Search engine optimization and link development strategies based on ethical principles, which are mostly focused on scalability and growing business sales as well as conversions.

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The ROI in Forum and Comment Marketing

inbound.org

Building and earning visibility through conversations has proven itself to be a very result-oriented approach in online marketing.

Sharing your knowledge and expertise on online communities doesn’t just help you build links (that get clicked more often than not), but it also allows you to build a strong brand presence that will let people in your industry know that you really know your stuff.

And best of all, it can also help you generate leads/sales directly.

Examples

To start off, I’ll throw a couple of samples of how I personally gained from just being active on some of the biggest online communities in the SEO industry in the past.

Note: My links’ actual conversion data (from early 2010 – June 2013) has been wiped out when Google Analytics’ new interface was launched earlier this month.

A few years back, my blog marketing strategy heavily relied on building conversations on other sites (particularly those that I knew where my target customers are) – and I believe they really paid off.

For instance, I used to be active on Warrior Forum in the early days of my blogging career (in which I have contributed 173 forum posts).

Warrior Forum

Over the span of 3 months, I’ve managed to get a few service inquiries:

warrior-conversions

And I was able to work on 2 good projects (for $500/month – that was my monthly rate before).

tony bianco

So if I had a total of 173 forum posts, which could have taken me 2 minutes to make each post (a total of 346 minutes or 5.8 hours), and say I’m paying myself $20/hour. Then the total investment I made for this specific task would be $116.

The return was two $500/month worth of projects. Not bad for an investment right?

Another sample would be my current presence on Inbound.org (being one of the community’s top users).

inbound.org

Which definitely have generated a lot of business leads for Xight Interactive for the past several months:

inbound-conversions

It has been much easier to close deals with prospected clients coming from this community, since they already know what type of service they are looking to get.

inbound-inquiry

Other than getting service leads, it also helps me scale my marketing efforts, as I get more linking opportunities – seeing that other community members perceive my brand as an authority in the field.

link opportunity

Calculating the amount of efforts I’ve done vs. the results I got (as a business owner) was definitely satisfying.

I’ve already shared 1,545 articles on Inbound.org (although I’m not saying it’s about the quantity of your contribution). So let’s say it takes me a minute to share a single post on the site – which actually isn’t, since I believe it’s just a few seconds (a total of 1,545 minutes or 25.8 hours). Then I’ve already spent $516 worth of my time on contributing to Inbound.org (if say I’m paying myself 20 bucks per hour).

The returns were I was able to close a lot of new client inquiries and got more marketing firepower for my blog’s brand – which I can truly say a win/win.

Improving your conversational marketing strategy

Like any other marketing strategy/tactic, conversational marketing also has a few best practices of its own.

Generosity is key.

The more you add value to the discussions or give valuable information to other people in your target communities, the more you can:

  • Make your brand and contributions appear more authentic.
  • Build an authoritative identity for your brand.
  • Standout in discussions that really matter (increases click-through visitors).
  • Help and influence other people.
  • Build better relationships and become more linkable.

I know some people in our industry who have been really generous in sharing their ideas/knowledge, which I think have helped a lot in establishing themselves as an authority in the field.

One perfect example would be Benj Arriola (of Internet Marketing Inc.), who has been so generous in giving people advice (whether it’s on a forum or in a Facebook group).

benj

Invest more time on communities that will actually drive results

Participate on blogs, forums, social network groups and other online communities in your industry that really matter. Choose the communities that have:

  • A strong search share (to ensure that your contributions will be seen by their constantly growing search-driven visitors).
  • Large traffic, an active community and majority of it is your target audience.

Scaling your conversational marketing efforts

There are also a few things that you can do to make the most out of your forum and comment marketing campaigns, such as:

Hire smart people to do the community infiltration for you

If you have a great in-house team that really knows how your product/service(s) work (your sales or marketing people), then adding these small tasks of participating to online discussions can tremendously help you build a solid sales funnel. Just imagine if they can just do this for 15 minutes every day, right?

I’ve been working with Affilorama for the past 3 years, and I know that they’re support and sales team do this on their free time.

Always measure

Check the top referring online communities that are driving conversions on your website (via Google Analytics). Spend more time on the ones that are really working.

Give product samples to other active community members

Get to know the other active users in your target communities, especially those who’re already/somehow considered to be an authority (but not the moderators).

Give them free samples of your products, as these can help you:

  • Get more inputs on how you can further improve your product (which can make your brand more link-worthy in the future).
  • Build rapport with the people who really care about your industry – and eventually build brand evangelists who can voluntarily promote your content within the communities they are active in.

Build more non-linking brand mentions

Instead of aiming for links when using this approach, use conversations to mainly amplify your online branding efforts. Because there are ton of advantages in doing this, such as:

  • It reduces the chances of getting flagged as a spammer (especially on forums), when you’re slightly promoting your own products.
  • It can cultivate more branded search (given that you didn’t provide a link) – which is a very powerful signal that search engines use to determine strong brands.

forumpost

  • Search engines can understand these non-linking brand mentions (through phrase-based indexing and the concept of co-occurrence), which means they will most likely count them as votes for your website to have better ranking ability on search results.

For more tips on comment marketing, watch the video below from one of Rand’s Whiteboard Fridays.

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

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How I Do Link Baiting on @kaiserthesage

J-zz-In-My-Pants-Caps-the-lonely-island-4133367-850-475

This was my slide presentation earlier today for a brainstorming session with WebPros‘ search and content team (they were amazing and a very smart team!). The deck is just a recap of the core inbound marketing strategy that I’ve been implementing on this blog for the past couple of years.

If you’ve been a reader of this blog, then I believe you’ll find many of the ideas from the presentation very familiar.

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

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My Best Kept SEO Secret on How to Rank for Competitive Keywords

As expected, SEO has gotten a bit more difficult, especially now that Google is pushing to encrypt a bigger portion of their search traffic data from Analytics (100% keyword not provided).

Knowing the keywords that really work and drive results has been a core factor of why SEO is a force to reckon with. But without it doesn’t really imply the demise of SEO as a marketing practice.

