Tagged seo

The Best Money You’ll Ever Spend on SEO, Social, and Content

 

You may have all the technology and expertise in the world at your disposal, but do you have this crucial element to SEO, content and social media success?

the best money you'll ever spend on seo, social and contentDo you have a fantastic SEO platform? A beautiful piece of software, with all the data dots connected, and all the keyword bells and social media whistles that you could ever ask for? If your brand has a culture that is forward-thinking enough to recognize how crucial a tool like this is to the success of your digital marketing, then I hope the answer is yes.

But that’s not the only thing that demands your precious marketing dollars. Are you promoting your posts to precision-targeted audiences on Facebook? Gaining a following on Twitter by advertising your best stuff to key influencers? Utilizing all the many paid search tools to drive traffic to your brilliant content?

All these magnificent things are not cheap, but they are certainly worth it . . . IF you’ve also made another important little investment. An investment in great people.

Don’t underestimate what it takes to win in SEO, Social, & Content Marketing

It’s no secret that the biggest bottleneck in content marketing (and by extension, SEO and social) is TIME. It takes a huge amount of time to develop truly great content that delivers value, ranks in search, and resonates throughout social media. This is one of the biggest stumbling blocks that brands hit when developing their content marketing strategies and social plans. Most brands just don’t have enough people to actually execute what is needed to outpace competition and gain more ground in their markets.

I mean, on their own each thing you do for digital content doesn’t seem very daunting, and this is part of the perception that makes content ‘seem’ easier than it actually is. Seriously, how long does it take to write a 500 word blog post? But what about 4 or 5 of them? Maybe add a whitepaper in there, too? Throw together a handful of tweets every day? A few Facebook posts? Couple of things for LinkedIn? Pic for Instagram? And let’s not forget the time needed to crush it on YouTube. It adds up fast.

But that’s just reality, isn’t it? I mean, you can’t just ‘buy’ time, can you?

clock-1274699_640Yeah, actually, you can buy time.

What if I told you for the low, low price of a single person’s salary, you could flat-out BUY dozens more hours every week? Because that’s exactly what you’re doing when you hire people. Every person you bring on is paying your brand back with their time. All of it. Every day.

Hiring great people gives you their time, their expertise, and their knowledge to execute your strategies and tactics. Without great people to action those ideas and plans, they’re nothing more than decorations on Powerpoint slides.

1+1 = 2, mostly. Sometimes it’s 3. Possibly 4?

This is really basic math. When you go from one content writer to two, that’s instantly doubling the amount of content you can churn out. That’s two times the amount of original, fresh, relevant and valuable content for your brand to rank in search and share in social.

Yeah, it’s that simple, and it scales in huge ways. Once those two writers begin to develop synergies, sharing valuable research, conducting brainstorming sessions, etc, you’ll find that your content team becomes more than just the sum of its parts. They now have the support they need to do more than they could on their own.

Investing in people pays the biggest dividends of any dollar you spend in SEO, social, and content. People give you the ability to action what you’ve been told by all the data that you have in your analytics tools and platforms, and put in motion all the advice coming from your agencies and consultants. Great people and their time are the best things you can buy for your brand.

What Goes Into An Optimized Web Page?

A handy cheat sheet for evaluating your optimized web pages.

Back in the early days of Search Engine Optimization, there were not nearly as many factors influencing the visibility and authority of an average optimized web page. It used to be a simple matter of SEO basics, like choosing your keywords carefully, writing some solid copy, taking care of your headers, alt tags and meta tags, and BOOM you were pretty much done!

Well these days things are a bit more complex. There are more factors influencing a page’s SEO rank now than ever before, and it can be a daunting task for website managers, content creators, and SEO coordinators to keep track of them all. Fortunately, the team over at SurePayroll in partnership with Ghergich & Co. have created this nice, tidy infographic on the Anatomy of an Optimized Web Page to help keep things clear:

seo optimized web page Original post on SurePayroll’s blog: http://blog.surepayroll.com/anatomy-optimized-web-page/

 

For more information and advice on SEO, Web Page Optimization, or Digital Web Marketing Strategy, please don’t hesitate to Contact Me today!

