This is the new era, of a content focus SEO at its finest!

It’s time to forget about the old days of spammy link strategies and poor quality content. As a search consumer, you no  longer have to worry about going through hundreds of badly written articles and spam sites to find the one that gives you good information.

Like Apple back in the early days, Google+ has its fair share of skeptics. Recently, a report from RJ Metrics was published indicating that, although Google+ has seen some solid user growth, engagement still lags far behind Facebook and Twitter.

Google claims the report is skewed because of a small sample size and only publicly shared data is included. However, numbers aside, Google has made it clear that Google+ will play an important part in its continuous process to improve its search algorithm so that they can provide quality search results for their users.

If you’re a blogger,  this is important. You cannot overlook the importance of social media and Google+ in your efforts to get more visibility and higher rankings.

Here are 3 reasons why you should consider Google+ as part of your social media and content strategy...

Reason 1 - Google will index you faster

Google is now using social media as part of its social proof strategy applied to content. This is done for two reasons:
  • Proof that a “real” author is writing: Because when a Google+ account is associated with a blog, Google knows that a “real” writer is associated with producing the posts and not an affiliate or spam website where the owners are largely anonymous. Here’s a great post on Joost de Valk’s blog Yoast on how to get your Google Authorship visibility.
  • Social proof - are your readers loving your blog: With the emphasis on social media actions such as sharing blog pages through twitter, facebook, or even email. Or by determining the number of people who retweet and like your articles...Google has begun to give value to Facebook and Twitter shares in search results, but obviously in order to self-promote, Google+ shares will continue to be weighted more favorably.
All in all - using Google+ can help customers find your business easier and faster.. who's going to argue against that.

Reason 2 - Impact on Personalized Search

As the web has become more and more personal, Google has started to reorder search results based on recommendations in your given social graph. For instance, if you search pancake restaurant in Google, you may now see a connection from someone in one of your circles who has +1’d a given restaurant. That particular restaurant may rank higher in the search due to the number of pluses they get.

As the difference between a standardized search and a personalized one continues to grow, an increased reliance on your social circle (or community recommendations )and a less reliance on link popularity will begin to dominate search results.

Also, your Google+ profile picture has began to appear in the search results of your blog posts, allowing your posts to stand out even more. Although, the value of social sharing is still in its infancy, its impact will continue to rise as does Google+’s user base.

Reason 3 - Influence

One problem that could arise for Google’s new +1 approach is that spammers would ultimately take advantage and be “+1ing” poor content. However, over time as Google begins to analyze their +1 data, they’ll be able to find individuals who have more influence than others, and weigh their results accordingly which would combat this problem.

These changes won’t occur overnight, however as more and more people hop on the Google+ train, search results will change accordingly.

In short, getting people to naturally +1 your content will get you more organic traffic from Google.. at very little cost to you. As Danny Sullivan from Search Engine Land put it, “...+1 becomes the new Page Rank.”

It turned out to be senseless to bet against Apple back in the 80s, will you do the same with Google+?

It is Google we’re talking about here.
 
 
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Photo Courtesy of Occupyportlandnews.com
The last few months have been an interesting time for the city of Montreal. Blocked traffic.

Molotov cocktails.

Smoke bombs in the metro.

Students being forced to not goto school.

Sounds like an uprising in a Third World country doesn't it? (Many people who live here sometimes consider Quebec to be a third world province, but we digress...)

It all started when students rose against the government over the increase in tuition prices, but, somehow degenerated into a protest against everything that the current provincial government stands for. Whatever you political affiliation, what is fascinating though, is how important social media and the internet plays in the keeping the movement alive.

And how the people and even the police have used social media to push its points and maintain communications. A few lessons can be learned from this event for online marketers and we've boiled it down to two:


1. Real-time social media monitoring is necessary in order to keep up with the latest trends.

The Quebec student strikes seem to follow a similar pattern: organize, gather, protest, disband and often repeat. In scale the protests are quite significant, but the most remarkable component is the organizational abilities of the students, amidst the Montreal Police’s valiant efforts to put them to a halt.

If it were not for social media, student protesters would never be able to effectively organize and communicate in such an effective manner. Through Facebook groups, status updates and tweets, everyone is aware of the most up to date information - in real-time.

It may seem obvious, but the student’s dependence on social networks is a glaring sign of today’s reliance on the most up-to-date information through social networks.

So, what's the lesson for the online marketer??

