KTech System Network Blog

How to improve marketing ROI with clean data

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Posted on: September 25, 2021

Marketers know accurate data is tablestakes. It helps organizations make better decisions for their customers and, in turn, increases ROI.

Yet even the most meticulous brands more often than not find errors within their datasets. A study published by Zoominfo found that 94% of businesses suspect their customer data is inaccurate.

“In 2017 we took a look at our data and found that it was good, but ultimately it wasn’t great and we really wanted it to be so,” said Dominic Freschi, Senior Data Administrator, Marketing at accounting and consulting firm Armanino, speaking at MarTech. “When we took that deep dive, we found that there were some things clouding that view. Things like missing data, bad or old data, siloed data over to the side, duplicates spanning across multiple systems.”

Freschi says his organization made the decision to clean up this data so they could fully trust it going forward.

Watch the full presentation from MarTech here (free registration required)

Automating the processes

Cleaning up your data with a process automation platform can make the process more efficient. These systems help marketers aggregate internal, partner, and open data into a central repository.

“We can ultimately push it back into our systems so that we’re getting that cleaned data that we can use from then on,” said Freschi, speaking on his own company’s platform choice. “And it’s all done in one app, so it’s very easy to build on top of what we’ve already done with our data.”



Once you have your automation platform in place, here are the three steps to cleaning your organization’s data:

  1. Improve data standardization and connectivity: Remove junk values from fields, correct user information, and normalize regional classification.
  2. Consolidate duplicate data: Determine what types of duplicate data pieces are within your system, merge them, and set automated de-duplication rules. Find out what types of data are missing and include them in the setup.
  3. Set up process automation: Now that the manual tasks are complete, you can run your automation system, eliminating as many future manual processes as possible.

“Many companies have bought at least one, sometimes even two three or four, different third-party data providers data and many of them struggle with aggregating it and applying it to the right company and the right lead,” said Allen Pogorzelski of Openprise in a separate MarTech session.

He added, “If you clean up your data first, your match rates will be much, much higher and you’ll come across fewer instances where you’ve got a lead in the door being unable to enrich it.”


Snapshot: Marketing automation

For today’s marketers, automation platforms are often the center of the marketing stack. They aren’t shiny new technologies, but rather dependable stalwarts that marketers can rely upon to help them stand out in a crowded inbox and on the web amidst a deluge of content.

HubSpot noted late last year that marketing email volume had increased by as much as 52% compared to pre-COVID levels. And, thankfully, response rates have also risen to between 10% and 20% over their benchmark.

To help marketers win the attention battle, marketing automation vendors have expanded from dependence on static email campaigns to offering dynamic content deployment for email, landing pages, mobile and social. They’ve also incorporated features that rely on machine learning and artificial intelligence for functions such as lead scoring, in addition to investing in the user interface and scalability.

The growing popularity of account-based marketing has also been a force influencing vendors’ roadmaps, as marketers seek to serve the buying group in a holistic manner — speaking to all of its members and their different priorities. And, ideally, these tools let marketers send buyer information through their tight integrations with CRMs, giving the sales team a leg up when it comes to closing the deal. Learn more here.

The post How to improve marketing ROI with clean data appeared first on MarTech.

10 Practices for Wix SEO

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Posted on: September 25, 2021

10 Practices for Wix SEO

If you’ve ever built a website, or you’re looking for a suitable website builder, you’ve no doubt heard of Wix.

It’s renowned for its easy-to-use interface, its suitability for beginners, and it gets good reviews for its flexibility, professional-looking templates, and support. 

On the downside, Wix SEO limitations often come in for criticism, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enhance your site’s SEO considerably by applying a few best practices.

This article details ten SEO best practices that can improve your Wix website rankings.

Before getting into that, though, let’s describe the pros and cons.

Pros and Cons of Wix

Wix is a web development platform with many advantages. First, you don’t need any coding knowledge and it uses simple drag and drop features to build a fantastic looking website.

Then there’s the Wix SEO tool. It helps you optimize your site for search engines by offering information on page names, meta descriptions, keywords, and more.

With some light guidance, anyone can create a website and get it up and running fast, and uncompetitive niches can rank on Google’s front page.

Additionally, Wix:

  • is incredibly customizable
  • has a wide range of features
  • has a simple drag and drop interface
  • offers ample templates to choose from
  • is free

However, Wix has its disadvantages too. 

Although a drag and drop interface makes web design straightforward, it can limit creativity and create a generic look.

Also, Wix SEO isn’t as simple as it could be, and the free version has limited features. It does, however, have some tools to assist in overcoming this.

Another disadvantage is that you must upgrade your plan to remove advertisements. Entry-level plans still display ads on your site, and premium websites are costly.

How Popular is Wix?

Wix is hugely popular with an audience of approximately 200 million, availability in 190 countries, and more than 1000 plus features.

The platform is especially popular among:

  • small businesses
  • entrepreneurs
  • startups
  • freelancers, like photographers, designers, and writers

You can use Wix to create great-looking portfolios and landing pages too.

10 Best Practices for Wix SEO

If you’ve done any research, you know that Wix’s SEO gets a bad rap, but that shouldn’t be the case anymore. 

Wix has worked to improve SEO and offers advice to website owners who want to work on this aspect of website promotion. In addition, the platform includes an SEO tool, which I describe below.

1. Use Wix SEO Wiz

10 Best Practices for Wix SEO - Use Wix SEO Wiz

To get started with optimizing your site, use the Wix SEO Wiz. It’s free and allows you to optimize your content.

The SEO Wiz consists of a step-by-step plan detailing areas of improvement and giving advice for enhancing SEO.

In addition, it gives you:

  • easy-to-follow tutorials
  • tracking capabilities
  • access to numerous SEO articles

You can find the Wix SEO Wiz by going to “Marketing & SEO” and then “Get Found On Google” from your site’s dashboard.

2. Use Longtail Keywords

You know all about keywords and keyword research. These are a crucial part of SEO, but you shouldn’t overlook longtail keywords.

Longtail keywords are more specific keywords with low search volume that use longer phrases. For example, “running shoe” is a head keyword, while “best running shoes for narrow feet” is a longtail keyword.

10 Best Practices for Wix SEO - Use Ubersuggest

There’s no shortage of free tools available to find longtail keywords for your Wix SEO strategy, including Ubersuggest, Google’s Autocomplete, and wordtracker.com.

3. Make It Mobile-Friendly

A mobile-friendly (responsive) website is accessible from any device, and it makes a website simple to use regardless of how a visitor is accessing a page. 

Responsiveness is vital because Google uses mobile-friendliness as a ranking feature, and more people are using mobile devices.

How do you make your website responsive? By:

  • creating a layout that adapts well for any screen size and orientation
  • using responsive design techniques where possible
  • optimizing images for smaller screens using tools like Photoshop or Photopea
  • creating content that considers the constraints of smaller screens such as videos, photos, and text length

Wix also advises on how to make your website more responsive. 

4. Boost Your Local SEO

Local SEO is a form of internet marketing to rank highly in search engine results for keywords relevant to a physical location. For example, using local SEO is especially beneficial to small businesses and physical storefronts, such as restaurants or beauty salons.

Local SEO includes two categories: on-site and off-site. 

On-site involves optimizing your website and online business to rank for local searches. Off-site includes building backlinks and getting reviews and mentions in blogs and directories related to your industry or niche.

Fortunately, it’s not difficult to enhance your site’s local SEO.

One way to improve your site’s ranking is by using geographic keywords in the title of your page and the content. 

You should also include city names, states, counties, and zip codes on your page each time they are relevant; this will make it easier for Google to find you.

Another way you can improve your site’s ranking is by including a map on the web page with pins on it. This will allow people to view locations more easily through Google Maps or an embedded map on the web page.

5. Create a Sitemap

Sitemaps are critical for any website because they allow the user to know what to expect when they visit and give the webmaster a way to see how visitors interact with their site.

Additionally, a sitemap provides navigation for visitors, which is essential considering how many visitors may land on your site every day.

Sitemaps are an integral for two reasons:

  1. They allow you to see your website’s structure at a glance.
  2. They help search engines index your site more efficiently.

Further, a sitemap helps you understand where your visitors are going on your site so you can optimize content for them more effectively. You can also identify any broken links that might be preventing visitors from finding what they want.

You don’t need to worry about getting your Wix site map picked up by Google.

When you connect your Wix account to Google, it gets submitted to the search engine. Wix also has a tutorial on how to do this manually.

6. Use Wix SEO Tools

Wix SEO is about more than following a plan. It gives you plenty of other tools to improve your rankings, including:

  • analytics, to make sure you’re on the right track
  • a professional-looking blog for posting high-quality content and gaining organic traffic
  • a solid infrastructure to aid organic search
  • customizations of slugs, meta tags, and structured data

7. Set Up Google Search Console and Analytics

10 Best Practices for Wix SEO - Set Up Google Search Console and Analytics

Google Search Console is a free service offering insights about your website’s performance in Google search results. 

You can use it to monitor a wide range of things, such as:

  • which keywords people are using to find your site
  • what errors or warnings Google has detected
  • the number of times users have clicked on links from your site that lead to pages on other sites
  • providing insights into how users interact with your content
  • sharing data on where people are coming from and going to when they visit your site

To add a site to Google’s Search console:

10 Best Practices for Wix SEO - Use Google Search Console
  • Go to the Search Console and log in.
  • Select “Add a new property.”
  • Open the drop-down list.
  • Select the property type.
  • Verify your site.

8. Optimize Your Wix SEO Throughout the Site

To further optimize your Wix site, look beyond keywords. There are many other areas you can work on, including:

  • managing the navigation menu
  • using SEO-friendly URLs
  • optimizing content by choosing relevant topics that will interest readers
  • optimizing design by making sure it is consistent with your product

Further, you can optimize your website images to make them load faster.

For example, you can reduce the width of the images to the size that Wix requires, which is at least 2560 X 1440 pixels

Finally, use a text editor for simpler HTML code and fewer unwanted tags.

9. Keep Posting Content for Wix SEO

It’s important to post quality content on your blog to generate traffic. 

You can use these posts to build backlinks which will also help you rank higher in the search engines.

However, the importance of posting regular quality content on your blog isn’t just about getting traffic or backlinks. It’s also about building your search results for readers who find your site via Google Search.

Consider creating a content calendar to streamline production and keep content fresh and relevant.

10. Add Links

Google values both internal and external links as they give context and meaning, thus improving the quality of search results for readers who find your site via Google Search.

Internal links are links that point to pages on the same website. External links are links that point to other websites, and they’re equally important. 

Finally, you can add a line of code within the webpage’s HTML tag at the top of the web page code, so they have an internal link directly from their home page.

External links, on the other hand, are a great way to bring value to your site.

You can get external links from different sources such as:

  • guest blogging
  • content syndication
  • networking events
  • press releases
  • email outreach to influencers within your niche industry

Wix SEO Frequently Asked Questions

Is Wix Good for SEO?

Wix SEO hasn’t always had a great reputation, but it’s come on in leaps and bounds and now offers a good selection of (free) tools to help your SEO efforts.

Additionally, Wix websites have customization features, allowing you to increase your Wix SEO that way. 

Do Wix Sites Rank on Google?

Yes. According to Ahrefs, its data “shows that Wix sites don’t have a hard time ranking on Google.”

Ahrefs research also shows that Wix does well for organic traffic.

Is SEO on Wix Free?

Wix offers free and paid plans, but the paid plans offer more features. If you need to get your website ranked higher in search engines, this is something worth considering if it’s within your budget.

Additionally, Wix offers some SEO tips and techniques for users to build their site and a customized SEO plan for free.

Is Wix or WordPress Better for SEO?

There are many different factors to take into account when comparing Wix and WordPress for your business.

Wix is a web development company that provides website builders with drag and drop technology to build professional-looking websites quickly. This is beneficial for beginners who are not tech-savvy enough to use WordPress. Wix has come a long way to make SEO easier for site owners to manage with a wide range of SEO tools to get started.

WordPress is a free, open-source software powering 455 million websites, making it the most popular content management system globally. It also provides all the blogging, hosting, social media integration, e-commerce capabilities, video integration. It also has access to more plugins and tools than Wix, which allows you to manipulate more technical aspects of SEO.

With that being said, both are great options that depend on what you need.

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Wix SEO Conclusion

Wix is an all-in-one website builder and hosting service. It’s a convenient and user-friendly platform that can help you build and host your website easily. It also provides Wix SEO guidelines to make sure your website ranks well on search engines.

Wix SEO is an essential aspect of the Wix platform. It isn’t that difficult, and you could achieve results with a few simple steps.

  • Step 1: Keyword research
  • Step 2: Website content optimization
  • Step 3: Writing unique meta descriptions
  • Step 4: Designing for mobile

Do you use Wix? Share your tips for optimizing your Wix SEO.

Metrics are up: Marketoon of the Week

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Posted on: September 25, 2021

Fishburne’s take: As WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell put it, “The referee and player cannot be the same person.” The issue brings to light a broader issue. Frequently in digital marketing, the referee and player are the same person. Marketers have no shortage of metrics on their dashboards, but they are still often flying blind. Marketing visibility can be simultaneously clear and opaque. To paraphrase Coleridge, the state of marketing is “metrics, metrics everywhere, and not sure what to think.”

