Pigeon and SEO

pigeon and seoWhat do pigeons and SEO have in common?

Back in July search engine giant, Google, updated their search engine algorithm, including notable changes affecting SEO marketers, particularly those who deal with local SEO. Google didn’t give an internal name to this update like for Penguin and Panda before it, but Search Engine Land dubbed it Pigeon as it is a significant update to the algorithm. (They landed on Pigeon because the update mainly relates to local SEO and pigeons always fly home.)

Hence, Pigeon and SEO are important, especially for local brands.

Pigeon and SEO

The update should provide more accurate and relevant local search results linked more closely to conventional web search rankings and is not penalty based.

The most notable update deals with how Google will rank local businesses. The new algorithm is more deeply connected to web search capabilities, such as web search ranking signals and search features like synonyms, spelling correction, Knowledge Graph, and others. There have also been upgrades related to location and distance ranking variables. The new search results give more weight to local businesses rather than local brands. For example, a search result for “hamburgers” will give more local, independently owned results over national brands, such as Burger King and McDonald’s.

Pigeon and Yelp

Another change in Pigeon is good news for Yelp results. Previously, searches like “[business name] yelp” would return Yelp pages at the 3rd or 4th rank rather than as the top result. With the Pigeon update, local directory results are improved. These organic results have a better chance than ever before to appear in the SERPs (search engine results pages).

Pigeon and SEO on mobild

There has been a 60% decline in 7-pack results for several queries that were analyzed since the end of July, according to data from Moz. (Blumenthals.com made these results available in a Google Doc).

What’s a 7-pack? Good question. A 7-pack refers to the number of results listed for a local business. If a local business has multiple locations, a 7-pack lists the 7 closest locations.

Previously mobile local results showed more than 3-packs (3 locations/ local business). Before the update, only a few queries returned results with 3-packs. Post-Pigeon there is an increase in results with 3 packs. The limited amount of local results on mobile may relate to smaller screen sizes and the overall impatience of mobile users. Additionally, Google knows the location of mobile users.

seoStrategies for Pigeon and SEO

Some websites saw a reduction in traffic after the update. To remedy this for the short-term, SEO marketers can boost traffic with PPC campaigns. For the long-term, marketers will need to concentrate on obtaining search listings for keywords. Marketers should also consider running a competitive analysis and research to see how they stack up to the competition and beef up SEO campaigns.

Local search rankings may also be more heavily impacted by website authority, as this new algorithm is linked to conventional web search rankings. Local rankings may be determined by SEO ranking factors such as back-links and domain authority. Businesses without a local presence should work to build one.

The update is currently only effecting US English search queries and supplying more applicable search results for local users. As of now, Google has not commented on the number of queries that were impacted by the update, so trial and error may be the best strategy for now. It is also important to be on the lookout for ranking or referral changes.

So far the SEO community expressed mixed reactions toward the update, but many feel that it’s still too early to determine the new local algorithm’s impact in the long-term. It’s likely that the update will be generally positive for local SEO, as more attention will be paid to independent local businesses over large corporations and big brands, and local businesses will be better able to compete. The update requires SEO professionals to be flexible, but it could prove advantageous in the end.

pigeon and seoRussel Cooke is a small business consultant and writer from Baltimore, MD. After living and working for several years in Louisville, KY. He recently relocated to Los Angeles, CA. Follow him on Twitter @RusselCooke2.

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Is Your Content Marketing Working? Integration is the answer!

optimize content marketingA year ago, you never heard the term content marketing. Now, it’s almost a trending topic on Twitter because so much of the conversation has shifted from SEO to content marketing. Yet, I’m getting a string of clients from other firms who’ve decided content marketing just doesn’t work. And, in the hands of amateurs, it doesn’t.

Making your content marketing GREAT!

So, what do I do differently than most of my competitors? I recognize that content marketing is an integration across:

  • marketing
  • SEO
  • journalism (english)
  • business intelligence
  • graphic design
  • rudimentary web design

Fail in any of these areas, and your content marketing is going to under perform. It takes effective integration across these disciplines to optimize your content marketing strategy.

Despite the need for integration, a recent survey from Kapost shows most firms hiring journalism majors to handle content marketing. Huh?content marketing Now, to be sure, no college degree is the outright winner in garnering the role of content marketing, but journalism is 3+ times more common than any other degree. Unless journalists learned other skills while earning their degree, they lack all the necessary skills except writing. To be sure, good writing is important and creating content on a schedule is even more important — and journalists have these skills. But, look at what you’re giving up:

marketing:

Marketing students learn concepts including consumer behavior and learning, psychological concepts such as selective retention, persuasion, and a host of other tools capable of driving results from your content. They also learn planning and strategy tools necessary for management of content marketing, such as environmental scanning, SWOT analysis, and product positioning.