Marketing Doubleshot Podcast – Ep. 5 – Brands as Media Companies & Google’s Doorway Page Update

In this episode Josh Muirhead and Jonathan Barrick discuss brands evolving in to full-fledged media companies, putting customer experiences and user-generated content at the forefront. Additionally, Jon and Josh discuss the news of Google’s latest algorithm change, taking aim at doorway pages, and what it means for your SEO strategy.

Links & resources mentioned in this episode:

5 Predictions for GoPro As A Media Company –www.edelmandigital.com/2015/02/19/friday5

Google To Launch New Doorway Page Penalty Algorithm –searchengineland.com/google-to-laun…gorithm-216974

Sammy Ganz, Author or ‘5 Predictions for GoPro As A Media Company’ article – twitter.com/sammyganz

Jay Schneider & the team at Brilliance Business Solutions –brillianceweb.com, twitter.com/emediavangelist

SEO Poison 2.0 – Revenge of the Linkfarmers

seo_poison_2It seems like it was a millenia ago that I wrote this article outlining the dangers to your web presence of purchasing sketchy backlinks -> SEO Poison: What you get when you hire a link farmer

In it, I wove a cautionary tale to marketers who are fed promises of ‘Page 1 on the Google!’ by less-than-reputable companies who claim to provide lots of backlinks to your site to help increase your rankings. However, these promises come with a heavy does of black-hat SEO practises that end up causing far more damage to your website than you’d expect.

You see, Google doesn’t like websites that try to game the system. Google really, really doesn’t like them. In fact, as you may be aware, Google releases regular updates to their algorithm, called ‘Penguin’ updates, in order to filter out sites that use shady backlinking to try and rise up in search results. If you give in to the glittery lure of cheap backlinks, prepare to have your site stomped in to the ground when Google releases a new Penguin update. It’s happened before, it’ll happen again, so be vigilant and follow with legit backlinking methods. In other words, if it sounds to good to be true, it most definitely is.

And yet, what of my original SEO Poison article? Well, I’m glad you asked! In true head-shaking, face-palming, rage-inducing fashion, ever since that post went live, those spammy linkfarmers decided that my article would be the absolute PERFECT place to try to jam in a bunch of garbage backlink comments. And it’s been happening a lot lately.

Behold, the latest batch of crap comments that have been banished to the depths of spam hell:

2015-03-16 09.46.02 am

Oh, and here’s a few more…

2015-03-16 09.46.56 am

And just for giggles, a few more…

2015-03-16 09.47.32 am

 

THIS is what you’re paying for when you hire those people. They’re so relentless and single-minded in purpose, they fail to even recognize that they are posting crap backlinks on an article specifically written to call them out on the very sleazy practise they are employing.

In the words of Kent Brockman, “There’s only one word for that, ladies and gentlemen: IDIOCY”

Don’t. Hire. Those. People.

Backlinks, just like any other aspect of your web presence, need to be built based on QUALITY and RELEVANCE. You don’t get those attributes by gaming the system. Put in the effort to find relevant locations on the web to place quality backlinks and you will reap the rewards.

Onward, to Total Immersion!

My next challenge has arrived, and oh what a challenge it will be.

It’s certainly no secret that I have a passion for the digital space, and all it entails. I see digital (web, internet, online, or whatever you want to call it) as a marketing battleground of equal or greater importance to any other that exists. We humans spend a huge amount of time with our faces glued to screens of various sizes; consuming, sharing, interacting, engaging, ranting, raving, recommending, and questioning. For a business to deny this fact simply ensures its demise, be it fast or slow.

Beyond that, however, advancements in digital over the last several years have enabled us to forge relationships between businesses and customers that were at the very least highly improbable, if not impossible. What used to take place within the confines of a businesses walls, or in the isolation of a one-to-one phone call, now takes place online, across multiple social channels, in full view of the world. Now, you can interact with a business online as if they were an old friend, and businesses in turn can in turn take advantage of word-of-mouth on an unprecedented scale. Local businesses can have global impact, and global brands have the ability to relate to customers on a local level. Lines have blurred, and in my opinion, it’s better for everyone.

