Tag Archive | "Between"

Conversational Marketing Closes the Gap Between B2C and B2B, Says Drift Marketing VP

Conversational marketing is a whole new way of thinking about marketing and sales, says Dave Gerhardt, VP of Marketing at Drift. “We go to our jobs in B2B and none of the tools that we use match how we actually buy as real people,” he says. “That’s the most exciting thing to me about conversational marketing. It’s really closing the gap between B2C and B2B. We just call it B2P, marketing to people.”

Dave Gerhardt, VP of Marketing at Drift, was recently interviewed on the B2B Growth podcast by John Rougeux who is VP of Marketing at Skyfii. Gerhardt discusses conversational marketing as a new B2B product category and how it is changing marketing from reaching out to you later to a conversation that is happening now:

Conversational Marketing is About Connecting You Now

Conversational marketing is a whole new way of thinking about marketing and sales. The traditional way of doing marketing and sales is all about later. Come to my website and fill out this form and somebody is going to reach out to you later, when it’s convenient for them. The big shift that is happening in marketing and business over the last five to ten years is customers have all the power today. You can’t make people wait. Information is free now.

I can find anything I want to know about a company without ever having to go to your website. It’s crazy to think that you are going to force people to go to your website, fill out a form, wait three days to hear back from your sales team, and then get a demo. Conversational is all about connecting you now with the people who are ready to buy now while they are live on your website.

B2P – Marketing to People

It’s not about buyers. It’s not about sellers. It’s not about sales. It’s not about marketing. It’s about people. That’s how people all communicate online today. I pressed one button in my car and I got a list. I ordered something from Amazon while I was here this morning to send back to my house and it’s going to be there tomorrow when I get home. There are countless examples of that. That is how we all behave online in our real lives today.

But then something happens weird happens. We go to our jobs in B2B and none of the tools that we use match how we actually buy as real people. That’s the most exciting thing to me about conversational marketing. It’s really closing the gap between B2C and B2B. We just call it B2P, marketing to people.

What Ties Our Products Together is Conversation

We have an email product and we have a landing page product. Black and white versions of those people would say everybody has email, everybody has landing pages. The thing that ties those together is conversation. That forces us to think about what is conversational email? What is conversational landing pages? What is conversational whatever? That one word forces our product team to think about how can we change this? If our fundamental stance as a company is that the internet should be one conversation, then how does that weave into everything that we build?

Ultimately what we care about is that email becomes a conversation. Meaning, the way that marketers have had to use email the last decade is a one-way channel. Email is meant to be a two-way channel. Marketers have been using it as, “John come to my webinar.” What happens if you actually respond to that email? Most of the time you can’t because it’s donotreply@ or it just goes to some inbox where nobody is answering it. That is a terrible experience. Our belief is that if you reply, “Hey actually I can’t make it. Can you reregister my colleague?” That should get handled. We are thinking of that from an evolution standpoint.

The same thing with landing pages. Most landing pages today are static. You go to the landing page, put a bunch of info in and you are gone. What if that was a real-time conversation on the page? That one topic has to weave itself into everything we do from a product perspective.

>> Listen to the complete interview with Drift Marketing VP Dave Gerhardt on the B2B Growth podcast.

The post Conversational Marketing Closes the Gap Between B2C and B2B, Says Drift Marketing VP appeared first on WebProNews.

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Conversational Marketing Closes the Gap Between B2C and B2B, Says Drift Marketing VP

Conversational marketing is a whole new way of thinking about marketing and sales, says Dave Gerhardt, VP of Marketing at Drift. “We go to our jobs in B2B and none of the tools that we use match how we actually buy as real people,” he says. “That’s the most exciting thing to me about conversational marketing. It’s really closing the gap between B2C and B2B. We just call it B2P, marketing to people.”

Dave Gerhardt, VP of Marketing at Drift, was recently interviewed on the B2B Growth podcast by John Rougeux who is VP of Marketing at Skyfii. Gerhardt discusses conversational marketing as a new B2B product category and how it is changing marketing from reaching out to you later to a conversation that is happening now:

Conversational Marketing is About Connecting You Now

Conversational marketing is a whole new way of thinking about marketing and sales. The traditional way of doing marketing and sales is all about later. Come to my website and fill out this form and somebody is going to reach out to you later, when it’s convenient for them. The big shift that is happening in marketing and business over the last five to ten years is customers have all the power today. You can’t make people wait. Information is free now.

I can find anything I want to know about a company without ever having to go to your website. It’s crazy to think that you are going to force people to go to your website, fill out a form, wait three days to hear back from your sales team, and then get a demo. Conversational is all about connecting you now with the people who are ready to buy now while they are live on your website.

B2P – Marketing to People

It’s not about buyers. It’s not about sellers. It’s not about sales. It’s not about marketing. It’s about people. That’s how people all communicate online today. I pressed one button in my car and I got a list. I ordered something from Amazon while I was here this morning to send back to my house and it’s going to be there tomorrow when I get home. There are countless examples of that. That is how we all behave online in our real lives today.

