If you meet a SEO guy, run the other way.

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Most SEO ‘consultants’ are dodgy as hell – they’ll take your money and do you damage. But if you’ve already gone down that dark hole, consider the following:

1. SEO (search engine optimisation) is driven by solid content, not the sprinkling of keywords. One does not ‘do’ SEO,  one creates volumes of great market aligned content. Is your consultant helping you with content creation? Would your SEO guy know the first thing about the informational needs of your target audiences? Probably not.

2. SEO is not about optimising your website for the 50 most popular keywords. Read ‘The Long Tail’ by Chris Anderson if you want insight to the thinking process of the remaining 98% of any given market segment.

3. SEO is not a set-and-forget thing. Quality content creation and online publishing is an ongoing business imperative (no-one said this would be easy, but then again if it were easy everyone would be doing it well).

4. SEO trickery is dangerous. Contrived back-links, repetitive anchor-text, keyword density formulas and other mumbo-jumbo will be sooner or later be caught out in a search engine algorithm update and your website will be slapped back to the last century.

5. SEO ‘maintenance  plans’ are a RORT. Maintaining what!?

6. SEO without conversion reporting is meaningless. Who cares how many people arrived to your website via organic search – for most of us that’s only a mean to some business end. See if you can find a SEO consultant who will take payment based on measurable conversion performance (good luck).

7. Many so-called SEO consultants have the worst websites – crap copy, cheesy stock images, unsubstantiated claims – they’re not very good marketers. And you want to let them loose on your business…?

 



The Trunk.

Your website: the truck which must support everything else you have online.

Email: an outbound marketing channel without equal; always be inviting visitors to your website to opt into your comms loop, and then invite them back to the site from within the newsletter.  Social media: your community… eventually they’ll end up back at the website (hopefully). Search engine optimisation: a website without wide and varied market-aligned content is like a guitar without strings… you won’t be able to play the informational tunes your target audiences are hungry for. Analytics: track website conversions and value via your most valuable referral sources: email, social and organic search.

Respect the trunk.

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Your online business content and the curse of knowledge

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Easy traps to fall into: both underestimating how much you know, and overestimating how much you think others already know. Tradespeople and subject-matter experts are the worst offenders – they easily forget what it’s like to be a newer entrant to their world; their comfort with their own expertise is so high they can sometimes come across as arrogant or patronising without meaning to be. The heavy use of jargon and industry-speak can further muddy their written and verbal communications. It’s the curse of (having too much) knowledge.

How tricky it can be to grasp the foundational ideas of any discipline before the stepping-stones of greater understanding can be built. Online marketers of all disciplines – search, social and content – all need to remind themselves of this. Too often there’s a gap between what an organisation wants the market to know about themselves, their products or services through what they publish online, against what people want and need to know as part of making an informed purchase. Don’t underestimate the level of consumer level research which is typically undertaken online prior to a purchase – and the higher the value of the purchase and/or the higher the perceived risk of making an incorrect purchase, the greater the need for non-sales related information.

Organisations commonly make the assumption that somehow it’s the job of generalist publishers to bring their potential customers up to speed with the basics of how their stuff works. But their potential customers are readily searching for straightforward answers to straightforward questions: help me through this process of understanding before I waste my money! Most commercial organisations still don’t see themselves in the ‘teaching’ game. They fail to see the benefit of educating their market.

The internet has changed the way knowledge is distributed and found – holding tightly onto industry expertise is no longer a source of competitive advantage. It’s now a distinct disadvantage. By being a (relatively) scarce provider of the entry-level information within your industry niche, and appreciating the value it delivers – no tricky strings attached – businesses are able to capture the attention of potential buyers at the very beginning of their purchase cycle, and boost their own credibility in the process. The art and science of this approach is to see the world from multiple buyer perspectives – different buyers will have different informational needs depending on where they are within the decision cycle and their own levels of expertise. But new buyers will always start with basic research. Why not be the one to give it to them?

Avoid the curse of knowledge – nothing about your industry niche is too basic to publish online. Try and remember what it was like when you started out all those years ago.

Image by oskiamo

 



Have you ever seen a man eat his own head?

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TITLES. Titles. titles.

Titles associated with online content generally fall into 1 of 3 camps:  enticing, search aligned, and space-fillers. Be clear how you’re positioning your titles in the first two instances and avoid the latter.

1. Titles Designed to Entice

Hardcopy magazine covers are filled with attention-grabbing article titles which span the bizarre, mysterious, unbelievable, shocking, sexy and tragic. These are well thought-out hooks designed to lift casual interest to high interest and onto a purchase. The effective cross-promotion of digital content via social media draws upon the link-worthiness of the display titles. At the extreme, the super-clickable titles we call ‘link-bait’ often lead people to content that doesn’t live up to the promise; but even genuinely great content needs every attention leg-up it can get.

To increase the readership of your business content it should be cross-promoted through your Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ (and possibly Facebook) channels. But your content won’t be consumed within those channels, only linked to from them. Your title link text – in parallel with your content titles – should therefore be crafted as inbuilt calls-to action or enticements. They must be attention-grabbing enough to entice your followers, connections or fans to click away from the social space they’re in, and across to your website, blog, video or PDF download. Flat titles are seldom asked to dance.

