LinkedIn Turns Audience Data Into Action

LinkedIn just released the results of a study that reveals some intriguing findings about the SMB segment. While there are still some small-to-mid-sized companies dragging their feet when it comes to tapping into social media as a marketing channel, many are moving full-steam ahead. And it’s working.

LinkedIn’s Small Business Insights

LinkedIn commissioned TCN to conduct a survey of nearly 1,000 SMBs (defined here as enterprises with revenues between $1 million and $49.9 million annually) on their use of and perceptions about social media. It turns out that there’s a clear correlation between  social media spend and growth: 73 percent of SMBs experiencing hyper-growth reported increased investments (time and money) in social media marketing within the past year.

Overall, 8 out of 10 SMBs are using social media for marketing, with 81 percent reporting that they use social media to drive business growth. Ninety-four percent (94%) of SMBs that are leveraging social media use it for marketing, and half also use it for learning and deriving business insights. (Read: B2B marketers, you’ve got a captive audience of SMBs on social media!)

And that’s not all. Three out of five SMBs using social media say it helps them gain new customers. Ninety-one percent (91%) of hyper-growth SMBs (the ones experiencing rapid growth) say social media is valuable for generating awareness, and 82 percent say social media generates new leads for their businesses.

 linkedinsmallbizgraph

This Isn’t Another “You Should Use Social Media” Post

But, wait. This actually isn’t just another post about why social media should be a part of your multi-channel marketing campaigns. These statistics speak for themselves. The point here is that LinkedIn gained some incredibly valuable data from this study — which was presumably relatively simple to implement. Sure, LinkedIn has a slew of resources at its disposal. But any company could conduct a similar study; in fact, there’s probably a heap of data about your customers at your fingertips, if you just know how to find it. The question is how you’re using it to your advantage.

No, this isn’t just another obligatory “You should be using social media to market your business, and here’s why!” post. You already know you should be incorporating social into your marketing mix. This story is about how LinkedIn turned data into actionable insights.

LinkedIn didn’t just conduct a study, throw together some fancy data visualizations and plaster it all over the web. They learned that small businesses stand to reap huge benefits from social media marketing — so they created a niche resource targeted to their small business members. The LinkedIn Small Business Resource Center is a goldmine for small business owners who want to explore the capabilities of LinkedIn.

If you know me, you know I’m a sucker for data, and I’m a sucker for tools, apps, and technology. There are dozens of tools out there to help you both collect and analyze data — even those that help you translate raw data into actionable insights. LinkedIn is a perfect example of how companies should be tapping into data capabilities and transitioning all those numbers into real-world products and services.

LinkedIn Talks the Talk – and Walks the Walk

Actually, LinkedIn even takes it a step further. You’ve probably heard that LinkedIn has opened up its publishing platform to all users. Well, to an initial 25,000 members while the rest will be rolled out over the next few months. While not exclusively targeted to small business, it’s certainly a beneficial feature that small businesses can tap into to increase their  exposure and start building credibility in their industries.

The other benefit is that members can now follow any other member — whether a part of the user’s network or not. That means you can follow thought leaders without sending an invitation to connect (and risk being rejected – oh no!), but more importantly that other users can follow you (cause you’re a thought leader too, ya know). In other words, it’s an opportunity to grow your influence.

Next time you’re reading a headline about the latest and greatest study, dig a little deeper. What’s the company actually doing with its newfound data? Better yet, what are you doing with it? You don’t have to conduct your own study to make actionable use of data — but you should be taking action to put information into play and get in the game.

Image via LinkedIn: Priming the Economic Engine

10 Free, Must-Have Tools to Enhance Your Content with Graphics

If you’ve been following the world of inbound marketing, you’ve probably read about thought leaders proclaiming that content marketing is the new SEO. And it’s true. But we’re going to take that one step further and say that content is the core, the foundation of and the key to inbound marketing success. Period. Think about it: Enhance Your Content with Graphics

  • What’s the driving force behind your social media campaigns? Content. 
  • What do you use to drive backlinks? Content.
  • How do you generate leads from your website? Content.
  • How do you get better search rankings? Content.

Content is Just Writing–Right? 

