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Eric Enge

8 Basic Rules for Content Marketing

By | Content Marketing, Google Plus | No Comments

8-basic-rules-for-content-marketing

SEO seems like it’s constantly changing, and that’s because it is. However, some things have not really changed much at all. For instance, links remain a significant part of the algorithms for both Google and Bing. Most of the search terms you might want to rank for likely have thousands of, or even more, competitors, and links are a big part of helping the search engines know who to rank first.

You know that you need to get some links, but how do you get started? And how do you do the right things so Google does not penalize you?

The essential first insight is that Google wants links to be “editorially given.” What that means is that they are not compensated (i.e. paid for), and it’s not simply you going to some web site and implementing a link to yourself. Google tries hard to detect non-editorial links, and discount them. In addition, if you do too much of this, they may simply penalize you.

Google wants links to be like academic citations, similar to the ones you might find at the bottom of a professor’s research paper:

academic-citation

These types of citations are generally given to the papers by other people whom the professor leveraged in their research. Nobody paid to get these placements, and it worked on a pure merit system. You could figure out which research papers were the most important by seeing which ones got referenced the most, and also which ones were referenced in the most important papers. This is the basic concept of how the linkgraph is supposed to work.

In the early days of SEO, we focused on link building, but for too many people this led them down a path of acquiring lots of links that Google thought of as manipulative. For that reason, these days we focus more on the notion of content marketing, which is meant to suggest a more holistic approach. With this in mind, here is a set of rules that you can use to guide your initial efforts into content marketing for your site.

1. Start by Thinking in Terms of Traditional PR and Marketing: High-quality content marketing is all about being holistic (i.e. not manipulative). Traditional marketing and PR, for which link building was not a consideration, focused on building relationships with media, bloggers, and industry analysts (influencers). This initial mindset is a great place to start.

The reason is that traditional PR and marketing focus on building your reputation and visibility. The best content marketing campaigns do too, and this differentiates them from poor-quality link building campaigns.

2. Create Unique, High Quality Content to Attract Links: Nothing else you do will be enough if you don’t get this point right. Give people something worth linking to. I can’t emphasize unique enough! If you have built the 25,324th site covering a given topic, what are you going to do to make it unique?

Forget about SEO for a second and think of it this way: Let’s say you open a new pizza parlor and there are five others in your city within four blocks of you. Why is someone going to come into yours? Are you going to create new specialty pizzas? Are you going to organize a major charity event for a popular cause? Will you offer some crazy discount promotion? You know you have to do something, and not just once.

Gaining market share in that situation is going to very tough. So it is on the web as well, where your goal is to create mindshare. You need to create content that stands out to attract links. Doing that may be a tough problem, but you have to solve it, or else your SEO will fail.

3. Think Quality Over Quantity: Too many people fall into the trap of thinking that they need tons of links. It’s more about quality over quantity. Remember that PR/marketing mindset from point 1 above? Let me share a thought to frame it for you. One very high-quality link can be worth 1 million times more to your site than a poor-quality link.

That’s right — if you pursue easy-to-get, low-quality links, you might need to get 1 million of them to get the same boost you would get from one very high-quality link. Which one of those sounds easier? By the way, it’s also the process of gathering up tons of low-quality links that puts you at risk of getting a penalty.

How do we define quality? Take it all in context. If you are a local pizza parlor, a link from the local newspaper is a very high-quality link. As a general rule of thumb, think of it as links from web sites that have many of your potential customers visiting them. If you are part of a large national brand, the bar for what makes a quality link is quite a bit higher.

4. Use a Mixed Strategy of Publishing on Your Site and on Other People’s Sites: Consider offering content to third party sites as a way to build your reputation and visibility. This is powerful because it’s one way to get in front of your potential customers on other people’s sites. This is the concept of leveraging “other people’s audiences.”

guest-posts-expose-you-to-opa

This helps you with your reputation and visibility, and may even drive direct business. In addition, this type of content often results in a direct link back to your site in the process. If this is on an authoritative site, that’s a good thing!

Then, you should also make sure that you have great content on your site, as it will give them a reason to go directly to your site next time, and it will help your site attract links as well.

5. Leverage Partnerships with Established Players: Another way to get in front of other people’s audiences is to partner with other businesses or influencers to create content. Can you create a joint survey with someone? Co-host an event? Jointly author an article for a major blog or media site? Do a research study?

