All posts by Jim Yu

Smart shopping season checklists: Mobile and desktop, content and SEO

Constantly changing consumer behaviors and the demand for more personalized, meaningful experiences have retailers facing huge challenges this year.

Competition in the SERPs is stiff, but winning the click is still no guarantee that the consumer is invested in your shopping experience.

More than half of retailers (source: Soasta.com) have a bounce rate greater than 40%, and just one second in increased page load time can have a 50% impact on your mobile bounce rate. Today’s consumer has zero patience for a poor online experience and will pull the trigger instantly if your brand can’t deliver.

The holidays provide plenty of opportunities to create more personalized content and provide smart content and intelligent experiences both in-store and online. How can you best get in position this holiday season to not only be found, but to engage and delight consumers all the way through, from search to checkout?

Below, I share some tips to help marketers in the coming weeks to get their SEO and content in shape for the holidays (and beyond).

Smart holiday shopping

The holiday shopping season provides a great opportunity for marketers to get smarter about the way they develop and promote content. As SEO and content marketing disciplines converge, the need for smart content has become mission critical. Smart content is discoverable, optimized from the point of creation, and ready to be activated across channels and devices, making it both profitable and measurable.

New research (disclosure – carried out by my company, BrightEdge) shows that ecommerce behavior changes dramatically on major shopping days Black Friday and Cyber Monday. On these days, conversion spikes. Interestingly, online conversion rates increase across desktop, tablet and mobile increase from Thanksgiving to Black Friday and into Cyber Monday. Going into the holiday season, it is good to know that:

  • On Black Friday and Cyber Monday, conversion is double what it normally is
  • Cyber Monday conversion is higher than Black Friday conversion by 10%
  • Desktop takes 67% of overall conversions during the holiday season, with desktop traffic converting at a significantly higher rate than mobile visits.

When it comes down to making that final decision, consumers still like to see what they’re buying, and all of the information surrounding it, on a larger screen.

It is important to note though that our data suggests an earlier holiday shopping season, too, and that consumers were making their big purchase on Thanksgiving and then using discounts to buy things they would have purchased already but with big discounts. Hence the higher conversion rates for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Read the full report (ungated) for more findings from our research.

As you get ready for the holiday shopping season, make sure that you:

  • Create content that meets your customers’ needs at various points in their journey
  • Develop SMART content and engage audiences with plenty of content about upcoming deals and specials, holiday wish list must-haves and similar content published on your website or blog
  • Ensure that your mobile configuration is correct
  • Add images, icons, buttons and specific (seasonal offerings) calls-to-action as part of the experience
  • Set up your mobile analytics so it reports key metrics separately from desktop data
  • Maintain rank for your high value keywords by creating helpful, consultative evergreen content
  • Double-check your SEO strategy to make sure your content is optimized for organic discovery. Start with these 5 aspects of technical SEO you can’t neglect
  • Ensure that optimize desktop, mobile and tablet strategies and connect them along the buyers journey – from discover and engagement through to final purchase.

Maximize your organic presence throughout the holiday season

Schema markup helps you structure your on-page data in a way that it can be better understood by search engines. As we all know, Google’s #1 goal is to provide searchers the best answers to their needs. Schema helps you show Google all of the ways in which your site content is the best answer for relevant queries.

Schema can help you win extra visibility in the SERPs, too, with expanded results and extra features like Google’s Quick Answers box. It can help you add compelling content like ratings and other rich information that convince searchers to convert to site visitors. At the very least, check these off your list in your pre-holidays marketing prep:

  • Optimize key pages for Quick Answers and mark up accordingly
  • Mark up events you’re hosting in-store and online for inclusion in the Google Events SERP feature
  • Use structured data markup to define business attributes including your NAP (name, address, phone), business type, hours, latitude and longitude, and more
  • Make sure your product pages are marked up so reviews show in the SERPs. This is critical, as 61% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase decision, and 63% of shoppers are more likely to buy if there are product reviews (iPerceptions)
  • Put the most important ecommerce attributes to work for you. Add pricing and availability to your rich snippets, to help consumers make a decision quickly and avoid in-store or online store disappointment after the click
  • Check for common schema errors like typos or incorrect capitalization, and use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to make sure you’ve implemented your markup correctly.

