It's been a little bit since our last roundup. In the past few months, we've done a little reorganization of our blog. Feel free to peruse our new topic categories at your leisure. In that same spirit, the Inbound Ideas Monthly Roundup has also gone through a bit of a re-imagining. Everything Northcutt does revolves around adding value, and we wanted our monthly roundup to meet that same expectation. As such, future roundups will be organized a bit differently. In each of the sections, we will break down the top content into subsections that include Insight, Instruction, and News. In addition to a quick summary of the article that we've always included, we will now also include Northcutt insight on the content of the article. We think that this new format will make it easier for readers to identify the posts that have the most value to them personally. All right. No more talk. We'll let you jump right into the best inbound marketing content from the Summer of 2017.
Summary: When a user uses Google to search for the answer to a question, many times they return a search result in a special block at the top of the results page. That's called a featured snippet. Ahfefs looked at two million of these to figure out the scope of their impact on the search landscape.
Northcutt Insight: If you do even a few Google searches a day, you are well accustomed to seeing Google's featured snippets. However, you may be surprised by their impact. The goal of a featured snippet is to give a user an answer to their question as quickly and efficiently as possible. In other words, Google is trying to save you a click. And research shows that it's working. With the large majority of pages shown as a featured snippet already ranking on page one, that may not be a good thing.
OK, Google: Should I Focus on Voice Search in 2017? - by Seer Interactive
Summary: Voice search is the shiny new toy in the SEO industry, but is it worth making part of your current strategy? Long story short, no.
Northcutt Insight: Convincing clients to pay for marketing is all about attribution and showing a return on investment. The data from this discussion of Seer employees shows that we are not there yet. The biggest issues are a lack of ability to search the web on many voice-activated devices, a lack of usage, and a lack of data. At this point, it's worth keeping an eye of voice search, but we wouldn't commit major resources just yet.
How to Build SEO Strategies Effectively (and Make Them Last) - by Bill Sebald
Summary: Starting with identifying your company's vision and goals through understanding your audience and the competitive landscape, this post walks you through setting up the foundation for an SEO strategy that will last.
Northcutt Insight: One of the article's key points is the major difference between SEO strategy and SEO tactics. While tactics and quick results may speak to the masses, strategy and long-term planning are the best ways to accomplish your SEO goals. At Northcutt, we have long espoused the benefits of the latter. In this post from the archives, we also touch on this idea of the importance of knowing the difference between strategy vs. tactics.
40 Technical SEO Mistakes -- SEMrush Study 2017 - by SEMrush
Summary: A look at the most common SEO mistakes ranked by severity and divided into groups based on crawlability, technical SEO, and on-page SEO.
Northcutt Insight: This is a nice topical look at the numbers and the issues without much insight, but if you download the complete PDF guide: The Ultimate Site Audit with SEMrush, that "includes information about the 'nature' of each of the errors discussed, their impact on your website's health and tips on how to fix them."
Summary: In June, after twenty-one years covering digital and search marketing, Danny Sullivan announced that he is stepping down from his role as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media (Search Engine Land, Marketing Land, and other sites).
Northcutt Insight: Danny Sullivan is an industry titan. He's been in the search game since the beginning and seen it all. His unique level of experience and insight will certainly be missed. Wishing you the best on your next venture, Danny!
Summary: In six years, Buffer has grown its monthly blog visits to over 1.5 million. Here's how they used audience, cadence, and promotion to reach this level of success.
Northcutt Insight: We see Buffer blog posts shared all over social media. We've shared quite a few of these posts ourselves. This isn't dumb luck. Buffer created a winning strategy by starting with a strong focus on creating content that their audience craved, publishing consistently and planning ahead, and finally, by focusing on promotion. And most importantly, they never forget their old blog posts. This post is a nice look at a content strategy that has already worked.
We Analyzed 100 Million Headlines. Here's What We Learned (New Research) - by Steve Rayson
Summary: Buzzsumo combed through all their data and analyzed one hundred million headlines to see what leads to the most content shares on Facebook and Twitter.
