Viral marketing and building a social media following are common initiatives among startups and established businesses alike. Every executive and entrepreneur thinks they need to create a viral piece of content and get extremely lucky to win viral publicity. But if that’s your strategy, you have little chance of success. Instead, ride an already existing viral wave.
Don’t just create content and hope it goes viral. Use content that has proven to be viral and then post it to your website and social media accounts to gain web traffic and followers. For this to work, you need to have established social media profiles. You don’t need to have a hundred thousand followers, but you do need real followers who are related to your niche.
1. Create social media accounts.
The first step is having company social media accounts across major social channels that pertain to your target market. These may include LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Reddit. These social media channels are all high-authority websites that help your company rank high in search engines. The more content you post on social media that receives shares, likes and comments, the higher your company’s SEO ranking will climb.
2. Identify your customers.
Your dream customers are already online and are most likely following the top leaders in your niche. Tap into that audience and redirect them to become focused on your offerings. For example, if your niche is B2B sales consulting, figure out where that audience is online now. Make a list of all the B2B sales leaders like Grant Cardone, John Barrows, Jeffrey Gitomer, Jay Abraham and Tony Robbins.
3. Follow your competitors’ audience.
Once you have identified who your dream customers are, the next step is to engage them. Follow your indirect and direct competitors’ audiences on social media. Spend some time identifying power followers — followers with their own audiences of over 2000. Apply this strategy across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. This works well because if you’re in the same niche as the accounts they are currently following, there is a good chance they will want to follow you as well. These power followers tend to look at their audiences carefully as they build their networks. Your goal should be to spend 30 days adding at least 200 people on each social channel until you follow a few thousand people. Once you’ve done this, you should see at least a couple thousand people on each one of your social media accounts now following you in return.
4. Leverage existing viral content.
This step will start to throw fuel on the fire with your social media following and help you generate a ton of traffic to your website. Identify existing viral content related to your niche. One way to do this is with news stories. Just go to Google News and type in your niche in the search bar to find stories that are gaining traction. Look for a story with an eye-catching headline. You can also go to YouTube and search for viral videos in your niche. Once you have found a relevant viral video, copy the YouTube link, post it to your blog, add an image and a description and then post it on all your social media channels.
5. Tweak the viral content.
If you find a news story that is going viral and getting a lot of social media shares, leverage it. Write a new article on the same subject with an even more eye-catching headline. You can add an exciting image as well. Then post your new “viral content” on your website. Apply the same strategy with existing viral videos. Simply create a new piece of content and plug in that existing viral video in your post.
6. Post content on your social channels.
Remember when I told you to find and follow people in your niche? Now, this is when you’re going to start seeing some amazing results. Because you now have targeted content that is relevant to your niche, people will start to share it, like it, comment on it and go to your website. Every time someone interacts with your content on social media, it creates a unique backlink to your website. This is a great way to boost your SEO ranking and will help you gain customers for free.
You can get free traffic, brand awareness and customers by leveraging content that has already proved to be viral. You don’t need to create a customer base — you need to find your customer base. Your customer base likely already exists and you can find them on social channels. If you can gain their attention with relevant content, there is a good chance they will be interested in what you’re selling.
Would you like more traffic to your website?
Of course you do. I have yet to meet a business owner who doesn’t.
And yet, most small business owners aren’t doing any search engine optimization for their websites. Only 28% of them – about one out of every four – do any search engine optimizationat all.
If you’re in this group of owners who aren’t doing any SEO, maybe it’s because you’re worried it will be too technical. Or you don’t trust the advice you’ve gotten before.
Or maybe you’re leery about changing your website just to please a search algorithm bot. Good SEO involves making some changes for the bots, but your site visitors should figure into this, too.
How people behave on your website – how they interact with it (or not) – effects how well your site does in the search results.
This makes a lot of sense in the broader view. After all, Google is obsessed with delivering the best results for each search. So is it any surprise that they’re watching how people behave on your site? That they’re ranking your site based on whether visitors seem to like what they see – or not?
These “user engagement metrics” may not be as influential as other search ranking signals (link inbound links and proper on-page SEO), but they do affect your site’s rankings.
How people interact with your website helps your real live visitors, too. If real human beings like your website, they’re more likely to place an order or go to your physical store.
So as you take a look at these different ways to measure user engagement, think about the search engine algorithms. But more importantly, think about how your website visitors will respond. On that point, you and Google are perfectly aligned:
You both want to deliver the best possible experience for everyone who comes to your site.
- Dwell time (aka “long clicks”).
This is a measurement of how long someone stays on your website’s pages. The more time someone spends on your website (the longer the dwell time), the better your pages will perform in the search engine rankings.
Here’s an example of how it works:
Say someone does a quick search for “Belize vacations.” They see your Belize vacations page among the results. They like what your listing says, so they click through. They like what they see enough to stay on your page for twelve whole minutes.
When they’re done reading that page, they go back to the search results and try a competitor’s page. They don’t like what they see there, and click back to the search results in just 30 seconds.
Google’s algorithm monitors and remembers that interaction. If your pages consistently keep people on them for longer than average, the algorithm will adjust the search results to favor your site. This happens on a page-by-page basis, but the performance of individual pages also contributes to how Google ranks your website as a whole.
Here’s the key takeaway: The longer people stay on your website pages, the higher your pages will appear in the search engine rankings.
That’s why dwell time matters.
So now that you know about this, what can you do to improve your pages’ dwell times? Here are a few ideas:
- Don’t alienate visitors right out of the gate. Namely, have a website that
- Loads in 2 seconds or less
- Looks attractive
- Is easy to scan (few people read closely online)
- Is easy to understand
- Add an embedded video or two.
Many visitors will prefer the video, and will stay on a page longer if there is one. There’s also evidence that the Google algorithm is partial to pages that have at least one piece of multimedia content on them.
- Experiment with interactive content like quizzes, polls, and calculators.
- Make sure your page is laser-focused on what visitors expect to get from it. In other words, match the content of your page to the keywords people are using to find it.
- Click-through rate.
If you’ve done any email marketing, you’ll be familiar with this term. But for SEO, “click-through rate” refers to how often people click through to a page from search results pages.
- Return visits.
How often do your website visitors come back? According to Brian Dean of Backlinko, Google does consider returning visitors in its algorithm.
Not sure how many of your website visitors are coming back. You can find out if you’ve got Google Analytics installed. Log into your account and go to Audiences > Overview. Look for the blue and green pie chart.
What’s a good percentage of return visits? Really, all that matters is you out-perform your competitors on this metric. But according to HubSpot, “A healthy rate of repeat visitors is about 15%.”
- For local sites: Driving Directions and Clicks-To-Call Metrics.
I’m lumping these engagement metrics under one point because both of these measurements tie into how users interact with your Google local listing. And because local results are a different animal than regular search results.
That’s why there’s a different ranking factors study for Local SEO.
Here are the results from it:
For right now, we’re most interested in the “Behavioral Signals.” As you can see in the pie graphs, these are not the most important ranking signals for either the Local Pack or for Localized Organic Rankings. But behavioral signals do play a role.
The Moz ranking factors study specifically says “Google is paying attention to things like dwell rate, click-through rates, driving directions, and clicks-to-call metrics.”
