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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An Optimized Framework for Better Content Marketing & SEO | 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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#Optimize Your Online Marketing With Social Media, SEO & Content | http://www.toprankblog.com

Optimize & Socialize: Social Media SEO Tips For Large Organizations

June 27, 2011 by  
Filed under Online Marketing, SEO, Social Media, social SEO

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Social Media SEOWith nearly 50% of consumers reporting that both search and social media influence purchases, Social Media and SEO are hot topics for most online marketing firms. But there’s a world of difference between the notions of social dominance, super-powered with search ubiquity and the ability to successfully implement – especially in large companies.

One of the most common issues is that social media efforts themselves are often uncoordinated activities, let alone working in sync with search engine optimization.  Additionally, many online marketing consultants are accustomed to Social Media or SEO projects for small and medium sized businesses, which is a very different thing than working with a large or complex organization.  Being prepared to adapt independent and coordinated social media and SEO processes requires a unique combination of organizational finesse, adaptability and subject matter expertise.

Enterprise marketing initiatives typically involve multiple stakeholders, layers of approval and messaging guidelines that can stifle ambitious social content optimization and promotion.

However, it is possible to make significant progress in a reasonable amount of time with the right mix of planning, communication and expertise. Once departments or business units have an understanding of common and individual goals, confidence in allocating resources, adjusting processes, training, building out reporting and forecasting potential outcomes can open up a wide range of Social SEO opportunities. The key is to understand the nature of the business and how a coordinated social media and SEO effort can help the company solve problems and achieve goals.

To that end, here are 5 Tips to Empower Enterprise Social Media SEO:

1. Education

There is no substitute for an informed online marketing client, especially when it comes to coordinated Social Media & Content Optimization for Search. It’s essential that key contacts understand how today’s “Google Panda” and social-influenced SEO works and what the potential business benefits are to the organization.

Companies create content to communicate with the outside world for a variety of reasons: far beyond sales and marketing purposes.  Improving the relevant “findability” of content, both on and off the corporate sites, via search and social discovery across departments (Public Relations, Human Resources, Customer Service, Investor Relations, Community Relations, etc) can improve reach and desired outcomes. That lift in reach and engagement for other corporate content producers can help motivate those involved outside of marketing to execute social SEO best practices.

2. Advocates

With nearly 1 in every 6 minutes spent online on a social network and Facebook reporting over 750 million users, there are social media advocates and super users in every organization. Most companies have implemented some kind of SEO effort as well.

To gain support, it’s important that online marketers leverage individuals that have demonstrated a personal and/or profession interest in social media and are excited about the program to help “sell” the benefits throughout the organization. Tapping into SEO advocates works the same way. As evangelists for corporate site optimization and social media engagement, client side team members can use various tools to spread the “Social SEO” message, whether it is progress reports, internal update meetings or brown bag training sessions.

3. Results

Suggesting that a large corporation implement overall coordinated Social & SEO is often unrealistic, so such efforts can start by identifying high impact areas of opportunity. Is there a fledgling blog that’s showing promise but could boost traffic with basic SEO?  Or are there social networks building relationships that could be involved with sharing links to relevant corporate website content? Links & social sharing can boost search visibility.

Showing results at multiple stages in the program with careful attention to those areas of focus for respective decision makers, can help motivate support for people and resources. Imaging being able to improve traffic to a blog pet project for a Marketing VP by 50% though smart SEO & social sharing. Success inspires more success (and support for expansion).

Another example could involve shared search & social keyword glossaries from the Marketing team that have helped improve online visibility for PR, Job Listings or Customer Support content for one business or division. That exercise can help apply updated processes for other groups.

Coordination between social media community managers and marketers with SEO expertise is the frontline of Social SEO impact.  There are numerous SEO opportunities for large web sites and off-site social participation. Showing progress will help create momentum and buy-in from others in the organization.

4. Availability

Large scale Social SEO implementation can be daunting and involve many opportunities for outside subject matter expertise. Online Marketing consultants need to be available to client contacts in various mediums. For example, IM or text messaging so when he/she needs information during a meeting, questions can be answered quickly.  GotoMeetings, training or support via conference call are also helpful in providing timely information for internal meetings and decision making.

