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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

 

 

On SEO & guest blogging: A smart talk with Ann Smarty

SEO ninja Ann Smarty discusses SEO and guest bloggingToday we’re pleased to share our chat with Ann Smarty, founder of MyBlogGuest and veteran SEO and internet marketing expert.

Here Ann discusses how MyBlogGuest works, her current passion for reviving Threadwatch, and her take on guest blogging for links.

You’re well known as the founder of MyBlogGuest. Could you share a bit as to how it works for freelance writers and blog owners?

MyBlogGuest.com was started as a simple forum with the only aim to connect people with one interest: guest blogging. I never intended to monetize it. It was just a fun idea quickly wrapped together with no budget behind it.

What happened next was a fun time of building the community, collecting the feedback and implementing it. In an effort to cover development costs we had to monetize it but the gist remained the same: We wanted people to meet and build relationships

Currently our features include:

  • Articles Gallery: A writer can upload his/her original guest article there for blog owners to come, preview and suggest their site to be its home. I think it’s a good tool for any blogger: Whenever they have too little time, leave on vacation, get a new job, etc., the Articles Gallery can be their source to support the blog. The Articles Gallery is 100% free from any money offers: We want the blog owners to only use the content if they love it! There should be no other incentive.
  • Infographics Gallery: The similar tool for infographics designers to find blog homes for their work. Together with the infographics we require an original text description to go with it. (My case study is here).
  • Articles Requests: A blog owner can leave a “request” for some specific guest article topic and authors can pitch ideas. The unique part of this feature is that ALL articles here are pre-moderated, so the blog owner gets an essentially edited piece of original content based on his/her specific requirements and topic. (Here’s a quick video).
  • Verified authorship: We comply with Google trends and encourage authors to verify the authorship of their guest posts (and thus digitally sign them). Blog owners may visit that section of “verified” content and allow established authors to guest post.

#1 Authorship example:Ann Smarty

 

 

 

 

#2 Authorship example:Ann Smarty

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are lots of other features including link tracking (for authors to be able to use a guest post elsewhere if the blog, for example ceased to exist), free Copyscape checks (to make sure all content is original), 24/7 moderation and support (thanks to our awesome team), follow-up reminders, free hand-picked and monthly updated “featured” requests lists, etc.

We still can’t stress the value of relationships enough!

Even with PRO membership I have always been saying: Pay for a couple of months, build some contacts with a bunch of bloggers and move on! Don’t use it as your only or main source of guest post opportunities. Go out and reach out to more bloggers, use MBG-powered connections to expand to “friends of your friends” circles, etc.

Lately there’s been some concern expressed by SEOs regarding Google’s warning about guest blogging for links. What’s your take on all this? Should this be a concern?

My main concern is the SEO community – people are too distracted and confused. SEOs just keep looking in the wrong direction!

I’ve said this before: Guest blogging for links has always been doomed. It’s simply not the way it should be used to work!

Instead of picking up to Googler’s work and inventing “red flags”, SEOs just need to grow up and make it work the right way, i.e., build a linkable asset (tool, whitepaper, great article, etc) and use guest blogging and social media to get an initial attention to it.

If you are doing your job right, you won’t have to keep writing guest posts just for the sake of gaining links: Links will start coming on their own!

If that’s how you are guest blogging, you will always be good! 🙂

You’re also very involved with the Threadwatch community. What is Threadwatch about?

Threadwatch is one of the oldest SEO communities. It’s been around since 2004! Then it was inactive for a while and Jim Boykin decided to revive it in January of this year. I happen to be Internet Marketing Ninjas’ community manager, so I was the one to oversee and manage the revival.

In my revival submission, I covered all the Google updates and news we had missed.

Since the re-birth we have redesigned it and added a couple of innovative features. One of the recently added is the “Marketing Conferences” page which enables users to mark conferences as “I am going to” and it will then be reflected in the calendar (as well as your user profile and on the conference page as well). Basically, it’s like a community-driven personal conference manager.

We are still undergoing the “beta” phase though: Looking for the “core” active members and editors who will create the “ultimate” voice of the resource and define its actual style.

Time will show but I would love to see Threadwatch to be the major resource of what is important in SEO and social. I don’t want it to be yet another list of “top lists”, you know. I want it to be the ultimate hub of in-depth SEO discussions: “Less noise, more signal” 🙂

But time will show… The community is organic in nature; you can’t always control it, so we’ll see where it goes!

