SEO Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Content’


How to Make a Graphic-Text Mash-up to Promote Blog Content on Facebook

Posted by:  /  Tags: , , , , ,

How to Make a Graphic-Text Mash-up to Promote Blog Content on Facebook was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

I’m in a few Google+ groups focused on SEO, social media and content marketing. The question of what stock photo service to use and where to get free images has come up a couple times. It got me thinking about the process I use to find, modify and use images in my day-to-day.

As a community manager and a blogger, I have 2 main needs for images:

  1. Including them in BCI blog posts to break up text and add visual interest
  2. Posting images to social media to share blog and other BCI content

What you’ll know by the end of reading this is:

  • Where I get images, both free and paid services
  • How to make a graphic-text mash-up using Google Drive that will get noticed in the midst of noisy Facebook, Twitter and Google+ streams

 

Free Images and Paid Stock Photo Services

The stock photo site I use is Dreamstime.com because the price is right and the selection passes muster. If you use advanced search to set the price slider bar to the lowest setting, you’ll find images available for 1 credit in the extra small size. Extra small is usually around 480 px by 320 px, which is fine for both my purposes (blog posts and social media posts).

panda on Dreamstime stock photo service

Credits will run you $ 1.36 if you buy the smallest credit package to about $ 1 if you buy 120 credits at a time; 250+ credit packages save you even more cents.

Other Stock Photo Services

I checked out some stock photo site comparisons to get an idea of what else is out there and how they stack up. In 6 Stock Photography Services Compared I learned that Stock.xchng is the most popular free stock photo library, yet it has a limited selection. Among the most popular paid services, iStockphoto has the most massive library and Getty Images has a complicated pricing and licensing scheme.

Getting Images for Free Online

As long as you’re not looking for high-res or print quality images, you’ve got good free options online.

Creative Commons

When using images with Creative Commons licenses, the attribution requirement adds a hurdle to the graphic mash-up use for images I describe later since it adds another element to what must be included in the graphic. But, CC images are great for blog posts.

panda on flickr

This panda image has a Creative Commons license that requires attribution. Flickr makes it easy to post the image to your blog by copying code that includes the required attribution.

For a long time, I used Creative Commons licensed photos on Flickr that allow commercial use and derivatives. For use in blog posts, Flickr makes it easy to use Creative Commons licensed images, and the “share” function gives you HTML code including the required attribution. The Creative Commons site search includes Flickr, Google Images, Open Clip Art Library and Pixabay for images, and a number of media and music sources as well.

Author Elizabeth Jolley and (younger) sister Madelaine Winifred in the garden, 1927

This image was found in The Commons using Flickr search. It was taken in 1927 and is part of the State Library of New South Wales collection.

You can also search Wikimedia‘s library of free images, a collection with Creative Commons copyrights, free documentation licenses or no copyright.

For free images you can also search EveryStockPhoto.com, a search engine for free photos across a number of sources and including a variety of license types.

Public Domain

You can also search Flickr’s collection The Commons, images that have passed into the public domain and belong to everyone, mostly due to their being old. You’ll find awesome vintage photos, advertising, illustrations and art that have passed into public use and can give modern blog and social posts refreshing classic flare. Since they don’t have copyright or licensing requirements, you can use public domain images for the graphic mash-up use which we get into next!

 

The Graphic Text Mash-up Promo

This is my little trick for sharing blog posts on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to get a little more attention than straight text updates.

As you may have noticed, recent layout updates to Facebook and Google+ have put an emphasis on visual media. Skyrocketing mobile use of Facebook, along with other social media apps, was a big reason behind Facebook’s update last March. Images show up larger in the News Feed and may also get priority in the ranking algo. An update to Google+ around the same time also made images feature more heavily. And in the endlessly updating churn of a Twitter stream, a picture attachment makes tweets stand out and, as pictures are worth a thousand words, lets you extend your message past 140 characters.

The graphic should include these three vital components:

  1. Image to grab fan/follower attention within a feed or stream
  2. A link to drive a viewer to your site
  3. Text that promises a payoff from clicking through

You can opt to include a logo for branding purposes as well. Note that if there’s text in the logo, it would add to your text to image ratio which Facebook limits to 20% for ads and promoted content. More on that below.

Creating A Graphic with Google Drive

I use the drawing function in Google Drive to add text on top of images. It’s super easy and Google gives you a ton of font options as well as shapes, arrows and call-outs you can add to the drawing. Here you can see a graphic mash-up I created last week to promote our Thank You page series.

elvis says thank you

I shared this image on the BCI Facebook and Twitter accounts to promote a 2-part series on Thank You pages optimization on the blog.

  1. Sign in to Google Drive at https://drive.google.com/ and create a Drawing.

  2. Insert an image that you own or one sanctioned for public use.

  3. Create a custom short link to the content. If you’ve got a registered Bitly account you can customize links, and in the Elvis example here you can see I created a custom link “typagecro,” which I chose to suggest “Thank You page CRO” (conversion rate optimization). Another bonus of a registered Bitly account is that you can track clicks on your short links.

  4. Insert text on top of the image. These are elements #2 and #3 in my list of three critical components.

    (#2) Include the custom short link, which a viewer can type into their address bar since it’s short and easy to understand. Of course, also include a hyperlink in the image caption or tweet.

    (#3) Include a promise of what’s to come in the full article, or hint at what the full content contains. If it’s a “Top 3 Reasons Why…” post, you may want include the three reasons right there in the image with an invitation to get all the info in the full post. In the Elvis example I included a brief description of what was covered in each of the two-parts of the Thank You page CRO series. Try to make this message seductive, whatever that means for you and your content.

  5. When the graphic is done, go to File > Download as > JPEG and save it.

A Quick Note About Design

I’ve taken one graphic design class, one web design class and a handful of painting and photography classes, so while I’m not a professional designer, I’ve been exposed to the rules of good composition. I think these are the basics to keep in mind when you’re creating mash-ups.

  • Make sure text is clearly legible. Black on white is best. White on black is hard for the eye to process. If text is anything besides dark text on light, not-busy background, make sure text is legible in other ways, such as increasing font thickness or putting a background color behind the text.
  • Use no more than two font types. At least one should be extremely easy to read; sans serif fonts are generally easier to read online than serif fonts. The other font can be stylized, used as an accent and in small amounts.
  • For the most part, text should align left. It’s hard for the eye to follow a ragged left edge
  • White space is a component of good design, especially in the modern aesthetic. While the graphic will likely be dense as you’re trying to communicate a lot in a little space, available white space should be a consideration in choosing the image.

If you want to get a background in some basics of design, I recommend Bootstrapping Design, a $ 39 ebook. It’s written for programmers, but I like it because it’s accessible design fundamentals for a non-artist set. Considering we’re in an age where everyone can publish online content, learning the basics of good design is an investment that will payoff.

Facebook Guidelines for Text in Images

12 percent of image is text

Acceptable

60 percent of image is text

Unacceptable

Shortly after Facebook’s update in March, it made a new rule limiting text in images used in ads, sponsored stories and Page cover photos to 20%. If you plan to “promote” the Facebook post including an image, pay to boost its visibility or turn it into an ad, the surface area of the image that includes text has to stay under 20%.

wall post on facebook

Text placement fail. The sides of landscape images are cropped in the viewable portion on a Facebook wall. Clicking on the image displays it in full for the viewer.

I’ll also note here that image posts as they’re displayed on a Facebook Wall favor portrait orientation and will cut off the left and right sides of landscape oriented images. If you’re using a landscape image, try to keep the text within the area that is “center square” to the height of the image. I’ve illustrated the center square in this drawing.

diagram of landscape image cut-off
Yep, made that in Google Drive, too.

Bruce Clay Blog

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

Posted by:  /  Tags: , , , , , ,

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

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

Posted by:  /  Tags: , , , , , ,

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

Posted by:  /  Tags: , , , ,

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

How to Build a Content Marketing Strategy

Posted by:  /  Tags: , , ,

Posted by Stephanie Chang

Link building has fundamentally changed. Many types of link building activities that have previously been effective are now either short-term strategies or no longer considered best SEO practice. As a result, companies and clients alike are seeking to understand how certain forms of link building can be translated into longer-term content marketing campaigns. The purpose of this post is to help you develop a framework on how to start building a content marketing strategy for your or your client's site.

Why should you care about content marketing?

According to a Content Marketing Institute (CMI) 2013 Survey, 86% of B2C (business to consumer) companies are planning to keep or increase their current content marketing spending this year. 54% of B2B (business to business) companies are planning to increase their content marketing spending in 2013. Knowing that the demand for content marketing is increasing, it's worth investing resources to start researching and learning more about the opportunities content marketing can bring to a site. 

B2C Content Marketing Spending in 2013

B2B Content Marketing Spending in 2013

The growth of content marketing is also a concept that Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures agrees with. Content marketing continues to see growth because it is the future of online marketing. He likes to think of content marketing as "moving the message from a banner to your brand and changing the engagement from a view to a conversation."

Furthermore, Google's algorithm is continuously changing, meaning this pretty much guarantees that the quick win strategies that may have worked in the past will no longer work in the future. For instance, Google has announced that in the future, they will no longer be announcing/confirming Panda updates because it will be integrated into the search engine's existing algorithm (i.e. Panda is here to stay indefinitely). We've also seen recently the dangers of garnering links from paid advertorials (even on respected, high domain authority websites), a tactic considered as "buying links" in Google's perspective.

