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.

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Creating Content on Industries you’re not an Expert in

Content marketing has been the entire buzz since Google started to sniff out all the nasty and manipulative links over the web. Don’t worry, I won’t start with why content is so important in this line of work (yes, yes, I know that you know that content is king).

I’ve been thinking of writing this post for quite some time now, and I’ve even wrote the draft for this post while I was away for a business trip late last week.

Aside from talking content development/marketing with one of our biggest clients last week, I also sat for a very long time thinking how we’ll be able to put our ideas into easy-to-follow processes.

Since almost everyone’s shifting towards this area of online marketing, I believe that this topic is something that might be really handy for a lot of “marketers for hire” out there (especially those who have just recently transitioned their efforts to making real great content).

Obviously, most of us who’re in consulting firms and agencies have worked on lots of clients in different industries that we don’t actually know anything about at all to begin with.

So I’ve thought of some ways you can create expertly-made content on niches/industries that you have zero knowledge of.

Create content assets based on FSQ/FAQs

This is probably the easiest way to build content assets on niches that you don’t know much about.

Basing your content strategy on FSQs (frequently searched queries or FAQs in your client’s industry) is very effective, since there are so many available resources for your content already (content and information provided by your competitors).

The main key to succeed when using this approach is to ensure that you’ll come up with content assets that are far more comprehensive, actionable and informative than what your competitors have already published.

Several things that you may have to check out before creating your own content are:

  • Find the successful web pages/blog posts about the subjects you’ve chosen (use Google search). Evaluate and understand why they are ranking.
  • Make a list of the things/information lacking within their content (such as visuals, personal insights/opinions, data, etc…) – as you can use them to your advantage once you do your own version of the content.
  • Check and make a list of the sites linking to those content and people who have shared them on social networks. You can use tools like Topsy, Open Site Explorer and Ahrefs to extract these data sets. Reach out to them afterwards once you publish yours.

Key: Outdo your competitors’ content.

Get insights from your clients

The first thing that you can do before running a content marketing campaign for a new client (especially those who’re in industries your team has no background in) is to send intake forms that are solely about the solutions that their business provides.

Gather as much data as you can from your clients, as these things can help you out in generating content ideas that match their expertise.

Interview your clients (if possible) and include their insights along with your own perspectives within your content. You can even make your client’s insights the basis of your content development by breaking down each answered question into different posts.

Get insights from industry leaders

I actually mentioned this tip on my post from 2 weeks ago (on scaling content marketing). Instead of interviewing industry influencers (or doing group interviews) and publishing them as an “interview with xxx” type of post, why not just ask for their take/opinion on a particular subject you’ll be writing about (to mainly validate your own ideas).

Advantages of taking this route, instead of full and exclusive interviews:

  • It’s not that time-consuming for the influencers you’re targeting to engage – as you can do this through a short and quick email or even through social networks.
  • It would be easier to get their attention, trust and respect, when they see that you’ve mentioned them in a thorough article with your own thoughts and ideas.
  • You’ll be able to demonstrate your brand as an expert/authority. Given that your ideas are validated by other industry leader(s).

Hire someone who knows and understands the field

Content is an investment that you really have to make if you want to succeed in online marketing. And obviously, the better way to get significant results from your investment is to get not just a great content writer – but a writer that really knows your client’s industry.

If you already have a solid content team, delegation will play an important role. It would be easier if you’ll assign your writers to topics that they are really interested in (or already have a background in).

Like in our team’s case, it has been really easy for our in-house media specialist (Vincent Sevilla) to penetrate a-list design websites/blogs (like Buzzfeed, Behance, etc…) since he’s really into that niche.

vincent

Create your own case studies

Research is a vital process in content development. And sometimes, this phase takes weeks to get done. So why not make the most out it by making your own case studies while you’re doing your research.

There are so many ways to gather data for case studies. It may take you some time to get the content done, but the result it can yield is definitely a force to reckon with.

