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It’s easy to talk about good search engine optimization. It’s even easier if you don’t have a clue about what you are talking about. SEO isn’t just something you do once and forget about it. It’s something you start and never finish.

That said, what is the most important part about providing good SEO? Is it …

  • Link building?
  • Keywords?
  • Your Title tag?
  • Meta tags?
  • Site speed?
  • Page titles?
  • h1 and h2 tags (heads and subheads)?

Actually, it’s none of those.

The most important part to remember about your website’s search engine optimization strategy is your audience.

Yes, your audience.

Most webmasters don’t think of their audience as an aspect of SEO. In fact, most SEOs don’t think of it that way either. But it’s very important to think about who your audience is and what your audience wants before you start trying to search engine optimize your content.

The reason is real simple. You are writing your content to appeal to your audience. Your SEO must be written with your human audience in mind or it won’t matter what the search bots think of it. That not only goes for the optimization part of your content but the language part, as well. Your content needs to be written in the language your audience understands, and by “language” I don’t mean French vs. English. I’m talking about word choices, sentences structures, etc.

Those considerations are every bit as important as your keyword usage.

Write for your audience. That’s the best SEO you can practice.

It appears that Google passed the biggest update since 2010’s Caffeine a month ago. Did you notice? That’s OK. Most of us didn’t.

But it’s being talked about all over the Web.

The change seems to be in honor of its 15th birthday and took place in a private meeting evidently with some of the world’s top journalists yesterday. But what does this new algorithm update mean for us content marketers?

Google’s Inside Search blog gives us a clue.

Hummingbird is designed to make extensive use of Google’s Knowledge Graph. That’s great. I was wondering when they’d get around to actually doing something with that. Remember, the Knowledge Graph was introduced last year?

So the idea is this … you want to know something. Instead of typing in a keyword phrase to get information on a particular topic, you simply ask a question. One example Amit Singhal gives is, “How much saturated fat is in butter versus olive oil?” Just ask Google to compare them. Instant answer.

I have a feeling that this is in its primitive form and nowhere near perfect, but let’s try it out. Here are a few more examples:

Obviously, it doesn’t work for every search, but how can search marketers use this information to create better content? Start by ensuring that your content is designed to answer a single query. Write intelligent natural language content rather than keyword-based content searchers can find anywhere.

Lead your niche in high quality content that answers searchers’ questions and you’ll have a leg up.

There seems to be a trend to think in terms of a dichotomy where SEO and content marketing are concerned. I often see articles that encourage companies to pursue an online content marketing strategy AND an SEO strategy. To be sure, they’re practically the same thing.

Content marketing is any strategy you have to produce content in any form and publish it around the Web. You may or may not optimize that content. It’s up to you.

SEO, or search engine optimization, requires content. You can’t have SEO without some kind of content. It would be like driving a vehicle without a car. The vehicle is your content marketing strategy. The car is your SEO. They’re somewhat distinctive but the same.

I’ll try another analogy. Let’s say you want to go from your house to the library in your town but you have no transportation so you must rely on public transportation. You take the bus. The bus follows a certain route that you have no control over. Nevertheless, you have a choice about taking the bus or not. You could walk, call a friend, or do nothing at all.

The bus is your content marketing strategy. The route is your SEO. There may be multiple routes from your house to the library, some better than others. The bus system is designed to follow a particular route. If you take a taxi, you could get to the library more quickly but it will cost you more.

Following this analogy, it may seem like SEO and content marketing are two separate things – and they are. But they are intrinsically linked.

Whether you take the bus, the taxi, or you walk to the library, you are still taking a route (an SEO path). Your SEO is something determined by your content marketing strategy (the bus system) and sometimes it isn’t, but the two are linked. The truth is this, you can’t have a content marketing strategy without SEO – even if that SEO is somewhat ineffective.

Online marketers are infatuated with an alleged war taking place between Google+ and Facebook. An article at LinkedIn claims that Google+ is sneaking up on Facebook, but this could only happen if the two are competing or at direct odds with each other.

The folks at Google+ have claimed that they are not competing with Facebook. In a sense, I think they’re right.

Google+ is a bit of a social network, but it’s not JUST a social network. It’s also a content organization platform. Google wants you to integrate Google+ into your total online experience. That includes being social.

However, in a real sense, it is Google that is competing with Facebook. Both properties are competing for your advertising dollars. Google+ doesn’t display advertising, so you can’t say it’s about Google+. Google displays ads on its search results pages. That’s where the real competition is taking place.

