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SpellingPretty much anything Google’s most popular engineer Matt Cutts says makes headlines in the SEO community, but often his Webmaster Chat videos and advice aren’t mind-blowing by any stretch of the imagination. For instance, we recently covered a video where Cutts explained that bad grammar in the comment section most likely won’t hurt your ranking (unless you allow spam to run rampant).

For content creators, it was a legitimate concern that poorly written contents might negate the hard work putting into writing legible and well-constructed content. However, many used this to run headlines that Google doesn’t care about grammar, which is not even close to being confirmed.

As Search Engine Land points out, way back in 2011, Cutts publicly stated that there is a correlation between spelling and PageRank, but Google does not use grammar as a “direct signal.” But, in his latest statement on the issue Cutts specifies that you don’t need to worry about the grammar in your comments “as long as the grammar on your own page is fine.” This suggests Google does in fact care about the level of writing you are publishing.

It is unclear exactly where the line is for Google at the moment, as they imply that grammar within your content does matter, but they have never stated it is a ranking signal. Chances are a typo or two won’t hurt you, but it is likely Google may punish pages with rampant errors and legibility issues.

On the other hand, Bing has recently made it pretty clear that they do care about technical quality in content as part of their ranking factors. Duane Forrester shared a blog post on the Bing Webmaster Blog which states, “just as you’re judging others’ writing, so the engines judge yours.”

Duane continues, “if you [as a human] struggle to get past typos, why would an engine show a page of content with errors higher in the rankings when other pages of error free content exist to serve the searcher?”

In the end, it all comes down to search engines trying to provide the best quality content they can. The search engines don’t want to direct users to content that will be hard to make sense of, and technical errors can severely impact a well thought-out argument.

As always, the best way to approach the issue is to simply write content for your readers. If your content can communicate clearly to your audience, the search engines shouldn’t have any problems with it. But, if a real person has trouble understanding you, the search engines aren’t going to do you any favors.

Synergy

Often, online marketers talk about search engine optimization (SEO) and social media marketing as if they are entirely separate. However, online marketing is often better perceived as a complex interconnected system which is best met with a more holistic approach. SEO and social media are especially compatible bed fellows and if you get the two working together properly you’ll see incredible improvements to both sides that couldn’t be accomplished alone.

A well joined strategy can see huge benefits in numerous areas such as outreach and promotion, content creation, brand management, and goal tracking. In the end, this all means more dollars in the bank for everyone involved. Purna Virji has some tips to help get the two running together instead of apart.

1) Use Promoted Posts to Scale Outreach and Link Building

SEO professionals spend a lot of time attempting to earn high-quality links, while the social media team normally aims to reach out and interact with their audience to build their brand. These may seem like unique tasks, but in reality they are very similar.

Well earned links often require outreach to begin with. You can’t just buy links (well, you can but Google won’t like it) so one of the best ways to earn links in the current field requires creating and sharing content. Just about every online brand has their own blogs these days, but they often expect them to pull their weight on their own. Writers post to the blog, and expect people to simply find their content. At best they share them directly to Facebook and Twitter for free and leave it at that.

Marty Weintraub from aimClear suggests taking it further and making sure your best content gets out to the public with Paid Organic Distribution. Instead of leaving the blog content to languish on its own, you can use Facebook to search out the perfect demographic that will enjoy and respond to your content. You want to look for those who are likely to share, but also seem right for your content. Then, you target them with promoted posts.

This strategy allows you to reach out to possible customers who may have not interacted with your brand before while also offering them something of value. Then, with a well-placed call to action you encourage them to share, driving more organic traffic and scaling up your link building efforts all at once. Best of all, this traffic is more likely to convert once on your site, which can help improve profits.

2) Create More Effective Content

As I previously indicated, one of the most important efforts for SEO professionals these days is creating quality content. It improves how Google perceives your site while also opening up many doors for link building and audience outreach. But what exactly is quality content?

While there are some writers who can magically intuit what their audience wants to know, most of us are secretly writing for ourselves, even if we don’t know it. Instead, using a joint brainstorming session to go over analytics and create a specific content strategy can improve the quality of your content and increase its sharability all at once.

