This week’s blog post is inspired by an on-going disagreement with a friend regarding the value of SEO.I think its important, She believes that good quality content is more important than SEO I broadly agree with that however its SEO which allows you to research what content your customers are looking for. I think the root of the disagreement lies in our understandings of what SEO is, I’ll try to explain how I see SEO, you may of course disagree and you are more than welcome to leave a comment below should you wish to
The fundamental aim of SEO as I see it is to make it easy for your customers to find your website, this involves market research (keyword research) to discover what your customers are searching for be it information, products or services. The owner of the website then develops good quality website content which answers the questions of customers Nothing particularly controversial so far if you ask me, it’s the standard white hat perspective of SEO, all of this in my opinion makes good sense from a business perspective.
I don’t feel SEO is about merely researching keywords and then developing a website packed full of keyword stuffed rubbish, buying loads of high page rank backlinks and then hoping that ones website flies up the Search Rankings, this is an older view of SEO one commonly held by customers personally I feel its hopelessly out of date/touch and SEO Snake Oil Salesmen have done the industry no favours at all, lack of content is the major problem I find with small business websites
As far as I can understand it the other facet of online marketing my friend disputes is the need for greater website traffic and the desirability of converting a certain percentage into paying customers. Which as I understand it is pretty much the standard model for online business
Personally I tend to take the long-term view and I’m writing from the perspective of Smaller Businesses I feel that the Black Hat methodology is a fairly short term always looking over your shoulder to see what Google will do is no way to develop a solid SEO/Content strategy, the white hat approach which consists of developing good quality website content of use to customers (Good quality content is by definition useful/interesting/entertaining), ethics aside I feel that the web is better served by developing websites chock full of great content rather than spammy/underhand tactics designed to give temporary Search Engine Ranking boosts, this ethos also applies to buying backlinks & followers, I can completely understand the temptation to do it when your Company website needs more traffic but I eschew that mentality because in my opinion its short term and unethical. I’ve noticed my blog posts now reflect my opinions a bit more I’m much happier with this and I hope you are as well; if you disagree please feel free to post a comment. I offer SEO & Content Consultancy services please feel free contact me to find out more so we can discuss what’s right for your company.
This week’s blog post will examine one of hottest trends in the content marketing sector, its already attracting the attention of major players such as Copy Blogger and the Content Marketing Institute, so I’ll start by introducing the concept.
In a nutshell adaptive content is perfectly useable content whatever device is used to view it, the technical description for this is device agnostic. Bunt, Carenini & Conati define the adaptive presentation of content as ‘how to present Web-based content in a manner that best
suits individual users’ needs.(Bunt, Carenini & Conati 2007) Charles Cooper defines adaptive content as ‘Content that is designed to adapt to the needs of the customer’(Abel, Baillie, Reifer, Johnston et al 2014)
A fairly straightforward example of adaptive content is the book recommendations presented on sites such as Amazon based on users recent purchases and viewing. Research has shown that personalisation on eCommerce sites can have a dramatic impact on conversions or sales
Adaptive content goes further than mere Cosmetic Changes, in addition to responding to screen size & orientation of the device being employed it also displays relevant content it is for these reasons that adaptive content is often categorized as personalization where the data presented is tailored to meet the perceived needs of the user/searcher. The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) suggest that
Adaptive content + marketing rules = personalized delivery (source: contentmarketinginstitute.com)
By marketing rules here I mean instructions designed to identify who is viewing the data and their perceived interests. Adaptive content tailors itself to meet the requirements of the person interacting with it
The CMI suggest that Adaptive content is more than a multi channel technique it was they define as ‘Omni-channel’ and personalisation should shape the user experience across all the channels that customers use on their buying journey by Channels here the CMI mean social networks such as Facebook Twitter & Instagram in addition to other channels such as the Company blog and website and email marketing.
With the explosive growth of mobile computing, adaptive content makes perfect sense for companies wishing to provide mobile users with the optimal experience
Farnworth and Morris at Copyblogger suggest that the technology for implementing adaptive content is not really there yet, I know I’d struggle to find a way to implement it, I’m sure that 2015 will find companies developing solutions, I’m not as yet convinced that adaptive content is a realistic proposition for smaller businesses online as it requires a lot more resources than static content to develop, it does make perfect sense for larger companies such as amazon to implement it, it is certainly a trend I will keep my eye on this year.
