Tag: Business

SEO 101: Content Marketing as an SEO Strategy

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a busy and dynamic market. As search engines regularly change their algorithms to take new factors into account when calculating a website’s rank, positioning sites is becoming more challenging.

Today, SEO is no longer about low-quality content spiked with keywords to please search engine crawlers.

In reality, the smartest approach to SEO comes in the form of content marketing. For SEO to work, we need a human touch, but also financial and creative resources.

Fortunately, SEO experts can take advantage of tools that were designed to match these new requirements. One of them is a content marketing platform called marketin9 which helps marketers streamline the process of publishing sponsored articles on websites.

Read on to find out how SEO and content marketing can work together to make a website successful.

Is content marketing about to replace SEO?

Some say that content marketing is on its way to overtaking SEO completely. That claim is clearly exaggerated. It just doesn’t make sense to pull SEO and content marketing apart when they go together so seamlessly — and with such amazing results.

While SEO is a narrow and technical discipline, content marketing suggests a more holistic approach and is generally broader (includes many types of content: blog posts, videos, infographics, presentations and more).

But that doesn’t mean they should be separated. In fact, they converge smoothly. We get the technical specifications from SEO and implement them in our content marketing campaign, ensuring its success. That success translates to both fields, bringing websites not only a higher rank, but also new traffic, higher engagement and a conversion rate boost.

Here’s how content marketing and SEO fit one another:

  • SEO can’t work without content. It needs keywords, words and articles. Content marketing supplies that, bearing in mind the requirements first established by SEO. Think of content marketing as a practical application of SEO in the form of content.
  • SEO is based on keywords. SEO experts dedicate a lot of time to researching and utilizing keywords. But how can they apply these keywords? Stuffing websites with keywords doesn’t lead anywhere; search engines are perfectly aware of these tactics and often punish sites that do so. The safest solution is content marketing. Content marketing means producing content which is written for humans to enjoy but also targeting particular keywords.
  • SEO needs backlinks. One of the most powerful SEO tactics is link building. Having a high-authority website or portal include a link to your site is a huge boost. There are two ways in which you can get backlinks: by writing amazing content and hoping someone links to it or by using platforms like marketin9 that help reach publishers successfully.

If you’re still not convinced that content marketing plays an essential role in SEO, here’s a case study from our team to show you what good content can do to a website’s rank.

Case study: Insurance company in the UK

To illustrate the results of regular publication of content on quality domains, here’s an example of a client who used the potential of marketing platform.

Who:

A company operating in the insurance industry in the UK. This industry is among the most expensive when it comes to PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns, generating rates between $2.00 and $6.00 per click. It’s also one of the most competitive in terms of SEO, which results from a huge market fighting for a very limited number of converting phrases.

Problem:

The insurer’s marketing department reached out to marketin9, asking for help in developing and implementing a long-term strategy to obtain links and create content that would result in an increase of its position on the most important and high-converting phrases. The goal was increasing traffic from organic search results, which in turn was supposed to increase sales through the website. Until now, by means of intensive SEO activities, the company managed to get to the top 10 results for two phrases. However, that result did not provide the company with the conversion rate they wanted.

Solution:

Thanks to the support of the marketin9 platform, the company published over 300 publications on websites with very high authority within 12 months. Each month, there was an increase not only in its position in search rankings, but also in website traffic.

Targeting the B2C sector, the publications were not limited only to advertising the insurer’s services, but mainly served to communicate curious facts, latest industry trends, education and advice for the users of smartphones, laptops, tablets and other types of the latest technologies.

Thanks to that focus, it was possible to extend the subject of domains on which the publication was placed and to reach a wider range of users through not only technology-related websites, but also general-information and local portals.

Campaign results:

Already, two months after the start of the campaign, there was a visible improvement of the organic results situation, which, together with the peak months in the e-commerce industry, resulted in a significant increase in traffic on sub-pages, generating more sales inquiries.

Here’s a table presenting the number of clicks from organic results on subpages only related to these phrases – excluding other traffic channels, as well as the home page and subpages that were not taken into account when running campaigns and obtaining links.

The peak of traffic and sales happened initially during the holiday season in December and January, due to the initial rise in position. To sum up the campaign, after 12 months, the number of inquiries tripled (over specific months) and the company achieved a 187 percent increase in traffic compared to the peak.

We achieved the best results on three priority phrases: mobile phone insurance, phone insurance and iPhone insurance, which significantly contributed to the increase in traffic and sales despite their high difficulty.

Here are the average positions, together with the number of impressions and clicks, month to month.

As a result, the campaign achieved the ROI of 255 percent at the end of 2017. The company reduced the average cost of user acquisition and made the sale partially independent of investments in PPC. Another benefit the company noted was the increased brand awareness. The mentions appearing in publications translated into increased traffic on brand phrases and direct visits to the site, in addition to direct visits from links included in publications.

Invest in content marketing now

Five years ago, only the most prominent brands with multimillion-dollar marketing budgets could afford content marketing. They published on high-authority websites and portals as a way to acquire valuable links. Back then, that type of promotional campaign was well outside the financial reach of small and mid-sized businesses. An average marketer or SEO expert could only dream about such sophisticated link-building strategy.

But today, the situation looks completely different, and getting in touch with publishers is easier than ever, thanks to dedicated tools like marketin9.

Marketin9 is a platform that helps companies reach the right publishers and offers easily. Companies launching content marketing strategies can use the platform to order sponsored content, choose publishers by category and get discounted pricing when placing a larger order from particular publishers. The cost of publishing a sponsored article can be up to 50 percent lower than if the advertiser contacted such a website directly.

Content marketing is of great value to link building as a proven and fail-safe way of acquiring quality backlinks. If you’ve been considering investing in a content marketing strategy, now is the best time.

Source: Search Engine Land | Here’s why you should start thinking of content marketing as an SEO strategy

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SEO 101: Smart Content Execution

office professional

spend a lot of time trying to figure out why some content ideas get links and why some don’t.

There can be many reasons for a lackluster campaign. Sometimes you can figure out why things didn’t go well, sometimes you can’t. One thing I always look into is how well a content idea was executed.

