SEO: Cutting Through the Fog

Cutting through the Fog

What do we mean by “SEO”? Yeah, sure, you could say “Search Engine Optimization”, but that’s just because you’re trying to be funny. In the real world, if we ask people to define or explain SEO, we’d get as many different descriptions as we’d have writers. Let’s try to cut through the fog a bit.

Cutting through the fog of SEO

SEO: Is it dead, or just transformed?

Want to have some fun? Just google “SEO is Dead”, and see what you get. The really funny thing about it, is that you’ll find half of the posts are by people who are actually SERIOUS when trying to say that there’s no more place for SEO; and the other half will be using the “SEO is Dead” slogan facetiously, pointing out the still-important-aspects of HOW TO PRESENT YOUR CONTENT IN WAYS THAT THE SEARCH ENGINES CAN EASILY INTERPRET IT.

I think it’s best to just think of SEO as “transformed”. Yeah, the heart and soul is still there (I’m talking about white-hat SEO, ok?); but the SHAPE is different.

SEO: Is it something you do AFTER you write content, or WHILE you write content?

C’mon guys. This question ought to be answered by now!!! Yes, SEO is something that happens AS YOU WRITE GOOD CONTENT. How can this be? How can a copywriter take care of SEO WHILE they’re writing. It’s simple! Make sure that you’re producing RELEVANT CONTENT (i.e. stuff that people are reading) and that you’re getting it to the right people (yeah; those that will share it). You’re already producing QUALITY CONTENT, right? Then take care of the search engines by making it RELEVANT (address the reader’s need / answer the reader’s question) and making it SHARE-WORTHY (intriguing enough to to be send on to the reader’s friends).

But aren’t there some TECHNICAL aspects of SEO BEYOND good content writing?

Yep; there ARE some technical aspects that you OUGHT to keep in mind:

  • Lay out your seo title (and url) in a way that search engines can easily determine the theme.
  • Compose page descriptions for human readers, but with attention to “engine intelligence”.
  • Have a real, human author, linked to their G+ page (authorship)
  • Link OUT to good sources that complement your content.
  • Link INTERNALLY to other related posts on your site.

The reason I’m not going to detail these simple tech aspects is this: If you write good, quality content you will not HAVE TO worry about the deeper intricacies of search engine algorithms. Why? Because those algorithms are BUILT and DESIGNED to identify good content as “good content” (and move it up into higher search ranking). Sure, you ought to keep in mind this short list of “technical aspects” (above), but JUST FOCUS ON WRITING QUALITY CONTENT!!

If you don’t trust me, read this…

I just read a great article (actually, it’s a transcription of a great podcast). Last week, Andrew Youderian took a few minutes to interview AJ Ghergich, for the eCommerceFuel podcast. Andrew and AJ talked extensively about SEO, eCommerce, Marketing, and what 2014 will bring. You can listen to the PodCast at the eCommerceFuel site by clicking here. Or you can read the transcript by going to Ghergich.com, where Kate Gramlich Roumbos laid the whole thing out for us! Either way, you’ll read (or hear) some great stuff. In fact, I’m going to revive a two-year old quote by Lee Odden that was included in Kate’s post:

IT’S NOT SEO ANYMORE, IT’S MARKETING. DEAL WITH IT.

The One Marketing Mistake That Costs You 75% of Your Page Views

Mistake that costs marketers 75% of page views!

There are a number of basic marketing mistakes that can hurt your page views and overall traffic. Poor user interface on your site; poorly written content; boring or irrelevant post titles; lack of optimization (url, description, anchor text, etc.). But let’s talk about the content marketing mistake (a very common one) that can cost you, on average, 75% of your normal volume of page views.

Talk too much about yourself: lose 75% of your readers

But according to the statistics at Content Marketing Institute, the one marketing mistake that can cost you 75% of your normal page views is TO TALK ABOUT YOURSELF!

If we don’t talk about ourselves, who will?!!

Trust comes first; selling comes later

This is not just a little “Marketing no-no”; it’s actually a content marketing death wish. It’s never been very polite to talk about yourself, so this shouldn’t come as such a surprise, but in fact, it IS a bit surprising to many of us. Branding, Advertising and Marketing have — for so long — been seen as efforts to tell everyone about our great array of products and services. Our rhetorical question is, “If we don’t talk about ourselves, who will?!”

