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Identity vs Irrelevance

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“Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified) results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.” – Eric Schmidt

Authoritarian Regimes & Data Mining

One wonders how Mr. Schmidt can balance the above statement along with warning about authoritarian governments.

And the risks from such data mining operations are not just in “those countries over there.” The ad networks that hire lobbyists to change foreign privacy laws do so such that they can better track people the globe over and deliver higher paying ads. (No problem so long as they don’t catch you on a day you are down and push ads for a mind numbing psychotropic drug with suicidal or homicidal side effects.)

And defense contractors are fast following with mining these social networks. (No problem so long as your name doesn’t match someone else’s that is on some terrorist list or such.)

Large & Anonymous

What’s crazy is when we get to the other end of the spectrum. Want to know if your hamburger has pink slime in it? Best of luck with that.

Then you get the mainstream media sites that get a free pass (size = trust) and it doesn’t matter if their content is created through…

  • a syndicated partnership of with eHow-styled content (Demand Media)
  • a syndicated partnership of scraped/compiled date (FindTheBest)
  • auto-generated content from a bot (Narrative Science)
  • scrape + outsourcing + plagiarism + fake bylines (Journatic)
  • top 10 ways to regurgitate top 10 lists from 10 different angles (BuzzFeed)
  • hatchet job that was written before manufacturing the “conforming” experience (example)
  • factually incorrect hate bait irrelevant article with no author name, wrapped in ads for get rich quick scams (example)

… no matter how it is created, it is fine, so long as you have political influence. Not only will it rank, but it will be given a ranking boost based on being part of a large site, even if it is carpet bombed with irrelevant ads.

Coin Operated Ideals

But then the companies that claim this transparency is vital for society pull a George Costanza & “Do The Opposite” with their own approach.

Whenever they manipulate markets to their own benefit they claim the need for secrecy to stop spammers or protect privacy. But then they collect the same data & pass it along without consent to those who pay for the data.

When Google was caught vandalizing OpenStreetMaps or lying to businesses listed in Mocality, those were the acts of anonymous contractors. When Google got caught in a sting operation pushing ads for illegal steroids from Mexico they would claim that behavior didn’t reflect their current policies and that we need to move on.

Then of course there are the half dozen (or more) times that Google has violated their own search quality guidelines. So often that is due yet again to “outsourcing” or a partner of some sort. And they do that in spite of the ability to arbitrarily hardcode themselves in the result set.

If we don’t exam the faux ideals push to shift cultural norms we will end up with a crappier world to live in. Some Googlers (or Google fanbois) who read this will claim I am a broken record stuck in the past on this stuff. But those same people will be surprised x years down the road when something bizarre surfaces from an old deranged contact or prior life.

Anyone who has done anything meaningful has also done some things that are idiotic.

Is that sort of stuff always forever relevant or does it make sense at some point to move on?

When that person is Eric Schmidt, the people he pontificate to are blackballed for following his ideals.

After all, his ideals don’t actually apply to him.

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SEO Book

10 Steps to Improve Your Content Strategy (and Your Marriage, If You’re Into That)

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10 Steps to Improve Your Content Strategy (and Your Marriage, If You’re Into That) was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

It’s a very, say… interesting… point in your career as a search marketer when you begin to draw parallels between the optimization you do for websites, and the (potential or actual) “optimization” you do for your own personal growth purposes. And I don’t mean “myself as a brand” personal growth purposes — I mean straight-up “improve my relationship with that grouchy lady who lives next door, and while I am at it probably my husband, too” personal growth purposes.

Guy smiling with girl

Hand check! Improve your content marketing and get your relationship on the right track in ten steps. This guy did.

As you may recall, earlier this week I wrote a blog post called How to Save Your Marriage with Content Marketing Strategy and officially crossed over into “that point” in my career.

This week’s post takes last week’s concept to the next level with 10 actionable agenda items that, if approached with thought and care, can help you improve your content strategy, optimization, and — if you choose to drink the Kool-Aid —  interpersonal relationships.

It should be noted that along with not actually being married, I am also not a doctor, so please take the “marriage advice” (should we venture to call it that) offered in this article with a grain of salt.

10 Steps to Improve Your Content Strategy and Your Marriage

I recommend writing your responses to each of these action items down. It’s easier to make decisions with all the information laid out in front of you. If you are a business your responses to these action items could influence your brand style guide and communication guidelines (two integral documents necessary to keep your writing and optimization teams on the same page and consistent).

1) Establish Your Brand Voice, Style, and Goals

Word cloud centered around "brand"

Clarify who you are, who you want to be, and what you want to accomplish. Say what you mean, mean what you say, and get everyone on the same page with a brand style-guide.

Establishing your brand voice and style starts by clarifying who you are, who you want to be, and what you want to accomplish. Are you the green M&M or the yellow one? How do you think people perceive you? Do you like how (you think) people perceive you? If not, brainstorm small ways you might be able to represent your true self more accurately.

With a firm grip on who you are, and who you want to be, consider writing a brand or department mission statement.

Helpful link: Building a Brand With Your Online Voice

How This Exercise Can Help You Save Your Marriage:
Many conflicts are rooted in miscommunication. If you don’t know who you are there’s a good chance your communication and the way you present yourself is all over the place, which means you’re on a dead-end road straight to misunderstanding and relationship conflictville. Also, it’s invaluable to learn how to identify and express what you want/expect out of a relationship. Getting everyone on the same page, saying what you mean, and meaning what you say can get you far. It’s a little clinical, but if your relationship feels like a mess you may find it useful to write a mission statement that clearly identifies the reason for the relationship — why you’re both there — and what you want to get out of it.

2) Set Some Goals 

Broad over-arching statements like “I want to fix everything” never get anyone anywhere. Be specific. “I want my website to be within the top five search results for [x] search term” or “I want to fight less with my wife about money.” Goals give you an actionable place to start and help you to focus, prioritize, and identify success.

Helpful link: Using Web Analytics to Measure Internet Marketing Goals

3) Take a Baseline Analysis

Rating check list with Excellent checked

What are you doing well? What are you doing not so well? Document where you’re starting from so that you can identify progress and success.

Take an analysis of where you’re at. You can’t just jump in and start trying to fix things if you don’t know exactly what is wrong.

Consider what am I doing well? What am I doing really, really bad? What am I doing in a half-hearted, contrived, or unethical way? If you have Google Analytics installed, create a spreadsheet to document some baseline figures. These figures might include time on site, conversion rate, pages visited, organic traffic, bounce rate, and exit page. You might also consider including social media baseline metrics like number of Likes or social reach. It all depends on what your goals are.

For the items on your list that you identify as not so hot, you’ll have to decide in the planning stage (step 6) whether you want to work on making your flops function better, or scrap them all together.

Helpful Link(s): Introduction to Analytics and What SEO Metrics Are Truly Important

4) Competitive Analysis

Look at other brands and individuals in your industry. What are they doing? How are they succeeding? How does their brand presence/experience differ from yours? What can you learn from them?

