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Engagement Marketing 101

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Getting traffic to a site is one thing. How do we best engage visitors once they arrive?

Since Update Penquin/Panda, engagement metrics have become more important. In order for our sites to rank well, we need to avoid the bounce – the immediate click-back – or we’re likely to experience drops in ranking. We need to pull visitors deeper into our site. We need more genuine engagement.

Even if engagement metrics had no impact on rankings, optimizing for engagement is always going to be beneficial. The more engaged our audience, the more influence we’re likely to have, and we derive the benefits that flow from it.

Here are a few ideas on visitor engagement, and how to optimize for it.

Two-Way

When visitors have so many options, it’s difficult to engage them for long. We can’t accommodate every need on one site. It’s certainly impossible to accommodate every need within one or two clicks. So, to make the most of every opportunity, we should be optimizing engagement factors.

One problem with content-based approaches is that they tend to be top-down. The visitor is assumed to be a somewhat passive recipient of published information. However, at the heart of engagement is a two-way conversation. In order to foster engagement, we must encourage participation, as opposed to simply deliver content.

The web is moving from an information age to a relationship age. Social media demonstrates that information is intersecting in new ways. Information is being sliced, diced, repurposed, remixed and redelivered, turning “recipients” into producers. The act of consumption changes the information, and often creates new information. Conversation, as discussed in the Cluetrain Manifesto, is crucial in this new economy.

“Historically, the authors state, the marketplace was a location where people gathered and talked to each other: they would discuss available products, price, reputation and in doing so connect with others (theses 2–5.) The authors then assert that the internet is providing a means for anyone connected to the internet to re-enter such a virtual marketplace and once again achieve such a level of communication between people. This, prior to the internet, had not been available in the age of mass media (thesis 6.)”

And that conversation will largely be decided by our visitors. It certainly reshapes marketing. To give an offline example, what’s the problem with marketing television and radio? We watch or listen to the content, but the marketing keeps jumping in, which is intrusive and disruptive.

Engagement Marketing is the opposite. The marketer hangs back and engages with the visitor of and when they need it. Look for ways the visitor can initiate and direct the engagement.

Benchmark/Define Success Metrics

How do we best measure engagement?

We start with a benchmark, which is the current level of engagement. We could look at the engagement link in Google Analytics. Typical measurements include time on site, pages per visit, inbound links, mentions on twitter, return visits, new users per date range, categories of interest, and page depth.

All good. If those metrics increase, it certainly feels like we’re being more engaging. One example might be to examine visitor flow through the site. If we can identify bottlenecks – the point where engagement breaks down – then we can adjust our approach at this point to clear the bottleneck.

But we need to be sure this engagement benefits us. Are these metrics aligned with our business goals? People might well be spending a lot of time on our site, but that might be because they’re lost. We might be getting a lot of mentions on Facebook and Twitter, but are these people actually buying anything? Mentions on Twitter & Facebook might be great metrics for a brand strategy, but not so great for conversion strategy, at least, not in the short term, and not in isolation.

Engagement must translate, and be aligned with, business goals. When choosing what engagement metrics to measure, ask yourself how this type of engagement helps achieve your goals. Also, are there other types of engagement we could foster to support own goals?

Practical Lessons In Engagement

This video is a little sales pitch-y, but contains some interesting lessons on optimizing engagement.

Optimizer, Dan Siroker, who once worked for Google before moving onto the Obama campaign talks about how they used metrics to increase engagement. Both Obama campaigns have demonstrated effective use of digital engagement and measurement to help produce a desired election result. The techniques involve establishing a baseline i.e. seeing what they do already and increasing performance by making tweaks and adjustments, and measuring the result.

He found that, generally speaking, these rules apply when optimizing for engagament:

Start By Defining Success: How will you know if your engagement optimization has worked? Decide on a few, quantifiable measures based around a visitor taking a desirable action. Link those actions to business return.

Less Is More – if we reduce choice, people are more likely to engage. In this example, they reduced the fields people needed to fill in to only those actually required, rather than all the information that may be desirable. Look for ways you can streamline and thus boost engagement.

Words Matter – focus on your call to action. Calls to action tend to work best when you tell the visitor exactly what they have to do. Be explicit. In this example, they compared the phrase “Free trial” vs “Try It Free”. The latter resulted in 14.6% improvement. This was most likely because it was an explicit call to action. However, the “why” doesn’t really matter. The point is to measure one thing against another and see what actually works.

Fail Fast And fail cheap!. It’s all about being iterative. Being flexible. Trying things out. The underlying presumption is that a lot of things we do aren’t going to work, no matter how logical and rational they seem to be when we devise them.

So, rather than be afraid to make a change, as this may result in failure, grasp the opportunity to make a change and be sure to “fail fast”. If something is not working out, cut it quickly, and try something else, until it does work. If it hurts, dump it quick and move on.

Start Today It’s easy to talk about being engaging, but what really matters is taking action to be more engaging. If there’s one thing you can do today to make your site more engaging, what would it be? Go do that. Test it. And then do something else tomorrow 🙂

In the video, Dan talks mostly about process changes. Another area is, of course, web design.
This article talks about the influence of design on engagement, based on opinion on what design is preferable to another.

If we go back to the rules of engagement, the important thing to do is to test. Test one design against each other to see which is more engaging based on desired visitor action. Ensure the engagement measurement is aligned with a business goal i.e. “we want more 50% orders via our web site”.

Social Media Engagement?

Do Blogs, Twitter and Facebook help you meet your engagement goals?

Is anyone reading our posts? If they do, what do they do next? Anything? Many people are very busy in this space, but generate little or no return on investment. When it comes to engagement, it’s one thing to measure activity, quite another to measure if that activity actually means something.

Part of the problem is not focusing on ROI. Determine your business goals, then shape your social media approach to bring about these goals. One example might be “Twitter traffic makes a donation to our cause”. We’d measure the Twitter traffic, and link it to a successful donation.

This is a good example of where metrics can be deceptive. If we measured Twitter traffic, and time on site, and depth of their activity on-site, that might look great in terms of engagement, but if it doesn’t serve a business purpose, then why are we doing it? If people spend more time on site, is that good? Well, not if we want them to sign up, but they didn’t

Engagement Media & Strategy

There is no substitute for relevance. Relevance is the first, essential step. The next step is pull the visitor in, get them contributing, and get them coming back.

Alan Moore, Director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT, puts it well:

Engagement marketing is “premised upon: transparency – interactivity – immediacy – facilitation – engagement – co-creation – collaboration – experience and trust, these words define the migration from mass media to social media. The explosion of: Myspace, YouTube, Second Life and other MMORPG’s, Citizen Journalism, Wicki’s and Swicki’s, TV formats like Pop Idol, or Jamies School Dinners, Blogs, social search, The Guinness Visitor Centre in Dublin or the Eden project in Cornwall UK, mobile games like Superstable or Twins, or, new business platforms like Spreadshirt.com all demonstrate a new socio-economic model, where engagement sits at the epicentre

In order for the following media examples and strategies to work well, they should have as many of these qualities – transparency – interactivity – immediacy – facilitation – engagement – co-creation – collaboration – experience and trust – as possible. No doubt you’ve experienced the frustration of heavily moderated and delayed visitor comments on mainstream media acticles. They rob the interaction of immediacy and trust, so it’s no wonder their business model is dying in the face of relatively open and immediate citizen media and reporting.

A quality content strategy is likely to keep people reading, bookmarking, and coming back. Quality is, of course, relative. Compare your content with that of your opponents. Obviously, your stuff needs to be better. Even if people do click away, they may well return if they look at your competitors and find their quality lacking.

Video and audio are linear, so people, once engaged, are likely to engage as long as the media lasts. Likewise, webcasts engage people in the same way, with the added bonus that visitors can interact, if they wish. If increasing time on site aligns with your business goals, then video and audio might be good media to try.

People love giving their opinion. Look for ways to allow them to do so. Blog comments, obviously. Forums. Encouraging people to Tweet or post to their favored social media channel. Implement chat applications, where appropriate, to seek direct feedback. Amazon’s value is considerably increased by their review system – by giving their customers a voice, whether their opinion is positive or negative.

Use mailing lists. These are especially useful for up sells and cross sells post-purchase. Up-sells are when you encourage the customer to buy something more expensive. Cross-selling is when we sell the existing customer an additional item. I receive special discounts from a clothing retailer I buy from on a regular basis, based on my previous buying history. This retains engagement after I’ve left the site, and because it’s relevant and beneficial, it doesn’t feel intrusive. It’s considerably more expensive to get a new customer, rather than look after those customers you’ve got, so look for ways to pass on that value to existing customers. They are likely to be highly receptive and willing to engage, as you’ve already convinced them once.

