contentisking

Ever since the dawn of the meaningfully commercial part of the Internets we have known that content is lord and master. From figuring out how to rank highly in Alta Vista for our target search terms (keywords meta tag yay!) to populating our fancy new web-log that nobody visited and took 4 hours to download on dial-up in any case, content has been the common sense answer to every web marketing related question.

And guess what? Nothing has changed. Content is still the boss. But only if it is actually BOSS (yeah, I’m down with the Minecraft generation).

Remember the old school when we were so cool?

The Internet connects pieces of information and offers digital conduits along which folks connect to these bits of information. That hasn’t changed. But our appetite (just like the delivery system it supports) has gone through the roof. Where there was text and an image (or more likely text and an ALT tag because your modem timed out whilst trying to download that 50k behemoth of a JPEG), there is now the 4k delivery of HD video, infographics, long form blog posts and a social media platform to cater for every media type and any demographic.

I was told then that content was the most important thing you can do to support the success of your website and your inbound marketing (not that we called it that way back then) goals and I’m telling you now that it hasn’t changed.

What we find quite often with our clients is that content creation is seen as a drain on their internal resources; a bit of a drag. I mean, who’s going  to do it? What are they going to write? How are they going to make their service offering sound sexy? Who’s going to read it? I can’t shoot video, I don’t have time and I don’t know how! What am I doing this for? What’s the ROI? All valid questions, let’s try and answer them…

A simple content formula: Content = Conversion

Let’s explore why content is so important. To do this we need to consider the Inbound Marketing landscape as it is today and as it is rapidly evolving into tomorrow. If we assume some of your marketing goals are your typical ones; brand awareness, building your social followings, more traffic to your website, more engagement (we’ll look at what that means in a bit) and more sales and sales enquiries – more of those metrics that turn into income.

Content is critical for SEO because Google (et al but mainly big G) loves content, content is it’s raison d’etre. Without content you’d most likely find Googlebot wandering around your local park in a smelly mac, swigging out of a brown paper bag. Google NEEDS you to have content.

But he’s fussy (and that may yet lead him to self destruction), so it’s got to be good content, not that scrapy, spammy, unoriginal, respun, 400 words of keyword stuffed tripe that he’s learning to devalue. Who does that help? Do you read it? No, so it’s not that stuff we’re thinking about.

We’re not going to get into the technical SEO, Panda centric chat here (but we did a bit here if you want to swat up), suffice to say that Google is smarter than your average bear these days at figuring out what valuable content looks like. One of the signals it’s using (aside from, this is unique, this isn’t on a spammy domain, this doesn’t read like an SEO consultant from 2002 has written it, etc) is by looking at how other folks are treating it. Are they clicking on it? Reading it? Are they linking to it? Are they retweeting, sharing and liking it? Makes sense, right? If YOU think it’s useful and there’s a trend for all your peers to agree then the likelyhood is that this blog post, video, infographic, FAQ page on your website, is worth ranking highly. So there’s that.

Then there’s this: Organic search traffic (and it’s slightly cheating but, hey, it’s your money cousin, PPC traffic) is not the only traffic channel you need to be focusing on. Traffic from your social media channels is just as relevant, and whilst it may represent a slightly different journey to conversion for your visitor this is where you are most likely to see the most growth in the least amount of time (for all you “how long before I rank for stuff” hounds).

So how does content help us to drive organic traffic, help to grow our social media followings and increase our brand awareness all at the same time?

Let me try to illustrate this with a couple of examples (maybe these will be socially sharable infographics by the time this post goes live??):

Example 1: The ‘About us’ post…

What’s it about?
A 600 word post introducing your latest product (or your recent trip to that exhibition, or that introduction to that new member of staff or that crazy day Jeff in accounts had last week).

Who is the audience?
Pretty much you, your staff. Maybe Jeff in account’s family.

What terms is it optimised for?
Oh, we threw in lots of keywords about our new product – like, about 20 times – we’re soooo relevant and our keyword density is the bomb!

