News outlets integrating “native ads” into their news stream has become a familiar sight in the news media. Native ads are designed to blend in almost seamlessly with the other content on the site and can potentially be considered regular editorial content by the inexperienced reader. Native ads have eye-catching titles (‘Lose 10 lbs in 2 days: learn how!’) that set high expectations with their readers.

Native advertising offered by content discovery platforms has been hailed by some as a potential savior for a beleaguered media industry. Publishers who have watched revenue from traditional ad sales implode have been looking for ways to generate more revenue from their traditionally “free” online content. Native ads combines the best of both worlds — it showcases talent of their writers and generates ad revenue in a way that is consistent with their content layout.

The rise of native ads came with the emergence of specialized content discovery platforms such as Taboola and Outbrain.

Here are 5 important tips on maximizing the outcome from money spent on content discovery platforms:

5 tips: how to maximize your ROI from content discovery platforms

The content pushed through content discovery platforms tends to have a low engagement rate as ChartBeat CEO Tony Haile illustrated convincingly in this Time contribution. On a typical article two-thirds of people show more than 15 seconds of engagement, on native ad content that drops to around one-third. Mind you, this doesn’t mean that those numbers can’t be improved. Key marketing metrics can and will go up if brand communicators take into account the following 5 tips.

Use a headline and picture that relate to the actual content: There are many ads out there that employ clickbait (intentionally provocative photos) and headlines that have very little to do with the content that is actually being promoted. A stronger correlation between picture, headline and content will get the right visitors to your landing page, which will only increase conversions. While traffic is important, Google’s search engine algorithm does not like landing pages from which people immediately click away. Stronger engagement and conversions over pure traffic will do more to improve a site’s SEO in the long run, which begs for more authentic native ads.

Use a landing page that delivers on the promise: Do you promise content on mistakes people make when installing an HVAC? Are you telling people they will learn 5 ways to save on taxes? Then keep your end of the promise by building a landing page without unnecessary click-throughs and with genuine value added content. And you should have call-to-action buttons to promote your product or service, get newsletter sign-ups, etc. But delivering on the promise of the ad comes first.

Use content that is relevant to the reader: Make sure to use all the segmentation buttons that your content discovery network has in place to ensure the right kind content is offered to the right target audience. Every platform has different functionalities, different value propositions. For example Outbrain will allow you to pick the publishing sites based on the information you shared about your target audience(s). While Outbrain does not let you make a list of the publishers you want to publish on, it does allow you to work with a list of sites that you want to exclude. In other words, you wouldn’t want to push a new Detroit gas-guzzling muscle car in front of an eco-minded audience.

A/B test your content: Use 2 variations of headlines to test what drives the most traffic and, ultimately but what makes for the most conversions on the landing page. Subtle tweaks in headlines can make a big difference, as can the choice of pictures used. Should you offer a 30 days free or a 50% discount? You won’t know until you test it.

Measure and adjust: No marketing campaign can be successful without continuous monitoring, and native advertising is no exception to this rule. Are the different target groups clicking in sufficient numbers on your ads? What is visitor behavior like on the landing page? How long do visitors stay, and do they convert through one or more of your CTA’s; if so, at what rates? Use what you see on your dashboard to your advantage by measuring and adjusting again and again till you max out your desired results.

Finally, here comes the caveat:

Content discovery platforms are not a good fit for high equity brands. Content discovery platforms have let their advertisers push a great many ads over the last years that are little better than tabloid quality. Having presence on a major news outlet like CNN or NBC may have its benefits, but what happens if that B2B market leader suddenly appears next to ads showing celebrity mug shots, or promises scents that will make every woman succumb to a man’s charms? The past experiences of readers with content discovery platforms is a liability for brands that have a lot of equity to lose.

content discovery network

Here’s an example of Outbrain on a CNNMoney web page on May 16, 2016.



Network internally, externally and everywhere in between. It doesn’t matter if you are the most talented PR professional, if you have made few connections your career will almost certainly stagnate. Many of the best opportunities – from new jobs to new business launches – often come about from word-of-mouth discovery. Only a solid network can keep you abreast of these hot opportunities.    

Don’t be shy about using your contacts. The best in the business always do. Remember the PR world is relationship driven: colleagues in an agency leave and become clients, media personalities may become colleagues. Make sure they always see the best of you.

