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5 Tips for Marketing Through Content

10:06 PM, Posted by Franken, No Comment

Gather.com is a site that started as a social networking site, but is now a demand-driven media company, attracting 7 million unique visitors per month (and growing), according to the company. Demand-driven media is certainly a competitive industry these days with companies like Demand Media, AOL, Yahoo and others all playing their roles.

Tell us about your strategy for marketing through content.

Content has always been "where it's at", and that holds true as much as ever these days. Gather CEO Tom Gerace, who is also founder of the Social Media Advertising Consortium (SMAC), a non-profit organization working on the creation of standards for social media engagement campaigns, offered some tips on marketing through content to share with WebProNews readers. These tips are:

1. Start with Search. There are 15.9 billion searches run every month and a small percentage are customers looking for you and your competitors. Figure out your market opportunity by understanding how many searches, keywords and keyword phrases are related to what you do.

2. Think holistically about your budget. What do you spend today per customer? What is your average SEM spend? Content-based programs can help lower cost/customer acquisition because fewer people are doing it and competition, so far, is less intense. Plan to shift some budget dollars from SEM and other acquisition marketing efforts to content marketing - it delivers results with an improved cost structure.

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3. Target your content creation. Content needs to be targeted to areas that align directly with your brand; where sufficient demand for your content will make content marketing worthwhile.

4. Make lots and lots and lots of content at a low cost. Search engines weigh recency heavily when organizing content. There is always fresh content at the top of search results pages, so 1,000 posts on a topic will capture more customers than a competitor with 5 - 10 posts.

5. Don't go it alone. Managing dozens of writers, achieving top search engine placement, and establishing content creation costs to make content marketing make sense requires specialized knowledge and training. Find a partner and make them put their money where their mouth is on the numbers they promise.

Those are Gerace's tips, but I'll add that quality makes a difference. Not only does Google continually try to put more emphasis on quality with algorithm updates, but it also goes a long way when you're talking about reputation, and obviously you don't want to do something that will hurt your brand.

As far as search, Google's Matt Cutts has said of the recent Mayday update, for example, that content farms are among the kinds of sites that are hit the hardest by the alrogithm change. That's another reason why churning out sub-par content is not going to be in your best interest. If you can walk the line of delivering content that people are searching for, and giving them content that stands out, there are lots of benefits to be had.

9 Steps to Diagnosing Lost Search Engine Traffic

9:59 PM, Posted by Franken, No Comment

For the past few weeks I've been tasked with reviewing a few different sites that have seen a loss in traffic - their owners hoped to find out why. I love these kinds of reviews because it's like solving a mystery or figuring out a puzzle. While it's not always possible to determine the exact cause for the traffic loss, I can usually make some educated guesses based on what I dig up in Google Analytics.

Here are 9 steps you can take to diagnose the cause of lost search engine traffic:

1. Determine what type of traffic loss you're dealing with. Many people look at Google's overview page, see a loss of overall traffic to their website, and assume that they must have lost their rankings in Google and the targetéd traffic that comes with it. This may or may not be the case. Be sure to check for search engine traffic, and even more specifically Google non-paid traffic.

2. Look at the extent of the traffic loss. Your research will be very different depending on whether there was a gradual decline in traffic or a sudden, drastic drop. I reviewed a site last week that lost all of their Google unpaid traffic overnight! This sort of loss is typically a technical issue such as a robots.txt file or a nofollow directive that keeps search engine spiders from indexing your pages. Sometimes it's not actually a loss of traffic at all - your analytics code could have been inadvertently removed from all or most of the pages, making it appear like a traffic loss. I have seen all of the above more times than I can count in just the last couple of months!

3. Compare apples to apples. Many businesses are cyclical or seasonal. A gift site may see huge spikes in traffic the months leading up to Christmas or the weeks before other holidays. This means that comparing any month to the previous month may not tell you the whole story. A drop in traffic in January is probably fairly normal for a gift site. If you've got more than a year's worth of data, you'll want to compare this month's traffic to the same month in previous years. Ideally, you'd of course want to see a growth in traffic. And if you don't, then you may very well have a problem on your hands. If you don't have data that goes back that far, you can compare month to month, but be sure to take the data with a grain of salt.

