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Google’s Penguin refresh slow to impact SEO

Google's latest refresh of the Penguin algorithm has had a small impact on SEO so far.

Any time Google announces change to its Penguin algorithm, marketers interested in search engine optimization listen carefully. Google confirmed it has made an update – although it's downplaying the effects – to Penguin 3.0 on Friday, Oct. 17 (1). Several bigwigs in the SEO community, including Search Engine Journal founder Loren Baker, initially reported they hadn't seen much change or big fluctuations in search engine results pages.

However, as a few days passed after the refresh, new details have come to light. The alterations to the Penguin algorithm will be slow-moving. It will likely influence less that 1 percent of search engine queries performed in English in the U.S. (2). The main goal is to reduce Web spam, but there are actually two objectives involved with the refresh. First, sites that have removed spammy content since the previous Penguin update should see better SEO performance. Second, any newly discovered spam will result in site demotions in Google search results.

As a result, it's important for marketers to take another look at their websites and make sure they're publishing unique content to avoid being penalized by the latest Penguin update.

1. "Google Confirms Penguin 3.0 Update, Here's The Reaction So Far"
2. "Penguin update rolling out"

Posted in Search Engine Optimization |

Video B2B marketing must adapt to buyers’ needs

Video B2B marketing can be a challenge for many companies, especially with product-specific content.

Video is increasingly popular for content marketing, especially in a business-to-business context. In addition to search engine optimization to lead prospective buyers to find their landing pages, videos play a key role in demonstrating what a company can do to solve industry pain points and improve business performance.

Content marketing has evolved, and video is an attractive tactic to build a more robust campaign beyond blogs, white papers and case studies. In fact, many marketers claim video generates the highest return on investment (1). At the same time, B2B marketers using this format still face a number of challenges in getting it right.

What are the main obstacles for making a good video?
Compared to sitting down to right a blog, creating an effective video requires significantly more technology, which tends to raise the price tag when attempted in-house. However, there are an increasing number of video marketing firms or content marketing organizations with video offerings that can take on the responsibility of not only equipment, but also location and design.

Another issue B2B marketing videos often face is speaking to a specific audience. Much like any effective piece of content, the video should begin from the customer's perspective. Buyers need to feel that the video addresses a particular information gap about a product or service or exposes a hole in their business functions that the content clearly explains and solves. A business can't provide a solution for everyone, so it's important to identify the intended purchasers and stand in their shoes to create content that speaks to their needs.

Create a balance between the product and buyers' place in the sales funnel
There's no question that videos are an effective way for businesses to explain how their products work. In fact, 94 percent of online buyers reference them, and this gives them greater confidence about their purchases.

However, companies need to clearly recognize how their videos fit in with the buyer's journey (2). A business can't take for granted that a customer will automatically recognize the fact that there may be a better way to perform a particular function. In this case, a product-centric video may not do the trick in convincing the viewer that he or she would benefit from the service. This is why each video must address the needs of a specific buyer segment or persona. Accordingly, a variety of short videos – between 30 and 60 seconds – may better serve B2B customers than a single extended piece of content.

1. "Best Practices for B2B Content Marketing With Video"
2. "Why Product-Centric Marketing Videos Alone Don't Support the Buyer's Journey"

Posted in Lead Generation |

SEO and Parallax design: What companies should know

Parallax design can influence SEO, especially regarding site speed and internal linking.

A few years ago, there was some uncertainty about how important page load times were for search engine optimization. There were website designers using Flash and other plug-ins that slowed the rate at which pages loaded. In today's online environment, a growing number of companies are using Parallax design for their websites, and it has created a lively debate among SEO advocates for similar reasons.

Just what is Parallax design?
Parallax design was originally created with video games in mind (1). Think about it in the same way the foreground images in Super Mario Bros. change at one rate while the background moves separately. A company will essentially have a single Web page that users scroll down and new images and text will move up at varying speeds. The end result for a Web page is something that's captivating for site visitors. It's also a way to tell a story in a more compelling way.

When a business invests in Parallax design for its homepage, it needs to recognize and avoid the risks with respect to SEO.

Caution: Slow zone
Parallax design is known for incorporating significant amounts of visual content and coding that can slow down page load times (2). For instance, the images a business chooses for its website can significantly influence performance (1). PNG and JPEG files can often include extra data that can cause extended load times.

In most cases, visitors to a company's site expect the page to load within two seconds (3). There's a strong correlation between loading speeds and online customer traffic. This in turn impacts user experience, which Google increasingly prioritizes.

