And I’m not talking about the state of peaceful happiness and satisfaction. Though, I suppose good content should support that.
Content has been the buzzword of the marketing world lately, as the businesses and brands work to better engage with their audience.
Recently I spent the better part of a week with about 2,600 marketers from around the country who are all working to get better at content marketing. Content Marketing World, a conference developed by the Content Marketing Institute, is the largest event of its kind and seeks to educate marketers and continue to advance the industry.
I could have asked each person at the conference to define content and received a different answer. In my eyes, therein lies the key to developing great content.
It comes in many different forms and is consumed in many different forms. And there isn’t one right answer in how to do it well.
Among several quotes that stuck with me from CMWorld came from Scott Stratten, the president of UnMarketing, in his keynote talk: “Sometimes content is just giving a damn.”
Well, duh, right?
As easy as it sounds, it’s really a fundamental switch from brands just talking at their audience. Or toward their audience. Or kindof near their audience. Or, let’s face it, throwing something out there and hoping it sticks with their audience.
Stratten’s keynote drove home the message that good content needs to be a dialogue between a brand and a consumer. It needs to connect with your audience on a personal level and start a meaningful dialogue that isn’t necessarily about selling your product. It comes down to understanding your customer’s needs – and remembering that your product isn’t the solution – what your product does is the solution.
Gone are the days of traditional marketing, where strategies focused on print or broadcast media. Effective marketing now needs to occur across multiple platforms, be customized to your audience and delivered fast. And, above all, it needs to be accurate.
Audiences are looking for a relevant conversation (umm, content!) about your product that means something to them. Great content can allow you to connect with your audience in a way that is practical and engaging without needing to sell them. “Every occasion isn’t a selling occasion,” Stratten said.
With my journalism background, his message particularly resonated with me because it isn’t far from that world. Marketing shouldn’t be about spin and PR. Much like journalists report the most important elements of a news story, as marketers we should report the most important elements of our brand and get that information out in a manner that is timely, effective, honest and real.
With more and more users accessing the internet on their smartphones and tablets, it has become increasingly important to create websites that work across a variety of devices. Because of its flexible and adaptive qualities, responsive design has quickly become the industry standard for website development.
Responsive design is not only a tool for device adaptability though; there are significant SEO benefits that result from a switch to responsive design. Here are three of the big ones:
Google likes responsive sites Google typically favors mobile-optimized sites, especially when those mobile users are searching for local goods and services. Because Google is the world’s largest search engine, and other search engines typically follow Google’s lead, it is a good idea to pay attention to what Google likes.
One website with one URL From an SEO perspective, responsive sites consistently outperform separate desktop and mobile sites. With a single URL, responsive sites help reduce content duplication issues and improve SEO performance.
Reduces bounce rates A mobile website can suffer from high bounce rates if users are unable to easily read and interact with the content. Users often get frustrated when sites are not mobile-optimized, so they leave. Responsive designs allow users to enjoy their online experience on any device, which helps reduce bounce rates.
If you would like more information about responsive design, contact the development experts at TKG . And make sure you sign up for our Breakfast Bootcamp on Oct. 16, where we’ll discuss even more SEO benefits of responsive design.
Sometimes even the most experienced writers hit content roadblocks. Authoring new and original content is hard work, and after a while, the inspiration stops coming. So when your well of words dries up, and you’re desperate for new content, try out a few of these painless content generation ideas:
Get your audience to create content for you Ask your audience to take selfies with your product or tell a story about your brand’s impact on their lives. When they share these moments on social media, it will reach your network and theirs.
Recycle old content into something new Take an old post and rework it into something that’s relevant today. When you add #TBT to an engaging post from back in the day – voila! – You have a brand new piece of content.
Develop case studies When you can’t think of anything new to say, go to your customers. Ask them about past experiences, and retell their stories online. Case studies help you build transparency, and are relatively painless to create.
Curate content from other trusted sources Go to trusted news outlets or trade publications for relevant content that makes sense for your target audience. Curating content from respected sources helps build credibility, and all you have to do is post a link and your take on it.
