Tuesday, October 31, 2017

9 Tips to Improve Your Content

9 Tips to Improve Your Content written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Allow me to let you in on a little secret. You don’t have to be the best writer in the world to produce effective content, but you do need to create that content if you want to be a successful marketer, so it’s important you do what you can to improve your content writing. The best part is, it get’s easier over time, I promise (and your writing will get better as well).

Here are some tips that have helped me along the way.

1. Know your audience

Here’s the thing, you’re typically not writing content just for yourself to consume, you creating it for others, so it’s imperative that you understand the ins and outs of who you’re writing for. Knowing your audience isn’t just a writing best practice, this is a business and marketing must as well.

Understanding your audience will help you focus in on your message and create your voice, which over time, will make the writing process easier for you, and the content better for those you are creating it for.

2. Stay organized

I, along with many other marketers, use a content calendar to organize the content I’ll be developing in the near future. It helps to develop monthly themes that I can write about to help me stay on track as well as ensure I’m not writing about the same material too much. For more information on how I put this together, I highly recommend that you check out my post titled, How to Systematically Create an Annual Editorial Calendar.

Along the lines of being organized, when it comes to the piece of content itself, I suggest you create an outline prior to diving in. I may be taking you back to your high school days with this one, but developing an outline can work wonders. Having a clear path for your content will help you write faster and more clearly.

3. Read

Reading has helped me find my own style and voice more than any other way. I find the more I read, the better I write. Whether it’s a book related to your field or a fictional novel, it doesn’t matter. You’ll start to notice things that resonate with you along with things you’d like to incorporate in your own writing.

When you read, bookmark messages or highlights that grab your attention to save for a rainy day for inspiration.

4. Find your voice

Knowing your audience will help with this, but it’s important to really develop an understanding of the tone you’d like to use throughout your writing. I find it helpful to write like I talk and keep it conversational. Remember that it’s also OK to be opinionated; I actually think it’s important in many cases.

Trust me when I say it’s easier to write in your own voice and use your own personality that it is to try to mimic another.

5. Time your writing

Writer’s block is real. We’ve all experienced it and in the times when it’s the hardest, I’ve found the best way to refocus is to step away for a bit and when you get back, set small increments of time to put your head down and focus. Some people use techniques like the Pomodoro Technique to get this done, where others do it there own way. I know one of the gals on my staff will charge her computer to 100%, unplug it, and force herself to finish the content before her computer dies…hey, whatever floats your boat.

Knowing you have a finite timeline to finish something will help you focus. Start small, even if it’s just 15 minutes of concentrated time before you reward yourself with a break. You can build up from there.

6. Write without interruption

During your focus time, don’t pause to edit. If you have a thought process, just go with it. You may go back and read it and realize it doesn’t make any sense later on, but just get your ideas down on paper and work with what you have from there.

7. Writing the content

Use a compelling headline

Whether it’s the subject line of an email or the title of a blog post, you must create a compelling headline, because more often than not, people really do judge a book by its cover in the literal sense. You must create a headline attractive enough to make your reader want to know more. A/B testing is a great way to nail down what resonates with your audience. There may be some trial and error with this at first, but it’s important you lock it down if you want people to consume your content.

Make it easy for your audience to follow

If you’re writing a blog post, for example, create a post that is easy on the eyes and easy for your reader to consume. I’d recommend:

  • Avoiding long paragraphs
  • Using bullet points
  • Using images to break up the text
  • Using headers to break up various section of the post

8. Edit, edit, and edit

Your content is a representation of you and your brand, so don’t be sloppy. Once I finish a post, I step away from it for a few hours and then come back to look it over with a fresh pair of eyes. If you’re not great at editing, have another person give it a second review.

9. Use tools

There are many tools out there that can help you with your writing so do your research and decide which is better for you. Here at Duct Tape Marketing, we’ve dabbled with a few and here are a couple to kick off your exploration:

  • Grammarly will help you instantly eliminate grammatical errors and will help to enhance your writing.
  • Hemingway analyzes your writing and helps to identify ways for it to be clearer and easier to read.
  • Focus blocks distracting websites, like Facebook and Reddit, when you’re trying to get things done.

There you have it! Those are just a few of my quick tips, but I know there are tons out there. What are some of yours?

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Marketing Day: The impact of ad blockers, Facebook Dynamic ads for Travel campaigns & more

Here's our recap of what happened in online marketing today, as reported on Marketing Land and other places across the web.

Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.

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13 outdated SEO tactics that should terrify you

In the spirit of Halloween, columnist Jeremy Knauff shares some frighteningly outdated SEO tactics that simply won't die!

Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.

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How to ensure your external PPC account audit isn’t a waste of time

Everyone loves a free PPC audit, but columnist Pauline Jakober warns that your auditing agency needs to understand your business goals and context in order to provide you with valuable insights.

Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.

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The ROI of recommendation engines for marketing

Recommendation engines are a powerful tool for Amazon, Netflix and more. Columnist Daniel Faggella takes a look at the benefits of recommendation engines and explains why marketers should be paying attention.

Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.

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E-commerce brands boost Facebook ad spend as CPMs, CPCs rise but CTRs dip

In Q3 2017, online retailers increased the amount of money they poured into Facebook’s mobile video ads and shopper-retargeting Dynamic Ads.

Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.

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Vistar launches private marketplace for Digital Out-of-Home

Company says it has the largest supply of inventory -- covering thousands of billboards and screens in taxis, elevators and bus shelters.

Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.

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Content Analytics launches retailers’ Scorecards for brands’ product pages

The Scorecards notify brands about missing images, wordy product titles, lack of reviews and other content issues that could affect sales.

Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.

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3 Things To Scare CMOs This Halloween

Someone once said about Halloween: "It's said that All Hallows' Eve is one of the nights when the veil between the worlds is thin - and whether you believe in such things or not, those roaming spirits probably believe in you, or at least acknowledge your existence, considering that it used to be their own. Even the air feels different on Halloween, autumn-crisp and bright."

Well if the air feels different today for chief marketing officers, CMOs to me and you, these may be the reason. 

1. Integration Continues To Be the Holy Grail

Consumers, in case you didn't know, like to use more than one channel before making a purchase - most notably among these channels? Mobile and social media. And it appears the latter and the integration thereof remains problematic for CMOs. 

According to the most recent CMO Survey, marketing leaders continue to struggle when it comes to integrating customer information, better known as data, across channels including social media. 

The question is why? Why this prolonged futility? Could it be these same marketing leaders are not using the correct martech? Could also explain why that since 2014 nearly 50% of these same marketers are unable to show the impact of social media on their business. That is mind-blowing.

Here's something you should already know: Marketing leaders need to eliminate data silos and create a single source of truth. And they need a 360-degree view of customers to reliably and efficiently target the right message, to the right person at the right time. 

2. IoT Means Increased Data Security

I am a huge proponent of IoT from both a marketing and a consumer perspective. The possibilities from the former are endless but the concerns from the latter are real. Very real. 

From a recent e-Marketer article:

As you can clearly see many consumers around the world are concerned about their data and hacking when it comes to IoT. 

And knowledge of IoT and data is growing. From the article: 

"Interestingly, the survey also found that awareness about security threats to internet-enabled devices actually increased with the age of respondents. For example, 72% of those ages 18 to 24 were aware that IoT devices could be targeted by hackers, but that figure rose to 80% among 45- to 54-year-olds."

The bottom line is that as more and more devices get connected to the Internet the more and more brands and businesses need to up their data security game. Easier said than done for sure but if these brands and businesses want to reap all the benefits of IoT collected data they better be at the ready to guard it with their lives. Their brands lives. 

3. Personalization Remains An Enigma

As per another ubiquitous red and black eMarketer chart, marketers continue to struggle with personalization with lack of resources and data the top of the list. 

if you notice coming in at 14% are tech-related challenges. Forgive me but there's no way this percentage is correct. 

Whether the survey was worded poorly or for some other reason, the martech challenge is significantly higher and more than likely should be rolled up into lack of resources. 

The reason I am so confident lies in the numbers, AKA the over 4,000 different marketing-technology solutions on the market today. 

What's ironic is that with the right martech the challenge of resources - automation anyone? and data would be relieved to some extent. 

The right martech solution creates engagement, orchestrates experiences, connects data, and optimizes online interactions that attracts and retains ideal customers. Moreover the right solution connects cross-channel, content, and social marketing with data management and activation. 

Yeah it really is that simple. 

And Speaking of Simple

Much of the customer experience is broken because the marketing experience is broken. But it’s not marketing’s fault. With legacy technology, marketers only get a distorted view of the customer because data silos cannot be shared across channels.

