Extensive articles and resources on content development, promotion and overall content marketing.

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Building better Brand Signals to Improve Search Visibility

Online branding has become a very important component of SEO over the years. Given that brand signals, as a search ranking factor, made it easier for search engines to determine a website’s authenticity and authority.

A study from SearchMetrics a year ago also somehow proves how top brands appear to have a ranking advantage, making it more obvious that search engines do favor strong brands on their search results.

Rand also discussed brand signals on a post he did back in 2011, which briefly explained the areas of a site that can be utilized by search engines to assess its brand power.

brand-vs-generic-signals

There are 2 sides to online brand development, in which the other side tackles activities happening off the site. And that’s what I’ll be discussing more in this post.

Search algorithms use several brand-based metrics in determining the strength of a brand’s web presence and importance (which I’ve also explained on a post I wrote 2 years ago on Technorati):

  • Brand mentions from other websites’ content (also based on the authority of the sites mentioning the brand).
  • Amount of branded-anchor text links directing to the site.
  • Volume of search queries for the brand.
  • Brand mentions from social networks.

Basically, the more quality signals coming from external sources that pertain to a brand, the more search engines will understand how important the brand is – and this can simply translate to better search visibility.

So how do you create more brand signals to your site?

Cultivate branded search

Brand keywords are known to drive better conversions, since the searchers are already aware and interested of what the brand is providing.

Mark Leech has explained this very well in a post he did last year on Zazzle Media’s blog:

 “brand keywords will drive the biggest share of traffic, conversion and click-through rate across your search marketing, whilst also delivering the best ROI and CPC/CPA. This is due to both lack of competition on your brand term and the high conversion/interaction propensity of a user searching for your brand”

There are ton of ways to increase the volume of brand searches to your site, and most methods involve real “marketing” initiatives.

Display ads and remarketing

Online advertisements can easily put the brand name out to its target audience, and helps strengthen brand recognition – which often leads to increase in brand-related searches.

For more tips, you can check out this comprehensive guide to remarketing.

Focusing content development on brand’s expertise

Consistently providing useful content about the solutions that your business is capable of providing will allow you to get better market mind share.

A brand’s content makes it easier for search engines to understand what they are about as well, and this allows the brand name to assimilate the industry terms that it’s somehow aiming to be searched for or be associated with.

brand keywords

The more you produce high-utility content about a particular niche in your industry (or the specific expertise you have), the more people will be directly searching for your brand.

Launching and promoting branded product lines

Branded products get reviewed, researched and searched almost always, especially if they offer real value to users and have been promoted well.

branded products

As Mark mentioned (noted above), branded searches tend to have higher conversion rates, and often can create longstanding positive effect to the brand.

Some of the commonly utilized methods by online marketers to promote branded products:

  • Display ads
  • User/experiential reviews
  • Affiliate programs
  • Guest blogging (Bufferapp has been very successful with this method)
  • Content marketing
  • Online PR

Content, Social and Link Building

Content is what drives a successful social and link development campaign. It’s also one of the elements that make a brand unique and incomparable to its competitors in the online space.

These 3 marketing practices are more efficient when they are integrated into a single approach, particularly when primarily intended to be used for improving online brand presence (not just for search).

Here are several content, social and link marketing activities that you can implement for brand building purposes.

Developing content assets

Build content assets that are evergreen and appeals to a large audience to enable your campaign to continually acquire social shares, brand mentions, links, traffic, leads and conversions.

An impressive example of this is Truck Classifieds’ Truckpocalypse:

truckpocalypse

Providing foundational content within your site can help ensure that your brand stays on your audience’s radar, as these brand assets have higher chances of performing well in terms of ranking for industry head terms based on usage and other signals that they can continuously acquire.

Content assets – such as interactive landing pages, free ebooks, extensive resources, etc… – are also easy to promote, seeing that these types of content offer high value information (making it worth sharing and linking to).

Inject real company stuff (#RCS) in your content marketing campaigns. It can tremendously help build a better perception for your brand.

Anyway, I’m planning to write more about this next week, on how to create content assets. But for now, you can check out SEER Interactive’s guide on how to identify RCS content (from your competitors and/or from your own site) for more tips.

Associating with larger publications

Become a regular contributor on larger publications in your space, because they have a lot of traffic (and they have the ones that you’re also targeting) and they have a lot of authority that they can pass through down back to your brand/site (in both branding and SEO perspective).

contributor

This tactic is a scalable way to continuously drive traffic, generate brand impressions, and build trusted signals that search engines can use to gauge your site’s importance and expertise.

Viral campaigns through social media

Investing on building content types that have high potentials of getting socially shared can help your brand be discovered, which is really good when it comes to getting new impressions, followers, readers and potential loyalists.

This is pretty much the same with developing content assets, though the only difference (I think) is the goal of the content.

Create something that appeals to social media users (specifically from or interested in your industry), and you can use several promotional methods to get the branded content out, such as linker outreach and paid social ads (you can check out this post for more tips on pushing your social content).

Building your social media follower base

Having social brand pages on different social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, etc…) is just the start. The key to make them a marketing arsenal and be one of your site’s biggest sources of branded signals is the activities that take place within those platforms.

Let your content drive your social activities. The more you create useful content (and the more people share them), the more interactions you can make, and definitely more signals they can send out.

Share stuff from others as well, particularly those that you think will be really useful to your followers. It’s also a great strategy in getting to your target influencers’ radars, and eventually in absorbing their followers as well.

Getting press coverage

If you are doing real marketing sh*t and if you’re really offering products/services/solutions that’s valuable, then getting press mentions for your brand is very viable.

One of the most known advantages of getting featured by a-list media sites is it boosts the authority that both people and search engines see about your brand.

as seen in

Here are 2 guides that you might want to check out if you want to try this brand building technique:

Combined branding efforts to get more co-citations/co-occurrence

Your content marketing, SEO, link building and social media campaigns help get your brand’s message out. And as these processes get you ton of marketing opportunities, it also allows your brand to get voluntary mentions/citations from other content publishers (using your brand as a reference).

Unlinked brand mentions from other website’s content that are in close proximity with relevant industry keywords will be more important in the near future. This type of citation is considerably a strong brand indicator that search engines will count and use as a factor in ranking your website.

no-link-mention

Consistency in implementing online marketing processes that are really driving results for your campaign is the key to be the go-to-brand in your niche/industry.

TL;DR

Strong brands can rank and compete for competitive search terms. They also have higher conversions, because they aim for their market’s trust. Brands can easily get links, shares and loyal followers, because they demonstrate authority.

Brands give and share great experiences. And that’s pretty much what SEO is about.

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

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Digital Marketing Tips from 12 Marketing Professors

The drive to constantly learn new things is a very important attribute for marketers, considering that digital marketing is one of the toughest industries out there and with its nature as an ever-evolving field. Constant reading, practice and analysis are a must, in order to be better at it.

Online marketing is definitely full of challenges, for both starters and seasoned practitioners. But the thing that’s really great about our industry is that there are so many useful resources available over the web, which can help us improve in our own ways and overcome those challenges.

And since, we’ve already been learning a lot from the top experts and practitioners in the field, I’ve decided to ask and get insights from those who’re really passionate about educating other people.

Those who teach in classrooms, and not through webinars, blogging, conferences and other channels that most of us online marketers have already been used to. Because I believe that we can also learn a lot from them, and their advices are certainly worth listening to.

So I asked 12 marketing professors from different universities a single question:

What are the traditional marketing principles that online marketers should highly consider and apply/incorporate with their digital marketing activities (now and in the near future)?

Glen Gilmore

Glen GilmoreGlen Gilmore teaches digital marketing, crisis communication and social media law at Rutgers University. He was also ranked #7 on Forbes’ list of top 50 Social Media Power Influencers. You can follow him on Twitter @GlenGilmore.

The ever-quotable David Ogilvy cautioned marketers that, “The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife.”  Ogilvy’s classic statement from the golden age of traditional marketing brings to mind several principles that apply very much to digital marketing, now and into the future:

  • Consumers demand truthfulness and transparency.
  • Connecting with consumers requires more listening than talking.
  • Content marketing must inform, before it attempts to sell.
  • Creative marketing cannot compensate for poor products or poor services.
  • Your focus should never be a one-time sale, but on establishing long-term relationship – and that requires a longer-term vision and a determination to create real connections through service and trust.

Deirdre Breakenridge

Deirdre Breakenridge2Deirdre Breakenridge is an adjunct professor at New York University. She’s also the CEO of Pure Performance Communications. You can follow her on Twitter @DBreakenridge.

Your marketing initiatives should always be focused on your audience … it the “what’s in it for me” principle. With an incredible sea of noise and the increasing difficulty to reach and engage with people, it’s so important that marketers know their customers, well beyond the demographics. Social media changes the way we reach audiences today, and also takes engagement to an entirely new level.

However, research is a constant effort that helps you understand your audience’s preferences, critical issues and exactly how they want to participate with you.

Today’s research still uses some good old traditional methods; from polls and surveys to in-person interviews and focus panels (although these methods can be accomplished using newer technology). Taking research into the 21st century also requires “listening” or monitoring keywords and to find opportunities to join the conversations.

Research can also mean using new tools and platforms to uncover influencers, find trending topics, hear important conversations, watch competitor social media activity, receive feedback on products or services, enhance your reputation and gather ideas from crowdsourcing. Although the channels and the technology continue to change, the need to do research will remain a top priority for marketers today and in the future.

Mike Johansson

Mike JohanssonMike Johansson is a visiting professor at Rochester Institute of Technology. Aside from being a lecturer on PR, Advertising and Journalism, he’s also a social media consultant. You can follow him on Twitter @MikeJNY

Traditional marketing principles still apply online, but they must be viewed through a social lens.

Online has become a place where the customers and potential customers have the power via social networks to connect with all of your other customers and potential customers. This means, for example, that if anything less than full transparency in what you’re offering was ever acceptable it is not acceptable now. The online audience can, and does, talk to each other frequently. If youir value proposition is not one of the best everyone will know and very quickly.

It also means that “knowing who you’re trying to reach” is both more complex and easier to research. More complex because there are so many “signals” to be interpreted in the digital world. But easier in the sense that by using social listening skills brands can now pick up on signals from the marketplace that in an earlier generation would have taken weeks and a lot of money to hear.

Dr. Bang Nguyen

Bang NguyenDr. Bang Nguyen is a professor in Marketing at Oxford Brookes University and a visiting research professor at CEIBS in Shanghai, China. You can follow him on Twitter @ProfBangNguyen.

All of it is important. If I had to pick one key principle, it would be to develop systems to monitor and learn customers’ individual wants and needs, so that marketers can satisfy those customers’ needs on an individual basis.

However, marketers cannot just monitor/collect data obtrusively, but must also consider privacy and fairness in their methods.

Dr. Steven White

Prof. Steve White, CCBDr. Steven White is a professor of marketing and international business at University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. He’s also the CMO at Garcia Digital Marketing. You can follow him on Twitter @dstevenwhite.

In my opinion, digital marketing has to be grounded in traditional marketing theory. Currently, and in the near future, successful digital marketers are those who understand and can adapt traditional marketing applications for the new social/mobile marketing era. Fundamentally, marketing is about communication.

Digital marketing presents two major advantages over traditional marketing: 1) the ability to engage in conversations and relationships with consumers and potential consumers in real time, and 2) metrics on which to base the evaluation of success or failure of digital marketing efforts.

This is an exciting time to be a marketer. The social/mobile marketing era offers unlimited opportunities to build meaningful relationships with a world-wide audience of potential customers.

Denny McCorkle

Denny McCorkleDenny McCorkle is a marketing professor at University of Northern Colorado. You can follow him on Twitter @TweetRightBrain.

