SHIFT Agency PR Blog and PR News

31 Oct 2014

Surviving Penguin and Panda Attacks: SEO Basics


Those sneaky penguins! On Friday, October 17, Google released its third Penguin update to it’s search algorithm chock full of new penalties and created some additional rules of thumb for creating content on the web that you want to rank well within Google’s search results with a few SEO basics.

While Google’s updates strive to better clean up the web of content using sneaky tactics (think Wikihow), it’s hard to understand how the new algorithm might affect your properties. Here are a few ways we’d suggest checking up on your site to determine how we’ll you’re doing with all these changes.

First things first, check in with the right tools.If you don’t have Google Webmaster Tools set up, now is the time. If you do, this is a good use for it! We would recommend checking up on your site at least weekly to determine how each change impacts keywords, impressions and clicks for those keywords. To do this, navigate to the Search Traffic and then Search Queries page using the sidebar menu. Check on the number of impressions vs. the number of clicks. If you suddenly see a downward spike, after an algorithm update, it’s time to pinpoint your content issues and get to cleaning while creating new content that helps users find what they’re looking for and answers the questions they may be asking.

Google Webmaster Tools search

Over the next few weeks it will be especially important to work this check-up into search queries into your workflow. One other place we would recommend checking is By looking at the number of links and if they’ve increased or decreased, you can access if other sites have been impacted by Penguin and if you’ve lost poor quality links as a result, as seen below.

ahrefs in action

Creating better content

We’ve talked a lot here about creating better content and why it’s so important to your customers, readers, and ranking. With this update, Google continues to signify that it’s important to them and to their users that the content found when searching successfully answers the question the user may be asking with the query they use. So don’t focus on creating lots of content stuffed with keywords, focus on answering the question with your blog post, infographic, contributed content, or guest post.

Disavow harmful links

If you have a link from a website that is low quality and you don’t want it to affect your site, and you lack control over the links, disavow the links. This will tell Google you’re aware that the quality of those links may not be useful, that you don’t want to be associated with them, and that you don’t want them to count against you. This gives you a useful tool if someone’s tactics outside of your control are having an effect on your rank.

Harmful practices

We’ve covered these before and there haven’t been significant changes to these rules and how they work, but to refresh your memory. This list is a good rulebook to go by while planning your content and link building strategies:

  • Avoid link schemes that are bound to get you in trouble – if it seems scammy, it probably is!
  • Buying or selling links without noting them as ads – selling and inserting text links into your post makes Google cranky
  • Exchanging links with others to gain rank – if you want to link to a friend, talk about their post, their points, etc., but avoid asking for a link exchange.
  • Large-scale article marketing or guest posts are quickly becoming losing tactics for linkbuilding. Keep these practices to a minimum and when you DO write for someone else, make sure the post highly relevant to their audiences. This is key.
  • Advertorials – I get buying press. It’s an easy button. But there are better ways. This isn’t one of them, so stop it.
  • Widgets that distribute links – all those spiffy widgets that link back to someone else’s blog or article or event, they’re frowned upon.
  • Forum comments with optimized links – don’t use forums or comments on blog as a place to drop your optimized URL. It’s spammy and Google will hate you for it.

Perform an SEO audit

Finally, of all the things that you can do that will help your search performance, perform an SEO audit (ignore all the popups from the author of this site and focus on the offering on the page). This is just one example of many audit templates that you can use. Take the time toward the end of the year to assess how your site rank, organic search, paid search, keywords, and more are doing so you know what changes to make in 2015.

Amp up your earned media efforts

Earned media from credible publications, with links, is the best, most reliable, most future-proof way to build links that stand the test of time and Google’s algorithms.

Need help? Have questions? Comments? Thoughts? I’d love to help, just comment below or shoot us an email.

Chel Wolverton
Account Manager, Marketing Technology

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30 Oct 2014

Advanced analytics: position, velocity, and acceleration

At this year’s Social Media Success Summit, I had the opportunity to teach an advanced marketing and communications analytics session. One of the ideas I shared was looking beyond just the data that comes out of the box from tools like Google Analytics, Facebook insights, etc. and using some relatively simple mathematical principles to turn data into insights.

