20- Feb2016
Posted By: Guardian Owl
129 Views

What BuzzFeed’s Dao Nguyen Knows About Data, Intuition, And The Future Of Media | Fast Company | Business + Innovation

To understand what makes BuzzFeed tick, you need to know how Dao Nguyen thinks about data.

As the publisher in charge of BuzzFeed, which has annual revenue in the hundreds of millions of dollars, you might expect Dao Nguyen to be getting the best tables at fancy restaurants in order to land advertising deals with chief marketing officers. Instead, Nguyen meets me at a Le Pain Quotidien cafe wearing a grey fleece with the Dow Jones logo on it. She’s every bit the down-to-earth geek who you’d expect to be building BuzzFeed‘s technology and data infrastructure.

It turns out that BuzzFeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti bestowed the title on her based on a much older definition of a publisher’s role. “Traditionally that meant owning a printing press and dealing with delivery trucks and newsstands,” Nguyen told me. “Whereas with digital media, getting your content to the public is all about your technical platform, your distribution plans, on social networks or other technical platforms.”

For BuzzFeed, the newsstand (and sometimes even the printing press) is your social feed, and its delivery trucks are you sharing a story. The digital circulation for a piece of content is constantly being monitored and communicated back to the organization through dashboards, emails, and Slack.

“What is the competitive advantage that you can gain as a publisher today?” says Peretti. As the value of content approaches zero, “Having technology, data science, and being able to know how to manage, optimize and coordinate your publishing is the thing that gives you a competitive advantage.”

Here are some of the highlights from the interviews with Nguyen I collected as I reported this month’s cover story on Buzzfeed‘s growing media empire.

NGUYEN’S FIRST COMPUTER PROGRAM, AND HER PATH TO PUBLISHING

Dao Nguyen: If you look at the word “publishing,” actually meaning making content available to the public, it used to be you had to have all these things in place, including advertising. You no longer need those things. Making content available to the public is entirely a technical talent.

Noah Robischon: Have you ever thought you would want to be a publisher? What did you think you would be?

I always wanted to work in computers. I’m going to be 42 next week. I’ve been coding since I was seven. I’ve always loved programming and working on computers.

What was the first thing you programmed?

When I was 7? The first program I was really excited about was a low-res stick figure doing jumping jacks. Animated, but totally low-res, not high-res graphics. Basically, he was doing jumping jacks. I remember in school I had those printouts with those weird white strips with the little holes on the sides. I had this printout of this program I was working on and I was trying to debug it. I looked at it in class under my desk and the teacher says, “What are you doing?” She comes over and sees me reading this computer printout. It was my program. She said, “Did you write that?” And I said, “Yes.” So she then asked me to program a thing that quizzed students on state capitals.

Jumping jacks. Fascinating.

But I’ve never been super ambitious, actually.

In what sense?

Professionally.

When you say ambition, what do you consider ambition?

I’ve never wanted to start a company. I always knew it would be incredibly difficult. If you start a company, a lot of what you’re doing is non-technical. It’s advertising. I’ve had this amazing career, and it’s difficult to explain why. [Laughs]

When I worked in France for a long time, I eventually became the CEO of the Internet subsidiary of the newspaper [Le Monde]. I refer to that whole period as, I was the accidental CEO. Coming around and suddenly I was there and there it was.

How did you end up in France?

That’s a fun story. It was 2000 and the Internet bubble was bursting in New York. I was working for an Internet start-up and I was having to fire all of my friends. I said, “I don’t need this, why am I doing this?” I decided I wanted to learn French, so I said to my then boyfriend, now husband, “I’m going to quit, move to France, eat cheese, drink wine, and sit out the Internet recession for a year.” He’s like, “Great! Let’s go.”

I ended up getting this job at Le Monde IT as a technical project manager. I was like, “I can do this job in my sleep, I just don’t speak any French, that’s why it will be a big challenge for all of us.”

I signed a one-year contract. In France, it’s very hard to get hired because most people want a permanent, lifetime, un-fireable contract. I don’t want that contract, I want a one-year contract. They were happy to have me and after the year they switched me over to another contract.

Was that the time you started to understand how media worked?

Yes.

Was there a particular moment where things clicked into place? Where you understood both what was wrong and how to fix it? Was it a more slow, testing experimentation that brought on each insight along the path?

