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Google Algorithm Update: Attack on Content Farms
Monday, January 31, 2011
January 26, 2011, the first major Google algorithm update of the year?

Google is trying to push original content higher in its search results. Last week, Google launched an algorithmic change that is intended to rank scraper sites or sites with less original content lower. The net effect is that searchers are more likely to see the sites that wrote the original content. I cannot wait to see this in action. What does this mean for all of those e-commerce sites that use the same vendor product description?

Matt Cutts posted the following on his blog:
My post mentioned that “we’re evaluating multiple changes that should help drive spam levels even lower, including one change that primarily affects sites that copy others’ content and sites with low levels of original content.” That change was approved at our weekly quality launch meeting last Thursday and launched earlier this week. Matt went on to suggest that "...less than half a percent of search results change enough that someone might really notice. The net effect is that searchers are more likely to see the sites that wrote the original content rather than a site that scraped or copied the original site’s content."

Some, over at Webmaster World are reporting major traffic declines. One person reported that "It doesn't matter if it is all 100% unique with tons of backlinks and really well laid out or simply an image. Everything got whacked.".  This same user "drall" used the following example to illustrate:
Ok here is just one example of what we are seeing.

We follow video games, pretty bigname in our industry. So in this example we have a page which we wrote a review of one of the most popular games out today. This document is 6 years old. We all have played this game thousands of hours so we know what we are talking about. Anyhow this review also had a couple tutorials we wrote to help newbies to the game with specific things.

Those tutorials have been updated over the years with each expansion of the game. They are real step by step tutorials with screens and videos. Anyhow overtime these guides built links all by themselves due to usefulness, infact the actual game company which is PR 7 alexa 2000ish links to these guides and constantly points them out to the fanbase of millions in the forums.

So for a handful of these guides we ranked 1-3 over the years for various terms. Good traffic, less then 10% bounce rate, just really good stuff. Well we are now result 25ish for all terms related to this game. Very basic SEO, basically what Google advocates. What has replaced us you may ask? Well that's the fun part.

Result 1 Wikipedia with a general about for the game.
Result 2 A Ehow article from 4 years ago with absolutely no relevant content to the query.
Result 3 A hubpages article again that is totally out of date and useless to the querytype.
Result 4-24 I dont want to even bother typing as it is just about borderline spam.

So I guess our page that was written by people playing the actual game for 5-6 years, updating the article constantly to keep it useful to the games changes and linked to by thousands of game sites and forums and social platforms and the game creator itself has now been deemed useless!

I know you are reading this Google, what in the world are you doing? How does the above example show an improvement in your results? Do you define our article as low quality despite those natural signals and find wiki, ehow and hubpages better despite them being completely unrelated to the query type and 99% less related natural signal strengths?

This is one of thousands of examples I can post. What in the world did you push yesterday? Added note, we still are 1-3 in BingHoo.

Others have reported that sites that are anywhere for six to eight to ten years old and have unique content and lots of user interaction dropped off the Google map on the 26th--mid afternoon. So are we in the middle of an algorithm hurricane or is this just the beginning of some Google cleansing? A couple of sites that I work on feature a lot of useful and dare I say unique content yet Google has hit them hard since MayDay, the last quarter of 2010 and now into the new year. We are the originators of this content. Although we are small, our content team consist of extremely talented writers who are producing top quality content for our site.  Ideally this update should work in our favor.

However with an update (or series of updates as it may be) like this, I have some questions.

Ten Questions About Google's Algo Update on Content Farms
  1. How Google will determine the originator of content?
  2. How will Google identify all of the scraper sites that scrape my (or your) content?
  3. What does this mean for all of those e-commerce sites that use the same vendor product description?
  4. How many "innocent" sites with unique and useful content will be impacted?
  5. Will the "original" piece of content perform better than syndicated content regradless if it has been ripped off or has been agreed to be reproduced?
  6. Have people seen their site's direct traffic go up as people are bookmarking sites more often as opposed to having to sift through irrelevant search results to find the information and resources that they are looking for?
  7. Will Google be providing a channel for us to correct incorrectly attributed content?
  8. Will innocent sites be treated as "content farms"?
  9. Will legitimate directories by treated as "content farms"?
  10. Will we see an adjustment to the link popularity piece of Google's algorithm (to address spam sites that artificially inflate their link inventories)?
I am all for cleaning up the Web and search results, but it pains me to see quality resources impacted by such algorithm, changes.  While I work in the search industry my frustration is not from an SEO perspective, but from a user perspective.  Google you are making it difficult for me to find the information that I am looking for.  Let's hope that this attack on spam will allow me and all other searchers to find what we are looking for.

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posted by Jody @ Monday, January 31, 2011   0 comments
Top 5 SEO Lists - Week of January 24th, 2011
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Our previous top five can be found here.

