Interview with Content Marketing Expert Ann Handley

Written by Nick Stamoulis

Ann HandleyRecently I had the chance to interview content marketing expert Ann Handley. If you’ve ever researched content marketing tips and best practices chances are you have come across Ann and her expert advice. Since 2002, Ann has been the Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs, a training and education company. She is the co-author of the best-selling book on content marketing, Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business (Wiley, originally published 2011. Paperback 2012. Translated into nine languages, including Turkish, Chinese, Korean, Italian, Portuguese.) Ann Handley is also a monthly columnist at Entrepreneur magazine, and the co-founder of ClickZ.com, which was one of the first sources of interactive marketing news and commentary.

This interview is rather long, but is worth the time to read through all of it! Thanks so much to Ann Handley for spending the time to answer all of my questions! :)

Question: What inspired you to help launch ClickZ back in 1997? You haven’t been involved for several years now, but how has the site evolved from what you set out to create?

Answer from Ann Handley: I co-launched ClickZ.com 16 years ago, back in 1997, when the notion of marketing on the Internet was a nascent idea. Most web sites – if companies had them at all (and many didn’t!) – were little more than brochures. And it wasn’t unusual to see a web address something like angelfire.com/stevei/steveswolftshirts or geocities.com/neighborhood/bowwowdogtoys.

We set out to help businesses figure out how to use the internet as a new marketing platform, because there wasn’t a lot out there.

Our differentiator in 1997 was that we asked real marketers in the trenches to write first-hand perspectives and share ideas of how they were finding success in growing their businesses online. That approach continues to this day at ClickZ, although the topics and content have expanded exponentially, along with the internet itself, of course.

Question: What do you think has contributed to the rise in power of content marketing in the last few years?

Content has always been part of the marketing mix. But two things have changed that have made it a cornerstone of marketing:

Technology has evolved and it has eliminated the publishing gatekeepers. Previously, you had to have access to a printing press and a large budget to create and distribute content on a large scale. Or you had to buy access to an audience. Now, any of us has the rich opportunity to create content that connects directly with the people we want to reach. And it allows you to be found by those people when they are searching Google or asking their friends for advice and recommendations on whatever it is that you sell.

Social media. It’s not just about creating content that will allow you to be found online via search. Instead, we all have an imperative to create content worth sharing – because Brick Marketing’s updates are competing on social media platforms with my friends and family. That means your content has to be really good to get my attention, and it has to be valuable to me. It has to share a resource, or solve a problem. It has to entertain me or delight me or inform me.

I might add a third thing here, too: Our behaviors have changed. Customers are online looking for you. The question is, Will they find you? And will they be inspired to do business with you, once they do?

Question: Do you feel like the Google Panda update made it easier or harder for site owners to do content marketing “right”?

Answer from Ann Handley: I think it’s helped the best content marketers be rewarded for their efforts, because Google Panda rewards original content that is enthusiastically shared.

Question: There is a lot of buzz around the idea that readers don’t have the attention spans they used to and are more prone to skimming than actually reading a piece of content. Is long form content worth investing in anymore?

Answer from Ann Handley: I don’t see short term vs. long term content as an either-or prospect. I think you need both kinds of content in your content marketing mix. You need quick-hit, shorter bursts of content (like blog posts, or social media updates) to meet some needs, answer some questions, and increase engagement. But you need longer-form content when you need to dig deeper into a topic, answer or advise on a more nuanced or complex issue, or when an idea is special enough to warrant it.

In both cases, respect your audience. “Long-form” never means “long-winded.” Even when you are creating long-form content, don’t waste your audience’s time by taking too long to get to the point: That’s just indulgent. Clarity and brevity should still rule, even when the content goes on a bit. (Side note: That’s why editors are important.)

Question: What are some of the worst mistakes a business could make when it comes to content marketing?

Thinking campaign, not commitment. Brands are used to thinking of marketing as a one-and-done campaign, whereas content requires consistency. Content marketing is a long-term commitment.