Helpful link: Spy vs. Spy: Competitive Analysis

How This Exercise Can Help You Save Your Marriage:
First, when approaching this as a relationship improvement, it might be best to not think of it as competitive analysis as it may not be healthy to consider other people and outside relationships as “competitors.” (Yikes.) It is, on the other hand, worthwhile to consider taking some time to honestly observe how other individuals and couples function. What can you learn from the way they don’t lose their temper over jelly in grocery stores? How about the way they interact? What are they doing that is working, and what are they doing that is really, really not working? Unlike search marketing where you can’t ask your competitors how they optimize their website to get better SERP results, you actually can ask your friends what they do and how they deal with X problem. Take advantage of this open communication and make an effort to learn from others.

5) Think About Your Target Demographic and Develop Personas

Woman with her face covered by a question mark

Think about who you want to connect with. The goal is to get as much of a 360-degree understanding of who your current and potential clients/members/readers are.

Think about the people who you want to connect with. Ask yourself: who do I need to connect with in order to make my goal(s) happen and how do I need to connect with them? What mediums do they use to communicate with their peers? What activities are they receptive to and what really rubs them the wrong way? The goal is to get as much of a 360-degree understanding of who your current and potential clients/members/readers are. (You should decide what you want to call them internally as part of the style-guide you started in action item number one.)

Do you and your clients talk the same? If not, is there a happy place in the middle where your two styles overlap? Can you find keyword phrases that tell you exactly how they enter search queries and work that exact language into your content? Try to find that sweet spot that allows you to stay true to yourself while also communicating in a way that resonates with your receiver.

Helpful link: Web Personas: Creating Jane

How This Exercise Can Help You Save Your Marriage:
Getting to know your mate’s personality and preferences is invaluable. If he doesn’t drive, putting a note on the steering wheel of a car for him to see won’t work. If he’s hard of hearing, speaking really softly isn’t going to work. If he doesn’t know what “new digs” are you’re headed face-first into another miscommunication dead end. Listen to him. Take cues from how he talks to other people and how he talks to you and learn to use language that resonates with both of you. Be observant enough to notice when he responds in a negative way or not at all to your communication efforts, and then be agile enough to apply more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

6) Make a Plan

Checklist with pencil checking a box

Make a plan, set priorities, and decide which initiatives will help you reach your goals more efficiently.

With your responses to the above introspections written down you can start to make a plan.

You have a lot of good ideas, now it’s time to decide what your priorities are. What do you work on first, second, third? What is going to make the most impact? What resources do you have? How do you define success? Do you need outside help from a contractor or a tool, or can you do it all yourself?

Take this time to make sure you’ve clearly defined in as much detail as possible what it is that you want to accomplish and how you’ll know when you succeed.

7) Get Your Ducks in a Row: Do You Have What You Need to Start?

Remember, if your goals are to connect with humans and soar in the SERPs it’s critical to make sure that your communication is accessible to both humans and search spiders.

Make sure the technical side of your blog or website is up to par. If all of your content is inside of a giant .JPG image, it’s equal to using black ink on black paper in Google’s eyes. If you don’t know anything about search spiders or technical SEO, consider hiring a consultant to make sure your website is working with you not against you.

Are you talking to MySpace when all of your consumers are on Facebook? Use your persona research to make sure you are using the social networks your clients and potential clients are using.

Helpful links: Get some technical SEO tips, or learn how search spiders work.

How This Exercise Can Help You Save Your Marriage:
In any relationship it’s important to figure out what your listener needs. Are they hearing you? Do they need you to communicate with them in sign language? Do you need to write it down? It’s very possible that you may think you’ve been communicating loud and clear this whole time and they’ve never heard a word. To make sure the lines of communication are open, this may be a good time to seek outside help. There’s nothing wrong with hiring a consultant — or in this case, a therapist — to help guide your communication strategy with some unbiased professional insights.

8) Improve Communication and Apply What You’ve Learned

Word written that say "Use Your Words"

You have to use words, and you’re going to get a lot farther if you put time and thought into using the right words.

Now that you know where you stand, it’s time to start working on actual communication. What is your audience interested in? What would help them? What problems do they have? All those questions you asked yourself above are now more relevant than ever. Take that information and create a content strategy that helps solidify your brand as an industry expert who not only cares about what they’re doing but actually enjoys it. Create content that helps solve problems, build relationships, and answer questions.

Content is King, and truly the heart of solid search engine optimization (SEO) in 2013. You have to use words, and you’re going to get a lot farther if you put time and thought into using the right words. What defines the “right” words? Again, the “right” words are the words that resonate with your target market and accurately describe you, your products, and your content topics in a way that is informative, engaging, helpful, or otherwise worth sharing. Always keep in mind that you want to help in a balanced way that is genuine and not salesey.

Helpful link: Writing Great Content for Websites and Spiders

How This Exercise Can Help You Save Your Marriage:
I think it’s pretty obvious how clear, focused, communication founded on giving a hoot can help your marriage. In a sentence, all of our relationships could benefit from a bit more time spent thinking about what we’re going to say and how we’re going to say it before we open our mouths.

Oh, and I hope this goes without saying but please try to talk in a way that resonates with your wife… don’t try to talk like your wife. This is one distinct area where the worlds of relationship communication and optimization communication diverge paths. If you’re stalking the Internet for things your wife might say so that you can say them back to her, you’ve gone too far.

9) Be Ethical

Be ethical and don’t try to cut corners or you may risk experiencing the wrath of the Google Penguin or Panda penalties. In a sentence: just do what is right and don’t try to cheat the system. Take the time to implement a strong content strategy that helps people, perform persona and keyword research to dial your language in just right, and work on bridging gaps between you and your target market. If you build it, they will come.

Helpful link(s): Learn more about keyword research, or check out Penguins and Pandas: A Black and White Issue to learn more about what might be considered unethical or spammy activity to Google.

How This Exercise Can Help You Save Your Marriage:
I assume this goes without saying, but, if you want to improve your relationship acting in a transparent way that both parties consider ethical is a must. Don’t lie, cheat, misrepresent information, or otherwise try to trick your partner. Even if it’s working right now they are going to find out and then you’re going to be much, much worse off (usually the result of unethical behavior in a relationship is far more severe than a “penalty”).

10) Observe, Analyze, Learn, Grow, Repeat

Woman in hat with tiny trophy

Observe, analyze, and grow to reap the rewards. Two steps forward is (almost) always better than two steps back, and even small achievements are better than net loss.

Keep learning and growing. The industry changes, your goals change, and people change, so your strategy should change and grow too. Stay observant. If things are going well, don’t check out. Learn from what is going well and do more of it, or figure out ways to integrate what is successful about campaign A into not-so-successful campaign B.

If things aren’t going well, really, really don’t check out. Keep track of the data, stay in tune with your demographic, and communicate internally about your goals both month-over-month and year-over-year.

Be agile, learn from your mistakes, and remember what works for “everyone else” might not necessarily work for you.

Helpful link: Learn to prioritize, analyze, refresh, and optimize your strategy with this 16-step content audit.