Many Social & SEO engagements involve an audit and meetings at specified intervals – but little communication in between. Being available at opportune times supports your client side contact as they represent corporate Search and Social Media leadership, empowering them to get agency recommendations implemented.

5. Content Creation & Curation

A Social Media & SEO Roadmap often requires agencies to provide assistance with implementation or support of internal training. Many large company social media marketing and SEO groups are understaffed or simply 100% allocated with current work.  Wether it’s web pages, blog posts or social content like Tweets, be prepared to create content specifically for social media and optimization initiatives.  The needs for the creation of content in such a scenario can include: presentations, newsletters, images and even training sessions.

Repurposing content, crowdsourcing and curation are also effective resources to fuel coordinated social media and search optimization. Curation can involve aggregation and annotation of industry news or it can be the repurposing of useful content from within the organization – from different departments or groups.  If there’s content being created, it can be optimized and socialized for relevant improvements in discovery and engagement.

It takes considerable resources and talent to execute and manage a successful enterprise Social SEO project. Not many consultancies are prepared for the demands in communication, education and patience. It can also be a challenge to manage the billable time for the kind of support recommended here, so setting expectations and parameters up front is essential.

Large scale Social SEO takes an equal measure of search engine optimization and social media marketing smarts as it does the ability to navigate complex organizations. By empowering client side advocates with knowledge, tools and ongoing resources to promote Social SEO processes and results, large company social media optimization projects can see a better return on their agency investment.


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Optimize & Socialize: Social Media SEO Tips For Large Organizations | http://www.toprankblog.com

8 Social SEO Questions Public Relations Pros Need the Answers To

June 23, 2011 by  
Filed under Online Marketing, Online PR, SEO, SEO Tips, social SEO

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Social SEO PR TipsIn the course of providing expertise and advice, I’ve really come to believe that it’s more important now than ever for Public Relations professionals to accelerate their knowledge of SEO and Social Media. The storytelling business is a competitive one and great messaging isn’t realized until it connects with influencers and those in a position to propagate it. Both SEO and Social Media facilitate discovery of news and information, so PR pros can boost reach and impact by becoming Social SEO savvy.

Thanks to an invite from Justin Goldsborough and Heather Whaling, I participated in a #pr20chat chat this week to talk mostly about SEO and PR with a hint of social media. For Twitter chats, I prepare by getting the questions to be asked in advance and then I answer them in a “tweet ready” format so I can be as useful as possible during the chat itself. That prep makes for a good blog post too :)

What are some simple, basic principles of SEO that PR ppl need to understand/implement?

  • I’d like to start with: Social is hot, but Google handles 10 billion+ queries /mo, so SEO is far from “dead”
  • For a good foundation, check out these 10 SEO tips for PR Pros
  • SEO Basics: Search results vary for users based on location, logged in, history – ranking is an iffy metric
  • SEO Basics: Research keywords & focus optimization efforts: 1-2 topics per page
  • SEO Basics: Use keywords & variants in titles, headings, body copy & links to the page
  • SEO Basics: Create, optimize, socialize & promote for links. Track web analytics, social monitoring
  • Also, check out this SEO Guide for PR (pdf)

When it comes to PR & SEO, what do PR people do wrong? Tips for improvement?

  • #fail: Focusing solely on press releases for SEO. If it’s searchable, it can be SEO’d
  • #fail: Only writing press releases AP style. Also try an article format & send via @PRWeb (client)
  • #fail: Overuse keywords, ignore link building, discount impact of social on SEO
  • Tips: Create keyword glossary & train writers on basic SEO copywriting & linking
  • Tips: Include web pages, releases, images, video, PDFs, MS Word Docs
  • Tips: ID a destination page as a topic target & build content, links around it

What are some tips & tools to help PR people discover the best/most relevant keywords?

  • Keywords should empathize with the intended audience: journos, bloggers, consumers
  • Think about keywords for search and social topics for conversations. Sometimes they’re the same
  • Keyword Tools: Google Keyword Tool (includes mobile)
  • Keyword Tools: wordtracker.com wordstream.com keyworddiscovery.com & semrush.com (for competitors)
  • Keyword Tools: Übersuggest (via SEJ) leverages Google Suggest
  • Once you have keywords, you’ll need: Keyword Glossary & Editorial Plan

What are some SEO best practices to ensure the *right* people (not just more ppl) find your site/content? (via @kaczynski)

  • Attract the “right” people via search to PR content through relevant keyword selection & optimization
  • Knowing your target audience means knowing their keywords. Optimize for the “pull”
  • Understand what keywords & topics reflect your target audience interest & focus on that

Google recently intro’d Google Instant Pages. What does this mean for SEO? PR?

