Search engine optimization (SEO) is a fairly forgiving online marketing discipline. It’s a long-term strategy, so if you make one mistake, you’ll usually have plenty of time to correct it.
However, there are some important lessons every SEO practitioner must learn early on.
1. Don’t try to outsmart Google.
First, understand that you’re never going to outsmart Google. SEO is about understanding Google’s algorithm and working within it to provide better content for your visitors and, hopefully, earn higher organic search rankings in the process. If you try to find loopholes in that algorithm, or rely on “black hat” tactics to inch your way up the rankings, it’s only going to work against you in the long run.Too many newcomers believe they can get away with tactics like spamming links or stuffing keywords, but it never works for long; Google’s quality indicators have always been good, and they keep getting better, which means even if you get away with a tactic now, you probably won’t get away with it later – and you may find your website with an algorithmic or manual ranking penaltythat can be exceptionally difficult to recover from.
2. The same strategy won’t work for everyone.
Let’s say you’re working with a single client, and you have everything in order. You’ve picked the right keywords, you’ve developed great content, and you’ve built great links to see fast growth. Now you acquire a new client, with a different brand and a different audience. Do you use the same strategy?
It’s tempting for SEO newcomers to copy and paste the same approach, but this is inadvisable; your clients (or employers) will have different goals with their SEO campaigns, different competitors, keywords, and other variables, and may respond to different variables in strikingly different ways. Learn from your past strategies, and use elements from them in your new campaigns, but avoid trying to replicate any strategy in its entirety.
3. You have to change how you talk about SEO.
The more familiar you become with SEO, the deeper your technical knowledge will become. You’ll have an internal dialogue (or a dialogue with your peers) that freely uses terms like “robots.txt” or “meta data” like everyone knows what you’re talking about. But when you report your results to a client, or a boss who doesn’t understand the technical side, you’ll have to learn to talk about these technical factors in a way that makes sense to a non-SEO-expert.
Spend some time preparing to talk in this other level of language.
4. People don’t always search the way you expect.
When you start brainstorming keyword ideas, it’s a good idea to put yourself in the mind of the average searcher, imagining what words and phrases they might use to find a brand like yours. You may also use keyword research data to indicate which keywords are potentially most valuable for your brand. These are sound strategies, helping you both quantitatively and qualitatively predict how your users might search in the future.
But you should know that users don’t always search the way you’d expect them to; prepare to be surprised, and to adjust your campaign as you learn what your users are really searching for.
5. Only trust what you can measure.
You may think you have an amazing piece of written content, but how much traffic is it attracting? How many comments has it encouraged? You may think you’ve built a high-quality link, but how is it impacting your domain authority? How much referral traffic are you getting from it?
Even though you might feel like you’re developing an instinct for how campaigns develop (especially in the later stages of your career), it’s better to only trust what you can objectively measure.
6. Audit and reevaluate everything periodically.
Just because a strategy worked for you last year doesn’t mean it will this year. Things change too quickly, from the nature of the algorithm that drives how Google search works to the consumer preferences that drive search patterns. Accordingly, you’ll need to regularly reevaluate your tactics, determining whether they’re still worthwhile and finding opportunities to improve. I recommend doing a full sweep of your approach annually.
Monthly check-ins, when you report on results, are also a good idea, to spot high-level issues or successes in time to respond quickly to them.
7. Reading and talking is the only way to stay up-to-date in this fast-moving industry.
Remember what I said about things always changing? Early in your career, you’ll learn that to stay relevant, you need to plug yourself into the community. You’ll need to read relevant publications, and talk to other people like you on a regular basis if you want to stay relevant and up-to-date with the latest strategies. If nothing else, you’ll get helpful tips—and proactive words of warning if you’re taking the wrong approach.Are you familiar with these SEO principles? Good. You’re going to need them if you want to be successful. Though you’ll have many years to correct your behavior and accumulate assets like content and links to improve your campaign, if your underlying SEO philosophies are out of order, you may never achieve your true potential as an SEO ninja.
Even a magic SEO wand will not get a web page to rank if the page has not been indexed. Contributor Janet Driscoll Miller suggests that making sure web pages can be indexed is key during an SEO audit.
Indexing is really the first step in any SEO audit. Why?
If your site is not being indexed, it is essentially unread by Google and Bing. And if the search engines can’t find and “read” it, no amount of magic or search engine optimization (SEO) will improve the ranking of your web pages.
In order to be ranked, a site must first be indexed.
Is your site being indexed?
There are many tools available to help you determine if a site is being indexed.
Indexing is, at its core, a page-level process. In other words, search engines read pages and treat them individually.
A quick way to check if a page is being indexed by Google is to use the site: operator with a Google search. Entering just the domain, as in my example below, will show you all of the pages Google has indexed for the domain. You can also enter a specific page URL to see if that individual page has been indexed.
When a page is not indexed
If your site or page is not being indexed, the most common culprit is the meta robots tag being used on a page or the improper use of disallow in the robots.txt file.
Both the meta tag, which is on the page level, and the robots.txt file provide instructions to search engine indexing robots on how to treat content on your page or website.
The difference is that the robots meta tag appears on an individual page, while the robots.txt file provides instructions for the site as a whole. On the robots.txt file, however, you can single out pages or directories and how the robots should treat these areas while indexing. Let’s examine how to use each.
If you’re not sure if your site uses a robots.txt file, there’s an easy way to check. Simply enter your domain in a browser followed by /robots.txt.
Here is an example using Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/robots.txt):
The list of “disallows” for Amazon goes on for quite awhile!
Google Search Console also has a convenient robots.txt Tester tool, helping you identify errors in your robots file. You can also test a page on the site using the bar at the bottom to see if your robots file in its current form is blocking Googlebot.
If a page or directory on the site is disallowed, it will appear after Disallow: in the robots file. As my example above shows, I have disallowed my landing page folder (/lp/) from indexing using my robots file. This prevents any pages residing in that directory from being indexed by search engines.