How This Exercise Can Help You Save Your Marriage:
Since there are no line graphs pointing to the right and down to indicate when a relationship is failing it takes a bit more conscious effort to recognize when things aren’t going so well, and, actually, when things are going well (ah, isn’t the grass always greener on the other side?). People grow and change and it is important that your relationship also grows and changes. Don’t check out. Stay in-tuned to how you feel and the ebb and flow of the day to day. Do more of what works and less of what doesn’t and don’t be afraid to step totally out of your comfort zone to explore new territory in your relationship — just keep the communication open, and keep it ethical.

What content strategy, optimization, or interpersonal relationship best practices would you add to this list?

Bruce Clay Blog

Measuring Social Media

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Measuring PPC and SEO is relatively straightforward. But how do we go about credibly measuring social media campaigns, and wider public relations and audience awareness campaigns?

As the hype level of social media starts to fall, then more questions are asked about return on investment. During the early days of anything, the hype of the new is enough to sustain an endeavor. People don’t want to miss out. If their competitors are doing it, that’s often seen as good enough reason to do it, too.

You may be familiar with this graph. It’s called the hype cycle and is typically used to demonstrate the maturity, adoption and social application of specific technologies:

Where would social media marketing be on this graph?

I think a reasonable guess, if we’re seeing more and more discussion about ROI, is somewhere on the “slope of enlightenment”. In this article, we’ll look at ways to measure social media performance by grounding it in the only criteria that truly matter – business fundamentals.

Public Relations

We’ve talked about the Cluetrain Manifesto and how the world changed when corporations could no longer control the message. If the message can no longer be controlled, then measuring the effectiveness of public relations becomes even more problematic.

PR used to be about crafting a message and placing it, and nurturing the relationships that allowed that to happen. With the advent of social media, that’s still true, but the scope has expanded exponentially – everyone can now repeat, run with, distort, reconfigure and reinvent the messages. Controlling the message was always difficult, but now it’s impossible.

On the plus side, it’s now much easier to measure and quantify the effectiveness of public relations activity due to the wealth of web data and tools to track what people are saying, to whom, and when.

The Same, Only Different

As much as things change, the more they stay the same. PR and social media is still about relationships. And getting relationships right pays off:

Today, I want to write about something I’d like to call the “Tim Ferriss Effect.” It’s not exclusive to Tim Ferriss, but he is I believe the marquee example of a major shift that has happened in the last 5 years within the world of book promotion. Here’s the basic idea: When trying to promote a book, the main place you want coverage is on a popular single-author blog or site related to your topic…..The post opened with Tim briefly explaining how he knew me, endorsing me as a person, and describing the book (with a link to my book.) It then went directly into my guest post– there was not even an explicit call to action to buy my book or even any positive statements about my book. An hour later, (I was #45 on Amazon’s best seller list

Public relations is more than about selling, of course. It’s also about managing reputation. It’s about getting audiences to maintain a certain point of view. Social media provides the opportunity to talk to customers and the public directly by using technology to dis-intermediate the traditional gatekeepers.

Can We Really Measure PR & Social Media Performance?

How do you measure the value of a relationship?

Difficult.

How can you really tell if people feel good enough about your product or service to buy it, and that “feeling good” was the direct result of editorial placement by a well-connected public relations professional?

Debatable, certainly.

Can you imagine another marketing discipline that used dozens of methods for measuring results? Take search engine marketing for example. The standards are pretty cut and dry: visitors, page views, time on site, cost per click, etc. For email marketing, we have delivery, open rates, click thru, unsubscribes, opt-ins, etc”

In previous articles, we’ve looked at how data-driven marketing can save time and be more effective. The same is true of social media, but given it’s not an exact science, it’s a question of finding an appropriate framework.

There are a lot of people asking questions about social media’s worth.

No Industry Standard

Does sending out weekly press releases result in more income? How about tweeting 20 times a day? How much are 5,000 followers on Facebook worth? Without a framework to measure performance, there’s no way of knowing.

Furthermore, there’s no agreed industry standard.

In direct marketing channels, such as SEO and PPC, measurement is fairly straightforward. We count cost per click, number of visitors, conversion rate, time on site, and so on. But how do we measure public relations? How do we measure influence and awareness?

PR firms have often developed their own in-house terms of measurement. The problem is that without industry standards, success criteria can become arbitrary and often used simply to show the agency in a good light and thus validate their fees.

Some agencies use publicity results, such as the number of mentions in the press, or the type of mention i.e. prestigious placement. Some use advertising value equivalent i.e. is what editorial coverage would cost if it were buying advertising space. Some use public opinion measures, such as polls, focus groups and surveys, whilst others compare mentions and placement vs competitors i.e. who has more or better mentions, wins. Most use a combination, depending on the nature of the campaign.

Most business people would agree that measurement is a good thing. If we’re spending money, we need to know what we’re getting for that money. If we provide social media services to clients, we need to demonstrate what we’re doing works, so they’ll devote more budget to it in future. If the competition is using this channel, then we need to know if we’re using it better, or worse, than we are.

Perhaps the most significant reason why we measure is to know if we’ve met a desired outcome. To do that we must ignore gut feelings and focus on whether an outcome was achieved.

Why wouldn’t we measure?

Some people don’t like the accountability. Some feel more comfortable with an intuitive approach. It can be difficult for some to accept that their pet theories have little substance when put to the test. It seems like more work. It seems like more expense. It’s just too hard. When it comes to social media, some question whether it can be done much at all

For proof, look no further than The Atlantic, which shook the social media realm recently with its expose of “dark social” – the idea that the channels we fret over measuring like Facebook and Twitter represent only a small fraction of the social activity that’s really going on. The article shares evidence that reveals that the vast majority of sharing is still done through channels like email and IM that are nearly impossible to measure (and thus, dark).

And it’s not like a lot of organizations are falling over themselves to get measurement done:

According to a Hypatia Research report, “Benchmarking Social Community Platform Investments & ROI,” only 40% of companies measure social media performance on a quarterly or annual basis, while almost 13% or the organizations surveyed do not measure ROI from social media at all, and another 18% said they do so only on an ad hoc basis. (Hypatia didn’t specify what response the other 29% gave.)

If we agree that measurement is a good thing and can lead to greater efficiency and better decision making, then the fact your competition may not be measuring well, or at all, then this presents great opportunity. We should strive to measure social media ROI, as providers or consumers, or it becomes difficult to justify spend. The argument that we can’t measure because we don’t know all the effects of our actions isn’t a reason not to measure what we can.

Marketing has never been an exact science.

What Should We Measure?

Measurement should be linked back to business objectives.

In “Measure What Matters”, Katie Delahaye Paine outlines seven steps to social media measurement. I liked these seven steps, because they aren’t exclusive to social media. They’re the basis for measuring any business strategy and similar measures have been used in marketing for a long time.

It’s all about proving something works, and then using the results to enhance future performance. The book is a great source for those interested in reading further on this topic, which I’ll outline here.

1. What Are Your Objectives?

Any marketing objective should serve a business objective. For example, “increase sales by X by October 31st”.

Having specific, business driven objectives gets rid of conjecture and focuses campaigns. Someone could claim that spending 30 days tweeting a new message a day is a great thing to do, but if, at the end of it, a business objective wasn’t met, then what was the point?