A community manager can offer a great deal of insight into their audience to SEOs, while community managers will appreciate the opportunity to grow and expand their audience with a regular flow of great content. Virji suggests preparing for such a brainstorming session by:

  • Have the SEOs compile a list of which audiences and types of content have resulted in the best campaigns.
  • Have the community manager pull together data on what type of content receives the most shares and audience engagement.
  • Have the SEOs bring in their outreach plan for the coming three months.

This preparation allows you to understand which audiences you should be expanding to and how to better engage the highest performing demographics and cater content to them. You will better understand what gets the best responses and be able to plan ways to create more content that performs highly and less content flops. The community manager will also be able to plan audience engagement activities relevant to your content ahead of time.

3) Engage Influencers

While you can always go straight to your audience, you’ll often see great results from reaching out to those who already have a lot of influence in your field. SEOs will do well to connect with influential bloggers or website owners. Not only can they have a huge impact on your link building efforts, but one link from them can result in a high rate of qualified leads that can lead to conversions.

There are even tools for helping to identify the biggest influencers if you aren’t sure. Klout, FollowerWonk, and Traackr all create lists which will tell you who to engage.

Be careful not to just reach out with a sales pitch. You aren’t trying to gain a link, but build a real relationship between influencer and content creator. Start by sharing their content and retweeting posts, or helping out on community and audience endeavors. Create a reciprocal relationship where the influencer will be inclined to scratch your back in return.
Once you’ve built the relationship, getting them to share links to real quality content will feel natural. Those that see the links will also perceive your brand in higher terms of credibility, as you are co-signed by a trusted influencer.

Blogger Portrait

Source: Marisa Vasquez

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, you’ve likely heard how important creating content is to your SEO strategy. For larger companies, it isn’t hard to find resources for solid content creation, but smaller businesses see a much larger hurdle. Smaller businesses means smaller budgets, but these businesses still need to find a way to market themselves.

Social media and blogs have made it easier than ever to create and share content with your audience, so small businesses have many more feasible options than in the past. This content creates a relationship with your audience and cements your brand as a trusted resource, and it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg as long as you focus on the right types of content. Phillip Thune highlighted four of the best ways small businesses can deliver quality content without destroying their budget.

Blogs

No matter what your marketing strategy, if you have on online presence (which you should) you need to have a blog. A blog is the cornerstone of any SEO or online marketing plans, and it offers you a convenient way to share new products, industry news, and interesting facts with your consumers. Not only does a blog give your company a voice, it also improves your SEO so that more people can find you. Plus, when something gets posted, it can be easily shared to all the most popular social media platforms.

Ebooks

Ebooks are digital books or publications that people can easily receive via the internet. They can then be read on your computer or any tablet or smartphone. These publications share information and establish credibility by showing your expertise to your clients. Most businesses request information such as an email address for these ebooks, so they also generate leads. These require a bit more effort on a single concentrated piece of content, but they often gain more traction than blogs so long as you create something valuable to readers and you share it enough to be seen.

Slide Presentations

You have no doubt put together a few slide presentations throughout your career, and are familiar with their easy-to-read format. They are used for sales presentations and conferences, but they can also be used to share educational content. These slideshows are easily shared on SlideShare, YouTube, or Vimeo, and will help gain trust and reputability within your field.

Press Releases

Press releases have long been the best way to spread information and establish credibility in your market and your local community. They announce information about new products or services, while also showcasing your brand’s place as a respected part of your community. Traditionally, these are shared with journalists or newswires, but they also encourage bloggers and other publications to share your story. Sharing your press releases will help small businesses establish relationships with journalists within your community, but you can also share them online to spread directly to your customers.

Great content can do just about anything you want it to. You want to draw in more visitors? They’ll come for quality content. Need more conversions? Get some great content. In the best cases, it can go viral. But how do you know what great content is? How do you know what the public wants?

The internet is so insanely populated with content at this point that it is just getting harder and harder to stand out. There are many lists like this one, and they offer different opinions in different ways, but what makes one of those articles more attractive than all the others? It answers people’s needs.

That sounds so incredibly basic that many would say there’s no way it is the whole story, but in reality answering to people’s needs is much harder than you think. There are no guaranteed right answers, and the only way to truly know if you gave the public what they want it to get it out there, but you can get some hints beforehand, if you look in the right places.

