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Understanding Your Content Marketing Objectives

Unfortunately, many online businesses are winging it when it comes to their content marketing campaign. Most don’t have a defined strategy so they’re simply publishing content— frequently and infrequently, valuable and not—in the hopes that it achieves some sort of favorable result. Some hit the jackpot with bits of viral content here and there, while others aren’t so lucky.

The fact of the matter is that in order to have a solid plan your content marketing objectives must align with your overall business strategy. Clear objectives are detrimental to the use of the right media, development of the right message, and creation of the right dialogue. It’s a matter of moving along the path from being found to engaging and generating two-way conversations with your target audience who eventually become brand evangelists.

With this in mind, let’s look at some common objectives you should consider when building out your content marketing plan.

Improve SEO and Traffic

Implementing SEO tactics to gain maximum exposure in SERPs is important, but it probably shouldn’t be the key driver of your strategy. If your sole focus is on keywords, you potentially ignore the needs of your intended audience. SEO should certainly play a major role when planning your campaign, but organic traffic and links should be a by-product of the high quality content you produce. Make this an objective so that you benefit from targeted keywords and phrases, just don’t make it your primary one.

Raise Brand Awareness and Recognition

If you’re still in the early stages of service and product introduction, then generating awareness for your brand will most likely be one of your primary goals. One of the most effective ways to extend the recognition of your brand, business, idea, or cause is to share several content formats across multiple channels.

Increase Engagement

The objective here is to generate content that turns awareness into something more meaningful. The content needs to resonate with your readership and actively encourage connection, participation, and relationship building in an effort to enhance an individual’s experience with your brand.

Improve Brand Perception

Brand perceptions and experiences develop over time through many different sources, including content. The content, tone, and style of the message you deliver helps the market relate to it, helps shape the way in which consumers view your brand, and contributes to higher conversion rates. Relevant, creative, and interesting content is among the top reasons people choose to follow a brand, which makes it all that more important.

Generate Leads

Content marketing is incredibly effective for lead generation. Understanding your audience, identifying the right content to create, and then sharing that content allows you to attract prospects who are willing to exchange their details for the content you have to offer.

Nurture Leads

After prospects provide their details and you have permission to market to them, you need to follow-up with meaningful and consistent dialogue. The objective here is to covert enquiries into qualified leads, and then convert those qualified leads into sales. Your aim is to build strong relationships and maintain mindshare with decision-makers.

Increase Sales/Revenue

When done correctly, content marketing ultimately increases sales. We’re not only talking about converting highly qualified leads into customers, but customers into repeat buyers. Your strategy helps you gain entry into a consumer’s decision process when they’re ready to purchase, and then proves to them that your solution is the best solution to meet their needs.

Improve Loyalty and Retention

If your goal is to turn customers into people who talk positively about your brand and pass on favorable word-of-mouth communications, then you need to focus on creating content in alignment with a solid customer retention strategy. A popular tactic includes the use of e-newsletters. However, you should fully explore the numerous options available before selecting the most appropriate tactics for your business.

Become a Thought Leader

Many B2B marketers see this objective as an area of significance since it differentiates them from competitors and establishes them as a trusted resource. If you choose to pursue this objective, you need to ensure you deliver exceptional value through fresh perspectives and game-changing insights.

Other Objectives

Other key objectives you may want to consider include educating your market, creating greater brand affinity, generating referrals, raising marketplace visibility (globally and locally), influencing key stakeholders, increasing user generated content (e.g. reviews and fan sites), up-selling and cross-selling, and gaining competitive intelligence. In addition, you may want to increase the lifetime value of a customer, improve customer service (before and after the sale), build collaborative, deeper relationships with your online community, and create passionate brand advocates. Keep in mind that the objectives of a B2B company generally differs from that of a B2C company.

Ultimately, you need to figure out what a successful content marketing campaign looks like to your business. The only way you’ll be able to strategize an effective plan is if you know what you’re aiming to achieve. Consider your business strategy and then determine which objectives are most relevant to your strategy. You’ll then be able to pinpoint which metrics to measure and set benchmarks to establish the impact of your campaign.

Do you have clearly defined content marketing goals? Share your thoughts below.