Now is definitely the time to develop a new type of strategy to garner links and traffic. 

Inspirational examples of phenomenal content

Below are some examples of companies that have created phenomenal pieces of content. Hopefully this provides ample motivation to take your site/client's site to the level!

1. Kickstarter: Best of 2012: An inspirational take on 2012.

Kickstarter

2. BuzzFeed lists: Heartwarming content that is easily shareable.

BuzzFeed List

3. Indeed Job Trends: Data-driven content that is direct and to the point.

Indeed Job Trends

4. Shopify's Pinterest infographic and their new E-commerce University: Content that is effectively targeted towards their demographic and developing their brand as the E-commerce authority on the web.

Shopify Infographic

Ecommerce University

5. Airbnb Neighborhood Guides: A visually stimulating take on neighborhood guides, which differentiates them from other competitor's guides.

Neighborhood Guides

6. HBOWatch's April Fool's Day joke: Content with a clear understanding of target audience as determined by the high engagement metrics. It gained 1129 comments!

HBOWatch

7. Epic Meal Time: Videos targeted towards a male demographic. Topic examples include fast food lasagna and whiskey syrup bacon pancakes.

Whisky Syrup Pancakes


The content marketing strategy framework

I've been fortunate enough to work closely with Distilled's Head of Outreach, Adria Saracino, who's been absolutely instrumental in defining the below content marketing strategy framework for a number of my clients (and has, subsequently, inspired my passion for content marketing). Adria has also written a great piece on how to get buy in from your company to invest in content marketing.

Adria Saracino

Below is the content strategy framework that Adria and I have implemented together for our clients. We've learned that this process isn't a quick win and that our most successful content marketing strategies have relied on dedicating at least 3 months to just research – market research, site audits, content audits, customer surveys, and customer interviews to name just a few. In addition, I'll also showcase a few specific examples of how we've built out each step of the content strategy process. 

Step 1: Researching the company

The first step in developing a content strategy framework is understanding the company. The type of questions we ask our clients before we even commence the strategy is to identify the following:

  • The company's business model
    • How does the company bring in revenue?
    • What products bring in the most revenue? Why do these products bring in the most revenue (high profit margin, high demand, branding considerations)?
    • How is the sales team structured? What metrics are they measured on? 
  • The existing customer base
    • Who are the company's existing customers?
    • How does the company currently attract customers? 
    • If the company's marketing team has already done a market research survey, ask to see the results.
  • Marketing considerations
    • Understanding the existing content process
      • What are the editorial guidelines (if there are any)? What is the internal process to get content approved?
      • Who decides what type of content to produce?
      • What types of content does the team currently produce?
      • What are the company's brand considerations?

Step 2: Data collection (and lots of it)

I believe in utilizing the data that we have available to make informed decisions. This applies specifically to content; the more we understand about the site and the customers, the more we are able to make informed and strategic decisions to the type(s) of content we want to produce. In order to do this, it's important to gather relevant data. This data can come from a variety of the following sources:

  • Competitor analysis
    • What types of content are your competitors putting together? 
    • How are users engaging with the content?
    • Comparing/contrasting SEO metrics (DA, PA, external links, etc.)
  • Keyword research
    • ​What keywords bring traffic to the traffic (excluding not provided)?
    • What are the landing pages for those keywords?
    • What type of metrics does the keyword research and landing page combination currently bring to the site?
  • Market research and customer surveys
    • The surveys may vary depending on whether the company is b2b or b2c.
    • Traditionally, some of the survey questions we've asked b2b clients include:
      • Demographic-related questions like occupation, industry, job title, age, and gender.
      • How long have you been a customer?
      • How likely are you to recommend our services, products, etc.
      • Specific product/service-related questions
    • The survey questions we've asked b2c clients are very similar, but often contain more demographic questions like: highest level of education obtained, marital status, number of kids, household salary range, and occupation.
      • We also include specific product questions, like:
        • How often do you purchase our product?
        • Why do you purchase the product?

*Important Note* Be sure to test out your survey using other individuals unrelated to the survey before releasing it. This ensures that there are no ambiguous questions or that any questions have been framed in a way that would lead to biased answers. 

SurveyMonkey has also produced a variety of survey templates to at least help you gain some understanding of the type of questions you might want to ask your target audience depending on your goals for the survey.  

Survey Examples

Having these sample surveys is an excellent content strategy technique that SurveyMonkey has employed. 

Not only are the survey questions themselves important, but the email you send out in conjunction with the survey is a big indicator of your survey's success. Ideally, the more data you have accessible, the more likely the survey will become statistically significant. As a result, you want to make sure that the email template catches the audience's attention and also creates an incentive for them to fill out your survey. 

Below is an actual survey template that we've used for a client, which has generated 917 responses or approximately 50% of the client's email list.

Survey Template

  • Phone Interviews with Existing Customers
    • As you can see from the survey template above, individuals voluntarily opt for phone interviews because there is a guaranteed prize incentive. 
    • Questions asked in the phone interview are much more detailed (allowing us to eventually use this information for target audience persona development). Fundamentally, the type of questions you ask in the interview must help you:
      • Identify the person's day-to-day responsibilities, likes/dislikes, frustrations/pressures, needs, concerns, and function they play in the purchasing process.
        • Function they play in the purchasing process is based on the following roles:
          • Initiator: identifies the need to purchase the product
          • Influencer: evokes influence on the individuals who can make the decision to purchase the product
          • Decision-maker: decides whether or not to purchase the product
          • Buyer: selects who to buy from and the agreements that come alongside that
          • User: utilizes the product
          • Gatekeeper: has access or supplies information to both the decision maker and/or the influencer

Persona Development

Step 3: Preparation and assessment

Now that new data has been collected from various channels, it's important to assess/analyze the data that has just been collected and see how it correlates with the data that you already have on-hand. During this stage, it's also critical to take a step back and make sure that the goals for the content have been clearly defined. 

  • Create a benchmark audit using analytics
    • This provides an opportunity to compare/contrast results before and after the creation of the content 
    • Important analytics to include are:
      • Traffic
      • Pageviews
      • Pages per visit
      • Average time on site
      • Entrances/exits
      • Conversion rate
      • Bounce rate
      • Linking root domains
      • Page authority
      • Rankings
  • Putting together a content audit
    • ​The purpose of the content audit is evaluate how previous content on the site has performed, as well as organize the existing content on the site to determine additional opportunities. 
    • For one of my clients, Adria and I analyzed the top 500 landing pages on the client's site and took a look at the content from three distinct lenses:
      • Analytics metrics: engagement (bounce rate, time on site) and number of visits (to identify potential keyword opportunities)
      • SEO metrics: linking root domains, page authority, etc.
      • Content perspective: is this useful for a user? What type of user would it attract?
        • We individually analyze each content page and determine where it sits on the content funnel.
          • Awareness: Content created for this part of the funnel is designed to target an audience that hasn't even begun to consider the company's product/services.
          • Trigger: Content created for this part of the funnel is when a user has become aware of the product/service and has started thinking about the possibility of needing it.
          • Search: User has decided to research the product/service in-more depth.
          • Consideration: User has decided to convert, but hasn't decided which brand to choose.
          • Buy: User decides to convert to the company's product/service.
          • Stay: Content targeted towards retaining clients, ensuring they remain a loyal customer/brand advocate.

Content Funnel

The purpose of labeling what stage of the funnel each piece of content is associated with is to ultimately assess the distribution of content on a site and determine if there are any gaps. For instance, this particular site had 180 unique content pages and the distribution of the site's content looked like this:

Content Distribution

In this specific case, it is apparent that a majority of the site's content sits at the bottom of the funnel. As a result, we recommended to the client that they create more content that targets higher up the funnel. However, it is also important to bear in mind that a site is not necessarily looking for an even distribution of content at each stage of the funnel. The amount needed is determined by various factors, like keyword research and an iterative approach in which content is built that targets a specific stage of the funnel. Afterwards, these pieces of content are analyzed to determine if they proved value based on the site's pre-determined content goals and KPIs. This closely ties into our next point, which is:

  • Clarify the goals for this content strategy. Goals should be general like:
    • Increase in conversions
    • Increase in organic traffic to the site
    • Increase in audience engagement
    • increase in brand awareness
  • However, goals/metrics should also be specifically correlated to where that content sits in the content funnel:
    • ​This great article by Jay Baer explains it in more depth:
      • Consumption metrics: How many views/downloads did your content receive? 
      • Sharing metrics: How often does your content get shared? (Tweets, Likes…etc)
      • Lead generation metrics: How often do the consumers turn into leads?
      • Sales metrics: How often do the consumers turn into sales? 
    • Ideally, the consumption metrics would be correlated to content higher up in the funnel and the sales metrics correlated to content located further down the funnel. See diagram below:

Metrics and Content Funnel

  • Develop persona buckets
    • In order to achieve this, combine all the data that was derived from the content audit, customer surveys, and customer interviews. Once you've done so, segment individuals into different categories, like this: 

Persona Buckets

Image Courtesy of Kissmetrics

  • Solidify the editorial process for the company
    • Who needs to be included in the content development and implementation phase? When do they need to be included? 
    • Have a clear understanding of the dependencies (i.e. how long does it typically take to get sign off from relevant departments?)
    • Determine the site's style guide/tone of voice/engagement standards
  • Define the content strategy
    • What types of content will be produced on the site? 
    • Where does this content sit in the funnel?
    • Where would they sit on the site? In a separate category on an existing category?
    • What keywords would the content target?

