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Posts Tagged ‘content marketing’

Content Marketing: 9 examples of transparent marketing

February 21st, 2014 5 comments

I don’t normally read press releases.

Frankly, most are just spam that I’m constantly trying to remove my email addresses from. However, one recently written by Amanda Presley of MSR Communications caught my eye.

“February 12th is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, and what better way to pay homage to ‘Honest Abe’ than by looking at all the ways marketers can be more upfront and transparent with customers?”

She went on to discuss how her client, Kentico, viewed content marketing.

“Transparent content marketing: It’s not enough to just sell anymore. You need to inform. [For example, Kentico customer] Corner Bakery makes it easy to get nutrition figures when ordering online.”

So in the spirit of Honest Abe, let’s take a look at a few examples of transparent marketing that Amanda dug up from around the Web, along with key takeaways I provided for each to help you put these lessons into practice.

 

Lesson #1. Customer complaints on social media networks = visible business intelligence

 

Key Takeaway: I feel for Verizon Wireless and other tech companies. Our expectations for always on, always working, always super quick technology must be hard to fulfill. Admittedly, I’m just as impatient and immediately blame the product instead of my own user error.

These complaints, even when unrealistic about technological capabilities, are business intelligence gold. Don’t hide your customer complaints. Do as Verizon Wireless does on its Twitter account – address them very publicly and show how you are using their feedback to improve your product.

We all make mistakes. Most customers are very forgiving if they feel they are being heard and their problems are being considered.

 

Lesson #2. Help customers help themselves

Customers want to eat healthier. 

 

And take care of the environment.

 

Key Takeaway: There are no perfect choices in a free market. Life is a series of tradeoffs.

Help your customers make those tradeoffs to the betterment of themselves by showing the positives and negatives of the different products you offer, as Corner Bakery does with its nutrition calculator, Nike does with its Materials Sustainability Index and Patagonia does with The Footprint Chronicles.

“By being transparent with you, we can invite you into the conversation,” Rick Ridgeway, VP for Environmental Initiatives, Patagonia, told Fast Company’s Simon Mainwaring in an interview.

“Hyper-transparency is a must. It’s not something we should be afraid of; it’s something we welcome,” said Jim Hanna, Environmental Impact Director, Starbucks.

Bonus points when you let customers know why they should buy from a competitor instead of you, when it serves them better.

  Read more…

E-commerce: 2 tactics to increase relevance in your email sends

February 11th, 2014 5 comments

Relevance.

Relevance is the biggest reason why a customer opens your emails amid the flurry of messages they don’t open.

True relevance is elusive, tough to achieve and even harder to maintain.

In today’s MarketingSherpa Blog post, I wanted to share two tactics for moving the relevance dial that you can you can use to aid your own email marketing efforts.

 

Move from rebates to readership

For some marketing teams, promotional sending is habitual on a scale viewed as borderline narcotic.

With limited time and resources, incentives intuitively seem like the right move to drive sales, but when the customer experience becomes built on a quid pro quo discount purchase relationship, you’ve got a bit of a problem on your hands.

So how do you break the cycle of promotional-only emails?

Well, one approach Marcia Oakes, Senior Online Marketing Manager, Calendars.com, shared in a recent case study is to create relevant content that celebrates your product and engages your customers.

Marcia’s team realized that their problem was two-fold, as calendars are a seasonal product and even promotions have their limits with customers.

“There are only so many ‘calendar clearance’ messages that our subscribers will receive before they will opt-out,” Marcia explained, adding, “We don’t want our list to go cold. That would hurt us with our deliverability with the major ISPs.”

 

Marcia’s team built a monthly newsletter around blogging and social media that engaged their subscribers with year-round entertaining content.

Their move beyond promotions to audience building resulted in open rate increases of 46% over the previous year.

 

Customers will abandon more than just your cart

I think it’s important here to make a distinction.

Moving beyond a tactic doesn’t mean you abandon it altogether.

It just simply means you take one more deliberate step toward doing it better than you did yesterday, and hopefully better than the other guy.

For example, Laura Santos, Marketing Manager, Envelopes.com, saw an opportunity to move beyond cart abandonment triggers and seized it.