2. Titles Designed to be Found

Titles designed to be found are constructed differently. Search-friendly titles are aligned with the keywords a person would logically use when searching for specific information via a search engine behemoth such as Google or the internal search engine of any social media or publishing platform. The objective is to make your article, blog post, webpage, video, image or PDF findable when people search. A lack of keyword alignment on your content titles assigns your content to the digital backwaters – no matter how valuable it would have been to the people who were searching for it, had they found it.

Keyword alignment is still the cornerstone of search engine optimisation (SEO): titles, sub-titles and other textual content which has a close keyword structure to the search patterns of your target audiences. Titles which incorporate grammatical devices such as irony, humour or double entendres fare poorly in organic search. A grammatically clever title may impress a reader, but if a person can’t find it in the first place it will never be read at all (the same existential angst a falling tree in a lonely forest endures).

3. Titles Not Designed at All

Space-fillers – titles added because titles were required. Neither alluring nor lending search utility they are like forgotten books which gather dust on a secondhand bookstore shelf. Business level videos on YouTube suffer this fate especially.

Three Possible Titles for this Blog Post

1. ‘Have you ever seen a man eat his own head?’ (designed to entice).
2. ‘Using keywords in page titles to maximise the search visibility of online content’ (designed to be found).
3. ‘Blog post #49 – content marketing ideas’ (not designed at all).

Have I ever seen a man eat his own head? No, but that’s not the point.


image by Eduard Gimenez 

 



Hashtags: Social Media’s Binding Agents

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#tags are useful things – they boost the findability of online content and facilitate the creation of virtual communities around events or activities.

Hashtags inserted within posts on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and Instagram are live – click on one and it will reveal other public posts that share that same hashtag. Inserting aligned hashtags in your own posts will help others discover your content as people search on themed hashtags.

Hashtags enable people who are participating in a shared experience to discover each other and each other’s related social content. Conferences, festivals, television programs, cultural and sporting events are commonly assigned one or more hashtags. This can happen organically or by design by the organisers – either way, they act as a social binding agent for the occasion.

Hashtags are also commonly used in online competitions, enabling organisers to find the social content entrants have tagged as part of an entry requirement, or to judge content they have generated.

And finally, hashtags can be used as a form of expression – not to make a post more findable. Someone for example might tweet in anticipation of an upcoming concert using the hashtag #cantwait.

Hashtags commonly fall into 1 of 5 categories:

General theme  – what people would generally and logically use to theme their content, e.g  #socialmedia #icecream, #trains, #quotes, #autism, #foodporn

 Place – associated to physical places, e.g. #melbourne, #smithst #melbmuseum #parismetro

 Event or activity – associated with live events such as conferences festivals, sporting fixtures, television programs, tweet-ups, etc. Organisers of these events and activities will often proactively promote the hashtag they want their audiences to adopt (even if this doesn’t happen, the audience will often make one up and adopt it quickly).  Some tags persist across multiple instances of an activity such as a TV show, or they might be one-offs – see below.

Disposable, one-offs – used just once such as at a conference, e.g. #dentalconf13

Brand – promoted by organisations, groups or teams to help people find all related branded content, as well as to encourage others to adopt the tag when referencing the organisation, e.g. #net101 #melbvixons #pwc

Here are some of the do’s and don’ts of using hashtags:

  •  They are not case sensitive. If a hashtag incorporates more than one word, some people like to use upper and lower case characters to make the words stand out, e.g. #SydneyRoads
  •  You can’t have spaces or include punctuation (except for an underscore) – each tag must be all one word such as #ausvotes – NOT ‘#aus votes’ or ‘#aus-votes’ or ‘#ausvotes!’
  • You can use as many hashtags as you like in a post but more than 4 starts to look crowded or spammy – the exception is Instagram where up to 20 hashtags associated with a post is common.
  • Before announcing a hashtag to an audience make sure it’s not already in popular use by group of people somewhere else in the world.
  • No-one owns a hashtag – they’re public fare. You can try and keep a hashtag a secret, but there’s no stopping outsiders using your hashtag once it becomes known.

If you want to search a specific hashtag across multiple social platforms, try TagboardScreen Shot 2013-09-21 at 3.35.05 PM

 Image by “CAVE CANEM”



Online Content Publication and Market Alignment Steps

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Positioning your website content to take full advantage of organic search and the ‘long-tail’ is a smart business investment –  the continual addition of quality content over time is the recommended approach. Here are the 3 steps:

1. Realignment
Enhance existing web pages with fuller product or service level detail, e.g. specs, geographies. Align page headings, meta titles & descriptions. Insert aligned ‘alt text’ to all images

2. Micro-Segmentation
Identify exiting web pages containing more than one key market concept and break each into a separate page. Begin the process of publishing new pages that are targeted at specific micro-segments (use ‘buyer personas’)

3.Content Marketing
Inform and empower your marketplace by publishing layer upon layer of quality information via the website and/or a blog