Organic search makes up around one-third of traffic to company websites.
It accounts for more traffic than paid and social put together!
What does that tell us?
SEO is as relevant as ever.
If you work in marketing, write a blog, or have your own business, it is vital that you at least know the basics of SEO.
But here’s where you might hit a stumbling block.
Successful SEO requires extensive knowledge of how search engines work. It takes time and practice to get right.
Plus, it’s like a moving target. SEO best practices are ever-changing and developing. That’s because the search engine algorithms are updated all the time.
I’m talking 500 to 600 times a year.
And there may be 200+ ranking factors that Google looks at when analyzing your site (though it feels like 1,000 sometimes).
If you get the basics down, though, you’ll be off to a winning start. You can look at the more mind-boggling metrics later.
SEO Basic #1: Links
Without links, your search result is going to remain at the bottom of the pack.
The thing is, links have been one of Google’s key ranking factors for years. And they’re still hanging on at the top of the list.
They’re like that old friend who has stuck with you through thick-and-thin. They’re so reliable, you really can’t forget about them.
If it’s proof you want…
Not too long ago, Brian Dean and his team at Backlinko analyzed one million Google search results to see which factors correlate with first-page rankings.
Here’s what they found out about backlinks:
Evidently, they found that as the number of links a site has decreases so does their rank.
But, why are links so important?
Links from high-authority sites send a trust signal to Google. It’s like having somebody vouch for you. The more people that vouch for you, the more trustworthy you are.
Now the question is:
How do you go about getting these magical seals of trust that Google holds in such high esteem?
Links can be difficult to come by, especially if you aren’t well-versed in link building tactics.
At times you might feel like Gretchen Wieners in Mean Girls, waiting for a candy cane while Glen Coco gets four.
But there are proactive methods you can use to get backlinks. And you don’t need any special technical skills to use them either.
1. Publish an original study or case study.
This is one of the most natural ways to get people to link back to your site. All you need to do is publish an interesting set of data from an original study carried out by your company.
If it’s something that makes others in your industry go ‘Wow!’ then they won’t be able to help themselves.
They’ll actually want to mention your study or results in their own blog posts and link to you as the source.
If you don’t have data or the resources to work with, then a case study will also attract links. A case study might focus on one fantastic result (and how you came by it).
Take a look at this nice example from Lean Labs:
Now, tell me you wouldn’t want to link to that case study in your own article about increasing leads.
2. Write testimonials for other companies you’ve worked with.
This is a simple yet underrated technique for gaining links.
You’ve probably seen testimonials all over the place and may even have them on your own site. In many cases, you’ll also see an image, name, position and a link to their site with the testimonial.
This could be you!
Simply compile a list of companies you have worked with over the last year. Then send each of them an email, thanking them for their outstanding services.
Mention that you would like to offer a testimonial for their site if they’d like one.
There’s a strong chance they’ll accept. Because who wouldn’t want a glowing reference for their company?
Oh, and don’t forget to politely ask for a link if they don’t give you one automatically.
Follow these tips and… Links for you. You GO Glen Coco!
SEO Basic #2: Content
If you neglect content on your site, then you’re doing it wrong.
Content is another ranking factor that’s way up there at the top of the list. It’s just chillin’ with its pal backlinks and it’s not going anywhere.
The reason why content is so vital to SEO is common sense really…
Google wants you to produce fresh content consistently so it knows that you’re still active.
Content keeps people on your site. This is a signal to the search engines that you’re providing relevant and useful information.
And let’s just go ahead and state the obvious here… It’s where your keywords go!
Google’s updates obviously changed the way we use keywords in content.
What was it again? Something about keywords and stuffed Pandas?
But that doesn’t mean that sites don’t still rank for keywords. In fact, sites rank for a lot of keywords.
Ahrefs analyzed three million random search terms to see how many other keywords the top 20 pages also rank for.
Take a look:
The number one page ranks for 1,000 other keywords, too.
You just can’t miss out on an opportunity like that.
So, here are some top tips for producing SEO-friendly content.
1. Create long-form content.
According to Brian Dean’s research, the average first-page result on Google is 1890 words. If that sounds like a lot of work…
That’s because it is.
Your content needs to be as long as possible to give it depth. Longer content provides more utility to your site’s visitors.
It also gives you space to target as many keywords as possible – whether intentionally or unintentionally.
2. Try different types of content.
Variety is the spice of content marketing. Different types of content or blog posts can serve different purposes.
A great idea is to produce your own video content.
If you’re in a blog-post rut, video tutorials are a great way to provide value for your audience and spice up your content.
For example, take this video on how to track your marketing campaigns:
Videos are highly shareable and linkable content, which makes them beneficial for traffic and SEO.
And you can still get the benefits of written blog posts (keywords etc.) Simply post the video on your blog with a transcription.
3. Repurpose old content.
It’s your content, and you can do what you want.
That’s not the only reason to repurpose content though.
Sometimes, content needs repurposing to keep it fresh. In the SEO world, for instance, trends and developments move swiftly.
This means content on SEO topics made a few years ago don’t contain the most up-to-date advice.
Or you could repurpose it by turning it into a different medium like an infographic, e-book or slideshare.
Check out how Copyblogger adapted one of their strongest pieces of content to Slideshare:
Repurposing content lets you unbury old content and get more eyes on it.
Plus, Google likes fresh and up-to-date content.
SEO Basic #3: Meta Descriptions and Headlines
The headline and meta description of your post or page is displayed in the search results. It’s probably the first thing a person sees.
It looks like this:
This is your first impression. So you want to make it a good one.
And while the meta description isn’t a direct ranking signal for search engines, it does carry some importance.
Because it helps people decide whether to click on your result or not.
The way people engage at this point is called the click-through rate (CTR). It compares the number of people who click on a result and how many people see it.
And CTR is an important ranking factor. So you can and should optimize your headline and meta description to improve the click-through rate.
Because if people aren’t clicking on your link, Google will notice and drop your ranking.
And your headline is a big factor in your CTR.
