Why Local Businesses Need Reviews and 12 SEO-Approved Ways to Get Them was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
The local search algorithm is so complex that a good local SEO has to look at almost every aspect of the business’s marketing, from the website and ads that the business controls to external citations, links, social media, online directories, and more. Customer reviews and ratings are essential items in the SEO’s tool belt, especially for optimizing local businesses.
Last week, some of the most respected marketers in the local SEO field tackled the subject “Harnessing the Power of Local SEO for Your Business.” This ISOOSI Chat episode (a weekly Google+ Hangout on Air) touched on many topics, but one discussed in depth was why customer reviews are important today and how to do them right.
This article draws from points made by the panelists +Mike Blumenthal (Blumenthals.com), +Darren Shaw (Whitespark), +Ammon Johns (ISOOSI) , +Bill Slawski (Go Fish Digital) and +Carlos Fernandes (ISOOSI) regarding the importance of reviews and ratings for a local business and 12 tips for getting them in a way that’s search engine friendly and SEO approved.
Why Reviews and Ratings Are More Important Than Ever
Ratings and reviews are a huge conversion factor, more influential for getting users to click through and make a purchase than business citations or most other elements of local SEO. If your search result has 4.5 stars and 18 reviews (compared to fewer for your competitors), that’s strong social proof that your product or service is trustworthy. But besides increasing users’ trust, recent search innovations have created new reasons that SEO-minded local businesses need reviews and ratings.
Reason #1: Google Map searches now feature reviews prominently.
Google just updated its map search layout to show ratings and reviews much more prominently, giving users immediate feedback to help them make a snap decision:
Reason #2: Ratings and reviews can influence rankings.
This point needs a disclaimer: Google still (probably) ignores reviews in its organic search algorithm. Nevertheless, in the cutting-edge world of local search, ratings and reviews do impact rankings for at least three types of searches:
- Map searches – The new Google Maps features tour even says outright that the “highest-rated” businesses near you will be returned when you search with local intent:
- Local Carousel – A study done by Digital Marketing Works (and quoted by Search Engine Land) found a “very strong correlation” between reviews/ratings and Carousel position. Many other factors contribute to ranking, of course, but it makes sense that Google would show the “best” businesses first to increase user satisfaction.
- Mobile searches – In Google Now search results for mobile devices, review counts and average ratings affect ranking and are prominently displayed:
12 Tips for How to Get Reviews & Ratings (the Right Way)
These 12 recommendations start with doing a little research on your competition and then quickly move into practical tips and principles. Follow the experts’ advice to get local business reviews in a way that won’t incur the wrath of Google, Yelp or anyone else (except maybe your competitors).
1. Find out which review sites Google pulls from for your industry. A good first step is to do a Google search, scroll down to the local pack (the 7 or so listings with pins in the map), and open the pop-up next to each listing (see example below). The review sites Google links to repeatedly for your competitors would be good for you to get reviews in, too. (Credit: Mike Blumenthal)
2. Have great customer service. Your business needs to have happy customers to get good ratings and reviews. If your service is terrible, stay away from local SEO. (Credit: Ammon)
3. Never pay for reviews. It may be tempting to offer incentives to customers for reviewing your business, but don’t do it. Google forbids giving incentives for reviews. Also, the FTC has legal rules for bloggers that make it dangerous to incentivize endorsements of any kind. Here are real-life examples of what NOT to do:
- Don’t give away a free slice of pizza for bringing in a completed review.
- Don’t set up a computer in your store where you have customers type in reviews.
- Don’t create a Facebook giveaway requiring reviews. (Credit: Mike)
4. Don’t ask anyone to create a Yelp review. Yelp prohibits businesses from soliciting reviews and enforces it vigilantly. But also on a practical note, there’s no point asking for a review because only people with a Yelp account can do it. Better idea: stick a Yelp sign on your window or wall. True Yelp posters will take the subtle hint and possibly write you a review. (Credit: Darren)
5. Encourage customers to write reviews. Encourage your customers to leave reviews using a soft-sell approach. You could make suggestions in your newsletter, ask customers after a satisfactory experience, or put up review-site logos in your place of business.
6. Display printed-out reviews in your place of business. Another soft-sell idea is to display reviews where people can see them. This tells customers you value their reviews, provides social proof that your business deserves praise, and also shows which review sites you’re sourcing. Brilliant. (Credit: Ammon)
7. Don’t force users to a particular review site. Having reviews distributed among various review sites looks most natural to the search engines and to users. If all of your reviews are on one site, Google may suspect that you have automated or fabricated the process. So when suggesting review sites, give your customers a choice of several that are used in your industry (see #1). (Credit: Mike)
8. Use schema markup. If you have reviews and testimonials on your website, you can help search engines understand it with schema markup. Basically, you insert specific codes into the HTML of your web pages to identify what kind of content it is. Having structured data doesn’t impact your rankings, but it does improve indexing and can increase click-throughs to your site if rich snippets are displayed in your search results. (See Google’s support page for Reviews Rich Snippets for details.)
“Anything you can do that helps Google understand what you do better is a good thing … [Using schema markup] is critical in local sites.” – Mike Blumenthal
9. Connect with customers from the start. Set up a simple system for connecting with customers through regular social media or email contact. A local bakery, for instance, has a clipboard to get people’s names and email addresses for its newsletter. Get involved with social media, reach out to customers, and be responsive to their ideas. Being visible on the web can set your business apart. (Credit: Bill)
10. How many reviews do you need? You don’t need that many reviews, just enough to stand out in your industry. Getting a bunch all at once looks unnatural; so does having 200 reviews if your competitors have only 2. Try to get at least one review per quarter. If you ask all your customers, you’ll get a few, and that will be enough to stay ahead of the pack since they accumulate over time. (Credit: Mike)
11. Manage reviews and testimonials. There are many software products that can help you manage reviews and testimonials. One free monitoring tool is Google Alerts, which regularly notifies you by email of any mentions of a search phrase you set up (in this case, your brand or product name). You can also do Google exact match searches (inside quotation marks), social media site searches, and so forth. The point is to set up a system that lets you easily monitor your online reputation.
12. Keep listening to experts. Follow experts like Darren Shaw, Mike Blumenthal and David Mihm on social media. Their posts are among the most informed on the topic of local SEO. (Credit: Ammon)
Last, local businesses shouldn’t focus too much on reviews:
“The goal should be happy customers.” – Mike Blumenthal
It takes 7 to 13 touches to deliver qualified leads, explains Online Marketing Institute in a recent two-part series (part 1 / part 2). The gist: prospects considering a substantial purchase need time for research, consideration, and then action. As marketers, we need to acknowledge this decision-making behavior, and we need to determine a strategy that captures these touch-points and delivers quality leads and sales.
As paid search managers, we know that most visitors don’t convert on the first visit. In fact about 98% of people don’t convert upon first visit. Why does this happen? Why can’t people just pull the trigger on their first visit to your website? Let’s review the stages of the consideration process of major purchases:
Members of your target audience begin by thinking about their general problem and they start running search queries through the search engines. As those folks get more educated, their search queries get smarter and more specific. Eventually, members of your audience are more aware of their options (you and your competitors) to solve their problem, and they start to make comparisons. At the end, your prospect knows what solution is a good fit for them or their company — and hopefully that’s you!
Sure, the purchase process isn’t always this clean, easy and linear. People hop back and forth between devices, channels and priorities on any given day, and this can be extremely challenging for SEM managers to monitor, manage, and optimize. This is where persuasion momentum comes in. Go ahead and embrace the fact that your audience may need to be touched 7-13 times before they will convert — and forge a plan to get your persuasion momentum rolling!
As an SEM manager, you have a wide array of tools at your disposal that will help you stay in front of your audience through the entire consideration process. These strategies include varying channels and devices.
Here is a short list of tactics you should consider in order to gain those critical 7-13 touches that should gain the attention of your target audience. Note that this list is focused on SEM/Display/Social; it doesn’t include email, direct mail, phone calls, and other offline touch points. There are numerous other tactics you can add to your persuasion momentum strategy.
- Standard Display Remarketing: “Standard” means remarketing that you can utilize via Google AdWords or another third-party platform.
- Remarketing Lists for Search Advertisers (RLSA): This tactic is available through Google AdWords. RLSA is also great for targeting competitor keywords for individuals who have visited your website previously. (They are looking at your competitors!)
- Video Remarketing: AdWords now offers the option to remarket to people who visit your YouTube page or watch any of your videos.
- Social Remarketing: Utilizing FBX to remarket on Facebook.
- Facebook Custom Audiences: You may need to get in front of individuals who may have already converted (requested information, etc.). You can upload your email marketing lists into FBX and target these people on Facebook.
- Search Companion: This tactic involves targeting the Google Display Network via search queries. This means you target specific queries on Search and your ad shows up on the Display Network.
Remember that all touch points are not created equal. Some tactics target users who are in a passive frame of mind and others target individuals for whom you may be top-of-mind (active behavior). Each of these tactics may have more value to your company and campaign. You will have to conduct some trial-and-error to get the right mix for your business.
The objective of these tactics is to stay visible to your audience. Or perhaps rattle their memory into action when they see your remarketing ad and they haven’t converted yet.
In the future, look for a discussion of how you can structure your campaigns to best utilize this strategy, along with how to establish tracking in order to establish which channels work best for your business.
Optimizing Events Online and In-Person: SMX, Pubcon, Google Hangouts and More was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
Hot off the presses, it’s the event optimization edition of the SEO Newsletter. We dive into optimizing your experience at a live event — perfect timing, what with next month’s SMX and Pubcon conferences. Read on for a peak at what the February SEO Newsletter has in store.
FEATURE: Attend SMX West for Inspiration, Education and Network Building
In the feature article, longtime SMX attendee (and SMX Advanced presenter) Virginia Nussey shares many benefits you stand to gain from attending SMX West in San Jose, March 10-13. In Attend SMX West for Inspiration, Education and Network Building, Nussey breaks down those benefits, which include:
- Catch up with all the latest in Internet marketing news, digital strategies and search engine developments.
- Train with the brightest minds in boot camps dedicated to search engine optimization, social media management, paid search and digital marketing.
- Listen to insights from the likes of Google Search Engine Vice President Amit Singhal and Search Engine Land Founding Editor Danny Sullivan.
BACK TO BASICS: A Social Media Guide to Event Attendance
In A Social Media Guide to Event Attendance, I let you in on my top tips for maximizing social engagement, specifically during live events. Those tips include:
- Using and identifying the most relevant event hashtags.
- Mentioning speakers, influencers and attendees whenever possible.
- Taking advantage of 200% engagement increase sharing a photo can cause.
But Wait, There’s More …
In the Hot Topic, learn why Google+ is taking off. Once denounced as a ghost town among Internet marketers, it’s now the place to be thanks to SEO benefits, Google Authorship tie-ins, Hangouts on Air and more. In Education Matters, read up a new online course for copywriters looking to add B2B SEO work to their resume. The Success Works B2B SEO Copywriting Certification Course teaches writers the ins and outs of content creation for the web for B2B businesses specifically, focusing on keyword research, keyword discovery, competitive analysis in the post-Hummingbird era and much more. In addition to all this, you’ll get the roundup of February’s top developments in the Internet marketing space.
Bruce Clay, Inc. is committed to providing thought leadership and transferring knowledge to our many readers through the SEO Newsletter and the Bruce Clay, Inc. Blog (recently topping WebMeUp’s list of “remarkable” blogs from digital marketing agencies). Want the SEO Newsletter delivered straight to your inbox each month? Sign up here.
Note from the editor: The free PPC grader tool reviewed here is a useful application for:
In the daily world of paid search, the analyst or marketing agency makes sure that they are providing their client with opportunities of growth and most importantly ROI. Yet, what tools do advertisers consider useful for PPC management? Just recently, Larry Kim, CEO of WordStream, invited me to a live demo of their new PPC auditing tool, AdWords Performance Grader Plus. Now as an analyst that considers herself an enthusiast when it comes to performance metrics and elaborate charts, I was intrigued to know what has changed or improved in comparison to their former AdWords Grader. Plus, any tool that might help with supporting my original analysis in efforts of providing the best results for my clients is okay in my book!
AdWords Performance Grader Plus
The new and improved features now available through the AdWords Performance Grader include:
- Performance Tracker. Reports on your account performance every 30 days offering the advertiser another look at efficiency of their marketing efforts. Providing “overall performance and key metrics trending over time.”
- Mobile PPC Readiness Score. Reports on your Mobile PPC efforts, identifying factors of mobile optimization and evaluation.
- New and Improved Benchmarks. Reports on metrics, specifically “competitive benchmarks” where not only does it identify your current performance but also compares your PPC efforts with similar advertisers in your industry. Areas of industry comparison includes but not limited to: wasted spend, quality score, impression share, click through rate, account activity, a few other benchmarks.
Features of Interest
Now if you were to ask, what AdWords Grader features I found beneficial or worthwhile? Well, from the areas that Larry went over, the metrics / elements I found most interesting were, but not limited to:
WASTEFUL SPEND. Taking into account the negative keywords, how many were created in the last 90 days and how adding more negative keywords to your campaigns will help reduce the waste. Spend is also compared to similar advertisers.
TEXT AD OPTIMIZATION. Being that Ad Copy does play a factor when tying landing page relevance and contributing to quality score calculation, you want to know what has been working and possibly expand from its identified potential.
MOBILE PPC OPTIMIZATION. Confirming if all mobile optimization opportunities have been addressed, specifically mobile text ads, sitelinks, and call extensions.
PPC BEST PRACTICES. Offering additional insight for PPC experts to address if areas are missing or need improvement.
Would I Recommend AdWords Performance Grader Plus?
After reviewing what WordStream’s auditing tool has to offer, I do see myself using the grader as a supporting tool when running an in-depth analysis of an account’s performance. Yet, with real-time data and opportunities being offered through Google Analytics and AdWords, I would use the tool to confirm my reporting, like I would with other tools in my handy analyst toolkit.
What Are Some Areas to Take into Consideration?
Although, I do find the improved benchmarks great with its detailed feedback of a PPC experts marketing efforts, an expansion of discussion on comparison of “similar advertisers” within my industry is up for debate. As it can be agreed, our clients come at different sizes and with different goals, therefore, what “industry” is my performance being compared to?