Over the last several years, my career in marketing for an industrial B2B equipment manufacturer has evolved dramatically. Way back in the distant year of 2003, we used to play almost entirely in traditional media. Print ads in trade mags, directories and guidebooks, trade shows, etc. The web was typically just a supporting piece. An online catalog, in essence. Over time though, we saw a huge shift over to digital as the main resource for anyone researching potential suppliers like us. Being findable online was no longer an option, even for well-established B2B brands. You had to be present, and your presence had to be awesome enough to hit page 1 of Google’s results.

Then social media came along, and things changed again. Your website is now just one touchpoint in the digital space. Your blog, YouTube channel, LinkedIn presence, Facebook page, Twitter feed, etc, are all now weighed and measured against everyone else’s, and your relevance is calculated by factors out of your control. Namely, Google’s algorithm and the opinions of the people your customers talk to. Your brand isn’t what YOU say it is, it’s what THEY say it is.

While initially apprehensive on how an industrial manufacturer could really capitalize on these new channels, we made the decision to go for it in 2010, and the benefits of it became apparent almost immediately. The reasons were pretty obvious, even in the early stages of businesses using social media and content marketing. Who would read an ad when you could read a blog article that actually helps you solve a problem? Who pulls out a 2000 page directory when Google sorts the most relevant businesses for you? How would your business stack up if you’re the one who willingly helped a customer BEFORE they were ready to buy? Hmm…. I wonder.

We interwove social actions and content marketing in to our existing marketing efforts. We integrated social tools in to the website, published more content of a variety of types, expanded our presence at industry events, forged stronger relationships with customers, and connected with the community.

Fast forward to 2014. Content marketing, inbound marketing, and social marketing now play a huge role for almost every business, even industrial B2B niche brands. It doesn’t matter if you sell a $10 widget or a $1 million piece of machinery, customers want to know that you’re the most relevant. Period. Content marketing accomplishes this, but only if done right. The question each business now faces is this; What is our ‘right way’ to do content marketing?

Which brings me to the entire reason for this post; I’m moving on. I’m now going to be completely immersed in the world of content, social, and inbound marketing. I’ve accepted a gig as a marketing strategist and content architect at gShift, a company that has developed an incredible software tool that not only enables businesses to compile all their web presence stats in one powerful dashboard, but also enables them to overcome many of the obstacles currently plaguing marketers in the digital space. Struggling with the ‘not provided’ situation Google has thrust on you? gShift’s software can help. Under pressure to prove impact and ROI from your content marketing? gShift’s software can help. Want to know how your web presence stacks up against your mortal enemies? gShift’s software can help.

I’m pumped to begin this new challenge and be a member of the team that is at the forefront of developing the tools and techniques that businesses use to connect more effectively with their customers, become more findable online, and build a thriving brand. I believe that businesses who approach content marketing in the right way, and truly understand the impact that they can have in their industry by changing their mindset to deliver real value in their marketing, will be the ones that customers desire to do business with above all others. That’s the goal, and it’s an admirable one.

And now, onward! To total immersion!

Check out the awesomeness that is gShift -> http://gshiftlabs.com 

5 Tips to Unleash the Power of Long-Tail SEO

long-tail seo

People ain’t searching the way they used to. It’s a fact. Google doesn’t arbitrarily change their algorithms just because they ‘feel like it’. They do it because they’ve got endless piles of data that tell them how you’re searching, and they constantly tweak their system to deliver the most relevant results.

The most recent update to Google’s world famous/infamous algorithm (Hummingbird, for those of you keeping track) is mostly about ‘semantic’ search (aka: conversational search). In it’s simplest terms, semantic search is more like asking an actual question instead of just plugging in keywords.

For example: “hotels Toronto” vs. “What are the best boutique hotels in downtown Toronto?”

Semantic search queries have additional qualifiers beyond the basic subject. Words like best, closest, cheapest, fastest, etc. get at the root of what KIND of products and services the searcher is actually hunting for. Adding qualifiers to the base keywords creates what is known as ‘long-tail’ searches. These long-tail searches are looking for much more targeted, refined results. This is where the real opportunity presents itself for businesses. Get found for long-tail searches, serve up quality content that solves the searchers problem, and you’ve immediately delivered real value to a potential customer.

How do you make this work for your business? It’s actually a pretty simple formula.

1) Start with a powerful question – Think of the questions your business gets asked every day. What are the frustrations your customers have when evaluating alternatives & choosing products? What knowledge or experience do you have that can alleviate these frustrations? Choose a clearly defined question that originates from the point-of-view of your customers. The key to long-tail search is being a problem solver, so solve THEIR problems, not yours.