Bringing an idea to life and having it succeed is very satisfying. Of course, not every link-building campaign nets a lot of links, but even if you have a weak idea or one with no “hook,” you can still make the campaign fly if you execute in a stunning or different way.

Here are some things to keep in mind when deciding how to bring your content ideas to life and explore parts of the process in turn. We’ll look at:

  • The content idea itself.
  • The resources you have for executing content.
  • The timeline you’re working toward.
  • The range of formats available to you.
  • How the execution can directly affect someone’s ability to link to you.

Let’s jump in!

1. The idea

Coming up with a good idea that is link-worthy isn’t easy, and it can take time and a lot of experience.

Something we teach our team here at Aira (my company) is that there is a big difference between a good idea and a good idea that gets links.

For the purposes of this post, let’s assume you have a solid idea which is relevant to your business and has a good chance of getting links. There are a couple of things you need to keep in mind to make sure that your idea comes to life in the best possible way.

First, you need to distill your idea down to the core point you’re trying to make. Then, take this core point and do everything you can to ensure that it doesn’t get lost throughout the execution. This includes making sure it sits prominently in your design or copy brief and giving feedback if you see it getting lost at any point. Remember that up until this point, it only existed inside your head, and while it may be clear to you, others need to fully understand it, too. Be clear and share as many details as possible.

Second, you need to make sure the execution of the campaign doesn’t overshadow the idea. This may be hard for you to control, since the execution is more than likely going to rest in the hands of a designer.

For me, this is where having a great designer on your team is absolutely crucial and demonstrates the difference between a good content designer and a great content designer. The key is to keep things simple and minimalistic, which is hard for some designers to do. If you want to keep clear a single core point in your content, you need to be prepared to not overcomplicate a design with unnecessary icons, copy or images.

2. Execution resources

It can be easy to get carried away and dream up really elaborate ways to bring your idea to life, but you also need to be realistic with what resources you have, as well as the budget at your disposal. If you are thinking your idea needs to be an interactive data visualization but have no budget or front-end development resources, then you need to know this upfront.

Typically, you’ll need to think about allocating time and budget to the following resources:

  • Copywriting. Depending on the complexity of the idea, you may need a specialist copywriter or someone who is particularly good at headlines. If you’re keeping the copy to a minimum, perhaps you or one of your team can handle it. But don’t underestimate the importance of good copy, particularly when you’re likely to be pitching this content to journalists or industry experts who will notice anything when something isn’t right.
  • Design. Chances are that you’ll need a designer. You may have one on your team already, or you may work with freelancers. If you have access to multiple designers, take some time to understand their strengths and weaknesses and align ideas with them accordingly. One designer may be particularly good at interactive data visualizations while another may be better at flowchart/timeline-style graphics.
  • Development.  If your idea requires interactivity, even at a basic level, you’re likely to need a web developer to help. For most content pieces, a good front-end developer is probably going to be able to do the job. If you’re accessing live data via application program interfaces (APIs) or working with interactive databases, you may also need to consider working with a backend developer.

One important note here: You’re likely to also need development time from the person handling the uploading of content to the website. This may well be a different developer from the one who is working on the content itself. It’s pretty common for agencies to work with their own developers and also work with a different developer when it comes to uploading the content to the client’s website.

You need to factor this time in and give the client a fair amount of notice when you’ll need this development resource, particularly if, like many development teams these days, they work on a sprint cycle.

Whatever resource you have, be aware of it from the very start of the project so you choose an execution process that will go smoothly and not affect the chances of the piece succeeding.

3. The timeline

Another key factor to consider when choosing how to execute the campaign is how much time you have and how flexible the client can be.  The flexibility issue will often depend on your relationship with your client, if they trust you and results thus far have been good, they are more likely to give you some wiggle room when it comes to timelines.

I can share a good example here. We had been working with a company for about nine months and launched several good campaigns, each going off about every six weeks or so. It was a good schedule, the budget was right, and to a point, they were happy with our work.

As we worked along, one of our team members had an idea for a content piece which would have required more time and resources than normal. In particular, it would need much more data collection and analysis, as well as a more complex design and development brief. This not only increased the campaign’s cost overall but also increased the time it took to launch a project from six to 10 weeks.

We pitched the idea to the client because we felt that the extras would be worth it. We felt the new project would show a marked increase in links, media coverage and traffic. It took a bit of back and forth, but the project was signed off on and eventually became the most successful campaign we did for this company.

The point here is that this would never have happened if we didn’t already have the client’s trust and confidence. But having their trust gave our team the confidence to come up with a bigger idea which was well executed. When the cycle of trust is continued, success is usually maintained.

There are a couple of other things to keep in mind when it comes to timelines.

  • First, if you’re centering an idea around an event or awareness day, you’ll need to be confident that the method of execution you choose can be complete and uploaded to a website in plenty of time. We’ve learned this the hard way and once launched a piece of Christmas-themed content just a few days before Christmas. It got a few links, but most journalists had already left for the holidays, and those who hadn’t already had their editorial schedules sorted.
  • The other thing to keep in mind is syncing with other teams, especially at another agency. You need to be aware of the team’s activities and be prepared to choose an execution strategy that allows you to play your part in the overall picture. Don’t be upstaged!
  • Try to keep things running smoothly when working with your in-house team. When a campaign starts to slow down or runs late, this affects other parts of the execution being handled by different parts of your team. If you’re late, they will be late and ultimately, unhappy.  Keep things moving!

4. Format ranges

There are a lot of ways to execute link-building ideas, and I can’t cover them all, but I wanted to share the most common tactics and talk about how they may affect your ability to attract links.

Static infographics. I think infographics have gotten a bad rap in recent years. Many years ago, infographics were highly regarded when it came to link-building, and the SEO community loved the tactic and used it regularly. So what happened?

Too many infographics were created, with many with poor designs and bad messages. The effect they had as link magnets wore off, and the concept suffered overall.

Bad infographics are a bad idea. But overall, a good infographic that has been well executed can be a link goldmine. There are plenty of examples out there of infographics with value.