But then something happens weird happens. We go to our jobs in B2B and none of the tools that we use match how we actually buy as real people. That’s the most exciting thing to me about conversational marketing. It’s really closing the gap between B2C and B2B. We just call it B2P, marketing to people.

What Ties Our Products Together is Conversation

We have an email product and we have a landing page product. Black and white versions of those people would say everybody has email, everybody has landing pages. The thing that ties those together is conversation. That forces us to think about what is conversational email? What is conversational landing pages? What is conversational whatever? That one word forces our product team to think about how can we change this? If our fundamental stance as a company is that the internet should be one conversation, then how does that weave into everything that we build?

Ultimately what we care about is that email becomes a conversation. Meaning, the way that marketers have had to use email the last decade is a one-way channel. Email is meant to be a two-way channel. Marketers have been using it as, “John come to my webinar.” What happens if you actually respond to that email? Most of the time you can’t because it’s donotreply@ or it just goes to some inbox where nobody is answering it. That is a terrible experience. Our belief is that if you reply, “Hey actually I can’t make it. Can you reregister my colleague?” That should get handled. We are thinking of that from an evolution standpoint.

The same thing with landing pages. Most landing pages today are static. You go to the landing page, put a bunch of info in and you are gone. What if that was a real-time conversation on the page? That one topic has to weave itself into everything we do from a product perspective.

>> Listen to the complete interview with Drift Marketing VP Dave Gerhardt on the B2B Growth podcast.

The post Conversational Marketing Closes the Gap Between B2C and B2B, Says Drift Marketing VP appeared first on WebProNews.


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The Difference Between URL Structure and Information Architecture – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by willcritchlow

Questions about URL structure and information architecture are easy to get confused, but it’s an important distinction to maintain. IA tends to be more impactful than URL decisions alone, but advice given around IA often defaults to suggestions on how to best structure your URLs. In this Whiteboard Friday, Will Critchlow helps us distinguish between the two disparate topics and shares some guiding questions to ask about each.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hi, everyone. Welcome to a British Whiteboard Friday. My name is Will Critchlow. I’m one of the founders of Distilled, and I wanted to go back to some basics today. I wanted to cover a little bit of the difference between URL structure and information architecture, because I see these two concepts unfortunately mixed up a little bit too often when people are talking about advice that they want to give.

I’m thinking here particularly from an SEO perspective. So there is a much broader study of information architecture. But here we’re thinking really about: What do the search engines care about, and what do users care about when they’re searching? So we’ll link some basics about things like what is URL structure, but we’re essentially talking here about the path, right, the bit that comes after the domain www.example.com/whatever-comes-next.

There’s a couple of main ways of structuring your URL. You can have kind of a subfolder type of structure or a much flatter structure where everything is kind of collapsed into the one level. There are pros and cons of different ways of doing this stuff, and there’s a ton of advice. You’re generally trading off considerations around, in general, it’s better to have shorter URLs than longer URLs, but it’s also better, on average, to have your keyword there than not to have your keyword there.

These are in tension. So there’s a little bit of art that goes into structuring good URLs. But too often I see people, when they’re really trying to give information architecture advice, ending up talking about URL structure, and I want to just kind of tease those things apart so that we know what we’re talking about.

So I think the confusion arises because both of them can involve questions around which pages exist on my website and what hierarchies are there between pages and groups of pages.

URL questions

So what pages exist is clearly a URL question at some level. Literally if I go to /shoes/womens, is that a 200 status? Is that a page that returns things on my website? That is, at its basics, a URL question. But zoom out a little bit and say what are the set of pages, what are the groups of pages that exist on my website, and that is an information architecture question, and, in particular, how they’re structured and how those hierarchies come together is an information architecture question.

But it’s muddied by the fact that there are hierarchy questions in the URL. So when you’re thinking about your red women’s shoes subcategory page on an e-commerce site, for example, you could structure that in a flat way like this or in a subfolder structure. That’s just a pure URL question. But it gets muddied with the information architecture questions, which we’ll come on to.

I think probably one of the key ones that comes up is: Where do your detail-level pages sit? So on an e-commerce site, imagine a product page. You could have just /product-slug. Ideally that would have some kind of descriptive keywords in it, rather than just being an anonymous number. But you can have it just in the root like this, or you can put it in a subfolder, the category it lives in.

So if this is a pair of red women’s shoes, then you could have it in /shoes/women/red slug, for example. There are pros and cons of both of these. I’m not going to get deep into it, but in general the point is you can make any of these decisions about your URLs independent of your information architecture questions.

Information architecture questions

Let’s talk about the information architecture, because these are actually, in general, the more impactful questions for your search performance. So these are things like, as I said at the beginning, it’s essentially what pages exist and what are their hierarchies.

  • How many levels of category and subcategory should we have on our website?
  • What do we do in our faceted navigation?
  • Do we go two levels deep?
  • Do we go three levels deep?
  • Do we allow all those pages to be crawled and indexed?
  • How do we link between things?
  • How do we link between the sibling products that are in the same category or subcategory?
  • How do we link back up the structure to the parent subcategory or category?
  • How do we crucially build good link paths out from the big, important pages on our website, so our homepage or major category pages?
  • What’s the link path that you can follow by clicking multiple links from there to get to detail level for every product on your website?