One principle that’s important to understand is the concept of derivatives, or understanding what’s changed. A metric of any kind is a snapshot in time of where a piece of data is. For example, you can get a snapshot of how many people have viewed a bylined article, or get a snapshot of how many followers you have on Twitter. These are positional metrics – they tell you where you are.

If you track how much your position changes over time, you are starting to measure velocity. You had 100 likes on your best Facebook post yesterday. Today you have 110. Your velocity, the rate of change, is +10 likes, or a 10% rate of change.

If you track how much your change is changing, you are starting to measure acceleration. You had a 10% rate of change yesterday, and today you have a 15% rate of change. Your acceleration rate is 50%.

Driving The Volvo

Put another way, imagine you’re driving a car. Where the car is on the map is your position. The rate of change in your position is your velocity, or how fast your car is going. It’s the number on the speedometer, or possibly the number written on the speeding ticket the police officer gives you. The rate of change of change is your acceleration – it’s how hard you’re stepping on the gas pedal to make the car go faster, or how hard you’re stepping on the brakes when you see the speeding trap just around the corner.

When it comes to analytics and metrics, all three sets of numbers are important:

It’s important to know where you are.
It’s important to know how fast you’re going.
It’s important to know whether you are going faster or slower.

Let’s look at how you’d apply this concept in practice. Go to your Facebook Page and export your data for the last 180 days. You should see something that looks like this:


Illuminate the data by turning the lifetime total likes into a line chart, like so:


This is your position. This tells you where you were and where you are right now.

Next, insert a new column, and in the new column, select the second cell. In that cell, put in the formula (new – old) / old:


Drag down the column until it’s auto-filled, then chart it:


Suddenly I can see a lot more. I can see that the rate of change really stepped up a couple of months into this timeframe, and for the most part the pace of change has been steady, the velocity has been steady. If my goal was to have access to a greater audience on Facebook, then whatever I’m doing is clearly starting to work.

Do the same process again to find the acceleration; insert a new column, and in the new column, select the second cell. In that cell, put in the formula (new – old) / old:


Drag down the column and chart it, too:


What does this tell me? This tells me how hard I was stepping on the gas at various points throughout the year. There are clearly points where the pedal hit the metal and growth really took off, and there are periods where I kept a steady pressure on the gas pedal and didn’t need to accelerate. There were even a couple of points where I took my foot off the gas pedal and slowed down.

This tells you two things: first, it tells you when you stepped on the gas. If you meant to, if it was intentional, then you can see whether it worked or not.

Second, it tells you just how hard you CAN step on the gas. If you’re coming up on the end of the month, quarter, or year and you haven’t grown your audience (in this example) to hit the goal you’ve set, you know whether that goal is achievable or not based on how hard you can accelerate. It’s analogous to knowing whether your car can beat the traffic light by knowing how fast you can go from 30 MPH to 60 MPH.

This process of developing an understanding of position, velocity, and acceleration can illuminate any series of metrics, from press hits to website traffic to lead generation and beyond. Use it whenever you need to know more than just what your position is!

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology

Download our new eBook, How Social Broke PR

29 Oct 2014

Bring Chaos Into the Workplace


‘Crisis’ can be defined as an unstable or crucial time in which a decisive change is impending, especially one with the distinct possibility of a highly undesirable outcome.

Crises aren’t shy, be it a personnel issue or flaw in a product or service, the unexpected happens to us all. To combat this feeling of uncertainty, some organizations are instituting chaos theory into their workflow. By injecting chaos into a working machine, you can anticipate problems first by creating them and then challenging your company to fix them.

Netflix is doing just that, preparing for the worst by intentionally “breaking” its systems for the purpose of exposing weakness and giving its engineers practice and experience in fixing them.

Other tech companies are adopting the process into their engineering workflows, but it has applications outside of the tech world…it just requires a change in the thought process. Which we all know is a challenge for businesses that aren’t nimble.

Especially in PR, we always try to fix things (just ask Olivia Pope). Breaking something on purpose goes against our overwhelming desire to get things right. But the only way to practice crisis communications is to imagine worst-case scenarios (break the system) and practice – thus institutionalizing the chaos.