2) Write in your customers language – Your company may make the coolest widgets complete with MegaWidget® technology now available in colours like Arctic White™ and Fierce Red™, but none of those proprietary or trademarked words are going to make their way in to your customers search vocabulary. Long-tail search can only be unlocked if the language matches up. Your content needs to be crafted to read in the same manner that your customers talk. Use their terms, not yours.

3) Optimize & maximize – Once you’ve picked a valid question, and written a solid answer in the language that your customers understand, you need to make the piece of content visually readable & optimized. This includes a lot of little things that add up to make a big difference. Break out key points in to bold sub headers or lists, add in supporting images & graphics, embed related content like videos or tweets, link to related content in the body through keywords or phrases, provide a few options at the end for additional content that might be useful. All of these things give your content more weight, and deliver more value to the reader.

4) Put it here, there, and everywhere – You’ve got your content ready to release in to the world, and the time has come. Hit publish and spread it out to all relevant channels. If your community consumes content in various places then make sure this shows up in each of them, but be sure to tailor the share/post to fit the style of the place it’s being shared. Cookie-cutter repetition usually doesn’t jive when you’re dealing with different platforms and formats.

5) Repeat – Great job! You’ve now published a solid piece of content that will reap the rewards of targeted long-tail searches. Now do it again, again, and again. Sorry, but this is how it works. Do it for each and every relevant long-tail search you can think of that you are able to produce and deliver valuable, helpful content. Each question you answer and each problem you solve builds up your brand as the industry expert, as a solution provider, and as the preferred choice.

It’s a long road to go down, but the benefits of being found not just for ‘keywords’, but for solutions to well-defined problems are massive. The most crucial factor of the long-tail search is that it hinges on your ability to deliver value at first sight. You need a legit solution to the question being asked. Solve the problem, and you’ve delivered the value. Search is getting smarter all the time, and so should your content. This is what long-tail is all about; smarter searches, smarter content.

Handy Visual SEO Chart -> The Periodic Table Of SEO Ranking Factors

The great folks over at Search Engine Land created this brilliant infographic full of handy SEO information.

From the Search Engine Land post:

“Search engine optimization — SEO — may seem like alchemy to the uninitiated. But there is a science to it. Search engines reward pages with the right combination of ranking factors, or “signals.” SEO is about ensuring your content generates the right type of signals.

Our chart below summarizes the major factors to focus on for search engine ranking success (and thanks to Column Five Media, for the infographic design).”

Direct link to original post: http://searchengineland.com/seotable

Download PDF of chart here: http://searchengineland.com/seotable/download-periodic-table-of-seo

SEO Poison: What you get when you hire a link farmer

by Jonathan Barrick

Ever get a phone call from someone claiming to be from XYZ Digital Web Services who’s been researching your company’s website on Google and noticed that it isn’t on page 1 for important keywords? Then they’ll kindly tell you that they can help get you ranked on the first page of all major search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal, right? After all, it’s a lot of work to get on page 1 of Google. You’re competing with all the really big sites for those top spots, and it’s a real tough fight!

There’s just one problem: They get you there by flooding the internet with garbage. It’s called ‘Black Hat SEO’, and it is the scourge of internet marketers worldwide. It relies entirely on exploiting search engine algorithms for their loopholes and selling these tricks as legitimate services to unsuspecting companies.

For example, let’s look at one of the most common exploits employed by these scammers: Backlinks. Most seasoned SEO pros will tell you of the importance of backlinks. These are links found on other sites that point back to yours. In a nutshell, the more backlinks you have, the better. The quality of those backlinks is the second half of the equation. Backlinks to your site that are found on popular, relevant websites are worth far more in the eyes of search engines than those found on sites that have nothing to do with your company or industry.

However, these SEO magicians that claim to boost you to page 1 on Google simply ignore the ‘quality’ side of the equation and just go after ‘quantity’. They employ their armies to scour the internet for any blog or website that allows comments to be posted, and randomly post gibberish text containing links to your site. These poor victim sites and blogs end up with junk comments piling up on their posts, with little else they can do but manually delete each one. Often times they slip by unnoticed, perpetuating the problem for everyone.

