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If you had the choice, would you rather work with a company that delivers mediocre services or one that’s been labeled by reputable sources as an indisputable expert?

It’s no question, really.

Everyone wants to work with experts – the trick is getting yourself and your company recognized in such a fashion.

I’ve talked quite a bit on this blog about the importance of effective personal and professional brands. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. Branding yourself as an authority in your field is difficult, which is why you’ve got to take some time to formulate a strategy.

Brand authority is arguably your single most important business asset. If you can get other people to recognize you as an expert, you’ll attract more customers and be able to charge more for your services.

Building online authority also involves a lot of time and a detailed long-term strategy. Far too many brands make the mistake of replicating their competitors’ online branding strategies. Instead, their focus should be on distinguishing themselves by building their own reputations as brand experts.

Importance of Online Authority

The Internet has become one of the most powerful mediums for brands to grow their customer bases of all time. Never before have we had such unparalleled opportunities to reach out, network with others around the world and get our work seen by relevant stakeholders.

According to research from the National Small Business Association, 73% of small businesses utilized social media in 2013 – up from 47% that leveraged it in 2010. But while this opportunity is great for startups, it’s tough for people who want to be recognized for their expertise. With a growing number of brands competing for attention on social media, it takes more effort than ever to get noticed as an authority source. Continue reading How to Build Authority Online

Eighteen months ago, I decided to chase my passion by taking a great opportunity with an incredible company (When I Work) in Minnesota. This was a huge change for me, since it followed the sale of the company that had been my life and blood for more than five years.

Unfortunately, this move meant that for those 18 months, I’d be living away from my wife (FYI: it sucks) and I’d have quite a bit of time to kill.

I’m the kind of guy that needs to keep busy, so by December 2014, after almost a year of doing pretty much nothing else except going to work (and skydiving on the weekends), I began to get really antsy. The need to be doing something a little different got my creative juices flowing, and I started to think up and work on some new ideas.

The first project I really got my teeth into was the growth hacking eBook I wrote with my good friend Rob Wormley: 100 Days of Growth. Now my latest ebook on Content Marketing is up for pre-oder.

Getting the book to completion took around 50 hours each (of my time and Rob’s time), including a whole bunch of time spent testing new marketing tactics.

However, as “that guy” that always needs to be doing something to keep busy, I’m also not the kind of guy to do things halfway. Once I put my mind to something, I work my ass off until it’s finished. This meant that, between my day job and my work on 100 Days of Growth, I spent 6 months working more than 13 hours a day, 6 days a week.

It was tough going, but thankfully, our efforts paid off. The book has been a great success and sold over 10,000 copies, which has given me a ton of confidence as I move forward with other new projects. This is the story of how I did it… Continue reading What I Learned from Working 13.3 Hours a Day, 6 Days a Week

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Ever dreamed of standing on stage and speaking at an event or conference? Yeah, it was never really my dream either (and I live for activities that push my boundaries and get my adrenaline flowing).However…I’ve been on a mission this year to build my personal brand, and there are few better ways to get yourself recognized than by getting up and speaking in front of an audience.

It all started when it was freeeezing cold this past Christmas. I’ve been living in Minnesota for the past year, and if you’re not from around here (or haven’t had the pleasure of visiting during the winter months), you should know that the average December temperatures are around 10-12 degrees. Or – in other words – f’ing  cold.

As is pretty usual for that time of year in Minnesota, there was nothing open. Usually I’d be out fulfilling my winter adrenaline-junkie needs with snowmobiling, but there wasn’t even much snow, so that one was a no go too…

I was pretty bored, so I decided to do something productive with my time and write an ebook on growth hacking (if you haven’t seen it already, you can find it at 100daysofgrowth.com).

While trying to promote the book, I ended up doing a ton of outreach to secure guest posts, which led to me being interviewed on more than 15 podcasts. It was while I was recording those podcasts that I realized how much I love educating people. This prompted me to revisit my quest for speaking at conferences and events.

Ultimately, I ended up securing five new speaking gigs using cold outreach emails and my tool Content Marketer. Want to get your foot in the door for similar speaking opportunities? Here’s how I did it… Continue reading How I Got 5 Speaking Engagements Using Cold Outreach

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Despite what some people in the industry might try to have us believe, SEO isn’t “dead” – and it’s unlikely to be dead for a very long time. The reality of the situation is that, as long as there are search engines – and as long as the results those search engines show are determined by algorithms – there will be SEO.

That said, SEO has changed a lot, and many tactics that worked as recently as a couple of years ago are now entirely defunct (unless you’re in the market for quick “wins” that will simultaneously put the entire visibility of your website at a very real, and very serious risk).

The last few years have seen SEO become a far more difficult discipline to master, and consequently, it’s become far more interesting. If you ask me, that’s a great thing.

So, with so many previously tried-and-tested tactics now sitting firmly in the realm of “blackhat” SEO, the question lots of people are asking is: what the hell still does work?

To find out, I had a chat with a few of my friends in the industry. This is what they had to say… Continue reading 13 SEO Leaders Share the Tactics That Still Work Today

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Since I’ve been writing for Forbes, Inc. and Entrepreneur Magazine, I’ve been getting pitches from all types of companies asking me to cover their launch, interview them, or help them in some way. I’ve received a few good ones, but – for the most part – they’re pretty bad.

And when I say bad… I mean horrible.

I don’t have any hard feelings against the people who send me bad pitches. If anything, I feel a little sorry for them. It’s not easy to know what works unless you’ve sat on both sides of the fence, because it’s often only when you receive those pitches that are either truly great or truly terrible that you realize what it is that people are likely to respond to.

