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Two Key Marketing Opportunities Amid Stories of Fake Traffic and Fraudulent Metrics

Why Transparency & Organic Content Are Important for Marketers

Why Transparency & Organic Content Are Important for Marketers

“What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.” — Morpheus, The Matrix

~~~~~

“How much of the internet is fake?” pondered the headline of a late-December New York Magazine feature, before answering its own question: “A lot actually.” What followed was a systematic unpacking of that premise, via author Max Read. Though somewhat cynical and harsh, his argument was backed by facts and evidence at every turn. He documented case after case of fake traffic and fraudulent metrics. He shared videos of phony engagement factories known as click farms. He cited real stories and statistics that verify the prominence, pervasiveness, and pestilence of these issues. Read’s article shook me out of my restful holiday contentment. This wasn’t all news to me, but never had I seen so many examples compiled into one grim, gut-wrenching montage. The internet is an inherently murky place – you can’t physically count visitors to a blog post, as you could with attendees at a conference speech or customers in a store – so the success of a digital marketplace hinges on our collective faith in the integrity of data (and intentions). It’s not the number of non-human “users” that troubles me. We’ve known for some time that bots make up a large portion of website traffic, and any analyst worth their salt is accounting for that reality. What troubles me is the potential (inevitable?) existence of nefarious actors seeking to deceive and benefit — and the repercussions thereof. Mr. Read puts it best with this poignant observation:

“What’s gone from the internet, after all, isn’t ‘truth,’ but trust: the sense that the people and things we encounter are what they represent themselves to be.”

Taking a Toll on Trust

The digital world saw its share of bombshells in 2018, and I’d argue few were bigger than the filing of an amended lawsuit from a group of small advertisers, alleging that Facebook knowingly delivered false video metrics back in 2015/16, and that the extent of this inflation was greater than previously believed. Though just one isolated incident (hopefully), it’s the kind of headline that serves to further erode a diminishing level of trust between people and the institutions they rely on. These occurrences send shockwaves through the digital universe that are felt in every corner, with wide-reaching implications.    When polled by CMO Council last year, 62% of marketers indicated that reports about false and faulty metrics have caused them to pull back on spend with Facebook and Google. Meanwhile, the latest Edelman Trust Barometer shows pervasive global drops in trust toward platforms — most sharply in the U.S. Global Trust Index For digital marketers that value accuracy and honesty, it can be tempting to ignore these kinds of stories and headlines, going about our own business and letting all that noise play out on its own. This would be a mistake. We can only control what we can control, but within that realm, there are steps we can take to counteract these troubling narratives.

Two Key Opportunities for Digital Marketers

Internally and externally, marketers are dealing with uphill battles that are steepened by these developments. Internally, we have to be able to confidently trust our metrics and present them to our bosses. Externally, we’re facing an audience that is growing more distrustful by nature. From my view, the growing recognition of fake web traffic and fraudulent metrics should compel marketers to reflect thoughtfully, and double-down on two vital cornerstones in the digital era: transparency and organic content.

#1: Transparency is More Essential Than Ever

It’s getting harder for people to take things at face value. So don’t force them to. The more we can be open and honest about our processes, practices, and principles, the more we can distance ourselves from shady actors who are damaging the industry’s reputation. Data measurement and analysis is hard. Errors and mistakes happen. If your agency or business is frontal in the way it identifies and addresses these situations, you’re more likely to sustain trusting relationships with your clients, customers, and business partners. One company that has impressed me with the way it embraces transparency is Lemonade, a tech-driven insurance company out of New York. In line with its overarching mission to combat trust issues that have plagued the insurance industry, Lemonade runs a content series on its website and social media called The Transparency Chronicles, introspectively discussing the business with a stunning level of candor. “We suck, sometimes,” was the title of a post from co-founder Shai Wininger last June, reflecting on the first half of 2018. He didn’t shy away from his company’s shortcomings and failures; he acknowledged them, tried to learn from them, and invited the brand’s community to take part in the conversation. Beyond refreshing to see. Lemonade Transprarency Chronicles Lemonade is basically bringing a new model to the market: insurance claims submitted directly through an app, with a personable AI bot as your guide, removing brokers and conflicts of interest from the equation. There are bound to be unforeseen snags and hiccups along the way with such an endeavor. The company’s openness about its journey makes customers more comfortable in taking part. As a marketer, you can’t guarantee everything you try is going to work. You can’t even guarantee every view counted by a third-party platform is a genuine human being. But if you’re open, honest, and transparent, you can mitigate these uncertainties and ambiguities.