The major talking point the hosts analysed was the inherent dangers of using algorithms to generate content. The Facebook app was including life events such as family deaths & divorces in the year in review. Obviously this was causing concern to those affected( I caught a whiff of this on my own friends list)
Automation helps when there are problems with finding time for the development & curation of content, the Facebook app gave Facebook users who frequently have rather limited IT skills access to a feature they enjoyed, it certainly attracted a lot of interest from those on my friends list, within certain limits Algorithm controlled automation is fine
This is a debate I cannot see going away anytime soon, the limited time available for those developing content will always mean there is no shortage of vendors attempting to develop time saving solutions for the curation or development of new content. Personally I agree completely with Rose & Pulizzi’s conclusion that human input is always required in the development or curation of content as no algorithm will ever match human empathy & understanding for deciding if content is appropriate for inclusion on a website or social network.
Most larger network sites (i.e. all the newspapers) have content suggestion engines such as Outbrain providing content suggestions there often appears to be little or no consideration of content quality in these engines ‘Lose weight or wrinkles’ through this weird old trick adverts look a bit incongruous on the websites of High Quality broadsheets but it happens an awful lot.
Both the Facebook Year in review app and the content suggestion engine examples highlight the importance of human input in the content selection process, where its possible for people to be deeply offended this is obviously an important consideration. I suspect Facebook will reuse the ‘year in review’ app next year, perhaps with a few minor modifications, however the whole issue does have implications for those who automate content curation & Social media, I don’t feel that algorithms are yet advanced enough to leave out human input and they possibly never will be, People and companies will continue to try and automate the content curation process.
Ultimately, this is why we can’t have nice things in the SEO space: a trend starts out as authentic. Then more and more people pile on until only the barest trace of legitimate behavior remains.(source:mattcutts.com)
I’d adjust this to read ‘Ultimately this is why we can’t have nice things online’ as this behaviour is repeated constantly. If the rumour went around that wearing a Wizards hat boosted website rankings and traffic you can bet you’d see a few Gandalf wannabes walking around town, then six months down the line websites selling wizard hats would be sprouting everywhere and the spam emails would be starting (again) as the webs version of Chinese whispers kicks into gear. We’ve seen this pattern repeated numerous times as a good idea is ruined by those seeking to abuse or shortcut the system. So what is the business Owner to do? I can understand the temptation to cut corners online obtaining backlinks or followers by illicit means but it runs counter to my beliefs and values and ultimately benefits no one as we have a web full of full of sound and fury signifying nothing which is how I see things currently with so much poor quality pseudo content readily available. So in 2015 I’ll focus on being excellent in my own small way (yes, I need to improve the quality & amount of my content I’m quite aware of that).
Don’t raise your voice; improve your argument. ~ Desmond Tutu
This quote I found on twitter illustrates my personal vision for 2015.I’ll focus on improving my content & argument, a site redesign is well under way on my test server. I think that’s a vision which will hold true indefinitely a site packed full of good quality content has nothing to fear from algorithm changes, I can see good quality content being the cornerstone of search performance for the foreseeable future, if done correctly content marketing as a paradigm, with genuinely great content will have a great future. I dont feel that theres any realistic shortcuts to this goal
Disclaimer: I’m being silly Wizard hats have no impact on search rankings whatsoever I’m just illustrating a point.
This weeks post will examine the concept of voice in branding, the article I am examining is ‘Finding your brands voice’ by Liz Evangelatos
Liz defines voice as ‘the feeling a brand gives a person because of its marketing’
I’m more familiar with the concept of voice from copywriting and content development but I’m assuming the two are closely related; my definition of voice is slightly different ‘Voice is the style of writing employed and the impression you wish to convey of your organisation to your intended audience’. I ditched the idea of comparing voice(branding) with voice(copywriting) as I felt it would be rather a dull read only of interest to marketing/branding professors
My voice has rather uncharitably been described as ‘old man formal’, its a label I’m more than happy to wear as its actually what I’m like up to a degree, and I’m comfortable with so my communication reflects who I am and is authentic. I do have a sense of humour please don’t tell anyone ;).
