Is Your Content Fresh, Frequent and Unique?

Today, your content plays a much larger role in getting top search results than ever before; therefore, it may be time to adjust your SEO content. In September 2013, Google unveiled Hummingbird, the single largest revamp of its basic search algorithm in more than 10 years. The intent of this major change was to improve the speed and precision of the processing. It was also designed to address the changes in searcher behavior as search volumes continue to shift from desktop computers to mobile devices.

Today, your content plays a much larger role in getting top search results than ever before; therefore, it may be time to adjust your SEO content. In September 2013, Google unveiled Hummingbird, the single largest revamp of its basic search algorithm in more than 10 years. The intent of this major change was to improve the speed and precision of the processing. It was also designed to address the changes in searcher behavior as search volumes continue to shift from desktop computers to mobile devices.

Hummingbird uses signals derived from the query and the user’s behavior to assist in delivering a result that quickly and precisely answers what the user really wants to find. When users search on mobile devices, they are frequently asking specific questions in conversational language: “Where is the nearest flower shop?” or “How many miles to … ?” Hummingbird was designed to address these natural language questions and provide specific and precise answers. To be found relevant, your content must address the needs of searchers for real information.

Although Hummingbird is expected to impact 90 percent of searches, many marketers are unaware of its influence on their search traffic. No significant shifts in Web traffic were reported worldwide after its launch. This is because the impact on most well-optimized sites was negligible. This should not be interpreted as a license to maintain the status quo on your search efforts. As users become more accustomed to receiving quality results from their conversational search queries, they will expect content that is honed to specifically address the questions that they form into queries.

To meet these expectations, your content should present answers to the types of questions that might be posed in a search query. It should be rich in useful information that is presented clearly. If you expect your content to appear near the top of the search results, it must meet these three criteria: fresh, frequent and unique. Over time, we can expect to see steadily improving search results for sites that understand and actualize these content requirements.

Fresh content does not necessarily mean that all of your content must be new. If you previously developed, as part of your search program, evergreen pieces, such as “frequently asked questions” or how-to articles, you should revisit them and check how long they have been on your site. Would they benefit from an update or a revision, or just a reformatting? For Google, fresh content is better than stale content. Just as no one really wants to read the stale magazines in the doctor’s waiting room; they don’t want the digital equivalent delivered in response to their search queries. Google obliges this by screening for the newest, freshest content. Now is the time to refresh those evergreen content pieces, even if you have not seen a negative shift in your search volumes. You may be able to capture additional visitors who are seeking answers to those questions that you have cleverly addressed.

Because frequency is another criterion used to evaluate the value of your content, you should be sure to have a schedule for adding more content and for refreshing older pieces. Take a lesson from the success of blog sites. Those with frequent posts of fresh content are rewarded with more search traffic than those with just a few stale posts. Consider how you might apply the same principles to content additions to your website.

Your content must also be unique—not just an aging chestnut. Avoid stale recitations or rehashes of information. Ask yourself: “Does this provide something that is new, unique—or is it just content for the sake of content?” For search success in the future, you will need to pay close attention to your content strategy and deliver fresh, frequent and unique content.

Google Authorship Image Not Showing? Here’s What to Do Next.

Are your Google Authorship images not showing in search results? Are you seeing a drop in site visitor traffic or leads? Google recently pulled the plug. The results are in: Lower traffic for some social sellers, while others aren’t much affected. So what should you do?

Are your Google Authorship images not showing in search results? Are you seeing a drop in site visitor traffic or leads? Google recently pulled the plug. The results are in: Lower traffic for some social sellers, while others aren’t much affected. So what should you do?

Why Your Google Authorship Images Are Not Showing
Well, because Google says so. It decided not to anymore! It was just an experiment.

“In the early days of Google Authorship, almost anyone could get the coveted face photo in search by correctly setting up Authorship markup on their content and linking to that content from their Google+ profile,” says Google+ expert, Mark Traphagen in a recent SEOmoz blog.