You’ve been in the SEO and internet marketing profession for a considerable time now. What is your overall impression of the state of the SEO industry today?

I stopped counting years in SEO, to be honest. I’ve been involved long enough to understand that nothing essentially changes: Google is trying (and often failing) to find really quality content and SEOs are trying to “fake” it instead of actually trying to *build* it.

In the process, Google is getting more aggressive and SEOs are getting more sophisticated (instead of putting the same amount of energy into actually *building* it). Luckily, the SEO community is slowly but surely growing up and it’s been awesome to be part of that process!

About Ann Smarty

Ann Smarty is founder of MyBlogGuest, Branding and community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas, co-founder of ViralContentBuzz and regular contributor to a number of top marketing resources. You can follow Ann on Twitter (@annsmarty and/or @seosmarty) and on Google+.

photo thanks to chrishusein

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2012’s top 10 SEO expert interviews

The number 10 representing our 10 best interviews with SEO experts from 2012For us, 2012 was a year enriched with conversations with some of the best and the brightest in the SEO and search industry. From Jonathan Allen of Search Engine Watch to Jill Whalen of High Rankings Advisor, Eric Enge of Stone Temple Consulting to Dana Lookadoo of Yo! Yo! SEO, our guests generously shared their stories, perspectives, and insights with us.

So here they are (in no particular order): our top 10 interviews with a line-up of illustrious SEO visionaries, experts, thought leaders, luminaries…and really great folks!

 

Photo of Nathan Safran, SEO expert from Conductor2013 will be the year of the SEO”: an interview with Nathan Safran

Can you feel it? Conductor’s Nathan Safran did when his research, in partnership with Search Engine Watch’s Jonathan Allen, predicted that “2013 will be the year of the SEO.” Why? You’ll have to find out for yourself! Nathan also has some truly interesting things to say about Google’s Panda and Penguin updates, and the SEO and search industry as a whole.

 

Photo of Jonathan Allen, SEO expert, Director of Search Engine WatchInterview with the Englishman in New York, SEW’s Jonathan Allen/Part 1

And speaking of Jonathan Allen…the head honcho of Search Engine Watch shares the story – in intimate detail – of his path to his current role in part 1 of our 2-part interview. Did you know he began as a student of literature and philosophy? Learn more about Jonathan’s intriguing journey into the center of the SEO and search industry in this first installment! (Includes his break-through video, 50 SEOs, 1 Question).

 

A second photo of Jonathan Allen, to accompany part 2 of his interviewInterview with SEW’s Jonathan Allen/Part 2: A Search Manifesto

An in-depth interview unto itself, in part 2 Jonathan shares his unique take on Google’s search, social, and clean-up initiatives (i.e., Search Plus Your World, Google+, and Panda/Penguin). He also describes where he sees the search industry going with his provocative, self-described “search manifesto.”

 

 

Photo of Jill Whalen, SEO expert and CEO of High RankingsJill Whalen on SEO: then & now

One of the first women pioneers of SEO (she discovered SEO before it was SEO), Jill Whalen of High Rankings shares her trail-blazing venture into the industry. Starting with her analytical curiosity dating “waaaaay back to the early 1990’s”, Jill was instrumental in forging the SEO and search industry – along with her reputation as a leading industry thought leader and practitioner. She also shares her insights into the primary factors influencing SEO, the importance (and rarity) of truly good copywriting, as well as the impacts of Google’s data encryption, over-optimization penalty, and Search Plus push on the SEO profession and search industry.

 

Photo of Eric Enge, SEO expert, Owner of Stone Temple ConsultingInterview with SEO expert & master interviewer, Eric Enge

Renowned SEO veteran Eric Enge of Stone Temple Consulting is recognized not only for his expertise, but also his skillful interviews with the likes of Matt Cutts and Danny Sullivan. Eric credits his interviewing technique for allowing him to predict both the Panda and Penguin updates. Besides generously sharing his insights into how he sees the SEO and search industry evolving in the near future, Eric indulges us with a prediction for a huge update that should happen any day now…hmmmmm

 

Photo of SEO expert Jennifer Evans Cario of Sugar Spun MarketingOn SEO, social media & small business: An interview with SugarSpun Marketing’s Jennifer Evans Cario

Among the “second wave” of women who followed in the footsteps of the original SEO pioneers, Jennifer Evans Cario of SugarSpun Marketing shares her self-taught foray into SEO and internet marketing. She also shares her passion and childhood inspiration for championing small business, as well as her reasons for migrating from SEO and search to blogging and social media marketing. Along with her personal sharing, Jennifer addresses the intersection of search and social with her “Pinocchio Effect” theory, and talks about the thought processes behind her (then upcoming) book, Pinterest Marketing: An Hour a Day.

