Archive for the ‘Professional Development’ Category

Professional Development for Digital Marketers: How to Up Your Game in 2014

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With some free time coming up during the holidays, and a new year not far behind, it’s time for every SEO and digital marketer to ask themselves one simple question:

“How am I going to up my game in 2014?”

That’s what we’re going to cover in today’s post. (And as it’s also the topic of #SEOChat today, a popular Twitter chat, I’ll add some of the best suggestions from the chat into a Storify at the end of the post, to share some of the best ideas from the community.)

What New Skills Should I Learn?

Digital marketing consists of timeless elements (copywriting, strategy, psychology), combined with elements that change weekly, if not faster (SEO techniques, ad tactics, subtleties of social media and analytics platforms).

This means that as marketers,  we’re either getting better or getting obsolete.

So how you can you keep up in a time of such extreme change? And how can you keep your edge knowing that there are kids in bedrooms and basements, building sites, working every day to take the edge from you?

When I look at skill development, I see it falling into a few different buckets:

Going Deeper into Your Core Skills

Any aspects of SEO (or PPC, or Social, if that’s your core skill) you need to brush up on? Be it something like and the related new snippet presentation options, or building a really thorough understanding of personalized search, or working to understand new Image-first social platforms and their API capabilities, it’s always worth making some time to do a deep dive into areas core to your specialty.

Hopefully these areas have some relevance to your business. (For example, as much as I’d like to become an expert in Instagram, this wouldn’t have a ton of relevance to what we do at BuzzStream.) Additionally, try to look at something that will still be valuable in a couple years – you only have so much time to work on professional stuff, so try to look at existing market trends and figure out what will be working well in 2-4 years and study up on that.

Learning Complementary Online Skills from Other Disciplines

If you only do content/SEO/social/PPC/etc, you’ve probably noticed an increasing demand to work effectively with other specialists and understand how other channels work with your own. Building up some chops in related but different disciplines can usually lead to some cool new ideas for integrations and ways to make channels work together.  The synergy between paid search and organic SEO should be pretty natural by this point, but the combination of paid and organic social media, and retargeting and content marketing all open up great opportunities for marketers.

It’s great (and usually pretty easy) to learn specialties adjacent to yours and become a ‘T-shaped Marketer.’

tshaped marketer

(Image from Brian Balfour, who has also curated a great selection of resources about learning digital marketing.)

Building Your Creative Marketing Skills (like Copy & Design)



The Marketer’s Guide to Organization & Productivity with Evernote



Like many people, I have trouble keeping organized.  In fact, I’m kind of a mess. 

But recently I’ve found a new way to stay organized: Evernote.  Like many people, I’ve known about Evernote for a while, but recently I’ve found some incredibly valuable use cases that have really created a ton of value.  With that in mind, today I present: the Marketer’s Guide to Productivity & Organization with Evernote.

Keep a Searchable Swipe File

One thing I do in Evernote that save me tons of time is keeping a searchable, tagged swipe file, that I can add to with one click.

What’s a Swipe File and Why Should I Keep One?

“Every professional copywriter keeps a swipe file – a collection of proven direct response promotions – and for good reason. Building a swipe file is easily one of the most powerful things you can do to advance your career as a copywriter. ” – Clayton Makepeace, Famed Copywriter & Direct Marketer

Swipe files are a term dating back to the early days of copy editing and direct marketing, where experienced writers and editors would keep huge files of ads they saw with headlines, closes, and other elements that worked.

Every marketer should keep a swipe file, regardless of their specialty. See a great piece of content? A great outreach email headline? How about a unique way to integrate share buttons or a great call to action?

Swipe it. Then look through your file when you’re confronted by a problem – and odds are a solution will emerge.

Keeping a Swipe File with Evernote Web Clipper

Evernote makes keeping a swipe file incredibly easy – and almost fun.

Start by installing the web clipper – and you’ll get a peaceful, friendly elephant quietly sitting in your browser’s extension area.

Then, when you find something you want to add to your file, click it and it springs into action:

You can tag images, put them into notebooks (which are like folders on your desktop or projects in BuzzStream), highlight and write on images, and do everything you need to maintain an organized, useful swipe file, right from the browser.



The Power of the Pitch: How to Start Great Agency-Client Relationships


It’s a buyer’s market.   

Over the past few years, there’s been an explosion of growth in the digital marketing space.  Experts and gurus abound, providing a wealth of educational information to prospective clients (both good and bad).

