassion
  • Character
  • Correction

Combine these to write for the ear, not the eye, Purna suggests, and ask yourself if your messaging reflects the way you would talk to someone in person.

“When it comes to optimizing the customer experience, design for conversation from the start. Remember, the most important thing for the user is convenience.” — Purna Virji @purnavirji Click To Tweet

Insight 3: Understand Personalization to Know Your Audience

Scott Monty Pubcon keynote image, photo by Lane R. Ellis

Learning how to make smart decisions for personalizing your content messaging is one of the the specialties of former Head of Social for Ford, Scott Monty, who shared his insight into the area recently during Pubcon in his “Top Brand Personalization Secrets From Scott Monty at #Pubcon 2018” presentation.

Doing due diligence to know your audience will help you create meaningful messages, and the kinds of emotional stories that appeal to your intended viewers.

However, personalized messages don’t need to be lengthy to be truly impactful, as Scott pointed out when he shared the story of Ernest Hemingway’s famous $10 bet to achieve a meaningful story in six words or less.

“For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.” won the bet — powerful emotions from just a few words, and while we can’t all be Hemingways, using the right language and tone for our intended audience can help make your messaging successful.

“Customers want experiences that are more about them and their needs. To increase customer retention, marketers can use date to deliver on more personal experiences.” — Scott Monty @scottmonty Click To Tweet

Our CEO Lee Odden took a detailed look at when short-form content is appropriate, and when it’s better to choose the long-form, in his “Power Pages and Best Answer Content: Should You Go Long or Short Form?

“When it comes to long vs. short form content, the lesson to learn is to avoid just checking off boxes that say you need to write 2,000 words to satisfy Google,” Lee said.

“Know your customers well enough through data to create a best-answer content strategy and content mix that is relevant, optimized for discovery, useful and actionable,” Lee added.

Insight 4: Better Messaging Through Collaboration & Credibility

Hands holding gears and cogs image.

For at least six years Lee has also identified “being the best answer” for your audience as imperative, a message he explored recently at Pubcon, as our own Tiffani Allen explores in “5 Secrets for Growing Influence in Marketing: Key Takeaways from Lee Odden at #Pubcon Pro.”

“By building internal credibility, activating customers, creating a content collaboration ecosystem and working with influencers, marketing can improve credibility, influence and trust.” — Lee Odden @LeeOdden Click To Tweet

Businesses using influencer marketing with an eye towards relationships can use content co-creation and messaging to grow those relationships, Lee pointed out, adding that when an influencer relationship grow stronger, the content is bound to become better and drive further involvement from the influencer.

Insight 5: Focus On The Most-Desired Messaging Outcomes

It’s also important to make it easy for your audience to engage with your messaging and ultimately to have them turn into conversions, with the kind of content that they’ll want to return to again and again over time.

Neuromarketing author and Pubcon speaker Roger Dooley recently explored the importance of reducing friction for your audience, as Tiffani looks at more closely in “Reduce Friction, Increase Loyalty: Key Insights from Roger Dooley at #Pubcon Pro.”

“Want a higher conversion rate and customer loyalty? Make it easier to do business with you. Reducing friction in every interaction is the path to getting and keeping more customers.” — Roger Dooley @rogerdooley Click To Tweet

By minimizing what he calls cognitive friction, through the use of simple and easy-to-read fonts, brief copy, and an easy-to-read design, our messaging can be highly successful, Roger has explained.

From Messaging To Promotion — The Journey’s Just Begun

By using clarity, the right tone, personalization, the power of collaboration and credibility, and striving for dopamine-inducing messaging, you can ensure that you’ve got the necessary elements for powerful content messaging.

These aren’t the only tactics you can use in your messaging tool bag, however, and next up in our “Collective Wisdom” series we’ll examine even more, and move on to the art of content promotion.

In the meantime you can learn more about content marketing, influencer marketing, and more by catching us at these upcoming conferences:

  • ITSMA Marketing Vision 2018 on November 7 in Cambridge, MA. — “Influence the Influencers – How B2B technology companies can build brand awareness with content and influence”
  • MarketingProfs 2018 Marketing B2B Forum on November 15 in San Francisco — “The Confluence Equation: How Content & Influencers Drive B2B Marketing Success”

Pubcon Pro 2018 Search Marketing Conference Wrap-up

Chris Boggs, Barry Schwartz, Lee Odden, Brett Tabke, and Lane R. Ellis at Pubcon Las Vegas 2018

For those in the know and that go beyond clickbait headlines, Search Marketing delivers an incredible punch to a marketing mix. But it takes work, especially when you consider the hundreds of factors that go into ranking decisions for every one of the billion plus queries that Google tries to answer each month.

Part of that work is staying on top of search engine optimization and advertising best practices. For that, several members of the TopRank Marketing team recently attended the Pubcon Pro conference in Las Vegas.

After essentially getting my start in public speaking as a marketer at Pubcon many years ago, I have returned to the search marketing industry with my third speaking appearance in a row at a Pubcon event in the past 12 months.

Even more of a Pubcon veteran than myself, is Lane Ellis, Social Media and Content Marketing Manger for TopRank Marketing. Lane worked at Pubcon for 10 years before joining our team and with his return to Pubcon as an attendee, he was on hand at the event making sure we covered the conference through our social channels and with many, many photos as seen in this post.

