How to increase organic traffic: 14 Practical tips

30-second summary:

  • Organic traffic is the best shareware way to attract visitors who already want to make a deal. You should conduct a good SEO analysis and take care of the quality of your site to increase it.
  • You can get more organic visits if you develop a strategy, eliminate technical errors of your site, use its good mobile version, make correct external and internal optimization, optimize URLs, update the site content regularly, develop a blog with unique content, analyze competitors, and promote your site through social networks, press releases, newsjacking, emails, and messengers.
  • The correct implementation of the above-mentioned tasks will provide a long-lasting result for you.

Ordinary users trust SERP more than advertising and links marked as “ads”. Correctly performed optimization, troubleshooting and the use of promising channels will quickly bring a good result.

14 Practical tips to increase organic traffic

You can get organic visits using a set of working methods, tools, and recommendations. The best 14 ways are summarized in the review below. 

1. Developing a strategy to increase organic traffic

The solution to any problem begins with the development of a strategy to leave room for financial and time planning. Strategy development is carried out in stages:

  • You should set goals and objectives at first
  • Then, identify weaknesses using a comprehensive site audit and analyze the competitive environment
  • As the next step, you can eliminate identified errors and problems
  • Also, you need to select priority methods to attract organic traffic and increase the position of the site in SERP
  • Then, map the work and budget, prepare a content plan (golden rule for a content plan – 60/30/10 – third-party content 60%, unique content 30%, advertising 10%)
  • If you need, you should select specialists and form technical tasks
  • As the last step, perform tasks, analyze results using Google Analytics

Attracting organic traffic is a rather lengthy process that distinguishes it from contextual advertising. Ads start working immediately after launch. However, organic traffic will work for a long time without any additional investments. 

2. Elimination of technical errors of the site

You can identify and eliminate technical errors of the site using the following methods:

  • Surface self-check
  • Comprehensive site audit with the help of professionals
  • Usage of paid and free services. It’s an optimal solution for those who want to get a quick result with minimal financial investments. Services allow you to identify SEO errors and ones in other key positions. The best of them are Semrush, Ahrefs, and SEOptimizer

You should eliminate identified errors by yourself or with the help of professionals. It’ll make your website more attractive to users and search engines. After the site audit, you can get rid of duplicates, speed up the download of the site, identify affiliates, and solve other problems. 

3. Mobile version of the site

More than 65% of internet users prefer to select and order products from mobile devices. You can’t lose such a huge audience and should take care of your site mobile version. It allows you to increase target audience coverage several times, increase sales and subscriptions. You can create a separate mobile version or use an adaptive design of your main site. In the last case, there will be an automatic adjustment to the screens of different devices. 

4. Correct external and internal website optimization

External optimization

It’s aimed to obtain links from third-party sites. External links that aren’t protected from indexing transfer a part of a donor weight to the acceptor site. When working on building an external link mass, you should consider:

  • Donor site trust, spam level of backlinks. The first index should be high, the second one – low
  • Rules of posting links. It’s recommended to surround them with content
  • Donor site topics (should be related)
  • Frequency of placement. You should increase the link juice gradually. It’s especially important for young sites that have a low level of trust in search engines. A sharp increase can lead to the pessimization of the acceptor site

Internal optimization

It helps to make the site relevant to those queries you carry out the promotion. It consists of:

  • Keyword list collection
  • Keywords grouping
  • Preparing and publishing content optimized with LSI and SEO
  • Formation and optimization of meta tags: title and description, headings and subheadings, image tags
  • Creation of robots.txt files and sitemap.xml (if it’s not generated automatically)
  • Interlinking and other related work

It’s important to ensure that meta tags and content are supplemented with relevant keywords but are not spammed. Otherwise, you can fall under search engine filters.

5. URLs optimization

You can complement URLs with keywords. It makes them more understandable for website visitors. When optimizing URLs, it’s recommended:

  • Use from three to five relevant words, longer links will be cut off in the SERP
  • Use hyphens rather than underscores
  • Take into account spam indicators. Keywords from URLs are added to the overall frequency on the page

Optimized URLs look more attractive so visitors click on them more likely. 

6. Regular content updates

Content updates are a rather important factor which influences on ranking. We speak about updating previously posted materials as well as publishing new ones. It helps to keep pace, increase credibility, have a positive effect on indexing. 

You should carry out updates regularly following the content plan. It allows you to work with new keywords and attract organic traffic from search engines. 

7. Blogging

A blog is a valuable resource necessary for attracting organic traffic not only for commercial but also for information requests. We used to carefully choose the goods before the deal. A blog with interesting and relevant content increases chances that after reading the review, the visitor will perform the target action.

On the blog, you can publish news, information materials, as well as infographics, video reviews – everything that can attract attention and encourage visitors to make a deal. When writing articles for a blog, you can use the links to the catalog. So that the client can immediately buy the product they like without spending time searching the site.

8. Expertise and uniqueness of the content

Usage of non-unique content is a deliberately losing thing. As a result of it, you can get a claim from the copyright holder. Therefore, it’s necessary to create and optimize your content that will provide organic visits. This rule applies not only to texts but also to photos, pictures, videos. In the case of publishing someone else’s content, you must obtain the permission of the copyright holder and give a link to the source.

There is one more caveat – expertise, which plays an important role in ranking issues. Search engines don’t focus on quality optimization but on the semantic uniqueness and benefit that the content of the site can bring to the visitor. The content should answer the question that the user enters in the search bar. If the materials contain outdated, uninteresting, or knowingly untruthful data, the visitor will leave the site. An increasing number of failures will hurt ranking.

9. Promotion in social networks

Social networks are an effective tool with which you can manage opinions and drive traffic to your website. You can create a group for communication with potential customers and publish their announcements, information about promotions, discounts, updates of the assortment, and other content that encourages them to click on the link. Before starting the campaign on social networks, you need to analyze groups of your competitors, look at the situation with ordinary user’s eyes. If the posts are interesting, the subscribers will start to like and share them. This will provide additional free advertising and reach.

10. Competitive analysis

To be the first, you should know what is happening in the competition. To solve this problem, you need to use an audit which will help:

  • Define a keywords cluster
  • Keep abreast of all events, updates and new products introduced by competitors
  • Form advertising budgets and solve other strategic tasks

For audit, you can use online services, questionnaires, secret shoppers, newsletter subscription, analysis of social networks groups, and other tools. You can use the information you’ve got to improve and optimize your website.

11. Press releases on third party resources

Regular publication of press releases on popular sites will help to solve several problems. The first one is traffic attraction, the second – external optimization. News sites visitors click the links willingly. The only negative aspect is that it’s difficult to place such publications. You should make the most of your efforts to get a positive result in outreach and lead generating.

12. Using newsjacking

Newsjacking is one of the varieties of guerrilla marketing that provides unobtrusive advertising. The latter is served against the background of an important event not being a priority. The plus is that users will often visit the site using both search queries and aggregators or news portals. The main rule is to link the offer with a really interesting and important event. Otherwise, the tool will not work. 

13. Email marketing setup

From year to year, newsletters demonstrate their effectiveness. They allow you not only to communicate with customers but also to receive visits to the site. To configure the newsletter, you must have your contact base. To collect the latter, you need to place a simple registration or subscription form on the site consisting of a minimum number of lines. After that, you can establish communication with customers, notifying them of promotions, catalog updates, and other important events.

14. Mailing in messengers

Mailing in messengers is similar to emails. However, messages in Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, or WhatsApp have a higher percentage of opening. A smartphone is always near the person, such messages are more familiar and convenient. Therefore, you should not ignore the potential of this channel. Before starting such mailing, it’s necessary to ask the client whether he/she doesn’t mind receiving advertising materials. Otherwise, the sender (you) may be blocked.

To round up

Correct external and internal optimization, work in social networks and messengers, competitive analysis, technical errors eliminating, and usability improving is priority tasks to increase organic traffic. You can perform some tasks on your own. Other ones will have to be entrusted to professionals. The correct implementation of these tasks will provide a long-lasting result, an increase in organic traffic, sales, and an influx of hot customers.

The post How to increase organic traffic: 14 Practical tips appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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How A/B and multivariate testing can skyrocket your social media conversions

30-second summary:

  • Less than a quarter of marketers are satisfied with the conversion rates they achieve today.
  • A/B and multivariate testing help to put your website’s variables to work, with various text boxes, images, and call-to-actions capable of being tested among different audiences simultaneously.
  • Where A/B testing can perform trials of two ideologies, multivariate testing can display a wide range of varied elements to show users exponents are preferred by audiences.
  • Multivariate testing can help to optimize web pages based on the traffic arriving from different social networks.

Regardless of whether you’re aiming to foster more leads, email signups or purchases, there are few more effective ways to create more custom than through rigorous testing. 

Given the array of tools at the disposal of marketers, just 22% claim that they’re satisfied with the conversion rates that they amass. 

Fortunately, A/B testing and multivariate testing can seamlessly combine to fully optimize the process of turning your social media traffic into conversions. 

