March 20th, 2014.
Again, Google gets the backs up of companies investing heavily in its services, though this time it’s not through an algorithm update or a change in the webmaster guidelines. Rather, it’s their comparison feature that has sandbagged the major comparison shopping firms.
If you’re involved in Travel, Finance or Insurance, you need to be aware that Google is interested in controlling these verticals within its own search engine, as much as possible. The opportunity for profit is huge as is the tonnes of valuable data that will be collected.
The Google comparison feature was soon released after they acquired comparison site “Beat That Quote” back in 2011. The feature meant that Google would appear for generic competitive industry related keywords, such as car insurance or mortgages. This is still the case today.
This move was understandable, Google’s desire to keep growing and monopolising the internet means that creations such as this are going to be more and more common. At the end of the day, they’ve reach mass market penetration in the UK, the only way to please the shareholders is to diversify into other lucrative industries.
Brand Bidding is Bad, Unless You’re Google
However, it looks like one rule for everyone else except Google, who haven’t been following their own rules again. Their position as overlords of the internet has entitled them to take advantage of the very companies that are paying them remarkable figures in Google adwords advertisement and other services.
Scratching your head?
Google’s comparison engine has gone a step further than simply appearing for the generic big industry keywords.
A branded search for anyone of the top comparison website rivals will return this:
They’ve effectively done MoneySuperMarket’s job for them, how thoughtful…
Despite the fact that MoneySuperMarket will probably be paying incredible sums of money to raise awareness of their brand name, all of which supports their offline marketing efforts, which includes extensive above the line media adverts. Their efforts are being sabotaged by Google’s “Sponsored” comparison engine which is essentially hijacking users away from the MoneySuperMarket website. Whilst doing this they’re also trying to force the users to adopt Google’s own engine instead, which features a list of alternative competitor insurance companies.
In a nutshell Google’s comparison engine seems to be a glorified affiliate site.
You thought Google only favoured the big brands…
So what do the big comparison sites do, how would you react? It would appear that they just have to accept it. Thanks Mike… ground breaking revelation there.
This isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last time that Google have tried to force users to use their platform over a potential rivals, this should sound familiar? Google are being hypocritical of their own guidelines and company mission statement.
We’ve all heard that providing a good user experience and unique authoritative content are what Google rewards the most, which makes perfect sense. So why when companies such as MoneySuperMarket provide awesome content, such as this, are they being pushed further down the SERPS real estate?
Kevin Gibbons recently wrote a great piece on how to beat Google in a vertical search, making the point that relying on Google is always a risky game, it’s your biggest competitor. It has your mindshare whenever want to find something or buy a product.
Kevin, goes onto to give great examples of how MoneySuperMarket are beating Google hand’s down by ultimately using their marketing as an acquisition channel which rewards them for coming back. They’re running newsletters, social media, blog, apps, SEO and remarketing to such an effect that a Google search is becoming more and more irrelevant.
And if all that doesn’t work, well at least they have Snoop Dog.
February 10th, 2014.
Are you still waiting to implement a winning strategy in 2014? Is the doom and gloom hokum surrounding Google updates preventing you from making the right decisions?
Let me take you back to the past and into the shoes of a university student who chose to follow the straight arrow path of Marketing.
Amongst the countless amounts of acronyms and matrix tables that flooded lecture handouts is the classic “SMART” formula. The formula exists to guide you to defining better objectives.
Specific – Define what it is that you want to achieve. Answer those 5 W’s! Who, what, when, why and where.
Measurable – Quantify your objectives, how are you going to back up your results?
Achievable – We all like to overreach at times. When setting objectives make sure that they’re likely to be achieved by your team.
Relevant – Make sure the objectives are relevant to the business and in line with the overall marketing plan.
Time based – Set a date for the objectives to be complete (tricky in SEO).
A smarter SEO would also add
So I suppose you want a SMART example in SEO?
A fictitious Mexican food restaurant business based in the UK … “Guapo – Mexican”
“We want to target food lovers from the UK who enjoy tasting exciting Mexican dishes (specific) to raise awareness to our restaurant (actionable and relevant). We will aim to bring over 30,000 visits to our site (measurable) within 8 months (timely)”.
So, how will the SMART acronym apply to your 2014 strategy?
First you must begin to understand how search will change in 2014. So let’s take a look at the predictions.
2013 saw Google unleash the shackles on countless updates. If you weren’t scared at anyone point, then you’re a liar! We saw more frequent Penguin and Panda updates, Hummingbird and the (not provided) debacle finally hit its peak. Enough to send the SEO world into to complete disarray…
It’s safe to say that the SERPS changed in a big way last year. We saw steps to include more localised results as well as better integration of the knowledge graph.