Why we care: KPIs and higher company goals come first. Work back from those to determine which metrics will “move the needle” and yield the results your team has targeted.

The post Metrics are up: Marketoon of the Week appeared first on MarTech.

How to Register an LLC Name

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Posted on: September 24, 2021

Coming up with the perfect name for your business is an exciting feeling. 

But your LLC name isn’t actually yours until you’ve registered it.

It’s possible that the name could be taken or might be sought after by another entrepreneur.

After you register your LLC name, you won’t have to worry about anyone else in your state using it for business purposes. 

This step-by-step guide will teach you how to register an LLC name, even if you’re a complete beginner. 

The Easy Parts of Registering an LLC Name

Coming up with a great name is the easy part. Some of you might have had a specific name in the back of your mind for years. Now that you’re ready to move forward with the business venture, you need to verify its availability and then register it.

Lots of people struggle when they love a business name, but they’re not quite ready to start the business itself. They’re afraid someone else will steal the name if they don’t register it quickly.

Fortunately, you can reserve an LLC name even before you start the business itself. Many states allow you to reserve a name for 60 or 180 days without filing any other LLC paperwork. 

An LLC name reservation form is typically a one or two-page document that’s easy to fill out and file. This buys you some time to get everything in order and ensures the name is still available when you’re ready to form the LLC.

While reserving a name might be easy, registering an LLC can be a bit intimidating. The paperwork and process are a bit more involved than just thinking of a name.

Fortunately, business formation services like LegalZoom make the entire process a breeze.

LegalZoom has been used to create over 2.5 million businesses in the United States. Just plug your name into LegalZoom, and they’ll check the state database on your behalf to verify its availability. 

You’ll know in a matter of seconds whether or not the name is available without having to search the state database on your own. 

In addition to the LLC name check, LegalZoom can handle the entire formation process on your behalf. They’ll file the appropriate paperwork with your secretary of state’s office. All you need to do is answer a handful of simple questions about your business.

LegalZoom’s LLC formation packages start at just $79 plus state filing fees. 

The Difficult Parts of Registering an LLC Name

If it turns out that your business name isn’t available, coming up with a new one can be challenging. This is especially true for those of you who had your heart set on a specific name.

So try not to get too attached to any name yet. Have some flexibility and come up with a shortlist of a few names in case one doesn’t work out. 

It’s also worth noting that you can’t register an LLC name without creating an LLC. Registering the name means you’ll have to file articles of organization with your state, obtain an EIN, appoint a registered agent, create an operating agreement, and everything else that’s required to legally form an LLC. 

It’s also tough to come up with a brandable and easy-to-remember name without boxing you into a particular category. For example, let’s say you’re opening a restaurant and register the name “Pete’s Pizza Palace.” 

What if you decide to start serving breakfast in two years? This name doesn’t offer you a ton of flexibility. So you need to think beyond the immediate future when you’re registering the name.

For those of you who want to legally protect your LLC name with a trademark, the process is much longer than the name reservation and formation process with your state. It could take anywhere from 12 to 18 months for your trademark to come through.

Even after you’ve trademarked a name, it’s still your responsibility to defend that trademark. So if you think another business has breached your trademark, all of the legal fees associated with defending the name will fall on your shoulders. This process is far from fun. 

Step 1 – Make Sure the LLC Name is Available

Before you proceed with the registration process, you need to verify the name’s availability. If someone else in your state has already registered the name or a similar name, then you’ll need to come up with something else. 

Run a Business Name Search

Don’t fill out any name reservation forms or LLC formation paperwork until you’ve run a business name search. If the name isn’t available, your applications will get rejected, and the application fees aren’t refundable. 

Every state has a database of business names. But these databases aren’t always user-friendly, and it can be tough for you to verify the results. 

All of the best business formation services have a business name search tool. LegalZoom’s is one of my favorites. Here’s what it looks like when I search LegalZoom for “Quick Sprout Example LLC” in the state of Washington. 

I’m immediately given a notification showing that the name is available. LegalZoom’s entity name check service is 100% free to use. 

Run a Domain Name Search

The name check search only applies to the records in your state of formation database. But another business could be using that name elsewhere. 

Most entrepreneurs want to create a website that matches the name of their LLC. So if that domain has already been registered and can’t be purchased for a reasonable price, it’s probably not worth it to use that name.

This is especially true if you haven’t invested anything into the name yet. 

Just use any domain registrar to see the domain’s availability. If the domain is available, you’ll want to secure it sooner rather than later.

Check Federal Trademark Records

You’ll want to make sure that your LLC name isn’t violating a federal trademark. Even if a trademark hasn’t been issued yet, someone else may have an application pending for the name you want to register.

Federal trademarks are ideal for businesses that plan to scale outside of a local area. Registering the name with your state alone can’t stop someone in another region from using your name.

So if you’re eventually planning to trademark the name, it’s in your best interest to run the trademark search ahead of time.

Fortunately, LegalZoom also has a trademark search service.

Packages start at just $199, and it usually takes less than 15 minutes to complete. 

Browse the Web

Aside from state databases, federal databases, and domain names, you should run some Google searches for the name you want to register. See what comes up.

Is anyone else using that name for another business purpose? Are the social media handles available? Has anyone used this business name in the past?

You’d be surprised what you can uncover using a search engine. 

You might discover that another business used that name years ago before the company crashed and burned due to bad publicity. Maybe the previous owner had legal troubles or was part of a major lawsuit. Or perhaps the company had a data breach that exposed thousands of customer records. Even if this has nothing to do with your prospective company, you probably won’t want your name associated with these web results. 

Step 2 – Reserve the LLC Name

If your name has survived the process of elimination in the previous step, it’s time to reserve your LLC name. This step is crucial if you’re not ready to officially start your LLC today. 

Review State LLC Guidelines For Your Business Name

The reservation process varies from state to state.

For example, you can reserve a proposed business name in California for a period of 60 days. You must fill out the name reservation form and submit it by mail or in-person with a $10 application fee. The California secretary of state’s office isn’t accepting online name reservations at this time. 

In Ohio, you can reserve the name for 180 days from the date of filing. The filing fee is $39, and you can file online or by mail.

Each state also has unique rules for creating an LLC name. For example, your name may need to contain one of the following suffixes:

  • Limited Liability Company
  • LLC
  • L.L.C.
  • Ltd.
  • Limited Company
  • Limited Co.

Here’s an excerpt from the California business name reservation form that shows some additional rules:

Step 3 – Register Your LLC Name

Now that you’ve completed the preliminary research, it’s time to make it official. This step will walk you through the actual LLC name reservation.

File Your Articles of Organization

You can’t register an LLC name without forming an LLC. 

So how do you form an LLC? It all starts with filing the articles of organization with your secretary of state. The articles of organization typically contain:

  • Name of your business
  • Description of business
  • Mailing address
  • Registered agent information
  • Information about LLC members (owners)

The exact forms and filing process vary from state to state. Rather than doing this yourself, you can just use a formation service like LegalZoom to handle it for you.

All you have to do is answer some questions about your business, and LegalZoom will take care of the rest.

Get an EIN (employer identification number) for tax purposes. This is like the social security number for your business. You can get this directly from the IRS or have LegalZoom do it for you during the formation process.

You’ll also need to create an operating agreement for your LLC. While you won’t file this with your secretary of state’s office, this legal document governs the rules and responsibilities for your LLC members and management structure. 

Choose a Registered Agent

As mentioned above, your LLC needs to have a registered agent. You cannot officially create an LLC without appointing someone for this role, which means you can’t register an LLC name without one either. 

A registered agent is a person or entity that can receive service of process and government correspondence on behalf of your LLC.

Technically, you could name yourself as the registered agent for your LLC, but I advise against that.

All of the best business formation services double as registered agent solutions. So you can simply name LegalZoom as your registered agent with a single click during the formation process, and they’ll handle the formalities to make this official.

LegalZoom’s registered agent service starts at just $249 for the first year.

Step 4 – Trademark Your LLC Name

You automatically get “common law” trademark rights once you start using a name for business purposes. But common law trademarks won’t protect you outside of your local area or state.

So if you plan on expanding across state lines or to another region, you should trademark your LLC name as well. This will prevent businesses in the same industry from using your name.

File a Trademark Application

The trademark application process is somewhat complicated. All of the paperwork is filed through the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Trademark laws can be difficult to understand, which is why I don’t recommend doing this on your own. Take advantage of LegalZoom’s trademark registration services.

LegalZoom offers attorney support throughout the trademark process. They’ll handle all of the research and file the trademark paperwork with the USPTO on your behalf. If any problems arise during the process, LegalZoom will take care of them.

Step 5 – Change Your LLC Name (Optional)

The day might come when you decide to change your LLC name. Rather than dissolving the business and starting a new LLC from scratch, you have some alternative options to consider.

Register a DBA Name

You can always register a DBA (doing business as) name for your business. This is also known as a “trade name” or “fictitious name.” 

For example, let’s say you formed a dry cleaning business called “Main Street Cleaners.” You decide to expand the operation and open a new location. If the new location isn’t on Main Street, it could be confusing for customers.

So you could register a DBA as “West Street Cleaners” for the new location, and both businesses would still operate under the name LLC. 

LegalZoom makes it easy to register a DBA, with plans starting at just $99 plus state filing fees.

File a Certificate of Amendment

If you want to change the legal name of your LLC, a DBA alone won’t get the job done. You’ll need to file paperwork with your secretary of state’s office to make this change. 

Each state has its own amendment form and process. But generally speaking, here’s what those steps look like:

  • Make sure the new name is available
  • Approve an LLC resolution to change the business name
  • File the certificate of amendment with your state
  • Amend your LLC operating agreement
  • Notify tax agencies and business licensing agencies
  • Change the name on your business bank account

You’ll also need to change the name on virtually everything else that has your original LLC name. Changing your LLC name can be a major headache, so I generally advise against it. Always check to see if a DBA name can solve your problem before you go through this process. 

Use cases show brands how consumers interact with their products and services. They highlight the individual experiences of customers so companies can better connect with them.

Unfortunately, it’s often difficult to organize and manage use cases, especially in large organizations.

“Now a lot of companies that we talked to struggle with where to begin in terms of how to prioritize and even identify what their use cases are,” said Karen Wood, Senior Director, Product Marketing at Acquia, in her MarTech presentation. “So, we always recommend starting to look at use cases in the realm of how would that impact the end consumer.”

She added, “So rather than thinking about the different teams in the different brands that are leveraging the use cases, what is the experience going to be like for the end consumer?”

Watch the full presentation from MarTech here (free registration required)

What makes identifying use cases so difficult has much to do with generic and disjointed experiences, says Wood. Multiple departments, channels, and teams often lead to siloed consumer experiences.

“So, rather than thinking about it as the consumer flows through the journey across many different experiences, it’s really each individual siloed team or department that’s powering the discrete and unique experiences,” said Wood. “Our recommendation as we talk about use cases is to think about it cohesively across teams across touchpoints, and really what it’s like for that consumer at the receiving end.”


Take the data journey

Wood identifies three phases marketers should follow to take their data capabilities from analysis to full personalization.

Source: Acquia
  • Phase 1: Using analytical insights and personalized marketing campaigns to give consumers information about your business.
  • Phase 2: Gaining deeper insights from CDP platforms, which allows teams across the board to increase ROI.
  • Phase 3: Providing personalized engagement at each customer touchpoint.

“Personalized digital experiences, experiences that are driven by trusted data that engage seamlessly with one another, that address use cases that your customers care about, those experiences can drive meaningful results for your business,” said Christopher Cummings of Precisely in a separate MarTech session. “Brands across the board need to strengthen their customer engagement channels.”


Snapshot: Customer Data Platforms

Marketers today face increasing pressure to provide a unified experience to customers across many channels. And these avenues are growing each day. That’s why customer data platforms, or CDPs, have become more prevalent than ever. These help marketers identify key data points from customers across a variety of platforms, which can help craft cohesive experiences.

Cisco’s Annual Internet Report found that internet-connected devices are growing at a 10% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2018 to 2023. COVID-19 has only sped up this marketing transformation. Technologies are evolving at a faster rate to connect with customers in an ever-changing world.

Each of these interactions has something important in common: they’re data-rich. Customers are telling brands a little bit about themselves at every touchpoint, which is invaluable data. What’s more, consumers expect companies to use this information to meet their needs.

Meeting customer expectations, breaking up these segments, and bringing them together can be demanding for marketers. That’s where CDPs come in. By extracting data from all customer touchpoints — web analytics, CRMs, call analytics, email marketing platforms, and more — brands can overcome the challenges posed by multiple data platforms and use the information to improve customer experiences. Learn more here

The post Here’s a data-driven strategy for better understanding use cases appeared first on MarTech.

Living the 5 values of agile marketing

Posted by:
Posted on: September 23, 2021

In an ever-changing marketing landscape, we need to continuously look towards the future of our industry. This September, agile marketers from around the world came together to help shape the next wave of agile in the marketing space with a revised Agile Marketing Manifesto.