Competition is a great thing. It forces agencies and consultants to constantly improve their game, and it provides increasing value to businesses and individuals seeking to hire these professionals to deliver the results they desperately need.

As a content marketer, I can speak directly to how this proliferation of competition is shaping my own approach. I would venture to guess, however, that my thesis could hold true for other types of consultancies and agencies.

Put simply: In a buyer’s market, the onus should be on the provider to prove their value before being hired.



Learn to Build Quality Links from Todd Malicoat and BuzzStream CEO Paul May

Link development is a powerful marketing technique.  But done wrong, it can do more harm than good.  The right links can propel your brand, traffic, and search engine rankings to new heights – while the wrong links will land you in the penalty box.

Learn link development and outreach best practices from BuzzStream CEO Paul May and Captain Todd Malicoat (known on the interwebs as StuntDubl) in a free webinar from MarketMotive on Generating Quality and Authority Inbound Links.

What Will You Learn?

You’ll learn how to get great links – the kind that drive traffic, build your brand, and improve your search engine rankings.

We’ll cover:

  • Automating the mundane pieces of outreach so you can focus on the parts that matter.
  • Writing great outreach emails that inspire action and build relationships
  • Designing and developing linkable assets that will attract dozens of links
  • Identifying influencers interested in your content assets

And much more.



10 Ways to Become a Better Link Development Pro Over Your Holiday Break

Now that the holidays are coming up, we all have a little time to unplug, unwind, and relax.  As you’re spending time with your friends and family, you can take some time to improve your professional skills and become an even better professional in 2013.

Here are 10 ways to up your link development game in 2013:

#1 – Read a Book About Copywriting

While marketing has completely changed over the past few years, people haven’t.  Take some time to brush up on the subtle art of persuading through the written word and image, with masters like Gary Halbert, Joseph Sugarman, or David Ogilvy.

I recommend:

Even if you don’t write advertising, all of those books will give you a deeper understanding of how to influence behavior through words and images.



10 Books Every Link Builder Should Read… That Aren’t About Link Building

Following our last post on professional development for link builders, today I wanted to look at great books.  These aren’t about link building – I know of very few books that are – but are rather about psychology, marketing, writing, and getting things done on the internet.

1. Ogilvy on Advertising

by David Ogilvy
David Ogilvy, despite having a resume that would certainly bar him from any agency work today, was one of the greatest advertising minds to ever put pen to paper. With famous campaigns like Schweppes, Rolls-Royce, and Puerto Rico, his wisdom is worth learning from. (Sure, we can get sites to rank #1 for insurance queries. But he popularized a whole country.)

While this book is predominantly about print advertising, its principles apply to everything online. For example, want a blog post to do well on StumbleUpon? Use an opening image with story appeal. 

2. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

by Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin arrived in Philadelphia at 17 years old with only three loaves of bread to his name. At the end of his life, he was one of the richest men in the colonies, and a famous inventor, scientist, statesman, and writer.

While it seems like there’s nothing applicable to link building in the story of a man in the 1700s, Benjamin Franklin became prominent through writing, publishing, and building relationships. You can bet if he were alive today, SEO and inbound marketing would be part of his strategy.

There’s lots to learn in this book about relationship building, effective writing, publishing, and sheer hustle.

3. Scientific Advertising & My Life in Advertising

 By Claude Hopkins

 While link building changes every day, the art of persuasion has not changed too much over the years.  If you can take advantage of all of the modern changes while using established copywriting principles (also known as spittin’ it old school), you can do some great work.

These two books are advertising classics.  My Life in Advertising chronicles Hopkins’ rise through the world of advertising – from writing about brooms to becoming one of the highest paid copywriters int he country, while Scientific Advertising is more of a treatise on successful direct response writing.  

Scientific Advertising is available for free online.

4. Influence: Science and Practice

 By Robert Cialdini

Ultimately your goal as a link builder is to persuade a particular prospect to take action.  This goal has been studied for years – by marketers, by salesmen, by leaders, and perhaps most interestingly, by scholars of psychology.  

Cialdini explores the principles of influence – carefully describing not only the principle (in this case, liking, reciprocity, authority, social proof, commitment, scarcity) but experiments and historical uses of the levers of influence.  (We’ve written about Cialdini and link building before.)

5. The Goal

By Eliyahu Goldratt

What can a novel about process management at a struggling factory teach link development professionals?  A lot, actually.

