Digital Marketing News: 2018 Creative Trends, Organic Facebook Dead, YouTube Tightens Up

Creative Trends 2018

2018 Creative Trends – Shutterstock’s data and creative teams analyzed their customers’ billions of searches for images, footage, and music search and download data to discover the biggest year-over-year increases. What are the top trends? Fantasy, New Minimalism, Space, Natural Luxury, and Punchy Pastels among others. – Shutterstock

‘Organic reach on Facebook is dead’: Advertisers expect price hikes after Facebook’s feed purge. If any brands haven’t already shifted their Facebook strategy entirely to paid, then they may have to soon. Facebook is changing its news feed to prioritize what friends and family share, which will reduce the amount of content that users see from brands and publishers. Open up those wallets folks! Digiday

One in three people—2.48 billion—worldwide used a social network in 2017 – Last year, 74.7% of mobile phone internet users worldwide used their device to access social media. Where are they spending their time you ask? In 2017 nearly 594 million people worldwide used Instagram. 62.2% of all social network users (1.54 billion), went on Facebook at least once a month in 2017.  eMarketer

Majority of Consumers Want Brands to Take a Stand on Social and Political Issues, According to New Study – Most consumers want brands to weigh in on social and political issues, according to a new survey by social media management and analytics company Sprout Social entitled “Championing Change in the Age of Social Media.” Two-thirds of consumers responded that it was either “Somewhat Important” or “Very Important” for brands to take a stand on social/political issues. AdWeek

Influencer Marketing Report – A few highlights: Influencer marketing ad spend is poised to reach between $5 billion and $10 billion in 2022. The average influencer engagement rate across industry verticals is 5.7% compared to 2-3% for brands. 40% of influencers believe that overly restrictive content guidelines are one of the biggest mistakes brands and agencies make when working with them.  Business Insider

Financial institutions have a growing interest in influencer marketing – Financial services institutions are known to shy away from social media due to strict industry regulations. But a growing number of consumer-facing banks, insurance companies and personal finance apps are looking to create promotional content with individuals with large followings on social media, in order to add personality to their brands and cater to the 18- to 34-year-old cohort. Digiday

Influencer Marketing Stats and Trends (Including Petfluencers) – Collective Bias compiled statistics from B2C influencer marketing research they conducted into an infographic featuring insights on both consumer and influencer behaviors. For example, 10% of 18-24 year olds are likely to purchase a product promoted by a famous pet influencer. 86% of influencers say Pinterest is the platform of choice for food ideas. MarketingProfs

CVS Vows to Stop Altering Beauty Images in Its Marketing – We couldn’t agree more: Starting in April, CVS Health Corp said it will stop “materially” altering the beauty imagery in its marketing materials that appear in its stores and on its websites and social media channels. CVS is also asking brand partners—including Revlon, L’Oréal and Johnson & Johnson—to join the effort. Wall Street Journal

TV drives search

Google Adds AMP Testing Tool to Search Results – Google has released its most significant update to the AMP testing tool since 2016. In addition to accessing the tool at its usual destination, you can also test AMPs directly in search results. Search Engine Journal

YouTube tightens rules around what channels can be monetized – Channels will need 4,000 hours of annual viewing time and over 1,000 subscribers to make the cut to make money on their video content.  The Verge

The Brand-Content Preferences of Different Age Groups – HubSpot surveyed over 3,000 consumers 18+ to understand which types of content consumers of various ages want to see more of from brands. Over 50% want to see more videos from their favorite brands. Only 22% of consumers age 18-24 value emails from brands they support, compared with 68% of consumers age 55+. This is highly useful insight if you want to optimize for content engagement and action. MarketingProfs

More Than 1 in 3 Millennials Would Like to Go Viral – However, overall, fewer than 1 in 5 American adults would like to become viral on social media or famous on the news for a short time, according to a recent YouGov survey. Also, men (57%) desired fame more than women (48%).   MarketingCharts

On the Lighter Side:

Blockchain Bandwagon

  • Blockchain Bandwagon by Tom Fishburne
  • Google’s Algorithm Says The World Is Flat – MediaPost
  • ‘Milkshake Duck’ is a dictionary’s 2017 word of the year, and damn right – Mashable

TopRank Marketing (And Clients) In the News:

Lee Odden – The Future, Presented by LinkedIn with Help from Top Marketing Thought Leaders [Videos] – LinkedIn Marketing Solutions Blog
Lee Odden – What Does The Future Of CX Look Like? Here Are Some Of The Most Promising Predictions – Brian Solis Blog
Congratulations to our client Masterson Staffing
– Celebrating 50 Years in Business – Masterson Staffing Blog
Congratulations to our clients LinkedIn and SAP – Both were named as a “Best Software Company in 2018” by G2 Crowd

What was the top digital marketing news story for you this week?

We’ll see you next week when we’ll be sharing all new marketing news stories. Also, be sure to check out the full video summary on our TopRank Marketing TV YouTube Channel.

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Digital Marketing News: 2018 Creative Trends, Organic Facebook Dead, YouTube Tightens Up |

Digital Marketing News: 2018 Creative Trends, Organic Facebook Dead, YouTube Tightens Up was posted via Internet Marketing


SearchLove San Diego in Focus: Three FREE San Diego 2017 videos

In case you hadn’t heard by now SearchLove San Diego 2018 is happening on March 26 & 27, in the stunning setting of Paradise Point. While that alone should be enough to encourage you to join us and our speakers, we wanted to give you a little more insight on what to expect.

Over the next few weeks, in the build-up to San Diego, we will be sharing with you:

  • Free videos of last year’s presentations

  • Distilled CEO, Will Critchlow’s, thoughts on SearchLove over the years

  • A collection of feedback from previous attendees

  • Reasons to join us in San Diego

Across all our SearchLove conferences, speaker quality and consistency are our top priority. As such, our events team spends months pulling together expert speakers from across the world. We then spend time working alongside them to ensure they bring you their best content, strategies, tips and tricks.

Exceptional speaker ratings from attendees – check out why!

At San Diego 2017, 8 of our speakers’ presentations were rated outstanding or excellent by over 9 out of 10 attendees. To give you a taste of the SearchLove experience we have made three of their videos free to access.

Of course, it’s one thing to hear about the quality of the presentations and for us to show you attendee ratings. But, it is quite another to experience the talks yourself. This is why in the build-up to SearchLove San Diego, we have released three of last years top rated presentations for free.

All you need to do to access the videos is create a free Distilled account (if you don’t have one already!) and then click on the links below.

Speaker Ratings (Outstanding + Excellent)

Wil Reynolds – Intonation Matters: A New Approach to Search UX

Seer Interactive founder Wil Reynolds joined us once again in San Diego, bringing along his endless enthusiasm and energy, encouraging us all to put people at the front of our minds when creating content.

During his 40 minute presentation, Wil actively encourages us, as digital marketers, to get out from behind our desks and get out there meeting the people who perform searches. He says we need to understand their emotions as they search, rather than just relying on traditional SEO tools.

Emily Grossman – The New Mobile

In 2017, we were lucky enough to have the fantastic Emily Grossman speak at all three SearchLove conferences. That’s right; she graced us with her presence on the stages of San Diego, Boston and London!

In her San Diego 2017 session Emily covers how mobile marketing has changed over the past year and how businesses should be reacting both now and in the future. She urges all digital marketers to focus on strategies to improve their mobile platform and mobile performance, and get more from their mobile analytics data including:

  • Get better at being a data source by implementing correct structured data

  • Fix some of the basic loading optimizations that we all still get wrong

  • How to recover dark (mobile) traffic

Greg Gifford – Dr Evil’s Guide to Utter World Domination Through Local Seo

We were delighted to be able to invite Greg to San Diego after he blew away the crowd at SearchLove Boston back in 2016. As a specialist in Local SEO, Greg took to the stage with his mission for global domination through the power of SEO, and let us all in on his plan. It just so happens to be crammed into 150 slides.