#5.  5 Fast Tips to Improve Internal Links - ProBlogger.  Some great reminders for optimizing your internal links.  http://www.problogger.net/archives/2011/01/26/5-fast-tips-to-improve-internal-links

#4.  5 Ways to Make Your Website Scream Local - Duct Tape Marketing.  Some obvious but great tips here for getting more out of local search optimization. Check out the full article for details, but the five tips include:
  • Geo content
  • including local words in internal links and external anchor text
  • using rich snippets
  • being a community resource - adding things like event calendars and such
  • leveraging local contribution
http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog/2011/01/24/5-ways-to-make-your-web-site-scream-local-2/

#3.  3 SEO Myths Busted! - the folks over at Search Engine Journal had some great posts over the past week and this one caught our eye.  As the article points out, it is very easy to get some "bad" SEO information, and posts from trusted resources such as SEJ that debunk some of the common myths can be very valuable.  http://www.searchenginejournal.com/3-seo-myths-busted/27422/

#2.  4 Link Building Phenomena Dissected by 3 Phenomenal Link Builders - Debra Mastaler, Julie Joyce, and Melanie Nathan share their thoughts on common link building issues.  http://searchnewscentral.com/20110125121/Link-Building/link-building-2011-what-works-and-what-doesnt.html

#1.  Essential SEO & SEM Tips for 2011 – A Comprehensive Collection from the folks at Daily SEO Tip.  From basic reminders such as the importance of proper keyword research to the importance of leveraging social media to some things that you probably should not be doing (keyword stuffing, over optimization of content etc.) and most importantly a reminder that with most websites, the ultimate goal of any SEO & SEM campaign is to generate leads and sales.

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posted by Jody @ Wednesday, January 26, 2011   0 comments
Ten Factors Contributing to Poorer Google Results
Sunday, January 23, 2011
In my last post, we began our discussion about how Google search results are getting worse.  Some are even going so far to suggest that Google has lost their mojo.  Google's weakening search results is cause for concern for many site owners, many online marketers and most importantly for many searchers.  The decline of Google results can also be a good thing for other search engines such as Bing and more likely Blekko.  People are looking for relevancy, and it seems that Google is struggling with this lately.

So what has caused this shift towards poorer search results in Google?  Or is it just the perception of a small few?  For me as a person who works in Search and as a user, my experience is that Google results have definitely been getting worse.  But what is the reason for this?  Why have Google results changed so drastically over the past year?  I have identified ten factors that, in recent years, have contributed to the poorer results that we are seeing in Google.

Ten Factors Contributing to Poorer Google Results

Here are ten factors that we think have had a negative impact on Google search results in some manner.  Perhaps not consistently but in some shape or form these items may be contributing to the poorer results that we are seeing in Google as of late.
  1. Artificial link population - the whole buying links thing has been difficult for Google to address.  There are numerous examples of sites that have purchased links only to artificially inflate their link inventories and rise above to the prime real estate of the Google search results.  The whole link popularity thing has prevented some quality pages for placing where they should in the results making it difficult to access the "most relevant" content on a regular basis.  How many times have you seen a crappy blog rank higher than a quality resource in Google.  It continues to happen and while Google is working on preventing this noise from showing up, people are still manipulating their way to the top.  The fact is that artificially link populated sites and blogs are continuing to show up in prime search results.
  2. Algorithm Updates - Google's algorithms are not perfect.  Whenever a major algo update is released there are always innocent bystanders that are impacted.  Sometimes this can mean that a quality site is affected which in turn may be preventing searchers from accessing the quality resource.  Google's algorithms can impact a lot of  sites.  For whatever reason the impact is not just on spam sites.
  3. Google displaying multiple listings for a website for a single query - I actually don't have much of an issue with this providing that the site with the multiple listings is the most relevant based on the search query that I have used.  If this site has six pages that are the most relevant  for a given query then why shouldn't Google serve them up?  If the site offers a great how to video or a relevant news release than why shouldn't these result appear above all others?  The issue becomes when these multiple rankings for the same sight are placing higher than sites or pages that offer more relevant information.
  4. Universal Search - I like blended search results, really I do, but they have to be relevant.  Google sticking in a YouTube video just for sake of having a video in the search results can weaken the search results.  Not to mention that Google tends to display blended results from their own products (Google Maps, Youtube, Google News etc.) which may not always be the most relevant results.  At a 2007 conference, Google’s Marissa Mayer commented:
        “[When] we roll[ed] out Google Finance, we did put the Google link first. It seems only fair right, we do all the work for the search page and all these other things, so we do put it first… That has actually been our policy, since then, because of Finance. So for Google Maps again, it’s the first link.”
  5. Google Instant - Google's "predictive search" tries to anticipate what I am looking for as I begin typing my search query?  C'mon are you for real?  Try a search with Google Instant on, type various letters of the alphabet.  Are you seeing what you are looking for with Google's Instant aka search suggest results.  For me, this is one of the lamest efforts that I have seen from Google in quite some time.
  6. YouTube results appearing over other video aggregator results - see item #4.
  7. Google going public - Google has to report to shareholders and investors.  They need to have impressive financials.  For Google, the road to impressive financials means more ad revenue from Ad Sense and more importantly Google AdWords.  Where do you think that they are going to put their focus?  Organic Search results or paid advertisements in their results pages?
  8. Favoritism - this is just a theory, but it appears that Google plays favorites with certain types of sites.  How often do you see directory results appear atop the search result for a given query even though that may just be the most relevant result for a given query?  While Google says that the amount of paid spend that a company does with Google has no impact on their placement within the organic results, I simply cannot believe this.  Yahoo said the same thing but based on past clients that I worked with the amount of paid spend did in fact have some impact on where these sites placed in the organic results.  I am not saying that it is this bad in Google, but there is no doubt that there is some favoritism going on.  Don't believe me see point #9.
  9. Google gives preference to big brands - Google's relationship with large brands is interesting.  Emphasis on the big brands (whom most likely have the largest AdWords budgets?) has been something that Google continues to downplay.  However reports suggest that large companies may get as much as 90 percent of the links on the first page of Google search results.  Google has shown in the past that they favor brands and this continues as we perform searches in Google in 2011.  Searchers do not benefit from this strong focus on big brands and shopping related search results.  Again it comes back to relevancy.  A large brand is not always the result that I need depending on my search query.
  10. Long-tail debacle - a lot of smaller brands and sites found a way to gain a presence in Google's search results via long-tail optimization.  That is optimizing for longer phrases consisting of five or more words or for questions.  Google then rolls out a few updates including their "MayDay" update where sites that were placing for long-tail saw a lot of their rankings vanish, only to be replaced by questionable search results or more big brand results or... well you get the point.  
There is no question that Google's results have become questionable.  The relevancy is just not there as much as it used to be (at least in my perception).  For me, it comes down to Google displaying the most relevant result for a given query.  This might not always be the page that has the most links or even the largest number of quality links.  This might not always be the video that has the most comments.  This might not always be the big brand that we are accustomed to seeing.  Google had hundreds of factors in their algorithms.  They need every single one to help determine relevancy, but the fact is relevancy is in the eye of the beholder and Google needs to realize that there are other avenues to acquire information, search is but one channel.  Google's core business is still search.  They need to provide the best search results that they can otherwise people will visit other online destinations (see Facebook, Twitter, Blekko, Bing, ASK etc) and the love affair with Google may just begin to end.  Google I need you to be better.  I like you, but you need to provide value to me and recently that value has been diminishing.