Let’s say an objective is “increase sales of shoes compared to last December’s figures”. What might the social strategy look like? It might consist of time-limited offers, as opposed to more general awareness messages. What if the objective was to “get 5,000 New Yorkers to mention the brand before Christmas”? This would lend itself to viral campaigns, targeted locally. Linking the campaign to specific business objectives will likely change the approach.

If you have multiple objectives, you can always split them up into different campaigns so you can measure the effectiveness of each separately. Objectives typically fall into sales, positioning, or education categories.

2. Who Is The Audience?

Who are you talking to? And how will you know if you’ve reached them? Once you have reached them, what is it you want them to do? How will this help your business?

Your target audience is likely varied. Different audiences could be industry people, customers, supplier organizations, media outlets, and so on. Whilst the message may be seen by all audiences, you should be clear about which messages are intended for who, and what you want them to do next. The messages will be different for each group as each group likely picks up on different things.

Attach a value to each group. Is a media organization picking up on a message more valuable than a non-customer doing so? Again, this should be anchored to a business requirement. “We need media outlets following us so they may run more of our stories in future. Our research shows more stories has led to increased sales volume in the past”. Then a measure might be to count the number of media industry followers, and to monitor the number of stories they produce.

3. Know Your Costs

What does it cost you to run social media campaigns? How much time will it take? How does this compare to other types of campaigns? What is your opportunity cost? How much does it cost to measure the campaign?

As Delahaye Paine puts it, it’s the “I” in ROI.

4. Benchmark

Testing is comparative, so have something to compare against.

You can compare yourself against competitors, and/or your own past performance. You can compare social media campaigns against other marketing campaigns. What do those campaigns usually achieve? Do social media campaigns work better, or worse, in terms of achieving business goals?

In terms of ROI, what’s a social media “page view” worth? You could compare this against the cost of a click in PPC.

5. Define KPIs

Once you’ve determined objectives, defined the audience, and established benchmarks, you should establish criteria for success.

For example, the objective might be to increase media industry followers. The audience is the media industry and the benchmark is the current number of media industry followers. The KPI would be the number of new media industry followers signed up, as measured by classifying followers into subgroups and conducting a headcount.

Measuring the KPI will differ depending on objective, of course. If you’re measuring the number of mentions in the press vs your competitor, that’s pretty easy to quantify.

“Raising awareness” is somewhat more difficult, however once you have a measurement system in place, you can start to break down the concept of “awareness” into measurable components. Awareness of what? By whom? What constitutes awareness? How to people signal they’re aware of you? And so on.

6. Data Collection Tools

How will you collect measurement data?

  • Content analysis of social or traditional media
  • Primary research via online, mail or phone survey
  • Web analytics

There are an overwhelming number of tools available, and outside the scope of this article. No tool can measure “reputation” or “awareness” or “credibility” by itself, but can produce usable data if we break those areas down into suitable metrics. For example, “awareness” could be quantified by “page views + a survey of a statistically valid sample”.

Half the battle is asking the right questions.

7. Take Action

A measurement process is about iteration. You do something, get the results back, act on them and make changes, and arrive at a new status quo. You then do something starting from that new point, and so on. It’s an ongoing process of optimization.

Were objectives met? What conclusions can you draw?

Those seven steps will be familiar to anyone who has measured marketing campaigns and business performance. They’re grounded in the fundamentals. Without relating social media metrics back to the underlying fundamentals, we can never be sure if what we’re doing is making or a difference, or worthwhile. Is 5,000 Twitter followers a good thing?

It depends.

What business problem does it address?

Did You Make A Return?

You invested time and money. Did you get a return?

If you’ve linked your social media campaigns back to business objectives you should have a much clearer idea. Your return will depend on the nature of your business, of course, but it could be quantified in terms of sales, cost savings, avoiding costs or building an audience.

In terms of SEO, we’ve long advocated building brand. Having people conduct brand searches is a form of insurance against Google demoting your site. If you have brand search volume, and Google don’t return you for brand searches, then Google looks deficient.

So, one goal of social media that gels with SEO is to increase brand awareness. You establish a benchmark of branded searches based on current activity. You run your social media campaigns, and then see if branded searches increase.

Granted, this is a fuzzy measure, especially if you have other awareness campaigns running, as you can’t be certain cause and effect. However, it’s a good start. You could give it a bit more depth by integrating a short poll for visitors i.e. “did you hear about us on Twitter/Facebook/Other?”.

Mechanics Of Measurement

Measuring social media isn’t that difficult. In fact, we could just as easily use search metrics in many cases. What is the cost per view? What is the cost per click? Did the click from a social media campaign convert to desired action? What was your business objective for the social media campaign? To get more leads? If so, then count the leads. How much did each lead cost to acquire? How does that cost compare to other channels, like PPC? What is the cost of customer acquisition via social media?

In this way, we could split social media out into the customer service side and marketing side. Engaging with your customers on Facebook may not be all that measurable in terms of direct marketing effects, it’s more of a customer service function. As such, budget for the soft side of social media need not come out of marketing budgets, but customer service budgets. This could still be measured, or course, by running customer satisfaction surveys.

Is Social Media Marketing Public Relations?

Look around the web for definitions of the differences between PR and social media, and you’ll find a lot of vague definitions.

Social media is a tool used often used for the purpose of public relations. The purpose is to create awareness and nurture and guide relationships.

Public relations is sometimes viewed it as a bit of a scam. It’s an area that sucks money, yet can often struggle to prove its worth, often relying on fuzzy, feel-good proclamations of success and vague metrics. It doesn’t help that clients can have unrealistic expectations of PR, and that some PR firms are only too happy to promise the moon:

PR is nothing like the dark, scary world that people make it out to be—but it is a new one for most. And knowing the ropes ahead of time can save you from setting impossibly high expectations or getting overpromised and oversold by the firm you hire. I’ve seen more than my fair share of clients bringing in a PR firm with the hopes that it’ll save their company or propel a small, just-launched start-up into an insta-Facebook. And unfortunately, I’ve also seen PR firms make these types of promises. Guess what? They’re never kept

Internet marketing, in general, has a credibility problem when it doesn’t link activity back to business objectives.

Part of that perception, in relation to social media, comes from the fact public relations is difficult to control:

The main conduit to mass publics, particularly with a consumer issue such as rail travel or policing, are the mainstream media. Unlike advertising, which has total control of its message, PR cannot convey information without the influence of opinion, much of it editorial. How does the consumer know what is fact, and what has influenced the presentation of that fact?

But lack of control of the message, as the Cluetrain Manifesto points out, is the nature of the environment in which we exist. Our only choice, if we are to prosper in the digital environment, is to embrace the chaos.

Shouldn’t PR just happen? If you’re good, people just know? Well, even Google, that well known, engineering-driven advertising company has PR deeply embedded from almost day one:

David Krane was there from day one as Google’s first public relations official. He’s had a hand in almost every single public launch of a Google product since the debut of Google.com in 1999.

Good PR is nurtured. It’s a process. The way to find out if it’s good PR or ineffective PR is to measure it. PR isn’t a scam, anymore so than any other marketing activity is a scam. We can find out if it’s worthwhile only by tracking and measuring and linking that measurement back to a business case. Scams lack transparency.

The way to get transparency is to measure and quantify.

