High Quality Back Links – More Important Than Ever

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“Google doesn’t care about the QUALITY of LINKS.”
“Affiliates & publishers make Google Money, Google WANT’s their sites to RANK HIGH.”
These are a few of the crazy claims I have heard over the last few years regarding quality of links needed to rank. Truth of the matter is that up until recently, Google didn’t care. Profile […]

Response: Is SEO DOA As a Core Marketing Strategy?

April 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Online Marketing, SEO

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Buyers influenced by search and social

Search & Social Influence – eMarketer

Reuters posted an article yesterday entitled, “Is SEO DOA as a core marketing strategy?” and trust me, I know better than to respond and fuel attention to a writer who is either naive or trying to stir up the bee’s nest with a contrarian title. I suspect there may be a bit of both in this situation. Basically, the article makes the argument that entrepreneurs “may want to reconsider pouring money into search engine optimization (SEO) as their primary marketing strategy” based on an ill conceived post by Chris Dixon “SEO is no longer a viable marketing strategy for startups”. The reason I am posting about another “SEO is Dead” diatribe, is that with the right context, I would agree.

Before you think I’ve turned coat away from SEO, read my comment in response to the Reuters SEO is DOA post:

If you don’t want prospects, customers, investors, marketing partners, job candidates or journalists to find your content via search, then by all means – don’t even bother with SEO.

As a standalone tactic, (which is not the same thing as core) SEO is not what it was a few years ago and that is a valid point.

As others in the article state, SEO works in conjunction with other marketing, advertising and public relations tactics to achieve business goals. To work best across disciplines, SEO needs to be a core principle in online marketing since it affects discovery anywhere something can be searched on – including social networking and media sites.

If a business isn’t optimizing for improved findability, one needs to wonder what they’re hiding from?

For some reason, there’s a set of people in the biz media that like to focus on a small segment of opportunists making big claims with no skills about SEO vs. the thousands of professionals that are making a huge impact on companies’ bottom line.  The fact that there are a few misrepresenting the whole is no different than any other industry whether it’s PR, legal or car repair.  Making the effort to understand what SEO really is can help those who are not practitioners, but in a position to write about it, see the difference between the exception and the rule.

I’ve been providing SEO services since 1997 and like other industries, SEO has changed. Stand alone SEO only makes up a small percentage of our current consulting engagements. Most of what we do includes SEO as an element working in concert with social media, content marketing, email, PPC, social advertising and online PR.  Companies that want us to “just optimize” their site are met with questions about how much revenue they’d like to grow. Then we work backward from those goals and develop the appropriate strategy and mix of tactics, which often includes SEO.

Masterful SEO practitioners possess a unique set of skills ranging from technical to creative. As technology and consumer behaviors online have changed, so have SEO best practices.

Search as a means of discovery is massively popular. Google sites alone handle over 88 billion queries per month. The sheer volume of content being produced can possibly be filtered in a qualitative way by personal recommendations on social networks. Search plays an essential role for people that need to find answers whether it’s on a standard search engine like Google or Bing, the internal search engine on Facebook or YouTube, or on mobile devices.  In fact, search engines are the most popular destinations on smart phones, not social networks.

For many businesses, SEO is absolutely the most viable core marketing strategy.  And that strategy often includes working in concert with other marketing tactics such as PPC, content, display and email. SEO and nothing else is a disadvantage compared to SEO that is amplified by a robust social media and content marketing program.

As long as there are consumers in need of search engines, there will be a demand for expertise that helps brands surface their relevant content where people are looking.  If a company’s target audience is prone to use search for information discovery, then building a website with search in mind is absolutely a best practice. As I mentioned in the Reuter’s comment above, if a website isn’t optimizing content so prospects and customers can easily find their content, what are they hiding? What’s the point of having a website?

If you’re a client side SEO practitioner or if you work at an agency as an SEO, what is your mix of stand alone SEO projects vs. SEO working in concert with other marketing?



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Response: Is SEO DOA As a Core Marketing Strategy? | http://www.toprankblog.com

Making the Leap: Egocentric to Empathy in Content Marketing

April 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Content Marketing, Online Marketing

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Egocentric to Empathy in Online MarketingImagine this scenario:  Company XYZ has developed a great business creating products and services, developing marketing programs that explain the features and benefits of those offerings and making sales.  The mix of SEO, advertising and newsletter is focused on explaining the solutions offered with the intention of educating and persuading prospects to buy. This is the way it’s been done in the past and it’s what current marketing programs are based on. Pretty common right?