Below are some of the ways that you can do to get data for case studies (while you’re on your campaign’s research phase):

  • Get actual data from other publishers/bloggers. Since they’ll be benefiting through the exposure they can get when you publish it on your site (or on other sites), the chances getting them to participate may be a bit higher (ex: Nick Eubanks did this type of case study about my blog’s evergreen content strategy and published it on Moz).
  • Consumer surveys using Google Consumer Surveys and/or SurveyMonkey. Use the collected data to create a data-driven content.
  • Ask or request existing data from your client that they are willing to publicized – particularly those that are relevant to their products/services/consumers.
  • Reach out to their loyal customers and ask if they’ll be interested to share their experiences or the results they’ve got in using your client’s products/services.
  • Make your own experiments. You can also document your research process (as well as your findings), as you can transform this as a comprehensive content/research paper.

What’s important is to be able to provide accurate information to your readers. That’s what users consume and share – and certainly what Google will most likely rank.

Further reading:

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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.

tumblr_inline_mn62nihTLW1qz4rgp

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.

mobile search

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.

workflow

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.

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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.

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

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22 Link Building Tips from @xightph

Links will always play an important role in the search, aside from the fact that it’s the core in which most search engines’ algorithms are based on – it’s still the best way to rank content.

Experts also believe that links are still very much important, though it’s known that Google will most probably just value those that are evidently natural and non-manipulative.

Anyway, for the past year and a half, our company/team has been known to specialize in this area of online marketing (although we also offer other technical marketing services, our brand has just been so attached to this particular marketing practice).

Given that we’ve been doing this for quite some time now, I just thought of sharing the things we’ve learned from working with dozens of clients (from different countries, industries, working on various business models), as well as the mindsets that we’ve grown to believe in as a team when it comes to implementing link development strategies.

1. Diversity is one of the key factors to succeed in online marketing these days. That mindset pretty much applies in link building as well.

And the best way to get a good variety of link types (through voluntary given citations/mentions) is to make sure that you’re promoting a great product/service that has a strong unique selling point, which will make people want to share it with their friends.

2. There are 4 major factors that make brands/sites earn editorial and contextual links – content, relationships, expertise and unique value. Being consistent in building on at least 2 of these main factors can certainly help you get ton of hard-to-replicate links to your site.

factors3. Invest on continuous creation of evergreen content assets that aim to solve perennial problems or frequently asked questions in your space. It’s the best way to scale link building, since they’ll almost always be searched and most likely be used as a reference by people finding your content.

link-growth

4. There is more value and advantages in contributing content regularly on high-traffic industry publications than submitting one-time guest posts on hundreds of mediocre blogs. Focus on 5 – 10 top industry sites (that your target audience go to) and get more visibility from them.

5. Create high-value content assets before launching a guest blogging campaign. It’s easier to get guest post opportunities when your prospects already have an idea of the quality of the content you produce. Guest blogging is also more efficient when primarily used to support your site’s strong content – wherein it’s more appropriate to include in-content links back to your site’s relevant assets.

content asset

6. Invest on developing redistributable content such as images (data visualization, memes, cinemagraphs, etc…), slide presentations, videos/kinetic typographies, PDF/whitepapers and badges. Aside from getting natural links from people who might reuse them, these content initiatives can also help you connect with other content publishers, drive traffic and build brand awareness.

7. Invite authority guest bloggers. It’s the easiest way to bait links – knowing that most seasoned bloggers reference their own works. It’s also a great way to expand your network and following base.

8. Build alliances. Make friends with entities/organizations that share the same ideals as yours (preferably emerging influencers in your industry). That way it will be easier to syndicate your content (as well as theirs) – which exposes your content to a wider audience and can result to higher chances of getting natural links.

9. Apply lead generation techniques when doing link building to get more results from it. Find and participate on specifically targeted discussions using search phrases and search operators that target people particularly looking for solutions (ex: “where can I buy + keyword”, “need help with + keyword”, etc…).

search lead gen

10. Promote useful content where it’s appropriate. There are so many channels where you can promote or build links to your content such as related discussions on other blogs, communities/forums, Q&A sites, and even using paid social ads.

But what’s really important is to ensure that your content will really add value to the discussion and to those who can read them.

comment

11. Always track for mentions (linked or unlinked), yours and competitors’. Asking for links that you’ve really earned (unlinked brand mentions or mentions pointing to your social profiles) is the easiest way to get links through outreach.

Tracking your competitors’ brand mentions is also important, as this can help you find new prospects that you can engage and be connected with. You can use Google Alerts or Moz’s Fresh Web Explorer to track these mentions.

