For traditional marketers, social media has always been a difficult avenue to quantify, but recent research is likely to keep the naysayers quiet, at least for the foreseeable future.

twitter-793050_1280

Data compiled by KiteDesk found that 64 per cent of salespeople who exceeded their quotas in 2014 said that they had closed a deal as a “direct result of their social media efforts in the past year”. Furthermore, around 75 per cent of those who beat their quota for the year by 10 per cent or more said that they were ‘highly effective’ or ‘better than most’ at leveraging social media to sell.

When it comes to which networks were most fruitful in increasing sales, the answer depends to some extent on the product sold but the research certainly showed some surprising statistics in this area:

“For the first time ever, Twitter has dethroned LinkedIn as the most important social selling channel for B2B sales professionals.”

LinkedIn has always been the traditional outlet for business and professional connections, making it an obvious choice for anyone seeking to leverage their connections. But perhaps the ease with which people can connect to new networks and contacts on Twitter is proving more useful in modern sales environments.

Geoff Stuhf, speciality care, account manager from GE Healthcare, commented on the research:

“The healthcare industry is undertaking a major changeint he way that most facilities purchase products and in doing so, it has gotten even more challenging to reach anyone outside of the supply chain department.

“This, along with the onset of social media and social selling, has become the perfect storm for getting in touch with key decision makers, on their time, outside of the four walls of a hospital.”

It’s official. The votes are in. The results have been counted and varied, and we can reveal that the single most effective SEO tactic is content marketing.

seo-758264_1280

The focus in content marketing has shifted away from SEO these days and towards natural audience engagement. Sure, we know that what we do has a positive impact on SEO, but the impact is so natural it has ceased to be the primary driver in content investment.

But the latest SEO Survey Summary report from Ascend2 found that when asked to sit down and think about it, the majority of marketers and sales professionals still believe that relevant content creation is the most effective SEO tactic at their disposal.

Screenshot 2015-06-16 12.33.42

Ascend2 asked nearly 300 people for their best strategies and views in the research paper and 72 per cent confirmed that relevant content creation is their top approach in SEO. Second to this was keyword / phrase research (48 per cent), followed by frequent website updating (34 per cent) and relevant link building (33 per cent).

In comparison to the same study in 2014, content marketing has shot up in marketers’ estimations. Last year just 57 per cent voted it most effective. It seems that the increasing levels of sophistication from the search engines combined with a greater level of appreciation and understanding of the online medium from audiences has helped boost the value of great content.

Does quality really matter when it comes to creating online content? Quantity and frequency are discussed so much that you’d be forgiven for thinking that quality could take a backseat in the matter. Just to be clear, this is absolutely not the case, at least not anymore.

Online news used to be about the basic provision of information, but the industry has evolved. More than ever online media consumers are demanding their content to be of equal or better quality to offline content, a trend confirmed at the latest Online Media Awards held by The Drum.

The BBC took a grand total of five awards at the event, while Vice and Al Jazeera also proved to be big winners taking three each. The supervising producer for Vice News Europe, Yonni Usiskin commented on the changes in the industry: “I think what we’ve seen over the last few years is this shift whereby people don’t expect to be watching crappy content online, so our standards for online video really are as high as the TV shows we’re making with HBO in the US and the feature films Vice has started making.”

The changes aren’t just impacting video creation. Interest in online news increased almost three-fold between 2007 and 2014. However, as competition for readers is increasing, so too is the quality. But those who are truly blowing the competition out of the water are being smart about their quality development, focusing on ensuring they provide content that engages their particular demographic, rather than hoping to appease everyone.

Screenshot 2015-06-15 11.11.46

Allison Rockey, engagement editor at Vox.com, explained at the News Impact Summit in London: “At the end of the day, good content is what shares.”

She added that the focus on online news absolutely needs to tie in to that particular outlet’s audience; there’s no point writing news about puppies and kittens just because they’re trending on Twitter if your audience are looking for hard news about the political developments in the Middle East.

