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What’s Best for Your Marketing Right Now?

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Chris Kilbourn – Enjoy!

New Year New Plan

Photo credit: Tatiana Popova/Shutterstock

It’s the best and worst time to be a marketer.

It’s the best, because marketers are empowered with infinite resources — data, robust tools, and high-yield customer acquisition channels.

But it’s also the worst, because the marketing landscape is more cutthroat than ever — never before has the competition for audience attention been so fierce.

In 2011, AOL and Nielsen estimated that 27M pieces of content were being shared each day.

Imagine what that number looks like today.

Virtually every marketing team has committed to investing more in content production, social media marketing, and inbound marketing this year. That’s because leaders finally have the tools that they need to prove the ROI of their spends.

As media budgets increase, however, there will be much more pressure on marketers to stand out. We’re all after the same audience eyeballs — and these consumers are tired of seeing the same messages over and over and over.

2014 is the year that you need to stand out — and you’re going to need to put up a strong fight.  Forge your own path. Outsmart the crowd. Test creative and innovative ideas.

It’s time to reinvent the wheel. Here are some ideas to get started:

1. Create World-Class Content

Content

Photo Credit: Stokkete/Shutterstock

Everyone is blogging.

Let me repeat that: everyone is blogging. If you’re just launching your content marketing plan, you’re still behind the crowd.

But this position actually works to your competitive advantage.

A fully fleshed out content engine is expensive to maintain. The investment yields significant rewards, but think about it — when you’re already big, it’s impossible to reinvent your strategy.  If you’re just starting out, you have infinite potential to try something new.

Have an idea? Run with it.

Neil Patel exemplifies this concept. He’s gone where no marketer has gone before and routinely spends $20K-$30K to create in-depth guides like The Beginner’s Guide to Online Marketing. These are 30,000+ words and over 200 pages in length.

Beginners guide

His goal wasn’t to copy anyone else but to set the bar high and truly be exceptional.

If you have an amazing idea and are able to quantify an ROI, do it. You can always start with a test, measure response, shift angles, and scale. With so much momentum in the content space, now is the best time to do it.

2. Build Relationships with 800-Pound Gorillas

500 lb gorilla

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The beauty of online marketing is that it’s collaborative. Our industry is one where peer support is high. We want to partner up and help fellow companies succeed. We are constantly looking to exchange value and help one another grow.

When you’re just starting out as a marketer (or are finding your stride), it will help to align your company and team with now-big companies that have been exactly where you are now.

800-pound gorillas have the advantage of an audience, customer base, and reputable product. As a small company, there are plenty of ways that you can help that 800-pound gorilla, while also growing your own company. Offer to provide content to blogs like HubSpot’s – they get your awesome content, and you get exposure for your company. You can also look to form strategic partnerships through software integrations. Take a look at the Unbounce partner marketplace for inspiration.

Unbounce

Even as a small business, you can add value to an 800-pound gorilla. Give more than you expect to get, and you’ll see value in return.

3.  Find New Communities

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Photo Credit: jannoon028/Shutterstock

In terms of community-building, social media platforms are only the first step. Find communities where your customers are hanging out. Join conversations with fellow marketers on websites like Inbound.org and GrowthHackers.com.

GrowthHackers

In addition to finding opportunities to promote your company, look for new skills to learn (and people to learn from). Listen more than you speak, add great questions, and add value. Care about your community, and you’ll be surprised whose attention you’ll get.

Your Thoughts

You pick #4. What are your marketing goals for 2014? What were some of the most valuable lessons you learned last year? Share your thoughts in the comments below. We’re excited to learn from you and keep the conversation going.

Chris KilbournChris Kilbourn is the VP of Strategy at Fit Marketing. In past lives, he was a professional rockstar (seriously), and he built and sold two successful companies from the ground up. You can request a consultation with Chris and his team at Fit Marketing here.

 

Using Visual Media to Boost Your Marketing

It is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Clayton Wood – Enjoy!

Mark Anderson cartoonVisual media is emerging as a very important and powerful tool in online marketing. A survey released recently shows the presence of images as one of the deciding factors for clicking on search results. According to the survey done by Search Engine Land and SurveyMonkey, it is the fourth most important deciding factor, coming in after brand name, promos and discounts offered, and free delivery. This, along with the growing popularity of image and video-sharing social networks among users, presents a ripe opportunity for marketing in a way that entices multiple senses of your target audience.