Supplement your SEO strategy and deliver a relevant holiday shopping experience

Your PPC and SEO budgets shouldn’t be pitted against one another during holiday season, each fighting it out for their share of the pie. Organic search drives 51 percent of all visits to B2B and B2C websites, and it is important to use PPC to support your SEO efforts; to fill in the gaps in organic coverage and further your conversion opportunities for specific time sensitive promotions.

Ad extensions can give your ads greater functionality and more visibility, while targeting options like dayparting and device targeting reduce waste and get you in front of your ideal audiences when it matters most. And remember, when it comes to site visits, desktop dominates on Cyber Monday, mobile on Black Friday, and tablets on Thanksgiving Day.

These insights can help you tailor your ads and bids to the most receptive audiences on each major shopping day this season. How else can you improve your PPC game in time for the holidays?

  • Accelerate conversions and sales with targeted campaigns aligned with your content strategy or featured products
  • Focus your organic search efforts on aligning with consumer intent, and use PPC to tap into queries that indicate imminent purchase behavior
  • Take advantage of the second holiday shopping rush by advertising post-holiday sales over the holiday week, when many people are off work and traveling
  • Use social PPC (Facebook and Twitter Ads) to get your ads in front of super granular, targeted audiences in the moments that matter most
  • Make best use of each of the Bing Ads and Google AdWords features available to you, including targeting options and various ad formats that can help you stand out in the SERPs
  • Deliver an optimal experience after the click by following through on the promise of ads with a seamless shopping experience.

Optimize for experience to improve conversion

Your number one priority in conversion optimization this holiday season has to be mapping your content to the customer journey, then aligning this to the days that matter most for revenue. It’s not all about Black Friday vs. Cyber Monday; Thanksgiving Day might actually be your best day for revenue generation.

Run through this checklist in the holidays lead-up to turn more of your lookers into buyers:

  • Test and analyze your shopping cart and checkout experience via a mobile device
  • Use your category pages to guide users, who are often undecided about the exact product they’ll purchase, towards your product pages and ultimately, a decision
  • Address user uncertainty on-page by answering frequently asked questions where it actually matters: on category and product pages. Consumers won’t go digging for information on shipping, return policies, etc.
  • Provide social proof by way of embedded reviews on product pages. Consumers want to see what types of experiences others are having with your brand and products before they’ll commit to purchase
  • Examine conversion rates by page speed, and optimize for a more efficient shopping experience. Load only your best converting image on page load and use interaction triggers to add other items as needed.

The holiday shopping season provides great opportunities to create more personalized content and provide intelligent experiences both at the store and online.

To maximize performance, marketers need to focus on understanding and creating smart content and shopping experiences to attract, engage and convert customers at the right time and on the right device.

Siri, Safari and Google Search: What does it mean for marketers?

Columnist Jim Yu explains how Apple's recent announcements and updates to Siri and Safari have had a major impact on the search marketing industry. The post Siri, Safari and Google Search: What does it mean for marketers? appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
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5 steps to making your content smarter

The convergence of SEO and content has been a driving force in marketing for the past few years.

A recent survey conducted by my company, BrightEdge, found that 97% of marketers view these two areas as converged disciplines.

Given that 51 percent of the traffic arriving on your website is likely from organic search, I believe that the growing understanding of the integration between these two formerly separate silos is an essential transition.

Despite this rise in understanding, however, a prominent problem remains: many marketers still struggle to get their content consumed by their target audience. BrightEdge found that a full 71 percent of marketers report that less than half of their content has been used by their target audience.

This problem not only causes tremendous frustration for brands, it also results in countless wasted work hours as well as unnecessary spending. It is time for marketers to take a more intelligent, smart approach to content marketing.

Smart content is:

  1. Discoverable: Easily found
  2. Optimized: From point of creation
  3. Profitable: Measurable

To improve content performance, brands need to stop producing content for content’s sake and instead produce smart content: content that is better suited to what users want to read, and is prepared for the SERP so those targeted users can find and engage with the material.

Smart content improves the effectiveness and ROI of the material produced by making itself more discoverable and consumable.