The History of Agile Manifestos

The first agile manifesto, the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, was created in 2001 and has led the idea of what it means to be agile in terms of values and principles for 20 years. When this was created, there was a great divide between business people and software developers and a lot of this original manifesto was to help foster better collaboration between these two parts of companies. This manifesto is still used today.

While software teams pioneered the agile movement, they soon realized that agility is a cultural change that the whole company needs to get behind. This next wave is often referred to as ‘business agility’ where we transform old ways of working across software, human resources, finance, and of course, marketing.

The agile movement began with a very small group of early adopters in marketing nine years ago, when they created ‘Sprint Zero’, which was the birth of the first Agile Marketing Manifesto. The group intended to revise the values and principles frequently, but it took nearly a decade for that to become a reality. With a lot of collaboration from the community, the new manifesto is a true reflection of where we are today in a world that’s unpredictable, global and vastly remote.

The Agile Marketing Manifesto is a single source of truth to ground marketers that want to be agile in the cultural changes they need to live by. We’ll explore the five updated values (down from the original seven) and ways that your company can live them in day-to-day operations.

Watch our panel from MarTech: The next generation of agile marketing (free registration required).

Value #1: Focusing on Customer Value and Business Outcomes Over Activity and Outputs

Traditionally, marketers are measured by quantity over quality. How many articles did you produce? How many social media posts were launched? How many hours were you utilized? While delivering something is definitely better than only analyzing and delivering nothing, volume doesn’t tell us anything about impact to our customers.

Do’s:

  • Discuss desired outcomes before beginning any work.
  • Measure success at early intervals. Did the tactic perform as expected?
  • Be willing to pivot and change work that under-performs.
  • Double down on high-performing marketing.
  • Have team members focus on collaborating to finish all pieces of work (writing, design, etc)  and have it customer-ready.

Don’t:

  • Reward people for output or hours worked.
  • Work on things just because they are in the plan.
  • Measure teams on the number of stories they did – often less is more!
  • Focus on tasks of individual roles.

Value #2: Delivering Value Early and Often Over Waiting for Perfection

It’s really common to think about everything we want in our marketing deliverables, making them pixel perfect and having everyone that may have an opinion get their eyes on it before it goes live. However, there is a really big cost to that—we may be late to market, miss an opportunity or simply just spend too much money on inventory on the shelf, because that’s what our work is when it’s not usable by customers.

Do’s:

  • Think in terms of minimally viable; what’s the simplest version we can get out there that still meets our desired outcome?
  • Reduce the number of hand-offs and sign-offs needed to go live.
  • See where you can repurpose existing content and images.
  • Consider delivering what you have now, but adding the bells and whistles later (maybe your website just needs to be usable, but it can have more functionality later).
  • Can a non-expert pitch in and help? Perhaps you don’t need your best designer for some simpler pieces.

Don’t:

  • Get caught up in analysis paralysis.
  • Spend too much time with upfront planning.
  • Wait until you have the ‘expert’ available if that person is in high demand.
  • Have an all or nothing approach to getting work in front of customers.

Value #3: Learning Through Experiments and Data Over Opinions and Conventions

If you’ve ever been told, “We’re going to that trade show because we do it every year,” that may be a sign that your company has some conventional thinking going on. With this value, we want to move away from complacency into a world where experimentation, backed by data and learning, is our preferred way of working.

Do’s:

  • Allow teams to experiment, even if they may get it wrong the first time.
  • Use A/B testing or other methods to learn how customers react.
  • Give people time for brainstorming and creative thinking of new ideas.
  • Show leaders the data behind a campaign’s performance, and use that to make decisions around future work.

Don’t:

  • Keep doing what you’ve always done without questioning why.
  • Overload teams with deliverables or they won’t have time to experiment.
  • Be afraid to take risks and be wrong.
  • Take on work because a very important person thinks it’s a good idea if it’s not what customers are looking for.

Value #4: Cross-Functional Collaboration Over Silos and Hierarchies

In traditional marketing organizations, people work in departmental silos and work gets passed like a baton from department to department, which is a really slow way to work. This old-school culture also requires strict adherence to hierarchies, so oftentimes smart people with good ideas aren’t given a voice. With this value, working on teams together and having a high degree of empowerment to get things done is important.

Do’s:

  • Form agile marketing teams with cross-functional skill sets in order to create fully customer-ready marketing initiatives.
  • Allow team members to work outside of their job title, rather than only within their specialization.
  • Encourage the entire team to be responsible for all aspects of work.

Don’t:

  • Form teams with a lot of external dependencies.
  • Wait for the ‘expert’ to do work if it bottlenecks your team.
  • Create sub-teams within your team, handing off work from person to person rather than everyone collaborating.

Value #5: Responding to Change Over Following a Static Plan

If there’s one lesson we’ve all learned from the pandemic, it’s that plans are highly subject to change, so we must learn to plan flexibly. With agile marketing, we want to make plans, but they should be emergent and flexible rather than static and unchangeable. 

Do’s:

  • Keep changing your marketing backlog (prioritized list of future work) as you learn more from past campaign performance, customer feedback or market/environmental conditions.
  • Create quarterly roadmaps that show your campaign plans, but continually discuss them with stakeholders in real-time and swap things out as change happens.
  • Discontinue work that isn’t performing as expected or creating a high degree of customer value, even if it was part of a plan.

Don’t:

  • Use ‘we’re agile’ as an excuse to continually insert new work at the last minute – that will actually hinder your teams’ productivity.
  • Spend too much upfront time planning work in great detail, or you may be wasting time.
  • Create plans that can never change.

When your agile marketing seems to be stuck in a rut, go back and revisit these values with your company and see where improvements can be made. We hope you can appreciate and live by the new and improved agile values in your day-to-day work as a marketer. 

Read next: Why do agile marketers feel that agile needs to evolve?

The post Living the 5 values of agile marketing appeared first on MarTech.

Gusto Review

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Posted on: September 23, 2021

The benefits of payroll software speak for themselves, but the price tag can be limiting, especially for small businesses.

Gusto offers some of the most affordable plans on the market and transparent pricing.

You even get a generous serving of HR features to complement your payroll processing.

Is Gusto the payroll service for you? How does it measure up to the competition?

This review covers everything you might need to know about Gusto before you open your wallet.

Gusto Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Very easy to use for beginners
  • Affordable pricing for startups and small businesses
  • Great range of payroll and HR features
  • Unlimited payroll runs
  • No extra charge for filing taxes
  • Transparent pricing

Cons

  • Health insurance coverage is limited to 39 states
  • No dedicated payroll specialist
  • The time tracking feature isn’t available with the basic plan
  • You have to pay for all employees, whether or not you pay them

How Gusto Compares to Top Online Payroll Services

Three top contenders for the best payroll services are ADP, Paychex, and OnPay. However, Gusto is still a terrific online payroll service, especially for small businesses or startups. It is arguably the most straightforward software for an absolute beginner. It also comes with a full suite of payroll and HR features, making it worth the cost. For these reasons and more, Gusto made it onto our list of the best payroll services after much research and reviewing.

Gusto Management & Employee Self-Service

Payroll software already makes processing salaries and wages easier. However, things can be even easier with employee self-service. Again, this is an area where Gusto excels at benefiting employers who don’t have a lot of time or resources to deal with personnel paperwork.

With Gusto, you only need to enter a few employee details, including their email address. Then the software sends out an invite for the employee to complete the onboarding process. The employee will provide contact information, fill out W-4 and I-9 forms, supply their bank details, and can e-sign paperwork within Gusto. This leaves you more time to deal with other crucial business tasks.

Adding and removing employees from the system is easy and intuitive. Your employees will be able to view their W-2s and paystubs any time they wish. Even old employees can continue to view their old pay stubs if they need to.

To be fair, employee self-service is pretty much standard with top payroll software. Paychex, ADP, and OnPay all offer equally robust employee self-service functionality. But given Gusto’s overall ease of use, this software beats the competition. Even your less tech-savvy employees and contractors will be able to easily self-onboard using Gusto. It’s also great that Gusto offers this feature with its cheapest plan, the Core plan.

Gusto Multi-State Tax Filings

Gusto automatically files your tax forms and remittances for you. These include basic forms like 1099 and W-2. Gusto also takes care of more complicated forms like the 940, 941, and 8974. Additionally, the software files state-specific tax forms to ensure that you are always compliant. The software allows employees to sign the forms electronically. These forms are securely stored online, complete with 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).

The best part about filing tax forms with Gusto is the transparent pricing. The entire cost is covered in your subscription, regardless of the document. Similar services like ADP Run charge an extra fee to process W-2s and 1099s, bringing up the cost of your subscription.

Also, Gusto offers multi-state tax filings in all 50 states. Multi-state tax filing is available with all Gusto plans, including the Core plan. Again, this functionality is included in your monthly fee. On the other hand, ADP charges an extra fee if you need to run payroll in more than one state. Gusto is definitely a top choice for employers with a workforce spread out across multiple states.

Gusto Specialized Payroll Solutions

Payroll complexity depends on the specific industry. For the most part, Gusto is a terrific payroll software for most industries. The service provider also includes a dedicated contractor plan if you work exclusively with contractors.

Gusto even has a nifty feature called the Gusto Wallet. Here, employees can access emergency funds, set savings goals, get access to a Gusto debit card, and easily split paychecks to different accounts.

Gusto no doubt has some great specialized payroll solutions. But you can tell that the company takes a one-size-fits-all approach. As a result, Gusto lacks some of the specialized features you get with other providers like Onpay. For example, Onpay’s versatility is astonishing. Whether you need to file parsonage exemptions for a church or process payroll for employees on an H2A visa, there is nothing it can’t handle.

Overall, Gusto works well for most traditional businesses. However, if you are looking for something more specialized like running a nonprofit, restaurant, or farm, OnPay may be a better choice.

Gusto Pay Cycle Frequency

Gusto gives you complete autonomy of how often you’d like to pay employees like most other payroll software. By default, Gusto sets its pay frequency to twice a month. But you can easily change this to the payment schedule you prefer.

You have the option of putting all your employees on the same schedule, including hourly and salaried employees. You can also put employees on different pay schedules or set pay schedules by department or compensation type.

The pay schedules available on Gusto include:

  • Weekly
  • Bi-weekly
  • Monthly
  • Semi-monthly
  • Quarterly
  • Annually

There are no complaints here. You’ll be able to set precisely the kind of payment schedule that suits your business and workforce. Managing different pay schedules is also very easy with Gusto. 

Gusto All-in-One Benefits

If you offer employee benefits, you’d want a payroll service that lets you handle employee benefits. Gusto offers robust benefits options. The list of supported benefits includes:

  • Medical insurance
  • Vision insurance
  • Dental insurance
  • Health flexible spending account (FSA)
  • Long-term disability insurance
  • Short-term disability insurance
  • Employer-paid life insurance
  • Health savings account (HAS)
  • Dependent care flexible spending account (DCFSA)
  • Commuter benefits
  • Worker’s compensation
  • Group term life insurance
  • Payroll deductions

The only downside is that health insurance coverage with Gusto is limited to 39 states. Paychex and ADP, on the other hand, offer health insurance coverage in all 50 states. Otherwise, Gusto provides some of the most comprehensive benefits available on any payroll software.

Gusto Payroll

If you want to take a hands-off approach to payroll, Gusto is the perfect partner. Aside from paying your employees and contractors, Gusto also calculates your taxes. The software also files your taxes with the correct agency. This happens every time you run payroll. And the best part is that there is no extra charge for filing taxes.

Gusto will even report new hires to the government for you. The software easily integrates with accounting and other software, including QuickBooks, Xero, Clover, Trainual, and TSheets. In addition, you can easily import employee and payroll data from other systems, meaning you don’t have to start from scratch when you sign up with Gusto.

Additionally, Gusto supports direct deposit. Employees often prefer this option, so be sure to offer it. The direct deposit comes with three processing timelines, including four-day payments, two-day payments, and next-day payments. Gusto initially put you on the two-day payment schedule, but you can request next-day payments after processing your first payroll. Thus, you can use direct deposit for paying employees and contractors alike.

Finally, Gusto offers a nifty AutoPilot™ feature to run payroll automatically. This feature works well if you have salaried employees with fixed hours because payroll will look the same every month. The AutoPilot™ feature lets you choose when you’d like your employees to be paid, and then Gusto takes care of the rest. You also get a notification a day before payday, in case you’d like to make changes.

One potential downside with Gusto is the payment structure. You have to pay for each employee you add to your system. This includes the employees you aren’t paying right now, such as if someone is on unpaid leave/vacation or if you have unpaid interns or volunteers.

Another downside is that Gusto doesn’t offer international payroll. This limitation can be a problem if you have a dispersed or remote global workforce. Paychex and ADP offer global payroll at an extra cost and may be better options if you employ multiple international people.

Gusto Hiring and Onboarding

While Gusto markets itself as payroll software, it has surprisingly robust HR capabilities. Its hiring and onboarding features are certainly worth writing home about.