Those kind of questions are really impactful. They make a big difference, on an SEO front, both in terms of crawl depth, so literally a search engine spider coming in and saying, “I need to discover all these pages, all these detail-level pages on your website.” So what’s the click depth and crawl path out from those major pages?

Think about link authority and your link paths

It’s also a big factor in a link authority sense. Your internal linking structure is how your PageRank and other link metrics get distributed out around your website, and so it’s really critical that you have these great linking paths down into the products, between important products, and between categories and back up the hierarchy. How do we build the best link paths from our important pages down to our detail-level pages and back up?

Make your IA decisions before your URL structure decisions

After you have made whatever IA decisions you like, then you can independently choose your preferred URLs for each page type.

These are SEO information architecture questions, and the critical thing to realize is that you can make all of your information architecture decisions — which pages exist, which subcategories we’re going to have indexed, how we link between sibling products, all of this linking stuff — we can make all these decisions, and then we can say, independently of whatever decisions we made, we can choose any of the URL structures we like for what those actual pages’ paths are, what the URLs are for those pages.

We need to not get those muddied, and I see that getting muddied too often. People talk about these decisions as if they’re information architecture questions, and they make them first, when actually you should be making these decisions first and then picking the best, like I said, it’s a bit more art than science sometimes to making the decision between longer URLs, more descriptive URLs, or shorter URL paths.

So I hope that’s been a helpful intro to a basic topic. I’ve written a bunch of this stuff up in a blog post, and we’ll link to that. But yeah, I’ve enjoyed this Whiteboard Friday. I hope you have too. See you soon.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Is There Still a Difference Between Marketing and Selling?

Back when I worked in the corporate world, our organization, like many, had a great, big invisible wall between marketing and sales. The marketers crafted messages, thought about fonts and brand colors, produced beautiful brochures and websites, and figured out new ways to get people to know our company existed. The end result of this
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Reading Between the Lines: A 3-Step Guide to Reviewing Web Page Content

Posted by Jackie.Francis

In SEO, reviewing content is an unavoidable yet extremely important task. As the driving factor that brings people to a page, best practice dictates that we do what we can to ensure that the work we’ve invested hours and resources into creating remains impactful and relevant over time. This requires occasionally going back and re-evaluating our content to identify areas that can be improved.

That being said, if you’ve ever done a content review, you know how surprisingly challenging this is. A large variety of formats and topics alongside the challenge of defining “good” content makes it hard to pick out the core elements that matter. Without these universal focus areas, you may end up neglecting an element (e.g. tone of voice) in one instance but paying special attention to that same element in another.

Luckily there are certain characteristics — like good spelling, appealing layouts, and relevant keywords — that are universally associated with what we would consider “good” content. In this three-step guide, I’ll show you how to use these characteristics (or elements, as I like to call them) to define your target audience, measure the performance of your content using a scorecard, and assess your changes for quality assurance as part of a review process that can be applied to nearly all types of content across any industry.


Step 1: Know your audience

Arguably the most important step mentioned in this post, knowing your target reader will identify the details that should make up the foundation of your content. This includes insight into the reader’s intent, the ideal look and feel of the page, and the goals your content’s message should be trying to achieve.

To get to this point, however, you first need to answer these two questions:

  1. What does my target audience look like?
  2. Why are they reading my content?

What does my target audience look like?

The first question relies on general demographic information such as age, gender, education, and job title. This gives a face to the ideal audience member(s) and the kind of information that would best suit them. For example, if targeting stay-at-home mothers between the ages of 35 and 40 with two or more kids under the age of 5, we can guess that she has a busy daily schedule, travels frequently for errands, and constantly needs to stay vigilant over her younger children. So, a piece that is personable, quick, easy to read on-the-go, and includes inline imagery to reduce eye fatigue would be better received than something that is lengthy and requires a high level of focus.

Why are they reading my content?

Once you have a face to your reader, the second question must be answered to understand what that reader wants from your content and if your current product is effectively meeting those needs. For example, senior-level executives of mid- to large-sized companies may be reading to become better informed before making an important decision, to become more knowledgeable in their field, or to use the information they learn to teach others. Other questions you may want to consider asking:

  • Are they reading for leisure or work?
  • Would they want to share this with their friends on social media?
  • Where will they most likely be reading this? On the train? At home? Waiting in line at the store?
  • Are they comfortable with long blocks of text, or would inline images be best?
  • Do they prefer bite-sized information or are they comfortable with lengthy reports?

You can find the answers to these questions and collect valuable demographic and psychographic information by using a combination of internal resources, like sales scripts and surveys, and third-party audience insight tools such as Google Analytics and Facebook Audience Insights. With these results you should now have a comprehensive picture of your audience and can start identifying the parts of your content that can be improved.