Seriously though, Greg discusses how Local SEO  is more necessary than ever before and shares his tips on local optimization and advanced tips for getting maximum visibility in local search.

Come and join us in San Diego for sun, sea and search

There you have it, an insight into a handful of last years excellent San Diego speakers. If you enjoyed them, why not head over to the SearchLove San Diego page and reserve your ticket for March 26 & 27, 2018.

Early bird tickets are still on sale and will save you $300 off full price tickets. Be warned, they are selling fast and have limited availability.


We look forward to seeing you in Paradise Point.

SearchLove San Diego in Focus: Three FREE San Diego 2017 videos was posted via Internet Marketing

Working from the Office – the New Working from Home

One perk companies of any size can offer their employees is flexibility around working from home or flexible work schedules. While there can be disadvantages of offering flexible work schedules, almost everyone agrees the pros outweigh the cons.

But why not also invest in your office environment as an employee benefit? While it can be dreamy to sit in your PJs and have your cat in your lap (or on your laptop) all afternoon, working from home is often as distracting as it is convenient. If your employees feel more productive and inspired in your office environment, you’ll get more face time with your team, even if they have the option to work from home.

Here are four Distilled office tips to incentivize your employees to brave the commute into the office (and forego the oh-so-tempting desire to stay in PJs all day).

Intentional, intelligent office design

Whether you prefer the open office layout or a more traditional cubicle look, design your office with a variety of areas to suit different kinds of work and different kinds of work styles. Give individuals the freedom to choose the work environment specific to their mood, task, or creativity preference.

At Distilled, this includes flexible sit-stand desks (or areas of standing desks), cafe-style areas, couches and dens, communal hubs and meeting rooms for group work, and small spaces where people can put their heads down and concentrate. Some companies prefer having no designated desks, but we’ve kept to individual desks so that people express themselves with photos, tchotchke, and supplies, as well as providing storage for personal belongings.

Additionally, in an ever more computer-centric economy, design your workspace in a way that motivates movement. Even something as simple as having the printer or snacks farther away from desk areas can decrease the amount of sitting for long periods of time, which is by far the healthiest option for your employees.

Plan tangible office events that support company culture

Is someone having a birthday? Vicke in the London office and Amanda in Seattle are ready to make you a cake. Did you just start with Distilled? We’re having a team lunch to celebrate. While providing snacks and coffee in your office is a proven perk, it’s essential to invest in events and the time you get to spend together around the food. Company sponsored and organized events increase a sense of belonging, connecting you to both the company and the people in it.

Regardless of whether you want to hold company happy hours or softball games, keep in mind your events should be:

  • Inclusive – don’t let anyone feel left out because of age, gender, ability, or allergy.

  • Relevant – not sure what your team enjoys? Conduct some surveys or polls before you decide on your trip to the aquarium.

  • Finite – the best events have clear start and end times, so people can plan their lives or other commitments around them.

Not sure what kinds of events work best for your office culture? Focus on activities that allow for casual socializing, but that typically highlight something specific. Birthdays, engagements, and other employee life events are easy starting points.

Some ideas of ours that you’re welcome to steal include themed potlucks and Friday happy hour. On Fridays, all three offices host an optional gathering at the end of the workday to unwind and relax as a team, complete with bubbly water and alcohol (with and without bubbles). A couple weeks ago, Amanda, our fabulous People Operations Executive, organized an office “Waffle Bar” potluck. She brought the iron and we brought the toppings.

Your company will see an increased sense of community if you’re willing to put your money where your mouth is – sometimes literally.

Let people bring their home to work

Create an office environment where employees can bring their authentic selves (and maybe their Corgi) without feeling like they’re breaking the rules. If employees have to leave too much of their lives out of the workplace, it will make it difficult for them to get to the workplace, especially if flexibility is part of your office culture.

Consider making your office-friendly towards kids, dogs, bikes (and their storage), as well as casual dress. Even if you can’t condone casual dress at all times, casual dress days or events can go a long way towards making your people feel comfortable. Remember the novelty of “bring your daughter/son to work” days? If your office has a more corporate or formal feel, you can still create structured opportunities to let your employees bring their home to the workplace.

Even if your building doesn’t allow dogs, it can become a perfect reason to organize a dog-friendly event somewhere nearby.

Do sweat the small stuff

The littlest detail can go a long way towards making your employees feel connected and motivated to be in the office. The small stuff we like best at Distilled includes plants, music and, not surprisingly, video games.

While their ability to improve air quality might be a myth, the ability of plants to increase happiness and productivity have long been felt if only recently measured. In the Seattle office, we have some very happy dracaena, palm trees, succulents, air plants, pothos (ivy), and even a bird of paradise.

An intangible asset to your office is the addition of or access to music. Spotify and Sonos are small expenses to allow anyone in the office to be a DJ for the afternoon. If you’re a heads down office and having music playing in larger spaces is a terrible idea, consider reimbursing employees the cost of a music subscription.

Finally, while the idea of a neat and tidy office might seem optimal, studies have shown clutter to be important for ideation. Allow for areas of organized chaos. We have nicely- cluttered bookshelves and a TV that doubles as a projector screen and a Mario Kart station. A quick lap around Moo Moo Meadows is (almost) better than an afternoon cup of coffee.  

Whether you’re drawn to reorganizing desks, planning events, bringing your dog to work, or playing Mario Kart, we hope one of our tips helps your office feel more like home – and maybe gets you more face-time with your teammates as a result.

Love our office lifestyle tips? If you’re tempted to immerse yourself fully in the Distilled culture, we have a number of open roles, particularly on our London team. Do you have some killer employee happiness tips to share from your current or previous company? We would love to hear about what gets you out of bed and into the office in the comments below.

Working from the Office – the New Working from Home was posted via Internet Marketing

7 Influencer Marketing Trends That Will Rule 2018

Influencer Marketing Trends 2018

Influencer Marketing Trends 2018While influencer marketing boomed in 2017, it’s been on the rise for a full decade. In fact, we first posted about it in 2008 after we attended a session at SES San Jose on social media analysis and tracking. Ten years later and influencer marketing has evolved from a rising trend into a proven marketing strategy, causing more and more B2C and B2B companies to start influencer programs of their own.

As influencer marketing has gained steam, it’s earned a more dedicated spot in the digital marketing mix and become more approachable in the eyes of marketers. As our own CEO Lee Odden, a longtime advocate for influencer marketing, regularly says:

Everyone is influential about something.”

But as marketers dive deeper into the influencer marketing waters, they wonder how the tide will change and ultimately force them in a different direction.

Having executed influencer marketing programs for both B2B and B2C brands for the past several years, we’ve had a front row seat to the evolution of influencer marketing. To give you a glimpse into where influencer marketing is already heading and help you stay on top of your influencer game, here are seven influencer marketing trends that are taking over 2018.

#1 – Full steam ahead for influencer marketing programs.

We touched on it briefly earlier, but as influencer marketing becomes more approachable with tools like Onalytica, Traackr, BuzzSumo, and others, it will also become more popular. For 2018, this means that more and more brands will come online with influencer marketing programs, including both B2C and B2B brands.

But what does this mean for your influencer marketing strategy?

It means your competition could soon be doing their own influencer marketing campaigns, making it all the more important that your campaign sets itself apart from the rest. Through unique influencer relationships, helpful insights, and new media types, you could take your influencer campaign from “first” to “best.” Or both. Both is good.