I had a lot of great mentors when I was there who had thought a lot about news and news consumption. One of the things I learned at Le Monde I think is still true today is news consumption is different from consuming other products. It’s not like one day someone will just wake up and go, “Today, I want to be informed,” like the way of: “I want to have chocolate chip ice cream”, they wake up, “I want to wake up and have ice cream today,” so they go out and buy ice cream. News isn’t like that. Nobody just wakes up and goes: “I want to be informed. I’ve never been informed before, I was informed in the past, I was informed a bunch a couple of years ago, it was pretty cool, maybe I’ll be informed again. I’m going to go out and purchase something or do something to inform myself.”

No. It’s a habit. It’s a person’s identity. The thing that will shape the most about how you are informed at all today is how you were informed yesterday. It’s a habit. If you read The New York Times front page every day to get informed, you would probably read it tomorrow to become informed.

Thinking about actual people and how they think about news is something I learned when I got started in this industry in France. It’s important, especially when people work in data, “Oh, you’re a good unique visitor.” People forget that what you should be thinking about is the person who represents that, and what are they doing. That is an example to me.

HOW BUZZFEED THINKS ABOUT DATA

Is data the hub for these spokes of the company or do you look at it a different way? Describe how you see the way data interacts with the different pieces.

I think that’s a good question because I think it’s a strange thing. Depending on who I talk to, sometimes I say to people, “[Buzzfeed] uses data much more than you think.” And then depending on the person, sometimes I’ll say, “No, no, no, it uses the data much less than you think.” I think there are some myths. One myth is data scientists are telling reporters what to write and what to cover. That’s totally a myth. I’d like to dispel it at every moment I can. That’s totally untrue. I take no responsibility for what these insane reporters cover. They just come up with all that themselves.

I assume that people look at a Buzzfeed story that did well about “These Are 27 Sandwiches That Are Better Than a Boyfriend,” and think there must be some deep data science behind sandwiches, and sandwiches and boyfriends, right? Actually that requires a creative mind more than anything, you know?

That myth stems from people’s desire to have a black and white explanation, a simple explanation. The reality is that things are more nuanced than you would like them to be, and more complicated than you would like them to be. And so it’s the easy way out to have a very sort of simplistic view. The key is, when I speak to editors and people in general, they have a very healthy view of data. They understand there are many things data can tell them. But they also understand there are many things data can’t tell them.

You have to use a lot of intuition and a lot of creativity, and the data is one part of the input you take in to think about why this could do well, why do people share it. The data never tells you why anything happens. Data will tell you, if you’re very lucky, what happened. It won’t ever tell you why. If you want to understand why, that requires a different set of skills, largely in your brain and in your heart. Why did this story resonate with people?

Reading comments is often a very good barometer—you can’t only use comments, you can’t only use data, you can’t only use anything. You can’t only use your own intuition, either. It has to be all of those things you use. When talking about things, “Oh, maybe it’s this. Maybe it’s that.” Then we can test it. “Let’s test whether or not this hunch I have is right based on something I’ve seen out there.”

Which is why for us, publishing volume is actually really important. It’s not that we want to crank stuff out there for no reason at all. The more you publish, the more opportunities you have to look at things that are happening, read comments, have a new hypothesis, test a hypothesis. And if you can do that relatively quickly, then you remember what you were testing. Two weeks go by and I haven’t touched a thing, “What was that thing I was trying to test?” But if you’re publishing every day and get a lot of signals that are both quantitative and qualitative, and anecdotal even, you can begin to form ideas about content. How it should be made, how it should be presented, and where it should be distributed and whether or not that has an effect.

There’s data, which is quantitative. Then there’s qualitative information you can gather.

Such as?

Reading comments, reading tweets, reading articles about your article—all of that is qualitative. I feel like the third part that is necessary, critical, is the culture encouraging all that. That, in many ways, is one of our biggest competitive advantages. Our staff and our culture is one that encourages this, and praises it, and has a pretty healthy appreciation of data as well as a healthy appreciation of other things, like intuition.

The stereotype of a traditional reporter is, “Only what I think matters and what I think is important matters and I’m not going to look at any other signals.” And that’s, I guess, one kind of intuition. But the humility that comes with, “Oh, I’m just learning about my audience, learning about what is interesting.” That is something we actively seek out in people.

