Choose a marketing-free zone

Stop Sign with Divided Highway

Today, I want to flip things on their head a bit and advocate against marketing. I want to advocate for a marketing-free zone. In our efforts as marketers to experiment with as many different marketing channels as possible, we have a tendency to let marketing spread to everything.

Everything becomes marketing. We fill our social feeds with marketing. Our blogs and personal websites become marketing vehicles. Anyone who’s ever had a friend or relative in Amway or other network marketing knows the feeling of all-marketing-all-the-time.

The problem with always-on-everywhere marketing is that you have no outlet for relaxed creativity or personality. Everything has a production quota, an editorial calendar, a schedule, and an assignment.

The challenge I would pose to you is to choose which channels and places will be marketing-free zones. For me, these are places like Path, my personal Facebook profile, and Instagram.

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I reserve these places for stuff that isn’t about work or marketing. They are free of schedule, free of editorial review, free of everything except whatever I feel like creating. Sometimes I’ll go weeks without posting a photo to Instagram. I’ll share stuff that’s important to me as a person on my Facebook profile but not relevant to marketing or business.

I would urge you to be just as clear in your own channels. What’s off-limits to you? Where will you post work-related stuff only by choice and quality rather than obligation? Where do you feel free (within the bounds of ethics, law, and good taste) to be yourself? If you don’t have a place set aside that’s a marketing-free zone, make one as soon as possible. Your intellectual freedom and creativity will thank you!


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How important is the long tail to your business?

The long tail is something of a legend when it comes to content marketing. Lots of people talk about it, but few people ever really go looking for it. How real is the long tail? How relevant is it to your business?

Luckily, our stalwart friend Google Analytics can help us to understand that. If you’ve taken my advice in years past about keeping a date-based URL structure for your blog and website, this will be a very easy thing to see. Fire up Google Analytics, then navigate down to the Behavior section. Locate and dig into Site Content, Content Drilldown, then set the timeframe to the year to date. (if you’re doing this in the early months of the year, use the last 365 days instead):

Content_Drilldown_-_Google_Analytics

Next, switch the table visualization to bar graph mode, and you should see each calendar year broken out nicely:

Content_Drilldown_-_Google_Analytics

Now take a look at the results. That’s the long tail in action. I’ve been blogging daily since 2007, and I managed to blog daily almost every business day of 2014, yet that daily blogging was only responsible for 28% of the site’s traffic. 2011 and 2012 combined are responsible for the same amount of traffic as 2014. Why? What would cause that?

Bear in mind, that doesn’t necessarily mean that 2014 was a wash as a year – it just means that there’s content in the long tail that is still incredibly popular, years later. If we dig into the sources of traffic per year in Acquisition, what do we find?

Channels_-_Google_Analytics

There’s the answer right there about where the long tail’s power is coming from: organic search. Even though it’s two or three years later, the content I wrote in 2011 and 2012 is still being found, far more than the content I’ve written in the past couple of years.

If this blog were my full-time business, what would I do next? I’d dig into those years and see what content is still cranking out the audience, then write some spin-off pieces to leverage similar content keywords.

What if this showed that my website didn’t have any strength in the long tail? That would be an indicator that maybe I needed to write more search-worthy content, content that’s more evergreen and less real-time. Some marketing strategies can become overly reliant on real-time newsjacking, and the consequence of that is that no one searches for your news-related items once the news is gone.

Try this with your own data if you’ve got a supporting URL structure. If you don’t, you’ll need to use Google Analytics’ Content Grouping feature and apply tags to the pages of your website by year. It’s possible to do for any website; some websites will simply take a little more work than others.


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Marketing inventory

Ever been to a grocery store during inventory? It’s a messy, messy place. Items are all over the floor. U-boats are in the aisle. There are clipboards, papers, scanners, and diagrams scattered everywhere, like leaves after an autumn wind. Inevitably, every inventory cycle finds something unexpected. Some products are in the wrong place. Some products are out of stock, but no one knew about it. Some products appear in greater quantities than expected, or are the wrong SKU entirely.

Nothing on the shelves

Your marketing platforms are no different. Take the time as the year winds down (if you’re able to) and do a marketing inventory. Look through all your assets in your email marketing, social media, digital advertising, analytics software. See what you really have versus what you think you have.

For example, I recently looked at one of the thank you pages for my email newsletter. Guess what it was missing that should have been there? That’s right – a Google Analytics tracking code. I was missing a fair chunk of my goal completions because I didn’t have something I thought I had. Now I have better data.

How do you go about the process of doing inventory? The first thing you need to do is open up the notebook of your choice, digital or paper, and write down the things you think you have. You think you have email marketing, from creative to analytics. You think you have social ads running. You think you have great SEO. Make a long list.

Once you’ve got what you think you have, go and verify that you do indeed have them. You think you have great SEO? Go check Google Webmaster Tools for any problems with your site. You think you have good analytics? Do as I did and confirm that your analytics tracking codes are actually working.

Doing inventory is time-consuming. Doing inventory is boring. That said, it’s an essential part of running any business. Make sure you’re doing it on a regular basis so that you know what you have and what you don’t before it impacts your business negatively.


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