Let it not be mistaken, as an SEM advertiser, I am not saying that this innovation replaces any tool, but to consider this auditing tool as another one to be added to our ever-growing bag. Google AdWords has many great features including the “Opportunities” tab and new interface, but with online marketing consistently changing, we can all agree that with marketing, specifically paid search advertising, the more tools we can use to support or confirm our methodology’s and analysis comes at great benefit, while achieving the ultimate client satisfaction.
SMX West 2014: Liveblog Schedule and Where to Find Bruce Clay was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
We’re two weeks out from SMX West San Jose. For those in attendance, we’re sharing the Bruce Clay, Inc. schedule here and hope our paths will cross at some point between the expo hall, conference sessions and networking events. You may also want to consider upgrading your SMX experience with a one-day, in-person intensive SEO workshop with Bruce on Monday, March 10, where you’ll get your every SEO question answered from the industry’s leading teacher.
If you haven’t yet registered but plan on attending, get 10% off the cost of any pass and/or workshop by registering with code BRUCECLAYSMXW14. If you won’t be at the show, we’ll be delivering the show to you with liveblogged reports on the BCI Blog from the sessions below.
SMX West 2014 Liveblog Schedule
Day 1: Tuesday, March 11
|Time||SMX West Session||Blogger|
|9:00 a.m.||Digital Marketing Summit Boot Camp
|11:00 a.m.||The Essential Guide to Social Media Etiquette||Virginia|
|11:00 a.m.||Digital Marketing Summit Boot Camp
|1:30 p.m.||Facebook for Business & Other Paid Social Media Opportunities||Virginia|
|3:30 p.m.||Twitter for Business||Chelsea|
|5:00 p.m.||Keynote: A Conversation with Google Search Chief Amit Singhal||Virginia|
Day 2: Wednesday, March 12
|Time||SMX West Session||Blogger|
|9:00 a.m.||Long-Term SEO: How to Win for Years, Not Days||Chelsea|
|10:45 a.m.||App Store Optimization||Virginia|
|10:45 a.m.||Small Company; Big Results||Chelsea|
|1:30 p.m.||Capturing the Mobile Paid Lead||Virginia|
|3:30 p.m.||Life After Not Provided||Chelsea|
|5:00 p.m.||Evening Forum with Danny Sullivan||Virginia|
Day 3: Thursday, March 13
|Time||SMX East Session||Blogger|
|9:00 a.m.||What’s in My Keyword Research Toolbox||Chelsea|
|10:45 a.m.||Power Boosting Sales with PLAs||Virginia|
|10:45 a.m.||Making Sense of the Local Landscape||Chelsea|
|1:30 p.m.||Pro-Level Tips for Succeeding at Retargeting||Virginia|
|3:15 p.m.||Meet the SEOs||Chelsea|
Where Bruce Clay and the Team Will Be During SMX West
Mining for gold nuggets from speakers at sessions is one reason you come to SMX. Another reason you attend one of the industry’s top-flight events is to make connections with individuals and with organizations. Us too.
- Bruce Clay and Robert Esparza will be in expo hall booth #406 during office hours, open to sharing our info and offerings to anyone looking for an full service digital marketing agency, an SEO tools vendor, or a 5-star reviewed SEO training course that you can attend in sun-soaked SoCal or have us come to you.
- At noon on Tuesday, hear a quick and illuminating presentation by Bruce in Expo Hall Theater A.
- Chelsea Adams and Virginia Nussey will be wearing press badges during the day and party hats (perhaps figuratively) at night. But no matter the time of day, we’re all on the hunt to meet our cool confederates in SEO, social and content marketing. Bruce, Chelsea, Virginia and Robert will be around all the networking events, including:
- Monday night Meet & Greet: From 6-7 your drink is on us! Bruce Clay, Inc. traditionally sponsors the SMX conference kick-off because we like to meet people and hang out with our peers and colleagues — yes YOU. Join us at the San Jose Marriott second floor Ballroom Foyer.
- Tuesday night Expo Hall Reception: From 6-7, the expo hall is the traffic center of the show and we’re up for convo and cocktails in booth #406.
- Tuesday night Search Engine Journal Meetup: Join us from 7-9 at Mosaic Restaurant & Lounge as SEJ hosts cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, free for the first 200 registrants. We’re on the list. Get on it!
- Wednesday night SMX After Dark: From 9-11 Motif Lounge is the only place to be, SMX attendees. Not only will all the interesting conversation be within the walls and lounge spaces of Motif, but if last year was any indication, so will the best dance beats. You may also make a donation to Dana Lookadoo’s recovery fund at this event.
- Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning Conference Yoga: Start every day off right with a stretch and a sweat on the yoga mat with your fellow attendees in San Jose Convention Center room 212. Virginia has pre-registered for all three mornings for just $35. You can register online or show up and pay in person, with a per-class cost of $15.
Whether we see you in San Jose or in the comments of liveblog posts, we’re looking forward to a great show around the corner.
Content Marketing Chemistry Lesson with Andy Crestodina was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
Heads up savvy marketers: add Andy Crestodina to your Google+ circles. By following Andy on Google+ you’ll be keyed into a range of weighty and forward-looking content marketing topics, but one place where he’s carved out a niche as an expert is that SEO-critical and evolving frontier, Google Authorship. Yesterday Andy posted findings that authorship rich snippets are on the rise, showing on about 23% of Google SERPs.
If you already know Andy, you know he’s an insightful and prolific contributor to the online marketing industry. Andy published Content Chemistry: An Illustrated Guide to Content Marketing after thousands of conversations with hundreds of companies in over a dozen years of web marketing. In 100 pages filled with illuminating illustrations, the handbook makes accessible the social, analytical and truly enjoyable facets of marketing online.
We tapped Andy to contribute his expertise to Content Marketing Strategies for Professionals, which you’ll find in chapter 9′s selection ”Google Authorship: How to Do It and How it Affects SERP Rank.” Read on here for a Q & A with Andy for advice on:
- How to include testimonials on your site so they make the greatest impact.
- How to contribute to publications and best optimize your guest content for authorship benefits.
- How to avoid the most common misunderstanding of content marketing in 2014.
BCI: Can you share two or three of your favorite industry blogs?
Andy Crestodina: In addition to the usual suspects, lately I’ve been enjoying the Buffer Blog. The “life hacking” tips are useful and it’s nice to see these topics in my usual mix of straight marketing articles. I also like almost anything by Gregory Ciotti. He often connects brain science to marketing, which is is always insightful.
In your book Content Chemistry you describe content marketing as both art and science. Can you give us three actionable tips on how to keep the balance in 2014?
1. Add Social Proof to Marketing Pages
Adding “Social Proof” to your website will improve the conversion rate. If you have a product or service page that does not include some kind of evidence that you’re legitimate, you’re missing out on leads or sales. The easiest type of evidence to add is social proof, such as a testimonial quote from a customer. It should be related to the content of the page.
Never make a testimonials page. Visitors are unlikely to click on it so few people will see it. (if you have a testimonials page, just check your Analytics and you’ll see what I mean) Social proof is supportive content and it belongs right next to the service or product it refers to.
When you say it, it’s marketing. When they say it, it’s social proof.
2. Cross the Social Streams
When someone shares something you’ve written on a social network, thank them when you share it again on a different social network. For example, when a follower tweets a post of yours, go share the post on Google+ and mention them with a quick thank you. Now, they’re likely to see the post and +1 it there. You already know they liked it, right?
This is a way to expand your social network by jumping across social networks and bringing people with you.
3. Keyword Research, Research, Research
This is a biggie. Nothing drives traffic like search. And there’s really no chance you’ll rank without being deliberate about keywords. Don’t click publish until you’ve taken a minute to check the Google Keyword Planner for phrases.
Next, check the competition. I use the MozBar check the competition by looking at the page authority of the high ranking sites on page one in Google. Make sure you’re not targeting a phrase that’s unrealistic.
Finally, indicate the relevance. That’s all. Just indicate that your article is relevant by using the phrase appropriately. That means including it in the title, header and body text. That’s it. When it’s works, it’s a beautiful thing…
Finish this sentence:
Content marketing is NOT… based on opinions.
We see you are a contributor to quite an impressive list of publications. What advice can you give on contributing to publications and how to best optimize authorship benefits? Does quantity matter?
Writing for other websites is a great way to meet people, make connections, help friends, increase referral traffic, grow your social followings and yes, build a link here and there.
Quality is the key. You have to be willing to give away some of your best content or you’ll never get accepted by the best blogs. As with anything, start with empathy. The blog editors are looking for quality, research, actionable advice and true insights. Why? Because this is what their audience wants!
So be generous, write something great and then give it away. You may be surprised at what comes back to you.
Can you share links to your top 3 favorite articles with your byline?
This post didn’t get a lot of traffic, but it explains two of the best marketing tactics I know is a step-by-step approach. Anyone who follows these instructions will likely see better results quickly, both in traffic and conversions.
Even the big topics can be broken down into simple tips. This post shows diagrams for each type of page in the lead generation funnel. It’s a quick way to check if there any any weak links in your lead gen chain. You can fix these by adding (or sometimes removing) page elements.
Here’s one I wrote for Copyblogger. It’s an example of a lot of ingredients come together. It’s a universal topic, giving it broad appeal. It’s got the voice of an expert, giving it credibility. It’s got a practical conclusion, making it useful. It was very collaborative to create and to promote.
Biggest content mistake or misconception in 2014:
That changes in Google have completely changed the game. They haven’t.
Do you have any favorite tools or platforms that make a content marketers life easier?
I’m a MOZ user and I’m completely addicted to Analytics. I suppose that’s common. But I’m going to recommend a tool that might surprise you: the telephone.
Nothing short of an in person meeting builds a stronger connection than a phone call (or Skype call or G+ Hangout). Virtually every aspect of content marketing is based on relationships and higher quality communication means stronger relationships. I talk to fellow content marketers on the phone around the country almost every day.
Go ahead. Pick up the phone and dial that person who left that awesome comment on your blog. Call the guy who’s shared everything you’ve written for the last year. Call them all and say thank you. Make plans. Share. Get ideas and collaborate.
Can you share some examples of brands doing content marketing right?
Here’s an example of a local business that has fully embraced content marketing and is seeing the benefits: Jody Michael & Associations. They’re small but totally committed. The blog and the videos are right on topic. They’re creating, promoting and measuring content beautifully.
Are you speaking at any up and coming conferences that our readers can meet you in person this year? Please share!
Yes, I’ll be speaking at Content Marketing World and at SOBCon. We also run our own conference here in Chicago called Content Jam.
I also applied to speak at the Marketing Profs B2B Forum, but I haven’t heard back. If you’re going and would like to hear me present, send a tweet to Ann Handley and give her a nudge!
What social network is the best for our readers to connect and follow you?
Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. I’m not a big user of Facebook. Also, I put my best advice into a bi-weekly newsletter on Orbit Media. It’s basically a 5 minute read every two weeks, so it’s not super overwhelming.
What a Website Can Do about “Thin Content” — 4 Common Scenarios and Solutions was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
For many ecommerce sites, sites with hundreds of mostly duplicated pages, and others, fixing thin content may seem like an impossible goal. But thin content is the opposite of the “unique, quality, relevant content” that search engines want to show on results pages. Thin content can hurt a website’s SEO and revenue.
What’s the worst that can happen? Websites can incur manual penalties from Google for having “Thin content with little or no added value” (see this Google Help video for Matt Cutts’s explanation). Other times, sites may experience sudden drops in organic search traffic as evidence of an algorithmic penalty (usually Panda-related). Either way, penalty actions reduce website traffic and impact the bottom line.
What can a website do to fix thin content? Last week’s ISOOSI Tuesday Chat, a Google+ Hangout-on-Air hosted by ISOOSI Research Engine, dealt with this issue. In Making Your Thin Content Phat!, host and ISOOSI President Carlos Fernandes talked with four Internet marketing experts: Ammon Johns, David Harry, Terry Van Horne and Bill Slawski. What follows are the questions, problems and solutions this panel of experts discussed during the Hangout.
In this article you’ll find solutions for four common causes of thin content, which you can jump to with the links below:
- Scenario #1: Boilerplate Location Pages
- Scenario #2: Filtered Ecommerce Pages
- Scenario #3: Product Pages
- Scenario #4: “Me too” SEO Posts
How to Avoid Thin Content
Thin content isn’t about the amount of content, but the quality. Here are general tips for content creation that will keep you clear of Google’s thin content traps.
- Make your page the most complete answer: Search for your specific phrases, then look through the “top 100 results” and find the words and phrases related to that topic (e.g., for “John Wayne,” pages might talk about the Oscars, westerns, movies, etc.). Make sure your content includes all the same ideas so you can “get stuck in the cluster.” (Credit: Bill)
- Reword to create original content: Don’t copy other people’s content, but reword it. Aggregate all the different answers so that yours is the best result.
- Review your content: To evaluate your content, ask “normal people,” because you are too close to it.
- Write with related terms, not just keywords: If you are still working with just keywords, “you’re in the Dark Ages.” Content writers need to include all the related terms on a topic. (Credit: Terry)
- Analytics are your friend: Do split testing, check conversions, and look at traffic counts, since these are more important than search engine rankings. (Credit: David)
- Do keyword research: Use keyword research tools to find what people are searching for but keep in mind that search volumes may not be accurate. High volume terms are “expensive to achieve” and have low conversion rates. The kind of people who search for short-tail (high volume) terms are generally not very savvy Internet users; this could be a way to segment your audience, but consider whether those are the people you want to reach. (Credit: Ammon and David)
- Use other data sources, too: Use other data sources such as government sites, census figures, and even your past sales data to help you craft unique content. (Credit: Carlos)
Thin Content Scenario #1 – Boilerplate Location Pages
Websites wanting to do business in many different cities often set up “location pages” to help them rank for location-based searches. When these are created using a boilerplate template with just a “fill-in-the-blank” approach to change the place names, the same content gets duplicated across hundreds or thousands of pages. And that’s the kind of “thin content” Google’s Panda algorithm seeks to eliminate.