Going through this detailed, research-intensive process allows a company to clearly see the opportunities at hand from a high-level perspective. When we go through this process, we identify ways to improve not only the company's organizational structure and create standardizations on how content and pages are released onto the site (static URLs, keyword targeting, content tone of voice/length). It's also through this process that we've been able to engage/integrate multiple departments and define ways to work together seamlessly.

Furthermore, we also gain a concrete understanding of the big opportunities for the site. It's impossible to go through this much research and not be able to discern multiple opportunities related to CRO, information architecture, keyword targeting, and analytics, to name a few. 

Step 4: Prospecting

This phase of the process is identifying individuals/sites who would be interested in the type of content the company will produce and engaging them at multiple points with the goal to develop relationships with key influencers.

  • Identify and reach out to influencers
  • Keep on top of industry news
  • Keep on top of the content that competitors are creating

Step 5: Create and promote the content

In this step, the "go" is to now create the pieces of content and follow both the internal protocols and sign off processes that were established in step three of the process. Ensure that editorial standards are being followed and assess that the content being created is actually phenomenal. 

  • Create the content and consistently reassess to make sure it is meeting the following checklist:
    • Is the content credible?
    • Is the content informative?
    • Is the content easy to understand? 
    • Is the content useful?
    • Is the content exceptional?
  • Promote and outreach the content to key influencers

Step 6: Assess content performance

After the content has been released and promoted, it's time to assess how the content has performed and any other learnings that can be taken away from the process, including:

  • How has the piece performed?
  • What learnings were taken away from it? Any changes that need to be made to the process? 
  • What data have we received from the piece of content?

The long-term vision is that the content is able to fulfill the original goals of the content marketing strategy. Overtime, each piece of content produced should systematically become easier and easier, as learnings are developed and iterated each time. Although, the process appears very resource-intensive in the beginning, overtime, the goal is that producing effective and meaningful content becomes a crucial entity for the company.


In conclusion, the most valuable benefits of having a content strategy for your site is that, from a business standpoint, your site is no longer creating content for "content's sake" or to build "link bait." Moving forward, the site now has a framework of creating content that serves multiple purposes: to engage with current and future customers; to establish brand awareness and authority within the industry; and to consequently garner more traffic, conversions, and links to your site.

Furthermore, by integrating multiple individuals into the development of a site's content strategy, it automatically provides the groundwork of integrating SEO seamlessly into the other online marketing activities of the site, such as CRO, social media, and PR. 

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 Prevent Content Value Gouging

Posted by:  /  Tags: , , ,

What are the incentives to publish high-value content to the web?

Search engines, like Google, say they want to index quality content, but provide little incentive to create and publish it. The reality is that the publishing environment is risky, relatively poorly paid in most instances, and is constantly being undermined.

The Pact

There is little point publishing web content if the cost of publishing outweighs any profit that can be derived from it.

Many publishers, who have search engines in mind, work on an assumption that if they provide content to everyone, including Google, for free, then Google should provide traffic in return. It’s not an official deal, of course. It’s unspoken.

Rightly or wrongly, that’s the “deal” as many webmasters perceive it.

What Actually Happens

Search engines take your information and, if your information is judged sufficiently worthy that day, as the result of an ever-changing, obscure digital editorial mechanism known only to themselves, they will rank you highly, and you’ll receive traffic in return for your efforts.

That may all change tomorrow, of course.

What might also happen is that they could grab your information, amalgamate it, rank you further down the page, and use your information to keep visitors on their own properties.

Look at the case of Trip Advisor. Trip Advisor, frustrated with Google’s use of its travel and review data, filed a competition complaint against Google in 2012.

The company said: “We hope that the commission takes prompt corrective action to ensure a healthy and competitive online environment that will foster innovation across the internet.”

The commission has been investigating more than a dozen complaints against Google from rivals, including Microsoft, since November 2010, looking at claims that it discriminates against other services in its search results and manipulates them to promote its own products.

TripAdvisor’s hotel and restaurants review site competes with Google Places, which provides reviews and listings of local businesses.”We continue to see them putting Google Places results higher in the search results – higher on the page than other natural search results,” said Adam Medros, TripAdvisor’s vice president for product, in February. “What we are constantly vigilant about is that Google treats relevant content fairly.”

Similarly, newspapers have taken aim at Google and other search engines for aggregating their content, and deriving value from that aggregation, but the newspapers claim they aren’t making enough to cover the cost of producing that content in the first place:

In 2009 Rupert Murdoch called Google and other search engines “content kleptomaniacs”. Now cash-strapped newspapers want to put legal pressure on what they see as parasitical news aggregators.”

Of course, it’s not entirely the fault of search engines that newspapers are in decline. Their own aggregation model – bundling news, sport, lifestyle, classifieds topics – into one “place” has been surpassed.

Search engines often change their stance without warning, or can be cryptic about their intentions, often to the determent of content creators. For example, Google has stated they see ads as helpful, useful and informative:

In his argument, Cutts said, “We actually think our ads can be as helpful as the search results in some cases. And no, that’s not a new attitude.”

And again:

we firmly believe that ads can provide useful information

And again:

In entering the advertising market, Google tested our belief that highly relevant advertising can be as useful as search results or other forms of content

However, business models built around the ads as content idea, such as Suite101.com, got hammered. Google could argue these sites went too far, and that they are asserting editorial control, and that may be true, but such cases highlight the flaky and precarious nature of the search ecosystem as far as publishers are concerned. One day, what you’re doing is seemingly “good”, the next day it is “evil”. Punishment is swift and without trial.

Thom Yorke sums it up well:

In the days before we meet, he has been watching a box set of Adam Curtis’s BBC series, All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace, about the implications of our digitised future, so the arguments are fresh in his head. “We were so into the net around the time of Kid A,” he says. “Really thought it might be an amazing way of connecting and communicating. And then very quickly we started having meetings where people started talking about what we did as ‘content’. They would show us letters from big media companies offering us millions in some mobile phone deal or whatever it was, and they would say all they need is some content. I was like, what is this ‘content’ which you describe? Just a filling of time and space with stuff, emotion, so you can sell it?”

Having thought they were subverting the corporate music industry with In Rainbows, he now fears they were inadvertently playing into the hands of Apple and Google and the rest. “They have to keep commodifying things to keep the share price up, but in doing so they have made all content, including music and newspapers, worthless, in order to make their billions. And this is what we want? I still think it will be undermined in some way. It doesn’t make sense to me. Anyway, All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace. The commodification of human relationships through social networks. Amazing!

There is no question the value of content is being deprecated by big aggregation companies. The overhead of creating well-researched, thoughtful content is the same whether search engines value it or not. And if they do value it, a lot of the value of that content has shifted to the networks, distributors and aggregators and away from the creators.

Facebook’s value is based entirely on the network itself. Almost all of Google’s value is based on scraping and aggregating free content and placing advertising next to it. Little of this value gets distributed back to the creator, unless they take further, deliberate steps to try and capture some back.

In such a precarious environment, what incentive does the publisher have to invest and publish to the “free” web?

Content Deals

Google lives or dies on the relevancy of the information they provide to visitors. Without a steady supply of “free” information from third parties, they don’t have a business.

Of course, this information isn’t free to create. So if search engines do not provide you profitable traffic, then why allow search engines to crawl your pages? They cost you money in terms of bandwidth and may extract, and then re-purpose, the value you created to suit their own objectives.

Google has done content-related deals in the past. They did one in France in February whereby Google agreed to help publishers develop their digital units:

Under the deal, Google agreed to set up a fund, worth 60 million euroes, or $ 80 million, over three years, to help publishers develop their digital units. The two sides also pledged to deepen business ties, using Google’s online tools, in an effort to generate more online revenue for the publishers, who have struggled to counteract dwindling print revenue.

This seems to fit with Google’s algorithmic emphasis on major web properties, seemingly as a means to sift the “noise in the channel”. Such positioning favors big, established content providers.

It may have also been a forced move as Google would have wanted to avoid a protracted battle with European regulators. Whatever the case, Google doesn’t do content deals with small publishers and it could be said they are increasingly marginalizing them due to algorithm shifts that appear to favor larger web publishers over small players.

Don’t Be Evil To Whom?

Google’s infamous catch-phrase is “Don’t Be Evil”. In the documentary Inside Google”, Eric Schmidt initially thought the phrase was a joke. Soon after, he realized they took it seriously.

The problem with such a phrase is that it implies Google is a benevolent moral actor that cares about……what? You – the webmaster?

Sure.

“Don’t Be Evil” is typically used by Google in reference to users, not webmasters. In practice, it’s not even a question of morality, it’s a question of who to favor. Someone is going to lose, and if you’re a small webmaster with little clout, it’s likely to be you.