It’s pretty clear that it’s tough to achieve any real success online without quality content. And if you think content is limited to your website copy, think again. Today’s content encompasses images, videos and a slew of written formats–all of which are critical to driving inbound leads. Social updates that include images get more clicks than those that do not.

Data visualizations help you reach a broader portion of your audience–who wants to read five pages of text when they can get the facts they need from an infographic? And images on landing pages can be used to direct eye-path and boost conversion rates. The reasons you should be using images in your content are endless.

Data Visualization Tools for Non-Designers

But what if you’re not a graphic designer? You can fiddle around with an outdated version of Photoshop (guilty as charged), or you can take advantage of the many amazing tools out there that help you create compelling graphics–for free. Here’s a look at a few of the best free tools to create infographics, charts, graphs, mind maps, data visualizations and more.

  1. Infogr.am – Create powerful charts using real data and generate complete infographics using customizable templates. Even though you’re using free templates created by professional designers, the customization options make it easy to create a totally unique look. And, there are built-in sharing options, too.
  2. Creately – You can only have up to five public diagrams with the free version, but the personal plan is just $5 per month and offers unlimited public diagrams–and the ability to collaborate with five other users per diagram. The platform is a simple interface that lets you create powerful charts, graphs and other data visualizations, including flow charts, mockups, mind maps, concept maps, Venn diagrams and much more.
  3. Venngage – Not only can you create infographics, but you can track analytics for your graphics, as well. Find out who’s viewing your graphics and which of your creations is most popular.  Over time, figure out which styles, visualizations and data sets make the biggest impact to refine your strategy.
  4. Tableau – Create charts and other visualizations with ease for embedding in your website or for social sharing.
  5. Piktochart – Piktochart offers both free and paid versions. For beginners, the free version offers six free themes for you to start creating quality infographics. If you want to make use of the 100+ themes available (and customizable), the paid version is just $29 per month–and you can get a discount if you opt to pay annually.
  6. Inkscape – An open-source graphics editor, Inkscape is useful for customizing graphics when you don’t have advanced software, such as Illustrator. It does require a little more graphics prowess, but can be helpful for tweaking graphics and images if you’re an amateur designer.
  7. Easel.ly – Another infographic tool, Easel.ly offers drag-and-drop functionality to create compelling infographics. It couldn’t be simpler.
  8. Many Eyes – Upload your own data or use data already available on the site to create scatterplots, matrix charts, graphs, pie charts, word trees, tag clouds and word clouds. And more. Total awesomeness, and a great tool for generating smaller visualizations to customize a larger infographic. Yes, please.
  9. Visual.ly – Once a good tool for finding infographics produced by others, Visual.ly’s “Create” feature lets you choose a template and customize it for your own needs. Bonus feature: You can sign up to get your Google Analytics data sent to you in infographic form each week.
  10. Hohli Online Charts Builder – Quickly generate pie charts, graphs, radar charts and more to embed in blog posts, on your website or share with your social networks. Or, use multiple types of visualizations to create a larger infographic.

Now you have no excuse to leave your posts wanting more. Start using compelling data visualizations to enhance your content, boost open and click-through rates, engage your readers and generate conversions.

 

Chicken or the Egg? Content or Social? Which comes first?

**Warning! Slightly dirty joke ahead….

content versus social mediaWhat came first the chicken or the egg? Some may say the rooster, but the same age old debate can be applied to content marketing.

What comes first good content or a good social network? Many companies are quick to assign a social networking team, but it becomes all too obvious when a company doesn’t have quality content to share. These are the companies that are posting random photos asking you to “caption this” or continually linking to static pages or posts from 2010.

Some people will argue that you need good social networks in order for your online content to be viewed. After all, your network is your safety net, if you will. It’s the people who are more likely to read your material and visit your site because they recognize the quality of work that you produce.

But, I counter that it’s good content that drives a flourishing social network. You are not going to have fans and followers just by sharing someone else’s’ content or driving your loyalists to the same material over and over again.

By creating compelling and share-worthy content you create opportunity to grow your network.  It’s an exponential growth with each retweet or Facebook share reaching a new audience. It’s not rocket science. Good content extends your reach more than any other media ever could.

Twitter for business

 

Creating compelling content doesn’t have to be hard. In fact, the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Content shouldn’t be all about you

As marketers and business owners, it’s tough to retrain our brains to stop talking about ourselves. In the sales field, it’s all you do. You’re either talking about your own product or the downfall of the competitors. Not often do you spend significant time just talking about other topics of interest to your customer.

