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Most effective search marketing technique is one of the hardest

Search Engine OPtimisationThe chances are if you were to get five different Search Engine Optimisation experts in a room together you would end up with six varied opinions as to what the right thing to do might be.  Some would tell you that keyword research is essential. Others might say that link building is fundamental. Whereas another one could suggest that crafting the right URLs is important.

Website owners are faced with this constantly conflicting advice as to the right thing to do. One moment you are told to do keyword research, the next minute you are told that is “old hat” and you should be doing something else entirely.

Thankfully, research from Ascend2 shows what is really working in search marketing. The study found that search engine marketing experts tend to agree on what works best, even though there are plenty of different suggestions. It turns out that over three quarters of the search gurus claim that creating relevant content is the surest way of gaining SEO benefits. Only 16% of them believe that bothering about the URLs on your site is highly important.

So, the study points the way to what you need to do with your website in order to gain search engine benefits. There is only one problem. The Ascend2 study also shows what the experts think is complex. Guess what? They agree that producing relevant content is one of the most difficult things to do. Only link-building is thought to be harder. The marketing experts agree that structuring a website’s URLs is the easiest thing to achieve, yet it is likely to have the least impact.

Graph of SEO difficulty

The most effective method of search engine optimisation is deemed to be one of the hardest to do. Is it any wonder, therefore, that many websites fail to create enough good and relevant content? It is hard, so they seek out easier methods such as social media. That is nice and easy to do, but actually has relatively low impact on search results. Marketers feel as though they are achieving things when they use social media because they can see activity. The problem is that activity is largely ineffective. Some search marketing techniques like social media create an illusion. They can produce some success, but that success is not as effective as writing more relevant content.

Once again, this study shows clearly that if you want your website to be noticed online you have to concentrate on publishing great content. That’s not so strange – the web is a publishing medium, after all. So the more you treat your web activity as a publishing process, the more you will succeed with search marketing. Perhaps creating relevant content is difficult for many websites because the companies do not treat it as a publishing exercise. If you do, then you employ the right kind of people and use publishing techniques that mean content production is no longer seen as difficult.

Category: Search

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The Daily Mail can actually make you a better blogger

Four tips for bloggers taken from analysing what the Daily Mail does to achieve its huge online success and what a former employee told a search marketing conference in London

The Daily Mail is an online success story. Whatever you think about the publication or its views, you cannot deny it has achieved a great deal online. Every minute of the day there are 19,444 articles being read on the Daily Mail website. Each hour there are almost 5,000 comments being made by readers. Each month the website receives 190m unique visitors. It must be doing something right.

Front page of the Daily Mail

So what does the Daily Mail do that we can all learn from?

One of the key things to notice about the Daily Mail is the huge number of pictures on the front page. It is visually crammed. Today’s home page, for instance, had 492 pictures (yes I counted them all) making the home page massive in terms of the amount of data it is sending. Yet, what we hear from all the “experts” is to keep your home page small, so that it can be downloaded quickly. True, the Daily Mail uses coding techniques that keep its page as small as possible, but even without the pictures it is 723Kb. Clearly, being big is not an issue for its readers. What seems to matter is that it is full of pictures.

Images exploding from computer screen

The impact of the vast number of images was made clear in the recent Search Bootcamp by former Daily Mail web employee, Jackson Rawlings. He said: “Some Mail stories are 90 per cent images. That allows quick browsing over lunch, for instance.”

If you check out the lead story on the Daily Mail, you will find the story is told in pictures. There is a short amount of text, but there are 17 pictures with captions. You can get the whole story if you just scan those pictures and read the few words below them.

As Jackson Rawlings told the audience at Search Bootcamp, “The reason that so many people keep coming back to the Mail is because it is so easy to view and use. If you are using images already, then use more images. People don’t use enough multimedia.”

So, Tip Number One for bloggers – increase the number of images you use.

Back at the Search Bootcamp, Jackson Rawlings made another really important point. He said that the Daily Mail did not wait until a story was complete before publishing it online. The editorial policy is to get something up on the web as soon as possible and then add to the story as it grows and as new information and images come in to the newsroom. As a result, the story evolves online.

