2018 was quite the year. We were lucky to have more than a dozen great guests come on the first year of our “Content and Conversation” program.
With their participation came an assortment of content marketing tips that you can put to good use in 2019. We decided to curate the best of the best in a snackable recap video that should set you up for a even more successful 2019.
Hey, everybody. I hope you had a great 2018. I really want to say thank you to anyone who has watched any of our content this year. We had an amazing set of guests on our Content and Conversation series, and I felt it was appropriate and a good setup for 2019 to take the best tips from each of them, and bring them into a nice roundup video that you can all enjoy and take some actual steps on into the year ahead.
Please enjoy it and have a great year!
1. Train Your Writers to Understand Search Results
Matthew Brown, Content Strategy for Publishers: “So for organic search, if I bring up something, I’m like, “Okay, let’s look at all of the search results we can see about Nike.’ We’re covering Nike for example. You can literally generate just about any type of search result possible with different configurations of Nike- local results, news results, shopping results, depending on how you structure your content.
So if you can get a content creator or a writer to understand, if you’re covering a topic, here are all the SERPs that you should be able to compete on, and here are SERPs you should stay completely away from.
That will change how they view the topic that they’re writing about, maybe more so than if they’re trying to sift through data from a keyword tool or something that you show them how to do.
They understand the difference between Nike earnings report and, you know, all the different things that Google puts in for Top Stories, or Featured Snippet, or an Answer Box.
If they understand that, I feel like over time they instinctively learn how to frame the topic they’re writing about or an article to capture organic search, other than just, ‘I wrote it and I don’t rank.’
Its like, ‘Yeah, you wrote it because you have a Nike shopping result over here. That’s bad,’ or ‘You have one Featured Snippet that dominates the page.’
So I would almost spend an hour with the content team and literally just be like, ‘Let’s look at what Google is doing today and how it changes how you view a topic.'”
2. Run the Panda Survey
Tom Critchlow, Enterprise Content Marketing: “It’s like super old, but I still find it is incredibly effective, it’s the Panda survey. So I don’t know who remembers this, when the Panda update came out and the Google quality rater guidelines first got leaked, and there were 10 questions that Google asked the humans to basically validate search results.
And it was things like, you know, ‘Do you trust this website? Was it written by experts? Would pages from this website appear in print? Are there factual errors?’ There’s like 10 of them, I can’t remember all of them.
Even just the end of last year, I just ran one of these for a client, and you do it on a pretty small scale. The client had three websites and there was one main competitor. We ran 250 responses for these surveys and you generate a chart, a pretty graph.
And you say, you know, ‘Your competitor is 20% more trusted than you are.’ And you would be shocked at how much buy-in you can get from that, like presenting that to an executive, a team of executives, they just get it. They’re just like, ‘That is a real quantifiable gap in our business, a weakness, a brand weakness.’
Like, it’s one thing for us all to kind of say, ‘Yeah, we should like appear more trusted or upgrade the design of our site,’ and everyone kind of head-nods. But until you present a chart like that, you don’t get the buy-in and the budget, so it really creates action off the back of it.”
3. You Might Not Need Long Videos
Brian Dean, YouTube SEO: “The big thing about YouTube or any platform, you want to be the exception, not the rule. If everyone’s doing 3-minute videos, you do 18-minute videos, right? If everyone’s doing 18-minute videos, you do 3-minute videos.
Right now, everyone’s doing short videos, so longer videos can help. That said, that 18 minutes, for that to work, it needs to be really well done and really tight, moving really quickly.
So it’s the same thing with written content, right? Like, anyone could put out 4,000 words or 5,000 words. The hard part is making that something someone would actually want to read.
It’s the same thing with a video. It’s somewhat easy to make a long video, but it’s hard to keep people watching anything, keeping their attention for that long.”
4. Avoid Comparison Channels
Jonathan Dane, Content Marketing for Agencies: “The downside of PPC, especially on like Google Search, is that it’s a comparison engine.
So they come in, they request a proposal from us, they’re going to come in, they request a proposal from us, they’re going to go back to Google, they’re going to go back to the other three ads that are below us, or in between us, or whatever. And they’re going to request a proposal from that as well.
So if I could have unlimited amounts of resources, I would exhaust our thought leadership completely before I ever go into PPC, because now we’ve built a brand, we’ve built thought leadership, we’re building this content snowball, and it is really compounding and it’s getting bigger and bigger, as you obviously know.
And so after you do a regular blog, like, the next thing is video. The next thing is, “How can you do anything on social that’s more, you know, deeper or more thought-through and stuff like that too?”
So I’d rather do that, I’d rather do conferences. I’d rather build our own conference before I’d do our own PPC.”
5. Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
Britney Muller, In-House Content Marketing: “I would just say, do not reinvent the wheel. You know, there is so much great content out there. What is currently working and what’s not?
And just to sort of use this as an example, I think the video series that you’ve been working on has been so successful, and it’s such high production quality, and even the thumbnails impress me. Because I notice it’s what works on YouTube, right? It’s that red, and the black, and these bold letters, and it’s beautiful.
And the fact that, you know, you’re sort of doing the research on that, and I hope other people are, I think it should give way to just see what’s currently out there, see what’s working and what currently works for you. Right?
What’s already converting for you? How can you improve that old content and repurpose it? Why can’t you turn that into an audio, right? Why can’t you turn that into video and just sort of have fun with it and test it in your space?”
6. Do More Than Just Update the Date on Your Content
Cyrus Shepard, Google Ranking Factors: “The cheap and lowest quality of freshness is just putting a new date on the post, which a lot of people do and that might work like, you know, a smidge. Actually updating the content is obviously the most helpful, but what people need to consider is what they’re updating.