There are a few telltale signs that comments are being posted by a link farmer. Often riddled with horrifying grammar and spelling mistakes, within each comment there will inevitably be a backlink embedded in to the text of the comment so that it doesn’t immediately get caught at a glance. You actually need to read it to be sure of what it is. Once you do, you’ll notice how completely irrelevant they are to the content of the original post.

Fortunately, Google and other search engines aren’t just sitting on their hands. They don’t want their systems gamed any more than we do, so they’re constantly tweaking their algorithms to close loopholes and make results increasingly more ‘real’ based on what you’re looking for.

Often times what happens with companies who fall victim to link farmers and Black Hat SEO will notice a massive drop in their rankings whenever Google releases a new major update to their algorithms. This is because whenever those exploits and loopholes get closed, Google slams the door really hard on sites that have been gaming the system.

Here’s the thing about SEO: No matter what detailed changes occur in their algorithms, search engines will always reward websites that:

  1. Have quality content
  2. Are updated regularly
  3. Are linked and backlinked with relevant partners

If you cover those three bases, then you shouldn’t see any drastic swings when an SEO update occurs. There’s no magic bullet for SEO. It’s a long term investment, and rewards those who focus on quality, above all else. So the next time you get a call from someone promising magical SEO results guaranteed to push you to #1 – Politely say “Thanks, but no thanks”.

But we can each do our part to help minimize the problem:

  • Delete any comments like these that find their way on to your site or blog.
  • Don’t hire any company making lofty promises about page 1 rankings.
  • Spread the word to colleagues to they don’t fall victim either.
  • Focus your site content on quality, and release new material as regularly as you can.

Black Hat SEO and link farming sucks for everyone. Customers hate it because there’s no guarantee that the companies on page 1 of Google actually deserve to be there. Companies hate it because even if they are the most relevant company for the keywords, they can be bumped down on the list of results because of sites who game the system. Unsuspecting companies who do hire link farmers take a major reputation hit when they get found out, and when algorithm changes cause their rankings to plummet. It’s just bad news all around. I hope this post sheds a bit of light on how link farmers operate, and why you should avoid it like the plague. If this post saves at least one good company from getting involved with the ‘bad crowd’, it’ll all be worth it.

This article originally written for http://crowdshifter.com

Share of Search – How much interest are you capturing?

by Jonathan Barrickimage

Web metrics are in a constant state of evolution. As we gain access to more and more raw data and behavioural reports through tools like Google Analytics, the necessity of using more effective metrics rises to put all that data in to some kind of useful context so that we can truly understand what the information is really telling us about our business and markets.

One of the most powerful metrics that I’ve been experimenting with more frequently lately is what Google Analytics wizard Avinash Kaushik refers to as ‘Share of Search’ (number 6 on his list of key metrics). In simplest terms, ‘Share of Search’ can be defined as the portion of overall online interest in a particular keyword that you are capturing. That is to say, if there are 100 searches every day for your product category, how many would your site receive? 10%? 20%? 50%?

If your ability to be found online is important to you, then taking a look at what your current estimated share of search is, and making changes to potentially improve this metric, could have dramatic effects on how you approach your online activities. Fortunately, this is a relatively simple metric to calculate, requiring only a few points of data which are easily obtained.

Here’s how simple the formula is:

Your monthly search referral traffic for a specific keyword or phrase / Google’s average monthly searches for that specific keyword or phrase x 100 = Your estimated % share of search.

You can easily obtain your sites monthly search referrals for specific keywords or phrases from your Google Analytics dashboard. To get the average overall searches for that phrase or keyword through Google, you can use the Google Keyword Tool. Simply make sure that you’re comparing apples to apples by setting the same criteria and restrictions in both tools (country/region, keyword vs. phrase, etc).
image

Once you’ve obtained your estimated Share of Search, you can begin to monitor it for changes. As your share of search rises, you should try to determine what factors this might correlate to. Did you do a big advertising push? Is interest in your product seasonal? Did you publish strong new content such as blog posts or educational articles? Is there a trade show coming up?

If your share of search decreases, take a look at what might be causing it. Are competitors making big changes to their websites or publishing strong new content? Is your industry seeing an overall decline? Are your ads or marketing messages misaligned with market needs? Is your product becoming obsolete?