Categories: 

SEO Book

A New Version of GetListed.org

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Posted by David Mihm

Today, I am excited to announce the release of a new version of GetListed.org. While no new functionality is included in this update, the team and I hope it provides a dramatically improved user experience on several fronts.

The best way to get a sense of what's changed is to run a business search for yourself, but I'll run through a few brief highlights here.


Faster business lookups

GetListed is now waaayyyy faster (that's the technical term used by our engineers) than it used to be. Previously, lookups averaged around 20 seconds. We've cut the average response time in half to about 10 seconds, and we'll be working to make it even faster as we analyze usage of the app and further optimize our response times. We hope this increased speed provides a big value-add for those of you who use GetListed in your on-the-spot client meetings.

More consistent results

Previously, GetListed's Listing Snapshot displayed a composite listing based on the data points returned by several search engines in our list. This led to unnecessary confusion among business owners, and made it difficult for some of our agency users to identify which search engines were returning incorrect information about clients' listings. It also made tracking Listing Score progress over time more difficult, since this score was dependent on the order of results returned by our search engine partners, and this order sometimes varied week-to-week and month-to-month.

The new version of the site asks users to establish their canonical NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) information prior to running a full query for a given business, so that the new Snapshot page and Listing Score are no longer based on "best guess" composite listings.

Please note: this update means you may see changes in your listing scores, including for those businesses saved to your Dashboard. We suggest re-establishing these scores by running your listings through the new site. When you do, you'll have a fixed data point against which you can measure your progress over time.

Cleaner Listing Snapshot interface 

When we started GetListed back in January 2009, only four search engines were displayed on the snapshot page. As our app grew in popularity and we established new relationships with data providers and other search engines, that list grew ever-longer and the formerly-simple interface grew clunky and overwhelming. The goal of the site (to get business owners to update erroneous information and add missing information) became muddied.

We hope the new interface makes these calls-to-action much clearer–to create listings on search engines where they don't exist, and to update information that doesn't match reality. The new app consolidates the old Snapshot, Accuracy, and Details pages, bringing accuracy front-and-center, and makes it easy to see listing details inline without jumping from page-to-page.

Cleaner Dashboard interface

The new Dashboard removes the clutter of favicon-style search engine logos (another problem created by our gradual expansion to include more listing providers over the last four years). The new Dashboard provides a quick way to assess listing scores at a glance, and easy access to the details page for your listings from clickable business titles.

U.S. version only

Over the past couple of months, we've noticed GetListed UK and GetListed CA returning an unacceptably high number of errors on business queries. As part of this release, we've decided to temporarily suspend these versions in order to focus on the backend and interface for our U.S. audience, which accounted for 98% of all queries run in April. After we've had a chance to analyze our domestic audience usage on this new system, we plan to re-release UK- and CA-specific versions (along with more international sites) later in the year.


Looking ahead

Well, that takes care of most of the major changes for this release.  Feedback, as always, is welcome.  We've even added a handy-dandy tab where you can submit feedback directly within the app; you can also feel free to email me at davidm@seomoz.org.

I hope I've laid out a compelling case above for the rationale behind this release from a user's perspective. From a development perspective, the goal of this iteration of GetListed was to create a foundation for more frequent feature releases and better integration with SEOmoz tools moving forward. It paves the way for a number of new features we will be rolling out over the course of the summer and fall, which all of us on the GetListed team are even more excited about. Looking forward to sharing those with you soon!

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

How to Save Your Marriage with Content Marketing Strategy (Yes, You Heard Me Right)

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How to Save Your Marriage with Content Marketing Strategy (Yes, You Heard Me Right) was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Imagine: How much better would our relationships be if we all took the time to figure out who we are (truly, at the heart of it all), who we want to be, and how we can best represent our true selves to the world with honesty, consistency, and integrity? What if, armed with this new self-knowledge, we were all able to retain a focused approach to problem solving, think before we speak about who we are speaking to and how we should speak to them, and then communicate in a way that reflects forethought and consideration for listeners?

Happy couple giving the thumbs up in front of a laptop computer

Figure out who you are, communicate well, and be open to change and you’ll reap happiness in the day to day and the SERPs — like this couple.

What if we were actively self-reflective and made an effort not only to observe and be aware of the cause and effect that our participation in the world inspires, but also learn from what’s working and what’s not and take action to make changes that inspire more good things and fewer bad things?

We’d all be much better people and have better relationships to show for it.

OK. Now imagine how much stronger your content marketing and optimization could be if you applied the same principals?

If you’re thinking to yourself “OK, all that touchy-feely kumbaya hippie stuff is all fine and dandy, but how does getting in touch with my inner-self translate to improving my SERP rank and making me more money?” here’s the answer:

Conversions and making money are all an (important!) part of search marketing—but, lucky for us (in my opinion), we are in a “Content is King“ age where creating purposeful content that truly matters to the end-user is the heart of search marketing, and thus, the heart of what improves SERP ranks and brings in the big bucks.

Where Relationships Meet Rankings

What if every article you wrote was part of a content strategy that focused on communicating with intent to an audience whose voice and preferences you knew well?

What if you took time to reflect on who you are as a brand and what it is you stand for to established a brand voice that accurately represents the best you possible?

What if you knew the needs of your company and the needs of your demographic before you started writing so that you could deliver focused communication that helps to solve problems?

And, finally, what if you were able to try some new tactics without fear (all within the safe boundaries of your newly identified brand voice and parameters), keep track of and analyze how well those efforts are meeting your goals, and make adjustments to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t?

Do you see the dollar signs now?

With any relationship—whether it be between you and your wife, or you and your target market — it’s all about creating communication that is pointed, compelling and purposeful. When you’re all over the place, and you’re speaking as the yellow M&M when your audience is the green M&M, it shows.

Accordingly, when you put a little kumbaya into your content and approach your communication strategy and optimization from a focused place that takes into account audience voice, preferences and need, it also shows. And it pays.

Not Cutting Corners and Genuinely Giving a Hoot Will Get You Far In Life

People like to connect with other people who are consistent, honest, interesting, helpful, engaging, and fun to be around. People make connections when they identify with the person they are talking to, and relationships founded on ethical behavior and mindful communications tend to not only last but grow and prosper.

In a nutshell, improving your relationship with Google is a lot like improving any relationship you value and requires focus, reflection, solid communication, ethical behavior, the ability to learn from experience, and the willingness to make changes even when changes are hard.

"Give a Hoot or Die" shirt logo with angry forest owl

OK, OK… you won’t die. But your marriage or your SERP rankings might! (Image courtesy of Woot Services LLC.)

Said another way — not cutting corners and genuinely giving a hoot will get you far in life. (If you don’t believe me, try lying to your wife and phoning in your communication for a week. Her wrath is probably much scarier than Google Panda and Penguin combined.)

Next week we’ll pick up this topic again with a hands-on list that will show you how to get started creating a content marketing and optimization strategy that is infused with best practices and kumbaya.

In the meantime, can you think of any content marketing or SEO best practices that might help a relationship in need?

