SEO Writing: Tips for Your Website & Blog

SEO-Writing

Ranking your website on google requires regular SEO writing and editing. 

Search engine optimization is an enormous industry with multiple specialties. Writing is just one of them.

In this article, I’ll go over what SEO writing means for your content and how to apply copywriting formulas that’ll create more meaningful interactions for users. I’ll also talk about some other things you should consider for a high Google ranking. 

SEO Writing Dates Quickly

Oh, did you see that flash? That’s all the technology of yesterday outpacing your sleep-wake cycle. 

Things evolve fast these days, especially in digital marketing. SEO writing is built around specific keywords and search behaviors that change more often than a teenager’s mood. 

Anything you wrote last year or before is probably outdated.

Updating your website and blog’s SEO writing is essential to improving your content’s performance. 

If you’re struggling to stay on track with marketing content, try creating a calendar in Google or Outlook, and use Excel to plan topics and keywords. 

Dos-and-donts-seo-writing

The Do’s and Don’ts of SEO Writing

What Not to Do with Your Content

SEO is divided into creative and technical sections. Creative includes things like SEO writing, image optimization, and developing multiple content types for the different parts of your sales funnel.

Technical SEO includes maximizing page load speed and ensuring the entire site is mobile friendly. There’s more to it than this, but speed and screen size adaptation are the most critical pieces.  

With commerce shifting to digital platforms, SEO is vital to your marketing plan. Search engines are brilliant, though, so here’s what not to do with your content in SEO writing:

I like focusing on what I should be doing, so let’s cover a few ways to optimize your SEO writing and maximize your content’s performance in Google.

What TO Do to Start SEO Writing

Whether you’re starting from scratch or overhauling an existing website, follow these steps to start ranking higher in Google.

Keywords should be well-researched and strategically placed. A few free keyword research tools include:

  • Your website’s Google Search Console
  • Google My Business Insights

Start with a one- or two-word primary keyword. Find medium-level competitive keywords in Google’s planner tool, and explore those further in search engines, on social media, and throughout your competitors’ websites.  

Use one primary keyword per page and post.  Create a long-tail keyword for every 500 words. Aim for a natural writing style while aiming for 0.5-1% keyword density for your primary and long-tail keywords.

Once you have a list of keywords and phrases you want to work with, it’s time to write!

Copywriting formulas for marketing content writing

Apply Copywriting Formulas to Your Website & Blog

Every company sells something. It makes sense to ensure your website’s pages and posts – even the strictly informational ones – have some copywriting to maximize online business performance.

Copywriting is the art of writing sales copy. It’s a skill set that requires a thorough review of the audience and a formulaic writing approach.

If you intend to sell something – a product, service, idea, promotion, or even yourself – copywriting convinces strangers to become customers and customers to become advocates. 

A couple of dozen copywriting formulas are available to help you enhance the visitor’s online experience and make you more memorable. I’ll show you my favorites below.

My Top 3 Favorite Copywriting Formulas

I start with one of these three copy formulas for web pages. Sometimes, they morph together on a single page, and other times I end up using an entirely different recipe.

Formulas help organize thoughts. Don’t be afraid to use them creatively. I encourage you to edit everything you write at least three times over two days before making it public!

Formula #1: FAB (Features, Advantages, and Benefits)

State the most prominent features that would interest your visitors.  Describe all the best advantages of those features.  Paint them a picture of how they’ll benefit from using your product or service.

Remember to include a call to action. Always ask the visitor to do something at the end of every page and post!

Formula #2: AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action)

This time-proven formula is everywhere. Use it a few times, and you’ll start recognizing it on your favorite websites and brands. 

  • Grab attention at the beginning.
  • Build on their interest
  • Create a desire
  • Inspire an action

Here’s an example from Moz:

Moz-AIDA-example SEO Writing

Formula #3: PAS (Problem, Agitate & Solve)

This one is quite popular and one of the easiest copywriting formulas to follow.    

  • Identify a problem or pain
  • Agitate the hell out of it!
  • Solve the problem.

As always, remember to ask them to do something at the end. “Call Today,” “Schedule Now,” “Add to Cart,” etc. 

Copywriting Formulas for Informational Pages and Posts

You may not think you need sales copy for informational pages posts. You’d be mostly right. You don’t need to sell anything on those pages, but you do need the flow of storytelling. That’s where the below formulas are useful.

If you get stuck on your informational pages and posts, start with one of these famous formulas to spark the creative fuse.

Formula 1: PASTOR

I start with PASTOR for blog posts, which include these six elements:

  1. Identify the person, problem, or pain point and capture attention.
  2. Amplify the problem or the consequences of not solving the problem and eliminating the pain. Do it dramatically.
  3. Create the story, solution, or system to solve the problem. Guide them to understanding.
  4. Offer testimonials or describe the transformation of the solution.
  5. Build an offer (spend most of your time in this section talking about the transformation above).
  6. Ask for a response or get them to act.

Formula #2: The 4 Ps

There are two versions:

  1. Picture, Promise, Prove and Push
  2. Problem, Promise, Proof, and Proposal

Both work well, depending on your topic. Experiment! See which one suits you best, or mix them up!

Formula #3: The 4 Cs

The 4 Cs help create a good topic flow by asking a few simple questions. 

  1. Is it clear?
  2. Is it concise?
  3. Is it compelling?
  4. Is it credible?

More Tips for Writing SEO Content

You’ve got your formulas, keywords, and I’m betting a few good ideas. Here are a few more tips for SEO writing:

Other Elements for a High Google Ranking

When optimizing your website for Google, there are a few other things to keep in mind:

  • Your website page load speed needs to be fast. If your pages take too long to load, they’ll go elsewhere. Test it on Google or Pingdom
  • Backlinks and a robust internal link profile can help you build authority.
  • Your website should have a responsive format so visitors can see it on multiple devices.
  • Offer visitors a safe and secure website with an active SSL certificate.
  • Verify your business information on directory listings to ensure there are no NAP issues. These issues arise when you have inconsistent contact and location information on different directors.
  • Social shares and signals indicate to Google your content is valuable.

SEO is a big project. Take one step at a time. Start with improving your content and checking your website’s health.

Marketing-Content-Brand-Consistency

Stay Ahead of Your SEO Writing

It’s kind of like when you make a resolution to go to the gym more often. You know you’ll need some help, so you enlist a friend or family member for support.

Receiving my monthly newsletter will help you learn new ways of communicating with your audience. Every month, I send out an email chock-full of helpful tips, learning materials, resources, and news about industry changes. Each issue includes topics like:

  • What’s New in Google – The Simple Version
  • Tips for Copywriting or Content Writing
  • New Ideas for Content Creation
  • Write This
  • Funny Day-in-the-Life Comic Series

My newsletters focus on providing you with useful information and tools that’ll make your marketing content writing tasks a bit easier.

Why Sign Up for ANOTHER Email?

It’s hard to justify adding your name to another email list when you hardly know me. My suggestion is the same as the advice I give myself: give it a shot! If you don’t like it, unsubscribe.

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3 Marketing Content Writing Tips You Shouldn’t Ignore

Marketing-Content-Writing-Tips

Crafting a well-worded email or business plan isn’t the same as writing marketing content for the web, social media, blogs, and ad copy. Here are two reasons why.

Reason #1:  People Internalize

We all see the world through a personal lens.  We find connections and relationships between new sensory data and what we know, or what we think we know. Then, we catalog it in one of those boxes we organize in our memories.

For example, Cool Water cologne brings fond memories of my childhood and hanging out with old friends. Sweet tea in a mason jar anywhere west of the Mississippi makes me nostalgic. 

The data I receive in each experience is new, but it’s categorized with things I already know, think, and feel.

Your customers are the same way. That’s why it’s important to write for them rather than for yourself and your business.

Reason #2:  We All Have Personal Bias, Especially with Money

We tend to be more biased about our products and services than others. For instance, as the seller, we want the highest price for our product or service. The buyer wants the lowest price for their desired quality. The middle ground is usually the fair market price/value. 

