Content Criminal Minds: 11 Essential Goals of a Solid Content Strategy

Does your content strategy have a team leader? It should.

When I first wrote about the characteristics of a strong content strategy in Content Criminal Minds: Why your content needs a BAU, I introduced you to Aaron Hotchner, the team’s leader. He’s known for making sure the team meets its goals. He keeps everyone focused and makes sure everything gets done. It’s a big job, but he does it with a devoted, professional air.

How do you handle all this? Are you dropping the ball?

Does your content strategy address all of your business goals?

Content strategy is a lot like a cake. You have to have just the right mix of ingredients to end up with the perfect dessert. Miss something, and it might be edible, but it’ll be a struggle to turn it into something you can use. (Angel food cake in Jell-o. Yum!)

Your business is the same. It has a range of needs that your content will need to meet.

Like Aaron Hotchner, a solid content strategy should corral and direct your organization’s content so that it accomplishes these 11 essential goals:

1. Generate Customers – Sales copy accomplishes this goal, but it’s not the only example. Customer stories or how-to’s that demonstrate the value of your products or services can do this, too. This content is written directly for people who might buy or convert.

Learn more: How to Write Great Copy Using Storytelling Techniques – Men with Pens

See the technique in action: The Business Case for SEO Content Development: Turn Words Into ACTION! – SEO Copywriting

Case Study: Stitches Online Marketing Campaign and Website – Angie’s Copywriting

2. Attract Links – Written for related businesses and those who already sell to your target audience, content that earns links by triggering an emotional response or providing superior value. Either way, it needs to get attention from the right people.

Learn more: Golden Rules of Linkbaiting – Smashing Magazine

Copywriting Master Class Sneak Peek: Creating Successful Link Bait

See the technique in action: Thomson’s Evolution of Music

David Mihm’s Local Search Ranking Factors

3. Make Specific Connections – Certain people have enough pull in your industry or in related industry to give your business a huge push. You know who they are. Content made to get the attention of these people is the right topic, in the right format, the right tone, and written in just the right way to get their attention and compel them to share.

Learn more: Beyond Social Scoring – The Situational Factor of Influence – Danny Brown

See the technique in action: Stop Writing for Google. Really. Stop it. – Jim Connolly

Crime and Punishment: Are Big Bloggers Taking Dirty Money? – Angie’s Copywriting

4. Generate Buzz – Usually created with a high shock value, this stuff gets a LOT of attention, and not necessarily from a specific audience. News items, current hot topics, reports, and some opinion pieces fit in this category.

Learn more: How to Generate Publicity for Your Business –

See the technique in action: Where Are All the Women SEOs? – Search Engine People

How to Generate Scientific Controversy – Live Granades

5. Build Authority – Pillar content and resources that show your knowledge and expertise in an area. These are the things that set you apart from others — what you’re KNOWN for — but they’ll also get readers returning to your site again and again. This is content you’d want to bookmark if you were a customer.

Learn more: How to Write Great Blog Content – The Pillar Article – Yaro Starak

Killer Flagship Content – Free Ebook – fellow Canadian Chris Garrett

How to Develop the Strategic Pillars to Hold Up Your Content Marketing Strategy – CMI and Chris Moritz

7 Tips on How to Write Sticky, Memorable Blog Posts – ProBlogger

See the technique in action: Remarkablogger’s Diamond Business Blogging Framework (Free eBook with newsletter signup)

31 Days to Build a Better Blog?- ProBlogger (eBook for purchase)

Ultimate Guide to AdWords Remarketing – PPC Hero

6. Retain Customers – Designed for existing customers, this content adds value to those who have already converted. It’s an excellent way to keep them engaged, push upsells, and address issues as they arise.

Learn more: Customer Life Cycle & Content Marketing – Where Do You Stand? – Lee Odden

Marketing Content During the Customer Lifecycle – TopRank

Understanding the Customer Life Cycle – David Loshin

See the technique in action: SEO Copywriting’s Certification Grad Interviews (scroll down a bit to see the interview series) – SEO Copywriting

Trello helps existing customer get even more value from the Trello software (“How to use Trello like a pro”) – Trello Blog

7. Battle Competition – Content that counteracts moves made by your competition. For instance, when your competition releases a new product or takes steps to best you, this content counteracts it and lessens its impact.

Learn more: In Search, Your Competition Isn’t Who You Think – TopRank

Stop Trying to Be Better Than the Competition – Duct Tape Marketing

See the technique in action: While this is a technique that’s done in a bit of a sneaky way, through several bits of content and marketing moves, there is always a more direct route…

Gravity Charge Kills Your Members… – Your Members

(Woothemes Sensei Integration is another good example from the same company)

8. Recapture Lost Sales/Customers – Customers leave for a reason. Usually, it’s because you failed to satisfy a need. This content is designed to address these issues and may even include special offers.

Learn more: Winning Back “Lost” Customers: Who Do You Woo – and How? – Revenue Performance (The formatting is sucky, but the information is solid.)

Designing Effective FAQ Pages – Six Revisions

See the technique in action: The Trello development board addresses this, as well as helps keep current customers excited and tuned in.– Trello Development

9. Expand Your Audience – While serving your target audience is great, it’s not your only option. Content that meets this need often talks about alternative uses for your products or services, but it can also talk about topics on the fringe of your industry.

Learn more: How to Expand Your Blog Audience When Traffic Plateaus – Problogger (section 4)

Why You Shouldn’t Stick to Your Niche – Men with Pens

See the technique in action: Alternative uses for Trello – Trello Blog

10. Trigger Loyalty – This content talks about the traits your customers love most about you – the things that make you special. The idea here is to remind customers of their loyalty to you and share it with others.

Learn more: How to Get Your Customers to Compete With Each Other and Why You Should – Duct Tape Marketing

Building Brand Loyalty 4-Part Series – AYTM

See the technique in action: HPSauceUK’s Movember Competition videos – HPSauceUK’s YouTube Channel

11. Engage – If you hope to build authority, convert visitors, and maintain your existing customer base, you need to engage with others. This content type (like user-generated content or pieces asking for opinions) encourages others to get to know the “real you” — you show your personality, your strengths, and your core values.

