If this year's digital marketing strategy looks the same as it did two or three years ago, you're likely missing out on new tools and techniques that have made their way into the modern marketing arsenal.
While the core mission of digital marketing remains the same as it always was, changes in how we interact with online content (and the sheer amount of it) have prompted marketers to find new ways to accomplish it.
Social advertising, for example, enables marketers to cut through the noise to deliver information directly to their target—accelerating traditionally slow inbound campaigns.
Tools like this are complimented by strategies that borrow ideas from traditional concepts—like account-based marketing—to make smarter use of marketing budgets by bringing focus to each action you take.
As I explain below, however, you don't have to radically change what you're doing to refresh your marketing strategy in 2018. Even small tweaks can make a measurable impact.
Here are five ideas for improving your digital marketing strategy this year:
1. “Pillarize” your top performing content
The “pillar page” is a new way to organize and present content that has gained traction among marketers throughout the past year. Simply put, it’s a piece of long-form content such as a white paper or eGuide that offers a comprehensive breakdown of a topic and lives un-gated on your website as its own page.
In addition to offering a ton of content itself, pillar pages are typically filled with links to blog posts and other relevant resources that offer readers a way to dive deeper into subtopics. These pages are linked to predominantly on your website and offer their own secondary navigation (such as a floating table of contents) that lets readers jump around on the page.
While the idea of un-gating your best content may seem crazy, early research has shown that conversion rates typically don’t suffer if you offer a downloadable version of the resource on the page and call it out through well-placed calls-to-action.
There are a few reasons pillar pages are becoming a popular among content marketers:
1. It gives order to chaotic blog feeds
The traditional blog feed isn’t ideal when you’re looking for an easy way to browse everything published on a given topic. Pillars solve this problem by centering around the root of a topic, then breaking it down into its subtopics in logical succession on one page. The pillar page offers a summary of each subtopic with links to your blog posts for those who want to wade into the weeds where they choose.
2. It reflects changes in the way Google ranks search results
For years now, Google has been tuning the dials on its search algorithm to better anticipate our intent when we when we search for stuff. This is called “semantic” search since Google is trying to connect semantic cues (associations between the words we use) to anticipate a searcher’s intent.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, here’s a more long-winded albeit well-stated explanation from Moz:
“Semantic search seeks to improve search accuracy by understanding a searcher’s intent through contextual meaning. Through concept matching, synonyms, and natural language algorithms, semantic search provides more interactive search results through transforming structured and unstructured data into an intuitive and responsive database. Semantic search brings about an enhanced understanding of searcher intent, the ability to extract answers, and delivers more personalized results.”
The article I pulled this from is one of the best resources for those who want to dive in and learn more about what semantic search is and how it works. Check that out here. Here's another article that's a little older but still gives a great explanation.
So how do pillar pages fit in?
A good pillar page's linking structure helps the search engine understand the semantic relationship between different pages on a website, helping both your pillar page, and the pages it links to rank better in search results for broader set of search terms.
3. It enables you to see content gaps you might otherwise miss
Simply organizing your content into a cluster of subtopics surrounding a root topic can help you realize what you haven’t covered that may be relevant to your audience. This can be especially helpful for those who’ve been blogging for a while and are struggling to fill out their content calendar with compelling ideas.
This all might sound well and good, but how do you actually go about creating one of these things?
Start by circling your top performing blog posts and consider what core topic you can extract from them to expand into a pillar page. Then brainstorm as many relevant subtopics you can and conduct keyword and content research on each of them to pull out those that garner attention among your audience and slot them into your content calendar.
To help you visualize what these pages look like, here’s a few examples I find to be particularly strong from a content, design and UX perspective:
- Typeform’s Guide to Customer Success
- HubSpot’s Guide to Instagram Marketing
- HelpScout’s Guide to Acquiring Customers with Email
- GatherContent’s Project Guide to UX Design and Content Strategy
2. Optimize high-traffic, low-conversion content
If your list of top trafficked blog posts isn’t identical to your top converting blog posts, chances are you’re missing opportunities to capture leads due to misaligned mid-funnel next actions on those posts.
Here’s what to do:
Note the posts that should be getting more conversions based on the relative traffic they receive and consider how to optimize them one-by-one to encourage readers to jump into your funnel with a more logical “next-step” offer.
As competition for organic reach continues to grow, it’s far easier to optimize what’s already ranking well rather than investing your time trying to start from scratch, so depending on how popular that article is, you may want to consider a whole new mid-funnel piece perfectly aligned with the topic of the particular post.
Consider your arsenal of current mid-funnel content offers and ask yourself whether any of them genuinely fit as a logical next step in the context of the post in question. If a clear winner doesn’t emerge, put yourself in your readers’ shoes and think about what kind of content offer would compel you to take action based on what you just read.
If the post offers tips for solving a problem, for example, consider writing a guide (or creating some other form of content) that describes or demonstrates how your product or service can provide the solution you just laid out in the post (and why it does it best).