Also, some companies fail to tell their story consistently across every platform and channel: The website, social media outposts, in-person events, and so on. So they come off scattered – like a brand performing random acts of content. They don’t come off as a Content Brand. (That is with a capital C and a capital B.)

Question: How has social media influenced the idea of what “good content” is? Can great content really come in 140 characters?

Answer from Ann Handley: I think constraints are never a bad thing in content marketing: Instagram challenges us to tell a story in a single image. Vine does a similar thing with video. In life, and in social media, less is quite often more.

On Twitter, FMW Fasteners does a tremendous job articulating its fun, sometimes edgy point of view (https://twitter.com/fmwfasteners) in 140 characters at a time. And it sells the most boring, mundane product (nuts and bolts) in the world.

Question: In just the headline, your content marketing book mentions blogs, podcasts, videos, ebooks, and webinars—which one do you think is the cornerstone of any strong content marketing campaign? What can’t a business live without?

Answer from Ann Handley: I don’t think a company can live without a blog (or a flexible content management system that’s blog-like), in the sense that it allows them to publish and amplify content easily and quickly. If you have to call IT every time you want to publish something new to your website, that’s adding an unnecessary level of complexity that dissuades creation.

Question: Why does really great content sometimes go unnoticed while junk conquers the SERPs?

Answer from Ann Handley: Good content is only noticed if sharing is a key part of any content marketing effort. You can’t expect Google to do all the work for you – you’ve got to actively share and engage on social media channels as well.

I don’t mean you need to spam your Twitter feed or Facebook page or LinkedIn company pages with only your own content headlines, either. I mean you have to make sharing and engaging and building relationships with your community central to your marketing programs.

Question: What are the biggest differences between B2C and B2B content marketing?

Answer from Ann Handley: Our research shows that both B2C and B2B marketers use content marketing – 91 percent of B2B marketers use content and 86 percent of B2C marketers use it. Clearly, it’s well-established medium for both.

We also found that all marketers struggle with creating enough content, as well as creating content that’s engaging. B2B marketers tend to be more concerned with the amount of content they are producing, while their B2C brethren are worried about the size of their budgets. You can see both studies here:

B2C Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends:
http://www.slideshare.net/mprofs/b2-c-research2013mprofs

B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends: http://www.slideshare.net/mprofs/b2b-content-marketing-2012-benchmarks-budgets-and-trends-north-america

More generally, I think B2B and B2C aren’t that fundamentally different. While they each have challenges and opportunities that vary, they both are ultimately still marketing to human beings.

Question: How can a small business owner or overwhelmed marketing manager make time to fit content marketing into their day?

Answer from Ann Handley: Stop doing things that don’t work, and start creating content. Find one business problem or marketing challenge that you have, and launch a content program around that specific issue. Identify proper metrics so you’ll know whether it’s a success, and give yourself a long enough period to measure the results. (Remember what I said above about long-term commitment vs. one-and-done campaign?)

Question: What kind of relationship do SEO and content marketing have? Can you do one without the other and still succeed?

Answer from Ann Handley: I think SEO and content marketing are BFFs. Traditionally, SEO aims to create content that attracts search love, whereas content marketing aims to create content that humans love… or find useful or valuable. But in a world where social sharing is more important than ever (as we talked about above), shareable content is key to long-term SEO success.

Question: What do you think is next for content marketing? How will it evolve in the coming years?

Answer from Ann Handley: We’ll see fewer brands publishing content and, instead, more Content Brands.

Doug Kessler articulates this well in his recent piece at MarketingProfs: Six Principles of Great Content. In the article and deck, he stylishly encapsulates and extends many fundamentals C.C. Chapman and I talked about in Content Rules.  Specifically: Creating momentum, being strategic, and seeing content as a rich opportunity – and not a one-off task.

