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5 Things You Must Know About B2B Content Marketing

Monday, July 18th, 2011

*Guest post by Matt Krautstrunk…

I used to think B2B marketing was B2C’s ugly sister. I was obsessed with consumer facing marketing initiatives and branding strategy. So naturally, I took a job as a B2B content marketer, and I learned that while B2B isn’t sexy, my creative spirit can still shine.

So when I began learning about B2B content marketing, I struggled with finding the secret sauce. I began tracking analytics on our site’s content, figured out what other companies actually wanted to read, and learned the most important rule of them all: content for the sake of content is useless.

A B2B audience isn’t searching for “sexy marketing,” with simple, branded web 2.0 messages (Salesforce is about as close as B2B comes to sexy); the B2B buyer is more sophisticated, looking for informational articles, blogs and anything that may or may not give them incentive to buy.

1. Don’t Sell

If you’ve ever seen Harry Potter, almost no witch or wizard dare speak of Lord Voldemort’s name. Well the same concept applies to content marketing, never mention the word, “buy our product.” It sets off the SPAM filters in the reader’s head, discrediting your content and slandering your name. Even if your goal is to guide purchase decisions with your company, don’t treat your readers like sheep. If they are interested, they will find you.

Of course your strategy differs with the type of content you are marketing (blog, article, whitepaper, buyer guide), but I’m often even scared to plug my company if it’s not in the bio. If you are a content marketer, speak with your voice and credit your own name, but have the company back your opinions and insights. This will help your credibility and the overall effectiveness of your content.

2. Statistics Are Your Backbone

In B2B marketing, there can never be enough statistics. Managers love them, creative writers loathe them, and researchers just… research them. Statistics are your backbone for all arguments you will make in B2B content marketing. Looking for reasons to get into content marketing? According to Junta42, in 2009, content marketing spending comprised of 33% of the total marketing budget and 60% of marketers believe that number will increase. This survey was taken in 2009, and content marketing was on the rise; I’d imagine if we surveyed the scene after Panda we’d see much more emphasis on unique content.

Regardless, you should invest in R&D. You should test out new content within the buying cycle and strategically launch your content like you would launch a new product.

3. Say It Only When You Need To

Sites that post content for the sake of posting something are often filled with low level jargon. It’s rare that your company would ever outsource its blog material, but many companies outsource their on-site page content. Does this make sense? From an SEO standpoint, more content is always better. But the real question is where the line cross between content quality and quantity. Does it serve you better to have 100 pages of optimized, poor content, or 20 pages of well written copy? The answer is, it all depends. If it needs to be said, say it, and be weary of poorly written outsourced content.

4. Don’t Copy Your Competitors

Copying a competitor’s strategy is a dumb idea. Whether you are taking basic ideas and repurposing them or blatantly stealing content (which Google will punish you for); always know that competing with yourself is easier than competing with other. Marketers get rewarded for paving new paths, not following old trails.

5. Plan Your Content for a Channel

Each channel views and interacts with your content in a different way. Short, concise content does well on mobile, where as more drawn out research oriented conclusions register for trade publications. If you are set to produce a white paper for lead generating purposes you will want to plan out where you will be hosting your white paper (longtail niche site or commercial site with universal appeal) and what topic it will cover before you finalize the draft. You don’t want to make the mistake of writing a “VoIP 101” article for a niche community like TMCNet.

Taking a channel approach to your content, shying away from duplicate content, and saying it only when you need to say it, are all instruments to the success of your content marketing. However, remember to keep your sales pitch at the door, and delivering timely, valuable, statistic-backed information to your audience will keep you relevant with the opportunity to go viral.


Matt Krautstrunk is a writer and social media marketer for Resource Nation, a service that provides document management software tips and tools to small businesses and entrepreneurs.

 


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Link Variety or Link Relevance?

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

Over at WebProWorld this question caught my attention:

One of my ways of getting links for my sites is posting articles on blogs. I submit these articles to a site and they publish them on blogs relevant to these articles. So if I write an article about guitar playing, this article is published on blogs dealing with guitars/guitar lessons/ etc.

I have written a good amount of articles for my guitar site, and they are published on guitar blogs, I get a good few links that way, but they are coming from the same blogs. I was wondering, if I keep on doing this, would it be better, seo wise, to write less relevant articles, say about jazz music or something like that. That way I would be getting links from different blogs.

So my question is:
What is better, getting 50 links from 10 different blogs that are very relevant to my site, or getting 50 links from 50 different blogs that are less relevant to my site?

