4 Spooky Marketing Lessons from Classic Halloween Monsters

Halloween is objectively the best holiday of the fall-winter season. You don’t have to go broke buying people gifts. You don’t have to cook an enormous meal (then pass out after gorging on turkey). The only obligations for Halloween are to play dress up and eat candy!

Not to mention I’m somewhat partial to the holiday’s aesthetic. Give me skulls and bats over tinsel and garland any day of the week, and twice on Friday the 13th.

Sure, there’s a horror/scary element to Halloween. But it’s a fun, safe kind of scary. If you’ve spent an hour on social media recently, you know there are scarier things than ghoulies and ghosties.

But Halloween isn’t just fun. It’s educational, too! I realized this year that some of my favorite Halloween monsters are hiding valuable lessons for marketers. For example…

#1: Dracula Rules Influencer Marketing

Count Dracula is often romanticized as a solitary figure, brooding in his castle. That image couldn’t be further from the truth. He’s constantly making new friends—and making those friends into vampires. The way Dracula builds a relationship is a solid lesson in influencer marketing.

Drac doesn’t just meet someone and immediately offer to make them immortal. He starts by getting to know them socially and paying them visits. Then he invites them to become a thrall, feeding on insects and getting a taste of the vamp life. Finally, when the relationship is mature, he converts them into full-fledged creatures of the night. It’s an easy sell by then, because he didn’t skip any steps in the relationship.

I don’t recommend making your influencers eat bugs, of course (unless they happen to enjoy doing so). But you should build relationships with influencers over a series of small, incremental steps. Start by socializing and promoting them, then ask for a small content contribution, and finally move on to co-creating together.

#2: Dr. Frankenstein Is Great at Repurposing

If you ask me, Dr. Frankenstein (the scientist, not his monster, of course) gets a bad rap. Yes, he took his research a little too far. Sure, he was a bit of an amoral lunatic. Okay, so he tampered in God’s domain a little. But you can’t deny that he got results!

In real life, after the hullabaloo died down, scientist would be scrambling to corroborate and replicate his findings. Frankenstein’s monster 2.0 and beyond would be far less “shambling horror” and more “hey, we finally beat death!”

Where others saw a pile of discarded body parts, Dr. Frankenstein saw the potential for new life. When we’re looking at a content calendar, we should be following in his footsteps. Repurposing content—up to and including stitching parts of old posts into a new one—can bring your old content to a new audience with a minimum of effort.

#3: The Wolfman Is a Content Strategy Object Lesson

Quick: What’s the wolfman’s biggest problem? No, it’s not that he’s vulnerable to silver. It’s not even that he turns into a brainless monster every full moon.

No, what always gets the wolfman in the end is his failure to plan ahead. He always ends up roaming the countryside chowing down on rabbits, and then someone sees him, and then out come the silver bullets. If he were to approach the problem strategically, he could spend each wolf session safely locked in a basement somewhere. He could live a full life 28 days out of the month, and no one would ever know he had a lycanthropy problem.

If you’re creating content without a content strategy, you’re practically begging the townsfolk to load up on silver buckshot. You may score the occasional win—like the wolfman gets a rabbit or two—but on the whole, it’s counter-productive. Plan your content in advance, with a rationale, research, and an amplification plan, and your content is far more likely to have a long and prosperous life.

#4: Dr. Jekyll Is Extremely Empathetic

Just how far would you go to get inside someone else’s head? You might walk a mile in their shoes, as the cliché goes. But honestly, how much can you know about someone just by borrowing their footwear? By that logic, every time I went bowling I’d learn about hundreds of people.

Dr. Jekyll takes empathy to the next level. He transformed himself into Mr. Hyde to learn exactly how a monster thinks. Granted, the experiment didn’t end well, but the lesson is still valid.

Marketers don’t have to undergo a monstrous physical transformation to feel empathy, of course. But we should be striving to learn as much about our audience as we can. That means learning about them beyond their interactions with the brand. The more we can use data to truly know our customers, the more relevant our content will be.

Practice Frighteningly Good Marketing

Sociologists and anthropologists would say that the monsters we create in folklore and fiction survive because they are a reflection of our deepest fears. For example, the wolfman is about loss of control, fearing the beast within us all. Dracula is about the fear of death and disease—and of creepy old guys lurking in castles.

I would argue that these monsters have such enduring power because at the heart of each story is an eternally relevant marketing lesson. Stay tuned for my next horror story, “The Beast that Wouldn’t Stop Sending Boilerplate Sales Emails.”

Is your skill at creating awesome content almost paranormal? Are you terrifyingly good at account management? TopRank Marketing is hiring.


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Be the Best Answer: 5 Steps to Grow Influence for Your Brand

Be the Best Answer Grow Influence
“Be the Best Answer” is an expression my team and I have used many times in client strategy planning, training, presentations, webinars, blogging, and in my book Optimize about the intersection of search with owned, earned, paid and shared media.

Being present in a relevant, credible and useful way on all the channels where buyers are looking is a powerful (but often difficult to execute) way to provide the kinds of customer experiences that greatly differentiate one brand from another.


Influence plays an important role in a “Best Answer” marketing strategy.
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Influence plays an important role in a “Best Answer” marketing strategy as buyers pay less attention to ads and brand content, and more time listening to peers and industry subject matter experts.

While many companies are experiencing increased competition and waning interest in their marketing, brands that infuse influencers into their marketing initiatives do not suffer this decline of attention.

For example, Adidas maintains command of customer attention by boosting credibility with advocates via dark social. Our client SAP grows their influence and reach in specific areas of interest by co-creating content with industry experts in a variety of formats including video, blog posts, ebooks and interactive experiences.

Both of these brands build their own influence with audiences they’re trying to reach and engage by partnering on content with influencers that already have customer attention.


Brands can build influence by co-creating content within influencers that customers already trust.
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So how can your company take advantage of growing brand influence by working with industry influencers?  Here are 5 guidelines for building brand influence you can follow:

1. Audit your brand’s influence, advocates and influencers

Establishing a benchmark for your brand’s current level of influence is essential. But you must first ask, what are you trying to be influential about? Whatever idea pops into your mind needs to be reconciled with what customers actually care about.