Brand. A huge topic, but let’s take a look at brand in terms of engagement. A brand is an experience. We associate feelings and thoughts with a brand. Apple’s brand is as much about technology as it is about fashion, desirability and identity. Apple creates engagement on a number of levels, but perhaps the most effective is that you become a “member of a club” when you buy an Apple product. The sense of belonging, and defending and asserting your purchase in the cleverly constructed “Apple vs everything else” debate creates a deep level of engagement.

Try to foster a sense of community. It runs very deep in the human psyche. We used to get a sense of community by geographic location. but now our sense of community is largely defined by the tribes to which we belong.

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SEO Book.com

Counterspin on Shopping Search: Shady Paid Inclusion

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Bing caused a big stink today when they unveiled Scroogled, a site that highlights how Google Shopping has went paid-inclusion only. A couple weeks ago Google announced that they would be taking their controvercial business model global, in spite of it being “a mess.”

Nextag has long been critical of Google’s shifts on the shopping search front. Are their complaints legitimate, or are they just whiners?

Data, More Reliable Than Spin

Nothing beats data, so lets start with that.

This is what Nextag’s search exposure has done over the past few years, according to SearchMetrics.

If Google did that to any large & politically connected company, you can bet regulators would have already took action against Google, rather than currently negotiating with them.

What’s more telling is how some other sites in the shopping search vertical have performed.

PriceGrabber, another player in the shopping search market, has also slowly drifted downward (though at a much slower rate).

One of the few shopping search engines that has seen a big lift over this time period was Yahoo! Shopping.

What is interesting about that rise is that Yahoo! outsourced substantially all of their shopping search product to PriceGrabber.

A Self-Destructing Market Dynamic

The above creates an interesting market dynamic…

  • the long established market leader can wither on the vine for being too focused on their niche market & not broadening out in ways that increase brand awareness
  • a larger site with loads of usage data can outsource the vertical and win based on the bleed of usage data across services & the ability to cross promote the site
  • the company investing in creating the architecture & baseline system that powers other sites continues to slide due to limited brand & a larger entity gets to displace the data source
  • Google then directly enters the market, further displacing some of the vertical players

The above puts Nextag’s slide in perspective, but the problem is that they still have fixed costs to manage if they are going to maintain their editorial quality. Google can hand out badges for people willing to improve their product for free or give searchers a “Click any fact to locate it on the web. Click Wrong? to report a problem” but others who operated with such loose editorial standards would likely be labeled as a spammer of one stripe or another.

Scrape-N-Displace

Most businesses have to earn the right to have exposure. They have to compete in the ecosystem, built awareness & so on. But Google can come in from the top of the market with an inferior product, displace the competition, economically starve them & eventually create a competitive product over time through a combination of incremental editorial improvements and gutting the traffic & cash flow to competing sites.

“The difference between life and death is remarkably small. And it’s not until you face it directly that you realize your own mortality.” – Dustin Curtis

The above quote is every bit as much true for businesses as it is for people. Nothing more than a threat of a potential entry into a market can cut off the flow of investment & paralyze businesses in fear.

  • If you have stuff behind a paywall or pre-roll ads you might have “poor user experience metrics” that get you hit by Panda.
  • If you make your information semi-accessible to Googlebot you might get hit by Panda for having too much similar content.
  • If you are not YouTube & you have a bunch of stolen content on your site you might get hit by a copyright penalty.
  • If you leave your information fully accessible publicly you get to die by scrape-n-displace.
  • If you are more clever about information presentation perhaps you get a hand penlty for cloaking.

None of those is a particularly desirable way to have your business die.

Editorial Integrity

In addition to having a non-comprehensive database, Google Shopping also suffers from the problem of line extension (who buys video games from Staples?).

The bigger issue is that issue of general editorial integrity.

Are products in stock? Sometimes no.

It is also worth mentioning that some sites with “no product available” like Target or Toys R Us might also carry further Google AdSense ads.

Then there are also issues with things like ads that optimize for CTR which end up promoting things like software piracy or the academic versions of software (while lowering the perceived value of the software).

Over the past couple years Google has whacked loads of small ecommerce sites & the general justification is that they don’t add enough that is unique, and that they don’t deserve to rank as their inventory is unneeded duplication of Amazon & eBay. Many of these small businesses carry inventory and will be driven into insolvency by the sharp shifts in traffic. And while a small store is unneeded duplication, Google still allows syndicated press releases to rank great (and once again SEOs get blamed for Google being Google – see the quote-as-headline here).

Let’s presume Google’s anti-small business bias is legitimate & look at Google Shopping to see how well they performed in terms of providing a value add editorial function.

A couple days ago I was looking for a product that is somewhat hard to find due to seasonal shopping. It is often available at double or triple retail on sites like eBay, but Google Shopping helped me locate a smaller site that had it available at retail price. Good deal for me & maybe I was wong about Google.

… then again …

The site they sent me to had the following characteristics:

  • URL – not EMD & not a brand, broken English combination
  • logo – looks like I designed it AND like I was in a rush when I did it
  • about us page – no real information, no contact information (on an ecommerce site!!!), just some obscure stuff about “direct connection with China” & mention of business being 15 years old and having great success
  • age – domain is barely a year old & privacy registered
  • inbound links – none
  • product price – lower than everywhere else
  • product level page content – no reviews, thin scraped editorial, editorial repeats itself to fill up more space, 3 adsense blocks in the content area of the page
    • no reviews, thin scraped editorial, editorial repeats itself to fill up more space, 3 adsense blocks in the content area of the page
    • no reviews, thin scraped editorial, editorial repeats itself to fill up more space, 3 adsense blocks in the content area of the page
    • no reviews, thin scraped editorial, editorial repeats itself to fill up more space, 3 adsense blocks in the content area of the page
    • the above repetition is to point out the absurdity of the formatting of the “content” of said page
  • site search – yet again the adsense feed, searching for the product landing page that was in Google Shopping I get no results (so outside of paid inclusion & front/center placement, Google doesn’t even feel this site is worth wasting the resources to index)
  • checkout – requires account registration, includes captcha that never matches, hoping you will get frustrated & go back to earlier pages and click an ad

It actually took me a few minutes to figure it out, but the site was designed to look like a phishing site, with intent that perhaps you will click on an ad rather than trying to complete a purchase. The forced registration will eat your email & who knows what they will do with it, but you can never complete your purchase, making the site a complete waste of time.

Looking at the above spam site with some help of tools like NetComber it was apparent that this “merchant” also ran all sorts of scraper sites driven on scraping content from Yahoo! Answers & similar, with sites about Spanish + finance + health + shoes + hedge funds.

It is easy to make complaints about Nextag being a less than perfect user experience. But it is hard to argue that Google is any better. And when other companies have editorial costs that Google lacks (and the other companies would be labeled as spammers if they behaved like Google) over time many competing sites will die off due to the embedded cost structure advantages. Amazon has enoug scale that people are willing to bypass Google’s click circus & go directly to Amazon, but most other ecommerce players don’t. The rest are largely forced to pay Google’s rising rents until they can no longer afford to, then they just disappear.

Bonus Prize: Are You Up to The Google Shopping Test?

The first person who successfully solves this captcha wins a free month membership to our site.

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SEO Book.com

Souping Up Your SERP: Snippet Tips for Small Biz SEO

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Souping Up Your SERP: Snippet Tips for Small Biz SEO was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

You typed your business’s name into Google and you’re wondering how to enhance the way your result looks. How can you get those features you see when you type your competitor’s names in the search engine?

Here’s a resource guide on the ways you can dress up your results when they show up in Google. You’ve got a lot of things going on in your day-to-day running a business duties, so bookmark this page and come back to it whenever you have some time to dedicate to marketing.

Sitelinks

Sitelinks are multiple pages on a single domain linked to from one search result. Sitelinks have morphed over the years in their exact appearance. These days you’re likely to come across something like this in the SERP:

google sitelinks 2-column example

In a 2-column Sitelinks layout, up to 12 popular pages within a domain may be linked to. The links are often accompanied by a snippet of text describing the page and the URL.

 

You’ll also see one-line sitelinks popping up:

one-line sitelinks example

Up to four links to pages within a domain in a horizontal layout, called one-line sitelinks.

The current form of sitelinks and preference controls available to webmasters were established in 2011.

Optimizing Sitelinks

First, you should know that Google uses an algorithm to decide whether to display Sitelinks, and if so, which pages to use.

In a Google Webmaster Help video, Matt Cutts explains that Sitelinks don’t show up for every query, but are triggered mostly for navigational searches, when a website is likely to be in position one. He says, “We do it when we believe it’s useful for users and we have data to support that fact.”

