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One of the greatest benefits of content marketing is its ability to play matchmaker: to help eligible businesses find and engage with its most desirable consumers – i.e., those who might have an active interest in what they have to offer. And because it is such a powerful driver of awareness, search is one of the main contributing factors to how successful your content will be at attracting those qualified leads.
While it’s not always fully transparent how or when Google’s search bots will crawl and index your content – let alone exactly how its search algorithm determines its rankings –content marketers don’t have to just sit back and wait for Google to pass judgment on whether their work merits a first-page listing on the search engine results page (SERP). In fact, you can take plenty of deliberate SEO actions to boost your content’s value in the eyes of your target audience – if you have the right strategies in place.
You need to have the right #SEO strategies in place to boost your content’s value. @joderama
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At CMI’s ContentTech virtual conference, Orbit Media co-founder Andy Crestodina and Act-On’s Senior Marketing Manager Noelle Mahoney took to the (digital) stage to offer some top tips, tools, and techniques for working the systems of search to your content’s best advantage. Below are just a few of the helpful insights and recommendations they shared.Look for question marks in the queries
As Andy asserts, each visitor your content receives through search has an intention in mind; the searcher took the initiative to actively look for something. To find it, one of three main types of key phrases was used:Navigational: Phrases that help the searchers find the best path to a specific brand or experience they already identified Transactional: Phrases that indicate they are looking to make a purchase of some kind – either immediately or in the future Informational: Phrases that signal that they have questions and are looking for answers on a particular subject
As Andy explains, content marketers’ greatest SEO potential lies in optimizing pages to rank better for informational key phrases, as these searchers aren’t necessarily looking to achieve a quick task (like finding a brand’s page or purchasing an item right then and there) and move on. Thus, they are more likely to enter your sales funnel and become viable leads upon discovering the value you offer.
Your greatest #SEO potential lies in optimizing pages for informational key phrases. @crestodina @nolanmahoney
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HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:Why Does User Intent Matter So Much To Your SEO 2 Funnels Are Necessary for Content MarketingWhat gets Google’s gears spinning?
How do you go about making your content pages more relevant to informational searches on your target keywords? The first step is to have a basic understanding of the mechanics of SEO, which means getting into the mind of its top judge, jury, and executioner: Google.
What makes a site relevant to Google? While its algorithm is said to account for a wide range of inputs and data points, Andy considers inbound links to your website to be one of the most critical ranking factors:
Inbound links to your website is one of the most critical @Google ranking factors, says @crestodina. #SEO
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Quantity of links: On some level, Google judges the number of backlinks your content has received as if each one is a vote in a popular election: the more you have, the more credible and worthy your content appears to be, thus, the greater its potential to deliver the value that visitors are looking for. (Thankfully, Google hasn’t yet implemented an electoral college-like system, or nobody would have a clue what to expect from their SERPs.)Quality of links: While quantity does play a role, it’s the quality of those links that truly impacts your content’s ability to move up (or down) in the search rankings for relevant informational key phrases. In other words, you don’t just need SEO to bring more links to your domain, you need it to attract links from credible, authoritative pages that already earned the respect of Google’s rank-bots.
Remember, search is a game of competition: For every spot you want to move up in the rankings, someone above you needs to be displaced. With this in mind, Andy and Noelle focused on ways to attract those all-important links by making your content more visible, valuable, and appealing than its SERP competitors – both in the eyes of Google and the consumers who rely on it.HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:
Shares Are Not Enough: How to Amplify Your Content and Build Links Clocking your keyword competition
To discover the best place to start your optimization efforts, you must first understand two key factors that affect your potential rankings. The first is your level of authority. This metric provides an estimate of how likely you are to rank for a term, based on how credible your website might seem in the eyes of a search engine.
Google used to tell us what the authority of our website pages was, using a metric called PageRank. Though this metric is no longer reported by Google directly, other companies have created proxies that we can use to gauge our content’s ranking strength for a given key phrase. Domain Authority is one such proxy metric created by Moz.