Learn more: How to Find & Engage Your Target Audience Online for Profit – Matthew Woodward

See the technique in action: GiffGaff’s Do This Better Campaign – GiffGaff

A1 Steak Sauce’s “Sing For Your Beef” video competition – A.1. YouTube Channel

It’s important to note that, while content may fulfill more than one objective, and some objectives may overlap, your focus should be on one main goal. You also need to make sure your content strategy has balance.

If you only publish content designed to generate customers, you’ll find yourself lacking in other areas, which can make the actual conversions of customers more difficult. The same principle holds for the other core goals – all must work in concert for your organization’s long-term success. Just like Aaron Hotchner’s BAU team.

What goals would you add as an essential part of a strong content strategy?

About the Author ~ Angie Nikoleychuk

A seven-year veteran in the war against boring, crap content, copywriter Angie Nikoleychuk loves writing, but she loves content strategy even more. She’s always up for a challenge and enjoys showing others how much fun (and effective) content can be. When she’s not running Angie’s Copywriting or on Twitter, she can be found doing other weird and wonderful things like geocaching, crafting, or performing as a professional oboist.

Learn SEO copywriting and content marketing best practices. Earn more money. Check into my SEO Copywriting Certification training – today!



Content Criminal Minds: Fast & easy ways to streamline your content strategy

Editor’s note: This is the third in the Content Criminal Minds series by Angie Nikoleychuk. You may want to check out her first post, Why Your Content Needs a BAU, and her second, 11 Essential Goals of a Solid Content Strategy, as they are every bit as creative and resource-rich as this third! – LJC

If you are familiar with the show Criminal Minds, then you know that Aaron Hotchner, the exalted leader of the Criminal Minds BAU Team, makes sure everyone meets their goals – but that’s not his only job. He also needs to organize and track everything they do. You need to do the same thing with your content strategy.

Sounds easy enough. But, if you publish frequently, or work with more than one site, you can spend just as much time tracking everything as you do creating the content. Don’t worry. There is a solution…

What Your Content Strategy Needs

No matter what type of content you create or what industry you work in, a quality content strategy will have the same traits and goals.

It should:

  • Contain a good mix of content styles each week — Having list posts, longer pieces, short tidbits, funny images, controversial discussions, etc. ensures there’s something for everyone.
  • Have a nice mix of content types including images and video.
  • Include clearly defined and easy-to-use themes (categories and/or series) — Can readers get from one part of a series to the next?
  • Take advantage of current hot topics. — If the big topic of the week is women in tech, publish an interview with a leading lady, an opinion piece, or news items that you could tie into the topic.
  • Get readers emotionally involved. — It’s harder for readers to forget about you when you make an impression on them. Do your best to make them feel something. Bonus points if you can get them to act or react.
  • Include notable resources visitors will return to over and over again.
  • Address the needs of each of your target audiences at each phase of the life cycle.


This is just a short list, of course. Your content strategy could have any number of additional needs depending on your assets and where you are in your journey to success.

The real issue for many of us is figuring out how to actually track and do all of this!

How to Make Managing Your Content Strategy Faster and Easier

The answer? Work smarter.

Create a routine that works with your personality/strengths and take advantage of automation. No, I’m not talking about buying cheap articles and spinning them thousands of times. Or, auto-posting and “curating” tons of content published elsewhere. I’m suggesting you automate the mindless stuff, and optimize your time, so you can focus on the things that need your attention: creating content and running your business.

Here are a few ways to make content management faster and easier:

Content Ideas & Generation

  • Make use of programs such as Yahoo! Pipes, Huginn, DERI Pipes, or even an RSS reader with a decent tag system to collect and track the latest happenings in your industry and those related to you.
  • Need some inspiration? Try the Content Idea Generator V2 Google Spreadsheet tool from Daniel Butler or the Ultimate Link Building Query Generator (Google Doc) from Gaz Copeland.
  • Short on content? Break longer pieces up into a set of smaller ones and add internal links. You may even want to manage it with plugins like Organize Series.
  • Ideas come at any time. Do yourself a favour and write them down along with links to related images, videos, media, and the source of your inspiration. Then, you can return any time to create the content and finish it up.
  • Don’t sweat the big stuff. Not everything you write has to be a massive undertaking. Usually, I find a quick rant I knock out in 30 minutes will often do better than the pieces I spend hours putting together.


Content Management and Tracking

  • You might be tempted to blog every day, but don’t overdo it. Decide what you can comfortably commit to and stick to it. Remember that all marketing costs time or money. It’s up to you how much of each you’ll “pay”.
  • Plan your content ahead of time. If your brain doesn’t work that way and you can only create when you’re inspired, plan out the basics like a category or content type. Then, create as you get inspired and schedule it in. If you find there are certain goals or topics you can’t seem to cover, find someone else who can or an alternative way of meeting the demand. It might sound silly, but I often find this leads to new and creative ideas I wouldn’t have come up with otherwise.
  • Track everything in a spreadsheet. Include details like the goal of the content, the audience it’s intended for, and how it performed. Getting into the habit can be a bit tough, but you’ll find it gets faster and easier when you train yourself to do it as you go. It will also prevent you from having to keep looking it up.
  • Bring existing and former customers into the conversation. You and your readers will be able to learn a lot from their experiences. Besides, you never know what will happen when customers start interacting with each other.
  • Use an editorial calendar to track your ideas, what’s waiting to go live, and what has gone live. Tools like Trello work great for this, too. In reality, there are tons of other methods and tools. The important thing is to find something that works the way you do.


And don’t forget to track the results of all your hard work:

  • Content shares are important. Who shared? Where? This will help you identify patterns and improve future content.
  • Did you get any backlinks for it? If so, where? What kinds of sites?
  • Who commented? Which audience do they fit in? Can you make use of this connection later?


One Tool to Rule Them All

I know this is a TON of information to remember and track. Want to know how I do it? With a content management spreadsheet. (I’ve made templates available in .xlt and .xltx format.) Enjoy!


About the Author ~ Angie Nikoleychuk

A seven-year veteran in the war against boring, crap content, copywriter Angie Nikoleychuk loves writing, but she loves content strategy even more. She’s always up for a challenge and enjoys showing others how much fun (and effective) content can be. When she’s not running Angie’s Copywriting or on Twitter, she can be found doing other weird and wonderful things like geocaching, crafting, or performing as a professional oboist.