I don’t think that Buzzfeed has the monopoly on data. I just think we use it well.

USING DATA TO UNDERSTAND THE HUMAN CONDITION

Given your curiosity about the human condition, how does data help you understand the human condition?

I think data helps people affirm, deny or continue to explore hypotheses about the human condition.

You said confirm, deny or continue to explore. Interesting. You could also develop social science. There are many methods of doing that.

Yes, but at scale.

Most people don’t think of data being able to do that. Let me put it this way: who else out there is using data the way you think about it?

Probably Netflix. Like I said, I think we’re still at the beginning. We still have a pretty rudimentary apparatus in place, and it’s okay because you also want the creative people on the other end to realize it’s just one input. No one’s a slave to it. A lot of it grows out of the fact we have people who have grown out of the video side, people who used to make YouTube videos. If you make a YouTube video, you immediately get feedback: how many comments, what they said, how they liked it, whether it was shared. Talent that is emerging now is already very familiar and comfortable with the idea you receive these signals back and it tells you something or suggests something to you.

I think our competitive advantage is having a pretty rounded view of that, and not making it out to be some sort of magic solution and getting all wrapped up in it.

WHY VIRAL HITS ARE LESS VALUABLE THAN BREAD AND BUTTER POSTS

There’s always a curve. There’s always like very few posts that get a lot of traffic. That’s totally great, actually, because it means if we didn’t have enough posts that failed, it means we’re not trying enough things. I think that’s—one of the first all-company presentations I did when I came toBuzzfeed, a long time ago now, I guess three years ago, is called the Dot Presentation. People still ask me about them. I just took all of the posts and I bucketed them into traffic buckets and the size of the dot was the number of posts were in each bucket. What I showed was over time, the size of the dots started to increase and got higher. There were more posts getting more traffic. But the reality is the super viral ones, like the million-plus ones are always going to be very small.

I said, “That’s okay,” because our sweet spot is actually in this other bucket, 100-250k, that’s our sweet spot, that’s going to allow us to make posts for the next bucket and that allows us to make posts for the next bucket.”

How did you figure out that was the right bucket versus the bucket two rungs up?

You look at it over time. “Oh here it is,” for each month you can see how it changes. It wasn’t the biggest bucket, the biggest bucket was the failure bucket, the bucket with no traffic. But that’s fine too. I’m not embarrassed to say it. The bucket that’s shared pretty well, did pretty well, wasn’t meant to be viral, but still performed pretty well, it was a solid performer. Don’t let all the attention get given to these viral ones. The attention should be on the bread and butter.

Why should it be?

That’s where you’re learning.

Why do you learn more from those than the mega-viral hits?

There’s more of them, the sample size is higher.

THAT TIME SHE WROTE A POST THAT WENT VIRAL

I have a good example about that, because it’s something that I was involved in personally. The first post I wrote on Buzzfeed was called “27 signs you were raised by immigrant parents.” It was published two years ago now, so I feel kind of terrible still talking about it. The point of it was it was incredibly viral, got like 2 million views—it got like 1 million views in the first 12 hours. Two and a half years ago we were a very small site, so it was a big deal. It wasn’t the first post that we ever wrote about having immigrant parents, there were previous posts called “Signs you were raised by immigrant parents.” There was one that was “Signs you were raised by Pakistani immigrant parents.” There were many versions that all did pretty well, but this one blew them out of the water. That’s because the concept was piggybacking off other people’s work. The whole post was gently mocking your parents. Like “Your dishwasher is only used to dry dishes, not wash them.” Or “Your mother is always telling you you need to wear a sweater.” And then the very last one, number 27, it was the opposite. It was much more like, “You realize your parents sacrificed so much to bring you to this country and you wouldn’t change it for the world.” You love them. Sort of the opposite of everything. Then you read the comments. The comments were like, “I was laughing so hard until I got to number 27 and now I’m crying.” Or “Number 27 made me send this to my parents.” Many of these comments were basically saying, “Ha ha ha, BRB crying.”