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posted by Jody @ Sunday, January 23, 2011   0 comments
Google Search Results are Getting Worse: We Need a Better Google
Friday, January 21, 2011
Google organic search results are getting worse.  I have been waiting to write this post for quite some time now.  In fact maybe even a year or two.  The timing just might be right for this post, especially as Google is stepping up their efforts to defend their search results.  As I began writing this post, Matt Cutts from Google is on the official Google blog suggesting that Google's search quality is the best it has ever been in terms of relevance, freshness, and comprehensiveness. Whoa, whoa whoa, wait just a minute.  The best it has ever been?  Matt goes on to suggest:
January brought a spate of stories about Google’s search quality. Reading through some of these recent articles, you might ask whether our search quality has gotten worse. The short answer is that according to the evaluation metrics that we’ve refined over more than a decade, Google’s search quality is better than it has ever been in terms of relevance, freshness and comprehensiveness.
Well Matt, consider this post another that will be critical of Google search results. When I was at Enquiro, over the years I had written posts questioning the quality and relevancy of search results.  Not just with Google but with all search engines.  As a user of Search, like many of you, I have been using search from the "get-go".  It started with some of those now old and defunct search engines, moved to Yahoo and them to ASK Jeeves.  In fact it is no secret of my love for ASK and some of their search innovations over the years.  ASK just could not "become mainstream".  Part of the reason for that was due to the relevancy (or lack-there-of) of their results.  Then probably around 1999 or so I moved over to Google.  They had a simple interface, an ever growing index and what seemed at the time as being able to provide more relevant results to my queries.  This was great especially as I was the type of searcher who used a lot of long-tail queries as I was looking for specific information.  So for the next few years I was jumping around from Google to Yahoo to ASK to MSN.  The reason for this was that I simply wanted the most relevant results and the different engines provided me with a different experience and with different results.  During this time Google appeared to be working on providing the most relevant results so they become my search engine of choice as I entered my professional career in online marketing and organic search. 

Then in late 2003 something happened that made me take even more note of Google and their power to "dominate" the Web or more specifically Web Search.  In November, Google launched what was dubbed the "Florida Update."  Overnight, search results that appeared for years in Google were gone, site owners, webmasters and SEOs were in a panic.  I remember thinking that with a few algorithm tweaks, Google was able to dramatically alter their search results.  I wondered how often this happened and what the immediate future would hold for the search results? One simple Google algorithm update and the Internet was turned upside down.

Enter 2010.  I would call 2010 the year of the "Google Swirl" where we saw infrastructure changes, algorithm changes and SERP changes more than ever before.  Google has been working hard on updating their search index, but it almost seems like there has been too much change in too short of a span.  For me it was like Google was in reaction-mode to emerging technologies such as Facebook, Twitter and real-time search results.  The winds of change are blowing which is no more evidenced with yesterday's announcement that Larry Page will be replacing Eric Schmidt as Google's Chief Executive Officer.  Today rumors of friction between Eric Schmidt and the Google founders has started to surface.

We Need a Better Google


For me, personally and professionally Google has started to slide. I am finding that based on my experience the Google search results are getting continually worse.  I won't get into any examples here, but over the past nine to twelve months, the search results that I am getting back from  Google are just not what I need or what I was expecting to find.  Sometimes the search results have been down right confusing.  The quality and relevance of the search results has diminished.  It appears that I am not the only one who has noticed this.  Jill Whalen had a great post on some of her recent experiences with Google results.  In a recent post Jill commented:
Which brings us back to today's sucky Google results.