Laura’s team used their customer data to determine a chance existed to increase sales among their multiple-visit shoppers by sending emails to customers triggered by abandoned product pages that encouraged them to return and complete the transaction.

 

The tactic slashed checkout abandonment rates by 40% in less than two years while increasing overall checkout conversions by 65%.

You can learn more about how Laura’s team used triggered sends and testing to increase their ROI in a recent case study, “E-commerce: Moving beyond shopping cart abandonment nets 65% more checkout conversions.”

Read more…

Copywriting: 7 more copy editing tactics to improve your content

January 24th, 2014 2 comments

In copy editing, there’s always something new to learn.

In the past few months since writing my first post on editing, “Content Marketing: 7 copy editing tips to improve any content piece,” I’ve had the chance to sit down with members of the Content Team at MECLABS and develop an updated company style guide.

Also, I was given the opportunity to move into the role of editorial analyst and have had the privilege of reviewing candidates for a new copy editor (we’re still looking if you’re interested).

All of these changes in my current role have made me reflect on practices and techniques I naturally developed over the past year. I’ve taken lessons learned from mistakes, tips from colleagues and from my own experiences in editing and found that you never really stop learning when it comes to perfecting your content.

 

Tip #1. Make a checklist

Sometimes, editing can seem overwhelming when there are so many things to check for accuracy:

  • Individual names
  • Company names
  • Job titles
  • Headlines
  • Links
  • Grammar
  • Punctuation
  • Bulleted lists
  • Images

Ultimately, anything used to create content needs to be vetted in the editing process.

To help keep your mind focused on the things you need to be looking out for, make checklists for yourself to ensure your editing covers all of the key elements in the piece.

Write them down and pin them to your cubicle wall or set reminders to refer back to while you’re editing, especially if you’re editing content that is particularly lengthy.

Checklists are also helpful when you’re implementing something new in your process. This can help you start remembering to include it in your daily routine.

 

Tip #2. R-E-S-P-E-C-T

As an editor, you have the power to change content as you see fit. The tone, context, word choices and everything else is in your hands.

But with great power comes great responsibility.

You should respect and consider two different groups of needs in order to improve your editing beyond simple grammar and punctuation changes:

  • The author’s need for a distinct voice.
  • The audience’s need for content that’s relevant to their interests and useful to their needs.

Respecting the author’s voice involves keeping it intact throughout. Good editors can spot who wrote an article without looking at a byline. Everyone has their own style of writing in the same way everyone has their own way of speaking.

While there may be changes for clarity or if something is just plain incorrect, editors should not go out of their way to remove the author’s unique voice from a piece.

This could mean removing an opinion if the article is not a subjective piece, but their style of writing should not be completely muted if it is not interfering with your editorial guidelines.

The second group you must respect is your audience, and the way to do this is to know them.

One way to do this is by reading the feedback you receive in your comments section. If people are expressing confusion or want to know more about a topic, address their needs by working those concerns into your next article or blog post.

As I’ve learned, one of the fastest ways to lose an audience is when using jargon. You may have a cozy understanding of it, but your audience doesn’t.

Do not include acronyms, terms or phrases that readers could be unfamiliar with. Instead, use a brief explanation and hyperlink to content that will help them gain a deeper understanding of the concepts.

 

Tip #3. Search engines are your best friend

Run into terms not in your stylebook?

Author using a phrase you’re not familiar with? Don’t just guess – search!

In marketing, there are quite a number of terms that don’t have standard spelling or punctuation.

Words like e-commerce, website, webpage, e-book and other Web terms (even the word “Web” itself) have different ways of being referenced.

You can set style standards for these, however, once in a blue moon, you will encounter something new that you need to make a decision on.

To help keep our decisions consistent, my team just wrapped up a revised version of our company style guide. In its 32 pages, we attempted to cover our usage of words that differ from how other companies typically use them.

We added some things and threw some things out.

For anything not covered in our style guide, we default to the Associated Press Stylebook to cover our bases.

My point here is instead of just picking guidelines at random, think of how your company uses certain words or phrases and search for those terms online to see how others are using them.

 

Tip #4. Make your bulleted lists consistent

Bulleted lists are great when you have a list of items too long for a sentence, or just need to separate thoughts to get your point across.

