Are You Taking a 360 Degree View of Content Marketing?

Creating content that relates to customers and builds engagement has consistently been the top challenge for marketing departments. Many marketers feel like they’re just shooting in the dark in terms of content marketing — sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Creating content that relates to customers and builds engagement has consistently been the top challenge for marketing departments. Many marketers feel like they’re just shooting in the dark in terms of content marketing — sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. This is especially true for teams that are trying to increase sales by building brand authority in their industry.

So here are some critical questions that CMOs and content managers can ask themselves to determine if their strategy is on the right track, confirm whether they’re sticking to the fundamentals and make sure they aren’t making any obvious mistakes.

Is Your Messaging in Tune With Industry Buzz?

Keeping your company’s marketing content relevant and interesting doesn’t mean that you should pursue every trend that passes by. However, that doesn’t mean you can simply dismiss all of them either. Content must either be unique or refer to current events fresh in people’s minds in order to keep their attention, regardless of how informative it is. By keeping up with the latest news and updates specific to your industry or niche, you could be one of the first outlets to provide an opinion on them.

Great content marketing and SEO go hand-in-hand, so in order to make your content seen and heard, it must include the terms, slang and even jargon that might draw in relevant audiences. By keeping up with the latest conversations and expressions being thrown around, you can tweak your content to identify more closely with your target audience.

Google’s Trends tool can help you monitor the keywords and topics being searched for and discussed online. It also shows you the volume of these searches and how fast interest in a given topic is rising or waning.

Credit: Trends.Google.com

Don’t just latch on to any topic that is trending in your area of reference. Be sure that it is relevant to an audience in your niche and that you understand what it is all about, and are able to share insights or at least use it in an entertaining way

Once you find the kind of themes and issues that your pique your audience’s interests, you can nail down a direction and certain ideas around which to build your brand messaging.

Are You Letting Your Audience Guide Your Content Strategy?

In order to let your audience and customers drive your ideation and approach, you must make sure you know them through and through, so that you can create the most relevant and engaging content. This is best done by formulating audience personas to help get into the mind of your typical consumer. You will need to delve deep into the demographics and analytical data to create generalizations about the type of people that follow your brand.

  • What do they look like?
  • How do they speak?
  • What buzzwords are they familiar with?
  • Where and how do they consume content?
  • What industries do they work in?

Create multiple personas. These generalities can then be used to guide content by focusing on the subjects that would likely appeal to these different personas. For example, Customer A may be more interested in the nitty-gritty details of your industry, while Customer B might be more interested in learning practical ways to use your products or services. Customer A might place a premium on your brand experience while Customer B might just be looking for the cheapest product around.

Credit: Hop.online

Perhaps the most important ingredient to a fresh content strategy is simply knowing who you are communicating with and how to do so effectively.

Are You Analyzing Visitor Behavior on Your Website to Understand Intent?

The role of big data in content marketing cannot be underestimated. To stay competitive, businesses and marketers need to understand that they’re operating in a competitive environment that needs constant adjusting and optimization. Whenever a landing page is tied to a piece of content, blog post, email or even social media update, you need to know exactly how it performs in relation to your goals.

Before you even begin designing or optimizing your landing page, you must first ask yourself: why are customers coming to this specific page? What do they intend to get out of it and what are they looking for?

Marketers need not wait for coders or designers to develop or customize a landing page. Tools such as Landingi offer easy ways to add a quick page with forms, text boxes, drop downs, buttons and other elements to help you optimize your marketing funnel and automate the user workflow on your site.

Take a sign up page for example. You can easily create a form to gather information that tells you more about your audience. This can as simple as their location, most pressing concern, or how they discovered your brand. Using this data, you can refine your sales approach in a way that resonates with current or potential leads.

Remember that the intent of visitors is not always (read, almost never) to purchase. On the contrary, the majority of your first-time visitors will be looking for information on what your company or product does, how much it costs, and so on. You need to create exact content so that each landing page fulfills a specific purpose.

One great place to start is by answering common questions that visitors are asking. You can find these through intent-based keyword research for more general topics or you can address issues that customers frequently raise with your support or service team.

Kapost used this strategy to great effect by sharing information directly from their sales and customer service team’s conversations with their marketing department. Their content team then created specific pages for these questions so that future customers could instantly find this information and they could create more relevant landing pages.

