SearchFest 2015: Top Takeaways From Digital Marketing’s Brightest Minds

SearchFest 2015 - Tim Mayer Opening Keynote
Tim Mayer of Heddle Media gives the opening keynote to a full house of search marketers at SearchFest 2015.

At the end of every February, hundreds digital marketers from around the United States and the world converge on Portland for SearchFest. This one-day-a-year search marketing extravaganza put on by the good folks at SEMpdx is always jampacked with presentations given by a collection of the digital marketing industry’s brightest minds.

2015 marked my fourth consecutive year attending the conference. With my esteemed colleague and fellow Search Engine Marketer, Chris Miller in tow, we set out to pin down this year’s overarching themes and bring you the top takeaways, tips and tools.

But first let’s look back at the predominant themes that emerged from the last four SearchFests.

2012: #RCS. Wil Reynolds at SEER spanked us all for treating SEO like a beaver-pelt top hat full of ‘tricks and spam’…and not the stuff that cartoon rabbits and Hawaiians like to eat, but the stuff that Google likes to spit out.

2013: The Mobile tidal wave was coming and it was going to swallow us all unless we had a mobile-friendly life raft…and it did. Some of us are still floating to the surface as we realize some startling facts:

Share of US Digital Media Time Spent by Platform - Reference
comScore Report: Major Mobile Milestones in May: Apps Now Drive Half of All Time Spent on Digital

2014: Content (Freakin’) Marketing, people!!! We did all that other hard #RCS stuff, now we have to be writers too?! And what we write has to be worth reading?! Worth sharing?! Sweet mercy. There has to be another way to make customers.

2015: Non-Technical SEO is like a clown passed out on our lawn that we occasionally poke with a stick to see if it’ll move. Organic keywords are already dead in the minds of some. Even PPC keywords are slowly being disappeared like Marty in Back to the Future. Of course, SEO isn’t really dead, nor was Krusty, but the point being this year was that we’re all just marketers now.

Krusty as Metaphor for Old School SEO
Search Marketers poking at keywords with a stick – always wondering, “Are they dead or aren’t they?”

In the past four years we’ve sort of come full circle. Whatever glam shortcut or sparkling trend we fall upon we can’t seem to shake the reality that we ARE marketers…and not just the ones who start drinking at 9am and say cool things like, “Capture your vertical, Pam!”

…but the ones who do the work too. As Mr. Reynolds put it so eloquently back in 2012, we do the Real Company S***.

So, let’s come back to 2015. We’re still taking our lumps and learning our lessons – putting it all together – in an industry that changes quicker than my 6-year old’s self-imposed dietary restrictions. This is what motivated the Digital Marketing Team at Edge to sit down and identify the broader themes rather than highlight the get-rich-quick tips from this year’s conference, and really the state of search engine marketing as a whole.

After all, what makes us rich today can often just be a hole in our pocket tomorrow.

Digital Marketers As Translators

As we swam through our pages of notes looking for possible themes for this year’s SearchFest, the one that kept rising to the surface was digital marketers as translators. We translate data into compelling stories. We comb, we scrape, we sift and we sort data to make things easier and to craft solutions for our clients.

“The person with the most data wins. […] Data is your organization’s second most valuable asset. The first is your employees.” ~ Tim Mayer of Heddle Marketing

How do we move towards being better translators of data into actionable insights? Here are some of the top takeaways from SearchFest this year…

Resonance vs Relevance

In his opening keynote, Tim Mayer said that marketers need to go beyond relevance and use data to promote resonance within their content marketing strategies. If relevance is how we target and match our messaging to find new customers then resonance is how we get our customers to stick around.

Another way of looking at this is from a PPC perspective. Relevance attracts Clickers, while resonance builds a base around Converters, and, as Mayer puts it, “Clickers are not your converters in many cases.” So if your strategy focuses on optimizing for Clickers then you’re headed in the wrong direction. Use what you know about your audience to anticipate their needs and serve them content that eases their pain points.

People-based Marketing

The shift towards people-based marketing is liberating to those search marketers who for years mistakenly thought their client was a cold, mother-in-law of an algorithm that either gives them a SERP thumbs up or a SERP thumbs down. In the past we measured devices as if they were people. Nowadays and going forward we are seeing more solutions to track people (individuals) as they move across devices.

This simultaneously creepy and heartwarming development is freeing us digital marketers so that we know longer have to write “SEO Content” that was more machine code than interpersonal communication. We could always craft content that resonated on a personal level, but we had no mandate to do so. Now we are being told (and in some cases reprimanded) by the search engines that this is what we should do. More and more brands will be able to deliver that individualized content to members of their audience.
In a beautiful sort of ironic twist it will likely be through machines and automation that we can achieve and deliver this personalized, human touch within our content marketing.

Trust Your Strengths

Imitation is the sincerest form flattery, but don’t flatter your competitors by copying their marketing and digital strategies. Your impersonations aren’t terribly great and you’re kind of embarrassing yourself out there. Even when copying a successful marketing strategy, there is no guarantee that what once worked will work again. Successful marketing is strongly driven by its uniqueness, as soon as that’s gone, it loses its power quickly.