We’ve talked about dwell rate, and click-through rates happen in the SERPs (not on your site) so we’re interested in driving directions and clicks-to-call metrics.
As you’ve probably guessed, both of these metrics are mobile-based. Driving directions are almost always used from a mobile device, and by definition, click-to-call actions happen on mobile phones.
- Leaving a comment.
This only applies to blog posts, of course. But you do want to encourage people to leave a comment on your blog posts. And you definitely don’t want to turn off comments entirely. If you’re worried about spam comments, use a plugin like Akismet, which protects tens of thousands of blogs from the spam comment bots.
- If they share your page on social media.
There’s been some dispute about this, but the matter is mostly settled: Social signals boost search results. So if your visitors happen to tweet or share your pages on Facebook, that will help your rankings.
These social signals aren’t as powerful as links, but they can help. So consider asking your site visitors to share your posts on social media. Or actively recruit your employees to share new content to their social media accounts.
It also helps to have active Twitter, Facebook accounts (and a company LinkedIn page) associated with your account according to Backlinko. Google figures that real companies will have a decent following on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. It’s a reasonable guess, right?
- They subscribe to your RSS feed.
Google owns Feedburner, so it makes sense that they’d value this metric. Again, this is not anywhere near as powerful a ranking signal as inbound links or your on-page SEO, in fact, you might think of it as a third-tier ranking signal. But it can give your rankings a nudge.
As search engines get more sophisticated, they become more sensitive to user behaviors and preferences. We’re no longer dealing with algorithms that can be fooled by keyword stuffing and artificial link schemes.
But it continues to be obsessed with the primary goal of search: To deliver the best possible result for every query.
If your site can be that best result, and you can demonstrate it to the algorithm through these engagement signals, you won’t have to worry about getting enough organic search traffic. Or about getting penalized in the next algorithm update.
Digital marketing is like playing the drums; everyone thinks they can do it.
Inevitably, the layman writes content stuffed to the brim with a target keyword and cannibalizes his/her own webpages by using the same five keywords across all of their webpages.
As infallible as we sometimes think we are, even the best of our industry can make some pretty hairbrained mistakes.
Sometimes the best way to move forward is to take a step back and go back to SEO basics.
As Google and Bing’s algorithms continue to evolve and incorporate new technologies for search, so do our strategies.
Between optimizing our content for voice search, desktop visitors, mobile swipers, and our social media followers, the task can feel impossible and overwhelming.
Breathe a little, you’re not alone.
As much as the medium may change, the same principles still remain in place and so too do the same basic errors.
Here are eight common SEO mistakes that even the experts still make.
1. Presenting a Poor Internal Link Structure
As your website balloons in size with all of your awesome content, you’re bound to encounter some pretty basic internal linking errors. This includes everything from producing mass duplicate content to 404 page errors cropping up.
Internal links provide five valuable functions for your website:
- Providing clear pathways to conversion pages.
- Spreading authority to webpages hidden deep on your site.
- Providing additional reading or interactive material for users to consume on your site.
- Organizing webpages categorically by keyword-optimized anchor text.
- Communicating your most important webpages to search engine crawlers.
Resubmitting an XML sitemap to search engines is a great way to open up crawl paths for search engines to unlinked webpages.
Along the same lines, it’s important to use your robots.txt file and noindex tag wisely so that you don’t accidentally block important webpages on your site or a client’s.
As a general rule of thumb, no webpage should be more than two clicks away from the homepage or a call-to-action landing page.
Reassess your website architecture using fresh keyword research to begin organizing webpages by topicality.
HubSpot provides a great guide for creating topic clusters on your website that arrange webpages by topic, using semantic keywords, and hierarchy to their shared thesis.
2. Creating Content for Content’s Sake
Best practices dictate that you should produce content consistently to increase your brand’s exposure and authority, as well as increase your website’s indexation rate.
But as your website grows to hundreds of pages or more, it becomes difficult to find unique keywords for each page and stick to a cohesive strategy.
Sometimes we fall for the fallacy that we must produce content just to have more of it. That’s simply untrue and leads to thin and useless content, which amounts to wasted resources.
Don’t write content without completing strategic keyword research beforehand.
Make sure the content is relevant to the target keyword and utilizes closely associated keywords in H2 tags and body paragraphs.
This will convey full context of your content to search engines and meet user intent on multiple levels.
Take the time to invest in long-form content that is actionable and evergreen. Remember, we are content marketers and SEO specialists, not journalists.
Optimized content can take months to reach page one results; make sure it remains relevant and unique to its industry when it does.
3. Not Investing in Link-Worthy Content
As we understand it, the quantity and quality of unique referring domains to a webpage is one of Google’s three most important ranking factors.
The best way to acquire links is naturally, leveraging stellar content that people just want to link to.
Instead of investing time in manual research and creating hundreds of guest posts a year, why not invest in a piece of content that can acquire all of those links in one day of writing?
Again, I bring up HubSpot, which provides a great example of this. Every year, they provide a list of industry statistics they scour from the internet, such as “The Ultimate List of Marketing Statistics”, which serves as an invaluable resource for anyone in the digital marketing industry.
As previously stated, invest the time in crafting long-form content that adds value to the industry.
Here, you can experiment with different forms of content, whether it’s a resource page, infographic, interactive quiz, or evergreen guide.
Dedicate some of your manual outreach strategy to promote a piece of content published on your own website and not someone else’s.
4. Failing to Reach Customers with Your Content
Continuing this discussion, you need to have a strategy in place to actually get people to view your content.
I believe that much of the industry and many businesses don’t invest as many resources into content promotion as they do production.
Sure, you share your content over social media, but how much reach does it actually acquire without paid advertising?
Simply posting your latest article on your blog, social media channel, and e-newsletter limits its reach to a small percentage of your existing audience.
If you’re looking to acquire new leads for your business, then you’ll need to invest more resources into promotional tactics. Some strategies include.
While it’s rather chicken and egg, you need to promote content to get links to it. Only then can you begin to acquire more links organically.
5. Optimizing for the Wrong Keywords
So you invested the time in crafting a piece of long-form content, but it’s not driving large-scale traffic to your website.
Just as bad, your visitors have low time on page and are not converting.
More than likely, you’re optimizing for the wrong keywords.
While most of us understand the importance of long-tail keywords for informational queries, sometimes we run into some common mistakes:
- Failing to segment search volumes and competition by geography.
- Relying too much on high volume phrases that don’t convert.
- Focusing too many resources on broad keywords (external links, internal link anchor text, etc.).
- Ignoring click-through rates.
- Trying to insert awkward exact match phrases into content.
- Ignoring AdWords value.
- Allocating target keywords to irrelevant content.
- Choosing keywords irrelevant to your audience.
It’s important to actually research the search phrases that appear in top results for both national and local searches.
Talk to your customers to see what search phrases they use to describe different elements of your industry. From here, you can segment your keyword list to make it more relevant to your customers.
Use keyword tools like Google Keyword Planner and SEMrush’s keyword generator for relevant keyword ideas.
Don’t forget to optimize for informational and commercial search queries.
6. Not Consulting Paid Media
As the industry currently stands, SEO focuses on acquiring and nurturing leads, while paid media focuses on acquiring and converting leads.
But what if we broke down those silos to create a cohesive message that targeted the buyer at every step of the journey?