In search of the perfect job

Gone are the days of the ‘job for life.’ Experience is key, so it’s best see each role as a stepping stone to that ultimate, ideal position. Time and choice are on your side and it’s okay if you make a few mistakes along the way. Learning is all about trial and error. Don’t be a afraid to try things out and take a chance on a role if you see potential in it. If only 20% of a given role is what you would consider as a perfect fit, and it is 20% more than your current work situation, then it may be worth going for it. And if you do, then work hard at it.

Use the “Buffett Formula”

Warren Buffett estimates that he spends 80% of his working day reading and thinking. PR today is incredibly multifaceted. While it is good to know how everything works, the best results nearly always come from a deep focus. Do whatever it takes to get there — attend conferences, read books, even take classes. Become a true expert in your field and you will always be rewarded.

Once you have nailed that, let the world know. Seek out speaking engagements. Publish your thoughts on LinkedIn Pulse. Contribute to a professional blog or at the very least keep your own blog well stocked with opinion pieces. Finally, seek to raise your social media profile by maintaining an active presence on LinkedIn, Twitter and even networks like Quora and Reddit.


Becoming an expert is one thing, staying one is another. To remain an expert you have to always be relevant, which means you must evolve with the changing times. As the PR marketplace develops, so should you. With the blending of marketing, branding, digital and social advertising into the communications world, standing still will see you left behind.

Even if you think you are on a certain PR career path that does not require new skills and knowledge, you could be missing out on many new opportunities – both jobs and new clients – that would help advance your career in the long run.


This is arguably the most overlooked method of career advancement. Find the person at the very top of your game and, if you can, meet him or her for coffee or lunch at least every other month. A mentor is a great career sounding board and will give you unrivaled insight and guidance throughout your career.  

As you grow in your career, don’t forget to give back. Believe it or not, being a mentor will enhance your skills, keep you sharp, help you discover and develop new talent, and build your legacy.

This guest contribution was written by Jamie McLaughlin, President at Capstone Hill Search, a London based executive search and recruitment agency specialized in PR and communications.

Manzer Communications is proud to announce the launch its Associate Agency network, designed to give mid-market technology companies access to markets around the globe at a fraction of the cost charged by international communication agencies.

We hand-picked agencies from among nearly 50 agencies and found the ones with a proven ability to deliver results for fast-growth tech companies both B2C and B2B industry verticals.

The nine agencies include:

  • BELGIUM: Morning Glory delivers creative and social science-backed strategies that serve its clients’ positioning and revenue goals.
  • FRANCE , GERMANY AND THE UNITED KINGDOM: Ballou PR works with high-growth technology companies to help them build their brand, manage their reputation, win customers and grow their business.
  • ISRAEL: Meirovitch Public Relations helps international and Israeli companies manage their reputation by generating ongoing positive media exposure in Israel and overseas.
  • THE NETHERLANDS: DOK30 Communicatie helps organizations build a true and lasting relationship with their target groups by communicating in an authentic and transparent manner.
  • POLAND: FIRST Public Relations was the first professional communications agency to be established in Poland after the fall of communism. The agency provides both public affairs and public relations services.
  • SINGAPORE:  Bowlah PR is Singapore’s first FinTech focused Public Relations agency. Its mission is to help Financial Technology companies communicate their innovation and value.
  • SPAIN: Art Marketing has been a pioneer in incorporating 2.0 communication tools, and it has built a team of multilingual, multidisciplinary and multicultural people to provide the best services to more than one hundred companies from all sectors, of all sizes and nationalities.
  • SWEDEN: Founded in 2011 for companies with Nordic ambitions, Northern Link PR consists of a team of consultants that will help you with any communications need.
  • THE UNITED KINGDOM: Founded in 2012 by Sam Howard, The Comms Crowd is the new breed of agency, cloud-based and agile. Based in London, The Comms Crowd is a collective of independent, senior communication professionals.

The potential we now have to provide seamless PR and marketing support across multiple markets and languages all the while staying focused on the goals of our clients and delivering incredible value truly is exciting. From product launches to new company acquisitions, and geographic expansion to trade show support, we are capable of marshalling skilled professionals and resources on a global basis to meet the needs of our international clients.

