Content Marketing Interview: Margaret Magnarelli on Applying Journalistic Integrity to Content Strategy #CMWorld

Margaret Magnarelli Interview

Content marketers come from all sorts of different backgrounds, with each bringing its own distinct and valuable perspective. Recently we shared our chat with Andrew Davis, whose history in television inspires him to think like a TV executive when strategizing his content. Today we’re highlighting the insights of Margaret Magnarelli, whose ingrained journalistic mindset fuels a commitment to putting her audience — and their trust — above all else. 

Prior to joining Morgan Stanley as Executive Director for Audience Acquisition and Growth Marketing, Margaret served as Vice President of Marketing for Monster, and before that she spent nearly a decade on the editorial staff at Money Magazine, rising from Senior Editor to Assistant Managing Editor to Executive Editor.

Through this experience, she has developed a keen sense of duty to her audience. She knows that trust is hard-earned and easily lost (or: gained in drops, lost in buckets). This is a central tenet of faithful journalists everywhere. I can attest as a fellow j-school grad: this field holds truth and accuracy as sacred ideals. 

At Content Marketing World 2019, Margaret will speak on The Power of Trust: How to Build Credibility with Customers — and Convince Them to Buy. Ahead of her session, she starred in TopRank Marketing and CMI’s CMWorld preview experience, where she declares that in order to put on an unforgettable show for your audience, “Trust is your ticket to admission, and therefore needs to be treated as a main event.”

In an expanded interview with us, Margaret expands on her enlightened viewpoints as they apply to building trust, being mindful of word counts, balancing facts versus feelings, and much more.

Margaret Magnarelli on Putting Your Audience First

1. Congrats on your recent move to a new position! What does your role as Executive Director for Audience Acquisition and Growth Marketing at Morgan Stanley entail?

Thank you! My job focuses on the development of audience using organic channels. I oversee the firm’s social media and SEO strategies, as well as managing projects that help us optimize conversion rates. Basically, I’m thinking about how we introduce new people to our brand, and how we direct those people to the services that will help them. 

The backbone of all of this is content that exemplifies Morgan Stanley’s core values: leading with exceptional ideas, giving back, putting clients first, and doing the right thing. These values are the framework for how we serve consumer and institutional clients. I was drawn to the firm because of its focus on relationships as customer experience, its emphasis on content as a driver of marketing, and its commitment to volunteerism and philanthropy.  

While my background prior to this job was content development and strategy, I took this role sitting alongside content creation—and an incredible content team—because I wanted to dig  deeper into the audience aspects of marketing. After all, you can have the best product to sell and best creative to sell it with, but if you’re not reaching the right audience you aren’t going to be effective.

2. You have a background in journalism. How does this experience influence your views on the importance of trust in content marketing?

I’m definitely predisposed to care about trust from my j-school training. As a journalist, you have a duty to be responsible to your audience—to seek out the most objective truth that is possible and to present an accurate representation of what you learn. I feel that same obligation to my audiences as a marketer. In other words, I think I have a more customer-centric approach because that’s how I was trained in journalism. 

Another thing: Journalistic writing requires proof points, whether that’s supporting statistics, expert quotes or telling anecdotes. These same proof points are needed in marketing to support the brand-forward, top-funnel storytelling you need to do to attract initial attention. Immediately after you’ve established contact, you need evidence to show that you have the capability to do what you say you can do; otherwise it’s just fluff.

[bctt tweet=”Journalistic writing requires proof points, whether that’s supporting statistics, expert quotes or telling anecdotes. These same proof points are needed in marketing. @mmagnarelli” username=”toprank”]

3. What other lessons from serving in a magazine editorial role are applicable to your current content focus?

I believe every word counts. You can say the same thing 1,000 different ways, and each one will convey something different to the audience. Simple word choice changes seriously impact perception. So how do you choose? Some of that is gut—“does this feel like our brand?” and “how do we take the way we talk to customers in real life and translate that to digital experience?”—and some is science, like A/B testing language on a conversion module. You can take conversion as a kind of measure of trust. 

