Content Marketing Tactics from the Trenches: A How-To Extravaganza


Content is on the minds of marketers everywhere, but how do you tackle it? What are some ways to show ROI and what sort of skills do you need on your team to make your brand or agency into an efficient, quality content producer? These are the questions speakers Miranda Miller and Natalie Henley tackled in an SES Toronto session on content marketing.

The Changing Face of SEO

Natalie Henley from Volume 9 Inc. opened up the conversation by talking about the changing face of SEO. Her company was forced about two years ago to adopt content marketing, and she talked about what she learned.

Content marketing is starting to look and feel more like traditional marketing, she said. You’re giving away information to people who aren’t necessarily ready to buy. This is at the top of the funnel versus at the bottom.

Create Personas to Solve Content Problems

The first problem with writing about not-so-sexy topics and companies is to look within. Henley said she solved this with something that transformed how they created content: creating personas.

To dig into personas, she and her team looked at several factors including the personal environment of the persona and environmental influence. Also diving into how this persona feels and what his or her attitude is can be crucial components of this.

Content Creation Ideas

The most important thing, said Henley, is not to to focus on the SEO when you’re writing. A couple ideas she shared include:

  • Write based on personas.
  • Write everything first, edit later.

Henley warned that quality content is really hard to scale. It’s not about volume. But you still have to publish a lot, so it’s a bit of a conundrum. She gives some tips on ways you can outsource:

  • Textbroker is good for inexpensive content.
  • Writers Access is a step up.
  • Zerys is great for low-end agencies.
  • Skyword is more for high-end agencies.

Content Promotion

When your content is good on its own, don’t feel like to have to force optimization, said Henley. A couple tips though if you’re thinking about the SEO side of things. If you optimize your title tag and nothing else, that’s 90 percent of the battle. And don’t forget Google Authorship.

Get a little SEO mileage with social bookmarking, said Henley. Don’t forget to promote on social media. But remember it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Be selective about what you promote.

The Biggest Challenge: ROI

How do you show return on content marketing? That’s the next point Henley explored. The top of the funnel is not as profitable as the bottom of the funnel, she said.

Here’s a couple ways to measure:

  • Low end of your formula: conversions from blog referral traffic.
  • High end of your formula: Percentage of traffic versus overall traffic.
  • Take total number of conversions times blog percentage.

It’s not perfect math, she warned, but it’s a great way to show progress.

She leaves the audience with a tool she loves. BlogDash allows you to pitch ideas to a network of bloggers. If they like it, they pick it up and blog about it. There’s no money exchange, but you offer them something they might like.

For example, if the content is about flowers, you can offer the bloggers a bouquet of flowers for Mother’s Day. She found this wildly successful.

Executing a Blog and Social Strategy

Marketer Miranda Miller talked next about executing a blog and social strategy. Execution matters, she said, because businesses don’t have a lot of time and money.

Think Like a Publisher?

Your blog and social strategy needs to be agile and adaptable. “Think like a publisher” is the motto of the year, she said. You don’t just wake up one day and become publisher though. You have to be trained in that.

Remember, traditional publishing and brand publishing is different. So how do you really think like a publisher? Miller gave a few ways:

  • Have an editorial calendar.
  • Create content guidelines.
  • Implement quality check and balances.
  • Make sure audience needs come first.

The smallest companies need an organizational tool. Miller recommended It allows you to plan out your editorial calendar. Google Docs also works and is a free option. You can also try the Approval Workflow plugin for WordPress.

Style guides are crucial, said Miller. Every person who touches the content in your organization should have one. It’s your Content Bible.

And with regard to quality checks and balances, make sure your communication team is qualified, she said. You need the right people in place who can work together effectively.

Brand Journalist Wizards Don’t Exist for $12 per Hour

The job descriptions coming from companies are getting ridiculous for content creation, said Miller. Businesses are asking for very talented writers who are former journalists along with a boatload of other skills and only paying $12 an hour. This doesn’t exist.