You need to trust your own strengths and focus on what makes your business desirable over your competitors. What your business offers is unique and that needs to show through in your marketing. Showcasing your unique strengths and offerings will lead to creating unique marketing and digital strategies.

Kill Assumptions By Testing Your Hypothesis

“I have a hunch” doesn’t really cut it these days. When you have an idea for something new, you need to test these ideas before committing 100%. With the myriad of ways to test your ideas in the digital spectrum there is no excuse for not making a reasonable effort to test your marketing hypotheses.

Don’t be afraid of coming to a conclusion that your new idea will be unsuccessful. It is not a bad thing for a test to show that an idea wouldn’t work. It is much worse to go all in on a new idea that turns out to be unsuccessful knowing you could have saved yourself the trouble by just spending a little time and money in testing.

“The drive to be perfect is what distracts us from solving problems.” ~ Jonathan Coleman of Facebook in his keynote at SearchFest 2015

Remember that perfect is a progress-killing myth. In its place we should foster cultures that are not afraid to experiment in order to get to what’s better. Test those big ideas and let the data decide the path forward.

Encourage your team to think big, support them and make them feel comfortable to take risks.

Mobile Means Now

Phone Call Are Higher Quality Leads
Frances Donegan-Ryan and Anna Hughes from Bing Ads and Microsoft explain why phone calls might just be the highest quality leads out there. Larry Kim from Wordstream went as far as to say that in the future mobile optimization will look more like how well you set up and train your call center staff.

Mobile search is expected to surpass desktop by 2016, if not sooner. There are more smartphone owners on the planet than there are folks who own toothbrushes. The very catchy and minutely terrifying ‘Mobilegeddon’. You’ve heard all the mobile superlatives. Across all verticals the mobile averages 30% of total organic traffic and is rising steadily as desktop trails off.

Yet, more than losing traction in the mobile SERPs, businesses that continue to persist with a desktop-only web presence may find their diminishing relevance to their audience a tougher pill to get down. Effective Mobile and Local SEO strategies mean existing where and when your customers are.

Check your analytics. How much of your organic traffic originates from mobile devices? How many goals does that segment convert each month? What would it mean to your business if you lost just 3%, 5%, 10% of your mobile traffic?


As we reflected on all the information that stood out the most to us this year, we saw that while our titles may change so fast that we can’t always agree on what to call ourselves, the essence of what the best of us do doesn’t.

We help your customers find you on the web (relevance). We help you keep the customers you have (resonance). And we help to make sure your websites and strategies don’t run afoul of search authorities (best practices). We use what we know and what can be measured (data) to help your business be compelling (content).

In a candy-coated nutshell, we are the creators, caretakers and advocates for your digital strategy.

Of course, there’s so much more to it than that. As someone much wiser than I am once put it, “It’s a rich tapestry.”


Want to stay relevant in the rapidly changing digital landscape? Get in contact with us and talk with our experts about how we can develop a winning digital strategy for your business.


This article was written with significant contributions from fellow Edger, Chris Miller.

Use Insights To Create Facebook Posts Your Audience Actually Wants to Read

Knowing Your Followers: Thumbs Up for Facebook Insights

Better Insights, Better Posts

At this point no one should really need to tell you that your company should have a Facebook page, or that you should be posting to it regularly. The question is: What kind of content should you be posting?

Getting started, you should be able to find plenty of guides about what to start posting when you first set up your company Facebook page. Posting your web content, relevant links/pictures, and copying your competitors themes for your own posts are both popular and wise choices.

But what do you do after your page has built some momentum? When you have enough fans and enough posts to really start looking at what is working and what is not? And how do you use that information to plan for more effective posts in the future? The answers to these questions can be found with a simple excursion into your Facebook Insights.

With a few simple clicks in Facebook’s Insights section you can download a whole host of information that can you use to learn all about your Page’s posts and how your followers have responded to them. Using a few simple, key metrics found in Insight data and little bit of analysis you will be able to determine the kind of Facebook posts that will garner the greatest response from your audience.

But the benefits do not end with Facebook. The process […] is really about becoming better acquainted with your audience and when you know your audience your content improves across all your marketing channels.

The Metrics

Post Message
Far and away the most important metric, without knowing what you have said in your post the rest of the metrics are meaningless.

Post Length
Just how wordy are your posts? This will tell you.

Post Date
When was this posted – this metric will tell you down to the minute.

Post Reach
This tells us how many people saw a particular post. If you pay Facebook to “boost” your posts, you can also split this metric by Organic, Paid and Total.

Post Engagement
This number we calculate ourselves by adding up a posts total number of Likes, Shares, or Comments. There is an actual “Engagement” stat provided by Facebook, but we prefer using this metric because these three types of engagement represent a strong and deliberate action by the viewer. For further granularity you can also dissect Likes, Comments, and Shares separately as stand alone metrics.