There’s contention even among experts over whether there’s a reason to ever have pages for different locations anymore.
A case could be made that “Anybody who tries to do location pages now is just an idiot … They got Google Local for a reason.” – Terry Van Horne
Adversely, it could be argued that location-specific content is a value add. Carlos reported that having region-specific pages on his website had brought him a $352 million inquiry just that week.
“Location pages ARE still needed. There are a lot of times when a national provider is going to be excluded from local results because … what Google cares about is [giving] the best results matching their algorithm and that the user is satisfied [not necessarily giving the truly best results].” – Ammon Johns
Ultimately, location pages may have value to online marketers depending on user intent. Why would it be important enough for users to specify a location in their search? Reasons could be:
- They want a local office where they can talk face-to-face.
- They want to stay within a fixed radius.
- They want someone who understands special local issues (e.g., getting homeowner’s insurance if you live in tornado alley).
HOW TO FIX LOCATION PAGES
If you understand the user’s intent, then you can add some unique content to each location page that meets the user’s specific needs. Try these recommendations for your geo-targeted content:
- Add text that shows you know something about the location. Example: For a construction company that works in many different counties, location pages could explain the different zoning codes, historical development, how building at the beach differs from inland construction, names of districts in the area, etc. (Credit: Bill)
- Add regional statistics. Some websites bring in data by feeds from Wolfram Alpha that are specific for each region and appropriate to the subject. (Credit: Carlos)
- Have local experts add content. The site can be a framework, and local subject matter experts can help create the content. Example: Lawyer sites might have pages about drunk driving charges, and that content can vary from state to state (e.g., laws, penalties, even what the charge is called). Lawyers in each state know the subject well, so have them create location-specific content.
- Put duplicated content in an iframe. If there’s content that has to be on every location page, put it into an iframe and have original, tailored content around it. Iframes get around the duplicate content problem; search engines see the iframe as a separate page that’s relevant to all the other pages (sort of like a “mid-page canonical”). (Credit: Carlos and Ammon)
- Get quotes from local people. Adding quotes, recommendations, etc., written by people who live in each local area. In this instance, a business probably has customers in each region, so their content would “give localized social proof” that would help with conversions. (Credit: Carlos and Ammon)
- Refer to past sales data. If a particular product has sold well in a specific area, talk about that product on that location page.
- Include links to relevant external sites. Adding a few links pointing to local sites that might be valuable for the user (e.g., the local chamber of commerce) can “help legitimize your post in Google’s eyes,” David said. A few external citations can show that you know the local market and you’ve put some thought into creating unique content for that location. As Terry observed, “Google has always rewarded linking out to good resources.”
“The next best thing to having a link from a big, powerful, authority site is putting a link to a big, powerful, authority site.” – Ammon Johns
- Consider taking your location pages down. If you can’t make each page different with location-specific unique content that fulfills the searcher’s intent, it would be better from an SEO perspective not to have location pages at all.
Thin Content Scenario #2: Filtered Ecommerce Pages
On an ecommerce site, users can view pages with filtered results, such as by brand, by size, by product type, or by other attributes. These “filtered results” pages have a unique URL that can be indexed by the search engines. The problem is, since none of the content is unique on those pages, they create a nightmare of duplicate, thin content. In a worst case scenario, a site with only 3,000 products may have 40,000 pages indexed, which makes no sense. Google can and will penalize ecommerce sites for this situation. But should you struggle with making those pages unique? Most sites do not need to rank for product attributes, and having so many filtered pages dilutes the site’s internal link equity anyway.
HOW TO FIX FILTERED RESULTS PAGES
Again, the goal is to put some unique content on every page that will be indexed for search. Barring that, the other choice is to prevent non-unique pages from being indexed at all.
- Add content based on filters and keep the pages indexed. If you can insert some unique content that specifically relates to the filter, the page may be okay to keep in the search index. Adding two or three sentences above the filtered product information could work. This can be difficult to program into your shopping cart software, but some products will allow it. (Credit: Carlos)
- Use the URL Parameter tool. In Google Webmaster Tools, the URL Parameter tool lets you tell Google how to handle URLs containing specific parameters (see GWT Help for more details).
- Remove filtered results pages from the search engine index. If you cannot add any unique content, then remove the pages from the search index. One way to do so is using the Page Removal tool in Google Webmaster Tools.
- Block indexing using robots.txt. Another way to prevent duplicate content pages is to exclude them in your robots.txt file (see our Robots.txt guide for help). This stops the search engine from indexing your filtered results pages.
Thin Content Scenario #3: Product Pages
Ecommerce product pages commonly have two problems that cause thin content: duplicated manufacturer descriptions and repeated text for terms of service and shipping information.
Many ecommerce sites take boilerplate, manufacturer-provided text and paste it into their product pages. Manufacturer product descriptions can be found all over the web, so these duplicate product pages can trigger search engine penalties. It’s also problematic when lengthy blocks of text for terms of service and shipping information are repeated across all product pages.
HOW TO FIX PRODUCT PAGES
For this problem, there is only one solution: make original content for each product page. This can be a monumental task for sites with thousands of products, but necessary.
“It’s like a one-legged man training for the 100-yard dash.” – Terry Van Horne
- Replace manufacturer text. Rewrite the standard manufacturer text with unique descriptive content for each product.
- Rewrite pages in priority order. It’s advised that sites start with their most important products first (i.e., the ones making them money) and begin creating unique content for each product. (Credit: David)
- Make sure repeated text doesn’t overwhelm original content. Terms of service, shipping information, and similar text can be 400 to 500 words, which is a large percentage of the body copy. Be careful to “flesh out” the product information enough so that there’s original content to balance out the duplicated text.
- Evaluate your content. Here are some questions to help guide the rewriting process: 1) Is this content going to be the same as everyone else’s? 2) Is it original? 3) Is there enough content here to be worth saying? (Credit: Ammon)
Thin Content Scenario #4: “Me too” SEO Posts
There’s a type of content that has become commonplace on the web today: “me too” blog posts, which may be 2000-word articles about things people have already read elsewhere. These posts are not true curations because they have no added value and nothing original. While you might think “thin content” means not enough words, that’s incorrect; long posts can be considered “thin,” too.
HOW TO FIX “ME TOO” POSTS
- Curate content, don’t duplicate it. Curate content by synthesizing ideas and adding original thoughts. Read more about SEO best practices for content curation (make sure to use unique text, high quality links, and add value) if you’re cleaning up “me too” thin content.
- Don’t just copy and paste. Duplicate content adds no value for the reader and could be penalized by the search engines. Don’t do it.
In the end, correcting and avoiding thin content comes down to one question:
“If you can’t do better than the results that are already there, why bother?” – Ammon Johns
The ISOOSI Chat happens every Tuesday at 12:00 Pacific time on Google+. All are welcome.
Should You Attend a Search Marketing Conference in 2014? was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
A short Cosmo-esque quiz to help you decide if you should attend a search conference in 2014:
- Do you feel like screaming “Nobody understands me!” like a teenage girl every time your coworkers eyes gloss over in the middle of your conversation about the latest algorithm update?
- Do you love the conversations you’re having with industry leaders in Google+, but often think of the left arm you’d give to actually have a face-to-face conversation with them?
- Do you wish you could walk into a giant Ikea-like store that only carries search marketing tools and casually browse the aisles of options, stopping to ask attendants for demos and help as needed?
If you answered yes to any of the three above questions, stop procrastinating and opt into attending a conference in March! There are two conference opportunities coming up right around the corner: SMX West March 10-13 and PubCon South March 17-20. Register for PubCon before February 28 to get the Early Bird rate, or use discount code BRUCECLAYSMXW14 to save 10% on any SMX pass and/or workshop.
Need more persuasion? Here’s a deep dive into how attending a conference offers a solutions to each of the above listed qualms.
3 Reasons to Attend a Search Marketing Conference Plus 10 Pro Tips to Help You Get the Most Out of The Event
1. Exit “Nobody Understands Me” Land and Start Learning from Your Peers in the Magical World of SERP Nerdery
Imagine being magically whisked away to a place where everyone you meet is equally as excited about Excel shortcuts, semantic markup, longtail keywords, and persona research as you are. Imagine yourself walking up to a total stranger, starting a conversation about Danny Sullivan, or how social signals affect the search algorithm, and imagine that the person you’re talking to knows exactly what you’re talking about, doesn’t gloss over, and actually responds with their own opinions. It’s magic! And if you’ve never experienced it, this sensation of ethereal belonging alone is 100% worth the conference registration fee.
Attending a search marketing conference is like having your favorite WebProNews forum, and all of its participants, come to life for a face-to-face discussion over coffee.
This kind of in-person interaction is really unique to the conference environment, and it can be an excellent way for you or your search team members to use conversation with peers to connect strategy dots. (Sometimes you just need to talk out the pros and cons of an idea and it’s impossible to do that when everyone you talk to looks at you like you’re speaking Pig Latin translated into German. Note: At search conferences like PubCon, everyone speaks Pig Latin translated into German.)
How to Get the Most Out of Your Peer-to-Peer Conference Time:
- Talk to people in elevators and sit next to strangers at meal times.
Elevator rides and meals are great times to catch people in moments where they may have a minute to talk. An elevator chat, if done right, can turn into a walk n’ talk, which can turn into breakfast if the chat gets rolling. You both have to be there anyway, why not get to know each other?
- Claim your seat in a session early and have a chat with the person who pulls up next to you.
Before you even start talking you know you have one common interest – whatever the session topic is. Use this time to ask a peer’s opinion, get to know someone who you might be able to work with in the future, or simply just to talk geek shop with someone who cares.
- If you have a specific question you want to address, make sure to go where you think the experts in that field will be.
For instance, if you have a nagging PPC question, go to the PPC sessions, visit the PPC tool booths in the vendor village, and talk to the PPC session presenters.
2. Keep Your Left Arm and Have a Face-to-Face Conversation with Your Industry Idol
We all agree, getting feedback from experience peers is invaluable. Now imagine getting this same feedback from your industry idols; the niche experts that write the online marketing books you read, and manage the blogs you visit daily – like Search Engine Land and Moz.
Casual interaction with industry experts is common at search conferences like SMX and PubCon, and it’s awesome.
4 Ways to Get Some Idol Interaction:
- Attend a workshop, like Bruce’s SMX SEO Training or a PubCon Masters Group workshop, for personal time with niche experts.
While these workshops add a little extra to your total conference cost, the small class size and individual attention you will receive in workshops like this offer an elite, custom learning experience that will end up paying for itself.
- Prepare questions pre-session to be locked and loaded for Q&A time.
Nearly every session will have an ample amount of time set aside for questions and answers. Pro tip: If you have specific questions you want to ask panelists, one way to take advantage of this Q&A time is to draft relevant questions you want to ask panelists before the session. This bit of planning ahead can help you keep your full attention on the session without missing the opportunity to get your question in front of the experts.
- Attend an interactive site review session for a chance to get your site (or social page) analyzed granularly.
Both SMX and PubCon offer interactive clinic sessions that analyze a volunteer’s website or social profile as a learning experience for all in attendance. Of course competition is high in these sessions and everyone’s page can’t be the one (or two, or three) selected to share with the crowd, but just by showing up with a volunteering spirit there’s a good chance your site could be the one getting the free, incredibly public (but also incredibly free!) professional audit.
- Meet industry leaders at lunch, social events and after sessions.
During conference events you’ll see industry “celebrities” everywhere, just co-mingling like you and me and every other everyday Joe. I fully encourage you to walk up to your favorite industry celeb, say hello, introduce yourself, and maybe even spark a conversation or ask a question. Pro tip: Approach these idol meet n’ greets with care! Just like you would approach introducing yourself online with care (think how much time you spend crafting a spam-free Twitter bio, or writing a Google+ comment to Mark Traphagen) make sure you’re also taking care to put your best foot forward in real life situations. In other words, think about how you’re presenting yourself before you just spew something you wish you could take back; and try to, at least in a miniscule way, come prepared with something of value to say — something that contributes to a conversation. Believe it or not, you can actually spam someone in person, and no one wants that to be the impression they make on their niche idol.
3. Get Tool Recommendations from Pros and Browse Aisles of Marketing Tools in a Baby Ikea-esque Vendor Village
What if you could get an industry expert to tell you exactly what tools they are using and why they love them? Or if you could browse the aisles of a super market that only lines its shelves with online marketing tools? Sounds like two magical scenarios that would make your job much easier, doesn’t it?
To find both look no further than your nearest SMX, PubCon or other search marketing conference event. If you’re in the market for a tool that will make your life easier, search conferences are truly the place to be.
3 Places to Find Tool Recommendations at Search Conferences:
- Tool recommendations are integrated into the majority of sessions.
Even if the session you’re attending doesn’t have the word “tools” in the title, expect lots of tool discussion to happen organically as part of the “how” portion of most presentations.
- Sessions dedicated 100% to tool discussion and recommendation.
Both SMX and PubCon offer a series of hour-plus sessions that exclusively cover SEO, SEM, PPC and social media tools, how panelists use them, and why they were selected over alternatives. You can also look forward to dedicated sessions that discuss in-house marketing tools and Excel as a search marketing tool.
- Vendor village of tool retailers looking to discuss your problem and prove they can solve it.
Half the trouble of selecting a new tool is finding a new tool. The vendor village is a great tool discovery aid; just peruse the aisles, listen in on conversations the vendor’s are having with other attendees, tell the vendor exactly what features your dream tool will have, and watch demos of tools that meet your criteria. You may even stumble upon an amazing search marketing tool you didn’t even know you needed.
Go Forth, Learn and Commiserate With Your Peers!
It can be lonely living in a world where the majority of folks immediately zone out when they hear the words “algorithm” or “Excel.” It’s hard trying to explain to your husband who Matt Cutts is and why he matters. And it can feel downright isolating always having to turn to online peers for strategy feedback because the people sitting around you have no idea what it is you do.
All that to say, there’s real value in spending three whole days immersed in a world where everyone understands you.
For comic book fans it’s Comic-Con; for roller derby girls it’s RollerCon; for search marketing professionals it’s industry events like SMX and PubCon.
