Viewing all posts by Nick Stamoulis.

Does your B2B content strategy target all the key influencers?

Your B2B content strategy should reach all key influencersI came across this great post on HubSpot the other day that answered and negated the commonly cited shortcomings of inbound marketing their sales teams often hear from site owners and marketing managers.

This section in particular really stuck with me:

Claim: Decision-makers don’t spend their time online researching products and services…The idea is that the typical C-suite executive doesn’t spend his or her time online reading blogs, conducting searches in Google, or participating in social media.

Rebuttal: Decision-makers are influenced by online channels when it comes to purchasing decisions…Even if a C-suite executive doesn’t spend a lot of their time reading blogs, using social media, and conducting research online, that doesn’t mean there aren’t others within their company who are doing those things. And chances are, these people have some level of influence on the decisions of those C-suite executives.

The B2B content marketing challenge: multiple influencers throughout the buying cycle

A lot of B2B companies struggle with content creation in one way another, whether it be coming up with topics to write about or having a hard time publishing a steady stream of content. Either way, most B2B companies realize the importance of content marketing but some still struggle with the actual implementation.

One of the most common issues I see is that B2B content marketing doesn’t take into account all of the possible influencers, nor each stage of the buying cycle.

B2B content marketing campaigns might be too heavily weighted at the beginning of the buying cycle, which is great for driving information-seeking visitors to your site, but not as good at actually converting them. Or, they are too heavily weighted at the end of the buying cycle, so companies are missing the opportunity to connect with potential customers early on.

For instance, say your company sold various enterprise software products. Your end decision maker is probably the CIO or CTO, right? But is that CIO the one actually doing the grunt work and investigating all the possible vendors out there? Probably not.

Perhaps the Director of IT is the one that does a lot of the leg work and presents the CIO/CTO with the top few choices. But is the Director of IT the only one involved in the research and information gathering process? Again, probably not.

A B2B content strategy scenario…

Say one of the products your company offered was a contact center software product. The CIO isn’t the one actually using that product, your enterprise’s contact center agents are. But they don’t have the authority to make a buying decision, so they turn to their contact center manager with their needs/complaints about their current system.

The contact center manager in turn might look up the chain of command to the Customer Experience Executive or the Chief Customer Office, and explain why/how a new contact center software solution can help improve the customer experience. They, in turn, have to get the okay from the CTO or CIO to make sure this new software will work within their existing system that in turn might have to check-in with the CFO to get the budget approved.

Each person, from the contact center agent all the way up to the C-suite, can influence the final decision in one way or another, and each individual is looking for different pieces of information.

The call center agent wants to make sure that your software will actually make their jobs easier, not harder. The contact center manager wants to know that your software will easily integrate and “play nice” with other applications already being used so their agents don’t have to waste time learning a new program.

The CCO wants to see how a software program can actually impact the customer experience and everyone wants to know how spending money on new software will help them make or save money in the long run.

Content marketing that targets all of the influencers

Does your B2B content marketing campaign hit each of those influencers and their needs? If not, you’re missing out on valuable opportunities to connect with and influence each member of your target audience.

In a large enterprise, unlike a small business, no one person makes a decision that impacts the rest of the company on his or her own. Many B2B sales and buying cycles are extremely long and involved, and require a substantial monetary investment from your potential clients.

You don’t want them to have any lingering questions or doubts regarding your product or company, and your B2B content marketing campaigns are how you answer those questions.

 

About the Author ~ Nick Stamoulis

Nick Stamoulis is the President of Brick Marketing, a Boston-based search marketing firm that specializes in B2B SEO services. With over 13 years of industry experience Nick Stamoulis shares his SEO knowledge by writing in the Brick Marketing Blog and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, read by over 120,000 opt-in subscribers.

photo thanks to Robert Gaal

Want to be the go-to SEO content marketing influencer in your organization? Check into the SEO Copywriting Certification training, where you’ll learn best practices for SEO copywriting and content marketing!

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond SEO: The content marketing power of the blog

In my opinion, your company blog is the second most valuable piece of online real estate your company has, next to the company website of course.

Blogs and other content marketing platforms are essential for long term SEO success. The saying “content is King” has been around for a long time simply because it’s true. Great content gets shared and linked to, which makes it more valuable in the eyes of the search engines, which in turn helps your site perform better in the SERPs (search engine results pages).

Each blog post can rank individually in the search engines, helping expand your overall online brand presence and giving you the opportunity to target various keywords as well as different segments of your target audience.

However, even with nearly 7 years of posts backing me up, I’m fairly confident that most visitors don’t find my company blogs by searching for “SEO blog.” There are too many high-powered industry blogs for me to compete effectively for that search term.