But, it really is okay, from time to time, to brag about yourself, sell your products or mark your territory.

Turn a News Story into Relevant Content

Breaking industry news has your network abuzz? Capitalize on it. Write about your perspective on the situation or how the outcome may affect you. Just be careful. What you write on the web has a way of sticking with you so if it’s something you feel passionate about (or that gets your blood boiling) be sure you take a step back and read what you’ve written before you publish. You don’t want to damage your reputation just because your emotions are flying.

Tips and Tricks of the Trade

Do you have trade secret that you’re willing to share? This is the perfect, most ideal, sometimes the easiest of content to create. How-to’s, tips for success and compilation of tools of the trade that will make your customer’s life easier are sure to garner attention.

Write to Your Audience

Match your tone and voice to that of your audience. Write to the level at which they do. In some industries a younger, more casual tone of voice is acceptable, where in others it’s wiser to maintain a level of professionalism. Often, finding a balance between the two will maximize your content and keep your blog from being too dry or too casual for the out-of-the-box visitor.

So, what’s your take? Which would you rather have: A good social following or good content?

Infographic by SocialReflexion.com. Image via Stock.xchng by erikjager

Google is the Real King of Content

We’ve heard it said. Content is King. Reality is: Google is King.

Content is King

Google is really The King when it comes to content marketing.

Google’s continual changes have shaped the world of digital marketing. SEO was once the go-to strategy. But the search engine giant became wise to the rogue tactics of some less than reputable “experts” who were stuffing keywords into less than stellar content.

The Panda update began to recognize the consumer’s need for content. Google’s algorithm changes began including fresh content. SERPs were filling with pages of companies that were updating their content regularly.

Compromised Quality Leads to More Changes

The problem became, however, that the quality of the content was significantly compromised. Many companies turned to content mills to churn out post after post, stuffed with keywords (relevant or not) in order to fool Google into returning less than optimal results.

Google has once again placed an emphasis on content. This time recognizing and rewarding company’s whose content is not only fresh and relevant, but is of quality. Who decides what quality is? Well, that’s subjective at best, but it’s going to quite difficult to simply stuff a bunch of random keywords into a blog post and get desired rankings.

Content Mills Demand Quantitycontent mills

Now, we know there are still a handful of content mills, offering bottom-dollar rates for content production. They’re an easy resource for many companies who don’t know where else to turn and haven’t yet placed a value on their content.  But, as with anything, you get what you pay for.

Think about it. If you’re paying a freelance writer $8 per post, they need to write nearly 6 posts EVERY SINGLE day, just to make $16,000. And for many writers who are hoping to make a career out of this, that means, they need to double, if not triple their production in order to find any sort of financial stability.

Engaging Content = Quality Content

And, what’s worse than Google not recognizing your hard work: Not publishing content that is share worthy. Your money and your social media efforts are thrown out the window if you don’t have engaging content worthy of your readers’ time.

Will you find a qualified writer among the pool? Sure you will. There is no doubt that some very talented individuals are ramping up their portfolios or getting their feet wet via these mills, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.  As a client, you’re more than likely just going to be the next assignment in the queue. Your business is a dime-a-dozen to the mill writers because once your project is finished they’re on to the next.

Therefore, the end result you’re getting is quantity, not quality. In fact, I’d challenge those businesses to examine their ROI, analyze their social shares and compare that to a company that is publishing quality posts. Or better yet, I challenge them to find QUALITY writers to help manage their own content and compare the success.

What would you rather pay for: Quality or Quantity?

 

Image by hisks and lubra via stock.xhcng

Bloggers should only write small paragraphs…Hogwash!

We live in an ADD society. We are barraged with information on our desktop, our laptops, our tablets and our smartphones. Of course, that’s in addition to TV, radio and traditional print materials. We’re constantly multitasking (or attempting to) and our brains are running at unprecedented paces. Blog design

Because of this notion, many content “experts” have been suggesting that copy should be written differently than traditional business communications. It’s becoming a trend for blog posts to be chock full of miniscule paragraphs designed to capture the attention of the scanner.And while small paragraphs may make sense in some venues (depending upon the viewer), really small paragraphs can come across as insulting, and in all honesty, a little amateurish.

