Content marketing is becoming more important than ever, thanks to the major social media channels moving from chronological to algorithm-based feeds.
This major change leaves you with two choices: Pay a premium so your content will be visible to your followers, or create experiences that are so valuable that your followers will share them for you.
In the past, when you published content and promoted it on the major social media channels, you could expect a decent amount of organic engagement. Maintaining a social presence was fairly easy, because you had a free pass to promote your brand as much as you wanted.
But all that has changed – and so must your content marketing strategy.
The move to algorithm-based social feeds
Since the advent of social media, most feeds have been chronological, displaying the newest posts at the top. Other than a few promoted tweets and posts appearing at the top of your feeds, not much has changed during the last decade.
But in recent months, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have announced that they are replacing their chronological feeds with algorithm-based timelines. In each case, the developers have claimed these moves are in response to the glut of content that is exceeding users’ ability to interact with it.
Their motives are not entirely altruistic, however, Moving to algorithm-based feeds enables them to present a greater number of ads and paid placements, based on each user’s preferences, demographics and past viewing habits.
What’s driving this sudden change?
All of the major social media channels are under pressure to increase revenues. That means they are experimenting with and tweaking new monetization models on a more frequent basis. Here are several examples:
Facebook pages: Organic reach of Facebook pages has steadily declined to the point where it is currently at a meager 2%. Unless you pay to promote your updates, they will be all but invisible to your followers. More recently, Facebook has announced two new paid promotion products: Instant Articles (promoted articles) and Canvas (rich media ads). Both appear in the news feeds of users.
Instagram: This Facebook-owned photo sharing channel just announced that it is moving to an algorithm-based feed. It’s also likely that Facebook will roll out Instant Articles and Canvas on Instagram in the near future.
Twitter started experimenting with “while you were away,” a set of curated tweets from people you follow and have interacted with in February, and has rolled it out as the default for all users as of mid-March.
Even Google is getting into the act. The search engine giant has recently done away with sidebar pay-per-click ads, and has added a fourth one to the top of the search results page. This reduction in advertising real estate means that you will be paying more for your pay-per-click ads with Google.
In addition, Google recently announced that it is going to start showing a Twitter-like selection of content at the top of search results pages. Presumably, these will include ads.
The bottom line is that the major social media channels are evolving into media companies, with all the attendant cost structures and pressure to generate revenue and profits. In a sense, they are turning into gatekeepers, controlling which messages get communicated via their platforms.
How should content marketers respond?
Many brands will choose to pay the premium so that their content will still appear in the news feeds of their followers. That’s the easy – albeit expensive – way.
But there is another way: By producing content that is so valued that your followers will feel compelled to share it. By doing so, they will help you bypass the social media gatekeepers, and will ensure that your messages get distributed to a wider audience.
It’s time to step up the quality of your content game – or toil away in obscurity. If you don’t have a documented strategy that includes audience personas, a detailed buyer’s journey for each audience segment and content mapped to each key step of those journeys, now is the time to do so. You’ll also need a “content tilt” – a unique point of view that differentiates your content so it gets the attention it deserves.
Finally, don’t overlook paid promotion. With a glut of content clogging up channels like Facebook and Twitter, it’s getting harder for your content to break through the noise. Some element of paid promotion is a must for your messages to achieve the reach they deserve.
It’s time to develop your plan
Do you have a documented content strategy, customer personas defined and content mapped to it? If not, now’s the time to develop a comprehensive plan to take your content initiative to new levels of effectiveness.
To learn more, download our new content marketing eGuide, Making the Leap to Better Waters: Growth Cycle Marketing – a proven strategy for generating sales.
Google may soon expand its use of artificial intelligence (AI) to power its search results, according to a recent article from Social Media Today. This development could render traditional search engine optimization (SEO) techniques obsolete. At the same time, it will dramatically increase the importance of strategic content marketing.
The move toward behavior-based search
Traditional SEO has been based upon optimizing your web pages for specific attributes, such as making sure that page titles, headlines and headings contain the keywords and phrases you want to rank for on Google.
