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How to create absolutely awesome blog post titles

delicious

Your post titles need to be so compelling that people are tempted to read the rest
Image credit:Mr. Austin Frothingslosh (Flickr.com)

They are generally described as the most important element of a blog post. Yet they are one of the hardest parts to get right. Blog post titles are the element where first impressions, last. You have literally seconds to grab someone’s attention and persuade him or her to visit your blog. That’s why post titles are so important. It’s blog post titles I will be examining with this weeks post.

Magnetic Blog post titles

The most commonly used adjective when describing effective post titles is magnetic. This is because great titles grab people’s attention and tempt them to read your blog. That’s why post titles are really important. Using the Restaurant menu metaphor employed elsewhere in her book Henneke Duistermaat suggests you need to create headlines ‘so delicious that readers crave to read your posts’. The example Henneke uses perfectly illustrates this, in a restaurant what would you rather order? That’s the difference of a well crafted title brings. See the use that Duistermaat has made of sensory words such as crisp and juicy, they certainly bring the garnish to life! Making it sound a lot more appetising. When discussing non-edible items such as blog post titles we should make use of emotive terms to add the wow factor.

1)A Ham Sandwich or
2)Home cooked Wiltshire ham on a freshly baked granary sandwich with crisp lettuce leaves and juicy tomato slices
(Duistermaat 2014)

Post Titles best practises

Now we’ll examine what’s considered best practise when developing effective blog titles

Blog titles should tempt potential readers
This means titles should contain a ‘hook’ to grab readers, a promise or answers they seek, they should use emotive terms to grab interest
Post titles should be less than 55 characters long
The character limitation is a SEO consideration; short snappy titles are easier for people to scan
blog post titles should contain a keyword
Blog post titles should feature keywords at the beginning of the title, one keyword will be sufficient, avoid keyword stuffing

Parting thoughts

This is one area of my blogging I’ve needed to improve for a long time. My titles need to have a lot more flare in order to attract readers. I don’t like to overpromise and under deliver. This is a scruple which appears to be fairly rare online, the opposite being a lot more common.

Common problems

One factor I find irritating and which lead to a negative opinion of a blog are post titles, which promise the earth but deliver little. A lot of titles are drenched in hyperbole; it’s a characteristic I’ve built a resistance to, and I’m fairly good at spotting and avoiding now. On a similar note generic or corny blog post titles are another off-putting characteristic. These generic titles date very quickly. She learned to manage email like a boss. Sorry, it’s an old meme, which has been done to death. A year or two ago I tried using titles inspired by sites such as Buzzfeed and other entertainment sites I rapidly dropped the idea as it sounded cheap not quite ‘I gained 1000s of new readers using this weird old trick’ but heading in that direction. One I’d rather avoid …

By | August 26th, 2016|Content, SEO|0 Comments

Better Business Blogging:Finding Blog Post Inspiration

inspiration

Finding Inspiration doesn’t need to be a struggle
Image credit:Karen Murphy(Flickr.com)
I’ll be honest here; choosing topics to blog about was THE biggest hurdle I encountered for my first few years of blogging. It slowed the entire process down to a snails pace. In this weeks blog post I’ll examine what I call the blogging mindset, which is how I overcame the problem. I hope it will be of use to you.

What is the blogging mindset?

My personal blogging mindset is to be constantly searching for inspiration. whether I am reading, browsing or talking I am constantly searching for new content ideas. New topics will often develop into another 2 or 3 topics. Customers and forums are a great source of ideas. If an aspect of digital puzzles one & websites you can bet others are as well. Some concerns are fairly common if not universal such as ‘how do I get higher in Google?’ My answer to this is invariably ‘develop good quality content’ this quite naturally leads to more questions such as What are Google’s ranking factors ‘what’s content’, what’s good quality content? Answering these questions is what I mean by the blogging mindset or ‘Oh! There’s a blog post there’.

One of the advantages of Digital Marketing as a niche is that as a sector it is constantly changing. Especially search & social media. Although some people might view this as a pain, personally I see it as a source of potential blog posts. Although the technology is constantly changing, the underlying concepts remain fairly constant.

I could just nick a list of blog post ideas from elsewhere. Rather than do this I’d prefer to identify the most fruitful categories. I’ll examine these categories in greater detail.

• Industry news (including competitors)
• Customers
• Information & advice
• Repurposing old content ideas

Repurposing old content

I often feel that blog posts could be improved at later dates especially if I had extra time to research and write on a given subject. Rather than just rehashing old blog posts here I mean identifying the weak points, eliminating them then rereleasing perhaps as another format such as video, podcast or slideshow

Industry news

Industry news is well worth keeping abreast of where possible. Identify the most important industry news from your customer’s perspective. Then summarize this news in layman’s language (a process I call de-geeking) this could include news of latest products in your niche, especially hot releases which are causing a splash. Reviewing new releases in a readily accessible manner would be helpful for your customers especially pros & cons. With a lot of review and comparison sites I’m dubious about how truly independent they actually are, especially when it comes to software such as anti-virus suites.

Customers

I covered this in last weeks post basically it means fostering an awareness of what really troubles your customers. This can be done via social media, conversation or by visiting online forums. I often hear comments, which make me think ‘that’s not quite right’. This is where a customer, reader or subscriber has misunderstood a concept and this has thrown their reasoning out of kilter. Myth busting is a potentially lucrative source of blog post ideas; therefore listening is an important facet of the ‘blogging mindset’.

Parting thoughts

Choosing topics to blog about is one of the hardest elements of blogging but it doesn’t have to be, as with all things practise makes perfect ands it DOES get easier. I’ve provided some ideas for generating inspiration this is the blogging equivalent of give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime which is probably more effective in the long term than a simple list of blogging ideas, which I often find to be very formulaic and cliched.