It was done gradually over many years, but Google now provides organic search results that often look relevant on the surface, but either lead to made-for-AdSense content pages or somewhat sketchy companies who are great at article spinning and comment spamming.

Jill goes on to add:
Since their poor results are being talked about with more fervor outside of the search marketing industry, it's possible that they have indeed crossed the line. Numerous mainstream publications and highly regarded bloggers have taken notice and written about the putrid results. While Google is used to negative press, the current wave of stories hits them at their core -- or at least what most people believe to be their core -- their search results.
Relevancy (and spam for that matter) with regards to search results may be in the eye of the beholder, but people are taking notice.  A post from Aaron Wall over at SEObook suggests that Google just may be nearing their breaking point.   He suggests that
When Google's head spam fighter is doing public relations AND the Washington Post covers his lobbying you know Google is nearing a breaking point.
Perhaps this is the reason for the slight damage control that Matt Cutts is having to do.  Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, uh I mean Google.  Whatever the issues are, we need Google to be better.  They have set a high standard for their search results and while there are more pages and blogs and tweets and news stories to index than ever before, Google needs to do a better job with their search results.  As Yahoo is no longer a true search engine (as their results are provided by Bing), and while Bing has made some small improvements, people still need a trusted resource to find the information that they are looking for.  While that may not always be a search engine, Google has the technology and the resources to make it happen. 

Google for your next update how about code naming it the "Felicitous Update" or the "Idoneus Update" which is latin for proper, worthy, fitting, deserving, capable.  Because at the end of the day isn't that what search results are all about?  Let's get back to focusing on displaying relevant search results.  Your ad revenues will continue to come, but your users may not.

In my next post I will look at some of the different ways that Google search results have become watered down over recent years.

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posted by Jody @ Friday, January 21, 2011   6 comments
Lots of Google News Today
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Lots of Google News Today
Lots of news today out of the Google camp with word that Eric Schmidt is being replaced by Larry Page as CEO of Google.  He will step down from the role starting April 4, and co-founder Larry Page will take charge of Google's day-to-day operations as CEO. Co-founder Sergey Brin will devote his energy to strategic projects like working on new products.

According to Schmidt's post:
Larry will now lead product development and technology strategy, his greatest strengths, and starting from April 4 he will take charge of our day-to-day operations as Google’s Chief Executive Officer. In this new role I know he will merge Google’s technology and business vision brilliantly. I am enormously proud of my last decade as CEO, and I am certain that the next 10 years under Larry will be even better! Larry, in my clear opinion, is ready to lead.
http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2011/01/update-from-chairman.html

and in other Google news, it has been confirmed that their has been a Google Toolbar Page Rank Update.  However you know that this is not a big deal right?  I actually thought that Google would remove PageRank from their toolbar in 2011, but then again the Page Rank indicator is probably one of the main motivators or reasons why people download the toolbar in the first place.  Of course Google wants people to install the toolbar so you can see why it is stil there.

http://www.agent-seo.com/search-news/google-updated-pagerank-today-january-2011

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posted by Jody @ Thursday, January 20, 2011   0 comments
Using Heading Tags for SEO
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
I wanted to post about something that I discussed a few years back. I have noticed that a number of sites mis-use heading tags.

Over the years, I have had a number of inquiries about using heading tags, so we thought we would highlight a few tips when incoporating the use of heading tags into your page content.  The purpose of a heading tag is to provide an indication as to the outline of a page.  Typically your most important content should be found higher up on the page, thus the H1 tag becomes important for the title of this content.  Use <h1> for your top-level headings.  Use only one <h1> heading tag per page.
The heading tags consist of six elements: H1, H2, H3, H4, H5, H6 header elements

The proper format for heading tags  in essence would look something like this:

Main Heading – use <h1> tag
Sub-Heading 1 - use <h2> tags
Sub-Heading 2- use <h2> tags
Sub-Heading 3 - use <h2> tags
     Sub-Category 3.1 – use <h3> tags
     Sub-Category 3.2 – use <h3> tags
          Sub-Category 3.2.1 – use <h4> tags
          Sub-Category 3.2.2 – use <h4> tags
          Sub-Category 3.2.3 – use <h4> tags
Sub-Heading 4 – use <h2> tags

I have had questions such as, "Can you have more than one <h2> tag on the page?"  The answer is yes as seen in the example above.  Can you have the <h2> tag appear before the <h1> tag.  The answer is yes this is possible, but why would you?  Are you suggesting that this content is more important than that of the <h1>?  Again when using heading tags the purpose is to provide an outline of the page.  It is meant to work with the <h1> and down from there.  Remember, you do not want to get too spammy with the use of heading tags.  Avoid overuse of heading tags and improve the site experience for your users on your website.


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posted by Jody @ Tuesday, January 18, 2011   2 comments
Top 5 SEO Lists - Week of January 10th, 2011
Friday, January 14, 2011
I love the start of the calendar year. A number of people in the SEO industry are making predictions, are reflecting on past predictions or are compiling their thoughts on the same old same old. With that comes a number of lists, and as you have come to see, wee like to share our favorite SEO related lists of the week.

In case you missed last week's top five, here is last week's top five SEO lists.