Give Bad Links The Boot — Google’s Disavow Links Tool Released

Google Disavow Links InterfaceIf you’ve done any kind of link building you know that as soon as a link has been established to your site, it is nearly impossible to get it taken down. Of course when the link is beneficial, everything is great. When the link is causing us to lose PageRank and position in SERP’s, it can be like an annoying splinter just deep enough in our figure that it cannot be removed; so we learn to deal with it. Contacting web masters to take down spammy links on your website can often feel the same way. After all, these people have no real incentive to help you out and in many cases they may not even care about your needs. Finally there is a ray of hope for this supremely frustrating scenario and it comes in the form of the disavow links tool provided by Google.

Matt Cutts announced the new tool at PubCon in a keynote speech and covers the tool in a Google blog post here. Although it may be common knowledge by now, Google uses links among hundreds of signals to determine the popularity and importance of a website. Its proprietary measurement known as PageRank measures the authority of a web page, the PageRank of the source, the location of the link on a page and dozens of other factors to in turn rank the importance of the page the link is leading to. Until now, webmasters were stuck with the sole tactic of contacting other webmasters in order to get links removed from their site. The disavow tool now gives webmasters a weapon that they can draw on when all else has failed.

About The Tool
It is important to note that Google isn’t touting this as a replacement for contacting web masters to take down spammy links. In Mr. Cutt’s post, it is still recommended that web masters contact whoever they are able in order to remove links in the traditional manner. In fact this is still the best way to promote a positive image for your site and have a truly clean backlink profile. The tool comes in when an individual has exhausted all other avenues and cannot get a link off of his/her site. By creating a plain text file with one URL per line where the links that you would like Google to ignore are listed; you can request that the search engine ignore these signals on your website. Notice that the name of the tool is disavow meaning to not support. This means Google is ignoring the link and not actually removing it from another person’s site. If you cannot get people to take links down, using the tool will benefit you as far as Google search results but you may not be in the clear with the dozens of other search engines that are out there.

Key Takeaways

Most sites will not have to use the tool: In several points of Mr. Cutt’s post, he mentions that the majority of website will not have to use this tool. In fact, it is even said that if you aren’t sure how the tool is used then you probably shouldn’t (and don’t) need to use it. For novice users, it can be easy to mistakenly add links that do not need to be disavowed. Although this process can be undone, it can take several weeks to get the process to work and several more to undo it if you make a mistake.

The disavow document is a suggestion, not a directive: Google mentions that the disavow tool is powerful for webmasters because they will take into account what is in the file however it is not an absolute solution. Google reserves the right to ignore information in the file if they so choose however for most users, suggestions will be implemented.

The tool should be used in select scenarios: So if you are a webmaster and you just heard about this tool from this post or perhaps somewhere else, there is probably not a need for you to rush to your webmaster tools account and start uploading links. In fact, unless you have been actively involved in link building activities, chances are you do not need to use this tool. If you have been engaged in link building activities on your own such as creating external web 2.0 properties under pseudo names, buying links from paid services, participating in link exchanges or actively engaging in any other link building activities that could be perceived as deceptive to users or against Google’s quality guidelines; you may want to take a look at your backlink profile. Other reasons one may need to use the tool are if you have received a message from Webmaster tools notifying you of unnatural link activity or if there are links you have been trying to remove manually and cannot.

Granularity is important: Just like in SEO, the difference between example.com and www.example.com is important. The document users submit to Google in order to have links on their site disavowed also supports a fairly granular level of detail. If you want a link removed that is found on example.com, submitting www.example.com will not be good enough.

Webmasters who have been toiling to find a way to remove detrimental links from their website at last have a solution; even if it is only for one major search engine. If you want more information on how the tool works, you can read about it in Google’s help center.

You can also check out this video featuring Matt Cutts.

Will you be using the disavow links tool? What tactics were you using before the tool’s release to get detrimental links off of your website?

Optimizing Your Social Network Accounts for Local Search

Even though you’re a brick and mortar business owner, you should still have a good grasp on the importance of creating an online presence. More and more people are using the Internet to find local businesses, which means you could be missing an opportunity if you haven’t optimized your website for local search.

It’s crucial to take this strategy a step further though by optimizing your social networks. Social profiles are quickly finding their way into the top spots of search results, claiming prime positioning and visibility. You’re no longer just trying to outrank the websites of your competitors; you’re also trying to outrank their network profiles.

While you may not be able to include your full company address on every site, there are still plenty of optimization opportunities you shouldn’t ignore. Here are just a few easy tips to get you started.