By | August 12th, 2016|Content, SEO|0 Comments

Better Business Blogging:strategise for success

writing
In the world of Online Marketing, Strategy is a word thrown around with abandon. This is a shame as it devalues the term. if one aims to create a successful blog, a blogging strategy is essential. Strategy is a fancy label for something, which is more or less common sense. Enabling you to blog confidently. See what I mean about the term strategy being chucked about a lot?

What is a blogging strategy?

In essence blogging strategy is a short series of questions, once these are answered you have developed a blogging strategy. So its not as confusing /esoteric as it first appears.

• What is the purpose of the blog?
• What are your objectives?
• How do I measure the success of my blog?
• Who is the blog for?
• How often should I blog?
• How long should my blog posts be?
• How should I promote my blog content?

Why have a blogging strategy?

Answering these questions will provide your blog with a clear purpose, making it more coherent and focused. This removes the problem of blog posts which jar against other posts, leaving the reader with the question ‘why did they blog about this?’. I’ve seen larger companies and agencies fall into this trap. Clear goals will ensure your blog serves a useful purpose so you are not just ‘blogging for blogging’s sake’ by drawing up an appropriate set of metrics, you can monitor if you are achieving these goals. If your blog content interests your target audience then it will lead to a more engaged audience and they in turn are more likely to share the content on social media. Having a blogging strategy improves your chances of creating content your customers and followers want.

What are your objectives?

Convince and Convert offers 3 reasons for having a company blog. Each of the different reasons has a slightly different emphasis and different metrics. Having a clear reason for maintaining a company blog would appear obvious, however I suspect a lot of companies would be unable to provide a clear reason why. Don’t be one of them.

The three reasons convinceandconvert.com offers are as follows:

Blogging for Content
This is where there is a definite emphasis on search engine optimisation. The blog being used to drive traffic and attract backlinks.
Blogging for Commerce
This has similarities with blogging for content Here the emphasis is more on sales with conversions being the name of the game.
Blogging for Community
These blogs try to create a consistent readership around a certain theme or interest. There will be quite a lot of interaction with the readership. This type of blogging is generally for non-commercial reasons, once the community is flourishing. A commercial aspect may surface such as T-shirt sales or .mp3 downloads.

I’ll add a fourth category, which follows on from this
Blogging for Branding
This is where the blogger is attempting to raise his or her profile and to develop their brand. The blog posts are designed, for sharing widely on social media in the hope that some of the content will ‘go viral’.
Please note these aims are not exclusive. It’s fine to focus mainly on one of the goals, whilst including elements of another category. Chasing too many overall goals will lead to a blog that lacks focus. A clear focus and effective targeting are the ingredients of a really great blog. A blog, which answers your target audience’s questions, in an accessible way. Will be regarded as sticky, absorbing and useful. This will attract readers and subscribers, which, surely is the goal of any blog.

How do I measure the success of my blog?

Depending on the objectives you have chosen. You need to choose a suitable set of metrics. Analytics expert Avinash Kaushik has developed a great set of metrics that are easily to implement. They will allow you to monitor the impact of your blog with confidence. We’ll examine a few now I don’t want to crib all of his hard work so I will include a link to his quite blog in the further reading section.

1.Raw Author Contribution

a) Number of Posts / Number of Months Blogging

b) Number of Words In Post / Number of Posts
2.Conversion rate.
this will give you a good indication of the engagement you have with your visitors.
Conversation Rate = Number of Visitor Comments / Number of Posts

Know exactly whom you are writing for

Personas are a vital part of any good blogging strategy. Personas are character sketches of your customers, ideally backed up with data. If you can relate to your readers, this will help you to target your blog posts. Good quality content answers readers’ queries and is more likely to be shared. Having a good understanding of your reader’s requirements will enable you to help them.

How often should I blog?

Blogging frequency is another element of a blogging strategy. There is no definite answer to how often should a blog be updated. my answer would be as often as your resources will allow, without the quality suffering . I feel that daily blogging is not a long term option. Quality will decline in the long run. Regular blogging has a number of benefits such as:
Indexing rate
This is how often the search engines index (or read) your website to see if there have been updates. A regularly updated blog will be indexed more often.
Search Engine Ranking
Regular updates boost the search engine ranking of ones website. Failing to update a blog often will result in a rankings drop. I can confirm this from personal experience.
Establish Authority Status
A regularly updated blog looks great, and will help to establish your authority. Over time this could increase the brand loyalty of your readers. Especially if you offer good quality content.
Shareable content for social media
A regular conduit of good quality content will provide plenty to share on social media. Raising your brand’s profile even further.
More subscribers
Once you have established yourself as a source of regular good quality information, it will be easier to attract blog and newsletter subscribers.
Attract a loyal readership
A regular good quality blog that answers people’s questions will attract readers. However, your content promotion efforts will need to be up to scratch.

Promoting Content

Promoting content is just as important as creating it. However, it’s an aspect of blogging, which is often neglected. How much time should be spent promoting content is a personal choice. I think it is prudent to spend nearly as much time promoting blog posts as creating them. This means making an active effort to network with other bloggers. Rather than relying on Google’s good graces. How your content should be promoted is another aspect of your blogging strategy to consider. Effectively promoting blog content requires a lot more than simply sharing a blog post on social media. Blogger outreach or building ties with other bloggers is a major aspect of blog content promotion. Many bloggers are influencers one definition of which is:

Influencers are a person or group that has the ability to influence the behaviour or opinions of others.