Continually monitoring your Share of Search allows you to keep tabs on how ‘findable’ your business is, and how effective your web properties are at capturing the interest of your potential customers. Remember: Search performance is all based on RELEVANCE. The more relevant your content, the more you should see your share of search increase. In theory, an increase in share of search should correlate to an increase in market share as well. Hence, by measuring changes to your share of search and comparing to changes in your market share, you can see if there are disconnects or misalignments in your content, marketing messages, and product offerings.

The real key to effective web metrics is CONTEXT. Simply looking at big numbers like page views and number of visitors doesn’t give you any insight in to how you compare to the rest of the world out there. By looking at more context-driven metrics like share of search, you can begin to understand how your actions impact your performance in the market.  However keep in mind that there is no one magic metric that answers all questions. Share of search is just one more gauge of performance for you to look at. There are many more, but hopefully the simplicity of share of search and the insight it can give you will inspire you to dig deeper in to your data and see the real story that it’s trying to tell you. Big numbers mean nothing. Big context is everything.

This article originally written for http://crowdshifter.com

Analyzing Analytics

I started working with website analytics back in 2004. At the time our company’s online efforts were very rudimentary. Basically they consisted of a simple website, dabbling in pay-per-click advertising, and that was about it. We also had a very small team in Marketing. There was really only me, my boss, and one other person working in a different location. As a result, all the web stuff basically fell on to me, as far as content creation and maintenance, but I had very little influence in the visual aspect or strategic objectives of the site. Those factors were, of course, determined by the ‘higher-ups’ at the time.

We’d also had a change in the company name in the previous 12 months, so naturally there were some drastic changes in the online presence of the company. All the search engine rankings we had built up under the old company name basically disappeared when we went to the new domain name and site. Incoming leads through the website fell off significantly. It was almost as if the whole thing was starting from scratch. Sure, we had the benefit of the old domains referring traffic, but it just wasn’t performing the way people had become accustomed to.

The problem was that there was no data to compare against. No historical performance on any web metrics, not even basic traffic counts. Nobody knew where the problem was, or what to do about it. Then, during one particularly beneficial web browsing session, I stumbled upon the WebCEO site. I was immediately intrigued, although naturally a bit skeptical. Since they had a free trial there was no reason NOT to try it, so we fired it up and checked out what it could do.

The results were dramatic. Using the SEO section of the program, we were able to get our rankings on all the most important keywords to hit top-5, and many other secondary terms had us consistently on the first page of all the search engines. The traffic also shot up within the first 6 months. Within a year, we’d easily doubled the monthly traffic compared to what we were getting that first month, and it continued to grow.

For a long time, that was it. WebCEO served us well in those first few years, but eventually things started to plateau. The company had changed, too. I was now the Marketing Manager, with my own staff and a new set of objectives for the future, many of them web-related and focusing on what could be done to grow our web presence. Now, the economy going in to the toilet didn’t help anybody, but we suspected that there might be other factors at work that were limiting the growth we were so used to.

First thing we realized was that it was time for a complete overhaul. Not simply a facelift or a fresh coat of paint, but a total rebuild. So we did. Brand new site, much more elegant navigation and significantly improved layout. In addition, we started to look again at what we were doing with our analytics. More specifically, what we weren’t doing. We had the numbers, but had no context to put them in to. Our site had Xnumber of hits? Well, that’s great, but what does that mean? Are we overachieving or underachieving?

The Canadian Marketing Association Conference 2010 provided an answer, but would it be THE answer? Not sure, but Google Analytics appeared very enticing given our situation. A new way to look at the numbers? That sounded pretty good, and Avinash Kaushik‘s presentation at that conference just helped to convince us that there was a lot more we could be mining from that data.

So, a couple of months later and we’re swimming in a sea of new numbers. The question now: Can we provide the kind of information that our business can use to make some positive changes? Finding the metrics to determine if you’ve designed a good site is relatively easy. But finding metrics that the accounting team can use, or the production team can use, or the engineering team can use, or the customer service team can use? Therein lies the rub.

Website analytics has moved far beyond ‘improving the website’ and is now becoming a key factor in ‘improving the business’. My new objective: Prove that to the rest of the company.