When partnered with digital marketing, traditional methods of marketing (theories, research methods and data analysis, planning and strategies) provide a base for support, growth, and development.

Proper and rigorous analysis methods are still needed for big data and online metrics. New product development processes are still needed for developing digital or e-commerce products. Good research design is still needed for netnography, sentiment analysis, online focus groups, split testing, and online surveys.

Social media tactics need strategies for integration with other marketing media.  Blogs still need good communication, creativity, and persuasion skills. And, all strategies, whether traditional or digital, still need a marketing plan.

Dr. Constantinos Coursaris

Coursaris-Photo-for-Post-smallDr. Constantinos Coursaris is an associate professor in telecommunication, information studies, media and advertising at Michigan State University. He’s also a marketing and technology consultant. You can follow him on Twitter @DrCoursaris.

It would be prudent for Digital Marketers operating anywhere to consider not only traditional marketing principles for their potential applicability in their space, but also survey the plethora of theories, models, and best practices put forth by Communication scholars and in particular those who have focused on Computer-Mediated Communication over the past two decades. Digital channels blur the line of traditional marketing communications and interpersonal communication exchanges.

As such, you have a nuanced form of interactions – and they should be interactions, as hopefully by now, digital marketers have embraced the requirement for dialog rather than a broadcast of brand benefits and calls to action. With that in mind, i.e. the need for leveraging both domains of Marketing and Communication, if I were to highlight just one source from each, they would be:

Marketing: John Dewey’s work gave rise to our contemporary understanding of a consumer’s decision process, often described as five sequential stages —i.e., problem/need recognition; information search; evaluation of alternatives; purchase decision; and post-purchase decision. This understanding highlights the need for tailored messaging at different stages of the decision process—or more generally for achieving diverse objectives. Marketers often forget to strategically develop messages that are appropriate at different times, and engage in unstructured messaging, which carries no reliability with its expected effects or outcomes.

Communication: Viral marketing involves interpersonal influence on the adoption and use of products and services. Joseph Walther’s Social information-Processing theory views online social networks as important sources of information for people’s adoption and usage behaviors and activities. Hence, it focuses on the benefits of computer-mediated communication in online social networks—as opposed to face-to-face communication through offline social networks—for viral marketing in terms of its increased reach; the minimum effort involved; and its simultaneous synchronous and asynchronous nature.

Jim Joseph

Jim JosephJim Joseph is a professor at New York University. He’s also the author of the award-winning book series “The Experience Effect”. You can follow him on Twitter @JimJosephExp.

There is one aspect of traditional marketing that will never go out of style, even in today’s frenetic up-to-the-second digital world:  always lead with a customer insight.

Really understanding your customer and what makes them tick is a marketing fundamental. Every aspect of a brand’s interactions with its customers should seek to build an emotional connection that goes beyond just the product or service itself.

Every marketing element should start with an acknowledgement of the customer and what they need and want. When you lead with something about them, instead of about yourself, then they are more likely to connect, remember, and share.

Rob Petersen

rob petersenRob Petersen is a professor at Rutgers University. He’s also the President of BarnRaisers LLC. You can follow him on Twitter @RobPetersen.

People like to do business with people they know. This timeline principle about business and relationships is a reason why we do marketing. It’s even more relevant for digital marketing.

Blogs, e-mail marketing, videos, comments and sharing give consumers the chance to know and like you. They work because they humanize the people behind any business and the brand they represent. Even as new channels and tactics become available, the truth behind this simple wisdom will only be more apparent.

Dr. Michael Breazeale

Michael_BreazealeDr. Michael Breazeale is an assistant professor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Aside from being a marketing educator, he is also a marketing consultant. You can follow him on Twitter @MktgMike.

I think that a lot of marketers are so intimidated by digital marketing that they often try to start from scratch with their digital strategy. That’s why I like your question. The biggest mistake we can make is to forget the marketing principles that got us where we are.

Digital marketing does involve a paradigm shift, but at it’s core, it is merely another tool in the marketer’s toolbox. It’s a tool that when used effectively can produce positive outcomes and when used without caution can produce stellar failures.

Three principles that come to mind immediately are the necessity of understanding the target market, the importance of respectful relationships, and the value of customer co-creation and feedback.

We know that the most important asset any marketer has is a thorough understanding of the target market. With digital marketing in the mix, that now includes understanding what our customer wants from us in terms of types and timing of communication.

The real-time capabilities of digital marketing make it very tempting to communicate constantly with customers, but that is not typically what they want from us. Even with digital capabilities we must provide relevant, engaging content that provides some kind of value to the customer and use that content sparingly.

We have known for years that solid relationships between our brand and our customers produce long-term profitability for the firm. Digital marketing provides us a way to be present in our customers’ daily lives in a way that we did not have previously, allowing for stronger, more meaningful relationships.  We must remember, however, that our presence must still be invited.

Push messages are no less annoying to the customer just because they are delivered digitally.  The customer has the right to decide how often we communicate. When we respect that and communicate with the customer on the customer’s terms, we have an increased likelihood of being a welcome relationship partner.

Recent marketing thought has focused on the important role that customers often play in co-creating the value we deliver. From a greater emphasis on self service to the growing customization trend, customers play a greater role than ever in creating value. Digital marketing gives those customers the ability to co-create the marketing message as well.

Customers regularly blog, post in forums, build fan (and enemy) websites, and create viral videos that are as convincing as many of the marketer-created communications that we craft so carefully. Just as customer word of mouth has always been an important component of any marketing program, these digital forms of word of mouth can spell success or failure for our marketing campaigns.

The sheer volume of customer-created content makes it tempting to ignore some of it, or even worse, remove the unflattering content, but this is not acceptable. It is more important than ever to monitor and respond to both positive and negative feedback, for it is this feedback that allows us to deliver what our customers perceive as value and to form strong relational bonds with them.

I am reminded of something that I once heard — Nothing can kill a bad product faster than good marketing. This is more true than ever when digital is part of the mix. This tool allows marketers to communicate more effectively and efficiently than other media, but if we ignore traditional marketing principles, all we are really doing is quickly delivering the wrong message and hastening failure.

Jon Boroshok

jon boroshokJon Boroshok is a professor at Southern New Hampshire University and Emerson College. He’s also Journalist, freelance writer and PR/Marcom specialist. You can follow him on Twitter @JBWrites.

Many “old school” rules still apply to digital marketing and social media. You still need to know as much as possible about your target audience. Demographics and psychographics still matter, especially on social media.

The more you understand who you’re communicating with, the closer to relevant, one-on-one engagement and relationship building you can have. That level of personalization can make the difference between an unhappy former customer and a brand evangelist.

Listening skills still go a long way too – talk with people rather than at them.

Dr. Eric Brey

eric breyDr. Eric Brey is an assistant professor at University of Memphis. Professor Brey has been an advisor to several companies, from tech startups to fortune 500 companies. He has also been a keynote speaker for different international organizations and industry associations. You can follow him on Twitter @ProfessorBrey.

There aren’t many principles rooted in traditional marketing that can be easily replicated within the socially-driven digital world we now live. The basis for marketing has been the 4 P’s but now we live in a world where 4 C’s are generally recognized as the core of engagement. If this is true, then much of what we have looked at needs to be addressed and adjusted for the new reality.

I would argue that much of what we teach in marketing should be adjusted for this new age of the Consumer. BUT, and this is imperative to recognize, the principles of integrated marketing communications can be used in the online space and quickly adapted (amongst some other components, but this one is easily identifiable as important).

At its core, the experience a consumer has with a brand should be seamless and have a similar tone throughout . This is true regardless of their overall brand affinity or level of importance or the channels they access or use to interact with the brand.

I could go on about this but this is my humble opinion on what is certainly a loaded question!

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How to Consistently Build 40+ Contextual Links Every Month

ahref

A contextual link is a type of link that’s usually found within the body of content and is in context with the idea surrounding the link. It can be both natural (voluntary links from other websites – ex: link bait) and artificial (manually built – ex: one of your guest posts that links back to your blog/content).

Acquiring links is a vital process in online marketing, as the practice benefits a site in so many ways, such as in building online brand presence, driving targeted traffic/leads and in getting better search ranking positions.

But this belief has somehow led many to focus on the wrong side of the practice.

Link building is a byproduct of the collective efforts and initiatives that a brand/business implements to promote and make itself more known to its target audience/customers. Elements that impact link building positively may include the following:

  • Product development
  • Content and business assets
  • USP and Online Branding
  • Offline Branding (events)
  • Relationships

Contextual link building requires hard work. It’s all about earning the links, not just building them. Because if your product or service is really good, people will certainly talk about you and definitely share it with other people who might need your business.

Build something genuinely worth linking to, whether it’s your products, service, the content you produce or the opinions you share with your industry and peers. It all matters, because they can all result to hard-earned links.

Factors that make contextual link building easier (Autopilot)

Chain of online marketing activities causes a site to become a link magnet. Invest on implementing actions that can help alleviate your site’s visibility through various channels (I believe this list can help).

Because the more people find your content, the higher chances of getting natural linkers to your blog. Below are some of the most important factors that allowed me to consistently attract links to my blog.

Consistency in content development

Being consistent in regularly publishing new content on a blog is hard, especially if you have many other things to do. In my case, I try to publish a new post every week.

I always make sure that every post that I launch will be useful to my current and future readers, and that’s why I mostly focus on creating evergreen content. I treat every post as a business asset that will not just send me ton of links, but potential clients as well.

This also allowed me to grow and have a continual increase in readership on my blog, wherein new readers could be future linkers.

So if a single content can acquire natural links from at least 10 unique linking domains (on an average) on its entire lifetime, and you publish 4 new posts every month, then you’re already able to build 40 links in a month (I’ll share some samples on the latter part of this post).

Content promotion strategies

Creating content is just the initial phase, because they will never move on their own without promotion. There are many ways to promote your content (you can check out this and this for extensive tips).

Content that you don’t promote is content that you shouldn’t have writtenLisa Barone

Making sure that your content really offers value to your readers, community and to your industry will make it easier for you to promote your content, and of course get links to them.

Content promotion is very significant in scaling your contextual link building, as it gives birth to places where people can find your content. This can actually influence how your content can acquire more natural links in the future.

Social Media

Having a strong following base on different social platforms can help get more eyeballs to your content. The multiplier effect of social sharing is very capable of introducing your content to new readers, who might use your content as a reference in their future works.

How to build a strong following base on social networks:

  • Continuously produce great and shareable content.
  • Make it easy for your readers to share and follow you on social networks (use social buttons as a call-to-action on your posts).
  • Build or join conversations on social networks where your target audience is.
  • Share others’ content and let them know about it, particularly individuals who have substantial followers in your niche.
  • Thank the people sharing your content.
  • Build alliances.

Optimize content for search

The best way to really scale your link building is by ensuring that your content will still be found by people even it has already been months after publishing the post.

Content publishers use search engines, especially when they do research for their own content. That’s why optimizing your content to rank better on search results for informational queries is important, to enhance link attraction to your content.

Having so many evergreen content published on my blog helped me to continuously attract lots of new contextual links to my site almost every month.

Absorbing traffic from other communities

2 ½ years ago, when I started blogging, this was the only link building tactic on my arsenal. My main goal back then was just to lead new readers back to my blog through participating on relevant discussions (on other blogs and forums).

That paid off. Because I was able to build relationships with other bloggers and I also get click-through traffic from the blog comments and forum contributions I made almost every day on my first 3 months of blogging (and some of them are still sending new readers to my blog until now).

If you’re providing great stuff on your site that people can really get value from, then this strategy will certainly be a good fit for you.

Find communities that have strong interactions in your space and start getting involved. For instance, I used to be active on Warrior Forum when I was just starting, but now you’ll find me more often on Inbound.org. Both communities are great in sending traffic/readers.