Credit: Kapost.com

You can also experiment with different variations of your landing pages through split testing. Consistently testing components like style, copy, and CTA buttons will give you plenty of data-backed insights as to what makes your audience tick.

Are You Using Events and Experiences to Create Content?

Your business events can provide a plethora of valuable inspiration that can be used and reused to support a sustainable content marketing strategy. You can also use these insights in future promotions with value-based messaging.

Ecommerce platform Shopify teamed up with Kylie Jenner to promote her temporary pop-up shop as well as their retail POS system. While there was a lot of marketing buzz promoting Kylie Cosmetics during the event, Shopify pulled the online equivalent of a guerilla marketing stunt by telling the story to their customers through their blog.

They published a post talking about all that goes into the planning of offline experiences for online businesses and the power it has. They even shared some behind-the-scenes pictures and details about Kylie’s store. The story was by no means blatantly promotional, but instead it had some real-life applications and valuable insights for retail business owners – Shopify’s core audience.

Credit: Shopify.com

Don’t be fooled. The entire piece was marketing content for their own company. Shopify used the event as an opportunity to mention their new POS system that Kylie Cosmetic used in order to handle all of the transactions during the pop-up. They even snapped a photo of Kylie herself using the system.

By turning a business event into marketing content, you can not only provide your audience with great information and examples, you can also promote your product’s usefulness through effective storytelling.

While statistics and numbers are great for proving points and communicating research, studies have found that when content tells an actual story and provides a practical application, it resonates far more with audiences and produces better results, eventually boosting conversion rates in the process.

Over to You

Consumers are more than an accumulation of facts and figures; and so must be your marketing strategies. There is so much pressure in the marketing world to deliver sales, to come out with the most innovative, creative, and unique strategies that marketers have lost focus on what is truly important: the customer experience.

Through content marketing, organizations are now able to build real connections with their customers as well as a larger audience in a way that was never before possible. The best content marketing strategies don’t necessarily depend on budgets or technology; they’re tied to brand-customer relationships.

As a marketer, it your job to empower your brand to build these relationships and facilitate experiences that bring positive results. The best way to do this is to give customers information that they can actually use – and make sure they use it!

3-Part Pre-Production Content Marketing Checklist

Here’s a three-part pre-production checklist of the questions your content needs to answer in order for it to succeed. Last time around, we talked about how long the content on your website pages should be if your goal is to attract, engage, and retain your audience through content marketing.

Last time around, we talked about how long the content on your website pages should be if your goal is to attract, engage, and retain your audience through content marketing.

This month, let’s look at a checklist of what your articles need, regardless of length, in order to succeed as content marketing. We’ve found that the best way to build a checklist that works for you is to identify the questions you must answer before you put pencil to paper — or fingertips to tapping.

Who Am I Trying to Reach?

Your first checklist item should focus on who you are trying to reach. You may be pro or con when it comes to the value of creating prospect personae, but they are an excellent way to draw a clear picture of who your target audience is. If you have another approach you prefer, that’s fine. Just as long as your profile includes data points on your prospects’ professional lives, as well as demographic information. Here are a few examples. The data points that are relevant to your marketing will vary.

Professional Profile

  • Title
  • Role
  • Department
  • Company size
  • Location

Demographic Profile

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Income
  • Level of education

What Is My Prospect’s Motivation?

Once you have a picture of who your prospect is, you need to understand what is driving them to seek the change that you could potentially provide. In other words, what are their pain points around this problem?

The key here is to dive into their pain points as deeply as possible. Your goal should be to not only know what their pain points are, but to understand why they are pain points, in the first place.

In most cases, that will require calculating what the value of solving the problem is to the prospect and his or her organization. That can help you determine your pricing and their sense of urgency.

As critically, you’ll want to identify what the costs will be of doing nothing. (That is often your biggest competitor, rather than another solution provider.)

As you identify the most critical benefits to your prospect, you may find your content beginning to take shape. Those benefits — or language alluding to them — are often best used as sub-headings in your article.

What Is My Goal for This Page?

Your goal is always the same: Get the prospect to take action.

