Category Archives: Search engine marketing

5 must-know SEO content tips

SEO tips

Your industry keeps getting more crowded, and search engine algorithms are constantly evolving. So how do you snag a prime spot in the search rankings and stay there?

While there’s no magic formula, optimized content is a big part of the battle. Try these strategies to give your site an SEO boost.

  1. Don’t worry about keywords. Seriously, don’t worry about them. The conventional wisdom used to be that pinpointing the exact keywords and phrases your audience searches for and peppering them strategically throughout your content would boost your rankings. Then Google introduced the Hummingbird algorithm, and that all went out the window. The search engine can now interpret your content or a user’s search phrase and match it to similar keywords and phrases. That means if someone searches for “Chicago automobiles” and you’re selling “Windy City cars,” you’ll still show up in the results. Instead of focusing on the perfect keywords, write quality content that describes your services accurately and makes people want to stick around.
  1. Write compelling title tags. Title tags are like the headlines of each page – they appear in the tab on your browser and tell search engines and people what the page is about. To get the biggest SEO boost from your title tags, write unique tags for each page, describe the page’s most important content first, and use no more than 70 characters (including spaces).
  1. Don’t forget meta descriptions. Meta descriptions are the text that appears under the site link in the search results, and they play a big role in whether a searcher decides to click on your link. If you don’t include meta descriptions on your site, the search engine will pull one for you from the page content, and it may not be the content you want to highlight. Use action-oriented language in your meta descriptions and keep them to 155 to 165 characters – any longer than that and they may get cut off in the search results.
  1. Make your content linkable. Inbound links are one of the key factors search engines consider when determining which sites land on the first page. Along with writing quality content that people want to link to, make sure the page itself is actually linkable. If you’re posting on a password-protected site or sharing a nonlinkable slide show, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
  1. Start (and maintain) a blog. Search engines love fresh content. One component of Google’s algorithm, Query Deserves Freshness, considers which searches are getting more traffic than usual and rewards sites that wrote about the subject most recently. Frequent posting also means frequent indexing by search engines (and more chances to climb the rankings). Keep your finger on your industry’s pulse and answer your customers’ burning questions regularly on your blog. Just make sure your content is worthwhile – search engines will penalize you for stuffing your site with crummy posts.

Which SEO strategies has your business used successfully? Let us know in the comments below!

 

‘Click-bait’ headlines won’t help you in the long run

MockClick-baitWe’ve all been there. You’re scrolling down a page, and there it is: a cryptic headline that promises to reveal something shocking, life-saving or unbelievable … all you have to do is click.

Sadly, the content behind the link is usually as disappointing as the headline was mysterious.

As marketers, we know that measurable results are key to any strategy, so anything that drives clicks – and potential advertising revenue – is very tempting. But there is a big difference between a good headline and “click-bait.”

A good headline incites a click with accurate, relevant information that attracts readers to engaging content. “Click-bait,” however, refers to any sensationalized or mysterious headline that misleads or provides irrelevant content for the sake of driving traffic to a website. If you don’t have the content to support what your headline is selling, getting a lot of clicks won’t matter in the long run.

3 ways click-bait will kill your numbers

  1. High bounce rates. Exciting, click-worthy headlines are great for driving traffic, but if they’re misleading or the content doesn’t live up to visitors’ expectations, they’re not going to stick around. High bounce rates are a surefire way to get flagged by search engines as untrustworthy.
  2. Low engagement. Page-rank algorithms are increasingly favoring websites with more than just high time-on-site. Even if a click-bait headline is enough to get a visitor to read the content, the page needs links and shares to prove the quality of the content.
  3. Bad reputation. Sensational headlines are bound to get clicks at first, but every misleading link is a chance to make a bad impression. Eventually, potential visitors will just ignore anything they think will disappoint.

In the age when relevant content is king, marketers have to make sure that the right audience is visiting their sites and engaging with their content. If you feel like you’re in a rut, try refreshing your approach to content marketing or spicing up your messaging. Just don’t fall victim to headlines that overpromise and content that underdelivers.

Have you seen click-bait from any surprising sources? Let us know in the comments below.

