Current category: eBusiness Articles
Rand Fishkin’s recent Whiteboard Friday (WBF) saw him highlight six ways to rank for SEO without using content. Our own writer, Carter Bowles, used this article as the basis for his latest blog post, The Cult of Content, where he gave us an interesting perspective on how Rand was actually just offering ways to promote content marketing. While my post might differ slightly to his, we both drew inspiration from the same place and were able to dissect this WBF in the way that suited our needs.
The current state of inbound marketing has us fully focused on creating exceptional content to help boost our brands and elevate our businesses. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this and we should continue to do so, but it’s not the be all and end all of trying to get your sites to rank well on search engines. There are still hundreds of other factors that we can take into account, tweak and push to help our sites rank, and none of these have anything to do with content.
I really appreciated the fact that for once we could speak about the staples of SEO and remember that although content is directing most of the flow of traffic around the web, there are technical considerations to take into account too when trying to place in search engine rankings.
In saying that, here is a summary of what Rand had to say with my own insights thrown in too.
1. Use Rich Snippets And Schema Markup
It’s not just a passing fad, and certainly not something to be sniffed at. Marking up your content using rich snippets makes it easier for Google to identify specific areas of content and the information they hold. Highlight products, services, contact details, skills, videos, authors and anything you’re able to mark up. This will enhance the appearance of your search result in any given results pages, making your site a more attractive option for users.
The trick is to ensure that what you’re marking up exactly matches what’s on the page to avoid people arriving on that page and then finding out it has no relevance to their original search query.
2. Ensure That Your URLs, Titles And Descriptions Are Relevant
Although this is marginally related to content, it doesn’t relate to reams of content for outreach or content marketing purposes. It’s more a case of ensuring that your website has been formatted correctly for premium user experience. Do the URLs add additional definition to the page content? Are the titles a description for the page? Does the description appropriately capture what the content on that page is about? These are all areas that will compel a user to take action when viewing your result in the search engine results pages.
As with the above, the relevance is key here to ensure that users don’t hit the back button and leave your site soon after they’ve arrived.
3. Ensure Your Site Is Easy To Crawl
Is it easy to navigate around your site? Are the pages in logical places with sub-pages following on in a pragmatic pattern? And do you have internal links leading to all the right places with appropriate anchor text? If any of the answers to these questions are no, then that’s something you need to pay attention to. Make sure that there’s a smooth flow around your site from one page to the next and back to the one before and you’ll make the search engine bots’ job much easier, but you’ll also improve the experience for your users, which is of primary importance.
4. Speed Up Your Page Load Time
Bots might not hang around for your pages to load and a user most certainly won’t. In this day and age where convenience is of paramount importance, many users won’t take the time to wait longer than the prescribed 3 – 6 seconds for your pages to load. Make your images smaller and do what you can to minimize the actions to be taken in order for a page to load. Test your page load time to see how it fares.
5. Optimize Your Images
There’s a whole load of benefit that can be gained from effectively optimizing your images, even if it’s just to get you to rank in Google Images. Add titles, descriptions and alt text for all your images, in line with page relevance and potential search terms that a user might type in to find that content.
6. Fix All Your Broken Links
You might think you don’t have any, but a simple run through a broken link check tool will tell you if your site needs a clean up. Redirect broken links to more relevant pages using 301 redirects so as to keep your users within your domain. Try out W3C Link Tool or Link Checker.
7. Check Your Site For HTML Errors
Again, this is something that you wouldn’t necessarily think of or realize is wrong, but a simple test through W3C again will tell you if your instincts are in fact correct. You’ll receive a list of any HTML errors that have been picked up that your developer should be able to rectify for you.
8. Add Authorship To Your Blog
This is leaning dangerously close to content, but it’s more in line with helping you rank for the content by adding authorship to your blog. It’s really a simple process that might tae a while to reflect, but eventually, you’ll see your author snippet up in search results alongside the content you’ve created. Set up authorship by following these steps here.
