At the heart of effective content marketing lies search engine optimization (SEO). Indeed, speak to any successful online marketer and they will likely say that an effective content marketing campaign lives or dies by its SEO. The process of adding targeted keywords to online text is a subtle art that these same marketers will also say is difficult to master. That’s why it’s equally important to look at what doesn’t work with SEO as much as what does work.
Those new to online marketing often like to charge right ahead with their SEO and stuff in as many keywords as possible into their content. But with Google’s Panda and Penguin updates, this process is no longer tenable. Business owners and marketers need to focus on quality over quantity as far as their content marketing is concerned. And above all, they should try their best to avoid the traps and pitfalls that plague newbies to the world of search engine optimization.
With that in mind, here are some tips to avoid poor strategizing when it comes to content marketing.
Commit for the long term
The mentality of “write it and forget it” is, unfortunately, all too prominent among those new to the world of content marketing. Online content needs to be maintained and cultivated, much like a living organism. Those who fail to maintain their content run the risk of competitors gaining the upper hand and poaching valuable keywords.
Involve SEO specialists in web design
This may seem like a no brainer, but the amount of clients who settle on a web designer without learning of the designer’s SEO prowess is staggering. There are many designers out there who can create a slick, user-friendly site, but many of them don’t know the first thing about proper optimization. That’s why it’s important for clients to not design their website in a vacuum and take on a partner who specializes in SEO. The most important thing is to involve this designer in every step of the web design process.
Drive traffic to the site
Many of those new to SEO will focus on achieving as high a rank as possible without the slightest consideration as to whether that ranking will drive traffic. Instead of focusing on one or two keywords and angling for the best placement, consider the hard data and what rank it predicts will best drive traffic to a particular site.
This is crucial, as the creation of silos within an organization can severely limit success. If an organization has an SEO specialist as well as PPC and PR partners, well then it is vital these groups talk. All marketing groups can inform one another. And by having an information exchange within these groups the organization can benefit. For example, PPC and SEO can exchange information on high-volume keyword phrases which can maximize efficiency with both these programs. Bringing all marketing departments together on a regular basis via conferencing or chat is a great way to gain the upper hand.
These are just a few risks to avoid when trying to put together effective SEO. As long as the content’s overall quality is solid and these types of mistakes are avoided, expect the SEO process to be a breeze.
Jason Bayless is a professional blogger that gives small business and entrepreneurs SEO advice. He writes for BestSEOCompanies.com, a nationally recognized comparison website of the best SEO firms in the United States.
One of the report categories from MarketingSherpa that I’ve been reviewing for a long time, as in 5 or more years, is their coverage of Search Engine Marketing. In particular, the Search Engine Marketing Benchmark Report – SEO Edition. (See last year’s review here).
The sub-title is appropriately a great indication of the theme for this guide: “Research and Insights for Creating and Capitalizing on a Rich End-User Search Experience. This is a far cry from the days of “Boost Your Search Engine Rankings and More!”. As Online Marketers have matured, there is an increasing focus on optimizing for customers and customer experience vs. the sole KPIs of rankings and traffic.
Authored by Research Analyst Kaci Bower, MarketingSherpa’s 2012 Search Marketing Benchmark Report SEO Edition is broken down into an executive summary that outlines key findings from the survey from which the report is based, 10 chapters on everything from integrating Social Media & SEO to Mobile tactics to SEO Success Stories. There’s also an appendix that includes charts from the research.
If you’re a nut for data, charts and research based insights, this guide is priceless. The section on Planning and Tracking budgets as well as the Agency Perspectives offer helpful information for consultants and of course the SEO Objectives/Tactics, Local, Mobile and Content Marketing sections offer plenty of tactics and insights for practitioners.
If you read Online Marketing Blog, you know we’ve been promoting the notion of “optimize for customers” over a sole focus on keywords. That perspective blends well with the customer-centric theme of MarketingSherpa’s SEO Report.
Just think about the richness of users search experience today in stark contrast to the bland search results made up mostly of just web pages several years ago. With Google in particular, Universal Search, Personalized Search, Social Search, Instant Search, Local/Mobile, Preview and even the currently suspended Real-Time Search all factor together to give users what they’re looking for. The diversity of search experience is the basis for the research and recommendations in the 2012 SEO Guide.
One of the interesting insights from the research in this report includes the disconnect between marketers that consider SEO Strategy an important challenge to overcome, but not a a top objective. That mismatch in priorities can be costly in terms of ineffective prioritization of tactics and inefficient utilization of resources. The real irony is stated in the report, “Interestingly, increasing measurable ROI ranked higher as an objective than developing an actual strategy to do so!”
Another key finding concerns the importance of Content Marketing, which was rated as one of the most effective tactics for SEO but also one of the most difficult to implement. Content has been a hot topic for years, with many SEOs dismissing “content is king” as a whitehat SEO battle cry. But of course, relevant (optimized) content is effective for link building, sharing and certainly for inspiring prospects to become customers. The SEO Report identifies many other top SEO tactics as well, segmenting by organization SEO maturity and industry.