But let’s also imagine in our hypothetical situation that sales growth has started to slow down or even slumped. Competitors are starting to eclipse Company XYZ in search results, the blog doesn’t really get many shares, likes, links or comments and it’s nothing but crickets chipring on the Facebook Fan page, on Twitter and the YouTube channel.  The staff responsible for creating content are running out of ideas. Seem familiar?

There are tens of thousands of companies in this situation: stagnant marketing and slow or loss of momentum.

Many times when agencies like TopRank Online Marketing are tapped to help established companies fix or step up the performance of their online marketing mix, one of the most common situations we see is the need to transition from an egocentric view of marketing to one of customer empathy.  I’m not saying these companies don’t care about their customers, they really do.  But SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing programs that are focused solely on the product/service Features and Benefits model are running their course.

The need for this transition is especially present with content marketing focused programs.  A Content Marketing: Discovery > Consumption > Sharing model means leveraging SEO, Social Media, Online PR and Email Marketing to help customers find, understand and promote company content to boost awareness, engagement and sales. But if the content topics are solely focused on what the company deems important, such as features and benefits, then there can be significant disadvantage.

Say Company XYZ has decided the mix of content on their website focused on explaining the products/services in the feature and benefit style. That means the company is deciding what’s important. It’s their egocentric view of their offering that drives content. When a company is solely focused on explaining its own point of view, they may be missing numerous and compelling opportunities to create the kind of content that gets shared, linked to and that inspires sales.

The transition from egocentric to empathy simply means looking at the company’s products/services offer from the customer point of view. Doing so opens up a bevy of content creation and social engagement opportunities. I know this sounds intuitive and obvious, but my experience over the past 13 years as an online marketer has been that common sense is indeed, the least common thing. :)

How to make the change? Here are a few simple steps towards opening up a goldmine of content marketing and social media engagement opportunity:

1. Create personas about your ideal customers identifying their preferences for content discovery, consumption and sharing. What are their pain points, what situations are characteristic of their need to buy your solution? Use those personas as customer segmentation guides for creating a Social & Content Marketing strategy.

2. Audit your existing content and reconcile it with the information customers really need to: buy, use & recommend your products/services.

3. Tap into Customer Service and Sales departments discussions with customers to find out what the most common questions are. Develop a creative strategy to answer those questions with content and media online, on an ongoing basis. Make a topic matrix in your editorial plan that will help you manage planned creation, optimization, promotion and measurement of this customer-centric content.

4. Use real-time and social media monitoring tools to identify questions being asked about topics of interest for your target audience and products/services mix.  Something as simple as a persistent query on search.twitter.com can reveal topics to cover in your content plan as well as engagement opportunities. Quora and Facebook are also useful in this way.

5. Crowdsource content from active customers and fans. Present challenges or requests for opinion and information on relevant topics from your social networks and customers to create new content shared with the community. Topics could range from the reasons why the category of products/services is important to innovative uses by current customers.  Recognize contributions publicly to reinforce participation and sharing behaviors. Find ways for fans to participate in a way that meets their needs and in doing so, help meet your brand’s objectives.

There are many other angles a company could take once the door of thinking like a customer is opened. There’s a time and place for brands to decide what information is best for customers but the days of using that egocentric approach as the driver for content is over. Tap into what’s important to your customers, build trust and engage them to create a more sustainable approach to content marketing success.

We have many, many smart marketers reading this blog, so how have you helped your organization think about content with more empathy towards customer needs? Are there creative examples you can share?

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Making the Leap: Egocentric to Empathy in Content Marketing | http://www.toprankblog.com

5 Reports on B2B Social Media Marketing & New Media Trends

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B2B Social Media Marketing 2011Staying on top of social media and networking trends is essential for B2B marketers. Forrester Research predicts, “B2B companies will spend $54 million on social media marketing in 2014, up from just $11 million in 2009.” via eMarketer.  Data and research are key to forecasting and strategy development but not many B2B companies invest the time and effort into such initiatives outside of link-baity Infographics.