Here is my response, in a little more detail than I answered in the forum post itself:

I would take a 3-step approach. First, get good coverage in those blogs (and other websites) that are highly keyword relevant. Relevance is perhaps the most important factor for SEO. In this case, his main keyword was “guitars”.  He had submitted articles to all those blogs that were specifically about guitars.  In so doing, he had built up a strong message for the search engines that his guitar site is one that is respected by other sites in the niche.  That is a strong ranking signal.  He now has links at a number of “guitar” websites:

G G G G G G

 

Endorsed by guitarists.

 

But he has not sent a signal that his site is respected by others beyond his niche, but related enough that they really ought to know.

So step two is to submit his articles to websites that cover related topics, such as music in general, musical instruments in general, various forms of music, etc.  He could easily write articles about rock or country or some other types of music that involve guitars, for instance.  The search engines value keyword relevance, but they also value topical relevance (and don’t forget that many of these music sites will have the word “guitar” mentioned here and there.).

Plus, they value a wide variety of linking domains.  Getting a link on many music websites broadens the variety in his link profile, while solidifying the authority in his niche (because music, rock and country are still in his niche).  His link profile now looks more like:

G G G G G G

M M R M R M C M R M C C M M M C C M R C M C M M R M M M C

 

 

Now you’re endorsed by the whole band.

 

Now, on to step three.  Since one of the ranking signals the search engines look for is how widely popular a website is, find ways of writing about other topics that a more diverse blogging community will be interested in.  First define our target.  If you use the Free Traffic System, as I do (see my Free Traffic System review), you can search for blogs by keyword, and easily see which words bring up the most number of blogs, and even what types of topics they cover (some “music” blogs might only cover very specific niches, whereas others might cover anything music-related.) You can also use a Google or Bing search or search one of the larger blog directories. Let’s take a common example – there are a lot of MMO  (make money online) blogs out there.  OK.  How can you write an article about guitars that an MMO blog would want to publish?

Easy.  Prepare a video about guitars to post on YouTube in order to draw traffic to your site.  Next write an article about how you posted a video on YouTube to draw traffic to your guitar site.  Make sure to explain how you portrayed the guitars or how video is a great medium for showing off guitars – just to make sure your article about making money online is also an article about guitars.

So he should identify each target set of blogs and figure out what he can write about that will be about guitars (or whatever your main keyword is) but also about their niche.  All of a sudden, the link profile starts to look more like this:

G G G G G G

M M R M R M C M R M C C M M M C C M R C M C M M R M M M C

n y e d c g y o p s j q c x j d b i m l j e d s a r t h y u v q l o j y z h u y l p a s r c b v e q j h y t f v x s a k f d h u j m n r s w a g c e w b g k l u q i o v r s

 

Now the whole crowd is cheering for you!

 

Wow!  Let’s review what the search engines see when you follow this approach to link-building:

  1. Websites just like yours link to you.  That is an expert endorsement.
  2. Websites related to yours link to you.  Lot’s of them.  That is quite an impressive endorsement, too.
  3. Lots and lots of websites of all kinds link to you.  Your website is profoundly popular.  It must be good.

Now go out and show everybody what an amazing website you run.

 

 


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Article Spinning – Spin like a pro

Monday, November 15th, 2010

In my review of the “Free Traffic System” (FTS), I recommended spinning manually your articles before submitting them through FTS or through any other article submission program. And I promised to share with you some advance spinning tips. This blog post is divided into two parts:

1. Why manual spinning is superior to an automated spinning program.

2. Exactly what to do to manually spin an article – my advanced spinning tips.

For those who are new to this topic, let me quickly review what spinning is. Those already in the know can skip to the first sub-heading below.

The [spin]beautiful|wonderful[/spin] thing about [spin]nature|outdoors[/spin] is the fresh feeling you get.

The sentence above is, technically, four different sentences. When this sentence is fed through an article submitter that recognizes spin code (This is the particular syntax used in FTS, but the principle is universal), it comes out as four different “unique” sentences at four different article directories or blogs:
The wonderful thing about outdoors is the fresh feeling you get.
The wonderful thing about nature is the fresh feeling you get.
The beautiful thing about outdoors is the fresh feeling you get.
The beautiful thing about nature is the fresh feeling you get.

The math is simple: two words, each with two options, creates 4 “unique” sentences. The value in this is to ensure that the hundreds of articles pointing back to your site are not duplicate content, which is supposed to be frowned upon by the search engines’ algorithms. Try this one:

The [spin]beautiful|wonderful|amazing[/spin] thing about [spin]nature|outdoors[/spin] is the fresh feeling you get.