I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. MarketingSherpa has done a great job at providing data sliced and diced every way you can imagine with this year’s version of the SEO Report. The survey findings presented according to level of SEO maturity is especially helpful for companies that have been utilizing SEO best practices for some time, but want to continue to advance their progress.
For organizations that are just starting to investigate a more holistic approach to SEO to professionals that want to incorporate SEO best practices in their areas of expertise (like Public Relations, Web Design, Interactive), the 2012 SEO Guide is full of data, examples and insights.
You can get a sneak peek at the Search Marketing Benchmark Report, SEO Edition and more information about the report overall on the MarketingSherpa website (affiliate link).
With the boom in brands publishing content and the explosion of user generated content from social networks, the competition to stand out is only going to get more challenging for companies that rely on the web to attract new business. Online Marketers that adapt, evolve and scale through a more holistic approach to marketing online gain both short and long term benefits, distinct from competitors reliant on the latest tactic du jour.
The process of change starts with acknowledgment that change is needed and then extends to identifying goals, understanding target audiences & communities, developing an approach and tactical mix for reaching business objectives. Assessing a starting point is usually accomplished through an audit, research and benchmarking for future performance tracking.
When taking a look at our TopRank Slideshare account for past presentations I found one on Social Media & SEO from back in 2007 offering the following advice:
- Inventory your media & content
- Keyword optimize your media
- Research social media communities
- Make it easy for readers to save/share content
- Create profiles and grow a network of friends
- Participate in the community
- Measure results
That’s as solid advice today as it was then. As a advocate of the power of optimization (not just search engine optimization but optimizing online marketing for better performance) it’s interesting how much hasn’t changed in the past 4 years. No matter what BS certain mainstream publications or social media pontificators say, SEO brings a competitive advantage to an online marketing mix. It may not be the silver bullet it once was, but SEO is an amplifier and catalyst to Social Media and Content Marketing. What smart marketers know, is how and when to apply SEO best practices to extend the reach of their social media and content marketing efforts.
Last week I gave my first presentation at Social Media Breakfast Minneapolis St. Paul #SMBMSP on the intersection of SEO, Social Media and the importance of Content in Online Marketing. In order to scale the impact of Social SEO & Content, internal advocates need to become Social SEO Heroes that can lead, educate and support the organizational change necessary to empower business social media and SEO literacy. This presentation starts with context and perspective, then provides a framework and even specific tactics for the Content Marketing Trilogy of Discovery, Consumption and Sharing. I hope you find it useful and share your feedback in the comments.
I’m looking forward to giving a more Content Marketing centric version of this presentation at Content Marketing World: “A Content Marketer’s Guide to SEO and Social Media Strategy” on Thursday, Sept. 8th in Cleveland.
After that I’ll be giving the opening keynote at the 2nd Annual Minnesota Blogger Conference with a presentation on how I’ve used blogging to grow our business from a tiny lifestyle company to one of the best known agencies for online marketing in the U.S.. I hope to see you there.
© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
#Optimize Your Online Marketing With Social Media, SEO & Content | http://www.toprankblog.com
Recently I spoke with Content Strategist, Margot Bloomstein, who was conducting research for an upcoming publication about Content Strategy intended for a variety of audiences. In particular, we discussed productive interactions and exchanges between Search Engine Optimization professionals and Content Strategists.
Organizations advance their reach and engagement goals through content and Strategists work to audit, develop strategy, plan, create and maintain that content. Ahava Leibtag provides an excellent and practical approach at CMI in her post, “Creating Valuable Content” which outlines how content should be: Findable, Readable, Understandable, Actionable and Shareable.
SEO and content strategy intersect in more ways than optimizing web pages with keywords. My take on Margot’s question, “How does SEO and content strategy interact?” starts with understanding customer segments, behaviors and preferences for information discovery, consumption and sharing. Knowing what customers care about and how those concerns and interests manifest as search keywords and social topics folds very well into the keyword research practiced by professional SEOs.
Keyword Glossaries and Editorial Plans aid in planning relevant content that is inherently optimized for customers and target audiences. Specific keyword optimization is appropriate as well, but the end content product becomes much easier to find, consume and share if there’s empathy with customer needs translated into topics and keywords from the start. Readers of this blog know that I’m a fan of optimizing for customers before search engines and that you can certainly do both.
An Editorial Plan outlines content types, topics and the keywords they’re optimized for. It indicates where and if the content will be re-published and re-purposed. The plan also shares what channels of distribution will be used to promote the content and share it via the social web. There very well may be an augmentation of the search optimization effort for the social web that emphasizes popular and relevant social topics vs. search keywords.
Planning, creating, optimizing, promoting and engaging with content on topics that customers and target audiences care about is where modern SEO has evolved: Content Marketing Optimization. SEO expertise, which also includes knowledge of how search engines crawl and index websites, content management systems, the impact of how websites are coded and organized, provides a powerful ally to Content Strategists when goals and objectives are in alignment.
