Holistic SEO with Cross-Channel Keyword Optimization & Copywriting

September 20, 2011 by  
Filed under Content Marketing, Online Marketing, SEO

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remington typewriterCopywriting for the web is a true art form, whether you’re writing web pages, press releases or landing pages. Add the practice of search engine optimization and it can get even trickier.  Too much focus on SEO and that high ranking web page may confuse readers, resulting in lacking conversions. Too little focus on keywords and search traffic will suffer.  Both questions remind copywriters to consider who their target audience really is: search engines or customers?

Obviously it’s both and working with a Keyword Glossary can provide copywriters with a solid guideline for topic planning, organization and emphasis so that both engines and customers are being optimized for.

While many companies have bought in to the fact that they need to make their content more “findable” and socially interesting to reach and engage more customers, the implementation is often a bit fragmented.

For effective Internet Marketing, it’s important to promote a diversity of content according to the audience segments your company is after. That means promoting keyword optimization of content holistically and across channels.  Not only can keyword optimization work to make content more discoverable through search, but it should improve user experience as well.

A Cross Channel Keyword Optimization effort means incorporating relevant keywords in more content than just product and service web pages on the corporate website. As companies evolve their Content Marketing Strategy, developing purposeful content across the organization, there’s an opportunity to help that content become much easier for intended audiences to find.  That means, Human Resources, Public Relations, Customer Service as well as Marketing and Sales.

Individually, there’s benefit to each of those content producers for being more effective at connecting with more of their target audience. More candidates in the hiring pipeline, more media inquiries from industry publications, more problems solved online vs. call centers and more inquiries, leads and sales.  Collectively, each of those content producers can coordinate via shared Keyword Glossaries to elevate overall keyword visibility by leveraging relevant cross linking, social content promotion and content creation.

keyword optimization

Should you use the same keyword across multiple mediums? If your SEO Strategy calls for your company to dominate on certain high level topics, then the answer is yes. Web pages, blog posts, guest posts, contributed articles in industry publications, press releases, YouTube videos, Tweets, Facebook status updates, public Google+ updates and any other public content that can be discovered and crawled by a search engine (as well as consumed by your target audience) is ripe for consistent keyword usage. If Marketing can work together with Public Relations, Customer Service, IT, HR, Legal, Marketing & Business Partners, Resellers, Dealer Networks, Distributors, Affiliates and any other content producers, the whole is definitely more than the sum of the parts.

Messaging builds the brand and keyword messaging makes that brand easy to find. Companies that invest in their brand pay close attention to messaging. There are communication and identity standards that guide content producers to keep that core messaging relevant and congruent with overall brand goals. Use of congruent keywords across content and media isn’t that much different. In some companies, keyword messaging and brand messaging are the same thing.

The takeaway here is, expand the scope of what you see as “optimizable” content.  Understand that in a competitive market, it’s essential that marketing coordinates with other content producers in the organization and that SEO expertise should be brought in to work with Content Strategy and Planning. Architecting an effective Content Marketing program means understanding customers and the content that will inspire them to the business outcomes your’re after. It also means being effective at using the language in copy that makes it easy for prospects to find through search.

My question for you is: Are you implementing interdepartmental coordination with SEO copywriting in your company? Do you share keyword glossaries between Marketing, PR, HR, Customer Service and other departments? Do you cross-train on SEO best practices with groups outside of Marketing and PR?

 


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An Optimized Framework for Better Content Marketing & SEO

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Framework Content Marketing OptimizationThe pressure of competition and desire for business growth pushes marketers towards tactics that promise quick wins. Pundits advocate strategy first (been there) but doing so in a comprehensive way isn’t always practical, especially when it comes to areas like social media and content marketing.

For marketers in need of practical advice on customer-centric, practical content marketing, a solid framework can be invaluable for an adaptive approach that is thoughtful about overall direction and measurable short term impact at the same time.

An increasing number of Search Engine Marketers are advocating both Content Marketing and Social Media in concert with achieving SEO objectives which is a great sign, but often lacking a customer-centric approach.

Here’s a Content Marketing framework that proves to be customer-centric as well as SEO and Social Media savvy that I think any smart online marketer can follow.  Keep in mind, with a holistic approach, this 4 part framework can be applied to any type of online content that a company produces: HR, Customer Service, Public Relations, etc.

Optimize - Content Marketing Optimization

I talked about this approach at Content Marketing World recently and will be elaborating on it at several future events as well. Of course I drill down even deeper in “Optimize“.  But since that book won’t be out until the first part of next year, here is a bit of an elaboration.

Customers - Optimize for keywords or optimize of customers? It may be semantics and it’s certainly not a mutually exclusive situation with customer segments and individual search keywords. Many online marketers focus on keywords that are popular and relevant to products and services without ever considering things like customer pain points, behaviors and position within the buying cycle and how that manifests as a search query.

