What’s the ‘Best’ Word Count for Google? [Updated for 2017]

Have you wondered how long a blog post or landing page should be for Google?

Over the years, that number has been a moving target.

Once upon a time, SEO consultants recommended that every page has at least 250 words.

Amazingly, some people considered 250 words “too much content.” “People won’t read all of it,” folks complained. “I don’t want that many words on my page.”

My, how things have changed.

Today, it’s an entirely different story. In many cases, a 250-word blog post could be considered “thin content.”  Now, many companies are creating 5,000+ word in-depth guides to showcase their expertise -and to snag positioning opportunities.

In fact, a 2017 study by ahrefs found the average #1 ranking page will also position for about 1,000 related keywords — which is something super-short content can’t do. Here’s a recent graph from ahrefs showing what this can mean:

Wow, that’s a lot of keywords!

So, what does this study (and others) mean for content producers? Is the age of short copy dead?

Let’s break down the word-count research

HubSpot, in their 2017 post, found their blog post sweet spot was 2,500 words:

 

A recently-updated post, citing a joint study by OKDork and BuzzSumo, says copy over 3,000 words receives more social shares:

Think longer copy is where it’s at? Some experts disagree.

One article discusses that we’re in the “age of skimming” and people won’t read a longer article. Anything too long will get stuck in the tl;dr trap (too long; didn’t read.)

And finally, a 2016 blog post in BuzzSumo (Yes, the same folks who helped with the above study) has this fascinating quote:

I know if you are in content marketing, there is a lot of advice about quality over quantity. Provide something of value, research it well, make it helpful. It is a strategy I have followed at BuzzSumo. I spend a lot of time researching posts, as I did with this one, aiming to produce authoritative, long form content that provides insights which, hopefully, are helpful to marketers. This takes time and I produce around one to two posts a month.

What’s the takeaway? Even the experts can’t agree on the “best” word count for Google.

Yes, it’s true that longer content has more positioning chances. And yes, a 1,500-blog post (or more) can more fully answer the readers’ questions.

But, not every topic lends itself to a longer blog post without pushing the “fluffy content” envelope.

What’s an SEO writer to do?

Your answer: Quit wondering “what Google wants” and focus on your reader.

That means:

– Throw your assumptions out the window. For instance, many writers think long-form sales copy doesn’t work in today’s overstimulated world.

However, companies writing long sales copy all the time — and it works. For instance, product page from Brookstone is over 688 words long. This HubSpot sales page is over 1,300 words.

Plus, Neil Patel found that long-form copy positioned better, plus provided a higher conversion rate and better-quality leads.

It’s true that long copy can clunk — but, that’s true of any poorly-written page. As Seth Godin says, “Please, give me something long (but make it worth my time.)”

– Poll your readers. A simple way to learn what your readers want to read is to ask them (amazing, I know!) You may find that many of their suggested topics would make great in-depth-article fodder or quickie “tips” posts. Free software like Survey Monkey makes running reader surveys a snap.

– Learn from analytics and testing. What posts do people love? What posts fall flat? Are longer posts getting shared more than shorter ones? What are your post bounce rates? Carefully review your analytics, test your content and see what’s clicking with your readers.

– Tighten up your writing.  Godin may write a 150-word post one day and a 1,500-word post the next. And that’s OK. Either way, his word count represents how long it takes to get his point across – and no more. Don’t “fluff up” a page just to meet a certain word-count requirement.

Finally, think about this when you’re writing the copy:

  • Have I said everything I could?
  • Have I overcome all objections?
  • Have I showcased the product or service?
  • Is the keyphrase usage seamless?
  • Does the copy encourage the next conversion step?
  • Have I connected with my reader?

If your answer is “yes,” you’ve done your job.

It’s as simple as that.

(Note: This post originally ran in 2008, and I completely updated it for today’s brave new Google world. I hope you enjoyed it!)

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How to Find Easy SEO Copywriting Opportunities

Did you grow up hearing, “If it’s easy, there must be something wrong with it”?

Yeah. Me too.

Instead of looking for the easy way out, we often look for the most challenging, brutal way to do things. We work harder. We work longer hours. If we’re not suffering, we aren’t trying.

It’s all about the hustle.

Granted, this mentality helps us to a certain extent. Busting out of our comfort zones is important. Sometimes, we have to go through some pain to see some gain (for instance, starting a new workout routine.)

But, what does this mean to our content marketing strategy? Should we always push the content marketing envelope? Are we doomed to live a hamster wheel life, grinding out new content all the time while we suffer in silence?

Many content marketers are grinding it out

If you fall into the “hamster wheel” camp, you’re not alone. In a 2016 study from the Content Marketing Institute, 60 percent said their top challenge was “producing engaging content.”

 

It’s not just B2B companies that are suffering. In-house B2C teams and publishing companies are facing the same levels of content burnout. Often, these teams are required to produce more writing with fewer resources, so creating quality content in an efficient manner is even more important.

Now, instead of telling my in-house SEO copywriting training clients they should write longer blog posts, jump on the latest content marketing bandwagon, or develop yet another brand new content asset, my advice boils down to three words…

Look for easy.

Here’s why…

Easy has a huge benefit.

A parallel I like to make is around exercise.

I love high-intensity exercise. It’s the only thing that makes my brain turn off.

But, it’s hard.

The only way I can do it is to build in rest days. I go to yoga. Or I take a walk. I’ve even thought about Zumba (don’t laugh.) If I push myself too much, I burn out, get sick and have zero energy.

Now, think of this in terms of your content marketing campaign.

Constantly writing (and researching, and promoting) detailed long-form posts is hard.

Publishing daily (or even weekly) for some companies may be the equivalent of engaging in high-intensity exercise without a break.

Balancing search and social without a sustainable plan can cause burnout — fast.

The result? The post quality goes down. The writers (you!) burn out. Sales go down.

You’re pushing so hard towards your goal, you don’t realize you don’t have to push so darn hard all the time.

That’s where finding easy ideas come in. You don’t have to reinvent the content wheel all the time. Nor, do you have to publish 100 percent, brand-new content.

Repurposing is OK. Finding the workarounds is OK. Developing an easy content marketing schedule (as opposed to doing a bunch of things you feel you “should” do for SEO) is OK.

Ready to make your SEO copywriting life a little easier?

Here are some ideas:

  • Repurpose old blog posts and turn them into an email series.
  • Re-optimize old blog posts that have so-so positions.
  • Send social traffic to old posts (hey, those old posts need love too.)
  • Build links to your existing content assets.
  • If a task has been challenging in the past (say, getting subject matter experts to blog,) work around it (for example, interview the experts instead and post the transcripts.)
  • Slice your publication schedule (it’s OK. Really!) Steve Rayson just wrote a great post about why this works.
  • Update an old blog post.
  • Instead of focusing on writing long-form posts every week, consider publishing shorter posts more often.

(Speaking of updating an old blog post…I updated my post on how to conduct a content audit – please check it out and share it with your friends.)

Short on time?

It happens to the best of us. There are some days (or weeks, or months) when making major changes is impossible. Instead, focus on what you can do in the short amount of time you have. Need inspiration? Here’s a list of 23 SEO copywriting tips you can accomplish in five minutes or less.

If you’ve been hitting roadblocks, find the easy workarounds rather than beating your head against the wall.

You’ll be happier. Your content will be better for it.

And yes, you still want to stretch yourself and try new things. Challenging yourself to try something new is a good thing  (I’m challenging myself to hold more webinars this year.)

(If you need more content growth-hacking ideas, check out this great interview with Ann Smarty.)

But, you still need those “rest days.” You still need the easy to balance out the hard.

What did you think?

How are you going to integrate “easy” into your 2017 content strategy? Let me know by posting a comment below!

Do you have questions about SEO copywriting or need expert tips? I answer your questions (and more!) in my weekly newsletter. I’d love it if you signed up — here’s the link!

Link Building for Content Marketers: Interview with Debra Mastaler

Around 16 years ago, I met Debra Mastaler, founder of Alliance-Link — and I was immediately impressed by her intelligence, knowledge and her no-nonsense advice. Debra is a trailblazing woman (in fact, she was one of the first women in SEO) who knows how to set smart, sustainable link marketing campaigns. If you have a chance to see her speak, grab it. You’ll walk away with a wealth of actionable information.

