Here is another awesome marketer in my list of great internet marketing personalities. After my last interview with Dharmesh Shah, I was trying find an expert in creating content marketing strategies, and I was very happy to have Michael King. He was the marketing director for iAcquire where he led growth initiatives and the transition from link building into content marketing initiatives.
Thank you so much Michael for spending the time to answer all of my questions!
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Q. In a recent webmaster video Matt Cutts said that backlinks, over time, will become less important. What’s your opinion on this? Will Google be able to provide quality search results without backlinks and in the future when the backlinks will have diminished authority in comparison to other ranking factors, will Google take into consideration?
A. When links were developed as a key ranking signal the algorithm was predicated upon the idea that linking was the primary way that people shared and cited content. In the recent years of Social Media I don’t think linking is necessarily reflective of how most people show their interest in a piece of content. That is to say, I don’t think most of my Facebook friends have blogs. I think more people use social shares or email content to their friends or share it on instant messenger. Google has already built ad units based on what they can pull out of your email, and Gchat is automatically saved in Gmail so I think it’s realistic that at some point that Google will look to the more natural methods of how people share and show interest in content to inform rankings. By no means am I saying that is what they are doing now or that they are definitely going to sniff emails for shares, but it’s possible.
Also, ever since rel-author was first released at the end of 2011 I’ve thought Google was going to use that as a way to connect people their content and add another layer to PageRank. Google has developed a database of affinity across their entire ecosystem and is now modeling people for ad targeting. There’s no reason to believe they won’t use that data to help rank pages based on the authority of authors in the future.
Q. What advice do you give brands when engaging with customers through social media and how much control hold a brand relinquish to customers?
A. My advice is more strategic than tactical in that regard. Be personal. Be authentic. Offer value. Too many brands are chasing Oreo’s Superbowl tweet and trying to be the next brand referenced when questions like this come up. Focus on creating content for your audience and deliver that content in an authentic way. Stop thinking about your brand as a brand and turn it into something personable that your target audience wants to engage with. As far as control, to some degree brands need to join the conversation before they can change the conversation. To that point it’s not so much about relinquishing control to customers, but more about your brand gaining the right to have a space in their conversation.
Q. How will you balance the online and offline experiences of your brand?
A. I’m not completely sure I understand this question. However I’ve always been a proponent of eliminating the space between what happens online and offline for brands, especially small ones. Consider a musician, they should be taking the content experiences they create offline and putting them online at all costs. Similarly, with a tech startup, if your brand has a meetup, film it and bring it online or stream it so fans in other countries can be engaged. If you mean my personal brand I think the same thing applies. Everything I do is content and I just need to get better at making the time to bring more of me online so the experiences I share offline become immortal.
Q. When you were with iAcquire, you really had some awesome content marketing strategies. Please share how you achieved this and the process behind this.
A. Thank you, I appreciate that. I think that was more a function of the marketing and strategy team that I built in New York. We more or less followed the models of the great content creators that came before us – specifically Moz, Unbounce and Distilled. We just added our own spin, our own personality, creative approaches and our own unique selling propositions to it. Everybody on the team was constantly inspired by each other to come up with the next great idea. We were also doing some pretty innovative client work as well so there was a hotbed of new knowledge for us to share. Basically, I created an environment for my team to be creative unlike any other that I’ve been a part of – at least in the corporate context.
Process-wise there wasn’t much to it. We had frequent brainstorms and many times people would just come into the office with a good idea and we did whatever we could to make them happen within the resources that we had. We definitely would have benefited from more of a process though because there were a lot of projects that didn’t get seen through to fruition.
Q. How would you work to increase the trust of a brand both online and offline? For an example, what efforts should an Internet Marketing company should make to achieve trust both on and offline?
A. In the case of iAcquire, that was largely what I was tasked with for the better part of a year. Those guys got banned in Google for selling links about two months after I joined as Director of Inbound Marketing. Up until then all of the marketing content was around link building and I thought to myself “well nobody trusts us to talk about link building anymore so we have to do something else.” From there I started to build my team and we focused on innovation in other components of SEO. We built tools, we guest blogged, and we incorporated Content Strategy and audience research heavily into our content and approach. We linked up with some reputable brands like Distilled, Experian and SurveyMonkey and I spoke everywhere I could highlighting key wins. Finally, we really focused on transparency with the transition from link buying to guest posting and who all the people the otherwise faceless brand of iAcquire were.
If I had it all to do again I would have just put out more content, gotten more involved in the local marketing community, and given people even more transparency into what we were up to. I suggest those things for any agency.
Q. We all know that you research and create personas. Is it really mandatory for all the business? Explain briefly how easily a marketer can build personas and if any of it an be automated?
A. This is a funny question. There’s any number of approaches to understanding your audience. I’m not saying that you absolutely have to build personas to do so, but it’s a very robust way to get into your audience’s head and develop insights. If automation is what you’re after then personas are not for you as they require a combination of qualitative and quantitative analysis.
The question of how to “easily” do it or “how to automate it” completely defeats the purpose. The question is akin to trying to automate analytics. Sure – you can automate the data collection for a report pretty easily, but you can’t really effectively automate the gathering of insights. Tribalytics, for example, is a good tool for automatically segmenting your twitter followers into meaningful groups, but you’ll still have to review the data in order to develop useful insights. Experian Simmons and Nielsen Prizm provide a ton of data on market segments, but again you’ll still have to review that data to get meaningful insights and develop your personas. So in answer to your question, I suggest reading the post you’ve highlighted and don’t think about automation with respect to developing insights only for speeding up data collection.
Q. What channels have worked best for you to attract new subscribers? Please share some examples and the strategy to follow.
A. From my own efforts across my career I’ve found referral channels to be the most impactful. Writing in-depth blog posts on popular websites in a given niche and linking back to a lead-gated landing page for the PDF download is basically a magic trick.
Q. You are definitely one of the best speakers, how you prepare yourself for taking the sessions. Share us few tips.
A. Thank you. I just try to make the best content I can based on things I have experience with and I try to be engaging and mildly entertaining. The best tips I can give are:
- Only speak when you have something compelling to say
- Only speak on things that you’re truly passionate about
- Make sure you know your content inside and out
- Be your best self
- Be aware of what’s happening around you and in the moment.
- Cater your talk to your audience
- Don’t use a script. Speak naturally and be engaging
- Put your twitter handle on every slide
- If you include a sales pitch in your deck put it at the end – after you’ve proven that you’re worth buying
Q. How do you produce creative content and how do you ensure that it reaches the right audience?
A. This is where personas come into play. When you do all this up front research you understand the parameters you need to create within and what channels your audience is active in. That way it’s not a “hey we build something, where do we put it so it performs?” type of thing. It’s built into the content strategy.
Q. You’re a rapper and a marketer, what is your real passion and why?
A. I enjoy both. At this point both have been very beneficial to my life and both have influenced how I do the other so I couldn’t really choose.
Thank you very much Michael for these awesome marketing insights. I hope you SEO were taking some notes. Cheers!!
Please leave your comments below as I would love to hear from you!
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