Some of the HR tasks you can accomplish with Gusto during the hiring process include:

  • Sending tailored offer letters
  • Adding employees to the system
  • Signing documents and forms
  • Onboarding checklists

Gusto’s major competitors offer equally robust hiring and onboarding features. So, Gusto isn’t exceptional in this regard. Still, these offerings are commendable, especially given that not all payroll software offers them.

Gusto HR Experts

Gusto grants you access to HR experts with its Concierge plan. You’ll be able to get on the phone with a certified HR pro to answer any questions you might have. Alternatively, you can send an email to receive personal advice from an expert.

The Concierge plan also comes with numerous guides and templates designed by HR professionals. Examples include:

  • Labor law policy templates
  • Job descriptions and offer letters
  • Employee handbook builder
  • Performance evaluations
  • Anti-harassment training
  • Employee handbook builder
  • Termination requirements

These templates will save you plenty of time and resources drafting your employee documents. ADP and Paychex also offer this service with their higher-priced plans. It’s good to know that Gusto doesn’t fall behind its competition where it matters.

Gusto Time Tracking

Time tracking is crucial for accurately processing payroll. Like most other payroll software, Gusto comes equipped with time-tracking features. You or your employees can track employees’ and contractors’ hours right from the dashboard or using the Gusto app.

Gusto also breaks down workflow by employee, project, task, and period. This breakdown gives you a 360° view of team efficiency and project cost. You can also easily sync with Xero or Quickbooks Online to get the complete picture of hours and cost.

Additionally, Gusto lets you create custom paid time off (PTO) policies for your business. Everything is organized neatly by department, employee, and date. As a result, you can get all the information you need at a glance. Gusto also automatically calculates PTO liabilities, meaning less work for the accounting team.

Your employees will also be able to track their own time off, including making requests and any changes or adjustments. This will help reduce queries or disputes about PTO between HR and employees. Staff can submit sick days or vacation time for approval, and managers can approve or decline requests within Gusto. Everything automatically syncs with payroll and calendars, so everyone is on the same page.

Most other top payroll software also offers time tracking tools. But Gusto is among the most robust. The only major complaint is that you don’t get the time tracking feature with the Core plan. This seems like an odd choice since time tracking goes hand in hand with processing payroll. Additionally, most competitors offer this feature with their core plans.

Gusto Customer Support

Gusto excels in many places, but customer support isn’t one of them. Even so, this inadequacy is relative. On the surface, you get phone support in addition to email and chat. But you only get 24/7 phone support with the Concierge plan. You can only call in during business hours if you’re on the Core, Complete, and Contractor plans. Finally, phone support isn’t available on weekends and during holidays.

Paychex and ADP offer 24/7 phone support. This feature is convenient if you need to resolve an urgent issue. My experience with Gusto’s email and chat support has been overall positive. But, a significant number of customers complain about slow responses from the customer service team.  

On the plus side, Gusto is very easy to use. The platform’s simplicity means there are few incidents where you might need emergency support. Gusto also has a robust knowledge base that you use in case of any issue.

It would be nice if Gusto offered round-the-clock phone support. This flaw isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker. But it is worth considering if tech support is a significant concern for you.

Gusto Pricing

I’ll wind up this Gusto review with a look at its pricing. It’s another one of the platform’s strongest features depending on your type of business. I’d highly recommend Gusto if you have a small team of fewer than 50 employees. The feature benefits far outweigh the cost, making Gusto a great steal.

Another great thing about Gusto is its transparent pricing. You know precisely what you’ll be paying for beforehand. So there are no nasty surprises when it’s time to process payroll or file taxes. Unfortunately, both Paychex and ADP have less transparent pricing plans. This can make it difficult to budget for your service.

Summary

Larger businesses may find ADP more appealing for its extensive growth plans. Alternatively, Paychex is an excellent substitute for companies looking for a more personalized payroll service.

Still, Gusto is one of the best payroll software out there. This view is especially true for a small business with less than 50 employees. You’ll get access to robust payroll and HR features even with the Core plan.

The fact that you don’t have to pay extra to file taxes or run payroll in multiple states further adds to Gusto’s appeal. All things considered, Gusto is one of the best payroll software for startups and small businesses.

A Brief Guide to Blazor for HTTP and C# Applications

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Posted on: September 23, 2021

A Brief Guide To Blazor

Behind every great website or application is a lot of coding. When that code is heavy or overly complex, it can slow down website speed and increase bounce rates. This is why a lot of marketers are excited about a new user interface from .NET called Blazor. 

The name is a combination of “browser” and the .NET markup syntax Razor, for those familiar with it. 

What is Blazor, and what do you need to know about it? Here’s a quick run-down that even non-developers can understand. 

What Is Blazor?

Blazor is a user interface that allows developers to build front-end applications using C#, HTML, and Razor templates. You can build components and pages that then run on a server or directly on a browser. It was built by the .NET team and is completely open-source and free for anyone to use.  

The use of templates, C#, and HTML makes developing easier and, in many cases, faster. 

What Is Blazor - Blazor in Use

What Are Blazor Apps?

One of the platform’s key components is Blazor apps, which allow devs to add features without coding every single step. It is a bit similar to the way a WYSIWYG website builder allows users to build a website without coding at all. 

In this case, however, it lets devs code without JavaScript. 

You can also run Razor apps on Blazor.  

How to Run Blazor: Server or WebAssembly 

Blazor can be run in two ways—on the server or using WebAssembly, which allows you to run it directly on most browsers. 

There are pros and cons to both. Using WebAssembly, you’ll enjoy a fast UX that is supported offline and can use a CDN. However, the initial load time can be slow, and you may need to call the API, which can slow things down. 

If you choose to go with the server route, you’ll find onboarding is a bit easier, and load and render times are faster. However, your app won’t work offline, and changes can cause major latency issues. Also, it can be difficult to scale apps because each user has their connection to the server. 

Why You Should Use Blazor

Blazor allows developers to write the client-side of code in C# or HTML, which means you don’t have to know JavaScript or other languages. This makes it easier for a single developer to work on a project. It can also make it more manageable to delegate tasks to team members since they only need to know one coding language

Since the same code is used on the client and server side of an application, the code only needs to be written once—which can save you tons of time. 

There are also several benefits for marketers. 

Blazor can help developers create sites that generate more traffic

Server-side rendering comes standard, which is great for SEO. This allows bots from search engines to easily crawl your code and your site. Server-side rendering improves load time, so when a website loads, it takes a few seconds to show up on-screen. This duration can be reduced if the server sends all the data needed to render the page to the browser before it loads.

Using HTML and C# also reduces the amount of JavaScript on an application, which can increase load times and reduce bounce rates

How Does Blazor Work?

Blazor works by combining C#, HTML, and apps to make application development easier. It can do nearly everything JavaScript can do, but you don’t have to know JavaScript. 

It uses Razor templates to create components that produce browser-renderable HTML and CSS. It’s the same as any other browser content: pure, semantic, and accessible HTML and CSS.

This means you can use all CSS features, including media queries for responsive design, and CSS custom properties. 

This video from dotNETConf walks you through how to build a full-stack web app:  

I’ll also go through how to set it up in a further section. 

What Is Blazor Used For?

Blazor is used to build web-based applications. This can include mobile apps, webpages, and anything else you can build with JavaScript. 

The framework allows you to complete a number of common development tasks, such as rendering components and HTML, fetching data over HTTP, and client-side routing. 

When used on a browser, it has full access to the browser’s JavaScript APIs. As a result, Blazor apps can use JavaScript functions from .NET methods and also .NET methods from JavaScript functions. 

For cases where the framework doesn’t have a specific API or component, or if developers want to work with the JavaScript ecosystem, then JavaScript interop is used.

How to Setup a Blazor Project 

Now that you understand the basics of Blazor, let’s talk about how to use the program. As I mentioned above, it is a free, open-source program, so you won’t need to pay to use it. You also have access to the source code through GitHub, if that’s your thing. 

You’ll need two things to create a project: the platform and Visual Studio 2019 or above. 

Here’s how to get started: 

Step 1: Download and install Blazor from the Microsoft page. Click the “Get started” button. 

How to Setup a Blazor Project

Step 2: Install Visual Studio, if you don’t already have it. This will let you do that actual coding. This may take a few minutes to install and load. 

Step 3: Run a command prompt and run > dotnet command. This will verify everything is installed correctly. If it is ready to use, you will get a response like this: 

How to Setup a Blazor Project - Command Prompt Check

Step 4: Next, open Visual Studio and select “Create a new project.” 

Step 5: Select ASP.NET. If you don’t already have the ASP.NET Core Web Application installed in Visual Studio, you’ll need to add it. 

How to Setup a Blazor Project - Create a New Project

Step 5: In “Configure new project” add a name, then select “Create.” 

Step 6: In the “Create a new ASP.NET Core web application” box, choose “.NET Core and ASP.NET Core 5.0” in the dropdown menu, then “Web Application” and “Create.” 

You now have a project set up. Now you can start using Blazor apps to see how they work. While the actual coding is beyond the scope of this article, I highly recommend this tutorial from Microsoft.  

If you want to play around with without downloading a ton of stuff, you can use this browser-based tutorial

Frequently Asked Questions About Blazor

Is Blazor Worth Using?

It depends on your needs. It is ideal for programmers who don’t like JavaScript, don’t know JavaScript, or don’t want to slow down their site with tons of JavaScript. However, it does require the whole runtime to be shipped and may not work with non-standard browsers in some cases. 

Is the Blazor Server Fast?

In general, yes. However, all users have a persistent bi-directional connection to the server, which can cause issues for larger applications. 

Is Blazor Easy to Learn?

If you already know C#, you’ll have an easy time picking up Blazor. It’s easy, fast, and integrates well with the .NET ecosystem

How Much Does Blazor Cost?

Blazor is part of the open-source .NET platform, which means there are no fees or costs, even if you use it commercially. It was built and is maintained by a community of contributors.

Does Blazor Matter for Marketing?

Blazor is unlikely to have a daily impact for the average marketer, but there are some benefits marketers should be aware of. 

It may make it easier (and faster) for development teams to create new pages or applications. It also makes it easier for search engine bots to crawl, which is a bonus for digital marketing. 

What Is the Difference Between Blazor and Razor?

Razor is a template markup syntax for .NET. Blazor (which combines the word “browser” and Razor) is a framework that can run multiple types of code and deliver it to servers or browsers. Essentially, it is an evolution of Razor.

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It depends on your needs. It is ideal for programmers who don’t like JavaScript, don’t know JavaScript, or don’t want to slow down their site with tons of JavaScript. However, it does require the whole runtime to be shipped and may not work with non-standard browsers in some cases. 


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Blazor Conclusion

If you are looking for a way to streamline the development process—and improve page speed a bit—Blazor is a great platform. While it’s more than the average marketer needs to build a website or launch a landing page, it’s great news for developers. 

The user-friendly platform helps streamline workflows, reduces coding language limitations, and makes it easier for dev teams to get work done. 

Have you tried Blazor yet? What do you like best about it? 

Let’s talk about a phenomenon called “pitch-slapping.

You research a product through Google and click on a relevant landing page. Before you can even learn more about the product, you get slammed with content trying to pitch you. You hardly even know what they want you to buy, let alone why you should buy it.

Well, that settles it. You click the “back” button.

If you want to create landing pages that encourage your new visitors to click your call to action button, don’t be a pitch-slapper. Optimize your landing page for the top of the conversion funnel, where your customers are getting to know your brand.

This blog post will explain what the top of the funnel is and how you can build a landing page for this phase of the marketing process.

TOFU: It’s Not Just a Protein

The top of the funnel (TOFU) is the first stage of the conversion funnel—the steps that a customer takes on their journey from search to sale. In 2021, more than a third of marketers told HubSpot that their top marketing priority was generating leads. TOFU is where that magic starts to happen.

Your TOFU customers aren’t ready to buy your product yet. Instead, they want to learn more about your niche as a whole. They have questions, and you’re in the position to answer them.

Once you get on a customer’s radar during the TOFU stage, you can get more product-focused in the middle of the funnel (MOFU) and bottom of the funnel (BOFU). You establish authority in the TOFU stage so you can grow trust in MOFU and snag a conversion in BOFU.

How to Tailor Your Landing Page to TOFU Customers

A TOFU landing page should make a good first impression on your customers. Here’s how you can craft a TOFU-friendly landing page:

Give your headline some TLC

Good headlines aren’t just for articles and blog posts. Your landing page’s top header gives the first impression fast. After all, according to visual hierarchy rules, it’s probably the first line of text your visitors will see.

Building a good headline from scratch might seem daunting, but you don’t have to start from zero. Try using a tried and tested headline formula to give it some structure.

Some examples of headline formulas include:

  • Call to action headlines that show what your product empowers customers to do.
  • How-to headlines that set you up to explain something to your visitors.
  • Playful headlines that use wordplay or cheeky phrases to pique interest.

Editor’s note: Having trouble choosing the right headline formula for your page? Smart Builder uses AI to suggest the right headlines and copy for your audience.