Also representing the TopRank Marketing banner was Tiffani Allen, Senior Account Manger. Tiffani did a fantastic job live blogging, social sharing and engaging other attendees as a representative of the TopRank Marketing brand.

Tiffani Allen, Lee Odden, and Lane R. Ellis at Pubcon Las Vegas 2018

Together, Lane and Tiffani covered multiple sessions through live blogging which you can read below:

Scott Monty Speaking at Pubcon Photo by Lane R. Ellis
Top Brand Personalization Secrets From Scott Monty – Lane

Ben Morss of Google at Pubcon Las Vegas 2018
4 Reasons to Get AMP’d Up About Google AMP with Google’s Ben Morss – Tiffani

Roger Dooley at Pubcon Las Vegas 2018
Reduce Friction, Increase Loyalty: Key Insights from Roger Dooley – Tiffani

Microsoft's Purna Virji at Pubcon Las Vegas 2018 Photo by Lane R. Ellis
How to Optimize Customer Experience with AI – Top Tips from Microsoft’s Purna Virji – Lane

Lee Odden speaking at Pubcon Pro Las Vegas 2018 Photo by Lane R. Ellis
5 Secrets for Growing Influence in Marketing: Key Takeaways from Lee Odden – Tiffani

Joe Pulizzi at Pubcon 2018 Photo by Lane R. Ellis
Joe Pulizzi Shares What it Takes to be a Content Brand – Tiffani

Debra Jasper Pubcon Las Vegas 2018 Keynote Photo By Lane R. Ellis
You Have 8 Seconds – GO! Brand Trust Secrets With Debra Jasper – Lane

As mentioned above, Lane, Tiffani and I were actively sharing our observations of the Pubcon Pro experience through our personal and agency social channels. That effort seems to have paid off with @toprank showing up all three days as a brand “most talked about” according to Christopher Penn‘s analysis:

US Search Awards 2018
Another great moment from Pubcon Pro was attending the US Search Awards. Much thanks and appreciation to Olga Andrienko from the award-winning SEO software platform SEMrush for inviting me. It was great to see so many talented companies win including Bill Hunt for his brilliant work with Absolut and to Barry Schwartz for Search Personality of the Year. Of course SEMrush won best SEO software platform too – congratulations all!

Beyond attending sessions, live blogging and social sharing, we also produced at mini-conference ebook featuring 10 of the keynote and main stage speakers which has had thousands of views:

Pubcon Pro

And last, but not least, I gave one of those main stage presentations on how marketers can grow more trust and influence in marketing.

Marketing Influence Pubcon

Overall it was a great event and a welcome refresher on all things search marketing related from data informed content to link building to the role of bots and personalization.

Thank you Brett Tabke and the Pubcon team for continuing the tradition of quality content at the world’s oldest search marketing conference!

Pubcon Audience

You Have 8 Seconds – GO! Brand Messaging Secrets With Debra Jasper at #Pubcon 2018

Debra Jasper Pubcon Las Vegas 2018 Keynote Photo By Lane R. Ellis

Debra Jasper, founder of Mindset Digital, practices what she preaches when it comes to delivering engaging messages in eight seconds or less, as she demonstrated during an energetic mile-a-minute “You Have 8 Seconds – GO! “ Pubcon Pro Las Vegas 2018 keynote address.

Before Debra took the stage, Pubcon founder Brett Tabke told the audience how one of her previous keynotes holds the record as the conference’s highest-rated, and her latest presentation showed no sign of letting go of that title.

Walking The Walk With 367 Slides

Debra’s keynote explored how to effectively get your message out in a world where today’s professional has just an eight-second attention span, and she hit the ground running, flying through some 367 visually interesting slides, nearly all featuring motion or video.

She began by encouraging us to form the kind of good digital habits that will help break through the ever-present digital noise today, and asked what Google was like in 1997, soon pointing out the trick question — Google began a year later… — and using it to show how much easier answers are to get now.

With so much mobile traffic, and the average person touching their phone 1,600 times daily and feeling addicted and anxious without them, Debra brought up the AirSelfie personal drone camera as an example of how quickly our world is changing, and said that businesses need to change as well.

Debra Jasper Pubcon Las Vegas 2018 Keynote Photo By Lane R. Ellis

Loyalty and advocacy are more important than ever, and Debra pointed out that more people today are avoiding brands that don’t do good in the world, encouraging the audience to become brands that give back.

Brands should have messaging that is engaging, social, fun and inspiring, because when this is done smartly it will create loyal customers that will gladly pay, and most often also recommend you.

Micro-Moments Matter More Than Ever

Debra pointed out the importance of creating a brand experience that gets people coming back, starting at the very first contact, as every touch-point along the way matters in today’s world of micro-moments.

She showed examples of various entertaining 404 page-not-found messages to demonstrate how every point on the customer journey is a potential opportunity, and then began to explore how the tone of our messaging influences brand trust.

Micro becomes macro almost instantly these days, she said, and encouraged brands to look to the tried-and-true common touch-point of e-mail — to which we’re still chained — receiving and average of 147 every day.

Debra noted that if we were to dedicate time to answer each of these e-mails it could take two and a half hours each day, but used this as a jumping off point to dig into how we should learn to write for mobile — using less space and writing for shorter attention spans.

