How 3 Big Brands Use Storytelling to Make Everyday Products Exciting was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
Storytelling. It’s important. I feel like you, my Internet marketing comrades, get this by now. Interruption marketing is dead, the online attention span is dwindling, content creation is up, and your brand needs a hook to catch consumer attention before the message goes in one ear and out the other (if it even gets to the first ear at all).
But what if you’re not GoPro? What if your brand is boring or mundane? What if you sell less than sexy everyday products like graham crackers or online classes?
Enough with the what-ifs.
Storytelling that works is all about telling your story in a context that gets people thinking about their own lives. Every brand, no matter how “boring,” has some special hook in their product line or their value system that is a great story just waiting to be told.
Taking a cue from the experts that are already doing it right, here are three great examples of big brands that are content marketing with stories that sell, and five reasons why their campaigns work so well.
Three Examples of Storytelling That Works
At the heart of it, storytelling is about using characters, setting and storyline to take an audience somewhere and make them feel something.
The values-driven, user-generated stories Honey Made, Patagonia and University of Phoenix tell with their unscripted “Worn Wear,” “This is Wholesome,” and “A Career Outside Of Football” campaigns accomplish this extremely well.
Here’s what their campaigns look like:
Patagonia: “Worn Wear”
In the “Worn Wear” series Patagonia invites brand advocates to share about their outdoor adventures, their lives, and the stories their gear would tell if it could talk.
The campaign has two parts: A 27-minute YouTube documentary that brings to life the stories of seven adventurers, including Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard himself, and a dedicated landing page where readers can scroll through user-submitted images and their accompanying “Dear Patagonia” stories.
If you’re thinking about how not boring outdoor gear is, I tend to agree with you, but watching the documentary you’ll notice some of the products featured (like a child’s romper and a pair of board shorts) are not all that exciting on their own. It’s the stories around the romper and the shorts that make them engaging, not the clothes themselves.
In their own words, Patagonia describes the project as “an antidote to the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping frenzy, [released as] an invitation to celebrate the stuff you already own.”
Why it’s successful:
- 265,251 views on YouTube
- 1,704 YouTube thumbs up
- 184 YouTube comments
Honey Made: “This is Wholesome”
In their “This is Wholesome” series of documentaries, Honey Made gives us a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the lives of three different families, and how each make their unique situation work. The one-minute-plus documentaries feature a military family, a single dad, and a same-sex couple with two children. Although Honey Made graham products are shown in passing several times in the documentaries, the storyline is all about these families, their challenges, and, as the documentary series implies, what makes their family life wholesome.
Straight from the brand, these are the words Honey Made uses to describe the “Dad & Papa” episode of their “This is Wholesome” mini-series: “This is a touching story […] about how two traditional guys built their family on love and laughter.”
Why it’s successful:
- 203,267 views on YouTube
- 5,132 YouTube thumbs up
- 1,380 YouTube comments
University of Phoenix: “A Career Outside Football”
In the University of Phoenix short documentary we meet NFL wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who tells us in a first-person narrative about his mom’s fight with cancer, his dad’s emphasis on education and how studying at the University of Phoenix allows him to work on his degree even while raising a son and travelling the world.
In their own words University of Phoenix says this video is all about showcasing: “NFL wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald […] working toward one of the most important completion attempts of his life: his college degree.”
Why it’s successful:
- 10,475,974 views on YouTube (yes, over 10 million views)
- 50 YouTube comments
5 Elements That Make These Stories Successful
Outdoor gear, graham crackers, and online education; not the sexiest subjects. So what makes these storytelling campaigns so successful?
The short answer: They’re successful because they tell great stories.
The longer answer: The’re successful because they tell great stories that accomplishes these five elements:
- Hit a nerve: The stories told in these campaigns are fascinating, heart-felt, genuine and inspirational. Patagonia takes us down memory lane and inspires us to think about our own adventures and the stories we’ll pass down — with our gear — from generation to generation; Honey Made’s family stories make us think of our own families, and inspire us to live with more love in our day to day; and the University of Phoenix short makes us think about our own goals, the role education plays in our families, and how the flexibility of an online university can make it possible for anyone to fulfill their dreams — including us. These types of stories make us think introspectively and hit a nerve that makes them particularly memorable and share-worthy.
- Cast relatable characters that personify brand core values: Each of the adventurers, family members, and students we meet in these stories are true walking, talking embodiments of the Patagonia, Honey Made and University of Phoenix brand core values. People like to buy from brands they identify with; brands they believe in. These campaigns use the stories of real consumers to give the brands a human side, and to get the audience identifying with the characters as a means to get them identifying with the brand.
- Show, don’t tell: The trick to content marketing with storytelling is to use your story to show the audience how excellent your product is by working it naturally into the stories you tell. Honey Made shows us a family telling jokes, talking about what they love about each other, making s’mores on the stove. They never mention the graham crackers or tell the audience how to use them; instead they show the audience how they can be a fun, comforting addition to a day with the family. Patagonia shows you an old jacket — a jacket you can’t even buy! A jacket from the 1980s. They don’t tell you to buy a jacket, instead they do the opposite and tell you to keep the jacket you already have forever and reuse it a million times. They do this to show you the value of clothing that is made to last, which is part of Patagonia’s core value system. These stories show you scenes that softly pitch the framework of concepts, then allow you to interpret significant details and come to your own conclusions. Selling in this way is smart because it builds affinity and brand-loyal customers who are more likely to come back year after year to keep buying.
- Tell stories that naturally highlight product benefits: What’s the benefit of signing up for an online university? It allows you to take classes in Antartica! Or so I’ve learned from watching Larry Fitzgerald’s University of Phoenix story. Why buy from Patagonia? Because “Worn Wear” just showed me a guy cross country skiing in a perfectly good pair of Patagonia pants he bought 30 years ago. Why buy graham crackers? Because it’s the little things that count and sharing a graham cracker with someone is a great way to show them you love them. I know; Honey Made just showed me three families that do it all the time and they look super happy. Every product has benefits; the trick is to use the show-not-tell angle to highlight these benefits and show them in action as a central part of your storytelling.
- Find real brand advocates that can sell the product for you: Production time aside, Patagonia, Honey Made and University of Phoenix didn’t have to do much writing at all to get these above-and-beyond stories. All they had to do was figure out the hook and ask their users to speak for themselves on a topic. The trick is to think about what makes your brand special — what the personification of your value system looks like — and then to find user stories that embody this vision.
At the end of the day, the type of introspective, user-generated storytelling exhibited in these three campaigns works particularly well as a marketing strategy because it engages the audience emotionally and makes them feel connected – both to the stories being told, and associatively to the brand.
Remember Your Campfire Roots and Don’t Overthink It
Considering storytelling as a content marketing tool, it can be easy to overthink the whole thing. If you want to create stories that sell, get in touch with your consumers (what makes them tick) and your own brand (what makes you special). The trick is to work smarter, not harder, by choosing to highlight stories that make an emotional impact, feature characters consumers can relate to, personify core values, and show (not tell) the benefits of products.
This approach can work for anyone, whether your product is deodorant, law services, online education, motorcycles, magazines or something we’ve never even heard of.
Looking for more content marketing strategy tips? Check out Bruce Clay’s book ”Content Marketing for Professionals” to learn more.
SEO Newsletter: AdWords + Social Media = Amplified Reach was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
Internet marketing is evolving — are you? This month’s SEO Newsletter focuses on amplifying your business’s online reach with articles explaining how to use an underutilized and under-publicized paid, local search marketing platform, AdWords Express, and a guide intended to help a business choose which social networks are a good fit for their audience and investment. The strongest SEO campaigns work hand-in-hand with paid campaigns and social media marketing, both of which amplify a brand’s reach among new audiences.
Feature: Which Social Network Fits Best?
When first assessing social media marketing for your business, you may find yourself asking Which Social Networks Should I Invest In? In this month’s feature, you’ll read guidelines for determining if your business could be a good match for marketing, branding, community building or customer service on the six major social networks: Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook and Twitter. Each of these social networks has its own rules of engagement — the more familiar a brand becomes with each social network’s nuances, the better they can leverage the social network to the benefit of their brand. Discover:
- Demographic information of users on each social network to help you find your audience online
- What brands are doing on each of the social networks that’s resulting in engagement and community growth
- Criteria that can help a business evaluate if a social network is a good fit for its products and audience
Google AdWords Express for Local Search Marketing
In How to Use Google AdWords Express for Local Search Marketing, the Smart Way, get the inside scoop on how to harness Google AdWords Express if you run or work for a local, brick and mortar business. AdWords Express is a simplified version of AdWords that allows local businesses to target regional users and show up on Google Maps with a blue promoted pin. Read this article:
- For guidance setting up AdWords Express
- For information on budgeting and geotargeting
- To find out why and when ads render through AdWords Express
News and Upcoming Events
In addition to these articles, get information on upcoming SEO training opportunities in the U.S. and abroad. In this month’s Hot Topic, get Bruce Clay, Inc. senior SEM analyst Michael Shore’s reaction to Google’s removal of paid query data in Google Analytics reporting. You’ll also learn what’s coming on April 22. In addition to these stories, readers will get a rundown of the latest news on all things related to search marketing.
For more than a decade, Bruce Clay, Inc.’s SEO Newsletter has been providing articles that help businesses stay on top of their Internet marketing game. If you want a monthly dose of Internet marketing news and information, sign up to get the SEO Newsletter delivered straight to your inbox. You can check out the archives here.
It’s hard to adequately describe the balance between awesomeness and intensity that happens at a multi-day search conference like SMX.
With 100-plus speakers presenting about SEO, SMM, and SEM in 60-plus sessions, keynotes and clinics, the amount of insight and tactical information you can take away from an event like SMX — that’s the awesome part. Now, imagine having to choose only 15 out of the 60 sessions to participate in. And imagine having to absorb all the goodness that 15-plus hours of training has to offer.
That’s where the intensity factor comes in.
There’s a lot going on at conferences and it’s simply not possible for one person to catch it all.
For that reason we’ve decided to share with you our 30 greatest takeaways from the 21 sessions we were able to attend at SMX West this year.
And, since there were 30-plus sessions we physically were not able to attend (life is all about decisions, right?), we’re asking for your help! We’d love to add what you learned from SMX West this year to our list of takeaways.
What Was Your Biggest SMX West Takeaway This Year?
We know you have a legal page (or more likely a Drive or Evernote account) full of session notes. What were your biggest SMX West takeaways this year? What’s on your post-conference to do list? What’s the once sentence you heard in a session that shifted your mindset and changed the way you think about online marketing?
SMX is truly a community event and we don’t think there’s any reason why the sharing that happens between sessions and in elevators has to stop just because the conference is over.
Below is our list of 30 actionable SMX West takeaways.
What can you add to the list? Share yours in the comments section below!
