Tag Archives: SEO

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?

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.

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.

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:

Use HTTPS for Higher Search Ranking

A couple of days ago, Google announced that it would favor sites that encrypt via HTTPS. Should people with websites — including smaller sites — be doing something about it? The answer is yes, and here’s why.

What is HTTPS?

httpsYou may have noticed that when you use certain sites, especially major sites like Google and Facebook, and financial and e-commerce sites, a padlock icon appears. If you’re a keen observer, you may have also noticed that the first letters of the web address (URL) changed, adding an “s” to the “http://” that precedes most website addresses.

The “s” stands for secure. It means traffic between you and the website is encrypted. If someone out there (say, at the coffeeshop or hotel whose wifi you’re using) intercepts network data, it is much less likely they can listen in.

While using HTTPS on large sites that handle financial transactions is obviously important, the Internet community would really like to see it used everywhere because the bad guys are piecing together small bits of data  (such as where you live) and use it to gain greater access.

What Google is doing

Google says it will elevate search results for sites that use HTTPS. What does that mean? If someone is searching for your product and your competitor is using HTTPS and you are not, your competitor is more likely to appear higher on the page, assuming all other factors are equal.

It probably will be a small advantage at first but it’s likely to become more significant, given how Google addressed page speed. Years ago, Google announced they’d give preference to faster sites. That advantage started small but over the years, it became greater. Then, as now, Google was using its power to encourage website owners to make the web better, and to deliver better sites to their users. I’d wager that they will do the same thing for encrypted sites and increase the incentive as time goes on.

What should you do?

If you manage a commercial site of any size, add HTTPS. It’s not a do it yourself activity, for most people. Your webhost or the techies who built your site should know how.

 

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.”