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How to Create Scannable Content

Posted by BSG Team on Jul 13, 2016 1:00:00 PM

Creating content that's easy to scanWhen it comes down to it, the majority of your readers aren’t actually reading your posts or webpages. Instead, they are scanning your content, stopping for individual words or sentences. In fact, research from the Nielsen Norman Group found that 79 percent of readers always scanned any new page they came across. Further, only 16 percent read pages word-by-word.

So, if your ultimate goal is to have more people read your writing, then you should be adjusting to your audience. Here are 6 ways to make your content easier to scan and effortless to consume:

1. Highlighting:  Make important or useful information standout. Bold, italicized, colored or hyperlinked text is more noticeable. Just don’t overdo it or it will lose its effect.

2. Subheads:  Clear, concise subheads will immediately tell scanners what they need to know. Resist the temptation to be overly cute or clever as it only slows scanners down.

3. Bullet Points:  Bullets break up text and organize information into meaningful chunks. Bullet lists help scanners quickly find the information that is most important to them.

4. Whitespace:  Big blocks of text can be intimidating for scanners.  Whitespace, much like bullet points, helps organize text and gives your copy a more manageable and scannable appearance.

5. Single-point paragraphs:  Online readers are usually looking for takeaways, especially if they are researching a service or product. Focused single-point paragraphs make takeaways easier to find and help you incorporate more whitespace.

6. Inverted Pyramid presentation:  The Inverted Pyramid puts the most important information at the beginning of a post and then the remaining information follows in order of importance, with the least important information at the bottom. Web writers who start with their conclusion and work backwards usually have an easier time engaging impatient readers who want to get straight to the point.

Each of these on-page elements give people something to hang their attention on as they move through your content. Without them, your writing could appear too overwhelming for many readers to even begin.

Topics: Content Creation, Writing

Understanding the Power of Storytelling

Posted by BSG Team on Jul 6, 2016 1:37:31 PM

Storytelling is a powerful tool, especially when it comes to marketing. Both B2B and B2C marketers use it to engage with prospective customers and build relationships with them. Stories are valuable because they go where data can’t – into the hearts of consumers, allowing them to make emotional connections and inspiring action.

Check out this infographic from our friends at Fathom Business Events. It explains why businesses should make use of storytelling in their branding and marketing efforts. 

 

brand-storytelling-infographic.jpg

Topics: Infographics

Are Micro-Moments the New Battleground for Brands?

Posted by BSG Team on Jun 29, 2016 1:00:12 PM

mobile-devices-micro-moments.jpgWe recently shared some jaw-dropping facts that show just how big the mobile opportunity is for marketers. With 44% of Americans saying they couldn’t make it a day without their phone, our ever-increasing reliance on our mobile devices means that we are consuming media in different ways. Most notably, we have replaced periodic media sessions with many short bursts of digital activity throughout the day. As Google puts it, “The old model was a four-course meal in the same restaurant. Today’s is a series of constant bite sized snacks all over town.”

Google has coined the term micro-moments to define those instances when people reach for their phones.  Although some of those instances just entail making a call, sending a text or even checking the time, others are times when people turn reflexively to their devices to find exactly what they need.  Micro-moments occur when a person:

  • Wants to know
  • Wants to go
  • Wants to do
  • Wants to buy

Google believes micro-moments are the new battleground for brands as decisions are made and preferences are shaped in these “intent-rich” moments. Google says it sees them constantly across billions of monthly searches and billions of hours of video watched each month. These moments that matter equal a seismic shift for advertisers – they are more opportunities to both win or lose the hearts, minds and dollars of consumers. Here are some examples:

  • Of leisure travelers who are smartphone users, 69% search for travel ideas during spare moments, like when they're standing in line or waiting for the subway.
  • Of smartphone users, 91% look up information on their smartphones while in the middle of a task.
  • Of smartphone users, 82% consult their phones while they're standing in a store deciding which product to buy. One in 10 of those end up buying a different product than they had planned.

Our devices have trained us to expect brands to deliver instant gratification.  We want exactly what we are looking for when we are looking for it. And those companies that deliver quick, seamless, mobile-friendly experiences are going to have a leg up on the competition. Check out the graphic below or watch this video from Google for more information about micro-moments.

Micro-Moments.png

Topics: Best Practices for Businesses, Research

Why Brand Advocates are More Valuable Than Social Influencers

Posted by BSG Team on Jun 22, 2016 3:02:14 PM

Influencer outreach is a big part of many social media and public relations campaigns. Agencies often court these individuals in hopes of harnessing the power of their networks to drive sales.