Well, fortunately, there’s a good answer for that question. If we’re willing to produce and provide content that really satisfies a need or answers a question that our target reader has, then THEY will be the ones to eventually be talking about us! This approach to marketing can be labeled as Inbound Marketing, or as “Give-to-Get” marketing. It’s related also to what I call “Reality Marketing”. But the main point is this: if we provide content that adds value to the reader by addressing a real need that they have, then they will engage more with our content, they will share it with their friends, and they will develop a sense of trust in our Brand. At that point, THEY will be the ones to look further into our products and services and come looking for that information about ourselves that we chose not to force upon them.

People look for your goods and services AFTER they trust you

Joe Pulizzi observes, in his article about Epic Content Marketing, that the normal content at CMI — which is educational, and designed to answer people’s real questions — will suffer a 75% loss in page views when they publish a piece of content about themselves. CMI’s experience is very similar to what we see at Shift Digital Media: people will look for your goods and services AFTER they’ve developed trust in your Brand.

So…create content that provides relevant help for your target readers’ questions. Talk about yourself LATER, when they’re the ones asking you about your company!

Buy Twitter Followers? Are you Kidding?!

Buy Twitter Followers! Are you Kidding?!

Well, if you can purchase a bride through mail order, then it only makes sense that you can buy Twitter followers too. Most of my readers already know how easy and cheap it is to buy Twitter followers, but do you know how counter-productive it can be to your brand-building efforts?

Why would you buy Twitter Followers?

Let’s all admit it: when we check out somebody’s Twitter page, and see that they only have 32 followers, we think that either (1) they opened their account 15 minutes ago, or (2) they have absolutely NOTHING worth my time. Then the next logical step in that line of thinking is: “But if they have 500 followers, then they definitely DO have something worth checking into.” And obviously, continuing along that line, we come to the (false) conclusion that “the greater the number of followers, the more valuable the content”. Oops. Let’s look a bit below the surface.

What does your follower list say about you?

Sure, you can buy followers! It’s easy. It’s cheap. It’s fast. Just look at these samples from a couple of sites that sell Followers:

Buy Twitter FollowersBuy Twitter Followers? Are you kidding?

 

But what message does it send when people take a look at your followers? Here are a couple samples of Follower lists obtained through purchasing followers, and given as “proof” of success:

If you look at the profiles of these “followers” they usually turn out to be complete “fluff-and-bluff”, and obviously purchased. They have no history of quality tweets, no followers, etc.

Fake Twitter Followers

Fake Twitter Followers!

So if you’re trying to actually build your brand (or your client’s brand), and you did it by bringing in this big pile of followers, what happens when someone looks at your follower list? What does this list say about you?

  1. You’re falsely inflating your online image.
  2. You cannot be trusted.
  3. You’re probably going to scam me if I engage with your advertised product or service.

Pretty dismal, eh?

Buying Twitter Followers: a couple redeeming possibilities

Before I wrap up this post with some summary observations, let me just note here that buying Twitter Followers CAN have a couple positive benefits:

  1. There are plenty of people that do NOT take a careful look. They see that you have a ton of followers (2,000 or 20,000) and decide that it’s worth a trip to your website to learn more about you. Assuming that you DO have a good product or service to offer from you site, then you’ve really benefitted by bringing a potentially interested buyer/subscriber right to your site, where you can now show them (in contrast to your lousy Follower list) some high quality stuff.
  2. There are also people that, upon seeing that you have a long list of followers, decide automatically (superficially?) to follow you too. But these followers are actually following you because they found you through a Twitter search for the particular features in your description, and will likely be interested in the products or services that you are offering.

Some final observations about Purchased Followers:

  1. C’mon! Let’s get real: people hate spin, and their spin-detectors are becoming more and more sensitive. Get caught fluffing and bluffing and you’ll send away potential customers.
  2. I’ve written about “Reality Marketing” elsewhere, and you need to know that “buying followers” is a very strong signal that you’ve really got nothing high-quality to offer; your excellent products might be EXACTLY what the person needs, but they won’t go check it out because you’ve killed them with the falsely-inflated follower list.
  3. Remember: you WANT engagement! You WANT followers who are interested in what you’re providing! You want followers that are giving you feedback, input, critique and high-fives! The purchased followers? Nope; they don’t plan on engaging.
  4. You see Google building more and more intelligence into their algorithms, right? How long before they’ll figure out an algorithm to determine “less-than-genuine followers”, and slap a little results-penalty on your site?
  5. As I said, you MIGHT pull down a bit of follower-action through having the inflated number of followers on your Twitter page. Yeah, MIGHT. But what you won’t ever know about is the searcher who found your Twitter page by searching for your type of product/service, but then ran in the opposite direction when they saw your fake followers.