For instance, a study by Contently (see how we’re linking to them for their original research?) showed that longer titles (up to 90-99 characters) have a better click-through rate.
Make sure your headline contains your focus keyword.
If Google wants to know what your article is about, your headline is the answer.
But keep in mind:
A headline optimized for SEO isn’t necessarily going to be the most appealing.
So you need to find the sweet spot where your headline is good for the search engines and your audience. (People want to click on it and share it.)
Here are some tips to do just that.
1. Place keywords close to the beginning.
Place them in a natural position, but as close to the beginning as possible. That way Google will receive your signal loud and clear.
2. Make it catchy and clickable.
You’ve probably seen a viral headline.
You know the Buzzfeed-type headlines, “This Avocado Stone Will Change Your Life” and “What Happens When You Balance an Avocado Stone on Your Forehead (The Results May Surprise You).”
Although, these types of headlines may seem a little intense. It turns out there’s a formula for producing a successful headline in this way.
Buzzsumo analyzed 100 million headlines to work out what makes a popular headline.
They found that headlines containing certain phrases got more engagement on Facebook.
And there was more. Emotional headlines also make for more engagement. Curiosity, too.
There are even phrases to end your headlines with so that they perform better.
So your best bet is to pop your keyword into a headline formula.
Take this LinkedIn post for example:
The keyword is ‘blogging mistakes,’ and it contains the number one popular phrase ‘will make you.’
So you may want to use a viral-style headline.
But be warned…
It’s important that your title and meta description genuinely represent the content you have created.
Otherwise, you’ll create a pogo-sticking effect.
That’s when somebody searches for something, clicks the first result, and it doesn’t contain the information they’re looking for they go back and click on the next result.
It isn’t what they’re looking for, so they go back and click on the next result and so on until they find what they’re actually looking for and stay on that page.
The page they stay on will go up in the rankings, and if your page is part of the pogo-sticking effect, it will go down.
SEO Basic #4: User Experience
Search engines value user experience (UX). Google collects data on the way users behave when they get to your site.
If the user experience of your site is not up to par, then it will negatively affect SEO.
Which makes sense because it’s Google’s job to supply the searcher with the best result they can.
And that’s all well and good if you have an outstanding piece of content that’s relevant to the search term and provides value to the visitor.
But if your page doesn’t load quickly enough, a user is going to smash up their laptop in frustration.
Or more likely they’ll just bounce.
As more people up and leave, it’s going to send a signal to Google that your user experience is not good enough.
People expect your site to load quicker than The Flash.
Maile Ohye, former Developer Programs Tech Lead at Google, explained:
Half a second!
But the time it takes for your site to load is just one of many metrics that Google analyzes to assess user experience. UX is such an intricate discipline with many aspects that it has its own field of experts.
So how do you, someone with little technical experience, especially in UX, improve your site for SEO?
User experience is simply working with the user in mind.
There are things people care about, and things they don’t.
The design of your website may be the Sistine Chapel of websites. But let’s be honest…
A user is coming to your site to find a product or information. They don’t care about your cutting-edge design.
They just want the whole experience to be easy.
I mean, we’re all basically sloths these days. We may be cute, but we’re lazy.
Hubspot proved this. Not that we’re actually sloths in human clothing, of course.
They found that what consumers value the most about web design is the level of ease:
So what can you do to give users an easy experience?
1. Increase site speed.
I’ve mentioned site speed and its impact. But how do you actually go about improving it?
Well, there are some methods that require tech skills and some that don’t.
You can also delete plugins that you don’t use because those might be slowing your site down.
2. Keep it clean, clear and simple.
Users don’t want to visit a site and be confronted with an image slider or every single one of your services.
You need a simple message and clear sections so users can find what they’re looking for.
Users shouldn’t need the Marauder’s Map to find secret passageways to different areas of your site.
3. Limit ads.
Too many ads are going to put users off, too. Particularly on mobile.
According to The Coalition for Better Ads, ads should not take up more than 30 percent of the vertical space based on user experience.
Pop-ups are particularly terrible for mobile UX and should be avoided like the plague. Often they don’t resize correctly to fit mobile.
And it’s not as easy to get rid of them as it is on a desktop. You have to locate and jab the little x with your fat finger.
SEO Basic #5: Mobile
Mobile SEO is actually more important than ever.
Google will soon be using page speed as a mobile ranking factor, which they announced on their Webmaster Central Blog:
Currently, Google’s algorithms analyze the desktop version of your site first.
But mobile-first indexing is here.
And you need to get ready.
Most people search on mobile these days and the change is coming.
Google has stated in the past that over 50 percent of searches come from mobile.
Hitwise estimates the figure to be around 58 percent, based on analysis of hundreds of millions of search queries in key categories across PCs, tablets, and smartphones.
Here’s what they found:
If your niche is in one of the higher percentage categories, you need to pay extra attention to mobile SEO.
So how do you optimize for mobile?
The simplest way is to check if your site is mobile-friendly with Google’s mobile-friendly test.
All you need to do is copy and paste your URL. It takes seconds to come up with the results.
It will tell you if your site is mobile-friendly or not on a screen like this:
If your site fails the test, Google will tell you where the errors are on your mobile site. For example, it might say ‘Text is too small to read’ or ‘Content is wider than screen.’
To fix those errors, you’ll need to create a responsive website. This is Google’s preferred design.
So basically, you’d be silly if you didn’t choose their preferred design option.
Here are some additional tips for mobile SEO.
1. Optimize for local SEO.
Think about how you search on your smartphone.
I bet a lot of the time, you’re out and about and need to find a local shop or restaurant, for instance.
You’re not alone. 89% of people search for a local business on their phone once a week and 58 percent do it daily.
That means it’s time to improve your local SEO to get the best results on mobile.
2. Optimize for voice search
Lots of people use voice search on their mobile now.
In fact, 20% of mobile queries are voice search.
The importance of voice search is growing.
So you need to start thinking about the kind of natural language people will use when performing a voice search. And add your discoveries to your keyword list.