A basic search for “Mexican food” returns a mixture of locally, knowledge based and contextually relevant results.
To get the most out of your SMARTER objectives for 2014, I’d suggest doing the following:
Make the most of local
1) Get listed on Google local places, claim your profile and add all the bells and whistles (360 Photos and Videos) to make sure that your profile stands out amongst your competitors.
2) Encourage sentiment and reward customers who review the restaurant on Google, Trip advisor, Yelp, Top table and other platforms.
3) A mobile version of your site is a must. The majority of mobile searches are for local services, take advantage of this by making your menu and deals accessible and shareable on mobile devices.
4) Go social… Nothing new there, but certainly a necessary step to taking up more first page real estate. In the case of the above example, the love of food is universal. Therefore a restaurant is blessed with the amount of social media tools available at its disposal. Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Instagram and Pinterest can also be used to great effect. You could also top this off by adding a blog to your site. Adding a blog is an easy way to increase the amount of pages, helping you rank for a wider set of keywords.
5) Add separate pages for multiple locations. This helps Google deliver the best result to the searcher, it’s probably a good call to also add your contact details to many pages.
Move away from one type of Analytics
Predicted by Rand Fishkin in Moz’s 2013 predictions was that marketers would need to stop relying on Google analytics as the sole platform for web marketing. He was right by some degree, other platforms such as Mixpanel, Piwick, Omniture and Hubspot did grow significantly last year.
Google’s (not provided) alienated many web marketers who put all their eggs in one basket. Being able to measure and report became tough but that wasn’t the only issue. Identifying opportunities for growth also became difficult. The market is becoming more competitive and margin for errors of ignorance is less forgiving.
Heavier correlation of G+ in search results
A Moz report in 2013 found a high amount of correlation in search rankings and their number of Google +1’s. Cyrus Shepard reported on the findings as surprising, although “correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation”. The post did create some controversy which sparked Matt Cutts to respond to the debate via hacker news to poor cold water on the findings.
Make the most of Google + by building relationships with your audience and like minded businesses in your niche, identify the industry influencers and connect with them. Take advantage of rel=”publisher” and connect your website to your Google+ brand page.
Incorporating Google + tactics in your strategy will be more important than previous years. The research done by Moz and search metrics indicates the social networks significance and correlation to higher rankings. You will also benefit from increased Click through rate, relevant and influential communities as well as growing your brands authority.
Content Marketing continues to grow but who’s taking over the reins?
Content marketing has been the buzz word for the last couple of years now and it’s taken some time for many businesses to adjust, but to give you an idea of how far it’s come, it is said that up to 92% of marketers are now practicing some form of content marketing. But do marketers really know best?
The content marketing institute estimate that Marketers will have to up their game if they want to remain relevant. Perhaps not surprisingly, it’s Journalists who are leading the way with great backgrounds in writing and storytelling and information design. They know how to orchestrate content that makes you care, is different to the competition, is new and surprises people. Beyond their storytelling abilities are tech and research skills and the ability to meet strict deadlines.
Marketer’s who can learn to think like journalists in 2014 will reap the benefits of good content marketing.
Don’t rely on any one tactic
This is nothing new… perhaps it could just be received as conventional wisdom. Relying on anyone SEO tactic will result in either one of two things:
You’ll get burned
Your gains will be short term and eventually … You’ll get burned
Ace job there…
Unfortunately, there will always be digital marketers that will want to get the best returns with as little investment as possible. Hereby lays the problem. The result of this cavalier attitude is low quality content that is happy to be placed on any site that will accept it.
For those of you who pay attention to the latest SEO news might have read about Google unleashing a fire demon on guest blogging this year. My advice to you is, just up your game and you should be fine. Guest posting isn’t dead: Google just raised the quality bar. Matt Cuts has recently blogged about guest posting and its use effectiveness as an SEO tactic. He says, “there are many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community,etc.) Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future.”
The bottom line is, if you love your brand … why risk its demise? Make sure that you comply with the search engine guidelines and stay up to date with best practices. Try to focus on contributing thought leading articles and information that give you exposure, branding and increased reach. When trying to find a blog to post on, ask yourself … Would you be proud to see your brand exposed here? Does this blog capture my audience? Are the blog’s users engaged in its content?
How to be SMARTER in 2014
Specific – Are you taking local and mobile into account? … Your audience probably is.
Measurable – Google analytics is great, but to stay competitive you’re going to need more data.
Achievable – Can your team do the job? Maybe it’s time to look to hire journalists for your content marketing needs. Be aware how the SERP’s have changed this past year, it would appear that the contrast of real estate on the 1st page of Google keeps diversifying, with only 7 positions for some phrase types and 10 for others. Local listings, knowledge graph and semantic markup such as reviews and ratings also mean that there is so much more to play for.
