Why Your Offline Business Should Not Ignore Digital Marketing

Barbara Spagnola - Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Are you using the latest digital marketing tools and strategies in your offline business? Unfortunately, a large percentage of brick-and-mortar businesses are slow to embrace the internet and all of the marketing and sales opportunities available online. However, many of the offline businesses that have taken the plunge and that have started to market online are benefiting in many different ways. Below are some of the main reasons why your offline business should not ignore digital marketing.

You Can Reach More Shoppers and Customers

Millions of people flock to social media websites, search engines, blogs, forums and other websites every day. This huge flow of internet traffic includes a large number of people who want to buy every type of product and service. If you have an online presence, you are more likely to attract more shoppers and customers who use the internet, than offline businesses that don't have a website, a social media page or any other online outlet.

However, you can't simply develop a website and hope for the best. Hiring online marketing professionals such as Digital Marketing, Inc will ensure that more people find out about your company and what you can offer them. These companies cater for offline businesses that want to attract more local shoppers and customers, but they are just as proficient at marketing your business to a global audience if you decide to sell worldwide.

A Wide Range of Options Are Available

When it comes to online marketing, there's no one size fits all solution. Every business imaginable has found a way to succeed online. Some businesses succeed through social media marketing, others benefit more through SEO, while others are willing to spend money on a wide range of paid advertising methods. The speed at which you achieve positive results varies, depending on the type of marketing channel you use and the amount of money you have available to spend on this aspect of your organization.

It's Easy to Analyze Your Marketing Results

Unlike many traditional marketing strategies, it's easy to track the progress of your marketing efforts. Every action taken online can be recorded and analyzed. This is an extremely powerful way to find out important commercial information such as your return on investment, where you are wasting marketing dollars and what areas of your marketing campaigns are successful. Armed with this information, you can produce much better marketing campaigns and use your marketing budget in a more effective way.

Your Shoppers and Customers Expect Your Business to Be Online

In many instances, it's no longer an option not to have any online marketing strategy. Today's consumers spend a large amount of their time on the internet and their smartphones. If they can't find your business online, there's a good chance they will deal with another company that is on the internet and your business could be left behind.

As an offline business owner, you have to consider marketing online. The benefits can be huge, you have many more options, and you have the potential to dramatically grow your customer base, leading to more sales and a more profitable offline business.

10 Digital Marketing Trends In 2015 That Will Boost Your Strategy

Barbara Spagnola - Monday, July 06, 2015

by Neil Patel

Digital marketing is an impulsive, erratic, and volatile industry. The moment you catch the tiger by the tail, there’s a new tiger whose fugacious tail requires catching.

Keeping up with a changeable industry seems like a fool’s errand. Where is the balance between chasing capricious trends, on the one hand, and ossifying into a Luddite on the other?

Thankfully, there is an in between — a balance. If you can identify current trends, settle on an actionable strategy, and take measurable movement forward, you’re bound to succeed. I’ve identified X such strategies that you should keep in mind over the next few months, if not the next few years of digital marketing.

1.  Stop relying on Google.

Don’t misinterpret this point. I’m not saying that Google is not on its way out. After more than a decade of domination, however, it may be on the decline. Up-and-comers like Duck Duck Go aren’t anywhere near dethroning Google GOOGL -0.24%. What their rise indicates is that consumers want alternatives — a choice not to depend on Google if they don’t have to.

Marketers should take heed. Google is one basket, but it doesn’t deserve all your marketing eggs. Search engine optimization is important, but a searcher can accomplish her goal through more means than just Google.

I advise digital marketers to rely less on Google, and engage more direct forms of interacting with their target market.

2.  Mobile. Just mobile.

I wanted to say that “mobile dominates,” but that line is so utterly cliche, that I had to state it differently.

The importance of mobile search, mobile optimization, mobile conversions, and mobile ubiquity cannot be overstated. Mobile devices and our collective addiction to them are fixtures of the modern marketing era.

This article is not the place to wax verbose on the importance of mobile. Instead, my intent is to remind you that mobile is the method of the masses, and should, therefore, be a priority of the marketers.