30 Online Marketing Tips from 21 SMX West Sessions
1) The key to mobile Big Data: Collect as much data as you can; get permission; monetize it; and then decide how to merge it, mine it, share it, or sell it. (http://bit.ly/1queSUs)
2) Stop griping about content marketing and how much you hate having to become a “media company.” Media first is not a chore! It’s an opportunity to do above and beyond what you ever thought you could accomplish. (http://bit.ly/1gj7WoS)
3) If you’re ever arguing about whether a link is a good link, the conversation is already over. It’s not a good link. If it’s a good link there shouldn’t be any questions. (http://bit.ly/1pgszTL)
4) If your content matters your audience has to matter even more. If you’re building content, you have to also be building audience. Content marketing is inclusive of audience development. (http://bit.ly/1oKveot)
5) The problem is that our C-Suite stakeholders don’t think of audience as an asset. They still think of marketing as a cost center. We need to make our stakeholders understand that marketing is an asset hub. It’s all about the rise of audience development and a consistency of thought, purpose and action. (http://bit.ly/1oKveot)
6) Twitter is about human communication. Any brand that has an audience they want to connect with can excel on Twitter. It’s all about finding the community, using the tools they’re using, and engaging your community with content that adds value. (http://bit.ly/1lTWTWT)
7) Twitter community coordinators, sales people, and brand managers need to be asking themselves: Can I help five people out per day? Can I join three (or however many) TwitterChats per week? Can I host a meet-up? The trick is to always be thinking of opportunities to engage and participate, and to set goals that help you make that ambition reality. (http://bit.ly/1lTWTWT)
8) Presenting big data to a stakeholder? Make sure you practice your presentation on a nontechnical volunteer to make sure your presentation is easily understood and stakeholder-ready. Seriously. Another approach is to pretend that you’re giving your presentation to your mother, or your neighbor; will they understand what you’re saying? (http://bit.ly/1g6OxTu)
9) The difference between a good analyst and great analysts – getting buy-in to continue analysis! (In other words, communicating with clarity in a way that motivates and conveys impact to stakeholders.) (http://bit.ly/1g6OxTu)
10) Don’t get a case of Audience Assumption Disorder where you put 99% of your effort into creating amazing content and apps and then only 1% into nurturing an audience that will want to see your content. (http://bit.ly/1oKveot)
11) Spend time focusing on proprietary audience development. This means you are not only building an audience, but you are building a proprietary audience that you and you alone can reach. Remember your audience is an asset with predictable downstream value! Don’t forget to invest in that asset as needed. (http://bit.ly/1oKveot)
12) Consider your paid search person (in-house or contract) as a partner; a fellow brand strategist. They need to have a clear picture of the brand’s social, UX and big-picture businesses goals. If you are a paid search person remember you need this information; part a search optimizer’s job is to aggressively find out what success looks like for the business they’re optimizing for. (http://bit.ly/1pgh12B)
13) When clients are seeking out a paid search person they don’t just expect to work with someone who knows keywords and quality score, they want to work with a brand advocate. Someone who can offer perspective, unbiased advice and the ability to explain why things are important. (http://bit.ly/1pgh12B)
14) Wondering how much content you should be creating? According to Rae Hoffman (CEO, PushFire; @sugarrae), there is no cut and dry answer. In 2014 it’s just not as simple as “create four posts a day.” So what do you do? Don’t publish crap just because the calendar says to, publish only when you actually have something to say, and don’t create any content that is mediocre. However much content you can create under those guidelines is enough content. (http://bit.ly/1pgk3nL)
15) Considering working with a new client, or negotiating a contract? Remember these two things: 1) In 2014, your job is more about audience development and business management than “SEO” as we once understood it, and 2) Don’t ever take money if you don’t think you can provide someone with the ROI they deserve. (http://bit.ly/1pgk3nL)
16) Don’t forget to always be looking for exposure opportunities off domain. For instance, Intel looks at the SERP and thinks After someone performs this search, where are they likely to land? If it’s the Best Buy website (because Best Buy is high up in the SERP for a specific keyword phrase), they consider whether it’s smart for them to put an Intel asset (like an ad) on that page to get in front of the consumer after the SERP click. Remember marketing is largely about exposure and the means you can utilize to gain it. (http://bit.ly/1pgk3nL)
17) Keep your URL structure clean. Start down the right mental path; sit down with engineering and make sure everyone who has hands on the site structure understands the whys behind site structure and URL requirements. (http://bit.ly/1pgoj6x)
18) Remember that rel=canonical is not your savior and that it should really only be used 5 or 10 times across your site. (http://bit.ly/1pgoj6x)
19) Duane Forrester’s priorities for search marketing in 2014: (http://bit.ly/1pgoj6x)
2. Usability and user experience
3. Social media (driver of conversation and customer satisfaction)
4. Links (for traffic, not for rankings boost)
5. Basic SEO on-page best practices
20) For your brand and competitors you don’t need to know keyword referral data to succeed. What you really need to know is your unpersonalized rank; your competitors trending unpersonalized rank; how to calculate CTR potential based on rank; and how to calculate SEO competitive traffic share. (http://bit.ly/1pgrawh)
21) If consumers have a negative Google Maps experience they’ll connect that negative association with your brand. It’s important to make sure your brand’s local data is right on maps and mobile. (http://bit.ly/1pgrpr8)
22) Being small doesn’t mean you are unable to succeed with big business competition. If you are marketing a small business, you need to think of your small business as a smaller business that can 100% compete with bigger companies. (http://bit.ly/1pgrLOH)
23) It’s essential to break down the barriers between your QA, UX, HR, Engineering, PR, Customer Service and Marketing departments. When everyone works together with targets in mind the improvement can be staggering. (http://bit.ly/1pgszTL)
24) Once you’ve broken down your internal department barriers, make sure, as an SEO, you are over-communicating at every step. Offer guidance; instead of just saying “make the title this,” explain why the title should be that. Every SEO question should be followed with an explanation. (http://bit.ly/1pgszTL)
25) It’s important that your brand is building a genuine, earned reputation that is based on realized value proposition. If you are trying to build your reputation by any non-organic means, this is faux reputation and it will only end up hurting you. (http://bit.ly/1pgszTL)
26) Be sure to make calculated optimization changes and then always be prepared to talk about those changes (with stakeholders and CEOs) in the light of unforeseen traffic drops. Ranking fluctuation is natural but you never want to be caught without a proactive response when a CEO asks you about a sudden SERP plummet. (http://bit.ly/1pgszTL)
27) Don’t just focus on engagement with influencers! Make it a priority to give back to the larger community and to interact with the people in it based on the value they bring to the conversations, not the value they can bring to your résumé. Make yourself be seen as open and available (and actually be open and available). (http://bit.ly/1pgszTL)
28) If you are marketing an app make sure your app has a dedicated landing page on your website. Most apps don’t have dedicated landing pages and, according to research performed by Justin Briggs of Getty Images, this small change can result in a significant increase in app revenue year-over-year. (http://bit.ly/1jhXKfv)
29) According to Google SVP in charge of search ranking Amit Singhal, social signals from external networks like Facebook and Twitter are still not being used as ranking factors because they are considered “unreliable.” That said, signals from Google+ are different – and trust signals from G+ are considered – because the data available from Google+ is reliable. (Google owns it; of course it’s a reliable source of information from Google to Google.) As such, searchers won’t see Facebook or Twitter affecting SERP rank, but they may see a great impact based on Google+ social signals when they’re searching logged in. (http://bit.ly/1pgwGiw)
30) Pro tips for writing promoted tweets: Start organically; avoid optimizing direct response tweets with hashtags, mentions or images; include a call to action and a relevant, compelling offer. (http://bit.ly/1pgyEQ4)
What were your biggest SMX West takeaways this year? Add to our takeaways list below in the comments section below!
The SEO benefits of publishing and content marketing are huge. Google’s head of webspam, Matt Cutts, has long preached that unique, compelling, user-focused content is the hallmark of a quality, well-ranking site. As brands become publishers, they also stand to earn top-of-mind recall and establish brand recognition.
Yesterday, Bruce Clay, Inc. hosted #SEOchat on Twitter. On the agenda? Brands as Publishers.
When SEOs take on a content publisher orientation, it helps think in terms of how to tell stories and how to manage assets as publisher organizations do. The best brands tell stories that resonate with their consumers — think of Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” or Dos Equis’ “The Most Interesting Man in the World.” These brands aren’t just advertising — they’re telling stories. This kind of strategic content marketing means brands and businesses have to be capable in the role of a publisher, i.e. creating and curating content, images and video that targets and engages specific audiences.
- Does Brand=Publisher?
- Lessons from Traditional Publications
- Media Mission Statements
- Communication and Coordination
- Content Types
- Publisher Goals vs. SEO Goals
- Writers and Editors
- Writers’ Authority
- Planning Content
- Competitor Content
- Format Sweet Spots
- Content ROI
- Editorial Guidelines
Feel free to jump to you the topic that you’re most interested in by clicking the heading above … or read them all!
1. Do you consider your business a publisher? Do you believe the paradigm of brand=publisher applies to you?
@PaulaAllen: Today’s marketing requires content … have to distribute quality, but have to make yourself heard.
@KevinWaugh: Not yet, but I am pushing my work to embrace that, it takes some political wrangling.
@KristiKellogg: Absolutely!!! Successful brands are 100% publishers. Re: Dove. Red Bull. Coca Cola. etc. They TELL STORIES
@TannerPetroff: It’s more important than ever to be a publisher, and great at content marketing. We’re not perfect, but working on it.
@LisaBuyer: If you have a website or blog = you have a publication so… YES! brand=publisher.
@chrisjeverett: Being a publisher is essential for getting your message (your value, credibility, etc.) across to your prospective buyers.
@MichelleDLowry: I think it depends on the vertical. Forcing a publication to jump on the bandwagon may not work well for all brands.
@ClairWyant: In this day in age, if you have a robust marketing program, should be 50/50 your business and publishing.
@LandMoore22: I can’t separate the two. Publishers have to money. Businesses have to make money.
Lessons from Traditional Publications
2. As you transition into a publisher, what have you learned from traditional publications or other businesses?
@maryi: I’ve learned a lot from journalists – importance of a good headline and what to cover in content. Do good research.
@KristiKellogg: Upworthy has really taken the reins on renovating the traditional headline — and that model is working.
@KevinWaugh: From having hired journalists in the past, enforcing content style with multiple contributors was the main thing they taught me.
@JoshMcCormack: Publishing is your way of letting people find your businesses value.
@ClairWyant: Regarding headline, different headline works for different audiences and industries.
@sonray: Google Drive for internal and external teams to stay on point is really helpful. Personally love @trello as well!
@bloomreachinc: We learned from a journalist by hiring one! @mikecassidy joined as our storyteller and has made a huge impact. The style of writing that a journalist brings is so much more consumable. Clear takeaways in a very narrative form.
@LisaBuyer: Ethics, copyright laws, attribution, fact checking, editorial calendars, quality writing, deadlines.
@BruceClayInc: Brands can learn a lot from journalism model in “A Brand News Approach to Content Marketing.”
Media Mission Statements
3. Mission statements can help drive content with a purpose. Does your brand have a mission for its publishing?
@bloomreachinc: Not a mission so much as themes we focus on for a quarter. That content mixed in with ad hoc, timely pieces.
@PaulaSpeak: Having a mission statement is a big differentiator between media companies and brands. Per @JoePulizzi: http://goo.gl/7HK4tO
@LisaBuyer: They help the brands to keep on track. Similarly, people may have an idea about the businesses by their missions.
@ScottACroom: The hard part is following them and making sure they are BS-free.
@JennineMiller: We follow best practices, but I’m not sure if we have anything in writing. It’s one of those work smart not hard scenarios.
@ScottACroom: Putting on paper can help make the ideas more concrete and more likely to be followed. Not too crazy formal, though.
@JennineMiller: Yeah it’s something I should probably do soon! Our content calendar is on paper so that’s good for something.
@ScottACroom: Calendar is critical for everything, especially social media. Too easy to get overwhelmed otherwise. EFFICIENCY.
@8Keith: So your editorial calendar is a living, breathing thing?
@JennineMiller: And cries and needs consoling! … Consider your editorial calendar as tentative and always stay on top of ideas that will be relevant at the time.
Communication and Coordination
4. Does functioning like a media organization require more coordination between departments? How do you facilitate communication?
@BloomReachInc: Yes and the only way to do that consistently is to have some dedicated to it who can ask the right questions.
@scottacroom: Cross department communication is critical in any business, not just media. Use HootSuite for monitor/listen for the most part. Lifesaver. Can’t rave enough about Basecamp from @37signals.
@jenninemiller: Working in a small agency now but if it was larger I’d say yes! Communication is a must. Tools like Asana help everyone KIT
@michelledlowery: First, have clearly defined roles for each dept. Then encourage open communication. Important for leaders to set example.
5. What content types do you publish most (ex: web pages, blog, curation posts, videos, social posts, infographics)? Why?
@chrisjeverett: A mixture of everything. Diversification is key in publishing/content marketing for max customer reach.
@scottacroom: Totally industry and client dependent.
@sonray: Desired outcome is key. What is the best outcome? Then work backwards from there with a strategy/content type.
@clairwyant: Infographics help tell the story … but a summary is needed, mainly for SEO purposes … Big fan of blogging… plain simple text with a few images to help tell the story.
Socially… love images & infographics. If you have the resources for video, use it. It’s more cost effective not to, but if you can, all the better..
@JennineMiller: Working in a small agency now but if it was larger I’d say yes! Communication is a must. Tools like Asana help everyone.
@uprighttire: Social, blogging & webpage – in that order.
@BruceClayInc: We’ve invested the most focus in our blog and newsletter for years. Now increasing publishing activity in Google+ & others, too.
@lisabuyer: Seems like web pages get lost in the shuffle, if you have an online newsroom, each piece of news content=web page
@kmullett: yup, people became way too enamored w/the idea of “blogs” when “frequently updated quality content” was the goal.
@paulaspeak: True! Website revision takes a backseat to the latest blog post ideas, and blog has big payoff for SEO, too.
@kmullett: ANY quality content that solves problems or answers questions will help SEO, not just those in the blog.
@michelledlowery: social, blog, web page, in that order. Video’s a bit out of budget right now. Infographics are overused, IMO.
@rvaghanani: Infographics. Since they are more eye catching then printed words.
Publisher Goals vs. SEO Goals
6. For titles, do you find publisher goals (optimize for virality/social sharing) & SEO (rank for relevant keywords) are at odds?
@scottacroom: At odds? Not if you are doing them right.
@chrisjeverett: Sometimes Yes, Particularly when the SEO Focus doesn’t match the “Brand Message” (ie terminology used)
@kristikellogg: Sometimes — like when you want to write a ridiculously clever (or alliterative) headline but it fails to wield keywords. #sad
@jenninemiller: They can be at odds but the trick (no easy task) is to nail the keywords & create an awesome/sharable title. If applicable use a # or @ in the title. When someone shares it w/o edits it can lead to more real conversation/interaction.
@feviyu: Sometimes @BruceClayInc hard to draw the line b/w creativity and practicality with titles
@lisabuyer: For titles, needs to be optimized is the key, so sad how much I see NOT optimized at all
@michelledlowery: Excellent tip I heard from @seanthinks at PubCon Austin: If headline isn’t working, change it. 3
@8Keith: It’s a dance … there is no perfect title. That’s the FUN.
@clairwyant: I tend to look at the SEO factor. One of the few areas I actually research. You can still make appealing headlines. The keyword research I do is very basic & not very in-depth. Noticed a difference between doing it & not.
@bloomreachinc: Write for human consumption.
@emcgillivray: As search engines get smarter, it’s better to optimize for humans than keywords.
@feviyu: I agree with @emcgillivray. When I’m faced with a decision will choose humans over bots.
@lisabuyer: Or balance of both is possible! @emcgillivray
@sonray: Yes, yes, yes, all day long. You can take visitors to the bank, rankings not so much.
Writers and Editors
7. Who writes for your brand? Who edits? Is content primarily generated in-house?
@JennineMiller: Currently it’s all in-house, but if we were to expand for clients’ sake, I’m sure contracting wouldn’t be out of the question.
@bloomreachinc: Mostly in-house and we have a storyteller (@mikecassidy) doing most of the writing. Content marketing team edits & propagates. While our storyteller does the writing, his journalism background means he uses experts at the company & elsewhere as sources.
@mumar_khan: Everyone has the right to write but the editing should done by specialists and yes it has to be produced in-house.
@Lisabuyer: Traditional PR peeps write 4 press release a month, journalists write 4 stories a day! Who is better?
@Feviyu: All content is in-house because we are a small biz we take ownership of all grammatical mistakes too.
