Stone Temple Consulting Blog

Does AMP Improve Rankings, Engagement, and Conversion?

Studies show that AMP drives more revenue and positive ROI. This includes prior analysis done by Stone Temple (now Perficient Digital) as shown in our canonical guide to AMP. In addition, a Forrester economic-impact study outlines how greater page-load speed increases conversions, traffic and pages per visit. There’s a lot of positive, individual-use cases for how websites are succeeding with AMP, but there are also stories out there where things didn’t go so well. In my experience, that’s usually because the implementation was poor, resulting in a crappy UX. Going from a slow site with great UX to a fast site with crappy UX is probably not a win, in my opinion.

Why Content Marketing Works (and How) – Here’s Why #201

More companies than ever are using content marketing, but do we have any proof that it actually works?  In this episode of our award winning Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Mark Traphagen shares some interesting stats from a study that show just how effective content marketing can be in bringing in and retaining customers. Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why Resources Does Content Marketing Actually Work? The Data Says Yes! See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Transcript Eric: Mark, content marketing has been all the rage for several years, but how do we know it works? Mark: It may seem like something you have to take on faith, but now thanks to some research by metrics firm ProfitWell, we have some solid data on its effectiveness. They took a deep dive into 3,000 businesses that subscribe to their service, some of which use content marketing and some that don’t. They also had access to the behavior of 30,000 consumers who use those sites. Eric: And what did they find? Mark: To start, they showed that while content marketing might seem like an expensive investment, it is cost effective compared to other forms of marketing. For example, they found that content marketing is about 30% less expensive than paid channels in terms of cost of customer acquisition. They also stated that companies with blogs get 67% more leads. Companies with blogs get 67% more leads than those that don't.Click To Tweet Eric: Content can be effective in bringing in new customers, but does it help a site retain customers? Mark: According to the ProfitWell data, it does. They saw a 5% to 10% better retention rate for companies that deploy content. But obviously, the biggest benefit is on the customer growth side. In fact, the companies that consistently use content see about a 30% higher growth rate than those that don’t. Eric: Those are some pretty amazing stats. Mark: I do think we need to provide a caveat here. No one should take from these results that simply posting content in and of itself will make this magic happen. I think it’s a safe bet that the companies in the data sample that drove the positive results up employ a well planned and executed content strategy that does a great job of covering the whole buying cycle. ProfitWell’s stat that almost half of buyers view three to five pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep seems to back that up. Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel

Why You Too Can Earn Valuable Featured Snippets – Here’s Why #200

Google featured snippets boost your page above all the search results for a query, and they can drive significant traffic to your site. The good news: there are concrete steps you can take to make your content more likely to earn a featured snippet. In this episode of our popular Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Eric Enge shares his observations on content most likely to earn a featured snippet, based on his tracking of over a million search queries for the past three years.  Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why Resources Featured Snippets Resource Center See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Transcript Mark: Eric, just in case anyone watching doesn’t know, let’s start with what a featured snippet is. Eric: Good idea, Mark. A featured snippet is a search feature where Google takes an extract or snippet from a website and places it in the featured box at the top of search results as a direct answer to a user query.   Mark: If the answer is right there in the featured snippet, why do featured snippets still drive a lot of traffic to the sites from which they’re taken? Eric: That’s a good question, because it seems counterintuitive. But in many cases, the snippet shown does not completely answer the question. For example, a site’s answer to a how-to question may have 10 steps, but the featured snippet only shows the first six. In other cases, the answer may be complete but too brief, and people click through to learn more. And one more scenario to call out: in some cases the users have asked a direct question and Google provided a direct answer, and maybe they got all of the direct answer, but it’s pretty rare that that’s really the only question the user has related to that topic, and they often want more information. Mark: Okay. If featured snippets can boost your page to the top of search results and they can actually drive traffic to your site, you probably want to be in as many of them as you can. So how do we earn them? How to Earn Featured Snippets Eric: Of course, Google doesn’t tell us the criteria for selecting which page to use in a featured snippet, but after several years of tracking over a million queries that have displayed them at one time or another, I’ve been able to discern some patterns common to pages that earn featured snippets. Mark: I know you gave eight things site owners should do to increase their chances of earning featured snippets in the comprehensive featured snippets resource center you created on our site. Can you share with us a few of them? Eric: Sure. Make a list of the most commonly asked questions about your business or your areas of expertise and then filter these down to the most popular queries. If the question isn’t searched for very often then it probably isn’t that interesting to get a featured snippet for it. Next is to realize that your page doesn’t have to be the number one position on Google to get a featured snippet, but it does need to be in the top 10. So for each query you decide to target for a featured snippet, either choose a page already ranking in the first page of Google results or create one worthy of such a ranking. Finally, make sure you thoroughly answer the question on your page, but also expand the content to answer all the related questions that users have on that topic. In other words, be as comprehensive as you possibly can. Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel

Why You Should Build Content Marketing Bridges – Here’s Why #199

The dismal truth is that most brand content marketing fails. It performs poorly because it can’t bridge the gap between brand goals and prospect needs and desires. In this episode of our popular Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Mark Traphagen shares how to build bridges to your target market with content marketing.  Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why Resources The Content Marketing Bridge: Linking Brand Goals to Prospect Needs See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Transcript Eric: Hey, Mark, what’s a content bridge? Mark: Eric, it’s a metaphor I use for a key characteristic I’ve observed about the most effective content marketing. And by effective, I mean content that actually produces results for the business publishing it. Eric: Why a bridge? Mark: If you have two pieces of land, separated by a chasm, you need a bridge to move people from one to the other. In marketing, every business starts with a chasm between the goals of the business, what the business wants to achieve, and the prospects that want to reach. Effective content successfully builds a bridge between the two that not only allows prospects to cross over it–in other words become qualified leads or customers–but encourages them to do so. Successful content marketing builds a bridge between business goals and prospect needs.Click To Tweet Eric: How do you build content marketing bridges then? Mark: Let’s start with the main goals of the two land masses the bridge is supposed to connect. Now, on the one side is your business. I call this Brand Island. Brand Island is populated by the purpose, intention, and reason for existence of your brand. It’s why your business exists. That goes beyond to make money and into the specifics of your products and services, what you bring uniquely to the marketplace. Now, across the water is Prospect Island. Here dwell the needs wants, hopes, dreams, and desires of your prospective customers. Eric: And your content needs to be able to bridge those two islands? Mark: Yes. Most content that fails to produce desired business results tends to be anchored on one or the other island but fails to reach across the gap. The content may be stuck on Brand Island if it is too salesy, or talks too much about your product or service without linking it to what your prospects actually need. On the other hand, content that is stuck on Prospect Island tries too hard to grasp the hearts and minds of potential customers while failing to make a strong association with the brand and what it sells. For example, a brand that sells shoes might post a pop culture quiz that goes viral, but few consumers will remember that it had anything to do with a shoe seller. The key is to always have both islands in mind as you create your content, your business goals and brand identity on the one side and the needs and desires of your prospects on the other. Then find a link between the two. Often that link will be emotional at its core, but it must strongly associate the emotional response with the brand. A great example of this is the clothing retailer Patagonia. You and I have used them as example often, and in this case, their environmentally conscious content. That creates a strong connection with the brand’s affluent, socially conscious outdoors enthusiast customers while emphasizing that Patagonia shares their values. Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel

Why Bing Continues to Innovate as a Search Engine – Here’s Why #198

We spend a lot of time focused on innovations at Google, but we should never forget that one of the drivers of innovation is competition. In this episode of our popular Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Eric Enge explains how Bing continues to drive innovation in search engine technology and application.  Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why Resources SMX Advanced Recap: Bing’s Fabrice Canel keynote See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Transcript Mark: Eric, you covered the SMX Advanced keynote of Bing’s Fabrice Canel. Why don’t you start by telling us who he is?   Eric: Fabrice Canel is the Principal Program Manager for Microsoft’s search engine Bing. In particular, his team works on Bing’s abilities to crawl, process and index the web.  Mark: Great. What’s one area of innovation Bing is pursuing these days?  Eric: They’re working to make search more intelligent. For example, they’re getting better at sentiment analysis, a practical application that is giving different results to someone searching for ways in which video games are good for you than for someone who wants to know why they are bad for you.   They’re also serving up more multi-perspective results, realizing that for some queries there’s no one right answer. For example, you’re looking at a Bing featured snippet right now showing articles with opposing viewpoints on video games.  Mark: That’s great, but what about when the user’s query doesn’t contain an obvious sentiment or intent?  Eric: In those cases, Bing is serving up more and more clarifying questions to quickly get to the user’s actual intent. In this example that we’re showing now, the user has just entered “stress management.” Bing responds with a question, ” What do you want to know about this treatment?” And then provides a series of tappable boxes with various approaches to stress management.  Mark: Okay, now we know Google Search is making big strides in the area of artificial intelligence, is Bing working on that too?   Eric: They sure are, but not just in the things that are visible to users. For example, Bing is using AI to build a more intelligent crawler. This is needed because content on the web is just not simple; it may change frequently or be removed or hidden. Bing has to be able to detect and decide what to do with things like duplicate content, JavaScript. CSS, mobile versus desktop presentations, and more.   A particular innovation of this past year was Bing’s announcement of support for Schema implemented in JSON-LD and then support for debugging the same in Bing’s webmaster tools. And, Bing as also extending its support for AMP or the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project.  Mark: It sounds like a lot is going on at Bing and both users and SEOs should not count them out.  Eric: Not at all, and in fact, I’m glad to see that there is still some competition that drives innovation in search.  Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel

Links as a Ranking Factor – Still Going Strong

In today’s post, I’ll share the results from the fourth of our “Links as a Ranking Factor” studies. We conducted the first of these studies in May 2016 and have been tracking the same query set over time to measure any material shifts in the role of links. In this year’s study, we also looked at different market sectors to see how the role of links may vary by market sector. We have also increased the number of queries we’re examining over time. We did that to make sure that we had enough data for the market sector analyses to be meaningful. The breakout of the month for each of our studies, and the number of queries examined per study, is as follows: May 2016 – 6K queries Aug 2016 – 16K queries May 2017 – 16K queries August 2018 – 27K queries Each of the query data sets includes the original query sets from the earlier studies, so I’ll show an apples-to-apples comparison of those results, as well as the larger-scale results from this year’s study. As a bonus, I’ll also comment on the increase in scope and quality of Moz’ Link Explorer. The Results As with our prior studies, we received the gracious support of Moz by allowing us to access Link Explorer to pull the data for our study. Link Explorer went into Beta in March 2018 and represents an ambitious effort by Moz to expand the size of their index. In short, it looks like they succeeded: For the link study itself, the first set of charts that we will look at are based on the total number of links pointing to the ranking page. For these, we calculated the Quadratic Mean Correlation score. Jump down to the methodology section to see what a “Quadratic Mean Spearman Correlation Score” value actually means. Here is a look at that data for 6K queries across all four instances of the study that we’ve run to date: Note that the same 6,000 queries for this chart were used in all four data sets. While this looks like it shows some level of decline, the reality is that this movement is within normal statistical variance. For all intents and purposes, this already shows a strong correlation between total links to its page and its ranking. Beginning with the second study, we upped the query count to 16,000 queries. We carried that same set of 16K queries through to this year’s edition of the study. Here are the correlation scores for those three datasets of 16K queries: Once again, all three sets show strong results, and the variance is within normal ranges of statistical variance. In this latest version of the study, we updated the query count to 27K queries. This comes in at a solid value as well: One of the more notable findings is that for the first time in all the studies that we’ve done, we see that the Moz DA and the Moz PA are better predictors of ranging than the total link count! The data for this is as follows:   As with prior studies, we compared the total link correlation for commercial and informational queries: Next up, in this year’s study, we evaluated how links might vary as a ranking factor across market segments. In this first view, let’s look at that for commercial queries, divided into Medical, Financial, Technology, and Other segments: This data shows that links are a much bigger ranking factor for financial queries then for other types of queries. Before we draw a final conclusion for that though, let’s also look at a sector analysis for informational queries: Starting with the first study, we also aggregated the normalized link counts (see the methodology section below for an explanation of what that is) by ranking position. The reason this view is important is that relevancy and quality are very large ranking factors, as they should be. In addition, there are many other factors such as Google’s need to show diversity in the SERPs (see the section titled “Why Aren’t the Non-Aggregated Correlation Values Higher?” for more detail on this). In the aggregated link analysis, we get a summarized view of the impact of links spread across a large array of search results. Here is what we saw looking at the 6K query set across all four studies: Here is the data for the 16K query set across the last three studies: Here is the data for the 27K query set for this latest study: In summary, our aggregated view shows a very powerful correlation between links and ranking position.

Why Search Ranking Studies Need Better Interpretation – Here’s Why #197

Many SEOs have become wary of search ranking factor studies. Do they have any value? In this episode of the popular Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Eric Enge explains why they do, IF you are willing to dig deeper and use good principles of data interpretation.  Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why Resources Ranking Factors Session Recap from SMX 2018 See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Transcript Mark: Eric, you covered the ranking factors session at SMX Advanced in 2018. Back in November you and I chatted about the basics of what the panelists shared. Today let’s dig deeper and get into the lessons we can learn from them. Eric: As always, we had a great panel of people sharing from their own testing and experience what they’d observed about search rankings over the past year.   We started with Marcus Tober of SearchMetrics. Marcus took on what has become a really hot issue in SEO and that is correlation studies. These are studies that look for things that correlate highly with higher search engine rankings.   Those studies have come under some fire because well, as we know, correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation. But some people always jump to conclusions from correlation studies that really aren’t always warranted.   Mark: What did Marcus Tober have to say about all that?    Eric: Marcus thought that there was value in looking closely at microdata usage for certain niches and comparing them to each other. For example, here are his results when comparing sites about dating, recipes, and divorce.   As you can see, there is no clear correlation between the number of microdata integrations and rankings in search, but it is clear that recipe sites use microdata much more than the others.   Mark: Probably because the value to them is clear. I mean, since Google often gives recipe pages special search features triggered by microdata.   Eric: Right, but now look at this graph for three niches and their use of videos. Here, we have two takeaways.   First, fitness sites use way more video than divorce or wine sites. And second, there appears to be a pretty strong correlation for fitness sites between the number of videos they use and getting a top position in search.    Mark: And that might make some sense since people seeking fitness information probably want to see videos about topics like how to do an exercise correctly.  Eric: Right. Marcus also looked at things like the number of paragraphs on a page and the amount of social signals the page had, again, comparing them across several niches. For the former, there was no ranking correlation while for the latter, social signals showed a high correlation, but only for a certain niche where social engagement was more likely than the other niches investigated.   Mark: What should be our takeaway from Marcus Tober’s data?   Eric: I think he did a great job of showing how correlation or even lack of correlation in and of itself doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. Often, a deeper dive into the data will reveal other possible reasons that show the correlated factor may not necessarily be the reason for the higher ranking.    Next up was Morty Oberstein from Rank Ranger. Morty chose to investigate the rate of change in search results over time. He looked at the top five search results for five niches since 2015.LOL  Within a year, only 27% of the results were the same sites in the same order. And by 2018, that had dropped to 10%.  Mark: A lot of volatility there.   Eric: Yes. He also showed several examples of niches where the change in search results over time seemed to be driven by Google shifting what it saw as the primary intent for a query. That results is what I call ranking slots.   For example, let’s say you have an e-commerce site where you’re able previously to get on the first page for your keyword. But at some point, Google decides that query is more informational than commercial in intent. So they now give four of the top 10 available ranking slots to informational pages. That means your e-commerce page is now competing for just one of six available positions instead of the 10 they were before.   Mark: And how about Jeff Preston from Disney? I think he was the last panelist.  Eric: He was. And Jeff concluded the session with a higher level view on how we interpret data.   He used two very powerful stories from the world of flight navigation technology. The first story was about the tragic Air France flight 447. Flight 447 plunged directly into the Atlantic Ocean because the pilots blindly trusted readings from a broken sensor, and that was not a good result obviously.   In contrast, Jeff told us about a Qantas flight where the cockpit suddenly erupted with 58 error messages and 100 alarms going off all at once. In that situation, the plane landed safely because the pilots ignored the obvious noise and trusted their training instead.   The takeaway for search marketers looking at data is that while data is a great thing, too much data can overwhelm you and give you false conclusions. Sometimes, you have to take a deep breath and lean back into your own testing and experience as well as your awareness of good case studies from other SEO sources you trust.   Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel

Why You Should Understand Google’s 2018 Updates – Here’s Why #196

Google’s updates to its search algorithms can sometimes seem like a card game where the rules change with each hand. Is there a rhyme or reason behind their changes? In this episode of our popular Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Eric Enge shares some interesting observations about the major search updates of 2018 and his thoughts on what they tell us about what matters to Google now.  Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why Resources How Google’s March, April and August Updates Might Fit Together See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Transcript Mark: Eric, for some sites in 2018, their Google rankings were a real roller coaster ride. Eric: That’s a good description, Mark, because in many cases the site’s organic search traffic really did look like a roller coaster ride. They either had a steep drop in the spring with a sudden climb in the late summer, or in fact, some sites did exactly the opposite. Mark: So, what do you think accounts for the sites that lost a lot of ground early in the year but then regained it a few months later? Eric: Of course, we can only speculate. But I detected some interesting patterns that might tell us something about how Google balances some probable ranking factors. 2018 Major Google Search Updates Mark: Okay. Let’s start with a quick review of the major Google updates to help us understand those patterns. Eric: The first major stir in the Google search world in 2018 came from Google-confirmed updates in March and April. The general consensus of search experts, based on some Google statements and their own observations, was that these updates had to do with how Google determines the relevance of a site to a given query. Mark: But you had some additional observations, right? Eric: Right. Most of the attention was focused on sites that lost significant traffic in March and April. I noticed some sites that actually gained quite a bit of traffic and I saw what those sites had in common. Mark: And what was that? Eric: Primarily that they had not only relevant content, but they covered the topics very comprehensively with lots of content exploring each topic both broadly and deeply. Mark: Interesting. Now let’s turn to that August update. Eric: There was far less consensus among the search experts and pundits about what the August update was targeting. Some said mostly health-related sites, which is why it ended up being dubbed “the medic update”. Others said it had to do with what Google calls E-A-T for content quality, by which they mean expertise, authority and trustworthiness. Still others claimed it was about matching user intent or even about basic SEO fundamentals. Mark: It’s beginning to sound like that old proverb about the four blind men describing an elephant according to the part right in front of them. Eric: It does. But once again, I concentrated my investigation on a set of high traffic commercial sites that lost a lot of traffic in the spring, but then recovered it substantially in August. Mark: What did you see when you looked at those sites? Eric: First, in all of the cases I looked at, the site seemed to deserve the hit they took from the spring updates. Mark: Why? Eric: Because they all have one thing in common: a lack of good in-depth content on their e-commerce pages. Mark: Then why did they recover in August? I mean, it’s unlikely they could have remedied that in a few months, given the amount of content they would have had to produce. Eric: My speculation is that Google realized that they had to bring these sites back up in search because of the amount of authority they carry as brands in the marketplace. Mark: Why would Google feel a need to do that? Eric: Because the primary goal of Google Search–something essential to their business model–is that users feel satisfied by the results they get. And consumers want to see the brands they know and trust, so if Google devalues them, even if they deserve it from a quality and relevant standpoint, it’s like Google shooting its own self in the foot, because users want the brands they want, even if the content isn’t quite as good. There is evidence that Google may rank brands consumers want to see even if they're content is subpar. Click To Tweet Mark: What can we learn from that? Eric: First of all, I’m not saying that brand authority is all that mattered in the updates of 2018. Certainly not the case. As always, there were many factors in play. Certainly, sites should continue to work hard at the other things mentioned by trusted search experts, such as the quality of their content, the depth and breadth of their coverage on key topics and all the fundamentals of sound technical SEO. But I think we also have more evidence of something I have believed in and talked about for a long time: the authority and reputation of your brand in the marketplace still matters to Google. Therefore, it’s really important to work hard to earn good links, positive brand mentions online, and to develop a superior user experience on your site. Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel

Why the Chrome User Experience Report Can Help You Retain More Users – Here’s Why #195

More and more SEOs and webmasters are aware that in a mobile-centric world speed is of the essence. But how can you know what users actually experience when they come to one of your pages? In this episode of our popular Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Eric Enge tells us about the Google Chrome User Experience Report, and explains why it can provide valuable insights into what you need to optimize so more of your users get the best possible experience with your site.  Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why Resources A closer look at Chrome’s User Experience Report Google PageSpeed Insights Tools User-Centric Performance Metrics See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Transcript Mark: Eric, at SMX Advanced this year, you reported on the keynote conversation with Google’s Ilya Grigorik. What did he have to share?  Eric: To me, the most interesting part of the talk was about the Chrome User Experience Report, known by the acronym CrUX.  Mark: What is the CrUX?  Eric: The Chrome User Experience Report contains aggregated data from Chrome Browser Users who have opted into usage reports and who sync their browsing history across devices. You can access it when you request a report from Google’s PageSpeed Insights.  Mark: What kind of information does the report provide?  Eric: As you can see, in this example, it gives overall ratings for page speed and optimization, and in the middle are two metrics that might need further explanation.   The first is FCP which stands for First Contentful Paint. This is the average time before a user sees the first visual content on the page. That’s an important number because it’s the first cue to a visitor that your site is actually responding, which helps to keep them engaged.   The other metric is DCL, which stands for DOM Content Loaded. That measures how long it takes for the document to be fully loaded and parsed for the user, although it doesn’t take into account style sheets, images, and sub-frames.   Mark: What about the graphs below the FCP and DCL times?  Eric: The three colors in each bar show the percentage of your users who have that level of experience on your page. The important site here is that not all users get the same experience. Your time to FCP and DCL can vary from user to user.   Obviously, the more users you have in the green zone for each, the better. But you want to work on optimizing to minimize the number of users who fall into the yellow or red zones too.   Mark: How do you know what to optimize for those users?  Eric: This chart from Google’s User-centric Performance Metrics post shows you the sequence of site-loading stages, so you can have a better idea of where some users are getting hung up and know what to optimize.   And here’s a bonus tip. Since you can enter any URL into the PageSpeed Insights report, you can also see how your performance stacks up against your competitors.   Mark: Finally, why does optimizing for these metrics matter for your marketing?   Eric: In an increasingly mobile-centric world, speed is critical. Mobile users need and expect pages to load quickly and if they don’t, they may leave and go elsewhere.   In addition, multiple studies show that for e-commerce pages, a difference of a fraction of a second in page load time can actually effect millions of dollars in revenue.  Mark: Thanks, Eric.   Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel

Why Digital Marketers Can Always Improve – Here’s Why #194

No matter how much experience you have leading a digital marketing department, you can always improve. In this episode of our popular Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Mark Traphagen reveals the biggest needs for improvement in enterprise-level digital marketing. Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why Resources Korn Ferry CMO Pulse Survey 2018 Why You Need to Adopt a Winning Analytics Philosophy See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Transcript Eric: Mark, no matter how much experience we have as digital marketers, we can always get better, right? Mark: So right, Eric. Eric: What are some areas in which all online marketers could probably use some improvement? 1. Improve analytics Mark: The management consulting firm Korn Ferry recently surveyed over 200 CMOs and marketing leaders to find out. The number one area these marketing executives said they needed to make progress in was analytics. Thirty-nine percent of them said that while they were investing more in analytics, they still felt their use of analytics was immature. Eric: As it happens, we have a Here’s Why video on how to develop mature analytics philosophy. Any insights on why these CMOs are finding it so difficult to get better at analytics? Mark: The respondents said that their biggest problem is finding qualified analytics professionals. So, if you’re pursuing a marketing career, might be a good idea to get some analytics and data science training. Eric: That’s a big pain point. What are these marketing leaders most excited about though? 2. Pursuing personalization Mark: Right now it’s the whole area of personalization. Eric: Okay, so explain what that means. Mark: Simply put, marketing personalization is using technology and analytics to try to deliver an experience to each user that feels customized just for them. Now, as with many other areas brought up in the survey, this is something marketers are hotly pursuing but still don’t feel like they do very well. Eric: If marketers are feeling so challenged, what’s the main problem? Is it a lack of resources? Mark: Surprisingly no. By a wide margin, the number one challenge they list is a lack of organizational alignment. They feel that the rest of their organization from the top-down doesn’t really understand or fully value what they do. A third of those singled out their CEO in particular as not being supportive or lacking understanding. And hey, I’ve always been thankful that you haven’t been a problem. Eric: For many years, I was the marketing of our agency, actually. So yeah, I think I get it. Mark: But if that’s not the case, you marketing leaders need to make it a regular part of your job to help educate your co-executives on your role and how they can support it. Eric: And perhaps even more important, how your role supports that function. Mark: That’s a great point. Eric: What’s another pain point for these enterprise marketers? 3. Tying marketing results to company performance Mark: A big one is they know they need to do a better job of tying their results to their company’s performance. Slightly less than half of the respondents feel like they do this with any degree of effectiveness. Eric: Sounds like professional marketing leaders still have a lot of work ahead of them. How else can we help? Mark: I’ll be bold enough to suggest that these Here’s Why videos are a great start. Over the past three years, we’ve built a library of these free videos approaching 200 episodes. Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel

Why Page Speed Matters for SEO – Here’s Why #193

Can the speed at which your pages load really make a difference for your site? In this episode of our popular Here’s Why digital marketing video series, our page speed expert John Dietrich makes the case for why you should try to improve page speed, and offers some tips on how to do it. Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why Resources Page Speed Guide John Dietrich on Twitter See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Transcript Eric: We’re very excited to have a special guest with us for this episode of Here’s Why. Let me introduce you all to John Dietrich, one of our expert marketing consultants who works directly with some of our clients to give them the SEO results they seek. Welcome John. John: Thanks Eric, I’m delighted to be here. Eric: We asked you to join us today because he wrote an excellent guide for page speed on the Stone Temple blog, now the Perficient Digital blog. We’ll tell our viewers how to get it at the end of this video. But first, this is a Here’s Why video. So, since that’s the case, tell us why we should pay attention to how fast a page speed is on a site. John: I’d be happy to. First of all, it has a direct effect on user experience, especially on mobile, and that can directly affect your bottom line. Numerous studies have shown that even very small changes in page load speed can significantly impact conversations on mobile. As you can see in this table for enterprise level commerce sites, it can mean a difference of millions or even billions of dollars. Eric: Wow. John: Google has also said having a slow page load speed could affect a page’s ranking in search. So, there are ample reasons to do what you can speed up your site. Eric: Great. How can site owners know how their pages are performing? John: That’s a really good question. Google provides two different tools for that, and there’s a link to them in the guide that we’ve written. Learn about the tools Google provides to check your site's page load speed...and why you should!Click To Tweet One of those tools provides a competitive analysis showing how you stack up against other sites. For example, here is how the top five online retailers compare with each other. Another tool estimates how much revenue you could lose each second of decrease in your page load speed. So, using that calculator, we see that eBay could increase revenue by nearly $20 million with just a two-tenths of a second increase in their page load speed. Eric: Wow, that’s cool. But you’ll find links to even more tools that can help you see what to do to improve your page speed in John’s guide. He also provides some instructions on how to use some of those tools. For now, John, give our viewers some quick tips on best practices for improving the load time of their pages. John: Sure, Eric. I would start with the following: Optimize your images, CSS and JavaScript  Leveraging browser caching and use server compression; various tools are available for all of these steps. Reduce your server response time Prioritize your visible content with lazy load Consider using a content delivery network Eric: Cool. Not sure what some of those are or how to do them? No worries. John gives you what you need to get started in his guide. Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel

Your 3 Top Content Marketing Priorities for 2019

Many trends have come and gone in digital marketing over the years, but among those destined to endure, content marketing is near the top of the list. The primary reason content marketing has become such an indispensable tool is its incredible utility for almost any digital marketing situation. Effective content powers SEO, social media, branding, audience building and a host of other marketing applications. It is often the most decisive factor in the success of a brand’s marketing strategy. At the same time, content marketing has become more challenging with each passing year. I’m not surprised that once something is shown to be highly effective a great many companies will adopt it. But that comes with the consequence of exponentially growing amounts of content chasing after the same limited audience. So what are content marketers to do? I study and test content marketing trends and assumptions every day. From those observations, here are my primary content marketing priorities in 2019. 1 Balance Quality and Quantity In the early days of content marketing (then known simply as “blogging”) the conventional wisdom was, “The more content the better.” That made sense back then due to several possibilities: Before automated social posts, when most blogs were accessed via RSS feeds or email subscriptions, content had a very short lifespan, and only the most recent content was seen. As Google made its first shifts from being keyword-centric to content-centric (but didn’t yet have its present machine learning capabilities), its focus may have been more on the quantity and recency of content on a site rather than its quality. Most brands were playing a catch-up game because of a general lack of real content in the past. In more recent times, most content marketing experts have emphasized quality over quantity. That shift seems to have been driven largely by Google, as over time the search engine has demonstrated an increasing ability to judge which content pages bring the highest quality response to a given query. However, there are other factors motivating the push for higher-quality content. For example, brands have come to realize that consumers judge them, in part, on the basis of their content, and that they tend to stay more loyal to brands that are more consistently helpful and relevant in their content. So has the priority for content marketing shifted entirely from quantity to quality? Mostly, but not entirely. If your content production resources are truly limited, it’s more important to concentrate on fewer, high-quality content pieces, as opposed to as much content as possible. I want to emphasize the “truly” in the previous sentence because too often “limited resources” is just an excuse for avoiding the work. Resources are always limited; it’s a matter of how you prioritize those resources. But if you’re truly limited in how much you can put into content marketing, I think investing in a few outstanding content campaigns rather than a lot of “meh” posts will bring you greater rewards. It’s much more likely that at least some of those better pieces will catch fire than it is that any of the churned-out, run-of-the mill posts will even be seen by anyone at all. That being said, while I think that quality should always be a top priority in content marketing, if you can also keep up a consistent quantity of publishing, do it. In content marketing, quality is priority 1. But if you can also produce in quantity, even better! Click To Tweet Eric Enge often mentions the example of the Cleveland Clinic, a leading health care provider. Beginning in 2013, Cleveland Clinic shifted significant resources into upping their content production abilities. They went from about 600 new posts in 2013 to averaging between 800-1000 since 2015. I must emphasize that even though they now crank out an average of three new content pages per day, these pages are not junk. Many of them may be brief, but the information is correct, authoritative, and well-written. Cleveland Clinic also did a great job of promoting their content via social media. The results speak for themselves. Here is a chart of Cleveland Clinic’s search visibility over the past five years, as shown by SearchMetrics: Even though it appears they took a hit from the spring 2018 Google updates, you can see that in September, they not only recovered, but surged to record heights. This is a testament to their sustained competitive advantage due to their massive amounts of useful content. Takeaway: In 2019, high-quality content that is significantly better than your competition is table stakes for content marketing. You must have it. Quantity alone will never beat quality. However, if you can do it, having both is a knock-out punch. 2 Prioritize Content Hubs Once you’ve made a firm commitment to priority one above, it’s time to level up. The best way to take your content effectiveness to the next level is by creating content hubs. What is a content hub? A content hub is a static page (not a blog post) on your site that hosts your most current and/or comprehensive piece of content on one of your core topics, and also links out to all the related posts and resources on your site. When done correctly (and properly and consistently promoted), a content hub can allow you to take ownership of a topic, not only in search, but also in discussions about the topic, therefore locking that topic to your brand identity. Why create content hubs? Let’s start with the negative reasons: If a site has been blogging for years, the majority of the content on the site is outdated, no longer relevant, or lacking focus. It’s a simple fact that search engines aren’t going to rank your site high for everything you wish they would. It’s better to pick a set of topics that have key strategic importance for your brand and build content hubs around them. Blog content grows mold over time. By their very design, blogs keep the most recent content closest to the top of a site’s structure. Therefore, search engines are more likely to pay attention to that recent content, let alone visitors to the site. Because content hubs are built around static pages, you can keep them close to the top of your site’s navigation chain. This tells search engines these pages are more important. In turn, that allows you to be in control of which topics you want to give the best chance of ranking well for. Do content hubs work? We’ve seen them be very powerful for a number of commercial sites we work with. Let me share our own example, since, of course, I’m most familiar with our own content. You can see our content hubs by going to the Insights tab on the top navigation of this site. Below the “All Research” link, you’ll see links to all of our current hub topics. If you select “Featured Snippets Resource Study” you’ll see our hub page for that topic. This static page (again, not a blog post) always contains the most recent version of our ongoing study of how the presentation of featured snippets in Google search has changed over the years. To the left of the content is a navigation sidebar that links to other featured snippets-related content we have published. This helps alert Google that we are a potential valuable resource on the topic. One of the secrets of the success of our ongoing, updated study hub pages is that we redirect all traffic from previous editions of the study (which are moved to their own pages) so that all of the search-ranking power they may have gained in the past is directed toward this one highly focused page, rather than spread across many similar pages. Some of our hub pages have succeeded in totally dominating their topic in Google search, and have held onto that dominance for a long time. For example, our DPA study hub page has been #1 for “digital personal assistants” on Google since shortly after it was created. The same goes for our mobile vs desktop study hub, which ranks in the first three positions for dozens of high-volume mobile vs desktop keywords, and which continues to earn new links from high-authority sites every week. 3 Build Content Bridges I’ve written extensively about my concept of content marketing bridges elsewhere, and we’ve also published a Here’s Why video on the topic, so I won’t go into great detail here. But I do want to include it in this list because I believe it is fundamental to content marketing success in 2019 and beyond. Put simply, the content marketing bridge concept is that to be successful in accomplishing your actual business goals, your content needs to bridge the gulf between what you want to accomplish (brand identity and authority, increased visibility, sales!) and the hopes, dreams, wants, needs, desires, fears, etc. of your prospects. It’s a delicate balancing acts, and most failed content errs too far to one side or the other. Content can fail if it is weighted too heavily toward the brand goals side. Such content tends to be too salesy or promotional. It does nothing to grip or interest the reader, to make her feel like the brand understands and empathizes with her concerns and needs. On the other hand, content can also fail by being too focused on getting the prospect’s attention. This happens when the content goes so far into pure entertainment or shock value that it loses any association with what the brand is about. Strive to build content that balances both of those, and you’ve created a bridge that can bring prospects across to becoming customers. Happy and successful content marketing in 2019!

Why Trust-Centric Marketing Is Essential for SEO – Here’s Why #192

Is Mark actually going to attempt a trust fall again? Will Eric catch him this time? You’ll have to watch to find out! In the meantime, let’s talk about why trust is essential to your SEO. In this episode of our popular Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Eric Enge explains the importance of building trust with both search users and Google itself, and why that matters to your search performance.  Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why Resources Eric’s keynote on trust-centric SEO from our Next10x conference See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Transcript Mark: Eric, I know people used to speculate that search engines had a sort of trust rank rating that factored in the search rankings, but Google denied they had any such factor. So why are you talking about trust-centric marketing for SEO? Eric: Because I know what Google wants. Mark: You do? And what is that? Eric: Well, to make money. Mark: Oh, well, duh. But what does that have to do with why we should strive to build trust for our brands in SEO? Eric: Okay. When I say that Google wants to make money, what I mean is, like any business, they’re going to optimize for the things that make them the most money. Mark: Sure. Eric: But in Google’s case, far and away the biggest revenue generator for them is the ads that they run within search. Mark: So they’re going to optimize for things that keep people on search and keep them coming back to see those ads. Eric: Exactly. Mark: What are some of the things Google optimizes for in order to do that? Eric: Google has a long-term view of how to preserve market share and ensure the best revenue growth for the long-term. So, with that in mind, some of the things that they optimize for are the overall performance of each page, by which I mean they’re not caring so much about how each individual search result performs but the page as a whole. Mark: The search result page? Eric: Correct. And then user satisfaction is clearly a big deal. That’s part of how they measure the performance. The net revenue per page matters, of course. But long-term market share is a really big piece of the puzzle. It’s really important for them. So the bottom line is that Google thrives when they give people what they want because that’s what enables all those things to happen. Let me explain how that likely impacts what Google does with machine learning and artificial intelligence. What they’re trying to do is optimize all those factors. One of the things that we’ve seen is that they’re focusing a lot of energy on improving and understanding what a user’s actual intent is with a search query when they enter it in. And based on seeing that intent, better matching up with content. That actually helps them both with user satisfaction and long-term market share, and fits into the fact that they have plenty of data that shows them that higher satisfaction with search results actually gives more revenue even in the short term. What I’ve found with the senior SEO people that I speak to on a regular basis is that user experience and these things are becoming increasing ranking factors, along with satisfaction with the overall user experience. What we don’t know right now is exactly how that’s measured. Mark: So any evidence that you’ve seen of all of that you’re talking about? Eric: I referred to it already. Consider the March SEO updates, where they really look at overall user intent and did a better job of matching up user’s queries with the right content. But one of the cool things, as you see in this chart, is that we’ve seen some sites that have invested extremely heavily in content that have seen explosive growth. What I’m drawing out of that is that the sites have shown that not only do they have great depth of content, but a really great breadth of content. So they’re addressing a very large percentage of user needs related to their topic area, and Google is eating it up. Mark: What should we do specifically to align ourselves with what Google wants? Eric: I like always to give people some intuition on how to think about things. The first thing is, if you become the answer that users want, then you actually become the answer that Google wants. Over time, this will pay off for you. That starts with creating high-quality content–lots of informational content–not just selling your stuff. Also offering a great user experience, obviously, because even if you have great content, if the user doesn’t find it, it’s not going to help you. Getting links still matters, and mentions matter because those are signals that people are endorsing and buying into your content. How do you get those? More great content. So all this fits together. In addition, think about task completion when users come to your page. Imagine you have an e-commerce page and you’re selling something; let’s say rowboat oars. Somebody lands on your oars page. Of course, you want to sell them oars, but what else do they want, right? There are other things that they probably have in their mind at the moment; for example, oar locks might be something they want. They might need something else for their rowboat. Of course, they need various purchase options and things like that. So this is really all part of the mix that you need to consider to offer a more complete experience to users. Those are the kinds of scenarios that we’re talking about. Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel

Why Who Authors Your Content Matters – Here’s Why #191

Google seems to be showing interest in the authors of web content once again. Does that mean it’s now an SEO ranking factor? In this episode of our popular Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Mark Traphagen explores the evidence and gives you the real reasons it matters who authors your content.  Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why Resources Does Author Authority Matter for Your Content and SEO? See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Transcript Google Agent Rank Eric: Mark, Google has shown some interest in authors behind web content for some time, haven’t they? Mark: Yes, but it seems to pop up in spurts. It goes back at least to their agent rank patent which proposed a search ranking factor based on a quality score and attributed to various agents or entities associated with a web page. One of the those would be the author or authors of the content on the page. Eric: Did Google do anything with that? Mark: We don’t know for sure, but sometimes companies like Google take out patents just to protect the intellectual property of their ideas. So having a patent doesn’t mean they ever actually have to use it. Google Authorship Eric: What was the next time Google showed interest in authors then? Mark: That was the big one and we call it “Google Authorship.” Authorship was a program that allowed authors and publishers to cross-reference each other using schema markup, allowing Google to verify the author of a given piece, as well as see all of his or her other content. A few months after announcing that, Google began showing author photos and bylines next to some content that used markup. Eric: Was authorship a search ranking factor then? Mark: We never found any evidence that it was, and Google representatives said that while they might use it as such in the future, they weren’t at the time. Still, it was a significant experiment with a lot of investment from Google, seeing as it lasted three years. Recent Google Interest in Authors Eric: So that’s interesting, but anything more recent? Mark: Yes. A couple of interesting things just in the past few months. The first one came in July of 2018 when Google released an update to their search quality raters guidelines. That’s the training manual for their search quality raters, humans who help evaluate the quality of search results. The new version has significant additions that directed the raters to look into the expertise, authority, and trustworthiness of the authors of web content. Eric: Does that mean author reputation is now a search ranking factor? Mark: Again, we can’t really say that. We know that something being mentioned in the guidelines does not mean it is a direct ranking factor. Nevertheless, it certainly indicates that Google thinks the qualifications of an author are an important gauge of content quality. There was one more small but short-lived piece of evidence. For a couple of weeks in August 2018, we discovered Google was experimenting with displaying an “interesting finds” box in mobile search results for some prolific authors. The box contained links to more content by or about that author. While I can’t find those anymore, I found it very interesting that Google was experimenting with something like that. Takeaways Eric: If we can’t be sure whether any of this directly affects search rankings at this point, what’s your takeaways for our viewers? Mark: While I agree it would be presumptive to say that Google is actively using author reputation right now in search rankings, I think it’s undeniable that Google continues to show an interest in authors. So my first takeaway would be if you’re trying to build search authority with expert-level content, an investment in using well-known authors who have a good reputation in the topical area of your content might be a good future-proofing search tactic. Now, by that I mean if Google ever does decide to turn up the knobs on author reputation, you’ll be ready. Now, that may be particularly important since we’ve had recent evidence that Google is turning a hard eye toward your money or your life (YMYL)-type content. YMYL is anything that affects a user’s personal wellbeing or finances. Now, if you have that kind of content, I would highly recommend using reputable, authoritative authors. Eric: Yes, and we’ve seen an increased effort by social media sites and Google to crack down on fake news and dangerous pseudo-science. Who authors the content could be an indicator that it’s really important. Mark: Right you are. But my other takeaway is that whether or not Google is watching your authors for search rankings, it’s still a good idea to have the best authors you can for your content. Google put that in their rating guidelines for a very good reason. Real people care about it. Now especially, as you’ve mentioned, in this era of fake news awareness, more people will stop to scrutinize a source of content, including who wrote it. Eric: Thanks, Mark. Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel

Why Social Media ROI CAN Be Measured – Here’s Why #190

Good marketing includes careful measurement of your return on investment (ROI). But can you do that for social media? In this episode of our popular Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Mark Traphagen shares what ROI looks like for social media campaigns, and gives tips on what to measure.  Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why Resources Why You Should Tag Your Inbound Links Why You Need to Adopt a Winning Analytics Philosophy See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Transcript Eric: How can you measure ROI from social media?    Mark: First, let’s define what we mean by ROI. Obviously, it stands for return on investment. But a lot hangs on what you mean by the two nouns in that phrase. Now, what is the investment you’re making? And what return are you expecting?    Since ROI came out of the financial world, it’s typical to assume that both the investment and return are in dollars and cents. But there are other kinds of significant investments and returns you can measure.    Eric: So how do you know what the investment and the expected return are?    Mark: Well, that depends on your business goals for social media, which is always the place you should start. Are you trying to drive sales? Then the traditional dollars and cents are what you should measure. But there are other legitimate goals such as Brand Awareness Sentiment Brand Mentions Audiences And others all of which can be driven by social media as well.    Eric: So let’s start with the traditional monetary measurement of ROI. Can that be driven by social media, and what are you measuring exactly?    Mark: The short answer is yes, it can. But only for some types of businesses. For example, if you’re selling a commodity product and competing mostly on the basis of price and you have a relatively short buying cycle.   Eric: Meaning people see the product or offer and tend to either buy it right then or not?    Mark: Right. So in that case, it’s pretty easy to measure actual sales generated from a social media campaign. Of course, as with any of these measurements, they’ll only be accurate if you set up correct goals in your analytics, and if you carefully tag the URLs in your social posts so you know which actually drove a sale. At the more advanced level you should also be measuring things like lifetime value of a customer.    Eric: Does revenue-based ROI only work for those short buying cycle situations?    Mark: No. It is possible to do some measurement of the situations where it might take many touches and perhaps through different mediums before someone buys. But the attribution gets murkier. The truth is that no analytics set up is going to track and correctly attribute every sale. So in these cases, it’s more important to look at trends. Is the average sale per campaign going up or down?    Eric: Let’s move onto those other non-revenue based ROI investments then.    Mark: Okay. Sure. With these, it becomes even more critical to have a clear idea of what your goal is. For example, if your goal is brand awareness, what does that look like on social? Deeper reach? More engagement with your post? More shares of your content? You need to determine what matters to you and then measure that.    Eric: All right. So that covers the return side of ROI. But what is the investment for things like brand awareness or audience-building campaigns?    Mark: If you’re using paid social campaigns, the ad spend is an obvious part of that. But for any campaign, paid or organic, you should be keeping track of the time your staff spends creating and promoting the social content. The value of their time becomes the primary investment factor. And before we go, I want to emphasize again the importance of learning how to tag your campaign links using consistent tags and setting up correct goals in your analytics. Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel

Why Search Ranking Factors are Constantly Changing – Here’s Why #189

The top experts observing search ranking factors agree on one thing: the situation is more volatile than ever before. In this episode of our popular Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Eric Enge shares insights from some of the most respected experimenters and testers in SEO.  Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why Resources Ranking Factors Session Recap from SMX Advanced 2018 See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Transcript Mark: Eric, every year one of the highlights of the SMX Advanced Conference is the search ranking factor session. You covered that session for Search Engine Land. Let’s start with who presented.    Eric: We had three excellent data-diggers this year, starting with Marcus Tober of SearchMetrics, who’s become a regular fixture of the search ranking panel year after year. Next was Jeff Preston of Disney Interactive and finally Mordy Oberstein of Rank Ranger. Marcus Tober: Ranking in Niche Segments Marcus Tober decided to do something different this year: take a deep dive on eight very different niche segments. They were pretty diverse such as dating, wine, fitness, and divorce. He looked for correlations with several aspects some might suspect as being ranking factors, including microdata, videos, length of content, social signals, and factors in Google Lighthouse. In some cases there was no real correlation, in others a strong correlation could be explained by other means. For example with social signals, top ranking dating sites had way more Facebook engagement than divorce sites, but one would expect dating sites to be much more active in social media than divorce sites.   Mark: Sounds like Marcus’s presentation was best at dispelling some SEO myths. How about Mordy Oberstein of Rank Ranger?  Mordy Oberstein: Rate of Change in Search Rankings  Eric: Rank Ranger has been tracking the rate of change in search results since 2015 across five different niches. Mordy said that by 2016 they saw the same results in the same order only 27% of the time, and by 2018 that had dropped to just 10% of the time. So search results, at least in those niches, have been pretty volatile. If you’re in a competitive niche, even if you have a number one ranking you have no guarantee of holding on to it for the long term. A particular takeaway Mordy shared was the increasing amount of purely informational content showing up for commercial queries. Clearly E-commerce sites should pay more attention to creating informational content. For example, if the E-commerce query you’re competing for has four informational posts on page one, you’re competing for just six slots with your commercial page, not ten. Might be easier to grab one of those informational slots.    Mark: And how about Jeff Preston of Disney? Did he have a magical presentation?  Jeff Preston: Gaining Perspective on Ranking Study Data Eric: Of course, he did. Jeff took a different tack actually, urging us to do our own testing and to cultivate case study sources we trust for good insights. While data is undeniably valuable, too much data can overwhelm and lead to false conclusions. He told the story of Air France flight 447 which plunged into the Atlantic Ocean because one faulty sensor caused other sensors to give bad readings. The pilots literally followed their instruments right into the sea. In contrast, when a Qantas flight blew an engine, the pilots were confronted with over a hundred different alarms. They ignored the panic signals, held to their experience and training, and landed safely. The morale isn’t to ignore data, but to let your experience and the experiences of others you trust tell you when data might be misleading you. One of the experiences he shared was that in dozens of migrations to https, they saw no material impact on ranking one way or the other. Same with moving to AMP, no ranking impact, although there were ranking rises in some of their international sites after going to AMP. In another case they saw a dramatic increase in traffic after removing 80,000 low-quality URLs, but that increase reversed itself later when they removed the 301 redirects that were part of a prior site move. It appears Google was still dependent on those old redirects for the rankings.    Mark: What are your overall takeaways from that session?    Eric: For one thing, we’re seeing big changes in how Google ranks site. Most clear of all is that Google is getting seriously better at judging user intent and which pages best fulfill it. You’d better have user intent in mind if you want to rank in 2018 and beyond. Also you need to cultivate the skill of reading and interpreting data. Don’t get lost in the overall noise and claims about what’s happening out there. Focus on what matters and you’ll be in a much better position to succeed.    Mark: Thanks Eric. Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel

The Content Marketing Bridge: Linking Brand Goals to Prospect Needs

Why is so much content marketing unsuccessful?  Unfortunately, so much of the brand content I see and study creates desert islands. That is, it isolates itself in one of two ways, which I call content marketing desert islands. Imagine two real islands. Both are populated and within sight of each other. But they have no means of communication or trade between the two. So they remain isolated and are unable to benefit from each other. Let’s look at the two content marketing islands: Brand Island and Prospect Island. Then we’ll dive into how to build a bridge between them that leads to content marketing success. Most content marketing is unsuccessful because it's stuck on one of two desert islands.Click To Tweet Brand Island Brand Island is populated by the purpose, intention, and marketing of your company. It’s everything you built your business for in the first place. The specifics of purpose/intention/marketing are as varied as the number of companies in existence, but all for-profit brands have one goal in common: acquiring and satisfying new customers. One of the ways they try to accomplish that goal is the creation and promotion of content. But far too many content strategies never get off of Brand Island. Why is that? Have we told you how awesome we are? One approach that prevents inter-island bridge building is content that only talks about the brand itself. This content is all about the brand’s products, services, competitive advantages, etc. It does a good job of covering why your company is so great and what makes you stand out from the rest.  This kind of content is essential for prospects who are already shopping for what you offer and who have become aware of your brand. By all means your website should have very thorough, easily-accessed information about your products or services. Potential customers will want this information to help them in their buying decision. However, brand-centered or product/service-centered content does little for you at the top of the funnel, where you first begin to attract prospects to your brand. It lacks a clear connection to the wants and needs of the prospect (see the next island below). This content is like a rude guest at a dinner party who barges into conversations to brag about all his accomplishments. Even if they are objectively interesting, you’re not likely to be receptive. Prospect Island   Prospect Island is where your potential customers live. These are the people you want to attract and entice to come visit your Brand Island so they can consider what you have to offer.  If your content is only brand-centric, the inhabitants of Prospect Island may look across the channel and notice signs of life on your island, but they have no reason to want to cross the water gap. Allow me to extend my metaphor a little further. Imagine that your brand content is an ambassador from Brand Island who boats over to Prospect Island to propose the building of a bridge between the two archipelagos. Your ambassador gives a flashy presentation about all the great points of interest on Brand Island. However, it is obvious he knows or cares little about the actual hopes, needs, and aspirations of the Prospect Islanders. So the mutual bride project is rejected.  Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat! In the age of content marketing, and especially its promotion via social media, many brands are aware that in order to connect with the citizens of Prospect Island they need to attract their attention and get their engagement. However, overemphasizing those needs can lead to the error of prospect-centric content, which can be just as ineffective as brand-centric content.  Overly prospect-centric content focuses on attention and/or engagement for their own sakes. Recognizing that both are hard to get from busy consumers, this content sacrifices brand goals and message to get attention by being overly cute, entertaining, or controversial.  Sometimes such content is successful in gaining attention and engagement, but it ultimately fails to make a clear connection with your brand.  An expensive example of prospect-centric content failure is Super Bowl ads. Brands found that an entertaining or controversial ad during America’s most-watched sporting event can create tremendous “buzz.” Media will cover it and consumers will share it.  But post-game consumer surveys show these ads score low in effectiveness (brand recognition and/or fulfillment of desired action).  If we look at the key criteria or drivers of ad effectiveness,  below shows that, while Super Bowl ads do very well on “likeability” and generating “buzz”, these didn’t fare so well on key action points and particularly on such critical measures as “purchase intent.” In striving to provoke a reaction for reaction’s sake, the ads failed to make a memorable connection between the brand and the consumer’s needs and desires. Many consumers had vivid memories of the content of the ads, but could not recall what it was actually promoting. It’s vital for content to gain attention and keep viewers engaged, but if that’s all it does, it is not effective content marketing. The Content Marketing Bridge Effective content marketing builds a bridge between Brand and Prospect Islands. More specifically, it connects with the real needs, hopes, and wants of prospects without losing the brand mention. Building bridge content involves three steps. All three must be pursued intentionally for the content to succeed. Know your brand goals. It never ceases to amaze me how many brand marketers cannot clearly articulate exactly why their company exists and what it does. If you don’t want to lose a connection to your brand that will lead prospects to explore further, you must first accurately define what your brand is about, and what differentiates you from your competition. Know your prospects. In my experience this is the step most neglected by content marketers. We tend to assume that we know what our prospects need and want, but those assumptions are often wrong (or miss important aspects). Do your homework to answer these questions: What about us attracted people who became our customers? What holes in their lives or businesses did our products or services fill, and why? What emotions or desires underlay positive actions taken by our customers? Find the links. This is the most difficult step, but also the most critical. Once you’ve done the tasks above, begin to think about the aspects of your brand and its products or services that link with the needs, hopes, and wants of your prospects. Then create content that speaks to the latter while associating it with the former. Content marketing must build a bridge between your brand goals and prospects' needs.Click To Tweet Hit the triggers The most successful brand content not only tags all three bases listed above, but it scores the run by making an emotional connection. As noted above, in an age of content overload you must grab attention and keep it, and you must engage the audience. The trick is to do that without sacrificing your message.  You do that by creating stories that speak to your audience’s best emotions, but also make a strong metaphorical connection to your brand message.  For some examples of highly successful content that built an effective bridge while hitting the necessary emotional triggers, see my Marketing Land post Three Brands Still Killing It on Facebook.  Learn more!  The Three Marks of Great Content The Core Characteristics of Elite Marketing Campaigns

Why Voice Personas Are the Next Level for Digital Marketing – Here’s Why #188

Does choosing the voice that will represent your band on voice interactive devices really matter? In this episode of our popular Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Eric Enge explains why you should be thinking now about the voice personas for your brand.  Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why Resources Mobile Voice Usage Trends in 2018 How to Use Stone Temple’s Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa Digital Marketing Questions Apps The Critical Role of Voice Personas for Actions and Skills (slide deck) See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel Transcript Mark: Eric, at the last SMX Advanced conference, you did a joint presentation about voice personas for Actions and Skills with Duane Forrester of Yext. Let’s start by defining what Actions and Skills are.   Eric: Sure. Those are the names given by Google and Amazon to their app-building platforms for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. So, Google Actions and Amazon Skills enable you to build apps that interact with users via voice rather than text.   Mark: And do you see building Skills and Actions as a viable marketing opportunity?   Eric: Yes, very much so. Every indication is that people are getting more and more comfortable interacting with voice devices. Building apps for Amazon and Google voice assistants is a real marketing opportunity.Click To Tweet   Mark: Your own study confirms that.   Eric: Great. At the same time, the voice app and voice search fields are still very young, and we need to be realistic about that. There are no clear leaders yet, so whoever gets in early and learns how to make it work could actually have a real advantage.   Mark: Is it hard to build a Skill or Action?   Eric: The interfaces for each are relatively easy, but the hard work comes in with designing, recording, and optimizing all the different commands or inquiries your app will recognize, the many ways that people might ask those, and your responses in Actions. It’s certainly doable. In fact, we’ve already built a few ourselves that our viewers can try out. How Does Voice Interaction Differ from Text Interaction? Mark: Let’s get to the meat of what we wanted to discuss today. Is the voice interaction world really all that different from the text interaction world?   Eric: It is in a number of important ways. For one thing, voice is inherently social. Harvard research suggests that human language evolved not so much for information exchange as for social exchange. We know, for example, that babies can recognize their mother’s voice while still in the womb. So, we’re born experts at discerning the social aspects of speech. It goes deeper than that, though. Research shows that vocal speech plays a significant role in social identification. It’s one of the cues we use to decide if we like someone or feel comfortable increasing our social interactions with them. The pitch, range, and speed of a voice sends subtle cues as to the personality intentions of the speaker, as you see in the matrix we’re showing right now.     Mark: Is this where the idea of voice personas comes in?   Eric: Yes. The dictionary says a persona is the aspect of someone’s character that is presented or perceived by others.   Mark: And we use personas frequently in marketing, to do things like determine our target audiences.   Eric: Right. I won’t go into all the elements that go into establishing a correct persona for your brand, but relevant to our discussion here is thinking about a literal voice for your brand and its voice interactions.   Mark: But isn’t it enough just to hire a good voice actor to record those interactions?   Eric: Is it enough to write your brand blog post in any old style?   Mark: Point well taken. Of course not. I want to create content that will resonate with my target audience.   Eric: And it’s the same with voice. You need to think about what voice qualities will best connect with the audience you want to reach and how you want your brand presented. So, let me give you an example, which you’ll recognize immediately.   Mark: Oh, it’s Flo from Progressive Insurance!   Eric: Yes. And why do you think Progressive chose the persona Flo to represent their brand?   Mark: I’d guess that they want to reach regular folks and portray their company as accessible, understandable, down-to-earth, and enthusiastic to help.   Eric: You see the power of a persona, and while the character Flo is certainly a visual persona, there’s no denying her voice is a very important aspect of it as well.   Mark: I get it. If we’re in digital marketing, and search marketing in particular, we’re going to be interacting with customers and prospects more and more by voice.   Eric: And that means choosing the voice we use to represent our brand is a critical part of voice interaction marketing.   Mark: Thanks, Eric. Don’t miss a single episode of Here’s Why with Mark & Eric. Click the subscribe button below to be notified via email each time a new video is published. Subscribe to Here’s Why See all of our Here’s Why Videos | Subscribe to our YouTube Channel