What did you want to get out of this post?
Well, we’ve committed to writing at least one blog post a week, and we needed something to tweet and share on Facebook and people are just going to love our new product, and find out about the sorts of crazy things Jeff in accounts gets up to. And the boss said we had to do it so…

What was your return on Investment (yes – for content!)?
The boss likes it so I had a warm feeling in my tummy. Reach was awesome, most of Jeff’s family now follows us on Twitter and likes our Facebook page and engagement went through the roof at 2 shares, 2 likes and a retweet

Example 2: The ‘About them’ post…

What’s it about?
A long form blog post (2000 words + but really length isn’t the issue, we’ll discuss ideal lengths at some point) targeted (an important word that, targeted) at people who are likely to be interested in our products and services. We’ve explored trending content on Buzzsumo in adjacent topic areas (all will be explained, don’t worry) and found some egos to appeal to amongst our key influencers (again, we’ll translate the social marketing-ese before the day is done). It’s completely unique, full of great information, lots of stuff our audience can take away and use, some nice images and a decent, easy to read format. We put quite a bit of effort in but we’re dead chuffed with it.

Who is the audience?
People we feel are demographically suited to our product and/or service offering, key influencers we’ve identified via a bit of competitive research and folks who are already following, liking or linking to our competitors. And a bit of juicy gossip for people who already love us and are likely to become advocates for our brand.

What terms is it optimised for?
The long tail surrounding some core keyword concepts and ideas. People may party like it’s 1999 but they search like it’s 2014 so we’re learning to evolve our thinking on keywords and ranking goals.

What did you want to get out of this post?
Our core objectives were to add keyword rich content to our website, increase brand awareness via our social network, increase the number of folks following us on our various social media profiles and improve our reach and engagement metrics.

What was your return on investment?
We increased traffic to our blog by 150%, we reached over 4000 people on facebook and engaged (shares, likes, retweets, clicks through to your website etc) with 200 of them. We gained new followers, stimulated feedback and conversation both on our social profiles and on our blog and our website conversion rate is up this month too!

What those examples are plainly illustrating is that one blog post can change your business for the better, turn it around even. Pardon? Yes, I said that – ONE blog post can have a massive impact. Now it might be the next blog post you or your agency write that has that impact but moving towards a content strategy that thinks and plans in this way will drive you ever closer to those top end metrics that generally mean that income is on the up.

Lets break it down a little bit and give it some meaningful direction:

There are many different types of content you can use in this way; regular copy, pictures, video, infographics, polls, quizzes, apps, maps and so on but we’ll think about a good old fashioned written blog post.

Where do you start?

Think about what you want to get out of it. Let’s say you want to get more followers on Twitter. You need to be looking for influencers. These are folks that may be following you already, or they may be following your competitors. We use tools like Followerwonk to give us a heads up with this, breaking down a few easy targets, but you may be able to identify them with a bit of straightforward digital elbow grease.

Understanding influencers, trends, tools and adjacent content…

An influencer may be a blogger, or he/she may be a journalist, or simply somebody who is followed by many and a voice of authority in your topic (or adjacent topic) area. They may have written a post themselves recently (or tweeted about or put out a video on Youtube about etc) on a subject close to your target audiences heart or minds (or both). So a good strategy here might be to create a post about that subject yourself, gently massaging the ego of your target influencer with some mentions and links to their work and so on (the kind of attention you’d be flattered by yourself might be a good guide).

Then when you post your piece, your tweets would naturally be asking for @influencer’s opinion (or thanking them for the inspiration or simply blowing smoke up their broadband). This is quite likely to result in them retweeting your tweet to their (massive, as we’ve already established, hence them being our target influencer) audience. Happy days.

Now, if your piece is also genuinely well written, well researched, unique, entertaining (again, judge it by your own harsh standards – would you read it?) and USEFUL, then there is a likelihood that your newly acquired audience may do a little retweeting themselves. And they may do a little linking from their blogs or they may cross share it with their other social audiences. One good piece, targeted carefully can have a staggering reach and a huge impact.

Lets just rewind a little to the term ‘adjacent’ content. I touched on it in more depth here… but to save you the click, it means that, yes, you may not have the sexiest service offering in the world when it comes to content creation ideas but there is ALWAYS an angle, that’s where the ‘creativity’ bit comes in. Adjacent content means not directly about your products and services (99% of which are as dull as dishwater let’s face it, unless they’re sexy new Apple products or entertainment media) but they are in similar topic zones to your industry or products and of interest to your target audience. If you sell soap, then your audience might be interested in being clean, in hygiene, in bathroom accessories, etc. If you sell flower pots then your potential customers might be interested in gardening tips or the world’s wackiest sheds. Insurance, greatest ever insurance frauds; dental equipment, victorian dental torture; double glazing, how to retain heat in your house when it’s freezing outside using only your granny and a piece of string and so on. Take a look at what your competitors are doing, what’s working for them? See what’s trending in these topic areas and getting shared a lot today (we use buzzsumo)

How much should you write?