Did you know? You can become certified in SEO copywriting FREE when you register to join me in Phoenix next month for a seminar on freelance SEO Copywriting business-building & advanced SEO topics. Apply by April 30thDetails here





How to Craft a Website Voice Your Readers Will Love

Have you ever wondered what is meant by the “tone and feel” of a webpage, or by a website’s “voice”?

You’re not alone. Having received a number of questions from folks about just this subject, Heather addresses the importance of your web pages’ “voice” in today’s SEO copywriting how-to video post, and specifically how to use it to “speak” to your readers.

1.  You hear a lot about a page’s “voice” or “tone and feel”: so what does that mean?

  • It’s as simple as writing online copy in the same manner as you would speak to a prospect.

It really is as simple as that. So when you are writing content, you want how you say what you say to be in a way that the prospect will think, “okay, this person is just like me…they understand what I need and I feel more comfortable buying from them.”  Establishing that resonance with your readers helps them take that next conversion step.

  • As discussed before, with online copywriting, it is all about the prospect: that prospect is wondering “what’s in it for me?”

It’s one thing to have benefits – and it’s very, very important to have benefits – in your copy, but if you can convey those benefits in your writing in a way that resonates with your target audience, that can make a HUGE difference with conversions.

  • So generic online writing = bad, in that you won’t get the conversions that you want, or the readers that you want, because you’re not connecting with you target audience.

2.  A mini- case study of achieving target audience resonance by changing up a website’s tone and feel:  Fashion Forward for women 25 -35 years old.

This is a well-defined demographic – women 25 to 35 years old – and the copy talks about this discount sterling silver jewelry that’s designed for both daily and evening wear.

That “evening wear” may not be resonating with that target audience, and you can be sure that it’s definitely not resonating with those who shop exquisite Oscar de la Renta jewelry. So if you’re dealing with a younger target audience, they’re probably not shopping high-fashion designer jewelry, especially through that site.

3.  Solution:  copywriting that “sells” the benefits in a different way…

We completely tweeked the copy – altered it’s tone and feel — so it fit that particular target audience.  The site ended up getting a huge increase in conversions because while the copy was saying the same thing, it was saying it in a way that really resonated with the target audience.

The site ended up with a completely different tone and feel – a completely different voice – and that made a huge difference in its effectiveness.

4.  So, before you upload a new page, ask yourself:

  • Does the writing reflect how my target audience communicates?
  • What can I do to make the copy more personal?
  • Am I using terminology that my target audience may not understand?
  • Does the copy “pop” off the page and make you want to take the next action step?

Remember you want your content’s tone and feel to match – resonate with – your target audience, and there is no excuse for boring copy!

Content Criminal Minds: Why Your Content Needs a BAU

I love the show Criminal Minds. I realize this just adds to my nerdy image, but I can’t help it. The show is usually well written. It has a fantastic group of characters, and does a great job of combining science (psychology) with entertainment. (I wouldn’t kick Reid out of bed for spouting statistics, either. Just saying.)

The Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) uses someone’s behaviors and character traits to predict their actions. And like the show’s characters, I’ve made a career out of analyzing and using people’s behaviour. I just use it to influence their actions rather than arrest them.

Introducing Your Personal Content BAU

You may be the only content person in your business, but your content still needs a range of characteristics to be successful. Leave one out and the quality of your content will fall. How you integrate these characteristics and what you do with them will depend on the behavior of your target audiences. (That’s another book…er… post on its own.)

Ready to meet your content BAU?

Management, Organization, and Focus

AhotchAaron Hotchner, the BAU’s exalted leader, is a straight-to-the-point kind of guy. And like Hotchner, your content and content strategy need a leader with the same traits. You need to keep everything organized, keep track of your to-do list (generating customers, getting attention from related businesses, building authority and trust, etc.), and monitor the results of your efforts.

Successful content creation requires a no-nonsense leader, too. Each piece you create has to be complete (introductions, summaries, META data, call-to-action phrases, etc.), and gone over by a ruthless editor.

Formatting, Confidence, and Community Dedication

DmorganCMDerek Morgan is the eye candy. He’s pleasing to look at (read: downright yummy), outgoing, confident, and devoted to his community. Don’t you wish your content strategy had these traits? It should.

Regardless of what industry you’re in, your content strategy should “be pretty” (contain a mix of text, images, and videos and have a balanced layout).

Your content should be pretty, too. Everything should be easy to navigate, easy to read, and include whitespace and images. It should be relatable and confident.

And don’t forget: Successful content is rarely self-serving. It should enrich the lives of your readers by providing them with information, entertainment, and solutions, not just advertise and push concepts.

Promotion and Communication

JjareauJennifer Jareau (JJ) is the team’s PR person. She deals with the media and acts as a liaison between the BAU, the families, and local law enforcement.

To add JJ to your content BAU, dedicate time to reputation management, audience interaction, and outreach programs. Make sure your message gets to the right people in the right way and always presents the right image for your business.


Facts and Information

SreidSpencer Reid is an eclectic genius who has all the facts, formulas, history, details, and information you could ever need on a subject. (Hey, some girls like bad boys. I just happen to like the ones best described as “a little odd” or “geeky”. We all have our addictions.) And guess what? Spencer is the Criminal Minds equivalent to the facts, links, and details you inject into your content.

While Spencer can often go a bit overboard (you might want to avoid that), his facts are irrefutable and usually pivotal to solving the case. By adding a little (or a lot) of Reid to your content and content strategy, you can have the same reputation. Fact check, fact check, fact check!

Lastly, Reid would never waste time on things that have no value, so why should you? Make sure each marketing effort is earning you some kind of ROI.

Fun, Balance, and Standing Out

Kirsten_VangsnessPenelope Garcia is the fun, outrageous, shocking computer genius in the BAU. She’s perfect for balancing out the dark topics and relieving the emotion strain. Your copy and content strategy needs that, too.

It’s ok to provide serious content like news items and informational/instructional content, but you also need to have fun and show some personality. The stronger and more unique your personality is, the more you’ll stick out, which means you’ll get noticed and be remembered.

Passion and Class

Joe_MantegnaDavid Rossi is notable for his old-world class, handsome charm, and Italian passion. He seems a bit more rough around the edges than the other characters, but he’s dedicated and smart, tactful and insightful. Rossi is key to the team and he should be key to your content strategy, too.