Jason DeMers shared some ways you can find out what your target audience is looking for and create the content they need. If you want your content to stick out from the rest, you need to know how to understand your audience.

  1. Competitors’ Forums – This slightly controversial method is also one of the easiest ways to get in the mind of your target audience, and it is definitely one of the easiest. Just find the competitor in your field with the best web presence, and keep tabs on what their audience is interested in and responding to. Of course, some argue that this leads to blatant copying or spylike business practices, and I suggest discretion with the tactic, but if you are looking for a quick way to find out what your market wants, this will show you.
  2. Comments Sections – Just like your competitors’ forums, any place where your audience can directly interact with you offers boundless opportunities to find out what they want and need. Comments sections on your own website, as well as others out there like Reddit, are filled with people looking for solutions, and they are often vocal about looking for it. If you keep your eye on places where the public is interacting, you should be able to easily discern what is on their minds.
  3. Surveys – Where comment threads create an open forum feeling of interaction, surveys allow your audience to speak directly to you and tell you what they want and need. You don’t even have to do your own survey if you don’t have the resources. Just keep your eyes on other public surveys going on. They are everywhere, just look in your daily newspaper.
  4. Product Forums a.k.a. the Support Boards – If you have a niche product and people are looking for support solutions, chances are there is a support board going on somewhere filled with people voicing their problems and opinions all at the same time. In the best situation, you run these boards and can create some good PR while also helping customers and monitoring their interests simultaneously  but even if your customers are using a public forum, you can benefit from listening in.

The public is often very open about their feelings and desires, you just have to go where they are voicing them. The internet offers many popular options, and it is easier than ever to keep tabs on what your target audience is thinking. There isn’t any excuse to ignore their needs.

While we all like to believe our blogs have weight and share important information with mass of internet users out there, the truth is the majority of blogs are white noise in a field so congested that few actually rise above the static and build a reputation and brand image for themselves.

So how do those select few succeed while the others flounder? The top blogs and content based websites out there all do two things that the majority of the other content creators out there don’t do. They produce great content, and they market their content to reach out to the public.

That seems like such an easy plan. While the first part is a combination of talent and dedication, the marketing side is entirely teachable. The problem is, most don’t actually know what great content looks like, at least when it comes time to gauge their own work.

The foundation of great content is almost always writing ability. You may not be the best writer at the start, but over time you can refine your voice and motivation for writing, and before long, you will be much better. But being able to write well doesn’t mean you’re automatically creating great content. Data is what raises competent writing to the level of great content.

Bloggers can write formally, but the blogging medium is largely used for subjective sharing. People don’t look for boring press releases when they search blogs. They are looking for one person to share their experience and information on a topic in a way that hopefully cuts past the normal politics that make up other advertising formats. The problem is, subjective information isn’t very useful unless you back it up with real quantitative information. It just isn’t very believable without stats and data to prove your point.

Just throwing objective data into a blog post won’t make your mediocre content great however. You have to know how to use the data within your post and build your argument around that data. Chris Warden gives some examples of blogs that do just that, as well as explaining more about how you can improve your content with objective data, all at Search Engine Journal.

300px-Free_Content_Logo.svgContent marketing is becoming more and more of a talking point for SEO services as more people realize they can’t try to trick search engines with pages strictly for the search crawlers and shady link profiles, but many don’t realize this is also changing the standards for content.

Content has always been an important part of an SEO campaign, but it is indisputable that its status is being raised within Google and they are tightening their guidelines. You can’t just stuff keywords into a wall of barely legible text and expect Google to think your page has value. Now your content must be informational, resourceful, and actually captivating.

The biggest question for most is what type of content they need. If they’ve done any research, they might come to you with a list of types of content like infographics and webinars they “need” according to “the internet”, but more likely you will just get asked the broad question of what type of content will be needed. Once you know their business, you can probably make some good guesses, but making a wide statement for what type of content works is a farce.

While blog posts are always a good place to start with creating content, infographics or ebooks will only help relevant areas. A nursing home probably won’t be able to find a relevant infographic, because that way of delivering information doesn’t work well for portraying the complex and focused care they will be giving loved ones. Similarly, videos don’t make much sense for a photographer to have, and tutorials don’t have much place in a medical website.