I think the publication Margot is researching will provide valuable insight not only for SEO, but any other element involved with an organization’s content from web developers & designers to copywriters and marketing executives. In case Margot reads this post, what tips would you share on how your area of expertise best interacts with Content Strategy?
Note: On August 18th, I’ll be giving a presentation on Content Marketing & SEO at the SES San Francisco conference which will be a deep dive into the topic with 90 minutes allocated. I hope to see you there.
I recently had an interesting discussion with Ron Jones who is writing a book specifically on using keywords for online marketing called “Keyword Intelligence“. He was researching for the content marketing portion of the book and we talked about where keywords fit. These kinds of discussions are great for blog posts so here are a few ideas for you on keywords, SEO, Social Media and content.
Content marketing is customer centric and therefore often focused not only on creating information to educate prospects and customers about product/service features and benefits, but also about topics of interest relevant to the situations that cause people to need or want those products and services.
Effective content marketing informs prospective buyers of what they need to know in order to help them arrive at a logical conclusion to buy and recommend. Relevant and engaging content facilitates that outcome.
“Great content isn’t great until it’s discovered and shared.”
Understanding the information needs of the customers you’re trying to reach is the first step in creating a great editorial plan. The role of keywords in a content marketing program come into play as a manifestation of knowing what customers are interested in and what their pain points are. What are they searching for? What are they talking about on the social web?
Great content is best optimized, so to speak, for the intended reader first and foremost. At the same time, that content is thoughtful about keywords that can attract new readers through search and social recommendations. Great content is amazing. Great content that is findable and shareable is even better.
Here’s an Example Scenario: Company 1 2 3 wants to focus on “Round Widgets”
- Target Customers Care About Round Widgets That Cost Less and are Environmentally Safe
- Target Customers Search for “round widgets”, “low cost widgets”, “green widgets”, “environmentally safe widgets”
- Target Customers Socially Discuss “save money on widgets”, “widget impact on the environment”
- The Content Plan Outlines An Array of Content Objects Supporting Search Keywords & Social Topics
- Content Plan Tactical Execution: Blog Hub, Video Tips, Shared Customer Widget Photos, Facebook Page for Widget Environmental Tips, Email Tips & Issues Newsletter, Widget Deals Twitter Account, Guest Blog Posts Using Target Keywords on Widget Blogs, Contributed Articles to Consumer & Environmental Publications on Widget Cost Saving Tips and Being “Green”
By coordinating customer needs with content creation, optimization and social publishing, there’s a much greater and more relevant reach for the investment.
Keywords guide content optimization for findability through search engines as well as a focus on topics that customers care about and are discussing on the social web. Keywords are also useful guides for the blogger and publication outreach.
Keywords drive the “optimize and socialize” efforts of content marketers to share, promote and increase the reach of information that is relevant for customers who may buy or refer brand products and services.
The mistake online marketers often make is to solely lead with keywords (vs. customer needs) thinking that optimizing for the most popular phrases are all that is needed to maximize customer reach. High ranking content that doesn’t resonate with readers to share or with customers to buy and refer isn’t an effective approach. Also, customer information needs will vary according to where they are in the research and buying process.
Keywords and topics change over time so even after a customer is acquired, it’s important to monitor, measure and refine as needed.
My question for you: Are your content marketing and optimization efforts focused solely on high popularity count keywords? Are you digging into both search keywords and social topics as you formulate your content marketing strategy?
Essentially, the key questions discussed in this panel centered around what is it that we’re doing as marketers that could be considered as SEO vs. Marketing. Other topics included: Google +1, personalization, evolving nature of SERPs, “Trust Rank”, analytics and other technical aspects of SEO were discussed.
Moderator: What does search engine optimization mean anymore? The thing about SEO is that there are many technical considerations. What ranking factors still matter? Should we still be considering tags, H1, Titles, etc.
Terry: Title tags are one of the biggest factors.
Jim: Beyond the URL the first thing the search engine will see is the title tag. You can gain a great deal of power from your title tag.
Jim: Being a great SEO isn’t being a magician. It’s about being a great marketer that uses SEO.
Terry: I’ve always followed the Document Object Model to identify what HTML attributes are important for SEO. Then you have other formats like RDFa and microformats.
Jim: It’s important to remember we’re writing for two audiences: people and search engines.
Terry: Spiders don’t buy anything
Jim: Titles help people navigate the website
Moderator: Is link building a SEO tactic or a marketing tactic?
Terry: Its a marketing tactic. I’ve been link building before I started doing SEO. If you look at link building without SEO then you’re pretty safe when it comes to Google guidelines.
Audience: How does personalization and Google +1 affect SEO?
Jim: Search engines will continue to innovate and change. Just because things change doesn’t make optimization any less relevant. We may need to change how we do things and use different sets of tasks, but you’re still doing things to make it easy for search users to find your content.