Content Marketers organize their campaigns according to customer needs and how to influence those customers to buy. Add keyword optimization (SEO) to that mix and you have a very powerful combination.

  • Identify customer segments – What do they care about? What is their context?
  • Document pain points & information needs during buying cycle.
  • Build a path of content including triggers that inspire purchase and social sharing.

Keywords – As you understand the language of your customer, the opportunity to optimize content for search “findability” becomes very important. What better place to connect with customers than at the moment they proactively seek a solution? Build relevant keywords according to customer interests into a content creation plan with key messages and you’ll be one step closer to “relevant ubiquity” .

Besides search keywords, it’s worth considering social topics. The interplay between searching and social referrals is becoming more standard as buyers navigate information resources online.

  • Brainstorm and research keywords with tools like Google AdWords Keyword Tool, Wordtracker and Ubersuggest.
  • Tap into social media monitoring tools to gauge what topics cluster together on social networks, blogs and Twitter, relevant to your search keywords.
  • Organize search keywords and social topics into a keyword glossary shared with anyone in your company that creates online content.

“Content – is King and Creativity is Queen”, according to Pan Didner of Intel. I happen to agree. Content Marketing is growing and soon “everybody will be doing it” but certainly not doing it well. Through a combination of keen customer insight, analytics and smart creativity, online marketers can stand out amongst the 27 million pieces of content shared in the U.S. each day or the 5 Exabytes of information created every 2 days around the world.

Keywords and topics can fuel a Content Plan that provides a calendar of planned content publishing, topics, optimization focus, promotion channels and planned repurposing. Allow for wildcards and spontaneous content creation according to real-time opportunities and current events.

  • Plan content according to customer segments, keyword topics and business services/product offering.
  • Leverage search keywords for content optimization on the website, blog and on social media sites.
  • Create modular content that can serve its purpose individually, as part of a matrix of topics and as repurposed content in the future.

Optimize & Socialize - Armed with customer insight, a keyword glossary and a content plan, it’s time for those Social SEO smarts to see some action.  With content staff and social media teams trained on SEO best practices, new content will be easier for prospects and customers to find – when it matters. They’re looking for it!   Monitoring search analytics for refinement of on-page optimization helps keep your investment in optimized search and social content high impact and current.

In today’s online marketing world, there is no “Optimize” without a smart dose of “Socialize”.  Social network development and content promotion is essential to inspire sharing, traffic and links. Social links and web page links to your content provide a powerful combination for search engines to use when finding and ranking helpful information that leads your customers to buy and share.

  • Train copywriting and social media staff on keyword glossaries and SEO best practices. Keep social topics up to date!
  • Optimize web and social content on and off the corporate websites while engaging and growing social networks.
  • Create, optimize and share useful content that will inspire customers to buy and share with their social friends.

The particular strategy, goals and methods of measurement will vary according to your situation of course, but as I mentioned above, this framework is applicable to any area of online content that a company might be publishing: Marketing, Sales, Customer Service, Human Resources, Public and Media Relations.

Have you seen examples of companies doing a great job of going from basic SEO to more robust content marketing optimization? Have you implemented or observed some great examples of “optimize and socialize”?


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A Content Marketer’s Guide to Social Media & Search Strategy

September 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Content Marketing, Online Marketing, SEO, Social Media

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Internet 60 Seconds InfographicWhat happens on the internet in 60 seconds? 1,500 Blog Posts, 60 New Blogs, 98,000 Tweets, 20,000 Posts on Tumblr, 600+ New Videos Uploaded to YouTube, 6,600 Images Uploaded to Flickr, 79,000+ Facebook Wall Posts and over 695,000 Facebook Status Updates. What does all that activity have in common? It’s content, it’s social and presents a ripe opportunity for optimization.

Content Marketing is a hot topic and deservedly so.  According to an AOL Nielsen study in May 2011, 53% of all time on the internet is content consumption. In the U.S. alone, 27 million pieces of content are shared per day.  In the Junta42 and MarketingProfs B2B Content Marketing study, it was reported that 90% of marketers use content marketing and 51% plan to budget more than the previous year.

Content Marketing World To help businesses, strategists and practitioners make sense of the opportunity, the first Content Marketing World conference in Cleveland, OH this week will bring together an impressive mix content marketing smarties, strategists and practitioners.  My little slice of this content marketing pie concerns the intersection of Social Media and SEO as assets for an effective Content Marketing Strategy.

Specifically, I’ll be covering:

The Importance of a Holistic Approach – Organizations are achieving certain levels of effectiveness by employing Search, Social Media and Content Marketing strategies independently vs. not at all. However, the opportunity to really master the ability to optimize for consumer/buyer content preferences for discovery, consumption and sharing is too significant to ignore. A holistic approach to Content Marketing leverages optimization of content for user experience that includes search visibility and social sharing as well as engagement that inspires business outcomes for marketing, public relations, customer service, human resources and other functional areas.