9. Ensure You Have An XML Sitemap
Does it sound pretty obvious to you? Perhaps. But you’d be alarmed at the number of sites I’ve audited where XML sitemaps aren’t present. If you’re working on WordPress or other similar content management systems, there are great plugins that add sitemaps for you… all you need to do is submit the link via Google Webmaster Tools for speedy indexation.
10. Add Breadcrumbs
Breadcrumbs tell the user and search engine bot where he or she (or it) is on the site. So if, for example, you venture from the “home page” to the “products page” and then further to the “online products page”, your breadcrumb links would visibly display on your current page as: Home – Products – Online Products. It makes it that much easier for a user to travel back and forth without any hassle.
Some of these really go back to basics and they’ve been selected based on my personal preference, but there are hundreds of other rankings factors that we haven’t even touched on. Maybe another post for another day… thanks DualDeko for the image.
Author: Katherine Stott
Web usability expert Steve Krug starts off his popular book on the topic with these words:
People often ask me: “What’s the most important thing I should do if I want to make sure my Web site is easy to use?” The answer is simple. It’s not “Nothing important should ever be more than two clicks away,” or “Speak the user’s language,” or even “Be consistent.” It’s “Don’t make me think!”
This exposes a common problem. YOU, the person that designed or contributed to or commissioned and approved the site don’t have to think when YOU use the site because YOU know what everything means, how everything is supposed to work, where everything is located and where every click is supposed to go. The problem is that your site users don’t know any of those things when they arrive on your site. Therefore, they are trying to interpret things that you already know the interpretation for. It’s easy to use a map when you’ve already traveled all the roads and arrived at all the destinations, right?
You might use a map that is as difficult to understand as the one above if there is something REALLY valuable at the destination, and it’s the only map you have available to you to get there. If either of those is missing, you’re likely to find something else to do. On the web, there are typically countless options for sites that your customers can go to for the solution to their problem–and they’re most likely going to choose the easiest option with the best value (just like you’d choose the easiest map to get you to where you wanted to go).
Make Life Easier for Users
With that in mind, you can see how important it is that your site is ultra-easy to use. After all, you don’t just want traffic do you? You want a long-lasting, profit-generating relationship don’t you? In business, those only happen when you make life easier for your customers, not harder. Plus, how easy your site is to use psychologically reflects on how easy your company will be to deal with (huge!).
Now that I know you’ve just had a deeper revelation of how important good usability is to a website, let me present to you what Mr. Krug is talking about when he tells us not to make our users think.
Get Inside Their Thoughts and Emotions
If you could get inside the heads of your users, what would their thoughts and emotions be filled with as they make the journey to completing the task they came for on your site? Would they have any confusion over where to click on the page they landed on to get to the next step? Would they have any trouble understanding the labels you’ve used for their navigation options? Would they miss the correct path for their task completion because they assumed another option was more appropriate? Do they feel like your site is trying to get them to do what you want them to do instead of do what they want to do? The answers to these types of questions and many more contribute heavily to the fate of a business’s bottom line.
Again, it’s understandable that YOU don’t have any trouble with these questions. But of course, you’re not the customer.
The truth is, every time your visitors have trouble using your site, it contributes to their propensity to leave the site and reject you as the vendor of choice to solve their problem. Might a user still develop a long-term relationship with you if they experienced difficulty and frustration on your site? Of course some will. I suppose it depends on the person. But, you can be sure that site difficulty and conversion rate are inversely proportional. The more difficult your site is to use, the lower your conversion rate will be. The easier your site is to use, the higher your conversion rate will be.
Make Everything Obvious
Every element of your site is on a continuum somewhere between obvious and obscure. One of the most important things you can do for your bottom line is to make everything on your site as close to obvious as it can possibly get.
Author: Mike Fleming
We keep hearing the words ‘content is king’ – we hear it so often now that we’re actually starting to twitch at the mention of it. Some journalists have wrote posts stating that they’re in fear that online newspapers and reputable websites will soon be flooded by content that is secretly written for SEO purposes. So let’s get this clear, when we moved to content marketing we didn’t mean ‘start writing good articles and then link build with them’ we meant write something engaging, thoughtful, industry relevant and unique. Think like you are writing your own magazine, not an advertorial or keyword post. Remember, Google has always been telling us that we need to write for the reader, NOT for the Google bots.