The services we provide run the full communications stack, from public relations, digital marketing, social media, SEM, inbound marketing, and more. And we are able to do so without regard to borders or language barriers. We are both native speakers and transplants with the ability to communicate in nine different languages and navigate many more business and cultural ecosystems.

For more information about our new Associate Agency network, please contact us here or visit the Associate Agency page of our website.

For all the buzz and hype SXSW Interactive (SXSWi) racks up every year, it always seems to come and go with amazing speed. Which is why this year I thought it might help me make sense if I tried to put together a brief recap of the single greatest event celebrating startup culture on the planet.

For the whole article I wrote about SXSWi 2016, please visit CMS Wire.


When I look back at my experience as an entrepreneur I tend to dwell on the mistakes more than on the accomplishments.

Yes, I can remember the moment when I learned we closed a particularly large account and felt elated, content and maybe even a tad bit optimistic about the future.

But the moments I remember most are the big fails, the times I dropped the ball or just did a terrible job servicing a customer’s needs. Those moments play out in my mind in slow-motion forcing me to relive the experience over and over like some train wreck on the big-screen.

I’ve come to believe that dwelling on failure is a particularly human quality. Feeling the pangs of defeat more acutely than our victories has always been integral to our survival. Back when we ran screaming from saber-toothed tigers or stalked wooly mammoths across glaciers, failure was what helped us learn to improve our hunting prowess and bring fresh food back to the clan rather than becoming some predator’s midmorning snack.

In entrepreneurial terms, defeat and failure hones our business skills and sharpens our instincts. It gives us more weapons to use for the next big opportunity. What we take away from an angry customer helps us anticipate how to better serve future customers.

We learn how to align our sales pitch to our operational strengths. We figure out how to communicate with customers and set up feedback loops. We set the proper expectations and make sure to deliver on promised results. We gain a sixth sense about which customers to take on, which to pass up.

The bottom-line is that behind every successful business is a hot mess of mistakes, mishaps and miscalculations. The key is to embrace failure, learn from it, implement improvements, and then repeat the cycle over and over. It never ends.

Successful entrepreneurs are not defeated by their screw-ups, they listen to their angry customers and analyze the moment when the crap hit the fan. They may lose face and have to show up hat-in-hand to make an apology; they also lose the occasional customer, perhaps even deservedly so.

But they won’t make the same mistake twice, at least not very often. Their survival depends upon it. Our ancestors made sure of that by embracing failure to eventually dominate their environment.

What about your business? Have you had any major flubs that taught you a valuable business lesson? If so, please share below or feel free to drop us a line on Twitter or Facebook.

About the author: Dave Manzer founded Manzer Communications, an Austin tech PR agency specializing in communications & strategic inbound marketing for startups and fast-growth businesses in 2009. If you have any PR or content marketing questions about your business, feel free to tweet him at @davemanzer or email him at dave(at)manzercommunications(dot)com.

If there is one thing that is a lynchpin for success in an early stage company it is human capital. In the early days of the life cycle of a startup tech company, a multitude of decisions must be made. What features should the product or app have? What distribution channels should be pursued – direct to consumer, resellers, 3rd party implementation partners, Amazon versus owned eCommerce? How to acquire customers? The list goes on and on.

One thing is clear, however, which is that no founder CEO has all the skills and knowledge to properly address such a broad array of launch requirements. The value of a CEO lies in establishing and maintaining relationships with others to make the best use of the company’s resources in pursuit of goals agreed upon by both internal and external stakeholders.  

Investors are one group of stakeholders with very specific needs. To a large degree economic incentives make them choose to invest in startups. Investors want a hefty ROI on their money, if only because they may only see one great return on ten startup investments at any given time. But investors often also have a psychological stake in the company in which they invest; very often they genuinely care about the fate of the company beyond its pure financial ROI. This is especially true of angel investors.

To forge, maintain and deepen the relationships with the different stakeholders, including investors, communication is key.

Communication breeds success

Investors from all over the country (be they venture capitalists, angels, family offices or others) have told me in hundreds of conversations over the years that the start-up companies that perform best for them are those that provided a regular stream of reports on how they are performing. This communication makes for a feedback loop that pulls in useful insights from the investors into the CEO decision-making process, making those decisions better.

