Tag Archives: search engine marketing

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. I hear this one a lot:

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

I advise clients on this often and have run top search engine marketing programs for billion-dollar companies and small companies alike. My answer is not very cookie-cutter.

The key is to look at search engine marketing as part of a strategy. Tackling SEO by itself is a sure way to get bambooozled by shady practitioners. Sadly, the majority 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.

Sounds extreme, but it is true.

So, what do you do? You develop a coordinated marketing strategy that addresses your business needs and search is one element, not unlike advertising, brochures, your brand, or anything else.

I wish you could just hire someone, especially given how technical SEO is and how it changes, but you need a high-level understanding. I advise my clients to read “The Truth About SEO” by Rebecca Lieb and/or Moz.com’s Beginner’s Guides.

Then hire a marketing person: Senior-level if you don’t have a strategy (or hire a senior-level marketing consultant like me to build a strategy); mid-level if you have a strategy; and have that person read the same books. Then, you can hire and manage 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.

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!

Content marketing can’t succeed if everyone looks to the “content guy”: Culture of Content

A Culture of Content, Altimeter Group, Rebecca Lieb

I was pleased to see that one of my favorite marketing analysts, Rebecca Lieb of Altimeter Group, has a new research report on how to build an organizational Culture of Content (with co-author Jessica Groopman and contributions from others). 

It’s a topic I find deeply interesting because in my experience, the biggest difference between success and failure in content marketing is whether the whole organization embraces it. Excerpt: “As communications shift from interruptive and obtrusive forms of push messaging (advertising) to softer pull strategies that are more marketing- oriented (owned and earned media), brands will require appropriate, relevant, authoritative, and timely content. Such a need can no longer be the purview of marketing alone; it requires participation across the enterprise and an evolution toward a culture of content.”

In any technically-driven company, content requires time from very technical, very precious technical resources. Unless the organization is committed, writing an article is seldom anyone’s highest priority. A technical article won’t happen unless everyone in the organization understands that content is valuable and the company acknowledges and rewards contributors.

At Maxim Integrated, the $2.5B B2B where I was Executive Director of Internet Marketing, we built the site to over a quarter million pages, with 2500 technical articles and thousands of other technical items. The biggest driver: Early on, the CEO gave goals to each business unit and made it clear that this matters. Over time, many hundreds of people wrote for the website. As Rebecca’s report says, content initiatives succeed when ownership is distributed: “To motivate these groups, avoid asking them to work for marketing. Instead, tie content to individual or departmental objectives and develop metrics that enable them to track their progress toward these goals.”

That’s what we did at Maxim and the results were fabulous, with quality material that measurably drove excellent search marketing results and customer satisfaction.

I gave a content marketing workshop to a client in September and have been thrilled to see how they are embracing it. They assigned someone as content lead. That’s good but what worked is that she’s not alone in the corner, pleading for content (which is what often happens); everyone is eagerly producing ideas and content. It is easy to predict they will succeed.

At another client, it’s much more difficult. No one’s on board, no one’s committed, and writing is not a priority.

Commitment is one element. Another is the content machine. “Think like a publisher” means not just producing content, but doing it with a plan, the way a magazine does. And once something is published, procedures and automation push out a stream of links, tweets, additional items, and additional media (see: Many Pieces of Content From One).

Will Anyone See Your Fabulous Content?

You built a content machine. It’s relevant and tuned to your target audiences’ needs. It demonstrates expertise and builds relationship, engagement, and loyalty. You have people writing, others republishing, you’re optimizing it for search. You’re brilliant!

But few see it outside your circle. You’re preaching to the choir. Whet you’re not doing is distribution and promotion.

Altimeter Group says that while half of marketers acknowledge the need for distribution, only a quarter are doing it.

Buyers’_Needs_Don’t_Match_Planned_Investments___Flickr_-_Photo_Sharing_

Altimeter Group study finds half of marketers know they need distribution but only a quarter do it

What to do? Check out this great article on content distribution and promotion from Jayson DeMers, in the Harvard Business Review.

Biggest Content Marketing Issue: You’re Not Doing It!