Photo Views
For posts with photos or albums this lets you know how many people actually viewed the photo(s).

Link Clicks
If a link is included in a post, this will tell show how many times that link was clicked.

How to use these metrics

Now that the metrics have been sorted and defined, the next step is to organize this data into a series of reports that will tell a story about your Facebook Page and your audience.

Post Themes

Assigning a theme/topic to each Facebook post is a handy way to group them together. The goal is to keep the topics broad so they account for a number of posts.

After grouping posts under their themes, you can also add their totals for Engagement and Reach. See which themes are reaching a lot people and driving a lot of engagement and which themes aren’t resonating with your audience.

What to take away
First, count up the number of themes you have. Less than five may show a lack of variety in your Facebook feed and a staleness that can lead to disinterested followers. While more than ten themes could be signs of a scattered and directionless page that is confusing its followers with tons of unrelated content.

Next, be sure that themes you have, align with your business – you wouldn’t to be a sandwich store who only posts on Facebook about ice cream, sports, and the weather, sure they are popular topics but they having nothing to do with your core business of selling subs.

Finally, look at which themes are performing best with your audience and plan to post more content in the future using those successful themes. Identify the underperforming themes and either cut them or try modify them to better cater to your audience.

Post Length and Engagement

By comparing Engagement and Engagement Rate with Post Length we can see if there is a relationship between a post’s Engagement and its word count.

What to take away
Do your followers like longer, wordier posts? Or do they prefer things to be short and sweet? These kinds of questions can be answered with reporting. Combine this with the themes report to see if some post themes are falling behind because they are too lengthy or perhaps not detailed enough. Use this information to discover if certain themes may be lagging in useful information, or if others are crammed with superfluous chatter.

Date, Relevance, and Engagement

Knowing when a post was uploaded can offer great insight into why that particular post failed or succeeded. For instance, a post asking your audience “what their favorite BBQ tricks are” the Friday before Memorial Day Weekend may have an especially big impact because of its relevance.

What to take away
By picking these posts out and comparing their engagement you can tell when or if your followers respond to time sensitive/relevant messages (e.g seasons, holidays, current events, etc). Or you could find that your followers prefer evergreen content (content that provides value regardless of its age or the time of year it was posted).

See what kinds of images are getting the most views. As with posts, if there a lot of photos on your page you should establish categories or themes for the photos and then compare the total views of those categories. This same line of reasoning should be applied to Link Clicks as well.

What to take away
Take a close look at the type of images getting the most views. Are they of people? Places? Objects? Your Products? Are they relevant to your business? What kind of style are they taken in? Make a plan to post more images matched to the type that have done well and don’t waste your time posting the types of images that have low viewership.

When tracking links pay attention to where the links refer, the types of content being linked to, and whether the links point to your site or someone else’s. This is where Facebook Insights can not only help you improve your social media content, but also the content you post on your website as well. See which links to your content are getting the most clicks and plan on creating more content like this in the future. At the same time if you have links to other sites that are getting a lot of clicks, take a few notes out those web pages’ playbook for you own content – just be sure to keep your content original and not derivative of another website.

The More You Know

Knowing what your audience likes and being able to intentionally post content they’ll respond to is key to the long term health of your Facebook page. These insights when used properly will help ensure that you continue to post content to your page that your followers will favor and engage.

But the benefits do not end with Facebook. The process above is really about becoming better acquainted with your audience and when you know your audience your content improves across all your marketing channels.


Photo by NASA (Great Images in NASA Description) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Fast Forward To Insights With Digital Reporting Automation

Recently at Edge we have been working with a client with multiple web properties. We’ve been providing substantial weekly digital marketing reports that provide information for every part of their web presence. This includes reporting for their website, their social media, and all manner of extra data that must be collected from third party sources, such as shortened link stats and email campaign figures. This is all very exciting stuff and it has been a pleasure working with them to help paint a grand and informative picture about their web presence and digital marketing as a whole.

But at the start, it was a struggle.

How To Find Better Stock Photos and Not Lose Your Soul While Searching

With 27 million new pieces of content hitting the web everyday (some good, most you wouldn’t even let your cat sit on, let alone read yourself), we are experiencing the first waves to strike the shore – the after effects of a global quake known as…(dramatic pause)…Content Shock.

Brands big and small are now realizing the effectiveness and gains to be made when they create streams of benefit-rich content. Some are even bringing copywriters into their marketing folds to help pump out the content and build their audience.

But where do images come into play within this world-web-wide fervor for new content?

As online marketers, we’re all well aware of the importance of including photos in our blog and social media posts. They instantly create an emotional response within the viewer. To reach the same effect with written language can be a lengthy process (read on…), but a well-chosen photo can provide that visual, emotional hook that reels a visitor into your content.

Mat Siltala, in his SearchFest 2014 presentation on Trending Visual in Social Media, underscored this message stating that images receive 50% more interaction than other content, 10x more shares than links and posts with visuals receive 94% more page visits and engagement than those without. So we dare not post without a picture, but are we as content marketers giving proper consideration to the images we use?