Northcutt Insight: The results were not completely surprising, but they definitely highlighted the similarity and standardization of headlines in the Buzzfeed era. "Will make you" is the phrase most commonly found in popular headlines. "This is why" and "This is how" are also big ones. As a content creator, it's worth remembering that the super creative and unique headline you came up with may sound great to you, but research shows that people are likely to click on headlines that fit a certain pattern.
Brafton 2017 Content Marketing Benchmark Report - by Brafton
Summary: Brafton examined Google Analytics data from 181 websites from 2015 to 2016. They used this data to establish industry benchmarks that examined metrics such as browser usage, bounce rate, traffic type by device, and a variety of other factors.
Northcutt Insight: These were some very interesting factoids in this report. When it comes to Google Analytics, it was quite surprising to see that they found only 75% of websites surveyed had active goal tracking. And despite all the talk about mobile, 70% of traffic is still coming from desktop devices. And what about social? It's not driving as much traffic as your home page. The lesson here is that you should definitely not forget about desktop and your website even as you increase your focus on mobile and social.
Paint by Numbers: Using Data to Produce Great Content - by Russ Jones
Summary: What do you do when you've finished your "task of turning a list of keywords into website copy?" The answer is in your site. Or more specifically, the answer is in your site's data.
Northcutt Insight: There's a lot of fluff content out there these days. And by fluff content, I mean content that is written just for the sake of being written. It doesn't offer any real value to the readers. It just fills a self-prescribed quota for content creation. Instead of writing the same posts that everyone else writes, you can find the stories in your unique data and use it to create content that resonates with readers. This is done by exposing the data, making it relatable, and using it to surprise your readers.
10 Things You Need to Do After You Publish Your Blog Post - by Mary Fernandez
Summary: No matter how great the content you create is, people aren't going to see it without a little extra encouragement. From starting with a teaser email to refreshing your content down the line, this post offers up ten key things you need to do after you hit that publish button.
Northcutt Insight: It's well documented that you can't finish a blog post, simply hit publish, and never think about it again. That's an easy way to ensure that great content performs horribly. I particularly like the suggestion of finding your content a home on Quora by answering the relevant questions. Many times these Quora questions will rank higher on Google than the content you've created to rank for that very question.
A Comprehensive Guide to Social Media ROI - by Sarah Dawley
Summary: This comprehensive guide from Hootsuite defines social media ROI, explains why it's important to measure, and then shows you how to measure it as well as the tools to use.
Northcutt Insight: These days it seems like every business 'has' to be on social media. And for many businesses, there is good reason. However, it is not wrong to ask, how does this make my company money or add value? This guide in particular is nice because it doesn't stop at the usual few tips, but instead walks you through the entire process from implementation to tracking to reporting to presenting all the data to executives. And showing the importance of reading an entire article, one of the most valuable parts of this guide is at the end. Making adjustments. Things will never go perfectly the first time.
How to Legally Use Images in Your Social Media Marketing - by Sarah Kornblet
Summary: The importance of using images in blog posts is well documented, but not only is it lazy to just do a Google Image search and grab the first picture you like, you may be violating copyright laws. This post offers some key tips to help you avoid unknowingly getting your business into hot water.
Northcutt Insight: When it comes to the ownership of online content, the internet definitely has a Wild West feel to it. Whatever steps photographers take to protect their images, it seems like there is someone out there trying to undermine those efforts. That being said, much of, if not most of, the unauthorized use or alteration of images happens casually with a "right click and copy image" or simply not understanding the licensing rules on free photo websites. If you know the rules and pay attention, you should be fine.
The Q2 2017 Sprout Social Index - by Sprout Social
Summary: Sprout Social surveyed 1,000 people and asked them a variety of questions pertaining to the tone and content of brands on social media. Here are their takeaways Be funny, but don't get too snarky.
Northcutt Insight: While the none of the data is completely surprising, it should serve as an important reminder of what consumers expect from businesses on social media. While going viral may seem fun and worth pursuing, how does it help your customers. Ultimately, your consumers prefer that you're honest, friendly, and helpful. It's important to remember that while people may want brands to be funny, are they actually making purchases from these funny brands?