“As time went on, Google became pickier about showing the rich snippet, and some sort of quality criteria seemed to come into play.”

In October 2013, Google announced a reduction in the number of photo images it displayed. In late June 2014 it pulled the plug completely on photo images in search results. Poof!

Says Traphagen, “It appears that the net result is no overall change in the amount of Authorship (appearing) in search, just an elimination of a ‘first class’ status for some authors.”

Author Images Actually Did Not Drive More Traffic
Everyone knows Authorship links with photos drove more traffic and leads to Web pages of authors, right? Eh, maybe.

“We never really knew for sure, and we never knew how much. Most importantly, there was never any proof that any CTR boost was universal,” says Traphagen, who’s done the research.

Many “studies” were conducted supporting the theory of Authorship links grabbing more eyes—and holding more perceived authority—than a “text only” link. But none of them hold much water.

Myself, I am running a handful of blogs for lead generation. After my author images were removed, I am apparently experiencing a drop in traffic and leads. But it’s not huge by any means. Why?

I’ve copywritten my Web page titles, blog post headlines, lead sentences and posts.

What You Should Do Next
Learn to copywrite. Already know how? Practice more. Most importantly, be sure you have the ability to have FULL control over Web or blog page titles.

To draw maximum attention from Google and prospective buyers make sure your Web page titles are balanced. Make sure they:

  1. are written to display a keyword phrase you’re targeting and
  2. create curiosity in the reader using copywriting.

Warning: Your blog platform may not allow you to control the Web page title freely. It’s common for blog software to take your blog (article) headline (that readers see) and place it in your Web page title (that Google and readers see in search engine results).

This is not optimal. You’ll have more ability to copywrite freely by having control over URL structure and Web page title.

For example, the structure of my blog post here is focused on the keyword phrase “Google authorship image not showing.” However, I do not have control over my URL structure or Web page title. The blog software takes my article headline and places it in the URL structure and Web page title.

It’s not optimal but I don’t cry much about it to the good folks at Target Marketing!

It would be better to have the option of editing the URL to “google-authorship-image-not-showing” and separately copywrite my Web page title to create curiosity in the reader.

Don’t Give Up (I’m Not)
“I’m done! Trying to please Google a waste of time. I’m going back to cold calling!”

I understand those who feel this way. Especially after discovering all your Google authorship images not showing. Whether you’re just starting to use B-to-B content marketing or have been investing for years Google can frustrate us.

But that’s precisely the point. It doesn’t need to be this way.

As someone who continues to generate leads online I can tell you definitively: You don’t want to depend on Google for lead generation. However, you do need to be online—capturing leads your competition will otherwise capture.

So what can you do today? The best starting point is to elevate social media copywriting as a priority. For example, what are posts to Google+, YouTube video or blog posts structured to provoke curiosity in buyers?

Creating curiosity that lures customers seems obvious. But are you doing it?

Manhandle Google With Good Copywriting
There is no silver bullet for generating B-to-B leads online. However, there is one habit that consistently brings my students, clients and by business more leads.

Giving customers a reason (in writing!) to click and take action—resolve or improve something important to them. It starts with Google and your Web page titles.

Once you take this simple idea and turn it into a habit you will continue to generate leads no matter what Google does next! You’ll forget about your Google Authorship image not showing. Won’t that feel good?

Let me know how you feel in comments.

Myths and Misconceptions: The Real Truth About Content Marketing and the Search Engines: Part I

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of people saying things such as: “Google doesn’t like content or article marketing since they changed their algorithms” and “article directories are not useful for search engine marketing and link-building efforts anymore.” I like to remind people of a few fundamental rules of online marketing, specifically involving content, that virtually never changes and is extremely helpful to know (and do!).

[Editor’s note: This is Part One of a two-part series.]

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of people saying things such as: “Google doesn’t like content or article marketing since they changed their algorithms” and “article directories are not useful for search engine marketing and link-building efforts anymore.”