Most of us walk around thinking about our lives and what we need next to make it better or easier.

That gives you common ground for marketing content writing. You can better engage and attract a distracted audience if you remember that simple fact: they are looking for what’s in it for them. Focusing on them in communications will help your content performance in significant ways. 

But how can you do that? It’s not easy. It’ll take a lot of practice and research. If you’re DIY’ing your marketing content writing, here are three pieces of advice you shouldn’t ignore.

Copywriting formulas for marketing content writing

Tip #1:  Spend Some Time on Keyword Research, Headlines & Titles

Even if you’re not creating something for a search engine, you still want the company’s marketing content writing to reflect your customers’ interests and desires.

You can determine keywords by performing thorough research on platforms and websites like Google’s Keyword Planner, Google Trends, Answer the Public, Ubersuggest, and many others. 

I also like to use Google search autocomplete to see the most popular terms for common questions.

Marketing-Content-Google-Search

Check Google Search Console or Insights in your Google My Business profile to see what words people are using to find your website.  If you don’t have this yet, you’ll need to make some guesses until you have data to analyze.

When it comes to creating titles and headlines for pages or posts, follow simple copywriting formula rules. There are dozens. Some of my favorites are reviewed in Buffer’s article, 27 copywriting formulas.

Tip #2:  Grammar, Spelling, and Word Count Matter… A Lot

spellcheck-1292780Don’t bother writing pages or posts under 300 words these days. Google prefers at least 500 words of original content that’s formatted in a reader-friendly way. The longer the topic, the more relevant and helpful, the better.

Use a reliable spellchecker and grammar check. Don’t skip this part. Seriously. Nobody’s that good. However, a grammar checker isn’t going to do the editing for you. Edit your content at least three times over at least two days. You want to edit with fresh eyes. 

Grammarly is one of my favorite and most used tools. It helps catch those pesky typos and assists with rewording when necessary. They offer a free version, but if you’re doing a lot of marketing content writing, I’d recommend going for the pro version. 

My advice is to take a good look at your writing. Is it hard to follow? Full of errors? Is it made of one big paragraph? Ask friends and family for candid opinions.

If you’re not getting results or aren’t a great content writer, it’s time to consider hiring a reliable, long-term marketing content writing specialist.   

Marketing content writing is a specialty in the complex industry of communications. If this doesn’t convince you of the importance of good writing, here are some stats:

  • Three-quarters (74%) of online consumers look at your grammar, sentence structure, and spelling.
  • More than half (59%) will not do business with a company with many spelling and grammar mistakes in their copy.
  • Visitors will only read about 20% of your content, so make sure it’s a good story with plenty of arrows pointing to a call to action.
  • Most visitors read in an F-shaped pattern, which means they won’t even see a lot of your copy unless it’s engaging.
Marketing-Content-Brand-Consistency

Tip #3: Build Brand Awareness with Professional Marketing Content Writing

Writing website copy, ad materials, social media posts, and blogs should never be taken lightly. These are your brand’s personality and character. They’re the things people talk about when they think you’re not paying attention. 

Brand messaging is the key to consistency in your communications. It’s the part of marketing content writing that’s highly specialized and performed by creative artists who closely watch search behaviors.

Brand consistency includes things like:

  • Appropriate use of brand elements, such as logo, colors, and fonts
  • Predictable tone of voice
  • A regular point of view
  • Company values and social responsibility
  • Imagery that defines the business, tells a story, and is easily identifiable
  • Relevant, timely, and motivational calls to action
    • Stick with one direct call to action, like “shop now,” “schedule appointment,” or “buy today.”
    • All other calls to action, like “sign up for our newsletter” and “download this guide,” are transitional calls to action and just as important to your sales funnel.

Those are the obvious branding elements.  Some of the not-so-obvious ones include:

  • Image positioning and angles
  • Line spacing
  • Page formats
  • Shapes and icons
  • Quote/call-out fonts and layout

Everything matters when it comes to writing marketing content. I’ve seen small startups tank their business’ reputation because of poor writing and shabby digital communications. I’ve watched medium-sized companies over a decade old lose loyal customers because of disjointed messaging. 

In a world full of other people who offer the same thing as you, marketing content writing and branding is where you stand out. Don’t take that lightly.  

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3 Easy Ways to Improve Content Performance

Improve Content Performance

So, you have a website somewhere on the internet, but it’s not really doing a lot for you, and you know you need to improve content performance on the beast.  You’re not getting any leads, and traffic isn’t growing either.

If your website is a big ‘ol nuisance on your radar, and you’re not sure what to do about it, you’ve come to the right place.

Here’s the thing. If you have an active business, you need a website. Google and social media are where most consumers begin and end their buying journey. 

From initial research to online ordering and product reviews, digital commerce isn’t just about transacting with money online. It’s about connection, communication, and building virtual relationships.

Rather than scrapping the idea of doing some real digital marketing, try these three things to improve content performance on your website. There are many ways to improve this part of your digital storefront; however, I’m all about small steps, so the buck doesn’t stop here.

Check out the bottom of this article for more references and tools!

The Basics of Google’s Updates

Oh, Google.  The ubiquitous “they” in day-to-day conversation.  So big and mighty is Google that their algorithms can sniff out a lousy website like a veteran canine officer. 

The most recent Core update (Dec. 2020) is a tricky one and seems to have caused many losses at first, with many industries starting to see gains toward standard traffic momentum. 

Here’s what you need to know and do to keep up with the last year’s updates on Google:

For more information about content requirements for optimal rankings in Google, check out this article.

Here are three things you can do to improve content performance and boost rankings on your website. 

#1:  Re-evaluate Your Website Keywords to Improve Content Performance

Keywords change as often as the algorithms that index your searches like a digital library.  Search behaviors change like a teenager’s mood, so the keyword you used a few months ago may no longer be relevant. 

Take a deep dive into your top keywords. Don’t worry about using tools other than Google for this just yet. Use tools like Google Keyword Planner and Google Trends to help you figure out which keywords are better suited for your industry and topic. 

You can also check your Google Search Console performance area for common queries over the last 3-6 months. It’ll give you a good idea of what people are typing or saying into Google to find you. 

You may also find this information in your Google My Business Insights.

KEYWORD TIP

Aim for medium competitive words with more than 100 average searches per month. Don’t try to rank for the most competitive keywords! Choose one focus keyword (1-2 words) and a couple of long-tail keywords (4-6 words).

PAGE TIP

Use a different keyword for every page and post. Don’t cannibalize (overuse) the keywords, or Google will ding you for it.

#2:  Refresh, Reformat, and Reimagine Your Content

To improve content performance, you’re probably going to need to reimagine things a bit.  If it’s not performing well, then it’s likely not written in a way that attracts visitors or encourages them to continue scrolling. 

Make sure you’re focused on the customer, not your business, product, service, or yourself.  Remember, it’s not about you. It’s about them and what you can do for them.  Everyone is walking around this planet with the same thought: “what’s in it for me?”

Address the main problem you solve.  Explain, briefly, why what you can do is better than what your competitor can do. 

Start with one page, such as home or contact, to test different ways to improve content performance on that page. What do you want it to do?  Should it inform? Entertain? Lead into a form? Sell a product?

Trust me; you’re going to want a great writer for this project.  Repurposing content sounds easy, but it’s a difficult job that requires a unique skill set, especially when you want to rank in Google. 

Difference Between Copywriting and Content Writing

How do you know if you need a content writer or a copywriter?

Click here to discover the difference between the two.

#3:  Use an SEO Plugin to Improve Your Website Content

To help give search engine juice to your content, add a plugin like All-in-One SEO, a multidimensional SEO tool for small businesses. With more than 2,000,000 downloads, the AIOSEO toolkit is both easy to use and incredibly powerful.

An SEO assistant tool will make optimizing pages and posts quick and streamlined.  It’s one of the easiest ways to improve content performance. Some other options include Yoast and Rank Math.

These plugins are mainly built for WordPress because that’s what I use. Here, I mean wordpress.org, not wordpress.com.