4. Review and filter out "brand" traffic. Most websites get a lot of Google traffic from people who've typed some version of the name of their company as their search query. You'll want to note whether those visitors have significantly increased or decreased. If you receive fewer visitors for your brand, this could be caused by a decrease in marketing and advertising. Once you make note of the brand traffic, you'll want to filter it out so you can study actual keyword traffic, which is what real SEO traffic consists of.

5. Analyze which keyword phrases have had a significant decrease in visitors. Now that you've filtered out the brand traffic, you should be able to see the keyword phrases that are bringing you the most traffic. If you have lots, you may want to view 100 phrases at a time rather than the default of just 10. Are there lots of keyword phrases that seem to bring far fewer visitors over the last few months as compared to last year at the same time? You may also notice some that are bringing significantly more visitors.

6. Do a quick Google search for the phrases. If you're not seeing any pages from your site on the first page in Google, it may or may not be a clue (given the fact that everybody sees different search results) but it is definitely a cause to investigate further. If a page from your site does show up fairly high in the líst, it could just be that fewer people are searching for that phrase now as compared to before. Or it could be that your listing isn't quite what the searcher is looking for based on your title and descriptive snippet. There might also be other results for the keyword phrase that have images or video embedded whereas yours doesn't. Or there might be local map results showing up that make your result less appealing.

7. Review the landing page for the keyword phrase that lost traffic. Is there any obvious reason why it's not bringing in as many visitors as it used to? Does it even exist anymore? Did it change substantially at some point during the year? Did it get buried deeper into the site architecture for some reason? Is the content duplicated from other pages within your site or contained on other websites? Were there links pointing to it at some point that no longer are? Does the copy read naturally, or are there a few extra instances of the keyword phrase than really makes sense to a person?

8. Review your long-tail traffic. Since the end of April and early May 2010 a few large sites lost a substantial amount of traffic for keyword phrases that brought small numbers of visitors individually, but in aggregate they made up a lot of website traffic. You'll want to filter your keywords to those that have only a few visitors (even just 1) and see if there are significantly fewer of those than previously. If this is the case, Google has gone on record stating that they're doing a better job at sending long-tail traffic to more meaningful and relevant pages than they used to. Which means you'll have to go above and beyond what you're currently doing if you want to get that long-tail traffic back.

9. Decide if you're dealing with a search engine penalty. For drastic drops, in the rare cases where it's not a technical issue, you're most likely dealing with a penalty. You can check your Google Webmaster Tools account to see if there is a notification of a penalty, but they don't usually bother to tell you. Still, search engine penalties are much rarer than people think. In fact, most website owners know what they've done wrong when they have a search engine penalty. There are some cases, however, where they may have been duped by a less than scrupulous "SEO" company. The penalties I've seen seem to occur on sites that have no redeeming value because they have the same products and content that can be found on many other sites (often ones owned by the same company), plus they are deeply entrenched in massive link farms. It's likely that they are also hosting part of the link farm on their own site in the form of a link directory. If this is what you find, you may be better off to start from scratch rather than trying to salvage the penalized domain.

I hope these steps help you diagnose your loss of traffic. I imagine they will keep you busy for quite some time!

SEO Tips to Double Rankings

9:57 PM, Posted by Franken, No Comment

The only thing better than one search result in the top 3 positions in Google is two search results from a double ranking. This SEO tip works by pushing a competitor off the first page, broadening your websites keyword funnel and thereby doubling traffic and conversions.

Two Results are Better than One

I read somewhere that 87% of search engine traffic for a given keyword is allocated from occupying the Number 1 position in the search engine results page. If you understand SEO, then this post will share a quick method to double your SERP positions and to improve the likelihood of keyword conversions - once you have reached the Mecca for a specific search term.

SEO is predicated on one simple premise, rankings; in order for SEO to be effective, it must produce ranking on the first page in search engines.

Not only is this the crowning achievement of search engine optimization, but once you achieve a top 10 position, then you can pull other keywords into the spotlight as a result of strategic linking. We often refer to this as the buddy system for lateral linking.

