For many in the SEO profession, the hardest part of optimizing sites for search isn’t the technical aspects of code – it’s the ongoing struggle to consistently obtain relevant, authoritative links. Sure, it may be tempting to take shortcuts, but SEO professionals who see the big picture have the opportunity to combine a mix of art and science to get great links the natural way.
This is done through savvy content marketing and promotion – what can also be called “real marketing”. An ongoing marketing and promotion machine that can create great pieces of content which resonate with viewers and accomplish a goal (usually information that reinforces a product or brand) can be the holy grail of SEO.
Great content gets shared, plain and simple, and in a world of constant, insatiable content consumption with millions of publishers vying for attention, the quality of said content needs to constantly improve.
Today, I am going to discuss some current trends in content marketing, for use both in creating real value for the user but also for the very important secondary role of link building.
There’s an important mindset for thinking about these promotion tactics – starting with understanding why focusing on the user experience ultimately leads to more successful campaigns. This happens because richer content will be shared more, which means it will earn more quality links, citations, and signals.
Let’s jump in and learn more about how in-depth your content marketing efforts should be.
Building Super Links with Content Syndication
Everyone processes content in a different way. For the B2C crowd, you’ll find they are very dependent on blog posts to get links and traction. B2B, on the other hand, is more successful with eBook promotions. In determining what kinds of content to assemble, it’s best to look at the big picture. Think about your audience and the type of content they’re going to want to consume.
- eBooks: Still a great format used mainly in lead-generation style businesses. Usually an eBook promo will get you an email address which you can use to continue the conversation.
- Blog Posts: Great for breaking down thoughts and chapters of an eBook into more actionable steps (eBooks are full of nuggets that at times get lost). Many eBooks actually start as a series of blog posts that gets assembled later on.
- Infographics: These still get a lot of love! The web is a visual medium with a short attention span. Compared to an article, a well-done infographic contains a ton of value not only in its content but in the process of creation – bloggers in particular are quick to share them.
- Infograms: Not everyone has time to scroll those infographics, and the smaller and easier to digest infogram is a great way to break them down (much like a blog post is a chapter of an eBook). These work great in social media spaces, too.
Other Overlooked Formats
- Video: People learn from movies. Video is going to continue to become a dominant form of content marketing as production continues to become more affordable and easier. Did you know YouTube is the second most popular search engine in the world?
- Microvideo (Instagram, Vine): This emerging trend is finding a home among teens and millennial. Shorter video tends to be more social friendly (30 sec or 60 second vignettes) and is also very engaging.
- Bonus: Consolidate your design efforts! You can create content in any of the formats listed above and repurpose it in another. Take a blog post and use it as script for video and then strip the audio for a podcast.
Strategize Versus Seeing What Sticks
Based on your key performance indicators, the next step is to determine themes that support these goals. Because there’s so many factors involved, we often try to do too much without actually putting a sound strategy in place. Before you start putting the content together, go through the following scenarios to help establish an outline:
- SEO Targets: Find the semantic modifiers of keyword buckets that drive context. For example, Starbucks might want to create content to target coffee pod keywords, but K-Cup keywords are just as relevant. This not only works with your own keyword strategy but also your links and citation building. Links are important, but links in content with relevant content are even more so.
- Outreach Targets: What resonates with publishers in your target verticals? What are your customers reading/visiting? Find the influencers via social media, visit the links they post then add them and ask them questions, so later when you need to communicate with them they know who you are.
- Social Sharing: What kinds of content or topics get the most interaction? Use tools like SharedCount to find out which specific pieces of content got hot and went viral. Research bulk content from competitors or industry sites and see what gets the most social sharing, then incorporate that into your current content strategies.
- Social Influencers: Who is sharing this hot kind of content in your niche?- We’re not just talking about bloggers here; you’ll want to find the YouTube and Vine stars and, as previously mentioned, popular Twitter users.
