5 Ways to Improve Your Blog Posts for Search in 2020

Google never fails to keep us on our toes. Luckily, Google is pretty clear about what they want from content and these general guidelines stay the same regardless of algorithm changes. Here are five strategies to improve blog posts for search in 2020 — and beyond.

Google never fails to keep us on our toes. Just when we think we’ve perfected our content creation strategies, an algorithm update happens and everything is upended. Luckily, Google is pretty clear about what they want from content and these general guidelines stay the same regardless of algorithm changes. Here are five strategies to improve blog posts for search in 2020 — and beyond.

1. Write for Humans

Repeat after me: Google is not your audience. Many of us who work in SEO fall into the habit of writing for Google and not for people. If you construct your blog posts based on a checklist of what you think Google wants to see, it leaves them subject to all those algorithm changes we so dread.

Write for your reader. (And yes, you should have readers.) What do readers want? First, they want topics they’re interested in — this happens to work out well for SEO because people search Google for these same topics. They also want expertise about these topics. Maybe the business you’re creating content for doesn’t have time to write their own blog posts, but they should at least be reviewed for accuracy and noted as such in the post; this alone will set your content apart from the rest.

Finally, people want engaging writing. If you or a member of your team can’t write your blog content due to time constraints/resources, don’t outsource your blog writing to the lowest bidder. We all know these types of posts when we see them — 1000 words that say nothing at all and add nothing to the conversation. When someone lands upon a post like that and quickly leaves, your bounce rate goes up.

Don’t think Google doesn’t notice when you’re not meeting users’ needs.

2. Choose the Right Keywords — and Don’t Overdo It

This connects with the last point, as writing that attempts to stuff in as many keywords as possible isn’t engaging or easy to read. In fact, it can be quite cringe-worthy and, unfortunately, it’s often the standard when it comes to SEO writing. If you’re using WordPress, then you can use a tool like the SEO Yoast plugin to review your keyword ratios, which can help you find the right balance.

Don’t shoehorn unnatural keywords into your copy. You might be targeting “sparkly cowboy hats Nashville,” but insert an “in” in there so it sounds natural.

3. Make Content Skimmable

People don’t read the Internet the same way they read a book. Instead, they skim the content they’re reading. Google skims too, so setting up blog posts to be skimmable is a win-win proposition.

Skimmable means:

  • No giant walls of text
  • Small paragraphs
  • Using relevant images
  • Bullet points (yep, just like this)
  • Using headings and subheadings logically

Let’s talk about that last point. The value of a compelling headline should be no surprise. But remember the humans we’re writing for — headlines should make sense and add order to a post, not a sense of chaos. Using an <h2> tag every few sentences makes it harder to skim, not easier. Headings should tell Google what’s most important; when you use too many, you’re telling Google everything is important.

4. Put the Topic in Context

Rather than repeating keywords, build a robust web of related keywords in your content. In your blog post about sparkly cowboy hats in Nashville, perhaps write about sparkly cowboy boots too. Maybe even bedazzled jean jackets and rhinestone cowboys!

What if Sparkly Cowboy Hats was the name of a country band, though? Well, then you’re going to build that web of keywords differently. You’ll pepper your post with words like music, country, album, gig, guitar, singer. How does Google know the difference between sparkly cowboy hats and Sparkly Cowboy Hats? It’s in the context.

To use a more serious example that I often fall back on, think about contract law. Contract law could be a class in law school. Or it could be a practice area at a law firm. “Contract law” is an important keyword, but it’s the supporting, related keywords that really tell Google what the page is about.

5. Optimize Outside of the Copy

If you’re writing copy for readers, then the page title, meta description, and alt tags are where you can go to town (within reason) and optimize for Google.

Remember, though, Google wants alt tags that are written for people with visual impairments who use screen readers. They’re not a place to shove all your keywords; instead, use a keyword in the context of a description of what the image depicts. Metadata should also reflect what your blog post is actually about rather than attempting a bait-and-switch.

I’m not going to promise that following these guidelines will leave you completely immune to every upcoming algorithm change, but these simple-to-apply strategies will improve your blog posts for search and for your audience.. If anything, 2020 has already taught us to expect the unexpected. That said, if you create solid content for real people rather than jumping on every SEO trend you see, it usually pays off in the end.