I sat down with Debra to chat about link building for content marketers — and here’s what she had to say. Enjoy!

Let’s start with the big question first: Can content strategists continue to just write copy — or do they need to have a link building strategy in place before they start writing? If they write it, will the links naturally come?

From my experience, not having some type of marketing strategy in place before you begin usually nets little in the way of traffic and links to your content.  You tend to get lost without a map; have an outline first and linking will be easier.

I’ve had very few “wins” with content when I didn’t spend time mapping out:

  1. Who to market the content to and
  2. Where to promote it.

Having a sense of direction before the first word is written is key, know the demographic you want to promote to and find out where that demographic frequents.

When you know who’s interested in your content and where they congregate you’ll have an easier time promoting your content to them.

From there, the links will come if the content is good!

Are some content assets naturally more “linkable?” For instance, you read “create infographics for links” — and then Steve Rayson from BuzzSumo says that infographics drive shares, but not links. What really works?

That’s hard to say and dependent on a couple of things.

First, different types of content work in various market and demographics, it’s important to first identify your market and understand elements within it such as ethnicity, age, gender, income, leisure activities, education, etc.   You should have some idea who is buying your goods and services and what they “like”.

If you don’t know, find out.  It will make your content promotions and inbound link efforts so much easier!   Use sources like the U.S. Census Bureau, FedStats and Reference to help.

From there, identifying trends is next.  Having demographic data is important, but as a link builder I need to be able to learn from the past so I can look into the future.  Once I know who I’m targeting, I look at what worked in the past and use that information to make predications on where to move forward. I set alerts and pull data from current news sources to determine what’s appealing to my target audience.  If I find infographics and/or interviews were solid hits, I will lean in that content direction.

But if not?  I won’t do an infographic just because it’s the tactic du jour in the SEO landscape.  Following the herd is not always the best way to go.

What about Penguin and spammy links? Is this something folks need to worry about if they’re dipping their toes in the link building waters?

Since Google folded the Penguin filter into their algorithm and made it a permanent part of their ranking system, I recommend you not be tempted to use “spammy” links as part of your link building efforts.  Getting out of hot water with Google is time consuming and expensive, best to avoid spammy links and save yourself a lot of heartache.

How can an overwhelmed content creator focus her efforts? Building lots of links? Being choosy and finding the best ones to target?

Search engines place high value on quality pages so content creators should spend time developing partnerships with solid sources that will host their content.  Sources as in well ranked websites with strong traffic and social patterns.  These elements support ongoing SEO efforts and help promote content which will drive traffic and eventually – links.

What are a couple examples of no-brainer, low-hanging fruit link opportunities a lot of site owners and content creators miss?

This depends on your industry or niche really, but in general, everyone should have solid social media accounts in place and should belong to a high profile industry association or Chamber of Commerce.  Both of these items go a long way to establishing credibility for your site and in assisting with content promotion.

Is link building all about SEO? What about sites that offer a nofollow link, but could send tons of targeted traffic?

I am fond of saying, “links help get you ranked but clicks show you deserve to be there”.

If you can get content placed on high traffic sites even if they use nofollow attributes on the links, go for it.

With today’s algorithms, you need “clinks” or clicks and links in order to rank and stay ranked.  Don’t let nofollow attributes stop you if the site has high traffic.

I get “will you link to me” emails all.the.time. 99.9% of the time, I ignore them — these folks are strangers emailing me out of the blue. Having said that, is begging strangers for links a viable strategy?

Many of these emails are generated from outreach software that searches on keywords and do little to personalize or research their requests.  I delete these as well.

But occasionally one will hit my desk I’ll pay attention to, especially one from a website using keywords within my target niche.  I seldom add their links to my site “just because,” but if someone points out a legitimate reason why I should add the link, (replace a broken link) then I may do it.

Before I do, I make sure I research the requesting site well.  If they have an email signature, I click the links.  No signature, I usually ignore the request.

In addition, I’ll run the name of the requesting site for complaints and run the name of the person making the request through Google Plus to see if they have a profile.  I have the Rapportive app installed on my machines so I can see the contacts details in my inbox.

Fail on any of these points and I delete!

Are there certain pages on a site that can be a link-acquiring powerhouse? For instance, cornerstone content pages?

We need to step back and determine where the clicks are coming from before we can answer this one.

If your links are sitting on high traffic, well ranked pages linking to cornerstone content, it makes sense that page will get the most traffic.

But in general, studies have shown your Home and About Us page receive the most clicks overall.  Why?

Studies show Home pages are most generally linked to or cited in media and general content.  Even if they don’t link to the company, they use the name which in turn motivates people to search.  Once on the site, people want to know about the company behind the screen so the About Us page is clicked.

If you want your cornerstone content clicked on repeatedly, re-socialize it periodically and work to have it placed on a site with continuous high traffic.

What’s the wackiest/most original link building campaign that actually worked?

Several years ago I implemented a link building campaign that used free tee-shirts as an incentive.  You link to the site, we give you a shirt. It was an overwhelming success and one of the best campaigns I’ve done, I’m constantly amazed at what people will do for a free tee-shirt.

That said, Google is very much against this type of tactic now, their Link Schemes post pointedly says:

“The following are examples of link schemes which can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results:

Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link”

What made this campaign “wacky” was the niche the client was in; you wouldn’t in a million years think a tee-shirt would be an incentive but boy, were they ever.

Now-a-days I spend more time developing targeted advertising that drives people to landing pages or cornerstone content over running special events. Just as effective but I’ll admit, tee-shirt giveaways are definitely more fun!

What about guest posting? Some folks say it’s “dead,” others say it’s an opportunity goldmine. What do you think?

We still use it as a way to expand reach.  The issue here is finding solid sites to host the content, with competition for space at an all-time high, this is tough!

If content strategists can do just ONE thing to improve their link profile, what would it be?

Beef up your personal link profile by focusing on what you can do for people rather than using it as a place to drop keyword links.

People hire people to solve problems. Get rid of the keyword-keyword links in your bios and tell them how you can help.  Make your bio links conversational instead.

As for site profiles… work to get links from authoritative sites that are frequented by the people buying your products and services.  If sites/pages are ranking well for your terms/industry, work to partner with those companies.

Thanks, Debra! Debra is also a guest trainer for the SEO Copywriting Certification training, sharing her link marketing strategies with my students. Sound intriguing? Here’s more information about the training.

How to Do a Content Audit [Updated for 2017]

 

Imagine if you had to use your old high school photo for your business headshot.

Remember that perm you spent hours teasing? Your super-big hair would be showcased on your LinkedIn profile.

That cool mullet you sported, paired with your Metallica t-shirt? Yup. That’s what readers would see when they clicked over to your “about” page.

Although we’d never throw an old picture of us online, we routinely keep old, subpar content on our sites.

You know, those posts we wrote when we just started blogging.

Or those “experimental” posts that didn’t quite qualify as thin content…yet, we knew they weren’t the greatest when we wrote them.

If you’ve been publishing for awhile, a content audit will help you find those old, outdated content assets and make them shiny and new again. Yes, it’s detailed. Yes, it will take a lot of work.

Let’s get started!

What’s a content audit?

The content audit process involves combing through all your old website posts and evaluating the content from a few different perspectives:

  • Brand voice — does the voice “fit” your company’s current voice?
  • Customer needs — does the content help your customers, or is it outdated or unclear?
  • SEO  — does the content position, or does it require re-optimization?
  • Conversion — does the content help the sales/lead generation process?

According to Rebecca Lieb, “A content audit is the cornerstone of content strategy.” Although it is time- consuming (more on that later), the net result is extremely positive.

Before we get into the content auditing how-to, let’s first discuss…

Why do a content audit on your website, anyway?

It’s easy to forget about all the old content we’ve written (just as it’s easy to “forget” about sporting a mullet!). I have this problem myself. Once a page is in cyberspace, I move on to the next one.

The problem is, those old pages are still active. They’re still in the search results. They’re still on your site. New readers may click through to an old post – and not be overly thrilled with what they see.

That’s not good.