Luckily, there are many analysts and agencies that serve the B2B Marketing industry that do conduct regular research into topics like social media marketing.

Here are 5 meaty reports published in 2011 that can help B2B marketers understand the direction new media and social media is taking in terms of overall strategy, industry trends, unique audience and application differences between social media platforms and measurement.

B2B Technology & Social Media Report

B2B Tech Marketing and Social Media: Which Social Media Channels Reach Tech Buyers? Schwartz Communications. This report focuses on B2B tech marketing and which social channels do tech buyers engage. There’s a lack of strategy in most B2B social media efforts and understanding of unique focus and appropriate use for each distinct social channel. This report covers specific social media platforms for B2B including: Blogs, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Report link (pdf)

The Infinite Dial 2011 Edison Arbitron Report

The Infinite Dial 2011: Navigating Digital Platforms. One of the keys to approaching social media strategy for B2B marketing programs is to understand industry trends. Since 1998 Arbitron and Edison Research have conducted a nationally representative survey focusing on trends in digital platforms exploring the expanding digital media and communications landscape. This new report includes data from 2011 and covers numerous platforms used in B2B social media marketing from Smartphones to iPads to Facebook. Report link (pdf)

2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report

2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report - How marketers are using social media to grow their business by Michael A. Stelzner of Social Media Examiner. This report looks at both B2B and B2C social media and how they differ including time of use (B2B have used social media longer than B2C), which tools are used (LinkedIn, Video & Blogs) and even SEO (B2B marketers are more likely to use SEO). Report Link (pdf).

B2B Social Media Marketing B2Bento

Social Media for B2B Marketing from B2Bento (Asuthosh Nair & Jaspreet Sidhu). This report covers why social media matters for B2B, tips on planning strategy, conducting research and establishing guidelines. It also proves b2b social media marketing examples including a product launch, demand generation & customer retention. Of course there’s also advice on monitoring and measuring results. Overall a good B2B Social Media primer. Report link (pdf).

Emerging Trends in B-to-B Social Media Marketing: Insights From the Field

Emerging Trends In B-to-B Social Media Marketing: Insights From the Field from BtoB Intelligence Center. This report is not free ($149) but chock full of charts (sample pdf) and insights into the current state of Social Media Marketing for B2B by answering questions about budgeting, strategies, tactics, metrics and integration. Specific attention is paid to dominant social channels such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, Customer Communities and YouTube plus the all-important ROI.  Report landing page link.

What new reports on B2B social media marketing have you found to be useful? (paid or free). What sub-topics would you like to see covered?

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5 Reports on B2B Social Media Marketing & New Media Trends | http://www.toprankblog.com

SENukeX and RankBuilder Releases: Buy It or Bury It?

April 22, 2011 by  
Filed under search engine optimization

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Unless you live under a rock, changes are good you have heard about the recent SENukeX launch last week. Even some of the biggest hype-marketers in the IM industry emailed out to their SEnukeX affiliate links.
The reception for the launch has been very warm and users are loving the new live diagram feature.
Since SENukeX has […]

29 Content Marketing Tactics to Attract, Engage & Persuade Customers

April 22, 2011 by  
Filed under Content Marketing, Online Marketing

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Content Marketing TacticsContent Marketing is a near and dear online marketing tactic and there’s been an explosion of attention and advice over the past year. SEOs and PR professionals are “seeing the light” if you will, of the value in creating and curating content that delivers value as part of their online marketing and public relations strategies. In an online marketing model with a defined strategy, goals and understanding of the target audience, what mix of tactics makes the most sense?

Many marketers limit themselves to a handful of content types and formats leaving substantial business to the competition. To be competitive, it’s essential to be open to a mix of content marketing tactics in order to provide relevant information discovery, consumption and sharing experiences for customers. This matters at the top of the funnel as much as it does after the transaction and into engagement and evangelism.

Here is a virtual smorgasbord of content marketing tactics for you to consider. Watch for our upcoming series that will drill down into each one of these tactics with an explanation, examples and creative ideas for implementation.

