The Comment Sections Are Dying, So How Do You Engage Your Audience? 

customer engagement

Blogging is a fantastic way of engaging potential customers and building a relationship of trust, so that when you land your sales pitch, you’ve got more chance of converting. The comments section on blog posts and articles has long provided the environment for this engagement to occur. However, in recent years, comments haven’t managed to stimulate quite as much discussion on some sites as intended. So if readers aren’t engaging on your blog posts and articles, then how can you persuade them to get involved?

Community Involvement
There’s a term that gets bandied around in the social media sphere known as ‘community’. A group of customers, big or small, that are passionate about your brand and the things you do, so much so that they are actively involved in the development and promotion of your brand. Building an active community, and reaping the rewards of customer loyalty, free publicity and social recommendations that come with it, is likened to the Holy Grail for content marketers.

But You Need Right Kind of Brand
The sad truth is, though, not every brand can build a community in any real sense. The willingness for customers and potential customers to partake in something depends entirely on the character and personality of the brand. For example, in the UK, Kimberely Clark’s Andrex toilet paper launched the ‘scrunch or fold’ campaign, an initiative that asked customers across the internet to get involved and discuss how they prefer to wrap up their toilet experience. Needless to say, the campaign fell short of expectations and was a mere drop in the, err, ocean, given the reluctance of customers to discuss their private moments so openly.

Alternatives to Comments
So how can we foster a user base of active and enthusiastic customers?

It’s our job as marketers to work out where our customers are, what they want and how they like to be communicated with. These days, it’s no secret that social media plays a large role in people’s lives. So taking the conversation onto social media, as opposed to on your website can result in an increase in engagement for the following reasons:

  • People can be themselves on social media so you’re likely to foster a more genuine discussion
  • Comments and likes spread to the commenter’s friends and followers, amplifying your content
  • This amplification can lead to more people getting involved in the discussion

To make the most of social media as a replacement for your comments system however, there are a few realities that you must face:

  1. You’ll loose control. You can’t moderate the comments you receive on Facebook like you can on your website. People are free to say whatever they please and this can sometimes divert the point of the discussion and derail the debate.
  2. Targeting frailty. It’s a lot easier to comment on something you see on Facebook because users don’t even need to read the article or visit your website to take part in the discussion. Therefore, although you may experience an increase in engagement, it may simply be people that don’t represent you target market jumping on the bandwagon. 

There are arguments for and against comment systems. They can be a genuinely pleasant experience that enthuse readers, stimulate debate and bring people closer to your brand. Alternatively, they can be a free for all mash up of random insults and incoherence or deserted, baron wastelands. Whatever the case is on your site, if the discussion has dried up, it may be time to consider moving on. And the best place to start is the place where your customers are holding their discussions instead.


Monday, November 17, 2014 3:12:00 PM Categories: B2B B2C blogging content development inbound marketing

The Secret Google Analytics Feature That Will Change Your Life Forever  

I’m going to let you in on the single most helpful and immensely useful, but hidden secret in the whole of Google Analytics. There’s no cheats or workarounds involved here, you don’t need to make any adjustments to your tracking code and you don’t need special admin privileges to take advantage.

Have you ever been pondering over your traffic timeline and seen unusual spikes or out of the ordinary traffic? Or have you ever wondered whether those posters you put up, the ad you created or campaign you launched had any noticeable effect on your website traffic? Well, now you can see all of this at a glance by using Google Analytics annotations.

What are Google Analytics annotations?

Annotations in Google Analytics are little notes that you can place across your timeline to monitor or remind yourself of, well, whatever you want! You can use them to keep on top of your marketing activity, online and offline, and monitor what effect it has on your web traffic at a glance. You could note:

  • Product launches
  • Big website changes (or new website launch)
  • Newsletter and email news shots
  • Marketing campaign launches
  • Server downtime
  • Or anything else you feel is important

Then, you’ll quickly be able to see the overall and broad effects that your activity has on your traffic. Plus, annotations stick around, so in six months time when you’ve moved on to future projects, you’ll still have a reminder in your annotations. This is handy for retrospective analysis and completely eradicates those “Hmm, I wonder what that spike was” moments.

