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HummingbirdIf we were expecting cows, zebras, or skunks, Google surprised us all and announced the arrival of the Hummingbird update. It is, says Google, the biggest update to their algorithm since 2001. Uh-oh. Many businesses and SEOs are still recovering from Panda and Penguin. Should we be worried about Hummingbird?

Yes, very, very worried. No, not really! You should be right as rain, if you’ve been doing sound SEO. If you haven’t, you were likely caught up by previous algo updates. In fact, Google’s been running the update for a few months now.  So, what is it?

Hummingbird is designed to produce better search results. Specifically, Google is targeting longer and/or more complex search queries. This is in response to the change in search habits. We increasingly use questions in our queries: where is the best Chinese restaurant in Birmingham? And we are entering longer queries, particularly with the aid of mobile speech searches.

Google has to keep up – no, it must anticipate and surpass – search trends. With Hummingbird, they leverage Knowledge Graph and analyze relationships between concepts and keywords. Our searches are more “conversational,” so Hummingbird allows the search engine to better understand our locations, our contexts, the relationships between the words themselves. Google doesn’t want to return results that match what we’ve entered; they want to return results that match what we meant.

This update should not affect your website or ranking. As always, solid, relevant content is king, and implementing proven SEO tactics (i.e. creating optimised descriptions, titles, and tags and building sitemaps) will help you increase crawlability and visibility.

 

 

Shaking Hands

One of the primary goals of content marketing, and indeed, all internet campaign efforts, is credibility. Your online brand is only as good as the trust that you build with your audience, and it is critical that you establish your integrity and authority, especially if you are asking for sensitive personal or financial information. How can you establish greater trust, and put customers at ease?

Trust seals can increase conversion rate optimisations: 86 percent of online shoppers feel more confident when they utilise sites that display the seals. According to research, the most well-respected trusted trust seals are: Norton Secured, powered by Verisign, McAfee Secure, and TRUSTe.

Let’s take a quick look at a Norton option: Secure Site Pro with EV SSL Certificates, for instance, gives you extended validation, green address bar (another visual for customers), 128-bit minimum to 256-bit encryption, and $1.5 million warranty and vulnerability assessment.  Your site will have that level of protection and security for users. McAfee Secure offers daily scans for hacker vulnerabilities and threats, proactive alerts to threats, remediation assistance, and unlimited technical support.

When you get these seals, you get more than a logo to put on your website. You get protection for your site, and for your customers.

In addition to trust seals, you can take other steps to help boost your credibility, including:

  • Posting authentic testimonials and customer reviews.
  • Display and provide links if you are mentioned in industry publications or by news organizations.
  • Create and prominently display a privacy policy, guaranteeing that customer information will never be sold, traded, or used for purposes other than stated.
  • Ensure the trust seals are displayed prominently.
  • Link to social media profiles to further establish a presence and to allow potential customers to engage with your online community.

Download Onscreen ButtonSEO, and search engine visibility, is just the first step. Conversion rate optimisation is focused on keeping visitors on your site and ensuring they complete the desired call to action, whether that is purchasing a product, signing up for a newsletter, or answering questions on a survey. Are your CTAs effective?

Calls to action tend to be relegated to afterthoughts on most websites. A small scale study of businesses presented by Small Business Trends found that 70 percent do not optimise CTAs on their home pages. More – 72 percent – do not have CTAs on their interior pages, and still more – 82 percent – do not mention their social media profiles. Most do not include vital information, such as phone numbers or email addresses; and if they do, they are not featured prominently.

A compelling call to action is essential but how do you go beyond “Contact us”?

  • Learn from the mistakes of these small businesses. Place CTAs in prominent locations and in interior pages. Make them noticeable: contrasting colors for your banners and buttons work. There is some conjecture that different colors – such as yellow and orange– are more eye-catching and apt to convert. You can get into A/B testing to determine that, but in the meantime, make sure they are highly visible.
  • Pair your CTA with your content. “Buy now” is often your ultimate goal, but does that make sense on an information or educational page? A more effective call to action would center around learning more, contacting you for further information, or downloading an ebook or whitepaper.
  • “Learn more” can be ambiguous. Make sure that your CTA tells the visitor exactly what action you would encourage them to take (which will be to their benefit, of course!). Make that value proposition clear. JetSetter does this: they may have a tidbit about an Italian vacation with a CTA button that reads, “Plan a trip like this.” The visitor knows what will happen when he clicks through, making it more likely that he will do so.
  • Inject some urgency. You need to do this now! Is the message, but how to word it? Spotify does a great job with this one: “Music is for every moment.” Then, under,  “Get Spotify for free.” It is inspirational – we have moments! We want music for them! Our very own soundtracks! – and it’s free. That never hurts.
  • Be very clear in your wording. “Buy now” is not earth shattering, but if visitors are on a product page, it only makes sense. When the tried and true works, use it.

