Friday, June 15, 2018

Optimizing Your Content for Search: Don't Forget These 6 Things

Optimizing Your Content for Search: Don’t Forget These 6 Things

However, what good is all that content if no one finds it?
Organic search presents an opportunity to consistently get your content in front of the right audience at the right time in the buyer’s journey.
If you can master your content optimization strategy for search, you’ll see your content performance improve in both the short- and long-term.
A lot goes into a robust SEO strategy – don’t be fooled by those peddling magic SEO bullets.
That said, there are certain best practices you can adopt to optimize your content for search from the get-go.

1. Start with Keyword Research

Content optimization starts before you take pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) with keyword research.
Keywords serve as a proxy for customer intent and are an indicator if your topic is valuable and meaningful for your customers.
When choosing a keyword, there are a few questions to ask yourself:
  • How many people are searching for this keyword?
  • How competitive is this keyword?
  • What stage of the buyer’s journey is this keyword?
Doing this research at the outset ensures your content is relevant for your audience and impactful for your business – driving traffic and conversions in the long run.
Doing regular keyword research also keeps you abreast of shifts in demand and your market landscape. It can and should influence your content calendar.

2. Choose Your Result Type

Gone are the days when Google’s results pages were just a list of links.
Today, Google displays its results in a variety of user-friendly visual forms to help users find information faster.
From featured snippets, to local packs, to videos, depending on the search, Google serves up different result types.
Securing one of these result types is important because it puts your content at the top of the results page and drastically improves your click-through rate. According to iQuanti, Google’s Answer Box secures an astounding 32.3 percent CTR.
As with most things in the world of SEO, there is no one catchall tip to secure a universal result type, but there are a few content optimization steps you can take:
  • Research which keywords trigger a universal result type: Most of these keywords will implicitly or explicitly ask a question.
  • Structure your content: Most answer boxes are pulled from paragraphs, tables or lists in your content. For paragraphs, make your answer short and to the point. Also, ensure your answer appears at the top of your article. For lists and tables, use the proper HTML markup to ensure Google can crawl your list or table.
  • Be accurate and correct: Google wants to reward websites that offer up the most accurate and complete answer to the question.

3. Create Keyword Themes

Many marketers today stop their keyword research after they choose their primary keyword. But that’s just the beginning.
To improve your visibility, you don’t want to optimize for one keyword, but rather a group of keywords related to an idea. Your goal should be to create keyword themes using like-minded keywords.
Themes do three things:
  • Indicate to search engines what your content is about and how it aligns with user intent.
  • Improve discoverability for other relevant searches.
  • Help you avoid artificial keyword stuffing that makes your content less relatable and relevant to your audience.
When creating a theme, it’s recommended to choose two or three keywords. It’s also important to choose keywords that are within realistic reach.
Avoid choosing keywords that are too broad or have too much competition. You want to choose keywords for your theme that are highly relevant and can bring you qualified traffic.

4. Add Transcripts to Your Videos

Odds are you’re using video content in one way or another. A survey by Wyzowl found that 81 percent of businesses use video as a marketing tool – up from 63 percent from 2017.
Next time you create a video landing page, add a transcript of the video to the page. Search engines crawl the text on a page for indexing. A transcript enables search engines to understand your video content and rank it for the appropriate search terms.
Not only does a transcript make search engines happy, but it also makes it easy for your visitors to quickly gauge if the video is relevant to them, improving the user experience.
Don’t forget that once you have the video transcript, you can repurpose it into a blog post, social quotes, white paper, etc.

5. Impact of Page Speed

According to data from Google, if your content takes longer than three seconds to load, you might be losing 53 percent of your mobile site visitors.
People have little patience for slow load times or poor user experiences. Any friction and they’ll move on to another site.
It’s essential to your content’s performance that your page loads quickly across device types.
To make sure your webpage is fast, Google offers a free PageSpeed Insights tool. This tool not only tells you how you’re doing on mobile and desktop but also offers recommendations to improve your content’s speed.

6. Photos Matter

Along those same lines: did you know the size of your photos can impact your content’s load time?
Before hitting publish, ensure your images are sized properly in the correct file type.
Image optimization doesn’t stop there.
The image title, alt text, and placement of your images offer opportunities to improve your search rankings. All three of these elements add relevance and context, which can help you rank better.
This also makes your image more visible in the image results.


Going forward, don’t let content optimization for search be an afterthought. You’ll miss out on big traffic and conversion opportunities. If you start optimizing today, you’ll see long-term gains.


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A Student's Guide to Online Reputation Management

Online Reputation Management for Students

From Graduate to Unemployed

Your days of partying at the neighborhood fraternity house, posting risqué Halloween photos of you and your friends on Instagram, and starting politically-charged Facebook debates are about to come to an end.
With a looming pile of student debt haunting your bank account, you’ll soon realize that your diploma isn’t enough to land you your dream job.
The carefree debaucheries that are all over your social media profiles are now being scrutinized by potential employers, and in an uber-competitive job market, they’re looking for any reason to reject you as a candidate.
Getting your foot in the door of your dream job is tough as is, but it can be nearly impossible to score without carefully curating your online reputation.

Employers Can & Will Check Your Social Media Profiles

Are you the type of student who avoids social media like the plague?
Or are you one of those Instagrammers who posts about everything that’s happening throughout their day?
Both cohorts have their perils.
The former social media ghost is failing to protect their online reputation while the latter may have posted a plethora of reputation-damaging information for all future employers to view.
According to a 2017 CareerBuilder study, approximately 70 percent of employers use social media as a screening method for all job candidates. As a new norm in the toolbox of HR capabilities, 30 percent of recruiters are tasked with scanning candidates’ social profiles.
What exactly are HR professionals searching for? According to the study:
  • 61 percent of hiring managers are interested in uncovering online information that supports the qualifications that are in the candidate’s CV.
  • 50 percent are determined to scope out whether the candidate conveys a professional regard.
What’s even more disconcerting are the results that were found in a 2010 study by 70 percent of HR professionals disqualified candidates upon discovering elements of a bad online reputation.
Even more recently, CareerBuilder found that 57 percent of employers didn’t accept candidates for an interview if they failed to find online information about the individual in question.

What Google’s SERPs Say About You

Google can expose a lot of dirt on a student who’s on the job hunt.
Wondering what the search engine results page (SERP) looks like under your name? Give it a go, opting for the traditional Google search.
Perhaps you were a part of a university association that favored late-night boozefests after a big win in your school’s business case competition. Or maybe your local sorority’s policies were lenient, making way to forums that depict your organization’s illegal hazing rituals.
Your name could have been mentioned in such a forum, or saved from a peer’s Snapchat story, thus putting your reputation at risk. The SERP takes no prisoners.
If both your social media profiles and Google results need tweaking in time for your third-round job interview, there are thankfully many strategies you can implement to lessen the blow that a bad online reputation may have on your future career.

Don’t Delete Your Social Profiles

A bad online presence can be detrimental as you try to start your career. However, you can easily control your social profiles, such as Facebook and Instagram, and what Google sees.
Instead of deleting your profiles, delete the controversial content that may cause your employer to think twice about your candidacy. The trick is to view your account as though you were in the shoes of a recruiter.
Would a recruiter favor a photo of you riding the mechanical bull during country night at a bar? What about that long-winded post about your disapproval of the current president running your country?
These items demonstrate a lack of seriousness and a heavily negative disposition — qualities that you don’t want your employer to see.

Curate Your Social Profiles to Showcase Your Strengths

As you get thrown into the real world, it’s time that you view social media as a means of displaying your accomplishments, hobbies, and interests. Act like you’re a brand, and a slew of opportunities will come your way.
That doesn’t mean you’re forbidden from posting respectful photos of you during family and friend outings — simply think twice before you decide to post this content.
If you are an avid tennis player and won a silver medal in your first competition, publish a post highlighting your pride.
Working late on a special project with your two best friends? Let the world know with a cute sneak peek of the final product.
Employers look for individuals who instill passion in their pastimes instead of simply sitting at home watching Netflix day in, day out.