I like to remind people of a few fundamental rules of online marketing, specifically involving content, that virtually never changes and is extremely helpful to know (and do!).

1. “Mix” it up. It’s always a smart thing to have a diversified online marketing mix. I suggest to clients to look at their online marketing plan like a pie, and each slice is a tactical allocation—organic and paid strategies. As with your financial planning ventures (such as with your retirement account), it’s always safer to diversify than put all your eggs in one basket. The same holds true for your online marketing plan. Mix it up and keep it diversified. Some allocations may be smaller than others, based on budget, objective and other variables. But it’s good to spread it out across many tactics and online marketing channels, such as organic search, paid search, social media, online PR, content marketing, etc. Then if one tactic is a laggard and others are leaders, it all balances out in the end. This also helps compensate for algorithmic “bumps in the road” that may temporarily affect your search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) efforts.

2. Doing It “Right” Can’t Be Wrong. Google and other search engines often change their algorithms to keep search results relevant and fresh to related queries, as well as impact unscrupulous “black hat” practicing marketers who use no-no tactics such as gateway pages, keyword stuffing, link baiting, link farming, content farming and more. These are the folks who link to irrelevant sites with irrelevant content to the equivalent of content spamming. For compliant content marketers or those using the SONAR Content Distribution Model, the core strategy is to leverage high-quality, useful content through synchronized, synergistic and relevant online distribution. SONAR and content marketing, when implemented correctly, include “white hat” SEO principles. And if you’re using quality, original content with either of those marketing tactics and distributing your content to targeted, relevant sites, you really can’t go wrong.

3. Quality And Relevance Are Key! According to Webpronews.com, when Google released their official statement about the algorithm change in 2011, the Farmer/Panda update was aimed to help more quality websites be higher in the search results versus content farms with irrelevant, unbeneficial content based on the keywords being searched. Article directories may have initially been stuck in the cross-hairs losing some initial value. But, again, if you are putting out “UVA” (useful, valuable, actionable) content into numerous organic online channels, the diversity and balance will offset any temporary side-effects which may occur versus doing article directory marketing by itself. Based on my experience, if you push out quality, original content in several places—including article directories—your articles should appear in pages 1-5 of Google search results. And with Google’s latest “freshness” update, the most timely and relevant content should appear in descending order by date from the top of the search results. Quality and relevance are key.

Next week, I’ll detail the last three fundamental rules of online marketing, specifically involving content.

Optimizing Paid Search Campaigns for the ‘Third Device’

It’s time to think of tablets as a distinct “third device” and devise performance marketing strategies to engage tablet users. Advertisers must take advantage of the ability now offered in AdWords to target smartphones and tablets separately.

Tablets are the fastest-selling consumer technology device in history. According to eMarketer, 24 million U.S. consumers will own a tablet by the end of this year. By the end of 2012, 12.8 percent of people in the U.S. will own a tablet.

As of June 1, Google AdWords began separating “tablets with full browsers” as a distinct device within AdWords reporting. Previously, tablets were grouped with all “mobile devices with full browsers” (i.e., smartphones). Thus, June gave us our first look into tablet paid search impression and click volume. Impressions and clicks were immediately high in June, showing that tablets have likely been materially contributing to Google mobile paid search share for a number of months.

For Performics’ aggregate client base, 12.1 percent of all June desktop and mobile paid search impressions came from mobile devices. Of this 12.1 percent, 14.3 percent came from tablets. Based on these numbers, tablets now compose 1.7 percent of all paid search impressions. Additionally, tablets contributed to 13.3 percent of all mobile paid search clicks. Tablet cost per clicks track at about 50 percent of PC cost per clicks. The bottom line is that consumers are now on tablets searching for your brand, and it’s not expensive to engage them.

It’s time to think of tablets as a distinct “third device” and devise performance marketing strategies to engage tablet users. Advertisers must take advantage of the ability now offered in AdWords to target smartphones and tablets separately. At Performics, we’ve seen that tablet usage patterns resemble mobile patterns — people do most of their tablet searching in the evening. However, people use tablets differently than smartphones, which reveals opportunities to optimize your paid search campaign for the third device.