When making lists, be sure to keep your style in those lists consistent. This could mean choosing whether to make your lists complete sentences or not, ending them in punctuation or not, or maybe choosing a tense to stay in.

For example, I wanted to start by showing you one way not to do a list:

The top four goals our team has this year are:

  • Meet deadlines
  • Making sure the website is updated
  • We should be holding conference calls every week.
  • Email marketing

Here’s a way I would edit this list to be more uniform in style, grammar and punctuation:

The top four goals our team has this year are to:

  • Meet deadlines
  • Update the website as needed
  • Hold conference calls every week
  • Improve our email marketing efforts

Read more…

Do You Make These 5 Mistakes in Content Marketing?

January 21st, 2014 3 comments

It’s the start of a new year. We’ve made resolutions to fix mistakes we make in our diet, in our exercise frequency and in our relationships – put content marketing on your list as well.

 

Mistake #1. Toeing the company line

Sure, your company is engaged in content marketing because it has a message to get out in the world.

But nobody, except maybe your agency and brand police, cares about that message.

They care about themselves. Content marketing is inherently permission-based and inbound. Your content marketing needs to focus on what the customer really cares about.

The headline for this blog post was (lovingly) ripped off a legendary, high-performing ad for Sherwin Cody’s English course.

Sherwin explained, “There is but one sane, salesmanlike way to begin a selling letter, and that is with the customer and his needs, his troubles, his fight for life and success.”

That rings even more true in content marketing.

Overcome Mistake #1. How to use social media to help discover why customers buy from you

 

Mistake #2. Teasing

Local TV news promo commercials are the worst. They always hint at something of value, but only deliver if you tune in to the newscast.

Content marketing should, in and of itself, deliver value. It should help fulfill a customer need. It should help solve a customer’s trouble.

Overcome Mistake #2. Focus on value, not length

 

Mistake #3. Lonely content

No content is an island.

How does the content you’re creating tie into every other way your company is communicating?

Ideally, you would have an overall structure for your content with logical paths for the reader to follow. Those paths aren’t always linear since human decision making in a data-rich world is not linear.

However, they offer logical progressions and opportunities for further engagement through channels that your audience already uses.

Overcome Mistake #3. A process for evaluating content channels

 

Mistake #4. Telling customers how brilliant your company is

The people in your company are likely brilliant at something. Your software engineers are brilliant at de-bugging Java. Your project managers are brilliant at scheduling. Your audio engineers are brilliant at sound mixing.

They’re just not brilliant at creating content.

Because of this, your company’s brilliance is hidden. By using content marketing to pull back the curtain and shine a little light while not being overly concerned with corporate secrecy, you show the world how the brilliant people in your company can help members of your audience overcome their challenges.

Overcome Mistake #4. How to get your subject matter experts on your corporate blog

  Read more…

Content Marketing: Finding the Goldilocks zone in your blogging

December 17th, 2013 3 comments

One of the perks of growing up in Northeast Florida was being able to watch space shuttle launches from my backyard. I never became an astronaut, but having NASA as one of your neighbors has an impact on you.

For example, I still keep up with NASA’s continued efforts to explore space, which is currently centered on a strategy of looking to planets in the Goldilocks zone orbiting around stars as big as our sun.

As a writer and editor, I often think about where the Goldilocks zone exists on our blogs.

Sure, there are a lot of factors to consider, but what I’ve found is that discovering the ideal zone where the conditions of voice and benefit exist in just the right amounts so an audience can flourish is truly not easy to find.

But, there are a few elements to consider that can point you in the right direction.

 

Start with the bare bones of blogging

If you break a blog post down, you’ll usually find it consists of two basic elements:

  • Identity – The human element of your content’s voice
  • Benefit – What the audience gains out of your content

When writing blog posts, hopefully your goal is ideally to try and find the balance between those two elements while keeping the interests of your audience at the forefront. 

 

Here are a few Venn diagrams to help put this into perspective. Now, let’s take a look at some of the imbalances and why they matter.

 

The messenger in blogging is a part of the message

A blog that is light on identity lacks the humanistic touch that makes your voice unique.