From an execution point of view, static infographics are relatively straightforward, since they only need a designer and access to a content management system (CMS) to upload them.

Interactive infographics. When you “soup up” a static infographic by making it interactive in some way, you get an “interactive infographic.” This allows a user to interact with the content in some manner, perhaps via hovers, pop-ups or entering information into the content and getting a customized response.

This type of content will almost certainly require help from a developer and will need more time, resources and a lot of testing at the quality assurance (QA) stage.

Data visualizations. These are popular formats with agencies, partly because they are fun to look at, but mostly because a good dataset can drive a lot of links. Data visualization pieces can be similar to interactive infographics when it comes to the impact on execution, except you may need a more advanced developer who understands JavaScript libraries to make the data visualization work.

GIFs. Good old .gifs are a fun but simple execution. They’re a nice way to get something that looks a little bit interactive but doesn’t require development time. A good designer can make a gif that presents an idea or story well.

The decision as to whether to use a .gif execution or not lies in the idea itself and the core point that you’re trying to make. If the point is to show how something looks, a .gif may fit the bill nicely.

5. Linkability

Finally, how does the execution of a link-building campaign influence its success? You may have a great content idea that has been well executed, but are people actually linking to it? Even the best ideas hit a brick wall now and then. Let’s look at the reasons why your campaign may fail.

Embedding your content. When it comes to interactive content, many websites looking to host your content may want to have a working version of your content on their website versus linking to it.

Given that it’s not possible to give them all the content outright and let them upload it to their site, a good alternative is to offer an embed code which allows the content to be seen on their site but is still located on your own server. If possible, get your developers to create an embeddable version of your content and provide an embed code to sites that want to host the content.

Options for a variety of CMSs. Sometimes, even a good embed code won’t be enough because the person you are negotiating with for link space may have a limited CMS which doesn’t allow for embed codes to be used.

WordPress is notorious for stripping out hypertext markup language (HTML). If the person you’re working with isn’t particularly code-savvy, they may not know how to fix this and could just walk away.

As a solution, consider having a static version of any interactive content piece you’re using as link bait. This doesn’t need to be a whole new design; it can be a simple screen shot of one key part of the interactive piece users can click on to see the full interactive version on your site.

Style/design. If someone is embedding your content on their page, either an interactive or a static piece, they may have some concerns about the style of your content complementing their site or blog. This is a fair concern, but I wouldn’t bend over backward to make changes.

When you are doing outreach for a link-building campaign and offering content as the hook, have your designer create the content in a simple, minimal design. Design issues are less likely to happen this way, and if they do? Offer extra copy points in the form of quotes or extra data to the host site instead. This means they can create an article which isn’t visual but still has value.

Final thought

Keep these content execution tactics in mind, and you’ll spend less time wondering if your link-building campaign will take off and more time counting links.

Source: Search Engine Land | Smart content execution will net a lot of inbound links

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SEO 101: Optimizing Virtual Assisstants

revamp

Question: How much of an impact will homonyms, accents, and stressed words have in voice search?

Upasna: The automatic speech recognition capabilities of the voice search system have become intelligent enough to understand accents, dialects, and stressed words, as well as decipher context of homonyms.

Google Assistant Group Product Manager Brad Abrams recently discussed this in the Voicebot Podcast, as he highlights (17:00 mark) how accents do pose problems within a country with regional variations, but that localization involves a lot more than just accents.

This challenge can be addressed in two parts: automated speech recognition (ASR) and natural language understanding (NLU). Speech and accent recognition fall under the ASR segment, while understanding intent, slang, grammar variants and colloquial expressions all need NLU.

When Google added 30 new language varieties last year, they worked with native speakers to collect speech samples by asking them to read common phrases in their own accents and dialects. This process trained their machine learning models to understand the sounds and words of the new languages and improve the accuracy of the system when exposed to more sound samples over time. Neural translation has worked a lot better than the old phrase-based system because it now translates full sentences at a time, instead of fragments of a sentence.

From Google:

To incorporate 30 new language varieties, we worked with native speakers to collect speech samples, asking them to read common phrases. This process trained our machine learning models to understand the sounds and words of the new languages and to improve their accuracy when exposed to more examples over time.

By using this broader context, it can figure out the most relevant translation, which is then rearranged and adjusted to be more like a human speaking with proper grammar. Google search has already existed and functioned in all of those languages for such a long time, which has provided a powerful source of intelligent data to build voice search capabilities that are able to understand user queries and serve relevant answers.

Google speech recognition now supports 119 languages at impressive accuracy rates.

Question: What about Siri?  Should we use the same rules as Google voice search?

Upasna: I don’t like the rigidity of the word “rules” when we’re speaking about such a dynamic landscape, so let’s say “best practices.”

Yes, the same best practices can and should be applied, because like Google voice search, we understand how Siri works by understanding how ASR works. Apple already has a lot of ASR models in production, which support 21 languages in 36 countries (perhaps even more now).

Apple has also been working on refining their ASR language models over the past several years and has caught up despite getting a late start in the game.

Question: When creating content for voice search, does it make sense to have a whole page of questions and answers, or is it better to integrate a question/answer into each content piece?

Upasna: The best practice would be to create a clear information architecture within your FAQ section. Create a top-level FAQ page, then group similar questions together within a sub-page to create topical authority and provide long-form answers. Understanding and answering hyper-specific questions is key for voice search, especially for purchase-driven queries.

For example, a voice search user is much more likely to search for “what’s the best waterproof fitness tracker of 2018 that can sync with my iPhone” or “best waterproof fitness tracker for surfing” than just “best fitness tracker.”

In just the last four weeks, my team and I have noticed drastic changes in the search engine results pages (SERPs) for these queries, where the hyper-specific query being searched is providing results in the form of product carousels within the featured snippet and a knowledge graph panel pulling in a specific, single product to answer the question.

The more precisely we can answer these specific questions, the better we can serve the user and gain organic visibility. If you’re not using it already, I recommend you tap into the SEMrush Keyword Magic Tool’s “question” filter.

Question: How do you foresee the adoption of voice search in other countries?