**NOTE** I’m all for smaller paragraphs, but I’ve been noticing a trend lately of professional bloggers spacing their thoughts just for the sake of creating more white space.

Understanding doesn’t always mean reading every word

Many people can read a novel in just a few hours if it’s really engaging. Is it read it word for word? Probably not. But, you can capture the essences by skimming the material. Do you miss some of the details? Perhaps. But most of simply don’t have the time to spend taking in every word (Oh, how I miss those days!!).

But, comprehending the novel isn’t because the prose is written in small chunks, but rather because it’s is worthy of the time commitment. Page after page, the story compels you to read on.

The same thing happens when reading a blog. If the headline is bold enough to capture your attention or spark an interest you will read through a good bit of the post. You may not process each and every word, but if the post incorporates key elements the main points should be sufficiently remembered and easy to find.

Headline:

The headline is the most critical element of the post. You have less than 3 seconds to garner enough attention for a reader to continue reading or click through. Without a killer headline, you’re more likely to be just be

Subheads:

Instead of small paragraphs, subheadings can point a reader to a particular topic within your post, or entice them to continue reading.

Images/Screenshots:

Photos are worth a thousand words and coordinating images and screenshots can do more for a blog post than all the white space in the world combined. And, you get the added bonus of being able to include alt tags and captions using your keywords.

Bullet points:

Another way to create a scannable post is to utilized bulleted lists, highlighting important posts and information. The bullets attract the reader and make the information stand out amongst the text. It’s not a cure all for a copy-heave post, but it does help signify to the reader that this information is worthy of their time.

Font:

Just because your font is designed for the average nursing home patient does not mean that it will capture your readers’ attentions. In fact, overly large font, excessive use of bold and italics, and nonsensical color placement will do nothing more than annoy your readers. Use bold, italics, color and larger than average font sizes sparingly.

So what do you think? Do you like the extra white space provided by micro-paragraphs? Or, would you rather read a complete thought without having to skip through the unnecessary white space?

 

Image via stock.xchng by celalteber

 

10 Favorite Comment Spams from the CODA Blog

One of the habits I’ve gotten into since starting this business is checking my Spam folder just to be certain I’m not missing something important.   Undoubtedly, there are at least five or six messages tagged as comments for published blog posts. Some of them are valid. Bu the rest, well, they’re just poorly translated, irrelevant, nonsensical comments from random sources just looking for a someone to post their comment in hopes of getting the links published and  earn well below minimum wage for their efforts.

comment spam

Is your inbox full of spam?

Here are our 10 Favorite Comment Spams from the CODA Concepts blog, complete with spelling and grammar errors:

1. Hello, I’m well known fraudster from Russia. For more informations about me cisit my blog

(Honesty is so refreshing!)

2. Thank you for the sensible critique. Me & my neighbor were just preparing to do a little research on this. We got a grab a book from our area library but I think I learned more clear from this post. I’m very glad to see such magnificent information being shared freely out there.

(Library? Really? Neighbors taking a trip to the library to do research just seems a little far fetched, don’t ya think?!)

3. I wish to show thanks to you just for bailing me out of this type of trouble. After surfing throughout the world-wide-web and getting ideas which were not productive, I figured my life was gone. Being alive without the answers to the problems you have solved through the article is a crucial case, and those which may have badly affected my entire career if I hadn’t come across your web blog. The talents and kindness in taking care of all the stuff was very useful. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I had not encountered such a stuff like this. It’s possible to at this point look ahead to my future. Thanks a lot so much for your professional and amazing help. I will not hesitate to suggest your web blog to anybody who needs and wants direction on this matter.

(So glad we could provide such a compelling post that we saved this poor soul’s life!)

4. A person essentially lend a hand to make seriously posts I might state. This is the very first time I frequented your web page and to this point? I amazed with the analysis you made to create this particular submit incredible. Magnificent job!

(I just love the raw translation on this one. I wonder what the native language is?)

5. The the next time I just read a blog, I genuinely hope that this doesnt disappoint me approximately brussels. Get real, Yes, it was my option to read, but I actually thought youd have some thing intriguing to say. All I hear is typically a couple of whining about something that you could fix when you werent too busy searching for attention

(I still have no idea what “approximately brussels” could possible mean. Any ideas??)