When online news started to take off there was real concern that quality journalism and writing would cease to exist as the demand for more blew all other considerations away. But the reality is proving to be the opposite – with so few barriers to entry in the online news and content environment, anyone hoping to make their mark needs to step up their quality. And this is exactly what we’re seeing with increasingly well thought out pieces, new research, new ideas and intelligent systems of delivery to ensure that people have the opportunity to view and engage with content that suits their interests.

 

Evergreen Content

evergreen-636831_1280

Fresh, regular news is a given, but to get long-term value out of your content strategy complementing regular news output with evergreen insights and analysis is the obvious approach.

What to write about will depend on your industry and goals. But if you’re struggling for evergreen topics, look back at your Google Analytics and assess which pages are already performing well over a longer period. There’s your inspiration.

Bear in mind that evergreen content doesn’t have to do quite what it says on the tin – it can last three or six months and still have a different level of value in comparison to an update that has lost its relevance within the week.

If you’re really on the ball, consider implementing a plan to check on your evergreen pieces periodically and ensure that they maintain value.

Focus on Sharing

social-media-763731_1280 (1)

‘Shareable content’ is a clunky content marketing phrase; given that words are our tools we really ought to do better. But shareable content gets to the point. Some content can be easily digested, its message gleaned and banked and its relevance decided within the space of minutes if not seconds. Other content requires a decent chunk of free time for its reader to sit down and digest what’s being said. By the time they’ve got to the end of it that ‘spark’ moment that entices someone to share their revelation with someone else has gone, they’re too busy processing the large amounts of information they’ve just consumed.

Keeping this human trait in mind when you’re looking at content you want to be shared.

However, if you want long-term value you need to take things a bit further and remember to draw attention to your content on a long-term basis. Have a think about some different options for your social media strategy because you’re going to have to do a bit more than send out posts upon initial publication.

As a starting point, checkout the upcoming calendar of events in your sector and ask if your evergreen post coincides with any of them, set a reminder, tweak your hashtags, stand back and admire the beginnings of your new higher value, long-term social strategy.

Take Action and Make Connections

background-478072_1280

It’s so easy to tell your team to build their network and then wonder why you haven’t got a network in place six months later.

So when the perfect opportunity presents itself and you have a piece of content ready to publish that you KNOW is of interest to your network, make sure your team actually getting it out there and that they’re aware of the ways in which they can continue to promote and reference it moving forward.

Social media, email, forums, timing, demographics, ACTION. Keep everyone informed of what’s coming out and make sure they’re following through on the great ideas you’ve all been building and getting them out to the eyes and ears that you want to reach.

What's the perfect online length?

Share this Image On Your Site

Before you start reading, quickly check the time …

 

One issue we are tackling with increasing regularity – both ourselves and with clients – is how to decide how long our online content should be. It’s one of the simplest questions posed in an online content marketing strategy, but it seems to be one of the trickiest to answer.

Print journalists have had centuries to research exactly what captures readers’ attentions. Headlines, style and layout have all been studied carefully to create a successful formula, while time and experience have also helped to establish text length and image sizes as standard.

Things aren’t so simple for those writing online content. The internet is just a fraction of the age of the age of print media, but the scope and potential audience of online content are at least ten times as great. We have a growing bank of research into the best lengths and layouts for articles and online news but the ever-changing nature of the beast makes it impossible to provide a definitive answer.

What we can do is look at guidelines and case studies to determine what works in certain cases. While each piece of content is (hopefully!) unique, comparing it against existing successes in similar situations can at least provide a gauge in terms of what works where.

 

Headlines

Headlines are perhaps the easiest places to start as the overarching message is actually the same as with print: keep it short and catchy. Exactly how short will depend on the space you have to work with, but research from KISSmetrics has found that people’s tendency to scan content means that readers only really absorb the first three words and the last three words of a headline. Taking this to its logical conclusion would suggest that the perfect headline length for an online article is six words if you want to grab people’s attention and convey as much information as possible.

Breaking things down further, the traditional advice when it came to writing headlines for SEO was always to keep to the limit of 70 characters. This is due to how Google displayed headlines on its SERPs, with anything longer than this likely to be cut off by the search engine’s layout.