Your Web Visitor’s Just Not That into You: 7 Lead Generation Mishaps was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
You may have heard a statistic that SEO is a top marketing channel for generating leads, second only to word of mouth. But have you found that your website is not a lead generating machine you thought it would be?
Why are other businesses finding such success when it comes to lead generation with their websites and you’re not? Sorry to be the one to break the bad news, but it could be that your web visitors just aren’t that into you.
7 Reasons Your Website May Be Losing Leads
There could be many reasons why your web visitors are choosing not to engage with you. It’s your job to get to the bottom of why they might not be buying, hiring or even contacting you. It also takes avoiding the common mishaps that people make, which turn off web visitors before they convert into leads. Let’s take a look at these frequent mistakes.
1. Your website persona doesn’t match your visitor persona. Many people don’t realize that their website persona is a complete mismatch to their visitor persona. Put it this way, your website is Albert Einstein. Your web visitor is Justin Bieber. The personas are completely off.
When the voice of your website doesn’t speak to the audience who buys from you, web visitors don’t turn into qualified leads. They are not drawn to the design, don’t relate to the content and are not feeling a connection with the website.
You can fix this problem by understanding who it is that you want to attract to your website. Whether you are selling a product or offering a service, you need to pinpoint the characteristics of your target market.
- What are their ages?
- What is the education level?
- Where do they live?
- What are they interested in?
- What worries them?
- What excites them?
You need to get specific in recognizing who it is you want. Then you can create text, images and videos that attract these people. You can incorporate an appealing design and structure.
If you are not sure who is visiting your website, you might want to consider hiring a market research company. Keep in mind that you might have multiple personas coming to your site. Start learning more about personas with this article Web Personas: Creating Jane.
2. You’re ranking for keywords no one searches for. Yay! You rank number one for five of your keywords. That’s great, as long as people are searching for those terms. We have seen many times where websites are ranking strong for certain keywords or phrases, but nobody uses them — for search or in speaking about the kinds of products and services you offer. The great news is that there is a solution for this issue too. You can actually trigger the query.
Once you own the rankings for a keyword, start generating interest in it. You might consider creating a press release, writing an article, speaking at events, using social media and even good old fashion offline marketing to trigger the query. You will need to talk about that word or phrase and prompt people to go to the search engines and do a query. Most marketers don’t think this way, but we know it works and will generate leads for you.
3. There’s no call to action. You can’t assume web visitors know what to do when they’re on your website. For example, is it very clear that after arriving on the page and reviewing the content that they should fill out your contact form? Or are they supposed to order your product? What about pick up the phone and call you — is that what they should do? Not everyone knows what the next action is supposed to be, so tell them. Make it very apparent what step they should take.
You might also want to consider having some type of offer in place to encourage web visitors to take action. It could be a promotional sale or free item for ordering or contacting you. For more on calls to action, check out How to Create a Thank You Page Call to Action.
4. You have no back end system (a.k.a. follow-up marketing) in place. It’s amazing how much people are willing to spend on web development and SEO, but then let money just fall through their fingers. That is exactly what happens when there is no back end system in place to capture leads. When visitors get to your website, they might not be ready to buy from you or hire your company. If they leave your site without you ever capturing their information, you have just thrown dollars away.
You should have some way of gathering visitor data. For example, you might want to offer a free newsletter or coupons sent via email. Maybe you have a report you can offer at no cost. Put a form on your website for these types of offers. At a minimum, ask for the person’s name and email address. Store this information in a database and follow up. There are a lot of great programs out there that will help you automate follow-up marketing campaigns by sending out timed emails and other promotional offers. Even though a web visitor might not have turned into an immediate customer, it doesn’t mean he or she won’t down the road.
5. Your site fails to address the visitors’ needs. Think communication 101, it’s about the other person, not you. I have taught marketing and communication courses at a university in California. One of the first things I teach my students is the concept of the “you” attitude. At a basic level, when I am communicating, I need to keep you at the center of the message, because as the receiver of the communication you will be wondering “how does this impact me?” We all do it, whether you realize it or not.
When people arrive on your website, they want to know how you can help them. Do you have a product that solves a problem for them? Do you provide a service that is just the solution they need? Can you make their lives better? Your website better address these questions immediately. If you make your website all about your company and not the web visitor, you are going to miss out on leads.
6. Your website is partying like it’s 1999. Outdated websites can hurt you. The reason the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” exists is because we all do just that. We’re human. We make assumptions based on what we see. If your web visitors are presented with a site that looks like it was developed in the late nineties, they are not going to view you as credible. They certainly will think twice before contacting you or purchasing from your site.
Outdated designs aren’t just an issue aesthetically. An old design could have performance issues too. Plus, search engines know if your site has been updated or not. We believe that somewhere, somehow, that plays a factor in rankings. One website we know of had a consistent drop in keyword rankings. After doing some investigation, we determined that the website hadn’t been updated in several years, meaning it was using old technology, as well. We advised the site owner to update his website. He did and his rankings rose.
7. The content (text, images, videos) on your website is just plain bad. From a website owner’s prospective, it’s hard to admit that your site might need some serious improvement. Quality is a very subjective term and saying that your website has high quality content — including text, images and videos — doesn’t mean another person will feel the same way. Take a long hard look at your website’s content.
- Is the content interesting?
- Is text grammatically correct?
- Are text, images and videos targeted toward your ideal audience?
The content on your website needs to be engaging in order to convert web visitors into leads.
Optimizing your site for lead generation is an important component of online marketing and SEO. You poured hours and money into getting web traffic, so make sure it’s not being wasted. These seven mishaps are only the beginning of some of the things that you need to review. Start making small tweaks today and monitor whether the amount of leads you are getting from your site is going up.
Setting up your website to generate leads takes knowledge, strategy, planning and work, and if you’re looking for help, Bruce Clay, Inc. is here. Subscribe to our SEO Newsletter to plug into our public stream of marketing methodology, news and advice or request a free quote for our services today.
Now companies have a new way to learn your secrets, er, we mean help you get the most out of your brick and mortar shopping experience. It’s called iBeacon and it’s an indoor positioning system that allows in-store transmitters to send signals to nearby iOS 7 and Android devices.
What this means is, using Bluetooth Smart technology, an iBeacon transmitter can sense if a person with an opted-in mobile phone is walking by an iBeacon device – and accordingly, a specific section of the cereal aisle – and send the smartphone owner a push notification that offers some form of content, whether it be a coupon, a recipe, or a reminder that Kashi cereal is on the shopper’s iBeacon app grocery list. (Learn more about how iBeacon technology works or see some iBeacon apps in action.)
iBeacon technology can also be programmed to perform user experience enhancing tasks, like giving you a menu on your phone when you sit down at a table and then allowing you to send your order right to the kitchen.
iBeacon technology lets marketers do four amazing things:
1. Proximity marketing lets you get a potential shopper’s foot in the door with coupons delivered when the device holder is outside a storefront.
Every brick and mortar knows getting someone in the door is the hardest part. People walk by your coffee shop every day; but how do you get them to break their routine and walk into your local coffee shop, rather than walking right past to go into the Starbucks? iBeacon gives business owners a great, low-barrier to entry way to politely poke a passersby and say “Hey… you said earlier you were interested in some coffee. Look! Voila! Right here, right now, you can have 20% off the coffee. All you have to do is walk in. Want to?”
If nothing else, the push notification puts the small business into the shopper’s mind by making them read the name of the coffee shop on their phone, while also physically looking at the coffee shop storefront to confirm that, indeed, they are standing in front of Surf Side Coffee. This means even if the shopper doesn’t pull the trigger and walk in right then, iBeacon has put the idea of the business into the mind of the consumer, which automatically gets the business one step closer to snagging the consumer at a later date.
This feature is similar in theory to what Twitter wants small business owners to get out of their Nearby Tweets beta.
2. Remind shoppers of items they have on an app grocery list, and sway them toward one brand over another with a money saving offers.
The benefit of this feature is pretty straightforward. “I am a shopper. I need to buy Caesar dressing – oh look, my app just sent me a coupon for $1.50 off this brand. Sold.”
See this feature in action with the List Bliss app – an app that lets you create shareable lists, and receive push-notification coupons for products that are on your shopping list.
3. Gamify the brick and mortar shopping experience, incentivizing shoppers to walk over to certain items in the store and scan them with their app in order to earn reward points that can be cashed in for a high-dollar retail item, like an Xbox.
This is amazing because it actually puts products in people’s hands. Maybe you never knew Dole fruit cups were corn syrup-free because you had an assumption about them and, accordingly, never thought to look nonetheless buy; or maybe you never knew a buttered popcorn flavored rice cake existed, and now that you do… well, of course you’re buying them.
Plus, iBeacon gamification can make the shopping experience fun, like a scavenger hunt, and a reward points incentive can provide yet another way to encourage people to take that first step into a brick and mortar storefront.Check out the CheckPoints app to see iBeacon gamification in action.
4. Improve consumer shopping experience by letting shoppers skip the waiter and send their food order right to the kitchen, or see if a dress they’re interested in comes in different colors.
After you get them through the front door, the experience they have inside is critical to keeping them there and bringing them back. Having iBeacon technology that helps consumers get food orders placed quicker, questions about retail options answered faster, and other experience needs met not only more promptly, but also with more attention to detail, can make all the difference between yielding a return customer or a one-star Yelp review.
Watch this Estimote demo to see iBeacon technology being used for this type of in-store consumer experience magic.
Is This Interruption Marketing…?
Isn’t this kind of like interruption marketing? Like a pop-up window trying to sell me something? A straight-to-user junk mail generator?
Not really. Sure, like any other content delivery service (Facebook, email, etc.) it can be abused. Anywhere content exists there’s the potential for spam and interruption marketing tactics, but if marketers start thinking of iBeacon technology as a content delivering tool early on, and as such, start applying user experience-centered content marketing principals to the push notifications they send out through iBeacon transmitters, there shouldn’t be any spam overload issues.
The Content Marketing Institute recently wrote an excellent article that delves into the logistics of creating a content marketing strategy that targets future theoretical iBeacon technology.
Basically, it’s best to think of iBeacon transmission like any other content vehicle. Create bad content and people will hate it; learn the needs of your end user and create great content that adds value to their life and the people will embrace it and love it.
Why iBeacon Is A Wearable Technology Gateway Drug
Change is hard and it’s going to take some time before people (real people; not us tech nerds) are ready to start strapping something like Google Glass to their faces. I can sense a bit of resistance from the real world (what I call the place outside of my tech bubble where people I know haven’t ever considered that Google is run by an ever-changing algorithm), but I feel like iBeacon is going to play a very important role in bridging the gap between smartphones, Siri, and wearables like Glass.
Right now people are a little creeped out by the idea of looking at a restaurant and having a tiny Terminator-esque screen attached to their face tell them more about the menu and consumer ratings. But getting these types of notifications on your iPhone is no problem. People are comfortable with smartphones; they use apps for everything from budget management and shopping, to online learning and beyond. They get push notifications for Facebook, Twitter, and email. Push technology is not uncommon and they feel comfortable getting a buzz or a jingle and looking at notifications on their phones several (hundred) times a day.
The iBeacon push notification will just be another buzz or jingle that opted-in smartphone users won’t be able to refuse looking at, then, something will happen. As they get used to the idea of the phone knowing where they are and what they need, they will start to like it and get a real sense for how environment-responsive technology can contribute to their lives. From this point, as the iBeacon continues to make the line between the information you garner online (product research, coupon collection, reviews, recipes) and the information you collect organically in the real world (a bunch of shirts on a rack, a storefront in a strip mall) incredibly thin, I can easily see the distant leap from smartphone to wearable becoming more like a natural upgrade.
Now, I’m not necessarily saying what Glass does and what iBeacon transmitters do is an apples to apples comparison; what I am saying is that iBeacon is using a technology medium that we are comfortable with to stretch our minds and accordingly expand what we perceive to be acceptable boundaries of technological connectedness — and I can see this mind stretching playing a critical role in the evolution of consumer interest in wearable technology.
iBeacon technology is really an incredibly marketing opportunity, and an excellent way to contribute to and guide your consumer’s shopping experience. If you’re ready to try it for yourself consider checking out apps like OfferDrop, CheckPoints and List Bliss to start exploring the world of iBeacon marketing from a consumer standpoint, or download the Estimote Virtual Beacon app to turn your Bluetooth 4.0-compatible smartphone or tablet into a virtual beacon and use a second device to get a sense for what you can do with iBeacons from a marketing standpoint.
Help Your Brand by “Uncovering the Human Factor in Social Media Marketing” was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
The top minds in PR today are pushing some progressive ideas. Like press releases are a thing of the past. Like, to do PR in this new media world, a brand needs to be telling stories. Like, your brand storytellers shouldn’t be just the CEO or the PR guy. And like, if you don’t apologize for your company’s mistakes and mean it, the social media backlash could kill you.
They share these insights in a collaborative and free-flowing exchange of expertise open for everyone to see in Google+ Hangouts on Air. This week, well-known author and semantic search expert David Amerland hosted the debut episode of a monthly Hangout event, “Power Talk.” Joining him were two in-the-trenches marketers, PR expert Steve Martin from Copperfox Marketing, and the cofounder and CMO of Cloze.com, Alex Coté.
Their conversation and Q&A provided a strong example of what the top PR pros are trying to do when representing brands online: give business a human face. PR is not about sending corporate news items down the wire. New media PR must convince the public that there is a person, no, persons powering that brand. Marketers have come to refer to this as storytelling centered around authenticity. From this focal point, the Hangout participants’ points fell into three categories:
- How PR is behind and needs to evolve
- How brands can be authentic and engage with more people
- Tips for creating a successful startup business with the human element
PR Is Evolving, And Now It Includes Everyone
The public relations industry has been hesitant to embrace social media for PR purposes, Steve said. Some reasons why PR folks resist:
- Two-way conversation: Traditional PR involves one-way communication (putting out press releases, agency messaging, etc.). But with social media marketing, the conversation goes in both directions.
- Message chaos: As David pointed out, PR is associated with a carefully managed image or “spin.” But that’s the opposite of social media, where being authentic is valued and there’s little control.
- Many voices: In reality, social media makes everyone a PR person.