  • Google Instant Pages only speeds display of SERPs you click. Very little impact on today’s SEO

How should PR pros balance social media vs SEO? Should one “lead” and the other support/follow?

  • Optimize & Socialize based on customer centric search keywords & social topics. It’s yin/yang
  • Social Media & SEO work together, but the lead tactic depends on intended outcomes
  • Both SEO & Social affect info discovery. Social media facilitates engagement & influences SEO
  • Marketing often owns SEO, PR owns Social. Cross-training is essential

Explain the process you follow to create & promote content marketing initiatives. How does SEO fit into that?

  • Content Marketing starts with my magic 8-ball. I just do what it tells me :)
  • Oh wait, here you go: 10 Steps to Better Content Marketing & SEO
  • Content plans are aided by keywords & social topics so creators can be inspired

Fill in the blank: _____ is the #1 thing all PR ppl need to start doing to improve SEO

  • That kind of question is trouble. There’s no #1 thing anymore. But then again …
  • If you focus on just one thing, you’ll get burned when that one thing changes
  • It comes down to relevance and network. The right keyword & content mix + social network for sharing = the WIN

We have some of the smartest marketers and public relations pros on the web reading this blog. What Tweets would you post in response to these questions? What questions along the lines of PR and SEO would you like answered?

Thanks to @prtini for her roundup of the chat, which you can find here: “14 PR & SEO Tweetable Tips“.


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8 Social SEO Questions Public Relations Pros Need the Answers To | http://www.toprankblog.com

4 Must See Social Media & SEO Sessions at SES Toronto

SES Toronto 2011If you’re wondering, “Who’s Brian Larson?”, you’re not alone. Before I jump into the details of some of the can’t miss sessions at the upcoming SES Toronto conference, I’ll borrow a line from Austin Powers: “Please allow myself to introduce…myself.”

I’m a SEO Account Manager at TopRank Online Marketing – which means I have the enviable job of developing and managing SEO programs for several TopRank clients. One of the many benefits of my job is that I have the opportunity to work daily with some of the most intelligent and forward thinking companies around (you know who you are).  As I head to SES Toronto, I go with my clients’ goals and needs at the front of my mind.

Now that I’m not a complete stranger, let’s get on to the good stuff.  SES Toronto is just around the corner and it’s time to start making the difficult decisions surrounding which sessions to attend.  Here are my 4 “Can’t Miss Sessions” for this year’s SES Toronto conference:

1) Content Marketing Optimization

This is a no brainer.  Although there are numerous SEO strategies, good content marketing is the engine that drives a successful online marketing program.  TopRank CEO Lee Odden (I call him “boss”) leads a presentation on unlocking the SEO potential of a brand’s content.   In the session, Lee will offer insight into how companies can elevate their content-based optimization strategies and increase process efficiencies for content creation and promotion.

My TopRank Account Manager Take: Content development and promotion is core to our work.  The minute I stop proactively looking for ways to elevate our approach to content marketing is the minute our content begins to lose its relevancy.

If you listened to Lee speak before, you know you will walk away with a ton of ideas.  If you haven’t heard Lee speak, you really should.

2) Keyword Forensics

Cleverly titled, this session seems to have the meat to support such a promising name. John Alexander, of SearchEngineWorkshops.com and Search Engine Academy, will focus the session on uncovering keyword variations overlooked by most Webmasters. Alexander also promises to dive into the hidden behavioral trends of different search personas. Understanding these trends will help determine what search results are REALLY most valued by your target audiences.

My TopRank Account Manager Take: This session immediately piqued my interest because I personally view the selection of keywords as the make or break point for a SEO program.  Why?  Keywords dictate strategies and tactics.  Keywords also represent different persona and audience needs.

To start a program with the wrong keywords is akin to heading north to go south=it’s not going to work out well.