- Ad Enhancement: You have additional opportunities to grow content amplification in paid channels. Plan in advance to do Facebook, Reddit, and StumbleUpon advertising to amplify organic content success.
- Content Lifespan: Can this content live and breathe on its own? Your content should bring residual users forever (not just the short-term). Again, think about the bigger picture and how you can position this content is constantly drive value to the user.
Build Your Content Nucleus
Your on-site goals may be different from content syndication or lead generation, so you’re going to want to have a solid on-site foundation to maximize your efforts. Remember, you’re not pitching a product here, you’re trying to get people to share your link. Consider the following when deciding the layout and design of the task at hand:
- Syndicated content should not always link directly to “money pages” (usually your sales or product pages) – it should link to an on-page resource, such as blog or informational pages. You do however want to include some call-to-actions, like email subscription and commenting options.
- Once your on-page source attracts links and value, after the initial “pop” of promotion is over, then you can take advantage of the residual search traffic by incorporating more of your “money” page elements into the content and design.
- Infographic image files are great for syndication, but be careful. For example, WordPress users will want to use a Lightbox plugin for viewing the infographic, so people are not linking to image file itself. Create supporting content to go along with the infographic as well.
- HTML 5 is a preferred and indexable way to support graphic assets and still be SEO friendly. Neil Patel’s QuickSprout is a great example of a site that uses indexable infographics in this manner.
Creating all of this awesome content and putting the time to plan everything accordingly is only half the battle. Once your content is finally produced and ready for consumption, your next task is finding people to consume it! This is where you’ll start building loyal audiences into your own brand evangelists.
Remember these steps when finding new eyeballs for your content:
Target publishers during the final stages of design or completion and offer them an exclusive to be first to publish Email publishers and ask them questions – send PR out before an “official” release before you actually publish to create relationships and gather feedback.
Leverage Relationships with Publishers
Can you invite them in the ideation process? Find out what kinds of content their audience is looking for and be the first to create it for them. Having content partners that you can provide consistent value for will allow you to piggy-back off of their brand and expose your own in the process.
Leverage Your Own Audience
Remember, this is a joint effort between you and those who started following you early on. Reward them, create very personal bonds with these individuals and give them the tools or direction they need to spread the word about your cause. Don’t be shy about asking your audience for a little love (so long as you’re giving it back).
Distribute Your Infographics
Precise targeting is more important than numbers alone – what’s the point of having visitors and eyeballs if they’re not real savvy users or influencers? Remember when syndicating content like infographics for link building you’ll want to find those who actually blog or tweet about this stuff. You’ll find many of them will discover content from these destinations:
- Slideshare: Perhaps one of the most underutilized infographic channels. People share and embed SlideShare consistently, and as an added bonus it comes with LinkedIn integration.
- Visual.ly: Set up branded channels here to gain some great backlinks. Bloggers turn to Visual.ly for content, which helps extend the life of your content – get links even 6-12 months later as bloggers pick up content from here.
- Imgur: Believe it or not, Imgur gets more traffic than Reddit does. You won’t get any natural links directly but it’s a great source for social sharing, view count, and influence.
- Pinterest: Especially important for B2C as they tend to love the service of pinning photos all day (think products). A great place to also get your infographic content – and don’t forget the paid options to boost exposure.
Next Level of Influencers
Now that we’re traveling down the rabbit hole of infographic syndication, there are a few more sites where other blogs and resources find content – these are some hidden gems with immense value.
Infographic Journal publishes the best infographics daily. If you can get featured here, not only will you get direct traffic and links, but there’s a good chance your post will go viral.
This site highlights the best design stories and content online. Very infographic friendly and bloggers will embed and share from DesignTaxi. Such a great channel, they have been one of my secret weapons for quite some time. Note: Only submit or email the best of the best work to DesignTaxi, especially in terms of data visualization.