The Power of LinkedIn

If you haven’t already created a LinkedIn profile, stop everything you’re doing and get on it.
LinkedIn will, more often than not, show up on the first page of Google under a search for your name. So make continuous updates to your education, awards, work, and volunteer experience.
If you aren’t familiar with the platform, LinkedIn is a comprehensive alternative to an online CV. For a student straight out of college hoping to snag a Business Analyst position at a Big Four, the job hunt is made easier through intuitive application methods straight on LinkedIn’s job section.
Connecting with individuals that you meet at conferences and networking events becomes a no-brainer with LinkedIn.
If you want to add a competitive layer to the mix, ask your previous managers and colleagues to post a recommendation on your profile. The more activity you receive, the better your online reputation will appear.

Use Privacy Settings

Dedicate a few hours toward managing your privacy settings on all your social media platforms.
For instance, Facebook has the option to control what is posted on your timeline through an approval process. Any time someone tags you in a post, you can conduct a timeline review and decide whether you want that specific post to appear on your profile.
Nonetheless, the poster’s Facebook friends can still view the photo even if you do not accept it – in which case, you should un-tag yourself from the photo.

Brand Your Own Website

While curating your social profiles is a valuable way to maintain a positive online image, gaining as much proprietary branded information is another method students can use to shine on the SERP.
Online reputation services dedicate their entire livelihood to highlighting the best aspects of a company or individual, crafting together the ultimate business card for all future endeavors. One of ORM companies’ trade secrets includes creating websites with the specific keyword in question.
For instance, if John Doe has photos of him puking at a rave on the first page of Google, online reputation managers’ first line of attack would include creating and regularly updating its content and blog section to indicate search engine relevancy.
If you’re a student searching for your dream job, then this website strategy holds particular significance for two reasons:
  • It will help protect your online reputation from damaging material that is floating around the web.
  • It also provides another platform for you to showcase your skills, achievements, and professional background.
Bonus points if you’re looking to work in a creative field as your site houses the perfect foundation for a virtual portfolio.

Link Building: The Ultimate ORM Bullet-Proof Strategy

Want to take extra precaution? Then you should become your own online reputation specialist.
Ask the online reputation manager of any ORM company — the bulk of their work is rooted in content writing.
In order to support the SERP ranking of your social media platforms and website, you must write various articles about your achievements and student initiatives to be featured on a string of blogs.
If possible, partner up with university associations and student life organizations by asking them to post your editorials on their respective websites. Most university sites have high domain authority, which can help improve the visibility of your positive content in Google’s search results.
The anchor text — which should be your name — in each article must then link back to your social profiles and website.

Generate Automatic Alerts About Your Digital Reputation

Take the driver’s seat when managing your digital reputation. Leave no incident up to faith.
Features such as Google Alerts and Trackur implement social media monitoring even while you’re asleep. With every mention of your name, you will be notified of the latest news, giving you the chance to extinguish any potentially crippling results about your reputation.
You never know… Someone could have snapped an embarrassing photo of you while inebriated at a party and all of a sudden, the photo (which you have never seen) may appear on the first page of the SERP after having lived on a forum for years unbeknownst to you.

Beat the Competition with SERP Presence

Think you’ve got a good resume? Even if you haven’t run into a digital reputation incident, it could happen.
Check your ego at the door and recognize the importance of online reputation management to your future. Curating a noteworthy online presence — via social media platforms (hello influencers!), branded websites, and consistent backlinks — can create an inbound effect of recruiters reaching out to you.
The same way the aforementioned tips can be used as a hefty damage control strategy, you’ll prove to be ahead of the game if you implement them as a pre-emptive strategy.
Don’t wait around for your profile to get noticed! Make it easy for employers by placing your strong points right before their eyes – on Google’s coveted first page.

A Great Online Reputation Doesn’t Happen Overnight

Although you may want or expect an instant fix, each step of the online reputation game must be administered organically in time. Don’t expect astonishing results to happen overnight.
The ORM experts at recommend dedicating no more than 10 hours to your online reputation efforts every week.
If you ever meet an online reputation expert who tells you that your bad result can be moved down from the first page of Google in the span of a few months — especially if your unwanted review is ranking at the top of the SERP — you should know that you’re being lied to.

Online Reputation Management on a Student’s Budget

Since the price for online reputation services at a credible agency can add up quickly, ranging between $1,000 to $3,500 a month, it’s best that you stick to your student budget and do the job yourself.
With rigorous drive and consistent effort flushed toward garnering a stellar online reputation using the strategies previously discussed, you’ll be securing your dream job sooner than most graduates your age.
And hey, who knows… Maybe this work will inspire you to open up an online reputation management company of your own! In which case, you don’t even need a job interview.


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Four ways Google is making SEO easier

One of the easiest ways to understand SEO’s importance to the marketing mix is to pay attention to what Google says and does. Google is very keen on good SEO because it makes the internet a better place for users. If the internet is a better place for users, then Google can sell more ads.
Here are four things Google has said and done to help marketers improve SEO that you may not be aware of.

Google added an ‘SEO’ audit to its Lighthouse extension

Google is actively giving developers advice on how to improve the sites they work on: its Lighthouse auditing tool now has an SEO component that can analyse any page for basic SEO competency and tell you how to make it better.

This is a nice change for search marketers, who have for a long time made up for Google’s radio silence with research and educated guesswork. Some of the tips offered by the audit extension are fairly obvious and well known (tile tag exists, canonicals not broken, etc.), but others give an interesting insight into how Google assesses a page – such as the importance of making sure your text is big enough. Beyond being useful to marketers, it’s interesting to see how many different factors contribute to a positive user experience and correlate with a higher search engine ranking.

Google made significant improvements to Search Console

Search Console – formerly known as Webmaster Tools – helps you understand what’s going on beneath the hood of your website. It’s a comprehensive piece of software that, in its latest beta version, allows you to immediately index blogs and view up to 16 months of data in the search analytics (Performance) report.

Google has revamped its SEO guide

By relaunching its SEO starter guide, Google is offering newbies an easy way to improve the quality of their websites. If you’re reading this, you’re probably a bit beyond starter guides, but it never hurts to brush up on the basics, especially when they’re directly from the horse’s mouth – after all, who knew text size was such a big deal?
It’s a useful primer for anyone looking to brush up on their on-site optimization, and a strong indicator that Google is taking organic search as seriously as ever. With content, for example, it dedicates a whole section to advice on organising topics, understanding readers’ desires, optimising copy, images, and headlines for users (not engines), writing link text, and generally creating blogs and web pages that your target audience actually wants to read.

Google has hired a new public search liaison

Finally, Google’s hiring of a public search liaison suggests not only that organic search is here to stay, but that the company is willing to be more open and transparent about it.
When Matt Cutts – who led Google’s WebSpam team and served as a kind of unofficial liaison between the company and the SEO community – resigned in 2016, search marketing professionals started communicating with Google in a number of different ways. They popped up in Google hangouts with engineers, asked questions in official Google Threads, and turned up to conferences where Google’s employees were present.
Google, in turn, started communicating more with them via  the Google Security Blog, the Google Chrome blog, the general Google blog,  the Google Webmaster Central Blog, the Google Analytics blog, and the Google Search blog. It then appointed its first public liaison for search in October 2017: Danny Sullivan, a former SEO journalist and analyst.
No doubt he’ll prove a useful resource for the SEO and marketing communities. But more importantly, perhaps, is what Sullivan’s appointment says about Google’s shifting philosophy to search marketing. If it was once obscure and opaque about organic search, it’s now open and consultative.

For search marketers, this is particularly important; just think back to the days before ‘(not provided)’ was your most common GA keyword. Now you have a rich bounty of keywords, just waiting to be incorporated into your search strategy.
It’s worth mentioning that Google is taking Search Console seriously: it’s actively asking for suggestions and potential improvements, and even implementing some of them.