Respond to your audience Whether it’s on social media, in comment sections, in blog posts or through contact forms, customers are always reaching out. It takes very little effort to respond to these comments, and personal responses could help you build lasting relationships with your audience.
Trust us, these content generation techniques are painless, and they will offer a lot more value to your customers than a silly meme or cat picture. (But, we like those too. Sometimes.)
We sometimes get questions from clients who are considering removing old news articles from their websites.
The quick answer: Don’t do it.
Why would someone want to delete an old news article? Here are some situations we’ve heard:
It announces an event that has already taken place
It mentions a person that no longer works for the company
It features a product or service that is no longer available or has changed
It features external links that contain broken links
It is old and therefore no one cares about it
Here’s why we do not recommend deleting older news content:
Part of the Company History
This is our response to the first three bullets. Just because the tradeshow is over doesn’t mean the article about the show needs to go away. As long as the date of the event is prominently represented in the article, there is no harm keeping the article on your website. If your news archives contain quite a few pages about tradeshows you’ve attended over the years, potential clients/customers will see you attended major industry tradeshows in the past which can help position your company as a major player in the industry.
Regarding articles featuring employees that no longer work for the company; embrace the fact that they were part of the company at the time when the article was originally written. More than likely, they helped your business and may have even interacted with your customers. If they won an award while they were working with your company, it’s okay to leave that accolade on your website. If they were part of a group of employees that volunteered in the community, the overall spirit of the article is still intact whether or not the individual is currently with the company. The exception here, of course, is if the individual left on terrible terms and could be a threat to the business. If you have legal concerns, we always recommend deferring to your legal department for guidance.
Regarding articles containing product announcements or service offerings that are no longer new or available; this is another good piece of your company’s history that should be represented online. Rather than removing the article completely, why not keep the article and add a brief note in the introduction stating that the product is no longer available and has been replaced with a new model? A link could be added to direct users to the current product which ultimately helps satisfy their need.
In research reports we have completed for clients, we’ve seen examples of users searching Google, and even a website’s own internal site search, for older product names that are no longer offered by the company. If search activity is taking place for a branded term that your company developed, your website should be the one ranking first in search engines for related searches. If it’s not your site in the search results, you’re opening the door for your competitors and others sites to occupy these valuable results.
Content Is Important for SEO
As we’ve mentioned time and time again on TKGenius, content is vital to the success of a website. Not just a few good quality landing pages, but lots of pages about a variety of topics relevant to your business. Websites with lots of valuable pages are typically viewed more favorably in search results than similar websites with fewer pages. One of the most logical locations on a website to build up content is the news section.
Let’s look at some basic numbers to further illustrate this point.
If your website contains 500 unique URLs and 200 of them are news articles, making the decision to remove the oldest 100 articles would make your website 20% smaller in terms of total pages. This would effectively reduce your website’s ability to bring organic visits by 20%. Now, we know that not all articles are going to bring in substantial traffic to a website, but a quick look at Google Analytics landing page traffic often shows a surprising number of organic visits landing on particular news articles. A really strong article written several years ago could be responsible for bringing a large amount of traffic year after year.
Content is Hard to Produce
We understand that developing a content calendar and continually writing good content is a lot of work. The best content is unique and often taking lots of planning, research, revisions and approvals to make it onto a website. Deleting an older news article cancels out all that work with the simple click of a button.
This rule expands beyond news article as well. Think long and hard about all the work you put into creating a page on your website before making the decision to delete it. Search engine algorithms are complex and if one of your news articles is relevant enough to rank on the first page of a search engine results page, it would be a shame if one day that page disappeared.
By now, you have likely heard about responsive design.
Responsive design allows users on any device – desktop, smartphone or tablet – to have a good online experience regardless of screen size.
So, the question is, how does responsive design impact online marketing efforts? As marketers, we sometimes focus only on specific tasks, such as creating content, developing email campaigns and updating social media networks. The fact is that if you do not have responsive design in place, all of the online marketing strategies you want to implement will not garner your full potential results.