Distribute Your Infograms/E-cards
These should be your site and blog post featured images – clear, concise graphics that encourage users to click-through to the full article or video. They say first impressions are everything, right? Keep these tips in mind when posting to the following social outlets:
Facebook and Instagram
This is where the masses share, comment, and engage (and link!). Put a snapshot of content here with link to full-page content. Understand open graph tagging for Facebook to take full advantage of the way Facebook accesses your site’s content.
Like Facebook, page shares result in page level signals. While nowhere near as popular, you’ll find some passionate and influential people hanging out in Google+ circles who tend to look for more meaningful discussions on their social media channels.
Forgotten about Yahoo’s sleeping giant? Flickr is still a relevant, highly trusted source that’s not talked about much anymore but still a great asset. Flickr still has large groups of subscribers and its embeddable options encourage users to syndicate content to their own blogs and sites.
Simply put, Twitter cards increase engagement! Make sure you’reincorporating them into your Twitter postings as they are designed specifically to tease your posts.
This platform has a very engaging and rabid fan base, and many popular Tumblogs are very image heavy. Get your infograms published here too; reblogging leads to links, views, and brand interaction.
Distribute Your Videos
Everyone loves video and if done properly it can absolutely drive link signals. While Facebook and Twitter uploading options continue to emerge, the following outlets are still your best for gaining traction in your video marketing:
As noted earlier, this is the world’s second largest search engine. 40% of their traffic is mobile which will continue to grow as more of us spending time watching video on our phone. And let’s not forget that Google loves promoting its own videos in the SERPS.
Vine.co and Instagram
Two minutes is too long for most attention spans – especially the younger audience who uses these platforms most. Seven to sixteen seconds is perfect. Incorporate behind the scenes and “preview” style content, link to the source and syndicate.
Distribute to Your Customer
We’ve talked about third-party syndication efforts so far – but don’t forget your customers! This works especially well in e-commerce industries. Your established lists are your true brand ambassadors; expand their perimeters in the following ways:
- Email: Tastefully bring your content to your customer in boxes. A great example: Someone buys an outdoor grill, then a week later gets an email guide on cooking the best burgers. It’s outreach and content like this that creates loyalty.
- Industry: Bloggers, influencers, and social users follow and love your brand – don’t get lost in the numbers alone. Research who they are and connect on a personal level.
- Social Media: Mobilize your audience by giving them the means to become your brand advocates and spread your message to their connections. Get them to participate in fun ways (think quizzes and contests).
- Press Releases: Good (even bad) PR gets better with visual assets – sites like PRWeb even allow you to upload images along with the text. Imagine how powerful a press release would be published alongside of an inforgraphic?
- Ad Retargeting: Google, AdRoll, Meteora and other retargeting tools can serve a custom message to the user who visited your site or clicked on relevant Facebook ads – just make sure to use similar messaging and images to make it familiar to the user.
Consolidate Content Into One Page
Develop pages that have the best, most relevant content in your vertical – strive to have the best page in all the land. Create powerful content that places multiple sources of media all on one page (just like this presentation, with the accompanying video and embedded Slideshare).
Here’s some quick bullets to remember:
- Your on-site resource page can now start including the collateral you have just syndicated (infographics).
- Include Slideshare hosted eBooks or infographics – You can use your own or find others to add extra video.
- Embed video! Again either create the content yourself or see what’s out there that can benefit the user.
- Instagram & Twitter embeds – For example, embeds to others who have tweeted about you; this is a fairly simple task that can take a boring page of content and really spice it up.
User engagement goes up when you mix awesome content into one page – great if you’re in “newsy” type sites with “living” pages of content that get updated as news breaks. Just remember to make your resource offers the best user experience possible!
You can see here in this example how much social influences search – everything needs to work together for real success. Keep this in mind when developing your own assets and planning your content marketing initiatives for projects and clients.
Too often the SEOs get tied up in their jargon and expertise, and the social media team talks about Likes and Tweets, when in order to really find true link building success everyone must work together to achieve the bigger goals.
Now that you’ve made it this far, here is a video webinar that I did with Search Engine Journal about this same subject. Enjoy :)