stop referrer spam

Stop, Block, & Ban Referrer Spam

By | SEO | 2 Comments

Over the last few months, we’ve noticed referral traffic spike to many of our sites hosted on WordPress. Awesome right?

Well, not after looking at good old Google Analytics:

referrer spam view in google analytics

What is Referrer Spam?

Referrer spam is a feebly devised tactic to increase traffic to a certain domain. The aim, according to Raven Tools, is to make that domain appear in your analytics (as shown above) so you’ll visit the site. In the screenshot above, you can see how an individual could easily click one of those sites.

Why is Referrer Spam a Problem?

First off, referrer spam creates a problem when it comes to validity of data. These ‘visitors’ alter key statistics you need to analyze to improve your site. The total volume of sessions and visitors is obviously misrepresented. But not only that, but demographic, geographic, and device data is impacted.

How Do I Block Referrer Spam?

There are a multitude of ways you can tackle the beast that is referrer spam. Let’s take a look from around the web at what experts have suggested:

Option 1: Google Analytics Filters

Tom Capper of Distilled outlines a great option that doesn’t involve access to the backend of the site, just access to the analytics. While it doesn’t stop the traffic that has already arrived, it does remove it from your view.

Georgi Georgiev of Analytics Toolkit also advocates for filters within analytics, and details a comprehensive approach to applying multiple retroactive filters.

Option 2: WordPress Plugins

In the WordPress Plugin Directory, there are a few options to aid in filtering incoming traffic. SpamReferrerBlock and the Semalt Referrer Blocker are two of the most prominent options.

Option 3: .htaccess File

Adding several lines of code to your .htaccess file will create a virtual barrier between your site and those spamsters. This option is typically regarded as the most invasive and it does require upkeep, but it’s the most effective option to eradicate referral spam.

We’ve provided a CSV below that includes the code we used to stop our referral spam across our sites. You can simply use the list or customize it to include only the referrer sites that are impacting your site:

Click the link to download the CSV: Referrer Spam Ban .htaccess file

You’ll also need to customize the line of code that precedes the list of spam sites:

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} !.*YOURSITEHERE\.com/.*$ [NC]

In terms of bringing out the “big guns,” adjusting your .htaccess file tops the list. But, that also means that it’s serious stuff for you site. Ensure that your file is immaculate! Even one character out of place could take down your whole site.

For example, omitting that line of code with your site name as detailed above, will cause sporadic 403 errors across all pages of your site. Bottom line, make sure you feel comfortable with code before implementing this option!

Option 4: Any Combination of the Above Methods

If you’re especially concerned about referrer spam, you can combine any or all of the methods above to create layers of protection.

Does a Long-Term Fix Exist?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. While Google is aware of the referrer spam problem, no long-term solution exists beyond an overhaul of how Google Analytics tracks visitors. So, we are left to work with what we have at our disposal.

Don’t let referrer spam make a mess of your analytics. Stop, block, and ban it before it even hits your site. What’s your favorite method to stop spam traffic? Share it with us in the comments!

Content Marketing Fuels Product Launches

5 Ways To Support Your Product Launch With Content Marketing

By | Content Marketing | No Comments

You’ve spent hours upon hours creating this new product and now it’s time to gear up for your product launch. Launching a new product is no easy task. Just like creating the product, it takes time to successfully launch your product.

But it’s not just time that you need — you also need a plan.

Ample preparation and a documented plan is what separates successful product launches from failed product launches that crash and burn into flames of wasted time and money. In fact, 71% of fast-growing businesses have plans and document their strategies, which helps them grow faster and be more prosperous.

So what does this ample preparation and a documented plan involve? For starters, it needs the full support of content marketing. But not just any content marketing strategy will do. Yours needs to be a buyer-focused content marketing strategy that will earn a buyer’s complete trust during your product launch.

A buyer-focused plan doesn’t mean you have a list of content types you have to check off; it’s a plan where your focus is providing useful content that answers your buyers’ questions during each stage of the sales cycle.

In a recent study, 86% of B2B marketers said they use content marketing. These marketers understand content marketing is an essential part of ensuring their company’s commercial success. It will also ensure your product launch is a success, and here are five ways content marketing can support your product launch.

  1. Gets buyers’ attention and keeps them engaged.

Before buying products, customers research online to help them make purchasing decisions. They look at keywords and themes, which you can provide to answer their questions and ease their pain points via online content. Use written content, like blog posts, and visual content, like infographics and videos; whichever ways are best to explain your product and are the content form your customers prefer.

Buyers want and need to learn about your product — what it is, what it does, how it works, why they need it, what benefits it provides them, etc. — before they’re ready to talk to your sales department. And the best way to capture a buyer’s attention is to be on the channels they’re on, where they’re searching for their information, and providing content in their preferred form. This helps you kick start a relationship with these customers, build rapport with them, inform them about your product and hopefully keep them engaged with your brand.

  1. Provides real-life examples buyers can relate to.

Don’t just tell your customers and potential customers how features of your new product are going to benefit them — show them! And show them with data-driven case studies of customers already using and benefiting from your product. Consumers relate better and are more trusting of their peers rather than a brand, so if you have customers saying how great your product is, it will encourage others to buy your product because they want those benefits as well. Case studies take some time, planning and trust on your part and the customers you use, but it’s worth it and will propel your launch to the next level.

  1. Keeps the discussion going after your launch.

After spending blood, sweat, tears and hours of your life getting ready for this product launch and seeing it through, you can’t just forget about it once the official launch is over. Use content marketing to the keep the hype up and keep the discussion about your product and brand going after the launch.

Think of your first round of content that captures buyers’ attention as your introduction with those buyers. Now that the introduction is over, it’s time to maintain and build good customer-brand relationships with more content, i.e. emails, monthly newsletters, online surveys, whitepapers, etc. This stage of your content marketing strategy is still focused on your customers, it’s just now solely focused on educating them. Instead of focusing on getting a sale, educating consumers helps your prospects learn at their own pace and establishes your company as the trusted resource in your industry.