How Enamel Pins Are Using Instagram To Take Over The World - by David Pemberton
Summary: You may not have heard of Pinlord, but the one-hundred thousand people who follow his Instagram account sure have. Here's how Eduardo Morales is using Instagram to sell his enamel pins and changing the social-selling game.
Northcutt Insight: ecommerce businesses have been chasing the holy grail of social selling for a while now. Regardless of your goals, knowing the right social network to be on is vitally important. So, not only did the creative and visual nature of enamel pins lend themselves to the presentation style of Instagram, more importantly, Instagram is where the intended audience of those pins lived. As with many things in life, success may be defined by taking advantages of the right opportunity at the right moment in time. Instagram's time as a selling platform is here and visual businesses creating strong communities are primed to take advantage.
The Future of Social Media Is Here: These Are the Trends You Need to Know - by Marcus Andrews
Summary: As social media changes, many social media marketers are not changing with it. From new channels to new technology to paying for your presence, here's a look at what you should expect from the industry moving forward.
Northcutt Insight: It's easy to focus on Twitter and Facebook and forget about the other emerging social networks, but that would be short-sighted. If your brand is visual, Instagram and Pinterest make sense. If your audience skews younger, you may want to check out Snapchat. With an influx of video, mobile, and AI, the future of social media won't just be about having a profile, it will be about knowing what the right content is for the right audience on the right social network.
Summary: Twitter is targeting small and medium businesses with a new subscription service that will promote both your account and tweets for $99 per month.
Northcutt Insight: It's been clear for a while now that people love Twitter, but getting people, or businesses, to pay for Twitter hasn't proven easy. I call it the Twitter conundrum. To many users, promoted tweets feel like an intrusion into their feed, the result of that being that businesses were paying for a negative interaction when they promoted tweets. However, with many businesses hearing echoes on Twitter and searching for ROI to justify their use of the social network, this could be a nice, low-effort to drive results. With Twitter providing a report card each month, it should be easy to determine what, if any, value this new program drives.
Summary: By this point, you probably know the story. A college kid name Carter how many RTs it would take to get free chicken nuggets for a year. Wendy's responded with the impossible to reach, "18 million." That never happened, but Carter did get his nuggs and a Twitter world record.
Northcutt Insight: There are a lot of important lessons here. First, Wendy's had fun with their social media account, something which they have been applauded for doing in the past. They could have easily ignored this tweet out of the many thousands a day they get, but they didn't. And once they answered, they didn't just move on and let him flounder, they supported his efforts. They threw their collective might behind Carter. What I found interesting was how quickly other major brands piggybacked onto Wendy's social win, offering Carter free trips and various other incentives, some not even tied to a successful RT campaign, and even Ellen jumping in and turning it into a charitable effort. While it's almost impossible to predict what will grab this sort of online attention, once that attention has been grabbed, Wendy's proved there is plenty you can do to nurture it.
How to Leverage Gated Content to Boost Conversions - by Victor Ijidola
Summary: Requiring users to fill out a form before being able to access premium content is a time-tested lead-generation strategy. However, not knowing when, where, and how to gate content can have a negative impact on your conversions. This post looks at how to properly use gated content to boost conversions.
Northcutt Insight: It can be a fine line between a potential customer clicking the back button or choosing to give you their personal information. If your message and goals aren't consistent with customer expectations, there's no reason for move forward.Therefore, you need to delight the potential user and offer just enough value that they are motivated to seek the rest. In many ways, the most valuable advice in this post is to have a follow-up strategy. You created this great content to get this valuable information from a user. Now, what are you going to do with it?
Why One ecommerce Company is Going All-In on AMP (Hint: Conversions) - by Ginny Marvin
Summary: Many businesses and publishers have voiced real concerns over the impact of Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages, but Event Tickets Center went all in. Due to a "lack of support for ecommerce functionality," they built what they describe as an "immersive AMP experience."
Northcutt Insight: By keeping users in the AMP experience almost entirely through the funnel, Event Tickets Center is taking advantage of the biggest benefits that AMP brings. Ultimately though, all of this marketing and testing is about getting results. And the data is in. They're getting results and converting visitors at a higher rate than ever. So much so that Google has taken notice and is helping AMPify the ticket listing and venue seating page with hopes of even doing the same to the checkout page eventually. Google AMP could definitely a major player in the ecommerce sales funnel of the future.