Want to try testing how your organization deals with chaos and crises? Start by working backwards – first, create the problem. One method: Do this as a fire drill and don’t warn anyone in advance so they take it seriously and put forth their best efforts as they would need to during an actual crisis. The ideal is to have the team test various solutions in a timely fashion until you determine the best fix for any given problems you can come up with. This will allow everyone to not only see flaws in in various plans and procedures, but also gain experience in handling an “unexpected” situation in a controlled environment. Don’t be afraid to reach outside the box and rethink convoluted procedures. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your team can accomplish something when under pressure to resolve a problem and handle it well in the moment.

PR professionals are planners; we’re creative; we’re ready for anything. Being proactive and forward thinking is part of the game – practicing before the big day comes and issues descend. If we make a point to prepare for the chaos, we’ll be better able to handle it when the time comes. Go forth and break things!

Tori Sabourin
Marketing Analyst

Download our new eBook, PAID EARNED OWNED SHARED

28 Oct 2014

Up Your Intel With LinkedIn

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 8.51.04 AM

Today, we’re excited to announce the release of our latest eBook, ‘LinkedIn for Businesses & Brands.’ LinkedIn is often underused, and its usefulness to brands is often understated. It can truly be a powerful tool for businesses. Our eBook walks through seven core ways brands can use LinkedIn, from the very first steps to utilizing groups, advertising and more. You can download your free copy here.

As a sneak peek, we wanted to walk you through some of LinkedIn’s intelligence gathering capabilities. We can’t promise you’ll feel like you’re in the CIA, but you can use the platform to discover new insights both internally and externally, including potential business prospects or mergers.

What can you discover, exactly?

Local Business Prospects and Networking Opportunities

By the power vested in LinkedIn and Google, you have the ability to search the platform by location. Looking for new business connections or networking opportunities? Interested in companies in the area? You can pull a list by doing a simple Google search.

Before you begin, take note of how LinkedIn refers to certain areas. For example, Boston is referred to as the ‘Greater Boston Area’ as opposed to just ‘Boston, MA.’ The same goes for New York City and others. This is a minor difference, but it does matter if you expect to get consistent search results through Google. (See the image below.)

Overall, this is a quick and easy way to discover local connections that may be worth conversing with – whether they’re good recruiting leads or a new business prospect.

LI + Google = Love


Company Hires

This next example is a great intelligence resource, and it’s so simple it’s often overlooked. If you want to get a sense for what a company is up to, check out what job openings they’ve posted recently on their LinkedIn page – or what positions their employees are sharing. This can indicate a new product line or a different direction. For example, if you suddenly see a company is on the hunt for several new mobile developers, it’s a good indication that they may be planning to launch a mobile app soon. If you know your industry really well, you’ll be able to decipher what certain hires mean for your competitors and industry peers.

General Industry Updates

At first glance, the LinkedIn newsfeed can be a bit confusing. The good news is that you have the ability to customize your newsfeed in order to receive the most relevant information you’re looking for. That can be new jobs, new connections, or news. You can readjust these filters at any time to keep an eye on what is happening within your industry. Your filter choices look like this:

Filters Unite!


That’s just a glimpse into the information you can gather on LinkedIn. For more insights and tips, be sure to check out the full eBook.

Amanda Grinavich
Senior Marketing Analyst

Download our new eBook, PAID EARNED OWNED SHARED

27 Oct 2014

The Tricks and Treats of Building an Infographic

Whether you’re a child or grown adult, one of the best parts of Halloween is always the candy. But ever wonder who’s buying all those Fun Size Kit Kats and Snickers? Or where they’re buying them?

Here at SHIFT, we coupled our love of candy and data to create the infographic below (click for larger image) showcasing consumers’ Halloween candy buying and spending habits. We found a few interesting tidbits amongst our research:

  • Nearly half of Americans won’t be buying Halloween candy this year.
  • The younger crowd has the Boomers beat when it comes to buying candy.
  • More women will buy candy, but men will spend more when they do purchase it.

Like most creative pieces, the infographic was an evolution and team effort that didn’t happen overnight. We pride ourselves on collaboration at SHIFT, and this was a great example of multiple teams coming together to create the best final product possible.