Integrating Visual Media into SEO

A content-centric SEO strategy will naturally include visual media in the mix of content types to publish and share. Integrate photos, videos, infographics, and other types of visual media into your current content plan. Start with the following:

  • Don’t publish text-only blogs – as much as possible, include at least one image about your chosen topic.
  • Pay attention to the visual media you use on your website. The colors, the fonts, the images, and the videos all trigger reactions from your visitors. Combining knowledge of the psychology of colors and design and an understanding of your market’s interests will help you design a website that appeals to your market.
  • Brainstorm regularly to determine what images work for your brand and what trends you can turn into visual media. Creating a calendar for Hangout sessions, webinars, new video tutorials, infographics and other downloadable images organizes your visual marketing efforts.

Use visual media for your online content wherever appropriate, and brainstorm what types of media will work for your campaign.

Choosing a Visual Media Platform

With so many visual media platforms to choose from, how do you know which ones to use in your campaign? The answer will vary depending on your needs.

Pinterest is quickly becoming a popular and powerful visual media platform for many brands because of its improving features. It allows you to share different types of media, provides easy social media integration (by way of Facebook and Twitter), and allows for easy integration in websites (through the “Pin It” buttons, which are equally easy to install on your website pages). Its other features, like turning on location for pins, testing Promoted Pins, and creating an API that allows you to show your most popular pins, are all geared towards online marketing. If you’re not yet on Pinterest, or if you have a profile but you don’t use it often, it’s time to revisit your visual marketing strategy and include Pinterest.

Other platforms are beginning to show similar functionalities geared towards marketing. Many video microblogging platforms like Vine and Viddy also feature social media sharing functionalities that make it easier to integrate videos from their platform to your social networking profiles. The important things to consider when choosing what visual media platforms to use and determining how you will use them are:

  • Your target audience – How big a presence do they have in your chosen platform(s)?
  • Ease of Access – Check how user-friendly the platform is
  • SEO-friendly platform – How do these videos appear on the SERPs? It may not seem like a big deal now, but video is predicted to become the main medium for online marketing in 2014, and its appearance on the SERPs will become more important as video grows in popularity
  • Integration – How does the platform let you integrate its features with other social media sites?

Transitioning from Old to New Media

One of the biggest challenges in online marketing is to transition traditional media to digital formats. More traditional audiences still respond to the older media forms, while those who embrace new media get a sense of nostalgia from print and old school graphics. Transitioning from old to new media can happen in different ways:

  • Old school graphics and fonts are already available in digital formats. You can easily download these to your computer and use it when designing your content.
  • When designing your visual content, whether it is for your website, videos, ads, infographics, or other featured content, try using elements that are familiar with your audience. (Check out the image of the ad SEO Reseller used before for an example)
  • One of the easiest ways to transition old to new media is to take a high-res photo of old media and post this as your update. Something as simple as a note scribbled on a note pad gives off that old school feel some of your audiences respond to more eagerly.

SeoresellerFor one of our old re-targeting ads, we decided to use a design that contains elements of the flags of our three largest markets: the US, the UK, and Australia.

Encouraging Audience Participation

The great thing about the platforms that support visual media is that they also support user interaction. This allows you to include your audience in the content production process, increasing your engagement by encouraging audience participation in activities and programs you prepare for them online.

Get your audience to share their original visual content through different promotions. Facebook is a good example of a platform that makes it easier for you to include your audience in different visual content marketing activities. It wasn’t too long ago that they made the creation of contests, especially photo contests, easier for brands, and made joining easier for individual Facebook users. Their latest move to make visual content marketing easier is testing a new way of displaying video ads that encourages more user interaction. Combining these features with your social media strategy encourages more engagement and interaction from your audience.

Conclusion

The trick to using visual media for marketing is very clear in the points discussed earlier – it’s less about you and more about your audience. Finding your audience, knowing what they want to see (whether it’s a short video, an image-on-demand, or an infographic about your topic of expertise), and communicating with them using visual media is the core process to delivering more targeted and powerful visual content. Use this with your online marketing strategy and you’ll see more positive responses from your audience in no time.

ClaytonClayton Wood is passionate about communicating the impact that technology has in online marketing, and how inbound marketing helps small and large businesses achieve their goals for themselves, their families and their communities. Working with SEOReseller.com, he helps bring brand equity to many seo agencies.