As an SEO provider, do you even know what your client’s advertising message is or the keywords they use? Are you promoting the same products/service pages with the same keywords as the paid media department?
There is a lot of insight that SEO consultants can learn from PPC keyword research and landing page performances that can aid them in their own campaign.
Beyond this, Facebook and Twitter’s advertising platform offer robust audience analysis tools that SEO consultants can use to better understand their client’s customers.
By focusing on a unified message and sharing in each other’s research, SEO consultants can discover keywords that convert the highest and drive the most clicks in the search results.
7. Forgetting About Local
Google’s Pigeon update completely opened up an entirely new field of local SEO.
Between local directory reviews, customizing a Google My Business page, and the local three-pack, local SEO is highly targeted and high converting.
Consider some of the statistics:
- 50 percent of searches over a mobile device result in an in-store visit that day.
- Half of local, mobile searches are for local business information.
- Anywhere between 80-90 percent of people read an online review before making a purchase.
- 85 percent of people trust reviews as much as personal recommendations.
It’s important to segment your keyword research for both local and national intent.
If you provide local services, be sure to create content that reflects local intent, such as including city names next to target keywords and in the body of content.
While most of us focus on growing business at the national scale, the importance of local SEO should not be ignored.
8. Not Regularly Auditing Your Own Website
One of the biggest mistakes we all make is not continuing to optimize our own site and fix mistakes that crop up over time.
A site audit is especially important after a site migration or implementation of any new tools or plugins.
Common technical mistakes that occur over time include:
- Duplicate content.
- Broken links.
- Unoptimized meta tags.
Duplicate content can occur for a number of reasons, whether through pagination or session IDs.
Resolve any URL parameter errors or duplicate content from your cookies by inserting canonicals on source webpages. This allows all signals from duplicate pages to point back to the source page.
Broken links are inevitable as you move content around your site, so it’s important to insert 301 redirects to a relevant webpage on any content you remove. Be sure to resolve 302 redirects, as these only serve as a temporary redirect.
Auditing your website is paramount for mobile search. Simply having a responsive web design or AMP is not enough.
Be sure to minify your CSS and JS on your mobile design, as well as shrink images, to provide a fast and responsive design.
Finally, one part of the audit that is often overlooked is reevaluating your onsite content strategy. Most industries are dynamic, meaning that new innovations crop up and certain services become obsolete overtime.
Remodel your website to reflect any new product offerings you have. Create content around that topic to showcase its importance to your hierarchy to both search engines and users.
Continually refresh your keyword research and audience research to find new opportunities to scale and stay relevant.
Everyone is susceptible to mistakes in their craft and one of the best ways to rectify them is to consult the best practices.
My best bit of advice: Keep your mind nimble and always take a step back here and there to evaluate whether you are doing the best to scale your or a client’s business.
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising remains an effective way to grab the attention of your target audience and drive them back to your site so they can engage with your products and services.
Obviously, the higher your ads appear to the top, the more likely that someone will click on that ad.
That said, just getting the click isn’t the goal.
Getting a click that results in a sale, phone call, or lead is the goal.
In order to ensure the best opportunity for success, it is incredibly important to establish some sort of regular daily cadence or task list for your PPC campaigns.
While the rise in AdWords automation is helping with some, here are three PPC tasks that you should be doing every day to ensure nothing in the account is broken.
1. Check Your Key Performance Indicators
Key performance indicators (KPIs) are an important metric to help marketers determine the effectiveness of many different kinds of campaigns.
When you decide to invest in PPC, you need some way of measuring the performance of your ads, or you’re just throwing away money without knowing whether your campaign is working.
The types of KPIs that you choose to prioritize will depend on your marketing goals.
Some of the most common types of KPIs for PPC campaigns include:
- Number of clicks: This KPI tells you how many people actually clicked on your ad, which gives you a good idea if your ad is grabbing people’s attention. Clicks won’t always give you a full picture of how well your ads are doing, but they are an important piece of the puzzle.
- Click-through rate: This KPI is calculated by dividing the number of clicks by the total number of impressions (views). There are different sweet spots for click-through-rates based on your industry.
- Cost per click: This measures the amount of money you’re spending on your ad campaign based on how many people click on that ad. It is calculated by dividing the total amount you paid for a campaign by the number of times someone clicked on the ad. It’s a good way for you to determine whether your budget for that campaign was too high, too low, or just about right. A good rule of thumb is to check in on your brand CPCs. If you see a spike there, it can negatively affect performance.
- Conversion rate: This measures the number of conversions that were directly generated by your ads. It is calculated by dividing the number of conversions by the total number of clicks.
These are just a few KPIs that are important in a PPC campaign.
Checking through these numbers on a daily basis can help you see if there are any outliers like a sudden surge of clicks or higher conversion rates on a particular day.
2. Review Your Negative Keyword List
One of the best ways to attract more clicks is to make sure that the language of your ads optimizes the most appropriate keywords for a search.
But when you’re running a PPC campaign, it’s equally important that you create and monitor your negative keyword list.
If you fail to include a negative keyword list on their campaigns, it can seriously dent the ROI for your ads.
Let’s say you’re selling shoes online.
You will want to include keyword variations that include gender, intent-based queries (e.g., “buy” and “on sale”) and qualifiers (e.g., “running”).
But what if you wanted to exclude higher-volume, lower converting terms (e.g., “womens shoes”).
In the below example, you can see how excluding terms based on match type will impact your ability to target specific types of keywords:
By creating a list of negative keywords, you’re telling search engines that these are not relevant words for your business and that your ads shouldn’t show up when people conduct searches using those words.
You should review your negative keyword list daily because search behavior changes regularly.
Make sure your list is updated to avoid spending money on ads that show up in front of people who aren’t part of your target audience.
There are two quick ways to find potential negative keywords:.
Popular Search Terms
The new ‘Searches’ card in Google AdWords will highlight the most popular words and phrases driving traffic to your site.
Click the Words tab for an even more granular look.
In this example, we discovered two potential negatives to include in the campaign:
Knowing which keywords a majority of searchers are using to find your website can help you both add valuable new keywords, and create lists of negative keywords you discover to be irrelevant.
Search Query Reports
Google’s Search Query Reports will give you the most comprehensive way to check for negative keywords that you may need to add to your list.
While getting this granular may not be a daily task, if you see some warning signs (like those in the previous example) a dive into your search query report from the previous day may be warranted.
3. Review Your Daily Budget
Your AdWords average daily budget is not fixed, which means that as you review your campaigns daily, you can change that budget based on analyzing some key KPIs.
Combine that with Google’s daily budget change that increased daily budgets by 2x and you have a good reason to monitor this daily.
The most common application of budget management involves shifting across days of the week.
For example, if you notice that your ads are generating more traffic on a Wednesday, but are dead on a Monday, you may want to shift some of your budget to take advantage of what’s happening on Monday to maximize your ROI.
Ad Delivery Method
Reviewing your budget can also help you determine whether you need to change your ad delivery method.
AdWords has two types of delivery method:
- Accelerated delivery: This shows your ads earlier in the day and typically chew up your daily budget before noon. You can only choose accelerated delivery if you’re using AdWords’ automated bidding.
- Standard delivery: This displays your ads more evenly during the day. If you choose manual bidding, your campaigns automatically default to standard delivery.
