Recent SEO news has been heavily focused on off-site content, such as the seemingly unending war that’s currently going on between people who think we still need to focus a lot of energy into linkbuilding efforts, their opponents who think it’s time to lay it to rest, and those who are steadfast proponents of the notion that it’s a profoundly mediocre SEO tactic. The recent (but, arguably, pretty mild) Penguin 2.0 update can probably do all the explaining as to why SEO enthusiasts are discussing social media, guest blogging, and, well, everything BUT on-site content in their recent contributions to the community, but we can’t let the importance of having well-optimized on-site content slip through the cracks.

Google Penguin UpdateSince Penguin 2.0 did introduce some important changes, that should probably be rule number one: Don’t neglect your on-site content! You should be refreshing this stuff relatively frequently, especially, of course, if any of the information changes. There’s speculation that frequently-updated sites are better kept on Google’s radar, so that never hurts.

More specifically, stay on top of your keyword usage. Something I’ve seen all too often is webmasters who think they need to use their keywords in their exact forms as the anchor text for their links, and this is actually pretty punishable behavior. If your keyword is “lawn care New Jersey,” do yourself a favor and include a few stop-words to make that keyword sound more natural. Doesn’t “lawn care here in New Jersey” just sound easier to fit in a sentence?

In addition to that, make sure you’re varying your anchor text. Don’t target the same exact keywords over and over again on the same page – Google now sees this as spammy. A good way to switch up similar keywords is by branding them (Sprinkler King’s New Jersey lawn care).

During your content refresh, always do some thorough proofreading. You can never have enough proofreading. It might sound like common sense, but in my few years’ experience in SEO writing, I’ve seen a shameful number of pages that have spelling, grammar, and syntax errors…right on the company page. Not only will that make a visitor question your company’s authenticity, it’ll be a red flag to Google, too, since spam content is usually similarly low-quality. This is why the person writing your on-site content should never be just a writer or just an SEO expert – it should be someone who is well-trained in both, or two experts working side-by-side.

A lot of webmasters also have a hard time resisting the urge to ignore their e-commerce pages. It makes little sense – product descriptions are easy to optimize, but if they go neglected, they can easily account for duplicate content. Take advantage of your ability to optimize your e-commerce; it’s like free SEO real-estate on your website!

And, finally, don’t get too link or strong-tag happy. When a site visitor is just trying to get some basic info, it’s distracting when every other word is bolded or linked. Let the keywords come naturally and don’t put a crazy emphasis on them for a better experience.

So, your homework for today is to go home and refresh your content to make it Penguin 2.0-friendly!

I’m tired of people saying online marketing is “all about great content.”  Those people have a Kevin Costner mentality.

Sorry, Kev

Don’t get me wrong–I have nothing against great content.  For all intents and purposes, I hope this blog post falls under that category.  But let’s not be naïve either; great content isn’t always the most popular, and it doesn’t always drive the most sales.

And if that’s the case, can you really consider it all that great?  I can tell you one thing. The person who decides on your marketing budget probably won’t.

Great content, in order to be successful, requires great marketing and great strategy behind it.

So, really, people should be saying online marketing is “all about great strategic content” not just “great content.”

Know Your Buyer

In order to sell something, you should probably know who you’re selling to.  It makes it so much easier.

When you know your target audience, you can address topics that resonate with them. More importantly, you know what will drive them to convert.  For example, if you sell motorcycle equipment, your audience would probably be people who ride motorcycles.  And it would be in your best interest to create content that appeals to that audience.  If you decide to produce content that talks about tricycles you probably won’t sell too many Harleys.

When determining your audience and what they want to know, start with these questions:

  • Who uses your products/services?
  • What do they ask about your products/services?
  • How can you answer those questions better than your competitors?

Creating Content with a Goal

Every piece of content you produce should have a goal.   Whether it’s to educate, entertain, or entice, you should establish a goal before you create.

These questions will help you determine a goal:

  • Where will this content appear?
  • Who will read it?
  • How will people share it?
  • What kind of ROI would I like to see?

Essentially, you should decide whether you’re trying to boost awareness, sales, or both.  Then, once you’ve determined what your goal is, it’s time to measure it.

Measuring that Goal

The reason you set goals is to see if you can meet them.  That said, your content should be held accountable to the goals you establish.