 The Goal is a book about about manufacturing, written as a novel.  The protagonist confronts a struggling plant, in danger of shutdown, because of its inefficient processes and poor teamwork.  Working with his mentor, Alex Rogo implements lean manufacturing processes, saving his plant and growing his company.

This is a great book to learn about processes and the lean methodology, popularized by the Toyota Production system. And you might find that the same methodology applies to automobile plants that applies to link building teams.

6. The Lean Startup

by Eric Ries

Eric Ries takes issue with startups who spend years building a product, and then find no one wants it.  Like the opposite of the field of dreams, they built it and no one came.  The Lean Startup is a business philosophy intended to fix this problem, fusing product development with market intelligence and frequent testing.

In content marketing and link building, we see the same problem: We spend tons of time on a piece of content or campaign, and then launch it, only to find no one links it and we get a half-hearted response.  

As content marketers and link builders, we can’t afford to have big failures from lack of customer intelligence.  And we can use ideas like continuous deployment, A/B testing, and rapid prototyping to increase content marketing success rates.

7. Propaganda

by Edward Bernays

Edward Bernays invented modern public relations and pioneered many of its techniques. This book is one of the original manuals on public relations and creating ideas that propagate (the original meaning of the word ‘propaganda’).

He introduces the idea of ‘influencing the influencers’, which is near and dear to every link builder and inbound marketers heart.

It is available for free online.

8. Web Analytics 2.0

 By Avinash Kaushik

As the old management consultant aphorism goes, ‘What Gets Measured Gets Managed.’  And if you say, drive traffic to web pages through various means for a living (as link builders and SEOs do), being able to measure the behavior of that traffic is very important.  

This book gives a breezy tour through web analysis – from the basics down to much more advanced topics.  More importantly, Avinash focuses on the 20% of analysis that gets you 80% of the results, without getting bogged down into the details of different web analytics platform’s operation.  

9. The Medici Effect

In addition to being well versed in analytics, link builders and marketers must be phenomenally creative to succeed today. In this quest for ever better ideas that will stand out and drive visibility and success, it’s worth analyzing where creativity comes from, and understanding how to be more creative. The Medici Effect looks into the origins of creativity and innovation, and suggests that stepping into the intersection between disciplines is the path to new creative ideas. For example, when Expedia faced multi-touch attribution challenges, they looked to epidemiology for helpful models. And OKCupid became incredibly successful in the face of much larger brands with much larger SEO budgets by exploring the intersection of data and dating.

10. Measure What Matters

 By Katie D Paine

Increasingly public relations is becoming intermingled with SEO and link development. And increasingly the internet is becoming intermingled with public relations.

This book discusses PR metrics – how to tell how people at large feel about you, identify and analyze influencers in your market, and measure the effect of campaigns. And this book comes at all of these problems from a completely different angle than the SEO and link building approaches you might be familiar with.

Bonus: 11. The Art of SEO

By Eric Enge, Stephan Spencer, Rand Fishkin, and Jessie Stricchiola

This book has a link building section, so that’s why it’s number 11. None the less, this is the best introduction to advanced SEO – it moves beyond traffic to discuss the full impact of SEO, including SEO for political campaigns, branding, and reputation management. It also discusses executing SEO campaigns, building an SEO organization, and gives great, detailed explanations on technical SEO.

What are your favorite books that help link builders?


10 Blogs Every Link Builder Should Read… That Aren’t About Link Building

There are lots of great link building blogs.  But to really gain competitive advantage to dominate the SERPs, you can’t just read blogs about link building.  You need to go beyond what your competition is reading, and become a fantastic all-around marketer.

1) Social Triggers

Derek Halpern writes about how to turn traffic into subscribers into customers by understanding social psychology and the power of language.

Social Triggers is his excellent blog on the topic.  While it’s geared towards the blogger/affiliate community (with guides on list building and increasing online sales), Derek’s blog is about how to use language and persuasive psychology to get people to take action – exactly what link development professionals need to do.

Favorite Posts

How To Eliminate “Wallet Closing Words” From Your emails, Sales Pages, and Speech

Why We Buy What We Can Get for Free

How People Make Decisions (and How it Helps You Grow Your Business)


2) SpinSucks

SpinSucks covers professional development for marketing and PR professionals.  This includes a broad range of topics, from traditional PR and crisis communications to advertising, social media, and SEO.