Want more tips to improve your SEO?  Click here to grab a copy of our Ultimate SEO Checklist.

 

4 Common Threads Found in the Most Successful Content Marketing Pieces

The most successful content marketing campaigns are those that are produced as a result of a consistent strategy, which is integrated throughout the organization. Your content is effective when you see more engagement from your audience, you improve brand awareness and loyalty, and drive quality leads.

The most successful content marketing campaigns are those that are produced as a result of a consistent strategy, which is integrated throughout the organization. A sure sign that your content is effective is when you see more engagement from your audience, you improve brand awareness and loyalty, and drive quality leads into your sales funnels.

No wonder, then, that 84% of companies in the U.S. are using digital content marketing to connect with their customers at every touchpoint along the buyer’s journey.

successful content marketing graph
Credit: Emarketer.com

Obviously, some brands are better at creating and marketing content than others. What makes them so? Let’s get down to the details and see if there are any basic components that make a post, article, or other piece of content more effective than the average.

1. Well-Researched and Targeted

At its most basic level, content needs to be relatable. In order to better target their messaging, many companies start by segmenting their customers by demographics, and coming up with ideal consumer profiles or “personas.”

While demographics and characteristics are important for understanding who your customers are, they tell you virtually nothing about what customers want. This is why customer intention is so important for businesses of all sizes to understand. Ask yourself:

  • What are their biggest concerns?
  • How do they talk?
  • What issues do they face on daily basis?

These are just a few questions to help jumpstart the process. One of my favorite places to start is social media. We are lucky enough to live in a time with tools that can listen in to what audiences are talking about, all across the world in real-time. Tools like Mention and Brandwatch give you the ability to track your business name, competitors, or certain keywords across the web to learn as much as you can about a particular subset of online users.

content marketing advice
Credit: Mention.com

These insights are great for learning what stage consumers are in in the buying cycle, their attitudes, and how to craft content to play to their interests.

2. In-Tune With the World Around It

In the spirit of keeping content relevant, some the most successful brands gear their content around trending topics. You can learn a lot just by keeping your eyes open.

Let’s take the Super Bowl, for example. Due to its extremely high following, this event has become a staple in many businesses’ messaging. Pet accessories retailer PetSmart found a way to relate its product to football by showcasing doggy images on Instagram:

Credit: @PetSmart on Instagram

The post is as cute as it is relevant!

Another one of my favorite examples is Virgin America’s post following gay marriage legalization across the United Kingdom.

https://twitter.com/VirginHolidays/status/298877466506833920

By celebrating the success of this bill, they immediately appealed to new demographic in this simple, yet powerful post.

This type of opportunistic promotion is by no means a new concept. But, thanks to the Internet, topics in pop culture are transmitted to vast amounts of people at a much higher speed. Audiences these days are much more receptive to messaging around public causes and interests. To maintain a strong presence, it’s a smart move to take advantage of current events for adding value to your content.

As cultural marketing begins to infiltrate more and more business campaigns, top brands are pulling out all of the stops to find creative ways to leverage mass media for the benefit of their messaging. This is yet another one of the many reasons why social media is such a valuable asset for content marketing.

Again, there are media monitoring tools to help you align your strategy around trending topics. If you have your own hashtag (or use a widely accepted one) to voice your brand opinion on a certain topic, you can use a tool like Talkwalker to track reach and engagement around that hashtag.

content marketing and sentiment
Credit: Talkwalker.com

This will help you conceptualize and run location-specific or time-sensitive campaigns that generate a positive sentiment around your brand. Throughout the process, you will learn all about your audience and what types of issues spark their interest.

3. User-Friendly

There are many ways to improve your content’s readability.