WordPress is one of the fastest-growing CMS platforms in the world, and with good reason. It’s magic on SEO, and it’s totally open source, which means nobody is going to own your website but you.

Need some help with WordPress?

Check out my partner’s website to see if he's the kind of talent you need to help.

Additional Resources

3 Must-Haves in Your Content Marketing Plan

Content-marketing-plan

A content marketing plan is one of the most cost-effective ways to help potential customers find your website. But that’s only half the battle. Once you get them there, you need to provide high-quality, relevant information that answers their questions and keeps them engaged.

What is Content Marketing?

It’s the behind-the-scenes script.  A content marketing plan is a strategic approach for providing valuable, reader-friendly information to a targeted audience who’s expecting something from you. Generally, you’ll include at least a general timeline as well, such as “post to blog once a week” or “post 20 times to social per month.”

When you’re building your content marketing plan, make room for brainstorming topics to find fresh, compelling material that keeps people coming back to your website and spending more time on each visit.

Returning Visitors Google Analytics Content Marketing Plan
A content marketing plan and SEO campaign helped boost these results for a local restaurant in the middle of a pandemic. That’s how I roll.

With Google changing their algorithm to be more logical and content centered, this kind of plan is what every marketer and business owner should be focusing on as we adjust to the new requirements from the world’s largest search engine. 

Why Implement a Content Marketing Plan?

Implementing a content marketing plan helps businesses:

It’s Time to Focus on Content.

Content is King. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. However, there’s some fine print to our creative king – it’s not about pumping out content that’s so dense with keywords you could cut it with a knife. It’s not even about posting random content.

It’s about recognizing, honoring, and respecting the Queen of organization and nurturing as well. The two must work together to run a prosperous realm (business).

Remember, people turn to Google for information. Google’s goal is to provide the freshest and most applicable answers to its users’ questions. If you publish relevant, accurate content, then Google will notice and award you with higher organic search engine results.

Also, keep in mind that high-quality and compelling content is more likely to be shared. Google will share your content to their contacts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, and other popular social networking platforms.

The 3 Things Every Content Marketing Plan Needs

You can’t get onto a stage without a microphone. Websites, blogs, social pages, industry directories, news outlets, and SEO tasks all play significant roles in broadcasting your content marketing plan. These will be your channels and tools of communication. 

Once you have your list of tools and channels, add these next three pieces to your content marketing plan to get started. You don’t have to do everything all at once. Small steps are okay!

#1  Make a Calendar with Different Content Types

Everything is content, so consider the following types to include in your content marketing plan:

I’ll review how to write each one of these using simple formulas and tools in later posts. 

For now, start with what you know.  Pick one or two content types you can do. It’s a good idea to get a feel for the content projects before hiring out for them.

Regardless of the types you choose, the writing and design need to be thoughtful, relevant, free of errors, easy to read, helpful, and entertaining.

For content calendars, I use either Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, or Google Calendar. For some clients, I’ve had to use all three. Keep yours simple. Use Google to your advantage to find free templates that’ll help you get the ball rolling.

#2  Perform Market & Audience Research

You won’t do very well developing targeted content for your customers if you don’t know who they are, what they want, and or they spend their time online.  Identify your target audience by using data you already have, data from your competitors, or general research data. 

Understanding your buyer should be a top priority before attempting to implement a content marketing plan.

In defining your audience, be sure to explain their problem or desire for which you have a solution.  Make your offer clear, followed by the reason why you’re offering this product or service.  

Important Reminder

You are not the customer. Your audience may be different from what you expected, so make no assumptions. Keep an eye on your sales and most profitable leads. Who’s buying from you? Be ready to modify this audience regularly. They change their behaviors and attitudes as often as a teenager.

Clarify who your service is for, and be as specific as possible. For example, my primary audience is entrepreneurs and small businesses. That’s pretty broad, so I break that down further to marketing managers and those looking for some DIY support.

Mostly, the people I talk to have a product or service they can and are willing to sell online. 

How am I doing? 😊

Finally, research your competition. What types of content are they publishing and where? Are they running ads? SpyFu is a great tool that can help you with this part of the research.   

#3  Use an SEO Plugin

I use WordPress, so all my plugin suggestions have been tested only on that platform. WordPress is the #1 CMS in the world and the fastest-growing. Note, I’m referring to wordpress.org not wordpress.com. The difference is between renting and owning your website.

SEO writing is the Golden Snitch of digital marketing. Catch it, and you’ll likely win the game. Search engine optimization is a core element to any successful content marketing plan. A plugin and online platforms can help make this process simpler and more efficient.

A few of my favorite WordPress SEO plugins include:

Getting started is always the hardest part. Your content marketing plan doesn’t need to be an enormous, exhaustive document. Just include the basics:

  • Who’s the audience?
  • What do they want?
  • What do you offer?
  • How will you sell it to them?
  • How will you promote it to them?

Refer back to your plan regularly and adjust it as needed.

As always, if you get stuck, reach out! I have more than a decade of experience writing digital and traditional marketing and sales content.  Together, we’ll find a way to communicate with your audience.

The Difference Between Copywriting and Content Writing

Difference Between Copywriting and Content Writing

If you’ve ever found yourself staring at a menacingly blank screen, you know that writing is tough. It’s not about whipping up a good email to a coworker or posting to social media. Writing for business, especially marketing, requires a few special skills.  First, we need to describe the difference between copywriting and content writing.

Over the last ten years, I’ve seen many people confuse the two terms, especially in the freelance world of small business. Knowing the difference between the two will save you hours of frustration and hundreds of dollars. The goal is to help you avoid paying for writing services that aren’t fit for your goals.  Before you hire a writer of any type, it would be a good idea to make sure they can do the kind of writing you need. 

It’s All About Your Intent

What needs to be written? Websites can be informational, sales-driven, or meant to generate leads.  Further, each page can have its purpose and KPIs.  Blog posts are generally informative, but there should always be a point to them. All your posts should be connected to a campaign built around a goal, such as getting more email signups or free sample requests. 

If you intend to sell, you will want to use copywriting formulas designed, tested, and proven to bring results. 

If you intend to inform, educate, entertain, or delight, you’re looking for content writing.  This skill does not require any unique formulas, except the one your writer uses to stir up those creative juices. 

What Skills Are Required for Copywriting?

When looking to hire a writer, first determine intent. It’s always a good idea to look for a versatile writer – someone who knows the difference between content creation and copywriting (Ah-hem – hello there, friend; that would be someone like me). Most businesses do best with a great copywriter, who is generally well-rounded in all kinds of writing.  These are the talented folks who write your:

  • Advertisements
  • Landing pages
  • Campaign emails and texts
  • Sales materials

Skills needed to do this job well are distinctive, and they include:

  • Empathy to write for people you’ve never met to get them to act
  • An understanding of the formulas that work, and an ability to determine which are best for each project
  • Attention to detail because the wrong phrase can tank your reputation
  • Organization because there are a lot of marketing pieces in any given campaign
  • Excellent research skills
  • An ability to think outside the box

What Skills Are Required for Content Writing?

Content writing is a bit different. There’s a lot of pressure involved with writing sales copy, whereas the strains are less pronounced in materials that aren’t directly related to a return on investment.  For example, we won’t convert anyone from the About page, but we can keep them there for a while and guide them to the funnel’s next page, such as a product landing page.  Content writers usually write materials like:

  • Blog posts
  • Infographics
  • Informational web pages
  • Social posts (not ads!)
  • General newsletters
  • Documents, policies, and articles

In essence, the difference between copywriting and content writing can be summed up in one word: Intent.  If you intend to sell or provoke an action, you need copywriting. If you’re looking to inform or delight, you’ll want content writing. 

Need Writing Help?

Websites, infographics, blogs, social, eBooks, eLearning content, and much more!

3 Tips to Enhance Your Content

Enhance your content marketing

Trying to stand out online is like standing in a crowd at a concert and screaming your friend’s name, and she’s 100 yards away, watching the main noisemakers on the stage. She can’t hear you. She’s not even looking in your direction.  And if she were, she’d probably see the bigger people around you first.