Unlike smartphones, tablets feature advanced scrolling functionality. Since tablet users can scroll with a gesture, they’re more likely to peruse search results and landing pages. This makes tablet users more likely than smartphone users to click on search results that are further down the page. Thus, bid strategies should differ when targeting tablets versus smartphones.

Tablets have bigger screens than smartphones. Tablet traffic should therefore be driven to desktop — not mobile — landing pages, where users have more room to browse.

A different device means different copy optimization opportunities. Once tablets are separated into distinct search campaigns, copy and links can be geared specifically to tablet users — e.g., “purchase now from your tablet” or “buy an accessory for your tablet.”

As the device landscape becomes increasingly fragmented, performance marketers must capitalize on every little opportunity to optimize advertising by device. Brands that tailor advertising to support tablets will achieve a first-mover advantage as tablets increase in popularity. This advantage comes in the form of data — e.g., nuances in how your customers use different devices — which reveal opportunities to engage consumers in more effective and efficient ways.

Have you noticed ways that your customers interact with tablets differently than smartphones or PCs? If so, please leave a comment below.

Paid Advertising Opportunities on Twitter

With 140 million registered users and 350,000 new sign-ups per day, it’s past time for marketers to think about taking advantage of the paid advertising opportunities on Twitter. Twitter will continue to monetize its site by rolling out new advertising products in the near future, and there are two opportunities that are currently live: Promoted Tweets and Promoted Trends. A third opportunity called Promoted Accounts is currently in testing for a select few advertisers.

With 140 million registered users and 350,000 new sign-ups per day, it’s past time for marketers to think about taking advantage of the paid advertising opportunities on Twitter. Twitter will continue to monetize its site by rolling out new advertising products in the near future, and there are two opportunities that are currently live: Promoted Tweets and Promoted Trends. A third opportunity called Promoted Accounts is currently in testing for a select few advertisers.

Promoted Tweets
Promoted tweets allow advertisers to bid on keywords on search results pages. The ad unit shows up at the top of the search results and looks like a regular tweet except that it’s labeled “promoted.” Similar to paid search, the advertiser pays when a searcher engages with the ad, which Twitter calls cost per engagement (CPE).

An engagement is classified as a click on a tweet, a retweet, a favorite or an @reply to the tweet. CPE is currently reasonable because of limited competition. Promoted Tweet advertisers mostly only bid on their brand terms and have little or no competition for those terms. Thus, a small budget can go a long way.

Links within Promoted Tweets can go anywhere — like to a brand’s native website, its Facebook fan page or a YouTube video. With Twitter’s new version being rolled out through September, advertisers can embed content within a Promoted Tweet. Promoted Tweet users will also have access to a dashboard that measures engagement metrics for their tweets.

Twitter users may be searching for product names to see what the Twitter universe is saying about a product they’re considering purchasing. Promoted Tweets give advertisers the ability to show up on top of the search results for their product names. Thus, a Promoted Tweet can do things like help manage a brand’s reputation, provide more information on certain products and offer coupons.

Promoted Trends
Promoted Trends allow advertisers to show up in the “trending topics” section on the right rail of Twitter. For Twitter’s redesign, the trends show above the fold. The first 10 trends are topics that are naturally trending on Twitter that day. Promoted Trends show as the 11th trending topic, and are labeled “promoted.” Promoted Trends run for a day at a fixed cost. When a user clicks on a Promoted Trend, they’re taken to the Twitter search results for that trend, where the advertiser’s Promoted Tweet ranks on top.

If you’re thinking about running a Promoted Trend, pick a topic that seems to fit with the day’s other trends. Keep in mind, the topic could have trended naturally. This makes Promoted Trends ideal for keywords around new product releases that will be generating some amount of buzz on Twitter.