 

Photo of C.C. Chapman, Co-Author of Content RulesC.C. Chapman on SEO, Search Plus, and doing the unexpected

The widely recognized co-author of Content Rules, C.C. Chapman had relatively humble beginnings as yet another corporate employee. In his interview, Chapman shares a “high-level view” of his path to becoming a writer, speaker, and consultant, and why he loves Google’s Search Plus. He also speaks to the role of SEO in content marketing, emphasizes the importance of “doing the unexpected” with your content, and discusses why indeed content is king.

 

Photo of Debra Mastaler, SEO Link-Building ExpertQueen of Link: Interview with Debra Mastaler

Think link building, and you think Debra Mastaler. Like Jill Whalen, Debra is one of the first wave of SEO women who helped build the industry. Here she shares her story of her SEO beginnings – honing her link-building skills working for Whalen – and her holistic marketing approach to her profession (in fact, she refers to link building as link marketing). Find out what Debra has to say about the changing (pre-Penguin) link landscape, Google’s preference for big brands, and the plethora of link-building opportunities that social media and blogging have brought.

 

Photo of Matt McGee, SEO and Search ExpertMatt McGee on SEO & small business search marketing

The talented journalist and Executive News Editor of Search Engine Land and sister site Marketing Land, Matt McGee also finds time to write his own daily blog, Small Business Search Engine Marketing. In this interview, Matt traces his rise through the SEO ranks, discusses why he chooses to focus on small business SEM, as well as what small business owners need to focus on in light of the Panda and Penguin updates.

 

 

Photo of SEO Expert Dana Lookadoo of Yo! Yo! SEOYo! Yo! SEO’s Dana Lookadoo on Re-branding and SEO+

In our interview with another force emerging from the “second wave” of women in SEO, Dana Lookadoo shares her path to her profession. She also talks about her re-branding to incorporate word-of-mouth marketing and social media sharing with Yo! Yo! SEO (hence SEO+). So if you were ever wondering how Dana arrived at that name, you’ll find out here! You’ll also find out about her passion for educating clients, her thoughts about the state of the SEO industry, and her words of advice for the new SEO copywriter.

 

Photo thanks to woodleywonderworks

On SEO, social media & small business…

…An interview with SugarSpun Marketing‘s Jennifer Evans Cario 

Today we feature our interview with Jennifer Evans Cario, founder of SugarSpun Marketing and among “The Women Who Rock SEO – the second wave.” Jennifer talks about her career in internet marketing and SEO, her passion for helping smaller businesses with cost-effective social media marketing strategies, and her upcoming book, Pinterest: An Hour a Day.

 

As one of the most notable women who rock SEO, you’ve been in and around the industry for about what, 11 years now? Would you share a bit about how you got started in SEO?

Eleven years sounds about right, though I’ve been in online marketing since ’96. I worked my way through college developing web sites and then quickly moved into working as a site manager for a few start-ups.

In 2001, I found myself working for a mid-size chemical company, handling their web site and online marketing. That’s when I stumbled across JimWorld’s Search Engine Forums and started soaking up everything I could about SEO.

When it became apparent that my bosses not only “didn’t get it,” but also didn’t want to get it, I turned in my resignation. A stint as the Web Search Guide at About.com and some private consulting followed, and by 2003, I was running Search Engine Guide, working on my own projects, and speaking at most of the major search related conferences.

 

You changed course at some part in your career to focus on small business social media marketing. When and why the change in direction?

While SEO fascinated me on many levels, it lacked the creative strategy and the connections with people that have always driven me. When the marketing community started looking at blogging as a marketing channel, I made the shift to that side of the business and haven’t really looked back since.