6&7. It essentially replied my dilemma, thank you! and This really answered my drawback, thank you!

(Someone used their Thesaurus!)

8. Attractive element of content. I just stumbled upon your weblog and in accession capital to claim that I acquire actually loved account your blog posts. Any way I’ll be subscribing for your feeds or even I achievement you get right of entry to consistently quickly.

(Huh?)

9. Appreciate it for all your efforts that you have put in this. very interesting information. “Be bold and mighty powers will come to your aid.” by Basil King.

(Editor’s Note: Nothing quite like a spammy fortune cookie!)

10. I’ve been surfing online more than three hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours. It’s pretty worth enough for me. In my view, if all web owners and bloggers made good content as you did, the web will be much more useful than ever before.

(Awww, shucks…that’s really sweet!)

The worst part about the spam is that we’re forced to weed through it to sort out legitimate comments. Fortunately, the spam is so bad, it’s not hard to spot a well-writen, thought out post amongst all the BS that comes our way.

I know we’re not alone. Share your favorites, but make sure it’s obvious that your sharing so you don’t end up in the spam file!

Image via stock.xchng by laynecom

 

 

 

 

Blogging is Dying — Say What?

It’s true: Blogging is on the decline. At least that’s according to new research from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth’s Center for Marketing Research. Researchers say that their longitudinal study (of online activities of the Inc. 500)  indicates that just 37 percent of the companies interviewed report maintaining a corporate blog last year — less than half of those recorded in 2010.

So what’s happening? A look at this study alone would indicate that companies aren’t seeing a value in blogging and are decreasing their frequency or the use of the medium altogether. But what’s the real scoop? We’ve taken a look at several opinion pieces to piece together the REAL reason behind these stats, and where the opportunity lies for you. In the end, it’s not the trend that matters, but your own opportunity — right?

Is social media killing blogging?

ReadWriteWeb seems to think that social media is taking over, noting that 90 percent of the companies reporting in UMass’ study say that social media is crucial for brand awareness and reputation. And BusinessesGrow.com features a useful graph detailing the usage of Inc. 500 companies among blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Video and Podcasting. It’s pretty clear that Facebook is the standout winner, with LinkedIn coming in close second among the Inc. 500 group:

Inc. 500 Social Media Usage

Image by BusinessGrow.com

 

Here’s where it gets sticky: Despite the decline in corporate blogging, BusinessGrow says 62 percent of the companies not currently blogging are considering adding a corporate blog within the next year. Huh? Confused yet? So are we!

Here’s the real deal

Okay, honestly: Great blogging doesn’t come cheap. So in light of corporate cutbacks, shrinking stocks and other economic turmoil, it’s more than possible some Inc. 500s have been cutting back over the past couple years. And while social media has taken the business world by storm, more and more businesses are realizing there must be some quality CONTENT behind all that social in order to make an impact and drive traffic and sales. And that’s precisely where your blog comes in.

So where are you sending those engaged social audiences? Sure, you could post random status updates asking unimportant questions to your Facebook audience, but what value is that bringing to your business?

Don’t forget SEO

CODA Concepts blogFurthermore, you have to consider SEO value in your content strategy. Google has made it clear that both freshness and frequency are crucial, and you can’t over-optimize. So why try to push more and more backlinks to your static pages when you can earn organic backlinks to your blog posts? Great blogging, especially when you can categorize it as share-worthy or linkbait, remains one of the most solid strategies for generating inbound traffic — and leads.

The bottom line

So what’s the bottom line for you? Well, if you’re lucky enough to be reading this blog, you’re in luck. This recent research indicating that blogging is on the decline spells an opportunity: Many of those reading news of this research will immediately drop blogging from their marketing repertoire. Which leaves more opportunity for you. Nothing — absolutely nothing — other than a blog allows you to meet so many of Google’s specifications in one sitting. You’re incorporating keywords, you’re posting fresh content, and you’re posting keyword-rich and not heavily optimized content. By capitalizing on the value of your social networks, you’ll earn valuable backlinks and generate crucial engagement that will bolster your success online.

Want to know more about why content should come before social? Keep tabs on our blog; we’ll be offering up those details later this week!

