If you’ve heard that link building is a necessary component to a successful SEO strategy, then you’ve likely been listening to a search engine optimization specialist talking. Did that SEO also say that quality is more important than quantity? In other words, it’s not how many links you get but how good they are.
Link building is one of the more dangerous SEO tactics because if you do it wrong, it will cost you a lot of money and could cost you a lot of time with minimal or no results.
With guest blogging, you reduce your risk considerably. To be successful at ghost blogging, however, you need to focus your efforts on writing high quality content and publishing that content on websites around the Web. The sites you choose to publish your articles on are as important as the articles you write. Pay very close to the reputations of those other sites.
What you want to do is build yourself up as an authority in your niche. The way you do that is with high quality content published on high quality websites.
When you publish quality content on high authority sites, those articles will get shared and receive links. Those links will help your site and your authority ranking. Focus on quality and good links take care of themselves.
Google Trends is a fun way to find new opportunities for keywords and subjects to blog or write about. If you’re not using it in your research, you might want to give it a go. According to Google, they’re beginning to improve the tool with a beta.
In other words, they’re incorporating some changes to deal with ambiguity in searches and search comparisons.
For instance, to use their own example, if you want to compare search trends for Rice University and Harvard University, then you need to narrow your search to beyond “rice.” Otherwise, you might get skewed results as Google will include trends for the tiny white food that some people say isn’t real food. That’s not what you want.
There are countless other examples where this kind of ambiguity can play out. Searching for celebrities or place names could pose a problem as previously Google Trends wouldn’t include misspellings. Now, it does.
Also, alternative search terms may be included in your findings when you use the search tool. That would be a useful feature too – if you could exclude the alternate search terms at will.
I think we should all spend about half an hour playing around with Google Trends this afternoon. Then, you can get back to work and produce more of your fantastic content based on your findings.
In the early days of SEO, all content was based on keywords. That meant that anyone who created content for any purpose was writing content based on keyword data they found during their research. If you were targeting the automotive niche and you wanted to drive traffic to your used car sales website, then your content was designed to impress the search engines enough that you ranked for your targeted keywords. Simple, right?
Well, things have changed since then. Google has killed its free keyword research tool and no longer provides keyword data to webmasters so they can know how searchers found their websites.
Furthermore, the search engines are relying a lot more on social signals than they used to. This has caused a lot of search marketers to focus their efforts on creating social media spam instead of search engine spam, though there really isn’t a whole lot of difference.
Today, ranking for specific keywords and keyword phrases is all but useless. Chances are, you’re not going to know what they are anyway.
You’re better off focusing on your customers’ needs and more pressing questions. Before you build your website or start creating content, you should spend some time in forums and on social media asking potential customers what they want and expect in a service like yours. Conduct a very good market research campaign then design your website to answer the questions people have about a service like yours.
The idea is to build value into your content and your SEO. To do that well, you have to build intrinsic value into your website.
Content marketing is the new SEO. It’s always been the essence of SEO, but in the last couple of years more and more search marketers are referring to themselves as content marketers rather than search engine optimizers. There is nothing wrong with that.
But if you want your content marketing strategy to stand out, then you can’t be reactive. You’ve got to be proactive. So here are three tips to help you develop a more proactive content marketing strategy.
- Be More Semantic – You almost have to. Google is now only rarely providing keyword data in its analytics. Most of what you’ll read is “Keyword Not Provided.” Your best clues for what keywords and phrases people found your site by are your entry pages and the search ranking for the keyword they did use. That means you have to do a lot of guess work. At some point, you have to trust your gut. If you understand how people search for information, then you’ll better understand how to present information in the search engines. That requires a semantic approach.
- Build a content calendar – Since you’re being more semantic, plan further out. Use a content calendar to plan your posts ahead of time and write the best posts you can.
- Do more research – To write the best posts possible, you need to really understand your subject matter. It isn’t enough to know what people are searching for and how. You also have to know how to deliver that information so that they can find it. That requires research.
Your content marketing strategy deserves a more proactive approach, so give it what it wants.
Everywhere I look now there is an article going up on some SEO website, in an e-mail newsletter, or one of the dozen or so Internet marketing news websites I read each day about how you get can back in Google’s good graces following the fallout from all those bad links you built. My only question is this, why did you even start building those links in the first place?
For at least ten years, Google’s song and dance has been “focus on content quality and usability.” You ignored that advice and went with your SEO agency’s advice instead. That advice amounted to
- Paid links
- Reciprocal links
- Link wheels
- Article directories
- Link spam tactics
All the ways Google said not to do it, you did it anyway. Now you’re trying to figure out what happened.