This ActiveCampaign landing page uses a call to action headline to show that its software goes beyond email automation:

Image courtesy of ActiveCampaign

The headline explains that you may hear of ActiveCampaign as an email automation platform, but it actually automates many aspects of the customer experience. It makes an excellent introduction for visitors who don’t know much about the platform.

Stay away from jargon

Jargon is language that only makes sense in a specific professional niche. In most landing page copy, you should avoid it as much as possible, but this rule especially applies to TOFU landing pages.

TOFU customers have a higher chance of having a surface-level understanding of your topic than visitors in other steps of the funnel. So, jargon will become even more of a turn-off for these folks just starting to understand your product.

Plus, jargon can distract from your brand’s value proposition—the message expressing your main value to your customers. You wanna make your value prop as clear as possible to TOFU visitors to nail that first impression.

Check out how Bench presents its bookkeeping platform and services:

Image courtesy of Bench

Bookkeeping involves a ton of tricky terms and processes. This landing page focuses on what Bench can do to simplify bookkeeping instead of digging into those complicated elements. If you’re trying to figure out how to explain your product without jargon, try framing it based on what it can do for your customer instead of what it is

Add relevant keywords

You should always incorporate relevant keywords into your landing page content, but this practice has the most significant impact on TOFU pages compared to MOFU and BOFU pages. TOFU customers have the lowest chance of using branded search terms to find your landing page. So, you’ll need to target relevant words that bring in visitors looking for information.

When you target keywords in your broader niche, you’ll also get the chance to educate new customers on your industry and build their trust.

Let’s say you sell fountain pens and build a TOFU landing page that includes general information on fountain pens. Visitors who search for “types of fountain pens” might come across your page and appreciate that you went out of your way to educate them. Once they’re further down the funnel, they’ll be more likely to consider you as an option for their final purchase.

For example, Zola draws in customers learning about wedding invitations with a quick FAQ on this landing page:

Image courtesy of Zola

People who come to this landing page trying to learn about wedding invitations will come away with new knowledge on wording their invitations. For instance, someone searching how to make their wedding adults-only politely might come across Zola’s page and consider them in the future. Plus, anyone who comes back during the BOFU stage will be better equipped to use Zola’s invitations.

Show off your success with social proof

At the TOFU stage, your visitor doesn’t have much reason to trust you yet, so you’ve gotta provide that evidence. Social proof, or proof that other customers like your product, fits the bill perfectly. It shows your visitors that people like them choose your product, so they don’t have to just hear it from you.

Here are some types of social proof to think about for your landing page:

  • Reviews
  • Testimonials
  • Social media mentions
  • Trust seals and accreditations
  • Client logos

This example gets pretty meta. Shoutout, a service that collects positive tweets about your brand into a wall, uses its own Shoutout wall on its landing page.

Image courtesy of Shoutout

Social media posts like these provide unedited customer feedback, saving you time and providing more authentic social proof.

Start an ongoing relationship

Think of every TOFU page as the start of a relationship. Since 96% of website visitors aren’t ready to buy your product yet, you want to create a call-to-action (CTA) that helps them get to know you first. Don’t rush for a hard sell on the first visit.

Popular CTAs for TOFU customers include reading more on your website, connecting on social media, and joining a newsletter. Some marketers like to create lead magnet landing pages where visitors get a free download if they submit their contact info. Think of ways that you can keep your brand information flowing to your new customer.

Look how Later’s lead magnet landing page doesn’t have a platform signup as its CTA. Instead, it asks customers to enter their email to get a guide to influencer marketing:

Image courtesy of Later

When visitors submit their contact info, they’ll get Later’s guide and ongoing updates to keep the brand on their minds.

Serve the Right Pages to the Right Funnel Stages

Before you dig into your TOFU landing page, remember this: TOFU is just one stage of the funnel. While your TOFU audience will respond well to an introductory approach, your MOFU and BOFU audiences will need different language and optimization.

As you set up your landing page campaigns, consider which pages will go to which funnel stages. Then, tailor each page to its specific funnel stage and audience. If you want help copywriting for visitors in each funnel stage, try Unbounce’s Smart Builder. After you provide some info on your goals and audience, it provides insights and copy suggestions to help you nail your copy.

It’s the middle of the night and all of a sudden: drip, drip, drip…

You wipe your face and peer through the darkness at the ceiling. Uh-oh, something’s leaking up there. Like most people, you reach for your smartphone and search for a plumber that would be available to help at this ungodly hour.

Scroll, tap, and voilà: There’s a landing page for 24/7 plumbing in your area with a CTA to dial the number right away.  

In the olden days, you’d likely look up the number in the phone book (a phone what?). Now, people turn to their mobile devices as soon as they have a problem that needs solving or a question that needs answering.

Animation of someone searching through a phonebook.

We all know there’s nothing more reassuring than hearing a human voice at the other end of the line. And that’s why optimizing your landing pages for pay-per-call advertising campaigns is crucial in this digital landscape.

Why Pay-Per-Call Ad Campaigns Are Critical in the Mobile Age

Pay-per-call ad campaigns are the holy grail of mobile online marketing. They’re what every marketer dreams about and strives for.

Why? Because today 56.75% of all web traffic originates from a smartphone, a device that can make a direct phone call to your business with the single tap of a call to action button.

It’s never been easier to generate high-quality leads with virtually no friction. Consider this:

  • Phone leads enjoy a much higher conversion rate than form-based leads (a 5-1 advantage or better is not uncommon).
  • With a phone call, leads don’t need to hide behind technology: no intrusive qualifying questions to reply to, no multiple-choice buttons, no pull-down menus, no CAPTCHA riddles.
  • Phone leads are more engaged and less guarded.

Why Are Landing Pages Important for Pay-Per-Call Campaigns

A landing page is the first thing your potential customer will see after they click on your pay-per-call ad. To be effective, your page needs to become an extension of your ad by:

  • Showing clear benefits that answer your prospect’s search query: If the search term is “weekend plumbers near me” your benefits must reflect your ability to be on site in 30 minutes or less, your lack of a weekend surcharge, the fact that you run a 24/7 operation including holidays, and so on.
  • Reflecting the needs of your prospect through putting yourself in their shoes: “We know how frustrating it is when your plumbing fails in the most inopportune time, the inconvenience of a pipe leak, or a clogged kitchen sink when all hardware stores are closed.
  • Presenting a clear call to action: This is where you reach out offering your help, where you say, “Our reps are always on standby, just a phone call away to get all your problems solved.

What Should You Include in Your Pay-Per-Call Landing Page Design?

When it comes to pay-per-call landing page design, you need to use a less is more approach. Your job is to persuade your prospect to call you without making them fall into a rabbit hole of unnecessary information.

Don’t sell your business by showing endless feature lists and a company backgrounder. Instead, build a bridge of trust by reflecting their needs and presenting your solution in a way that makes them feel you’re the white knight that’ll come to their rescue.

To this effect, your pay-per-call landing page design needs to include:

  1. A headline and sub-headline that reflects your prospect’s main pain point and your solution. Make this text, font, and color clearly contrast with your page’s background palette.
  2. A call to action button that jumps out of the page so there’s never any doubt in the mind of your prospect that a single tap will immediately put them in touch with you.
  3. An offer that creates peace of mind. In other words, an offer that’ll relieve their pain, not showcase your bells and whistles (so, stay away from expressions that have nothing to do with your prospect, like “30 years in business, No job is too small,” etc.).
  4. Last but not least, your business logo.

Examples of Pay-Per-Call Landing Pages

The proof is in the pudding, as they say, so let’s look at a few pay-per-call landing page examples and discuss their key elements.

1. Health and wellness

As you can see, the choice of a forest hero shot evokes a sense of grounding and peace, which is what someone in need of the services of a drug rehab center is looking for. 

The messaging encourages without being forceful, emphasizing confidentiality coupled with free advice.

Most importantly, the call to action is clear and tells you exactly what to do when you call (“Press 2”), yet it uses a subdued tone that complements the color palette of the background.

2. Home services

Here’s a landing page in response to a search for an “affordable weekend plumber. Cost is key in the messaging to counter the expectation that a weekend plumbing call is going to be a lot more expensive than a regular business hours call.

This landing page’s job is to convey the message that even though they operate 24/7/365, they’re still affordable. To make this even clearer, the call to action button stresses that there will be no charge to get an estimate for the work.

Finally, the hero shot shows an expert’s hand and tools to instill trust and peace of mind—meaning that no matter how dire the plumbing emergency might be, the prospect shouldn’t worry (because things will get better soon).

3. Legal

This is a landing page for a legal firm specializing in food poisoning personal injury claims. The focus here is to get top compensation for their clients, a key expectation for these types of calls.

They clearly point out the fact that clients are not expected to have any out-of-pocket expenses whatsoever and that all services will be offered on a contingency basis.

They also stress their 24/7 availability, because food poisoning cases often occur after hours and they want to make sure their prospects know they’ll be available when the incident happens, so they can advise them what to do while the iron is hot.

The call to action is clean and the message makes it clear how to navigate the firm’s phone answering choices since personal injury law firms handle many different types of cases.

Finally, the hero shot reflects the predicament of the victim, signaling empathy towards their situation.

Want to Optimize Your Pay-Per-Call Landing Pages? We’re Here to Help

When it comes to optimizing your landing pages to maximize pay-per-call conversions, you always need to make sure that the job of your page is not to “sell” your services, but to become the natural solution to your prospect’s pain points.

All your design choices, from the color palette to call-to-action buttons to hero images, must be chosen to reflect the needs and hopes of your prospect.

The same goes for your messaging: Empathy drives conversions. The more your prospect identifies with your messaging and feels that you truly understand them, the more they’ll feel comfortable taking action and making that call.

Try Smart Builder to create and optimize variants of your landing pages, and watch your pay-per-call conversions get the boost they deserve.

How Cinemark personalized the digital customer experience

Posted by:
Posted on: September 23, 2021

Life changed with the pandemic, and so did a lot of traditional business models and consumer experiences. As one of the Big Three movie theater chains, Cinemark had to reinvent the moviegoer’s journey to ensure safe health practices and meet higher competition from in-home streaming platforms.

To attract more fans to their theaters, Cinemark had to make the experience even more memorable, and also make their interactions with customers relevant and useful. Data made both these goals achievable by helping to increase the level of personalization in Cinemark’s engagement.

Matching in-theater customer experience digitally

“For the moviegoing experience, traditionally, we think of that as stadium seating, a bucket of popcorn and sticky floors, right?” said Ray Valencia, Cinemark’s Director of Digital Customer Experience. “But for consumers, their expectations have increased significantly, and now it’s all about experience. It’s very experiential. They’re looking for big, bright screens, for surround sound and lounge seating and elevated food and drink experiences. So our objective really on the digital side is to elevate that experience to be on par with the in-theater experience.

He added, “Our digital is the front door to the customer experience, and we want it to be inviting and  personalized for each of our customer, and also streamlined so it’s very easy for them to purchase with us and makes them want to come back.”

Meeting future customers where they are in the movie business means reaching out beyond the theater to engage customers through digital channels. And doing this in a personalized way is important in getting people’s attention. Valencia said the aim of his team is to make Cinemark the Amazon of movie theaters — digital-first while reducing friction points in the shopping experience.

“Really everyone is unique,” said Leigh Price, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Salesforce, who helped Cinemark personalize. “But how do we treat everyone differently in a digital world where we have thousands or millions of people that we’re all interacting with across many different channels? To pull off this level of personalization, one-to-one personalization, it really requires a new way of thinking.”

Customer speed

When critical points in the customer’s journey are personalized, it improves the customer’s speed in converting on an ad while also adding value to the experience for that customer, according to Valencia.

“We want to provide customers with personalized recommendations at every stage of their journey,” he said. “We want to leverage all that we know about the customer and make the experience seamless to get the customer to convert faster.”

He added that this can be achieved by surfacing showtimes to a customer’s favorite theater, identifying products that are personalized and relevant to the customer based on what they know about them,or upselling products that are personalized. Being very specific with the data helps get the customer in the mood to buy.

decisioning engine graphic unpacking client and customer experience

“And on the loyalty side, we have a lot of loyalty members and, like many companies, those are some of our most valuable customers,” said Valencia. “So we really pay close attention to their behaviors, and make sure that we’re running personalization campaigns that are focused on driving customer benefits for them.”

Getting to real-time interaction management

Driving customers to local theaters, or local storefronts in other retail categories, requires personalization that goes beyond bucketing groups of prospects. Sure, segmentation is an important part of digital advertising and some messaging, but it shouldn’t replace real personalization in a marketing strategy.

“In 2021, businesses do need to do better, and marketing needs…one-to-one messaging, one-to-one interactions, even when you have millions of customers and prospects and not only does it need to be one-to-one, but it also needs to be in real-time,” said Price.

“This is where a personalization engine comes in to manage interactions in real-time at scale and at a high level,” he added.

Marketers need to be listening to customers across all channels, including your website, your mobile app and even offline through ATM kiosks and customer service teams. And timing is everything, so marketers need to act immediately on this data.