To determine your Domain Authority, you’ll need Moz’s Open Site Explorer (which anyone can access on a limited basis for free). Open Site Explorer measures a site’s Domain Authority on a scale from 1 to 100, based on both the quality and the quantity of links pointing to that site.
Using a plug-in called MozBar, you can see an overlay of all the Open Site Explorer data for every site that ranks for your target phrase, showing you the relative competition for that phrase. For example, if you want to rank for a phrase like “website design,” your Domain Authority must be in the same range as other sites already ranking well for it.
The second factor to take into account is difficulty – essentially, the average authority of all the high-ranking pages for your target word or phrase.
If you have a paid Moz account, you can view this information in a report like the one below (you can also estimate it by comparing the authority of the high-ranking pages using MozBar). After inputting a target key phrase (Andy used “Chicago bars” in his example), you can look to see whether your Domain Authority is higher than the keyword difficulty. If the answer is yes, you should have a decent chance of ranking for the phrase – assuming you have created an awesome page on the topic, and have done a good job of using SEO to indicate your relevance (more on that in a minute). If not, you might want to keep digging to find alternate phrases that give you a better shot at SERP domination.
TIP: Don’t be too concerned with the specific amount of search volume a key phrase receives. As Andy explains, you are simply looking for solid evidence that people are interested in the topic since each page is just one of many you will create over the life span of your website.Relevance, resonance, and relative rankings
Finding the phrases that people are searching for, and that your content has a good shot at competing on, will get your SEO efforts moving in the right direction. But, there are other things you can do to help Google’s search bots surface your content as being relevant to searchers’ queries. Remember, there is a limited number of slots on the SERP for organic rankings (since much of the page can be taken up with ads, promoted listings, images, and more – especially if your target keyword is highly competitive). You need to make your attack on several fronts all at once.
This is where an on-site SEO strategy comes into play.
3 criteria for choosing key #SEO phrases: popularity, competition, relevance, says @crestodina @nolanmahoney.
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The first (and most obvious) step for doing this is to make sure your key phrases appear in the right places within your content, so that Google can correctly index and gauge its relevance.
For this, Noelle suggests including your term in the five critical areas Google weighs most heavily when it comes to determining how to rank a site page:Page title Heading Body copy Meta descriptions Page URL
But remember: Simply including the right key phrases in the right places won’t be enough to knock your SERP competition off its perch; it’s just table stakes. It’s also critical to ensure that when people search for your target phrase and find your content, they will be satisfied with what they discover. This is where having lots of high-quality authoritative content on your site can put you at a distinct advantage.
The right key phrases in the right places aren’t enough to knock off your SERP competition. @Joderama #SEO
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Semantic SEO: One approach Andy suggests here is to boost your relevance for the broader topic your key phrase relates to – not just the phrase itself. In other words, you need to work with terms that are semantically related (i.e., related in meaning) to your target key phrase.
For instance, if you type a question word (e.g., what, where, how, etc.) plus your key phrase into a Google search bar, Google Suggest will list a number of likely queries in the order of their relative popularity. Keywordtool.io and Google Trends are two other tools Andy recommends. (Maggie Barr also recently shared eight additional tools to find related keywords for your content.)
When you uncover highly popular supporting phrases relevant to your core business, you should incorporate them into your existing content, where appropriate. But you can also consider building new content pieces to directly target the most popular related terms.
Selecting content topics this way hits on the SEO essentials: People are searching for it and it’s semantically related to your original key phrase. These pieces are likely to help raise your overall relevance. In addition, by narrowing the focus of your original target phrase, posts on semantically related topics will be less competitive and more context-specific, giving you a stronger chance of ranking for those terms.
Another option is to combine several semantically related phrases and use them in a new post to target your original key phrase. For example, if your key phrase is “website footer,” your keyword research process will reveal dozens of related phrases, like “website footer text” and “website footer design best practices.” The more of these phrases you can incorporate in a relevant way, the longer, more thorough, and more context-specific your new content piece will be – helping you increase your relevance on the topic in the eyes of the search bots.
