Mobile-First Optimization: What it Means for SEO

Google’s relatively new mandate of mobile-first indexing has caused a bit of panic among the SEO community. The changes went into effect early in 2018 and there is still plenty of confusion and misinformation out there.

What is mobile-first indexing?

Essentially, it is Google altering their search method to crawl sites in a different order. In the past, whenever a website existed in both desktop and mobile forms, the search algorithm would focus on the desktop site. This occasionally caused problems if the two sites included differing content, as someone searching on their phone might get results from a desktop site but then be directed to the mobile site and be unable to find the info. Because of the ever-increasing importance of mobile searches, which make up at least 60% of all online searches, they are now going to determine their results based on what they find on the mobile site instead.

What does this mean for my ranking?

Rankings are not affected by the change to mobile-first indexing. If your content has the quality and relevance to achieve page one status that won’t change, as long as that content is equally available on the mobile version.

Who will it affect?

Contrary to popular fears, a relatively small percentage of sites will actually notice any difference. Websites that only exist in a single version will be unaffected, as will dual-version sites that feature identical content. It is really only sites that currently run a lighter mobile version with less content that will need to adapt. There are also some signs that point to an added emphasis on schema (detailed code that helps search engines locate data) in their search algorithm.

What is the solution?

If you are going to have both a desktop and mobile version of your site, perhaps to optimize the graphics and visuals differently, make sure that the content remains the same on both. It is also important that the content be formatted similarly and can be found in the same navigational order to avoid confusion.

The bottom line is that mobile-first indexing is not nearly the major overhaul many people perceive it to be. If your business is one of the few that could be impacted, you need only follow these few easy steps to ensure continuity and ongoing success.

An SEO Content Publishing Checklist for 2019

A lot has changed in SEO in 2018, but one thing remains the same: you need to publish high-quality content in order to rank on Google.

Traffic generated from organic search is some of the most targeted traffic you can get on the internet, which is why, despite the constant changes, content marketing remains a priority.

But the experiments and algorithm updates Google performs on a regular basis does make it hard to keep up to speed with on-site features that drive conversion as compared to features that actually hinder organic performance. Then, there is the imperative to understand the intentionality of a target audience, which must always be the bedrock of effective content generation. Getting these two things right—on-site optimization and content that matches search intent – has always been hard, but in 2019, there are more things to consider than ever.

Here is a high-level checklist of all the SEO-related things that all the top SEO services providers in Long Beach, CA offer their customers in 2019.

Technical

  1. Set up Google Search Console. This is a straightforward process that should be done before posting any content.
  2. Set up Google Analytics. Another free Google software that should be set up before you post anything because it offers the most in-depth performance analysis. It is the most important tool for conversion rate optimization tests.
  3. Robots.txt and Schema Markup. In some cases, you will need to specify to Google pages to follow, or not follow, on your site, as well as how to index the content. Robots.txt is a short line of code that informs the Google bot which pages NOT to crawl (which could be as many pages as you specify). Schema Markup, on the other hand, is a collection of microdata tags that can be embedded into the code of a page to help Google index and surface more engaging content in the SERP. It is designed for e-commerce and service industry sites that have recipes and product descriptions to show. Both are potentially valuable additions to your site, so do not sleep on them when putting out new content!

Content

  1. Optimize All On-Site Features. On-site features are elements of a page that you can optimize based on analyzing user signals – but you need them all to be there if you want to make a streamlined UX and outrank your competition. Moz has put together a thorough discussion of on-site features and on-site ranking factors, including title tags, meta descriptions, h1s, image alt-tags, and more.
  2. Integrate Primary and Secondary Keyword Targets Effectively. Keywords are the bread and butter of a content campaign. There are a number of research methods to collect potential primary and secondary keywords for a page. This post assumes you have done the research and now want to implement the keywords through the content. Primary keywords should be included in the title, h1, throughout the contents of the page, and in the image alt tags. Secondary keywords – often clusters of long-tail keywords that people find through Google suggest – should be sprinkled throughout the content where it makes sense. Remember that keyword use is all about relevance and understanding user intent.
  3. Optimize for Search Intent. You should always ask the question: does this content appeal to my persona’s search intent? Don’t publish anything until you can say with confidence that your content offers a unique and valuable perspective on a specific topic that your target persona searches for. If you get this right from the beginning, you will have less to change in the conversion rate optimization stage, the testing and iterating of a page’s content that occurs after publishing. Also be sure to avoid thin content and/or duplicate page issues.

Technical + Content = Conversion Friendly

Publishing content that converts is getting harder as search real-estate is increasingly being taken up by Google’s experiments. By checking off all these tasks in your content generation plans, SEO services companies are putting their customers in the best position to outrank competitors and drive targeted traffic in 2019.

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Why Organic Conversion Is Getting Harder and What You Can Do About It

Google has been making it harder to convert in organic search. In recent years, the search giant has been crowding out SERP real estate with a wide assortment of new SERP features to better match search intent.

The ten blue links that marketers used to rely on have been shrinking, with no end in sight. Rank Ranger has put together a helpful tracking tool to visualize how extensive these new features are in SERPs today.

According to data from Jan 2nd,

  • The average number of sites on the first page is 8.212
  • Ads appear in 64.94% of SERPS
  • Videos appear in 17.33 of SERPS
  • Local Packs appear in 43.23% of SERPS
  • Featured Snippets are surfaced 5.9% in SERPS
  • Related Question appear in 30.47% of SERPS

With the added SERP features introduced by Google, it is even harder to rank in the coveted top 5. Many pages that used to sneak into the top 5 are now being pushed down to page 2 because of the new features. Despite these challenges, companies in Long Beach, CA should know that online business reputation management companies have proven techniques to access these emerging traffic sources.

What are the new SERP features and what can you do about them?

SEO platforms have adapted quickly to the rise of new SERP features. They will indicate which SERPS have new features, which helps you plan content around it. Optimizing your content is, of course, the solution. Here are some ideas to help you optimize for new SERP features:

  • Local Packs. Local packs are business locations in the vicinity that Google surfaces in response to a query. As local packs include store hours and other information (like reviews and a business description), these constitute very direct queries from searchers looking to buy right away. Given that over 40% of searchers surface local packs, they represent valuable real estate. To land in local packs, a business needs to have consistent NAP (name, address, phone number) information across all platforms, including off-site locations like local business directories. The other push needs to be in mobile-responsiveness ratings. Rendering of a site needs to be quick in order for Google to surface it in place of competitors.
  • Related Questions. Related questions appear at different spots in the SERP – at the top, the middle, or the bottom. Although they do push other sites off the first page, they also represent a potential ranking opportunity of their own. You can collect the most common related questions that surface for one of your target keywords and write content to optimize for the related question. You can repeat this process for other keywords until you have supporting material for follow-up, or related questions, that people query.
  • Videos. Google will surface videos when it makes the most sense – and it’s making more and more sense these days. Searchers like to have options when learning about a new topic, and video is the best alternative to text. The solution for businesses is, of course, to create videos and get into Youtube SEO.