@8Keith: (sigh) one man band … for now!
@BruceClayInc: We have a team of four full-time in-house writers.
8. Do you encourage your writers to build their own brand and authority? How?
@michelledlowery: Absolutely. Through authorship, guest posting, and social network visibility. Also keeping brand comms separate.
@bruceclayinc: Empowering employees to be brand advocates helps “humanize” your brand & extend reach. goo.gl/3PpqqV #authenticity
@kristikellogg: #Writers can build authority socially and through quality writing also — “Twitter for Journalists: http://selnd.com/1lL7L7i
@paulaspeak: Definitely! Hire someone who represents your brand values & brings powerful following http://goo.gl/3PpqqV . BTW, heard a super interview this week w/ @alexcote on making employees #brand advocates: http://goo.gl/gXBFiE
Planning and Scheduling Content
9. How far ahead do you plan and schedule content? What guidelines do you follow when developing your content calendar?
@mmlukens: Never far enough!
@kmullett: We start w/a content opportunity report, then rank by value/effort, then decide calendar. As far in advance as possible. A Content Opportunity Report tool: http://www.marketsnare.com/content-opportunity-report
@ConstantContent: We plan a rough outline approx. 2-3 weeks in advance, but constantly add in breaking news as it happens.
10. When do you publish images? Do you ever take the photos yourself? Do you use captions or text overlay?
@lisabuyer: I love when a brand owns a curated authentic image library!
@paulaspeak: We’ve found Haiku Deck a super tool for making fast, professional images w/ text overlays. (And it’s free.)
@bloomreachinc: We always use photos – either originals that we take or Creative Commons from @flickr.
@ConstantContent: We rarely include photos. Usually choose text-based graphics over stock photos.
@Kmullett: I almost exclusively take pictures myself, but I have several resources for finding free/cheap stock when needed.
@JennineMiller: It varies. If we have a good existing image then we use our own or buy something. Text overlay beats captions IMO. We always, always, always upload files with good names and use alternate text.
11. At what point in the development cycle do you compare competitor content to your own? How do you evaluate competitor content?
@paulaspeak: Inevitably, ideas float around, so someone else publishes similar as yours is being created. At that point, need tunnel vision!
@lisabuyer: Competitors can make you look good.
@kmullett: Before, during, and ongoing.
Format Sweet Spots
12. In your industry, have you found there are sweet spots for word count? Tense? Style? Format?
@paulaspeak: Word count limits not as important as quality #content – We’ve had high engagement with some 1.5K posts on @BruceClayInc
@JennineMiller: Never do something you would criticize competitors for doing. Keep it professional but in your own voice.
@8keith: 300-500 but with LOTS of white space – headings and paragraphs. My view on content is like a movie – if you need 4 hours, then its two movies – 1000 words = two posts.
@constantcontent: It’s a great idea to watch competitors, but we like to focus on evaluating the quality of our own content.
13. How do you gauge your content investment – is it worth it? How do you measure your ROI on #content?
@8keith: It’s not a science for me yet – but more content = more conversations = more business.
@constantcontent: A great way to determine ROI of content is to measure traffic, conversions from the page, bounce rate & time spent on site.
@ClairWyant: Pageviews & amount shared on social first 24-48 hours. Page views via search thereafter.
@JennineMiller: Views, shares, quality interactions and conversions depending on your goals.
14. As a brand publisher, what standards, guidelines, rules do you have in place (or wish you did)? AP style? Certain words/slang not accepted such as OMG, WTF or “epic?”
@paulaspeak: As a start to creating a brand voice/style guide, this article by @ChelseaBeaAdams inspires: http://t.co/DlhmXci3qk
@LisaBuyer: I think the words “great” and “excited” should not be allowed #seochat #Boring #meaningless.
@Sonray: “Awesome,” too.
@ClairWyant: I try my best to stick to AP style. Doesn’t always happen.
@JennineMiller: Never do something you would criticize competitors for doing. Keep it professional, but in your own voice.
Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app
Thank you to everyone who participated in this week’s #SEOchat! #SEOchat is held every Thursday at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET on Twitter. Learn more about participating here.
To Tell the Right Stories, You Need to Listen: Michael Brito on Content Marketing was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
Brands — including your business or the business you work for — have a monumental task of transforming into publishers. (Because brands are publishers today.) So in your Internet marketing role you’re wearing many hats, developing and optimizing the content to publish across the channels, and coordinating the various interests of the brand across the organization.
To aid you in this task, we’ve published “Content Marketing Strategies for Professionals,” within which renowned social media strategist and community builder Michael Brito contributes a section on where paid, earned and owned media intersect, and how to maximize the impact of these channels through synergistic strategy.
We’ve tapped him again here for an exclusive interview — read on to discover:
- Which brands are standing out as publishers.
- What the biggest misconception regarding content marketing in 2014.
- Advice for creating content for socially minded consumers.
“While each of these channels play a critical role in your content strategy, the real power is when you can integrate two or more of the channels into one campaign initiative,” Brito writes in the book, available for purchase on Amazon.
In his current role as Group Director at WCG, Brito helps clients transform their brands into media companies. Brito has handled social media and marketing strategy for the likes of Hewlett Packard, Yahoo and Intel. He also is a professor of social strategy at UC Berkeley and Cal State San Jose. Discover Brito’s top content marketing tips and his favorite resources in this exclusive interview.
BCI: Can you give some examples of the best type of content that can be executed across all media?
Michael Brito: Red Bull does a great job telling the “gives you wings” story across paid, earned and owned media. However, they aren’t just blasting the same content everywhere or using various channels to amplify content. If you look closely, they tell the same story in each channel but with a slightly different angle.
In your own book “Your Brand – The Next Media Company,” you talk about the surplus of content and the attention deficit in the minds of consumers today … can you give us three actionable tips on how to best overcome this in 2014?
Tip 1: Have a good story. People love stories and spend 70% of their day telling themselves stories (day dreaming). Having a good story that touches on emotional and rational elements will surely help break through the clutter.
Tip 2: Leverage the appropriate platform for the various storytelling initiatives. In other words, don’t just blast the same content in every channel. Each channel has a different audience so mapping content to specific channels is important.
Tip 3: Don’t forget long-form content. Too many of us forget the power of Google and don’t realize that tweets, status updates and Instagram posts don’t have search engine visibility. So in addition to trying to interrupt consumers in their feed, it’s critical to create content in blogs, communities, LinkedIn publishing platform, etc. — those have a much longer shelf life.
What advice can you give to brands to create the right content for the social consumer?
A deep understanding of the consumer is critical to telling good stories. Their passions, behavior and lifestyle interests can all contribute to a content strategy … so the advice is to do a lot of listening and analysis of your target consumer.
Can you share some examples of brands doing content marketing right?
Definitely Red Bull, as mentioned earlier. But also IBM, Intel and Visage Mobile in the B2B space. All these firms are leveraging content as a strategy and a storytelling opportunity.
What is the biggest content mistake of 2014?
The biggest mistake is thinking that content marketing is a strategy when it is not. Content marketing is the tactical arm of having a fully robust content strategy. A content strategy includes:
- narrative development
- content operations
- participatory storytelling (employee/customer advocacy programs)
- content distribution/integration (content marketing)
- content performance/analysis
Can you share links to your top three favorite articles with your byline?
Do you have any favorite tools or platforms that make a content marketers life easier?
SocialFlow has the ability to publish content on Twitter and Facebook when your brand is actually paying attention.
Can you share two of your favorite industry blogs?
- Digiday — There’s great content about converged media, content strategy and advertising.
- TopRank Blog — I’ve subscribed to (Lee Odden’s) blog for almost nine years. It always has good content on the intersection of search and social media.
What social network is the best for our readers to connect and follow you?
LinkedIn is the best.
Got more questions for Michael Brito? Ask them in the comments!
How to Be Your Best SEO: Bruce Clay’s Advice for Gaining Influence was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
Since 1996, Bruce Clay has been commited to ethical SEO and a passion for all things concerning search. Armed with a “be a leader, not a follower” mentality, he has helped to shape the landscape of Internet marketing with his books, presentations and training — and earned his company a spot in the Inc. 500 | 5000 list for seven consecutive years.
Clay’s SEO insights are laced throughout every chapter of his latest book, “Content Marketing Strategies for Professionals,” coauthored by Murray Newlands. Clay uses his vast knowledge and experience to provide readers with SEO tips concerning:
- social media
- paid search
- and more
In a special interview, Clay shared some of his insights on being a CEO. It turns out a lot of the principles behind successful SEO, such as transparency and commitment to quality, are the same principles that have led to his success as a CEO.
In your latest book, you share your insights as a leading SEO. You’re also a formidable CEO. Can you share some insights on successfully running a company?
The first problem of running a company in a high tech space is that things change so much. You spend the majority of your life trying to keep current and manage change. As a speaker, I have to maintain a degree of expert status, which means I have to read two to three hours a day and I’m generally up around the clock. The fact is that business takes the majority of my time. The fact that we have brand is a result of 18 years of work.
Personal life, of course, is secondary to work life — that’s the plague CEOs have. If you want to succeed, it’s your responsibility to lead, and that takes time.
What was your first job?
My first job out of college was at the Central National Bank in Chicago as a programmer in 1972. I made $800/month — the equivalent of $2,367 in today’s world.
What advice would you give recent college grads or anyone wanting to start their own Internet marketing business?
I would suggest that a recent college grad not start their own business. A college grad has to come in, have a job, hold it for two years and be prepared to be knocked around. You have a whole lot of real world learning to do and you cannot feel entitled, which is a problem people have.
As for starting your own business, keep it small, keep it simple, service first, be an expert, satisfy the client, understand you work for them — they don’t work for you. Don’t lie. Be honest.
You’ve been a CEO for more than 18 years. What’s the best executive decision you’ve made in that time? What’s the best decision in the last two years?
Overall, it was the firm decision to unconditionally not violate any of Google’s terms from the inception of Bruce Clay, Inc. A lot of people took short cuts and they’ve been hit with penalties. We’ve never had anyone hit with a penalty.
In the last couple of years, I’ve been focusing on hiring good people. It’s really easy for a CEO to hire cheap to save money, but you have to understand that cheap is not cheapest.
They say the more you fail, the more you can learn. Tell us about a time you learned a valuable lesson as CEO of Bruce Clay, Inc.
When we started we were pretty heavy into engineering and programming. And we found that technical people have a tendency to provide terrible service and we had to morph our approach to be more service-centric. That was a significant lesson.
You are a believer in continuing SEO education. Why is it important to stay current on top of SEO trends?
When technical change is so rapid, you either are really behind or you’re really on top. There’s no middle ground. Plus, if you fall behind, it’s really hard to catch up.
What advice would you give to CEOs about what they need to know about SEO in today’s marketing world?
Do it, and do it right. Quality rules.
Can you walk us through a day in the life of Bruce Clay?
A typical weekday entails monitoring projects and key accounts, planning for conferences, supporting our international offices, launching new products, and, above all, being a leader. Another major part of day-to-day work is coping with the chaos that results from constant changes in the Google landscape. On the weekend, I’m still working, but I don’t have meetings, phone calls or commitments to clients. I use the weekends to think outside of the box and plan future projects. My staff knows to expect a full inbox on Monday morning.
What’s your favorite thing about Google?
They built the industry and maintain SEO importance via frequent changes.
What is your least favorite thing about Google?
They still allow spammers to dominate and do not enforce their own terms of service.
What’s your favorite city?
Sydney, Australia. Sydney is very much like San Francisco — there are friendly audiences, pleasant climate and easygoing people. You can go to Sydney and feel more at home than in any other city.
What social network is the best for our readers to connect and follow you?
Google+. Circle Bruce Clay, Inc. for important SEO news and updates, plus exclusive content and conversations.
Got a question for Bruce Clay about his extensive history as an SEO and CEO? Share it in the comments!
How to Build Your Brand with Google+ Hangouts On Air was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
If you’re like most businesses today, you have accepted social media as a necessary part of a content-based marketing strategy. On Twitter you can communicate short-and-sweet deals, tips, news headlines, and pictures of the flavor of the day. On Facebook you can run contests, post pictures, and link to blog posts. But how many businesses realize the opportunity that is Google+?
More than just another social platform, Google+ offers SEO, branding, and audience-engagement benefits. Its Hangouts On Air (HOA) feature, in particular, can be a real game-changer that helps brands build traction and expertise in their field faster and more cheaply than any other way.
First Things First: Why Be on Google+?
If your brand is not on Google+, you’re missing far more than just social interaction. Now the second most active social network globally, Google+’s integration with search and other Google products brings undeniable SEO benefits beyond those of other social media platforms.
“Google+ is really the unification of all of Google’s services, with a common social layer.” – Vic Gundotra, head of Google+, in his recent presentation at Pubcon
“You just need to do it. It’s a top ranking signal, and I think you’re dumb if you don’t do it.” – Danny Sullivan, editor of Search Engine Land, speaking in an HOA this week
Plain and simple, if your brand cares about being found in Google search, it needs to be active on Google+ for at least two reasons:
SEO Benefit 1: Articles posted or +1’d by someone a searcher has circled in Google+ can appear in that searcher’s top 10 results in the SERP. Google sees this as an endorsement from someone the person trusts, which creates ranking potential for your content in people’s personalized results.
SEO Benefit 2: Authorship photos and bylines, which sometimes appear next to Google search results and definitely increase click-throughs, pull from the authors’ Google+ profiles.
Businesses actively engaged on Google+ can join communities, comment on posts, give +1s, and post their own content in a conversation-friendly environment that was designed to mimic the way people build relationships in real life. But brands can also use Google+’s free Hangout On Air (HOA) feature to find their audience, network with influencers, and gain or establish expertise.