Being active on other industry blogs, forums and community websites is also a great way to build relationships and to strengthen your social following. These relationships will help semi-automate the social sharing process for your content marketing efforts.

Trust signals

Making it evident for readers that you’re hosting credible content on your site is an important element to entice linkers to using your content as a reference.

These signals may come in form of social proof, page layout (appealing design), visuals (images, videos, graphs, etc…) and readers’ comments.

Getting contextual links

Combining all the factors/efforts mentioned above will make it easier for you to get the links you deserve. Links that will get you qualified traffic and will genuinely help you achieve better search rankings.

It takes time and hard work to drive hundreds of high quality links to a site every month, and without actually building them. But no one is saying that it’s impossible.  Because hard work always pays off.

So in this part of the post, I’ll just share some of the links that this blog has naturally acquired this past month, including the factors that helped made the natural link acquisition possible.

Brand mentions

brand mention

I got a few brand mentions from other blogs last month (but sorry, I can’t include or link to the other 8 that I’ve found), below are some samples:

Why I got the link:

  • Because of the blog’s already established brand through continuously providing useful content.
  • Most of the people who mentioned my personal brand on their posts were social followers (and perhaps regular readers, except for Mark, who I work with at Xight).
  • I also got mentions from industry peers (like Moosa and Chris) – relationships!

Referential links

referential

I’ve got plenty of this type of contextual/natural link last month (from articles, other people’s blog comments and forum threads – such as this, this and this). Here are other samples:

Why I got the link:

  • Through search. Most of the posts that have been used as a reference were already months – if not years – old. There’s a high probability that some of them researched the topic using search engines and fortunately landed on my old posts (and used them as a resource).

Roundup links

roundup

3 posts from last month were also featured on different blogs that do weekly/monthly roundups (there were also other non-English blogs that featured my recent posts). Here are a few samples.

Why I got the link:

  • Social sharing. I believe that the majority of these curators found my recently published content through social networks and from my peers who have shared the content.
  • Relationships. Steve is an amazing curator!

The total number of contextual links that I was able to track for last month’s new links is 44 (from both high and low DA sites, and excluding the links from content scrapers) – close enough to reach 50+ (if only I’ve done outreach, right?).

Tracking natural links

I’m not sure if I was able to track all the new links to my blog last month. There are a lot of tools that can be used to monitor new incoming links to a site, though I found most of them inaccurate when it comes to this aspect of link reporting.

Here are several methods that you can do to track new links to your site:

Pro Link Building tools

Link research tools like Ahrefs and Majestic SEO offer a feature where you can view new links to your site that they have crawled and indexed.

But I wasn’t really able to make use of the data that these 2 tools have provided, as both included old linking pages/domains to the site on the report. Nonetheless, I still find both tools very useful.

ahref

Google Alerts

Setting up Google Alerts is also a great tool that you can use to monitor new links and mentions to your site/content.

You can use advanced search operators to filter the web pages that Google will be sending to your email. For instance, you can use this query – “link:yoursite.com –site:yoursite.com” – to only get the pages from other domains that link to any page of your site.

google alerts

Google Search

Using advanced search operators on Google Search (web, blogs, etc…) can also provide you with results of the pages that have recently linked to your site. You can easily modify your searches using the “search tools” feature, to filter the results you want to be displayed.

google search

However, this method may not display all the pages that have recently linked to your site, but you’d be surprised to find some that other tools might have missed.

Google Webmaster Tools

There’s a feature on Google Webmaster Tools that allow site owners to view and download the incoming links to their websites.

Go to Traffic > Links to your site > view more on “who links the most” > Download latest links.

wmt

The report that will be exported in excel format is not that comprehensive as well, but I think it’s still worth looking into.

Google Analytics’ Trackback reports

The trackback report from Google Analytics was the most comprehensive list of new links to the site that I’ve found. I’ve even discovered several links to my blog that I didn’t know that existed.

How to track contextual links through Google Analytics:

  • Go to Traffic Sources > Social > Network Referrals

network referrals

 

  • Click on any of the listed Social Network

socialnetworks

  • Choose on the “Activity Stream”, which is placed on the top right corner of the graph above the table.

activity stream

  • And on the top right part of the screen, you’ll see a dropdown button (next to the name of the social network you’ve chosen) that can display an option, wherein you can choose to see the list of your site’s trackbacks.

trackbacks

 

  • On the bottom left part of the table, show the maximum amount of rows to display all the trackbacks that your site has received in the past month.

rows

  • Export the report in excel or CSV format (you can see the export feature on the top part of the page).

export

  • After exporting, you’ll then have a list of new natural links to your site similar to this:

excelreport

The links extracted through Analytics data may not be the entire new links pointing to your site, since it may miss other link sources that have disallowed sending of trackbacks from their sites. But it’s definitely a good place to start in identifying sites that have voluntarily linked to you.

Why aim for contextual links?

It’s the strongest form of link over the web. Contextual links can be very advantageous to an online business in so many ways.

This type of link can generate more activity to the site. For example, for the past 6 days, the article from Socialmediatoday.com that links to one of my older posts has sent over 500+ visitors to my site (it was published on a weekend as well).

socialmediatoday

Having hundreds of in-content natural links to your site’s inner pages can also help build up your site’s domain authority. And having a strong DA enables a site to compete for highly competitive terms, and it also makes it easier for its pages to be more visible for long-tail search queries.

Given that in-content links are more receptive and are more often utilized by readers/users, they can certainly pass more link value to the destination page that they are linking to. And this can directly impact the search rankings of the link’s landing page.

Lastly, in-content links are very visible to readers (just as I’ve pointed above), which also translates to more brand impression.

It works on other niches

The cycle of gaining natural links on a continual basis doesn’t just work on content-rich and tech-savvy industries (like SEO, social media, technology, etc…). It happens on other niches too.

A good sample of this is Joshua Dorkin’s BiggerPockets.com. It’s a real estate community that produces rich content on a regular basis.

biggerpockets

I’m not affiliated or associated with this site, but I believe Joshua is a reader of my blog (that’s how I got to his site).

Anyway, since they are really active in pushing out useful and engaging content to their community (almost every day), they were able to get ton of natural links to their site’s content.

Like on the most popular post from their blog last month, which was able to acquire links from 16 referring domains. I checked their 4 other popular posts’ link data last month, and each post was able to get 5 – 10 unique linking domains.

Key Takeaways

Contextual link building can be done naturally, but it needs manual push to really scale the process of getting more earned links to a site.

For link building to be really efficient, it’s imperative to consolidate all the other marketing initiatives you do to build awareness to your site.

  • Produce content on a regular basis to constantly grow readership and build more link opportunities.
  • If you can’t produce content on a regular basis, then focus on creating content that no one in your industry can match. Then invest on promoting these assets.
  • Get involved in other online communities in your industry to absorb more readers and possible linkers back to your site.
  • Optimize your content for researchers. They’re the ones who will most likely link back to your content in the future.
  • Work on building an awesome brand through the content you produce, the interactions you make, and the relationships you build.

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

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The Easiest Way to Bait Links – Get Guest Authors

followerwonk

Link baiting is an online marketing method that’s considerably regarded as both art and science. Given that the process of naturally gaining positive reception to any form of content is replicable and can be mastered through experience, data and constant practice.

That’s why several online viral marketing techniques exist.  Getting back to the topic, there are many approaches to acquiring natural editorial links, but not everything in any viral marketing playbook comes easy, even the one that I’m about to share, I presume.

I’ve already shared this strategy/process on a group interview by Jon Cooper about creative link building strategies, which actually got me few client inquiries this past month.

Anyway, the strategy is about inviting/hiring authority guest bloggers in your industry to contribute content to your site to attract and build more naturally earned links.

I decided to write about it, as there are so many facets and details worth expounding that can make the strategy a process of its own.

The tactic is so powerful, since inviting guest authors to publish content to your site can benefit you in so many ways, such as:

  • Absorbing readership and followers from their blogs.
  • Improving your site’s trust signals, as you improve its author portfolio (getting value from their AuthorRank).
  • Building authority and strong online brand presence through associating with known authors in your industry.
  • Getting continual traffic through referring links and also when their content contribution started to get ranked on search results (possibly for long-tail search terms).
  • Expanding your connections/network through the comments and social mentions that their guest entries are receiving.

But best of all, the strategy can help attract and generate links to your site naturally, since:

  • The contributed content will have better social spread, as both ends will promote it (you and the guest author). This means higher content visibility and more opportunities for linking.
  • Most active bloggers (who do guest blogging) link back and reference their own works – whether it’s published on their blog or on other websites. So the probability of getting a link to their guest entries is very high.

Basically, in this process, your guest authors will build links for you (they’ll do it eventually. I did).

Factors to increase the chances of getting authority guest bloggers

There are some things that you also have to consider before inviting authority bloggers to write for you. To make your guest blog invitations more efficient, it’s important to ensure that your target guest bloggers will also benefit from this type of content partnership.

Reciprocation and value proposition are very important parts of this strategy for it to be effective and scalable. It’s best to start assessing your brand’s assets first, to determine if you can really offer value to your prospected bloggers.

Factors that will make it easier for you to invite and get authority contributors:

  • Your blog’s target audience, readership, number of traffic, subscribers and/or social followers.
  • High SEO value – like domain authority and/or PageRank.
  • Relationships – if you’re well connected with bloggers in your industry and if you’re really good at social networking, the probability of getting approval from them will be higher.
  • Budget – if you don’t have the first 3 factors I’ve mentioned above, then hiring them (to write a single content) is a plausible way to get a post from them.

There are also other approaches (or angles for outreach) that you can utilize to increase the response and approval rates when inviting guest bloggers to your site – which I’ll be sharing more below.

Prospecting

Targeting high-profile bloggers to contribute content to your site is one of the main objectives of this strategy. But that’s going to be really tough if you don’t have enough value to offer.

So instead of targeting popular authors in your niche immediately, you can first start your campaign with bloggers who’re looking to promote themselves as well. Then use their needs as an angle when pitching to them to have an effective outreach campaign.

Industry Peers

Start with your friends in your industry. It’ll be easier to request and get guest contributions from them since they already know who you are.

Bloggers who have products or are about to launch their own product(s)

Find bloggers who have recently launched their own products or are already scheduled to launch a new product. Inviting them to do a guest post to your site will be more feasible for them, especially if you’ll allow them to promote their upcoming product within their guest posts.

You can use Google search to find blogs/sites in your industry that have recently launched a product. Use the “search tools” feature, and sort the results by time of publication (to display fresher results).

Bloggers in your space who are already active in guest blogging

Guest blogging has been the go-to-strategy by most online marketers and bloggers these past couple of years. So it’s kind of easier to spot people in any industry who are actively promoting their sites through this method.

The best thing about this type of prospect is that they are the ones that will really build links to their guest entries, since they do guest blogging a lot. Using their entry on your site as a resource on their future guest posts is more likely to happen.

Pitching

Using angles in your pitches – when inviting guest bloggers – is critical. Determine what you can really offer something of high value to them, and use it as the core of your pitches.

Here are few samples of my own email requests for this type of outreach:

 If you’ll notice, most of the messages contain the following:

  • Personalized introduction.
  • The value that they’ll get from contributing.
  • Targeting their needs (by enabling them to promote their products, services and/or clients).

So far, I have 100% positive response rate from this approach. Perhaps the biggest reasons and factors are the relationship that I’ve already established with the people I’ve contacted and the value proposition as well as the angle used in the request.

Hiring Freelance Bloggers

Another option for this kind of link and brand building strategy is to hire already established bloggers in your industry (who of course do freelance work).

There are 2 ways to find freelance bloggers in any niche. The first one is to use Google search.

While the second one is using Followerwonk to find freelance bloggers who have strong social following base.