Find the Best Avenues to Optimize

Click through rates might be declining on a meta scale, but that does not spell the impending death of SEO. There are still many avenues to optimize for, and new ones will emerge in the future. Executing on strategies around featured snippets, local packs, or videos is pretty much the only way to find placement in the ever-crowded SERP landscape.

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5 Tips for Driving CRO on Mobile

It’s no secret that mobile is the most popular search platform today. Customers now expect a frictionless, even touchless mobile experience, which is why Google recently shifted from a desktop to a mobile-first index. The upshot for Long Beach, CA-area business owners is that they must be agile and adapt their digital marketing approach by employing professional SEO services companies who have tried-and-true mobile optimization solutions.

Professional SEO companies with mobile solutions are actually still the exception to the rule. Data shows that conversion rates on mobile are far lower than desktop. And while there are tons of tips and tricks to help you optimize for desktop sites, these are not helpful for mobile optimization. Although the general strategy for CRO is the same across platforms – to offer the most seamless user experience as possible – implementation is not the same.

Mobile searchers face more distractions, have less time, and are often looking for a location “near me” (i.e., performing local searches) in comparison to desktop audiences. From the perspective of CRO, it can get quite complicated when you consider that a person who finds no friction when browsing your site on a desktop may find friction on mobile. Uniformity across platforms is certainly needed – but that’s only a starting point.

SEOs need to have a unique set of tests and posting methodologies for mobile, and here are five tips to set your mobile strategy in the right direction for 2019.

  1. Adjust to Different Keyword Queries. As alluded to above, the types of queries from mobile search often entail different searcher intent. Mobile searchers are more likely to ask location-based questions or queries with a specific date or fact-based answer. The rise of local packs and the answer box is Google’s response to mobile search, offering up bite-sized answers in the SERP so that searchers don’t have to click-through (which can be annoying on mobile). The challenge is adjusting keyword strategy to reflect this world of semantic, on-the-fly searching.
  2. Make All Your CTAs Tapable. Once mobile visitors are on your site, it needs to be incredibly easy for them to navigate across pages. If page layout is chunky or CTAs are not tapable, you will probably see high exit numbers on the page.
  3. Test Location Based Content. One of the tried and true conversion strategies in local SEO is creating pages or site content directed squarely on local search trends. What are people in your area searching for? What unique content can you put up to answer their queries better than your local competitors?
  4. A/B Test Everything. As with all things CRO, you can never sit on your laurels. It’s important to always test new versions of pages to see if there are better ways to display information to your mobile audience. If you are not running A/B tests, then you are not really learning from your audience. And when you are not learning about your audience, you are regressing.
  5. Identify Exit Pages and Explore Solutions. Part of the imperative to A/B test all the time is that you want to find ways to limit exit percentages on core pages. Why are mobile searchers leaving your product page – the very page you set up to make a sale? Is it because you have too much content for average mobile readers? Exploring solutions takes you back into the flywheel of CRO: the constant testing, measuring, learning, and optimizing process that must be unique to the mobile experience and ensures you patch leaks in your conversion funnel before they expand.

Mobile-First Everything

SEOs that are still focused on desktop testing and formatting are probably ignoring the interests of their current customer base and missing out on tons of additional traffic. While the CRO strategy is the same across platforms, testing and measuring practices must be unique to each platform, mobile included.

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Understanding User Signals to Master CRO

The most important thing every marketer needs to know in order to master conversion rate optimization is the implicit assumptions and desires—or user signals, to use the proper marketing term—of their target audience.

User signals are essentially any action taken by a visitor on a site; when looked at over time, an SEO can extrapolate key findings about what their target audience likes on the site, what needs to be optimized, and what can be done away with. Managing the push and pull of what should be on the website is at the core of effective conversion rate optimization.

User signals like bounce rate and click through rate are primary determinants of your site’s effectiveness at serving your customers. They are also used as a proxy by Google for your site’s relevance for specific keywords, which means sites that are optimized for search behavior are likely to rank higher.

But how do you set up an analytics and measurement system to ensure you are converting in the right places in the right ways?

Mastering CRO is only possible if you know how to measure user signals and iterate based on key findings. SEO companies in Long Beach, CA have the analytical acumen required to pull insightful data from user signals. Here are some tips!

How to Identify User Signals that Matter to Your Site

In order to become a master, you need to:

  1. Identify User Signals that Matter to Your Site
  2. Test, Measure, Learn

Let’s look at each of these more closely.

Every site serves a purpose. Furthermore, every page on every site should be architected to support or encourage visitors towards taking an action that supports the overall purpose of the site.

While this might sound like “sales-y” jargon that only makes sense for e-commerce merchants, the proper architecture of a site—in which site navigation is straight-forward – has always been a core recommendation from Google in their Webmaster Guidelines. The principle of smooth site navigation applies to every website, and in order to achieve optimal levels of frictionless viewing, SEOs need to have a desired purpose behind every page they create.

The first step in identifying user signals that matter is understanding what your objectives are for each page. Common conversion goals look like this:

  • I want x % of new visitors to download a free white paper from a pop-up notification

This objective makes sense for a business looking to use quality marketing collateral (a white paper) to generate leads from organic search.

  • I want x % of returning visitors to fill out a quick survey

This objective makes sense for a business looking to gather more insight into their personas.

  • I want x % of new or returning page visitors to follow a CTA link to a service page

This objective makes sense for articles or landing pages geared towards qualified leads or late stage buyers.

Keep in mind that the goals you set should be enduring, while the content of the pages should change regularly as you try to optimize for what the user signals are telling you.

Test, Measure, Learn

Once you establish objectives for each page, you can turn them into goals in Google Analytics and begin tracking user behavior against them. It is in this analytical and iterative process that the true expertise of an SEO comes to the fore.

Start by looking into Google Analytics → Behavior → Behavior Flow → Landing Pages to see how your audience navigates through your site. Take note of where the drop off ratio exceeds through traffic, and presto, you have evidence of friction on the site that can be fixed.

Collect as many of these ineffective pages and begin studying why there are not working. What content changes can be made? Is the layout not smooth? Are there too many steps between the landing page and conversion goal you have set? These are common hypotheses that need to be tested and measured through A/B and multivariate testing until the best mix of site attributes is found—attributes that bring the highest conversion rates for your overall page goals.