How Do You Use Annotations?

Getting started using Google Analytics annotations is simple and, once you do start, you won’t be able to stop. It’s that addictive!

So here’s a step-by-step guide on how to start using annotations:

Step 1. Log in to Google Analytics and head to the Audience – Overview screen.

Google Analytics annotations









Step 2. You see that little, sneaky arrow hiding in plain site? Click that.

Voila. This will open the annotation editor.







Step 3: From here, you can click on ‘+ Create new annotation'.







Step 4. Select the date of your event, newsletter mailout, campaign launch or whatever you want to make a note of.








Step 5. Add your note. You only get 160 characters here, so pretend you’re jotting a tweet.








Step 6. Select whether you’d like it to be a shared or private note.








What’s a shared or private note?

Glad you asked.

A shared note means that anyone with an analytics log in for the site in question can see the note. A private note is only visible to the person that creates it (or the email address currently logged in). So if you only have one email address and one log in for your Google Analytics account that lots of people use, be careful of noting sensitive information. Consider creating a separate log in1 for each person that needs access.

Click Save. Now you’ll be able to see your annotation on the axis of your timeline and your annotations underneath:

Bonus Tip: If a campaign or a specific marketing activity is particularly important, you can favorite it by clicking the little star next to the date:

This allows you to keep track of major marketing initiatives and groups them in the ‘Starred’ tab:

Hopefully, in the future, Google will introduce the facility to create groups of annotations. This way, you could group all of the ‘email’ related annotations together and access them through the same tabs at the top.

Let’s Get to Work

So, now that you know the most useful trick in Google Analytics, it’s time to get to work and use it. Don’t be left in the dark any longer, keep track of your marketing activity and see the effect it has on your web traffic at a glance with annotations.

Believe it or not, few people are aware of this hidden gem, so whether you choose to keep it a secret or share it with your followers is entirely up to you.

There are some sharing buttons below, if you’re tempted.


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Posted by Thursday, July 31, 2014 6:29:00 PM Categories: blogging content development inbound marketing online marketing social media

Writing for the Web 

Part 1: Keyword Research and Competition

writing for the web

We’ve put together a great three-part guide to help you make the most out of your content and social media efforts.

Over the next three posts, we’ll show you how you can increase the engagement and shareability of your content through understanding the basics of keyword research, your competition and user psychology.

During the course of the series, we’ll cover:

  • Keyword and competition research
  • Powerful headlines and titles
  • User-centric style and user behavior 



Before you write a single line, it's important to know whether what you’re planning on writing will benefit your target market and if there’s an existing (or growing) demand for your subject matter. 

Find this out by doing your keyword research.  This shows you what users are searching for on the search engines or on social media.

Do Your Keyword Research

A study1 found that 80% of website traffic can come from organic searches. With those kinds of stats, it’s hard not to recommend starting the planning of your content with keyword research.

For keyword research, you can use tools such as:

  • Google Keyword Planner2  This is a free tool from Google that let’s you enter a search term and find out how many searches per month the term receives. You can use this for free by signing up to Google Webmaster Tools3

  • Market Samurai4  This takes the keyword planner to the next level by giving you further data on competition, other keyword ideas and their commercial value.
  • Google Trends5. This is a great tool that lets you see the popularity of search terms over time, so that you can get an overview of whether you’re covering a subject rising or falling in demand.
  • Hootsuite6. This is a social media marketing tool that lets you manage all of your social networking accounts in one place. You can monitor hash tag activity and follow searches too, which gives you an idea of how frequently your search term or topic is being used or searched for on social media.
  • You can also manually search for your search terms on your social network of choice in order to check the level of content and engagement around your chosen topic.