However, the search engine has delivered a series of updates, layout alterations and font changes over the years and this advice no longer strictly applies. A fresh debate is underway to determine exactly what the perfect headline length for Google is. Efforts here are seen as particularly important due to the relevance of headlines in terms of SEO because the search engines give a lot of weight to keywords in headlines.

In reality, tight constraints in headline length can be hard to achieve, particularly if the article is tackling a very technical or sensitive topic. With this in mind, the best guidance when it comes to headlines is simply: make every word count.

 

Articles

While headlines might pop up in a huge variety of contexts online, they are generally being read with similar intentions: either by an individual looking to gauge whether or not the article is of interest or by a search engine determining the relevance of the content to a key search term.

Things aren’t quite so straightforward when it comes to looking at articles themselves due to the variation in the way people read different pieces of work. A quick news article needs to be long enough to give some insight into a situation, but short enough to be read in its entirety before the audience gets bored and clicks away. Meanwhile a blog post or in-depth article needs to have something more to offer and will generally be read by someone with a bit more time on their hands who has already decided that they want to know more about the topic the article is addressing.

According to research from Medium, the ideal in-depth blog post is one that takes about seven minutes to read. After this point, readers get distracted and might drift off before they’ve reached the crucial parts of an article. Reading time is different for everyone and the layout of an article – if it includes a lot of images for example – will clearly have an effect, but Medium’s formula equated seven minutes of reading time to around 1,600 words of content.

That said, if the content is worth the time and effort, people will stick around for longer than the seven minute cut-off, so bear in mind that this is just another guideline. Further consideration needs to be put in place for the type of audience being written for and the kind of information they are looking for.

A medical professional, for example, would be willing to spend a fair amount of time on a pharmaceutical hub carefully considering the details of a much longer article about the uses of a new drug than, say, a consumer just looking for a broader news update would. That’s not to say the pharmaceutical hub should not run short articles (i.e. news items); it’s just that there will very likely be a demand for at least some longer articles that can adequately convey the right depth of information.

This variety in not only topic, but also length and style of articles is worth thinking about when drawing up a content strategy. It’s often more interesting for readers to receive a range of different types and lengths of content, something that is also picked up by search engines who tend to reward a more natural mix of content.

 

Social Media

It is quite likely that the debate regarding the relevance of social media will rage until the end of time. But whichever side of the fence you fall on, the fact remains that social media matters now. Sharing content with targeted followers boosts audiences and offers a simple way of engaging with clientele through a means that’s more personal than most marketing techniques.

The ways in which people and companies use social media differs to such an extent that it’s very difficult to pinpoint exactly how long a post should be on each network. But research has started to suggest that there may be some guidelines marketers can follow to increase their chances of engaging audiences and customers.

With tweets limited to 140 characters, at first glance it doesn’t seem plausible that there could be an ‘ideal tweet length’ within such a tight constraint on Twitter. But the network’s own best practice guidelines reference a study conducted by Buddy Media which found that tweets shorter than 100 characters have a 17 per cent higher engagement rate. These findings were backed up by another study by Track Social which claimed that the “perfect tweet length” is around 100 characters.

Surprisingly, given the opportunity for much longer posts, the ideal Facebook post is actually shorter than the ideal Twitter update. A study from Jeff Bulllas found that posts of around 40 characters had the best engagement rate in his study, while Facebook’s best practices advise users to go for posts with 80 characters or less as these receive 66 per cent higher engagement levels.

Newcomer to the social media arena Google+ lies somewhere in the middle, and it appears that issues with this network are more to do with layout than actual length. Google recently changed the way in which its site displays posts so that users only see the first three lines of the original post before the ‘read more’ link cuts off the rest of the post, although it is possible to opt to expand it. This has meant that headlines are particularly important if you are sharing content on Google+.

With this in mind, the ideal headline for encouraging engagement and shares is one of 60 characters or less, any longer and the layout of the post will will start to look messier. However, research has shown that while engagement levels tend to trail off with longer posts on Twitter and Facebook, this isn’t necessarily the case on Google+ where longer posts can still attract a lot of readers. Headlines are really key with Google+, other than that users are free to explore using different lengths of post without risking too much impact on their levels of engagement.