#2: Investing in Organic Content Programs Now Makes More Sense Than Ever

Paid media and digital advertising will forever remain important. But they represent a short-term, finite usage of marketing spend, whereas organic content is a long-term play that can keep on giving. It’s like renting traffic versus investing in traffic. In an age of shaky consumption metrics, the latter becomes all the more appealing.   Smart, strategic content marketing that aligns with your target audience and adheres to modern SEO principles will build equity over time. It’s more qualitative, and not as reliant on short bursts of traffic volume, so brands don’t need to concern themselves as much with the value of each view and click.   Speaking of which, we also need to move away from superficial measurement and toward meaningful measurement. It was encouraging to see, per Demand Gen’s 2018 Marketing Impact Report, that volume, pipeline, and revenue metrics are being prioritized, but still a bit puzzling that two out of three respondents are using activity data as proof of marketing’s value: Demand Gen 2018 Marketing Impact Report At TopRank Marketing we’ve seen the bottom-line impact of content marketing demonstrated through program after program. One client, Welter Heating, saw a 590% combined increase in organic conversions during its busiest month over a four-year span with a best (local) answer content strategy. Another client, Innovatech, boosted conversion rates by 34% year-over-year through CRO and search optimization. As I alluded earlier when talking about transparency, people tend to believe what they can see. The value of content marketing remains plainly evident, even in a hazy digital climate.

A Clear of View of Digital Marketing in 2019

In the movie The Matrix, quoted at the outset of this article, Morpheus presents Neo with an ultimatum: Take the blue pill and you’ll continue to live in blissful ignorance, believing whatever you wish to believe; take the red pill and you’ll see the truth, unpleasant as it might be. That article from New York Magazine served as a red pill of sorts for me. There’s a seedy underbelly to this digital environment, one which has long dug at me like a splinter in my mind, but I’m ready to come to terms with it. And I’m ready to do all I can in 2019 beyond to make sure that our team is part of the solution, not part of the problem. “The frustration across the marketing ecosystem is palpable, and new headlines that breach trust and showcase systemic carelessness have inflamed the issue,” says Liz Miller, senior vice-president of marketing at CMO Council. “The industry as a whole must align on transparency and reliability.” Hear, hear. Through transparent practices and the reliability of integrated content strategy, digital marketing and its reputation can thrive as much as ever.   Looking for further information on the subject? Here’s how marketers can use the art of storytelling to build and regain trust.

The post Two Key Marketing Opportunities Amid Stories of Fake Traffic and Fraudulent Metrics appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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About Daniel Rodgers

A lot of news that you will not see in the paper. A lot of technology that is coming out that will not see in the paper.

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5 SEO Mistakes Killing Your Content Performance and a Fix for Each

Common SEO Mistakes

Common SEO Mistakes

Even the most seasoned content marketers make mistakes. In the world of SEO-driven content, with constant algorithm tweaks and changing search patterns, it’s nearly unavoidable. However, those same mistakes can often lead to discoveries that enable even better content performance.

The key is being able to recognize those easy-to-fix SEO mistakes and address them. As a result, your content will become an optimized, integrated network of metaphorical highways, leading searchers to best-answer content in a strategic and purposeful way.

So, what are the most common SEO mistakes, and how can they be addressed? Below, I’ve singled out the ‘usual suspects’ along with guidance on how to fix them while setting yourself up for long-term SEO success.

SEO Mistake #1 - Choosing Target Keywords Based on Volume vs. Relevance

How Keywords Affect Content Marketers: Great content isn't great unless people see it. But when content marketers overemphasize high-volume keywords, they miss out on meaningful engagement.

It’s tempting to plug into your keyword research tool of choice and select keywords with the highest search volume as your focuses for new content. But if the content you’re creating doesn’t match the search intent for that high-volume keyword, it’s unlikely to perform to your expectations.

The Fix: Google it! All jokes aside, evaluating the first ten search results for your target keywords can help you understand what searchers are trying to find, and what supporting content you should provide to truly be the best answer for that query.

While you’re analyzing those top results, pay attention to key factors that will shape your content creation and promotion strategy:

  1. What type of information is NOT included in top content, but is topically related? This can help you inform how you differentiate your content.
  2. What’s the content demand for that keyword? For example, are mostly top of funnel blog posts ranking, or are you seeing mostly product or service pages?
  3. How many backlinks and referring domains are pointing to the top search results? This can help you understand how competitive the first page of results is, and whether or not ongoing link building should be part of your content promotion strategy.
  4. How long is the top-ranking content for that keyword? This will help you determine ideal content length for your own post.