The concept was originally born during one of our weekly brainstorm sessions. After refining the idea, we conducted a survey of 5,000 respondents (full methodology featured at the bottom of the infographic below). This original research led to numerous data points that we synthesized into insights that then drove the copy for the infographic.

With the copy in hand, we tapped our Creative Services team to design an infographic. Uber-talented and savvy, their ability to create compelling visual strategies for infographics always relies on a process of creating and vetting with the same questions as filters: What are the broad objectives? Who are we talking to? What are we telling them? Why should they care? Where will it be seen? What’s the attention span? How “branded” should we appear? And then, at last, what’s the appropriate message and visual strategy? Though our team allowed time for revisions, in this case they all but nailed it on the first draft.

We then worked with our consumer teams in both the Boston and San Francisco offices to pitch the infographic and insights to various media outlets.

At the end of the day, the process was a true SHIFT-wide project that showcases our integrated capabilities with a kicka$$ final product. I sense a case study coming on… after we finish off the Halloween candy.

Halloween Candy Infographic 800px

Zach Burrus
Marketing Analyst

Download our new eBook, How Social Broke PR

24 Oct 2014

Why Instagram’s “Barter Economy” is a Good Thing

…For marketers, influencers, and consumers.

Last week, The New York Times published a piece on how influential Instagrammers are being courted by luxury brands with offers of free swag and other out-of-this-world perks in exchange for photos. We’re talking “all-expenses paid trips to Iceland” levels of incredible. AdWeek also chimed in with a follow-up article calling it Instagram’s “secret barter economy.”


Well, it’s definitely not secret any more (and really, was it ever?) but it is essentially a barter system. With the race in full swing to reach the ever-elusive, Instagram-loving Millennial generation, it’s easy to understand why brands would jump at the chance to trade their luxury swag for thousands of highly engaged Millennial eyeballs paying attention to Instagram influencers and their feeds.

But before anyone starts crying #GramGate or claiming that Instagram influencers are “selling out,” let’s remember that brands and influencers have had this sort of relationship for years. Companies send product to bloggers, who “repay” the brand with an honest review on an influential blog with thousands of readers. We all know that drill.

The only notable difference this time is the medium: photos instead of text. But even that’s not new, because as the Times article also points out, Coach has been hiring popular Instagram users to promote their products for two years now.

So if Instagram’s barter economy doesn’t mean it’s time to gape at the network’s lost integrity, what does it mean?

Beyond the selfies and the food pics and the filters, Instagram represents something awesome for social media marketing: an opportunity to turn things around in an age of news feeds spammed with poorly-targeted promotions.

First of all, what do nearly all of the examples of trades between brands and Instagrammers have in common? They promote experiences rather than just products. A vacation in Iceland (+ Dom Pérignon). A road trip adventure (+ Mercedes-Benz). Even the “smaller” trades do this: a photo of the excellent drink selection enjoyed at a restaurant, for example.


We accept the following to be true:

  1. Marketing is about telling stories
  2. Stories about experiences are more interesting than statements about objects
  3. Visual content is more engaging to Millennials than written content

Instagram enables brands to convey a story about an experience through a single photo that is instantly broadcast to thousands of their target demographic. That’s worth paying attention to (and paying for).

Secondly, these examples are proof that it’s possible to promote your brand in an unobtrusive and authentic way – a feat that has eluded many a brand on other networks. Though both Facebook and Twitter have updated their algorithms to address the fact that users feel inundated by promotions that are more disruptive than helpful, many brands still continue to spam audiences with little thought to tailoring and targeting.

With the current Instagram economy, however, influencers have the power to maintain their authenticity:

“Instagram influencers say they have fielded significant interest from brands in the last year – and that even large corporate brands agree not to interfere with their creative process. The labels aren’t just looking for help reaching niche Instagram communities. They often also want assistance creating effective marketing images. That means they need the Grammers to present their products to their homegrown audience with the aesthetic that drew the audience in the first place.”

While a different type of “targeting” than the kind digital advertisers are used to on other social and search channels, it’s highly effective: by handing the creative reigns over to the Instagrammer, the message is innately tailored to what their audience wants and expects to see from them.

