Monday, February 25, 2013

How to Support SEO With Social Media and Content Marketing

I've worked, on and off, in SEO for over 16 years. It's far from my speciality these days, but I do work for an agency where the core business product is search and I'm often asked what social can do to help. Here's a few suggestions I give the folks in the SEO department when they ask.

NB: Tweeting used to help in getting content indexed. Re-tweets helped it to get indexed quicker. Alas, since Google stopped paying for the full fire hose of Twitters data this no longer appears so (especially if you only get small numbers of RT's). It's still worth doing, but don't hold your breath.

Link Bait

If you create shareable content it'll get passed around, and (more importantly) linked to. Putting the time in to creating video, infographics, audio, a bit of creative meme riding, finding and crafting the right images - content like this is fried gold if you want people to organically link to your posts or site. There's no substitute for the well researched and nicely presented content that pushes your audiences buttons. Embedding that into blog post and into other services promotes sharing and linking.

Link bait
Linking to Channels

For SEO, forget fancy embed codes from the likes of Facebook on your main site (yes, this goes against all the best community building practice, I know. Saying this feels like playing Tie-Fighter after a month of playing X-Wing, just dirty). The Facebook embed code, even if it does promote sign-up by showing your friends who already like a Page, slows a site down so much it's like watching stoned turtles stampede through peanut butter. Go with direct links, above the fold, and a clear 'trawlable' line of access to the social channels. Also, tag them. Putting alt text in place that says the likes of "Follow [blah] on Twitter" is another way to get the brand name in there, and is great accessibility practice.

Get on G+, and Develop Your AuthorRank

Google Plus is getting better. No, really. Not only is it getting more and more usable but Google is making it valuable for search rankings. Posting your blog content here, and actively going about redistributing it by promoting +1's and developing a community is 'where it's at.' How you do that is a whole book in it'self, but starting now with basic set-up and posting is a positive way forwards. Google Plus also seems to promote rapid indexing and trawling, with any 'shares' and '1+s' meaning it's trawled and indexed even quicker.

In the next few years AuthorRank has the potential to become the backbone of credibility. Get your G+ profile linked to your blog content. Now. Start building your reputation. Now. For more on this check my 'Why You Can't Ignore AuthorRank' post from back in January. AuthorRank is like PageRank for individuals, and it's all about 'social signals'. Once you've got your profile linked to your blog you can start to generate credit for the content you create - the 'scoring criteria' runs on factors like 'likes', 'shares', 'retweets', 'comments', '+1s' and the influence of the folks (your followers) doing the sharing. Get this sorted now, you'll thank me for it in 2014. Rel=Author tags are important, and the more you write on a given subject and the more 'love' it gets, the more Auntie Google will pimp your stuff.


In general, Pinterest seems to be good for inbound links. General good practices on Pinterest (adding prices, linking across platforms, filling out the whole profile, fresh content, linking to individual products, categorising boards, adding keywords to descriptions, etc.) seem to be a real boon, and we've got clients that pick up PageRank from being connected to their higher PageRank Pinterest accounts. Every little helps, right?

Write Some Original Quality Content

Not average run-of-the-mill content. Good original content, just like the link bait above. 2-3 fresh posts a week and Google will love you for it - though bigger brands will need to do this a lot more often (probably as much as 2-3 times a daily). Create posts people want to share and link to. Share what you know - remember, you're not giving away information your spreading your knowledge and enhancing your credibility. One blog post that gets shared is worth the time it takes to write 6 blog posts that just sit there gathering social dust. People like to share good useful information from sources they trust that's helped them or they believe will help other people. Often this will be about those common interests and the answer questions they didn't even know they needed an answer to - go take a look at Quora or Yahoo Answers and have a search to see what folks want to know. If it's new, funny, topical, or bordering on the obscure, people love it. Think about working in those compelling (and actionable) calls-to-action and tantalising headlines, and don't cram articles with keywords (those days are gone). Keep your content relevant and accurate, and grow your credibility as an authority. Stimulate debate. Be awesome. Rock your peers. Get writing, but make sure it's decent stuff.

Promote Sharing

If sharing is good for content distribution and you want to up your 'social signals', make sure it's easy for the reader to share (yeah, I know, the theory's hardly rocket science). There's a few good services for this that add all the relevant (the key word here is 'relevant', no one wants to wade through a bazillion icons) social shearing features - try AddThis, ShareThis, or Lockerz - they all do the same thing in different ways.