“So even if you’re gaining insights on preferences from your customers on the website and from their browsing, when they actually contact your sales team, you can still use that exact same insight to recommend the next best action to them,” Price explained. “So wherever the interaction takes place, we want that personalization to be consistent. And that’s where real-time interaction management comes into play.”

The post How Cinemark personalized the digital customer experience appeared first on MarTech.

How to Use Google Scholar to Find Content Ideas and Research

Posted by:
Posted on: September 22, 2021

How to Use Google Scholar to Find Content Ideas and Research

Looking for a new way to research or find content ideas for your marketing content? You may have heard of Google Scholar but aren’t sure if it’s the right tool for what you need. 

Google Scholar is a search engine for scholarly literature at major academic publishers and university presses that lets you find articles or citations on the topic of your choice.

Google Scholar is a great resource for finding articles on topics related to your niche and adding them to Google Scholar’s library.

Anyone can use this tool, such as marketers, academics, or anyone who wants to do research. All you need is an idea of what you’re looking for and a Google account.

Well-researched content helps build audience trust and positions you as a leader in your industry.

Creating content can be one of the most effective ways to promote your business. Not to mention, it costs 62 percent less than traditional marketing and can triple the number of leads you bring in.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss strategies for using Google Scholar to find marketing content ideas and research, plus tips to be successful.

Let’s get started!

How Does Google Scholar Work?

Google Scholar ranks documents based on the number of times an article has been viewed, printed, or downloaded within a set period of time (usually around one year).

Similar to Google search results, the most popular or most used topics are shown first in Google Scholar results.

Google Scholar’s aim is to rank documents the way researchers would: based on relevance and popularity.

This ranking system also means searchers can find relevant content more quickly.

Documents are added to Google Scholar’s library when publishers submit them to the Google Scholar Metadata Program. From there, documents are indexed, ranked, and made available to searchers in search results.

There is no limit on the number of documents that can be added to Google Scholar’s library—it all depends on how many publishers are participating.

This makes it easy for marketers and researchers alike to find a wide range of relevant content ideas or research topics.

8 Strategies for Using Google Scholar for Content Ideas

Google Scholar is beneficial to searchers because it allows marketers and researchers easy access to scholarly literature like academic journal papers. You can find content ideas on Google Scholar by searching for keywords related to your industry, brand, or topic.

No matter if you’re looking for news articles on digital marketing trends in healthcare, Google Scholar can help you get high-quality search results.

If you want to learn how to use Google Scholar successfully for your marketing research, follow the steps below.

1. Search by Year to Find Trending Topics

Google Scholar’s advanced search option can help you find the most relevant research papers by year.

You can also use this feature if you’re looking for more recent content on a topic and want to avoid older articles that don’t reflect current trends in your industry.

For example, let’s say your company is interested in social media marketing best practices, but you want to keep your results modern. Google Scholar can help you narrow down research topics to a specific date range.

To narrow your search down by date, you use the “Since Year” option to show only recently published papers, sorted by relevance.

You can also use the “Sort By Date” option to show just the new additions, sorted by their publish date.

Using these features can help you find the most up-to-date resources on your topic or find out what competitors are talking about right now.

2. Explore Related Articles to a Certain Topic

Google Scholar’s Related Articles option allows you to explore articles similar to ones you’ve already read, which can help you generate more content ideas.

To use this feature, simply click the Related Articles link at the bottom of an article on your results page.

How to Use Google Scholar to Find Content Ideas - related articles button

For example, if you search “content management system” and find a great resource about WordPress, you can follow it up with related articles for WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla.

This can also be helpful if you find an article about your main keyword but want to know more about what other related keywords are being searched for most often.

For example, if you search for “content management system” in Google Scholar right now (because Google Scholar searches popularly-used terms), you get the following results:

How to Use Google Scholar to Find Content Ideas - Related Articles (content management system example)

These related articles give you a great starting point to continue your research and create stronger content topics.

3. Explore the Most Popular Articles and Publications

Google Scholar lets you browse the top 100 publications in multiple languages, ordered by five-year h-index and h-median metrics. 

This feature allows you to see which articles in a publication were cited most often and by who.

You can also click the h-index number to see the article and citation metrics. The h-index is a number that represents the highest number of papers in the publication that have been cited at least that many times.

The h-median metric is the median of the citation counts in its h-core. Articles in the top 50 percent of citations count towards this metric.

By exploring popular publications to see what topics they cover and what authors are most cited, you can find content ideas for your own blog topics.

4. Follow the Citations for Additional Ideas

Using the Cited By option on Google Scholar leads you to other relevant search results within the Scholar database.

Cited By shows you how many times the result has been cited by other journals.

How to Use Google Scholar to Find Content Ideas - Follow the Citations for Ideas

By following these citations, you can learn more about your topic and improve the quality of your research or topics.

For example, if you want to write about the latest trends in SEO, it would be helpful to know what the most reputable sources on this topic are. If you find an article that’s been cited 500 times, you’ll know you’re reading something with merit.

Finding articles by the number of citations they have received is a great way to find high-quality content ideas.

Just be careful not to limit yourself too much, or you might miss out on some important information!

5. Narrow Your Results by Field

Google Scholar’s Advanced Search option lets you limit results to specific fields of study.

Fields are controlled by the Advanced Scholar Search function, which lets users input keywords, phrases, and places where they occur. You can also segment your results by authors, publishers, and dates.

This feature is great for marketers who want to focus on certain areas of their industry.

How to Use Google Scholar to Find Content Ideas - Narrow Your results by Field

For example, someone who wants to write about the food and beverage industry would enter “food and beverage” in the keyword search box. They would also input “food industry” in the phrase search box.

This keeps their results limited to articles about food and beverage within the food industry, instead of all scholarly articles found by Google Scholar’s search engine.

6. Use Keyword Research to Inform Your Search

Many Google Scholar articles have their keywords listed at the beginning of the result.

You can use these keywords as inspiration for content ideas. Or, if you already have a keyword in mind, you can get ideas for others from the results given. This is a great way to find related concepts to improve the quality of your article.

Not sure how to find relevant keywords for your article? Use Ubersuggest to inform your search!

How to Use Google Scholar to Find Content Ideas - Use Keyword Research and Ubersuggest

The more relevant satellite keywords you add, the more likely is it that Google Scholar will return good results for your topic.

You can also use this method when writing blog posts or articles so you can quickly look up keywords and see related concepts at a glance.

Doing this research in advance allows you to produce higher-quality content with well-researched sources and information.

7. Find Industry and Competitor Topics

One strategy for using Google Scholar to find content ideas is to look at what your competitors and other industry leaders are doing

For example, if you’re in the business of selling hats, and another company just published an article ranking high on Google Scholar about hat trends this year, that might be a good incentive to write something similar yourself.

Alternatively, you could use Google Scholar results to write about topics that are relevant to your industry.

For example, if an author or influencer in the online marketing space has recently published a book on email marketing strategy, that would be a good inspiration for potential blog post content ideas since it’s topical and directly related to your audience.

Lastly, you can use Google Scholar to find ideas for your product or service. If you’re a company that sells software, why not google scholar “software marketing tips” and see what comes up? You may find new ideas that haven’t crossed your desk before.

8. Use Google Scholar to Expand Your Customer Base

The last Google Scholar strategy to consider is using it to find potential customers.

If you are a company that specializes in the B2B space, you can try searching for topics relevant to your industry and see who’s writing about them. This can open your eyes to new people in the industry you might want to do business with.

You may also find relevant searches that focus on market research or lead generation strategies for companies within your niche. These could turn into potential prospects or partnerships in the future.

Even if you don’t get any new leads, you’ll still be able to gather in-depth knowledge about how other players in your industry are creating and interacting with content.

This can give you new ideas for content topics of your own.

Frequently Asked Questions About Google Scholar

How Do You Search on Google Scholar?

To search on Google Scholar, simply enter your keywords in the search bar and click the magnifying glass icon.

How Do I Search Google Scholar for Journals?

Google Scholar makes journal articles easier to find and access than ever before. To search Google Scholar for journals, enter your keywords in the search bar followed by “journal” or “JSTOR.” For example, if I wanted to look at marketing books, I would enter: marketing + JSTOR.

Is Google Scholar Good for Research?

Google Scholar is a great tool for research because it allows you to segment searches by time, publication, or author.

Is Google Scholar Free?

Yes, all of the information on Google Scholar is completely open access for anyone to see. 

How Do I Activate Google Scholar?

To activate Google Scholar, you need a Google account. Sign up for a Google account here.

What Is the Best Way to Use Google Scholar?

You can use Google Scholar for marketing research, content topic creation, scholarly research, and more. 

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Google Scholar Guide Conclusion

One of the main reasons Google Scholar is so popular among marketers and researchers is because it’s easy to use. All you need is an idea, and Google Scholar will do the rest for you.

When using Google Scholar search, be sure to enter all of your known keywords, not just one or two words. For example, if you are searching “marketing articles,” Google Scholar would return everything related to marketing, including articles on marketing psychology, which may be less useful to you than the articles about online marketing content strategy.

Once you have the results you’re looking for, keep refining your search and exploring other citations or results.

Google Scholar is a great way for marketers to inform their content ideas and create innovative articles that people enjoy reading.

How have you used Google Scholar in your content marketing strategy?

Best Cloud Web Hosting

Posted by:
Posted on: September 22, 2021

Nexcess main page for cloud for Best Cloud Web Hosting

Disclosure: This content is reader-supported, which means if you click on some of our links that we may earn a commission.

Cloud web hosting is the right choice for websites that really value stability. If one of your products goes viral, you can weather the traffic spike fine without your users going through a sluggish checkout.

Unlike traditional web hosting, where you purchase a set amount of resources like bandwidth and RAM on a single server, cloud hosting spreads your website’s needs across a massive virtual server that lives on hardware in data centers all over the world. 

With cloud hosting, it’s incredibly easy to add more resources or cut back as needed. And cloud hosting is much less vulnerable to equipment failure issues as there are many servers to pick up the slack. 

If you’re looking for a cost-effective hosting solution to grow with your business, cloud hosting is definitely worth checking out. I’ll break down seven of the best cloud web hosting options and walk you through how to assess which is the best one for your needs.

#1 – A2 Hosting — Best For Speed & Flexibility 

A2 Hosting cloud pricing for Best Cloud Web Hosting

A2 Hosting tops out this list for several reasons. First of all, they’re known in the industry for super-fast web hosting, and their cloud hosting plans have proven to be just as fast and reliable. 

What stands out about A2 is how adaptable they are. No matter what you want out of your cloud hosting provider, they are a good, solid option to get you where you need to go. 24/7 customer support is one feature that will be especially valuable if you’re slightly less tech-savvy.

There’s also a variety of price points, with their cheapest plan, Runway 1, just $4.99 per month, and the most expensive plan, Supersonic 8, starting at $29.99 per month. 

A2 Hosting also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee—not every provider offers this. 

Another notable thing about A2 is that you can host as many websites as you want, as long as you stay within the bandwidth you paid for. 

#2 – HostGator — Best For Affordability

HostGator pricing for Best Cloud Web Hosting

If you’re looking for budget-friendly cloud hosting that’s still reliable, HostGator is the way to go. Because it offers unmetered storage and bills on an hourly basis, it can also handle a site with a lot of pages or significant variations in traffic without sacrificing their great 99.99% uptime guarantee. 

Their introductory discounts really set them apart, especially for their biggest plan. For your first year of hosting with HostGator, you can get discounts of up to 70% depending on their deals.

The Hatchling plan is currently $4.95 per month, with the Baby plan starting at $6.57 per month and the Business plan at only $10 a month after the discount. All plans come with a 36-month commitment. 

Unless you choose HostGator’s Business plan, you won’t get any perks like free backups or SEO tools, but that plan’s prices are still a great affordable option with the discounts. It’s also simple to use, including the ability to scale up your cloud resources as your business grows with just one click. 

#3 – InMotion — Best Customer Support 

InMotion Hosting main page for cloud for Best Cloud Web Hosting

InMotion is a fantastic option for small business owners who need a website, especially if they’re new to the digital world. 

InMotion makes it easy to scale your resources as you need to, and the fact that their plans include a free SSL certificate and cPanel makes them a good one-stop-shop option. 

But their customer service is what really sets them apart. InMotion offers 24/7 support via both live chat and phone, along with help tickets and a knowledge database with tons of resources to refer back to. If you’re a busy entrepreneur who’s not that comfortable yet online, this kind of high-support, all-in-one option is likely to be exactly what you need. 

InMotion is a more expensive option with the lowest-priced plan for small businesses typically $59.99 per month. But at the time of this writing, they are running a sale, and this plan is $17.99 per month and still includes free SSLs.

#4 – Bluehost — Best User Experience

Bluehost main page for Best Cloud Web Hosting

Bluehost is a very well-known name in the web hosting space. While most people know them for their non-cloud shared hosting plans, they actually offer the option to upgrade any of their plans to the cloud by choosing the CloudFlare option.

This lets you bring the flexibility and scalability of cloud hosting to a simple, easy-to-use plan without making any changes yourself. 

Bluehost makes building your site really easy. They offer WordPress plans, which is a platform many people are familiar with, as well as their own simple, Weebly-based website builder. 