Businesses tack on CTAs after carefully working through content strategies. This is a mistake. Spend time crafting your CTAs wording, design, and placement – and then track your analytics to see the difference it makes.

Film Reel Series

YouTube is a juggernaut of video and brand power; over 6 billion hours of video are viewed each month; 100 hours are uploaded every minute, and YouTube reaches more people than any cable network. It has global reach, immense power, and unlimited content. And in the billions of hours of video, where are you? How can you ensure that the right audience can find you? You don’t need to go viral in order to be successful with YouTube. Here are a few useful tips that can help you become more visible?

You know you should write descriptive titles and descriptions. Here are some other “musts.”

  • Improv is fun and spontaneous! But it can also be difficult to pull off in a video for your brand. In most cases, having a script is the best way to go because you can be sure to get your message articulated fully and effectively. And, another benefit, you can add the script to the description. Google will index this, and you’ll improve your visibility.
  • Don’t use a generic video file name. Use a targeted keyword in your file name. YouTube – and, hence, Google, notices. Be sure that the keyword directly relates to the content of the video.
  • Add closed captioning. You will be able to reach viewers who are hard of hearing or deaf, and you will be providing Google and YouTube with indexable, crawlable content. If you follow your script, you can simply upload that as your transcript. If not, you can use Google Voice to create your captions.
  • Use what you have. Your website, blogs, and social media presence should be interconnected, so cross-promote your videos. Simply posting a video on YouTube is unlikely to bring you the success you want, but tweeting, Facebooking, and blogging about it, posting it on your website, and creating a link from YouTube to your site are effective techniques for seeding your video content.
  • Create a YouTube channel. Again, this will interconnect with your other platforms, and it will provide viewers with easy access to other interesting content. Your channel also gives you the chance to write descriptive titles and descriptions for greater visibility.
  • Try Annotations. This feature allows you to create an interactive video experience.  You can add background information or link to relevant content. This could be a big opportunity because a lot of videos either do not use these or don’t use them well. Get creative.

YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine. When you optimise your videos, you have a much better chance at standing out from the crowd.

Paper Chain In The DarkProducing quality, relevant content is an ongoing task for website owners, bloggers, and businesses. In addition to producing our own written, video, and image content, we can employ additional methods to ensure we give our audiences the material they want and need. Curating is one way to do this, as is using the words, images, and thoughts of our audiences themselves. Leveraging user generated content (UGC) can be an effective technique to enhance our websites.

The UK’s Guardian has recently launched a digital platform which enables users to upload video, photos, and text content to its journalists via apps or the website. They call this “GuardianWitness,” and they’ve leveraged it to allow up-to-the-minute, man-on-the-street coverage of major news events. This is just one example of brands leveraging UGC. Retail-based and service-based brands can also benefit: Brisk Ice Tea, for instance, crowdsourced a special edition label to fans of the beverage, using Instagram for help. The potential is enormous; how can you encourage and use UGC effectively?

  • Let users know you want their words, pictures, etc. Solicit user feedback, reviews, and ratings. Make it easy for your customers to leave feedback and share their experience via social media. Sharing buttons, review buttons, and/or a “Most Recent Reviews” sections on your website can be invaluable.
  • Give them something back. UGC is a favor from your audience to you – now give them something in return.  A gift card, free product, free sample, free shipping, and other perks are fairly inexpensive for you, and your users’ content may help draw in additional visitors (and customers!). This makes it a smart investment.  If a free sample doesn’t work for your business or site, why not feature a user each week or month? Post the content prominently on your site.
  • Create hashtags and ask your audience to tweet or post to Instragram. Lulumon did this with #sweatlife, and yoga-enthusiasts posted 40,000 pics of themselves in various yoga poses – and in Lulumon clothing. People like to feel a part of the community, and at the same time, they’re creating great content for you.
  • Ask loyal customers to be your testers. Give them a free product in exchange for a thorough review of said product. Amazon does this with its wildly popular Vine program, and the mega-retailer’s UGC is an indispensable part of its online brand.
  • Get current on the laws and restrictions surrounding UGC. If, for instance, a user modifies a copyrighted video or image, it can violate copyright laws and you might be complicit in displaying that content. Also, you’ll want to make sure your contests conform to the rules of the social platforms they appear on and winners should sign an agreement that their content can be used by your brand.