Liz asserts that ‘This is a subject you should devote a considerable amount of time to in your marketing plan before you ever write your first message’ and I completely agree, as I tend to travel light and prefer to keep things simple, I am after all only a SME/Microbusiness my voice is ‘friendly – personable, authentic and knowledgeable’ so there no 40 page documents precisely defining it, a larger organisation could afford to do this. I try to discuss technical subjects in a way readily understood by my target audience, so there is a degree of soul searching every time I use an acronym, and I generally avoid jargon. Voice generally informs everything I do, i.e. I’m informal on Facebook and talk about topics Id never consider on Twitter, this is as various social networks have different characteristics and I try to tailor my voice according to social network, its only an online way of minding your Ps & Qs.
I agree Completely with Liz’s conclusion that ‘Your brand’s voice is a difficult thing to articulate well. You’ll know you’re on the right track when you feel the voice you’re using is true and authentic to yourself, your product or service and people seek you out because they’re comfortable with you. And at that point, you have built a relationship. ‘(source: askforliz.wordpress.com)Liz uses examples from her personal life in her article which is something I very rarely do, being quite a private person (it took me a month or open up on twitter ), voice is strictly a personal choice , details like Liz imparts in her article highlight how genuine the authenticity of her writing, this is in my opinion a good thing, elevating it above a lot of bland corporate guff, Carl Potts Designs offer content development packages designed to interest your potential customers, in addition I offer social media management services tailor made for Small Businesses to discover how I can boost your online marketing, contact me today!
This weeks blog post I’ll return to a topic previously, that of website content, as its such an important topic I’ve no major issue with revisiting this territory, hopefully you’ll find it interesting as well, I’ll be looking at content from a small business perspective such as a tradesman’s website.
Content is important for a number of reasons including the following
• A website which answers all of a potential customers questions is going to create trust in your company or service, it makes me think this is a person who I can do business with
• It will immediately set you apart from your competitors, Small Business websites often feature little or no real content (a few stock images doesn’t really count for much in my opinion), I’ve got nowhere near the amount of content I’d like to get on my website yet! (It’s a work in progress)
• It will attract visitors (and backlinks) to your website leading to better search Engine Rankings
• It’s the modern way to promote your business, rather than hard sell tactics which serve to irritate people why not provide them with the information they are looking for already?
This is the $64,000 question; Text, images, video and audio are all forms of content as are documents such as eBooks & Whitepapers; Blog posts are also a form of Content, really this is only the tip of the content iceberg, depending on your industry things such as apps, slideshows and infographics are an easily shared and popular form for content to take, it all depends on the business you are in, for a clothes shop photographs of the latest ranges of clothing and analysis of fashion trends would be great content, for a tradesman good quality photographs of your latest projects would be perfect as would case studies of projects. Good Quality Content puts your business forward in the best possible light, it is questions of content quality we’ll look at next.
Of all the definitions of good quality content I’ve seen the best is that from Content expert Kristina Halvorson
‘Great Content meets users needs and supports key business objectives it engages and informs. It’s well written and intuitively organised. It keeps people coming back for more. ‘(Halvorson & Rach 2012)
In a nutshell great content is
c. Answers Customer questions
d. Supports business goals (such as attracting new customers)
Returning to the tradesperson’s website example the questions (as a potential Customer) Id want answering are
• How good is this person’s work?
• How professional are they?
• Is the customer service of good quality?
• How happy are previous customers with the work they received.
The content I’d be looking for would be good quality photographs, testimonials, case studies and reviews, if all of those questions were answered to my satisfaction and the price was reasonable then the chances are good that I’d attempt to become a future client of that person.
Research has shown that mobile users value convenience highly as Jessica Davis infers:
‘Mobile users are known to abandon their attempts to visit any website if it takes more than a few seconds to load’ Jessica Davis (zemanta.com)
Mobile Users expect websites to load quickly & to be convenient for them to use on a mobile device, if your website fails to meet their requirements they are quite likely to leave it and go elsewhere for the information they need
Copywriters need to use smaller headlines to grab the attention of mobile users; this coincides with the shorter tail of search for mobile users (in short mobile users tend to use smaller search queries)
Images also need to be smaller download sizes to be suitable for mobile phone users; there are two main technologies for adjusting the size of images adaptive & responsive. Additionally there is a need for caution to be exercised when selecting website images, detailed high-resolution graphics which may look perfect for desktop users maybe unreadable for mobile audiences.