There are many cool and complex options where you can employ the robots file. Google’s Developers site has a great rundown of all of the ways you can use the robots.txt file. Here are a few:
Robots meta tag
The robots meta tag is placed in the header of a page. Typically, there is no need to use both the robots meta tag and the robots.txt to disallow indexing of a particular page.
In the Search Console image above, I don’t need to add the robots meta tag to all of my landing pages in the landing page folder (/lp/) to prevent Google from indexing them since I have disallowed the folder from indexing using the robots.txt file.
For example, you can tell search engines that links on the entire page should not be followed for search engine optimization purposes. That could come in handy in certain situations, like on press release pages.
Probably the two directives used most often for SEO with this tag are noindex/index and nofollow/follow:
- Index follow. Implied by default. Search engine indexing robots should index the information on this page. Search engine indexing robots should follow links on this page.
- Noindex nofollow. Search engine indexing robots should NOT index the information on this page. Search engine indexing robots should NOT follow links on this page.
The Google Developer’s site also has a thorough explanation of uses of the robots meta tag.
When you have a new page on your site, ideally you want search engines to find and index it quickly. One way to aid in that effort is to use an eXtensible markup language (XML) sitemap and register it with the search engines.
XML sitemaps provide search engines with a listing of pages on your website. This is especially helpful when you have new content that likely doesn’t have many inbound links pointing to it yet, making it tougher for search engine robots to follow a link to find that content. Many content management systems now have XML sitemap capability built in or available via a plugin, like the Yoast SEO Plugin for WordPress.
Make sure you have an XML sitemap and that it is registered with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. This ensures that Google and Bing know where the sitemap is located and can continually come back to index it.
How quickly can new content be indexed using this method? I once did a test and found my new content had been indexed by Google in only eight seconds — and that was the time it took me to change browser tabs and perform the site: operator command. So it’s very quick!
Always keep in mind your site has to be indexed in order to be ranked. If search engines can’t find or read your content, how can they evaluate and rank it? So be sure to prioritize checking your site’s indexability when you’re performing an SEO audit.
In today’s rapidly changing digital world, SEO techniques can change with the direction of the wind. Tricks that won you a front-page position two years ago may be useless now.
In order to drive a digital marketing campaign to success, it is vital to understand the importance of SEO. When used properly, SEO facilitates in increasing traffic to your site, engagements, as well as conversions.
Key metrics to assess your content marketing success
Here are three SEO techniques that you must master this year to ensure your content gets seen.
High-quality content is key
Though the marketing buzzphrase “content is king” often leads to a wave of eye-rolls, when it comes to SEA the quality of your content really is vital.
When creating your content, it is important to think like Google. With the search engine goliath constantly making efforts to enhance their search results, you must ensure you’re providing searchers with good quality, informative, interesting, and entertaining content.
Google’s ranking algorithm has shifted towards user intent, so you must ask yourself- does your content fulfill the reader’s needs, or leave them having to look elsewhere?
Good quality content goes beyond a blog post. Less “traditional” content such as videos, infographics, images, and more have been shown to engage readers at a far higher level and is more shareable. This shareability factor is also a powerful way to build backlinks.
Tip: In order to provide consumers with what they really want, try finding out where your audience are on social media via groups and hashtags, and from this join the conversation. Ask for suggestions about topics to talk about. Additionally, creating a blog post on “frequently asked questions” will increase your SEO by showing Google that you are answering the questions of consumers.
The importance of link building
Link building is the process of acquiring hyperlinks from other websites to your own and is a technique that you should perfect in order to improve your SEO.
Previously, backlinks were mainly about quantity, but now the effectiveness of backlinks is about the quality of the content which they lead to.
The theory behind this technique is that when another website links to yours, they are basically saying that it is a good resource. This is a strong signal of the quality of a page and is much like making a recommendation to a good restaurant.A few high-quality backlinks will do well in helping your website climb the SEO rank.
Tips: Reach out to bloggers in your industry to link back to your content, for instance, by providing them with infographics, images, etc. Also, ensure you include strong internal links, report broken links, produce high-quality content. This will all help to increase the visibility of your site and increase traffic.
Make your content mobile-friendly
Today, more searches are conducted on mobile devices rather than from desktop. As a result, it is vital to ensure your SEO targets mobile platforms as well in order to reach success.
A responsive design is essential in order to attract and retain visitors to your site who are so reliant on mobile to find information. It’s also integral to the user experience you provide.
Not getting it right on the mobile screen isn’t an option, especially for businesses that deal with consumers directly. How’ll they impulse shop if you make them wait to surf through your site?
Tip: Ensuring that your mobile-website is speedy, works on all mobile devices, has key information easy to access, and offers a variety of content formats is all vital to increase your SEO ranking.
Going beyond keywords to write high-quality content that attracts new customers and is SEO-friendly is the way to go, says contributor Jessica Foster. Here she shares eight ways to create content that satisfies people and engines.
Just when we thought the saying “Content is king” was gone for good, there it goes showing its sneaky little face again in the search engine optimization (SEO) world.
Bearing in mind also that “Content is queen,” it appears that content is, in fact, pretty danged important — so important that a new sub-industry has squeezed its way into the search engine world: SEO content writing.
Otherwise referred to as “SEO copywriting,” SEO content writing has a bad reputation for being chock-full of keywords and little else. Though this may be more of a stereotype than reality, there is something to be said for going beyond keywords to write high-quality content that attracts new customers AND is SEO-friendly.
What’s the deal with ‘high-quality’ content?
The focus is typically on “high-quality” content — a term that becomes more subjective by the minute. It leads to questions like
- What really makes SEO content “high-quality?”
- Is it measurable?
- More importantly, can it be recreated again and again?
The standard formula of:
keyword research + good writing + on-page SEO = high-quality content
may not be the move anymore. It’s simply not enough. In fact, keywords may be even less important than we all think.
Beyond keyword research
Being consistent with great SEO content writing doesn’t mean it should be formulaic.