To help you write the perfect pitch – with or without being recipient to one – here’s a little about what I’ve learned from being on the receiving end of 3,751 good, great, bad, and really bad PR pitches. Continue reading What I Learned from Receiving 3,751 PR Pitches

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While my business partner Colin Mathews has been working on building ContentMarketer.io (my latest project), I’ve been hard at work building buzz and recruiting beta users.

So far, we’ve had more than 3,500 people request access to the system, but only a few hundred of those really got the product and were successfully able to leverage it. Along the way, I’ve learned – relearned, actually – the importance of understanding your customers on a deep level.

One of my favorite tools for understanding my customers is the buyer persona, but what I’ve found is that most people who use this strategy don’t take it far enough. Simply knowing someone’s age, gender and geographic location isn’t enough – you’ve got to go deeper.

Below, you’ll find 150 of the questions I’ve personally used that you may find useful to ask as well. However, you don’t need to ask them all. Feel free to pick and choose the questions that are most relevant to your brand and the information you personally need to gather.

That said, before you go away and ask ten or twenty generic questions, think about this: the more questions you ask, the deeper the insight you’ll gain into your buyers and the more targeted and effective you can be in your marketing strategies. Asking more questions will take more time up-front, but the payoff will be well worth the extra effort.

Trust me. Continue reading 150 Buyer Persona Questions You Must Ask

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If you’ve been following along with me on this blog, you probably already know how important I think it is to build a distinct and recognizable brand that consumers trust and want to be associated with. In today’s noisy, commercial environment, it’s key to the long-term success of your company.

Unfortunately, if you’re in the process of trying to build a brand for yourself, you probably also know that this is far easier said than done.

If you’re trying – but failing – to build brand equity, stay with me. I’m going to talk you through 15 common ways companies get brand-building wrong, as well as look at what you can do to prevent your company falling afoul of the same mistakes. Continue reading 15 Ways You’re Failing Your Brand

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Want to see better results from your content marketing campaigns?

Well, let me give you a little hint…

It’s not going to come from cranking out the same 800-word blog posts you’ve been writing three times a week for the past year. And it’s not going to come from building an infographic from one of the popular templates floating around out there.

The marketing success of the future isn’t going to come from quantity or from meeting some arbitrary publishing calendar suggestions. It’s going to come from establishing yourself as a thought leader in your industry – and truly bad-ass content pieces are the best way to do just that.

According to research from Curata, 71% of brands increased their investment in content marketing over the past year. And that’s great, except that spending more time and money on content won’t boost your ROI unless you have the right strategy in place.

Here’s everything you need to know about developing the right strategy for your brand through the use of seriously amazing content pieces: Continue reading How to Create Truly Bad-Ass Content

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Is a website finished once the design and development is complete, and the site gets launched? Of course not! It doesn’t matter how beautiful your site looks or how well it converts – there are always going to be changes you can make that will improve conversions further and more importantly, make you more money.

Unlike other facets of digital marketing, conversion rate optimization (CRO) capitalizes on the visitors you already have and can result in some very big, and very quick wins. I can’t emphasize enough how beneficial this practice can be.

Meet CRO and A/B Split Testing

But before we go any further, It’s important to clarify the distinction between CRO and A/B testing. Conversion rate optimization is the whole process of making alterations to a site in order to increase conversions. This can include a variety of different testing methods, as well as data analysis and the development activity needed to implement your tests and make changes.

A/B testing, on the other hand, is a specific method of testing used to help optimize your site for conversions.

It’s really a simple premise. To run an A/B test, you set up two different versions of a page that will run consecutively. Once both pages are live, 50% of your visitors are sent to version one, while the other 50% are sent to version two. You then track how the behavior of your visitors differed between the two versions, and use this information to make permanent, positive changes to your website.

For example, you might run an A/B split test to decide between using green or red call-to-action buttons. For the sake of argument, we’ll say that version one uses green call-to-action buttons and version two uses red call-to-action buttons.

If, when the test is complete, you can see that 6% of visitors clicked the call-to-action buttons on version one, but 12% of visitors clicked the call-to-action buttons on version two, you now know that red call-to-action buttons are more lucrative for your site than green buttons.

Of course, you probably won’t stop the test there. You might then repeat the test and pit red buttons against say, orange buttons, and so on. For best results, you’ll always want to have at least one test running on your website. Continue reading 50 A/B Split Tests to Optimize Your Site to Perfection

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I’m a huge fan of sports and athletics. So if I go a little quiet when the big game or the Olympics are on, well… now you know why.

More importantly, as someone who puts great value on his own physical fitness, I see the talent, work and dedication that goes into becoming the very best in a given sport as something that should be hugely admired.

I also believe that there’s a hell of a lot that most of us, as employers or employees in less, well, physically demanding roles, can learn from the training practices and actions of top athletes.

Here are ten of these life lessons, as well as how they should be applied to our content marketing efforts:

Channel Pressure to Help You Perform at Your Very Best

From the critical opening second of an Olympic sprint – where even the tiniest error or hesitation could throw the whole race – through to the deciding penalty shot of a World Cup final, competitive sports and athletics are filled with high-pressured situations.

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What I find most interesting, though, is how adept professional athletes are at not just coping with pressure, but channeling it to their advantage – something most of us could learn from. Many would say this is what separates the good athletes from the great.

Unfortunately, a lot of us just don’t perform at our best when under pressure. As unpleasant as that is, it’s very common, and nothing to be ashamed of. It is something, however, that we can work to change.

When faced with pressure, our bodies tend to respond in two ways: they either go into “challenge” mode, or “threat” mode. Continue reading 10 Content Marketing Lessons You Can Steal from Top Athletes