Hosting Your Own Hangout or Hangout On Air
Any Google+ user can use the Hangouts feature to start a video conference with up to 10 followers anytime. This is already a money-saving tip, because Hangouts give companies a completely free and easy way to do teleconferencing. Your video conference Hangout will be private, just between participants, if you use this method:
Alternatively, you can start a Hangout On Air — a live video conference available for any Google+ user to watch and comment in, and forever after saved as a publicly viewable video on your brand’s YouTube channel.
Hosting an HOA or a series of HOAs on subjects relevant to your business can quickly:
- Position your brand as a thought leader in your field
- Demonstrate your expertise
- Communicate your brand’s culture and personality
- Strengthen your relationships with other experts you invite to speak
- Give your brand a human factor that people can relate to
- Increase brand recognition and build a following
To Schedule a Hangout On Air:
- From the main pull-down menu, choose Hangouts, then click “Start a Hangout On Air.” (Note: You must have your Google+ profile linked with your YouTube account first.)
- Next, fill out the form:
Use the name and description fields well, as they need to entice people to watch. They also serve as the Title tag and Meta Description of your event page (important for search).
- Be sure to tag your speakers in your description. If you invite well-known authorities to be your speakers, you increase the reach and the quality of your HOA. When they see you have mentioned them, they will probably share your post and help promote the event to their own large circles.
- Also include a hashtag or two at the bottom of your description, such as #SEO, to indicate the subject and help people searching for that hashtag to stumble upon your HOA.
- To schedule the event, choose “Later” and set a date and time.
- For the audience, you can leave it set to “Public” to invite all your followers and also allow others to join.
- To publicize your upcoming HOA, post about it on your Google+ page. Share the post with particular circles or specific people. Link to it in a conversationally appropriate way in relevant comment threads.
TIP: If you set up a public HOA at least 5 days in advance, Google can include it in a schedule of upcoming HOAs so that more people can find it. You’ll need to follow a few guidelines to make that happen.
Attending a Hangout On Air
You don’t have to host your own HOAs to use them for branding purposes. Just attending a Hangout On Air lets you:
- Meet influencers: HOAs feature experts who are influential authorities on a subject. Watching HOAs related to your field helps you get to know these experts on a more personal level — how they pronounce their names, what they look like, how they talk, and other details they may share about themselves — and meet new people you’ll want to research and network with.
- Don’t be invisible – speak up: If you just silently observe a hangout, you’re missing an opportunity to let people get to know you. Use the comments to type in questions and useful bits of information during the hangout, and participants and speakers will see them in almost real-time. Commenting has two benefits: 1) The speakers may respond to your question directly, even mentioning you by name. 2) Other commenters may interact with you.The first time I attended an HOA, I noticed one commenter being super helpful. When I typed a question about something the speaker had said, he clarified it for me. He also posted links to things the speakers casually mentioned. I thanked him there, circled him, and later mentioned his name in a post — and so a relationship began. Every time you post something of value, people see your name. Over time, you build more connections and your name becomes known.
- Increase your expertise: When you listen to experts, you’re bound to learn something! HOAs communicate a ton of free information. Watch hangouts related to your field and be an active listener: take notes, look up the extra resources mentioned, and so on. Learning from the best and being able to quote them helps you become more of an authority yourself.
- Build your circles: Be sure to circle the speakers and participants whose comments add value. (Just moving your pointer over a name pops up a hover card where you can click Add.)
How to Extend the Value of a Hangout You Attend
If you host a hangout, you will want to promote it in advance through all your social media channels. But even when you’re just attending someone else’s HOA, if it’s related to your brand’s subject matter you should try to spur conversation and interaction. Consider these actions to generate engagement before and after the event takes place.
BEFORE THE HANGOUT:
- R.S.V.P.: For upcoming public hangouts, be sure to specify that you are going to watch by choosing either “Maybe” or “Yes”:
Once you do this, it will be added to your events and you’ll get reminders. In addition, your name and thumbnail image will appear in the list of viewers, creating another subtle point of exposure in the community:
- Help promote the HOA: If you’re excited about an upcoming Hangout On Air, share it with your own circles by clicking the share button (circled below). Be sure to write a brief recommendation in your own words and tag the hangout organizer and/or speakers. They’ll be grateful for the extra publicity and might even thank you with a +1 or a comment.
- Comment in advance: On the event page (click the hangout title to get there), you can type in a comment even before the air date. Your comment introduces yourself and seeds conversation, especially if you tag people. Once you’ve commented, you’ll be notified about every subsequent comment so you can easily jump in and interact with the event organizers and others. Comment ideas include: 1) express your interest in the topic and/or the speakers; 2) ask a question to clarify what the HOA will be about; 3) respond to the event description in some way; 4) respond to an earlier comment in the stream; 5) mention a related resource on the topic.
AFTER THE HANGOUT:
- Thank as appropriate: Use the event comments to thank the organizers and speakers, tagging them by name and giving specific kudos as appropriate.
- Write about the hangout: Did you get a lot of value out of the hangout discussion? Often the event organizer will post his/her own summary, but everyone’s perspective is different. You know what’s valuable to your specific audience — write a recap, summary, action item list, or other and post it on your Google+ page. In your post, link to the event page where readers can watch the replay if they want to, and tag all the speakers. If you write original content tailored to your audience, giving credit to the hangout participants by name, that’s content curation at its best.
P.S. Need more help getting started? Circle these people for a continuous stream of top-notch content on how to use Google+ and Hangouts:
Strategic Considerations for Getting Past Google’s Personalized Results
Chris Boggs @boggles, Internet Marketing Ninjas
What Is the Filter Bubble? The filter bubble is users getting less exposure to conflicting view points to where they become isolated intellectually in their own information bubble. Eli Pariser an Internet activist defined it this way. Some people feel the filter bubble is negative because of potential manipulation of the kind of info a user may see. We can’t know what we’re missing because of the filter bubble. But we’re agreeing to that when we use Google who is in their own mind returning the best set of results to us.
Disclaimer: Content is still king. Google isn’t always going to get it right or have the inventory to deliver a result the user wants.
There are some areas we can reinvent how we’re looking at SEO that optimizes for the filter bubble.
1. Brand Search Implications
Notice that there are phone numbers and sitelinks on the SERP when Chris is signed in because Google knows he’s been interacting with the brand lately.
Consideration 1: Sitelinks — Sitelinks are influenced slightly by past behavior, but for many brand searches tested, the 6-8 remain the same except for positioning
Consideration 2: Search history — Hummingbird driven results maybe cause changes in the way that Sitelinks show up for longer-tail brand searches. If you search “seomoz algorithm updates” and then “moz algorithm updates” and back, the displayed Sitelinks differ. Brand is the primary thing to get full control over if you want to ensure the greatest likelihood of exposure beyond people’s personalized search filter bubble. (Updated from Chris’s comment below)
Consideration 3: Longer tail brand search differences. For most longer tail brand searches, little to no difference was observed
Consideration 4: Visit history: He visits Yahoo Fantasy Sports daily and personalized return differs dramatically from non-filtered
Consideration 5 and beyond: Bing and Facebook and the rest
Summary of considerations for brand searches:
2. Non-Brand Searches
He feels there’s more personalization happening for non-brand searches. We also see a shift in ads for a logged in user vs. non-logged in (perhaps a different Quality Score calculated for a logged-in user).
Consideration 1: Universal SERP layout can be dramatically different (position of Shopping results, inline Sitelinks, compressed Amazon listing).
Consideration 2: For many long-tail terms, what you see is what you get.
Consideration 2a: Conversely, for high volume head terms there is greater volatility in results
Consideration 3: Informational vs. Transactional search results tend to trend from informational to transactional as the searcher behavior/personalization comes into play, that is later in a search series
On the left the search is done in San Francisco and on the right the search is done in New Orleans.
Consideration 1: how many blue link search result spots are available or is it filled with a local 7 pack or brand pack
Consideration 2: is there a dominant site for local terms?
Consideration 3: Sometimes a site will dominate for [brand + keyword] terms and may be better if not investing heavily
Consideration 4: Is your local listing accurate? This can be problematic for some
Consideration 5: Optimize for non-brand. Make sure your brand is associated with what you sell and Google will do the rest
Takeaways for Avoiding the Personalization Filter:
How to Get Past Google’s Personalization Layer … Into It’s Core Scoring Algorithms
Aaron Kronis @KRONis, SEO Engine
In the last year we’ve lost a lot of the keyword-driven data we used to get from Google. He quotes Pariser again and his points that you don’t know what you’re being filtered on. Google’s black box has been growing. Edward Snowden was praising Google for turning on SSL for all searches. But that same change took data away from us.
Spam filters: 1999-2004
Local filters: 2004-2011
How do we take back control? We need to take a closer look into what makes up the black box. Look at the inbound link flow coming off your home page.
Instead of looking at the query layer, look at the scoring layer. As the query layer grows so doe noise and confusion.
How do I get to the scoring layer? You need a functional modern search engine to open up its algos, i.e., you need a Google simulator (without all the personalization/query layer). Ask him about the Google simulator he’s built and using and seeing 50% higher ROI on SEO.
#Pubcon Liveblog: SEO Moshpit — Q&A with the SEO “Old School” was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
What follows may be one of the most interesting conversations that took place on SEO in New Orleans this week.
This assembly of online marketers has 150 combined years of experience in SEO, Brett Tabke, head of Pubcon, estimates.
- William Leake (@Marketing_Bill) — CEO of Apogee Results
- Bruce Clay (@BruceClayInc) — President of Bruce Clay, Inc.
- Tony Wright (@tonynwright) — CEO of WrightIMC
- Rob Garner (@robgarner) — Chief Strategy Officer of Advice Interactive
- Stoney deGeyter (@StoneyD) — President of Pole Position Marketing
- Greg Boser (@GregBoser) — President of Foundation Digital
- Joe Laratro (@jlaratro) — President of Tandem Interactive
Question 1 (Brett Tabke): Google has been taking proactive steps against SEO the last year; not provided means referrals are dead and we don’t know where traffic is coming from anymore. How are you coping with what are the most dramatic changes to SEO in the last 10 years.
Bill: What Google did by requiring a higher standard of content is on-shore a lot of jobs back to North America. You need to have someone writing, optimizing and promoting content that is part of the culture. This has dramatically increased the cost of content and SEO and made content marketing much more integrated into SEO.
Bruce: Everyone has had to figure out that we’re in the traffic business and not ranking or attribution. It’s not clear if Google is going to continue to provide keywords for PPC. There’s agreement we’re going to be doing more content work.
Tony: The biggest thing about this industry is most of us are mavericks and we work in this industry because we didn’t fit in other industries, and so we adapt. What we’re seeing in the industry is a shakeout and some are getting left behind. Tony says this has been good for him because he comes from a PR background. He hires writers; people who are good at making something someone wants to read. He says it’s more about the message than the method anymore.
Rob: Google can keep doing what they’re doing because it only gets the bad players out who can’t fake it and that helps the industry. SEO may come to live under different names like digital asset optimization. He’s going back to what you can control, like how you’re pages are laid out from a linguistic content perspective and if you lay out your structure so that you can see sales tied to traffic from the organic channel you know what topics and keywords are important to your business.
Stoney: Our job is getting attention and Google is an avenue but they don’t dictate how we get that attention. They can penalize guest blog sites but they can’t penalize guest blogging. Besides, quality of content and what we’re doing with content and how we promote ourselves is always what we should be focusing on.
Greg: If what happened with Google is about quality control, then those sites wouldn’t have any impact on the algo. But instead they had an infiltrated spy job. The lesson of the MyBlogGuest penalty is that you can’t pull together groups of people, you have to be out on your own. SEOs have always been the cockroaches of the Internet and we adapt and survive. Deep content strategy and content performance analysis has long been the most important thing for good SEOs.
Joe: I don’t like the terror marketing that this is causing. Marketing companies are spreading misinformation that’s able to gain traction because of the fear.
Question 2 (from Brett): One of the themes of the conference has been, now that keyword referral data is gone, rankings are again in vogue. Have you found that?
Greg: I don’t think rankings ever went out of vogue. It’s not an either-or thing. You can’t say that because I care about rankings I don’t care about conversions. You have to have an idea of how your content is being displayed. You need an idea at the page-level analysis because then you can narrow it down based on phrase popularity and where they’re ranking what it is that is attracting viewers to that content.
Bill: I don’t think we can get away from rankings completely. Rankings are one of the few things we can provide when the client has analytics set up incorrectly. And rankings reflect how branding is affecting things. If you’re not visible on branding and visibility keywords, we’re not building a brand. We have to talk about concepts like brand, not just direct response and sales.
Tony: I care about control of voice. I want mentions on my SERP. There is a mini branding effect on a SERP. If a user is querying multiple keywords and they keep seeing your name, you create a perception of prominence in that field. You’ve just become the leader in their perception. There’s client perception and agency perception. A client thinks ranking is ego more than conversion — they have to be number one because they feel they’re the best. At an agency we recognize rankings more as an indicator because rankings are relative. And from a deliverables standpoint, rankings show that you actually did something.
Bruce: Ranking is important to anybody with a reputation management problem. When we look at ranking we back up to a paid API from Google — it’s raw data from the index without any personalization. What it allows me to do is make a change to the page and let me see if it makes a difference. This is the only way to make a difference in an apples-to-apples way.
Stoney: He tells his clients if your business grows without getting a single top ranking then we’ve done our job. A good example of where rankings don’t matter so much is a client that they got a top ranking for and the client was happy. After an architecture change they lost the pet keyword but they got a lot more pages on the site ranking and created a big lift in sales overall.
Question 3 (from audience): Do you see a trend or a social coups of websites blocking Google from crawling as a response to Google scraping and cutting sites out of the equation?