Upasna: Google’s goal is to make the web more inclusive, which means bringing down as many language barriers as possible. I think this has already directly impacted the rate at which voice search is adopted in other countries, and will continue to do so.

The rate of adoption in India is a great example of this progression. According to Rajan Anandan, Google Vice President and Managing Director, South East Asia and India, as of December 2017, 28 percent of search queries in India are conducted by voice and Hindi voice search queries are growing by over 400 percent.

As I mentioned earlier, last year, Google launched voice search capability for 30 new languages, nine of which were Indian languages. The Indian subcontinent itself has 22 official/major languages, 13 different scripts, and over 720 dialects. We can only imagine the challenge of bringing something as complex as voice search to this country, but it is happening.

A speaker of regional Indian languages like Punjabi or Tamil used to have difficulty finding accurate and relevant content in their native languages, but last year, Google brought its new Neural Machine Translation technology to translations between English and nine widely used Indian languages (Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Gujarati, Malayalam, and Kannada) – languages that span the entire country.

We know it’s easier to learn a language when we already understand a related language (as is the case with Hindi Punjabi, or Hindi and Gujarati, for example), and Google also discovered their neural technology speaks each language better when it learns several at a time. Because Hindi is the national language and spoken across the country, Google has a lot more sample data for Hindi than its regional relatives Marathi and Bengali. Google has realized that when the languages are trained all together, the translations for all improve more than if each one was trained individually.

We see this in practice with Chrome’s built-in translate functionality. More than 150 million web pages are translated by Chrome users through the magic of machine translations with one click or tap every single day.

With these advances in language accuracy and translation in India, Google statistics now reveal that rural areas are catching up quickly with the metropolitan areas when it comes to internet usage in India as consumers are searching in their preferred languages more than ever before. As more and more people in India discover the internet and its relevant and useful applications, it’s fast weaving into the fabric of everyday life in urban and rural areas alike.

I believe that we’ll continue to see this adoption pattern unfold into other countries as Google continues to feed more language data into and train its Neural Machine Translation system.

Source: Search Engine Land | Ask the SMXpert – Optimizing for voice search & virtual assistants

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SEO 101: Projecting SEO Traffic Levels

As any SEO knows, you can’t predict with any accuracy what a change will do to your traffic, since there are numerous external factors you have no control over.

But — you can give your boss an idea of incoming traffic while addressing and taking those external factors into account.

Let’s look at what we can and cannot control, the impact certain issues may have on traffic and how to predict incoming traffic to your site.

Baselining

The first step is to establish your baseline by establishing where your traffic is coming from and how much you’re getting. Be sure everyone is using the same data and is looking at it in the same manner. Ideally, have a dashboard that’s shared by all, so everyone who needs to can look at the numbers whenever they want.

Seasonality

Next, you need to look at the impact that seasonality has upon your traffic numbers. Look at how your traffic has trended month over month over the last three to five years; there should some be consistency in seasonal trending from year to year.

For example, for a warm weather-based product, perhaps your sales peaked from June to August and then dipped from November to March. A retail product may peak over the holiday season and dip for the rest of the year. Average these trends over the data periods, and remove any outliers, such as your atypically lower numbers for one month in 2016 when a large portion of the site was noindexed during a site relaunch.

Annual trending

Next, look at how traffic to your site has been growing year to year over the last few years. If your typical growth is 5 percent year to year, that’s what you should most likely expect as a baseline growth. Look at your history to see what projects were done over the years to get an idea of the impact they may have had, above and beyond the baseline trending.

Now you have expected numbers based on both annual and seasonal trending. They are the numbers you should work to hit unless you have a major project come along.

Upcoming projects

Obviously, no one can predict the future, but if you have projects in the wings and some you want to implement, you should take them into account when forecasting traffic.

Based on past project performance, you should have an idea how long it would take them to generate traffic once a project was implemented and what the growth pattern should look like. When adding upcoming projects to the baseline traffic model, think about a best-case scenario and an expected scenario. These two scenarios give you a range you can use to project traffic numbers.

Of course, those traffic numbers could still be suffixed with “it depends,” as there are a number of factors you have no control over that can adversely impact the actual numbers, like internal staffing changes and economic impacts.

Another key point about forecasting project traffic: If you have an idea of which projects brought in the most traffic, you will have a good idea which projects you want to implement in the future or drop from the planning schedule. No sense in repeating poor performance.

Search engine algorithm updates

Search engines change their algorithms constantly in their continuing effort to improve search results. These changes may negatively impact your traffic. If you’re doing something against their webmaster guidelines, then you may expect this to happen, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes the search engines change how they present data in order to improve user experience, which may impact how your pages are displayed, ranked and clicked on.

If your web pages are negatively impacted by a search engine update, all you can do is examine what’s changed and see if there’s a way to recover the traffic you’ve lost.

Competitive changes

Your competitors can change their sites at any time and try to copy your SEO efforts by optimizing for the same keywords or creating similar content. This can have a negative effect on your traffic stream.

This is a primary reason why an SEO can never stand still. You must keep an eye on your competitors, as well as your site and traffic, to identify opportunities or changes early on. Best to be proactive rather than reactive.

Mistakes

Mistakes happen to all of us, that’s a given. When something is missed in the quality assurance process, changed in an update or a third-party tool malfunctions, traffic has the potential to drop. This is another reason why proactively monitoring all elements of a site is very important.

Expect change

There will always be an element of “it depends” when projecting SEO traffic levels, that’s a given. But establishing a baseline and understanding historical traffic trends will give you an idea of what to expect and alert you when traffic levels fall.

Source: Search Engine Land |How to project SEO traffic levels and avoid saying, ‘It depends’

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SEO 101: Steps to Make Your Content Work Harder

Blog Scrabble

Businesses of all sizes are investing more time, resources, and money into content creation than ever before.

Almost every organization that I speak with understand the potential return on investment that great content can deliver, and yet disproportionately few companies are spending anywhere near enough focus on making existing content work harder toward current and changing business goals.

What follows are my three favorite tactics that work to leverage the value of your existing content and support greater historical and existing content contribution toward your business goals.

