Optimizing Branded Content for Search

Have you ever read a blog post, caught a Twitter update or received an email promoting something that looked interesting but for whatever reason the timing wasn’t right to respond to it?  Perhaps it was a white paper, an eBook, or a webinar and you passed on downloading it because:

  • you knew you didn’t have time to read or view it right then
  • it pertained to a future initiative, but you had to get through the one at hand first, or
  • you were on a mobile device and it wasn’t convenient to download at the time

You aren’t the only one.  Chances are that your prospects have done the same thing with your content.  The opportunity that many marketers miss when they publish great content is to optimize a companion landing page (at minimum) for search.  Since the search engines are typically the first place people go when they’re looking for answers, it makes sense to make your solution easy to find.

Below is an example of one way to approach optimizing branded content for search.  This happens to be how the demand generation agency I’m with approached branded content SEO for their very popular eBook, “The High-Tech Direct Marketing Handbook.”

Let’s assume the prospect forgot the company’s name (how dare they?!) but remembered the asset was something like, “high tech marketing handbook.”  Here’s the search result:

search optimized branded content

The first listing links to the eBook landing page (with registration form), the second listing links to an optimized page on Spear’s resource center.

Even with top billing in the organic listings, it’s still not a bad idea to include branded content keywords to your paid search campaign in the mix, particularly if you find competitors competing for related phrases.

The branded content SEO tactic can also work well when combined with display advertising promoting the content.  By using the display ads to create awareness content asset, you can measure lift in organic search and conversions.

Below are some tips for optimizing a branded content landing page for search:

  • Include the unique, branded title of the content in the URL
  • Include the title and your company name in the Page Title
  • Include a call-to-action in the page description, along with a concise description of how a prospect will benefit from the offer
  • Include the title in the page copy with an H1 tag
  • If the content is registration gated, use an image of the offer content (a thumbnail or similar image) to make it more “tangible”
    • Also, don’t include more registration form fields than are absolutely necessary
  • Reinforce the call to action along with a description of the types of problems that your content will solve
    • If possible, break up the keywords from your content title and integrate them separately in the on-page content
  • Build high-quality links to the landing page via authoritative sites (via blogging, social media, etc.)
  • With gated content, improve conversions by limiting extraneous navigation and unrelated calls-to-action
  • If the content is gated, create a “thank you page” for post-registration that includes social media icons (linked to the landing page) to make it easy to share the content socially
  • If the content is un-gated, place a image, sidebar banner or link to relevant “gated content”
  • If the content is gated, consider fulfilling the content via email (particularly if you use a marketing automation solution because you can more easily track opens and clicks)

Sales 2.0 Redux – Are You A Before Or An After?

Years ago, Sales 2.0 was synonymous with Web 2.0 technologies.  For today’s marketing and sales professionals, Sales 2.0 is more than technology.  It’s a fundamental shift in mind-set that is contrary to how many of us were ‘taught” to do our jobs.  While technology brought it to life,  Sales 2.0 embodies the strategic and tactical approaches, best practices and re-thinking of how sales and marketing can more effectively meet the needs of today’s buyers.

For some, the adoption of the Sales 2.0 mentality occurred long ago.  For others, it has yet to happen. Where are you in the process?

Check out the “before” and “after” scenarios below and let me know your thoughts. Also, feel free to include your own scenarios in the comments.

Before Sales 2.0

You’d find out that your contact is no longer with the company in your monthly “stay-in-touch” call.  (Worse still, you find out from your contact’s replacement who is at the same extension.)

After Sales 2.0

Minutes after your contact has updated her LinkedIn profile with a new position, you send them a congratulations note.  Later that day, your contact invites you to discuss her needs at the new company.

Since you receive alerts from your contacts old company, a few days later you see the job posting to fill your contact’s old position.  You quickly forward it to a person you know who’d be a great fit and was looking.  They get the job and you have a very grateful new contact at the company.

Before Sales 2.0

You’d go to conferences and (awkwardly) introduce yourself to prospects you’ve been chasing for months.  They smile politely and take your card but tell you that they unfortunately “ran out” of their cards.

After Sales 2.0

You go to conferences to finally meet the people you’ve been engaging with in social media for months.  They smile at you from across the room because they recognize you from your profile picture and come over to shake your hand.  You ask them something clever about their favorite [insert hobby, activity, interest they’ve been tweeting about here] and they tell you a great story about it.  Then they say, “Let’s schedule some time to chat, I’m working on a project I think you can help me with.”

Before Sales 2.0

You received a “Contact Us” form lead with no idea what the person on the other end needs or how to prepare for the call.

After Sales 2.0

You receive a lead from a white paper download on, “Top 10 Tips To Improve XYZ.”

Before responding, you’ve looked up the contact in your CRM, reviewed their activity history and noted interesting moments from your marketing automation solution (like how they visited a high value page on ABC last week).  You also used your sales intelligence solution to get their company information, key executives and direct reports.

Now, you’re confident and prepared to discuss their XYZ and ABC needs intelligently and relevantly.

Before Sales 2.0

Your boss wanted to know why you’re on LinkedIn instead of cold-calling to that list of 1,000 contacts he bought.