So you can’t tell Google what pages to use as Sitelinks, but you can use Webmaster Tools to “demote” pages you’d prefer not show up as Sitelinks. You can think of Google’s ranking algorithm as a formula of positive and negative factors, and demoting is a negative signal and the only explicit one a site owner has to influence Sitelinks.

And you can influence Sitelinks on your site through SEO. As Google illuminates in its blog post, sitelinks are “generated and ranked algorithmically based on the link structure of your site.” This gives us insight into the importance of site structure, navigation and links in how Google designates pages for Sitelinks.

Read these 7 critical tactics for optimizing a site for Sitelinks.

Rich Snippets

A dressed up result is a big advantage in competing against the many links on Google’s results page. Rich snippets is Google’s name for these dressed up results, and webmasters can use special code markup to help Google generate them.

Here’s Google’s help resource for rich snippets. As you’ll see, there are a number of content types for rich snippets, including reviews, products, businesses and organizations, events and people.

recipe and ratings snippets

Snippets with ratings stars are the new normal for recipes. Is your vertical next?

Think of star ratings sitting in your business’s SERP snippet and the confidence it would instill in a searcher to click on your page. Or having product info, including product description, price and special offers listed right on the search result — a pretty compelling display. This is what you can do by adding some structured markup to your site pages. If you don’t believe me, some testing showed increased page views due to higher click-throughs from search results after rich snippets were implemented.

Optimizing Rich Snippets

The SEO’s Guide to Schema.org lists all the resources you need. Start by noting the announcements from Bing, Yahoo and Google about their joint support for Schema markup. When the major search engines come together for a cause, you know it’s a legitimate tool for search marketing and one that simply can’t be overlooked.

In there you also have access to Google’s announcement of its Structured Data Dashboard in Webmaster Tools. This is your toolbox for viewing and modifying structured data at the site level and page level as well as by item type.

And finally, you’ll want to view Google’s video tutorials about each of the different content types you can use structured markup on for rich snippets. The Schema Creator tool is helpful as it will do the job of writing the code for you. If you want to try your hand at it, know that the markup language used for rich snippets is relatively reasonable as far as difficulty to implement.

Authorship

One way to dress up a Google SERP listing is your smiling face. Not only will getting set up with Google Authorship give you a more attention-grabbing result, but you’ll also have access to more search analytics data in Webmaster Tools. Win win.

Virginia's author photo in a Google SERP

That’s my Google author photo in a SERP.

You can get your face in the SERP next to pages you wrote with 2 things:

1. A Google+ profile
2. Sign up for Google’s verified author program

An author photo on a snippet provides an undisputed advantage, increasing click-throughs for one SEO by 38 percent. One blog reported a difference of 484 percent click-throughs between authors with and without author photos. Understand that the advantage will quickly become a requirement in a level playing field as more people verify their Google+ profile and site authorship.

There are other benefits to verified authorship in Google. Google has reason to reward Google+ users, and theories that favorable SERP placement could be given to results with verified authors can’t be dismissed. Verified authors also get bonus links after a back-button click. If a search user clicks back to a Google SERP after having clicked through to a verified author’s post, more articles by that author will appear under the result.

Optimizing Authorship

Your Definitive Guide to Google Authorship Markup comes to you care of Search Engine Land. It explains in detail the various ways Google lets you verify your digital identity (there are three and it can get a little hairy so keep this step-by-step close).

No surprise, the quality of the author’s picture matters. One blogger tested photo variables including backgrounds and crop tightness, and in the end, his click through rate was 35 percent higher and engagement metrics showed improvement, too. Your audience and content will affect the image you may choose to use, yet however you represent yourself in your photo should be done with intention and quality in mind.

Author Stats in Webmaster Tools gives you valuable insight into how often your content is getting served up in a Google SERP. You’ll see the number of impressions and clicks, the click through rate and the average position of your content.

Some extra notes that probably don’t apply to everyone but should be mentioned:

  • Google allows for verification of authorship with an email address instead of a Google+ profile, but it’s not as clean and reliable a solution and so it’s not the preferred method.
  • For writers who contribute to more than one site, use the “Contributor to” include all the publications you write for.
  • WordPress can throw up some additional obstacles to implementing rel=”author” which you can read about in the SEL guide.

And of course, you’ll want this tool handy through all your optimization planning and implementation: Google’s Rich Snippet Testing Tool. You can preview what your SERP snippet will look like using the URL or plugging in the HTML. Happy optimizing!

Bruce Clay Blog

YouTube & Calculus: A Video Marketing Love Story (Plus Tips for Bootstrappers!)

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YouTube & Calculus: A Video Marketing Love Story (Plus Tips for Bootstrappers!) was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Five years ago I graduated from Notre Dame and started my first “real” job. About four years ago, it was clear to me that the corporate world was not everything I’d dreamed it would be. I simply was not cut out for cubicle life. I think most people last longer before reaching my same level of quiet desperation; I guess I just got lucky.

All I could think about was quitting and traveling around the world, but I didn’t know how to do that and pay my student loans at the same time, so I did a YouTube search for “make money doing what you love”. It became obvious to me that I had to start an online business. After all, how else was I going to get away with working from anywhere in the world?

A Graphical Representation of Passion, Love and Time

I started a couple websites that turned into nothing before I figured out what I really wanted to do. It seems crazy to most people, but calculus video tutorials were the right product for me because I love helping people get better at calculus. And I used to tutor other students back in college as a side gig. So I started integralCALC.com

I didn’t really know what I was doing at first. I managed to put up a website and make a YouTube channel. I was filming my videos with an old pocket camera, setting it on the coffee table in my living room and pointing it roughly at myself and my whiteboard. And I just kept filming and filming and filming, every spare minute I got on nights and weekends. I knew I wanted to help people, and I didn’t know how to build a business, so I just kept filming.

Since then, it’s been sheer determination that’s kept me going, and a long series of wrong turns that have landed me in the place I’m at today, which is a pretty great place to be. To date, people have watched millions of minutes of my videos, and the growing success of my business has allowed me to move down to part-time work. By next year, I plan to leave my day job and focus full time on integralCALC … and travel.

Here’s a quick example of the type of videos I create (this is an intro to one of my mini lectures on YouTube):

Since I started off as a bootstrapper myself, I learned a lot about video marketing from trial and error. Today, I’m going to share my lessons of video marketing, community and tips on how to make great videos for marketing when you don’t have a giant budget.

Video Marketing Lessons Learned

Video Matters

Written content may still have an edge when it comes to search engine algorithms, but video content can’t be beat when it comes to building community and social networks. Invariably, short videos posted to my Facebook or Twitter page get more likes and retweets than text posts.

Quality Matters

I’ll watch almost any video if it’s very well done. Yet despite that fact that it’s easier and more affordable than ever to create high-quality video content, most people don’t invest time into that extra layer of polish. In today’s online marketplace, you can still find a competitive edge by investing in video and audio quality, even if your competitors currently have you beat in viewers, subscribers or anything else.

Consistency Matters

People check your site when they’re expecting to hear from you. If they don’t know when you’ll publish, they don’t know when to visit you, so they just won’t. Communicating your publishing schedule and sticking to it makes it easy for your followers to follow you. Why wouldn’t you want do that? Make sure that you also prompt your users to sign up for your newsletter, subscribe to your channel, or connect with you on social networks. Give them plenty of opportunities to do so on your website, or on the end screen of your videos.

Viewers Matter

Every time I’ve asked my followers for feedback on something I’ve done, or input on something I’m going to do, I’m always surprised by their eagerness to share their ideas and opinions. And I often find that they disagree with the direction I’m heading. Don’t abandon your purpose for the sake of pleasing your audience, but be willing to give a little. Use your audience as a course correction tool to make sure you’re giving them what they want. If you’re curious about what they’ll think or what they’ll like, just ask; they’re happy to enlighten you.

Process Matters

I used to film my videos with a regular camera, then transfer the file to my computer, edit, export and upload. Switching to screencasting means I save myself the file transfer and the import into the editing software. Cutting out little steps like this can save you a ton of time, especially if you’re a frequent publisher. Look at every step in your process and decide whether it’s absolutely essential to meeting your primary objectives, or whether it can be eliminated.