Reviewing your old content provides you tremendous SEO and conversion opportunities:

  • You never have to worry about a client landing on an old page and thinking, “This information hasn’t been accurate in over five years. There’s no way I’d work with this person!”
  • It’s a great opportunity to clean up old links that go nowhere (or, even worse, go places you don’t want people to go anymore!).
  • Revising old posts can sometimes take less time than writing brand new ones. That’s a huge benefit for those weeks when you’re already time-strapped and writing a new blog post seems too overwhelming.
  • Reformatting your posts (adding headlines and subheadlines and creating shorter paragraphs)  make your posts easier to read. This simple change can sometimes decrease your bounce rates and even increase your conversions.
  • Rewriting your Titles (and maybe doing a little keyphrase editing) can increase the page’s SEO power and drive new traffic. Bonus!
  • You can update older, evergreen posts that are still good — but, they need to be brought up to date.
  • You can find posts with old calls-to-actions (or no CTAs) and update them.
  • You can find “holes” in your existing content, and build new content to fill the holes.

In short, auditing your content is an extremely smart move. Tweaking just a few pages a day could have a huge impact on your positions and conversions.

Moz has a great list of reasons on why to perform to perform a content audit. You can check it out here.

How long does a content audit take?

You’re looking at a minimum of five hours for a very small site, to 50 hours (or more) for an extremely large, e-commerce site. Most sites will take somewhere in the 20-30 hour range.

Yes, it’s a lot of time. And yes, it’s worth it. Think of it as a marathon…not a sprint.

My recommendation is to set aside at least 30 minutes a day (more if you can) and keep yourself on a timeline. Because content audits take so long, it’s easy to start strong and put it aside as soon as things get busy (I’ve been there!).

You can also pay someone to conduct a content audit for you. Hiring an SEO content strategist is a great option if you don’t have a lot of time, but I’d recommend keeping it in-house if you can. You can learn a lot about your site (and the opportunities) when you go through it, page-by-page.

Ready to get started? Here’s how to do it!

How to do a content audit for your website

1.  Start with a great content audit tool. I use SEMrush (Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider is another good tool) to spider sites and get a feel for the major issues. SEMrush will showcase the number of pages with major errors (such as no Titles,) as well as other issues like missing alt text, thin content or broken links.

Yes, you can manually check for these issues (we’ll talk about that in a bit) However, some issues (like finding all the broken links) are easier to find with a little computerized help.

Here’s a screenshot of an SEMrush report. This site’s main issues are around links and alt text:

SEMrush

Screenshot from an SEMrush content audit

2.  Create an Excel document (assuming you don’t have one already.) 

Having an Excel document at your fingertips makes it easier for you to indicate the quality of the content, flag what needs fixing, and include other page-specific notes.

If you used a site audit tool, you can export the data to an Excel document (although your spreadsheet may be filled with other data that’s not relevant to your content audit.)

To make things easier, you’ll want to customize the spreadsheet headings based on what’s important to you.

Here’s an example:

 

Many people “grade” their content to help them prioritize their pages. Content with minor (or no) tweaks would receive an A or B grade. If the content is truly bad, a D or F grade is appropriate.

3.  Take a hard look at every page. Yes, I said “every page.” 

There’s no easy way to do this. If you have an Excel document pre-populated with the Titles and URLs, you’ll need to click every URL link and view the page. If you use WordPress, you can view “all posts” and  choose where to start.

Things to check are:

  • Are there typos or other grammatical errors?
  • Are the keyphrases appropriate for the page? Is the page keyphrase-free?
  • Does the content need updating? Maybe your opinion has changed, or the industry has moved in another direction.
  • Is there a way you could make your post more readable? For instance, splitting longer paragraphs into shorter ones. Or, can you add headlines and subheadlines?
  • Is the call to action still relevant – or are you promoting a sale you ran over four years ago?
  • Does the content need a major overhaul? Maybe it’s a good topic, but your writing skills weren’t quite up to snuff back then.
  • Are the links still good, or are they returning a 404 page not found error? Did you make some newbie SEO copywriting errors, like hyperlinking all your keyphrases?
  • Are there low-hanging fruit opportunities, such as writing better Titles or adding meta descriptions?

How to start making changes to your site

Now that you have your to-do list, it’s time to start making changes.  Your content audit should end with a list of recommended next steps, along with a list of high-priority pages. If you are working with a consultant, she should provide action items for the company, recommending how to make the necessary changes.

Many companies integrate their content marketing makeovers into their existing strategy. For instance, a smaller company could benefit from this content marketing strategy:

  • Publish new content: four times a month
  • Re-optimize six pieces of old content
  • Recycle/update one piece of content a month.

You may want to start with the “worst of the worst.” You may want to work in chronological order. Or focus on one thing (like changing Titles) and then backtrack to other issues.

The key is to have a plan and work it.

Have you conducted a content audit on your site? What did you learn? Did a tool or platform make the content audit easier? Lave a comment and let me know!

Ph

Easy Ways to Write Cornerstone Content

Are you looking for a new way to wow your readers — and Google, too?

Smart cat

This smart cat writes cornerstone content. How about you?

Consider writing cornerstone content. It’s an in-depth, authoritative piece of content that answers an important question in your industry better than anyone else does.

The advantage, according to Mike Allton of The Social Media Hat?

“These kinds of extensive posts get exponentially more shares than shorter posts, and that helps drive traffic which increases the already high ranking factor, bringing even more organic search traffic. Those visitors are just as compelled to share the post, thus continuing to feed the process.”

Let’s talk about how to make it happen.

What Makes Content “Cornerstone” and Why It Works

Cornerstone (or “pillar”) posts are usually about 5,000 words. They’re long enough to go into real depth on the topic but short enough to maintain focus.

Still, writing 5,000 words is no small project. — it’s like writing a short e-book or a long white paper. Plus, this isn’t the kind of piece you can just whip up off the top of your head in an hour or two. It takes a lot of research and planning — both for the construction of the post itself and for its promotion.

There are obvious SEO benefits that come with writing pillar posts. They’re a magnet for incoming links, and in terms of conversions, they can do a lot of the heavy lifting at the top of your sales funnel.

Google’s most recent Search Quality Raters’ Guidelines came out in late 2015 (with an update in March of 2016), so the emphasis on useful, authoritative, original content has never been more apparent.

Pillar posts are especially powerful in B2B content marketing because of the way the sales cycle is changing across a wide spectrum of industry verticals. A 2015 study by Forrester found that as many as 74% of B2B buyers do more than half their research online before making a major purchasing decision while a 2014 Accenture study found 83% of them specifically research supplier websites.

B2B vendors can’t afford to ignore these statistics. The majority of buyers aren’t calling vendor sales teams in the initial research stages — they’re going to vendor websites instead. This means that the top of the funnel — your content —  is your salesperson.

And it can’t just sell. Before it can get to talking benefits, your content has to do what the most effective salespeople do during the consultative sales process: build trust.

(Want more proof? In a recent interview, Mike Allton discussed the key role that authoritative, long-form content plays.)

Why Writing Cornerstone Content Isn’t as Hard as You Think

The sheer length of pillar posts is a big reason a lot of people don’t write them. The “10-times-better” benchmark can also be intimidating, even to those who know their stuff. If you do it yourself, it takes time. If you hire a professional, it won’t be cheap — and it shouldn’t be.

But there are a few things that make content creation easier.

For one thing, you don’t have to churn out a pillar post every week. Writing one a quarter can be enough, especially since writing less frequently means you can devote the time to getting it right — leading to a more effective piece in the long run.

In addition, pillar posts are a repurposing goldmine. Once you have one written, you can repurpose it for any number of content types, including:

  • Infographics;
  • Shorter blog posts on related subjects;
  • Webinars;
  • Slide decks;
  • E-books;
  • White papers;
  • Newsletter articles;
  • Interviews with prominent thought leaders.

Not to mention all the related social media and other promotional opportunities these bring with them.

Leverage it right, and a single pillar post can drive your content strategy for many months after the original piece was published. It might be a lot of work, but in the long run, it makes your future content strategy more efficient.

How to Choose the Right Topic

Of course, it’s essential to pick the right topic. It needs to be something your audience cares about. Something that keeps them up at night, that’s crucial to their job, and that’s not self-evident or easy to get right. It also should be a topic that isn’t already done to death.