CRO Is A Repetitive Process

Conversion rate optimization is the process of continually refining how well you know your target audience. Companies that do it best, by employing the best local SEO services firms in Long Beach, CA, will reap the monetary rewards.

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Why SEO Is a Better Investment than PPC

SEO and PPC are often compared by business owners looking for the most effective SEO solutions in Long Beach, CA. One of the most common refrains is that they are both worth pursuing because they serve different ends: PPC is ideal for getting lots of fast traffic through the door while SEO takes a while to grow but brings excellent brand reputation and conversion rates over the mid- to long-term. The assumption, then, is to pursue both at the same time.

But what if that’s not possible? What if your marketing budget does not allow for spending in both traffic-generating funnels? If this describes your situation, then you need to go with the approach that drives the most qualified leads at the most affordable price over time. And that approach is SEO. Here are two reasons why SEO continues to be the most cost-effective way to bring in leads and grow a sustainable marketing funnel.

Reason #1: SEO Brings Better ROI

SEO is all about publishing valuable content that gets clicks from highly targeted searchers for free. It is the most affordable inbound marketing strategy by a long shot because you are not paying to bring in traffic on a 1:1 basis as you do with paid search. Paid search is kind of a vicious cycle because the incentive is always there to pay more to get more traffic. Only companies with big budgets are able to drive strong conversion rates because they can afford the top ad placements. There is also no guarantee that traffic will convert to leads and eventually customers. Conversion rates are usually quite low with paid search—and, of course, when you stop paying for ad placements the clicks dry up.

With SEO, you are investing in a site full of quality content that is targeted to searcher intent and designed to turn an interested searcher into a qualified lead. Since searchers tend to return 3 or 4 times before converting on a desired action, you want to invest in content (and conversion optimization) that will keep them coming back to your site and spending quality time on there. You can push down cost of customer acquisition while simultaneously extending customer lifetime value by continually improving your on-site conversion metrics. Optimizing for these metrics by publishing evergreen content is, in a nutshell, why SEO tends to bring better ROI than PPC.

Reason #2: Traffic is Higher Quality

The buyer’s journey is broken down into three stages: awareness, consideration, and decision. You have to assume that all your traffic is made up of searchers at different micro-stages of this journey. The question then becomes: How do you create content that answers the core questions your target audience is asking at each stage? How do position your brand to be a valuable resource to guide searchers through their micro-journeys? In the paid search approach, limitations in budget and word count mean you never get a full grasp of your searchers’ intent. While you can carve out precise geo-location targeting and harness traffic from strategic keywords for searchers in the decision stage, you are hard-pressed to reach searchers in the awareness of the consideration stage; often these are impressionable people performing general knowledge searches. Targeting these early-stage buyers is much easier through content marketing endeavors. With content marketing, you are free to produce thought-leadership material that is appealing to buyers in the awareness stage before they even want to buy anything. The simultaneous boost in traffic and brand sentiment is powerful and enduring – and leads to higher quality traffic over time.

Leverage Knowledge, Not Profits

With paid search, you are always going to be operating with very thin profit margins. Your ad spend will move in parallel motion with your traffic, which is a dangerous cycle if your customer retention rate begins to slip. With SEO, the benefits outweigh the costs overtime. Business owners in Long Beach, CA should know that, through search engine optimization services, they can leverage knowledge and make their industry expertise a competitive advantage!

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The 3 Step Process to Landing Answer Boxes

The Answer Box might just be the most lucrative organic search asset you are not optimizing for. But it also might not be for lack of trying.

The answer box, or featured snippet as it is referred to by Google, has been around for a number of years now and continues to pose a considerable challenge for businesses looking to create appealing content that serves searcher intent so well they do not even need to click through.

What is definitely not up for debate is the marketing value landing in the coveted position “0” can bring – especially for lower-ranking pages that can zoom to the top with only a little bit of optimization tweaking. Although conventional conversion metrics like click-through rate are not always the goal here—benefits tend to be more diffuse—by landing an answer box you can:

Now that the benefits are made clear, it’s time to look at some strategies that online reputation management companies in Long Beach, CA use to land answer boxes for their clients.

Step 1: Find the Opportunities

The research stage must always begin with collecting keywords and phrases that actually show featured snippets in the SERP. Most of the SEO platforms these days have a featured snippet tracker to make this easy for you.

Research what types of questions your personas are searching for and what sort of unique content you can spin up in response. Also, research your competitor’s domains to see if there is an opportunity to outdo them. Getting concrete answers to these questions is absolutely crucial for success because focusing on the wrong terms or misjudging the intent will greatly limit the effectiveness of your work.

The goal here is to collect keywords that you already rank for (in the 5-20 range) that could, with a little bit of content optimization, land an answer box.

Step 2: Pick the Low-Hanging Fruit

The next step is about acting on the key findings in the research stage. Identify the terms you already rank for and start thinking hard about how you can optimize the content to land an answer box.

There are some common formatting features that Google tends to prefer – namely, questions or graphs/charts. Scan through your current batch of content and see how you can change the formatting to optimize in one (or both) of these ways. It can sometimes be as simple as taking blocks of text and breaking it down into a question and answer format. In other situations, you might want to go out and do some additional research on data trends and add it to a core page as a chart. These little changes require much less work than creating content from scratch – but that’s not to say you should ignore featured snippet optimization when creating new content.

Step 3: Optimize and Repeat

Once you have a system in place for researching keywords and implementing the right format to match searcher intent, all you need to do is execute, learn, adjust, and repeat. This cyclical process works for new keywords and fresh content as well!

Make Answer Boxes A Competitive Advantage

The answer box is a competitive advantage that steals clicks away from your competitors, allows you to optimize brand exposure on a budget, and can even increase click-through rates on existing pages. Following this three-stage optimization process should help you experience some of these benefits and start to build a feedback loop where visitors come to you for answers and then return to buy.

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Why Regular Keyword Audits Are Crucial to Writing Copy that Converts

All marketing efforts should be built around keyword optimization. And yet keyword audits—the process of analyzing and reporting on keyword performance over time—are often overlooked or done wrong by keen marketers looking for results who don’t know exactly where to look. In fact, audits are often the first step an SEO consultant in Long Beach, CA will take when assessing digital performance, looking with acute focus at what is driving conversions versus what is driving people away from a site.

What is a keyword audit?

A keyword audit is a comprehensive overview of how your keywords performed over a given period based on a granular level analysis of conversion metrics. As Wells Yu points out, audits are meant to help you “assess whether your existing campaigns are doing well for the original set of terms you optimized for.”

From Audits to Performance

Marketing is a data-driven endeavor that can run like a fine-tuned engine if you know how to uncover actional data. By actionable data we mean the kind of numbers that side-step vanity metrics and look with fine granularity at what keywords are driving conversions, which are underperforming, and what can be done about both. It’s tiring to be at the top, and even keywords that are performing well this month could easily be superseded by a competitor that is hungry to find ways to outdo you with better copy.