 

Bruce Clay Blog

Getting Granular With User Generated Content

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The stock market had a flash crash today after someone hacked the AP account & made a fake announcement about bombs going off at the White House. Recently Twitter’s search functionality has grown so inundated with spam that I don’t even look at the brand related searches much anymore. While you can block individual users, it doesn’t block them from showing up in search results, so there are various affiliate bots that spam just about any semi-branded search.

Of course, for as spammy as the service is now, it was worse during the explosive growth period, when Twitter had fewer than 10 employees fighting spam:

Twitter says its “spammy” tweet rate of 1.5% in 2010 was down from 11% in 2009.

If you want to show growth by any means necessary, engagement by a spam bot is still engagement & still lifts the valuation of the company.

Many of the social sites make no effort to police spam & only combat it after users flag it. Consider Eric Schmidt’s interview with Julian Assange, where Eric Schmidt stated:

  • “We [YouTube] can’t review every submission, so basically the crowd marks it if it is a problem post publication.”
  • “You have a different model, right. You require human editors.” on Wikileaks vs YouTube

We would post editorial content more often, but we are sort of debating opening up a social platform so that we can focus on the user without having to bear any editorial costs until after the fact. Profit margins are apparently better that way.

As Google drives smaller sites out of the index & ranks junk content based on no factor other than it being on a trusted site, they create the incentive for spammers to ride on the social platforms.

All aboard. And try not to step on any toes!

When I do some product related searches (eg: brand name & shoe model) almost the whole result set for the first 5 or 10 pages is garbage.

  • Blogspot.com subdomains
  • Appspot.com subdomains
  • YouTube accounts
  • Google+ accounts
  • sites.google.com
  • WordPress.com subdomains
  • Facebook Notes & pages
  • Tweets
  • Slideshare
  • LinkedIn
  • blog.yahoo.com
  • subdomains off of various other free hosts

It comes without surprise that Eric Schmidt fundamentally believes that “disinformation becomes so easy to generate because of, because complexity overwhelms knowledge, that it is in the people’s interest, if you will over the next decade, to build disinformation generating systems, this is true for corporations, for marketing, for governments and so on.”

Of course he made no mention in Google’s role in the above problem. When they are not issuing threats & penalties to smaller independent webmasters, they are just a passive omniscient observer.

With all these business models, there is a core model of building up a solid stream of usage data & then tricking users or looking the other way when things get out of hand. Consider Google’s Lane Shackleton’s tips on YouTube:

  • “Search is a way for a user to explicitly call out the content that they want. If a friend told me about an Audi ad, then I might go seek that out through search. It’s a strong signal of intent, and it’s a strong signal that someone found out about that content in some way.”
  • “you blur the lines between advertising and content. That’s really what we’ve been advocating our advertisers to do.”
  • “you’re making thoughtful content for a purpose. So if you want something to get shared a lot, you may skew towards doing something like a prank”

Harlem Shake & Idiocracy: the innovative way forward to improve humanity.

Life is a prank.

This “spam is fine, so long as it is user generated” stuff has gotten so out of hand that Google is now implementing granular page-level penalties. When those granular penalties hit major sites Google suggests that those sites may receive clear advice on what to fix, just by contacting Google:

Hubert said that if people file a reconsideration request, they should “get a clear answer” about what’s wrong. There’s a bit of a Catch-22 there. How can you file a reconsideration request showing you’ve removed the bad stuff, if the only way you can get a clear answer about the bad stuff to remove is to file a reconsideration request?

The answer is that technically, you can request reconsideration without removing anything. The form doesn’t actually require you to remove bad stuff. That’s just the general advice you’ll often hear Google say, when it comes to making such a request. That’s also good advice if you do know what’s wrong.

But if you’re confused and need more advice, you can file the form asking for specifics about what needs to be removed. Then have patience

In the past I referenced that there is no difference between a formal white list & overly-aggressive penalties coupled with loose exemptions for select parties.

The moral of the story is that if you are going to spam, you should make it look like a user of your site did it, that way you

  • are above judgement
  • receive only a limited granular penalty
  • get explicit & direct feedback on what to fix
Categories: 

SEO Book

Can an Upgraded Account Help Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile?

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Can an Upgraded Account Help Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile? was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Logged into LinkedIn lately? If you have, you might have noticed LinkedIn offers a free 30-day trial if you’d like to upgrade to a premium account.

An upgraded account can be a good option for job seekers, who can use an upgraded account to be “featured applicants,” or recruiters, who can contact users outside their networks. An upgraded account is also beneficial to anyone who wants more insights into his or her user engagement.

Curious as always — and never one to pass up a deal — I signed up, wondering if a premium account could aid in optimizing a profile.

Benefits of Upgrading

untitled

You can display the gold “In” badge and the OpenLink badge with an upgrade LinkedIn account.

A LinkedIn Premium account offers expanded search results, the ability to contact users outside your network and a tool to bookmark and annotate profiles. This upgraded account also affords the ability to display an OpenLink or the gold “In” badge. As an upgraded account holder, you can opt in to the OpenLink network, which signifies that anyone on LinkedIn can message you directly at no cost. When you choose to use a gold “In” badge, it is displayed next to your name in search results and on your profile — another way to stand out in a sea of silver “In” badges.

linkedin screenshotWith an upgraded account, you can also see a complete list of who has viewed you with the “Profile Stats Pro” tool. Profile Stats Pro also shows your views by industry and by location. You can also monitor what keywords you’ve come up for in searches through Profile Stats Pro. I, for example, learned that my profile ranks for “Kristi Kellogg,” “Bruce Clay, Inc.,” “editor” and “CSUN,” among other things.

The Profile Stats Pro tool might be the most useful aspect of an upgraded account, as it allows users a deeper understanding of who is searching for them and moreover, how they’re searching for them.

In a post last week, I stressed the importance of promoting yourself (and therefore your business or brand) by optimizing your profile. Using the Profile Stats Pro tool, you can monitor how you’re doing.

Cost of Upgrading

The cost of an upgraded account varies. There are four types of accounts: Linkedin Premium accounts, job seeker accounts, recruiter accounts and accounts for sales professionals. Those account choices can be customized further, leading to differing price points across the board. The type of account I’ve been using and writing about here is the Linkedin Premium Business Plus account, which, after the free 30-day trial, will run you $ 49.95/month thereafter.

There’s No Harm in Trying It

The great thing about the 30-day free trial is it allows you to see if it’s a wise investment for you and your business without any risk (just don’t forget to cancel it before the 30 days if you’re not going to keep it).

Upgraded accounts are gaining popularity.  In an interview with Reuters, LinkedIn spokeswoman Julie Inouye reported that in 2012, premium subscriptions revenues totaled $ 37.9 million in the first quarter, representing a 91 percent increase from the 2011.

Has having the LinkedIn Premium Business account aided my campaign to optimize my profile? The gold “In” badge and the OpenLink badge certainly help my profile stand out, but the worth of the upgraded account is really found in the analytics and expanded search and messaging capabilities — and that comes in handy when I want to see if my optimization is working.

Have you tried an upgraded LinkedIn account? What was your experience? Share with us in the comments.