The data marketers gather from search can provide invaluable information about what target audiences search for and what they want to read. Through looking at this data, marketers can identify trends as well as consistently popular topics that their target audience will want to engage with in posts and articles. Data provides key insights on consumer intent and the topics marketers need to produce content that serves this audience.

When content is optimized for SEO before it goes live on the web, it will be prepared for searchers and rank higher on the SERP from the moment of publication.

This improves its overall performance and therefore the worth provided for the brand. During the content creation process, data provides insights into the customer discovery process and what different types of content are most likely to be consumed.

Smart content in context

Smart content is about taking the financial investment that companies make in their content development and channeling it towards a more effective and data-driven strategy. It is different to the content that brands already produce, because it builds off of brands’ improved awareness of customer intent signals and how site visitors interact with the content that organizations produce.

Over the past few years, the technology and capabilities involved in marketing have increased tremendously. Even on the SERP itself, we can see an impressive improvement in the ability to understand the types of content that users likely want to see, from videos to Quick Answers to images.

The better brands can similarly interpret these intent signals, the easier it becomes to produce the content that will rank highly and drive the ROI that marketers want to see.

Smart content allows marketers to publish material that is ready for the search engines right from the moment it hits the web, and propelling more traffic, engagement, and profitability. Marketers who learn how to integrate this strategy into their content creation process will have an improved understanding of what the customer wants to read, integrating their efforts across all facets of marketing.

The content will also be optimized from the moment of its creation, and therefore, the content will perform. Brands will be able to engage their readers across devices and channels, driving revenue and building the organizations.

5 steps to making your content smarter

5 steps to smarter content

1. Understand who

Make sure you know exactly who you will target with your content. Smart content revolves around creating precisely the right content for the right audience at the right time.

To tap into the immense wealth found in the consumer and market data that will allow you to accomplish this goal, you must first know exactly whom you want to target so that you can identify and develop the topics and ideas that will interest them.

2. Know what

Know what they want to read. Once you have identified your target audience, you next need to accurately gauge what they want to read. Look at what the search data tells you about topics of interest and rising trends.

3. Bake in optimization

Develop SEO-enabled content from creation that is ready to deliver across all devices.

With SEO and content converged into a single portion of the digital marketing process, all content produced should be optimized right from production so that no content needs to be re-optimized later, empowering it to rank as highly as possible from the first time it is crawled. This will increase the effectiveness and impact of the material created.

4. Measure

Measure everything about your content, aligning KPIs with your business goals and see how customers interact with your material. Data and measurement remains a key capability for successful smart content creation. Know the goal you want to accomplish with your content, such as visitor rates, rankings, or conversions, and define KPIs that will allow you to measure impact.

5. Adapt and repeat

Focus on the content that drives performance, adjusting strategies to better align with your predetermined goals as the metrics are measured. Smart content means improving effectiveness and efficiency.

Content and topics that consistently do not drive value should be reduced in the content plan while the content that does perform well is rewarded with expansion. Use the metrics to better understand how your individual customers react to the content and use those insights to drive content strategies.

Following these five steps will help you produce the right amount of content that delivers the right results.

14 ways to get smarter with your content and SEO

Contributor Jim Yu uses the SMART framework to prescribe a formula for SEO and content marketing success. The post 14 ways to get smarter with your content and SEO appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
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The collision between PR, content, and SEO: How to make it work for you

The full power of the digital marketplace was realized less than a decade ago. Suddenly, customers had seemingly limitless access to engage with brands –– to voice their criticisms and critiques, or to become super fans.

The importance of a website presence, blogging, social media posts and the other aspects of building an online brand seemed to sound the death toll for traditional communications and marketing strategies, like public relations.

However, we are nearing the second decade of the 21st century, and public relations continues to prove itself as an essential element of marketing communications. Like other aspects of marketing, it’s a discipline that has morphed and evolved to fit into the changing digital ecosystem, in which the value of appearing at the top of the search engine results page is arguably equitable with yesteryear’s goal of a front page headline.

Brands attuned to these changes and the importance of integrated, hybrid marketing will find that public relations, SEO and content marketing now heavily influence each other. Putting this trio to work in the right way can help build strong brands that drive traffic, customers and revenue.