Monday, June 11, 2018

How to Know Your Audience to Master Your Marketing Campaigns

How to Know Your Audience to Master Your Marketing Campaigns

Keywords. Conversion. User experience. Search engine optimization.
What do all of these words and phrases have in common?
They all relate to how you will attract, engage, and convert your target audience.
The crux of any good digital marketing campaign is to identify the specific characteristics of your ideal customers, including geographic, demographic, and psychographic variables.
The more you know about your audience, the more powerful your digital marketing efforts will become.
At some point, whether it was in a Marketing 101 course you took or from self-learning, you’ve probably heard that getting to know your audience is incredibly important.
What this really means: it isn’t enough to know the demographics and location of your prospects. You have to know as much as possible about them, including their:
  • Personality traits.
  • Interests.
  • Values.
  • Opinions.
Knowing all of this will help you:
  • Come up with an accurate list of topics and keywords to target.
  • Set up your pages to convert more effectively.
  • Create a great user experience.
  • Optimize your content.
  • Craft the perfect message to cause your readers to take action.
  • Find key influencers in your market.
Below is a step-by-step approach you can use to get to know your audience, which will, in turn, help you create a successful digital marketing campaign and turn you into a marketing rock star.

Step 1: Conduct Market Research

When you want to know more about your target audience, you need to conduct good old-fashioned market research.
The goal of market research is to get as many details as possible about the group you’re targeting, which you can later use to build personas.
There are many ways you can gather this information, including the following five methods.

Reach Out to Other Departments

Many times, we work in silos, meaning we stick within our own team or department and don’t reach out to anyone outside of our group.
When you are in digital marketing, you need to take advantage of the wealth of information that exists among other departments.
For example, the sales team will know the types of questions that prospects ask and will also know their interests and desires.
If your company has a customer service team, they will be able to provide insight into the words customers use (i.e. possible keywords for SEO) and what concerns are commonly brought up.
Even if your company isn’t that large, there are still people on the frontlines who are fielding questions and comments both from prospects and customers. Take the time to sit down with them and ask them questions about your target audience.

Gather Data Using Tools

Plenty of tools can help you gather data about your target audience. These tools range in price, but can provide assist you in building a foundation of information, ranging from basic demographic data to specific habits and interests.
Two of my favorite tools are:
  • YouGov: The free version will give you a nice sketch of your target persona, which is pulled from a database of more than 200,000 consumers in the U.S. To get the right data, you need to identify a brand, activity, book, movie, celebrity, etc. that you know aligns with your audience. Type the information into’s search box and you will see something like the following:
YouGov profiles
  • Demographics Pro: This tool will analyze Twitter and Instagram profiles to give you insight into the followers. If your company doesn’t have a large following, you can analyze your competitor’s profiles. You can glean a ton of great data for your personas after analyzing a profile, as seen here:
DemographicsPro profile

Research Social Networks

If you ever wanted to read your customers’ minds, social media is the closest you will get.
This concept is known as social listening. It consists of monitoring the various social networks to discover what is being said about your brand, your competitors, and topics relevant to your business.
You can even identify trends in your audience’s interests and problems.
Also, you can determine what social networks your target audience is the most active on, as well as the influencers in that space.
Instead of asking your audience questions, you can listen to their social conversations and determine what type of content will be the most valuable and relevant to them.

Create a Quantitative Survey

You will need to gather more information about your audience than general demographics. However, that doesn’t mean you are going to dismiss demographics, such as age, gender, income level, education, employment, etc.
To gather this information fairly quick, you can take a quantitative approach. This research method is ideal for surveying a large population of interest, such as your existing customer base or potential market.
The easiest way to go about this research is to use an online survey. The data is then quantified, giving you statistical results about your population.
You will be able to see general characteristics about your target audience.
This approach won’t give you specific insight into individual experiences. Instead, it reflects trends and commonalities among your audience. Tip: SurveyMonkey is a great surveying tool.

Conduct Interviews

Interviews are considered a qualitative research method, which delves into motivations, thoughts, and even opinions. It is a way to get to know your audience on a more personal level.
Because interviews are a time-consuming process, the population you research will be smaller. Generally, you will aim for 10 to 20 interviews.
One of the simplest ways to go about qualitative research is to conduct interviews with several existing customers and prospects. The questions should be prepared in advance and designed in such a way that they reveal the respondent’s:
  • Personality traits.
  • Buying preferences.
  • Interests.
  • Motivations.
The interview itself should be treated as a conversation. There should be a lot of listening on your end.
Be careful not to put words into the respondent’s mouth. Instead, take the time to allow the person to get deep into his or her thoughts.
One tactical piece of advice: ask permission to record the conversation. Doing so will ensure you don’t miss important insights. It will also allow you to capture the exact words used.
If you truly listen to these interviews, you will discover a wealth of information that you can use to successfully market and sell to your potential customers.

Step 2: Build Your Personas

Now that you have collected detailed information about your target audience, you can start to build buyer personas.
Marketers who use personas achieve 73 percent higher conversions, according to Aberdeen Research.
A persona isn’t a simple buyer profile. A buyer persona is a representation of your ideal customer, based on market research and actual data about your existing customer base.
Step one helps you put together this information to discover your target customers’ demographics, motivations, interests, and behaviors.
Personas offer a voice from your ideal target customers that tie right back to your digital marketing efforts.
Think of and refer to your personas as real people instead of an abstract audience. That will help you engage in genuine conversations with your current and potential customers.
Below are some tips to help you build personas for your digital marketing campaign.

Identify All the Personas You’re Targeting

After conducting your market research, there is a strong chance you identified more than one buyer persona. That’s OK. In fact, it’s pretty common.
All of these personas should describe different target customers. You will tailor your content and SEO efforts to connect with each of these customer segments.
For example, if you identified millennials as one of your buyer personas, you will develop a content marketing strategy that speaks directly to them. You will also consider what words they use and the websites they frequent.

Write a Detailed Description of Each Persona

It isn’t enough to jot down a “type” of a persona you have identified. Instead, you want to describe, in detail, each one.
You would include basic demographic data, but also other pertinent information, such as the person’s:
  • Interests.
  • Pain points.
  • Priorities.
  • Goals.
  • Concerns.
  • Personality traits.
Be very detailed in your persona description. Include real quotes for your personas, which should be taken from the interviews you conducted during your market research.
You might consider including a picture of your persona and even a name or archetype, such as Frugal Freddy, Motivated Mary, etc.
If you need a little guidance in describing these personas, there are plenty of free persona building templates out there, including HubSpot’s MakeMyPersona.

Put Personas Into Action

Once you create personas, you should regularly refer back to them when you are working on any facet of digital marketing, including SEO, content development, and social media marketing.
For instance, if you are thinking about redesigning your website, creating a social media strategy, or targeting new keywords, refer to your personas.
View them as your real customers and focus on how you can best connect with them. You should also map your content to the various personas you identified.