Debra Jasper Pubcon Las Vegas 2018 Keynote Photo By Lane R. Ellis

She shared the SOS methodology — short, organized, and skimmable e-mail messages, always including the important “what,” “why,” and “now what” elements near the beginning of any message.

Debra also explained that typically the higher up in an organization the person you’re corresponding with, the less words they generally want to see, and encouraged Pubcon audience members to strive for a goal rating of 65, which is a Reader’s Digest-level score.

Writing e-mail messages at anything higher than a third-grade level runs the risk of readers leaving, and she encouraged making  your call-to-action crystal clear, so that readers are able to decide rather than having to decipher.

Meet As Equals & Skip The Vendor Voice

When writing for mobile, Debra said to pay close attention to the tone of your messages, to always prime for the positive, and urged us to stop using the word “unfortunately” altogether, instead choosing to start with what you can do, not with what you can’t.

She shared a number of other additional e-mail messaging tips, including:

  • Try to meet as equals
  • Mirror the tone of your correspondent
  • Never use two or more exclamation points
  • Avoid using the dreaded “vendor voice”
  • Write more as a partner, and less as a pitch

With more people than ever now also using presentations, Debra took the time to offer up a selection of some of her recommended best-practices for slides:

  • Use fewer words
  • If you can’t see it on the slide, don’t reference it
  • Slides are free (witness the 367 she used!)
  • Craft a better visual story
  • Dump the old “only 10 slides” in a deck rule
  • Don’t use any small text, instead use up to 80-point fonts
  • Use engaging animations and movement so something happens every 4-6 seconds
  • Don’t end with questions, instead own the ending and go out on a high note

Other Pubcon speakers who saw Debra speak seemed to take particular notice to these tips, as I heard several mention not quite living up to her high slide standards in some of their subsequent presentations.

Fostering Social Connections & LinkedIn Goals

When it comes to social media, Debra suggested engaging first, before moving on to conforming, and said that we should be fostering social connections, not commercials.

Debra explained that humans have some real advantages in the social realm, where they can wield more power and make better and more meaningful connections than typically take place with social accounts operated in the rather impersonal name of a business.

She also said that LinkedIn is an especially important tool, and spent some time encouraging the Pubcon audience to strive to make their LinkedIn (client) profiles:

She also shared the LinkedIn “OUT LOUD!” parody video as a funny example of what to avoid when creating your personal messaging on the site.

By creating the right social and digital habits, it’s possible to achieve measurable results, and to track and demonstrate real return-on-investment, she added, and then asked us to consider “How am I celebrating success?”

Debra Jasper Pubcon Las Vegas 2018 Keynote Photo By Lane R. Ellis

With a strong digital mindset and the right habits, we can tell great stories, and by making daily habits we can unpack a lot of complexity and tap into the power of gamification, making brand messages inspiring and fun, Debra said.

Deepen Your Brand Messaging With Dopamine

Our messages should create dopamine to get us excited and to make us want to tune in for more, and she sees an upcoming culture shift, in which the newest wave of brand message-makers will be poets and playwrights.

Debra concluded her powerhouse Pubcon Las Vegas keynote with a look at artificial intelligence and the admonition that although bots are here to stay, humans will always remain in the picture.

If you didn’t attend Pubcon this year, or weren’t able to make it to all the sessions you’d hoped to, be sure to check out the rest of our Pubcon Pro live blogs here.

Top Brand Personalization Secrets From Scott Monty at #Pubcon 2018

Scott Monty Speaking at Pubcon Photo by Lane R. Ellis
Scott Monty brought his nuanced and precisely-paced neoclassical style of marketing to Pubcon Pro Las Vegas 2018, leading off with a Longfellow poem — a refreshing non-technical respite from the buzzwords otherwise pouring forth from most presenters at the tech-savvy conference, as he delivered a mainstage address about social media, trust, and personalization.

Scott, who was a classics major, began by noting that much of human nature is constant all around the world, with people holding the same shared motivations, including many great human truths behind what we do that still apply today — perhaps more than ever.

We’re faced with a huge trust deficit, however, as confidence among us in general has plummeted, which Scott sees as a primary gap to be filled.

Singling out Facebook’s near-daily barrage of breakdowns in trust, Scott pointed out that instead of focusing only on re-establishing its foundation of trust, astoundingly the social media giant chose to launch its Facebook Portal in-home camera product, and asked why it comes with a lens cover if people trust your brand.

Scott Monty Speaking at Pubcon Photo by Lane R. Ellis

Amidst the backdrop of Google Plus closing shop except for certain enterprise users, Scott said that we currently see an average of some 3,500 brand messages daily, from the logos on our phones to the seemingly-endless variety of ways to get in front of our eyes, and asked how we as marketers can ever hope to break through when there isn’t trust for our brand.

What’s Old In Personalization Is New Again

With the average amount of time spent online continuing to increase, especially with mobile’s rise, Scott asked the Pubcon audience if they knew who has warned of an overwhelmed and distracted brain on information overload, preventing us from doing the things that truly make us human, and then gave a surprising answer.

Scott, donned in his trademark suit and bowtie, was talking about sixteenth-century Swiss naturalist Conrad Gessner, who wrote about the dangers of the Guttenberg printing press more than 450 years ago.

Fear isn’t new, Scott said, and as such now we face an overabundance of content that has created a trust deficit.