4. What are some of the biggest credibility-killers you come across when consuming marketing content?

There’s still a lot of marketing content out there that’s basically “why we want to sell you this thing” rather than “how we can help you solve a problem with what we sell.” 

Social science indicates that benevolence is a key aspect of trust. Does your content show your audience that you understand their problem and that you have their best interests in mind? This isn’t a heavy lift to incorporate into content—simply acknowledging and validating the problem in your work can go a long way. It’s not hard but you don’t see it done as much as it could be.

In addition, I am not a huge fan of marketing that’s 100% about building a feeling. Today’s consumers are smarter than that. Millennials in particular are a skeptical audience; they can see through the pretty pictures and snarky marketing copy. By all means, take them to an emotional place (aspiration, inspiration, hope, connection, etc.) if that’s right for your brand—but make sure you give them the evidence they need to know that you’re the right choice, that your products work. Show data from independent product studies, include customer reviews, mention third-party awards, share like-customer success stories, offer the option of product walkthroughs.

5. Conversely, what are some tactics and techniques you view as most successful for building customer trust (especially during early engagements)?

Back to the Millennial and Gen Z consumers: All the research shows that they’re looking for brands that align with their values. So transparency is super important. The three main opportunities for transparency are price, process, and provenance. What can you tell your customers about why your services are priced as they are, about how your products were made, and about where they come from?

[bctt tweet=”The three main opportunities for transparency are price, process, and provenance. @mmagnarelli” username=”toprank”]

6. Which digital channels do you recommend prioritizing when it comes to cultivating a credible and authentic brand?

All of them! I think your brand needs to come off as credible consistently for people to trust you. In fact, inconsistency across channels can erode trust, because it may look like you’re saying one thing in one space and something else in another. That said, a good rule of thumb is that the more intimate the medium, the more trust is at stake. Where someone is signing up for an email newsletter from you—where they’ve given up their email address—they expect more from you than they would seeing your content broadcast on a social channel. They expect a value exchange, and whether they get what they thought they would get impacts trust. 

I also think the content created for organic search is another key area, since you have the opportunity to attract someone from a side door with a specific intent and zero brand awareness; your answer to their question will have a big impact on whether you can be trusted on more consequential matters. [Editor’s Note: We couldn’t agree more!]

7. Which speakers and/or sessions are you most looking forward to seeing at this year’s Content Marketing World?

You can basically throw a dart at the CMWorld schedule and have an educational and inspirational experience! I’m excited to see old friends and favorites who are too many to name, but I am also going to focus more on SEO and conversion topics this year. Among the ones I hope to attend: Mark Zimmerman from PublicisSapient on SEO and voice, Christopher White from Capital One since it’s a similar financial space, Val Geisler on reducing audience churn, Dennis Shiao on building community, Adam Constantine from Pace on creating compelling social creative, Katie Tweedy on evolving search landscape, Eli Schwartz on growth experimentation, Wally Koval on creating an audience for @accidentallyweanderson. 

Change is the only constant in content marketing, and you’ve got to have a growth mindset to continue besting your own results. I also believe in a teaching mindset, as a way of paying it forward for all I’ve learned from others. I know there are tons of people in the audience at CMWorld who have even better ideas than I do, and I hope to see some of them on the stage next year. If you’ve seen results, you have something to share with your peers. Don’t be shy. Your community needs to hear from you!

[bctt tweet=”Change is the only constant in content marketing, and you’ve got to have a growth mindset to continue besting your own results. @mmagnarelli” username=”toprank”]

Step Right Up and Be Amazed!

We’re looking forward to seeing Margaret take the stage on September 4th at CMWorld 2019, where she’ll drive home the power of trust in today’s content marketing landscape. 

As we count down the days to the big show, you can get your fill of awesome content marketing insights — from Margaret and many other speakers — by gaining free admission to The Greatest Content Marketing Show on Earth!

The post Content Marketing Interview: Margaret Magnarelli on Applying Journalistic Integrity to Content Strategy #CMWorld appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

7 Psychological Techniques to Increase Your Web Page Dwell Time (With Examples from Experts)

7 Psychological Techniques to Increase Your Web Page Dwell Time (With Examples from Experts)

A high click-through rate (CTR) may help you get higher rankings on the search results pages. But a high dwell time will help you keep those rankings.