How Exactly Do Social Media, SEO & Content Marketing Work Together? – The possibilities are exciting when you think about how both search and social media optimization can elevate relevant content visibility, especially to target audiences that are actively looking.  The path from research to purchase involves interaction with search and social influences at an increasing rate. A study by GroupM and comScore reports that 48% of buyers were led by a combination of search and social media to purchase. The effect of interacting with search and social influences can vary by topic, phase in buying cycle, geography and person. Companies that incorporate Social Media and SEO in their Content Marketing Strategy can amplify their ability to be the most visible and relevant resource throughout the customer lifecycle. Additionally, social content and links can be influences (directly but more likely indirectly or conditionally) on standard search visibility.

7 Step SEO Strategy - Understanding relevant customer preferences for topics, customer pain points, position in the buying cycle and behaviors helps content producers and marketers research keywords, plan, optimize and promote content with purpose. Integration with other departments can co-opt resources for common benefit and of course no marketing initiative is effective without measurement – KPIs to conversions.  The specific 7 steps I’ll cover include:

  1. Audience
  2. Keywords
  3. Content
  4. Optimize
  5. Socialize
  6. Integration
  7. Measure

Tactical Best Practices and Examples – Rounding things up includes a few examples B2B and B2C that illustrate at a high level, the implementation of these 7 steps and the resulting outcomes.

Readers of Online Marketing Blog know how enthusiastic and persistent I’ve been at promoting Social Media SEO and Content Marketing. The number of companies operating these functions independently is simply astounding. The opportunity to amplify or “Optimize” online marketing effectiveness towards reach and engagement is too significant to keep Social, SEO & Content in silos. I greatly appreciate opportunities to share this perspective at events like CMW.

If you’re attending Content Marketing World, I do hope to see you Thursday, September 8th at 2:00 PM for my presentation, “A Content Marketer’s Guide to Social Media & Search Strategy”.

For a deep dive into the subject, you might also want to check out,”Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media, and Content Marketing” to be published by Wiley early in 2012.

Infographic from Go-Globe.com


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MarketingSherpa 2012 SEO Benchmark Report

August 31, 2011 by  
Filed under Online Marketing, search engine optimization, SEO

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MarketingSherpa SEO GuideOne 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!”

SEO Strategy

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.

Content Marketing SEO

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).

 


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MarketingSherpa 2012 SEO Benchmark Report | http://www.toprankblog.com

#Optimize Your Online Marketing With Social Media, SEO & Content

OptimizeWith 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.





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SEO Training & Learning Resources

August 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Online Marketing, SEO, SEO Tips

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SEO TrainingTo learn the art and science of SEO (search engine optimization) it is my belief that the best source is your own efforts at hypothesis, experimentation and refinement.

If you’re starting from scratch and really have no idea what SEO is, then certainly one of the popular SEO books would be a appropriate as well as attending an industry conference like SES, SMX, Pubcon or a regional event.

Both Google and Bing have made great efforts at providing webmasters with resources that are worth checking out as well. Online SEO training like that offered by Market Motive (affiliate link) can help those without the time to attend “real world” events.

For brand marketers, I’d suggest checking out the ad:tech New York Marketing Masters SEM Track in November that I’ve been putting together with case studies and best practices SEO and Integrated PPC insights from VW, REI, Salesforce and several others. (shameless plug)

Every other SEO resource has pretty much been covered in posts like this elsewhere on the web but when sourcing any kind of recommended list (including this one) care should be taken as to motive and real-world validity of the advice and information provided. There are plenty of smart pontificators that have taken “make shit up” to an art form, blending reasonable advice with pure theory and packaging it as SEO gospel. In fact, that same dose of healthy skepticism could be applied to anything you find and read on the web.

Literally everything you’d ever want to know about becoming a successful SEO is online, you just have to sort through what’s theory, rant and outdated information.  That’s why, if you create a strong base of knowledge through your own testing and direct observation, you’ll be in a better position to filter quality signal from the noise.

Not to overwhelm, but here’s a list of over 100 SEM information sources and another list of over 400 SEM & Online Marketing Blogs that you may find useful in your journey to learn more about SEO.

We just added a review of the 2012 MarketingSherpa SEO Benchmark Report – a great source of data driven insights about SEO. Very useful as a SEO learning tool.  A similar resource that we’ve reviewed: Econsultancy SEO Best Practices Guide is also a great aid in learning SEO.

Whether you’ve been in the search engine optimization game for 1 or 10 years, what have you found to be the best sources of information to learn, maintain and advance your SEO knowledge?  What would you recommend to a SEO newbie?  Or to an in-house interactive marketer with SEO responsibilities but limited time to test and learn on their own?