3. Social conversion is coming.

Enough has been said about the power of social networks. Not quite enough as been said about the importance of social conversions. For ecommerce and lead generation sites, social provides a growing opportunity to improve conversion rates and gain new conversion channels.

4. New payment methods are on the rise.

With the advent of EVM credit cards (October 2015), the public is in for a new experience when it comes to payment methods. These changes will have a ripple effect on online payment and e-commerce sites.

Privacy issues are a mainstream concern and it’s up to digital marketers to lead the way in reassuring, educating, and coaching customers through the transition.


5. Paid advertising is here to stay.

Whether you like it or not, you’re going to need to pay for advertising spots. I agree with marketers who claim, “PPC is dying,” but I also see the advent of alternative forms of paid advertising taking its place.

Consider Buzztala for instance. Although they provide “organic video ads,” they are still ads. And they still cost money. Rising methods of organic/paid advertising are entering into the marketing methods of some brands, signaling a growing trend.

6. Marketing automation becomes de rigueur.

Marketing automation is nothing new. It is, however, bigger than ever. Marketing automation is now easy and affordable enough for any marketer with a budget to do it. Once upon a not-so-far-away time, the only organizations doing automation were big companies with world-recognized brand names.

Now, marketing automation is nearly a requirement for any business that wants to stay on top

7. Content creators are more necessary than ever.

Ever since Web 2.0, the writing profession has had a heyday. Anyone and everyone could become a publisher. Anyone who had a voice could also have a platform on the web.

Now? Some content experts moan that there is too much content out there. Or is there? Content, often referred to as “king” is so essential to digital marketing that it can’t be dismissed as a “trend.” While individual publishers may be overextending themselves by publishing too much, there will always be content. It will always be important.

Therefore, there will always be the need for great content creators, including writers, developers, video producers, podcasters, and speakers. Lizetta Staplefoot said it well in her Visual.ly article:  “The need for quality content will spotlight the importance of professional writers.”

I know from experience that great writers are hard to find.  But it’s no longer enough simply to find a “great writer.” You need to find a writer who knows your niche. The world’s greatest writing skills don’t count for much unless the writer possesses knowledge, ideally experiential knowledge, of his or her subject matter.

8. The algorithm will change. And change again.

The search algorithm will change. It will infuriate you, delight you, confuse you, and disappoint you. But it will change.

I’m referring, of course, to Google’s search algorithm, the almighty search machine that decides which content ranks highest in the search engine results page (SERPs). Today, however, we need to consider Facebook’s algorithm, Bing’s algorithm, and even the mashup of Twitter and Google’s algorithm.

9. Conversion optimization has high ROI.

If CRO, or conversion rate optimization, is not in your 2015 budget, I suggest you take a look at the possibility of introducing it. Conversion rate optimization is the process of maximizing the number of site visitors who convert or make a purchase.

By thoroughly understanding users and split testing changes on a website, marketers can determine what elements of a website or landing page will produce the highest number of conversions.

The process pays off. Instead of paying big bucks for ad placements and organic traffic, marketers can instead funnel more of their existing traffic into sales.

10. Growth hacking will continue to evolve.

In my opinion, one of the most fascinating trends in 2015 is the continued evolution of growth hacking. Growth hacking will continue to demonstrate its indomitable power in the face of unlikely odds.

Conclusion

This list of online trends might sound intimidating. In spite of your fears, go boldly forward. Wrapped up in success is always the risk of failure.

I would never advise closing your eyes and jumping headfirst into a trend. The digital marketing space is too fickle for that. I would, however, recommend giving these trends a respectful nod and cautious experimentation. You’ll never know the upside until you give it a try. 

I am the cofounder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar, and KISSmetrics. I help companies like Amazon, NBC, GM, HP and Viacom grow their revenue. The Wall Street Journal calls me a top influencer on the web, and Entrepreneur Magazine says I have created one of the 100 most brilliant companies in the world.

Recover From Bad PR With Digital Marketing in 5 Steps

Barbara Spagnola - Monday, July 06, 2015
by Joe Apfelbaum

Reputation has always been important, but perhaps never more so than in the digital age. Now, we have access within one click to more options than ever more–and more information concerning any company we might be interested in doing business with.