Forms are another design consideration that requires careful attention to detail; otherwise what is a perfectly good form for desktop users could be a usability nightmare for mobile users. Given the low tolerance of mobile users for slow awkward interfaces failing to design with them in mind and accounting for the characteristics of mobile browsers (such as field zoom on forms) could be a costly mistake.
Mobile devices display things differently to desktop equivalents, your usability testing needs to take this into account otherwise you may fail your mobile audience
In addition to these website usability considerations, content such as eBooks should not neglect mobile audiences, with care it is possible to ensure that mobile users can enjoy eBook content.
Given the impressive growth of mobile computing it would be ill advised to neglect mobile users when developing a company website. Having a responsive website is an excellent starting point but mobile considerations need to influence every aspect of the website including the content it contains. Bloggers such as Susan Waldes (searchengineland.com) have bemoaned the lack of consistent quality control on the mobile web, Waldes suggests that ‘the mobile web of today reminds me of the regular web of 1999’(searchengineland.com) even larger companies such as Marin & LinkedIn are guilty of these inconsistencies when providing content which fails to meet the expectations of mobile users. Given the rapid growth of mobile computing with it predicted to account for a greater share of UK search traffic than desktop by 2014.Surely it makes sense to differentiate your brand by developing a website & content which comfortably exceeds the expectations of mobile users?
• Businesses that blog have 55% more web visitors.
• B2C businesses that blog generate 88% more leads per month.
• B2B businesses that blog generate 67% more leads per month.(j6design.com.au)
Most people are familiar with term blogging these days, even if they don’t know exactly what it means, it’s simply a combination of the terms web and log, log here meaning ‘to record incidents or facts’ like the Captains Log which Star Trek fans are familiar with, an online notebook or journal is a good way to picture it. This two part post will examine both the benefits of business blogging and look at what sort of topics should your business blog be examining, I’m aware both these topics have been covered to death elsewhere but I really want to go beyond the typical 5 benefits of blogging post and cover everything the blogging neophyte needs to know, I often encounter misconceptions as to what blogging is about , Some people think that blogging is basically an online place where people rant to rail against the rest of the world, some personal blogs are like this, however I’d advise not adopting this approach for a business blog where your company is represented.
‘The benefits of a website (for business) are undeniable. As a platform for websites, blogs magnify those benefits tremendously, delivering on them better than a non-blog website can.’ (Michael Martine quoted in Wayne Liew)
A blog is a great asset from a Search Engine Optimisation perspective, a well researched, informative, useful and interesting blog is a great way to demonstrate expertise in a niche (preferably one your clients are interested in), speaking personally it was a blog post about EU cookie law which generated the most links to my website(if not invites to parties), thus dramatically boosting my websites search engine performance, this neatly leads to the next benefit of business blogging
You may possibly have encountered the term ‘thought leader’ whilst exploring the web its merely a fancy way of saying ‘industry expert’, what better way to demonstrate your expertise in a subject than a regularly updated blog or column? Webreference argue that ‘The appearance of authority is also important to online businesses. Customers will be much more likely to use your service or purchase your goods if they see you as an authority on a particular subject.’(webreference.com), this is a point underlined by j6design
’If your company’s blog contains well-written, insightful content, internet users will be more likely to think highly of your company and consider your company a leader in its field.’ (j6design.com.au)
The Authority of websites is an important factor when ranking search engine results
Blogs provide an inexpensive way to demonstrate knowledge and expertise. They offer an effective way to develop content, which can be shared easily on social media to publicise your company and to develop brand awareness, in addition it enables you to make your company appear more accessible (especially if your blog supports comments) This conversational aspect is important as it gives you a perfect opportunity to gauge what is important to your customers and to tailor your products and services accordingly. A business blog could be justified for these benefits alone (there are plenty more), to discover how Carl Potts Designs could help you with your company blog, contact me today.
1. 10 Benefits for Businesses to Start Blogging by Wayne Liew
2. 10 Big Benefits Of A Busy Business Blog: (And How To take Advantage) | Webreference.com
3. Why have a business blog? How can a blog help my business?
A common problem organisations encounter is a lack of awareness as to what content is actually present on the company website, this poses a number of problems, no-one in the organisation knows if the website content is of sufficient quality or if the content meets the requirements of your customers, as Kristina Halvorson states:
Its good to know how much content you have,where it lives,what its about, and whether its any good'(Halvorson 2012)
Anne Rockley & Charles Cooper also note the importance of understanding the nature and effectiveness of your website content. The main tool for gaining this appreciation is the content audit, which is what we’ll examine this week.
