August 21st, 2012
Clearly, constantly fresh website content is a traffic magnet. You’ve seen the reports and read the case studies. Just as clear, oftentimes painfully so, is the fact that creating that content is difficult. It’s certainly difficult to keep it up over time, long enough to truly have an effect. But what if someone could break it down for you and tell you how you could leap over that hurdle and start to really make an impact? Here are three activities you can begin today — your blog is waiting!
I recently read a post by Adam T. Sutton on the MarketingSherpa Blog highlighting results from the new MarketingSherpa 2012 Search Marketing Benchmark Report — SEO Edition. Based on the responses of SEO marketers, it appears that content creation is critically effective when organizations harness search engine optimization to realize business objectives. With 50% of these marketers agreeing that content creation is “very effective” and another 42% saying it’s “somewhat effective” it is clear that, as the author states, “SEO thrives on content.”
Equally notable is the struggle that these organizations are up against when it comes to exactly that — content creation. Marketers readily place this tactic, “one of the most difficult tactics to execute,” according to Sutton, in the top three most-difficult SEO tactics. In order, and from the same MarketingSherpa report, the most-difficult tactics are: external link building, content creation, and blogging.
With this in mind it’s refreshing to find that some marketers are tackling this issue head-on and with great results. Sutton notes the success of Marcus Sheridan, CEO of River Pools & Spas, one of the largest pool installers in the U.S. and currently owner of the most visited swimming pool website in the world, a product of strategic inbound and content marketing methods. He also showcases three tactics Sheridan suggests for cultivating a traffic-generating blog and highly effective site.
While these tactics may, at first read, appear to be more appropriate for a small to medium commercial business, I began to think about how other organizations might benefit from this approach. How could your business — or your clients’ business — begin to grow using content creation tactics like these? See what you think:
Tactic 1 | Answer prospects’ questions
First, gather everyone in your company and ask them to list the top questions they’ve received from prospective customers. Write down a list of 50. Those questions are the titles of your first 50 blog posts.
Tactic 2 | No, really answer their questions
Some companies are afraid to answer questions about price or to directly compare their products to alternatives (which is another popular question). Sheridan urged companies to overcome their discomfort. Prospective customers are asking these questions, regardless. Who would you rather have answering them?
Tactic 3 | Two posts per week for six months
Once you gather questions from your team, keep everyone involved. Get them excited about writing a blog post to answer a question. Divide the work across the company and set a strict schedule.
“If you set 50 titles and you do two per week, then you have 25 weeks’ worth of blog content. Within that six months time, everything will start to change for that company and that business and the traffic they’re starting to get on their website.”
– Marcus Sheridan, CEO, River Pools & Spas
September 14th, 2010
You’ve researched keywords. You’ve filtered phrases. Your on-page and off-page content and metadata are optimized. And your site’s ready to pull out and ahead of the competition. High ranking is within reach, and glory is yours for the taking.
Then some unknown — with a name that starts with a capital “A” — shows up before you’ve even had a chance to take a breath. Bam! You’re right back in middle school, and this year’s teacher decided to rearrange the seating, and your name might as well start with a lowercase “z.”
Based on the gasps I heard last week, you’d think that the launch of Google Instant blew out all the hard-fought SEO and shuttled the keyword crunchers back to their secret lairs to start all over in their quest to find the holy grail of search. You’d also think from the deafening silence that this change had finally stumped the search gurus and the online marketers who typically have so much to say (and sell) around the topic. For me, it got me thinking that maybe Google had it right: Put the power of search back in the hands of those doing the searching.
The instantaneous results, based on the predictive Google Suggest feature among others, are served up based on the spelling and relative popularity of a search term or phrase. The spelling, well there’s not much we can do about that at this point, but it will be interesting to see how many folks bum rush GoDaddy for new domains and how creative they get with the (mis)spelling of their names. Watch out for interesting approaches to content development as strategists and writers attempt to navigate these new rules. The world of search could get very interesting over the next few months as we watch the impact — letter by letter — of anticipating search in real time.