Greg: Google is cannibalizing industry after industry and Knowledge Graph is a click black hole and making it even worse. That’s why he focuses on audience building and creating direct connections to your clients. You need people to direct navigate to you, RSS subscribes, newsletter signups or capturing email so you can market to them later.
Rob: Will more sites start blocking their content? Most businesses have an economic dependency on organic traffic, from 5-50% of revenue. So while they won’t cut the cord, there’s huge pent up frustration.
Tony: He has no faith in the general public changing their behavior of not going to Google. The only thing that might work is government intervention a la Ma Bell split into Baby Bells. The DOJ is already looking at it.
Rob: When we start to regulate Google to not crawl the open Internet, that’s a huge problem as a matter of policy. He thinks net neutrality and open Internet is a big issue right now.
Greg: We held Google to the goal of connecting us to the world’s info. But Google baited and switched and now they want to own the world’s info. We have to hold Google to not delivering all their own products. The only third-party aggregate that Google wants in the world is Google.
Bruce: Are we in any position to legislate that Google will remain a hub and not an authority? Google doesn’t make money from organic, even though they have to have it, but the less they can get away with they will.
Bill: If Google becomes the trusted brand. Remember you’re not Google’s customer, you’re Google’s dairy cow. What’s the least we have to give you so you keep coming back, Google treats advertisers. If you don’t conform to their terms, that’s a long term danger for any content publisher out there. Google learned from Microsoft and they own more politicians than anyone but maybe Oracle.
Stoney: Google has done such a masterful job of making us dependent on them. He loves Gmail and Google Docs, and we don’t want Google to be the monopoly but it’s too convenient and we love it. When do we say that’s enough, I’m getting off the drug?
Brett: Almost 85% of the traffic to Microsoft is from Google. For the most part his business ignores Google and focuses on social.
Bill: Publishers are putting a lot of content behind paywalls and it may be working so maybe it’s time to say do not index our deep content and allow indexing of just our top pages.
Question 4 (from Brett): Where is SEO going in the near future, the next 12 months? Do we keep feeding into Google, with more products like Google+?
Bruce: For background, understand that Google has stated that KG is just another tool in the Swiss Army Knife that makes their experience more useful. So understand that as we at the same time, as marketers, feel it from a different perspective as a loss of traffic and visibility.
Bill: Google believes that. They can say, look what we do for you with 85% of the traffic. Imagine what we can do with 99%! Now for ecommerce, keep in mind that Google is cuddly next to Amazon.
Tony: Back to “where are we going?” he has faith that if he builds great content they will come. He hates digital sharecropping, which is essentially building on Google’s land. He works to build value on his own property or no one will visit.
Greg: The next step is leveraging what other people are doing, and apps are a great place. He finds more of the searching he does personally is on apps and vehicles pushed straight to his phone.
Joe: Why is Google penalizing guest blogging so aggressively? That’s a sign that social search is where they want to make progress over the next 12 months.
Bruce: There’s going to be a period of time that sites that answer the how question will be doing well, as it avoids dependence on the delivery of simple facts that Google has subverted with Knowledge Graph.
Brett changes the topic to MyBlogGuest.
Brett: Yesterday’s announcement that Google penalized the guest blog network run by well-known SEO writer Ann Smarty sent major waves through the community. It was first hinted at by Matt Cutts at SMX West last week.
Greg: If they had never mentioned the word “links” in the promotion of it, they would have been safe from Google. And it’s sad you can’t be honest about that benefit. He also points out that there are much lower quality guest blog networks and that for what it did, Ann’s network did it best.
Rob: Guest blogging and posting being an illicit tactic is ridiculous. Is Woody Allen’s guest editorial on the New York Times spam? Of course not. And there’s a lot of meaningful discourse that occurs from guest contributions. When you are public shaming to a small audience, most of the world doesn’t see this, it’s clear it’s a ridiculous tactic that’s trying to overcompensate for a weakness in the algortithm. He’s seen the quality of search results going down in the last year. Now that content marketing has become in vogue with marketers and as the web expands he thinks Google is finding it harder to sort through the quality. They’re needing to scale to the quantity of content that’s coming out.
Tony: Yesterday’s actions are more disturbing than any penalties he’s seen because there’s value in guest blogging. It comes back to economic value and businesses afraid of getting on Google’s bad side can be hesitant to participate in a very legitimate marketing practice.
Bill: They’ve slammed sites that are entirely guest sites so your site having mixed in a little bit of guests with a broader stew, you’re probably still okay.
Bruce: There’s a common theme. When Google started penalizing links it was looking for sites to commit to a theme. And he suspects that the guest blogging that’s penalized are examples of writers that are not focused in their content topics. We’re seeing networks penalized when there’s no topical focus.
Greg: You see this in the disappearance of Authorship photos as well. The topical focus of a site, of your body of work as an author, those are going to be considered in author authority and whether or not Authorship is displayed in a SERP.
Alan K’Necht @aknecht (Digital Always Media Inc.) and Adam Proehl @adamproehl (NordicClick Interactive) are doing a tagteam presentation and I’m getting the WWF vibe as both of them have mics in hand and are walking around the front of the room. They’ll go over the 10 most frequently asked questions about measuring social media. And they’re giving out Buzz Balls (fruity alcoholic drinks) for audience interaction. Social engagement IRL!
Q1: What social measurement figure do you see being reported as total BS?
Any numbers reported without context.
Social analytics in perspective: followers/fans/likes are to social media what hits were to web analytics. Brands that only focus on follower counts and likes are missing the point. They’re measuring the wrong thing. We’re in a similar spot as web analytics circa 1999.
Q2: How can I tell if people actually give a crap about our stuff?
Consult journalism 101 — ask the 5 Ws and H. Some tools can help you. An example of a tool that will show you this stuff is SharedCount.com. Plug in your URL and get a quick snapshot of where things are at. Muckrack.com/whoshared will show you if people are sharing your stuff — if no one’s sharing, no one’s caring. Topsy.com also counts social links (they try to count bit.ly and others). Log into Foursquare and see the tips, reviews, suggestions and complaints people are sharing.
Are people actually clicking and reading the link? Tools for checking this include bitly links. And for the mere cost of a domain you can plug in your own personal short URLs. How many clicks, how many saves, real-time analytics, referrers and locations.
You have to put numbers in context by understanding them in ratios:
True engagement metrics of social media (credit Avinash Kaushik and Jennifer Lopez):
- Conversion rate: comments/replies
- Applause rate: favs/likes/+
- Amplification rate: shares/RT/clicks
Q3: The C-level — what are some must-haves in a social media report?
“Treat the C-level the same as you would an 8 year old: pretty pictures and simple numbers.” — Alan K’Necht. The C-suite is like kids in that they talk in TLAs (three letter acronyms). But don’t use your SEO acronyms or jargon.
What do you report? Short term: volume, mood, PR successes and problems; long term: social’s impact over sales, which are not easily attributable.
So draw them a treasure map with little milestones that have to happen along the way. Then report that progress toward that long-term goal of getting the treasure ($).
Always tie what you report back to a company goal. What’s public? What’s semi public? How is the C-level measured?
Q4: What is the measurement/signal that brands forget to think about?
These get to the impact on retail / social awareness at a retail level.
Q5: What are some useful and reliable tools for measurement?
Listen twice and then think. First ask yourself, “What am I trying to learn?” and “How will this tool help my business?” Also ask:
- Where do you need to go with it?
- How fast do you need to get there?
- Do you care about how it looks?
There’s nothing wrong with the top tier tools (radian6, Lithium Labs, meltwater buzz). But before you think about the big tools, what are you doing with what you have? (MacGyver could stop a train with gum and a paper clip.) Basic tools are:
- Facebook Insights (Analytics)
- YouTube Analytics (which provides segmented stats, video interactions and source data)
- Pinterest.com/source/URL (Pinterest Source)
- Foursquare and Facebook check-ins
- Share counts (and look at them in context — you might have fewer tweets but more LinkedIn shares and it reflects that the content was geared toward executives)
- Twitter Apps (Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, Crowdboaster)
- Social Mention
- Tweriod, Followerwonk (which time of day and day of week is it best to publish something)
Q6: How can you use social to influence search?
How do you get your brand or phrase to show up the Google Instant suggestions?
Search is highly dependent on one overriding component, which is INTENT. Search requires some level of awareness. You can’t search for something you don’t know. Look at a Google Trend of “pre-owned” related to cars. Toyota stayed steadfast in establishing the use of that term even though it lost them a lot of traffic for a while. Today all the car manufacturers use “pre-owned” language.
Food for thought: if no one else cares about your stuff, then don’t expect the search engines to either. Understand causation vs. correlation. Just because there’s an umbrella out doesn’t mean it’s raining.
Q7: Example of a big brand doing it right?
Q8: Example of a small brand doing it right?
A BBQ joint in Alan’s neighborhood decided to just focus on Facebook and are doing it right. They admit mistakes when they’re made. They create incentives for people to follow them on Facebook. They don’t spread themselves too thin by using a bunch of different social networks.
Caribou coffee did a Pinterest promotion that was going to help them come up with a new blend inspiration via crowd sourcing.
Q9: How do I tie sales and revenue back to social activity?
Or, how do you value a cocktail party?
Sales/revenue: low instant gratification signals (usually)
Customer service: high instant gratification signals
Q10: Why can’t I use junior interns to manage my social media?
They might have 5k friends on Facebook. But they haven’t used it for business marketing, promoting others or customer service. They lack a business sense.
Bonus final thought: One enthusiastic unpaid brand advocate is worth more than 1 million unengaged followers who never see your posts.
Bonus final thought 2: Social analytics is ultimately actionable data.
Bonus final thought 3: Don’t wait for the dashboard to take action — you may be too late. Dashboards summarize the success of the actions you’ve taken.
#Pubcon Liveblog: Tim Ash Keynote — The 4 Pillars of Trust was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
Tim Ash studied computer engineering and cognitive science — this gives him a unique preparation for Internet marketing that’s both quantifiable and not; art and science.
Everyone has about 100 billion neurons in their brain. And it’s only now that we’re opening up new frontiers of the brain with real-time brain imaging and sophisticated analysis to find out how people respond to marketing inputs.
He’s rereading “Thinking Fast and Thinking Slow,” written by a psychologist who won a Nobel Prize in economics. Who’s heard the premise that what makes us different from other animals is rationality and consciousness? But 95% of our thinking is unconscious. You have two systems: the gut, intuition and logic — it’s a crude oversimplification but it’s generally true.
It’s not about the technology. It’s not 140 characters or real-time tech — it’s about trust.
The 4 Pillars of Building Trust Online
This isn’t just theory, it’s about things we can do as marketers. His company SiteTuners is one of the premiere conversion optimization firms in the world.
Trust in the real world is given in concentric circles. The difference between an acquaintance and a friend? A friend will help you move. The difference between a friend and a close friend? A close friend will help you move … a body.
You have circles of those closest to you, followed by people who are friends, people you know, etc. Have you noticed how big city people are mean? Trust is diffused the more you’re surrounded by strangers. And yet you still extend trust to total strangers because otherwise society would break down. You expect strangers won’t slam doors on you and will follow traffic rules.
So what about trust online? How does it differ from trust in the real world. As marketers, in order to get someone to buy something from us, don’t they first have to trust us? It’s different online in 2 ways..
Trust must be gained instantly online. You have 50 milliseconds (one-twentieth of a second). Over half of your brain is dedicated to processing visual information. We figure out in an instant where a website lies on a continuum from cheesy to professional.
Trust must be given anonymously. What do we know about our visitors? Referral source. Location via reverse IP lookup. Device type. Operating system. Browser resolution. Does that help you sell to them? To the device, yes. A user on a mobile device is under time pressure, not considerate or in deep thought.
Who’s site is on responsive design? (Nearly all the hands go up.) Who’s actually thought about how the delivery of content might differ for users on mobile devices? (The hands go down.) He says that changing the column width isn’t designing for mobile — it’s ADA compliance. It’s a wheelchair ramp.
The truth is you don’t know anything about them. They don’t know anything about you. The latter is all you can control. So address these 4 pillars.
There’s a part of our brain that is there just to recognize faces and works twice as fast as our other visual recognition brain components.
Would you buy a grand piano from this website?
This company is the number one piano sales and repair company in the DC-Baltimore area. But their website is cheesy and the website doesn’t convey trust.
If you’re involved in the visual components of website design, you’re interested in art and enjoy making art. You’re frustrated artists and so you “decorate the site.” If you’re managing this type of artist designer, keep them on a short leash. When you’re at work, stay inside the box. The box is the bank box that your business puts it’s money in. You have to ask “Does this graphic support our call to action directly?”
Don’t get disqualified based solely on how you look.
- Professionalism of design
- Sparseness and neatness
- Organization and clarity
2. Transactional Assurances
You’ve seen the BBB and VeriSign and other logos on a site that communicates a trust signal. But if they’re along the bottom of the page, very few people will ever see it.
Above is a strong placement of the trust badge, placed where the convention is to have the brand logo.
Also strong to present these trust badges at the moment of purchase. A BuySafe and VeriSign Trusted badge next to the “Add to Cart” button can relieve uncertainty.
Relieve point-of-action anxieties before they arise.
- Forms of payment and delivery
- Data security and privacy
- Policies and guarantees
We naturally are pack animals and respect hierarchy. The RealAge Test added logos of media mentions under “As seen on” and got 40% more completions of their test. The recognized logos transferred trust.
In B2B if you have a form you want people to complete, use marquee client logos on the page. You eliminate the question of whether or not their qualified to do the job. In this example they saw 58% more form completions:
You don’t even have to recognize the logos for it to work. He calls it a butterfly collection — they simply look cool and an impressive and it led to 52% more conversions.
Borrow trust from better known brands.