Step 2: Tear apart your existing content

Now that you understand who your audience is, it’s time to get to the real work: assessing your existing content. This stage requires breaking everything apart to identify the components you should keep, change, or discard. However, this task can be extremely challenging because the performance of most components — such as tone of voice, design, and continuity — can’t simply be bucketed into binary categories like “good” or “bad.” Rather, they fall into a spectrum where the most reasonable level of improvement falls somewhere in the middle. You’ll see what I mean by this statement later on, but one of the most effective ways to evaluate and measure the degree of optimization needed for these components is to use a scorecard. Created by my colleague, Ben Estes, this straightforward, reusable, and easy to apply tool can help you objectively review the performance of your content.

Make a copy of the Content Review Grading Rubric

Note: The card sampled here, and the one I personally use for similar projects, is a slightly altered version of the original.

As you can see, the card is divided into two categories: Writing and Design. Listed under each category are elements that are universally needed to create a good content and should be examined. Each point is assigned a grading scale ranging from 1–5, with 1 being the worst score and 5 being best.

To use, start by choosing a part of your page to look at first. Order doesn’t matter, so whether you choose to first check “spelling and grammar” or “continuity” is up to you. Next, assign it a score on a separate Excel sheet (or mark it directly on the rubric) based on its current performance. For example, if the copy has no spelling errors but some minor grammar issues, you would rank “spelling and grammar” as a four (4).

Finally, repeat this process until all elements are graded. Remember to stay impartial to give an honest assessment.

Once you’re done, look at each grade and see where it falls on the scale. Ideally each element should have a score of 4 or greater, although a grade of 5 should only be given out sparingly. Tying back to my spectrum comment from earlier, a 5 is exclusively reserved for top-level work and should be something to strive for but will typically take more effort to achieve than it is worth. A grade of 4 is often the highest and most reasonable goal to attempt for, in most instances.

A grade of 3 or below indicates an opportunity for improvement and that significant changes need to be made.

If working with multiple pieces of content at once, the grading system can also be used to help prioritize your workload. Just collect the average writing or design score and sort them in ascending/descending order. Pages with a lower average indicate poorer performance and should be prioritized over pages whose averages are higher.

Whether you choose to use this scorecard or make your own, what you review, the span of the grading scale, and the criteria for each grade should be adjusted to fit your specific needs and result in a tool that will help you honestly assess your content across multiple applications.

Don’t forget the keywords

With most areas of your content covered by the scorecard, the last element to check before moving to the editing stage is your keywords.

Before I get slack for this, I’m aware that the general rule of creating content is to do your keyword research first. But I’ve found that when it comes to reviews, evaluating keywords last feels more natural and makes the process a lot smoother. When first running through a page, you’re much more likely to notice spelling and design flaws before you pick up whether a keyword is used correctly — why not make note of those details first?

Depending on the outcomes stemming from the re-evaluation of your target audience and content performance review, you will notice one of two things about your currently targeted keywords:

  1. They have not been impacted by the outcomes of the prior analyses and do not need to be altered
  2. They no longer align with the goals of the page or needs of the audience and should be changed

In the first example, the keywords you originally target are still best suited for your content’s message and no additional research is needed. So, your only remaining task is to determine whether or not your keywords are effectively used throughout the page. This means assessing things like title tag, image alt attributes, URL, and copy.

In an attempt to stay on track, I won’t go into further detail on how to optimize keywords but if you want a little more insight, this post by Ken Lyons is a great resource.

If, however, your target keywords are no longer relevant to the goals of your content, before moving to the editing stage you’ll need to re-do your keyword research to identify the terms you should rank for. For insight into keyword research this chapter in Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO is another invaluable resource.


Step 3: Evaluate your evaluation

At this point your initial review is complete and you should be ready to edit.

That’s right. Your initial review.

The interesting thing about assessing content is that it never really ends. As you make edits you’ll tend to deviate more and more from your initial strategy. And while not always a bad thing, you must continuously monitor these changes to ensure that you are on the right track to create a highly valued piece of content.

The best approach would be to reassess all your material when:

  • 50% of the edits are complete
  • 85% of the edits are complete
  • You have finished editing

At the 50% and 85% marks, keep the assessment quick and simple. Look through your revisions and ask the following questions:

  • Am I still addressing the needs of my target audience?
  • Are my target keywords properly integrated?
  • Am I using the right language and tone of voice?
  • Does it look like the information is structured correctly (hierarchically)?

If your answer is “Yes” to all four questions, then you’ve effectively made your changes and should proceed. For any question you answer “No,” go back and make the necessary corrections. The areas targeted here become more difficult to fix the closer you are to completion and ensuring they’re correct throughout this stage will save a lot of time and stress in the long run.

When you’ve finished and think you’re ready to publish, run one last comprehensive review to check the performance status of all related components. This means confirming you’ve properly addressed the needs of your audience, optimized your keywords, and improved the elements highlighted in the scorecard.


Moving forward

No two pieces of content are the same, but that does not mean there aren’t some important commonalities either. Being able to identify these similarities and understand the role they play across all formats and topics will lead the way to creating your own review process for evaluating subjective material.