That said, it might be worth discussing how Google+ influences the SERPs.

I have noticed that they do influence brand searches. That is, your personal profile does rise higher in the search results when people search your name if you are active on Google+. Of course, you could say the same thing of Facebook, Quora, Twitter and other social networks. The more active you are the more your profiles will rise in the search results.

Google+ is making good improvements. I’m looking forward to seeing more. But as to whether they beat Facebook or Facebook beats them, does it really matter?

Pay per click advertising is one of the most powerful modes of online advertising if for any reason because you can target and re-target in real time and on an ongoing basis. Don’t like the way your advertising is leaning right now? Just tweak your ads, keyword groups, and your targeting efforts and you’ll begin to see instant changes.

One of the best ways to reach your target demographic with PPC is by close and careful monitoring of your keyword groups.

In other words, if you create a tight keyword group that targets a specific demographic and point your ads for that keyword to a common landing page that is targeted specifically for the demographic, then you’ll have a powerful advertising platform. But you need to keep an eye on your keyword group and landing page. This is where you want to do extensive testing and monitoring.

If your landing page, or your ads, are off in any way, you could spend hundreds of dollars on ineffective advertising. The worst thing in the world is to target a specific demographic with a keyword group that sees no conversions.

If you do it right, however, you could see big results from your advertising. PPC is cost effective only if you see results from the money you spend. Keep your ad groups tight and your keywords tighter.

How do you attract new readers to your blog? There are several ways you can attract new readers, whether you have a new blog or you’ve been writing to a blog for a long time. Try these 5 unusual traffic generating methods and see how they work:

  1. Convert your blog posts to PDF – You can convert any blog post to PDF easily and inexpensively with open source software like Open Office. Take a handful of your popular blog posts, convert them to PDF, and upload them to sites like Scribd and Issuu.
  2. Ask/answer questions on Quora – Question & Answer websites have become quite popular. If you answer questions related to your niche on these sites, you could send additional traffic to your blog. Also, ask questions and use reader responses as a way to springboard into a topic you write about on your blog. Don’t forget to share the link to the answer with your Quora audience.
  3. Sponsor a contest – Look for contests that reinforce your brand or product/service and offer to give something away to a winner of the contest.
  4. Teach a course – Find an online school in your niche and think of a course you can teach that isn’t already being taught. You’ll get a bio and a link to your website just for being the teacher.
  5. Court a journalist – Find a journalist you respect who writes about your niche and offer to be a source for them.

In most cases, you can increase your blog’s readership and gain a few inbound links at the same time.

Whether you’re trying to come up with ideas for your blog, your website, or articles you plan to post around the Web, you need to come up with some ideas for that content. How do you do that? In other words, where do you get ideas for your content?

Ideas come from a lot of different places. The first place you should look is your referral log. Where is your traffic coming from? More importantly, what keywords are people using to find your website?

Pick a few of those keywords. Try to focus on the most profitable ones. Google them and see what pops up in the search. Go through the first three pages of the SERPs and write down the specific topics you find that other people are writing about related to your keywords. Is there anything people aren’t writing about? Write about that.

Another thing you can do is talk to your customers. What kinds of questions are they asking? What are their concerns? Address those.

If you get any strange or out-of-the-ordinary requests, those are good topics to write about. Anything you can do to make your content and your business unique is a good thing. Strange customer requests is something that can help you do that.

Good content ideas are all over the place. You just have to learn to recognize them. Talk to your customers, your vendors, and other professionals in your niche. If people are talking about it, then it’s a good idea for your content.

Remember when every SEO in the universe was harping on building inbound links? For awhile there, getting more links was the most important SEO activity in the world for most optimizers. Then, Google Panda happened. Then Google Penguin. What’s next? Google Platypus?

The truth is, good links have always been necessary. Not just for SEO but for traffic, as well.

You can’t build a successful website without some inbound links. The question is, what kind and how many? Ask any ten SEOs that question and you’ll get ten different answers. If you see any duplicates, it’s probably because those SEOs shared their notes.

The name of the game today, and it pretty much always has been, is simply writing great content and promoting it around the Web. If you get more links, fine. If not, go for the traffic.

Successful Internet marketers understand that links are a valuable commodity. But you don’t want to get in the habit of chasing links every chance you get. You could spend a lot of your time chasing bad links and getting your websites penalized. You’re better off just writing great content, getting it published, and promoting it.