It’s also important to evaluate your target freelance bloggers, before actually hiring them. Ensure the quality of the content they produce, if they already have author display on their works’ search result snippets, and if they’re also getting natural links and social shares.

Most freelance bloggers charge $35 – $100 per post, so it’s important to ensure that you’ll be making most out of this investment.

Getting the Links

These content contributions will always result to links, particularly if they’re created by active authors/bloggers. As I’ve mentioned above, links to their guest posts could be voluntarily given by their readers/followers and also by them through the succeeding content that they’ll produce.

Here are some examples of how effective this strategy is when used as a link baiting technique.

Nick Eubanks’ guest post here a few months ago about advancing from SEO to CRO, which has 52 linking root domains (including links from Search Engine Watch, SEOmoz and from his own blog).

Neil Patel’s guest post here about conversion killers, which has 12 linking root domains (including links from his latter posts on Search Engine Journal and Quicksprout).

Kristi Hines’ post on Social Media Examiner about Pinterest Business Accounts, which has 120 linking root domains.

And my guest post on Kikolani about how I built a blog that earned $10,000 in 5 months, which has 9 linking root domains (not much, but it did get natural links from SEOmoz, Blogpreneurs and Webimax – and now here).

Ok, so I gave Kristi some good links there, right? And I also got some really hard-to-replicate links from authority link sources through Nick and Neil’s guest posts as well. I guess that’s enough proof to say how effective this marketing and link development tactic is.

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

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Advanced SEO Tips for Blogs – 2013 Edition

copyblogger landing page

Over the years, blogs or weblogs have proven its effectiveness as a marketing tool for individuals and brands when used to communicate ideas and information.

Two apparent reasons why this platform for content publishing and community building is so effective in business marketing are:

  • Its capability to easily spread awareness through interactivity and audience engagement
  • Its ability to influence consumers’ buying decisions.

As many experts say, your blog is the most important social media tool. Everything else that follows will just support and propagate the content that your blog has – and this includes SEO.

SEO is an important process in blogging. Given that new and targeted visitors, leads and potential customers to the blog can be easily generated through this channel.

Even though SEO is an important area, it should never interfere with how you write your content. Because search engines are all about improving the online experience of their users, so your SEO approach should do too.

There have been so many improvements and changes in Google’s search algorithms these past few years. Optimizing a blog for search has also progressed along these changes, in which a few new signals, factors and methodologies where augmented.

So in this post, I’ll be sharing 11 actionable tips that you can implement to improve your blog’s visibility on search results and performance in driving constant search-traffic this 2013.

Create content that gets searched

Content is what drives any online marketing strategy, and that’s why it’s so important to continuously create contents that get actually searched and consumed by your target audience.

You can use keyword research tools such as Google’s Keyword Tool and/or Ubersuggest to get content ideas and to determine what topics are sought-after in your space.

Focus your content development strategy on providing answers to frequently searched information on subjects/topics that aren’t time-sensitive.

This approach can help you constantly attract visitors from search engines who’re specifically seeking for the information that your content provides.

Important: Make sure that the content is absolutely relevant or actually about the query you’re targeting, and offers valuable/useful information to readers. You can check out more tips here on how to optimize your content for search.

Create more landing pages (not just posts)

Blog posts can do pretty well on search results. But static pages (that can offer the same value) can perform better.

The time/date that a blog post is published sometimes causes posts’ search rankings to fluctuate, seeing that newer blog posts or content about the same topic from other content hubs will eventually compete for the same spot.

So if you have very extensive blog posts or guides that have somehow served as an ultimate resource for a certain topic in your industry, converting them into independent pages on your site will definitely be a great way to protect, maintain and/or improve their rankings.

Few great samples of these are:

There are also other ways and reasons to expand your blog’s amount of important landing pages (meaning pages that you’ll really need to optimize, promote and push more internal links to) such as:

These are content assets that deserve better search rankings for very competitive search terms, because they are worth-linking to. They have better chances of getting natural links and it’s reasonable to promote them through manual link building or social outreach.

Pumpkin Hacking

This is a strategy that I got from Nick Eubanks. The main principle behind this strategy is to focus resources and efforts on building what works.

If you have an already established blog, it’s best to assess the keywords that are sending constant traffic to your site (using Google Analytics). But if you’re only starting a new one, keep on testing and track the posts that are performing really well in terms of driving search traffic and conversions (engagements, social, subscriptions, etc…).

Identify the niche or the type of content where the keywords are really sending good amount of engaged traffic to your blog.

Start focusing on those areas by creating more stems of content, based on the niche’s root keyword (ex: “link building”) – using the same approach for the content (ex: “comprehensive tutorials or data-driven content”).

The more you target the root keyword’s long-tails or replicate the approach or style of your previously successful content, the more your content strategy can establish your brand/blog as an authority in that field.

And in an SEO-perspective, search engines can fully understand the response from the traffic you’re getting. This means you can improve your blog’s search share in the niche that you’re focusing with (and could also possibly make your blog rank better for the niche’s root keyword).

I’ve realized this early on my blogging career, where most of the good reception were gained by my comprehensive link building posts.

So I focused on that. And it worked. My blog somehow became associated with the niche keyword and have built a strong mindshare over the time.

Another efficient way in merging your keyword and content strategy is through extracting more data from your Google Webmaster Tools (search queries feature). You can check out this great guide from Jeremy Morgan on how to do agile content marketing with GWT.

Length of content/document

Comprehensiveness of content is a strong signal that search engines use, not just to gauge relevancy, but also to determine the value of the content.

If the content is a complete resource about the subject, it basically deserves a higher ranking position.

Longer posts are sticky, knowing that they tend to get bookmarked, get more return visits and/or referenced to by other content publishers as a resource.

Few tips on making your content more comprehensive:

  • Add more visuals in your blog posts.
  • Expand the details of the information you’re offering (Wikipedia style).
  • Identify the areas of the subject that’s missing from other websites’ similar post and provide those information in your content.

Build more on-site trust signals

Google is known to use hundreds of factors in evaluating rightful pages/sites to be ranked higher on their search results.

Implementing more signals coming from your site is one of the best ways to demonstrate authority and trust (to both users and search engines).

Several trust signals that you can easily put into practice:

  • Invite guest authors and offer authorship markups for them (to improve your blog’s author portfolio and gain more trust signals through their AuthorRank).
  • Create content for links/shares. Examine the types of blog posts in your space that work well in terms of social sharing. Replicate and let known linkers/sharers in your industry know about it (more tips here).
  • Link out to trusted sources. Readers and search engines will more likely trust your content if you’re citing useful materials from other authority websites.
  • Social proof. Integrate social calls-to-action on your blog, as this can display your activity on different social platforms (and number of followers/subscribers can influence how people and search engines see the blog as a brand).
  • Encourage blog comments. The more engaged readers you have, which can easily be reflected by the discussions happening within your blog, the more positive signals you can send out.
  • Reduce interruptive ads. Especially those that are placed above the fold.

Use other formats of content

Another way to create more positive signals from your site is to create content in different formats. There are so many content formats that you can try and test out for your blog, such as:

Slide presentations Slideshare.net

Videos – Youtube and Vimeo

Infographics Info.gram and Visual.ly

Timeline – Timeline JS

 

Google Algorithm Updates for 2012 by Nikko Machine

List – List.ly

Aside from creating signals, having more content hosted on these authoritative UGC sites can help you attract more referred traffic. Since these pages (hosted on Slideshare, Youtube, etc…) have high tendencies of getting displayed on search results for long tail searches, which of course link to your site.

Optimize for Dwell Time

Dwell time is a user-experience metric, which is a combination of bounce rate and time-spent on site. When people are staying longer on the blog, it becomes a strong indication that they are finding its content useful and relevant, and thus help in improving the site’s ability to rank better on search results.

There are many ways to optimize a blog to make its visitors stay longer and to encourage them to take actions:

  • Build more thematic internal links within your posts’ content. Use longer anchor texts to make the more visible to readers and to entice more clicks.
  • Use compelling images/visuals to stimulate and capture your readers’ attention.
  • Link to related blog posts at the end of your post (if you’re on WordPress, you can install the Yet Another Related Post plugin).
  • Invest on a visually appealing site design and learn basic UX. Ask people for feedback and suggestions to improve user-experience.
  • Optimize content above the fold. Make sure that the headline and introductory part of the content can entice readers to scroll down.
  • Improve your blog’s load time or site speed. Use tools like Pingdom or Page Speed Insights to assess areas of the blog that could be causing it to slow down.
  • Optimize for readability and design your content for skimmers. Break down your content in shorter paragraphs and highlight the important parts (by using bold texts, headings or quotations).
  • Use strong calls-to-action on highly-perceptible areas of your pages (ex: at the end of the post or above the fold).

Optimize categories

Blog categories are strong static pages that can compete for highly competitive terms, because they actually pertain to the niche itself and they are up in the hierarchy of your blog’s architecture.

Though many times, these pages aren’t well-optimized for search, and often become poor-content pages (that sometimes can cause content duplication within the site).

There are a few things that you can do to improve your categories (for it to look more appealing to both users and search engines):

  • Optimize your categories’ title tags.
  • Add custom content above the fold, including a headline (with the keywords that the category is about) and an introductory content which describes the types of content that go into that category.
  • Display only the excerpts for the listed posts in each category page.
  • Build contextual links to your categories (both internal and inbound links).

Improving the page value of your categories can also help distribute more ranking power to the blog posts under it. The same thing happens when your blog posts are increasing their page authority, wherein they can also pass the ranking ability back to the category page.

Making the blog’s architecture search-friendly

This is the part where basic and advanced on-site optimization meets. Having great content is good, but you also have to understand that SEO is also about making it easier for search engines to find access and index pages from your site.

Help search engines to better understand what your site and its content is about so they can serve it to users/searchers who’re specifically seeking for it.

Some of the optimization methods that you can implement on your blog:

  • Use accurate page titles on each page and blog post on your blog. Make sure that the page titles are really relevant to page’s content.
  • Add meta descriptions on your posts/pages, with the aim to increase SERP CTR, not just to target keywords.
  • Use descriptive URLs for your posts/pages (custom permalink structure). It’s also best to keep your URLs short.
  • Add an XML sitemap and Robots.txt, so search engines can easily identify which pages they should prioritize in crawling and which folders of the site they aren’t allowed to access.
  • Make sure that the blog’s URLs are canonicalized or redirecting to a single version of the URL (www. or non-www).
  • If you have videos, add a video sitemap. If your blog is on WordPress, you can just download the Google XML sitemap for Videos plugin.
  • Validate your blog’s coding. You can use W3C’s free toolset for validating HTML, CSS, schema, and many other web document formats.
  • Implement authorship markup. You can check out this tutorial from AJ Kohn.
  • Improve your blog’s site speed. Use the tools I’ve mentioned above (Pingdom or Page Speed Insights).
  • Check your site for crawl errors using Google Webmaster Tools. Fix these broken pages if necessary, but if not, you can choose to 301 redirect them to the most related pages (or to a new URL version of the page). It’s also best to reclaim all the links from other sites pointing to your broken pages to reduce crawl errors. Lastly, create a custom 404 page and suggest other pages where visitors can go instead.
  • Block search crawlers from indexing thin and/or potential duplicate pages from your blog (tags pages, search feature, meta refreshed pages, etc…) by using the “noindex” tag.
  • Start implementing social snippet markups for Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Dana Lookadoo shared an in-depth guide on SEOmoz mid last year, while RKG also did an extensive tutorial on how to use Open Graph tags for social snippets.
  • You can also start utilizing structured data (schemas) on certain types of content. Raventools released a tool that generates schema codes for reviews, events, products, books, movies, persons, organizations. The tool also has a plugin for WordPress blogs.