Depending too much on robust keyword research and on-page SEO will result in dry content that appeals more to search engines than it does your target audience. Mastering the art of SEO content writing can be the difference between attracting a few website visitors and creating dedicated customers
That all being said, there is a sweet spot between creative content and “content” as we know it. The key lies in going far beyond keyword research and really understanding how words can be used to both attract traffic and drive conversions.
1. Keyword research, the right way
Though this post is all about going beyond keywords, it’s worth addressing what level of keyword research should be done before hopping into content writing. Keywords are still a component of SEO content — but perhaps shouldn’t be as important a component as traditionally thought.
First, your approach to writing new content should fit in with your existing SEO strategy. This should be a no-brainer, but it is a frequent issue I see in SEO content.
For instance, many business owners and SEOs outsource copywriting with little collaboration with the writer on what keywords are to be used. And, even if keywords are provided, it is unlikely that the writer really understands the fundamentals of using keywords in their writing beyond “keyword density.” This results in content that is incohesive and not SEO-friendly.
Second, when it comes to performing keyword research for your new content, look beyond the data. Sure, SEO tools can tell us a lot in terms of search volume and competition level, but can they tell us what content is really engaging to users? Doing a Google search on your target terms and seeing what post titles come up and how many comments and even social shares they get will give you some ideas as to what content is drawing people in and enticing them to engage.
Finally, SEOs and copywriters alike can spend far too much time focusing on terms they think are relevant without stepping back to see the full picture.
Sure, your rankings may increase due to great SEO, but there are many other factors to consider. Is your audience reading through the entire post? Are they sharing it? Are they opting into your calls to action? These elements of your writing should be your main focus. Be sure to have an outline in place, along with your keyword research, to ensure that you aren’t skimming over what matters most: what is going to help you drive conversions.
2. Get organized
How often have you had a new content idea pop into your head and instantly put fingers on the keyboard?
As much as I am a fan of writing when you feel inspired, there needs to be a structure for your content from the very beginning. Content that is too “stream-of-consciousness” or unorganized simply doesn’t convert well. There is a difference between having a conversational tone and writing whatever comes into your brain. I’m here to say that there is a way to capture that creative flow, all while putting out content that works.
Create an outline of the potential post or page, including the title and headings. Organize your content into sections that are cohesive and keep the reader interested. Figure out if and where the content fits into your website overall and what purpose it serves. You can even go as far as to decide what internal links will be used. Having a plan will both help in overall organization and ensure that it fits into the framework of your existing site.
3. On-brand is your best friend
One component of SEO content writing that is rarely, if ever, talked about is branding. As more SEO experts become aware of the intersection between SEO and a larger marketing strategy, it becomes apparent how big a role branding plays in a business’s success.
Your website content is no exception. This is why hiring out for copywriting outside of the brand, or even the industry, can be a risky move. For one, you risk having the overall tone of the writing shift and become incohesive with the rest of the brand message, and even the most subtle variations can be picked up by readers.
A good way to ensure that your content is on-brand and stays true to the business message is to utilize language that is used throughout the existing site and marketing materials.
- Does the brand use the word “passionate” rather than “driven?”
- Are there elements of their tagline that can be broken down and used throughout the text?
- Does their About page have a conversational tone or a professional one?
These are all subtleties to look out for that can make all the difference.
A great SEO copywriter will be able to pick up on the tone, vocabulary and message a brand is putting out and capture it in the posts and pages. There should be no question from the target audience who the content came from and what the message is.
On-brand content means that users can come to depend on the brand acting and sounding a certain way. It ultimately comes down to trust. If a user trusts a brand and understands its core mission, then they are more likely to buy.
4. Integrity & authenticity matter
Integrity and authenticity may seem like “fluffy” words that have no place in the often formulaic world of SEO. But when it comes to writing content that drives more than just traffic (i.e., sales), then these two elements can be the difference between website visitors and paying customers.
There are many SEO and marketing strategies that can drive traffic to a page. What matters is what actions users take once they get there. No amount of strong-arming will convince a user to buy. It takes integrity and authenticity to get them there.
People are becoming more and more aware of shady marketing tactics, and traditional methods of manipulation simply don’t work anymore. A website that makes it clear what the brand’s message is, the service it provides and how it can help potential customers truly has a leg up on the rest. Your content should be authentic, honest and in line with the ethics of your business. Otherwise, you will lose your customers before you even get them.
5.Know your target audience
Creating great SEO content goes beyond writing what you think your target audience wants to read to truly listening to what they want to know.
Are you in tune with their needs? Are there questions in the comments section that should be addressed? Are you writing down their common concerns and pain points? If so, these all open the door to creating solid content that will meet their immediate needs and drive them to seek out your services.
It is not enough to do keyword research to see what they are searching for. If that is the foundation of your content, you are likely to attract some readers but little else. But if you are able to keep them on site longer by creating a vast web of information, you are more likely to get them hooked from start to finish.
Even more, if you engage with them using language they understand and bring up their pain points, you are likely to convince them to fill out that contact form, subscribe or pick up the phone.
If you are struggling to think up fresh and engaging content ideas, be intentional about paying attention to what your customers and potential customers are telling you and asking for. Then, do a quick search to see if any other sites have addressed this issue, and how.
If you aren’t snatching up those opportunities, and another business is, you may be leaving money on the table.
6. Micro-engagement makes the difference
Long-form content can be a bore. For that reason, keeping readers engaged throughout the content can be quite difficult. However, mastering the art of micro-engagement can take your SEO content to the next level.
When it comes to informative content that can be a bit of a yawn, it’s a good move to try some different tactics to keep users engaged. Micro-engagement, as I refer to it here, means incorporating elements in your content to keep readers clicking, scrolling and reading more.
This is where a solid understanding of your target audience really comes into play. You should have a sense of what kind of content keeps your audience engaged. Testing different approaches and looking at the results can be a great data-driven method for seeing what works and what doesn’t.
Here are some suggestions to boost micro-engagement:
- Numbered or bulleted lists.
- Engaging photos (that are relevant to the text).