What that action is will depend on all of the data we covered above, as well as where in the buying cycle your prospect is. That last piece will likely determine the nature of your offer: Asking someone who is just beginning their research to agree to an in-person meeting is likely a non-starter, while a prospect who is putting together her short list will be much more open to the idea.

What’s Next?

Regardless of the action you seek, be sure you are thinking a few moves ahead, as a good chess players does. Once they’ve taken this action, what action would you like them to take next? What content can help you move your prospects in that direction?

With luck, your pre-writing checklist can help you not only with the content piece in front of you, but with fitting what you create into a broader content library and content marketing strategy.

3 Sustainable Ways to Build a Customer-Focused Content Strategy

Learn how to create a branded content strategy that not only produces quality content, but also takes into account what your customers really want.

We’ve all seen umpteen studies proving (correlating) that the more content you publish on your blog, the more visits and leads you get. Marketers take this finding at face value and race to publish more (and more visible) content, with “experts” and “thought leaders” spewing advice on the latest tools and technology that will purportedly have your audience consuming your brand content with tears in their eyes.

The result is that every day, over 3 million blog posts are published, not to mention the countless social media updates posted. While there’s a lot of well-researched content in this haystack, much of it is conjecture and outright replication.

In order to stand out from the overflowing stream of new content, marketing teams often fall into the trap of chasing every tactic that comes their way or “borrowing” from the content created by famous brands or industry experts, and “adapting” (read, rehashing) it to fit their own content strategy. Instead, they should be gleaning lessons from big brands’ innovative content strategies and keep looking for ideas — from the most commonplace to the most implausible sources.

Let’s discuss a few ideas to ensure your content strategy never goes out of style, while matching the pace of your content production with your audience’s propensity to consume it.

Collate Industry Data and Visualize It

From a used car salesman to an apparel website, everyone has to resort to statistics and facts once a while. This was earlier done with presentations, charts, and tables. However, we’ve long needed respite from these boring and confusing ways to present numerical data.

Thanks to Edward Tufte and his four classic books on data visualization, data and visualization came together like two long-lost brothers uniting after a long time. Tufte had faced many problems in his career, because of poor data representation tools. So he revamped data presentation by adding images to data. The New York Times called him the “Leonardo da Vinci of data” while Business Insider referred to him as the “Galileo of graphics.”

Interestingly, research by Nielsen concluded that readers will pay closer attention to relevant pictures included on the page, as our eyes are naturally drawn to images. However, they will ignore visuals included just for the sake of imagery.

But it wasn’t until the availability of infographic-making tools that this method became mainstream. Today, visualization is the basis of content marketing, and not going away any time soon. Whether it is social media posts or blog articles, the simplest way to catch your customer’s eye is with pictures and videos, which get far more engagement than text-heavy content. This holds true across all digital and traditional platforms and channels.

A survey by Venngage built upon this, with empirical evidence that engagement depends on the type of visuals used in the content. Infographics and original illustrations perform the best, followed by charts and video. “Trendy” formats, stock photos, and memes actually receive the lowest amount of engagement.

content strategy graphic
Credit: Venngage.com

The lesson here is that numbers are boring, but you can’t avoid them forever. Content marketers must take a cue from Edward Tufte’s data visualization strategy and revamp their content to include lots of graphics — even better if they are animated or interactive.

Share Success Stories

The best lessons are learned from other people’s experiences. Strangely, many marketers ignore this fact, even though every customer knows it.

Very few companies package their successes into case studies that they can easily use to appeal to a wider audience and acquire more customers.

Don’t make this mistake. Always be on the lookout for case studies — they don’t necessarily need to be yours, if you don’t have enough or relevant experience. Analyze industry examples thoroughly to gauge your potential customers’ intent, challenges in targeting them or doing business, and how these challenges can be overcome. Don’t frown upon any content format — be they detailed whitepapers, listicles, or good old FAQs. Make sure your content marketing plan provides solutions to all of your customers’ woes with actionable advice.

E-commerce platform BigCommerce has dedicated a whole section of its website to showcasing retailers’ (in both the enterprise and SMB sectors) success stories, as well as case studies. The best of the best get their own feature pages, but the showcasing doesn’t end there. (Hey, this is the best in digital merchandising we’re talking about!) BigCommerce even hands out its own annual awards to the merchants who provide a great user experience and innovative eecommerce solutions to their customers.

content strategy screen shot
Credit: BigCommerce.com

These case studies are sorted by industry or topic, and include advice on entrepreneurship, retailing, advertising, media, and pretty much anything related to doing business online. This content has no obvious CTA or tangible conversion value that you might expect. But, despite that, it is worth its weight in gold, due to the brand credibility it portrays and information it delivers to the audience.

