Inbound Marketing

Once you’ve published quality content then you can focus on “Inbound Marketing” — developing a strong social presence, working on your ‘brand’, SEO, Social Media Marketing, Pay Per Click — these are inbound marketing skills which lead customers to you as opposed to outbound marketing where you approach the customer with banners and button ads, email marketing and other traditional techniques.

SEO Without CRO is a Plane Without an Engine

Are you practicing SEO... without the "engines" of CRO?

Are you practicing SEO… without the “engines” of CRO?

What is it that you want to achieve with your company website? Is the end goal the sheer glory of seeing your web appear high in the search engine pages for random keyword phrases? Or perhaps the c-suite execs push for numbers – the more people that arrive at the site each month, the better?

Of course not.

Search engine rankings and number of visitors are meaningless unless they convert into leads or clients. Even if the only goal of the website is to provide information,  it is still desirable that the visitors that land on the site have an interest in the topic and their path through the site to find the information they seek should be productive.

The point of the website is  to have visitors interact with it in one or more of  any number of pre-determined conversion goals. SEO gets the visitors to the site but CRO gets them to interact with it and hit those conversion goals.

The Objective of SEO

To take the above a step further – what is the objective of SEO? Is it to achieve high placement in the search engine results pages or is it to achieve relevant site traffic?

If all you want is traffic for traffic sake then by all means pepper every page with key phrases containing the word ‘free’ and any number of x-rated buzz words but don’t expect your website visitors to do anything other than suck up your bandwidth.

SEO for SEO’s sake is like a plane without an engine. You can fill it with as many people as will fit but you ain’t going anywhere.

Search engine rankings and number of visitors are meaningless unless they convert into leads or clients.”

Avoiding Ego Boost Keyphrases

Unfortunately when it comes to digital marketing some business owners just lose their minds.  For some reason all commonsense deserts them and instead of creating content which provides the most relevant information to their target customer, they start pushing to get ego boost phrases to the top of the serps (Search Engine Results Pages) . Serp domination becomes their goal not client conversion.

Seriously, who cares if your website is in the first position of Google for the term general contractor? Do you think that a motivated buyer is going to search using that term or do you think he is more likely to use a location specific term like Clark County general contractor quotes.

By getting more specific you are immediately reducing the competition for airspace at the top of the serps, in the case above from 54,400,000 down to 804,400 and Google recognizes that you are far more likely to provide a relevant answer to any search query related to general contractor quotes in Clark County (whether or not the searcher included the words Clark County or was simply located in Clark County).

Okay, so you can improve your search engine optimization by using more specific phrases and, if relevant to your business, including location focused content. But this is not exactly news. Google has been geotargeting for several years now and we have covered choosing the perfect long tail keywords in past articles.

Good search engine optimization, like choosing the most effective long tail keywords, can result in vastly improved traffic but remember ‘bums on seats’ is not the end goal. It is what these visitors do on on site that is important and that is where CRO comes in.

SEO from a CRO POV

Wow. Acronym overload. What I mean is let’s forget how search engine optimization can influence your serps and look instead at  how it might influence your visitors and increase your conversion rate optimization. If you have chosen to optimize your site for well chosen keywords then visitors that arrive via a google search listing will find what they were looking for. On the other hand, if you have gone for ego boost or ineffective phrases then you will see high bounce and exit rates.

In Google Analytics you can view bounce rate vs sessions for the entire site or drill down and analyze bounce rates for a particular page over time.

bounce-rate

 

You can also identify which pages have the highest exit rates and flag them for review. The Google Analytics behaviour flow chart is also very useful for seeing exactly which pages have the largest drop off and you can view this by Landing Page or by Medium/Source which will help you determine how tweaking site content / keyword selection is effecting your visitor’s path through the site.

ga-behavior-flow

With access to your Google Analytics dashboard you can access reports like these any time but it’s possible to set up a specific content conversion report. A good starting point is the Content Analysis Dashboard template by Vagelis Varfis, available in the Google Analytics Report Gallery.

Google Analytics

Unpack that template within the Custom Report section of your site’s account in Google Analytics and you have a dashboard which at a glance gives you an overview of:

  • Pageviews and Unique Pageviews by Page Title
  • Visits and % New Visits by Landing Page
  • Average Time on Page and Bounce Rate by Page Title
  • exit and page Views by Page
  • Goal Conversions
  • Page Views by Country / Territory
  • Page Views by City

You can delete or add widgets up to a total of 12 which allow you to slice and dice visitor activity just about any way you want. This report can be set to email to interested parties on a regular basis and is a good way to keep your SEO team focused on the CRO goals – converting visitors into customers.