To clarify, my focus here is about getting more bang for your buck. There are other great reads on Search Engine Journal if you are looking to solve other specific content needs (like making your content stand out from the crowd).

1. Reinforcing Content Purpose & Deriving More Value

Every piece of content that is created and added to your website needs to have a clear purpose.

However, the purpose, positioning, and pitch of content can – and likely will – change over time. Plus, there are often industry or search changes that provide new opportunities for extra visibility targeting.

High-quality content isn’t enough unless there is a valid reason for the content to exist in the first place.

Common Content Purpose Updates

How can you revisit and reinforce purpose into existing content?

There are many ways.

Common content purpose includes:

  • Informing and educating.
  • Driving users through a buying cycle.
  • Expediating time to purchase.
  • Reinforcing trust and expertise.
  • Encouraging herd mentality.
  • Selling products and services.
  • Positioning the brand.

Once you’re happy that the content is serving it’s intended purpose, the next action is to maximize and grow its value.

Some of the tactics that I regularly deploy to maximize the value derived from purposeful content (in this case the purpose being to “educate and inform”) include:

  • Targeting SERP features like featured snippets and rich results.
  • Increasing the depth of content topical coverage.
  • Answering core audience questions.
  • Expanding the onsite authority passing to key topical pages.
  • Use of mixed content types.

Content Purpose Updates in Action

Here’s an example of this exact approach in action (disclosure: this is based on work I do with WorldFirst).

Some of the characteristics used for educating and informing people (in this case tied to foreign exchange) can be seen below.

  • Answering the most relevant user questions, informational barriers, and positioning content within a framework that supports Google rich result inclusion, as well as driving the user through an informational journey.
  • Increasing the topical coverage and depth of standalone page value to encourage single destination solutions for the website visitor.
  • Incorporating mixed content types to support alternative and preferred user content, the inclusion of content within other verticals (in this case image search, plus integrated search result pages), and perceived content quality.
  • Independent segment value specific to solving identified audience needs.

2. Increasing Your Domain’s Topical Authority

When businesses are looking to expand into new areas, add new products and services, or generally solve audience dilemmas, frequently they will add a single topical page onto the website. They assume doing so will be enough for Google (and other search engines) to associate this topic with the authority of the website.

This simply isn’t the case.

For search engines to attribute any tangible levels of expertise, trust, and authority to a new business and/or website focus area, the content needs to facilitate a number of trust and expertise factors plus demonstrate value above that seen with long-standing content coverage areas.

Tactics to Grow Topical Authority Faster

Assuming that you’ve already created amazing content that is the best resource of its kind when compared to your business and SEO competition, here are some actions you can take to help build topical authority faster:

  • Increase the scale of on-site topical content coverage with a tiered approach to content creation. This can include alternative content types and targeted blog posts discussing key intent areas on the topic. The goal is to associate the site more effectively with the topic when comparing it to other established topics.
  • Improve internal linking to topic pages (primarily to the main topic landing page or hub) passing page views, engagement, and authority.
  • Promote external trust signals with external brand mentions on the topic as well as backlinks pointing to key topic pages. A focus here needs to be fresh backlink signals from topically relevant externally trusted and authoritative ranking, non-competing sites.
  • Fuel social engagement, social sharing, and engagement with topic-specific influencers and generally with your established audience. Building buzz, PR, and new topic-based social awareness will help speed up the relevance of the brand to new areas of interest.
  • Leverage important website navigational areas to reinforce the value and relevancy of the topic to the business. This can include persistent sub-navigational elements like footers as well as the primary navigation. This will help place the topic higher up in the perceived site hierarchy and importance.

3. Refresh, Revisit, Refine

Content will never live up to its full potential unless you put in place measures to:

  • Refresh it.
  • Revisit the content based on latest data sets.
  • Refine and update the content reflecting the ways in which it is being discovered, interacted with, and its general functioning.

Each piece of content added to a website should be given enough time (2-3 weeks) to build authority, generate impressions and traffic, and generally begin to build up a data set large enough to make an informed decision on potential modifications.

Some of the questions you need to answer with new content include:

  • Does it fulfill its purpose?
  • Can you get more value from it?
  • How is it performing compared to your other content and compared to other competing external content?
  • Are people enjoying the content – reading it, sharing it, clicking on links, completing intended outcomes?
  • What is working well?
  • What can work better?
  • Does the content reflect the search queries people are using to discover it?
  • Can the content deliver more value to the user?
  • Are there underperforming metric areas that can be targeted for improvement?

Conclusion

Your content can always work harder.

While it is true that “‘SEO never sleeps,” it’s equally correct to assume that “content is never complete.”

Every new data point, user interaction, and search query is an opportunity to act on and improve when it comes to content.

My three easy actions to make content work harder and deliver extra results sooner are:

  • Reinforce content purpose and derive more value.
  • Increase your domain’s topical authority.
  • Refresh, revisit and refine.

Source: Search Engine Journal | 3 Easy Steps to Make Your Content Work Harder

 

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SEO 101: Local Community Engagement and Link Building

It’s hard to separate community engagement from link building.

Instead of prescribing to traditional marketing rules, I strive to integrate community engagement with my link building campaigns.

Community engagement bridges the gap between offline and online marketing. Break down the idea that link building is only online.

My approach to link building is an egalitarian one — I believe that all marketing channels, social networks, events, and emails can lend themselves to interesting and creative link building campaigns.

The idea that link building is only meant to be done online is really getting to be outdated. And, that’s cool.

Offline link building is community engagement with real people in the real world.

I’ve done this by hosting a blogger focus group for a new menu. And, afterwards the bloggers shared articles on their sites and on social about our new menu. They also became long-term influencers that continued to work with the brand for months.

Here are some simple ways to take your link building into your local community:

  • Host an event.
  • Sponsor an event.
  • Sponsor local bloggers to host an event for you.
  • Give away cool swag.
  • Add your swag to another event gift bag.
  • Request to speak at a local event.
  • Volunteer at a local charity.
  • Write an ah-mazing article about a recent industry event.

When you’re all done, don’t forget to pitch local news outlets. They are craving local interesting content so it never hurts to ask.