The Core Characteristics of Elite Content Marketing Campaigns

Content marketing is a highly underutilized approach that can build your brand, reputation, and visibility, while bringing new prospects to the top of your sales funnel. Well-structured campaigns can achieve all of these things, and they can also lift your SEO traffic at the same time. At the core of successful campaigns is a keen understanding of the dramatic shifts that have happened between customers and companies. The fact that the consumer is now in control of the conversation fundamentally reshapes the way that marketers must behave. The most successful marketers in today’s environment understand that, and one of the tactics in their tool bags is content marketing. In this post, I’ll explain how great content marketing can build both brand AND SEO. Enterprise Companies Forced to Respond to the Market To start, I’ll share examples of cases where large brands have been forced to act because of consumer pressure: Volkswagen On September 18, 2015, The Atlantic published an article titled Volkswagen’s Game of Make-Believe, which broke the news that Volkswagen had been inserting a device into their cars that had one purpose: fool emissions tests into giving their cars better results than they deserved. The public reaction to this news was not good, and it showed in the company’s stock price: Not only did the stock price drop 46% in the near term, it still has not recovered to its highs even by 2018. Facebook Another great example of a company feeling pressure from the market occurred just this year at Facebook. On January 11, 2018, Facebook announced major changes to their news feed. The scope of this change was significant: according to Mark Zuckerberg, usage dropped by 50 million hours per day. In fact, the day after the announcement, CNN Money released an article with the headline “Mark Zuckerberg is fighting to save Facebook.” What the heck were they talking about? Save Facebook? What was behind that grandiose statement? The answer is that it was the reality of how people were responding to the service. For example, one study shows that passive Facebook usage undermines a sense of well-being. Data in the study reveals that even a single day of passive usage would cause a reduction of well-being in test-subjects of 9 percent!     The fact is that Facebook had to respond to how people were feeling about the service itself. If using Facebook was causing people to feel poorly about themselves, the long-term result was inevitable. In fact, Facebook’s action was both an aggressive and progressive move. Google The core of Google’s revenue is Internet advertising. This has made it a mega-giant in the industry, sporting a market cap of more than $850 billion. Yet, it too faces a dire threat to its long-term health: People don’t like ads. So much so that it has led to the meteoric rise of people using ad blockers. In the US, this has grown to over 30 percent of users: That’s a fundamental threat to Google’s business. As a result, it has taken aggressive action as well. Consider the March 2017 update that the industry called “Fred”, which reportedly demoted sites that placed too great an emphasis on revenue per user, at the expense of value to users. Or consider the moves by Google’s Chrome browser to integrate its own ad blocking capability. As of February 15, 2018, sites that run ads that violate the guidelines of the Better Ads Coalition have seen ALL of their ads blocked by Chrome. As all three of these scenarios show, there are many ways that consumers can make their weight felt today. Progressive brands are finding creative ways to meet these challenges. In fact, some of them are being even more proactive about it. Let’s look at that next. Big brands like Volkswagen, Google & Facebook are under pressure because these days the consumer is in control.Click To Tweet Brands Proactively Taking Control with Creative Content This looks like a challenging environment, and it will be if your business takes on the risk of trying to fool consumers with misleading marketing messages. However, as my Facebook and Google examples show, you need to do more than just not mislead your customers. You need to have a laser focus on making sure you’re meeting their needs. That’s easier said than done. But many brands have found great ways to successfully embrace this environment and position themselves to thrive in it. I think of this as “Brand Content Marketing.” Now let’s look at a couple of companies that have done this well. Example 1: Patagonia Patagonia launched a new campaign via an ad in the November 25, 2011, edition of The New York Times: This obviously catches your eye very quickly, as Patagonia is in the business of selling jackets. Of course, your instinctual reaction might quickly lead you to believe that it’s all a gimmick, but then you read on and realize that the messaging is quite real: The campaign is a classic because of how it appealed to customer values in a way that aligned with brand values. It represents a brilliant piece of marketing that succeeded in spite of its non-intuitive approach. How well did it succeed? Here is what ZDNet had to report on September 3, 2013: Patagonia’s commitment to content has continued long past 2013, with its highly active and vibrant blog, The Cleanest Line. It is also highly active on Instagram with 3.5M followers and Facebook with another 1.4M. Patagonia's 'don't buy our jacket!' ads were examples of successful content marketing. What? Learn why!Click To Tweet Example 2: Lean Cuisine Other brands have executed counter-intuitive campaigns with great success. Consider the #WeighThis campaign from Lean Cuisine. Lean Cuisine is a brand that focuses on helping people with weight issues, so the natural thought would be that the campaign was about weighing yourself to see if you need to go on a diet. But it wasn’t. Instead, the concept was much more about women not being judged by their weight or their looks, but instead by the measure of their successes. In the campaign, they got women to share accomplishments that they were most proud of. This ranged from extensive world travel, to a marriage of 24 years, to a divorce, to a woman in her 30s who graduated high school with her daughter by her side. The point of all this is that these accomplishments are often far more significant and important than weight loss. This campaign aligned with customer values and brand values in a powerful way. And, it provided very strong results: Example 2: Nike A more recent example is the controversial campaign that Nike released featuring Colin Kaepernick. Here is Kaepernick’s post for the campaign:   The controversial campaign yielded strong results. The Kaepernick post drew more than 1M links, and the campaign was covered by numerous major media outlets. Here are a few examples: CNN Huffington Post CNBC Fox Business In addition, Nike’s stock price, which had begun to dip, soared to new highs: As CNBC said in its article, Nike knows their target audience, and they designed a campaign that fit it to a T. Core Attributes of Brand Content Marketing Campaigns So, what are the lessons we can draw from this? There are many complex reasons why these marketing campaigns worked and why the moves by Google and Facebook have resulted in great results for each of the parties involved. Here is a look at the key components: Take a strong position: This comes with risks, of course, because not everyone will agree with those values or your position. Note also that a strong position does not necessarily need to be center around major political or social issues — it can be about business issues as well. Appeal to customer (and prospect) values: By taking a stand for something, you create alignment with a segment of the market. As long as it’s your target market, that’s a good thing! Align with brand values, too: Aligning brand values with your target audience’s values is a great way to develop strong brand loyalty, including a likelihood to buy from you. Reinforce brand persona: Every brand has a persona. Even if you have not explicitly mapped out or crafted what that is, there is a perception of your brand. For a campaign to be successful, it needs to be consistent with the way you’re already perceived. Otherwise, it will seem disingenuous, and people will not trust your motives. Avoid the “Buy Our Stuff” message: Last, but not least, you can’t have a “buy our stuff” component to the messaging of the campaign. For these types of campaigns to work, there must be an inherent altruistic aspect to them. These types of campaigns are not easy to execute, but they can also unfold over a long period of time through the consistent, ongoing behavior of your brand. Learn the 5 components of great brand content marketing campaigns. Click To Tweet Content Marketing Campaigns That Drive SEO This is all great, but can the right kind of content marketing campaign also drive SEO? You bet! Let’s look at a few examples: Abbvie Abbvie describes itself as “a highly focused research-driven biopharmaceutical company.” Formerly a part of Abbott Laboratories, it became an independent entity in 2013. It prides itself on having blended the focus and culture of a biotech company with the resources of pharmaceutical companies. Abbvie published a fair number of posts on its Stories blog, too. Here are the stats I pulled from Google: 23 posts in 2016 40 posts in 2017 35 posts in 2018 SEO growth started shortly after Abbvie ramped up its content marketing efforts in April 2017. Cleveland Clinic Cleveland Clinic describes itself as, “a nonprofit multispecialty academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education.” It’s one of the most respected healthcare institutions in the US. It has a Health Essentials Content Hub on its site, as well as an active Podcast channel. Here is what Google showed me for newly indexed article content: 622 in 2013 836 in 2014 991 in 2015 963 in 2016 906 in 2017 640 in 2018 In addition, it has built out an Alexa App, and a highly active Facebook Live channel. It also has 52.2K followers on Instagram. The SEO results are as follows: Since 2014, their SEO Visibility has nearly doubled, according to Searchmetrics. Stitch Fix Stitch Fix is an online clothing subscription service. Users fill out a profile with preferences for clothing size, style and price, and Stitch Fix sends a box of hand-selected pieces of clothing. Subscribers pick what they want to keep and return the rest. The company has been serious about content on the Stitch Fix Blog, and the indexation figures for the blog reflect that: 4 posts in 2013 19 posts in 2014 49 posts in 2015 743 posts in 2016 513 posts in 2017 316 posts in 2018 The service is also extremely active on social media, with more than 1M Pinterest followers, 1.5M Facebook followers, 673K Instagram followers, 77.7K Twitter followers, and 39.7K on LinkedIn. All of this has led to great SEO results along the way: The ramp started in late 2016, a few months after the company began to seriously accelerate its content production. Fortune 100 E-Commerce Site This case study is for