Another quick check-in on your daily budget spending is how your budget is being spent across devices.
With the explosion of mobile, if not kept in check, the percentage of mobile spend compared to conversion can become skewed – essentially stealing your opportunities for desktop conversions.
Similar to the Popular Search Terms card, Google also has a “Device Type” card that will show differences across devices for clicks, impressions, and conversions.
Visually, this is a no-brainer to add to your daily budget checks.
Adaptation Is the Key to PPC Campaigns
When you launch a PPC campaign, one of the keys to success is making sure that you stay on top of KPIs, keywords and budget so that you can quickly determine if something is awry, and change how you’re approaching things.
The whole idea of PPC is to generate more quality visitors so they can turn into customers, but if you’re not performing daily reviews of your campaigns, a small problem can quickly snowball into a crisis.
As Google has scaled up its Shopping products in recent years, there has been a growing consensus in the retail search marketing space that Shopping ads are one of the most effective ways to win valuable consumer clicks.
This is especially true of the non-branded, broader search terms that are typical of the early stages of the customer journey.
During this phase, Google Shopping ads – commonly referred to as Product Listing Ads, or PLAs – are considered to be a key means of engaging consumers early, and boosting new customer acquisition.
If the trends that we are currently seeing continue, 2018 will be a year of increased investment in Google Shopping ad formats across product-based search.
While text ads are still the most popular advertising format in many categories, retail-specific categories tell a very different story, with spend on Google Shopping ads far outstripping text ads in retail categories.
A new study by AI-powered search intelligence platform Adthena, analyzing 40 million search ads from more than 260,000 retailers, has shed light on the extent to which Google Shopping ads have come to dominate retail search marketing.
In this piece, we will look at some of the key findings from the report, explore the causes of Google Shopping’s phenomenal expansion, and consider what retailers can do to “future-proof” their search marketing strategy against upcoming shifts in the market.
Content produced in collaboration with Adthena.
The growth of Google Shopping
The Google Shopping ad unit has evolved considerably over the past few years, with increased attention and prominence afforded to Shopping ads in the search results page. This has resulted in a rise in clicks and impressions that has fueled the growth of Google Shopping ads in retail categories.
As of Q1 2018, Google Shopping ads are driving 76.4% of retail search ad spend in the US, and 82% of retail search ad spend in the UK – an overwhelming majority in both instances.
Adthena’s research found that in the US, this 76.4% of search spend was responsible for 85.3% of all clicks on AdWords or Google Shopping ads between January and February 2018. In the UK, the 82% of retail search ad spend invested in Google Shopping ads was responsible for 87.9% of clicks.
These figures confirm that Google Shopping ads are still offering good value to retailers in terms of spend/click ratio, and suggest that the value of Google Shopping ads has not (yet) reached saturation point, with room for growth in some key areas.
Mobile is one of these: according to Adthena’s research, although shopping ads on desktop generate a slightly greater share of clicks, Google Shopping ad spend on mobile now matches that of desktop, supporting evidence that mobile search is serving as a crucial touchpoint for product purchasing decisions.
Presently, Google Shopping ads on mobile are driving 79% of device ad spend in the US, and win 87.9% of clicks. With Google shifting more and more emphasis onto mobile search, this is likely to become an increasingly important area for retailers to invest in, and we may yet see these numbers grow further.
However, how much longer can Google Shopping continue its rise before the market eventually becomes saturated? To answer that, we need to understand what has fuelled Google Shopping’s dominance of the retail search market in the first place.
What is fueling Google Shopping’s retail dominance?
Ashley Fletcher, VP of Marketing at Adthena, believes that prominence and reach are the two key factors that have driven the rise of Google Shopping ads in retail search marketing.
Google’s introduction of a carousel for desktop Shopping ads in October 2016 was the first major change which gave increased prominence to Google Shopping ads. Since then, the ad unit has only developed further, with even more different formats for advertisers to benefit from.
“The unit has evolved both in terms of prominence on the page and in terms of ad features,” says Fletcher. “It’s also very rich in content – particularly on mobile – with multiple variants of the unit available to advertisers.”
In the US and the UK, the number of ads in the desktop carousel has even doubled as of February 2018 to surface 30 paid listings. This may go some way to explaining the particular dominance of Google Shopping ads in the US and UK – as we saw from the statistics in the previous section.
Then there’s reach: as Fletcher explains, in the past year, Google Shopping Ads have begun influencing users higher up the purchase funnel through far broader terms, appearing for much more generic product searches than before.
“In the last year, Shopping ads have started to trigger on a lot of the upper-funnel, generic terms – like “red dress”, or “black dress”. This is really driving users into a brand experience around those generics: it encourages the user to start drilling into those terms, and conduct longer-tail keyword searches off the back of that.
“These are very high-volume terms, keywords with a lot of traffic – so mastering that could be a challenge for search marketers, but you now need to be present at the top of that funnel, as well.”
While these developments have spurred a huge surge of growth in Google Shopping ads over the past two years, Fletcher believes this expansion won’t continue for long.
“In 2018, we’ll get closer to saturation point,” he says. “I don’t think there’s much room for further growth.
“Then I think we’ll get into the space we were in with text ads, where advertisers will be limited on spots, margins are going to be squeezed – meaning CPCs are going to increase – and it will come down to marginal gains: how can you optimize performance, as growth slows down?”
What can retailers do to get the most out of their ad spend in that environment?
“First and foremost, being able to manage at scale is a must-have,” says Fletcher.
“Secondly, master your categories. If you are a retailer, then knowing that you’re winning in – for example – men’s board shorts, and getting down to that level of knowledge with your categories, is essential.
“If you don’t do that, then you’ll have a very blinkered view of what’s going on.
“If you’re a department store retailer, for example, and your products reach more than 200 different categories, there is a dependency on knowing how well you’re performing in each of these categories. You’re going to have different competitors in each one: the challenge is knowing that, and making sure you are still winning there.”
Adapting for the future of search marketing
The rapid uptake of Google Shopping ads as the most significant part of retail ad spend budgets reveals how quickly search marketers adapt to new formats and opportunities.
As search advertising practices continue to change and new formats are introduced, advertisers will need to maintain this agility in order to keep ahead of the game.
“Google Shopping can be quite daunting for some advertisers when they take their first steps into it,” says Fletcher. “But if you do that with enough research, and enough context about what’s going on in each of your retail categories, you’ll have a far better chance of surviving.
“If you don’t follow the trends, adopt early, and understand these channels, you will get left behind.”
Amazon Shopping, for example, is a growing force in the retail search landscape which Fletcher believes will only play a bigger role in years to come, threatening to erode the dominance that Google Shopping currently enjoys.
Even as they take steps to future-proof their search marketing campaigns in the realm of Google Shopping, search marketers should investigate the opportunities presented by Amazon, in order to ensure the longevity of their search marketing strategy going forward.
Contributor Kristopher Jones outlines seven tried-and-true content promotion strategies that will drive traffic to your content and website.
It’s no secret a well-executed content marketing campaign can deliver a solid return on investment.
According to Demand Metric, content marketing generates three times more leads than most outbound marketing strategies at 62 percent less cost.
As marketers pad their budgets with more money to invest in content marketing this year, one strategy that often gets overlooked is content promotion.