Search engines want to reward good quality content with high search rankings. How do they know if content is good quality? If other people are sharing it is a good sign, especially if they are authorities in a niche. Blogger outreach needs to be an on-going process. You cannot approach other bloggers ‘Hey! I’ve got a great blog post. Help me to promote it NOW!’

Guest blogging is a great way to increase the size of your network and to build your reputation. Guest blogging involves writing posts for other people’s blogs in return for a service or backlink

The easiest way to find guest blogging opportunities in your niche is simply to search for them. a search query such as niche-keyword + “submit a guest post” should find plenty of guest blogging opportunities. Kissmetrics rather helpfully provide a list of potential search queries. Simply add a keyword for your niche where appropriate.

• keyword “submit a guest post”
• keyword “guest post”
• keyword “guest post by”
• keyword “accepting guest posts”
• keyword “guest post guidelines”

Parting thoughts

This article has explained what a blogging strategy is and I hope convinced you of the benefits .As you can see it’s not complex, merely a set of common sense questions which need to be addressed before one commits to having a blog. Let’s be honest having a blog is a commitment, a pleasant one, once you get used to it. You cannot expect to just blog for two of three posts. It is a long-term effort, a marathon not a sprint. Having a blogging strategy ensures you are running in the right direction.

Further Reading & Bibliography

  • Using buyer personas in content marketingsmartinsights.com
    1. Using buyer personas in content marketingsmartinsights.com
    2. 31 business building benefits of Buyer Personas businessesgrow.com
    3. How to Create Easy, Yet Actionable, Content Marketing Personas contentmarketinginstitute.com
    4. How to Create a Successful Blog Strategy: A Step-by-Step Guidehubspot.com
    5. Planning Your Blog Strategy For 2015 Starts Today, Why Wait Until January?magnet4blogging.net
    6. How Do You Create An Effective Blogging Strategy? pushingsocial.com
    7. 1210 Reasons to Develop a B2B Blogging Strategykomarketingassociates.com
    8. 7 Successful Blogging Strategies from Great Bloggersfalconerwebmarketing.com

    By | July 22nd, 2016|Content, SEO|0 Comments

    To blog or not to blog? The case for SME blogging

    writing

    Image credit: Bruce Guenter(Flickr.com)

    This series of blog posts will elaborate on the fantastic framework developed by Simply Business.co.uk I’ll examine every stage in the framework in detail and make sure you have all the information and tools necessary to succeed at business blogging, in this article I will examine the case for blogging, what the advantages are and why I believe every business should maintain a blog if they have a company website. In the series of blog posts coming up I will try to make sure you have all the information required to run a successful and interesting company blog.

    In my experience, most small companies in the UK do not maintain a regular blogging schedule. I’m not sure why this is the case, I suspect a dislike of writing lies at the heart of it, that and trouble figuring what to blog about

    Benefits of Blogging

    I know that the advantages of blogging in business are widely understood and quite possibly it’s a topic which has been done to death elsewhere. I include them here for the sake of completeness; I’ll be honest and say that SEO Benefits are my primary reason for maintaining my company blog; there are plenty of other benefits, which we’ll examine now

    Increase your authority

    Blogging is a widely accepted way of developing your reputation in a particular niche; many bloggers are now regarded as experts in their fields after creating popular and successful blogs. People such as Neil Patel (quicksprout.com), Jon Morrow, Jon Bloomer, Seth Godin et al all started out as bloggers.

    Domain Authority

    This is not the same as domain authority; a SEO metric developed by moz.com, which measures the authority of a web domain. Page authority measures the authority of individual pages within a domain. The authority to which I refer here is the reputation and stature of a blogger. Higher authority sites will rank more highly in the search engines, which brings us neatly to …

    The SEO Benefits of blogging

    There are a number of SEO Benefits to blogging such as

    • Fresh Content
    • Target specific Keywords
    • Backlinks

    I’ll now examine these in greater detail.

    Fresh Content

    Search Engines like fresh content, neglect your blog for a week or two and its likely your website will drop a few places in the SERPs

    Target specific Keywords

    Blogging provides an easy way to target specific keywords. Simply blog about the topics that, you wish to rank for. This can include LSI Keywords in addition to Search Keywords.

    Backlinks

    Backlinks remain an important part of the SEO Equation. Blogs provide one of the easiest ways of attracting backlinks if your content is of good quality. They also provide a ready source of shareable content although this is more a social media consideration.

    Linkable assets

    Linkable assets are simply awesome pages on your site that you can leverage for links over and over (and over) again. quicksprout.com

    Backlink expert Eric Ward suggests that linkable assets are a vital factor when developing content for a website, really good quality blog posts are linkable assets and if they are not I’d suggest the quality needs to improve

    Parting thoughts

    This weeks post has highlighted some of blogging’s many benefits, if you’ve not written for a number of years some reticence is understandable. I’d argue that the benefits of search engine rankings alone make the effort more than worthwhile. Thesaleslion.com argue that

    Blogging, when done the right way, will change your business. It will change your life. It will change everything.thesaleslion.com

    The aim of this series of blog posts will be to ensure that you have all the information at hand to develop a great quality blog for your business and are able to blog the right way, so I hope to see you in a couple of weeks time when I examine setting worthwhile goals for your blog.

    Further Reading & Bibliography

    Blog to win business:How to enchant readers and woo customers
    Henneke Duistermaat
    1. The SEO Benefits of Blogginggot2web.com
    2. Top Five SEO Benefits of Blogging localvisibilitysystem.com
    3. Why Blog: The Benefits of Business Blogging for Visitors & Links searchenginewatch.com
    4. SEO Benefits from Blogstoprankblog.com
    5. Why Blog? The Benefits of Blogging for Business and Marketingblog.hubspot.com
    6. The Top 10 Benefits Of Blogging On Your Website forbes.com
    7. The 20 Biggest Benefits of Blogging incomediary.com
    8. 5 Benefits of Blogging for Your Small Businessopenvine.com
    9. 50 Blogging Benefits that Will Change Your Business Forever/thesaleslion.com
    By | July 8th, 2016|Content, SEO|0 Comments

    local search’s growing importance

    Local Business

    Image credit: James Ian L.A.(Flickr.com)

    This article will cover Local Search one of my favourite topics. I’ll explore questions such as what exactly is local search? And why is local SEO for small businesses so important?