  • Use Shorter Words. Depending on your audience, avoid using long and complex terms. Remember, people are looking through your material in search of answers to their concerns, not an English lesson. Unless you’re appealing to a very specific niche, keep it simple.
  • Write in a Conversational Tone. This will obviously depend on the nature of your brand and the type of content you are creating. For popular forms, like blog posts or social media updates, do your best to humanize the messaging. If you read through your content and it sounds like it’s coming from a robot, take your time and add some pizazz.
  • Break It Up. No one likes reading a giant wall of text. If you have a lot of words on the page, break it up into easy-to-skim sections with headings.
content marketing excerpt
Credit: SEOpressor.com

Keep in mind, simplifying your content too much is not a good route to take. For instance, if you are a B2B business writing for professionals, there will inevitably be some industry terms you will want to include. A good strategy is to identify the extremes in your target audience. Say your company sells cloud software. You will likely be creating content for first-time startups, all the way to big enterprises. Try to find a good middle ground of expertise and apply your messaging accordingly.

4. Standing Out

In the current business landscape, there are thousands of companies out there talking about the exact same things. However, there are a small percentage of those who are considered thought leaders in their respective industries.

What Is It That Sets Them Apart?

They don’t buckle under the fear of voicing their honest opinions, however unpopular that might be.

When it comes to content marketing, “playing it safe” will only get you so far. While a conservative approach isn’t necessarily bad, properly planned risks can serve as enhancers. Consumers want to see personality and innovation in brand messaging.

There are a lot of ways you can go about taking risks to bring your content to the next level:

  • Take a Stance on Controversial Topics. Some of the bravest strategies have a mission to make a difference, extending beyond their business goals. For example, many brands have openly boycotted Donald Trump over the course of his presidency.

If you want to show your customers you’re really serious, make sure you put your money where your mouth is. Lighting and furniture company Bellacor cleared away its whole line of Trump Home products in a quick sale to make its position clear.

content marketing example
Credit: Bellacor.com

While you may alienate a percentage of your audience, you can also create a more polarized customer base of those who agree with your views.

  • Make Predictions. A great way to catch people’s eyes is to write about how a particular industry might look in the future. A couple of years ago, Mark Zuckerberg predicted the end for smartphones, and claimed AR glasses would be the future. It remains to be seen if Facebook has enough clout to prove him right or not.

The best part about using this approach is that the risk isn’t particularly high (in most cases). Should you be wrong, it was only a prediction. If you are right, you essentially stamped your ticket to becoming a thought leader.

  • Experiment With Your Content. There is unlimited scope for experimentation in content creation and marketing. You can start marketing on a new channel, change the tone of your content, or try out new content formats. IKEA is well-known for pioneering augmented reality in its brand catalog, with great success, so far:

 

While innovation comes with a price, the reward of generating a higher level of customer interest and engagement can be huge.

Over to You

Content marketing is all about building a level of authenticity that sparks actionable results. Don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith every once in a while. Just as in stock investing, you must ensure each risk is calculated, so you know what you’re getting into. Always keep abreast of current affairs, emerging trends and the latest tech tools, and follow your competition closely to be ready and raring to go at every opportunity to interact with your customers via content.

3 Reasons Why Achieving Organic Search Success Has Gotten Harder

If you think that it has gotten harder to achieve organic search success, you may be right. Most marketers recognize organic search’s tremendous value as an acquisition channel and focus on optimizing for organic search.

If you think that it has gotten harder to achieve organic search success, you may be right. Most marketers recognize organic search’s tremendous value as an acquisition channel and focus on optimizing for organic search.

Even if you are following all of the guidelines and work hard to keep your site in tune with the current demands, you may still be watching your results falter or not grow at levels that had once been easy to achieve. The rewards are still there, but organic search success has gotten harder.

This article will explore three reasons why, despite best efforts, achieving significant search traffic gains may be eluding you. The reasons are structural, outside your site: increased competition for top organic listings; more screens, each with its own demands; and changing consumer expectations.

More Players, Smaller Field of Play

Early adopters of search were richly rewarded. Many online businesses that recognized the potential of search cashed in by optimizing their sites.

At the same time, the search industry landscape was more diverse than it is today. The technology was also much less complex and easier to game. Although there were more search engines to consider in building an optimization plan, there were more baskets to put eggs in.

As the landscape changed and Google became increasingly dominant, search marketers had to focus their efforts toward pleasing an ever-more-sophisticated algorithm. The unfortunate side effect is that a mistake or a misbegotten tactic could and would catastrophically impact a site’s results. Add in that it was no longer a secret that search really works, and the number of businesses seeking those top results grew exponentially.