I don’t really give a sh*t if they try and keep all the keyword data to themselves, because as long as people are searching for something – we still have work to do.

Steve Webb has put together a list of the most actionable SEO advice from industry leaders this week, and I thought I’ve already given mine – until I’ve come to revisit this method that I’ve been doing since I started blogging.

The secret is simple – Create content that:

  • is evergreen
  • can be continuously updated
  • can target industry head terms

This is somehow based on Wikipedia’s content model, wherein they publish the ultimate resource about a certain subject (industry-specific terminologies) and enabling the content to be continuously updated.

Examples

To give you a better outlook of how I’ve done this tactic, I’ll share a few actual samples.

Example #1: I’ve shared this first example many times before. It’s a linkable asset that has been here on my blog for the past 2 years now – my “SEO strategies resources page”.

SEO strategies

When I created this list (of my top blog posts), I was originally aiming for it to rank for the keyword “SEO strategies”. And it did.

It’s been consistently ranking on the top 3 spots for the past 2 years now.

SERP seo strategies

That brought thousands of highly engaged organic traffic to my blog every month.

organic seo strategies

And here’s the best part, because of the content’s comprehensiveness, it was also able to rank for 779 other more search terms (like online marketing strategies, SEO tactics list, SEO marketing, etc…).

seo strategies variants

So when I realized that this approach was really driving results, I never got contented and had to try it once more.

Example #2: I then built a new resource page for “Social Media Marketing Strategies”.

social media marketing

The results were almost exactly the same. The page was ranking #1 for the keyword “social media marketing strategies” for almost a year now.

social media marketing SERP

That has also brought thousands of highly engaged visitors on a monthly basis, and was also able to rank for 271 other more keyword variations (such as social media marketing techniques, social media marketing plan, social media marketing tactics, etc…).

social media marketing variants

Factors that make them rank better

There are so many things that I’ve done to optimize them and make them more visible on search results, but the nature of these pages were also somehow enough for them to deserve the rankings/organic traffic they are getting.

  • These 2 resources pages I created were internally linking to many of my blog posts that are comprehensive and evergreen (and thematically relevant). So aside from improving the page’s activity rate (as visitors instantly click-through the list of links), it’s also passing ranking power to my site’s other pages.
  • Since these pages are focused on industry terms, I can easily build contextual links to them – through my continuous content marketing efforts (both internal and external).
  • Once these linkable assets are already ranking for the key terms that they are targeting (that are mostly informational search terms), it’s easier for them to attract and earn natural links – knowing that many of the people landing on the page are doing research about the topic.
  • The pages’ ability to be continuously updated makes room for improvement and sustainability in search rankings. The more changes/updates being made on the page, the more it becomes the best resource on the web covering a particular topic area.
  • The robustness of the page’s content also makes it more deserving to rank for multiple keyword variations – which allows it to get more organic traffic.

What to do if you haven’t invested in Content Marketing yet?

The approach I used was aligned with my past content marketing efforts, as the resources page I have just simply compiled all the popular posts I’ve written since 2010.

There are still other viable options if you don’t have enough content assets to compile:

marketing library

I guess this is not a secret anymore. Anyway, if you liked this post, please do subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

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How to Avoid the Soon to be Guest Blogging Penalty

expanding reach

This entry is a guest post by Jayson Bagio, the owner of SEOTeky. You can follow him on Twitter: @seoteky. The opinions expressed on this post doesn’t necessarily reflect my views as an online marketer.

Have you been using guest blogging to build your online presence? If you are into guest blogging, then this post is for you.

Guest blogging is a helpful way to be in front of other people’s audience. Or should I say, the other bloggers’ audience. It can help you reach your target readers, and it’s also a very powerful platform to share and demonstrate your expertise.

And on top of that, you can also drive referrals from the content that you have shared. Though it can also become a bigger advantage (in SEO and branding perspectives) if you can get a link or two from those blogs where you’ve contributed a content.

But of course, there are thousands of people who see guest blogging as a method to build links. Therefore, abuse and manipulation are becoming an issue again for Google. If you are guest blogging for links, then you should stop it because Google is starting to hunt guest bloggers like you.

If  you are not aware, Google recently updated their webmaster guidelines about link schemes. They warned large scale guest blogging with keyword-rich anchor texts and undisclosed sponsored posts with do-follow links that pass PageRank.

See the webmaster guidelines for link scheme definitions.

We’ll never know how Google would assess if a guest blog is low quality or manipulative.  All we can do is to raise the quality standard of our works in order to dodge the bullet of the soon-to-be guest blogging penalty. So let me share with you five ways to avoid this upcoming penalty:

Defining the Signals or Metrics of a Quality Website.

Choosing where to guest blog is by far the most important method to make the most out of your content distribution efforts. Raising your standards makes it easier to identify quality websites that will really matter for your off-site marketing campaign.

Traffic and Social Stats is the biggest signal that you need to look at. Checking these stats will allow you to determine the true state of the website you’re targeting to contribute a guest post to.

Many SEO’s are doing guest blogging for links and they don’t even consider digging in on traffic and social data. All that is important is that they get a do-follow link and have their anchor texts on the post.

Well if you want exposure and referrals, these metrics are important for you to succeed. The higher the numbers are, the better.

SimilarWeb.com

gp-seoteky

Social Analyzer from RYPMarketing

social analyzer

Pagerank is still a good a metric to use in determining the quality of a website. It is a metric or point system given by Google to websites that measures the site’s importance in its index.

You just have to know if a pagerank is valid or fake using tools available on the Internet. There are webmasters out there who forge Pagerank to attract guest bloggers to get free content.

Quality Score from many of the best and leading tools online is an important scoring basis as well. Some of the most known and reliable site metrics in the industry:

  • MOZ.com’s Domain Authority (DA) and Page Authority (PA)
  • Ahrefs rank
  • AC rank from Majestic SEO

These tools can help you decide which ones are quality and not.

Ad Positioning and Usability are also important factors. If the blog is an ad-laden site, pitch your content somewhere else.