Search engine algorithms pay particular attention to individual pages capable of offsetting all of the other inconsistencies of a competitor's web pages and deem one page worthy above all others for any given search term.

Obviously the metrics are unique for each market, keyword or niche, but the reality is the same, once a top 3 or more importantly Number 1 or Number 1, 2 and 3 positions are present in Google. I have mentioned before, the fastest way to get a top 10 position in Google is to get a link from a website already ranking in the top 10 for that keyword.

It does not matter if that link is provided from your website or another website, rankings are by the page and there is a daisy-chain effect of linking pages together that fuses the pages through a dynamic give and take relationship (based on citation). This citation can provide the algorithmic equivalents of trust needed for the newly linked page to jump in line past others duking it out for that keyword.

Depending on the competitiveness of the keyword or key phrase and the thresholds inherent to the barrier to entry; the time required to initiate a campaign, create all of the necessary content, inbound links and citation from other web 2.0 properties, RSS feeds and social bookmarking sites divided by the amount of time you invest managing or outsourcing the various components involved determine your profitability and return on investment.

With this in mind, from a tactical perspective, it's better to leverage the SERP positioning you already have than to look outside of your website for off page ranking factors. If you understand the power of a Number 1 position, then you can replicate this next simple SEO tip.

Identify all current Number 1 positions in Google for keywords.

Validate they still exist.

Use Keyword Research to find "related keywords" based on the Number 1 ranking Link from the page that ranks to a new page (using similar anchor text or overlapping keywords to promote the new page).

Let the new page get indexed, then check the SERPs.

Identify: My favorite tool for this is SEMRush, but if you don't want to use this, there are other programs out there, or even Google webmaster tools can show you your website's top ranking SERP positions when you log in.

Either way, this is your base, so, identify the keywords which could represent hub status for your SEO campaign and pass along the power of ranking to other pages in your website.

Validate: Check to see if you still hold the Number 1 position, even a top 3 will do, but this tactic works better if you are at the helm of a particular search phrase.

Keyword Research: You should be able to gauge whether or not the keyword is profitable for you based on the frequency of hits and the type of traffic you garner as a result. You can always look through Google Analytics or whichever analytics package you have to assess the keywords that represent the highest percentage of traffic to your website.

Once you know what those keywords are, then use keyword research to find stemmed semantic variations that also fall under the same category or keyword cluster. Those related keywords will become the new focal point for step 4 - linking.

Linking: The closer the shingles (groups of keywords) the more effective this technique is. You can call this padding the search results (if you use similar exact match titles, tags or content), or you can pass this ranking factor along to help synonymous terms.

Simply go back and edit the page ranking in the Number 1 position and add a link to the new target page (with the keyword you intend the target page to rank for as the anchor text). Then, the authority from the page in the Number 1 position will gróup the new page under its umbrella and pull that page into the spotlight.

When the new page gets crawled and the old page reveals the connectivity between the two, typically a double SERP position occurs or a double position accompanied by jump links, breadcrumbs or the [+] with additional search results for that keyword appear in Google to showcase the degree of relevance your website has for the said term.

You can then build additional deep links from other sites or addition internal links to the newly dubbed page. As a result, you should see buoyancy for other pages for multiple keyword variations related to the parent keyword cluster.

With this simple tip you can double your conversions by increasing your website's semantic array of keywords. Obviously you will know which keywords and traffic is most lucrative for your business model, but this technique is priceless for creating controlled keyword stemming if you understand the implications underlying its premise.

How Much Do You Know About SEO

9:50 PM, Posted by Franken, No Comment

So just what do you know about SEO? When it comes to SEO are you a Novice, Intermediate or Expert? Regardless of your level, this article from a 10 year SEO war veteran may prove helpful.

One of my biggest problems in trying to help other webmasters - I naturally and wrongly assume they know all about SEO. I forget these webmasters have not spent the last 10 years battling it out with other online webmasters and marketers for some very popular and lucrative keywords, in the process, honing their SEO skills with other like-minded individuals.