- Funny GIFs or memes.
- Informative and interesting videos.
- Quizzes or surveys.
- Visually appealing design.
- Calls to action.
- Block quotes.
- Bold text.
- Thought-provoking questions.
- Helpful tips.
Incorporate a few of these ideas into your SEO content and see the difference. Over time, you will get a sense of what your audience likes, what keeps them engaged and what entices them to perform certain actions on your site. This list is by no means exhaustive; feel free to get creative with it and see what happens!
7. Content ‘freshness’ and competitive analysis where it counts
“Freshness” usually refers to having fresh new content on your website, but I believe this should extend beyond that. In other words, you should be putting unique ideas out into the world. How do you do that? By making competitive analysis a part of your SEO content strategy.
Scroll through any SEO or digital marketing site, and you are likely to find the basic posts and pages: “What is SEO?,” “Why You Should Hire an SEO Expert” and the like saturate these sites, and these topics are covered ad nauseam.
What these sites, and others outside of the SEO industry, fail to do is proper competitive analysis when coming up with new content ideas. That is, they are rewriting and reworking the same content that their competitors are using. This is not a good move.
What takes businesses to the top is looking at what competitors are doing and doing it better. Sometimes this even means doing something different. Whenever you are about to write a new piece of content, look to see what your competitors are doing, and consider how you can take it up a notch.
Your best approach is to stay ahead of the curve.
8. Data is everything
You simply can’t create great SEO content without looking at the data.
With a vast array of tools, SEOs and business owners alike should be looking to see what content is performing well, and why. They should be tracking conversions everywhere users are performing an action and seeing what works. This data will indicate the kind of content they can and should create in the future.
Staying on top of your analytics will not only show you the numbers in terms of traffic, but time on page, bounce rate and other valuable metrics that indicate how your content is performing. Through these, you can learn from your mistakes and imitate the strategies that are working. Without this knowledge, you are essentially flying blind and are again playing the guessing game.
Following the data throughout the process will help ensure that you are on the right track and that your utilization of the above principles is working for your business.
There is no cookie-cutter approach to SEO content, but the fundamentals are still there. Write content for people, structure it for search engines and create an experience that is engaging and bound to drive the traffic you deserve.
As if we didn’t already have enough to think about in any given SEO campaign, it is now imperative to separate and refine your approaches to mobile and desktop search.
While mobile has become hugely significant over the last couple of years, this shouldn’t be to the neglect of desktop. Although SEO for mobile and desktop follow the same basic principles and best practices, there are nuances and discrepancies that need to be factored in to your overall strategy.
Part of this is the keyword rankings: you won’t ever know how to adapt your strategies if you’re not tracking the rankings separately for each. Research from BrightEdge found that 79% of listings have a different rank on mobile devices compared with desktop, and the top-ranking result for a query is different on desktop and mobile 35% of the time. These are statistics that simply cannot be ignored.
Why do they do differ?
Before delving into how to compare keyword rankings on mobile and desktop, it’s first important to acknowledge the why and the what: why they are different and what it means for your SEO strategy.
It’s paramount to understand that desktop and mobile searches use different algorithms. Ultimately, Google wants to provide the best user experience for searchers, whatever device they are using. This means creating a bespoke device-tailored experience and in order to do that, we need to delve deeper into user intent.
It’s all about user intent
The crux of the mobile versus desktop conundrum is that user intent tends to differ for each device. This is particularly important when considering how far along the funnel a user is. It’s a generalization, but overall mobile users are often closer to the transactional phase, while desktop users are usually closer to the informational phase.
For example, we can better understand user intent on mobile by understanding the prevalence of local search. If a user is searching for a product or service on mobile, it is likely to be local. In contrast, users searching for a product or service on desktop are more likely to be browsing non-location-specific ecommerce sites.
Let’s also consider the types of conversions likely to occur on each device, in terms of getting in touch. Users on mobile are for more likely to call, by simply tapping the number which appears in the local map pack section. Alternatively, desktop users would be more inclined to type an email or submit a contact form.
What on earth is a micro-moment?
To better understand the different ways in which consumers behave, it may help to spend a little time familiarizing yourself with micro-moments. These refer to Google’s ability to determine a searcher’s most likely intent, and is particularly important for mobile users, when a consumer often needs to take immediate action.
For example, if a user is searching for a local product or service, the local map pack will appear, but if they are searching for information then the quick answer box will appear. These micro-moments therefore have a significant impact on the way the SERPs are constructed.
Once you’ve understood the user intent of a given searcher, you can ensure that you are providing content for both mobile and desktop users. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that content with longer word counts continues to perform well on mobile, despite the general consensus that people on mobile simply can’t be bothered to consume long form content. This harks back to Google’s prioritization of high quality content. Besides, anybody who has a long train commute into work will understand the need for a nice, long article to read on mobile.
With that context, we can now return to the matter at hand: rankings. Of course, you could record the rankings for both desktop and mobile the old-fashioned, manual way, but who has time for that? In short, any good SEO tool worth its salt will enable you to track both desktop and mobile rankings separately. Here are some favorites:
- SEMRush is a personal favorite among the plethora of fancy SEO tools. SEMRush provides a comprehensive breakdown of mobile vs desktop results (as well as tablet if you really want to geek out) and displays the percentage of mobile-friendly results for your domain.
- SearchMetrics offers Desktop vs. Mobile Visibility metrics, detailing individual scores for desktop and mobile, as well as overlap metrics which show how many keyword search results appear in exactly the same position for both. You can also drill down further to view how a website performs with regard to localized results.
- Moz. Through Moz Pro, you can track the same rankings metrics for both desktop and mobile. Filter by labels and locations to dig further into the data.
- Google Search Console. Don’t have access to any of the above tools? Don’t worry as you can still rely on the trusty Google Search Console. When looking at your search analytics, filter devices by comparing mobile and desktop. Even if you do have access to an SEO tool that allows you to do comparison analysis, it’s definitely still worth checking in on your Search Console insights.