It’s a great way to bring cloud hosting advantages to a hosting and site-building experience that you might already be more familiar with. 

The Basic plan starts at $3.95 per month but is only for one website. The Plus plan starts at $4.95 per month and has unlimited sites and storage. Choice Plus is their most popular plan and is $6.95 per month, while the Pro plan is $13.95 per month.

All plan prices are for a 36-month agreement, and all come with 24/7 customer support, a free domain for one year, a free CDN, and a free SSL certificate.

#5 – DreamHost — Best if You Know How to Code

DreamHost main page for cloud for Best Cloud Web Hosting

DreamHost is another great budget-friendly option, but it really shines if you already know how to code. DreamHost is less expensive because you’ll need some technical know-how to really make your site your own. 

If you’re comfortable managing and customizing your website through a command-line text interface, you’ll love DreamHost – you’ll be able to keep playing around with the web development tools you’re already using. Even better, DreamHost offers an unmetered hourly rate. 

DreamHost plans start at has a lot of different hosting options to choose from. In terms of cloud web hosting, the company offers two different solutions:

  • Cloud Computing, which starts at $4.50 per month
  • Cloud Object Storage, which starts at $0.95 per month

If you are looking to develop applications online, DreamHost’s cloud computing plans give you a lot of resources for a great price. The same is true of Cloud Object Storage, which can scale up to more than a TB for less than $20 per month.

All plans give you a discount for annual billing over monthly payments.

#6 – Nexcess — Best for Ecommerce 

Nexcess main page for cloud for Best Cloud Web Hosting

Nexcess is a cloud hosting solution tailored to the needs of ecommerce businesses. They offer Magento, WordPress, and WooCommerce integration, so you can start selling right away.

Paired with cloud hosting’s scalability, Nexcess is an obvious choice for an ecommerce business with big plans to grow.

They also offer a variety of plans depending on which ecommerce platform you choose, as well as 24/7 customer support—perfect for busy online shop owners.

Nexcess has many great features, including auto-scaling, PCI compliance, SEO tools, and a great deal of development tools for complete flexibility and customization. 

Because Nexcess has so many integration options, it is difficult to give a specific price you can expect. Your server will be optimized for a single application, like Magneto, WooCommerce, or WordPress, and the pricing varies based on what you choose.

If you go with WordPress as your platform, pricing starts at $9.50 per month for one site. There are seven other plan options, up to the Enterprise plan at $499.50 per month and includes up to 250 sites, 800 GB of storage, 10 terabytes of bandwidth, 30-day backups, and unlimited email accounts. 

WooCommerce has similar pricing to WordPress, but Magento starts at $49 per month for cloud hosting. 

#7 – Cloudways — Best User-Friendly Power Hosting 

Cloudways main cloud page for Best Cloud Web Hosting

If you’ve got a large, complex website that needs powerful hosting, but enterprise-class solutions are out of reach, Cloudways could be a perfect middle ground. 

Their cloud hosting comes from big providers that would usually only be accessible to big corporations but put it into an accessible format. Their simple dashboard makes using the service easy, and prices are on par with other entry-level cloud hosting options. 

Cloudways also has servers in over 25 cities worldwide, and they let you choose which one yours is located in. That means you can select servers as close to your physical location as possible, which is good for your website’s speed. 

When it comes to plans and pricing, even their least expensive plan, at $10 per month, comes with a lot of features, like 24/7 customer support, free SSL, free migration, dedicated firewalls, 24/7 real-time monitoring, auto-healing, and more.

What I Looked at to Find the Best Cloud Web Hosting

With so many hosting options available, it can be overwhelming to figure out precisely what you need.

With this in mind, here are a few specific factors to consider when choosing which cloud hosting service is the best option for you and your business.

Scalability

Perhaps the greatest advantage of cloud web hosting is its capability to grow with your business, whatever that looks like for you.

For example, you might be launching an entirely new venture but have detailed plans to grow quickly and need a website that can easily scale with you.

An alternate scenario would be a business with dramatic peaks and dips in traffic volume, like an online shop selling seasonal merchandise. 

In both of these scenarios, you won’t want to be constrained to a set amount of resources on one single server, like you would in a conventional web hosting package. With cloud hosting, you’re sharing space with hundreds of thousands of other websites on many servers all over the world, so it’s quick and easy for your cloud hosting provider to add more resources to your plan as needed.

Many of the providers I’ve included here make scaling up as easy as the click of a button.

Cloud hosting is the obvious choice if you’re planning for your business to expand quickly or if it often fluctuates significantly. But even in other cases, it might still be the right choice for you—keep reading to find out why.

Reliability and Security 

One major plus to having your site hosted in so many different locations is security. Because your website’s integrity isn’t connected to a physical object (a specific, designated server), that object doesn’t need to be protected from harm.

Public cloud hosting is formed by many data centers full of servers worldwide, and they’re generally highly secure and often in remote locations. 

Furthermore, physical equipment fails and experiences issues. But because the servers that form the cloud can dip in and out of hosting your website, physical problems with a server you’re hosted on won’t impact your site’s performance. 

Together, these two factors mean that many cloud hosting providers guarantee a really good amount of uptime, the time your site is online and working normally. Usually, they’ll guarantee between 99.95% and 99.99% uptime –  but it’s often more. 

So, if a website that functions extremely reliably and is secure from external threats is important to you, you’ll definitely want to go for cloud-based web hosting. 

Cost Efficiency

Because cloud hosting means you’re taking up a tiny part of a tremendous amount of server space with many other tenant sites, the amount of resources you consume is extremely flexible. As I mentioned, your provider can easily scale up the amount of resources you’re using, but if you use fewer resources, you often only need to pay for what you consume. 

In conventional web hosting plans, you’ll often end up paying for more resources than you use because you’re allotted a specific amount of server space, but with cloud hosting, that’s not a concern. 

If this type of cost-efficiency is important to you, be sure to choose a provider from the list below who charges on a per-hour basis, rather than a flat fee.

Conclusion

By this point, you probably have a pretty good idea of what your needs from cloud hosting are and which provider is the best choice to meet them. Just to recap, here are my top recommendations:

  1. A2 Hosting — Best for speed & flexibility
  2. HostGator — Best for affordability
  3. InMotion — Best customer support 
  4. Bluehost — Best user experience
  5. DreamHost — Best if you know how to code
  6. Nexcess — Best for ecommerce
  7. Cloudways — Best user-friendly power hosting

It’s important to remember that while some options are better than others, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. You’ll want to be guided by your priorities, whether that’s cost, customer service, flexibility, or something else, and let that determine where you host.

It’s a decision that could determine the future of your website. But with so many great options out there, the future is looking bright. 

How to Start a Content Writing Business

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Posted on: September 21, 2021

Starting a content writing business is a great way to achieve financial freedom with very little investment.

But that also means that it’s an increasingly competitive industry–one that’s hard to establish a new business in. 

That’s why understanding how to set up your business the right way, attract high-paying clients, and compete with established agencies is essential to finding success.

Once you start your business, you’ll be able to choose your own income, decide your working hours, and cherry-pick your clients–all from the comfort of your own home.

This guide will cover the steps you need to take to start a content writing business that’s profitable, how to find clients, and how to compete with other agencies. 

The Easy Parts of Starting a Content Writing Business

The easiest parts of starting a content writing business are the technical aspects, like setting up your website and social media. 

Web hosting companies and website builders can help you set up your website using prebuilt themes and templates. You can have your business site ready to launch within a day, especially if you use a hosting provider like Bluehost. 

Bluehost includes both a domain and a WordPress site, plus prebuilt themes that save you from hiring a designer. All you need to do is choose your business name and customize the site with your content. 

Writing the content for your business can also be easy, even if you write it yourself instead of hiring writers. There are plenty of tools that can help you with grammar, SEO, and even AI that help produce copy, so you can become a successful writer even without formal training. But if you’re starting a content writing business, you probably have this part covered.

The Difficult Parts of Starting a Content Writing Business 

One of the hardest parts of any business is marketing, and a content writing business is no exception.  

Content writing is a competitive industry, so finding a unique selling proposition (USP) can be difficult. You’ll have to find a way to stand out from established businesses and convince clients to choose you over cheaper writers. 

Another aspect of starting a content writing business that many people struggle with is managing client relationships.

If you’ve never owned a business before, navigating client requests and demands can be difficult. Good writing can be subjective, and you might find clients who don’t know what they want or clients who undervalue you.

You’ll need to learn to think like a business owner, negotiate, and justify your services. You’ll also need to learn how to deal with rejection and criticism, and you may even have to fire clients or employees. 

Step 1: Make a Plan 

Before you even think about launching your business, there are a few things you’ll need to plan out. This includes creating a business plan, deciding on a niche, and choosing your business model. 

Starting any business can be overwhelming, and this is especially true for content writing.

Content writing requires exceptional time management and organization skills, so you need to be crystal clear on all the details while still having time to get organized. 

Your ability to market your business also relies on your having a clear plan from the start. You need to know what niche you’ll write in, who your business helps, be able to articulate your value, how much you can afford to spend, and how you’ll run your business day to day.

We have a detailed guide if you want some guidance on what to include in your business plan

Choose a niche

People want to hire experts, and they’re willing to pay more for them. Niching down makes it easier for you to market yourself, find target clients, and charge higher rates.

When choosing a niche, you want to consider three things:

  1. What do you have experience in (academically or professionally)?
  2. What are you passionate about? 
  3. Is it profitable?

Create a list for each of the above categories, and if you find a correlation for all three, that’s a great niche to focus on. 

To know whether or not something is profitable, research blogs in that niche. If lots of results come up, that means there’s a lot of interest in content writing in that industry, and it will be easier for you to find clients. Another thing to do when looking at profitability is to look through various job boards for writers in that niche or industry. Are there a lot of postings? What rates are they offering?

If you’re going to hire writers, then prioritize profitability. If you are writing the content yourself, prioritize something you’re passionate about. 

Content writing is time-consuming and requires patience and long-term concentration, so if you’re writing about something you hate, you won’t be able to stick with the business long enough to make a good profit. 

Decide on a Type of Writing

Once you have an idea of which topics and industries you’ll write on, you can niche down into a TYPE of writing.

You might decide that your business will focus on writing blog posts, whitepapers, website copy, or email marketing copy. There are many different types of writing, and the one you choose will dictate how much you charge.

Whitepaper writing, for instance, is VERY profitable, with many writers earning $7000 per paper. But not all writers want to do that type of in-depth and specific writing.

Here are a few of the most profitable types of writing that you might want to niche into: 

  • Blog and Article Writing
  • Copywriting
  • Video Script Writing 
  • Whitepapers 
  • Ebooks
  • Technical Writing 

If you want to hire writers and expand your business quickly, you can cover all these writing styles in one industry and market yourself as the overall expert in your niche. Just be sure to hire writers who specialize in those types of writing because you want to build a reputation for creating high-quality work. You must also pay those high-quality writers fair rates.

Set Your Budget and Goals 

Even though starting a content writing business requires very little upfront investment, you should still put together a budget and set financial goals. 

How much you’re willing (or able) to invest will dictate whether or not you hire writers and how many, for instance. Or whether you’re able to join a paid job board.

You’ll also need to set goals on how much you need, and want, to be making a month. This will determine how you run your business and which type of clients you’ll pursue. 

You’ll find when you start working with clients that not everyone pays in the same way. Some clients will offer to pay on a per-project basis, some pay hourly, and some on a monthly retainer. Some clients pay on a net-30 basis (30 days from receipt of invoice), and others might be paying upfront or upon completion. Your contract with each client will decide when and how you get paid. 

Having clear goals in mind will help you decide what you need to quote in these situations to meet your income goals. 

Choose Your Business Name 

You’ll need to choose a business name so that you can set up your website and market yourself. 

You don’t need to choose a complicated name. You’ll want to choose one that is available as a domain and across different social media platforms for consistency.

If you’re starting a business as a solopreneur, you may just want to choose your own name, such as Firstname Lastname Writes. If you are hiring writers and functioning like an agency, consider including a keyword related to your niche in your business name, like CopyHackers or BlogPoint.

You can use Bluehost’s domain checking tool to see if your name is available and then cross-check it on social media accounts like Twitter and Facebook to see if it’s a good fit.

Decide On Your Business Model

Once you’ve decided on a niche and your budget, you’ll need to get clear on how you’ll run your content writing business. 

You might want to run your business as a solopreneur, where you do everything yourself, or you might want to work more like an agency and outsource the writing to other writers and focus on marketing your business instead.

Whether you want to work solo or hire writers will be based on whether you’re tight on time or tight on budget.

Hiring writers will save you time and allow you to expand your business faster and take on more clients. Doing the writing yourself will save you the cost of hiring writers (which can often cost more than $1000 per month per writer) but take more of your time.

It is important to note that being a solopreneur does not preclude you from later hiring writers and functioning more like an agency. If you’re tight on money right now and have the skills, start by writing the clients’ projects yourself, and as you make money, you can bring on outsourced writers.

