A content and social media marketing specialist, Ben Jacobson joined the Lean Labs team in the summer of 2014. Ben has been active as a digital branding professional since the early days of social media, having overseen projects for brands including MTV, National Geographic, Zagat and Wix. His writing has appeared in Social Media Explorer, Search Engine Journal, Techwyse and the Mad Mimi Blog. Ben resides just south of the Carmel Mountain ridge in Israel with his dashing wife and two sprightly descendants.
The figurative home we’re building for inbound marketing success is now a solid, attractive, independent structure. But does it adhere to “best practices” for inbound marketing success?
This article is lesson 7 in a 12-part series: The Ultimate Guide to Inbound Strategies and Tactics.
We began with a blueprint, built an SEO foundation to establish traffic, created a structure with premium content, added the roof for protection, ensured transparency by installing windows and decorated the outside with branding. Now it’s time to ensure that everything is up to code.
Maintaining a High Standard of Quality
Building codes are stringent, specific and regulated. When establishing a structure of any kind, experts are sent in to check the wiring, plumbing, and insulation to ensure safety standards. Your inbound marketing plan is no different. There are definitive, quantifiable codes to building marketing structures online as well.
Below is a collection of inbound marketing best practices, compliance challenges and instructions on how to measure up for each one.
Nail Down Compliant Content
Content plays a critical role in your inbound marketing strategy. Since it is both your foundation for consistent, convertible traffic as well as your structure for offering premium collateral (like ebooks and whitepapers) in exchange for customer email addresses, it’s imperative that all of your content is up to code. There are several proven methods to tailor your content to digital marketing standards for achieving maximum impact.
First, be certain to use the active voice rather than passive voice. When you write in active voice, the person taking action is clear. “The manager wrote the report yesterday,” for example. With passive voice, the writer does not specify who is acting; rather, only that the action took place. “The report was written yesterday,” for example. Here, in the passive voice, the person who did the writing is a bit of a mystery – the report could have been written by the manager, the secretary, or the president.
Active voice trounces passive voice in business and web writing because passive formulations come off a bit awkward, and they give the impression of avoiding responsibility, whereas active voice amps up a sense of transparency, encourages trust and conveys a sense of empowerment and progress.
Next, take a look at your sentences and paragraph structure. Are your sentences short enough? Are your paragraphs brief? Are your words simple? Let’s face it – today’s audience members are so overwhelmed by marketing messages and tasks to take care of that they’re unlikely to pay attention to what you have to say for very long. In fact, you’re probably scanning through this article right now.
Web writing’s credo should be “say it quickly, and say it well.” You can measure your content’s “readability” with the Flesch test, which will calculate the number of sentences, words, syllables, and characters in your article. If you’re using $10 words and run-on sentences, you’re likely to quickly lose your reader.
Subheadlines are also imperative since they break up and label blocks of prose. When you segment and label your article with headings, you empower your reader to turn immediately to the bits most likely to apply directly to him or her, leaving the irrelevant sections unread. This makes the experience of consuming your content faster and easier for your prospects.
Another content convention to consider is bulleted lists. While they’re commonplace in resumes, they’re still underutilized in prose. It’s considerably easier to view and internalize information when it’s presented in bullets. For example, to recap, here are some of the conventions to consider employing to maximize the performance of your content:
- Use active voice
- Employ short sentences and paragraphs
- Avoid big words
- Include subheadlines
- Utilize bullets
- Is scannable
Since web reading needs to be quick, bullets are a great option to present information in a scannable, efficient manner.
Ultimately, failure to bring your content “up to code” simply furthers you from success. Since you’re already investing in creating on-topic, non-salesy, compelling content to consistently draw your target audience, it behooves you to ensure that it’s easy to consume.
Make Sure Your Site Is Responsive
Now that your content is compliant, let’s review the technical aspects of your website. Since this is the ultimate resource for your potential clients to learn about you and your solutions, you need to ensure two critical pieces: speed and mobile-friendliness.
People simply have no patience to wait for content pages to load. If your servers are overburdened or your graphics are simply too heavy to appear quickly, make changes immediately or your bounce rate will suffer.
Making sure that your site works well on smartphones and tablets has made good sense for a few years now, ever since these devices started gaining in popularity. Now that Google has updated its algorithms to favor mobile-optimized sites for mobile searchers, you don’t have a choice. “Mobilegeddon,” as it was nicknamed, came as a result of changing user patterns. This year, according to industry projections, mobile smartphone users will surpass 1.9 billion, and 33% of consumers worldwide will use smartphones. Google is simply catering to their customers, just as you should be doing.
If you’re not certain whether your site is mobile-friendly, you can perform a free test on it right here. Go ahead. We’ll wait. If you failed, it’s time to take immediate action. First, go to Google’s mobile-friendly guide. Then, check out the Mobilegeddon checklist and get started executing improvements. What happens if you don’t? Since 50% of local searches are performed on mobile devices (or at least 30%, anyway), your desktop-only site is likely to suffer up to 90% bounce rates.
Adhere to Best Practices for Opt-Ins
Your database of customer emails is your lifeline since it allows you to consistently market to a self-selected receptive audience.
Although it can be tempting to buy a list in order to instantly launch a large email marketing campaign, don’t. First of all, you likely can’t trust that the list is valid or current, and even if it does consist of voluntary opt-ins, the people on it surely didn’t opt in to hear specifically from you.
Secondly, do you really want to be viewed as a spammer? Reputation is everything – don’t ruin yours by making this mistake. The consequences of being flagged for spam are significant, and not just from a reputation management point of view. Anti-spam legislation is worldwide, and in the United States alone, the CAN-SPAM Act allows up to $11K in fines per email sent, in addition to possible prison time. Further, your email provider could penalize you for spamming by completely shutting down your ability to email.
Although building a legal opt-in subscriber list will take more time, it really is your only viable, scalable option. The best way to go about this is to offer free premium content in exchange for your prospects’ email addresses. In addition to ebooks, whitepapers and other downloadables, you’ll want to offer a subscribe form on all of your content – even your blog posts.
Stick to the Code
Just like house builders must comply with local regulations, codes and inspections, a digital presence that’s optimized for inbound marketing needs to adhere to best practices.
Before you can get your message in front of your targeted audience, take these measures to ensure that your content resonates, that your site is accessible to people with all devices, and that you avoid being blacklisted. It takes a little longer, but it’s worth the effort.
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