Top 5 SEO Lists - Week of January 10th, 2011

#5.  7 Ways to Use Raven for Link Building - Distilled.  This post shares some tactical ways Raven can be used in a link building campaign.  From finding contact information to competitive link analysis, Raven is another tool that you can add to your link building arsenal.  http://www.distilled.co.uk/blog/seo/raven-tools-for-link-building/

#4.  8 Lessons I’ve Learned From Doing SEO - Wiep.net - We thought this was fairly amusing with a lot of truth to many of the points mentioned.  http://wiep.net/talk/personal/8-years-in-seo/

#3.  25 Important Search Engine Optimization Mistakes to Fix Right Now - Bill Hartzer.  A pretty extensive list of reminders to help clean up your SEO activities.  There are a lot of fundamentals on this list such as not having unique titles or meta descriptions to some more indepth items such as not paying attention to your 404 errors and cleaning up broken links.  Again this post is a great reminder of how to perfrom some SEO maintenance on your website.
http://www.billhartzer.com/pages/25-important-search-engine-optimization-mistakes-to-fix/

#2.  10 Tips to Improve Your Social Graph for Google - SEOptimise.  This is another great list featuring ten tips to leverage if you are using social media alongside your SEO efforts.  There are ten solid tips that you may already be using, but if you are not, you might want to consider trying.
http://www.seoptimise.com/blog/2011/01/10-tips-to-improve-your-social-graph-for-google.html

#1.  55 Content Optimization & Content Marketing Tips for 2011 - Marketing Jive.  We try not to incorporate our own lists in our weekly top five, but with our extensive list of 55 content optimization and content marketing tips we felt that this information was too important to keep all to ourselves.  We discussed how content optimization and content marketing can assist you in 
  •     Increasing search visibility on Google, Yahoo and Bing
  •     Improving the distribution of your content
  •     Improve user (customer) engagement
  •     Serve up content focusing on customer needs resulting in improved leads and sales
  •     Gain visibility in social arenas
Enjoy!  We'll see you back here for next week's list.  In the meantime, feel free to follow us on Twitter @marketing_jive.

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posted by Jody @ Friday, January 14, 2011   0 comments
55 Content Optimization and Content Marketing Tips for 2011
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
2010 was an interesting year for Search.  We saw Google release their new search index with Caffeine.  Google then proceeded to clean up their index with various algorithm updates including Google MayDay in the Sprng.  Meanwhile in August, Bing began supplying their search results to Yahoo marking the end of Yahoo as their own search engine.  In the fall we saw Google make major changes to their search results page and we saw Google launch initiatives such as Google Instant and Google Instant Preview.   In November we saw the unveiling of Blekko a new search engine using slash tags intended to help clean up the Web.  All of these changes forced some (many?) Webmasters to scratch their heads a little and re-evaluate their web properties and the content they feature on their sites. 

For all of these updates from the search engines directly or indirectly affect one thing and that is content.  Google updated their search index to be able to more efficiently crawl the Web to find all of the great (and not so great) dynamic content that is on the Web.  This includes being able to index real-time results and content from sources such as Twitter, Facebook and news sources.  Try a search for "content marketing" in Google and you will most likely find some real-time search results occupying the search results.  Content is the single biggest asset that you have in the online world.  If you are not producing useful and informative content on a regular basis, you are simply not going to do well in Search, or at least do as well as you should be doing in Search.

How Does Content Marketing Differ in 2011?

Quite honestly it doesn't.  Content marketing means that you have to be in touch with your target audience.  You have to think about the needs of your readers and how to engage those needs with the end result of enabling  win-win where your content addresses the needs of your audience and your audience follows though with a conversion for you.  The one area where content marketing may differ in 2011 is how you prepare for your content development strategy.  You will really need to understand your audience through researching their behaviors, actions and online footprints that they leave. 

Auditing Your Content

Now is a good time to start auditing your content.  Ask yourself these four questions:
  • Is the content unique?
  • Is the content useful?
  • Is the content easy to navigate and find?
  • Is the content engaging?
  • Is your content making use of the best channel for your audience (news feeds, social environments, mobile, video)?
 In 2011, content marketing can mean establishing a competitive advantage in the online space.  Content marketing can assist you in:
  • Increasing search visibility on Google, Yahoo and Bing
  • Improving the distribution of your content
  • Improve user (customer) engagement
  • Serve up content focusing on customer needs resulting in improved leads and sales
  • Gain visibility in social arenas
Content marketing in 2011 means probably working a little harder to prepare, plan and launch your content to your audience.  So what specifically can you do to enhgance and optimize your content in 2011?