  1. Guarantees your sales team’s messaging to customers is correct.

Besides making your content accessible to your customers, make it easily accessible to your sales team. A great product launch amounts to nothing unless there’s selling. Your sales and marketing teams have to work together closely because while your marketing team develops the message and content marketing strategy for your product launch, your sales team is your key revenue driver for said product and oftentimes the top channel for marketing communications. So to ensure your sales team effectively discusses your new product with customers, provide them easy access to any new and updated content about your product. 

  1. Reassures your entire company is on the same page.

Content about your product should be shared with your customers and your sales team, but there’s one piece of content you need to create beforehand that’s exclusively for your employees — a way to get everyone on the same page. A fruitful product launch needs a clear message that’s agreed upon and consistently expressed across your company. You achieve that goal by producing a document outlining the message of your product launch within your company walls. Sixty percent of marketers who have a documented strategy rate themselves favorably with regard to effectiveness, while only 32% who have a verbal strategy do.

Have your marketing team create this document before your product launch, and be sure they include:

  • The product and its features
  • The buyer persona(s) you’re targeting
  • The benefits offered by the product and its features to your specific buyer persona(s)
  • How your product is different than others it’s similar to in the market.

When your entire company sees eye-to-eye on the messaging of your product launch, your message is sharply and clearly conveyed when it’s time to actually launch your product.

Product launches make or break a company. You want to be a commercial success, not a commercial failure, and content marketing supports making your company a commercial success story, boosting visibility of your new product and driving more sales.

May your product launch — with the support of content marketing — take your company to infinity and beyond.

25 Things

25 Things the “Digital” CMO Must Know

By | Digital Marketing | No Comments

Throughout the years, the role of Chief Marketing Officer has evolved tremendously. From concerns limited to traditional, one-way, broadcast media to new challenges involving entirely new, uncharted channels.

These uncharted channels require a new captain. Enter the “digital” CMO.

The “digital” CMO must not only be able to craft a compelling marketing message, but also spark and foster meaningful conversations. Don’t let the term “digital” fool you. This CMO has serious interpersonal chops that exist alongside a bevy of technical skills.

So, what makes the CMO “digital”? We’ve outlined 25 key terms and tactics that the “digital” CMO must know to be successful.

The “Digital” CMO’s Must-Knows

1. Social Media

We wanted to ease you into this list with an easy one: social media. By now, you should at least be waist-deep in the social media world, and if you aren’t, you’re behind. Even though as a CMO, you probably won’t be on the frontlines of the various social media platforms. However, you’ll need to keep up on the latest industry changes.

In addition, you should be participating on behalf of yourself! Your participation on Twitter and LinkedIn adds a valuable human element to your brand. In addition, building up your own profile will only bolster your corporation’s reputation.

2. Split Testing

Split testing (a.k.a. Bucket Testing or A/B Testing) is the marketer’s way to utilize statistics in proving efficacy of campaigns. It’s simple enough to understand and execute: two identical versions of a test subject are compared, except that one subject has a variation aimed to impact consumer behavior.

These tests are commonly used in email campaigns and social promotions; however, they are useful across the board. Split testing also becomes especially useful as concrete evidence in selecting one campaign over another. It removes the human judgment element and allows you, as a CMO, to make the best decision possible.

3. HTML

A knowledge of HTML is critical for CMOs. You most likely have a base understanding of HTML, but the more robust that understanding is the better. You need to understand how a website is created, and how much effort it takes to consistently maintain and protect it. Without firsthand knowledge of this, you’re doing yourself and your corporation a disservice.

4. PHP

While very simple, PHP has advanced nuances for the professional programmer. But, it’s overall ease of use makes it an essential tool in the “digital” CMOs repertoire. PHP has hundreds of functions and it even powers sites like Facebook. Learning PHP allows you to create dynamic websites and web applications. As a CMO, knowing the parameters of PHP helps you better understand the process, capabilities, and workflow of your team.

5. WordPress

As with others on this list, you’re probably familiar with WordPress. What began as an open source project in 2003 has grown into one of the largest content management systems (CMS) in the world. It’s based on PHP, and incredibly intuitive to use and navigate.

WordPress has evolved into a full blown CMS with thousands upon thousands of plugins, widgets, and themes to create a completely customized site. As with HTML and PHP, it’s critical for the “digital” CMO to understand the capabilities and limitations of WordPress.

6. Automation

Marketing Automation has become increasingly popular, with firms like Amazon executing it so perfectly that everyone seems to want to jump ship. What is it? Marketing Automation is similar to any other form of automation, in that it’s a collection of technologies designed to effectively market on multiple channels online and automate repetitive tasks.

While marketing automation can be wildly successful, it also is a cost-heavy investment. That being said, if you’re sure you can make the transition successfully, the ROI will be well worth the investment.

7. Video Advertisements

Advertising via video messages is not new, but it has been giving new life with the advent of pre-roll videos on websites and social media. The “digital” CMO must understand how to best leverage these and capture consumer’s attention.

Creating video advertisements may seem like an incredibly expensive undertaking. While it can be costly, there are other budget-friendly options as well. Utilizing technology like the GoPro and online editing software, a video can be created at a fraction of the cost you might expect.

8. SEO

As with others on this list, SEO is not a new concept that the “digital” CMO must know. However, with every quarter bringing declarations of the “death of SEO,” it’s worth mentioning here.

As long as consumers use search engines to find information, SEO will be very, very relevant. Therefore, it’s best for CMOs to acquire a basic understanding of SEO and the tactics used to increase visibility for their firm.

9. Content Marketing

Content marketing often holds hands with SEO, but is without a doubt worthy of its own spot on this list. For those unfamiliar, the Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as the “technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience.”

In the online space, brands have the capability of becoming their own publishers. Enter content marketing. Not only does this technique drive profitable customer action, but it also builds trust in your brand and portrays it as a knowledgeable and helpful source of information.