Branding

Everything that you try to build off-site should add value to the brand that your blog is trying to shape. It’s very important to know what separates your publication from the rest in your niche/industry.

Know your unique value proposition and make it as your blog marketing efforts’ core. It will help you establish more positive signals to your blog and will also help make you remarkable in your space.

The more you push your value proposition and making it certain that it will be relevant and resounding to your audience (through the interactions and the content you produce/distribute), the more your blog will become a link magnet.

Brand-based signals will definitely be important this year, since it’s becoming more obvious that search engines favor brands that have strong presence in their search results.

Here are some methods that you can do to build more brand signals to your blog:

  • Contribute content on high-traffic blogs in your industry through guest blogging. Focus on sharing your expertise to steadily build mindshare in your niche and brand recognition.
  • Participate on popular discussions on relevant communities, especially on sites where your target audience is (forums, authority blogs, Q&A threads, online community voting sites – like Reddit, Inbound.org or Hacker News). Add value to the discussions to be remarkable and to attract click-through traffic to your blog.
  • Start building in-content brand mentions/citations (co-occurrence) – that are in close proximity to your blog’s major keywords – as search engines understand and count these unlinked brand mentions as signals. Simon Penson wrote a great piece about link building without links, I highly recommend reading that post.
  • Utilize and create campaigns on social platforms where your target audience is (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, etc…). Build a strong following base by being consistent with content sharing and relationship building.

Track and optimize for Conversions

Track everything that’s performing well on your blog. Evaluate your best traffic sources, content/landing pages, and the elements that make your visitors take actions.

Set up goals on Analytics to make the most out of the traffic you’re already getting. It’s also best to continuously improve your blog’s important pages (those that are already converting visitors to leads or sales – if you’re selling products or services).

Test those that are already performing well by using Google Analytics’ content experiments. Because the more your important pages can convert its incoming visitors, the more they’ll likely be ranked higher on search results (based on the usage data and traffic behaviour on your pages).

For more advanced tips on building a high-traffic blog, check out these posts:

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

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How to Build Hard-to-Replicate Links

Getting the best links from the most authoritative and most relevant sources around the web has gotten tougher this year. I believe that it’s a good sign for everyone, because if it’s getting easier then something must be really wrong.

Link building has been a very important process in online marketing ever since, and will always be. Not just because search engines will always be reliant to links in finding and ranking web-based documents, but also given that links can benefit sites in so many ways such as:

  • Building brand presence and authority
  • Sending referred traffic
  • Generating leads and sales
  • Creating signals that can help improve search visibility

Aside from getting your site discovered by your target market through links, the process alone of trying to acquire links from different content distribution channels can also help establish relationships, which is a very important aspect of modern marketing.

Link building has grown over the years and as you can see on the chart below (by Getlisted.org), link building is now being more considered as a marketing practice used for brand building, rather than a practice that’s just under search engine optimization.

But the most exciting part about link development is that it can be used for both brand building as well as in improving sales. It depends on your approach, knowing that you can always choose to integrate conversion optimization principles with your link building efforts.

The main essence of link acquisition – even way before SEOs learned how links can affect search rankings – is earning the citation. Earned, in a way where your content is worthy of being used as a reference by other websites.

If you’ll notice, most hard-to-replicate links are specifically created for the destination page/site or mostly brand-related mentions. So in this post, I’ll be sharing some tips on how to create opportunities to get links that will be hard for your competitors to compete with.

Create hard-to-replicate content

Online marketing is driven by content. Content will always be king, and I know that there’s no need to explain why, but here are a few reasons why:

  • It gives people a reason to visit your site.
  • It can change your audience’s perceptions and influence buying decisions.
  • It allows you to demonstrate your brand’s expertise and establish authority.
  • It’s what people will share, link and reference to.
  • It expresses your ideologies, where conversations can start and where you can eventually build relationships.
  • If your content is really useful, it will be searched and it will certainly be found.

Provide content that can’t just be easily copied by everyone else. Because when people can’t replicate your content, they’ll more likely use it as a resource, instead of creating one that’s just similar to it.

John Doherty wrote a post on producing content with or with no budget, which specified three types of equities required in creating a hard-to-replicate content.

If you have 2 from any of those three, then you can certainly create a unique content that can help you get ton of links.

Good samples of this are Jon Cooper’s complete list of link building strategies and Ed Fry’s link bait guide. Both obviously took time and talent to be executed, but the hard work paid off, seeing that both were well-received and are ranking well on search results.

Content development is the best avenue to establish thought-leadership. Being innovative with how you produce your content can lead to lots of linking opportunities, as you open up new ideas that your audience can think of, and write about (and of course use yours as a reference).

Several components of an original content that will make it worthy of editorial coverage:

  • Data-driven
  • Comprehensive guides
  • Innovative ideas

Lastly, it’s important to optimize your content for search and to promote and build links to it to make it more visible to its target audience. The more it attracts traffic, the more you get possible linkers to it. For more comprehensive tips, you can check out this guide on getting editorial links.

Industry Peers

Consistently provide useful content on and/or off site. It’ll make it easier for you to be associated with other content publishers in your industry.

In link building these days, relationships are very vital. It’s certainly one of the best ways to build hard-to-replicate links (because your competitors can’t easily replicate your relationships).

Try to engage and be on the radar of those who are active in guest blogging in your industry. If these people are finding your blog really useful, they’ll definitely use some of your content as a resource – or even mention you as a sample.

Do the same thing for them (mentioning their works on your guest posts), to initiate the mutually beneficial relationship.

Peer-to-peer SEO can strongly affect how your online community sees your brand, and thus helps to establish credibility and attract more linkers to your content.

Collaborating with your industry peers to create content is also a great way to strengthen brand presence in your community and enhance linkability. A great sample of this type of content is from Nick, Don, Sean, Anthony, Chris and Peter – where they have discussed the current state of link building.

Organizing a Google+ Hangout discussion with peers and recording the video and publishing it as video with transcriptions is another format that you can take advantage of. Max Minzer recently did two of this type of content, like this recorded broadcast about link building for 2013.

Invite guest authors to contribute content to your site as well, as you can get more in-content links from this approach (especially if you’ll be inviting people who are active in producing content on and off their sites).

For instance, both Neil Patel and Nick Eubanks did a guest post here on my blog. Both entries are receiving natural links, where most are from their other guest entries published on other authority blogs.

This approach to online marketing is a two-way street, so it’s really important to make an effort and ensure that the other party is also benefiting from the relationship.

Build strong micro niche sites

Use microsites to create more linking, traffic and lead generation opportunities for your site, not just to directly build links to your site from them.

Build a separate site – that will focus more on a specific niche that you’re also targeting – and work on developing its own community.

I’ve seen a lot of big sites who have done this strategy (like an enterprise-level printing company investing on a graphic design blog and community to acquire relevant link targets and leads).

The key to building a strong micro site is assuring that it will offer value to its audience/market. A perfect sample of this is Affilorama’s Traffic Travis, a free SEO software that already has thousands of users.

Given that Traffic Travis has thousands of users and newsletter subscribers, it can easily pass through traffic to Affilorama through its newsletter (since users are automatically subscribed to its newsletter once they download the free version of the tool).

Newsletter links are one of the hardest kinds of links to replicate. And the best thing about this type of link is that it’s mainly intended for driving highly targeted traffic and you have full control of it (which will surely be envied by your competitors).

Another advantage of having authority microsites is when they are able to attract and acquire voluntary given links (Traffic Travis has tons of those), which opens up more link building opportunities like:

  • If some of its contents are getting natural links from highly authoritative publications, you can move the content to a new URL under your main site and 301 the old page from the microsite (to pass all the links to the main site).
  • You have better chances of acquiring links to your main site when you pitch sites/publications that have already linked to your microsite.
  • Getting indirect links from your competitors who are unaware that you own the microsite (redirecting the page to your site where they have linked to).

Organize or sponsor events

Whether it’s supporting or organizing online, offline or local events, links acquired through these marketing activities will always be difficult for your competitors to earn. Here are several ideas for events that you can sponsor or organize to attract more brand mentions (links) to your site:

  • Tradeshows
  • Charitable and fundraising events
  • Industry conferences or seminars
  • Contests (blogging contests, photo contests, etc…)
  • Awards
  • Supporting local university events
  • Meetups
  • Google+ hangouts

Kane Jamison did an extremely useful guide to link building with local events earlier this year. I highly recommend reading the post.

Align PR with SEO when launching new products

Product launches can easily attract word-of-mouth links and news coverage. And links pointing to newly released product(s) are definitely tough to be matched by competitors, as these mentions are really intended to share/promote the product to a targeted audience.

One of the best ways to drive ton of branded links and potential customers is through an integrated online marketing approach of PR, social and link building. By combining different outreach methods (blogger outreach, social outreach, influencer outreach, traditional PR and paid press releases) you can simply get more reviews and coverage to your new product(s).

Results from a successful integrated PR campaign for a new product can be really tremendous (particularly in generating sales and improving brand equity).

An excellent example of this is the recently successful launch of Tim Ferriss’ The 4-hour Chef. His marketing campaign managed to get more exposure for his book from several traditional media outlets, online press and authority publications, wherein the links acquired were certainly hard-to-get.

Ryan Clark wrote a post that extensively explains how to implement a successful launchbait, you can check out that post for more actionable tips on promoting new products.

Proving Authority

There are two ways to prove and establish brand authority in the online space; (1) offer a solution (product/service) that no one in your market can match, and (2) provide high-utility and expertly made content that people will continuously consume, share and be educated with.

Content marketing has been a very powerful marketing tool because it can make a brand even more popular and credible.

The collective efforts you do in creating and promoting content, as well as in building relationships along the process can continuously create further opportunities and byproducts, as the brand create a cycle that enables it to reach more audience.

Though the advantages of being an authority in your field doesn’t end there, since you can leverage the expert status of your brand to create more hard-earned links, such as:

  • Getting interview opportunities or having the right to pitch to be interviewed by bloggers or journalists.
  • Higher chances of approval when requesting for link placements on .edu and .gov resources pages.
  • Speaking gigs that can lead to networking and more natural linking opportunities.

Strong social brand pages

Social links have been a strong indicator of authenticity and popularity for search engines. The more social signals coming from a site/content, the more it’ll appear trustworthy (which translates to better search visibility).

Links from social channels may have not replaced in-content links from webpages in the hierarchy of link value. However, it’s still a force to reckon with, knowing that social sites are robust marketing platforms where people can discover and easily disseminate your content.

Build a strong following base on social media sites – where your target audience is mostly at – by integrating your content strategy with social media marketing.

The more you produce and promote share-worthy content, the more you can entice new followers/fans and build relationships with them through your brand pages.

Because when people start spreading your content around (on a regular basis), that’s something that will be very hard to replicate and compete with (plus people and search engines will take notice of that).

Strong author profile

AuthorRank and having a solid author portfolio will definitely be bigger in the near future. How does authorship affect link building? A lot!

Strengthening your presence as an author/publisher through constant production of useful and highly-engaging content both on and off site will increase your AuthorRank. This simply means the higher AuthorRank, the higher value of links that you’ll be capable of creating for your site.

And the best thing about this approach is that you also get to tap different byproducts all at once (getting links, social shares, followers, subscribers, traffic, conversions, branding, etc…). And a well-recognized author is something that wouldn’t be that easy to be reproduced by your competitors.

Start implementing authorship markups on your site and when you’re contributing content to other sites.

Smart content distribution

Create pages (with links to your site) on authority sites and UGC domains, because they can easily rank for highly searched terms in your vertical.

It’s important to do keyword research whenever you’re creating contents that will be distributed (on sites like Slideshare, Youtube, Pinterest, etc…), to make sure that you’re creating a content that will be searched.