Why Video Marketing is Underrated (and How to Use it to Your Advantage)

Today is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is David Preston – Enjoy!

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photo credit: Andrew* via photopin cc

Words tell the story. Images illustrate it.

But video brings it to life.

Video, an online marketing platform that has seen a sharp rise in use and effectiveness, is an often overlooked means for driving relevant traffic to your site – and generating interest in your campaign. An effective video initiative can also bolster your other marketing strategies.

Galactic Café, developer of the recent narrative-driven game The Stanley Parable, got it right.

Galactic Café sent customized preview builds of The Stanley Parable to well-known YouTube users who participate in Let’s Play videos. These users have a tremendous following that tune in for their first impressions of new games.

The developers engaged these YouTube users directly through dialogue in the game. The result: Plenty of organic, viral interaction about the videos that boosted traffic for these YouTube users’ Let’s Play video as well as sales for Galactic Café.

A recent B2B Benchmark Survey revealed more than 90% of marketing respondents used video on a site, second only to the learn more/contact us option (nearly 100%). Video topped white papers and case studies (84%) and even live demos with company representatives (just less than 80%).

We’ll discuss ways to blend video marketing into your online presence, and how easy it is to measure engagement and see results from it. With the proliferation of mobile devices as our primary means of Internet access, and bandwidth and speeds increasing with fiber-optic Internet, it’s prime time for video.

1.  Crunch the numbers

Video content is easily subject to behavior analytics. Because video content is also tagged with keywords and ranks in Google search, you can use a video-hosting site such as YouTube to track interaction. Online retailers such as Amazon and Dell report an increase of as much as 35% when video is incorporated.

Video product reviews on Amazon nearly always appear at the top of Google’s rankings. 

Takeaway: Video content is also easy to share via social networks, and software developers have prioritized video integration in site creation.

2.  Reach customers on a deeper level

Our draw to video is subliminal, too. The concept of fusiform facial area suggests the brain processes categorical data about a person by facial recognition. Basically, the idea is that a person’s face is a factor in how they understand and process the message that person delivers verbally.

The right face on your video campaign can foster trust. A voice also translates your message in an essential way.

Takeaway: A face, a voice, and most of all, emotion, convey what language alone cannot.

3.  Grab attention

Words and images are static. Page viewers are increasingly scan readers. It takes notable effort to read a 300-word blog post, especially compared to a simple click of a video play button. When visitors hit that button, it gives you the chance to actually talk to your prospect. It’s your window to their home. 

Takeaway: Video is an extension of the personal connection we wrote about above, but with a familiarity of having “met” you through your video.

4.  Let your followers sing your praises

Happy customers are gold. You can harvest recorded testimonials at a tradeshow, and it’s best to get as many as you can – aim for at least three, maybe as many as 12. You can also hire a video crew to hold a one-day shoot. Know what key messages you’re looking for when you edit.

Takeaway: The Q&A approach will put your testimonial subject at ease, and will allow you to direct the conversation toward those key messages you identified.

5.  Go forth and conquer

A marketing video on your site is just the beginning. Start a YouTube channel. Incorporate video on landing pages. Post them to social media and your blog page. They’re easily shared through these channels, and the more a video is shared on quality sites, the better your Google page rank.

Takeaway: You’ll reach exponentially more potential clients with a well-made, well-placed video than with nearly any other means of marketing.

91861_92141_1_David Preston headshot_croppedDavid Preston is a husband, a father of 2, and a freelance writer for a variety of sports, entertainment, and marketing sites. You can reach David via his email.

The Future of Small Business SEO (Hint: It’s About Content)

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Phil Singleton – Enjoy!

2013 was an exciting year for small business Internet marketing.  Search engine optimization transformed from a game of link popularity into what it was supposed to be from the beginning: high quality, relevant content from trusted sources.  Make no mistake; quality links pointing to your website are still really important.  It’s just that content marketing and social network participation are (collectively) more important.

volume-backliningAddressing The Content Gap

There is a great line from a Duct Tape Marketing Blog post from last year: “Content is King…Really, we mean it this time.”  As a boutique web design company that creates SEO-friendly web designs, we can report to you with absolute certainty that high quality content is king.  How do we know? We are on the front line of small biz SEO – we have dozens of SEO clients and have seen first-hand how client companies with both active blogs and social media networks handily outperformed their competitors in 2013.  If you are a small business owner and somehow still have high organic search engine rank without a content strategy, let me be the first to tell you that at some point in the near future you will be kissing your organic rank goodbye.