Bottom line: Do the work. Invest the effort. Produce something terrific! Live with (and enjoy) the followers that you earn through the ongoing conversation and interaction with your site and your helpful tweets!

Worst Mistake in Branding

Worst Mistake in Branding

Have you ever heard, “Don’t talk about yourself; it’s not polite.”? Well in marketing, we often believe that it’s our JOB to talk about ourselves, because if we don’t, who will? Conventional wisdom used to tell us to take every opportunity available to get our Brand and our list of products out there in front of everybody. Tell ‘em what you’ve got. Tell ‘em what you’ve done. Tell ‘em why you’re great. But that’s a one-dimensional approach, and it’s getting weaker by the day.Worst Mistake in Branding

Branding 101 – Balance your Content

Is there a place for explaining the unique benefits of your brand? Of course there is! It’s probably the most important feature of branding: being able to show why your product or service is EXACTLY what people need to solve their current challenge. But here’s the problem you can run into if you’re living in that “one dimension” of blowing your own horn all the time: you’ll only be playing to a very narrow band of listeners. You’ll only be talking to those that have already decided they need your product. You’ll have very little to offer those that AREN’T SURE THAT THEY NEED YOU YET. And that’s where the growth is going to come from: making friends, establishing yourself as a good source of information or an entertaining place to spend 10 minutes for people that are just poking around the edges of your industry, and just not quite ready to commit yet. This is a basic enough principle to qualify for a “Branding 101″ type of post.

But who’s gonna talk about my brand?!

So let me answer that rhetorical question: “If we don’t talk about ourselves, who will?” The answer: your followers! Show them that you have great stuff to read or view. Show them that you’ve got relevant information, easy to consume and entertaining. Show them that you know how to talk about valuable stuff WITHOUT cramming your brand down their throats. Show them that you can add value to their life, with no strings attached. What am I talking about? I’m talking about content marketing: using content to demonstrate authority, trust and usefulness. Let them be pleased with what they see, and THEN ask themselves, “Hmmmm…. Who are these guys? They seem to know what they’re talking about, and I LOVE their personality.” Don’t worry, they’ll know how to navigate to your About Us page to read your story and to find out about all the cool stuff you have to offer. It will be natural because THEY will know that THEY were in control of reading what THEY wanted to read, and were genuinely interested in finding out more. And you know what they’ll do next? Yep; you guessed it: they’ll talk about you to their friends.

Your best content won’t be about YOU

The brands that truly understand content are the ones that recognize the best content is not about them, but about something valuable to the people who see or read it.

That’s a quote from Carrie Kerpen, the CEO of Likeable Media. Perhaps you’d consider me a small-time Content Marketing Strategist, but Carrie is big-time! So if you can’t take MY word for it, take Carrie’s word for it. Don’t keep pushing your brand and your list of cool products. It’s not polite to talk so much about yourself! Balance that with lots of intriguing, entertaining, relevant-to-your-followers type of content. Let them get to know your personality, your authority, your reliability, your humor…. THEN let them decide it’s worth a look at your Products and Services page!

Inbound Marketing: An Infographic

Inbound Marketing

If you haven’t heard about “Inbound Marketing” then you’re asleep at the wheel! There is a growing number of marketing agencies that have aligned themselves with the “Inbound Principles” pioneered by HubSpot. The basic concept: implement marketing activities that help prospects find you (rather than tactics that intrude into the lives of those who aren’t asking).

This excellent infographic, put together by Spark Inbound Marketing, does a good job of introducing the basics of inbound marketing. But the graphic does something else for you: it ends by showing you the kind of in-house staff/skills you’ll need in order to carry out successful marketing relying on your own company resources. For most small to medium sized companies, the list helps them see why an agency is what they really need (for, contrary to what many people think, it will usually SAVE MONEY to hire an agency).

Inbound Marketing: An InfographicAs is so often the case, the DIY and in-house efforts are a very important STARTING POINT for every company. There are aspects of marketing that MUST BE DONE IN-HOUSE! But as your company grows, you quickly get to the place where your best move will be to hire an agency to really boost your online branding efforts, your connection to interested followers, and your online visibility.

And by the way…when you DO start looking for an agency, make sure you ask them how they feel about Inbound Marketing. Their answer will give you a nice, quick peek into their philosophy and practices.

So here’s the Inbound Marketing Infographic:

 

inbound marketing agency