What I find most interesting, with the potential to make significant impact, is the increased influence of popularity on search results, real time or not. More speed and disruptive display adds another dimension to what could be a great push toward the democratization of results. Sure, the Google filter is there, and this won’t be a true, unadulterated presentation of available data (oh, they’re anticipating NSFW search and you won’t like the results). Yes, there will be those users who are distracted by the bright and shiny results that pop up immediately. But what could really make Google Instant an instant and long-lasting hit is the user-centric nature of the process and the product delivered. I’ve been searching for that and can’t wait to see the results.
September 21st, 2009
I was recently asked to “update the seo” on an existing web site. The concern was that we had, perhaps, been using “old keywords and phrases.” In a nutshell: The SEO had reached its sell-by date and stakeholders were eyeing the pitchforks and torches. Could I please use best practices to overhaul the site’s metadata, and could I do it by Wednesday?
Well, the timing didn’t bother me as much as the emphasis on “best practices.” I’m no stranger to the term and I’ve been known to toss it out for effect on occasion. But this stopped me. I was curious about an established to-do list and went in search of just such a thing.
It was a short trip.
Not counting the “experts” who blatantly borrowed from each other (without sources or credits, typical) and the bloggers who recounted results that, no doubt, could not be replicated, I came up with nothing definitive on this. Try as I might — and with years of sourcing SEO and SEM — I was disappointed. I was also (self-inflicted) now tasked with putting down in writing what I would consider my version of SEO Best Practices™.
Some of these are no-brainers; if you’re doing SEO now you’re putting these into practice at each juncture. Others might not be so obvious or you might have another way of getting to the same result. If you’re reading this and inclined to comment and/or add to the list, please do. I’d like to think that the next person who has to extinguish a colleague’s flaming hair will do so with a bit more confidence and clarity having found this post.
ML’s SEO Best Practices (v1.01)
Keywords: How are your keywords holding up and what kind of traffic are they bringing into your site? Notice I said “kind of traffic” because while traffic volume is a nice trend to watch, it’s the quality of that traffic that’s really having any effect on your site. Did you start out too broad, is the net you’re casting just too wide — bringing in visitors that “just aren’t that into you?” Also consider the alignment between those keywords and your content, which brings me to…
Content: Are your keywords in sync with the content on the targeted page? Will visitors find what they’re searching for or will they be disappointed to find that your page (your site, your brand) is not what they need to complete the task at hand. Don’t be fooled — the metadata on your page can no longer do the heavy lifting. Content is king and optimized content that makes good on the promise of search results makes all the difference.
Customers: Get to know them. Get to know them well. It’s not until you understand what they’re searching for — what task are they looking to accomplish — and why that you’ll truly know if your keywords and content are on point. Talk with customers (you may call them users or visitors, but if they’re “buying” what you’re “selling” they’re customers). What are they saying about your category, your competition, their desires and experiences? How can you better your site and pages to ensure that they have, consistently, the best experience on your site.
Conversation: Paying attention to what your customers are saying is one thing. Really hearing how they talk is another. By listening to the words and phrases that are being used you can boost the effectiveness of the keywords that you choose. Get out of your head. Stop using “insider” language. Get to know the words that your customers are using when speaking — and searching — in your category and you’ll be ahead of the “conversation curve.”
Nuts and bolts: Be aware of these “rules” — use 2-3 keyphrases per page; craft pages at approximately 250 words, adjusted as necessary; place keyphrases in headlines, subheadlines and hyperlinks within copy. Then ditch the “rules” and read the content you’ve created. Try again if you’re sounding robotic or nonsensical. Remember that while your visitors are looking for answers they’re also looking for reasons to care about your brand, your product or service.
Helpful links: Here are a few resouces that I’ve found handy. Comment and add to the list.
Search Engine Guide – Unleashed: Keywords and Content
David Mihm – Mihmorandum