Category Archives: Search marketing

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a strategy

Great article by my friend, Erik Newton of Brightedge, on the importance of treating SEO — search engine optimization — as a strategy.

Planning an SEO Marketing Strategy

Anyone close to SEO work has heard the request: “We want to be on page one of Google for these 20 words.” It’s an innocent request but is guaranteed to propel the company into the wrong tactics. Erik explains how a strategic approach aligns with the rest of a company’s marketing strategy. Who are we, what are our goals as a business, and how do we make our content, budget, resources, and goals align? He goes on to talk about how search is part of a marketing program and in particular, how to include SEO as part of the content marketing program, so every piece of content works for you.

More search strategy: http://moerubenzahl.com/category/search-marketing/

SEO for entrepreneurs

Search engine optimization (SEO) is something every business needs. Because no matter what your business is, your prospects are probably not coming to you when they are ready: they are going to Google. You need to be there.

Trustworthy search marketing information is hard to find. But good news: I have a new resource to get you there safely.

The problem with SEO is not that it’s difficult (though it is) or complicated (it is). After all, a lot of what modern businesses do is complicated and difficult — so we learn or hire the expertise. The problem with SEO is that hiring expertise may get you in trouble. It is full of danger. Sadly, competent, expert help is hard to find. The SEO industry is full of charlatans. Advice: If someone promises you the top page of Google for your 50 keywords, run.

Some SEO experts are out and out crooked; others are innocently incompetent. They are full of advice and knowledge that is wrong, spouted with great confidence. That’s because they learned what they “know” not from testing and experience, but from all the SEO information on the web, and much of that is blazingly wrong. It is parroted from each other so often that it becomes “common wisdom.” Like politics, but let’s not go there.

For this reason, I tell clients that SEO is not a service you can blindly hire. I will recommend SEO services I know (and offer an SEO and content marketing strategy workshop myself) but even if a client plans to hire experts, I recommend SEO gothey learn the basics themselves. You don’t need to be an expert in detailed SEO tech but you do need a solid grasp of the strategy. (See my article on whether to use agencies or do your SEO in-house.) It’s not unlike demand generation, lead management, or any other complex business area: Marketing and C-level business execs need a strategic grounding so you can know that your staff’s direction makes sense and matches the company’s direction.

Happy news: There’s a new resource I can recommend. The founder of Moz, Rand Fishkin is one of SEO’s shining lights and a gifted teacher. He’s just released a Skillshare class that’s free with your signup (Skillshare is free to new signups for 30 days.)  It’s my new recommended way to learn what you need to know.

Other recommendations are:

Also, please see my previous article, SEO: agency or in-house?

Test your site for mobile. Now.

Google has updated their “Test My Site” tool, and it’s really well done. (For what it’s worth, this site passed but I can improve readability by boosting text size and click target size.)

Google test my site for mobile

This is important because if visitors abandon your site, the brilliance of your messaging and calls to action don’t matter. And Google has threatened to reduce your standing on search result pages if your site doesn’t work well on mobile.

So, let’s do this!

Don’t be a bad ad

Don’t be a bad ad.

If you are trying to balance the need to be noticed with the need to make friends, see The Most Hated Online Advertising Techniques, from Neilsen-Norman Group, one of the most respected user experience research firms. Their research confirms what most of us already know: that users hate, hate, hate ads that obscure or rearrange content, are hard to dismiss, or play sound or video automatically.

If making your prospects hate you is not sufficient incentive to be a good guy, Google and Bing are increasingly penalizing sites with obstrusive ads, pop-ups, and interstitials, especially on mobile.

This is not to say all ads are a problem. Be aware of the tradeoff between getting the attention you need and irritating your prospects in the first moments of the relationship. Modal ads (as in the illustration here) are bad; those that cover the whole screen and make you search for the close link are cruel; and on mobile, anything bad becomes downright evil.

“Modal ads, ads that reorganize content, and autoplaying video ads were among the most disliked. Ads that are annoying on desktop become intolerable on mobile.”

The Most Hated Online Advertising Techniques
https://www.nngroup.com/articles/most-hated-advertising-techniques/

SEO: Agency or in-house?

A question about SEO (search engine optimization) on Quora stimulated me to write something I have had in my head for a while.

What is better, hiring an employee for SEO long-term or hiring an agency for a new website?

Clients often ask this question. Search is essential and it’s complicated. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just bring in a hired gun?

But search engine marketing is a strategy and like advertising, brand messaging, lead management, and everything else, it must be a considered part of your broader marketing strategy, serving the needs of your business. It’s not something you can just toss to a contractor. Worse, tackling SEO as a narrow tactic is a sure way to get bamboozled or possibly, penalized by Google. Sadly, the majority (seriously) of people who claim to be “SEOs” are either charlatans or incompetents. If someone tells you they will get you on page one of Google for x% of your 50 keywords, run.

So, what do you do? The best answer is a mix of in-house expertise with some agency help.

Step one is to understand search. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of dicey SEO knowledge out there, so be cautious about what you believe. I advise executives to read “The Truth About SEO” by Rebecca Lieb. It’s a few years old but largely about strategy that doesn’t vary that much and provides a broad understanding of search. For those tasked with executing the search strategy, read Lieb’s book and Moz.com’s Beginner’s Guides.

Step two: Hire or designate your search marketing staff. Large companies that live and die on the success of search will need more staff and they will need to be pretty senior. One idea is to hire a senior-level marketing consultant like me to build a strategy that mid-level people can execute.