12. Think branding. Link building is more efficient when used as a brand building tool. And given that Google is favoring brands on search results, then link building (when done right) can definitely hit more birds with one stone.

Focus more on branded anchor texts (your brand name, products, events, content assets, etc…) when building artificial links (awareness > link).

13. Aim for links that will get clicked, because they’re the ones that can most likely influence search rankings. Some of the most known factors that make links more clickable:

  • Prominent position in the document (the higher, the better).
  • Links that have highly descriptive and longer strings of anchor texts tend be clicked more.
  • If the link is on a high-traffic page.
  • Sentiments of the texts that surround the link.

14. Strengthen your links’ attributes with the help of other signals for them to pass more value (ranking power) to your site.

link attributes

15. Always check assisted conversions (on Google Analytics). It will allow you to identify and understand link types and sources that are sending qualified traffic and conversions to your site, which you can develop a process to make it replicable.

assisted conversions

16. Comment marketing is both overlooked and misused, but it’s definitely one of the most effective inbound marketing techniques out there. Here’s why:

  • It allows you to build relationships with other content publishers.
  • It can help you establish your brand as an expert – particularly if you’re contributing high-value information in the discussions.
  • It opens a lot of opportunities for linking (like being invited to become a contributor, or having your opinions cited by the publishers you communicate with).

Always consider your comments as a part of your content efforts.

17. Start learning how real writers reference other people’s works, because that’s how natural links are done. Use partial match and highly descriptive anchor texts, and understand the concept of co-occurrence.

18. Internal links are the most powerful type of link that you have full control of – make use of them wisely. Make your site’s stronger content (that are receiving natural links, social signals and constant traffic/activity) internally link to your site’s key pages that need more ranking power.

19. Be open to share internal data, especially to content publishers.

sharing data

20. Try to get links from pages that are already ranking well on search results or submit content to domains that have strong ranking ability (high search share). Getting your brand published on domains that have higher potentials of ranking for your long-tails can constantly send relevant traffic to your site.

linkable-asset

21. Update past successful link baits or content assets hosted within your site. I tried this a few months ago on this post, and it doubled the social shares, number of comments as well as the links it generated for that particular content.

updated post

You can even implement the same approach when reaching out to other publishers/bloggers (where you can suggest helping them update their old, but still useful content). Use Bill Sebald’s Outdated Content Finder to track pages that need to be updated.

outdated content finder

22. Use the linker outreach method to get your content in front of prospects that really cares or genuinely interested about it.

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

PS: We’ll be launching our company’s website soon, so it would be really awesome if you can follow us also on Twitter @xightph for more updates. Thanks!

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Advanced SEO in 2013 – SEMTrends 2013 Presentation

Here is my slide deck from SEMTrends 2013 that was held yesterday in Iloilo City, Philippines. The topics I covered on my presentation include some of the most important factors used in the realm of search today such as on-site technology, link development, authority building, online branding, and a few tricks on Analytics.

I had an awesome time with the other speakers – Mark Acsay and Grant Merriel, as well as the event organizers (SEO.org.ph Iloilo chapter) , attendees and friends from the SEO Organization Philippines (Ricky and Cell).

Great people, food and booze, as always. See you guys again next year!

Just me, doing my thing.

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

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Creating Great Experience for SEO

Improving a website’s usage data is very essential in SEO nowadays, as these signals highly reflect the quality of the site and the level of experience it can provide to its users.

Another reason why optimizing for experience is so important in this new age of search is because of the fact that Google Panda filters are now being integrated to Google’s search ranking algorithm.

If in case you’re wondering what Panda has to do with experience, here’s a brief description of what the recent Panda updates do:

  • It targets poor-content pages (pages with low user activity and short-clicks from search results).
  • It targets duplicate content pages (as they also have low user activity).
  • Search listings (amount of pages accessible through search) that have high bounce rates/short-clicks.

Google has also updated their SEO advice recently that strongly hints that webmasters should focus on improving site experience:

“In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by creating high-quality sites that users will want to use and share.”