Step 3: Identify Influencers of Your Target Audience

Once you’ve done your market research and defined your personas, it’s time to consider the influencers who can help you grow your brand’s visibility.
You need to identify the people who have a direct influence on your target audience. These are the people who can significantly impact your customer’s purchasing decision.
While influencers can include celebrities, journalists, and even industry analysts, the focus here is on social influencers. These individuals are the ones who have built a substantial social following and engage with their audience on a regular basis.
Social influencers are going to be different in each market.
For example, if you are trying to reach young mothers, you might want to find and reach out to a popular mom blogger. Or, if you are trying to reach teenagers, look at popular Snapchat celebrities or YouTubers.
Unsure who is an influencer in your market? You can use tools such as BuzzSumo or Followerwonk.
When you are looking for one of these influencers, consider the following.
  • Pay attention to engagement: The number of social followers is a metric to view when considering an influencer, but just as important (if not more) is the level of engagement. You want to work with an influencer who has a high engagement with followers. Social influencer Zach King is a great example. King has more than 21 million followers on Instagram and 2.3 million subscribers on YouTube. In an interview, he talked about the importance of an engaged audience and a strong collaboration between the brand and influencer.
  • Make sure the influencer likes your brand: You want the influencer to be a genuine brand advocate. This genuineness will come through in his or her messaging. Consumers are savvy and can often identify when an influencer is truly a fan of a brand. Trying to fool consumers has the potential to hurt your brand image.
  • Know how much the influencer is worth: When you involve an influencer, expect to pay money. According to GroupHigh, 85 percent of influencers accept monetary compensation for posts. GroupHigh also revealed that 70 percent of influencers would rather have monetary compensation per post than ads on their blogs, affiliate partnerships or product trade. Keep in mind that the FTC requires you to signal to consumers if a post is sponsored. Make sure you are abiding by the law. GroupHigh reported that even when a post is labeled with “sponsored” or “paid,” it doesn’t affect how much the consumer trusts the influencer’s brand recommendation.

Reach Out to Influencers

When you determine the influencer(s) who are relevant to your target audience, you can start your outreach.
Take the time to get to know the influencer, just like you would take the time to get to know your target customer.
Read or view his or her posts and get a feel for what is important to the influencer. Tailor your message to each particular influencer, but at the same time, be sure to clearly communicate your brand objectives and deliverables.
You should also explain your expectations. As mentioned in the previous section, you will likely need to compensate the influencer, so start that conversation right away.

Final Advice

The majority of the information shared up to this point has to do with marketing.
You have to apply tried and true marketing principles to have a great SEO or digital marketing campaign.
While some of these principles have evolved over time, what hasn’t changed is that you are still marketing to people.
It is trendy to talk about the evolving consumer, but a good marketer should also be focused on what has remained unchanged: human instincts, motivations, desires, and needs.
The more you know about your audience, including your target customers and key influencers, the greater success you will achieve through your digital marketing.


Friday, June 8, 2018

The Importance of Meta Tags for On-Page SEO

How Important Are Tags for SEO?

A comprehensive and thoughtful SEO strategy is what you would turn to if your goal is to improve your website’s visibility and grow traffic and revenue respectively.
While off-page tactics like link building still remain at the top of the agenda, on-page SEO is no less important in the age of semantic search.
Search engines’ attention has gradually shifted from authority alone toward the quality of the content you provide, its structure, its relevance, and the overall user experience, so taking care of those aspects also plays a major role in succeeding online.
In the past, SEO tags proved to have significant impact on rankings, but now tags are one of the most controversial aspects of on-page SEO, surrounded by debates.
Which tags are obsolete now? Which ones are as crucial as ever?
To answer these questions, it’s important to understand the role of each type of tag and evaluate the impact it may have in terms of user- and search-friendliness.
Whether these are meta tags like title and description, or other tags classifying or organizing the content – the way we use tags and their relative impact on rankings has naturally changed over the years.
As the search engines got smarter at reading and interpreting data, using all kinds of tags in a manipulative manner has become obsolete. However, new tags and new ways of organizing data entered the game, and by changing the approach a bit, one can make great use of both old and new ones.
Let’s dive into the variety of tags and investigate their SEO importance.

Title Tags

A title tag is an HTML attribute from the <header> section that specifies the title of a webpage. It typically appears as a clickable headline in the SERPs and also shows up on social networks and in browsers.
Title tags are meant to provide a clear and comprehensive idea of what the page’s content is about. But do they have a major impact on rankings as they used to for many years?
On the one hand, they are no longer “a cure for all ills,” as explicit keyword stuffing just doesn’t seem to convince Google anymore. On the other hand, well-written optimized titles and higher rankings still do go hand in hand, even though the direct correlation got weaker.
Over the past few years, user behavior factors were being discussed a lot as logical proof of relevance and thus a ranking signal – even Google representatives admit its impact here and there.
The page’s title still is the first thing for a searcher to see in SERPs and decide if the page is likely to answer the search intent. A well-written one may increase the number of clicks and traffic, which have at least some impact on rankings.
A simple experiment can also show that Google no longer needs your title tag to include an exact match keyword to know the topic the page covers.
For instance, if you search for [how to build brand awareness] on Google, you’ll only see one result (Position 7) in the top 10 with the exact match phrase in the title:
how-to-build-brand-awareness Google SERP
This shows how search engines are getting more powerful in reading and understanding the content and the context rather than relying on keyword instances alone.
You can see how the title isn’t the cure-all, but is a crucial piece of the puzzle that proves your page is relevant and rank-worthy.
Search engines are now taking a more comprehensive picture into account, and tend to evaluate page’s content as a whole, but the cover of a book still matters – especially when it comes to interaction with searchers.
Following best SEO practices, you should:
  • Give each page a unique title that describes the page’s content concisely and accurately.
  • Keep the titles up to 50-60 characters long (for them not to get truncated in the SERPs).
  • Put important keywords first, but in a natural manner, as if you write titles for your visitors in the first place.
  • Make use of your brand name in titles.

Meta Description Tags

Meta description is another paragraph of text placed in the <header> of a webpage and commonly displayed in a SERP snippet along with a title and page URL. The purpose of a meta description is to reflect the essence of a page, but with more details and context.
It’s no secret that meta description hasn’t been an official ranking factor for almost a decade now. However, the importance of meta description tags lies close together with title tag, as it impacts the interaction of a searcher with your site.
  • The description occupies the largest part of a SERP snippet and is a great opportunity to invite searchers to click on your site by promising a clear and comprehensive solution to their query.
  • The description impacts the amount of clicks you get, and may also improve CTR and decrease bounce rates, if the pages’ content indeed fulfills the promises. That’s why the description must be as realistic as it is inviting and distinctly reflect the content.
Surely, no description can perfectly match absolutely all queries you may rank for.
Your meta description can be any length you want. But Google typically only shows around 160 characters in the SERPs – and the snippet Google uses for your site may not be the meta description you’ve written, depending on the query.
Following best SEO practices, you should:
  • Give each page a unique meta description that clearly reflects what value the page carries.
  • Google’s snippets typically max out around 150-160 characters (including spaces).
  • Include your most significant keywords, but don’t overuse them. Write for people.
  • Optionally, use an eye-catchy call-to-action, a unique proposition you offer or additional hints on what to expect – ‘Learn’, ‘Buy’ constructions, etc.

Heading Tags (H1-H6)

Heading tags are HTML tags used to identify headings and subheadings within your content from other types of text (e.g., paragraph text).
The hierarchy goes from H1-H6, historically in a sense of “importance.” H1 is the main heading of a page (visible to users unlike meta title), and the most prominent tag showing what the page is about. H2-H6 are optional tags to organize the content in a way that’s easy to navigate.
The usage of heading tags these days is a source of some debate. While H2-H6 tags are considered not as important to search engines, proper usage of H1 tag has been emphasized in many industry studies. Apart from that, clumsy usage of H1s may keep a site from major rankings and traffic improvements.
Utilizing the heading tags certainly adds up to the architecture of the content.
  • For search engines, it’s easier to read and understand the well-organized content than to crawl through structural issues.
  • For users, headings are like anchors in a wall of text, navigating them through the page and making it easier to digest.
Both these factors raise the importance of careful optimization, where small details add up to the big SEO- and user-friendly picture and can lead to ranking increases.
Following best SEO practices, you should:
  • Give each page a unique H1 reflecting the topic the page covers, using your primary keywords in it.
  • Use H2-H6 tags where appropriate (normally, there’s no need to go further than H3), using secondary keywords relevant to each paragraph.
  • Don’t overuse the tags and the keywords in them. Keep it readable for users.