    What exactly is local search?

    Local Search covers a specific area, such as a town or city. A map containing pinned locations indicates local search results.
    local search results

    What + where?

    what + where searches are a handy way to visualise local search, for example. What are you looking for? and where are you looking for it? Takeaway Pizza Morecambe would be an example of a what + where search, as would Taxi Kendal. Queries of this nature will result in local search results being displayed.

    Why is local search so important?

    After examining the data, local search’s importance is obvious

    • 61% of local searches result in a purchase (Searchenginewatch.com).
    • 74 % of internet users perform local searches (Kelsey group).

    The growth of mobile computing underlines the importance of local search. As mobile searches have now overtaken searches from a traditional computer, the importance of local SEO is underlinined

    • 53% of mobile searches have local intent (Mediative.com).
    • Local searches lead 50% of mobile visitors to visit stores within one day.
    • 88% of customers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

    Search Engines help the public to search for reputable good quality local businesses. This influences the data that the search engines collect.

    Google My Business

    Over the last few years Google’s handling of local SEO has been pretty haphazard. A number of competing platforms such as Google plus local, Google maps and Google places for Business complicated the issue. Fortunately, things have now stabilised and the Google my Business Dashboard has consolidated the various platforms in an easy to use dashboard, now we’ll examine what you need to do to ensure your business is correctly listed.
    Google offer the following description of Google my Business

    Google My Business is a free and easy-to-use tool for businesses, brands, artists, and organizations to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. By verifying and editing your business information, you can both help customers find you and tell them the story of your business.

    Local Ranking factors

    1.Citations

    Citations are mentions of your business on other websites, typically business directories. A full citation requires the following information:

    • Business Name.
    • Business Address.
    • Business Phone number.

    This is usually abbreviated to NAP (Name, Address, Phone). Note: a citation doesn’t necessarily require a link back to your companies’ website. Citations help Google to confirm if your business is legitimate, with regards to the authenticity the next point consistency is vital.

    Consistency

    Consistency across the web is vital, Ensure that NAP data is identical for every website where your company is listed.

    Reviews

    Reviews are another important factor affecting local search results, the three major search engines handle this differently. Google’s handling of reviews has improved dramatically. A year ago it was difficult for customers to leave reviews in the Google network, now it’s a straightforward process. Bing local lacks review functionality, however they have a partnership with the yelp! reviews network with data being shared between the two companies.

    Parting thoughts

    Local search offers a productive way for smaller businesses to actively market themselves to their local community. building up a number of citations and ensuring NAP consistency is essential. if they can achieve a snack pack listing which would be effective for both desktop and mobile searches. I’m convinced its the best way for small local businesses to make an impact on the SERPs (Search engine Results Pages)

    Glossary

    Local Search
    Search which covers a specific locale, and results in a map with pinned locations.
    Local Pack
    A prominent window which, in Google contains 3 results.
    NAP
    Name adress and Phone number, the main elements of a citation.
    Citation
    Where your business is referenced on another website.

    Further Reading & Bibliography

    1. Why is Local Search So Important?ducttapemarketing.com
    2. The Definitive List of Local Search Citations localvisibilitysystem.com
    3. 6 Local SEO Stats Every Online Marketer Needs To Know searchengineland.com
    4. Local Content Silos: The Secret To Local Search Successsearchengineland.com
    5. Local SEO: How To Rank Your Local Businesssearchengineland.com
    6. Top 5 Issues Wrecking Local SEO For Multi-Location Businesses searchengineland.com
    7. The New Google Local Search Display searchengineland.com
    8. How Not To Do Local SEO In A Post-Pigeon Erasearchengineland.com
    9. The 16 Secrets Of Guerrilla Local SEOsearchengineland.com

    By | June 15th, 2016|SEO, SME Online Marketing|0 Comments

    Beginners guide to SEO

    searching

    Image credit: Strevo(Flickr.com)

    I hear so much completely inaccurate information regarding SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) I decided to create this SEO Guide for Small Businesses, this cannot cover every aspect of SEO it will, however, cover the basics in a plain English that the layperson can understand I’ll keep any technical jargon down to a bare minimum so the general public can easily understand it (there’s a Glossary at the end) and this can serve as an SEO starter guide for the typical small business owner it focuses on organic SEO rather than Pay Per Click (PPC), as with the other content on my site this guide is mainly for small business owners who wish to keep costs down, so I’ll not examine tools which are priced for agencies and larger firm instead, preferring to focus on cheap/free tools.

    The crux of the matter

    The typical Small Business owner is unconcerned with debates such as ‘is SEO an art?’ or is ‘SEO a science?’ instead, their focus is on whereabouts their website shows up in the search results as this has a huge impact on the number of visitors their website attracts, SEO is the process which should result in your website ranking more highly for the words your customers actually use when searching for your company. The aim of SEO is to make your website more easily found by your customers which in itself is a laudable aim, in a nutshell, Keyword research is finding the keywords your target market and customers actually use

    Keywords, Keywords …Keywords

    Keywords are one of the areas of SEO I found confusing initially
    perhaps keyword phrases would be a more accurate description. ‘Widget Shop’ is an example of a keyword despite the fact it consists of two words, ‘Widget Shop Manchester’ is another example of a keyword, Keywords are important because they can be researched (using a variety of tools including Google’s keyword planner) to see what phrases your target audience are using when searching, these can and should be researched so there is no guesswork involved when selecting keywords, additionally its possible to see how much competition there is for particular keywords, the screenshot below illustrates Google’s Keyword planner in action, personally I don’t like the Google Keyword tool so I’ve suggested a couple of alternative tools in the list below

    Free Keyword tools

    1. Google Keyword Planner
    2. Majestic SEO
    3. Übersuggest
    4. Semrush
    5. Bing Webmaster Tools
    6. So what are Long Tail Keywords?