Because even though you might type “weather Seattle,” you’re not going to use that with Siri or Alexa.
You’re probably just going to ask, “Hey, what’s the weather like in Seattle?”
Your content will need to reflect that.
3. Don’t hide content.
Don’t play hide-and-seek or display content differently on the mobile version of your site.
In other words, there should be no content hidden behind expandable sections, menus, or buttons.
If Google is going to look at mobile first in the near future, then it needs to be able to see all of your content on mobile.
Yes, SEO is like trying to hit a moving target.
But putting the skills behind these basics into practice will ensure you make several hits.
A key takeaway from this article is that there are proactive methods you can use to improve SEO, even if you have no technical skills.
Go after the important metrics such as links or content with simple methods and tricks.
Think of your audience as well as the search engines when working on your site.
And don’t forget to get ahead of the trends by optimizing for mobile.
Anyone can do these things.
What are your go-to SEO basics?
About the Author: Neil Patel is the cofounder of Neil Patel Digital.
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Content is king.
And content marketing in 2018 remains a brilliant and cost-effective method for engaging with leads and customers, spreading brand awareness, and getting around the increasing use of ad-blockers.
Whether it’s an email newsletter, social media post, or blog on your own or someone else’s website, people want to see your stuff. They accept it. Approve it. Whitelist it. Because it’s the user him or herself clicking on it, there are no concerns of spam complaints, or annoying the recipient, or ending up in the junk folder.
It’s popular, powerful, and for all intents and purposes, perfect. If you’re online in any professional capacity, you’re already using it.
Google “content marketing” and you’ll uncover millions (78,200,000 when I did it just now) of results, everything from definitions to how-to guides to case studies. You can quickly and easily pick up the how, why, when, what, and where of content marketing. Every online marketing personality and business has their own advanced guide or step-by-step guide, allowing anyone to grasp, experiment, and eventually master the subtle art of content marketing.
Strikingly, the only thing you won’t see much of in those millions upon millions of links is how to know when your content marketing isn’t working.
Because there’s a lot more to successful content marketing than just traffic and clicks, and a hell of a lot more than just likes, shares, and retweets. Those are simply vanity metrics that don’t tell you anything of importance by themselves…although it sure does feel nice to see people are loving your stuff.
Now, vanity metrics can be used to find actionable insight, but that’s the subject of another post on another day. Suffice to say, if you’re gauging the success of your content campaigns on likes and shares alone, you’re doing it wrong and wasting your time and energy.
Instead of focusing on the vanity metric, use it to inform your marketing decisions. Dig deeper. Find the corresponding actionable metric.
Content marketing is an active endeavor, and most of the hard work starts after you hit publish. It’s not about reaching people; it’s about reaching the right people.
How do you know when you’re not doing that?
Look for these five red flags before and during the push.
Content Marketing 101
But before we get to that, let’s review some basics.
If you remember only one thing about content marketing, make it this: write your strategy down. Be explicit, detailed, and clear about goals (use SMART goals and stretch goals if applicable), tactics, channels, and how you’re going to measure success.
What will “success” look like? How will you measure return-on-investment? Make sure you and everyone on your team knows and understands.
How often will your marketing team meet? The most successful meet regularly to evaluate, tweak, and manage as necessary. Your content marketing should not be set-it-and-forget-it.
Target your ideal customers. Segment your audience. A/B test. Monitor your efforts. Create evergreen content. Measure the return-on-investment to maximize your budget. Look at your competitors and industry to see what’s working, what’s not, and what others are and are not doing.
In their 2018 annual report on content marketing, CMI discovered that only 38% of B2C businesses have a documented strategy. That’s appallingly low.
Document your strategy. Do that, and you’re ahead of 62% of the competition.
Diversify your tactics and channels. The same report found that B2C marketers:
The tricks and tips and hacks for better content marketing are many. Read some. Read many.
And that brings us back full-circle. Knowing when your content marketing isn’t working is as important as knowing when it is…if not more so.
How can you tell if you’re on the wrong track and heading in the wrong direction?
Watch for (and respond!) to these five signposts along the way.
Signpost #1: The Wrong People Are Signing Up
Consider this hypothetical scenario: you launch an aggressive content campaign, complete with blog and social media posts, videos, and infographics, to promote your new SaaS product launch.
Everything has a rock-solid call-to-action inviting people to a free 7-day trial. They click the CTA button, are transported to a well-crafted landing page, and sign up.
That’s an undeniable content marketing win, right?
Wrong. It could be a win…depending on who is signing up. Numbers alone don’t answer that question. Even if you’re looking at an insane 60% conversion rate, it’s meaningless if those signing up are the wrong people.
So who are the “wrong” people? Anyone that’s not within your target market. They may be interested in your content for a wide variety of reasons – research, curiosity, education – but they’re not necessarily interested in your product or service.
Now, far be it for me to suggest that you shouldn’t ever target outside your market. I’m not, and you should. Sometimes your best customers down the road are the ones you’re not even considering at the moment.
A portion of signups outside your target audience is not only nothing to worry about, but a positive and worthwhile goal.
That said, if 50%, 60%, or 70%+ of your leads are falling outside of those you were targeting – wrong geographic location, industry, background, profession, income level, interests, or whatever – something’s wrong. If the majority of those signing up for your email newsletters, gated content, or free trials are nowhere near your ideal fit, your content marketing isn’t working.
Before you write a single line of blog post or send a single tweet, you need to be crystal-clear on your ideal customer. Get to know him or her. You’ve no doubt heard about the importance of buyer or customer personas. Build and use them to guide your content efforts. Do that, and the likelihood of the “wrong” people coming to your content goes down exponentially.
Why? Because a detailed persona allows you to reverse engineer your content specifically for them: their wants, needs, pain points, values, and more. That’s more than half the battle.
If you’re just starting out, this is a bit more difficult, but not impossible. If you have existing customers and sales data to work with, though, you can zero in on the best of the best. According to Duct Tape Marketing:
That’s your ideal, most profitable customer. Create content for him or her. Share it on the platforms he or she uses and spends the most time on.