Without any official communications, editorial style, people immediately started employing this technique. No one said anything. Everyone read the post, they read the comments. It had the sticker at the end that made you want to share it with someone. When you share it then it makes you look good because you’re making fun of your parents and laughing with your siblings, or sharing with your boyfriend or girlfriend, “This is my life,” but also, “I love my parents.” That’s something you learned from the comments. If you didn’t read the comments, it was like, “Asians share a lot. More than the Pakistanis!”

HOW BUZZFEED‘S GROWS ITS FACEBOOK AUDIENCE SO QUICKLY

We track all of our Facebook activity, obviously, and all of our page activity—we have 90 Facebook pages, that’s insane. We track all of the posts, the stats they generate. We can look at traditional things, like when is the best time to post? And how does using video for certain Facebook pages affect fan growth? And how the rates are different between pages. We can use that to optimize what pages we post videos on. And then how it gets re-shared by bigger pages. Like, how do you use a big page to grow a small page? What media do you want to use? Why do some fans on some pages seem to respond better to videos versus other pages? What is the breakdown? Is it a demo breakdown?

We work really closely with the social team, which is in edit, to talk about what we think is happening… It helps because it’s a really direct feedback loop that is not currently supported by Facebook’s tools.

Are you using Facebook insights to get the raw data?

Yeah, we call the APIs. We don’t normally compare the pages to each other but more like this happened on this page—sometimes we’ll compare that but if it’s really the same content, like this same thing was posted to multiple pages. We’ve grown a lot of small pages into bigger pages. How can we do that? Can we replicate that all the time? That requires a lot of understanding that there are many questions that data can kind of give pointers to, but all you can do is try things out. It’s nuanced, there’s no magic formula, a lot of it is based on good content.

A UNIFIED VISION

Dan Oshinsky, our newsletter editor, reports up to edit. But when he started he reported to me. That was always the deal. You come in, you report to me, we make a product together, talk to you about data. You’re still obviously working with edit, make sure it’s the right voice. But you work for me and when we feel that you’re ready, then you’ll move over to edit. Newsletters data—we use Campaign Monitor, and there are some tie-ins to the analytics product but not that many. From a data perspective, he is charged with and is free to interpret the data in the way he feels will most improve his product and improves his readership.

Is he looking at click-through rate?

For a long time, it was: you want to get subscribers up, you want to get clicks up, you want to get unsubscribes down. But one of the things we talk about all the time is there is no one metric you are optimizing for. Anyone who just optimizes to one metric is going to eventually have a problem. This obsession over time spent. In some way I feel that sort of rhetoric has died down. There really is no one metric.

On the one hand, you want to go up. You don’t want it to go up and have all the other numbers decline. We will go and routinely purge our list. If you don’t open the newsletter for X number of months, then you get an email saying, “You’re going to get removed from this list unless you opt in in the next 24 hours.” When that happens, newsletter numbers go down. I don’t need newsletters subscriber numbers to be up for the sake of being out. I want to actually get people to look at the stories, to read them and share them.

So his subscriber rate would go down, but his clickthrough numbers would go up, and then his clicks back to BuzzFeed would remain flat because you haven’t changed anything, right? [Laughter]

But your data is better.

One of the things Buzzfeed has done really well—and I’m sure this was all Jonah’s plan from the beginning—but I feel like the business side and editorial side are really aligned. They’re really aligned because we don’t sell banner ads in newsletters—we do monetize the newsletter, we just don’t sell banner ads. The idea that you’d like the subscriber numbers to go up, so you can sell it at a higher rate, is not clickable because neither side cares about that, right? Because native advertising is about something else, it’s about getting people to look at the actual sponsored posts or branded video that we have made. And also on the editorial side, the goal isn’t to just be in a bunch of people’s inboxes, it’s to go look at the content and learn something about it or cook something or whatever. They’re actually aligned and I feel like we’re so fortunate in that. Because in so many media industries the two are not aligned.

That’s what makes metrics and data more complicated at those organizations. One set of people feel that one metric is important and the other feels it’s not important, or is much less important.

They’re almost adversarial.

Sometimes. I feel like the role of data we have is a luxury. A luxury out of the fortune or genius, this business genius, this vision where you don’t have that tension. Where both sides are trying to achieve the same thing. Sometimes I feel badly for organization’s where the data team is caught in the middle and can’t, and they don’t know how to talk about it to their constituencies because the constituencies have such diverging values. I feel like mostly my job is easy, but it’s easier because of the way that’s set up.