All one has to do to confirm this maintained authenticity is to take a look at the feeds of any of the Instagrammers mentioned in the Times article.

So what are we left with? Brand stories told through captured photos of experiences, conveyed to an already-interested, targeted audience. Brands (and their agencies) benefit because they get the eyeballs they want, influencers benefit because they get awesome experiences to photograph and share with their followers, and audiences benefit because they are delivered promotion tailored for them to actually enjoy.

Far from selling out to the marketing man, I’d say that’s pretty darn good for everyone.


So how can your brand jump on the opportunity Instagram presents? The first step is to embrace Instagram as an important part of your marketing strategy. From there, you can:

  • Identify the influencers relevant to your brand – there are a variety of tools that can do this, but even without fancy tools you can research your current audiences on all networks and owned properties to find out what Grammers they follow.
  • Pledge to leave creative control in the hands of the Instagrammers – it’s better that way for both parties, for reasons explained above.
  • Start an Instagram handle for your brand so influencers can tag you and send traffic to your feed.

Good luck, future BrandGrammers!

JJ Samp

Marketing Analyst

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23 Oct 2014

How to Make Your Landing Page Not Suck

As a marketer, you’ve got top-notch knowledge and implementation chops when it comes to landing pages, so you can safely skip this post, right?


In the name of marketing, stop right there! Even top brands that should know better are capable of creating cringe-worthy landing pages. We think you can do better.

Consider that the point of a landing page is to serve as a place to send web traffic, with the purpose of incentivizing visitors to take a specific, immediate action. That action depends on who you are and what you’re trying to accomplish – it could be purchases, user registrations, donations, clicks to another page, among many others.

If someone visits your page, it usually means they’re interested in what you’ve got to offer. So, why would you prevent them from doing what you want them to do by sending them to a landing page that doesn’t tell them what you want them to do?

I’m talking about the call to action (CTA) – the part of your landing page that answers the question, “What the heck am I supposed to do on this page, anyway?” The success of your landing page ultimately boils down to whether your call to action actually, well, calls people to action.

So before you hit “go” on your next marketing campaign, make sure your landing page meets these fundamentals.

Your CTA should be explicitly clear and concise. The moment visitors have to guess at what they should do, you risk losing them. Give it a test: if you show your landing page to someone who knows nothing about you or your industry, would they be able to immediately tell you what the page is asking them to do?

Identify and align your CTA with campaign goals. If you don’t have a clear picture of the action you want visitors to take, how can you expect your audience to figure it out? If your goal is user registration and your call to action is not something along the lines of “sign up!” then something is off.


Tailor your landing page copy to your audience. You have something your audience wants, which is why they clicked to your landing page in the first place. A good landing page tells them only what they need to know: 1) what you’re offering them and 2) how to get it.

Don’t bury the CTA under extraneous information. Provide your audience with the info they need, but don’t give them info they don’t need. Just because you care about your CEO’s background or your company mission, doesn’t mean your audience gives a hoot. This also means being careful with secondary or multiple calls to action (which aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but merit extra grace).

Keep it Visible Above the Fold. Internet users spend 80% of their time looking at info above the page fold – that is, the parts you can see without scrolling. If it doesn’t fit on a single screen, chances are it’s not going to get read. Keep important content at the top.

Enable immediate action. The human transient attention span is reportedly now as short as eight seconds. The easier and shorter the action, the more likely you will hold audience interest long enough for them to complete it. Think about where you can remove steps from the process – if you want people to tweet for your social campaign, for example, include a “tweet this now” button with a pre-loaded tweet.

Utilize visuals. We hear all the time about how visual content is more engaging than text alone. Avoid the “wall of text” that can make visitors’ eyes glaze over once they click to your landing page and miss the CTA altogether (see the Evernote example above).

Once you have these basics in place, you’ll be in pretty good shape. From there, you can get fancier with design, but always remember that excellent design will not make up for bad copy! Also, don’t forget the extra important step of setting up UTM tag tracking to monitor the visitors to your landing page, and event-tracking for clicks on CTA (buttons, links, etc.) so you can measure the results of your hard work.