My point is that standing out is hard.  The internet is a saturated marketplace with a whole lot of noise, a lot more chaos, and a heavy-handed dash of capitalist ambition. It’s noisy, and most businesses are only adding to the noise rather than creating a bit of quiet.

No, I don’t mean going dark and ghosting your digital audience. I mean creating a moment of quiet from your audience. Getting them to stop in their scrolling, clicking, flipping, and tossing to engage with your video, post, blog, website, email or advertisement is the goal. That’s the pivotal moment. Will they or won’t they become a paying customer? What will make them click?

It’s in the way you connect, which is to say, your story. Not the “who we are” kind of story, but the “we’ve got your back, and here’s why” kind of story.

In this post, I’ll outline three ways you can spruce up your content to create that moment of quiet for your customer so they can make a split-second decision to trust you.

Tip 1: Determine the Problems You Solve

Make a list of 1-5 main problems you solve for your customers, and then make a point of talking about them to everyone, think about them regularly, and constantly work toward solving these problems. Go to bat for your customers against an obvious villain! They’ll thank you for it with their business.

Here are the problems we help our customers solve:

  1. Being left behind by the growth of digital marketing and the overwhelming noise online.
  2. Struggling to keep up with the competition online.
  3. Unable to commit the time to content.
  4. Not enough staff to help with content.
  5. No marketing budget.

That last one is actually a misnomer; every business has a marketing budget, or they wouldn’t be a business at all.

Tip 2:  Write Out How IT Happens

“It” being your customer’s purchasing journey. What steps do they need to take to buy from you? Creating these steps is a practical exercise, and not so much a creative one. Your purchasing process should be no fewer than three steps, and no more than six. Here’s an example:

The Your Imprint Customer Journey:

  1. Visit my site, blog and social pages
  2. Schedule a 15-minute consult.
  3. Get a custom quote with a scope of work.
  4. Sign the Services Agreement and other needed paperwork like a BA or NDA.
  5. Have a discovery meeting with us (jokingly called “The Data Dump”).
  6. Pay invoice after work is completed.

Yours may be much simpler, like:

  1. Visit store
  2. Purchase items
  3. Refer a friend for a free gift

Once you have the steps they can take, you’ll want to make sure those steps are easy to follow through your website. For example, if your main call to action is “Buy Now,” that needs to be a huge, bright button in the top right corner of your site. It should also be a button all over the website to make it easier for customers to buy no matter where they are on your website.

Tip 3: Create a Funnel

It’s much easier than most people make it sound.  I really like this picture from Bias Digital because it lays out the kind of content used in each part of the funnel.

3 Tips to Improve your Content Marketing
Image by Bias Digital.

Here’s how ours is set up to help you on your way to creating an airtight funnel: 

Visitors comes into the funnel by organic search, referrals, social media, or they go directly to our website. They get here with content to look at more content. That’s a good sign. At the top of the funnel, we build trust. We prove ourselves by:

  • Having a fast, user-friendly website that looks good
  • Writing content that is relatable to the audience
  • Making it clear what we want them to do (schedule a consult!)
  • Make it easy and convenient for them to buy (pay after we perform!)

In the middle part of the funnel, people aren’t usually ready to buy just yet. They’re thinking about us, though. They come back to the website a few more times, follow us on social, or sign up for our newsletter. In this part of the funnel, we create content for:

  • Email deals at the end of the newsletter
  • Social media giveaways
  • Polls and surveys to engage them with our services
  • Special printing deals

The bottom of the funnel is for sales. These are paying customers who deserve and expect to be honored by their favorite brands. Content here is focused on:

  • Delighting them with extra special offers and sneak peeks
  • Loyalty program/subscription
  • Regular gifting
  • Upsells

So, now you know what the customer needs from you because you solve a specific problem they’re having. You’ve created a clearly defined process to communicate with your audience on how they can buy from you, and you’ve made a funnel that will help you create content and keep up with the fast pace of digital marketing.

My article today is a broad brushstroke of how to boost your content to stand out. Stay tuned for more tips and helpful tools on distributing your content and broadcasting your message. Keep Learning by signing up for my company’s Content Marketing Newsletter (Your Imprint)!

Under Pressure? Don’t Worry, Stop Overthinking [The Weekly Wrap]

Listen to the Weekly Wrap here or subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. If you enjoy the show, please take a moment to rate it or post a review.

And that’s a wrap of the week ending February 7, 2020

This week I’m ruminating on rumination (and suggesting an alternative to overthinking things). I offer my fresh take on the role of content marketing in brand activism. Julia McCoy joins me to talk about how following her gut instinct – even when it scared her – helped her build a profitable content marketing business that ended up being a true lifeline. Finally, I share an article that will help you quit worrying and find and fix the inefficiencies in your content pipeline.

Listen to the Weekly Wrap

Our theme this week is “What, me worry?” Let’s wrap it up.

One deep thought: Making decisions under pressure (2:30)

Are you overthinking things? Many people believe rehashing problems in our heads helps us figure out the answer. We become so focused on making the right decision, we lose the ability to make one at all.

Overthinking often rears its head as we plan a complex change. I recently worked with a director of content strategy at a large B2C company to map 12 weeks of tasks related to a major content initiative. Worry over whether the e-commerce team would meet the deadlines of a tech project in time to line up with the content efforts weighed on him – especially since he didn’t control that part of the project.

Overthinking often rears its head as we plan a complex change, says @Robert_Rose via @cmicontent. #WeeklyWrap Click To Tweet

I share the advice I gave this client about planning for the future but living (and working) in the moment:

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:

A fresh take on content activism in a ‘post-truth’ world (10:15)

Commentary from PublishersDaily/MediaPost caught my eye this week. The article, Content Activism Can Help Brands Shape A Positive Future, covers a topic on my mind right now.

The article starts by covering ground most of us are familiar with – brands are using content “to align themselves with the key issues of our time.” It goes on to talk about content’s role:

(C)ontent marketing is simply a bigger canvas for brands to develop a narrative, but more recently, the narrative has changed from just product or services to include ethics and principles. We’re asking ‘how’ more than ever. As conversations develop around profit vs. purpose or inclusive capitalism, what they do creates brand value, preference, and differentiation.

The author points to the example of the Food Sustainability Index developed by the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition and the Economist Intelligence Unit to promote knowledge around food sustainability. As the article notes, “In a post-truth world, content surfaced within quality editorial environments allows audiences to feel confident that a similar level of diligence and attention has been applied to the facts.”

I share my take on this interesting trend, including another example of how corporate social responsibility (CSR) content is no longer just about what the company is doing (getting rid of paper cups in the office or having the team run a 5K for charity), but where media is the CSR program. Interesting stuff, and I’ll be watching and writing about this more in the future.

#CorporateSocialResponsibility content is no longer just about what the company is doing, but where media is the #CSR program, says @Robert_Rose via @cmicontent. #WeeklyWrap Click To Tweet

HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:

This week’s person making a difference in content: Julia McCoy (14:44)

I often talk about how my guests are making meaning in content. And this week’s guest is the living standard of that.

Julia McCoy is a serial content marketer, entrepreneur, and author. She founded a multimillion-dollar content agency, Express Writers, with nothing more than $75 at 19 years old. Today, Julia has been named an industry thought leader in content marketing by Forbes and is the author of two best-selling books, founder of The Content Hacker, and educator. Julia has a passion for sharing what she knows in her books and in her online courses. Her latest book, Woman Rising, is a memoir that chronicles how she escaped from a religious cult and rebuilt her life.

Julia is somebody who definitely doesn’t let worry stop her from making (and meeting) ambitious goals. We talk at length about her unique path to building a content marketing business. Here’s a preview:

Three months into it, I had more work than I could handle. It was a breaking point for me. Do I continue solo and turn down all these gigs or do I build a business? Naturally, because I am that type of persona, I wanted to build a business. That’s where Express Writers came from. It was a five-minute idea I honestly thought wouldn’t last a year. Eight years later, 90 people on the staff, it’s like “pinch me.” But at the same time, it’s that equation of working hard really does equal success. It does come down to how hard are you willing to work?”