I feel that is underreported. The fact that native advertising is a better user experience, that’s reported on. But the thing that is not reported on is that native advertising aligns groups within the organization in a way that makes everyone more effective, and advertisers happy.

Source: What BuzzFeed’s Dao Nguyen Knows About Data, Intuition, And The Future Of Media | Fast Company | Business + Innovation

18- Feb2016
Posted By: Guardian Owl
249 Views

SEO is a Long-Term Investment- Marketers Feel Pressure

Even though SEO is a long-term investment, marketers often feel pressured to show progress quickly. Columnist Dan Bagby for Searchengineland provides some ideas for quick wins that can show value while waiting for your longer-term initiatives to start gaining traction.

Even though SEO is a long-term investment, marketers often feel pressured to show progress quicklyWhen you start at a new company as the SEO specialist or pick up a new client, one thing everyone wants is to see quick results. The fact that SEO takes time can be a struggle as you try to show value while also satisfying your own desire to make an impact.

Here are a few SEO techniques that will let your colleagues or clients know you are the real deal, bringing value with your expertise.

1. Win With Featured Snippets

Winning a featured snippet spot can have a huge impact, bringing organic traffic to a page. Although getting featured in the quick answer box is not guaranteed, there is a pretty simple formula for optimizing your content for it.

Even though SEO is a long-term investment, marketers often feel pressured to show progress quicklyStart by going to the Google Search Console to find rankings for queries that contain a question — you can do this by filtering for queries containing “how,” “what” or “why.”

Once you have a list of keyword phrases, check search volume and prioritize your list, focusing on the keywords with the highest search volume. If you do not currently rank for any question-related keywords, think of a simple question you can answer, and create the content to answer that question.

Increase your chances of being featured in the quick answer box by making on-page improvements:

  1. Provide a detailed answer in a bulleted or numbered format that specifically answers the question posed by the search query.
  2. Add a video to the page that answers the question (with transcription).
  3. Add additional information that adds more value to the page for the reader.

Once your content has been revised, submit it to be indexed, and share it on Google Plus, so that the changes are noticed quickly. To learn more about optimizing for featured snippets, check out this article by Eric Enge.

2. Optimize Existing Content

It is much easier to improve a strong existing page’s ranking a few spots in the SERPs than it is to get a new (or poorly ranking) page to show quick results.

Knowing that you see the biggest bumps in traffic when you get into the top three results, target content ranked in position 3 to 10. Improving bounce rates or building on pages that are converting can also be a great way to see big gains from a small time investment.

There are several ways to identify which pages to focus on:

  1. Going back to the Search Console, sort keywords by rank to find keywords ranked between 10 and 3.
  2. Looking in Google Analytics, find pages with a high bounce rate but decent traffic.
  3. Also in Google Analytics, find pages with high conversion rates. Check what keywords are driving traffic through Search Console, and focus on optimizing for those keywords.

What can you do to improve these pages and see results quickly? Here are some ideas

On-Page Optimization

  • Modifying the basic on-page ranking factors to improve search engine optimization.
  • Find internal pages that are related to your target pages, and create new internal links from the related pages to the target pages.
  • Share on Google Plus and submit to Google to be crawled.

Crowd Source Content For Quick Links

One way to quickly improve a page’s content (and possibly gain links) is by reaching out to influencers. Keep it simple by asking influencers to contribute to a page you are trying to improve.

For example, if you have a page you wrote about the best places to eat in Austin, you could reach out to food bloggers in Austin and ask them for their opinion on the best new restaurants.

Even more effective is to ask them if they have a blog post about those specific restaurants that you can link to. They will gladly give you content to link to while you get more content to add to your page.

Once the updates are made, let the influencers know by email and via Twitter. This can result in additional social shares and possibly links for the influencers. You can also use this technique when you are creating a brand-new page.

Optimizing For Search Intent

I often find pages ranking well for queries that do not fit the page. For example, I might see an article ranking for queries related to “finding influencers” that is really more focused on how to reach out to influencers. Fixing this will likely improve rank and lower bounce rate.