The incorporation of artificial intelligence (AI) into Google Search, already used in about 15% of all searches, enables it to make intelligent inferences based upon searcher behavior. It may consider factors such as:
- How long did they spend on a web page?
- Where did they come to it from?
- Where did they go next?
- How does the page they visited compare with their search history?
What is artificial intelligence (AI)?
Artificial intelligence can discern patterns within massive amounts of data and make inferences about it, without human intervention. The most amazing aspect of this technology as that AI systems can “learn,” adjusting their algorithms to deliver more accurate results.
Google has been developing its own AI technology since 2011. Since then, it has been incorporated into a variety of Google products, including speech recognition, image recognition, street view and self-driving cars. It is currently used in about 15% of Google searches.
Based on our analysis of the Social Media Today article and several other recent reports (here, here and here), it’s clear that AI will soon completely transform Google Search. The most significant development is a recent change at the head of Google’s search operations. Amit Singhal, who ran it for the 15 years, has retired. He was replaced by John Giannandrea, who oversees the company’s work in artificial intelligence. This move clearly signals Google’s deep commitment to this new technology.
What does this mean to marketers?
As the Social Media Today article points out, “SEO-friendly” is giving way to “user-friendly.” To translate that into plain English, publishing high-quality content that’s focused on the needs of your audience is more important than ever. Why? Follow this logical progression:
- The more compelling and targeted your content is, the more your audience will engage with it (e.g., invest more time reading it, share it, and click on links within it).
- Engagement is nothing more than a set of desirable behaviors – which Google is already measuring and using to rank pages in search results.
- As Google Search analyzes your audience’s behavior, it should reward your valuable content with better positioning in search results. Not because it’s properly tagged and “stuffed” with the right words and phrases. But because your audience considers it to be valuable, based upon their actions.
What should you do now?
- Develop detailed personas for each of your target audiences and an accurate picture of your typical prospect’s buyer’s journey. Understand their informational needs at each step, and develop a strategic content plan that is focused on meeting their needs.
- Consistently produce high-quality content that is focused on the audience needs you have identified. Measure their engagement with your content to determine which topics resonate with them. Then, produce more of that.
- Build your email list, which will help you communicate directly with more prospects and build trust with them, nurturing them with the information they need at each step of their journey – before, during and after the sale.
SEO and Content Marketing: The Dynamic Duo
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- How Google has changed, and why you need to consider more than just on-page SEO.
- The semantic elements Google is now considering when ranking content.
- Action steps you can use to improve your content’s performance in search results.
Learn how to fight for truth, justice and first-page search results. Download our FREE eGuide for a road map to leveraging the the Batman and Robin of digital media – search engine optimization and content marketing – to increase sales.
Take a step back and think about this for a moment —
Today, the social web is evolving and integrating services with one another so fast that it’s hard to believe where we were only a few short years ago.
With how quickly technologies and our social ecosystem are evolving, many businesses have some catching up to do with respect to who actually “owns” their online accounts.
Where were we THEN . . . ?
- Facebook was originally meant for college networking —
finding that girl or guy you were crushing on or making a Friend request, with the intent of securing a date or a new pal. Today, Facebook is still used in that respect, but it has also changed in such a way that it’s become what email morphed into — a tool for your parents and grandparents to forward phony chain-letters, relay highly personal and embarrassing information about their last colonoscopy, and make ridiculous posts on public profiles/pages for the world to see (and laugh at). More importantly, though, Facebook is also used as an advertising, networking, and customer relations tool for businesses. Plus, it seamlessly integrates with other social media platforms and websites your business might be using.