But, if you're truly looking to influence behavior, you may be better off focusing your efforts elsewhere.  Having a huge audience is great for generating buzz, but not always for driving action. That's why you may want to look to brand advocates instead.

A brand advocate is someone who enjoys your product or service so much that they’re eager to tell others about it — whether that’s via social media or in real life. They are avid consumers who act without incentives and passionately endorse your products. As such, their recommendations often carry more weight and others are more inclined to follow their advice.

Our friends at BzzAgent conducted a study to learn more about these powerhouse consumers. Check out the infographic below to better understand their motivations, habits and behaviors.

brand-advocate.jpg

Topics: Infographics

Infographic: 14 Mobile Marketing Stats

Posted by BSG Team on Jun 15, 2016 3:14:53 PM

In a recent column for Search Engine Land, Jim Yu writes, "Mobile is now not just about the device; it's a lifestyle."  He couldn't be more right.

People are becoming increasingly reliant on their phones, so much so that 44% of Americans say they couldn't make it through the day without their mobile device. As such, mobile presents a growing opportunity for savvy marketers to connect with consumers. Take a quick look at this infographic from our friends at Kahuna to see just how big the mobile marketing opportunity is.

mobile-stats.png

 

Topics: Infographics

SEO Tips for Blog Post Publishing

Posted by BSG Team on Jun 9, 2016 4:04:14 PM

SEO_for_Bloggers.pngLast week we talked about the creative and practical side of writing a blog post.  Today, we're talking about the technical side of getting them read.

Remember, publishing a post alone doesn't guarantee that it'll be seen.  You have to optimize it as well.  Try these SEO blog post publishing tips to help get your blog posts found:

1.  Keyword Research

Before you start writing your blog post check Google’s Keyword Tool for keywords to make sure your are writing about subjects people are really interested in. Then Google those keywords to see what the competition has to say on the subject. This will help keep your SEO fine tuned and focused on what readers are looking for.

2.  Fine-Tuning the Headline

Headlines should be simple but attention grabbing. Below is a common formula for crafting headlines for list posts:

[#] + [attention-grabbing phrase] + [keyword] = headline

Here are a few examples below. Notice that the headlines are short and punchy, designed to quickly grab the reader’s attention.

9 Reasons You Need Content Marketing

8 Tips for Creating Quick and Easy Content

4 Simple Ways to Increase Your Social Media Reach

3.  Post Slug

The post slug is the user friendly and URL valid name of a post. Most common usage of this feature is to create a permalink for each blog post.

WordPress and others automatically generate post slugs from a post's title by placing every word in the headline into the slug, but this clutters it up with lots of small words. Instead, change your post slug to your primary keyword and shorten it when possible.

4.  Images

Of course images punch up your blog posts visually but they also add great SEO benefits. To get the most out of your images follow these steps:

  1. Save your images as [keyword phrase] before you upload them to your site.
  2. Add alt text as [keyword phrase].
  3. Add title tag as [keyword phrase].

5.  Interlinking

Before you publish a new post, read through it and try to find two to three organic opportunities to link back to relevant posts on your blog. This keeps both readers and search engines on your site longer.

6.  External Linking

There may not be exact numbers on the SEO benefits of external linking, but it is still something we recommend because linking to other sites is a good way to build relationships with other bloggers.

Bloggers notice and appreciate backlinks and will frequently return the favor. At the very least they tend to mention and thank you on social media. Not bad blogging karma.

7.  Meta Data

There is a lot of debate about how much stock Google puts in meta keywords, but we still feel they're important in any case. Meta descriptions have value since they are extremely important in gaining user click-through from search engine results pages (SERPs).

These short paragraphs are your chance to advertise content to searchers and to let them know exactly whether the given page has the information they're looking for.

Your meta description should have the following 3 components:

  1. Optimally, it needs to be between 150-160 characters so Google will display the whole description.
  2. Include your keywords because Google bolds them in search results.
  3. It should be an intelligible sentence preferably from the actual post.

8.  Call-to-Action

Include prominently placed RSS or Feed Subscription Buttons and offer viewers the ability to subscribe to your posts via email when possible. This gives your blog followers instant notifications about your latest posts without them having to check your site for new content.

9.  Use Social Media

Although social media and social shares may or may not affect a blog post’s SEO, your social profiles definitely influence the way readers interact with your content.

Neil Patel, SEO expert and founder of Quicksprout, has urged marketers not to discount social’s impact on SEO too quickly; he argues that social is the new SEO and that your social presence is very relevant when it comes to search engine optimization.