Read: 20 Inspiring & Actionable Influencer Marketing Tips for The Modern Marketer

#2 – Brands are looking to be bold, loud, and different.

With more B2B and B2C brands amping up their influencer marketing, brands are thinking of new and innovative ways to differentiate their campaigns. With great content serving as the foundation for any campaign, brands are hoping to stand out by offering unique, bold, and intuitive user experiences, generating an added level of excitement and further engaging audiences.

To level up our own influencer marketing user experience, we created an interactive infographic featuring 15 quotes from digital marketing influencers to generate awareness of our agency prior to the Digital Marketing Summit in Minneapolis this past summer.

This not only helped engagement with our audience, but it also helped us create something that our influencers were proud to contribute to and share.

Interactive Influencer eBook Example

#3 – Brand focus on business results.

At the beginning of its time, influencer marketing was all about reach and awareness. By tapping into an influencer and leveraging that relationship, you could gain the ear of an entirely new audience. Multiply that affect with the number of influencers you work with, and you have a rapidly growing audience.

Influencer marketing is no longer just about audience growth, though. Brands are and will turn to influencer programs to drive conversions and engagement, too. What will that look like? From our vantage point, you’ll see an influx of influencer and brand hosted webinars, live stream Q&A’s, endorsements, and other bottom of funnel influencer content.

[bctt tweet=”#InfluencerMarketing is no longer just about audience growth – @aleuman4″ username=”toprank”]

#4 – Influencers turned brand ambassadors.

What’s one thing brands are missing when it comes to influencers and their relationships? Oftentimes, it’s exclusivity. Having an influential thought leader all to yourself is a promising premise as it means you are their sole partner in your industry. Well, brands are realizing that this opportunity exists and are getting ready to establish more long-term relationships with influencers.

No longer seen as a one-off campaign strategy, brands will start to reach out to influencers for more long-term partnerships. This will result in influencers adopting the role of “brand ambassador” and serve almost as an extension of your internal marketing team.

To do this within your own influencer programs, you need to develop your relationships with influencers instead of just reaching out when there’s a need. For example, you can create a VIP program or hub where your influencers can come together and collaborate, share ideas, and become a bigger part of your brand. With this continued nurturing and collaboration, influencers will become more like spokespeople, representing the brand at events, in videos, and through their own content.

[bctt tweet=”#Influencers will adopt the role of brand ambassador and become an extension of your internal #marketing team – @aleuman4″ username=”toprank”]

#5 – Campaigns with more money, more capabilities.

Remember when we said that influencer marketing is popular, forcing brands to up their influencer marketing game? One surefire way brands can try and elevate their campaigns is through an increased influencer marketing budget. In fact, you can bet on it. In our Influencer 2.0: The Future of Influencer Marketing research report, 55% of marketers reported in that they plan to increase their influencer marketing budget in the coming year.

With deeper pockets, brands can invest more into developing their influencer relationships and in creating more high-quality content. For example, brands have more freedom to offer gifts to their influencers in an effort to strengthen their relationships. Plus, an increased budget allows brands to create more “expensive” content like a video series, interactive eBooks, motion graphics, and more.

Read: 5 Examples of Influencer Marketing in Action Across the Full Customer Journey

#6 – Influencers are being strategic with their own brand.

As the influencer marketing bandwagon continues to roll, influencers have the ability to be more strategic in aligning themselves with different B2B and B2C brands. With more brands approaching them for their contributions, they can be more thoughtful with the partners they choose to work with and how the partnership will help them grow their personal brand and network.

Because of this, your programs will need to be custom-made for the influencers you want to work with. For example, one of our clients was looking to target C-suite leaders at law firms, which lead to the creation of a customized influencer eBook campaign that featured influencers in the legal profession, and delivered extremely thoughtful and relevant to our audience.

Niche Influencer eBook ExamapleIf there isn’t a perfect fit or relevant value that you’re bringing to the table, your ideal influencers will move on to another brand that does. The influencer has the power of choice in this scenario, so make sure to research your influencers beforehand to create a campaign they can’t say “no” to.

#7 – Influence transcends platforms.

Now that influencer marketing programs are beginning to expand in size, budget, and tone, brands are also looking to expand their programs onto new platforms and channels. This helps extend the reach of their influencer marketing programs, enabling brands to engage new audiences that were otherwise lost to them.

What kinds of channels are we talking about? Periscope, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, and others come to mind as it can be challenging for brands to build up audiences on them — especially if your brand voice is more sophisticated.

Become Influencer Marketing Royalty

As you head off to execute your influencer marketing programs using the trends above, take advantage of these top influencer marketing tools to track your influencer relationships, performance, and more.

7 Influencer Marketing Trends That Will Rule 2018 was posted via Internet Marketing

4 Top Trends in Customer Centricity to Drive Digital Marketing Success in 2018

Consumer Trends Marketers Need to Know

Ask any digital marketer if they’ve been able to set their strategy on autopilot over the past decade, and I bet you’ll get a laugh or two—as well as an emphatic “No.” If we’ve learned anything it’s that the digital landscape is simply too fast-changing to keep the business as usual mindset.

But while the global rise of the internet, the explosion of social media, and the development of mobile technologies and other digital tools and platforms are undoubtedly “to blame” for the constant state of change we operate in—it’s really the everyday use of these innovations that requires our flexibility and attention.

Simply put, thanks to these modern essentials, our behavior, expectations and attitudes as consumers have changed—and they’ll continue to. The mobility and network access enabled by mobile phones and tablets, coupled with the incredible amount of content now available (thanks content marketers), means consumers now have the majority stake in developing their own customer journey.

In fact, last year comScore reported that users spend an average of 69% of their media time on smartphones—and other research shows that the great majority of people use the internet and mobile technologies to research products before they buy.

But what’s the next stage of evolution in consumer behavior? And how can digital marketers adapt their strategies to fit with consumers want and expect?

Below we highlight some of the consumer trends that will have (and are already having) a big impact on digital and content marketing in 2018 and beyond.

#1 – Voice-activated personal assistance will continue to shape consumer behavior.

While voice-command technology began to emerge in the early part of the century, it’s taken on new life over the past couple years thanks to the emergence of mobile personal assistants, and the birth and increasing adoption of tools like Amazon Echo, Cortana and Google Home.

To put it simply, these voice-activated technologies just make life simpler. According to Think with Google’s research, the top reasons people turn to voice-activated speakers are:

  1. It allows them to more easily multitask.
  2. It enables them to do things faster than other devices.
  3. It empowers them to instantly get answers and information.
  4. It makes their daily routine easier.

What does this mean for brands and marketers? Google says their research also shows that people welcome brands to be part of their experience, and they’re open to receiving information that’s helpful and relevant to their lifestyle.

Think With Google Stats on Personal Assistants

Image Credit: Think with Google

As a result, brands and marketers have the opportunity to explore digital advertising opportunities in this arena. But, perhaps more immediately important, optimizing for voice search is critical.

According to Gartner predictions, 30% of all web browsing sessions will be done without a screen by 2020. Some voice search optimization tactics include focusing on featured snippets, using more conversational keywords and content structure, and adding structured data markup to help search engines better understand the context of the content you’re providing.

#2 – Consumers want to experience a brand, product or service before they buy—and video is the conduit.

I think it’s safe to say that video is no longer an emerging or rising marketing trend—it’s part of the now and the future. According to Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and MarketingProfs’ 2018 content marketing benchmark reports, 72% of B2B marketers and 76% of B2C marketers use pre-produced video as part of their strategies.

It’s certainly not difficult to see why video has taken off. Humans are visual creatures by nature, and as the internet, social media and technology have evolved, consumers are spending an increasing amount of time in front of the screen—elevating video as a preferred engagement medium.