10. Mobile Optimization

The world is going mobile, my friends, and has been for some time. This means that every internet marketing tactic you’re carrying out must also be optimized for mobile. Every website, every social push, every blog post, and every email sent needs to be seamlessly viewed on mobile devices.

Ensuring that your website is optimized for mobile is paramount. Having an optimized website boosts engagement and sales, and ultimately, creates the best possible experience for the customer.

11. “Real-Time” Marketing

Oreo Cookie thrust real-time marketing into the spotlight with its now-famous Super Bowl Tweet. However, you don’t need to be a globally recognized brand to excel at real-time marketing. That’s the true beauty of this tactic — it just requires awareness and quick action.

It also requires common sense and tact. A poorly-timed tweet that could be construed as poor taste will do much more harm to your brand than good.

12. Wearable Tech

Somewhat a novelty now, wearable technology will soon be as commonplace as smartphones in our daily lives. Smartwatches are already gaining traction, and with Apple’s upcoming entrance to the space, it’s only a matter of time before it’s the new darling of the marketing world.

As with mobile, when wearable tech becomes more popular, having an optimized experience for each device will be necessary. Wearable tech also opens up a new playing field for medical and health corporations, as many of the devices are equipped with fitness tracking technology. The “digital” CMO will need to decide whether it’s worth being a first-mover in this space, or to tread lightly.

13. Crowdsourcing

Even though the term “crowdsourcing” was coined in 2005, 10 years later it’s still a vital concept for “digital” CMOs to know. The popularization of crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter has only added fuel to the fire of crowdsourcing popularity.

Crowdsourcing has endless applications, to everything from funding a potato salad to searching for missing planes. Leveraging this tactic can be highly useful, even groundbreaking, for your firm.

14. Big Data

Big data is simply the term for sets of data that have become so large, they are difficult to process using typical processing techniques. In other words, data that causes “analysis paralysis.” The most common buzzwords you’ll hear in the same breath as “big data” are “velocity, variety, and volume.”

The “digital” CMO will understand the prevalence of big data, and the importance in analyzing the right data the right way. Easier said than done though.

15. Social CRM

Social CRM, also called Social Media Monitoring, is the term used to describe a brand’s engagement with their customers via social media platforms. Paul Greenberg sums it up quite eloquently in his definition: “It’s the company’s response to the customer’s ownership of the conversation.”

The value in Social CRM is derived from the trustworthiness and transparency your business displays when engaging. However, as with any activity on social media, it must be highly controlled and thoroughly thought-out before undertaking.

16. Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

Conversion Rate Optimization sounds a bit daunting, but the folks at Qualaroo did a fantastic job of breaking it down for us: “Conversion Rate Optimization is finding why visitors aren’t converting and fixing it.”

Any firm that has a website (so, ALL firms) should be concerned with CRO. The “digital” CMO must understand the importance of analytics, user feedback, and KPIs in the optimization process.

17. Mircotargeting

Microtargeting was originally reserved for political parties to track individual voters and identify supporters. But with social media, all marketers have the opportunity to participate in this wildly reliable tactic.

Microtargeting is the process of putting your content/firm in front of the right audience, albeit a smaller one. However, this tactic ensures that you’re going to get the highest engagement and click-through rates possible. Social media’s targeted ads facilitate this process wonderfully, and are worth a look if you’re still in the shotgun-style mentality.

18. “YouTility”

Jay Baer published “Youtility” in 2013, and it still serves as an amazing entrance into understanding the importance of helping, not selling, in the digital age. If you haven’t read the book yet, you need to put it on your to-read list. “Youtility” teaches a style of marketing that’s so useful, “people would pay for it.” In this information-overloaded society, it’s the route all brands should take going forward.

19. Influencer Outreach

Since social media continues to be a powerful channel, it comes as no surprise that influencer outreach made this list. Influencer outreach is the process of identifying existing users on various social media platforms that function as “influencers” in their space, and then building a relationship with these influencers in hopes that they will become evangelists for your brand.

As of now, influencer outreach is a very “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” process, which makes it alluring for those with small budgets. However, it’s really only a matter of time before these “influencers” start demanding a bit of monetary reimbursement.

20. Email Marketing

Some less-than-stellar marketers might have you thinking that email marketing is an antiquated technique. That school of thought couldn’t be further from the truth! Copyblogger provides an excellent viewpoint of email marketing: “It’s what you use when you want to move from ‘conversation to commerce.’”

The key difference between successful and futile email marketing campaigns comes down to the relationship with your audience. The “digital” CMO should understand and allow his team to understand the importance of crafting subject lines, brand voice, and quality content.

21. Paid Amplification

Paid amplification is simply the process of promoting your company’s content via Facebook promoted posts, LinkedIn sponsored updates, promoted Tweets, and YouTube’s Trueview ads. In the growing world of algorithm feed changes and dwindling organic reach, paying for expanded content distribution is nearly necessary.

Microtargeting, another member of this list, and paid amplification go hand-in-hand. It’s through paid amplification that you can microtarget, thereby building an engaged audience and passionate community of users that actually care.

22. Native Advertising

Native advertising is not a new marketing tactic, but its explosion in popularity in recent years merits its place on this list. As you know, native ads match the format and blend seamlessly into the existing user experience. However, this is the cause of native ad’s success AND its problems.

A portion of internet users feel as though native ads are misleading at best. So, when looking at this as a potential strategy, transparency is of utmost importance. Successful native ads have a thorough understanding of the target audience and what makes them tick, which mitigates any negative responses.

23. Storytelling

Storytelling might be the oldest marketing skill in the book. But, technology and the new spotlight placed on content marketing re-emphasize the importance of perfecting this skill.

The “digital” CMO should take his or her dictionary, scribble out “selling,” and put “storytelling” in its place. When each company communication is rooted in a good story, it’s difficult for consumers not to be enthralled.

24. Employee Empowerment

As we round out the list, we wanted to end with “bigger picture” views on marketing that are critical to the “digital” CMO. The first of which is employee empowerment. Again, this is not a new concept but is worthy of revisiting in the digital age.