Rankings are only part of the picture
It’s important to remember that rankings are only a tiny part of the picture; it’s essential to take a more holistic approach to the mobile vs desktop issue. This means taking the time to dig around Google Analytics and unearth the data and meaning beyond the vanity metrics.
You may have higher rankings for mobile, but those users might be bouncing more regularly. Is this a reflection of the user intent or is it a poor user experience? Does higher rankings for one device correlate to higher conversions? If not, then you need to consider the reasons for this. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, so you must take a tailored approach to your strategy.
Quick tips for differentiating your strategies
You’ve got your mobile and desktop rankings sorted. Now you need to create or amend your strategies for both devices. Here are some quick tips to do so:
- Separate mobile and desktop-specific search terms in your keyword research
- Factor in voice search for mobile devices
- Consider implementing Accelerated Mobile Pages where appropriate
- Carry out a mobile SEO audit on your site
- Include mobile vs desktop into your tracking and reporting, going beyond the rankings
- Revisit your content strategy to ensure you are factoring in both mobile and desktop optimized content – cater for both types of user.
In short, tracking your keywords on mobile and desktop is absolutely essential for both reporting accuracy and supporting separate SEO strategies for each device. But don’t stop there; it’s more important to understand why the rankings differ and how you can use that information to refine your SEO strategies.
With increasing online competition, pay-per-click (PPC) is becoming a critical way to get your content in front of your potential customers.
With increasing online competition, pay-per-click (PPC) is becoming a critical way to get your content in front of your potential customers.
One pay-per-click program is called Google AdWords.
AdWords is an online advertising service where advertisers pay to display brief advertising copy, product listings and video content within the Google ad network to web users.
Here are three myths that may be keeping marketers from implementing successful AdWords campaign.
Myth #1: People don’t click on Google ads
Google is a publicly traded company—anyone can access their financial records that tell the story.
Google generates more than $100M in revenue every single day from people clicking on their ads. With an average cost per click between $1 and $2 that’s more than 50M clicks/day.
Google experiments constantly to make their ads entice more enticing.
They’re not going to present you with a free, organic result at the top of the search engine results page when they could showcase several ads that generate revenue. Start paying attention: The first few line items at the top of every search is an ad.
One more thing: Think about your own behavior
When you see an ad that entices you, do you click on it? Of course you do!
Smart companies are using remarketing efforts that identify customer tastes to present you with items that you may have been looking at earlier in the day.
They may serve up similar items or those by the same designer or manufacturer. I shop almost entirely online, and I’m fascinated by remarketing, which illustrates how marketing has gotten smarter.
Myth #2: My competitors can just click on my ads all day, costing me money
Google has extremely sophisticated technology to prevent “click fraud” and “invalid clicks.” This involves the analysis of several click-pattern factors.
Google provides very good reports on AdWords campaign performance, and any suspicious activity is quickly exposed. If a business is concerned they are victims of click fraud, they can contact Google directly to launch an investigation. Google reimburses questionable clicks.
Myth #3: AdWords is an outbound marketing tactic
AdWords is designed to showcase your content when potential customers are initiating a Google search. It’s the only inbound marketing tactic that guarantees your content will rank high on Google when a user performs a search. This is one very attractive reason to be using Google as your PPC platform. The sheer number of Google searches/day makes you part of this community.
PPC delivers a better user experience for the searcher
Think of the information you provide when you set up your Google account. This all becomes part of a huge database, and databased information makes it searchable.
Because of this information, when you create a Google ad, you are able to drill down by location, demographics, interests, etc.
This is not specific just to Google—Facebook, Linkedin and other social channels also provide rich search preferences.
Integrating AdWords with your inbound marketing strategy
Along with your existing content marketing and SEO (search engine optimization) efforts, PPC is becoming a critical component of an inbound marketing strategy.
Trust, authority, and reputation are the foundation of successful businesses. Here’s how they intertwine to create the DNA of successful SEO and content marketing campaigns.
Let’s discuss TAR. Not the negative tar in nicotine or the stuff that fills cracks on roads, but rather the positive TAR that is the foundation of successful businesses:
Without these three elements, a business is basically a copy of its competitors, multiplying choices for prospective clients.
When TAR is present, prospects become emotionally engaged, which leads to loyalty.
As for the other businesses that lack TAR, they dilute the choices, creating tougher decisions for prospects who don’t want to make tough decisions.
This concept also translates into the world of digital marketing.
Trust, authority, and reputation intertwine to create the DNA of the most successful SEO and content marketing campaigns.
Look at any first-place organic rankings, and TAR is clearly present.
For scalable online success, a sharp focus on building (and balancing) all three TAR elements is a must.
These elements increase SEO visibility because search engines crave TAR, and all that content – also designed with TAR in mind – and its higher visibility will naturally earn respect from prospects, which leads to long-term clients.
The TAR tactic to strengthen a business’s online presence is simple and straightforward. But the process of achieving true TAR in digital marketing is somewhat challenging because it’s counterintuitive to normal campaign strategies.
And it all begins with endless questions during the vital discovery phase, including the most important question: “why?”
The answers to these questions help marketers build a successful campaign that validates the truth behind the business, which is rooted in the reason “why” the company is in business and “why” their products are needed.
Apple immediately comes to mind; its brand is built with strong TAR that reinforces its “why” as a business.
Apple isn’t in the business of selling technology, but rather inspiring creativity. Each of its product advertisements always clearly states the “why” factor before backing it with the two other necessary questions: What and How.
Here are the essential tactics to build and strengthen the TAR of your content marketing and SEO campaigns.
Think Like a Traditional Journalist: Why, What & How
I spent time in the early part of this century as a traditional newspaper journalist. The initial reason I wanted a daily newspaper gig was to “cut the fat” out of my writing.
What was equally important, though, was embracing the “Five Ws and One H” of traditional journalism (Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How).
These came into play throughout life, from heading up content marketing departments to launching an agency.
For the digital marketing landscape, the focus on the Five Ws and One H dwindles due to some obvious reasons, and the concept transforms to “Two Ws and One H.”