Scott pointed out that what we were once promised was, “It’s all about you,” with the consumer having the power when it comes to conversations with brands, but asked whether we have truly delivered on that promise.

Taking a close look at human nature’s self-involvement, Scott asked what the 250 or more people who have died taking selfies since 2011 says about us, also using an example of Narcissus and Echo — including a slide featuring the famous 1903 John William Waterhouse painting.

Scott Monty Speaking at Pubcon Photo by Lane R. Ellis

How can we reconcile all this, with many brands today also so focused on themselves, creating a wall between people and brands?

The Trust Equation

Scott singled out personalization as one of the most important ways to make things relevant to people once again, and said that can begin for brands by simply knowing and using a customer’s name.

Scott said that an equation of trust is needed, leading to a healthy customer relationship and to brand loyalty, but that this requires a frictionless experience, otherwise in today’s world where time is so highly valued, your customers will quickly go to someone else.

Putting yourself in the other’s shoes is something Scott recommended, along with asking yourself just what makes your customers tick — what do they think about?

Brands should also look internally and ask themselves, “What data do we have?” — because people like it when brands know their name, he said, and pointed out that in e-mail communications, three of the most important pieces of data brands can have are:

  • First Names
  • E-mail Addresses
  • ZIP Codes

Are You A Norm Or A Cliff?

Scott used the “Cheers” TV show characters Norm and Cliff as examples, with all of us now in some ways being both simultaneously — Norm, known by all including where he sat and what his order was, and Cliff the know-it-all, who we’ve all also become thanks to having almost all answers at our fingertips thanks to search engines.

Scott Monty Speaking at Pubcon Photo by Lane R. Ellis

In this era, where your customers may know more about some aspects of your brand than you do, how can we make them feel welcome?

Scott showed logos of the thousands of social platforms we can use today to engage and manage customer interactions, and then shared an example of the dreaded but still all-too-common “Hello [First Name]” message greeting.

With your customers using so many platforms, a major obstacle is knowing the various handles they’re using on different social properties, and Scott asked how we can learn them all, so that the conversation between brand and consumer can continue no matter the platform.

Scott said that we should seek out the challenges and look for what’s disjointed, so that we can then work towards much-needed consistency, with the same quality personalization across all platforms.

A Choose-Your-Own-Adventure World Of Personalization

Solving these problems is a lot like a “choose your own adventure” story, and he suggested that there is science behind the analogy, with a map of the choices from these books looking just like a logic tree that is great for learning about customers.

He said also that Netflix is a perfect example of bringing this type of personalization to content, with its upcoming “Black Mirror” season featuring choose-your-own-adventure elements that will allow the streaming giant to learn a lot about its customers.

It’s a return on value, however, Scott pointed out, as Netflix will be giving us what we want based on our behavior, and said that marketers should work to connect disparate data, understand it, and only then act on it.

Customers will only give you so much information, he pointed out — sometimes just providing a last name is where this can drop off — so the less you can ask for the better at first.

“The sweetest thing in the world is the sound of your own name,” Scott told the Pubcon crowd, and used a Tom Fishburne Marketoonist cartoon as a humorous example of the challenges brands face in personalization today.

Scott Monty Speaking at Pubcon Photo by Lane R. Ellis

Scott was once the head of social for Ford, and he told the Pubcon audience a story about customers asking for more room in truck beds, engineers giving them more room by building higher bed walls, followed by customers complaining that they couldn’t reach all the way down into the beds any longer, eventually leading to the inclusion of the little step now commonplace among trucks.

It’s important to observe how people engage with your content, and to make smart decisions to personalize things, he added, also pointing out a study showing that the open rates of non-personalized e-mail is 13.1 percent, but just by adding a first name that figure generally jumps up to 18.8 percent.

Can You Make Someone Cry Using Six Words Or Less?

Scott pointed out a May 2018 eMarketer study showing $150 as the amount most consumers would take to hand over their personal data, but urged us to look beyond the mere data to uncover the stories behind the numbers.

Stories are inherently emotional — they’re human and have been a part of us since the dawn of time, Scott explained, sharing the story of Ernest Hemingway’s famous $10 bet to achieve a meaningful story in six words or less.

“For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.” won the bet, and choked Scott up slightly as he said the words — big emotions from only a few words.

71 percent of consumers have left brands because of poor customer service, Scott said, questioning whether all the time we spend on acquiring new customers is always the best choice.

People want power over their own decisions, and some firms have succeeded by taking this to heart, he said, including Dollar Shave Club and SodaStream, “out-Amazoning” Amazon using frictionless and personalized models than offer plenty of convenience, certainty, control, and customization.

Scott ended his Pubcon presentation as he began, with a poem, and then stayed to answer questions from a large group of attendees.

If you missed Pubcon this year, or weren’t able to make it to all the sessions you wanted to, be sure to check out the rest of our Pubcon Pro live blogs here.

4 Reasons to Get AMP’d Up About Google AMP with Google’s Ben Morss

What’s up with Google AMP? That’s what a room full of marketers were determined to find out on Thursday’s Pubcon Pro session with Google’s Developer Advocate, Ben Morss. In his session, Ben outlined the current state of Google AMP, why marketers should care, and how it can work along with PWAs (progressive web apps) to deliver a seamless, fast and immersive experience.