When a search engine user visits your page and spends a lot of time going through your content, search engines see your page as providing value.

And in most cases, this is true.

As Duane Forrester said when he first used the term “dwell time” on Bing’s blog:

“If your content does not encourage them to remain with you, they will leave. The search engines can get a sense of this by watching the dwell time.”

He then continued:

“And while that’s not the only factor we review when helping to determine quality, it’s a signal we watch.”

Now, the big question is: how do you present accurate information on your web pages and still ensure visitors stay long enough to read?

Have you wondered why people stick around on a page and bounce off another? As a matter of fact, one of the most powerful reasons is human psychology.

Writers and content marketers who have mastered human psychology use this knowledge to gain an edge and keep visitors on their pages.

Fortunately, in this post, I’ll show you 7 psychological techniques you can use to keep people on your page. And to improve your rankings in Google and other search engines.

Plus how experts have used these techniques on their pages.

Let’s begin.

1. Tell a story

Stories are one of the most captivating human experiences. And this starts from early childhood. What is one of the best ways to connect with children and adults? Telling stories.

Because stories make us human.

Whether you engage in website SEO or you build websites or you fly to Mars, you are making stories. That is why history is a bunch of stories about the past.

Paul Zak’s research shows that stories change our brains. He said, “Stories that are personal and emotionally compelling engage more of the brain, and thus are better remembered than simply stating of facts.”

Now, you need to find the story that your audience cares about and can connect to. When writing about a topic, what are the stories behind it that can captivate readers?

One of the best stories you will find in a post is by popular writer Jon Morrow. In fact, this story is so captivating that it is the most popular guest post on ProBlogger.
Tell a story like how I quit my job for changing workplace

Why does this story work? It connects with some of the basic worries that bloggers battle with daily. Jon Morrow uses his story to explain how they can overcome these doubts and problems.

2. Use lists of three

People use lists to memorize objects. Even though you’ve probably heard that the brain can hold as many as 7 items at a time, a list of 3 is usually more memorable.

Looking around the world, many things exist in the list of 3 to aid better retention. The executive, the legislative, and the judiciary. The father, the son, and the holy spirit. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I came, I saw, I conquered.

To make your content memorable to readers and to hold their attention, make a list of 3 items that relate to your post.

In a post on Copyblogger, Brian Clark said, “If you want something stuck in someone’s head, put it in a sequence of three.”

You can also use this list in your headline to attract people to click-through. In Jon Morrow’s post referenced above, he used this list in his headline and part of the post.

Use list of three for changing workplace

3. Use a curiosity gap to attract

There are very few pieces of content that are entirely new. How do you make your content unique and keep your visitors from bouncing off your page?

A curiosity gap can be a lifesaver in this case. A curiosity gap will give your reader a piece of information, then create a gap to find out more.

This is supported by a curiosity study which found that people learn and retain more information when they are curious.

One way to avoid boring your audience is to give them something to get curious about. If you are addressing a popular topic, is yours a unique way of doing the task or a simpler explanation? What are they going to gain by the end of your post?

Another way to create a curiosity gap is to make a big or surprising claim at the beginning of your content. Common claims people make to increase curiosity are:

  • Going against conventional wisdom
  • Exaggeration
  • Surprising statistics

Look at a sentence in the introduction to one of the most popular posts about link building: the skyscraper technique.

Use Curiosity gap to attract for changing workplace

Considering how difficult link building is, Brian Dean made a big claim that will make anybody want to find out.

It is, however, important that you avoid making outrageous claims just for the sake of it. Some claims could make people dump your page which is the opposite of what you want.

4. Appeal to people’s emotions

Everybody is emotional when it comes to a topic they care about. When people are searching about how to clean their home, they want that emotion of feeling good about their neat environment.

When you look for tips that will give you an edge in the search results page, you want to beat your competitors, gain more customers, and increase revenue. In other words, you want that thrill of winning and serving people.