The days of making inbound links the most important currency on the Web are over. Some people would say that’s progress. Others are crying that their game is over.

When it comes to researching the competition and trying to understand where you (and they) fit into the niche you both operate in, there are different types of research based on different types of information you can gather about your competition. Here are three types of competitive research you should implement during your intelligence gathering phase:

  1. Market research – Market research involves searching specific keywords and determining how you stand against your top competitors. It also means researching customers and their needs and seeing how you and your competition stack up to the values that are important in the marketplace.
  2. Content research – With content research, you are only concerned with the type of content your competition is producing, where they are getting it published, and who they are targeting that content toward. You should also include a good link portfolio analysis in this research phase.
  3. Process/Brand research – The process or brand research is all about company internal processes, especially sales. This is a tricky gray line because if you cross it you could be in illegal territory. You want to find out how your competition covers customer complaints, conducts its sales process, and engages with customers through marketing. You’re not looking for trade secrets.

Competitive intelligence research is an important part of the beginning phase of starting a new business. It can give you a lot of insightful information about your competition but also about potential customers and the overall market.

One of the many options for local businesses trying to be found online is to pay for sponsored listings on directories, review sites, and similar databases online. Is this a good idea?

I’ll have to say it depends on the website. A few years ago you could mass submit your website to thousands of online directories and most of them offered an upgrade where you pay for a sponsored or featured listing. Most of those featured listings were useless. After the advent of Google Panda and Google Penguin, those directory listings became useless.

Today, sponsored listings can be a big hit if you choose the right website.

Be sure you check the reputation of the directory or review site.

If it’s Yelp or CityPages, a sponsored listing can be a big help in getting your business found online. If it’s a site you’ve never heard of or that has a shaky reputation, then you’d be better off taking a pass. Site reputation is the single most important factor where sponsored listings are concerned.

After reputation, you should judge the value against the price you pay for the listing. Run a test trial. See what kind of response you get. If you pay $50 or $100 for a sponsored listing for one month and nothing happens, then you aren’t out of a huge investment. You know it doesn’t work. What you don’t want to do is sign a long-term contract without first running a test to see if there is some potential in the sponsored listing.

Constant Contact has an innovative Facebook technique. They’re offering a free download of 100 social media mistakes to avoid, but to get the download, you need to like their Facebook page. That’s a good idea.

As a preview, I’d just like to mention what some of those mistakes are. The report focuses on four social media sites:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest

For Facebook, Constant Contact says you should talk with your customers not at them, respond to comments and questions, and monitor your page on a regular basis. There are a total of 25 mistakes to avoid regarding Facebook.

Among the 25 mistakes listed for Twitter, CC says to make sure you leave enough space in your tweets for retweets, shorten your URLs, and don’t abuse the hashtags.

LinkedIn advice offered by Constant Contact include completing your profile, including a photo on your profile, and consider the SEO benefits.

Finally, among the 25 tips offered for Pinterest, CC says you should link to Facebook and Twitter, keep your personal and your business pin boards separate, and pay attention to your analytics.

Reciprocal Consulting agrees with all of these tips. Social media is an always changing landscape. What works today may not work tomorrow. That’s why it is important to keep up with the latest developments in social media and to employ those strategies that work well.

One of the most frequently asked questions of any search engine optimization company is, “How long will it take to get my site ranked?”

The answer is, it depends.

One thing you should know is it won’t happen overnight. SEO takes time. You have to be patient.

Remember, you are competing against a lot of other websites, many of which have been marketing online for years. They have a well-established search engine optimization campaign. It may or may not be working for them, but you wouldn’t know that. It’s been in place for a long time.

Your website has a chance. I’m not saying it doesn’t. However, rarely will you rise to a page one listing overnight.

What will likely happen is you’ll write a blog post or establish your website and you’ll find yourself getting listed rather quickly (as long as you build a few valuable inbound links – it only takes one). But that’s just the beginning. You have to be diligent and work your content marketing strategy. Write blog posts, write guest blog posts, do some social media, etc. Over time, you could start to see your website rise in the rankings.

SEO is not a happenstance activity. It isn’t a quick fix either. You have to give it time.

One of the most important things you need to do as an online marketer is ensure you’re reaching the right audience. Whether you engage in pay per click marketing, social media marketing, or something else, you need to make sure you are targeting the right audience. That’s where personas come in.