There’s not a lot you can do with personalization when it comes to SEO. Localization and personalization are very close to each other. Except personalization is mostly informed by your behaviors.
Garry: Social is an area where Google wants to move into for signals, but I don’t think they want to have a high reliance on any one source. Google +1 is their attempt to mitigate reliance on external social signal. It does have some correlation between personalization and localization.
Terry: The most important part of personalization, is that when people are logged in, Twitter becomes very important. Tweets can take up a lot of SERP screen real estate from . People say +1 is a ranking signal, I don’t believe that.
Terry: As far as personalization, I try to use personas and optimize according to customers. You’ve got to look at audiences, not just keywords.
Garry: Personalization and +1 is still new. We’re going to have to wait a little bit to see it gain some traction and see if it will have an impact.
Moderator: With Twitter, we know Google uses the firehose of data. With +1, content posted can appear on a Google profile and can also appear in real-time search results. Is that SEO or marketing?
Audience: Now that traditional SEO is changing, what are some of the key things we need to be looking at for the “new SEO”
Jim: What’s old is new. In the beginning there was Alta Vista. Search engines of that day were just about acquiring content. Content was king before links became commoditized by Google.
Today, quality content, making your sites accessible and usable is important. Usability is polite. Accessibility is the law.
Audience: The +1 is all user generated content. I don’t see anyone outside of techies ever using it. What do you think the shelf life will be? Also, what about Bing?
Garry: Buzz died pretty quickly because it was so similar to other services. With +1 it depends whether it gets traction or not.
Bing conversion rates overall have been very good with PPC. Bing is also a center of innovation and could be a real competitor.
Terry: +1 really is only known and used by techies. There’s nothing obvious about what will happen with +1 for users, whereas with other sharing buttons, you can tell it’s for Facebook or Twitter.
Moderator: +1 on PPC ads provides better demographic data for advertisers and can positively affect quality score. Google has a lot of data that shows if you integrate social, with display and PPC you get better overall lift.
Panel: Google is a bit naive about how they approach social. They have engineers deciding to make things that will be cool, but don’t really make an effort to explain to users why it’s important. Google +1 is a good example of this. There are many reasons why advertisers and Google would want people to use +1, but not many compelling reasons for people to use it.
Jim: Is SEO dead. SEO dies every day. We spell die wrong. It should be “dye”. SEO is dying, changing every day.
Audience: I’ve not seen having a mobile optimized landing page or site helps your Google ranking on a Google mobile device or search.
Terry: I’m of the opinion that “mobile” sites will be obsolete because HTML5 will improve. Mobile and website from a code perspective will converge.
Garry: Is an optimized site on mobile a great user experience when you have to pull back on certain features to accommodate mobile limitations?
Terry: If you’re looking at your users with mobile, you’ll give them a different experience than on the web.
Audience: When you’re logged in, it seems everyone has a YouTube or Gmail account these days. How many queries happen when logged in vs. logged out?
Terry: Since caffiene you’re pretty much always logged in.
Garry: If you’ve ever logged in, the cookie will persist whether you’re logged in or not.
Terry: Google is also pulling data from Chrome and the toolbar, whether you’re logged in or not. Keep in mind advertising networks like Google’s DoubleClick can read those cookies too.
Audience: Can you name the top 10 signals you’d advise someone to use that is a large player, software, international, high end. That already has #1, #2 ranking positions. What are your top 10 signals for the “uninitiated”.
Jim: Titles, description meta tags, text and links
Terry: Title, copy and links
Garry: Agree with Jim. Quality of content is king because that’s what will attract links.
Jim: Site structure and quality of site structure is also important.
As Google puts the squeeze on traditional ranking signals and subsequently, Search Engine Optimization tactics, the growing emphasis on social signals has many SEO practitioners getting more serious about social engagement.
While search marketing has been a key part of our consulting practice since 2001, our Online Marketing agency’s work with Public Relations and blogging since 2003 has helped us develop an appreciation of the influence and engagement outcomes possible with social media pretty quickly, vs. solely as a promotion channel for links. That sentiment is growing rapidly as of late with many traditional SEOs.
You too, may have noticed an increase in SEO practitioners (both agency and client side) singing the song of Content Marketing and Social Media. As this shift has occurred over the past few years, I’ve observed a series of phases of approach. According to your situation and market, your mileage may vary with these characterizations, but maybe you’ll see something familiar and get a clearer picture of where your SEO and Social Media integration is headed.
Phase 1: SEO With Social Profiles, Sharing Widgets & Blogs
Many Search Engine Optimization pros started their social media adventures with bookmarking and news services like Digg, StumbleUpon, Delicious and Reddit. Promoting content to these channels, especially through “power users” could inspire content to go hot, hit the home page and attract spikes of traffic. The increased exposure attracts more links and subscribers.