Two words multiplied by three options gives 6 “unique” sentences. Why do I put “unique” in quotation marks? That’s in the next section, but the theory of spinning leads to the conclusion that you are getting past whatever duplicate content filter the search engines might place on the pages linking back to your website. One more…

The [spin]beautiful|wonderful|amazing[/spin] thing about [spin]nature|outdoors[/spin] is the fresh [spin]feeling|sensation[/spin] you get. A [spin]holiday|vacation|trip[/spin] out of doors will [spin]refresh|relax|reinvigorate|benefit[/spin] you more than you can [spin]imagine|dream[/spin].

The concept of article spinning, just to belabour the point one more time, holds that just with this one paragraph spun as above, there will be 192 “unique” articles (3x2x2x2x4x2) on 192 websites, each one pointing links back to your website.

That is spinning in a nutshell.

Why bother spinning articles manually?

Before I dive into the benefits of manually spinning, as opposed to using one of the automated or semi-automated article spinners on the market, a big CAVEAT: This is a strategic issue. This is not a rule. Follow my logic, then make your decision, because there are trade-offs involved. Trade-offs of quantity versus quality. Trade-offs of long term results versus crash-and-burn-results. With a bonus of risk assessment thrown in for good measure.

Article spinning: the story so far…

A) Once upon a time, people would submit articles to the article directories. To both of them, in fact. Search engines loved these content-based links, and all was good.

B) Then, people got smart. Because these were good links that helped sites rank better, more people started writing more articles and more article directories sprang up. Search engines loved these content-based links, and all was good.

C) But people loved these more and more and more and more and the number of articles was multiplying and multiplying and people got even more clever and created submission software so that even more articles could be distributed in a fraction of the time. Ah, the miracle of automation.

And spammers just love miracles and they love automation. Ah, the curse of automation!

This would be a good time to refresh your memory of what search engines are all about. Which is, of course, making money. To make money, they need eyeballs. To keep eyeballs, they need lots of people really liking the search results they deliver, which is why they have meticulously crafted and carefully guarded algorithms. Do they care if people try to maipulate their results? Not really. Do they care if people succeed at manipulating their results? You bet! Let’s look at the three steps above from a search engine company’s perspective:

A) So what?

B) So what?

C) Wait a second, massive link-building can skew our results. Automation makes link-building scalable, especially to spammers, and needs to be balanced out of our algorithms.

And so, the effectiveness of duplicate content in article submissions was (as best we can determine through the observation of thousands) reduced to very little.

A) So people started manually spinning their articles to avoid duplicate content.

B) And some smart person came up with a lazy way to spin, using automation.

C) Spammers, being inherently lazy, caught wind of this as did everyone else, and now everybody is spinning their articles using automation.

And the search engines’ reactions?

A) So what?

B) So what?

C) Wait a second, massive article-spinning can skew our results. Automation makes article-spinning scalable, especially to spammers, and needs to be balanced out of our algorithms.

We don’t know if C) has happened yet or whether it’s on its way, but I can tell you with 99.9% certainty that it is not far away.

At this point, I know that some readers who are using automated spinning programs will dispute this, typically saying, “Well, it’s worked for me so far.” I can’t even begin to count the number of times I have heard this line about one link-building technique or another shortly before the search engines have taken step C. and webmaster forums are filled with the gnashing of teeth from all the people whose websites lost rankings. If you want to build your rankings based on the past (as most people who call themselves “SEO expert” seem to), you can stop reading here.

What I can tell you about the past is that one pattern has proven enduring, and that is the same pattern as you will see in the stock market: when everyone is rushing to buy, that is the time to sell (before the crash). When a particular linking method becomes so scalable through automation that even the spammers are doing it, stop sinking more resources into it.

Let us look, then, more specifically at automated article spinning. It does offer a very seductive advantage over manual spinning. It can be done quickly. In fact, a typical testimonial for article spinning software would be, “It took me minutes to do what it used to take me all day.” So you can do 5-10 articles in the time it takes to do one. The advantage is quantity.

But does it give quality? The very simple spinning examples I gave above in my intro all replace single words with synonyms. Here is a screenshot pitching one popular automated article spinner program:

synonyms

They create “unique” articles, but do they create unique articles. Well, I guess if you can’t find a thesaurus, they create hundreds of unique articles. But what if Google and Bing have thesauruses? What if megalithic Google’s and Bing’s computing power, funded by millions of dollars of capital, is somehow bigger than the computing power of your little $70 article spinning software? Sure, unlikely…but what if? Let’s face it, those four sentences I used as an example in my introduction are not unique – they use synonyms, but they remain the same sentence…and any algorithm drawing data from a thesaurus can see that faster than you or I can.