Heavy positioning of ads on the page’s above the fold can result in a low quality score from Big G based on the page layout algorithm that Google released early January of 2012. Excessive ads disrupt user experience:

page layout ads

And you don’t want to guest blog on these types of sites.

Link Neighborhood also plays an important part on quality checking. A website that links to bad neighborhood sites like viagra, porn, and casino can hurt you more than help you.

With all these, you can easily measure the quality of the website where you are pitching for guest blog opportunities (hard earned content).

You might wonder, “Why would I trouble myself to check these things out? My client or my site only needs a link, that’s all.” Now’s the time to change your mindset. Guest blogging for links might be your bread and butter, but raising your standards will be beneficial to your site in the long run. Not only through the authoritative links that you acquire, but also with the traffic referral and brand exposure that you get.

Guest blogging is more of a networking tool. And in networking, connecting with the right people is as vital as networking itself.

Getting your site/brand connected with other entities that have strong potentials of progressing in social web and search, can directly influence your site’s ranking ability as well.

Google already laid out the mechanics in this game of guest blogging; all you have to do is follow.

Implementing Authorship for Guest Bloggers

AuthorRank is somehow foreseen as the future of link metrics (and ranking signals). And implementing authorship markup on all of your works (even on guest blogs) is one way to let Google distinguish individual publishers who’re expert on certain topic areas.

On implementing authorhship markups:

List the URL of the website(s) where you contribute guest blog posts to on your Google + account.

Go to your G+ home page, then click About. In the Links Section, click Edit at the bottom. Go to Contribute To. Click Add Custom Link. Type in the name of the website in the Label text box, then insert the URL of the website you are contributing to.

authorship

Click Save when you’re done. Then on your bio or author byline from your guest article, link to your Google+ account’s URL and add the rel=author tag.

Draw The Line on Massive Guest Blogging Campaigns.

Google publicly warned webmasters on massive guest blogging campaigns through their webmaster guideline.  Here is a massive guest blog service inquiry from someone that I received.

skype chat

Imagine 200 guest blogs per month, isn’t that a torture to the SEO company or for your website to have? 200 guest blogs per month – that is massive and really easy to track.

If Google is dead serious about their warning, then these people should be scared right now.

Anyways, I opt not to accept his offer, I do not have the man power to deliver it anyways.

Right now, I don’t see 10 to 20 guest blogs as a massive campaign. As long as you know how to diversify your link profile and have the purpose to genuinely help people solve their problems (and build brand awareness along the process).

If you are doing guest blogging, then don’t forget that you can combine it with other online marketing platforms (relationship/community building, social signals, branding, lead generation, etc…) to make it look more appealing not just to Google – but to you target audience as well.

Nothing Beats Quality and Relevant Content.

This may sound cliché, but content is really the king. We all know how a well-written, relevant article can impact how the audience percieve your brand’s value — it’s a great way to attract more visitors and gain more subscribers.

As you continue to spark the interest of the crowd, you can expect to see more positive results along the way.

Simple ways to generate content:

Feedly is a very good replacement for Google reader. Track your favorite blogs and get content ideas through this feed curator.

feedly

Google Suggest lets you see what topics people search for.

google suggest

Understand Your Horizontal Niche. Think out of the box and find topics that can help you expand your reach. See the image below, fashion can be vertically related to fashion tips, list and trends. But fashion can also be interrelated to parents, money making, apps and so on. This is called horizontal guest blogging.

expanding reach

However, there are still guest bloggers who would rehash content to pitch to different websites. We all know how Google despises spun, scraped content. In the Webmaster’s Guideline, you’ll see those types of content that violate Google’s policy.

If you’re having a hard time to come up with your own article, it would be better to start first with an outline, or have it written by someone who knows more about the niche you are targeting. Pack your content with as much useful information as possible.

Forget Links, Focus On Your Brand.

Link is all that matters – this has been our mindset since day 1 when we started to learn about SEO and link building. Even when I started doing guest blogging for some of my clients, all I wanted is to get dofollow links.

We can all change. Build your brand and become an authority on your niche as they say. I won’t go far on this topic. Just like Jason Acidre, right now this good looking guy gets interview invitations from different authority blogs. And many other opportunities because people consider  him as an expert in the industry. When he writes, people read, when he talks, people listen, when he shares, people click – that is influence at it’s best.

interview search

Jason doesn’t have to think of guest blogging anymore, because he continuously provide solid contents on Kaiserthesage.com, consistently built his rapport in the link building space and established his credibility as one of the best.

Now many SEO’s from local and international scene are begging for a chance to have him interviewed. Some conferences in the international scene are also inviting him. While other SEO experts meet with him whenever they get a chance to be in Manila.

dejan

 

Build your brand, that is the only way you can cut guest blogging in your efforts. “When  we brand things, our brains perceive them as more special and valuable than they actually are” – My favorite quote from Martin Lindstrom, on his book Buyology.

Here are some of the best brand building content that you need to see if you want to further understand branding:

When you build your brand, you become an influence and you win relationships. At the end of the day, when all the link building efforts get boxed-in by Google, all that is left are the relationships that we were able to build.

Google wants the Internet to be a place where REAL people engage in conversations of their chosen interest — that’s why they’re humanizing how algorithms work. Be as realistic as possible; start oozing out those creative juices! Guest blog with a purpose.

Few notes from Kaiserthesage:

  • If you’ve been already active with guest blogging for the past couple of years, you might want to review your already existing links (particularly their anchor texts) and deoptimize them. Use branded links instead.

  • If you’ve penetrated strong industry blogs in the past (robust social, traffic and domain authority), you might want to be in touch with them again, and pitch to become a regular contributor instead. Multiple links from a strong link source translates to relationships/association – which is a powerful trust indicator for people and search engines.

  • Don’t just leave your guest posts once they are published. Participate in the discussions, connect with their audience, and help share the content. These things help build more positive signals to the content. Always remember that “authenticity” is key to succeed in online marketing.

  • Start implementing authorship markups on your guest posts.