Aim to land a guest post on industry publications that have high search share and domain authority as well.

Having links from pages that are already ranking very well on search results (especially for long-tails that you as well as your competitors are competing for) will always take you one step ahead from your competitors.

Integrate brand story

Making use of your brand story in your online marketing efforts is a great way to become remarkable to your target market. Your story makes you unique and can somehow separate you from your competitors and the transparency can help you attract more loyalists.

A brand is a progressive story, and making a simple effort for people to know who you are, what you want to achieve and what you truly represent can go a long way.

Here’s a basic sample, as most of you know, before I became an SEO, I was a Pro-Gamer. That short explanation of my background got me several natural brand mentions (like this one from a recent post by Peter Attia on personalities that make great SEOs).

Share your story to your audience once in awhile (or even making it a part of your content distribution/development strategy, but also making sure that it will provide value and be relevant as well), you can most certainly attract more editorial links.

Few ways to share your story without being too advertorial, such as:

People can easily remember stories. And that’s one of the best ways to be on top of their minds.

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

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Using Brand Building Strategies to Improve Link Building

Link building has changed a lot these past few years, especially this year when Google has rolled out its anti-link spam update – better known as the Penguin update.

These changes have given birth to an era where different ideologies in marketing are being integrated to SEO. Search engines are constantly evolving, and our approach should too.

Keyword-focused link building is long gone (in most cases), wherein the only way to win in search is to authentically build a brand as an authority.

I’ve been saying this a lot lately, and will certainly do it again here. Start applying branding principles to make the most out of your link acquisition campaigns. Brand building is the new link building.

Here’s a good question every link marketer should ask themselves every time they try to build links:

Would this content placement, interaction or idea surrounding the link be eventually helpful in solidifying our brand values and equity?

Strong brands are winning the web (social/search), and that’s a challenge that link builders have to accept. Link building is getting bigger, in which it encompasses different practices and approaches to achieve maximum results.

It has become more of a branding and traffic/lead generation tool these days (and not just for search engine optimization). Seeing link building in that point of view will help you more in getting the rankings you think you deserve.

Google is getting more complex every day, and the capability to understand how links are being utilized over the web can simply throw ton of ideas on how they should be weighing links.

Link building is Brand building

Branding is about committing to the core principles that a company believes in, such as championing a cause, leveraging thought-leadership and/or USP.

Here’s a very insightful slide presentation from Paul Isakson, explaining how brand building has evolved over time:

Imagine if we can all assimilate that mindset on how we build links. People and search engines would certainly find the commitment worthy of being shared and seen.

When you know how you want people to see your brand, you’ll resist shortcuts and spammy tactics just to get the job done.

As what Paul has mentioned on his presentation, define who you are and what you stand for, and then commit to it. Let the brand identity that you are aiming to project lead how you communicate your brand’s ideas.

Brand Ambassadors

People are more to trust people than the brand itself. It’s easier to convey a brand’s message when it’s coming from the people behind the brand, because people will more likely listen.

Invest on developing personalities who can carry the brand’s flag, because real people are more apt when it comes to building awareness, shaping brand identity and in reinforcing perception.

This is where thought-leadership is also built, gradually, which is a strong factor that can set the brand in a better market position.

Here’s a great sample, Leo Widrich, co-founder of Bufferapp, has been really active in guest blogging when they were just starting to promote Bufferapp.

The strategy didn’t just propel their business’ to reach 100,000 customers, it also allowed Leo to become one of the most credible social media practitioners in the industry.

Of course, that end-result is adding more value to the brand, and it’s certainly opening more opportunities for them (links, mentions, followers, customers, loyalists, etc…)

Try to build someone up who can continuously provide solutions to your market’s common problems through the content they’ll be distributing across the web. Few advantages that this strategy can bring to your link acquisition campaigns:

  • The more your brand ambassador(s) publish content on different sites as well as reach out and interact with other people in your industry, the more they can build relationships, which is very important, especially in link building, nowadays.
  • It’s also a great way to establish the brand in different sectors of the industry, as ambassadors get to build strong authorship (which is also one of the strongest signals that search engines look into in gauging trust and credibility).
  • It will be easier to penetrate popular industry publications with strict editorials, as the value proposition they add along their contributions is apparent, such as the ambassador’s expertise and following/readership.

Update – 3-14-13

Hey readers! – It’s Anthony Pensabene of SkyrocketSEO.   While penning a post in real time, I reached back into the Kaiser cannon to add some insight here, discussing a tactic I use to build authority and good associations with advocates.  Enjoy!

Associations

Relationships/associations are very important for businesses, because it allows brands to look more credible, especially when they are associated with other high quality brands in its industry.

And in our time, the best way to show off these associations is through the content we provide to our own audience. That’s why inviting industry peers to contribute content to your own site is very powerful when used as a branding/marketing strategy (and a win/win for both parties).

Known advantages of utilizing associations for your campaign’s content production:

  • The site will be able to collect and send out more trust signals as it strengthens its author portfolio (particularly if authorship markups will be implemented).
  • Acquiring natural links, new followers/readers/leads, and social mentions from both parties’ network as the content gets promoted on both ends.
  • Strong brand impression as new visitors get to see other trusted entities contribute/collaborate content with your brand.

Both SEOmoz and Search Engine Land have been successful at this form of branding strategy, seeing that they allow their associates to regularly publish high-quality content on their sites (like being associated with the industry’s other top brands such as SEER Interactive, SEOGadget, Distilled and BlueGlass).

Another strategy that you can do, if in case some of your peers or target influencers are busy to write new content for your site’s blog, is to ask them to republish some of their old content (that is really relevant to your audience).

Here’s an example: in 2007, Rand Fishkin wrote an article about strategies on how to grow a blog’s audience (which he has updated early this year).

I also remember 2 years ago, the original post from 2007 was republished as a guest post (with permission) on a social media blog – see the post here.

Republished post in 2010

Republished post links back to the original content

The impact to a brand of having someone as influential as Rand Fishkin to do a guest post on its blog is definitely beneficial, in terms of branding perspectives.

I’ve also encountered this strategy, but I was the one on the other end (and seem to work well in referring new traffic). Since I allowed a Brazilian SEO blog republish some of my evergreen posts and be offered in a different language.

A US-based tech VC firm also asked me recently if they can republish two of my blog posts on their blog (since the posts are something that their audience are really interested in). You can see the post here and here.

So as a publisher, why would we allow you to republish our content, when people can just read ours? Here are a few pointers on doing a pitch for content republication:

  • If your site targets a different audience and already have established readership/following. Your pitch will have higher chances for approval (ex: your audience are startup owners who’re interested in SEO).
  • If your readers speak a different language. Translating our content is a very enticing proposition.
  • Pick older posts and offer it to a different audience (ex: old but evergreen SEO content and share it to social media practitioners).

Positioning

When you’re doing link acquisition, it’s imperative that you always think if the effort will push the brand to the unique position it wants to occupy in its target market.

That’s why targeting the right sites and publications – where your target audience really are – is as important as the quality of the message you’re trying to communicate.

Always put a place for your brand’s unique value proposition on your content and interactions. The more people see you as an authority in solving a particular problem in your industry, the more that they’ll trust and go to you.

Links should be used as passageways for people who really care about what your brand is committed on doing. Make it easier for them to find you. Acquire links from sites that you’d really get click-through visitors (sites that have your audience).

Strong brand messaging on relevant authority sites, that’s the key to get the links that influence brand perception and search optimization.

Long-term Perspective

Aim for long-term growth through link development by building useful pages or getting links from useful pages that people will constantly find and consume. Don’t build links just for the sake of volume (or just to make your report look great).

Useful content can continuously attract visitors (through search and other referring websites), which means getting links or being visible through these pages will allow you to:

  • Get constant traffic/leads to your site
  • Attract more possible linkers and followers
  • Continually build awareness and brand impression

So how can you inject this principle to your link building campaigns? Here are a few samples:

  • Acquire links from pages that are already ranking for informational keywords, because they get visitors that can easily be engaged. Interact and add value/useful information on the discussion, because this is certainly a good opportunity to make your brand stand out (ex: popular Quora threads, discussion on an industry forum, or a popular blog post).
  • Create useful and evergreen content that your target market searches for and host it on high DA (domain authority) publications or UGC sites. Published content on these types of sites can easily rank for both competitive and long-tail keywords (like pages from Slideshare, Youtube, etc…), which can help you continuously build brand awareness and generate traffic.

A brand is a progressive story, and content (distribution and interactions) as well as link development are efficient platforms you can use to communicate the progress of the brand’s story.

Quality, Authenticity and Consistency in messaging

The quality of the content you produce/distribute and the interactions you make can reflect the quality of the products/services you offer.

Treat every interaction and content as your own product. Always be at your best when contributing and participating on discussions on other sites.

It’s also important to be selective with the channels and topics you choose to disseminate branded content (content and interactions that somehow demonstrate your brand’s unique selling point and field of expertise).

The more you focus on bringing quality to your content distribution campaign – and being consistent with it – the more you can develop a strong and positive customer/market perception. That’s where you can control how people collectively see the brand’s values and personality.

TL;DR – Build a strong brand presence online to win at search. Search engines will obviously continue to favour brands.

And the best way to align content and link development efforts with the core values of the brand is to have a clear definition of how you want your brand to be seen by people.

For more live samples, I highly recommend to check out Justin Briggs’ case studies on building high-powered links and Wil Reynolds’ post on how they do RCS.

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

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A Walkthrough to Xight Interactive’s Inbound Marketing Process

Our company celebrated its first year anniversary last month – a really tough year for all of us. And I’m sure that it will be tougher in the coming months, as we all upgrade our goals internally. But overall, our small team is quite proud with what we have all achieved these past 12 months.

Since we’ve reached our first year as a company, a yearly board meeting/planning is certainly a task that we need to undertake. To make sure that we’ll learn from our past mistakes, identify our processes’ pain points, and on how we can build as stronger product from those insights (which is primarily our services/talent pool/culture).

My role – as CEO – has never been more challenging. On our second year, I’ll be focusing more on the big picture, marketing, training and process/strategy development.

And since we have one of the best consultants in the Philippines around to act as our Director of Search (Mark Acsay), and a very promising Content Marketing Director on board (Bev Lopez), the distribution of responsibilities and the leadership that will steer our process have been more solid than ever.

As for the operations, our company’s co-founder/COO – JP Prieto – will be taking over the entire operations. Several of our consultants, associates, creative/tech marketers and content devs are already stepping up to the challenge.

So it’s definitely a very exciting chapter for all of us – and I’m really excited to see how much our team can grow next year.

Enough of us and let’s start discussing more about the same simple inbound marketing process that I’ve proposed from our last month’s board meeting/planning.

Goal Setting

Developing an actionable strategy requires goals. Seeing that setting goals before even launching a campaign will lead you to only take the actions that will help you achieve them.

It’s also important to understand the client’s business/site needs in terms of marketing, not just for content strategy, but also to know the scope of your services that they’ll really benefit from the most.

Several metrics that a sustainable online marketing campaign could be aiming for are:

  • Improving the site’s domain authority (which somehow correlates to the business’ brand authority and search share).
  • Continual growth in targeted traffic (monthly increase in unique organic, direct and referred traffic).
  • Strong brand presence, which can be measured through the links and social mentions being earned by the campaign, particularly on the quality/authoritativeness of publications/sources featuring the site.
  • If improvements are reflecting to the business’ revenue growth.

With these things in mind, you can easily segment the methodologies your campaign will need based on level of priorities. These goals will also allow you to identify tasks that will bring both short and long term value to your campaign (such as knowing how one evergreen content can impact a business as a whole).

Strategy Development

Strategy will always vary, as it highly depends on what you and your client believe that their business really needs. For instance, some might be targeting a smaller market (or could be based on geographical locations) and some could be targeting a wider set of audience (from different places/demographics).