Just as in B2C, 65% of B2B marketers believe in the effectiveness of case studies as a content marketing tactic (after in-person events and webinars). People trust real examples more than branded content. Most people (and by extension, organizations) will look at what others are doing and how they are doing it before they make a final decision. Use this psychological tendency as a base on which to build heaps of helpful content.

Combine your case studies with visual testimonials to drive home the value of your product. Video is a great way to deliver a memorable message about the joy your product brings to the lives of real users, while demonstrating to others how it can help them make pressing problems go away. Video conferencing tool Zoom used this strategy to feature one of its largest clients, Zendesk:

Instead of using a quote from the top management, like most testimonials do, this clip features sound bites from people across the organization. It shows the product in actual use by people in different roles and how every one of them is happy to do so.

Focus on Educational Content

CMI’s “Content Marketing Benchmarks” report for 2019 revealed that 77% of the most successful B2B content marketers nurture their audiences with educational content. An overwhelming 96% believe that that building trust and credibility is what qualifies them as thought leaders in their industry. Therefore, delivering useful information to your audience, leads, and customers is easily one of the most effective ways to succeed with content.

Google Analytics is so ubiquitous with website analytics that you’d think it didn’t have to care about acquiring or retaining customers. After all, we all live and swear by GA, right? But Google does not take its position as the market leader in web analytics for granted. With a dedicated Google Analytics Academy that offers how-to guides, training courses, and even certifications to existing Google Analytics users, Google holds its users in an iron grip.

content strategy from Google
Credit: Google.com

The biggest advantage of customer education is retention (which again drives sales at the lowest costs). Another market leader that takes customer education (and retention) seriously is IKEA. From alternate uses for its products to showcasing how customers have creatively used IKEA products to take their lifestyles to the next level, IKEA’s Inspiration section is a design buff’s delight.

content strategy from IKEA
Credit: Ikea.com

Over to You

Drawing and keeping your customers’ attention in this fast-paced marketing age is difficult. Whether it’s your product or marketing that is great, there is someone out there who is doing it better than you and vying for your share of the market. You must constantly attempt to stand out and remain relevant, by relentlessly improving the usability, quality, and effectiveness of your content.

Riding current trends could get your content some short-lived buzz, but it is important to stay focused on pursuing long-term relationships with your customers by creating and publishing content that speaks directly to them.

Building an Audience-Focused Content Strategy

Generating content that is relevant to your audience is easy; delivering unique content that actually serves its needs is significantly more difficult. That requires a content strategy.

Generating content that is relevant to your audience is easy; delivering unique content that actually serves its needs is significantly more difficult. That requires a content strategy.

These days, it’s not enough to produce loads of content based on keyword research alone. That might have worked years ago, when Google judged a webpage’s relevance and quality by keyword density. Since then, Google has revamped its algorithm and leaned on artificial intelligence to reward content that’s unique, useful and engaging. Focusing on people’s needs — not just their search queries — is the new goal of content marketing. And yes, there’s a big difference.

Does your content strategy really speak to your audience? And, equally important, does your audience notice? Forging a content strategy that achieves these objectives will likely help all of your marketing efforts. Here, we’ll review the basics for building an audience-focused content strategy.

Step 1: Know Your Audience

To build an audience-focused content strategy, you must first understand your audience. Who are they, and what do they need? What are their hardships? Why might they want your help? In terms of your content, would your audience prefer articles, blog posts, video tutorials, infographics or something else?

Listening is the key to answering these questions. Keyword research — specifically long-tailed keywords in your analytics reports — are one piece of the puzzle. There are better ways to get actual human feedback, though. Check websites such as Yelp and Reddit to see how people talk about merchants and issues in your sphere, or read your own social media comments for more insights on customers’ needs and wants. Brick-and-mortar business owners can ask their employees about what’s on customers’ minds.

Only after you truly know your audience can you move on to the next step.