To understand the power of A/B and multivariate testing, it’s important to remember the array of variables that comprise your website. Text boxes, images, videos, call-to-actions and various multimedia plugins all combine to bring audiences an experience that aims to result in a conversion. Testing helps marketers to discover the exact combination of elements that are best placed to encourage visitors to act on the interest that encouraged them to navigate towards your site in the first place. The same practice can apply to just about any marketing approach. From social campaigns to PPC advertising. 

For example, have you arranged the images on your website in an effective manner? Or will visitors feel overwhelmed by the overflow of visuals? It’s virtually impossible to anticipate which layout will be the most effective in keeping visitors on your pages for longer – but actively testing different setups can offer up tangible insights into how prospective customers interact with the various elements that comprise your pages. 

It’s also possible that different layouts can lead to different effects. If your website’s tone is more informal, you might find that you’ll build more engagement with audiences, but could ultimately lack the sales you were aiming for. Whereas more formal imagery could create more purchasing intent but less of engaging customer experience. 

Different businesses will require different levels of website performance, and rigorous multivariate testing helps marketers to see what online features offer varied results for users. 

Adopting A/B and multivariate testing tools can help you to generate more leads, a higher volume of subscriptions, and ultimately attract more sales. But let’s take a closer look at how both A/B and multivariate testing can directly boost your social media conversions:

Learning your A/Bs

A/B testing often referred to as split testing, actively compares two versions of a web page, email or other facets of a business in a way that can actively measure their respective performance. 

This can be done by rendering one version to be observed by one group and another to a different cross-section of users. 

To help illustrate the key concept behind A/B testing, think of yourself as a website owner, and imagine that you have two landing page layouts that you can’t decide on. 

Through tools like Unbounce and Optimizely, A/B testing allows you to test one page by showcasing it to one group while sending another to a different group and studying the results. It’s possible to study the performance of each landing page by consulting metrics pertaining to traffic, conversions or purchase intent. 

Generally, these metrics will show one landing page to perform better than its competitor and you’ll gain a clear idea of which layout would be most effective online. 

Tapping into multivariate testing

Multivariate testing structure

Source: Leadpages

While multivariate testing can certainly complement A/B testing, these two practices are not fundamentally the same. 

Where A/B testing helps both website owners and marketers to see which design is more popular within different control groups, multivariate testing allows users to test various campaign elements all at the same time. 

This means that various different combinations of images, multimedia, text, call-to-actions can all be displayed for different users. While some may be greeted with a large image and a sign-up prompt, others may see an introductory video when they arrive on the same website, for instance. 

Given the wide range of element-based combinations that your campaign could feature, multivariate testing is regarded as one of the most efficient ways to gain insights into the impact that your marketing campaign could have once it’s correctly optimized. 

Finteza can be a handy tool when it comes to analyzing the performance of A/B tests, enabling you to see which page performs better from a sales funnel point of view.  

Graph on A/B and multivariate testing

Advances in marketing technology have catapulted the capabilities of multivariate testing tools into the limelight. With the right software, it’s possible to conduct tests in real-time with the same audience – providing a true sample to draw results from. This means that various combinations of elements can be sent to audiences at different times, with analytical software on hand to interpret the results and figure out which blend of elements operate most efficiently.

The value of A/B testing on social media 

A/B and multivariate testing example

Source: MeetEdgar

One of the most effective uses of A/B testing can be found on social media. Campaigns can be optimized for various audiences by sending different messages to different control groups. Where 50% of the control group is shown message A, the other 50% is shown message B. The winning version is determined by which received the highest volume of clicks or impressions. The most effective option is then broadcast to all audiences from there on in. 

Social A/B testing helps to enlighten marketers as to which message is most engaging to audiences, and what type of content creates more meaningful engagements. This form of testing can also help to provide insights into what time of day a message will be most likely to hit home and which call-to-actions are best positioned to generate conversions. 

A/B testing is best summarized by WIRED writer Brian Christian, who explains that A/B helps to generate high-quality focus-groups that can test new ideas in real-time, without any prior conditioning. “Without being told, a fraction of users are diverted to a slightly different version of a given web page and their behavior compared against the mass of users on the standard site. If the new version proves superior—gaining more clicks, longer visits, more purchases—it will displace the original,” Christian surmised. 

The marketing landscape is ever-changing, and very few marketers can seriously claim to have the vision and anticipation required to stay ahead of trends. With this in mind, A/B testing in real-time is essential to gain insights into your target audiences.  

While it can seem like a complex approach to conversion optimization, there are plenty of advanced tools that can aid A/B testing methods. Notably tools like Evergage can help to optimize headlines for linked articles on different social media platforms. Content is an essential part of the process of generating new leads, but A/B testing helps marketers to figure out how best to deliver content on different platforms – leading to greater levels of traffic and subsequent conversions.

Multivariate optimization

While A/B testing can work wonders in helping marketers to decide between two different campaign ideas using quantifiable metrics, multivariate testing can deliver more comprehensive and exponential insights. 

Of course, social media is a rigid place for the testing of different messages and campaigns, but multivariate testing tools have the power to deliver fully customized website experiences for traffic arriving from various social sources. This can be a particularly effective way of catering to the different demographics of social networks – from the relative maturity of the microblogging platform, Twitter, to the more vivacious and vibrant youthfulness of Snapchat and TikTok. 

A/B and multivariate testing stat

Source: Online Sales Guide Tips

Given the vast array of elements that can be altered during multivariate testing, it’s important to turn to a tool that can make the whole process of tweaking landing pages and content as simple as possible. 

VWO is an effective platform in undertaking not only multivariate tests but also A/B and split URL testing. With the help of visual editors, marketers and website owners alike can change elements on the pages they wish to test and deploy different landing pages for visitors arriving from different places across the web. Furthermore, the tool helps users to study metrics based on how long a visitor spends on pages, how far they scroll, their exit intent and a host of other custom triggers

The marketing landscape is ever-developing due to the arrival of more intricate and engaging technology. While A/B testing has existed in the world of marketing for some time, multivariate approaches can bring unprecedented levels of optimization and insight into the performance of different ideas and concepts. 

For better or worse, the world is in love with social media. But different platforms have evolved to be favored by different user bases. Advanced tools and testing methods can now provide brands with the agility to take on competitors on different social fronts by crafting heavily tested, personalized experiences depending on where their traffic is coming from. The World Wide Web is developing into an increasingly competitive place – advanced testing helps to give conscientious marketers a fighting chance.

Peter Jobes is the Content Marketing Manager at Solvid, a digital marketing agency that specializes in SEO, paid advertising, and website designing.

The post How A/B and multivariate testing can skyrocket your social media conversions appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Page Speed Optimization: Metrics, Tools, and How to Improve — Best of Whiteboard Friday

Posted by BritneyMuller

Page speed has always been a crucial part of SEO work, and as more companies make the shift to online operations, optimization becomes more important than ever. However, it’s a complex subject that tends to be very technical. What are the most crucial things to understand about your site’s page speed, and how can you begin to improve? To help you answer these questions, we’re sharing this popular episode of Whiteboard Friday (originally published in February 2019) where Britney Muller goes over what you need to know to get started.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hey, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Today we’re going over all things page speed and really getting to the bottom of why it’s so important for you to be thinking about and working on as you do your work.

At the very fundamental level I’m going to briefly explain just how a web page is loaded. That way we can sort of wrap our heads around why all this matters.

How a webpage is loaded

A user goes to a browser, puts in your website, and there is a DNS request. This points at your domain name provider, so maybe GoDaddy, and this points to your server where your files are located, and this is where it gets interesting. So the DOM starts to load all of your HTML, your CSS, and your JavaScript. But very rarely does this one pull all of the needed scripts or needed code to render or load a web page.

Typically the DOM will need to request additional resources from your server to make everything happen, and this is where things start to really slow down your site. Having that sort of background knowledge I hope will help in us being able to triage some of these issues.

Issues that could be slowing down your site

What are some of the most common culprits?

  1. First and foremost is images. Large images are the biggest culprit of slow loading web pages.
  2. Hosting can cause issues.
  3. Plugins, apps, and widgets, basically any third-party script as well can slow down load time.
  4. Your theme and any large files beyond that can really slow things down as well.
  5. Redirects, the number of hops needed to get to a web page will slow things down.
  6. Then JavaScript, which we’ll get into in a second.

But all of these things can be a culprit. So we’re going to go over some resources, some of the metrics and what they mean, and then what are some of the ways that you can improve your page speed today.

Page speed tools and resources

The primary resources I have listed here are Google tools and Google suggested insights. I think what’s really interesting about these is we get to see what their concerns are as far as page speed goes and really start to see the shift towards the user. We should be thinking about that anyway. But first and foremost, how is this affecting people that come to your site, and then secondly, how can we also get the dual benefit of Google perceiving it as higher quality?

We know that Google suggests a website to load anywhere between two to three seconds. The faster the better, obviously. But that’s sort of where the range is. I also highly suggest you take a competitive view of that. Put your competitors into some of these tools and benchmark your speed goals against what’s competitive in your industry. I think that’s a cool way to kind of go into this.

Chrome User Experience Report

This is Chrome real user metrics. Unfortunately, it’s only available for larger, popular websites, but you get some really good data out of it. It’s housed on BigQuery*, so some basic SQL knowledge is needed.