But a bit of change is in the air. Consumers don’t just want engagement these days. They’re also looking for an experience—especially when it comes to products they’re interested in.

According to other research by Think with Google, video is straight up changing how people shop. In fact, in the past year, 40% of YouTube users turned to the platform to learn more about a product before they purchased it. In addition, the watch time of “Shop with me” videos—where viewers actually follow video creators as they shop—has increased a whopping 1,000% over the past two years.

YouTube Research by Consumers Statistic

Image Credit: Think with Google

Essentially, consumers are going beyond third-party review sites and word-of-mouth referrals, and looking to video content to learn the good, the bad and the ugly about the products they’re pondering. This means it’s time for B2B and B2C brands alike to elevate the stories they tell using video. Here’s what Think with Google had to say:

“Since many users aren’t going to be able to physically touch a product before they buy it, brands need to come up with creative ways to help people ‘experience’ it online. Think of ways to bring your product to life online so it stands out—like using virtual reality or augmented reality—such as L’Oréal’s Makeup Genius app that lets users virtually try on makeup.

“There’s a whole community of creators testing and evaluating products, including yours. That means users will be validating any claims you make, so make sure your product can live up to them.”

Consumers are looking for an experience – especially when it comes to products they’re interested in. #digitalmarketing #videomarketing @CaitlinMBurgess
Click To Tweet

Read: Report: What Marketers Need to Know About the ‘State of Video Marketing’

#3 – Consumers are growing more curious—as well as more impatient.

To say the least, 2017 was an interesting year socially, environmentally, and—of course—politically. As the year unfolded, it’s no surprise that people turned to the internet and search engines to get a better understanding of what’s happening in their communities, countries, and around the world.

From Google’s perspective, the wide world of search in 2017 also unveiled new consumer behaviors. In yet another recent Think with Google piece, 2017 saw a “new super-empowered consumer” take shape.

“We found that people are more curious, more demanding, and more impatient than ever before,” the article said. “We saw evidence of this throughout 2017, and it will be critical for marketers to understand these new behaviors as they move into 2018.”

Essentially, people are getting more specific than ever in their searches—and they expect and demand useful, relevant information quickly. The takeaway for marketers here is that long-tail search term variations will expand—and perhaps even become a new normal. As a result, there’s no better time to double-down on creating—what TopRank Marketing likes to call—best-answer content.

What does best-answer content look like? In a nutshell, best-answer content is:

  1. Addressed to a specific audience
  2. Addressed to a specific query
  3. Substantial
  4. Comprehensive, addressing complimentary queries and crosslinking
  5. Not blatantly promotional

As our CEO, Lee Odden, so eloquently once said: “Stop creating content. And start making answers.”

This should’ve always been part of a marketers mission, but it will be even more critical in the years to come as search and consumer preferences evolve.

In addition, use the data and insights at your fingertips (and pursue new sources) to get a deeper understanding of audience needs, wants and attitudes, develop more holistic consumer personas, and create content and messaging that is highly-personalized. Personalization will be key for meeting consumer demand and expectations.

Stop creating content. And start making answers. – @leeodden #contentmarketing #BeTheBestAnswer
Click To Tweet

#4 – Distrust is at an all-time high—which calls for more transparency and authenticity in marketing.

We’ve know for a while that consumers are becoming increasingly weary of advertising and brand messaging. But over the past couple years, the general state of trust across the globe has “imploded.”

The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer Survey—an annual trust and credibility survey—showed the largest-ever drop in trust across the world’s four major institutions: business, government, media and NGOs.

2017 Edelman Trust Barometer

In the Executive Summary, the opening note is actually titled “The Implosion of Trust,” and it cites major social, economic and political upheaval—and rising “fake news” speculation—as the unsurprising culprits. But the good news is that Edelman’s findings also show that business is the “last retaining wall” of trust.

As a result, it’s more important than ever for brands and marketers to commit themselves to transparency and authenticity in all that they do. From embracing both positive and critical consumer feedback on public forums and social media, to losing the jargon and developing a more human voice—transparency and authenticity need to be baked into your strategy, rather than being afterthoughts.

One way to add both value, authenticity and credibility to your marketing efforts will be through the use of influencers. Influencer marketing has exploded over the past couple years, and it’s not going anywhere in 2018. Regardless of the type of content, there’s always an opportunity to include credible voices and opinions that will touch and resonate with your audience.

Read: Our Top 10 Influencer Marketing Posts of 2017 Plus Thoughts on 2018

The Only Constant is Change

As you move forward in 2018, now is not the time to set and forget your digital marketing strategy. On the contrary, you need to be at the ready to make meaningful change.

The fact of the matter is that consumers are playing an increasingly powerful role in their buying journey—and brands and marketers need to embrace this if they’re going to survive and thrive into the future.

Content is at the core of every digital marketing strategy. What other trends do marketers need to be on the lookout for? Read Content Conversations: Content Marketing Predictions for 2018 featuring insights from Ann Handley, Joe Pulizzi, Chris Brogan, Alexandra Rynne, Tim Washer, Dayna Rothman, and Chris Moody.

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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2018. |
4 Top Trends in Customer Centricity to Drive Digital Marketing Success in 2018 |

4 Top Trends in Customer Centricity to Drive Digital Marketing Success in 2018 was posted via Internet Marketing

Digital Marketing News: What Marketers Think about AI, Autonomous Stores & GSC Adds Data

Infographic: What Marketers Really Think About Artificial Intelligence
A new infographic shows 47% of marketers consider artificial intelligence (AI) to be over-hyped. In addition, 43% of marketers believe vendors overpromise and underdeliver when it comes to AI. AdWeek

Can Autonomous Stores Catch On?
Brick-and-mortar stores are testing out an automation model, functionally converting their stores to vending machines. These may increase convenience and service levels for some customers, but many remain doubtful that this will take off in a big way. MarTech Today

Google Search Console Adds 16 Months of Data
Can I get a heck yes?! Google has confirmed that Google Search Console will now be able to show 16 months of data versus the typical 90 days. This is currently available in their beta version for some users, with a larger rollout pending. The SEM Post

The State of Video Marketing: Distribution, Topic, and Budget Trends
Marketers are saying that social media brings them the highest ROI for digital video distribution, followed by email. In addition, 50% of respondents are transferring budgets from traditional media budgets to finance digital video and 37% are reallocating budgets from digital media. MarketingProfs

Hulu Hits $1 Billion Ad Milestone
In 2017, Hulu hit a record for video advertising revenue at $1 billion. They also saw a 40% rise in subscribers year-over-year in 2017 for video-on-demand and Live TV products. MediaPost

Self-Driving Cars Have Landed at #CES2018, and Marketers Really Need to Pay Attention
Self-driving cars are more than just a surreal future world pipe dream — they’re well on their way to becoming a real disruption to our typical interactions with transportation. Aside from the daily interaction, self-driving cars can also serve as a site for real-time marketing communications. HubSpot

Forrester: Mobile will drive 69% of search ad growth by 2022
Mobile Marketer reports: “Mobile phones will drive most of the expansion in paid search ad spending, contributing an estimated 69% of the $19 billion in growth by 2022, according to Forrester research.” Mobile Marketer

How Marketers Are Turning Your Car Into a Branded Experience
Talking to your car isn’t as strange of a thought as it once was. But marketers and tech platforms are toying with the idea of taking this to the next level — providing helpful, timely information to consumers on-the-go. AdWeek

Why Brands Will Go To Extremes — Lengthwise — With Digital Video In 2018
Marketing Dive reports: “In 2017, marketers spent 2x as much on online video than they did on TV ads. While standard 30-second ads aren’t going away, brands are increasingly experimenting with a wide array of video formats that push extremes length-wise.” Marketing Dive