How much impact does mobile play into content, email, search and social media marketing today? The answer in short – a lot! Here are just a few examples:
51% of emails are now opened on mobile devices
60% of internet access is made on a mobile device
70% of mobile searches lead to action on websites within one hour
60% of social media time is spent on mobile platforms as opposed to desktop browsers
These results mean that mobile has a growing impact on online marketing efforts. People are reading content, opening emails, performing searches and engaging with brands on social media – all from their mobile devices.
Responsive design greatly affects the user experience, ultimately meaning it will support your online marketing efforts in the following ways:
Email Marketing – As many users are reading your emails on a mobile device, naturally you want them to be able to follow the links in your email and have no issues browsing your site on that same device.
Content Marketing – users will be able to read the content from their mobile device, and also be able to use the social sharing buttons to easily share the content.
Social Media Marketing – when users click on a promoted offer on their mobile devices, they’ll be able to purchase the promoted item just as they would on a desktop browser.
Search Marketing – when a user clicks on a link to your website from search results, they will be able to get to your page and consume the information they need, just as they would on a desktop.
If it isn’t already a part of your online marketing strategy, a responsively designed website should be a significant consideration moving forward. Website visitors will be able to learn about your products and services, buy your products and consume your content on any device without issues.
So adding responsive design will not only make your website visitors happy, but it will help you get more results with your online marketing efforts. That’s a win-win in my book.
Do you have a responsive design success story? Share it in the comments!
Google’s new rollout of dynamic sitelinks for ads will undoubtedly improve click-through rates to your website.
If you haven’t used them before, sitelinks are used as extensions of your ads in AdWords in order to drive users to your website. Located under the main text of the ad, they allow you to customize the text of the link to help customers to quickly find what they are searching for on your site. Since they are custom, the links can be directed to specific landing pages relating to the link’s text. Google AdWords tracks these clicks so you have specific reporting to show how well the sitelinks are performing.
As of 7/24/14, Google officially rolled out dynamic sitelinks. These are automatically generated links that will better match your website content with what people are looking for based on search activity. Added bonus: they’re free! Don’t worry though; any sitelinks you created previously are still there and working. However, they may not show if the dynamic sitelink performs substantially better.
Here’s how they will show up on a laptop and mobile device respectively:
See the text “Schedule a Test Drive at Joe’s Used Cars” at the bottom of the first listing? That is the dynamic sitelink.
Obviously Google is not losing out on this free deal. You will still pay for conversions, and for any clicks on the rest of the ad. The bonus for the AdWords user is that these, like regular sitelinks, can boost your click-through rate by around 10%. This is great news for anyone who did not previously set up sitelinks – your ad has just been further optimized without any effort on your part!
One thing to note is that your ads will be eligible for dynamic sitelinks if the AdWords campaign is set as to include “Search Network”, or “Search and Display.” Realistically, this addition will affect the top three ad results in a Google search, as these are typically the results that would display sitelinks before this new feature was rolled out.
If, for some reason, you do not want to have dynamic sitelinks, the option is present to have them disabled. Be sure to check out AdWords Support where you can find the form for opting out, and some general tips for sitelinks.
My advice, however, would be to absolutely take advantage of these free dynamic sitelinks that Google is offering to improve the click-through rate to your website. Let us know how it works for you!
There are many conference options available for individuals interested in staying sharp with their online marketing skills. Popular events include Pubcon, SMX, SES & ClickZ Live, Internet Retailer (IRCE), Content Marketing World, and many others. The biggest organizations host more than one event each year in various cities around the world. For example, at last count there are 16 different SES/ClickZ events from Atlanta to Shanghai scheduled to take place in 2014.
With all these choices, TKG has decided to send two of our online marketing strategists to Search Engine Marketing Expo – SMX East. (For the record, we’re also sending a few individuals to Content Marketing World)
SMX East takes place on September 30, 2014 in New York City.