- Google Accounts (Gmail accounts) were still relatively new and, for the most part, not integrated with the myriad of services that they are today. Years ago, when businesses contracted web developers, standard practice (as a point of convenience) was to let developers add your business website to their client list within their own Google Account so they could manage and deliver analytics/reports for you. That was advantageous for developers, as it solidified a desirable client retention rate for them, since all of the business websites they handled were tied to the developers’ accounts. As a method of conducting business at that time, this was fairly standard practice.Then when the economy took a turn for the worse, many businesses found themselves in a difficult position — To save money and resources, they wanted to reign in control of their content and analytics and expand into the social web by themselves. The problem was that they didn’t have a Google Account of their own. The only efficient solution at the time, to maintain some semblance of control, was for businesses to have their web developer — the Google Account administrator — share the business’s analytics with them, so businesses didn’t have to “start over” in order to bring their account services together.
Yesterday’s convenience is today’s burden.
Social media began to boom, and in the frenzy to get businesses integrated and quickly established online, hasty methods were used. This is now coming back to bite people because without much forethought, employees’ personal accounts were used to quickly establish businesses’ presence on social networks.
Have you ever found yourself in the position of realizing that a terminated employee is the person who has ownership of your business’s Facebook page? That uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach . . . You’re not the only one who’s been there.
Soon mobile and smart phone technologies exploded, and in a short time, Google took full control of the web with Google Analytics, Places, Drive, Maps, Google+, YouTube, and more. Now your web developer has administrative control of your analytics. Your accountant created your Google+ page with his personal Google Account and claimed your Google Place location as his own. And the designer you have on staff created your Facebook business page under her personal Facebook account, effectively making her the administrator of your business account.
I think you’re starting to see how easily fragmented your business accounts can become these days, and how important it is to establish yourself correctly from the get-go. You’d do well to create some standard account set-up practices for your business.
So, what should you do to take control of your business online?
Learn from the past.
- If you are looking to have a new website developed or already have a website but need to set up accounts for your business, the first thing you need to do is establish a separate Google Account meant for your business ONLY. This account can be used to not only give you ownership of, but also tie together, your website Analytics, Google+ Account, YouTube Account, Google Places Account, Drive Account, etc.
- If you are planning on using any social media services, register your business with them under your new business Google Account ONLY. Do not use your personal information or email address in establishing these accounts.
- Establish and claim your location on Google Places with your new Google Account. Also take into consideration Yelp, FourSquare, and other mobile location-based social media services. They are fantastic tools, and you should be claiming your business on them, as well.
What will all of this accomplish?
Here are a few obvious benefits for you:
- You now have full control of all your online business accounts.
- You can add managers to most of your accounts. Grant temporary or long-term access for your social media managers and developers so you don’t have to relinquish any control of account ownership.
- You can claim your business as your own without the fear of the claim belonging to someone else.
- No more fighting over account access — What’s yours is yours.
- FREEDOM — If you decide to move on from one developer to another, you won’t have any problems with losing data, transferring ownership, or (in many cases) having to take the time to re-establish yourself.
Have you experienced the adverse effects of having fragmented business accounts online? How has it affected you or your business? Feel free to share your own stories, tips, and caveats below in the Comments.
If it’s true that “A picture is worth a thousand words,” then a video clip might be worth a MILLION.
In today’s marketing world, hosting a relevant video clip on your website — or even just embedding a meaningful video clip from YouTube — is a smart way to convey your company’s know-how and credibility.
In the past, a construction company might talk about all the great buildings they’ve built and post a few photos on their website. But today, such companies can feature engaging video tours of their projects from start to finish, and include client interviews discussing the company’s process, professional expertise, and relationship with the client, as well as any unique challenges that their company was able to surmount for the client.
Think of all the clever ways you could use video
to tell a story on YOUR company website!
Google structures its search engine rankings to REWARD companies who provide useful information (like videos) on their websites. Google isn’t interested in getting people to come to your website en masse; they’re interested in creating online relationships.
Here’s how it works:
If you take the time to create a helpful video for your viewers and ask them to comment on it, your visitors believe your website provides them with valuable content AND a meaningful interaction. Google rewards your company for creating this online relationship by increasing your search engine ranking. By coming up higher in Google’s rankings, your company’s website is deemed to be more important and more relevant among other websites in your industry.