Everyone, and every business, makes mistakes, whether it’s a “bad apple” employee, a product launch that didn’t go as planned, or a customer service snafu. In the digital age, those mistakes can have long lasting consequences, especially when a story about those mistakes gains traction online. Use these tips not only to help recover, but to strengthen your company’s search profile so that your are ready to meet any PR issues head on.

1. Don’t click the link!
Every time a client calls us and tells us about a problem entry for their brand that they want to get rid of on Google GOOGL -0.24%, I always ask them. Did you click on it? They usually answer “EVERY DAY”. Just because your booboo itches does not mean you should scratch it. It can be tempting to keep clicking that dreaded story. Resist temptation and request that anyone working on your team do the same. Why? Because clicking on the link tells your search engine that it’s relevant, when you want to make it less so. Google and other search engines aren’t consciously trying to bring your reputation down; they just promote the links ther algorithms tell them are the most relevant. Create new stories and distribute them on all of your company networks to provide these engines with newer, more relevant places.

2. Start Producing Digital PR
One of the fastest ways to get new positive content into the pages of major search engines like Google, Yahoo YHOO -1.93% and Bing is to use digital press releases. There are a number of options for distributing press releases so that they will show up in quality media outlets. Some, like PR Newswire, require a subscription fee, while others are free. Paid distribution channels tend to lead to better quality placements, but even free networks can help you show up on Google news. Depending on which network you use, there may be slight differences in formatting, but generally PRs are simple, concise news stories. This news can be anything from a new hire, to a new product offering, to charitable works by your organization.

3. Optimize Your Social Media Profiles
Social media profiles tend to rank quite highly in search, so it’s important to make sure yours are up to date and producing new content to keep them relevant. Facebook and Twitter are obvious picks, but make sure to consider Google Plus (Google’s baby) and LinkedIn, plus Instagram and Pinterest for images and Youtube for videos (more on that later).

4. Start Blogging
And not just on your company blog! Open accounts on sites like Medium or utilize LinkedIn’s blogging platform to share stories relevant to your company’s offerings,

5. Multimedia
Sometimes, the problematic story isn’t just a story– it can be a series of images (think those occasional pieces on… unusual and unappetizing things found in fast food). Creating and posting great images such as infographics or photos with appropriate, keyword optimized tags helps keep your images clean. Ditto for video content– YouTube has an enormous search volume. Podcasts, while less common, can be a source of quick, quality content and are easy to upload to Itunes and other reputable sites.

It can take months to get a problematic story off the first page, especially if the story is recent or from a popular publication. The key is to just keep giving search engines and audiences quality, timely content that they can turn to instead. In the process, you’ll create not just a quick fix but a library of content with lasting value.

Thanks for reading, and I hope this tips will help give your business the second chance it deserves. If you enjoyed this article, please like, comment, and share.
BIO: Joe Apfelbaum is the CEO and co-founder of digital marketing agency Ajax Union. He is a public speaker, certified Google Trainer, and published business author. Joe enjoys speaking and writing about a broad range of business topics in his seminars, webinars and articles. Joe is a member of the Board of Directors of the Entrepreneurs Organization in NY, a group with over 10,000 CEO’s. Joe is a trusted advisor for the Vistage community of 18,000 CEO’s and a contributing member of the INC Business Owners Council, a community of the fastest growing companies in the United States. Joe is proud of all his accomplishments, but most of all he is proud of his successful foodie wife and beautiful four kids.


How to Use Data to Improve Your Content Marketing Strategy

Barbara Spagnola - Tuesday, December 09, 2014
by Ben Harper
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With 60 percent of B2C marketers planning to increase their content marketing spend over their previous year’s budget, now is the time to start thinking seriously about how data impacts your content marketing strategy.

There’s been a lot of talk about the role data plays in content marketing; however, much of this has been relatively limited to disciplines like keyword research and influencer identification. Let’s take a look at how to put data truly at the heart of your content marketing strategy, allowing you to implement real change this year. 