In the pre-internet era, employee empowerment was generally thought of as the company culture that allows employees to have input and control over their work. While it still stands for this, its definition has now broadened to include employee activities online. Companies have gone so far as to have employees sign “social media contracts” that dictate what they can and cannot do online. This may not prove to be the most beneficial route to travel, however.

Instead of restricting employee activities in the online world, turn each employee into a brand evangelist. When the “digital” CMO empowers employees to act proactively and in support of their brand, the brand’s online presence grows exponentially.

25. Customer Empowerment

The final element of this list, customer empowerment, is a true culmination of every aforementioned tactic. The digital landscape empowers customers in a way that could never be accomplished before. Consumers are no longer content with being herded through a traditional funnel, therefore empowerment becomes critical.

You must arm your potential and current customers with the knowledge and power necessary to make informed purchasing decisions. True customer empowerment requires an understanding of big data and social CRM, among other things. It also requires systems of automation, paid amplification, and the like to effectively empower customers.

Transforming into the “Digital” CMO

Unfortunately, we cannot wave a magic wand and instantly transform you into an all-knowing “digital” CMO. The rest is truly up to you. But the good news is that the digital world is full of helping hands and valuable insights from individuals that have been where you are now. All you need to do is look for them.

Now you know where to start. So, get out there and become a “digital” CMO!

Traditional Vs. Digital Marketing

Content, Digital, Traditional: What’s the Big Freakin’ Difference?

By | Content Marketing | No Comments

Since the beginning, in order for businesses to succeed, it’s been vital to market yourself — your products and services — to consumers. Marketing gets your brand out there and helps you garner sales. In the past, the only usable method was traditional marketing, but today you have the option of using traditional or digital marketing tactics, options allowing you to choose the best way to interact with your target audience.

But which do you use?

How do you even begin to make that decision?

And where exactly does content marketing fall into the spectrum?

In order to decide, you need to be knowledgeable about both. So sit back, get comfy and rid yourself of any distractions. I’m about to drop some much-needed marketing knowledge, giving you the need-to-know details that differentiate traditional and digital marketing and showing you where content marketing fits into the mix.

Traditional’s Technicalities

Traditional marketing is the most known marketing method since it’s been around the longest. It encompasses the ads we see and hear daily. The most recognizable types are print ads, TV and radio commercials, billboards, brochures and posters.

While it’s the most known method, that doesn’t mean it’s the perfect method. There’s good and bad to using traditional marketing. Let’s delve in and find out if you think the good outweighs the bad.

Advantages

  • It’s the best way to reach those who don’t regularly go online or who are without Internet access, a shockingly estimated 4 billion people scattered worldwide.
  • People are accustomed to it. The traditional types are familiar activities that many people still do, i.e. watching TV and driving on highways lined with billboards.
  • It’s the ideal way to reach local audiences.

Disadvantages

  • Results aren’t easily measured or can’t be measured at all.
  • It’s typically more costly than digital marketing.
  • It’s a static form of marketing, a one-way communication if you will. You put information in front of people, and fingers crossed, hope they take the action you want because of it.
  • Your coverage is limited in terms of audience size and timeframe. If your customers aren’t local, they aren’t seeing your marketing initiatives, and that ad in the newspaper is getting thrown away the next day when tomorrow’s paper comes out.
  • It’s a fairly long process going from concept to end product, and your end product doesn’t get into your audience’s hands instantaneously.
  • Much of our world is dependent on technology. Most of the things we do every day we can and choose to do online, i.e. bank, shop and read. Even traditional methods, like magazines and newspapers, have digital formats or are completely switching over to digital formats.

Traditional marketing versus digital marketing

Digital’s Details

Traditional marketing may be the longest-running marketing method, but that doesn’t make it the most used or preferred method. In our technologically driven world, digital marketing is making headway in the marketing world, with marketers forecasted to spend 35% of their total budgets on digital marketing by 2016.

Just like its name says, digital marketing is marketing your products and services via digital technologies to reach consumers. This marketing method uses all the Internet-based channels it can, including social media, emails, websites, banner ads, podcasts and blogs to name a few. And utilizing Internet-based channels is smart considering the number of worldwide Internet users is approximately 3,079,339,857 and 310.3 million of those users reside in North America.

Like traditional marketing, digital marketing is made up of good and bad features, but you’ll quickly see the good completely overshadows the bad.

Advantages

  • Results are measurable and easier to measure.
  • You have the possibility to reach a limitless audience. You can tailor your message to target a specific audience or place it on the web for the entire world to find.
  • It’s an interactive, engaging and non-intrusive form of marketing. Companies and customers each have the chance to talk and listen because it’s a form of multi-directional communication.
  • Because this method relies on the Internet, the interactions are public so any other consumer who wants to join a conversation is able to, and can do so immediately.
  • Direct contact with consumers and businesses is provided, resulting in some valuable consumer feedback.
  • Campaigns are planned out but can be edited based on consumer feedback received along the way.
  • The information and coverage you put online is available to consumers 24/7 and forever remains online to find.
  • Gets into consumers’ hands instantaneously.
  • Digital marketing efforts have the chance to go viral.
  • Digital marketing scales, so you can do as little or as much as you want to do and stay within your budget.

Disadvantages

  • Takes time to realize and see the measurable success of your efforts.
  • Takes time to develop your concepts and overall strategy.
  • Information you put online can quickly become outdated. Time and manpower is needed to ensure your information is regularly monitored and updated when necessary.

Content’s Components

After seeing the clear differences between traditional and digital marketing, can you pinpoint where content marketing lands in the marketing mix?

When you really think about it, high-quality content plays a part in all marketing initiatives, but in my opinion, content marketing’s main role is being at the heart of your digital marketing efforts. And I’m not the only one thinking this way as 91% of B2B marketers and 86% of B2C marketers use content marketing. Those numbers aren’t diminishing anytime soon as 86% of marketers plan to spend more on content and a Teradata survey shows that companies plan to spend 15% of their marketing budget on content creation in 2015.