- Reviews and awards
- Marquee clients
- Media mentions
4. Social Proof
We care about what our peer group thinks about things more than what our moms think, or what people not like us think. Seeing a friend’s picture show up on a page because you’re signed into Facebook increases conversions by double digits.
Support automatic compliance by demonstrating social proof.
- Objective large numbers
- People like you
If you want to drink from the firehose of conversion marketing and optimization, attend the Conversion Conference in Chicago in June. Registered by April 1 with the code ALUM2014 and get your ticket for just $697.
#Pubcon Liveblog: Peter Shankman’s 4 Rules of Customer Service and Social Media was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
Peter Shankman @petershankman invented a mailing list called HARO. And that wasn’t new. People knew what a mailing list was when he started it. The only difference was that he made it really hard to not read it. When he was building HARO, he came up with four rules for running his business.
$300 billion was left on the table last year due to bad customer service. Consumers don’t expect to be treated well. If you can be one level above crap, you’ll win. Following these four rules will cause you to provide good customer service.
First, some background on him. Peter was in grad school in Santa Barbara studying fashion photography until his financial aid dried up and he moved into his parents’ basement in New York. He was hanging out in the Melrose Place chatroom on AOL. Two weeks later he was working in the newly launched AOL newsroom. While working there he learned two lessons:
Lesson 1. At the time the Internet wasn’t free. It cost you $2.95 an hour if you could connect to a modem. His job at AOL was basic: keep users online as long as possible, because that’s how we made money. Our job is still to generate revenue, but we’ve kind of forgotten because we’re caught up in followers and fans. Followers and fans don’t keep the lights on. Until we realize it’s about revenue and always has been, we’re screwing ourselves.
Lesson 2. Your biggest threat isn’t AOL vs. MSNBC trying to get a hold of a million users. Your biggest threat is Seinfeld — 100 million users who aren’t online yet. You can’t grow if you’re worrying about fighting off a possible competitor. You should be worrying about the customer who hasn’t heard of you yet and getting them. Facebook isn’t about getting you on to Facebook, it’s about getting you to where everyone else is.
With that background set, let’s get to the 4 rules. The 4 rules are simple, and you learned them as a kid.
Rule 1: Transparency
President Obama won the office on the platform of being transparent. He made his first appointment in Tom Daschle, and Daschle stepped down because of a nannygate issue. He had an interview on national TV the next day and the reporter confronted the issue. Pres. Obama admitted a screw up, and the whole issue was diffused. The next question posed was, “What kind of puppy are you going to get?”
If you own a mistake, you’re 44% more likely to stay in good favor with your audience than if you deny and get caught.
The big mistakes in social and customer service come from lying, denying and fighting with customers. At HARO, Peter found that if he talked about an issue before anyone else did, there was never a problem. If he was reacting to someone else making a claim first, he was playing catch-up and it was tougher to rebound.
Rule 2: Relevance
In the ’50s, the average age of nightly news viewers was 31. They got the newspaper in the morning delivered by Timmy, and they got the news at night on TV. The average age of the nightly news viewer today is “dead.” Today, instead, you come home and charge your phone, removing it from your person for the first time that day. You turn on the TV, walk away, come back and see that nothing’s blown up, change the channel to Comedy Central, check your phone again and go to bed. We are an audience of fractured attention.
How do you learn how your audience likes to get their information? Ask them. It’s easier than ever. He would email five random HARO email list recipients and ask them how are we doing. When you interact with your audience and give them what they want, they become invested. An invested audience is 78% more likely to buy something from you or otherwise give you money.
Peter donated to an animal nonprofit and got a hardcover coffee book from the organization. He called and asked why they did that, and the answer was they believed they had an older audience that liked print material. He joined the board of advisors and had them survey their donors; 94% said they preferred to get information online. The group got active in social media and created thank you videos for donors. Donations went up 37% in 12 months. They saved $500k in printing, mailing and reproduction.
Rule 3: Brevity
The attention span of people between 18 and 25 years old is 2.7 seconds. If you have 2.7 seconds to reach your audience, the best thing you can do is learn to write. Ninety percent of interactions online start with print. Half the sites on the Internet have a spelling or grammar error on the home page. Bad writing is killing America. Good writing uses brevity.
140 characters is roughly 2.7 seconds, but before you get caught up on Twitter, realize that mobile is the future and Twitter is just one pipe. Understand the difference is concept vs. brand. The concept is mobile, the brand is Twitter.
Rule 4: Top of Mind
Barry Diller is CEO of InterActiveCorp. When he took the helm, he got into the office an hour early and would call in 10 random people from the company a day. He reached out to other people and said hi. The company turned around. Remember his earlier claim that likes and followers are bull—? Mark his words. In 10 months the concept of following, friending and liking will be gone. Instead it will all be determined by your actions in the real world. Have you ever asked someone if they’ll be your friend? The concept is unnatural.
You text someone, inviting them to hang out. Online you socially check in together somewhere. You make another date and make a reservation on OpenTable. The network sees the accumulation of positive interactions and touch-points. If you get into a disagreement and aren’t friends anymore, you don’t need to unfriend someone — you just stop talking.
Every business and person you have an interaction with is like a bubble in a lava lamp. Heat is the accelerant and energy. If you don’t have trusted interactions, your bubble floats to the bottom and doesn’t resurface. That’s what algorithms are trying to create.
PR will become personal recommendation, and you’re going to get the customers you want by being awesome to the customers you have.
Peter was flying home from a trip to Florida. He sent out a tweet to @Mortons Steakhouse and jokingly asked for a porterhouse to be waiting for him at the airport. Morton’s did it, and Peter Shankman wrote a blog post titled “The Greatest Customer Service Story Ever Told.” The CEO of Morton’s was on the Today Show the next day. Revenue doubled over the next year. That’s not scalable and you don’t have to do it for every customer. But when you ask your customer if they’re there for a special reason today and then show them you paid attention, they’ll tweet it and be loyal brand advocates.
#Pubcon Liveblog: Local Search Hot Topics and Trends was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
Local Search Strategy: Barnacle SEO
Will Scott @w2scott, Search Influence
Google sucks. Google treats small businesses as a rounding error in their economic equation. A strategy for local businesses is barnacle SEO: attaching oneself to a large fixed object and waiting for customers to float by in the current. Google says the most important thing in business is sincerity. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.
Google has a weakness; they’re a sucker for big “authority” sites:
Google, in the last several months, has unbundled results from the same domain. Previously you’d find
So now he’ll show some ways we can figure out what results Google is going to show and try to latch onto that opportunity.
Query “gastric bypass surgery new hartford ny” — gastric bypass is a very competitive term and when you do this search you’ll see Dr. Graber coming up 9 times on different domains. He’s winning that very competitive SERP.
Query “bounce like beyonce” — you’ll see a plastic surgeon at the top of the page from their YouTube video.
Video is the strongest inset in Universal results and YouTube is 8/10 of those video results. Local is back to being long-tail search. Hang your local search phrases off an authoritative site, like YouTube.
Think of other sites where you might be able to position your content and how you can make that work for you. Adding some links to the Zocdoc result in this ranking report may be able to get it into position 3 or 4 from 14.
Local Search: It’s No Laughing Matter (Or, the Factors of Local Search)
Greg Gifford @greggifford, AutoRevo
Greg’s presentation can be viewed here: http://bit.ly/localsearchcomedy. He works at an SEO and social media firm that services car dealerships.
There was a huge algo shift from October through November 2013 and saw a return to an old way. The map pack stabilized to 7 listings. There are more search results in the search results. Optimized vertical and local directories are ranking well now where they hadn’t been before the end of last year. Now you can get several results on a SERP (organic plus map-pack). There’s a huge opportunity by simply adding city and state to a web page Title tag.
2013 local search ranking factors: these influence rankings
Google+ Local (aka Google Places, Google for Business and every name they change it to)
Google wants Google+ Local to be like a drive-through — get in and out quick with what you need. If you are having issues you can get help in the Google Business Forums (but he says this with a sarcastic flair, as though getting Google to help you might be possible but is unlikely).
They are finally merging Google’s old Places dashboard and the new Google+ Local dashboard. If you previously forced a merge, you’ll be getting an email warning you about “duplicate listings.”
Optimization tips for Google+ Local business page:
- Write long, awesome descriptions and use formatting and links
- Upload lots of photos
- New update: you can now add a single descriptor to business name (to help locate or describe) — it’s going to get spammed but hey, why not try it since it’s a new rule Google’s allowing
- You can now add up to 10 categories
- There aren’t many users on Google+ but do your best to engage
- Circle users as your business
Reviews are back to stars, but now with decimals. (Zagat rating system is gone.) Reviews now appear in an isolated pop-up. Know that you can’t buy a good reputation, you have to earn it. No strategy will help you get positive reviews if you’re not good at what you do and good to customers.
Tips for getting reviews:
- Remove roadblocks
- Ask for reviews and tell them how (but not for Yelp)
- Don’t ignore Yelp — it powers Apple Maps
- You need 5 reviews to see stars on Google+
- Shoot for 10 reviews on Google+, then diversify to other third-party review sites
- Only you can get reviews — you have to ask
- Tactic: handout with instructions (cheap printed 4×6 card)
- Tactic: follow up with emails but don’t do it in an automated way because you don’t want to ask for a review from someone who left you one
- Slow is okay — most businesses get 1-2 a month
- Don’t copy reviews to your site; Google wants Google+ reviews to be unique so they’ll remove duplicates from their property
On-Site Optimization for Local
Landing page optimization tips (but really, should be every page):
- city/state in Title tag
- city/state in H1 heading
- city/state in URL
- city/state in ALT attributes (don’t forget photos on your landing page)
- city/state in Meta Description
- city/state in content
- Embedded Google Map pointing to G+ location, not just address
- NAP on landing page must match NAP on G+ page
- Use schema markup in your NAP
- Include NAP on every page
- You must use a local number — no call tracking or 800 numbers Would you rather have tons of data that you don’t use or get more phone calls?
Create awesome content for local:
- It’s all about branding.
- Make your blog a local destination.
- Blog about your community.
- Sponsor local events.
- Create local event guides.
- Review local businesses.
- Create a local resource directory.
- Interview local figures.
- Crazy idea: do just a little linkbuilding and social on your local content.
What if you’re not in the area that you’re trying to rank in? An example is a rehab center. “The best rehab facility in California … is actually in Texas.”
Links: You don’t need that many to succeed in local, but don’t ignore low domain authority local sites.
Citations: Are you almost in the map pack or almost #1? More citations (mentions of your NAP on other websites) will get you over the hump. Structured citations are directory listings. Unstructured citations are mentions like in a blog. Look up tier 1 and tier 2 citations.
The tool he uses for citation management and research is Whitespark. It spits out citation ideas and checks current citations by running your phone number and you can get ideas by running your competitor’s phone number. Then compare yourself to your competitors.
The number of businesses in the carousel depends on the user’s resolution, dimensions.
Usually the photo that shows up is the first photo uploaded to your Google+ account. Google’s solution to this problem? Delete all your photos and start over… But that doesn’t work if you didn’t upload the first photo. So, over the last few, months Google has been changing photos and is shifting from exterior shots until, lately, it’s been interior shots. Learn how Carousel thumbnails are cropped for display: bit.ly/carouselcropping. There might be an answer coming about how businesses can choose their photo.
Local SEO Tools
- Moz.com: Good at a little bit of everything. Open Site Explorer is a must.
- Places Scout: Local extravaganza! keywords, ranking, reputation management (archives and reports new reviews)
- SEMrush: Primarily for PPC intel and keyword research with a new rank tracker
- Link Prospector: Tool for discovering link opportunities
- CopyPress: Content creation outsourcing at $50 for 500 word article, including ideation
- Followerwonk: Twitter analysis
- ReTargeter: Display ad remarketing
- Yoast SEO is vital but turn off the OpenGraph Meta info in Yoast. He doesn’t get it right. You don’t want it to pull a random image and use the same SEO Meta data.
- Open Graph Metabox: set unique OG dat per post/page
- nRelate Flyout: showcases similar content; increases engagement/time on site
- WordFence Security: best security plugin available and it’s free
Presenter Kim Krause Berg @kim_cre8pc, Internet Marketing Ninjas, will talk about how to get your ducks in a row before you start building your site and always include conversion elements in your design.
Conversions are turning visits into sales. You think conversions are making money, getting subscriptions, increasing form submissions, increasing sales leads.
Your target users think conversions are …
- Do you have what I need?
- Are you genuine, credible?
- Do you provide excellent customer service?
- Opt-in/opt-out signup
- Are they spying on me?
- Will I be able to read it?
- Can I access the site from my phone?
- Can I get in and out in a hurry?
Persuasive conversions design is purposeful website design. With usability you’ll find there’s a lot of “abilities” not being met. You’ll see confusability, such as competing sign up/sign in links. If you want to increase conversions, remove blockages and distractions. Meet user expectations in navigation and links. She shows the Forever21 navigation with links that say 21 St. and Love 21 — it’s not clear to the user what those are.
Customer service is a simple area to improve conversions. Make it clear what is supposed to be clicked, or why they should click via triggers and call to action.
Search Engines and Social
Search = Findability = Usability = Increased Conversions.
It matters to you because it affects search engine rank, PR scores, landing pages that convert, authority and brand reputataion.
Make your “follow me” social call to action count. Add your social networks to your site and provide a reason for visitors to follow.
#1 tactic: provide answer at the point of the question.
- Before sliders, add introductory text and a heading
- Add action words to nav link labels
- Make calls to action obvious
- Avoid gray text
- Test for color contrasts — see tool joedolson.com/tools/color-contrast-compare.php
- Use common terms
- Remove distractions
- Provide proof
Common designs that decrease conversions:
- Mystery links
- Unidentified links
- Navigation/poor IA
- Functional errors
- No page consistency
- Rendering on various devices
- Load time
- Moving images
- Calls to action below fold
Free Mobile Eumulator: http://mite.keynote.com — you can view your site as seen on a variety of devices.