Italic/Bold Tags

Italic and bold tags can be used to highlight most important parts of the content and to add a semantic emphasis on certain words.
In terms of SEO, it is commonly being said that bots may appreciate such little tweaks, but won’t care too much really.
Thereby, these are not crucial kinds of tags to utilize, yet again they may improve readability and user experience, and this will never hurt – bots tend to appreciate what’s appreciated by searchers.
Following best SEO practices, you should:
  • Only use these tags where it really makes sense. Steer clear of excessive use.
  • Scan a piece of content as a whole, to make sure it isn’t overloaded with accents and is comfortable to read and digest.

Meta Keywords Tags

At the beginning of the optimization race, meta keywords used to be small snippets of text only visible in the code, that were supposed to tell the search engines what topics the page relates to.
Naturally, over the years the tag turned into a breeding ground for spamming and stuffing, instead of honestly optimizing the content.
Now, it’s a well-known fact that Google ignores meta keywords completely – they neither impact the rankings, nor would cause a penalty if you stuff it up.
Bottom line: meta keywords are pretty much obsolete and not worth wasting too much of your time on.
Following best SEO practices, you should:

Image Alt Tags

The image alt tag is an HTML attribute added to an image tag to describe its contents. Alt tags are important in terms of on-page optimization for two reasons:
  • Alt text is displayed to visitors if any particular image cannot be loaded (or if the images are disabled).
  • Alt tags provide context, because search engines can’t “see” images.
For ecommerce sites, images often have crucial impact on how a visitor interacts with a page.
Google also says it outright: helping search engines understand what the images are about and how they go with the rest of the content may help them serve a page for suitable search queries.
Additionally, a clear and relevant description digestible for search engines raises your chances to appear among Google Images results.
Following best SEO practices, you should:
  • Do your best to optimize most prominent images (product images, infographics, or training images), images that are likely to be looked up in Google Images search.
  • Add alt text on pages where there’s not too much content apart from the images.
  • Keep the alt text brief and clear, use your keywords reasonably and make sure they fit naturally into the whole canvas of page’s content.

Nofollow Link Tags

External/outbound links are the links on your site pointing to other sites. Naturally, these are used to refer to proven sources, point people towards other useful resources, or mention a relevant site for some other reason.
These links matter a lot for SEO: they can make your content look like a hand-crafted comprehensive piece backed up by reliable sources, or like a link dump with not so much valuable content.
Google’s well-known for its severe antipathy to any manipulative linking tactics, sticking to which can cause a penalty, and it doesn’t get any less smart at detecting those.
Apart from that, in the age of semantic search, Google may treat the sources you refer to as the context, to better understand the content on your page. For both these reasons, it’s definitely worth paying attention to where you link, and how.
By default, all hyperlinks are dofollow, and when you place a dofollow link on your site, you basically ‘cast a vote of confidence’ to the linked page.
When you add a nofollow attribute to a link, it instructs search engines’ bots not to follow the link (and not to pass any link equity). Keeping your SEO neat, you would preserve a healthy balance between follow and nofollow links on your pages, but would normally set the following kinds of links to nofollow:
  • Links to any resources that in any way can be considered as “untrusted content.”
  • Any paid or sponsored links (you wouldn’t want Google to catch you selling your “vote”).
  • Links from comments or other kinds of user-generated content which can be spammed beyond your control.
  • Internal “Sign in” and “Register” links following, which is just a waste of crawl budget.

Robots Tags

A page-level noindex tag is an HTML element that instructs the search engines not to index given page. A nofollow tag instructs not to follow any links on that page.
While these tags don’t correlate with rankings directly, in some cases they may have some impact on how your site looks in the eyes of search engines overall.
For instance, Google highly dislikes thin content. You may not generate it intentionally, but happen to have some pages with little value for users, but necessary to have on the site for some reason.
You may also have “draft” or placeholder pages that you need to publish while they are not yet finished or optimized to their best. You probably wouldn’t want such pages to be taken into account while evaluating the overall quality of your site.
In some other cases, you may want certain pages to stay out of SERPs as they feature some kind of special deal that is supposed to be accessible by a direct link only (e.g., from a newsletter).
Finally, if you have a sitewide search option, Google recommends to close custom results pages, which can be crawled indefinitely and waste bot’s resources on no unique content.
In the above cases, noindex and nofollow tags are of great help, as they give you certain control over your site as it’s seen by the search engines.
Following best SEO practices, you should:
  • Close unnecessary/unfinished pages with thin content that have little value and no intent to appear in the SERPs.
  • Close pages that unreasonably waste crawl budget.
  • Make sure carefully you don’t mistakenly restrict important pages from indexing.

Canonical Tags

Canonical tag (rel=”canonical”) is a way of telling search engines which version of a page you consider the main one and would like to be indexed by search engines and found by people.
It’s commonly used in cases when the same page is available under multiple different URLs, or multiple different pages have very similar content covering the same subject.
Internal duplicate content is not treated as strictly as copied content, as there’s usually no manipulative intent behind it. Yet this may become a source of confusion to search engines: unless you indicate which URL is the one you prefer to rank with, search engines may choose it for you.
The selected URL gets crawled more frequently, while the others are being left behind. You can see that while there’s almost no penalty risk, such state of affairs is far not optimal.
Another benefit is that canonicalizing a page makes it easier to track performance stats associated with the content.
John Mueller also mentions that using a rel=canonical for duplicate content helps Google consolidate all your efforts and pass the link signals from all the page’s versions to the preferred one. That is where using the canonical tag may help you steer the SEO effort in one direction.
Following best SEO practices, you should canonicalize:
  • Pages with similar content on the same subject.
  • Duplicate pages available under multiple URLs.
  • Versions of the same page with session IDs or other URL Parameters that do not affect the content.

Schema Markup

Schema markup is a shared markup vocabulary recognized by search engines, letting you organize data in a logical way. It has been on everyone’s lips lately as one of the most underrated tweaks.
A “semantic web” is a “meaningful web,” where the focus shifts from keywords instances and backlinks alone to concepts behind them and relationships between those concepts. Structured data markup is exactly what helps search engines to not only read the content but also understand what certain words relate to.
The SERPs have evolved so much that you may not even need to click through the results to get an answer to your query. But if one is about to click, a rich snippet with a nice pic, a 5-star rating, specified price-range, stock status, operating hours or whatever is useful – is very likely to catch an eye and attract more clicks than a plain-text result.
Assigning schema tags to certain page elements makes your SERP snippet rich on information that is helpful and appealing for users. And, back to square one, user behavior factors like CTR and bounce rate add up to how search engines decide to rank your site.
Following best SEO practices, you would:
  • Study available schemas on
  • Create a map of your most important pages and decide on the concepts relevant to each.
  • Implement the markup carefully (using Structured Data Markup Helper if needed).
  • Thoroughly test the markup to make sure it isn’t misleading or added improperly.

Social Media Meta Tags

Open Graph was initially introduced by Facebook to let you control how a page would look when shared on social media. It is now recognized by Google+ and LinkedIn as well. Twitter cards offer similar enhancements, but are exclusively to Twitter.
By using these social media meta tags, you can provide a bit more information about your page to social networks. By enhancing the appearance, you make the shared page look more professional and inviting, and increase the likelihood of clicking on it and sharing it further. This is not a crucial tweak, but it’s an absolutely nothing-to-lose one, with a couple of potential benefits.
To ensure your pages look good when shared across social media platforms, you would:

Viewport Meta Tag

Viewport meta tag allows you to configure how a page would be scaled and displayed on any device. Commonly, the tag and the value would look as follows:
<meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width, initial-scale=1″>
Where “width=device-width” will make the page match the screen’s width in device-independent pixels, and “initial scale=1” will establish a 1:1 relationship between CSS pixels and device-independent pixels, taking screen orientation into account.
This tag is a no-brainer to add, but one screenshot from Google is enough to show the difference it makes:

Viewport meta tag has nothing to do with rankings directly but has a tone to do with the user experience, especially considering the variety of devices that are being used nowadays and the noticeable shift to mobile browsing.
Same way as many of the above tags and tweaks, taking care of it will be appreciated by users (or, more likely, not taking care of it will be depreciated), and your CTR and bounce rates shall reflect the small efforts you make accordingly.