The question is: what can be done when your copy is not converting as planned? Should you pivot your target keywords or persevere with the ones you have? The answer is almost always to persevere by improving your reporting practices and add or subtract new keywords based on performance data. The most astute marketers are constantly checking in to test the validity and accuracy of their content work, and when it comes to written content, the best way to do this in a concise way is through a keyword audit.

Keyword audits give SEOs and content marketers the ability to:

  1. Isolate and discard underperforming keywords. Are you using a group of keywords that is simply not reaching your target personas and pulling in a bunch of vanity metrics? Maybe you were too ambitious and chose keywords with extreme difficulty that are crowded out by huge industry players. This happens to the best of us and the only way to mitigate the wasted money and energy is to perform a keyword audit to see what keywords are dead weights. Discarding dead-weight keywords also makes room to pick better keywords for your current state—whether that’s focusing on a different topic altogether or sticking with the same content pillar but choosing longer tail keywords.
  2. Understand personas better. Certain keywords will resonate better with your personas than you thought. SEO specialists in Long Beach, CA are experts at figuring out which keywords convert the best and then doubling down on them to help them rank #1. There is no better way to pull key takeaways about your persona’s search intent than through a keyword audit. As you pull together more content pillars, you can flesh them out with related content clusters that you know will be of interest.
  3. Grow sustainable traffic. Organic traffic comes slowly over time. The benefits are mostly felt if you use the same keywords in your content for core pages and study how best to optimize them over time. You can learn how to best optimize them through keyword audits. Sure, your secondary keywords might change once in a while, but your target keywords should remain the same for an extended period. Although having patience can be difficult, it is far better than pivoting keyword usage sporadically because you’re not happy with the results. That is confusing to searchers and search engines alike.

Keyword Audits Bring Clarity and Precision to Your Copy

Content marketers and SEOs looking to write impactful copy should be analysts of their own work. A keyword audit brings clarity and precision to copy more than any other research or reporting tool can. Since core target keywords are an investment in the mid- to long-term, and copy is always being added to the site, you want to have a roadmap for the next 6-12 months based on analysis, not intuition.

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The Secret Sauce: How to Use Keywords to Drive Conversion Rate

An SEO strategy is always going to have a lot of ingredients. If you focus all your efforts on link outreach, for example, your results will suffer.

In addition to linking, there is answer box targeting, local packs, on-page optimization monitoring, content marketing ideation, creation, and publishing. An SEO services company in Long Beach, CA will mix these entities with care in order to get some flavor (i.e., conversions!) for your site, and the core ingredient to start with is always keyword research.

Keyword choice is like onions in a soup. It is the foundational flavor that you always start with and that binds all the other flavors together. A soup cannot be great without onions, and your SEO strategy will not see great conversion without well-researched keywords that bind together the content you publish across platforms to boost traffic and get conversions rolling in.

Mapping Keywords to Conversion Goals

Assuming you have already chosen target and secondary keywords to rank for, you might be wondering whether they have crafted a secret sauce on their own. Take a look at your conversion rates for an answer.

In order to put your keywords to good use, you need to have tangible goals for what you aim to achieve with them. That means picking keywords that make sense for the overall goal of the SEO campaign.

There are usually two types of overall goals with traffic generation for an SEO campaign. The first is to use organic search to boost brand awareness. This type of campaign is common for new companies looking to establish themselves, focusing less on targeting key personas and more on getting traffic to the home page. Conversion metrics to look at for this type of SEO campaign are:

  • time on page
  • % of new visitors
  • # of pages per session

If boosting brand awareness is the focus of your SEO campaign, then you should try to rank for the branded terms you have set up for the core pages of your site—the home page or the service/products pages. In order to rank for these keywords, you will need to study competition in the SERP and optimize on-page content on a regular basis.

The second overall goal with an SEO campaign is to rank for a specific range of relevant keywords that your target persona is searching for. These keyword campaigns are common for established brands who have built up some solid domain authority and are now looking to connect with informed searchers who are already late in the buying cycle.

Uncovering the best keywords requires in-depth research for terms that relate to your product offering, appeal to searcher intent, and have an optimal mix of traffic vs difficulty to rank. There are some excellent guides out there to help you perform excellent keyword research.

These keywords then form the backbone of your content marketing plan and link building strategy. Conversion metrics to look for in this type of SEO campaign are:

  • Organic traffic for strategic landing page
  • % of referral traffic
  • Exit pages

In tracking these metrics over a 6-month stretch, it’s important to note when keywords are not performing as planned and adjust. Keyword usage, like all SEO, is an iterative process that requires constant tweaking to be successful. It might be the case that a target page you created was pulling in great organic traffic for 3 months, but then all of a sudden it dropped off the ranking. Rather than move to another keyword, the most effective approach is to refresh the page with new content to revive its status on page 1. This is just one of the many ways you can use keywords to drive conversions consistently over time.

Focus on Keywords and Rankings Will Come

An astute focus on keywords over time will get you in great ranking positions. While conversion in SEO is always dependent on the overall goals of the campaign, there is no doubt that refined keyword research and implementation is the key ingredient in the secret sauce of a campaign that brings results.

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Stop the madness – Understanding Google’s Algorithm

The everlasting mystery of the internet, the Google algorithm. Ok, maybe it isn’t a complete mystery. We have a pretty good idea of how it works conceptually, the details are just a little bit hazy. It is easy enough to understand the process, the criteria, and the philosophy behind it. Exactly how they are all combined, and in what ratios, is somewhat tougher.

Crawling
All search engines use tools known as “crawlers” to go through all the web pages on the internet and analyze them for content. These automated bots strip information out of html text and prepare it for indexing.

Indexing
This is where all the data that has been viewed by the crawlers is stored. When you initiate a search, it is this database they use to look for relevant information. As you might expect, going through this meticulously organized index is much faster than scanning billions of web pages each time a search query is entered.

The Algorithms
These are the programs that determine which results to show and where to rank them. Google uses a variety that apply depending on the type of search. There are several things these programs do in an attempt to provide the best results:

Analyze the words
They use language code to look beyond the exact words that are used and estimate what the user actually means, in case the wording isn’t clear or ideal. This will take care of typos and try to narrow down words with multiple meanings. This is also why you see the “Did you mean…?” text.

Match the search
At this point, the algorithms are comparing your search terms to the information on web pages in their index. They are looking for volume of keyword occurrences and apparent relevance.

Page ranking
The competition starts here. For most searches, there are millions of sites with related information, so it is Google’s job to rank these pages as accurately as possible to meet the desires of the user. In addition to keyword volume, they will also measure the age of the content, the user experience of the site, and its popularity among previous searches.