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

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12 Scalable Link Building Tactics [Newsletter Edition]

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UPDATE: This 4-part newsletter series is now published as a blog post on Moz, entitled 12 Scalable Link Building Tactics

Link building/earning is very essential in online marketing, not just because it improves your SEO. But because it also helps a website be discovered (click-through visitors), generate leads, connect with other publishers (relationships), as well as build a stronger online brand presence.

Although establishing yourself as an authority to eventually earn links along the process is what search engines naturally want websites/brands to do, you can’t still disregard artificial link building (link marketing).

Link marketing is an initiative that should also be highly considered, as this practice makes a brand more known in its online space – and for it to genuinely earn links in the future.

This is a 4-part newsletter series that will run for the next couple of weeks (starting this week). In this series, I’ll be sharing comprehensive guides on how to implement some of the most scalable link building tactics (that can be used by agencies, SMBs and enterprise-level companies).

You can use the form below to subscribe.

Get actionable link building tips straight to your inbox.



Also, I’ll be publishing the whole series as a blog post later this month, so if in case you don’t want to be bothered on your email, you can just wait for the full post to be published.

You can also follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre for more updates.

How to Recover from Panda Dance

In early June this year, Matt Cutts (head of Google’s search spam team) confirmed that Panda will be rolling out monthly over 10 of 30 days (or more known as the Panda Dance) on his talk with Danny Sullivan on SMX Advanced.

This particular update implies that Panda filters will now be slowly integrated to Google’s search ranking algorithm. The said algorithmic update was officially rolled out last June 25, 2013.

As the Panda Dance continually implemented tests and changes for the past couple of months on various verticals, it’s already foreseen that it will still result to a lot of ranking fluctuations for the coming weeks/months.

I’ve seen two different patterns of decrease in search traffic since the Panda Dance rolled out.

1. The first one is the gradual decrease due to ranking fluctuations.

gradual

2. While the second is a sudden drop in search traffic. sudden drop

If in case you aren’t aware what the Panda Update is, here’s a brief description (as very well defined by Mark Traphagen on his comprehensive report about the Google Panda Dance):

Panda is after site quality. Is the content really what a searcher would want to find?

In this post, I’ll be covering most of the things that we did to recover a site’s search visibility. Below are some of the optimization methods that you can try implementing to recover or somehow avoid ranking fluctuations from negatively affecting your site’s ability to rank.

Authorship and other Schema/Microdata markups

Authenticity has been a really big thing in this new age of search (and will definitely be a big part of its future as well).

Rich-snippet optimization seems to be one of the best methods to use in responding to these recent algorithmic changes, as this is one of the first things that we did that have somehow shown immediate results (since 3 of the sites we’ve optimized recently haven’t implemented authorship markups yet).

The reason may be because of the signals it can send to search engines – by making the site’s content look more authentic, easier for search engines to understand and making the site’s search listings more appealing to users (higher CTR) when displayed on search results.

Some of the markups that you can implement for your site’s pages:

Improve your low performing landing pages

Understand what your low performing landing pages lack. Check the pages of your site that have good volume of traffic but have low engagement rate (low visit duration and average page visits) and high bounce rates.

Start with the pages that you believe are important and optimize these landing pages to mainly increase user dwell time. Several areas that you can improve on your content to make visitors stay longer on the page/site are:

  • Make sure that the information provided or the context of the content matches the title of the page/keywords it is targeting (or matches the intent/search queries that are commonly used to find that content).
  • Add more thematically relevant internal links in the content – to make visitors check your site’s other strong pages.
  • Improve the page’s loading speed.
  • Optimize the page’s readability (optimize for skim readers – such as breaking down the content into shorter paragraphs, using bold texts on important phrases, etc…).
  • Reducing distractions, such as banner ads and/or pop-ups.

For more tips on reducing your page’s bounce rates you can check out these guides from Search Engine Watch and Crazy Egg.

Update evergreen landing pages

If you’re working on a site that has been around for more than a year, then checking and updating your top landing pages or content assets (that are constantly receiving good volume of search traffic) would be another great method to implement.

For example, one of our clients has ton of useful/evergreen content on their site’s blog/resources sections that are constantly driving traffic to their site.

landing pages

Although most of their content assets haven’t been updated for years now. Making them more comprehensive seemed to be a great way not just to maintain their search rankings, but also to rank better for the other keywords that these content assets are already ranking, but weren’t originally optimized for.

Untitled

Optimize your top landing pages for these other search terms through:

  • Including the other keyword variations (with high engagement rate) on the page’s meta tags and/or mentioning them within the body of the content.
  • Using the other keyword variations as anchor texts for the internal links directing to the landing page.
  • Adding more details/information as well as page elements (such as images, videos, etc…) in the content to give more ranking power to the page. In short, to make the page more relevant and comprehensive.

You can also check out the extensive guide I published earlier this year on implementing this type of keyword audit/discovery and optimization process.

Block crawlers from accessing poor content and duplicate pages

This has been the most known practice in fighting Panda (ever since the first version of its update). Aside from the overall quality of a website, Panda is also strict in targeting pages that are accessible in search results which have poor user engagement (as this signifies irrelevance and/or lack of quality).

Several tips on finding duplicate/thin content or other site errors that might affect your site’s ranking ability:

  • Compare the amount of pages in your sitemap vs. the amount of pages indexed by Google (if the # of indexed pages is far greater than the # of pages available on your sitemap, then the site probably has duplication issues).
  • Check the “HTML improvements” report on Google Webmaster Tools, and see if it’s reporting duplicates on your pages’ meta tags.
  • Check if the site has “Crawl Errors”. This feature on GWT may also show you URL parameters that are being crawled by search engines (check if these parameters are being indexed by using advanced search operators on Google search).

parameters

Make sure that search crawlers will not be able to index the poor/duplicate pages your site has (use the “noindex” tag on these pages or block access through your site’s robots.txt file).

Also, here’s a detailed guide on using Google Webmaster Tools for technical SEO audits.

Build new signals

When you start making changes on your site, it’s important to build new signals so that search engines can re-crawl and index the changes you’ve made.

