16 Dec 2014

25 Subtly-Crafted Marketing Questions To Get B2B Clients Results

You know when you get notified of a new 'list post' publication, you get that blanket of dread envelope you? Especially a post about marketing that purports 'new ideas'?

Well, when Mr Jingles rang for this post from Jay Baer on Google+, I felt that familiar "oh, no, not another 'pointing out the bloody obvious' post" ghost settle around my shoulders.

I should have known better.

Jay's meteoric rise to the very summit of social media mountain hasn't happened by regurgitating crap and simply putting his name, his brand on it.

Like the below Listly list of questions marketing agencies should ask their B2B clients, Jay's knowledge fills a gap. A gap, to be fair, that few acknowledged even existed.

If they did, they kept that insight closer to their chests than a prile of threes.

Not so with Jay's new social marketing steamroller of a concept.

Marketing Budget has to be a consideration

In an ideal world, it would be grand to take on board every aspect of this savvy marketing strategy. But let's be realistic: to accomplish all these tasks, you'd need a dedicated team working your content marketing 24/7. Adopting all of these tactics on a tight budget isn't an option, no matter how much automation your throw at it.

Just last week, we were trying to talk one of our clients around to adapting content curation as part of our service. As it stands, he firmly believes in broadcasting his companies' messages based on what he believes is suitable content. It's old school and, in our opinion, doesn't deliver best bang for his buck. But he's adamant.

With little room for engaging left over once our social bookmarking template has been implemented, we're between a rock and a hard place when it comes to recording results. Analytics only give you a part of the picture. It doesn't show the gratitude or human interaction that analytics cannot unearth.

On the thread on G+, I've asked Jay what he does when faced with budgeting restrictions. As a marketer, we instinctively know what's good for brand building. Heck, we've done our own and know the pitfalls.

How do you 'convince and convert' naysayers or those on tight budgets?

What we cannot do is hold a shotgun to our clients' heads and tell them not to expect results if they don't implement strategies a, b and c. They are the paymaster and sometimes no amount of persuasion will break their habits.

Take a good look at this list of questions Jay asks his clients, as much to get an idea of where they are as where he and his team want them to be. Then ask yourself how you'd convince a client that they need to spend accordingly to reap the benefits of social media marketing done right. It's a tough ask, but I'd love to hear what you've got to say.

Are you writing for the click-thru or organic search?

There are two very different motivators for clicking through to read a piece of content. On social, you have to draw the audience in with a clickable headline. For organic search, it's subtly different.

Trustflow is a major factor for ranking your website. And it's a two way street. When Google renders your page in SERPs, it's put to the test:

  • How many click-thrus are there compared to impressions?
  • Do people bounce from your page because the title/meta-description doesn't quite hit the mark?
  • Do they go on and share your content? What reaction does that get?

Jay references two tools to check whether you're content is hitting the mark with your audience:

  1. Inbound Writer - you can request a demo;
  2. Atomic Reach - this is the link to the web app, but you can pay for your own software.

Both give you an idea of how on target your copywriting is, in its structure, clarity and focus. We use similar programs, but our focus is on organic search.

Given the semantic web's fast-evolving reality, we use Alchemy API. This shows the concepts, taxonomy, keywords and sentiment of your document.

It also shows relations - this is an area many copywriters overlook. But in a world where Google is joining the dots, making sure Google knows how one entity relates to another is imperative for organic reach.

We also use a clarity - or NLP - app. It's called Hemingway and is the cornerstone of making your content crystal clear. There's a web app, but for $7, it's well worth downloading to your desktop.

You can see how we put these to use in our Semantic X-Ray Slideshare. It's fascinating to see how making your content fluff-free and focused can make a huge difference to what Googlebot understands about your content. Let us know how you get on? Awesome!

image credit: David Castillo Dominici, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

5 Dec 2014

Bing Image Search replaces Clip Art - oh, the potential!

Today, I felt a pang. Right deep down in the Memorabilia Pit of my stomach. Microsoft is ditching Clip Art from Office! Wow, we've had that library since the Commodore 64 morphed into a PC almost overnight. Or at least Windows 95.

And even though loading Clip Art would cause our 256 MB Ram PC to freeze - often - we still loved it to death. Posters, certificates, D-I-Y marketing flyers - we used those sidebar images for just about everything.

But, lo! (in festive voice), the library has closed down. Or at least it has in the US. I've just gone to Insert ► Online Pictures on my Desktop and Clip Art is still there.

Insert Clip Art, Microsoft Word

But, yes. You can source an image for your Word document on desktop, royalty-free and served by Bing's image search.

As the screenshot prompts, Bing/Office is very clear in the action you must take next.

Do check that the image is in the Public Domain if you're going to use it online. Don't just assume that it is okay, just because it's in the results. Yep, a pain. But better safe than sorry.

Bing search for CC2.0 images in MS Word

Did Google's Announcement of Advanced Pixelation Detection Force the Issue?

I suppose it had to follow, though. Only last month, Google Research reported huge strides in image recognition by pixelation, only.

The upshot is that 'alt text' may (big may) at some point become redundant. What's alt text? It's the textual description of an image copywriters and webmasters use in a web page's HTML code.

It tells the page indexer and users with impaired vision what the picture is about. Here's my main domain Blavatar, as an example:

Featured image selections in WordPress
Search engines may otherwise use alt text as a way to confirm their algorithms' pixelated assessment of a digital image. This, in my opinion, would make more sense.

The guys and gals at the research lab will keep plugging away. Results aren't perfect, yet - but they're getting there.