Assess your brand’s share of voice for the topics you want to be influential about on social channels, in search and anywhere else customers discover, consume and engage with solutions content. These are the places where you’ll be co-creating content with experts to be the best answer and build your brand’s influence, as well as grow leads and sales.

Identify the gap between the quantity, quality and sentiment of conversations happening around your brand and the topic currently and where you want to be. Closing that gap will be a key driver for your brand influence program.

Determine who is already advocating for your brand in relation to the topics you have in mind. Whether those fans are customers, partners or users, they can be activated to be advocates. They can also help define an advocate persona for recruiting more advocates.

Who are the best influencers for your topics? For your industry? For your brand? Identifying potential influencers to collaborate with takes time, technology and expertise. Leaving it to anyone with an opinion about who is an influencer could create some major mis-steps. Influential experts are not the same thing as influencers, for example.

It can seem overwhelming, but there’s good news: there are specialty influencer marketing tools and platforms you can use for auditing your share of voice, identifying advocates and finding influencers – just like there are experts (like TopRank Marketing) who can be your guide.

2. Identify internal influencer candidates

Growing brand influence from the inside is often forgotten with campaign driven influencer marketing. Besides industry influencers, customers and community members, one of the most significant and powerful sources of growing brand influence can come from within. Everyone has some degree of influence from the CEO to front line employees interacting with customers on a daily basis. Especially front line employees.


Someone with expertise is not automatically an influencer. Influence is the ability to affect action.
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Influence is the ability to affect action. Many internal subject matter experts can have credibility and respect but not have any idea or interest in “behaving like an influencer”. Developing SMEs into influencers takes time, but it can be well worth it.

Some companies already have internal influencers to work with. Being an influencer means creating and sharing content amongst an interested network that engages and takes action. Brands that can effectively connect to relevant internal influencers can create a symbiotic relationship and value exchange of exposure.

Internal subject matter experts and established influencers are valuable. Both need to be approached differently. Together, they can amplify brand influence in meaningful ways at scale.

3. Map topics of influence to content marketing and communications plans

Content is what closes the influence gap using the right topics, resources and industry/internal influencers. Once the influence topics are identified, they can be incorporated into content marketing plans.

A best answer strategy maps a connection between influence topics and content for PR and media relations as well as marketing tactics like content, social, SEO, advertising and influencers. Information hungry customers interact with numerous touch-points, ignoring overly salesy content and advertising, so including credible voices in marketing and PR communications increases reach and engagement.

By mapping the internal and external voices to collaborate with in marketing and PR content, you can facilitate the credibility of your brand as the best answer for the topics of focus.

4. Build executive influence with content and influencers

Executives are not automatically influential – at least not in a useful way. It is often assumed that company executives are influential by the nature of their position. To some degree that is true, but those senior business executives that create content and engage with industry influencers become far more influential. That influence can be leveraged for more significant media coverage, more credible engagement with customers and employees.

Operationalizing influence best practices amongst brand executives can be very rewarding for all. Recently I’ve observed companies make organized efforts towards building their executives’ profiles through content, social and events as well as by interacting with industry influencers. The boost in credibility and top of mind consideration as a result is impressive.

5. Build influence of internet subject matter experts through brand channels

Investing in influence can be more powerful than renting it through association. Besides identifying external influencers and advocates for content collaboration and building executive influence, there is an opportunity for brands to grow influence in a way that is almost counterintuitive.

Brands associating with known industry influencers gain influence themselves. It is also very powerful for the brand to help up and coming influencers grow. When brands can help their niche subject matter experts transition from simply possessing influence to learning how to behave as an influencer, the resulting content, reach and engagement can outperform the effect of external celebrity influencers, or “brandividiuals”.

Our client LinkedIn Marketing Solutions does a great job of showcasing their employees in marketing materials as well as co-creating content with their internal subject matter experts. By doing so, LinkedIn provides more credible content and builds the credibility of their team members at the same time. More credibility can translate to more reach, engagement and sales.

By incorporating these 5 steps your brand can begin to benefit from being a source of content that customers actually want to consume and from the people they trust and want to hear from. In the process, your brand will earn credibility and trust points that can extend influence to the brand, but only if the brand learns from why customers favor creators and adapts those practices itself. At the same time building internal influencers while helping external micro-influencers build their influence will result in even more influence for the brand.

Are you ready to get started?

Be sure to check out the influencer marketing services we provide at TopRank Marketing. Hey, that’s what makes this blog possible and if we can help your brand become more influential, everybody wins!

Of course we’re also hiring talented influencer marketing professionals with community management, content marketing and social media experience. So, be sure to check out our careers page as well.

Upcoming Influencer Marketing Speaking Events:

Nov 7: Dreamforce, San Francisco
The Confluence Equation: How Content & Influencers Drive B2B Marketing Success

Nov 9: Pubcon, Las Vegas
In Search of Influence

Nov 15: SMXL, Milan
Content Marketing & Influence Integration


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Digital Marketing News: Pinterest PPC, Facebook Sets, Online Beats Offline Shopping

Understanding Machine Learning Infographic

Need help understanding Machine Learning? We now live in an age where machines can teach themselves without human intervention. Sound scary? It should. Scary amazing that is. Applications for machine learning extend from marketing to medicine to interstellar space travel. Find out what Machine Learning is, how it works, and how it will change the world.  Infographic.

Google’s New AI Is Better at Creating AI Than the Company’s Engineers. Google CEO Sundar Pichai says his team has achieved “AI inception” with AutoML. AutoML is an artificial intelligence that can assist in the creation of other AIs. By automating some of the complicated process, AutoML could make machine learning more accessible to non-experts. Futurism

Survey: 37% of online retailers started holiday preparations earlier this year. How early you ask? 1 to 4 months earlier than 2016 according to a survey by BigCommerce. Along with early, retailers are optimistic. 88% expect an increase in holiday revenue.  Marketing Land

Oh joy (sarcasm) Facebook is bringing paywalls to Instant Articles in your mobile feed. Since more people than ever before are getting their news from social media, it makes sense that Facebook wants to help publishers by introducing subscriptions for content on its platform. And it’s starting on mobile.  The Next Web

Digital Video Marketing Is A $135 Billion Industry In The U.S. Alone, Study Finds. Video capturing, creation, hosting, distribution, analytics and staffing is big business! In contrast, advertisers are expected to spend $83 billion on digital ads and $71 billion on TV commercials (a total of $154 billion) in the U.S. this year. Forbes