Partnering is a great tactic because your partner is likely to help promote the resulting content. They may link to it from their site (or you may even publish it on their site with an attribution link to your site), they may promote it on social media, and these things are good for you.

If you are just starting out, you may need to do more, or all, of the work, but if you have more to gain, that’s perfectly OK. If they are the right partner, just do it. Establishing these partnerships requires that you bring real value to the table.

6. Leverage Social Media to Increase Exposure to Your Content: Social media accounts act like a built-in PR channel. If you have established a strong social media presence, then it can be a real driver of content marketing programs that drive links to your site.

synergy-graphic-basic-blog-size new

If you don’t have a strong social media presence, then consider paid social media. This costs some money, but you can get pretty targeted with your social media advertising. The bottom line is that this is another way to get in front of new audiences and drive exposure to your content.

Just make sure the content you are promoting this way is really solid. You don’t want to spend money on a campaign if the content you are promoting is not truly of high value. You would simply be wasting money!

7. Measure Progress: Make sure you are checking progress on a regular basis. Progress can be measured many ways, including:

  1. Growth of organic search traffic to your site
  2. Numbers and quality of links to your site
  3. Social shares received by your content
  4. Number of new relationships developed
  5. Actual new business opportunities that result

Some of these metrics may move slowly, as is likely the case with the organic search traffic, but they are all important to measure and track. This will allow you to see which content is resonating most with your audience, and which brings you the best results.

8. Be Patient, Be Persistent: Content marketing is not a short game. You need to be patient, as it will take time. Six months is a reasonable time period to expect to wait before seeing initial results, and then the real solid upside will take a year or more for most of you. It’s true that in rare cases you can get an early hit, but you should not count on that unless you are able to come up with something that is highly innovative and very popular.

This is why step 7, measurement, is so important. Learning what works, what doesn’t, tweaking the plan, and evolving on a continual basis are critical to your long-term success.

Summary

Links remain an integral part of Google and Bing’s algorithms. They help identify the most important web pages to rank for given search terms. In today’s environment, a holistic approach to obtaining those links is essential. Doing content marketing the right way is the best way to get such links. Use the above eight-step plan to get you heading down the right path.

You can read more about how to get started with content marketing here.

Your First 9 SEO Tasks

By | Google SEO, SEO, Useful Tips | No Comments

Your First 9 SEO Tasks2

SEO can be bewildering for people who are not familiar with it. Even if you are knowledgeable about it, it can be a large time commitment. If you are just beginning to work on SEO for a web site what are the first things you should plan to do? Here is a list of 9 areas that are a must do:

1. Setup Google Analytics: Or, if you prefer, some other anayltics package. Don’t rely on the analytics your web hosting company provides you, because these are usually pretty primitive and as your knowledge of how to use analytics grows and expands you will find this very limiting. Setup your analytics software right away because that way it can collect history over time which you won’t have if you install it later. Google Analytics is a great choice because it’s free, and actually pretty powerful as well.

Once you have your analytics setup, make sure you learn how to check your organic search traffic volume, and specifically, the traffic from Google. Just open your analytics for your web site and click on the links in the order shown in this screen shot:

Google Analytics Google Organic Traffic

This is the first step. You should also setup conversion tracking as you want to see how much business you are getting from organic search traffic. You can see a great guide to setting up Google Analytics Conversion Tracking here.

This is a must do because it helps you measure the bottom line, and that’s a really good thing. Note that if you don’t sell products directly off your site, measure contact requests, or visits to key pages, or other metrics that will help you see if that organic search traffic is benefitting your business!

2. Setup Google Webmaster Tools: What does Webmaster Tools get you? Plain and simple, think of it as a report from Google on some of the things they observe about your site. You should want that. In fact, you should want that badly! Some of the more interesting data they provide includes:

  1. Backlink Data
  2. Rankings Data
  3. Most Common Keywords on Your Site
  4. Crawl Data
  5. and, a whole lot more!

Just for example, here is a screen shot of a crawl report:

Webmaster Tools Crawl Report

3. Check Your Indexing Status: This is one of the basics, and it’s easy to do, as it requires only two steps. The first step is to write down on a sheet of paper how many pages you think your site has. If you have a blog or an e-commerce site, you need to remember all the category pages or archive pages. You don’t need an exact count for this, but you do need to hvae a sense as to whether or not its dozens, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands or more.