Here’s what you do need on a content team, she said:

  • Bloggers
  • SMMs
  • Professionalism
  • Creativity
  • Grasp of online marketing landscape
  • Topic expertise not as important
  • New media skills

And Miller said the following is what the content team needs from its employer, which is just as important:

  • Clear, detailed expectations
  • Opportunities for input
  • Access to key people
  • Tools for the job
  • Logical working process

Who’s got brand publishing right? Look to brands like Raytheon and Garmin for good examples of brands that are doing well in the content publishing area.

Image Credit: amandabhslater/Flickr

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Google Kills Tilde Search Operator

rip-tildeOne of the lesser-known tools used by searchers on Google has been the tilde sign (~) operator.

When you placed the tilde sign immediately in front of a keyword, Google would also include synonyms for that word in their search results. This was useful for webmasters determining additional keywords by seeing what words Google associates together.

Unfortunately, Google has quietly dropped support for the tilde sign in Google search results.

Google’s Dan Russell confirmed the deprecation, as Google Operating System reported:

Yes, it’s been deprecated. Why? Because too few people were using it to make it worth the time, money, and energy to maintain. In truth, although I sometimes disagree with the operator changes, I happen to agree with this one. Maintaining ALL of the synonyms takes real time and costs us real money. Supporting this operator also increases the complexity of the code base. By dropping support for it we can free up a bunch of resources that can be used for other, more globally powerful changes.”

Hillary MacBain seems to be the first who noticed it had stopped working on June 15, 2013. It has also been removed from Google’s Help Center article and that searchers using the tilde sign no longer see synonyms in their search. Now, searchers will only see the results for the keyword they used, as if the tilde sign was not included in the keyword search.

The tilde sign was included in the May 13, 2013 capture of the Help Center article, so the support was removed very recently. While the tilde sign was probably not used by very many people on it regular basis, it has been used since at least 2003 and it was very useful for webmasters.

There doesn’t seem to be any reason for Google to remove the tilde sign operator now. There was controversy a few years ago where the tilde sign was used with the word Scientology, and it also brought up a Wikipedia article for “cult”. However, there was nothing notable recently that hit the news that would prompt Google to remove it.

MacBain does note that the features still seems to be available as a Google Drive feature, and recommends this article for setting it up, for those who can’t live without the tilde operator. However, because it has been removed from Google search and their Help Center article, it would seem likely that it will go missing from Google Drive at some point in the future.

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Google Celebrates Gay Pride Month, Supports LGBT Employees

Google is celebrating gay pride month in a big way. From its internal committees to its speaker series and fundraising events, Google supports the LGBT community and employees unlike most workplaces.

In a post on Google+, Life at Google documented the behind-the-scenes of Google’s outreach this month:

“From Silicon Valley LGBTQ mixers to Hangouts with Google Executives, planning a successful Google Pride is about more than coordinating the colors of the rainbow. Gayglers from all departments of Google formed sub-committees to discuss budget, plan events, order schwag and advertise Pride while keeping an eye on the prize: ensuring the messages of diversity, inclusion and pride are central themes throughout it all.”

Here’s this year’s Google Pride logo from its worldwide logo design contest, which will be printed on shirts worn by Googlers as they march for the eighth year in the Pride Parade on June 30:


The parade will be on the heels of a two U.S. Supreme Court decisions involving gay rights: California’s Prop 8 allowing same-sex marriage and the ruling on the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The decisions are set to be announced this week.

Google has long been a supporter of the LGBT community. Just last year, they enhanced medical benefits for transgender employees in what has been referred to as “the gold standard.” This year, Google showed its support in many ways, one of them being to highlight stories of LGBT employees on the Life at Google page on Google+.

Google further makes itself part of the movement by extending its products to the movement. Right now, any LGBT-related searches online currently bring up this specially designed search bar:


And Google+ Hangouts have been instrumental in facilitating same-sex marriage in France where same-sex marriage was not attainable. Check out this video to find out how:

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Antoni Gaudí Google Doodle Showcases Architect’s Revered Works

Today is the birthday of Antoni Gaudí, a Spanish architect born in 1852 who was considered an important figure in the “Modernisme” movement of that time. Many of Gaudí’s structures still stand today as some of the most revered works of architecture in the world. His contributions were honored with a Google Doodle today representing some of his most loved works.