The digital brand trifecta

A consistent theme throughout the ages, branding – the practice of crafting measured messaging around a product to guide public perception – has always been a pillar for marketing communications.

Simply put, a strong and positive brand image drives customer awareness, recognition and action. The most effective brands, while simple at the surface, conjure complex responses; consider that 90 percent of purchase decisions are made subconsciously.

Evoking the right perception of a brand can make an enormous difference in conversions and revenue – this is where public relations plays a role by subtly inserting brand messaging into external sources that consumers today are more likely to consume and engage with than pushed advertising.

The expansion of the digital world and rise of the separate disciplines SEO and content marketing as a means of reaching consumers through targeted content has resulted in the consolidation of the roles of SEO and content.

The role of public relations has emerged from this phenomenon quite naturally; while content marketing and SEO traditionally focus on on-site content, public relations is the impetus for third party content that drives brand messaging and digital traffic.

Customers today hold brands to high standards: 60 percent of millennials say they expect to have a consistent experience with organizations across the various platforms. Customers expect to be able to interact with brands whenever they want and wherever they want. To meet these needs, organizations themselves need to understand how to integrate their various disciplines to create a uniform voice.

How content marketing, SEO, and public relations overlap

At its core, public relations is essentially about creating excellent professional content that appeals to quality publications, while positioning the brand at the top of readers’ consideration sets.

These goals intertwine tightly with those of content marketing. It is estimated that we now produce more data in two days than has existed for the entirety of the human experience up until 2003, and 39 percent of B2B brands plan on increasing content budget in the next year. The online world has become saturated with content.

However, where we excel in quantity, we lack in quality. Today, consumers demand material that addresses them and their needs while also offering guidance and help. In other words, those in content marketing need to pay equally close attention to the value they are offering and how it satisfies the needs of consumer intent.

SEOs role in companies has always been to boost the rankings of the content the brand produces to get the brand site and name in front of people performing searches on the search engines. By optimizing material for particularly relevant queries, SEOs can help draw the appropriate audience back to the website where leads can be nurtured and converted.

When used correctly, public relations can be a helpful asset in accomplishing these SEO goals. Many popular media outlets, for example, rank highly on the SERP thanks to a strong domain authority.

Brands that find smart ways to insert themselves into these sites –– often via a combination of news coverage and contributed articles –– have the opportunity to establish their presence for particular keywords that may struggle to rank from their own site. This provides an opportunity for brand recognition and to create a brand impression from a place of authority.

Knowledge is the key to the digital brand trifecta of employing public relations, content marketing and SEO to work together and build the brand’s reputation online. Below are steps teams can take to begin to bring these elements into successful harmony.

Aligning SEO, content development and public relations

1. Develop common target personas

Personas remain the key to any successful marketing campaign. They also serve as the cornerstone for successful collaboration between teams.

Generally, public relations professionals will have a general idea of what they want to promote and to whom, while SEO and content marketing professionals may have their own ideas about who they want to target.

Joining the research and considerations that went into developing the target personas on both sides can strengthen them for the brand and ensures that everyone understands the target for particular campaigns.

2. Obliterate working siloes

To achieve maximum success with public relations, you should develop common campaigns that will use principles from both SEO and PR. Combine the resources that each team utilizes to see how they might benefit each other.

For example, the material produced by the public relations team should be appropriately optimized by the SEO team and reviewed by the content team to ensure a consistent voice and to ensure that it ranks for the keywords the organization wants to target.

The public relations team can also work with the SEO and content teams to secure contributed columns and backlinks from reputable publications. Remember that content marketing is not just about producing content, it also needs to incorporate distribution. Coordinating with public relations can ensure that this piece is not overlooked.

3. Collaborate on content

Although SEO, content marketing and public relations teams will have different central goals, they should run their campaigns using a common base. Keywords that the SEO team targets, for example can also be incorporated into press releases to boost brand recognition.

If there are words that the domain struggles to rank for, creating press releases for well-regarded publications can help capture these rankings.

Reputable publications speaking about important research or releases that your brand has can lend greater credibility to these announcements, making it easier for your on-site announcements to gain traction and engagement.