For example, if you build a landing page pushing your most popular product and create subsequent content to market that page, try monitoring the conversions on that page.  Compare your return to how much time you spent creating that content.  Was it worth it

In the end, it all boils down to a few simple questions:

  • Does your content get people to buy?
  • Can you produce content in a cost-effective way?
  • Are users engaged with your content?

And just about all of these can be measured through Google Analytics.

Google Analytics
Stop Burning Your Budget

When it’s all said and done, we do online marketing so that businesses can make money.  The reason SEOs try to obtain a number one ranking in the SERPs is to drive more targeted traffic and more conversions to a website.

If the website isn’t showing conversions, who cares if you have a number one ranking?  In the same vein, if a website is showing conversions but doesn’t rank all that highly, who cares about a number ranking?

In the end, make sure your online marketer(s) shares the same goals as your business. The two should be seamless.  If not you’ll watch your budget blow up in smoke.

dark-knight-burning

If you want to start cashing in on your content (or just want to talk about my apparent love of movie references), you can contact me at dheinkel@webimax.com

Think of the world of content marketing like an aisle in a grocery store. Google is in charge of stocking the shelves, and they place the best products right where the shopper can see them. In the world of supermarkets, companies pay for that prime space. In the world of organic SEO, Google chooses the products that offer their “shoppers” the best value.

So, the question is, how do you offer the most value in a competitive environment? You present your products in a unique and engaging way. By being unique, your website can enjoy the equivalent of a showcase display at the front of the aisle.

Help your visitors find what they need quickly with great content. Help visitors find what they need quickly with great content.

Our marketing experts need the answer to two simple questions to get the ball rolling on an exciting and unique content marketing strategy:

1. Who is your target consumer base?

2. What do you offer your customers?

After these questions are answered, your onsite content needs to be reviewed to ensure you are at least providing the essential message your visitors are looking for. Your pages should be set up to offer the maximum convenience to your guest. Keywords and links will naturally find their way into the copy when written with this strategy in mind.
When users are unable to scan your website and determine if you have the information they are looking for within seconds, they are gone. And, if it is clear what you offer, your content better keep their attention with a great hook.

Hook ‘em with Humor

In organic SEO, there is no better bait than engaging content.

While there are several ways to hook your audience, one of the most overlooked avenues is humor. The Internet is about connectivity–people love to share something interesting or humorous with their friends and family. When your content has your customers saying, “You have to read this!” Google will recognize the value you offer searchers.

Of course, before you ever add humor to your webpages or daily blogs, you need to realize that humor is the seasoning to the informational steak. It’s okay to be funny when your core message is clear. When the two merge, your website can start turning readers into buyers.

Sometimes standing out from the crowd takes courage. Many businesses shy away from humor at the risk of being offensive. This is certainly understandable, but not all humor has to be so blue. For instance, think of Google. They once debuted Gmail Motion on April Fool’s Day. In fact, it doesn’t have to be a special occasion for Google to bring the funny. Think of all the different Google Doodles on their homepage that always provide sharable, buzz-worthy content. As long as humor is geared toward your user base and is sprinkled in with plenty of high-quality and informative copy, it can be a great way to separate your company from your competitors.

Utilizing humor through infographics or instructrographics is another great way to provide fun, sharable content for your social media campaigns. When you create something funny, promote it through your Facebook, Twitter and other social outlets. It will humanize your business and help potential customers build up some trust in your brand.

If humor isn’t an outlet your business can work with, don’t worry. When you inform, instruct, or relate to your audience in creative and valuable ways, it produces a relationship with your customers, and that’s the hook you need. Then, when SEO techniques bring in more traffic, your content can help reel in the sales.

People say you should learn from your mistakes.  Not me.  I prefer to learn from other people’s mistakes.  It can save you a lot of headaches and sometimes a little embarrassment.

As Content Development Manager, I oversee a team of (awesome) SEO copywriters who help build and optimize content marketing strategies for our clients.   But rather than tell you how incredible we are (seriously, we’re great), I’d like to use this Manager Monday to take a look at a few #epicfails by some of the biggest brands in the world–it’s much funnier and, honestly, more interesting.

Without further ado, here’s my big brand blooper reel for content marketing fails.

New York Times

Most of us have done it before.  We’ve sent an email or maybe a text message that we probably shouldn’t have sent.  However, it’s usually not to the New York Times’ 8 million current subscribers.