When you’re passionate about something, it shows no matter how hard you try to hide it. Passion will keep your readers enthralled and make sure you’re always doing your best. Rossi’s class, charm, and insightfulness will reflect well on your business and encourage readers to see you as the expert you are.

Who will be part of your content Behavioral Analysis Unit? And the important question: Who is your favorite Criminal Minds character?

About the Author ~ Angie Nikoleychuk

Angie Nikoleychuk is the senior copywriter, consultant & strategist at Angie’s Copywriting Services. She specializes in link bait creation, content strategies, and content optimization. Like to learn more about creating effective link bait? Check out her book entitled Copywriting Master Class: Creating Successful Link Bait.

Criminal Minds images courtesy of Wikimedia

photo thanks to California Cthulu (Will Hart)

Is your content in need of a BAU? Or some fine-tuning? Check into my SEO Content Review service for a low-cost, high-value assessment!



Website Owner or Writer: Who Should Optimize Content?

Keypad with the letters s, e, and o in bright blue for "SEO"In an ideal world, the answer is both. If a writer and a site editor can work together to make sure a piece of content is optimized for Google as well as readers, then you have double the chance that it will actually get done correctly.

Unfortunately, there are amazing editors and amazing writers who simply don’t have a grasp on SEO. Online optimization is something that you really have to study and read about in order to understand, and those just starting might not have that background knowledge.

This is where the blame game starts. If a great piece of content isn’t doing well, you have to ask yourself: was it my job to help optimize that for Google and readers?

Where the writer can help optimize content best

The truth is that there are different aspects of SEO that should be handled by different people who deal with a piece of content. In a few cases, this is the writer more so than the editor. A few of these methods include:

  • Social Media Sharing. This is just one point that has to be put on both lists. Although a writer might not have the following that a company does, this doesn’t mean that a writer shouldn’t share content to readers. Any promotion helps, and the more a writer promotes his/her content the better for not only the company, but his/her personal brand.
  • Keyphrase Strategy. Google only recommends you use a keyword where you are trying to rank in 1-2 percent of the article. Because writers are composing the article, it’s easier for them to be conscious of the keyword and make it sound natural. The keyword that I, the writer, am trying to focus on in this article is “optimize content.”
  • Link Building/PageRank. Writers need to understand the importance of link building and include relevant links within the text of the article. Writers know the content better than website owners or editors, so it is the job of the writer to understand what links are important and beneficial for the content.

If you’re a writer and you really don’t know anything about SEO, don’t sweat it. The above is more-or-less all that you need to know! It helps to gain a background understanding of SEO to help, but until then your SEO responsibilities are some that you can, well, fake. Your number one job is to write great content, and your number two job is to do a couple of the things discussed above whether you understand them or not.

Where the website owner can help optimize content best

Website owners often don’t have as much trouble as writers because they can hire someone to help, but their responsibilities are usually more involved. If you can’t hire an SEO agency who really understands optimizing content, there are a few things that your website team needs to make sure it takes care of (and doesn’t put in the hands of a writer):

  • Keyword Research. A company is the one who should complete keyword research and then hand over those keywords to the writer. Keyword research involves analyze a lot of data and understanding the industry and the different competition. A writer should focus more on the creative, and the web editor needs to focus on the analytical.
  • Social Media Sharing. And here it is again. The website must promote all content (even guest posting content). With the increased importance of Google+, how often your content gets shared can make a difference in your Google ranking.
  • SEO Plugin Information. When it comes time to actually upload an article, consider putting this in the hands of the content editor. Many websites allow writers to upload his/her own content, but not all writers completely understand the software. Whether you’re uploading the content or the writer is, it should be the job of the site owner or editor to review and double check that your SEO plugin is giving you a solid score.

It is a bit more important for a web editor to really understand optimization in case something doesn’t go as planned. You can always re-optimize a piece of content (optimize for a different keyword, improve aspects such as keyword placement, etc.), so it’s important to continually analyze click-through rates and rankings so you know what needs to be done.

Other people involved in optimizing content

As most could have suspected, there are more hands involved in optimizing content (or that could be involved) than simply just the writer and the editor. A few other positions include:

  • Website owner/CEO of the company (whether he/she has a background in SEO or not).
  • The entire website team can help share content and read for errors/confusion.
  • Realize that bloggers sometimes differ from writers.
  • PR professionals and agency workers.

Do you think there are any SEO considerations that should be put into one of the two categories? Is there another third-party that you have found helped you optimize content? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

About the Author ~ Amanda DiSilvestro

Amanda gives small business and entrepreneurs SEO advice ranging from content optimization to recovering from algorithm updates. She writes for HigherVisibility, a nationally recognized SEO firm that offers national and local SEO service to a wide range of companies across the country.  You can find Amanda on LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter @ADiSilvestro.

image thanks to SEOPlanter

Wake up, You’re in the Social SEO Copywriting Business!

Star Trek's Commander Picard asks "How can you say you're social when you never say anything socially?"If you remember the good ole’ SEO copywriting days of yon, you may recall a tool that was all the rage for a couple of years called the Keyword Density Counter.

It was a dark time in SEO, when we could rank for just about anything simply by inserting our keywords of choice in the title, description and a few times throughout the copy.

The more you could squish in there, the better! Keyword counters were everywhere online; all you had to do was drop in your text to see whether you hit that magical 5 to 7% goal your client had requested.

I still see people ask for a specific keyword density but now, it makes my brain hurt.

Tactics like keyword density just don’t work anymore, but that’s old news. Optimizing content for search engines requires more finesse and now, optimizing for human readers is critical. There are literally hundreds of factors affecting your content’s search ranking, not the least of which are trust, authority, and engagement.

Social media is hands down the best content promotion tool out there. Though many will argue social activity won’t directly affect the way search engines rank content, getting eyes on your content (and enticing them to stay there) means page views, social shares, lower bounce rates and hopefully conversions.

Audiences have matured and we’ve had to take another step back and learn to factor social sharing in earlier in the game. It’s not enough to say what you want to say and hope for the best; a holistic online marketing strategy requires that social promotion is baked into your content right from the planning phase.

Plan for Social Promotion

Ideally, you’re no longer planning content based on what it is you want people to hear about your company. When the purpose of your blog posts, press releases, website copy or other content is to attract people to your business and convert them to customers, your content needs to offer them some value, by way of informing, convincing, or entertaining.