*Editor’s note: We’ve edited this transcript for accuracy. In the video Britney said “BigML,” but intended to say BigQuery. It’s hard filming an advanced-topic Whiteboard Friday in a single take! 🙂

Lighthouse

Lighthouse, one of my favorites, is available right in Chrome Dev Tools. If you are on a web page and you click Inspect Element and you open up Chrome Dev Tools, to the far right tab where it says Audit, you can run a Lighthouse report right in your browser.

What I love about it is it gives you very specific examples and fixes that you can do. A fun fact to know is it will automatically be on the simulated fast 3G, and notice they’re focused on mobile users on 3G. I like to switch that to applied fast 3G, because it has Lighthouse do an actual run of that load. It takes a little bit longer, but it seems to be a little bit more accurate. Good to know.

Page Speed Insights

Page Speed Insights is really interesting. They’ve now incorporated Chrome User Experience Report. But if you’re not one of those large sites, it’s not even going to measure your actual page speed. It’s going to look at how your site is configured and provide feedback according to that and score it. Just something good to be aware of. It still provides good value.

Test your mobile website speed and performance

I don’t know what the title of this is. If you do, please comment down below. But it’s located on testmysite.thinkwithgoogle.com. This one is really cool because it tests the mobile speed of your site. If you scroll down, it directly ties it into ROI for your business or your website. We see Google leveraging real-world metrics, tying it back to what’s the percentage of people you’re losing because your site is this slow. It’s a brilliant way to sort of get us all on board and fighting for some of these improvements.

Pingdom and GTmetrix are non-Google products or non-Google tools, but super helpful as well.

Site speed metrics

So what are some of the metrics?

What is first paint?

First paint is he first non-blank paint on a screen. It could be just the first pixel change. That initial change is considered first paint.

What is first contentful paint?

First contentful paint is when the first content appears. This might be part of the nav or the search bar or whatever it might be. –That’s the first contentful paint.

What is first meaningful paint?

First meaningful paint is when primary content is visible. When you sort of get that reaction of, “Oh, yeah, this is what I came to this page for,” that’s first meaningful paint.

What is time to interactive?

Time to interactive is when it’s visually usable and engage-able. So we’ve all gone to a web page and it looks like it’s done, but we can’t quite use it yet. That’s where this metric comes in. So when is it usable for the user? Again, notice how user-centric even these metrics are. Really, really neat.

DOM content loaded

The DOM content loaded, this is when the HTML is completely loaded and parsed. So some really good ones to keep an eye on and just to be aware of in general.

Ways to improve your page speed

HTTP/2

HTTP/2 can definitely speed things up. As to what extent, you have to sort of research that and test.

Preconnect, prefetch, preload

Preconnect, prefetch, and preload really interesting and important in speeding up a site. We see Google doing this on their SERPs. If you inspect an element, you can see Google prefetching some of the URLs so that it has it faster for you if you were to click on some of those results. You can similarly do this on your site. It helps to load and speed up that process.

Enable caching & use a content delivery network (CDN)

Caching is so, so important. Definitely do your research and make sure that’s set up properly. Same with CDNs, so valuable in speeding up a site, but you want to make sure that your CDN is set up properly.

Compress images

The easiest and probably quickest way for you to speed up your site today is really just to compress those images. It’s such an easy thing to do. There are all sorts of free tools available for you to compress them. Optimizilla is one. You can even use free tools on your computer, Save for Web, and compress properly.

Minify resources

You can also minify resources. So it’s really good to be aware of what minification, bundling, and compression do so you can have some of these more technical conversations with developers or with anyone else working on the site.

So this is sort of a high-level overview of page speed. There’s a ton more to cover, but I would love to hear your input and your questions and comments down below in the comment section.

I really appreciate you checking out this edition of Whiteboard Friday, and I will see you all again soon. Thanks so much. See you.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


Scoop up more SEO insights at MozCon Virtual this July

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The three most critical marketing metrics to measure right now

30-second summary:

  • Regardless of your industry, the marketing strategy you are currently executing is completely different from the marketing strategy you had in place just six months ago.  
  • The situation that has unfolded over the last few months has thrown “business as usual” out of the window.
  • Budgets are tight, events are canceled, and your buyers’ needs have dramatically changed in the last few months.
  • Credly’s VP of Marketing, Adam Masur shares three of the most critical marketing metrics to measure in these unique circumstances.

When it comes to your marketing efforts, there are specific numbers you should be constantly tracking and working to improve. Yet, regardless of your industry, the marketing strategy you are currently executing is completely different from the marketing strategy you had in place just six months ago.  

The situation that has unfolded over the last few months has left marketing teams in every industry at a loss for the best way to move forward. It is no longer “business as usual”. What works today may not work tomorrow, so marketers must be prepared to pivot quickly during this time of uncertainty. And we don’t expect that to change any time soon. Even when the pandemic is over and things start returning to “normal,” everyone is going to have to adapt to what the new “new world of work” looks like.   

As you start to navigate a new way of marketing your product or services following the COVID-19 outbreak, you must reevaluate your strategies and develop a new plan of action. Budgets are tight, events are canceled and your buyers’ needs have dramatically changed in the last few months. Given the unique circumstances, here are three of the most critical metrics to measure right now.  

Metric one: Cost per acquisition

Familiarizing an audience with your product or service and converting them to a paying customer comes at a price. Even in the best of times, I may argue that cost-per-acquisition (CPA), which measures the aggregate cost to acquire just one paying customer, is the most important metric. When it comes to how you’re spending your precious marketing dollars during this time, your CPA has to be top of mind.  

These days, it’s possible that you’re encountering prospects with different risk tolerances, at different stages of product knowledge and purchase intent. It’s a great time to rethink ad copy and realign landing pages with more focused, more compelling, and more relevant content. It’s also a great time to look for the emergence of new keywords that have suddenly become more important in your customers’ minds. The best way to optimize your CPA is by addressing your audiences’ immediate concerns directly, and continuing the dialog until they’re ready to take the next step. Your quality scores will thank you for it. 

Marketers have chased vanity marketing metrics like ad clicks from the beginning of time. But, most marketing teams can’t rely on metrics with empty promises. If you haven’t seen any of your numbers moving lately, maybe you aren’t looking hard enough. Maybe it’s bounce rates, session length, pages viewed, or the number or site visits before filling out a form–there’s something to be learned. Now is the time to test your hypotheses to figure out what’s changing in your customers’ worlds, and address these topics directly. You’ll get a better picture of the true health of your business rather than a false sense of success.  

Metric two: Social media engagement

It’s always been hard for marketing teams to truly measure social media interactions, but social media is a critical avenue for establishing and developing organic relationships with your audience in today’s digital world. With billions of active users, social media provides modern marketers with more exposure, improved traffic, and increased brand loyalty. 

Engagement on social media platforms can present itself in various ways: shares, likes, comments, and reposts are all the digital marketing metrics used to gauge your audience’s level of engagement. By tracking social media engagement, you have a better idea of your content’s reach and if it’s landing in front of the right people.  

You can’t just rely on hard numbers. The sentiment, intent, objections, and accolades are all there for you to learn from, but you have to invest the time to dive in beyond a high-level engagement graph.  Understanding how your audience is interacting with that content allows you to readjust your message as needed and create valuable interactions that continue to push your brand forward.  

Focusing on your social media strategy right now helps your brand maximize limited resources. With tight budgets, authentically engaging in social media can help your team meet your audience where they are, provide valuable information, and generate meaningful relationships.  

Metric three: Website traffic 

Regardless of what the business landscape looks like, one goal every marketer has is to drive traffic back to their company’s website. While every marketing channel–inbound, outbound, events, social, content–brings in new leads and new prospects, it’s unlikely that anyone becomes a customer without visiting your website.  

That’s why it’s not enough to drive traffic to your home page. You want to see that those people are visiting multiple pages, engaging with your content, and finding what they need to make the decision that’s right for them. Only then will they take the step to try, buy, or fill out the form that connects them with your sales team. 

While marketers are working with limited resources and under unprecedented circumstances right now, we have to remember that so are our buyers. Marketers have to lean into actionable metrics from their website traffic, including bounce rate, average session duration, and pages per session. Are pages that used to get 100 visits a month, now getting 100 visits a day or vise versa? It could be a sign of your buyers’ shifting needs or priorities.  

Spend the effort to get a clear understanding of your buyers’ current situation. Rely on data and analytics, and check your work by engaging and actively listening. Evaluating how these important marketing metrics are faring provides insight into how your overall strategy is doing and helps you allocate resources while still connecting with your audience in a meaningful way.  

When it comes to marketing your product or service in the current climate, you have to be proactive. Marketers who are able to pivot, use data and analytics to guide their efforts, and tap into the new needs of their buyers will continue to be successful as we enter the new world of work.  

Adam Masur, Vice President of Marketing at Credly, is driven by a passion for optimizing the way marketing teams and technology work together to grow businesses.