Here’s a still shot of one of my oldest videos compared to one of my newest, so you can see how it’s evolved over the years:

integralCALC Before and After Video Still Shot

5 Video Marketing Must-Haves

  1. You. Know yourself, and don’t try to be someone you’re not. Write blog posts if you like writing; film videos if you like being in front of the camera. Your audience can sense immediately when you’re uncomfortable, and they don’t want to see you that way!
  2. But not too much you. My YouTube analytics consistently show me that people are more likely to click play on a shorter video, and more likely to stick with the video if the end is in sight. For example, if I publish a six-minute video, people will stop watching at the four-minute mark, but they’ll stay to the end of a five-minute video. Always be as concise as possible. Your viewers appreciate it.
  3. Great audio. I mentioned earlier that quality matters. For a long time, I invested in quality video, while ignoring quality audio, but I know now that ignoring audio quality is a huge mistake. I’m much more likely to watch something with so-so video quality and great audio, than I am to watch something with great video and awful audio. I use a Yeti microphone by Blue, because it’s a good mix of quality and affordability.
  4. Accountability. I’m not the best at keeping myself accountable. I’m passionate about what I do and I have a sense of purpose and determination, but sometimes it’s still hard to stay focused and put in the time. Make sure you have something or someone who keeps you accountable. This is one of the most important must-haves in my opinion, because a great idea or a great product doesn’t matter if you don’t keep going and execute. If you’re self-motivated, then set goals and timelines and stick to them. If not, involve someone you can trust to help keep you on track. Or, you can always use an option like Google Chrome’s StayFocused to deter procrastination.
  5. Knowledge. Don’t spend so much time learning that you neglect real progress in your business. Instead, set aside a predefined amount of time daily or weekly to stay up-to-date. “That was soooo last year” is now “That was soooo three months ago,” so it’s important to make sure you’re taking advantage of the latest and greatest, when it offers significant benefit to your business.

For example, when the “Sh*t so and so never says” meme hit the Internet, I knew I could use it as a way to connect with my audience, so I jumped on the trend right away. I produced the “Sh*t Calculus Students Never Say” video below in less than a week from discovering the meme.

More than anything, I want new entrepreneurs to know that success depends solely on your level of determination. I was unprepared to start a business. I am often intimidated by the amount of opportunity in front of me, and by the amount of work required to take advantage of it. Many times I’ve thought that I would never get this far. Now I know that all I have to do is keep going, and no matter how many wrong turns I make, it only gets better from here.

You can check out and subscribe to integralCALC videos on YouTube and on integralCALC.com. To stay up-to-date on Krista and integralCALC, check out integralCALC on Facebook and on Twitter @integralCALC.

Bruce Clay Blog

Manage Your Reputation

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How much value do you place on your good reputation?

If we looked at it purely from a financial point of view, our reputations help us get work, make money, and be more influential. On a personal level, a good name is something of which you can be proud. It is something tangible that makes you feel good.

You’re Everywhere

As it becomes increasingly easy for people to make their feelings known and published far and wide, many businesses are implementing reputation management strategies to help protect their good name.

This area used to be the domain of big business, who employed teams of PR and legal specialists to nurture, defend and promote established brands. Unlike small business, which didn’t have to worry about what someone on the other side of the country might have said about them as it didn’t affect business in their locality, larger entities were exposed nationally, and often internationally. It was also difficult for an individual to spread their grievance, unless it was picked up by mainstream media.

These days, everything is instant and international. Those with a grievance can be heard far and wide, without the need to get media involved. We hear about problems with brands across the other side of the country, or the world, just as easily as we hear about them in our own regions, or market niches. If someone is getting hammered in the search industry, you and I probably both hear about it, at roughly the same time. And so will everyone else.

Media stories don’t even have to be true, of course. False information travels just as fast, if not faster, than truth. Given the potential, it’s a wonder reputation problems don’t occur more often that they do.

This is why reputation management is becoming increasingly important for smaller firms and individuals. No matter how good you are at what you do, it’s impossible to please everyone all the time, so it’s quite possible someone could damage your good name at some point.

Much of the reputation management area is obvious and common sense, but certainly worth taking time to consider, especially if you haven’t looked at reputation issues up until now. When people search on your name, do they find an accurate representation of who you are and what you’re about? Is the information outdated? Are you seen in the same places as you competition? How does their reputation compare to yours?

Also, some marketers offer reputation monitoring and management as an add-one service to clients so it can be a potential new revenue stream for those offering consultancy services.

The Indelible Nature Of The Internet

In some respects, I’m glad the internet – as we know it – wasn’t around when I was at school. There were far too many regrettable nights that, these days, would be recorded from various angles on smartphones and uploaded to YouTube before anyone can say “that isn’t mine, officer!”

You’ve got to feel sorry for some of the kids today. Kids being kids, they sometimes do stupid things, but these days a record of stupidity is likely to hang around “forever”. Perhaps their grand-kids will get a laugh one day. Perhaps the recruiter won’t.

Something similar could happen to you, or your firm. One careless employee saying the wrong thing and the record could show up in search engines for a long time. If you’re building a brand, whether personal or related to a business, you need to look after it, nurture it, and defend it, if need be. We’ll look at a few practical ways to do so.

On the flip side, of course, the internet can help establish and spread your good reputation very quickly. We’ll also look at ways to push your good reputation.

Modern Media Is A Conversation

People talk.

These days, no matter how big a firm is, they can’t hide behind PR and receptionists. If they don’t want to join the conversation, so be it – it will go on all around them, regardless. If they aren’t part of it, then they risk the conversation being dictated by others.

So a big part of online reputation management is about getting involved in the conversation, and framing it, where possible i.e. have the conversation on your terms.

Be Proactive

Most us haven’t got time to constantly monitor everything that might be said about us or our brands. One of the most cost-effective ways to manage reputation is to get out in front of problems before they arise. If there is enough good things said about you, then the occasional critical voice won’t carry as much weight by comparison.

The first step is to audit your current position. Search on your name and/or brand. What do you see in the top ten? Do the results reflect what you’re about? Is there anything negative showing up? If so, can you respond to it by way of a comment section? This is the exact same information your customers will see, of course, when they look you up.

If you’re not seeing accurate content, you may need to update or publish more appropriate content on your own sites, and those sites that come up in the top ten, where possible. More aggressive SEO approaches involve flooding the SERPs with positive content in an attempt to push down any negative stories below the fold so they are less likely to be seen. This is probably not quite as effective as addressing the underlying issues that caused the negative press in the first place, unless the criticisms were malicious, in which case, game on.

Next, conduct the same set of searches on your competitors. How does their reputation compare? Are they being seen in places you aren’t? Are they getting positive press mentions that you could get, too? How does your reputation stack up, relatively speaking?

Listen

You can monitor mentions using services such as Google Alerts, Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, and various other tools. There’s another big list of tools here. Google runs “Me On The Web” as part of the Google Dashboard.

Monitor trends related to your industry. Get involved in fast breaking, popular trends and discussions. Be seen where potential customers would expect to see you. The more other people see you engaged on important issues, in a positive light, the more credibility you’re banking for the future. If you build up a high volume of “good stuff”, any occasional critical voice will likely get lost in the noise, rather than stand out. A lot of reputation management has to do with building positive PR ahead of any negatives that may arise later. You should be everywhere your customers expect to see you.

This is a common tactic used by authors selling on Amazon. They “encourage” good reviews, typically by handing out free review copies to friends, in order to stack the positive review side in their favor. The occasional negative review may hurt them, but not quite as much as if the number of negative reviews match the number of positive reviews. Some of them overdo it, of course, as twenty 5 star reviews, and nothing else, looks somewhat suspicious. When it comes to PR, it’s best to be believable!

Engage

Create a policy for engagement, for yourself, and other people who work for you. Keep it simple, and principle based, as principles are easier to remember and apply. For example, a good principle is to post in haste only if what you are saying is positive. If something is negative, pause. Leave it for a few hours. If it still feels right, then post. It’s so easy to post in haste, and then regret it for years afterwards.

Seek feedback often. Ask people how you’re doing, especially if you suspect you’ve annoyed someone or let them down in some way. If you give people permission to vent where you control the environment it means they are less likely to let off steam somewhere else. It may also highlight potential trouble-spots in your process, that you can fix and thus avoid repeats in future. I’ve run sites where the sales process has occasionally broken down, and had customers complain. It happens. I make a point of letting them vent, giving them more than they originally ordered, and apologizing to them for the problems. Not only does going over-and-above expectations prevent negative press, it has often turned disgruntled customers into advocates. They’ve increased their business, and referred others. Pretty simple, right, but good customer service is all part of the reputation management process.

Figure out who the influential people are in your industry and try and get onside with them. In a crisis, they may well help you out, especially if they see you’re being hard done by. If influential names weigh in on your behalf, this can easily marginalize the person who is being critical.