Visitors Flow - Google Analytics


Using the data available to you, choose topics and angles based on what it is your readers are looking for, even if they haven’t expressly told you.

A few great sources of information you already have at your disposal include:

  • Site analytics – How are people arriving at your site and what were they looking for? Check out the Visitors Flow section, in particular (see the above image) – it’s a great source of information to inform your content plan. See where visitors drop off (shown in red). Is there an opportunity to retain their attention by building out on a topic in which they lost interest?
  • Social media activity – What are people asking you about on your social channels or discussing outside your network? Listen actively and plan content to address the needs you see that aren’t necessarily expressed as such.
  • Trends monitoring – Stay on top of trends across the web and social sites using free tools like Google Trends or Monitter. Plan optimized content to release as annual or monthly trends are surfacing.
  • Competitive intelligence – Use monitoring tools to keep an eye on competitor web and social activity. If you can’t afford a tool like Radian6 or Alterian, start with a few quick and dirty tactics like seeking out negative sentiment or competitor mentions with Twitter’s advanced search. Use these insights to identify audience pain points and solve them with your upcoming content.

Optimize Content for Social Discovery & Sharing

British flag showing TopRank Marketing's shared Flickr image of blog post

Top UK Online Marketing Influencers & Bloggers in 2013

Now that you have your editorial calendar populated with content ideas, get creative and plan for the maximum promotion of each piece before you begin writing.

Here are a few ways to increase the chances your final product will be socially shareable:

  • Interview an expert. Make your blog post the source of information others can’t get anywhere else. If they want to quote the CEO of XYZ Company sharing a specific piece of information, make other publishers refer to you as the source.
  • Include a thought leader. You might interview this person, refer to their previous work or interviews, or otherwise include them in your work. Make sure you do so in a meaningful way to increase their likelihood of promoting the piece.
  • Think about what it is you want people to share. Boil down a paragraph of facts or figures to a bulleted list of factoids for easy reference. What one idea or concept do you want readers to take away from the piece and have you made that clear in your title and description?
  • Connect the dots between your media and content item. Embed a SlideShare illustrating the process you’re describing in the blog post and use the description space available on SlideShare to link back to your post for more information. Embed a YouTube video and link to the post from YouTube. Add an image from your Flickr account and link to the post from there (see the example above, from TopRank blog’s Top UK Online Marketing Influencers & Bloggers in 2013). Make your content discoverable on the media sites from which you pull media content.

Promote the Right Content to the Right Social Audience

I find it amazing (and not in a good way) when I stumble across really great, high quality, interesting content that hasn’t been promoted in a meaningful way. Once you’ve done the legwork to produce an item that you’ve optimized for social sharing, get out there and start sharing!

  • Tag people or companies you’ve mentioned in your post on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. Let them know they’ve been featured and many will share a positive piece of coverage. Better yet, email them a sneak preview and give them a vested interest in promoting your work.
  • Participate and share in LinkedIn or Facebook Groups & Google+ Communities. If you’re not yet the most prolific social marketer in the world, with every person who could possibly be interested in your work already following you, blasting your content out to your own network isn’t enough. Become a resource in the greater community around your industry. Just don’t be a spammer.
  • Repurpose content and optimize for different social networks. Pin your blog post image. Ask a question to go along with your link on Facebook. Pull a few highlights out and use them in the status update section of your Google+ post. Turn your post into a conversation starter by considering your audience needs on each network and tailoring your social post to catch their interest.
  • Actively seek out opportunities to address needs with your content. Hopefully you’re still monitoring the social web… find opportunities to use your content to answer a question or solve a problem. Again, don’t be a spammer.

Planning content with social promotion in mind allows you to maximize the return on your investment of time in each piece… and your time is valuable. Know what it is you want to communicate and how you plan on enticing others to share before you begin writing, to make social promotion an integral part of your content creation process.

I was going to sum this up with a question, but I think to stay true to the column, I’ll just say this: If you found this helpful, share with your writer friends!

About the Author ~ Miranda Miller

Miranda has been writing for the web since long before it was cool or profitable. Over the past several years, she’s completed over 350 client contracts, ghostwritten 60 e-books and one financial guide, and published thousands of articles for herself and clients. She’s also worked in transliteracy, adult education and advertising in her hometown of Owen Sound, Ontario.

photo thanks to Raphaellove

What Google’s authorship markup means for SEO

A distinguished looking authority figureBack in June of 2011 Google announced their support for authorship markup.

The initial impact of this markup was that Google would modify the appearance of the search results to show a picture of the author, as shown in this example search result:







To make this work, you need to have a Google Plus profile, and then you need to properly tag the pages of your site to claim authorship of your articles. You can see a definitive guide to setting up rel author here, and the interview I did with with Google’s Sagar Kamdar on rel author here.

In today’s post, I am going to focus on one main point:

Why Authorship Will Become a Ranking Signal

I will give you 6 reasons, starting with 2 “socially” oriented reasons, followed by 4 more targeted reasons:

1.  Because people relate to people

Interacting with corporate behemoths just does not have a very personal feel to it. People like relating to people. Once someone begins publishing content they begin to reveal bits and pieces of who they are, and other people can relate.

Tracking these interactions (more on this below) can provide a strong indication of how much authority a person has.

The search engines want to figure out what set of SERPs can provide the best result for users, and the existence of these interactive relationships is a strong leading indicator of a satisfactory result.

2.  Because it is no accident that the word “author” is a subset of the word “authority”

People who write presumably know something. At least they think they do. If they don’t the web will clearly send signals that their stuff stinks. At the very least, the people who have something valuable to say are going to draw a lot of extra attention.

3.  Because there is a ton of great data for measurement

Google has access to a lot of information on each author with a profile. Here are the most obvious ones:

  • Comments on the posts
  • Shares of the post
  • Tweets the post receives
  • +1s the post receives
  • Likes the post gets

Google could measure the authority of the people taking these actions as well. Have your article shared by a bunch of known authorities in your space? Great stuff!

These are the simple signals. There are more sophisticated signals they can look at as well. We already know that Google is tracking how long people spend on your site and having that impact your authorship results is something I discuss in point 6 of my recent post at Search Engine Watch: SEO Revelations for 2013.