In fact, Google use site speed as a factor when ranking websites. While it's not the single most important factor when designing a website for SEO, load time can affect a business's ranking in organic search results.

Missing link(s)
When a business incorporates all of its website content into a single URL, there will likely be fewer internal links (4). No matter how amazing a Parallax-designed website may be, a company with one page that can be indexed by Google or any other search engine will not be as visible in organic search results as other sites with a more developed internal linking strategy.

Another important point to keep in mind is how well Parallax design performs on mobile devices. If a business doesn't invest in responsive design as well, it's likely the website won't appear as intended. This will negatively impact user experience and harm search engine rankings.

1. "Parallax Web Design: What It Is and How It Can Affect Your SEO"
2. "Why Parallax Design Doesn't Have to Tank Your SEO"
3. "SEO 101: How Important is Site Speed in 2014?"
4. "Is Parallax to Blame for Poor SEO?"

Posted in Search Engine Optimization |

What can PPC do for B2B marketing?

B2B marketing can benefit from PPC advertising to strengthen online traffic.

Businesses have many online marketing strategies to test out, but it's difficult to know which ones will provide them with the most insight into customer behavior. Pay-per-click advertising is a tactic used in search engine marketing that has helped B2B companies understand and connect with buyers on a different level.

PPC advertising gives businesses a great deal of clarity into the way their marketing performs, surpassing the level of detail seen through other non-digital channels (1). For instance, companies have a much better idea of return on investment of individual ads or campaigns because they're able to track user behavior looking at a number of variables, including time and geography. Compare this to a print ad in the newspaper; unless a company integrates a call-tracking solution, it's very difficult to know where inbound call traffic stems from unless that happens to be the only channel a company uses. In any case, PPC ads are an effective way for B2B marketers to help push buyers toward the tail-end of the sales funnel. However, it's important to first understand what makes PPC different than other kinds of search engine marketing.

Reaching customers at a different point in the journey
Among Web surfers, there's fairly strong likelihood that they won't be able to tell the difference between organic search results and paid ads. In fact, more than 45 percent of users can't point out a paid advertisement on an search engine results page (2). However, there are notable differences between paid and organic search. For instance, it's more likely that organic results will provide buyers with content that is more applicable to those just beginning the search for a business solution. In other words, business decision-makers would likely click on the first link and find an article that provides information about a specific industry, product or service.

Paid ads more frequently are transactional in nature. They feature calls to action that lead a buyer to a specific solution that he or she has already been considering and learning about through content marketing and other online advertising. Half of the individuals who arrive a business's landing page after clicking on a paid ad are more likely to make a purchase than those who arrive via organic search (3). In other words, buyers who arrive at a company's website are in a strong position to convert after clicking on a PPC ad.

At the same time, search engine optimization best practices are an important element to PPC campaigns in many of the same ways that they are for organic search.

Search terms are critical for success
Regardless of whether a B2B marketer uses SEO or PPC advertising, keyword strategies are not only a difficult hurdle to overcome, but also an opportunity to effectively target specific buyers. The beginnings of a keyword strategy should look at a few metrics. It's important to understand volume (4). This means researching the number of times users search for a given keyword or phrase during a specific time frame. The more popular the search term, the more likely a company may have its PPC ad seen on SERPs.

Another crucial variable is competition for the keyword or phrase among different domain names. If there's a large number of other companies using the same search terms, it may diminish the likelihood a company's paid ad pops out at buyers.

What are ways companies can develop stronger keywords?
On a very basic level, a marketer can begin by entering terms into a search engine (5). Google, for instance, will suggest keywords or phrases to complete the query. The important idea here is that these words link to actual Web content. Google uses these terms and phrases to connect customers with relevant sites, and by knowing what search terms potential competitors are using, companies can develop a stronger strategy.

Another useful starting point is using the underscore symbol, often called a wild card, to figure out long tail keywords. For instance, a search query might be "the best _ strategy." Google will fill in the underscore with more terms that will complete the search. This is quick way to discover potential keywords that a company can use for their PPC campaign.

Finally, branded keywords or phrases are some of the most affordable terms that a B2B company can integrate into a PPC campaign (6). Why? In general, most other companies won't have the same name, meaning there won't be much competition for a branded keyword. These terms also tend to generate a lot of clicks.

In B2B marketing, companies shouldn't limit themselves to a specific online marketing strategy. There should be a healthy mix of SEO that incorporates organic and paid search, as well as content marketing.

