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Ready, Set, Blog! Why Blogging Matters to SEO

Ready, Set, Blog! Why Blogging Matters to SEO

Blogging for SEO

Picture from Social Media Today

To blog, or not to blog? That is the question businesses and web marketers frequently ask themselves as they work to refine and strengthen their online strategy. Lately, however, it seems as if more and more people are arriving at the same conclusion: yes. Blogging matters.

Brand Marketing

Maintaining a blog is crucial to brand marketing because it is an essential part of building your actual brand. A strong brand (online) typically goes hand in hand with quality content. With Google’s continued algorithm updates that focus on quality content, you could say that a company’s brand has become important to its Google ranking.

Who blogs, and why? The truth is, blogging matters to everyone: whether you’re a freelance writer looking to increase visibility or an entrepreneur looking to broaden your small business’ reach. Even large corporations and media outlets blog to reinforce their brand and maintain a relationship with their audience.

Successful SEO

Keywords are no longer the defining method of effective Search Engine Optimization. While they definitely still matter, a well-developed content marketing strategy is just as important. As a way of adding relevant and timely content on a frequent basis, blogging comprises a large part of content marketing.

SEO as a whole is so integral to online marketing that Forbes named a lack of SEO knowledge one of seven reasons a business can fail. Successful SEO incorporates a range of tactics. Here are some reasons why blogging is such an important one of those SEO tactics.

A Blog is the Platform on Which You Build Your Brand

Your brand is your business or your product’s identity, and so much goes into building a brand that it is difficult to determine the single most important factor. Offline, traditional marketing tactics—word of mouth, physical advertisements—and your person-to-person interactions with clients, vendors, consumers, and others establish your brand. Online, your website reinforces your brand. It is the interface between you and an even wider pool of potential customers. It’s the medium through which you promote your products or services.

To provide your audience with a robust brand image, your website must be equally robust. The content you publish is the way to do this. Blogs are an excellent way to consistently feed your audience quality content. You can only have so much static content—that is, the pages that lives in fixed locations on your website—before people get lost in it all. Blogs are current, concise, and can be published on a rolling basis. In this way, you can build a vast and varied portfolio of content that really tells people who you are.

Become a Voice People Will Listen To

Static content on your site may, and should, speak directly to you or your business. The blog, however, gives you a chance to spread your wings. Always keep your blog in line with your brand’s messaging, but don’t be afraid to get creative. Speak to various issues to become an authority in your space.

A wealth of content helps you become a thought leader, and people trust someone who’s opinions are influential and valued by their peers. You can stay specific to your vertical and still provide a variety of information on a particular topic. If you are a car dealer, compare different models of cars, or offer useful consumer information. If you are a realtor, discuss the housing market and give your readers advice. Break news. Provide commentary. Review related products, or interview other thought leaders. It is always recommended to integrate various media—Infographics, videos, gifs—into your blog as well.

Content is the Basis for Web Marketing

Multiple facets of your online marketing strategy—from social media to SEO—depend on content. We’ll talk about quality content in a little bit, but essentially, content has become vital to the way you optimize your site for search engines. It must be well written, properly formatted, and must utilize targeted keywords. Your static pages give you only so much content to optimize, but blogs give you a continuously revolving repertoire. You can focus blogs on specific keywords to broaden the keywords you target, and also have a wider variety of pages to choose from for link building. Not to mention the amount of organic traffic that is driven to your site as you blog more consistently.

 Blogs are pivotal to your social media strategy as well. Effective engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and other social networks is not just about re-sharing other people’s content. Original content is not only more interesting, it also promotes your brand. Search Engine Journal writer Neil Patel says, “A blog allows you to build a fuller picture of who you are. Most people will meet you through other places…but if they like what they read on Twitter, then they’ll follow you back to your blog and find out more about who you are.”

The Evolution of SEO: From Keywords to Content

Part of Google’s renewed emphasis on content is the use of Authorship to determine the authority of a page. You can read more about Google Authorship here, but essentially, it entails integrating Google + into your site to attribute each post to the person who wrote it. This is Google’s way of making sure your content was written by someone who knows the subject and can speak to it reliably. Blogs give you more content to attribute to authors, and as Google sees more and more posts written by the same person, the credibility of both the writer and the posts increases. This can potentially lead to higher search rankings for a properly optimized blog.

If you have one person writing your blog, attribute all posts to them so that their author profile (linked to their Google +) is featured on each. If you have multiple writers, even better, just make sure posts are attributed appropriately, and whenever possible, have each person stick to a particular subject or category of blogs. This asserts their area of expertise, which Google takes into consideration when determining authority.

Was SEO Ever Dead?

A recent article by Alan Boyce from The Guardian, SEO Loopholes Are Out: Good Content is the Answer, attributes Google’s updates to the resurgence of SEO credibility. “Peak SEO”, as Boyce calls it, was that which relied on keyword stuffing and unsustainable link-building tactics. The series of updates that began with Panda and continued with Penguin and Hummingbird have all but eliminated those tactics by penalizing them for their unreliability.