Take a look at some of these examples of great landing pages if you want to get inspired… and next time, we want to see YOUR landing page on the list.

JJ Samp
Marketing Analyst

Download our new eBook, How Social Broke PR

22 Oct 2014

Find your Brand’s Optimum Facebook Strategy

The Facebook news feed algorithm is in constant flux. It’s never a surprise when another ‘update’ materializes in the daily news scan, making the maintenance of a successful social media strategy difficult for marketers and communicators. One of the fundamental truths to Facebook in current environments, however, is that brands (in general) need to pay in order to be seen.

Thankfully Facebook presents brands with several options to increase the number of eyeballs on the content and engagements with the post. Among those options are things like Boosted Posts and Promoted Profiles. For those who aren’t as familiar with Facebook’s paid options, here are the differences:

  • Boosting Posts is an advertising strategy where you pay to have your post seen by a larger percentage of your audience (than with organic, unpaid reach alone).
  • Promoted Profile is an advertising strategy where you pay to have people discover your Facebook Page.
  • Note: There are several other paid strategies available on Facebook, but these two apply to most brands.

The question facing both our agency and our clients is: Of these two basic Facebook paid media strategies, which is more effective for actually getting your content seen?

To answer that question, we did our homework using our own data in a research experiment to determine what strategy worked best for our audience (i.e. if you want to replicate this for your own purposes, use your data, not our conclusions). If you want to keep up with Facebook’s changes and see what works for your brand or client, try our methods as a starting point.

Here’s what we did:

Our goal was to determine which of the two options above, a promoted profile or boosted posts, resulted in the highest engagement from our audience on Facebook. Over the course of the campaign, we invested a small amount of money ($10 a day) to see which strategy worked best with our audience and our posts.

We boosted one post a day – the post containing our daily blog content – to our target audience, determined through audience research.


We first ran the experiment over a three-week period in July, alternating between promoting SHIFT’s profile, boosting posts and a combination of both.

Week 1: Boosted Posts (no promoted account)

Week 2: Promoted Profile (no boosted posts)

Week 3: Promoted Profile AND Boosted Posts

In July, posts during Week 2 performed the best, resulting in some of the highest engagement across the board – with just a promoted profile campaign active.

Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 8.32.12 AM

These results provided what we felt was a counterintuitive conclusion: in order for our content to be seen, it appeared the correct strategy was to promote our page, not our posts. While these results were certainly interesting, we knew there were a few outside factors that could be manipulating the results – particularly the fact that the month of July is very popular for vacations and time off from work (and your computer). We decided to wait a few weeks and test again in September, when vacations are ending and people’s schedules return to normal.

September + October

When September rolled around, we duplicated our July experiment – $10 a day, rotating strategy week by week for six weeks and found the results to be the exact opposite of what happened in July. Our posts performed best when they were boosted without a promoted profile campaign active. This is why it is so important to do your research, experiment and repeat!

Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 8.30.01 AM


Overall, our experiment gave us nine weeks of data. We analyzed our findings and found that the best practice (for the time being, at least) for SHIFT to reach the Agency’s target audience is to only boost posts, forgoing the promoted profile campaigns, as summarized in the chart below:

Screen Shot 2014-10-21 at 3.47.53 PM

In the above chart, we can see that boosted posts with no promoted profile provided 12x increases in median paid reach of content over organic (unpaid) reach.

For the second category of campaign, where we boosted posts and promoted the profile, we saw only a 9x increase in paid reach and no significant difference in organic reach.

Finally, in the promoted page with no boosted posts, we saw half as much organic reach and no paid reach. For our Facebook audience, boosted posts without promoted profile advertising seems to be the way to go to achieve maximum reach… for now.

If you find yourself in a situation where your Facebook strategy has fallen flat and audience engagement is lagging, try this experiment for yourself. See if your audience reacts differently than ours, and most important, find the best paid social media strategy for your brand.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology

Tori Sabourin
Marketing Analyst

Download our new eBook, PAID EARNED OWNED SHARED

21 Oct 2014

Conquer Today’s Top B2B Content Marketing Challenges

This week I was reminded of a post I wrote back in March on jumpstarting your B2B content. The reminder? MarketingProfs’ latest B2B Content Marketing 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets & Trends report. The report provides some great insight into how B2B marketers are thinking about content and where they’re stuck. Though 70% of the marketers who responded are creating more content than they did a year ago, they are experiencing a number of challenges that still plague their efforts. Those challenges range from budget issues and lack of training to struggling with consistency and engagement. Today, I wanted to examine the top three challenges cited in the report and how to think about combating them.

