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Surprise Is Your Best Friend in Content Marketing: Here's How to Use ItMost content marketers understand the importance of trying to evoke specific emotions or sentiments from their readers; eliciting reactions is the best way to keep your target demographics coming back for more, and if those reactions are strong enough, you’ll have a built-in feedback loop to let you know how you’re doing along the way. Many content marketers end up focusing on the practicality of their content, trying to be as useful or amusing as possible to their readers, while also focusing on overall likeability—but the real secret to a successful content campaign is surprise.

Why Surprise Is Effective

Surprise comes in a number of forms, but it always has some core underlying qualities that make it effective. For example, you could create something unusual, such as creating art out of pieces of junk metal, or simply report the latest statistics on an uncommonly discussed topic, like food waste in the United States.

In almost any context, surprise is effective for a variety of reasons:

  • Originality. First, surprise is going to make your content more original (by definition). Surprising your readers means you’ll need to show them something they haven’t seen before, which means you’re going to stand out from the competition—and possibly from your past work. Without originality, content doesn’t have a chance to be seen or read, so including some kind of surprise instantly gives you a leg up.
  • Memorability. Scientific studies show that surprise is linked to higher memory. From an evolutionary perspective, this makes sense; if you’ve done something thousands of times, and this time is no different, there’s no point in trying to remember what happened. If you encounter something entirely new, like a new species of animal or a new food, you’ll want to remember your experience with it so you can respond to it better in the future. In the content marketing realm, this means any content you produce that elicits surprise from your readers is instantly going to be more memorable, enhancing your long-term brand visibility.
  • Shareability. Surprise also makes your content more shareable and interactive. When people are surprised, they’re more likely to react to what they’ve seen, meaning you’ll have an easier time collecting comments and conversations in response to your work. You’ll also find that your surprised readers will be more likely to share your work with other people, as surprises tend to be contagious; this widens your content’s reach immediately.

How to Include More Surprises in Your Campaign

If surprises were easy to come up with, they probably wouldn’t be surprises; the moment your campaign becomes predictable, you’ll lose any advantage you had here. So how can you include more surprises in your content campaign?

  • Deviate from brand norms. Ordinarily, brand consistency is one of the most important qualities for you to control and exhibit. You’ll make great efforts to ensure that your brand follows the same set of norms, values, tone, and even types of content produced to give your audience a consistent experience. However, once that foundation is established, you can fight against it by pursuing something you wouldn’t ordinarily pursue, covering a topic or using a tone that’s uncharacteristic of your brand. This elicits surprise, as most readers won’t see it coming. Just don’t use this technique too often, or your brand voice may become destabilized.
  • Find and reveal surprising data. You can also focus your research on mining data points that your users may find surprising. For example, you could conduct a massive survey of influencers in your industry, and publish a new report that emphasizes the findings that would be most surprising to your readers, such as a percentage of influencers hating a new technology or a display of lower-than-anticipated adoption rates for a new strategy.
  • Cover unexplored subjects. Unexplored topics are hard to find and conjure, but if you can find one, you’ll net an instant surprise with your readers. Look closely at your competition to see what topics they’ve covered in the past and what they’re currently missing.
  • Experiment. Finally, forgo your preconceived notions and spend more time experimenting. Try a new style of content you haven’t touched before, or dabble in a medium that has eluded you in the past. Sometimes, merely trying a new form of expression, such as a podcast or a video, is enough to surprise your readers. Though you should still focus on quality, you need to remember that your content doesn’t have to be perfect; don’t be afraid to try something new.

With these tips, used in balance with one another, you can semi-consistently surprise your readers and reap the benefits of the strategy. Look for audience reactions, comments, traffic metrics, and of course, subjective feedback to illustrate how you’re progressing.

5 Free Sources of Press for Your BusinessIn the business world, free is always best. If you can find a service that will bring your business more customers at no cost, you should take advantage of it. There are dozens of ways to spread the word about your business and services without spending a dime.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the top resources and how you can leverage them.