PR needs to evolve. Steve predicts that the PR industry will make a huge transition into digital over the next five years. He explains that today, you can build relationships with PR people through social media; however, when you need to put something out, you still have to contact them through the traditional routes of phone or email.
“PR is just another word for communications.” – Steve Martin
Today, a brand needs to nurture the one-on-one relationships. David observed that your social and personal contacts matter more than good PR. This is a throw-back to the ancient world, in which asking people for their help was the only way to get things done. Now, post-Industrial Age, “on your own you’re nothing”; what gives you power is your connections.
Press releases are a one-way communication tool that Alex said he hasn’t used in years. “Nobody reads press releases anymore,” he said. Instead, public relations is all about storytelling. To craft your story, Alex suggested asking:
- What story are you telling?
- Is it about the individual, about the brand?
- How are you solving a problem?
- Do you have a customer who has a problem that you’re solving?
- Who within the organization should be telling this story? (It shouldn’t be all about the CEO or all from the agency or PR guy.)
If you can put yourself into that story in a human way, you’ll have a far bigger impact.
How Can a Brand Be Authentic (and Successfully Engage People) through Social Media?
“It’s the age of authenticity.” – Steve Martin
If a company wants to “spin” a particular brand image, it’s going to be a big challenge to do social media marketing. David Amerland pointed out that authenticity is one of the hottest topics now in Google+ and asked how a marketer can reconcile the need to be an authentic personality with the need to manage a public image.
A commenter said that companies “can’t work through a logo” anymore, but have to have a personality attached. David agreed, saying that you almost need to create “a human bridge” to project the company values to the outside world. This is why social media is so important for businesses today. But how can you project a human, authentic personality for your brand?
- Show a true image: Your brand image can’t be “spin” anymore. Ask, what are my brand’s core values and beliefs? Reflect those in your brand image.
- Value authenticity: Steve said that if a brand isn’t authentic today, it will suffer a backlash in public relations — because people will eventually tell.
- Match your personality: Realize that every person is his or her own brand. If you match whatever you are doing in social media to your own personality, you can’t help but be authentic.
- Hire people who match your brand values/personality: Steve pointed out that this is the easiest way to keep a consistent brand personality and tone. When he writes on behalf of his company, he is personally a good match and therefore, a good brand advocate.
- Don’t keep your experts “behind the curtain”: Alex said to enable more of your organization to be out there, representing the brand on social media. (Note: Alex wrote a post about how companies can help employees do this.) Steve mentioned that the shoe company Zappos has successfully made every employee a brand advocate.
- Have integrity: Don’t be two-faced. Be transparent inside the company so all the team members know what’s going on with the business. Then project the same values outward.
- Engage with people “out there”: Alex pointed out that you can’t just say, “Hey, write about my company.” You have to build relationships over time. If you connect with people and help them, when it’s time for you to need something, they’ll respond.
- Listen very well: Building relationships involves giving and helping more than you take, versus going for clout and seeing who can blast the most. Never stop listening.
- Apologize and follow through: The PR industry and even CEOs seem to not be able to say, “I’m sorry” and admit when they’re wrong. The speakers agreed this is “horrible” and must change in today’s authenticity-based marketing world. Alex said that he gives credit to consumers to be able to see through an insincere apology. Steve said to prove you mean an apology, you have to do more than just say you’re sorry. You must follow through and try to solve the problem, and change things to make sure it never happens again.
The speakers discussed a real-world example of a botched apology that hurt a company reputation — the BP oil spill. It took CEO Tony Hayward a long time to apologize, and even then he did not seem sincere. Steve said there had to be a mistake there somewhere. Either the CEO wasn’t a good embodiment of the company’s core values, or those values were wrong.
“If your brand is going to be human, like we all want it to be, then saying sorry is just another process of being human.” – Alex Coté
Bonus: Tips for Startup Businesses — How to Put the Human Elements in Place
Authentic human connections are also needed when doing a business startup, as the story of Cloze.com shows. Alex cofounded the business with Dan Foody, after they met at the preschool both of their children attended. Once they shared ideas and collaborated, they developed the Cloze concept and needed funding to launch — which also required relationships.
“Get the right people who will work with you shoulder to shoulder.” – Alex Coté
They were able to attract venture capital by standing out — they were “older” (almost 40), their experience was “well-rounded,” their business concept solved a problem, and their solution could be scaled up to become a big business. But Alex explained that at the beginning, the startup process is very human. “When you’re getting a company funded, you have no assets. You’ve got really nothing … They’re investing in you as a team, first and foremost.”
Here are three tips to help startup businesses get the human element right:
- Find the right people for your core team: Alex said that putting the right team together is the biggest challenge in getting a new company off the ground. The reality is that once funding arrives, everyone is jamming, working long hours together toward a common goal. “Until you actually have a product that you’re charging for, and until you’re actually bringing in money, you are losing money every second of every day. Get the right people who will work with you shoulder to shoulder.”
- Be transparent with your team: Alex explained that transparency within his company team is essential. By keeping everyone informed, you keep morale high and leverage everyone’s expertise.
- Trust your team: The “command and control” concept may work in some situations, but you can’t expect to launch a startup that way. You want everyone on the team to feel they contributed, they helped build something. You have to trust them.
David then asked how the CEO/entrepreneur can balance the commercial needs (everything must get done today) with the social interaction needs (to include everyone, get consensus, etc.).
- Balance vision with practicality: The entrepreneur needs to create the vision but also keep the tactical needs in mind to get things done.
- Seek lots of input: Alex said at Cloze, they use their own products for first-hand experience. He even helps do customer support, which surprises people. But talking to real customers lets him hear the good and the bad, which influences direction. He also monitors social media and the press to find out what’s being said.
- Keep everyone in the loop: At Cloze they use internal mechanisms to chat among team members. Work in pods together. Have a weekly lunch meeting where everyone brings things to the table, debates and discusses priorities. By doing these things, not much time goes by between decision points.
10 Link Building Tips We Love From SMX Panelists Past and Future was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
In 2014 “inbound marketing” is all the rage; but does that mean traditional SEO techniques like link building are becoming outdated or irrelevant? Absolutely not. We at Bruce Clay, Inc. don’t think so, and, based on the conferences we’ve attended in the last eight months, neither do the SEO thought leaders that teach thousands of rank-hungry professionals at search marketing conferences like SMX, ClickZ (formerly SES) and Pubcon.
That said, there is undoubtedly a right way and a wrong way to approach link building – or “link acquisition” as it’s commonly called in 2014. And, like all other optimization techniques, there’s an etiquette to the art that can take some training.
If you’re ready to start your training today consider these 10 link building tips a healthy dose of SMX room service. Soak up the panel wisdom; wrap your head around how to ethically approach link building; get your feet wet; feel out the waters; and, if you like where we’re going with this, we encourage you to consider attending the Link Building Fundamentals portion of the SMX Search Marketing Boot Camp coming up just around the corner in March. Code BRUCECLAYSMXW14 will get you a 10% discount on any pass and workshop at the conference.
We’ll be there liveblogging; we’d love to see you, too!
10 Smart Link Building Tips from 3 Smart SMX Panelists
The Case for Content as the Center of your Link Acquisition Strategy
Preview From Upcoming SMX West Speaker Debra Mastaler, President, Alliance-Link (@DebraMastaler)
1. Since webmasters are now responsible for the quality of their inbound links as well as their outbound, it is extremely important to know and trust the people you’re co-marketing with. If you place content on someone else’s website, know the people behind the site and its history before doing so.
2. Consider using multiple formats like video, infographics and podcasts in addition to written content as a way to attract links and traffic to your website. These formats have a higher chance of going viral and can be added to social media pages for additional exposure.
3. Use content tracking software to see what appeals to your audience, how long they view it and where it travels. Doing so will give you insight that can inspire improved content development and help protect against plagiarism. Search on “content tracking” and “dynamic watermarking” for ideas.
Link Relevance and the Difference between Natural and Unnatural Links
4. Link relevance is incredibly important in order for Google to pass full PageRank juice. Make sure the links you acquire are on websites that are relevant to the niche you want to be an influencer in. For instance, a link to a dance company from an umbrella website isn’t worth much.
5. If you can dictate the position or anchor text of a link consider it “unnatural.”
6. Google uses all kinds of statistical analysis to determine if a link is “natural” or “unnatural” based on a baseline of what it considers “normal.” With all the mathematics involved there’s really no way to game the system; you can’t look natural, you have to actually be natural.
7. Create a compelling reason to link to the site. Think: How is my site useful for people? If it’s not useful, make content that is useful. Then you’ll get those links.
How to Make a Content-Centric Link Building Pitch More Productive
8. When contacting a website to see if they want to publish your content for link building purposes make sure your pitch is focused, fast, and novel. If the recipient feels like your pitch is going to take 15 minutes to respond, or if it’s too high level, it will be deleted. Desperate emails get deleted.
9. Never start your pitch email with a dry introduction that looks like potential spam (e.g. “I’m an SEO company representing my client”).
10. You want the recipient you’re pitching to think of publishing your content as an opportunity — not a favor, or worse yet — work. Including mention of a response deadline in the email can help shift their mindset.
With the searchscape changing drastically on a regular basis, link building and its role seems to be a hot topic these days. These tips do a great job introducing the idea of link acquisition, and how to get started with a campaign, but they’re really only the first step in a 50,000-step link building foot race. (I couldn’t bear to say “tip of the iceberg” one more time, but they are also that — just the tip of the iceberg.)
If you want some more elaboration, or have a desire for link building discussion, ask and ye may just receive! All three SMX speakers mentioned can be contacted directly via Twitter (@DebraMastaler, @MartiniBuster, and @WebConnoisseur), we’d be happy to field your questions in the comments section below, or you can catch Debra Masala for a face-to-face chat after she speaks at the Search Marketing Boot Camp on March 11 at SMX West in San Jose.
Remember, code BRUCECLAYSMXW14 will get you a 10% discount on any pass and any workshop at the conference!
10 Social PR Tips from SMX Social Media Boot Camp Speakers Ric Dragon and Lisa Buyer was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
Your consumers are on social media – and so are journalists, bloggers, influencers and other spreaders of industry news. So much so, in fact, that not including social media as a part of your PR strategy should be considered a drastic wasted opportunity.
To help you get your head in the social media PR game, I’ve asked two of my favorite social media marketing experts – Ric Dragon and Lisa Buyer – to let us in on their top 10 quick and dirty social PR tips.
Use this list as a starting point, then for a deeper dive into social PR – or if you want the chance to run your PR questions by either Ric or Lisa face to face – consider asking your boss to send you to San Jose in March for SMX West and the SMX Social Media Marketing Boot Camp. Both Ric and Lisa are boot camp presenters speaking about social media, how to do it right, and how it can be an effective tool for PR. Code BRUCECLAYSMXW14 will get you a 10% discount on any pass and workshop at the conference.
Now, the good stuff.
5 Social PR Tips from Ric Dragon, CEO Dragon Search (@RicDragon)
Think like your audience. Go sit on a mountaintop and meditate if needed; whatever it takes. But really get into your target audience’s heads and endeavor to understand what content would mean something to them.
Skip the self-promotion and find your common passion points. The worst thing you can do is talk about yourself. Instead, consider what passion you share with your audience and talk about those. The people at Red Bull never talk about the fluid in the cans – instead, they talk about what their brand is about and the passion that connects the brand to the audience – people jumping out of helicopters; people living at the extreme.
Build relationships. In “old school” PR, we’d develop relationships with journalists; get to know them and what they were looking for. Today, it’s no different. You don’t need to go out there and connect with every journalist or blogger online – instead, just focus on building genuine relationships with the ones that are REALLY relevant to your endeavors.
Create a scorecard. Not all journalists or bloggers are going to have the same value for you, and neither are the things they might include you in. For instance, a mention in a blog post isn’t going to have the same value as a feature article. So create a scoring system and target what you hope to achieve.
Bring it offline. Once you’ve developed a relationship with journalists online bring it offline. For instance, once upon a time a maker of luxury goods developed relationships with home and design journalists. After they hosted a meet-up of designers at the largest antiques show in the country, they ended up on a magazine cover.
5 Social PR Tips from Lisa Buyer, CEO The Buyer Group (@LisaBuyer)
Your private messages aren’t always private; If you can’t tweet it, don’t write it in an email or text it. Your “private” messages can be forwarded, captured in screenshots and published in blogs, putting you and/or your brand at risk for public relations issues than can go viral in social media and cause irreversible damage in search results.
Think like a reporter, write like a journalist and optimizes like a white hat SEO pro. We are no longer speaking “spam-ish” or brochureware language. Get fluent in writing in a journalistic and topical style.
Proactive policies now, mean less Social PR headaches later. Be sure to have a social media policy in place for your brand, even if it is quick and simple like this one you can generate using Policy Tool.
Be selfless to your community and brand advocates will follow. You are not looking for a one night stand (right?), you are looking to build lasting and rewarding relationships. Play your part and the community will play theirs.
Stay fresh, find inspiration. If you run out of good ideas to write about, walk out of the office, jump on the treadmill for an hour (like I did to write these tips when I was brain dead) or walk to Starbucks and read the WSJ. Do something other than stare at the computer and possibly publish something half heated or self-serving. Remember, if you are useless, your content will be useless. Make yourself productive and your content will be productive.
These tips are to the point. If you want some more elaboration, ask and ye may just receive! Ric Dragon and Lisa Buyer can both be contacted via the comments section below, through Twitter (@RicDragon and @LisaBuyer), or you can hear them speak and ask them your questions in person this March at SMX West in San Jose.
Where to Read and How to Write Social Media Case Studies — From Social Media Process Master Ric Dragon was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
Social media marketing — everybody’s doing it. But what the heck are you doing with it!? In Bruce Clay and Murray Newlands’s Content Marketing Strategies for Professionals we turned to social media process master Ric Dragon for guidance in turning social marketing mantras into action. That, it turns out, is one of Ric’s fortes. Read on for:
- 3 things to do first when content marketing in 2014. Spoiler: Have you defined your biz’s passion point?
- A major content marketing misconception that may just be the problem you’re wrestling with.
- Sources of inspiration for your own content.