 

There are some cases where the length of online content is crucial; for example if you’re automatically sending headlines into social media accounts, or you want to increase your chances of being approved and listed in Google News (FYI aim for a minimum of 300 words and you’ll need to be posting daily news articles).

But within reason, online content does not need to have the same restrictions as printed content. If it’s worth reading, watching or sharing, it will be read, watched and shared so while word limits offer a great guideline when building your content marketing strategy, there is no definitive answer.

 

Stop clock watching. Did we hit the seven minute target?

 

SEARCH STREETThe word on Search Street is that Google’s been making some pretty major changes to its search algorithm and that social signals are now being given a lot more weight as ranking factors.

By social signals, we mean activity on social network pages that relates to your website. It could be a link from someone else’s Twitter account to a news item on your website; it could be a link to your latest blog post from your own company Facebook page; or someone reading that blog article and clicking the Facebook ‘like’ button at the bottom of the item.

But is this social activity making a difference to Google rankings? And if it does, are the social networks just a few additional links out of many passing PageRank?

We can start off by looking at what Google have said themselves. Back in May 2010, Google’s Matt Cutts said in a video that Google did not use social media as a ranking signal. But in December that year, Matt revealed that Twitter and Facebook were now beginning to be used by Google as ranking signals. [Rollover here to view]

He went on to say that Google also took into account the authority of the linking social media account, or reputation of the author. Which is totally in line with Google’s general link methodology. Continue reading

In a great whiteboard presentation, Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz talks about SEO metrics. Many website owners, and agencies for that matter, are focused almost completely on metrics that are very ‘old school’, consequently missing the overall picture that includes marketing KPIs and business goals.

I particularly agree with Rand’s inference that, in this new SEO orbit, some of what he calls traditional ‘Leading Indicators’ (i.e. number of incoming links) could easily be replaced with other indicators, like, say, the number of new blog posts.

Focus needs to be more strategic, more holistic.
Why do you want your rankings higher? Why do you want more links? Why do you want more web pages? Common answers often include ‘we want more traffic’ or ‘we want more exposure to our latest campaign’. There’s this assumption that this will automatically translate into achieving business goals.

But that’s not the case. Moving the focus up the food chain to the business KPIs themselves is more important, and this is where the online strategies ought to be set. Understanding the broader picture will allow you to work out what marketing KPIs are important and what leading indicators are the right ones to be monitoring to achieve your business goals.

And as Rand says, by focusing on bigger things, we can be smarter and accomplish a lot more.

Traditional search engine optimisation is something of an oxymoron. The industry is so relatively young and so inherently dynamic that it seems almost impossible for it to have any tradition.

But there are established ways of doing things and there are alternative and innovative practices within the business. As Google’s new algorithms continue to strengthen the bias towards sites with a lot of unique, interesting and well-written content, could it be that old school SEO just can’t cut it anymore? Is a new skill set stepping up to take its place?

Search engine optimisation grew out of a need to be found online. To begin with it was as simple as meeting a set of simple technical requirements that would allow Google and other search engines to crawl your site and know what it was about. Meta keyword tags, for example, were originally designed to indicate that a site included information about the terms being searched for and have therefore been included as ranking factors.

For Google in particular, external links have played a vital role in traditional SEO. The search engine’s success has largely been thanks to the linking aspect of its original PageRank algorithm, which checked backlinks to determine a site’s importance. The technology analysed incoming links and made the assumption that sites with a lot of links from important and relevant websites were more likely to be important themselves.

This is thought to tie in well with the way in which a human brain works. If a topic or idea is often referenced and linked to by other areas of the brain, the stronger the connection/synapse and the more important the information is to us. This could be part of the secret as to why Google has overwhelmingly been the most successful search engine: It’s the one that most closely mimics our natural behaviour, so using it is simple.

But Google started life as a Stanford University research project. Its early versions were excellent technical developments, but they weren’t designed to organise the sheer volume of websites that exist now. There are hundreds of millions of websites that need to be ranked and Google handles around 100 billion search queries every month – a mammoth task by anyone’s standards. Of course as the number of sites grew, so did competition between them. Tactics and ideas emerged about how Google’s PageRank worked and so SEO as a business was born out of an essential need to rank above other sites in order to increase web traffic. From the turn of the millennium, Google has been dealing with the ongoing evolution of the internet, playing cat and mouse with SEO experts, who monitor and attempt to predict the search engine’s algorithm changes. The problem for Google is that, particularly in competitive industries, website owners were all carrying out very similar technical optimisation.