Below are four top takeaways from Ben’s session:

 1. Speed = Money
There are real world consequences for bad user experience on your website. Some of the stats Ben included to illustrate exactly how include:

  • 53% of users abandon a site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load according to a Doubleclick study of Google Analytics Data.
  • One additional second of load time can lead to a 3.5% decrease in conversion rate and a 2.1% decrease in cart size according to a Radware report.

The message is clear — people will leave your site if it’s slow, which leads to fewer conversions. And of course, Google uses loading time as a ranking factor. It’s in the best interest of your business to focus on page speed as a key objective, if not for your rankings than certainly for your customers and prospects.

 2. You can use Google AMP to help speed things up
Google AMP can help you speed up your site by:

  • Discouraging or banning things that will slow down your site
  • Removing or banning distracting ads
  • Waiting to load elements until they’re needed

Ben also emphasized that AMP was created to help improve the look and feel of surfing the mobile web. Sure, you can create a dull, featureless website through AMP, but it’s not recommended. The sites that have the best success using AMP are ones that utilize AMP HTML, AMP JS and AMP Cache. This allows for exciting, interactive design experiences that load quickly.

Developers can control the design and CSS of their site, while mitigating the risk of accidentally slowing down their mobile sites after adding image files that are improperly sized, or Javascript that slows down load times.

3. PWAs and AMP make a great team
A PWA is a progressive web app – it provides an app-like experience on the web. It should be fast, integrated with the device, reliable, and engaging. Like the mobile web, PWAs have a lot of reach and are discoverable anywhere. And like an app, PWAs have a lot of power, and are a user friendly experience. If you do a PWA the right way, Ben says, you get the best of both worlds.

So, what are the benefits of PWAs?

  1. You can use an app shell for fast transitions. The shell loads before the content, and dynamic content then populates the view.
  2. Users have the power to add the PWA to their home screen like an app for easy access, without having to download an app.
  3. PWAs can provide a full screen experience on mobile and on desktop, similar to an app interface for a more immersive experience.
  4. Users can access content within a PWA offline through caching
  5. Users can opt-in to push notifications, though Ben cautions that we should use those notifications wisely.

 4. AMP and PWAs can be used together for the best of both worlds – speed and experience
Using AMP helps users discover the content through AMP search results, and have a seamless page loading experience. The content is delivered quickly. Then, when they click in to additional pages, they’re upgraded to the PWA experience to continue to browse.

This helps not only deliver content quickly, but provide an engaging experience throughout the browsing process.

Can this be done without AMP? Certainly, according to Ben. Does that happen often? Definitely not. The reason being that it’s common for developers to inadvertently slow loading time by adding additional script elements or files that aren’t optimized – he even admitted that it happens at Google. AMP helps reduce that risk.

You can go to to see a demo of the AMP to PWA experience. It’s worth a look! Note – it works best in mobile.

Did you miss Pubcon Pro this year? Or just want to revel in the glory of what was? Check out the rest of our Pubcon Pro live blogs here.

Reduce Friction, Increase Loyalty: Key Insights from Roger Dooley at #Pubcon Pro

Did you know, only 5% of our brain’s decision making is conscious? Leaving 95% for decisions made on a nonconscious level. As marketers, charged with increasing the quality and quantity of conversions (i.e. decisions), how do we address the 95%?

Roger Dooley, speaker and author of Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing, the popular blog Neuromarketing, and Brainy Marketing at Forbes, addressed this in his session at Pubcon pro.

Here are the top three takeaways to help you increase your conversions without much more than common sense — and a little user data.

1. Friction changes behavior
Momentum is what causes us to keep moving, like sliding down a slide. Friction is what stops us from completing that motion. When it comes to your digital properties, like your website, you likely have specific actions you want prospects and visitors to take.

In some cases, motivation can overcome friction. As an example, Roger told the story of how his dog (like most) is extremely motivated by food. He uses many ways to try to increase his dog’s friction while snarfing down his tasty dog food, but none have slowed him down to the point where he gives up. In this case, his motivation trumps friction.

However, as Roger points out, ‘your customers aren’t dogs.’ And according to Gartner, almost 98% of leads on site don’t convert. This means there is a significant amount of friction to overcome.

2. Lowering friction increases conversion
If you want your prospects to take action on your website, you must reduce friction. Since they’re not singularly motivated to convert on your site, you have to make the experience as easy and seamless as possible to help encourage the behavior you want. This friction can come in many ways, for example:

  • Do your prospects have to fill out a crazy-long form before they convert?
  • Is the CAPTCHA you’re using too hard to complete?
  • Do your auto-fill settings routinely malfunction or fill in the wrong information?
  • Does the actual information on your site take a long time to load, especially on mobile?

Roger encourages us to take a few steps to help increase conversions by reducing friction:

  • Test everything, as though you’ve never been to your own website – this is where you’ll find out if something is broken, providing a strange user experience, or unnecessary all together.
  • Reduce the complexity of your checkout or form fill process – Think critically about the data you’re collecting. If you don’t need to know that information immediately, don’t ask for it.
  • Evaluate whether or not it makes sense for users to need to register to check out – does that make sense for each interaction? Or is this something that can be circumvented and later replaced with a loyalty program, for example.
  • Look at user data – are your website users taking a long, winding path toward conversion? Are they giving up halfway, and usually around the same point? Use that data to investigate, evaluate, and fix the friction they’re encountering.