Security

Secure your stuff. Check out this awful story on Wired:

In the space of one hour, my entire digital life was destroyed. First my Google account was taken over, then deleted. Next my Twitter account was compromised, and used as a platform to broadcast racist and homophobic messages. And worst of all, my AppleID account was broken into, and my hackers used it to remotely erase all of the data on my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook.

Explaining what happened and getting it published on Wired is a pretty good crisis management response, of course. When you look up “Mat Horan”, you find that article. Separate your social media business and personal profiles. Secure your mobile phone. Check that your privacy settings are correct across social media. Simple stuff that goes a long way to protecting your existing reputation.

What To Do If You Do Hit Trouble

We can’t please everyone, all the time.

A critical factor is speed. If you spot trouble, get into the conversation early. This can prevent the problem festering and gathering it’s own momentum. However, before you leap in, make sure you understand the issue. Ask “what do these people want to happen that is not currently happening?”.

Also consider who is saying it. What’s their reach? If it’s just a ranter on noname.blogspot.com, or a troll attempt, it’s probably not worth your time, and engaging trolls is counter-productive. Someone influential, of course, requires kid glove treatment. One common tactic, especially if the situation is escalating beyond your control, is to try and take it offline and reach resolution that way. You can then go back to the online conversation once it has been resolved, rather than having the entire firefight a matter of indelible public record.

It’s illegal for people to defame you, so you could also consider legal action if the problem is bad enough. You could also consider engaging some PR help, particularly if the problem occurs in mainstream media. PR can be a bit hit and miss, but reputable PR professionals tend to have extensive networks of contacts, so may get you seen where it might be difficult for you to do so on your own. There are also dedicated reputation management companies, such as reputation.com, reputationchanger.com, and reputationmanagementagency.com who handle monitoring and public relations functions. NB: Included for illustration purposes. We have no relationship with these firms.

Practical examples of constructive responses to negative criticism can often be seen in the Amazon reviews.

For example, a writer can respond to any reviews made about their book. A good approach to negative statements is to thank the reviewer for taking the time to provide feedback, regardless of what they said, and address the issue raised in a calm, informative manner. Future customers will see this, of course, which provides yet another opportunity to sway their opinion. One great example I’ve seen was when the writer did all of the above AND offered the person providing the negative review an hour of free consulting so the reviewer could get the specific information he felt he was missing! One downside of this strategy, however, might be more copycat negative reviews aimed at getting the reviewer free consulting!

The same principle applies to any negative comment in other contexts. When a reader sees your reply, they get editorial balance that would otherwise be missing.

It’s obvious, yet important, stuff. If you’ve got examples of how you’ve handled reputation issues in the past, or your ideas on how best to manage reputation going forward, please add them to the comments to help others.

I’m sure they’ll remember you for it 🙂

Categories: 

SEO Book.com

Our Looking into the Crystal Ball of 2013 Predications Post

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It’s hard to believe it is the middle of December and a whole year has blown by.  To say 2012 was an interesting year would be an understatement, one thing is for sure, it was never dull!

Some of the SEOBook Moderators and I want to share what we feel will be hot (or not) in 2013, we have a diverse mixture of topics, opinions and practical marketing tactics for you to consider.  First up is our fearless leader Aaron Wall!

Aaron Wall

Aaron Wall Drawing.

Google Verticals

I believe we’ll see additional Google verticals launched (soon) and they’ll be added to the organic search listings.  My guess is that (now that the advisor ad units are below AdWords) we can expect to see Google seriously step into education & insurance next year. I also expect them to vastly expand their automotive category in 2013.

SEO’s Move On

Tired by the pace of change & instability in the search ecosystem (along with the “2 books of guidelines” approach of enforcement in the search ecosystem), many people who are known as SEOs will move on in 2013. Many of these will be via acquisitions, and many more will be due to people simply hanging it up & moving on.

Rebranding Away From SEO

A company in the SEO niche that has long been known as an SEO company will rebrand away from the term SEO. After that happens, that will lead to a further polarization of public discourse (where most anything that is effective and profitable gets branded as being spam), only further fueling #2.

Geordie Carswell from Clearly Canadian (err, we mean here)

Geordie Carswell Drawing.

Adwords

Regarding Adwords, Google will aggressively dial up Quality Scores on keywords that have languished in activity due to low-QS but haven’t yet been deleted by advertisers. They seem to have given Quality Scores a bump across the board in Q4, bringing in unexpected increases in traffic and cost to advertisers who weren’t aware ‘dormant’ keywords were even still in their accounts. It’s a fantastic revenue generator almost on-demand for Google if the quarterly numbers aren’t looking good.

Peter DaVanzo (aka Kiwi)

Peter da Vanzo Drawing.

Building Brand

More focus on building brands i.e. the people behind the site, their story, their history.

This is to encourage higher levels of engagement, leading to increased loyalty. Making the most of the traffic we already have

Eric Covino  (aka vanillacoke)

Vanilla Coke Drawing.

SEO Diversifies

I think the industry will continue to become more divisive as more people either get out or go more underground and those that continue to remain overly-public will continue to invent language to serve their own commercial purposes while chastising those who do not fall in line; labeling these folks as spammers and bad for the industry in desperate attempts at differentiation so they can continue to try and sell to brands and the lower part of the consumer pyramid (read: mindless sheep)

There will be exceptions where the company will do and probably continue to do really well, but largely those who try and move from being pure SEO agencies to full service [insert new term here] ad-type agencies will fail at delivering real value to their clients. These people will resort to more outing and public spam report filings despite their amusing posts on how they are “different” and “clean”. I believe this will spawn a return of enterprise-level SEO services to competent SEO’s and SEO firms but not to the “point, link, report ranking agencies”. I believe the latter will die a faster death in 2013. Technical proficiency in SEO will become more and more valuable as well, especially if enterprise-level SEO returns as I think it will.

SEO Pricing Structures Will Change

A fractured search landscape where data is harder to come by (not provided, rank checking issues, mobile disruption) in addition to frequent algo shifts and confusion with local rankings will make low-cost SEO much harder to justify and measure, especially in the local area. These issues, coupled with the rising cost of doing business online, will make low to even moderate budget SEO (really low 4 figures or high 3 figures per month) difficult to provide effectively and profitably over a sustained period of time.

The closing window will stay somewhat wide for those that stay around and can afford to take down the margins a bit on some projects. This would be a result of a fairy sizable exodus from the industry as a whole (the self-SEO crowd, for lack of a better term)

Debra Mastaler from Alliance Link

Debra Mastaler Drawing.

Mobile Applications (apps) and Content for Them

Doesn’t it seem like everyone has been talking about the mobile explosion for years now?  I’m jumping on that bandwagon but from a slightly different angle.

If your product lends itself to having an app, I’d urge you to get one started, even if it’s a basic program or you have to partner with someone to make it happen.  Recent statistics show there are one billion smart phone users and five billion mobile phone users in the world; being seen on mobile devices is no longer a novelty when those kinds of numbers are involved.  So how do you get your content in front of mobile users? 

For Android fans, you can turn your best content into an Android App by using tools like AppsGeyser.  Their simple three step process allows you to create apps by using content you’ve already written or showcasing a widget you have in service. If you have evergreen content or a popular widget a lot of people download, create an app to keep them one click away and receiving fresh streams of content from your site.

If you’re in a space already filled with apps or can’t create one, consider creating unique content to go with what is out there.   For example, novelist Robin Sloan created an iPhone app for “tappable” content.  To move the story along, you tap the screen to the next page.  It is a super simple concept that has exploded over the Internet.   (For more tappable story examples visit here)  creating this kind of content sets you apart from your competitors and provides you with a fresh news angle to pitch the media.

If you do create an app, add it to popular download sites like iTunes but make it exclusively available on your website first. 

(Tip:  Search on “content for iPad” for ideas on creating unique content for tablets and then use the suggestions above to promote them)

Video

OK, more impressive stats to start this section: 

“In general, we know that 800 million people around the world use YouTube each month, a stat that I’m sure we’re going to see increase to a billion soon.  And nearly all 100 of AdAge’s top 100 advertisers have run ad campaigns on YouTube and Google Display Network–98 in fact.”

There is the word “billion” again!  But there’s more and it comes appropriately, right after my pitch for mobile apps:

…”mobile access, which gets over 600 million views a day, tripled in 2011.”

They are talking about access to YouTube here, that’s an astonishing number of views per day.  Add to it video results have a tendency to:

  • be shown in the first fold of the organic search results (so annoying)
  • help make a site “sticky”
  • are easily passed around social media sites “like” Facebook

Three sound reasons why you should be involved in making and promoting video in 2013.  Since video works well on smartphones, I’d focus equal resources on creating, optimizing and promoting video and written content in 2013. Check out what top brands are doing on YouTube for promotion ideas, where they’re pimping their vids and how.   (And an app to play them on, see above) J

Content Partnerships and Variety is a Search Spice

I think everyone will agree using “content” is the tactic du jour when it comes to attracting links and traffic.  I expect the trend to continue and with good reason, online news outlets, magazines and topical blogs are as eager to run good content as webmasters are to place it.   Finding good outlets will be key, when you do, consider developing a “content partnership” with a set number of sites and negotiate to place more than written content.