I forget that many beginning webmasters may not be familiar with all the SEO lingo and SEO techniques which I mention in my articles.

There's nothing wrong with that. If I were to take up a new hobby or explore a new subject, I am sure I would be just as clueless. Mainly because every subject, sport or hobby comes with a lot of terms/phrases which are unique to that subject. SEO is the same way so maybe a little background or warm-up is needed in regards to understanding the basics of SEO.

Tip: If you're a complete novice, a complete list of the SEO terms might prove helpful. You can find a complete SEO Dictionary at: www.submitexpress.com/seodictionary.html

First, you must understand that SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization... which means you optimize your website and content so that it ranks high in the major search engines such as Google and Bing/Yahoo. This optimization can take the form of following a strict formula or layout of your website content with the proper meta tags, keyword density, linking structures and so on. It can also mean off-site optimization with link building, right anchor text, keyword positioning and so on.

SEO has become a major industry simply because getting top rankings for lucrative keywords can mean significant revenue for companies or individuals. We are talking about billions, if not trillions of dollars, exchanging hands with the sale of products, services and business transactions. Get a top ranking for your chosen keyword phrase and it means a flood of targeted prospects/buyers coming to your website or company, ready to do business.

Now, because there is so much money involved, a whole SEO industry has sprung up with consultants, experts and companies offering their services to get you or your company into those top rankings in the search engines. These SEO services could include link building, link buying, social media positioning, onpage optimization, pay-per-click management... all with the goal of bringing targeted customers to your site or business.

White Hat vs Black Hat SEO

You may also have heard other webmasters talking about White Hat SEO as opposed to Black Hat SEO. And as the names suggest, White Hat is strictly above board proper site optimization, while Black hat is using underhand devious cloaking methods and systems to raise your rankings. For obvious reasons, always go the White Hat route and you will feel better knowing you're doing the right thing in regards to your site.

Perhaps the next concept or term you should know is Algorithm. Search engines create complicated algorithms or lists of rules which determine not only how web pages are listed but also which web pages are listed first in their index or SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). These rules or ranking factors are used by SEO experts and webmasters to help move their keyword rankings up in the search engines. You open a web browser, go to a search engine such as Google, type in a search query for "top corporate lawyers" and the search engine returns a list of organic results along with a list of paid listings. Now, getting to that top spot means a lot of potential traffic/clients would be coming your way.

This is just one example, but most people quickly realize how lucrative getting to those top spots is for any individual or company. They also realize that understanding how the search engine algorithms work and how to manipulate them is a valuable skill for which many clients will pay big moolah to have on their side. This SEO industry also consists of SEO software which helps webmasters/marketers get their sites into the top positions in the search engines.

Most SEO experts break up your search engine optimization into TWO TYPES:

On-Page and Off-Page Optimization

On-Page Optimization means getting right all the factors which influence your rankings in the search engines. Keep in mind, the whole web is "keyword based and keyword driven" which means you must optimize your domain and site for your chosen keywords. Your main keyword should be in your Domain Name, in the title of the page, in the main heading for that page, in the URL and it should appear (with variations) throughout the page. Try to keep the keyword density to around 2%-5%, although like many things to do with SEO... there are varying opinions on the exact percentage. But what most experts agree on: the layout or structure of your web site or pages must be easily reached not only by your visitors but also by the search engine spiders which crawl your site. Keep it simple - have no links more than three clicks away from your homepage. Many webmasters include a link back to their homepage on EVERY page of their sites.

Off-Page Optimization means building backlinks flowing back to your web site or web pages. Regardless of what anyone will tell you, getting quality keyworded links from other high quality keyword related sites is the most important factor in achieving top rankings in the search engines. So link building should be a major part of your SEO efforts and something which will bring the fastest results. These links must appear natural and organic so varying the anchor text (underlined part) in your links is important. Also, the web is quickly changing, links from social media sites such as FaceBook, MySpace, Twitter are becoming more helpful to getting top rankings. So too, are links from blogs especially those from Blogger and Wordpress because these are optimized for keywords. Don't forget other media forms such as videos since links from sites such as YouTube can also boost your rankings.