In some cases, SEOs and online marketers thought they were following search engine guidelines. By the letter, they were. By the spirit, they weren’t even close. And now the owners of those websites are trying to figure out how to kill all their dead links and get back on top of the search engine listings.
Here’s a reality check: Even if you got rid of all of your bad links, there’s a good chance that you wouldn’t rise high enough in the search engines to recapture your old ranking. Sorry, but Google’s smarter than that. The latest algorithmic overhaul – Hummingbird, it’s called – is designed to give whole new ranking factors a greater prominence in the final results.
Instead of trying to game the system, why don’t you just focus on quality content instead?
In a way, online marketing has come full circle. In the early days, you wrote articles and published them. That was it. Yeah, you might have purchased a banner ad on a related niche website, but were those really effective?
No matter how effective those early banner ads were (not very), you could always count on well-written and well-placed articles.
Over time, the definition of content has changed. In those early days of the Internet, pretty much all content was articles. You might have had graphics on your website, but they couldn’t be search engine optimized. So articles were the real content.
The Internet grew, photos and videos became popular as the technology to implement them online improved, and millions of websites sprung up in every niche imaginable. The leading online advertising model became PPC advertising. It was very effective if you did it right. It still is.
But, there are many Internet users who developed ad blindness. It’s a very real phenomenon that causes people to ignore ads – even if they’re effective in every way.
It’s hard to ignore native advertising.
Native advertising is content that doesn’t look like content. If it does look like content, then it’s so effective that users will still click to view it even knowing that it’s an ad. It’s content even if it’s advertising. The reason this works is because users really care about great content, even if it’s advertising.
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?
- 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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Brand yourself – Great content is best when it is identifiable as a brand. Put your signature on it.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
If you’re looking for new ways to build links for your website, try conducting interviews. These can be great ways to build inbound links, which increases your exposure in the search engines.
Here are 5 ways to conduct interviews for link building:
- Video interview – Videos are easy. You simply invite the interviewee to a specific location, turn the camera on, and start asking questions (over-simplified, but you get the point). Then, you distribute the video. You can upload the video to YouTube then embed it into a page on your website and share the link to all your social media accounts. The inbound links you’ll get are from people who share the video and link to it from their blogs. This works well for a high profile person in your niche.
- Your blog – You could interview someone by phone and transcribe the video onto your blog.
- Podcast – Since you’re interviewing by phone, why not just record the interview and share it on your blog or website as an audio file?
- Your newsletter – If you have an e-mail newsletter, put your interview in the newsletter as an exclusive. Then advertise that you have interviewed such-and-such in your newsletter. Others in your niche will link to you and drive traffic to your newsletter opt-in page.
- Article – If you do a lot of interviews, set up an interview section on your website and run a periodic interview as an article. If you do a good with these, you’ll get people linking to your interviews page.
Interviews can be a great source of content and links. They may be time consuming, but you’ll be glad you made use of that time when you see the rewards.
The new buzzword in online marketing is “content marketing.” It’s a curious phrase because many veteran SEOs and Internet marketers don’t really see a difference between the new content marketing and what they’ve been doing for years. The truth is, there is a subtle difference.
Search engine optimization is the process of writing content in such a way that you improve its ability to rank in the search engines. That’s a kind of content marketing, but the term “content marketing” is actually a broader, more encompassing term.
Content marketing actually involves other types of content.
If you post videos to YouTube and other video sharing sites, then you’re engaged in content marketing. If you share your images on Pinterest, you’re performing a content marketing task. If you’re doing any kind of link building or maintaining social media accounts, then you’re involved in content marketing.
Infographics are a type of content marketing too. Graphs and charts, if published on the Internet (or even in print, I suppose), are a type of content marketing.
If you write guest posts, build Squidoo Lenses and HubPages, and publish articles on Web properties you don’t own, even if you don’t get a link back to your website, that’s content marketing.
It’s called content marketing because it requires that you first create content (in any form) then push that content out on the Internet (and other places) so that you reach a desired audience. If you expect your audience to then find you in hopes that you can do business with them, then you’re doing content marketing.
More and more, people are talking about content marketing. The discussion revolves around on-page content vs. link building, vs. social media engagement. What is the most important aspect of content marketing?
Everyone has an opinion, but first let’s talk about what that means in the broader scope.