What data should we be studying? 

1. Your website content: At the heart of any content marketing strategy sits the editorial calendar, and this document should be driving the data that you choose to study. Everything in that editorial calendar should be subject to data interrogation — from types of content to blog titles, publication days/times, content categorization, authors, and more.

If you already have a calendar, then you have a great starting point for analyzing what data tells you about your content marketing strategy. If you don’t, the analysis process remains the same, though you may have less structured data with which to work.

Are you part of a larger enterprise? You may be lucky enough to have a data analyst or team of developers in-house. If so, request that they extract your blog’s content data in a structured way — ideally as a table showing each published post and its key info, along with your chosen key performance indicators (KPIs), such as site visits (e.g., from Google Analytics), engagement (social shares), and conversions (also from Google Analytics). 

Here’s an example of the kind of data you’re looking for at this stage:

chart-blog data

Having this data correctly formatted and ready can allow you to create valuable insight at the next step. 

2. Your competitors’ content: The great thing about analyzing your content like this is that you can also study your competitors in exactly the same way. Admittedly, this may take a little more manual effort, as you won’t be able to export their proprietary data; but going through their content to dissect the readily apparent components of their strategies can provide some really valuable insights.

By understanding what types of content your competitors create as part of their content marketing strategy — and how your performance measures up — you will be better able to identify opportunities to meet unmet needs, determine new topic areas to focus on, and generate other new content ideas.

3. Guest posts and external content: Like studying your competitors, tracking the content you publish on platforms other than your own website can require considerable effort on the part of your team. But, again, these efforts will be well worth your while.

Track exactly the same metrics as above in terms of post engagement/interactions, author, publishing times/dates, site visits (if the external content provider will share data), etc. If you’re also focusing on the SEO benefit of your content, it may be worth tracking additional metrics as well, including page rank, domain authority, and trust flow and citation flow of the domain (Majestic is among the many tools you can use to find this information). 

4. Social media content: Social data is hugely powerful for driving your content marketing strategy, as it can help you make a wide range of decisions, from what to create content about to the weighting of that content within your overall plan.

For example, you can pull key metrics from Facebook Insights on performance by post type, as well as see best performing posts, post reach, and engagement rates — all of which will help you understand how your content is being received.

Beyond performance analytics, social data can also reveal important insights about your audience. For example, using audience profiling tools like Optimal Social or Kred can help you gain a greater understanding of other kinds of content your readers are engaging with — rich data that can help you create new content topics and ideas with a high potential to interest your audience.

Other data to consider 

There are myriad other data collection resources you can access to inform your content marketing strategy, including:

  • Followerwonk, which can help you identify and rank influencers
  • Keyword Planner, Google’s tool that provides information on keyword search volume
  • Ubersuggest, which suggests semantically related keywords to consider in your content plan 

An example 

Once you’ve gathered all of your data, you can compile it into a report (like the example below), which provides a snapshot of information you can use to inform your content marketing strategy.

How to leverage this data 

The wealth of data you now have at your disposal can radically change the way you run your content marketing efforts. Use this data to refine key components of your strategy that could use a boost in performance, or even to completely revise your documented strategy if your results show that you may be moving in the wrong direction.

Having everything in a visual format can help you get to the bottom of issues that need resolving, as well as identify big opportunities you may be missing out on. For example, based on the data shown in the sample report above, you may conclude that you should:

  • Post more content on days like Monday and Friday — when engagement has typically been higher.
  • Get “Jenna” to write more content, or use her style to guide the efforts of your other content creators.
  • Increase your creation of technology-related blog posts.
  • Reduce Facebook status updates in favor of more photo posts.
  • Consider creating more content on e-commerce, as this seems to be a topic that brings in higher than average interactions, with less competition. 

This is a fairly simplified example, but even from data such as this you can start to draw out some insights that may make all of the difference in generating engagement from your content.

The results 

By constantly using data and adopting a data-led culture, you may be able to make a significant change for the better in your content marketing efforts. By scrutinizing every element of your content strategy and editorial calendar with data, you can create a robust plan that everyone can believe in. What’s more, by continuing to analyze your performance over time, you can constantly improve — drawing in more traffic, more engagements, and more conversions and customers.