Here are five reasons why small business SEO strategy should focus on content marketing versus volume backlink accumulation:

1. The Fall of Boiler Room Link Building – Hip, Hip, Hooray!

Low cost, high volume offshore link building is not only dead, it’s super risky.  Google dropped the granddaddy of all backlink penalties on October 4th 2013 (Penguin 2.1 aka Penguin 5) – and guess what – more Penguin updates are coming.  If you are using an offshore link building strategy, you may soon find your website flagged with a Manual Action or an Unnatural Link Warning message in your Webmaster Tools account.  Don’t know what a WT account is?  Start Googling and get your account setup today – it’s the best way to check the search engine health of your website or to see if you’ve been hit with any penalties – and probably the best way to keep tabs on your SEO company.

2. Death, Taxes & Google 

Remember Ben Franklin’s famous quote? In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. On the Internet, pretty much everything you put out there is a part of permanent digital record.  This is especially true of your website’s backlink profile.   Even though your site may not yet have been slapped by Mother Google, your website still may be at risk.  Further, today’s white-hat SEO methods may become tomorrow’s prohibited activities – and Google always catches up with short-cut link building techniques.  By focusing on quality content and by creating your own content distribution channel, you can start naturally attracting quality links instead of artificially creating risky links.

3. Social Networking

We’ve been in and around web design and SEO for over ten years.  If you can believe it, we didn’t have a blog or any type of social media account until last year.  Why so late to the party? Because until last year, we could dominate our own online niches with a static website and passive SEO strategies.  Social media is now a critical component of SEO.  Just creating great content is not enough. The search engines need some way to determine if your content is valuable and the best measureable way for them to do this is to calculate the number of social signals (shares, likes, pluses, tweets, links, etc.) pointing back to your content.  So when our agency discusses “content marketing”, part of what we mean is promoting content through your active social media channels.

4. BLOGGING – NOTE THE ALL CAPS

In terms of small business websites, blogging represents both the biggest opportunity and the biggest challenge.  Blogging not only helps to establish your company as an authority, but it’s also proven to increase website traffic conversion rates. Most importantly, blogging is the best way to add high quality, relevant content to your website.  The search engines love high quality blog content.  Search engine ranking factors have changed dramatically over the years, however, most SEO industry experts agree that blogging is now critically important.  This is never going to change.  All small businesses that want to achieve and sustain maximum search engine visibility will have to maintain an active blog.  Ideally, company blog posts are written by the business owner or some other experienced employee. If your company does not have an active blog, you should consider making it a priority this year.

5. MORE BLOGGING

We said it: maintaining an active blog is essential. There is more you can do.  Guest blogging is a phenomenal way to get exclusive, relevant, high-quality content on your website.  What’s even better is that the guest author will typically market their guest blog post for you.  That’s right – they will go out and blast your website to their social networking channels and help market the content for you! Supplementing your own blog with a well-executed guest blogging program will get you both great content and coveted social signals…free of charge.

Guest blogging goes both ways.   You also want to target high quality, relevant websites and post on their sites.  Reciprocal guest blogging is a secret weapon for many SEO companies.

content-marketingA Word Of Caution 

Organic search engine rankings are more important than ever.  The ranking factors have shifted from being backlink-centric to being content-centric.  Companies have to be careful to avoid the same types of SEO short-cuts that got webmasters and business owners in trouble in the past.  The search engines are getting really good at filtering out copied and low quality content.  Spammy filler content from domestic and offshore content farms will hurt your rankings.  Google has declared war on all forms of webspam.  In fact, they just recently condemned content stitching and warned against misusing guest blog posts.    In other words, you should only publish unique blog content that is interesting or useful to your audience.  If you try to blog only for the sake of the search engines, chances are you will fail to get any SEO value.  For most businesses, great content is everywhere.  It’s just a matter of extracting stories and lessons from everyday business experience and having the discipline to document and publish them on a regular basis.

phil-singletonPhil Singleton is the owner of Kansas City Web Design®, a web development firm specializing in SEO-friendly WordPress websites and custom website applications, and Kansas City SEO®, a full-service Internet marketing services company that provides organic search engine optimization and other online marketing services.  Contact Phil on his Google+ page.