Facebook Page

Creating a Facebook Page for your local business is a great way to give your brand a voice and advertise your company online. When setting up the page, select “Local Business or Place” from the six options available. You’ll then be prompted to fill in a form that requests your industry category, business name, address information, and contact number. Once the page is active, you can edit your profile to include your website URL, trading hours, and general business information.

Although users can easily see your physical address at the top of your page, Facebook makes it easier to find the exact location of your business by automatically providing a map within the “About” section of your profile.

LinkedIn Company Page

Recently, LinkedIn introduced a fresh look for its Company Pages and added several awesome features, including the ability to access Company Pages on its Andriod, iPhone, and iPad apps. You can read more on the LinkedIn Blog, but for the purposes of this post, we’re going to focus on optimizing your account for local search. Even if you have a page set up for your business, there’s no harm in checking out the new features and making sure your page is optimized.

The first thing you want to do is edit your LinkedIn Company Page once you’ve created it. You’ll find the “Edit” button in the top right-hand corner. Once you click it, you’ll see several fields that need to be filled in with your business details. What you need to concentrate on for local search is the area towards the bottom of the page that says “Company Locations.”

Make certain the address details displayed in this section are correct and that they’re reflected in the same way you’ve added your business address to your website and any online directories. Simply click the “Add another location link” if you have two or more locations.

Twitter

To optimize your Twitter account, you simply need to make a few adjustments to your profile information. Edit your profile to include your business name, location, website address, and bio. Be sure to include strategic keywords within your bio for optimum results, as well as any relevant information that would better help potential customers find you offline.

Pinterest

Create a descriptive bio populated with targeted keywords, add your website URL, and include your location in the relevant fields provided when editing your profile information. Your pinboards will show up in search engine results, which increases your chances of your target audience finding you.

Foursquare

If you have yet to claim your business venue on this location-based check-in app, now would be the time to do so. When you sign up, make certain you use your business name and the appropriate location details. You will then need to verify your authority to claim the location after creating your account. Foursquare offers some nifty features, such as sharing your activity with your other social media networks and offering specials to attract new customers, so explore the site for marketing opportunities.

Google+ for Business

When joining Google+ for Business, you’ll find there are five options from which to choose. As with Facebook, you should select “Local Business or Place.” Once you set up your page, you need to customize it by editing your public profile information. Here you need to focus on adding a tagline with targeted keywords, images that represent your brand and offerings, an introduction to your business, contact information and your address, and relevant links to your website and other social media profiles. Not only will your tagline show up in Google+ searches, but a map of your location will also display on your profile page.

Monitoring Your Results

No matter which marketing strategies you implement online, it is critical to monitor your progress so that you know you’re achieving your desired results. In this case, you want to ensure you’re reaching and engaging individuals who are within your targeted regions. Check your analytics for information on your demographics and make changes if necessary. You may find you need to publish more location-specific content, or employ tactics designed to boost audience growth within a specific region.

By ensuring your social media profiles are optimized and that they include the correct address details, you potentially increase referral traffic, walk-ins, and revenue. The most important thing is to make sure your profiles are accessible to the public. If they do not show up in search results, you’ve wasted your time and energy while your local competitors are reaping the rewards of their social optimization.

Have you optimized your social networks for local SEO? Share your tips in the comment section below.

Tips for Making a Web Content Keyword Research Strategy

Keywords are the central component to all that we do when optimizing web content.  Having a sound research strategy makes targeting keywords easier and provides a clear objective for all other SEO efforts.  A variety of research methods exist with some being highly technical and others having a more common sense approach.  Whether you use one of these approaches, a combination of them or something entirely different, they can provide you with some practical guidance for your web property promotion efforts.

Brainstorm Your Target Market’s Keywords

This may seem like an obvious and easy first step however it is often approached in the wrong way.  You may know full well what your products and/or services are but these may not necessarily (and shouldn’t) be the only guide for your keyword choices.  Instead, approach it from the user’s perspective.  Think about what your customers are looking for when it relates to what you are selling.  Are they searching for information about the item or service itself or are they more often looking for somewhere to buy it?  How long is the sales process for what you are selling?  Do people need a lot of information before buying it or not so much?  The answers to these questions will shed light on how people use search as it relates to what you are selling.  Using a keyword tool like that provided by Google can help you determine all the variations of words and phrases that searchers are using.  Keep in mind that simply generating a list from a tool like this does not constitute keyword research.