I often see this as a common problem for newer blogs still developing their voice in the market, but it can quickly become a problem even for established blogs.

To put a little context around this, blogs traditionally started as a platform for democratic content. It was a way for thought leaders to bypass the gatekeeping of traditional media and cut through the noise by taking their message straight to the people.

This idea still holds true today to a large degree even as blogging continues to evolve, but the trick to remember is the messenger remains a vital part of the message.

Consequently, if your blog voice is an erratic messenger with no unique identity, even the most beneficial content on the planet will not save you from eventually being abandoned by an audience.

Before you publish another post, take some time with your team to review the basics around your brand’s persona and how that persona translates into delivering a consistent voice in your blog content.

 

Just make sure the messenger is not the entire message  

In the case of overdeveloped identity, the majority of attention is focused on the brand or the author and not on the audience or how they benefit from your content.

The upside of an overdeveloped identity is that it’s is easy to spot – I call it “look at me” blogging.

Now, don’t get me wrong; you want to include a certain amount of personable information in your content. After all, that human element of blogging is what made blogging so dynamic to begin with.

But, the challenge rests in knowing when to deliver enough voice identity in your blog posts to be personable and transition from that to delivering benefit to your audience.

“Look at me” blogging is seductive because it’s easier to do than producing value for an audience, but the consequences for your blog are toxic.

The best way to avoid this is by holding your blogging to an editorial standard where the promise of benefit to your audience is always the focus.

If your team develops the habit of fleshing out value first by asking, “What will the audience get out of this?” before a single word is put on paper, you’ll discover that easily understood value is also easily delivered value.

Read more…

E-commerce: 10 case studies to help you excel in content marketing, social media and website optimization

November 26th, 2013 No comments

Shopping from your seat is a beautiful thing.

Customers relish the convenience and ease of online shopping, but those on the other side of the screen know the process isn’t so effortless. E-commerce can present itself as a multidimensional demon, frightening marketers with shopper abandonment and confusing consumer behavior.

However, there are plenty of marketers who have slain the beast on their way to success. Our MarketingSherpa reporters know this because they have penned many of these marketing heroes’ tales of triumph.

Let’s take a look back at the lessons we learned from these 10 e-commerce case studies.

 

Case Study #1. E-commerce: Edible Arrangements’ countdown ad lifts same-day orders 8%

Lesson: Don’t assume your company’s existing features or services are on the customers’ radar.

The basis for a stellar marketing campaign doesn’t have to revolve around a new service, product or feature. Your company could have a pre-existing item that could use some additional awareness. Take Edible Arrangements’ same-day delivery service. Kaitlin Reiss, Vice President of E-commerce, Edible Arrangements, told MarketingSherpa the service was the company’s “hidden gem.”

“A lot of people don’t realize that we have same-day delivery, even though it is not something new for us, so we realize that we will need to do even more to promote it,” Reiss said.

The hub of tasty fruit bouquets utilized simple promotion through a variety of channels to increase both email open rates and its same-day orders, too. Are your company’s pre-existing services being promoted to its greatest potential?

Doubtful. Despite the fact that those features may not be new to the company, it could be new to consumers.

 

Case Study #2. E-commerce: Moving beyond shopping cart abandonment nets 65% more checkout conversions

Lesson: Targeting customer abandonment is worth it.

We’ve all been there. Perusing products on the Internet when the phone rings, it’s time for dinner or the dog is barking for a walk. No matter what it is that pulls us away from the computer, distractions are inevitable.

As an e-commerce marketer, understanding and reeling your consumers back in is crucial for garnering conversions. Many e-commerce companies have found success recovering customers through abandonment emails.

The case study above examines how Envelopes.com targeted category, cart and checkout abandonment with emails sent less than a week after the customer left the site. The campaign lifted the company to net 65% more checkout conversions.

Examine why your e-commerce site isn’t earning those sales. Is it internal, or could it just be the busy lives of your consumers? Sometimes, all it takes is a little reminder.

 

 

Case Study #3. Email Marketing: How an e-commerce site eschews discounts in favor of eco-friendly content

Case Study #4. E-commerce: How Wine Enthusiast increased organic traffic 154% with content marketing

Lesson: Content can help you connect with consumers while building trust, too.