Rick Timmins, Chairman of the Central Texas Angel Network (CTAN), analyzed the performance history of all  90 investments (through 2013) of the members of CTAN since it started 10 years ago. His data show that as a group, entrepreneurs that communicate on a regular basis provide a superior investment return relative to entrepreneurs that don’t communicate.

The value of CEO Inc.

The personal brand buttresses the efficiency of CEOs in communicating to their different stakeholders, including their investors. What makes a powerful personal brand? Transparency is a requirement. Actively engaging with stakeholders is another.

Prof. Charles Holloway, Director of Stanford University’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies,  said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that one of the determining factors for entrepreneurs who failed to convince American VCs to back their endeavors is the way they worked (thus communicated) with their previous investors.

So clearly there is ample evidence supporting regular communication with investors, that it is not some kumbaya moment owed to an anxious angel or VC but a critical component predicting future success for startups.

Time to tango

Yet even as startup CEOs should consider improving their outbound communications to investors so do investors need to demand the communication flow. It takes two to tango, and if investors want to know that their money is being wisely used then they have to insist on CEOs coming up for air to give them concise, informed and objective updates.

I strongly agree with Aaron Harris in that CEOs should give monthly updates. The goal, after all, is to help the company be a success, and the investor is a key part of that process.

Bottom-line: the more CEOs and their investors work together the more times they will find the ROI they both seek in the startup.

This guest post was submitted by Joe Milam. Joe is the CEO of AngelSpan, an Austin based company that provides bespoke investor relations services for start-ups to maximize the value and return on that asset.

Product launches are never an easy process to coordinate. Depending upon the size of the company, it may require a project manager coordinating a range of activities from product development to manufacturing or programming to legal to marketing and, in the case of public companies, to investor communications.

But how about we focus on the marketing communications activities of companies in the middle of a product launch? What are some surprising activities that can get overlooked in the race to launch before the next big trade show or vendor conference?

Here are 15 items we came up with, distributed over owned media (the channels you own), earned media (the ‘free publicity’ received through media coverage) and paid media (what you pay for):


Blogging: it’s a head-slapping moment many companies have experienced before. How did you forget to update your in-house blog when it was right there the whole time? It should have been a slam-dunk after all. Still, in the fog of launch, blogs can sometimes fall by the wayside in the sprint to go live. Keep in mind that a best practices approach to blogging won’t have you gushing too much about your new product, but a launch post can and should be part of the strategy. Don’t forget to embed a call-to-action to convert readers into customers.

Social media: these days it’s hard to believe anybody would forget to incorporate social media into the product launch strategy. It’s unlikely that social media is left out but what’s more likely is that a company fails to approach it strategically by stitching into the launch messaging for a consistent customer experience across all communications channels. If this is a B2B product, it may make sense to seed LinkedIn while also working in Twitter, Reddit and some other communities. A B2C product launch can live its entire life on Facebook but forgetting SnapChat, Periscope, Pinterest and Instagram would be a huge missed opportunity. Bottom line: go to where your target audience lives online.

Product videos: video has become mainstream over the past few years but forgetting to make them shareable is a faux pas. Video can be shared over more platforms and if you turn it into GIFs or really short-form videos you can seed other platforms to drive exponential shares.

Email campaign: that’s right, you can’t forget the number one way to reach and convert customers to your new product or service. Email is still the undisputed King of maximizing per capita customer sales. Whether it’s part of a weekly or monthly newsletter or a one-off email announcing the launch, this will likely net you more sales than the combined sales coming from all of your social media channels.


Press release: don’t be among the crowd of press release haters. Yes, these seemingly archaic communications are down but they’re not out yet. While the media is split on the merits of a press release, it generally makes sense to use one when you launch new products and have a decent amount of product specifications and other related information to convey. A press release will keep the communication organized and allow you to be succinct in your emails sent to busy reporters and bloggers. P.S., posting the release on your website and through an online distribution service will improve your new product’s search engine ranking.

Reviews: one of the best ways to NOT get your viral message out is to forget to send your new product to journalists and bloggers known for doing reviews. Favorable reviews can help you blow past your sales projections, so best not drop the ball or you’ll be playing catch-up.

Ambassadors: here’s another great activation strategy that may get overlooked. Some brands have the luxury of calling on ambassadors and super fans to receive early product shipments to begin whipping up the anticipation in the marketplace. There can be some paid elements to this kind of program but in a perfect world your brand has the kind of followers that won’t mind doing some cheerleading just because they are singled out as influencers.