Most importantly, the content has to be quality, and it has to fit your companies needs. Even if you are delivering daily blog posts and guest blogs, they won’t have any effect if they aren’t worth reading. The best way to know what type of content you need to be making is trying to think like your competitors and customers. If you can make users happy with your website, you are already well on your way to making Google happy with your content.

Speaking of your competitors, you can do competitive analysis to find out what is working for them. I don’t mean scoping out their site and seeing what they have that you don’t. Instead you can use a number of sites and tools to see what is doing well on their site compared to yours, which will give you a good indication what type of content you should be making. Josh McCoy collected a few of those for you to get the jump on your competition.

There are more than a few articles out there telling you the “right” way to do link building. Despite what they say, link building isn’t a uniform process for every website. If it was, it would probably be able to be totally automated at this point. There are more than a few wrong ways to do link building, but the right link building process for your site depends on a lot of different factors. Pratik Dholakiya explains why there will never be a single “right” link building strategy.

Repeatable Means Replaceable – An easily-explainable and easily accomplishable link building strategy sounds great, but it isn’t good in a competitive market. Any strategy simple enough to be easily copied, can be easily scaled. A smart, unique strategy will out-think your competition, but a repeatable strategy means it will be a competition of who can spend more on scaling.

Search Engines Don’t Stay The Same – There will never be a “one-size-fits-all” strategy for link building because the internet doesn’t sit still. Everything is constantly being made obsolete and reworked. In the past, link building was only about the number of links you could get. Now, search engines judge the quality of links, devalue paid links, automated links, press releases, and many other forms of old “standards.” Even if you find the perfect link building strategy for your site, it won’t work forever. It might even stop working next week.

Every Niche is Different – Link building inevitably relies on the creation and sharing of content. The better the content is, the more impact it will have on a site’s performance, and the quality of the links being generated. But, content comes in virtually endless forms, and different content is more appropriate for different industries. SEO loves long informative blog posts, lists, eBooks, infographics, and that type of thing, but long blog posts and videos don’t work as well on web design blogs. Restaurants looking for links won’t have any use for infographics, but photographs and social media will be essential for their market. You have to find what works for your specific website.

Even if you already know that link building isn’t easy or uniform, it is easy to fall into habits and using the same strategies over and over. Every website is different, and link building has to be tailored to each individual site, otherwise there will always be wasted potential.

When trying to pump content out for a blog, it is easy to become focused on resharing news or tips essential to the community, especially with SEO. The problem is that SEO changes so quickly, most of these posts go out of date very quickly. This is why every blog needs a good amount of “evergreen content”.

Evergreen content is the term for any posts or articles on your blog that will always be relevant to your content. Sujan Patel from Search Engine Journal uses an example to show the distinction.

If you are running an SEO blog, an article about the latest Penguin update won’t be relevant a week or two later when the next update appears. However, a post like “What is SEO?” will always be important, especially for any new readers you gain. The definition of SEO isn’t going to change, and the overall idea of the industry stays largely consistent, though you may need to update the article every few years.

Evergreen content is always up-to-date and will always be a primary interest for your readers. For blog managers, it offers more effective content, that can be re-run later with the same impact it originally had.  For readers, it is helpful because new readers are always looking for basic information.

I like to think of it like Wikipedia information. Wikipedia articles tend to consist of factual information without touching too much on “best practices” or other time sensitive issues. When someone accesses a Wikipedia article, they want a basic explanation of what something is and why it is important. If you can convey that in an article, you have the recipe for great evergreen content.

The overlap between SEO and content strategy often ends up turning content creation into a marketing ploy, and little more. The blogs cite industry folks and data, and offer tips that are either glaringly obvious or recycled to the point of redundancy.

Guillaume Bouchard from Search Engine Watch has another idea for content creation. Think about what people want, not what “works” within the market. What works changes as fast as the industry can, while what people want stays relatively consistent. Long term success comes from reading what your visitors want.

For SEO professionals, you can follow the 70/20/10 model for a simple model for content creation.

The 70/20/10 model goes like this:

  • 70 percent of content should be low-risk
  • 20 percent should try to improve on what already works
  • 10 percent should be high-risk experimentation

The model comes from Coca-Cola, and can be transferred to SEO pretty easily. Link baiting is low-risk. Optimizing and trying to capitalize on some newer trends in the market covers trying to improve on what works, and that leaves 10 percent experimentation.