When you realize you need to soak up more of Ric’s tips, tricks and reading lists, pick up Social Marketology: Improve Your Social Media Processes and Get Customers to Stay Forever for a blueprint to your own repeatable, quantifiable social media process. His Social Media Today column, The Big Brand Theory, tells the stories of big brands marketing in online social so that we can emulate the wins of companies like Motorola, Dell, Hilton Hotels, Boston Celtics, and, as laid out in Bruce and Murray’s book, Ford Motor Company.
And, we know that big brands aren’t the only ones with social media success stories, so to write your own, read his latest post on Marketing Land on How to Create Case Studies to Improve Your Social Media. You can also learn from him in person at the SMX West Social Media Marketing Boot Camp next month. But first, give our interview a read and get to know how this creative marketer is using the World Wide Web.
BCI: Can you share two or three of your favorite industry blogs?
Ric Dragon: I have a list of about 20 that I keep on my blog feed reader that I refer to daily — almost like my daily news. Avinash Kaushik’s blog stands out. While he goes into some depth on analytics, it is where he speaks on larger issues that gets my greatest attention.
Another must-read, this time on branding, is David Aaker’s blog, http://www.prophet.com/blog/aakeronbrands. Aaker is one of the greatest thinkers around on branding — and his musing on various brands and topics makes this blog an incredible resource.
Share three actionable content marketing tips brands small and large can use for 2014?
- Research. What information would be really valuable in your industry? For instance, if you’re in real estate marketing, conducting a study on the consumer-decision-paths would be invaluable. Commissioning such a study from a local college could be really quite inexpensive, and end up generating the kind of buzz that would be shared in your industry.
- Passion points. Passion points are the fundamental elements behind your existence as a brand. For Red Bull, for instance, the passion point is “extreme living.” So, instead of talking about the oddly-tasting fluid they sell in the cans, they talk about people jumping out of balloons.
- Take the time to strategize. Before you create content, think first how that content can be used in multiple ways. For instance, if I start with doing some video interviews, those interviews can become digital videos, a podcast, blogs, and even the basis for other content across social media. A very brief bit of time thinking through this can create a great deal of value.
What is your favorite Big Brand Theory and why?
(The Big Brand Theory is an exclusive column for Social Media Today written by Ric Dragon that explores the social media strategies of big brands, both B2B and B2C.)
I’ve had such a blast writing that column: it’s given me the excuse to have calls with social media managers all over the world. Interestly, one of my favorites was in fact the one chosen to be in Bruce Clay’s book — the case study on Ford. That ended up being two separate articles, because I was so blown away with what they’re doing at Ford. The custom portal they created for content marketing hits three of the major social media marketing modalities: community, influence, and thought leadership.
What’s the biggest content mistake or misconception in 2014?
OK, here’s a bit of news: creating great content isn’t enough. Well, it might be if you’ve gained a critical mass of velocity of people who advocate for your brand like Red Bull or Harley Davidson. But for other brands, you might very well have the cure for world hunger and be met with a deafening wall of silence.
Before people will let you in, trust has to be built. That’s a critical component of the content journey. So, in other words, you can’t depend on a “build it and they will come” mentality — you’ve got to do the hard work of participating in the social contract.
Do you have any favorite tools or platforms that make a content marketers life easier?
I do not! Well, that’s not totally right — obviously, blogs are often a central part of the content strategy and they are published on a platform. Oh, then there’s List.ly, a toolset that allows you to not only create lists, but to invite users to collaborate in the list-making process. I love the fact that a blog post in itself can be participatory beyond the comment section, below.
How do you come up with content ideas?
If you’re an ardent reader of writers like Malcolm Gladwell or Dan Ariely, you’ll notice that they create a lot of stories around research that they’ve read about. The research journals in your industry can be incredibly rich sources of content. Of course, it means you have to do the hard work of reading those journals and discovering what’s prescient for you. Then you’ve got to dig in even deeper, so that you internalize the story-telling so that it can tell your story.
What social network is the best for our readers to connect and follow you?
I love connecting with people across all the networks — I’m really not a gated person at all. These days, I’m having the most conversations on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/ric.dragon, but I’m fairly active on Twitter, https://twitter.com/RicDragon, and Google Plus, https://plus.google.com/+RicDragon, as well. Of course, I love connecting on LinkedIn, http://www.linkedin.com/in/ricdragon, and use that to find people to meet up with when I travel.
Thanks, Ric. Pick up Content Marketing Strategies for Professionals and give chapter 9, “Social Media: Talking with People, Not at Them” a read to learn how to use Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and myriad social sites to develop customer loyalty, reach consumers at all parts of the buying cycle, influence the influencers, and of course, get a sense of a company bringing it all together in Ric’s “Case Study: Ford Motor Company Taking Content Seriously.”
11 Technical SEO Elements to Help Your Site Win a SERP Rank Gold Medal was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
SEO is an extremely competitive sport. So competitive, in fact, that sometimes competing for a page one ranking in the SERPs can feel a lot like competing in the Olympics, with the coveted number one SERP spot shimmering as a distant dream like one of Michael Phelps’s 18 gold medals.
Like the sizable number of factors that contribute to whether an athlete is able to snag the gold for her home country, there’s a corresponding list of ranking factors that contribute to whether a web page is able to beat out the competition and seize the golden first SERP spot.
At the top of both those lists not to be overlooked is qualifying to compete. For athletes this means training and paper work; for optimizers this means technical SEO. In both cases, you can’t just show up before a series of met requirements deem you eligible to stand at the starting line.
In other words, just like a swimmer can’t possibly win a race if they never qualify to compete, a web page can’t possibly beat out the competition and win a number one SERP position if crawl, server or indexing errors prevents it from being discovered, cached or recalled.
Technical SEO is all about making sure your website is eligible to take that first step off the starting line.
Because I know your ranking reports deserve to be filled with high-quality content decorated with bushels of number one SERP rankings (metaphorical gold medals), I’ve compiled this 11-point technical SEO guide to help you make sure you content gets to the game on time.
Please use this guide as a technical SEO primer, and then feel free to join me for a discussion of the topic on Google+, or – if you’re ready to make a big step toward being a SERP gold medalist – consider joining Bruce Clay in March 2014 for SEO ToolSet Training or an SMX SEO Workshop. Both are comprehensive ramp-up training sessions with ample one-on-one time.
11 Technical SEO Elements That Help Your Site Rank
1. Create an HTML Sitemap
An HTM Sitemap is a regular page on your website that contains a collection of links intended to help both humans and search spiders navigate your site. Since web crawlers use links to navigate from one page to another, having an HTML sitemap in the footer of every page of your website allows the search spider to enter your site at any page and then, from that page, systematically discover a significant portion of your other pages quickly via the Sitemap. Human users also reference the HTML Sitemap and use it to navigate your site, so human-friendly presentation and organization is recommended.
2. Create an XML Sitemap
An XML Sitemap lists all of the pages on your website that you want a search spider to crawl and index. The XML Sitemap is only for search spiders, so it doesn’t have to be pretty; it can literally just be a one URL per line list of links saved as a text file. To help ensure that all the important pages on your site get crawled and indexed, it’s important that you keep your XML Sitemap up to date. While an XML Sitemap doesn’t guarantee that all yours pages will be crawled or indexed, it definitely can help.
Learn more about web Design for SEO.
4. Make Your Site Speedy
Since Spring 2010 Google has been using website site speed as a known ranking factor. Google loves speed; Google Senior Vice President Amit Singhal has said it himself many times. One way to make your website faster is to clean up your code, since less code means smaller file sizes and faster load times.
5. Include a Robots.txt File
A Robots.txt file is a publically accessible text file that guides search spider crawling directives. It is placed at the root of a website host, and is commonly used to stop search spiders from indexing specific directories and designated files. It’s important this file exists, even if it’s empty. Approach your Robots.txt file with caution and make sure you don’t accidentally exclude any important files!
6. Be Thoughtful About Your Internal Linking Structure
Implementing a website siloing strategy can help search spiders more easily understand the theme of your content and its perceived relevance in relation to keyword phrases.
learn more about website siloing for SEO and the importance of site structure in the absence of keyword data.
7. Check Your Server Configuration for Errors
Search engines may reduce the rankings of a website if search spiders encounter web server errors. In severe cases server errors can cause web pages to be dropped from the index all together. In less severe cases they can negatively affect page rank as spiders are always looking for the “least imperfect” option and are likely to rank a cleaner, error-free site above a site laden with server errors. To aid your content’s rankability, make sure to regularly check your server for errors that need to be resolved.
8. Avoid Flash and Text Contained in Images
An old lesson that still remains valuable: Search spiders can’t “see” Flash content or text contained in images, so don’t use them to convey important information! Instead, use HTML and Alt tags to make your content crawlable.
9. Use the Canonical Tag to Make Sure Dynamic URLs Aren’t Creating Duplicate Content
Google can see and index dynamic URLs, like those that contain sessions IDs, but there is a chance the search engine will crawl and attempt to index each of your dynamic URLs as unique pages – which, if not prevented, could trigger a Panda penalty for duplicate content. To prevent this, make sure you use the canonical tag and Webmaster Tools to indicate the primary page you want Google to return in search results, and to tell Google to ignore the other dynamic versions of your page URL. Google calls this “setting your preferred domain.”
10. Make Sure Your Site is Optimized for Mobile
That said, since Google sees not having a mobile optimized website as a major user experience flaw – and they are always looking to rank the “least imperfect” websites in top SERP positions – it can be deduced that having a website optimized for mobile is essential to see improved rankings.
Google has several resources to help you improve your mobile optimization including this YouTube video explaining how to improve mobile pages, a Webmaster Tools checklist for mobile website improvement and recommendations for building smartphone-optimized websites.
11. Consider Using Schema Markup
Disclaimer: This recommendation is based on predictive intuition, not actual ranking-factor facts. Last year Matt Cutts publically stated flat out that Schema markup is not currently a ranking factor. In other words, Schema markup makes SERP listing more prominent – which can undoubtedly increase CTR – but the addition of Schema markup does not send any signals to Google that help a web page rank any higher.
That said, this is the reason why I am going out on a limb to suggest you might consider making Schema one of your technical optimization priorities for 2014:
We are in the era of the semantic web where Google is hungry for context and the ability to deliver page one results that answer queries, rather than repeating them back to searchers. Schema markup gives Google additional, crawlable information about the contents of web pages, as well as advanced information about a page’s theme and contextual purpose (for instance, consider product/offer schema markup). So, in my speculative opinion, I think it’s safe to say schema markup may be able to help Google further determine a web page’s relevance in relation to a search query – which could also help Google see your content as “less imperfect” than another competitor website. Why wouldn’t Google take into consideration all the available crawlable clues? If they aren’t already using Schema as a secret ranking factor, I see a good chance they will be in the future. (And if they don’t, I consider implementing Schema markup to be a no-lose SEO strategy since Schema is indisputably an incredible click-through driver.)
Technical SEO is Hard…
Like winning a gold medal, earning a top spot in the SERPs is hard – and so is technical SEO. If you’re new to the left-brain side of optimization and feel lost in the abyss of robots, siloing, canonicals, and Sitemaps don’t feel discouraged; even Michael Phelps had to start somewhere!
Please use this guide as a technical SEO primer, and then feel free to join me for a discussion of the topic on Google+, or – if you’re ready to make a big step toward being a SERP gold medalist – consider joining Bruce Clay in March 2014 for SEO ToolSet Training or an SMX SEO Workshop. Both are comprehensive ramp-up training sessions with ample one-on-one time.
The Biggest Video Mistake? Not Getting Started! Alyce Currier, Wistia’s Video Queen, Tells Us How was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
Video is seeing an eruption of consumer popularity and marketing interest. Sitting atop this volcano is Alyce Currier. For Bruce Clay and Murray Newlands’s Content Marketing Strategies for Professionals, we tapped Alyce as our go-to expert to help readers ramp up video marketing production. To be honest, it was obvious we were only skimming the surface of Alyce’s video production expertise, so we asked if she’d be so generous to share more tips and resources with us. Read on for:
- 3 tips to get you rolling if you just make the time
- the most common mistake she sees
- an incredibly educational primer on lighting
- her favorite video examples we can take notes from, and more.
When, after this small dose, you realize your business and your brand is ready for more from Alyce and her team at Wistia, consider attending Wistiafest May 20-22 in Boston. Talks on Wednesday and hands-on workshops Thursday will cover scripting, storytelling, lighting, shooting and even A/B testing videos.
BCI: Can you tell me your top three favorite learning videos and why?
Alyce Currier: I really enjoy CodeSchool‘s videos; they’re well-scoped and offer a good balance between creating human connection and showing examples. Moz’s Whiteboard Fridays are totally classic for marketers: they’re not flashy, but they’re packed with great information that’s helped them gain a very loyal following. In a more general sense I’m a big fan of videos in documentation; I can watch it whenever I want to instead of having to get in touch with a support person for something they’d just be repeating anyway.
Can you give me three actionable tips for video content that brands small and large can use for 2014?
- Start small: don’t make your front page video first. Instead, practice with smaller videos about your audience’s pain points.
- If you’re going to invest in equipment, get lights first. Camera isn’t as important: you can even use an iPhone to shoot acceptable videos these days. We made a video about building out your first lighting kit: http://wistia.com/learning/down-dirty-lighting-kit
- Try worrying less about view count and more about how you’re scaling communication and how engaging your content is to your core audience.
Editor’s note: Here’s the down and dirty lighting instructional video, an educational must-watch that will come in handy in that toolbox of a brain of yours.
What social network is the best for our readers to connect and follow you?
Our Twitter at @wistia!
We usually recommend treating YouTube like you would any other social network. There’s a type of video content that works well on YouTube, and you can make content specifically for that channel just like you would for Facebook or Twitter.
Can you share 2 or three of your favorite industry blogs?
Biggest video content mistake in 2014?
Not getting started! The best way to learn is to start small and give it a try, then iterate your strategy based on analytics and feedback.
Thanks, Alyce. Pick up Content Marketing Strategies for Professionals and give chapter 6, “Video: It’s Time to Shine” a read to learn how to create great interview content, how to use Google Hangouts and live-streamed videos for your brand, what to keep in mind for SEO and visibility, what makes videos work on YouTube, and of course, Alyce’s “6 Tips to Help You Get Started Creating Great Video Consistently.”