PPC: don’t forget to work with your in-house or outsourced search engine marketing expert to weave any new terms (Free Trial, product name, special offer price, demographic details) related to the product launch. You want to be able to drive any many clicks as possible during the initial promotion. Google AdWords is still the 900 lb gorilla in the PPC market but social platforms like Facebook are giving it a good run for its money, especially for B2C campaigns.

Landing pages: forgetting a landing page can lead to disappointing PPC results simply because sending clicks to your homepage could end up a dead-end for conversions. Be prepared with some A/B tested landing pages that include effective call-to-actions in order to ensure you kill the conversion rates and see the revenue or adoption numbers you built into the launch P&L.

Google Analytics: while not technically paid media, it’s a part of your search engine marketing strategy and you don’t want to forget adding any new product web pages (including landing pages) so you can track inbound traffic.

Event signage: planning to attend an industry tradeshow or conference like CES or SXSWi later in the year and still don’t have the booth updated with your new product signage? Yea, you better get started on that. You’d hate to be caught napping while your target demo streams past your booth blissfully unaware of your revolutionary new whatchyamacallit. Heads will roll.

Product placement: well, if you are a consumer product company with the budget and don’t at least consider how to get your product into one of the hottest shows on TV or in an upcoming movie starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg then it would be a shame to let a competitor steal it right out from under you.

Event demos: similar to signage, not attending an industry event and demoing the product to the audience you address would be a sad thing indeed. If you are targeting K-12 schools with new sub $500 line of 3D printers then forgetting to attend the annual National Conference on Science Education could cost you thousands, if not millions, in lost revenue.

Event sponsorships: don’t forget to ask where your best customers like to hang out. Are you striving to be a high-end liquor brand for those with 6-figure and above income? Then advertising at the state fair may not be in the cards, although sponsoring a Formula 1 race might be.

Media buys: okay, for large brands, this rarely falls off the radar in a product launch. But for up and coming ones that automatically assume it’s not an option, investigating media buys with your ad agency should be on the go-live checklist. Whether it’s buying bus wraps and billboards, or commercials on tv and radio, it pays to take stock of your budget and decide what the potential ROI is on a projected ad spend. Will you actually see the ROI on an ad spend? Who knows, but don’t assume the worst until you have fully tested it as an option.

Some parting words of wisdom: it is of utmost importance to align all owned, earned and paid efforts in a product launch strategy. Keep in mind that with paid media it is useful to reach out to the media beforehand, to prime your audience for the advertising campaign to follow. And of course the messaging of both the media outreach (the press release, for example) and the ad campaign should be fairly consistent with one another.

Cam Newton Super Bowl Interview

Sunday’s 50th Super Bowl game is being talked about as a historic defensive battle and possibly the last game of Peyton Manning’s illustrious, record-setting career.

The game is also being talked about for Cam Newton’s postgame interview, which saw the Panthers flamboyant QB incapable of hiding his disdain for the questions, pouting, slouching and surly. The interview went so poorly that as much one quarter of the post-game coverage centered on Cam’s meltdown.

The unfortunate thing is that Cam’s performance overshadows what was otherwise a stellar season for which he won the NFL’s coveted MVP award. Indeed, his behavior at the last interview of the season stands in such contrast to the Cam Newton brand —  endzone theatrics, contagious smiles, handing footballs to kids on the end zone — that it now calls into question the person behind the brand and whether he is mature enough to be the face of the Panthers and step into the celebrity QB vacuum soon to be created when greats like Peyton and Tom Brady retire.

What then are some of the lessons we can draw from Cam’s performance to apply to our own customers? What could we advise Cam to do differently, in our own version of the Monday morning quarterback, if he could hit the reset button?

Posture: instead of slouching at the interview table with his eyes never deigning to acknowledge the reporters in the audience, Cam should have sat straight in his chair and took the questions with some degree of respect. After all, it’s the very same reporters he shunned who heaped praise on his performance all season long and helped make a case for him being the next great QB in the NFL.

Demeanor: rather than look like a 12 year-old angry at not getting his way, Cam should have counted to ten before ascending to the interview table. He should have asked his coach, Ron Rivera, who gave perhaps one of the better post-game interviews from a losing coach I’ve ever seen, for some advice on how to channel the emotions instead of letting them control him.