Antoni Gaudi Google Doodle

If you look closely (and try really hard to interpret the abstraction), you can see “Google” spelled out in the structures referenced in the Doodle. Condé Nast did a great piece identifying which illustration in the Doodle matched which Gaudí piece, along with a write up of where they can be viewed in person.


Gaudí left a bigger legacy than perhaps he would have imagined. It’s not just completed structures that made a mark. According to The Guardian, Gaudí’s Roman basilica continued to be worked on and built upon over the span of approximately 130 years, long after Gaudí’s untimely accidental death.

You can browse more Gaudí works at the UNESCO website, here.

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Opinion: Search Engines Not Responsible for Deleting Personal Data From Index

google logo search engine seoGoogle doesn’t have to delete sensitive personal information from its search engine index, according to a recommendation to the European Court of Justice.

Google’s vindication came in a recommendation to the Court of Justice by advocate general Niilo Jääskinen. It was part of a case brought against the search engine firm by a Spanish citizen looking to have potentially libelous website data removed from Google’s search index.

In the ruling, Jääskinen said that Google and other search engines are not subject to privacy requirements under existing European data protection law.

“Search engine service providers are not responsible, on the basis of the Data Protection Directive, for personal data appearing on web pages they process,” the court said in communicating Jääskinen’s opinion.

He explained that based on present law citizens don’t have a right to be removed from search indexes within the Data Protection Directive framework.

“The Directive does not establish a general ‘right to be forgotten’. Such a right cannot therefore be invoked against search engine service providers on the basis of the Directive,” he added.

Google is understandably pleased.

“This is a good opinion for free expression,” said Bill Echikson, head of free expression at Google EMEA. “We’re glad to see it supports our long-held view that requiring search engines to suppress ‘legitimate and legal information’ would amount to censorship.”

The decision is not final, as the European Court of Justice isn’t bound by the advocate general’s opinion. However, the opinion was given to the judges of the court who have now begun their deliberations in the case.

A final ruling on the case is expected before the end of the year.

This article was originally published on the Inquirer.

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Most Valuable Ecommerce Customers Come from Organic Search [Study]

Not all customers are created equal. This is the picture painted by customer acquisition platform Custora in its latest study on ecommerce and the lifetime value of a customer.

The highest value customers come from organic search at a rate of 54 percent higher than the average lifetime value of a customer, followed by PPC and email, according to Custora.


Customer lifetime value (CLV) is a way to calculate the entire profit a company can expect to earn from the relationship with that customer over time. For this study in particular, CLV referred to the amount customers spent within two years of their initial purchase.

“The savviest marketers in the new era of ecommerce will be looking beyond just where customers are coming from,” Custora said in its report. “They’ll be looking at the value of new customers acquired across channels, platforms, and geographies.”

Social media is generally accepted as a common contributor in the path to conversion, and sometimes is the last click or only click in a conversion funnel. However according to Custora, clients coming from social networks don’t stack up against the CLV of clients coming from other channels.

Ecommerce customers acquired through Twitter are worth 23 percent less than the average CLV, the report said:


Not surprisingly, email marketing as an acquisition channel is on the rise. Not too long ago, we saw in another study that email was beating search and social as the largest driver of conversions for ecommerce.

Custora data gives more validity to notion of email as a power channel for marketing and conversions. In fact, according to the report, customer acquisition via email has quadrupled over the past four years in ecommerce.

The data also shows the importance of organic search to customer acquisition as well, which is still higher than email.


Data for this study was collected from 86 U.S. retailers across 14 industries and 72 million customers. Acquisition channels were obtained via the “utm_medium” tag in Google Analytics.

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78% of a Brand’s Facebook Fans Are Already Customers [Study]

Social intelligence company Syncapse set out to answer why people become Facebook fans in its latest study and what the value of a fan is to a brand. The research found 78 percent of a brand’s Facebook fans have already engaged with the brand’s product or services.

“Since being a brand user is usually a prerequisite to becoming a Fan in consumer goods categories, marketers should prioritize their Fan acquisition investments on converting existing customers,” Syncapse said in its report. “Not only is acquisition cost and conversion friction lower, but the investment in a higher quality Fan base will reap rewards down the line, and this is true for both lower-cost and higher-cost consumer brands.”