3. Supplement inbound marketing with account-based marketing (ABM)
Account based marketing is a whole approach to marketing onto itself, but it can also be used to supplement and accelerate inbound marketing. If you’re new to ABM, this article does a great job summing it up, but here’s the nutshell summary I like most:
“ABM streamlines your sales and marketing teams, focusing their attention on highly-targeted prospective customers. So instead of blasting a free white paper out to thousands of leads hoping that a handful of potential buyers will engage with your business, you’re specifically looking to give your free white paper out to particular decision-makers at key accounts.”
A hybrid inbound/ABM approach can be especially useful for B2Bs with long, complex sales cycles that need to engage multiple decision-makers within an account. The idea is to personalize your marketing strategy to nurture each of those people on their own, treating the account as a discrete campaign.
Since this can take a lot of work, it’s best to start with just a couple of “dream accounts” your sales team can highlight. Put together a free analysis or eGuide addressing a specific problem or challenge for the account and reach out to garner a personal connection with key contacts.
From there, you can use re-marketing or a more personal outreach strategy to nudge decision-makers at your targeted accounts through your sales funnel and track which pages and content they’re engaging with to inform each action you take—especially as you get closer to closing.
4. Tweak your website for better conversion rates
Refreshing your marketing strategy doesn’t always have to center around big new ideas. Sometimes the low-hanging fruit can get lost in the shuffle. There may be some incredibly simple website tweaks you can make, for example, that could help you boost conversion rates among visitors with next to no work.
Take a look at the most trafficked pages of your website and consider whether you’re offering opportunities to convert and whether the opportunities you do provide are actually relevant to the page.
Here are some simple tips for making conversion opportunities more compelling:
• Add a dose of social proof
Social proof, or the “audience effect,” is the tendency for people to conform to the actions of others when they can assume those actions are good actions. In other words, people are compelled do things they see other people doing and enjoying. This third-party validation can be a very powerful motivator for site visitors and only requires a strong, resonant testimonial. Consider where you can add social proof to your marketing assets to drive conversions.
• Update your CTA designs
Like almost every component of website design, calls-to-action can get old and stale, especially when they're used over and over again in your marketing assets. To put it bluntly, the magic of even the best designs fade and start to go ignored when they’re used in too many places for too long. This article does an awesome job showing how button design on the web have evolved over the years.
• Align CTAs with appropriate pages
Too many websites plaster the same offer across every page. In the most extreme examples of this, what might come off as laziness will look downright click-desperate. Not a good look. Be sure there’s a method to your madness when applying offers to your site pages. If you have a variety of them at your disposal, take full advantage of your work by following a few simple steps:
1. Map all of your offers to each stage in your sales cycle. For example, a free trial of your software would probably be a better fit for a lead who is closer to making a purchasing decision than a first-time visitor to your website, who may be better suited to a higher-level educational guide of some sort.
2. After you've mapped your offers to your sales cycle, do the same for the pages on your website. Use a combination of common sense and available marketing analytics to determine how each page on your website aligns with the stages you identified in the previous step. For instance, if you know that your blog attracts a lot of new visitors, you would probably associate those pages of your website with site visitors in the awareness stage of the sales process, not the purchase stage.
3. Once you've mapped your offers and your website pages to the different stages in your sales cycle, place your calls-to-action where they belong and compare the results after giving it some time.
5. Accelerate your inbound campaigns through targeted social ads
If you haven’t experimented with social ads yet, this should definitely be your year. Despite Facebook and other companies scaling back the more creepy parts of their ad tools in the wake of recent privacy concerns, Facebook and LinkedIn still have incredibly strong ad platforms that let you push the fast forward button at every stage of your funnel by targeting a precise audience with relatively un-intrusive sponsored posts that appear in the newsfeed.
Check out our webinar to learn how to build these campaigns yourself.
While LinkedIn is an obvious match for a professional audience, Facebook might feel like a strange fit. The numbers might surprise you. The median amount of time spent on Facebook by business decision makers each day is 74% higher than other people on the platform.
What’s more, the stigma of Facebook being a poor fit for B2B might work to the advantage of those that go against the grain. A study by Hotwire Global found that 1 in 4 respondents cite Facebook as their preferred social media platform when seeking information on a purchasing decision, ranking it ahead of LinkedIn and Twitter. The report also found that almost a third of marketers do not plan to use Facebook in their own B2B marketing, leaving a huge gap for those that take advantage of it.
Facebook ads have the added benefit of the lowest cost per click among other social networks and still has a frighteningly massive breadth of data to to help B2B marketers reach the right people.
For those planning their first social ad campaign, try using the basic targeting options that lend themselves particularly well to B2B:
- Industry: Find users who work in or have browsing habits that align with your industry
- Job Titles and/or Seniority: Using job titles or seniority can put your ad in front of a person with the power to buy or those who influence decision makers
- Interest: Target people based on what they have expressed interest on while they’re online
- Business Size: Target people most likely to need your B2B product or services based on their business size
Want to get even more targeted with social ads? Check out our recent webinar on advanced targeting techniques and learn how to accelerate your sales cycle at each stage of the buyer's journey ⤵
HOW TO GET MORE OUT OF INBOUND MARKETING WITH SOCIAL MEDIA ADVERTISING
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- How to target your ideal buyer persona and set a realistic ad budget.
- How to use your existing content to drive leads through social advertising.
- How to set up and integrate in-app lead generation forms.
- And more!