  1. Article Marketing
  2. Advertorial
  3. Blogging
  4. Case Studies
  5. Crowdsource
  6. Curate
  7. Digital Newsletters
  8. eBooks
  9. Email
  10. Images & Infographics
  11. Interactive Tools
  12. Microsites
  13. Mobile Applications
  14. Mobile Content
  15. News Release
  16. Online Conferences
  17. Online Magazines
  18. Podcasts
  19. Print Magazines
  20. Print Newsletters
  21. Real-World Events
  22. Research & Surveys
  23. Social Content
  24. Teleclass & Telecasts
  25. Traditional Media
  26. Videos
  27. Webinars
  28. White Papers
  29. Wikis

What did I miss?

Of course, the idea is not to use as many content marketing tactics as possible, but to use the appropriate tactic on a matrix of persona, stage in the buying cycle, Social & SEO considerations as well as position in the customer lifecycle.

What content marketing tactics have you focused on this year? What will you change for your 2012 planning?

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29 Content Marketing Tactics to Attract, Engage & Persuade Customers | http://www.toprankblog.com

Social Media for SEO vs. Customer Engagement

April 21, 2011 by  
Filed under Online Marketing, SEO, Social Media, social media seo, social SEO

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Social Media SEODuring an internal discussion at TopRank Marketing, the topic of defining social media came up and one area of interest was the difference in outcomes when it comes to incorporating both social media and search engine optimization. The social media tactics and expected outcomes when used for a SEO program are very different than social media intended to improve customer engagement outcomes. I think this is an important distinction because while social media and SEO work great together, the outcomes and business value can be very different.

Social Media for SEO

SEO helps connect customers with brand content through search engines. Content associated with both qualitative and quantitative signals tends to be rewarded with higher search ranking, driving traffic and hopefully, sales. In the scheme of things within the customer lifecycle, SEO is a tactic focused on aiding information discovery at numerous touchpoints, with an emphasis on the top of the funnel. Customers have some idea of what they’re looking for and search until they find it.

SEO practitioners have traditionally used social networks, news and bookmarking services to create and promote content in an effort to attract links. Those links can send traffic but are also signals for search engines to discover and rank content. Social participation is focused on mining topics and content formats that are most likely to resonate with the social community in order to increase the likelihood of becoming popular and subsequently exposing tremendous amounts of traffic and links from those readers empowered to publish – bloggers, commenters, journalists, site owners.

Since Google and Bing have started incorporating feeds from social media services like Twitter, Facebook and others, it has been revealed that links, text and author authority can also be used as signals for determining content ranking on real-time, news and traditional search.

SEO practitioners that hang a shingle out with “social media marketing” on it are essentially focused on content promotion through social networks, news and bookmarking sites to attract links.  Social networks and news sites can be very effective channels for indirect link acquisition.

A simple example might involve a marketer doing keyword research on search and social phrases to decide on a topic for an infographic. The content and name of the infographic are keyword optimized for the target audience that searches for those terms. The infographic would be posted to a blog with embed code for other blogs and promoted via social channels, public and private.

As the blog post with the infographic spreads in distribution and sharing amongst the social channels of interest, it gets noticed and linked to. Often times the link to the infographic will use the supplied name, which of course, includes the target keyword phrase.  Links with anchor text that reflects a desired keyword phrase from many other, relevant websites and blogs along with links in social channels like Facebook and Twitter provide search engines with robust signals to use in ranking that content.

So, the basic nature of social media for SEO outcomes is to create signals like links and to inspire others to create links that can drive awareness, traffic and as a signal for search engines resulting in better search ranking.

Social Media for Customer Engagement

Studies have shown that many corporate social media initiatives are managed by Public Relations departments and outcomes often focus on awareness, influence, engagement and relationship building.  Better relationships with customers and industry influentials builds the brand, inspires trust and positive association with what the brand stands for.  A strong brand drives sales because customers are aware of and trust the brand as a solution.

Social media programs centered around customer engagement might focus more on creating an experience for customers through content, tools, peer networking or special programs that allow them to contribute and be recognized.

An example would be a coordinated effort to connect industry professionals within a specific vertical market with a brand that offers a solution. The brand might create a community or forum with a blog component to publish useful information and industry news. That hub can then be surrounded by a Facebook fan page, Twitter, LinkedIn participation and a YouTube channel – all providing useful content that demonstrates effective use of the kind of solution offered by the brand and linking back to the hub. Community discussions are inspired by brand moderators and as the community grows, strong voices emerge and are recognized and empowered.