What’s more — video keeps people at your website longer, which also improves your search engine ranking, since it tells Google that visitors aren’t just coming to your site, staying a few seconds, and then bailing out. They’re finding something to keep them engaged on your site that adds to their online experience with you. Plus, when visitors stay at your site longer, you increase the odds they’ll discover something to purchase. ANOTHER BONUS!
“But, making a video is a lot of hard work.”
Not so anymore! It used to be that trying to shoot and edit a video was a Herculean effort, requiring special talent, tools, and deep pockets. But today, not so much. With items such as iPads, Smartphones, and digital video cameras, it’s never been faster or easier to simply “point and shoot” to make a short video clip for your website. And web tools like YouTube and WordPress make it easy to upload your clip to the internet to share with customers (or potential customers).
Editing software is easy to use and affordable nowadays, too, although there is a learning curve. Have you ever seen those home improvement shows that demonstrate how to rebuild your entire kitchen in a 30-minute segment? They make it seem so effortless. Obviously, a project like that seems quick and easy if done by professionals, but for a novice, it takes much more time and effort. So it is with video editing.
If your project will take more video editing than you have time for right now, consider simply linking to a relevant existing video on YouTube or Vimeo. Both sites are essentially social networks, and the majority of videos offer the ability to embed and share. It’s a great way to get your feet wet and make a video connection on your website for your customers.
CAUTION: While linking to or creating a well-done video can add a ton of value to your website marketing, linking to or creating a poorly made or cheesy video can be harmful to your brand and to the customer experience. Don’t add video to your site merely for the sake of having video. Ensure it serves a purpose in your larger marketing plan.
Has video ever influenced your decision to buy online? Let’s talk in the Comments below.
See all articles by Steve Kohlmann→
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What are they and why should you care?
Google constantly tunes its algorithms in its quest to give people the most relevant answers to their queries as quickly as possible. In a given year, Google typically makes 500 to 600 algorithm tweaks, most of which have cutesy codenames like Porky Pig or Old Possum. A little more than a year ago, the SEO community started buzzing about two particular updates codenamed Panda and Penguin. These updates intend to provide the end user with a better online experience, but some website owners that were affected noticed a loss of traffic and ultimately revenue, so it’s important to understand what these updates are.
According to Google’s official announcement of Panda:
This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites…copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.
We’ve all stumbled across a web page that offered absolutely no value to what we were searching for. Panda was the first-ever penalty that went after sites with low-quality, keyword-stuffed or scrapped (republished without permission) content that offers little value to readers. Online publishers (often described as content farms) could submit the same article to dozens of sites just to get a back link. Panda looks for sites with “thin content” like this and penalizes the entire site, pushing it further down in the search engine results page or, in the worst case, keeping it from showing up at all.
Penguin, on the other hand, targets what Google considers webspam. Tactics that don’t comply with Google’s quality guidelines are considered webspam, including keyword stuffing and cloaking.
According to Google’s official announcement of Penguin:
Sites affected by this change might not be easily recognizable as spamming without deep analysis or expertise, but the common thread is that these sites are doing much more than white hat SEO; we believe they are engaging in webspam tactics to manipulate search engine rankings.
Of course, Google is tight-lipped about exactly what signals Penguin picks up on, but the Internet is abuzz with speculation about what may trigger this penalty, including aggressive exact-match anchor text, overuse of exact-match domains, low-quality article marketing, blog comment spam, and keyword-stuffing your links.
So how do you know if these updates have affected your site? First, look at your analytics to see whether any drops in traffic align with release dates for Panda (February 23, 2011) and Penguin (April 24, 2012). Additionally, check your Google Webmaster Tools account for any messages about SPAMMY looking activity on your site. There could be any number of contributing factors, but if your decline in traffic corresponds to the release dates, or if you were notified by Google, chances are you were hit by Panda or Penguin. The folks over at SEOmoz and Search Engine Land offer some tips and advice for recovering from these updates, but the important thing to take away is that any type of recovery must happen naturally. Fix what you can instead of getting mad at Google. Then partner with an SEO consultant who can help develop a long-term SEO strategy specific to your needs.
Still have questions? Sound off in the comment section below.