With all the options out there, why did we choose this event?
Trusted Host: The SMX events are run by Third Door Media, the company behind SearchEngineMarketingLand.com. An authority in the SEO space that we follow regularly.
Proximity: While we’d like to attend one of the SMX events in Milan, Beijing, or London, New York City is the most cost-effective travel expense option for a company based out of Ohio.
Convenient Date: Let’s be honest, if an event doesn’t fit in your schedule, it doesn’t matter how great the content is – you’re not going! The end of September works well for us.
What we hope to gain from the event:
Actionable Ideas: We want specific tips, tricks and strategies from our marketing peers that we can take back to the office and implement for our clients. On a small scale, it could be something as simple as a new Google AdWords report in Google Analytics we weren’t aware of. On a larger scale, it could be a social media strategy that boosted engagement for a company with a small budget. In any rate, our number one goal is obtaining real-world knowledge that can help our clients grow their businesses.
Latest Online Marketing Trends: With the constant changes in Google, content marketing, mobile marketing, and more, it’s important to stay ahead of the curve. A few years ago, responsive design was a new trend shaping the way users experience websites on mobile devices. Now it’s being utilized by nearly every new website we build for clients. We want to know what the next big thing in online marketing is going to be so we can adjust our strategies for the future.
B2B and Small Business Insights: Many conferences of this size bring in guest speakers from Fortune 500 companies that spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a single marketing campaign. TKG doesn’t have any clients willing to spend $50,000/month on advanced analytics platforms. Instead, our sweet spot is mid-sized businesses that understand the value of getting sales and leads from their website. Many of these businesses sell to other businesses rather than end users. Accordingly, while it’s nice to hear from presenters who spent 5 million dollars to help Abercrombie a Fitch launch a new line of jeans, that doesn’t really help our client that provides financing to staffing agencies. We’re hoping SMX understands the diversity of their audience and doesn’t just focus on B2C marketing.
Stay tuned for part 2 of our SMX East post in October when we recap the event and describe whether or not we learned what we hoped.
If you’ve ever re-launched your website, hopefully you’ve heard the phrase “ranking retention” or maybe “ranking protection”. At its most basic, it’s a series of steps you should take when you’re re-launching your website that are designed to minimize the impact of a re-launch. While this phrase implies that you need to do something to preserve your search engine rankings, it’s also something that you’re doing to preserve the user experience.
So, what is ranking retention exactly?
We tend to think of it as two separate tasks, actually. The first is matching up old URLs with new URLs and applying re-directs, and the second is updating deep links to your site.
Let’s say that your old site was built with urls that ended in .html (or .asp or .php) and your new site doesn’t use this extension (a common scenario for sites that haven’t been rebuilt in the last 5 or 6 years). Even if you keep the page names exactly the same (i.e. www.site.com/about-us.html vs. www.site.com/about-us), because of the extension being removed, Google (and other search engines) still view these as two separate URLs. Since one is really just an updated version of the other, you need to re-direct about-us.html to about-us so that the search engines understand that they should stop indexing the old URL and start indexing the new URL in its place. These are called 301 re-directs. Wikipedia defines a 301 re-direct as follows:
“The HTTP response status code 301 Moved Permanently is used for permanent redirection, meaning current links or records using the URL that the 301 Moved Permanently response is received for should be updated to the new URL provided in the Location field of the response.”
While the actual setting up of the re-directs is probably something you’ll have your web development or hosting team handle, creating the list is something that you or your marketing team should do. It’s usually as simple as setting up an Excel file with the old URL in one column and the new URL in another, and every page from your old site that has a version on the new site should be matched up against a new URL.
If there are pages on the old site that won’t exist in any form on the new site, you do not need to (or want to) create a re-direct – just let these pages go. Once you have the list, provide it to the appropriate people and they should be able to apply these at launch.