Taking a data-led approach to your content marketing not only gives you a stronger strategy, but also allows you to identify new opportunities from your competitors’ activity, and your audiences’ preferences.

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The Science of Great Digital Content Ideas

Barbara Spagnola - Tuesday, December 09, 2014
The Moz Blog
by
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"Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen."
— John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck has a point. Outside of being one of America's most celebrated authors he was also a man that understood the life or death importance of ideas in the context of content.

As a lowly magazine journalist I remember routinely being told that "ideas are the lifeblood of content strategy" and that lesson has lived with me ever since.

It's why I have spent thousands of hours since the early 2000s iterating my own process to maximize the output from time spent working on creating them.

Creativity as a process

It seems strange, then, to suggest that the process of creating brilliant ideas consistently should be just that: a "process." After all, isn't creativity best performed in an environment free from constraint and boundaries? There is evidence to suggest that is the case, but in practice structure ensures that those ideas are consistently award-winning and hit-you-between-the-eyes awesome.

But why is this even important in the first place? I'm sure I don't have to convince you, as a learned reader of this blog, that content strategy is now the heartland of any effective digital strategy. Content, after all, is what has been creating audiences for thousands of years, and that will not change anytime soon.

In fact, it's perhaps even more important than you are led to believe, and nobody puts it better than Yahoo! co-founder Jerry Yang when he said:

"I think that it's always possible to have a great company if you have great ideas."

Great ideas permeate every level of an organization, and so while this is focused squarely on digital content ideation, a similarly structured approach will produce equally consistent results across the board. And given that the biological process behind creating ideas (more on this later) is a real process our best bet is to mimic that as closely as possible in the physical world.

The problem with ideas

By their very nature ideas are subjective. Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder, and so without any kind of structure, the ones that make it onto the final to-do list will often come from one or two that "shout loudest" in any open brainstorm scenario.

Before we even get into the actual structure, then, it is worth considering for a moment how you should set up the actual environment in which you plan to execute your ideation strategy.

Before you start

Deciding how often you want, or need, to create new ideas is the first step in the process, and this will be different for every business. If you are agency-side like us at Zazzle Media then the answer will be multiple times per month, but in house it really depends on how "big" your content ambitions are and an understanding of your audience in terms of what they want and expect you to create.

If you are working in-house at a large brand, then with multiple blog and social channels as well as work "off page" around digital PR, the answer may be once or twice per month. If you only have a single blog and do a "bit in social," once every quarter may suffice.

How you answer this comes back to what you know about those you are writing for and also what resources you have to create the content.

The environment

The "where" of content ideation is critical to the success of the process. Working in the same room that is cognitively associated with mundane tasks can inhibit key synapses, or brain connections. What your brain is looking for, in simple terms, is to "loosen up."

This is because our brains look for new experiences and stimulation and will work at their most creative when the three main areas known to be involved in idea creation are at their most relaxed. They are:

The executive attention network

This is the part of the brain used when you are really thinking hard, such as in a conference or client meeting, where concentration is critical. It links to memory, so you "store" those ideas for later and block distractions, allowing you to focus more intently.

The imagination network

This area of the brain is able to process the information and break it down, mixing it with past, present, and future scenarios to create possible new ideas.

The salience network

This monitors what is happening around you and passes the information to the appropriate area of the brain. It is the "switch," if you like.

New surroundings help stimulate all of these key areas, and if you can get those participating in a meeting to go for a walk first, then you'll also tick another key "creativity box" in releasing endorphins, which will serve to boost mental capacity even further.

To this end, we will often choose to run content meetings in the café within our offices, at a local bar/pub, or even outside (if the UK weather allows!).

The brainstorm

The key to great content strategy, of course, is variation. I have written previously about how you can check content flow, and it's really important that you first understand the importance, and second are aware of how well you are performing against this critical content metric.

It's important because of the way humans are built. For decades print publishers—especially in the world of magazines—have worked on improving the "flow" of their titles to ensure that avid readers keep coming back for more.