According to a survey by the Content Marketing Institute, 55 percent of B2B marketers were not even sure what a successful content marketing campaign looked like!
Content without promotion is like link building without links or creating a landing page without a call to action. That’s why promotion should take equal focus with creation.
Let’s look at seven tried-and-true content promotion strategies that will drive traffic to your content and website.
1. Paid social promotion
Paid social promotion can be one of the most precise strategies available to market your content to people who are interested in and most likely to engage with your content.
For example, by using Facebook’s Audience Insights, businesses can segment audience lists by select boundaries, such as demographics, psychographics and intent. This allows marketers to create audience segments that are more in line with their brand and specific topics of content on their website. There are several benefits of paid social promotion:
- Increase website traffic with relevant visitors.
- Generate more conversions by marketing to people with high purchasing intent.
- Familiarize users with your brand.
Even advertising content over native or display ads can help to increase brand recall for customers who come across your website in future searches. Only now, they’ll think of your brand as a bit of an authority because they’re already familiar with your brand.
Paying to promote your content over advertising channels is a good way to cut through the noise and the competition.
Paid promotion is also an excellent strategy to target users who have interacted with your website or blog in the past month. Remarketing not only increases your chance of reclaiming a missed conversion, but it also helps to foster brand loyalty by providing them useful content based on their past consumption.
Before undergoing a paid promotion strategy, it’s key to have your goals outlined. These can include increasing readership for your content or generating more conversions on your website. With these in mind, you can quantify the impact of these strategies and assess their success.
2. Targeted sharing
Facebook is no longer the business to consumer (B2C) marketing giant it once was; after its last algorithm update, it limited organic reach for business posts on the platform.
One way to reach more people over social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram is through targeted sharing.
Targeted sharing is essentially tagging someone in a post in hopes that they will share your content with their audience. Here are some ways to do that:
- Link to people in the snippet who would be interested in your article.
- Link to sources featured in the article directly in the snippet.
- Directly engage industry peers with a question or point of debate in the snippet to curate conversation over a topic.
Twitter’s advanced search tool allows you to find people in your niche who are close to you geographically, using certain hashtags and more:
Instagram recently introduced a “follow” hashtag that allows users to view content in their newsfeed using a certain hashtag. This has opened up an entirely new platform for businesses to reach more customers over Instagram who are already interested in your industry.
3. Use videos over social media
Another proven method to cut through the noise on social media channels is to include videos in your content.
The statistics around video marketing are truly staggering:
- Google states that half of internet users “search for a video related to a product or service before visiting a store.”
- Views on sponsored videos on Facebook increased 258 percent between June 2016 and June 2017.
From my experience, including a video on a landing page can significantly increase your conversion rate. In my opinion, the demand for video content over social media far outpaces the demand for written content.
Video can also be more engaging than written content. A compounding or viral video is the definition of a gift that keeps on giving.
Of course, there’s always a caveat. Hosting a long, informative video on your content can discourage click-throughs to your landing page, especially if it’s used to promote written content. I suggest posting a teaser video, an eye-catching image or a graphics interchange format (GIF) in your content to entice users to navigate to the landing page.
4. Influencer marketing
I believe influencer marketing is one of the most underutilized tools in our industry.
Influencer marketing is powerful in theory. Not only will influencer shares expose your content to a new audience, it confers credibility in the eyes of that audience.
According to a study from MuseFind, 92 percent of people trust influencers more than advertisements or celebrities.
There are many ways to approach this strategy: You can reach out to influencers directly in your industry to share your content or engage in a promotion partnership.
Consider using tools like Followerwonk and Intellifluence to find active influencers in your industry to reach out to.
You can also mention an influencer within your content or link to them in a social media snippet to attract their attention. This increases the likelihood that they will share your content to promote their own brand. In turn, this increases your content’s quantity of shares and link opportunities.
5. Content syndication
Content syndication is not new to search engine optimization (SEO), but it’s not often the focus of many content marketing strategies. Content syndication is a great strategy to instantly expand your audience reach with little effort.
Do your research before identifying a site for syndication. Ask about their analytics to see what their visitor traffic is like and monitor keywords to identify the topics of discussion being held.
If you decide to syndicate content on sites like LinkedIn, Medium or community forums, it’s best to be picky. Only share your best content.
If you do participate in a content community, understand that half of your responsibility is also sharing other people’s content to remain an active member. This will help establish relationships across your industry for potential link opportunities and shares.
6. Link building
Link building remains one of Google’s three most important ranking factors when determining organic rank. It is a good idea to increase your content’s reach and visibility by improving its organic backlink signals.
It’s important to remember that link building needs to be strategic when promoting a specific webpage. I wouldn’t put a lot of effort into building links to a topical blog post, evergreen content or webpages that serve a valuable function in your website’s information and sales funnel.
Here are just a few basic link-building strategies to promote content to a wider audience:
- Guest post on authoritative publications with a contextual link back to your content.
- Engage in broken link building using manual outreach to offer more value to existing content.
- Email industry thought leaders about a piece of your content that would be valuable to their future research.
Ironically, the best link-building strategy out there is to craft high-quality content that people organically link back to on their own. Of course, this requires promotion for people to find this content in the first place, but hopefully, you’ll get some ideas from this post to help with that.
7. Personalized email marketing
Email marketing is a great way to market to customers who are already interested in your brand. Email marketing has the benefit of increasing customer retention while also delivering shares and links right to your content.
Not everyone on your email marketing list will jump at the chance to read your next blog post. Here are some basic strategies to increase email engagement:
- Design an e-newsletter to promote recent posts to your blog or showcase your most viral content for the month.
- Segment subscriber lists based on their interaction with your site.
- Personalize emails to include the name of the recipient, as well as pertinent information related to their engagement on your site.
- Include interactive content, such as a fun GIF or video, to make emails stand out and warm up subscribers to future emails.
- Conduct split testing on headlines and messages and measure their impact.
Content marketing has taken on a life of its own as a buzzword in our industry. With reduced organic reach over both search and many social channels, it’s never been more important to focus on promotion strategies that cut through the noise and get content discovered.
Every picture tells a story and also may help you build links. Contributor Pratik Dholakiya shares four solid ways to use images to attract links.
“Create visual content and the links will follow” is a nice sentiment, but in reality, it’s a prerequisite, not a guarantee of the fulfillment of a promise.
If you want to use images to earn inbound links, you need a concrete plan with some specific actionable goals.
Here are four ways you can use images and visual content to build links and drive traffic. Use the following tactics to get the ideas and inbound links flowing and build a smart strategy for your brand.
1. Become your industry’s stock photo site
It’s become more or less a standard in this industry to ensure that every blog post needs to feature at least one image to keep people engaged and be taken seriously, with a few exceptions.
In many cases, those images are stock photos with some thematic connection to the topic of the post, rather than original image content.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with using stock images, but you can take advantage of it by becoming a go-to resource in your industry for visual content.
Here are some ideas to help you do that:
- Make a list of niche keywords in your industry, and perform an image search on Google to see if there is a lack of good images out there.
- Create images that represent something insightful about those keywords and their related topics. This could be in the form of original journalistic photographs, data visualizations such as infographics or visual metaphors.
- Create a blog post around your visual content and include an embed code to make it easy for people to reuse the image with credits. Look for an “embed code generator” tool to help create embedded code.