But until Google is confident in the new tool, what an opportunity we have, though, eh?

Image Search - so underutilised

So. What do we know about Bing Image Search that we can use?

Microsoft Office will rely on CC1.0 Universal images gathered by Bing to replace its Clip Library. That's a massive data gathering tool, collecting images from the web.

Those images will then be displayed for MS Office users to add into their documents. Straight forward, right?

So, what if we could get images from our sites beamed into the offices of millions of, mm, Office users around the world!? There's no reason whatsoever why we can't, in theory.

Including an accurate description of your image is even more important following Microsoft's announcement. But even before this news, people were lax in alt text implementation and undervalued image search as traffic resource.

Am I just making all of this up? I am so not. Here's why.

This is a snapshot of stats for a WordPress blog post, a site to which I've not posted anything new in a year, or more. It gets regular trickles of traffic, all the same. And it's always the same source: image search drawing a huge proportion of the page's on-page views:

Screenshot showing traffic referrers, visits and target image of bikini wax

Okay - you can make up your own mind about what users are searching for. I've obfuscated it here, but it is clearer on the original web page. Swiftly moving on…

So, how do you include 'alt text' and a CC1.0 license in your HTML Markup?

I'm everso glad you asked. It's not obvious, because there seems no way to pull it off in HTML5 [citation needed]. But there is a way in RDFa.

There's a full and detailed guide on the Creative Commons Labs website, but this is all you need to know for now.

The rel= markup in HTML tells a web crawler the relationship between the entity you're wrapping in code to an off-site source. We want to tell Bing's crawler that our image is CC1.0 so that it can display the images on our site in Office, right? Darn tootin'!

To make sure their crawler knows what your image is and that they can use it, we need to insert two snippets of code into the HTML:
  1. rel="license" + URL of where the license lives;
  2. alt="description", which is the description of the image;
  3. width="XXX", set to the width of your template or narrower if wrapping image in text;
  4. and, of course, you have to link to the image source, be it on your CMS' server or online elsewhere.
First of all, the license information wraps around the image information. That's very important! Next, decide which license you want (and find its CC URL) and create an appropriate title for your image.

Next, get the URL of the image. If it's online, right-click the image and click "Copy Image URL".

You must ensure that you can redistribute this image and use the appropriate CC license! Or, if you're uploading via the dashboard, do so and pop into the HTML editor of your page.

You can then start building your code.

If you don't write code in any way, Creative Commons provides a tool that will create an embeddable Public Domain image HTML code.

If you are comfortable with HTML, at least a little, your code will look something like this:

screenshot of creative commons license in HTML image markup

That's the code in this post that I entered for the 'Stats/Bikini Wax' image, above. The wrapper is on the top line and finishes with </a> (end anchor).

The source of the URL, its alt text and width are in there, too. And, yes - you can put a separate 'title' in, too. And, Bing-go! It works.

Toolbox Tip: There is, of course, a pay off. If you're marking your images as in the Public Domain, you can't moan when other people use them.

That said, the image search feature in MS Word does allow users to filter images by license. If you don't want to waive all rights to your pictures, opt for CC2.0.

The odds are, images in the public domain will be generic. They'll not be a close enough representation of what the user wants if they want to look professional. That's great from a competition view for us, not so good for the user.

They may well then choose to search images by CC2.0 license, instead. This means they must attribute the image they use. If you'd prefer your images showing up in this search instead, in the markup, point the href to the Creative Commons CC2.0 URL, instead.

How do different CMS platforms handle images?

Screenshot - insert image, Blogger
If you're using Blogger, WordPress or Tumblr, each has their own way of allowing you to upload your picture.

You can add a picture via an online URL* or upload from your desktop or Google Drive (in the case of Blogger, left).

Each CMS will then prompt you for the alt text, or 'title', of the image.

In WordPress, they also offer the chance to choose a featured image, with a lengthier description for it. This is perfect for inclusion in the new Bing clip library. See my Blavatar of zebedeerox above for those details.

Screenshot insert image into Tumblr photo post*On Tumblr, it will depend upon the type of post you're creating - image, text, quote, etc.

One type will let you upload an image from your desktop. Others will let you include an image from a URL - that's using their image upload facility in the dashboard.

If you choose a Tumblr photo post, you have the choice of upload, URL or even taking a webcam shot to load into the post.

Of the three, I find Tumblr's visual editor the least user friendly to work with, so always write my posts in HTML.

Toolbox Tip: You can also set the "e-mail posts" facility to HTML by default in settings.

Do not see this as an opportunity to SPAM the search engines

One word of caution, though. Don't try to use this additional description space as a way to fit spammy keywords in. They've not said so yet, but if I know Google, they're planning something extra with the new pixelation technology.

You and I both know that Google wants its customers to have the best search experience, right? That covers all mediums - web, video, news and images. If you're trying to game search by cramming in keywords or using an inaccurate description of your image you will get punished!

Oh - and a secondary word of caution. As you've guessed, image search is becoming a lot more accurate. Owners of images and marketers and copyright standards can and do scan the web for illegal use of someone else's copyright.

As the Microsoft Office blog post warns us, always check the Creative Commons license on an image before you use it. Whilst Bing no doubt does everything it can to ensure it only serves Public Domain images, there will be oversights.

The onus is on you as the publisher of the content to give credit where it's due for any images you use. Now that Clip Art has hung up its brushes, don't try and pull any strokes, right?

all image credits: Jason Darrell/The Flying Feck