Why do you need someone inside? For a couple of reasons. First, no agency will understand your business as well as you do. And even if you have a great agency, you need someone inside to manage the relationship and make sure the agency is giving you its full attention. Finally — and this is really important — an insider has access to the rest of the company. Every search marketing program requires help from many people in the company, from product managers to executives, to IT and web staff. Outsiders can’t command resources or evangelize the cause.

Step three: Consider hiring and managing an SEO contractor or agency.

All that said, there are great SEOs and SEO agencies and they have expertise and stay current in a way most in-house marketing staffs cannot. But when you hire an agency, they must be managed and you must have in-house staff who understands search.

 

SEO in minutes?

I don’t need to sell you on the value of search engine marketing, do I? It doesn’t get all the “shiny new thing” attention it used to, but search is still where your prospects name their needs, and search engine optimization (SEO) is how you get in front of them at exactly the right moment. My search and content marketing strategy session is one of my most popular offerings.

But the best search marketing requires time, expertise, and constant care and attention. Even sophisticated, Fortune 1000 enterprises I work with sometimes allocate their smart search marketing resources elsewhere.

When resources are tight, you can apply the 80-20 rule and achieve pretty-good SEO with fewer resources, at least for a while. Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz, the best search marketing information resource I know, addresses what he calls “minimum viable SEO” in Moz’s weekly whiteboard Friday series. Even enterprises with robust search strategies will benefit from this, as will smaller organizations with rudimentary search marketing.

Go visit Rand. In just nine minutes, you’ll have a practical program for pretty-decent SEO when time is tight:

Minimum Viable Search Marketing: Minutes Per Week, Rand Fishkin of Moz.

Automatic assistants and search engine marketing

Siri and Hey Google have been around for a while and the category is growing. Now we have Siri on the Mac, Amazon Echo, Google Assistant, Google Home, and other personal agents. As these grow in popularity and capability, what does that mean for businesses that rely on search?

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As a new Amazon Echo Dot user (I love it so much I immediately bought a second and may add a couple more), I am wondering. Mostly, I am making inside-the-house requests like “play music” but I’m starting to ask it the type of questions that would have immediately gone to Google. It mostly fails (even more than Siri) but it will get better. Eventually, it will be just like clicking the “Feeling Lucky” button on Google — which means being among the top 5 or 10 entries in the search results will no longer be enough.

An article at SearchEngineLand says that for some marketers, we need to “rank for featured snippets or go home.” (Snippets are those boxes on the results page that give answers instead of links to websites.) The article has a video of an interaction with Google Home that offers a thought-provoking example. For some consumer brands, especially services, this deserves some thought. Likewise for local services.

I think business-to-business companies need not worry about this yet, but it would be wise to have it on your long-range radar.

Optimizing Search for Blog Posts

Congratulations: You’re doing a blog. You’re thinking about search engine optimization (SEO). You have the machinery in place to consistently produce a couple of posts per week on topics that will interest customers and prospects. Now: How will they find you?

Blogs are great search engine bait

One of the reasons I favor blog posts and other content is that it is search engine bait. When someone is searching on a problem they have that you can solve, your content is the most likely way they will find you and see you as the solution to their problems.

Here’s a video from Rand Fishkin of MOZ on how to make it a practice (key concept!) to make your blogs (and other content) appeal.

Some key ideas for optimizing search for blogs:

  • Make your content unique and valuable. Are you solving a customer problem?
  • Think about who you want to reach (executives? coders? bakers? managers?); what you want them to gain; what you want them to do as a result.
  • Pick 3-5 search terms as your target for this article. All should have same searcher intent and be juicy terms that people actually search on, are reasonably unique, and have great click potential.
  • Look at who else appears for those terms and readjust of you realize you can’t compete.
  • Now: Make your posting, armed with knowledge about what will work.
  • Do the appropriate technical tasks and keywording.
  • Watch your results so you can learn and adjust.

Content marketing index

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 4.33.13 PM I write a lot about content because, as Altimeter analyst Rebecca Lieb says, “Content is the atomic particle of all marketing.” It’s what marketing is made of. It’s how you deliver value to all customers, including the ones who aren’t paying you. It serves every step of the buyer’s journey. It’s how you make people aware of your brand and move them toward familiarity, purchase, and loyalty.

Here’s an index of the top articles I’ve written here about content marketing:

Getting started

Best practices, building a content machine

  • The top 50 content marketers: Learn from the best.
  • A culture of content: Content marketing can’t succeed if everyone looks to the “content guy.” Here’s how to build content into the organization and make it everyone’s job.
  • My favorite article: What if you could amplify your effectiveness by turning every piece of content into 20? What if you could build a machine to make this happen? Learn how to make Many Pieces of Content from One.

Getting the word out

And all the rest…

Follow the full index: All articles on content marketing, to see everything, including new articles, as they appear.

Top 50 content marketers

Kapost's top 50 content marketers

Content marketing solution Kapost has announced their list of the top 50 content marketers. They look like excellent choices, based on the dozen or so whose work I know. These are great ones to study for wise practices.

Many of these are brands I follow, even if I am not a customer, because of the quality and usefulness of their content. You can bet they will be considered when I, or a client, needs what they provide. A good example is HubSpot, which produces a steady and amazingly prolific drumbeat of marketing articles, mostly lightweight enough to absorb in less than 15 minutes. Likewise, MOZ.com is a favorite of mine — highly prolific and highly valuable articles in a range of media. Check out their whiteboard Friday videos.

The list seems to favor marketers, perhaps because the folks at Kapost have a tendency to follow material from marketers. That makes this a good list of companies we marketers should be following!