The rise of what we call Content Marketing and the well-recognized need for accompanying imagery on a budget has created a deluge of what I have come to call visual crapulence. This is no spring shower, my friend, yet we all find ourselves standing beneath it, arms outstretched and head held high, nearly every time we surf the web or go hunting for stock images.

I think you may know what I’m talking about. Just go to iStock and search for “teamwork” or “business” and let the perfectly-lit shots of handsome white people shaking hands start rolling in! Yet these are the bland images that we stick next to our hard-wrung words post in and post out. If the photos and graphics you’re choosing seem more obligatory than creative and relevant, then it’s time to rethink your approach to sourcing images.

It’s Not a Supply Problem. It’s a Selection, Time and Budget Problem.

Since the problem is not a shortage of quality, relevant images out there, it seems to be more an issue of selection and budget.

Below I’ll outline 7 tips for finding great, and sometimes free, post images without losing your soul in the process. I also list 9 free stock photography sources, along with some solid fee-based options as well. So stick with me and I promise you’ll learn something along the way.

1) Your Post Image Should Be Relevant To Your Post

I would say this goes without saying if it weren’t such a rampant problem. Good accompanying post images will expand and expound your message, help capture the reader’s attention, provide a resting place within long-form content and improve time on page and other quality metrics.

Bland or irrelevant post images are a result of the author or editor not realizing that sourcing a quality image can take some time itself. They finish writing the post and slap a quick stock image at the top and call it good. Not so! Be good to your images – take the time it takes to find or create interesting, relevant imagery and your images will be good to you.

PRO TIP: If you don’t already have a solid idea of what image or images to pair with your article, try reading through your copy again. This time look for the natural imagery within your text, then let what you’ve already written guide your image search. Is there an overarching visual metaphor in your article? Search for images that illustrate this.

Not seeing any imagery in your writing? Consider adding depth, color and visual interest to your copy by editing your piece and adding relevant metaphors and/or descriptive language. There’s no need to put too much sugar in the punch, but do seek to enable your reader to visualize your concept. Incorporating descriptive language will further engage your reader, make technical articles more palatable and provide a thread for you to sew in actual images as well.

2) Free Stock Photography Warning: You Get What You Pay For

We’ve all lost some time rummaging through the Internet’s image giveaway bins, hoping to find that perfect free image with unrestricted licensing, just waiting, like a Vermeer at a garage sale, to be discovered, cherished and clicked on. Yet the reality that often confronts us is that the perfect “free” image is quite often much blurrier, less relevant and way more time-consuming to unearth than we imagined it would be.

So be frugal, but don’t be downright cheap. Never use an image just because it’s free; use it because it adds value to your content. With that in mind, check these 9 free stock photography websites from time to time, but don’t hang your image sourcing hopes too high on them.

9 Free Stock Photography Sources

  1. Big Stock Photo has millions of high-quality images, including many professional and less “stocky-looking” images of people, which is always good. The monthly subscription-based pricing is favorable to high-volume publishers who require access to a steady stream of images and vector art. If your company is publishing less than eight articles a month then this may not be the best option for you. They do offer free images to their subscribers during trial periods and after that 1 free image per month, but you’ll have to give them your billing info before accessing any images.
  2. Dreamstime offers a selection of decent free images to its members, as well as good pricing on its selection of over 22 million paid images.
  3. Flickr Creative Commons tons of free amatuer, amatuer-ish and blurry images to chose from, but hidden amongst the roughage there are diamonds to be found. Use the Advanced Search feature in Flickr and be sure to select the box that says, “Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content”. Again, remember to give props to the photographer. See Foter & Photo Pin below for more polished access to the Flickr Creative Commons.
  4. Foter preports to have over 228 millions free stock images available and may be one of the cleanest, simplest ways to search the Flickr Creative Commons Library. Once you locate an image you like, Foter gives you 3 easy-to-follow steps for downloading the size you need, how the image can be used or modified, and the code for attribution.
  5. offers thousands of web resolution photos and illustrations for free with proper artist attribution. If you need print resolution or an extended license you’ll have to pay a modest fee. If you’re looking for natural-looking images of people, this may not be the site for you, as I find many of the images convey that generic stock aesthetic.
  6. Google Images. I include this source with a major caveat. You can browse a whole universe of images on Google, and now you can even sort results by “content labeled for reuse with modification”. Find this and other usage-related filter options under Search Tools >> Usage Rights. However, Google itself warns that just because an image finds its way into these results doesn’t mean that you are free to appropriate it. If you find a useful image here you should always track down the source and confirm with the image creator that you have their permission and proper attribution details.
Google Images: Cats in Space
Rest your eyes here. Just a smattering of what’s available on Google Images should you be in the market for images of cosmic cats labelled for reuse.
  1. iStock is a Getty property offering millions of images, illustrations and videos that range from sublimely authentic to awfully bland – all depending on how deep you’re willing to reach into your wallet. But iStock also offers a rotating selection of 3-4 free stock photos, illustrations, video and even free audio clips. They refresh their free offerings once a week or so. If you’re a registered user, you can find these free stock images and resources by following any of the links in this paragraph and looking for the free offerings within the page’s righthand sidebar.
  2. Photo Pin draws its selection from Flickr’s Creative Commons. Simply select the type of license you are looking for and you’ll be on the hunt. Image resolutions and quality vary, so if you find an image you like, click “get photo” to make sure it’s available in the dimensions you need. Photo attribution info is available in this window as well.
  3. ShutterStock. Here you’ll find a quality selection of 36 million royalty-free images and vectors, plus one free photo and vector each week. On their homepage scroll down to the New + Noteworthy section to find the weekly freebies. The chances of these images being relevant to you are only slightly higher than you winning the Powerball jackpot, but significantly less if you never check this resource at all. ShutterStock offers flexible pricing structures, meaning you can subscribe or just get the images you need on demand. I find myself often defaulting to this site for paid, royalty-free images.
  4. UPDATE! SEPTEMBER 1, 2015… Canva. Shortly after I published this article back in May 2014, I stumbled across this fantastic, even fun, tool for creating and sourcing images/graphics for your content marketing strategy and it’s only got better since then. You can customize images from your own library or even source them directly through Canva. Also, check out Jacqueline Thomas’ great article: Free Stock Photos: 74 Best Sites To Find Awesome Free Images.