      Long tail keywords contain more words and are generally associated with the later stages of the purchase funnel as the searcher drills down for more specific answers, returning to the widget shop example ‘Acme AC456 Widget stockist, Manchester’ would be an example of a long tail keyword search as you can see it’s a lot more specific than ‘widget shop Manchester’ here the searcher is looking for a particular Make and Model of Widget

    Onpage and Offpage SEO

    SEO generally falls into two categories, On page SEO and Off page SEO, Onpage SEO is concerned with the contents of YOUR website such as the text and images, Offpage is more concerned with other websites which link to your site (the backlinks people are always talking about) The model which is usually mentioned here is that Google view a backlink as a vote for your website, a site which lots of people are linking to must be good …(well not always see Gaming the System) this is the concept which lies at the heart of Pagerank a concept drawn up by Larry Page who along with Sergei Brin founded Google, Google offer the following definition of Pagerank

    PageRank works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of how important the website is. The underlying assumption is that more important websites are likely to receive more links from other websiteswww.Wikipedia.com

    So what on earth is Link Juice?

    A model that the search engine industry uses to visualise the impact of backlinks is that of linkjuice, backlinks to your website provide ‘linkjuice’ the more ‘linkjuice’ your website accumulates the higher its authority in the eyes of Google, not all websites provide the same amount of link juice, high authority websites such as Wikipedia and the BBC provide

    A short Aside: Google’s perspective

    The World of search is extremely competitive. So how do Google stay ahead of their competitors such as Bing & Yahoo? The short answer is by providing better results and answers to users queries, this thinking lies at the heart of semantic search where the search engine is described as an answer engine. By attempting to understand Google’s perspective suddenly the changes they implement make much more sense. Google’s Mission statement is as follows

    Google’s mission is to organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful.Google.co.uk

    Gaming the System?

    As soon as the importance of Search in Online Marketing became evident there arose people willing to use underhand techniques in order to boost their search engine ranking and businesses only to happy to take any shortcuts available, its fair to say that Google are engaged in a constant battle to negate these shortcuts and cheats, these explains Algorithm changes such as Panda and Penguin, the aim of Panda was to prevent sites with poor quality content enjoying high search engine rankings, Penguin penalised sites which make use of black hat SEO techniques and used poor quality backlinks which were freely being traded at one point.

    White hat, Black hat and grey hat

    This terminology comes from definitions of hackers in the field of Computer Security and I think originally from Cowboy movies, i.e. the good guys wore white hats and the bad guys wear black hats. This has been adopted to describe the techniques used by search engine optimisers (SEOs). White hat SEOS only use techniques Google approve of. Conversely Black Hat SEOs use techniques that Google don’t approve of such as Link farms and Keyword stuffing, grey hats use a mixture of white hat and black hat techniques in order to boost search engine rankings hence the grey hat moniker that implies a mix of black and white

    On Page SEO: Ranking factors

    Although search Engine Algorithms are a closely guarded secret, the following on page factors are widely regarded as being important (items listed in order of importance)

    1. Page Title tags
    2. Meta Description
    3. Headings H1 especially
    4. Website/Data Structure
    5. SEO Friendly URL Structure

    Parting thoughts

    Despite one or two persistent misconceptions about Keyword stuffed Rubbish, Search Engine Optimisation has come along in leaps and bounds over the last ten to fifteen years, Google has publicly stated that their three main ranking signals are, Links, Content, and RankBrain. Contemporary SEO is all about Content, if you can provide a website full of great quality content or linkable assets being the term link builders use you’ll have nothing to worry about search engine wise. In my experience this is where the vast majority of Small Businesses fall short failing to provide any useful or interesting content on their websites

    Further Reading & Bibliography

    Beginners Guide to SEO
    SEO Moz
    The Art of SEO (Theory in Practice)
    Eric Enge,Stephan Spencer, Jessie Jessie Stricchiola, Rand Fishkin
    The Periodic Table Of SEO Success Factors
    Search Engineland.com
    1. How to write meta title tags for SEO (with good and bad examples)searchenginewatch.com
    2. What is off page SEO? www.reliablesoft.net
    3. On-Page SEO Factors: Which Ones Have the Most Impact on Rankings? www.searchenginejournal.com
    4. On-Page SEO: Anatomy of a Perfectly Optimized Pagewww.backlinko.com
    5. What is link juice?www.goup.co.uk
    6. Topics Over Keywords: An SEO-Driven Approach To Content Marketing www.anumhussain.com
    7. 12 Free Keyword Tools To Replace Google’s Keyword Tool www.internetmarketingninjas.com
    8. How to Find Content Topics That Score Big Using Keyword Researchwww.copyblogger.com

    By | May 20th, 2016|SEO, SME Online Marketing|0 Comments

    is your content aiming and hitting the right targets?

    Is your content on target?