Social bookmarking services and profiles within social networking sites allow for users to include links back to their own websites creating a potential source of link traffic and light signal for search engines. Many of those links were subsequently made “nofollow”. Such links are simply a matter of filling out forms and ultimately no more impactful than directory submissions.
Blogs are used to publish content in a more search engine friendly way than most CMS are capable of and commenting on other blogs provided great links until they too, were made “nofollow” by most bloggers and blog CMS.
Success is measured in SEO terms: links, rankings and traffic.
Phase 2: Social Media Optimization
Coined by Rohit Bhargava, SMO has had different meanings for different people. Marketers develop the social profiles they’ve created into more robust sources of information with some building out of social networks. Developing social channels helps to create an audience to promote content to in the hopes of attracting links.
Blogs are often the hub to the social media spokes for optimized content promotion for traffic and link acquisition. Attention to building blog subscribers and email lists is stressed. There’s an honest appreciation for creating useful content for specific audience segments and a developed skill in the art/science of content formats, types and writing headlines that inspire sharing.
Success is measured primarily as SEO outcomes like links, traffic and conversions. Social KPIs like fans, friends & followers are monitored as well as basic engagement metrics like comments and interactions. But those metrics are more about “social proof” than social ROI.
Phase 3: Integrated Content, SEO & Social Media Plan
By now, SEOs are more likely to identify as Online Marketers and understand the key to a killer social SEO strategy is content. Audience categorization becomes persona development which guides content marketing strategy. The keyword research expertise from SEO is factored into Editorial Planning of web and social content.
While content is planned for certain outcomes with segments of the community, it’s an adaptable online marketing strategy that allows for opportunistic content marketing and social promotion based on social media monitoring and trends. Social media savvy isn’t just for Marketing and Public Relations, but as much of the organization as possible.
Anyone in a position to create content, engage with customers and prospects online has basic skills with search and social keyword glossaries, social search and social networking on behalf of the brand.
To maximize the relevance of the Content Marketing Plan, search keywords and social topics representative of customer interests are factored into scheduled editorial for web, social and mobile content. Content creation and promotion is coordinated across functional areas like Advertising, Public Relations and Marketing as possible.
The findability of content is improved through keyword and social topic optimization. Social content that is easy to find through search can help grow the social network. As the network grows, so does word of mouth for inherent promotion of useful content that attracts links, shares and comments. Those social signals can be gauged by Google in combination with other SEO ranking factors to improve search visibility of brand web properties.
It would be realistic to add other phases, but I’m trying to be more practical with this post. I think this approach of an adaptable, customer-centric and content focused strategy that leverages topic optimization for both search findability and social engagement is where many online marketers will find themselves sooner than later.
What do you think about these phases? Phase 3 is a tall order to fill and I think many marketers will see a blend as their reality. If you have an appreciation for the impact coordinated Social SEO & Content can have, how would you characterize your organization’s approach?
I’ll be elaborating on these phases and more later this morning at OMS Minneapolis in a session called “Develop a Killer Social SEO Strategy“. I hope to see you there.
At BlogWorld Expo in New York this week I presented a session about Dominating Your Niche with Social Content and SEO. It was crammed with information and I know there are many online marketers looking for practical advice on business blogging and blog marketing that didn’t attend. Based on the blog marketing we do here at Online Marketing Blog and in the consulting that I do, here are 7 practical steps online marketers can take for social media and SEO success with a blog.
All marketing efforts should start with a goal and means for measuring success, so I do not get into specifics on those tasks in this list, but focus more on the content and promotion.
1. Social SEO Personas
While blogging evolved out of personal expression, business blogging is less about corporate egocenticism and more about empathy with customers. Customer centric content for blogging is more relevant and does a much better job of engaging. In the way that direct marketers segment customers by key characteristics, online marketers that blog can create buyer personas to create more relevant experiences for their readers.
Personas are customer profiles (preferences for information discovery, consumption & sharing) that represent groups of customers that a brand wants to engage and do business with. Information from Personas drives keyword research & optimization, content plan and promotion. More about persona creation here. So one of the first things a blogger should do after defining objectives and general audience, is to understand who they’re trying to reach by developing personas.
Collect data through reader / customer surveys, analytics, social monitoring and other tools to form a profile. That profile represents topics, behaviors and preferences that can translate into search keywords, social topics, social channels, editorial calendar and promotion plans.
2. What is your unique selling proposition?
When people (or search engines) visit your website, is the primary topic crystal clear? With the increased competition in search and for attention in social conversations, it’s essential for blogs to stand out. Being able to articulate your Unique Selling Proposition helps distinguish your content the value of your blog content for people and search engines. The screenshot above shows a blog that is crystal clear in it’s focus. The result is reflected both in popularity and search visibility (#1) for highly competitive phrases like “digital photography“.
Developing a Unique Selling Proposition for your blog (h/t SEOBook) is pretty straightforward: Identify the key benefits of your blog’s content and how you will address customer/reader pain points. As you communicate your USP, be specific, concise & show proof. It’s also important to live your USP so that it’s a key component of your messaging.