Keep in mind that most stock agency licenses come with a one year limit on usage to prevent folks from stockpiling their stock. That is, you must use the image within one year of the date that you licensed or downloaded it. Be sure check the terms (or license) for the image if you have any questions about how and when you can use it. Only download what you plan on using within your current and upcoming content cycles.

It’s also worth noting that exclusivity is not included from any of the image sources above without paying a premium for an exclusive license. This is the caveat that comes with low cost images: they are available to everyone.

Always be sure to give proper attribution to the image’s creator. This usually takes the form of a friendly link to the photographer, but again, review the usage agreement for attribution details.

3) Avoid Overtly “Stocky-Looking” Images: Get Picky & Customize

Bad Stock Photo Example
A recent search for the term “teamwork” on iStock turned
up this gem. If I had searched “eyebrows” I believe the
results would have been similar. I often like to imagine
what the subjects are saying.

The problem with most stock photography is that it looks like stock photography. What does stock photography look like? Bad stock photography is emotionally-flat or hyper-shmaltzy. It’s disingenuous or hardly relevant. It tries to fit every content purpose and so barely fits them all. Good stock photography is professional without being inadvertently over the top. It’s congruent with the concepts expressed in you writing.

So find a source from the list above and get picky. You should know the image that will make your content pop when you see it, because it will give you the same emotional response that you want it to relay to your audience.

Can’t find an image that clearly conveys your concept right off the shelf? Find an image that’s oh so close and, if the terms allow for modification, edit the image so that it better suits your purpose. A little familiarity with Photoshop here will go along way. Crop out the part that doesn’t fit. Add or change some text (see above) so that the concept the image illustrates overlaps more with the idea in your copy. Don’t overcomplicate it – very small edits can often have big effects on perceived meaning. If major image editing is needed to bring the image or graphic inline with your concept, then perhaps it’s time to find a better fit.

4) How Not To Lose Your Soul While Browsing Stock Photography

It’s a dark subject that many copywriters don’t like to broach. We finish our articles, fat with a sense of achievement and dripping with self-satisfaction. The world is a beautiful place. Then we go and try to find a stock photo to use as a feature image. Suddenly we are surrounded by generically sexy people, shaking hands, pointing at floating numbers, staring endlessly into their laptops and doing yoga. This is not a place we want to spend our day.

The best way to maintain your sanity and soul when browsing stock catalogues is to avoid prolonged exposure. Here are 5 ways to limit your contact…

  • Find one or two stock libraries that you know and trust and let those be your quick, go-to sources for your image needs, or…
  • Search multiple catalogues in one swoop at Compfight.
  • Develop your own stock image sourcing system. More on that later on…
  • If WordPress is your publishing platform, a plugin like Zemanta’s Editorial Assistant will not only suggest and auto-attribute images related to your post, but can also analyze your post and provide you with options for displaying related posts.
  • DIY and be your own source for great images. See next tip for more…

5) Operation Image DIY: Create Your Own Creative

Not too long ago, one of our Edge contributors sent me an image comp for her article. It was a stock photo of an iPad sitting on a wood desktop with the LinkedIn logo on the screen. Nothing fancy or original, but it illustrated her topic well-enough and was easy on the eyes. It was also kind of expensive for what it was, so I held off on purchasing the image license. Later, when I was eating lunch, I noticed my own iPad sitting on my coffee table. So I put a few chocolate hearts around it to add seasonal context and took a picture. Then I ate the chocolate hearts and used a much freer, better picture to illustrate the article.