If you appeal to the right emotions, you will have a reader from the beginning of your content right till the end. Some common emotions to consider are:

  • Fear
  • Humor
  • Doubt
  • Anger
  • Sadness
  • Guilt
  • Trust
  • Happiness

See this post by Jeff Bullas about 3 startups that made it big:
Appeal to people's emotion like Jeff Bullas post about 3 startups for changing workplace

He talks about the fear that comes with success and the doubt stopping others. He then uses encouragement that keeps the reader glued.

While creating a piece of content, think of emotions that relate to the topic. And find a way to weave them into your content.

5. Ask questions to increase engagement

Questions help you reawaken people who are thinking of their last tweet while reading your post.

When you ask questions, you either make people realize the fact they know the answer or are ignorant of it.

Whatever your aim, it will keep your audience engaged.

To give your questions the best effects possible, you should ask them at the points where you are about to reveal important details to your audience.

Check out this example of a post about buying traffic by Lindsay Marder on Digital Marketer:
Ask questions to increase engagement for changing workplace

Despite the fact she is stating the question concerning the experts, any reader would try to answer this question too. And to even consolidate that, she uses curiosity on the next line.

It is difficult for any reader to stop reading at this point. Perhaps, it is no wonder the post has 4 thousand shares.

6. Use numbers to improve specificity

Why do you think listicles are so popular? Because it gives a feeling of specificity. In fact, this post you are reading is a listicle.

For instance, a study by Conductor found that 36% of people prefer headlines with numbers.

Use Numbers to Improve Specificity like the conductor overall headline preferences for changing workplace

Numbers give clarity. And that is vital in some cases.

That’s why statistics and case studies are so popular. Did you just make a claim in your post? You can use a statistic or case study to support it.

These are raw numbers that increase your authority. If your solution can increase your audience’s traffic or revenue, by how much? 50%? 500%?

Numbers remove ambiguity from your content. You can also eliminate every avenue of misunderstanding.

$500 more is a specific value. Saying “more money” means different values to different people.

In this post about the increasing share of searches resulting in no clicks, Rand Fishkin used numbers to support his claims.

Google Searches Resulting in Zero Clicks for changing workplace

Of course, without numbers from the study, readers will lose interest and leave the page. Here, the audience wants to see the numbers.

7. Ask for favors to aid consistency

According to human psychology, if you want people to like you, do something for them. If you want them to love you? Get them to do things for you.

That would explain the main reason parents love their children so much.

People want to be consistent.

If they have taken an action due to your instruction or dropped their email address to get your ebook, it’s easier to read your post due to their prior investment.

In the book, Influence, by psychologist Robert Cialdini, he said, “Once we have made up our minds about an issue, stubborn consistency allows us a very appealing luxury: We really don’t have to think hard about the issue anymore.”

You don’t need to ask for a big favor, it’s enough to ask them to take a simple action that would make them invest something while reading. This would make them more likely to read till the end.

Check out this post about creating bookmark-worthy content where Bill Widmer asks for a favor: to bookmark the page.

Ask for favor to aid consistency like the post about creating bookmark worthy content for changing workplace

Here is a case where Ramit Sethi talks about the engagement he got on his post when he asked his readers for a favor. Do you see the numbers?

Ramit Sethi talks about the engagement he got for changing workplace


Getting organic visitors to stay on your website is much more than the details you want to present. You also have to present it in an attractive way.

When you hook visitors on your page, you can get them to stay longer on your page, visit other pages, and thereby reduce bounce rates. Consequently, search engines will see this as a positive signal and rank your pages higher in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Of course, not all of these techniques will work all the time. But you can always apply them where possible in your content.

Bookmark this page as a reference while trying to create your next compelling piece of content. Also, share this post with your friends. You don’t want them to miss this right?

Guest author: Olumide Samuel is the founder of Copywriters Now. He’s a content marketer who helps businesses create valuable and results-oriented content. You can get more details on his blog or follow him on Twitter @Olumide_Fab

The post 7 Psychological Techniques to Increase Your Web Page Dwell Time (With Examples from Experts) appeared first on Jeffbullas's Blog.