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Crowdsourcing: Three SEO Themes We Keep Hearing

11 Nov

CoreyMorris

Guest Contributor:

Corey Morris, Director of Digital Marketing

During the past few weeks, I’ve had the chance to speak at a couple of Kansas City search marketing events. The first was as a moderator of the “Better Ideas, Better Strategies” session at the SEMPO Cities KC Search Marketing Conference on Oct. 27. In addition, I spoke about “The Impact of Social on Search Rankings” at the Social Media Club of Kansas City breakfast on Nov. 4.

A few SEO themes kept bubbling up at the Q & A sessions and event follow-up discussions.

First, it’s abundantly clear that the industry must be nimbler when it comes to navigating changes from Google. The company is adjusting organic and paid search faster than most of us can remember.

Second, if you haven’t kept up with the mobile friendly movement, now is the time. “Mobile first” thinking has been a topic of conversation the past few years. The initiative is now on overdrive, with Google using the mobile index for even desktop searches.

One other theme that surfaced during the SMCKC presentation was how Google does or doesn’t weigh social media in ranking websites. There’s a lot of confusing and conflicting info about this topic. My advice? It’s more important to understand how search engines work and view social content through that lens.

The two most important factors of SEO success are relevance and authority. Relevance meaning how pertinent your content is to the subject. And authority being the importance others place on your content. In other words, are they linking to and sharing your stuff?

Finally, while not a theme from the events, I always advise clients that if they want more cues on what Google is and isn’t rewarding, they should pay attention to their target audiences and the competition. By continuously working to be better when compared to peers, you’ll win in search, social and digital marketing overall.

Read my earlier post on the SEMPO Cities KC event.

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Recap: KC Search Marketing Conference

8 Nov

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Guest Contributor,
Corey Morris, Director of Digital Marketing

I was recently part of the second annual Kansas City Search Marketing Conference at the Sprint Accelerator. The event was presented by the Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization (SEMPO) Cities program and Bing.

The conference theme was “Better.” There were 12 speakers from across the region, and four sessions that all tied to the theme of doing search marketing better. I was on the organizing committee — after leading last year’s event — and moderated the first session, “Better Ideas, Better Strategies.”

The session was a reminder that it’s no longer possible to do search marketing in a silo. We must have content for organic and paid search. It’s also critical to stay on top of Google’s changes, especially with the staggering number of shifts the company made in 2016.

Matt Lacuesta was part of the panel I moderated, and something he said struck me: “PR people are the OG of link builders.” He shared how all content contributes to SEO, and that it’s important to understand and harness it. Some content examples Matt shared:

  • Collateral and messaging that resonates with prospects
  • A list of common sales objections
  • Customer service pain points
  • Events, sponsorships and community involvement
  • Industry relationships

Craig Paddock is a regular speaker at national search conferences. His presentation was full of insights on understanding performance data and using it to make decisions.

One stat he shared caught my attention: Wordstream is seeing an unbelievable 50 percent click-through rate on the AdWords “click to message” extension, which will soon roll out.

A compelling aspect of his presentation was how data sample sizes factor into decision making. Craig showed data from coin tosses. When comparing the frequency of heads in 20 coin flips, there was a decent range of results. But when expanded to 400 coin flips, the numbers normalized and the data was much more consistent. The example was a strong reminder to ensure we’re not making decisions on too few impressions, clicks and conversions in AdWords. This is especially true when comparing one ad group to another.

Tylor Hermanson presented keyword research for SEO targeting. He believes the Moz Opportunity Score is important because it goes beyond the keyword and monthly search volume. The Moz score considers the opportunity you have to get traffic based on the layout of the search results for that term.

It’s common to do keyword research in a vacuum and not consider the perceived intent of the search engine or the results page beyond the 10 blue organic links.

Including maps, answer boxes, shopping ads, news articles and other content can push down organic listings and hinder opportunities to spark traffic. Users may not see the link, even if it ranks well, if it’s pushed down the page.

In the week leading up to the conference, there were several big updates from Google and Bing. These were good reminders that the pace of search marketing isn’t going to slow any time soon, and the industry as a whole — despite breaking out of silos — isn’t going away.

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The Cults of Personalities

1 Nov

Three Takeaways from the 2016 Elections

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Guest contributor:
Matt Hillman, Creative Director

This blog was written in the final weeks leading up the 2016 presidential election, and regardless of where you stand in the political spectrum or what the results might have been, we can all agree: this was a rough one.

Sure, the issues are important and the stakes are high, but this race was particularly intense because the finalists in the election race were not just people—they were brands.

Brands aren’t reserved for names or logos; brands are what we feel in our gut when we are regularly exposed to a company, product, service or even people. And the people in this election were definitely larger than life.

With so much riding on their shoulders, the candidates came to represent more than just their platforms—people across the country associated the candidates with ways of life, with values, and in some cases the candidates became lightning rods for everything controversial.

So what can we learn from the campaign from a brand perspective?

  1. Brands Are About Belonging

As stated in a PBS Frontline episode, “people join and stay with cults for the exact same reasons as people join and stay with brands…the desire to belong to something.” Well beyond political platforms or ideologies, each candidate’s supporters projected what they wanted each candidate to represent onto them, viewing the candidate as the key to gaining what they desired most. We see this in brands all the time, with beverages suggesting they deliver a way of life or level of happiness that other drinks cannot.