3) Competitive Analysis

Search strategies cannot be developed in a vacuum.  Analyzing the competitive landscape and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the competition is key to the development of a successful SEO program.  In Competitive Analysis, Chris Boggs moderates a panel discussion on assessing the competition to:

  • determine link acquisition opportunities
  • discover untapped types of content
  • identify competitive keywords/identifying non-competitive keywords
  • uncover avg. ad spend

My TopRank Account Manager Take: There are literally too many tools for surveying and analyzing online marketing competition.  The problem is that when one stops to consider all these options, it can likely turn into the classic: paralysis by analysis.

When a panel of pros meets to share the tools they use to assess the competition, I’m all ears.

4) Killer Facebook Targeting Tactics

As Facebook continues to evolve at an impressive rate, so too do the online marketing opportunities within this 700+ million member social network.  From Facebook Ads to Fan Pages, and Sponsored Stories to Groups; options to target and engages audiences are abound.   Marty Weintraub, President of aimClear, another fine Internet Marketing agency from Minnesota, hosts this Facebook targeting session, with a focus on reviewing some of the most successful Facebook marketing campaigns to identify their common characteristics.

My TopRank Account Manager Take: Too often companies view the success of their social media efforts in terms of Fans, Friends and Followers instead of affecting business outcomes.

The fatal flaw for many companies is the assumption that audiences can’t engage and transact with a brand through their social channels – that those interactions must happen on a corporate website.  Facebook may be the leader in providing companies with a variety of ways to create a rich user experience for their audience.  I can’t wait for this one.

Of course I’ll be sitting in on more sessions than 4, but these are my core.  Both Lee and I will be liveblogging sessions so be sure to watch for the #SESTO hash tag on Twitter, our Facebook page or just come back to Online Marketing Blog.

If you’re new to SES conference, I’d recommend reading this helpful post on how to get the most out of marketing conferences.

Here are the conference details:

SES Toronto
June 13-15, 2011
Hyatt Regency Toronto

There’s a 20% discount for TopRank Online Marketing Blog readers – just use the discount code: TRB20.

 


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3 Phases of Social Media SEO – Where Are You At?

Social SEO PhasesAs 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.


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Dominate Your Niche with Social SEO & Blogging – BlogWorld Expo New York

Social Media SEO & BloggingBlogWorld Expo is holding it’s first conference in New York this week and I’ll be presenting “Dominate Your Niche with Social SEO & Blogging” on Tuesday at 10:15am as part of the Social Business Track. This post is a light preview of that session and I hope to see you there.

Is blogging dead? A number of high profile bloggers and news media sites from Scoble to Wired to the New York Times have opined the demise of blogging as a consequence of growing social destinations like Twitter and Facebook.

The reality is that like many other forms of media, blogging is evolving and with the right strategy, highly effective. Short attention spans are served by short form content like Tweets and status updates. When it comes to influence on business, longer form content like that found on blogs serves an essential purpose. Rather than displace the most valuable attention spent on blogs, social sites like networks, microblogging, media sharing, news and bookmarks facilitate awareness and engagement with blog content.

Smart online marketers see this and are putting their budgets and priorities where it matters. According to eMarketer, 1 in 3 businesses publish blogs for marketing and HubSpot’s recent  2011 State of Inbound Marketing reports that more companies rated blogs as “critical or important” (62%) than any other social channel. These investments are paying off: AdWeek’s “Changing Scope of Advertising” infographic cites blogs as the leading source of customer acquisition over any other social channel.

TopRank Social Hub

Key Messages of Your Niche Provide Focus for Content Promoted from the Blog to Networks and Channels of Distribution.

Blogs are perfectly suited as social media information hubs for companies or individuals that want to dominate their niche online. Blogs can play an essential role in an integrated search, social media and content marketing strategy that directly influences consumer information discovery, consumption and sharing. But with literally millions of blogs published online and mainstream media getting involved, how does a blog stand out, let alone dominate their niche?

The first step is to understand what your niche is.  Formalize your unique selling proposition (USP):  How is your content unique and how does it serve the needs of the people you’re trying to reach better than any other blog?  What does your blog stand for?  What specific can you focus on that represents demand (search keywords) and topical discussion (social)?

