Here we Grow Again: Welcome New VP Katie Uphus to TopRank Marketing

Here we grow again TopRank Marketing

TopRank Marketing evolved from PR to digital marketing agency in the mid 2000’s, right about the time our new VP of Operations got into agency project management.

Twelve years and multiple advancements from a creative agency Director of Production to Senior Director of Operations later, Katie Uphus has now joined the team as Vice President at TopRank Marketing.

Katie Uphus Lee Odden

Talent is what makes our agency magical for our B2B clients and we’re excited to bring Katie on board. Her experience developing teams, coordinating workflow and marketing operations will help us establish the framework for an environment where each of our team can become the best they can be in their respective roles.

At the same time, we’re focused on optimizing how our teams work together in order to deliver the best possible solutions for our clients and a satisfying work environment for our professional team of smart, creative and results-focused marketers.

My co-founder Susan Misukanis and I are committed to supporting the team at TopRank Marketing with the best talent we can find. We have 5 new team members joining the agency in November and several more Account Managers, Content Marketers, Social Media Specialists and Influence Marketing Specialists to be added through the rest of Q4 and into the new year. Here is a list of our open positions.

As part of Katie’s introduction to the TopRank Marketing community, I’ve asked her to share a little about herself from background to thoughts on the industry to my favorite social network word association game.

What is your background working in the marketing agency world?

For the past 12 years I’ve been at StoneArch, a Minneapolis health and medical marketing agency, where I served in various management and leadership roles. Prior to that, I spent nearly 10 years at Optum. In the early days, when Optum was an employee assistance program, I was a counselor and management consultant, and eventually moved into marketing and product management.

What do you love most about digital marketing?

I like that brands are being pushed to create better and more meaningful experiences for people–beyond the usual “hard sell,” and actually finding ways to be useful to people.

What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned when it comes to managing marketing teams?

Good collaboration comes when each individual from each discipline understands and appreciates the value of the other’s contribution. With clear guiding principles and some form of process or structure to guide the work, smart individuals can make big things happen.

It’s still early days in your time with TopRank Marketing, but so far, what excites you the most about the agency?

TopRank Marketing is ahead of the curve in the content marketing space–real thought leaders in the world of influencer marketing. They are their own, best case study for how to do it right….not the typical “cobbler with no shoes” scenario. There’s a real sense of excitement and curiosity on the team–they inspire and energize each other!

What are some of your overall goals for 2018?

My main goal will be to optimize the efforts of all the smart people of TopRank. They are doing amazing work; I can help bring greater alignment between people and systems and processes to support growth. In order to do this, it will be important for each team member to explore and develop their own professional identity and goals; I want to help with this. It’s the most exciting aspect of the work for me.

Now for some fun questions:

Where would you go on a dream vacation?

My adventuresome mom, Rose, traveled the world and would come home with stories that were so enchanting and thrilling to me. In particular, I was taken by the way she described Portugal–the feeling it evoked in her–homey and foreign at once. The treacherous driving and the blue, blue water; the caves where they made wine and whiskey, and the pottery, of course. The warm, welcoming people. The patrons playing the piano in the basement pub of the ancient palace where they stayed. It’s been on the top of my list ever since she came back. I hope it’s exactly as she recalls.

What is your favorite band, book and movie?

Music: Nina Simone is my current obsession. I’m a big Lucinda Williams fan…and I have a deep love-hate for Dylan. Favorite book might still be The Catcher in the Rye. Movie: Muriel’s Wedding always lifts my spirits, if I make it through the end.

What do you love most about Minnesota?

The month of October is magical to me. And family, of course: ten of my eleven siblings live here in Minnesota–several recently returned after many years away. I left for a few years too, after college–to Alaska then the San Francisco Bay Area, both of which l still have a great fondness for, but Minneapolis is home.

What brings you joy?

Young Joni’s clam pizza and Indeed’s Peach Bum IPA at the moment. The many lovely children in my life.