Dress: Cam showed up in a Panthers’ sweatshirt with the hoodie pulled way down, almost over his eyes, which made him look unapproachable and withdrawn. If the interview timing precluded a shower and the normal straight-laced NFL attire, better that he show up with the hoodie off and meet the press head-on.

Personal accountability: Cam never once owned up to any shortcoming of his own. As shallow as it may sound coming from a losing QB, it’s expected that you at least shoulder some of the blame for the loss given the QB has the greatest impact of any player on the team. What’s more, Cam throughout the season celebrated his TDs and wins, indeed some would say over-celebrated, yet when the truest test of his character came with a tough Super Bowl loss his humility was notably absent.

Team spokesperson: whether he likes it or not, Cam is the face of the team. He is what makes the Panthers a fun, exciting team to watch. But as the spokesperson, he has to learn how to handle the wins and losses with an eye toward the team’s reputation and his. The pouting and impatient demeanor on display in the interview only served to hurt the brand of his team and himself.

Long-term reputation: Cam focused only in the moment and forgot to keep his eyes on his legacy and brand. Whether you are a popular NFL QB or a Fortune 500 CEO, the actions taken during a crisis can have a long-term impact. Cam is certainly wildly popular in the Panther Nation, and his performance may not impact those stakeholders in any lasting way. But what about his ability to appeal to and win over more fans and converts to the Panthers? His interview and the subsequent media analysis will undoubtedly deal a blow to his image that will take time and more humility to overcome.

About the author: Dave Manzer founded Manzer Communications, an Austin tech PR agency specializing in communications & strategic inbound marketing for startups and fast-growth businesses in 2009. If you have any PR or content marketing questions about your business, feel free to tweet him at @davemanzer or email him at dave(at)manzercommunications(dot)com.

Blogging is a laborious, tedious, and sometimes delirious activity for marketing professionals to pursue. That may explain why there are very few companies that do it well.

Despite the challenges, blogging on a regular basis can and does deliver impressive results, not the least of which includes higher search engine rankings, new leads and thought leadership.

So we decided it was high time to share some of the tools we rely upon to produce our weekly blogs (okay, sometimes bi-weekly blogs). Here is a short-list of the must have blogging tools you will find useful:

1) Twitter: use Twitter trends to see what topics are hot and potentially worth building into a theme for your post. Remember when the Hunger Games came out last year? There was an explosion of Hunger Games references in blogs. This wasn’t a cheap way to rip-off a title but a smart way to associate a blog post with a popular search term that can move the needle on site visits.


Twitter Trends

2) Blog Topic Generator
: built by HubSpot, this tool can help you brainstorm some nifty titles for your upcoming blogs. The results can seem pretty canned from time to time, so don’t take the suggested titles as gospel but as a starting point for your topic creation.

3) BuzzSumo: this tool helps you find topics similar to yours that have performed well and breaks the metrics out by social media platform. It does have a flaw in that the best performing articles/posts often tend to come from the most popular media outlets. For example, an article on “real estate agents cars” will show that Inman, a popular real estate site, had the most shares. Go figure.

4) CoSchedule: a marketing planning tool that includes strong blogging scheduling support. Its intuitive calendar scheduling feature allows you to set up blog posts weeks out and even add social media posts in support of the blog post. It will also help you measure the popularity of your posts so you can dial in on what your followers enjoy the most. It’s also easy to work alone or in teams using CoSchedule.

5) Google Calendar: similar to CoSchedule, it helps you plan out your posts in advance to ensure you stay on track. The great thing is that it’s free, but the bad thing is that it lacks many of the integrated social media and blogging functions of CoSchedule. You get what you pay (or don’t pay) for.

6) Grammarly: a must have for the writing-challenged among us. Not everybody went to school and studied English Literature or Journalism. Mastering those dangling participles and misplaced modifiers is no easy feat. Copy and paste your blog post and Grammarly will catch the mistakes faster than your high school composition teacher.




7) Google Docs
: Google’s word processing app is exceptional, automatically saves updates, is shareable with others on your team and doesn’t have all the distracting options that a Word doc has. In short, it allows you to write efficiently and easily copy over to your blogging platform. We are using Google Docs to write this post now, in fact.