The same is true in most industries. Unless your company is a major player, chances are there are a few industry blogs that are always going to outperform yours. They’ll get more social shares, more RSS subscribers, more inbound links and more readers every day, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t make big progress with your own company blog and help build your business online.

Become the go-to resource: Write to help your clients

I know and accept the fact that most of the content I write isn’t going to outrank some of the big names in the SEO industry, but I also know that it doesn’t matter. I’m not writing to rank well; I’m writing to help my clients.

I want to become a trusted source of information for my readers (no matter how many or how few that may be) so that if they ever are in need of SEO help they think to come to my site and blogs first. Some SEO blogs are geared towards other SEO professionals or more advanced site owners, but I focus on helping my target audience—small to mid-sized businesses, website owners and marketing professionals. Those are the people I want to connect with and build relationships with, so I create content that speaks to their unique needs.

I know that not every blog post is going to be a huge hit with every reader and go viral, but I also know that every post has that potential. You can’t force something to go viral, but as long as you are publishing great content you’ll succeed in the long run. When you focus on producing great content for the reader, as opposed to content that exists solely to help your SEO, you usually end up producing much more interesting and useful content.

Interesting and useful content gets shared, generic and boring (no matter how SEO friendly) does not.

Become savvy in your vertical: Write to fine tune your own skills

By adopting a content marketing schedule and sticking to it you actually help improve your own skills, along with providing valuable information to your target audience.

Think about it, in order to become and stay a trusted resource your readers need to know that you know what’s going on in your industry. You need to be aware of trends and how they impact your business and the business of your clients. What’s coming down the pipeline? What are people looking for more information on?

In order to give people the knowledge they need (and in a way that makes sense) you need to do your own research. Activities like reading other blogs, attending local conferences or signing up for a webinar help keep you on your toes and fuel your own content marketing strategy. The tips and tricks you learn can be spun for new posts for your own blog or company newsletter.

You don’t always need to be ahead of the curve but you should at least be keeping pace with the pack.

Content marketing is incredibly valuable for long term SEO success, but that isn’t the only reason website owners should invest in a company blog and other content marketing platforms. Writing content that speaks to your audience is going to pay off in the long run, both for SEO and your long term business success.

About the Author – Nick Stamoulis

Nick Stamoulis is the President of the Boston-based full service SEO agency, Brick Marketing.  With 13 years of experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his knowledge by writing in the Brick Marketing Blog, and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, read by over 160,000 opt-in subscribers.

You can find Nick on Twitter [at] @brickmarketing, and contact him directly [at] nick@brickmarketing.com

Looking for low-cost SEO copywriting training? Learn more about the SuccessWorks SEO Copywriting Certification Program, designed for in-house marketing professionals, agencies, SEO shops and copywriters.

photo/image thanks to Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

Balancing SEO and copywriting best practices: a true story

Guest Author, Nick Stamoulis

I was working with one of my social SEO clients on their blog. My SEO company, Brick Marketing, was responsible for writing two blog posts each week, which we would then promote through the client’s various social networks as they went live.

We were specifically instructed to make sure the blog posts were “SEO friendly” and would do well in the search engines. However, before we even scheduled the blog posts I would send the new posts over to my client for their approval. If they had any changes or comments about the post, they just had to email me back and I would have my writing staff change the post as directed.

One day, they sent back a blog post with so many edits, changes and corrections that you could hardly discern the original article. When I asked them what they didn’t like about the original post, my client responded “Oh no, we really liked the post. We just didn’t understand why you had put those links in there. The blue text is really weird looking. And we thought we should only focus on the same keyword through the whole post, so we removed the variations so as to not confuse our readers.”

They essentially threw the SEO component of the blog post out the window!

I’ll be the first to say that any content, whether it is a blog post, article or webpage, should be written for the reader first and the search engines second. But even great content needs a little help getting found and read by your target audience. That’s where SEO and content optimization come into play.

Here are 4 ways to balance content optimization and traditional copywriting:

1. Don’t dumb it down.

Have a little faith in your readers. Writing generic and generalized content so you can target broad keywords won’t do anyone (you or your readers) any good. Don’t be afraid to target long-tail keywords that someone further along in their research process might be using to find related information. The most specific audience you can write your content for is the best chance you’ll have of earning their business.

2. Incorporate keyword variations.

Speaking of specific keywords, there is no rule that says you have to target the exact same keyword throughout the entire blog post. Obviously you want to stick with keywords that accurately reflect the theme and messaging of the content, but don’t be afraid to throw some variations in there. This not only makes your content much more natural sounding, it also helps your content appeal to more searches. Not everyone searches for the same thing in the same way, so variations help ensure you aren’t accidentally alienating a segment of your target audience.