For example, Google appear to be kicking a lot of people out of Adsense, and as many webmasters are reporting, Google often act as judge, jury and executioner, without recourse. That’s a very strange way of treating business “partners”, unless partnership has some new definition of which I’m unaware.

It’s getting pretty poor when their own previously supportive ex-employees switch to damning their behavior:

But I think Google as an organization has moved on; they’re focussed now on market position, not making the world better. Which makes me sad. Google is too powerful, too arrogant, too entrenched to be worth our love. Let them defend themselves, I’d rather devote my emotional energy to the upstarts and startups. They deserve our passion.

Some may call such behavior a long way from “good” on the “good” vs “evil” spectrum.

How To Protect Value

Bottom line: if your business model involves creating valuable content, you’re going to need a strategy to protect it and claw value back from aggregators and networks in order for a content model to be sustainable.

Some argue that if you don’t like Google, then block them using robots.txt. This is one option, but there’s no doubt Google still provides some value – it’s just a matter of deciding where to draw the line on how much value to give away.

What Google offers is potential visitor attention. We need to acquire and hold enough visitor attention before we switch the visitors to desired action. An obvious way to do this, of course, is to provide free, attention grabbing content that offers some value, then lock the high value content away behind a paywall. Be careful about page length. As HubPages CEO Paul Edmonds points out:

Longer, richer pages are more expensive to create, but our data shows that as the quality of a page increases, its effective revenue decreases. There will have to be a pretty significant shift in traffic to higher quality pages to make them financially viable to create”

You should also consider giving the search engines summaries or the first section of an article, but block them from the rest.

Even if you decide to block search engines from indexing your content they still might pay others to re-purpose it:

I know a little bit about this because in January I was invited to a meeting at the A.P.’s headquarters with about two dozen other publishers, most of them from the print world, to discuss the formation of the consortium. TechCrunch has not joined at this time. Ironically, neither has the A.P., which has apparently decided to go its own way and fight the encroachments of the Web more aggressively (although, to my knowledge, it still uses Attributor’s technology). But at that meeting, which was organized by Attributor, a couple slides were shown that really brought home the point to everyone in the room. One showed a series of bar graphs estimating how much ad revenues splogs were making simply from the feeds of everyone in the room. (Note that this was just for sites taking extensive copies of articles, not simply quoting). The numbers ranged from $ 13 million (assuming a $ .25 effective CPM) to $ 51 million (assuming a $ 1.00 eCPM)

You still end up facing the cost of policing “content re-purposing” – just one of the many costs publishers face when publishing on the web, and just one more area where the network is sucking out value.

Use multiple channels so you’re not reliant on one traffic provider. You might segment your approach by providing some value to one channel, and some value to another, but not all of it to both. This is not to say models entirely reliant on Google won’t work, but if you do rely on a constant supply of new visitors via Google, and if you don’t have the luxury of having sufficient brand reputation, then consider running multiple sites that use different optimization strategies so that the inevitable algorithm changes won’t take you out entirely. It’s a mistake to think Google cares deeply about your business.

Treat every new visitor as gold. Look for ways to lock visitors in so you aren’t reliant on Google in future for a constant stream of new traffic. Encourage bookmarking, email sign-ups, memberships, rewards – whatever it takes to keep them. Encourage people to talk about you across other media, such as social media. Look for ways to turn visitors into broadcasters.

Adopt a business model that leverages off your content. Many consultants write business books. They make some money from the books, but the books mainly serve as advertisements for their services or speaking engagements. Similarly, would you be better creating a book and publishing it on Amazon than publishing too much content to the web?

Business models focused on getting Google traffic and then monetarizing that attention using advertising only works if the advertising revenue covers production cost. Some sites make a lot of money this way, but big money content sites are in the minority. Given the low return of a lot of web advertising, other webmasters opt for cheap content production. But cheap content isn’t likely to get the attention required these days, unless you happen to be Wikipedia.

Perhaps a better approach for those starting out is to focus on building brand / engagement / awarenesss / publicity / non-search distribution. As Aaron points out:

…the sorts of things that PR folks & brand managers focus on. The reason being is that if you have those things…

  • the incremental distribution helps subsidize the content creation & marketing costs
  • many of the links happen automatically (such that you don’t need to spend as much on links & if/when you massage some other stuff in, it is mixed against a broader base of stuff)
  • that incremental distribution provides leverage in terms of upstream product suppliers (eg: pricing leverage) or who you are able to partner with & how (think about Mint.com co-marketing with someone or the WhiteHouse doing a presentation with CreditCards.com … in addition to celebrity stuff & such … or think of all the ways Amazon can sell things: rentals, digital, physical, discounts via sites like Woot, higher margin high fashion on sites like Zappos, etc etc etc)
  • as Google folds usage data & new signals in, you win
  • as Google tracks users more aggressively (Android + Chrome + Kansas City ISP), you win
  • if/when/as Google eventually puts some weight on social you win
  • people are more likely to buy since they already know/trust you
  • if anyone in your industry has a mobile app that is widely used & you are the lead site in the category you could either buy them out or be that app maker to gain further distribution
  • Google engineers are less likely to curb you knowing that you have an audience of rabid fans & they are more likely to consider your view if you can mobilize that audience against “unjust editorial actions”

A lot of the most valuable content on this site is locked-up. We’d love to open this content up, but there is currently no model that sufficiently rewards publishers for doing so. This is the case across the web, and it’s the reason the most valuable content is not in Google.

It’s not in Google because Google, and the other search engines, don’t pay.

Fair? Unfair? Is there a better way? How can content providers – particularly newcomers – grow and prosper in such an environment?

Categories: 

SEO Book

How to Get Your Boss to Care About Content Marketing

Posted by:  /  Tags: , , , ,

Posted by Adria Saracino

This article consists of part selling content marketing, and part how to actually create a content campaign. However, at a more Meta level, it's also about the idea of "how to be good at getting what you want." If you want your boss to care about content marketing, you need to know how to pitch it right.

Like everything in business, from sales to link building, "selling an idea" is all about persuasive speech and delivery. However, if persuasion doesn't come naturally to you, how do you formulate a pitch that will be sticky and affect change?

I'm not here to give vague, unhelpful advice like "be persuasive," "give solid delivery," or some other abstract concept that is difficult to act upon. Rather, I will do my best to give you an actionable, step-by-step formula to constructing an effective pitch and convincing your boss that content marketing is the answer to your online business woes.  

Whether you're selling content marketing to the C-Suite, your manager, a client, or even trying to convince yourself, here is everything you need to make a compelling argument and be on your way to content marketing success.

Step 1: Paint a story

Think of some of the best advertising campaigns you can recall. I get chills every time the Kellogg's Special-K commercials come on and they end it with the simple phrase, "What will you gain when you lose?" Genius in one simple question.

Just like Kellogg's stays top of mind by getting viewers to think about the flip side of weight loss, you need to paint a story and deliver an overarching vision in which the decision makers can relate if you want them to support you throughout the process.

Tom Critchlow once told me to "voice a vision" and I literally walked away baffled because it was so non-actionable that I wanted to rampage. However, now being on the other side, I'm going to say this "story painting" part is the most abstract piece of the "making-your-boss-care" puzzle because at the end of the day, each story will differ depending on the company. Since you have more intimate knowledge of the brand than I ever will, this story-painting task lies in your creative ability to succinctly develop a vision for your company.

All this being said, I can provide some tricks for developing your story:

  • What is the brand message? If there is a PR team, ask. No sense painting a new vision that doesn't align. If not, start thinking about what you know about your customers and brainstorming why they chose your brand over another. What is your brand's USP? Sales and FAQ pages could be invaluable here. You could even bribe the social media manager to throw a question out on Facebook and see what responses you get.

PRO TIP: Send out an email asking all (or a group) of employees to put into an Excel doc words that come to mind when they think of your brand. Throw it into Wordle to create a word cloud to help with brainstorming. You could also add words from the Facebook responses from customers if you ended up bribing your social manager.

  • Can you re-position the conversation? Just like Kellogg's, Taco Bell re-positioned the conversation in its market with the tagline "Think Outside the Bun." It was in the market of burger joint vs. burger joint, but instead of comparing itself to the competition by creating more noise about "fast food" and "sandwich-like" options, Taco Bell re-positioned the conversation to "us vs. them."

Can you focus the conversation on another angle in your market? Think about your competition and what all of the marketing noise sounds like. How can you differentiate your message?

  • If you're not a natural storyteller, find someone who is. I personally am hit or miss with storytelling, so I often go to Lexi Mills or Ron Garrett for this skill. The bonus to getting someone else invested in the vision is that it becomes an opportunity to recruit more advocates of content marketing. Think of it as a mini coup, as there is strength in numbers.
  • Google it. Hey, if you're not a great storyteller look to see what other people are saying. I just did to make sure I wasn't missing anything and found some great resources on storytelling for marketing.

Remember: decision makers need to see, understand, and be on board with your vision if you want to truly get their buy in. Sell the vision and you're on your way to getting the resources you need to get there.

Step 2: Match it with specific goals

I'll make it easy for you. There's only one real goal: conversions. All other "goals" are really just means to this one end. You're in business, so all goals should end in the monies. Any other goal you think of (links, rankings, domain authority, etc.) will be a short-term checkpoint to reaching the end of the race and improving conversions.