Content is created within the community as questions are asked and answered fueling the ongoing social content strategy for public information hosted on the blog and the outposts. The goals of such a program would be to create a destination of information that educates, informs and engages the target customer in a way that leads them to the logical conclusion to buy or refer the brand.

Social Media for customer engagement is to build awareness, trust and often results in higher value per sale, shorter sales cycles, more referrals and better customer retention on top of industry news and blog coverage.

Social Media and SEO: There’s a Better Way

Nothing brings tactical Social Media & Search Engine Optimization together for both discovery and engagement outcomes than content. An effective content marketing strategy coordinates target customer and influencer personas with social content plan and SEO tactics that help brands achieve both goals: improved search engine visibility of website and social content as well as social experiences that foster customer engagement.

I challenge marketers to stop thinking in silos and do some due diligence with their Search, Social Media and PR agency partners to come up with more elegant solutions to this opportunity. So much effort is wasted by not coordinating SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing together that simply nailing the basics can provide a competitive advantage.

Or maybe you’ve done this already? How is your business working to coordinate search, social and content marketing? What challenges do you face with inter-departmental coordination? With strategy and implementation? With reporting?

I’ll be speaking on this very topic at BlogWorld East in New York May 24th and at SES Toronto June 13th with examples of coordinated Social Media, SEO and Content Marketing in action. Hope to see you there.


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Social Media for SEO vs. Customer Engagement | http://www.toprankblog.com

Understanding B2B Social Media Through Infographics

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B2B social mediaIt’s a persistent question: Is social media and networking appropriate for B2B marketing?  There are many ways to answer that question and one of the most engaging is through statistics and information presented as an infographic. My team knows I’m a big fan of using visual assets to persuade and I’ve been a fan of information graphics since XPLANE’s amazing work started appearing in popular business magazines years ago.

Besides using infographics to explain social media in the B2B space, there are a growing number of B2B marketers using infographics in their mix, such as this case study about Cisco.

Here are 5 useful B2B social media marketing infographics that help tell the tale of social media and B2B marketing working together. Click on each image for the large version.

B2B Social Media Landscape

B2B Social Media Landscape – If it was possible to simply open the window of the CEO’s office on the 18th floor and look out onto the B2B social media landscape, this is what you would see according to Elearning Examples.

Social Media Statistics B2B

Social Media Facts & Figures for B2B Sales – Understanding Fortune 100 social media involvement can be motivating for small companies looking for direction and leadership in their online marketing. This infographic shares a number of those stats including the most popular social media sites for generating B2B website traffic.

Quickstart Guide to Social Media for Business

Quickstart Guide to Social Media for Business – B2B Marketers love process as much as anyone, so this infographic from GETIT COMMS offers 14 steps on a B2B social media journey from establishing goals to measurement.

LinkedIn 100 Million Members

100 million members and counting – The “go to” B2B social network of choice for over 100 million professionals is of course, LinkedIn.  This infographic celebrates key statistics and milestones for LinkedIn that are worth a look. Did you know Brazil is the fastest growing market for LinkedIn? Or, did you know that Service, Finance and High Tech are the most represented industry sectors on LinkedIn. Last but not least, someone is hiring a “Martini Whisperer” on LinkedIn.

Do's & Dont's of Social Media for Business

Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media for Business – They say common sense is the least common thing and by the looking at the behavior of many brands on the social web, it’s easy to agree. This infographic spells out behaviors for B2B marketers on the social web that are pretty much common sense for individuals. The problem is, brands often forget the human aspect of social media, so these tips are worth revisiting.

For even more B2B and business social media infographics, check out this handy list of B2B infographics on Marketo’s blog (client).

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Understanding B2B Social Media Through Infographics | http://www.toprankblog.com

ad:tech SF – Social Media & The New Laws of Creativity with Brian Solis

April 13, 2011 by  
Filed under Online Marketing, Social Media

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Brian Solis

After a great opening keynote presentation by Arianna Huffington, I was drawn into the nearby speaker ready room and ran into the always inspiring Brian Solis. Brian’s Marketing Masters track at ad:tech San Francisco was on my list for live blogging and as always, he shared a great mix of insights and inspiration about business on the social web.