After Sales 2.0

Your boss wants to know if you’d mind introducing him to one of your LinkedIn connections.

Before Sales 2.0

Success in your job was defined by your ability to handle objections, steer the conversation and “convince” prospects you were the best choice.

After Sales 2.0

Success in your job is defined by your ability to understand the needs of your prospects, present intelligent solutions to their business problems, and be a trusted source of industry knowledge and expertise.

For tips, advice and strategies for generating more leads in a Sales 2.0 world, download your free copy of Spear Marketing Group’s High-Tech Direct Marketing Handbook.

Stop Selling (and start listening, helping and connecting)

Obvious to many people in the sales trade, the time of smile and dial is far behind us.  Still, I frequently Imagecome across sales people who are beating themselves up (not to mention their prospects) with old school methods of prospecting.

Yes, selling is still a numbers game.  But, buyer mentalities have changed and so must the sales strategy.  Here are 4 basic tips to improve your sales efforts in today’s market:

1. Find a common interest

Sales really has no excuse for NOT finding a common interest or connection with a prospect in today’s world of LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Blogging, Online Groups/Forums/Communities, etc. Do your research and call out the common interest to gain some personal relevance.

Want more info on sales intelligence and social selling?  Check out:  www.socialsellingu.com

2. Leverage marketing content

Good marketing content has a specific audience, pain point and solution in mind.  Offer relevant content to prospects to show that:

-You want to help them

-You’re interested in uncovering whether there’s a “need” before “selling” them on something

-Your company has experience solving the types of problems the prospect is likely experiencing

Check out Howard Sewell’s post on packaging offer content for higher response.

3. Don’t assume they’re a suspect just based on demographics

Just because someone is a CXO at the type of company you work with, don’t assume they’ll fall all over themselves to hire you or buy your product.  Maybe they have a need, maybe they don’t.  Maybe they’ll have a need later.  But, you’ll turn off most prospects by aggressively following up with calls and emails that all have the standard “Just following up with you on my last (insert boring follow up tactic here).”

Instead try continuing to offer helpful tips or offer to connect them with people in your network that they might be interested in meeting.  But don’t make them commit to something before they’ve engaged with you.  Let the initial engagement be on their terms.

4.  Listen (online and offline)

If you’re not “listening” to conversations online as well as offline, you’re losing out on potential opportunities.  Your prospects are offering information about their needs all the time – yet many sales people are too focused on “selling” to listen.

Use resources like LinkedIn Groups and user communities to your advantage and “listen” for pain points that you can address.  In following up, instead of responding in the community forum with a solution, sometimes it’s better to reach out personally with an offer to help.  It seems less “salesy”.  Even better, ask a client or partner that’s in the group or community to endorse you.

How Marketing Can Empower Sales To Generate Leads Via LinkedIn

Professionals often turn to LinkedIn to find expertise in a particular area.  The LinkedIn search features provide an excellent opportunity for your sales team’s profiles to appear in relevant, intent-based searches.

Marketers seem to get this, but many sales professional profiles I’ve viewed aren’t optimized for search.  This is a great, easy opportunity for you (marketing) to coach your sales team on how to optimize their profiles.

It took me about 5 minutes to optimize my profile and as a result, my profile views and appearances in search have more than doubled. More importantly, I’m finding that the percentage of viewers that fit my target audience profile has increased substantially.  Most importantly, I’ve won business as a result of this tactic.

Here’s what I did (and how you can coach your sales team to do the same):

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An Argument For Company-Wide Content Distribution On LinkedIn

Are you cranking out great B2B marketing content, but looking for new ways to extend distribution beyond the standard channels? You might consider looking internally to your colleagues to help out.

Most Knowledge Workers Are Social

While Facebook may or may not be the right channel for your B2B marketing messages, LinkedIn’s popularity with the white collar crowd is worthy of your attention.

Consider a company of 100 employees with an average of 25 connections (outside the company) per employee. That’s 2,500 1st degree contacts. Interesting?  A little, but probably not enough to hold an emergency company meeting about.

However, when you include the combined 2nd and 3rd degree contacts of your colleagues, the potential audience is an extended LinkedIn network of 20+ million. What would be the result if everyone in your company with a LinkedIn account posted corporate marketing content in their status updates?

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It’s Not You… It’s Your (Lack of) Offer Content

Breaking up is hard to do.  But, having website visitors “break up with you” (i.e. bounce) without knowing “why” is downright painful.  It could be that the problem is with your offer content, or lack thereof.

“Paid search doesn’t work for us.”  I heard it again the other day and it won’t be the last.  This time, it was on a call with a software company that wanted us to help them generate more sales leads.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a blind advocate of sending money to search companies, but like it or not, in most cases paid search is the workhorse for demand generation programs.  So, when I hear that it’s not working, it raises a flag.

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Avoid Being “Shanghaied” with a Synergistic Sales and Marketing Team

Heading down 13th Avenue in downtown Portland toward an appointment, a colleague started telling me the story about the Portland Underground also known as the “Shanghai Tunnels.”  Many experts rebuff these “Shanghai Tunnels” as a myth, but if you haven’t heard the story, it’s pretty interesting.
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