Your long-term goal should be the first thing you pitch: "I want to make us more money." Perfect; you got their attention and are speaking in their terms. Now, how do you get specific and create a road map of short-term-goal measurement "checkpoints" to show you are coming to the pitch with solutions and not just fanciful stories?

Remember, it's about painting a story. You want to go all Memento on them. Start with the end of the story (end goal = more money) and then flash back to the beginning – give them a high-level snapshot of your company's current performance.

For current performance: Usually a few key graphs and specific metrics in areas where the company is under-performing will be enough. If you can pair it with some competitive research, such as "so-and-so is dominating the search results," that will most likely help. The key is to not get caught up in minutia and to talk big picture. Don't say, "We are getting a high bounce rate on this one page and I think it's important to build content to improve it." You want the conversation to sound more like, "I audited our site and saw there are over 30 pages in which we're getting X-significant-amount-of-traffic and it has a 100% bounce rate, which is costing us approximately $ X a year."

For future goals: Again, you want to think bigger picture and not get caught up in the minutia. You definitely don't want to say, "I'm going to make a piece of linkbait that's going to get us a lot of links." Business leaders don't think in links, they think in money so start leveling up your language.

Content marketing isn't a string of piecemeal linkbait. It is aligning content with a company's customer funnel to make sure the brand is at top-of-mind throughout the purchasing path. Thus, your pitch should sound more like this, "To improve our organic traffic by X% and bring in $ X more a year, we need to dominate the SERPs for keywords relevant to our customers' purchasing behavior. To get here, we need to do X, Y, and Z."

Below, we'll talk more about the recipe for developing a content strategy which, depending on your company's specific performance, you can most likely plug into this part of the pitch for the X, Y, and Z variables. Also, I really loved Jay Baer's presentation at Content Marketing World on the four different types of metrics.

Step 3: Pair the vision + goals with the benefits

Kane Jamison of Content Harmony and I were shooting emails back and forth in preparation for our meet-up on content marketing in March, and he explained the core benefit of content marketing so well:

"Tangential/viral campaigns have to be justified to the client like this:

'Well, viral may results in links/social, which may result in domain authority and may result in ranking improvements across the domain, but if it fails then we don't have much to show for it.'

That can be too much of a stretch for a client to get on board with. Aligning the content you produce with the client's sales funnel sidestep that. The discussion turns into this:

'Well, if it goes viral, then we win the internet, but if it doesn't go viral then it's still great for X, Y, & Z business goals, and you can continue promoting it long in to the future.'"

If you have inquisitive management, they are going to start coming at you with questions and rebuttals trying to say what your team is currently doing is enough. Kane's reasoning will be enough explanation for most, but counteract any serious dubiousness with a list of reasons why content marketing is beneficial. You know your boss best, so you can read whether or not you'll need to dive into this in detail or just have it ready, but it's always good to pepper some of these into your pitch.

I wrote an article on aligning content marketing with the customer funnel that had some of these benefits, but here is an expanded list:

It's safer and actually strategic

Frankly, if a piece of content doesn't go viral, you have a backup plan if you align content to the broader marketing goal and message.

As Kane mentioned, "viral" content pieces on tangential topics put a lot of strain on the outreachers to deliver links and shares. However, creating sharable content that is also relevant to the top of your company's funnel can make sure you're not putting all your eggs in one basket. If it doesn't go "viral," it could still have other benefits, such as ranking for a relevant term, being used by the sales team, and so on. This is called diversifying your link building plan.

In addition, if you build content around broader PR or social media efforts, you are now integrating campaigns – economies of scale for content marketing. This makes sure you are leaving no stone unturned and capitalizing on all the potential business wins possible.

EXAMPLE: If the social team is hosting a huge contest, is there an opportunity to create relevant content onsite that has the opportunity to rank for keywords relevant to your funnel?

Creates a flywheel

Content marketing is a COO's operational dream. Over time, it creates a flywheel for efficient content creation. No endless cycle of "think of epic idea, build it, outreach it, repeat." Instead, you are front loading the research and planning to create a long term road map that follows a strategic set of creative parameters. 

In addition to the internal flywheel, content following a strategic plan can also market itself over time, eliminating the need to keep promoting it manually. For example, if the content targets a low-competition keyword that has decent volume, it can start ranking well on its own. If it's a topic a lot of other authors write about, when they are researching they could use your content. Furthermore, since users are search heavy during decision making, it's bringing new potential customers to your site all by itself. If you create content regularly enough, people can come to expect it and start coming to your site to see what you will launch next. All of these are examples of how content can become a snowball effect of wins with little to no redundant work.

Provides consistent user experience

This is the benefit I am personally most passionate about because, at the end of the day, your customers are who matter most. If you are creating inconsistent, tangential content to target who I call the gatekeepers, you run the risk of confusing your customers and irreparably damaging your brand's trust factor. Here's an easy rule to follow: all content you create should make sense as coming from your brand. No zombie infographics if you are an insurance company. No cat memes if you are a travel company. Keep it relevant and consistent. I have another version of #RCS: Relevant, Consistent Shit.

Captures long-term traffic

I used this image in my last post and I'm going to use it again because it's so relevant: content that is relevant to your customer funnel builds traffic over time. Unless they are searching for zombie apocalypse equipment, no one is searching for keywords around your zombie infographic. It will not gain long-term traffic unless you keep pushing it.

However, if you create content that you know targets a topic heavily searched, you could see results like this:

content growth chart

Step 4: Demonstrate potential results with examples

Keep up the storytelling theme by ideally having both good and bad examples to represent the hero and the villain. We are hardwired to connect with storytelling, so it can be difficult for decision makers to resist rooting for the good guys. You want to subtly paint this good vs. bad picture by choosing the right examples. The best "bad" examples usually hit home when they are your own company's work, but just remember to be tactful when talking about the negatives.

Here are some good examples for you to use. Note, I am showing these because I have access to how the campaigns did and the results are what you need to show your boss this stuff works. There's a lot of really, really cool content marketing going on out there, and I encourage you to follow up with the companies that are doing them to see if you can get some case studies on the results.

"The Small Business Champions"

Mackenzie Fogelson just talked about them in her building community value post. They even wrote a post explaining their campaign and the results. They might be all over the place, but I'm going to say it again because it has such clear results you can show your boss (remember: show, don't tell) – the team over at Simply Business is onto something with this whole content marketing thing.

I'll let you read the post over at CMI that goes into more depth, but essentially SB developed a brand message to become "the small business champion." As such, it decided to create content around common roadblocks businesses face – successfully navigating all the backend mumbo jumbo around operations. Things like being more efficient, installing and using Google Analytics, hiring your first employee…anything and everything that frustrates business owners.

The results*:

  • Moved to 1st or 2nd position in SERPs for head key terms
  • Ranking for top-of-funnel keywords
  • 6% higher first-visit-to-buy conversions
  • Improved customer retention by 30%

* Pulled from Simply Business' CMI post linked above

Platform for #SocialSuccess

Kieran Flanagan revealed the results to Salesforce's #SocialSuccess content marketing campaign on Moz last year. Similar to Simply Business above, Salesforce identified its brand message, "Get Found," and embarked on a journey to pull new potential customers into its funnel by creating content around social media issues its tools address.

The result was a #SocialSuccess section of the Salesforce site that included a variety of rich media around social media topics, including interviews with experts and eBooks.

salesforce social success

The results*:

  • Traffic for launch month up 80% YoY
  • Traffic from social sites up 2500%
  • 6500 newsletter signups
  • 10,000 eBook downloads (and thus 10K leads)
  • An ongoing platform for content marketing – Salesforce is still killing it today with #SocialSuccess-themed content

* Pulled from Kieran's SEOmoz post linked above

Step 5: Outline a "bird's eye view" plan

Don't plague them with the minutia. It's generally a fixed plan with concrete steps no matter the business.  It's only four real steps with some mini actions in between: research, compile, execute, analyze (RCEA – management loves acronyms, right?).

Note: I am going into more detail for each of these sections so you know what it is and have a starting point for when you get to the execution part. You don't need to include all this detail in your pitch!

Before you begin: Talk to other teams. You would not believe how many companies silo their teams and waste time, money, and efficiency repeating processes. One of these processes is understanding the customer. Someone in your company might already be an expert, so don't duplicate the work to find out yourself!

If you don't have anyone to talk to or a team that did one of the below steps, here is an overview of the type of functions you will need to perform to create a content marketing plan from the ground up.

Research

Benchmark audit

Look through all of the company's back-end analytics to get a clear picture of its current performance. You want to find out the answers to questions like:

  • What is traffic pattern like? Any seasonality?
  • What pages were visited most?
  • What is the typical visitor flow?
  • What pages get the most conversions?
  • Where do visitors spend the most time?
  • What are the bounce rates, particularly for high volume pages?
  • How long goes the visitor typically stay on the site?
  • How did they get to the site?
  • What are the predominant referring keywords?
  • Any interesting mobile vs. web data?

I call this a "benchmark" audit because you should also be taking out key metrics as the baseline you will compare all future performance to in order to determine ROI of your efforts. While you are doing this, keep in the back of your mind that you will need to develop a way to track all future content goals you develop. 