4.  Because an author will show their stripes

You may have a small-ish blog that you are trying to build up. Think about the implications to Google if you manage to get yourself a guest posting gig on a major site, such as the New York Times or the Huffington Post. Think that might convey some authority to your blog?

On the other side of the coin, think about what happens if you write a few articles on very high quality sites, Google then shows your blog more highly in the results, you get lots of traffic, and no one interacts with it.

That would be an uh-oh.

The music world is filled with one hit wonders, and so it is with writers. The most authoritative writers keep delivering time after time. Not everything has to be a hit, no one does that, but repeat hits over time would be a great thing.

5.  Because you can see Google investing heavily in it

As I showed above, basic markup showing your picture next to your articles is a great thing. A quick search on rel author CTR shows articles claiming an increase in the CTR (click through rate) on their articles ranging from 30% to 484%!

Part of Google’s investment in the concept has them looking to track authorship even if you don’t use rel=author tagging.

Here is an example of where they found my author name on a page and attributed an article to me.
















The irony of this is that the post has rel=author markup on it, attributing it to Stephan Spencer. However, Google saw my name further down in the attribution for the article, and used that to decide that I wrote the post.

Google has since fixed this problem, so the article now shows the article properly tagged:












Even though they fixed it, the point is that they are looking to determine authorship of content with or without the markup.

6.  Because Matt Cutts already hinted it will

Not with me on this yet? Let’s see what Matt Cutts said in October:

“…over time, as we start to learn more about who the high quality authors are, you could imagine that starting to affect rankings.”

Note the focus on rankings benefits for “high quality authors”. The main trick that Google will have to come up with is a way to adjust for the fact that many people who are high quality authors will not use the rel=author markup.

They also can’t give you a bonus simply because you use the markup. If you use it, and you write crap, I would bet that it will hurt you. And, as I noted above, I believe that they will continue to try and determine authorship with or without the markup in place.

3 take aways for SEO content marketers

I don’t think that authorship will become a dominant signal, but I do see it bringing significant benefits to those who have a strong trail of articles and posts that are well received on the web.

If you are considering content marketing as part of your promotional mix, make sure you do three things:

1. Strive for the highest possible quality content. Make sure you track and measure user interaction to help you see what works and what doesn’t, and adjust your content plan accordingly.

2. Post great stuff on your site, and find other very high quality sites for posting your articles as well.

3. Use proper rel=author markup to make it easier for Google to know where your content is showing up!

As a bonus, consider getting high authority authors to contribute content to your site too. That association with you would help as well!


About the Author ~ Eric Enge 

Eric Enge is the CEO and founder of Stone Temple Consulting. Eric publishes regular columns at Search Engine Watch, Search Engine Land, and the Stone Temple blog. Eric is also co-author of “The Art of SEO” along with Stephan Spencer, Rand Fishkin, and Jessie Stricchiola.

You can follow Eric on Twitter and Google+.


photo thanks to 85photo

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Beyond Keywords: Understanding Semantic Analysis

Semantics ~ The meaning of a word, phrase, sentence, or text

semantics-hummingbirdI spent quite a bit of time thinking about what I could best offer the world of copywriting from the “technical” SEO perspective. At the end of the day? It all comes down to words and the associations they convey. So let’s deal with the singularly most important concept that comes to mind: semantics.

Going down this road is important because far too often you will run into clients that express their need to have a given group of keywords to be hammered on ad nauseam. This not only leads to some poorly constructed content, but often doesn’t leverage how search engines actually look at it.

You need some ammunition to combat this short-sighted approach, so that’s what we’re going to look at today!

No, We’re Not Talking Code

First things first, when we talk about “semantics” in this context, it’s not about the code that also bears the same name. (You know, the mark-up that is part of the world of web development and surfacing content.)

We are, in fact, talking about information retrieval and how search engines perform semantic analysis on content as they crawl and index it.

There are myriad flavours, including some you may or may not have heard of such as:

  • Latent Semantic Analysis
  • Probabilistic Latent Semantic Analysis
  • Hidden Topic Markov Model
  • Latent Dirichlet Allocation
  • Phrase Based Information Retrieval

Yes, a whole bunch of fancy names to be certain. Feel free to research those, but we’ll avoid the uber-geeky definitions for now. They’re all just variants of natural language processing that search engines may or may not be using. It’s not related to the code-based approaches known as the “semantic web”. This is about words.

Keywords are Short Sighted

Now that we’re past that, let’s get back to the problem we looked at off the top: clients that are addicted to keywords. Sadly, the SEO world has yet to fully move past this. In the modern search world we want to target “phrases” more so than singular keywords. One- and two-word searches are rare in comparison with more complex search tasks performed by the end user. This is enough for us to consider using (“long-tail”) keyphrases over keywords.

The next issue that arises is that clients will want to stuff multiple instances of said keywords in the copy and, in an attempt to feed the perceived semantic engine, synonyms. Again, this is short-sighted and doesn’t really embrace the concepts related to today’s semantic search capabilities.

You will need to educate clients to break that habit.

Identifying the Concepts

The good news is that most writers will naturally create content that satisfies the food a search engine wants to dine upon. It is often the client of the copywriter that attempts to drag them into the wrong direction.

Let’s look at this in simplistic terms with my favorite example from over the years…

Consider the search query [jaguar]:

  • A big cat
  • A car
  • A football team
  • An operating system
  • …etc…






While crafting the content on our page we want to flesh out the concept being expressed with related words, phrases and concepts to build upon the topicality.

Singular terms and/or phrases might include:

  • Automobiles
  • Cars
  • Autos
  • Vehicle
  • Auto
  • Car

But these are mere synonyms, so we’d expand on that with other relations which might include:

  • Engine
  • Garage
  • Tires
  • Hood
  • Spark plug
  • Keys
  • High Performance

Any guesses which [jaguar] this page is about? Once more, these are singular terms — we’d also build out the core concepts with various phrases, as well as related entities.

In a very simplistic understanding, phrase-based approaches look at top ranking/performing pages for variants of related terms and phrases for scoring purposes. I would recommend reading this post on phrase-based IR (information retrieval) to get a better grip on that stuff.

This ain’t yer daddy’s keyword density myopic approach.

Query Classifications

Another area worth mention in combination with these concepts is “query classification” (more here). This looks at user intent (when searching), and it’s something we should be cognizant of when constructing concepts and terms to be included in any piece of content.