The mechanics of a coordinated blogging effort that leverage search, social and content marketing involves:

  • Goals & objectives
  • Key message and differentiator – USP
  • Persona development
  • Search and social keyword research
  • Editorial plan mapped to search and social content
  • Optimization
  • Link analysis
  • Social channel development
  • Intersection with online PR, media relations, advertising
  • Content promotion
  • Real-time, adaptive
  • Monitoring, measurement & refinement

Whether you’re frustrated with the performance of current blogging efforts or you’re starting a new blog and want to maximize effectiveness, following a coordinated online marketing approach with a focus, can force multiply the effect of a company’s ability to “Be where customers are looking” (search), “Be where customers are talking” (social) “Be a source of influence, trust and engagement” (content). The result? You dominate your niche because all signals of credibility point to your social hub whether it’s via search, social, media – push or pull.

For the full presentation, you’ll have too attend BlogWorld New York this week. Hope to see you there.

Sometimes I like to open presentations common questions people have on the topic. What questions do you have about making more out of your business blogging effort? What challenges do you have in your efforts to dominate your niche?

 


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Dominate Your Niche with Social SEO & Blogging – BlogWorld Expo New York | http://www.toprankblog.com

Social SEO & PR Events: BlogWorld New York, OMS Minneapolis, SES Toronto, Vocus Users Conference

May 17, 2011 by  
Filed under Blogging, Online Marketing, social SEO

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The disciplines of search, social media, content marketing and online PR continue to intersect and often combine to create a powerful mix. Besides leveling the playing field, companies and individuals are creating competitive advantages as they adapt to shifts in technology and consumer behavior. Learning and mastering the ability to integrate should be top of the personal development list for marketing and communications professionals.

Here are the details for four upcoming events to do a deep dive into Optimized Online Marketing and PR. I hope to see you there:

Blogworld New York 2011

Event: Blogworld Expo New YorkSocial Media Business Summit
Date:
May 24-26, 2011
TopRank Presentation: Dominate Your Niche with Social Media, SEO & Blogging

Blogging and other social media channels continue to attract attention and rather than focusing on single social applications and platforms for marketing success, the masters of the social web are integrating channels and tactics. A customer centric approach optimizes the right mix of content for push and pull discovery, topics that influence engagement and conversions, plus sharing to extend the reach and lifetime value of useful content.

As marketers begin to understand the myriad options available for data and marketing communications channels in today’s social web, it must feel overwhelming and not unlike jumping into a blender. This session provides a roadmap to optimized online marketing integrating SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing to build authority, acquire and engage new customers.

More info: Dominate Your Niche with Social Media, SEO & Blogging – BlogWorld New York

OMS Minneapolis 2011

Event: OMS Minneapolis
Date: June 6-8, 2011
TopRank Presentation: Develop a Killer Social SEO Strategy

Learn how large and small brands alike have integrated Social Media, SEO and Content Marketing to increase sales and improve customer engagement. This session will provide practical examples of BtoB and BtoC companies overcoming the competition with an agile, customer focused content marketing strategy that’ search engine optimized for the social web.

More info: Develop a Killer Social SEO Strategy – OMS Minneapolis

SES Toronto

Event: SES Toronto
Date: June 13-15, 2011
TopRank Presentation: Content Marketing Optimization

The core of any search or social media marketing program centers on content. Digital assets, rich media, web pages, MS Office and PDF docs as well as content created and shared by consumers all offer opportunities for optimization. If it can be searched, it can be optimized!

Online marketing is increasingly competitive and brand marketers world-wide are seeking real advantages that will improve the efficiency and impact of their Social Media and SEO efforts. This presentation will provide unique insight into content based optimization strategies and processes as well as tactics for sourcing, creation and promotion of optimized content on the social web.

More info: Content Marketing Optimization & SES Toronto

Vocus User's Conference

Event: Vocus User’s Conference
Date: June 16th, 2011
TopRank Presentation: Integrated Social, SEO & PR

Information overload: Facebook has over 600 million users and Google handles over 10 billion queries per month. Every two days there is more information created than between the dawn of civilization and 2003. The age of communications and digital relationships between brands, the media and consumers has changed faster and in ways few could have anticipated.

Now is the time for PR and communications professionals to master the new rules for consumer information discovery, consumption and sharing. As participants and content creators savvy about the search and social web, PR professionals can directly impact online brand visibility, customer engagement and acquisition.