You can easily reverse engineer this and check it for yourself to see what I mean, but take my word for it; the more you are able to vary the type of content you produce, the better your return visitor stats will look and the larger your audience will grow.

This means that your brainstorm needs to be built to extract as many different ideas as possible, giving you the ammunition necessary to create such a strategy.

Here's how. The chart below may look relatively simple, but it is the result of 12 years of trial and error, testing, blood, sweat, and tears to define the most effective roadmap for eking out the right mix of content, irrespective of niche.

The version you see here is a static version of the animated process you can play with by clicking on the image or right here (a version on our own site, which then links through to the various tools we use to make the process as effective as possible).

content ideation process

The idea is that you split each brainstorm into eight constituent parts. Let's run through each stage in turn now…

1. The brief overall strategy

A critical component of any content process is to ensure there is a clear, shared understanding of the overall aim or strategy of the campaign. Like a company vision statement, it should permeate every level of the business and everyone working on the campaign should be able to recite personas and align everything to the overall aim of the work they are doing.

Sounds simple, but the number of times we see businesses without this kind of alignment has made this a very important first-port-of-call in the process.

It is a relatively easy entry into the overall ideation process and requires a simple conversation and initial centering of all ideas around the objective.

For instance, that may be "to grow an audience of 30-40-year-old white-collar workers who are into skiing." Centering all ideation on that will keep ideas focused and in line with overall objectives.

An example idea: A series of image-based "how to" guides covering ski techniques (this site does a good job of this), distributed via targeted social amplification to our target demographic.

2. Data/personas

This then ties into a deeper conversation around what key data we have, or can create, to improve existing or "reach" audience insight.

A previous post of mine on the Moz Blog detailed a way in which we leverage data from social to help inform audience understanding, and often we will run this process beforehand to give us an initial swathe of audience profiling data.

This is also where existing persona detail will be shared so we can ensure that we are coming up with ideas fit for the different "types" of audience being targeted.

A 35-year-old married father of two working in insurance will be intrigued by very different content than a 60-year-old widower looking to invest cautiously for retirement when they are considering financial services businesses, for instance.

This is where we create those audience-centric ideas, and this section can often be one with the greatest depth.

Based on insight into our skiing business example, we may discover that there is a high correlation between our audience and those that also like surfing. If that is the case, an example idea may be a list-based feature looking at X ways in which surfing techniques can help you become a better skier.

3. Long-tail opportunity

Long tail is an increasingly major opportunity, especially for those leading their digital marketing charge with content creation. Google's Hummingbird update is also designed to better surface more precise answers to queries, and that should mean more traffic for what traditionally we had traditionally known as the long tail.

Creating content that is based squarely on existing search volume as opposed to simply guessing and hoping it may attract visits is a critical component of any strategy.

The research for this can be carried out beforehand, but often we find it more useful to run tools such as Ubersuggest and Grepwords during the session to make it inclusive and more interesting. More people suggesting input phrases can also mean you end up with a wider selection of potential terms to run through.

The idea then is to prioritize those phrases either on potential search volume or 'fit' with the mix of the overall content plan.

Here is a snippet of what the former tool has surfaced for our skiing example; clearly there is opportunity to utilize this information in the formation of a daily article creation strategy:

4. Semantic phrases

The marketing world is awash with talk of entity search and semantic association. For those that haven't the time or inclination to go away and read awesome guides on this area by the likes of Aaron Bradley or Moz's own Matthew Brown, in simple terms it is the concept of organizing information by understanding individual "things" (entities) and their relationships with other "things," without there already being an explicit link between them.

Semantic search understands those relationships, and therefore (in theory) the implicit part of any query, and can thus deliver a richer list of results.

Understanding what other phrases, or words, may be semantically linked can be useful in ensuring that you are "whole-of-market" going forwards, and can expand laterally into relevant content areas.