It all comes down to how hard are you willing to work, says @JuliaEMcCoy via @cmicontent. #WeeklyWrap #contentmarketing Click To Tweet

Listen in to our discussion, then learn more about Julia:

One content marketing idea you can use (31:45)

The post I’d love for you to look at this week is right in line with what I’ve been talking about – figuring out how to make worry-free plans.

In Fix These Big Inefficiencies in Your Content Pipeline, Kimberly Zhang offers really good tips on avoiding content marketing waste. She points out really smart areas to address, including writing for multiple personas, lacking in accountability, expertise on too many topics, creative teams that lack support. Fixing these areas will help you worry a little less.

An overloaded or overwhelmed #content team can lead to #contentmarketing waste, says @KimZhangCEO via @cmicontent. #WeeklyWrap Click To Tweet

Love for this week’s sponsor: ContentTECH Summit

Here’s something you don’t have to worry about – where to find education on content and technology – and a healthy dose of sunshine. I’m talking about ContentTECH Summit April 20 to 22 in San Diego.

We’ve got amazing speakers like Meg Walsh, who runs content services at Hilton Hotels; Cleve Gibbon, chief technology officer at Wunderman Thompson; and Wendy Richardson, senior vice president of global technical services for Mastercard.

These brand-level folks are ready to teach you the effective use of technology and better processes that can help your strategic efforts to create, manage, deliver, and scale your enterprise content and provide your customers with better digital experiences.

And I’ve got a discount for you. Just use the code ROSE100 and you’ll save $100 on registration.

Check out the agenda and register today.

The wrap-up

Join me next week as we look for the sharpest tools in our shed. (Don’t worry, we’ll nail it.) This is not a drill – and we aren’t nuts. But we will wrench one thought to level your head, pick one news item to hammer our point home, and share one content marketing rule that will help you measure up. And it’s all delivered in a little less time than it takes to learn that Kansas City is actually in Missouri.

If you have ideas for what you’d like to hear more of on our weekly play on words, let us know in the comments. And if you love the show, we’d sure love for you to review it or share it. Hashtag us up on Twitter: #WeeklyWrap.

To listen to past Weekly Wrap shows, go to the main Weekly Wrap page

How to subscribe

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute




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Content Marketing and Your Budget: Here’s What to Expect

content marketing budget

We all want to know: how much does it cost? 

That’s usually the first question I have whenever I’m shopping around for a service or product.  Most of us are thrifty buyers, and we’re looking for someone or something who can help us solve a problem we’re having.

Because of that, I don’t give two hoots about you and your story.  I’m a buyer, and I need something.  Lead, follow, or get out of my way.  Stop throwing how great you are down my throat! 

Businesses are adding too much extra noise to our digital world, and I’ve made it a goal to find more ways to help more businesses make better content marketing choices and stop contributing to the noise. 

That goal usually starts with the right price.  Most agencies and freelancers will NOT put their price on their website or anywhere in public.  We don’t have what would be considered “standard pricing” either.  There are a few reasons for this:

1.      There’s no telling what you need or want in a content marketing plan.  Once we have an idea of what you’re trying to do and the timeline for your goals, we’ll be able to tell you how much time and effort it’ll take us to help you. 

2.      There’s a bit of a price tag because of the time and materials required to perform the work.  Further, the industry is highly competitive, and certain competitors will do a half-assed job for you at half the price.  We’re not going to help them prey on you.  It’ll end up costing you more in the long run.

3.      Would you hire an employee without meeting them first?  Probably not.  And you shouldn’t hire a marketing consultant without meeting them first.  I act as an extension to your team, and I want to meet you before we do anything.  I don’t do hard sales – that defeats the purpose of my goal to minimize irrelevant noise and build B2B partnerships. 

What should you expect in terms of content marketing costs?

If someone is offering content marketing for under $1,000/mo, you should be wary.  Here’s why:

  • Unless they’re working for minimum wage, it’ll be difficult to create and implement a content strategy on that budget. 
  • The best people in the industry who can use content marketing to grow your business start in around $80/hour and can go up to $250/hour.
  • Expect a good content marketer to need a minimum of 20 hours per month to do this work. 

I’ve been in the content marketing niche for more than a decade, and I’m still surprised by the drastic differences in prices from freelancers and agencies.  It’s important to know what to expect.  Never hesitate to ask questions of someone trying to sell you marketing services.  Here are a few questions to consider:

  1. How will you track my return on investment? 
  2. Who will be responsible for what? 
  3. Who owns all the assets?
  4. Are there long-term or short-term contracts?

Helpful Tips

When looking for content marketing support, keep the following in mind: 

  • Small and medium businesses can benefit from a small, yet powerful content marketing team with a diverse skill set.  Don’t overspend at bigger agencies where you’re paying for skills you may not need, and don’t under-spend by hiring a single freelancer without the appropriate skill set.
  • Outsourcing is usually better than bringing someone in-house because you don’t have to worry about management, spacing, or overhead. 
  • Don’t try to put the tasks on a current employee.  Content marketing is a skilled trade, and one of the biggest, glaring holes in small and medium business marketing plans is a lack of qualified talent. 
    • For example, your secretary or cashier may know how to use social media, but she is not a social media expert who sells online. 

Reality Check

Respect your brand, respect your customers, and respect the industry.  Don’t insult your customers with cheap marketing ploys and ugly branding efforts.  They notice.  Marketing should be all about giving customers what they want and need in a way that benefits your business.

If you don’t know what that means, I’ll put it another way – if you have someone who has never been formally trained in the marketing industry in some way, you are cutting corners, your audience can see that, and they respond by giving their business to someone else and forgetting all about you. 

Let’s talk more. 

Discovery Conversion Case Study – Inbound Marketing Agency

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Rachael Herman

Business Message/Focus

The restaurant is focused on local partnerships, sustainability, and healthy eating. 

The Promotion

The promotion was for a limited-time item that would be featuring a special vegetable from a local farmer.  Customers had to pre-order for pickup on scheduled days.

 

The Marketing Budget

We had a small marketing budget of $100 for this single promotion, and there would be no paid advertising.

The Results

Digitally, of the 5,000 people who were reached, 125 of them went to the landing page to see what this was all about. 

Of those, 25 quarts of soup were ordered by 14 people.  That’s a visitor-to-lead conversion (also referred to as a CTR or click-through rate) of 2.5% and a lead-to-customer conversion of 11.2%. Lead to sale is 20%. Those are good conversions for an organic promotion.

All other sales were made in-store or over the phone for total net sales of $702.  The client spent $450 making the item and, with marketing costs (we were under budget), ROI was calculated to be 1.7, or 170%.

Not a great return, but it is positive, so there’s room for PPC planning. 

What We Recommended

We recommended increasing exposure by adding pay-per-click on Google and Facebook.  If we increase exposure to 50,000 digital views by adding just $200 to that part of the budget, we could improve ROI to about 3-5, based on the above conversion rates. 

We’d focus on driving traffic to a specific landing page using UTM codes to watch and properly target the ad.  We also recommended doing long-term digital marketing through inbound methods to improve long-term growth, sales, and customer retention. 

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How Facebook Is Prepared for the 2019 UK General Election

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Today, leaders from our offices in London and Menlo Park, California spoke with members of the press about Facebook’s efforts to prepare for the upcoming General Election in the UK on December 12, 2019. The following is a transcript of their remarks.

Rebecca Stimson, Head of UK Public Policy, Facebook

We wanted to bring you all together, now that the UK General Election is underway, to set out the range of actions we are taking to help ensure this election is transparent and secure – to answer your questions and to point you to the various resources we have available.  

There has already been a lot of focus on the role of social media within the campaign and there is a lot of information for us to set out. 