As an e-commerce marketer, you’re not face-to-face with your consumers — your computer screen is. Establishing trust and connecting with them is a feat of its own. In these two case studies, e-commerce companies utilized content to increase traffic and awareness of their brands to stand out in a crowded Internet space.

PoopBags.com – yes, you read that right – built an email marketing strategy on eco-friendly content. As a biodegradable bag for pups’ – er – business, the brand developed email content emphasizing environmental causes, charities and pet-related issues.

“It makes it easy to bond with people … knowing that we write about things that are so important, and we care passionately about, makes [writing email content] pretty easy to do,” Paul Cannella, Owner, Poopbags.com, told MarketingSherpa of the company’s content strategy.

Retailer Wine Enthusiast also put content into play to earn trust with consumers. The company’s website features wine reviews, articles and videos to help build an audience. The content helped yield a 50% increase in monthly email opt-ins.

“We put time into creating helpful content that helps people either make a buying decision or entertain them,” said Erika Strum, Director of Internet Marketing, Wine Enthusiast Companies. “Even if they aren’t making that purchase in the moment, we feel that they will come back to us as a great source of information.”

Do you have something to offer your consumers other than a great product or service? Look to content to form valuable trust and relationships in your market.

 

Case Study #5. B2B E-commerce: Redesigned online form increases quotes 67.68%

Lesson:  Your website must align with the way people shop online.

A website is never a finished product – it’s forever evolving. After all, it has to. Think about what would happen if you kept your website the same year after year. You couldn’t do that and be successful. The Internet is constantly changing as is the way customers expect to shop online. Failure to take this into account with the structure of your website has the potential to lead to your company’s downfall.

Take our case study on Company Folders, a company that provides businesses with custom folders. Prior to its marketing efforts, the company’s website was out-of-date and had a quote form that wasn’t conducive to the ease-of-use online shoppers expected.

By redesigning the website and online form, Company Folders experienced a 67.68% increase in total quotes.

The old online form: 

 

The new online form:

 

Company Folders CEO Vladimir Gendelman explained to MarketingSherpa how crucial it was for his company’s website to keep in the consumer in mind.

“In order to tackle this, and do all this, we had to think just like a customer would,” Gendelman said. “A redesign is not just like making [the website] look pretty. It is about making it extremely easy for [website] function.”

 

Case Study #6. E-commerce: Adding trustmark boosts sales conversion 14%

Lesson: Small changes can lead to big differences.

Optimization doesn’t have to involve some huge website overhaul. Even the seemingly smallest of things can make a huge difference for your company and our case study on Modern Coin Mart certainly demonstrated that.

The self-described “Modern Coin Superstore” added a simple trustmark to its e-commerce site to ease customers’ anxieties about the purchasing process. A tiny graphic produced monumental results, boosting sales conversions to 14%.

What can you as an e-commerce marketer take from this? Don’t think you have to exhaust yourself to yield impressive results – even small changes can lead to big successes.

 

Case Study #7. Social Media Marketing: How a small e-commerce site attracted 293,000 Facebook fans

Lesson: Social media fosters marketing by the consumer.

What’s on your mind? Facebook gives its users a platform to speak their minds, share their photos and  promote your products. Yes, promote your products.

It may not be what Mark Zuckerberg initially had in mind, but Facebook can offer huge boosts to your company. It’s so simple for a customer to take a photo of your product, which provides your company with a testimonial, review and super sharable content that is free.

Does the product or service you’re selling suit the Facebook realm? In other words, is it sharable? Could it be? This can lead to impressive results. Look at our case study on Diamond Candles, a company that features rings beneath the wax of its candles. By utilizing customer-contributed photos on its Facebook page, Diamond Candles upped conversion rates and attracted more than 290,000 new Facebook fans.

For minimal effort, your e-commerce site has the potential to produce maximum results. Determine how your product can start a conversation in consumers’ social networks and then capitalize on it.

Read more…

What the Country Music Awards Can Teach Us About Social Engagement

November 22nd, 2013 1 comment

A few weeks ago, I was watching this year’s Country Music Awards (CMAs) with friend of mine and her mother. I was surprised by a few parallels I noticed between the awards show and some of our recommended best practices at MECLABS.