Hummingbird and Hashtags: Keeping Your Google Plus Content Strategy Alive

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Lauren Hogan – Enjoy!

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Photo credit: misspixels

With Google’s recent Hummingbird update, anyone who does online marketing was forced to review & revamp their marketing strategy. The Hummingbird update specifically impacts the social media marketing realm by increasing SEO dependence on Google Plus hashtags. Whereas, previously, it was used to track post content now, using hashtags with your Google Plus posts helps optimize your content to display in search.

Here’s why this update matters: Google Plus is the second largest social platform with just over 50% of the global internet user market and boasts roughly 1,203 million users per month (visits to Gmail are counted). These are astounding numbers not to be overlooked. Do not exclude the use of hashtags if part of your content strategy includes Google Plus. Here are 5 ideas of how to use hashtags in your content strategy:

1)  Basic Use

This is simple. If you are posting content to your business Google Plus account, throw in a few hashtags to help support the reach of your post. Find a happy medium between the standard hashtag use on Twitter and Instagram. 2-4 hashtags per post is a realistic goal.

2)  Optimization

You have a blog. You have an SEO strategy. You have a Google Plus account. Now let’s connect the dots. It can never hurt to optimize your post for organic search & use those optimized words as hashtags.

3)  Photo Content

The most popular activity on Google Plus is photo sharing. Utilize hashtags when you post to provide equal opportunity for your post to be viewed.

4)  Networking

Communities are a great way to reach a targeted audience and invite an opportunity for more sharing, +1’s and discussion. When you post content to a community make sure to include hashtags to encourage and track conversation around the topic of choice.

5)  Conversation

Just as you would on Twitter, use hashtags that relate to your business and your goals. This includes choices such as #tech or #socialmedia. However, unlike Twitter you can use specific hashtags such as #techtips or #socialmediamarketing. You can even attach on to a couple hashtags that already spark weekly conversation. Examples include #MondayMotivation and #FridayFun.

headshot squareLauren Hogan is the Social Media Coordinator at HomeAdvisor which offers homeowners tools including Cost Guide, a resource to help budget your next home improvement project and DesignMine, a site to help collect, organize and bring to life home project ideas. She enjoys trail running in the summer and spending time on the slopes in the winter. Connect on Twitter

 

How to Maximize Email Lead Capture

Despite the reports coming out of some corners of social media, email as a marketing tool is very much alive. In fact, email marketing still produces the highest return on investment of any form of marketing.

Internet marketers have always known the money is in the list, but the real power of email marketing comes when you integrate it with content and social media. I’ve written about the idea of a total integrated online presence frequently so today I want to focus on one very important element of email marketing and that’s lead capture.

Lead capture is simply the idea of offering a reason for every web site visitor to join your email marketing list. Of course, this comes with the assumption that you’re creating and offering a compelling reason, usually the promise of a specific and future form of content, for someone to exchange their email address in return.

Once that threshold is crossed you need to also study and implement the best methods for maximizing your email lead capture.

Quite often this is simply a matter of putting the right call to action in the right place at the right time.

Since you can’t always know when someone will decide they’re ready to subscribe I like to first think in terms of creating many entry points – someone who, say, wouldn’t go looking to subscribe might get inspired after reading a particularly timely blog post found in search.

The following three forms of capture should be considered before you determine your precise set of tools.

Active capture – I like to go out looking for people who want my content so I create things like free ebooks and push specific landing pages for this form of content out via advertising and strategic partnerships. I actively build my list in this way.

Passive capture – I also want to make it easy for people who stumble upon my content to subscribe by placing subscribe forms in strategic locations throughout my site.

Shared capture – The final consideration is to look for ways that people can share your content, particularly if that act of sharing can lead to fresh exposure to your lead capture system. Don’t forget to promote sharing to your existing list as well.

Some new plugins that let people Pay With a Like or take a social action such as Like to Unlock make sharing even more viral.

Now let’s move to some of the proven ways to implement each of these types of capture.

Lightbox pop over – many people claim to hate the pop ups, and with good reason, but the fact is that smart pop ups – ones that only appear one time and only after people have read for a bit, convert.

Feature box at top of home page – Some WordPress themes come complete with a feature that allows you to keep your desire to have people subscribe right up there front and center on every page. This is a proven way to make sure people know this is an option.