Sometimes, the question or problem you need to answer is obvious. Other times,  it takes a little digging. And even if you think you know what you want to write about, it is essential to do the research.

Here are some places to get ideas for topics:

Keyphrase research. Check out Google Analytics, SEMRush, or another keyword research tool to see what terms people are searching for around the topics you’re considering. Pay particular attention to questions people ask in the search engines. Run an analysis on a typical question related to your industry, and see what other keyphrases and question phrases come up and which have the most volume – and the least competition.

Social media and forum discussions. Take a look at LinkedIn discussion groups, hashtags on Twitter, and hot topics in industry forums to see what questions seem to preoccupy people. Check out BuzzSumo to find out what content is already killing it in your industry and what topics seem to do well. BuzzSumo is also a great resource for finding influencers to target.

Other industry bloggers. It’s essential to be aware of what other people are publishing on a topic. First, you need to know what’s already heavily covered — no matter how long it is, your post isn’t likely to gain much traction if it’s already been done to death. Second, it’s crucial to look for the gaps in coverage — the questions that aren’t answered anywhere else. These are big opportunities.

Regulatory or industry changes. Are you in a heavily-regulated industry? Or one where the landscape is always changing with new technologies, platforms, and best practices, such as SEO and social media marketing? If that’s the case, you could gain a lot of traction if you’re the first to write about how your audience can solve new challenges around a recent regulatory or industry change.

Your customers. Even if you’ve spent hours researching online, it can be eye-opening to have a quick chat with an actual member of the audience you’re trying to reach. Your best source is often current customers: people who have a clear, proven need for whatever you’re ultimately promoting. Get them to tell you what topics they want to read about most, what problems keep them up at night, and what challenges you can help them solve.

You don’t necessarily have to do this over the phone, of course. You can also send out a quick survey using a service like SurveyMonkey to gauge interest in different topics, send out an email questionnaire, or ask the question on your own social media channels.

Your sales and customer service teams. With the exception of customers themselves, nobody will know more about the challenges your audience faces than the sales and customer service personnel who address them every day. If you work with a company that’s big enough to have these teams, it’s worth it to include them in the conversation when picking a topic.

How to structure cornerstone content

Plan cornerstone content

Ready to plan your cornerstone content? Let’s go!

Cornerstone content is too long and complex to write off the top of your head. It has to be properly structured, and that takes some thought and planning. You need a format that’s broad and meaty enough to merit this type of post, but short enough to provide focus. How-to and definition-type posts tend to do particularly well as formats for this type of content.

No matter which format you choose, however, you’ll have to create an outline before you write. Your outline can be simple or in-depth, but you’ll need to make sure your piece flows logically from one point to another, your thoughts are organized, and you break things up in a readable way.

Derek Halpern has a good suggestion for that: check out your existing blog categories and make a list of the four or five most important ones relevant to your topic. Use those as subhead groupings and expand on the content you’ve already written in this area. This technique not only helps you focus your thoughts and structure, but it gives you an easy template for linking your pillar posts to other posts on your blog — and that is great for SEO.

Since cornerstone content is evergreen (and, by definition, timeless,) set it up as a page on your site — not a post.

The Rules for Cornerstone Content SEO

Rule #1: Do your keyphrase research. It’s pretty trendy these days to think keyphrase research is dead. The thinking goes like this: because Google has gotten so much better at judging searchers’ intent, you don’t actually have to use keyphrases in your copy. You can just write phenomenal content around that subject, and the rankings will magically fall into place.

There’s a grain of truth to this. But mostly, it’s wrong.

Yes, it’s true that keyword stuffing is a very outdated technique. It’s even outdated to use all your keyphrases verbatim, especially when that results in stilted writing. Best practices are always to write naturally and put readability first.

However, as this recent post by Moz’s Rand Fishkin emphasizes, ignoring keyphrase research entirely amounts to shooting yourself in the foot. What you call something internally in your business and industry may not register at all with your audience. You have to know how your audience talks about these concepts in the real world, and you need to use this language in your content.

Beyond SEO, using the right keyphrases (and being findable in Google) positions you as someone who belongs in your readers’ world. If you don’t speak your readers’ language and use their terms, you’ll look out of touch — even if the information you offer is spot on. This is especially true for a B2B audience, which often uses very industry-specific, technical language and terms.

Rule #2: Leverage the questions people ask. When you did your research to pick a topic, you (hopefully) used a keyword research tool to find out what questions people are asking, the language they’re using, and the keyphrase competition. Give your on-page SEO a boost by using those question keyphrases as subheads. Using questions as subheads is also a very effective way to organize a longer post.

Rule #3: Link to other blog posts on your website. Do you have other, related posts? Link to them from your cornerstone content piece. That way, your one post becomes a stand-alone resource on your site.

Don’t Forget to Include Influencers 

Since the days of master copywriter David Ogilvy, it’s been said that the success of any content — even Talking to an influencerthe best, shiniest and most helpful content — is 20% writing and 80% promotion. Best practices for blog post promotion is a pillar post of its own. But since it’s so crucial to your post’s success, I’ve included the tactic I’ve found most helpful: when choosing a topic, give a lot of thought to its potential for influencer tie-in.

If you don’t already know who the influencers are in your industry — prominent journalists, bloggers, social media personalities, and thought leaders — find those people. Who among them has an audience most similar to yours? Who has an interest in the topics you discuss? Whose activities, services, or projects provide an interesting collaboration opportunity?

Especially if your audience isn’t already big or you’re a start-up in a market with some established competitors, getting an influencer to help promote your work can do a huge amount to build your audience and your credibility.

Sure, you can write a post and then send a quick email to a few influencers, asking them to tweet about what you’ve written. But that’s likely to fail, and miserably. You’ll get a lot more traction if you bake your influencer strategy in from the outset. That takes two steps: first, figure out an influencer tie-in strategy for the post at the topic selection and planning stage. And second, build a connection with that influencer well before you publish.

Sometimes, the most effective way to involve an influencer is to involve them directly. Ask them to do an interview or comment directly on the topic. If they’re directly cited or featured, they’ll (hopefully) share the article with their audience once it’s published — dramatically amplifying your promotional reach, and putting you on the map for a large number of new prospects.

Another way is to link to their work, discuss it in a meaningful way at some point in the article, or directly quote something they’ve written. Don’t forget to let the influencer know you cited her. Hopefully, she’ll amplify your message and share it with her audience.

As Stone Temple Consulting’s Eric Enge shared in his interview and SEO Copywriting Certification podcast on influencer marketing, you’ll be far more effective at this if you build up a relationship with an influencer ahead of time.

No, this doesn’t mean stroking or pestering them. It means connecting with them in a meaningful way, be it through social media, blog comments or otherwise engaging with them. It might mean sending a private message that asks for nothing, but instead gives them kudos for an accomplishment or provides some information of value. The idea is to start a conversation, not ask for a favor.

Closing Cornerstone Content Thoughts

The idea of writing cornerstone content pieces can often be intimidating, even for people who blog regularly. The good news is that you don’t have to publish them on a frequent basis. Pillar posts do take careful planning that goes beyond the writing—but they bring enormous benefits that extend long after the date of publication. With the right planning and an influencer marketing, SEO, and repurposing strategy that covers all your bases, you should be able to get a lot of mileage from every one of your pillar posts.

Don’t miss out on exclusive newsletter-only tips and strategies. Sign up for the SEO Copywriting Buzz newsletter today!

Jen Williamson is a copywriter specializing in fun, fearless copy and content for software and B2B sales. She holds certifications from the SEO Content Institute, Meclabs, and Hubspot’s Inbound Sales program. When she’s not working (ha!), she can be found immersed in a good book, teaching herself to knit, or training for her next marathon. In real life, she lives in Brooklyn. Online, you can visit her at her copywriting website, or find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Photo thanks: © Barbara Helgason | Dreamstime.com

© Ivelinr | Dreamstime.com – Time to Plan

 

 

23 Amazing 5-Minute SEO Copywriting Tips to Try Right Now

Five minute timer

How many SEO copywriting tasks can you do in five minutes?

Are you looking for fast, five-minute SEO copywriting fixes?

Here’s a list of 23 amazing SEO writing tips that can boost site traffic, increase conversions and help you gain great Google positions. Best of all, trying a tip will take five minutes or less. Enjoy!