Are they updating, you know, links at the bottom, or are they updating content that’s more towards the top and front and center above the fold? Because that’s going to carry a lot of weight.
But the biggest thing I see people, sort of, not taking advantage of, and this is listed in Google Patents and I’ve seen it work myself on sites, is the cadence of freshness.
So, a lot of people just update their post once a year, or if it’s, you know, a major piece of content, you know, that’s all they’ll do, but if you’re updating your important pages every month, and set up a regular cadence, that is much more effective. And that sends a signal that you’re paying attention to this page all the time.”
7. Do Problem-Based Keyword Research
Kevin Indig, Startup Content Marketing: “We’re always starting with the answer basically, in keyword research, even though sometimes a keyword or a query could be a question, right? But we’re very answer focused or very destination and goal focused in the way that we then translate it to content.
But I feel like that there is a much, much better approach to start with the actual problem that people have, maybe even on the high level, like, ‘Oh, I’m wasting time,’ or, ‘This process doesn’t work smoothly in the company.’ Right?
Or in the article, I have this example of toothbrushes, or like the company that sells toothbrushes, right? And so for them, a problem could be bad breath, and then I think from there the jump to toothbrush is not always super obvious. But when you reverse it, it makes a lot of sense.
So, starting from the problem standpoint of view not only helps you to discover more relevant keywords and queries, it also helps you to find more of those topics that are interesting in the awareness stage, when people don’t yet know exactly what they need or what the solution is.
And it just helps you to find a lot of questions that people are dealing with, and then you could translate those questions into Featured Snippets and create very specific content for that, or just let it inspire the discovery of more queries.”
8. Use Twitter Trends & Memeorandum
Rand Fishkin, Content and SEO in 2018: “This is a more difficult technique to implement, for those of you who are thinking like, ‘I want to invest in content in order to earn links, and earn brand recognition,’ and earn sort of the attention awareness game.
I think that because Americans, probably thanks to, you know, mostly the 2016 election are so political and socially minded, anything that touches on those issues gets insane attention online right now.
You know, Burger King releases an ad about net neutrality and how it’s like standing in line too long for a whopper, and it goes crazy online because it fits a certain mentality.
I would urge you to pay attention to Memeorandum, which is basically a website that aggregates political opinion from all sides of the spectrum, and Twitter’s trends.
And if you can, log out and look at Twitter’s trends, because they’ll be non-personalized and non-geo biased. And then consider some of the things that you could write and create that tie those things together.”
9. Don’t Have Content Marketers in Charge of Analytics
Ashley Ward, Content Analytics: “So for analytics, I definitely think there should be a team that all they do is focus on analytics because, there’s something about analysts who are just so data-driven, and they can look at numbers and they can see stories behind that.
And not everyone has that gift. I don’t have that gift. That’s why I use tools that tell me what the story is behind that. But at the same time, yes, there should be a separate division.
Depending upon your own team size, you’re looking at maybe as little as one to two people to a whole floor of analysts if you’re a big corporate company. Well, mom and pop shops probably won’t have resources to have their own analysts. But medium-sized businesses, you’re looking at one to two analysts who look at everything that you’re producing.
As a content marketer perspective, you still need to have some level of understanding of ‘Where do I get this data from and what does this data mean?’ You don’t have to tell a whole story from it.
You don’t have to be able to do mathematics in your head and just, like, thrive off of it, and wake up every morning and be like, ‘I cant wait to look at GA.’ There are people like that, and hat’s off to them. And data’s awesome when it’s pretty numbers. But when it’s not, it’s scary to look at. But we still need to look at it.”
10. Stop Relying on Yoast SEO’s Green Checkmark
Joel Klettke, SEO Copywriting: “If there was one thing that people watching this, that I wish they could take away, because I hear horror stories of this all the time. And, you know, I’m not as much on the content piece of things, the blog post piece of things now, but I talk to a lot of copywriters all the time, and a lot of groups.
I get all kinds of posts where they’re talking about, you know, some well-meaning SEOs installed the Yoast plugin, and they demand that it meets a certain measurability, like, that’s their barometer. And if the writer doesn’t hit that, they’re like, ‘No, we need to revise it.’
If there’s one activity I wish we could get rid of through this video it is that. Like, that is not the way to evaluate whether or not a writer has hit the target for the piece you wanted to put together. That like nice little red, or orange, or green metric, that’s not your barometer for, ‘Is this thing good for SEO?'”
11. Make Brand Mentions Your North Star B2B Metric
Sujan Patel, B2B Content Marketing: “I don’t really build links. I try to focus on getting brand mentions, so any citation of a brand essentially. And that’s like my North Star metric when it comes to content marketing.
So every month, like, how many mentions does our brand get? And for Mailshake, we’re at about 150, while at Norbert I got like 20. And so they started really low, like Norbert started with zero. And that’s how we base if we’re doing all the right things, and I mean brand mention like on…
Ross: Even on links.
Sujan: Yeah, unlinked as well. Yeah. Because well, first of all, unlinked is just email the person, ask for the link. It’s like two seconds…
Ross: Yeah, it’s one of our core strategies for big brands.
Sujan: Yeah, it’s super easy. It’s just low-hanging fruit, It’s found money, right? You put your jeans in the laundry and you’re like, ‘Oh, I found five dollars.’ It’s just like it’s super simple. So I think there’s a lot of value there, but you know, brand mentions is a big part of our efforts on an ongoing basis.
So that means it measures how many opportunities we generate with people, and not just generate, but how many opportunities we take action on.
And then, what are the results of our opportunities? Let’s say in one month we did five new relationships with people and we, you know, published five pieces of content, but that generated 150 versus 100 the previous month, that might mean we’re doing the right things and it might be more things we can do again, and again, and again.”