The post The three most critical marketing metrics to measure right now appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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How to build your brand authority through content marketing

30-second summary:

  • Brand authority can make a huge difference in whether someone decides to buy from you or not.
  • First you have to examine what your current brand recognition is like by seeing how you’re talked about online. This can help you identify opportunity areas.
  • Then you can dive in deeper and start researching typical questions your target audience has. Why? So you can answer them.
  • Finally, you’ll set out to answer the questions you collected in an authoritative way to start building trust.

Please forgive the fact that I’m tweaking a tired adage, but the message is true: Building your brand authority doesn’t happen overnight.

I was reminded of this fact very recently while scrolling through LinkedIn: 

Ongoing marketing efforts are needed to tell an authoritative story and build trust in potential customers. It can always make a difference when someone is deciding between two companies, and it’s even more important with B2B, since those products/services tend to involve a higher cost.

Here’s how you can go about utilizing digital marketing to increase your brand authority.

Note: I’m going to focus on the content itself, but earning backlinks — which is significantly easier to do with high-quality content — is a primary way to indicate to Google that other sites trust you, which signals that you’re more authoritative. Prioritizing your backlink portfolio will dramatically help you in all other authority-building efforts.

Gauge your brand authority level

Don’t assume you already understand how you’re viewed by your audience. Instead, before launching into any marketing strategies, check the data to get a sense of how you’re being perceived.

  • Have your branded searches increased or decreased? What search terms are people pairing with your brand? 
  • How are your customers or leads finding out about your brand? Was it from authoritative interviews or content you put out there or some other way?
  • Are you ever mentioned in the media? If you haven’t already, set up Google Alerts for your brand name and any prominent, public-facing employees. 

Another interesting consideration is: Who are the current authorities in your space? Are you aware of them all?

Brand authority through content marketing

The first way to identify this is to type into Google the phrases you wish you ranked for and see who is ranking for those terms. Sometimes it’s the competitors you knew about, but sometimes other sites have climbed up the authority ladder.

Additionally, you can use tools like SparkToro to search your topic area and see where your audience is going for information. 

Gauging brand authority through tools

If you search for your vertical, you can then see the most popular publications, podcasts, social channels, and more visited by the audience interested in your vertical.

Then the question becomes, are you on these lists? If not, who is and why? What are they doing well? You can aim to be featured on these different media outlets, as you know they appeal to your target audience.

Identify your audience’s questions

If you answer your audience’s questions, they’ll start to trust you and see you as an authority.

The concept sounds simple, and it is. But the execution is harder. First, how do you find out what their questions are?

Here are a few ways:

  • Tools like Answer the Public and BuzzSumo’s Questions will show you what people are asking based on different keywords you enter. 

Snapshot of BuzzSumo’s Questions tool

  • Keyword research can reveal the types of challenges people are facing. Don’t just look at keyword volume — look at “People also ask”. Get lost for a little while, clicking on various questions and related keywords. (Keywords Everywhere is a cool tool for search volume/competition, as is Keyword Surfer).
  • Talk to your sales team about what common questions are coming up. Have you answered these with content? Do they speak to the greater problems your audience faces?
  • Brush up on your audience personas. Different segments of your audience may have different problems. See if you’ve been accidentally neglecting a segment.

Once you have a solid list of the questions your audience has, you can work on effectively answering those questions.

Answer the questions with authoritative content

Once you know what you want to write about, how do you make it authoritative?

First of all, your methodology matters. Do your own original research whenever possible. Content backed by data is inherently more trustworthy than content based on opinion. If you’re featuring opinion, make sure it’s someone who can prove their expertise through their past experience.

Secondly, the content has to be created in a way that conveys authority:

  • It shouldn’t have any grammar or spelling errors
  • If it’s time-sensitive in any way, it needs a date on the article so people know exactly when it was written and thus the content can be put in its proper context
  • Sources should all be cited
  • The design should be clean and easy to read
  • The structure and navigation should be well-thought-out and provide insight into exactly what readers will learn
  • All information should be backed up with explanations and facts
  • If your piece was written by experts, provide their name and bio

Let’s take a look at some examples. I pulled the top organic text and video results for the query “how to choose a bike.” (I’m thinking about buying a bike, so I’m finding myself using a lot of bike-related examples as of late…)

REI’s article, “How to Choose a Bike,” ranks number one. I use REI examples a lot because I think they have a fantastic content strategy by using their expertise to answer all kinds of questions their customers could have.

But let’s focus specifically on what makes this article seem authoritative. 

First, it’s well organized and clearly outlined, even including a table where you can get the top-level information very quickly. Having a well-thought-out structure and design is a visual indication of knowledge and understanding of a topic.

They also have a section at the bottom labeled “Contributing Experts” so you know exactly who put the guide together and what experience they have.Contributing Experts

 

Finally, they responded to all of their comments, providing additional information to the people who had further questions.

Now let’s check out the top video result, which is from 2013, meaning people have found it useful for more than six years. What about it feels authoritative?

For one, look at how he outlines right at the beginning what the video will cover, setting proper expectations and indicating a solid knowledge of the subject.

Additionally, he doesn’t just list the features of the different types; he explains the usefulness of those features to help you make a more informed decision.

There are a few other techniques to display authority, as well. Andy Crestodina recommends including quotes and tips from other thought leaders in your piece. You can also get third-party validation for your content in the form of testimonials, reviews, or asking influencers to share what you created. The point here is to showcase that you associate with experts and that other people trust you.

Conclusion

It’ll take time and effort, but once you’re an authority, every other aspect of your marketing will gain more traction. Consider how to build authority into all of your digital marketing, and you’ll have the potential to amplify your results even further.

Amanda Milligan is the Marketing Director at Fractl, a prominent growth marketing agency that’s worked with Fortune 500 companies and boutique businesses.

The post How to build your brand authority through content marketing appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Google advanced search: Six powerful tips for better SEO

30-second summary:

  • Google advanced search helps you get granular with your searches and deliver hyper-focused searches with the help of search operators (or a combination of them).
  • For example, you can search for articles published in the last week by your competitors or discover internal linking opportunities you might’ve missed.
  • In this how-to guide, Venngage’s Aditya Sheth outlines six Google advanced search hacks you need to know to master Google search and become a better SEO.

I have to come clean on something: I’m lazy.

While being lazy may not be a virtue, it does come with an unseen advantage: It allows you to look for creative ways to get things done without necessarily spending more time.

And as an SEO, I’m always looking for ways to get more done without working longer hours. Essentially: aiming to accomplish more with less.

One way to do more with less is to look for tools, tactics or even hacks that help you cut down time wasted and get more done, faster. 

One of my favorite hacks ever? Google advanced search.

But what is it? In simple terms, the Google advanced search helps you fine-tune your searches to find exactly what you’re looking for. 

This is an especially useful skill if you want to quickly pull up small-bits of information without always having to rely on tools like Ahrefs, Moz, or SEMRush to do it for you.

In this how-to SEO guide, you’ll use advanced search operators to:

  • Find duplicate content that could be hurting your site’s rankings.
  • Uncover a gold mine of guest posting opportunities in your niche.
  • Discover missed internal linking opportunities.

Before we dive into the meat of this guide, first things first:

A mini-crash course on advanced search operators

To keep things simple, we’re going to cover four operators I, as an SEO, use most often.

The first operator is the site search operator. What this allows you to do is retrieve results from a single website. All you have to do is type site:[any website] into Google.

For example, If I enter site:semrush.com, I will only see results pertaining to SEMrush:

You don’t need the http://, https://, or www prefixes when using the site operator.

That’s not all, you can even use a keyword in addition to the site operator to find if that site has written any content around that keyword.

Let’s say I want to find whether we’ve covered the keyword “infographic” on the site. I’ll enter “site:semrush.com infographic” and this is what comes up:

I personally use the site operator very frequently as it limits my search results to a single domain. Keep this operator in mind as we’re going to be relying on it later.

The next operator you’ll find useful is the quotes or exact-match (“”) operator. What the exact-match operator does is limit your searches to exact-match phrases only.

For example, here is a normal Google search (notice the number of results):

And now the same phrase wrapped in quotation marks: 

 

Notice something different? 

Compared to a normal Google search, exact-match queries will only show you results where your keyphrase has been mentioned exactly as it is (and not a variation). 

This operator is especially powerful to identify if your site has any duplicate content that could be sabotaging your rankings (more on this later).

Last but not the least, we’re going to learn the dash (-) and plus (+) operators to perform laser-targeted searches. 

What the dash (-) operator does is excludes certain keywords from appearing in the search results. So if I wanted to read about the topic of search engines but not search engine optimization, I’d use the following query: 

 

By using the “- optimization” in my search, I’ll only see results about search engines and not search engine optimization.

The plus (+) operator, you guessed it — does the exact opposite. You can use the plus operator to add words to your original search and show you a different set of results. 

For example, here’s a query I entered in Google search:

What did I do here? I used the site:, dash and plus operators in conjunction to show me articles that closely relate to search engine marketing but not SEO on the Search Engine Watch blog.

Venngage

There are many search operators out there (too many to list in fact). You can find a much more comprehensive list of search operators on the Moz blog.

But for simplicity’s sake, we’re going to stick to the site, exact match, dash, and plus operators in this guide.