To communicate a sense of place:
- Choose keywords for content headings
- Research taxonomies. what terms do your target visitors use?
- Breadcrumb navigation
- Scrolling — easy to hide call to action
Information Architecture Tools: IA and conversions are closely tied. Build your site so your sales funnels are built in and people can flow along. Look at tools Mock Flow, Balsamiq and Slickplan.
Check out her free ebook “The Secret to Natural Website Conversions.”
Karen Thackston is Kim’s choice for lessons about marketing writing for conversions.
#Pubcon Liveblog: Google+ and Authorship Hot Topics and Trends was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
Common Characteristics of Full Authorship Results in SERPs
Mark Traphagen @marktraphagen, Stone Temple Consulting
In the second week of December there were an increasing number of reports that author photos weren’t showing up as often in SERPs. At Pubcon Las Vegas last year Matt Cutts said that when they reduced the number of authorship results shown in SERPs by 15% they saw better results. Take that to mean whatever Google speak you think it means. Here’s the initial drop followed by continued periods of volatility.
The first time might have been that Google found they cut a little too deeply which is pretty typical.
Another major change you saw happen at that time is more second-class authorship results — just a byline and not the author photo.
Mark attempted to identify commonalities of what happened when authors got more, fewer or the same amount of full authorship results.
The classifications of his findings:
- No Change
- Mixed by Site: for some sites the author sees full authorship and others see no byline or second-class authorship
- Mixed by Content: Some content on a site shows a full authorship result and others only see a byline
- Mixed by Authors: One site shows full authorship for some authors and reduced authorship for other authors
- Author Loss Across All Sites: The author saw reduced authorship results across all the sites they contribute to
- Reduction by Query: There was an algorithmic change that adjusted which queries deserve authorship results.
Messages from the Kidnappers
An anonymous Google source told Jenn Slegg who reported on Search Engine Watch: “estimating quality of an author’s documents,” “the documents an author typically writes”
Authorship is a qualifier in the case of in-depth articles — a threshold you have to cross to get into a Google feature.
So now the patterns he identified in his analysis. Keep in mind there are exceptions to each.
Authors that kept their full authorship results had these qualities.
Factor 1: Author Reputation
- Reputation for quality content
- History of publishing such content
- Consistent earning of social shares
Factor 2: Site Quality and Reputation
- High domain authority
- Long history
- Never been penalized
- Frequently publish quality content
If a site had authorship site-wide or was including authorship on content that isn’t considered “authored,” the authorship was dropped.
Recovering the Kidnap Victims
- Publish on high-quality, trusted sites
- Quality over quantity (but stay fresh)
- Connect rel=author only to real content
Google Authorship: Search Snippets
Ann Smarty @seosmarty, Internet Marketing Ninjas
is doing an overview with some looking at the future.
The obvious advantage: Authorship photos attract more clicks.
The history: Authorship snippets started to appear in June 2011. That same month, Google+ was introduced and Google profiles redirected to Google+. Google+ became the center of the Authorship program. In October 2011 the author photo moved to the left and counts were added. In 2012 there was some simplification and “more by” the same author was added. In April 2013 “more by” is removed.
Today you don’t always see the number of circles an author is in. You’ll also see that if the same author has 2 results, the second result won’t have a photo.
Authorship + Rich Markup
Authorship is combined with other rich snippets as well. You may see a video thumbnail on a listing where the author’s name is included. You may not see an author photo if reviews rich snippets are on the result.
Authorship Outside Web Search
Google News is the first place Authorship results were displayed.
Google Images has also added Authorship but it associates it with the article that includes the image (not popular with photographers).
In the Future
- Help identify a spammer
- In the future we might expect Author Rank too
Authorship, Rank, Identity and What’s Next
Kristine Schachinger @schachin, SitesWithoutWalls.com
Where did Authorship come from? Do you think of it as an SEO tag? Or a way Google ranks things? She suggests it’s actually about establishing identity.
People usually talk about the Agent Rank patent when talking about Google Authorship. This simple patent speaks to credibility, potential ranking system and digital signature.
Eric Schmidt has revealed that Google+ is not a social network but an identity network. It’s about identifying people, authors online. The White House announced a National ID System in 2011.
ID providers remove the need for passwords. What does this have to do with SEO?
Authorship is one of the first identity tags implemented online. It’s about knowing who you are, who you’ve published with, who you write for, your actual identity. Schmidt said that verified profiles will be ranked and the cost of anonymity may be irrelevance.
Patent: Authentication of a Contributor of Online Content. You see “credibility factors” and “authentication score” detailed and this is a patent at play for Authorship that is less frequently referenced publicly.
What’s next? Google is looking for topic experts, authors that are experts in a topic. The goals are to get rid of spam and provide more relevant info. They do this by knowing who you are, by having authenticated authors, by verifying who you are through identity factors, to authenticate your author profile online and by asserting your author/post credibility.
Our own Bruce Clay, president of the org that publishes this fine blog, lays a roadmap for search engine optimization in the coming year. The SMX West conference last week and comments made there by Google employees (at Meet the Search Engines and Amit Singhal’s Keynote) are the source of this presentation.
Bruce has been performing search engine optimization since 1996 and has watched SEO techniques and strategies evolve over the last 2 decades. He wrote the book on SEO — “SEO All-In-One for Dummies,” which covers time-tested algorithm-proof optimization methodology.
Hummingbird was the first major update to the Google infrastructure since 2000. The changes were done to speed up the index and ranking system. It’s also one of the first main updates to aid voice search and natural language processing. Hummingbird is a translation layer that tries to figure out when you’re talking, what does that mean.
According to Google it’s another tool in the Swiss Army Knife. While Google says that this improved search experience will help the whole web economy, it’s taking away traffic to our websites. While it may make Google more attractive, it makes our websites less attractive. Still, we have to embrace it in order to rank.
- There will be a softer Panda that is kinder to small business websites in 2014.
- Link penalties can transfer via duplicate content
- Reconsideration is all about trust. Time doesn’t matter to a penalty; it remains until your site is trusted
- Penalties also remain until Google refreshes the algorithm. Panda is monthly but Penguin was last updated in October 2013.
- Avoiding penalties is critical. Focus on quality content, usability (why users visit), conversion, traffic links and SEO best practices.
Bruce Clay, Inc. has patented technology that views websites based on where this page is perceived and its overall importance in the web. This is going to be released in a month.
Searches on mobile are increasing. Responsive design is the preferred solution. Rankings shift based on the device a user is on. There will be more personalization due to device. The size of the page appears to have shifted to shorter pages ranking.
If you think about the new features of AdWords like click to call, and think about the implication of those features in Places, it makes sense that Google would want to implement these ad features in Places.
Organic Entries Per Page
- Expect as few as 5-7 blue links on a page (down from the original 10 organic links)
- If the top 5 results are highly relevant, there’s no reason for Google to include more than 5. With the rest of the space they can include rich media, video, images and news, plus monetized content.
Recent research shows a 71% increase in conversion from video on a page. That video can play from YouTube, show up in SERP and the click goes to your page (when you include the video in your site’s Video XML).
- Mobile is huge and will pass desktop this year. It has big implications for performance and architecture as ranking factors.
- At SMX West it came out that keywords “not provided” for organic search traffic will not be coming back any time soon and possibly keyword referral data from PPC will be lost soon.
- Content that works (according to Matt Cutts)
- Blogs: consider links and shares per post over posts per week as the metric of success
- Authorship is important. Google remembers the author of a post and keeps that authority ranking with the post even if the author of the blog changes.
- Pagination must work properly and not return a 404
- Internal search results pages should be ignored or dropped instead of indexing
To sum it up, SEO in 2014 is attention to detail and playing by the book for things that search engines like.
Q: The more ads that are added to SERP pages, the more users are turning to page 2 for results. Have you seen that?
A: Google will address it one way or another, but I haven’t heard that page 2 is getting more traffic. If it is the case, I would expect it to be limited to above the fold.
Q: Penalties following duplicate content, is that happening now or what Google aspires to?
A: According to Matt Cutts, that’s how the penalty works. Here’s a workaround he suggests: noindexing the copy site, then deleting the original site and waiting for that site to be removed from the Google index, and then allowing the copied site to be indexed.
#Pubcon Liveblog: Creating and Selling Awesome Content in Boring Niches was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
Do you think your business is “boring”? Do you struggle with creating content that matters? The next presentations are for you.
Creating Content for Boring Industries
Kelly Ament @kellyament, Get Noticed Get Found
First, let’s dispel a common myth. There’s no such thing as a boring industry. Every industry exists to fill a need, to do necessary things, for people who care about getting the best service.
There is, however, boring content. This includes content that is not useful, doesn’t speak to target audience, or isn’t interesting or entertaining. Good content furthers your strategy and goals.
Writing Words of Wisdom
- Answer questions. If you’re the business or brand that’s answering questions honestly and sincerely, that establishes you as a trustworthy brand.
- Get inspiration from others. The best writers are the best readers. See what works for others on a variety of mediums. You can repurpose/curate content.
- Get creative. You don’t have to stick with safe subject matter. Look for new spins to put on old issues. Make your delivery unexpected and interesting.
- Write for people; optimize for search engines. The ultimate goal is converting the prospect into a buyer. Create content people will share, enjoy, persuade them to connect with the brand. Then go back and optimize for search engines.
Selling Guns 2 Gandhi: Getting Content Buy-In
Steve Floyd @nawlready, AXZM
You came up with a fantastic content strategy but then it gets shelved. Here are things he’s done to help him get wins. You can’t expect a content type to fit every business. The future of search is very creative. You have to stand out to your customer in everything you do by way of content.
The key is balance. Give stakeholders the info they need to know now and hold back the things you don’t need to give them up front, things you can drip as needed and when the time is right. Condense and centralize documents. How do you do that? The super awesome content strategy worksheet: http://axz.mx/super-awesome-csw. It’s got content types, it’s mapped to personas.
- It includes key message architecture which a writer needs to keep voice, tone and messaging consistent.
- It includes a buyer persona worksheet (including Experian and Nielsen big data).
- It includes a content audit worksheet connected to the Moz API.
- It includes an editorial calendar.
Use every tool in your arsenal: axz.mx/best-tools. Let the data guide you. The C-suite speaks in the language of money. You need to learn the language. They want to know conversion, sales and cost of acquisition. Play your presentations to the channels they value most (on an individual level — everyone’s different).
Create an experience in your presentation/pitch: axz.mx/ru-experienced. Look at Tinder Box and Bidsketch. People buy big ideas, not tactics. View his presentation with links to all the tools at axz.mx/gandhi-gun.
These three speakers (Jake Bohall, Bill Hartzer and William Atchison) will sort through issues of the volatile algorithm with the aim of educating and making us less vulnerable to the constant change.
Quality Content and Quality Links for Algo Chaos Aversion
Jake Bohall @jakebohall, Virante, Inc.
Sensitivity to initial conditions
- Site structure
- Search queries
- Incoming links
- Inbound links
- Social signals
In 2011, Eric Schmidt testifying in front of Congress said there were more than 500 changes to the Google algo. This graph shows just eight named changes. All the changes we don’t even know about happening behind the scenes have an effect on what SEOs do.
We’ve also seen negative SEO rising. Matt Cutts has said that doesn’t happen and it doesn’t have any noticeable effect, but Jake sees a lot of it happening all the time because they’re digging into link cleanup efforts.
Inconsistency with Guidelines: Google has clear guidelines that instruct webmasters to avoid tricks intended to improve search engine ranking including any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google results. Even “natural” links would be considered a way to improve your ranking, so there’s some inconsistency there.
So what’s an SEO to do?
Quality content matters.
Unique content: No copying manufacturer content, rich snippets and Schema.org article markup (recently announced as having an impact on in-depth articles), user generated content. Your content should prove your users are engaged. FAQ content that is added to and answered as in-depth as possible.
Relevant content: New trends (topical relevancy). LDA scoring and keyword concept themes to create content that is more semantically relevant to the keywords you are trying to rank.
Authority content: Google+ is a trend worth pursuing. “It’s really the unification of all of Google’s services, with a common social layer.” —Vic Gundotra, Head of Google+. Create a Google+ account, implement rel=author and rel=publisher to attribute your Knowledge Graph to your profile and brand pages.
Quality links matter.
Better links come from SEO transitioning to PR; care about your company. Digital outreach + PR + social media >> converge to promote your brand.
Diversify your links. Low volume of different sources of links. Proactively prune bad links. Diversified anchor text is important. RemoveEm.com/ratios.php will give you an idea if you have links to be concerned about.
Broken link/better link building (BLB) is prospecting for content ideas that already have links. Find out who is/was linking to what content in the past. Replace lost or abandoned content webmasters want to link to.
Check out all of Bohall’s slides below:
Recent Major Google Algo Updates
Bill Hartzer @bhartzer, Globe Runner
Google’s ranking factor for identifying low quality pages. It’s been integrated into the algorithm and updates every few months. Panda was developed with human testers rating quality, design, trustworthiness and speed indicators and likeliness to return to a site. It was also launched with info provided through a Google Chrome site blocker extension. Panda launched February 2011 and the latest known manual update Panda 25 was March 14, 2013. Panda updates on a rolling update schedule now updated every month. We expect the soft Panda update as announced at SMX West last week coming soon.
The easiest way to find out if you were hit by Panda is to look at your web analytics to see any traffic losses that align with known dates of update.
Recovering from Google Panda:
- Make sure all content on site is high quality.