Let’s play word association. I’ll list some social networks and you share the first word(s) that come to mind:

  • Facebook – Russian trolls
  • Twitter – Donald Trump
  • LinkedIn – Impressively less spammy these days
  • Instagram – Fun and personal visual storytelling
  • Snapchat – Are they profitable yet?
  • YouTube – My go-to for cooking tutorials
  • Pinterest – Great for big life moments
  • Tumblr – Meme generator
  • Reddit – Same as above
  • Google+ – Never bothered
  • WhatsApp – Free calls to my sister in England!
  • Flickr – GenX Instagram

Thanks for playing along with my questions Katie and welcome to the TopRank Marketing team!

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4 Characteristics of an Out-Of-This-World Agency Partnership

Who was the first person to set foot on the moon? Of course the answer is Neil Armstrong — who else?

But, actually, the question really is “who else?” In order for Armstrong to walk the moon, there were innumerable individuals who contributed something large or small to get him there. His mom and dad, Mission Control, fellow astronaut and crew member Buzz Aldrin, a nation of taxpayers — and the list goes on.

What’s the point? Simply put, there’s no doubt that Armstrong was an amazing pioneer, but he didn’t get to the moon — or back home — alone. It took a team.

Being a marketing pioneer in the B2B technology space is no different. You need to have skills and ambition of your own, but you also need an amazing team by your side.

“The technology industry is synonymous with rapid pace and constant change, and technology marketers are expected to lead that change,” trusted colleague and client Angela Schwecke, Senior Director of Global Audience Marketing at SAP SuccessFactors, said. “Success depends on many factors, but the most important is choosing the right team, not the least of which is your agency.”

So, how can you be sure you have the right team aboard your mission? Let’s blast off and explore the four critical characteristics of an outstanding client-agency partnership, plus snag some pointers from marketers like you on how to make your client-agency partnership soar.

Always-On, “Snoopy Cap” Communication

It’s no secret that astronauts must wear protective, pressurized suits to keep them safe whenever they exit a spacecraft. And as you might expect, constant communication with their team is critical. So, their space suit comes equipped with a Communications Carrier Assembly, which is often called: the “Snoopy Cap.”

Just like astronauts must stay in direct, always-on communication during spacewalks for safety and effectiveness, so too must a client and agency to be successful.

In the B2B space, you’re likely fielding communications from a variety of stakeholders inside and outside of your Mission Control center. As a result, you need an agency partner who can cut to the chase — with good news and opportunities.

Expect your agency to regularly share what is happening with your results. In a perfect world, your results would always give you over-the-moon warm-fuzzies. But if the results aren’t where you’d like them, expect your agency to acknowledge that directly and bring you an action plan. A great partner should serve up solutions — not problems.

Flight Surgeon Trust

In the early days of space exploration, astronauts-in-training avoided their flight surgeons at all costs. Just one sneeze in front of their doc might get them grounded. Today, things are different. Flight surgeons have strong partnerships with astronauts. From riding along during training exercises to flying in T38s, flight surgeons do everything they can to ensure astronauts stay on flight status. Once in flight, astronauts can feel safe putting their health in their flight surgeon’s hands because they’ve become a trusted partner.

In our experience, top-performing marketing programs are rooted in a similar, strong, trusting client-agency partnership. To select an agency, listen to your gut during the sales process. If you’re feeling uncomfortable or pressured up front, it might not be a fit.

Then look for signals that instill confidence from Day 1 of your partnership:

  • Are they asking critical questions to completely understand your objectives, priority metrics, audience, industry, brand voice, key messages and more?
  • Do they understand your marketing mix and how their contribution fits in?
  • Are they genuinely interested in how your brand can solve problems for your customers?
  • Are they familiar with the intricacies of your industry?

Once you’re feeling comfortable with your agency, don’t be afraid to give them the joystick. You hired them for a reason. Let them push boundaries and you might be surprised how high you can soar.

Mission-Specialist Thought Leadership

A “mission specialist” is an astronaut with specific expertise who comes aboard a spaceflight to lead a particular research project. These individuals may not be able to fly a space shuttle, but they are the absolute best at what they do.

Expect your agency partner to be the mission specialist and a strategic thought leader on your team. Esteemed marketer and client, Katie Levinson, Senior Product Marketing Manager at LinkedIn Elevate, said partnering with a strategic thought leader is her top priority when solidifying a long-term partnership.