Businesses can now sign up to add booking buttons to their Google local results. Google has finally added a feature to let you easily add a ‘book online’ button to your local business on Google Maps or Google Search. Soon, some businesses might not even need a website. Search Engine Land

Snap is turning to programmatic ads for Snapchat shows. Advertisers can make programmatic buys on Snap Ads — 10-second vertical video units — across the app’s public user stories, Snapchat-curated live stories and Discover publisher channels and Snapchat shows. Digiday

News Banner

As Amazon Prime Hits 90 Million, Online Holiday Spending To Surpass Brick-And-Mortar. Deloitte predicts people will do 51% of their holiday spending online, making it the first time it may surpass in-store spending. Among high-income families that number jumps to 57%. Headed to the mall anyone? Pass. MediaPost

Facebook officially rolls out its discovery-focused ‘Explore Feed’. The Explore Feed is now fully rolled out on mobile and beginning to show for desktop users. In case you didn’t know, the Explore Feed is to help Facebook users discover more content across the social network, beyond posts from friends and Pages you already follow.  TechCrunch

Google Attribution Rolls Out To Thousands Of Marketers. Google is rolling out an attribution model it introduced in May, powering the platform with machine learning. Google Attribution is to help marketers analyze how top and middle funnel clicks and interactions impact conversions across channels. MediaPost

Facebook Is Testing a Pinterest-Like Feature Called Sets. Oh look, Facebook has taken a break from imitating Snapchat and LinkedIn to imitate Pinterest. Facebook is now testing Sets, Pinterest-like themed collections that include status updates, photos, videos and links, and that can be shared with all friends or specific friends. AdWeek

Snapchat dangles referral traffic with link sharing from other apps. This is such foreign territory for me, but go ahead, read on anyway: You now can share links from other apps via the iOS share sheet, allowing you to send a private message with the link to one or several people. And rather than just turning live location sharing on or off permanently, you now can opt to hide in “Ghost Mode” for 3 or 24 hours. TechCrunch

Pinterest moves into paid search: What you need to know.  Pinterest Ads Manager is now open to all businesses who have opened an account and uploaded at least one Pin. It’s time to fire up those experimental paid search budgets.  Search Engine Watch

The B2B CMO’s Growth Strategy Turns Audience-Centric Over Product-Centric. B2B CMOs around the world are focusing on new buyers and new markets over new offerings when it comes to their growth strategies, a new study from SiriusDecisions has found. An enhanced customer experience is seen to have the biggest influence on growth strategies in the next 2 years.  MarketingCharts

SMBMSP100
This morning I will be joining a sold out crowd to celebrate the 100th Social Media Breakfast Minneapolis St. Paul (SMBMSP #100) event. The plan is a panel with Greg Swan and Jennifer Kane moderated by Mykl Roventine. We’ll be talking about what has changed since the event started in 2008 (founded by Rick Mahn) and what lessons we’ve learned as well as thoughts looking forward. I have a feeling it will be a great collection of stories about successes, failures and the crazy world that social media has become.  If you’re reading this post early on Friday, you can follow the event from 8-10am CT on Twitter with the hashtag #smbmsp100

What was the top digital marketing news story for you this week?

Be sure to stay tuned until next week when we’ll be sharing all new marketing news stories. Also check out the full video summary with Tiffani and Josh on YouTube.


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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2017. |
Digital Marketing News: Pinterest PPC, Facebook Sets, Online Beats Offline Shopping | http://www.toprankblog.com

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Content Marketing Tactics for Search Marketers – International Edition #SMXLmilan

SMXL Milan Content Strategies

Content is both king and kingdom in a digital world full of stories. Brands and consumers alike are experiencing and publishing content on a daily basis. Between information overload, increased complexity of search engines and changes in consumer search behaviors, many marketers are less than confident about how to optimize their content marketing.

How can marketers best use content marketing to improve search marketing? How does search inspired content affect content, PR and marketing programs across channels?

At SMXL in Milan, Italy this November 15th, that’s exactly what a panel of experts will be answering. I will be moderating Content Related Strategies for Search with Ken McGaffin, Lexi Mills and Jey Pandian where we’ll be discussing strategies to help identify new opportunities to develop content based on business intelligence, competitive research and historical performance.

As a teaser for the panel, I’ve asked each speaker to share a preview of their talk with practical insights and tips.

Ken McGaffin

Ken McGaffin @mcgaffin
Online PR and Link Building Strategist at Audiential 

4 Rich Sources of People Stories
“If you’re reading this at 3 am, chances are that James Proud wants to put you in a deep slumber.”

That’s a great opening to an article on insomnia in the NYTimes.com. It paints a vivid picture, intrigues the reader and draws them in.

That’s the power of story – it elevates your content and makes it unique.

Content Marketing is a competitive business and your pitches have to be top notch to succeed. Stories make yours stand out – to the delight of your target publishers and their readers. Here’s some things we’ve discovered at Audiential:

  1. There’s no such thing as a ‘boring’ industry – every business involves people and people are inherently interesting.
  2. Don’t expect your clients to give you stories – they rarely know what makes a great story. You’ve got to seek stories out – and polish them into inspiring content.
  3. You only need 4 sources to systematically mine for stories:
    · customers
    · staff
    · founders
    · influencers

4. You must encourage people to open up and that means you have to listen. There’s an old saying, “We have two ears and one mouth, and we should listen and talk in the same proportion”.

Lexi Mills

Lexi Mills @leximills
Managing Director at Marquis Communications

Design for Trends and Play the Long Game with Research Content
Many media are using new technology to tell them what subjects they should be covering. In some cases over 50% of the content they produce has to align with the trends these tools show. Making sure you are designing your content inline with an anticipated trend or pitching it in a way that allows them to cover a current one will significantly improve your media relationships, coverage and inbound link profile.

Don’t plan to win on round one. Media are so busy these days that the likelihood of winning on the first point of contact is significantly lower than ever before. I have a strict rule with my team that they are not allowed to send an email or make a phone call without pre-planning what their follow up will be.

This can be anything from new images, interview slots becoming available to book or highlighting an emerging trend or event that the content fits in with. Not only does this ensure that they follow up in good time but it also feeds into the structure of campaigns.