3. Search & Social Media Keywords
Personas and your USP represent the intersection of customer interests and the goals for your blog. In order to activate your blog content for effective discovery via search and social media channels, it’s essential to create a search phrase keyword glossary for Search Engine Optimization purposes and a social media topic glossary for Social Media Optimization.
SEO Keywords: Resources like Google’s keyword research tool are a great start for finding which words and phrases are in demand, relevant to the content you’re publishing on your blog. It’s tempting to be egocentric and use whatever language you want, but if there is an expectation to attract significant search traffic and an interest in using language that resonates with a community in search of what you have to offer, keyword optimization of content is very appropriate.
Social Topics: Social topic tools that work like a SEO keyword tool are very rare and a to really get into useful source information, there’s a lot of manual research necessary. However, to get started, tools like socialmention.com offer a list of social keywords (bottom left of search results page) that can be downloaded as a CSV file for use in your Social Topic Glossary. Social keywords represent topics of interest to the people your blog is intended to reach and engage. By researching these topics and the specific language the community uses to express their interest, your blogging can be more effective at being relevant and shared on the social web.
The SEO Keyword and Social Topic glossary provide guidance towards editorial plans and specific phrases/topics can be mapped to content for search and social media optimization. It’s a great management tool that keeps SEO and SMO efforts accountable.
4. Create a Content/Editorial Plan
Keywords inform content and documenting an Editorial Plan for your blog can ensure that content is true to the goals of the business and interests of the community that reads it. An content plan also offers ideas and guidance, months in advance, which is priceless when bloggers hit creative roadblocks. This is inevitable, and after 7+ years of blogging myself, I can’t vouch enough for the guidance of an Editorial Plan.
Keep in mind, such a plan is a guide – not a set of hard and fast rules. It’s effective to schedule recurring themes with posts, like “Thought Leadership Monday”, “Practical Tips on Tuesdays”, “News Roundup on Fridays”. But it’s also important to allow for wildcards, because opportunities will come up spontaneously based on events within your company or the industry that require blogging. And you don’t want to delay publishing important news or a reaction to news, just because it wasn’t planned for that day.
The Editorial Plan defines the application of keywords in topics to be covered, categories, titles, tags and how/where/when the posts will be promoted. It also allocates for the future repurposing of appropriate blog posts.
5. Search & Social Media Optimization
Optimizing content for search on websites like Google and optimizing social content for ease of discovery and sharing within social channels is essential for reach and engagement of blog content. Optimizing for search & social media is the one two punch of blog marketing. If SEO efforts are initiated with an existing blog, then a SEO audit would be completed, including a review of the blog templates and configuration, existing content, internal links and links from other websites. If you’re starting a new blog, then SEO would be baked in to the editorial plan via the keyword glossary.
Optimizing for search is about helping search engines do a better job of connecting readers with your content. It’s not about tricks or manipulations. It’s about providing search engines and people what they need to find, consume and be inspired to share your blog content.
Optimizing for social media is about search as well, as in the search that’s possible within Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, etc. But SMO is also about optimizing content editorially to resonate with social audiences. It’s about ease of discovery and sharing through things like feed distribution and widgets that make it easy to ReTweet or post to the reader’s favorite social sites.
SEO and SMO are about making life easy for both search engines and people to connect with, interact and share your blog content.
6. Links: Internal and External Acquisition
Links between pages and links acquired from relevant websites in the industry provide a good user experience and strong signals for search engines when they crawl, index and rank web pages. Following best practices for internal linking is one of the most impactful things a blog can do to help website realize SEO benefit. For example, a tips blog that cross links the keywords relevant to specific products being sold gives readers and search engines a quick and relevant way to move from editorial about how to use and get benefit from a type of product to a page that actually sells the product.
Attracting links from other relevant websites as pictured in the diagram above is essential for attracting new visitors to your blog, directly and indirectly because of the effect relevant links have on search engine visibility. What’s important to remember is that links to your blog home page are important, but relevant links into specific category or individual blog posts is essential External link sources that are relevant to broad topics that link to your home page or category pages provide the user (and search engine) with a very relevant connection. Links from niche sites to your specific blog posts do the same.
There are myriad ways to attract links for blogs ranging from commenting and guest posting to creating content that attracts links from other bloggers and the media.
7. Content Promotion
Content isn’t great until it gets shared. A lot. That doesn’t mean a blogger should aggressively promote every post. It does mean that when a particular post is especially promotable (you would know this because you planned for it in your Content Plan) then it warrants special attention. Blog content can be promoted in a variety of ways and effective promotion is tied to the quantity and quality of the networks you’ve built. That includes readers and subscribers of your own blog, an email list, Facebook Fan page, Twitter, LinkedIn and other relevant sites where people with common interests interact and share.
