Earlier this year, Hammock began working with 20|20 Research on a project designed to help boost their organic search results and generate leads for its suite of online research products.
Long known for its physical research facilities, the company now boasts impressive online products with a fast-growing user base of research professionals in the United States and Europe. As these new products ramp up, they want to make sure their expanded capabilities and unique online products are receiving the recognition they deserve.
When they reached out to us they were already savvy content marketers and a step ahead of most companies. Not only did they have a well-written and authoritative CEO blog, they also had a strong presence on LinkedIn and Twitter.
However, like many companies, the full plate of duties already being handled by everyone on staff made it difficult for the company to find the time and focus needed to reach the objectives they had for their online efforts.

Hammock has sent a team to the Nashville Adult Literacy Council Corporate Spelling Bee for years (and has brought home the big, heavy trophy more than a few times), so we know the drill when September rolls around. But this year, they raised the stakes: Come in costume and get a free pass in Round 1.
Team members Jamie Roberts, Steve Sullivan and Ashley Drinnon arrived to the spelling bee, held Tuesday, Sept. 28, in style. Jamie was a not-so-wicked witch, Steve played a convincing Prince Charming, and Ashley, our intern from Vanderbilt University, carried the team with her long locks and princess dress. Yes, she was Rapunzel—and our team captain.
They came large (winning the unofficial best costume award) but left empty-handed. Team Hammock misspelled “augur” (v. to foretell especially from omens) and “failed” to use the free pass properly.
They protested the call, and former Nashville Vice Mayor and Bee Judge Howard Gentry even let Rapunzel plead her case—but to no avail.
Still, a good time was had by all—even Steve, who just the day before pointed out, “The costume idea was conveniently left out of the recruitment process… .”
Really? Oops!!!
Congratulations to the winning team, Ingram Content Group, who correctly spelled “harridan” and subsequently was showered (for the second year in a row) with gifts, fame and a giant trophy. If you missed the spelling bee, you can catch it on Metro 3, Nashville’s public access tv channel. Check the schedule for air dates.

Ever had writer’s block? If you’re the one churning out content for your website, chances are you have. The worst is when you’ve exhausted all of the usual places you look for inspiration and come up empty-handed. Well, here’s another source to add to your arsenal of awesome content ideas: your web analytics. That’s right, those pages and pages of keywords showing how people find your site are full of great content ideas, says Dianna Huff of the Content Marketing Institute.
Dianna says every time she looks at her Google Analytics report, she comes away with at least half a dozen content ideas. (Hey, that could be two weeks worth of content!)
She shares her tips for finding content ideas in keyword reports:

  • Look for combinations of search phrases around a specific topic.
  • Look for questions/phrases that need answers.
  • Look for non-relevant search phrases.

Check out the post for more insight on each of these.

Although every business or brand can benefit from productive content marketing, there are some times when you shouldn’t even bother, explains Joe Pulizzi over on the Junta42 blog. He shares seven problems for brands that often result in ineffective or even useless content marketing.
Instead of producing custom content just for the sake of having it, knowing these common pitfalls could be key in refining your content marketing strategy. He shares seven, but here are the three we found most useful:

  1. Your content doesn’t meet the needs of the customer. As Joe puts it, “If you are a chip company, why are you aggregating pictures of babies and puppies? Why are you spending time and resources on content marketing that will have no hope of generating more revenue or cost savings in some way?” The goal is to enhance your relationship with the customer, and providing relevant information that actually helps them is the best way to do this.
  2. You’re producing content that’s just like your competitors’. The reason you create custom content is to make your company stand out from the competition. If a customer can get the same information elsewhere, what’s stopping them?
  3. Your content suffers through lack of expertise and resources. If you’re going to do it, it only pays off when it’s done well. Pulizzi recommends doing what you can do well internally while outsourcing at least a portion of the content marketing.