Six Google advanced search tips for better SEO

Using the Google advanced search operators above, you can access exactly what you’re looking for and spend less time searching for it.

Advanced search can come really handy especially when you’re just starting out and don’t have the budget for expensive SEO tools.

Imagine all the endless possibilities that lie in wait for you as an SEO; if only you got better at googling. Well, it’s easier than you think. I’ll show it to you:

1. Conduct basic but insightful competitor research

Conducting competitor research on Google is really easy. All you have to do is use the “related:” search operator followed by a website URL. 

“Related:” allows you to find sites that are closely related to a specific URL. You can use related to identify not only direct competitors but also indirect peripheral competitors that you might’ve missed in your competitor research.

Not only that, the related: operator also helps you understand how Google is categorizing your competitors and your website.

Let’s look at what Google returns if we search for competitors related to Venngage

I already know the first three results are our direct competitors, but the last two are surprising because they seem to be indirectly competing with us (and I wasn’t even aware of them).

We’re an online infographic maker tool while both Column Five Media and InfoNewt appear to be done-for-you agencies. Google has identified and categorized them as sites related to Venngage which is an insightful find.

Don’t dismiss this advanced search hack because of its simplicity. Try it for yourself and see what Google comes up with. You might just come away with a better understanding of the competition as it pertains to SEO.

2. Stalk your competitor’s content strategy

Sticking to the topic of competitor research, here’s a cool way you can spy on your competitor’s content strategy: combining the site operator and Google’s date-range filter.

Let’s try this on one of our direct competitors: Piktochart.

To limit my search to only blog-related results, I’ll use Piktochart’s/blog subdomain instead of their website. And by the looks of it, they have 790 pages on their blog. 

I can use the date-range filter (click on tools and filter by date) to further drill down these results to identify what content they published in the last month only. Here’s what comes up: 

This not only tells me Pitkchart published four new articles last month but also gives me insight into Piktocharts’ content strategy and the keywords they’re targeting.

You can find even more data by filtering the results by days, months, or custom time periods. 

I can even include exact-match (“your keyword” in quotes) keywords to find out how much content Piktochart has published on any given topic, which is a clever way to uncover their topic cluster strategy. 

Let’s take content marketing as a topic for example

Using the site operator in conjunction with the date filters on Google search gives you information on: 

  • How much content your competition has published till date
  • How often they publish new content in a given time period
  • What kind of content they publish at a certain point in time
  • How often your competitor has written about a given topic

Pretty cool right? 

3. Unearth a gold mine of guest posting opportunities 

If your goal is to drive quality traffic back to your website, pick up high-quality backlinks, boost your website’s domain authority and even rank higher on Google — guest blogging will help you do all of the above.

Anybody that tells you guest blogging is dead is either lying or in on it. Guest blogging still works, even in 2020.

Now that we’ve briefly covered how important guest blogging really is, how do you uncover guest blogging opportunities in your niche or industry?

Here are a few advanced search queries you can copy and paste into Google

  • Your Keyword “guest post opportunities”
  • Your Keyword “guest post”
  • Your Keyword “submit guest post”
  • Your Keyword “submit blog post”
  • Your Keyword intitle:“write for us”
  • Your Keyword intitle:“guest post guidelines”

If I’m looking to guest post for sites in the design space, for example, I’d use the following query:

Sites bookmarked. Guest post pitches sent. Fingers crossed. 

Try out these search queries for yourself and you’ll be able to build a respectable list of sites to contribute for.

Brian Dean has the most exhaustive guide on guest blogging I’ve read (it includes a huge list of search operators that will help you find even more guest posting opportunities).

4. Discover hidden opportunities for internal linking

Internal linking plays a small but important role in the ranking factors that determine how well you rank on Google.

Irrespective of how well-designed and easy-to-navigate your site may be, a great internal linking structure can make all the difference when it comes to driving traffic from one post to another across your entire blog.

Internal linking also creates topical relevance by creating supporting content for the main topics of your website.

A few weeks ago, I published a mammoth webinar guide on the Venngage blog. I wanted it to start driving traffic to the post and rank for high-volume keywords immediately.

I got to work by finding out where I could link to our guide internally from as many relevant posts on our blog as possible. All I did was use the site operator and the keyword “webinar”: 

Boom! Barring the first result, I found 47 internal linking opportunities with a simple search. And all it took was a few seconds.

You can even use this search query: site:www.yourwebsite.com/blog intext:”your keyword” to pretty much do the same thing.

This advanced search hack won’t be as useful if you’ve recently started blogging, but it will come in handy if you manage a huge blog that already has a lot of existing content.

5. Find duplicate content on your website

Duplicate content is content that appears on more than one location on your website and can confuse search engines when it comes to deciding which page to rank higher. 

In short: Duplicate content can hurt your website rankings and it’s a technical SEO issue you cannot afford to ignore.

To show you an example of duplicate content, I’ll use this small piece of copy from the Apple Airpods product description on Walmart

Google advanced search tips: Duplicate Content

Using the site operator, I’ll paste the copy into Google using the exact-match operator. Here’s what I come up with: 

The same piece of copy shows up on six other pages on Walmart. Things could be a lot worse but still, not ideal.

But if I were to search for the same piece of copy across the web (not just Walmart) using the dash operator, this is what comes up:

The same piece of copy appears on ~19,000 other websites (excluding Walmart). That’s a lot of duplicate content. 

Duplicate content is especially a major issue for website blogs with 1,000s of pages or ecommerce sites with the same product descriptions. 

6. Find missed content opportunities

One of the last search operators I’ll cover is the “filetype” operator. 

Filetype can help you find non-HTML content on your site, such as Word Documents or PDF files. This content is often valuable, but not search optimized. And traffic to it doesn’t show up in your Analytics.

To use this search operator, simple type in “site:yourwebsite.com filetype:pdf” like so: 

Then look at that content. Have you published it as HTML content? Is it search optimized? Is there an opportunity to make it a valuable, rank-worthy and trackable webpage?

PDF files are often the rust of the internet, added to sites because the content manager doesn’t have an easy way to publish actual web pages.

They should always be an alternate (print-friendly, download-friendly) version of HTML content. They should almost never be the only version of a piece of content.  

Your turn to master Google search

Congratulations! You’ve officially made it to the end of this mammoth guide. 

Google is far more powerful and robust than we realize or give it credit for. 

Knowing what to search for and how to search for it with the help of Google advanced search operators will help you harness Google’s true power and in turn, grow your site.

As SEOs, our job comprises running SEO tests, tinkering with Google’s algorithms, and staying on top of the latest search trends.

Google advanced search is not only a fun skill that you can learn over the weekend. It can help you uncover opportunities hiding in plain sight and help you be more effective at your job.

The real kicker

Google is and always will be free. The know-how to fine-tune your searches will help you become a better SEO and pay dividends over the long term.

Has using Google advanced search in your day-to-day made you a better SEO? Which search operators do you use most frequently? Did I miss any advanced search tips? Drop them in the comments below.

Aditya Sheth does Content & SEO at Venngage. You can connect with him on Linkedin or find him on Twitter @iamadityashth.

The post Google advanced search: Six powerful tips for better SEO appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Four strategies to maintain your social media activity during a crisis

30-second summary:

  • It’s important to stay engaged with our audience during the crisis, and there’s a lot we can do to accomplish that.  
  • Low budgets, limited workforce, and lesser bandwidth for content production are some challenges businesses are seeing on the forefront.
  • Roman Daneghyan shares four strategies to maintain your social media activity during a crisis.

Social media is a fun place where we can engage with our audience on a daily basis. You’re probably already familiar with the benefits of social media, which means you maintain consistent social media activity. 

Unfortunately, during troubling times like the COVID-19 outbreak that we’re experiencing today, businesses often struggle to maintain an active social media presence. Your budget is low, the workforce is limited, and there’s usually little motivation to produce content with everything that’s going on around you. 

Still, it’s not that hard to maintain social media activity during a crisis, and it is perhaps the only sensible thing we can do. It’s important to stay engaged with our audience during the crisis, and there’s a lot we can do to accomplish that. 

Here are four strategies to maintain your social media activity during a crisis.

1. Repurposing content

If we are unable to create fresh content, we can always work with what we already have. If you had a well-built content strategy prior to the crisis, then chances are you have a lot of pieces to work with. Our goal here is to repurpose existing content into something fresh. 

Start with what you already have: a podcast, a video log, a long-form blog article, a sales letter, anything works. Try to collect all long-form, pillar content that you have. Next, we’re going to use and repurpose that content to create fresh content. A vlog turns into a blog, a blog into an email, an email into a tweet, and so on… you get the point.

Gary Vaynerchuk is a master of repurposing content, he also popularized the content pyramid model that is based on this idea. Gary says he can create 30 fresh pieces of content to be used across his channels just from a single daily episode of his show.  

Social media activity example repurposing content

Using a single piece of content, you can create fresh content for your social media accounts, and it doesn’t have to be a repost. You can repurpose a piece of content to tweet some bits on Twitter, start a discussion on Facebook, post an edited clip on Instagram, or share a concise blog post on LinkedIn. And boom, there’s your content.