Not Segmenting Your Audience? Big Mistake if You're Chasing Conversions - by Anthony Capetola
Summary: Segmenting your audience based on their progress in the customer journey allows you to personalize the customer experience. Ultimately, with a little A/B testing, this personalization should results in leads being fed more relevant content, which in turn should increase conversions.
Northcutt Insight: As we've discussed on the Northcutt blog, the digital marketing funnel has many stages (awareness, interest, intent, decision, customer, and retention). Whether at the awareness level or all the way through the funnel to retention, each of your leads is not the same and you can't treat them as such. For a message to truly be effective it needs to reach the right set of eyes at the right time. By segmenting your audience into funnel stages, you can focus your message so that it is appropriately received.
How to Increase Conversions: 10 Tips to See Positive Results - by Jason Vincik
Summary: We're living in a social media age. That means people are growing more accustomed to getting their info in the limited amount of space that a status update allows for. This post on the Marketo blog looks at how to create "short, simple, and actionable marketing messages" that convert.
Northcutt Insight: The focus on distraction is spot on. If your objective is to get users to fill out a form, you don't want to "distract them with detours." The average user's attention span is short and getting shorter. You have to keep your landing pages and your emails clean and simple and guide your prospects through that conversion process as smoothly as possible.
Summary: Message match essentially means that your landing page should include similar elements, whether copy or image, to your ad: A test by Oli Gardner of Unbounce found that 98% of ads did not message match.
Northcutt Insight: As we've discussed already in this section, intent is incredibly important to conversions. If you draw someone in with one value proposition only to present them with something completely different, your chances of converting that visitor take a big hit. By matching your keywords with your AdWords message and both of these with your landing page content, you are giving a potential customer exactly what they were looking for.
Ignoring Link Spam Isn't Working - by AJ Kohn
Summary: If you have a blog or own a website, you get the link spam emails. Over the last year, these communications are having a bit of a resurgence. The reason why? Because it's working.
Northcutt Insight: As AJ Kohn writes, "Google might be pretty good at ignoring links. But pretty good isn't good enough." So if Google isn't penalizing the link spam and can't possibly ignore links all together, that essentially means that a bunch of spammers and SEOs employing shady tactics of getting away with it. As we've often discussed on our blog, blackhat SEO techniques may have a short-term benefit, but they are in no way are a foundation for long-lasting success. It may seem enticing to stray, but if you keeps things clean, you'll be better off for it.
Broken Link Building: Answers to 6 of the Most Common Questions - by Kevin Rowe
Summary: In the process of looking at nearly one-hundred websites, Rowe Digital found over 65,000 broken outbound links. This post answers some of the most common questions when it comes to broken link building.
Northcutt Insight: There's a lot of broken link building opportunities out there. Once you've identified broken links, we suggest creating high quality content that fills the hole created by the broken link. In many cases, the site owners will not even be aware that they have dead links in their content. However, broken link building is a numbers game. Many site owners will not respond or be interested in updating their own content.
The Definitive Guide to Using Guest Blogging as a Link Building Strategy - by Dmitry Dragilev
Summary: Over the years, Google's algorithm and ranking factors have evolved to be more quality focused. Your guest post posting strategy also needs to evolve.This post looks at how to implement a guest blogging strategy that will help you build the authority of you and your site in the current environment.
Northcutt Insight: Despite Matt Cutts' announcement to the contrary over three years ago, guest blogging is not dead. What's dead is the guest-post spam that's written only for links and offers no clear value to the reader or the site it's posted on. Google will never penalize a solid guest post that adds value to readers of a company or industry blog. These posts can also be an opportunity to position yourself as an authority. When it comes down to it, if you write guest posts simply to 'earn links,' you may run afoul of Google.
Summary: With backlinks being one of the three largest ranking factors that Google considers, you can't afford to ignore link building. This posts offers 34+ tips, tools, and examples to help you get started.