Talk to your customers

From the benchmark audit, you will probably start seeing visitor patterns in which you can draw conclusions around customer behavior. However, you cannot go solely off this data because it's usually muddled with a large number of potential and failed customers. 

Instead, pair these metric-driven insights with more thorough market research: talking to your customers. I wrote an article on how to develop personas, so I won't dive into it in detail here, but this is arguably the most important piece to making #RCS content: you need to know who you are creating it for! Conduct surveys, hold focus groups, do in-depth interviews, etc.; the more info you can gather, the better you will be able to develop clear customer stories.

Keyword research

This is so, so important because if you want to earn those long-term traffic benefits, you need to make sure your content aligns with phrase people are actually using as they search. The key here though is to focus on keywords THROUGHOUT the funnel. This is the number one task I see all SEOs struggle with – they are hardwired to only focus on the conversion, bottom-of-the-funnel-terms. If you are planning for a content piece around "buy X online" and think it will go viral or is even worth outreach time, you are sorely mistaken.

The key here is to dive into research by asking yourself questions as if you were searching yourself. You need to understand the search intent to be epic at more top-of-funnel keyword research. This is a pretty good article on the topic, and there are plenty of tools out there to aid creativity. Also, Kieran Flanagan gets it. Just remember, a winning content strategy is aimed at getting new customers into the funnel at all levels; don't miss the opportunity to get people in at the top.

PRO TIP: Like above when brainstorming your brand message, when you get a pretty good keyword list, throw it into Wordle after cutting out the redundant terms to get a word cloud that shows the most dominantly searched topic for your funnel. This will help get the content creative juices flowing later.

Content audit

This is essentially taking inventory of all the content on your site so you can conduct a content gap analysis. I wrote an article on conducting a content audit, but the specifics might change a bit depending on your needs. For example, you might stick to just the quantitative parts (pulling metrics) and only assessing qualitatively the content that has gregariously inconsistent metrics (such as tons of traffic, high bounce rate).

Compile

Bring all the pieces together and define goals

I'll keep this part short and sweet. Once you have all the above pieces:

  • Create your customer personas
  • Address any outlandish technical woes you found during benchmark audit
  • Identify key areas on your site that you need to repurpose content based off findings from benchmark audit
  • Figure out what content you are missing based off your content gap analysis and keyword research
  • Prioritize keywords
  • Start prioritizing areas to focus your content
  • Clearly define measurable short and long-term goals

Create an editorial calendar

Once you are done prioritizing your areas to focus on, start brainstorming and filling in the editorial calendar (aka long-term project plan). Depending on factors like whether or not you have a blog, you might need to create a more detailed editorial calendar to keep your daily content creators focused. The key is to plan out all your content so you only have to focus on execution – this is the starting point of that flywheel.

Make sure you have the brand message, standards, and tracking in place

Remember the importance of a consistent user experience? You want to keep it consistent not only through the topics you cover but also the style in which you write. Remember that brand message you developed? All content should definitely align with that. Remember those personas? All of your content should definitely target one persona each.

In addition, make sure you are aligned with your brand/editorial standards that the wider company uses. If there isn't one, make one. This covers things like grammar, voice, on-page SEO considerations, blog theme style, etc.

PRO TIP: You also need governance standards – trust me, the bigger the organization, the crazier it can get. You want to clearly define dependencies early. This includes answers to questions like what is the editorial review workflow, who owns getting it through each stage, and what are the engagement standards?

Lastly, remember I mentioned during the benchmark audit to start thinking about how you can track goals? By now, you should have goals clearly defined. Make sure you implement any necessary backend tracking so you can start measuring and comparing to those benchmarks right away.

Execute

Easy – get 'er done. Start creating the content and launching.

Assess

After each larger content piece, you should be assessing how it did. However, you should also plan on assessing long term and conducting a content inventory of this new content (just like the content audit, just smaller scale and more outcomes focused). This is where you will really see the ROI of all your efforts. Check out this great article on measuring content marketing.

Step 6: Manage those expectations

Just like with everything else, you need to give due diligence to managing your boss' expectations. There are a ton of resources out there around effectively managing expectations, which takes practice. However, some key components include:

  • Be honest – content marketing is front loaded, long term, but smart business
  • Give clear deadlines – and meet them
  • Involve the right people from the start

Step 7: Demand greatness

You're almost done. One key component to a successful content marketing program is to ensure everyone is on board and the key decision makers are all in. If they aren't, it will cause unnecessary roadblocks down the road, like cross-team conflict and lack of required resources.

Thus, before beginning, you need to demand greatness. This may be a conversation for after the initial pitch, but it is important. You can't let your decision makers half-ass their commitment to the program; they are either all in, or you're not proceeding. In addition, you need to clearly and consistently voice that there is a right way to do content marketing. Remember, this isn't a plan for putting together a string of irrelevant linkbait pieces.

Step 8: Deliver

If you had to sell the idea in the first place – you better deliver. If you make mistakes, own up to them and devise a solution for how to fix them.


Whew! There is your eight-step program to selling and delivering a content marketing plan. Hopefully you walk away with your boss caring, but if not, keep at it and consider shipping a smaller version of it anyway. Sometimes you need to show those results to get buy in because it puts them in terms they definitely understand: their own business success.

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

Beyond Link Building – Using Links and Content to Hit Business Goals

Posted by:  /  Tags: , , , , , , ,

Posted by Paddy_Moogan

Few would argue that 2012 changed the SEO industry. In April, we saw the release of Penguin and, for the first time, aggressive penalization of low-quality link building tactics at a huge scale by Google. As an industry, we needed this. We were on borrowed time with these tactics and, let's be honest, they shouldn't have worked in the first place.

I know a lot of SEOs who add huge amounts of value to the businesses they work with through quality, creative online marketing. This is what we should be recognised for rather than using low-quality tactics and tricks that have been labelled by others as a "dark art." Link building certainly fits into this bucket because it is one of the areas where low-quality tactics worked for a long time (some still do) and were far from creative. The 5,000 article syndation links and 10,000 directory submissions you've done was hardly us at our best.

I want to share some thoughts on how we can transition link building from a numbers game into genuine online marketing that adds value to a business, beyond increasing their link counts.

Start with why

Last year, I read a book by Simon Sinek called Start with Why. If you haven't read the book, here is a video of a talk he did at Ted:

The basic message is that successful companies know why they exist, and they use this to guide the decisions they make. They also focus on why they exist when marketing themselves and selling to customers. Rather than getting customers to buy into the what, they get them to buy into the why.

The reason I mention this in the context of link building is because I don't think we ask this question enough. The temptation when a client asks for our help is to dive in and start building links as quickly as we can, but why are we doing it? Are they the right types of links? Are they going to make a difference to the business? Is an infographic really going to help bring more customers?

Instead of this approach, I believe we should be a bit smarter and far more strategic with our recommendations. Yes, links help rankings and infographics (as an example) help get links. But is that the best we can come up with? Can't we build links that not only help with rankings, but also drive real customers to the website?

There is already talk of Google reducing the effectiveness of links built via infographics and guest blogging. Wouldn't it be nice to not have to worry about whatever update Google comes out with next?

Why does this business exist?

Whether a client comes to you for link building or not, I think this should be the starting point for an online marketing campaign. To work with a client long-term, you need to really dive into their business and understand it as much as you can. I'm not saying that you necessarily need to become an expert on their products or their market, but getting a deep understanding of how they work and why they do what they do is important.

If you can do this, it will make your job much easier with the following:

  • Understanding their industry and what makes this business different
  • Knowing how to get things done internally by understanding what matters to the company
  • Defining a strategy that is in line with their business goals
  • You can talk the same language and they will trust you because of that – once you have trust, it's a lot harder to fire you, too :)

There is another subtle benefit here, too – if you're pitching to win their business, you're far more likely to win if you show a genuine understanding of their business.

Why do they need SEO?

There are a few answers to this question that I would not be happy with, and would push for a further explanation:

  • More links
  • More traffic
  • More content

These are all good things to have, don't get me wrong. But in isolation, they don't mean much. If you hear this as an answer, you need to ask – why?

  • Why do you need more links?
  • Why do you need more traffic?
  • Why do you need more content?

These will get you closer to the answer you want to hear. Or you can rephrase to be something like this:

  • What matters to your business?
  • How do you make money?
  • What drives your profits every year?

The answer you're looking for is the one that makes the business survive, and the answer will be in line with why the company exists. This is the starting point that we need because from here, every decision we make is driven by it. This is why it is important to start with these questions. Once you've got this clear, you're in a much better position to start defining a strategy that will not only deliver links, but links that will help the business hit its goals.

Don't measure success by links built

Some may not agree, but this is what I feel about link building right now:

The deliverable of a project isn't links; the deliverable is a clear improvement in what matters to the client – revenue.

I'm not keen on working on the basis of building x number of links per month, with little or no thought as to why. Why do you need 50 links each and every month? What type of links are they? If you build them every month, will you improve revenue for your client?

Let's look at a quick example. You're hired by the Head of SEO at a mid-level company and you agree a target of 50 links per month to be built and a three month contract. At the end of three months, you've built 150 links, so you go in for another meeting to discuss the project and declare it a success.