To get most of your on-page strategy, don’t neglect the small tweaks that add up to the big picture.
As for now, some tags are still must-have as they make up the taxonomy of your page; others are not vital, but can let you be one rich snippet ahead of competitors who just didn’t bother.
Small changes that improve user experience and help search engines understand your site better will be appreciated by both sides, and will definitely pay off in the long run.


Thursday, June 7, 2018

How Important Is Article Length for SEO?

What’s the Ideal Blog Post Length for SEO?

It’s commonly wondered, searched, and debated by anyone who works with website content and copy: What’s the ideal blog post length for SEO?
The answer isn’t as simple as a number of words.
There are many variables that can and should be considered when deciding what is the best length for your articles and blog posts, but the two most important factors to get an answer are:
  • Who is your target audience?
  • How long does the post have to be to successfully explain the material in a way that resonates with its readers?
People are oftentimes quick to assume shorter content is best for users. It’s easier and faster to read, and people don’t want to stare at the same thing on a computer screen for long.
We already know attention spans are getting shorter each generation. But does that mean shorter articles mean a better user experience and, thus, a better organic ranking in search?
Probably not, no.
There are literally hundreds of ranking factors that go into the search results for Google. And one — and likely more — of those ranking factors are at least influenced by user experience.
But exactly how important is article length when it comes to SEO?
And what is the ideal length for a blog post to not only rank well but to perform well and actually satisfy the user? (Wait, did we just answer our own question?)

Statistics Don’t Lie

Stats offer a pretty good starting point, but we all know they can sometimes also be manipulated.
So, let’s get something clear from the get-go: regardless of length, there is always going to be good content and there is always going to be bad content.
Studies examining hundreds or thousands of pages of content, like the one mentioned above, are probably not examining which content is really good, which is really bad, which is mediocre, and so on. It’s analyzing article length and how that may affect how good or bad that content ends up being based on simple practicality.
It’s probably true that shorter content is easier and faster for people to read; I’m not going to dispute that.
But does that one-word answer satisfy the question/query a user is looking for? Sure, some questions can be answered in as little as one word, but that’s not usually quality content. That’s a one-word answer with no explanation or sourcing, and Google (usually) knows that’s not enough to distinguish a piece of content as high-quality, educational, and resourceful.
Of course, there are one-word answers that would be deemed useful and could score the featured snippet in Google, also called Position Zero.
Plus, good content comes in many forms; it’s compelling and often easier to digest because of sourcing, rich media, and sensible structure/formatting.
Google wants substance, evidence, and facts from authority entities on whatever the topic may be. Turns out, longer content typically has these elements baked into it.
That’s a big reason why long-form content ranks better in organic search than short content.
Average content length for Page 1 results is around 1,900 words, according to a 2016 study. That’s a lot longer than the 200- or 500-word blog posts most writers or webmasters think is ideal.
Depending on the query, the search results on Page 1 may not be flooded with blog-style content, but the content that is going to be deemed resourceful by users — and Google — certainly may include well-constructed, thoughtful blogging content that satisfies a search query.
And that should be your goal as you begin planning content ideas and article structure for your website’s blog and other written on-site content.

Quality Over Quantity: Don’t Focus on Article Length

Too many people put too much of an emphasis on the average word length for articles and the misunderstood importance of having more than a certain number of words on each page to rank well.
Sure, it’s important to have some substance (and length) to the piece, but it’s not worth publishing a 2,500-word redundant review of a movie talking about the main character’s bad hair and foul language four different ways throughout the entirety of the content.
Surely the movie offered other elements and scenes that make the movie good or bad. Talk about them. Expand on real situations with reactions and in-depth explanations.
That’s what people are looking for when they search for information about a movie. “Was the movie good?”; “Why was it good or bad?”; and “Should I watch it?” are the real questions. The best movie reviews answer all three of those questions and don’t make it hard to figure out.
Give users what they want regardless of how many words it takes to say it.

Choose Your Target Audience: People, Personas, & Keywords

Like all good web content, you need to have a goal — a target.
You need to study your target audience. Who’s going to search for and consume your content?
You also need to consider that person’s level of intent as well; are they looking for basic discovery information, or are they trying to buy something right now in as few clicks as possible? Your content will reflect that person and their different stages of user intent.
Ideally, good content is mapped out before it is even created. It should connect the goals of your website/business and the content you are publishing with the goals of the users looking for it.
Content should satisfy a user’s search query. Thus, content should satisfy the user.
And, most importantly, there may very well be similar content on a website that satisfies various stages of user intent for one specific topic. That isn’t an accident.

Don’t Just Focus on Written Page Copy

Quality content goes beyond just written words. The best content connects thorough research and respectable writing with a user’s interest (their search query).
Even a great video should be accompanied by well-written text that explains the video, it’s concept and goals, and any other resources that may improve the content to better help the user.
That’s our ultimate goal as content strategists: offer the best information, in the most appropriate format, on the right platform.
Some content is easier to digest in the written word. But other content is more suited to visual and needs imagery or video. Sometimes, audio files will be the best type of rich media.
When you use visual or audio content, be sure to accompany it with written content that can connect the dots and make sense of everything on the page, as well as help users find your content.


Your content can take many forms, and it can be discovered and consumed in numerous ways.
It shouldn’t be your goal to write 2,000 words on a blog post because that seems like the “perfect length” to rank well in organic search.
If you’re worried about hitting an ideal blog post length for SEO, then you’re missing the point entirely.
Your goal should be to supply the best, most useful (and optimized) version of content for your target audience that matches their intent.
Your audience will appreciate it – and your website analytics will reflect that.


Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Online Reputation Management for Doctors

Online Reputation Management for Doctors

Most doctors can manage their reputations informally through customer relationship management and how they treat their patients. But most are unfamiliar with more practical ways of managing their reputational risk.
Word of mouth is no longer local. Although most doctors operate locally, happy patients (your clients) now head online to tell their friends and family about their positive experiences.
The same applies to a poor experience.
Google works similarly to the human brain. It will put much more emphasis on bad results than good results. Likewise, the human brain has a negative bias that is more sensitive to negative news.
So, one bad result that manages to make its way on the first page of the SERP can ruin a doctor’s whole reputation.
There are many factors to assess:
  • How are you currently viewed by patients?
  • How often are you getting referrals?
  • Are you meeting the bedside expectations and practical expectations of patients?
Answering these basic questions should help doctors determine where they stand with their community.
Perception is reputation. Managing beliefs and perceptions will favor a healthy reputation – online and offline.

The Anatomy of ORM for Physicians

While medical treatment is necessary for our society and doctors for our health, doctors with bad reputations are definitely seeing fewer patients walk through the door.
Before identifying the signs of an unsavory online reputation for doctors, we at explain to doctors in “medical terms” what a good reputation looks like in the eyes of patients.
The SERP can be divided into three parts:

The Brain & Heart

The brain and the heart represent the first three results in the SERP.
Depending on the patient, they will think with their head or their heart when they see a bad review or result that high up about their doctor.
Whether they think with logic or emotion, neither is good in this situation.

The Stomach

The stomach is where things may shift in perception often oscillating from good one day and bad another.
It takes a lot of traffic behavior change for Google to shake the first couple of results. So, it will test what’s in the middle first.
Most individuals will be less phased by what they see in the middle. The click-through rate from position 1 to position 5 drops by 24.13 percent on desktop and 17.1 percent on mobile phones.
On phones, people are much less likely to scroll. So, the CTR for the first three results in mobile phones has skyrocketed recently.

The Rest of the Body

The last couple of results – and everything after that – are the rest of the body: the supporting functions (or, in this case, the supporting results).
The everyday consumer won’t be as influenced by supporting search results as they would be by higher ranking results.
Interestingly enough, most people will simply change their search if they don’t find what they are looking for within the first eight results.