And Rand discussed this update from Google and shared an easy-to-digest list of categories that SEOs should be optimizing their site for in order to rank better on search results:

  1. Make the page more relevant
  2. Make the page higher quality
  3. Make the page more well-cited
  4. Make the page more accessible
  5. Make the page’s listing in the search results more compelling
  6. Make the site the page is hosted on more relevant
  7. Make the site the page is hosted on higher quality
  8. Make the site the page is hosted on more well-cited
  9. Make the site the page is hosted on more accessible
  10. Make the site the page is hosted on a more recognizable and compelling brand

SEO as a marketing practice has clearly evolved – wherein optimizing for humans is far more important than optimizing for engines.

So what are the things you can do to improve the overall experience that your site can offer to its users?

UX and Usability

Have a deeper grasp of what your target customers want for them to explore more on your site. Making a good impression (by making sure that they’ll find your site useful/valuable) is very crucial – given that it can affect other areas of your campaign (particularly in retaining visitors and improving site usage).

Sabina Idler did a great piece a month ago on understanding the user experience, which explains comprehensively how each aspect of UX can be implemented. The dissected aspects of UX include:

  • Usability (availability & accessibility, clarity, learnability, credibility and relevancy)
  • Aesthetics (making the design appealing, effective, pleasurable and memorable)
  • Customer service (building trust and relationships with users – just like SingleHop‘s approach to customer service, making it very visible on every page of the site)

singlehop

  • Brand consistency (which results to customer loyalty)
  • Personal impact (as positive emotions help people remember brands)
  • Readability (content must be easy-to-comprehend and scannable for skim readers)
  • Easy-to-follow site navigational structure (like using breadcrumb links to pass ranking power back to your site’s major categories)

breadcrumb links

For more detailed tips on usability, you definitely have to check out Jason Delodovici’s guide on improving your site’s usability.

“Every page is a landing page” mantra

Pages that you allow to be accessible through search are considerably landing pages that can send leads/sales to your business.

Adapt conversion optimization strategies, not just on your site’s key pages, but also on your overall content strategy.

There are several tactics that you can implement to your site’s inner pages to improve their conversions, or to just help you get your visitors closer to your end-goal. Jessica Collier wrote an exceptional post on different approaches that you can try on optimizing landing pages, which includes:

  • Segmented experience – which focuses on optimizing for unique visitor experience through building different specialized landing pages or content targeted to different set of audiences, rather than building a single landing page targeted to all types of audience. This is also a great method to use in growing your site’s content portfolio.
  • Use of social logins – given that it helps improve user-experience through reduced form fields, faster access and accuracy in data collection.
  • Progressive conversion – wherein the method aims to get multiple interactions from users, which is a better way to build trust and to have better chances of having them convert on your end-goal conversion action.
  • Device optimization – using responsive web design to make sure that your pages are highly-optimized for any device.
  • Creating effective CTAs (on all of your site’s searchable pages)- making sure that they are in context with the content they are hosted on and making them very visible.

Resource-Landing-Page-2

  • Considering eye-tracking and heat maps could also be very beneficial in improving your pages’ ability to attract, retain and convert visitors.

You can also check out Unbounce’s unique landing page strategies for more ideas. And for more conversion optimization tips, you can check out these guides:

Improving visitor engagement, long-click and reducing bounce rate

Improved visitors’ time spent on site/pages is a strong indicator of great experience. There are many ways to optimize your site’s ability to engage visitors such as

  • Making sure that your pages’ titles are accurate and match the information provided by their content, to prevent incoming search visitors from bouncing back to the search results.
  • Displaying social proof and trust indicators in the site’s key entrances (like what Coops and Cages did to their key pages that increased their conversions by 40%).

coopsandcages

  • Increasing internal links in your pages’ content. This can help make your visitors stay longer, especially if you’re internally linking to other useful and relevant resources hosted within your site.
  • Improving readability by testing different fonts, changing content structure (like breaking long paragraphs or designing content for skim readers), and testing/using better page headlines.
  • Blocking access to poor-content and duplicate pages in the site (by adding the noindex tag on these pages). This will improve your site’s ranking power, since it won’t be displaying any unimportant pages on search results.

Site Speed

Google is obsessed with speed, as they try to get people to use the Internet more. There are many ways to improve your website’s performance in terms of speed, especially nowadays that there are available tools that can guide you in optimizing your site – such as Page Speed and Pingdom.