So, when you find yourself gearing up for your next project, give these steps a try and always keep the following in mind:

  1. Your audience is what makes or breaks you, so keep them happy
  2. Consistent quality is key! Ensure all components of your content are performing at their best
  3. Keep your keywords optimized and be prepared to do additional research if necessary
  4. Unplanned changes will happen. Just remember to remain observant as to keep yourself on track

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How to Face 3 Fundamental Challenges Standing Between SEOs and Clients/Bosses

Posted by sergeystefoglo

Every other year, the good people at Moz conduct a survey with one goal in mind: understand what we (SEOs) want to read more of. If you haven’t seen the results from 2017, you can view them here.

The results contain many great questions, challenges, and roadblocks that SEOs face today. As I was reading the 2017 Moz Blog readership survey, a common thread stood out to me: there are disconnects on fundamental topics between SEOs and clients and/or bosses. Since I work at an agency, I’ll use “client” through the rest of this article; if you work in-house, replace that with “boss.”

Check out this list:

I can definitely relate to these challenges. I’ve been at Distilled for a few years now, and worked in other firms before — these challenges are real, and they’re tough. Through sharing my experience dealing with these challenges, I hope to help other consultants and SEOs to overcome them.

In particular, I want to discuss three points of disconnect that happen between SEOs and clients.

  1. My client doesn’t understand the value of SEO and it’s difficult to prove ROI.
  2. My client doesn’t understand how SEO works and I always have to justify my actions.
  3. My client and I disagree about whether link building is the right answer.

Keep in mind, these are purely my own experiences. This doesn’t mean these answers are the end-all-be-all. In fact, I would enjoy starting a conversation around these challenges with any of you so please grab me at SearchLove (plug: our San Diego conference is selling out quickly and is my favorite) or MozCon to bounce off more ideas!

1. My client doesn’t understand the value of SEO and it’s difficult to prove ROI

The value of SEO is its influence on organic search, which is extremely valuable. In fact, SEO is more prominent in 2018 than it has ever been. To illustrate this, I borrowed some figures from Rand’s write up on the state of organic search at the end of 2017.

  • Year over year, the period of January–October 2017 has 13% more search volume than the same months in 2016.
  • That 13% represents 54 billion more queries, which is just about the total number of searches Google did, worldwide, in 2003.

Organic search brings in the most qualified visitors (at a more consistent rate) than any other digital marketing channel. In other words, more people are searching for things than ever before, which results in more potential to grow organic traffic. How do we grow organic traffic? By making sure our sites are discoverable by Google and clearly answer user queries with good content.

Source: Search Engine Land

When I first started out in SEO, I used to think I was making all my clients all the moneys. “Yes, Bill, if you hire me and we do this SEO thing I will increase rankings and sessions, and you will make an extra x dollars!” I used to send estimates on ROI with every single project I pitched (even if it wasn’t asked of me).

After a few years in the industry I began questioning the value of providing estimates on ROI. Specifically, I was having trouble determining ift I was doing the right thing by providing a number that was at best an educated guess. It would stress me out and I would feel like I was tied to that number. It also turns out, not worrying about things that are out of our control helps control stress levels.

I’m at a point now where I’ve realized the purpose of providing an estimated ROI. Our job as consultants is to effect change. We need to get people to take action. If what it takes to get sign-off is to predict an uplift, that’s totally fine. In fact, it’s expected. Here’s how that conversation might look.

In terms of a formula for forecasting uplifts in SEO, Mike King said it best:

“Forecast modeling is questionable at best. It doesn’t get much better than this:”

  • Traffic = Search Volume x CTR
  • Number of Conversions = Conversion Rate x Traffic
  • Dollar Value = Traffic x # Conversions x Avg Conversion Value

TL;DR:

  • Don’t overthink this too much — if you do, you’ll get stuck in the weeds.
  • When requested, provide the prediction to get sign-off and quickly move on to action.
  • For more in-depth thoughts on this, read Will Critchlow’s recent post on forecast modeling.
  • Remember to think about seasonality, overall trends, and the fact that few brands exist in a vacuum. What are your competitors doing and how will that affect you?

2. My client doesn’t understand how SEO works and I always have to justify my actions

Does your client actually not understand how SEO works? Or, could it be that you don’t understand what they need from you? Perhaps you haven’t considered what they are struggling with at the moment?

I’ve been there — constantly needing to justify why you’re working on a project or why SEO should be a focus. It isn’t easy to be in this position. But, more often than not I’ve realized what helps the most is to take a step back and ask some fundamental questions.

A great place to start would be asking:

  • What are the things my client is concerned about?
  • What is my client being graded on by their boss?
  • Is my client under pressure for some reason?

The answers to these questions should shine some clarity on the situation (the why or the motivation behind the constant questioning). Some of the reasons why could be:

  • You might know more about SEO than your client, but they know more about their company. This means they may see the bigger picture between investments, returns, activities, and the interplay between them all.
  • SEO might be 20% of what your client needs to think about — imagine a VP of marketing who needs to account for 5–10 different channels.
  • If you didn’t get sign off/budget for a project, it doesn’t mean your request was without merit. This just means someone else made a better pitch more aligned to their larger goals.