All TAR tactics should explain the Why to capture emotion, followed by the What and How to rationalize those emotions.
The Who, When, and Where of traditional journalism are typically answered on the company bio page or footer, raising the awareness of the other Two Ws and One H.
Always Start with Why
In “Start with Why” (more than 1 million copies sold), TED superstar Simon Sinek says:
“People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it. A failure to communicate WHY creates nothing but stress or doubt.”
Unfortunately, when initiating a digital marketing campaign, many SEO professionals and content marketers solely focus on the How and What of the client’s products and services – typically the features, prices, and everything that’s different from the competition.
This is what typical research data claims a business’s web presence needs for success, and it fails to target the emotion side of things by first asking Why.
The Hows and Whats are absolutely needed, but as a rational follow up to the more emotional Why.
The Why of a business should be immediately addressed. Again, think of Apple, but this time rather than the company story, think about its individual products.
Apple doesn’t just sell MacBook Pros; the product inspires human creativity, which is the clear message of the latest MacBook Pro page copy.
This simple ad immediately answers the Why of the product and is followed by the typical How and Why. Apple’s page begins by highlighting “A Touch of Genius” to answer the Why of the product, followed by the How and What of the product.
The other genius Apple campaign that begins with Why was the simple iPhone 4 ad: “This Changes Everything. Again.”
Companies that ask Why first will naturally appeal to a prospect’s emotions, and influence the three elements of TAR that can begin a lifelong relationship – sometimes romance – with a company and its products.
“Can begin” are the crucial words here because the Why must be backed up with a solid What and How. Following is why.
Why Must be Followed by What & How
Once you appeal to the emotional side of a prospect, it’s time to back up those feelings with rational data – and that’s where the What and How come into play.
Here is where the usual discovery elements of SEO and content marketing campaigns surface – the competitive analysis, keyword research, content calendars, and site structure, to name a few.
The What and the How are vital, but should always follow the Why.
Appeal to emotion first; follow with rationale.
The What and How break down a company’s offerings. The answers to What and How clearly explain what a service company completes from strategy and process perspective, and what a product company offers from a features and specs perspective.
Again, the What and How are absolutely needed to rationalize the emotional Why of a company and its products or services.
The natural byproduct of this strategy is the growth of TAR elements. The more consistent the What and How are defined, the more respect a client will have for those TAR elements that play off our emotions.
Who You Ask Is as Important as What You Ask
Also, who you ask is as important as the questions you ask.
Most of the agencies I worked with only dealt with the marketing departments of bigger businesses, though in some smaller businesses other teams were involved.
To truly ingrain TAR into a digital marketing strategy, agencies should speak with not only the marketing team but the CEO, founder, sales team and any of those on the proverbial front line that deal with the day-to-day customer relations.
Each one can provide unique insight on questions, helping to influence TAR factors on prospects – the more perspective you have, the more you can properly explain the Why of that company.
Once the Why is answered, and the correct Whats and Hows are in action, brand’s online presence will build stronger and quicker.
Amplify What Works
Seeking the answers to these types of questions also allows marketers to amplify on the services that are the strong point of a company rather than spending time fixing things that simply aren’t working.
The Why questions probe deep into a business’s strategy, sometimes influencing a redirection of focus on what products or services to amplify, and sometimes what ones to dice. This also helps enforce the 80/20 factor so no time is wasted.
It may sound counterintuitive, but amplifying what works instead of spending time on stuff that doesn’t is the proven fabric of many of the world’s successful companies.
Think Apple and its iPhone; these platforms work, so it makes more sense to continually build and amplify it rather than sideline it and direct more attention to an entirely new phone model.
Yes, Apple successfully builds other product lines, but notice what gets the most attention within their marketing campaigns.
This all stems from the TAR Apple has already built into its marketing.
The only way to truly achieve TAR is with questions from actual humans from the beginning – questions of Why to expose the emotional factor, followed by questions of What and How to rationalize that emotional factor.
This type of strategy can drastically change the outcome of SEO and content marketing campaigns.
Make Questions – Especially Why – The Soul of Your Content Marketing Trinity
When engaging with clients, I constantly reinforce the creation of a “Content Marketing Trinity” – one that will inspire them to be storytellers and build an optimal online presence.
This trinity includes:
- Constant fresh and emotionally appealing content hosted on their business website.
- Guest posting on authoritative websites within their industry.
- Constantly feeding the social media machine.
The SEO value within this trinity needs no explanation, and neither does its value in content marketing as you look to build a powerful voice within your industry.
But how do you go about making it work? Simple – start with the Why first to appeal to emotions, and rationalize those emotions with the What and How.
This “Content Marketing Trinity” also naturally has synergy with the three elements of TAR – Trust, Authority and Reputation.
This is where 3 + 3 equals 6 for conventional marketers that don’t begin with Why, but equals “innovation” for those who begin with Why.
In the bestseller “Zero to One,” Peter Thiel says:
“Doing what we already know how to do takes the world from 1 to n, adding more of something familiar. But every time we create something new, we go from 0 to 1. The act of creation is singular, as it the moment of creation, and the result is something fresh and strange.”
A marketer’s top mission should focus on delivering something “fresh” to client campaigns (and sometimes strange), bringing its client’s online presence from “0 to 1.”
The solution resides in exploiting the strongest TAR elements, and it all begins with asking the correct questions, always beginning with why.
Search Engine Optimization strategy is one of the toughest to plan and manage for most marketers. With regular algorithm updates from search engines which can drastically impact your rankings, you have to continually spruce up your SEO plans.
Yet, there are certain SEO pillars that have stood the test of updates and have stayed at the center of most of the SEO approaches.
Read ahead for golden SEO tips:
1. Focus on a Primary Topic: Make your website about one topic. Well! there can be other topics too, but choosing a central theme is a good SEO strategy. Research for a relevant ‘Keyword’ or ‘Search Phrase’ related to your theme and use this keyword across your content to show up better in search results. You can use Google Keyword Planner to discover keywords and keyword trends.