As I’ve mentioned above, it’s best to precisely know what the client and their target customers really need and formulate solutions that will make it easier for them to achieve their goals.

Technical SEO Audit

One of the most vital elements of a solid inbound marketing campaign is making sure that the site is ready for users and for search. That’s why this marketing practice comes first on our list.

A full site audit is very important to know which areas of the site need to be improved, as well as to guide the implementation processes (particularly on both on-page and off-page optimization).

Here’s a simple checklist of the things included on our continuous SEO audit analysis:

Title, Meta Tags and Permalink Structure

Make sure that the title tags, meta tags and URLs of the pages within the site are optimized for both users and search engines. It’s best to use your marketing thinking when optimizing these areas of the site, to entice more search/social traffic to checking out the page(s).

There are several ways and tools that can be used in doing this type of site assessment:

  • Using Traffic Travis’ “My Site” feature (the tool will instantly show if there are problems on your pages’ meta tags).
  • Through Google Webmaster Tools’ HTML Improvements section (under the “Optimization” tab). More details on this post.
  • Importing the site’s sitemap to excel and using Neils Bosma’s free SEO Tool for excel to extract each URL’s (included on the sitemap) title tags and meta descriptions. You can check out this post to see a step by step guide on using the tool.

Site Structure and Hierarchy of pages

Check if the site’s important pages (landing pages/categories) are accessible to both users and search engines. Prioritized important content by moving them up the hierarchy, or by lessening the number of clicks before users/crawlers get to those pages (through internal/navigational linking).

You can also use the sitemap to analyze which pages are important, and which pages should be receiving more link value for them to be able to compete for highly searched/competitive terms. You can check out this post for more tips on optimizing site structure.

Internal Linking

There are so many ways to see how if a site’s internal linking structure is well-optimized. You can start with Google Webmaster Tools (Traffic > Internal Links) to see which pages of the site have more internal links pointing to them, and to also see which pages are lacking internal links.

 

Other things that also be considered when optimizing a site’s internal linking structure are:

  • Checking if the site uses good anchor texts for its internal links and if they are pointing to appropriate/relevant pages.
  • Checking if the site’s inner pages contain broken links (you can use Xenu in doing this task).
  • Manually checking product and content-level pages if they are internally linking to other related pages (that may need more link value and visibility).

Duplicate Content

Finding potential problems within a site that can affect how it’s ranking on search results has been easier these past few months, as tons of tips on uncovering duplicates and thin pages within a site are available over the web.

We normally use Google Webmaster Tools to assess if the site has issues related to duplicate and/or thin pages being indexed by Google (see this post for the extensive version of how to find duplicates/poor content pages with GWMT).

Things to look out for when solving this issue:

  • Compare number of pages from the sitemap vs. the number of pages indexed by Google, to have an idea of how many excess pages from the site have been already indexed by Google.
  • See what URL parameters the site has (for secured version, cart, search feature, paginated version, etc…) and check if these URL parameters are being indexed by Google (you can use search operators like “site:www.example.com inurl:/search/”).
  • Check the site’s key pages (that are competing for the campaign’s major keywords) and see if they have duplicates on other websites (use Copyscape).
  • Once you’ve found the pages that could be harming the site, start blocking search crawlers from accessing and indexing them (through robots.txt or by tagging them to noindex).

Accessibility and Crawling

Check if the site has crawl errors via Google Webmaster Tools (Health > Crawl Errors), and have these assessments included on your list of recommendations and to have them fixed.

You can also use ScreamingFrog to assess if some of the site’s pages could be causing crawling problems (such as 404s or if the site has too many unnecessary 301 redirects).

It’s also best to check the site’s robots.txt to know what content/pages are being blocked from crawlers and if the robots.txt is also directing search bots to the site’s sitemap.

Site Speed

Determine if the site is serving its pages fast to both users and search engines. Use Google’s Page Speed Insights or Pingdom to get more data on the site’s loading speed, especially on the elements that could be causing the site to load slower.

Advanced On-site Recommendations

There are also other technical aspects of search optimization that you can consider when doing a full site analysis such as:

  • Evaluating if the site is ready to implement structured data for rich snippets (like authorship/publisher markups and schema/microdata for the site’s inner pages).
  • If the site’s key pages are serving too much Javascript, Flash or iframes, which could somehow affect how search engines are crawling the site’s content.
  • See if the site is already tracking goals/conversion via Google Analytics. If not, start recommending it.
  • Make sure that the site is canonicalized (or redirects to a single version of the URL – non-www. or www.).
  • Check if the site uses absolute URLs instead of relative URLs.
  • If the site has paginated content, see if the extended pages are being indexed (use dofollow internal links on high priority pages and tag the following pages to noindex).

Content-level Audit

Do a quick run on the site’s important landing pages and see the depth, quality and delivery of content. It’s important that each page can serve its purpose and should provide value/substantial information to its targeted audience.

Another thing that you should also consider when doing content audit is to gauge if the site’s important landing pages are really relevant to the search phrases they are aiming to rank for. This will reduce the exit rate on the site’s important pages, as the intent of the content is specifically targeted to users who are really seeking for what the content should actually be covering.

In doing this task, you can simply start by listing all the important landing/money pages of the site (preferably pages that are generating leads/sales to the business) on an excel spreadsheet. Once you have identified the site’s top pages, you can start assessing and noting how each can be improved in terms of messaging and audience targeting.

Here’s a great guide on implementing content audits.

Keyword Mapping

Relevance is the key in on-site optimization. Ensure that the site’s pages are targeting the most relevant keywords for them, because that’s the best way to have them ranked better in search results.

You can start by assessing the primary search terms that the campaign will be targeting as well as the key pages competing for those keywords. Do a site search with the primary keywords (site:www.example.com “keyword”) to see if the keyword has been overused by the site (to lessen the chances of cannibalizing your primary keywords).

This will help you find and distinguish if the pages are absolutely relevant to the keywords they are targeting, or if you can find another page that’s a better fit for the targeted search term.

Keyword Discovery

It’s imperative to continuously uncover keywords that can help the site draw more relevant traffic through search as the campaign grows. Discovering keywords to target – that will be used for content generation – is not just about getting new keywords, as it can also be about identifying efficient keywords that are already driving conversions.

Some of these keywords could be down the list of mid and long-tail keywords, and can usually be discovered through the site’s traffic activity (via Google Analytics).

Link Profile Analysis

Understand the site’s standings when it comes to linking and popularity to have better insights of how to approach the off-page optimization. You can start by classifying the strength of the links pointing to the site or by equating the ratio of the high quality vs. low quality links to the site.

I’ve shared a guide on link profile audit using Google Webmaster Tools a few months ago (you can use that as a reference):

  • Download the list of domains linking to the site (on Google Webmaster Tools > Traffic > Links to your site).
  • Use the Neils Bosma free SEO Tools for excel to add metrics on each listed domain (I used Alexa Reach rank just to get an initial idea of the domains’ traffic activity and authority).
  • Sort and segment the list by separating high scoring and low scoring domains. By then, you’ll get a rough estimation of the quality of domains linking to the site.

There are also other link analysis tools that you can use for this task, like Ahrefs or Opensiteexplorer.org, which you can use in exploring the types of links that the site has previously been acquiring. If there are too many spammy links pointing to the site, you can then include link removal (or disavowing low quality links) in your campaign/recommendations.

Competitive Analysis

Learn from their competitors’ weaknesses and strengths in terms of business and marketing perspectives. Knowing these things will allow you to fully grasp the elements/edge that will separate the client’s business to its competitors.

Competitive intelligence can certainly help the campaign be more efficient in so many ways, particularly in giving a good direction for the campaign and in overcoming the competition.

Some of the actionable steps that you can implement when doing this task are:

  • Get insights on their approach to content generation. Then offer more than they do.
  • Know the top domains/publications linking to them, to generate ideas on how you can get stronger links and relationships than what they have acquired.
  • Study their top content/pages and learn why they are successful. Replicate, remix and provide better experience.
  • Know the competitive keywords they are ranking highly for (you can use SEMRush Pro version to get this data). Observe how they have reached better rankings for those keywords (assess on and off-page factors).

Online Branding

Surviving the new age of online marketing requires a strong branding campaign. Having a strong brand presence over the web can take a business farther than just search and social.

This is a strong foundation for any online marketing campaign, because no algorithmic update can ever change the perceived value people see in a brand.

In fact, search engines favor brands, because they are somehow known to be credible. When a brand is popular, authoritative and/or trusted, it’s easier to achieve the search rankings it deserves, right?

Below are some of the online branding initiatives that we’ll continuously implement all throughout the campaign.

Local Directory Listings and Citations

If needed, or especially if the client mainly targets a market from certain locations, we’d definitely push through a local listing/citations campaign. Andrew Shotland recently shared a list of the most important local business directories for SEO, and these are definitely the ones that we’ll be primarily targeting.

Social Brand Pages

Check if the site is already utilizing different social platforms for online branding purposes. These channels are very important these days as businesses can use these brand pages to interact with their target consumers and in promoting their own content.

If in case they haven’t integrated their content strategy with social media, here’s a list of social sites where businesses can build brand pages.

Setting up branded pages on these channels is certainly a great way to protect the brand’s search results, as most of these sites have strong domain authority.

Given that these domains have high search share, disseminating content through these platforms can be very effective. Pages from these sites can easily rank for competitive keywords, which can also contribute to adding more visibility for the brand.

It’s important to continuously build on the channels that are really adding value to the campaign (not all the social sites can help the campaign grow, but there are some that can heavily impact the site’s marketing efforts). Along the way, the process will naturally reveal which channels are referring more targeted visitors (that take action).

This type of integration is a recurring process, where the important channels will have to be promoted (through the site, by building links to them, growing their followers, cross promoting via other social sites). Since, it will serve not just as a branding tool, but also a channel where the brand can cultivate its own community.

Ryan Clark also did a great piece on how to benefit more from your social profiles through linking.

Top Domain Prospecting

A huge part of brand strengthening for a site is getting more visibility through the top authoritative domains in their respective industry. Why? Because people who’re really interested in what your client is offering can be found on these places.

Creating a list of these prospected sites/publications where you can build more exposure and where you can exemplify the client’s expertise is easy.

Here’s a quick and easy process in finding potential prospects for content distribution:

  • Download the Mozbar tool for Firefox.
  • Configure Google Search’s settings to display 100 results per page.
  • Start searching for prospects, then export the search results to CSV format.

  • Open the downloaded CSV file, and sort the list by Domain Authority (from largest to smallest). Once the list is sorted, you’ll have a list that’s arranged based on each domain’s DA, and get a better idea of which ones to prioritize/target (we target domains with 40+ DAs, but also consider other factors such as the site’s design, quality of content/community and give more weight on the relevance with the site’s theme).

Getting back to building brand awareness using authority and high-traffic domains, the main objective is to absorb traffic through the exposure you’re getting from them. This can be done through efficient content distribution/placements, which can come in various forms such as:

  • Guest blogging
  • Regular content contribution/column
  • Interactions (participating and adding value to the discussions – comment threads, forum threads, Q&As)

These initiatives will allow you to be a part of the industry’s online community, as people (active in your industry) will see you more often. This helps the brand shape its own identity, given that the approach is more interactive (plus you get to understand more of your client’s industry).

Pro tip: Apply brand building principles in link building (or when placing any form of content on your target sites). The more you emphasize on making the brand look as an authority/expert in the field, the more referred visitors they’ll get from these channels.

Influencer Prospecting

Relationship building is definitely a big part of online branding, especially these days, where most successful content on the web are easily moved across its targeted audience when influential people share/link to it.