Google Is Sunsetting Adwords Review Extensions
Next month, Google will be removing the text ad extensions that allow advertisers to highlight 3rd-party reviews within their ads. If you have used these extensions and want to keep the data, export it in AdWords this month. Search Engine Land

New Data Reveals It’s Time to Change Your Headline Strategy
New research from Buzzsumo revealed some surprising insights about headlines that play best on Facebook — including which word combinations get the most engagement, and which to avoid. Social Media Today

On the Lighter Side:
M&M’s debuts touchdown dance contest for Super Bowl – Mobile Marketer
Billy Mann Discusses Video Humor as a Tool for Marketing – Small Biz Trends

TopRank Marketing In the News:

Debbie Friez – 2018 Digital Marketing Trends From 20+ Marketing Experts – Hot in Social Media
Josh Nite – Annual Content Planning: How To Kickstart Filling Your Editorial Calendar –
Lee Odden – What’s Trending: Bring It On, 2018 – LinkedIn Marketing Solutions
Lee Odden – Social Media Experts and Influencers, to Follow in 2018 – SocialChamp
Lee Odden – 5 Expert Tips To Refine Your Content Marketing Strategy For 2018 – Marketing Insider Group
Lee Odden – Meet the Top 21 B2B Influencers to Watch in 2018 – B2B News Network
Lee Odden – How To Research and Create Evergreen Content – BuzzSumo

What was the top digital marketing news story for you this week?

We’ll see you next week when we’ll be sharing all new marketing news stories. Also check out the full video summary on our TopRank Marketing TV YouTube Channel.

Digital Marketing News: What Marketers Think about AI, Autonomous Stores & GSC Adds Data was posted via Internet Marketing

A Marketer’s Guide to Models

Clients desperately want forecasts and as a result, we hear these questions all the time – all boiling essentially down to some variant on:

These are scary questions to hear from a client – and they are easy ones to push back on – often with some variant on the common reasons reputable SEO firms don’t promise guaranteed search rankings. Especially early in our careers as consultants, it is incredibly easy to fall into the trap of pushing back on the specific thing the client asked for (because we’ve learned that we need to be a trusted advisor rather than just a paid lackey who’ll say yes to any request). Well, I’m here today to tell you that’s a mistake.

Very rarely is a client looking for a contractual guarantee of future performance (if they are, the only way this can work is on a pay-for-performance model which would have to be the topic of its own post. But suffice it to say that there’s no such thing as a successful cheap pay-for-performance contract – any that work are going to be very expensive so plan accordingly). And we shouldn’t fall back on the Google position that reputable firms don’t offer ranking guarantees. That’s not what smart clients are looking for.

So, if they’re not looking for a contractual guarantee, what are they looking for? In my experience, it boils down to needing the tools to better make or better justify decisions:

  • Those who hold budgets are typically looking at a range of options and trying to figure out which is best, and whether any of them have a chance of meeting the objectives at a reasonable cost

  • Anyone who has to build organisational support for a plan needs answers to questions about expected outcomes – what exactly this looks like will vary by organisation (see for example Amazon’s memo-based process) but will fundamentally involve the output of this kind of process

In both these cases, I’d argue that the true need is more like a range of likely scenarios than it is a single forecast. Everyone understands that things might not work perfectly as planned or precisely as in the best case scenario – but by presenting some scenarios, they get a feel for the range of outcomes and a sense of the risk associated with them.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s step back to some definitions.

The difference between models, scenarios, and forecasts

There are three terms that I hear thrown around somewhat interchangeably – model, scenario, and forecast – that I’d like to give my definition for to make sure we are talking about the same things:


A model in this context is similar to the concept of a “scale model” – in other words, a smaller, simplified version of the real thing that shows how it works. Typically built in spreadsheets in a business context, this is a mechanism for turning inputs and assumptions into outputs or outcomes – it essentially encapsulates an opinion on “what the levers do”.

In the context of digital marketing, it might be a spreadsheet that captures how much more traffic we might get over time if we change the pace of publishing different kinds of content on our site.


A scenario is a model along with a specific set of inputs and assumptions – not necessarily the set of assumptions that the author believes to be the most likely – it’s more a case of “what happens if the world looks like this and we do that?”. Scenarios are most useful and interesting when we produce a range of them in order to discuss the likelihood and attractiveness of different outputs.

In the context of digital marketing, this might include assumptions around how average tests change conversion rates and what proportion might turn out to be successful along with inputs about how many experiments we might be able to run per quarter.


A forecast is essentially an opinionated scenario – it’s the outcome you think is likely if you follow a certain path and try to execute a certain plan. It is possible to have a group of forecasts – either under varying plans (inputs) or with different assumptions (essentially a group of forecast scenarios – e.g. conservative / aggressive).

The power of scenarios

For the most part, when people ask for “a” forecast, the best answer is a range of scenarios that show possible outcomes and the sensitivity to assumptions and inputs. It’s much easier to put these scenarios together if you first focus on the much lower-pressure task of building a model without the stress of having to calibrate the right assumptions and perfect plan.

A range of scenarios helps in most requests for a forecast – it’s useful for getting sign-off as you can focus on how much of the range of outcomes has sufficient return to justify the investment. It’s also good for attempting to constrain the limited number of cases where the activity turns out not to have been worthwhile – and even allows you to change the plan to reduce the impact of those failure cases if needed.

Earlier in the process, it’s good for figuring out if something is a vaguely sensible plan before getting too committed to it – does the top end of the range of possible outcomes have a big enough impact to be worthwhile? If you can’t even model a result that’s worth it, you need to act immediately to revise the plan because it’s clearly not going to be something you’re going to want to pitch.

What do you do with the output?

It’s good practice to visualise the output of the model even as you are building it – we’re visual creatures, and having a couple of charts updating in the background makes it much easier to spot flawed assumptions, issues with the model, and outright bugs:

It’s also generally the case that you are going to want to summarise the output of the model to make it useful – there are two key ways that I tend to do this:

  1. With charts and images – this is particularly powerful for comparing the outcomes of different scenarios or understanding the sensitivity to particular assumptions

  2. To drive headline numbers – it can be powerful to open a presentation with a “wow” statistic (“this investment can drive £Xm of incremental revenue over the next three years”). You can do this by opening with a single number from the output of a scenario and then back it up by building up a “pyramid” of supporting information and assumptions – drilling only as deep down the stack as this particular audience needs you to

Here’s an example slide from a business case document I built recently for a prospective e-commerce customer of our ODN SEO split-testing platform:

I wrote an article about writing better business documents that is relevant here:

Note: Sometimes you will share the actual model – but generally only as a deeeeeep appendix. The model is how you create the scenario(s) which becomes the data at the bottom of the pyramid. Even the exact scenarios might only be an appendix – instead, you need to remember to tell the story that you discover this way.

How do you build a great model?

The first thing to note is that the pressure feels much lower as soon as you acknowledge that you are just building scenarios at first. The first scenarios don’t have to be close to realistic – you are just trying to capture the mechanics of how things change when you move input assumptions around. This stage is just about getting the levers in place. You can set sensible assumptions later.

Top-down vs bottom-up models

Broadly speaking, there are two ways of connecting the levers – you can build your model “top-down” or “bottom-up”. These are finance terms – where they define the differences as:

  • Top-down model: is one which starts with the market as a whole and estimates market share, forecasts trends over time in % terms etc.

  • Bottom-up model: is one which starts with the product or service itself, looks at units, at production capacity, at route to market etc.