Social platforms typically have built-in capabilities, such as Twitter Analytics audience insights dashboard.
If you’re targeting English-speaking men over the age of 50, and your Analytics report shows most of your visitors are females under the age of 25 and from Italy, all those conversions – sign-ups, downloads, or otherwise – probably aren’t going to amount to much with your bottom line.
The sooner you know that, the sooner you can fix it. If the wrong people are signing up or downloading your lead magnets, you have to change direction. And fast.
Know exactly who you’re targeting, and give them exactly what they want and where they want it. Then monitor to make sure it’s drawing them in.
Signpost #2: Incompatible Backlink Profile
Backlinks are still important for your search engine optimization. In fact, many would argue that they’re the key to your overall SEO success. Quality backlinks from respected sites is a surefire indicator to Google and the rest of the search engine overlords that your content is valuable, useful, and worth a read. It’s a vote of confidence.
And that can translate into a big jump on the SERPs. The closer you are to that coveted top spot, the better the chance someone will click on your link. Increased traffic means increased leads which means increased revenue. Google is happy, the users are happy, and you’re happy.
Backlinks and SEO go hand-in-hand. But backlinks can also tell you if there’s something amiss with your content marketing.
Imagine if your backlink profile – a report on which external sites are linking to your stuff – is populated with websites you wouldn’t expect your target market to visit. Good? Bad?
It depends on your criteria. If those sites are quality sites, those backlinks are still going to give you a healthy SEO boost. That’s good.
However, it may be evidence that your content is not resonating with your ideal customers. And that’s very, very bad. Your content, after all, is how you introduce yourself to them, educated them on your products and services, and persuade them to open their wallets. If it’s missing that mark, you’re failing at the marketing game. It’s the difference between leaving a flyer on hundreds of windshields in a mall parking lot, and hand-delivering to prospects you know would benefit from what you have to offer.
Luckily, generating a backlink profile and conducting a link audit is fast and easy, and there are many tools to assist with it.
To get a basic list, log in to Google Search Console. Click “Search Traffic” on the left-hand menu, and then select “Links to Your Site”. You’ll get a quick n’ dirty report with the total number of links, and the sites who link the most.
Now, you can determine if the sites linking back to your content are within your “demographic”. Some you might recognize by name, others you may have to visit and evaluate.
For a more detailed analysis, you can try a dedicated backlink tool. Some of the best include:
If your target is recent university graduates, and you’re receiving backlinks from retirement agencies, there’s a mismatch. You’re not producing the right content to connect with those just entering the workforce.
If you’ve done your homework, you should have detailed customer personas. You should know not only who they are, but what they need, and where they are. Too many people outside those parameters linking to your content is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not going to generate massive sales and revenue.
The sites linking to you are an indicator of who your content is reaching. If you’re targeting professionals, but most of your links are coming from gossip sites, stop. If you’re after grandparents, but Millennial Now is your biggest external source, halt.
Check your link profile. Ensure most of them are coming from sites your target audience would frequent to increase your exposure with them.
If not, re-evaluate. Switch tracks. Create more of what they want, need, and desire. Align your content with your customer.
Signpost #3: No One Is Sharing
Yes, I did tell you at the beginning of this post that shares and likes are a vanity metric. That’s still true. But do you know what else is true?
Great content gets shared.
If people are reading your content but not sharing it, then you’re not producing quality content and your marketing is failing. Period.
This is especially true with influencers in your niche. If you create enough fantastic content, eventually some influencers in your market will share that content. If they aren’t, that’s trouble.
Think about your own online behavior. When you read or encounter a great blog post, infographic, or video, you share it with your own fans, followers, friends, and family. It’s almost automatic. Every platform has the ability built-in, and third-party tools like Hootsuite and sharing plugins make it effortless and convenient.
We read or watch it, we instinctively share it. You want your content to be shared. You need your content to be shared.
Every time you create something, you want it to go viral. That kind of reach and exposure is the dream. While it may not happen for you, consistent social sharing increases your exposure exponentially. One retweet puts your content in front of a whole new set of eyes. It gets people talking about you and your brand. And the cycle repeats if only one person from that new group shares it again, and so on.
First, you need to track how many shares you’re getting with your existing content.
Tools like Hootsuite can monitor your mentions across social media, Google Alerts can notify you when your tracked keywords and phrases are used, Likealyzer analyzes your Facebook Page, Snaplytics provides data on both Snapchat and Instagram Stories, BuzzSumo shows you how content on your site is doing on social media, Google Analytics can report on how much traffic to your site is coming from social channels (under Acquisition > Social > Overview), SharesCount displays social shares based on individual URLs, and all-in-one management platforms like Sprout Social can monitor most of the major platforms from one dashboard.
If you have no shares, you have some serious work to do. If you have some shares, more is always better. If you’re happy with the shares you’re seeing, you’re selling yourself and your content short.
More shares, more exposure. More exposure, more leads. More leads, more conversions. So, do everything you can to increase the amount of social sharing you’re already seeing:
Increasing your social shares should be part of your content marketing strategy regardless of how many you’re currently seeing. Step 1: monitor your shares. Step 2: increase your shares.
None, few, or lots, more is better.
Signpost #4: Your Leads Aren’t Talking About Your Content
This one is reactive. You won’t know until you start generating some quality leads. It requires asking or surveying them about where and how they heard about you, your brand, and your products.
It might be a simple question in your email series or while talking to them on the phone, or a follow-up online survey, or a fill-in field on an opt-in form. “How did you hear about us?” is profitable and relevant data to collect.
The answers should be varied if you’ve diversified your marketing efforts. Some might say it was a referral from a friend, another might mention an online review or recommendation, while others may have clicked a PPC ad, or read a newspaper feature, or googled your targeted keyword.
But some of them will hopefully talk about your content. In a perfect world, they’ll bring it up without any solicitation from you, choosing to mention how much they loved your blog post on X, or how helpful they found your infographic on Y. That’s when you know your content marketing is crushing it.
Great content with great promotion should elicit great (and unsolicited) feedback.