Some content promotion is automatic, like RSS feeds, syndication of blog posts to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn or content syndication partnerships. Other content promotion might be tied to the content itself, like using industry thought leaders to crowdsource insights into a topic (your keywords) of importance to your readers. Those participants will often help you promote the post. You can also reach out to your network and suggest or share relevant posts they might be interested in. Commenting and being social on/offline are also effective promotion methods.
The bottom line with content promotion is that great content that isn’t promoted vs. mediocre content that is promoted in a relevant way, will often lose in terms of traffic and therefore meaningful engagement with a greater number of readers. The amount of content being published on a daily basis creates levels of competition never before experienced, so promotion is essential to stand out and get noticed. But it has to be content that’s WORTH promoting.
Summing it all up.
The implementation and refinement of these steps is a work in progress. The web continues to change in terms of technology and how people use it. It’s essential that companies follow an adaptable online marketing strategy when focusing on the social web and search engines. Opportunities will reveal themselves in web analytics and social media monitoring and the promotion efforts outline above apply to those real-time marketing situations just as well as tasks included in a Content Plan. Hopefully these guidelines are useful to you and if you need more specific information, you’ll likely find it in blog posts we’ve published in the past. At TopRank Marketing we do this kind of consulting on a daily basis so there’s a lot of rich information published in our archives.
What other types of insight about blogging and blog marketing would you like to see? What are some of the biggest obstacles you’ve had (and maybe overcome) when it comes to implementing blog marketing tactics like those mentioned in this post?
© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
Blog Marketing Strategy: 7 Steps to Social SEO Success | http://www.toprankblog.com
It’s funny when you work in an industry for a long time that the basic things you create to make life a little easier can save others who are new to the field, a lot of time. I’ve done a few webinars and speaking events in the past few months where one of the tools suggested was a Keyword Glossary (spreadsheet) for managing category and page level optimization, keyword mapping and competitor keyword mapping.
Another tool was an Editorial Plan that documents articles/blog posts, media, promotion and planned re-purposing. There are basic building blocks for becoming more efficient with search engine optimization tasks, but I’ve received a lot of requests for them. I thought they might be useful to our readers to use for inspiration to create their own and maybe even modify and mashup into something better.
Below are screen shots which you can click to see larger versions.
After conducting research using one of the various keyword research tools, organizing that information in a useful format like a Keyword Glossary helps SEOs manage their on page optimization and it brings a measure of accountability as well. The example of above shows a matrix of competitors sites that have been optimized for the target phrases, a list of primary and secondary phrases with measures of popularity and competitiveness. The phrases are also mapped to category levels or individual pages so you know which pages are being optimized for what keywords.
It’s no mystery that we like blogs as an online marketing, Social, SEO and content marketing tool. Planning content through an editorial calendar (as a magazine other publication would) is essential for producing content that is of interest to the target audience, that represent target keywords, and keeps authors on track and flush with ideas on what to write about.
The spreadsheet above shows dates for publishing, titles, keywords, categories, media used, cross-posting, promotion channels/tactics and future re-purposing of the content. Organizing an editorial plan like this helps online marketers gain maximum value for their investment into content creation and also makes curation more valuable.
The best tool or format depends on your own needs and applications. That’s why I don’t link to the actual spreadsheets – at least part of the reason.
However, will be making the actual spreadsheets available at BlogWorld New York and the Vocus User’s Conference in Baltimore. Be sure you check out my sessions if you’re attending those events.
What kinds of templates have you created for managing SEO and content marketing tasks?
© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
Core Content SEO Tools: Keyword Glossary & Editorial Plan | http://www.toprankblog.com
There are many reasons companies invest in Search Engine Optimization ranging from a desire to attract new customers through online marketing channels to diversifying customer acquisition to ego. That’s right, ego. Not every marketer makes SEO investment decisions based on pulling in prospects and customers to brand content for engagement and conversions.
Often times, brands think of themselves as the leader in their category and therefore think their website should top Google’s list for queries on generic industry terms. The trouble is, leading an industry offline isn’t the same thing as being the BEST answer for a search query online. Chasing after such terms is very much driven by ego and not unlike a fairy tale of chasing after unicorns where there’s an expectation that being #1 on a single word will magically solve their problems.
However, going after broad industry terms isn’t a complete waste of time. When ego-driven SEO is productive, it’s geared towards building brand reputation and PR value. Of course, by “PR” I mean public relations, not page rank. The affinity and credibility that comes from being in a top position for a generic industry term can add a lot of value to online public relations efforts, recruiting and investor relations.
Achieving top placement on broad keywords can certainly drive a substantial amount of website traffic. In fact, TopRank Marketing has quite a few clients that have top spots for generic industry phrases and some with single word terms sending a good portion of organic search visitors.
In terms of buying cycle, broad queries tend to be “tire kickers” and have value for creating awareness and education but not conversions. And that’s ok, because the search experience isn’t just a single event – especially in B2B or with more sophisticated buying decisions. But brands that want those top spots need to understand what it takes to translate their offline industry dominance to search engines like Google and Bing.