Try These 5 Free Sources

Every brand is different – and the sources you choose will depend on your marketing strategy – but here are a few suggestions that should give you a pretty good starting point from which to launch your free publicity initiative.

1. Local Newspaper Websites

Most local newspapers are really struggling these days, which means they’re always looking for good content ideas. If you have a particular idea for a feature, it may be as simple as contacting a reporter and pitching it. They may jump on it right away and give you some good local publicity.

2. Try Guest Blogging

If you’re willing to actually handle the content creation component and are merely looking for the exposure that other publishers offer, guest blogging could be of particular value.

“Blog readers are typically very loyal, especially when it comes to popular niche blogs,” explains Jessica Moreno of Active Web Group. “Begin by researching the most popular and influential blogs in your industry, contact the blog owners and ask if they’re interested in contributors. By guest writing on reputable blogs, your word will be credible as readers already trust the platform, and you will receive free exposure in return!”

3. Quality Niche Publications

If you would prefer to extract the benefits of guest blogging without actually writing the content, you may be able to contact the same sites and ask if they’re interested in writing a feature piece on your company/product/etc. Getting bloggers to take you up on this offer will be more difficult, but you could find success if you present a compelling story.

4. Help a Reporter Out (HARO)

Have you ever heard of the website Help a Reporter Out, which is more commonly known as HARO? Journalists and PR pros use this platform to find ideas to write about, as do individual companies and entrepreneurs. Currently, there are more than 475,000 “sources” and 35,000 “journalists.”

Here’s how HARO works: you come up with a pitch, post it on the site, and a journalist contacts you if it looks like something they could run with. They write up the story and publish it via their own platforms. It’s as simple as that!

5. Engage Social Influencers

The final suggestion is to tap into social influencers in your niche. If you aren’t familiar with social influencers, they’re simply individual social media users who have large followings. Many large brands actually pay social influencers for posts and sponsorships, but it doesn’t necessarily have to work this way.

It’s definitely possible to engage with social influencers and get exposure at no cost to you. The key is to be polite, patient, and practical. Not every influencer will be willing to help and you’ll have to wait for the right opportunity.

Publicity is Your Friend

As you’ve certainly heard before, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. While this probably isn’t totally true – United Airlines and Pepsi are recent examples of this fallacy – there’s tremendous value in receiving good publicity from the right sources. When free is an option, you can’t go wrong.

Give these five free sources a try and see what happens. You don’t have much to lose!

How Important Is Onsite Content for SEO?Search engine optimization (SEO) is often referred to as a standalone marketing strategy, but the reality is that it comprises multiple interdependent strategies. Some people spend most of their time working on the content on individual pages of their site (the onsite content), while others invest all their resources into ongoing blogging, and still others focus primarily on building inbound links. Any search optimizer worth their salt will spend some attention on all three of these dimensions, but is one any better than the others?

Specifically, just how important is onsite content for SEO?

The Role of Onsite Content

Some webmasters treat onsite content as a (mostly) one-time effort, hiring a service like Rightly Written to make sure their web content is appealing to visitors and simultaneously optimized for search engine visibility. Others make ongoing tweaks to try and perfect their individual content pages. In either case, they’re trying to accomplish the following goals:

  • Domain authority. Domain authority is a qualitative measure of how trustworthy a site is, and the higher that number is, the more likely your site is to rank. Google evaluates the quality of the content on your site using several criteria, including the quantity of content, the amount of detail present, and how intelligible the content is. The full set of criteria isn’t documented, but it’s clear that the quality of your onsite content has some impact on your domain authority.
  • Keyword relevance. Onsite content also presents a great opportunity to optimize your site for specific keywords; you can create designated “core” pages of your site to target specific keywords and phrases that you want to be associated with your domain. Since these will be “anchor” pages of your site, they’ll be treated with higher relevance, and you can quickly build your site’s ranking potential for the most important keywords for your brand.
  • Inbound link attraction. Though blogging is more commonly used for link building purposes, you can also use strong core content on your site to attract more links to your domain, which will boost your domain and page authority. For example, if you have a dense “resources” section, or permanent “how to” guides in your main navigation, this could represent a perfect opportunity to earn some powerful inbound links.
  • Visibility in SERPs. Even if you spend much of your time creating new blog posts and linking to them, your core pages will still have a high tendency to show up in search engines, thanks to your ever-increasing domain authority. In these entries, your page titles, descriptions, and some of your onsite content will be the first things visitors see before deciding whether to visit your site. Accordingly, it’s essential to have these pages optimized properly.
  • User behavior effects. Though not directly related to SEO, it’s also important to note that the quality of your onsite content will also affect the user behavior on your site. Pages like Home, About, and Contact pages will often determine user impressions of your brand, and whether or not they go through with contacting you, possibly increasing or decreasing the overall value of your SEO strategy.

How Does It Stack Up?  

Ongoing blogging and link building both have a variety of effects, just like onsite content does. Ongoing blogging, for example, gives you constant new opportunities to optimize for long-tail keyword phrases and attract new links with high-quality content. Without link building, it would be nearly impossible to establish a baseline domain authority high enough to see meaningful results. In this way, onsite content optimization couldn’t work without ongoing blogging and link building, but neither of those strategies could work without the right onsite content serving as a foundation.

It’s hard to compare these three dimensions of SEO, since each has drastically different effects on your site’s rankings and visibility, and all of them are, on some level, necessary for you to be successful.

So Just How Important Is Onsite Content for SEO?

Ultimately, onsite content is very important for the success of an SEO campaign; in fact, it could be described as essential. Without good onsite content in place, your domain authority may never reach an acceptable level and your visibility in search engines will plummet. But at the same time, it’s only one piece of the SEO puzzle. If you only focus on onsite content, and neglect other areas like ongoing blogging or inbound link building, you still won’t find much success. Keep your individual SEO strategies in balance if you want to see the best results.

Collaborating On Content: How Remote Teams Succeed If you’re a remote worker affiliated with a larger content development team, it can be a real challenge to coordinate your group around big projects. Workers may be in different time zones, may keep unconventional operating hours, or may not always have a private workspace for holding video conferences. Under such circumstances, trying to hold a meeting is like plotting a military campaign.

It doesn’t have to be this way, though. Remote teams can collaborate with ease if given the right tools to make it happen. From multi-function messaging software to online brainstorming tools, these 3 approaches can improve your working relationships, speed up project timelines, and save your business money. Tools aren’t a content strategy, but they can certainly speed you on your way when developing one.

From The Start: Compartmentalize

Remember – not all aspects of a content campaign need to be collaborative. Even if you’re working on a group project, break it down into small segments that can be worked on individually and then loop them back into the group for feedback. This allows people to spend the majority of their time working independently, separate from team scheduling needs.

You can even compartmentalize the feedback process on your projects by creating a standard feedback procedure for critiquing group work. Whether you use track changes, a Google Document with notes, or a standard form that each worker submits, a standard procedure takes nebulous, indirect critiques and turns them into actionable commentary, bringing your work up to the next level.

Shift To The Cloud

The cloud is now a core part of how most businesses acquire software, store data, and scale their tools, but there are still gaps in terms of how we apply this technology. One way the cloud can help boost productivity for remote content developers is by linking staff communication systems.

Using software like Dialpad, a cloud-based telephone system equipped to handle video and text messaging in addition to voice calls, content developers, sales teams, and executives can work anywhere. That means even on the days you’re out of office, you can still connect with your team – no more excuses for missing a scheduled meeting.

Lay It All Out

Do you remember making character maps or plotting out the different components of a story when you were in school? You’d draw a chart and break down the narrative into its constituent parts. Well, you can use the same strategy to keep your remote content team organized. There are several popular, inexpensive ways you can do this.