If none of your leads are talking about your content, that’s a major red flag. If none of them mention “content” when you ask, that’s a neon signpost. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.
Ask. And if the answer is anything and everything but content, you know you need to head back to the drawing board. Don’t stop whatever is working, of course, but tidy up your content efforts at the same time. It’s just too lucrative a tactic to allow it to fail so miserably.
Ask yourself: what do my ideal customers most need? What do they struggle with? How can I better/simplify/improve their lives?
Answer those questions and more with the content you create, and tongues will be wagging.
Signpost #5: Your Leads Want What You Can’t Do
Lead generation is a major part of any business plan. A steady stream of leads going in at the top of your sales funnel means a steady – albeit smaller – stream of customers and advocates exiting at the bottom.
But all leads are not created equal.
Picture this: the leads that are reaching out to you are asking about things you can’t or don’t do. Once or twice is an anomaly. But if it happens on a regular basis then your content is likely at fault.
Leads asking for something other than what you do is often a symptom of creating content that is not directly tied to the business.
If you’re in the analytics business, you should write about analytics. If you produce quality content on SEO as an extension of that, don’t be surprised if people contact you asking for SEO advice and solutions.
If leads are asking about things you can’t, don’t, or won’t do, you aren’t creating the right content for your business. Content marketing is supposed to introduce you as an expert and authority in your field. It’s supposed to initiate a discussion between you and those in need of what you have or do.
In your content efforts, stick to only those topics and sub-topics that are directly related to your product or service. Write only about those subjects. Talk, share, comment, and engage only in those areas.
Everything else is just noise.
No traffic. No clicks. No leads. No ROI. Those are a few common reasons your content marketing isn’t working for you. Those are easy to recognize and relatively easy to correct. Jay Baer suggests four categories to fix a broken campaign:
But content marketing can fail in many less obvious ways. It’s your job to watch, monitor, and manage those silent killers.
The five discussed here are far from exhaustive. The list of potential content assassins is long. You’ve got to stay vigilant.
It is possible to get and stay on the right track heading in the right direction.
Over to you. What other ways have you found your content marketing falling short? What hiccups have you stumbled upon in your marketing? What red flags are you always on the look for?
About the Author: Neil Patel is the cofounder of Neil Patel Digital.
Are you producing lots of great content on a regular basis but still not seeing organic traffic?
The issue may be a lack of external sites linking to you, also known as backlinks. While SEO has evolved over the years, backlinks still remain as one of the most important SEO ranking factors.
What you shouldn’t do is get involved in shady link schemes. This is known as black hat SEO, and it is unethical and ineffective over the long run.
The key to getting backlinks in a sustainable way, without begging for them, is to continually produce high-quality content that people want to link to and share.
So, when you’re thinking of your link building strategies, keep these 14 in mind and try any or all of them. Give each a lot of effort and measure the results appropriately.
Click here if you’d prefer to skip this list and just go straight to the infographic.
1. Original Research
My friend Brian Dean has also published research-based blog posts:
And has seen a lot of backlinks from the blog post:
If you prefer to not do research yourself or hire a researcher, you can reach out to other companies that conduct research and publish it in PDFs. Ask them for the PDF and if you can write a short blog post that summarizes the findings, or summarizes parts of it, in exchange for a link to their landing page to download the full report. You’ll still get a lot of links and social traffic, even if the data isn’t yours. You’re simply reporting on it.
After all, that’s what all science publications (i.e. ScienceDaily) do everyday. They write reports and summarizations of the latest scientific research, and cite the study in their article.
When your article is ready to go, it may help to put something like this in the headline:
This way, people browsing on Google or social will see that it’s research-based, and they’ll want to check out your article.
Finally, when you release original data, reach out to some companies you have relationships with that may be interested in sharing your research. You can write to them with a simple request – here’s the research we did, here’s the article of the research, maybe it would come in handy for you at some point in the future.
Bonus points if you create an infographic based on your original research.
2. Create Long-Form Guides
More and more publishers are cutting their word counts short and producing content with few words. You can stand out and get backlinks by creating 10x content and giving it away for free.
This involves finding something useful that people will want to read, examining the competition, and creating something 10x better. You (or a writer you hire) will write about 15,000 words, and split the organization up into different chapters.
I’ve created many of these guides and published them Quick Sprout.
Brian Dean wrote a keyword research guide:
I’d recommend you take a look at some of these guides so you can get an idea of the breadth of undertaking for producing a 10x guide.
These 10x guides are expensive (writing and design time) and time-consuming, but they can pay off in the form of backlinks to your site.
3. Interview an Influencer
Influencer marketing is all the rage right now. Most brands want to figure out how to get a big celebrity or athlete to endorse their product. Or better yet, be business partners with them.
But there’s another strategy you can take if you’re interested in getting backlinks. This involves interviewing an influencer to get their knowledge that would help your audience. If you don’t have connections, you’ll have to be good at email outreach and be a skilled people-person.
If you are granted an interview, it’s important to come prepared with thoughtful questions, and have respect for their time. Most influencers probably won’t want to chat for more than 15 minutes, but if you’re a skilled interviewer who asks good questions that should be more than enough time to get valuable information from them.
You can publish your interview either in a video format or via a transcript. If you can, I’d opt for a video if you can make sure it’s high quality. If not, stick with a transcript of the interview.
4. Create an Infographic
Kissmetrics has produced lots of infographics that have brought us a ton of backlinks. We had our own in-house designer create the infographic, but if you don’t have your own designer you can hire one through Upwork.
The most difficult part of the infographic process is brainstorming a topic that’s a good fit for the infographic, then creating the copy and graphs to go in the infographic. A great designer will take a lot of the weight off your shoulders. Just come up with a topic, produce the content, and let the designer work their magic.
Don’t forget to add an embed code at the bottom to make it easy for people to put it on their website. A lot of other sites may just download your infographic and put it on their site. This is why it’s useful to have your logo on the infographic – so even if you don’t get the backlink, you still get your brand some exposure around the web.