3. Use anchor text to get the link.

Interlinking your blog posts is a great way to keep your readers engaged, educate them further on related topics and show off your industry savvy. No blog post is an island! Obviously you don’t want to pepper your blog posts with dozens of links (it can get a little distracting for your reader) but incorporating 2-3 links via anchor text is a great way to beef up your blog’s SEO! By using anchor text instead of the full URL to direct readers to another blog post (or even a page on your site) you are keeping the flow of your content intact and spreading the link juice from more popular posts across your blog, lending more value to other posts.

4. Write first, optimize second.

Getting the words down on paper is probably the hardest part about writing a blog post. Yet some site owners seem like gluttons for punishment and think that every word has be to perfect for SEO before they can move onto the next. You don’t have to sacrifice great content in order to make a blog “SEO friendly!” In fact, site owners should write the post first and THEN go back in and see how you can tweak it for SEO. If you can’t make a keyword fit, then don’t force it in. If you can’t find a reason to link, don’t bother. Trying to stuff SEO into a blog post is only going to ruin the integrity of the post.

About the Author – Nick Stamoulis

Nick Stamoulis is an SEO consultant and President of Brick Marketing. With over 12 years of B2B SEO experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his knowledge by posting daily SEO tips to his blog, the Search Engine Optimization Journal, and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, read by over 160,000 opt-in subscribers.

Give yourself the gift of a more prosperous new year! Get your certification in SEO Copywriting by the recognized founder of SEO, Heather Lloyd-Martin.

 

 

 

Content marketing metrics to measure success

In today’s tight economy, measuring and proving ROI is more important than ever. Businesses and site owners want to know that every dollar of their marketing budget is being put to good use, and that includes content marketing. Content marketing is the lynchpin of all your other online marketing efforts (SEO, social media, link building, PPC, etc) and is the last thing a site owner should be pinching pennies on, but few businesses are willing to take that statement at face value.

Here are 3 metrics you can use to measure and prove the value of content marketing:

Content Marketing Metric to Measure #1 – Your Visitors

Measuring the amount of traffic a particular blog post or article gets is probably the easiest metric for most site owners to keep an eye on. It’s as simple as opening up your site’s analytics and seeing how many unique visitors that page of content got. For most bloggers and site owners, this is where they start and stop measuring their content marketing’s success.

The general rule of thumb is the more eyeballs the better, although these numbers can be deceiving. For instance, your blog post might record 100 unique visitors, but the bounce rate was over 90%. This means the vast majority of people who found your blog post weren’t interested in what you had to say, indicating that you are targeting the wrong keywords. It’s very easy to make data fit what you want it to say instead of taking a critical eye to it; don’t let human error lead you astray!

While more traffic is good (and you want to see a steady uptick in your blog’s traffic as it ages), it shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all measurement of success when it comes to your content marketing.

Content Marketing Metric to Measure #2 –  Social Shares

The next metric to measure your content marketing success is seeing how many times it was shared by your readers. Most of your content sharing metrics are going to come from social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Who posted your article to a LinkedIn group, Liked it on your Facebook page, Tweeted a link and gave it a +1? Readers can also share your content on social bookmarking sites like Digg or Reddit or e-mail it to friends, family and coworkers. Each of these shares magnifies the number of people who can find and read your content.

Social share signals are actually an incredibly important component of SEO. While not the most influential factor, the search engines have admitted to looking at social signals and author authority as one of their ranking factors for a page of content. The more people who share your content, the more important it will become in the eyes of the search engines and the better it will rank in the long run.

In order to give your content the best possible chance of being shared by your readers, it is important to install social share buttons on your website and blog. These share buttons make it easy for your readers to post your content to their favorite social networking sites with just one click, enhancing the overall usability of your content. Incorporating the share buttons also means that readers won’t have to click away from your site in order to post your content somewhere. You want to keep visitors on your site for as long as possible in order to increase your chances of conversion.

Content Marketing Metric to Measure #3 – Website Conversions

Measuring how well a piece of content turns a visitors into a customer is no easy feat, but it is the best metric you have for measuring the effectiveness of your content marketing. One way to see if your content is leading to conversions is to track where your audience is coming from. For instance, how many people filled out your proposal form via a link in one of your blog posts? How many phone calls were prompted by an article your target audience read on a 3rd party site? Did you ask readers to fill out a contact form before they could download your whitepaper?

It’s hard to directly assign conversion to one piece of content because you don’t know how many other times that customer interacted with your brand. For instance, one of their friends may have reposted your blog post on their Facebook wall, so they clicked over to your blog that way. After reading that blog post, they checked out one of the related posts you had linked to and ending up subscribing to your RSS feed. Maybe 2 weeks down the line they were reading a guest post you had published on an industry site and headed over to your site, and that’s when they decided to fill out your lead form. Which touch point should be created with the conversion?