Few tools really help with this at present, well but one we do use is LSI Keywords, which provides a very simple way of exporting other similar or relevant keywords. Google's own database of entities, Freebase, is also quite useful, and its search functionality will list other associated entries, giving you a simple map of subjects you could still cover while staying relevant. If you type the word into the top search bar, you are presented with a list of themes relevant to the topic:

You can further expand the list by clicking on the "view more" link at the bottom of the drop-down. This list can give you an amazing framework from which you can work on wider topic areas.

5. Trending content

One of the easiest ways to capture large amounts of new visitor traffic is to jump on existing conversations around trending content themes.

Again, it can pay to get everyone involved in the brainstorm to spend five minutes before the meeting researching news-related blogs, news sites, and social channels for ideas to expedite the process, but it is not impossible to do this live, either. Google Trends, Social listening tools, Fresh Web Explorer, and other tools can be great to get the latest angles on relevant themes.

These will obviously be time-sensitive, so it is important that you brainstorm for this content on a regular basis and leave placeholders within your content calendar for what you find. So, for instance, once a week (say every Wednesday) you'll enter [news-led article], and the subject matter will be decided based upon the maximum possible impact.

The idea, also, is that you move the debate forward. Don't simply rewrite what has already been said. Look for exclusive, interesting angles to throw in the mix.

For instance, if I use Social Mention to look at the latest skiing chatter, I soon discover that there is some cool content being shared via Facebook (use the search filtering options in the left column to drill down to specific platforms, sort by sentiment, and look for top users, etc.). Perhaps you can come up with Part Two to the epic "Star Wars Meets The Winter Olympics?"

6. Evergreen content

And then we come to one of the most important areas of all: evergreen content. Why is it so important? Quite simply, it's the content you will put the most effort into perfecting, that will attract the most traffic, and that will have the most longevity.

It is imperative that you really understand the core concerns, frustrations and gaps in knowledge your audience has so you can fill those gaps in great detail and build trust, association, and engagement with your brand.

So, how do you go about working out what kind of content you should be producing here? The answer lies in keyword analysis, competitor analysis and audience data insight once again.

Tools like Searchmetrics can also help here; its long-tail opportunity tool can help you see what some of the most successful sites rank for alongside their traffic volumes and value. This makes finding the opportunities you don't have and ranking them in order of priority that much easier. Sort by either volume or opportunity, and you have a list of content creation to-dos right there!

For this section to run smoothly, you should prepare a spreadsheet of keywords with search volumes for your target country. This will help validate any ideas that come out of the brainstorm. Ensuring that what you think is a good idea for a lengthy evergreen piece actually matches real-world search demand. If you're putting in a heap of effort then this is crucial in ensuring positive ROI from the activity.

You should end up with a list of five to 20 ideas to go away and begin work on.

7. Content types

By now you should have a long list of possible ideas. The key at this point is to start classifying them into "content type" piles. To do this, create a spreadsheet with all the relevant content types for the brand along the top, and then drop in your ideas below. That way you can see which content types may be a little light on the ideas front, and you can further brainstorm around that specific area, filling in the gaps. Here's an example of such a table:

8. Purchase funnel

The final discussion centers squarely on ensuring that the range of content covers the entire purchase funnel. For those that do not have the classic funnel engrained, you can see the various stages to the right here in the widely accepted classic purchase funnel, based on the AIDA principles first set out by marketer E. St Elmo Lewis.

AIDA stands for:

  • A - attention (or awareness): Attract the attention of the customer.
  • I - interest: Raise customer interest by focusing on and demonstrating advantages and benefits (instead of focusing on features, as in traditional advertising).
  • D - desire: Convince customers that they want and desire the product or service and that it will satisfy their needs.
  • A - action: Lead customers towards taking action and/or purchasing.

Classic Conversion Funnel

What regularly happens with ideation is a team will end up with lots of content that sits at the top of that funnel, helping with brand discovery and touching on consideration.

It is critical, however, to brainstorm content ideas that help people through that buying process and also help turn them into evangelists and long-term clients/customers.

This is where in-depth, unbiased buying guides and looking after your posts comes in. You can also improve retention with work to build a community around your offering (Moz is the perfect example!), offers and competitions, "exclusive" member clubs and offers, and so on.