Because Search Engine Guide focused on the small business audience, and because most of the speakers at industry shows were always interested in focusing on big business, I sort of naturally fell into the role of trying to share budget and time friendly techniques for leveraging social media channels. As a consultant, I’ve always worked with companies of all sizes, but as a speaker and writer, it was really important to me to make sure that the small business audience was addressed.

My grandfather was a small business owner and I always admired him for the work he put in to building his business and for the way he treated his customers.  Maybe it’s my way of honoring his memory, or maybe it’s just my love of the Internet’s ability to open the doors to anyone with a great idea and determination…either way, I LOVE making sure the small business audience is getting taken care of.

 

There has been, and continues to be, a lot of discussion about the merger of search/SEO and social: what’s your take on this?

I think it was something we all saw coming from the first time we noticed a forum post or a blog post show up in a search query. For as long as I’ve been teaching online marketing, I’ve always told people about what I call “The Pinocchio Effect.” You see search engines, like the famous character, want nothing more than to be a “real boy.”

If you look at every algorithmic change we’ve seen get introduced by search engines over the years, pretty much all of them have been designed to replicate human judgment. The goal is to allow a computer (which can “think” way faster than we can) to value a piece of web content like a human being can. So whether you’re looking at keywords, domain age, the social graph or the number of retweets, it’s all designed to determine how valuable a piece of content is in the eyes of a human being.

The massive development of the web into a place defined by social connections makes for an absolute perfect intersect with search. The great news for me…someone who left SEO because I disliked the technical nature of It…is that the work I do on the social media front helps businesses to position themselves to benefit from any future algorithmic shifts that rely on the various types of social graph data to influence placement.

 

The social media marketing platform has ballooned and keeps growing with new venues such as Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest: where do you see the best social media marketing opportunities for the small business owner?

The best new social media marketing opportunities are wherever your customers are. That’s really what it boils down to.

I can’t think of a single social media channel outside of blogging that holds clear-cut value for every single company. A high end B2B engineering consultancy isn’t going to pull much value from Facebook. Likewise, an organic menu planning service for stay-at-home moms probably won’t be too successful trying to leverage LinkedIn.

I feel it’s the responsibility of every company (and strategist) to look closely at the business goals of the company, spend time researching the target audience and where they are online, and then craft an outreach plan accordingly. Let your goals and tactics define your venue instead of trying to find a way to make it work on the latest buzz site.

That said, services like Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr have all made enough noise and progress over the course of 2012 to warrant serious consideration as a potential venue. I still think Google+ is close to worthless as a social media channel, but its impact on SEO makes it a venue that most companies still have to give consideration to.

 

We’ve seen less of you at conferences lately and a lot more of you online. What have you been up to on the training front this year?

As with most of the industry that has been in the game since the early days, I was getting burnt out with all the time on the road. In 2009 and 2010, I was a single mom with two pre-schoolers who was on the road no less than 85 days a year. That’s a rough schedule to keep when you have kids so young.

When my good friends Michael Stebbins and John Marshall asked me to come on board as faculty at MarketMotive.com, I was blessed to be able to continue doing what I loved without having to spend so much time away from my family. Rutgers University followed suit and brought me on board to teach their web based social media courses early last year as well.

After two years of constantly being on the go, I took a nice break in 2011. I think I spent a total of six days on the road for work. I also moved to a new state and got married that year, which never hurts in terms of motivating you to keep your feet planted a bit more firmly in one place.

Now that life has settled in again, I’ve been hitting the road a bit more frequently. I’ll make the rounds to four or five shows a year now…but for the most part, I like keeping my training gigs online.

 

You’ve got a new book coming out soon, can you tell us about it?

Absolutely! I’ve been wanting to write a book for several years now, but the challenge in social media was finding something new to say.

I had no desire to write yet another book that mimicked what everyone else was already writing.  Add in all that time on the road and taking care of my family while running my company and I couldn’t even fathom how I would have fit it all in.

Then last year rolled around, and I found myself married to an amazingly wonderful and supportive man, and a friend introduced me to Pinterest. This was months and months before the marketing community started obsessing over it and I found myself wondering if this might be one of the next big wins in the social media realm.