The Content Marketing Institute’s definition of content marketing is “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” The most commonly used types of content marketing include blog posts, articles, websites, eBooks, white papers, case studies, emails, videos and webinars. The purpose of content marketing isn’t to sell; it’s to communicate with your customers and potential customers by delivering informative and relevant content to educate them.

Traditional marketing had more disadvantages than advantages, while digital marketing was the opposite. With content marketing falling under digital marketing, it makes sense that its advantages also outnumber its disadvantages.

Advantages

  • Builds brand awareness.
  • Drives more inbound traffic to your website.
  • Boosts your natural link popularity.
  • Increases your leads. Content marketing generates roughly three times the leads traditional marketing does.
  • It’s the best way to nurture your leads.
  • Increases consumer engagement.
  • Cultivates trust between your brand and your audience.
  • Establishes your brand as a thought leader and voice of authority.
  • Creates brand advocates.
  • It’s cheaper to implement, costing 62% less than traditional marketing.

Disadvantages

  • It’s meant to provide long-term impact not short-term results.
  • It’s not designed to persuade consumers to take immediate action.

Conclusion

While traditional and digital marketing share the same goal — attracting qualified leads and building better brand awareness — it’s clear the two are very different marketing methods, and that content marketing plays a role in each marketing initiative, although mostly with digital marketing.

I know which method I’d choose, but have you determined which is best for your business?

When Content Marketing Fails

When You Should Absolutely NOT Use Content Marketing

By | Content Marketing | No Comments

Content marketing is holding tight to the role of shining star in the digital landscape. And it’s no secret that here at Stryde, we believe traditional methods of sales and marketing are essentially dead.

However, that’s not to say that content marketing is the duct tape of the marketing landscape (i.e. it fixes everything). Your business goals, capacities, and capabilities will determine if content marketing is the right strategy to utilize. As with so many things in life, content marketing is not “one size fits all” nor is it the most advantageous strategy to employ in every single situation.

So, instead of our typical communications dripping with content marketing praise, today we’re going to explore instances when you should absolutely, positively NOT use content marketing.

Absolutely, Positively Do NOT Use Content Marketing When…

… Short-Term Impact Is Paramount

If your goal is to drive immediate sales, then content marketing is not for you. The overarching goal of all content marketing initiatives is to create brand advocates. Then, these advocates provide your brand with search, referral, social, and word of mouth traffic for years to come. Which then translates into long-term, sustainable profits.

In fact, we penned an entire post about how short-term content marketing campaigns are in actuality a paradox. It takes time to build loyal brand advocates. It does not take time to generate a brief jump in sales. There is a place for both content marketing and advertising within organizations, but you need to understand how the outcome of each differs and match that to your own goals.

What To Do Instead: Advertising campaign

Why? With an advertising campaign, the goal is to instantly impact sales and/or leads. Effectively executing this campaign should produce the short-term impact that is desired.

… Your Goal Is To Persuade Customers

When you want to persuade consumers to take action or to feel a desired opinion towards a product, don’t use content marketing. Persuasion is not included anywhere in the definition of content marketing. Instead, the definition includes only the term “valuable.” Instead of the purpose of persuasion, the focus is on holistic understanding and relevant information.

We encounter this problem in content marketing initiatives quite frequently, and understandably so. It’s difficult to break from the traditional marketing mindset of clear calls-to-action and promotional copy. But, if you want to succeed in content marketing, you MUST break those tendencies. Content performs best when it’s authentic, comprehensive, and helpful.

What To Do Instead: Advertising campaign

Why? Closely tied with the previous point on short-term impact, persuading consumers to take immediate action is a core purpose of advertising. Consumers know the difference between promotional and non-promotional copy, and they’ll show that knowledge through their buying habits.

… You’re Not Willing To Invest In Content Distribution And Amplification

Creating an amazing piece of content is only half the battle. In order to enjoy the successes of content marketing, you need to have a plan, the time, and the budget available to distribute and amplify the content you create. Whether it’s through your own social media profiles, email marketing, strategic outreach, or paid promotions, content marketing fails when it’s missing this part of the puzzle.

The time spent cultivating and nurturing relationships with industry influencers, high-profile bloggers, and journalist pays off in the visibility your content gains. Not only visibility, but in links to your content, too. When respected individuals or corporations reference your content, it sends you pre-qualified referral traffic while sending the search engines strong SEO signals.

What To Do Instead: Educate yourself!

Why? There really is no comparable alternative to a thoughtful distribution and amplification plan. Without it, content marketing does not exist and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a comparable alternative.

If you want to begin a content marketing initiative and you harbor any of the three elements detailed above, do yourself a favor and don’t even start. If you’ve already ventured into the land of content marketing while harboring any of the three inclinations, it’s safe to say you probably considered it a big stinking failure. Which is okay! Now you know when to NOT use content marketing and you’ll save yourself from further failed attempts.

Have you experienced any other instances where content marketing has been a gigantic dud? What would you adjust in your approach, or would you abandon it all together? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

TEACH A MAN TO FISH (1)

Teach, Don’t Sell

By | Content Marketing | No Comments

This is kind of our mantra here at Stryde. If you’ve spoken or worked with us, you know that we believe traditional sales and marketing tactics are pretty much dead. People don’t like to be sold to. People don’t like to feel pressured into making decisions. People like to take their time, do their research, and make well-educated decisions before they pull out their credit cards and give you their money. That’s why we love to teach, and not sell.

So, what exactly does this mean? I want you to first think about people in your life that have held the following titles: teacher, instructor, professor, counselor, tutor, advisor, mentor, guide, coach, trainer. What do they all have in common? Most likely, you trust them, their recommendations, their guidance, their opinions, and so forth.

Teaching, Not Selling In Sports

I played baseball in high school and believe I had one of the greatest coaches ever. Each member of our team knew by the way he taught us and guided us each day that he knew what he was talking about, and we bought into what he was “selling,” which honestly wasn’t anything other than hard work, team work, being the best we could possibly be, and to have fun. Because we were bought in, we were massively successful, and he saw the return on his time that he invested in us and the program.