“I like agencies who bring fresh new ideas to the table, and the ideas are based on the goals of my business and their knowledge of my target audience,” she said.

Schwecke also added that your agency partner in the B2B tech space should be able to help you lead marketing change, have their pulse on modern marketing hallmarks and be able to create star-studded communications.

“Tech marketers must look for an agency that not only embraces, but embodies change,” she said. “Many agencies will claim to have B2B tech capabilities, but spend time drilling down on those details.”

“Look for a team that embraces modern marketing hallmarks like digital, social, and influencer marketing,” Schwecke added. “You’ll be able to find a few. But rarer still, will be the agency that understands the how those marketing elements can be combined to create new and disruptive communications. If they are passionate about that, you have a winner.”

Tech marketers must look for an agency partner that embraces & embodies change. @aschwecke
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Your agency should continue to earn their seat in the cockpit by bringing forward new ideas and by iterating on tactics based on learnings. You don’t want an agency that is going to sit still.

“We Have Lift Off” Execution

Perhaps one of the most iconic quotes from the launch of the Apollo 11 mission — the mission that would land humans on the moon — is “We have lift off.” As it relates to choosing a trusted agency partner, the former characteristics discussed don’t mean much if your agency can’t execute.

Many agencies can show you a beautiful presentation, but if they are not driving results aligned with your objectives then what’s the point?

When it comes to selecting an agency that can execute the mission, Levinson said: “I look for attention to detail, creative thinking, and the ability to stick to a timeline (or beat it) as key for success long-term.”

She also noted it was important for an agency to drive optimization after tactics are implemented:

“Along with this, the ability to optimize content and other programs through performance metrics is key,” Levinson said. “It’s not enough to launch a program — an agency needs to help you understand if it’s successful and how to make the next project even better.”

The ability to optimize through performance metrics is key. – @kplevins on working with an agency
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Look for a partnership where your agency leads the charge with thoughtful execution, quickly followed by measurement and optimization.  

Astronaut Training Never Stops

No astronaut can be flight-ready without intensive, ongoing training. If you really want to fly, take some advice from stellar content marketer and longtime client, Emily Miller, Content Strategy Lead at

“Working with an agency is a two-way street,” she said. “It is important as a client to make sure you’re upholding your end of the agreement. You can’t expect the agency to be successful if you aren’t willing or able to put in the energy to make sure they understand your business. That includes sending timely and constructive feedback, as well as doing your homework before meetings to make sure you’re both getting the most out of the time.

“From the agency side, I always appreciate when account managers document meetings and follow up with what was discussed and who has ‘homework’ so that we aren’t re-hashing the same thing each meeting.”

It is important as a client to make sure you’re upholding your end of the agreement. Emily Miller
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You can help your agency become a trusted extension of your marketing team by:

  • Providing frequent, constructive feedback – even if the conversation isn’t easy
  • Setting clear expectations for what you are looking for and when
  • Extending your trust, allowing the agency space to think big

Need a New Support Team?

If this article left you wanting more from your agency partner, don’t be afraid to reach out. Our team of smart, creative and results-focused professionals are ready to take on your biggest challenges and bring new ideas to your content, SEO, social media, digital advertising and influencer marketing. Pop on your “Snoppy Cap” and send some radio waves our way today.

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5 Questions to Answer BEFORE You Develop a Social Media Strategy

Last weekend I decided to build something. So I went to Home Depot and asked a nice man in an orange apron to tell me what supplies I needed. “Okay, what are you building?” he asked.

“Oh, you know, something…maybe out of wood? Perhaps a birdhouse, or some furniture, or a planter,” I replied. “Don’t worry; I have lots of tools and I’ve seen other people build things, so I’m ready to go. Just tell me what I need to buy.”

“I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” he replied.

Okay, so none of the above happened (call it poetic license). It’s a ridiculous scenario, right? Who would start building something without knowing what they needed, why they were building it, and what the finished product would be?

As ill-advised as it sounds, though, plenty of businesses are taking that approach to social media strategy. Our agency has seen clients ready to jump into tactics – channels, paid vs. organic, content creation – without developing the fundamentals of the strategy. They don’t know if they’re building a birdhouse or finishing a basement, but they’re powering up the table saw.