If you’re looking to rank well for a particular term, you can add that keyword to the embed code. See what Copyblogger did with this infographic:
5. Create a Quiz
Much like infographics, quizzes are popular and get a lot of shares. If you create on your site, you can add an embed code and get backlinks just like you would do with an infographic.
Your quizzes should be enjoyable for people to take. They don’t have to be a knowledge test. It’s best if you create something that encourages people to look inward and think about themselves. The end result then makes something that’s shareable with others.
This is what Buzzfeed does so well. They create quizzes like, “What Kind of [fill in the blank] Are You?”. People love taking the quizzes and sharing them because it’s about each person.
Try adding quizzes to your marketing strategy and see what results you get!
6. Contact Sites that Link to Defunct Sites
The important thing to keep in mind is to only reach out to high quality sites. Remember that crappy sites that link to you are your problem. You are responsible for who links to you. Remove the crappy sites that are linking to you and you’ll improve your overall backlink profile.
Offering a free testimonial is a win-win relationship. The business gets a testimonial and you get your name and company name on their website, along with a link back to your site.
Obviously, when you reach out to these companies, you need to be a customer of their product or service. Don’t contact companies you don’t use and offer a testimonial.
I’ve done this on a lot of different sites and it’s helped to increase my exposure.
Here I am on the homepage of Backlinko:
And here I am with Brian Dean on the Ahrefs homepage:
And on Viewership.com:
I have many more around the web, but how many visits do you think these three sites receive? That’s how much free exposure I’m getting, because I endorse their product and wrote a testimonial.
8. Guest Blogging
This is one of my favorite methods for gaining links and exposure. Guest blogging can be free (if you’re a good writer) or paid if you prefer to hire a ghostwriter. If you haven’t written for other blogs before, I’d recommend hiring a ghostwriter. It will cost between $250-$500 for a quality article with at least 2,000 words.
In the article, you can link to your own content. I’ve done this with my articles in Entrepreneur:
Don’t go overboard and put a dozen links back to your site. Keep it reasonable (maybe 1-3 for every 2000 words) and make sure the owner of the blog is okay with it. If they’re not, you may want to take your content somewhere else. I think it’s a fair tradeoff considering that you’re giving them great free content in exchange for some links and exposure.
Be sure to also use your byline wisely. Keep it sharp and to the point. Tell readers who you are, what you do, and what value you bring. Link to your site. Bonus points if you can link to other parts of your site, like Bnonn does on the Kissmetrics blog:
In his byline, he’s advertising his free course (which brings him leads) and has a link back to his website.
9. Find Unlinked Mentions
If you’re well known, you’ll have hundreds or even thousands of sites that mention your company or name but don’t link to you. Using this method, you find those high-quality sites that aren’t linking.
For example, if I write about Copyblogger or mention one of their blog posts but don’t link to it, they can reach out to me in a helpful way and suggest I add in a link to their site or blog post. I’m already mentioning them; so adding the link is only helpful to readers.
Credit to Brian Dean for this tactic – he calls it link reclamation.
10. Public Relations For Page Rank
Having good relationships with journalists and news outlets is great for public relations and backlinks. But you shouldn’t cold email a journalist and ask them to promote your company. That won’t work and will only make you look bad.
Use Help a Reporter Out, but don’t rely on it. You need to make an active effort to make relationships with journalists and help them out when they need it. All good relationships rely on reciprocity.
Some of you may have a unique story or angle that a news outlet would like to cover. That’s how I got coverage on CNN:
I knew they wouldn’t want to hear about my business, but rather that I live in hotels. I did get links to my businesses from this article, and it brought a lot of referral traffic.
So as you build those relationships, you’ll eventually start getting mentions in outlets and publications. This can do wonders for your exposure and your “link juice”.
11. Use Outreach Efforts When You Write a Post
When you write a blog post, you’ll probably be linking to other companies and articles. When you do that, you should make an effort to contact the people that run those companies or write those articles and tell that them that you mentioned them on your blog post. They may share it social media or mention you in a future article. Remember – trust the laws of reciprocity.
When you reach out, it’s important to not ask for a backlink. That will make you look desperate, and no one wants to look desperate. Just simply reach out and tell them that you liked their article/post or company so much that you wanted to share it on your blog post. Then share the link to your blog post. That’s all you have to do.
Finally, don’t write a blog post that has hundreds of links. If you do that and reach out to each one you linked to, it will make you look bad because you’re giving out a bunch of links in order to ask for a link back. Keep the number of links on your blog posts reasonable, and tell bloggers and companies when you write about them. Then, trust the laws of reciprocity.
12. Quality on Quality Blogs
This can be one of the best ways to gain exposure. You’ll also get backlinks if the comments are not a nofollow.
The priority when writing a comment is to make sure it’s thoughtful, relevant, and adds to the discussion. Writing, “great post, keep it up” isn’t thoughtful or relevant and it doesn’t add to the discussion. When someone reads your comment, it should be clear that you actually read the blog post or article and have something unique to add to it. Your comments should be like the blog posts you write – high quality, thoughtful, and useful.
The WordPress commenting plugin Commentluv uses dofollow comment URLs by default. I’d recommend searching for these blogs, subscribing to them, reading them as they come out, and making comments shortly after they’re published.
You can also link to your blog in the comment:
13. Request Your Company or Article Be Added to a Resource Page or Listicle
It’s important to only do this if you really think that what you want to link to would improve the article. I get a lot of requests from bloggers asking for links. I ignore all of them because none of them make sense for my blog. I can see that they don’t want to make any of my articles better, they just a backlink.
Check out the script Brian Dean has for you in his mega-guide.
14. Create a List of Your Own
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, list-based posts get a lot of traffic.
Unfortunately, I think that a lot of marketers and content creators view them as a shortcut. They’ve been brainwashed by viewing the listicles that are in slideshow form, thinking that if they just brainstorm a few things to put on their list, and add a sentence or two to each one, that their job is done. You shouldn’t make it that easy on yourself.