In December 2011, a simple email campaign turned into a marketing nightmare for one of the nation’s most popular newspapers.  The paper meant to send an email to people who recently cancelled their subscription asking them if they’d be interested in signing back up at a discount.  When the current subscribers received the email instead of the intended 300 ex-subscribers, most responded with concern that this was spam and some with anger that they didn’t get the discount.

New York Times Office

Advice: Always make sure you check your recipients before clicking “Send” on any message.

Amazon

Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t read Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins’s final installment in the Hunger Games trilogy, I sincerely hope you avoided downtown D.C. last spring.

Amazon came under fire last April when a Kindle billboard in Washington displayed the first page of the final book which revealed key plot points of the previous two books.

Kindle Billboard

Advice: Don’t be a blabber mouth!

Pepsi

I’m a big fan of user-generated content.  It makes my life as a writer so much easier.  I mean people are literally doing the work for me and it’s good for SEO–#winning (is that still going on?).

But what happens when your users don’t have anything engaging to say?  Well, you’d be in a situation similar to Pepsi whose home page consists of nearly all tweets that get little social engagement.  They have nearly 9.5 million “likes” on Facebook yet the posts on their home page typically garner less than 10 (a lot of them have none).

Pepsi Home Page

Advice: If you don’t have anything interesting to say, don’t say anything…no, no wait–say something, but you might have to rely on more than your users to do so.  Produce some of your own content and be more selective with the user-generated content you publish on your site.

Express

I’ve seen this done on a few fashion websites before and really liked the idea.  They use “in-image advertising” to market multiple products. So if you don’t like the jeans you see on the model in the picture but you absolutely love the necklace they’re wearing, there will be a link that directs you to that product’s page.

Unfortunately, this backfired big time for Express.  They decided to help users find products on their site that were similar to clothing items in photos pulled from Yahoo News.  This resulted in Express unintentionally offering users the chance to buy a scarf resembling one worn by an Afghan militant (the picture was taken from a story discussing a bloody attack in Afghanistan).

Express In-Image Ad

Advice: Stick to celebrity news, and just filter out stories that involve Lindsay Lohan, Charlie Sheen, Chris Brown… okay, maybe just stick to your own photos.

GE Ecomagination

 GE recently launched a site called ecomagination.  In theory, it’s awesome.  It aims to be a thought-leadership blog for green technology and green living. They currently have almost 96,000 likes on Facebook, but the majority of their content struggles to get more than handful of likes. Why you ask?

Well, that’s because the majority of their content is self-promotional.  It looks more like a news section of a site than a thought-leadership blog.  This distances them from their audience and hurts their brand.  People want to hear about the issues, not that your company is greener than an Irish bar on St. Patrick’s Day.

 GE Home Page

Advice: Be confident about your brand, not cocky.  Either that or re-name your site egomagination.

Walmart

Social media is a powerful device.  In fact, it’s so powerful that users can take the reins on your social media marketing campaign and turn it into a (in my opinion rather hilarious) prank.

Back in July of 2012, a group of pranksters hijacked a Facebook promotion designed to send Pitbull to the most-liked Walmart.  They used the hashtag #ExilePitbull for a campaign that eventually sent the Miami-based rapper to Kodiak, Alaska.  At least he was a good sport about it saying, “What you gotta understand is that I will go anywhere in the world for my fans.”

Walmart Facebook Ad

Advice:  I’m sorry, but this is just funny.

We all make mistakes, even some of the biggest, most well-liked brands out there.  Sure most are unintentional, but in a world where your mistakes can be scrutinized under the microscope of the Internet (kind of what I’m doing for example), it’s important, now more than ever, to know your audience and think each strategy through to the end.

Oh, and by the way, as much as I talked up my team earlier in the post, we’ve learned from our mistakes as well.  In fact, if you see any in the post, give me a shout.  Happy  marketing!

It’s vital to have a definitive, long-term marketing goal in place for your business in order to truly achieve a greater presence and earn more business within the vertical or verticals it serves.  While virtually every brand can benefit from a solid digital strategy, it is important to remember the various components that are integral in creating your own “game plan”.