The collision between PR, content, and SEO: How to make it work for you

4. Measure your progress and success

As with any marketing effort, brands need to measure every step of their collaboration between these three key teams. Look at KPIs that let you see how well customers engaged with material, the amount of traffic and leads being driven from press releases and how having a strong PR campaign impacts the engagement and conversion metrics across other aspects of the marketing strategy.

Look at the numbers before and after the efforts have been used, as well as the impact across different buyer personas and stages of the buyer’s journey. The greater the insight and understanding you have, the easier it will be to identify strengths and weaknesses of the campaign.

In sum, public relations is far from dead. Its value has grown to become one of three essential digital marketing elements. The marketing efforts that brands must use to build their organization’s name and shape the reputation of their brand online continue to remain of critical importance.

The difference now, however, lies in the means of this self-promotion. Public relations now has the strongest impact when it finds a strategic home with SEO and content marketing. The closer you can align these different departments, the easier it will be to see how public relations can be helpful in boosting your brand.

Mobile & desktop SEO: Different results, different content strategies

You can't simply make your site responsive and truly call it mobile-ready, argues contributor Jim Yu. To really adjust to the dramatic rise of mobile search, you need to understand how people are using these devices for finding things. The post Mobile & desktop SEO: Different results,...

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

5 ways to balance technical & non-technical SEO

Though tactics and strategies differ greatly for technical and non-technical SEOs, columnist Jim Yu believes it’s critical that they find ways to work together. Each is powerful on its own, but it’s in the combined efforts of both that the real magic happens. The post 5 ways to balance technical...

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5 essential aspects of technical SEO you cannot neglect

Eighty-eight percent of B2B marketers now report using content marketing in their promotional strategies, according to the Content Marketing Institute.

Developing content and using SEO to drive rankings and traffic has become a fundamental part of digital strategies, not just for the thought leaders of the industry, but it has become standard across the spectrum.

Thanks in large part to this massive development of online content, there are now more than one billion websites available online.

This tremendous growth has resulted in an increasingly competitive online market, where brands can no longer find success through guesswork and intuition. Instead, they must rely on more sophisticated strategies and means of enticing new customers.

The art of SEO lies in helping customers find your relevant, helpful content when it would benefit them and then creating a pleasant experience for them while they visit your website. Hence, it is vital that marketers do not neglect their technical SEO.

Sites still need to be built and structured well so they can be found, crawled, and indexed, hopefully to rank well for relevant keywords. There are a few technical SEO strategies in particular that we believe brands should be paying close attention to get their site in front of their competitors.

How does technical SEO impact the bottom line?

According to research performed at my company, BrightEdge, over 50 percent of the traffic on your site is organic. This means that the majority of the people visiting your page arrived there because they thought your listing on the SERP appeared the most relevant to their needs.

Those who neglect their technical SEO will find that this can damage the rankings their pages receive on the SERPs as well as the engagement on the actual site. In other words, not applying these core technical SEO concepts will negatively impact the number of visitors received, and thus revenue for the brand.

Customers have reported that how well the site runs greatly impacts their decision about whether or not to make a purchase. More than three quarters of customers – 79 percent – report that when they encounter problems with a site’s performance, they are less likely to buy from them again.

These customers also hold sites to a high standard, with a single second delay in page loading lowering customer satisfaction by 16 percent. Other common consumer complaints about websites include sites crashing, poor formatting, and error notifications.

Technical SEO makes it easier for users to find the website and then navigate it. It has a direct impact on rankings and traffic as well as the overall user experience. It should be clear, therefore, the tremendous impact that poor technical strategies and orphan pages can have on the bottom line for any organization.

5 essential aspects of technical SEO that cannot be neglected

1. Site accessibility

Site owners should periodically verify that the site is completely accessible for both search engine spiders as well as users. Robots.txt, for example, can be useful at times when you do not want a page to be indexed, but accidentally marking pages to block the spider will damage rankings and traffic.

Brands should also look closely at their Javascript coding to ensure that the vital information for the website is easily discoverable. Since customers also regularly complain about error messages and sites failing to load, brands should be checking for 404 pages and related errors.

Given that more searches now occur on mobile than desktop, and the impending switch to a mobile-first index on Google, brands should also ensure that any content published is constructed for mobile usage.