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You know content marketing is hot. You’ve known it forever.

Even before it was everywhere, before it was in the Wall Street Journal, before it even had a name, you already knew content marketing was a good idea. And you probably already know it will produce results for you. You’re probably doing some — you have some web articles here, a Twitter post there, some PDFs tucked in the corner. But you have no strategy, no procedures, no one with performance goals for producing content, no metrics. Is that you?

b2b-content-Documented-StrategyIt’s most of us. Despite being convinced it works, less than half of marketers have a documented strategy1. 93 percent of marketers use content marketing, but just 42 percent of B2B marketers consider themselves effective at it2. Another source claims 77% Of B2C marketers use content marketing, but 21% fail to track its ROI3.

93-pct-B2B-use-CMIt’s not because a proper content marketing program is hard work — it is, but difficulty doesn’t stop us, does it? I think that most enterprises aren’t there yet because content marketing requires the whole enterprise. You can’t do it on your own by convincing the CEO to write a check, by bringing in a consultant, or by buying something from Oracle.

Why don’t we just do it?

You need the whole company. You need sales and marketing to develop messages, personas, taglines and elevator pitches, unique value propositions, and buyers’ journeys. You need material, which means stealing time from some of the best technical people in the company. You need high-level editing, which probably means hiring. You need databases and infrastructure from the web team and from IT. You need the search marketing team and analytics support.

So, how do you get started?

Strategy first: If you can afford the time and think you can sell it, start with a strategy. Then sell it and execute. As you begin, come up with the measures that will prove the program, and measure a baseline. That may make it easier to resell the strategy when resources are pulled back (and since you’re tapping resources in many departments, pull-back is inevitable).

Tactics first: Strategy-first is a wonderful plan but many organizations lack the discipline. So pick up the ball and run! Begin with what you have and can do now. But as with the strategy-first plan, establish metrics first and take a baseline. Eventually, someone will notice what you are doing and if you can’t show results, you’re content marketing program will be instant toast.

See: Content marketing: Getting started.

The good news is that you will find allies everywhere because we all know that in the 21st century, content serves customers and supports business goals. So it’s a question of finding a way to do something we all agree is a good idea.

———

144 percent of B2B marketers and 39 percent of B2C have a documented strategy.

2http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2013/10/2014-b2b-content-marketing-research/

3http://marketingland.com/survey-77-b2c-marketers-use-content-marketing-21-tracking-roi-104099

Content Marketing: Getting Started

Some years ago, I was working for a company that made video editing gear. We noticed pretty quickly that customers and prospects had some common questions: How to shoot great videos, how to add audio, how to tell a story. So we began to write articles and posted them on discussion groups and forums. The articles didn’t talk much about us or our products. In fact, one article, “How to choose a video editor,” listed all our competitors.

Not only were they wildly popular, they produced buyers — and fiercely loyal evangelists.

This was in 1995.

We later posted those articles on our nascent website and I was able to show traffic from search engines (before Google) and buyer conversions!

Now, it’s called “content marketing” and it remains one of the most important marketing strategies of all.

The idea is simple: Rather than write about your company and your solution, the best content addresses the needs of the user, independent of your products. Your goal is to be authentic, authoritative, and helpful. You earn trust and a reputation. You become a go-to resource for quality information — and that makes you a search engine magnet. The Content Council says that 61 percent of customers are more likely to buy from companies that produce useful content.

Here are some tips to get started.

When

The answer is: now! It takes time to build both content and reputation in the eyes of search engines (and consumers), so it’s wise to begin building content even before you have a detailed strategy.

In the early phases, you will have a lot of low-hanging fruit such as tutorial-level articles, overviews, and materials you have probably already written in one form or another. Post these on your website now. Don’t worry about perfection or completeness or even navigation. Just get materials up and let search run its course. Later, you’ll use analytics and customer feedback to see what’s working and beginning tuning content.

Do worry about quality and especially, worry about customer focus. Is your content about you and your products? Or is it a full-on focus on customers, prospects whether they do business with you or not? If people send you email saying, “hey, thanks,” then you’re on the right track. If other people link to your articles, then you’re gold.