Before you start working on your social media presence, it’s vital to answer a few fundamental questions. Five questions, in fact:


#1: Who Are You?

If your brand was a person, would you want to hang out with them? It’s a vital question, because you’re asking people to do just that – to willingly interact on a social level with your brand.

So it’s vital to know how you will convey your brand’s values on social media (assuming you have your brand values firmly established).  You’ll need to develop a personality that is consistent with your brand but fits with the level of discourse on each social media channel.

Here are a few considerations to get you started. There are no universally correct answers to these questions, of course; it’s all about what fits your brand.

Is your brand:

  • Funny or serious?
  • Knowledgeable or inquisitive?
  • Smart like a scholar or sharp like a poker player?
  • Formal or casual?
  • Sincere or sarcastic?

Many of your answers may lie somewhere in the middle. In that case, determine where you fit on the continuum between each extreme.

At the end of the above exercise, you should have a list of four or five adjectives that describe how your brand will interact on social media: “Our brand is knowledgeable and helpful, gently humorous but sincere.


#2: Where Are You Now?

In a large organization, you likely already have multiple social media accounts, with multiple departments and people running them. That sort of ad hoc administration won’t do for strategic social media marketing.

Take time to map your brand’s existing social media presence, including brand accounts and high-level executive accounts. Include anyone who is actively speaking on behalf of the brand.

Once you’ve done the audit, you can consolidate channels, see which channels marketing should take over, and provide direction to channels you won’t be directly controlling.


#3: Why Is Your Audience on a Particular Channel?

People generally come to Instagram to post pretty pictures and check out other people’s cool photography. On LinkedIn, they want to read business articles that will help advance their career. On Facebook, they want to discuss politics with people who already agree with them. Each social channel has a different purpose, and that will inform how your brand interacts on each.

To see what kind of content your audience prizes, use a tool like Buzzsumo to track the top-performing and trending content relevant to your industry. See what people are liking, sharing, pinning, etc., and you’ll be better equipped to give audiences what they’re looking for.


#4: What Do You Want to Accomplish on Each Channel?

Now that you know who you are, what your raw materials are, and what your audience wants, it’s time to get to it. What are you building? Without that key element, there’s no strategy, just a series of random online interactions.

Your goals should be different for each channel. Think about what each channel is good for, what your presence already looks like, and the actions audiences can take from each. On Twitter, your goal might be raising awareness, and promoting thought leadership. But on LinkedIn you might want to capture the audience by driving them to blog subscriptions and gated assets.

Set a general goal for each channel, as well as measurable sub-goals. You should have clear metrics you can analyze and optimize.


#5: What Are Your KPIs (In Order of Importance)?

In a perfect world, every social media activity would increase subscribers, capture leads, and promote conversions all at once. We have plenty of prospective clients who ask for just that: An all-of-the-above approach.

Unfortunately, doing everything at once frequently means doing none of it effectively. It’s important to establish your key performance indicators, but also to prioritize them. These priorities can (and should) change over time, but you should have a starting list before you plan a campaign.

You might start with the primary goal of increasing your social audience, a secondary goal of driving subscribers to your site, and downloading an asset or other conversion as a tertiary goal. That’s enough differentiation to guide an informed strategy. Then, once you have built that audience, you might shift primary focus to the more middle and bottom-of-funnel efforts.


Birdhouse, Basement or Bathtub?

Before you start developing your social media strategy, take time to understand what you want to build and what materials you have to work with. Get your fundamentals straight before you start strategizing, and definitely finish the strategy before you start implementing tactics.

All that groundwork will help you treat social media as the powerful marketing tool it is. You will be far better equipped to succeed. Even better, you’ll know what success looks like, and you’ll be able to prove it to management.

Ready to strategize? Check out the fundamental elements of a successful social media marketing strategy.