1. "Why PPC Advertising Is the ROI Rock Star of Search Engine Marketing"
2. "Paid Search 101: The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to #PPC Landing Pages"
3. "SEO vs PPC – Time for a Fight!"
4. "Choosing the right target keywords for SEM"
5. "3 Super-Actionable Keyword Research Tips to Try Right Now"
6. "13 Reasons Branded PPC Campaigns Are Beneficial For B2B Brands"

Posted in Search Engine Optimization |

New Google AdWords function impacts lead generation

Google announced it will add click-to-call conversion analytics to AdWords to help with lead generation.

Most marketers and sales reps will agree that inbound calls are a valuable source for lead generation. The Internet and mobile technology have expanded the range of possibilities that business owners can take advantage of to connect with prospective buyers. Around 70 percent of people using their mobile phones to search for information have called a business directly from the search engine results page (1). In addition, Google ads have generated more than 40 million calls worldwide.

As a result, Google is looking at mobile call-to-click conversions with greater interest. It will soon be added to the list of conversion that marketers can integrate into their analytics. Businesses will be able to measure not only the number but also duration of inbound calls.

In contrast with the efforts made by Google in enabling marketers to track click-to-call conversions, just 36 percent of them integrate this type of ad in their search engine marketing strategies (2). Even more confusing is the fact that 63 percent of marketers feel that inbound phone calls are as valuable or more valuable as Web-derived leads.

In light of these facts, it's important to follow SEO best practices to make sure search engine ads with click-to-call components are visible for potential buyers.

1. "Say Hello to Calls as Conversions in AdWords"
2. "Call Gap: Survey Finds 54 Percent Of Search Marketers Don't Track Phone Conversions From Search Campaigns"

Posted in Lead Generation |

Does B2B marketing work without SlideShare?

Any B2B marketing campaign should take advantage of SlideShare to promote consumable content.

B2B marketing requires a solid strategy. With each day, there's new advice about the ways businesses can best reach out to buyers. However, changing tactics on a daily basis is harmful for companies, especially if they expect to find out what online marketing channels are most worth their time.

Often, marketers can get caught up in the latest and greatest buzz worthy digital tools and forget to take advantage of some of the most time-tested B2B marketing platforms available. SlideShare is sometimes overlooked when companies outline their digital marketing strategy. Not only is it proven to be effective as a form of content marketing for lead generation and nurturing, but it's also adapting to the changes in buyer and Web user behavior in general.

Why SlideShare is worth the time and effort
There aren't many websites in the world that will draw as much traffic as SlideShare. On a monthly basis, the site sees 60 million visitors and 3 billion slide views. This is why it's not surprising that LinkedIn purchased the company in 2012. By combining forces with the most business-focused social network, SlideShare has been able to expand its reach and become more than simply an online forum for Powerpoint presentations.

Although Facebook and Twitter have significantly larger user counts, they are far less effective when appealing to business decision-makers. SlideShare presentations have been known to generate conversion rates as high as 25 percent (1). Compare that number to Pinterest and even LinkedIn, which saw conversation rates of just 1.42 percent and 1.9 percent respectively.

In the race to make the most out of content marketing, SlideShare can give businesses significant traction among buyers. Companies can use the platform to showcase a variety of media, including webinars, sales documents and videos – all of which work in different ways in unique points in the marketing funnel (2).

How does SlideShare work?
It's not quite a social network and not simply content marketing. Buyers can be drawn to SlideShare content through a variety of channels, including organic search, social media and related SlideShare presentations (3). Accordingly, it's important to keep search engine optimization best practices in mind when posting content to the site. For instance, keyword strategies used for other types of content are still applicable for SlideShare. Companies should make sure they include relevant terms that business decision-makers would typically use to find information and solutions related to their industry concerns.

At the same time, social networks can grow SlideShare content's reach. Because presentations are easy to embed and share on multiple kinds of sites, B2B marketers should make sure their content lives on websites like LinkedIn so a wider audience can view it and pass it on. SlideShare does a good job of promoting relevant content on the site's sidebar when users view a presentation. This is another reason keywords play an important role in posting content on SlideShare. A business owner may be drawn to a presentation related to a pain point but not find an answer to his or her issue. However, this individual will likely go on to view other content that is pertinent to the industry.

SlideShare presentations are extremely adaptable according to the marketing objective. Depending on the resources a business may have, SlideShare gives a company the option of tracking the number of views a particular piece of content gets, which can help identify what is most and least effective.