Once applied, there are 2 benefits:
You’ve now directed Google (and other search engines) on how you would like them to index and rank your site. There is, of course, no guarantee – Google might decide that even though they showed your page for a particular keyword search before, it no longer is the best fit, but if you’ve lined up your re-directs well and have had an eye towards choosing the right keywords and creating good content, you are in the best shape possible for this to be successful.
Users who click on your site on a search results page will be re-directed to your new site instead of just getting a dead link.Can you skip this step? Sure, but why would you want to? This is the easiest way to a) make your links in the search results still clickable and b) tell the search engines what you would like for them to do. And, having seen sites try to recover from a re-launch without doing this vs. the site who have done it – I’d vote for this every time, if for no other reason than it is incredibly easy to do, and it is terribly frustrating sending users to dead page after dead page while you wait for Google to crawl your new site and figure out on its own what pages it should index and de-index and how it should rank them.
As you continue to grow and market your website, you will likely come up with other legitimate reasons to use 301 re-directs and you may wind up re-directing a page to a page that has been re-directed to another page, and then re-directing that page to another page, etc. etc and so on. Sounds crazy, but we’ve seen it happen. And what we’re left with is a loop of re-directs that don’t always work the way they’re supposed to and can sometimes land visitors in the wrong place or no place at all. So be sure to monitor your site’s performance (is Google indexing the updated urls?, etc) and consider removing 301s when they are no longer needed. You will lighten the load on the server and minimize the possibility of crazy 301 loops down the road.
The second step in a ranking retention project is updating links to your site. To be clear, these are not links from your site to your distributors or partners, but rather links from their sites to your site.
There are a lot of different tools that can help you find a list of sites that are linking to you – Google WebMaster Tools is usually a good place to start. Once you have this list, you’ll need to separate the links so that you have a list of sites that link to your homepage (this URL usually isn’t changing, unless you are changing domains) and deep links (i.e. links that go to a product page or somewhere else in your site other than your homepage). It’s usually this second list where you might consider requesting updates. If you’ve only got a few links, it’s not such a big deal but if you’re a larger site that’s been around for years, you might have hundreds or even thousands, and you’ll want to set up a spreadsheet similar to the 301 list so that you can see what sites are linking to you, where they are linking and where you want them to link to. During this research stage, you should also be collecting contact information for these sites so that you can reach out to them.
There’s been a lot of questions over the years on whether this step is even necessary. Is it more valuable to have a site that correctly links to exactly the right URL vs. leaving the link alone and letting your 301 re-directs handle passing the user over? A recent response from Google says that it doesn’t actually matter.
So…. Can you skip this step? As much as I want to say “yes” (because, let me tell you, requesting link updates is maybe my least favorite thing to do at work ever), there is at least one good reason to keep doing it:
Your 301s might not always be on the server. Let’s say that you re-launch your site and put 301s in place. Some time down the road someone (maybe you!) notes that Google is indexing all of the new pages and decides to remove the 301s from the server. Although the 301s served their purpose and helped Google re-index your site, if you were counting on them to re-direct users who clicked on now-defunct links, once they are gone, users are now reaching dead links. Talk about a bad user experience! This is especially troublesome for the sites that were referring a lot of traffic to you. Once the 301s are gone, all of that traffic is instead going to your 404 page (if you have one, hopefully you have one. You do have one, right??) Bummer.
If you’ve got thousands and thousands of backlinks, you may need to prioritize where you make these link request efforts (for example, the sites that actually send traffic) but it’s worth taking the time to determine where you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck and at minimum make those update requests.
Sadly (and this is why it’s my least favorite task), despite your best efforts, you may not get a lot of response. We’ve done some really successful link update campaigns and a lot where our requests fell on deaf ears… but as part of our due diligence and settings sites up in the best possible way, it’s still something we recommend doing. And, we tend to find that the sites with the best links get the best response – and there’s a lesson in that too!
Have you re-launched your site recently? Did you engage in ranking retention? How did it go? If you didn’t do it, what impact did you have from skipping this step? Tell us in the comments!