What is a content partnership?  In a nutshell it’s an exclusive commitment you have to provide content to a set number of sites.  You find a handful of authoritative sites to write for and negotiate the amount and type of content you want to submit. They in turn, get a steady stream of well-produced content and build a solid editorial team.  Win-win!

In a perfect world it’s best to be the only one writing on a topic but we all know perfection is hard to achieve.  In that case, zero in on what you want to write about and approach an outlet with a narrow focus.  For example, instead of saying “I’ll write all your baby food articles”, say, “I’ll provide articles, podcasts and videos on natural and organic baby food articles”.  You are much more likely to get what you want if you agree to create content on a specific subject rather than a broad or general topic.

Authentic networking will be key in the future, lock down your sources early and take advantage of the popularity boost you’ll receive associating with highly visible, authority sites in your niche.  Use a variety of content methods, the public doesn’t live on written content alone.  Video, news and images dominate universal search results; create this type of content so you improve your chances of being seen especially if brands dominate your sector. (So annoying!)

Will Spencer from Tech FAQ

Panda Update Drawing.

The Value of Links

With Google penalizing obviously generated links instead of simply ignoring them, the value of less-obviously generated links will continue to rise. This will result in higher prices for paid links and an improved return on investment for those links. It will also bring link trading back in vogue, particularly with three-way linking.

We’ll be paying more (or charging more) for links than ever before. With most links being discounted or penalized, it will require fewer links to rank — but those links will have to be acquired at higher prices.

Anita Campbell from Small Business Trends

Anita Campbell Drawing.

Website Design Goes Pinterest

We are seeing more websites and blogs designed and displayed a la Pinterest. Content appears in visual boxes with limited text. With that comes a lot more of the infinite scroll – the page that never ends. The new Mashable design is an example. It is hard to tell whether this is a short term fad or a long term trend – but when you have an infinite scrolling page the footer often goes. So all those footer links – well, many may go away.

Social Media Gets the Blender Effect

Social media aggregators are popping up like mushrooms. Tools like Rebelmouse, Scoop.it, Paper.li and a dozen more grab Facebook posts, tweets, retweets and/or blog posts, and mix them all together in a visually appealing presentation that you can embed on your own domain. Some of these tools are not so hot for SEO (all the content is in javascript and/or iframes) or they duplicate a page that resides on the tool’s own site, and search agencies will have to get good at sorting them out and explaining the pros and cons to clients who say “I want one!”

The Line Between Content and Advertising Further Blurs:

The CPM rates of banner ads continue to drop, and the standard banner ad sizes are less appealing except as AdWords. The hot types of advertising today are:

  • Rich media such as ads that slide out or down when you slide over or large videos that begin to play, and larger sizes that take up a lot of space on the page (even Google this year introduced the 300 x 600 “half-page” size ad);
  • “Native ads” which are ads that sites like Twitter and Facebook sell such as sponsored tweets and sponsored posts – leading to the further commercialization of social media;
  • Sponsored content, such as sponsored blog posts and sponsored content features on news sites.

There are different schools of thought around sponsored content, and publishers and agencies need to understand the differences and figure out where they want to play. The natural tendency of many SEO professionals is to think of sponsored content purely as link building. But in my experience, sponsors can have many goals and they may have nothing to do with link building. For many sponsors, their goals are branding, product launch exposure, co-citation/co-reference, thought leadership, sales lead generation, general PR, and/or building positive social media sentiment.

Depending on the sponsor’s goals, sponsored content covers a wide range. It can range from run-of-the-mill link buying and selling, to various levels of guest blog posting (“spun” junk to high quality well-researched articles), to custom-written content pieces such as articles, eBooks and webinars that are clearly labeled as sponsored, designed to build thought leadership, reach out to new audiences, and to associate the sponsor’s name with certain topics.

Marketing agencies will want to sort out the client’s objectives, and also educate clients on the broader benefits to be had from sponsored content.

Now you know our thoughts for 2013, what are yours? 

On behalf of everyone here at SEOBook, we wish you a joyous holiday season and much success in 2013!


Debra Mastaler is an experienced link building & publicity expert who has trained clients for over a decade at Alliance-Link. She is the link building moderator of our SEO Community & can be found on Twitter @DebraMastaler.

SEO Book.com

Top 1 SEO Tips for 2013

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Posted by Dr. Pete

If we’ve learned anything in 2012, it’s that Google isn’t letting up on low-value tactics. We’ve had the Penguin update, 13 Panda updates (so many that we needed a new naming scheme), and a crackdown on low-quality Exact Match Domains (EMDs), to name just a few. While I can’t tell you Google’s next move, I can tell you one thing with absolute certainty – there’s more to come. So, how can you protect what you’ve built in 2013?

I was going to write a long list of suggestions, but I realized that they almost all boiled down to just one idea. I’m not going to toy with you – my top tip for 2013 SEO is this:

1. DIVERSIFY

If at any point in 2012 you asked “What’s the best [X] for SEO?” (link-building tactic, tag, directory, etc.), you’re already in trouble. Any single-tactic approach is short-term at best. Real companies, real link profiles, and real marketing are rich with variety.

So, what does that mean, practically? I’m going to cheat a bit and split my one tip into five kinds of diversity that I think are critical to your SEO success in the coming years.

1A. Diversify Anchor Text

Let’s start with an easy one. We’ve all known for a while that overly aggressive inbound link anchor text was pushing the envelope, and the Penguin Update definitely reinforced that message. If every link to your site reads “buy best Viagra cheap Viagra today!”, it might as well read “spam spam spammity spam,” especially if it’s in a sentence like:

If you’re looking for the best price on the new iPad and iPad cases, then buy best Viagra cheap Viagra today! and get a free bag of Acai berries.

It’s not natural, and you know it. What’s the best way to make your anchor text seem “natural?” Stop obsessing over it. Yes, anchor text is a signal, but any solid link profile is going to naturally use relevant text and appear in the context of relevant text. If you want to tweak the text on some of your high-authority links, go for it, but I wouldn’t break out the spreadsheets in 2013.

1B. Diversify Your Links

Are guest posts the one true answer to all of life’s questions or are they a scourge on our fragile earth? To read the SEO blogosphere in 2012, it’s hard to tell. Any link-building tactic can be low quality, if you abuse it. The problem is that someone reads a tip about how guest posts make good links and then they run off and publish the same slapped-together junk on 15,000 sites. Then they wonder why their rankings dropped.

Nothing screams manual link-building like a profile that’s built with only one tactic, especially if that tactic is too easy. At best, you’re eventually going to be doomed to diminishing returns. So, take a hard look at where your links came from in 2012 and consider trying something new next year. Diversify your profile, and you’ll diversify your risk.

1C. Diversify Traffic Sources

There’s an 800-lb. Gorilla in the room, and we’re all writing more SEO blog posts to avoid talking about it. Most of us are far too dependent on Google for traffic. What would you do if something changed overnight? I know some of you will object  – “But ALL my tactics are white-hat and I follow the rules!” Assuming that you understood the rules 100% accurately and really followed them to the letter, what if they changed?

The more I follow the Algorithm, the more I realize that the changing search UI and feature landscape may be even more important than the core algorithm itself. What happens if your competitor suddenly gets site-links, or you’re #8 on a SERP that drops to only 7 results, or everyone gets video snippets and you have no videos, or your niche shifts to paid inclusion and you can’t afford to pay? Even if you’ve followed the rules, your traffic could drop on a moment’s notice.

You need to think beyond Google. I know it’s tough, and it’s going to take time and money, but if you’re dependent on Google for your livelihood, then your livelihood is at serious risk.

1D. Diversify Your Marketing

There’s been a very positive trend this year toward thinking about marketing much more broadly – not as a tactic to trick people into liking you, but as the natural extension of building a better mousetrap. I think this is at the heart of RCS (not to put words in Wil’s mouth) – if you do something amazing and you believe in it, everything you do is marketing. If you build crap and you know it’s crap, then marketing is sleight of hand that you hope to pull on the unsuspecting. You might score twenty bucks by stealing my wallet, but you’re not going to gain a customer for life.