This included site structure, setting a ratio of keywords to copy, meta-tags, labeling of images and, of course, link-building. Many webmasters had created link-building programmes that were a sophisticated mix of automated and human requests. The combination of a hugely expanding index and a commitment to SEO techniques by millions of website owners meant that Google’s search accuracy at the top of its listings was being blunted.

It was no surprise then to witness Google’s latest manoeuvre in this ongoing battle: the introduction of several major algorithm updates that shifted the focus heavily onto the quality and quantity of website content. Overnight, owners of websites that were packed full of duplicate content, over-embellished with keywords or holding hundreds of pages of skeletal product information found their sites’ Google search positions plummeting. Sites with adequate content but no social media presence were also suffering. No community equals no authority.

These updates have moved the emphasis away from traditional SEO techniques towards the creation and curation of truly relevant and engaging content that feeds the market’s informational requirements. Certainly, many basic SEO tenets still apply today, but on their own they are impotent.

To build search rankings, it is becoming obvious that a new type of ‘SEOer’ is needed. The skill sets that are now required are significantly different from those of SEO practitioners that worked (and continue to work) on the principles set in place ten, five or even two years ago.

Moreover, search rankings themselves are no longer the single goal of the online marketer.

Those that have taken a holistic approach to the discipline have generally subscribed to the belief that content in context is king. By this we mean that simply producing great content is not enough – it needs to fall within the sphere of the audience’s interests and, if you really want to be noticed, you need to know what to do with the content.

Listen to your market. Find out what your audience needs and address the disconnect between this and your current user experience.

Currently there are still too many teams working independently on the technical side of SEO, social media, PPC, editorial or public relations. As the boundaries between these areas become blurred, as search engines change their ranking criteria and as online discovery has broadened to encompass Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and other social channels, it is necessary to tie these different aspects of online marketing together. Content has become the common binding agent.

Fortunately, increasing numbers of online marketers are embracing this holistic approach. The need for integrated campaigns is uniting marketing departments with IT and PR departments, thus bringing some very different skills together in order to achieve optimum online exposure.

For information to flow freely, communication channels need to be opened and widened. Everyone must work towards the same marketing objectives, and have access to a shared, collaborative content calendar.

Without marketing, public relations, and social media, content would have no distribution channels and be rendered useless. Without good content – be it in the form of industry news, blog commentary, press release, video, independent research or a white paper – the PR and marketing departments have little of interest to share and discuss with potential clients and customers.

As consumers become increasingly demanding of their informational requirements, and search engines become more adept at directing this information, high quality content is becoming more of a focal point.

If you are in the market for ‘SEO’ expertise, make sure you select people with the right combination of skill sets to deliver the best content possible, instead of relying on traditional SEOers who have picked up their creative skills out of necessity rather than out of a passion for communicating through content.

 

Look at the pace that the term ‘content marketing’ has moved into the vernacular of marketers, as measured by Google search volume. Although content marketing has been bandied about as a term for several years, its recent hike in popularity is not actually much of a surprise.

Google Trends Content Marketing

Google’s algorithm changes having been coming thick and fast over the last 12 months, and content-poor websites have been taking a real beating.

September 2012 saw the rollout of the latest Google Panda and Penguin updates, together with a sharp turning of the dial to tone down the influence of ‘direct-match’ domain names.  Google is working hard to shut out purveyors of thin content and rewarding owners of sites with useful, relevant and unique content.

You need to take action if:

  •  your website has less than 100 pages; or
  •  your website has a high number of pages populated with ‘thin content’ i.e. a paragraph or two at most of original content wrapped in a common template; or
  • there is very little content being added on a regular basis;
  • you want to improve the level of engagement you have with your audience

First – what do you want?