Other marketers will go overboard and make their list so long (i.e. 150+ items) that no one will read it all. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with this if you can make manage to make each item useful. Don’t add things to your list that don’t make sense just so you can have a bigger number.
Keep in mind, as with everything, quality over quantity. (Ideally you have both quality and quantity). You’re better off keeping your list at the right amount and making more quality list-based posts instead of putting all your energy into one post.
Want to display this infographic on your site?
Simply copy and paste the code below into the html of your website to display the infographic presented above:
Getting backlinks doesn’t involve begging. It involves hard work. It takes creativity, hustle, and good people skills.
Your best competition, the ones consistently at the top of Google, aren’t cold emailing companies and bloggers asking for backlinks. They’re hard at work producing great content that people want to share and link to.
All the work is worth it. I’ve been in content marketing for years and I still find that backlinks are crucial to ranking higher in Google.
I hope you’ll examine these 14 tactics, find some that work for you, put in meaningful effort in each, and measure the results. Then let me know how they work for you.
What methods have you found useful and effective to get backlinks without begging for them?
About the Author: Neil Patel is the cofounder of Neil Patel Digital.
Facebook tests a "dislike" button (sort of); Twitter makes money (finally); why your Facebook Page may see less organic reach; are the youth are leaving Facebook?; Snapchat finally offers detailed analytics; more. Read the full article at MarketingProfs
How many times have you Googled something and your search results have little to no content below the link?
Yeah, that’s the meta description. And every website should have one.
If you have a website, then meta descriptions should matter to you.
Even if you don’t personally have a website and simply browse online, meta descriptions should still matter to you.
A meta description is a website’s final attempt to get your attention and seal the deal with a click-through.
Not only is a meta description a link’s last-ditch effort to gain a visit or two, but it is also a factor in search engine optimization that many digital marketers ignore.
But a neglected meta description could mean lost viewers, forgotten leads, and less traffic.
Thankfully, adding meta descriptions is simple. Writing good meta descriptions that help SEO is the tougher part — but it can get easier with help and a little practice.
I’ll explain exactly how.
Meta descriptions explained
A meta description is the snippet of text displayed below each link in the search results. It is the HTML element that provides more information about a website to search engines and searchers.
Why do meta descriptions exist?
Well, they serve a couple purposes. They describe the contents of a web page to the searcher while simultaneously convincing and persuading the searcher to click the link.
Meta descriptions play a big role in search results.
Any words that match the search query are made bold in the description.
They also serve as a sort of advertisement for that specific website, providing the searcher with a brief glimpse into what they could gain or see by clicking.
See the below example of search results for “simple SEO guide.”
The meta descriptions above are the few lines of text below the link title and URL.
You will see that some included the bold words from the search query, and others are simply the first few words of the website or blog post.
But meta descriptions aren’t reserved for search engine results pages (SERPs).
They also appear when people share content on websites and social media channels. While search results and SEO aren’t relevant in this particular instance, well-written meta content will still encourage opens on social media and external sites.
And click-throughs on social media, while not technically recorded by Google or Bing, will still contribute to a site’s overall traffic, relevance, and publicity.
All in all, meta descriptions can contribute a ton to your website’s success.
The importance of meta descriptions
A meta description is your website’s last sales pitch to a searcher. It is the most important feature to improving click-through rates from an organic search.
Meta descriptions are a major tool that searchers use to decide which search results will be the most helpful, relevant, and authoritative.
They are also super important for search engine optimization–but not in the way that you may think.
It is important to point out that meta description content is not factored into search results. So it’s not necessary to put keywords into your meta description.
But let’s take a step back and consider not just search engine behavior, but human behavior. Meta description content may not influence the search engine algorithm, but click-through rate does.
That’s right. Google is actively measuring — and factoring in — user behavior when it comes to search results.
There are so many factors that go into ranking a website; it’s easy to forget that human activity is constantly being analyzed and considered.
Kind of makes you think about the way you conduct searches, doesn’t it?
Knowing this, think about the way that your meta descriptions look to an average searcher.
Do they appeal to a computer or a person? Is the content arranged to grab an algorithm’s attention or the human eye?
Meta descriptions may not directly benefit SEO, but click-through rates do, and meta descriptions help get clicks.
And the more people that click on your link, the better the content will perform in search results.
Now, for any search engine results page, it is not a given that every searcher will scroll all the way to the bottom — not to mention clicking over to a second or third page.
In fact, click-through percentages taper off as you move down the results page because, logically, the more relevant and reliable links are already situated at the top.
At least, that’s what the average searcher assumes.
If your website is located further down the first page, or even on the second, you are already working with less than your competitors.
This makes a concise, persuasive meta description all the more crucial to that link’s success.
But those results that fall at the top don’t necessarily have their work cut out for them, either. Ranking in the first few results doesn’t always guarantee a click-through.
Providing a high-quality meta description will ensure that a searcher doesn’t go scrolling for another result.
Relevant results encourage clicks. Meta descriptions help searchers understand why your link is the most relevant, helpful, trustworthy option.
And the more searchers click on your website, the better your site will perform overall.
Here’s how to add — and write — killer meta descriptions that convert search queries to surefire clicks.
How to write meta descriptions
For now, head over to your website’s HTML and take a look at the <head> section. It’ll look similar to this.
To add a meta description to the site, insert the content next to (you guessed it) where the HTML code says “content=”.
Regardless of what content management system you use, you should have complete control over what your meta descriptions say.
The especially goes for WordPress, whose backend platform makes it easy to alter this information.
If you use an SEO plugin like Yoast, you can add the meta description to the section labeled “meta description”. You can even preview how it will look in the SERPs.
Now that we have the technical how-to out of the way, let’s review some tips for writing meta descriptions that grab a searcher’s attention, wrangle a click-through, and boost your SEO.
At its core, writing a great meta description isn’t all that different from writing great sales copy. It is an exercise in concise persuasion designed to sell whatever lies beyond the link.
You have a few sentences to grab someone’s attention and garner a click-through.
Every single word you add to that meta description should be dedicated to producing a click, while still maintaining factual accuracy to meet expectations.