 

 

Set goals that encourage awareness

For the CMAs, its goal, according to the mission statement on the website, is to “heighten the awareness of country music and support its ongoing growth by recognizing excellence in the genre.”

Consequently, the CMAs serve as an outlet for recognizing excellence, while providing an entertaining awards show to heighten viewer awareness.

The goals of the CMAs are not explicitly stated at the beginning of the show. This falls in line with a best practice of not stating your goals on your website, but rather, your intended goals should be the conclusion customers reach on your landing page.

To help you accomplish this, you should answer the question: “What do I want the visitor to do on this page?”

 

Active engagement matters

Another aspect I found interesting about the CMAs was its drive to involve the audience. For example, during each artist’s performance, their Twitter handle was placed at the bottom of the screen.

This encouraged audience participation with their favorite artists.

 

Yes, it even had a phone app.

Throughout the night, the hosts encouraged viewers to download the Shazam app. Viewers who used the app would receive exclusive access to content and free music downloads.

So, how did this engagement strategy pay off?

Well, according to Country Music Rocks, an online music news source, the strategy was a huge success.

People went directly from Shazam’s CMA experience to iTunes and Amazon approximately 50,000 times during the broadcast to buy the tracks and albums of the nominees, winners and performers – this does not include the two free tracks available for download.

– Country Music Rocks

 

Here are a few ways you can encourage active engagement on your website.

Leverage social media: Actively post and manage related content on your social media feeds. In addition, encourage your visitors to share, retweet or email this information to their friends.

Try to offer exclusive content: What you can offer will depend on your industry, but providing exclusive content will encourage visitors to come back and interact with your site in the future.

Offer lots of related resources: This can be anything from previous blogs or articles to encourage the visitor to stay on your website for a longer duration.

 

Ease of use is always appealing

The CMAs did a variety of things to appeal to every element of its audience demographics and made it easy for viewers to participate.

For starters, there were performances from artists both young and old, comedy skits and emotional speeches from award winners.

My point here is that appeal never gets old for your customers, even when delivered in large doses. There’s nothing more appealing I can think of than a landing page that is easy to use.

I recommend taking some time for usability testing, as this can go a long way to make sure the focus of your site remains customer-centric.

  Read more…

Search Marketing: Can your marketing team identify your buyer personas?

November 15th, 2013 2 comments

Developing a strategy to identify the personas of your customers can be daunting.

How specific do you get?

More importantly, how do you make these personas real to your marketing team?

In a recent webinar, Jacob Baldwin, Search Engine Marketing Manager, and Christina Brownlee, Director of Marketing Communications, both of One Call Now, discussed the important role of customer personas in an overall conversion strategy.

They identified four different personas applicable to a wide variety of verticals within their target audience: spontaneous, competitive, humanistic and methodical.

In order to make these characteristics identifiable for the team, each trait was assigned a “Star Trek” character: Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Scotty, aptly called the “Spock Project.” 

 

The One Call Now team used an outside consultant to brainstorm different buyer personas.

During brainstorming, the team decided to map out all of their markets using these personas, and they discovered some markets shared personas. For example, McCoy, the humanistic customer, was found in both K-12 education and sports management markets.

 

Assigning customer characteristics to familiar television characters helped the marketing team design webpages and content tailored to each persona.

For example, competitive persona customers are likely more interested in information specific to the bottom line and which product or company offers more than the others.

On the other hand, a humanistic persona is more interested in testimonials and case studies – how the product affects a person after adoption. One Call Now packed each landing page with content that appealed to each of the personas.

In order to appeal to each persona, One Call Now created various types of content and calls-to-action. Although customers all come to the site for the same reason – to purchase a messaging system – the way that various customers decide to buy differs. 

 

For a spontaneous persona, a shiny green “BUY NOW” button beckons. But, for a customer that needs to do more research, testimonials, case studies and requests for a quote are readily available.

Introducing the marketing team to familiar characters helped them think about “How would I sell to Spock, the competitive, as opposed to Kirk, the spontaneous buyer?”

Testimonials and fancy buttons wouldn’t cut it for a buyer labeled as a Scotty, the methodical buyer, as effectively as strong content, numbers and being able to compare features build a better case.