Lock in your learning… more CRO related articles:

Increasing Email Conversion Rates

What is Everyone CROing About?

Smart Forms for Smart Conversion

How to Increase Conversion Rates

 

 

 

Social Media Marketing & Content Strategy

Are you closing your social media connection loops?

Are you closing your social media connection loops?

How can you engage strong Klout leaders in social media, then close the engagement loop?  Let’s take a look.  This post begins with a focus on a great engagement tip using HootSuite — the pro social media dashboard, scheduling and swiss knife tool.  Then we’ll look at a SlideShare presentation (still another content engagement tactic you should explore) and with a takeaway on content strategy.  The beauty of the sequence is that using social media, one connection led to another and this post closes that loop.

Let’s start with a Hootsuite tip (disclosure, Webdirexion is a pro solution partner with Hootsuite and both Julie Hume and myself are certified in Social Media Marketing by Hootsuite University).  In a nutshell, this tip focuses on finding and engaging Klout leaders.  You read it right — “Klout” is the name of a ratings service that looks a key performance indicators in social media and assigns you a score.  The higher the score, the more Klout you have… see Webdirexion’s Klout score here.

The Klout Technique in Hootsuite

In the screenshot below, using Hootsuite, you can see that I have first filtered in the “stream” of twitter users that have mentioned our company (@Webdirexion) using the Klout filter set for at least 40-45 strength.  This reveals at least one possible Klout leader for engagement:

engaging with Klout leaders as a social media marketing tactic.

3-steps for engaging with Klout leaders as a social media marketing tactic.

Reply to Klout Leader as a social media engagement tactic

My reply, which links back to this post, shows in the Hootsuite stream with the original message.

After I review a Klout leaders profile, I check number of followers (Vinay has 4400+ followers that may see my reply to him) and further qualify the the contact. Then I actually read the post and follow the link in it.  I need to do each of these things to qualify the contact (ie. a possible client or a colleague?) and make an intelligent reply.  No robo-replies here — being “social” means you actually talk to one another with authentic dialog.

Following the link in Mr. Koshy’s original post led me to the slideshare presentation included below — and gave me the right inspiration for a reply.  Note that in the reply, I did three key things:

  • I linked back to this article which mentions the dialog
  • I put some text before @vpkoshy because if I did not, only vpkoshy would see the reply (credit to our Julie Hume for the tip on that tactic)
  • I used a hashtag to extend visibility for the reply

The Content Strategy Concept (from a Slideshare presentation)

Note how the Content Pillars support each of the objectives above.

Note how the Content Pillars support each of the objectives above.

On slide 28 shown at right, in a presentation recommended by our Klout Leader friend from Australia, the author  (Christel Quek) gives a diagram of three “content pillars” supporting the audience, brand objective and user motivations.  What a concise way to picture your “content marketing” work to be done.

There are also a number of great tips for social media marketing in that presentation, including:

  • Using hashtags as a call to action
  • Let your brand personality shine in social media
  • Remember to use social media to “listen to understand”
  • Focus on how your products or services touch people’s lives
  • Make your user the hero
  • Recognize your champions — influencers

I then left a comment at the slideshare.  Thousands of people will see the tweet.  Mr. Koshy will see that Webdirexion replied directly and followed up and respected his tweet.  Ms. Quek will find out that a Koshy tweet led to a blog post with her slideshare embedded (below).  Who knows, maybe Vinay Koshy and Christel Quek will learn about and help be influencers for Webdirexion.  It’s a social circle — see how that works?

Here’s the slideshare on winning at content strategy:

Hootsuite:  Social Insights with Adam Pisoni Co-founder – Yammer

At the center of this post’s tactical tools is Hootsuite, so we’ll end with a short video of thoughts related to using the platform.

How does a company respond fast enough to their customers that are themselves, communicating, sharing and learning at faster and faster speeds due to technology?  Adam Pisoni of Yammer has some thoughts in the following video. Yammer is a private social network that helps employees collaborate across departments, locations, and business apps.  Note that you can add Yammer and dozens of other networks and apps into your convenient Hootsuite pro dashboard.

Online Marketing Tactic: Curating a Publication

Remember that curation is a content strategy, while tools are tactics in search of a strategy.