Before you even start marketing, you need to develop a list of your target markets. I don’t mean generic lists like “CEOs and small business owners.” I mean, specific narrow personas that you intend to reach through your marketing efforts.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you have developed a new technology for airplanes to help them fly more efficiently. Who would be in the market for this technology?

Obviously, you’d market your new technology to major airlines, right? But what about small and regional or private air pilots and airplane owners? If your technology is out of their financial reach, then they may not be in your market, but if it is affordable to them, could they benefit? Does the technology fit specific types of airplanes, such as jet planes or cargo planes? Then perhaps manufacturers of those planes would be your market. Write down the specific person at the company you would speak to about your product if you want to sell it. A short list:

  • Chief production engineer
  • Flight tester
  • Chief executive officer
  • Maintenance chief

For each person on your list, write a bio. What are they interested in? What features and benefits are they most interested in?

Personas are important in marketing because those people who fit those personas are your market. Not all of them will be decision makers. Some of them could be influencers. You still want to speak to them, but before you can know what to say you have to know what they want. That’s why you create personas.

Mashable proclaims that job seekers are more likely to get hired if found through social media. In an uncanny way, this sort of validates social media marketing.

While the article doesn’t go into detail about the tactics companies are using to find employees using social media, the fact that they do shows yet another valuable purpose for being on social media websites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. It isn’t just one big online party.

If companies are hiring employees through social media, you can bet they’re also finding vendors through social media.

A company willing to invest in the time and expense of social media job recruiting is a company that obviously sees value in the platform. Therefore, you can ask what other activities they might be using social media for. The obvious choice is marketing.

If your competition is marketing through social media and seeing results, then it’s a good bet that you should probably find a way to get into that marketing, as well. Not only that, but employing social media tactics to learn about your competition while engaging in competitive analysis may also be a solid reason to work the social media scene.

What are you doing on social media? Are you recruiting candidates for jobs, marketing, or spying on your competition?

According to Business Insider, Twitter and Facebook are now earning 50% of their advertising revenue from mobile phones. Facebook took 11% of its ad revenue from mobile last year and 23% in the fourth quarter.

Naturally, BI is expecting these numbers to increase. So am I.

What is driving this increase? Native advertising. Not traditional PPC.

Native advertising is advertising that appears in the news feed of Facebook and Twitter users. It’s not something they are looking for, but it appears there based on what they normally tweet or post about on Facebook. It’s a combination of targeted demographic marketing and affinity marketing. And it seems to be working.

With this kind of powerful marketing available to them, online paid advertisers are sure to invest more into the advertising that is effective for them.

Social media advertising provides one advantage over traditional PPC. With Google AdWords, you only reach people who are searching for information related to your offering based on keywords you enter. With social media advertising, you choose the demographic you want to target. It’s more like traditional advertising, putting control back into the hands of advertisers.

Naturally, there’s no perfect advertising medium, but social media advertising represents the best of two optimal worlds. You can target your ads to a demographic you know and you can take advantage of the social media opportunity. Combine them for one great opportunity.

Twitter is a great place for marketing your content and for developing relationships with members of your audience that you want to go deeper with in terms of your content marketing strategy, but it’s also a great place for doing research related to your niche. Here are 5 powerful ways to conduct competitive and content research on your niche.

  1. Hashtags – This one is easy, but so many people miss it. Find a hashtag or two related to your niche and follow them. It’s easy to do in Hootsuite. You just create a stream for the hashtag and any time content is shared on Twitter using that hashtag, you’ll see it.
  2. Lists – Create a list of your favorite bloggers or niche-related Twitterers. You can create a stream in Hootsuite to follow that list. Add and take away Twitter users at will.
  3. Ask questions – One method many professional bloggers and Twitter users use is to ask their audience questions. You’ll be surprised how many of your followers will respond. You’ll likely hear from people you never knew were following you or who wouldn’t normally interact with you. Just ask.
  4. Twitter Search – Did you know Twitter has a search feature? It works much like Google or Facebook’s search feature. You can find information related to a specific topic on Twitter just by using the search feature.
  5. Twitter Trends – On your Twitter sidebar you’ll see a section for Twitter trends. The default setting for this is to target trends based on your geographic location and interests. Did you know you can change that? Click on the “Change” link and you can change your geographic location. You can make it Worldwide or choose a country or region, or even your city. Click on “Tailored Trends” and you’ll see the trends based on what you tweet about the most.