Also, there’s no need to feel like a fraud for repurposing ‘used’ content. Most of your followers won’t remember your older posts, and they could always use a reminder, especially during a crisis. Even if we have nothing ‘new’ to say, we can still share our insights from the past. To give your old content a fresh look, you can add some eye-catching visuals to it. You can take the help of a web designing firm to create visuals that can get noticed in crowded social media feeds. 

2. Make use of content creation tools

With everything slowing down, it’s hard to create enough content all on your own. In the past few years, we saw a lot of content creation tools and templates come to life, and perhaps it’s time to make good use of them. Content creations tools help us to minimize the time, budget, and effort needed to create content, and now we need them more than ever.

Depending on your needs, there are various tools to choose from:

  • For research, you can make use of Google Drive’s Research Tool to conduct quick research, all it takes is clicking a simple ‘Explore’ button in the bottom right. Also, ‘Site: search’ function is another useful tool accessible from the browser.
  • If you need help writing posts for your social media account, you can use writing tools like Evernote to take notes, Grammarly to catch errors,  WriteRack to tweetstorm. 
  • If you want to post visual media then you have to try out tools like PicsArt. These tools are easy to use, and you can create great visual content in less than five minutes. Instead of spending hours on design, all you have to do is choose a template and fill it with your brand graphics.

It takes a lot of effort to create great social media content, but we can always make use of content creation tools to save some time or get a few creative ideas. 

3. Utilize user-generated content

User-generated content (UGC) is content created by people rather than brands, which means you don’t have to create anything. Utilizing UGC is incredibly important for social media, and it can be used to fill the gaps in your content strategy. Brands may not be able to create their own content during the crisis, but can always rely on user-generated content. 

The type of content you repost will vary depending on the media. 

Instagram: The king of user-generated content, Instagram has all kinds of options for brands to share content created by users. You can repost to your own profile, share images on your story, and easily browse using #hashtags and the Explore function. Aerie is a great example of how this should work:

View this post on Instagram

“climbing trees, slowing down and sending love.” A reminder from #AerieREAL Ambassador @lindseysmiles #regram

A post shared by Aerie (@aerie) on

Facebook: Facebook is a fantastic network for sharing stories and videos with your audience. You can invite your fans to contribute stories, images, or videos and use it to invite discussion and engage with the rest of your audience.

Twitter: A great place to utilize user-generated content, Twitter makes it easy with #hashtags and the “Retweet” function. You can simply retweet users and add your own comments to spark a discussion. Food brands do a great job on Twitter:

 

LinkedIn: Professionals love LinkedIn, and you can use LinkedIn to promote user content that’s relevant to your brand. You can repost the content or feature some users in your blog posts. 

If you want to search for location-specific content, you can always use a VPN service to gain access to content specific to a certain location. This method helps you to understand how your audience sees things, and you can tailor your content to meet their personal needs. 

4. Keep up with the updates

Posting relevant content is important, but don’t forget to post personal updates about your business. Your audience may want to know how you’re doing, whether there will be disruptions in service, and what to expect in the coming days. 

To add on to that, make sure you understand your position during a crisis. If you’re in the middle of it, you can provide daily updates on how your local community is dealing with the crisis, and that’s a good way to build a relationship with your audience. 

Lastly, don’t forget to show compassion for the victims, and you can even use one of the content tools to create supportive posts and remind your audience that you’re thinking of them. 

What’s your take?

What do you think about the ongoing crisis and what is your strategy to maintain your social media activity in the upcoming weeks?

The post Four strategies to maintain your social media activity during a crisis appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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Thinking Beyond the Link Building “Campaign” [Case Study]

Posted by Paddy_Moogan

Over the years, I’ve often referred to our link building work as “campaigns”, which isn’t wrong, but isn’t completely right, either. I think that as an industry we need to alter our mindset to focus on what link building should be: an ongoing, integrated, business-as-usual activity.

Link building processes that work for brands now and that will continue to work in the future need to sit closer to the rest of the business. This means tighter integration with other disciplines, or at the very least, acknowledgment that link building isn’t a siloed activity or dark art like it used to be.

In this post, I’d like to propose how we should think about link building and share some ways to make it more sustainable, efficient, and effective.

The problem with campaigns

I want to start by being super clear on something, and I make no apologies for reiterating this throughout this post: Link building campaigns aren’t a bad thing. My core point is that they should be thought of as one piece of the puzzle — not something we should focus all of our time and attention on.

“Campaign”, in the context of link building or digital PR, implies a few things:

  • It has a start and an end point
  • It is a one-off activity
  • It is about a specific “thing”, whether that be a topic, product, or piece of content

There is nothing wrong with these as such, but link building shouldn’t be thought about only in these ways. If link building is seen as a series of one-off activities, or about a specific thing and with a start and end point, it’s never going to be integrated into a business the way it should be. It will always sit around the edges of marketing activity and not benefit the bottom line as much as it could.

Even if you are reading this thinking that you’re okay because you have lots of campaigns lined up — maybe one a week, one a month, or one a quarter — the core problems still exist, but at a more zoomed-out level.

As digital marketers, we want link building to be:

  • Taken seriously as a tactic which helps support SEO within a business
  • Integrated with other areas to allow for efficiency and wider benefits
  • Fit into the overarching digital strategy of a business
  • Have measurable, consistent results

Let me demonstrate the final point with the graph below, which is the monthly performance of an Aira client on a 6-8 week campaign schedule:

On the face of it, this looks pretty good. We built over 200 links in 12 months, and were ahead of target in terms of individual campaign objectives.

This graph is the reality of link building campaign execution. We were honest and up-front with clients about the results, and those peaks and dips are perfectly normal.

But it could (and should) be a lot better.

Let’s take a quick step back.

An uncomfortable truth

The uncomfortable truth for many link builders is that a business shouldn’t really need to worry about link building as an intentional, proactive activity. Instead, links should be a natural consequence of a fantastic product or service which is marketed and branded well.

However, companies in this position are the exception rather than the rule, which means that as link builders, we still have a job!

I’d argue that there are only a relatively small number of businesses that truly don’t need to worry about link building. Think of the likes of well-established and popular brands like Apple, McDonalds, Amazon and Coca-Cola. These companies truly are the exception, rather than the rule.

Trying to be an exception and aiming to reach the nirvana of never actively worrying about link building should absolutely be your goal. Putting efforts into areas such as product development, customer service, content strategy, and brand building will all pay dividends when it comes to link building. But they all take time and you need to generate organic traffic sooner rather than later in order to grow the business.

Link building, as part of your larger integrated and robust digital strategy can get you there quicker. I worry that businesses often leave money on the table by waiting for that nirvana to come. They may indeed get there, but could they have gotten there sooner?

The question then becomes, how do they move quicker toward that ideal state, and what does link building look like in the interim? Running campaigns can help for sure, but you’re not really building upward as quickly as you could be.

This is the crux of my worry and problem with running link building campaigns and allowing our strategies to lean on them too heavily:

When the campaigns stop, so will the links.

I know, I know — Aira launches campaigns all the time.

Yes, we have launched many, many link building campaigns at Aira over the years and have been nominated for campaign-specific awards for some of them. I’ve even written about them many times. Campaign-led link building has a very valuable part to play in the world of link building, but we need to reframe our thinking and move away from campaigns as the primary way to generate links to a business.

Driving the right behaviors

It’s not just about results. It’s about driving the right behaviors within businesses, too.

Putting link building in the corner of a one-off project or campaign-led activity is not going to encourage habitual link building. It will drive behaviors and thinking which you don’t really want, such as:

  • Link building is a line item which can be switched on and off
  • Internal processes have to bend or break in order to accommodate link building
  • There is little desire or motivation for wider team members to learn about what link builders do
  • Link building is an isolated activity with no integration
  • Link building results aren’t consistent (you get those huge peaks and dips in performance, which can bring into question the marketing spend you’re being given)

Working under these pressures is not going to make your life easy, nor are you going to do the best job you possibly can.

I worry that as an industry, we’ve become too focused on launching campaign after campaign and have gotten too far away from effecting change within organizations through our work.

As digital marketers, we are trying to influence behaviors. Ultimately, it’s about the behaviors of customers, but before that point it’s about influencing stakeholders — whether you’re an agency or in-house SEO, our first job is to get things done. In order to do that, link building needs to be thought of as a business-as-usual (BAU) activity. Campaigns have a place, but are part of a much, much bigger picture. Link building needs to get to the point where it’s not “special” to build links to a content piece, it’s just done. If we can get there, not only will we accelerate the businesses we work with toward link building nirvana, but we will add much, much more value to them in the meantime.

Link building as a BAU activity

It is my firm belief that in order to mature as an industry, and specifically as an activity, link building needs to be understood much more than it currently is. It still suffers from the issues that plagued SEO for many years in the early days when it truly was a dark art and we were figuring it out as we went along.

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve come a long way, especially since April 2012 (can you really believe it was over eight years ago?!) when link building began evolving into a content-led practice thanks in part to the Penguin update.

But we still have further to go.