SEO:

To my knowledge, there’s no readily available college degree teaching SEO. In fact, SEO is an evolving discipline taking considerable effort to just stay current. On a regular basis, I read Moz (formerly SEOMoz), Search Engine Land, Search Engine Watch, and several blogs featuring state-of-the-art SEO techniques. While many tout the demise of SEO, key elements including keywords, backlinks, and other elements of a sound SEO strategy are still hugely important.

Business intelligence:

Without effective monitoring, no content marketing strategy is complete. That’s because, regardless of experience, NO ONE can accurately predict how consumers will respond to your content, which pieces of content will be most effective, and which digital outlets will work best for your content. Heck, without business intelligence, you can’t even figure out which headlines work best, which CTAs (Calls to Action) generate the highest click-through rate, which customers generate the highest AOV (average order value), or which have the highest CLV (customer lifetime value). These are all important questions to answer to optimize your content marketing strategy.

Even figuring out what to write about requires business intelligence: what’s trending, what competitors find success publishing (which Social Ears calls topicjacking in the infographic above), and finding out how prospective customers talk about topics they’re interested in.

Graphic design:

The digital web is increasingly VISUAL. Thus, effective content marketing requires compelling graphics, infographics, and video. Otherwise, visitors soon lose patience with your endless stream of words. Buying images from stock photo sites works to a degree, until you find your site beginning to look like everyone else’s site because you’re using the same images. And, stock images just don’t work in certain situations, requiring you to spend hours searching for just the right image or stumbling through creating something.

I recently ran across a post recently demonstrating how to create great word graphics using Microsoft Word. But. even so, some graphics take specialized training with tools like Adobe Creative Suite (especially photoshop and indesign) and experience using them. You’ll also likely want someone versed in photography and videography. Sure, visitors don’t expect TV quality video, but they don’t want something overly schlocky in your content.

Rudimentary web design:

You’ll never need to code an entire website as a content creator, but you should know some rudimentary Java and some HTML to pretty up your content, add and position videos from YouTube and Vimeo or podcasts. You’ll also want some design skills to add buttons, arrows, boxes, and other hyperlinked graphical elements to where you want CTAs within your content.

How to integrate your content marketing strategy

You have the option of hiring specialized individuals and routing your content through different staff members using a manager to coordinate the content production process. That’s how content is created in advertising agencies. Digital content ISN’T like traditional advertising. Digital content moving through multiple employees delays content, making it really hard to stay on schedule with your content marketing calendar and may result in content falling through the cracks. Routing content through multiple staff members also means you lose flexibility and can’t respond quickly to an immediate content creation opportunity. So, using the agency model for content marketing doesn’t really work.

As we saw above, neither does hiring individuals with just 1 or 2 of the required skills. That results in content marketing that doesn’t optimize market returns.

So, what’s the solution?

Well, the long-term solution is for universities to bring curricula up to 21st century stands; providing students with cross-functional skills to satisfy the needs of digital businesses — not just for content marketing, but other digital marketing needs. A few schools are beginning to offer these programs or certification programs comprised of relevant coursework. Private businesses are filling the gap faster, but maybe not as well. For instance, in DC, General Assembly (the training arm of 1776) offers training to increase your digital IQ on either a part-time or full-time basis. Lots of specialized schools such as these are springing up all around.

But, training and degree programs don’t help much if you need to hire someone tomorrow. One option is to hire firms like Hausman & Associates to manage your content marketing strategy for you or hiring someone with experience working in a firm such as this. Firms like mine spend time training employees so they have the skills you need.

Maybe your best option is hiring someone with certain necessary skills and undertaking training once the person is on board. That’s what I normally do when hiring new employees. I look for folks with the quantitative skills and good writing skills. I also hire graphic designers and video editors, figuring I can use the graphics folks to create images with likely utility based on the types of content we’re normally creating and videos often allow for the longer lead times required to have them work as part of a team. The rest I figure I can train employees who already have good analysis and writing skills. As a former marketing professor, I’d like to say I hire marketing graduates, but I find they lack needed analysis ability and computer skills. Hence, I’m teaching a lot on marketing, especially social media marketing, to my new hires. Of course, reading this blog, as well as others, are required of all employees.

Need help?