As much as you need to write to get across everything you want to; your tone, your research, your answers, some things your audience can take away, a reason for them to ENGAGE with your efforts. Long form doesn’t have to mean a small novel’s worth of words. You might be posting a gallery of images, letting them do the talking with just the minimum of explanatory copy – but it could still be epic. But having said that, for the most part, if you’re truly exploring a topic then you may well be writing a fair amount. Don’t forget to include images that support your point. Why? Because people like them, they can be more illustrative than you in some cases and because they break up homogenous blocks of endless…

kingdown

…words.

And on that subject, make sure you break things up. Lots of headings, lots of paragraphs. Make it easy on the eye and easy to scan.

Content Karma…

Just remember, the amount effort you put in is proportionate to the ROI you get on your time. A little extra effort (a post may take you a day or even a week as opposed to the 500 words you might normally knock up on an afternoon with your Friday doughnut) and the results will FAR outweigh the extra effort you put in. So it’s not actually proportionate at all, in fact, the more you put in, the more the ROI curve bends upwards.

So content is worthy of your best efforts if you’re interested in a future proof approach to inbound traffic BOOM time. There’s no way around it – whether you do it or whether you outsource it, you need to be doing it. Let’s just recap the important parts of the process:

1. Know what you want the content to achieve for you
2. Consider your audience (potential customers, influencers etc)
3. Plan your content (adjacent for brand awareness, ego boosting for influencer engagement etc)
4. Put a shift in – INVEST in the content
5. Post, share & measure

Thanks for taking the time to read this post, if you have any questions or would like to share your experiences then feel free to pop them in the comments box underneath. If you fancy learning more about our managed services then go for the contact box hovering over on the right there and we’ll be happy to share caffeine and questions with you. Finally, if you’d made it this far, why not SHARE this post with anybody you know who may need a little convincing of the merits of high quality content and it’s place in the inbound marketing battlefield?

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That’s quite a title eh? I’m quite aware that it sounds very much like one of those ‘web marketing’ blog posts by ‘web marketing gurus’ we see quite a lot of these days. And to an extent, it is. I’ve recently experimented with my personal blog (witteringon.org) and social media (just Facebook in this case) to look for a formula that works best when it comes to getting a solid ROI on your blog writing efforts. One of these experiments is exploring blog content, post titles and the usefulness of social influencers.

Blog post content is a critical part of your web content mix as it is directly supportive of your social media strategy. Without strong, targeted content you have nothing to share with your social network, nothing linkworthy, nothing engaging and therefore nothing likely to get shared, liked or retweeted, and these benefits not only help to grow your social network (and therefore the reach of your messages to your target audiences) but also send positive social signals in Google’s direction, boosting your organic search traffic. So I’ve been messing with content types and titles to see how these factors might affect engagement. A recent post on my blog was effective enough (just) to warrant a mini case study (and validation of what I’m always nagging my clients to press on with!).

Putting Together The Content

In the first instance I pulled together some recent emails I’d had (a disgruntled customer email back-and-forth) between me and popular retailer, Next – bless their hearts. The outcome of my experience with them was both interesting and amusing and worthy of sharing I thought. Folks love a customer service tragedy so it seemed like perfect content for my personal blog warblings.

I gave the post a title that I felt reflected the experience and teased a tiny amount as to what Next’s reaction might have been to my contacting them: I Almost Charged Next For My Time, You Won’t Believe How They Reacted…

I wrote enough to tell the story without dragging it out just to make it ‘long form’, added a squirt of humour and a couple of photos to give it some personality and a human face (this happened to me, I’m a person, like you probably are, etc), and set it free.

Plucking Up The Courage To Share

Then I did something I’d never had the courage to do before (because it’s people that know me), I shared it from my personal Facebook page. witteringon.org will get it’s own Facebook page in due course, as it should (how else will I measure engagement and shares?) but as it’s so new I needed to use my existing personal network to test the effect of influencers on sharing and reach.