Remember that curation is a content strategy, while tools are tactics in search of a strategy.

One of the tactics in the Content Marketer’s arsenal is called “curation”, where you find and republish quality content in a newly “packaged” way.  The idea is that you add value at least three ways — you assemble a package that would be hard to find or gather elsewhere; you contribute some editing and related content yourself; and the UI of the “package” facilitates readership (on different devices and through smart layouts that leverage content in a streamlined fashion) and social sharing.

We’ve tried four of the major services for curation over the past 3-5 years, so I wanted to give you some take-aways about each — Flipboard, Paper.li, Rebel Mouse, and Scoop.it.  I’ll give you a sample of what we have used them for and thoughts on results but first the most important thing I can tell you is that these tools are tactics… in search of a strategy.  What do I mean by that?  Well, too many content marketer’s seem to rush into the latest greatest tool and deploy it as a tactic with no clear publishing strategy (niche, readership, purpose of publication, editorial guidelines, etc.) in hand.  Planning is in order.  And, remember the old adage — if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.  Curating a good publication takes time and consistent effort, so you need to have a clear picture of the end goal and how it will pay off for you.  Remember that curation is a content marketing tactic, not a publishing strategy.

Four Curation Tools for Content Marketers

Online Marketing Magazine

Webdirexion uses Flipboard to publish the new BLIP Online Marketing Magazine

FlipBoard

Introducing BLIP Magazine:  Our newest endeavor is to curate, write for, and edit a new “magazine” with great articles for marketing communication professionals.  BLIP… Google has updated its algorithm… BLIP… there’s another new marketing tool… BLIP… someone has figured out a new tactic for marketing automation.  You get it.

Our magazine is curated with the FlipBoard tool, which allows you to flip pages — just like in old-school magazines.  We like it because it fosters a team curation approach, it is mobile centric (you cannot even register except on a mobile device), and efficient to use.

It’s a relatively new platform, so this tactical tool from Flipboard is still evolving — right now, there are no embedding options available, for example.  It’s easy to get started with your own magazine, but strategically you will need to define your audience, set a publishing focus, then bring your editing team.  What about ROI for the effort?  I recommend you study that with smart use of analytics (I will report on that in a forthcoming post).  For this publication, I am taking the managing editor role with supporting editors and writers from our Webdirexion team — and of course authors with articles from MOZ, Content Marketing Institute, MarketingLand, Social Media Examiner, and several others.  Our publishing goal is to bring you the most useful articles on tactics and strategies for online marketers.

Paper.li

Webdirexion's Digest for Healthcare professionals

Medical Healthcare Matters is Webdirexion’s Digest for Healthcare professionals, curated using Paper.li.

Medical HealthCare Matters focus on Healthcare:  Since we have six clients in healthcare, we use a curation tool that has been around for a while — Paper.li — to publish our weekly “digest” for this industry focus. The digest format is different than a magazine — content may include shorter items, videos, discussions and tweets.  Our Miranda Booher, a former traveling nurse (before she elected to do content triage at Webdirexion), serves as managing editor for this publication.  Our publishing goal here is to serve up a frequently updated smorgasbord of news on medical devices & healthcare services that move health forward.  This is a more mature publication for us and its current circulation reach, including its associate Twitter account (1400 followers), is approximately 4,400.

CoffeeNutHut Digest

Page at this link shows embedded digest from Paper.li.

Our publishing strategy goals are threefold:  reach and inform our prospective target group — healthcare clients; build circulation and readership; and offer exposure to client’s when appropriate.

This platform offers some advanced tactics including assigning a top level domain (we use MedicalHealthcareMatters.com) and embedding a digest in an actual website (click at left to see how we do that at our Coffee Nut Hut site).  Cost for premium features is approx. $9 per month.

Rebel Mouse

Rebel Mouse Microsite

Samsung’s “Front Row” microsite is created on the Rebel Mouse platform.

This is a curation tool we tested and published to a subdomain on Webdirexion — then realized that we were guilty of excitedly using the tool as a tactic in search of a smart publishing strategy.  We’ve since shut it down, but I would recommend the platform for its advanced feature set (create an entire mini-site with the tool, complete with “page” navigation), the ability to brand it and use a top-level domain name, with the added ability to embed it.