a large-scale e-commerce site with a B2C focus (whose name we’re not revealing for confidentiality reasons). Historically, it published hundreds of pieces of content per year, both on site and off site. This particular campaign was the only one among these which did not have strong social media support, but its off-site work helped drive overall visibility. Nonetheless, from 2012 to mid-2017, its non-branded SEO traffic grew by 2.69x: The company pulled back from its content marketing efforts in mid-2017, and traffic has been flat to down since then. Large Financial Services Company This company is a large financial services provider for both businesses and consumers (we’re also not revealing this company’s name for confidentiality reasons). The annual article publication volume on its highly active content hub is shown below: 72 in 2013 225 in 2014 280 in 2015 348 in 2016 830 in 2017 1,840 in 2018 The company also maintains a very strong presence on Facebook, with more than 2M followers. The SEO results have been rock-solid since late 2014: Well-executed content marketing can build both brand and SEO. Find out how!Click To Tweet Case Study: The Addiction Treatment Marketplace The addiction treatment industry is an extremely competitive marketplace, with many companies with large marketing budgets. To make it even more interesting, Google’s updates throughout the year had a particularly large impact in this arena. What was particularly noticeable was how the updates affected sites with a large publishing volume. Here is a look at the content publishing volumes of four different sites: Using Searchmetrics, we can look at the SEO visibility for these four sites: Of particular note is the rocket-ship-like growth for Site 4. Site 3 also shows very strong overall results. In the next few sections, I’ll highlight what I’ve seen in common between the set of case studies above and Sites 3 and 4 in the addiction treatment marketplace. Amplification Effective amplification is essential to success. The investment in content in all of these campaigns was substantial, but it’s not a “build it and they will come” world, even if you are a major brand. With such a large investment, it’s crazy to not maximize your results with effective amplification. In all of the case studies, some form of content amplification was a key part of the mix. Most of the case studies actually used a mix of promotional strategies. Some of the best channels for amplification are: Social media: If you’ve crafted a strong social media presence, it can play an invaluable role in increasing visibility for your content. As a brand, you may need to rely on paid social to do this, but this is often a highly-effective way to get traffic, once you’ve learned to tune your campaigns to reach the right audiences. One brand that does this effectively is Abbvie: Media and Bloggers: Direct outreach to the media and bloggers can be incredibly effective. However, there are a few things needed to make this work well: You must publish content that hits a very high mark for value, or else you’ll be ignored. The integrity of what you’re doing must be unquestionable. All your outreach must be 100 percent custom. You’re looking to create relationships of trust, and that means you need to invest the time in the people you’re contacting to understand how your content might be of interest to them. Highlight that aspect of your content in the pitch. At the truly elite content marketing level, an understanding of what would be of interest to media and bloggers should be a major input into your content plan. One brand that has done this well for an extended period of time is the Cleveland Clinic. In fact, it has done this so well, that it can accomplish much of what it wants today with simple news releases: Beware though – simple press releases won’t work for you until your reputation in your market space has become huge. And even when it has, direct outreach to media and bloggers will still help amplify your visibility. Influencers: Developing mutually beneficial relationships with influencers can go a long way to help amplify your content. In some cases, you may pay for this service, but it’s also possible to get influencers involved in other (free) ways such as doing an interview with them. One brand that is very deliberate about how they do this is Stitch Fix, as it has a very active influencer engagement program: Leverage at least one of these amplification strategies, and ideally all three to maximize your results. SEO Fundamentals Why is it that some high-visibility content marketing campaigns drive SEO and others do not? There are many reasons why this may be the case. One of the biggest is a lack of attention to SEO fundamentals. This, of course, includes the title tags, heading tags, and more. Beyond those extremely basic components, here are the key reasons why some campaigns succeed: 1. Structured as a Content Hub: I find that sites that build out a separate content hub perform better than sites that rely on a traditional blog structure. Here are two big reasons why a blog does not work as well as a content hub: Blog posts descend in the site hierarchy over time. They start on the home page of the blog, then they move off to the category archives, and then they drop into the paginated sections of their respective categories. In a content hub architecture, the content resides in a strategic location over time. Blogs have a lot of infrastructure pages that ultimately end up being fairly wasteful. I did an analysis of one blog in October 2018 that had over 1,300 pages, and only 27 percent of those pages represented actual blog posts. That’s a lot of crawl budget wasted on pages that will likely never rank! 2. Clear Hierarchy: What this really means in this context is that there is a clear hierarchy that properly categorizes the content for easy navigation by users and bots. While “crawlability” is always an SEO concern and a must, I’m focused more on UX considerations here. 3. In-Demand Topics: This makes sense even on the surface level, but traditional SEO keyword research plays a big role here. Find out what people are searching for. Then, give it to them. Consider the addiction treatment space where the search volume is huge. Here are some related example terms:   4. Breadth of Coverage: In addition to highly demanded topics, cover many related topics. It’s great to cover one narrow topic area in depth, but users also want information on related subtopics, and each major topic likely has numerous subtopics. Google knows this, and it rewards sites that provide both depth and breadth with lots of search traffic. Looking a bit more in the addiction treatment space, here is what one site did for article coverage: That’s a lot of content on each of these four topic areas! I believe this extreme breadth of coverage plays a big role in their strong traffic growth over time. 5. Depth of Coverage: For each given topic you take on, it’s very helpful to cover it in a great deal of depth. This may involve providing that coverage across many articles, in order to capture each and every aspect of the particular topic area. What’s interesting here is that some of the content is being written about topics that have very low, or even no, perceivable monthly search volume. Why would the publisher focus on this as part of their strategy? It’s because they know that Google wants to promote sites that create content that addresses a large percentage of overall user needs — not just those that effectively scratch the surface with content focused only on major keywords. You may not think of items 4 and 5 in the above list as SEO fundamentals, but in today’s Google world, they absolutely are. That’s an essential part of the story behind every content marketing effort that drove SEO results in the case studies I’ve outlined above. Key Characteristics of Elite Content Marketing Campaigns Let’s now summarize the critical ways to achieve success in content marketing campaigns to deliver high visibility and drive great SEO results: Deliver value to customers: In each case, the content focused on helping customers solve real problems they face and/or adding value to their daily lives. Align with brand values: Customers won’t receive this type of content from you very well if it comes across as inconsistent with your brand. A key focus area is for you to make sure that your audience is ready to receive this type of value from you. Comes from/reinforces brand persona: This matters a great deal here too. Injecting any and all of the content with your brand persona is important. Not centered in “Buy Our Stuff”:   least, there needs to be no “buy our stuff” component to the messaging of the campaign. For these types of campaigns to work, there has to be a singular focus on adding value. Get support across multiple channels: Reach out to users with your content through most (or all) of the channels where your prospects and customers aggregate online. This was done in nearly all of our examples via strong social media campaigns. Engage in media and blogger outreach: Make mainstream media and major bloggers aware of what you’re doing. Use direct outreach to connect with them. If possible, get them engaged in the process. Contribute content to their sites. Get quotes from them in pieces on your site. Link to them actively from your content. Enlist influencers: Engaging with influencers is another major form of amplification. Get them to contribute content, or quote them in your content. Interview them. Interact with them on social media. Heck, pay them to share your content in social if you have to. Practice SEO fundamentals: This goes without saying, but the new component of those fundamentals is the concept of covering your topics in both depth and breadth. Note that bullets 2 through 4 are identical to the list we showed above for brand oriented content marketing campaigns. Campaigns that server both brand and SEO goals are not easy to execute, and they involve many components. Most organizations are not willing to take them on. But, they combine the best mix of building your brand, reputation, visibility, and SEO, all rolled into one. Summary What our original Patagonia and Lean Cuisine campaigns did was add that emotional hook of strong alignment with consumer values. If the goal of the campaign is SEO growth, a campaign with such a hook can become its own form of amplification. Something that draws viral levels of attention can bring an enormous amount of attention to your content, and that’s great. But, make sure you’re also giving them a reason to come back to see more of your content too. That means creating and offering a breadth and depth of content on topics that answer common user questions, solve their problems or add value to their lives. Your viral campaign will come and go like a shooting star. Don’t forget the meat-and-potatoes content that is simply focused on what the users really need. Last, but not least, implement a proper content hub and take care of your SEO fundamentals along the way.


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