Category Archives: SEO

What will content marketing look like in 2022?

The future of content marketingA five-year time frame is an eternity in digital marketing. In 2012, content marketing was uncharted territory for many businesses. They were investing heavily in social media, but the idea of a holistic content marketing plan was relatively new.

Fast-forward to 2017, and nearly 90 percent of B2B marketers use content marketing as a foundational piece of their marketing strategy, according to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), the go-to source for all things related to the art and science of content marketing. CMI also found that most B2B marketers now use at least 13 content marketing tactics, from blog articles and landing pages to short-form video, white papers and more.

The proliferation of content over the past five years begs the question, What will content marketing look like in another five years? Here are a few possibilities.

A 180 to brevity

Currently, blog writing is trending toward longer reads of 1,500 words or more, largely for search engine optimization. A bigger piece has more keywords organically and improves topic relevance, which Google uses to separate keyword-stuffed articles from meaningful, well-written content.

Long-form content will always have its place in search engine optimization and among highly engaged readers. The reality, however, is that the human attention span is literally shorter than that of goldfish. We’re at eight seconds; they’re at nine. Since Google updates its algorithms constantly, it seems to be a safe bet that quality short-form content will rise to the top of search results eventually.

Faces

Content marketing, for all intents and purposes, is synonymous with branded content. We look to our favorite brands to produce content that speaks to us, and the ones who “get” content marketing know how to deliver time and time again. The brand value of content will never go away, but we’re also seeing executives aim for for thought leadership on LinkedIn and online publications such as Forbes, Bloomberg and Entrepreneur.

Small to midsize business owners are increasingly seeking ghostwritten content – material that someone writes for another person. I wouldn’t be surprised to see executives from big brands start to seek bylines on a regular basis, too. Thought leadership content is the ultimate soft sell, because it puts a face to the business that produces the content, and speaks more about challenges and solutions than products and services.

Condensed metrics

With just about every business investing in content, the need for unimposing and easy-to-manage data is becoming apparent. While many marketers might suggest that data is the future of content marketing, I’m going to lean the other way and say we need less data. My prediction is that data-driven marketing will peak in the next few years, and then come back down to Earth. Analytics and content management platforms will become so overwhelming that marketers will eventually find their own comfort zones with just a handful of metrics that matter to them.

Social media is a perfect example of the type of shift I’ve described. When social first burst onto the scene, businesses were scrambling to jump on every single platform in existence. Now, most marketers hone their strategies on only a few social media platforms they have deemed to be the most effective.

Chime in!

“Five years from now” always makes for an interesting discussion. What do you think content marketing will look like in 2022? Tell us in the comments below.

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.

Are keywords dead?

Photo credit: parylo00

Photo credit: parylo00

Oh, Google. Just when we think we’ve figured out the secret to snagging a first-page search ranking, the rules change again. Keywords used to be king when it came to search engine optimization, but according to this article from Search Engine Watch, they’re becoming a lot less important. 

Read more…

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.

gTLDs: The next big thing or alphabet soup?

web browserJust when you thought the Internet had run out of Internet addresses, think again: a new era of URLs is nearly upon us.

On July 2, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the Big Apple will be one of the first cities in the world to provide a geographic-specific Internet domain: .nyc. The International Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) recently approved the new address, or generic top-level domain (gTLD). The nonprofit ICANN regulates naming conventions on the Internet like .com, .net and .biz.

New York City officials expect to put the new Internet addresses up for sale later this year, according to the mayor’s website. The nation’s largest city was one of 1,006 entities ICANN recently approved for a new gTLD. ICANN also gave the go-ahead for .toys, .mba and .poker.

Large corporations also got in on the action, paying a $185,000 fee for each application to scoop up new branded gTLDs like .lincoln, .redken, .merck and .safeway. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, seven Chicago-area companies also successfully applied for gTLDs: Allstate Insurance, Jones Lang LaSalle, Discover Financial Services, McDonald’s Corp., Citadel LLC, Transunion LLC and Abbott Laboratories.

Allstate’s picks? .allstate, .goodhands, .autoinsurance and .carinsurance.

The steep six-figure price tag undoubtedly discouraged many businesses from applying for a vanity gTLD in the first round of applications – and likely will in the future, too. Still, as these addresses will likely become commonplace in the coming years, here are answers to three questions business owners might have now:  

Should I start or continue to run analytics on my company’s website? Yes and yes. Without analytics, it will be impossible to make “apples-to-apples” comparisons of before-and-after Web traffic if you ultimately decide to make the switch to a new gTLD.

Should I drop everything immediately and go out and buy a .shoes gTLD for my shoe business or .tires gTLD for my tire business? No, don’t do that. First, these applications were just approved and it’s too early to determine what it all means. The first wave of gTLD applicants was primarily trying to warehouse domains for one of two reasons: protecting valuable brand names or, like New York City, launching Web hosting businesses that will sell new URLs ending in.nyc.

What will these new Web addresses mean for SEO? Uncertain. Until new gTLDs are up and running, it’s impossible to discern whether they’ll be more effective in generating search results than old standbys like .com and .org. Writing in the Guardian, Search Online Marketing’s Adam Grunwerg put it this way:

“If these new gTLDs are helpful for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), then we must remember that spammers will quickly abuse them. It could be the .info situation all over again, where extensions quickly become tainted and promoted for spam purposes. In this environment, it’s the trusted domain extensions such as .com and .co.uk that will be the biggest winners.”

Are you considering a new gTLD for your business? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

SEO offers too good to be true

number-1Hey, everyone! This week’s post will be a little short but full of some good SEO/email humor (yeah, nerd stuff).

I subscribe to Matt Cutts’ blog (he’s the head of Google’s Webspam team). I always find good tidbits on what Google is doing to enhance meaningful search results and how the company is looking at website content to produce those results. The comments on his posts are always enlightening and open up good SEO discussions.

In his most recent post, he talks about the spammy emails he gets from “SEO” companies claiming to offer the No. 1 spot in Google’s search results. Yes, a Google employee got an email offering to help google.com get better search rankings in Google’s search results.

I’m sure most of you get these emails as well. I know I do. I also get emails from people offering me logo design. That’s always a chuckle.

As the title of this post suggests, 99.99999 (to infinity) percent of these are too good to be true. It’s very hard to guarantee (without site longevity or meaningful, relevant content) a first-page listing, let alone the No. 1 spot – unless, of course, you sell knitted sweaters for manatees. At that point, you’re probably the only one, so congrats and good luck with your business. Most of us are offering products or services in which we have a market with competitors.

Like I said in the beginning, I’ll keep this short (we’ve talked about SEO on this blog before). When getting offers like this, be wary. I know the first instinct is “No. 1 on Google? Sign me up!” If you are in the market for a company that solely does SEO, do some research and find as many reviews as you can or even talk to the companies that have used the firm’s services. A legitimate SEO firm will be upfront and honest with what it can and will provide.

Some of the SEO emails can be quite funny (until I delete them with spam rage). What have you gotten that has tickled your funny bone?

Here’s a link to Matt’s post about the SEO emails he’s received (his other posts are good reads, too)!

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.

Do I need SEO marketing?

To a lot of us, it feels like SEO has been around forever. Even so, it is a fairly new concept when you compare it with other forms of traditional marketing. Some may mistakenly believe that their companies are doing fine without it, but even if you currently have strong sales, you can still benefit from SEO.

To understand how SEO can help your business, ask yourself these questions:  

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