Before you take any action, take a moment to quantify your objectives. Have a think and discuss with colleagues what you really want to achieve with your marketing. And be specific, not just general business objectives like ‘increase sales’ or ‘increase market share’. For instance, ‘I want to increase the number of  visitors coming to our website from social media channels by 200% over the next 12 months’. Or, ‘in our next financial year, I want to reduce my pay-per-click spend by 40% and build total internet sales without increasing my online marketing budget’.

Action

Firstly, flesh out any thin pages you have with meatier content, whether that involves extending your product descriptions or providing more background information.

If you don’t have a company blog or a news section, get one or both started now and contribute to it every day.  If you are languishing in Google’s rankings for your prime keywords, you should see a steady rise begin in around a month or two. If you’re already up there, you’ll consolidate your position and begin to see second-tier key terms rise up the rankings.

Remember that some of your competitors will also be adding content and improving their web presence, so the pressure is on you to stay ahead of the pack, and boost your authority within your industry.

Here are the three broad strategies you need to follow to keep at the forefront:

Add more engaging, relevant and informative content
Add different types of content
Propagate your content

Let’s look at each of these in turn.

Add more content

According to inbound marketing company Hubspot, businesses that add at least 20 articles a month to their website get five times more traffic than those businesses that write at most once a week.

businesses that blog get more visitor traffic

By including regular blog posts and industry news, you broadcast your industry knowledge and authority. It also demonstrates your thought leadership and, importantly, informs and educates your readers at the same time as giving them a platform to engage with you.

Gone are the days when we produce content specifically for the search engines. By that I mean liberally peppering every article with one or more top tier keywords (and never failing to include a keyword in the title).  Search engines have gotten smarter – they know when they are being shown a private dance and can detect keyword stuffing from several miles away.

This is not saying that we should lose focus on utilising keywords that specifically drive conversions.  These keywords, important in the buying process journey, need to be discovered and let out in a judicious manner.  In the course of writing truly relevant and informative articles, first and second tier keywords will naturally appear and help drive your site forwards in search and build up long-tail collateral.

Try to avoid creating content that is wholly company-centric. Too many marketers assume that their audience is going to be hooked on a stream of content centred around the company and its brands.  This approach simply doesn’t produce the level of interest needed to build a genuine rapport.

Of course it is easy for people to talk about their own company and its products or services. Conversely, it’s relatively difficult for marketers to come up with original content outside these areas, while still of particular interest to the audience. According to the Content Marketing Institute, around 41 percent of marketers say their leading content marketing problem is actually producing engaging content.

Your overall business objectives might be to increase enquiries, increase sales and profits. You also want to tell the brand story, build brand awareness, increase brand market share and establish thought leadership.

Provide content your audience wants

What I am saying is: focus on the customer and the information that he or she needs and is interested in. In the diagram above, anything outside the red circle is a no-go area.

There is nothing wrong in zooming in on your audience’s interests as they relate to your organisation. And without a brand in the picture, content is just a distant cry in the wilderness.  But if you restrict yourself to providing content that must, in a direct manner, relate to the brand and/or the business, you will struggle to grow your audience.

Just try moving your brand and business out of the story and see how much further the content will travel.  I guarantee you’ll want to do it more.
The interesting thing is that when you really do have something interesting to say to your audience about your brand or company, they’ll be much more attentive and responsive.

Add different types of content

So that’s a hint about where to start in terms of broadening the scope of the subject matter.  Adding more types of content is another way to broaden your reach, improve engagement ratios and boost SEO efforts.

Content types used in online marketing
The content type above is a visualisation, which in this case shows a selection of  content forms available. The positioning of content types here (based on our internal data) gives a general idea of the production ease and relative effectiveness of each.

In reality the effectiveness of a content form really depends how suited it is to your information.  Your choices are also going to shaped by resources that are available. Writing a book or even a white paper, whilst generally very effective, is going to some time and therefore is expensive.  At the other end of the spectrum you have social media updates and blog comments which are quick and cheap to create and, on their own,  have limited effectiveness.

There are some under-utilised types of content, like comics or cartoons, which can get good shares in social media,  stick around for a while and are good at picking up inbound links. Slideshare presentations are great at condensing longer Powerpoint presentations or displaying a set of slides in a visually appealing manner.