Change a Title

Is a page positioning well, but people ignore it on the search engine results page? It may be time for a Title makeover. Try keeping the same keyphrase focus, but tweak your Title so it reads more like a headline. Compelling Titles see great click-through rates, so experiment with what works.

Change a meta description

So many people ignore the meta description because it’s not important for positioning. Don’t be one of them! A great meta description paired with a killer Title is like a one-two marketing punch on the SERP. Why not tweak a boring description to something that screams “click me” from the search engine results page?

Check one page’s analytics

Some people immediately overwhelm when they log into Google Analytics. If you’re one of them (or if checking analytics keeps falling to the bottom of your to-do list,) try this SEO copywriting tip. Check the analytics for just one page (preferably one that’s important to your conversion flow.) Is the bounce rate too high? Should you change the Title? Make notes of what you’d change.

Brainstorm blog post ideas

The more post ideas you have in your back pocket, the better — especially for those days when you don’t know what to write. Take five minutes and brainstorm as many blog post ideas as you can. You may come up with 17 really bad ideas and three good ones. That’s OK.

Optimize an old post

Many companies started blogging long before they worried about optimizing their posts for SEO. If that’s the case for your site (or your client’s site,) spend five minutes optimizing an old post. It’s amazing how just a few optimization tweaks can make a huge difference in positioning.

Check out BuzzSumo for article ideas

I. Love. BuzzSumo. It’s a great way to discover new article ideas and see what’s getting shared. Plus, it’s a great way to see who linked to and shared a particular post. If you love geeky content data presented in a non-geeky way, you’ll love BuzzSumo.

Email an influencer

Most people contact influencers only when they want something. Instead, try writing a non-pushy note like, “Hey, I really liked your latest post/book/podcast. Thanks for taking the time to create it.” This tip won’t drive immediate site traffic, but it could be the start of a great friendship — and perhaps a site mention down the line. If nothing else, sending a nice note will make your favorite influencer’s day.

Experiment with blog post headlines

Have you ever written multiple headlines and choosing one was a challenge? Try KingSumo’s Headlines WordPress plugin. It lets you test multiple version of a headline. Once the data rolls in, the headline with the best response becomes the permanent post headline. Data-driven decisions are always way better than guessing.

Experiment with social post headlines

Are you cross-posting the same copy to Facebook and Twitter? That may not be the best move. BuzzSumo recently released a study outlining the most popular headline trigrams (three-word phrases) for Facebook and Twitter. Hint: What pulls on Facebook doesn’t work as well on Twitter. Check out the study — the data may surprise you!

Pick a post for repurposing

Did you pen a popular post? Don’t let it hide in your “archives” section. Instead, consider ways you can repurpose your post as a SlideShare PPT, tweets and more. Plus, you can increase your site visits if you link back to your original post.

Post to (or join) a new LinkedIn group

LinkedIn is fantastic (and often underutilized) for B2B marketers. If you’ve lurked in a LinkedIn group for awhile, post a question, a blog post or comment on another’s post. If LinkedIn has been off your marketing radar for awhile, log in and find a group related to your field. Sure, LinkedIn is often a long-play content marketing strategy. Yet, many people (including me) report receiving leads — and sales — attributed to LinkedIn alone.

Do some competitive sleuthing

You never want to copy your competitor’s keyphrase or content strategy. At the same time, competitive information is always nice — and may give you some ideas about how to move forward. A quick competitive analysis in SEMRush will provide lots of data you can deep-dive into later.

Follow a new thought leader

It’s easy to build an “influencer bubble” and forget to expose yourself to new experts. New, smart people are entering the industry all the time — and there may be some “old guard” folks you haven’t heard about. Pick one new person to follow on your social network of choice. You may pick up a bunch of great (and new) information!

Make a list of outstanding content tasks

What’s the biggest SEO content challenge? There’s so much to do and track. Instead of letting those to-do’s float around your head, spend five minutes and make (or update) your list. As an added benefit, you may not wake up at 3 a.m. freaking out about your content tasks any longer.

Add structured data markup to a web page

Don’t be afraid of structured data! Google makes marking up a page easy with it’s Structured Data Markup Helper. All you need to do is follow Google’s (easy) instructions — and Google will automatically generate the schema.org markup for the page.

Check for duplicate content

Many sites that have been “locally SEO’ed” have duplicate location-specific content pages. If this sounds like your site (or your client’s site,) count the number of duplicate pages and put rewriting them as a “to do” on your outstanding content task list. You’ll want to rewrite those pages as soon as possible.

Tweak an image alt tag

Is image SEO important to your site? Choose a page and see how you can make your good image alt tags even better. Remember a great image alt describes an image in a non-spammy way — so check for keyphrase stuffing and make any necessary corrections. (Thanks, Brandon John Smithwick)

Writing local content? Try this tip.

Do you write a lot of local content? Try a search using the ”(Activity) (Close to/ nearby) (Place)” formula.  For example, there are only four results for [Clubs near Mission Beach]? This tip can help you discover a lot of cool places which can, in turn, help fuel the creative process on future projects.(Thanks,  Jeremiah Malone )

Spot-check a site’s NAP

Do you help clients with local SEO? Make sure the site’s name, address and phone number (NAP) is consistent throughout the site and matches the Google business listing exactly. Any discrepancies can mess with a site’s local listing, so it pays to give a site a quick check.

Spot check Search Console

When’s the last time you logged into Google’s Search Console? Search Console is a treasure-trove of SEO content marketing data. You can check out click-through rates, positions, see your most linked content and more! You can glean a lot of information in just five minutes.

Read a trade publication post

Keeping up with industry news — whether it be SEO, your professional vertical or your client’s industry — is incredibly important. It’s also overwhelming. If you struggle with finding the time to keep up, try to read at least one article a day. Work up to as much time as you can comfortably carve out of your schedule. Chances are, you’ll learn at least one actionable traffic-driving tip you can use on your site (or a client’s site.)

Comment on the post

Granted, there is no SEO benefit here, but this tip could drive traffic. First, bloggers love (sane, well thought out, intelligent) comments. But more importantly, commenting can help you build a relationship with the blogger and other readers. Maybe not right away (because that would be weird.) But over time, people will get to know your perspective — and possibly contact you for more information.

Find question-oriented search terms

People type (and speak) questions into Google all the time. A great way to figure out what people are asking is by using the research tool KeywordTool.io. Yes, you’ll see more data if you sign up for the paid subscription. But, you’ll still see a lot of tasty information if you try their “questions” tab for free.

What other 5-minute SEO copywriting tips would you add to the list? Post your comment below!

Want a handy checklist outlining all 23 tips? Fantastic — I’ve created a handy PDF guide just for you! You’ll get instant access if you sign up for my newsletter (plus, I share tips in my newsletter I don’t share anywhere else!)










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Photo thanks: Davooda | Dreamstime.com

 

 

On Viral Headlines & Bad Listicles: Interview with BuzzSumo’s Steve Rayson

Steve Rayson discusses viral headlinesSince our first interview with Steve Rayson in June 2015 — and only two years after he and co-directors James Blackwell and Henley Wing launched BuzzSumo — the SaaS company has grown by quantum leaps to become a leading content data and analytics platform. And it shows no signs of slowing down.

Nor does Steve, for that matter. We caught up with him to ask about his latest article sharing his insights into viral headlines, which closely parallels his year-end analysis of 2015’s most-shared content. (If you read through all that Steve has researched and published over the past year, you’ll appreciate just how busy he’s been). Enjoy!

In your recent BuzzSumo article reporting on the findings from your research into viral headlines, you break down the viral headline structure into five common elements: Is there one that is absolutely essential to a “clickable” headline?

I don’t think there is a single element. I think if I had to point to the most important element I would probably say the clarity of the promise is key: What will I get if I click through to your content?

I think one of the interesting aspects was how the performance of headlines varied so much from network to network. See the top three word phrases (headline trigrams) across FB and Twitter as an example. So you do have to craft different text when promoting content on the different social networks.

tirgams-twitter-facebook-2

BuzzSumo just released research findings from its joint study with HubSpot on B2B vs. B2C content performance across all the major social networks. Did you find any surprises that relate to your viral headline study?