Teaching, Not Selling In Business

I want to take this back to the business world. It’s really no different. Once your potential customers know that you know what you’re talking about and that you truly want to help them solve their problems, not just turn them into a customer, you can get them to buy into what you’re “selling” without even having to sell anything at all. It’s really quite magical.

Let’s now take this to a real world example. I have a lot of friends who own and/or work for solar power companies. I love the way they approach their door to door sales efforts.

When they first knock on someone’s door, each rep is prepared to educate on the benefits of installing solar panels on the home. I’m not an expert in this space, but after talking with some friends, some of the benefits include a higher resell value of the home, lower monthly energy bill, the chance to sell back excess energy to the local power company, etc. In most cases, they don’t even bring up the cost to engage until the customer is educated, bought in, and ready to roll. Now, if only they would take the same model online… and let me do their marketing :)

Getting Started With The Teach, Don’t Sell Model

Hopefully, you can clearly see the power of the teach, don’t sell model. Yes, it requires a significant time investment in terms of creating the resources to educate prospects and establish trust with them, but the long-term return is phenomenal.

To get started, we recommend using the hub and spoke model for content creation.

Simply put, the hub is the all-inclusive resource that educates prospects on a certain topic. This piece of content traditionally comes in the form of a guide or eBook and is somewhere around 30-50 pages in length. Again, all inclusive. This piece of content should be gated, meaning a website visitor cannot get access to it without providing an email address, therefore generating a lead for you. What you do with that lead is totally up to you. We recommend building a marketing automation workflow and start dripping emails to them.

The spokes are either supporting content that is 100% unique or repurposed pieces of content from the original guide or eBook. These typically come in the form of blog posts posted on your own blog or industry blogs with decent followings. The goal here is to drive traffic to the spokes, hook your audience with your amazing content, and lead them back to the hub to get the full resource and generate the lead.

Hub & Spoke Content Approach

Pretty simple, huh?

Again, the trick here is to teach, don’t sell. The moment a prospect feels like you’re being promotional or trying to sell them something, you’re toast — so don’t do it.

Obviously, this is what we do day in and day out for our clients. Let us know if you have any questions about any of this.

We believe there’s a better way to do marketing. We believe there’s a better way to connect businesses and consumers. Here’s to changing the way all businesses approach sales and marketing!

Story of Stryde & Fit Marketing

Growth by Design – The Stryde & Fit Marketing Story

By | News | 2 Comments

We announced this morning that Fit Marketing has merged with Stryde! All Fit clients are now Stryde clients and the Fit team has joined forces with the Stryde team. The combined team is larger and better able to tackle bigger client projects and do even better work than the Fit or Stryde team alone was able to handle.

We wanted to take the chance to let each of the key players in each organization tell their story of how this happened and why it made sense.

Dave’s Take

I have known the leadership team at Stryde for many years. We’ve been friendly competitors for the past few years, and before that we worked together in the trenches at SEO.com. Because of that history, I trust them and I respect their marketing expertise. They are some of the smartest digital marketers I know. I know they’ll take great care of the Fit clients and employees.

How did this deal come together? Fit had grown significantly from our humble start in Owen’s kitchen to being recognized as one of the fastest growing companies in the state the past few years. We were on an upward trajectory and felt like we might be able to scale up quicker by merging with other like-minded marketers, if we could find the right fit. We reached out to Greg Shuey at Stryde more than a year ago. At the time. we decided the timing wasn’t right, so we went about our business for another year and then a couple of months ago, we restarted the dialog with Stryde around a potential merger.

Around the same time we restarted the discussion with Stryde, I was approached by some good friends who had started a company called PageLaunch. They were looking for someone to come in to lead the fast-growing company. Somehow the stars aligned and it worked out that I got the offer to step into the role of CEO at PageLaunch, and we were able to work out a deal to merge Fit in with Stryde.

I will continue to advise and assist the Stryde team to make the transition as smooth as possible for the team and clients. As sad as I am to have to step away, I know that I’m leaving the company in good hands. I am confident that the new, combined company will accomplish even greater things than either company did on its own in the past — and both companies have achieved incredible results for their clients — so my expectations are sky high.

Owen put a lot of trust in me when he took me on as a partner almost three years ago. Like any business, Fit’s had its share of ups and downs through the years, but it was a fun ride and I was glad to have Owen with me each step of the way. He is a great partner and friend to have by my side. Now as we get ready to move into a new chapter of the life of Fit Marketing, we are entrusting a new generation of marketers to carry the torch. We feel good about where things are going, and we know that current and future clients will benefit from the combined expertise of the new and improved Stryde team.

The future looks bright for digital, inbound, and content marketing in Utah with Stryde leading the way.

Owen’s Take

Dave’s painted the picture well of how things have come together. Like Dave, I’m excited for the future and to see what the combined teams of Fit and Stryde can do.

As many people know, last year I stepped down as president of Fit and moved into a board member role. Professionally, I knew it was time to learn new lessons and tackle new challenges, and I found the right opportunity to do that at Qzzr. And what an exciting ride that’s been.

Now that Fit has been acquired though, while Dave is looking forward, I can’t help but reminisce a bit about what we were able to build together with all the amazing people that have worked at Fit since 2009. These are some of the highlights that come to mind:

  • More than 40 people have worked at Fit since we started in 2009, and I learned something from each of them. I feel so much gratitude for their contributions and skills. They were and are, in a word, awesome.
  • We’ve sure had interesting people walk through our doors. I’m thinking of Garrett Gee, who designed the Fit logo before he got busy building and selling a company for 54 million dollars. Or there was that time that our first sales guy, Brooks Forester, starred on The Bachelorette. Lots of good times with great people — and that’s what I remember most.
  • As Fit grew, we had a few mergers and acquisitions that brought new energy and ideas to our team. I’m appreciative to Chris Kilburn and his team at TOFU Marketing for helping Fit to up its game when we acquired them in 2013. And of course, no merger had a bigger impact on me than when Big Start and Fit Marketing merged in 2012, and I got to have Dave as a partner through that process. He’s one of the finest people I’ve ever met, and one my all-time favorites to work with. I can’t wait to see what he builds at PageLaunch and hope we’ll have a chance to work together again.
  • As we grew, our offices sure changed. We started in my little apartment in Provo in 2009, and then felt like we hit the big time a year later when Fit had one other employee and we were working out of a condo in Orem. From there, we opened offices in downtown Salt Lake City, Provo and American Fork before consolidating all of them into our favorite space of all in downtown Lehi. At each step, gratefully, the spaces got a bit nicer. That being said, I’ll always remember those early days with really cheap furniture fondly.
  • I’m proud that Inbound Marketing SLC became what it did and that Stryde will continue to host that event going forward. I never would’ve guessed, when it started, that we’d be able to get hundreds of Utah’s top marketers together every couple of months to share what we’re learning. Thank you to everyone who has made that event worthwhile.
  • It’s gratifying to think that the little company I started as a clueless 25 year old grew to make a small dent in the marketing community in Utah. It blows me away when I look back and realize that since then people have paid Fit Marketing millions of dollars to help with their marketing. Even more importantly, Fit helped people turn those millions of dollars invested in marketing into many more.
  • There’s no way that Fit would have achieved what it did without all the awesome people that have contributed to it. And again, none more awesome than my partner and friend, Dave.

At its best, Fit has been a labor of love — love for our clients, the work that we’re doing, and for each other. I’m grateful and excited to see the Fit team combine with the bright people at Stryde to nourish that spirit more and write the next chapter in this story. I get the feeling that with these two teams working together, the best is yet to come.

Greg’s Take

Well, I get to go last, so most of the story has already been told…

When compared to Fit Marketing, Stryde is still a toddler. We’re only two years old. When we started Stryde, we had several growth strategies in mind, one of which was through mergers and acquisitions. I don’t think we could have been any luckier that our first was with some of my great friends and mentors. It means a whole lot to me that Dave trusts us enough to take the torch and hopefully pour some gasoline on it :)

During the last couple of years, Stryde has also made some pivots in our approach to marketing and our service offering. We initially started out as a full service digital marketing agency. About a year ago, we decided to narrow our focus to content marketing and cut out all the other distractions that were taking our time and attention away from what we do best. Yes, we still do SEO, PPC, social media, email marketing, etc., but we do it differently than we did before. Everything we do and every decision we make revolves around our content strategy for each client. I’m happy to report that it is working extremely well!

By merging the Fit team into the Stryde team, we also opened up some new capabilities that we didn’t have before, including video creation. We are now producing some of the best live and animated video that I’ve seen in a long time. Take that and package it with our content and distribution and promotion strategies and you’ve got something pretty awesome!

I too am excited to see where our company goes during the next 12-24 months. We’re a lot stronger than we were 30 days ago, and I expect the strength of our organization to continue to grow as the team gets more familiar with one another and we start firing on all cylinders.

Here’s to 2015 and massive growth for our clients and Stryde.

Stryde acquires Fit Marketing

Content Marketing Agency Stryde Acquires Fit Marketing

By | News | No Comments

Stryde, an innovative content marketing company in Salt Lake City, announced today that it has acquired Lehi, Utah-based Fit Marketing. The acquisition combines two driven teams into one topnotch content marketing firm.

Founded in 2009 by Owen Fuller, Fit Marketing steadily grew to emerge as a leading inbound marketing agency. In 2012, Dave Bascom joined Fit and helped them evolve from a full-service, CMO-for-hire business model, to a more narrow focus of inbound digital marketing: content, search, social media and video.

Fit launched a series of local marketing education events dubbed Inbound Marketing SLC (IMSLC). At these events, hundreds of business owners and marketers gather to learn from digital marketing experts across diverse disciplines. As part of this merger, Stryde will continue to run the IMSLC events.

Fit was recognized in 2013 and 2014 as one of the fastest growing young companies in Utah by the UVEF 25 Under 5 awards. Fit also joined Stryde as one of Epic Ventures’ Hot 100 young companies in Utah in 2014.

Fit’s CEO Dave Bascom and founder Owen Fuller will continue working with Stryde as strategic advisors. “I’m thrilled about this merger,” Bascom said. “It’s a perfect match in many ways. Greg Shuey and the team at Stryde are some of the smartest digital marketers I know. Our companies’ cultures and approaches to business are extremely similar. Our teams’ strengths complement each other. We’re now positioned to better meet the needs of our current and future clients. I know the combined team will accomplish amazing things.”

“We’re always looking for ways to elevate our organization and level of service for clients,” said Stryde COO Greg Shuey. “It made perfect sense to team up with Fit, their team and their clients, and we are excited about what the future holds for Stryde.”

Stryde welcomes a core of Fit Marketing’s employees, enhancing Stryde’s capability of providing its customers with the highest level of dedicated service. By combining the various skill sets from everyone involved, Stryde is now able to provide a new level of service, including video creation and promotion, along with its current prolific content repertoire.

About Stryde

Stryde specializes in quality content creation, distribution and promotion. Their offering helps companies create brand awareness, increase website traffic, generate qualified leads, shorten sales cycles and engage and retain customers.

Stryde’s client portfolio includes Sports Illustrated, Henry Schein, Signs.com, LANDESK, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and many others.

Original release posted here.

Why Your Content Marketing Isn’t Working & How to Fix It

By | Content Marketing, IMSLC | No Comments

The following is information we gleaned from Dan Bischoff’s presentation, 10 Roles Needed for Content Marketing Domination, during January 2015’s IMSLC event.

If you’ve fallen bait to the content marketing cycle-of-no-return, you’re not alone.

Thousands of marketers like you have tried the good ol’ “launch a company blog and start getting tons of traffic” tactic and been disappointed in the results.

To illustrate – the year of 2013 showed a hefty 93% of businesses were using content marketing as a way to expand their audience. This percentage shrunk to 86% in 2014, and is continuing to shrink.