Also, just as a point, if you spend a few pennies to promote your social posts and get them under the nose of folks who will share it, well that's just good 'white hat' tactics ;)

sharing is good

All this is just scratching the surface. If you want to boost your SEO through distributing content via social media this is a good start. How you get people to do that is another story, but putting the back-bone in place so that they can is an excellent start. Quality and access, that's all it takes.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Online Marketing Pyramid

I work with a lot of different brands. One of the first things I ask a client when creating an online marketing plan is to see any branding documents, and it's amazing the amount of companies who have nothing in place at all. No written guidelines to say who or what they are. Nothing to document their core brand traits. No written statement that details their key values.

Without this we can't create a brand personality. We have no clear rules to begin creating even the most basic voice for them on the world wide web, nor anything to reflect in design work or creating copy. I've even heard a client say "Well the logo is red..." thinking this was what I meant. This isn't a bad thing usually, and most small (one-man) brands have values so clear and personal they never reply need to be carved in stone - but for many this a great help in highlighting their core foundations and what their brand represents. That is, after all, the core of branding - identifying what differentiates you from others in your field and what your business or service represents to your customers. Online, a brand isn't something you can measure with quality control like you can with a physical product. Plus, logos and packaging can come and go, but the essence of a brand stays the same. Where's your frame of reference?

When this happens I run through a very simple exercise with them, and I'm going to document that here. I'm going to go back to a very basic technique, The Brand Pyramid, shown to me in a hotel room in Monterey by my good friend Monique Elwell some 4 or 5 years ago. This is an invaluable first step and one of the classic and core principals of branding - ta Monique. Added to this is the nuancing for digital marketing that I've learned from practice and added over the years.

stay on brand

The Traditional Brand Pyramid has 4 steps, and so does ours. There's a lot of different version and books on this, but this is the basic skinny without all the complicated fluff.

First, at the base, you identify your Brand Essence. This is the foundation of what's going to be your companies long-term positioning. A reason for doing. A mantra for success. This is the root of the evolution of a product and how you'll communicate with the world and how you'll support your customers. For Crayola, their brand essence is to strive to 'free the “What If?” questions in kids’ minds'. For Hallmark Cards they use the memorable words 'Enriching Lives'. The BBC has an ongoing remit to 'enrich people's lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain.'

Next step up the pyramid is your core Values. These are verbs, not nouns, and should never change. They should represent your intrinsic culture, your belief, and your companies spirit. There are 1000's of potentials, from 'respect' to 'competency', from 'harmony' to 'humility' and from 'spontaneity' to 'wonder'. There's a great list here if you need some options to get you thinking - there's no point me replicating other peoples hard work. Pick 4 or 5, no more. Keep referring back to them, this IS who you are.

The next layer up is your Attributes. They can be viewed as adjectives that describe your brand both to other company members and to the wider world. I wrote a post on this over on the Just Search blog, and (once again) there's no point me duplicating another list. Again, choose just 4 or 5 (it's easyer to start with 8 or so, then trim them back). Take a look here, you'll see what I mean.

Finally we get to your Brand Personality. In most cases these are seen as a list of human characteristics which you assign to your brand, however, in social and content marketing we take a step further and craft these into an actual character. I do this a lot. 3 or 4 of them a month. It's one of the few benefits of being a table-top role-player since the age of 8 (except for maths and mapping skills). This is an invaluable 'hat' a client can wear when talking in social (and and content creation) that has the voice they need to represent them online. A wrote another article on this, as part of the general process, over on the work blog - see: Finding Your Voice in Social Media Pt.3: Strategic Character Creation. This is a 'character sheet' and those important standards that can be passed on to whoever's doing the brand messaging and communicating in the social channels, plus acts as a voice for blogging, newsletters, everything external really, and as commonality across all ares of communication. Every element of this should reflect your brand attributes. It also helps to find an image to represent this too, a person or individual (human or otherwise) that sums up the brand personality - and this can often be the hardest part of the exercise.

This process is simple, and more useful than you might think. Even the images you use should reflect the key elements of your brand. Your logo, your voice, your video content, your blog posts, the way you speak to customers, your drives, your motivations. It should be a constant point of referral for everyone and the very foundation of your marketing.

Give it a go. It's invaluable, trust me, and if you find it useful give this a plug somewhere and spread the good practices. Just because we work in digital, doesn't mean we should be cutting corners.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Pinterest Code to Help Find Your Most Pinned Web Content

Here's a a very simple trick for Pinterest I thought I'd share.

Go to your browser and type this:
(no www)

This'll show you every image posted to Pinterest by others from your website or blog, all laid out in normal Pinterest format.

Go on. Pin it. You know you want to.