When you have some answers, ask yourself, “How can I make what I’m doing align to what they’re focused on?” This will ensure you are hitting the nail on the head and providing useful insight instead of more confusion.

That conversation might look like this:

TL;DR

  • This is a good problem to have — it means you have a chance to effect change.
  • Also, it means that your client is interested in your work!
  • It’s important to clarify the why before getting to in the weeds. Rarely will the why be “to learn SEO.”

3. My client and I disagree about whether link building is the right answer

The topic of whether links (and by extension, link building) are important is perhaps the most talked about topic in SEO. To put it simply, there are many different opinions and not one “go-to” answer. In 2017 alone there have been many conflicting posts/talks on the state of links.

The quick answer to the challenge we face as SEOs when it comes to links is, unless authority is holding you back do something else.

That answer is a bit brief and if your client is constantly bringing up links, it doesn’t help. In this case, I think there are a few points to consider.

  1. If you’re a small business, getting links is a legitimate challenge and can significantly impact your rankings. The problem is that it’s difficult to get links for a small business. Luckily, we have some experts in our field giving out ideas for this. Check out this, this, and this.
  2. If you’re an established brand (with authority), links should not be a priority. Often, links will get prioritized because they are easier to attain, measurable (kind of), and comfortable. Don’t fall into this trap! Go with the recommendation above: do other impactful work that you have control over first.
    1. Reasoning: Links tie success to a metric we have no control over — this gives us an excuse to not be accountable for success, which is bad.
    2. Reasoning: Links reduce an extremely complicated situation into a single variable — this gives us an excuse not to try and understand everything (which is also bad).
  3. It’s good to think about the topic of links and how it’s related to brand. Big brands get talked about (and linked to) more than small brands. Perhaps the focus should be “build your brand” instead of “gain some links”.
  4. If your client persists on the topic of links, it might be easier to paint a realistic picture for them. This conversation might look like this:

TL;DR

  • There are many opinions on the state of links in 2018: don’t get distracted by all the noise.
  • If you’re a small business, there are some great tactics for building links that don’t take a ton of time and are probably worth it.
  • If you’re an established brand with more authority, do other impactful work that’s in your control first.
  • If you are constantly getting asked about links from your client, paint a realistic picture.

Conclusion

If you’ve made it this far, I’m really interested in hearing how you deal with these issues within your company. Are there specific challenges you face within the topics of ROI, educating on SEO, getting sign-off, or link building? How can we start tackling these problems more as an industry?

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!


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The Difference Between Marketing and Advertising (and Why It Matters)

Marketing is the strategy of educating customers about a company’s choices in the marketplace, who their product or service will be a good fit for, and who it won’t. Advertising is then used to take that strategy and communicate it to an audience. Read on to learn more.
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Google Unveils PAIR Initiative to Improve Relationship Between Humans and AI

Google announced Monday a new initiative geared towards improving the relationship between humans and artificial intelligence (AI).

The project, called People + AI Research (PAIR), will see Google researchers analyze the way humans interact with AI and the pieces of software it powers. The team, to be led by Google Brain researchers and data visualization experts Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg, will work to determine how best to utilize AI from the perspective of humans.

“PAIR is devoted to advancing the research and design of people-centric AI systems. We’re interested in the full spectrum of human interaction with machine intelligence, from supporting engineers to understanding everyday experiences with AI,” the website for the initiative says.

The thrust of PAIR is to have AI in a form that is more practicable to humans, or to make it “less disappointing or surprising,” as described by Wired.

An application of this idea would be the use of AI as an aid for professionals like musicians, farmers, doctors and engineers in their vocations. Google, however, did not go into detail on how it will go about putting this idea into practice.

The researchers also hope to help form impressions of artificial intelligence that will enable people to have realistic expectations of it.

“One of the research questions is how do you reset a user’s expectations on the fly when they’re interacting with a virtual assistant,”  Viégas said.

Viégas and Wattenberg, along with the 12 full-time members of the PAIR team at Google, will also be working with experts from Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

PAIR, according to Google, will “ensure machine learning is inclusive, so everyone can benefit from breakthroughs in AI.” Nevertheless, as Fortune points out, there have been questions of whether tech giants like Google and Facebook are keeping AI knowledge to themselves after hiring many highly regarded researchers in different areas of AI such as deep learning.

The post Google Unveils PAIR Initiative to Improve Relationship Between Humans and AI appeared first on WebProNews.


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The Difference Between Cheap and Good

The Difference Between Cheap and Good

You’ve probably noticed how much cheap marketing and writing advice is out there. So many hypey “hacks” … so few results.

We’re much more into the long game. It takes time and energy to produce good content, which is why we like solid, proven strategies that are actually worth your time.

This week, we have some deep dives for you.

On Monday, Beth Hayden shared some thoughts on promoting your content to improve your SEO. (Like all good SEO recommendations, content promotion isn’t just for search engines — its most important function is to find more humans who would love to read, watch, or listen to your content.)

On Tuesday, Aaron Orendorff wrote about one of our favorite things — evergreen content. Instead of trying to chase news (along with thousands of other sites in your topic), with evergreen content, you develop a thoughtful, compelling angle on a subject and put in the extra work that lifts it above the usual noise. Aaron gives 20 ideas you can use to shape content that will work for the long haul.