The Rebel folks have positioned their app as a tool offering “Turnkey Content Hubs and Mobile Apps”.  According to their site, Rebel Mouse is “Wired for Distributed Reach and Engagement”, and one example is that the app will notify people via email or @reply when their content is featured on your site.  This is the app we would probably look at first for clients seeking an efficient “micro site” solution.

Embedding as a tactic:  We had begun to explore the embedding capacity with sections for healthcare and law firm marketing (another focus niche for us), and the embedding was being done on the same site, Webdirexion, as the main “publication” (on a subdomain of Webdirexion).  In the end the maintaining of a larger effort proved to take too much resource time for us, but the point about embedding I want to make is that you can embed your publication on multiple sites and locations, so this could be a powerful tactic for people with a number of domains and a network of sites strategy.  With Rebel Mouse, we could even embed different sections on different pages — healthcare curations on our healthcare page, law firm articles on our law firm page, etc.  This is not necessarily a great SEO tactic, because you are duplicating content, but it can boost readership and also signal to Google the relevance of certain pages and sections on your site.

Scoop.it

This Scoop.it site was one I curated for a couple of years.

This Scoop.it site was one I curated for a couple of years.

This is another freemium (no top level domain name)/premium (unlock advanced features) curation platform we used for about 18 months.  During that time, I curated and commented (a nice feature — your comments appear along with the items you curate) on B2B Content Marketing Tactics.  I liked some of the aspects of it, but in the end moved on to other tools and tactics on which to focus in the limited time — you know how those hours swirl by in a sea of new and evolving marketing tools.

One unique aspect of this platform is that other publishers can “scoop” your articles into their own publications.  It is possible to do something like this on the Flipboard platform as well.

Note that in this publication, I narrowed the publishing focus from Content Marketing in general, to a focus on tactics more for Business to Business marketers.  This is another key consideration at the publishing/content strategy level — your niche.  Good Content Marketers will always proceed with their “target personas” in mind, and publishers live and die on that concept.  In fact, Content Marketing is really just another term for “publishing” rolled forward into today’s marketplace of evolving tools and tactics.

Proceed from the level of good content and publishing strategy.  Focus clearly both on the goals for your readership and the ROI for your organization.  Then, have some fun!  Do contact us for any help you may require.

Why You Must Review Your Site’s Link Profile

Avoid the backlink beartrap

Avoid the backlink beartrap – clean up your link profile.

Way back in the mists of internet time, Google noticed that sites which performed a useful service tended to attract natural links. Web-owners chose to link out to sites which complemented their own or served their own web visitors in some way. For example, a site selling holiday accommodation might link out to local restaurants, tours or transport information.

This system worked well for both those searching for information and for the website owners themselves. By going to the effort of seeking out quality websites to link to, the website owners created a source of information to which visitors would return. The sites which made a point of providing quality information naturally attracted links from related sites.

Unfortunately, while this system worked well for all involved, once it came to Google’s attention they decided that organic links could be used as a method of judging a site’s quality. Although Google is notoriously close-mouthed when it comes to their ranking algorithm, it soon become clear that the number of links pointing to a site was significant. Cue linkbuilding frenzy.

Discredited Linkbuilding Tactics

Bad Link Building

Just say no.

Services sprang up right, left and center promising to drum up hundreds of links within days. Schemes and scams abounded.  They still do. Look at the image to the left which was cut and pasted from a service in the wild. Wow. 56,999 backlinks for $5. It sounds too good to be true. Doh.

  • Blog Commenting
  • Link Wheels
  • Blog Network
  • Guest Blogging
  • Article Directory Spam
  • Site wide Links
  • Widget Links
  • Poor Quality Directory Spam

The Intent Behind a Link

While some of the techniques used were spammy and intended to game Google from the outset (hello, Link Wheels!), others like blog commenting and guest blogging only become spammy when you consider the intent. It is fairly obvious that a comment on a mommy blogger site from a user calling himself – and linking to – Hot Asian Chicks is likely to be a spammer. However, a commenter on the same site giving tips on baking the perfect pie is likely to be the real deal.  In the end, both Google (and smart, honest marketers) want to be about authentic links — you know, from people who really think your site content IS worth a link.

 Google Slams the Brakes On

In April 2012, Google launched an update, initially known as the Webspam Algorithm but soon given the name Penguin. Like the Panda Update which came before, this newcomer had teeth.  Here is how Penguin is described by Chris Meier in the excellent Positionly blog:

A little more than a year after first introducing the Panda update, Google introduced Penguin – a webspam algorithm update. Panda specifically targeted sites and pages with low quality content, while Penguin was designed to target pages that were boosting their rankings by spamming Google. Popular techniques included: Keyword stuffing, Link schemes, Cloaking, Sly redirects, Doorway pages, and Intentional duplicate content.”

