Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Does Your Content Count?

Earlier this year, we wrote about the new content marketing rage, which we deemed to be ridiculous. As we noted then, what is marketing if not the projection of content? In traditional marketing, for example, the product itself--the packaging, suggested use, and name--is all content. We must admit, however, our post was a bit disingenuous.

Content marketing, at least as its understood today, refers to writing--or more explicitly, to writing that is intended to engage an audience with the objective of "driving profitable action." (That last quote, from the Content Marketing Institute, obscures the point; the objective, obviously, is to sell). This definition does sound an awful lot like a traditional definition of marketing. So why the emphasis on this new phrase--"content" marketing.

The best we can tell is that, in today's environment, the written word is the best way to increase your authority--and your search rankings. Perhaps this is why content marketing is so popular among the SEO community. So popular, in fact, that content marketing is already experiencing a backlash.

Analysts are predicting "content shock," a glut of content that will repel readers.

Here's a handy graphic from Mark Schaefer:

Oh no, it's coming! CONTENT SHOCK!

Eric Enge, over at Moz, summarized Schaefer's view--as well as the opposition to his view--in a recent post: "A Clear Path for Marketers to Surviving Content Shock."

We believe the hubbub is much ado about nothing. What is the Internet, after all, but an endless glut of content? We all have our ways of sorting through this glut; of discovering our preferred content. And, of course, the best content will always be a viable means to "driving profitable action."

Our advice: do not pay a lick of attention to articles extolling the popularity or the demise of content marketing. Far more important, we believe, are the few statistics Enge shares from a recent Moz study: "Content, Shares, and Links: Insights from Analyzing 1 Million Articles."

The study shows that most content receives little attention. As Enge notes, of the one million articles analyzed, "75% showed no external links" and "over 50% had 2 or fewer Facebook interactions (shares, likes, or comments)."

To summarize: Content can be valuable for marketing--if the content drives profitable action. Yet this is clearly not the case for a majority of the writing on the Internet. So should you spend your time creating content?

Yes, of course. But with this advice, we add a strong caveat: make the content count. If you're creating content with the explicit purpose of selling something (anything) and the content is not doing so--well, you're wasting time and money. So you have a simple choice:

1. Stop creating content (a terrible choice)
2. Create better content (a spectacular choice)

Of course, creating better content is easier said than done.

Before you even attempt to create content that works, for example, make sure you write well. If you do not write well, hire someone to write well. Otherwise, forget about it.

If you do write well (or have the means to hire someone who writes well), start thinking about how to write content that works. From the Organic SEO Blog, please read:

1. Three Keys to Writing SEO-Friendly Content That Inspires People to Share

2. Two Simple Questions to Inspire New Content

And for a different perspective, read this recent article from Jayson Demers:

7 Reasons Your Content Isn't Getting Shared

Questions? Comments? Please drop a line below...

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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

When a Top Google Ranking is Not Helpful

We've written before about the value of a top Google ranking. In a way, this blog is devoted to exploring this value--and how you can benefit from it. But how do you determine the value of a top ranking for your website, specifically?

It's no big secret that the top Google result for any given query receives most of Google's traffic. According to a 2013 study from Chitika, a top ranking receives 33% of all traffic. After that, the drop-off is steep. The second result receives about 18% of all traffic. The third result receives 11%. If you're not on the first page, you're missing 92% of all traffic.

Even then, for certain businesses, a top ranking for might not be all that helpful.

You might be thinking, "WHAT?!"

[Photo Source]
Well, in the SEO world we talk so much about the value of a top ranking, we often neglect to explore the value of a specific ranking.

Do you have a top ranking? If so, it's value may be variable. And it is certainly not so simple as stating, "A top ranking receives 33% of all traffic."

The key, of course, is the profitability of any specific top ranking. Unfortunately, many websites achieve top rankings for keywords that do not necessarily attract business.

Is your website the top result for a certain keyword? If so, what is the value of that top result to your business? To estimate the value, ask yourself, "Is my website driving profits?" If not, you might want to think about ranking for other, potentially more profitable keywords.

For example, we recently spoke to a local purveyor of handmade vegan products. He had been in business for seven years, and he was happy to report that his site ranked first for a Philadelphia-specific search.

However, he lamented, he did not believe his website had increased his profitability at all. He was performing well in the Philadelphia-area, yet he wanted to expand his reach, to other metro areas in the Mid-Atlantic region. He also wanted his customers to order directly from his website online.

Upon reviewing the website, we learned that the interface was outdated, the content weak, and the functionality serviceable at best. We tried a variety of other searches, yet the website did not even appear on the first page for any other search.

In reality, his top ranking for the Philadelphia-specific search was mostly due to his physical presence in the area--he's the only local purveyor of his unique vegan food. To truly expand his business, we told him, he needed to rank for more general searches--beyond the Philly area.

Before then, however, we stressed the importance of a clean website experience. As currently constructed, the website of this local purveyor of handmade vegan products was terrible. In fact, we wondered whether the current traffic he received might actually be hurting his business.

In last week's post, we wrote about the importance of high quality products and customer service:

"If you sell a high-quality product at the right price, you deserve customers. If you perform excellent customer service, you deserve repeat customers. However, you, the business owner, must honestly asses your business before choosing to optimize your website. Ask yourself these two key questions: Do you really sell a high quality product at the right price? Do you excel in customer service?"

Now let us hasten to add: Is your website an actual asset to your business? 

The value of a good SEO specialist is his/her knowledge. A good SEO specialist should be able to assess the value of your website quickly (without charging you). A good SEO specialist should also be able to tell you--and not the other way around--the most profitable keywords for your industry.

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