Bloggers often wait to publish until everything is complete or finished. Rarely do bloggers go back to old posts, change them and adapt them as new information comes in. Yet, the highly successful Daily Mail, treats its content as something that is always ready to be changed.

Tip Number Two for bloggers – your blog posts are never finished.

Another feature of the Daily Mail that is noticeable is that the headlines are very long.

Daily Mail Headline

Look at that headline…! It is 32 words long. All the advice on headline writing on the web is that it should be short and snappy. The most successful British newspaper online does the complete reverse of that advice. There is a lesson in that.

Tip Number Three for bloggers – tell the entire story in the headline.

Finally, there is something else the Daily Mail does. According to Jackson Rawlings the Mail constantly researches what the visitors are interested in. The editorial policy is centred around what people want. How much of your website or blog is based on assumption and how much is based on reader research?

Tip Number Four for bloggers – research your audience in-depth.

So, there you have it. Four tips to help your blog as a result of looking at the Daily Mail. Use more pictures,  write longer headings, research your audience and never assumed a post is finished.

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Category: Blogging

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Is a website attractive if it is more like others?

Website showing on tablet device

With billions of web pages available there is a never-ending contest between your site and the competition. You have to make your website and all of your pages attractive to people, otherwise they will not stay.

Web designers, therefore, want your web page to stand out and seem different from the competition. Looking different is good – people notice you. But there is a problem with being different on the web; visitors don’t know how to use your site.

If most websites have navigation that runs across the top of the page, whereas yours has it down the right hand side, your visitors will not know where to look. They find the site unusable.

The whole arena of website usability tries to get web owners and designers to see things from the perspective of visitors. Designers, meanwhile, try to make websites stand out. There is often a conflict.

New neuroscience research, however, could help resolve the difference between novel design and usability. The study was not looking at web design, but its findings reveal the kind of thing that is going on in our brain when we land on a web page.

The researchers from the University of Basel were interested to find out what goes on in our brains when we are faced with a great deal of visual information all at the same time. What happens, for instance, when we see a large number of road signs when we are driving or an array of advertising slogans? How does our brain sort it all out and see what is important without being distracted? That was the basis of the study.

Confusing Road Signs

Image Courtesy: Dawn Huczek, Flickr

 

What the study discovered was that our brains compensate for the mass of information by assuming that there will be certain things in particular places. We don’t have to look for stuff or work it out if it is always in the same place.

That suggests that if your website tries too hard to be different and doesn’t have menus or search boxes where everyone else has theirs, then your website not only becomes less usable but it also means that people do not see what is important. The mere fact that our brain makes assumptions as to where things are going to be, appears to help us pick out important things. If your menus are not standard or the position of your search box or phone number is not standard it creates another issue over and above usability. What seems to happen is that people cannot work out where the important stuff is, such as your headline or the “click here” or “buy now” button.

So, making your website the same as everyone else’s has an additional neurological value. It helps your brain visitors’ brains pick out the important stuff on your website.

 

Category: Internet Psychology

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How to succeed with social media – mix with experts

Young persons head looking with gesture at social type of icons and signsDo you want to be a millionaire? Or a billionaire? If you do, there are several ways you can achieve your dream. You can have rich parents – that’s a good way of being rich yourself. Or you can invent something so cool everyone wants it. Alternatively you could work really, really, really hard and work your way to the top of some global corporation. But most people who dream about being mega-rich do not do any of this; they just fantasise about how they would spend the money if they had it.

However, the people who take action all appear to do one thing in common; they start to circulate in the world of rich people. Ambitious people who want to become rich go to the places where millionaires hang out. If you want to be rich, mix with rich people. You will learn from them, you will be introduced to others and you will be given opportunities that would pass you by if you stayed at home, dreaming.

Even if you look at the myriad of rags-to-riches stories, you find that most of them involve that “lucky” individual in years of work, going to the right places, asking the right questions, meeting the right people. I recall a 19-year-old “overnight blogging sensation” – according to the UK media coverage. It seems this teenager from Yorkshire had made a million with his first online blog. Indeed, he had done that. But his own story had a slightly different version of events. His blog did make him a millionaire – but for the previous year or so he had been studying the people he admired online. He spent time nurturing an online relationship with them and then he started to meet them at blogging events in the USA. Only then did he launch his website and only then did he start to make pots of cash. It wasn’t overnight – it was two years of hard work, getting to know the rich people who could help him succeed.

