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Think at least part of content-marketing success depends on luck? While you could be partially right, the most experienced industry experts rely on more than just good fortune — they possess just the right combination of big-picture vision and technical know-how to consistently meet their goals, week after week, month after month.
Digital marketing influencer Ann Smarty is one of these skilled experts, with more than 10 years’ worth of experience in the industry.
A community and brand manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas, Ann is also the founder of several successful startups, including MyBlogGuest, MyBlogU, ViralContentBee and many others.
The former editor-in-chief of Search Engine Journal and a prolific blogger, Ann also provides effective online marketing consulting through both paid and free services and courses. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, Entrepreneur, Mashable and many other popular publications. She also manages online communities within the industry, including SEOchat and Threadwatch.
When Ann arrived on the digital-marketing scene in 2006, she was studying in her native Ukraine, where her Internet access was equivalent to that found in 1990s America. In her first endeavor, Ann promoted items her employer was selling on eBay. Soon after, she started her first blog, then her own company. In 2011, she relocated to the United States, and has lit the industry on fire ever since.
All of her success and experience makes Ann a true expert within the content-marketing community. Visme is proud to offer her sage advice to our readers through this ongoing series, in which we answer your most burning questions on all things related to digital marketing and visual communication.
Surprisingly, I don’t use any tool daily, but I do have a few favorite tools I use regularly (no less than once a week):
This growth-hacking tool helps with content brainstorming and optimization. I love using it for content ideas (especially their question and cluster research features). They provide in-depth semantics analysis, allowing you to see related terms, synonyms, etc. It’s my go-to tool whenever I am at a loss for words.
For example, for [writing tools] you’ll see phrases like [best thesaurus app for writers], [improve my writing skills free], [open source creative writing software]. These are great alternative content ideas! Serpstat works best in terms of blog content inspiration.
This tool is the most reliable duplicate content finder out there. I always make sure to check content I am going to publish (including guest posts) to find if it’s original. I also always run it on my own content a few days after publication to find who scraped it.
Buzzsumo is another frequent tool in my writing routine. I often use it to find articles to reference or research which blog posts seemed to have done particularly well in a client’s niche. Its “Content Alerts” feature lets you monitor your brand mentions. You can also use it to monitor content ideas and popular articles on any topic. Very powerful.
This social media sharing tool surprisingly became my #1 social media marketing tool. I say “surprisingly” because I thought I had already had my favorite social media solution by the time I came across it. Yet, it turned out to be so easy and effective that it easily replaced the tools I had been previously using.
Finally, there’s Cyfe, my marketing dashboard that brings everything together. I cannot even begin to count how many widgets I have there. I monitor my social media growth stats, track traffic for lots of websites, have my invoices there, look after my brand name mentions and so much more. Great for productivity!
Creating good content. There’s no way around it. If you could get away without any other thing under the sun (SEO, social media, community building, PPC), without digital content you won’t get anywhere.
Every other marketing tactic starts with content. You cannot generate links without content and you cannot build community without it. So I’d say investing in solid content is the most important and profitable strategy.
If I were to get more specific and talk about tactics versus strategies, I’d say influencer-powered content is the most efficient in terms of building awareness, traffic and leads. Invite influencers to participate in webinars, online events and podcasts. This will likely turn your business around if you do it consistently and put a lot of effort into promoting that content and building connections with influencers.
Being helpful in various ways is probably the most efficient way to build a community. Answer customers’ questions, provide real-time support and try to avoid selling but focus on being out there.
As for some tactical ideas:
No matter how many projects I start, I am always overwhelmed by how much should be done at the beginning. From basic but important things (name, domain and logo) to huge undertakings (like setting up a blog and publishing the first batch of content so as not to launch it empty).
Even if you try to find a good checklist, you’ll still be overwhelmed because those lists tend to be huge! I have found this one very helpful, especially if you are at the very start of setting up a web presence. I like that it gives a variety of options without overwhelming the reader.
I have also created my own list to help myself and others get started. I did my best to make it very simple and clutter-free!
SEO is not really rocket science. In many cases, it can be handled in-house with a one-man team managing different angles of it. Unless you have a huge site (in which case you probably have people managing it anyway), SEO comes down to common-sense things:
What am I trying to say here? Don’t be intimidated. You will most likely only need help if your website is huge and complicated (or already in trouble with Google and its filters). Otherwise, just spend some time slowly getting into it and you’ll save a lot of money by handling it in-house.
You may need some help down the road (the link-building aspect of it), but you’ll be able to smartly approach tasks if you already have some understanding of SEO and how it works.
The team I once built. I am a strong believer that one cannot be successful without a talented and motivated team, and I am most grateful for those who have helped me create a successful project. I hope we have many huge projects ahead together!
When I started blogging, the most common piece of advice was to publish a 500-word-long article with some keywords in it. When I used some screenshots and charts, everyone was amazed at how creative I was 🙂
These days, content has become much more in-depth and visual. It’s a welcome change. We recommend focusing on quality, referencing niche experts and creating original images.
On the other hand, it was easier for small businesses when I started. These days, content is getting much more expensive, so corporations with huge marketing budgets start winning. It’s a sad trend.
I’d say, the web is still a place where anyone can get heard by being diligent and creative. You just need to put much more effort into it than you would have needed 10 years ago.
Here are the main components I usually focus on:
As for mistakes, focusing on the wrong campaign performance metrics (number of social media shares, direct social media traffic, etc.) is the biggest mistake businesses often make.
If you focus mainly on those metrics, you’ll start spending a lot of time and effort pursuing immediately visible milestones and miss the bigger picture (trust and community building, authority, alternative traffic sources, etc.).
The future is here! I foresee the following:
Content curation helps relationship building big time, and many curators seem to miss that component.
Simply linking to a good article is not enough: Reinforce that with following the author, tagging him/her properly in your social media updates, crafting tweet quotes and much more. This is where the strongest relationships are built!
Is there an influencer you’d like us to include in a future AMA? Or is there a particular question you’d like us to ask? Let us know in the comments below!
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