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Lose the SEO Lingo and Optimize for Customers

August 22, 2011 by  
Filed under Online Marketing, SEO, SEO Tips

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SEO CopywritingNo doubt, you’ve searched Google or Bing and found web pages that were clearly “optimized” in the name of SEO. That kind of copy might help a page appear higher in search results (less so with Panda) but doesn’t do much for readers once they click through.

When I see those pages, it reminds me of the increasing importance of optimizing for customers and user experience vs. the common overemphasis on search engines.  Keep in mind, technical SEO and how bots interact with servers and web pages is timeless, but writing web copy that’s more useful and a better reflection of what customers are looking for, (vs. chasing the most popular keywords alone) just makes sense.

Along those lines I recall reading a SEO blog a long time ago that advised creating websites, copy and links as if search engines didn’t exist.  By itself, that seems a bit naive – especially if you’re in a competitive category.   Creating, optimizing and promoting content based on customer interests that leads them to a purchase makes the most out of both useful content and SEO best practices.  Great SEO copywriting doesn’t read as a list of keywords, but instead balances keyword usage with creative writing that appeals to the reader; educating, influencing and inspiring action.

Consider the difference between these general SEO copywriting recommendations:

Use the most popular keywords at the beginning of title tags, in on-page titles, body copy, anchor text and image alt text in combination with attracting relevant keyword links from other websites so the pages rank high on Google. Higher ranking web pages can result in more visitors and sales.

In comparison, try this advice absent any explicit SEO lingo:

Use the words that matter most to your customers in titles, links and body copy to inform and inspire them to take action. Text used in titles should make it easy for readers to understand the topic of the page quickly, in the first few words. Text used to link from one page to another should give the reader an idea of what they’ll find on the destination page. A consistent approach to titling, labeling and copy in web page text, image annotations, video descriptions and links will create confidence for the reader in the subject matter and inspire sales.

Both recommendations should result in more focused and relevant content for search engines. But the focus on #1 is only on keywords and search engines. The advice in #2 is less SEO specific, but emphasizes relevance from the customer point of view and at the same time, is search engine friendly. Maybe more copywriters would take SEO advice if it didn’t use so much SEO lingo.

Does that seem a like a reasonable difference in approach or more a matter of semantics? Do you think more content producers would implement SEO practices if advice was more customer-centric? Better implementation of SEO best practices by creatively talented and customer focused content producers seems like a win, all around.

 


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Optimize for Search, Optimize for Share – #SESSF

August 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Content Marketing, Online Marketing, optimization, SEO

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Content SEOFor the past 8 years I’ve been a big fan of using content as a marketing vehicle to acquire new customers. In fact, during our agency’s 10 year history, we’ve never had a sales person and have engaged in very little outbound marketing (long before the notion of “inbound marketing” became popular).

The growing popularity of content marketing within the SEO world has evolved from white hat SEOs that would proclaim “content is king” to recent declarations that Google’s Panda updates have now validated the need for quality content. But if Panda is the primary reason your SEO efforts are focusing on best practices content marketing, then you’ll still be at a disadvantage.

This post will outline a critical element of Content Marketing adoption for SEO practitioners who want to maximize the value of their content investments for both improved search visibility and customer acquisition.

Traditionally, SEO has focused on identifying the most popular and relevant keywords representative of a company’s product/services mix. Web pages would be optimized with those keywords and links acquired as signals search engines would reward with improved search visibility.

Web page links are giving way to links from other sources like social streams and sharing. Consumers expect, not only to find what they’re looking for, but to interact with and share what they find in search results.  Content that is solely optimized for search keywords doesn’t account for the importance of content that will inspire sharing.

There are multiple objectives with consumer interaction with content. Of course, converting prospects to customers is paramount. But it’s also important to publish content that is topically interesting and relevant for sharing to inspire links in social streams.

Not everyone is ready to buy and if our content is thoughtful about consumer information discovery, consumption and sharing preferences, it may inspire links and shares that result in better visibility on both search engines and within social networks where the links are shared.

Optimizing for search keywords will always be a best practice. Optimizing for social topics will help content creators include subjects that can inspire readers to share. That means researching social media keyword research. What are the most often discussed topics (on the social web) related to your target keywords?  Producing a list of search keywords as well as well as social topics will help optimize content that is findable in search and more sharable in social.

Content Marketing and SEO are a powerful combination. By optimizing for customers, vs. just keywords, search engine optimization professionals can gain the benefit of top rankings in search results as well as more relevant interaction with the content they click through to read.

Learn more about Content Marketing & SEO! I’ll be drilling down into the details of Content Marketing & Optimization on Thursday, August 18th at 9am during the SES San Francisco conference.