I have a suggestion for you: Take Aaron’s list of 20, pick the ones that resonate with you, and get one onto your calendar for each month of 2017. They won’t be 12 easy posts to write … but if you put real effort into them, they’ll bring genuine, long-lasting authority to your site.

On Wednesday, I pulled together some of my favorite Copyblogger posts from 2016, with a few words on each one. (In other words, it’s a bit like this post, but for a whole year.) It’s divided into sections, so you can find your favorite topics more easily.

On the podcasts, The Showrunner shared their favorite audio production tips with you, and Members Only gets real about what it takes to create a product page that actually sells something.

Next week, we have some fun news that I think you will love. The whole editorial team is looking forward to all kinds of amazing conversations with you in 2017.

Enjoy this week’s goodies. Thank you so much for your time and attention in 2016, and I’ll catch you next year!

— Sonia Simone

Chief Content Officer, Rainmaker Digital


Catch up on this week’s content


help readers find your content4 Creative (and Aboveboard) Ways to Improve Your Search Engine Rankings

by Beth Hayden


20 Types of Evergreen Content that Produce Lasting Results for Your Business20 Types of Evergreen Content that Produce Lasting Results for Your Business

by Aaron Orendorff


catch up on our top picks for 2016The Best of Copyblogger: 2016 Edition

by Sonia Simone


Are You Losing Sales Because Your Purchase Page Sucks?Are You Losing Sales Because Your Purchase Page Sucks?

by Sean Jackson


Professional Podcasting Tips for Pristine Production (and Hosting Hacks)Professional Podcasting Tips for Pristine Production (and Hosting Hacks)

by Jerod Morris & Jon Nastor


The post The Difference Between Cheap and Good appeared first on Copyblogger.


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What’s the Real Relationship Between Organic Rankings & Social Shares? (Hint: They’re Related, But Not the Way You Think)

Posted by larry.kim

One of the biggest areas of speculation, contention, and confusion within the SEO universe over the past six years or so has been whether (or how much) social media signals impact organic search rankings.

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But even if Google isn’t directly using social share counts in their search algorithms, there ought to be some other explanation out there about why high share counts correlate with high organic search rankings.

Well, that is exactly what we’re going to research in this post.

Are social shares a ranking signal?

People have noticed the connection between social shares and ranking going back to 2010. But correlating rankings and social signals has been a bit of a cat-and-mouse game.

If you’ve done any SEO at all, you’ve probably noticed that the stories that rank well tend to have high social share counts.

These are your unicorns – the extremely popular magical pieces of content that drive a ridiculous amount of traffic to your site. These types of elite “unicorn” content drive 10-1000x better results than all your other content (the donkeys).

Why do top-performing posts often also have a high number of shares? What exactly is causing these observable correlations?

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Some SEOs believed that Google was somehow factoring social share counts into the algorithm like links (though not with nearly the same amount of weight).

Social shares figured into Moz’s Search Engine Ranking Factors 2015, albeit as a low factor:

“Always controversial, the number of social shares a page accumulates tends to show a positive correlation with rankings. Although there is strong reason to believe Google doesn’t use social share counts directly in its algorithm, there are many secondary SEO benefits to be gained through successful social sharing.”

Indeed, there is a strong reason to believe Google doesn’t use share counts as a direct ranking factor. Google has said so.

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Repeatedly and emphatically.

Google doesn’t use Facebook, Twitter, or any other social share counts as a direct ranking factor.

It’s not shares, it’s engagement

We need a new approach to answer these important questions. Maybe we’re looking at the wrong social metrics. Maybe we should be looking at social engagement rates rather than just the total number of social shares.

What percentage of total unique people who saw your update clicked on it and/or shared it?

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Perhaps the relationship is that the social posts that get very high engagement rates (which leads to high numbers of shares) come from the same content that get above-average click-through rates in organic search results pages, which we know tends to result in better organic rankings.

But how can we test this theory?

A crazy new correlation study: Social engagement, organic search CTR, & rankings

So here’s my crazy idea: to compare social engagement rates with normalized organic click-through rates for 1,000 pages.

Previous studies have only looked at external-facing number of shares. But bots and other factors can easily taint share counts. Plus, studies have shown that many social media users share content without actually reading it.

How did I do this? I:

  • Downloaded post engagement data from Facebook Insights (sharing and engagement data).
  • Downloaded query data from Google Search Console (CTR and ranking data).
  • Matched up the data. This was somewhat difficult because neither Facebook nor Google provided me with the destination URLs, so some custom programming was required.

Important note: You have to normalize your CTR for search based on position. Obviously higher average positions have higher CTRs than lower positions, so I’ve used my Donkey detection algorithm to compute the expected CTR by position to help determine whether the CTR is above or below expectations.

The results: Organic search CTR vs. Facebook post engagement

Here’s what I’d consider a pretty strong link between higher social post engagement and higher organic CTR (and vice-versa):

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Here, a 100% Relative Search CTR corresponds to a keyword/page achieving the expected CTR for organic search for a given ranking; 200% percent is double the expected search CTR; 50% is half the expected CTR, and so on.