We need to get out of the corner of “launching a campaign” and train our bosses and clients to ask questions like, “How can link building help here?” and “Is there a link building opportunity in this activity?”.

A case study

The best way I can explain this shift in thinking is to give you a real example of how we’ve done it at Aira. I can’t give you the exact client, but I can give you an overview of the journey we’ve been on with them, supporting an SEO team that is relentlessly committed to getting things done — the perfect partners for such an initiative.

I should also point out that this has never been easy. We are on this journey with a number of our clients, and some of them are barely into it. The examples here show what happens when you get it right — but it does take time, and the reality is that it may never happen for some businesses.

Where it started

One campaign. That was it. One shot to get links and show the client what we could do.

We failed.

This was back in 2016. We were lucky in that the client trusted the process and understood why things had gone wrong on this occasion. So, they gave us another chance and this time did a great job.

From there, the project grew and grew to the point where we were launching scaled campaigns like clockwork and getting links consistently. All was well.

Then I was asked a question by someone on the client’s team:

“What’s the evolution of our link building?”

Whilst link building is never far from my mind, I didn’t have a mental model to answer this straight away with any conviction — particularly given what I knew about this client and their industry. I took some time to think about it and consolidate a bunch of observations and opinions I’d actually had for years, but never really made concrete.

Side note: It’s often hard to take a step back from the day-to-day of what you’re doing and think about the bigger picture or the future. It’s even more difficult when you’re growing a business and generally doing good work. It can be hard to justify “rocking the boat” when things are going well, but I’ve learned that you need to find time for this reflection. For me at that point in time, it took a direct question from my client to force me into that mindset.

My answer

I confirmed that our existing model of link building for them was something that was likely to continue working and adding value, but that it should NOT be our sole focus in the coming years.

Then, I explained what I’ve talked about in this post thus far.

I told them that our work wasn’t good enough, despite them being one of our happiest, most long-standing clients. We were getting hundreds of links a month, but we could do better.

Running campaign after campaign and getting links to each one would not be good enough in the future. Sure it works now, but what about in two years? Five?? Probably only partly.

We knew we needed to bridge the gap between different content types:

  • Content for links (aka campaigns)
  • Content for traffic (informational and transactional pages)
  • Content for building expertise and trust

We’d only been focusing on the first one, pretty much in isolation. We’d come up with some relevant topic ideas, build them out and get links. Job done.

This wouldn’t be good enough a few years down the road, because link building would be taking place in a small pocket of a very large organization with limited integration.

It’s now been over a year since that conversation and guess what? Our campaigns are still working great, but we are evolving to do so much more.

What happened

If you haven’t taken a look at what else your business is doing and where link building can add value, this is the first step towards better integration, and thus better link building. By the time the conversation above happened, we’d already recognized the need to integrate with other teams within the client’s organization, so we had a head start.

With the help of the client’s SEO team, we started to discover other activities within the organization which we could add value to or leverage for greater wins:

  • The traditional marketing team had been running campaigns for years on different industry topics. Some of these crossed over with the topics we’d created content for.
  • The internal PR team had lots of activity going on and had often seen our coverage pop up on their trackers. As it turned out, they were just as keen to meet us and understand more about our processes.
  • The brand team was starting to review all on-site assets to ensure conformity to brand guidelines. Working with them was going to be important moving forward for consistency’s sake.
  • With our help, the client were building out more informational content related to their products, with us helping brief their internal copywriters.

All of these opportunities sowed the seeds for a new focus on the evolution of link building, and pushed us to move quicker into a few things including:

  • Running joint projects with the internal PR team where we collaborate on ideas and outreach that don’t just focus on data visualization
  • Running ideation sessions around topics given to us by the SEO team, which are also focused on by their traditional marketing team
  • Building relationships with several subject matter experts within the organization who we are now working with and promoting online (more on this below)
  • Testing the informational product content for link building after noticing that a few pieces naturally attracted links
  • Working alongside the PR team to carry out brand-reclamation-style link building

Where we are now

Just one year from that open and honest conversation, we have been able to show our value beyond launching campaign after campaign whilst still building links to the client’s content. This will hold value for years to come and mean that their reliance on campaigns will be reduced more and more over time.

We’re making good progress toward taking our reliance off campaigns and making it part of our strategy — not all of it. Yes, campaigns still drive the majority of links, but our strategy now includes some key changes:

  • All campaigns (with the odd exception) are evergreen in nature, can always be outreached, and have the ability to attract links on their own.
  • We are launching long-form, report-style content pieces that demonstrate the authority and expertise the client has in their industry, and then building links to them. (They’re far slower in terms of getting links, but they are doing well.)
  • We are raising the profile of key spokespeople within the business by connecting them with writers and journalists who can contact them directly for quotes and comments in the future.
  • We are doing prospecting and outreach for informational content, aiming to give them a nudge in rankings which will lead to more links in the future (that we didn’t have to ask for).

Link building isn’t quite a BAU activity just yet for this client, but it’s not far off from becoming one. The practice is taken seriously, not just within the SEO team, but also within the wider marketing team. There is more awareness than there has ever been.

Content strategy framework

I want to share the framework which we’ve used to support and visualize the shift away from campaigns as our sole link building strategy.

We’ve been aware for a while that we need to ensure any link building work we do is topically relevant. We’d found ourselves defaulting to content which was campaign-led and focused on links, as opposed to content that can serve other purposes.

Link builders need to take a long, hard look at the topics we want our clients and businesses to be famous for, credible to talk about, and that resonate with their audience. Once you have these topics, you can start to plan your content execution. After that, you’ll start to see where link building fits in.

Contrast this with the approach of “we need links, let’s come up with some relevant content ideas to help do that.” This can work, but isn’t as effective.

To help clients shift their strategies, we put together the framework below. Here’s how it works:

Let’s imagine we sell products that help customers sleep better. We may come up with the following themes and topics:



Notice that “Campaigns” is only one format. We’re also acknowledging that topics and themes can not only lead to other forms of content (and links), but also that our KPIs may not always be just links.

If we put together a long-form content guide on the science of sleep, it may not get on the front page of the New York Times, but it may get a slow, steady stream of links and organic search traffic. This traffic could include potential customers for a sleep product.

Once you have a specific topic in mind, you can go deeper into that topic and start thinking about what content pieces you can create to truly demonstrate expertise and authority. This will differ by client and by topic, but it could look something like this:

In this case, the blue circles denote a topic + format which may be link-worthy. While the orange ones denote a valuable execution that aren’t as link-worthy, we may still want to create this content for longer-term link and traffic generation.

To wrap up

Link building campaigns still have huge amounts of value. But if that’s all you’re doing for clients, you’re leaving opportunities behind. Think bigger and beyond campaigns to see what else can be done to move you and your business closer to link building nirvana.

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How to Choose the Most Link-Worthy Data Source for Your Content

Posted by Domenica

Fractl has produced thousands of content marketing campaigns across every topic, and for the past seven years, we’ve been keeping track of each and every campaign in order to refine and improve the content we produce on behalf of our clients.

In my last post for Moz, I explained how to set realistic digital PR expectations for your content based on your niche. In this topic, I want to dive a little bit deeper into the data and share insights about how the source of your content can be just as important in determining how your content will perform.

In this analysis, I looked at 1,474 client content campaigns across six different data source categories:

  • Client data
  • Social media
  • Participatory methods
  • Publicly available data
  • Survey
  • Germ swab

It’s important to note that there are countless other data sources that we use for content campaigns every day at Fractl that are not mentioned in this article. In this analysis, each category has at least 20 campaigns, while some categories have several hundred campaigns.

It’s also important to note that averages were collected by excluding upper outliers. For campaigns that went “viral” and performed well above the norm, we excluded them in the calculation so as not to skew the averages higher.

In addition to sharing link and press averages, I will also be walking through how to produce pressworthy, sharable content from each data source and providing examples.

Managing expectations across content types

Across the entire sample of 1,474 campaigns, a project on average received 24 dofollow links and 89 press mentions in total.

A press mention is defined as any time the content campaign was mentioned on a publisher’s website.

There were some individual data source category averages that were on par with the sample average, while other categories deviated greatly from the sample average.

Publicly available data

For almost any niche out there, you can bet there is a publicly available data set available for use. Some examples include data from the CDC, the U.S. Census, colleges and universities, the WHO, and the TSA. The opportunities really are endless when it comes to using publicly available data as a methodology for your content.

While free data sets can be a treasure trove of information for your content, keep in mind that they’re not always the simplest to work with. They do require a lot of analysis to make sense of the massive amount of information in them, and to make the insights digestible for your audience.

Take for example a campaign we produced for a client called Neighborhood Names. The data was free from the US Census, but in order to make any sense of it, our researchers had to use QGIS, Python, text-mining, and phrasemachine (a text analysis API) just to narrow it down to what we were looking for.

And what were we looking for? Looking at neighborhood names across America seems boring at first, until you realize that certain words correspond to wealth.

I was the outreach specialist for this project, and by using the wealth angle, I was able to secure two notable placements on CNBC as well as a press mention on MSN. The project quickly made its way around the internet after that, earning 76 dofollow links and 202 total press mentions by the end of our reporting period.