How to Stand Out in the Upcoming Content Marketing Glut was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
Content marketing: everybody’s doing it. In fact, a survey last year by Content Marketing Institute found:
- 92% of marketers use content marketing, and
- About 60% of marketers (both B2B and B2C) plan to increase their content budgets in coming months.
More proof positive of the content glut marketers face is the simple Google Trends graph measuring the interest in the search term “content marketing”:
With all of this content coming down the pike, the challenge facing businesses and marketers is clear: If everyone starts doing content marketing, how can my brand stand out?
This was the topic of a Google+ Hangout last Thursday hosted by Eric Enge: “Thriving During the Upcoming Content Marketing Glut.” With Eric, guest speakers Peg Fitzpatrick and Marilyn Moore tackled this tough challenge for today’s small business owners and marketers.
If like me, you haven’t used Hangouts before, think webinar — live broadcast with speakers appearing through webcams and audience members typing comments — but with easier accessibility. You can join the audience right from Google+, watch the live comment stream, and see the show again anytime on YouTube, where it’s automatically saved. Being part of the live show was actually exciting, there was a real sense of community in the comments, and I made some new G+ friends.
Here I’ve highlighted takeaways for content marketers from this episode of the Digital Marketing Excellence Show. Host Eric Enge pitched a slow ball with his opening question, “What is content marketing?” But the speakers (and commenters, especially Kirstin Hancock) quickly sped up the play.
1. What Quality Content Looks Like
The show began with a familiar definition: “Content marketing is sharing the right content with the right people at the right time.” Then the speakers moved on to the more challenging question of what quality content should do:
- Draw people in: According to Peg, if you’re just talking about yourself and your company, people won’t be interested. Create stuff that interests others.
- Help: If it doesn’t give value, Marilyn said, “Delete it.”
- Entertain: Peg pointed out that people go to Facebook and other social media sites during their free time. So be social and be entertaining.
- Be brand appropriate: Make sure your humor is appropriate for your company and brand voice. As an example, for a dry cleaning chemicals company, Peg mixes some science humor into the content.
2. How Collaboration Can Help Create Content
The speakers agreed that collaboration can be a fun way to create content and let all parties reap the audience-engagement benefits. Collaboration, they said, can be:
- Between brands: When two brands collaborate about something on social media, it creates an exciting “live” form of content marketing.
- On Pinterest boards: Multiple people or businesses can all add items on a theme, and all get the benefit.
- Multiple team members: If you have several staff posting for a brand, Marilyn said to make sure everyone is on the same page with a uniform brand voice and messaging (even while having their own personalities).
- Partners: Eric mentioned that at Stone Temple Consulting, they partner with others to produce studies. It helps, he said, if the partners do not directly compete with each other.
3. How to Build a Community
The best content marketing brings an audience into the conversation. But how can marketers build a community?
- Google+: You can literally start a “community” on this platform. Peg added that the way interaction flows on Google+ is better than on Facebook.
- Blog comments: People interacting on your blog posts builds a sense of community.
- Comment on others’ posts: Marilyn stressed that before you start posting your own content, you can start building relationships by showing interest in what others are saying by commenting on their posts. If you don’t develop an audience in this way first, no one will want to listen to you.
- Never stop listening: Interaction shouldn’t begin and end with you.
- Repost others’ content: Peg said to add some thoughts of your own at the top when you share a post.
- Be an expert: Eric referred to an article he just published stressing the need to “have a unique voice and some authority” when you start putting content out there.
4. Be Authentic, If Not Original
Marilyn pointed out that small business owners may worry, “What can I say compared to the content the big brands in my niche can put out?” However, she explained that it’s okay to cover the same topic if you present your content in a unique way. She then quoted Ryan Hanley:
“Authenticity is mandatory. Originality is NOT.”
For example, teachers all teach the same material, but they present it differently. You want your target audience to read your content and say, “Oh, I get it now.” This concept is freeing for people who may not be at the thought leader level yet in their fields.
5. Don’t Steal Content, Whatever You Do
Before you start republishing content by competitors, the above advice came with a warning. Don’t use other people’s ideas without permission. Here are Peg and Eric’s qualifiers for reusing content:
- Cite your inspirations: Peg keeps a running list at the bottom of blog posts she writes, citing all the articles she’s read on the topic that influenced her own content. Not just the sources she quoted, but also those that inspired her.
- Image sources have to be cited, too: You should give photo credits on Google+ images. Eric said that even stock photos you license usually need attribution, unless you’ve bought a higher level of permission. For example, Eric said Stone Temple Consulting negotiated a higher level agreement with Shutterstock after people started picking up they Pinterest images and reposting them.
- Pinterest images can’t be reused on your blog: Peg pointed out that this is a tricky thing, because on Pinterest everything seems to be “out there and free,” but it’s not.
Bottom line: the way you DON’T want to stand out is to be called out for using images or content unethically. As Peg quipped:
“Once you ruin your reputation, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. So don’t do it.”
6. How to Keep Content Flowing
Eric said in industries where many experts are all constantly pumping out content, how can you keep fresh content flowing? Here’s a list of ways to spur unique, great ideas:
- Hangouts: Have live conversations with people on Google+ and elsewhere.
- Google+ comments: Get ideas and even quote commenters in your posts.
- Repeat what worked before: Find older content that people liked and repurpose it in fresh ways.
- Answer questions: Ask what you would want to know, or look at customer inquiries. Then answer the question.
- Clear up misconceptions: Eric said sometimes he hears things that are so off-base, it motivates him to sit down and write a post to set the record straight.
- Crowd sourcing: Generate ideas by asking a question and getting responses from a group.
- Jot down ideas when you get them: The speakers all talked about keeping a notebook or other thing handy to capture the ideas as they come to them, whenever they come. Keep this list of “seeds” that you can write about later.
7. How to Find Your Brand “Voice”
“When you find your own voice for you or your brand, that’s when your content is going to be the best.” – Peg Fitzpatrick
The most interesting part of the dialogue came at the end, when they discussed how a brand can find its voice for social media. The guests acknowledged that it took some time before they got comfortable conversing online. Here are their tips for settling into your “sweet spot” voice.
- Let yourself be vulnerable: Peg said since it’s most natural to be in your own voice, “you just need to be you. You are putting yourself out there, but just do it.”
- You don’t have to be a bubbly extrovert online: Marilyn suggests that being personable is important, and you get better over time. She admitted that as a newcomer to social media she was too formal, and people didn’t connect with her very well.
- Be conversational: According to Marilyn, “I did need to loosen up and get more comfortable.” She did that by being conversational – not too heavy, not dumbed down, but just straightforward.
- Think about what you would like reading: If it’s interesting to you, then people following you will find it interesting, too.
- Choose three things to identify your voice and stick with them: Peg offered this super-practical tip — narrow down what your brand voice should be consistently, and mention them in your bio, reinforce them in your content (e.g., Peg’s three things are 1) social media, 2) marketing, and 3) positive).
- Introverts are not at a disadvantage: Social media gives introverts the opportunity to “just be on when you want to be on,” according to Peg. Eric, a self-admitted introvert, agreed and added that, “Who you are is a lot more than are you bubbly or not.” Getting comfortable with what you think and can say about a subject is a first step.
- Hangouts/videos are a challenge: Everyone is nervous at first about being on camera, but it gets easier.
- Jump into Google+ comments: Don’t be afraid to make the jump into comment threads (that Nike slogan came out again here).
- Be passionate and be an expert: Being an “expert” means more than just researching for 30 minutes in Google. You have to find what interests you, invest time to learn it, and look inside your own thoughts to create something better than anyone else that’s uniquely yours. As Eric summarized, “It doesn’t come for free.”
The small business owner’s perspective looking at content marketing might be “I don’t have time,” or “This was not what I signed up for when I went into business.” Marilyn said they simply don’t have a choice. Content marketing is “the name of the game now,” and businesses have to play the game by the rules. So she encouraged them to embrace it. Content marketing is “a wonderful opportunity to compete with companies of any size” that small businesses have never had before. Best of all, entry is free.
Content Marketing Strategy: More than a Dozen All-Star Professionals Reveal Insights and Tips was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
More than a dozen experts share their content marketing strategy insights and tips within the pages of Bruce Clay’s and Murray Newlands’s new book, “Content Marketing Strategies for Professionals” (buy it on Amazon here) – the ultimate guide to developing your own content marketing strategy for any content creator, marketer or social media manager that wants to stop wasting words.
In addition to Clay and Newlands’s experience-driven and field-tested knowledge, “Content Marketing Strategies for Professionals” taps into case studies, articles and anecdotes from Internet marketing powerhouses, renowned for their savvy in content strategy, marketing, public relations, media and SEO. The content marketing all-star lineup includes:
- Chelsea Adams
- Jordan Armstrong
- Michael Brito
- Lisa Buyer
- Jonathon Colman
- Andy Crestodina
- Alyce Currier
- Ric Dragon
- Kristi Kellogg
- Virginia Nussey
- Lee Odden
- Trent Partridge
- Adam Sutton
Read on for sneak peek of what content marketing advice each of these experts revealed in “Content Marketing Strategies for Professionals.” Among the contributors? A Webby Award winner, CEOs, journalists, authors, brand managers and even a Dragon.
The Content Re-Imaginer: Lee Odden
Repurposing Content and Collective Social Wisdom
Is your brand “sitting on all types of content and digital assets that could (be) repackaged, repurposed or curated into usefulness?” If it is, Lee Odden has outlined a strategy to maximize efficiency, capitalize on consumers’ short attention spans and build SEO relevancy. Odden writes:
“Using a template, you might have customizable expressions or paragraphs according to specific verticals or customer segments that accentuate unique benefits, data and customer goals. Then a skilled copywriter would review and make final adjustments versus writing from scratch about something that is essentially the same but meant for a slightly different market.”
The Facebook Strategist: Jonathon Colman
Prove the Value of Your Content with an Audit
Jonathon Colman provides a step-by-step process to evaluate the performance and quality of your site’s content. He explains what data is necessary and how to compile it, then how to make “honest, qualitative judgments about your content.” Colman writes:
“Go through each of your pages and examine them against your brand. Do they live up to your brand tenets and core values? Are they simple enough for your target audiences to use and understand? Do they inspire trust and build community? Do they meet the spirit of your voice and tone?”
For more than 15 years, Jonathon Colman has helped people and organizations build, find and use the best stuff on the web. Colman is a content strategist at Facebook and a Webby Award winner. Learn more at JonathonColman.org.
The Content Chemist: Andy Crestodina
Google Authorship: How to Do It and How It Affects SERP Rank
A Google Authorship rich snippet is a valuable commodity – Andy Crestodina highlights the benefits of implementing Google Authorship snippets and shares the steps to set it up. He also explains why Google Authorship is important for guest bloggers, as well. Crestodina writes:
“Think of Authorship as a ‘digital signature’ that verifies online profiles, puts a face to a name, and closely ties search marketing with social media. It was created to help people identify more relevant content, and — since relevance always takes precedence in search engine results pages — it tends to have a ranking advantage over content created anonymously.”
Andy Crestodina is a web strategist, co-founder of Orbit Media, and author of “Content Chemistry: An Illustrated Handbook for Content Marketing.”
The Business Builder: Michael Brito
Your Content Strategy: Defining Paid, Owned and Earned
Michael Brito teaches you how to leverage converged media. First learn what separates paid media and earned media, and why combining the two types of media results in an amplified campaign. Brito writes:
“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 or initiative. This is referred to as converged media. The same thinking has led to the recent surge in ‘native advertising.’ Sites such as Buzzfeed, Crave and Forbes are capitalizing on the opportunity to mobilize their lean but hungry editorial teams to create paid content for brands that lives alongside the site’s original content.”
Michael Brito helps transform brands into media companies by implementing content strategy, scaling community management and integrating paid, earned and owned media. Brito is the author of “Your Brand, The Next Media Company.”
The PR Pro: Lisa Buyer
Content PR Secrets: How to Optimize Events
Lisa Buyer calls for brands to look at events as opportunities to attract record engagement – from those attending and those not attending by “including the media, bloggers, and high influencers.” Buyer recommends thinking of an event like a journalist, and looking for every opportunity to broadcast an event. Spread the buzz of any event by “optimizing, socializing and publicizing” through live tweeting, liveblogging, video interviews, image sharing and more.
“Whether it be a conference, grand opening event, product launch, or some other gathering, there’s a lot of opportunity that can be found in news-jacking your own event. Plus, strategically curating images and videos to publicize events can also create a great social PR library and historical timeline … The trick is to start the process before the event, keep it going throughout the live experience, and then continue on after everyone’s gone home.”
The SERP Slayer: Ric Dragon
Case Study: Ford Company Taking Content Seriously
Social media presence and content creation are major initiatives. Ford has been a household name since 1903, and Ric Dragon takes a deep dive into Ford’s content marketing strategy, focusing on the fact that advertising and content are separate entities and sharing insights from Scott Monty, Ford’s global head of social media. Dragon writes:
“Content is playing a key role (in Ford’s marketing and social media campaigns). As Monty told me, ‘Our marketing is moving away from a campaign mentality, to an “always-on” mentality. That requires a lot of content.’”
The SEO-Minded Media Manager: Virginia Nussey
SEO Content Curation in Post Panda World
Finding the time to invest in a content marketing strategy can be a challenge for small and midsized businesses that manage their own media. For businesses looking to more content without sacrificing quantity, Virginia Nussey shares guidelines for curating content. By curating content properly (repackaging it with added value), businesses can increase publishing frequency by generating relevant content with SEO ranking potential. Nussey writes:
“Text should be unique – duplicate content offers a website no value. Google filters duplication from search results. Readers are unlikely to read duplicate content or share it with their networks. A general length guideline is 200+ unique words of editorialized content per curated story.”
Virginia Nussey is Bruce Clay, Inc.’s content manager. She has worked for the company since 2008 as a writer, blogger, industry reporter and communications strategist.