This presentation will cover how the intersection of search and social media provides a powerful means to reach and engage media and consumers that inspires interaction, sharing and meaningful business outcomes.

Key Takeaways:

  • Learn future trends in search and social media for PR
  • Develop search & social personas
  • Research Keywords for Social SEO
  • Social media optimization best practices
  • SEO for Blogs, YouTube, Twitter, & Facebook
  • High impact & low cost tools

More info: Integrated Social, SEO & PR at Vocus User’s Conference

After all that I’ll get to take a break until the Intel Social Media Summit in July. Whew! I hope to see you at one of these upcoming events.


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© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
Social SEO & PR Events: BlogWorld New York, OMS Minneapolis, SES Toronto, Vocus Users Conference | http://www.toprankblog.com

Social Media for SEO vs. Customer Engagement

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

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

Social Media for SEO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Social Media for Customer Engagement

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

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

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

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

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

Social Media and SEO: There’s a Better Way

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

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

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

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

 


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© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
Social Media for SEO vs. Customer Engagement | http://www.toprankblog.com

Future Trends for Marketers in Search & Social Media

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Social Media SEOThe intersection of SEO and social media marketing continues to gain traction amongst online marketers everywhere you look in the industry. As an example, the enthusiastic interest in our recent compendium of blog posts, Essentials of Integrating SEO & Social Media. I think most experienced marketers “get” that SEO and Social Media functions are less effective as distinct channels within a marketing program and work better as a coordinated effort.

Integration of Social and SEO makes sense for a variety of reasons when considering evolving consumer information discovery behaviors. Even so, I think a lot of companies are looking for direction and what’s next. This week Brandon Prebynski and I chatted on his Webtrends.TV show about the mix of search and social media and one area we discussed that I think is worth sharing here is about future direction.

There are two areas of focus (out of many) I think are worth considering with future of search and social media for marketers. First, is the technology that powers the search and social media experience for consumers. The second is the logistics of implementing integrated search and social media campaigns within a company.

On the technology side, you have search becoming increasingly influenced by social signals. For example, Google and Bing are getting feed data from Twitter and Facebook. If you’re logged in to Google, your search results can be annotated by things your friends have shared on Quora or Flickr. Erik Sherma recently covered the award to Facebook of a patent for curated search that combines any type of search engine results with the popularity of each result among members of a user’s social network which shows another direction social sites are taking to make search more social.

True social search is something the engines have been trying at for a long time, but now the momentum Facebook has with 600 million users gives them a lot of data and an audience with which to experiment. From a technology standpoint I think we’ll see an increasing level of influence and integration of social based signals on traditional search activity. The race for true social search is between search engines like Google adding social signals and features vs. social giants like Facebook adding more significant search functionality to their platforms. Who will win is up to consumers.

Logistically within companies we’ll see less silos between search marketing and social media functions. While it’s been up for debate a while, many companies’ social media is managed by Public Relations and SEO is managed by Marketing.

There’s an growing convergence of responsibilities between PR and Marketing. The value of relationships and influence are increasingly appreciated by online marketers. Alternatively, PR and communications professionals are beginning to value search based discovery as they look for ways to communicate more value for their efforts.

PR departments are already creating content, why not make it easy for their target audience (journalists, analysts, bloggers and direct consumers) to find via search? Google sites alone handle 88 billion queries per month – that’s an overwhelming quantity of behavior and too significant to ignore.

As part of the effort to improve the connection between searchers and content, people in the social media content creation business would do well to consider things like a keyword glossary when creating their content marketing strategy and editorial plans.

Search marketers have traditionally used social media as distribution channels for promoting content to drive a flood of traffic. Many of those SEOs are beginning to appreciate the equity in relationships (community) that they can build through social channels so they don’t have to work so hard creating new connections every time they have a new link bait campaign.

Mastering the convergence of SEO and Social Media with Content Marketing starts with an appreciation of how consumers prefer to discover, consume and share information online.

Google’s Panda update is yet another reminder to focus on content that engages. Marketers that make great content easy to find via social channels and links will be rewarded with even more relevant traffic through search engines like Google and Bing.