Can paid search campaigns work for B2B marketers?

letters-web-image-search-3-1574756B2B search marketing campaigns pose some unique challenges compared with B2C campaigns. B2B products and services are, by their nature, often quite complex and involve more than one key decision maker. According to HubSpot, the average sales cycle for B2B marketers has increased over 22 percent in the last five years because more people are involved in the buying process. In 2010, Marketing Sherpa asked over 1,000 B2B marketers what their average sales cycle was, and 43 percent responded that it was six months or more. A whopping 11 percent said it was more than 12 months!

Obviously, the sales cycle is different for every company, but it’s helpful to understand the length of your pipeline, because this informs everything from marketing expectations to content to budgets. A long sales cycle and the challenge of identifying high-quality leads are particularly relevant to paid search.

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Don’t let SEO scam artists scare you

Money manHave you ever gotten one of those calls from an “SEO expert” who claims he can guarantee success for your website in organic searches? Or an email that rips your current website apart with official-looking reports telling you all that’s “wrong” with your site?

If so, you’re the target of an SEO scam, along with many other people. The best defense against these con artists is to educate yourself on the topic. I know you’re likely too busy taking care of your own laundry list of responsibilities and don’t have the time and resources needed to become experts, so I created a list of the most widespread SEO claims you should be aware of when searching for the right SEO firm.

1. Unsolicited reports: If an SEO company sends you an unrequested report with a lot of frightening statistics that supposedly cover items such as page rank and meta descriptions, be very leery. These scare tactics typically rely on outdated reporting methods and can cover items that search engines no longer deem valuable.

2. Guaranteed search rankings: One of the scams I see often and our clients tell us about hinges on some sort of guarantee about getting your website to the top of the list or the first page of search results. Having a high search ranking revolves around the age of your content and site traffic.You can increase traffic by providing engaging and useful content, but there are no guarantees.

3. Claims to know the inner workings of search algorithms: Search engine algorithms are intricate and ever-changing. People in the SEO field may know about some aspects that affect rankings, but they’re not privy to all the ins and outs of what goes into each algorithm.These are closely guarded secrets.

4. Content ownership: If you pay for it, you should own it. When speaking with SEO firms, make sure you ask who will “own” the content you’ll be purchasing. Unreputable SEO companies will hold your content prisoner, or if they’re really shady, sell it to your competitors.

5. Cheap SEO: Remember the adage, “You get what you pay for?” This especially holds true in the SEO world. SEO is hard work and requires a serious time commitment to do correctly. If an “SEO expert” claims he can help you for a ridiculously low price, this is most likely a scam. These experts could be reselling the same content to everyone or using underhanded tactics that could ultimately get your site banned from search engines. SEO is always time-consuming and high-quality SEO work is not severely discounted.

6. False expiration notices: Another widely used scare tactic is a false expiration notice. You may receive these notices in snail mail or email. They may claim your domain is about to expire and that unless you renew it, the search engines will drop you and your customers will no longer be able to find you.

These are the top scams I come across regularly. Let us know if you’ve seen other creative SEO ploys.

B2B marketing trends to watch in 2014

IncreaseAs you wind down on last-minute holiday decorating, shopping and cooking, it’s a good time to think about 2014 and strategize ways to promote your business. Knowing key B2B trends will help you prepare for a successful year. Among the trends to watch:

  1. Companies will spend more on content marketing. Fifty-eight percent of B2B marketers plan to increase their marketing budgets in 2014, according to a survey from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs. Most of the companies that plan to boost their efforts are small firms with 10 to 99 employees, according to the survey. Top B2B marketing tactics include social media, website articles, e-newsletters and blogs.
  2. Original and engaging content will remain king. Keyword-driven SEO shops are reinventing themselves as content marketers for a reason. Google continues to update its search algorithms, placing more emphasis on well-written, relevant copy, and thwarting keyword stuffing. This practice involves the overuse of a word or related words and phrases on a single page to improve search engine rankings. Having useful content signals that you’re a subject-matter expert and boosts search engine rankings. Find out why SEO isn’t a magic pill.
  3. Visual content will surge in popularity. Smart content marketers will offer compelling videos and infograhics to stand out. The study from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs shows that 73 percent of B2B marketers are using video now, while 51 percent are using infographics. While there’s still a market for six-page white papers, audiences increasingly want multimedia and visual storytelling. Here’s an example of the magic that happens when you marry creativity and visuals.
  4. Mobile-responsive design will no longer be an option. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that more people will access your site and learn about your company from mobile devices. A study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project showed that nearly two-thirds of mobile users in the United States use their phones to access the Internet and check email – a number that has doubled since 2009. Learn more about mobile-responsive design.
  5. Social media monitoring and measurement will become more sophisticated. If you don’t have an enterprise social media analytics tool, it’s a challenge to determine what’s working and what’s not. Enhanced technology will make it easier to track engagement and interactions that contribute to lead conversions and sales. Learn more about some of the tools that will help B2B marketers.