Although the outputs of our work are often financial, they are not exclusively so – and certainly not in the sense of concepts like market share being consistently useful, so my versions for the kind of models marketers build are:

  • Top-down model: looks at percentages and trends – which tends to make it better for modelling established sites and operations – these models are more likely to talk about the keyword universe and share of voice or to extrapolate from current performance with tweaks to the growth curve

  • Bottom-up model: looks at raw numbers – typically thinking in pieces of content, individual channels, specific routes to users – hence these models tend to be better for modelling new sites, sections and markets. They are more likely to talk about individual keyword demand, production capacity, and other raw activities

Properties of good models

As you’re building your model, here are some pointers to help you stay on the right track:

  1. Keep your inputs separate – I like to end up with them on a totally different sheet in Excel when I’m ready to ship my model, but while you’re building it you probably want to keep the assumptions physically close so you can tweak them easily. The key thing here is that you don’t want them scattered throughout the model. You want them separated and grouped together so that you can see them all, they are enumerated, and you can tweak them to understand their effects

  2. Think about key inputs and what direction they move your key outputs. What’s the relationship? Does doubling the input double the output? More? Less?

  3. Which are the biggest effects? Model them as monolithic effects initially and then later you can break them down. For example, you might say that the number of successful tests is a key factor. Start with that. You can break it down to attempted tests later and get closer to specifics that are in your control

  4. As you start to see the model take shape, spend some time playing with the inputs and watching the outputs. Don’t worry about overt realism yet, but instead focus on the dynamics – does everything move in the direction you expect? Does it move in the ratios or proportions you expect? Explore the space of possible inputs a bit.

Specifically for models of marketing activities, there are a couple of very common specific themes:

  • You will generally need some concept of a time delay – I like to build models with time periods running left to right across the sheet. You will typically find that you end up setting up your model so that there is a cascading effect where changes in one row in a given time period cascade to future time periods as they move down through the rows

  • You will often need to factor competition into your models – either as explicit assumptions of how fast they are going, or more often as a more generic “how hard will it be to achieve this portfolio of effects”. I tend to prefer to model it the second way – focusing on competition as an abstract dampener or as a range of difficulties

Define your inputs and assumptions

Inputs and assumptions look similar, but they have some key differences:

  • Assumptions are things that you’re just trying to get right – and that are generally properties of your world that aren’t going to change. Something like “time for Google to recrawl and reindex my homepage” would be an example of an assumption in most models

  • Inputs are explicitly designed to be changed – this is how you build scenarios – they correspond to different decisions. Something like “number of contract content writers” would be an example of an input

As you initially build the model, don’t worry at all about putting anything realistic in for the assumptions and inputs. In fact, I often put outlandish values in initially just to make sure that I see the effect I expect from very high or very low values. Get the mechanics working, then, before you start playing with the inputs, get your assumptions to reasonable levels:

  1. True values: if you can get the actual values from your own site, then this do this. Remember that assumptions control the behaviour of your model, but they’re not the things you are trying to change to do better

  2. Benchmark: if you don’t have your own data, can you lay your hands on industry data? You will often be able to find public data sources or reports that give you a sense of reasonable ranges, and/or you can often ask around in industry circles – see if your frenemies will tell you how they’re doing

  3. Intuition: even if you don’t have accurate data for your own environment, and no-one you know will share yours, you may have a good intuitive sense of where the right answer might roughly lie. If you do, you can sense-check your ranges – socialise your views by discussing ranges with industry contacts – even if they won’t tell you their numbers, you can often check with them that you’re in the right ballpark

  4. Use the model: failing all of that, you can sometimes still set sensible assumptions by playing with the model and getting familiar with how the output varies and making sure that the outputs seem sensible – this is most useful when you are trying to work backwards – “to achieve outcome X, we’d have to be getting Y% of tasks above Z threshold”

Run some scenarios

Now you’re ready to run some scenarios. Remember that a scenario is what I’m calling “a model along with a specific set of inputs and assumptions”. So you’ve set your assumptions above – meaning that the way you generate scenarios is by tweaking your inputs. I like to start by just playing about with unrealistic ranges of each input – typically I find at least one bug in my model this way when it completely fails to react to an input or does something unexpected.

More interestingly, even when you’ve built a highly-complex and detailed model, you will often find that its outputs are only truly sensitive to one or two key inputs and that the output changes very little as you play around with the others.

Even if it’s not perfect, you start to be able to shape your plan using a model in this state. In particular, you can focus your energy on pushing those specific parts of the plan that move the key inputs. I’m reminded of this quote:

“It’s important to make good decisions. But I spend much less time and energy worrying about “making the right decision” and much more time and energy ensuring that any decision I make turns out right.”

Sean McNealy – a co-founder of Sun Microsystems and its long-time CEO (see this HBR article and this presentation from my colleague, Craig)

The mechanics of building a model

You’ll notice that I haven’t really dug into the actual mechanics of getting models from idea to implementation. For most people, this will involve spreadsheets, and the great thing about spreadsheets is that you can use them with almost any level of computer skill – from typing each cell into a table all the way up to complex linked models. For an excellent primer, I still recommend an article that a colleague of mine at the time (Mike Pantoliano) wrote back in 2012 or so: Excel for SEO.

I wanted to share something real, but everything I’ve built recently has been too niche or too confidential, so I put together a completely made-up dummy one. When you take a look at it, you’ll realise that it’s obviously not designed to be useful – but rather to illustrate some of the points I have been making above. I have annotated it with notes to show where I have demonstrated key elements. Although it’s not large or sophisticated, I have done my best to show most of the key features you’d need to build something much more involved.


I’ll leave you with one final tip: formatting and colour-coding is your friend. You’ll find your model so much easier to work with (and easier to explain to and share with others) if you use formatting to make it clear what different cells do. Here’s the key from my example model:

I’d love to hear your own experiences building models. What tips and tricks do you use all the time? How do you prepare forecasts and scenarios that stand up to client/boss scrutiny?

A Marketer’s Guide to Models was posted via Internet Marketing

How to Become a Better Data-Informed Content Marketer

Data-Informed Content Marketing Tips

Data-Informed Content Marketing TipsAs a 21st century marketer, you already know that data is an important player in the content marketing game. Data helps us understand who our audience is, what they care about, and how our content impacts their decisions. It helps us connect all the dots — and continue to find new dots as attitudes, needs, and preferences change.

But is your content marketing strategy taking advantage of all of the data you have at your disposal? Or is some data left on the cutting room floor?

As TopRank Marketing’s own Lee Odden recently wrote on the topic of data-informed content marketing:

“When it comes to content, creators are traditionally more art than science, and using data to guide editorial planning is still not an advanced skill for many companies.”

Not too long ago, Forrester reported that companies only use 12% of the data they have at their disposal. The remaining 88% of data is wasted and left unused. But imagine how much more effective your content marketing efforts would be if you upped that percentage even a few points — let alone to 100%.

With that said, we want to help you up your data gleaning skills and get the most out of your search, social, and behavioral data. Below are our top tips for becoming a better data-informed content marketer and really boost your content performance.

#1 – Create a segmented content pipeline.

Odds are, you already track your customers, the pages they visit, how long they stay, and the actions they take on your site. After all, it’s Content Marketing 101 to track your audience and their behavior, but this doesn’t paint a complete picture of your content and how it’s performing. To get a complete, 360-degree picture, you need to analyze the types of content you’re creating and draw some conclusions about performance.

Start breaking down your content by bucketing your pieces by length, stage of the funnel, topic, keyword, and other categories that could influence audiences. You can typically find this information in your content management system (CMS), content marketing platform (CMP), or your editorial calendar.