Relevant – Are you tactics still relevant to your business plan. Does local SEO, social media’s integration in search and improved level of guest posting apply to your overall strategy and brand message?
Time Based – Setting a period in which to see results will always be tricky. However, you can set time periods for work to be completed. Reflect on the content marketing strategy, more and more journalist style marketers are going into content marketing not just because they know how tell a story but because they also know how to meet challenging deadlines.
Ethical – Make sure you’re meeting Google’s guidelines. Relying on anyone tactic will get you burned, you have to remember that your brand is at stake.
Recorded – Record the processes that you’re implementing throughout the strategy. Are the tactics working? Are they future proof? Are they following the plan?
We’ve been making infographics as a linkbuilding method for our clients.
If you don’t know why, see here.
Last week we launched a new piece for our friends at Love Reading. We’d researched the crimes committed by the most popular children’s book villains and worked out the sentences they would have received in a European court.
You can take a look at the piece here.
Long story short, the infographic came to the attention of The Times and they ran the research on page 3 of the Saturday edition. They mentioned the client’s site (and provided a link in the digital edition).
A testament to the power of infographics.
If you want to talk about an infographic for your brand, give us a call.
I ran an experiment last year. I had a website with no blog. It had lots of pages on a niche topic, but very few readers. I installed a blog and began posting once per month. In a year, the traffic doubled – (I’ll admit it increased from ‘barely perceptible’ to ‘quite unremarkable’, but you can’t argue with the numbers).
The massive spike around April 2013 was from some experimenting with paid discovery. The second, smaller spike was a particularly controversial blog post.
I think this settles the argument once and for all: A regular content schedule is a sure-fire way to get traffic.
I know what you’re wondering – ‘How does this affect me, the business owner?’
Well, business owner, I’ll tell you.
It means that you should be publishing regular content on your site if you want people to be visiting it. But as a business owner (or marketing manager) you’ll be plenty busy enough with all sorts of other concerns – do you have time for creating a content marketing strategy too?
You need to be producing content – that’s a fact. It’s a thing you can’t deny. I create content for 30 clients – I use the ‘DEAL’ system, from Tim Ferris (author of The Four Hour Work Week):
Define, Eliminate, Automate, Liberate.
Define the sort of content you need. I daresay you won’t go far wrong with one blog post per week and one infographic per month.
You’ll also need to consider sharing and seeding the content as it’s produced. This can be done via the regular social networking channels, but also on targeted interest sites via email outreach.
All of these things take time – hours and hours of time. But only if you do them all yourself…
Remove any unnecessary steps in the programme. Don’t waste your time getting bogged down with trying to design things yourself or write blog posts yourself – there are plenty of people in the world who will do it for you in exchange for money. They are called freelancers and are readily available online.
Think about what you really need to do for the job to work. In fact, I’ll do it for you – you need to come up with content ideas and you need to check it, then post it. The rest can be done for you.
Automation is achieved by setting up a system that handles the tasks for you. In essence, you feed the machine with briefs and it comes back with content. Online freelancing services exist purely to make your life easier, and they’re really great.
My favourite freelancing sites include:
O-Desk is very useful for finding people to do basic tasks – data analysis, basic research, number crunching etc. I use O-Desk for jobs that are too time consuming to handle myself. For example, if I was trying to make an infographic about football transfers (which I am), I’d post the job on O-Desk and find someone more capable and efficient than me to handle the research and analysis while I concentrate on planning the next infographic.
O-Desk also allows you to create teams of people to handle larger ongoing projects. It’s efficient and easy to manage and provides a screentracker so you can make sure your freelancers are staying on task.
Do note, however – O-Desk has a very high number of have-a-go-heroes. They aren’t necessarily qualified in a given field, so although they are competent, you can’t expect them to do more demanding tasks. For basic stuff though, it’s ideal.
Textbroker’s site is fairly basic in functionality, but it focusses solely on copywriting so it’s far more targeted. Prices vary based on the writer’s rating (out of 5). I’ve found some really fantastic writers on Textbroker, but also some absolute stinkers. Usually I have to edit a few things as it’s easier than sending it back for amendments, but it saves a lot of time.
Good copywriters also tend to be good researchers. They’re generally more able to follow a complex brief than their counterparts on O-Desk, so you can offer them more in-depth projects to research.
People Per Hour – covers pretty much every digital-based job, but I use it for designers
PPH is more useful to me than some of my own body parts. I can post a job at 9 in the morning, receive proposals and have the job in the bag before I go to bed that night. People Per Hour has the benefit of knowing where your freelancer is located, so you can target areas that are likely to have more qualified personnel.