  • If you’re in a content production role, this will be a great way to understand the real value of SEO to boost visibility of your customer-centric content without compromising quality and creativity.
  • If you’re a SEO practitioner or if you have SEO as part of your responsibilities, then this session will provide you with a roadmap to elevating quality content that’s optimized for keywords as well as the customers you’re trying to attract.

Attendees of the Content Marketing Optimization session will also get a copy of our TopRank Guide to Content Marketing to download. Hope to see you there!  Of course, if you really want to drill down into Optimize for Search, Share and many other aspects of Online Marketing, be sure to check out “Optimize” (Wiley).

 


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Meaningful SEO Metrics – #SESSF

August 16, 2011 by  
Filed under Online Marketing, SEO, Web Analytics

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SEO Metrics Panel SES San Francisco 2011The only session I’m liveblogging day one of SES San Francisco conference is this one, “Meaningful SEO Metrics: Going Beyond the Numbers” so the pressure is on the awesome panel including: Todd Friesen, Ray “Catfish” Comstock, Rob Garner and moderation duties handled by Richard Zwicky.

First up is Rob Garner, VP Strategy at iCrossing and a VP at SEMPO. Rob started things off with a description of the challenges that most often occur with measuring the search channel.

90% of search channel bugets go to paid media, but paid media supplies 20% of returns. Only 10% of budgets go to SEO but a huge percentage of search marketing performance can be attributed to SEO.

Why is this? Paid search is easier to measure. But… SEO can be made easier to measure in aggregate and at the keyword level once a balanced program is implemented. The biggest opportunities in search are with SEO.

Challenges on the client side regarding measuring SEO performance:

  • Disconnect between legacy systems in tracking performance
  • Using last click attribution
  • Large companies measure value as “what have you done for me lately” natural search benefits tend to be longer term
  • Not maintaining search performance history going back years
  • Bad analytics and tracking
  • Educating those holding the budgets for natural search

A longer term view of natural search is needed to understand the value. Natural traffic is earned but eventually owned. Look at maintenance costs of SEO as a realistic expense, especially in comparison to the contribution to revenue.

4 Key measurements needed for meaningful SEO metrics:

  1. Value of searchequity for the site being optimized
  2. Media value of natural search traffic
  3. Value o various action across the site (individually and in aggregate)
  4. Value of the stress and time costs on your organization. The cost savings of doing it now, vs. doing it later (retro-fit)

Building a Business Case – Key Questions

  1. How much is invested in search
  2. How much is a conversion worth? How much will it change with SEO?
  3. How do we measure lift in natural search metrics
  4. How much opportunity may be lost without a SEO plan?

Calculating Advertising Value Equivalent for SEO:

  • Find out the anticipate traffic lost or gained in natural search
  • Determine the average CPC in a themed area of one of your campaigns
  • Multiply the average CPC times the amount of SEO traffic to quantify its media value. For example: 100k clicks times an average CPC of $2.63 is valued at $253k. In a year, that value is over $3 million.

Case Study:  A banking site re-launched with renamed URLs and no redirection plan. There was a spike in 404 errors and $1.5m in actual revenue per month lost.

Marketers must place a monetary value on actions to help SEO quantify results. Place a value on actions and also on lifetime value. When forecasting potential lift from SEO, be very conservative with traffic estimates.

Be sure to measure Year over Year trends, not just month to month to create context for growth and overall perfornance.

Next is Todd Friesen, Director of SEO for Performics who talked about incorporating SEM and SEO reporting to draw attention to the impact of SEO. “SEO hasn’t been getting it’s due”

Benefits of a combined SEO and PPC strategy:

  • Visibility in both paid and natural decreases the frequency that consumers select a competitor
  • Great opportunity to increase overall revenue
  • Both can result in a significant lift in brand visibility

Managing both tactics holistically yields great results than using any one tactic. A big problem is that measuring in silos doesn’t give a complete picture.

Strategies for effective PPC and SEO:

  • Max ROI by adjusting bid strategy based on SEO ranking data
  • Keyword Gap Analysis – Identify strong performing keywords missing from your campaigns by comparing your SEO and PPC keyword lists
  • Increased Efficiency – Share landing page and ad creative across disciplines. Ad text used as meta description tags.
  • Creative Sharing – Share top performing ad creative with SEO for CTR optimization
  • Clickshare / SERP Domination – Rolled up reporting identifying tru combined clickshare numbers

Testing framework for SEO and PPC vs. SEO alone: Identify top ranking organic keywords, select keywords for test and control groups, define hypothesis and success metrics, apply the test, evaluate the results and iterate.

SEO and SEM do not exist in silos. It’s only in the past few years that marketers are actually figuring out how they can work together – looking at data and approaching it holistically.

Last up is Catfish, Director of SEO at Business Online who focused on key metrics and reporting.