They generally break down into:

  • Informational (seeking information)
  • Transactional (performing an action)
  • Navigational (finding a known entity)













While a given piece of content may offer multiple classification states, it is always important to understand the target, from an SEO perspective, when constructing the “semantic baskets” to be used for said piece of content. (Refer to the link above to learn more about that.)

Putting it All Together

Ok… so we want to consider phrases and terms that buff out the core targets of a given piece of content. Consider optimal occurrences of related phrases when crafting your semantic baskets for a given piece of content. What words, phrases, entities and concepts would a search engine expect to see on that page? (Don’t ever again think in terms of keyword density!)

Some things to consider, as a content manager/editor and/or as an SEO copywriter:

  • While doing the keyword research, use various tools to also create a list of “related phrases”
  • Layout content program and structural hierarchy
  • Map out terms to pages
  • Give your writers not only core/secondary target terms, but related phrases as well
  • Review and tweak pages prior to launch
  • Vary link texts when possible and remember themes/concepts as well as keyword phrases
  • Understand the relations of concepts

I like to think in terms of semantic baskets when researching and preparing any important piece of content that will be used for targeting. As stated off the top, in most cases a good copywriter will do most of this naturally.

One Final Thought…

Search engines love words. It’s what users type into it. Words are used to convey concepts and are constructed into phrases, entities and intent. This is what you want to look at when building out your pages. But we’re moving into a world where it goes beyond…. into voice search.

Back in 2013 Google announced what they called “Hummingbird”. And one of the elements within that was called “conversational search” which will treat a search task as an ongoing journey through a given search task. This consideration also drags us away from the truly limited concepts around keyword density and simple synonyms. (For more on that, have a read here.)











The point being, copywriters need to stay on top of the ever-evolving world of search. If you’re clients haven’t? You need to educate them. They’ll thank you for it.

Oh and hey, if you’re feeling real adventurous, you can watch this session on it:

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug. ” – Mark Twain

Connect with David on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+


Adapting to visual content: 3 musts for the SEO copywriter

The SEO copywriter needs to adapt to visual content marketingWith each new photo-friendly social network (and updates to existing networks to make images look even better), I cringe a little. There was a time when the best way to get your message across online was through some high quality, optimized text. As writers, we were kings and queens among content creators.

But now the tide is shifting. The web has become, for many, a primarily visual experience. Here’s some food for thought:

  • 40% of people respond better to visual information than plain text. (Zabisco)
  • On Facebook, photos perform best for likes, comments and shares. (Dan Zarella)
  • Pinterest generated more referral traffic for businesses than Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube. (PriceGrabber)

(stats courtesy of Hubspot)

So what is the SEO content writer to do? It’s time to adapt. You can’t deny the power of images, and if you want your clients to reach their business goals through marketing you need to offer what is best.

Text is still important – but smart content writers need to make some strategic moves to stay on top of what clients (and search engines) are looking for.

Here’s how to do it:

1.   Think strategist instead of writer.

Many copywriters and content creators don’t realize that they are playing an important strategic role in their clients’ success. The writing you’re delivering isn’t just writing – it plays into your client’s ongoing success.

As content shifts heavily towards images rather than writing, put on your strategist hat. Help your clients understand how your writing is supported by images, and vice versa. Craft a strategy for them that combines your words with key images for maximum impact.

When you take this position, you’ll be able to overcome any qualms your clients might have about spending money and time with a content writing specialist.

2.   Partner with a graphic designer.

There’s never been a better time to form a strategic partnership with a graphic designer who can add beautiful images to your artwork.

Here’s an example: You write a lengthy, thought leadership blog post for  a client and the graphic artist creates a series of beautiful quote images from that article. Your client can use those images to market the piece on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest and more. Or you could formally offer presentation creation services so your clients can leverage SlideShare, LinkedIn and Google+ promotion opportunities.

3.   Make incredibly awesome content.

The goal of most visual marketing is to get your audience to click back to a website and take action. That’s where your role as an SEO content creator comes in.

You get to create an incredibly awesome landing page that speaks directly to your client’s audience and gets the conversions that they are looking for. Plastering the web with cat memes and dancing Picard gifs will only get you so far (it will get you really far with me…but I’m a unique case).

If your client wants to leverage visual marketing they need somewhere to send that traffic. Put effort into developing incredibly awesome content in the form of landing pages, websites and blog posts.

Is visual content here to stay? Most definitely. But that doesn’t mean that our days are numbered as web writers. We just have to adapt.

How are you incorporating visual content into your approach? I’d love to read your ideas.

About the Author ~ Courtney Ramirez

Courtney Ramirez is the Director of Content Marketing Strategy for Endurance Marketing. She’s an SEO Copywriter and content marketing specialist who creates clickable content for clients in both B2B and B2C markets. As a proud graduate of SuccessWork’s SEO Copywriting Certification training program, she geeks out on algorithm updates and content marketing metrics. She’s always in the mood for a good cat-based meme. You can connect with Courtney on LinkedIn.

photo thanks to Ron Mader (planeta)

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Going Beyond Shareable Content with BuzzSumo’s Steve Rayson

children-sharing-milkshakeToday we’re happy to share our interview with BuzzSumo’s Steve Rayson. As BuzzSumo is a relatively new company, we asked Steve to talk a bit about its founding before answering the seven specific questions we had for him. You’ll want to be sure to read his intriguing take on the future of social sharing. Enjoy!

When was BuzzSumo founded?

The first version of the free product was created in 2013 by James Blackwell and Henley Wing. This tool allowed people to search for the most shared content published over the past 6 months.

At the time they were employed and developing the product in their spare time. I was so impressed by the tool that I approached James and Henley about developing a paid product, creating a company and working on the product full-time.

We first met face to face in December 2013, where I agreed to invest to allow James and Henley to work full-time on developing BuzzSumo Pro as a paid product.

We established BuzzSumo as a company in March 2014, with the three of us as directors. The first paid product, BuzzSumo Pro, was launched in September 2014. The paid version includes content alerts, reports and influencer analysis. We have continued to add to the product, including our latest trending features.

What was the inspiration for its creation?

In essence it was about searching for content that was resonating with people. Google is great, but it is based on authority sites. Thus if you search for, say, e-learning, it will start with Wikipedia. We were interested in the content that was resonating, e.g., what was the most shared content during this week or that month.