 

 

Your Blog is Lame: 5 Tips to Overcome Blogging Blandness

The boring blog. It’s almost as bad as no blog at all. You may be drawing traffic with some catchy headlines, but your readers are bouncing because your content simply can’t hold their attention.  But, before you get all worked up over a lame blog, give yourself a pat on the back for having one in the first place. At least you’re moving your marketing efforts in the right direction.

Boring blogs

Are you falling asleep reading your own blog? Guess what? So is everyone else!

So, if you’re writing posts that you wouldn’t even read yourself, here are five great tips to overcome your blogging blandness.

Don’t be too newsy: Just because you’re writing “professionally” doesn’t mean you have to sell your soul to the AP gods. Structuring your blog and your voice to mimic that of the New York Times or Washington Post is only appropriate if you’re really writing for a news organization. If using text speech or purposefully misspelled words adds emphasis to your post, then go for it. It’s not critical that you follow each and every style guide rule when writing blogs. In fact, throw out your AP Style Guide and just write naturally.

That’s not to say there isn’t a time or a place for a serious tone. If there’s a crisis within the organization that needs appropriate PR management, your blog is an ideal place to address the concerns of your consumer or organization.

Insert Personality: Humor and wit are okay. In fact, they’re a welcome break from the dry, drab nonsense that is traditionally associated with B2B communications. Finding a voice and a tone that your target consumers can relate to is essential. Sometimes a little levity goes a long way.

Again, remember that there is a time and place for everything and there are some taboo topics which, unless you’re looking for controversy, you should steer clear of.

Find colorful images: Colorful images, both literally and metaphorically, work to capture the attention of your readers. Bold and bright colors will help grab your readers’ attention keeping them from bouncing. (It’s also a great way to add ALT tags, helping Google find your post). Screenshots can take an otherwise dull topic and make it a little more palatable by illustrating real-life examples that can prove to be useful to the reader. Or, sometimes, it’s just fun to add a crazy cartoon or picture of a baby doing something funny just to brighten up someone’s day.

Save the sales for landing pages: Is every blog post a less-than-subtle plug for your business? Yes? Listen up: Your readers don’t want to read about how great you are. Every. Single. Day. Your blog is forum to provide resources to your readers, not pedal your wares. If you’re constantly pushing product down your readers’ throats, you will inevitably turn them off to those very products you’re hoping to sell. Instead, link keywords to well designed, benefit-oriented landing pages designed to convert.

Stay fresh: Do all your blog posts sound exactly the same? Do you find yourself using theFreshness update same phrase over and over again? If you answered yes, STOP! We’re all begging you to stop. All you’re doing is annoying your audience and eventually, they’ll stop coming back.

People don’t want to read the same crap over and over again. They are looking for new, innovative ideas, off-the-cuff solutions to everyday problems and answers to nagging business quandaries. Be sure the content you’re producing is relevant and timely within your industry. If you’re focusing on Google’s Panda update you’re a year too late.

Content isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’s becoming increasingly more obvious with each and every Google update that search engines (and web users alike) are looking for quality content. So, if you’ve got to do it in order to appease Google, why not make it worth your readers’ time?

What tips do you have to keep your readers engaged in your post instead of watching the inside of their eyelids?

Images via Stock.xchng by weatherbox and channah

Over Optimization: 7 Do’s and 7 Dont’s of the Penguin Update

If you’re still trying to beat the system, it’s time to wake up and smell the roses. Google has made it abundantly clear that further updates will only continue to weed out shady SEO practices and crappy content sites, and so far, each subsequent update has lived up to that promise:

  • PANDA – Penalized content mills and sites focusing on adding loads of poorly written content just for keyword rankings.
  • Freshness – Gives a boost to websites that are regularly posting new, relevant and quality content.
  • Over-Optimization a.k.a. “Penguin” – Nails sites with too many unnatural backlinks and those employing shady SEO tactics.

Invest in Quality Content, Not Gimmicks

If you’ve been running your site with integrity, you should have nothing to worry about. But if you’ve set out on a mission to uncover the most black hat techniques to boost your rankings for keywords that you really shouldn’t be ranking for, now’s the time to worry. But frankly, Google isn’t the enemy. They’re simply trying to improve their search results to provide searchers with the most relevant content possible.