Not that relate to viral headlines per se, but I think it is interesting to see the importance of Facebook to B2B sharing. Whilst I understand the focus on LinkedIn, I think B2B marketers should not ignore Facebook as it seems to be growing in importance.

b2b-v-b2c-social-sharesIn discussing how well list and “how to” content formats perform across all social networks, you express reluctance in sharing your findings for fear that the web will be saturated with them – particularly in B2B marketing. Why are you especially concerned about B2B?

One concern is simply that we will see the same headlines again and again as people are lazy. My other concern is the appallingly poor quality of many list posts — I mean really poor.

For example, today I clicked to read a post on ‘10 Tips for a Successful Product Launch’. The post was one of those short list posts that add zero value. The advice recommended was that you should:

  • Plan
  • Set measurable goals
  • Launch a product your customers need
  • Define your key message
  • Beta test your product
  • Etc.

You get the idea. It is just a list almost anyone could sit down and write, but it is actually not helpful.

In fact, it is worse than not helpful as it wasted my time. I get frustrated when I click through to these posts. So much so that I am actually developing an app which uses a combination of algorithms and human filtering to suggest helpful or valuable content so you don’t waste time on these types of list posts.

This sounds similar to what Google does with its Panda algorithm and Search Quality Raters guidelines. Is this the case? Will the app be integrated into the existing BuzzSumo platform or will it stand alone as its own set of search returns?

It is called Anders Pink (B2B Marketing) and is separate from BuzzSumo. In essence, you set up an Anders Pink stream and our algorithm filters content for your team.

You can add RSS feeds, content shared by influencers or published by specific sites. For all of them you can filter by keywords; for example, “only show content shared by these 10 influencers about influencer marketing”. Then your team can rate, flag and comment on new content, so you can further filter it by the most highly rated by your team and ignore the rest.

So in the wider scheme of marketing things, what overall headline creation and content sharing strategies would you suggest? 

Headlines matter and you can increase shares by adopting the viral content elements and structure in your headline that I outlined in my blog post.

That said, I think you have to research and test what works in your area. As I always say, you need to be clear about your amplification strategy before you write content: who will share or link to the content, and why?

You also need to spend as much time on amplifying your content as creating it.

Finally, findings from a study of 3 million paid link headline click-through rates conducted by HubSpot and Outbrain (Data Driven Strategies for Writing Effective Titles & Headlines) seem to contradict BuzzSumo’s. Specifically, they report that headlines with the words “how to” and “amazing” all hurt CTRs by as much as 59 percent. What do you make of that? Is it merely a difference between “clicks” and “shares”? Or does it have to with the nature of the headlines studied?

This Outbrain study from 2013-14 was very different and was about the clicks through from headlines on Outbrain promoted content. Thus it was not about content headlines per se but the adverts that promote content.

I think this explains some of the differences but it is mainly about a different context. The Outbrain study is about Outbrain-promoted content and the headlines they use to get people to click through to a promoted article. Its headlines are the featured posts you see at the bottom of an article on say “Time” or a major publisher, as shown in the image below. This example is typical — the 4 ‘around the web’ stories are from Outbrain.

TimeThus Outbrain-promoted headlines occur in the context of an article someone is reading on a major publisher.

What are people looking for at the end of an article on say Time? I think it is very unlikely to be a tip or a how to post. Thus you wouldn’t be surprised to see ‘how to’ posts perform badly in this context. However, if you were on LinkedIn or a social site and browsing for ideas on how to improve performance, you are probably going to be much more interested in a ‘how to’ post.

So context to me plays an important role and explains the differences, I suspect. If you look at the article from Time on the Federal Reserve as an example, at the bottom OutBrain are promoting a set of articles that are not relevant to the post.

Personally I don’t like these article placements, but people say they work as you can get your content exposed on major publications.

So the Outbrain survey is very specific; it is not about article headlines but the headlines used in these article promotions. I don’t think this is typically how people find content, particularly when it comes to B2B content. I can see how entertaining content may work better.

And yes, the Outbrain survey was on click-throughs to articles while our focus of course was on the articles people shared, i.e., they were engaged with the content or felt it had enough value to share the post. There is a big difference between what motivates me to click through to an article advertised on Time and what motivates me to share with my audience. So you can’t really compare.

That said, Outbrain actually found “When used in the headline, the words ‘amazing’ and ‘photo’ increase page views per session”. This is consistent with our findings about these terms when it comes to engagement and shares.

OutBrain

OutBrain says “while ‘amazing’ may only attract a small audience, this is an audience that continues to be highly engaged.” Thus it seems to me that this is consistent, that this highly engaged audience is more likely to share the content.

I hope this explains my views.

Abundantly, thank you! And thank you for sharing  your time with us, Steve. 🙂

Connect with Steve on Twitter and LinkedIn

Photo thanks: Phoebus87 at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia.org

 

 

 

5 Ways to Breathe New Life into Your Old Content

spring-849173_960_720With the flurry of the New Year behind us and the first quarter approaching its end, now is an opportune time to revisit our content plan for the year.

We would all love to consistently publish content that readers adore, but that’s simply not realistic or attainable for most of us. But what if there were a way to produce content we know readers would love? And how could we find that out?

Easy. See what has worked to date and then recycle or repurpose it.

The quickest and surest way to find our most popular content is by looking at our analytics.

Finding Your Best Performing Content

Google Analytics is a powerful tool that is not always used to its full potential. If you’re just looking at Audience > Overview, then you’re missing a lot of the most revealing details.

In the left-hand navigation, look for Behavior. From there, click on Site Content, then Landing Pages. This will show you a list of all landing pages for the site, sorted by most to least visits.

Google Analytics Data

You can further refine these results by clicking on +Add Segment and selecting Organic Sessions. As you remove the “All Sessions” segment, you will be left with only organic traffic data.

Choose the date range of January 1, 2015 – December 31, 2015. Google Analytics will now show you a list of the top organic landing pages on your site.

What to do with this information

Once we have the list of top URLs, we can further sort them by blog posts (those that contain /blog/ in the URL).

In the search box above the conversion data section of the Google Analytics chart (located to the top right), type “blog” (minus the quotes) into the search box and click the search icon:

Google Analytics Blog Search

This will provide us will all of our blog content. From this data, we can see which posts have had the most organic activity and then recycle that content in another blog post or repurpose it for different content formats.

Repurposing Your Content

Regardless of your niche, there is a lot of competition. The goal is, or should be, to stand out and be helpful. Repurposing your existing content in different formats will help to achieve that.

Now that you know which pieces of your content perform well, it’s time to see how we can reinvent them.

Reformat Content

Review each blog post. Are there any similarities among them? Formatting is important because it determines how a user will digest the information.

Suppose that the content provided is the best available and answers all questions completely. When reading it however, it’s single spaced and has no images. Chances are this page will not gain much visibility.

To ensure each post is scannable and visually appealing, make sure it has the following:

  • Images that correspond with the content
  • Bullet points for easy to read steps
  • Header tags to guide the eye and organize content into focused chunks
  • Internal and external links to create increased value and convenience for the user

If one of your high-performing posts from 2015 is missing one or more of these elements, consider revising and reposting it using this formatting checklist.

Leverage SlideShare

Aside from your blog, there are many other ways to reach your potential audience. For example, SlideShare is a great way to repurpose your content in a quick and easily digestable format. The LinkedIn-owned website allows people to upload or create slides on any topic. The presentation can then be shared on social media sites or embedded in blog posts, like this:

How to repurpose your content in 2016 by Joseph Rega

Add Infographics

By now we have all seen an infographic on one topic or another. Infographics are a great way to visually represent the data you wish to present. They are very popular and shared frequently.

Sample Infographic

Add the infographic to the post you’re pulling the content from and be sure to include social icons. This will make it easier for users to directly share your content.

Create Videos

Video continues to increase in popularity and will be an essential part of content marketing strategy in 2016. With video, you can have someone from your company, or your client’s company, discuss the topics covered in the blog post you’re repurposing. For example:

After the video has been recorded (and edited) it can be uploaded to YouTube with a link back to the post via the video description. The video can also be embedded in the blog post as a way to enrich the content.