Vital Signs of a Bad Reputation 

Unfortunately, the anatomy of online reputation management is not as well defined as it is for doctors who study the human body.
Google’s algorithms are much more complex and constantly changing.
So, what determines the reputational risk of doctors?
  • The gap between perception and reality.
  • Changing expectations and perceptions.
  • Operations and communications.
When a reputation crisis hits, it’s hard to quantify how much damage it will do in the short and long terms. The best gauge is quantifying qualitative responses.
  • Are you a doctor who has no bedside manners?
  • Do you make your patients wait an hour and a half with an appointment and only see them for five minutes?
  • Are you reliable?
  • Are your secretaries and nurses unresponsive?
Depending on your answers to these questions, evaluate how you meet the expectations of your clients. An accumulation of poor experiences will reenforce the unreliability of a doctor.
Don’t overestimate how much people may or may not like you. Looking yourself up is the best way to tell.
How? Enter your name with various keyword combinations.
Start with your full name and dr. in front. Then, drop your first name, add your city on the end and interchange words like reviews, complaints, pissed, ratings, comments, and news.
Anything bad come up? Your lifeline as a doctor running a business with “clientele” might be cut short.

What Now? 

So you’re a doctor with bad reviews, perhaps a minor disciplinary action, but you can still practice. How do you restore trust in clients?
  • Evaluate your practice. 81 percent of Americans believe that the first impression of a physician is extremely or very important. This is strongly associated with bedside manners, how much time they spend getting to know their patients, and quality one-on-one time.
  • Replying to reviews. While many ORM firms might suggest removal (always an option but not always the most ethical method of changing up the SERP), try responding first. Not only does it respond to the user, it shows anyone who comes across the result that you’re reaching out and willing to start a discussion.
  • ORM, PR, SEM, SEO, every acronym you can think of. A combination of online reputation management, social media, public relations and press releases, search engine marketing, and search engine optimization will contribute to better shaping your online image.
  • Maintenance: Don’t ever stop. It’s nearly impossible to not have an online presence. Often times, patients create that online presence for doctors themselves.
While removing reviews and negative results is neither ethical nor guaranteed, it is a possibility. Speak to a lawyer or your online reputation managers about these possibilities.
Take control of your online reputation by managing what is being said about you online. The moment you stop engaging online, you’ll quickly lose control of your online reputation. One post can ruin it all.
Again, the negative bias Google has can ruin your whole image with one post, one comment, one review. Always be ready to counter it and get ahead of the game by spreading positive and attractive content.


Monday, June 4, 2018

5 Things Every SEO Strategy Needs

5 Things Every SEO Strategy Needs

In this industry, we spend a lot of time trading SEO tactics and ideas with each other for mutual benefit.
It’s a wonderful thing. Not every industry does this.
Unfortunately, we invest less time in talking about how to develop our own SEO strategies.
While every SEO strategy is – and should be – different, there’s an underlying strategy to developing strategies.
Here are five things every SEO strategy needs.

1. A Mind Map

Mind Mapping
A mind map is a place to build your strategy from the ground up. A mind map is simply a branching series of categories, usually reaching out from the center, moving from more general to more specific categories, with ideas becoming more granular.
It isn’t a visualization of your final strategy. A mind map exists not to help you present your plan, but to help you think about it.
Mind maps are tools that help you envision your thinking process in a way that makes it easier for you to combine ideas by helping you see how they fit together as a whole. They help reduce the load that your strategy imposes on your working memory so that you can focus on thinking and brainstorming.
You can use a tool like Mind Meister, or you can simply jot down your ideas as they come to you in the visual format.
The primary benefit of using a mind map is its ability to help you think in nonlinear fashion.
Using a mind map allows you to see everything at once, in a structure that resembles the networked way that your real brain works, so I highly suggest using one as you develop your SEO strategy.

2. A Visual Representation

Once your strategy becomes more concrete, you will need a more in depth and professional document than your mind map.
Keep in mind what a strategy is: a plan.
That means you have goals, specific tasks attached to those goals, some tasks that have to come before others, recurring tasks that will need to be iterated and honed, and subtasks that will become more numerous and specific as time goes on.
You need to be able to present all of this quickly and easily to your client and your teams, and you need to do so in a format that is simple enough for all parties to understand, as well as edit.
You can use Google Sheets, Trello, Workzone, Basecamp, or whatever you prefer. The specific tool isn’t as important as your method for using it.
It must be immediately clear to all parties about how to read the plan and make changes if needed. It must also be clear:
  • Which task is assigned to whom.
  • Which tasks follow the first.
  • Which tasks are recurring, planned, in progress, and finished.

3. An Understanding of the Company

Whether you’re an in-house or outsourced SEO, you need to have a solid understanding of the company in order to make any SEO strategy successful. You need to know what strengths you can leverage in order to get the most SEO value, what tactics will work best for the brand identity, and what is standing in your way.
Here are some of the most important factors you should consider as you develop your strategy:

What is the product’s unique selling proposition?

We may be referring to a line of products or a single product, but whatever the case may be, we need to know what makes our company different in order for any strategy to work. This will strongly impact the types of outreach that will make sense, the type of audiences we will want to cultivate, the type of keywords we will be tracking, and much more.

What is the company’s vision?

We need to go deeper than knowing what industry we are in and that we want to be profitable, if we want to generate the kind of waves that affect visibility in the search engines. Dig deep into that vision statement to look for ideas that will guide your strategy goals and metrics. If your vision statement isn’t doing that for you, you might want to consider developing a new vision statement for your own campaign, which serves the purpose.

Where is the company really hurting right now?

This is one of those things that might seem like you can avoid early on, but will always creep in and decimate an SEO strategy (or department, or partnership) if it isn’t annihilated. Understand what the company really needs to see and really can’t accommodate before you commit to a strategy.

4. An Understanding of the Audience

You need to know who your audience is, and that means a great deal more than just what keywords they’re searching for.
Here are a few things you need to determine, either by talking to your client, surveying your audience, browsing some relevant internet hangouts, or all of the above and more:

How accepting are they of marketing, upselling, and so on?

If you’ve ever consumed anything in the self-help industry, you might have noticed how comfortable “gurus” in that industry are willing to upsell their audience, even spend a dedicated portion of a paid presentation for advertising their other products. Alternatively, if you’ve ever spent any time trying to link to anything of your own on Reddit, you know that they are hypersensitive to any kind of promotion at all. This is something you need to be highly aware of as you develop your strategy.

What is their level of knowledge?

Are you talking to people who know everything about their subject matter and will laugh off anybody who try to share introductory material? Are you talking to people who are completely oblivious to industry jargons?

How close are they to the industry?

Is your audience consumers (B2C) or businesses (B2B)? Will these people be intimately familiar with your industry, or almost entirely outside of it? Are they interested in understanding more about the industry, or do they care solely about how your products can benefit them?

5. Precise Goals

For a goal to be useful, it needs to be precise, and for it to be precise, we should be focusing more on the working parts and how they fit together than on a particular dollar amount.
We need to be deliberate when we choose our metrics and KPIs.
Yes, we want revenue to go up faster than costs, and yes, it can be useful to set a financial goal. We certainly should be setting goals that have time limits.
However, a strategy is about achieving goals that have a specific impact on the company, its direction and future, and the way that the business itself functions. That means our metrics should reflect what is happening with the working pieces themselves. This could mean links and authority, it could mean rankings, or it could mean organic search traffic.
The point is, everybody should agree on what metrics make sense and why.
I strongly believe in the value of task-oriented goals over KPI goals. This is because, especially when it comes to inbound marketing and SEO, our impact on KPIs is indirect. For this reason, I believe in setting goals for projects, living up to those goals, then measuring the impact and adjusting the strategy in response.
This is an approach that is more likely to lead to knowledge and actual optimization, as opposed to finding ways to manipulate the KPIs while losing sight of the long-term impact.


Nearly every SEO strategy can benefit from these five elements. Build them into your framework and make them a part of the way you do business.