Another SlideShare benefit – and one that distinguishes it from other social networks – is that there aren't any membership requirements to access content (4). For instance, many thought leaders hold LinkedIn discussions in private groups, which require "admission." In a sense, content is gated and exclusive. On the other hand, buyers can simply search on SlideShare for content that's most attractive according to their business needs and connect.

Making mobile more effective
As the owner of SlideShare, LinkedIn has a hand in guiding the direction of the content sharing platform. The company is putting more resources in courting the mobile crowd, not only in augmenting its own mobile app, but also SlideShare's on-the-go tool (5). There's both an Android and iOS version for the app, and it seeks to attract an audience by making content easy to access.

How? Personalized feeds will send viewers presentation and infographics that reflect the preferences and needs of the user. At the same time, people can curate their own content by subscribing to a variety of topics. SlideShare will also have a hand in managing users' feeds. Presentations that have been shared or liked by others in a person's network will be funneled to a business decision-maker (6). SlideShare editors will also highlight particularly effective content.

Regardless of the marketing category SlideShare falls into, it's an indispensable resource in any B2B marketing strategy. Marketers sometimes need a reminder of how effective this tool can be in lead generation and making content more consumable.

1. "SlideShare: The Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of B2B Social Media Marketing"
2. "B2B marketers should not ignore Slideshare. Here's why."
3. "SlideShare: The Quiet Giant of Content Marketing"
4. "A Practical Social Media Strategy For B2B Marketers"
5. "LinkedIn Continues Mobile Push With SlideShare for iOS"
6. "LinkedIn releases its first SlideShare iOS app"

Posted in Social Media Marketing |

Eye-tracking data reasserts importance of SEO

Customers interact with SERP differently than before, but SEO continues to play a central role.

How do marketers know for certain how well their strategies play out? The metrics marketers use to gauge how effective their search engine optimization tactics usually depend on traffic from several sources, click-thru rates and results on the search engine ranking page, among many others (1).

However, eye-tracking studies have been able to show marketers, Web designers and many others involved in online behavior how people actually see and interact with content. Specifically, research involving search engine results pages uncovered the "Golden Triangle," which appears in the top left corner of a SERP (2). In other words, people focus their attention most on the first few listings on the page, looking at the top results with greatest intensity.

However, this pattern has changed. Now, Web users tend to look up and down on the SERP, instead of clustering their attention in the corner. In addition, people spend less time looking at each search result. In fact, the average time spent dropped from 2 seconds to 1.17 seconds between 2005 and 2014. So while the top organic search result gets the most attention, buyers spend less time looking at it.

As a result, it's still critical that companies use the most relevant and effective SEO practices to not only land near the top of the SERP, but also inspire purchasers to click.

1. "3 Top Metrics to Measure Your SEO Efforts"
2. "Eye-Tracking Study: How Users View Google Search Result Pages"

Posted in Search Engine Optimization |

It’s time to modernize SEO

SEO is constantly evolving.

Search engine optimization has been around for some time now, but it's important to keep up with new developments. Tactics that ensure a website can be easily found online won't stay the same over time, especially with the increased focus on mobile and local search marketing

Content marketing plays a much stronger role in modern SEO. In fact, this approach has been lauded as the best way to improve SEO results (1). However, content isn't guaranteed to turn a website around without some hard work. Blogs, news, white papers and other content need to be high quality and relevant to the target audience. Additionally, content can't always fix deeper problems with SEO. Companies can build a robust content marketing strategy and still fail because they aren't using the right keywords or getting content indexed. Developing a strong URL structure is really important for this aspect of SEO.

More content isn't always the answer
While some B2B marketing teams approach problems with SEO by adding more content, this may not have the intended results. Google is constantly becoming more sophisticated and will only offer higher rankings for high-quality content that provides value for readers. Simply creating more won't improve rankings. It needs to be done with your audience in mind. 

In addition, some brands fail to account for the effect adding more content to certain pages will have on SEO (2). Content should fit into an overall marketing strategy. Outside of creating low-quality content, there are other ways it can have a negative impact on SEO. For example, some businesses create sub-domains, which can be beneficial to users but take search rankings away from other pages on the website. This is especially true when sub-domains aren't built to convert like lead generation pages on the regular website. 