Content development rapidly took off within the organization in order to appeal to different characters.

By generalizing four basic characteristics across the sub-vertical customers, One Call Now developed a strategy to appeal to decision makers in the way that they make decisions. The team is able to expand and fine-tune the way they approach customers on the Web, in a way that speaks directly to them and addresses their concerns.

To learn more about how creating customer profiles can aid your marketing efforts, you can watch the free on-demand MarketingSherpa webinar replay of “Search Marketing: Insights on keyword research and customer personas.”

  Read more…

Content Marketing: 7 copy editing tips to improve any content piece

October 22nd, 2013 5 comments

Creating intriguing and relevant content is key to successful content marketing.

Webinars, webpages and ebooks were all cited in the 2013 MarketingSherpa SEO Marketing Benchmark Survey as “the most effective places to create content for meeting marketing objectives.”

Creating content is one thing, improving it through copy editing, however, is another step in the process.

I say this because content becomes less effective with each glaring error. Depending on the circumstances, those mistakes are perhaps even costing your organization revenue as customers look elsewhere to shop.

 

Think about it …

Do you want to spend your time deciphering information riddled with grammar and spelling errors?

Well, your readers certainly don’t and why should they? Why should they take their time to untangle a web of errors and inconsistencies in a content piece in order to understand the message?

They will simply move on to something else that is polished, clear and professionally written. Luckily in the digital realm, minor mistakes can be caught after a blog post, article or social media post is published online and can be seamlessly fixed.

However, some diligent eyes can spot errors before critics take to social media and immortalize a glaring typo.

For example, the Mankato Free Press was not immune to criticism when a creative, but poorly designed page slipped past copy editors and startled readers while enjoying their breakfast.

As the copy editor at MECLABS, my job revolves around editing everything from blog posts, articles, landing page copy, marketing materials and many other essential pieces of content for MarketingSherpa and MarketingExperiments.

The insights in this post revolve strictly around copy editing to help you focus on improving the accuracy of your text, not editing, which is designed to help you improve the organization of your content.

Read on for seven copy editing tips you can use to improve the quality of your content.

 

Tip #1. Stick with a style

When copy editing, consistency is very important – so pick a style and stick with it.

Establishing style standards early on will help keep all the content you produce uniform across different formats.

At MECLABS, we devised a Stylebook that incorporates elements of AP style and stylistic preferences unique to our company.

For instance, some of the most common words and phrases utilized in our content appear in the Stylebook reflecting MECLABS’ usage.

Words like clickthrough, call-to-action, homepage, e-commerce, Web (always capitalized) and others have a specific way of being spelled or capitalized preferable to us that may not be used the same grammatically or contextually elsewhere.

Not everything can be covered in a company style guide, so having a secondary resource such as the AP Stylebook on hand is essential for finding those words and phrases you may not know how to utilize correctly in a piece.

For other aspects of writing, such as headlines, consistency is also extremely important.

Editors tend to decide what words are used in a headline, so your stylebook should include style preferences for headlines, to help editors keep those copy decisions consistent.

Also, try to make considerations in your Stylebook for any additional content you may have that will need formatting guidelines and make sure your content team understands and adheres to those standards.

 

Tip #2. Read aloud

The very first step of copy editing is reading through content to make changes.

Reading silently to yourself is a good way to start, but taking it to the next level and reading a piece aloud will help you catch more errors and hear how the words and sentences flow together.

It may also seem like common sense, but reading it aloud conversationally is not enough to catch mistakes. By reading slowly and articulating each word, you are more likely to spot grammar and spelling mistakes that your word processor might have missed.

 

Tip #3. Keep it concise

Attention spans are shorter than ever, so keeping length in mind while editing is also extremely important. By keeping sentences concise, you will captivate readers by making every word count.

When possible, delete extraneous words from sentences unless they impact the integrity of the overall meaning.

For example, the word “that” is often used as a crutch word and can be eliminated in most cases.

 

Tip #4. Do a final proofread after publishing 

Hitting the “publish” button is not the end of a copy editor’s work day. Even after a vigorous round of editing, mistakes can still fall through the cracks.