Gambling with Google

Image by Cjcj on Stock.xchng

At some point, I would hope that some of these spammy sites will throw in the towel. Really, it’s got to be easier just to set yourself on a mission to actually provide value to your site visitors than it is to be constantly chasing your tail trying to avoid being penalized with each new update. But there are so many snake oil salesmen out there making outlandish promises to get your site ranked on the first page of Google for whatever keywords you want, it’s hard for publishers to resist at times. Who wouldn’t want a fast-track ticket to the number one spot?

Black Hat SEO isn’t Sustainable

But it’s important to remember that black hat techniques, while they may boost your rankings in the short term, aren’t sustainable and are more likely to hurt you in the long run. It’s hard to erase what you’ve done in the past, especially on the Web, and if you’re caught trying to game the system it will harder to bounce back.

Over-Optimization: What to Avoid, What to Employ

If you’re worried that some of your prior SEO efforts might fall into the suspect category, now’s the time to refocus on quality content that will bring you lasting success. In light of the over-optimization update, publishers should steer clear of the following:

  1. Link exchanges. Link exchanges used to be the way to go, and it was a win-win for both parties. But mutual links are easily tracked by Google, and this practice has fallen out of favor and will likely earn you a penalty. At the very least, it’s a wasted effort; the links won’t count.
  2. Purchasing links. Never, ever purchase backlinks. The links you receive are almost guaranteed to be low-quality, spammy link farms which often are completely irrelevant to your industry.
  3. Links from low-quality link farms or directories. Ah, yes, the good old days of directory submission as a top SEO tactic. Unfortunately, directories are of little use to Web users and backlinks from these sites are worth nothing and may get you penalized.
  4. Linkbuilding via blog and forum posting (spam). This tactic has been a no-no for years, yet it still shocks me to see how many spammers are still trying just about anything to get a quick link. Please, don’t post a nonsensical response on a forum or to someone’s blog post. You’re wasting your time, and theirs.
  5. Keyword stuffing. You know those articles you used to come across that had a totally random keyword appearing in strange places throughout an article? You don’t see much of that nonsense anymore since Google has cracked down with its alogorithm updates, but this is still a no-brainer. Keywords should be natural, not forced, and shouldn’t be saturated so heavily into your content that it overwhelms your readers.
  6. Repeated use of identical anchor text. This was pretty much a standard practice in the SEO world, and it’s now being frowned upon. When you’re out there trying to get backlinks, most publishers requested very specific anchor text directed to specific landing pages. But now, it’s better to use varied anchor text as frequent instances of the same anchor text linking back to the same page will look very suspicious and possibly get your site penalized for over-optimization. Instead, switch it up, incorporate some long-tail keywords and related terms.
  7. Too many internal (circular) links. You’ll see a lot of websites still using this tactic, and it’s not entirely bad. It makes sense to link relevant pages from other pages within your site, if it fits naturally into the context and helps your readers navigate throughout your site. But overuse of this, and using the same anchor text over and over again to try to build link juice based on a very specific keyword, will now earn you a spot on the over-optimization naughty list.

How to Capitalize on the Over-Optimization Update

Anchor textBut the news isn’t all bad. There are still plenty of tactics you can use to ramp up your linkbuilding efforts. Yes, sustainable SEO and linkbuilding takes a lot of time and effort. But investing your money and time in quality content will pay off handsomely in the long run — and, you won’t have to worry whether your site will be on the chopping block the next time Google implements an update. Here’s what you should be doing:

  1. Mix up your on-site anchor text. This means your title tag, url and inbound anchor links should be varied, and not identical. For instance, instead of “Content Marketing” as the url, title tag and anchor text for a dozen internal links, incorporate your brand name, use other descriptors and make use of long-tail keywords. Which brings us to point #2:
  2. Embrace long-tail keywords. Industry leaders have been saying for a few years now that long-tail keywords are a worthy investment, and now that holds true more than ever. There’s less competition for longer-tail keywords, and making use of them provides a simple way to mix up your anchor text while still reaping the benefits of relevant search queries.
  3. Use article marketing sparingly. Stick to just a few article marketing sites with a high page rank, and do not submit the same article to more than one site. Instead, mix up the content as well as the anchor text.
  4. Invest in quality content. There’s no more valuable investment you can make for your website than hiring an expert writer to produce relevant and timely content. A skilled copywriter experienced in writing for the Web can craft compelling copy that provides real information your readers are actually seeking, while incorporating a variety of keywords and phrases naturally.
  5. Ramp up the frequency of your content updates. Freshness is a key component of scoring big with Google. Sites that have regularly updated content are more likely to be offering the latest advice, and Web users are seeking the most up-to-date information available.
  6. Get back to the basics: Guest blogging is one of the most beneficial ways to earn natural backlinks that are organically incorporated to in-text copy. While other publishers are seeking valuable content for freshness, it’s a win-win situation as you earn a quality backlink at the same time.
  7. Go for linkbait. Search Plus Your World boosted the value of social sharing in the Google SERPs. Crafting compelling headlines and robust copy that raises the bar or strikes a chord with your audience is more likely to be shared, which can ramp up your rankings.

The bottom line in all of this? You simply can’t get away without investing in your content strategy. If you’ve been holding back from ramping up your content marketing campaign, now is the time to start. Quality content will only continue to become more imperative for favorable search rankings.

It’s not just a blog: Content continues to dominate digital marketing

If you’ve been following marketing trends for the last six months or so, you undoubtedly have heard industry insiders referring to content. You may have heard that “content is king” and have even given it a whirl, setting up a blog or a Facebook page.

If you’re really on-board you may have even delegated the responsibility to your secretary or your assistant.  You’ve probably even seen a slight increase in your Facebook fans and Twitter followers. You may have even begun to see a slight uptick in your web traffic, but are you maximizing your content? Are you reaching your true potential? Probably not and you’re probably setting yourself up for an epic fail.

Content is going to be the one key element of your digital marketing campaign that you can’t afford to skimp on. You’re probably thinking: Why, it’s just a blog? Or, who really cares about our social media content? But, reality is the landscape of digital marketing is continuing to change and there is more of an emphasis on content than ever before.

Google’s changes continue to emphasize need for stellar content

Google recently announced another round of algorithm changes that will have significantly change the way its search engine ranks sites. It used to be, that search engine optimization (SEO) keywords could be piled into a post and it would find itself among the top of the results page. Today, the content needs to include the keywords, but it also has to be of quality, be fresh and relevant.

Google is also cracking down on sites that simply copy content from other sites. I’ve seen a lot of blogs that simply cut and paste news articles. Most experts have been advising against this practice for some time, but now this tactic simply won’t work if your goal is to land on those premium results pages.

Ensuring you’re content is up to par to compete against others on the web is going to be critical. It can mean the difference between landing on the first page of results or landing on page 10 or even 100. And think about it, how many pages to do you scroll through before changing your search criteria or clicking through to a site? I know I tend to give up after three, maybe four pages.

5 tips for maximizing content

So, how do you get content worthy of high rankings. It’s not necessarily rocket science but it’s not necessarily easy either. Your content strategy can include blogs, articles, eBooks, engagement on social media sites, email campaigns and the list goes on.  In order to stand out and find yourself ranking among the top of the search engines, your content must be:

  • Consistent: You need to be updating your blog and social media sites on a consistent basis. Undoubtedly, this will help keep you in the game and grow your networks
  • Competent: Be sure the person writing your content can write. It’s amazing how many “professional” writers can’t put two sentences together or who don’t know the difference between it’s and its.
  • Relevant: Make sure the content on your site is relevant to the product or services you offer. That’s not to say each post has to be blatant sales pitch (nor should it be.) In fact, you can create eBooks or videos showcasing your products benefits, or you can write a blog post surrounding industry news.
  • Intriguing: Keep your customers engaged with intriguing content. Create content that will keep them coming back for more.
  • Keyword Maximized: Keywords are still vital. In fact, DO NOT ignore key words. Take a cursory glance at the keywords that you should be using, but the list away and write naturally. Once you’ve completed your post, go back and see if you can change any phrases or headlines to maximize your keywords.

If your content is just so-so, chances are it’s no longer good enough for Google which in turn, means it’s no longer good enough for you. It very well may be time to give your content an overhaul and consider implementing a plan which will help you land back among the top.

Image from delcaldo via stock.xchng