Instead of releasing all research in one go we might decide to release it in phases or at a time when we know there will be a relevant event this allows for a more constructive follow-up. It also helps eliminate anyone tormenting a journalist with their pet hate…..an email that says “I just wanted to check you received my press release”.

Jey Pandian

Jey Pandian @jeypandian
Chief Digital Officer & Founding Partner at ONWARD Agency

Storytelling in the Age of the Omnichannel
Since the internet first started, the way people communicate has continuously evolved. Within each Search vertical, there are different types of content that need to be built out in order to meet customer demand. Jey will present a content framework that goes beyond search content to help lay the foundation for an omnichannel content play.

1. Analyze – Identify out where your audiences spend their time online on Social Media Platforms and Search Engines on a 24-hour timeline to figure out “moments of receptivity” and to ensure that content will be built and surfaced at the right time and place, in the right context.

2. Design – Study UX design patterns against each Search Engine design feature; whether infinite scroll, voice, mobile, and/or swiping patterns e.g. scrolling up and down or sideways to figure out how to design your asset for optimal consumer consumption.

3. Create – Understand your algorithmic limitations as it pertains to content consumption across each Search Engine; whether image, video, voice search and/or virtual reality to help figure out how to design your asset for optimal search visibility and in turn, consumer consumption.

audience SMXL Milan
This will be the second time I’ve presented at SMXL Milan. Last year I gave a keynote presentation on influencer content collaboration. There were several speaker dinners and I think we counted 15 different countries represented at one of them. This really is an international search marketing event.

Whether you’re simply trying to increase organic search visibility for the great content you’ve been publishing or if you want to create an advantage in a competitive market, leveraging search data can produce insights that are impactful for everything from storytelling, to media relations to omni-channel marketing. This panel with Ken, Lexi and Jey on Content Related Strategies for Search Marketing is ambitious and will cover many of these topics with plenty of time for audience Q and A.

I will be giving a solo presentation about content marketing at SMXL Milan on November 15th:

Lee Odden SMXL 2016

Photo of Lee Odden via Laura Caldarella? @LaSagitta


Content Marketing Integration
– 
Without content, there wouldn’t be any search engines and yet most marketers treat content as if it were simply a tactic for SEO. Content is the fuel that powers all forms of media on all digital channels where customers engage. The most successful marketers approach digital marketing with a customer and content-centric approach that integrates with SEO, social media and advertising in a way that helps the brand become “the best answer” wherever customers are looking.  This presentation provides an overview of how to plan, produce, promote and optimize content as a marketing approach that works with or without search engines. But definitely better with search engines. 🙂

SMXL Milan features a truly impressive roster of speakers including Bill Hunt, Rand Fishkin, Michael King, Aleyda Solis, Gianluca Fiorelli, Hana Abaza, Bryan Eisenberg, Kristjan Mar Hauksson, Larry Kim, Nichola Stott, Jon Myers, Phil Nottingham, Cyrus Shepard and many more international search and digital marketing professionals. If you’re a reader of our blog based in Europe, I hope you can make it to Milan in November!

Be sure to check out the conference website for more information.


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Content Marketing Tactics for Search Marketers – International Edition #SMXLmilan | http://www.toprankblog.com

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How 7 Brands Connect With Audiences Through Long-Form Video Content

Content comes in many forms, including social media messages, blog posts, video, and more. But video is largely ignored with only 30% of B2B marketers believing video will be critical to their content marketing success.

Considering video accounts for 74% of all internet traffic your brand cannot ignore video marketing. With audience’s having an average attention span of only eight seconds it’s one of the best ways to hold attention and increase audience engagement. This is especially true for long-form video—videos that are roughly 10 minutes in length or longer. In fact, audiences engage in more long-form videos accounting for 63% off all time spent watching videos across devices. Long-form video is a proven and effective way of capturing and engaging audiences, but where do you begin?

To help inspire your own long-form video content ideas and drive audience engagement, we gathered seven leading examples from leading B2C and B2B brands.

#1 – Patagonia

Core to Patagonia’s mission is to use their business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. One of the ways they do this is by encouraging their own customers to hang on to their clothing for as long as they can and to pass them on to loved ones. It’s a message you wouldn’t expect to hear from a clothing brand, but Patagonia is passionate about the environment and created a special program that enables customers to purchase recycled and reused Patagonia gear. To generate awareness for the program and discourage throwing away clothes, they created the short film, “Worn Wear.”

In “Worn Wear,” Patagonia shares the story of several Patagonia customers and the stories of their clothes. Ranging from 11 to 30+ years old, each vignette features a well-loved, well-worn Patagonia item and the experiences the clothes have held. Patagonia’s message is clear throughout the film, saying, “The most responsible thing you can do is buy used clothes.” It’s an inspirational thought that resonated with their audience, collecting over 800,000 YouTube views to date and climbing. But most impressive of all is how the video has changed their audience’s perception of clothes with comments like, “I truly believe this film has influenced the way I look at clothing specifically, material goods, and what is actually necessity. Thank you!”

The Final Take: Use your company’s mission or purpose to drive long-form video content and connect with audiences on a personal level.

#2 – Chevrolet

As a car company, Chevrolet helps you get from point A to point B. On a deeper level, cars help you get to where you want to go and help you achieve the goals you’ve set your sights on. That’s the message Chevy wants to instill on their customers, but with strong competition and a recovering American car industry it was going to take more than a mission statement.

To illustrate the importance of reaching your dreams, overcoming challenges, and rising to new heights, Chevrolet created a documentary highlighting baseball superstar Mo’ne Davis. Mo’ne was the first female pitcher to have a shutout game in the Little League World Series, an accomplishment that would make her the first female baseball pitcher to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Chevrolet’s documentary interviews Mo’ne, her family, and friends to share what makes her unique both as a daughter of America and as a person in general. The end result is an emotional film that leaves the audience inspired to accomplish the impossible.

The Final Take: Evoke emotion within your audience by showcasing inspirational people and life stories.

#3 – GE

General Electric (GE) has a wide range of products and services, making it a challenge to market them effectively. And given the name, many people may assume that GE is simply a power company. In reality, GE has segments in aviation, healthcare, lighting, transportation, and more. So how can they educate the masses that they’re more than a power plant?  