But there are other motivators for people becoming fans of a brand on Facebook, including wanting coupons or discounts or sharing personal experiences and interests with others.


But Syncapse warns that acquiring fans through discount offers often lead to a lower value overall for the brand.

“Many brands, particularly retailers and lower-cost brands with high purchase frequencies, often resort to rewards and direct-response incentives for driving Fan membership. However, these tactics are often blindly targeted to brand-promiscuous deal hunters, resulting in a lower-quality, fickle Fan membership (and waste of scarce marketing dollars).”

So just how much is the value of a Facebook fan?

Syncapse took into account several factors in its study including spending, loyalty, propensity to recommend, earned media value, acquisition cost and brand affinity when answering this question. The total value of a fan based on these factors is estimated to be $174 – a 28 percent increase since 2010.

But the true value in a fan, Syncapse argued, is measured by the motivation behind becoming a fan in the first place. While discounts and contests may drive a brand’s fan base up quickly, many of those Fans aren’t likely to have staying power.

“After understanding the composition of social membership, it becomes critical for marketers to understand the reasons consumers become Fans of brands in the first place,” Syncapse said. “Marketers must compare actual reasons for becoming a Fan, and the hard tactics (and often expensive investments) they often deploy to acquire Fans – sometimes they match up, sometimes they don’t. There may be more effective and efficient strategies to acquire more of the right types of Fans.”

You can access the full Syncapse study here.

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Google Local Carousel Results: Where Do Users Click Most?

Google officially rolled out its local carousal results to all U.S. users last week for select verticals like hotels and restaurants, and since then, marketers have been trying to figure out what makes it tick.

Two search agencies independently conducted experiments of their own to see where people click when presented with the new carousel in Google local results. While these tests were largely informal and consisting of a small sample size, they are still interesting to note.

Local U and Ethical SEO Consulting had a combined sample of 112 respondents in their separate experiments. Searchers were given a prompt search results page, and asked to go to the part of the page that was most relevant to them for that search.

Here’s what one of those search result options looked like to respondents for the query: “pizza in Denver”:


What the Local Carousel Result Studies Found

Both studies showed the map and carousel results on the page were favorite areas for users to click in order to find what they were looking for.

The “pizza in Denver” results showed the map result received 32 percent of the clicks, followed by the first image in the carousel at 17 percent, and then the first organic result at 11 percent.


The other experiment used the query “Chicago restaurants” to generate a results page, and found 48 percent of the total clicks were on the carousel results:


When asked why the searchers clicked where they did within the carousel, the Chicago restaurants respondents mentioned reviews as a determining factor.

What Does It Mean?

People are clicking on the carousel to find what they need. But more studies will need to be conducted to truly understand how the new carousel results in Google are impacting overall click-through rate on the results page.

Both Ethical SEO consulting and Local U and commented on the challenges and opportunities of the new look and feel of Google local results.

“One challenge with images is that Google is not letting you choose what picture to display on the front page. They choose it for you from the images that are uploaded,” Local U said in its post.

Ethical SEO consulting also noted that reviews were going to continue to be important, and added, “having a long tail keyword site content strategy is also going to be an important factor in showing up in as many carousels, and map results as possible. The organic results also cannot be discounted.”

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Getting Started With Bing Places: A Step-by-Step Guide

Local SEO and local online marketing is an excellent way to help local consumers connect with your business. Those who are local are more apt to go with your services because it is more convenient and easily accessible, and therefore local businesses are often trusted. This makes listing your business in Yelp, Yahoo Local, and Google+ Local very important, but don’t forget Bing’s initiative – Bing Places.

The world’s third largest search engine (after just Google and YouTube) changed Bing Business Portal to Bing Places for Business in April 2013, but the general idea remains the same. Bing Places for Business is a place to connect your company with local consumers in a quick and easy way by simply listing your business with the search engine.

How to Submit Your Site to Bing Places

Below are step-by-step instructions to setup your business with Bing Places:

Step 1: Get Started on the Welcome Screen

Visit this link and click “get started.” The screenshot below is the welcome screen you will see, and if you look in the top right corner you can see that you can sign in easily once you’re listing is created.