With the continued growth of e-commerce and the stumbling of bricks-and-mortar retailers, such as Sears, retail has rushed into the organic space. The increased competition of more players seeking the top spots on just a few engines has increased the amount of effort that must go into successful search optimization. This view assumes that the site owner is making all the right moves to meet the improving technology. In short, it is harder — net technology advances.

More Screens, Less Space

The growth of mobile and its impact on organic search cannot be underestimated.

Previous posts have discussed mobile rankings and Google’s own move to a mobile-first index.

Mobile makes the work and the chances for success harder for several reasons. Many sites are still developed in ways that make them mobile hostile – too-small text, color schemes that are hard to see on smaller screens, buttons that are too small, layouts that are difficult to maneuver around.

In moving to a mobile-first index and ranking scheme, Google has upped the ante for search success. Additionally, by rewarding content creation in the algorithm, site owners must balance the demands of the small screen and content presentation. The real downer is that on the small screen, the organic listings are pushed below the fold, off the screen, more readily.

With the recent announcement of new Gallery and Discovery ad formats, it remains to be seen how much screen real estate will be available for organic results. Being No. 1 never had greater valance than it does today.

Consumer Expectations Drive Search

Consumers drive search — they always have. Gone are the days of clunky keyword-stuffed copy (written to impress an algorithm, not a human). Deceptive titles and descriptions are a thing of the past.

Their role has been reaffirmed. Consumers are savvy enough to click away from a page that does not meet the expectation stated in the search result. Google’s use of snippets is a measure of how well or how poorly your page matches user queries. If Google is always pulling a snippet and never using your description, then it may be time to rethink your scheme for writing metadata.

As consumers grow more demanding, it is essential that we, as marketers, provide what they want. As consumer wants change, so we, too, must change.

Change is hard. And today, it is harder than ever to create and execute organic search strategies that work.

Fill in the Blanks: A Framework Where Strategy and Copy Writes Itself

A blank screen or sheet of paper is daunting when starting to conceive a strategy or write copy. There are formulas abound for getting started. But the framework I’ve found most impactful, based on experience and results, is …

copy strategyA blank screen or sheet of paper is daunting when starting to conceive a copy strategy. There are formulas abound for getting started. But the framework I’ve found most impactful, based on experience and results, is one that I have personally conceived and refined over the past years.

I use a seven-step framework to create copy strategy that aligns with how people naturally process information, think and lead themselves to a place where they give themselves permission to inquire, buy or donate. This is detailed in my new book, Crack the Customer Mind Code.

I used this framework once again last week when an organization called me in to meet about a troubled direct mail and online marketing program. I walked the team through the framework, and we were quickly able to identify the disconnect between the approach they were using and what they should be communicating instead. In an hour, a succinct “road map” was created. It became apparent why their recent marketing campaigns weren’t working, and in the second hour of our meeting, we wasted no time in talking through the implementation of a new copy strategy.

I use this framework when writing a letter, video script or content — virtually any copy that requires getting my point across with a story. With client input, we discuss and fill in the blanks in the matrix. The result is a framework that enables faster copywriting and testing.

Most importantly: The seven steps lead to short-term memory, and often the desired long-term memory that serves as the tipping point when the prospect becomes a customer (read how this framework creates new memory in The 3 Levels of Memory: Marketing’s End Game).

Here’s how it works: I create a matrix like the one below (download the PDF). I ask questions, and fill in the answers. Fill in the blanks in the right column and your strategy will reveal itself. Then use the information to start writing copy, and your message practically writes itself.

7-Step Framework for Creating Copy Strategy (opens as a PDF)

Gary Hennerberg gives you the details of his “Seven Pathways from Head to Heart to YES!” in his book, Crack the Customer Mind Code, available from the DirectMarketingIQ Bookstore. For a free download with more detail about the seven pathways, and access to Gary’s videos where he presents them, go to CustomerMindCode.com

The Adobe/Omniture Merger: What It All Means

It’s not often that the geeky world of web analytics gets some sexy news, but that was the case on Sept. 15, when content creation tool provider Adobe Systems announced its intent to acquire Omniture, the web analytics vendor, for $1.8 billion.