When speaking about the user experience, visitors themselves also pay a considerable amount of attention to load speeds. Brands should optimize for load speeds, watching site features such as cookies and images, that can slow down pages when not used correctly.

Things to do to improve your site’s accessibility:

  • Check that robots.txt is not blocking important pages from ranking
  • Make sure the robots.txt contains the sitemap URL
  • Verify that all important resources, including JS and CSS are crawlable
  • Find and fix any 404 errors
  • Check that all content, including videos, plays easily on mobile
  • Optimize for load speed

2. Site structure

Navigation throughout the website should also be a main priority. Look at the organization of the site’s pages and how easily customers can get from one part of the site to another. The number of clicks it takes to get to a desired location should be minimized.

Many sites find it to be convenient to build websites using a taxonomy hierarchy. Creating clear categories of pages can help websites organize their content while also reducing the number of steps that visitors must go through to adequately engage with the brand.

As you explore your site navigation, also verify how well the pages have been interlinked so that prospective customers engaging with one piece of content are easily led to other material that they will likely enjoy. Check also for orphan pages and other content that might be hard to find. The key to a strong site structure is to consider the user experience so that useful material can be found intuitively.

Things to do to ensure your site structure is optimized:

  • Create a hierarchy that ensures important pages are 3 clicks from the home page or less
  • Uncover orphan pages and either delete them or add them to the site hierarchy
  • Check links for broken or redirects and repair them

3. Schema markup

Schema markup provides search engines with even more information about the pages on your site, such as what is available for sale and for how much, rather than leaving it open for interpretation by the spiders and algorithm.

Although Google does tend to be relatively accurate about the purpose of websites, schema markup can help minimize the potential for any mistakes. In a increasingly competitive digital ecosystem, brands do not want to leave themselves open to errors.

Schema has also been attracting attention because of its potential to help brands trying to gain extra attention on the SERP in the form of Quick Answers and other universal content. Brands that want events included in the new Google Events SERP feature, for example, should use schema to call the search engine’s attention to the event and its details.

Things to do to make sure your site has the correct level of schema markup:

  • Markup pages that have been optimized for Quick Answers and other rich answers
  • Markup any events you list on your page or transcripts for videos
  • Check for common schema errors including spelling errors, missing slashes, and incorrect capitalization
  • Use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to ensure the markup has been completed correctly

4. Site tags

As sites become more technical, such as developing content in multiple languages for overseas versions of the site, brands will similarly need to pay closer attention to the markup and tags used on the pages. Correctly-used hreflang tags, for example, will ensure that the content is correctly matched with the right country.

Although Google might be able to tell that a website has been written in English, an hreflang tag can help ensure that it shows the UK version to the English audience and the US version to those in the United States. Displaying the wrong version of the websites to the audience can damage the brand’s reputation and ability to engage with the audience.

Many brands will also find canonical tags to be highly useful. Using these tags will signify to Google which version of any particular content is original, and which is the distributed or replicated version. If a marketer wants to publish syndicated content on another website, or even create a PDF format of a standard web page, canonical tags can help avoid duplicate content penalties so that weaken content visibility.

Things to do to ensure your site content is tagged correctly:

  • Use hreflang tags to ensure that Google knows which country and language the content is intended for
  • Verify that hreflang tags use proper return tags
  • Use only absolute URLs with hreflang tags
  • Use canonical tags to avoid duplicate content when necessary

5. Effective optimization

While this might appear to be rudimentary SEO, it remains one of the most important steps as well. As we create this spectacular content that is tailored for specific user intents and lives on a well-constructed website, it still remains that the page itself must be well optimized.

If the page does not have the right keywords, then it will be a challenge for the search engines to understand where the content should be ranked and placed. Carefully determine keywords through keyword research, and then construct sentences that link the terms and long-tail keywords together to make your topic and expertise clear to the search engines and those considering consuming your content.

Things to do to improve technical SEO today:

  • Use keyword research to find important and in-demand search topics
  • Create sentences that effectively link different keywords together to show context
  • Place keywords in the page title, H tags, URL, and naturally in the content

Even as the industry matures with micro-moments and data-driven strategies, technical SEO remains critical to successfully building strong websites.