Stop taking shortcuts and make a real resolution in 2013 to think hard about what you do and why it has value. If you understand your value proposition, content and marketing naturally flow out of that. Talk to people outside of the SEO and marketing teams. Find out what your company does that’s unique, exciting, and resonates with customers.

1E. Diversify Your Point Of View

I recently had the pleasure to finally see Michael Dorausch (a chiropractor and well-known figure in the local SEO community) speak. Dr. Mike arrived in Tampa for BlueGlassX and built his presentation from the ground up, using photography to tell stories about the neighborhood and local history. It's hard to explain in a few sentences, but what amazed me was just how many ideas for unique and original content he was able to find in less than 48 hours, just by having a fresh perspective and passion for the subject. I'd like to say I was inspired by the presentation, but to be totally honest, I think the emotion was embarrassment. I was embarrassed that he was able to generate so many ideas so quickly, just by coming at the problem with the right attitude.

In 2013, if you tell me your industry is "boring," be warned – I'm going to smack you. If you're bored by what you do, how do you think your prospects and customers will feel? Step out – have someone give you a tour of your office like you've never been there. Visit your home city like you're a tourist coming there for the first time. Get five regular people to walk through your website and try to buy something (if you don't have five normal friends, use a service like UserTesting.com). The New Year is the perfect time for a fresh perspective.

1F. Happy Birthday, Erica!

Ok, this has nothing to do with the post, but today is Erica McGillivray's birthday. If you don't know Erica, she's our Community Attaché here at SEOmoz. So, diversify your communications today and wish her a happy birthday.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!


SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog

Bad Science vs. Words that Work: Holiday News for Marketers

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Bad Science vs. Words that Work: Holiday News for Marketers was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Let’s take look at some recent headlines focused on the inner workings of the mind, and the need for proper analysis of data. There are some interesting things happening at the intersection of marketing and psychology.

Bad Words, Good Words

DSM IV

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

Congress voted to extract the word “lunatic” from federal law books last week.

In the new Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) Asberger Syndrome is being replaced by Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Sensitivities run high, especially around heavily charged words. What words are you using, marketer? Copyblogger’s got the five most powerful words for persuasion listed for us and they are:

1. You
2. Free
3. Because
4. Instantly
5. New

Some great additions in the comments include:

  • save
  • check
  • how
  • why
  • try
  • value
  • hurry
  • limited

Now, context can’t be overlooked, as Sonia points out. This dovetails nicely into…

Bad Science

There’s an interesting discussion is happening over at TED. It seems the TEDx conferences — those local chapters of the brain-bending preso society — needed a reminder to fact check and vet speakers.

It offers some relief to me that even team TED falls to the trappings of bad science sometimes. The other day I got caught misreading data.

We have a client who conducted a focus group of customers and potential customers. In reviewing the reported values and priorities of participants, low cost solutions was consistently reported most important factor in choosing a provider.

When we told our client we’d be pushing the price point in content, new information was provided that changed the reading of the data. It turns out that low cost / high value was a unique cultural feature of the city; the preference for price didn’t represent the many other cities our client served.

Hammering price can send the wrong message when an audience is more focused on quality of service. Messaging geared for “tightwads” when the bulk of your audience is made of “average spenders” can mis-position your brand. Quick note: there’s lots in that link about conversion optimization through neuromarketing you’ll want to check out.

Right Word, Right Science

One more headline to illustrate what interesting things happen when the mind meets the marketplace. Psychology Today looks at how the senses play into purchase decisions. While many of those ideas don’t easily transfer from brick and mortar to the Web, some have critical applications both offline and on:

xmas tree ornament

Using color and placement to evoke positive feelings and nostalgia takes place offline as well as online.

Holiday music evokes nostalgia. Nostalgia elevates positive moods. People are more likely to convert when they’re feeling positive. Are there ways you can foster feelings of nostalgia for your customers?

The scent of pine sparks feelings of nostalgia. The scent of peppermint creates arousal and sparks engagement. The olfactory sense is overlooked online, but what other ways can you incorporate arousal and engagement in your brand’s online experience?

Retailers place pricier merchandise on the center of displays since that’s where buyer attention goes first. Just to the right of center is where attention goes second. Are you eye-tracking your visitors to optimize the path of attention on your landing pages?

Holidays are a time of heightened emotions. Take advantage of opportunities like this.

Bruce Clay Blog

7-Step Website Detox for After the Holidays

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7-Step Website Detox for After the Holidays was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

I’ve got half a bottle of cinnamon whiskey in the freezer and an empty carton of eggnog in the trash that says I’m due for an after-holiday detox.

The holidays and the beginning of a new year collide in a chemical reaction unlike the rest of the year. On the one hand you’ve got a guilt-free pass to give into your indulgences. Then, that passion does a 180 toward a fresh start and promises for a clean-running, new-and-improved self. The trick to a successful transition is a good detox.

Same goes for your website when confronted by a new year after the holiday season has passed. So, here’s the detox program — a seven-step cleanse for your site’s fresh start.

1. Turn off seasonal PPC campaigns and strike holiday offers, messaging and design from the site.

This one’s already on your to-do list but can’t be overlooked as you clean up any holiday holdovers.

2. Review the site for outdated information.

Do an inventory of your site, content and other online assets with an eye for info that is out of date. Update the content so it’s accurate for the current time and place. Look for opportunities to make content evergreen – that is, not time sensitive and always true. You’ll find a process for updating site content in Keep It Fresh: Steps for Updating Your Website Content.

tree trimming

3. 301 redirect broken internal links.

A site gets a little shaken up over the course of a year, so check Google Webmaster Tools for broken links and other errors. Then put in place 301 permanent redirects for all the lost links and pages of yore. You’ll be improving crawl efficiency on your site, consolidating link value and making a better user experience.

4. Audit the site’s backlinks and prune as needed.

As you know, 2012 was the year of the link penalty. Have you detoxed your site’s backlink profile? The Step-By-Step Guide to Link Pruning we published in May is your instruction manual for finding and extracting links that are hurting your search rankings.

5. Add fresh content to the site. Blog!

With any gunky build up of the past year cleaned up, it’s time to proactively add to your website assets. Fresh content is important to a healthy website, and a blog is just the place to do it. You’ll need to set up processes for regular blogging, even daily blogging. As you’ll find, post frequency is important for building readership and to get ranking benefits and it’s been found that, contrary to what you might suspect, quality has been found to improve with frequency.

6. Inject life into your community.

Do you have any plans for building your brand’s community next year? Good will and fun interactions are rewarded with customer loyalty online and offline. Map out your community management strategy for the year ahead. Start planning campaigns, contests, special offers to grow your community in the new year. For instance, contests with prizes might attract attention, get your brand to top of mind and collect leads, subscribers and data.

7. Mix in some fresh blood.

Be it through partnerships or guest bloggers, adding new nodes to your network will help you gain brand visibility and find new audiences. Guest blogging benefits all involved – readers, the blog host and guest alike. Follow the Ultimate Guide to Guest Blogging to set goals and find opportunities for guest bloggers and to guest blog. Beyond blogging partnerships, you can also find fruitful collaborations with community and charity organizations, business partners with complementary services and advertising and sponsorships.

Start knocking down these seven steps because once you’ve shelved the site’s glitzy designer duds and scrubbed down a year’s worth of residue in website code, outdated content and sullied links, you’ll be glad. Your site’s a clean slate and the future is full of bright potential thanks to your dedicated deep cleanse.

Bruce Clay Blog

What’s My Brand Identity and How Do I Communicate It?

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What’s My Brand Identity and How Do I Communicate It? was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Businesses sometimes happen before brands do. Business owners are busy serving customers and doing everything that comes with running a business that sometimes, they don’t have time to stop and think about, what is my brand?

You brand is the identity of your company and what your customers and community can expect from the way you interact with them and the service/products you provide. A business is an operation, a brand is a more intangible aspect of this.

What a Brand Is in a Word Cloud

Oftentimes, when a brand identity is not explored upfront, a brand already exists due to the culture of the company, its people and how they deal with day-to-day issues.

But when the brand identity is explored and defined upfront, it adds order to a somewhat chaotic and intangible thing. When your company has this, it possesses the guidelines for how it will handle every situation, every customer, every staff member, every communication and every message – even down to the type of font you use on your website and the colors of your company.

When you have those brand guidelines, you are able to always revert to them and ask, is this upholding our brand? And if the answer is no, you know what to do.

But how do you figure out what your brand is? And how do you let people know about it?

It all starts with research. Here, we take more traditional marketing tactics and transition them to the Web marketing space. In this post, I’ll share with you ways you can use research to discover what your brand is and how to communicate that through content, your website, visuals and interactions with the community.

Research: Talk to Your Community

You may think you know your company better than anyone. And while you may know your business inside and out, this doesn’t mean you understand your brand.