To educate their audience on how GE powers everything from cities to jet engines, GE created a video series “Into the Wild.” The series follows former Mythbuster Adam Savage as he endeavors to understand the mechanics behind GE’s many products and services. Through expert interviews, animations, and easy to understand explanations, Adam (and the audience) learn just how GE helps power the world.

The Final Take: Long-form video is a great opportunity to educate your audience with visual learning tools like in-person interviews, demonstrations, diagrams, and more.

#4 – Cisco

Cisco, one of the world’s largest networking giants, is well aware that cyber security is one of the most important things they can offer in today’s hyperconnected world. Without a strong and secure network, businesses, markets, and people’s personal information is at risk. Recognizing this, Cisco created Ransomware Defense to keep hackers at bay.

To generate awareness for their new security product, but also for ransomware itself, Cisco made a video that highlights exactly how a hacker completes ransomware. The video itself is very informative, but what makes it so effective is the suspense they created. By creating a mini-movie that follows a hacker performing a successful ransomware attack, the audience is left feeling vulnerable and in need of protection or further information. Given this feeling, it’s no wonder that it is one of Cisco’s most watched YouTube videos to date.

The Final Take: Grab your audience’s attention through a suspenseful storyline that leaves the audience needing more.

#5 – REI

REI stores are rooted in community given their status as the nation’s largest consumer cooperative. Starting as a group of 23 mountain climbers, the brand quickly grew to become a community of active people who love the outdoors—it’s part of what makes REI a unique brand. To highlight their unique communities and the camaraderie that can be found in the outdoors, REI turned to video content.

The most powerful piece of video from REI is their documentary titled “Paul’s Boots.” After hearing about the death of Paul, a man whose greatest dream was to hike the Appalachian Trail, REI and their partner The Dirtbag Diaries reached out to 400 hikers and asked them to carry Paul’s boots the entire length of the AT. This documentary follows Paul’s pair of boots through the eyes of each hiker that offered to carry them, showing how one community came together to help Paul achieve his dream.

The Final Take: The most incredible stories can come from right under your nose. Take inspiration from your customers—do something special for them and share their story with the world.

#6 – IBM

IBM is all about innovation. And one thing they realize is that it is the people who work at IBM that power innovation. To help them recruit leading minds and progressive thinkers, IBM decided to highlight the teams that are behind groundbreaking innovations. Not only would the video showcase their incredible work, but it would also showcase the makeup of the team.

Through exploring the team that created their most recent breakthrough in polymer bonds, IBM showed how a strong team bond with a diverse background can power innovation. And by focusing on the people and allowing them to share their backgrounds, it humanized IBM while establishing their credibility.

The Final Take: Humanize your company and show your expertise by highlighting the personalities that make your brand exciting to work for.

#7 – BMW

Believe it or not, BMW has been making films since 2001. A pioneer of long-form video content, BMW has been using online video to engage audiences in their brand and foster brand loyalty since before the creation of YouTube. The original films follow actor Clive Owen as a driver for hire who encounters several unique challenges while on the job, showing off the capabilities of the car along the way.

Most recently, BMW Films released “The Escape,” a new short that revisits their original Clive Owen film series. Not only does the film showcase the performance of their new 5 series sedan, but it also embodies their tagline “The Ultimate Driving Machine” with Clive Owen using speed, torque, agility, and wit to escape his pursuers.

The Final Take: While the production value of these films are obviously high, the real reason they captivate audiences is the action-packed story that breaks the norm. Don’t be afraid to get creative with an exciting narrative that showcases your brand, values, or products as well.

Form Meaningful Connections With Your Audience

Long-form video is an enormous opportunity for content marketers to connect with audiences on a new level. Find out how to get started in video content marketing with our own video tips or check out our interview with comedic genius and Cisco Creative Director of Marketing, Tim Washer.


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How 7 Brands Connect With Audiences Through Long-Form Video Content | http://www.toprankblog.com

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B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks: How We All Can Do Better

B2B content marketing is having a moment—a moment that’s rapidly becoming a movement. We’re finally breaking free of the idea that “professional” means “boring.” Transparency and authenticity are becoming more than just buzzwords. Unique, emotionally compelling content used to be the outlier; soon it will be the norm.

It’s thrilling to see B2B content marketers find a new groove. As a creative, comedic weirdo myself, it’s a great time to be in the business. However, these industry-wide changes do come with significant challenges. As B2B marketing evolves, we need to continually adapt our procedures, KPIs, even our philosophy of marketing.

The whip-smart marketers at Kapost just published their 2017 B2B Content Strategy & Operations Benchmark. They surveyed hundreds of B2B marketers in diverse industries, from small businesses to enterprise organizations. Here are the challenges their research identified, and how B2B marketers can adapt to thrive.

Challenge: Lack of Communication/Alignment

You can’t score a touchdown if you don’t know where the end zone is. Unfortunately, it looks like a great deal of B2B content marketers are lost in the field. Kapost found that 22% of content creators didn’t know if their organization set lead generation goals, and 32% weren’t sure if they were meeting revenue goals. Perhaps most troublingly, 60% said they didn’t have visibility into how their content aligns to organizational priorities.

Solution: Clear Goals & KPIs

Content creators need to fully embrace their role as content marketers. It’s not enough to get a work order, fill in the appropriate number of pretty words, then release it into the ether. That’s commodity work, and it results in commodity content.

Everyone responsible for creating content should have a working knowledge of the entire process, from strategy through amplification to measurement and optimization. Every piece of content should have the following:

  • Proof that it serves an existing search demand
  • Specific target audience
  • Rationale for why this content will appeal to that audience
  • Amplification plan
  • Specific next-step goal (CTA) that maps to organizational goals

Content creators and management need to share responsibility for communication. Ideally, the whole team should be working on content strategy (including goal-setting) together.

Challenge: Organizational Silos

When teams and departments are isolated from each other, efficiency takes a hit. Marketers estimated that around 25% of their content is duplicative work, a troubling statistic in its own right. But it gets worse: Only 44% said they have complete visibility into other departments’ campaigns and content. The real amount of duplicated effort could be far higher.

These organizational silos are not only inefficient, they encourage over-specialization and information hoarding.

Solution: Centralized Content, Multi-Disciplinary Teams

If your organization has multiple marketing teams in different departments, it’s vital to centralize content strategy to a platform that everyone can access. Breaking down silos and working together will eliminate that redundant content and help departments find new synergies together.