Context
This is information that is specific to the user. Past search history, location, and search parameters are three of the main criteria they use to provide the best results for each individual.

Best Results
Before spitting out the results, the algorithms do one more pass to evaluate the quality of the results as a whole, in an attempt to provide a diverse, comprehensive set of options for the user to choose from.

Therefore, while details and emphasis change from time to time (i.e. mobile-first indexing), the overall method remains the same, which means the basics of SEO continue to be quality content, effective keywords, and easily navigable sites.

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2018 Google’s Algorithm Changes and Optimization Strategies

Optimizing for the New SERP Features

Google has gone and given itself a serious overhaul for 2018, and most are still wondering exactly how these changes will affect their business and its page ranking. SERP, or Search Engine Results Page, features refer to all the different formats Google now uses to return search results. Although the majority of these features will only apply to first page results, those with realistic aspirations of getting there need to understand how to optimize for them. Two of the most common features are “Top Stories” and “Ads”, but since the first is normally reserved for large news outlets and the latter is mostly decided by how much you pay, we’ll focus on the other main features.

Local Packs

These occur when the user searches for something for which multiple options can be provided within their geographic area.

Optimizing for this feature requires detailed location data on your site and profiles, plenty of user reviews on sites like Yelp, specific schema markups, and accurate information on Google My Business.

Site Links

This is when Google displays a full set of more specific links to pages within your site in addition to your home page. Achieving this feature puts your site in a commanding position, as it not only dominates the page but also makes it easy for the user to click directly to the page they want.

To optimize for a spot in site links your site must have a very organized, easily navigated structure with unique content on each relevant page. Internal links, keyword metadata, and submitting a site structure to Google Search Console will all increase your chances as well.

Related Questions

These come up when the algorithm isn’t entirely convinced you are asking for exactly what you want to know or they simply want to provide you with options. Either way, this is good for the user as they receive ideas to further improve their search, and it can be good for websites that provide a lot of related content that could be useful.

Search engine optimization strategies for the related questions section include using similar keywords, subtle variations in wording, thorough content, and even including actual questions in your content (i.e. FAQ).

Featured Snippets

This useful feature involves providing another level of information about a site beyond simply a link and description. There are a variety of formats in which these appear—answer boxes, paragraphs, lists, charts, tables—and they tend to match the search very closely and are usually the top choice.

The best ways to earn featured snippets are to directly answer the question that is being asked, to provide extremely relevant and related results, and to offer it in the format most users are looking to find, in this case, a ranked list.

In all likelihood, it is impossible to optimize your site to match all the new SERP features, so choosing a couple of the most likely fits and focusing on them is usually the best strategy.

If you found this helpful, please feel free to share this article with your network.

7 Tips to Keep You on the First Search Page

It’s no secret that the drop-off in traffic from Google page one search results to page two is disproportionately large. In this day and age of instant gratification, people seem to feel as though they simply don’t have time to search beyond page one. Obviously, that isn’t literally true, but it doesn’t change the fact that optimizing your site to appear on the first page can reap tremendous benefits for your business. Here are some tips to help keep your Google ranking as high as possible:

Relevance
The primary goal of any search is to track down relevant information. Which means your ranking is going to be extremely dependent on how closely your content matches the search criteria. Once you have determined the specific searches you want to target, make sure all your content applies to that area.

Quality
Google is now doing a much better job of evaluating content as opposed to simply counting keywords. If your content is consistently informative, well-written, and entertaining your chances of a top ranking go up accordingly.

Quantity
While excellent content is non-negotiable, the fact remains that in most industries there are many businesses providing high-quality information. Therefore, good content will get you into this group, then producing the most content possible will help set you apart within the group.

Common Questions
Providing relatively direct answers to very specific questions is one of the best ways to get your site to appear in a featured snippet in position zero. Work out the question, or questions, that are most likely to be asked by your ideal customer then strive to provide a comprehensive and accurate answer.

Long-Tail Keywords
There is far too much competition out there to realistically achieve high rankings on common one-word searches. Similar to targeting exact questions, you will want to focus on long-tail keywords, which are longer, more specific keyword phrases that narrow the target group.

Spend
It may not be your first choice but one of the most straightforward ways to get yourself on page one is to simply bid high enough on Google AdWords. The feasibility of this plan will depend on the details of the topic and product, but usually, enough money can get it done.

Guest Posting
Not only do guest posts provide great exposure to new audiences and help to establish you as a thought leader in the industry, but they are also a terrific source of backlinks which are a big help to your ranking.

The complete list of SEO techniques for maximizing your Google ranking is continually evolving, but if you follow these key strategies you will develop a strong platform to work from.

If you found this helpful, please feel free to share this article with your network.

5 steps to becoming a thought leader

 

If you’ve decided that your next career aspiration is to become a thought leader, that’s definitely a great decision. As an individual who drives innovation, ideas and industry experience, the path to thought leadership should be an easy one to attain – if you know the right steps.

  1. Create a strategy

Decide what your main purpose is in becoming a thought leader or having thought leadership within your organization. While monetization could be the ultimate goal, consider what other goals you’d like to see attained. Once you know what these are, you can create a strategy for content, networking and marketing.

  1. Establish your personal brand

As an individual thought leader, you need to create a brand for yourself. First, define your target audience and then decide who you will be for your audience. While authenticity is one of the best ways to succeed and have continued success as a thought leader, having a consistent image that resonates with your audience is going to be the best way to pull off an authentic personal brand. Your personal brand is your reputation and if you have a good one up until now, continue to grow it. Building your personal brand will also involve creating content and building up your online assets, which we talk about below.

  1. Work with other influencers

The best thought leaders are always educating themselves on the industry, on other thought leaders and on just the world in general. If you have access to mentors or influencers, take full advantage of this and reach out to them for advice. Subscribe to their blogs and social media accounts and learn everything you can as you try and build your own reputation and knowledge base. Keep abreast of studies and happenings in your industry, again by subscribing to relevant content and making time each week to read it and understand it. Be sure to comment on your mentor’s work regularly on their social accounts, as this will help you to get your name out there.

  1. Create valuable content for your audience

One of the most important steps on the journey to thought leadership is to create valuable content. You should be publishing this content regularly to a blog you created, as well as sharing it in as many places as possible. If your ideas and thoughts resonate with your audience, they’ll share them too and you’ll begin to build up a good subscriber base. Reach out to others in the industry and see if you can publish on their blogs as well, driving their readers to your space. If your knowledge is great, but your writing skills aren’t, consider hiring a ghost writer who can succinctly develop your ideas on paper. This can make a huge difference in how your content is received, as readability is very important.