Those who kill it with content in 2013 and beyond are those brands that view publishing as a privilege. They are the ones who create content that is packed with utility, empathy and inspiration. They are rewarded with customers who love and trust and believe in them.

Question: What’s one of your favorite MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum sessions from the last few years?

Answer from Ann Handley: That’s like asking me which of my children I love the most!

What’s special about the B2B Forum is that it’s the only B2B-focused marketing event that offers both breadth and depth about digital tactics and issues that matters most to B2B marketers. The MarketingProfs B2B Forum is not just about social media, it’s not just about content, it’s not just about email or lead generation or lead nurturing or analytics or mobile. Rather it’s about ALL of that!

It’s truly the must-attend, premier event for today’s sophisticated B2B marketer, and it’s in Boston this October. (And I can’t wait.) So, are you guys coming? http://www.marketingprofs.com/events/b2b2013/conference

Connect with Ann Handley on Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Facebook!

*****

This non-paid interview is designed to give the Brick Marketing audience insights and different perspectives of SEO, link building, social media and web marketing. Past expert interviews include: Ann Handley, Eric Ward, Mike Moran, Andy Beal, and Jordan Kasteler to name a few.

If you would like to be interviewed by the Brick Marketing team please contact Brick Marketing here:
http://www.brickmarketing.com/contact

Categorized in:

Like what you've read? Please share this article

Here are some related Expert Interviews articles:

  1. Interview with Online Marketing Expert Derek Edmond
  2. Interview with Elisabeth Osmeloski of Search Engine Land
  3. Interview with Jon Henshaw of Raven Tools
  4. Interview with Aris Vrakas, Former Director of SEO at Orbitz Worldwide

Read What Full Service SEO Clients Say About SEO Firm Brick Marketing

"raised our SEO efforts to a new level"

“When we began searching for an SEO service provider, our team had a limited understanding of what SEO entailed. After interviewing other SEO companies, it was clear from speaking with Nick that Brick Marketing does more than add keywords to your web content. By examining our tradeshow presence, blogging practices and online directory listings, Nick & Danielle have helped us work through company- and industry -specific obstacles to raise our SEO efforts to a new level. Keeping up with algorithm changes and industry trends, Brick Marketing is the perfect partner to ensure your SEO practices continue to be both white hat and impactful.”

- Catie Moyer, Copywriter Charles River Laboratories International, Inc.

charles-river

"We’ve seen unbelievable success"

“I didn’t realize how much we were missing from not having an online presence until I started working with the SEO firm Brick Marketing. The Brick Marketing team took the time to guide us through the SEO process and helped bring our company into the online world. We’ve seen unbelievable success with our new site and owe much of our online lead generation to Brick Marketing’s efforts.”

- George Athanasiadis Somerset Industries

somerset

"Brick Marketing has gotten me results"

“I have been working with Brick Marketing for over 4 years now. Brick Marketing sends me the reports every month, but I don’t need to read them. I already know what he does is extremely effective because of all the web requests I get, phone calls from customers when they see their page come up on the first page of Google! I have worked with many other companies that made promises they could not keep. Brick Marketing has gotten me results and that is why I continue to work with them. I don’t have to micro-manage anything they do. I know that they always do what they say they are going to do. If you are looking for an SEO company, I would say, look no further as you have found the one that will do the job right! In addition to doing an excellent job, Nick Stamoulis is a pleasure to work with.”

- Alan Cline, 1-800-PLUMBING

1800plumbing

"our website's manual penalty action was successfully revoked"

“Brick Marketing impressed us from the get-go with their enthusiasm, know-how and commitment to upstanding SEO techniques. They were communicative, responsive and transparent throughout, detailing an extensive game plan and delivering on every count. Thanks to effective collaboration and their meticulous methodology, our website’s manual penalty action was successfully revoked.”