Bruce Clay Blog

Twitter Series 101: Get Retweeted! Taking Dan Zarrella’s Advice

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Twitter Series 101: Get Retweeted! Taking Dan Zarrella’s Advice was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

At the start of this Twitter 101 series, we set about exploring strategies to increase our Twitter following, knowing that an increased Twitter following leads to a stronger brand voice and social media campaign.

Dan Zarrella, known as the social media scientist, offers great resources for users looking to be retweeted.

As your following increases, there are additional goals to strive for, like earning retweets. Earning retweets exposes your messages to a broader audience as your follower’s followers see your tweets via retweets. According to “the social media scientist” Dan Zarrella, “the likelihood of a tweet being retweeted increases dramatically each time it is retweeted.”

Dan is widely renowned for his social media savvy, hailed by Rand Fishkin as “someone whose expertise is backed by more data than nearly anyone else in the marketing field”). In his various reports, Dan explores what works and what doesn’t when it comes to retweeting.

 

Takeaways from Dan’s Science of ReTweets Report

  • More than 50 percent of all retweets contain links.
  • Nearly 1.5  percent of overall tweets are retweets.
  • Retweets use longer words and require a more advanced reading level than tweets.
  • 2:30 p.m. is the peak time for retweeting.

10 Most ReTweetable Words

  • you
  • twitter
  • please
  • retweet
  • post
  • blog
  • social
  • free
  • media
  • help

Takeaways from Dan’s 5 Scientifically Proven Ways to Get More ReTweets

  • Nearly 80 percent of all retweets are news-related.
  • Retweets that contain a self-reference are less likely to be retweeted.
  • Retweets that mention Twitter are more likely to be retweeted than those that mention Facebook.
  • Simply asking for a retweet can boost a tweet’s retweetability.

20 Least ReTweetable Words

  • listening
  • bored
  • back
  • some
  • tired
  • tomorrow
  • hey
  • gonna
  • sleep
  • well
  • bed
  • night
  • home
  • work
  • watching
  • but
  • lol
  • haha
  • going
  • game

Dan’s research yields useful information to think about when crafting your tweets. Keep these factors in mind as you create tweets that will hopeful lead to retweets. And remember, always leave 20 characters at the end of your tweet so users can easily add “via @ ____” when retweeting your tweet. To read more from Dan, check out his latest book The Science of Marketing: When to Tweet, What to Post, How to Blog, and Other Proven Strategies, published this month.

Bruce Clay Blog

April Mozscape Index Is Live

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Posted by bradfriedman

Hello Mozzers, and happy Monday!

My name is Brad Friedman, Technical Lead for Mozscape, and I'm happy to announce that we've released a brand new Mozscape index for April. You can find fresh, new data across all of our apps. Check out Open Site Explorer, the Mozbar, your PRO campaigns, and the Mozscape API.

We've reduced our index crawl time to just eleven days for this release! Thanks to our Big Data wizards on the processing team, Douglas Vojir and Martin York, for improving the freshness of our metrics! You can read more details on our technical improvements in this post from February.

We started processing this index on Wednesday, April 10, so the metrics will reflect crawl data from the end of March and the first week of April.

Here are the numbers for this latest index:

  • 88,973,525,592 (88 billion) URLs
  • 9,077,621,093 (9.1 billion) Subdomains
  • 161,124,038 (161 million) Root Domains
  • 887,067,310,285 (887 billion) Links
  • Followed vs. Nofollowed
    • 2.15% of all links found were nofollowed
    • 56.0% of nofollowed links are internal
    • 44.0% are external
  • Rel Canonical – 15.08% of all pages use a rel=canonical tag
  • The average page has 76 links on it
    • 65.05 internal links
    • 11.02 external links

And these are the correlations with Google's US search results:

  • Page Authority – 0.36
  • Domain Authority – 0.19
  • MozRank – 0.24
  • Linking Root Domains – 0.30
  • Total Links – 0.25
  • External Links – 0.29

Crawl histogram for the April Mozscape index

All this delicious data! What a great way to start off the week, huh?

Follow our planned update schedule on our Mozscape calendar, and you can check out the metrics on our previous releases here.

We're happy to answer your questions or read your feedback! Feel free to leave your comments here on this thread, or you can reach me on Twitter (@brad_friedman).

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

Keyword-Driven Personas – Whiteboard Friday

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Posted by RuthBurr

As inbound marketing is gaining traction, marketers in all inbound disciplines are realizing the importance of taking on keywords with a more holistic approach. It's time to start building your keywords into the bones of your site, rather than adding them once your site is already completely mapped out. 

In today's Whiteboard Friday, Ruth Burr discusses how you can use your keywords to drive personas, and ultimately affect your site mapping process for the better. Leave your thoughts and questions in the comments below! 

 

For your viewing pleasure, here's a still image of the whiteboard used in this week's video!

Still image of Whiteboard Friday - Ruth Burr - Keyword-Driven Personas

Update: Ruth referred to some code that Mike King of iAquire put together that may help your site if integrated into your analtyics. Give it a look!

Video Transcription

"Howdy, SEOmoz fans. My name's Ruth Burr. Welcome to another Whiteboard Friday. I'm the Lead SEO here at SEOmoz, and today I want to talk about using keywords to drive personas and ultimately your site mapping process.

One thing that we're really thinking a lot about as we move more and more toward an inbound marketing model, where there are multiple different people with multiple different functions all working together to have the best inbound marketing possible, is what we're doing with keywords and sort of when we're adding keywords into the site. I know that we've all had the experience in years past where we would get a site or get a piece of copy that was completely written and then just kind of have to plug our keywords into that existing content wherever they would fit. You might have an entire site that's already completely mapped out, it's got a sitemap, it's got information architecture, and then you're supposed to go in and put in your keywords. I've found that that is not always the best user experience for the keyword, and also isn't as effective as taking a more holistic approach.

So what I'm really hoping you guys will get out of this is take it back to your UX and your IA teams and really think about how you can build keywords more into the bones of the site.

One thing that Google is thinking a lot about that is really important for us to be thinking about as marketers as well is searcher intent. Search engines are spending tons of money and tons of time and tons of effort trying to figure out what people are searching for when they use a keyword. It behooves us as marketers to do the same thing because that way we can give people what they want when they tell us they want it, and that's the beauty of search engine marketing.

My example here is chocolate cookies, because I like to think about cookies. You might have somebody that's searching for the keyword "chocolate cookies," and maybe you own ChocolateCookies.com, a great domain. If that's the case, you don't really know what they want when they want chocolate cookies. They could be looking to buy chocolate cookies. They could want to learn how to make chocolate cookies. They could want recipes. You might also have ingredients. Maybe in addition to cookies you sell ingredients for cookies. Maybe you have recipe content and sales content, and you want to know how to serve up each of those pieces of content in a way that's really going to serve the user. What you can start doing is really thinking about the search intent of each one of these keywords and building that in to a traditional persona-based marketing model.

This is my example model. All of these examples are made up. The data is not real. You cannot use this data and take it out and just go build ChocolateCookies.com. You could, but results are not guaranteed. To reiterate, this data, made up.