For your second step, go to Google and type in the following search query: “site:yourdomain.com” (quotes not needed). The result you will get will look something like this:

Example Site Query Search Result

This result shows how many pages has in their index for your site. Did the number Google returned shock you? Did you think you had 10,000 pages and Google showed only 132? If so, you probably have a problem. Or, did the reverse happen? You thought you had 123 and Google shows more than 10,000? This would also indicated a problem (which may be a duplicate content problem!).

If either of those things happens, its time to get yourself some SEO help. Unless you are very technical you probably will not be able to figure this out on your own, but I have included this step in here because its better to know you have a problem if you do.

4. Run a Crawler on Your Site These are tools that will read your site in the same mechanical way that Google does. Here are two good ones to use: Xenu or Screaming Frog. Xenu is more of a general purpose crawler and Screaming Frog is more targeted at SEO. Whichever you use, make sure to fix all the “Page Not Found” errors.

These are also known as 404 errors as this is the status code returned by a web page when someone tries to access a web page that does not exist. When Google sees a lot of these it can lead them to believe your site is of poor quality. You don’t want that! If you use Screaming Frog you can spot other problems, such as the presence of missing or duplicate title tags, but more on that in points 6 and 7 below!

5. Pull keyword volume data Find out what keywords related to your business are most searched on by users. There are several tools that can do this, including Google’s Keyword Planner (requires that you have an AdWords account), and Wordtracker.

Keyword Research for iPhone Cases

This data is invaluable for many reasons. One of those we will discuss in the next tip, which focuses on the title tags you use for your pages. But, it is also extremely valuable to understand the language your prospects use when they think about what needs they have related to your product, or products like yours. Marketers 30 years ago would have fallen all over themselves to get data like this. It should impact the language you use on your web site, not just in the title tags of your pages, but also in the content itself.

If you are speaking in the language of your customer, this will inevitably lead to good results for you, not just for SEO, but also for conversion. Important note: Don’t slather these words all over your pages with reckless abandon (sometimes aka “keyword stuffing”)! You still want to create pages that look good, and intelligent, when your prospective customers are viewing it.

6. Optimize the Title Tags of Your Site: I wrote an in-depth article called: 3 Golden Rules of Title Tags on Search Engine Watch. The shor summary is that you should try to have a separate page on your site for each major user need you help address. The keyword research you did in the last step can help you address that, but it is also critical that you draw on other information sources as well.

What user needs do you think you address? Can you do some surveys of people or run some tests to ask those prospects that needs they think they have? This is an important step – it is very hard to close a customer if you don’t bring them to page that speaks to their need. Once you have the list of pages you want, use your keyword research to help you pick out your title tags, as well as help you understand how to structure the content on the page.

7. Eliminate Duplicate Content: The great majority of web sites have some problem with duplicate content. You can read more about the Duplicate Content Problem and Its Solutions here. There are countless sites that Stone Temple Consulting has worked on where we increased their search engine traffic just be addressing duplicate content problems.

How do you find it? Look for duplicate (or near-duplicate) title tags – this can often be a hint that a page is a duplicate page. Where can you get that data? Remember the crawl of your site we did in Step 1 above? Now you get to use that data again. Here is an example of some of the output from the Xenu crawler:

Xenu Title Analysis

Scan the title tag column and find the pages that look like they have the same title. Once you have identified the problem pages you will need to bring your developer in to help resolve the issue, but at least you will know what to tell them. This may sound a bit painful, but it is definitely worth it!

8. Create Remarkable Content: One of the big problems with the world of SEO it that there is so much disinformation out there. Article after article will talk about some trick someone learned that “drives SEO”. Much of this advice will lead you to do things with your site and content that is only for search engines, and most of that advice is bad.

Focus instead on creating non-commercial content that differentiates you from your competition. This is actually what the search engines want you to do as well. How to do this is a long story, but the basics are that you need to truly be an expert in your space (or employ one), and have them write content that solves problems for others, in novel ways that other people have not done it.

May not be simple to do, but it’s how businesses make it, or not, in today’s digital world.

9. Tell the World About it:

Last, but not least, you need to let people know what you have done. We don’t live in a “build it and they will come” world. You do have to get out there and promote your business, and more importantly the great content you have created. The ways to do this are many and varied, but include building up a strong social media presence, publishing columns in journals/blogs that cover your industry, speaking at conferences, and concepts like these. If you have completed the first 8 steps, this last one will turn out to be easier than you think!

Summary

So there you have it – 9 steps to launching a web site that is search engine optimized. No doubt that there is a lot of work here, but the upside is well worth it.