You can use Twitter for more than marketing. You can also use it for research.

What format your content takes is far less important than whether or not your content is worth consuming. You can create mediocre video content and it’s just mediocre video content, but if you produce great content, then it doesn’t matter if you make a video out of it, publish it as textual content, produce a podcast, or create something else out of it entirely. Great content is great content.

But what qualities does great content possess that separates it from everything else? That’s what I’m going to tell you right now.

Great content consists of these six necessary qualities:

  1. Fresh and original – Your content must be unique. It should also be relevant while appealing to the needs of people right now. Don’t serve up stale, overused content.
  2. Quality, not quantity – You can publish every day as long as you are able to publish high quality content that is fresh and original. Otherwise, don’t publish every day.
  3. Write great headlines – Headlines serve one purpose. They are to get readers to read your articles. If they don’t do that, then they aren’t great headlines.
  4. Brand yourself – Great content is best when it is identifiable as a brand. Put your signature on it.
  5. Be honest – Your audience expects nothing less. Don’t pull a bait and switch, and never try to cover up a mistake. Just be transparent. Be honest. If you do that, you’ll earn your audience’s trust.
  6. Get it out there – No matter how great your content is, if no one can find it, it won’t matter. Publish and promote. Get your content in front of people’s eyes.

If you want to be known as a publisher of great content, make sure every piece you publish (no matter the format) contains these six necessary qualities.

In order to make sales – online or off line – you need a way to contact your prospects. There’s one sales tool that you likely are not making the most of, and if you spend a little extra time cultivating that tool, you’ll go a long, long way to closing more sales.

The sales tool is your e-mail marketing list.

It might seem cliche, but it’s true. If you build an e-mail list, you’ll close more sales. Here’s why:

People have to give you their e-mail address in order to be on your list. Before they do that, they have to trust you. No one is going to give you their e-mail address if you don’t cultivate a certain level of trust. Once you’ve earned their trust, then you’ve got them on your list.

But simply having a list isn’t enough. You’ve got to do something about it. And that requires action.

When you work your e-mail list, you are working warm leads. These are not cold calls. These are people who have already given you a certain level of trust. If they trusted you once, they’ll trust you again. Make a sales call.

In most cases, all you have to do is e-mail your list with an irresistible offer. If you present the right offer, you’ll get the right clients and you’ll start making sales. So cultivate that e-mail list.

When it comes to online marketing, small businesses tend to think they have a disadvantage. The truth is, they do have an advantage in a certain sense and a disadvantage in another. Since you serve a local clientele and your business is smaller, you can be much more nimble than a larger business or multi-national corporation. The downside is your budget is smaller.

But you don’t necessarily need a big budget to be effective online.

I don’t agree with everything Matthew Barby says in this post, but he’s got some good content ideas.

For instance, this QR code idea was pretty good:

I visited a coffee shop a few weeks back and some of the staff had aprons on with a big QR code on the front that said “zap me for a 10% discount.” When you scanned the QR code you had to like their Facebook page and the member of staff would give you a discount there and then… awesome!

Now, I’m not saying you should go splatter your QR code all over everything. I am saying you can afford to be creative with your content. Think of your entire business being a giant content pool – your employees, your marketing collateral, your brick and mortar.

If you think of your business as a content pool, you’ll see the opportunities that are right in your face every day.

You might be wondering whether Facebook has any interest in quality – particularly in quality content on your news feed. But a recent article at Constant Contact illustrates just how Facebook does see quality.

To summarize, Facebook’s idea of quality seems to be:

  • Timely and relevant content
  • Content from trustworthy sources
  • Content that is shareable
  • Genuinely interesting
  • Isn’t trying to game the news feed
  • Not considered “low-quality” post or meme by users
  • No one would complain about the post in their news feed

In other words, Facebook views quality much the same way the rest of us do. If it’s shareable, derived from a trustworthy source, timely and relevant, and not annoying, then it’s probably quality content.

What’s the takeaway here?

When you create your Facebook content, do you have a specific set of quality guidelines to help you achieve the best content for your wall and your friends’ news feeds? If not, why not?

You should. In fact, you should set up some guidelines for your Facebook posts (and social media posts, in general) to help you and your team think more deeply about your social content. Are you just posting links? Maybe you need to be more diverse in what you post. Are you posting three-week old data? Make your content more current.

The bottom line is to think of your Facebook content in the same terms that your friends are going to think about it. Go for quality, not quantity.