Step 2: Find Your Content Tilt

At the core of this endeavor is finding your content tilt. Don’t worry if this is the first time you’ve heard this term — you’re not alone. Your content tilt is a form of branding; it’s what ultimately makes your content valuable in a way that’s unique to your business. Finding your content tilt doesn’t just mean pumping out articles that are relevant to your customer’s needs. Rather, it’s about diving deep into the core purpose of your business — thinking carefully about what makes your business remarkable — and then understanding how you’ll help your customers in ways no one else can.

Want an example of a content tilt? Think of how Kelley Blue Book established itself as the go-to resource for people who want to buy or sell used cars, or how Consumer Reports became known as the authority on informative, objective reviews. For another example, go to YouTube and watch different videos of chefs demonstrating their recipes. Then, watch one clip of Nadia G’s “Bitchin Kitchen.” That’s one heck of a content tilt!

Most businesses these days produce plenty of content. They barrage customers with online and print ads, coupons, blog posts, Facebook posts, Twitter posts, Instagram pictures, email blasts and more. And yet, still, people in business are often dissatisfied with their marketing.

That’s because content without a tilt is just noise in the crowd. Find your tilt, and you’ve found your voice. Unlike noise, a voice can send a message.

Step 3: Set Goals

What do you hope to accomplish with your content strategy? Your answer to this question depends largely on your website or the type of business you run.

The Digital and Content Team: Is Splintering a Verb?

In this post we explore the organization of a digital and content team, which we will call “the digital team,” and may include the designers and producers of the website and other digital properties. How you do organize around content and the website at your firm? Is your website appropriately categorized as content and managed out of this group?

target_marketing_blog_part5_1In last month’s blog post, I discussed the ideal demand generation group structure and exactly which functions are best centralized within. In this post we will explore the organization of a digital and content team, while touching upon Web designers, producers and other digital properties.

How you do organize your firm’s content and website? Is your website appropriately categorized as content and managed out of this group?

The Digital and Content Group

The charter of a digital and content group might look something like this:

Create compelling content to drive higher customer and prospect engagement, resulting in more qualified leads for sales. In addition, we will create a fluid customer experience, whether it is through inbound or outbound communications, to create one company feel.

Notice the word “engagement” in there? Companies are spending up to 30 percent of their marketing budgets on content and many have no clue if said content is actually engaging their prospects and customers. Are you measuring the level of engagement with each piece of content you produce today?

The digital and content group is the source of fuel for the demand generation engine. The group builds a roadmap based on input from the subject-matter experts (SMEs), product marketing, sales, requirements gathered from the demand generation team, field marketing and other marketing teams.

If you agree with my premise that the website is content, and as such belongs in the group where content for other media is created, then we arrive at an organizational crossroads. Do the search-, display- and paid-traffic gurus (or agencies) who are traditionally tightly linked to the website designers and producers also belong in this group? Or, since their function is really demand generation, do they splinter from their website production comrades and move into the demand generation group? I won’t rehash what I said in the last post on this, but suffice it to say most organizations have kept them in the same group — at least for now. So the organization chart probably looks like this:

target_marketing_blog_part5_2As marketing organizations shift toward building omnichannel campaigns in order to give prospects and customers a consistent multichannel experience, the inbound team is forced ever-closer to the marketing automation team in the demand generation group. If you leave your inbound and social team in the digital and content group, ensure they develop a very tight relationship with the demand generation team, as they will be working together more and more.

The Traffic Manager

I’m going to digress for a minute here, but I assure you this will have implications for the organization of the content group. Let’s talk about the life of an asset — a piece of content. You find an SME in the firm to write up a nice whitepaper (WP) and you put it on the website and you’re done, right? Not so fast …

target_marketing_blog_part5_3Developing the core content, the basis for the subsequent assets, is probably a third of the battle. These days, extracting the value from the core content probably looks more like this:

  1. Develop the core content and produce the first asset (a WP, for example).
  2. Write a blog post to promote the WP.
  3. Write email copy to promote WP with outbound email channel.
  4. Write landing page (LP) copy.
  5. Write ad copy if you are going to do some display ads or paid search to promote WP.
  6. Get a creative designer involved to add the graphics and images for all of the above …

Killer Content Strategy in 2 Hours

To efficiently get your team to a killer content strategy you need a common framework that can be applied to all your content decisions, as well as a simplified planning process that connects your approach to your audience and business goals.