At TopRank Marketing, we’ve developed our own dashboard that integrates with various data sources such as Google Analytics and Google Search Console, as well as pulls in our own categories and details to help us segment and analyze how our own content, as well as the content within our client programs, is performing. Here’s a little peek at how we segment:

Content Segmentation ExampleOnce your content has been segmented, it’s not only easier to see what types of content perform best, but also when they reach their peak performance and with whom. If a pattern starts to emerge, you can then fill up your content pipeline with items that can replicate that same success.

[bctt tweet=”Use the #data at your fingertips to create a segmented content pipeline. – @aleuman4 #contentmarketing” username=”toprank”]

#2 – Monitor social activity and engagement.

Of the world’s 3.7 billion internet users, 2.7 billion of them are active social media users, according to We Are Social. That’s roughly 35% of the world’s population logging onto social media to discover trending content and share messages with their networks.

With that in mind, using social media to distribute your content is a no-brainer. Plus, social networks make it easy for your to track your content’s social engagement through likes, retweets, shares, mentions, replies, etc. But your own social media profiles and posts aren’t the only thing you should be monitoring if you want to create a more data-informed content strategy.

Because social is such an important marketing channel, your competition and industry thought leaders will be on social as well. Monitoring their profiles and content, as well as your own, using tools like BuzzSumo or Follwerwonk can help you discover what types of content is really resonating and identify gaps in your own content plan.

BuzzSumo Example Data-Informed Content MarketingIt’s also a good idea to take a look at your top followers and customers on social to see what types of content they like and share with their own followers. With this data in hand, you can create content that is more suited to their interests, increasing your social engagement.

Read: 12 Industry-Specific Opportunities for Boosting Social Media Engagement

#3 – Refine and create new audience segments.

How are your current audience segments built? More often than not, they’re bucketed based off of demographic data. But your audiences are more than their age, location, or gender. They’re real people with real interests that you can use to your marketing advantage. You just have to find them first.

Deliver more relevant content to your customers by further drilling down your audience segments beyond what Google Analytics’ Audience Overview provides. For example, after performing a deep dive into your Google Analytics, social, email, and transactional data, you can perform new segmentation based on where each person is in the funnel, the types of content they’ve engaged in, what they’ve purchased, shared, etc.

Your audiences should never be set in stone, either. People change over time and your audience segments should, too. With new audience segments formed with specific criteria, you have more opportunities to create content tailored just for them, improving your engagement rate.

[bctt tweet=”Your audiences are more than their age, location, or gender. – @aleuman4 #contentmarketing #data” username=”toprank”]

#4 – Use behavioral data to find what’s valuable.

When creating a nurture campaign or onboarding experience, it’s tempting to throw everything in your arsenal at your audience. This way they have everything they need to know to make a decision, right? The problem with this approach is that “everything” probably isn’t relevant to them.

To really get a sense for what matters to each of your audience segments, take a look at your customers’ past behaviors and actions. In analyzing your past campaigns, is there a common touchpoint where customers dropped out or converted? If so, it’s your job to determine what contributed to or influenced this behavior. Was it the content, timing, or cadence? This practice will help you identify what your audience finds valuable and allow you to create campaigns that only present relevant and helpful information.

Read: 6 Best Practices for Nurturing B2B Marketing Qualified Leads

#5 – Repurpose and redeploy what didn’t work.

Failure is really just a masked opportunity. Part of being a data-informed marketer is taking information from what worked and what didn’t. If something failed to engage an audience or drive conversions, that is an opportunity to rework and improve — not throw something away and start fresh. Repurposing your content is not only sustainable, but it also has the chance to improve your reach, engagement, completed calls to action, and more.

Instead of scraping content that might have flopped or didn’t get the social engagement you were aiming for, dig deeper into the data to find what part of your content didn’t work. If no one clicked on your content to begin with, fixing the problem could be as simple as updating your promotional messages (e.g. emails, social messages, etc.) or meta description and title tags. Alternatively, if readers are exiting your content early, you may need to add more meat to your content to pique their interest and keep them reading longer.

The bottom line is that there is no such thing as bad results — even a “bad” result can tell you an awful lot about what’s happening with your content.

[bctt tweet=”Failure is really just a masked opportunity. –  @aleuman4 #contentmarketing #data” username=”toprank”]

Eliminate Your Content Outliers

By using the advice above, you can begin to create an effective content marketing strategy that works and weed out the practices that don’t. Get a jump start on removing those bad habits by removing these five outdated content marketing tactics from your playbook.

How to Become a Better Data-Informed Content Marketer was posted via Internet Marketing

Content Marketing Evolution: 5 Major Content Marketing Trends for 2018

Content Marketing Trends 2018

Do you remember upgrading from an old square TV to a high-definition model? It was an amazing leap forward in the viewing experience.

Then came 3D televisions…and no one really cared. Then even bigger screens, then curved displays, OLED, smart TVs, 3D and 4k. None of these advances have really fired up the imagination of the TV-buying public. These incremental improvements just aren’t compelling enough to inspire me to upgrade.

The same thing happened with smartphones. The iPhone’s touchscreen-only design was revolutionary, and now every modern phone is a sleek rectangle. Since then, it’s been incremental change and vanity features. I can unlock this phone with my face instead of my fingerprint? And I can turn into an animated dancing unicorn? Yawn.

Content marketing had its watershed moment a decade ago, marking a monumental shift in the way marketing works. Hard selling and SEO trickery gave way to relationship-building and bringing real value to customers. Since then, we’ve been refining the formula. We’ve added new gimmicks and made small adjustments. But marketers are long overdue for a new paradigm shift.

When you’re watching content marketing trends for this year, look deeper than the marketing equivalent of 4k and curved displays. Look for the quiet revolution that is starting to take hold—look for the fundamental changes in the way we approach content.

Here are my picks for the next major movements in content marketing.

#1 – Long-Form Content

As I’ve said before, content is moving beyond the 500-word blog post. Consumers and B2B buyers simply want more depth and value than short content can provide. Even if your 500-word post does attract significant traffic, it has an inherently short life span.

Orbitmedia’s yearly blogging survey shows that the most successful bloggers are spending more time creating longer posts. The average length of a typical blog post has risen from 808 in 2014 to 1,142 in 2017.

These longer posts are attracting more audience attention. The percentage of bloggers reporting “strong results” goes up steadily with the average word count of their posts:

Average Length of Long-Form Content

While short blog posts still can serve a marketing purpose — attracting subscribers, promoting thought leadership — the most successful will re-evaluate short-form content as the basic unit of content marketing. Ungated long-form content is vital to meeting audience expectations.

#2 – Consistency & Quality over Quantity

As marketers shift from short-form to long-form content, it’s going to get harder to maintain a daily (or multiple times daily) publishing cadence. Daily publishing has been the table stakes for blog content for years, but there’s untapped value in slowing the cadence. You know the drill: The amount of content keeps increasing, while people’s time to invest in content stays the same. If you’re challenged to keep up your daily cadence, odds are your audience is, too.

Our clients at LinkedIn Sales and Marketing Solutions EMEA dropped to 2-3 long-form posts a week last year, and have seen their readership continue to rise. The shift inspired our blogging team to try the same experiment on the TopRank Marketing Blog in 2018. More value, less content, delivered consistently — it’s a paradigm shift from “post daily, however much you can, even if it’s 300 words.”

#3 – Influencer Marketing Ecosystems

At the least sophisticated level, influencer marketing is essentially celebrity endorsement. You pay the influencer, they promote your brand, and the relationship ends as soon as the check clears. 2017 may be remembered as the year the influencer bubble burst, as the payouts grew astronomically and high-profile influencers proved problematic.

We published Influence 2.0 in January of last year to help marketers reach the next stage of influencer marketing maturity. Sustainable influencer marketing is relationship-based, co-creation based, and provides mutual value for influencers, marketers, and audiences.