  • Many form tools work for this, but Gravity Forms is particularly useful for WordPress

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End of each blog post – Often people will come to your site anew by way of a blog post found when conducting a search. This may be the only page on your site they visit that day so many smart marketers place the subscribe box at the end of every post with the idea that if someone really likes that one piece of content they may want to see what else there is.

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Right sidebar – I’ve always placed a rather generic sign up form in the right sidebar of my theme and month after month this position brings in subscribers.

Bar across top of page – It’s rather in vogue at the moment to place those attention grabbing thin bars across the top of pages that draw attention to sign up without completely distracting the view.

About us page – For many people the about us page is a high traffic page. People are doing research on your organization and this is a great place to first sell the fact that you’re all about great content and then make a pitch for people to sign up.

Contact us page – This is another little used place to find subscribers but I find that when someone wants to get in contact they often follow me on social media and subscribe all from this page.

Use your email service provider’s ability to track various forms so that you can monitor what placement is performing well. Tools like Gravity Forms offer A/B split testing so your can try different calls to action.

Finally, I’ll drop one more pretty big consideration on you. Statistics say that only about 1-3% of visitors to most sites actually take the plunge and subscribe.

So, what about the rest?

A new and growing field of web site software is attempting make sense of anonymous visitor tracking – people who don’t give your any data, but consume content.

Anonymous visits

The following software can help you turn random visits into leads by providing additional information such company name and allowing you to offer specific kinds of content and offers based on how they came to your site and what pages they visited. This knowledge can help you turn more of these visits into subscribes.

So you see, it’s not a matter of creating a form and hoping lots of people find it and take action. Lead capture takes a comprehensive and strategic approach, but it’s worth the effort.

5 New Realities of SEO

Back in the day, SEO was more technical and less, well, semantic. Now I realize that for most a term like semantic query relevancy might as well be the name of computer programming language, but the fact is Google’s customers, the searcher and the advertiser, are no longer content with results based on related page keyword content. This Wall Street Journal article explains Google’s take

google search

To improve accuracy Google and Bing both are attempting to understand what is actually meant by a search and refine results based on things like recency, location, context and of course relevance.

For example if you search “best place to buy a MacBook Pro” there was a time when search engines would return results of blog posts about good places to buy a MacBook Pro or maybe even computer reviews. From that you might have been able to find what you were looking for, but with semantic knowledge graph built in Google is more likely to think – oh, you want to buy a MacBook Pro and I know where you are and I know the inventory levels of the nearest stores with sale prices, so here are your results.

What this means for website owners is they can no longer count on writing content about a subject, optimizing it and going to work on links to the page. Sure, that stuff will always play a role, but there are other significant factors at play today.

Google officially rolled out a new search algorithm recently that employs a great deal of their progress in semantic search. The update is called “Hummingbird” and while traces of it have been coming in previous updates, this one is significant and lasting.

Search has been heading this way for some time now. So, no SEO is not dead once again, unless you mean quick SEO – SEO that doesn’t contain relationship and authority building. Bottom-line though – quality, frequency, depth and authority matter more than ever.

Below are five realities that site owners and SEO professionals must address in order to remain relevant.

Social signals matter a lot

One of the biggest factors baked into search results are signals that search engines can receive about content quality based on social interactions. How many +1s a page has matters greatly as do shares, likes and retweets. My guess is that it’s nearly impossible to get most content to rank without it.

In depth is the new snack sized

One of the things blogs ushered in was the ability to create small little bits of content frequently. While readers seem to enjoy this, often the content lacked much depth and certainly did not engender many retweets and shares (unless you are Seth Godin and you’re followed by 113,000 people on Google+ even though you’ve never shared anything on Google+)

Many people still throw out thinly disquised lists as link bait, but nothing gets shared and strongly indexed today like long, in depth narrowly cast articles. Google has even created markup standards for in depth articles as long as 2000-5000 words.

Who writes it matters too

Authority based on authorship has grown to be a major ranking factor. Claiming your own Google+ Authorship for your content is vital. This includes telling Google other places where your content appears.

While there is no “kloutlike” scoring system as of yet, understanding whose content is thought of authoritative because that’s your relationship building hit list!

Link building is networking

Past Google updates with names like Panda and Penguin were different than Hummingbird as they we updates to fix stuff, mostly artificial link building. Like it or not the more sophisticated algorithms become the harder it is to fake link relationships. Link building in the old school SEO fashion is going the way of the compact disc so you better get good at writing high quality content, sharing high quality content and building authoritative relationships with people that Google thinks matter when it comes to content.