In my ChocolateCookies.com example, we've got three different personas. We've mapped out who they are and what they want. Now we can actually assign keywords to them. Say you're trying to target people who want to make cookies. What they're looking for, they're looking for recipes, they're looking for ingredients. They are not looking to buy cookies. If somebody googles "chocolate cookie recipes" and they click through to your site and it's a page about how you can buy cookies from you, that is a bad user experience. Those people are not going to buy cookies, and they're also going to bounce right back to the search results.

That is the kind of thing that search engines are tracking. How quickly did somebody return to the search results page from your site? Did they do it without taking an action? If so, that can be a signal that you're not serving up quality content. It's bad from a ranking factor's perspective, and it's also bad because that person did not give you money and that's what we're trying to do, trying to sell cookie recipes.

So you really want to make sure that this person when they're searching for these keywords, which you've mapped back to their persona, you're serving up chocolate cookie recipes. And if they're looking for ingredients, you're serving up ingredients. Then you're creating an entire experience. You're not just paying lip service saying, "Oh, here's a recipe and then buy a bunch of stuff." You really are serving them up that high quality content that users love, that brings them back to the site again and again. If the recipe content is good enough, this baker might even share your content and share it with their friends, and maybe even link to it from their blog that's all about making cookies. Wouldn't that be nice?

Then you might also have somebody who does not want to make cookies because they don't have that kind of time. They want to buy cookies. They just want to buy them and then eat them. It's a model that I practiced for years. So they're going to be looking to buy cookies online. They're not going to care about recipes at all. They're not going to care about ingredients at all. They're going to be much more purchase-driven and be looking at keywords around their favorite brands and looking for sales. These are the people that you can really incentivize with calls to action and trust signals, like free shipping, delivery, sales, coupons, join our mailing list, and things like that. You've now mapped these back, so again you're creating this entire experience and all of this content based around the fact that this person does not care about recipes at all, they just want to buy.

Then our third persona is somebody who's buying at the corporate level. Maybe they're an office manager, or at SEOmoz, Team Happy is constantly buying us goodies and snacks, and we love that. But this person is in charge of the cookie supply at their office. What, does your office not have cookies? I'm so sorry. Get some cookies.

So this guy, he doesn't care about recipes at all. He's not going to make cookies every day for 100 people. He wants to buy them, and he's not spending his own money. He's spending the company's money. So he's looking for things like a corporate discount, a bulk discount, Maybe he's catering a party. He needs same-day delivery. These are the things that are really going to be important to this person. Since you know that, you can create content that is solely targeted toward this one person, this one buyer. Especially if you have things like a corporate discount, this is the place to really show it off.

So you've got these three different personas, and they're taking three very different paths through the site and they're consuming the site in different ways, whether it's buying a bunch of stuff, buying one thing, consuming your content and buying ingredients, coming back. Each of these personas is experiencing your content in very different ways. Rather than just creating one site and popping in keywords all willy-nilly so that all of these people are having the same experience, you can start crafting unique user experiences for each of these people based on their paths through the site.

Great, except that that takes a lot of time and money. Both in the fact that at most businesses time in some ways is money, and you may actually have to spend some money on it. One of the things that I actually really recommend doing during this part of the process is running some PPC campaigns around the keywords where you're trying to define user intent. If somebody's just searching on chocolate cookies, you might not know if they want to buy them, or if they want to make them or what they want to do. So use PPC, run a little test, and see whether people respond better if you've got recipes, or free shipping, or what the different calls to action are for those more generic terms. Over time you can start to see what the majority of users' intent is and what they really respond to and craft experiences for those more generic terms based around that. That's a really great way to use PPC as a little guinea pig test.

Now here comes my favorite part because it involves metrics. What you can do is go into your Google Analytics or whatever, use your analytics tools and start looking at these behaviors based on keywords. Once you've got your persona and you've got your keywords assigned to your persona, first of all make sure that all of these keywords really are the same persona. Make sure that users who enter on those keywords are taking similar paths through the site and executing similar actions. That's a great secondary indicator that all of these keywords do belong to this same persona.

Start looking at what they do. Maybe you get the most traffic from the baker, but you get the most revenue per order from the corporate guy. Maybe the shopper doesn't return as much, but she does convert at 2.4%. The baker spends the longest time on site, but maybe she doesn't buy as much. These are the things that you can start to look at and say, "Okay, so we know that the baker spends a lot of time on site, that's great. What can we do to encourage her to turn that into a purchase? How can we brand message to her in ways that make her feel more comfortable buying ingredients, or what can we do to incentivize her sharing this content which clearly she's consuming or loving?"

The same thing with the corporate guy. If he's got the highest revenue per order, obviously we want more of this guy. We want to figure out what does he want, what is he doing, and what are the triggers that we can use that get him to buy more or get him to return to the site more. You can start really testing, and that's great because it allows you, even just before you've done any of that amazing tweaking and testing, to say, "Okay where is the biggest mover of the needle among these two personas? What are the activities that we could be doing that could encourage them to do more of the activities they want to do fastest?" Then that'll help you prioritize and it'll help you target your efforts and your budget.

Then if you want to go above and beyond and really get in there and be a little bit creepy, what you can do is actually link up your site to Facebook Open Graph so that people are opting in to a Facebook app when they're registering on your site. They're connecting with Facebook. So there is that opt-in. You don't just want to take people's information. Once you've done that, you can actually, in your Google Analytics code, link it up to your Facebook Open Graph data, and you can start getting real demographic data on the actual people who are using these keywords and coming to your site. Now in addition to knowing that the baker is 40% of searches, you know that she's 35 to 40, you know she's female, and you know she's a mom. The corporate guy you know that he works at a company of more than 100 people most of the time. So you can really start targeting these people based on their demographic information.

What you also learn then is who these people are that like you so much. They're coming to your site over and over. They're buying things from you, which is really what we're trying to do here. And you can start targeting more of those people in your own SEO efforts, in your own customer acquisition efforts. You're targeting them on social. You're reaching out to them for links. You're buying ads to put in front of them, and you have more confidence that you'll have a return on those ads because you already know these are the kind of people who like you.

So you have all of this information about keywords and about personas. Now you can take that back to your user experience team, to your information architects and say, "Hey, let's redo the sitemap and have it be based on these personas, based on these proven user behaviors that start with a keyword and end with a purchase, and let's build experiences for those keywords." Now instead of just saying, "Well, here's what I think. We've got like About Us, Contact Us, Products." You can really say, "These are three main personas, so in the header we should probably have cookie recipes, shop cookies, corporate discount," and know that even from page one on the site whenever one of your target people comes to the site, it's really easy for them to find the experience they're looking for, make their way through the site, and then buy something.

Mike King of iAquire, who blogs at ipullrank.com, put together some code using Stack Overflow, which may or may not work on your site. Take it to your devs and see if they can make it work with your analytics. Every site is different. Your mileage may vary, but there is a link to it here at the bottom of the screen. There should be. It's invisible to me, but you can see it.

Now that you have this data, go to your UX people and show them the power of keyword-driven site mapping. Show them how SEO has so much to do with what they do, and not only will this project work for you, but in the future they'll be more likely to come back to you and say, "Hey, we're going to change the whole site, and we thought you should know before we do it." That's what you want.

That's it for Whiteboard Friday this week. Thanks for coming by you guys. See you next time."

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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