Relevant and quality content therefore became key to ranking for search terms, and the renewed focus of SEO. Boyce says:

“These trends have led many commentators to claim that SEO is dead… far from being dead, SEO has evolved into something far more benign… The updates’ cumulative effect has been to rule practice after practice out of bounds, so that search results reflect whatever it is users really have in mind when they run a search… SEO today, then, is something like zen archery: to hit the target, ignore the target. Focus instead on the beauty of aligning with your audience’s intentions.”

The evolution of SEO, then, has been to focus on what the audience truly needs, and then reinforce that relevant content with the targeted keywords, meta data, and page formatting.

The aforementioned Search Engine Journal article (while still relevant) is from 2012, but even then, experts were acknowledging the importance of blogs to SEO. That was the beginning of a trend that continues to this day. If you don’t have the bandwidth or people to write your own blogs, consider hiring a freelancer. Source blogs however you can, always keeping quality and authority in mind. Content matters, and blogging is the fastest, most reliable way to consistently publish timely content.

Content is Contagious: Is There a Secret to Viral Content?

Content is Contagious: Is There a Secret to Viral Content?

Viral Marketing - Word of MouthContent is King

This popular saying has always been understood to be one of the fundamental tenants of online marketing. For a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the necessity to strengthen your brand through reliable, trustworthy, and engaging content, a solid marketing strategy seems to revolve around quality content. With static pages on your website, your content is quite literally your brand: the way you talk about yourself, your product, your services, and communicate the essentials of your company is done through content. Blog posts, infographics, Facebook shares, tweets, and other timely pieces of content are the ways your brand interacts with your audience and other thought leaders in your vertical. Google’s growing emphasis on authorship only proves that search engines, now more than ever, are caring about who writes your content because that gives insight into it’s authority.

Like any other king, content–in addition to being high quality–needs to have a wide reach. While not every piece of content needs to go viral in order to be effective, virality is certainly a fast and easy way to create visibility for your content and get people talking. Popular content that is widely shared by individuals on social media, picked up by large media sources, and reposted on other websites can be a huge boon to your site. From a link building perspective, it’s a goldmine. And from a brand perspective, viral content establishes you as a relevant and reputable participant in whatever conversation your content contributed to.

Viral Content

The question is: how do you make content go viral? Many experts have weighed in with their own opinions and techniques for creating and curating viral content. In February, HubSpot published How to Make Viral Content: 9 Tips from the Greatest Viral Content Genius on the Planet, an intriguing piece where Neetzan Zimmerman, a blogger for Gawker who created 9 of the site’s 10 top posts of 2013, shared his secrets. At The Guardian, Buzzfeed’s editorial director shared his three best strategies for viral content. Fox Business even shared their five tips. There have been countless posts on viral content, and they are all worth reading, if only to pick up on the common threads and patterns that people are talking about. The following five tips are those which most experts have agreed upon; commonly occurring suggestions that are generally accepted as ways to make your content go viral.

Please note: the following tips are not pulled solely from the three aforementioned examples, but from a variety of posts on the subject, demonstrating that they are widely agreed upon.

  1. Appeal to Human Emotions: One of the most widely espoused techniques for going viral is the need for people to connect with the content they share. In his presentation for Hubspot, Neetzan Zimmerman calls emotion the “bread and butter” of viral content, saying “stories that evoke primal emotions work best.” If you want people to share your content, they need to be moved by it. They need to feel something so that they are compelled to get others to feel the same way. Content that evokes positive emotions, such as a feel good or inspirational story, is more likely to go viral than content that evokes negative emotions like anger or sadness. However, any emotional content, positive or negative, is more likely to be shared than content that evokes no response whatsoever.

  1. Curate, Don’t Just Create: You don’t necessarily need to create every piece of content that you want to go viral. Upworthy has become one of the largest mediums for sharing viral stories entirely by finding videos, graphics, and other media they know will strike a chord with people. Depending on your goal (whether you’re looking to become a prominent voice in a conversation or if you’re trying to raise visibility for your own content), you can search for existing content that is relevant to your audience.

  1. Post as Much as You Can: Not everything you post will go viral. It’s often difficult to find the right piece of content that will blow up. You must stay timely and relevant, emotionally engaging, and visual (pictures, graphics, and videos are more likely to be shared than lengthy text) to catch your audience at the precise moment when they are looking for the kind of content you have to share with them. It requires time, effort, and patience, but posting often shows that you are actively engaging with your community, and increases your chances of something being a success. This is not to say, however, that you should post just anything. Don’t spam your readers. Make each post count and ensure  that you are only sharing quality content.

  1. Study the Data: Delve into the numbers of everything you post to figure out what works and what doesn’t. How many people did your content reach? Was there a significant increase in traffic? When? How many shares and likes did it receive? Examining the data ensures that you are learning from each post, and gaining insight into how your content is received will help you refine your strategy.