UGC can be an integral, vibrant part of your content creation strategy. Have you used UGC? If so, how?

 

Ye Old Typewriter 2

Writing great content can be a challenge. Writing great content day after day after day is most certainly a feat. Content tools are not designed to write content for us; we want to leave that for the humans. What they do, however, is help us map out what we need to cover, when, and how. They can help give us a spark of inspiration when the muse has cut out early or when a meeting has left us dull. What are the best ones to use?

Ubersuggest. Sometimes all you need is an idea, especially on a slow news day. Ubersuggest allows you to enter in a word or phrase and troll through Google Suggestions for trending and related topics. You can find ideas, resources, and other content-starters on topics that are of interest to your audience.

Scrapebox. Ok, we know. This one does not have a sterling reputation. It is often connected with those spammy comments you see on blogs, and it can be used for that purpose, to be sure. It can also be used completely legitimately, white hat-approved, as a content tool. Much like Ubersuggest, it scrapes content and can help you find related topics on which to create content. Some even say it is more powerful. Just don’t use the spam-comment feature. If you’re concerned, there are a number of great articles from reputable sources on using it this way. Again, do not use the spam or link features.

Audacity. This is a free recording/editing tool that will help you create audio content. It is important to have a mix of content (text, images, video, audio) to appeal to your audience’s diverse learning styles. Record your thoughts on a topic, or interview an industry authority. Get “man on the street” feedback or do an audio Q&A. There is a lot of possibility here.

Evernote. With this program, you can keep track of notes, recordings, images, webpages, etc., and access it via the cloud from any device. This is great when the inspiration strikes on the train and you only have your phone. It can be a repository for content ideas, and best of all, it is collaborative. Share it with colleagues so they can add to it or use it themselves.

Feedly. This is a Google Reader successor. The magazine-style reader allows you to access, organize, and read content from across the web easily and efficiently.

Slideshare. Surprised? Don’t be. Slideshare can be a powerful tool for building your authority and visibility. Slide decks are informative, sharable, and great for appealing to a variety of users.

As always, you can use resources like Quora, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other news aggregators to find topics on which to create. The key is to keep it organized with a program like Evernote and then create a content calendar so you can keep on top of your game and deliver fresh, relevant, strategic content.

Hand Over KeyboardContent curation has become a hot technique to use in content production because it provides (or should!) value to our readers and helps us put out fresh content. But like any content marketing, SEO, SMO, CRO, acronym-of-your-choice technique, there are big caveats to its use. Content curation can be a helpful tool, or it can impact your rank. How do you know if it is going to help or hurt you?

Eric Enge of Search Engine Watch writes in a recent post, “Content curation could be a very risky practice for you.” Why? It depends on your site’s authority. As Enge explains, if you happen to be the New York Times, you will be fine. You have a recognizable, authoritative brand. The editorial practices make it difficult to get content published in the NYT – it has to offer real value. As well, it has a profile of high-quality links and both publisher and individual author authority. Curated content will not hurt the NYT because it has these factors in spades.

You don’t have to an internationally-known brand to use curation – it helps though! If you have a good link profile, authorship (use your authorship tag!), and a solid, reputable site, curation is, indeed, a useful too. And let’s not forget the real value: giving something of relevance to your audience. If a curated list will help them, publish one. But again, there is a caveat.

Google doesn’t have to index your site. It may regard your curated lists as search results, and they don’t want your results to compete with theirs. What you can do to avoid the problem but still curate is to put noindex tags on curated content. So, make sure you have some sort of brand, site, authorship authority, do a link audit, use noindex. Are there any other content curation best practices to help you use this technique effectively?

  • Use curation judiciously. Offer a mix of content to your audience: create, curate, and use user-generated content. This can be a winning formula.
  • Publish across platforms. You have Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and other sites available to you. Find out which are most appropriate to you, and get active.
  • Point your readers to reputable, high-quality sources, and give credit where credit is due.

When you make content curation part of your content plan, you can see great results. Don’t use it simply because you don’t know what to write about on a given day! Provide value to your readers.

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