Some of the ways you can do to send strong signals to search engines:

  • Acquire links from topically relevant authority websites.
  • Create and launch new content assets.
  • Build brand signals within the site, such as adding social proof to important pages, trust indicators (testimonials, badges, etc…) and including your brand name on your pages’ title tags (as this is mostly overlooked – and this is something that we’ve also implemented on one of our clients’ website), as well as building branded links to the site.
  • Sharing your updated content on social networks (social signals).

For more tips you can check out my guides on building brand signals and advanced off-page SEO.

Optimize for Local Search

Since Google is basing many search results on the searcher’s location and the device they use nowadays, local SEO might also be a good method to add in your optimization campaign (and to make sure that you’ll get more search visibility for your website).

On implementing local SEO:

  • Setup page(s) on your site that will cater geo-targeted users. This page can include your business address and local phone number (or you can also create content that’s specifically targeted to certain cities/states).
  • Get your business/website listed on Google Places for Business.
  • Build citations for your website (here’s a great list of local business directories).

If in case you’re looking for more resources on this topic, you can visit this complete guide on Local SEO from Koozai.

Wait and observe

There are times where all you can really do is to just wait (for new algorithmic updates or refresh). But what’s important is to make sure that your site is genuinely providing value to its visitors/users and that you’re doing ethical practices in terms of link building and in marketing the site/business as a whole.

Monitoring what’s happening in the search space (specifically with the ranking algorithm and SERP fluctuations) is very vital these days. The good news is that there are web sources that you can always check to keep yourself updated or to determine if your site has been hit by a new update – like Mozcast and Moz’s Google algorithm change history.

mozcast

The methods I’ve mentioned above are just some of the things that our team has tried to overcome the recent Panda Dance – that you can also try to somehow prevent your site from being affected by future algorithmic updates (targeting low quality sites) – but might not necessarily be the ultimate solution to already effected websites.

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

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How to Scale Content Marketing

Content marketing has grown its importance over the past couple of years in the online marketing realm. And one of the most evident factors of why brands and online marketers have started to embrace this marketing practice is the constant changes (algorithm updates) occurring in the search space.

This branch of marketing has proven its efficiency, especially in demonstrating thought-leadership and the approach’s ability to improve a business’ lead generation process.

I’ve revisited Dr. Pete Meyers’ mind blowing MozCon 2013 presentation about the future of ranking a few days ago. And I’ve come to realize that almost all of the factors (that he has mentioned on the last part of his presentation) – which a brand needs to succeed online are achievable when implementing a scalable content marketing campaign:

dr pete's factors

So below are few tips on how you can scale your content marketing efforts.

Create things that are hard to do

Creating content that’s really hard to replicate is definitely one of the best ways to standout as an authority/expert in your industry. Many of the successful content publishers on the web have taken this route – and perhaps the best sample of this is BuzzFeed’s content strategy.

Some of the core elements of a hard to implement/replicate content are:

  • Comprehensive
  • Data-driven
  • Visually appealing
  • Added functions (interactive content, tools, etc…)
  • Contain solid and unique ideas and insights based on experience or internal case studies.

Invest on continuous creation of evergreen content assets – that are useful, actionable and frequently searched by your target audience. It’s the best way to semi-automate your brand’s marketing and lead generation process.

Optimize content assets for search

It’s undeniable that search is still the most effective medium to constantly attract new traffic and potential customers to a website.

Make it easier for people to find the information you provide by helping search engines better understand your content (check out my comprehensive guide to content optimization).

Improve both owned and earned media

Strengthening both owned and earned media is very vital in content marketing. These channels simply allow publishers to scale the “marketing” in content marketing.

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Continuously grow your brand’s readership and following by making it easy and simple for people to subscribe to your email list and feed, as well as to follow you on social networks. You can do this by making this calls-to-action very visible on your site’s high-traffic pages (or placing these CTAs highly visible areas).

You can also check these other comprehensive guides on how to effectively grow your email lists and social follower base:

Tie in these goals with your content efforts. As along the process of building a strong following on both medium (social and email) will eventually help you semi-automate your content promotion.

Scaling Content Discovery

There are many other ways to ensure that your content assets are getting found by people who’re really seeking for them, such as:

  • Build internal links to them or promote through your site’s newer content or pages on your site that’s constantly receiving traffic.
  • Acquiring links/visibility from topically relevant pages/discussions that are getting constant traffic (pages ranking for relevant search terms).
  • Building solid content distribution channels – such as regular columns on other industry publications, guest blogs that will be able to generate constant traffic, and repurposed content on UGC sites such as Slideshare or YouTube.
  • Establishing your brand as an authority on community sites (like Inbound.org, industry forums, subreddits, etc…).

The main point is to get more visibility for your content assets from pages that have higher potentials of ranking better on search results.

Relationships

Everyone knows in this industry how impactful relationships are, specifically with the role it plays in marketing and customer acquisition.

Connect and engage with other influencers and content publishers in your online space, as well as with your own readers.

Having industry peers that will really voluntarily share your piece every time you publish a new content is one of the best ways to amplify the reach of your brand.

Pro tip: In engaging industry influencers, instead of doing an interview of them at the start of your campaign, why not just get insights from them and include them on your posts (along with your own takeaways and ideas).  That way, they’ll be more interested to share the content and connect with you further.

Every content asset is a landing page

A content is far more stronger if it has its own goals. Like landing pages, it’s important for your content assets to become helpful in achieving your business’ short and long-term goals.

Every content that you publish and promote should aim for people visiting it to take actions (subscribing to your newsletter, sharing or following you on social networks, etc…).

Use conversion-oriented approaches to make certain that your content assets will drive results, such as:

  • Optimizing your content’s CTAs.
  • Internally linking to other useful content of the site, to make visitors stay longer.
  • Encouraging discussions/interactions.

Author’s personal branding

Invest on building a strong author portfolio and brand. Having well-recognize authors on board make everything else very easy, may it be in terms of doing outreach, attracting ton of links/brand mentions, and acquiring customers.