- Create a “stock photo” page on your site that collects all of your original images, along with embed codes. The title of the page should include those phrases bloggers use when searching for images, such as “free stock photos,” “public domain images,” “creative commons images” or similar phrases, as well as the relevant niche terms. Make sure to include image alts and image labels in text for the more specific keywords. Include your embed codes here as well to make sure it’s easy for people to link to you with credit.
Bear in mind that your visual content doesn’t necessarily need to be the most amazing thing ever, as long as it addresses topics that aren’t as readily addressed in other images.
Examples of this are the top image results for Moz. Their Whiteboard Friday images lack visual flair, but they get the point across.
2. Identify image keywords bloggers are likely to search for
This is related to the tactic above, but it’s a topic with enough depth that it deserves its own section.
The goal here isn’t just to identify keywords your consumer audience is searching for, or even keywords that other influencers in your industry are searching for.
You need to specifically identify keywords that bloggers and influencers are using images for and linking to.
Start by scraping a few prominent sites in your niche and looking for patterns. Here is one approach I recommend using:
- Use Screaming Frog to crawl a top publisher with an audience similar to yours.
- Go to the “External” tab and select “Images” from the filter.
- Export the image links and analyze the image alt text for any patterns.
Unfortunately, most publishers these days don’t use external links to display images; instead, they host the image on their own site, with an image credit link. Since these links aren’t embedded in the same hypertext markup language (HTML) as the image itself, there’s no easy way to identify image credit links.
What you can do, however, is crawl the site for their internal images and analyze the image alts they are using for some ideas:
While you won’t be able to immediately tell which images are credited to other sources and which were produced internally, you can quickly determine what topics their visual content tends to focus on.
You can also do a crawl of all external links and export the anchor text:
While this won’t limit the external links to image credits, it will help you identify the kind of topics they are most willing to link out to. Combining that with your image alt data and some manual inspection, you can start to get a clear idea of what kinds of keywords to target with your images.
Repeat this process for several top publishers until you have a clear, extensive list of keywords to target, with your original images.
Now test the viability of your keywords by:
- Testing the keyword volume in the Google Keyword Planner. You don’t need a lot of volume, since the keywords you are focusing on should be keywords searched for by bloggers, not general audiences. But you will need to make sure enough people are searching for the topic that bloggers would regularly come across the image.
- Search for the keyword with Google image search to see what comes up. Image quality is a big factor, but relevance is even more important. What you are really shooting for is a keyword without a good image designed to convey the idea clearly. As long as you go tight enough with your niche, this is more common than you might think.
- Avoid generic keywords. Generic keywords should be a jumping-off point only. You should be looking for highly specific keywords that convey very clear concepts that can be presented visually.
- Use a tool such as SEMrush to estimate the difficulty of ranking for the keyword.
3. Reach out to people using your original images
If you are creating original visual content and publishing it to your site, and you have a decent amount of exposure in Google Images, there is a very good chance people are using your images without linking to you.
Capitalize on this by contacting these people and politely asking them to give you credit with a link. (In all but the most egregious monetized cases, I would avoid making copyright threats, especially since it is more likely to result in their removing the image than linking to you for credit.)
To find sites that are using your image, go to Google Images and click the camera icon:
You’ll be asked to paste an image URL or to upload an image:
Now, paste the image URL (pointing to the image itself, not the page it’s on) into the “Paste image URL” tab, or click “Upload an image” and browse through your folders to locate the image if you are storing it locally on your machine. You can also just drag and drop an image into this pop-up.
Then click “Search by image.”
Scroll past the “Best guess for this image” and “Visually Similar Images” results, down to the “Pages that include matching images.” Click through to verify that they are still using the image, find their contact information, and send them an email requesting they cite your image with a link.
If you are producing a lot of image content on a regular basis, this process can get tedious, so it’s better off being automated. In that case, you can use the sites that allow you to do “reverse image search” for a larger number of images on a periodic basis.
4. Perfect your image-to-word ratio
According to a study by BuzzSumo, the blog posts that receive the most shares on Facebook and Twitter are the ones that include one image for every roughly 75 to 100 words.
Since there’s a relatively strong correlation between social sharing and the number of inbound links you earn, getting the right mix of images and words can be a smart link-earning strategy.
As with any statistic, especially one based on observational analysis instead of experimentation, it should be taken with a grain of salt. Rather than considering this “best practice,” use it as a jumping-off point, test a few different ratios over time and measure what seems to work best within your niche.
In most niches, the more hardcore your fan base, the more knowledge-hungry they are, meaning that they will be more willing to read walls of text (although you’d better be leveraging your white space even if that’s the case).
You may also find that your link-earning and social media activity aren’t as heavily correlated in your industry.
Regardless, the point stands. Measuring your image-to-word ratio — and how it correlates with the number of inbound links you earn — will help inform your link-earning strategy and allow you to make more optimized decisions.
Now, it’s time to put these ideas to use and up your visual SEO game!
The new attribution model for AdWords was the talk of the town when it was first announced in 2016. But since then, it hasn’t received as much attention.
Even so, I was surprised recently when a colleague in the pay-per-click industry confessed that he wasn’t aware of it.
I can understand how he missed it. After all, it’s one of those AdWords settings that you can easily overlook if you don’t know it’s there.
Therefore, in this article, I’m going to recap what attribution settings are and reveal what you can expect if you start using the new models.
What is Attribution?
Basically, “attribution” is about assigning credit to clicks that lead to conversions.
For example, say “Dan” wants to buy a baseball jersey. So he searches “baseball jersey” and clicks on an ad.
After a few more searches, he decides he wants a Red Sox baseball jersey. So he does some more searching and clicks on another ad from the same company. He then buys a jersey from that company.
How do you want to attribute credit for the sale? Should the first ad Dan clicked get the credit or the second? Or a combination?
That’s what attribution is all about.
Problems with the Old Model
Before Google rolled out its new attribution model, attribution was given to the last ad clicked. But this didn’t always accurately reflect what was happening in the account.
In the baseball jersey example above, the last ad would have gotten all the credit for the sale.
At the time, we could use Google Analytics assisted data to give us a fuller picture of what was happening. But it could be a hassle to try and “meld” Google Analytics data with what we were seeing in AdWords.
Google’s New Attribution Model
This all changed when Google rolled out its new attribution models.
As Google explains:
Most advertisers measure the success of their online advertising on a “last click” basis. This means they give all the credit for a conversion to the last-clicked ad and corresponding keyword. However, this ignores the other clicks customers may have made along the way.
Attribution models give you more control over how much credit each ad and keyword gets for your conversions.
With this change, PPC pros could now choose which attribution model to use.
These attribution models include:
- Last click
- First click
- Time decay
- Position based
And now instead of having to cobble together data from AdWords and Google Analytics, all this functionality now resides in AdWords!
Here are more details from AdWords about the different attribution models:
Changes You May See With the New Attribution Models
When we first tried some of the new attribution models, we noticed some changes in our accounts. You may also experience the following:
1. Your Branded Conversions May Drop and Non-Branded May Rise
Under some of the new models, you may see a drop in branded conversions but an increase in non-branded conversions (i.e., credit given to a branded ad versus credit given to a non-branded ad).
This isn’t a bad thing. We were always convinced that non-branded ads contributed to conversions, but it wasn’t always easy to show that with the data.