I haven’t live blogged in a while, so forgive the rough edges :)

How do we improve the game for social media in business?

Why have people begun to hate the term “social media”? It’s about what social media is not. Social media is neither one to many marketing or many to many. It’s about 1+1=many.

Social media is less about the technology and more about the sociology. It’s the idea of real people connected to real people. It’s not about collecting fans, friends and followers but real engagement. You are at the center of your own universe and define who you connect & interact with. That’s the “egosystem“.

We are no longer competing for the future but for the moment. It’s about real-time and we’re competing for relevance. The future of brand equity isn’t about what you say about yourself, but what others say about you. Brand equity is the culmination of the experiences we share.

Consumers will decide brand equity not by what a company says on its website, but what others say about that brand on the social web. The future of media is through shared experiences. If brands don’t engage their customers (through the social web) what are consumers left to say?

Most social media marketing is superficial – people are avatars. Contests to gain friends, fans & followers are not engagement. We have to stop looking at people as a pair of eyeballs and start thinking about creating experiences. We’re after an audience of an audience with audiences.

It’s not content, but context that’s King. They way brands are approaching social media isn’t necessarily what customers want from those brands via the social web. Find out: Ask customers what they want from the brand through social media channels.

Companies need to design social experiences that result in tangible outcomes and value for customers. Customers will break up with brands who do not deliver value now and over time. “Like” is not the objective.

[Exact Target & CoTweet study on why consumers disconnect from brands on the social web]

It turns out that obtaining tangible value is the top reason consumers connect with brands on the social web. So it’s not about “earning” the like or follow, but delivering value as part of an ongoing engagement effort.

The key to brand and consumer engagement on the social web is for brands to design meaningful social experiences that turn into tangible value for customers. 5 I’s of social marketing: Influence, Integration, Ideation, Insight, Intelligence. Instead of brands chasing influencers, they become social influencers.

Brands need to have a plan – after you attract a customer as a fan, what do you want them to do? How can you influence behaviors and outcomes?

How do you enter the consumer trust zone? Either by providing information, experiences or through another connected consumer. Once you gain trust, the doors are open for engagement. Engagement is defined by the result of the outcomes from shared experiences.

Social objects are the future of marketing and help transmit the brand story and influence outcomes.

If you are competing for the moment, how do you keep your program valuable and “on”. Once you have a hit, keep it going. Move from a campaign perspective to continuum. Example, Old Spice. Great campaign but since it was a campaign, it ended. What if the videos were designed to create an outcome? What if they were structured to be useful and add value over time to keep Old Spice in the conversation beyond the few days of the campaign?

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ad:tech SF – Social Media & The New Laws of Creativity with Brian Solis | http://www.toprankblog.com

3 Essential Social Media SEO Tips for Advertisers – ad:tech San Francisco

April 12, 2011 by  
Filed under Online Marketing, search engine optimization, SEO

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Golden Gate Bridge San FranciscoToday I’ll be speaking at ad:tech San Francisco with one of my favorite people in the Search Marketing industry, Melanie Mitchell, who is a Senior VP of Search Strategy at Digitas. She’s tasked a panel including Simon Heseltine, Rob Snell and myself to talk about “Modern Search Engine Optimization”.

While SEO is a billion dollar industry, many companies focused on advertising are quite new to how SEO might fit within an online marketing strategy. With plenty of outdated and mis-information online amidst a fast changing industry, it can be a challenge to have confidence in what’s true and best practices. Few marketers want to invest in something they don’t quite understand. Or at least not understand where it fits for connecting the brand and customers to drive revenue.

So part of the education process is a framing of what SEO is and more importantly where it fits within a digital marketing mix. While there may be appreciation for what SEO could do, there’s plenty of opportunity to clarify Search strategy, applications, business value, workflow and essentially where SEO might fit within the marketing mix. To that end, here are few tips:

SEO Best Practices

1. What are a few best practices for getting your content out in front of the competition on today’s search engines?

Companies are creating content in many forms, whether it’s editorial or advertising. One of the ways to ensure engagement and value from that content is to make sure it’s findable. SEO is the primary method consumers use to discover new products and services that they then go and purchase. It only makes sense to be where your customers are looking. If you’re not there, then your competition certainly is.