Step 2: Claim Your Existing Business or Add a New Business Listing

You will then be taken to a screen where you can type in either your phone number or business name and location. Enter your information and then hit “search” to see if anything appears. If nothing does, it will ask you to moderate your search or click “add new business.” Below is a screenshot you’ll see at this point:


Step 3: Add Your Business and Login to Your Microsoft Account

If you don’t have a Microsoft account, you’re going to need to create one. A Microsoft account is anything you use to sign in to Hotmail, SkyDrive, or Xbox LIVE. You can create a new account easily once you get to this page and click “get a new account.”

Once you’re logged in, it’s time to start adding in all of your business details. Below is a screenshot of what you will see, and the map and photos on the right will change as you add in your business details. The left had side shows you all of the different drop-down menus you should open and fill in to complete your listing:


After you fill in all of the details and hit “submit” it will ask you to verify your business and Bing will send you a verification PIN at your registered postal address. You can add in your address in a box below, and then you will receive a mailer with a PIN at the address listed in 3 to 5 days. The screen will look like this:


Extra Step (If Necessary): Add Multiple Businesses

The next session that you will see at the top of the screenshot above is “add multiple businesses.” If you’re interested, you can click this tab and add in another business that you own.

According to Bing, “Places makes claiming bulk listings quick and hassle-free. You can upload 10 to 10000 listings from the same parent business (chains, franchises, etc.) using a spreadsheet.” As you can see below, there is a space to upload your spreadsheet and the business details so that everything can remain connected.


Step 4: Manage Your Listing(s)

Once you receive your PIN number in the mail, you will be able to start managing your listing. I recommend bookmarking this link so that you can pick up right where you left off when the listing is verified.

Managing your listing is where you will be able to edit and add information regarding your listing. Below is a screenshot from Local SEO Update that illustrates what the screen looks like when you try to manage your listing or listings:


Bing Places Overview

  • It’s important to setup Bing Places and claim your listing in order to connect with local consumers. Bing is the third largest search engine in America, so it’s important you have a presence to gain that visibility.
  • You need to have a Microsoft account in order to get started with Bing Places. Visit this page to get started in just a few short minutes, or follow the directions as you go through the steps to claim your listing.
  • With Bing you can manage multiple listings under one dashboard, which is a feature not every local channel allows.

Are you a business that uses Bing Places? What benefits have you found since becoming a part of the site? Do you have any tips for those hoping to get involved? Let us know your story and your thoughts in the comments below.

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4 Ways SEO Impacts B2B Content Marketing Initiatives

B2B marketers are spending more than 25 percent of their budgets in the development, delivery and promotion of content, according to a recent survey run by the CMO Council and NetLine. Their objectives are to drive business leads, influence customer markets and grow brand presence and authority. More importantly, 87 percent of respondents indicated that online content has a moderate to major impact (67 percent and 20 percent respectively on what vendors they chose to work with.

While B2B sales and marketing groups appear to understand the need for better alignment through content marketing needs, strategic development is still in its infancy.

The survey report states that many organizations are engaged in “random acts of content development,” lacking cohesive strategy. This assessment is based on findings indicating that the B2B buyer is migrating to peer-based communities and trusted new sources. The B2B buyer finds that vendor sites fail in many ways, including navigation, depth, and accessibility.

SEO should be a significant component of the B2B content marketing mix; augmenting these efforts from concept to execution. Here are four ways B2B SEO professionals can better impact content marketing initiatives.

1. Better Content; Not More Content

As highlighted in recent coverage of the survey from eMarketer, quality trumps quantity significantly. “B2B executives have expectations for the content they consume, however, and seem disinterested in anything offering surface-level insights”.

Furthermore, the survey report indicated that blatantly self-serving and promotional content is a major turnoff, cited by 43 percent of respondents. Research and whitepapers based on professional association and industry input led the list of content assets B2B buyers valued and trusted most.


Keyword research should be at the forefront of any content development initiative. Not only are B2B marketers looking for keywords opportunities that have demonstrated traffic estimates, but also keyword themes that have shown to resonate with their target audience as well.

While Google’s Keyword Tool‎ is a place to look for traffic estimates, keyword traffic reports based on conversion or other site performance metrics (like bounce rate, time on site, pages/visit, etc) are important for determining relevance to existing audience.