One thing to keep in mind is that content marketing, especially blogging, is an incredibly long term process. A new blog just doesn’t have the trust factor or reputation to rank well in the search engines and attract hundreds of visitors right from the start. Don’t cut your content marketing short because you aren’t seeing the results you were hoping for as fast as you wanted. It’s important to be patient and consistent with your content marketing and you’ll reap the benefits down the road.

About the Author – Nick Stamoulis

Nick Stamoulis is the President and Founder of Brick Marketing a full service SEO and white hat SEO link building company based in Boston, MA. With over 12 years of SEO experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his knowledge by offering SEO consulting and by posting daily SEO articles in his blog, the Search Engine Optimization Journal.

 

 

On-site SEO: optimizing for user intent

Guest Author, Nick Stamoulis

User-intent plays a huge role in SEO. Understanding why someone uses a particular keyword or keyword phrase to search helps you better optimize your site to meet their needs. There are three kinds of searches that site owners have to be aware of (informational, navigational, and transactional) when it comes time to optimize their site. Each search type reflects the goal and motives of the end user. Is your site optimized for all three to help it reach all of your target audience?

Informational Keywords

Millions of people turn to the search engines every day to conduct informational searches. Informational searches are exactly what they sound like; a user is looking for information. This could be anything—how to change a tire, the phone number of a local beauty salon, comparing reviews on mountain bikes and so forth. Informational searches don’t necessarily have to deal buying (looking up the local weather, for instance) but from a business perspective these types of searches are often associated with the beginning of a consumer’s buying process. Informational searches are used to find out more information so the consumer can eventually made a well-informed purchasing decision.

So how do you optimize your site for informational searches? One way to do so is to create content that mimics a FAQ. Let’s say you own a shoe e-commerce site. If someone searches “best running shoes for flat feet,” why not write a page of content called “Shoe Fit Chart” and offer suggestions for the kind of running shoes someone should be buying based on the type of foot structure they have.

Having your site rank well for a user who is conducting informational searches is both good and bad. It’s good because if you are able to give them the information they need right away, you might be able to convince them to stay on your site and convert. Sometimes consumers are looking to make a quick run through their buying cycle (choosing where to go for lunch, for instance). However, if someone is “shopping around,” chances are they are going to leave your site to see what others have to offer. There is no guarantee they will come back.

Navigational Keywords

Navigational searches are when someone searches for your brand or company by name (“Nike running shoes”). If someone searches for your site by name, this is a good sign that you’ve developed a strong brand presence, both online and off. Users that search by brand name might be brand loyalists and repeat customers, but they could also be potential customers who heard about/saw your brand elsewhere and searched for it by name. Branded searches aren’t restricted to company name. Someone might search by product name, model number and so forth.

So how do you optimize your site for navigational search? If you’re site sells high-tech equipment that comes with user manuals, make sure those manuals are properly optimized with company name, product name, model number and any other identifying information a user might search for. For instance, don’t just call it “Company X User Manual,” rename the content to “Company X Product Y Model 123 Owner’s Manual, Updated for 2011.” That way, searches will know that content is exactly what they need.

Optimizing your site for navigational search can also help maintain brand integrity. There might be another company online that has a similar or same name to yours. Incorporating branded keywords helps the right searcher find your site.

Transactional Keywords

A user will conduct a transactional search when they have reached the end of their buying cycle and are ready to make a purchasing decision. Oftentimes their search will include buzzwords like “buy,” “purchase,” “shop” and “order.” Transactional searches also tend to focus on the long tail keyword as opposed to more broad keywords (“buy ASICS women running shoes” vs. “women shoes”). This is because a user knows what they want and are looking for it specifically.

So how do you optimize your site for transactional searches? Simply include call-to-actions throughout your page content and site components like Meta tags and descriptions. Let’s say your website sells computer software, try to incorporate phrases like “Download the latest version of our X software today” and other variations. Transactional searches typically have a lower search volume than informational searches, but they also lead to a higher conversion rate.

You need to optimize your site based on your business goals and the kind of visitor you hope to attract. It’s not easy to optimize one single piece of content for all three types of searches, but it isn’t that complicated to do once you spread your efforts across an entire site. For instance, individual product or service pages are great place to incorporate keywords that target navigational or transactional searches. Company blog posts are perfect for incorporating informational search keywords. Just remember that you want to target 2-5 keywords per page, based on the content of that individual page.

About the Author – Nick Stamoulis

Nick Stamoulis is a Boston SEO expert and President of Brick Marketing, a full service Boston SEO company. With over 12 years of industry experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his knowledge by posting daily SEO tips in his blog, the Search Engine Optimization Journal (or SEO Journal) and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, read by over 140,000 opt-in subscribers.