Tips for more successful SEO efforts
One of the major reasons for lackluster content marketing initiatives is poorly designed title tags (1). The title tag is the name of the page as displayed in the search engine results page. Some companies use content management systems that automate the creation of title tags, which may not be producing the best results (3). The meta description, the text that displays under the title tag, is equally important. Here are some tips for writing title tags and meta descriptions that inspire clicks:

  • Include keywords: Keywords can be a valuable addition to title tags and meta descriptions, but it's important not to overdo it. Many Web pages focus on only one topic, so marketers can use a single exact keyword.
  • Character length: Search engines won't display more than 55 characters in a title tag or more than 115 in the meta description. This doesn't give marketers a lot of space to write compelling material and include a keyword. Because of the limited space, companies need to be careful not to put keywords where they don't fit intuitively. Sticking to 115 characters can certainly be effective, but there are cases when longer meta descriptions work. Google will put an ellipsis in longer meta descriptions. If the copy is intriguing enough, the ellipsis can cause people to click. 
  • Search intent: This aspect of title tags and meta descriptions is really important. Marketers need to be aware of the mindset of potential leads when they enter terms into a search engine. For example, some keywords may relate to the exact product type buyers want. Knowing why potential customers are searching for something can help companies create better title tags and meta descriptions.

1. "SEO Is No One-Trick Pony"
2. "SEO: why more content isn't always the answer"
3. "SEO Tips – Title Tags and Meta Descriptions"

Posted in Search Engine Optimization |

Are native advertisements just what B2B marketing needs?

Native ads are a form of paid advertising that closely resembles content marketing, and can aid B2B marketers.

Is native advertising just another form of content marketing? Or is it more akin to paid ads? In truth, many people aren't sure how to define native ads. Out of more than 2,000 survey respondents, roughly half didn't know what it was (1). Just 3 percent described themselves as very knowledgeable. B2B marketers in particular should be caught up on what native ads are and what they can do for their businesses.

When print publishing still ruled the world, many companies would run advertorials – essentially, branded content that provides consumers with relevant information. Now, online native ads appear much like standard content marketing, including blog posts and videos, but there's often a disclaimer labeling it as sponsored content. At the same time, effective native ads will have a clear call to action that leads readers to a brand's landing page or external site.

With respect to B2B marketing, native ads need to be relevant to buyers, but they also should be easy to find (2). It's important to consider which online trade publications or industry news sites B2B clients frequently reference. Then, provide actionable and useful content to effectively reach them and exert influence. Considering 52 percent of readers who click on native ads have a demonstrated intent to purchase, it's critical to send the right message.

1. "Copyblogger's 2014 State of Native Advertising Report"
2. "Why B2B Marketers Need to Embrace Native Advertising"

Posted in Paid Advertising |

How to make B2B content marketing more effective

Content marketing efforts should be carefully planned to avoid alienating your audience.

Content marketing is one of the top strategies for B2B firms. High-quality content can be a great source of lead generation, but there are some obstacles to getting the most from this tactic. In particular, B2B marketing teams may struggle to create content that is truly engaging for their target audiences. 

Warning signs of ineffective content
There is a multitude of effective online content, but there are also a lot of ways to get it wrong. Although B2B product offerings are often highly complex, loading content with jargon isn't the way to engage potential customers (1). Prospects want relatable content in plain terms. In addition, many firms try to disguise sales pitches as relevant industry content, which prospects can usually detect. While there is a time and a place for branded content, it should be avoided during the earlier stages of the sales cycle.

Content marketing efforts – especially blog posts – should be centered around the topics that interest your audience. Buyers often want to see articles that address their pain points. If your blog doesn't generate any comments or shares, it could be a sign that visitors don't find the material engaging.

How to make content more interactive
Truly engaging content takes time and effort to produce, which can be frustrating for marketers who need to focus on other priorities. One way to ensure your efforts are on track with customers' interests and concerns is to assess the results of sales surveys (2). This can reveal a great deal of information about clients' pain points, allowing your marketing team to refine the topics they cover to be more on point. 

When planning blog posts, there are a few main elements that can spark more engagement: a compelling headline, the problem in the business lives of readers and a solution to this issue. Ultimately, successful B2B content marketing tells a story. 

While it's important to consistently create new content, marketers can repurpose content. Sales collateral, presentations, emails and product pages can all be used as sources of inspiration. Additionally, in-depth pieces like white papers, webinars and e-books can be used to form infographics, blog posts and short videos. A diverse content marketing strategy can be more engaging for your target audience and prevent potential prospects from getting bored. 

1. "11 Red Flags That Your B2B Content Is Boring"
2. "How to Construct a Content Machine (Even If You're Not a Natural-Born Writer)"

Posted in Lead Generation |

 

 

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