For instance, in searching for a designer, Europe has more reliable design schools than other parts of the world, and by choosing someone in Britain I can guarantee we’re in the same timezone, language and operate on the same working hours. It makes the tasks much more manageable.
The site is really fun. You could spend hours looking at the fantastic artwork and designs people come up with. It costs a lot as it’s targeted solely for design and membership is by invitation only so the vetting process is quite thorough.
Hiring works like a traditional jobs list – you post your jobs and people apply.
It is possible to contact the designers for one-off work, but generally they know the value of their work so be prepared to pay for it.
You need to get your content in front of people. Using services like O-Desk will be futile as the workers tend to take the easy option, and language barriers often mean briefs are misinterpreted. People Per Hour is better as you can find people with proven experience who can provide you with a list of relevant sites to contact with a view to posting your content.
Seeding is an essential part of the content process. Making sure your content appears in the right places and in front of the right people is undoubtedly going to reap its own rewards. By building lists of relevant sites to post to, you can automate this process and make sure every piece of content is placed in front of the influencers, sharers and promoters you need.
If you’ve got a bit of budget, you might also consider paid promotion on social media. ‘Boosting’ a post on Facebook, or StumbleUpon’s paid discovery service guarantee the content will be exposed to more people. However, the content needs to be useful and relevant to the audience to gain more traction. If it’s not engaging, people won’t engage with it (click/share etc.) and you’ll have wasted the promotion budget.
As you practice and refine this process you’ll find yourself free to do other things for your business. You’ll be free to chase new clients and more work, and the best part is, you won’t need to do any more work yourself – the system can handle it!
You’ll notice I didn’t mention anything about idea generation – that’s because I think idea generation is the one thing you shouldn’t outsource. You need to make sure your content is completely suitable for the purpose, and you can have a lot of fun coming up with new ideas.
January 16th, 2014.
What is link reclamation?
Link reclamation is where you’re looking to re-establish links or mentions that were directed towards your site in the past. There are many reasons why previous links may have disappeared but usually it comes down to technical reasons, such as updated pages or a wrong redirect put in place. You could argue it necessary to carry out a link reclamation project every time a website is being redesigned and content is migrated.
Put simply, link reclamation is the process of locating, contacting and fixing broken links to yours or your client’s website. It also has the added benefit of being a totally organic process, with virtually no risk attached. You’re only making the most of current mentions of your company.
Link reclamation is the perfect go to method when starting any link building campaign. It’s simple, quick and will give your campaign a steady footing right from the word go. Examples of where to look for previous links could range from charity work, local or national press, sponsors, exhibitions and review sites such as trust a trader or trust pilot.
Shall we begin… Exciting!
For this you’ll need:
Moz’s Fresh web explorer
One for brands is to look for misspellings. Frequently people will have webmaster error and for whatever reason, they will misspell your domain name.
For instance if you’re a big brand, say Renault or something, you could look for alternate spelling mistakes for your brand (Renualt.com) and where people have linked to the wrong site. From there, it’s simple enough to get in contact with the source of the link and ask that the link be corrected, helping both “our” users.
John Henry Scherck wrote a fantastic post on building links from brand misspellings, all you need is excel, majestic and Aaron Wall’s keyword misspelling tool and you can scale this to another level.
Reverse image search
Have any interesting images on your site? What about your logo? YES! This one is easy. Use the Google reverse image search. This can be a very effective piece to your link building puzzle. Monitor your images and see who’s used them without crediting you as the source. There are other tools out there that can help achieve the same, such as Tineye, Creative commons and Compfight.
You can take this a step further by using your competitor’s images or logos and see what websites are linking to your competitors. A good attitude to take from here would be to try and analyse why they’re using your competitor’s images over yours. It could be that they have a direct interest in your industry and therefore a chance to outreach presents itself.
Fresh Web Explorer – Moz & Google Alerts
Fresh web explorer really has to be one of the easiest ways to locate mentions of your brand that are being scattered around the web. Simply enter your URL or Brand name and search. You’ll hopefully be rewarded with a list of recent mentions that may have passed under your radar. You can also search for multiple phrases at a time, which is handy.
Similarly, you can use good old fashioned Google alerts. You can set this up to track your keywords, brand mentions and even Url’s. If someone mentions you, you’ll get an alert sent through to your email. From there, you can decide if you’d like to get a link from the resulting website.
Use webmaster tools
Go to crawl > Crawl errors, click on your URL’s to see where they’re linked from.
Simply click on that link and you should have a pop that gives you a more detailed look. From here, click on “linked from”.