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Digital Marketing News: Clowns for Whoppers, Facebook Dynamic, Automatic Messages

Persado now generates emotionally-targeted marketing messages for individuals. Copywriters, prepare to start feeling nervous: Persado uses machine learning and people’s reactions to previous campaigns to determine users’ emotional profiles and is now launching Persado One, which allows the text to be generated for individual users. MarTech Today

How many people see your content on each digital channel? This is a handy collection of benchmarks covering email, SMS, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Apps and Snapchat.   The Drum

B2B Marketers Shift Priorities From Generating Leads to Converting Them. B2B marketers’ top priority for generating more leads has dropped from 46% to 35%. The focus on converting leads to customers has increased from 34% to 42%. MarketingCharts

32% Of Marketers To Bring Programmatic Media Buying In-House. 50% of marketers and agencies believe Programmatic will ultimately become the responsibility of the brand. MediaPost

Burger King Gave Free Whoppers to People Dressed as Clowns on Halloween. BK is taking aim at McDonald’s with a stunt called #ScaryClownNight in which it will welcome people dressed as clowns (as Ronald McDonald himself, or Pennywise from It, or any clown really) by giving them a free Whopper. AdWeek

Facebook’s dynamic creative can generate up to 6,250 versions of an ad. Facebook is rolling out a way for brands to automatically create thousands of different versions of an ad that will vary in content based on who they are shown to and where they appear. MarketingLand

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Personalization Continues to Provide Uplift in Conversion Rates for Online and Offline Channels. In fact, 39% of company marketers report a major uplift in search engine marketing conversion rates as a result of implementing personalization. Econsultancy via MarketingCharts

Twitter Debates Product, Brand-Focused Campaigns To Achieve Best ROI.  Over the short-term, product-focused campaigns on Twitter deliver a greater return on investment than those focused on brands, new research suggests.  MediaPost

iPhone X first impressions: The highs, lows and quirks. The notch on top is annoying, face detection will take some getting used to but you can animate emoji poop with facial expressions. Apparently the selfie portrait mode is the most redeeming feature. If you’ve grabbed an early release iPhone X, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.   CNNtech

Russian Influence Reached 126 Million Through Facebook Alone. Russian agents intending to sow discord among American citizens disseminated inflammatory posts that reached 126 million users on Facebook, published more than 131,000 messages on Twitter and uploaded over 1,000 videos to Google’s YouTube service, according to copies of prepared remarks from the companies that were obtained by The New York Times.  NYTimes

How is this news? People are furiously debating the correct placement of cheese in the burger emoji. Apple puts it above the burger patty — but Google has gone rogue and put it below. Even Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, has chimed in on the issue. Business Insider

Upcoming  TopRank Marketing Speaking Events:

Nov 7: Dreamforce, San Francisco
The Confluence Equation: How Content & Influencers Drive B2B Marketing Success – Content and influencer marketing are hot topics for B2B marketers all over the world as two of the most promising strategies for attracting, engaging and converting ideal customers. What many marketers don’t realize is how collaborating with influencers can create even more credible, relevant, and optimized experiences for target accounts. Join Lee Odden to learn how working with influencers and their communities can help scale quality B2B content that gets results.

Nov 9: Pubcon, Las Vegas
Participation Marketing: The New World of Content Co-Creation, Influencers and Integration for PR – The converging roles of PR and communications with content and marketing is creating rapid demand for new strategies, skills and expectations. As earned and owned media intertwine, communications professionals who fast track their ability to adapt and evolve will gain a competitive advantage in their roles in the new world of PR. In this session, you’ll learn tested and proven models, strategies and tactics for content marketing based on an integrated and cooperative approach.

Nov 15: SMXL, Milan
Content Marketing & Influence Integration – Without content, there wouldn’t be any search engines and yet most marketers treat content as if it were simply a tactic for SEO. Content is the fuel that powers all forms of media on all digital channels where customers engage. The most successful marketers approach digital marketing with a customer and content-centric approach that integrates with SEO, social media, influencers and advertising in a way that helps the brand become “the best answer” wherever customers are looking. When content is optimized, socialized, publicized, advertised and influencer-activated, everybody wins! This presentation focuses on how to plan, produce, promote and optimize content as a marketing approach that works with or without search engines. But definitely better with search engines. 🙂

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

Be sure to stay tuned until next week when we’ll be sharing all new marketing news stories. Also check out the full video summary with Tiffani and Josh on YouTube.