2. Content is still the King: Prioritize readers over Search Engines- Choosing keywords doesn’t mean you can sprinkle them liberally across your content. Yes, keywords used to drive search results but now Google penalizes badly written, keyword-stuffed content. So Beware!
Create amazing and engaging content that is written keeping in mind what your readers would like to read. The key is to create stuff that is unique and better than the rest.
3. Keywords at strategic positions: Titles and Headers- Use your keywords where they matter the most.
You can organize your articles or posts with Titles, Headers, and Sub Headers – let these be as close to the topic you are writing about. This way of organizing serves as a flag for your readers when they are sifting through the pages and also tells search-engines what the post is about.
4. Readable and meaningful URL: Keywords in URL
Ok! which URL would you have preferred to click?
The second option clearly indicates what this link is all about. Not that, the first option won’t work but the URL with the relevant keyword will help guide both the user as well as the search engine algorithm.
SEO Tip: URLs should be simple, easy to understand and easy to type.
5. Optimization of images: Use of alt-tag Image name and Image Tag are both important for users as well as SEO. It is easier for the user as well as the search algorithms to search for images that have a name in it.
Use relevant keywords(names) in image name as well as image alt-tag. Image alt-tag is a text designated to an image on a website, which appears if the image fails to load for some reason.
So instead of naming your image as 1211.jpeg, name it as littleBlackDress.jpeg for it to rank higher in search results.
6. Internal and Inbound Links It’s good to talk about the good content you have produced. -Link to your best content from other pages of your website. Tell readers about what interests them is available on your website.
Links from other sites is a ‘vote’ for your site. Google relies heavily on external links to determine the ‘goodness’ of your page. Produce superb content by researching and investing time on your posts.
You can also encourage other websites to link to you and do some ‘link building’ to get links to your page.
7. Site Speed is important: Slow loading website is a bad user experience and can frustrate the user and increase your bounce rates. eConsultancy says “40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.”.
In 2010 Google included Site Speed as a vital ranking factor so get rid of non-essential items like large images, flash graphics, unessential widgets, music players, plugins you don’t need, etc.
8. Consistent and Fresh Updates: This is a no-brainer. Sites that are updated frequently rank higher on search engines. That doesn’t mean you roll out content too frequently. But you need to be consistent and disciplined with your updates, squeezing in topics that need immediate attention. Produce fresh, unique and valuable content.
9. Link to external content: It might appear to be a bad SEO strategy to link out to other pages as it takes people off your page. But linking to relevant content is a smart SEO move. If done sparingly and if done well it provides value to your readers and tells search engines that you are trusted authority on a niche topic.
Moreover, you can reach out to the owner of the page/post you link out to, and if they find your content interesting they can link back to you. Link-building is a critical strategy for SEO.
10. Meta descriptions for every page: Optimizing meta description is crucial for SEO. Meta description doesn’t have a direct impact on rankings but a well-written meta description supports your page title, informs users what your page is about and encourages them to click.
Since different pages will talk about different topics you should have a unique meta description for every page.
A Meta description is more for the users than for search engines. Users can pick the most relevant result for their query with a well-crafted meta description and increase chances of your page getting clicked.
Lastly, a good SEO approach is to always keep users in mind. Creating valuable content for your readers will take you miles ahead and help you generate significant traffic. Stay ahead of your competitors and rank ahead in the SEO game with these tips!
Source: Top 10 Evergreen SEO Tips
An SEO powerhouse may rank well in search results, but that doesn’t mean the website gets the conversions it deserves. Finding a balance between form (user design, infographics, videos) and function (Google-friendly SEO, content length, authority) is difficult for small businesses and their marketers. It’s great to have an attention-grabbing, visually appealing site, but that doesn’t guarantee a local search presence for small, competitive companies.At our web design and marketing agency, we work with businesses to improve their SEO, with one of these areas being content marketing. Placing a priority on using conversion-based content is one way to change visitors into conversions while staying within Google’s ever-changing guidelines.The challenge is writing content that is informative, engaging, rankable and visually appealing enough that it convinces visitors to contact you or fill out a form. Here are five ways I recommend writing SEO-ready content that actually converts.1. Hook Them EarlyIt’s high summer. Your air conditioner is busted. Discluding AdWord pages, do you want to waste time getting suckered into keyword-stuffed, high-ranking HVAC websites that repeat the same information over and over again? No. You want to open a page that says the company provides emergency air conditioning maintenance in your area and to call this number right now.SEO can be a distraction. It takes away from conversion- and design-friendly elements on the top of a page. It’s smart to weave the SEO tactics in there, but always picture your mobile and desktop pages through a potential customer’s eyes. Use your big hitters early on. These include a straightforward headline, a nice banner image, testimonials, charts, bullet points, stats — leave the company history and technical rants for later on. If visitors scroll that far down, they’re likely interested enough to continue reading and will probably convert anyway.2. Write Logical ContentThe disgruntled homeowner wants to know if you are a reputable business that can fix his AC unit over the weekend. A good page will satisfy the homeowner’s concerns.Conversion pages — or pages that lead to forms or phone numbers — need to flow in regards to design and content. Most visitors skim website content, but there still needs to be a sense of order. One paragraph leads to the next, each section transitions to the next logical point down the conversion rabbit hole.An example of this top-to-bottom flow might include: who you are, the services you perform, evidence that you know what you’re doing, proof of it in the form of testimonials or reviews, and your contact information. A decent SEO writer has an abundance of opportunities to optimize those sections without slowing down a reader’s progression.3. Trim The FatRemove superfluous information.From an SEO standpoint, it’s easy to flood pages with internal and external hyperlinks in big blocks of content. This adds value, of course, but it can distract readers. The purpose of the page is two-fold: to show up in search results and to convert. When you start adding on third, fourth and fifth priorities — showcasing your new company video and slideshow widgets that have nothing to do with fixing someone’s air conditioner — you’re going to lose a potential customer to slower load times.4. Keyword Variation And Low-Key PromotionMost people have at least a slim understanding of how Google displays search engine results pages (SERPs). But the person reading about your “best HVAC repair” services, time after time, is going to know that “best HVAC repair” means nothing. It’s an empty phrase.But guess what? Search engines are smart. They provide hundreds of millions of answers per day to questions asked by all sorts of people. You might search for “weekend HVAC repair,” but I might search for “AC tech nearby.” Smart content writers study key phrase variance and match what their ideal client base will likely search for.There’s a complex science in this, fit for a different article. Long story short, overhaul the obvious, spammy keywords to keep your readers engaged in your content. You can look at promotion-heavy material the same way. Keep the “We’re the best, call us now!” talk to conversion areas. Let web visitors determine on their own that you’re the best through the well-written content you provide.5. ‘Better’ Is MoreBetter content and user experience can lead to more website visitors, which will likely lead to more conversions and a higher ranking on Google due to improved authority.The way search is going, it’s crucial for businesses to showcase themselves on sleek, mobile-friendly pages that get the job done. Overdoing SEO could backfire in later Google updates, and minimalist sites may have a tough time ranking them.Taking your time to write straightforward content that reads well is the best way to get an edge. Pages that rank high are worthless if they have high bounce rates.If your content is high ranking but your conversions are lacking, evaluate what pages your visitors go to next. Do visitors do background research on your business? Do they read reviews? Does the homeowner end up calling you for your emergency AC repair service? If they don’t, take another look at the actual value of your SEO and make sure you’re meeting these five standards for SEO-ready content that converts.