B2B Marketing Challenges

Challenge #1: Producing Engaging Content.

Ah, yes. It can certainly be hard to find a way to be engaging if your company specializes in things like enterprise cloud storage and virtualization. But it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. First things first, make sure you’ve researched your audience. It’s likely you already know them from a sales perspective, but what do they find valuable from a human perspective? What do they read on a daily basis? What questions are they asking? Check out what they’re sharing and discussing on social media. Go through any recent customer FAQ’s. Once you get a feel for their interests and habits, you can start to create content that they’ll find interesting and informational. Become a resource for your audience — not just a resource on your individual company, but also a resource on the industry. Above all, make it a point to stay fresh and original. Copycats are boring.

One helpful tip: if your B2B brand is active on social media, you will be able to get additional insight on your audience through their proprietary analysis tools. For example, on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, you have the ability to see things like audience interests, seniority levels and more. This will help you further dictate and target your content.

Challenge #2: Producing Consistent Content.

There are plenty of excuses for not producing consistent content, “We don’t have time,” or “We don’t have enough to write about.” The bottom line is that if you want your content program to succeed, you absolutely have to be consistent, whether it’s daily, weekly or monthly. Choose a schedule and stick to it so your brand is providing a steady flow of content and your audience know what to expect and when.

Create a content calendar that will map out the topics you want to cover and the days you’ll focus on them. Documenting your strategy will help hold you accountable. As the report shows, those companies who said they had a documented strategy found themselves to be more efficient, more consistent and better at measuring their overall program’s effectiveness.

Write it down!

Challenge #3: Measuring content effectiveness.

Measurement can be a mystery for many content marketers. Only 21% say they are successful at tracking ROI, and there was a 10% year-over-year increase in those who found measuring content effectiveness to be challenging. There isn’t one magic metric that will tell you how your content is doing. What success means for you depends on what your goals are for the program. Is it to generate awareness or site traffic? Does your business need to generate leads? It’s important to know what your goals are so that you have something to measure against. If you want a deeper dive on the ways you can measure your content marketing, be sure to check out our webinar that will walk you through best practices and beyond.

What are your biggest B2B content marketing challenges?

Amanda Grinavich
Senior Marketing Analyst

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20 Oct 2014

The bedtime test of content marketing and PR

If you’ve ever had the opportunity, try to recall the last time you tucked in a child at bedtime.

You were probably asked to have the lights put a certain way.

Perhaps you were asked for a drink of water.

You were almost certainly not asked to read them a press release.

What do they want you to read?

Designed by Sarah Muscarella, click for big version

If you need an acid test for compelling content, show it to a literate child at bedtime. Offer to read them a white paper or press release, listen to a webinar, show them an infographic. If they manage to stay engaged for more than a minute, then you’ve clearly got the hang of good storytelling. If they’re immediately bored, then your storytelling isn’t compelling.

Think you can’t apply compelling storytelling to “boring industries”? You can. In 1999, my graduate thesis was on the deployment of a Microsoft Exchange server at a non-profit in order to improve collaboration. The story was presented as a Lord of the Rings-style adventure, in which a plucky band of adventurers fought dragons like technophobia on the way to the promised land of integrated communications.

Other great examples of this? Marketo Corporation released a B2B marketing coloring book:


B2B tag management vendor Tealium took it a step further and released an actual children’s Little Golden Book titled “Taming the Digital Marketing Beast”:


If you want a simple test for any content marketing or public relations communication, try reading it to a child at bedtime. The feedback you receive about your storytelling abilities will be instant and brutally honest. Then go back, sharpen your pencil, and try again until you create something that even a kid would like.

Oh, and the storytelling graphic above is available in poster-size, if you’d like to print it out and hang it in your office as a reminder.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology

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