The ultimate goal is to move beyond one-off collaboration with individual influencers. It’s about creating and nurturing a community of influencers, all of whom are aware of each other’s work with the brand. This influencer ecosystem takes relationship-building to the next level, and can result in a steady stream of great content.

Check out our top influencer marketing posts of 2017, as well as more insights from Lee Odden on what’s coming in 2018.

#4 – A New Focus on ROI & Attribution

As the functions of sales and marketing increasingly overlap, marketers need to get serious about proving ROI. We’re in the revenue business just as much as our partners on the sales side, and everything we do should have measurement built in. Yes, even top-of-funnel content meant to generate awareness. Do you know the value of a visitor to your website, a subscriber to your blog, or a filled-out landing page form?

If you don’t have clear answers to the above questions, you’re not alone. According to CMI and MarketingProfs’ annual content marketing benchmarks, only 35% of marketers can accurately measure ROI. Even in the top performers, only 55% are measuring ROI consistently.

In 2018, content marketers who can properly attribute ROI and prove the value of their efforts will be more successful. So it’s time to nail down the value of your content marketing, measure it, optimize it, and give dollars-and-cents reports to the C-suite.

#5 – Strange New Formats

I used to hate the phrase “consuming content.” Okay, so I sort of still do. But my loathing for that phrase may be short-sighted. It seems simpler to say, “reading content,” but that’s still thinking in terms of print, blog posts, eBooks and infographics. Our definition of what constitutes content has already moved beyond these forms, and is going to change radically in the coming years.

Video content production soared in 2017, as marketers figured out how to cheaply produce video and we began dipping a toe into livestreaming as well. In 2018, we can expect to see more video and more strategic use of live video. Audio content is on the rise, too: Podcasts are still surging in popularity and showing no signs of slowdown. And interactive content is getting easier, too — it’s simpler to make increasingly cooler end products.

But the definition of content is about to get even wider. Chatbots will need compelling writing to bring them to life. Amazon Echo and Google Home are new platforms for completely novel types of content, such as the American Heart Association’s CPR instructions and Neil Patel’s Marketing School. Augmented reality is coming to the masses, offering new ways to tell stories and engage an audience.

The Next Evolution

Content marketing is long overdue for a radical redesign, and all signs indicate the next evolution is already in progress. What content is, what forms it can take, how we amplify and measure it — these fundamental aspects of the discipline are all up for debate. It’s up to all of us to stay flexible, stay up-to-date, and most importantly, keep listening for what our audience says they need.

What do other marketers have to say about content marketing in 2018? Read Content Conversations: Content Marketing Predictions for 2018 featuring insights from Ann Handley, Joe Pulizzi, Chris Brogan, Alexandra Rynne, Tim Washer, Dayna Rothman, and Chris Moody.

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Content Marketing Evolution: 5 Major Content Marketing Trends for 2018 was posted via Internet Marketing

What We Learned in December 2017: The Digital Marketing Month in a Minute

Happy New Year! The decorations are tucked away for another year and we’re all settling back into work, getting ready for the busy year ahead. The end of 2017 didn’t slow down on the digital news front, so let’s take a look at what happened across the web while we were busy preparing for the holidays.

Google increases meta description length

Early in December Google gave us more characters in the SERPs by increasing the potential number of characters visible for meta descriptions. Moz saw a spike in average description length and as such have increased their recommended meta description length to 300 characters. Rand discussed what this means for SEOs in Whiteboard Friday.

Read the full story (Moz)

Google launches new rich results and rich results testing tool

On top of the structured data testing tool, Google has now given us a way to test for rich results. “Rich results” are the combination of what Google was previously calling rich snippets, rich cards, and enriched results. The new tool allows webmasters to see structured data types that are eligible to appear as rich results. While the new tool doesn’t appear to allow you to copy and paste your own HTML (like the structured data testing tool), it does come with the benefit that it’ll load Javascript resources so you can see rich results that come from structured data loaded by Javascript.

Read the full story (Google)

Algorithm update targeting sites with no structured data and doorway pages

Mid-December saw a number of webmasters seeing significant movement in rankings. Later in the month, Google confirmed that it had made updates to their algorithm as part of “regular and routine efforts to improve relevancy”. While this doesn’t seem out of the norm (Google makes hundreds of changes each year), reports from SEMRush reported that the main changes being seen were to mobile SERPs, sites with no schema and sites that relied on doorway pages.

Read the full story (Search Engine Land)

Apple throttling iPhones

December wasn’t a great month for Apple. First of all, they had to deal with a number of pretty bad software bugs (a root bug on OS X, a crashing bug and a keyboard bug on iPhone), only for it to then be confirmed that Apple had been intentionally slowing down iPhones as they get older. Apple stated that the slowing down was to prevent devices from “unexpectedly shutting down” and “to protect its electric components”.

Read the full story (Wired)

Google Ad Grant policy changes

As of 1st January 2018, Google Ad Grants will now require accounts to achieve a minimum click-through rate of 5%. Accounts that fail to hit this CTR for 2 months in a row risk having their accounts suspended. However, Google has also stated that this 5% target is already lower than the current program average. This is one of a number of changes the Ad Grants program, which provides grants of up to $10,000 per month for non-profits, has seen as we move into 2018.

Read the full article (Search Engine Land)

YouTube has huge content moderation problems – especially with YouTube for kids

Current and former content raters have said that guidelines used to moderating content are confusing, inadequate and contradictory. Content raters, some who claim to have the worst job in tech (the article is paywalled), raised concerns about the volume of content targeting children that contains foul language, sexual jokes and violence, that as a result of these guidelines, could potentially be viewed by children, or even have its reach algorithmically amplified. To combat this YouTube plans to have more than 10,000 moderators in place during 2018.

Read the full story (Buzzfeed)

Chrome to start blocking (some) ads in February

Google has announced that Chrome 64, scheduled to be released by the end of January will automatically block some adverts as part of the Better Ads Experience Program. Advert types being targeted include adverts where audio or video is automatically played, pop-ups, prestitial ads accompanied by a countdown clock and “sticky” ads which cover more than 30% of the screen.

Read the full story (Computer World)

Eric Schmidt steps down as Alphabet Chairman

Schmidt’s decision leaves only really Larry Page still in an executive role. According to Google the decision had been a year in the making, stating that, “the role of full-time executive chairman was no longer needed after the creation of holding company Alphabet”.

With Sergey Brin being much less visible these days, the move seemingly indicates a growing power and trust in Sundar Pichai.

Read the full story (Financial Times)

Snapchat plans to get easier to use

Snapchat’s legendarily-confusing interface is getting an overhaul to make it easier to use with the aim of improving mainstream growth. Main changes include removing the Stories page, using more algorithms to personalise content and providing more varied content in Discover The changes have been met with mixed reactions from the app’s fans.

This follows their push further into direct-response advertising (with self-service options, no minimum spend, and new ad formats designed for measurable outcomes) back in June.

Read the full story (Recode)

Distilled News

This month the Distilled blog saw Senior Designer Leonie Wharton talk us through creative content that has inspired her during Autumn, and Principal Consultant Benjamin Estes shared his experience on effecting change and solving technical problems.

Over on the Moz blog, Tom Capper warned us about data analysis pitfalls and how to avoid them, while Distilled alumna Bridget Randolph explained how mobile-first indexing works and how it impacts SEO.

On top of all of this, tickets for both SearchLove San Diego and Boston are still available on early bird discount, giving you the opportunity to meet the Distilled team and see the biggest names in search share their thoughts and tactics.

What We Learned in December 2017: The Digital Marketing Month in a Minute was posted via Internet Marketing