Movie studios have embraced Promoted Trends for new releases. Twitter users are likely to be buzzing about topics related to a new movie release. A Promoted Trend will help create even more buzz around the movie. Promoted Trend advertisers thus garner more engagement — e.g., clicks, retweets, favorites and @replies — and followers.

Promoted Accounts
Promoted Accounts launched this week and is currently in testing. They allow advertisers to pay to be included in the “Who to Follow” feature, which is displayed on a user’s profile page. “Who to Follow” suggests accounts that users should follow based on their interests, as determined by other accounts they follow. Promoted Accounts should be a great way to gain more followers who are interested in a particular brand or service.

The Twitter phenomenon isn’t something that advertisers can ignore. All brands should be using Twitter to engage with their fans and critics naturally. And for some brands, paid opportunities like Promoted Tweets and Promoted Trends can help increase engagement, manage reputation, gain followers and sell products.

Why You Should Beware the ‘Quick SEO Copywriting Fix’

The question comes up during almost every conference at which I present: “I hear what you’re saying about writing quality content. But I need immediate results. What’s a quick SEO copywriting fix I can try?”

The question comes up during almost every conference at which I present.

“I hear what you’re saying about writing quality content. But I need immediate results. What’s a quick SEO copywriting fix I can try?”

I understand this mindset. I really do. Now that the recession is easing its iron grip on marketing budgets, companies are trying to make up for lost time. Now, more than ever, forward-thinking businesses have the opportunity to make a huge impact on their search engine rankings. And they’re doing what they can, where they can—as fast as they can.

But here’s the thing. There is no “quick SEO copywriting fix.” There’s no “easy way to get to the top of the search engines” like the spam e-mails promise. You can’t wave a magic algorithmic wand and transform your copy into search engine goodness.

You just have to roll your sleeves, do the hard work and get it done.

Unfortunately, many companies fall prey to this quick fix mentality and do stupid things that mess up their SEO campaigns, branding or both. For instance:

  • Building out stand-alone “SEO pages” geared to pull rankings

  • Hiring $10/post bloggers to write keyphrase-stuffed posts

  • Tweeting incessantly about their products or services without becoming a part of the Twitter community

Although these folks feel like progress is quickly being made (“Woo-hoo, now we have 50, poorly-written posts about legal services”), what they don’t realize is the unforeseen consequences. Poorly written content doesn’t convert. “Stand-alone” pages typically are over-optimized messes that search engines ignore. Splattering your sales message all over Twitter makes your firm look like a spammer.

So, what can you do to start seeing the search results (and conversions) you crave? I am so glad you asked …

1. Evaluate your existing content. Every marketer can leverage its own low-hanging fruit and focus on what specifically matters for its site. For some sites, penning new page titles can drive amazing results. For others, keyphrase editing (adding keyphrases to existing content) may be appropriate. Consider bringing in a consultant for this part of the process. The reason? The consultant doesn’t “own” the copy and can see it with fresh eyes. Because he’s not close to it, he can notice opportunities your marketing department may not.

2. Check your keyphrase research. It’s easy to let your keyphrase research stagnate when you don’t have the time (or funds) to spend on your site. Now that you’re planning a content overhaul, it’s crucial to examine what other keyphrases opportunities you can leverage – especially keyphrases that represent the research phase of the buy cycle. Research tools like WordStream, Keyword Discovery and Wordtracker can help you see what phrases people type into the search box to find products and services like yours.

3. Develop a (workable) content schedule and budget. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your site won’t be rewritten overnight. Work on your most important pages first, and set up a schedule where you’ll work on a certain number of pages a month. Or, if you know that writing content in-house isn’t your style, hire an experienced SEO copywriter and have him help. Creating content in baby steps is completely OK – and gives you the satisfaction of seeing continued improvement.

It’s tempting to fall prey to the SEO copywriting quick fix. But when you take strategic baby steps and focus on what’s really important to your site’s success, you’ll finally realize the search ranking (and conversions) you crave.