This should give you the complete run down of who’s linking to you. From here, you can decide if these links are worth keeping or not. If they are and you have another page that is up to date and has thematic relevance to your 404 URL, simply place a 301 redirect in place. Then click “mark as fixed” and let Google get to work.
This is such a simple fix that it would be a crime to leave it out.
Moving Links to your Primary domain
Many companies have more than one domain. Perhaps it was that new intern that recommended a new domain or mini site that you’ve completely forgot about. It could even be an old product that is no longer available.
Going through all your old web assets can sometime uncover some golden opportunities, sometimes going beyond links. Perhaps you’ll rekindle an old business or promotional partnership that served you well in the past. By resolving this issue with a 301 redirect, you can transfer link equity from the unfavoured to the favoured.
Important note: Don’t redirect an old site to the new if it suffered from a Google penalty. You’ll only be breathing new life into those spurious links that caused you all that bother.
Redirected Pages & Server response errors
Using the scraping frog tool, scrape through the depths of your site, as deep as you can possibly go. Make an export of the crawl and pay attention to the response codes that are being found.
If you’re seeing server errors pop up, you can run backlink checker and identify problem areas. Pay attention to 302 redirects, change them to 301’s if possible, allowing previous link equity to pass through. You can also use a header checker tool to follow redirect paths. My favourite tool for doing is Ayima’s redirect tool. I can simply follow the previous redirect path for any problem URLs.
Links to tweets
This is a slice of genius from Ross Hudgens at Siege Media. If you have an active twitter account for your brand, you can make use of your historical data and create an archive of all your tweets and interaction, which can be done by going to account settings. You should then receive an email with instructions to download the zip file. This may take away depending on how active you are.
Place into a CSV and upload using screaming frog. Once it’s been crawled, you can easily see which web addresses have linked to tweets in your archive. If you’re responsible as the source of that content, try getting in touch with that web-master and ask if they can kindly change the link to your site instead of your Twitter handle.
This is just a handful of easy ways to reclaim or identify links that you should be making the most of, a great way to get a link building campaign off the ground. I’m always up for learning, so if you know any other cool little tricks, please comment below. Who knows, perhaps I’ll even be kind enough to link to you in the future.
December 18th, 2013.
Majestic SEO, the web’s biggest open link map, just recently updated their search explorer tool to version “Alpha v0.3”. The search explorer allows marketers to search on a specialised search engine which ranks pages based on how influential on the web graph they are. The approach is no nonsense and provides realistic search results, which exclude ads, authorship and the influence of temporal algorithm rankings.
So what should we expect?
Majestic says, we shouldn’t expect the tool to rival the major search engines, but it turns out they don’t have to as they believe the time is right for a subscription based engine with no advertising and which offers complete transparency. This makes it a great tool for digital marketers, because for the first time, we can more accurately see what factors are influencing high rankings in our niche.
The new update sees two new features that should have the mouths of SEOs watering: The new live rank factors and a new link prospecting methodology.
Live Rank Factors
Labelled as “transparency at your fingertips” by Dixon Jones (marketing director at Majestic), the live rank feature allows users to search by keyword to see what factors are increasing the rankings for theirs or their competitors sites in the SERPS. From this, SEOs can gain a better understanding of what it might take to rank for specific sets of keywords or topics. “For the first time, you can run a search query and see exactly why one search result appears above another”.
The Live rank feature search results tab allows users to analyse the corresponding data on a much granular level than anything before. When performing a search, your results are scored on variables such as InTitle, InAnchor and InURL. Majestic’s trusty flow metrics are also involved as well as referring domains and total external backlinks. These metrics when combined are giving us a great understanding of how Majestic are interpreting the search data.
Getting your hands dirty
From the Live rank factors page, you can dig deeper to get a better grasp of the data being presented. Go to the “Ranking Factors” tab and you can switch from “Data” to “Chart”, which allows you to easily digest the information being presented. From here you can see that if your site is dominating majestic’s search explorer but neither of the big search engines, then this may well mean that there are other factors which are at play, such as personalisation, ads, authorship and so on.
All of this offers great insight to us as SEOs because it allows us to know when enough high authority links have been built and the onsite optimisation of our pages is in good order. If you’re under pressure from clients or your boss to “BUILD MORE LINKS” then be sure to show them the data. Make them aware that although you’re ranking high in Majestic’s search explorer, building more links might not be the way forward and you may end up tripping the big search engines’ spam filters.
Majestic has commented on its plans for its live rank reports going into the future, saying that they’re looking to increase the variables in the algorithm which will be more closely aligned to those of Google and Bing, (well the ones that are perceived as common knowledge in the SEO field).
Link Prospecting Methodology
The link prospecting methodology makes use of AQS (advanced query syntax), our good old friend “site:”. Using this command will return sites that are more than likely to be authorities in their given fields/topics. You can also go further by using the command to bring up blogs on all kinds of platforms.