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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2017. | Digital Marketing News: Clowns for Whoppers, Facebook Dynamic, Automatic Messages |

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Should I Hire an In-House Digital Marketing Specialist or Tap an Agency for Help?

The digital marketing landscape is changing at a rapid pace, with many organizations planning to up their budgets and diversify their tactics in the coming years. In fact, according to Forrester research, CMOs will spend nearly $119 billion on search marketing, display advertising, online video and email marketing by 2021.

“Over the next five years, search will lose share to display and social advertising while video will scale,” Forrester said. “These changes reflect a new emphasis on quality over quantity, a dynamic that will reintroduce human intervention into programmatic ad buying, turn marketers into growth hackers, and put long-tail publishers out of business.”

To keep pace with these trends and take advantage of growth opportunities, many marketers are wondering how they can best leverage their resources, tools and budgets. As a result, a question that has likely come up is: Should we make a new in-house hire to achieve our goals or is an agency partnership a better fit?

As we close in on two decades of work in the digital marketing realm, our experience tells us there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Every organization is at a different digital marketing maturity level, which requires a tailored approach in order to scale their initiatives and drive results.

So, before your post a job req or sign an agreement with an agency, ask yourself the following questions:

#1 – What are my marketing objectives?

Your goals are the foundation of your marketing strategy, guiding every decision and tactic that comes next. As a result, evaluating your goals is a critical first step in weighing your hiring options. Essentially, you need to consider whether an agency or new in-house talent can put you in the best position to reach your goals.

#2 – What kind of expertise am I looking to add to the team?

Generally speaking, most digital marketers have highly-specific skill sets. So, if your strategy calls for adding or expanding a specific area of expertise such as video production or graphic design, hiring in-house may be a great option.

However, if you’re looking for a jack of all trades, an agency will definitely be better equipped. Why? Because you’ll be able to leverage a team of highly-specialized experts at once.

#3 – How niche is my industry?

This one can cut both ways. If your organization is part of a highly-niche industry, you can certainly bring someone in who already has related experience or can be nurtured as an internal subject matter expert. That said, agencies are staffed with fast-learning individuals who can fill the SME role, too. So, this one may come down to preference and bandwidth.

#4 – What’s the bandwidth of my current in-house team?

Your current in-house team likely has a big workload and/or lacks the specific expertise needed to achieve specific goals. So, if you’re looking to ease their burden or diversify a specific area of talent, hiring in-house talent is a great option — as long as you can commit the training, nurturing and management resources.

If you’re looking for a more hands-off option or can’t commit resources to managing an in-house hire, an agency will likely be a better fit. Hiring in-house typically requires more time and resources to make them successful (i.e. onboarding and ongoing training), whereas hiring an agency could give you more flexibility. In addition, agencies can often take on short-term projects with tight deadlines.

#5 – What’s my budget?

Your budget likely has the final say in your decision-making process. So, using your answers to the previous questions, think about how you can best stretch that budget. Does it make financial sense to add new team members or to outsource to an agency?

Get A Little Help in Answering These Questions

You know you need to make a hire to achieve your goals. And it’s a big decision. If you’re wondering what an agency can bring to the table, we’d love to chat with you. You tell us your hopes, wishes, dreams, goals and needs, and we’ll give you options and honesty.

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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2017. | Should I Hire an In-House Digital Marketing Specialist or Tap an Agency for Help? |

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What You Need to Know About Optimizing Content for Voice Search

Voice Search Content Optimization

Voice Search Content Optimization Thanks to the emergence of technologies such as mobile personal assistants, Amazon Echo, Google Home, Cortana, and others, there’s no doubt that voice search is on the rise. These days, consumers can send text messages while driving or use a mobile personal assistant to complete simple actions. In fact, Gartner predicts that about 30% of searches will be conducted without a screen by 2020. In addition, another study from ComScore, states that voice searches will account for nearly 50% of searches, too. That means we marketers need to start thinking how we can get our content in front of our audience via voice search channels. While optimizing content for voice search can seem daunting, there are a few easy tips that can help you start gaining more visibility for those types of queries.