What I found was that Facebook posts with extraordinarily high engagement rates – anywhere from 6 to 13 percent – also tended to have above expected organic search CTR.

Why? My theory: The same emotions that make people share things also make people click on those things in the SERPs. This is particularly true for headlines with unusually high CTRs.

The correlations were much stronger with unicorn content. The R-squared values were well above 0.5 – the model is stronger the more of an outlier you’re pushing. Unicorns with high social engagement rates almost always had high organic CTR, and vice versa.

The correlations were substantially weaker with donkey content. The R-squared values were pretty noisy, around .1 to .4. Donkeys sometimes had high engagement rates, sometimes low engagement rates. The same was true with CTR, some high, some low.

So this research illustrates how high social engagement rates correlate with high CTR, and vice versa.

Really, the argument isn’t whether social sharing causes organic search rankings or organic rankings cause social sharing.

It’s about how engaging your content is.

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Actual examples

Theory is great. But let’s see if the theory matches by looking at some top-performing content.

Here are just three examples of posts from my company that have top organic rankings on Google and above-expected organic CTR. What was the engagement rate on Facebook?

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This post has brought in nearly 500,000 visits from organic search. It had a 7.4 engagement rate on Facebook.

OK. Once is just a fluke.

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This post brought in more than 250,000 visits from organic search. It got an 8.5 engagement rate on Facebook.

Two times? Could just be a coincidence.

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This piece brought in 100,000 organic visits. It had a 7.1 percent engagement rate when shared on Facebook.

Guys, now we have a trend! All of these posts that rank well had 3x or 4x higher engagement than my average Facebook post.

I could keep posting more examples like these, but it would be more of the same.

Correlation or causation?

What is causing the correlation? There is one thing that makes me certain that the relationship between social engagement and organic click through rates is a co-dependent, causal relationship.

Machine learning.

Machine learning systems actually reward high engagement with higher visibility.

Higher visibility means higher organic rankings and more social shares.

To determine success, an algorithm looks at whether users engaged. If more people engage, that’s a clear sign that their algorithm is showing this right content; if not, their systems will audition other content instead to find something that does generate that interest.

Here’s a greatly simplified look at the role machine learning systems play in the Facebook news feed and Google search results. Basically, it’s all about rewarding content that has above-expected engagement:

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When a piece of content fails to beat the expected engagement, it won’t get that same visibility, whether it’s on Google, Facebook, or any other system that measures user engagement.

Whenever someone searches on Google for something, Google wants to return the best result. Out of all the potential results Google could show for any given query, Google must find what’s most useful and relevant.

One way Google checks itself is to look at organic click-through rate (but not the only way!). Did users click on the result in Position 1, or did more people click on the Position 2 or 3 result?

Even though all three of these pages may answer a user’s need, click-through rate is a huge clue about whether Google is providing the best answers in the right order for users.

Now let’s think about Facebook. Whenever a piece of content gets hot, it means lots of people are talking about it relative to the number of people who see it, in a short period of time. Are tons of people liking, commenting, and sharing a post?

When this happens, Facebook’s machine learning algorithm gives these posts or topics greater visibility. It becomes a virtuous cycle:

  • Post gets lots of user engagement (shares, likes, comments).
  • Facebook rewards the engagement by showing it to more users.
  • Higher visibility results in the post getting lots more user engagement.
  • Facebook rewards the engagement by showing it to more users.
  • And so on, until the the social post is no longer new and engagement dwindles.

What to do?

Turn your best social stuff into organic content and vice-versa.

Since stuff that does well on organic social tends to also do great in paid social, it follows that your content that gets top organic rankings will make great content for paid and organic social.

Conversely, your content that gets tons of engagement on social media platforms (paid and organic) will likely rank highly organically for the topics that they cover.

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These unicorns I’ve been obsessing about forever matter. Big time. Is your content a sparkly majestic unicorn or a boring old donkey?

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At the heart of a unicorn is a truly remarkable, inspiring idea. Truly exciting ideas (not just ideas you think are awesome). Content with remarkably high engagement rates has high conversion rates and does incredibly well in paid and organic search and social media, because of machine learning systems that greatly reward remarkably high user engagement.

Conclusion

The old theory was that high social shares correlates with high organic rankings.

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But really it’s not the number of shares that matters. It’s the engagement rate.

Remarkably high social engagement rates correlate strongly with high organic search CTR, which correlates with high rankings. Meaning, click-through rate matters a great deal. Think of it like an invisible hand that helps determine whether your content succeeds (thumbs up) or fails (thumbs down).

What’s happening here is that Facebook Ads, Facebook’s news feed algorithm, Google AdWords, and increasingly Google organic search are all systems governed by machine learning systems that reward remarkable engagement with greater visibility.

High engagement rates and machine learning systems are the common factor that explains the correlation between SEO and social metrics.

What do you think? Do your very best-performing pieces of content get tons of social shares, have a high social engagement rates, and drive a ton of traffic from organic search and convert well?

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!


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