- Laura J Lowe, Marketing Manager EMDAT

EMDAT

"professional, timely, thorough"

“After searching extensively for a firm to aid in ramping up our Social Media efforts we choose Brick Marketing and have never looked back – plus, enlisted their services for SEO and SEM. Nick Stamoulis and his Brick Marketing team are professional, timely, thorough and take the time to work through and explain each task step by step. In my experience in working with many outside agencies who over-promise and under-communicate, I can truly state that Brick Marketing is levels above all others and vested in our relationship. We feel they are not just a consultant, but an integral part of our team.”

- Jodi Murphy Director of Marketing, SportsSignup

sports-signup

"Brick Marketing helped us meet our goals"

“We turned to Brick Marketing to assist in driving traffic to our website and we weren’t disappointed. The flexible approach of the SEO firm Brick Marketing helped us meet our goals, drive traffic to our website, and increase the number of calls we received regarding our services. Thank you!”

- Ken Burt, Marketing Manager Affiliated Physicians

affiliated-physicians

"increased our search engine traffic"

“We engaged Brick Marketing for SEO related activities for our website B2b.com and they did a fantastic job in assessing our website and finding out what was needed to optimize content and improve search engine traffic. In a short span, they improved the quality of in-bound links and increased our search engine traffic by over 100%. Additionally, they also trained our team in SEO techniques and kept us up to date with the changes brought in by Penguin/Panda updates. I highly recommend Brick Marketing for any SEO related projects.”

- Navdeep Sidhu, Director – B2B Product Marketing B2B.com

b2b

"our goal for better presence on the internet has been achieved!"

I had worked with at least three other SEO companies before I was introduced to Brick Marketing. But when I met Nick Stamoulis at Brick Marketing, I knew that I was working with an honest and reputable company that would guide me through the world of SEO. In the six months since working with Brick Marketing, our goal for better presence on the internet has been achieved!

– Peter Feinmann, Feinmann, Inc.

"helped propel us forward organically"

“We implemented all the valuable suggestions and together we definitely saw amazing results over time. Other SEO companies may leave you in the dark but Brick Marketing kept us in the loop during the entire time, educating us about ALL the strategies being used that helped propel us forward organically.”

- Maura Statman, Everyone Loves Buttons Inc. ®

elb172

"Brick Marketing has increased our Google traffic by 315.43%"

“Great Results, Responsive Team, Ethical Strategies: Nick Stamoulis, Shawna Wright and Michael Lupacchino have become an invaluable extension of our marketing team, and one that has delivered steady growth from the get-go. The results speak for themselves – over the last two years, Brick Marketing has helped increase our Google traffic by 315.43%. From the solid SEO foundation Brick Marketing built for GrowthForce during our initial onboarding, to our ongoing daily/weekly tasks and our monthly analytics and check in calls, our Brick team keeps us on track and up to date. They take the headache out of SEO so we don’t ever have to spend time in the weeds learning about the latest rules or SEO challenges, and they are quick to answer any of our questions.”

- Kelly Boros, Marketing & Communications Manager GrowthForce

growth-force

"Brick Marketing uses an ethical, strategic approach to SEO"

“We have worked with a few other SEO firms and consultants in the past, but, by far,
Brick Marketing has been our best experience. They are very knowledgeable about the search engine landscape, and help us respond to what seem like constant changes to the algorithms. They have helped our company correct some of the issues created by prior SEO firms, both in terms of on-site optimization and off-site programs. I appreciate the fact that Brick Marketing uses an ethical, strategic approach to SEO that creates a solid, lasting foundation for the future. They are reliable, responsive, and the quality of their deliverables is top-notch. We are happy we chose to work with them, and I would recommend them to anyone looking to engage a new SEO firm.”

- Bob Bennett, Owner/Manager Bennett Awards

bennett-awards

"Love working with the team at Brick Marketing!"

Love working with the team at Brick Marketing! They are always available to answer my questions and assist with any concerns. I am very impressed with their thoroughness and ability to stay organized. Their passion and energy is always shown during conversations on our account.