On May 20, Google announced Panda 4.0, an update to the Google Panda Algorithm, a filter on Google’s search results designed to stop sites with poor quality content from working their way into Google’s top search results. Updates to Panda happen every now and then and have had various impacts on sites’ performance. The overall message has been and continues to be: build good quality content that users want and the search engines will figure it out.
But what about press releases? Surely news from your company is considered good content?
The problem is that in the link building years of SEO, press releases were an easy way to publish content on another site that links back to yours – and SEOs abused the heck out of it! Entire link building strategies were built around buying links in directories (now a spammy link building method, usually) and publishing press releases on sites like PRWeb, PRNewsWire, Pr.com, etc. And, not only were you linking back to your site when you published these press releases, you were providing opportunity for your brand to be found on those PR site, too.
PRNewsWire.com has had a 63% drop in visibility after Panda 4.0 was released
BusinessWire.com had a 60% drop
If you’ve sent press releases to these sites and spent the hundreds of dollars they typically cost, this is a real blow to your strategy. (Not a surprising one – but a real one!)
So, what should you do?
First of all: stop it. Stop sending press releases to press release sites that cost hundreds of dollars and will publish just about anything as long as you can try to make it sound like news and pay the fee.
Second: Only write good press releases about REAL news. (That’s certainly why these sites were hit – plenty of PR content that really wasn’t news!) If you aren’t sure if something is real news, it’s not.
Third: Create a hub and spoke content strategy. Publish real press releases with real news on your web properties and distribute via social and other channels, pointing back to your hub. This way you own the content, you are driving traffic to your site (where you can then pull visitors to other things you want them to know or do) and it won’t cost you a dime. You’ll also be on your way to building out your site in a way that is natural, non-spammy and won’t be impacted by the content that other people are publishing on the site.
Has your sit been affected by a Google update? How so? What have you done to minimize the impact? Tell us in the comments! photo credit
Why should you ask an SEO firm for some case studies before hiring them?
Well, there’s the obvious. You want to see their successes, and how they were achieved. But more than that, you want to know if they really know what they are doing.
For example, it is not all that uncommon to see case studies posted on an SEO firm’s site, but it might be a little vague. It doesn’t mention the company by name or some other irregularity. This could be a red flag for you. So a few questions you should ask:
What company was the subject of this case study? (Then follow up on your own – make sure it is a real company.)
Who is your contact at the company in question? Can we call for a reference?
Was the work done in house or contracted out?
Does the case study list the tactics used to generate results?
These questions should give you a pretty good idea of whether or not the firm is up front about their business practices, if they really know SEO, and if they really know their client.
Take a good look at their case studies and do your own homework. Look up the company, even the contact. You want to make sure both are real. You never know ‑ we’ve come across more than one phony case study while doing our own research.
Asking for a reference is always a good idea. Most firms will want to provide you with the chance to hear about the great work they did. It goes without saying this will ensure that the SEO firm actually did the work and that the company was pleased, or at least satisfied.
Determining whether the SEO work was done in house or contracted out is a bigger deal than it might seem on the surface. You want to know that the firm/person doing the work understands the goals of your business. Hopefully, if you have a web presence, you have a goal for your site and have a pretty good idea of what you want to achieve. If the work is contracted out, some of that gets lost in translation. It also could mean that the same person or firm who did all the great work on the case study company won’t be the person doing the work for your company.
If you’ve been engaged in the web long enough, you know that there are SEO tactics that are good ideas and some that aren’t so great. Make sure that the SEO firm you hire has outlined how they approach SEO, and that they don’t make any kind of huge promise of traffic, sales, etc. No one can promise those things; but good, solid SEO and all that entails will certainly get you headed in the right direction. A good case study will tell you what tactics were used and what impact they had.
In the end, due diligence here will serve you well, just like in every other aspect of your business. Read up on the case studies before you decide on a firm. Take a look at some of TKG’s case studies.
Do you have a great or phony case study that you’d like to share? Post it in the comments ‑ we’d love to see it too!