Whether you need a complete analytics strategy, some help with brand marketing, or some consulting to optimize your existing social media marketing, we can fill your digital marketing funnel. We can help you do your own social media marketing better or do it for you with our community managers, strategists, and account executives. You can request a FREE introductory meeting or sign up for my email newsletter to learn more about social media marketing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Local Marketing Rip-Off

build your local marketingI get hopping mad every time I hear about some poor local business getting suckered into a contract paying up to $150/ month for “Local Marketing”. It gives all of us a bad name when these scam artists dupe unsuspecting small business out of their hard-earned money — especially when these small businesses can little afford the charges.

Hausman & Associates doesn’t do local marketing, so don’t think this is just sour grapes. It just pisses me off to see these businesses prey on folks who don’t really understand inbound marketing and think they’re investing to grow their businesses.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Lots of these local marketing businesses are legit. Many just take your money to get you listed on a bunch of directories, which doesn’t really help your business. It just costs you money. Focus on just a few of these listings and spend the savings on other marketing efforts likely to help your business.

Local Marketing Directories

I’m not an expert on local marketing — remember Hausman & Associates deals only with firms selling nationally or globally. But, I can extrapolate from what I do know and what I read from the experts. So, here’s my advice.

Google+ Local and Google Places

Nearly 70% of search still happens on Google. When you add in Yahoo and Bing, you’ve covered probably 90+% of searches. So, just focus your efforts on these and forget those fringe sites.

My suggestion is spending most of your time on Google because they have a strong commitment to local.

It’s free to sign up for Google+ Local and Google Places — both are the current leaders in local search. And, it’s not that hard. Here’s the Google Places page I put up just to see how the whole local thing worked. It’s pretty painless. You fill out the information, request verification via a postcard, enter the verification code when you receive the postcard and you’re in business. Your Google Places account is a central location for managing online reviews, Adwords Express advertising, and your Google+ company page.

Meanwhile, Google+ Local helps folks find local businesses and helps businesses get found online. Folks can search local businesses and enter reviews of local vendors.

Both sites have the advantage of bringing you local traffic. When someone searches a restaurant, for instance, Google uses their location to serve up local businesses first. Thus, your local restaurant can be on the first page of search, which carries huge potential for business.

Review sites

Pick a few review sites — my recommendations are Yelp and Foursquare. And, don’t just get listed there — which is all you get when you pay for most local marketing companies. You need to MONITOR what folks are saying about you on these sites. If you see a few negative comments, invite these folks to share WHY they gave you a negative review and ask if they’ll give you a second chance to make a good impression.

I would resist the temptation to buy good reviews or get help putting up fake reviews. First, it’s so common now that many power review site users only trust reviews from people they know, and second, remember that bad reviews help you get better. Data suggests only a small percentage of dissatisfied customers complain. Dissatisfied customers who DO complain are giving you vital information to make your products and services better for everyone, which really helps your business grow.

The future of local marketing

According to an article on Forbes, local marketing is evolving and small businesses need to work smarter to make their businesses grow. Here are some trends in local marketing:

Don’t ignore online local marketing

If you ignore online local marketing, you’re fighting a losing battle for survival. Not only has online marketing replaced the phone book and yellow pages, but consumers increasingly ask their social networking connects for recommendations before buying. Thus, online local marketing not only helps you gain visibility, your performance with existing customers impacts your ability to garner future sales.

And, the big boys realize how valuable local marketing is. Big companies like WalMart are using local marketing to market the locations for their brands because nearly half of consumers use local search EVERY DAY!  Now is NOT the time to put your online local marketing on the back burner. Instead, you should be increasing spending on online local marketing.

SEO is more complex

Getting listed on directories just isn’t all that valuable. Google’s algorithm changes mandate more sophisticated strategies and back links just aren’t enough anymore. The new SEO requires social networking across Facebook, Twitter, Google+, at a minimum. For brands with a visual element, Pinterest is likely the most valuable social network.

And, content marketing is important for small business SEO the same as for larger, national businesses. Your local business needs to invest in developing unique content to drive traffic into your store.

Ditch the mobile website

Mobile websites are going the way of the dodo bird. Instead, invest in a responsive design for your website — one that responds to the screen capabilities of whatever device your customer is using. That way, the user gets a seamless experience as they move between devices, which is increasingly common.

Watch for vertical online marketing intermediaries

ZocDoc and Uber are becoming the go-to places for healthcare and cabs, respectively. New vertical marketing companies help local marketing for companies by providing not just links back to the local business, but generating more visits to local businesses by mastering SEO within their vertical to bring more traffic in to search for local providers. Both sites offer a central location where searchers can find local businesses (physicians and dentists, or cabs) fitting their search criterion.