Focus on Featured Snippets

We continue to see featured snippets more and more in search engine results pages (SERPs). These SERP features show qualified results right on the SERP, which can lead to quicker answers to questions. In addition to speeding up the way people are receiving answers on Google, we know that featured snippets drive more organic website traffic, too. Featured snippets can help you leapfrog competition on a SERP to gain more visibility as opposed to only relying on a main keyword ranking. Here’s an example of one of TopRank Marketing’s own featured snippets. Featured Snippet Example Back in July, Britney Muller of Moz gave a presentation at MnSearch about the future of SEO. One area that she focused on was how to rank for featured snippets. The reason Muller focused on this area for the future of SEO was because voice search is fueled by them. With that in mind, she outlined what she thought was the top five ranking factors for featured snippets:

  • Links
  • Quality content
  • On-page optimization
  • Engagement metrics
  • Speed

Each ranking factor is not new to the SEO industry, but they make sense to focus on. Links are still an important ranking factor, as well as content quality and on-page optimization. Engagement metrics and site speed have also been important, but the focus is increasing for these areas. Both areas relate to the experience on mobile devices, since that is where the majority of voice searches are coming from. To find featured snippets to target, use tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs to reverse engineer the content. Most of the time, the featured snippets are around 40 to 50 words, so it is important to keep your content clear for the intent. To trigger a featured snippet, use conversational language and/or questions. A quick way to leverage question based featured results is to create a FAQ page with common questions about your business or industry.

Use Conversational Keywords

Speaking of conversational keyword queries, they help reveal the intent more clearly than the “money” (or more traditional) keywords. This often leads to longer queries for voice searches. For example, a traditional “money” keyword may be something like “content marketing software.” But a more conversational, voice search keyword query may be something like “what is the best content marketing software.” Google has been encouraging this type of behavior for years, especially with the Hummingbird update back in 2013. People communicate with conversations, not just keywords. Associating the right keywords with concepts helps the overall content quality as opposed to targeting only one or a couple keywords per page. So, it’s important to identify the keywords that people search for, but focus on creating the content that is more conversational. When it comes to local search, include keywords or landmarks that people in the neighborhood would use. That way, search engines can correlate the content with a geographical area, which can help increase the local visibility for that piece of content. After all, many voice searches are from people looking for directions to local businesses. Another area to get more conversation queries is from your chat feature on your website (if you have one). People will use a conversational dialog when using a chat function, which could lead you to create content that your audience is directly looking for.

Add Structured Data Markup

Schema markup helps search engines understand what the content is on websites. By helping search engines understand the context of the content, they can provide more informative results for users. Adding schema markup for local businesses can help a business show up in local results for general business information. This information can be highly beneficial for voice searches for directions and phone numbers. is a great place to start if you want to learn more. Homepage If you have a brick and mortar location, you should add schema markup for each place and create a Google My Business listing (and other local citations) to help your audience find you. Voice searches greatly impact local SEO for review websites like Yelp and other third-party websites. Optimize your local citations to make sure they are all correct and consistent. Here’s an example from Target. As you can see, the listing includes information on its headquarters and number of locations, as well as links to social profiles. Google My Business Listing for Target

Beyond Voice Search

While the rise of voice search deserves your attention and action, it’s still just one piece of your content marketing strategy. As always, it’s important to focus on creating content that helps solves your audience’s problems. From our perspective, by creating quality, conversational and structured content, you’ll not only be optimizing your content for voice search, but for the future, too. Why? Because voice search is not the end of the search revolution. Beyond voice search, we will soon be coming across predictive response, which is related to getting your products or services in front of a targeted audience without them evening looking for it. With that in mind, it will be important to create content that is conversational and impactful.

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4 Spooky Marketing Lessons from Classic Halloween Monsters

Halloween is objectively the best holiday of the fall-winter season. You don’t have to go broke buying people gifts. You don’t have to cook an enormous meal (then pass out after gorging on turkey). The only obligations for Halloween are to play dress up and eat candy!

Not to mention I’m somewhat partial to the holiday’s aesthetic. Give me skulls and bats over tinsel and garland any day of the week, and twice on Friday the 13th.

Sure, there’s a horror/scary element to Halloween. But it’s a fun, safe kind of scary. If you’ve spent an hour on social media recently, you know there are scarier things than ghoulies and ghosties.