Google’s search team has also been very transparent about site speed being a huge ranking factor in their algorithm. The good thing is that there are tons of available resources on how you can optimize your site’s speed, and you can check out some of them below:

Learning from Analytics data

Your analytics data can help you better understand what your users want and look for. Some of the areas where you can discover more opportunities to improve your content and business strategy are:

  • Your site’s worst landing pages (pages on your site that have high bounce rates and low engagement rates) – as these insights can help you improve them as well as your approach in optimizing all of the site’s pages.
  • Keywords that send good volume of traffic but with no conversions or have low engagement rate. Identifying these keywords and understanding why people aren’t converting can help you in optimizing their designated landing pages.
  • Site search data. As this can get you more information on what your visitors are looking for – which can help you identify other topic areas that your audience is also interested in. For more in-depth tips, you can check out this guide on using site search data to improve content strategy from Search Engine Land.

site search data

Targeted outreach and content distribution

The more you’re visible on highly relevant traffic-referring sources/sites, the more you are able to generate highly targeted and easily-engaged visitors.

Associating your site with other authority online publications where your target audiences are can extremely help you grow your site’s usage signals, especially when people are sharing your content (which is another strong indicator of quality experience).

Focus on acquiring links, coverage and exposure that can generate more actions on your site. This is doable when you’re getting links/mentions from the right places (on sites where your target market is).

Some of the marketing activities that you do to get more qualified traffic (that will actually do stuff when they’re already on your site):

  • Regularly contribute content and/or participate on discussions on high-traffic sites that are topically relevant to yours.
  • Reach out and connect with industry influencers who’ll find value in and most likely share your product/content to their network/followers.
  • Continuously grow your site’s content assets and keep on educating your audience, so that people will have more reasons to share, subscribe and interact with your brand.

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

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How to develop ROI-driven Inbound Marketing Campaigns

Inbound marketing has proven itself to be very effective in terms of helping small to enterprise-level brands reach business-related goals.

This marketing process involves a series of data-driven key initiatives. But the one key component that makes any form of marketing campaign actionable and successful is making certain that every action is goal-oriented.

goal-setting

Aligning methods/tactics to the business’ targets is crucial from start to end. Because this assures that every initiative will have impact (whether it’s big or small) to the business’ long-term goals – and this is the bottom line of what we’re doing.

It’s imperative to have a deeper grasp of what your client or your own business aims to achieve, as this makes it easier to determine which marketing channels to tap and take advantage of.

methods

There are several online marketing practices that are within the inbound marketing realm, and there are also ton of ways to make certain that each approach will be result-driven.

Will this action help us achieve our goals?

Keyword Research, Content Strategy & Consumer Insights

The best way to optimize for searchers and search engines is to be able to provide the information (in great detail and presentation) that your target audience are specifically searching for.

As I’ve mentioned on one of my recent blog posts (on how I win in search and content marketing), it all boils down to understanding what your target audience wants, needs and obviously seek for.

And again, goal setting plays a big role in SEO as well as in building a solid content strategy. Determine how your content will contribute to your organization and consider them as brand assets that can help:

  • Build authority and strengthen brand presence.
  • Generate leads and/or close sales.
  • Nurture potential customers and retain existing customers.

Start with FAQs. Because this is what your target market will continuously search for. Focus your content strategy on topic areas that have greater demand and likeliness to convert readers.

People search for answers. And it’s our job to make it easier for them to find the solutions.

There are many ways to identify and understand what a business’ target consumers may need in terms of information:

  • Getting more search query and content ideas by using keyword research tools.
  • Using Consumer Surveys to get actual insights from your target audience.
  • Studying popular communities (forums, social groups, blogs) in your industry and taking note of the most commonly discussed topics.
  • Using social listening tools, like Topsy, to gather topic ideas that are shareable and have strong social traction.

Integrating consumer insights with your SEO and content marketing will allow you to drive more targeted traffic to your site.

Another advantage is that it’ll be easier to tailor your content assets’ CTAs and special offerings based on what your target consumers need and will most likely convert to.

For more extensive tips on this area, you can also check Heidi Cohen’s checklist for content planning.

Authority Building

Establishing your brand as an authority or expert in your field can heavily influence how people interact with your brand – which often leads to better search visibility (since Google favour brands) and better conversions.

Aside from helping improve brand equity, being an authority may also have an indirect, but positive impact on a brand’s market and mind share.