Why Content is Crucial
Content is the cornerstone of any website, not only from an SEO perspective, but from a more human perspective, as well.  It is necessary to consider who your online brand is geared towards and which demographics your business is trying to reach.  Ask yourself these three questions when structuring any content for your brand:

“Who will read this?”

“Why will they read it?”

“Will this content provide value to the reader?”

All content on your business’ site, including blog posts and even supplemental content should provide some level of SEO value as well as have an informative and entertaining “edge” to truly stand out to the reader.

Targeted Content for a Relevant Audience
While the quality of your content is a definite factor in determining your site’s rankings and overall SEO performance, it is essential to ensure that your content (both on and off-site) is targeted toward your consumers or clients.

Even blog posts and social media content should be seen as an opportunity to captivate your audience and drive more valuable traffic and potential business to your brand.

Refresh Your Pages to Engage Your Readers
Content Management Systems are a major asset to business-oriented sites or any sites which require frequent updates or changes.  These platforms make it easy for even those with limited knowledge of HTML or other advanced programming languages to create fresh content on-the-fly in order to keep site viewers engaged and keep content up-to-date and relevant.

These guidelines are the key to developing a winning content strategy for your brand and bringing your site to the forefront of search results and maximizing your business’ potential for success in the digital marketplace.

Most marketers, I hope, are familiar with traditional push-pull strategies.  But, me being me, I don’t like to assume things–we all know what happens when you do that.

If you’re unfamiliar with push and pull marketing, here’s the gist of it:

  • Push marketing aggressively seeks out the consumer, often incentivizing them with discounts and special offerings.  This strategy touts, or pushes, these deals to customers so they’ll buy.
  • Pull marketing generates brand awareness, essentially pulling the customer in because they want to learn more.

Not clear enough? Let’s look at some examples.

Traditional Push Example

Anything that urges you to strike while the iron is hot or claims to offer an unbeatable deal is typically a push strategy.  Think “limited time hotel deals” and the “McDonald’s Dollar Menu.”

Traditional Pull Example

Unlike push strategies which tend to be rather blunt, pull strategies are much more subtle.  They don’t simply use low prices to market their product.  They aim to build brand awareness.  Think Apple and Red Bull.

Apple rarely pushes their products onto their customers via special offers.  Innovative advertising and word-of-mouth pulls customers in.  Red Bull, which also uses innovative advertising, uses sponsorships–X Games, Formula 1, etc.– as well to rope people in.

While some companies lean heavily on the push and some heavily on the pull, most companies try to strike a balance between the two.  After all, it’s tough to generate awareness without putting your name out there.

Okay, so we’ve talked a lot about traditional marketing.  How does this tie into what you’re really here to learn about, online marketing?

A New Push-Pull Strategy for Online Marketing

Make no mistake about it–online marketing is still marketing.  All the general principles still apply.  And with Panda, Penguin, and any future cuddly updates, online marketers are being forced to get back to basics.

That being said, the Internet is a relatively new medium for marketers.  With social networks popping up left and right, the people, the customers, are out there. We’re no longer marketing to “Internet users.”  We’re marketing to people with faces, with online profiles full of information.

With those customers at our finger tips, it puts marketers in a unique position.  They have the ability to push products (*cough* spamming *cough*) but they also have the ability to study their customers and develop ways to pull them in.

Websites and blogs are pull strategies.  By fine-tuning them with on-site search engine optimization tactics, we’re improving that pull strategy.  Your website and your blog are your brand and you need to build that.  Even your company’s social media profiles, which may seem like push strategies on the surface, can in fact be pull strategies.  If used properly, they build brand awareness.

That brings me to content marketing, currently the industry’s biggest buzzword.  Companies are now their own publishers.  They create what they believe to be useful content for their customers and publish it on the web.  However, with customers so close to us on social media networks, it’s easy to push when we mean to be pulling–just think of all those “social profiles” who simply pump out articles and blogs without any real commentary.

In the end, you’re likely to see more long-term success through pull marketing online.  Of course, like I said before, though, some push is needed to help you get off the ground.  For example, an e-mail campaign, which can be effective if done correctly and sparingly, is a push strategy that I encourage you to employ.  You can also push certain offers through your social media profiles as long as that’s not all you’re using it for.

Marketing certainly isn’t anything new.  The Internet and how it’s used today is though.  That means we need to adapt our traditional strategies for the web while maintaining a healthy balance between pushing and pulling.