“Keyword site:blogger.com site:wordpress.com site:blogspot.com site:tumblr.com site:squarespace.com”
The “bucket list” feature allows you to save a list of competitors URLs and run a search against only those URLs. This is an amazing way of benchmarking against your closest competitors.
I love this new feature as it can be used to go beyond link building. I can use this tool for research by cherry-picking the types of results I want in my bucket list, such as trusted and accurate news sites. For example, if I want to research a specific celebrity, I can exclude any news source that offers little substance (red tops and glossy magazines). Majestic also commented that this tool can be used by PR professionals who want to work on reputation management.
To take a full tour of the tool you can view Majestic’s “how to” webinar below. It’s packed full of great instructions and tips for getting the most out of the tool.
I’m excited to see how it’s going to develop over the coming months as they start to add more and more data. I have but one recommendation for going forward…
The issue I found when using the tool for the first time was one that could quite often pop up for many SEOs. It is that of searching and building for branded terms.
Searching for “Sony” will return results from Sony TLDs and international sub folders such as: .com, .net, .co.uk, .jp etc. However, the same search in Google will come with geo targeting and return results such as: .co.uk, local, news, Wikipedia and Amazon, which would be a truer version of what my target customer would be seeing.
The only way I can think of to resolve this would be to include the Google results in my bucket list, but that can also be limiting in a way because I’d constantly be changing half my list due to the amount of variables in the results on any given day, such as news.
I would personally like to see a Geo toggle implemented within the search explorer to give better flexibility in the results. Other than that, I personally love what this new tool has to offer.
One of the biggest problems facing Content Marketers is how best to represent ‘The Brand’ when developing engaging content.
I’ve got a newsflash for you:
YOU DON’T HAVE TO!!!!
In fact, I’d go even further and say you should always try to move away from your brand when building content. The less ‘advertorial’ the content is, the more engaging and sharable it will be.
Far be it from me to tell you your brand is boring, but unless you own a company that makes Star Wars costumes for cats, the internet won’t care what you have to say.
The best content is the stuff that:
- Fills a knowledge gap,
- Answers an important question, or,
- Gets people worked up into a frenzy of commenting and sharing.
You need to ask yourself one important question when planning your content:
Who Will Find This Interesting?
The best answer to this question is ‘Everyone’. You need to ensure maximum appeal to encourage maximum sharability. You need to be getting your content in front of high authority websites and bloggers. If they see the value of the content, they’ll be more willing to use it and provide you with that all-important link. You will never, ever, ever be able to trick people into posting an advert for your website. That’s just not how it works. However, if you’re offering something entertaining or useful that they can reuse to their advantage, they’ll be much more willing to promote your brand.
Here’s a nice thought experiment to explain what I mean:
You’re at a festival with two stages. On one stage, a man is stood talking about the history of his company. On the other stage, a man is riding a lion and juggling swords while a penguin tries to shoot an apple off of his head with a revolver. Who do you think would draw the bigger crowd? Which will be filmed and go viral on the internet and which will be ignored?
The internet is the world’s biggest festival. There’s plenty of content out there, so make sure yours stands out.
I know what you’re thinking: ‘But, Joe! My brand is interesting. I’m offering something unique and my clients love it’. That may be true, and it’s a great system for driving sales. Unfortunately, web content for the most part isn’t about driving conversions – it’s about promoting the brand, building authority and increasing engagement.
I’ll agree your brand probably is very interesting, but I guarantee you’ll find your content more successful if you focus on using your unique industry position to inform your content, rather than define it. I’ll bet you’re sitting on a goldmine of insider information that would be perfect for filling knowledge gaps or creating a useful resource. Everyone has some information lying around – whether you’re a travel company with a great knowledge of the most beautiful places to visit in Europe or a rug manufacturing company with an insight into the psychology of rug design. Put a spin on your data and make it as interesting as possible.
Here’s a takeaway list of things to remember when planning content:
Interest: You need to make it interesting. Make sure nobody will be saying ‘So What?’
Emotion: Getting people worked up on a human level is a surefire way to increase engagement. Happiness and funny content are well shared, but (I’ll let you in on a secret…), making people angry is the best method. The more furious people get, the more active they become. That’s how the Daily Mail is so successful (See Matt’s post: ‘Why the Daily Mail became the world’s most read newspaper‘)
Topical: Try to tap into a current trend on Social Media or in the news. If you can give it a new slant, all the better.
Usable: Usability is a hugely beneficial trait of online content. If people think their friends might find it helpful, they’ll send it to them. Life Hacker is a fine example of this in practice.