We believe that all brands should ensure that these five areas of technical SEO are a part of their digital strategy.

Key notes on optimizing for voice search: Conversation, content and context

Voice search is growing in popularity, yet many search marketers still don't have a plan for it. Columnist Jim Yu discusses the state of voice search and provides some tips for marketers looking to the future. The post Key notes on optimizing for voice search: Conversation, content and context...

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Marketing with intent: The combined power of SEO and content

If we can agree that the ultimate purpose of marketing is to attract attention and generate interest, then combining SEO and content marketing is a no-brainer for smart brands and marketers.

SEO is all about creating brand visibility – it ensures that customers can find your website. Engaging content is what will make them click and stay on your website.

SEO and content marketing, when combined effectively and intelligently, become an unbeatable one-two punch that defines the experience – and success – of your brand.

Today’s digital world is insanely competitive; it’s always shifting and evolving. More than a billion websites are competing for the attention of today’s consumers. Millions of new pieces of content are generated every minute of every day – blog posts, whitepapers, infographics, videos, GIFs, social media updates, and much, much more.

All of this is done in the hopes of influencing people when they are in the market to buy a product or a service. Customers are seeking out solutions on their own terms. They find brands using any number different devices, channels, and platforms. In fact, 66 percent of customers use more than one channel during the entire purchase decision journey.

To meet and convert customer demand, it’s up to brands to be visible, be persuasive, and wow consumers at every possible micro-moment with amazing experiences. Content is the key to building these relationships. It should encourage readers to think deeply and it should invoke emotions.

As much as people like to think their choices are based on logic or concrete facts, emotions and psychology are important parts of making decisions. People remember experiences, not text. That’s why stories resonate. Creating content and stories that resonate with an audience is key to content engagement.

Content and SEO: One in the same?

Because so much of the buyer’s journey happens via digital, brands must have content that is optimized, engaging, and reaching customers wherever they are. And to do this, marketers must optimize for intent.

The types of searches users conduct can help marketers learn a lot about their intent. Searches typically fall into one of three types:

  • Navigational: The user knows a brand and uses Google or another search engines to find that specific website (e.g., “Microsoft”).
  • Informational: The user wants to learn something about a company, product, or service (e.g., “how much does Microsoft Word cost”).
  • Transactional: The user enters a highly commercial query, signalling that he or she is ready (or nearly ready) to buy a product or service and (e.g., “buy Microsoft Office 2016”).

By combining SEO and content marketing efforts into one function, marketers can influence consumers whether they are in the discovery phase or purchase stage.

According to new research from BrightEdge (my company) over 97% of digital marketers now believe that SEO and Content Marketing have become one and the same.

SEO is vital to content discovery. Discovery tends to start via the organic search channel. Did you know that organic search:

  • Drives 51 percent of all visits to B2B and B2C websites
  • Has no direct media cost and extremely high returns
  • Impacts all digital marketing channels and offline sales
  • Builds brand awareness
  • Helps increase revenue?

So it’s critical to identify keywords that demonstrate commercial intent. With this data, marketers can better understand the intent of customers and create and optimize intelligent content that is more likely to convert.

Combining SEO and content isn’t just good in theory. Cross-channel marketing is helping marketers achieve a higher ROI. Integration results in higher conversion rates, engagement, customer retention, and brand advocacy.

It’s critical to understand what will resonate with customers and help influence them during the decision-making journey. But to create the intelligent content that engages and converts, marketers need intelligent data. You need to know who your target audience is – their ages, demographics, locations, interests, habits, and preferences.

How do you market with intent by combining SEO and content marketing into one function?

Developing a powerful content optimization program takes time and careful planning, but there are five things marketers can do to establish a strong foundation.

1. Know your audience

Everything a brand does must revolve around the customer – the products, experience, and marketing strategy. Defining an audience allows marketers to create content on interesting and relevant topics that will grow loyal audiences and achieve business objectives.

Yet, a surprising number of brands – 80 percent – say they don’t know their customers,

Brands that intimately understand the motivations, pain points, and processes of their audience are best set up to deliver better and more impactful content that helps drive revenue, growth, and long-term sustainability.