At this meeting is the CEO of the company who hears that you've hit your target. They ask how much extra revenue you've generated as a result of these links. The Head of SEO doesn't know, and neither do you. The CEO then asks how your work has helped improve the brand image of their company. You look at the list of 150 guest posts on unrelated blogs and stay quiet.

See the problem?

If we want to be taken more seriously as an industry, we need to be able to confidently deliver results that the CEOs of large companies will relate to and understand.

The CEO doesn't care if Open Site Explorer or Majestic SEO shows an improvement in your backlink profile. They care about paying the salaries of their employees on time, paying the office rent, and making a profit. Links alone, with no thought or strategy behind them, will not do this. They used to work when link building was a commodity and less risky, but no longer can we think like this.

We're hired to make more revenue for the company, if we can do this by building 50 links a month and it happens, that's great. But we start with why we're doing what we're doing – not starting with links as the default answer.

It may not always be as straight forward as though and I know that it isn't simple to get to this point. So here are a few ways to take steps towards it.

Focus on the metrics that matter to your client

If your client doesn't make direct revenue from their website, you need to find an alternative. Imagine you're working with a B2B website who doesn't sell online. In this case, your work should be measured on leads/inquiries which lead to revenue.

The bottom line is that your deliverables should make a difference to the business you're working for. Figure out the key metric, then figure out how to improve it.

Real example: I used to work with a SaaS client in the UK who were B2B. A single sale of their service could give them £100k+ revenue a year, but a conversion would take many months to complete. I could track enquiries from organic search, but I wouldn't necessarily know if they converted into a customer, so I made a point of having face-to-face meetings with the Marketing Manager each month to see how good those leads were. She was able to tell me if they were on the way to converting into real customers or not. This communication let me see that we were adding huge amounts of value to their business through search.

Try not to sell short-term projects

To be able to focus on this as a metric that you're measured by, you need to agree on being given enough time to make it happen. Doing a one-off piece of link bait that lasts four weeks is probably not going to help, whereas agreeing a contract for at least six months of activity is much more likely to lead to you having the chance to improve the bottom line.

The only time I think that a short-term project can work is when you're working on a very specific problem, such as lifting a penalty or training an intenral team. I don't think it is a good idea to take on very short-term link building projects because it encourages short-term thinking.

Choose a strategy that helps you improve the bottom line

This is where it all comes together. By this point, you may decide that to improve revenue for your client, you need to come up with a good link building strategy. You then choose the tactics that fit into this strategy.

You should see the clear difference between this approach and just saying, "We need links," within a few minutes of talking to your client.

When we pick the link building tactics in this way, we're choosing ones that will help us improve revenue for the client – not ones that will just let us deliver 50 links per month. If we're driven by pure number of links, our standards naturally drop, and we will be happy to get any types of links we can just to hit the target we've been set.

Examples of getting it right

Let me give you a direct example of a smarter approach: Turning Link Building into Audience Profiling by Richard Baxter. This is link building, but it is driven by a smart strategy that means the links built will mean much more to the company they point to. They will hit that sweet spot where the potential customers of a business hangout and absorb content online.

What about guest blogging? There has been lots of talk about this as a tactic, and it can be a great tactic. But it is also easy to scale, which naturally reduces the quality of the output. Instead of scaling guest blogging, what about doing something like this. This was a guest post that drove more sales of a book than TV and newspaper coverage.

Infographics that matter

No, they're not dead, but they will become less effective if they're not good quality and worth sharing. Rather than creating a regular tower graphic and visualizing things that should never be made into an image, why not create something relevant and helpful to your customers? Like this:

What about content marketing for consumers?

The new SEO buzzword that has actually been around for years and years. Instead of producing a piece of content where the goal is just to get links, what about producing a piece of content that is useful to your real customers? I have a great example here from Swissotel, hat tip to the guys at SEOgadget for showing me this one: 

 

What about content marketing in B2B markets?

I have two great examples here, starting with American Express who work with a lot of small businesses. They have the Open Forum that publishes content that small businesses will find useful:

Simply Business have done the same with their guides for small business owners:

Both of these companies are creating content that fits with why they exist – to service small businesses. This is smarter than creating an infographic on a random topic just to get a few links that month.

The CEO test

Next time you build a piece of content, ask yourself, "What would the CEO think of this?"

This can be a good way to sense check what you're doing and to make sure that it is in-line with the business and will help them hit their goals. Will the CEO be proud of seeing the content on their website? Will they be proud to see the external websites where they're mentioned?

Conclusion

Yes, links matter – a lot. This isn't changing anytime soon and our clients need links more than ever. But I'd love to see our industry step up and build links that stand the test of time, and not waste time being worried about Google updates.

This isn't easy to do – I'm not 100% there yet myself. It involves quite a big change in thinking for a lot of people. But I firmly believe that if we can alter our approach so that we become focused on the goals of a business rather than purely looking at links, the following will happen:

  • You will win more business because the clients will see that you focus on what matters to them
  • You will be forced to use the tactics that really make a difference to the bottom line
  • You will be able to demonstrate that you've increased a key metric for a business, not just number of links or rankings which most CEOs don't worry about

Overall, SEOs will start to be taken seriously as we're being measured on the right business metrics – not pure rankings or number of links we manage to build.

On a related note, I've just released an eBook focused 100% on building links. At 65,000 words, it covers the whole link building process (including a fair amount of information on this topic) and discusses kicking projects off on the right foot to establish business goals early.

I hope you enjoyed this post – please leave your thoughts in the comments below!

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 Win a Content Arms Race – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by:  /  Tags: , , , ,

Posted by randfish

Ever feel like you're neck and neck with your competitors in the mad dash to produce exciting, unique content? The push for content generation has taken off across all industries lately, and it's not surprising that content strategy feels like it's turning into an arms race.

In this week's Whiteboard Friday, Rand shares his tips on entering the content arms race and what you can do to come out victorious in your space. Content marketers, to your battle stations!

Video Transcription

"Howdy, SEOmoz fans, and welcome to this edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week, I wanted to talk a little bit about content strategy, specifically as it relates to content arms races. I've been noticing that many folks in our community and the marketing community overall have said, "Boy, it's not just me anymore who's investing in content, trying to share that content through search and through social networks. It's all my competitors too."

So we're almost getting into this like content arms race type of environment, which is tough. I recognize that. I also recognize that I do a terrible job drawing a guy with a knife and another guy with what looks like a shower head. They both have guns and shower heads. I don't know why, but they're in an arms race for content, because content marketing is becoming so popular. Because of that, you need to take extra steps to go above and beyond what your competitors do in order to win in this space.

So first thing I'm recommending is choose some creative content formats. A lot of folks, when they get into content marketing, they think, "Oh, we're going to have a blog. Maybe we're going to have a forum. Maybe we're going to have some articles and some white papers we put out." Those are fine, but you should think beyond that.

So in the SaaS world and the enterprise world, a lot of people extend immediately into webinars. Some people get into slide shows. I would also urge you to think about video. Whiteboard Friday itself, a very effective content marketing tool. I think we started Whiteboard Friday long before we knew what content marketing really was or content strategy.

Conversations. You can see a lot of people using conversations, Q & A types of formats, forums, using their communities to build conversations, and even the blog comments becoming conversations.

Comics. Comics have been really huge on the Web. You can see people like XKCD having a ton of success, and lots of folks in the marketing world and in the B2B world even trying to leverage some comical stuff.

Graphics. Certainly if you can produce high quality graphics, photos, imagery, whatever you're capturing.

Graph and charts. If you can assemble data, even if you don't create the data yourself or you're not responsible for the data, if you build the charts yourself, wow, you can really win with that.

Interactive tools. These ones are extremely hard to replicate. If you are the source, the resource, in your industry for that particular type of tool, man, no one is going to take you. You've got a win.

Next step, share what others are unwilling or unable to share, and this can be highly valuable. So when I say "unwilling," what I'm really talking about is some people aren't willing to go to the length of transparency to share data from their own campaigns or data from their networks, or they don't have a large enough community to be able to survey, or they don't have a network where they can reach out to folks who have that type of information or can make those kinds of contributions. Maybe they don't have the financial resources to bring in expertise or to commission a public study or whatever it is that you have an advantage on. That could be your size, your nimbleness, your community, your creativity. Do those things that you're competitors cannot or will not do, and that includes data from your contacts, but also investing beyond what is reasonable.

So I like to think of this as the quality sort of beats quantity approach. Now, this is true for two things. The first one I'd say is that it's not always the case that quality wins out, but if you do these couple of things right, it can. Number one is being able to create resources that no one can do a better job of. What's great about that is it means you can actually steal ideas from your competitors, from the rest of the marketplace, from the media, reproduce them yourselves in a better way, do an even better job. "Oh, there was this study, and we decided to replicate the results, and we have an even larger audience for it, and so we've got even more data. We asked a few questions that were really missing in the first one. We used an even better method." Blah, blah, blah, blah.

You should go for consistency here. So consistency and quantity are often tied together in people's minds. This is not actually the case. Just because you're consistent doesn't necessarily mean that you have to produce a huge volume. Two times a month in terms of a great piece of content, even once a month can work out just fine. Think of one of our favorite content marketing examples in the inbound marketing world has been, for the last few years, OkTrends, the OkCupid blog, and they were literally producing sometimes a blog post only once every two or three months, but it was fairly consistent. Now it's dropped off after the acquisition, but still very exciting stuff.