This step also includes setting your prices. Research the market to see what other writers in your niche or industry charge. You don’t want to under or over-price yourself, as you may get taken advantage of or price yourself out of the market. 

When setting your rates, start by deciding what you need to be making per year and per month to hit your annual goal. Then you can break it down further to set an hourly rate. Remember, you won’t be able to charge for every hour you work, as some of your work will not be for clients, such as marketing, bookkeeping, and other administrative tasks. You might choose to charge per hour, per project, or monthly. It is up to you and your client.

Step 2: Get Set Up 

The next thing you’ll need to do is set up the technical aspects of your business. 

This includes creating a website, a portfolio of work, and your social media platforms.

One of the biggest perks of starting a content writing business is that you can do it all virtually. There’s no need to invest in offices or equipment. 

But this does mean that your online presence is essential to success–it’s the only way clients will find you, and it’s the only chance you have to make an impression.

Here are some things you’ll need to set up before you launch your content writing business. 

Your Website

You need to have a professional website with your own domain if you want clients to take you seriously. 

Luckily, there are so many options for web hosting and site builders that it’s really easy and affordable to get set up. 

Bluehost is the most popular web hosting company, and you can be up and running within a day. It comes with WordPress included, a free domain, and plenty of website templates to choose from. It also offers a site builder if you want to be more hands-on and 24/7 support if anything goes wrong.

Alongside hosting, Bluehost has also started offering marketing services, like helping you optimize your website for SEO. 

Bluehost is also known for being affordable, with plans starting at just $2.95 per month. 

Your Portfolio

Before you can start approaching clients, you’ll need some writing samples to show them. 

How you go about doing this will depend on whether you’re working as a solopreneur or hiring writers.

If you’re outsourcing, you can ask your writers to give you samples of their work or write test pieces, which you can then show clients.

If you are writing the content yourself, you’ll need three to five writing samples in your niche that you can show to clients to prove you know what you’re doing. 

This is where many new content writing businesses struggle–trying to create examples before they’ve actually worked with any clients.

This is when hiring writers can be a good option–they’ll already have portfolios of work, so potential clients know your team is experienced. The other option is simply to look at your niche and write a few samples yourself. For example, if you choose to focus on blog writing in the healthcare industry, write three content pieces on three different healthcare topics. Samples don’t need to be longer than 500-750 words. 

If you want live links for your portfolio, consider adding a blog to your site, or guest posting for businesses in your target industry. 

Your Social Media 

The next thing you’ll need to do is set up your social media accounts so that potential clients can find you.

For most content writing businesses, the best platforms for finding clients are Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. You can also use LinkedIn to find writers for your business. If possible, keep your social media handles consistent across all platforms.

When you set up your social media pages, keep them consistent. You can create a free logo on Canva for your profile picture and banner, and you should use keywords related to your niche in your bio.

Step 3: Organize the Logistics 

Once you have a business plan and you’ve set up your website, you can get started on the logistical side of your business, including registering it, hiring writers, and setting up a tax account.

Even if you’re running your business as a solopreneur, it’s worth registering the company to look professional. It will also help you come tax time and taking payment from clients, as some platforms like PayPal require you to keep personal and business accounts separate.

Here are some of the logistical aspects of your business you should organize pre-launch. 

Register Your Business 

If you want to hire writers and pay taxes as a business, you’ll need to register your business with your state and get a business number and EIN. 

As your business is virtual and doesn’t use equipment, it’s unlikely you’ll need a license, but every state is different. Make sure to check your local requirements carefully, and if in doubt, contact a local attorney to find out what you have to do to keep your business legal. You can also choose to become an LLC, which provides personal asset protection.

Once you’ve registered your business, you can apply to have a business tax account. It’s always a good idea to keep your personal expenses separate from your business expenses, even as a sole proprietor. 

Draw Up Contracts 

You’ll need two types of contracts: one for your writers (if hiring) and one for your clients. 

For writers you’re hiring, your contracts should include the payment terms, the scope of work, whether there’s an NDA, and whether they’ll be credited. The contact for your clients will be similar, but make sure you include a clause that protects you against liabilities and theft. 

It’s worth working with an attorney or online legal service for this because contracts aren’t something you want to get wrong. For a list of the best online legal services, check out our guide. 

Some clients may have their own contracts and NDA’s for you to sign when you work with them. It should go without saying, but NEVER sign anything without reading it in detail first. 

Create an Onboarding Document 

Having an onboarding document makes sure your client’s first impression is a good one. 

It can also help give you structure during your discovery calls with clients and provide your team with consistent outlines. 

What you need to include in your onboarding document will vary based on your business model and niche, but some things you may want to have are: 

  • A brief step-by-step outline for how you’ll approach the project 
  • A timeline of how long it will take and deadlines/milestones moving forward 
  • The contract
  • Payment terms and invoicing schedule 
  • Details about their first point of contact 
  • Any restrictions or rules (e.g., whether or not your answer emails on weekends)

Step 4: Find Clients

Now that you’ve set up your site and registered your business, you can get down to finding your first client.

Because content writing is such a competitive industry, it can be challenging to feel confident enough to approach clients when you first start. It can also be difficult for clients to trust you while your business is new. 

Once you get clients, you’ll start to get referrals and new projects through word of mouth. Until then, you should try looking for clients in as many places as possible.

Here are some of the best places to look for clients for your content writing business.  

Networking

Networking is a great way to find clients. You’ll make connections that enable you to send warm pitches to editors, business owners, and other writers, which have higher success rates than cold pitching.

You’ll also meet other writers in your industry and stay up to date with trends and startups. You can network in person, or you can join online networking groups to build connections.

Two places that are especially good for this are LinkedIn and Facebook groups.

Social Media

Social media isn’t just a goldmine for marketing–it’s also the perfect place to find clients.

Aside from networking, you can also reach out to clients through direct messages, create posts that add value and show your expertise, and even pay for ads for your business. 

Social media also gives you another way to start connecting with clients before pitching them, which will help you build trust with them and improve your chances of success. 

Cold Emailing

Cold emailing is another great way to find clients, no matter how much you might hate it.

Although not as successful as warm leads or networking, some businesses reach up to 20% success rates with cold emails. If you are sending cold emails, make sure that your strategy and pitch are well-researched and well-planned. 

Check out our guide on crafting cold emails, or consider hiring an email marketer to help you. 

Job Boards

While you’re first starting, job boards can be a way to find clients that need content writing. 

Job boards tend to be split into two types; paid and free ones.

The paid job boards have better leads and higher quality clients, but you’ll also have a lot of competition from established content writing businesses.

The free ones will have less competition, but you’ll also have to look through a lot of VERY low-paid work to find decent clients. 

When searching job boards, try keywords like “freelance,” “remote,” and “anywhere.”

Two marketers aside illustration of brain showing creative and intellectual sides image.

Two marketers aside illustration of brain showing creative and intellectual sides image.

Marketers have to continually earn and reward people’s attention. If we fail at that task, there are plenty of other content options out there. People — yes, even B2B buyers — want engaging, entertaining and valuable content.

That’s great news for those of us on the content side! It means we should be regularly exercising our creative muscles, breaking free of boring B2B, and coming up with new ways to delight our readers. How cool is it, for example, to make Ghostbusters referencesfor your job?

But as fun and creative as the work can be, there’s a cerebral and analytical side to marketing that we can’t neglect. If you came into marketing through creative writing, not the other way around, you may need to develop the left-brain part of the job:

  • Writing for a specific audience
  • Meeting audience demand for information
  • Prompting the audience to take action
  • Staying organized
  • Improving results over time

Here are 10 tips that I use to make sure I stay grounded and organized, even while working on wildly creative content. (Speaking of which, our client Dell Technologies just published this spy-movie-themed eBook which is just lovely). 

1 — Embrace Keyword Research

For too long, content creators treated SEO like an add-on — something you sprinkled in after the content was done. It wasn’t part of the creative process. It was just a thing you had to do to make sure the bots recommended your content.

But now we know better. Keyword research should be part of the content planning process. And not because it makes bots like your content better, either. A high-volume keyword means it’s a keyword that real actual people are searching for, because they have a need that must be met.

Every keyword is a statement of desire. For a creative content marketer, it’s the next best thing to a telepathic bond with our target audience. 

And speaking of which…

2 — Learn Your Audience

If you’re a creative writer, you probably have an audience you’re used to addressing. When I was writing for my online comedy game, it was nerds like me — people who lived and breathed Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, et al. 

At TopRank Marketing, however, I’ve written for CFOs, CEOs, cybersecurity experts, small business owners, millennials in the job market… in other words, a lot of people who aren’t a lot like my default audience. So I had to learn what each of these groups wanted, loved, hated, were afraid of, and needed. That means a lot of research to underpin your creative content.

3 — Involve Diverse Voices

How can you make absolutely sure your content will resonate with a broader audience? Bring more people into the creation process. That means bouncing ideas off of both the millennials and boomers in your office. It can mean talking to people in other departments, too — if you’re writing for CFOs, take a meeting with people in the finance department.

But beyond the internal collaboration, look for ways to highlight both respected industry experts and potential clients in your content. All of which requires you to…

[bctt tweet=”“How can you make absolutely sure your content will resonate with a broader audience? Bring more people into the creation process.” — Joshua Nite @nitewrites” username=”toprank”]

4 — Release the Ego

There’s nothing wrong with taking pride in your work, of course. But we writers tend to be protective of the things we write — we don’t like too many people meddling about with our precious words. 

When we’re writing for personal expression, that’s fine. But when it comes to marketing, we have to make sure the content is the best it can be for the target audience. And that means plenty of editorial oversight. It’s important to get feedback and quality checks on your work, and to keep your eye on the ultimate goal: Content that serves the brand, no matter whose name is on the byline.

5 — Read Other People’s Content

Stephen King famously said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write.” That’s true in marketing as much as in thousand-page novels about killer clowns from outer space. There are three absolutely vital reasons to read other marketing content, especially content targeting the same audience you’re aiming for:

  1. Find great ideas to steal… er, borrow
  2. Find gaps where you can insert your own brilliant ideas
  3. Identify cliches to avoid

For example, you might want to start a blog with “In these uncertain times…” however if you’ve been reading other content regularly, you’ll know that 99% of all blogs written in 2020 started with that phrase, and you’ll be compelled to be more original.

6 — Don’t Confuse the Garnish for the Meal

About a month into my time at TopRank Marketing, I finally got to really flex my creative muscles. We were writing a superhero-themed eBook for a client. I went all out — each section had a full page about a superhero, followed by a page comparing the superhero to the client’s subject matter. So there was a section on Batman, and his methods, and his utility belt, and then a section tying in the metaphor to the cloud software we were writing about.

That first draft was one of my first lessons in letting go of ego and collaborating, too. My colleagues gently informed me that people wanted to learn about the technology, not the superhero stuff. I was giving people too much parsley and too little steak.

The creative theming in your content should provide a hook for your audience and liven up the subject matter. But it shouldn’t get in the way of the information you’re trying to get across.

7 — Have a Clear Next Step

Marketing content should compel your reader to take specific action. No matter how creative and fun your piece is — and it should be plenty of both — at the end, there should be a logical, meaningful, and measurable next step.

You should plan out the content journey and the calls to action before you write a single paragraph of content. Keeping the focus on the customer and their journey will help make sure your content is doing the work it should be.

[bctt tweet=”“Marketing content should compel your reader to take specific action. No matter how creative and fun your piece is, at the end there should be a logical, meaningful, and measurable next step.” — Joshua Nite @nitewrites” username=”toprank”]

  8 — Get Invested in Results

When you have measurable calls to action, the logical next step is to — wait for it — measure them. As a creative writer, my impulse when I’m done with a piece is to release it into the world and never look at it again. As a marketer, we have to do the opposite.

Don’t just check in on your content’s performance from time to time. Get into those results — who is reading the content? Who is bouncing off of it straight from the search page? How long are people spending with it, and how many of them are clicking your CTA link? 

A larger organization might have people whose full-time job it is to look at those results. But you should be fixated on them, too; these metrics are an ongoing performance review from your target audience.

9 — Collaborate with Analytics Folks

As much as content marketers want to be invested in results, it can be hard to collect, analyze and visualize the data. That’s why we should be partnering up with people who eat, sleep and breathe data. Those analytical types who are writing queries and building pivot tables are indispensable allies for quality content marketing.

Talk to them, make friends with them, buy them cookies and take them out for the beverage of their choice. The more you learn about each others’ disciplines, the more effective your marketing will be. 

And speaking of learning…

10 — Continue Your Education

I came into the marketing field with one very particular skill: I can write stuff people want to read, and I can do it quickly. But I only stayed in marketing because I kept learning about all the other aspects of the business. 

We’re in the era of the T-shaped marketer now. If you’re a content specialist, you should also know a little about SEO, be conversant in analytics, and even take a lunch with the sales team from time to time. Everything you learn will inform your content and make you a better marketer — and will enable you to explore your creativity and still get meaningful, measurable results.

Looking for creative B2B content that inspires action? We’ve got you covered.

The post Equilibrium: 10 Tips to Balance Creativity and Process in B2B Content Marketing appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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