    Image credit: Falcon® Photography(Flickr.com)

    Content takes time & resources to create, therefore it’s imperative that there’s actually an audience for the content you create and it covers a topic people actually want answers to, This doesn’t mean only write about high traffic/high competition topics, there’s still some value to covering long tail keyword terms where there is less competition and searchers are further down the sales funnel and it is this selection of topics to be covered I’ll examine this week, this post is influenced by Trond Lyngbø’s excellent article ‘The seven deadly sins of content Marketing’ on searchengineland.com, I’m mortified to see I’m making two of them and that why I was inspired into writing this post so you can avoid making the same mistakes.
    Lyngbø argues that

    (businesses) are passive and keep postponing any corrective action. They know it’s important, but they don’t want results badly enough to make the changes happen. It’s easier to pretend nothing’s wrong and carry on. Sometimes, it takes a serious failure to jolt them out of their comfort zone.searchengineland.com

    Keyword research is one of the core requirements of the approach Lyngbø advocates, paradoxically (to some) Keyword research isn’t just for SEO geeks its also part of the Content Creator’s toolkit as well, Keyword research can be used to gauge

    • What information people are searching for
    • what keywords are they using to look for it?
    • how many people are looking for it?
    • How much competition there is for these keywords

    Not just Keywords its, demand!

    It’s not just a case of just going for the popular high traffic keywords or you’ll end up with a website offering free pads and celebrity news the topics you cover need to be covering are ones which fit in your overall content strategy or game plan or are of interest to the people represented by the personas developed while creating your content strategy or your typical customer, The Approach suggest by Trond Lyngbø removes any guesswork from the selection of topics, and will ensure you choose the right topics for your blog and any associated content

    On reflection I’m now guilty of 3 of the seven deadly sins this one area of the content cycle I have neglected. No more. Personally, I’ve been jolted out of my comfort zone and I hope if you are content marketing it will jolt you out of your comfort zone so when developing your content marketing strategy, research of potential content ideas for blogs keyword research needs to be park of the equation
    In her excellent “What should I blog about post” Kimberly Grabas suggests a list of three factors a blogger should consider but neglects to mention the SEO research Trond Lyngbø advocates, in Kimberly’s defence she’s not writing for content Marketers or SEO wonks her audience is writers/bloggers so the SEO considerations still apply really as it’s a rare blogger who doesn’t want to attract a larger audience. She does advise using of Google’s Keyword planner whilst researching so her keypoints are
    1. Who is your audience or the intended consumer of your content?
    2. How do your passions, interests and talents intersect with the wants and needs of this specific group of people?
    3. And finally, what are your goals or the results you wish to achieve?
    4. Does Keyword research confirm that there is sufficient interest in the topic to justify the time and resources it will take to add value to the current state of the topic area i.e. is what you are producing better than the current content devoted to this topic

    Parting thoughts

    Historically this has been one of the weak points in my content marketing and its one I’m determined to rectify from now on ,Analysis of the success of content is a major part of Trond Lyngbø’s recommendations and from now on I’ll monitor this using Google Analytics, this is the feedback loop which ascertains if your content is actually working (so it’s essential if you wish to be accurate rather than relying on guesswork I don’t want to just use ‘click bait’ style titles I want to offer genuine value to my readers) so there’s still some work to do on my content cycle and Workflow

    Further Reading & Bibliography

    Social Media ROI: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization (2011)
    Olivier Blanchard
    Ultimate Guide to Link Building: How to Build Backlinks, Authority and Credibility for Your Website, and Increase Click Traffic and Search Ranking (Ultimate Series)
    Eric Ward & Garrett French
    1. What Should I Blog About?haleymarketing.com
    2. What on earth should I blog about? flyingsolo.com.au
    3. What Should I Blog About? 10 Ways to Discover Your Perfect Niche buildingaframework.com
    4. Blog Post Ideas for Writers: Solving the “What Do I Blog About?” Conundrumwww.yourwriterplatform.com
    5. The 7 deadly sins of content marketingsearchengineland.com
    6. Topics Over Keywords: An SEO-Driven Approach To Content Marketing www.anumhussain.com
    7. Content Marketing: How to Choose Topics That Deliver Serious ROI www.upwork.com
    8. How to Find Content Topics That Score Big Using Keyword Researchwww.copyblogger.com

    By | May 13th, 2016|Content, SEO|0 Comments

    What sort of content generates the most backlinks?

    Sharing

    Google have stated that backlinks are amongst the top 3 ranking factors, so links are still important and are likely to remain important for the foreseeable future, the 3 most important factors according to Google are

    • Links
    • Content
    • RankBrain

    What are backlinks?

    Backlinks are links from someone else’s site to yours, Google views them as a vote for your website. Of course, as soon as some people got wind of this an entire industry sprang up trading backlinks, often from pretty poor quality websites. Google does not approve of buying backlinks and may penalise a site they suspect of aggressively purchasing backlinks, Algorithm updates such as Google Penguin have been engineered to reduce the impact of links that Google suspect may have been purchased. Backlinks are also referred to as Off-Site SEO or Off Page SEO. Marketing expert Neil Patel argues that

    “Avoiding penalties while building links isn’t about luck. It’s about earning links. The types of links that Google penalizes sites for are low quality or bought links. If you can buy it on Fiverr, it’s not a good link. Period.

    One legitimate way to builds backlinks is to create what are known as linkable assets, this is assets on your website which are worth linking to, ie good quality content which is another of Google’s top three ranking factors alongside link Brain which I discussed a couple of weeks ago, the upperranks.com argue that These days, you have to create something worth linking to. In a nutshell, that is what this blog post will focus on

    Website Content Audit

    Before starting to Link Build its best to get an understanding of exactly what Linkable content is available on your site, the way to do this is by a
    Content audit. These will give you a good idea of what content is present on your website and whether it’s good enough to remain on the site or does it require repurposing or possibly removing altogether?