In relation to online marketing, today’s newest trends and success stories will stem from the ability to monitor and respond to emerging consumer sentiment online.

In order for companies to develop strong relationships with their clients, they need to be constantly monitoring the social networks that their customers hang out at. Just as the police are monitoring the same networks that the Quebec students are using and likewise, the reliance Quebec students have on these same networks to communicate with each other.

Within minutes, hundreds of thousands of Quebec students can be informed and unite; the same should be said for online marketers looking to cash in on new trends.

2.  Organizational mistakes or alterations can be amplified to have disastrous impacts.

The Charest government never thought that a $254/year increase in tuition fees would result such a massive uprising. Although small in monetary value, the scope of backlash has caught on to 83% of Quebec’s students. The protests show no signs of slowing and recently, the Quebec Minister of Education has resigned under the increased pressure of her duties.

The same could be said in the world of online marketing.

The ability of news and ideas to spread instantly means even small mistakes can have disastrous effects for companies.  Back in January, McDonalds tweeted the hashtag #McDstories in an effort to promote positive stories from their suppliers.

However, unhappy customers hijacked the hashtag, unveiling a wide variety of unpleasant experiences they’ve had - such as finding fingernails in their burgers. @SkipSullivan tweeted, “One time I walked into McDonald’s and I could smell type 2 diabetes floating in the air and I threw up. #McDstories”.

Within minutes a parade of similar tweets was sent around the twittersphere, all in criticism of the Golden Arches.

As news and ideas spread can now spread to hundreds of thousands in less than a second, organizations must be extra cautious regarding the messages they send out, and also the people they put in charge.
 
 

For those who love to travel, looking for the best deal can be extremely frustrating with all the travel operators, airlines and hotels on the internet. With the prevalence of group deals and hundreds of tour operators, there is stiff competition to  grab the consumers' attention. With sites like TravelAlerts, consumers can comparison shop and look for the best rates and cheapest deals in one location. 

TravelAlerts.ca is what you call a travel affiliate site, where they aggregate the deals by their travel partners and deliver it by email or listing it on their site. Although they are riding on the coattails of the Daily Deals and group buying sites, their business model does not revolve around group buying. 

Trends in the travel industry

Travel has always been an extremely competitive; however, TravelAlerts have largely succeeded because of their focus on Canadian travel deals. Now that the Canadian daily deals space is getting crowded, they need to build a stronger brand and adjust their lead generation strategy to take advantage of new consumer trends in the travel industry.
Some trends that are being seen are: 
  • Consumers do not respond to highly discounted deals anymore. They are looking for great value. 
  • Travel is becoming more social. 
  • Mobile technology is becoming more prevalent, with tourists looking for local reviews and apps to search for great places to visit or eat. 
  • Social media is hugely prevalent in helping tourists make decisions to where they should go and visit. 
Due to the high cost of PPC advertising for travel, it makes sense to focus on SEO and content marketing as a way to build value and their brand at the same time.  One of the best tactics to do that is to create frequent content in the form of an online magazine.  This not only grabs the attention of search engines but also engages prospects...

Here are some more reasons why creating an online magazine can help TravelAlerts: 
  • Cost of reaching multiple audiences is low - they can expand their reach through multiple niches topics with great content. Google has improved their search algorithm resulting in niche sites being given more visibility. 
  • Building credibility - By creating valuable travel content that helps readers have a better vacation is something that people will come back to over and over. This helps build TravelAlert's brand and credibility.
  • Prospects are more receptive to marketing messages - In creating an online magazine, you have many opportunities to build a member database, from online contests, promotions, surveys and even email newsletter. The variety of interactions increases and so does their revenue opportunities. 
How can they do it? Some quick tips in creating an online magazine...
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Creating a magazine isn't just about making a new website and posting content on a regular basis. You have to do your planning and understand that it meets the needs of your readers while achieving your marketing goals. Here is a list of things you need to do in order to set up a magazine. 
 
1. Do your research
 
Research your competition and potential topics on what you will write about. Understand your readers and get answers to these questions: 
  • What would potential readers look for? Develop an audience persona so you know who you're targeting. 
  • What are they having problems with that you can solve through the magazine?
  • What are the most commonly searched keywords or keyphrases that are related to travel? Are you able to create content revolving around them? 
Once you have enough research information, you can use the data for your content plan. 
 