A while back I had a customer that said he wanted to be #1 on Google for the word “brain”. This client had a blog with a few thousand uniques per month. While many SEO consultants will talk about how tough that will be and suggest options, my first response is to always ask “Why?”. Understanding motivation (chasing unicorns vs. a fighting chance at achieving goals) is essential for assessing the value and contribution to business goals.
The client wanted to have top visibility for “brain” because it was a fairly relevant and highly popular search term. Top placement for such a word would send a significant amount of traffic and hopefully sales. A few things to consider in such a situation include:
- What is the potential contribution to website goals in what timeframe for a first page or top of fold position for the phrase?
- What resources in what timeframe might it take to achieve this goal?
- What are the current brand content and digital assets available to work with?
- What is the current inbound link profile for the brand site?
- What is the current position for brand content on the desired keyword(s)?
- How many search results pages (SERPs) are there for the keyword(s)?
- How many of those SERPs contain the exact match keyword(s) in title tags, on-page titles, in URLs?
- How many inbound links are there to the top ranking pages for the target keyword(s)?
- How many inbound links contain the exact match keyword(s)?
- What is the distribution of website types as link sources? (news, blogs, web pages, .edu, .gov, etc)
- How often are the top webpage URLs mentioned in Tweets, FB updates and other social streams?
- What is the link acquisition growth over time for the current top pages for the target keyword(s)?
- How many pages on the current websites showing well for the target keyword(s) are specifically optimized for those terms?
- How old are the sites currently showing well for the target keyword(s)?
- How much content is dedicated to the target keyword(s) on and offsite for top pages?
- What is the difference on key metrics like quantity/quality of optimized pages, inbound links and social mentions of brand content vs. pages that occupy the top 5-10 positions for the target keyword(s)?
A competitive assessment plus a forecast of resources, timeframe and business impact can paint a clearer picture for brands that want to chase after “unicorn” keywords and SEO. When budget is not an issue at all, then by all means, satisfy basic business case requirements and go for it. But unlimited budget is rarely the situation. Most SEO programs operate within a scope of work and resources must be allocated according to the SEO strategy.
In the case of the “brain” client, a presentation of the numerous hospitals, universities and government websites plus the websites that had thousands of pages and many years head start with link building resulted in the conclusion that going after “brain” would be a losing proposition. Especially within the scope of available hours. The decision was made to go after a mix of keyword phrases representative of the interests potential customers might have in the cilent’s offering. Better to go after keyword phrases that are achievable within a shorter time frame resulting in business outcomes like sales, than allocating a substantial portion of the program to a keyword that might take a year or years to achieve a first page placement on. This client’s blog has now achieved upwards of 350,000 uniques per month focusing on long tail phrases and opened up a new business model for advertising.
Does this mean, going after all broad industry keyword terms is chasing keyword unicorns? No. Go after the broad phrases or word(s) if:
- There are substantial resources for content creation (creativity and diversity), link building, online PR, social media and networking and reverse link engineering.
- The brand site is nearly the online leader in content and links for the desired keyword(s) and simply needs SEO refinement, targeted link building and process adjustments internally
- The acquisition of top placement for the broad phrases is forecast within a reasonable time period and with a desirable outcome in comparison to resources and budget necessary.
Companies that expect to drive customer acquisition and ongoing engagement through search should be focusing on customer-centric keywords anyway and not on ego phrases that give them a warm fuzzy with little chance of returning business value. We’ve experienced a focus on keywords that represent consideration and purchase buying cycle behaviors to be more achievable more quickly. The interesting thing is, over time, broad phase visibility can still occur.
The fork in the eye of my logic is when a senior executive with the brand simply wants the unicorn, period. They want that trophy and the internal marketer/SEO vendor are charged with finding a way to make it happen. If budget and resources can allow for succes – great. If not and logic fails, there’s not much more you can do.
What’s your decision process for going after broad or single terms in a keyword mix? Do you dismiss in favor of long tail? Do you see it as a challenge and go after it anyway? Do you evaluate on the criteria I’ve listed above? What additional criteria would you include?
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 [...]
Today 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:
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.
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.
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.
- Google Keyword Tools – Great way to research keywords
- Scribe SEO – Analyzes pages and suggests keyword optimization edits
- Hubspot Page Grader – Rates your site’s pages according to SEO criteria
- SEMRush – Competitive Google ranking information and keyword valuation
- Majestic SEO – Link analysis
- Open Site Explorer – Link Analysis
- Google Analytics – Measure just about anything on your website or coming to your website
Other useful tools for auditing, managing and researching for a little more savvy SEO enthusiast include:
- SEOmoz Tools
- Raven Tools
- Screaming Frog SEO Spider
- Wordtracker – Wordstream – Keyword Discovery
- Ontolo Link Building Tools
- Xenu Link Sleuth
- SEO for Firefox
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)
© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
3 Essential Social Media SEO Tips for Advertisers – ad:tech San Francisco | http://www.toprankblog.com