Content marketing involves a push-pull mindset. It doesn’t involve content that exists solely on your website. It encompasses all content that you create. In order to get people to your website to buy something, you have push your content out and use it to pull your prospects in. This is the essence of content marketing.
Now that you know how it works, what is the most important part of content marketing? In my estimation, it’s that part of the process that drives the “pull” part of the process.
What do I mean by that? As a reminder, content marketing involves a push and a pull. Your “push” is getting your content out there in front of your prospect, wherever your prospect may be. Your “pull” is bringing that prospect back to your sales page to buy something. Without that pull, all you have is content. It isn’t effective content, but it’s content.
To be effective at content marketing, you have to elicit a response in your reader. Your content must spark an interest and spark an action. So when it comes to content marketing, put some extra thought into your calls to action. They drive your pull.
Every two years, Moz (formerly SEOmoz) conducts a survey wherein they ask high profile SEO experts to weigh in on what they believe to be the most important ranking factors in the search engines. Recently, Moz conducted its 2013 ranking factors survey and some interesting results have come to light.
For starters, the biggest ranking factor, according to the SEOs surveyed, appears to be page authority. That’s no real big surprise, but Google+ and Facebook social signals having a high correlation might be.
Another interesting survey result is that anchor text is still considered a very important ranking factor despite Google’s efforts through the Penguin update to kill low quality anchor text links.
Moz was careful to point out that correlation does not necessarily lead to causation, so that should stop us in our tracks in believing that social signals can be determined to be a bona fide ranking factor based on this survey.
Finally, the Moz survey led to the following conclusions by survey analysts:
- Links are still believed to be the most important part of the algorithm (approximately 40%).
- Keyword usage on the page is still fundamental, and other than links is thought to be the most important type of factor.
- SEOs do not think social factors are important in the 2013 algorithm (only 7%), in contrast to the high correlations.
In other words, not much has really changed. It all still boils down to inbound anchor text links and on-page keyword-based content.
Going forward, however, the consensus seems to be that these ranking factors will not be as important. What will become more important to future SEO efforts, according to SEOs involved in the survey, are authorship, structured data, and social signals. So what is the practical application?
I’d say it this way: Continue building solid on-page content and building links while incorporating Google+ and other social media into your content promotion strategy along with structured data and schema.org standards.
Jill Whalen has a great article at SiteProNews about why Google may not trust your blog or website. While all the points she makes are good, I want to address the question of expertise with regard to your content.
Google is looking for authoritative content. What does “authoritative” mean? It means you are a subject matter expert. If that’s true, then how should you act? As the expert content provider for your blog, what should you do to prove yourself the able expert? I suggest you should do at least these five things:
- Research – Don’t just scratch the surface of your knowledge. Do in-depth research and write at least one or two long blog posts per week (or as often as you can). Experts go deep.
- Associate your name with the content – Don’t be anonymous. If you are an expert, then use your name. Add a bio to your website and link each blog post or in-depth article to your expert bio. List all the credentials that make you an expert.
- Use Google Authorship – Get a Google+ account. Link to your blog and website from your Google+ profile. Use the rel=author tag and Google Authorship markup.
- Proofread - Don’t write sloppy content. Read your own writing and clean it up. You’d be surprised at how much more attention Google will pay your blog posts if the grammar and spelling are good.
- Cite your sources – Experts cite their sources. Never plagiarize. If you borrow someone else’s ideas, give them credit. Attribute your sources with a link and be a good Net citizen.
Being an expert is a privilege. Act like an expert and demonstrate your knowledge like an expert. If you do that, then Google will treat you like an expert.
When you enter into business and decide to compete against other companies in your niche, one of the most important activities you’ll have to engage in competitive analysis. But what should that entail?
There are three key areas that you should analyze your competition on today. This may change in ten years, but today I’d say you need to look at these three areas:
- Inbound links – Where are inbound links to your competitors’ websites coming from, what anchor text are they using, and which pages are being linked to?
- Social influence – Which social networks are your competition using, how active are they, and what kind of content are they posting on these social sites? Also, try to determine, if you can, the reach your competition has.
- Content analysis – This is a very important piece of the competitive analysis puzzle. Look at your competition’s top content. What is it? Also, which pages are getting the most traffic? What kind of on-page optimization strategies are they using?
The idea behind competitive analysis is not to find things to copy from your competition. Rather, you are looking for opportunities they may have missed and looking to see what strategies you might capitalize on.
Competitive analysis is a big part of the overall picture when starting a new business. Don’t forget about it.