This may take practice, but it is worth it for the overall health of your website. Thankfully, changing out your website’s meta description is pretty easy.
If you test one meta description and don’t love how it performs, you can simply head back to the HTML and try a new one.
If you’re overwhelmed about where to start, prioritize your homepage and most important pages, like your product pages, top blog posts, or About page.
Get a feel for writing meta descriptions, and then take the time to fill them out for the rest of your website.
Now, let’s dive into how to write up meta descriptions that are clear, helpful, and persuasive.
Be specific and relevant, including the focus keyword.
Within your meta description, you essentially have two to three sentences to persuade people to click. So every word in your meta description matters.
Nowadays, the average searcher will recognize a generic, fluffed-up meta description from a mile away.
They will also most likely ignore that sort of description for one that better suits their search query.
Use your meta description to further connect with the target audience of your website or blog post link. Use relevant language that will appeal to them and be specific about what your website offers.
Layer your focus keyword into your meta description authentically. (That means don’t repeat it multiple times or throw in a few different variations for the sake of better SEO.)
Search engines will often bold the words in your meta description that correspond to a searcher’s query. This makes it easier for a searcher to see exactly how your website aligns with what they have searched.
Use action-oriented language, with a call-to-action.
Great sales copy always includes present-tense, actionable language. Your meta description should read no differently.
Use the meta description to describe exactly what you want the searcher to do or what exactly will happen when they click on your link.
Give the searcher a clear picture of what lies beyond the link.
Consider starting with words like “Learn,” “Discover,” “Experience,” or “Read” so the searcher has a clear idea of what your website provides. This may also inspire new actions beyond the searcher’s original query.
Provide a solution or benefit.
Think about why people make searches online. Most likely, they want to research, buy, learn, or read something, right?
Your meta description should serve as the “Ah-ha — found it!” moment for a searcher.
How can your website give them what they’re looking for? How do they benefit by clicking on your link? What lies beyond your search result that can benefit or help them in some way?
Use your meta description to answer these questions. This information is especially valuable when competing with other blogs or websites.
Nowadays, most search queries result in multiple sites offering similar content. What makes your website different, and how can you use this information to entice a click-through?
Keep it short and sweet.
Good digital marketers recognize that, as humans, we have the attention span of a goldfish — eight seconds, to be exact.
You should remember this in any circumstance that involves writing content to persuade or sell, especially when crafting your meta descriptions.
Don’t assume that searchers will take the time to review all meta descriptions on the search engine results page.
Choose each word wisely, knowing that people most likely skim your description before continuing down the page.
Another important thing to recognize is that Google cuts off meta descriptions that are too long. There have been reports of Google testing snippets of longer length, but about 150 characters is a safe length.
Case in point — Do not get caught with your most valuable information at the end!
Don’t deceive, but inspire curiosity.
You might think it a good idea to embellish your meta description solely to get a click. Who cares if a searcher stays on your website as long as they click-through first?
Not a stellar strategy.
If you’re not truthful about what a searcher can expect from your link, he or she probably won’t hesitate to hit that “back” button.
And too many quick exits can hurt your site’s bounce rate — and, more importantly, the searcher’s trust in your content.
Be honest and clear about the content of your website.
Don’t stuff your meta description full of keywords, either. Instead, consider asking a question that contains a couple of keywords.
Provide just enough (true) information about your link without giving it away. Inspire a click-through with curiosity — not deception.
Good and not-so-good examples of meta descriptions
Need real examples of the above criteria? Below we’ll cover some good and not-so-good meta descriptions based on a few popular search queries.
Let’s review the results from some popular search queries relevant to online marketing, starting with good examples.
“How to build backlinks”
This meta description is short, but includes the focus keyword (“backlinks”) and utilizes words like “little-known” and “never seen” to inspire curiosity.
This meta description is strong because it mentions the benefit of building backlinks. It also explains exactly what a searcher will see when he or she clicks the link.
“What is white hat SEO”
This meta description not only employs an actionable word (“learn”) but also explains the benefit of learning white hat techniques and how they can help your website.
This meta description uses a question to grab the searcher’s attention and then provides a clear solution that outlines the contents of the website, including action words like “teach” and “execute.”
“Content marketing best practices”
This meta description spreads out the focus keywords so that more of the content is made bold, increasing its chances of being noticed. It also mentions both B2B and B2C, which increases the number of audience members who will benefit from a click-through.
This meta description, although short and cut off at the end, provides a concise benefit of content marketing and explains what the webpage contains.
Sometimes, an ellipses at the end of a meta description can help inspire curiosity and garner a click-through.
Now, for the not-so-great meta description examples, using the same keywords.
“How to build backlinks”
It’s clear that this website doesn’t have a meta description because it simply repeats the headline and dives right into the first line of the content, providing no preview or enticing language.
Forgetting to include a meta description leaves your website open to random and irrelevant meta content. Searchers will recognize when you’ve neglected it.
“What is white hat SEO”
Although this meta description is interesting and personable, it lacks relevance and focus keywords. In fact, it’s more likely to appear in results for “black hat SEO” given that keyword is mentioned twice.
Meta descriptions could be compared to email subject lines in this case. Using something unique and fun can help grab attention, but going too far outside the line can just be plain confusing.
“Content marketing best practices”
This meta description does not include any information relevant to the site title, nor does it feature any focus keywords.
This may be another case of a neglected meta description, leaving it open to capturing the first few lines of content.
In this case, that was a bad move for the website, especially since it’s featured on the third page of search results.
While your meta descriptions may not have a direct effect on your SEO, they play a huge role in explaining your web page content and garnering click-throughs.
Adding them is easy — it’s writing them well that’s a little more difficult. Treat them as you would your ad or website copy, and your website traffic numbers will thank you.
In what ways have you improved your meta descriptions to help SEO?
About the Author: Neil Patel is the cofounder of Neil Patel Digital.
Working from home can help you be productive, but there can be so many distractions. Here are eight tips to help you stay motivated and on track. Read the full article at MarketingProfs