A Cup of Coffee and LinkedIn Loaded Up On an iPad Mini
Your own camera and a bit of nice window light can be
your best friend. Save your company’s stock photo budget
for when you really need it by recognizing when you can DIY.

Take and catalogue your own images and so you can search your own library first – before outsourcing to a stock website. This assures original work (my example above not totally withstanding) and lets you save your stock budget for when you really need it, like paying for examples of really “stocky” images like this one, because you care that much.

Sure I have a fancy, heavy camera which I reserve for professional shoots, but most of the time I use my smartphone to capture daily life and textures when I’m out and about. More than expensive camera equipment, an eye for light and texture and what could be of later use as visual content is what matters most.

I use Adobe Lightroom to curate and search both the images that I’ve created and ones I’ve purchased or downloaded from online image libraries. Lightroom allows me to make quick edits and search thousands of tagged (or keyworded) images in just seconds to see if there’s one that fits well with my post.

Also, if you have the design chops, or your company has a design department, consider creating an interesting graphic or accompanying infographic in house. An infographic that underscores your point is great for getting more mileage and shares out of your article. It makes your content that much more shareable within social channels.

Adobe Lightroom Image Catalogue
Curate your own stock photo library with tools such as Adobe Lightroom (shown above), Aperture, Bridge or even iPhoto.

6) Develop Your Own Stock Image Sourcing System (SiSS)

Sometimes just getting a little more organized by defining and delineating our approach can save us heaps of time. A while back I noticed that each time I finished editing an article I’d plunge willy-nilly into the bowels of various stock catalogues, fingers crossed that I might find what I’m looking for. I eventually would find what I’m searching for, but without a predefined game plan, I always found both my time and lifeforce seriously depleted before emerging semi-victorious from stock purgatory.

To combat this problem and to further avoid prolonged exposure, I developed my own Stock Image Sourcing System, or SiSS, which I outline below. Feel free to take it and modify it to best fit your approach.

  1. Search Your Own Stock Library First
  2. Search Your Favorite Free Libraries, but don’t spend more than 10 minutes doing so.
  3. Search Your Preferred Paid Libraries
    • Can’t afford an image you found? Look at the keywords for the image and click on the most relevant options to find similar, but perhaps more affordable images.
    • Look beyond the first two results pages…sometimes good images are ready to be found a little deeper.
  4. Still Nothing? Then go out and make your own image, or have your graphic designer whip something custom up that illustrates your idea. Keep this in mind as you write your article and maybe you can skip steps 1-3.

One final image sourcing admonishment: respect the artist. Basically, there are 3 ways in which we can do this: paying them, properly attributing their work and abiding by the terms we agreed to when we downloaded their image.

I find that most people don’t wilfully disregard copyrights or break licensing terms maliciously. They just don’t know better and may even think any image they can drag off the web is fair game. They are unaware that images belong to their creator and that the creator of that image has the right to proper consideration for their work, as well as control over how and where their work is displayed. Proper consideration usually takes the form or money or attribution.

So when we license an image, whether it be a free or paid, we do not own that image. It’s more like renting a vehicle. The more specialized the car and the more miles we want to get out of it then the more we can expect to pay for that privilege.

Using the tips I’ve shared above you can avoid visual crapulence on your website. You can also save valuable time and money by developing a systematic approach to how your find images for your posts.

However you go about it, the first step is to care. Why? Images speak volumes and will often form your visitor’s first impressions about your brand.

Be good to the images and they will be good to your image.

How to Focus Your Analytics On What Really Matters To Your Business

Business men helping themselves to a buffet with foods labeled with GA metrics.

When you first set up your website with a web analytics service (be it Google Analytics, or another service), it is incredibly easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of data coming at you. There are hundreds of data points that can be combined with other data points, that can be filtered by these data points, but only if it lines up with those data points. It can be exhausting if you don’t focus your analytics efforts, and there’s a limit to how much data you can process. When clear goals are not defined from the outset it’s not hard to find yourself buried under a pile of numbers.

It’s like one giant Vegas buffet. You go through the line and all the offerings look so good that you want to pile everything you see onto one ever-shrinking plate. By the time you sit down everything has turned into a giant pile of slop.

How to Achieve Better Content Analysis By Categorizing Content

If you manage or produce content for a website which you are monitoring in Google Analytics or a similar service (and wow should you ever be), then you are likely to already know the importance of analyzing your content’s performance. Being able specifically pick out what content is working and what isn’t will lead to much more informed decisions about the type of content to produce in the future.

But, let’s envision a scenario where content analysis and management isn’t so straightforward. Perhaps your website isn’t focused on one topic, or your site produces a vast amount of content under several different sections and within these different sections are also a wide variety of topics. How do we separate and analyze each of these sections in an efficient and accurate manner?

How To Become An Enabler (of Content) For Your Internal Experts

Columbia Ship with Enabler Definition

Is getting content from your internal contributors proving more difficult than guiding a ship up the Columbia?