55 Content Optimization and Content Marketing Tips

We have compiled an extensive list of tips and practices that you can leverage as part of your content strategy.  It should be noted that these tips and practices are not in any particular order.  Why are we providing these tips for free?  Well chances are you may be already using a number of these practices, furthermore, this list may serve as a reminder for you as you hone your online publishing and content development skills.  We only ask that if you find these tips useful that you "Like" our post by clicking our "Like" button at the end of this post.  With that, let's take a look at our content optimization and content marketing tips that will help you promote your content in 2011.
  1. Develop personas for your target audience - take the time to really get to know who your audience is and what type of content they are looking for.
  2. Set goals for your content - you need to have an understanding of what you want your content to do.  Is it to answer a questions?  Is it to generate leads?  Is it to build a relationship?  Is it to improve your reputation?  Every piece of content that you put out should address a goal or fundamental business objective.
  3. Create unique content - for many, this can be harder than it sounds.  The fact is that simply changing a few words on the page, having a different title and meta description may not be enough to make your content unique.  All of you e-commerce site out there pay attention.  Work to feature unique content.  Although there are many duplicate content myths out there, duplicate content can provide some grief for you from a search engine perspective.
  4. Make your content crawlable - in order for the search engines to place your content in their search results, they have to find it first.  Ensure that your content is able to be crawled and indexed.  While the search engines are getting better they can still have difficulty in crawling and indexing content that is found within frames, Flash or images.
  5. Avoid sharing your content on multiple domains - if you have have multiple sites, do not share the same content across all of those sites.  Work to feature unique content on your web properties.
  6. Understand your content inventory - you should have an idea of the existing content that you have out on the Web.  Know what you have to work with.
  7. Apply SEO best practices - using SEO best practices should be ingrained with your writing team so that any piece of content that goes out is optimized for the Web.  This one should be self explanatory by now.
  8. Monitor your content - in this day and age syndication of content can be a good and bad thing.  People can easily steal your content so monitor your content to ensure that your content remains "your content".
  9. Take advantage of news - leverage press releases for news worthy topics.  These items can include anything from company announcements to industry news.
  10. Develop content style guides - make it easy for your writers to optimize your content for search.  Give them style guides that will educate them on the fundamentals for writing great web content.
  11. Try blogging - while many say that blogging is on its way out and while it is true that there are a high percentage of blogs that are dormant, blogs are great ways to get you content out there quickly.  Maybe you experimented with a blog a few years back.  It might be time to dust off your blog and generate some fresh new content.
  12. Turn your blog posts into a book - if you have spent the time creating great content, perhaps your audience would like to view it in the form of an ebook?  You have already written the content so why not turn it into a book for readers to peruse?
  13. Create a Facebook Page - setting up a Facebook page will give you another touchpoint to engage with your audience.
  14. Use analytics to understand what your most engaging content is - which pages on your site incur the most time spent and lowest bounce rate
  15. Engage with your audience on their blogs - content optimization and content marketing does not mean that the content needs to reside on your site.  Participate by guest blogging or commenting on some of your customer's blogs or forums.  Be honest and not too "salesy" so that the conversation is a meaningful one.
  16. Leverage articles - to discuss timely topics that are of interest to your audience.
  17. Leverage people's questions - I don't know about you, but quite often I find FAQ content extremely helpful.  Ensure that your FAQ section is up to date and answers the questions that people want answered.
  18. Write a mini e-book or white paper - that addresses some of the common concerns of your audience.
  19. Experiment with video - YouTube is the second most popular search engine in North America and while everyone is telling you to do video, you just don't know how to get started.  This is something I hear all of the time.  You know it is not always the most polished video that goes viral.  Video content is another channel that you can tap into to engage with your audience.  If you are not currently using video to communicate your content, make 2011 the year you try video.
  20. Keep videos to three minutes or less - make the video engaging, do not bore your audience.  Use video to answer their questions, demo a product or introduce a new innovation.
  21. Learn how to conduct proper keyword research - keyword research is at the heart of your content.  Optimizing (but not spamming) for keywords will help you with your SEO and search optimization efforts.  The tools that can be used for keyword research continue to evolve.  You should be learning something new about the keywords your desired audience is using every month.  Become familiar with keyword research practices and tools to ensure that your content is not simply marketing jargon but is in the language of your audience.
  22. Write in the language of your audience - avoid using too much industry jargon.  If you customer calls a white widget then you call it a white widget.  Hoo boy do we see some doozies out there with some of the sites that we have worked on in the past.
  23. Develop an editorial plan - this can assist you with content creation, optimization, promotion and monitoring.
  24. Tie in online content with offline - surprise, but not everyone is on the Web 24/7.  Ensure that your messaging is consistent between your offline and online marketing efforts.
  25. Pay attention to your competitor's content - it is always a good idea to check in with your competition by visiting their websites and see what type of content they are putting out there.  If they are doing something that you are not, you might want to consider trying it (not copying it) and improving upon it.
  26. Create timely content - real-time and timely information will always be in demand.  Creating content that is relevant and current will serve you well.  This is why news releases do so well and with Google displaying scrolling real-time search results, the creation of timely content can provide a real boost in the search engines. 