The above chart highlights keyword referrals for a client of ours, where we’ve defined multiple conversion goals. I’ve highlighted keyword ideas that have driven at least three of four conversion actions in a certain period of time. I would recommend exploring content marketing ideas based on these keyword themes first.

Additional places B2B SEO professionals should consider for evaluating keyword performance:

  • Google AdWords and Bing Ads keyword reports
  • Marketing automation prospect performance reports
  • Internal search engine query reports
  • Traditional customer service inquiries, software bug reports, feedback submissions, etc.

2. Develop a Lead Scoring System

The top turnoff from survey respondents was the level of requirements for download. While this factor must be acknowledged, alignment between sales readiness and vendor / industry research must also be balanced.

Not all inbound leads are equal and it is important that the B2B marketing team work with sales to determine proper criteria for pushing the lead directly to sales, or keeping the lead in the marketing database for further development.


I wrote about B2B lead scoring a while back that digs specifically into these concepts. The key for B2B SEO professionals is in aligning the requirements for conversion action with the content marketing asset’s perceived proximity to sales action.

The keyword chart in the previous point provides further example into how we might breakout conversion actions based on sales readiness. For our client, “Conv 4″ is a very high level lead, often associated with general information seekers. We track it because it is an easy way to obtain email information for newsletters and other company communications.

Our hypothesis is that a percentage of these leads ultimately convert to sales. We’re manually matching data right now and should have a marketing automation tool in place shortly to help take this over. As we connect the dots between conversion actions, we can better demonstrate the ROI in the creation of assets that support this conversion action.

3. Usability Matters, but B2B Marketers Need to FIND the Content First

While excessive form requirements might be an annoyance, content usability and accessibilitymatters as well. Ease of use and readability were the second most important characteristic B2B decision makers surveyed indicated (the top applicably being breadth and depth of information).

This brings into play two important SEO related initiatives.


  • Cross-linking and navigational accessibility: SEO professionals need to evaluate site architecture in an effort to identify critical locations for cross-links and cross-promotion of content marketing assets. Besides manual review of site navigation and related content assets, look to analytics for assistance. Google Analytics has an easy to use navigational element to better understand the steps (web pages) converting visitors took before completing various goals on the website.
    Joseph Kerschbaum wrote a more in-depth column on how to use Google Analytics visitors flow reports to improve conversion rates. It is definitely worth reviewing for more information and ideas.
  • Device and technology usage: Forty-one percent of survey respondents used the smartphone and 30 percent used the tablet. As the percentage of users accessing content through a mobile device continues to increase, B2B marketers need to be sensitive to navigational limitations and conversion rates barriers mobile browsers create.
    The simplest method for comparing user behavior by device type is in the main navigational stream (Google Analytics: Audience Mobile Overview) but B2B SEO professionals should also compare visitor performance by operating system, based on high performing keyword themes (Google Analytics: Traffic Sources Search Organic Keyword – Secondary Dimension “Operating System”)

4. Build Inbound Links in the Right Places (Hint: It’s About Relationships)

While the right content and placement on the website is important, having avenues of outreach and distribution for content assets matters just as much.

As indicated in the survey, B2B decision-makers cited professional organizations and online communities as the most popular sources of information that would influence business and purchasing decisions.

Relationships and networks matter in getting exposure to content marketing assets developed.


B2B SEO professionals need to take this feedback into consideration when developing link building outreach initiatives; specifically finding target audiences and communities for link communication.

Places to consider for content distribution and network development:

Ways to identify industry influencers and communities:

  • Interviews with PR agencies and marketing communications personnel
  • FollowerWonk or Contaxio for analyzing Twitter followers
  • Muck Rack and HARO for finding publication opportunities and journalists
  • Speaker and sponsor lists associated to industry trade shows and conferences

Recent link building columns related to the information found in this report worth reviewing:

Final Thoughts

The CMO Council and NetLine report is available for download via short form submission here. I would recommend review, if for nothing else than to validate B2B search engine marketing initiatives proposed or to augment existing work.

How are your SEO efforts improving and assisting broader B2B content marketing initiatives? I would love to read your feedback and perspective via comments below.

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