Combine semantically related keyword phrases in a new post to target original phrase. @crestodina @nolanmahoney
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Incidentally, Andy also shared a web content template that can help you develop these content pieces. You can download your own copy of the template here.
Click to download PDFHANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:
5 SEO Strategies for Social Media You Need to Know Before You Hit Publish
Please note: All tools included in this blog post were suggested by the Content Tech presenters, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).
Learn more from Andy Crestodina by reading How to Apply Analytics Data to Make Better Content Marketing Decisions or by joining him and many other speakers at Content Marketing World Sept. 5-8 in Cleveland, Ohio. Use code BLOG100 to save $100 on registration.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute
The post Strengthen Your SEO Strategy for 2017 appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.
When a brand is new and growing, they tend to be freer—and often more fun and creative—with their content. A young brand’s very survival depends upon making a splash, catching attention, and being new and distinctly different.
As a brand matures and new marketing talent is brought in, the tendency is to start looking toward the more established brands in the industry and embrace a slicker, cleaner, more consistent look and feel. Metaphorically speaking, many brands jump straight from cargo shorts and graphic tees to suits and ties, leaving the seemingly frivolous stuff behind.
Then they find themselves in a conundrum. While the professional new attitude works well at certain points of the customer journey, it often falls flat higher up in the funnel. What’s a content marketer to do? Is it possible to be both fun and serious? Or do we have to embrace one and abandon the other?
Questions like these can be especially challenging during the “teen years” of a brand, says Zach Rainey, marketing communication specialist at Japanese ad agency Nippon SP Center Co., Ltd. “They think that since the ball started rolling, it’s time to stiffen up and be an adult already. But if they’ll keep in mind how they built their audience in the first place, they might relax a bit.”
At Workfront, we’ve spent the last couple of years juggling and experimenting with the right blend of playful content—think zombies, superheroes, and the Nine Levels of Hell—and more authoritative assets that answer customer questions and pain points outright. Along the way, we discovered five key lessons any content marketing team can use to more effectively balance the fun (a.k.a. engaging, creative, edgy) and the serious (a.k.a. direct, no-nonsense, buttoned-up) for their brands.
A touch of humanity is increasingly essential for your brand in this age of authenticity.
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1. Listen to the Market
What are people downloading, clicking, and responding to? Don’t forget to look at both social media and demand generation, which requires an open line of communication with the people who run your social media marketing efforts and PR.
“My advice is to stay focused on the audience that engages the most,” both currently and in the past, says Rainey. “What content worked? What built the foundation of your audience?” Perhaps those wacky posts you released when your brand was young helped contribute to your current image in a significant way. It could be a mistake to abandon them completely.
“The most common observation of mine,” says Vivek Nair, head of marketing at Talent & Analytics India, “is when you start out your content marketing efforts, you reflect your brand’s true values (fun, helpful, etc). But as business grows, your focus shifts, and most content folks will focus on churning out quantity rather than quality that matches your values.” Instead, Nair recommends deciding on your brand persona (What do you stand for? Why do you exist?) and “producing content for your target audience and customers with an intention of helping them.”2. Approach Content by Function
Content at the top of the funnel can be a very different animal than content at the bottom. Without a little fun or edginess, you won’t last long in the realm of old media and social media. But the closer you get to the point of sale, especially in B2B, the more corporate and authoritative you may need to become.
“Some of the tech brands I write for have been doing a mix of playful and more technical pieces,” says Michael Belfiore, New York Times technology journalist and author. “In general I would say that the more playful pieces can be a good icebreaker that can funnel people into more ‘serious’ assets.”
It’s also important to realize that, even for bottom-of-the-funnel content, what sounds dry and boring to content marketers may actually be exciting to the intended audience—especially if it directly addresses their needs and questions.