That’s why investing on building a strong online brand presence is very important these days, as it can be an unfair advantage for a business competing for online-driven customers.

So what are the steps that companies can take to build themselves as an authority in their online space?

Content development

Being consistent in pushing out – not just great content – but content that will certainly be useful and compelling to your audience is the most fundamental step to becoming an authority on the web.

I’ve mentioned this as well on a post I’ve written few weeks ago – that the other key to winning in content marketing is to know the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors’ content campaigns.

As these insights will help you build a robust content strategy, which are based on your competitors’ flaws and efficiencies.

Focus on USP

Aim to become a top player in a niche in your industry. Because it will be easier to expand and target a wider audience once you’ve already proven your brand to be an authority.

Getting more coverage for your content and press mentions for your brand (through online/offline activations) will also be a lot easier if your unique value proposition stands out from the rest of your competition.

Strategic content partnerships

Build relationships and establish partnerships with other known publications in your industry. Identify sites where your target audience are, and make your brand more visible on these channels through:

  • Actively participating on their communities’ discussions (blogs, forums, etc…).
  • Regularly contributing content to absorb more readers back to your site (guest columns).
  • Inviting their authors to contribute content to your site as well.

These partnerships can be a powerful asset that can constantly bring more targeted traffic to your site, and improve social proof (that can build trust and brand perception). Think Distilled and Moz.

rand+wil

Social

Identify industry influencers that you want your brand to be associated with (use Followerwonk). Then build alliances to improve or semi-automate your content distribution – and to attract more social shares and followers as well.

For instance, if you look at Link Club, it’s a group that’s comprised of thought-leaders in the SEO industry who specialize in link building. Each individual is helping out each other to get their own personal brands out in the open.

This type of partnership/content collaboration is definitely beneficial to everyone who’s part of the alliance (which can help in terms of branding, lead generation and in discovering more business opportunities).

Email marketing and list building

The more you’re driving targeted traffic to your site through search and authority building (via content, strategic partnerships, link development, social media, etc…), the more it will be important for your organization to have a stronger grip of your continuously growing audience.

And this is where email marketing comes in. Since this is a channel that you have full control of. A robust email list can give your business the capacity to draw visitors (who’re already aware of who you are) whenever you need it, which also have higher chances of converting.

The key to building a strong email list starts with building the right traffic to your site, because they have the reasons to sign-up – which will make it easier for you to grow your list.

Kristi Hines recently wrote an exceptional post on how to effectively build an e-mail list. The post breaks down the most important aspects of list building, which includes:

  • Placing opt-in forms in high-traffic areas of the site
  • Integrating your mailing list with other platforms.
  • Offering specials to subscribers

Other email marketing resources that you might also want to check out:

Analytics – measure, analyse and improve

Understanding the data and results of your inbound marketing efforts is very important, as this gives you insights on how you can scale and how you can make your campaign more efficient.

Data simply guides your campaigns’ actions and it allows you to discover more opportunities that you might haven’t optimized your site for yet.

Several metrics that you should be taking a closer look at in Google Analytics, which can help improve your overall marketing initiatives:

  • Top content assets with high engagement rate and conversions (Content > Site Content > Landing Pages).

landing page

  • Top traffic sources – including each source’s engagement rate (avg. visit duration, % new visits and bounce rates) and conversion data.

traffic sources

  • Top conversion paths (Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Top Conversion Paths) – to determine which areas of your campaign are driving more conversions to the site.

conversion paths

Once you have measured your campaign’s results and have analysed your data, you can then come up with the necessary actions to further improve your results from a conversion standpoint.

Some samples of areas that you can analyze and then optimize through Analytics’ data are:

  • Assisted conversions – which can help you know which sites are sending you traffic with high conversions, and take advantage of them (ex. contributing more content to them to get more traffic or building 2nd-tier links to linking pages sending high volume of traffic/conversions).

assisted conversions

  • Identifying most effective channels – for instance, if your SEO efforts are driving more targeted traffic and conversions (basing if your site has already increased its ranking power), you can create more landing pages that can target other industry terms and long-tail keywords.Same approach may also apply with content and social, where you can create more content assets based on your campaign’s past successful/failed assets (and on which channels they have been effective in terms of promotion).

effective channels

Determine which methods are working and are able to bring you results. Do more of them.

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