What content marketing trends do you foresee in 2014? How will they influence your B2B marketing plans? Let us know in the comments below.

A cheat sheet for Google Analytics

Internet general imageIf you have a B2B website, you should have Google Analytics installed. The free service provides meaningful insights into your site’s performance, helping you make improvements that will ultimately improve your business.

When you first open Google Analytics, you will most likely be very intimidated (and even highly confused)! Since Google Analytics was built with marketers in mind, there may be a steep learning curve if you try to analyze your website data on your own. If you’re lucky enough to work with a professional marketing company, they can do all the heavy lifting for you. They can analyze the data and present it to you in a straightforward way with recommendations for improvement.

If you’d like to dig around in your own Google Analytics account, the audience overview is a great place to start. It gives you an at-a-glance overview of the following basic metrics, based on your selected date ranges:

  • Visits: How many people visit your site?
  • Unique visitors: How many unique visitors come to your site?
  • Page views: How many pages are visitors viewing when they are on your site?
  • Pages per visit: What is the average number of pages viewed per visit?
  • Average visit duration: How long do visitors stay on your site?
  • Bounce rate: How many visitors come to your site and leave after a single page visit?
  • New visitors: What percent of total visitors are visiting for the first time?

We like doing a deep dive into our clients’ analytics on a quarterly basis (along with basic monthly check-ins, if required). These reviews help our clients measure business goals against their websites’ effectiveness, and offer them insights into how to improve their visitors’ experiences, as well as how to drive more traffic to their sites.

Do you know how your website is performing? What analytics help you the most? Let us know in the comments below.

Why SEO isn’t a magic pill

One pill a day is guaranteed to make you drop pounds fast without diet or exercise – at least, that’s what those slick banner ads want you to believe. You know the ones – a hot mom in a bikini, a tape measure wrapped around her whittled waist, vaguely alarming side effects listed in the fine print underneath her.

Thanks to common sense (and high school health class), most of us realize that downing a cocktail of questionable-sounding chemicals won’t guarantee weight loss. Yet some marketing companies lure in prospects with an equally dubious promise:

“Your site will be in the first page of search engine rankings if you hire us for search engine optimization, guaranteed.”

If an agency says this to you, run. Anyone who promises you a specific ranking is, well, lying.

Without a doubt, SEO is a valuable tool that you can and should use to boost your website’s rankings on Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines. SEO is not the magic bullet some agencies want you to believe it is, however.

First of all, it’s impossible to crack the codes that search engines use to generate their rankings. They’re complex, fiercely guarded and constantly changing. Google, for example, uses more than 200 factors to rank pages – and unless you’re Matt Cutts, there’s no way to know the exact formula. While you can take cues from what’s worked in the past, how can you be sure you’re going to win the rankings game when you don’t even know what the rules are?

In addition, traditional SEO techniques, such as incorporating keywords and inbound links into a site, are just part of the puzzle when it comes to nabbing a high search ranking. When Google revamped its ranking formula last year, the Internet giant revealed that the way users interact with a website would factor into the site’s search rankings. The search engine also considers whether a site’s content is trustworthy, substantive and grammatically correct when assessing its rank, according to this blog.

The lesson? Companies need to have quality content on their site, and they need to update it often to keep visitors coming back. It’s not enough to pepper your site with keywords once – giving your readers valuable and timely information, whether it’s a how-to article on your blog or posting a newsletter, is essential for breaking the first-page ranking ceiling. Of course, you also need to incorporate appropriate keywords into that quality content and review your keywords regularly to make sure they’re still relevant.

Sound difficult to you? Maybe, but it’s the best way to land and maintain a high search ranking. Instead of thinking of SEO as a magic pill – one that guarantees you that coveted top spot in the rankings – think of it as part of your overall diet and exercise regimen. With some time and effort, you’ll get the results you want.