“It is correct to strive for content that is not dry, but don’t forget that it’s our audience we serve, not our personal preferences,” says Samantha Stone, founder and CMO at The Marketing Advisory Network. “Be sure the tone and information is rich enough to excite your readers, even if it doesn’t appeal to the fun-loving marketer within.”3. Just Be Human
While you’re trying to find your brand’s sweet spot, remember that content marketing doesn’t have to be laugh-out-loud funny, heavily themed, or wildly creative in order to be effective. The most important thing is to be relatable and human, whether you serve a B2B or B2C audience. After all, even in B2B marketing, you’re trying to engage with the actual humans inside the business.
“B2B buyers use more than their reason to assess a brand,” says Shelly Lucas, director of content marketing for Dun & Bradstreet. “Emotions also play a role, yet few B2B organizations do a good job humanizing their brands. If your company sells marketing technology, but your content comes off flippant, misinformed, or otherwise unaware, it won’t be useful to your audience. Even more than that, it will breed mistrust. Content creators need to develop a human voice that’s engaging, knowledgeable (do your research!), and has a definitive point of view.”
Many brands fall into the trap of thinking that “knowledgeable” and “authoritative” are synonyms to “dry” and “boring”—that every effort to inject personality into the brand will undermine its prestige. But it is possible to be seriously helpful and somewhat playful at the same time.
“In our B2B case, our audience mostly consists of wood flooring contractors,” says Adam Williams, head of marketing at Palo Duro Hardwoods in Denver. “My goal is that our content be authoritative and professionally presented, but relatable. Human. I want our audience to know we aren’t suit-and-tie people so removed from understanding their daily challenges and needs, that we get them, that we are them. So, the content needs some conversational touches.”4. Be Flexible with Branding Guidelines
It’s common for branding guidelines to be built with a few types of content in mind, like ebooks, for instance, without taking into account how those guidelines will translate to social or the corporate blog. This can put content marketers in a difficult position. You either follow the guidelines to the letter to please your creative director, while failing to engage effectively with your audience, or you wow the audience but end up diluting and undermining the brand over time. You have to work with your individual art director or creative director to find a middle ground—and usually both parties will have to give a little.
Luckily, there are some creative directors who understand that overly strict guidelines will only stifle the brand. “We have established strong brand touchstones—a brand guide, asset templates, and great example pieces—that represent the visual brand that we are striving for,” says Workfront creative director David Lesue. “The team knows to draw from them when creating anything new. But they also know that those touchstones aren’t inflexible. The brand is a living, evolving thing that design gets to push—over time—into new directions.”5. Avoid Overly Narrow Campaigns
If you want to pull off campaigns that succeed across channels and up and down the funnel, they need to be built for flexibility, not for total uniformity on every piece that goes out. This goes for both messaging and images.
I’ve frequently attended brainstorm sessions where great ideas didn’t make the cut, simply because they weren’t translatable to enough of our potential audiences and channels. The best concepts are those that can be adapted for a playful video to share on Facebook as well as an informative whitepaper or ebook.
Of course, this tip mainly applies to big, multi-faceted campaigns that involve all levels of the marketing organization. The more juice you can squeeze out of that orange, the better. You’ll also be launching smaller, more targeted campaigns throughout the year. Keep an eye on which of those resonate the most; you never know when a lone-wolf asset will inspire your next comprehensive campaign.Party in the Front, Business in the Back
Whether you’re producing B2B or B2C content, there’s room for a bit of personality in even the most serious brand. In fact, a touch of humanity is increasingly essential in the age of authenticity we live in today.
While it’s true that too much fun and frivolity can make a brand seem young and immature, the pendulum can easily swing too far the other way, making your brand come across as cold and overly corporate. It takes trial and error to strike the right balance for your business. A great place to start is the “party in the front, business in the back” strategy. Create playful top-of-the-funnel content that directs people to more serious content down the line, and adapt as needed.
Please note: While I borrowed the “business in the front, party in the back” tagline (and reversed it) from that infamous ‘80s haircut known as “the mullet”—sported by such style legends as John Stamos, Michael Bolton, and Andre Agassi (who later admitted his was a wig!)—I am in no way advocating for a return of the hairdo itself.