Here are few tips on how to build a strong personal brand for authors/bloggers:

  • Get interview opportunities (find bloggers who do interviews and pitch your brand’s authors).
  • Collaborate with other known authors in your field to create shareable content.
  • Implement authorship markups on all of the author’s works (on and off the site).
  • Apply to become a columnist or a regular contributor on popular industry blogs.
  • Establish trust and expertise through interactions (ex: social networking, forum and comment marketing).

The more you set yourself as a credible author in your industry, the more natural mentions you can get to your site’s content.

Serve better content display for mobile devices

Mobile search is growing very fast, and it will never stop. It’s best to analyze how much traffic you’re getting from mobile devices.

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If it’s a substantial portion of your total traffic, then you might want to start using responsive web design or launching a mobile version/app of your site to improve site usage and user-engagement.

Optimize or create content for local search (if appropriate)

Given that search results are getting more location-based (particularly in mobile), optimizing some of your content to target geo-specific audience can perhaps be a good addition to your content strategy.

Mathew Hunt recently wrote a great piece on doing on-page optimization for local SEO, which I highly recommend for you guys to check out. That post also included a visual sample of an optimized local page:

perfectly-optimized-local-page

Turn successful evergreen blog posts into pages

Pages have higher ranking power than blog posts. Google’s Freshness filters are somehow favoring newer content on search results (on many verticals). Making a lot of older, but evergreen, blog posts become less visible on SERPs.

So if you have evergreen blog posts that have managed to attract good amount of natural links and social shares in the past, then moving them to a page might be a viable approach to sustain and increase its search rankings.

Develop a solid content team and process

People and process are the two main factors that can genuinely scale content marketing.

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Kyra Kuik of Distilled wrote an amazing piece on creating and maintaining a structured content team. The post also includes tips on how to develop a solid process that a team can work around to have scalable content campaigns.

I highly suggest reading that post.

Identify what’s working and do more of them

Content helps brands shape their identities (or the way people perceive the brand – brand perception).

Identify niches, topic areas and/or content formats in which you are getting traction with. Focus on these areas by doing more of them – seeing as you’re achieving better results from them.

In gauging the types of content that have high consumption from your audience:

  • Identify those that have high engagement rate (high % of new traffic, low bounce rates, and have high time spent on page).
  • Have good amount of social shares.
  • Content assets that are generating conversions.

The more you know the topic areas that are helping you achieve your goals, the more you can establish your brand as a thought-leader in those spaces.

Bonus: Scaling Creative Content Marketing

Lee Odden’s slide deck from SES last March on scaling creative content marketing was gold. You might want to check this one out.

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

Tactical Link Building Insights with Jon Cooper and Brian Dean

This week, I had the chance to pick the brains of two of the most creative minds in the link building sphere today – Jon Cooper and Brian Dean.

A week ago, we received a tweet from Dean Gareth Davis about having us three talking about link building. So I guess this post is a sneak peek of how might that go in the future.

I sure do hope that we can do this again next time with the rest (Ross Hudgens, Garrett French, James Agate, Julie Joyce, Eric Ward, Paddy Moogan and Mr. Link Building himself – Wil Reynolds).

Anyway, with no further ado, here are some of our insights on how to tackle link building these days.

1. For agencies (knowing that they mostly work with clients in different verticals/industries all at the same time), what do you think are the best ways for them to scale and simplify the process of link development?

joncooperJon: Scaling for an agency comes down to three things: people, process, and relationships. First, you need to be able to correctly & quickly hire to keep up with demand.

While you don’t want to rush into hiring someone, you need to be able to quickly assess whether or not they’re a good fit; otherwise trying to take on more work at an accelerating rate while waiting for the perfect hire is what’s going to cause some short & long term issues.

Second, you need to have the right processes setup that standardizes most of the repetitive tasks you’ll be performing. The biggest priority is simply having one; it doesn’t have to be even close to perfect, you just need to have something in place so you can start from there in terms of improving efficiency.

Lastly, save yourself some pain & effort and try to develop relationships that you can tap into for multiple clients, otherwise sending out a blast of cold pitch emails each time around is going to be frustrating & time consuming.

One thing I’ve been considering is specializing in a certain vertical (i.e. just health or just real estate) so you can build up those relationships and tap into them for every client, and not just the few that you’ll get within the same vertical (in that case, blogger personas would be a good route to go).

Scaling for an agency comes down to three things: people, process, and relationships.

brian deanBrian: Let’s face it: a campaign for mobile phone site is going to look A LOT different than one for a local landscaping company.

Interestingly, your client’s niche didn’t really matter before Penguin: you could build the same type of links for all of them.

In fact, when I first took on SEO clients (before I really knew what I was doing), all I needed was their target URLs and keywords. Whether they sold business consulting or microwaves, my approach was exactly the same.

Needless to say, those days are long gone.

Because today’s SEO clients need a lot of TLC, I’ve noticed quite a few agencies specialize in one vertical (law, dentists, hotels etc.). It saves them a lot of set-up time. They have guest posting targets, broken link building opportunities, and relationships ready to rock.

There’s no need to spend time searching for “keyword” + “write for us” or “keyword” + “inurl:resources” when a new client comes on board. You already have your pre-prospected targets in an Excel spreadsheet ready to go.

So that’s one way to scale: carve out a niche and focus on client acquisition in that vertical.

The other strategy would be to invest in training your team. If you delegate the bits and pieces of link building to low-skilled staff, you don’t have a “link development team”…you have a backlink assembly line.

Yes, it’s efficient. But it’s not the holistic brand/content development/right brain approach that’s crushing it right now.

I recommend that agencies try to create a staff of Jon Cooper’s, Garret French’s, Jason Acidre’s, and Eric Ward’s.  This caliber of expert can come up with a 100 powerful link developed campaigns within seconds of seeing a new client’s site.

That makes link building easy to scale: you don’t need to spend weeks figuring out the best approach for every single new client you take on. Instead, when you land a new client, the experts on your team bang out a custom, winning plan on day 1.

So that’s one way to scale: carve out a niche and focus on client acquisition in that vertical.

jason acidreJason: I actually wrote a piece last year on Buzzstream on developing advanced processes for agencies and enterprise-level SEO teams, and I believe that those structures are considerably efficient nowadays, especially with the constant changes occurring in the online marketing space.