We have therefore gathered colleagues from both the UK and our headquarters in Menlo Park, California, covering our politics, product, policy and safety teams to take you through the details of those efforts. 

I will just say a few opening remarks before we dive into the details

Helping protect elections is one of our top priorities and over the last two years we’ve made some significant changes – these broadly fall into three camps:

  • We’ve introduced greater transparency so that people know what they are seeing online and can scrutinize it more effectively; 
  • We have built stronger defenses to prevent things like foreign interference; 
  • And we have invested in both people and technology to ensure these new policies are effective.

So taking these in turn. 

Transparency

On the issue of transparency. We’ve tightened our rules to make political ads much more transparent, so people can see who is trying to influence their vote and what they are saying. 

We’ll discuss this in more detail shortly, but to summarize:  

  • Anybody who wants to run political ads must go through a verification process to prove who they are and that they are based here in the UK; 
  • Every political ad is labelled so you can see who has paid for them;
  • Anybody can click on any ad they see on Facebook and get more information on why they are seeing it, as well as block ads from particular advertisers;
  • And finally, we put all political ads in an Ad Library so that everyone can see what ads are running, the types of people who saw them and how much was spent – not just while the ads are live, but for seven years afterwards.

Taken together these changes mean that political advertising on Facebook and Instagram is now more transparent than other forms of election campaigning, whether that’s billboards, newspaper ads, direct mail, leaflets or targeted emails. 

This is the first UK general election since we introduced these changes and we’re already seeing many journalists using these transparency tools to scrutinize the adverts which are running during this election – this is something we welcome and it’s exactly why we introduced these changes. 

Defense 

Turning to the stronger defenses we have put in place.

Nathaniel will shortly set out in more detail our work to prevent foreign interference and coordinated inauthentic behavior. But before he does I want to be clear right up front how seriously we take these issues and our commitment to doing everything we can to prevent election interference on our platforms. 

So just to highlight one of the things he will be talking about – we have, as part of this work, cracked down significantly on fake accounts. 

We now identify and shut down millions of fake accounts every day, many just seconds after they were created.

Investment

And lastly turning to investment in these issues.

We now have more than 35,000 people working on safety and security. We have been building and rolling out many of the new tools you will be hearing about today. And as Ella will set out later, we have introduced a number of safety measures including a dedicated reporting channel so that all candidates in the election can flag any abusive and threatening content directly to our teams.  

I’m also pleased to say that – now the election is underway – we have brought together an Elections Taskforce of people from our teams across the UK, EMEA and the US who are already working together every day to ensure election integrity on our platforms. 

The Elections Taskforce will be working on issues including threat intelligence, data science, engineering, operations, legal and others. It also includes representatives from WhatsApp and Instagram.

As we get closer to the election, these people will be brought together in physical spaces in their offices – what we call our Operations Centre. 

It’s important to remember that the Elections Taskforce is an additional layer of security on top of our ongoing monitoring for threats on the platform which operates 24/7. 

And while there will always be further improvements we can and will continue to make, and we can never say there won’t be challenges to respond to, we are confident that we’re better prepared than ever before.  

Political Ads

Before I wrap up this intro section of today’s call I also want to address two of the issues that have been hotly debated in the last few weeks – firstly whether political ads should be allowed on social media at all and secondly whether social media companies should decide what politicians can and can’t say as part of their campaigns. 

As Mark Zuckerberg has said, we have considered whether we should ban political ads altogether. They account for just 0.5% of our revenue and they’re always destined to be controversial. 

But we believe it’s important that candidates and politicians can communicate with their constituents and would be constituents. 

Online political ads are also important for both new challengers and campaigning groups to get their message out. 

Our approach is therefore to make political messages on our platforms as transparent as possible, not to remove them altogether. 

And there’s also a really difficult question – if you were to consider banning political ads, where do you draw the line – for example, would anyone advocate for blocking ads for important issues like climate change or women’s empowerment? 

Turning to the second issue – there is also a question about whether we should decide what politicians and political parties can and can’t say.  

We don’t believe a private company like Facebook should censor politicians. This is why we don’t send content or ads from politicians and political parties to our third party fact-checking partners.

This doesn’t mean that politicians can say whatever they want on Facebook. They can’t spread misinformation about where, when or how to vote. They can’t incite violence. We won’t allow them to share content that has previously been debunked as part of our third-party fact-checking program. And we of course take down content that violates local laws. 

But in general we believe political speech should be heard and we don’t feel it is right for private companies like us to fact-check or judge the veracity of what politicians and political parties say. 

Facebook’s approach to this issue is in line with the way political speech and campaigns have been treated in the UK for decades. 

Here in the UK – an open democracy with a vibrant free press – political speech has always been heavily scrutinized but it is not regulated. 

The UK has decided that there shouldn’t be rules about what political parties and candidates can and can’t say in their leaflets, direct mails, emails, billboards, newspaper ads or on the side of campaign buses.  

And as we’ve seen when politicians and campaigns have made hotly contested claims in previous elections and referenda, it’s not been the role of the Advertising Standards Authority, the Electoral Commission or any other regulator to police political speech. 

In our country it’s always been up to the media and the voters to scrutinize what politicians say and make their own minds up. 

Nevertheless, we have long called for new rules for the era of digital campaigning. 

Questions around what constitutes a political ad, who can run them and when, what steps those who purchase political ads must take, how much they can spend on them and whether there should be any rules on what they can and can’t say – these are all matters that can only be properly decided by Parliament and regulators.  

Legislation should be updated to set standards for the whole industry – for example, should all online political advertising be recorded in a public archive similar to our Ad Library and should that extend to traditional platforms like billboards, leaflets and direct mail?

We believe UK electoral law needs to be brought into the 21st century to give clarity to everyone – political parties, candidates and the platforms they use to promote their campaigns.

In the meantime our focus has been to increase transparency so anyone, anywhere, can scrutinize every ad that’s run and by whom. 

I will now pass you to the team to talk you through our efforts in more detail.

  • Nathaniel Gleicher will discuss tackling fake accounts and disrupting coordinated inauthentic behavior;
  • Rob Leathern will take you through our UK political advertising measures and Ad Library;
  • Antonia Woodford will outline our work tackling misinformation and our fact-checker partnerships; 
  • And finally, Ella Fallows will fill you on what we’re doing around safety of candidates and how we’re encouraging people to participate in the election; 

Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy, Facebook 

My team leads all our efforts across our apps to find and stop what we call influence operations, coordinated efforts to manipulate or corrupt public debate for a strategic goal. 

We also conduct regular red team exercises, both internally and with external partners to put ourselves into the shoes of threat actors and use that approach to identify and prepare for new and emerging threats. We’ll talk about some of the products of these efforts today. 

Before I dive into some of the details, as you’re listening to Rob, Antonia, and I, we’re going to be talking about a number of different initiatives that Facebook is focused on, both to protect the UK general election and more broadly, to respond to integrity threats. I wanted to give you a brief framework for how to think about these. 

The key distinction that you’ll hear again and again is a distinction between content and behavior. At Facebook, we have policies that enable to take action when we see content that violates our Community Standards. 

In addition, we have the tools that we use to respond when we see an actor engaged in deceptive or violating behavior, and we keep these two efforts distinct. And so, as you listen to us, we’ll be talking about different initiatives we have in both dimensions. 

Under content for example, you’ll hear Antonia talk about misinformation, about voter suppression, about hate speech, and about other types of content that we can take action against if someone tries to share that content on our platform. 

Under the behavioral side, you’ll hear me and you’ll hear Rob also mention some of our work around influence operations, around spam, and around hacking. 

I’m going to focus in particular on the first of these, influence operations; but the key distinction that I want to make is when we take action to remove someone because of their deceptive behavior, we’re not looking at, we’re not reviewing, and we’re not considering the content that they’re sharing. 

What we’re focused on is the fact that they are deceiving or misleading users through their actions. For example, using networks of fake accounts to conceal who they are and conceal who’s behind the operation. So we’ll refer back to these, but I think it’s helpful to distinguish between the content side of our enforcement and the behavior side of our enforcement. 