One website that combines aspects of project management and concept mapping is Mindmeister. Mindmeister lets you lay out your ideas with team members in real time, play back the map, and even assign aspects of the task to different individuals using onsite widgets. It uses a simple interface to demonstrate a clear flow between one aspect of your content strategy and the next.

Another tool you can use to a similar end is RealtimeBoard. RealtimeBoard has a greater depth of features than Mindmeister, allowing the group to share files and icons within a group library, add sticky notes, and convert notes into presentations. In essence, it’s like gathering the group around a big whiteboard in a conference room, but you don’t have to get everyone in one place.

A dispersed team can produce great content, leading search results, building your social media presence, and leading your brand to success. Break it down, brainstorm smarter, and keep lines of communication open and mobile. Collaboration is an art and remote work is pushing it to new heights.

How to Write Blog Posts That Actually Provide SEO BenefitThere are two major purposes of a blog. The first is to connect with readers and enhance your online branding efforts. The second is to give your website an SEO boost and organically drive traffic to important conversion pages. However, if you’re producing poor blog posts, you’re missing out on these benefits.

3 Tips for SEO-Friendly Blogging

Hampers With Bite is an Australian-based company that sells gourmet gift baskets to customers worldwide. From thank-you gifts to anniversary gifts, they do it all. But trying to remain competitive in such a highly saturated niche can be a challenge, which is why Hampers With Bite recently launched a blog.

While there’s certainly a time commitment associated with maintaining their new blog, the team has already seen a steady uptick in traffic and conversions. But what’s been the key to the success? According to Rory Boyle, “Our decision to build our blog upon a strong foundation of SEO principles has proved to be a really smart choice.”

Whether you already have a blog or are thinking about launching one, there’s a lesson to be learned here. By building your blog with SEO principles as the focus – not an afterthought – you’re much more likely to enjoy favorable results.

Having said that, let’s check out a few tips that will have you ranking better.

1. Write Meaty Posts

Research has been conducted that shows longer blog posts are always superior to shorter posts, at least in terms of SEO. Specifically, 3,000-word blog posts get more traffic than just about any other length.

Long posts work because they allow you to include more keywords and organic terms. Naturally, this increases the chance of your page being a relevant search result. Meaty blog posts also tend to keep visitors engaged longer, which also sends a signal to Google that your post has substance to it.

2. Develop Semantic Copy

When Google introduced its Hummingbird algorithm update, one of the biggest developments was the new focus on latent semantic index (LSI) keywords that naturally fit the context of the user’s search query. Suddenly, SEO was not just about plugging in keywords and ranking for them – context began to matter.

Today, context matters more than ever and it’s the companies that produce semantic copy that tend to have the best long-term results. Instead of sprinkling unnatural keywords throughout your posts, write like people would search. This typically means using long phrases and terms that naturally fit into conversation.

It’s also important to remember that a lot of people are using Siri, Google Voice, or some other voice-based technology to conduct searches. Over time, you can expect internet searches to become even more intuitive. Your blog copy should reflect this evolution.

3. Link Back to Influencers

It’s always good to have influencers – like big industry bloggers, thought leaders, and vibrant personalities – on your team. But even if you don’t have firsthand relationships with influencers, it’s possible to get them to engage (and amplify your content).

The best trick is to quote or link back to influencers in the body of your articles. This is like throwing a fishing line with a hook into the water. Influencers have listening tools set up and will know when you mention them. Sometimes they’ll even bite, which gives you a chance to increase your visibility.

SEO: The Heart of Blogging

There’s much more to blogging than SEO, but it’s hard to deny the importance that careful optimization plays in the process of enhancing a blog’s visibility and overall level of engagement. If you want to maximize your time and reap the rewards that a successful blog brings, pay attention to the details. SEO may not be an exciting topic, but it’s absolutely necessary.