Theorize, Experiment, Observe, Repeat

Once you have a list of viable keyword options, you must determine which ones will drive the most value for your website.  Say you sell consumer electronics on your website.  Are there more conversions produced by “buy mp3 player” or with “ipod 6th gen”?  As you may have guessed, it is hard to tell just by looking at the word.  First, determine if the word or phrase is relevant to your website.  Would searchers be pleased with what they see if they clicked on your site after using one of these terms to find it?  Would they think, “bingo, now I’ve found what I need”?  Search for the phrase on your own and see which sites are already ranking for it.  This will give you an idea of what the search engine deems valuable for that phrase and will also show you your competition.

Another method to determine value is to run a test campaign using a PPC platform such as Adwords.  Mainly your goal will be to collect data about the keyword or phrase.  Set up your campaign with your keyword and point your ads at the landing page that also has the keyword on it.  Look at the data over a couple weeks or over the course of a few hundred clicks.  Use the data to determine the phrase’s value.  If you are selling a product, you can easily correlate clicks with sales.  Set up conversion tracking to see which words resulted in a conversion and which did not.  If you are driving traffic to a page that does not result in a direct sale, determine what that action is worth to your business and compare that value against clicks.  For instance if you want users to download content in exchange for contact information you might determine what each lead is worth to your business.  The basic underlying point here is similar to the age old scientific method of developing a theory, experimenting, observing and modifying until you understand what works.

Tools of the SEO Writing Trade

To get yourself started, there are many tools that can give you insight for your SEO writing.  The Google Keyword tool is a good place to start.  It gives you search volume as well as ideas for synonymous keyword options you may have missed.  The Google Trends tool is another powerful resource to get you information on your target keywords.  If Google isn’t your flavor, there is also the Bing Ads Intelligence toolWord Tracker is another popular tool that can get you the information you need.  If you want to dive in a little deeper, paid software programs that dissect keywords are also helpful.  Examples of these are WEB CEO or SEO Elite.

Quantitative Methods

Aside from market indicators and relevance of certain keywords to your website, there are also quantitative methods that may shed more light on which keywords are the best for you to be using.  Two of the most popular quantitative methods are KEI (Keyword Effectiveness Index) and the R/S or results to searches ratio.

KEI

The Keyword Effectiveness Index measures the demand of a particular keyword phrase against the number of web pages that use it in their copy.  Demand for any given keyword is further broken down into a daily amount or in other words, the daily global searches for the keyword.

The formula is expressed as ((MS/30)) ^ 2/C where MS represents monthly searches and C represents competition.  Monthly searches are first divided by 30 or MS/30.  That number is then squared or multiplied by itself and then divided by whatever the competition is.

For example if the monthly global searches for “cell phones” were 30,000 we would divide this number by 30 which would give us 1,000 daily searches.  Squaring this number gives us 1,000,000.  Say our competition for this phrase is 2 million web pages.  1,000,000/2,000,000 = 0.5 or the KEI ratio for this keyword phrase.

So what the heck does that tell you?

KEI Ratios can be interpreted as such,

< 0.001 = ineffective keyword
0.001-0.010 = A Good Keyword
0.010-0.100+ = A Fantastic Keyword

R/S Ratio

The results to searches ratio is not as popular as the KEI method however it can still shed light on how competitive a keyword is.  For any given keyword phrase you simply take the number of global monthly searches (or local if you are targeting local traffic) and divide it by the number of results returned to you by a search engine for that phrase (searching for non-exact match terms).  In general, an R/S ratio of 500 or below with corresponding competition results of a million or less is a good keyword to target.  There are however some ambiguities with this method.  For example by searching non-exact match phrases, you get tons of results that may not contain the specific phrase but pieces of that phrase.  This method (as well as KEI) may also exclude terms that you want to try ranking for anyway because they are a crucial part of your business.

As you can see there are numerous ways to go about selecting and dissecting the keywords and phrases you want to target.  Regardless of which route you take, SEO content writers should remember that no matter which keywords they choose, terms should be relevant to the content on the page and to the overall goals of the website.  Sometimes in all of our scrambling to achieve high rankings we often forget to write for the user as opposed to robots crawling the web.

Which keyword research methods do you use?  Have you had success/failure with tactics mentioned in this post?

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