So how do you become an expert at Twitter? How do you make the most of your LinkedIn account? What do you need to do on Pinterest to get more product sales? The answers to these questions can be found on a variety of blog posts and websites, for sure. But better answers would come from mixing with Twitter experts or LinkedIn gurus, for instance. Make them your friends in the real world and you will benefit.

child with laptop computerEvidence for this kind of impact comes from a rather odd source today. Research on the under-age use of Facebook reveals that children aged 9-12 are most likely to have an account if their real world friends also have an account. Facebook is supposedly only available for those over the age of 13, but around 40% of children under that age limit do have an account. Relaxed parenting styles have an influence. However, it seems that if children of that age mix with other youngsters who already have an account on Facebook, that makes it much more likely they too will open an account.

In other words, your real-world relationships affect your behaviour. You tend to do what your friends do. You tend to behave the same way as them. In psychological terms this is known as being “in-group”; you conform.

So, if you want to “up your game” on LinkedIn, for example, start to meet those LinkedIn experts. You can start online, of course, but visit the business events they go to, attend the same conferences and meet up with them in the real world. Gradually, over time, you will become part of their group. And that will mean you start to behave like them. The result of which is you will be doing the very things that make them great with LinkedIn, or whatever social network you want to excel at.

If you want to do well with social media, mix with the people who are already doing well.

Category: Social

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3 ways to consistently produce great content

Content being handwrittenYour website needs content – lots of it – if it is to face up to the online competition. The more content you produce, the more you are noticed and the more visitors you get. There is plenty of research that shows websites that regularly add new, fresh and exciting content are the sites that get the most traffic and the greatest business. If you want to do well online, you simply have to keep adding more and more great content.

But therein lies the problem. How can you keep adding great content and remain consistently good?

Here are three ways that will help you consistently produce great content.

1. Produce more content….!

The more times you do something, the more you learn. Writing content only now and then does not prepare you enough for consistently producing great content. The best content producers are those who spend a great deal of time writing. They write a great deal and in doing so they learn how to write better, they develop techniques for writing more effectively and they are keen to find out more about the process of writing. The more you write, the more you want to write well. One thing holding content producers back is not producing enough content. Up your game…! Produce more content and you will become better at it, enabling you to be more consistent in creating great content.

2. Have a plan, a schedule and a strategy

Plan to add content every dayInstead of creating content when the muse takes you, have a plan. You can use tools like CoSchedule or my own Blog Planning Tool to help you plan, but before you even think about organising your posts each week, you need to have a strategy. You need different kinds of content. How often will you add blog posts? How many times a month will you be producing a video? How often will you have “long” content? These are things you need to consider. Then your overall strategy might be two blog posts a week, one video a month, four long articles a year, one white paper every quarter and so on. You can then enter these details in your calendar, and you can then spend time considering what you might include. Rather than thinking of content when you need it, there will be a “mulling over” process, thanks to the strategy, which will help you create great content consistently.

3. Read more – especially your competitors

Man reading book in living room smilingThere is a link between great writing and reading. The more you read, the more you can write well. Indeed, I made that point almost five years ago in this post on “how to write a great blog.” Read widely and you will absorb what makes great content, helping you produce even more good stuff yourself. It’s a process of osmosis. But also make sure you read your competitors’ websites and blogs. They will be producing content for similar audiences so looking at what they produce shows you the kind of thing you could be doing. Again, this will help you focus and, therefore, be more consistent in producing good content. You could also use a service like Buzzsumo. Type in a word or phrase and you’ll see a list of content and how widely that item has been shared in social media. This shows you what topics interest people, showing you what to write about more regularly, again helping you be more consistent. But don’t just look at the list – click on the links and read the articles that are widely shared. They are likely to be good articles; read them and learn from them so you can produce material of the same standard. The more content on your topic that you read, the more you will be able to produce consistently great content.

It isn’t that difficult to be consistent with the quality of your content. But you need to have a strategy and a plan, and then you need to write as much as you possibly can and read extensively. Ask a top author how they produce loads of best-selling books. They’ll tell you two things: I read every day, and I write every day. Simple.

Category: Content Marketing

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