    Content Audits fall into two broad categories, which we’ll examine in more detail now.

    Quantitative Content Audit

    This is a process which can be automated by using software to crawl through your entire website this will give you a comprehensive overview of ALL the content available on your website, it will facilitate the discovery of SEO problems such as dead links, canonical errors and redirect errors, oops! I’ve discovered one or two already which I’ll now remove/rectify, links to external websites are subject to the ravages of time and will eventually be out of date as other sites around the web adjust/remove their content, as your site develops probably without the benefit of a content strategy or use of personas its entirely normal that some of the content developed will not be fit for purpose or entirely appropriate discovering content which no longer makes the grade is perfectly natural and a sign of the raising standards of your web content so prune and adjust where necessary, discovering the exact nature of your content shortcomings is the job of the other type of content audit

    Qualitative Content Audits

    Unlike Quantitative audits which they complement qualitative content audits should not be automated here, the input of a human being is required. The only software required is a spreadsheet, which is used to organise the audit. Content expert Kristina Halvorson suggests six questions a Qualitative audit needs to answer these being, in a nutshell the Qualitative audit A qualitative audit analyzes the quality and effectiveness of the content.

  • What does the content say?
  • Is the content accurate?
  • Is the content useful?
  • Is the content used by your audiences?
  • Is the content written professionally?
  • s the content user-friendly?
  • A qualitative audit safeguards the quality of your content and linkable assets, important as your content grows. Qualitative audits enable the accuracy of content to be verified, important in the rapidly changing world of digital marketing. Without the rigor of a qualitative audit, it’s impossible to gauge whether your content fits into your content strategy. Older Content is quite likely no longer fit for purpose and should be archived or repurposed where appropriate, it’s also the best time to ensure that your content contains the correct number of LSI & SEO keywords. Zach Edling (tendo.com) argues that

    a good content audit combines quantitative and qualitative findings with analysis and actionable recommendations
    so a Content audit acts as a starting point which together with a coherent Content Strategy will ensure your website is full of engaging, useful and good quality content so properly promoted it should be fairly easy to acquire backlinks to.

    What’s hot and what’s not?

    There’s little or no point wasting resources creating content no one is interested in so it’s best to examine which topics in your industry are of the most interest. Buzzsumo gives a great overview of the topics in your industry which attract the most attention. Unfortunately, Buzzsumo is not available for free with the cheapest package being $99 per month; there are alternatives to Buzzsumo where one can gauge the popularity of potential topics, this will enable you to choose topics which are of interest to people, useful when trying to develop a content plan for upcoming weeks. Personally, I find the selection of topics one of the most difficult aspects of maintaining a blog. There are alternatives to Buzzsumo such as

    List of alternatives to Buzzsumo

    Parting thoughts

    Good quality, well research content will ensure that your content attracts the right sort of attention and backlinks. This in essence is the core of the Skyscraper Technique linked below which takes already popular great quality content and makes it even better The beauty of really great content is that it is really easy to promote, and if others are sharing it will promote itself somewhat but one cannot afford to be complacent about that and the content should be adequately promoted, the standard caveats apply here such as making effective use of visual content (which increases engagement and shares) I’d love to add infographics but I, unfortunately, don’t have the skills yet or the resources to research and design the infographics I’d like to include, I really enjoy creating content which stretches me (I know there’s a hell of a lot of room for improvement, stop sniggering at the back!), in short really great content will enable you to stand out from the crowd, just make sure it adds value to your readers

    Further Reading & Bibliography

    Content Strategy for the Web (Voices That Matter)
    Kristina Halvorson & Melissa Rach
    Ultimate Guide to Link Building: How to Build Backlinks, Authority and Credibility for Your Website, and Increase Click Traffic and Search Ranking (Ultimate Series)
    Eric Ward & Garrett French
    1. 7 Content Search Tools That Are Perfect Alternative to BuzzSumo thenextscoop.com
    2. What Kind Of Content Generates The Most Links For Business Owners? Forbes.com
    3. 5 Ways to Build Links Without Getting Penalized quicksprout.com
    4. Link Building Case Study: How I Increased My Search Traffic by 110% in 14 Days backlinko.com

    By | April 29th, 2016|Content, SEO|0 Comments

    Google RankBrain the secret ingredient that determines your search engine rankings

    rank brain

    Image credit: Neil Conway(Flickr.com)

    An article which appeared on searchengineland.com in March provided the inspiration for this post, what was interesting about the article was that Andrey Lippattsev a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google suggested the following were the most important factors when determining the position of websites in Google’s search results

    1. Links
    2. Content
    3. RankBrain

    So what’s the big deal?

    The reason this was important was that Google and the other Search Engines are generally secretive about their Search algorithms and this information was from the horse’s mouth as it were. The SEO community had ascertained the importance of links & content years ago so no surprises there, it’s the third factor RankBrain that I will examine in this week’s blog post.

    Google’s search engine algorithm named ’Hummingbird’ contains over 200 factors, which are used to determine search engine rankings the three most important being Links, Content & RankBrain as stated above. Searchengineland.com provide the following definition of RankBrain
    RankBrain is Google’s name for a machine-learning artificial intelligence system that’s used to help process its search results I want to further clarify this definition into plain English i.e. to de-geekify it. Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to computer systems that are designed to learn to perform a task; Machine learning is a form of Artificial Intelligence. RankBrain is a part of Google’s Hummingbird Search Algorithm, which uses Machine Learning/Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology to better understand vague/ambiguous search queries and provide users with useful information. deMyers suggests that


    RankBrain is an artificial intelligence system that’s being applied to and used with Google’s current search engine algorithms to provide better results to user queries (Forbes.com)

    The growing Importance of RankBrain

    As RankBrain has overtaken hundreds of other factors to enter the three most important signals it must have quite an important role in the continued development of Google’s search engine, that alone means it is worth taking the time to understand it, but how can understanding this improve my own search rankings? that’s the $64,000 question and in order to understand that we’ll need to examine Semantic search

    What is Semantic Search?