– Corey Savage, CEO, Suncoast Identification Solutions, LLC

"highly recommend Brick Marketing to all of my clients"

After working with many other SEO firms and not being satisfied I finally was introduced to the Brick Marketing President and Founder, Nick Stamoulis. Nick Stamoulis has educated me about SEO and has provided me with a well rounded SEO package, not only does he offer top quality services he also educates his clients and spends the time to explain everything and their SEO pricing is competitive. I will highly recommend Brick Marketing to all of my clients. Brick Marketing is an A+ for SEO services.

– Mike Cardella, Integrated Computer Services

"the number of leads generated since partnering with Brick Marketing has increased"

“At Eliassen Group, a key goal of our website is to generate client and candidate leads, which can get a bit complex, given that we’re in multiple lines of business. Nick Stamoulis and Shawna Wright of Brick Marketing were instrumental in developing SEO strategies for each line of business, and perfectly understood the nuances and subtleties of each of them, developing a set of keywords that they seamlessly placed into our copy, which had been developed using a series of personas. The monthly reporting provided to us clearly reflects tremendous progress since inception, and the number of leads generated since partnering with Brick Marketing has increased materially! We can’t be more appreciative of Nick and Shawna, their personal commitment to us and our success, and “hands on” management of our account. We trust them implicitly, and know that they keep our best interests in mind when managing our account.”

- Tom Hart, Chief Operating Officer Eliassen Group

Eliassen_Web-300x100

"Our web traffic overall has risen more than 30%"

“Silvon Software teamed up with Brick Marketing to deploy an SEO strategy that would generate greater visibility for our company within a highly competitive market and drive more prospects to our website as a result. This has included website optimization based on a well thought out keyword strategy, launch of a corporate blog, and the promotion of Silvon content via industry forums and numerous social media sites. In just a few months, Brick Marketing’s efforts has Silvon showing up higher in organic searches. Our web traffic overall has risen more than 30% and continues to grow. We’re seeing consistent month-to-month growth in the amount of organic traffic coming from Google. And, our referral traffic from LinkedIn has been phenomenal — with initial increases as high as 468%! We couldn’t be more pleased with the results that Brick Marketing has achieved so far and highly recommend them as a strategic marketing partner that knows how to put SEO best-practices to work for its clients.”

- Pat Hennel Director, Global Marketing Services, Silvon Software, Inc.

Silvon

"great job with our SEO program"

“Shawna Wright, Nick Stamoulis and the SEO team at Brick Marketing have done a great job with our SEO program. Our overall website visitors are up and we’re seeing traffic for keywords that a year ago weren’t even on our radar. They’ve always been willing to provide valuable input for any project we were working on and recently helped the company launch a brand new website, ensuring that our SEO efforts and value stayed intact.”

- Trish Voskovitch, Sr. Manager, Marketing Programs Enkata

enkata

"Dependable, professional SEO company"

Brick Marketing has been a dependable, professional SEO company that has helped us get results. In the last 6 months of using their services, visits to our website have increased by almost 30%. Shawna Wright, our dedicated SEO Specialist was pleasant to deal with. Her suggestions for articles and press releases were industry specific. Brick Marketing always answered our phone calls and emails within an hour which made us feel valued as a client. I would recommend Brick Marketing to all businesses to handle their SEO needs.

– JoAnne Loftus, Archival Designs, Inc.

"focused on getting you results"

Brick Marketing is a no nonsense SEO company focused on getting you results. I really appreciate their patience, insight and going the extra mile to help Gold Lasso better understand the intricacies of the SEO discpline and how we can be more successful with our SEO programs. I would recommend Brick Marketing to any of my clients.