Survey

Unlike scouring the internet for free data, using a survey as a methodology can be more costly. That being said, there is one major advantage to using a survey to shape your content: you can find out anything you want.

While publicly available data will tell a story, it’s not always the story you want to tell, and that’s where surveys come in.

Of course, when it comes to surveys, anyone can create one without paying attention to research method best practices. That’s one of the problems we need to address. With “fake news” in the forefront of everyone’s minds in 2020, building trust with journalists and editors is of the utmost importance.

As content creators, we have a responsibility to ensure that content is not only attention-grabbing and entertaining, but also accurate and informative.

Survey campaigns, in particular, require you to analyze responses through a rigorous methodological lens. When collecting data for surveys, be sure to pay close attention to ethical upholdance, data validity, and fair visual representations.

Germ swab

From my own personal experience, germ swab content campaigns are the most fun, and often, the most disturbing. Fractl did some research a while back about the emotions that make content go viral, and oftentimes, germ swab campaigns hit all of the right emotions in the viral equation.

Negative emotions like disgust are often evoked when reviewing the results of germ swab campaigns. Our study found that when negative emotions are paired with emotions like anticipation or surprise, they can still achieve viral success (internet viral, not germ viral). What is more surprising than finding out the airplane tray table is dirtier than a toilet seat?

Publishers around the world seemed to think the content was surprising, too. This campaign performed above the norm for a typical content campaign earning 38 dofollows and 195 total press mentions — and this was before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Participatory methods

Participatory methods are campaigns that require active participation for the methodology. These are unique ideas — no two are alike. Some examples of campaigns that fall under the participatory methods category are when we had team members do a 30-day squat challenge, asked respondents to draw brand logos from memory, or when we literally drove from D.C. to NYC with a dash cam to record traffic violations.

These campaigns have a certain level of risk associated with them. They require a lot of upfront effort and planning without the promise of any return — and that’s scary for clients and for our team who put in tremendous effort to pull them off.

As you can see from the chart above, however, these ideas collectively performed right on par with other campaign types, and even better than survey methodologies for both the number of dofollow links and press mentions. In order to reap big benefits, it seems you need to be willing to take a big risk.

Social media

Social medIa as a data source is almost a no-brainer, right up there with survey methodologies and publicly available data sets. Unlike participatory methods campaigns, you don’t have to leave your computer in order to produce a campaign based on social media data.

Through our seven years of content creation, Fractl has produced campaigns based on data scrapes from Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, and more. From this experience, we know firsthand what kinds of social campaigns work and which ones fall flat.

The best thing about using social media as a source for content is that it can be applied to all verticals.

The biggest lesson we’ve learned from producing content based on social media data is that the methodology is typically subjective, so you need to keep the project lighthearted in nature in order to earn major coverage.

For example, we produced a campaign for a client in which we looked at Instagram posts with the hashtag #sexy and a geolocation. From this, we were able to glean the “sexiest” countries in the world as well as U.S. states.

While it would be impossible to learn what the actual sexiest places in the world were, (what does that even mean?) we were able to produce a fun campaign that used geo-bait to appeal to lighthearted publishers, like Glamour, E! Online, Women’s Health, and Elite Daily.

Make sure that no matter the topic, whatever you produce contributes to an ongoing conversation. Statistics that don’t point to anything meaningful won’t be relevant for writers actually trying to add to the conversation.

Client data

Client data is often the most underappreciated data source for content marketers. You may be sitting on a wealth of actionable industry insights and not even know it.

You might think of internal data as only being useful for improving your internal processes at work, but it can also be valuable outside of your organization.

Unlike publicly available data, internal data is never-before-seen and 100% unique. Journalists eat this up because it means that you’re providing completely exclusive resources.

Think of this article, for example. This article is filled with data and insights that Fractl has gleaned after producing thousands of content marketing campaigns.

An added bonus of using internal data to craft your content is that, according to our analysis, it performs on par with surveys. Unlike surveys, though, it’s completely free.

Conclusion

No matter what methodology you’re using or vertical you’re creating content for, it’s important to realize that as content creators, we have an ethical and moral responsibility to create with an audience in mind.

With “fake news” on the forefront of everyone’s minds, building and maintaining trust with writers and editors is of the utmost importance.

All of the content you produce and promote must be assessed through a rigorous methodological lens to ensure that content is accurate and informative as well as eye-grabbing and entertaining.

Regardless of your methodology, if you don’t take the proper steps to make sure your data sources are accurate, you are contributing to the fake news epidemic.

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Ecommerce marketing this Independence Day will be tricky: Four must dos

30-second summary:

  • This 4th of July is coming at a time when the US is seeing waves of social justice protests.  
  • People who are extremely anxious and frustrated in the current climate will pay little attention to your cookie-cutter July 4th themed advertisement.
  • What does this mean for ecommerce marketing and how can marketers?
  • Instead of tone-deaf messages and empty platitudes, how can businesses walk the walk?
  • Evelyn Johnson discusses how businesses need to keep peoples’ sentiments in mind as they try to drive their campaign home.

Independence Day this year will be the first big holiday after the relaxation of lockdowns across the US. While thanksgiving took place when most states had enforced strict social distancing protocols, Americans will celebrate the 4th of July with much more freedom. 

Not to forget, this 4th of July is also coming at a time when the country is seeing waves of social justice protests.  

But what does this mean for ecommerce marketers? For starters, the usual Independence Day campaign might not cut it anymore. People who are extremely anxious and frustrated in the current climate will pay little attention to your cookie-cutter July 4th themed advertisement.

So instead of generic Independence Day deals, you will have to take a new approach to Independence Day marketing. 

Here’s how you can go about it. 

Understand how people will celebrate this year

Independence Day celebrations have remained pretty much the same for decades. There are fireworks, barbecues, carnivals, parades, and a whole slew of activities. Some 4th of July stats from last year show around 48.9 million travel on this day.  

But due to the current outbreak, many people will avoid public gatherings this year. While there will still be parades and festivals, the scope of these events will be extremely limited. Instead, many people will be staying in for Independence Day this time around.  

This is where you have a window to cater to millions who will be staying at home. Products like board games and DIY items for crafting patriotic decorations might prove to be a big hit in the coming holiday.  

After singling out items you believe might sell well on 4th July, check out their popularity on Google trends leading up to the day. Understanding which new products are in demand will allow you to produce a holistic marketing campaign and target consumers with personalized advertisements. 

1. Convey to people that you care about their safety

Americans are hoping that the worst of the pandemic is behind them. But states and CDC are still recommending precautions such as washing hands, wearing masks, and maintaining some level of social distance.  

Here, brands can help customers in their quest to celebrate the 4th of July safely. Little things such as adding complimentary masks, face shields, gloves, and hand sanitizers to Independence Day deals will show consumers that you care about them.  

Of course, fireworks and soaps would be an odd pairing. But considering that 2020 has been the year of pandemics, a potential World War and UFOs — it would be the least bizarre offering of this year. 

2. Participate in a virtual parade

The coming Independence Day has marketing opportunities that previously did not exist, especially in the digital realm. Many communities in the United States have decided to take parades online, creating an unprecedented marketing avenue for brands.  

Sponsoring virtual parades might be uncharted territory for you but it’s a territory worth exploring. The pandemic has caused life to move online and marketers should get with the times.  

Since Independence Day parades are usually organized by communities, there’s also an opportunity in them for location-based marketing. Lookout for any virtual parades your customers might be interested in and reach out for sponsorship.  

Using this new medium, you can put out their message of solidarity, unity, and cooperation. This message will resonate with Americans who are feeling pessimistic due to everything that has unfolded in 2020. 

3. Add a flavor of patriotism to your products

Fourth of July is all about celebrating America and everything it has to offer. So don’t shy away from incorporating patriotic imagery and colors in your marketing efforts. To take things a step further, you can even combine patriotic imagery with products that are currently in demand and create new items.  

A recent study has shown widespread mask-wearing could prevent a second outbreak of COVID-19. Currently, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is also recommending that Americans should cover their faces to stop the spread of novel coronavirus.  

Retail businesses can help Americans curtail outbreaks by promoting special flag-themed face masks. These masks will promote a sense of responsibility in Americans to not only stay uninfected themselves but to stop others from getting the virus as well.  

4. Keep the focus on diversity

America is fortunate enough to have people from diverse backgrounds. People belonging to different ethnicities and colors have shaped this country. Independence Day is an opportunity to celebrate American diversity.  

Now more than ever, it’s a time to shine a light on the minority communities. And in light of recent events, it is the time for brands to uplift voices of those that are feeling suppressed and discriminated against.

Instead of tone-deaf messages and empty platitudes, enterprises should walk the walk. This means consciously joining forces with African-America, Latino, and Native-American influencers while promoting products designed by individuals from disadvantaged communities.

Independence Day this year will allow millions of Americans to blow off steam after months of distress. It will also be a day where they look towards their national identity as a source of strength and unity in a polarizing time. Businesses need to keep this sentiment in mind as they try to drive their campaign home.

The post Ecommerce marketing this Independence Day will be tricky: Four must dos appeared first on Search Engine Watch.

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