Download Customer Experience Simplified to discover how to provide customer experiences that are managed as carefully as the product, the price, and the promotion of the marketing mix.

Image source: Pexels

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Ad-mageddon! Ad blocking, its impact, and what comes next

Contributor Anthony Muller talks with the IAB, publishers, agencies and Adblock Plus to get their perspectives on the rise of ad blocking, its effects on the digital ad ecosystem, and what we can expect to see in the future.

Please visit Marketing Land for the full article.

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Real World Growth Hacking: A Guide to Getting Customers for the Unfunded

“1.2 million uniques in 18 months.”

Sounds impressive.

Looks amazing at first blush.

Until you start reading. Until you start listening.

And then you see it. Spot it from a mile away.

“Raised $XX million from Joe Schmo venture partners” in fine print towards the bottom. Like it was insignificant. Like it didn’t change anything.

Immediately you should see red flags. Instantly you should be put off.

It’s not just the money. It’s the access. It’s the network. It’s the one-line email to a friend of a friend that gets you in touch with every top media property on the ‘net.

I’m not hating. Neither should you. It’s just that the numbers and therefore, the article, become farce. Those “tips” they used. Those “hacks” they employed.

Writing “really great content” isn’t the reason they hit 1.2 million uniques in 18 months. Going from $zero to $millions overnight is. Going from from 10 beta users to 10,000 the next day is, too.

Talent starts listening. Prospects start buying. Journalists start taking notice. Instant credibility hits as a byproduct.

All of those things are great. If you can get them. But you can’t. Because you’re un-funded.

So here’s what you should be doing instead.

The biggest problem facing the unfunded

Raising money isn’t the end goal. It’s also the exception in most cases.

You wouldn’t get that from reading most tech sites. But in reality, out there in the real world, it’s true.

The problem is that if Paul Graham ain’t on your speed dial, you’re gonna need a second approach.

‘Cause the things that work in that tiny, miniscule, subsection of a market won’t work for you. Or me. Or most.

The context is completely different. Which means the strategies, tactics, and campaigns are, too. Or should be, at least.

Here’s an example to make this crystal clear.

Let’s go on a new trip. Pick anywhere at all. New York City sounds fun.

So what do you do first? You don’t go to “Hotel XYZ.” Not initially, anyway. Instead, you go to Expedia or TripAdvisor or Yelp or Hotels.com or Google Travel or wherever.

And what do you look at first, before price?

Names you recognize.

That’s because 59% of people buy from companies they recognize.

Image Source

Another study from a different source found the same exact findings.

70% of US consumers look for a ‘known retailer’ when deciding what search result to click.”

Image Source

“Brand bias” is way out in front, before pricing for most people.

How about one more for the skeptics out there?

MarketingExperiments.com ran a simple conversion test. They did all the crap A/B tests you hear about on most sites.

They did the headlines the buttons the CTAs the colors and the rest of the junk “experts” say you should be doing.

TL;DR? None of that stuff moved the needle. Not significantly. Not permanently.

One test, however, did.

Except you’re probably not going to like the answer. Not if you’re unknown and unfunded, anyway.

Image Source

The test the moved the needle on subscriptions by 40%?

The freaking logo.

“There was no significant difference between any of the treatments. The Boston Globe audience is highly motivated, and putting a button above or below the fold didn’t matter as much as the newspaper’s respected journalism.”

That’s it. All it took was the brand name. Because it’s known. Because it’s respected. Because people can trust it.

Because it’s been established over the past century.

This is the part no one tells you online. This is your biggest problem.

It’s not Skyscrapers. It’s obscurity.

Funded companies (usually) get instant credibility. By association. If they don’t completely suck.

But you gotta get it any way you can get it.

The unfunded doesn’t. There’s no awareness. Which means there’s no trust. Which means nobody’s buying.

Social proof ain’t a gimmick. It’s validation. And you need it. So here’s how you go about getting it.

First, here’s what won’t work for you

All companies have constraints.

It’s time for the funded. They need to go big, fast, now.

It’s money and notoriety for the unfunded. Time? You should have loads of it. You don’t have many customers distracting you, right? 😉

The point is that you don’t have a ticking-time bomb. You might feel pressure to scale to X or hit $Y in revenue in Z months. You might need a certain number to live off. But there’s no pressure to do this by the end of Q3.

Hell, the unfunded has probably never done anything by Q’s in the first place.