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But now, the contributions of non-branded ads are more obvious. It confirms what we always suspected: It’s not uncommon for people to click on a non-branded ad earlier in the path to conversion and then click on a branded ad later as they get to know your brand.
Under the last click model, branded campaigns would often get all the credit. (“All our conversions are coming from branded campaigns!”) And we might be tempted to pause our non-brand campaigns.
But now the data shows that would be a bad idea.
Having this fuller (and more accurate) picture of what’s going on makes it easier to optimize client accounts.
2. You May Need to Experiment to Find the Right Model
While having multiple attribution models to choose from is great, it isn’t always easy to know which ones to choose.
We were happy to move away from the last click model, for all the reasons explained above.
We decided that first click wouldn’t make any more sense for most of our clients – it would merely shift the overemphasis from the back end of the conversion path to the front end.
Therefore, we’ve been mostly using position-based attribution and linear attribution for our clients. We like these two options because they give credit to clicks that are distributed throughout the conversion path.
Unfortunately, we haven’t yet had the opportunity to use the data-driven attribution model as none of our clients have accumulated large enough amounts of data to make it available to us.
As explained in the Google help file:
Data-driven attribution gives credit for conversions based on how people search for your business and decide to become your customers. It uses data from your account to determine which ads, keywords, and campaigns have the greatest impact on your business goals. You can use data-driven attribution for website and Google Analytics conversions from Search Network campaigns.
If you’d like more guidance on choosing the right attribution model for your campaigns, check out the Search Engine Journal article, “Searching for the Perfect Attribution Model.”
3. Your Data May Show up Differently
Because some of these models are attribute portions of credit to different clicks, we often see partial conversions (e.g. ¼ conversion, ½ conversion) in accounts.
To minimize confusion, we’ve taken to rounding up these fractions when reporting to clients. We don’t want to get into a lengthy (and distracting) discussion about what, exactly is a “¼ conversion”!
How to Change Your Attribution Model
If you’re inspired to play around with the attribution setting on your accounts, you’ll find it under Conversions in AdWords.
From the table, select the conversion action you want to change. You can then select the desired attribution model from the dropdown menu:
With AdWords changing every day, it isn’t surprising that some industry folks (even experienced ones), might have missed the boat on different attribution models.
While these models might seem a bit confusing, they’re well worth exploring. You may end up with a more accurate picture of which ads are driving your conversions.
In 2018, you need to understand copywriting and SEO – and a whole lot more – to write content that will rank well and return a great ROI.
If you have a head for marketing, UX and research, too, you’ll be in a commanding position. As our discipline evolves in response to a changing search engine landscape, demarcation lines become blurred, and it’s been difficult not to venture into featured snippets, schema and other on-page aspects of SEO.
Instead, with proper focus, you’ll need to know about your audience and how they’ll read your content, what they will be looking for, the continuing role of high quality, in-depth content, where offline historic copywriting skills still live on today, why you should still be using key phrases, and why structure is important.
How will your audience read your content in 2018?
Google’s recent announcement of the first set of sites being migrated to mobile-first indexing reflects the fact that the majority of searches worldwide are carried out on mobile devices. My direct experience is that the move to mobile is very much in the B2C space; less so in B2B, where people are still at their desks with their laptops or desktops.
And then, we see the start of an explosion in voice search and devices – our smartphones and home devices from Google, Amazon and Apple – reading content to us.
Of course, we’re still seeing how voice pans out, and its implications for SEO copywriting, but I’d say if you stick to simple language and shorter sentences within a well-structured piece (think about making the main points right up front in case the listener’s attention wanders).
High-quality, in-depth content
However your audience interacts with your work, it needs to be excellent. Make your content unique, high quality and written to professional standards. Google will reward you. Buying 300-500 spun monstrosities, while never being a great thing, had better not even pass through your mind today. They’ll kill your SEO and content marketing ambitions stone dead.
While we’re thinking about copy lengths, one popular strategy recently has been to write a longer piece than those above you in the rankings. Theirs is 2,000 words? Then leapfrog them by writing 2,500!
Of course, it’s not as simple as that. Take a look at the webpages above you in the SERPs. How good are they? Are they well-written? Do they answer the questions customers are asking? Do they understand searcher intent and how to respond to it?
If the 2,000-worder in your sights fails on any or all of these factors, you may be able to kick the ball out of the park with a shorter, tighter, laser-targeted 1,500-worder.
Writing shorter pieces for mobile’s smaller screens may be tempting. Don’t, though. You’ll lose out to those more extensive pieces, written without such an artificial restriction. Instead, leave it to your UX people, designers and developers to get the presentation right.
Write for people
Now that Google can understand the words on a page, you have to raise your writing game. Get your grammar and stylistic chops up with the best and Google should reward you for it. But don’t forget your audience. Deliver them precisely what they’re looking for.
Before you start writing, ask yourself:
- Who is your audience?
- Where is their pain?
Put yourself in their mind; imagine how they will react to your content.
You may want to go the whole hog and spend time developing Personas. Personally, I’m happy to use them if there’s the budget and someone else to do most of the donkey work. Otherwise, I find I can usually visualize the target group more easily than the series of sometimes-unconvincing individuals that can come out of the Persona-building exercise.
Bridging the offline past with the online present
Let’s see how the long-established rules of copywriting work in today’s SEO copywriting environment.
- Do your research: Advertising industry king, David Ogilvy, stressed the fundamental importance of research in producing great copy some 50 years ago – decades before the age of keyword research or the internet. Don’t you forget the keyword research, though – more on that later .
- Write an attention-grabbing headline based on related key phrases from your research.
- Involve the reader further with subheads – don’t skimp on them, either.
- Make it easy for the reader: In addition to inserting subheads, write in short paragraphs and short sentences. And ensure you put spaces between paragraphs.
- Calls to action: No matter how good your copy, you’ll need a CTA to see the full return on your investment, through sign-ups, purchases or other goal fulfilments.
- Treat editing as separate from writing: Get some time between the two processes and see your work with new eyes. If you’re writing more than a couple of screens of copy, consider printing out your work. You’ll see it entirely differently.
- Get someone else to read your work: They’ll notice your mistakes and pick out where you’re unclear
Don’t listen to people who say ‘Key phrases are dead’. They are very much alive. And they will remain so all the time we use the paradigm of typing or speaking language into a search engine. But their use in digital marketing today has changed.
While you’re doing your research, think audience and marketing. How big is the online audience (market)? Where are they? What can we find out about their demographics? What should my content be about?
With my main key phrases selected, I look for questions and semantically related key phrases to flavour and shape what I’m writing. I find Answer the Public invaluable here.
- Talk to your client and/or customers: Find out about problems, solutions, products and services
- Build a list of seed key phrases
- Do your research
- Select your key phrases: Be sure why they’re relevant to your audience
- Assemble your questions and semantically connected key phrases
- Write for your audience
You can’t sidestep key phrase research. It’s still at the core of copywriting for SEO and the framework for everything you write.
Don’t let key phrase density hang on
Back in the day, before Google understood semantics and had AI, copywriting for SEO was many times more difficult than it is today. The trick was to use the key phrases precisely as they appear in the research (give or take a stop word or two), the requisite number of times or density to help the search engine understand your content. And it all somehow had to read as if a human had written it for another human!SKIP
But why am I talking about key phrase density in 2018? It’s nothing to do with my greying beard and pathological need to relate stories about the past (honest). It’s about WordPress.