2. Create a content plan 

Like a business plan, a content plan allows you to focus your content towards achieving your marketing goals. Your content plan components will include: 
  • Content Format - Understand the format your content will be in - i.e. videos, articles, pictures etc. 
  • Content Type and Distribution - Decide the primary platform you will post your content on - social media, video channel, website, podcast etc..
  • Content Acquisition - Know where you will source your content. Who will be producing it, and what kind of tone do you want it at.  This means knowing what type of content you want to post on your site, such as news, deep features, interviews or videos.  
  • Content Scheduling - Create an editorial calendar and list how frequently will you be posting with the topics you want to post.  Once you have an understanding of the type of content you want, list how often you want to post each type of content. For example, news could be more frequent than a feature, and you could have an interview at least once/month. 
  • Reader Engagement Metrics - Understand what will define the success of your magazine. Is it traffic, number of leads converted, number of comments left, or the number of shares through the social media icons per article. Whatever, it is, make sure the that you have the means to track your success. All engagements between the reader and your magazine should lead the reader forward to either purchase now or purchase later. 
Although print magazines may be dying, the online versions are not...By creating one, not only will you be able to achieve your  marketing goals from:
  • Lead generation
  • Brand awareness and reader engagement
  • Lead nurturing
Creating an online magazine is more than just producing a few articles and posting it. You need to that the content you create is focused and relevant for the specific audience you want to attract. Like a marketing campaign, content is used for a purpose, to either get sales or make your prospect perform an action that you can convert to a sale in the future. 

Doing anything else is a waste of time.

 
 

A lot of people argue that of the goals of an online content marketing strategy is to support your link building efforts.  However, content marketing should be more than just a way to get link juice for SEO purposes. You should consider it as a way to build your brand - increasing your reach within your target market.  Here is why guest posting should be a part of your online content strategy. 

1. You get more brand exposure

If you have a popular blog, you know the speed in which buzz can be created from publishing a great post - controversial or not. When you write as a guest blogger on another site (or even have someone write on your site), not only do those readers get an unique point of view, they have access to new expertise that they couldn't have found themselves. 

Readers always look for fresh information and once they realize that they get great content, it's more likely that they will share the blog to others. By writing on other blogs as a guest poster, you are taking advantage of expanding your network and brand exposure by showcasing your expertise. You will have access to new readers and by engaging them, they will perhaps become your fans.    

2. Improving your website's SEO 

It doesn't matter if you guest post on another blog, or have someone post on yours, guest posting is not only a way to get more varied and interesting content but also helps with your own site's SEO. By posting on popular blogs, you get the opportunity to get your name on authority blogs, whose backlinks will provide you with some great link juice from search engines. Additionally, when readers find content that is interesting and informative, they tend to share it with others.  With traffic from guest postings, plus shares amongst readers,  you will receive targeted organic traffic.  Many SEO experts mention that receiving a high authority backlink from a guest post carry more weight from Google than the thousands of links received from article marketing or directory submissions. 

Remember that writing for your own blog is quite different from writing guest posts for others. You must not only be aware of the writing style of the blog but also make sure that your topic is related to readers' interests.  Take the time to write a great guest post as this will be your calling card to increasing your own blog's visibility. 

 
 
The CONFAB 2012 conference is one of the leading events focused on content strategy. It's purpose is to create a forum "...to drive the content strategy conversation forward.."  Marketers have come to realize that it's not web design or technology only that drives success - it's fresh and original content. This conference brings in people who are in UX, online marketing, search who share ideas and techniques that help drive user interaction and conversions. 

Take a look at the list of attendee recaps for the last CONFAB conference: http://confab2011.com/blog/permalink/confab_is_over_but_the_ideas_live_on 

Some of our favorite recaps are here: 
The 4 Truths on Content Strategy
The Skinny on Groupon's Content Strategy by Joe Pulizzi
Content Rules
 
 
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When it comes to creating content for your website, there are a lot of myths out there. If you ask online marketers, webmasters, and bloggers about their opinions on creating content, you’ll receive so many different answers it'll be hard to separate fact from fiction. We'd like to set the story straight. In no particular order, here are six misconceptions on creating online content so you can avoid making mistakes that may kill your website...

Writing for SEO doesn't mean that you must sacrifice on quality. 
Why would you want to drive users to your site, only to push them away with poor content? It is wasted effort and becomes expensive for the long term. 