For the first few hours there were a few likes, a few comments and a few congratulations for ‘sticking it to the man’ and all that jazz, I saw maybe 10 – 15 views in analytics, nothing fancy. But then I asked a few key influencers in my network, that is people who are very engaged with the platform, have lots of friends and tend to share stuff regulalry with their friends, to have a read.

The Power Of Influence

They read the post, liked it and shared it. Then a few others shared it, then I lost count of shares because like I said, I had no insights (FB’s version of analytics) given it was posted from my profile, rather than a facebook page. Then, from just a handful of visits to my blog previously (it’s dead new with only a handful of posts), I had over 1500 visits during the next 4 days. Crazy. What was particularly impressive was that these were visits from people who were actually reading, engaging and sharing.

My point is that this is just one post, one social network (I don’t have a massive amount of friends either!) and although on it’s own doesn’t add up to much in terms of ROI if we were to scale this strategy up to content delivered across several social networks on a regular basis, made this content part of a long tail SEO strategy (targeting all those nich terms your target audience are using in Google) and measured the results we’d have a killer traffic delivery channel on our hands.

Adjacent Content Can Help

I know what you’re thinking (not literally of course, that would be weird and not a little creepy) “But I’m an accountant / dentist / brick layer and I can’t possibly come up with regular content that people are going to want to read about my industry, let alone share!”. I hear you (again, not literally) and it takes some thought, but that’s the strategy part. We look for something we call adjacent content; that is content that is connected to your general industry topic but doesn’t have to be directly about what you do, remember this is not your ‘about us’ page you’re writing here, it’s your blog and your blog is not ‘about you’, it’s about giving your audience a reason to read. Be useful, be unique, be entertaining. And you can do this by being ‘adjacent’. Accountancy might be dull (actually there’s no ‘might’ about it) but who doesn’t want to learn the top tips for paying a lot less tax? Or comfort themselves reading the worst dentist disasters ever or see a photo of the Death Star built out of bricks. Adjacent content is everywhere, just needs some digging up and dusting off for your audience.

The most important take-away from this piece is probably the bit about influencers. They were the key to my post getting so many views (and it’s still getting them by the way) and identifying them is critical. You may be able to put your finger on a few right now, folks who like your company facebook page or follow you on Twitter who are well connected, are likely to be interested in your content (Top Tip: Don’t be afraid to butter up an influencer in your blog posts – flattery gets you everywhere!) and like sharing and retweeting content. If you don’t, get some, steal an influencer from your competitors, analyse your existing network and see what gold you may have right under your nose. It’s a high ROI task, well worth your time.

Obviously we can help you get some direction with all this (and the wider inbound marketing thing generally), that’s what we’re here for, so drop us a line if you want to find out more. But I don’t want to end on a sales pitch, there are lot’s of folks that can help you with this sort of thing. What’s important is that you don’t dismiss social activity, or building great, sharable content on your blog – it’s the most future proof strategy you can employ to keep those traffic channels flowing.

You can check out my blog post here (and feel free to share it!)

NB: Facebook updated their algorithm recently, the one that determines who sees what and how often (think organic facebook views as opposed to paid or promoted posts). There’s some interesting evidence that there are some clear do’s and don’ts when it comes to sharing content on Facebook and I’ll be putting a blog post together about it soon…

Inbound Marketing: You may have noticed this term bandied about the blogosphere or dropped into conversations you’ve overheard or been part of and wondered whether this is a term you should be clearer on the definition of, or if indeed it’s just a rebadging of something you already do and can safely dismiss as trendy ‘marketingese’ (that elusive language that people in our industry use to fool you whilst making ourselves feel important and knowledgable).

The answer? Yes and no. Usefully.

I’m not going to turn this into one of my ramblings, I’ll keep it brief, but it’s a term that quite accurately aligns itself with the way our service to you has evolved recently and I felt it may be worth spelling out the ethos behind the terminology. It’s quite important to you and your online marketing activities as it balances everything we do (and you should be doing) in the most ROI focused proportions.

The service formally known as SEO

Previously we quite heavily touted ourselves as an SEO agency. This is a term people are familiar with and one which our target audience commonly uses when they’re looking for people like us to help them generate more traffic and sales. However, it’s probably not the most descriptive way to badge our core service offering and at the same time, shouldn’t be the focus of your traffic generating goals.