In case that sounds like good old fashion networking that’s because it is.

Keyword not provided is the new deal

Site owners long ago made a deal with Google – let us crawl your site and we’ll tell you who is visiting your site and why – just kidding – take a look at your Google Analyitcs these days and see if your “keyword not provide” or what terms someone searched on that brought them to your site is hovering in the 100% range like mine is.

There are some clever ways to hack together this data (future post on that) and word on the street is Google may find a way to sell it back to you through some sort of premium analytics, but look for some 3rd party tools to fill this gap and get used to a world without the ease of knowing why someone came to your site. (I suppose this is actually a step back into the more technical SEO need.)

Tomorrow I’m going to give you a look into my top 5 recommended action steps for addressing the new realities of SEO today.

 

8 Essential Tips to Guide Your Web Design Project

Thursday is guest post day here at Duct Tape Marketing and today’s guest is Jay Baron – Enjoy!

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photo credit: bibliojojo

Too often, when small businesses are redesigning their websites, they lose focus. They get caught up trying to design something super flashy and cool, instead of something that’s going to help consumers.

Designers even encourage this routine, because it secures their unlimited all-you-can-design fun passes. With “make website pretty” as the agreed-upon primary goal, designers can focus on creating uber-creative sites without being bothered by annoying distractions like measurable outcomes and ROI.

The problem with pretty websites is that they don’t do much more than look pretty. They don’t work.

After participating in countless design projects for small businesses through Madtown, I know the difference between a pretty website and a functional one, and I know what likely happened in the design room to lead to each result.

Here are 8 important tips to tuck away for the day you launch your next website redesign project. If you remember and actually follow these guidelines, it’ll help ensure that your next website is rooted in usability and business strategy, rather than ambiguous creativity.

1. Trust is the currency of success

Trust is the backbone of any design project. Accomplishing big things takes a lot of trust between designer and client. If you don’t trust your designer enough to let him run the show, you need to find another designer.

2. Content is design, too

The way you tell your story, describe your product or service, and present your tone and mood are just as important as the visual aspects of your website. People want to know what you’re offering and what makes you unique, which is something design can’t do on its own.

Remember: people visit websites to learn things and to figure out how to solve their problems, not to marvel at cool designs.

3. Designs always go out of style

Don’t worry about website design trends. They’re constantly changing, and they’ll do nothing but ensure that your website will look outdated in a few years. (“Look at this guy, still doing the minimalist thing!”)

Focus on providing real value and connecting people to the solutions to their problems, and let the rest fall into place naturally.

4. You’re not just designing, you’re solving problems

You will never have all the answers for your small business. Which means it’s never time to stop listening to new ideas, even–or especially–if they come from your website designer.

Design projects start with business problems, so your designer is going to be very familiar with what’s not working at your company. Really great designers have an inherent ability to not only identify those deficiencies, but to help you find solutions for them.

5. It’s a marathon, not a sprint

Websites are rarely successful the day they’re launched. After a website goes live, dozens of unchecked tasks remain on the To Do list: thing like AdWords, social media, analytics, heat maps, SEO, testing, and updates. These and countless other changes and problems will continue to present themselves for eternity, regardless of how strong your initial design was

What might work today could become ineffective 3 months from now. That doesn’t mean the idea was wrong in the first place–just that it’s no longer right.

6. Simplicity is power

Always keep a laser focus on what really matters for your business. If your main goal is to generate leads, don’t lose focus by adding other features that don’t help accomplish this.

7. Fear is healthy

It’s easy to get comfortable and complacent when all you care about is putting something on the internet that’s fun to look at. But if launching your new website doesn’t scare you even a little, you’re probably too focused on the design rather than the outcomes.

Fear also comes from taking risks. You can keep updating your website every few years, or you can try to do something unique and, by extension, scary.

8. The journey is part of the fun

There is no such thing as an overnight success. Starting a business takes years of hard work, lots of mistakes, and a smattering of small victories. You better be in it not only to summit the mountain, but to appreciate the climb.

Business owners often think that if they can just get a killer website that generates a bunch of leads, their business will change. And when that doesn’t happen, they’re quick to blame their designer, who did nothing but give the business owner exactly what he asked for: a cool website.

jay-baronJay Baron is a brand strategist at Madtown and Mighty Zombie.  You can follow him on Google+ and Twitter.