Summary

Timeframe: Month 7, then ongoing monthly.

Results detected: 4-12 months

Average links per month: 1

Tools

  • Manual research for industry and local events.

Benefits:

Source: Search Engine Journal | How to Take Your Link Building Into Your Local Community

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SEO 101: What to Do If Your Most Popular Pages Don’t Convert

Welcome to another edition of Ask an SEO! Today, we’ve got a question from Darcy in San Francisco:

I have a site that gets a ton of traffic on pages that aren’t central to our core business and do not lead to conversions that are useful for us. Are they still positively affecting our rankings for the other pages (raising overall site ranking/authority) or skewing our results and making our other pages appear lower as they are ranked as less important in the overall site design? I’m wondering if I should drop the high performing pages as they are less relevant, although they do link to the other pages of interest but they are rarely clicked on. I can’t find this answer anywhere. Thanks so much!

This is super common.

I have a client right now that is dealing with this. They specialize in cleaning out estate homes after the owner has passed away.

This client gets a ton of traffic for “What to Wear to a Wake”. (For those who aren’t sure what a wake is, it’s a sort of visitation or party for friends when a loved one dies. Similar to a funeral, but without a church service. Often a funeral is held separately for family only.)

Since you didn’t give me an example from your own site, I’m going to use this one, and hopefully, it will apply to your situation.

Related Traffic Can Lead to Qualified Leads Later

Although my client doesn’t schedule or organize wakes, a wake is one of a series of events that a deceased person’s family members need to organize.

By showing up for a search like this, the client can offer the visitor other information about what to do after a loved one’s death.

While it is indirectly related to cleaning out the loved one’s home at all (which usually comes several weeks later), the visitor has the opportunity to download a checklist and other resources that they can keep with them until that time comes.

The checklist helps them through every stage of the process and isn’t a sales piece at all.

It is our hope that if they need help cleaning out the house, they will give the client a call since the checklist was so helpful.

We have no way to track this and have no idea how many people who use our checklists actually sign up for services. But by providing a useful tool, we create that opportunity.

Links Are Important, Too

Although we don’t know how much of that “wake” traffic leads to sales, it does produce links.

By creating and offering something of great value (for the cost of an email address), we create a resource that others are likely to link to.

And they have.

That one page has obtained completely natural links from several news organizations, funeral homes, senior care centers, and senior publications.

While these links aren’t directly to our most important content (the pages that describe what the clean out process involves), they definitely help our credibility in search for other keywords.

The Bottom Line

Having pages that get a lot of traffic but which have a high bounce rate or don’t convert can be really frustrating.

My best advice is to keep testing.

Keep trying different things.

  • Can some related articles get people looking at more than just that one page?
  • Can you capture an email with a free resource download?
  • Can you siphon that traffic off to an affiliate opportunity where you can at least make some secondary revenue from it?

Try to make that traffic work for you.

  • Dig through Google Analytics to try and get information on user behavior.
  • Try a focus group or a survey to get information.
  • Install HotJar or a similar tracking software to see what elements people interact with most.

Above All, Don’t Worry

I’ve never heard of a situation where Google or any other search engine devalued other pages because one page was outperforming the others. It doesn’t objectively make sense that they would do that.

If you have one page of valuable content, it’s likely that you have more.

If the page is a pain in your reports, do what another client of mine did, and create a custom segment in Google Analytics that removes that traffic before reporting on the rest of your site.

Above all, look at it as a benefit rather than a detriment.

Source: Search Engine Journal | What to Do If Your Most Popular Pages Aren’t Converting

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SEO 101: Optimizing Youtube Videos for Search

 

Content Marketing KPIs: Your Guide to Picking the Right KPIs for Content

Are you using the right metrics to measure how your content marketing campaigns are performing? Get a copy of our latest ebook and learn which key performance indicators truly matter.

Back in April 2007, Amanda Watlington, the owner of Searching for Profit, and I taught the first in a series of training workshops called Getting Found in All the Right Places at Search Engine Strategies (R.I.P.).

Back then, we were trying to teach digital marketers “how to optimize and leverage their content and its distribution across news, blog, social, image, audio, and video search engines.”

A month later, Google launched Universal Search and started blending content from Images, Maps, Video, and News into their web results.

So, 11 years later, you would think that most marketers would be getting found in all the right places by now.

But, surprisingly, very few have.

Universal Search in 2018

Yes, many have optimized the posts on their blogs. And, a large percentage have optimized their content on Google My Business.

But, the biggest opportunity that most web marketers have missed is optimizing the videos on their YouTube channels.

How big an opportunity is this? Well, according to Searchmetrics’ 2018 Universal Search study:

  • Videos appear in 23 percent of mobile results and 22 percent of desktop results.
  • Images appear in 16 percent of mobile and 23 percent of desktop results.
  • News appears in 9 percent of mobile and 11 percent of desktop results.
  • Direct answers (a.k.a., featured snippets) appear in 4 percent of mobile and 16 percent of desktop results.
  • Maps appear in 4 percent of mobile and 3 percent of desktop results.

Now, I’ve met plenty of plenty of marketers who are frantically trying to optimize webpages so some of their content appears in featured snippets. But still, according to Searchmetrics:

“…the number of searches that return an answer container on the search results pages on mobile devices is actually dropping. This trend may surprise SEO and online marketing professionals who haven’t been able to escape proclamations of Direct Answers being the great new opportunity for boosting free, organic traffic. What the trend shows is that users weren’t always happy with the results shown in answer boxes – which could be irrelevant, out-of-date or even fake news – and so Google is more often letting users choose their own best answer.”

If you step back and look at the data, then it’s pretty clear that video is your biggest opportunity.

Oh, and check out this additional observation by Searchmetrics:

“One provider keeps growing its presence. The proportion of integrated videos that come from YouTube has risen to 92 percent. Accordingly, the competition is thin on the ground. YouTube’s dominance leaves challengers like vevo.com, dailymotion.com and vimeo.com to fight over the scraps of the remaining 8 percent.”