What can companies do to become more effective search and social media marketers? The simple answer is to develop an approach to online marketing that focuses on customer centric content that’s keyword and social media optimized. Follow how content is consumed and shared – make it easy to do those things while monitoring and engaging to develop networks and relationships. Continue to keep business outcomes in mind and be thoughtful about how success will be measured short and long term.

As many companies deal with figuring out how search and social media will work together, I am curious what your experiences have been?

  • How important is the integration of search and social in your company’s current marketing mix?
  • Are you incorporating SEO and social media efforts more or less since last year?
  • What positive outcomes have you seen as a result of incorporating SEO & Social Media Marketing?

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© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
Future Trends for Marketers in Search & Social Media | http://www.toprankblog.com

Social Media & SEO at Search Congress Barcelona

March 4, 2011 by  
Filed under Online Marketing, SEO, Social Media, social SEO

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search congress barcelona 2011Yesterday I spoke at Search Congress in Barcelona Spain on the topic of improving online marketing (and PR) with Social Media and SEO. My co-panelist was Aaron Kahlow of Online Marketing Connect and the moderator was the famous Massimo Burgio.

Just before the event, Massimo suggested we break out our Spanglish in the presentations plus I ran into Bryan Eisenberg who did a keynote – unexpectedly in Spanish because the translator didn’t show. “Gracias” and “si” are about all I know, so you can imagine the situation.

Speaking and presenting all in English wouldn’t be very considerate to the audience, so I decided to use Google translator (suggested by Mike Grehan) and translate most of my slides from English to Catalan. The presentation went over fairly well I think:

Search Congress Barcelona @leeodden

Here’s a summary of what I presented:

Search is increasingly social with the incorporation content from social sources (video, blogs, images) into standard search results ala Universal search in 2007 followed by potential toolbar data and information captured while logged in.

All major search engines take data feeds from Twitter and Facebook. In fact, if you compare the search volume numbers shared in this Search Engine Land article, Twitter is the second most popular search engine (Google 88bn, Twitter 18bn, Yahoo 9.4bn, Bin 4.1bn queries per month).

It’s an understatement to say social media usage has exploded in the past year. LinkedIn is over 100 million users, Twitter has over 200 million accounts and Facebook is around 600 million users.

The way consumer and B2B buyers discover, consume and share information has been influenced significantly by search and social technologies.

For example, I might ask my friends on Facebook if anyone can recommend good restaurants for Tapas here in Barcelona. I’ll get a few recommendations and search Google for the restaurant names. On the restaurant site I might see that Fodor’s or Lonely Planet has reviewed the restaurant and after reading that, looking at the menu, comments and Flickr photos I may decide that’s the place to make a reservation. At the restaurant I might check-in on Foursquare, take a few photos and Tweet what great (or horrible) food and service there is. Afterwards I might even leave a review on Google hotpot.

It can be argued that I’m somewhat of an early adopter, since a lot of people I know would probably only ask their friends via email for recommendations. Then they might Google the options and update their Facebook status if they had a particularly good or bad experience. But that’s still a reflection of changed discovery, consumption and sharing behaviors over a few years ago.

As marketers we have an opportunity to stay in tune with customer behaviors and adjust our marketing accordingly. To do that, here are two tactical approaches to consider:

Cycle of Social Media & SEO

Cycle of Social & SEO:

  • Create, Optimize & Promote: The cycle starts with optimized content creation and promotion.
  • Spark an Interest: Content is noticed, shared & voted on. Grows awareness.
  • Grow the Network: Increased exposure attracts more subscribers, fans, friends, followers & links.
  • Attract a New Audience: Increased links & social exposure grow search & referral traffic.
  • Extract Insights from Data: Traffic & community help research, develop & further grow social networks for content & SEO.
  • Learn, Modify, Repeat:  With the information gained from community data, editorial optimization plans can be refined for more effective content creation, optimization and promotion.

SEO Strategy Content Marketing

Hub and Spoke Model for Social, SEO & Content Marketing:

  • Create a social hub: blog, Facebook Fan Page, YouTube channel, Forum, Niche social network, whatever you want to drive social traffic to
  • Develop distribution channels and communities off the hub
  • Spend time creating, optimizing, promoting great content on the hub and growing networks in the spokes.
  • The exposure of content to communities empowered to publish creates editorial visibility and links back to your hub.
  • Links send traffic and increase search visibility.