This approach to online marketing takes a lot of time (and work most especially), but its returns is definitely a force to reckon with.

Identifying top influencers in your client’s field is not that hard, seeing that there are so many tools these days that people can easily access to gain insights on who to follow and engage, like Followerwonk, Klout and Topsy.

Make a list of the people you feel will be eventually helpful for your campaign (keep in mind that you’ll also need to reciprocate, which means you’ll need to prove yourself to be of some value to them as well).

Several ways you can do to engage them and to be on their radar:

  • Use their content as a resource for your own content (mention and link out to them, and then let them know). Make sure that the content that you’ll create is really good to increase the chances of having them share your content.
  • Share their content on social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc…). And let them know.
  • Participate on their blogs’ discussions. Add value and share information/opinions that they (and their audience) will be impressed with.

Once you have their attention, it’ll be easier to earn the links you deserve. Some of the ways you can benefit from building relationships with influencers (or even publishers who have substantial readership/following base):

  • Get them to mention your content on their own piece (especially when they are also finding your materials useful to their audience).
  • Have them share your content on social networks.
  • Acquiring hard-to-replicate links (like natural brand mentions and/or blogroll links).
  • Collaborate on content ideas and/or you can pitch guest posts to them (with higher approval rates).
  • You can invite them as guest authors to your client’s site, which is a solid strategy in building the site’s author portfolio, absorbing followers/traffic and getting more natural links (the more authors who have strong AuthorRank contributing on the site, the more Google will see how credible it is).

Content Asset Development

Creating content assets is the life stream of our campaign, because useful (not just great) content can semi-automate the process of marketing a brand over the web. Content is a significant factor why people will link, share, follow and buy from a brand.

Our process for content development is consisted of 5 phases, and we keep on optimizing our methodologies to meet both speed and quality (though we don’t focus on volume, since we create assets that aim to be relevant and be used for an entire year or more – evergreen).

Content Ideation

Start by listing possible topics that will be used for content distribution (for the site’s blog or to be pitched/submitted to other authority publications). Normally, we do this task every start of the month to guide the content marketing campaign using a content calendar.

For instance, by the time the client’s site is being audited/optimized by our consultants, the content team is simultaneously brainstorming at least 10 content ideas that will be used in the first month of the campaign (which is what we precisely do on a rate of $1,200/month).

The brainstorming meeting takes an hour or two, and mostly includes the following:

  • Coming up with working titles (based on campaign’s theme, highly searched keywords/topics, and possible impact to the campaign’s main goals).
  • Suggested content formats for promising ideas (infographic, interactive HTML5 landing page, kinetic typography, etc…).
  • Prospected publications where some of the content will be pitched to (so the outreach team can immediately create angles on how they can improve response/approval rate, which can be based if the content ideas appeal to their audience).
  • Delegation of tasks (research, outlining, creation and target deadlines).

There are 2 types of content that you can focus on:

  • Content for conversions – topics targeted to potential leads/customers, which usually provides in-depth information to influence buying decisions. These are mostly industry FAQs that are expounded when converted into a full content.
  • Content for awareness – where different content formats are used and tested to acquire natural links, social shares and to spread brand awareness. These may include curation (to engage other authors), rich-media content (infographic, video, HTML5 landing page, Ebook, etc…) and comprehensive guides/tutorials.

For content idea generation, here are a few tips:

  • Use Google Keyword Tool and look for the most searched topics in your client’s industry, or keywords with high search volume and build interesting topics around them.
  • Gather all the frequently asked questions in your client’s niche, and answer them in the most helpful and engaging way (could be visually or by just making the content extremely comprehensive).
  • Check your client site’s already existing content pool, and see if you can repurpose them. Enhance them in all possible ways you can (make them more extensive, add visuals, improve user-experience, etc…).
  • Get content ideas from their top competitors, and see their top and most linked/shared content (you can use Opensiteexplorer.org on this task). Create something similar, but outdo them in terms of information, presentation and promotion. Basically, you’ll have to beat their content on every aspect.

Here’s a quick sample (I’ve actually used this on my presentation at MORCon last September). If I’ll be targeting the keyword “how to get laid”, I’d first want to see the other content that I’ll be competing with.

Apparently, the competition for that topic/search term is pretty tight, though I believe I’ll have better chances of ranking well for that term if I can create something really big and interesting, an asset, like “100 ways to get laid [free ebook]”, right?

The key is to create the best content about your target query. Content that will really entice clicks from SERPs, be shared, linked to, and probably drive more leads/customers to the site.

Content assets have high chances of ranking well and in constantly getting referred traffic. And that’s the point of the strategy.

Topic Research

Research is the core of our content strategy (aside from creativity). This is probably our team’s best asset, as most of us have strong technical research skills and background.

This is a very important aspect for our content development process, as the quality of information of our content outputs heavily relies on this stage. The research phase usually starts once the content/editorial calendar for the campaign is set.

Some of the things that the research phase must implement:

  • To validate the creative ideas mentioned from the brainstorming meeting (see if feasible).
  • To gather necessary data and information for the topic and be included on the outline.
  • To find credible sources (which will also be cited on the content).
  • To check competitors’ similar content and highlight the things they have missed and the aspects of their content is lacking (ex: design, images, coherence, extensiveness, etc…). Use those weaknesses to your advantage.

Content Outline

Outlines serve as guides for content developers (copywriters and/or graphic artists). This is where all the outcomes of the research stage go, and basically the framework of how the content marketers visualize the end product.

Content outlines are usually consisted of the following:

  • The title of the content.
  • Brief description of the content.
  • The logical sequence of the content’s body.
  • The resources that the content developers can use to study and understand the topic.
  • Key phrases and/or elements that the content should contain or reference to (stats, graphs, images, videos, quotations, etc…).
  • Other requirements (which is optional), such as number of words, writing style, where the content will be published (so the writers/designers can have assess the type of audience they’ll be addressing to).
  • Deadline or level of priority.

Content Creation

Once the outlines are finished, the marketing team will then pass it over to the content development team (though we usually send these in batches).

Quality Assurance

We have 2 separate QA processes, in which the finished content will go through, where one is for editorial and the second is for SEO (just to assess if the content will be link/share-worthy and to also include the links for the sources within the content).

When the content has passed these QAs, it will be submitted back to the content marketers/outreach team for publishing/distribution.

Content Distribution and Promotion

The main objective of having content assets is to make them rank. Why? Assets are evergreen, so they’ll practically send ton of traffic to the site overtime, and they have the immense potentials of ranking highly and staying in there for a long time (which means more and constant visibility for the site).

Making these assets strong through promotion will help grow the site’s overall domain authority, which means better chances for the site to rank for the other competitive terms it is targeting (as the authority is passed around to its other landing pages).

When it comes to distribution of content assets, we normally decide on which ones to use for the site and the ones to be submitted to other authoritative domains. It usually comes down to the level of the importance of the keyword(s) that the content assets are targeting.

Choose the assets that you believe will have more impact when placed on the client’s site:

  • If it’ll attract direct leads/customers to the site
  • If it has high possibilities of attracting natural links/social mentions
  • If it can obviously compete for the keyword(s) which your client is primarily targeting

Why give the other assets to other websites, when we can use them all for ourselves? Because placing content assets on sites that already have strong search share can easily rank for competitive search phrases.

This means you get to indirectly attract traffic, links and build brand mind share at the same time, by continuously being exposed to the people who are finding and landing on that content.

Distributing the content really depends on the needs of the site. For instance we can choose to publish 5 of the content assets on the client’s site, and the other 5 on external authoritative sites (to establish the site’s content portfolio and to have most of the keywords targeted within the site).

Below are some of the content promotion methods that you can do to constantly generate traffic to your content assets as well as to get them on the top.

Social and Link Outreach

Find people and sites who’ll be really interested in sharing or linking to your content. There are so many ways and variations in doing this such as:

  • Linker outreach
  • Social outreach (for viral marketing)
  • Broken link building
  • Resource link building

The crucial part in this type of content promotion is making sure that the content you’ll be sharing to your prospects offers real value (not just to them, but should also be relevant to their audience) – value proposition is key to a successful outreach campaign.

Content Seeding

Use other channels to promote your content, particularly by building links/visibility for the content where people who’re seeking for the information it contains can actually find them.

Methods and places where you can seed your content assets:

  • Blog comments, especially on blog posts related to your content asset’s subject and on posts that are continuously getting traffic (have good search visibility). Always remember that you need to add value, for your comments to be really useful and be more receptive to their readers.
  • Related forum threads or creating a new forum thread to share the content. The key is not to just drop the link to the content, but to give solution to the stated problem (and use the content asset as the comprehensive resource that other forum members can reference to).
  • Contributing on Q&A sites (like Quora). Find posted questions that your content can provide answers. Participate and try to answer their questions, and then link to your content asset to redirect them for further reading.
  • Linking back to your content assets through your content distribution campaigns (guest blogging, press releases, etc…). It’s best to make the link very visible to readers (preferably placing the link on the top part of the content, and use longer strings of anchor texts). I’ll be discussing this more on the next part.
  • Sharing the content on different social platforms, where the brand has substantial amount of active followers. Given that most of your assets will be evergreen, sharing them once in a while will be very efficient, so that the brand’s new followers can still get to see the content and make the sharing cycle almost never ending.

Content Stemming

Create more content that will support the idea of the main content asset (or the content that’s capable of attracting more links and/or generating conversions). This will pass more link value to the content assets, which can also affect how they are ranking on search results.

You can utilize user-generated sites – like Slideshare, Scribd, Youtube, Pinterest and many more – when creating support content, since pages on these sites have high potentials of getting searched by users. It’ll be easier to draw more traffic back to your main content asset, when these support pages are already ranking well for high search volume keywords.

Tracking, Analysis and Funnel Optimization

Lastly, we try to enhance the approach of the campaign by monitoring its progress and optimizing every aspect of it, which also implies that we all need to take advantage of every opportunity and important detail we come across.

Tracking progress and reporting

Track all the campaign’s progress, as the more every aspect is being measured, the more enhancements can be made for the campaign’s succeeding months.

This is where all the deliverables will be sent to the client, which usually includes:

  • Full SEO audit report and recommendations.
  • Branding report (link and social tracking).
  • Qualitative report and analysis (summary of the results driven by the content marketing campaign, as well as the opportunities found through these initiatives).
  • Goal report (measuring the campaign’s impact on traffic, rankings and conversions – via Google Analytics).

These documents are used by SEO Consultants to review and visualize the best possible steps to ensure that the actions being taken are aligned with the campaign’s goals, and also to optimize the team’s internal processes (to ensure that we’ll be reaching and eventually expand the campaign’s goals).

Funnel optimization

Another vital part of our inbound campaign is analyzing and understanding more of the site’s funnels (from discovery, purchasing and to getting brand loyalists).

This analysis usually delves in the following areas:

  • Identifying keywords that are really driving conversions to the site, and thinking of ways of how the campaign can get more traffic from it (improving their rankings or the visibility of their respective landing pages).
  • Continuously improving the site’s important landing pages for conversions and visibility (how we can get more traffic to it and on how we can improve the page so visitors will take action). This may be comprised of split testing (MVT or A/B using Content Experiments on Google Analytics) as well as testing CTAs and other page elements.
  • Conversion link building will also be a big fraction of this campaign, where we’ll evaluate the best kinds of links/domains sending traffic with conversions to the site (so we can easily replicate these high-powered links).
  • The content assets that will be built will also be a part of this optimization process, since the content assets will also be tested on which suitable landing pages they should serve as a support (through internal linking or CTA offers).

The findings from these tests will also be included on our analysis and recommendations report, along with the other areas of the campaign that can still be improved.

Marketing and optimization is an on-going process. There’s always something new, and it’s part of our job to make sure that the campaign and the business will be on the right path.

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