    Wikipedia offers the following definition of Semantic Search

    Semantic search seeks to improve search accuracy by understanding the searcher’s intent and the contextual meaning of terms as they appear in the searchable dataspace, whether on the Web or within a closed system, to generate more relevant results. Semantic search systems consider various points including context of search, location, intent, variation of words, synonyms, generalized and specialized queries, concept matching and natural language queries to provide relevant search results.Wikipedia.com

    This is best illustrated with a simple example. Semantic Search makes use of the context in which information is presented, take the keyword Jaguar it has a number of different meanings. Jaguar on a web page featuring words such as forest, panther is probably referring to the Jaguar breed of big cat. Where Jaguar on a web page featuring the terms Tata & Land Rover is more likely to be referring to the Jaguar brand of luxury cars this admittedly simple example illustrates what I mean by the role of context when searching by using this the aim of semantic search is to provide the user with more relevant which better satisfies their requirements.

    Parting thoughts

    Like most people who don’t work for Google, I don’t have the exact information about how RankBrain works all I know from Mr. Lippatsev’s interview is that it’s an important ranking factor so I’ll take the cautious approach and recommend the best practices for ranking highly in semantic search.

    Latent Semantic Indexing(LSI)

    LSIgraph.com provide the following definition of LSI keywords

    LSI Keywords are essentially keywords related to the keyword that you search for on search engines such as Google. In a nutshell, they are keywords that are semantically linked to your main keywordLSIgraph.com

    For the Jaguar Cars example above the LSI Keywords would be Range rover, Aston Martin & Maserati that clarify it’s the Luxury Cars brand I’m talking about rather than the big cat variety of Jaguar.

    Internal Linking

    This means links between pages which make up your website, these should make it easy for both users and search spiders to navigate your website, Anchor text, URL structure, and site hierarchy are additional factors with a pyramid being regarded as the optimal structure(see diagram below)
    Pyramid site hierarchy

    By | April 18th, 2016|SEO, SME Online Marketing|0 Comments

    The lure of long-form content

    writing

    Image credits:Flickr Caleb Roenigk

    Gavin Davies was running a struggling small business most of his efforts were spent trying to attract more business for his small company Doobrytech, attempts to use traditional channels such as local retail magazines had been unsuccessful so bearing this n mind and despite a lack of familiarity with the internet he decided to invest in a company website with some time and effort he’d got his head around the basics of Search Engines and had a rough understanding of what keywords are, despite this he’d watched with concern as local competitors had shown up above the Doobrytech website on the Search Engine Results pages(SERP) in order to improve the rankings for his website he’d gone along with advice of others to start blogging on his website something many similar businesses had adopted

    All this despite the fact he’d done little no writing since School & College where he tended to avoid having to write in his wildest dreams or nightmares there’s no way he’d describe himself as a writer or heaven forbid blogger, yet here he was pen in hand trying to predict how business blogging would develop throughout 2016 and the implications for his company website and blog. One potential trend that seemed to be on everyone’s lips was long form content, Gavin tried to understand exactly what was long form content and what changes it would require from his business and would the benefits make all the extra effort worthwhile?

    long-form content

    Using Long Form content meant that Gavin would need to adjust his workflow and content development practises with more time allocated for writing, editing and research it would certainly have an impact on his weekly routine but the hope was the benefits would make this worthwhile

    What exactly is long form content?

    Long form content means longer more in depth blog posts with Forbes’ Josh Steimle suggesting that over 1,200 words per article is a good guideline for the length of the long-form blog post as opposed to the traditional 700 word article length

    Long Form storytelling

    Long form content often employs storytelling and is frequently presented as a narrative, this works just as well for businesses as it does for fiction writers. It facilitates the presentation of more complex topics meaning its easily possible to go beyond the basics into the depth where topics really become interesting

    Why is long form content a good thing?

    Contrary to expectations what Gavin found interesting was that his analytics suite showed that bounce rates for long form content were lower, despite the common belief that attention spans were shorter online the long form content he’d added to his website was proving more engaging that the short form content he’d used previously. Research by moz.com found that long form content was more likely to generate backlinks

    Greater Depth

    Another benefit of the long form format would be that it would enable chosen areas to be covered in greater detail than the previous short-form content allowed him to.The shift in format enabled

    The benefits of long form, What’s in it for my business?

    Much to his delight alongside increased visitor engagement Gavin discovered that search engines loved the long form content he was producing leading to better Search Engine Results page (SERP) rankings

    Better Quality Content

    I broadly agree with Kristina Halvorson’s comments regarding the amount of poor quality uninspiring website content, some of this is due I think to the restrictions placed on authors by the short blog article (roughly 700 words) I’ll always support the idea that quality > quantity and for too long the opposite view has been dominant on the web, so this means I need to improve the quality of my own content, again I’m cool with that.

    Parting thoughts

    Long Form content does take more effort to develop however the benefits it provides more than make up for this The extra length gives authors the opportunity to create richer and more detailed content which goes far beyond the superficial content which is so prevalent on the web, taking advantage of the flexibility which long form content offers will allow you to stand out from the crowd in 2016

    Bibliography

    1. The SEO And User Science Behind Long-Form Content
      Search Engine Land.com
    2. What Kind of Content Gets Links in 2012?moz.com
    3. Why Long Form Content Marketing Works, And Why It Doesn’tForbes.com
    By | January 8th, 2016|Content, SEO|0 Comments