SEO is a core service in the suite of services that can be described as ‘Inbound Marketing’. What is inbound marketing? Simply, it’s all marketing activities you undertake to get your engaging message in front of an audience that is looking (that’s the inbound bit) for what you do. Now they may be looking via a search engine (SEO, PPC), they may be looking on blogs and content hubs they trust (content marketing), or they may be getting busy amongst their social networks looking for somebody who does what you do (social media). These are the most influential and potentially audience engaging platforms in the inbound marketing arena that are going to be important to your inbound marketing strategy.

SEO is just a part of the story

So SEO is still in the mix, of course it is, it’s very important. But it’s a very important part of a larger strategy. So why are we calling it Inbound Marketing? Because we know that by using all of these strategies together, each one feeds off and supports the other, meaning that your content efforts, your social efforts and your SEO efforts all work in synergy making the whole greater than the sum of the parts.

Let me quantify that a bit with an example:

1. You optimise a landing page for a particular keyword theme that you have proven in your PPC campaign converts nicely to sales.

2. You write a couple of (high quality) guest blog posts (avoiding exact or partial match anchor text in your links – brand/domain only) for a couple of high quality blogs that meet your strict criteria to support your domain strength.

3. You write a blog post (for your own blog) with content that aligns to the theme you’re targeting (very high quality,long form content or a unique data infographic etc) and is targeted towards the influencers in your social media networks (that you’re consistently growing and analysing).

4. You tweet, Facebook share, stumbleupon, pin and so on your content.

What are you trying to get in return?

  • More indexable content (landing page and your blog post)
  • A stronger domain (better rankings for any page on that domain)
  • Social engagement (with SEO enhancing social engagement signals)
  • Shares, likes, retweets, stumbles and pins (people sharing your audience targeted content)
  • Earned inbound links

This is how you get your content supporting your social activities, your social activities sharing your content with an audience, engagement at the social end, engagement (and conversions) at the website end and to put a cherry on top, plenty of kudos from Google thus higher rankings.

In other words, the more holistic inbound marketing approach means more traffic from search engines, more traffic from social media, better engagement from both and more conversions.

Getting the balance right

The balance between these activities varies depending on the site objective and your audience objectives but we’re in a very exciting phase of traffic generation right now where we can leverage these maturing social networks (and a more mature, experienced and therefore more likely to engage audience) alongside our onsite SEO activities and content creation and they actually support each other meaning that, when strategically planned, the ROI and effectiveness of each singular activity can be multiplied several times (sometimes exponentially) by it’s support for and from other activities under our inbound marketing banner – Happy days!

Hope that clears it up a bit…

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The death knell has been ringing from the bowels of Castle Greyskull Google for a while and although I’m not sure the sword is falling quite yet, there have certainly been some web spam team ninja stars flying around the place targeting the kind of low quality link building strategies that certain ‘guest blogging’ strategies dress themselves up to be.

Matt Cutts recently sounded yet another warning to the black hat brigade about how low quality guest blogging is tantamount to paid link acquisition. And that’s against Google’s terms is it not?

Guest blogging is a perfectly acceptable means of reaching your audience via somebody elses appropriate audience and one of the advantages is that you can get a link back to your website. But having been latched onto by so many SEOs in the past few years this strategy has become a defined ‘link building’ strategy and the lower quality end of the game has tarred the brush for (nearly) all.

My view is that there is still plenty of room for non spammy, well thought out, carefully considered guest posting if the metrics (and your gut feeling) marry up. We don’t even link out from our guest posts with exact or even partial match anchor text any more, just URL or branded links from relevant, on topics content and blogs. But even this is starting to take a back seat as we evolve our service into something less ‘link buildy’

So why (mostly) no more link building?

It’s always been a mainstay of the whole SEO process right? It used to be more links, then it became better quality links, then we had watch our anchor text ratios, then we had to avoid anchor text and now what is it? What the heck are we supposed to be doing to let Google know we’re a reputable source, worthy of ranking highly for our longtail keyword themes (because keywords are so 2011)?

Try this….

Have great content, actually on your website.

That’s (almost) it. Forget creating content for links and finding places to post it and start creating content for people. If you stop looking for links and invest the same amount of time and energy into creating high quality, unique content that will appeal to your target audience and the associated Linkerati and the links will start finding you. Good old fashioned linkbait folks. Only now we get this whole social network, advocates doing your work for you deal into the bargain.