It’s not that you don’t know, it’s just that you cannot possible be everywhere at once. So how you think your company interacts and delivers might be based solely on your interaction alone.

The best way to get outsider perspective and understand how your community feels about your company today is to ask them.

You’ll first need a sample of your community. The disclaimer on this is that there are companies out there who do nothing but quantitative and qualitative market research and take a very scientific approach so that the data is not skewed. If you’re performing your own brand research, you’ll need to be discerning with your sample.

While this quick-and-dirty approach to research may not give you extremely accurate results statistically, the information you uncover is invaluable. So try to be as objective as possible when choosing your audience.

First, identify all your possible audiences. In this example, it might be:

  • Current customers
  • Past customers
  • Vendors
  • Internal staff
  • Prospective customers
  • Colleagues in your industry
  • People in your social communities online (which could be a mix of all of those but their behavior and expectations might be different than offline community).

You may want to segment these audiences by location, department or whatever other segmentation makes sense. You might choose to pick people at random exclusively, or you might choose to add in a few people that are representative of those who’ve had a stellar experience with your company, and those who’ve had a horrible experience as well. You want to understand all points of view about your brand.

Then you have to define the questions you want to ask. Also use discretion when you are choosing the questions you are going to ask your community. You want them to support the primary questions you are trying to uncover about your brand, and you also want them to be as objective as possible (no loaded questions that might sway their answers one way or another).

Here, you are looking for things like:

  • Perceived value of your products, services and company.
  • What people know and believe about your company today.

In the end, it may be completely different than what you believe they think.

Here’s a couple ways you can gather data:

  • Online surveys: Use a simple survey via Survey Monkey to only ask the most relevant questions. People typically don’t want to answer a long, drawn-out survey, so make it as simple as you can for them.
  • Phone surveys: Get some people on the phone to ask your community the questions. You might you get more responses this way. Again, make it brief as you can; respect their time.
  • Focus groups: Sometimes it’s more efficient to get everyone in a room together and hold a focus group. But this only works if you are looking for feedback from a sample of people in one particular area (this could work for staff interviews).

Research: Market Competitors

You’ve probably heard of the SWOT analysis? It’s a traditional marketing diagram that helps you get a picture of the competitive landscape and where you fit in. In the diagram, you explore the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of a business.

You can use the SWOT to get a picture of your market competitors – those companies that you believe to be your competition in your space (prior to keyword research, because your online competitors and market competitors tend to vary).

In this research, you can begin to note what your differentiators are from your competition. During this exercise, you’ll also want to note things your competitors are doing with their branding like:

  • What colors what imagery
  • How they are talking to their community
  • What caliber of content they are providing in their marketing efforts

Especially if you’re in the business of creating content, take note at what sort of content they are offering their community to position themselves as thought leaders and capture the attention of their prospective customers.

Research: Online Competitors

Your online competitors are any competitors that are competing for attention online with you. It begins with the keywords and topics you are writing about. Assuming you already have a keyword set for your website, your online competitors start with that.

Who is showing up in the results for the queries you are competing for?

Look at those companies that are ranked for the keywords you are trying to target (Using tools to discover who is ranking is best so the results aren’t skewed by the many factors that change Google’s results.)

Apply the same exercise to that primary competition using the SWOT and noting similarities, weaknesses, colors, imagery, messaging and where your brand differentiates. Your competitors can and will change on the Web for any given keyword, so keep that in mind before you do this.

Probably the most revealing part of this exploration is what you can learn from looking at your online competitors and the quality of their site. You might identify quick wins for your site in the search results over your competitors.

Take a look at the principles of Google’s leaked quality rating manual to get a feel of what quality means to Google. You can also take a peek at a list of questions Google provided that are representative of what Google may be looking for when rating sites:

  • Would you trust the information presented in this article?
  • Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
  • Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
  • Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
  • Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
  • Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
  • Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
  • Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  • How much quality control is done on content?
  • Does the article describe both sides of a story?
  • Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
  • Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  • For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
  • Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
  • Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  • Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  • Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
  • Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
  • Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
  • Would users complain when they see pages from this site?

Here at Bruce Clay, Inc., we apply the methodology of “least imperfect” when we optimize a website. Since there are more than 200 ranking signals in the Google algorithm that allow it assess your site as the most relevant for the query, no one website can get them all right. But you can aim to be better over your competition.

So this is your opportunity to spy on how they’ve optimized their site, their link profile, the quality of their content, the user experience and so on (with the right tools). And then ask, how can we do better on our site?

You can also dig into your reputation online – what people are saying about your company and your competitors online in social communities, in forums, in reviews. Google gives tips on monitoring your brand online and using the “Me on the Web” feature in Dashboard.

Research: Brand Role Models

What companies in any industry do you admire? What CEOs? What professionals? What are those companies in your space specifically that you feel are doing a really great job? Write those down. These are your brand role models.

These are the brands you aspire to be. Maybe not just like them, but there will be attributes you love and want to emulate. Think about not just where your brand is now, but what you want it to be three, five, 10 years down the road.

Look at these brand role models and explore what they’re doing great. Also look at what they aren’t doing so great and where you differentiate from them. Because there are always differentiators, and this is where your brand shines.

Research: Key Messages, Colors, Visuals, Values

What words some to mind when you think about your company, its people, the way it interacts with the community, the products and services? Write all of these down. In fact, you’ll want to have these written down before you see the research that been performed with your community so your perspective isn’t skewed.

These are the things you believe your company stands for – your brand values. Every company has them; it’s what the company was founded on and the things it’s become. And although it might be a while since anyone thought about what the company stands for, dig deep. It’s there. (And it’s not just to exist profitability!)

Now look at the visual and communicative elements of your company — are they streamlined or is there a mishmash of disjointed representations of your company online and offline?

  • What language (tone, key messaging)?
  • What colors?
  • What images?
  • What fonts?
  • What logos?

Now look at each element in that list I just mentioned:

  • Do you feel strongly about them as part of your brand identity?
  • What can go and what should stay?

Keep in mind that while you may not think about the font you use on your site as part of your brand, it is – every element of how you communicate is a part of your brand. In fact, there are whole communities that thrive around typography and the various attributes a font communicates, what scenarios it’s appropriate in and so on.

If you’re not sure what visuals represent your brand, start gathering those. Using both online and offline sources, collect any words, messages, videos and pictures that are an abstract representation of your brand — those things that give you a certain feeling that you believe is representative of your brand.

You can use a physical wall in your office space and dedicate it to all the stuff you’ve gathered or you can use something like the secret boards in Pinterest, where you can invite others in your company to pin it as they come across items.

Gather: Common Themes

Once you’ve gathered all the data about your company and your competitors through your various means of research, start exploring common themes:

  • What are some of the messages you see being communicated time and time again from the various groups?
  • What common themes were discovered in the online and market research?

Gather all of that information and document it. The negative stuff you uncover should be turned into an opportunity to look inside at your internal processes and find ways to improve. Your community has that perception for a reason. Explore the causes and create an initiative to address that with.

The positive feedback may serve as a foundation for key messages about your brand identity. If people continuously see your company as warm and friendly, then that must be one of the things your brand stands for.

Then, compare the common themes to your original perceptions of the company – any discrepancies? Any validations?

Whatever the common themes are, group the findings together so you have a point of discussion about where the brand is today, and where you want to take it tomorrow.

Communicate: Brand Identity

Once you are done with your research, you should have a report that is representative of your brand identity. This gives you the basis for what you do company-wide, from the way your customer service department talks to people on the phone or in social communities online and offline, to the types of people you hire, to the key messages about your brand that you subtly weave into your content to the images you use.

As I mentioned in the previous section, you will also have a basis for what might need to be fixed and what’s working really well. All of the elements of the brand – down to the type of font you use and the uses of your logo or across mediums – should be documented.

Then comes the streamlining and planning. Looking at all the messages your company disseminates day-to-day both online and offline (messages being the visuals, the personality, the interactions you have) and ask, are these representing our brand? If not, the work begins.

Your content strategy online should be driven by your brand. Starting with the website and the baseline content you create for that, to the ongoing content creations strategy for your business. Every blog post, ebook, video, logo and Meta tag on a Web page should uphold your brand.

The branding of a company should be based on research, and the implementation of it should be top down. In order for a brand identity to shine through, the key is in the consistency. Set rules for when you will absolutely always default to the brand to make key (and sometimes difficult) decisions easier.

Ultimately, your brand identity will seep into every nook and cranny of your company – whether it’s good or bad. So when you’re ready to start exploring your brand, know that at the end of it all, you might not just have a new logo, you may have an entire cultural shift.

Bruce Clay Blog

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