It’s not often that the geeky world of web analytics gets some sexy news, but that was the case on Sept. 15, when content creation tool provider Adobe Systems announced its intent to acquire Omniture, the web analytics vendor, for $1.8 billion.

The goal of the merger, according to Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen, is to create a holistic way to develop creative content and measure the value of that content — be it video, web pages, mobile or social media — to “close the loop” in the content creation and content measurement worlds.

With optimization capabilities embedded in Adobe’s creation tools, designers, developers and online marketers will have an integrated workflow that’ll streamline the creation and delivery of content and applications, according to an Adobe press release. The optimization capabilities also will enable advertisers and advertising agencies, publishers, and e-tailers to realize greater ROI from their digital media investments, and improve their end users’ experiences.

While mergers happen every day, this one appears to be game-changing, at least according to the myriad of comments from vendors in the space that appeared in my inbox right after the announcement was made.

Russ Mann, CEO of Covario, said the merger is “a brilliant strategic move for Adobe, one that could change the rules of the game for digital media — from creation to measurement to monetization.”

He also offered specific examples about what the Adobe media world would be like. They include the following scenarios:
• Video developers and agencies will be able to build Adobe Flash creative with Omniture tracking codes implanted from the beginning, enabling them to track the views of creative across the web.
• Web design firms and e-commerce companies can create dynamic landing pages and rich internet ads via Adobe that have tracking and multivariate testing codes via Omniture. These codes will allow marketers to create pages and new forms of user-customized content.
• PDFs could be tracked, providing valuable metrics for the creators of such content.

Blaine Mathieu, chief marketing officer of Lyris — and former executive at Adobe Systems — said the acquisition demonstrates that the online marketing space is heating up.

“While the large enterprises that Adobe and Omniture serve will have the money and experience to understand the ROI of an integrated suite,” he said, “we believe this deal will also trigger marketers in midsized businesses to better understand the value of an integrated online marketing tool set.”

What do you think it all means? How will it affect your interactive marketing programs and strategy? Let us know by posting a comment here.

The Adobe/Omniture Merger: What It All Means

It’s not often that the geeky world of web analytics gets some sexy news, but that was the case on Sept. 15, when content creation tool provider Adobe Systems announced its intent to acquire Omniture, the web analytics vendor, for $1.8 billion.

It’s not often that the geeky world of web analytics gets some sexy news, but that was the case on Sept. 15, when content creation tool provider Adobe Systems announced its intent to acquire Omniture, the web analytics vendor, for $1.8 billion.

The goal of the merger, according to Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen, is to create a holistic way to develop creative content and measure the value of that content — be it video, web pages, mobile or social media — to “close the loop” in the content creation and content measurement worlds.

With optimization capabilities embedded in Adobe’s creation tools, designers, developers and online marketers will have an integrated workflow that’ll streamline the creation and delivery of content and applications, according to an Adobe press release. The optimization capabilities also will enable advertisers and advertising agencies, publishers, and e-tailers to realize greater ROI from their digital media investments, and improve their end users’ experiences.

While mergers happen every day, this one appears to be game-changing, at least according to the myriad of comments from vendors in the space that appeared in my inbox right after the announcement was made.

Russ Mann, CEO of Covario, said the merger is “a brilliant strategic move for Adobe, one that could change the rules of the game for digital media — from creation to measurement to monetization.”

He also offered specific examples about what the Adobe media world would be like. They include the following scenarios:
• Video developers and agencies will be able to build Adobe Flash creative with Omniture tracking codes implanted from the beginning, enabling them to track the views of creative across the web.
• Web design firms and e-commerce companies can create dynamic landing pages and rich internet ads via Adobe that have tracking and multivariate testing codes via Omniture. These codes will allow marketers to create pages and new forms of user-customized content.
• PDFs could be tracked, providing valuable metrics for the creators of such content.

Blaine Mathieu, chief marketing officer of Lyris — and former executive at Adobe — said the acquisition demonstrates that the online marketing space is heating up.

“While the large enterprises that Adobe and Omniture serve will have the money and experience to understand the ROI of an integrated suite,” he said, “we believe this deal will also trigger marketers in midsized businesses to better understand the value of an integrated online marketing tool set.”

What do you think it all means? How will it affect your interactive marketing programs and strategy? Let us know by posting a comment here.