Patel said, “No longer can we view the algorithm as a sterile and lifeless entity to be gamed, tricked, and cajoled by our clever SEO tricks. We must now realize the enormous impact of the social web.”

So, simply put, promote your blog content on social media sites for even more web exposure.

Topics: SEO and Content Strategy, Blogging, Writing

Take the Pain Out Of Blogging With Our Step-By-Step Guide

Posted by BSG Team on Jun 1, 2016 4:04:12 PM


blogging-laptop-1940x900_36253.jpgWe all want to write beautiful blog posts that people love to read as part of our marketing efforts.  But for most business owners daily, or even weekly, blogging is right up there with going to the dentist.

With this step-by-step guide to blogging, we have taken the pain out of writing.  Here is what you need to know to expertly and easily create a blog people love to read.

Step 1: Know your audience.

Before you ever put pen to paper so to speak you need to have a clear understanding of your target audience. You need to know what makes them tick. You need to know what their needs and wants are. You need to create buyer personas. When you understand your buyers and their interests you will then be able to come up with relevant blog topics.

Invest the time to create detailed buyer personas.  Our partner Hubspot has provided some great resources to help you get started:

Step 2: Start with a topic and titles.

Obviously before you can start writing you need to pick a topic for your blog post. It is a good idea to make a quick note whenever you come across an interesting story or blog topic. Before long you will have a nice collection of blog topic ideas. Do not worry if your topics are pretty general.  Use this to your advantage – play around with a variety of different working blog titles. This helps to focus your writing and creates even more blog topic ideas. A win-win.

Step 3: Write a captivating intro.

The first paragraph of a blog post should introduce what your post is about, all while captivating readers. 

No pressure here, right? Hubspot to the rescue again. They have a great post about writing captivating introductions, cleverly titled, "How to Write an Introduction [Quick Tip]".

It offers great advice for how to grab the reader's attention.  Remember, you want to attract the reader’s attention in the right way so that they will give your post more than a glance. You know you are offering them something beneficial; you just need to hold their interest long enough for them to see it.

Step 4: Organize your content.

You need to organize your content so that it can be broken down into easily digestible chunks. The best way to do this is to outline your post. This will help you to stay on track and properly focused. You will know which points to cover, and the best way to do it.

To make organizing even easier, you can download and use Hubspot’s free blog post templates. They are pre-organized for five of the most common blog post types. All you have to do is fill in the blanks.

Step 5: Now you get to write!

Now you are ready to actually write the content. Use your outline as a guide and elaborate on points as needed. Trust in your knowledge of the topic and do any additional research to gather more stats and examples to back up your points.

Also, take advantage of the many online tools available to help you with your writing. Here are a couple of our favorites:

  • Power Thesaurus: This crowdsourced tool provides users with a ton of alternative word choices from a community of writers. 
  • ZenPen: A minimalist "writing zone" designed to help you get words down without having to worry with formatting right away. 

editing.jpgStep 6: Edit/proofread your post.

You have written your blog post, hurray! But you're not done yet. Do not get in such a hurry to publish that you forget the editing process. It is a crucial part of blogging. Many small mistakes that you miss when writing are like neon signs when reading.

If editing isn’t your forte then ask a grammar-conscious co-worker to copyedit and proofread your post.

Step 7: Make it pretty.

After edits are complete then you are ready to format. An ugly post is not going to get much attention from readers. So make sure your post is visually appealing. Use consistently styled headers and sub-headers to break up large blocks of text. Maintaining consistency throughout your blog posts and your website helps your brand look more professional.

Also, content with relevant images receives 94% more views than content without relevant images. So make sure you choose at least one visually appealing and relevant image for your post. Play around with different types of images to see what works best for your post and which are consistent with your brand.

Step 8: Always have a call-to-action (CTA).

At the end of every blog post, you should have a CTA to let the reader know what you want them to do next. It can be as simple as asking them to subscribe to your blog or to download an eBook.

Use your CTAs to offer more content that is similar to the subject of the post the reader just finished, that way the CTA is mutually beneficial to you as the marketer as well as your audience.

A good blog post delivers its message by combining words with visual interest in a well-structured format that’s easy to read. Follow the basics in this article to start writing posts that attract and hold your readers’ attention.

Topics: Content Marketing, Content Creation, Blogging

Winning Millennials

Posted by BSG Team on May 25, 2016 11:00:00 AM

There are nearly 2 billion Millennials globally right now.  That is almost one-fourth of the total U.S. population. 87 million of them are on LinkedIn, accounting for 38 percent of its user base. They have an annual buying power of $200 billion in the U.S. alone, making them a powerful and much coveted demographic.  In order to succeed businesses need to make Millennials a priority and understand what motivates this influential group.