SEO Mistake #2 - Targeting the Same Keyword with Multiple Pages or Posts

How Same-Topic Targeting Affects Content Marketers: Pressure to create comprehensive content on a topic can actually result in dilution within search.

The conventional wisdom that more is better doesn’t apply universally — especially when it comes to SEO-driven content. Creating multiple pieces of content that target the exact same keyword is a surefire way to stand in your own way of success. There’s enough competition out there for B2B marketers without having to compete with your own content.

For example, a B2B technology company that wants to rank for B2B software consulting should optimize their service page for that term based on what is currently being served in search results. But, if they also create a series of blogs or resources that are targeting that specific term, search engine bots will be confused about which page is the best answer for that query. This could result in none of the content appearing in the top 10 results, in favor of competing sites with a more clear ‘answer’ to that query.

The Fix: Determine which of your pages or posts is the best answer for that particular query by analyzing ranking and analytics data. Which post or page sees the greatest amount of engaged organic traffic for your target keyword, and most closely matches the associated search intent?

Once you’ve determined your target page, it’s time to evaluate the remaining content targeting that keyword. Look for opportunities to:

  1. Remove or prune low-value or outdated content. Is there a blog post full of stats from 2009 that’s hindering your priority page’s chances of ranking? It might be time to consider removing that post and implementing the proper redirects.
  2. Optimize existing content for related, but different, keyword targets. For example, if you have a priority post for Chocolate Chip Cookies, and another post that more closely relates to ‘Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies’, consider optimizing that post for the latter and implementing internal links back to your priority cookies post.
  3. Combine closely related content. For example, if you have several blog posts around your targeted keyword(s), consider combining those posts into a longer, more robust piece of content.

SEO Mistake #3 - Ignoring Internal Link Structure

How Internal Linking Affects Content Marketers: Links are like electricity on the web, lighting up content for people and search engines alike.

Content is discovered by links. Your site’s internal linking structure tells bots (and users) which pages are most important, and which pages are most relevant to specific keywords. If you link to several pages from the same anchor text, for example, there will be some confusion about which page is truly ‘about’ that topic. Other times, you could have pages or posts on your site that are orphaned, with no internal links directing users or bots their way. This can confuse your site users, search engine bots, and even your own team. Confusion is not a ranking factor!

The Fix: Make sure you develop and continue to update your site’s keyword map. It can be as simple as a spreadsheet that lists your page’s URL and associated target keyword(s). This keyword map will help you determine what anchor text should be used to link to your target pages.

Next, conduct a site audit to determine:

  1. If there are orphaned pages that need internal links
  2. If you are linking to multiple pages with the same keyword-rich anchor text
  3. Where there are opportunities to create additional supporting content
  4. Where you might have opportunities to reduce and prune existing supporting content

Next, you’re going to want to crawl your site to find any orphaned pages. Then, map those into your overall keyword strategy and implement internal links.

SEO Mistake #4 - Ignoring Data from Other Digital Tactics

How Marketing Data Affects Content Marketers: Inspiration often drives ideation for many content marketers, but data drives optimization for ideal content performance. Marketing performance data can provide both.

Any data you can collect about how your audience engages with your content has the potential to be an SEO gold mine. For example, analyzing the keywords from your paid search campaigns can give you insight into which keywords are your best converters, and what content best suits searchers for those terms. Social posts that get the greatest amount of engagement can tell you which topics your audience is most interested in. Ignoring data from your other marketing and sales channels means missing out on an opportunity to better engage your prospects.

The Fix: Meet with different teams or departments to find out what kind of content performs best on their channels. Look at the data each platform or channel provides and compare that with your site analytics data for a full picture. And, be sure to share your channel performance data with the rest of your marketing team. The more information available related to content and marketing performance, the better equipped you are to optimize.

SEO Mistake #5 - Giving Up

How Persistence Affects Content Marketers: Content performance in search is a long game and persistence is essential for success.

SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. Sometimes a lack of results can feel demoralizing, but giving up is simply not an option. You wouldn’t stop building your house just because the nearest lumber yard ran out of wood, right? You’d find another lumber yard and keep plugging along.

The Fix: Take a step back. Re-evaluate the search landscape, your competitor’s organic presence, and your site’s overall health. Being able to remove yourself from the frustration can help you find opportunities you may have missed and additional whitespace to tackle.

Next, seek out advice from other SEOs. Ask questions on social media, in specific groups or forums, or send a question to your favorite SEO blog. If budget permits, enlist the help of a consultant or SEO agency that can help you break through your roadblocks.

Finally, we have two big SEO bummers that are tougher to fix, but absolutely necessary to address.