It is also worth noting that YouTube is the world’s second-largest search engine, so appearing in YouTube search results is more important than being found in Bing’s or Yahoo’s search results.

So with all these insights, how do you optimize your YouTube videos so they appear in Google Universal Search results as well as YouTube search results?

Understand That YouTube’s Ranking Algorithm Is Different from Google’s

The first thing to realize is that, despite being a subsidiary of Google, YouTube has a different ranking algorithm.

I still bump into a few web marketers who mistakenly think that YouTube crawls their website like Google Video once did.

YouTube only ranks videos that have been uploaded to YouTube. And Google Video was discontinued in August 2012.

The goals of YouTube’s search and discovery algorithm are twofold:

  • To help viewers find the videos they want to watch.
  • To maximize long-term viewer engagement and satisfaction.

In other words, YouTube’s algorithm uses “relevance” to help viewers find the videos they’re searching for, and then ranks all the relevant videos in order of their “watch time,” which rewards engaging videos that keep viewers watching. It’s actually a little more complex than this, but these are the two most important ranking factors.

People Use Different Search Terms in YouTube & Google

The search terms people use on YouTube are often different than the ones they use on Google.

So, when you conduct keyword research for video SEO, you will want to use tools like Google Trends, which not only lets you explore web search trends, but also YouTube search trends.

Or, check out Keyword Tool, which uses Google’s and YouTube’s autocomplete features to generate highly relevant long-tail keywords about a particular topic.

If you want to rank well in both Google search and YouTube search results, you should identify relevant long-tail keywords that are used on both platforms.

Optimize Your YouTube Video’s Metadata

Title

You need to optimize your YouTube video’s title and make it compelling as this serves as your video’s headline. If all 100 characters showed up in a search, ask yourself: would you click on it?

Google offers the following tips to optimize video titles:

  • Always represent your content accurately.
  • Offer keywords first, branding at the end.
  • For serial content, add the episode number to the end of the title.
  • Update video titles so they continue to grab views.

Description

Don’t forget to optimize your YouTube video’s description. Only the first few sentences of your description will appear in search results or above the fold on a watch page, so make them count!

However, your description can be up to 5,000 characters long, so this is a good place to add additional information for both the viewers and the YouTube algorithm.

Tags

You should also optimize your YouTube video’s tags. Yes, I know that Google ignores keywords meta tags, YouTube indexes up to 270 characters in your tags to help people find relevant videos. So, list them in order of relevance to the video and try to use the whole 270-character limit.

Google also advises to:

  • Include a mix of both general and specific tags.
  • Use enough tags to thoroughly and accurately describe the video.
  • Update catalogue videos’ tags when new search trends emerge.
  • Properly format tags to ensure proper indexing of your video. Include keywords from your title in your video’s tags.

Thumbnails

In addition, create custom thumbnails for your videos. Thumbnails are displayed in different sizes and formats all across the platform and outside of it, so ensure that you have a strong, vibrant image that stands out no matter what size it is.

Upload high-resolution thumbnails – 1280px x 720px – so they appear crisp and clear wherever viewers happen to see them.

Increase Your Video’s Watch Time

When it comes to increasing your video’s “Watch Time,” it’s absolutely essential to create great content. There are no shortcuts around that. But, there are some things that you can do to improve the odds that people will continue watching your compelling videos.

Create Compelling Video Openings

Create a compelling opening to your videos and then use programming, branding, and packaging techniques to maintain and build interest throughout the video.

A study by Little Monster Media found videos that were 7-16 minutes long got more views as a percentage of subscribers than shorter or longer videos.

Use Playlists

Build long watch time sessions for your content by organizing and featuring content on your channel, including using series playlists.

Playlists allow you to collect, organize, and publish multiple videos together. This increases watch time and creates another asset that will appear in search results and in Suggested Videos.

You can create playlists using your own videos, other videos, or a combination of both.

Be Consistent

Create a regular release schedule for your videos when uploading to encourage viewers to watch sets of videos over single videos. You can use scheduled publishing to schedule a private video to go public at a specific time.

The Little Monster Media study mentioned earlier found channels posting 4.4 videos a week got 36.4 times more views than channels posting 1.2 videos a week.

Engage with Your Audience

Involve your audience in your videos and encourage comments.

Wherever possible, include your community in your videos. Interact with your viewers as part of the content.

Respond to comments in the first few hours after you publish a video. These first commenters are your loyal community members.

Use Cards

Add Cards to your videos. Cards replaced Annotations and are a great way to encourage your viewers to engage with your video and take meaningful actions as a result.

The key is to use cards to deliver additional value to your viewer. So, I recommend using Cards to drive viewers to your other videos, playlists, and channel. Or, drive viewers to your website to check out product information.

Track Your Video Performance

Finally, use YouTube Analytics to see what’s working. Pay close attention to the watch time report to find out which of your videos has the greatest watch times and view-through rates.

Look at the audience retention report to see which of your videos has low watch times and view-through rates. And check out the audience interaction reports to see which of your videos drive community actions like comments, favorites, and likes.

Conclusion

These are the best ways for getting your YouTube videos found in both Google Universal Search results as well as YouTube search results. At least, these are video SEO best practices today.

But, as web marketers know all too well, things change. So, these tips, tools, and techniques are “best if used by (or before) today’s date.”

Source: Search Engine Journal | How to Optimize Your YouTube Video for Search

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SEO 101: The Importance of H1 Tag

Distinguishing Between the H1 and the Heading of a Page

H1 is a specific piece of HTML code that is wrapped around text. It was originally meant to display that text as the largest text on the page.

When Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) were developed, one of the things CSS allowed web developers to do was to take the standard H1 format and adjust it (color, typeface, font size) to match the rest of the page design. This meant that sometimes the H1 was no longer the largest text on the page.

When Google initially wrote their algorithm, CSS hadn’t even been mainstreamed yet. In fact, it was only registered with the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in March of 1998, shortly before Google was founded (September 1998), so it certainly was not in widespread use yet.

The bottom line is that H1s were (and still are, mostly) a good indicator of what the most important text on a page was.

The heading of a page is the same thing, just without the official H1 code wrapped around it.