MeetingTo efficiently get your team to a killer content strategy you need a common framework that can be applied to all your content decisions, as well as a simplified planning process that connects your approach to your audience and business goals.

The Conversation Framework

We often talk about digital content as a storytelling medium, but that assumes a one-sided relationship with one storyteller and one or many listeners.

I prefer to think of it as a conversation that may include stories. In a best case scenario, your content resembles an ongoing dialogue with your audiences that you can learn from over time, just as a good conversation requires listening and thoughtful reaction.

If you think about content planning in this context of a natural dialogue you will find there are certain elements that impact the direction and elements of the varied kinds of conversation that we all engage in day to day:

  • Depth of relationship: You talk about different things and in a different cadence and tone with strangers or new friends than with those you know well.
  • Frequency of touch point: Catching up with a long lost friend takes on a different flavor than conversing with another friend that you see more regularly.
  • Passion point: If you have something in common with someone that can often become the central theme of your interactions.
  • Attention: Is it a passing opportunity to chat or do you have uninterrupted hours to spend together?
  • One-to-one or one-to-many: Are you addressing a group or having a private conversation?
  • Utility: Is the focus on getting something specific accomplished?
  • Conversation initiation: Are you initiating the conversation? If so, you carry the burden of the setting the clear direction, pace and tone.
  • Intent: Are you trying to persuade? Entertain? Educate? All require different approaches and info.
  • Channel conventions: What’s accepted and commonplace in some channels may not be in others.
  • Format: Content can take many forms including visual, audio, interactive, etc… and the format will influence the structure and flow of the conversation.
  • Language or tone varies based on norms for the intended audience: Certainly age and other demographics but also take into account regional flavor, language preferences or degree of formality.
  • Investment: Depending on how important the interaction is to your goals you may invest your time or other resources more or less liberally, including using paid media to maximize reach.
  • Content authorship: Are you using your own stories and content or sharing something that someone else created?

You can quickly see how these and many other subtleties impact the flavor and flow of our conversations and how they could also influence your content choices. Once you have that conversational framework in mind you can get through the actual planning pretty swiftly.

Simplified Content Planning Process

Now to break down the two-hour planning process into managable 30-minute chunks.

Don’t Stand There With Your Mouth Open

Let’s pretend you’re a bear. No, wait, stick with me here. Okay. You’re a hungry bear. You want to eat something, maybe some fish. So you walk down to the river bank, because fish live in the river (still with me?)

Let’s pretend you’re a bear.

No, wait, stick with me here.

Okay. You’re a hungry bear. You want to eat something, maybe some fish. So you walk down to the river bank, because fish live in the river. (Still with me?)

Now, you have a few options here. You can try to catch the fish with your big bear paws. Maybe there’s a couple dead fish floating on top of the water … that’s a possibility, too, albeit a not very fresh one. Or, better yet, maybe you’re a bear who lives in an area where sockeye salmon live, and if you stand in the river and wait, fish will literally jump into your open mouth.

Goal Strategy Tactic
This slide is courtesy of Kristina Halvorson’s “Content vs. the Customer” presentation at Content Marketing World 2015.

Goal: Eat some fish
Strategy: Walk down to the river where fish are swimming upstream
Tactic: Wait for the fish to jump into your mouth

But what happens when you forget the strategy?

Patient BearYou’re just a bear, sitting around, hungry, maybe with your mouth open. And to be honest, you look pretty dumb.

This is just one of the genius — and amusing — things that Kristina Halvorson, CEO and founder of Brain Traffic, discussed during her keynote presentation, “Content vs. the Customer,” at Content Marketing World 2015 that has continued to stick with me, nearly a month later. And she wasn’t just there to talk about bears and fish … her point was that marketers often define their goals, decide on a tactic, and then completely forget to map out strategy, especially when it comes to content marketing.

According to Halvorson, core content strategy can be broken down into three parts:

  1. Diagnosis: Understand what you’re trying to do and what’s already being done.
    Here you align business outcomes and customer needs, and identify opportunities, challenges, assumptions and risks.
  2. Guiding Principles: Why are you doing what you’re doing?
    Ask yourself: What are your success metrics and are they meaningful? Who is your audience? What are your brand values? Is there a purpose to the channels, formats and frequency you’re using?
  3. Coherent Set of Actions: Acquire. Establish. Redesign. Shut down. Upgrade. Choose one and do, but make sure you’re removing “increase” from your goals.