Branded content and pay-per-click (PPC) aren’t ordinarily included together in the same section of a digital media plan, but there are definite synergies between these two marketing disciplines.
One way to increase the efficiency and profitability of a PPC budgetis to examine how PPC can be used to support really fun and creative branded content.
Branded content is evolving
The category of branded content has exploded online within both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing, according to data from PQMedia and Polar.
Branded content goes by many names, but it originated as “advertorial” content (in print) and as “infomercials” (in broadcast TV). This form of content is still very popular, particularly in certain industry segments in which the use of the brand in advertorials can be authentic and compelling.
In the digital domain, branded content has now evolved to more closely resemble the soap opera model of days long past.
The media strategy behind soap operas was brilliant: Unlike product placement within shows (another form of branded content), large soap manufacturers collaborated with the major television (TV) networks to underwrite the production cost of shows they knew their target audience would love and watch religiously.
Of course, the soap brand names were announced prominently at the beginning and end of any particular episode, and sponsorship arrangements also specified the airing of a certain number of regular advertising spots mentioning the brand.
Where PPC comes in
If the stats are any indication, your company (or client) is probably doing some form of digital branded content already, and this content lies somewhere along the continuum of advertorial, digital product placement (influencers) to sponsored content.
Like the soap opera sponsors of yore, the hope is to make sure the content is interesting, too, and resonates with the right audience.
That’s great news for you as search marketers. With the tools at your disposal, you can make sure more people who are interested in the branded content actually have an opportunity to see it.
In nearly every case, the branded content is centered around keywords that are NOT currently in your PPC campaigns.
The team working on that initiative probably isn’t thinking about amplifying the impact of that branded content (much of which is expensive to produce and place) using PPC search. Branded content opens up a whole segment of keywords you can potentially bid on (some might require specific contractual language).
Here are some general buckets of keywords that probably are new to your campaigns (unless you’ve been developing and hosting a lot of informational and educational content on your site):
1. Keywords related to the topic of the article or content your marketing team is sponsoring. A food brand might be paying for inclusion within a section of an online publisher’s pages where recipes are featured (including that brand as an ingredient). Why not bid on keywords relating to each recipe?
For an athletic-wear brand sponsoring the college soccer coverage on a sports publisher site, why not bid on team names and/or team member names (in conjunction with the sport or team name)?
Or (my favorite), if I were on the marketing team of Smith & Forge Hard Cider, I would be using PPC search to support the amazing Thrillist-produced content in which Thrillist disguised competitive athlete Kenneth Leverich as a senior citizen at Muscle Beach to challenge bodybuilders.
In this example, keywords could be included that include the terms “muscle beach” along with each of the lifts, tricks, moves and even equipment names related to this fun video.
2. Keywords related to the problem solved by the content. When Chase, Ritz-Carlton and The Wall Street Journal teamed up for “Inside the Moment,” they could have bid on the cities, neighborhoods and featured places in their virtual reality (VR) tours of notable cities and places.
3. Keywords related to celebrities or other VIPs used in the content. This may require a line in their contracts to allow their names and likenesses to be used to promote the content, so be sure to check that out before getting started.
For example, 1800 Tequila and Billboard Magazine’s features of “Hip-Hop History” by city included mentions and participation of a lot of popular performers. (To further filter this and other alcoholic beverage PPC support campaigns, remember to use “age” as a demographic filter for bid depression and bid boost.)
Bridging across marketing silos
Agencies play an important role in making sure branded content is on-message and on-brand, particularly if it talks about the brand.
If the content being sponsored is more of an audience-focused strategy to get the brand in front of the right people, then the level of editorial control exerted by the agency should be less, particularly if a very important person (VIP) or influencer is being used.
Things need to be authentic.
I’ve always said PPC search doesn’t sit in a silo. Expanding a PPC campaign to support branded content that costs a pretty penny to produce is a great way to get involved in the broader marketing of your brand.
Because I have a strong interest in nonprofit causes, I especially liked a piece of branded content done by Gawker to educate on the risks of smoking, not just to humans, but also to cats that live with humans, in a simple game called “Catmageddon.”
I’ve become such a fan of branded content and the power of collaboration between publishers/broadcaster/influencers with agencies and clients that I’m actually crazy enough to be bidding on Gawker to apply cause marketing best practices to publishing.
Check with your teams and see if they are doing branded content, and take the opportunity to add significant value to the company and expose you to new PPC strategies.