Key Metrics: How to tell if you’re winning or losing. Three phased approach. Performance, opportunity and prioritization

Performance Reporting:
Search Rankings – It used to be that when you ranked #1 on Google, you ranked #1 on Google but now rankings can vary according to localization and personalization. Search rankings can be useful for month over month comparisons, but otherwise are not the best indicator of success.

Tips on Effective SEO Performance Measurement:

  • Segment keyword campaigns according to levels of specificity. Example: Campaign (Dog), Group (Dog Food), Keywords (Buy Dog Food).
  • Distinguish brand versus non-brand performance
  • Look at long tail performance.

Take your keywords and break them into groups, segment into brand vs. non-brand terms plus long tail keyword performance year over year.

SEO Intelligence is a service that leverages Adobe Insight to look at SEO data. It tracks at the visitor level and supports cross channel attribution (online and offline). Also supports predictive modeling. Ray is very enthusiastic about SEO Intelligence!

There were a few audience questions but I’ve used that time to finish off this post so I can publish it within a reasonable time.


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© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
Meaningful SEO Metrics – #SESSF | http://www.toprankblog.com

Brands As Publishers & Publishers Are Marketers

August 9, 2011 by  
Filed under Content Marketing, Online Marketing, SEO

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brands as publishersThe trend towards “brands as publishers” over the past year has an increasing number of businesses entering the world of content in ways that are creating new opportunities for online marketing. The notion of brands publishing editorial is nothing new of course and has been known as Custom Media or Custom Publishing for years.

For example, P&G‘s “invention” of the radio and TV Soap Opera or both “Food and Wine” and “Travel and Leisure” magazines published by American Express.  Interestingly, corporate editorial content publishing often overlooks the value of SEO as a way to extend reach and grow readership.

Publishers on the other hand, are becoming much better marketers. While online and offline media have always been reliant on growing distribution and readership to warrant advertising based business models, the changing nature of media, shifts in consumer behaviors and increased competition has warranted even more marketing savvy to capture, maintain and grow readership.

For example, it’s become pretty standard for more progressive media companies like Tribune Company, Turner Broadcasting and Hearst Magazines to have their reporters and writers employ SEO best practices to drive more search traffic to stories on newspaper and other media websites.  Tactics like writing story headlines as literal, keyword rich title tags for search engines and using irony, puns or metaphors for on-page titles that consumers can read has become quite common.

It just makes sense to package content in a way that makes it easy for the target audience to find. Such insight and best practices shouldn’t be left to marketers alone. Any entity that is publishing searchable content online should consider optimization of content for search “findability” and social sharing.

An extension of that SEO savvy includes leveraging real time social media tools (like chartbeat or Newsbeat) to identify content opportunities. Search and social media marketers have been using social media monitoring and trend tools for this purpose over the past few years or more. This is particularly common with information marketers that want to leverage growing bursts of consumer interest in topics that are trending. They’ll monitor for topics and create content that matches the boost in search queries, resulting in an influx of traffic from an audience actively looking.

Publishers are doing the same kind of monitoring because after all, they’re information marketers too, no? They may not be selling a product, but they are selling stories that attract readers who may click on ads and possibly subscriptions.

The Online Marketing opportunity here is for brands that decide to go the custom content and/or content marketing route, to be thoughtful and smart about connecting target audiences with their investment. Make sure content and digital assets are optimized for keywords and topics that people care about. Think of topics in terms of the customer, not marketing language and you’ll find more search traffic as well as social sharing.

As brand publishing efforts mature and they find the need to feed a hungry readership, real time monitoring for story ideas, topics and trends will become increasingly important.  As a SEO professional does research on search keywords for SEO, the publisher would do well to research topics flowing in the social information stream that match their editorial plans for real-time content opportunities.

Is your business publishing custom media? Do you leverage SEO with those content assets?  If you’re a journalist, have you been trained on SEO best practices? Does your organization value the impact of SEO and social media for promoting news?

 


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© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
Brands As Publishers & Publishers Are Marketers | http://www.toprankblog.com

In Search, Your Competition Isn’t Who You Think

August 4, 2011 by  
Filed under Online Marketing, Search Marketing, SEO

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SERPS Competition“Who are your competitors?” asks the Online Marketing consultant to the new SEO client. “Company XYZ and 123″ says the VP of Marketing. The consultant goes to Google and does a few searches on the key solutions offered by the client’s business. Company XYZ and Company 123 are nowhere to be found in the search results.

This situation happens a lot in the search marketing world. Companies tend to see competitors solely as who they bump up against when going after new business, or who prospects say they are also considering. But in the search world, the competition extends beyond other companies in your industry. It also includes any kind of content or information source that appears in search results wherever prospects are looking.