But Halloween isn’t just fun. It’s educational, too! I realized this year that some of my favorite Halloween monsters are hiding valuable lessons for marketers. For example…

#1: Dracula Rules Influencer Marketing

Count Dracula is often romanticized as a solitary figure, brooding in his castle. That image couldn’t be further from the truth. He’s constantly making new friends—and making those friends into vampires. The way Dracula builds a relationship is a solid lesson in influencer marketing.

Drac doesn’t just meet someone and immediately offer to make them immortal. He starts by getting to know them socially and paying them visits. Then he invites them to become a thrall, feeding on insects and getting a taste of the vamp life. Finally, when the relationship is mature, he converts them into full-fledged creatures of the night. It’s an easy sell by then, because he didn’t skip any steps in the relationship.

I don’t recommend making your influencers eat bugs, of course (unless they happen to enjoy doing so). But you should build relationships with influencers over a series of small, incremental steps. Start by socializing and promoting them, then ask for a small content contribution, and finally move on to co-creating together.

#2: Dr. Frankenstein Is Great at Repurposing

If you ask me, Dr. Frankenstein (the scientist, not his monster, of course) gets a bad rap. Yes, he took his research a little too far. Sure, he was a bit of an amoral lunatic. Okay, so he tampered in God’s domain a little. But you can’t deny that he got results!

In real life, after the hullabaloo died down, scientist would be scrambling to corroborate and replicate his findings. Frankenstein’s monster 2.0 and beyond would be far less “shambling horror” and more “hey, we finally beat death!”

Where others saw a pile of discarded body parts, Dr. Frankenstein saw the potential for new life. When we’re looking at a content calendar, we should be following in his footsteps. Repurposing content—up to and including stitching parts of old posts into a new one—can bring your old content to a new audience with a minimum of effort.

#3: The Wolfman Is a Content Strategy Object Lesson

Quick: What’s the wolfman’s biggest problem? No, it’s not that he’s vulnerable to silver. It’s not even that he turns into a brainless monster every full moon.

No, what always gets the wolfman in the end is his failure to plan ahead. He always ends up roaming the countryside chowing down on rabbits, and then someone sees him, and then out come the silver bullets. If he were to approach the problem strategically, he could spend each wolf session safely locked in a basement somewhere. He could live a full life 28 days out of the month, and no one would ever know he had a lycanthropy problem.

If you’re creating content without a content strategy, you’re practically begging the townsfolk to load up on silver buckshot. You may score the occasional win—like the wolfman gets a rabbit or two—but on the whole, it’s counter-productive. Plan your content in advance, with a rationale, research, and an amplification plan, and your content is far more likely to have a long and prosperous life.

#4: Dr. Jekyll Is Extremely Empathetic

Just how far would you go to get inside someone else’s head? You might walk a mile in their shoes, as the cliché goes. But honestly, how much can you know about someone just by borrowing their footwear? By that logic, every time I went bowling I’d learn about hundreds of people.

Dr. Jekyll takes empathy to the next level. He transformed himself into Mr. Hyde to learn exactly how a monster thinks. Granted, the experiment didn’t end well, but the lesson is still valid.

Marketers don’t have to undergo a monstrous physical transformation to feel empathy, of course. But we should be striving to learn as much about our audience as we can. That means learning about them beyond their interactions with the brand. The more we can use data to truly know our customers, the more relevant our content will be.

Practice Frighteningly Good Marketing

Sociologists and anthropologists would say that the monsters we create in folklore and fiction survive because they are a reflection of our deepest fears. For example, the wolfman is about loss of control, fearing the beast within us all. Dracula is about the fear of death and disease—and of creepy old guys lurking in castles.

I would argue that these monsters have such enduring power because at the heart of each story is an eternally relevant marketing lesson. Stay tuned for my next horror story, “The Beast that Wouldn’t Stop Sending Boilerplate Sales Emails.”

Is your skill at creating awesome content almost paranormal? Are you terrifyingly good at account management? TopRank Marketing is hiring.

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© Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®, 2017. | 4 Spooky Marketing Lessons from Classic Halloween Monsters |

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