We had this missing from the mix until around six months ago, but since introducing it we have managed to add a powerful new dimension to the overall content plan, and it works really well.

So, you now have your list of ideas. The next phase is then what we class as content planning, which is a subject all of its own. In short, you then need to distill those ideas into realistic, deliverable, concepts, and once you have that editing process complete you then place those ideas into an editorial calendar that can be delivered with the resources you have available.

Example for each stage of this funnel may include:

  • Exposure/awareness: The "Star Wars Meets the Winter Olympics" idea mentioned above.
  • Discovery: A thought-leadership piece on why the brand believes a new country is the next big "skiing Mecca"
  • Consideration: An expert buyer guide on the products and wider choices, such as the "best skiing holiday for under $1,000"
  • Conversion: Trust-building content, such as an honest comparison table comparing our brand with other competitors, proving why we are best.
  • Customer relationship: An amazing editorial email concept introducing them to the brand initially, with offers, etc.
  • Retention: Exclusive offers for those "in-the-club/VIPs" (existing customers).

That's the process; here are the tools to help

There are a number of tools we use on a regular basis to make this entire process more efficient and effective. I have listed the best of them below to help you through the ideation process:

1. Ubersuggest – a popular long tail opportunity finder based on Google's suggest feature of previously searched for phrases.

2. Grepwords The Instant Keyword Tool provides downloadable 'csvs' of related keywords along with search volumes and CPCs.

3. Google Trends – This is generally a very useful tool to find trending content and check for demand but it's especially useful when you use the 2013 round up of top searches. The how to guides could be gold dust for the right businesses?

4. Magazines – A less obvious "tool," but certainly a great resource for great content ideas. Choose a specialist title for your niche.

5. Bottlenose – A great content-curation engine built to aggregate content based on social "noise" and sharing.

6. Content Idea Generator – not the best tool on the list here but it can help with idea structuring.

7. Topsy An awesome Twitter-based analytics and analysis tool that can be used to see most shared content.

8. Inboxq – A great tool for surfacing key questions being asked so you can answer them and create content based on them.

9. Murally – This is a useful tool for helping to curate related concepts and ideas in one place

10. Flickr – A fantastic resource for visual content cues. Stick those you like on a Mural.ly board and you soon have a look and feel understanding.

11. Followerwonk – Useful for finding influencers around specific subject matter to see what's being shared and engaged with in a space.

12. Trello – This is a great tool for organizing more complex ideas.

13. Quora – A fantastic resource for discovering longer-tail content opportunities to answer questions being asked.

14. Google+ circles – Follow the right groups, and they can be fantastic idea resources.

15. Ifttt Not an idea tool in its own right, but the automation of certain tasks can make collating ideas so much easier.

16. Alltop An easy one-stop-shop for latest subject matter articles and other content to 'borrow' ideas from!

17. Google Alerts A must-have for the latest on your niche to help with trending content.

18. Zanran A brilliant "search engine" for stats and facts, which helps with content based on compelling data.

19. Moz Alerts Another useful tool for keeping an eye on trending content ideas and competitor activity.

20. LinkedIn Groups Like Google+ Circles, these are fantastic for finding questions to answer.

21. Link Bait Title Generator – We love this simple tool. It may be limited in terms of ideas but it's quick and simple to use.

22. Delicious –The original shareable content aggregator and still a great place to discover fantastic content ideas.

23. Trapit – A clever content curation tool that gets the right content to you efficiently

Pulling it together

The next stage of the process, as explained, is to then edit your final list of ideas down into a realistic list of concepts that you CAN deliver with the time and resources you have available, and that can be a significant amount of work in its own right.

Get it right though and you will end up with a content calendar filled to the brim with ideas that grow and engage your audience across every digital channel. That plan becomes the heartbeat of your entire digital marketing strategy.

About SimonPenson — Simon Penson is the founder and MD of Zazzle Media a content-led, data informed digital marketing agency based in the UK. They specialise in building audiences of value from search, social and influencer channels via services such as content strategy creation, content creation and content marketing, social and digital PR. You can also email him at simon.penson@zazzlemedia.co.uk and follow him on Twitter or Google+.

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