Aboutness & Relevance

What’s ultimately the most important are the many signals (of which H1 is one) that make up a page and indicate what the topic of the page is (a.k.a., “aboutness”).

How relevant the page is to the searcher’s query ultimately determines whether it is listed in the results set, or search engine results page (SERP).

What’s key here is not if the page has an H1 tag, but the text that’s actually in that H1 tag.

Gaming the System

This is why the H1 takes secondary importance to the heading itself. While it’s great if the heading is wrapped in H1 code, it isn’t entirely necessary.

This is also why “gamed” headings – like small text at the top or bottom of a page wrapped in H1 and CSS to make it small – don’t work.

It’s why Google ignores the H1 entirely when it’s wrapped around an image (which is a non-standard use; an H1 is a text modifier).

And finally, it’s why Google can tell that if your heading is prominent on the page but not wrapped in the H1 tag, it’s still for all intents and purposes an H1.

Other Uses of the H1 tag

Another important element the H1 serves is usability. It’s specifically usable for persons with visual impairments and people who use screen readers.

Almost every major screen reader has the capability to skip to the H1 tag on the page to tell that visitor what the page is about. If it’s missing, your site is definitely not as usable and accessible as it could be.

As Google places a higher importance than ever on usability, particularly mobile usability, this becomes more important.

H1 Tags & SEO

As you can see, the H1 tag is pretty important for SEO, usability, and accessibility.

Ideally, you should have one clearly marked on each page of your site.

Also be careful to ensure that the H1 reinforces the point of the page, and that there is only one H1.

If your site already has clear headings that are not coded as H1s? It’s unlikely that adding the H1 tag will make a significant difference to your overall SEO strategy.

But good SEO is all about checking boxes, so why not check this one now that you know it goes beyond just SEO?

Source: Search Engine Journal | How Important Is an H1 Tag for SEO?

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SEO 101: Applying Hreflang for Multilingual Websites

Last year SEMrush published findings that 75 percent of websites have hreflang implementation errors.

If you then layer on top localization and user issues, such as an Arabic website not reading from right to left, this number probably goes from three in four sites having issues to four in five.

Having worked with a number of companies, varying in both sector and size, I’ve come across a lot of weird and wonderful interpretations and implementations of the hreflang framework.

Selecting Target Countries & Core Structure

When planning your online international expansion and deciding on target markets, you also need to consider how you’re going to target them.

From experience, there are four main ways in which the URL structure can reflect internationalization:

 Implementation  Description
 Different ccTLD Using different ccTLD domains. This is considered best practice for targeting Russian and China in particular. An example of this in practice is Hartley Botanic.
 Subdomain Using a single domain, typically a gTLD, and using language targeted subdomains. An example of this in practice is CNN which uses a subdomain to differentiate between US and UK English sites.
 Subdirectory Again using a single domain, typically a gTLD, different language and content zones are targeted through a subdirectory. An example of this in practice is BeatsByDre.
 Parameter I don’t recommend implementing this method, but I do see it a lot. This is where the domain is appended with a ?lang=de parameter or similar.

Other important things to remember are:

  • Don’t use IP redirects, as it can break Google’s indexes (also remember Google crawls primarily from the U.S.).
  • If you’re using a .com, and you’ve implemented one of the above, don’t redirect your root domain to your “main website”, Google will use the hreflang to point users to the correct site.
  • Only use x-default to point to a language selector page/default page for users worldwide. A great example of this in practice is IKEA. which behaves as a language selector, but x-default can also be used to indicate a default fall-back version of the website for global users.

How to Structure Hreflang Tags

Hreflang always starts with targeting language but then can consist of further variables such as:

  • Language: “en”, “es”, “zh”, or a registered value
  • Script: “Latn”, “Cyrl”, or other ISO 15924 codes
  • Region: ISO 3166 codes, or UN M.49 codes
  • Variant: Such as “guoyu”, “Latn”, “Cyrl”
  • Extension: Single letter followed by additional subtags

Probably the most common interpretation of the above that the majority of us will be familiar with is {language}-{region}.

However, if you do a lot of work in Chinese speaking countries you’re more likely to use {language}-{script}-{region}, such as zh-Hans-cn (Simplified Chinese for the Chinese mainland).

The Internet Engineering Task Force (IEFT) specifications can be found here.

Language Tag

The supported language code comes from the ISO 639-1 classification list. However, in some instances, the extended language tag {extlangtag} can be used on its own.

Extended Language Tag

{extlangtag} tags are subtags that can be used to specify selected languages that are closely identified with an existing primary language subtag. Examples of these are:

  • zh-yue: Cantonese Chinese
  • ar-afb: Gulf Arabic

The extended language tags come from the ISO339-3 classification list.

There is also a code within this classification list for en-eng, which is the extension code for English – and is why en-eng when implemented as English for England works (but not as intended).

Script

The script subtag was introduced in RFC-46464, and they come from the list of ISO 15924 classification list. Only one script subtag can be used per hreflang tag. Examples of these include:

  • uz-Cyrl: Uzbek in the Cyrillic script
  • uz-Latn: Uzbek in the Latin script
  • zh-Hans: Chinese in the simplified script
  • zh-Hant: Chinese in the traditional script

Region

Region codes come from the ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 list and along with the language tag. Common mistakes include attempting to target “RW” as the rest of the world when it’s the country code for Rwanda, and “LA” as Latin America, when it’s Laos.

Variant

The variant subtag can be used to indicate dialects, or script variations, not covered by the language, extended language tag, or region tag.

It’s highly unlikely that you’ll come across variant subtags unless you work in very niche and specialized areas. Examples of these variants are:

  • sl-SI-nedis: The Nadiza dialect of Slovenia, as spoken in Slovenia.
  • de-DE-1901: The variant of German orthography dating from the 1901 reforms, as spoken in Germany).

Extension

Extension subtags allow for extensions to the language tag, such as the extension tag “u”, which has been registered by the Unicode Consortium to add information about the language or locale behaviour. It’s highly unlikely you will ever need to use these.

Source: Search Engine Journal | Implementing Hreflang on Multilingual Websites

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