Website planning – 4 questions to ask yourself

Customers ask us all the time, “What should I have on my website?”  There is no universal set of rules.  Each business has different needs, and part of our job is working with clients to figure out their unique needs. 

If you are thinking of creating your first website or evolving your current site, there are a few simple questions that you can ask yourself to get pointed in the right direction. 

Can I afford a website?

The first question that you may ask yourself is, “Can I afford a website?”  The question that you should be asking yourself is, “Can I afford not to have a site?”  In today’s connected world, websites play a central role in how you market your business.  When a consumer wants to learn more about a service or a product, one of the first things they do is perform an Internet search to start gathering information.

If you are not online, or your web presence is not up to par, you will ultimately lose business to your competitors that are.  If you want to build a great website, you will need to spend some money.  Don’t cut corners– If consumers think that your site is unprofessional, they will feel the same way about your company.

What will my website be used for?

Will your site just provide basic information?  If so, then the essential screens of home, contact us and a products/services page may fit the bill.  Will your sales staff use your website as a sales tool?  In that case, think about incorporating testimonials, case studies and a portfolio. Will you use your site to inform your customers and prospects?  Consider a blog as well as screens for news, events, media, publication and outside resources. 

The lists of uses for your website are endless, and so are the solutions.  You need to think like your prospects and anticipate what they will need out of your site. 

Who will my website audience be?

Is your target audience retired or nearing retirement?  If so, you may need to have a high-contrast site where visitors can select a larger type size.  What computer equipment will they likely have?  If your target audience consists of IT personnel with high-tech computer equipment, your website will be much different than if you are trying to communicate with mass consumers.  What is the education level of your audience?  If your audience has limited literacy and language skills, you must ensure that your copy is accessible to them.  The most successful sites communicate with their audiences on their audience’s terms.

How do you want people to get to your site?

Will you and your sales staff direct consumers and prospects to your site, or will you want them to find you through organic searches?  If you want them to find you, consider search engine optimization (SEO).  The surest bet for SEO is to make sure that your content is aimed at human beings, not search engine spiders.   The algorithms for search engine spiders are constantly changing, but they always take into account the distinction between sites with useful information and sites that only pander to search engines. 

Although there is a lot more that goes into the creation of a website, the basic takeaway is that you have to think like your end user.  Customers and prospects pay attention to a great website that speaks to them on their terms, while not-so-great sites get ignored.   Giving your audience what they need will ultimately help you achieve your sales goals.

Google’s message for websites: sacrificing quality for SEO doesn’t cut it

For those who think loading up their website content with SEO keywords is their golden ticket to the top of Google’s Web rankings, the search engine has some bad news.

Google announced late last week that it was revamping its rules for ranking Web pages, according to this article by the Wall Street Journal. The search engine says it developed the new rules to keep websites with content that’s ripped from other sites or doesn’t provide much value from landing in the coveted top spots for Google searches. Though Google fiercely guards its top-secret formula for Web rankings, it did divulge that it has added several new criteria for the rankings, including how users interact with a site.

While savvy marketers know that search engine optimization, such as incorporating keywords and inbound links, are an important part of designing a site that will rank highly in a search, Google’s new formula is a stern reminder that SEO isn’t everything. The key takeaway here? Quality counts.

Make sure your website offers relevant information that visitors will actually want, whether it’s in the form of a frequently updated blog, in-depth white papers or a search tool to connect people with your organization’s members. Sparkling writing never hurts either. Then sit back and watch your Google rankings rise.

Searching for a better reputation

1260785_84481055Has Google given your company a bad name? Actually, if you’re being honest with yourself, it isn’t the fault of search engines that the top search results for your company are less than favorable.

When everyone’s a critic – with access to Yelp, no less – online reputations can get ugly pretty quickly. If you think that little can be done to correct the negative reviews, Twitter gossip and blog posts, you’re only partly right.

Harassing those who’ve bad-mouthed you online or petitioning sites like Yelp and Citysearch® to remove negative reviews will likely add fuel to the fire. There are, however, several things you can do to not only attempt to push less-than-favorable results farther down in search engine results, but also change the minds of naysayers. Here’s how:

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