8) Yoast SEO: this free WordPress plugin is essential for applying best SEO practices to each of your blog posts. Yoast sits at the bottom of your post and you can quickly optimize a post with just a few clicks and text entries.

9) PhotoPin: a high traffic blog usually has photos to draw in a visitor. The problem is that most sources of quality stock photos can cost an arm and a leg. PhotoPin to the rescue! You can search millions of Creative Commons picture files to add them to your blog post without the high cost. There are sponsored pics on the site in case you run across a particularly good photo and you don’t mind making an impulse purchase.

10) Digg Digg: a floating share bar, this free WordPress plugin makes it super easy for visitors to your blog to share it across their social media platforms. It’s a no-brainer and we’re planning to add it to our blog soon, too!

Thanks for reading our post and please let us know if you, too, have any blogging tools you can’t live without.

About the author: Dave Manzer founded Manzer Communications, an Austin tech PR agency specializing in communications & strategic inbound marketing for startups and fast-growth businesses in 2009. If you have any PR or content marketing questions about your business, feel free to tweet him at @davemanzer or email him at dave(at)manzercommunications(dot)com.

A lot has been made about inbound marketing over the past five years, and for good reason since it can have many beneficial impacts to a business. From higher search engine rankings to lead capture to greater revenue, inbound marketing forms the backbone of many companies’ marketing strategy.

But implementing a successful inbound marketing strategy can be challenging for companies with the best intentions. A variety of factors can actually prevent some companies from developing and running a seamless inbound marketing program. Say, for example, a white paper drives a crazy number of hits to your website. How can you be sure the website experience is frictionless, you capture the necessary contact information (without asking for too much!) and you have a drip marketing program in place to follow-up on new leads?

In this post, we look at how to tell when inbound is leaving you out of bounds when it comes to attracting and satisfying prospects throughout the marketing cycle.

  1. Stale content: there it is, impossible to ignore, a lack of good fresh content that is the hallmark of every good inbound marketing strategy. Without a steady stream of quality content targeting your prospects how else are you going to get results? A lack of good content turns off visitors to your website; a lack of fresh content turns off customers and prospects you are nurturing.
  2. Poor search engine ranking: another goal of content marketing is to reach the top three positions in organic search for keywords relevant to your business. For search engines to rank you higher, it helps to have content with embedded URLs (backlinks) pointing to your website – both internal links and ones from reputable websites. For example, getting your business mentioned in TechCrunch, Mashable, CNNMoney or a popular industry trade blog would not only get you in front of thousands of readers but also give you a solid backlink from a high-traffic, relevant website.
  3. Anemic social media: you can have a lots of quality content on your website and blog but if you don’t share it with the world you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. The more shares you get, the more clicks you’ll receive. The more clicks you receive, the higher your website traffic and resulting organic search engine ranking.
  4. Non-existent contact list: another goal of inbound marketing is to provide prospects an excuse to leave their contact information. One of the best ways to do that is to have ample possibilities on your website (both on the homepage and with every single blog post) through which people can sign up for valuable content such as a newsletter, a white paper or webinar series. Of course you will want to ask the right questions when people opt in: the more contextual information you have on your prospects and clients the better you will be able to tailor content to them as they descend into your sales funnel.
  5. No website optimization: if a website is the equivalent of a digital billboard for your business then not having it optimized for search engines is like putting the billboard in the middle of a forest with no highway in sight. Failing to optimize your website for keywords in this day and age is an unpardonable oversight. Failing to optimize it for the right kind of keywords is a strategic lapse, one that can cost you dearly in brand awareness and leads.
  6. Crash landing: most inbound marketing programs these days offer free content such as white papers, eBooks and shareable infographics to harvest contact information. To facilitate the collection of contact information it helps to create unique landing pages with campaign specific messaging, a sign-in form and Google Analytics. Failing to create a landing page and instead pointing a call-to-action to the homepage makes it harder to separate organic website traffic from your free content campaign.

To ensure you have prospects in all levels of the lead generation cycle, it pays to have your inbound marketing house in order. Otherwise, with a half-built home, how will you attract visitors to pay a visit? By making inbound marketing a priority and integrating more of your disparate marketing activities, you will soon have more leads than you’ll know what to do with.