Need help?

Whether you need a complete analytics strategy, some help with brand marketing, or some consulting to optimize your existing social media marketing, we can fill your digital marketing funnel. We can help you do your own social media marketing better or do it for you with our community managers, strategists, and account executives. Although we don’t do local marketing, we can help you with other online marketing strategies. You can request a FREE introductory meeting or sign up for my email newsletter to learn more about social media marketing.

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7 Things You Thought You Knew About Content Marketing Were Wrong!

content marketing and seoI know you’ve heard a lot about how content marketing drives SEO, but get ready to change everything you thought you knew about content marketing — this will knock your socks off!

Your content marketing is WRONG!

OK, so you never heard about content marketing before last year. That’s not surprising.

Why the “sudden” interest in content marketing?

The answer is SEARCH! You have Google (which accounts for 70% of search) trying to keep users by promising the best search results. You have businesses who survive or fail based on SERPs. Before last year, even big, respectable brands gamed the system using Google’s algorithm to improve their SERPs because it was frankly cheaper and easier to do that.

Google, like a stern mother trying to get acceptable behavior from her wayward child, tweaked the algorithm — first with Panda, then Penguin — which banished the worst offenders to Siberia, Google-style. Gone were keyword stuffing, paid backlinks, buying Facebook Fans, and other games to get found online.

Enter Hummingbird — notice Google’s love for popular animals in naming its major updates. Hummingbird was effectively the last nail in the coffin and left brands with little choice but to focus on providing valuable content.

The top 5 factors impacting your SEO are now (in order):

  1. Page authority
  2. Google+ — links get indexed immediately and +1’s help with ranking
  3. Links to and from your site
  4. Facebook Engagement — likes, shares, comments
  5. Keywords – now long-tailed

What you knew about content marketing was wrong

Content marketing is really the new SEO because it drives all 5 factors plus many of the other 200 or so factors making up the latest Google search algorithm.

Content marketing is not only changing SEO strategy, it’s changing the very nature of digital marketing and social media marketing strategy.

If you’re not developing and implementing a strong content marketing strategy, get ready for obscurity.

When I first started this site nearly 3 years ago, my mentor told me lots of things I was doing were wrong. I should use my keywords more in creating content, I should use lots of color in creating my posts, and I shouldn’t worry about what I said, as long as I put up a lot of content.

Luckily for me, I didn’t listen to my mentor beyond his technical advice because soon the world of internet search changed dramatically and my content was poised to take off — which it has thanks in no small part to my core of readers who help share my content.

So, let’s explore the myths and realities of content marketing since everything you thought you knew about content marketing was wrong.

Content marketing myth #1 – getting backlinks

Backlinks come when another site references your site or page. Initially Google loved backlinks because they were a shorthand to your authority, since other sites aren’t going to refer to your content if it’s crap — technical word there, I hope I didn’t lose you.

Marketers knew they could improve SERPs if they got backlinks. But getting backlinks is hard. So, they started gaming the system — commenting on lots of sites, embedding links in duplicate content sent all over the web in the form of guest posts, buying backlinks to authoritative sites, and other low tricks.

Google asked businesses to stop.

Google warned businesses to stop.

Google began penalizing businesses who bought and sold backlinks.

Finally, since nothing is working, Google is making noises that they’ll STOP using backlinks as heavily in their algorithm.  And, leading SEO firms like Moz, Search Engine Watch, and Search Engine Land, are starting to take notice.

Outbound linking

Instead, I’m hearing recommendations to improve your OUTBOUND links. The notion is that content referring to authoritative sources is likely better because it’s better researched. This is really the academic model where we’re concerned a paper used the right sources in building a theory.

My friend Peter at SocialEars recommends 5 outbound links to high pagerank, relevant sites for each post. My guess is he has some data to back him up as he’s a real data-driven kind of guy.

Content marketing myth #2 – more content is better

No, better content is better. Answer questions and solve problems — that’s good content. Self-promotion is bad content.

That said, data suggests 2-3 posts a week is great for conversion. Add more posts and your conversion rate goes up a little, add less content and your conversion goes down dramatically.

So, focus on generating 2-3 HIGH quality posts a week based on a deep understanding of your target audience.