The WordPress CMS powers more than 28% of the sites on the Internet. And its most popular SEO plugin, Yoast SEO is getting millions of content producers, both site owners and professional writers to adjust their key phrase densities via Yoast’s traffic light system.
If you’re making this mistake, for everyone’s sake turn off the traffic lights and write according to the rules and advice here. You should start seeing better results.
Structure and <h> tags
Another area that people say has passed into history. I say otherwise. We’re recognizing the growing importance of UX (user experience). As a writer, UX isn’t something you can ignore, thinking it’s the domain of designers and developers. An enjoyable, involving read will be a better experience than a dry academic paper in a learned journal.
If natural, professional writing is a prerequisite for success, so is having a page that’s easy to read and understand. Think about the reader again. A big headline is the most important (use h1 tags), and a hierarchy from next biggest down to smallest (h2 to h6). So use them to make content’s structure clear and easy to navigate.
I’ve got through this entire piece without saying ‘Content is King’. To be honest, I’m not sure it is.
SEO is a much more wide-ranging game in 2018 than it was even a year or two ago. Just writing copy is unlikely to bring all the results you’re looking for. So you must consider SEO copywriting as a part of your digital marketing armory. A fundamental part, of course, but remember the lines are increasingly blurred.
Search engine optimization (SEO) has been a historically intriguing and contentious subject, in part because of the misconceptions surrounding the strategy, and in part because of the many ways to approach its execution. One of the most contentious SEO elements I’ve encountered is link building—the process of placing or earning links pointed to your site to build your domain authority.
Is it because link building improperly can lead to a Google penalty? Or because link building used to be a spammy tactic? I’m not entirely sure. But I do know there are many of you out there who may not fully understand link building, and may have questions you don’t know how to ask (or who to ask).
For those of you out there, I’ve collected 10 important questions about link building that I commonly hear from clients—and am answering them to the best of my ability:
1. Why does link building matter? First, let’s tackle the big question; if doing link building “wrong” gets you penalized, why bother risking it in the first place? The simple answer is that links are like votes of confidence that search engines use to evaluate your site’s trustworthiness and authority. They’re known to be one of the strongest ranking factors in the ranking algorithm, consistently proving to be at or near the top in weight. The more links you have, and the more powerful the sources of those links, the more authoritative your website will appear to search engines such as Google, and the higher it’ll rank in search queries. Of course, higher rankings result in higher organic search traffic. On top of that, links pass indefinite referral traffic to your site, which peripherally helps you meet your traffic goals.
2. Is it enough to let links come to your website naturally? Some search optimizers advise producing the best content you can, and allowing the links to come to your content as naturally as possible. If you’re patient and your content is exceptional, this can work, but it’s faster, more reliable, and more efficient to build at least some of your own links. It’s also more pragmatic to work on building links in addition to passively “earning” them; if your competitors are conducting link building campaigns (and if they’re doing well in organic search then they almost certainly are), but you’re sitting on the sidelines, it’s going to be tough to keep pace with them in the rankings.
3. Why can’t you just post links pointing to your site? While I don’t advise taking a passive approach to acquiring inbound links, I also don’t advise you to go out and place links to your website wherever you please. If you post links to your site indiscriminately on external forums, blog comment sections and similar free-for-all type locations, you’ll risk running into several problems. Your links will likely be removed by those site’s editors, your user accounts will probably be banned for spamming, and on top of that, your site could be penalized for breaking Google’s webmaster guidelines.
4. Which links are most valuable? Not all links provide the same benefit to your site, so which ones are the “best” to receive? In general, the more authoritative the site linking to your site, the more valuable the link will be for your own website’s rankings. That means your link building strategy should favor sites that already have a high domain authority—though that also means they’re generally harder to acquire links from. You can measure the authority of a publisher by measuring its domain authority using a tool like Open Site Explorer.
5. Does anchor text still matter? Anchor text refers to the text that contains the link (the clickable part of the text). Prior to the launch of Google’s Penguin algorithm in 2012, there used to be tremendous advantages to embedding links in specific keyword-rich anchor text. Today, this practice will almost certainly result in a warning from Google, as it’s by far the easiest way for Google to spot manipulative links. With that said, it’s still helpful to include relevant anchor text for your links, but super important to vary your anchor text sufficiently.
6. Are nofollow links worthwhile? Nofollow links are links that are specifically coded to pass no PageRank (sometimes known as “link juice”) to your site. They were originally introduced as a way to help blog owners combat comment spam, but today they’re commonly used to prevent Google from assigning PageRank flow to links within body content as well. There have been numerous studies to try to determine whether nofollow links help your rankings or not, and they have differed in their findings, with one author at Search Engine Land going as far as to say that they are, in fact, “central to good SEO.” The debate will continue on, but my official recommendation is to not discriminate between nofollow and non-nofollow links (sometimes referred to informally as “dofollow links”). Even if nofollow links yield less SEO value than “dofollow” links, they have a number of other benefits that make them worthwhile.
7. Why isn’t my link building working?There are many reasons why a link building campaign might appear to not be working, and I covered them in-depth in a recent article that you can find here. With that said, the most common reasons are that 1) you haven’t given it enough time to start noticing the benefits yet, or 2) your website has technical errors that are preventing it from rising in the ranks. Be sure to check out 101 Ways to Improve Your Website’s SEO to ensure your link building campaign isn’t being held back by technical problems.
8. What happens if I build a “bad” link? If you build a spammy, irrelevant, clearly unnatural, or otherwise “bad” link, you might see it removed by an editor. If it isn’t removed, then it’s unlikely to affect your search rankings (ie, it’ll be ignored) unless it’s deemed to be one of too many such links to your website. If you have too many bad links to your website, your website could be penalized by Google. I’ve written a comprehensive guide on Google manual actions and penalties here. As long as you aren’t deliberately spamming people, you’ll probably be fine.
9. Should I avoid building more links on places where I’ve already built links? Building subsequent links on a single source yields diminishing returns, but that doesn’t mean you should explicitly avoid building links in places where you already have links. Remember, you can still generate referral traffic with every link you build. With that said, all else being equal, it’s generally better to get links from new domains on which you don’t already have inbound links. This is because “domain diversity” – the number of unique domains from which you have inbound links, divided by the number of total links you have pointing to your website – appears to be a strong ranking factor.
10. What’s the best way to build lots of good links? I’ve written a long blog post (or a short book, if you choose to look at it that way) covering this topic which you can find here. Essentially, it all boils down to two main strategies: 1) publishing phenomenal content that people love to link to, and 2) building links to your content through your own authorship on external publications. #1 requires a sound content publication & promotion strategy. #2 requires you to become an author at various publications within your industry expertise and publish content that occasionally references your published work on your own website. I covered how to do that in a half-hour video presentation titled “How to Become a Guest Author On Major Media Publications.”
Hopefully, these 10 questions and answers give you a better sense of what modern link building is, and how it can be effective for your SEO campaign. I’ve barely scratched the surface on the topic of link building, but it’s impossible to fully explore the subject in the span of a single article.
Do some more research, read up on my latest content, and don’t be afraid to experiment.