In summary: sometimes it pays to step away from your brand a little in the name of creating good content. Especially on the internet.
Take a look through our Complete History of Viral Content and apply this criteria to see why things were successful.
October 10th, 2013.
Those of us interested in how search engines work have been talking this week about ‘Hummingbird’. Not the hollow-boned, nectar-loving tweetie-pies; rather Google’s newest and most revolutionary search engine algorithm in quite some time.
You’ll likely have heard of ‘Panda’ and ‘Penguin’. They were algorithmic updates which supposedly made the search results better. Unlike their counter-parts in the animal kingdom, they weren’t cute and they didn’t make for good YouTube videos; but they did improve the quality of websites and the practices of SEOs.
‘Hummingbird’ is a different beast entirely. Far from being an update to an existing algorithm, it’s an entirely new feature which shows Google’s desire to move searching away from ‘Keywords’ and towards ‘Semantic Searches’. They’re approaching what they call “conversational search”
In 2001, you may have searched for:
‘CINEMA + TIMES + LONDON + AVENGERS’
And you may have been presented with an article from The Times about a new movement of filmgoers in London who are avenging the demise of arthouse productions.
But search isn’t like that anymore. People search more or less how they talk, so searches are more like:
‘Cinema times in London for The Avengers’.
And the rise of voice search on mobile devices means people will try to search:
‘What time is The Avengers playing in London?’
Words like ‘how’, ‘what’, ‘when’ etc. now have a value in Google’s searches. They want to give the most accurate response to your request.
What does that mean for website owners?
As a website owner you’ll need to be improving the information content of your site. Undoubtedly keywords will still matter, but since Google is now holding keyword data to ransom, the best thing you can do is improve the quality of your on-site content. This also means you can stand out in your industry – if you’re the world’s authority on Playstation Game Artwork then make sure you can answer questions like ‘Who designed the GTA 5 artwork?’.
‘Hummingbird pays more attention to each word in the query, ensuring the whole query is taken into account – so if a resulting page is a bit less strong in general, but it’s the most relevant to your search terms, that’s the result you’ll get.’ – Google, as told to The Register.
People are asking questions. If you’re equipped to answer them then your site should reflect that.
Personally I think this is a step in the right direction. The internet is becoming more personal, so responding to the intricacies of language is more essential now than ever before. It makes far more sense to work out what people mean rather than just responding literally to the words they use.
August 21st, 2013.
I’ve been using Google Docs to keep track of links built to client sites and to track the progress of any link removal work. Occasionally I’ve noticed links have either been removed, the linking page no longer exists, or the links reported in that incredibly useless ‘sample link report’ are wrong. As SEOs/link builders/content marketers/inbound marketers/digital ninjas (select/insert your choice of title here) this is something you’ll want to check from time to time.
Whilst tools like ScreamingFrog are great for this sort of thing, sometimes you might want the convenience of checking this within Google Docs:
This lovely little formula grabs the lowercase anchor text of the first link containing ‘www.datadial.net’ of the URL in cell A1.
June 25th, 2013.
All of the briefs we’ve received this year have included a request for a ‘mobile version’ of the proposed new site.
But what does this mean? And do I hear the creak of an overloaded bandwagon?
Just as 2011-12 was the year of the Social Strategy [with no specification as to what that actually means], 2013 is fast becoming the year of the Mobile Site.
Yes, it’s true that mobile use is increasing:
Source Monetate E-Commerce Quarterly.
But how should you respond?
People could be accessing your website from any number of devices (such as phones (of all shapes and sizes), tablets (of all shapes and sizes) and even smart TVs (of all shapes and sizes). So, as a website owner, you shouldn’t be asking whether you should be considering mobile options, you should be asking which mobile options to consider – or shock-horror, opting to do nothing.
So there are 4 main options available to you. Each has its pros and cons, so let’s get the run-down:
#1 Responsive Web Design
What is it?
In a nutshell, this is designing your site so that its layout responds to the device on which it is being displayed..
- Streamlined: The site is hosted on the same domain and uses the same URL so there are no SEO issues or redirecting issues.
- Consistent with Desktop Content: The same content is just presented in a different layout.
- Low Maintenance Cost: Although initial build costs may be slightly higher, the cost of maintenance and updating should be lower (as you are only maintaining one site).
- Slower Loading Times – If you are adapting an old site to a responsive site you may find that it is not fully optimised for mobile and is slow to load. However, if you are building a new site and taking a ‘Mobile First’ approach, this shouldn’t be a problem. But 3G and 4G coverage remains sporadic and unstable – so some content may take time to download.
- General Usability – Mobile users will generally have a goal in mind when accessing a website. Whether it’s buying, reading or checking-in, they may not want to go through the same process as a desktop user. They may expect a stripped down version of the site similar to an App.