Using a plagiarism detection service or rewriting an article makes it unique.
Putting an article through a plagiarism software only checks to see if it's a duplicate article. It doesn't mean that the article is unique and can't be found elsewhere. If your article is considered to be a duplicate, even when it's rewritten and passes Copyscape you could still be penalized by the Big G. 

Article marketing works, sometimes.
When Google changed it's algorithm to include the Panda update, it dramatically affected spam article directories such as EzineArticles.com, ehow.com and others. Don't worry, it doesn’t mean that article marketing no longer works, it's that you'll have to make sure that your articles meet stricter quality standards. Poorly spun and private label rights articles won’t do well. However, original, well-written, and informative articles helps, especially when other websites link back to it for their readers. Be careful when posting junk because it will affect your website's brand..

Keyword density is king.
While keywords are important, stuffing your article with a particular keyword is frowned upon by Google. The best way to get great organic search rankings is by:
  • using the keyword phrases strategically, including variations of the keyword,
  • creating anchor text,
  • considering basic SEO tactics such as headlines, bolding etc.,
  • and encouraging incoming links. 
Work ends once the content is uploaded. 
Once your content is uploaded, your work does not stop there! Not only must you continue to add fresh, original content to your site on a frequent basis, you must also start promoting it. This will keep the search engines and, most importantly, your users coming back.

Web content writing is the same as writing for print.
Writing for the web requires a different skillset than writing a print publication. Not only must you be aware of who you're writing for, you should also have knowledge of SEO, article structure and readability.  You have to remember that readers do not read online, they scan material quickly following a triangular path on a web page. 

Creating online content isn’t easy and as an online marketer,  you must be aware of how these misconceptions can cause more damage than good.
 
 
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One topic that comes up regularly to our attention for our small business clients is creating a long term content strategy that will consistently deliver results. Now this can be a very daunting task as not only do they have to do their market research, but also create and execute the strategy. With all the other hats that they wear in running their business, you can understand how challenging it can be! 

Content marketing allows you to build relationships with your clients and get them to perform an action that will lead to revenue. As a marketer, you must be able to define the kinds of content that will appeal to your customers during different times of the purchase cycle. Each step must encourage the user to perform an action - either clicking on a link,  provide some information or purchase something. 

Here are the rules you must be aware of when creating a content strategy plan for your company.... 

   
Know your users - what are their pain points?

When determining what type of content you need to create, you must do your market research. Know your users. Understand what their pain points are, then revolve your content around those issues. Understand what keywords they use to find solutions to their problems. Use this information to create a keyword list that you can constantly reference to when you do your blog posts or creating case studies.  

Know who you are - what is your USP?

Not only should you know who your customers are - you should also know your company. What makes your service or product unique? How do you solve your users' problems? Your Unique Selling Point (USP) is what you have to offer that no one else does. Understand your key benefits and the be able to communicate that with examples to your customers. 
  

"Your content strategy should be like a spider sitting on the web..."


Keep it fresh 

The more frequent and up-to-date your content is, the more the major search engines will love you. Not only that, this will give your users a reason to keep coming back and bookmark you or sign up for the RSS feed. Create a plan to consistently produce content on a bi-weekly basis at the minimum. Make sure that the content is relevant, current and useful.  

Be where your clients are 

In other words - make sure your content is on all the relevant platforms that your customers are on. Imagine as if you are a spider sitting on the center of your web. Each strand of the web is a content channel driving the user back to you, be it a facebook page, twitter, video, email, direct mail or a blog post. Each content channel will allow you to approach the user in a different way and with a different incentive.... Some may be receptive to a contest, while others want more information such as an ebook... The bottom line: Content is only useful when your clients see it.

Know your metrics

The most important part of content planning - understand if you're getting results. Don't just look at basic analytics such as how much traffic are coming in from organic search or your SERP. Take a look at metrics such as: 
  • the number of comments left on your page or blog for each post
  • what search terms are driving traffic
  • bounce rate 
  • conversion rate
  • funnel visualization - fancy way of saying where do users bail out in the registration process
  • referring sites (twitter/facebook/other blogs/search engines)
  • top exit pages/entrance pages
For more detail into other metrics, take a look at the Content Marketing Institute's post on content metrics

The end result of content marketing is to create a conversation between you and your customer. User engagement is what creates results - your customers will remember who you are and what you do if they feel they need to perform an action on your website. 

Content marketing is extremely effective in building relationships with your clients and promoting your business. However, if you do not plan your content strategy, your attempts at building relationships with your clients will fail as your actions are not coordinated and are not targeted.