70 Percent: The Link Bait – Link baiting certainly has its pros and drawbacks, but for this model just think of it as content made with a purpose. It informs audiences, communicates complicated ideas, and establishes your reputation as an expert. This helps establish your brand in the industry. This acts as the mainstay of your content. Always available, but it can’t be all you have.

20 Percent: Optimize and Sharpen – For optimizing, look at what content is doing the best and what people are saying about your content. Try to improve upon what is doing best, and reinvigorating old debates with new information. Stay aware of trends and ideas in your industry, and react to them with content. This type of content creation helps keep you tuned to the changes in your industry, and keep you relevant, which will always translate to your audience.

10 Percent: Proactive and Reactive Experimentation – Time to have some fun. Experimentation requires really understanding your audience, and being confident enough to have an opinion. Think about fashion trendsetters. They see what is popular now, and act on their impulses in response. Content creation experimentation is all about seeing what is popular in the field, and making new content that people have never seen before.

This model isn’t something to keep set in stone, but it will help keep you relevant and interesting. Those are two things audiences always want.

 

The internet is awash with tips and suggestions for SEO, but there aren’t many articles that clear up those pesky rumors and myths of the industries of optimization and blogging. So I’m here to help tear down those lies people hear and tell themselves about building an audience.

1) Making good content before you have an audience is a waste of good content – This is totally untrue. First impressions are all you get online, and if you are “reserving” all your good stuff for when you have a bunch of visitors, you will never get popular.

It is like selling a product before you’ve made the actual product. If you have just a few people coming to your site but they see good content, they will keep coming back as well as spreading the word. If you have a large amount of people visiting because you are advertising widely, but your content is worthless, they’re all going to leave and never look back.

Yeah, it isn’t fun to make great stuff that only a few are reading, but you have to keep an eye on the future. Great content attracts people eventually, as long as you put in the extra work to promote it. Plus, once you have an audience, they can always still find that great content no one was reading a month ago.

2) Great content will bring an audience – I emphasized that quality content will help attract an audience above and that still rings true, but there is other important work to be done before you’ll gain a crowd. You have to “pound the pavement” so to speak. Neglecting to actually promote the content can end up costing you links in the end.

Rae Hoffman at CopyPress has a full list of strategies for promoting great content, but the biggest emphasis is only push your awesome content. Spending energy on mediocre content won’t go anywhere, but if you can back up your promotion with quality content, you will get the launch you need.

3) Having a unique voice isn’t always possible – If you can’t find your specific voice, then you are doing the wrong type of work for you. Your site will never gain traction if you can’t have your own identity. You need a point of difference, or POD.

Finding your own POD can be as simple as combining seemingly seperate interests into your blogging, such as the girl who runs SkinnyTaste. She was just another amateur photographer who also loved making tasty low fat recipes. Both of those areas are flooded with contributors, but by combining the two into a blog with great recipes and enticing high quality pictures of the food, SkinnyTaste became a contender.

4) I’m not a great writer, so I’ll never be a great blogger – If you have found your own voice or POD, being a technically great writer is irrelevant. Many bloggers would have not gotten great grades in school if they turned in work in the style they blog in because they often make grammatical errors. Readers don’t care however, as long as the writer has a unique voice and interesting information.

5) Once I’ve got an audience, the rest will be easy – Rae Hoffman’s article earlier mentions Perez Hilton in this situation, and I can’t imagine a better blogger to express this point. Perez Hilton became a cultural figure for a short period because of his strong opinions and voice. So where is Perez Hilton now? Still blogging, but his television appearances have fizzled out, and you rarely hear his name brought up anymore. This is because Perez’s blogging became less celebrity journalism filtered through Perez’s voice, and more about why being Perez Hilton is wonderful. His focus left the gossip people were craving, and moved to the benign stories of a psuedo-celebrity.

The point of Perez’s story is once you gain popularity, you can’t rest or slack off. People are coming to you for whatever special information or content you are offering, and if you start slipping that audience will be gone faster than you could ever dream of.

Most of these myths are the type that people tell themselves when they are scared of making the leap into blogging, or the lies people give for why their site is floundering. Don’t let them keep you from getting started making a name for yourself, and if you are struggling, consider whether you’ve found your voice or POD or not.