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I produce a lot of content. Not for the fun of it (although I genuinely do enjoy most of it), but because I want it to increase awareness of my personal brand, drive traffic to my site, and generate leads.
To boost the odds of that happening, I have to ensure that my content gets in front of as many people as possible, and to do that, I have to promote it.
As with most things in life, it’s much easier if you have the right tools at your disposal. Here are 19 of my favorite tools (and pricing – though many are free) I use in my content promotion in 2017. The first group encompasses promotion tools, while the second group identifies tools to help in the promotion process.
HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:6 How-To Strategies for Content Promotion 7 Promotion Tactics to Get Your Content NoticedPromotion tools 1. IFTTT
IFTTT hooks together apps and websites so you can create processes to automate pretty much anything, including sharing content. It stands for a recipe that dictates “if ‘this’ happens, ‘that’ should happen” in response.
For example, when you publish a new blog post (the “this”), an update automatically posts to Twitter (the “that”).
IFTTT is compatible with major blogging and social media platforms, so you can use the tool to automate sharing new content to pretty much any platform.
How much does it cost? Absolutely nothing2. CisionPoint
CisionPoint (or Cision for short) is a comprehensive PR tool that facilitates press release distribution and makes it easy to monitor and analyze news coverage. Its most useful feature (for content promotion at least) is its media database, which it says contains profiles of 1.6 million journalists.
How much does it cost? Pricing is unique to each user. What I can tell you is that it doesn’t come cheap. Before it implemented bespoke pricing, a one-year license cost $5,700.3. Outbrain
Outbrain is a content syndication tool that pushes your content out across multiple top publishers. You probably have seen and clicked on content promoted by Outbrain – even if you didn’t realize the company was behind it.
How much does it cost? Works on a CPC (cost-per-click) basis, with a minimum spend of $10 a day4. Taboola
Taboola works very (very) similarly to Outbrain, but it offers different publishing outlets. If you want to maximize the reach of your content, it’s worth using both at the same time.
How much does it cost? Works on CPC basis, with a minimum daily spend of $755. Circulate.it
Circulate.it lets you leverage your team to help promote content. You curate content (yours and others’) and it’s sent to your team in a daily email update. The best part is they can share the content to their social media profiles in a single click. Removing that barrier to entry makes it far more likely your team will play ball.
How much does it cost? $9 a month for limited features and up to 1,000 monthly shares; up to $99 a month for features and 20,000 shares6. Hootsuite Amplify
Amplify is similar to Circulate.it in that it’s designed to boost your social reach by encouraging your employees to share more of your content (and making it really easy for them, too). Amplify also allows you to track who’s sharing most often and who has the most successful posts.
How much does it cost? Hootsuite Enterprise subscribers can pay for access to Amplify; it’s designed for bigger agencies so it won’t come cheap, but pricing is decided on a case-by-case basis.7. Social Warfare
One of the first rules of content promotion is to make it as easy as possible for others to share your content. For this to happen, including sharing buttons in your content is key.
It’s important that those sharing buttons are featured prominently and look good. On that note, if yours still look like this, it’s time to upgrade.
Social Warfare is a WordPress plugin that offers attractive sharing buttons proven to boost shares and, unlike many other sharing buttons, never slow down your site.
Sharing buttons should be featured prominently & look good. Upgrade with @warfareplugins, says @SujanPatel.
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How much does it cost? Free; pro accounts start at $29 a year (for access to all features, including Twitter cards and in-post tweetable quotes).8. Triberr
Triberr connects groups of people who are interested in and create content on similar topics (called “tribes”). They share content to support other tribe members’ content promotion efforts.
How much does it cost? Free9. Viral Content Bee
Viral Content Bee shares some similarities with Triberr in that it’s a community built around content promotion. You share content other members have produced and, in return, they will share content you’ve produced.