In terms of value for money, quality blogs and original news feed are a very powerful way to inform and engage with your audience, especially when used in conjunction with newsletters and social media. The ‘Freshness Update’ was coined to explain the way that Google rewards websites that are continually adding more content. A Google search guru even said that search results were like cookies that come out of the oven – ‘best when fresh’.

Infographics are in vogue of course, and are fantastic for allowing people to digest and make sense of larger amounts of data in a fun way. Different types of information are often best conveyed by using particular content forms.  So couple creativeness in broadening your topics with a bigger toolbox of content forms to really build your audience.

Propagate your content 

Once you have produced your content, is it just going to be plonked on the website, waiting to be discovered? Or will it be actively promoted and marketed?

Internal promotion
Before discussing ways to get your content linked to from third party sites, check to make sure the page upon which the content sits is well formatted, optimised for search and is featured around the site itself, including the home page.

Adding internal links from keywords or phrases in your regular content to relevant sections will help consolidate those sections and form good site architecture. Don’t be afraid of linking out to third party websites. In the old days, this would constitute ‘leaking of link juice’, but most SEO experts now agree that linking out helps rather than hinders online marketing efforts.

Make sure you have social sharing links prominently displayed above or below the content. Maybe both.  Check that there is an RSS feed set up so people can subscribe to your regular content through their browsers and in their personal news aggregators.

External promotion
Here’s what agency and brand marketers are doing to promote their content externally, according to Outbrain.

content distribution strategies

It’s likely that the better online marketers are utilising the majority of these.
No surprise to see that nearly everyone is using social media. If the content is deemed good enough by the audience, it will travel a long way.

Take a Facebook post we put up recently for a client, a sustainable forestry investment company.  It was just 50 words with an image about the world’s first ‘vertical forest’ – trees growing on every balcony of an apartment building in Milan, Italy.  But it’s interesting, relevant content for this audience, garnering many comments and hundreds of shares. There’s no mention of the brand anywhere, no calls to action.

Other times we will link to a news story or a blog post on the client’s website, where there is a chance of conversion.    Three quarters of online adults at least sometimes visit a corporate web site after learning of a news story through social media channels.  And seven out of ten will use corporate websites or online newsrooms as a source for sharing and posting information.  Social media is a very powerful platform to showcase your expertise using compelling content.

In your holistic approach, you will be co-ordinating your social media, PPC, SEO,  public relations and other online marketing activity so you’re not duplicating efforts and you are achieving a level of synergy.

Follow the bones of this content marketing über strategy, and you’ll leave your competitors straggling on the first lap.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

If you’d like to talk to me about how to achieve your online marketing objectives through cost-effective content strategies, drop me a line now! (Mention this blog post, How to build a killer content marketing strategy, and it will be directed to me).

 

 

Google Panda and Penguin UpdatesWith so many websites relying on traffic from Google, the search engine is uniquely positioned to influence where the internet goes next. But as it continues to grow, Google’s job has become increasingly difficult. It’s not just big businesses and tech geeks who are building web pages now; almost anyone with an internet connection can throw up a page relatively easily.

This has meant that not everyone is producing a quality product and an increasingly large percentage of people are just out to make a fast buck. As a result, the quality of websites has started to deteriorate, with more and more people pushing advertising and spam without offering anything of value.

Over the past 12 months, Google has shifted its focus to tackle those websites that offer little or nothing of interest to visitors, pushing them down the search listings while raising the profile of those websites that provide good quality original content.

Two algorithm changes – Panda and Penguin – have been key in this. Following a number of tweaks and adjustments after the original launch the changes are now really starting to come together to make 2012 the year we will remember for Google’s efforts to improve the quality of content on the internet.

Google Panda Update

The Panda update came first, initially launched in the US in February 2011. Various additions have been made to Panda since, with the update eventually extended to deliver a global coverage of English-speaking countries in April 2011. It has become the longest-running named Google algorithm update with adjustments being announced well into 2012.