Here are three keys to marketing with intent to your audience:

  • See how people engage. Examine how customers consume and engage with your content. Identify what generates interest and results in people taking action. Adjust and optimize content as needed.
  • Think about the customer journey. Consider how customers engage with different types of content across channels and devices, at different stages, and in different states of mind. Understand conversion and buying behavior as customers move between devices (smartphones, tablets, and desktops).
  • Do ongoing customer analysis. What customers are interested in or desire today can quickly change. Performing regular analysis of customer-brand interactions. Listen and gather insights to keep up with the trends and continue delivering the right experiences.

2. Have a purpose

Just as a brand needs a mission statement – a stated aspirational or inspirational purpose for existing – content also must have a purpose. Every piece of content you create should have a reason for existing. Generally, the purpose of content is to inform, educate, persuade, entertain, or inspire.

Marketing with intent: The combined power of SEO and content

Keep purpose top of mind when developing a content strategy by incorporating the following:

  • The goal of creating and publishing content is to become a valuable resource and tell memorable stories. Incorporate customer pain points and interests into the content strategy and creation process. Also, remember these three Es:
    • Experiment: Try different content types.
    • Experience: Make your audience feel.
    • Engage: Keep them coming back for more.
  • Consistency: A brand’s voice should mimic the way its customers speak, whether it’s conversational, edgy, or professional. This voice should be consistent across all content, regardless of who creates it or where it’s published.
  • Goals: Set realistic and concrete goals for your content, whether it’s to drive awareness, organic search traffic and rankings, social engagement, conversions, or revenue.

3. Create & optimize content

After nailing down a target audience and a purpose, the next step is creating and optimizing content for maximum visibility. Failing to optimize content is a suicide mission. People who can’t find content, no matter how great it may be, can’t engage with that content – or the brand that created it.

Every piece of content can always be improved through optimization, whether that content is for your website, social media, or email campaigns. Some tips:

  • Choose relevant topics: Content should be customer-centric, not brand- or business-centric. Topics should appeal based on demographics, behaviors, and interests.
  • Use the right keywords: Ditch the corporate jargon. Use words people actually use when searching for your products or services.
  • Map content to specific personas and purchase funnels: Customer journey mapping helps set up content for success from the start.
  • Mobile optimization: This is especially critical for mobile. Brands that fail to optimize for mobile get 68 percent less traffic.

4. Combine quality & quantity

Many marketers believe consumers are simply overwhelmed by all the content we’re creating. After all, U.S. adults consume an astounding 10 hours and 39 minutes of media every single day. According to Smart Insights, every minute 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube; nearly 150,000 emails are sent; nearly 1,500 new WordPress posts are published; 3.3 million new Facebook posts are published; and 448,000 new tweets appear on Twitter.

This had led many marketers to one conclusion: focus on quality, not quantity. It makes sense in theory. After all, more content doesn’t usually mean better content.

Yes, there is an enormous amount of content on the web in aggregate. Global Internet traffic is forecast to hit an unfathomable 2.3 zettabytes by 2020, according to Cisco.

However, the average person has no desire to consume every piece of content that exists on the web. They want to consume intelligent content that is personalized, relevant, and helpful to them.

  • Does quality matter? Absolutely! Poorly crafted content is ineffective, won’t help you attain your goals, and can turn off potential customers.
  • Does quantity matter? Yes! Consistently telling stories and starting conversations with customers through memorable and compelling content helps keep brands top of mind.

5. Measure results & iterate

That which isn’t measured can’t be improved. Luckily, marketers have access to a wealth of real-time data to gain content performance insights and track metrics to determine ROI.

Brands can learn from every content campaign, whether it failed or achieved its goals.

  • Content failures: Compare underperforming content to previously successful content (both your own and that of third parties). See where it falls short. Pay close attention to traffic, conversions, and revenue attributed to or influenced by content.
  • Content wins: Figure out what made your best content stand out. Try to replicate the success and turn anomalies into more regular occurrences.

Below is a great framework on how best to approach SEO and content in your organization:

Marketing with intent: The combined power of SEO and content

Conclusion

Optimization is critical to maximize the value of content. The right audience must be able to find the content. And the content must drive business results. Ensuring your content is search engine-friendly and optimized across the buyer’s journey is critical to the success of a combined content and SEO team.