Get groups w/ similar interests to promote your #content. Use @Triberr & @vcbuzz.@SujanPatel. #productivity
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How much does it cost? Free10. Medium
Medium is an open publishing platform that allows you to publish articles on almost any subject. Think of it like a blog that anyone can post to. Best of all, you’re free to repost content originally published. Do this and you get instant access to a new and big audience (SimilarWeb reports that the site gets close to 100 million visitors a month).
How much does it cost? Free11. BuzzStream
BuzzStream is a content marketing CRM. It helps organize and streamline content promotion. You can build lists of contacts and manage your relationships with each one and even send emails from within the tool. You can also create email templates and track whether your emails are being opened and your links are getting clicked.
How much does it cost? $24 a month for up to 100 contacts; $229 a month for up to 100,000 contacts; $999+ for custom packages12. MeetEdgar
Edgar is a social media scheduling tool with a bit of a difference. Unlike platforms like TweetDeck and Hootsuite, which require you to add new content if you want to keep sharing, Edgar is “an automated queue that never runs out of content.”
Once Edgar has shared everything you’ve added, it reshares older updates that your followers might have missed.
How much does it cost? $79 a month; $588 a yearPromotion-related enhancement tools 13. Bitly
Bitly creates shortened links to track the performance of your content once you promote it. Just be sure to include a bitly link – not the actual URL – in your content promotion. If you create a custom short link for each content promotion campaign, you can track what works well and what doesn’t.
Create a custom short link for each #content promotion campaign so you can track it. @SujanPatel.
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How much does it cost? Free for general use; enterprise packages for branded links14. OptinMonster
OptinMonster helps you build up your email list. This is, for me, key to promoting my content by ensuring that I’m getting it in front of people who care about my content. OptinMonster does this by helping you build high-converting lead-generation forms.
How much does it cost? $9 to $29 a monthHANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:
How to Build Your Email List: The (Better Than) Ultimate Guide 15. MozBar
You may be familiar with Moz’s Chrome extension, MozBar, although you might not think of it as a content promotion tool. I find the ability to view a site’s domain authority at a glance to be invaluable when qualifying sites that I’m considering promoting content to.
How much does it cost? FreeHANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:
The New Marketer’s Guide to Perfecting Your Content Promotion Process 16. BuzzSumo
BuzzSumo is perhaps best known as a content discovery tool, but it’s also excellent for identifying influencers who might be interested in viewing and sharing your content.
To switch over to this part of the tool, just click the “influencers” tab at the top of the page. Then, simply search for your topic of interest. You can filter the results according to the type of influencer you want to approach.
How much does it cost? Free limited access; $79 and up for pro accountsHANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:
An 8-Step Process to Use Influencers to Elevate Your Brand 17. Zurb
Your subject line almost single-handedly dictates whether your email gets opened. Zurb shows how your subject line, as well as your sender name and pre-header text, will render on popular mobile devices.
How much does it cost? Free
Promote your #content with a great subject line. @Zurb helps you test it for mobile, says @SujanPatel.
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18. Ninja Outreach
Ninja Outreach helps you find influencers and identify opportunities (more than 5 million influencers in its database). It then allows you to automate outreach, track your contacts, and organize your campaigns.
How much does it cost? $49 a month for an individual account; up to $599 for an enterprise account19. Sniply
Sniply allows you to enhance every link you share (whether your own content or someone else’s) with a call to action. Use the CTA to encourage the viewer to visit your site and consume your content.
When people click on the Sniply-generated link, they can view the article you shared and see a CTA.
How much does it cost? $29 for a personal account; $299 for an agency account
What content promotion tools are you using that I’ve not included here? It’d be great if you could take a minute to share details in the comments.HANDPICKED RELATED CONTENT:
Create, Distribute, and Share: 15 Essential Content Marketing Templates
Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).
Want to expand your content promotion skills? Subscribe to CMI’s free daily newsletter and make plans to hear from the experts at Content Marketing World, Sept. 5-8 in Cleveland, Ohio. Use code BLOG100 to save $100.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute
The post 19 Favorite Tools for Content Promotion in 2017 appeared first on Content Marketing Institute.