3. Low friction experiences increase loyalty
Loyalty programs, special deals and discounts, or even advanced benefits don’t increase loyalty in and of themselves. In fact, according to Accenture, 71% of loyalty programs do not increase loyalty. If someone shops with you or routinely visits your blog, that behavior can be stemming from convenience or habit.

Loyalty is emotional, not transactional. It’s the customer’s experience with your brand that encourages their loyalty. How easy can you make it for them to convert?

He used Amazon as an example here – their one-click buying option that shows shoppers exactly how and when they’ll receive their package, doesn’t require additional information, and can be completed in seconds. That’s the ultimate reduction in friction — and one of the reasons why in 2018 Amazon is projected to own 49% of online sales.

His advice is to focus on the outcome that’s most desired, and find out what the quickest and easiest approach is to taking that action. Make it easy for users to convert, and they’ll continue to return and do so. After all, according to Gartner, 94% of users that reported needing low effort to purchase repeated that behavior, compared to 4% with high effort.

For more insights from Pubcon, follow the TopRank Marketing team on the ground: @LaneREllis, @LeeOdden and @Tiffani_Allen. And, stay tuned for more insights over the next week on the TopRank Marketing blog.

How to Optimize Customer Experience with AI – Top Tips from Microsoft’s Purna Virji

Microsoft's Purna Virji at Pubcon Las Vegas 2018 Photo by Lane R. Ellis

Purna Virji, senior manager of global engagement at Microsoft, has spoken at the Pubcon conference several times over the years, but the main stage presentation she gave yesterday in Las Vegas was her first time taking a deep look at the ever-evolving artificial intelligence landscape and how it can bolster customer experience.

“When it comes to optimizing the customer experience, design for conversation from the start. Remember, the most important thing for the user is convenience,” Purna recently told our CEO Lee Odden in his Pubcon preview highlighting nine top speakers at the event.

Is Voice Search Living Up To The Hype?

Purna began by asking the gathered audience whether they thought that voice search was generally overrated and not living up to all the hype it has increasingly attracted as more AI-assisted devices are in our homes, cars, offices, and lives in general.

She spoke about the importance of the first experience we have with a brand, as that first touch point begins a conversation that will ideally be a long and fruitful one for both parties.

Customer experience (CX) AI needs to get better, she said, and pointed to a handful of statistics to back up what many in the audience already seemed to know, including a figure showing that 70 percent of people haven’t yet used voice search to make a purchase.

With poor abandonment rates when interacting with chatbots, Purna equated this loss of the “one chance to make a first impression” as the “2018 version of butt-dialing,” driving potential customers away for good, however the situation is far from only being filled with doom and gloom, she continued.

Microsoft's Purna Virji at Pubcon Las Vegas 2018 Photo by Lane R. Ellis

A well-thought-out chatbot or voice assistant can be a true game-changer in the CX world, Purna enthusiastically explained, and said that the West still has a long way to go before it catches up with how this technology is being used in other parts of the world.

Using examples from several firms, she showed how having a good AI-driven customer experience can dramatically improve not just the bottom line, but as in the case of 1-800-Flowers, a big demographic change can also happen, as some 70 percent of orders they received via their chatbot were from a new and much younger group of purchasers.

Top AI Take-Aways Include Clarity & Character

A selection of some of the other fascinating AI insights Purna shared with Pubcon audiences are listed below.

  • How, as behavioral economics psychologist Daniel Kahneman says, we tend to choose the easiest choice, and why you should keep this in mind when designing AI-based CX systems
  • Brands that solve some of the problems that remain with this technology stand to profit immensely
  • The future will see a more natural, conversational shift, however this is different from dumbing things down
  • Within the jungle of today’s short attention spans, it’s more important than ever to keep conversation flowing quickly and efficiently

Purna also explored several of the areas she sees as being increasingly important as this technology develops and becomes commonplace.


  • When providing choices, whether in the B2B or B2C worlds, all customers have options, and it’s vital to present clear choices and to ask concise questions
  • Ask a question at the end of a list of choices. Only in cases where there are far too many choices would it be appropriate to instead use an open prompt.
  • Write for the ear, not the eye, writing out sample dialogs and asking yourself if you would talk to someone this way


  • Make bots that are engaging, and that converse as if they were a real person. Studies show we like these types of bots.
  • Be human-like, but don’t trick your visitors into thinking they’re chatting or talking to a human — instead, disclose it
  • Your bot should take on either a humorous, professional, or casual persona, and you should plan to phrase the same answers differently depending on your audience
  • In order to build loyalty, bots should have compassion, with a built-in understanding of our core needs and the human need for chit-chat, which is surprisingly difficult for today’s generation of bots

Purna suggests planning in advance to avoid bots that respond with the conversation-killing “sorry I don’t understand,” and taking the time to write suitable responses.

I’m Afraid I Can’t Do That, Hal — Offer Alternatives

Despite your best efforts, AI conversations are inevitably sometimes still error-prone, but you can minimize problems by having guidelines in place that offer alternatives and show the available possibilities, so that the conversation is never shut down.

She also said that the smartest bots will always acknowledge errors, and recommended vigorous conversation testing, even though it’s harder than in some other technologies, because there are nearly infinite test cases in voice  — with so many variations including the multiple ways we use to say the same thing.