Accounting for the fact that search results or SERPs can vary by your location, logged in/out status and other settings, let’s say that a search for the new SEO client’s key topics reveals that the “competition” in search results includes lesser known players who have invested smartly in good Search Engine Optimization as well as entries from 3rd party information sources like Wikipedia, Videos from YouTube, News items from Google News and a smattering of Government and University websites. That’s not the competitive mix the sales team is thinking of, but content that can attract prospects away from discovering and consuming your marketing content is potentially a lost sale.

If your search competition isn’t your competition in the industry, what do you do differently?

Understanding and tracking the landscape of search results can reveal numerous opportunities to gain visibility on the first page of Google while the brand’s SEO effort optimizes, socializes and builds links to achieve it’s own top organic search visibility. While it always makes sense to pay attention to industry competition, if those same companies are not your competitors within Google search results, don’t get distracted. Focus on the SERPs!

How to gain benefit from other people’s SERPs:

For example, let’s say the search results distribution is as follows:

  • #1 – Wikipedia entry
  • #2 and #3 are industry competitors
  • #4 and #5 are news stories on the topic
  • #6 and #8 are blog posts
  • #7 is another industry competitor
  • #9 and #10 are articles from a Universities.

If the company has a page on Wikipedia already with citations on the topic in question, then there may be a potential edit possible on the page for the search term citing the brand’s blog or more likely their contribution to research published in a mainstream media publication (or similar). Companies are not supposed to edit their own pages. Also, if your company doesn’t have top shelf, third party citations, move on.

The news story pages should be checked as well as the blog posts to see if commenting functionality is enabled. If so, the brand marketer might add a highly valuable comment with a link back to the corporate blog or to a specific piece of useful content about the subject that they’ve published. The objective is to create awareness and for relevant referring traffic.  Example: Someone searches on a keyword phrase, they visit the article page, see your comment and click on the provided link and are now on your website. All without your website itself ranking well for the target phrase.

Further, on the blog it may be worthwhile to see if there’s a guest posting opportunity. If the blog has a post that’s already doing well on the topic, another compelling post on the topic may have an opportunity to do well also. You might even consider hiring the blogger to write an article for you and you can give them the OK to cross post to their own blog, as long as they link to the version on your own site.

The University articles are trickier, but imagine one of them is rather out dated. It’s possible that the brand marketer could create an updated version of the article following the same writing style and include an author bio or credit that links back to deeper resources on the brand’s blog or resource center. This has to be very non-commercial.

These are just a few ideas to get mentioned on the pages that already show well for important industry search terms, ie your “search competition” while the SEO effort works to Optimize and Socialize brand content to rank well on its own.

Understanding the difference between Industry Competition and Search Competition is key to taking effective SEO strategy. The things a brand marketer can do with their SEO program to gain visibility on competing, non-commercial web pages can attract direct traffic as well as provide signal that will be useful in building top visibility for brand content in search.

Have you ever had challenges with defining the competition in an online marketing effort? Have you encountered brand marketers that refuse to accept the difference between search results competition and industry competitors?


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In Search, Your Competition Isn’t Who You Think | http://www.toprankblog.com

How Public Relations Can Avoid Failing at SEO

August 3, 2011 by  
Filed under Online Marketing, Online PR, SEO

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SEO for Public Relations FailOur Online Marketing agency at TopRank has been providing practitioners in the Public Relations industry information and insight on Search Engine Optimization for nearly 10 years.

Starting with adding SEO to our media relations services in 2001 to providing SEO consulting  to PR industry leaders like Vocus, PRWeb and The PRSA, we’ve been in the thick of SEO and PR for some time.

The demand for smart Social Media and SEO information from PR agencies and corporate communications organizations has amplified significantly this year. We’re talking with numerous companies, helping them get up to speed with strategy, road mapping and training. One of the most useful insights we can provide is guidance on what to avoid when it comes to incorporating SEO and SMO (social media optimization) into PR content strategies. No one likes to #fail, so here are several things to avoid:

Shiny Object Keyword Syndrome

SEO advice is easy to find online including suggestions of doing keyword research using tools like Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool.  There’s a temptation to focus only on the most popular words and phrases even if they aren’t 100% on target. Or worse, if the website that PR staff can contribute to and edit isn’t anywhere near deserving of being known as THE authority for a highly competitive topic.

Those high popularity count keyword phrases are like shiny objects that distract from the language that is most relevant and realistic to achieve. It’s fine to have highly popular (and competitive), relevant keyword phrases as targets, as a long term goal and contingent that there’s a commitment to creating the content and attracting the links necessary. In the meantime, go after phrases that reflect the intersection of the topic your promoting and the most relevant queries being made. In fact, extend that search keyword research to social topics for more long tail concepts to optimize for.

Many journalist inquiries are pretty niche. They’re often looking for something very specific, and if you’re chasing high popularity keywords that will take a year to achieve, you may be missing out on a lot of search visibility that could inspire media coverage in the meantime.