Upon its initial launch, Google engineers Amit Singhal and Matt Cutts stated: “In the last day or so we launched a pretty big algorithmic improvement to our ranking – a change that noticeably impacts 11.8 per cent of our queries – and we wanted to let people know what’s going on.

“This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites – sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very helpful.”

Ultimately, Panda was designed to deal with site quality. It aimed to lower the rank of poor quality sites and raise that of websites that put time and effort into their content. Reports at the time showed that news websites and social networking sites saw a surge in their rankings, while pages with a lot of advertising fell.

However, things didn’t run entirely smoothly and some sites complained that they were being unfairly punished in the rankings. There were some faults on Google’s end, but the search engine refused to address individual cases and instead urged developers to work hard on their site quality in line with Google’s quality guidelines.

Amit Singhal, writing on Google’s official blog, stated that tests show the algorithm is “very accurate at detecting site quality”. He added: “If you believe your site is high-quality and has been impacted by this change, we encourage you to evaluate the different aspects of your site extensively … As sites change, our algorithmic rankings will update to reflect that.”

These are: Make pages for users, not search engines. Avoid tricks to improve SEO. Ask yourself if you’d still do this if search engines didn’t exist. Don’t participate in link schemes that involve anything dodgy. Avoid using unauthorised computer programs to submit pages as these violate Google’s Terms of Service due to the fact that they use extra computing resources – as such sites that do employ these techniques tend to be punished in the rankings. Avoid hidden text and links. Avoid cloaking and sneaky redirects. Don’t send automated queries to Google. Don’t put irrelevant keywords in your page. Don’t use duplicate content. Don’t create phishing sites or anything with malware in it. If you participate in an affiliate programme ensure that your site adds value – Google suggests using unique and relevant content to give users a reason to visit your site first. Submit your site for reconsideration after you’ve modified your website to fit in with these guidelines.

Google Penguin Update

So if Panda is all about quality, then what’s the deal with Penguin? Many of the areas the Penguin tackled crossed over with things that Panda looked at. Purposefully duplicated content, for example, was something that both algorithm updates are thought to have hit hard, pushing sites down the rankings for using software to rehash content on multiple sites or straight up stealing content form other sites.

But Penguin, launched in April 2012, went one step further and looked at a range of more specific ‘black hat’ SEO tactics. Matt Cutts explained: “In the pursuit of higher rankings or traffic, a few sites use techniques that don’t benefit users, where the intent is to look for shortcuts or loopholes that would rank pages higher than they deserve to be ranked.”

These techniques are employed on a surprisingly common basis and include everything from keyword stuffing to dodgy link schemes. Penguin targeted sites that employed these tactics and others, punishing them in the rankings for neglecting to develop content that would actually be of some interest to their users.

The latest update to Penguin came just this month (October), with engineer Mr Cutts explaining that around 0.3 per cent of English language Google queries likely to be affected by the update. As ever, the search engine remained elusive about the exact changes to the algorithm, but it is understood that web spammers are once again the main target.

Of course the vast majority of sites avoid dodgy SEO tactics like link spamming and keyword stuffing and so will see no difference in their ranking following this update. But this hasn’t stopped the same old worries developing among SEO experts and web developers.

Google has been tackling issues with poor quality content and websites almost since it began operating as a search engine. But 2012 has been the year when things have really started to come together, with Panda and Penguin affecting a significant proportion of the internet (between ten and 15 per cent of sites upon the launch of Panda and around three per cent for Penguin).

This has only been possible as Google has started to hone its skills and gain a greater understanding of the way in which websites operate. Bear in mind the company was only incorporated as a privately held company in 1998 and the business of search is still a comparatively young industry. Things will continue to change and evolve but it feels to us like Google is taking more and more control over the situation, shunting useless sites away from its top pages and rewarding sites that invest in their content.

There is nothing wrong with Google’s goal of supporting websites that provide something genuinely useful and interesting for their users. The search engine has come out in favour of good SEO tactics and praises websites that are arranged in a way that makes them easy to crawl and rank as well as sites that are stuffed with useful information for their users. But SEO can’t come at the expense of a website’s users – it needs to appease the search engines and the visitors and it appears that Google is making it increasingly clear that content is the best way of doing this.