TopRank Marketing recently restructured our teams. We used to have a content team, an SEO team, a design team, etc.—organized according to specialty. In the restructure, we formed “pods” across disciplines. Each pod has content, SEO, and design experts, and we all work together. Reaching across silos has helped our teams cross-train, learn from each other, and produce more strategic content.

Challenge: Calculating ROI

Measuring the impact of our marketing efforts continues to be a top concern for marketers. In Kapost’s survey, 54% of marketers listed proving ROI as one of the greatest barriers to success. Yet nearly half of respondents said they use vanity metrics like web traffic to track ROI, and a full 25% said they use no ROI-tracking metrics at all (Somewhere, Joe Pulizzi is weeping).

Solution: Get Serious about Revenue

Just as content creators need to learn the entire content marketing process, marketers need to learn the entire revenue process. We can’t skate by on nebulous metrics anymore. We’re living in the age of data, and we have to take control of that data to prove ROI.

It’s not enough, for example, to measure web traffic. Where is the traffic coming from? Are they in your target audience? Does an increase in traffic lead to an increase in conversions? What’s the monetary value of each conversion?

All of this data is available to us. We just have to use it. We can determine what percentage of traffic downloads an eBook. We can see how many who download a gated asset do a demo, and how many who demo ultimately make a purchase. Working backward, we can put a dollar amount on each micro-conversion.

All of this means dipping a toe – or diving headfirst – into what we previously thought of as the sales department’s responsibility. But it’s necessary for marketers to understand and own a piece of the entire revenue process, if we’re going to help meet revenue goals.

Challenge Accepted

B2B content marketing has done a lot of growing up in the past few years. But it’s clear that we can be more sophisticated in our efforts. For content creators, that means a greater understanding of strategy and goals, more communication with leadership and between teams, and a renewed focus on metrics that prove ROI. If we can overcome these challenges, we can exceed the benchmarks for 2018.

Ready to get smarter, more creative, and more focused on results? We’re here to help.


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The State of Minnesota Marketing: Insights from 6 Minnesota Brands

State Minnesota Marketing

Minnesota is home to numerous nationally and internationally known brands, ranging from household consumer names like Target and Best Buy to giants like Cargill and United Healthcare. Given their broad focus, their home state isn’t a singular marketing focus for these big companies. But what about brands where the state brand plays a part of the company brand? What impact does that have on marketing?

That was the topic of a brand panel at the recent Minnesota Marketing Summit in Minneapolis.

Moderated by Nicole Shannon, Executive Director, Advertising for Star Tribune, the session opened up to a standing room only crowd. Panelists were on-hand from Minnesota brands including Explore Minnesota, Minnesota State, Sunrise Banks, Sun Country, Children’s Minnesota and the Minneapolis Downtown Council to discuss: What is the Minnesota brand and how does it relate to marketers and brands of companies operating here?

Takeaways from the panel about the relationship between “the Minnesota brand” and Minnesota brands included everything from customer targeting to  balancing in-state and out of state advertising. Of course, there was also an emphasis on Minnesota pride. Here are six nuggets of “Minnewisdom” that could be useful for you whether you’re marketing in the “Bold North” or in your local state.

#1 – Sometimes harder is better.

Leann Kispert, Director of Brand Marketing for Explore Minnesota Tourism, said that 70% of Explore Minnesota paid media has to go outside of the state of Minnesota. With that advertising, they have to deal with outside perceptions of Minnesota and it can be harder to convert visitors. But they spend more money and often become brand advocates.

#2 – Creativity + Unified Message = Win.

Noelle Hawton, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for Minnesota State, shared that the vast majority of Minnesota audience or prospective students didn’t know what MnSCU was, the 37 state colleges and universities in Minnesota now named Minnesota State. To reach potential students, an illustrated poster map of the state of Minnesota highlighting features has resonated well by sharing information in an info-taining way. Also, by promoting a unified message on behalf of the individual schools, while also encouraging the schools to use that unified message in their own marketing, has helped create a more effective message.

#3 – Building Minnesota pride builds business.

Kelsey Dodson-Smith, Vice President of Marketing for Sun Country Airlines, declared that advertising is focused locally since that is where customers are. They also emphasized inclusive home state pride by commissioning a local artist, Mark Herman, to create custom illustrations for each plane that was named after Minnesota lakes as part of the #hometownlakesproject.

#4 – Build a great brand by doing good.

Becca Morris Hoeft, Chief Brand Officer for Sunrise Banks, talked about what it means as a business with B-Corp status to truly serve its customers. “As the urban core has changed, our brand has become more of a belief system, an opportunity to be more than a bank.”

#5 – Focusing on the why rather than the what.

Katie Sowieja, Director of Brand Strategy for Children’s Minnesota, offered a compelling explanation of Children’s focus on building connections based on beliefs and “the why” at the values level, rather than focusing on what the hospital does and how they do it. The “why” for Children’s are the kids they serve. This is why the name was changed from Children’s Hospital of Minnesota to Children’s Minnesota, which has also reinforced their mission to reimagine healthcare for “the most amazing people on earth.”

#6 – Help customers own their brand experience.

Leah Wong, Vice President of External Relations for the Minneapolis Downtown Council, talked about how their 60th anniversary served as an opportunity to evaluate the brand and value proposition. This resulted in a rebranded approach: “Your Downtown” as a place to participate in and also contribute to. The focus was to help people own their experiences downtown, helping the brand stay relevant and to help people feel empowered.

Minnesota Marketing Summit Audience

As I hinted to earlier, there was also a lot of Minnesota pride in this discussion, with observations like, “Minnesota is happiest state in the United States,” and the often cited claim that there are more theater seats in Minneapolis per capita than any U.S. city outside New York.

“Flyover country” is a challenging perception to get over and the Minnesota marketers recommended that we should be proud of the distinctions. Also, with the greater diversity of people living in Minnesota, brands are making more efforts to help people see themselves in the marketing Minnesota brands do.

And if you’re not one to embrace the cold of Minnesota, Kelsey Dodson-Smith had some advice: “If you don’t feel like embracing winter, Sun Country.”