Clever content will draw links naturally sure, but the primary purpose of excellent content is to draw in your target market, to engage them and have them share your articles and talk about your brand. Bloggers won’t always link to what you’ve wrote, but what is one link compared to a piece of content that brings you thousands of social shares, new fans and new blog readers. Great content should leave people thinking about your brand, not because you pushed your products in your content, but because you’re trustworthy, authoritive, interesting and helpful.
So with that said, here are 10 unique content ideas that will take you out of the comfort zone of advertorial articles, and in to the wonderful world of excellent content marketing:
1. A Day in the Life of…
Find someone interesting. It might be your managing director, a blogger, a designer or perhaps a model or an influencer. Choose a day when they’re doing something particularly interesting (or send them off on a tailor made interesting day) such as going to an event, a photoshoot, or meeting. Then, simply have them record the best and most interesting parts of their day either by video, Vine or Instagram. Post the photos or video on your blog with a sort of day diary entry written up.
You could even follow a day in the life of an animal or company mascot!
Just make sure you pick someone charasmatic and choose particullarly engaging bits of the day to highlight. (p.s. no-one really wants to watch your boss in an accounts meeting.)
2. Year / Month / Week in Review
If your company is up to a lot of interesting things make sure you take a photographic or video record of them, so you can combine all the content into one exciting post. Many fashion bloggers do posts featuring all their outfits from the past year or month. Perhaps if you’re a fashion company you could nominate one employee to do this, or if you’re a web development company you could record various stages of a website coming together.
3. Photo Tutorial
Forget a step by step write up – what good is a tutorial if you can’t see the different stages of progress? Take inspiration from sites like P.S I Made This and make a beautiful, shareable tutorial image or video.
4. Inspire Your Readers
The fact is, people come on the internet looking for ideas they can’t think of themselves sometimes, so get together in the office, brainstorm and come up with some creative ideas you can give to your readers. These might be unique date ideas for valentines, creative things to do on rainy days, or even blog post ideas like these!
5. Create Something
Whether it’s a recipe or a DIY craft, get out this weekend and create something exciting and photo document the process. Show readers of your blog what you did, and how you did it, and get some particularly pretty photos edited ready to share on Pinterest.
6. Document Something Offline
Online marketing isn’t exclusively online – sometimes something needs to happen in the real world and be documented online, and that makes it very shareable. Think about the Harlem Shake and how successful that was – or consider putting together a Flash Mob or a funny publicity stunt. Recently a charity let a man dressed as a superhero loose on a city centre to do good deeds, but they didn’t reveal it was their publicity stunt until it received plenty of online coverage and buzz. Ingenious.
7. Document an Event or Day Out
Similar to a day in the life, but less focused on one person. Get out and go to an event or place that interests and excites your target market and readers. Record as much as you can, take photos and interview people at the events or places, offer your own insight or response to an event or talk. Fun for you, and fun for everyone watching too.
8. Q+A or Live Interview
Thanks to the likes of Google Plus you can now offer your fans a live interview with someone. You could invite a blogger, celebrity or someone influential, or simply offer someone knowledgeable from your company. Set the agenda, and have people send in questions. If you offer something like law or financial services, you might offer an advice session where you share your expertise. This can later be embedded and transcribed on your site.
9. Write about Something Controversial
It’s a scary thought, because having the less popular opinion on the internet can invite a torrent of abuse – but if you can carefully turn people’s responses into a discussion instead of an argument, then you’re well on your way to an extremely popular post that will draw people in like a magnet.
10. Crowdsource your Posts
If you have a few readers or social followers then maybe you should consider asking them what they want to read. Give them options, for example, ask them to choose between three possible tutorials and vote for their favourite. You could even start a discussion on a topical issue through social media, then ask some of the responders if they’d like to contribute to a blog post.