Through a combination of great timing and circumstances, I had the chance to pitch the idea to Wiley right as the firestorm was starting to brew in the media. With my husband’s support to pitch in to help with the kids and some of my workload to free up time for me to write, we got a plan in place. I started writing Pinterest Marketing: An Hour a Day last April. I’m wrapping up the last chapter of the book this week and it should hit the bookshelves in either January or February of 2013.

 

Finally, where do you see social media marketing going? Do you think it’ll ever surpass or usurp search engine marketing?

Social media marketing will continue to simply become “marketing.” When that term was coined, it was still a completely new idea for companies to take to the web to actually get involved in conversation with their customers.  It was something entirely new. As time continues to pass, we’re seeing a paradigm shift in how companies and customers relate to each other. Social media has opened the door to a new way of doing business and I don’t expect to see that ever go away at this point.

I think over time, we’ll hear less about “social media” marketing and more about just plain marketing.

As for whether it will ever surpass search engine marketing? I don’t think there’s a yes or no answer possible there. It’s not a zero sum game. People won’t choose one or the other because they serve different purposes. Social media will always be part of search engine marketing and good SEO will always be incorporated into social media. For a good integrated marketing strategy, the two will help drive each other to boost the overall brand.

 

More About Jennifer Evans Cario – President, SugarSpun Marketing

With more than a decade of experience in online marketing, Jennifer has made a career out of helping small to mid-size companies find unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Recognized as an industry leader in small business social media strategies, she is known for using real language and a common sense approach that delivers solid results while still allowing her clients to fully understand and participate in the process. Along with founding SugarSpun Marketing in 2009, Jennifer serves as the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive.com and as adjunct faculty for Rutger’s University. Cario is also the author of the upcoming Pinterest Marketing: An Hour a Day.  You can find Jennifer on Twitter via @JenniferCario.

 

 

photo thanks to Mike Baird

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“2013 will be the year of the SEO”: an interview with Nathan Safran

Today we are excited and honored to feature this interview with Nathan Safran, the Director of Research at Conductor, Inc.

Here, Nathan shares the results of Conductor’s latest research, predicting that “2013 will be the year of the SEO” (conducted in concert with Search Engine Watch’s Jonathan Allen), as well as his take on the SEO/search scene as a whole…

So in conjunction with Search Engine Watch’s Jonathan Allen, your research via Conductor indicates that 2013 will be the year of the SEO.

What would you say are the most significant findings of your study supporting that prediction?

The way we approached the study is to draw an analog from how economists measure the economy.

It’s a large and complicated entity and economists use a variety of ‘economic indicators’ such as housing starts, interest rates, money supply and more, which, taken together, give them a holistic view of the state of the entity.  These indicators should, in theory, give us a view of both the current state of the economy, and at least directionally, an idea of where we can expect to see it head going forward.

The SEO industry can itself be a large and complicated entity with many factors impacting our success or failure in the SERPs.

We applied similar thinking to measuring the state of SEO by identifying a variety of ‘economic indicators’ that, taken together, could give us a holistic measure of the state of SEO, today, and directionally, going forward.

Our ‘economic indicators’ included things like the headcount organizations are allocating to SEO, SEO budget allocation, where in the organization search marketers are positioned, how familiar executives now are with search metrics, and more.

We surveyed 616 Marketers on Search Engine Watch in August 2012, and our sample ended up being a good mix of larger and smaller companies, and we heard from a mix of in-house SEO professionals, agency practitioners and consultants.

Overall, the research findings showed that across every ‘economic indicator’ we looked at, SEO is maturing in the organization.  That is, marketers are allocating increased budget, and headcount to SEO, they are utilizing advanced technology more, and natural search metrics have permeated the organization and are influencing business strategy more than ever before.

One of the most interesting findings to come out of the research was that the second most common place in the organization for Search is now in its own department.

As SEO has matured as a discipline and as organizations are recognizing the significance of search as a sales and marketing channel they are increasingly placing search in its own department.  Arguably, this is one of the most significant ‘economic indicators’ in the maturation of search in the organization.

Here are some key findings from the study:

The second most common place (16%) for search in the organization is now in its own department

• 6 out of 10 organizations expect to increase SEO headcount in the coming year

• 63% of executive teams are more familiar with SEO metrics than 12 months ago

• 65% of respondents say natural search is influencing revenue strategy more than 12 months ago

=> Although there are certainly still challenges for SEO professionals, taken together we think the research spells out a very exciting time for SEO in the coming year!