So it’s a marathon, not a 5k. And that changes a few things.

❌ SEO is a no-go. Yes, it’s important. But no, it won’t help you in the early going.

Search engines are literally designed to reward entities that have been around the longest, have been cited the most, and already have that big brand name.

All of which you don’t have. And won’t. At least, not in the next few months.

❌ Advertising, too, won’t help you. Yes, it works. Amazingly well if you do it right. Which you won’t. Because you don’t have enough capital.

And even if you did, it probably should go somewhere else, first. Like people. Like design. Like product quality.

Because your product is your marketing today.

So you still need awareness. You still need to build a brand. And you still need customers.

Just realize now, up front, that almost 90% of your options have been eliminated.

Counterintuitively, that’s OK. You can focus now. You can start off in the direction that works with what you’ve got.

1. Align yourself with others

You need eyeballs, leads, and credibility.

Fortunately, other organizations already have those things.

So go get them. Even if it costs you a little more.

Example: Who’s the biggest player in your industry?

If we’re talking B2C ecommerce, it’s Amazon. 44% of all searches start (and end) there. They make up almost half of all U.S. online retail sales.

Walls Need Love, a home decor site you’ve probably never heard of, got their initial break through Amazon.

So too, did The Daily Fairy. “Amazon’s been incredible for my business. I started selling on Amazon in October of 2015, and it’s doubled my sales. What that tells me is that there’s a whole slew of people,” according to Emily, The Daily Fairy’s founder.

Amazon is an obvious first choice. But they’re far from the only option.

Walls Need Love also works with marketplaces like Etsy, Wayfair, Touch of Modern, Fancy, and even Urban Outfitters.

Image Source

Right off the bat, Walls Need Love looks for marketplaces that have decent terms (nothing longer than net 30, no restrictive shipping policies, etc.).

But next, they’ll look at promotion options.

For example, some marketplaces will give them advertising options to put them front-and-center on their site. Except instead of charging them out of pocket, they’ll do it as a rev-share agreement.

That means they waste nothing on fruitless ads. They’re not paying for impressions or clicks or any other meaningless metrics.

Instead, they’re only ‘paying’ (or giving up a share of the revenue) when a real buyer comes through their doors.

That gives Walls Need Love what they need most: awareness. It gives them credibility. It gives them recognition.

And it also gives them a shot to re-sell or up-sell to them later to make up that cost.

It’s no different in the B2B world.

Same objective, different tactics.

If you sell any kind of inbound marketing, you’d align yourself with HubSpot. They’re like the Salesforce of the marketing industry. The biggest, brightest, most well-known alternative.

That starts with the certifications they offer.

Sure, you and I know these are mostly useless. I’m not saying the information is bad. It’s not.

It’s just that it doesn’t ‘mean’ anything in real life. Except, to prospects. To potential clients. To people who aren’t as familiar with the ins-and-outs of the industry.

The next stop is a partnership.

Most software companies offer something similar.

Unbounce has an official one. Wistia has one, too.

The Moz one is unofficial, but still impactful.

Personally, I’ve never heard of Mammoth Growth. But they’re an official Kissmetrics partner. So they must be good!

See how this works?

You’re not just another nameless, faceless “marketing company” now. You’re a “HubSpot partner.”

You send a cold outreach email on LinkedIn or, god forbid, you meet someone at a networking event, and you’re an “Unbounce partner.”

All of these programs often offer education, too. They can connect you internally to other companies who’ve been where you’ve been and scaled up.

So you can learn. So you can level up. So you don’t go it alone.

At the very least, you barter. You trade time for eyeballs. You trade expertise for eyeballs.

You do whatever it takes to get eyeballs.

Basically, you need early wins that you can leverage for more future wins. Start with legitimacy and credibility.

Because those pave the way for everything else.

2. Now emphasize those early wins

Here’s how it works in real life.

Someone finds you through a marketplace, a partner, a vendor, a supplier. They find you because you’ve seamlessly aligned yourself with them.

So they check it out. They click and look. You need to reel them in.

Let’s stick with the Mammoth Growth example because they do this better than most.

You hit their website and see this:

Pretty simple and straightforward. A consultation form on the far-right. Some basic copy about what they do and how they can help you.

Now, look over in the upper right-hand corner:

You only get three options.

Home introduces you to everything. It’s the high-level overview.

Case Studies dig a little deeper, showing off the third-party validation earned in the previous section.