I would urge you, if you haven't already, to think about how you can build a community. A community for marketing content is invaluable because it means that the amplification of your message and of the content that you share is so much broader than what you could get otherwise. If you don't have a community, your competitors almost certainly can win by building up one.

If you don't have one, there are a few things you can do to leverage some. Number one, bring in people who have communities of their own and ask them for contributions. Sometimes you may need to pay them. Sometimes you can offer them exposure, an audience, something else, a high quality speaker, a great resource that you bring into your site. Sometimes you can even go as far as to say, "Hey, you know what, we're the New York Times, and we really love these Freakonomics guys, and we'd like them to blog for us." There you go. Now the Freakonomics blog exists on the New York Times itself. Same thing with 538, the popular political science blog from Nate Silver.

My last recommendation here, in terms of investing in places where your competitors aren't, is to hit the long tail. By long tail what I mean is if there's a direct funnel, if you think about consumers coming to your site and content marketing sort of being at the top of that funnel, it's going to bring people in who are potentially interested in your product. You can think about that funnel as getting deeper and deeper, and a lot of folks focus on the deeper parts of the funnel. That's where a lot of content marketing happens because they want people in the buying cycle, down and engaged in the buying cycle. What I'd urge you to do, think about it even higher up. Those long tail searches that people are performing, the videos and content and interactive tools and stuff that they are using long before they're even potentially interested in your product, and then you can reach people and brand them and have content marketing success where your competitors aren't even trying to compete with you. They're not even investing.

All right, everyone. I hope you've enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday, and we'll see you again next week. Take care."

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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 Unique Does Content Need to Be to Perform Well in Search Engines? – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by:  /  Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Posted by randfish

We all know that content needs to be unique to rank highly in the SERPs, but how "unique" are we talking? From a content creation perspective, it's imperative to know what duplicate content really means and to understand the implications it can have on SEO.

In this week's Whiteboard Friday, Rand discusses what makes content unique in the eyes of the crawlers, and the bane of duplicate content.

Video Transcription

"Howdy SEOmoz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week I want to take some time to talk about content duplication and content uniqueness, which is very important from an SEO perspective. It can also be important from a content marketing perspective.

For SEO purposes, search engines like to filter out what they view as duplicative content, things that are exactly the same. They never want to show you a set of results where result two, three, four, and five are all exactly the same article or are essentially the same three paragraphs repeated with the same photos embedded in them. It could be that content gets licensed among different parties. News vendors do this a lot. It could be that someone has done some plagiarism and actually stolen a piece. It could just be that someone is posting the same article in several different places on the web that accept content submissions. In any case, the engines are trying to filter this type of behavior out. They don't want to see that content because they know users are made happy by, "If I didn't like this result on this website, chances are I'm not going to like it on result number three on the different website." So they try and filter this stuff out.

From an SEO perspective and for content creators, it's therefore very important to understand, "What does that really mean? What is meant by duplicate content, and how unique do I really need to be?"

The first thing that I always like to talk about when we get into a discussion of content uniqueness is that content, when we talk about the content that the engines are considering for this, we're referring only to the unique material on a page. That excludes navigation, ads, footers, sidebars, etc.

I've got a page mockup over here, and you would exclude all this stuff – the logo, the navigation, the sidebars. Maybe this person is running some ads in the sidebar. Maybe they've got a little piece about themselves, and they've got a bunch of text down the right-hand side. Then they think, "Boy, I only have a couple of lines of text on this page and a photo and maybe a couple of bullet points. Is this unique from these other pages that look exactly the same except they have some different content in the content section?" This is the content. If you're worried that, "Oh no, I think that my pages might be kind of heavy and my content is kind of light," I wouldn't worry too much about that so long as you're doing everything else right. We'll talk about some of those. Number two, uniqueness applies to both internal and external sources. Copying either one can be trouble. It could be that these are other pages on your site and these are other pages somewhere else on the web where this content exists, and you're taking from those and putting those pieces on your site. That can be a problem in either of those cases. Internal duplication, usually engines will try and ignore it if it's small and subtle, just happens here and there. It's like, "Oh, there are four different versions of this page because they've got a print version, a mobile version. Okay. We'll try and canonicalize and figure that out."

You would be wise in these situations to use something like a rel=canonical. Or if you're consolidating pages after a big site move or a re-architecturing, something like that, a 301 is proper. But you should also be aware that this can happen from external stuff.

However, when I say that, what I don't mean to say and what I know a lot of people get confused about in the SEO world is this doesn't mean that you can't take a paragraph from Wikipedia and put it in a bigger article that you're writing, or cite a blogger and include a couple of phrases that they say, or take a piece from New York Magazine or from the Wall Street Journal, from Wired, or wherever you want and take, "Oh hey, I'm going to caption this, and I'm going to have a little clip of it. I'm going to put a video that exists on YouTube already." That's not duplicative so long as you are adding unique value.

Number three, uniqueness alone, some people get lost in the minutiae of the rules around SEO, the rules around search engines and they think, "Well, this content exists nowhere else on the web. So I just took someone else's and I changed all the words." You have technically provided unique content, but you have not provided unique value. Unique value is a very different thing. What I mean when I say "unique value" and what the search engines would like you to do and are building algorithms around is providing value that no other sources, no other sites on the web are specifically providing. That could mean that you take a look at the visitor's intent, the searcher's intent or your customer's intent and you say, "Hey, I'm going to answer each of these things that this person is trying to achieve."

If somebody searches for hotels in Cape Town, South Africa, well they're probably looking for a listing of hotels, but they probably have other intents as well. They might be interested in other stuff related to traveling there. They could be wanting to know things about weather. They could be wanting to know things about neighborhoods where these hotels are located. So providing unique value as opposed to just, "Hey, I'm going to take the content from Expedia's website and then I'm also just going to rewrite the paragraph about the hotels specifically," that's not going to help you. But if you were to do something like what Oyster Hotels does, where they actually send a reporter with a camera, a journalist essentially, to the location, they take tons of their own unique photos, and they write about the weather and the neighborhood and the hotel cleanliness and investigate all these sorts of things and provide true, unique value as well as unique content, now you're hitting on what you need to achieve the uniqueness that search engines are talking about when they talk about unique versus duplicate.

Four, there's this imagination that exists in the minds of folks in the SEO field, and has for a long time, that there must be some mythical percentage. If over here, "Oh, this is 100% duplicate and this is 0% duplicate, 100% unique and this is the 50/50 mark, there must be some imaginary, magical, if I just get to like right here at 41%, that's the number. Therefore I'm going to create a huge website and all my pages just have to hit that 47% mark." That is dead wrong. Just totally wrong. There's nothing like this.

The algorithms that you might imagine are so much more sophisticated than an exact percentile of what is and isn't duplicate, even when it comes to just studying the content in here. That specific percentage doesn't exist. They use such a vast array of inputs. I'll give you some examples.

You can see, for example, that an article that might be published on many different news sites, after it moves out of Google news and into the Google main index, sometimes duplicates will appear, and oftentimes those duplicates are the ones that are the most linked to, the ones that have lots of comments on them, the ones that have been socially shared quite a bit, or where Google has seen user usage data behaviors or previous behaviors on those sites that suggests that each site provides some sort of unique value, even if the content is exactly the same.

Like Bloomberg and Business Week are constantly producing the same articles. Business Insider will produce articles from all over the place. Huffington Post will take articles from places that writers submit, and it'll be published in different places. People will publish on one site, and then they'll publish privately on their own blog. Sometimes Google will list both, sometimes they won't. It's not about a percentage. It's about the unique value that's provided, and it's about a very sophisticated algorithm that considers lots of other features.

If you are in a space where you're competing with other people who are posting the same content, think about unique value and think about getting the user usage data, the branding, the social shares, the links, all of those things will be taken into consideration when it comes to, "Are we going to rank your site or this other site that's licensing your content or from whom you are licensing content?" Domain authority can play a big role in there.

The last thing I want to mention is that duplicate and low value content, because of Google's Panda update from 2011, Panda means that low quality content, duplicative content that exists on one part of your site can actually harm your overall site. I'd be very cautious if you're thinking, "Hey, let's produce an article section on our site that's just these 5,000 articles that we licensed from this other place or that we're copying from someone's blog. We might not get much SEO value from it, but we will get a little bit of extra search engine traffic." In fact, that can hurt you because as the Panda algorithm runs its course and sees, "Boy, this site looks like it copied some stuff," they might hurt your rankings in other places.

Google's been very specific about this, that duplicate, low quality content in one area can harm you across your entire site. Be mindful of that. If you're nervous about it, you can robot.txt that stuff out so engines don't crawl it. You can rel=canonical it back up to a category page. You could even not include that in search engines. Use the disallow meta noindex, or you could do it inside your Google Webmaster Tools, disallow crawling of those pages. These are all options for that kind of stuff.

All right everyone. Hope you've enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday and you'll go out there and create some unique and uniquely valuable content, and we'll see you again next week. Take care."

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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

Page 1 of 2 12