  27. Get social with your content - love them or hate them, Facebook and Twitter are not going away.  The number of people who are using social networks continues to grow.  Facebook has become one of the most visited destinations on the Web.  As a result it may make sense to promote your content there.  Famous micro-blogging service Twitter is also another great way to promote your content and engage in conversation with you target audience.  Developing your content strategy should go hand in hand with developing your SEO and social strategy.
  28. Create content around industry hot topics - from an SEO perspective, if you can be early or "first to market" with some content surrounding an emerging topic in your industry you can generate a lot of links and traffic to your site.
  29. Conduct regular usability testing - the more you can learn about how visitors are interacting with your site, the better.  Are people missing your prime content because of usability issues?  Any time you can gain feedback about your website and your content you should take advantage of it.
  30. Incorporate user generated content into your site - whether it is as simple as a testimonial or a more detailed user review of your products or services, user generated content can be a great way to build trust with your site and more importantly with your brand.
  31. Optimize for local - developing local content is critical for most businesses.  People who are searching for local or geo-appended terms tend to be closer to making a purchase and thus are closer to the end of the buying process.  Optimize your content for local search to take advantage of those looking for local content.
  32. Mobile friendly content can make a difference - ensure that your content can be viewed fully on mobile devices.  If you have a mobile version of your site, you will want to leverage mobile SEO to help enhance your content fo those who will be accessing it via a mobile device.
  33. Promote your content with a smartphone app - no explanation needed as this just makes sense and provides another interception point to engage with your audience.
  34. Create an iPad app to promote your content
  35. People love lists - lists often provide great information often in a prioritized manner.  People tend to interact very with with content within a list.
  36. Use tools such as DIGG to identify hot topics in your industry - depending on your industry, you should look at various resources that you can use to identify potential content topics to include on your website.  See item #26 above.
  37. Create helpful content resources - such as checklists, user guides or "cheat sheets".
  38. Provide comparison data - create content that compares your product/service with others.  If people are are comparison shopping they are going to visit competitor sites, that is unless you are confident in your product/service and can provide a one-stop comparison.  This goes a long way in providing all of the information that your audience is looking for.  How many Pepsi commercials have you seen with reference to Coke?  The reason?  Pepsi is attempting to demonstrate how their product is superior or is preferred over Coke.  Comparison content can help your audience make their decision.  If you have the superior product that meets their needs, you should win their business.
  39. See item #27
  40. Make your content compelling
  41. Clean up duplicate content - see item #3 above.
  42. Prioritize your content in your XML sitemap - this will help tell the search engines which of your pages are more important in reference to your other pages.  While this will not improve your rankings, you can direct the search engines to crawl areas of your site that you want them to frequent.
  43. Hire expert writers - an experienced content writer can make a huge difference as to the content that you put out on your website.
  44. PDFs, Slidedecks, and Content Disks can be appealing - the way you present your content can make a difference as to how your audience digests your information.  People react differently to different types of communication.  Some people prefer in-person conversation, others prefer email or reading printed material.  In fact many people will still print out a report or valuable piece of content to read at their leisure.  Tablet computers are changing this, but you should be evaluating the various options that you can use to communicate your content.
  45. Pay attention to content length - when writing articles, web copy or whitepapers consider the length.  If your content is too short, you may not be able to get your point across.  If your content is too long, you may lose the reader's interest.  Find the sweet spot for your audience.
  46. Do not rip off somebody else's content
  47. See item #45
  48. Optimize images within your content - effective use of images, tables and charts can make your content more engaging.  Be sure to follow image optimization best practices.
  49. Avoid ambiguous copy - be clear and concise with your content.
  50. Avoid having too many outgoing links on a given page - this can disrupt the reader's flow and take them away from the content that you have worked so hard to get them to read.
  51. Make conversion triggers clear and accessible - ideally a user should be one click away from a conversion trigger from any page on your site.  Ensure that your content makes it easy for users to take action.
  52. Keep it simple - the secret to success is simplicity.  The same holds true for your content.  Clear, concise, informative and unique content will always outperform content that is unfocused, uses marketing or industry jargon and is dated.  Knowing what your target audience is looking for can help you create content to serve their needs.  Keeping the messaging simple can ensure that users will find what they are looking for when they are on your site.
  53. Be consistent with your messaging - try not to confuse your site visitors.  Answer their questions and deliver value to them with consistent messaging.
  54. Empower all employees to contribute to content development - content development is not just the responsibility of your marketing or web team.  While you may have experienced content writers, many people within your organization can be great assets when creating content for your web properties.  From blogging and tweeting, to team testimonials, your employees and coworkers are great resources in the creation, promotion and monitoring of your content.
  55. Give the people what the want - consumers are in charge, give them the information that they are looking for.
Content marketing should be a part of your marketing strategy in 2011.  If you are going to create content to market your product,service or brand, you need to provide value.  You do not want to flood the Web with useless or duplicate content.  Your content must provide value.  In order to do this, you need to have clear goals and sufficient resources to deliver the content to your potential customers.