Content marketing, as trendy as blogging and clever infographics have been, is losing steam.

So why the decline?

“It didn’t work. It wasn’t working for people…” is the simple answer provided by Dan Bischoff, founder of Content Hook, during his presentation at last month’s IMSLC. That’s right, Dan founded a company based around content marketing. So if you’re thinking there’s probably more behind the story of content marketing’s failure other than “it doesn’t work”, you’re right.

Let’s start by touching on the main reason people attempt content marketing in the first place…

How It Used to be

Just ten years ago, salespeople held you by the strings. If you wanted to buy a product, you typically had to go through someone to get all the information needed: a sales rep, a travel agent, a receptionist – you name it.

Today we hold personal salesmen in our own pockets. Most of us use online reviews, search engines, social media, and friends’ reviews to make purchasing decisions.

“Before a customer talks to a salesperson, the sales process is already done,” Dan pointed out. According to the Harvard Business Review, at least 57% of the buying process has already occurred before customers pick up the phone.

Content marketing is used for a variety of reasons, the main one being that businesses want to play a role in the 60% of the sales process that occurs before customers contact the company itself.

So Why Are Marketers Failing at Content Marketing?

Dan gave us three reasons:

1

2

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Need we say more?

You simply can’t compete against the elderly, soldier dads, or (especially) mourning dogs. Human stories will always win over advertised content.

On top of that, there are companies like Buzzfeed and Upworthy who do nothing but create content. Most of it is junk, but clickable junk.

And let’s not forget that Facebook likes are becoming less and less meaningful – the total number of pages ‘liked’ by the typical user grew more than 50% last year.

Dipping Your Toes vs. Diving In

This is the key.

The difference between those who find success using content marketing and those who don’t is the difference between simply dipping your toes in the water and diving in full force. You need a plan, a strategy, and a process.

A large part of that plan includes a robust, focused team made up of roles that are designed to drive content marketing from being so-so… to shareable.

Content Marketing

stryde-ladies

What The Stryde Ladies Can Tell You About Their Content Marketing Tools

By | Our Process, Tools | One Comment

At Stryde, content creation, distribution, and promotion is just another way of life. It’s our everyday bread and butter, our mental workout routine, and the juice that gets us going each day.

We three Stryde ladies know that there’s a lot that goes into implementing these marketing tactics from start to finish and using the proper tools isn’t just a big help, it’s a necessity!

For each of our specialists in the areas of social media, content creation, and outreach, there are a variety of resources that we use and love. Here’s what goes into our toolboxes:

Emily Burkhart, Social Media Manager, knows how to promote! She amplifies client’s content to tailored audiences on the daily and optimizes it with creative images, always while keeping up with industry trends. She relies on a few tools to stay on top of it it all.

“I live in Hootsuite. It’s the tool I utilize every single day without fail. Whether I’m scheduling shares for the week or putting reports together, Hootsuite really gives you all that you could ask for in a social management platform. I’ve tried other platforms, but even the most beautifully designed pale in comparison to Hootsuite.
When it comes to content amplification, getting your hashtags right is paramount! For that, I love Hashtagify.me. It shows a hashtags popularity and related keywords, all with one simple search.
Now, when it comes to images, I cannot live without Canva! I don’t have a formal education in graphic design, but Canva makes it so easy to make the image in your head a reality. If you find yourself fumbling with Photoshop and InDesign, or just want to add some fun images to your current blogging efforts, you have to check out Canva.”

@realemilylouisa
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Kirsten Metcalf, Content Strategist, writes on anything from witty dating advice, to cloud computing, to more sensitive topics each day; changing the subject matter and keeping her tone on point! She can draft up an intelligent, entertaining content piece in nothing flat, using a few tools to help spark her creativity.

“I like organization. If my house and workplace aren’t organized, I can’t get anything done. This is exactly why my No. 1 tool to keep me, my topic ideas, client content pieces, and my weekly to-do list organized is Evernote. Everything I need to see and be reminded of is right there in one place, and it easily syncs with all my devices so I can add and check stuff in the office or on the go. I’m cheap and just use the free version, which makes this tool even more fantastic that it keeps me focused and on task, and helps turn my content ideas into completed works of art at no cost.
As a writer, I’ve experienced writer’s block my fair share of times. Sometimes it’s hard to come up with an amazing content topic. This is where Quora comes in handy. I just recently got a Quora account, and so far I like this Q&A site. I selected topics that interest me and that are relevant to Stryde’s clients, and now when I log in I can follow and search for popular questions being asked and answered within those topics. I can also ask my own questions and answer other users’ questions. It’s a great way to see what questions users in Stryde’s industry and our clients’ industries are asking and topics they’re talking about, which helps me discover new ideas when trying to brainstorm relevant content topics.”

@k_metcalf4
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Emily Christopher, PR & Outreach Strategist, understands the organic way of promoting content. When it comes to building relationships, quality and authenticity are key. She uses a few tools to get content under the noses of the right influencers and out to the eyes of the right audiences.

“In running an outreach campaign, I can’t stress organization enough. I use Buzzstream to build lists that live under assigned tags and can track my email threads and add notes. The Buzzmarker is also a newer feature that lets me save contacts directly from the page that I’m on. That’s really helped to speed things up for me. Buzz also makes it super easy to set up email outreach templates, while still giving me the option to customize a message before sending and giving it a more personal touch.
When I’m looking to reach out to more niche audiences, a great tool I’ve been using more recently is Citation Lab’s Link Prospector. It allows me to build contact lists and easily label them by campaign. You can select the type of report you want to run for your campaign; I often use “guest posting” and “links pages”, and then plug in my search phrases. It automatically pulls a customized list of contacts that’s right in line with what I’m searching for. It’s pretty awesome.”

@emily_C27
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Implementing these tools daily does not only make our jobs much easier, but it also expedites processes and helps to propel our client work to the next level. A big thanks to all of the tools we’ve listed and we’re excited to discover many more! What are some of your favorite content marketing tools?