SEO isn’t some wild animal that’s never been seen in real life. It’s a perfectly reasonable complement to web design, content strategy, social media, public relations, recruiting, customer service and any other function that publishes content online. If you have content that should be found online, it should be optimized. For marketers new to search engine optimization, here are the essentials:

  • Pages and digital assets are “findable” by search engines that copy the web
  • Keywords are incorporated into page copy and links between pages (on and off site)
  • Content is promoted via social channels and attracts links from other, topically relevant websites

Focusing on those three things in your Content Marketing Strategy takes care of the essential blocking and tackling of SEO. Incorporate successful execution of those tasks throughout your organization. That means, anyone in a position to create and promote content is aware of the potential SEO impact of their actions. Keyword glossaries are shared with content creators, copywriters promote the content they create through social networks and marketers analyze performance data to continuously improve content creation, optimization and promotion in ways that are most relevant to the target audience.

brand content SEO

2. What information for your brand and your Web site matters most to search engines?

Content designed to sell products and services is the low hanging fruit for SEO. Marketing is usually the department that funds investment in outside consultants or internal SEO staff. The drive for marketing to increase search traffic and online sales and leads is strong, so increasing revenue takes priority over other functions.

I would challenge marketers to think a little more about their customer’s information needs and how they can add value to the ongoing relationship. The information discovery needs for marketing and customer acquisition are the focus of most SEO efforts, but there are many other reasons prospects and customers use search. There are also other types of content besides products and services published by brands online that can affect the bottom line if easily discovered through search.

Of course marketing content should have the emphasis, but consider applying SEO best practices to improve the search discovery of other online content that will help advance business goals. News and public relations content for example. Journalists are working in bare bones newsrooms and increasingly using technology to make up for a lack of research resources. They use search to find news sources, releases, information about people and companies. Make your news content more “findable” and you can increase unsolicited media coverage.

A similar principle applies to job listings. It costs companies money to pay recruiters and certainly it costs to not have key positions filled. Make it easy for candidates to find job listings and you may increase the number of candidates for hire and positively affecting meeting talent acquisition goals.

Yet another opportunity for the application of holistic SEO is optimizing FAQ and knowledge base information. Think of the things customers most often ask about and not only compile those questions and answers, but make sure they are easy to find via search. Reducing the number of calls made to customer support reps can lower costs for the company but it can also lower the frustration and increase customer satisfaction because the answers to what they’re looking for are so easily found – via search.

Bottom line, focus on content that will be meaningful for your customers first and foremost. Then apply SEO best practices to ensure it’s easily discovered when and where they’re searching. That might start with marketing and extend holistically across other departments and businesses within the corporation.

SEO tools

3. What are some takeaway tools for building your SEO roadmap?

Marketers LOVE tools. Actually, it’s a little scary how much people will gravitate towards a flashy new SEO tool that either does nothing meaningful but does it in style or simply repackages what existing tools can do. With that in mind, the following tools can be quite useful for advertisers that want to get their feet wet with practical SEO.

Other useful tools for auditing, managing and researching for a little more savvy SEO enthusiast include:

Thanks to my Twitter network for suggesting some of these tools they most often recommend for marketers that are new to SEO.

Clearly, there are many, many other SEO tools out there but a tool is really only as good as the exertise and intentions of the person using it, so I recommend trying a few of the basics out before seeking outside help. Then you can decide the right approach and mix of tools according to someone with experience and that can understand your individual situation.

Advertisers looking at SEO as a channel for driving relevant traffic should gain some fundamental understanding, test, seek outside advice if necessary and be patient. This isn’t renting traffic, it’s growing traffic organically with a flat rate investment in time, resources and budget. The longer good SEO practices are in place the better the performance. Not only is a holistic SEO approach a great complement to paid advertising, it provides additional benefits in terms of cost deflection and increased effectiveness of other business communications.