  1. Brands Are Divisive

To those who align themselves with a brand, that brand is a symbol of something (or many things) the person values, respects, and supports. But conversely, that same brand can come to represent the opposite to others who don’t support it—something insolent, subversive, and even dangerous. While many enjoy Starbucks and feel good about the company’s policies, others see it as a money-hungry organization that dupes customers. Similarly, we saw this often with some fans not simply supporting their candidate, but growing to hate the opposing nominee—and the people associated with them.

  1. Brands Confound Logic

If someone is, say, a fan of Ford trucks, it makes absolutely no difference what the data says about power, capacity, style, etc. If this person is “a Ford guy,” none of that matters. Reason and logic take a backseat to association and alignment; in fact, if you push the issue too far, they become irritated and irrational. In other words, brand is all about emotion. Again, we saw this repeatedly in this election, with normally stable, rational people screaming and chanting, refusing to engage in civil discourse, or unwilling to entertain an opposing view.

So regardless of your vote, it’s important to remember that behind the people, parties, and platforms lurked brands—and a valuable reminder that just like Ford vs. Chevy, Coke vs. Pepsi, or Apple vs. Samsung, election brands can be an ugly affair.

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Wireframing: Yes, You Can! (And Should)

5 Oct

The Blueprint for Web Success

designer drawing website development wireframe

bradley1

Guest Contributor:
Bradley Williamson, Interactive Developer

In putting together a new website or app, there are many business decisions to be made along the way. Sometimes businesses are tempted by change for the sake of change, adding in tech just because it’s cool, or a “modern” design just because it’s trendy.

But if your website is neither functional nor user-friendly, it’s not going to increase sales, traffic, or conversions. Though there is a time and a place for focusing on fanciful designs and flashing animations, the heart and soul of your web user experience is what matters, and wireframing can begin to solidify that. Build from a blueprint using these tips, and your website will be fleshed out with purposeful simplicity.

Wireframing 101

A wireframe is a basic, visual concept of a user interface that defines key user goals and content hierarchy. Often, they’re unrefined sketches or concepts made on grid paper, whiteboards, desktop programs, and other web-based tools. There is no perfect way to perform this vital step.

Wireframes are done with “block diagrams” to house content.

Wireframes are done with “block diagrams” to house content.

 

Acting as a “blueprint,” wireframes serve as the bones of your design and development processes. Wireframing should come after discovery and before getting into the nitty-gritty details of design.

Wireframe concepts are meant to be thoughtful, fast and fluid, representing a kind of visual brainstorm for internal and external teams. They enrich the conversation around how users will engage with your interface. Wireframes help answer those brewing questions of functionality by taking the abstract ideas from the planning phase and arranging them meaningfully.

Talking with a “Wiry” Voice

Wireframes are often developed in black and white; it’s not the time for discussing color palettes, font choices, imagery, and even branding. The discussion around wires includes:
Content: deciding what should and shouldn’t be displayed
Information hierarchy: arranging that content meaningfully
Functionality: investigating potential action-oriented components
Structure: interconnecting all parts to work seamlessly together
Behavior: evaluating how the user is impacted in their product experience

Wireframing is a time-saver in the long-term, keeping usability headaches or graphical head-scratchers down the road at bay. In other words, you’ll know very early what’s going on your B2B site, where it’s going, and why it’s important. By taking the time to work through wireframes, it’s much easier to throw out large blocks of content and alter key sections, instead of having to change the design concept down the road.

Wiring in the Right People

User interface and user experience designers or information architects are primarily responsible for the creation of wireframes by balancing the larger goals against the user’s needs. During this time, wireframing can inspire the creative and development processes. Developers and designers will use the wires to reduce the learning curve around site implementations and enhancements. Internal project managers assess the wires to ensure the process is within scope and strategy.

Down to the Wire: Final Thoughts

If you’ve ever jumped into a website and realized it was challenging to navigate, or been part of a website development project that went awry, a wireframe should become your new best friend. The process of wireframing a website is a tried and true method to help tackle the challenges for your B2B website.

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Do Keywords Still Matter?

28 Sep

Make sure your SEO Practices are Current

Corey1Guest Contributor:
Corey Morris, Director of Digital Marketing

I’m always surprised to hear some consultants still advise clients to focus on up to 10 keywords as the foundation of their SEO campaigns.

It’s not my nature to react to the latest rumor or ranking signal in Google’s algorithm until it’s validated. But, it was clear to me when I entered the SEO industry a decade ago, that content was – and still is – the most important factor for SEO success, not keywords.

Content builds context and fosters engagement through inbound links, social media and web mentions. Without solid content, we’re forced to employ “old” SEO methods that work to varying degrees, such as creating single pages for every single keyword we want to rank.

Google continues to better understand context and meaning, and not rely solely on frequency and density of specific terms in page copy. Context of the website, the section and the page are all more important than a specific keyword.

To say Google’s algorithm has grown in recent years is an understatement. In fact, I heard Google Engineer, Paul Haahr, speak at SMX West and he shared that not a single person at Google knows the company’s full algorithm. This is important because it shows the company has enabled the algorithm to learn context on its own and get smarter in real-time.

The days of targeting a single term to a single page are in the past. That said, we can’t exactly ignore keywords in analytics. Keywords remain important progress indicators, and ways to ensure we understand and attract target audiences.

Clients and prospects are often taken by surprise when I say they can target as many keywords as they want. It’s fun educating them on the shift to content and context, and to see the sense of relief on their copywriter’s face!

Gone are the days of focusing on just 10 links, tracking their rankings and ultimately judging an SEO campaign’s impact based on their performance. What matters for SEO success is the development of relevant content that builds context and fosters ongoing audience engagement.

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