Northcutt Insight: While this a pretty standard link-building tips article, there are some nice suggestions that we would definitely not ignore. Cleaning up your inbound link profile is huge. Identify bad links before Google has the chance to penalize you. I also like the suggestion of using Help a Reporter Out (HARO). Essentially, reporters share stories that they're working on and industry experts volunteer to be sources. These days, your link building efforts should pass the Google 'smell test.' Build a strong foundation by focusing on creating quality content and building real relationships.
A Reminder About Links in Large-Scale Article Campaigns - by Google Webmaster
Summary: Google has "seen an increase in spammy links contained in articles referred to as contributor posts, guest posts, partner posts, or syndicated posts." In this post, Google reiterates what constitutes link spam and how they well penalize it.
Northcutt Insight: This wasn't exactly new news from Google, but you shouldn't ignore it either. Google's advice when it comes to link building "is to focus on improving your site's content and everything--including links--will follow."
Summary: Even though Noah Kagan was the thirtieth employee at Facebook, you may be surprised at his marketing tool of choice. Well, maybe you won't be surprised if you read the headline.
Northcutt Insight: While email may seem like a very old-school method, that same old school nature may be an advantage. Unlike social media campaigns, email marketing is mostly algorithm proof and offers a chance to more directly connect with customers. Kagan's constant testing and adjusting and following up allows him to distill a very valuable, high converting audience.
Social Media Didn't Kill Email -- But It Did Change It - by Len Shneyder
Summary: Social media is having its moment, but this moment is not at the expense of email. While email is evolving in some very social media inspired ways, it continues to be a preferred and effective form of communication for marketers.
Northcutt Insight: Much like the "SEO is dead" headlines, email has also been proclaimed dead quite a few times over the years. While some see social media as a email usurper of sorts, in many ways, social media is actually injecting a new shot of life into what had grown into a tired medium. And the influencing goes both ways. Social media networks are definitely beginning to embrace the long form communication and messaging possibilities that email affords.
Optimize Your Email Marketing Campaigns with the Right UX Design - by Vincent Sevilla
Summary: With the average user spending under a minute on a marketing email, it must be crafted and designed for quick consumption. From choosing your fonts smartly to your call-to-action, these tips will help you make sure the most important information is getting through to your readers.
Northcutt Insight: User experience is huge when it comes to the success of your email marketing campaign. Many emails are opened and deleted on sight. If your email doesn't quickly convey its message, recipients will move on. If it is loud and obnoxious and unfocused and feels like spam, recipients will move on. While websites have gotten the message to be mobile-friendly, we still see a lot of emails come through with non-loading images and needing to be resized to be read. That's almost always going to be an immediate delete. Your email list is a valuable asset and focusing on UX is a good way to make sure you don't squander the resource.
How To Launch A Killer Email Newsletter - by Cayleigh Parrish
Summary: The challenge isn't creating a newsletter. That's easy. The challenge is creating a newsletter that people will want to read. From time to send the email to what to send to measuring the results, this post from Fast Company walks you through their process of launching a successful email newsletter.
Northcutt Insight: As you may have noticed in the last few articles in this section, email isn't going anywhere. Social media is having its moment, but in many ways, that moment has put on a renewed focus on the value of email. While "when is the best time to send" can be a constantly shifting variable, I love Cayleigh's general advice that when it comes to timing, you need to consider "your workflow, your audience, your competition, and your goal." Another key point is to include your readers in the testing process. There were certainly be internal opinions on how to improve any email newsletter, but ultimately, this is about the readers and you'll want to hear from them.
The New Marketo Google Partnership: What You Need to Know - by Dom Nicastro
Summary: Marketo has announced that, starting in 2018, they will will completely transition to running their marketing automation products on Google's Cloud Platform.
Northcutt Insight: This is a big move by Marketo, but very much follows the migration trend of companies moving from their own on-premise data centers to the public cloud. As a marketing agency with a focus on cloud and web hosting, we often trumpet the value of focusing on what you do best and letting a team of the best data center operators in the world do what they do best. For the conspiracy theorists among you, the announcement has some asking will Google buy Marketo?
In honor of the end of Summer, we leave you with Olaf from Frozen's ode to Summer.