Aside from getting the right people, and having a system in place where your talented staff can work around with – it’s very important to have solid core principles (on how you approach web marketing)  in which your process/people can stick to or base their actions from – and eventually enhance along the way.

It’s not just about making sure your people know the best practices in SEO/link building, it should be more about them understanding how the web really works (especially with how people consume the web – or the things that make people share and link).

Influence the people within your organization/agency to integrate your value proposition with how they do their work. Like with us, our primary goal for every campaign is to improve conversions, so our methods in link acquisition are almost always aligned with this objective.

Principles drive actionable strategies – and often results to far simpler processes and result-driven actions.

2. Link earning is all about standing out in the competition. So what’s the fastest way to really stand out to start earning high-value links?

joncooperJon: I’m actually against the idea of link earning because I’ve seen far too many great websites, content, and products that “earned” links but didn’t tap into nearly all of the opportunity they could have taken advantage of because it would take some grunt work in terms of traditional link building & outreach.

So understand that standing out (doing something noteworthy) and actually getting high quality links aren’t one in the same; otherwise, we wouldn’t need marketers because the best products & services would always win.

But with that said, there are a few tried & true practices to stand out that are almost universal. The first is simply by finding what the best are known for, and just doing it better. It’s a poor example because it’s from the SEO industry, but I found this to be super popular, so I just redid it to make it even better.

The second is the “be everywhere” approach. Plan a day, probably 2 months out, that you want to be seen everywhere. That means building up relationships with all the bloggers in your industry and seeing if you can get a guest post to go live on their blog on that day.

There’s no set number of guest posts you should shoot for, but aim for at least 10. At the same time, put together at least one or two serious posts on your blog that will wow people ahead of time, and have them go live that day and the next.

Essentially, you want your name to be everywhere, even if only for a day or two.

brian deanBrian: The best way to make a name for yourself is to find the content gap in your industry and fill it with mind-blowing stuff. Your competition is probably too lazy to publish amazing content that blows people’s minds. Their blogs probably bang out boring, useless articles like “5 Tips for …” and “7 Simple Ways to …”.

There’s a place for that sort of content. But it’s not going to make you stand out.

For example, when I started Backlinko, I was entering the crowded, competitive, and noisy SEO space. I knew that I hadto publish amazing stuff 100% of the time if I had any chance of making a name for myself.

And it’s like that for most industries. You need to bring it every single time you publish, especially when just starting out.  The content bar is set very high in almost every single industry right now. If you want to earn links with content, you need to think of ways that you can beat what’s out there on every single level: design, comprehensiveness,utility, UX.

Of course, content alone isn’t enough. The “marketing” part of content marketing is crucial. Another way to stand out is to blitz your industry with guest posts, interviews, infographics etc.

You want to be everywhere your target market is. When they go to a forum to ask a question, they read your helpful response. When they go on Twitter to see what’s new, they see people sharing your new infographic. When they check their favorite blog, they read your guest post. When they go to Google+, they watch your Google Hangout.

If you get yourself in front of your target audience (or the linkerati), over and over again AND impress them with great content when they land on your site, your competition won’t stand a chance.

Content alone isn’t enough. The “marketing” part of content marketing is crucial

jason acidreJason: There are many ways actually, but these are the two that I would mostly suggest people to focus on:

  • Create something that’s really hard to do (and let people/publishers in your space know about it). A lot of starting up brands has been successful with this approach – same thing as to what Jon Cooper did with his complete list of link building strategies and when Brian Dean co-authored the advanced guide to link building, which were both well received by the SEO community.
  • Focus on becoming an authority in a particular niche in your industry (become the go-to-brand in that niche). This is quite similar to my approach back when I was just starting, where I focused more on writing about link building.

3. Most seasoned practitioners know and understand that the first month of every campaign is the toughest one. In content and link development standpoint, how do you manage your clients’ expectations (or their expected results) for the first month? What are the deliverables that you mostly focus to accomplish on the first month of the campaign and how do you justify these results?

joncooperJon: An interesting solution to this problem was found by a colleague of mine who’s doing local SEO for clients, all in the same competitive space (but obviously different cities).

What he would do is during the first few months, not only is he building up the site and doing all the white hat, long term things needed to rank, but he was always throwing up a second site and doing some grey/black hat SEO to get it ranking early on, and as a result, not only was he able to focus on the long term with his client’s main site, but he was also able to drive business for them in the short term (by the time these sites burned out, his main sites were ranking much better).

For others though, this approach might not be possible for a couple reasons. First, you’re probably not that good at actually ranking sites with grey/black hat tactics. The second is that it just might not be an option (i.e. because their site is ecommerce and you can’t just throw up a site over night with some textbroker content).

So for the first month, you’re just going to have to suck it up and do things like everyone else; tell the client to focus on the links coming in on a month-to-month basis, and that most movement won’t be seen until at least 3-6 months out depending on your velocity and the level of competition in that vertical.

brian deanBrian: For me, the first month is the hardest because you’re under the microscope. A client that checks his analytics and SERP positions once a week may check once a day during that first month.

One way that I’ve turned the first month into a huge win is by focusing on on-page and on-site improvements. In my experience most new clients tend to make the same fundamental on-site mistakes:

  • Trying to target 5+ keywords on every page
  • Stuffing the keyword meta tag with 25+ keywords
  • Poor landing page design that causes sky-high bounce rates and subpar dwell time
  • Ignoring basic on-page SEO best practices (long content, adding multimedia etc.)
  • Dozens of useless snippet and archive pages that dilute PR and trigger Panda

Fortunately, you can usually overhaul their on-site SEO over a weekend. And the next time Googlebot comes around, you have a tightly-optimized site that will get an almost-instant boost. That way, I can tell them: “You should see a slight-yet-significant improvement within a few weeks. As I start to build quality links for you, this will improve even more over time”.