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Digital Marketing News: Twitter Video Ads, Livestreaming Rise, RIP Eric Ward

Livestreaming

The Rise of Livestreaming: Why People Watch, and How Brands Can Benefit [Infographic]. Facebook users comment 10 times more on live videos than on regular videos. Find out what people are watching, what their preferences and behaviors are in this infographic from Koeppel Direct. MarketingProfs

The four habits of successful data-driven marketers. Econsultancy invited marketing experts to discuss what they do, the problems they face, and how they overcome obstacles which revealed 4 keys to data-driven marketing success from data management, to testing hypothesis and proper attribution models. Econsultancy

Twitter introduces a new video-centric ad format. The Video Website Card starts out as an auto-playing video with a customizable headline, which then opens up to a larger video and website preview, and ultimately directs viewers to the advertiser’s chosen website when they tap on it. Will this format take off? TechCrunch

Facebook Live cuts out the middle man, adds its own screen-sharing feature. Now this seems like a great feature for educational content. Facebook has added an option to share your screen directly on Facebook Live, eliminating the need for other software for many users. TheNextWeb

Top Brands by Customer Loyalty 2017

Fall 2017 Taking Stock With Teens report reveals favorite social networks. 47% of respondents say Snapchat is their favorite social network, and 24% say Instagram is their favorite. Guess which network only received 9% of the vote? Face who? MarketingProfs

Somehow, this is news. Snapchat is selling an $80 dancing hot dog costume on Amazon. The costume is based on Snapchat’s new celebrity character: the app’s dancing hot dog filter that quickly became an internet meme sensation over the summer. Business Insider

Eric Ward
The Search Community lost the Father Of Link Building, Eric Ward, aka Link Moses.
I met Eric Ward at my first Pubcon conference about 2004 or 2005, approaching him at a table to see if this SEO celebrity would be friendly to a nobody like me. Eric was the most generous, welcoming person I could have met and that openness is something that has stuck with me over the many years since. Eric was a really good guy and a true original when it came to search marketing and link building.

Like many in our industry, I learned a lot from Eric about low risk, high impact and high value link building and online PR. He used a photo I took of him in 2006 as his profile photo online and it always made me happy that he liked that image enough to use it. Eric will be missed and I wish the most heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. See the outpouring of commentary on Search Engine Roundtable

What was the top digital marketing news story for you this week?

Be sure to stay tuned until next week when we’ll be sharing all new marketing news stories. Also check out the full video summary with Tiffani and Josh on YouTube.


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Digital Marketing News: Twitter Video Ads, Livestreaming Rise, RIP Eric Ward | http://www.toprankblog.com

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How We’re Building a Content Marketing Dream Team

A few members of the TopRank Marketing content marketing dream team.

As the digital landscape continues to grow and shift, digital marketing — particularly content marketing — has a majority stake in most brands’ marketing strategies these days. After all, nearly half of the world’s population now uses the internet, and we want our content to meet people where they are and when they’re searching.

As a result, brands and agencies alike are on the lookout for savvy, driven content gurus with proven writing, planning and strategy skills to add to their marketing teams — including TopRank Marketing.

Our agency was born when digital was the new kid on the block — and before modern content marketing came roaring onto the scene. We’ve rolled with the changing tides and now we’re on the cutting edge of next-gen content marketing — namely influencer marketing and co-creation. And if there’s one thing we’ve learned in nearly two decades of work, it’s that the collective talent of our team members is what drives our clients’ success and our company’s success.

So, we’ve doubled down on our commitment to bring top-notch marketers across disciplines into the TopRank Marketing family; we’re building a dream team. How? We’ve identified three core building blocks — building blocks we think every organization should consider during their search for talent.

As it relates to finding outstanding, strategic content creators, below I share what makes up those critical building blocks.

The Foundation

Like any profession, there are hard skills and a certain level of expertise that are must-have requirements for marketing writers. From our perspective, these foundational skills not only signal that a prospective employee can handle the “tactical” responsibilities of the job, but also thrive in the role and feel personal satisfaction. Some of those important hard skills include:

#1 – Seasoned marketing writing chops that go beyond the grammar basics.

The ability to create clean, easy-to-read and grammatically correct content is a basic requirement for any content creator. But we’re also looking for writers who can build a compelling narrative and draw on their creative juices to deliver something unique. We want storytellers.

#2 – Research skills rivaling that of an investigative journalist.

All marketers need to be subject matter experts (SMEs) in order to create content that resonates with their audience. But in an agency setting, writers often work across multiple programs and industries — challenging them to be adept experts in several areas. As a result, their research skills — and the ability to understand and interpret what they uncover — need to be on-point.

#3 – Aptitude for drawing out data insights and using them to bolster a narrative.

We live in the age of data, and that data can be used to paint a picture and add credibility to the content we create. So, coupled with the research skills requirement, writers need to be able to discover, internalize and draw meaningful data insights, and use them to strengthen the story they’re telling.

#4 – History of leveraging multiple content marketing tactics to drive an integrated strategy.

TopRank Marketing’s approach to digital marketing is rooted in the belief that integration is key to creating best-answer content that drives results. As a result, we’re looking for marketing writers who have experience leveraging multiple types of content — from social media to influencer content — that work together to achieve success.

The Structure

It’s no secret that one’s ability to thrive as a marketer goes beyond hard skills. Soft skills and personality traits are the building materials that bring it all together, defining the individual and the professional. For us, some of those important qualities include:

#1 – Exudes their own brand of creativity.

From our perspective, cookie cutter doesn’t cut it. The best organizations are made up of individuals who can approach content and strategy through a unique creative lens — which not only spawns out-of-the-box ideas, but also brings out the creative perspectives of other team members and helps all of us innovate.

#2 – Empathetic mind that can internalize problems and communicate solutions.

In order to create content that resonates and inspires, writers have to have a deep understanding of who their audience is, what motivates them and what pain points they face; they need empathy.

#3 – Thrives as part of a tight-knit team.

TopRank Marketing not only believes in integrated content marketing strategies, but also in integrated teams. Simply put, crafting great content is a collective effort, involving team members across disciplines. It’s cheesy, but teamwork really does make the dream work. As a result, we’ve found that the most effective writers embrace collaboration and use it as fuel to do great work.

#4 – Driven to grow as an individual and part of a collective team.

As it’s been said, we believe that client and company success is rooted in our talented team members. But the formula for success is ever changing, so we want team member who are hungry for growth in all areas.