- Lack of Mobile Features – You won’t be able to get the same level of integration from a responsive site – features such as camera, photos or calendars.
- Lack of Zoom - if you are used to pinching and zooming into websites on mobile in order to be able to read the tiny text then you will not be able to on a responsive website.
Whether or not to go responsive divides opinion. We’ve been experimenting on our own site with responsive design and generally prefer the regular layout, when viewing on an Iphone. But all sites and companies are different and user needs should be a chief consideration.
#2 Dedicated Mobile Site
What is it?
Dedicated mobile sites are purpose built versions of the original website which are hosted at a new domain address (usually by adding ‘m’ before or after the original address: m.tesco.com or www.argos.co.uk/m/.
The web server normally recognises which device is being used and serves (delivers) the appropriate site to display.
- Different Content – A site purpose-built for mobile will usually have features which can load more quickly on mobile platforms, and you can dispense with some of the superfluous elements found on the desktop version.
- Speedy Development – Compared with alternatives, a mobile site can be built relatively easily. This is less labour-intensive and subsequently less costly than other mobile options.
- Mobile-Focussed – Development for the mobile platform means that navigation and usability are friendlier for mobile users.
- Slower Service – Redirection from main sites to mobile sites takes time. It may only be seconds, but it still damages the overall user experience.
- Double Maintenance – Essentially two sites need to be managed; adding new functionality would need to be done twice.
- SEO Issues – Since the content (and therefore the traffic) is split across two URLs, there’s the chance that your overall SEO will suffer. However, there are ways around this which I’ll outline later in this article.
We built a mobile shop-page for an automotive client. The desktop site’s main focus is selling car parts, so we stripped it down to the essentials to make it easy for mobile users.
#3 Mobile Apps
What are they?
Apps are programs that are saved to the device. They’re relatively small (compared with full websites) and they tend to serve one function (reading articles, shopping, checking-in). They can be a useful way to allow mobile users to access one of your site’s main utilities, or to promote your brand (with a game or similar App).
- Completely Mobile Friendly - Apps have the distinction of being native to the device, so they can access and utilize any of the phone’s capabilities (Camera, Calendar, Maps etc).
- Offline Options – While some Apps require the internet to function fully (social platforms), many others can operate offline, or cache data when an internet connection is available ready for when one isn’t.
- Quicker Loading Times – Since the App is self-contained, loading times should be quicker. Of course this depends on (and is limited by) the device’s memory and processor power.
- Push Notifications - Apps have the ability to update you with the things you need to know. Such as when you receive a new friend request on Facebook, or when you’re near a public toilet.
- No Cross-Functionality – Apps are made for specific platforms. iOS Apps will work on iphone or ipad, but will not be usable by Windows devices – or any non-Apple devices for that matter. This means Apps must be developed for each platform, which is expensive.
- Updates – Apps need to be constantly updated and tweaked. This is in terms of both user-feedback and changes to the device. This can be time-consuming and costly.
- Downloading – Apps have to be downloaded for use. Success in the App world may require considerable marketing and promotion.
We’ve applied appropriate aptitude to developing an App for a company that focusses on standardised testing. The App allows mobile users to practice the tests wherever they are.
The 4th Option
So those are your three options regarding adapting to mobile. There is of course a fourth option and that is that of doing nothing. Most website operate perfectly satisfactorily on mobile and indeed users who know your site will welcome the fact they do not need to relearn where everything is on the page and the new navigation options. This is a strong argument for keeping the status-quo which is not receiving enough credence now that the dash for “mobile first” has been triggered in marketing departments.
So in conclusion beware of the bandwagon, think about the implications before you jump. If someone says “Mobile first” to you ask them what they actually mean and what they want to achieve.
If you would like any more information, please get in touch.
And as a special thank you for reading this far, I’ll now present a guide on how to optimise mobile sites for SEO in the form of a Shakespearean sonnet:
You’ve built two sites; one desktop, one mobile,
But now you’re concerned that your traffic’s split,
And now you’ve come to visit Datadial,
To fix your SEO a little bit.
There are two points that must be mentioned here,
Two tags to put in your HTML,
(On each version of the page – let’s be clear)
They are two tags, and they both start with ‘Rel’.
Rel=”alternate” on the desktop
Make sure it points to the mobile and all…
And pointing back, just so it doesn’t flop
On mobile: Rel=”canonical”
But other things cannot be avoided.
Like linking to mobile, just like I did:
So basically add some links in the HTML of each page that look like this:
Desktop: <link rel=”alternate” href=”http://m.example.com/page-example”>
Mobile: <link rel=”canonical” href=http://example.com/page-example>