Friday, June 1, 2018

How to Use Content to Explode Your Traffic

How to Explode Traffic with the Right Content

“Content is king” is a phrase that gets bandied around the web an awful lot. I’ve written before about how content is no good without promotion, and I stand by that.
But if you do promotion right and have a relatively established website, there are a few things you can do with your content that can help explode your traffic. And I don’t use that hyperbole lightly.
Too many people fall into the trap of churning out blog content for the sake of it, without much thought and research, or without delivering on that research once it’s been done.
Here’s how to stop that happening, and to create informational content that will truly shine and bring lots more people to your website, in a consistent way.


The starting point for all effective content (that targets search traffic at least) is keyword research. You need to ensure you are writing pieces of content that target phrases and topics people are searching for.
For this process, our focus is on informational content so you should be looking for the kind of things your audiences are searching for higher in the buying funnel before they reach the commercial queries that are more likely to directly convert.


A great way to find this is looking for questions that people are asking about your topic.
Fortunately, Ahrefs has a handy little tool for that which will tell you what questions people are searching for around your topic:
ahrefs questions
In this example, if I had a client who offered trips to Italy, I would put Italy in and see what comes back. I could then start typing in more specific locations like Rome or Florence and get another batch of ideas.
You could then go the other way and broaden the search to Europe and see if you can capture some people who haven’t yet filtered down to Italy itself but could still be interested if your content is good enough to inspire them!


Another great source of content inspiration is competitors. You can look at their blog and see the kind of articles they are writing, but you can also be more scientific and use Ahrefs to see what their best performing content is.
Just plug in the URL of competitor domains, filter by top pages, and see how you should prioritize your content based on which of their pages are giving them the most visibility.
The key is to choose a well-ranked site, so you can garner as much information as possible, though obviously doing it for multiple sites will yield even more ideas:
competitor analysis


In addition to sites that you consider direct competitors, do some research and find prominent blogs that focus on your niche, then carry out the same process as you did with competitors.
Naturally, blogs will have more informational content, so if you can find an authoritative blog on your topic, it will likely be the source of lots of excellent ideas for informational content.

Places & Things

One area that often gets overlooked when doing keyword research is the name of places and things.
In travel, this is particularly prevalent as there are so many places to see and visit and good search interest for specific things. Often these kinds of things are overlooked in favor of more general phrases like “things to do in…” or “best time to visit…” but there is actually a lot of volume at the other end of the scale with very specific things.
You can see this below in the top pages for a client we work with, which are almost all guides about specific things in Rome:
roma experience top pages
Phrases like “Palatine Hill” and “Catacombs of Rome” are largely ignored by the huge travel sites, so present a huge opportunity for smaller independent brands if they create content that is good enough.


Once you have the right topic, the next challenge is structuring your content in the best way to actually then rank for the terms you’ve identified.
Your piece should be the most comprehensive one about the subject matter on the web, so it’s highly likely it will be a long one.
We recommend at least 2,000 words, but this can vary depending on the topic. Look at who is on Page 1 and ranking well and get a feel for whether that will suffice or if you can get away with shorter or need to go much longer.
As well as length, there are a few other key areas we have found to making your content as effective as possible.


Start your page with a good overview which gives a quick insight into what the page is about and what it will cover. This is effective in getting a featured snippet at the top of the search results when your content starts to rank prominently.

Internal Page Menu

As you are likely to have an extremely long page, a menu at the top of the page that jumps down to the various sections included is a good idea and gives Google more information to understand what the key areas of the page are.
This menu should reflect the findings in your keyword research, with the headers matching the sub-topics that had good search interest around them.


Images and video will make the page more comprehensive and also help to keep people on the page longer, which will impact your ranking performance over the longer term.
It will also break up the swathes of text you have on the page and make it easier to consume for readers.


Ensure you have a proper heading structure throughout, with the title as an H1 tag, and the key sections that your menu jumps to marked up as H2 tags. Within those sections then make headings H3 tags.
This can also be extremely effective in achieving featured snippets in the search results. 


Here’s an important area that is often overlooked. One area that will naturally develop as you add more content to your site is internal linking opportunities. More content, more places to link to and from!
As you are adding new pages to your site, be sure to link through to other relevant pages within the same topic area.
For example, if we follow our Italy example, ensure that all pages about Rome link to other pages about Rome and that pages about Florence all link to other pages about Florence.
As your site grows you will need to return to old content and link to the new pieces being added, and when you reach a point where you have a strong body of content it is good to do this in a structured way throughout the site so Google can recognize the pattern.
Developing strong “silos” around your various different topics through the strong internal linking patterns will help Google understand all the content better and see you as more of an authority on the topic. That will help both the informational content rank better, and also the commercial pages that are closer to the bottom of the funnel.


It should go without saying that your content needs to be amazing. Google wants to deliver the best results for users, so to be future proof you need to be confident that your page lives up to the bill.
Look at Page 1 for the phrases you want your content to rank for and make sure that you create something better. It doesn’t need to be 10x better, just 2 or 3x better will do just fine.
The main thing is that when a user finds it, they are satisfied and get all the information they could possibly want without going elsewhere.


Below are some examples of sites sticking to these principles extremely well and benefitting from strong rankings and traffic improvement as a result.

Free Tours by Foot – Things to Do in New York

This pages covers all the points highlighted above and ranks on page 1 of Google for some of the most competitive terms in travel.
Free Tours by Foot Nw York City
An overview sentence at the start, internal page menu, then a video to encourage people to stay on the page longer.
There is then a huge amount of content on the page, broken up effectively by well structured headings, media and other formatting. It’s also packed with internal links to supporting content and commercial pages, all of which also rank extremely well.
You can see the impact of producing this kind of content consistently on the site’s traffic below:
Free Tours by Foot Traffic

Roma Experience – Palatine Hill

This is a good example of the Places and Things recommendation above that we implemented for a client.
We built out their content by developing lots of in depth pages around the key places that people visit Rome to see, and a wide variety of them rank extremely well as the quality of content produced by bigger, stronger sites is not up to scratch (because they are focusing on bigger keywords).
Roma Experience Palatine Hill
The mix of in-depth content, page menu, other media and internal linking have helped these pages, and the site in general, hugely improve its visibility and rankings for key commercial phrases too:
Roma Experience Traffic

Journey Era – Best Things to Do in Oahu

This is a good example of an authoritative blog getting things right that you can use to inform your own content and find ideas.
Journey Era Oahu
Journey Era has created epic content throughout the site, with a huge, in-depth article on things to do in Oahu.
However, I believe the key to their performance here is the supporting articles that feature for every item included in the list.
This creates a very strong silo around that post, and as a result, the main post and the supporting pages rank like crazy.
Journey Era Traffic


You might be left thinking “it’s all well and good to get traffic through these informational pages, but I want to make sales.” And you’re right.
It’s true that the chances of someone converting off a phrase like “Palatine Hill” compared to “Rome tours” aren’t as high. However, having more content around the topic of the commercial phrase will help it rank higher as well, as the examples above show.
You should also do more to engage with the visitors coming through informational phrases so that they may buy something off you in future. It’s highly likely that many of those searchers are doing some research before they buy something in future, so if you can take this opportunity to show off why your brand is great then that will stand you in good stead when they reach the point of purchase.
Feature some form of lead magnet on your informational pages so visitors have a reason to hand over their email address to you. You can then build a relationship with them via email, so when they are ready to buy something you are the first brand that jumps to mind.
The title of this post focuses on exploding traffic, rather than conversions, and it’s true that there is some work to be done to take this increase in visitors and turn them into an increase in customers.
However, there is no doubt that if you write great content around topics that are well searched for, structure it using the approaches above and then ensure you engage the users that land on your site, you will see an extremely positive return on that investment for your business.
It takes time to develop that content, but it is both sustainable and far-reaching if you commit to it. The hardest thing is getting started, so take that first step and everything else will follow.