The Spire

The final touch on any magnificent structure is the spire that sits atop. The spire is what stands out across the city skyline. For us, that defining characteristic is simple: An undeniable passion for what you do and who you do it with.

Our company culture is built on the passion our employees have for their work and their respective co-workers. After all, think about how much time you spend at the office. Without some love for the tasks and people who occupy that time, personal satisfaction and excellence can’t be found.

Interested in Joining the TopRank Marketing Dream Team?

That’s good news. We’re hiring! Check out our Careers page to see a full list of open positions ranging from content to design to digital advertising.

For you content masters out there, if you want a closer look at daily life at TopRank Marketing, read my “A Day in the Life of a Content Marketing Manager” post.


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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2017. |
How We’re Building a Content Marketing Dream Team | http://www.toprankblog.com

The post How We’re Building a Content Marketing Dream Team appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

3 Mouth-Watering Content Marketing Case Studies That Bring Home the Bacon

If you’ve ever been pregnant, lived with a woman who’s pregnant or even just been around a pregnant woman, you can guess it is not smart to lie to a woman who’s pregnant about food.

Well that’s how I felt today. 6 months along and in arrives a marketing email with the subject line: “[Infographic] Good Marketing starts with good snacks.” Yes, I understand, I’m not literally going to get any food out of this, but I expect to see some mouth-watering graphics upon opening the email. Nope.

Instead I found food references in the copy like “Are you giving your prospects nourishing snacks or asking them to bite off more than they can chew?” and “Make your content highly snackable”. Still, this email teased me enough to click on the CTA to the infographic: Surely within it food will reside!

The infographic was 100% unrelated to food. This is what I call an unfulfilled promise.

As content creators, it’s our job to catch our audience’s attention. Check, done. But it is also our jobs to pay off what we’ve promised the audience within our content.

So, today, my promise – like my headline, title tag and meta description state – is to fill your senses with mouth-watering case studies of money-making campaigns. In following best practices, like delivering on a promise, this content has been able to drive outstanding results, bringing home the bacon for brands. Oh, and I might include some tasty food pics. I mean, “mouth-watering” and “bacon” are in my headline.

Paid-First Digital Marketing Strategy Drove Impressive ROI in Month One

The Strategy:

A new client came to TopRank Marketing recently craving customers – FAST. Sound familiar? But seriously, this B2B startup needed to see ROI as the first course – not dessert – in order to be able to keep investing. In addition, they were looking for support in SEO, developing landing pages in the short-term and gathering the insights needed to create a long-term organic content strategy.

We used AdWords to drive leads quickly and to test keyword viability for the landing page content and to help inform the upcoming organic content plan.

The Results:

Just four weeks after launch, we had driven 18 leads with an average CPL of $192. For this client, a single lead has the average value of $5,000-$20,000 (and sometimes up to $100,000) in revenue. In talking with the client, we were able to uncover that within one month we had driven roughly $10,000-$75,000 in ROI. 

Takeaway for Marketers:

Don’t get discouraged by tight timelines. Hyper focus on your core marketing objectives and pivot to tactics that you know can fulfill them – even if it seems out of order. Just be sure to set expectations with your leadership team as to why you’re making a shift, what your hypothesis is and what results you anticipate.


Focus on core marketing objectives and pivot tactics that you know can fulfill them.
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Interactive, Multi-Channel Campaign Resulted in 4% Lift in Market Share, 12M Media Impressions

The Strategy:

By now you’ve heard about and likely drank at least one can of Coca Cola that held the “Share a Coke” campaign branding. Did you know the campaign started in Australia? The challenge was Coke had lost its relevance among Australians leaving sales in a not so happy place.

Coca Cola added the 150 most popular names to their cans and bottles, changing their biggest piece of advertising real estate. Supporting tactics from traditional to digital platforms rolled out from there: #ShareACoke hashtag, apps, an interactive website, outdoor billboards, interactive kiosks in top city centers and more.

Customers fueled digital content for the #ShareACoke campaign.

The Results:

From the initial campaign, in Australia alone, Coke earned 12 million media impressions, a 7% increase in young adult consumption and a 4% increase in sales across the category. With this success, Coca Cola has pushed it out to nearly 60 markets since their 2011 launch and have continued to add additional tactics. One of the more recent additions aimed to turn the enthusiasm for the campaign into even more revenue and earned advertising. To achieve this, Coke has begun selling personalized bottles and gear.

Takeaway for Marketers:

B2B or B2C – A truly impactful campaign integrates with the entire customer experience. Just because your packaging department is in a different building or state from your digital advertising or SEO departments doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t work together. Put your heads together across disciplines to unlock potential you never saw before.


A truly impactful marketing campaign integrates with the entire customer experience.
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Consistent Publishing and Strategic Partnerships Drove 15.5% Increase in Revenue

The Strategy:

When this B2B and B2C eCommerce company came to TopRank Marketing wanting to drive sales, we knew a breadth of integrated tactics would be the way to reach their lofty revenue goals. And, we saw a huge opportunity to leverage co-created content with influencers and other brands as a way to drive stronger brand awareness. To reach their objectives, we deployed a strong marketing mix of weekly blogs, co-created influencer content, SEO, organic social, paid social and AdWords.

The Results:

In just under one year, we were able to drive a 14.4% increase in organic traffic, and 7.7% overall. The even more appetizing part of the story is these traffic spikes resulted in a 23.7% increase in organic revenue year over year; 15.5% increase in overall website revenue year over year!

Takeaway for Marketers:

A consistent cadence of relevant, SEO-driven blog content set the foundation for success for this client. And, what really made the difference was our strategic partnerships with influencers and other brands. The co-created content bolstered brand awareness in a way this brand had never before seen.


Use SEO & content to set the foundation and form strategic partnerships with influencers.
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Are You Bringing Home the Bacon?

Hopefully, you just read all of that and thought, “I know. I already do all of that. I eat unlimited bacon!” If that’s you – fantastic! Are you looking for a job? We’re always open to strengthening our team!

But all joking aside, a wise marketer knows there is always more to learn. Keep up on the latest digital marketing trends and tactics by following our blog, or if you’re interested in learning what TopRank Marketing can do to help your business bring home the bacon, please, reach out today.


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