Halvorson goes on to suggest 3 types of audit, these we’ll examine shortly:
The first type of audit Halvorson introduces is the quantitative audit. This provides a high level ‘snapshot’ of what content is present on the site, what format it is in and where it is stored, in order to gain a more detailed understanding of a websites content a qualitative audit is required which we’ll examine now.
‘A qualitative audit analyses the quality & effectiveness of the projects content’ (Halvorson & Rach 2012)
Halvorson & Rach propose two variants of qualitative audit, both of which are appropriate at different stages of a content project:
This type of qualitative audit is usually undertaken at the beginning of a project, it grades content against established best practises and examines that it actually satisfies user requirements
This is the most in-depth type of audits and is usually performed towards the end of a content project, giving an indication of how well your existing content aligns with content strategy, this will allow gaps and shortcomings to be identified and hopefully eliminated
Unlike quantitative audits automated audit software is not really appropriate for qualitative audits as some degree of human review and grading is essential
Most Content experts are keen to emphasise the importance of content audits for content marketing projects and content-rich websites, although auditing can be time consuming it has a number of important benefits:
Identify Content Shortcomings
it is better to do this in the early stages of a content project rather than close to launch, auditing can identify shortcomings early in the project and if necessary eliminate them
Audits allow substandard content to be identified and removed
when integrated with Analytics software it is possible to identify the content which really strikes a chord with visitors and act accordingly with this information, if necessary develop additional popular content and remove the content that has failed to make an impact
Identify content for reuse and cross referencing purposes
Rockley suggests that an audit allows organisations to identify existing content which may be re purposed or utilised elsewhere, given the costly nature of original content it makes sense to extract the maximum benefit from existing content.
Gain a complete understanding of the content present on the website
Develop effective planning and content maintenance programs
This week I will be returning to the theme of good quality content, depending on the author you are reading this is known by a variety of names, McGovern refers to “killer content” where I prefer the Valuable Content” label used by Sonja Jefferson, same concept, different label. Both McGovern and Jefferson point to the decline in traditional broadcast marketing suggesting that the way business can successfully utilise the web is to produce good quality content which answers the questions of potential customers so building trust and rapport with these leads, basically what’s generally known as content marketing. Jefferson suggests that
‘Good marketing has always been valuable but the difference today is that buyers no longer tolerate or respond to marketing which is less than good (Jefferson 2012)
the perceived lack of quality of much online content is a concern many authors share, its a concern I certainly agree with a lot of online content is frequently rather poor in agree quality with there only being a few golden nuggets of content being available, McGovern complains about the prevalence of filler over killer content, I’ll be using the rest of this post to compare and contrast two definitions of ‘good quality’ content, I’ll then proceed to develop my own definition from this which will be used as the quality benchmark for the rest of the content added to this site
Redish (2012) highlights the usefulness of a websites content and its role in converting visitors into customers, she goes on to suggest that content needs to be
• easy to find
• easy to understand
• up to date
• credible (Redish 2012)
Redish places a lot of emphasis on the usefulness of content
‘People come for information that answers their question and helps them to complete their task’ (Redish 2012)
This tallies completely with Jay Baer’s Youtility concept and Jefferson’s recommendation that valuable content needs to be useful.
This week we’ve looked at a number of viewpoints on what constitutes good content, this is important because a number of prominent authors & thought leaders bemoan the variable quality of online content, its a concern I share, a lot of online content I encounter is rather mediocre, excellent content stands out and will differentiate you from the competition, now I’ll attempt to develop my own definition of excellent quality content which builds upon the previous definitions, In my opinion excellent quality content needs to tick all these boxes.
2. Useful either Informative or entertaining
6. Easily Found
7. High quality
9. Mapped to sales funnel
I personally find that most online content is beginner level only, there is a lot less intermediate and advanced level content available, this is a problem, which extends to printed books as well as online content; perhaps the beginner market is more lucrative? I personally find there is a real dearth of intermediate/advanced level content available freely online, perhaps I need to look harder but I don’t really feel its through lack of looking on my part, Carl Potts Designs offer Content Marketing services designed to
1. Boost Search Engine Performance
2. Improve Brand awareness and trust
3. Improve client retention/satisfaction
If this interests you contact me today either by phone or use the contact form.