  1. Network every chance you get

Move outside of your circle and introduce yourself to people with which you wouldn’t normally interact. Take every opportunity to be present at speaking events, conferences and other networking events, where you can really make an impact on getting your personal brand recognized. With more people in your network, your work will be shared more frequently and your authority will increase. This often happens exponentially, so put in the man-hours and do the work to show your face and speak your mind. Networking doesn’t just have to happen in person anymore either – there is quite a bit more you can do online these days to develop contacts and reach out to potential leads and subscribers.

If you found this article interesting, you may also find the other articles I’ve recently posted about Thought Leadership of interest.  Please feel free to share these articles with your network.

Creating a thought leadership strategy that drives results

For many organizations, establishing thought leadership within the business is a top priority. While your individual goals may vary, the basic purpose of creating thought leadership and its incumbent assets is to differentiate yourself from the competition, to gain the trust of your audience, to gain leads and eventually, to monetize what you’ve done. Anyone can create thought leadership content and other assets, but can they drive results? Here is your quick guide to creating thought leadership that helps you meet your ultimate goals.

Strategize

Going into anything without a strategy is a poor idea and the same goes for your quest to become a thought leader. Align your thought leadership strategy with the growth strategy of your organization. This should include how you position your brand, how you communicate and should integrate the sales process and sales goals. In order to see results, your efforts need to parallel the efforts of the rest of your organization.

Your focus should always be quality over quantity, but should be consistent and continual. Think one month, six months and one year ahead when developing your strategy and decide where you’d like to be and how you’d like to be there. What results would you like to see? Be realistic in recognizing that becoming a thought leader doesn’t happen overnight, but that your consistent effort will help to keep your goals moving forward and drive results.

Create content

Content is king when it comes to thought leadership. Not only will you want to deliver new ideas to your audience in order to gain leads, you want to provide them with relevant advice and solutions that will help solidify their trust. A trusting audience is one that is buying your products. Thought leadership assets can also be all-encompassing and create a system of education for your own team, allowing them to be more effective and easily recognize the goals and innovations of the company. They will then go into the sales process more prepared and better able to close a sale.

Establish a consistent publishing process for all of your thought leadership work. As an organization, you will want to put one person or one team in charge of the documentation process for your thought leadership assets. This person should have valid experience in creating and publishing your assets and furthering your organization’s goals. You may also want to get professional help from organizations that provide thought leadership advice, so that you can ensure you are on the right track. Keeping up with the content needs of your organization may be somewhat difficult if writing is not in the skill-set of your team. Hiring a ghost writer is a good solution for ensuring you stay on track with your goals and for having your thoughts expressed in a thoughtful and engaging way.

Multi-channel delivery

Aligning with your organization’s strategies, ensure that all of your thought leadership content is shared, using a multi-channel delivery system. You don’t want to just publish on platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook, you also want to share this content with email subscribers and on your other media and sales channels. Getting your content out to the largest and most-relevant audience is the best way to drive results and monetize your goals.

If you found this article interesting, you may also find the other articles I’ve recently posted about Thought Leadership of interest.  Please feel free to share these articles with your network.

What inspires you?

As many of you know, I have made it my mission to help people better understand what it takes to become a “thought leader”. One of the thought leaders that inspires me is Simon Sinek, a self-built thought leader whose motivational “Start With Why” axiom has enjoyed great celebrity. Not only does Simon Sinek motivate people towards success, he does so by telling us how other thought leaders inspire people to act.  Here’s a link to one of his recent youtube videos that I’ve summarized below. I’ll be curious to find out if any of his words of wisdom inspire you. Let me know ([email protected]).

  1. Go after what you want, but don’t deny others access to it

One of the first general rules for any person is to go after what you want. Obviously, if you don’t try, you can’t achieve. But, for Sinek, this includes not getting in anyone else’s way. Achievement shouldn’t be focused on what you can take from others, but what you can achieve and bring to others.

  1. Interpret what you’re feeling differently

Sinek says the best athletes are the ones who’ve interpreted their feelings differently. Rather than see fear as an obstacle to a challenge, those who interpret that feeling as excitement, rather than fear are more apt to move ahead. By changing your interpretation of what your body and mind are feeling, you are essentially telling yourself to go at full speed, rather than be cautious and hold back. This doesn’t just work in the fear sense, but with other feelings that you’re having that may be holding you back.

  1. Take accountability for your actions

With great success comes great failure and by being accountable to this, you’ll make yourself an even better leader. Sinek believes in a balanced equation of taking credit and holding yourself accountable. Sometimes you are the problem and by recognizing this, you are truly on your way to success.

  1. Set your goals to beat only yourself

Finite players play to beat all of those around them. Infinite players play to beat only themselves. In order to be successful you only need to be playing the game to become a better version of who you were yesterday. Once you make yourself the competition, you are ensuring you can stay in the game longer and enjoy it more.

  1. Stack the deck

When you surround yourself with those who believe what you believe, you essentially stack the deck, Sinek says. Rather than work with people who put you last or even in the middle, work with the people who put you first. While the ones who put you first could be “bit players”, they will help you gain strength because they’ll support you and you’ll support them.

  1. Be the last to speak

One of the most important skills any successful leader can have is the ability to speak last. Many leaders employ the tactic of stating facts and then listening to arguments. By letting others speak first, you are doing two things: 1) allowing everyone to feel like they have contributed and 2) lets you make an informed opinion after hearing what others have to say.

  1. Be authentic

The things you say and do matter and it makes you who you are. If you aren’t being honest about who you are, by coveting a look or a vision that is someone else’s, it will show. Many people and organizations tell people what they want to hear, rather than speak what they believe. The unfortunate side effect of this is that when you get found out, you get branded as a liar. If you put something out there that is truly authentic, you will attract others who share your beliefs. Sinek says that once people give themselves up, strange things start to happen.

  1. Feel passionate

To Sinek, passion is not an actionable word, it is a feeling. You feel passion when you are engaged in something you love – something you love so much that you’d do it for free if you weren’t already paid for it. Your career should always follow what you feel passionate about because it is one of the best ways to realize success.

  1. Communicate from the inside out

The main tenet from the Start With Why movement, thinking from the inside out consists of thinking about why you are doing something before thinking about how and what. You want people to believe in you because you’ve got a reason for why you are doing something. Apple computers is a great example of a company that thinks from the inside out. They believe in thinking differently and attract those that feel the same. From there they create innovative and beautiful products (the how) and make great computers (the what). Rather than figuring out how to make great computers, they’ve figured out why they do what they do and then create the what (the great computers).

  1. Follow your beliefs

Sinek believes Martin Luther King Jr. started with why and took his “dreams” to make a cause and inspired others to follow him. Because he followed his beliefs, he attracted others with the same beliefs and made something big out of it. Follow your beliefs and the rest will come.