- Use these 23 questions to assess quality as shared by Google
An algorithm change targeted at webspam to decrease rankings for sites that violate Google quality guideline. Examples are keyword stuffing, over optimization and linking. It was first reported in April 2012 with the last major announced update in October 2013. Matt Cutts has said it’s on a 6 month update schedule, in which case we’re due for an update.
To find out if you were hit by Google Penguin, again look at your web analytics for traffic drops aligned with update dates.
Recovering from Google Penguin:
- Perform a full SEO audit of website
- Review GWT for messages and suggestions
- Perform a full link analysis of site, with Majestic SEO, a hrefs, etc.
- Disavow links to site, force crawls of disavowed links
- Work on authority and trust of site
- Wait for next Penguin update
Other Major Updates
- EMD Exact Match Domain Update: Updated in September of 2012 targeting commercial phrases (Adwords CPC cost + # searches per month = commercial phrase). Recover by cleaning up your link profile, especially anchor text.
- Page Layout Update
- Knowledge Graph Update: Tip: get listed in Freebase.com if you can’t get in Wikipedia
Reported in Google Webmaster Tools. Partial match (affects certain pages) and full match (affects whole site) and unnatural links (require link cleanup and resubmission) are common reports.
To get manual actions revoked, identify all links to site, manually review links, identify links to remove, contact site owners, document emails and contact dates, make 3 attempts to contact site owners, and disavow links not removed. Then request review with letter and spreadsheet with data proof.
Future Google Algo Updates
- Google Panda Update is coming and expected to be softer on small businesses.
- Panda Updates are monthly. Penguin updates are 6 months between rollouts.
- Manual actions: severity of infraction can affect length of time a site will be penalized. Average 6-12 months to lift manual action.
Proactive Content Management to Avoid Algo Chaos
William Atchison @IncrediBILL, Internet Marketing Ninjas
There’s a problem and that’s things out of your control. Third-party sites have negative impact. RSS aggregators, scrapers and spun content will rank your content against our site. Links from bad neighborhoods can damage your search results. Search engines can still be tricked into allowing your site to get hijacked, although it’s more rare.
Some solutions include: search engines have now allowed sites to validate spiders by doing full-round DNS validation; Google Authorship allows you to claim your content.
Block scrapers to:
- Avoid bad links and avoid the need to disavow those links
- Avoid duplicate content and filing DMCA complaints
- Avoid brand dilution and customer confusion
- Avoid other search engine pitfalls
Limit RSS feeds:
- Provide minimal feeds only
- Providing full feeds to make it easy for RSS readers also makes it easy for aggregators and scrapers
- Weigh convenience over search engine ranking
- Random spiders and scrapers are bad link factories
- Without blocking the source of the problem, disavow is just a Google version of whack-a-mole
There’s brand and reputation damage that’s caused by scrapers. It confuses customers if they see your content on other sites. If your scraped content is distributed with another site’s shady ads, those shady ads can reflect poorly on your brand.
- Whitelist access to just the countries you service, if possible
- Validate search engine IPs to avoid 3rd-party scrapers
- Don’t let search engines or other sites cache or archive your content to avoid your content from getting out of your control
- Specify allowed spiders in robots.txt and disallow all others
#Pubcon Liveblog: Keynote — Robert Cialdini, Author of “Influence” was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
Dr. Cialdini has changed the way business is done. Principles of Influence have come to be the measuring stick on which business decisions are made. Considered among the top business and marketing book lists. He has taught at Stanford’s business school and Harvard’s government school. He is the most cited social psychologist in the sphere of business.
The Power of Persuasion Under Conditions of Uncertainty
He’s going to talk about 2 things:
One is good for moving people in our direction, while the other is not.
Uncertainty is a time when people freeze and want clarification before moving forward. So how do we persuade people that now is the right time and that what we suggest is the solution?
There’s a challenge in that you may not know the exact merits that would solve the particular problem a consumer is facing. However, Dr. Cialdini can tell us the best way to present the information so that they open their ears and minds to the offering that you are presenting.
There are 6 universal principles of persuasion and including one or more in a message significantly increases the likelihood of success.
The last 3 give us special traction under conditions of uncertainty.
In every human culture there is a rule that we are trained in from childhood that says I’m obligated to give to you the behavior you first gave to me. If you do me a favor I owe you a favor. In the context of obligation, people say yes to those they owe. Whatever we want in a situation we can get by giving it first. If we give first, people begin listening differently. The key is you must invest first before they will invest in you.
Thesis: There are particular things that you can change in what you do and how you communicate that will have a big influence in your persuasive success.
Here’s a study from common real life example. If there’s a mint on the bill tray for each diner, tips go up 3.3%. If there are 2 mints on the tray, tips went up 14%! The more you have given, the more people give back. You must not take without giving in return — it’s a rule that has been engrained in us since childhood.
If you want to optimize the willingness and eagerness of people to give back to us at the highest possible registers, so that the ROI is maximized, add one more thing: something personalized to the circumstances to the person receiving the gift. In the restaurant server study, the server was trained to bring one mint at first then walk away only to come back and say, “For you, because you were such good customers, a second mint.” Tips went up 23%. Give in a way that the recipient perceives it as personal to them.
Meaningful, unexpected and personalized — those are the three keys to the principle of reciprocity.
If you’re giving something away to your customers, let them choose the special offer so that it feels like it’s special to them.
We all know these principles at some level, but we need to learn to activate it and amplify it. A bowl of mints at the entrance/exit isn’t going to activate the patrons reciprocity drive. Then it’s just an expense.
There were negotiation classes being taught at Stanford and Northwestern. The two professors had their students negotiate over email about a problem they had been given. They each had to come to some agreement and each had different resources they were dealing with and they were told they would be graded on how well they negotiated with the other party. If they didn’t come to some mutual agreement at the end of 45 minutes, you both fail. 30% failed due to not coming to an agreement.
However, half the students were told to get to know their negotiation counterpart by sending over info about themselves. They got to know each other and humanized themselves to the other before the negotiations began. Getting to know how they were similar made a big difference because people like people who are like them. There were deadlocks in just 6% of the negotiations.
If you’re dealing with someone, find out about that individual’s background and interests and hobbies. Bring up commonalities when you realize them.
People want to be consistent with what they’ve done previously, especially publicly. People don’t want to be flip floppers or wishy washy. They want others to see them as consistent. So, before you ask people to take a big step in a direction, ask them to take a small step in that direction because once that step is taken they will want to be congruent with it in subsequent situations.
When people made reservations for a restaurant by phone, changing 2 words reduced no shows to reservations. Originally the line the receptionist would say “Please call if you have to change or cancel your reservation.” The changed line was “Will you please call if you have to change or cancel your reservation?” People always said yes, and no-shows at the restaurant went from 32% to 10% immediately. People made a committment, made a small step, and that was enough to activate the consistency principle.
The best way to get people to commit is by getting them write it down. Get them to click multiple times, type in something, and they will stay more stable as a consequence.
If you’re a manager and you give someone a goal and they’ve advanced toward that goal in some significant way, it’s standard to congratulate them for “progress.” Using that word is a mistake. When people feel they’ve made progress they take their foot off the gas. Congratulate instead on the commitment to the goal and the result is they will step on the gas even harder.
Consequences of Decisional Uncertainty
What are the 3 psychological consequences of being uncertain?
1. Freezing: A reluctance to act or make a choice until the uncertainty is reduced. Decision-makers adopt a wait-and-see attitude.
2. Loss aversion: A tendency to prefer choices designed to prevent losses over those designed to obtain gains. For each new dollar of gain, psychological satisfaction is charted as a steady incline. For each dollar lost, psychological satisfaction is charted as a drastic downturn.
3. Heuristic choices: When choices are made, they are based on a single relevant factor rater than the total set of relevant factors.
“If I can’t have it, I want it.” Scarcity is about loss. It means you can’t get it any more. If people are unsure and don’t know what to due in a situation, they act to prevent losing. You’re entitled to framing arguments in terms of loss because people want to know what it is they are at risk of losing. People want this info and we’d be fools if we didn’t honestly inform them.
There’s a risk in promoting a product or service’s “new”ness. The majority of us don’t jump at the opportunity to buy something new because there’s uncertainty. If something is new there’s no information that allows us to reduce our uncertainty. Only about 5% of consumers are willing to bite at “new.”
If you say something is new and it is new, people will hang back. But remember that when people are uncertain it’s because they don’t want to lose. So frame it as what the consumer will lose if they don’t try it. Compare:
- “New sound system” vs.
- “Hear what you’ve been missing”
The second version produced a 45% lift in sales for Bose. Besides scarcity of commodities there’s also scarcity of information that compels people forward. Providing exclusive info, vs. info widely available, is more persuasive. If you get access to some new info before it’s widely published, and you have someone for whom this new info is relevant, when you get this new info you need to move immmediately. People are going to listen differently about what you’re going to say about it if you preface it with “I just got this from someone who has early access to it. It’s not even published yet.” Every hour of delay is equal to an hour of decay in its value. So move immediately and make clear its exclusivity to the person you’re sharing it with.
“If an expert says it, it must be true.” This can take the form of favorable testimonials from relevant experts. When Bose added this component to its ad, it saw 60% further increase in sales. Note here that you can combine multiple factors of persuasion for an even greater amplification of effect.
Credibility is made of two things: knowledge and trustworthiness in the eyes of your audience make you unbeatable to your audience (all else equal). Before you try to be influencial, honestly inform people of your background, experience and credentials in a particular arena. This may sound easy, but talking up your own credentials doesn’t come across well. It will come up as self-promotional braggart. Dr. Cialdini was introduced by Brett Tabke who shared Robert’s credentials with the audience before he spoke. Have someone who knows both you and another party do the introductions. Or a letter of introduction several days before a planned meeting may be appropriate.
How do you convey trustworthiness? To convey instant trustworthiness to markets with no history of a product or service, the most savvy advertisers have learned to do something that runs counter to intuition: lead with strongest arguments, strongest features, most compelling case, and then when people are leaning in that direction, you list the drawbacks. This establishes trust. If you mention a drawback you’ve showed people you’re knowledgeable about the cons, and that you’re trustworthiness enough to talk about the weaknesses of the choice.
“Avis: We’re Number 2 But We Try Harder”
“Loreal: We’re Expensive But You’re Worth It”
The above taglines establish a credibility anchor and pivoting to deliver a benefit that wipes out the disadvantage. Put your strongest argument after a moment where you have admitted a weakness; that’s when people are listening differently to what you have to say.
Another way people reduce uncertainty is by looking at the advice of peers. 98% of online purchases say they check product reviews online before buying.When a restaurant owner marked the items on the menu that were the most popular items, sales jumped 13-20%. It was a costless change and entirely honest.
This goes for decisions that they might not have made before. If someone did’t intend to order dessert but they see that there’s a dessert on the menu that is a best seller, that confers a message that they’ll enjoy it, that it’s good for them, and they are more likely to order it where they wouldn’t have before.
We follow the lead of many others and of similar others. The consensus principle is at the core of the social media revolution.
Before you go into a meeting or make a call, reference the 6 principles and see what you can draw from and apply and you’ll find you’re a significantly more effective influencer.
2014 SEO in India Characterized by ‘A Hunger to Get to the Right Knowledge’ was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
SEO in India is headed in the right direction, according to Siddharth Lal, managing director of Bruce Clay India — “there is a hunger to get to the right knowledge,” he said.
“With Google tightening the screws on spam, SEOs who really know what they’re doing are coming into the limelight,” Lal said. “In years past, people could do link building and directory submissions and rank — but that doesn’t work anymore. The focus is starting to shift to strong site architecture, page rank transfer and quality content — things that Bruce Clay Inc. has been doing right since the beginning.”
In years past, Lal observed a “lack of understanding in the (Indian) market about the quality of work and level of work that is required” for SEO. Now, however, SEOs in India are looking beyond link building, as evidenced in the fact that the recent SEOToolSet Training in India was sold out.
“We’re in our fourth year of the SEOToolSet Training. Bruce’s name is well known here, and quality of the training is spreading among SEOs in India,” Lal said. “Twenty percent of the SEOToolSet Training students are repeat students. They keep coming back so they can stay on top of the latest SEO trends. It’s a constantly changing industry and we (Bruce Clay India) are filling a very important gap for proper SEO training.”
“Social media is also very big in India,” Lal said. “A lot of clients want to know more about how social media plays into SEO.”
When it comes to social media, Lal is definitely a strong resource — Lal was recognized by the Chief Marketing Officer Council as the “Most Talented Social Media Professional in India” at the annual CMO Asia Awards for Excellence in Branding and Marketing last month. The reward came as a result of Lal’s innovative social media initiatives and proven SEO skills — under Lal’s direction, BCI India manages SEO for leading Asian corporations, including NEC, AtoS, and India Brand Equity Foundation.
“Recently, we’ve also signed Saavn.com, which is one of India’s largest music-streaming sites, and AmericanSwan.com, which is in the e-commerce space,” Lal said. “Both Saavn.com and AmericanSwan.com have had significant boosts in their organic traffic since we have started working with them. We have also started working with a few brands in the education industry.”
Lal said there is also a high demand for link pruning projects and penalty assessments.
“We have been working with new clients who have been penalized by Google — now we have the responsibility of trying to get them out from the penalty box. These projects are long and hard and require lots of effort,” he said.
Lal will be featured as a speaker at this week’s ad:tech conference in New Delhi (Mar. 20-21). If you’re headed to ad:tech New Dehli, Lal is speaking in the “Goodbye Keywords. Say Hello to the New SEO” session at 3 p.m. on Mar. 21. Lal and Vivek Bhargava (managing director of iProspect Communicate 2) will discuss the the evolution of search engines and reveal new methods for promoting credibility and improving rank online.
Lal on SEO Best Practices at ad:tech New Delhi 2012
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