And that’s particularly important because we’ve seen some threat actors who work to understand where the boundaries are for content and make sure for example that the type of content they share doesn’t quite cross the line. 

And when we see someone doing that, because we have behavioral enforcement tools as well, we’re still able to make sure we’re protecting authenticity and public debate on the platform. 

In each of these dimensions, there are four pillars to our work. You’ll hear us refer to each of these during the call as well, but let me just say that these four fit together, and no one of these by themselves would be enough, but all four of the together give us a layered approach to defending public debate and ensuring authenticity on the platform. 

We have expert investigative teams that conduct proactive investigations to find, expose, and disrupt sophisticated threat actors. As we do that, we learn from those investigations and we build automated systems that can disrupt any kind of violating behavior across the platform at scale. 

We also, as Rebecca mentioned, build transparency tools so that users, external researchers and the press can see who is using the platform and ensure that they’re engaging authentically. It also forces threat actors who are trying to conceal their identity to work harder to conceal and mislead. 

And then lastly, one of the things that’s extremely clear to us, particularly in the election space, is that this is a whole of society effort. And so, we work closely with partners in government, in civil society, and across industry to tackle these threats. 

And we’ve found that where we could be most effective is where we bring the tools we bring to the table, and then can work with government and work with other partners to respond and get ahead of these challenges as they emerge. 

One of the ways that we do this is through proactive investigations into the deceptive efforts engaged in by bad actors. Over the last year, our investigative teams, working together with our partners in civil society, law enforcement, and industry, have found and stopped more than 50 campaigns engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior across the world. 

This includes an operation we removed in May that originated from Iran and targeted a number of countries, including the UK. As we announced at the time, we removed 51 Facebook accounts, 36 pages, seven groups, and three Instagram accounts involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior. 

The page admins and account owners typically posted content in English or Arabic, and most of the operation had no focus on a particular country, although there were some pages focused on the UK and the United States. 

Similarly, in March we announced that we removed a domestic UK network of about 137 Facebook and Instagram accounts, pages, and groups that were engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior. 

The individuals behind these accounts presented themselves as far right and anti-far right activists, frequently changed page and group names, and operated fake accounts to engage in hate speech and spread divisive comments on both sides of the political debate in the UK. 

These are the types of investigations that we focus our core investigative team on. Whenever we see a sophisticated actor that’s trying to evade our automated systems, those teams, which are made up of experts from law enforcement, the intelligence community, and investigative journalism, can find and reveal that behavior. 

When we expose it, we announce it publicly and we remove it from the platform. Those expert investigators proactively hunt for evidence of these types of coordinated inauthentic behavior (CIB) operations around the world. 

This team has not seen evidence of widespread foreign operations aimed at the UK. But we are continuing to search for this and we will remove and publicly share details of networks of CIB that we identify on our platforms. 

As always with these takedowns, we remove these operations for the deceptive behavior they engaged in, not for the content they shared. This is that content/behavior distinction that I mentioned earlier. As we’ve improved our ability to disrupt these operations, we’ve also deepened our understanding of the types of threats out there and how best to counter them. 

Based on these learnings, we’ve recently updated our inauthentic behavior policy which is posted publicly as part of our Community Standards, to clarify how we enforce against the spectrum of deceptive practices we see in our platforms, whether foreign or domestic, state or non state. For each investigation, we isolate any new behaviors we see and then we work to automate detection of them at scale. This connects to that second pillar of our integrity work. 

And this slows down the bad guy and lets our investigators focus on improving our defenses against emerging threats. A good example of this work is our efforts to find and block fake accounts, which Rebecca mentioned. 

We know bad actors use fake accounts as a way to mask their identity and inflict harm on our platforms. That’s why we’ve built an automated system to find and remove these fake accounts. And each time we conduct one of these takedowns, or any other of our enforcement actions, we learn more about what fake accounts look like and how we can have automated systems that detect and block them. 

This is why we have these systems in place today that block millions of fake accounts every day, often within minutes of their creation. Because information operations often target multiple platforms as well as traditional media, I mentioned our collaborations with industry, civil society and government. 

In addition to that, we are building increased transparency on our platform, so that the public along with open source researchers and journalists can find and expose more bad behavior themselves. 

This effort on transparency is incredibly important. Rob will talk about this in detail, but I do want to add one point here, specifically around pages. Increasingly, we’re seeing people operate pages that clearly disclose the organization behind them as a way to make others think they are independent. 

We want to make sure Facebook is used to engage authentically, and that users understand who is speaking to them and what perspective they are representing. We noted last month that we would be announcing new approaches to address this, and today we’re introducing a policy to require more accountability for pages that are concealing their ownership in order to mislead people.

If we find a page is misleading people about its purpose by concealing its ownership, we will require it to go through our business verification process, which we recently announced, and show more information on the page itself about who is behind that page, including the organization’s legal name and verified city, phone number, or website in order for it to stay up. 

This type of increased transparency helps ensure that the platform continues to be authentic and the people who use the platform know who they’re talking to and understand what they’re seeing. 

Rob Leathern, Director of Product, Business Integrity, Facebook 

In addition to making pages more transparent as Nathaniel has indicated, we’ve also put a lot of effort into making political advertising on Facebook more transparent than it is anywhere else. 

Every political and issue ad in the that runs on Facebook now goes into our Ad Library public archive that everyone can access, regardless of whether or not they have a Facebook account. 

We launched this in the UK in October 2018 and, since then, there’s been over 116,000 ads related to politics, elections, and social issues placed in the UK Ad Library. You can find all the ads that a candidate or organization is running, including how much they spent and who saw the ad. And we’re storing these ads in the Ad Library for seven years. 

Other media such as billboards, newspaper ads, direct mail, leaflets or targeted emails don’t today provide this level of transparency into the ad and who is seeing them. And as a result, we’ve seen a significant number of press stories regarding the election driven by the information in Facebook’s Ad Library. 

We’re proud of this resource and insight into ads running on Facebook and Instagram and that it is proving useful for media and researchers. And just last month, we made even more changes to both the Ad Library and Ad Library Reports. These include adding details in who the top advertising spenders are in each country in the UK, as well as providing an additional view by different date ranges which people have been asking for. 

We’re now also making it clear which Facebook platform an ad ran on. For example, if an ad ran on both Facebook and/or Instagram. 

For those of you unfamiliar with the Ad Library, which you can see at Facebook.com/adlibrary, I thought I’d run through it quickly. 

So this is the Ad Library. Here you see all the ads have been classified as relating to politics or issues. We keep them in the library for seven years. As I mentioned, you can find the Ad Library at Facebook.com/adlibrary. 

You can also access the Ad Library through a specific page. For example, for this Page, you can see not only the advertising information, but also the transparency about the Page itself, along with the spend data. 

Here is an example of the ads that this Page is running, both active as well as inactive. In addition, if an ad has been disapproved for violating any of our ad policies, you’re also able to see all of those ads as well. 

Here’s what it looks like if you click to see more detail about a specific ad. You’ll be able to see individual ad spend, impressions, and demographic information. 

And you’ll also be able to compare the individual ad spend to the overall macro spend by the Page, which is tracked in the section below. If you scroll back up, you’ll also be able to see the other information about the disclaimer that has been provided by the advertiser. 

We know we can’t protect elections alone and that everyone plays a part in keeping the platform safe and respectful. We ask people to share responsibly and to let us know when they see something that may violate our Advertising Policies and Community Standards. 

We also have the Ad Library API so journalists and academics can analyze ads about social issues, elections, or politics. The Ad Library application programming interface, or API, allows people to perform customized keyword searches of ads stored in the Ad Library. You can search data for all active and inactive issue, electoral or political ads. 

You can also access the Ad Library and the data therein through the specific page or through the Ad Library Report. Here is the Ad Library report, this allows you to see the spend by specific advertisers and you can download a full report of the data. 

Here we also allow you to see the spending by location and if you click in you can see the top spenders by region. So you can see, for example, in the various regions, who the top spenders in those areas are. 