What you need to learn to stay on top as a thought leader

Becoming a thought leader isn’t an easy task. It takes a superior amount of knowledge and a solid effort of consistently presenting your voice to your audience, whether that is through weekly blog articles or appearances at networking events. Once you’ve made your way up and have a large following, your next challenge is how to stay on top and keep your audience listening. One of the most important characteristics of a thought leader is the ability to always be learning. So, what do you need to learn to stay in the thought leadership game?

The latest research in your field

Sure, you’ve got a wealth of knowledge in your speciality and your audience has been very keen to hear about it, but if you don’t keep up with the latest, you’ll be cast aside like yesterday’s dinner. It is very important for thought leaders to keep up on the latest research and news in their field. Even better, when publishing new posts on your blog or social platforms, try to incorporate any real-time news on subjects that concern your audience. Your credibility will only go up when your audience hears the latest news from you, even before it hits general news sources.

What your audience wants

Just because you’ve already got the proverbial bull by the horns and have a massive following, doesn’t mean you should forget about what it is they want. The best way to stay in any relationship is to communicate and grow, based on the other’s needs. Keep your mind open to what you audience wants and needs and change your perspective accordingly. Using metrics to see if your numbers are growing, stagnating, or worse, declining, will help you easily realize if you aren’t giving the audience value.

What others have to say

When you were making your way up the ladder as a thought leader, you were probably looking up towards others who were already considered thought leaders or influencers. You wanted to emulate their style somewhat and basically do what they did in order to gain the status that they had. As you became a thought leader yourself, you may have stopped looking to others for advice and mentorship. That is a big mistake. No one person is large enough that they can’t learn from others, and as a thought leader who wants to keep being heard, you need to continue listening.

Humility

Some thought leaders who do all the right things and earn a sort of “celebrity” status may believe themselves to be invincible and develop a bit of an ego. After all, they’ve gained a large following and people look up to them. But, a little humility goes a long way towards keeping your initial voice intact. Rather than act like the all-important person that you may well be, the most successful leaders let their modest character and intelligence continue to take the center stage.

The best thought leaders are always learning and growing, as well as teaching and engaging.

If you found this article interesting, you may also find the other articles I’ve recently posted about Thought Leadership of interest.  Please feel free to share these articles with your network.

How to Establish your Credibility as a Thought Leader

One of the most important features that a person needs to be seen as a thought leader is credibility. Your audience needs to trust you and see that you’ve got integrity. Your innovative ideas won’t get heard if the audience doesn’t believe in them. Here’s how to establish your credibility as a thought leader.

Know your stuff

At the most basic level, a thought leader is someone who has superior competence on a subject – be it an industry, a product or a general topic. Thought leaders know so much about that specific topic that they could talk for hours, truthfully, about their thoughts on the topic. If someone were to ask a question, they wouldn’t need to do any research and their thoughts would purely come from the top of their head. Simply put, thought leaders know their stuff.

Make a solid effort

You’ve got the thoughts down pat, now you need to put the leadership into place. You do that with a solid effort to get your thoughts out there. Whether you are publishing articles on a blog and on social platforms or doing presentations and talks to other industry people, you need to do this often and well in order to earn the title of “thought leader”. When people see your face and hear your words over and over, they will come to trust that what you have to say is meaningful. If you don’t make the time to get yourself out there, you will easily be forgotten.

Be consistent

Your voice is one of the most important parts of your image as a thought leader. But, this voice needs to have a consistency to it in order to gain the trust of your audience. If your thoughts are “all over the place” (think: Donald Trump) your believability will crash and you will lose the belief of your followers. While it is always ok to change your mind, if your overall calls to action are not consistent, your audience will move on.

Actively listen and address your audience

A thought leader doesn’t just spout off their ideas – they actively listen and learn from their audience as well. They answer questions on social media and enthusiastically participate in discussions that others are having, in person and online. Even better, thought leaders show appreciation to their audience for their input and make it a large part of their strategy.

Don’t just self-promote

While one of the purposes of becoming a thought leader is to gain leads and build your brand in order to make a profit, being a thought leader shouldn’t all be about promoting yourself (or your products or companies). Rarely anyone wants to feel they are being sold to, so self-promotion can really alter your status as a thought leader. In order for your audience to trust you, they need to believe that you are giving them valuable information without expecting anything else in return. If you are taking the steps necessary to establish your credibility, your followers will believe in you and in turn, believe in your products and organization and you won’t need to do any promotion.

If you found this article interesting, you may also find the other articles I’ve recently posted about Thought Leadership of interest.  Please feel free to share these articles with your network.

4 Ways Thought Leadership Articles Differ From Content Marketing

Content marketing is an extremely effective way to build your business, increase sales and achieve the trust of your audience. Essentially, content marketing is a very strategic marketing approach where you deliver consistent and relevant content to a clearly-defined audience in return driving profitable customer actions. Most businesses from multi-billion dollar corporations all the way down to the sole proprietorship uses content marketing to build their brands and drive customer engagement.

Many believe that thought leadership articles are just another form of content marketing, but in reality, it is so much more. Yes, thought leaders provide informed opinions through published content that could be described as content marketing. And yes, many do realize the benefits of increased customer engagement and possible increased profit through their thought leadership content. But, thought leadership content holds quite a bit more value than content marketing.

Authenticity

With content marketing, there is so much information out there. As a reader, it is really difficult to cut through the muddle and find articles that are appropriate to you, provide value and are authentic. That’s where thought leadership content steps in. If you’ve already established yourself as a thought leader – someone with innovative ideas, unique perspectives and with superior knowledge of select topics – people want to hear what you have to say. This is because what you are saying is completely authentic – it wasn’t outsourced and relies on your own experiences and doesn’t just come through research or second-hand knowledge.

Crafted Ideas

Content marketing, as with most types of marketing, have set goals in place for factors like reach and engagement. The primary purpose of the written content is to reach that goal, regardless of how it may actually affect the content. On the other hand, thought leaders don’t write content with goals in mind. They write content based on the ideas they’ve crafted in their minds and basically, by being themselves in the process. Thought leaders focus on their message, not the medium or the outcome.

Gets Personal

Thought leaders don’t have a problem with getting personal and bringing their own experiences up in their content. By doing so, they credibly develop a trust with their audience, and readers see them as a fundamentally open book. While content marketing can be seen as a way to espouse certain values or beliefs, thought leadership is the value and the belief.

Learns from its Audience

A thought leader didn’t get to that status by sheer luck – they took the knowledge they learned along their journey and applied it to every facet of their life. With a growth mindset, thought leaders don’t just teach others, they listen and learn. When it comes to content marketing, insight into audience is limited to what can be done to get higher reach and engagement. With thought leadership, insight from the audience is always appreciated, well-received, and helps the thought leader develop and present better and brighter ideas.