Bonus SEO Mistake: Migrating Your Site with No SEO Plan

How Migrating Without a Plan Affects Content Marketers: A bad migration can effectively undo your hard work, reducing content visibility and creating more user friction.

If you listen closely, you can hear the sound of SEOs cringing around the globe. A botched site migration can wreak havoc on your organic positioning and torpedo your results. It can take months, even years to recuperate organic visibility to pre-migration levels.

The Fix: Always, always consult your in-house SEO team or SEO agency when you’re considering a website migration. Before you move forward, it’s imperative you have a plan for technical, on-page, and off-page factors.

If you’ve already migrated your site and have experienced a loss of organic traffic and rankings, start with a site audit. Check for the basics, like whether or not your site is being indexed, first. Then start to evaluate technical factors like broken links, crawl errors, and duplicate content.

When in doubt, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Recovering from a site migration is a challenge for even the best of SEOs, and sometimes those big challenges call for a little teamwork.

Bonus SEO Mistake: Not Optimizing for Mobile

How Not Optimizing for Mobile Affects Content Marketers: Even the greatest content can’t stand up to a bad mobile experience. Users will bounce, reducing engagement and sending negative signals to search engines.

Mobile accounts for about half of web traffic worldwide. Knowing this, in March 2018 Google started migrating sites to mobile-first indexing. Providing a seamless mobile experience is no longer optional, especially when you’re living in the wild world of search.

Sites that didn’t properly prepare for this can and will likely see some declines in organic search traffic and rankings as a result. And, as more sites follow mobile best practices, more users will notice and become frustrated by poor mobile experiences. This leads to declines in other pivotal ranking factors like on-page engagement. In short, if not properly addressed, a poor mobile experience can wreak havoc on your search visibility.

The Fix: The first thing to do is to conduct a mobile audit on your site. Understanding your site’s mobile performance is step one toward making improvements. Look for things like:

  1. Mobile site speed. A couple great tools for this are Google Page Speed Insights and Pingdom. These tools can tell you where to look for issues like slow-loading code, images that aren’t optimized, and other technical issues.
  2. Mobile experience. Visit your site on your phone. Ask someone who doesn’t use your site regularly to do the same. Record your experience, take notes on where you get stuck and why. Click on everything. Turn your phone into horizontal mode. Try to think of every single way a user could browse your site. And, don’t forget to try a site search on mobile.
  3. Look at mobile analytics. This will tell you key metrics like mobile bounce rate, mobile time on page and pages per session.

These steps will help you build a hypothesis to test against. Is your mobile bounce rate crazy high? Does your site take a long time to load? Is your time on page way out of line with desktop traffic? Then, use A/B testing to root out the discrepancy. Use these same metrics to test if the fix is working. Then, repeat with another element.

So, What Does This All Mean for You?

Ultimately, following SEO best practices as a content marketer can reduce performance-related headaches and set you up for long-term success.

For example, when Innovatech Labs decided it was time to make major changes to their website, they worked with our team at TopRank Marketing to implement a safe website transition strategy, minimizing their risk of reduced content visibility on Google. This assessment involved avoiding many of the big risks mentioned above, including linking, use of data and keyword research which allowed us to act quickly post-migration to combat organic traffic declines. The result? Double- and triple-digit increases in organic traffic (and increased conversions, too!).

A best-answer content strategy focused on creating content with the most relevance to their audience was the ticket to better marketing performance for a martech SaaS company. Working with the team at TopRank Marketing, long-tail and hyper-relevant keywords were researched for a comprehensive content strategy to help the brand content become the best answer for those queries. The “best answer” approach and topics were applied across organic and paid efforts. As a result, the volume of both paid and organic MQLs increased, leading to better content performance and spontaneous proclamations of love from the client’s sales team.

Fixing these big SEO mistakes aren’t only for short-term wins. Our longtime partner Antea Group USA has achieved amazing triple-digit growth over three years by avoiding these big mistakes and implementing an ongoing commitment to SEO-driven, best answer content.

As I mentioned earlier, even the most experienced content marketers can make these common SEO mistakes. But, with the right SEO strategy driven by diligent execution and monitoring of results, you can get back on track. The key is to be intentional about your site’s architecture, as well as the content you create, and to never, ever give up.

Still feeling stuck? Or maybe your team doesn’t have the resources to take on this battle alone? Check out our SEO services, tweet us your thoughts @toprank, or drop me a line in the comments. We are here to help!

The post 5 SEO Mistakes Killing Your Content Performance and a Fix for Each appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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