  1. If the page does not rank for other keywords, and the keywords currently driving traffic are strategic for your site, rewrite the article completely focusing on those keywords.
  2. If you want to maintain the article, you can add a section to better answer the query that it already ranks for.
  3. If the information that would match the search intent does not belong on the page, write a new page that answers the questions, and link to it from the ranking post with keyword-rich anchor text.

3. Improve Rank For Converting Pages

Look at Google Analytics to find the pages that are converting. Use Search Console to find the keywords driving traffic to that page. You can also look at paid campaigns to see top-converting keywords.

Focus on these keywords and pages to see quick results and really prove the value in SEO.

4. Find Competing Content

Check your site for several pieces of content on the same topic and combine the pages. Make sure to redirect URLs so that there is only one page.

5. Fixing 404 Errors

There are several tools that make it easy to find 404 errors. You can fix links by reaching out to site owners that have the broken links or redirect the broken URL to a live page.

Final Thoughts

While SEO is a long-term investment and can take time to show results, there are always a few things you can do to show quick value. I have included only included a few opportunities here, but there are many other techniques like using other sites to get content ranking quickly. What are some of your techniques to get quick results?

is a long-term investment, marketers often feel pressured to show progress quickly. Columnist Dan Bagby provides some ideas for quick wins that can show value while waiting for your longer-term initiatives to start gaining traction.

Source: Quick Wins To Beat The SEO Waiting Game

13- Feb2016
Posted By: Guardian Owl
313 Views

SEO Doesn’t Have To Be A Shot In The Dark | TechCrunch

 To many startups, search engine optimization (SEO) is a task that sits on their company’s back burner.  Yes, there’s an element of uncertainty with SEO (after all, Google doesn’t publicly reveal the factors they use to rank websites). But according to a new ranking-factor study, SEO doesn’t have to be a shot in the dark. In fact, you can prioritize your SEO tasks based on what’s likely to give you the most bang for your buck.

With features to launch and customers to support, the idea of spending time fiddling with your title tags can seem like a fool’s errand. That’s especially true when there’s no guarantee that your hard work will result in a single additional visitor from Google. That’s one of the reasons that a recent study ranked SEO as the third most important marketing priority for startups (behind social media and content marketing).

Why do startups tend to shy away from SEO? From working with dozens of startups, I’ve found that founders hate the uncertainty that comes from SEO. Indeed, success with SEO can seem like throwing two dice and hoping you roll double sevens.

 

Backlinks, content and page speed are key 

Backlinko recently teamed up with a handful of SEO software companies to evaluate the factors that are most important for success with SEO today. To do this, they analyzed one million Google search results.

Of the 20 potential ranking factors they looked at, five were revealed to be especially important. I’m going to deep-dive into these five important ranking factors, and show you how you can apply them to squeeze more juice out of your SEO efforts.

Content is king?

The study found that the most important ranking factor was number of different websites linking to your page.

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This ranking factor is as old as Google itself.

Despite the fact that so-called “black hat SEOs” manipulate Google with phony links, it appears that this ranking factor remains an integral part of what makes Google tick.

This shouldn’t come as a big surprise. Google’s reliance on backlinks has taken it from two guys in a garage near Stanford to one of the most valuable companies on the planet. And today, Google’s worldwide search market share remains relatively stable. This makes it unlikely Google will completely remove backlinks from their algorithm. This data suggests that, at least for today, backlinks are still heavily relied upon by Big G.

You can prioritize your SEO tasks based on what’s likely to give you the most bang for your buck.

Another interesting wrinkle is that this finding flies in the face of what many SEO consultants recommend: Many SEO agencies preach a “quality over quantity” approach to link building.

While there’s no question certain backlinks provide more benefit than others (for example, a link from TechCrunch is significantly more powerful than a link from your average mommy blog), this study suggests that backlink quantity is also important.

This is an important lesson for founders and startup marketers to learn. As someone who does PR consulting for startups, I notice that many founders shoot for the moon with their link and PR aspirations. In other words, to many founders, it’s “CNN.com or bust.” This new data suggests that this approach may be a mistake. In fact, one of the chief reasons I took Polar to 40+ million pageviews is that I wasn’t overly picky about which sites we got mentions and links from.

If a site looked legit and wanted to cover us, I said, “Let’s do it.” That’s part of the reason I’ve landed 1,300 mentions over the last few years.