Contact is the next step. It’s the thing you need to do next.

And that’s it.

Where’s the corny team page? You know, the one where the agency shows off their “culture” and their “personality” and their “quirkiness” that makes them the perfect hipster crew for you.

It’s not listed. Nowhere to be found.

Instead, the focus is squarely on building credibility.

Scroll down on the homepage and you see more partner badges:

What do these three partner badges tell you? What do these companies have in common?

Mammoth Growth is using these for credibility, sure. But more importantly, they’re subtly positioning themselves.

They have a speciality. They work with specific companies looking for a specific solution. And if you fit that mold, with that need, there’s no one better.

Keep scrolling and you see Testimonials.

Best of all, the people in these testimonials line up with the case studies above. So the work and results become real.

Head towards the bottom of the page and you see more client logos.

Some, again, are the exact same companies. That’s not a knock. It’s clever.

Sports Insights, for example, are featured in a case study, testimonial, and here again at the bottom.

You kill it with five customers out of your first 15. (Let’s be honest, there’s gonna be some losers in the early days.)

Fine! Celebrate those wins like there’s no tomorrow. Highlight the biggest, the best, the most well-known.


Not once are services discussed on the page. Not once do we delve into pricing. Not once do we figure out if there are two people in this company or if there are 500 across three countries.

But that doesn’t matter.

You see Walls Need Love is featured on the following and you know they’re legit.

Third-party validation isn’t the only criteria. It might be the most important. It gets people to recognize and trust you. That’s more than half the battle.

However, there’s still one subtle difference to launch you on your way.

You won’t get overwhelmed with traffic in the early days. No need to worry about servers going down.

But on the flipside, that also means you gotta convert what you get. Mammoth Growth get this right. The entire site experience is first-rate. Here’s why that’s important.

3. Simple, conversion-based design

Things is a task management app from the Cultured Code.

It wasn’t founded by ex-members of Facebook. It hasn’t raised a Series A, B, C, D, E, or even F. It’s not valued at $100,000,000,000 or some other similarly-fake number.

But it is freaking beautiful.

And that matters when 94% of your first impression online comes down to design.

Things has done the first two steps here brilliantly. They’ve leveraged others. Primarily, through their one thing: design.

Literally every single big review they’ve received mentions it:

But how do you find that? How do you know what that “one thing” should be?

You don’t. Your customers (or potential customers do). Which means you should ask them. Interview them. So you can pre-sell the vision to afford actually building it.

Just under the first homepage section on their site is an introduction video.

The reason here should be obvious.

Video is the best way to show off their primary competitive advantage. It’s something they can control. And it doesn’t require a Series A to pull off.

Almost every single stat shows that video produces the best ROI, grows revenue faster, and is preferred by customers.

Scroll down even further to get simple, transparent pricing plans:

A little further for Twitter mentions to also boost credibility:

And… that’s it.

Once again, no superfluous extras. The main menu only squeezes in the essentials:

“Simple websites” often perform better. Simple as that.

You have constraints. Often, it’s limited resources. It’s limited money and people.

That means you need to put the most of what you’ve got behind fewer things. Which means you need to make sacrifices. Which means you can only afford the essential.

The good news is that aligning those things with what’s proven to work can, well, work. No matter how much is left over in the bank.


Every single company is bound by constraints.

Every single decision maker needs to move the needle with a less-than-perfect hand.

Pocket Aces don’t just fall in the unfunded’s lap. You gotta make your own luck. You gotta pull off some bluffs.

Big bets can put you into trouble too early. You can’t afford to lose on big pots.

Instead, you need to win a bunch of little pots before you’re ready to go after the big ones. You need to capitalize on what you’ve got.

That starts with affiliating yourself with bigger players. Ride on their coattails. Do what they want so you get what you want.

Then, you leverage those first few wins. No matter how small. You put the attention on those things so it takes attention of you.

Next, you make what you have the best possible. Even if it’s not a lot. Even if it’s three pages instead of 100.

Make those three pages the best in the business. The best design, the best copywriting, the best social proof, the best video, the best feature/benefit examples, etc.

The funded can afford to diversify. Literally.

You can’t. And you won’t. At least, not for awhile. So don’t even try.

About the Author: Brad Smith is the founder of Codeless, a B2B content creation company. Frequent contributor to Kissmetrics, Unbounce, WordStream, AdEspresso, Search Engine Journal, Autopilot, and more.

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