It’s news to no one—who doesn’t know that Google is the No. 1 search engine? But a new report from Experian Hitwise gives content marketers an important reminder about keywords and search engine optimization.
Sure, there are other search engines out there, namely Yahoo and Bing, but those stand in the shadows of Google, which accounted for 72 percent of all U.S. searches conducted in May, according to the report. Yahoo’s share was 14 percent, while Bing had 9 percent of all U.S. searches in May. Ask.com accounted for 2 percent of all U.S. searches.
If your content marketing strategy includes keywords for search engine optimization, give preference to content that will influence where you want your business to land for that keyword in Google. In most cases, the content marketing strategy for getting Google hits will be the same for the other search engines, but don’t get too excited if your business pops up on page 1 in Bing but buried in Google. That keyword should still be marked “needs improvement.” Or rather, “needs content.”

As a nod to all of the professional journalists who are turning to content marketing for job security, Clare McDermott of Junta42’s Content Marketing Institute gives us six things we can learn from these former newsroom junkies about content marketing. They all are great and make perfect sense, but here are my favorites:

  • Remember that you are reporting a story, not marketing a product.This is huge, and it really is the difference between folks actually reading the content on your site and rolling their eyes as they navigate away from your site.
  • Schedule consistent pitch meetings.We’re content experts and we hold a weekly meeting to come up with new, fresh ideas for our Hammock blog.
  • Institute strong editorial guidelines. Just because it’s on a website or a blog doesn’t mean it can be messy. This is especially valuable if you have more than one content contributor. Make sure everyone posting knows how to cite a source. (And proofread, please!)

Call us nerdy, but last night at dinner my husband and I were amusing ourselves talking about the abundance of abandoned corporate blogs and Twitter accounts that are littering the Internet. You know the ones: They have introductory posts making grandiose promises about the purpose of the blog or social media account and then…nothing. It’s particularly a shame when you find a blog with lots of activity, but then realize the top post you’re reading is from October 2008.
I would love to see a statistic on how many of these accounts have been abandoned. Many more than are active corporate accounts, I’m sure.
The reasons for giving up on social media are many:

“My name is Lucille Meachum, but I’m Lucy to everyone, only Lucille on my business cards. I’m 41, and happily married now for seventeen years — wow. I have two great kids that can really get my blood pressure going one minute, but can be sweet and caring the next, even to each other.”
No, that’s not an exercise in creative writing you’re reading, it’s an example of a persona you should be creating for your content marketing strategy, according to Keith Weigold, a contributor to Junta42’s new Content Marketing Institute blog.
To know who you’re targeting with your content, Weigold says, you have to understand more than just their demographics. “A key to engaging content is put the customer first, to solve her problems and answer his questions. This requires understanding their beliefs, feelings, wants and needs,” he says.
Weigold walks us through the process of creating a persona–starting with the information we’re most likely to have about our customers (demographics) and filling in the blanks until you can write your target customer’s narrative.
“This ultimate step truly places you within her shoes and provides the customer-centric viewpoint so crucial to effective content marketing,” Weigold concludes.

Measuring ROI seems to be a hot topic this week, as Bill previously pointed to an article about why it’s important to measure ROI on social media marketing efforts.
A new study by Omniture doesn’t go into why measuring ROI is so important, but it does show that marketers simply aren’t doing it, regardless of online marketing method: “80% believe ROI from online marketing activities is important to measure, but only 31% of marketers can effectively measure it,” according to the 2010 Omniture Online Analytics Benchmark Survey. Further, “86% of respondents think conversion rate from online marketing activities is important to measure, but 25% cannot effectively measure it.”
At Hammock, we do a lot of content marketing for clients, and for each of those clients, we report back on a monthly basis about how our content marketing efforts are working for them. And by “report back” I don’t mean vague statements about how awesome our work is; I mean specific metrics that clearly show how our work is helping our clients achieve their business goals.

Joe Pulizzi of Junta42 reminds us about the challenge facing companies that embrace social media face—the social media policy.
He points to a couple of different organizations (different, as in, one university, one corporation and one nonprofit) to show how a policy can help or hinder a company’s efforts to use social media for marketing. The policy is important, no doubt, but it shouldn’t scare off employees from tweeting or mention the company on Facebook.
Joe has some great insight on what an effective social media policy should look like.