This is why taking one more look at your content after it’s published is a great idea.

As I mentioned earlier, digital publishing in most instances is a lot more forgiving than print. Once you publish content in a print medium, the words and any mistakes you may have missed are stamped onto the pages of your publication and into history.

One example I can think of recently was the misspelling of the word “Marketing” as “Makreting” on the spine of a printed publication. Luckily, the error was caught before a large pressing of the misprints was ordered.

Consequently, although something may already be published, some minor changes can still likely be made if needed before the majority of your audience engages the content.

 

Tip #5. Avoid proofing your own work whenever possible

(Most) copy editors love to write, but reviewing your own content can be problematic, and should be avoided unless there is absolutely no other option.

Therefore, having another set of eyes on your piece can catch errors you would probably miss as the writer.

If others proofing your work is not an option, putting the finished product aside for a few days can help you get out of “writer” mode and into “proofing” mode.

Also, the content isn’t nearly as fresh in your mind, so you’re more likely to catch mistakes.

 

Tip #6. Read through backwards

This may seem a little strange, but the best tips usually are.

From my experience, going through content one sentence at a time backwards is a surprisingly great way to catch problems in the copy.

Incorrect punctuation, extra or double words and other issues that might have been skimmed over normally, can be singled out quickly by reading it backwards.

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Content Marketing: How to manage a change in content on your blog

October 11th, 2013 4 comments

You’ll get no arguments from me that starting a new blog can be difficult.

There are plenty of great content marketing resources from MarketingSherpa and elsewhere to help you do that.

But, what happens when your company decides to undergo a change in content?

Navigating the waters of a new format on a well-established blog is a different kind of monster than starting from scratch.

 

Make sure everyone understands the big picture

If you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of new faces on the MarketingSherpa blog.

Also, if you read the blogs of our sister brands MarketingExperiments and B2B Lead Roundtable, you will also find a lot of new contributors there as well.

When I asked Brandon Stamschror, Senior Director of Content Operations, MECLABS, about some of the elements driving the change in content, Brandon explained the new approach was a unique opportunity to return blogging to its roots.

“For us, it felt like it was time for our blogging voice to come full circle,” Brandon explained. “Blogging originated as the ultimate personal journal. It was a platform for practitioners who were passionate about their message being heard, but over time, that approach has evolved into a more sophisticated medium that has as much in common with a trade journal as it does with a personal journal.“

Another reason Brandon mentioned for the change was based on the idea that members of the MECLABS research team have a wide range of insights and practical advice to offer our audience.

“We realized that we are in a place to leverage the strengths of both approaches. Real world practitioner discoveries and observations supported by a consistent editorial standard,” Brandon said.

Instead of letting all of that content simply vanish, the era of the MECLABS practitioner blogger had arrived.

Consequently, this also meant the MECLABS research team would be taking on a new writing initiative, so the first real challenge was one of communication throughout the organization.

So, the first tip here is simple – communicate, communicate and communicate.

Make sure everyone in the organization understands the reasons for change and what their role in those changes will be, as your team can’t help build something they don’t fully understand.

 

Anticipate problems and start looking for solutions

This is my faith in Murphy’s Law – if anything can go wrong, it will – so the trick is to anticipate problems and find solutions to avoid headaches later.

For instance, while having a sizeable pool of new content creators was a great asset, there was one catch …

Most of our practitioners’ writing skills were based on formal training in academic writing.

Few had prior blogging experience, while only one to my knowledge had any experience in journalism or exposure to the editorial process.

Based on our assessment, here were some of the problems we anticipated:

  • Limited blogging experience – How do we help analysts to start writing blog posts?
  • Formal training in academic writing – How can the content team help practitioners develop blog writing skills?
  • Few have exposure to editorial process – How do we build a new editorial process that allows for more revision and editing time? How can we educate our internal thought leaders on the editorial process?

After a few rounds of discussion, our team decided a blog post template provided a simple solution to solve the problem of helping analysts get started writing blog posts.

 

The feedback we received from our in-house writers so far is the blog post template has been helpful in providing some rudimentary direction and structure to get started.

In short, the more problems like these that you can anticipate and find solutions for beforehand, the less painful your transition will hopefully be.

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