“You’re everywhere … but you don’t have to be,” Halvorson reminded the crowd. “When we say yes to all the things, it becomes too much. There is power in saying no.” There’s also power in asking why, and taking a long hard look at what you’re doing, defining a strategy for how you want to get there, and executing it.

Because no one wants to sit alone with their mouths open, waiting for fish or customers.

5 Tips for Top Positioning (And Converting) Page Titles

Wondering about a SEO content strategy that offers the biggest impact in the shortest time? Try tweaking your page titles.

Wondering about a SEO content strategy that offers the biggest impact in the shortest time? Try tweaking your page titles.

The page title appears in the top bar of your Web browser and it’s also the clickable link on the search engine results page (SERP)—the page you see after entering a Google or Bing search. From an SEO perspective, a keyword phrase-rich page title can help boost search positions. And from a conversion perspective, a well-written page title can tempt prospects to click on your SERP listing over the nine other competing listings.

In short, page title creation is a highly important SEO skill set. Here’s how to do it:

1. Give your copywriter “control” over your page titles
It’s easy to think that page title creation is firmly in IT’s realm—after all, they’re part of the back-end code and often considered “too techie for marketers to deal with.” However, because the page title is the first thing people see after completing a search, it acts as an attention-grabbing headline. Although IT can create a page title that “works,” marketing can create top-positioning page titles that scream “click me” on the search engine results page.

2. Make your page titles unique for every page
Unless your company has an SEO-savvy IT department—or your Web designer knows her way around search engine friendly coding—your site may be lacking an important element: Unique page titles for every page. Take a peek at your pages and see if the page titles change, or if they’re highly similar (or worse, exactly the same.) Yes, you will have to make every page title unique—which can seem like a daunting task. However, the good news is, you should see increased search positions simply by writing unique page titles and editing your content (assuming you write your page titles right, that is!)

3. Focus on your most important keyword phrases
You may be tempted to shove every important keyword phrase into your page title, hoping that one of them will “hit” and gain the rankings you’ve always wanted. For example, don’t do something like this.

Garden supplies, gardening tools, gardening gifts, hand gardening tools, tools for gardeners, garden tools, tools for gardens: GardenNow.com.

From an SEO perspective, keyword phrase-stuffing your page title won’t help you position. And from a conversion perspective, there are better ways to create your page titles that will gain more powerful results (more on that in a bit.) When you focus your page titles on the top two to three keyword phrases that you targeted in your writing, you’ll see much better success rates.

(As a side note, make sure that you’ve done proper keyword phrase research before rewriting your page titles. If you’re not sure about how to do this, a content marketing strategist can help set your keyword phrase strategy.)

4. Get over yourself
Many companies lead their page titles with their company name, screaming their branding all over the SERPs. However, that may not be the best option. If your company name is long—say something like Pristine Printing Services, you’ve already sucked up 26 characters (with spaces)—and best practices dictate that you want to keep the main “meat” of your page title to 70 characters with spaces. Consider placing your company name at the end of the page title—if at all. That way, you’ve focused your page title on the keyword phrases and the user experience—and you have more characters to create a compelling page title.

(The one exception to this rule is when your brand is so trusted—such as “IBM”—that it’s more beneficial to lead with the company name.)

5. Give your prospects something to click for
Do you offer free shipping? Does your company offer a unique benefit? Because page titles are instrumental in getting people to click on your listing over the nine others on the SERP, how you say what you say is crucial. Instead of a page title like:

Garden supplies: Outdoor gardening tools from GardenNow

Consider something like:

Outdoor gardening tools and garden supplies—free shipping and 25% off retail

See what I mean? Just because you’re using keyword phrases in your page title doesn’t mean that you have to write something that sounds like a laundry list of keywords. Remembering the “page titles are like headlines” mantra should make them easier to write (and more powerful from a conversion perspective.)

Tweaking your page titles takes time, effort and a whole lot of creativity. However, all that work can result in some incredible returns. It’s well worth it.