– Elie Ashery, CEO Gold Lasso

"I would recommend Brick Marketing to anyone looking to enhance their online business"

I have been very pleased with the responsiveness, diligent work efforts and creative ideas Brick Marketing has shown me since we started our organic SEO optimization campaign. My account executive has provided great support and has written relevant and timely articles for our website blog. Her willingness to go above and beyond to achieve the best possible results is very evident. I would recommend Brick Marketing to anyone looking to enhance their online business profile.

– John V. Donovan, Director of Leasing & Marketing, Devionshire

"delivered a 59% increase in our organic web traffic"

“Initially, when we sought out assistance in SEO, we felt the Brick Marketing SEO offering may be too robust for the needs of our website. In hindsight, I am very glad that we decided their SEO services were worth the investment as they have proved to be an extremely valuable partner. Their tremendous expertise in b2b SEO practices and content strategy has already delivered a 59% increase in our organic web traffic. Brick Marketing has worked in close collaboration with our marketing team, tailoring their efforts to our specific needs as an FDA regulated company to ensure we are putting forward the highest quality content. I look forward to continuing our partnership with the Brick Marketing team to surpass our SEO goals!”

- Brett Prince, Vice President of Marketing Corindus Vascular Robotics

corindus-vascular-robotics

"Brick Marketing is simply the best."

“After struggling for years to find the right SEO firm, it was a breath of fresh air to discover Brick Marketing. On my initial call with Brick Marketing President, Nick Stamoulis, it was immediately obvious that he genuinely cared about helping our company, not just bringing another client on board. Since then, their SEO work with us has been fabulous. Our dedicated SEO Specialist, Shawna Wright takes the time to explain every step of their efforts (and do so in a way that doesn’t leave me buried in a sea of SEO jargon). In addition to SEO, we also chose Brick Marketing to handle our website migration to WordPress, and once again, couldn’t have been happier with our decision to do so. The Brick Marketing Website Developer, Chris Roberts and Shawna Wright made the process easy and painless, and made many helpful suggestions to improve our website that we would have never thought of on our own. Brick Marketing is simply the best.”

- Kristen M. Steele, Director of Marketing & Public Relations Bookmasters

bookmasters-logo

"I couldn’t give a stronger recommendation; they are simply great!"

“When we came to Brick Marketing initially, we had a small subset of challenges we didn’t have the bandwidth to tackle in house. Our idea was simply to send out the work and be done with it. A one-shot deal. What we found mid way into the first project, was that Nick Stamoulis and Brick Marketing had a depth of understanding and approach to solving our Search Engine Marketing problems that we had not considered; solutions that dramatically improved our search engine ranking position on terms and improved the overall size of our index listing (by more than 25% in the first two months). In short order we expanded our horizons and enlisted his talents to take on refining and improving ROI on our rather expensive Pay Per Click campaigns, as well as having him consult on microsite projects and blogs. Nick Stamoulis of Brick Marketing helped us understand what works and why, and helping us maintain our dominant position in the SERPs, despite the markets constant resetting and ever-changing drama. I could not have gotten through this year without Brick Marketing’s assistance and advice. I couldn’t give a stronger recommendation; they are simply great!”

- Connie Childrey, DataDirect Technologies

data-direct

"Brick’s SEO strategy has leveled the playing field"

“Brick Marketing’s well researched SEO strategy has provided Fishman Corporation with visibility and excellent leads over the past year. Fishman Corporation competes in a niche industrial segment that has been dominated by one corporate conglomerate for 50 years; we were specifically looking for a Marketing partner that understood how to leverage SEO and social media to gain us visibility. We wanted to compete on the same level as the corporate giant. Brick Marketing has done this for us. We routinely show up high in organic searches, our web traffic has doubled and the leads that come in are well targeted. Brick’s SEO strategy has leveled the playing field; now the Davids’ can be as visible as the Goliaiths.”

- Scott Beebe President, Fishman Corporation

fishman
More info about brick marketing Contact Us Case Studies Industries We Serve

Request A Proposal Here!

Request A Proposal:

5 − four =