I love this. Taking a look at what works is so important in social (and in marketing in general) and it gives a great visual insight into your audience. This is a way to see what's working, what's being shared, and what imagery your audience respond to. Testing regularly rocks, and I'm a big fan of an agile approach to marketing which tricks like this are perfect for. It's also great for seeing what's being shared from the competitions websites when doing research. When a client comes to us with a curiosity about Pinterest it's my first port of call.

If you want to take this further you can try PinAlytics for search and check and out more analytics data, and give PinReach a punt to help identify influencers. Alas Pinterest hasn't release a Hootsuite compatible API so isn't part of the dashboard and there's no plugin, so I use Reachli if needs be for scheduling (which is 'ok').

Well worth taking a look.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Making Your Facebook Page Work for Mobile

There's plenty of mobile social platforms out there that lend themselves naturally to mobile marketing. Those with downloadable apps. and easy access like Tumblr, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter (obviously) etc. There's also some that are less obvious and just as important - i.e. the grand daddy of them all, Facebook. Nearly 40% of Facebook users use the platform by mobile. That's nearly half of your audience. So how do we optimize our messaging to be visible to our friends, fans, and followers through Facebook mobile? It's actually quite elementary.

"It's that bloody Lestrade, still pestering me for a recommendation on LinkedIn..."

If we want to make our followers lives that little bit easier and make sure we get our words across there's a few simple things to think about and some experimentation to be done to optimize your Page (or personal) posts for Facebook.

One issue is Truncation, where your character limit is cut by the option to 'read more' instead of the whole message being displayed. Sometimes truncation is unavoidable, but with a bit of experimentation you can slip in a line return or the end of a sentence and prioritise your important message in the first part of your post. You're going to have say the crux of what you want to say in around 100 characters, which works perfect on the iPhone. A bit of testing with Android etc. can pay off and help you get this right. If you can finish a sentence prior to truncation (or on a leading cliff-hanger if that's your thing) it's a neat little trick.

Variety, as they say, is the spice of life. On mobile devices, links (which we want to get 'liked' for those valuable social signals) are much smaller that other posts and can sometimes open erratically within the application. We need to think about using images (which are large and eye-catching in the mobile stream) and video (which plays direct in the official Facebook apps.) as well. Mobile users can also see and answer Facebook Questions, an often unused and poorly explored tactic. Instead of links or just status updates, how about testing a few images with shortened (and measurable) customised links in the text to see what click-through rates you get? - "Find out more here >>" etc. Mix and match - though really you should be doing this anyway to promote organic EdgeRank growth and give your audience some variety.

Mobile Social Ads are a great way into the mobile app. Mobile ads account for 23% of Facebook's ad revenue, that's around £200,000,000 a year. Rumours of push targeted deals and a new app for March abound, with Bloomberg talking abut Facebook location based software hitting the market any day. Current display options, all part of the News Feed, are the usual Sponsored Stories and Promoted Posts. There's also Offers (putting discounts and promotions in the News Feed) and Mobile App-Install ads (the links to the likes to of games that are in my face and bugging me right now) but these require some dev skills and an app to support. You can do all the usual trageting by interest and demographics. There's a nice intro to Facebook mobile ads over at InsideFacebook.

Be a Place, but before you do considering the pitfalls as well as the benefits. The benefits of allowing mobile users to 'check in' and speard the good word are obvious, and it means you can also take advantage of (the much underused) Deals (which, incedentally, rank high in the new Graph Search) - Loyalty deals for repeat visitors, Friend deals to get (up to 8) folks to check in at the same time, Charity deals, etc. Places, however, are not that simple. You need to be aware that Places also disables some functionality that you get with a standard Page, but you can claim a Place if it already exists and merge it with you Page if needs be and that gives you more control (this is probably a longer post at another time, it's all bit of a mess to be honest). To add a new Place just head to, click 'check-in', give it a description, then click 'add'. Disco.

Cover images lay out differently on an iPad, an iPhone, on Android, in the browser, etc. Think about how it's going to look when people visit your Page. A bit of testing is essential, but many people will never see you any other way and this has to be taken into consideration. A scruffy experience reflects directly on your brand.

Anyway, as marketeers and community managers it's time for us to think about mobile. For some it's the elephant in the room, but we need to begin to think about how our audience are accessing our messaging and to react accordingly. It's only going to get MORE important, especially with Facebook.

If anyone else has any tips for making your Page work for Facebook Mobile, I'd love to hear them! Please let me know in the comments below :)

Oh, and quick thanks to my good mate Jamie Grind, for knocking up the Holmes image above for me ;)