So quality versus quantity. And when the search engines do devalue duplicate content links with the help of a simple thesaurus, it becomes long-term results versus crash-and-burn results, as all those “unique” links you’ve built are suddenly worth less (not necessarily worthless, but worth less).

But I also mentioned risk assessment earlier. So let’s imagine for a moment that a search engine sees that you have 573 identical articles pointing to your site. Let’s further imagine that the search engine has identified that these are not organically identical, but identical by virtue of synonym manipulation. In other words, duplicate content, disguised as non-duplicate content to try to trick the search engines. If there is one thing we know about Google (and I can only surmise it is likewise with Bing), is that is punishes blatant attempts to trick it – hidden text, doorway pages, concealed links. Perhaps also fake unique articles?

I leave it to you to determine whether Google would consider this deceptive and whether they would do something about it – whether automated article spinning is just poor quality work or whether it actually places your website at risk.

How to manually spin your article

To do what I would consider a quality spin, you need to create articles that are significantly different. By significant, I mean more than just replacing words with their synonyms. In the extreme, this means writing from scratch a brand new article for each place it appears. Yup, one for each of those 573 article directories. Look up the word “unique” in the dictionary.

For those of us who don’t have 1500 hours in a day, the extreme option is not an option. Below is my guide to what I believe is effective in creating articles that are unique, rather than just “unique” with what I view as a reasonable amount of grunt work. Who knows if I am being paranoid or just over-cautious — or perhaps I am not creating articles that are unique enough and these might still be seen as duplicate by a search algorithm. Take what you want and leave the rest.

The title is the most important part of the article to make unique, as it often appears in <title> tags, in a page’s URL, in <H> tags and in links to the page. This is the one place where I’ll sit down and write 100 options from scratch, trying for many variations of style.

Because I am partially lazy, I usually start out with a few styles, such as:

6 ways to enjoy your villa rental
Why a villa rental is tops in accommodation
Villa or hotel?
Choose a vacation villa over a hotel or motel
Six reasons villas are tops
The villa choice for luxury

Then I will rewrite each one, mixing up several elements. For instance, here are some rewrites of the first style:

Six reasons to enjoy your rental villa
Six ways to enjoy your vacation rental villa
6 reasons to enjoy your private villa rental
Six ways to enjoy your private vacation villa
6 ways to enjoy your private rental villa

The first sentence is pretty important, so I tend to write 3 or 4 versions of it in completely different styles…

When you use your credit card, it would be worth stopping to remember that credit card issuers are businesses with shareholders.

Who issues your credit card? A business, of course.

Some folks view credit card issuers almost like quasi-government institutions. Not a chance. They are businesses like any others.

Notice that I totally reworded the first sentence. Each example sets up the second sentence equally well, but notice that the three options are different length, even different number of sentences and, of course, totally different wording. These are completely unique. Mix up not just individual words, but the sentence structure itself.

Do the same for entire paragraphs. Take a paragraph, then rewrite it so that it is shorter. Then rewrite it so that it is two paragraphs. Use some of the same wording if you are feeling rushed or lazy, but remember that the more you change the better.

At least once in your article, rewrite a long paragraph as a short paragraph followed by a bullet list. It helps to create a few versions of the list, changing the order of the bullets and even removing some of them in some versions. Bullet lists are often the easiest to play around with.

When rewriting a word, don’t always choose a single word as a replacement option. For example…

When rewriting a word, don’t always choose a single word as a [spin]replacement option|replacement|replacement option in your article|replacement option, but try to add in more text so that some versions of the article are truly different and unique[/spin].

When creating options, more is better. In 5. above, the example has four options, much better than two. There is a time versus uniqueness trade-off here, but if you can create more than just two or three options, especially in the first few paragraphs, it helps make your articles more unique.

Let’s end with one of the most important places to have variation – your linked text. As much variation around your keywords as possible…but you probably already know that from other link-building efforts. Vary the actually links (link to different pages of your website in different versions, if appropriate), vary the link text, very the surrounding text and vary the order of your links (in some, the home page might be the first link, so make it the second link in others).

Nothing I have had to say here should be taken as “The Truth”. It is my best assessment of the most effective compromise between various trade-offs, based on my experience in SEO since 2003. I just hope it is helpful for people who might seek a similar balance between quantity and quality…and don’t want their “Yippee!”s turn into wailing at the next major algorithm shake-up.

 


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