  1. Engage Influencers: There’s a reason almost everything Upworthy shares goes viral. Upworthy is a prominent voice in the online space, and people pay attention when they speak. Whether it is a post that was submitted to them or that they found, Upworthy is influential enough that the post will be noticed. Think about who your content is targeting, and figure out who the thought leaders are in that space. Is it a human rights piece? Is it an entertainment piece? Look at the kind of content notable sites and figures have shared historically, and refine your content to appeal to them. Getting your content shared by even a single influencer in a relevant vertical elevates it to a whole new level. It reaches a wider audience, and its credibility is strengthened by the fact that it’s being shared by an active thought leader. This will compel people in their audience to share it as well.

In short, it doesn’t seem as if there are any surefire secrets to viral content. The experts each have their sets of best practices, and while there is often a lot of overlap, there are also a lot of differences in their strategies as well. A lot of the techniques for making your content go viral also vary depending on the specific nature of the content itself. You wouldn’t share an emotional video the same way you would share a humorous op-ed, nor would you target the same audiences to share or repost those pieces. The advice of these and other experts is valuable, and you should definitely read what they have to say. It’s just important to take from each the pieces that best suit your goals and create a viral strategy that works for your own particular content.

Google Authorship: Humanizing Your Content to Increase Rankings

Google Authorship: Humanizing Your Content to Increase Rankings

Though Google+ has grown rapidly since its launch in 2011–reaching 540 million active users this past October–Facebook remains the world’s largest social network (Google+ is the second). Nonetheless, the relevance of Google+ as an engaging social platform, and its importance to web marketers as a Google-owned property, cannot be debated. Described by Google itself as a “social layer”, the purpose of the tool is to act as an interlay, allowing users to interact socially with google-enhanced websites and services.

One way that Google is doing this is through Google Authorship, which Forbes is calling one of the Top 7 SEO Trends Dominating 2014. Google Authorship is an important factor in the Google algorithm that aims to surface quality content in search rankings based, in part, on who authored it. Content is no longer enough to help a website rank for search terms. Google’s algorithm is continually evolving to highlight websites with content that is authoritative, engaging, diverse, and, just as importantly, written by an expert in the field.

With more and more businesses implementing Google Authorship in their marketing strategy, it is important to know the basics so you can determine if it is relevant to your business. Chances are, it is.

What is Google Authorship?

Google+ and Google Authorship go hand-in-hand. The wide integration of Google+ profiles into Google’s other properties, including its search engine (and, consequently, search results), has essentially humanized, or socialized, the way we search. According to The Huffington Post, Google Authorship was created “with the goal of allowing writers to claim their content, as well as allowing search engine users to find more content written by the same writer.” This allows users to see the face behind the content they’re reading, and adds to the trustworthiness of the website. If a user can see that one person is writing on the same topic across different sites, it establishes that person’s reputation as an expert in the space.

Authorship does not only allow users to find content created by a reputable writer; it also allows Google to do the same. The concept was implemented to reduce spam and improve the quality of content, and, by extension, of search results. As the algorithm evolved to incorporate social media more actively into search results, Google+ became an important tool for sites to improve their rankings. That is exactly how Authorship works: by creating a solid Google+, writers can link their profiles to the content they create, allowing Google, and the user, to infer authority through their social presence.

With Google+ allowing authors to “claim their content”, how do businesses ensure that their content is written by an authority figure? While not every business is in the position to source expensive content externally from prominent figures in their space, Forbes suggests “designating a person within your organization to take ownership of contributing great content to leading online publications…to become your true thought leader.”

What Author Rank Means for Your Page Rank

Google Authorship implies that eventually Author Rank will become as much, if not more, relevant than page rank. As an author’s web presence becomes more prominent through the sheer amount of content they have authored, and the number of sites to which they contribute linked to on their Google+, they become an authority. Ultimately, their rank will factor into search results. It is even speculated that websites that have not implemented Google Authorship will eventually be phased out of search results entirely (though that is just speculation at this point).

An excellent infographic by Internet Marketing Inc. (included below) highlights the importance of Author Rank. Author Rank is directly impacted by the writer’s social activity on Google+ and other social media platforms. The amount of engagement on Google+, including frequency of posts, number of connections, the number of shares and +1’s their posts receive, and comments all factor in. And since Author Rank is tied directly to the writer’s content, not the site on which it is posted, Google’s continued emphasis on Authorship means that the value lies in the writer, not necessarily in the site. Your page rank will always matter, but you will benefit directly from the writer’s Author Rank.

Because the content matters as much as the page on which it is hosted, Internet Marketing Inc. recommends guest posting as a way to improve Author Rank, in addition to active social engagement. Linking a writer’s Google+ to their content means that a snippet of their profile, including their picture, is included in search results. It has been proven that Authorship can increase click-through rates by 30% to 150%, all by humanizing your content. A friendly face can do wonders for the trustworthiness of your site, and the frequency of clicks.

Check out The Huffington Post’s Complete Guide to Google Authorship for a thorough breakdown of how to effectively set up a Google+ profile, and scroll down for the full infographic from Internet Marketing Inc.

Facts Behind Google Author Rank & Authorship [Infographic]

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