This year, more than last year, more than the year before that, you’ll look at your monthly content schedule, see your name next to “Content Due”, then glance at the teetering pile of untended projects covering your desktop and you’ll wish you had a full time copywriter on staff. Believe me, a full time copywriter is a desire that burns bright within all of us small- to mid-sized company content managers, but that ship may be a long ways from the harbor yet. So, in a pre-lunch, low-blood-sugar, fifth-cup-of-coffee induced fit of optimism you remind yourself that there is no substitute for the experience and expertise that already exists within your small, well-worn team of internal contributors. And, by golly, if the Seahawks can make it to the Superbowl then Karl in accounting can come up with 800 words on best practices for Quickbooks!

Sometimes the freshest of beginnings come only after a pass of the wrecking ball.

So how might we improve the content creation process for the folks that (sometimes reluctantly) churn out the content and make even better content while we’re at it? Sometimes the freshest of beginnings come only after a pass of the wrecking ball. If you’re finding success in your current methods, then please leave a message below on what you find works best for creating an atmosphere at your company that values engaging content. However, for those of you who feel like you’re juicing a turnip when you ask for content from your team, read on. As the make-believe grandma in my head who’s always quick with a proverb says, “You can make a turnip milkshake, but ain’t no one gonna drink it unless you put a little sugar in it.” So with that let’s put some sugar in this and process it.

The goal here is to encourage better content from your contributors and foster a company culture that values creating premium content for all your digital channels. Content that leads to a brand braintrust, thought leadership within your industry and, yes, even glory in the rankings…if you’re into that sort of thing.

At Edge, we’re experimenting with a new approach to internal content development. We know that not every team member is a natural born writer, but everyone does have a unique area of expertise that they can draw upon to make regular and meaningful contributions. So we are seeking to align the interests of our internal experts with topics both relevant to our industry and of value to our target audience.

This approach may not be a right fit for every company, but these 5 practices are really targeted at revitalizing the editorial process for small to mid-sized companies for whom outsourcing may not be a viable or attractive option and so must lean heavily on the contributions of their internal experts.

We are seeking the content “Sweet Spot”.


To start off with, we’re encouraging all of our contributors to write about their areas of expertise and what interests them, whereas before each contributor was handed a topic and expected to produce an article for it regardless of their personal interest or expertise. Instead of asking Chris (our SEO & Reporting Intern) to write about about community events, or Matt (our Graphic Designer) to write about a success story, we ask Chris to write what he’s learning about analytics and Matt to write about his passion for better design. And as each of them write about what interests them, they try to overlap their passion with how it might interest our audience and also be relevant to our industry. See chart below…

The Content Sweet Spot Chart

The Content Sweet Spot Chart
Hitting the Content Sweet Spot: The best content will flow out of your contributor’s expertise and interests while also being of relevance to your industry and of value to your audience.

So we replaced our four traditional blog categories, or taxonomies, with a more open collection of industry-relevant topics and encouraged our contributors to align their interests and expertise with the wider list. It mostly means that when Matt (our Graphic Designer) is on the content schedule for the month he can feel free to write about whatever he knows & loves as it pertains to our industry and is of use to our audience. He may choose to write about design in the context of community or industry news or any of the old categories relating to design or a success Edge had with a design project. The trick to hitting the Content Sweet Spot is to remove creative impediments and foster each contributor’s core competencies.

But won’t telling your contributors that they can write about whatever they want make it more difficult for them to focus? Perhaps a bit at first, but again the goal is not to send them spinning off into a taxonomic vortex each month, but to help guide them to discovering their own stream of relevant and helpful content.


We suggest giving the search engines what they want – fresh content served hot out of the brain oven. Mmm…
Once new content is submitted, proofed and approved decide what the best channel(s) for publishing is and get it out there into the world, rather than waiting and trying for a once-a-month, simultaneous publish date that coincides with your email marketing. You should still have a deadline each month or week (depending on your own content schedule), after which you can take the best articles from the month and distribute/feature them via email marketing to your various subscriber lists.

TIP: Shift your editorial calendar up a month. Have your contributing team research and develop their content the month prior to its scheduled publishing date. This way, when the new month starts, you can spread out the fresh content love throughout the month via your website and social media channels and not just in one lump sum of content around (and often after) the deadline.

HELPFUL TOOL: Get your hands on the NEW 2014 CONTENT SCHEDULE TEMPLATE. If your content schedule is either non-existent or could use a reboot this year, feel free to copy and adapt a new schedule from the Google Doc we’ve provided here. Using a live document format such as Google Drive can make it much easier to edit, share and collaborate on your content schedule with your contributors.


In order to encourage a higher level of content quality many content managers within small companies may need to first remove the stigma of writing for the company blog as some lame, add-on chore that gets left until the last minute. In other words, we must create a culture within our companies that values content. To do this we must acknowledge that good content takes time and assure our contributors that it is alright for them to take the time they need to produce something of value. For content managers and editors of your team’s content this also means patiently working with your content team to help them develop their voice and skills as contributors. We must avoid the temptation to rush undercooked content to publication or to make all the edits ourselves and thus deprive the contributor of the opportunity to grow their skills. The challenge is to embrace and enact revisions without exasperating your contributors.