Produce Podcasts

Podcasts are a great way to gain more exposure for your brand. A podcast will allow you to explore your topic deeper by allowing you (and your guest) the freedom to talk through different scenarios.

Like videos, podcasts can also be embedded in the blog post you’re discussing. Adding new media to the page may reduce the bounce rate since you’re providing users with more reasons to stick around.

Podcasts can also be used to link back to your website via the description on the platform, similar to YouTube.

Summing Up

It is important to pay close attention to your best performing content as this is what uses are looking for. Give them what they want and they will keep coming back.

Some ways to repurpose your best content are:

  • Formatting
  • Creating a SlideShare presentation
  • Creating an infographic
  • Making a video on the topic
  • Recording a podcast on the subject

You can choose any or all of these methods to breathe new life into your old, high-performing content.

If you have been successful with any other methods of repurposing your content, we would love to hear about them! Please share them in the comments.

Connect with Joe on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+

Image thanks: Pixabay.com

7 Winning Blog Promotion Tips from The Social Media Hat’s Mike Allton

bullhorn_by_lemasneyIf you’re not already familiar with Mike Allton, there’s no better time to get to know him.

Mike is the CMO for SiteSell and lead “Content Marketing Practitioner” at The Social Media Hat, which only last week was voted one of the top ten social media blogs to follow in 2016 by Social Media Examiner.

For our part, we featured his article on blog promotion in the second of our series about conversions-driving content. In fact, so impressed we were with Mike’s guide – and The Social Media Hat blog – that we asked him if he’d agree to share his expertise with us.

Here, Mike offers his insights into strategies and platforms for promoting your blog, as well as for building your business with blog content.

Enjoy!

Before we delve into questions about blog promotion, would you briefly share with us why you refer to yourself as a “Content Marketing Practitioner”?

Sure! While many businesses will use content marketing as an approach to reach and educate their audience, I don’t just use content marketing. I teach it. Experiment with it. Study new tools and techniques. Therefore, I’ve come to refer to myself as a practitioner, someone who is constantly learning and evolving in the study and use of content marketing, and sharing the results with my audience.

That evolution in my thinking has been mirrored in my writing, as I’ve worked to provide more and more detailed articles that reflect my own experiments and findings.

Your relatively recent article on blog promotion describes your most thorough social media sharing process. What would you recommend as an absolute minimum, core promotion strategy?

That’s a great question. At a minimum, every business needs to have at least one social profile and an invitation for site visitors to subscribe to their email list, so that new content can be promoted to at least one social platform and email list. And of course on the content itself, visitors should be able to easily share it to whichever platforms and networks they’re active on, regardless of which network the business selects.

So you begin to drive traffic to your site through a social channel and email marketing, and you allow your readers and prospects to share to other networks, increasing your content’s reach.

Of all the social media platforms you leverage for blog promotion, you clearly favor Google+.  Could you share with us why you prefer it to the other main social networks?

First, let me say that my preference is a personal one. While there are reasons why I enjoy Google+ so much, that’s not to say that other businesses can’t find equal or greater success on different platforms. That truly depends on the business and target audience.

For myself, I found Google+ to be a refreshing place to connect with and engage with my peers. That’s not just lip service. It’s been truly amazing to grow relationships with fantastic people who have helped me and my business tremendously.

Based purely on referral traffic, Twitter is currently my top social platform, yet Google+ remains my favorite, and where I spend the most quality time. That further illustrates to me how important it is for businesses to have a presence on multiple networks, and to develop an understanding how each platform fits into their overall marketing and business plan.

Besides Google+, you’re also a strong proponent of Twitter. How effective is Twitter for blog promotion, relative to the other main social media platforms? 

Twitter is one of the best platforms for blog promotion overall, at least in my own niche and experience. There are far more tools available to help with sharing and resharing, connecting with your targeted audience, and analyzing the success of your efforts.

That said, it’s all about your audience. If you’re targeting a demographic largely comprised of work-at-home moms, you’ll likely find that Pinterest is your best choice, followed by Facebook. Every blogger and business must do their own research and analysis to determine where their audience is active and approachable, and then develop ways to become organically part of their conversations.

There’s been a lot of discussion around Twitter expanding its character count. What do you think about it? Do you subscribe to the argument that it may “ruin” the platform?

Nope. I generally have a more open view when it comes to platform changes and development. Facebook’s newsfeed changes. Google+ going back into beta. Twitter expanding character counts… other than the occasional brief annoyance at losing a feature I found personally valuable (i.e. Google+ Ripples), I recognize the fact that platforms need to change and develop for a variety of user and business reasons. Those reasons sometimes won’t be immediately understood or universally accepted.

But with rare exception, I find it extremely unlikely that any modification to an existing platform could ruin it. A platform used by hundreds of millions of people around the world every month doesn’t fall out of favor overnight. It takes time and generally a series of poor decisions.

What are your thoughts about syndicating content on LinkedIn to increase its reach? 

Personally, I think it’s a great idea, but tend to avoid actual syndication too often. I prefer to push visitors to my original content on my own website, and instead like to use those platforms for original content.

However, as with everything else in digital marketing, opinions can and should easily change with exceptional testing and analysis. This topic, specifically, is one I plan to test this year. However, measurement of success is going to be elusive. As Mark Schaefer has pointed out, it’s next to impossible to measure how much visibility your content gets when it’s published on external properties.

You mention that you use Pinterest (even though your content, as a rule, is primarily text-based). Does it drive significant traffic to your blog?

Pinterest is great for bloggers. And the more niche and specific you can get with your content, the better platforms like Pinterest may prove to be for you.

And while I don’t create a lot of image content, I do make sure that I have at least one branded, feature image for each and every blog post. And for those articles that are more important to me (for any number of reasons), I’ll take the time to create an image specifically for Pinterest (900 x 1100). I’ve added a custom, hidden field to my new blog post form so that I can upload a Pinterest image that the share buttons will see so that anyone can pin it.

What would you say is the more effective blog promotion strategy overall: email or social media?

Email.

Social media is outstanding for creating and developing relationships, and it’s a necessary step toward moving interested people into your email marketing.

But let’s do some basic math here:

Let’s say you’re a small business who has been working on their marketing for 6 months. You’ve created a nice lead generation resource to collect email addresses, which you’ve shared to social media and other distribution channels routinely. With all of the other content you’ve created and your marketing efforts, you’ve built up 1,000 Facebook Page fans and 1,000 email list subscribers.

The average open rate for email marketing is about 18%, with an average click rate of 1.8%, which means that out of 1,000 email subscribers, 180 will likely open the email and 18 will click through to your latest blog post.

Share the same blog post to your Facebook Page and your post will see the typical “Organic Reach” on Facebook which is about 2%. Click rates vary from 0.22% to 2% depending on the page and audience. But no matter how you slice it, it’s likely that a mere 20 of your fans will see that post, and probably half of them will click through.

Facebook is brilliant for reaching a targeted audience in a number of ways, not the least of which is paid advertising, which is the most cost effective in the world. But for promoting a blog post, email is clearly more effective.

What are the top strategies you’d recommend for building a business using blog content?

You’ll read dozens and dozens of different ideas on how to use and promote blog posts to build and promote a business. But there are two things in particular that you can do that are far more effective than anything else.

First, you have to create long-form content. That means really long blog posts… at least 1,500 words, and preferably more than 2,500. Sound like a lot? It is, but don’t let that scare you. You don’t have to write that much every week. In fact, most successful businesses will create one of these posts, what I call a “Pillar Post”,  per quarter on average.

The pillar post isn’t just long, of course, that’s just a byproduct. It’s long because it extensively and exhaustively covers a topic of particular relevance to the business, and of interest to the target audience. It has to be something that thoroughly answers a question, yet is positioned so that it’s likely readers will want more information or assistance even after they’ve read it all.

These kinds of extensive posts get exponentially more shares than shorter posts, and that helps drive traffic which increases the already high ranking factor, bringing even more organic search traffic. Those visitors are just as compelled to share the post, thus continuing to feed the process.

The post should, of course, have a strong call to action for readers to proceed to the next logical step (call you, read about your services, another article, whatever).

But here’s where the second top strategy kicks in.