Don’t put your great content on other people’s sites, put it on your own site, let nature take it’s course and reap the rewards of your efforts.

No, of course this won’t happen all by itself, you’re going to have to put a bit of effort in, but the ROI on this strategy is directly proportionate to the effort you make over the longer term, and SEO is a longer term effort today more than ever it was. You have to future proof yourself against the next potential Google update (Google index apocalypse)  that finally says “Sorry folks, I need to see high quality content allied to mighty social signals and reputable authors and I don’t care how many links you’ve got from thin content on low quality blogs” – Not so unrealistic is it?

There is a process to this and your link building strategy (or that of your web team or agency) might already be set up for this:

1. Identify your target audience:

Who are you writing for? What sort of content is going to engage them? Maybe your accountancy firm or geographical survey company might seem like it’s devoid of sexy ideas for interesting content, but know your audience and you’ll brainstorm some ‘adjacent content’ that will appeal to your target audience without being directly about what you do. As an accountant, your audience may be small businesses terrified of the perils, pitfalls (and fines!) of HMRC. So what about “Everything A Small Business Needs To Know About Tax, VAT & HMRC”? Think big, think indispensable guide, think thought leader, think authority, think audience.

2. Competitive Intelligence

You might already be looking at who links to your competitors (that’s why they rank above you right?) so why not take a look at what content people are linking to? There’s a wealth of content ideas out there sat on sites that rank better than yours. Go get inspired by it. Take a look at the glorious (and free!) Buzzsumo for trending content that getting lots of social buzz. This is happening right now, people are creating great content, get moving!

3. Distribute it to your followers

What followers? Your facebook likers and twitter followers and Google plus, er, circlers. This would really be a post of it’s own, it’s a big topic (but start here) and one you need to get your head around because the value is big, far beyond just a group of people to share your content with and help deliver those genuinely earned links, but also potential customers, influencers and advocates.

Bomb proof your strategy

Great content will deliver more than links, it will stick around, it will continue to give and it will help you to garner the kind of authority, social signals and general kudos that Google will be looking for in the not so distant future (and a little bit already…) and it’ll do this naturally without you having to go out chasing links with your precious time. I’m not saying that links garnered through fostering relationships with other businesses and people isn’t valid, or that carefully managed guest blog posting isn’t going to be the potential ranking difference between you and a ranking competitor but if you want to invest your time wisely and with a future proof (algorithmically bomb proof) link acquisition strategy, socially allied content for your website is the way forwards.

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I wouldn’t say this eventually was inevitable but it was certainly signposted. When Google dialled their keyword privacy up to 100% in the middle of October this year it was immediately perceived as a blow to the SEO fraternity. But it had actually been on the cards for a while and perhaps one or two high profile ‘data privacy’ situations pushed this into place sooner rather than later. Some folks feel this is a push from Google into the arms of Adwords and PPC advertising; a greed thing, but Google ‘Do no evil’ so it wouldn’t be that…

So what has happened and why is it bad? Actually, is it bad??

I’m often asked (although not any more!) what the (not provided) message means in Google Analytics keywords reports. It always seemed to be at the top of most reports and accounted for 20-40% of keywords in some cases. This was a privacy thing. If your website visitor was logged into their Google account when performing the search that took them to your site (remember that phrase in bold, it’ll be important later on…) then the data that allowed you to know what term delivered their visit was ‘not provided’. And still is. Only now, you don’t have to be logged into anything. All keyword data is ‘not provided’ when it comes to those analytics reports. It was always a bit annoying because it meant that you weren’t getting the full picture when it came to measuring the success of your SEO activities. Were the terms you were targeting actually sending you traffic? Was there a return on investment for that ranking success? More importantly, what words were converting best? All this information was seemingly lost overnight. Actually, there’s no seemingly about it, it was lost overnight!

Having less data is clearly a blow to measuring success, no two ways about that. But what is important is what we do with what we are left with and the reality is that in this industry we are so utterly spoiled with measurable data that even a loss like this one doesn’t have to impact your reporting, on the contrary, here at Traphic we reckon it’s forced us to be creative and evolve the way we measure our successes and actually improve the way we report.

So what do we do now the keyword data has vanished?

OK, remember the phrase in bold from earlier?: the search that took them to your site?