Backlink BearTraps

Google is always on the lookout for ways that their search engine might be being gamed by those trying to get low quality, irrelevant sites to appear higher in the SERPS than they deserve. This constant tightening of loopholes means that what was a legitimate SEO tactic a couple of years ago is now verboten. It may be that the first the web owner knows about a poor quality link profile is when he receives the following scary email from Google:

Unnatural inbound links

Google has detected a pattern of artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site. Buying links or participating in link schemes in order to manipulate PageRank are violations of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

As a result, Google has applied a manual spam action to globaldatavault.com/. There may be other actions on your site or parts of your site.

Recommended action:  

  • Use the Links to Your Site feature in Webmaster Tools to download a list of links to your site.
  • Ensure that unnatural links pointing to your site are removed.
  • When these changes are made, and you are satisfied that links to your site follow Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, submit a reconsideration request. If you’re unable to remove links pointing to your site, please provide as much detail as possible in your reconsideration request.
  • For an updated list of manual actions currently applied to your site, visit the Manual Actions page. If no manual actions are listed, there is no longer a need to file a reconsideration request.
  • If we determine your site is no longer in violation of our guidelines, we’ll revoke the manual action.

An Ounce of Prevention

There is no question that inbound links are still an important ranking factor. Here is what Searchmetrics say about them in the introduction to their excellent 2014 Ranking Factors Study:

Backlinks: The quantity and quality of backlinks remains crucial as there are many new features introduced this year that have been revised to improve the quality of the results.

What has changed is the very strong emphasis on the quality of the link. Is it coming from a reputable site? Is it coming from a relevant page? Is the site the link is coming from seasoned and cited often on the topic of the post it is linking to?

Going forward your link building energy will have be targeted on building high quality connections however before that perhaps you need to take a trip back in time and see what beartraps have been left in your path through outdated linking tactics or downright spammy techniques.

Stay tuned for the next post to find out how to take a long hard look at your current link profile and clean it up preparatory to embarking on a quality link building campaign.

 Read more in : Sticking a Fork in Link Schemes: Penguin, Guest Posts and the Impact on Link Building

Webdirexion Team Sled Race (and SMM)…

The Webdirexion Sled Team, left to right:  Scott, Miranda, Serhii (who gets his revenge after being hit with a snowball), Julie and Wendy.

The Webdirexion Sled Team, left to right: Scott (Chief Optimizer), Miranda (Content Wrestler), Serhii (Programming Ninja), Julie (SEO Maven), and Wendy (Project Chauffeur).  Sherri is not in this race (only 5 allowed on the slopes), but will appear in a forthcoming video.

Quick… what would be a great way to unwind after all that online, digital, content, internet marketing work?  A sled race, a la Jib Jab, of course.

We were inspired to create the following video for our Holiday Greetings in the spirit of fun and good humor when one on our team, Sherri Gutierrez (Marketing Consultant), did her own greeting using the same tool.  We’re reproducing our sled race here, in case you missed it, and we do wish you a Happy New Year — watch it below.

But beyond the good fun, here are some technical social media marketing points for consideration: (more…)

TacTech Talk: Responsive Schmonsive; and Authentic SMM

Scott Frangos, President of Webdirexion

Scott is Chief Optimizer for Webdirexion and includes Marketing, Content Strategy, WordPress, CSS, Photoshop, Tai Chi, and Coffee among his passions.

This month, my “TacTech Talk” Column (a fusion of Tactical and Technical tips for today’s marketers) discusses Responsive Design vs. Mobile App solutions; and I have an “authentic” Social Media Marketing tactic or two for you.

Responsive, SchmonsziveResponsive or Mobile App Solution?

There are a lot of gurus out there claiming that “responsive design” (your site shrinks according to the size of the mobile device screen) is the only way to go nowadays.  Wrong.  You have two choices — compromise your desktop view and go for a smartphone/tablet view that looks the same but smaller, or design for desktop, then optimize in an app-like interface for mobile devices.  Is one “better” than the other?  It’s debateable, and the answer depends on two things:  your budget; and how best to serve your visitors.  Let’s look at strengths and advantages to both: (more…)