As you can see, a  lot of these mentions were on major news sites. But the funny thing is that a good chunk of these major mentions came as a result of a smaller blog or niche news site writing about us. In fact, this is the exact strategy that Ryan Holiday recommends in his PR classic “Trust Me, I’m Lying.”

Not only are mentions from smaller sites beneficial for startups’ PR, but they can significantly boost your Google rankings, as well.

Slow loading site = SEO death

Backlinko’s new study also found a strong tie between site speed and Google rankings. Using site-loading-speed data from Alexa, they discovered that fast-loading websites significantly outperformed slow sites.

This finding shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone who follows SEO. Google has come out and said they use site speed as a “signal in our search ranking algorithms.” Because users hate slow-loading websites, Google doesn’t want to show them to their users.

Fortunately, taking your site from “tortoise” to “hare” is relatively simple. If you happen to use WordPress, there are no shortage of plug-ins that can boost your site’s loading time. Even if you don’t use WordPress, a few quick steps can typically move the needle for most websites:

  • Upgrade your hosting: Cheap $5/month hosting plans like Bluehost aren’t bad, but their servers aren’t typically optimized for speed.
  • Cut image file sizes: For most websites, images are the No. 1 factor that slow down a page. You can usually compress them or reduce their size without sacrificing much in the way of quality.
  • Hire a coder: If you’re not a coder, hiring a pro to analyze your code with an eye on site speed can be a game changer. Most sites have at least some code bloat that can be easily cleaned up.

Long-form content wins the day

Backlinko also found that, when it comes to SEO, content may not be king, but it’s certainly queen. Specifically, their data revealed that long-form content tended to rank above shorter content.

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According to their analysis, the average article on Google’s first page boasts 1,890 words.

Does this mean that Google has an inherent preference for long content? Maybe. The study authors pointed out that this finding was simply a correlation, and they couldn’t say for sure. But they hypothesized that Google would want to show their users through content that fully answers their query. In other words, long-form content.

However, it may be that longer content generates more shares (in the form of tweets, Facebook likes and backlinks). In fact, BuzzSumo found that longer content tended to generate more social shares.

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Considering that shares can lead to higher rankings, long-form content may simply outperform short content in the share department, leading to higher Google rankings.

If you haven’t attempted to publish long-form content because you feel your audience doesn’t have the attention span for it, this finding may give you the impetus to at least give it a shot.

Adding focus to your content may improve rankings

Additionally, the study found that focused content outperformed content that attempted to cover several different topics. Using software called MarketMuse, each article in their database was scored for “topical authority.” A high score represents an article that covered a topic in-depth. A low score indicates that the article skimmed the surface of a given topic.

The authors guessed that Google would prefer comprehensive content. This is because of a fundamental shift in the way Google indexes content. In the last few years, Google has moved away from simply looking at the words on your page to actually understanding what your page is about. This is known as semantic search.

For example, before semantic search, if you Googled “who is the CEO of Starbucks”, Google would look for pages that contained the exact term “who is the CEO of Starbucks” on the page. And they would present 10 links to those pages.

Today, they know the actual answer, and present it to you.

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It turns out that Google may prefer in-depth content, as it gives them a deeper understanding of your content. This study found that content rated as having high topical authority ranked above content with a poor rating.

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The old writing adage “go an inch wide and a mile deep” may also now apply to SEO, as well.

Bounces aren’t just hurting conversions

This research also found a correlation between a low bounce rate and poor rankings in Google.

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According to the study, Google may use bounce rate as a proxy measure of content quality. If someone searches for a keyword, clicks on your page and quickly leaves, it sends a message to Google that your page isn’t a good fit for that keyword.

On the other hand, if you stay on the site and browse through several different pages, it implies that that person had a great experience and enjoyed reading your content. That may push Google to show your page to more people.

While this finding is interesting, there are a few important caveats I should point out.

Also, being a correlation study, it’s impossible to say whether Google directly measures or uses bounce rate as a ranking signal. A high bounce rate may simply reflect content that isn’t very good.

Regardless, reducing your bounce rate certainly won’t result in lower rankings — and it can boost conversions, as well.

Source: SEO Doesn’t Have To Be A Shot In The Dark | TechCrunch