We were also interested in how content gets amplified, meaning who shares and links to the content and why? Our tool will show who shared an article and who linked to it so you can understand how it is being amplified. I think promotion is a much neglected area — people should spend as much or more time on promoting content as researching and creating it.

We are a small team so we tend to cover lots of bases. I tend to focus on marketing and strategic development, and relationships with partners. We have recently done joint webinars with Cana, Hubspot, Uberflip and Wordstream. On any given day I can be doing anything from researching new feature ideas and talking to customers about what would be helpful to them, to writing articles and answering support queries.

Any milestones in BuzzSumo’s growth that you’d like to share?

We recently passed 100,000 subscribers to our free product and more importantly 1,000 paying customers.

The key to any successful SaaS (software as a service) product is minimizing churn, which is the turnover of paying customers. Thus you want to make sure you have a product that provides value and that people use as part of their daily work.

You need to track things like active daily users and your ongoing churn rate, as well as your monthly growth in revenues and users.

It is important to focus on customer service as you grow and help your customers to get the most out of the tool. They are also your greatest asset in that they can help you identify features that will be really valuable to your audience.

BuzzSumo was once described as a “fusion of human intelligence and digital intelligence”. That seems to be a good descriptor – can you talk a little about that?

I am not sure where that came from but I understand the sentiment. It is difficult to define “good content” but we can define content that is resonating with audiences as we can see people share it and link to it. We can draw insights from this data.

Thus we can see that posts with images get more shares than posts without, that infographics are well shared in some areas, that list posts get more shares than other content formats, that quizzes get well shared, etc. We can then improve our odds of producing content that resonates by understanding this data.

We have found that the best content formats depend a lot on the topic and the audience. It is important to research what works with your audience.

Tracking content trends is also important. A BuzzSumo top content search will show you the most shared content in the last month or last 24 hours so you can see what is resonating. The BuzzSumo trending section will show you today’s most shared content for any topic, providing real time insights into the content that is engaging your audience.

We are fundamentally about helping people create better content: content that resonates and gets shared. We hopefully do that by providing insights through data such as what is working in your area or for your competitors.

Many companies push out large volumes of content to “please Google.” How can big data streamline a company’s content marketing efforts and gain better results?

I think you need to start with content research and produce a content plan. I think one of the most important aspects of content marketing is being consistent. You need to consistently produce content as the benefits accrue over time. You need a schedule, whatever that is — e.g. one blog post a week — and you need to stick to it.

Data helps you to focus on creating content that works, and getting a balance of content to support the various stages of the sales funnel. Here are some examples below:






What matters as much as the content itself is distribution and promotion, which we come to below.

Some experts believe that it’s better to write one really good piece of content a month (that’s properly promoted,) than multiple pieces of content with little or no promotion strategy. Have you seen data that supports this?

All content should be “good” and it can be better to produce one really good, well-researched article than four poor pieces of content. The key is that you are producing something of value to your audience. If you have limited resources you need to be realistic about what you can produce.

Sites like the Harvard Business Review produce good content but it doesn’t mean they only publish one blog post a week. In fact they average 50 blog posts a week. They do this through guest authors. Guest authors and curation are one way you can seek to increase the volume of content.

The key is that you promote your content. It doesn’t matter how good your content is, people will simply not find it if you don’t promote it. My view is that you need to spend as much time, if not more, promoting and amplifying content as creating it.

You need to think about this before you write your post. For example, can you involve influencers in the research or interview them? Be clear how you are going to promote the post – which social channels, how many people will share it for you, which forums are you going to submit your content to, what paid promotion you will use, etc.

From your research, how does the underlying emotion of a blog post impact its shareability? What can this mean for, say, B2B content that’s typically considered “boring?” Is there an opportunity there?

Emotion can help improve shareability. Last year we analyzed the top 10,000 most shared articles across the web, and mapped each one to an emotion, such as joy, sadness, anger, amusement, laughter, etc. Here is how the breakdown of how the emotions looked:







However, I don’t think you need to focus on emotion to get good shareability. In B2B, people are time pressed and want to do their job better and faster. Thus if you can produce content that is helpful, people will value it and share it.

So you can identify the key questions people are asking and produce good answers. The aim really is to be the best answer to the question. The top ten thousand “how to” posts this year were shared more than 19,000 times on average.

You can also experiment with list posts and picture lists. List posts provide a promise, such as “5 steps to improve your landing page”.

Posts that are well structured and skimmable also do well. Below is a good example. This post has clear numbered steps, links to further resources, good use of images to explain points, and top tips to make the post actionable.










Images work well because we process images much faster than text and they help us to skim articles faster. They also work well if you are taking someone through a process, telling a story or making comparisons. One post format I think will continue to do well is a picture list post, i.e., a curated series of images.

You conducted an interesting interview with SEMrush where you outlined how BuzzSumo and SEMrush go hand-in-hand for competitive intelligence efforts. Are there other tools you’d recommend for writers?

I use tools like BuzzSumo and Feedly to keep on top of new content and to generate content ideas.

On BuzzSumo, I use top content searches to find new content ideas, but what works better for me personally is setting up content alerts and custom trending feeds. I then turn each of these into RSS feeds that I pull into Feedly. I then get a constant stream of posts on specific topics such as data driven marketing.

For trending content, I will also use Hashtagify to see related trending hashtags.

Many smaller companies are direct competitors of large brands with big followings. What are some competitive intelligence steps their writers could take that could build authority faster and increase their content’s shareability?

There has never been a better time for small companies. They can move faster than larger brands and can achieve reach through web publishing combined with promotion and influencer marketing. They can really punch way above their weight.

Smaller companies can also jump on trends much faster and engage in relevant discussions.

They can build a personal voice, as well. I feel social is very much about people. I rarely follow someone unless they have a face; I don’t like to follow logos. When you think about whose articles you want to read on the web it is normally a person not a corporation.

If you peer into your crystal ball — where do you think social sharing is headed?

I think it is interesting that more people discover content now via social than via search. Social overtook search for the first time last year — in fact the volume of Google searches fell last year for the first time. A recent research project published by the American Press Institute found that young people get most of their news from social channels.

Social media’s role as a content discovery platform is only just beginning. I think people will become more sophisticated in how they build personal learning networks using social media and how they mine social data for trends.












Connect with Steve on Twitter and LinkedIn