Update: Here’s an embed of the presentation I gave to complement this blog post. Enjoy!
(Feedback is greatly welcomed)

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3 Essential Social Media SEO Tips for Advertisers – ad:tech San Francisco | http://www.toprankblog.com

Opportunity for Better B2B Marketing with Social Media & SEO

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B2B Content Marketing Social SEO

Oftentimes marketers budget, plan and implement online marketing tactics in silos. When it comes to SEO, Social and Content Marketing – integration is the best practice and that means a tremendous competitive opportunity. Why Social Media and SEO for B2B? The intersection of social media and search engine optimization is a perfect match for B2B Marketer for several reasons:

Long B2B buying cycles have always involved engagement through content. The opportunity for coordinated Social SEO is in part inspired by buyer information discovery, consumption and sharing habits that have changed with the influence of social technology and search.

Influence of Search & Social Media on Buyer BehaviorConsumers are increasingly using both search and social to discover content. In a recent study by GroupM and comScore, only 1% of consumers were led to a purchase via Social Media but 51% were channeled via search and 48% through a combination of search and social media.   I’ve heard B2B buyers are people too :) and these consumer behaviors are also reflected, to some degree, in the B2B space as well.

B2B companies have adapted well to implementing search marketing programs. They’ve also begun to experiment with social media marketing. In fact, according to the recent SME Social Media Industry Report (pdf), B2B marketers are significantly more likely to employ search engine optimization (71% B2B vs. 65% B2C) than B2C marketers.

According to Forrester, B2B social spend will hit 54m by 2014 and BtoB Magazine reports that 93% of B2B companies are using some kind of social media application.

However, there’s a big difference between testing social media marketing and effective implementation with Social SEO and content marketing.  Here is a video interview I did at SES London recently on this very topic with Tracy Falke. We discuss the intersection of Social SEO and Content (Content Marketing Optimization) as well as the importance of integration and how companies can leverage across an organization.

Click here to view the embedded video.

If you’re a long time SEO practitioner, are you coordinating content marketing and social media with search engine optimization? Does your social media SEO and content marketing extend beyond products and services content? What challenges do you face at getting the people responsible to implement a coordinated effort?

One of the reasons I ask that second question is because I’m speaking at ad:tech San Francisco tomorrow on the topic of Modern Search Engine Optimization, which is essentially going to be a holistic view of how Search, Social Media and Content intersect. I don’t believe a company can achieve great success in competitive categories without this triumvirate of tactics.

Consumers and B2B buyers alike search for more reasons than just to buy something and companies can realize business value by making sure their content is easily found through search for those myriad reasons.  Consider the customer lifecycle of content needs and it spells out the opportunities for optimization for better search visibility.  The result?  Increased revenue of course, but also reduced costs, improved efficiency and reach for things like Customer Service, Recruiting, Investor and Public Relations.

An integrated and holistic approach to Social Media, SEO and Content Marketing is a great opportunity for B2B marketers to boost their effectiveness and create competitive advantage. Hopefully corporate marketers can demonstrate the vision for coordinating disparate resources in the organization and realize the collective benefit outside of just marketing.

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© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
Opportunity for Better B2B Marketing with Social Media & SEO | http://www.toprankblog.com

Will QR Codes Gain Mass Adoption?

April 7, 2011 by  
Filed under Mobile, Online Marketing

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QR Code Side of Building

QR Code on Moscone Center San Francisco during SES 2010

QR codes are getting quite a bit of buzz lately and as a self-professed marketing nerd, I find them to be a clever way to connect mobile consumers with online digital content. There have been some pretty creative implementations of QR codes for promotions and mobile marketing too. You can put them anywhere printing is possible and even places it’s not.

A few interesting places I’ve seen them besides normal print advertising include: side of a building, t-shirtstattoos and turning Central Park in NYC into a huge board game.

But as creative and interesting QR codes are, I’m a bit skeptical in terms of mass adoption. For some reason, I can’t imagine consumer behavior changing to start scanning codes for things when they could just search or enter a URL. There’s also the technology that needs to be adopted by more devices.

Granted, I was a bit skeptical of Foursquare and Twitter too, but also Google Wave and Second Life.

What do you think?

Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post’s poll.

Feel free to elaborate why you think QR codes will be a hit or flop with the mass market in the comments below. Let’s see who can change my mind.

Thanks to Matt Dickman for the tweet that inspired this post :)

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Will QR Codes Gain Mass Adoption? | http://www.toprankblog.com

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