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posted by Jody @ Tuesday, January 11, 2011   4 comments
Top 5 SEO Lists Week of January 3, 2011
Friday, January 07, 2011
Alright now that the holidays are over we can revert back to some of our regular features here at Marketing Jive.   We will begin with our first installment for 2011 of our favorite SEO lists from the past week.  In case you missed our previous lists check out our previous top 5 SEO lists.

Top 5 SEO Lists Week of January 3, 2011

#5.  2011: The Year of Social SERPs, Bing Instant & Social Search - Search Engine Watch.  Normally we would not include a "predictions post", but we thought this one stated the obvious and included a few predictions that are up for debate. http://searchenginewatch.com/3641708

#4.  Google SEO Checklist For 2011 - Search Engine Roundtable - this is a brief but useful post from Barry Schwartz touching on a thread from Webmaster World where folks have put together an SEO checklist for 2011.

#3.  16 Crucial Link Building Tools for Inhouse SEOs - Search Engine Journal.   Many of you should be familiar with a number of these link building tools, but if anything else this list serves as a great refresher.  Favorites from this list include Yahoo Site Explorter, Google Webmaster Tools, Open Site Explorer and Majestic SEO.

#2.  15 Link Building Predictions & Recommendations For 2011 - Search Engine Land.  Debra Mastaler had a great compilation of link building thoughts from industry experts including Julie Joyce, Eric Ward and from Debra Mastaler herself.   There are some interesting thoughts here from old school tips (directory submissions) to thta fact that real-time and social linking signals will become even more analyzed and scrutinized in order to help develop link portfolios.

#1.  4 New Years Resolutions For Conversion Optimization In 2011 - Search Engine Land.  Sandra Niehaus had a great post consisting of a  four step list on converison optimization for 2011.  From ensuring that your site pages load quickly to updating your messdaging and setting goals, this list should be a must read for any webmaster looking to improve conversions in 2011.  She suggests "learning something new" and offers tips such as:
  • Update your error messaging to be clearer, nicer, and more visible. Customize the copy for each individual error. (See my previous articles on error optimization – #1 and #2 ).
  • Make your shipping rates and return policy more visible (assuming they’re reasonable).
  • Get new, more professional photos of your products.
  • Replace any cheap stock photos with custom photography or higher-quality stock images.
  • Create and add a demo video (or two).
  • Make your page headings, site-wide, larger and more visible.
  • Add social sharing tools on your product or service detail pages.
  • Add social sharing tools and cross-promotions on your purchase or lead-gen form Success (or Thank You) pages.
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posted by Jody @ Friday, January 07, 2011   0 comments
Top 100 Marketing Buzzwords 2011
Wednesday, January 05, 2011
Buzzword - a phrase or word that entices people to discuss a topic in repetition.

Well it is that time of year again, time to share with the world our annual list of Top Marketing Buzzwords that you can expect to hear in the upcoming year.  Before we get to this year's list, let's take a look at some of the top buzzwords from previous years.


Top 100 Marketing Buzzwords 2010

Top 100 Marketing Buzzwords 2009
Top 100 Marketing Buzzwords 2008
Top 100 Marketing Buzzwords 2007

2010 saw some interesting changes happen in the world of Search and in online marketing.  With this change came new buzzwords such as "real-time search", "MayDay", and "Google Instant".  Here is a look at some of the top marketing buzzwords that you can expect to hear in 2011.

Top 100 Marketing Buzzwords of 2011
  1.  Attribution
  2. Content Marketing
  3. Social Signals
  4. Value Proposition
  5. Personalization
  6. Local Search Marketing
  7. Social Search
  8. App Marketing
  9. Lead Generation
  10. Macro Influence
  11. iPad App Optimization
  12. Long-tail
  13. Bundling
  14. Conversion Rate Optimization
  15. Action Item Management
  16. Mobile Marketing
  17. Impact Analysis
  18. Real-Time
  19. Query Optimization
  20. Segmentation
  21. Business Objectives
  22. App Optimization
  23. Disintermediation
  24. Buzz
  25. Benchmarking
  26. Like Juice
  27. Brandstorming
  28. Social Cleansing
  29. Tech-session Proof
  30. Bing Bopping
  31. Lean
  32. Tablet App Optimization
  33. Incremental
  34. Semantic Mapping
  35. Maturity Models
  36. Algorithm Anxiety
  37. Relevance
  38. Value Pushing
  39. Brand Extension
  40. Optimization
  41. Best in Class
  42. Content Optimization
  43. Visible Placement
  44. Demand Creation
  45. Incremental Improvement
  46. Bounce Rate
  47. Online Lead Generation
  48. Search Maturation
  49. Re-engineering
  50. Trended Analysis
  51. Behavioural Targeting
  52. Online Retention
  53. Exclusivity
  54. Austerity
  55. SMS Conversion Optimization
  56. Neuromarketing
  57. Leapfrogging
  58. Viral Marketing
  59. Goal Setting
  60. Semantic Engagement Optimization
  61. Distribution Channeling
  62. Latent Dirichlet Allocation
  63. Digital Natives
  64. Brand Value
  65. Article Marketing
  66. Diversification
  67. External Analysis
  68. Market Segmentation
  69. Relationship Marketing
  70. Category Management
  71. Mobile SEO
  72. SWOT Analysis
  73. Consumer Initiated
  74. Workflow
  75. SMS Marketing
  76. Internet Speed
  77. Click Triggers
  78. Contextual Discovery
  79. Organic Search
  80. Digitally Grounded
  81. Engagement Metrics
  82. Coolhunting
  83. Echo Boomers
  84. Kickback Marketing
  85. Convergent Programming
  86. First-Mover Advantage
  87. Glocalization
  88. Low-Hanging Fruit
  89. Lifelong Value
  90. Greenlining
  91. Web spam Prevention
  92. Share of Voice
  93. Re-skilling
  94. Impact Investing
  95. Search Recession
  96. Calls to Action
  97. Torso (keyword)
  98. Microblogging
  99. Next Generation SEO
  100. Internet Popularity
  101. Twinternship



There you have it another year of marketing buzzwords that you can expect to hear around the water cooler, at restaurants, in airports or just about anywhere where the discussion surrounds business or Search marketing.

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posted by Jody @ Wednesday, January 05, 2011   0 comments
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