Giving a client some results in month 1 establishes trust and makes them more patient. That way you can do the long-term link development work (relationship building, infographics etc.) without feeling like you’re under the gun.

jason acidreJason: I believe we use the same approach as to what Brian does – we tend to look for quick wins (through technical on-site audits/recommendations) first, as this is the most important part of SEO anyway.

Although, aside from that, it’s also important to at least come up or develop a solid content asset (or help improve an existing one) on the first month of the campaign, which can attract links/traffic (or will be really appropriate to build artificial links to) on the first month (and also over the next few months of the campaign).

The great thing about this approach is that the result will not just yield links (and potential rankings), as the result may also reflect through the conversions that the content asset can help provide on the first month.

It’ll be so much easier to get the trust of your new clients when they see that your efforts are positively affecting their business goals.

4. What link building methods would you suggest to any organization (agency, enterprise, SMBs, publishers, etc…) that are easy to implement and can somehow drive immediate results.

joncooperJon: There isn’t one universal link building tip for every business model and every sized client. If there was, there would be 10x the link building agencies out there. Most of the easy wins are on-site that drive immediate results.

For bigger sites, if the domain authority is there, you can do a TON with internal linking. A good example of this is a very well-known ecommerce brand. Because they already had a lot of incoming links, all they had to do was create a lot of content so they could utilize it for internal links.

So what they did is they made mashups of “Product X vs. Product Y” (even if X and Y weren’t entirely related). The content used for each was the same in every mashup (i.e. Product X content was the same whether it was being shown vs. Product Y or Product Z), but because they were combining the content in new ways (i.e. X vs. Y is different than X vs. Z is different than Y vs. Z) Google was seeing it all as unique content, thus giving the internal links juice (and thus driving some serious revenue in terms of better rankings).

Would this exact strategy still work today just as it did roughly 2-3 years ago? Who knows. But the takeaway is that there’s a lot of opportunity you can take advantage of from an on-site perspective.

brian deanBrian: Here are a few that aren’t necessarily new and exciting, but they work really well and can be applied to almost any industry:

  • Resource page link building: I don’t see this talked about as much as it should be. Almost every industry has hundreds of high PR resource pages to take advantage of. And you don’t need to lie, beg, cheat or steal to get your link. These pages exist just to link out to great content. So if you have that, it’s just a matter of asking nicely.
  • Infographics: The buzz behind infographic marketing has died down over the last 18-months. But that doesn’t mean infographic link building is dead. Because this medium is still new-ish, there are A LOT of tweaks and hacks out there to make the strategy more effective. For example, I’ve been doing quite a few infographic JVs lately. That way you halve the cost and double the promotion from every infographic. That’s just one small tweak. Every time I launch a new one I get 2-3 more ideas like this that I’ve never seen published anywhere. There’s lots of untapped link building potential with infographics.
  • Handyman link building: I use this as the umbrella term to describe improving another person’s site for a link. Broken link building is the most famous application, but there are dozens of others out there. For example, Bill Sebald just created a very cool tool and approach called Content Refresh“. It’s basically finding outdated content and helping the site owner make it more up to date. I know other people that find ugly site headers, buy a nicer one on Fiverr, and then send the site owner the nice one. Lots of opportunities here as well.

jason acidreJason: I also believe that there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to link building. But there’s one common thing in any industry or type of business – a customer that’s looking for a product, service, solution or information.

It’s just a matter of how you can find these people and how you can demonstrate that you’re the best provider.

I’d suggest to start by looking for discussions (blogs, forum threads, Q&As, etc…) that are precisely about the solutions/products that your clients offer. Participate and make sure that you’re really helping them solve their problems.

Other things that you can also do:

  • Link reclamation – if the business has been already there for years, then you might also want to check if the site has unlinked brand mentions or links pointing to the wrong URLs.
  • Inviting or hiring expert authors in your industry to contribute content on your site.
  • Comment marketing – to establish your brand as an authority in the field and to also build relationships with other publishers in your space.
  • Distributing content on user-generated sites that have high search share (ex: Slideshare, YouTube, Pinterest, etc…) that can target your long-tail keywords – to get constant referral traffic/leads.

5. What’s in your campaign rule book? Or what are your initial protocols, action steps and goals to be set (for the next 3 – 6 months) when working on a new link building campaign?

joncooperJon: It’s more so of a checklist of different things to run through, just because each campaign is never the same (every site has different advantages/disadvantages, competitors, assets, etc.).

After running through mostly on-site things (i.e. is there unique content on these category & product pages), the first few things to do in terms of link building are just going after the easy wins after doing competitor research.

Depending on what we turn up here, going after those links could mean a month of work or 6 months of work. After that, we usually dive into what exact content can we create that we know we can get links to (throwing mud at a wall just isn’t practical; the content we create always has a link focused purpose).

brian deanBrian: The first thing I do is help them create a linkable asset. Here’s the process that I follow:

1. Look at the client’s market and see where there’s a content gap.

2. See if there’s content on their site that could be improved upon or turned into a linkable asset. That’s usually faster and easier than starting from scratch.

3. If they don’t have that, I help them create a linkable asset. I prefer infographics and ultimate guides because they’re cheap and easy to share.

4. I try to get as many eyeballs on the content as possible. That means posting it on industry forums and trying to get it featured on popular newsletters (a massively underrated content promotion strategy).

5. Once the buzz has died down, I pound the pavement with an email outreach campaign.

This campaign usually gets some brand awareness and quality links to the site. Then I focus on some fundamental strategies, like broken link building, resource page link building, and link reclamation.

Once a month or two has passed create and promote another linkable asset. Rinse and repeat.

That’s the initial protocol and action steps. I actually don’t try to set specific goals besides creating one awesome piece of content every month. There are too many variables for me to say: “You will get between 25-50 links from this infographic”.

jason acidreJason: I always start with the goals and limitations (resources, access and/or budget). Because having these parts very clear at the start makes the strategy development and implementation more adaptive.

With that, you can easily identify tasks to highly prioritize and not – and basically focus on things that will really yield results.

My main rule (personally) is to just make sure that each task is relevant and aligned with the campaign’s long-term objectives. That’s why we always do a project briefing (internally) before working on a project.

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