The message of quality and caring about the content your company publishes, of course, carries more weight when it’s affirmed from the top down, but one can hardly expect to nurture any change at your company if they, as the content manager, aren’t leading by example. Write more this year! Write even when you’re not on the content schedule, and don’t wait until the deadline is looming (guilty…I’m guilty). It make take some time and I’m talking months, but your team will come alongside you as you lead.

Then be sure to monitor how the content you and your team produce is performing in analytics. More than likely, as your team creates better content, more often, you’ll see bumps or even spikes around publish and social promotion dates. That’s just the short term reward. Content’s real payoff (thought leadership, brand trust, improved rankings) is reserved for those in the game for the long haul – those who consistently produce “sweet spot” content.

TIP: Not every piece of content is featured post material, but it still may be a juicy, little tidbit worth publishing. For shorter pieces, consider distributing them via your social media channels with links back to supporting material on your website. Publishing and promoting ONE solid, deep dive article each month that hits the content “sweet spot” is better than 4-6 hastily written, fluffy or overtly salesy pieces. Plus, some quick write-ups covering community events may be better suited for your social media channels anyway.


To help jump-start creativity and combat contributor disconnect, we’ve started hosting a monthly contributor’s chat at the beginning of each editorial cycle, or just before the pressure of the deadline hits. A regular contributor chat serves several useful purposes for your team. One, it solidifies the idea that this is indeed a team of contributors and that no one is producing their work in a vacuum. Two, it validates your teams’ ideas and subtly lets them know that you value the content you’ve asked them to create. Three, a quick chat can help you avoid overlapping content, encourage collaboration and help any contributors who may be stuck.

As you facilitate these contributor chats be sensitive to the following:

  • Possible tie-ins to current events, seasons, holidays, company/industry milestones
  • Topics that make your contributors light up and they speak to naturally, because we’re looking to create streams of content that flow from each of our contributors, not just one-off articles
  • The “Sweet Spot” Chart: Start with your contributor’s unique expertise and passion, then look for topics that also share industry relevance and value for your audience. Finding each contributor’s sweet spot, or content stream, may take a while, but don’t give up as it is worth the search.


Sundaes as incentives

You may not find it necessary to offer incentives to your content team. Producing helpful, shareable content may be its own reward to some, but then again, Karl over there in accounting may never lift a pen before seeing the green flash of a Starbucks Gift Card. So if you find that your team needs a little extra nudge, offering incentives might place further value on the role of contributor within your company and even make for a little friendly competition out of it. Perhaps offer some nifty prize to the contributor whose Article/Content/Tweet/Facebook Post brought the most visitors in that month or produced the highest GCR. Perhaps a sundae bar for the whole department?

How have you become a content enabler at your company? What do you find to be the greatest challenges to getting your team to produce quality content? Are you seeing a greater value placed on content marketing within your industry? Share your thoughts below.

Is Your Brand Current On The Latest Social Media Strategies?

Latest Social Media Strategies - Feature Image

Here at Edge, we pride ourselves on our ability to successfully implement both traditional and cutting-edge marketing strategies. As part of our efforts to stay up-to-date on as many of the latest social media strategies as possible, we continue to reach out and grow in our abilities. To that end, I recently attended a seminar at the KGW Media Group studios, presented by Frank Mungeam, who revealed the “Secrets of Social Media.”

Is Your Content Attracting a Qualified Audience?

Goalsville Highway Signs - Full Image

It is well-known that these days, content is king. It’s recommended ad nauseum as a way to build credibility with search engines and drive additional traffic to your site. But beyond just increasing traffic, the real goal should be to attract a qualified audience. These are visitors that exhibit engaged intent and measurable outcomes beyond just visits to your site. If you’re not trying to attract the right audience with your content, then you might as well hang a sign on your homepage that says, “Easy Thru Access.” To see if you are attracting a qualified audience, we can use tools like Google Analytics to dig deep into your site data and track the performance of your content.

Content Marketing Is Just Good Marketing

In the spring of this year, Edge published a series of articles on effective Content Strategy and Content Marketing. Why spend so much time yammering away about content? Because content marketing, whether you think it’s just an agency buzz term or not, is just good marketing when it comes down to it.

If your website is a steamed Chicago-style, poppy seed-studded bun, then your content is the double char dog between (it must be summer). Take away the content (all that lies between the bun) and there is little left of interest. Shockingly, this is true of both hot dogs and websites.

Your customers may not love double char dogs, but they do love useful content and they are ready to participate with and purchase from brands that produce it.

In fact, 78% of consumers perceive organizations producing content are interested in building positive relationships, and brands that create content regularly via a blog generate 67% more sales leads each month. The folks at Wishpond recently documented these findings and more in an infographic titled, “The State of Content Marketing 2013.”

As you can see from the infographic below, it is a strong state in 2013. What state is your company’s content marketing in?

State of Content Marketing 2013 Infographic by Wishpond