I suggest you set monthly or quarterly goals for everyone to develop articles. If some of the team does not write well, I can help you locate reasonably inexpensive editing resources.

Who

If you have done persona development, you know who your customers are and what their problems are. You therefore know exactly what to write!

If you don’t have personas developed, another good clue is to look at what your company has already written. Ask your customer-facing employees. Ask me about how to do a customer-facing employee survey.

What

While detailed, technical articles are great, don’t overlook the low-hanging fruit, the kinds of things your staff can write from their own knowledge. It can be produced quickly and is likely what prospects want to know. Look at competitors’ and partners’ sites and at trade sites for inspiration (no, don’t steal). Glossaries of terms, tutorials, and tips and tricks are a great way to get started. “Top ten…” articles are a consistent winner. For instance, “Top 5 features to look for in a tent.”

Strategy

It’s fine to post an article every week or two for now, but very soon, you would be wise to build a strategy. Some key elements:

1. Think like a publisher: Every magazine schedules content and you need to do that, too. You will want a schedule with names, dates, and topics. You’ll want to synchronize with industry seasons, tradeshows, new product releases, etc. In particular, you want your staff to be a publishing machine — everyone knows they owe you an article per quarter, an article per month, etc. It needs to be a machine.

2. Reuse: Every idea should be reused for your blog, email campaigns, newsletter, technical articles, Facebook and LinkedIn postings, etc. One company I know has a practice which produces 19 uses for every article.

3. Promotion: Having an article on your website is interesting. Having links to it from others’ sites, from trade magazine sites, from trade association sites, blogs, social sites, and your users, and discussion groups — that’s gold. When a visitor sees your expertise touted by an authoritative source — that’s platinum. Social media is a great way to achieve this.

4. Search: Nothing feeds a search strategy better than a great content marketing strategy. You will want to develop a solid search strategy to stand alongside your brilliant content!

5. Show results: While many in the organization believe in the value of content, production resources are the most fragile of commitments. Content never seems urgent enough to permanently get the focus and commitment needed to sustain a publishing model. That means you need to constantly keep the company on board. Think about the metrics that prove the value and beat, beat, beat the drum. Measure before, during, and after. ROI is a stinky way to run a business but content marketing is one of the few strategies that can show return.

Resources:

Many Pieces of Content from One

Repurposing is in the air! And no wonder: who doesn’t want to multiply a piece of content into a dozen or more?

19 Ways and a Process

Readytalk’s Bo Bandy started the ball rolling with a process for building 19 pieces of content from one. An infographic diagrams the process (below).

Because ReadyTalk is in the webinar business, their procedure starts with a webinar. The most important takeway is not so much where they republish, it’s the way they built it into a machine. Each quarter, they produce an event and their procedures and people take it from there. As the best minds in content marketing keep saying, “think like a publisher.”

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 11.03.42 AM

21 Ways

Want a more comprehensive list of ways to republish? BufferSocial’s article (thank you, Boots Wang for sharing this find) details 21 ways to repurpose content.

republish-21-ways

Buffer: Republish your content 21 ways

Republishing is not just a cut and paste job; some finesse is required. Customize the content to take advantage of the medium and drive traffic. For instance, I might do a blog post that refers to an article I posted. The blog post would be highlights, with a link to the article. Think about the intent: do you want to tell the whole story, or lead readers to the article?

And replicating the article without editing would look like duplicate content to the search engines.

I’ll See Your 21 and Raise You…

Finally, my friend Erin Mannas sent me the beast of republishing, claiming 100 pieces from one! From Oracle, comes How to Turn ONE Piece of Content Into 100.

Post Everywhere

There are limits to what you can do but here are some more ideas from Bill Widmer for how to post, repost, and post again.

Reaching Customers

The point is not just massive cloning and productivity — it’s about reaching customers and prospects with material that appeals to their needs. What do your targets want, where do they hang out, what would they read and pass along?

If done well, you can not only multiply your content, you can spread the impact over time. Do that for all your content and you have achieved a drumbeat of marketing that your desired audiences cannot fail to notice.

That’s how you “think like a publisher.”