Microsoft's Purna Virji at Pubcon Las Vegas 2018 Photo by Lane R. Ellis

Purna also recommended testing in four stages — coding, debugging, beta-testing, and even A/B testing, as well as testing your bot out in one of the bot emulators available.

She doesn’t recommend launching a new bot by making it live right away. Instead, first try to get people to break it, she suggested.

Summarizing her energetic and well-delivered presentation, Purna stressed the importance of creating a friction-less, easy, and convenience bot experience, and urged those new to the technology to not get overwhelmed, as it is still an emerging field.

For more tips from Pubcon Pro Las Vegas 2018 and the savvy digital marketers who speak and attend, follow the TopRank Marketing team on the ground: @TopRank, @LeeOdden, @Tiffani_Allen and @LaneREllis. And, stay tuned for more insights over the next week on the TopRank Marketing blog.

5 Secrets for Growing Influence in Marketing: Key Takeaways from Lee Odden at #Pubcon Pro

Lee Odden speaking at Pubcon Pro Las Vegas 2018 Photo by Lane R. Ellis

Research has shown: consumers don’t trust the companies they buy from. They don’t trust ads. And they definitely don’t trust marketers.  Trust in marketing is on a decline – between internal stakeholders and customers. In fact, according to a study by Fournaise Group, 80% of CEOs simply don’t trust marketers at all.

Trust is the gateway to influence.

Influence plays a major role in the marketing that moves customers to make purchases. That’s why Lee Odden (our fearless leader and CEO of TopRank Marketing) is challenging marketers to take a step back from the day-to-day of marketing and recognize the trend of reduced trust and influence in marketing.

Marketing Influence Pubcon

To help marketers make the shift towards greater credibility and trust, Lee came to Pubcon prepared with five secrets for increasing your level of influence – both internally and externally – plus four key takeaways.

Five Secrets for Growing Marketing Influence

Secret 1: Accelerate Internal/External Credibility
For your marketing to be successful, you have to sell it (actually market your marketing). To accomplish this internally, identify the primary business problems your management team faces and connect your marketing to help solve those problems. Your marketing goals should come from top down, start at the organizational level and determine how marketing can support those goals.

Don’t forget to promote wins to your internal stakeholders. Did your campaign blow business goals out of the water? Tell your team, tell management, and make sure you’re engaging stakeholders with how these results contribute to the bottom line.

To accomplish this externally, you need to become the best answer for your customers with personalized, compelling content experiences that include authentic, influential voices. Meet them where they are with the right information, at the right time.

Secret 2: Double Down on Activating Customers
Double down on activating customers to create more trust and influence. Ask them for reviews and take action based on their feedback. Feature their insights and thoughts in your content. Show them that you’re trustworthy by delivering consistent quality, being reliable, and working to improve continuously.

Secret 3: Work with Influencers to Become Influential
Each brand has stories to tell – and marketers are the storytellers. Collaborate with influencers to tell that story, but it needs to be relevant to their audience as well. To do this, Lee outlined a few steps:

  • Identify: Connect with qualified, relevant influencers and find ways to collaborate on customer-focused content.
  • Qualify: Validate influencers and their audiences on a regular basis to ensure quality experiences. Lee reminded us that influence is temporal and popularity can be faked, so always verify, validate, and check back frequently with influencers you’ve identified.
  • Engage: Employ always on listening and social engagements to keep the love alive with a VIP influencer community of collaborators and advocates.

Finding the right voices and outside perspective lends credibility to your message, and provides additional reach and visibility to prospects looking for the answers you can provide.

Secret 4: Create a Content Collaboration Ecosystem
Once you’ve identified influencers to engage, the next step is to start to create. As Lee said, “Help others become influential and it will grow brand influence.” Start to follow and engage with them on social media. Share opportunities to make things together as a company and you’ll be able to scale quality content. This helps your brand and the contributing influencers become influential by way of mutual exposure.

Secret 5: Optimize Measurement to Customer ROI
If you want to measure the effectiveness of your marketing and how it impacts your bottom line improvement, you have to change the ruler. When it comes to building trust, the metrics are simple: map to the funnel:

  • Attract: Is your marketing reaching the right audience in the channels they’re actually influenced by?
  • Engage: Is your marketing creating meaningful and satisfying experiences? Are you creating raving fans?
  • Convert: Is what you’re doing actually inspiring action? Is it delivering business impact or not?

After Lee shared his top secrets for building trust and influence, he bridged into key takeaways for marketers inspired to begin the journey toward building trust. The following four traits are what brands must have to build that trust – and survive in a consumer-focused landscape.

  1. Purpose – “In this time of turmoil people are turning to brands as islands of stability.” Richard Edelman. How will the world be different after you’re successful doing what you do? How does that narrative translate into your marketing?
  2. Relevance – Use data to understand your internal/external customer and create compelling, useful content experiences that matter. Leverage the voices of your customers, prospects, and those they trust to help add credibility and context to your message.
  3. Reach – Become “the best answer” for your customers with content that is easy to find and exists in context wherever buyers engage.
  4. Resonance – Understand audience motivations through the buyer journey to inform messaging that “clicks” and inspires action and makes real, measurable business impact.

For more tips from Pubcon and the brilliant marketers who speak and attend, follow the TopRank Marketing team on the ground: @TopRank, @LeeOdden, @Tiffani_Allen and @LaneREllis. And, stay tuned for more insights over the next week on the TopRank Marketing blog.