Three things to do now:

  1. Establish a Listening Program:  Audience analysis, brand monitoring, social keyword research.
  2. Create a Social Media SEO Strategy:  Create, optimize & promote social content, develop networks.
  3. Make it Easy to Promote & Be Promoted:  Build a distribution network for content promotion & network with influencers.

Thanks to Ouali and the team at Search Congress for the opportunity to speak as well as Matt McGowan & Mike Grehan from Incisive for inviting me and Aaron Kahlow from OMS for being a co-panelist. I hope to visit Barcelona again in the future.


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© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
Social Media & SEO at Search Congress Barcelona | http://www.toprankblog.com

MarketingSherpa 2011 SEO & Social Media Benchmark Report

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marketingsherpa sem report 2011MarketingSherpa has done it again with their SEM report for 2011. With the help of Lead Author, Research Analyst Jen Doyle, they’ve put together an excellent resource for marketers looking for strategic guidance as well as real data about search engine marketing.

This particular report focuses on Search Engine Optimization with an emphasis on the interplay of search and social media, two topics that are very near and dear to the consulting practice at TopRank Online Marketing.

According to the MarketingSherpa report, 64% of marketers surveyed are integrating social media into their search marketing plans which syncs well with the soon to be released SEOmoz SEO Industry Report, which cites 71% of the 10k plus search marketers that responded as leveraging social tools such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

As a practical example of the intersection of SEO and Social Media, just last month over 40,000 unique keyword queries sent visitors to this blog. At the same time, because of social content distribution and engagement, our new link discovery counts (reported by Majestic SEO) went from 118,344 in Sept to 210,996 in Oct. More relevant links = more traffic, more subscribers and exposure to our social channels. More exposure to our content on social channels means more links and discovery via search. It’s a cycle of Social and SEO.

As usual, this report dives in to some meaty content for marketers:

  • 2,194 B2B and B2C marketers surveyed
  • 169 charts and tables
  • Insight about the impact of social media on SEO
  • Data on the most effective SEO tactics
  • SEO budgeting and financial metrics
  • Research on mobile, real time, personalized and video search

One of the shocking revelations (and further need for SEO consultant expertise) is that more than half of the marketers who participated in the MarketingSherpa study either had no formal process for performing SEO, or an informal process that was randomly performed.

SEO was (correctly in my opinion) deemed most effective at generating sales and Social Media as most effective for achieving Public Relations and customer engagement objectives. A recent post on Search Engine Land by Matt McGee supports this, citing a study by ATG that search dominates social networking for product discovery.

Another interesting observation was the organic traffic conversion rate for marketers that leveraged social media was 10% higher than those that did not.

Most effective SEO tactics

The report is full of useful charts like the one above, which cites the most effective tactics for SEO as reported by the agency respondents. Obviously, an experienced SEO agency would use a much broader array of tactics, but you get the idea.

Essentially, a report like this helps companies and agencies in a few ways, especially for client side marketers:

  • Use research in combination with program performance to justify and defend the SEO budget
  • Compare SEO tactics you use to those ranked by effectiveness
  • Get a better handle on the potential of integrating search and social media
  • Find the ROI of search and social media that other marketers are reporting
  • Compare your own program performance metrics to those in the industry: inbound traffic, lead quality, conversion rates, clicks, conversion and target keyword rankings. Granted, it’s a generalization to do that, because such metrics can vary quite a bit between industries and don’t get me started on the idea of comparing “rankings”, but in a broader sense, comparisons can be useful.
  • Get useful insight on the future impacts of mobile, real time, personalized and video search
  • Reports like this are also useful for PowerPoint presentations at conferences or internally as well as for making a point in a blog post.

We don’t run ads on this blog (just where we’re speaking and our blog hosting sponsor VISI) but we do review things once in a great while that have an affiliate relationship like MarketingSherpa Reports. We’ve been reviewing MarketingSherpa Guides and Reports for at least 6 years now and they’ve always been really useful.  Check out the info on the MarketingSherpa site and if you think the report will be useful to you in just a few of the examples above, go ahead and buy it. We can use the referral fee to buy more coffee and write more blog posts at 5am :)


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© Online Marketing Blog, 2010. |
MarketingSherpa 2011 SEO & Social Media Benchmark Report | http://www.toprankblog.com

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