Keyword research is a great place to start in order to formulate your concepts and ideas into the beginning of something practical and will help form the foundations of your content.

Competition Analysis

The last thing to consider before putting pen to paper (or finger to key) is whether you’re content concept or idea is original. We can check the originality of our content by checking on any potential competition on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).

If you aren’t using software like Market Samurai, the best way to get an idea of the level of competition around your topic is to simply search for it yourself using your newfound keywords.

Search for your title ideas on Google, Bing and Yahoo and check the results on the first page for a glimpse at your competition. Has anybody else written anything similar (or the same)? If so, ask yourself a few questions:


  • Is your concept better?
  • Can you beat it?


If the answer to any of those is no, ask:

  • Do you have something to add?
  • Have they missed something?


If you can answer yes to any of the above questions, you’ve got yourself a place to start.


The Importance of Keyword and Competition Research

Without keyword research, your website, blog or article will have a hard time finding traffic. If you know what people are searching for, you've got a solid foundation on which to build your content.   

And if you're not aware of your competition, you run the risk or regurgitating or even plagiarizing content. This will not only damage your reputation, but will also add to the deluge of sub-standard content online. 

Part 2: The Power of the Title

Next week, well start getting into writing the actual article and look at the single most important aspect of any piece of content: the title. 








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Posted by Tuesday, July 22, 2014 4:46:00 PM Categories: blogging content development SEO

The Top Social Media and Blogging Infographics of 2014 

By Steve Hoag

2014 has already been a very busy year for social media and blogging so far. Many people are still trying to figure out how to leverage these tools in their marketing. Well we got good news for you! We've compiled some of the top infographics of 2014 for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!

social media and blogging infographics



H/T to Top Dog Social Media , Media Bistro , BufferApp, and for the great infographics!


View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Friday, April 4, 2014 7:12:00 PM Categories: B2B B2C blogging enterprise inbound marketing SMB social media social media marketing web trends website

Blogging: Why Every Company Should Be Doing It 

By Steve Hoag

benefits of blogging


Blogging isn’t just for teenagers who want a virtual diary anymore. It’s mainstream now, which means everyone is getting in on the action. Blogs are being used in a ton of ways today like showcases, developer notes, news editorials, etc. Companies are paying more and more attention to blogging because of what it can mean for online business, especially in the B2B market. For instance:

Blogs help to increase search engine rankings.

SEO is a huge part of any online marketing effort, and blogging is a great way of improving search engine rankings. Having dozens of articles with keywords, and linking to them from social media networks can help significantly. Not to mention doing guest blog posts on other reputable sites to link back to your company website. A strong SEO program is one of the best marketing tools, and a solid blogging presence will help to facilitate this.

Blogs are a low cost, easy to share method of attracting attention and traffic.

Running a blog is very affordable compared to other marketing initiatives. It is also highly effective when done right. Blog content is so easy to share and build traffic with, it’s ridiculous. Focus on writing content that your audience enjoys, and be persistent in sharing it on social media. People love free content, and social media is the best way of reaching a ton of users quickly. Traffic building doesn’t happen overnight, so define your sharing process and stick to it.

Blogs help to improve thought leadership.

Another benefit of blogging is that it can improve brand equity and credibility online. Blogging is a great way of showing off what you know and do. A strong blog presence can make a small company seem much larger than it is. For instance, if people see you constantly sharing quality content about digital marketing, they will be more likely to come to you when they need marketing help or want to acquire your services. An ounce of perception is worth a pound of performance!

View User Profile for Steve Hoag Steve is a recent graduate from UW, and the Marketing Coordinator at Fast Track. He primarily has experience in the tech and start-up industries. When he's not busy promoting Fast Track, he's watching Huskies or Green Bay Packers football. You can find him on Twitter @steven_hoag .
Posted by Steve Hoag Tuesday, March 18, 2014 6:36:00 PM Categories: B2B B2C blogging enterprise inbound marketing SEO SMB social media social media marketing web trends
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