The Video VIP: Alyce Currier
6 Steps to Help You Build a Constant Video Stream
Video is integral to content strategy. According to Bruce Clay, the importance of video is only going to increase in 2014. More than ever can content marketers make use of Alyce Currier’s tips on creating quality, consistent videos. Currier shares how to maximize your production, remove creative barriers, schedule effectively, build trust and more. Currier writes:
“Just like blogging, video isn’t something you should do once and then be done with. To make it work, you need to figure out how to make video over and over again … Don’t start with your front page video! Instead, address some smaller friction points with video so you can experiment with lower-pressure content. For example, answer a support question that you get all the time, or make a video to accompany a blog post.”
The Social (Media) Butterfly: Kristi Kellogg
Who’s an Influencer?
Kristi Kellogg explains why social influence scores matter and breaks down how Klout and Kred, two leading apps that measure social influence. Learn how these social influence algorithms pull and process data from social activity across the Internet. Kellogg writes:
“Influence is determined with a myriad of engagement factors, including shares, mentions, likes, retweets, number of followers and quality of followers. It’s not, however, a race for followers — a high Klout or Kred score comes from quality of interaction, not quantity of interaction.”
Kristi Kellogg is a content writer at Bruce Clay, Inc., journalist and community manager. Her articles appear in newspapers, magazines and across the Internet. Get the whole story at www.KristiKellogg.com.
The Viral-Minded YouTube Strategist: Jordan Armstrong
Connecting Brands and YouTube Stars
Jordan Armstrong reveals his strategy for earning traffic on videos. Armstrong recommends that brands identify YouTube stars in your niche and working with them, and therein tapping into their already-established network. Armstrong explains:
“Companies and content creators/video publishers must work together in the right way. It’s the company’s job to creatively seek opportunities for YouTubers. It’s the YouTube publisher’s job to consistently create authentic and engaging content for their viewers. YouTubers who focus on working with the right companies and who stay open-minded about new opportunities always set new trends. Work with the right influencer(s) in your vertical … Focus on your marketing and identifying those YouTubers.”
Jordan Armstrong is a YouTube strategy expert, marketing consultant and entrepreneur.
The Data-Driven Content Writer: Chelsea Adams
How to Save Your Marriage with Content Marketing Strategy
Chelsea Adams shares her belief that the tenants of a successful marriage are the same tenants of successful content marketing. Learn how this creative view of content marketing can lead to a healthier content marketing campaign characterized by communication, authenticity, ethical behavior and goal setting. Adams asserts that Internet marketers need to:
“Realize how completely human content marketing is, and that every aspect of it needs to be approached with a “by humans, for humans” mentality.”
Chelsea Adams is a senior content writer at Bruce Clay, Inc. and SMX liveblogger.
The SEO-Focused Photographer: Trent Partridge
How a Fashion Gig Got Me Started with Image Marketing
As both an Internet marketer and a photograph, Trent Partridge shares his unique insights on optimizing photos so they top the SERP. Partridge shares his proven strategy for optimizing images and the results of one of an image campaign for a South Beach fashion show:
“Overall the organizers saw 23% of visits coming from image search, 10% from external links, and the gain of two power clients who said they found the organizers either through image search or an external link.”
Trent Partridge has been in the Internet and social media marketing industry for more than 14 years. Partridge is the author of “Internet Marketing for Music Artists, Models and Entertainers” and “MyPropFolio Social Media Workbook.”
The Persona Whisperer: Adam Sutton
Targeted Persona Strategy Lifts Sales Leads 124%
The better you know and understand your audience, the better you can tailor your content (and campaigns). When you’re looking to generate and convert leads, persona research is key. Sutton outlines the basics of persona research and shares the results of a case study. Sutton writes:
“Content quality is in the eye of the beholder. You have to understand the audience before you can “wow” it with great blog posts, white papers and webinars.”
If you want to take your content marketing strategy to the next level, “Content Marketing Strategies for Professionals” is the book for you. Got a content marketing question that just can’t wait? Share it in the comments, and one of our contributing experts will answer.
6 Lessons You Can (and Should) Learn from Matt Cutts’s Boss, Amit Singhal was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
Amit Singhal is senior vice president at Google, a Google Fellow, Matt Cutts’s boss, Star Trek’s biggest fan, and if something such as a “right brain” exists, he wants Google to have one.
He has been working in the search industry for two decades; in 2001 he led a dramatic rewrite of Google’s algorithm building the framework for the ranking system we know (and love?) today; and he, naturally, was the spokesperson chosen to announce the biggest algorithm change in Google’s history since… well, since he joined Google in 2001 — Hummingbird.
Amit Singhal is funny, he loves his life, he loves his job, he’s a founding father of the modern search industry, and to say he’s kind of a big deal is a grave understatement.
In anticipation of this SMX hour of power (how else could I refer to an hour-long conversation between the editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land and the proverbial editor-in-chief of Google’s search algorithm?), I took some time to review the last keynote interview Mr. Singhal had with Internet marketing mogul Guy Kawasaki at SXSW 2013.
Below are six lessons I learned from listening to Amit Singhal talk shop for an hour; all of which will help you do your job better, and two of which (the first and the last) may even make you a better person.
6 Lessons You Can Learn from Amit Singhal
1. Follow your heart, and do what you love because happiness is worth much more than any amount of money.
As of 2014, Amit Singhal had been in the search industry for 20-plus years, and with Google for 13 of those years. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in computer science from IIT Roorkee, a MS in computer science from the University of Minnesota Duluth, and a Ph.D. in information retrieval from Cornell University.
Between his Master’s and Ph.D studies, there was a time in the early ’90s when Amit’s studies were on hold and he was working full-time. When he began considering leaving his job to go pursue his Ph.D., he told Guy Kawasaki at SXSW 2013, most people encouraged him to keep working, telling him it was crazy to quit his job to go back to school and barely scrape by on an $800 per month graduate stipend. His family could not financially support him; how would he make it?
Despite the pushback, he packed up with his wife, quit his job and went back to school. Why? Because “my heart said ‘I want to do this. I want to get a Ph.D. in search.’” “I loved every moment of it,” he says, “And here I am sitting in front of you some 20 years later because I loved it. And that’s what it’s all about.”
When Guy asks him what career advice, if any, he has to offer people aspiring to make it in the technology business, Amit shares the advice he offers his own children: “Follow your heart, and do what it says. Because if you do, you will sleep happy and happiness is worth much more than any amount of money you can make.”
2. User experience should always be your number one concern. If it’s not good for your user, don’t do it.
Amit loves to tell the story of start-up Google turning down millions of dollars and refusing to place “dancing monkey ads” on its home page because Larry Page and the team all agreed that the ads would be a bad user experience.
In Amit’s book – and Google’s book – user experience should always be the number one priority. Care about your users, do it for them, and you will succeed, he tells Guy Kawasaki and his SXSW audience more than once in his keynote interview. “Users come first, we need to give them our services at an amazing speed, and nothing should compromise user experience. It is that belief that has helped Google in times when it could have made wrong decisions.”
When asked about voice search, Amit describes Google’s vision saying “I think moving forward the entire ecosystem will evolve to actually support that type of search – that future Star Trek computer – because that’s what users want.”
When probed about whether we’re truly supposed to “buy” the “romantic” tale of Google’s quest to save humanity one search at a time, Amit says: “Absolutely. What other way is there? Going forward, we collectively, as the Web community, are working for our users, which is the entire humanity. And we need to improve their lives, otherwise why are we here? Why are we doing this?”
When a SXSW audience member asks him what action a small business with limited budget should take to stand out from the crowd, Amit’s words of wisdom are to: “Work for your customers; do the right thing for your customers. That’s the way to stand out. No business is built over night and you shouldn’t expect your business to be huge over night. You acquire customers by working for them for years.”
The moral of the story? If it’s not good for your user, don’t do it. Millions of dollars are short-lived; happy customers can last a lifetime.
3. Mobile and wearable technology will be the way of the future.
Amit truly wants the Internet to serve people when they need it, how they need it. And for him, that means “designing search for the future, where it is everywhere” and creating “technology [that] should fade into the background so it can give you what you need as you’re doing what you love doing.”
If you glossed over them, there are three very important parts to Amit’s above statements: “it is everywhere,” “fades into the background,” and “give[s] you what you need as you’re doing what you love doing.”
What Amit is describing is a world where search is a part of your daily routine – not a disruption. He’s describing the voice-activated Star Trek computer that tells you things you need to know before you even ask for the information; a search engine that works fluidly with you so that you can use it while you are doing whatever it is you love. That means hands-free when you’re flying a kite with your daughter or mobile when you’re out of town looking for somewhere to eat.
In his SXSW interview, Amit brings up the cartoon we’ve all seen where the Neanderthal evolves into a walking Homo sapiens just to devolve into a slumped over tech guy in a computer chair. According to Amit we’re entering a “second wave” of this evolution where people begin to start standing up and start walking around again.
4. “You should think of good SEO as marketing to the Web search engine.”
What does the the man who is considered the founding father of Google’s contemporary search algorithm say when Guy Kawasaki asks him if he thinks “SEO is bull—”? He says “no, that would be like saying marketing is bull—.”
“You should think of good SEO as marketing to the Web search engine,” he says. Optimizing for search is “basically telling website owners what to do and what not to do so that search engines can actually index your site. [...] There’s a lot of value that SEO adds to content because it’s marketing that content to a search engine which is an important aspect of this ecosystem.”
In other words, implant the definition of “marketing” into this next sentence to set this point home – SEO is the process of creating, communicating, and delivering [to Google] offerings [content and web pages] that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.
Well said, Amit!
5. Want to rank on page one? Content and speed matter.
According to Amit, “A perfect search engine should know exactly what you mean and give you exactly what you want. And to build that perfect search engine we have to be comprehensive, relevant, and fast.”
This quote happens within the first three minutes of Amit’s SXSW interview with Guy Kawasaki and really establishes a theme for the rest of the keynote: relevant content and speed are important – not only to Google as a service provider, but to anyone wanting to rank well with the search engine.
When asked the most SEO question of all SEO questions – how can one go about improving their ranking in the search engines – Amit doesn’t recommend link building or authorship, or schema to his SXSW audience. Rather, he says “Overall, its all about high quality content and catering to your audience in a speedy website.”
“We at Google have time and time again said, and seen it happen, that if you build high quality content that adds value and your users, your readers, seek you out then really you don’t need to worry about anything else. You build high quality content that is adding value on top of what is already there, and [...] your site will automatically work. When it comes to companies, if they build fast websites that cater to their user’s needs, then, really, they can make a bunch of SEO mistakes and it wouldn’t hurt them.”
6. Don’t take yourself so seriously.
The first thing out of Amit Singhal’s mouth when he walked on the stage for his SXSW keynote interview was “Hi everyone! I am Andy Rubin. I’ve been working on my tan.”
Throughout the interview he banters with Guy Kawasaki, and tells him at one point that it will take more than 20 years for him (Guy) to become funny.
He uses technical terms like “dancing monkeys.”
He says the effects that he sees search having on the world make him so happy that he sometimes comes into work feeling like jumping up and down.
As mentioned in the intro, he’s kind of a big deal. But what makes him really kind of a big deal is that he doesn’t think he’s “kind of a big deal.” Sometimes attitude is everything, and Amit Singhal has a great one.
See Amit Singhal Speak in Real-time at SMX West 2014
I feel pretty comfortable saying that Amit Singhal is among the smartest men working in the 21st century – and that he might be able to beat a computer at chess. He’s a built from the ground-up American success story; the true embodiment of what can happen if you follow your passion, work really hard, and make yourself a lifelong learner.
If you won’t be doing any traveling this year, I recommend you pencil in an hour to watch all of the 2013 SXSW keynote interview with Amit Singhal referenced in this post. If you do have time to travel, I highly recommend you take the opportunity to see him speak live, and possibly meet him, at SMX West in San Jose. Tell them Bruce sent you by using this discount code: BRUCECLAYSMXW14.
Bruce Clay’s SEO Predictions for 2014, Google Trends and More in the SEO Newsletter was originally published on BruceClay.com, home of expert search engine optimization tips.
This month’s 2014 Trends Edition of the SEO Newsletter, features Bruce Clay’s exclusive 2014 predictions for the SEO industry. Readers will also find an article on the many ways to use Google Trends for research and data visualization and the monthly roundup of Internet marketing top developments, shifts and happenings.
Bruce Clay’s 2014 Predictions for the SEO Industry
Clay, an Internet marketing thought-leader since 1996 who is widely known as a founding father of SEO has shared his SEO predictions every year since 2006. In this eight annual installment, Clay identifies the changes he expects to see when it comes to spam treatment, SERP makeup, mobile search, local search, video search and voice search. Among Clay’s insights:
- “Google will introduce enhanced features to local results that businesses can buy, much like exists with PPC, or coupons with local listings. Local search results will be displayed for more than half of all searches across all devices.”
- “Google will continue its crusade to root out spam and in doing so may extend the breadth of its net so even ‘minor offenses’ will be identified and punished. Negative SEO will be treated by Google as a major penalty offense, with Google detecting it and punishing it at the highest end of the spam severity scale.”
- “Google will drop the number of ‘blue links’ organic listings on the first results page to five.”
10 Reasons You Should Use Google Trends for More Than Just Keyword Research
In this month’s back-to-basics article, Chelsea Adams dives into the features that make Google Trends much more than a keyword research tool. Be sure to review 10 Reasons You Should Use Google Trends for More Than Just Keyword Research. The multidimensional view provided by Google Trends can directly inform marketing strategy as you learn search trends and corresponding factors, including seasonality, geographic location and media coverage. The advantages of using Google Trends are many:
- The data is extremely visual and dynamic, which is especially useful for visual learners (65 percent of the population).
- You can assess and graph five keywords simultaneously.
- When performing a query, Google Trends operates on inferred intent, meaning that it includes misspellings and synonymous words/ideas.
January’s Hot Topic features Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt’s outlook for 2014, as shared in recent appearance on Bloomberg TV’s “Ask A Millionaire.” Schmidt reveals his predictions for 2014′s biggest change, 2014′s biggest disruptor and 2014′s biggest disruption. In Education Matters, get the 411 on the Internet Marketing Conference Calendar that lists every major Internet marketing conference the world over in 2014.
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