One-Off SEO

Another temptation is to approach SEO very tactically and try new SEO knowledge on a single web page or press release. There’s nothing wrong with experimentation, but optimizing a single or a handful of documents isn’t what drives significant search traffic.

An extension of that would be to optimize a newsroom or website  without planning to revisit keyword lists and whether refinement is necessary.  I’ve heard comments like this many times, “Oh, we optimized our site already. In 2004.” SEO, like Social Media and Content is a journey – not a destination.

Missing Links

Google PageRank introduced the online marketing world to the importance of links beyond those that simply drive direct traffic. Today, PageRank isn’t as much of a focus, but links are still very important. Especially links from social networks and media sharing sites.  Many PR professionals consider the keyword optimization of web pages, press releases and digital assets all that is necessary – discounting the need to attract links.

Links are like electricity and help search engines discover new content. They also serve as a signal for use in assigning importance for ranking. PR professionals are in a unique position to attract some of the most valuable links possible – from online media websites. Asking journalists to link back to a website takes little effort and might result in a highly valued link that can send the most significant kind of signal or link juice to what it is that you’re promoting.

Additionally, sending out press releases through a news release distribution service like our client PRWeb, that are properly optimized with links to content that is being promoted can result in link acquisition as well. Sometimes it’s 5 or 10 links and sometimes 100′s of them.  Optimization with keywords is just the start. Link building and social promotion are what create awareness to journalists and bloggers directly as well as through improved search visibility.

Falling Short on Measurement

Improved search visibility is often measured with a ranking report.  With personalization, those reports are not as useful as they once were. Web analytics tracks visitors to a website and where they came from, like from a search engine. That’s about as far as most PR and Corporate Communications pros will go when it comes to measuring the impact of their SEO efforts.

However, there’s a lot more. Especially since increased, relevant traffic to the corporate website or news content can not only reach the media but end consumers looking to buy. If the content can warrant a link to a “buy page” where a conversion or inquiry can occur, PR practitioners would do well to make sure web analytics tracking is setup so that new business inquiries can be attributed to optimized PR content when appropriate.

How powerful would it be to show not only media coverage, but improved web traffic and new business inquiries as a direct result of PR’s SEO efforts?

Waning on Training

You don’t just flip a switch and become SEO savvy, I’m sorry to say. Achieving SEO competence takes training, practice and persistence. At TopRank Marketing, we have a consulting service but we’re in the business of helping PR firms and corporate public relations staff get up to speed with SEO and Social Media SEO skills. But there are many other places to get useful knowledge ranging from the upcoming SES conference in San Francisco to the online training provided by Market Motive you see in the right side bar of this blog.

The key thing is to understand that to gain momentum, providing SEO skills training to those in your organization in a position to create content online will be especially helpful. Going it alone as the sole SEO savvy person in a  large agency is tough to scale. However you get that training is up to you, just be sure to get it for yourself and for your team.

Frugal SEO Tooling

I’ve noticed there’s a tendency with many PR agencies and departments to be a bit conservative on paying for tools. It’s true that there are many free tools out there, but over time and without a business model to fund them, they get neglected and can become irrelevant or go away altogether. Then you’re up a creek without a paddle, scrambling for some other free tool, not knowing what really works and what doesn’t.

That’s why I like to pay for tools. I know they’ll be around and will have an obligation to provide some kind of service level and support. Whether its paying for WordStream for keyword research or SEOMoz Pro or Raven Tools for a host of SEO functionality and campaign management, don’t skimp on the tools. The impact of great SEO, especially SEO and Social Media Optimization, can have a tremendous impact and maybe even a multiplier to online media relations efforts. Tools will help you do quality work and more importantly, scale!

To Be Optimized, You Must Socialize

A big part of today’s optimization for better search performance means active social media content creation, curation and engagement. Building networks that you can share links with and inspire link propagation is essential for the social link and content signals being increasingly considered by Google and to some degree, Bing. Optimizing social media content improves the search visibility of brand content on the social web. The social network participation on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Quora and Google+ that goes along with brand social media efforts also provides Google with signals that can be used for ranking content on Google.com. Optimize and Socialize!

Conclusion

There are many more ways than this to fail at SEO and SMO for Public Relations, but as a foundation, these tips can serve to help PR Agencies and Corporate Communications avoid some of the pitfalls and become more productive, more quickly with their SEO efforts. Realistically, these tips are appropriate for any industry, but the boost in inquiries we’re getting from PR firms and business Comms pros, motivated me to create this post just for you :)

If you work at a Public Relations firm or in Corporate PR, have you hit on any of these areas to avoid? How did you get back on track, or did you?


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© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
How Public Relations Can Avoid Failing at SEO | http://www.toprankblog.com

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