Our goal is to provide an open API to news organizations, researchers, groups and people who can hold advertisers and us more accountable. 

We’ve definitely seen a lot of press, journalists, and researchers examining the data in the Ad Library and using it to generate these insights and we think that’s exactly a part of what will help hold both us and advertisers more accountable.

We hope these measures will build on existing transparency we have in place and help reporters, researchers and most importantly people on Facebook learn more about the Pages and information they’re engaging with. 

Antonia Woodford, Product Manager, Misinformation, Facebook

We are committed to fighting the spread of misinformation and viral hoaxes on Facebook. It is a responsibility we take seriously.

To accomplish this, we follow a three-pronged approach which we call remove, reduce, and inform. First and foremost, when something violates the laws or our policies, we’ll remove it from the platform all together.

As Nathaniel touched on, removing fake accounts is a priority, of which the vast majority are detected and removed within minutes of registration and before a person can report them. This is a key element in eliminating the potential spread of misinformation. 

The reduce and inform part of the equation is how we reduce the spread of problematic content that doesn’t violate the law or our community standards, while still ensuring freedom of expression on the platform and this is where the majority of our misinformation work is focused. 

To reduce the spread of misinformation, we work with third party fact-checkers. 

Through a combination of reporting from people on our platform and machine learning, potentially false posts are sent to third party fact-checkers to review. These fact-checkers review this content, check the facts, and then rate its accuracy. They’re able to review links in news articles as well as photos, videos, or text posts on Facebook.

After content has been rated false, our algorithm heavily downranks this content in News Feed so it’s seen by fewer people and far less likely to go viral. Fact-checkers can fact-check any posts they choose based on the queue we send them. 

And lastly, as part of our work to inform people about the content they see on Facebook, we just launched a new design to better warn people when they see content that’s illegal, false, or partly false by our fact-checking partners.

People will now see a more prominent label on photos and videos that have been fact-checked as false or partly false. This is a grey screen that sits over a post and says ‘false information’ and points people to fact-checkers’ articles debunking the claims. 

These clearer labels are what people have told us they want, what they have told us they expect Facebook to do, and what experts tell us is the right tactic for combating misinformation.

We’re rolling this change out in the UK this week for any photos and videos that have been rated through our fact-checking partnership. Though just one part of our overall strategy, fact-checking is a fundamental part of our strategy to combat this information and I want to share a little bit more about the program.

Our fact-checking partners are all accredited by the International Fact-Checking Network which requires them to abide by a code of principles such as nonpartisanship and transparency sources.

We currently have over 50 partners in over 40 languages around the world. As Rebecca outlined earlier, we don’t send content or ads from politicians and political parties to our third party fact-checking partners.

Here in the UK we work with Full Fact and FactCheckNI and I as part of our program. To recap we identify content that may be false using signals such as feedback from our users. This content is all submitted into a queue for our fact-checking partners to access. These fact-checkers then choose which content to review, check the facts, and rate the accuracy of the content.

These fact-checkers are independent organizations, so it is at their discretion what they choose to investigate. They can also fact-check whatever content they want outside of the posts we send their way.

If a fact-checker rates a story as false, it will appear lower in News Feed with the false information screen I mentioned earlier. This significantly reduces the number of people who see it.

Other posts that Full Fact and FactCheckNI choose to fact-check outside of our system will not be impacted on Facebook. 

And finally, on Tuesday we announced a partnership with the International Fact-Checking Network to create the Fact-Checking Innovation Initiative. This will fund innovation projects, new formats, and technologies to help benefit the broader fact-checking ecosystem. 

We are investing $500,000 into this new initiative, where organizations can submit applications for projects to improve fact-checkers’ scale and efficiency, increase the reach of fact-checks to empower more people with reliable information, build new tools to help combat misinformation, and encourage newsrooms to collaborate in fact-checking efforts.

Anyone from the UK can be a part of this new initiative. 

Ella Fallows, Politics and Government Outreach Manager UK, Facebook 

Our team’s role involves two main tasks: working with MPs and candidates to ensure they have a good experience and get the most from our platforms; and looking at how we can best use our platforms to promote participation in elections.

I’d like to start with the safety of MPs and candidates using our platforms. 

There is, rightly, a focus in the UK about the current tone of political debate. Let me be clear, hate speech and threats of violence have no place on our platforms and we’re investing heavily to tackle them. 

Additionally, for this campaign we have this week written to political parties and candidates setting out the range of safety measures we have in place and also to remind them of the terms and conditions and the Community Standards which govern their use of our platforms. 

As you may be aware, every piece of content on Facebook and Instagram has a report button, and when content is reported to us which violates our community standards, (what is and isn’t allowed on Facebook) it is removed. 

Since March this year, MPs have also had access to a dedicated reporting channel to flag any abusive and threatening content directly to our teams. Now that the General Election is underway we’re extending that support to all prospective candidates, making our team available to anyone standing to allow them to quickly report any concerns across our platforms and have them investigated. 

This is particularly pertinent to Tuesday’s news from the Government calling for a one stop shop for candidates, and we have already set up our own one stop shop so that there is a single point of contact for candidates for issues across Facebook and Instagram.

Behind that reporting channel sits my team, which is focused on escalating reports from candidates and making sure we’re taking action as quickly as possible on anything that violates our Community Standards or Advertising Policies. 

But that team is not working alone – it’s backed up by our 35,000-strong global safety and security team that oversees content and behavior across the platform every day. 

And our technology is also helping us to automatically detect more of this harmful content. For example, while there is further to go, the proportion of hate speech we remove before it’s reported to us has almost tripled over the last two years.

We also have a Government, Politics & Advocacy Portal which is a home for everything a candidate will need during the campaign, including ‘how to’ guides on subjects such as registering as a political advertiser and running campaigns on Facebook, best practice tips and troubleshooting guides for technical issues.

We’re working with all of the political parties and the Electoral Commission to ensure candidates are aware of both the reporting channel to reach my team and the Government, Politics & Advocacy Portal.

We’re also working with political parties and the Electoral Commission to help candidates prepare for the election through a few different initiatives:

  • Firstly, while we don’t provide ongoing guidance or embed anyone into campaigns, we have held sessions with each party on how to use and get the most from our platforms for their campaigns, and we’ll continue to hold webinars throughout the General Election period for any candidate and their staff to join.
  • We’re also working with women’s networks within the parties to hold dedicated sessions for female candidates providing extra guidance on safety and outlining the help available to prevent harassment on our platforms. We want to ensure we’re doing everything possible to help them connect with their constituents, free from harassment.
  • Finally, we’re working with the Electoral Commission and political parties to distribute to every candidate in the General Election the safety guides we have put together, to ensure we reach everyone not just those attending our outreach sessions. 

For example, we have developed a range of tools that allow public figures to moderate and filter the content that people put on their Facebook Pages to prevent negative content appearing in the first place. People who help manage Pages can hide or delete individual comments. 

They can also proactively moderate comments and posts by visitors by turning on the profanity filter, or blocking specific words or lists of words that they do not want to appear on their Page. Page admins can also remove or ban people from their Pages. 

We hope these steps help every candidate to reach their constituents, and get the most from our platforms. But our work doesn’t stop there.

The second area our team focuses on is promoting civic engagement. In addition to supporting and advising candidates, we also, of course, want to help promote voter participation in the election. 

For the past five years, we’ve used badges and reminders at the top of people’s News Feeds to encourage people to vote in elections around the world. The same will be true for this campaign. 

We’ll run reminders to register to vote, with a link to the Electoral Commission’s voter registration page, in the week running up to the voter registration deadline. 

On election day itself, we’ll also run a reminder to vote with a link to the Electoral Commission website so voters can find their polling station and any information they need. This will include a button to share that you voted. 

We know from speaking to the Electoral Commission that these reminders for past national votes in the UK have had a positive effect on voter registration.

We hope that this combination of steps will help to ensure both candidates and voters engaging with the General Election on our platforms have the best possible experience.



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