Rather than think of thought leadership as content marketing at its finest, it should be considered to be in a category all on its own.

If you found this article interesting, you may also find the other articles I’ve recently posted about Thought Leadership of interest.  Please feel free to share these articles with your network.

What is a thought leader and why should you be one?

Just as there are different definitions for “success”, there are different ways to look at thought leadership. If you’ve never heard of the term “thought leader”, the basic terminology could be defined as someone who recognizes themselves as an expert or authority in a selected area of specialization and thus becomes the go-to person for information on that subject of specialization. To take this even further, a thought leader is also a person who profits from being labelled as such.

Many have dismissed the concept of thought leadership as a trendy buzzword. But, by looking at the actual goal of a thought leader, it is easy to recognize the value and substance of the concept and that it is a worthwhile goal to achieve for many in the corporate world.

What is the value of becoming a thought leader?

Taking the time to establish yourself as a thought leader is definitely a worthwhile endeavour. Being a person who an audience can trust to learn new information relevant to them in their industry, allows you to establish or enhance your relationship with this audience. Being that know-it-all in your field adds value, not only to your own career, but to their careers, as they learn and grow from your thought leadership. By becoming a thought leader, you not only differentiate yourself from your competition, you prove that your products and/or services are built on a solid knowledge base. Consider that if you own a “green” technology business and market it as so, but take it one step further by becoming a thought leader on the topic of environmentalism and green technology, it will add tremendous value to your customer base in a number of ways. They will understand that your “green” business truly practices what it preaches and it does so based on accurate, well-researched and real-time information.

Whether your audience is looking for information on the past, present, or even the future, when you establish yourself as a thought leader, your customers and potential customers are going to come to you to hear about what is going to happen next. Your insights will be respected and appreciated and this will definitely have a good effect on your bottom line.

How can you become a thought leader?

Deciding that you want to be a thought leader and having the ability to do so are two completely different things. Just as it took time to build your business, it will take time to establish your credibility as a thought leader. Using your knack for being able to engage people in conversations, combined with a very competent insight into your industry, you can build your thought leadership status in a number of ways. Using the tools accessible to you, writing articles, utilizing social media, giving speeches and attend networking events, will all fall under the guise of creating a reputation for yourself as a thought leader.

Even still, there is more to becoming a thought leader than writing blog posts and tweeting. Going above and beyond the simple act of explaining concepts and actually providing your audience with ideas and motivating them to connect and engage with those ideas are the true signs of a thought leader. By focusing on what you know best and what you care about will ensure your thoughts will be genuine and well-received.

As your thought leadership status grows, so too can your business and your profits, solidifying your status as a true thought leader.

If you found this article interesting, you may also find the other articles I’ve recently posted about Thought Leadership of interest.  Please feel free to share these articles with your network.

From Trade Magazines to B2B Pay-Per Action IT Lead Generation: The Ongoing (Re)Evolution

The world of B2B IT marketing used to be simpler and easier to understand. There were only a few choices for advertising and of these the most ubiquitous were:

  • Point of sale
  • Billboards
  • Trade publications and other print options
  • Broadcast
  • Trade shows
  • Direct mail

When it came to B2B IT marketing and display advertising, trade publications were the primary source of advertising prior to the proliferation of web-based marketing. Basically, an advertiser would pay for an advertisement in the publication with the goal of generating interest in the brand or product. They relied on the targeted content of the publication, as well as their loyal and often, well-vetted subscriber base. They knew exactly who they were marketing to and paid using a model of cost per impression. The impressions simply meant the number of people who received and/or read the publication and there were a number of factors that determined the cost per impression. Some of these included:

  • If the publication was free or paid
  • Position of the advertisement in the publication
  • Frequency of placement of the advertisement over time within the publication

While these forms of advertising are still in use, web-based lead generation marketing strategies have boomed and are the primary focus of most B2B IT marketing teams in 2017. Let’s discuss the evolution of IT lead generation from a trade-publication dominated industry.

Web-focused marketing

With a serious cost advantage, content producers started or moved online. Not only was cost a factor, but the barriers of entry into world of publishing content online are so low that anyone with even a start-up budget could be a web-based publisher. And, because of the inherent interactive nature of the web, advertisers could more effectively measure who interacted with the online content and accompanying advertisements. Marketers and publishers soon noticed the  definite shift from the print model where you were not really aware of who looked at your advertisement, only who had the publication in their grips.

A second evolution

When Google exploded onto the scene, they inevitably changed this world forever. With their pay-for-click advertising model, advertisers were thrilled to only be charged for those ads that a reader clicked on (and not the ones that were ignored). This model of pay-per-performance came out of the desire for advertisers to only want to pay for advertising  that actually showed tangible results. Brand advertising on the Internet really never developed. And, under this performance-based financial model, regardless of what those results were, this model allowed advertisers to decide on an engagement strategy and then be charged for the deliverance of the results based on this strategy. For example, if the marketing team was only concerned with their audience clicking on and downloading a white paper, they only paid for the times that this action was taken. If you do it correctly, you are essentially only paying for results and that is obviously  very attractive to  advertisers.

Changes for publishers

This new pay-for-performance B2B IT lead generation financial model gained popularity quickly. Nd, as publishers moved online and others started publishing B2B content online without ever having a print product, the traditional publishing model of monetization of the subscriber base broke down, because now, as a publisher you only got paid if those subscribers actually did something, not just for them being there. In this new model, the responsibility has shifted from the advertiser to produce engaging and attractive content and imagery to one where the publication has to pressure their audience to perform an action.

This has led to the proliferation of tactics by the online publishers to get their audience to take the action that they can be paid for. This meant that the  publications were calling, emailing and putting up roadblocks  everywhere in order to get the audience to perform the required action. Consequently, it has lead to a more and more disjointed audience, where subscribers are becoming disinterested and even angry. Response rates are dropping and the cost of maintaining a subscriber base is skyrocketing. This is a definite breakdown in the entire financial model,  resulting in what could only be described as more work by the publishers to produce leads of an ever lowering quality.

While this shift towards pay-for-action is dramatically different than the days of impression-based advertising, ultimately brand building online will become a more important part of the mix  as time passes. But ultimately, when it comes to IT B2B lead generation, those who are results-focused and have reasonable ROI expectations will be the winners. At TCI, we focus on the result—a better quality lead at a fair price and use many different techniques to assure a great result for our advertisers. One thing is for sure: peddling dead databases where subscribers have become disengaged and have other, better, choices, is no longer a good choice for advertisers.

To reach Peter Ostrow, contact him at [email protected].