With a post like this, let’s assume it’s 5,000 words about how to do something integral to your niche. That’s a long post, and would make for a great PDF download. You can put the entire article on your site, and then let interested readers grab a PDF copy for reference. Better yet, come up with a supplemental resource, like a checklist, that boils the topic down into a one-pager and make that available.

To get the digital download, they just complete an email subscribe form on your article and you set it up to auto respond with a link to download. They’re then part of your email marketing (which is an entire topic for discussion another day… how to leverage email automation to create a series of emails, regular newsletters, and more, to lead prospects down a sales funnel).

There are many other tactics and strategies for building and using blog content, and a lot can stem out of these two. So start there!

Connect with Mike on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+

Image thanks: ID 160597642 © lemasney / deviantart.com

 

 

Savvy Content Promotion Strategies & Techniques Used by the Pros

Content Promotion ResourcesLast month, we shared a series of posts on how to create conversions-driving content. We started with proven copywriting formulas and how-tos on writing clickable headlines and email subject lines and ended with what Google can teach us about copywriting.

In the second article, we shared expert strategies for creating powerful landing pages and engaging content, and touched on content promotion. But since content promotion is now so critical for content marketing success, we thought we’d expand on the subject.

So here are the most authoritative and relevant articles, in-depth guides and specific how-tos on content promotion we could find…this time around!

Content Promotion Tips & Best Practices

The All-in-One Content Marketing Playbook for Startups

By Melani Dizon via Copy Hackers

In this intensive content marketing playbook of “seven repeatable, proven steps”, Melani Dizon begins with content creation and ends with content repurposing. Each of the individual steps is detailed, incorporating specific examples and linking out to expert sources.

Step five, “Promote More Than Seems Reasonable”, involves its own three-step process, conveniently laid out for you in a downloadable spreadsheet at the end of the guide.

Dizon recommends first reading through the entire playbook to get a feel for “the big picture” and then return to each step as needed. You’ll want to keep this gem for reference!

How to Promote Your Content Across Owned, Earned, and Paid Media

By Matthew Gratt via Convince & Convert

BuzzStream’s Matthew Gratt emphasizes that before even creating content, you need to determine how you’ll promote it across owned, earned and paid channels. He writes that all three channels should be integrated and fused into your overarching content marketing strategy if it is to be effective.

Gratt delves into precisely what owned, earned and paid media are, and shares specific techniques and platforms for leveraging each.

He notes that of the three, earned media is the most important (and the most difficult to acquire), as it lends credibility to your content and extends its reach through third-party amplification. This provides a smart framework to consult when formulating your content marketing strategy.

Content Promotion: The Difference Between Brands with Fans & Anonymous Content

By Larry Kim via WordStream

Like Matthew Gratt (above), Larry Kim writes that planning for content promotion should come before you even start creating it. He describes WordStream’s content marketing process, which starts with where they’d like media coverage then creating content tailored to its preferences using the appropriate angle.

Kim then outlines the content promotion and distribution strategies they employ, including pitching influencers, creating visual assets, leveraging social media, remarketing, repurposing and syndication. If you’re trying to build your brand, you’ll want to pay attention to this mini case study of how WordStream built theirs.

8 Nonobvious Tips to Promote Content

By Arnie Kuenn via Content Marketing Institute

Noting that most digital marketers are familiar with promotion strategies such as sharing content on social media networks, Arnie Kuenn discusses eight less obvious content promotion and distribution tools and platforms.

First up is live-streaming video content to users’ Twitter feeds with Meerkat or Periscope, allowing for real-time content distribution and engagement. He recommends Flipboard for creating industry- or location-specific digital magazines, writing the platform provides a superior user experience for desktop, mobile and tablet users.

Alternative tools include BuzzStream for discovering influencers and their contact information and BuzzSumo for its vast database and unparalleled analytical insights. Finally, Kuenn suggests distributing content to communities and blog aggregators like Triberr, Blog Engage and Alltop.

17 Advanced Methods for Promoting Your New Piece of Content

By Aaron Agius via Kissmetrics

Aaron Agius writes that while the advanced promotion methods he describes here are routinely employed by the most successful big brands, they’re available and doable for all content creators.

From asking relevant influencers for a “killer quote” for your article to sharing content with communities to paying for promotion services such as (the relatively inexpensive) Outbrain, these strategies are proven to be effective for those who know how to use them properly. To that end, Agius shares tips, recommended tools and links to resources so you can promote your new content like the big boys.

Need to Crush Content Promotion? Love Your Dealers

By Ian Lurie via Portent

Ian Lurie recommends leveraging the networks of content distributors (“dealers”) for your promotion needs, writing “the best dealers are sites that grow through curation of material related to them”. Specifically, he lists content sharing networks, new and growing toolsets, and industry-specific, user-generated content sites and publications.

Lurie considers content sharing networks such as SlideShare and Medium the premium dealers, as they need your fantastic content as much as you need their distribution. They have a respectable “audience oomph” factor and are “very deliberate about promoting the best stuff.”

Throughout, Lurie provides specific dealer features and benefits, as well as tips for using them effectively. This one’s definitely a keeper!

The Complete Guide to Building Your Blog Audience

By Neil Patel & Aaron Agius via Quick Sprout

This exhaustive guide on blog marketing by Neil Patel and Aaron Agius is divided into 10 chapters, covering all that goes into building blog traffic. It’s specifically designed for readers who are already well versed in how to create content but want to build their brand status and ultimately, generate sales.

Beginning with the basics of building a community and an email list in the first chapter, Patel and Agius go on to more advanced strategies such as SEO, paid search and social ads, content syndication and influencer outreach. If you’re looking to catapult your brand and blog to the next level, then you should find this a valuable resource.

Social Media Platforms, Strategies & Tools for Content Promotion

5 Gospels to Follow on Social Media That are Strategic, Systematic, and Smart

By Jodi Harris via Content Marketing Institute

This article is a useful starting point for thinking about content promotion through social media sharing, providing a savvy lens through which to view and assess your social media strategy. Here, Jodi Harris presents Content Marketing Institute’s Jonathan Crossfield’s acerbic take on using social media via five “gospels”.

When promoting content on social media, he advises caution and details seven guidelines to follow that range from tailoring your message to the medium to adding quality images and the right hashtags. A great resource when mapping out your social media strategy!

Social Media Campaign Planning Guide – The Rocket Formula

By Ian Cleary via RazorSocial

In sharing RazorSocial’s “rocket formula”, Ian Cleary identifies planning as the critical factor in making or breaking a social media campaign. He details nine steps, each with their own component steps, in this extensive guide.

Cleary begins with pre-campaign planning such as selecting the appropriate social platforms, then walks you through the entire process, ending with documenting the results.

He suggests tools to help you with each step and thoroughly explains how to use them. A most helpful guide for content marketers, no matter the size of their budget.

Slideshare Traffic Case Study: From 0 to 243,000 Views in 30 Days

By Ana Hoffman via Traffic Generation Café

Ana Hoffman shares some truly impressive numbers documenting her astonishing success with Slideshare, not the least of which is that the LinkedIn-owned platform is her second largest source of referral traffic.

She details just how she did it, beginning with a five-step process for creating a Slideshare deck. Hoffman then shares seven highly specific tips to fully leverage your presentation, such as optimizing for search and including a call to action.

Finally, she discusses four ways to drive traffic from Slideshare, from being featured in one of its homepage sections to getting it embedded on other sites. An excellent resource you’ll want to bookmark!

13 Instagram Marketing Tips From the Experts

By Cindy King via Social Media Examiner

In her post for Social Media Examiner, the late Cindy King shared Instagram marketing tips and recommended tools from 13 social media experts. Their responses range from the relatively technical (shooting square photos) and analytical (using a custom link shortener to track traffic) to the practical (editorial calendar) and promotional.

Among the promotional tips are partnering with Instagram influencers to expand brand awareness and follower reach, leveraging sponsored ads and taking advantage of trending topics.

Other promotional tips involve strategically using your bio link, whereby you can direct users to a landing page or your most recent content. All of the tips shared are worth investigating!

Your Turn

Hope you find these resources helpful in reaching your content promotion goals! If you know of an actionable guide or article — and yes, that includes your own! — please share it with us in the comments below. Thanks!

Photo thanks: ID 945449 by Unsplash / Pixabay.com