Joe Pulizzi Shares What it Takes to be a Content Brand at #Pubcon Pro

Joe Pulizzi at Pubcon 2018 Photo by Lane R. Ellis

When it comes to any trade, the best practice is to learn from the best. So, who better to learn about content marketing from than Joe Pulizzi — the Founder of Content Marketing Institute — when it comes to turning your content into revenue?

Joe’s keynote presentation at Pubcon Pro in Las Vegas today focused on becoming a content brand and all that it entails.

Nine Content Brand Takeaways from the Godfather of Content Marketing:

1. Find a niche where you can be the leading expert in the world

This is what Joe calls ‘The Sweet Spot.’ It’s located at the intersection between knowledge or a skill area that you have and your key customer’s pain point. He used the example of John Deere, where they created content around agriculture and technology specifically for farmer’s trying to improve their operation.

2. Develop your content mission

Not to be confused with a general statement like ‘To create content that improves the lives of every possible customer in every possible way,’ the mission statement should be simple, yet specific to your audience. This is called the Content Tilt.

Joe used an example from Indium Corp, an industrial soldering equipment company. Their target audience was engineers, and they created a simple, yet effective mission statement:  ‘Helping engineers answer the most challenging industrial solder questions.’

Their content then stemmed from that mission, resulting in their ‘from one engineer to another’ content series. For your mission statement, follow this formula:

  • Determine your core target audience
  • Identify what will be delivered
  • Focus and define the outcome for the audience

3. Focus on one content type, platform and deliver consistently

One of the recurring and most important themes of Joe’s keynote was consistency. Consistency is what will make you successful. There are plenty of options for where and how to publish your content, but he created a simple formula for creating a base of content which the rest will naturally stem from:

The base =

  • 1 content type
  • + 1 main platform
  • + consistent delivery
  • + long period of time

You don’t have to do everything. Pick one type of content, on one main platform and NAIL it. Whether it’s on your blog, your podcast, in a newsletter — create a consistent cadence and experience.

Joe Pulizzi at Pubcon 2018 Photo by Lane R. Ellis

4. Don’t build your house on rented land

When you build your audience on a platform you don’t control, you’re taking a risk. For example, when Facebook changed their algorithm, brands that had build up millions of followers found themselves in a sticky situation. The same can go for any platform you don’t own.

It’s ok to build your audience on other platforms, but your primary call to action for those followers should be a subscription to an owned property or list. For example, if you have a healthy, engaged YouTube following, start adding calls to action for them to subscribe to your email newsletter or your own blog. This mitigates the risk of frequently changing algorithms making a large impact on your bottom line.

5. Build an audience of opt-in subscribers

If you have a blog, add a subscribing functionality. Direct users on your website to subscribe to your email list. Of course, keep in mind that you need to offer content that aligns with their needs to move the needle on these subscriber metrics. And then, deliver that subscription content consistently.

6. Create an amazing e-newsletter and a remarkable download

An engaged subscriber base is incredible and has great value for your business, but your job is to give them a reason to open those newsletters you’re sending. The key to this is great content. Does your newsletter not only look great, but offer interesting, relevant and helpful content that your subscribers actually want to read?

This can come in the form of a downloadable piece of content — maybe that’s an eBook, some industry research, or a helpful template that helps your readers solve a business problem. This kind of asset should always stem from your mission statement.

7. Diversify after building your audience

Once you’ve built up a strong base audience, you can start to experiment with other content types. Have a successful Podcast? Why not try doing a weekly blog recap for each episode?

But it doesn’t have to stop there. Joe used Content Marketing Institute itself as an example. They started with a blog, then started an email newsletter, then diversified into a print magazine. All of that was followed by the creation of the Content Marketing World event that we all know and love.

8. Begin with one revenue option

While many content creators use display advertising as a way to monetize their digital properties, and it’s a successful and viable option, there are other ways to go about monetizing your content.

Joe Pulizzi at Pubcon 2018 Photo by Lane R. Ellis

Joe used Tasty as an example. They had huge success with their recipe videos. They then turned that content into a printed cookbook which generated a substantial amount of revenue.

Starting with one revenue option is the essential step that turns your marketing department or team into a revenue center vs. a cost center.  This kind of focus and the subsequent results can allow your team to stop asking for budget — because you’re generating measurable revenue.

9. Diversify revenue streams

Finally, once you’ve successfully monetized your content, you can diversify the ways in which you earn revenue.

Joe used Zappos as an example. They (literally) wrote the book on customer service, and it generated plenty of revenue. But they took it to the next level by offering training subscriptions to larger enterprise companies that actually taught managers and executives how to implement their employee and customer retention strategies.

That’s a whole lot of revenue coming in for a shoe company that has absolutely nothing to do with shoes.

As always, Joe shared great advice and examples anchored by his many years experience in the world of content marketing. Thinking beyond creating content for better search rankings or simply to generate leads was an eye opener. It is this kind of sophisticated approach to content that enables companies to turn their marketing department into a revenue-generating, world conquering team!

For more tips from Pubcon and the brilliant marketers who speak and attend, follow the TopRank Marketing team on the ground: @LaneREllis, @LeeOdden and @Tiffani_Allen. And, stay tuned for more insights over the next week on the TopRank Marketing blog.