Jonathan Allen, the director of Search Engine Watch and my partner in this study, also wrote up a post about the key findings via SEOs Expect ROI, Headcounts & Influence to Increase in 2013 at Conductor #C3NY (at SEW).

 

As Director of Research for Conductor, you have first-hand knowledge of – and insight into – the SEO/search industry. What would you say are the most influential factors defining the industry now?

I’d summarize it as ‘the industry is growing up’.

The industry is coming from a place where the search marketer was the tech guy/gal in the basement tweaking meta tags, and now we see search in its own department in the organization, with increased budget and headcount.

From our perspective in enterprise SEO at Conductor, we see this in a number of ways where, now, companies are sending us RFP’s for an enterprise SEO platform, the conversations with marketers are changing where executives are now well-versed with the opportunities in natural search and search metrics are increasingly being utilized across the organization.

Another way the industry is ‘growing up’ is many of the old tactics that used to work no longer do or have had their efficacy reduced as Google increasingly focuses on quality and eliminating spam.

Part of this is about them cleaning up the search results, but part of it is about deterrence as many who might have considered engaging in gray tactics may be increasingly reluctant to do so as the threat of a major penalty looms.

Finally, a third way this is happening is that the SERPs themselves are evolving as digital assets, social, and local results are increasingly found in the search results.

All told I see search as an industry that is increasingly growing up and evolving into a discipline where the tools, people and publications are increasingly evolving and becoming more sophisticated.

 

Google’s updates have been rolling out for some time now and creating a lot of industry buzz with each new wave. What is your take on Google’s quest for quality w/Panda (and Penguin)?

I think there’s a lot of cynical stuff out there as to Google’s motives with the changes, and while I don’t want to imply their motives for everything they do are 100% altruistic, I do think that the moves towards quality in the search results have both been necessary and in many ways good for the industry.

There’s a sink or swim element that has emerged, where brands have been pushed toward creating quality content, following best practices in on-page optimization and taking a long-term view of their search marketing efforts that did not exist even a few short years ago.

If this leads to more relevant results in the search pages (and I think it has although there’s still definitely room for improvement) then ultimately that’s a good thing.

 

We’ve seen a bunch of Conductor’s research covered in some of the major industry publications over the last 12-18 months. To what do you attribute some of the success you have had in putting SEO related content out there?

Although my handsome mug 🙂 is featured on our columns on Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Land, the Conductor blog, and the studies we publish, I have a fantastic team at Conductor –Jen Robustelli and Billy Lam–without whom none of it would be possible.  We work together on pretty much everything we do from idea development through post production to social media promotion in order to publish our content.

And, Conductor’s senior leadership deserves a great deal of credit for any success we have had.  When CEO Seth Besmertnik and VP, Marketing and Product Seth Dotterer first brought me over from Forrester Research more than three years ago, in doing so, they recognized that there was a place in the SEO industry to publish unique and quality research that everyone in the industry could benefit from.  It is to their credit and ongoing commitment that we’ve been able to achieve some success.

Although many are (justifiably) skeptical about bias from research coming from an industry player, to their credit, from day one, they created a separation between church and state that persists to this day and gave me license (and resources) to create unbiased research and thought leadership.

 

About Nathan Safran

Nathan Safran is the Director of Research for Conductor, Inc., the leading enterprise SEO technology company based in New York and creators of Searchlight, the leading enterprise SEO platform. Since joining the company in August of 2009, Nathan has established Conductor as a publisher of cutting edge SEO research and thought leadership.

Nathan authors insightful research on trends in the natural search industry that have been widely covered in authoritative industry publications such as Search Engine Land, Search Engine Watch, and MarketingProfs.  Nathan also writes a monthly column for Search Engine Land and Search Engine Watch, and regularly publishes data-driven posts on the Conductor blog.

Prior to joining Conductor, Nathan was an Analyst at Forrester Research in their Consumer Product Strategy Group.

You can find Nathan on Twitter via @Nathan_Safran.

Editor’s note: you can find out much more about Jonathan Allen and his role as Director of Search Engine Watch via my 2-part interview with him:

photo thanks to BeaGasteiz1 (Beatriz)

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