Well, whilst we might now the term that brought the visit, the important measure of success is not actually the term, but the fact that the search that took them to your site. So it’s useful to have the term in question handed to me on an analytical plate, but not critical to understanding what’s working well in my SEO campaign. Let me explain: I have whole conversations with clients these days that don’t even mention rankings. Single terms are yesterday’s SEO, we don’t get hung up on where one or two ‘core’ terms sit in the rankings because we know that it’s the 1000s of long tail terms that actually drive the traffic. Rankings are a guide, not a measure and even Google is moving away from a ‘keyword’ philosophy towards a contextually appropriate scenario where questions are understood and ideas or themes are considered. What my clients want to see is a report that says ‘your organic traffic has increased 20% this month’ and ‘your organic traffic channel has converted to sale at 8% this month resulting in £xyz revenue’. This is what’s important.

But what about all that hard work optimising pages for terms, how do I know it’s working?

This should be a no brainer – Remember what we said about the embarrassment of riches we have in analytics data for measuring our successes? Focus on your landing pages. You know if you’ve worked hard optimising category page X for the term ‘red widget’ so if you see an improvement in lands to that page and they’re engaging and converting then you know you’re getting results and you don’t need the keyword data to tell you you’ve nailed it.

Not happy? Still want some keyword data in your life? All is not actually lost…

Have you hooked up your Google webmaster tools account to your analytics account? You have submitted a sitemap haven’t you? Good, well, your webmaster tools account can fire across all that lovely query data to your analytics account. And you can slice that data any which way in analytics just like you would with old school ‘provided’ keywords – happy days! Not only that but WMT query data also gives you impressions; that’s the number of times your URLs have appeared in search with associated click through data. This actually gives you more to play with than you had before (even though it’s always been there, you just didn’t need to look because you already had some keywords data…).

Now we can’t vouch for the accuracy of the numbers and the data’s only going back a month at a time but it’s a good guide and honestly, that’s all that analytics has ever been – a good guide that allows for lots of conversion rate based decision making and allows for some solid ROI trends over time.

So no need to mourn keyword data, embrace you far more RESULTS orientated reporting and measuring and have a play with WMT if you absolutely must have some keyword action to refer to (I do, and there’s no harm in it!).

Do you miss keyword data in analytics? Have you found any creative ways to circumvent the hole in your data wall? Comment away…

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The actual value of an SEO service is the creation of an element that is a critical part of an equation that leads to success. Great SEO = High rankings. High Rankings from Great SEO = Targeted traffic. Targeted traffic + visitor engagement & conversion strategy = leads & sales! Here’s a little something I knocked up to illustrate…

TheSEOEquation title=
easel.ly

This is question that might at first glance appear to have an easy and obvious answer. And of course, it’s not a great mystery to those of us immersed in the field on a daily basis. But recently we nearly lost a client (yes, I know, us!) because we had not correctly established a clear understanding of where the value of our service lay. Setting clear goals and managing expectations are an important part of any SEO project, whether in house, outsourced or managed for you, agreeing on the desired outcomes (and understanding the path towards them) is vital.

But what is the point of a clear path towards and opportunity laden future if that has not been effectively communicated to your client, your colleagues or your boss? What kind of questions are you likely to get asked? This is where we unusually dropped the ball with a client and learned a valuable lesson.

The statement came out of the blue on an account that we were working hard and very successfully on. Some very competitive terms were shooting up that rankings and we were all rather proud of ourselves. Until we heard questions like “but we’re not making sales!” and even more painfully “I want to stop this because I don’t think we’re getting value”…

The short description of the resolution to this was that we immediately put a presentation together to illustrate the value of our service to the client. It had lots of pretty graphs and positive numbers and got the point over successfully and to everyone’s satisfaction. But the bottom line is very, very simple. The value must be clearly communicated. SEO does not = sales, (not even great SEO like what we do). This is because there are other factors at play at the conversion end of the deal (your conversion strategy, your risk reducers (or lack thereof), your pricing, your delivery policy, your newness, your competitors, and so on). SEO’s responsibility is to send targeted (not untargeted tyre kickers) visitors to your site. SEO’s true value (pure SEO we’re talking about rather than a holistic inbound marketing strategy) is in being part of the final equation that you simply cannot do without. Without the targeted traffic then your snazzy web psychology, fancy video demonstrations, compelling reviews and original content won’t be sending anyone down any conversion funnels…

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