Content marketing myth #3 – 300-700 words is optimal

This myth is based on the notion that visitors have short attention spans, so you want your content to be short and pithy. Even I was shocked by recent data showing content over 2400 words gets significantly more shares and shows up higher in SERPs than shorter content.

The key with larger posts is to make the content chunkable — meaning you break up content into short paragraphs and use headings and subheadings liberally throughout the post. Adding images also enhances the return on content and makes it more readable.

 Content marketing myth #4 – keywords

Wow, has using keywords changed over the last 3 years. At first, keywords were simply that: key WORDs. A single word or maybe 2.

Now, long-tailed keywords are the secret sauce for getting found online.

Think of the questions users input when looking for things you offer. If you sell shoes, don’t use “shoes” as your keyword, think about using keywords like:

  • sexy high-heel shoes
  • special occasion shoes
  • inexpensive brand-name shoes
  • Nike basketball shoes

You get the idea — long.

Using long-tailed keywords reduces competition and ensures visitors find what they’re looking for on your sites. Time on site and low bounce rate have the bonus of improving your SERPs.

Content marketing myth #5 – Google Analytics

Don’t get me wrong. We’re a data-driving digital agency so the last thing I’ll tell you to do is ignore your analytics. But, Google recently increased the number of “not provided” keywords, which means you’re playing in the dark when it comes to figuring out which keywords are working.

Luckily, Webmaster Tools, also by Google, has taken up the slack. Webmaster Tools were always a good idea, but now they’re really necessary to run an effective content marketing strategy. Not only are more keywords available in Webmaster Tools, but submitting your site map helps ensure your content gets crawled — the first step toward getting found on Google.

Content marketing myth #6 – tweaking content

Just a few months ago, you’d hear lots of smart SEO and social media marketing folks advising you create new content using analytics showing which of your past content worked well. And, that still works. Check out which posts really resonate well with your target audience (get the most views, shares, comments) and create more content on that topic.

Be careful.

Google is moving toward semantic reasoning for search — trying to gauge your intent when you search — to deliver superior results.

Google has tools that more effectively detect duplicate content, which is the kiss of death for SEO.

Hence, using an old popular post and just tweaking it a little may mean you create duplicate content in Google’s eyes. You need to think more broadly about how to use analytics to help create new posts that resonate with your target audience.

For example, my top posts for the last week are:

google analytis
Popular Posts for 2/2 – 2/9

Now, I could create new posts about perceptual mapping or differences between traditional and social media, since these were popular posts, but that assumes there’s something NEW to say about these topics. Just rehashing what was already said might be viewed as duplicate content.

However, if you really LOOK at the popular posts, you see a pattern emerging. Most popular posts are really traditional marketing terminology – perceptual mapping, porter’s 5 forces model, market segmentation, creating good brand names …

And, observing this pattern helps me get more traffic to my site. Instead of tweaking my old posts and running the danger of being seen as duplicate content, I now create other posts related to marketing terminology. In fact, I created an entire category of posts and made it a recurring segment on my blog:

Back to marketing basics

Content marketing myth #7 – Good content will drive traffic

Yes, good content WILL drive traffic, but it needs some help!

Thinking that good content is enough to drive your content marketing strategy and bring heaps of visitors to your site is naive.

You also need a sound social media marketing strategy to ensure your great content doesn’t lie buried under a rock.

There’s really not enough space to provide guidance on developing a sound social media marketing strategy here, but you’ll find lots of great info in other posts on this site — use the category: social media marketing strategy. You should also grab our ebook on how to make money online for an overview and tools for developing a sound social media marketing strategy.

In general, you want to create a presence on several social media platforms. Depending on your brand, you might use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN, Google+, Pinterest, Vine, Snapchat …. There are hundreds of available platforms, so choose the ones where your target audience hangs out.

Creating a social presence means engaging, not just sharing on these platforms.

Share your content across these platforms and don’t forget Google+. You’ll find “experts” who poo-poo this platform (although you find this has lessened over time), but don’t listen. Google+ has GOOGLE in the name, so it’s dangerous to ignore them. Plus, studies suggest posting content on Google+ helps get your pages indexed faster and show up better in SERPs based on +1s (Google+’s version of a Facebook like) and other forms of engagement on the platform.

Need Help

Definitely grab my FREE ebook on content marketing strategy.

Whether you need a complete analytics strategy, some help with brand marketing, or some consulting to optimize your existing social media marketing, we can fill your digital marketing funnel. We can help you do your own social media marketing better or do it for you with our community managers, strategists, and account executives. You can request a FREE introductory meeting or sign up for my email newsletter to learn more about social media marketing.

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