LinkedIn understands the importance of Millennials and has analyzed their use of the professional network.  Here are some of its findings in the following infographic:

 

Millennials statisticsfrom LinkedIn

Topics: Research, Infographics

9 Reasons You Need Content Marketing

Posted by BSG Team on May 18, 2016 11:00:00 AM

Anyone who hasn't taken the plunge into content marketing may want to know if it's worth the time and trouble. We'll give you a resounding yes, but don't take just our word for it. Check out the infographic below. It offers 9 revenue-related reasons why you should add content marketing to your marketing strategy.

9 Revenue Related Reasons to Engage in Content Marketing

Topics: Content Marketing, Infographics

5 Tips for Writing Compelling Copy

Posted by BSG Team on May 11, 2016 10:30:00 AM

typewriter-1580800-639x427.jpgCopy must be compelling, but does your copy also have to be clear and concise?

Simple answer, yes.

Brevity and clarity ensure that your message is digestible. It is important because you want your words to be quickly read and easily understood, all the while compelling readers to act.

You can easily train yourself to write clear, concise  AND compelling content.  You have to do a little research and even more critical thinking.

Before you start composing your next marketing email or landing page, try some of these tips. It may take some extra time and thought, but we promise the effort will be worth it.  You will come away knowing exactly how to create messaging that compels readers to act.

1) Create a buyer persona.

Don’t use a minnow to hook a shark. The most effective fishermen vary their bait depending on the fish they aim to catch. They also adjust their technique depending on the time of day, the water conditions, and the season. They soak up as much information as possible about the fish and it’s environment, ultimately using their knowledge to attract and hook.

It is the same with marketers. The most successful ones learn as much as they can about their target prospects before casting them their message. This allows them to highlight irresistible benefits throughout their copy.

You should identify your target prospect's problems and specific needs so you can offer them compelling solutions. Start by answering a series of questions about their personal background, their company and the position they hold, and their challenges, goals, and shopping preferences. Yes, that’s right, you need to create a buyer persona. Then you can gather information can then use that knowledge to attract attention and inspire action.

2) Make it emotional.

Purchases aren’t driven by logic. The features of your product or service are not enough on their own to seal the deal. Features appeal to your prospect’s logical brain but the sell hinges on emotion. A good commercial make us want to laugh or cry and stays with us for years.  

Remember Dove's "Real Beauty" campaign? It was so powerful and thought provoking that it went viral before viral was even a thing. The campaign has been active for over a decade and the commercial has had more than 18 million views on YouTube alone creating countless emotional moments.

3) Draw analogies and metaphors.

Value is a potent human driver. As a copywriter, your first responsibility is to figure out the value in what you’re selling and then put it into clear, concise, and compelling words.

It can be very hard to do. And if you’re new to copywriting, it could feel almost impossible, like trying to daylight past a rooster. That’s where analogies and metaphors come in. They’re especially effective at putting concepts into perspective.

Here are a few examples of metaphorical taglines:

  • Tropicana: Your Daily Ray of Sunshine
  • Miller High Life: The champagne of bottled beer
  • Werther’s Original Popcorn: It’s What Comfort Tastes Like

These brands combine use taglines to tell a story or create an image. And you can too. As long as your juxtaposition makes sense -- as long as it connects the dots and isn’t trite.

4) Avoid weasel words.

Weasel words are used to make a vague or ambiguous claim, enabling the specific meaning to be denied if the statement is challenged. People who want their statements to maintain plausible deniability use weasel words. Usually we associate them with politicians but copywriters use them a lot too, especially if their product’s promise is weak or loose.

For example:

  • "Leaves dishes virtually spotless." You are supposed to think "spotless," rather than "virtually" spotless.
  • "Listerine fights bad breath." "Fights," not "stops."
  • "Lots of things have changed, but Hershey's goodness hasn't." Notice that it does not say that Hershey's chocolate hasn't changed.

Avoid the weasel words whenever you can. Your copy will be stronger and more compelling for it.

5) Create urgency.

You don’t want your readers to get too comfortable. If your copy leaves readers with the impression that your offer will always be there, patiently waiting for them, they may use it as a reason to procrastinate.

Your copy should create a sense of urgency. Set a deadline, using time-sensitive language or play the scarcity card.

The aim is to make your prospects feel uneasy about waiting. The more uncomfortable they are, the more likely it is they’ll be to act.

Practice these tips and techniques when writing copy and, over time, you’ll move from novice to expert and steadily inspire more people to take action more often.

Do you have tips for crafting compelling copy? Share them below.

Topics: Blogging, Writing

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