Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Importance—and Evolution–of Keywords in Online Content

Strategically using keyword in your landing pages, blogs and social media posts is important, but just as important is understanding how keywords have changed. In the old days, people could get away with keyword stuffing—filling a page with their keywords, often to the point where the page’s meaning was compromised by repeated use of a number of keywords.
Google’s last few major algorithm changes, including Mobilegeddon, have made good content nonnegotiable. You can no longer fool or trick Google. If you’re filling your pages with nonsense trying to create keyword density for the sake of optimization, forget it. This is a bad strategy and Google will penalize you.  Some experts suggest that your keywords should appear in about 2.5% of your copy. But search has become much more intuitive, so it’s not just about your keywords.
As a general rule, it’s good to work your keyword into your headline and a few of your subheads (do use subheads—it makes it infinitely easier to read your articles), but you shouldn’t distort natural copy to accommodate a keyword. If you’re writing naturally, you’ll tend to use synonyms for your keywords and vary your phrasing, and Google and search engines have begun to recognize this. Here’s what’s really cool—search engines are getting smarter. They’re better at understanding context, and you can help them by using well-written, informative content that includes words they would expect to find within that context.
Semantic search is the concept of a search engine’s applying intent and context to the search results. Semantic search seeks to improve search accuracy by understanding the searcher’s intent and the contextual meaning of terms as they appear in the searchable dataspace.

Search engines able to identify contextual meaning

Google makes an estimated 500 algorithm changes/year, but some of these have more sweeping impact. With the release of the Hummingbird algorithm in 2013, Google became more able to analyze full questions, rather than relying on word-by-word search analysis. As a result of Hummingbird, any single word could have multiple meanings; it used context to discern which meaning might be accurate, often using a searcher’s own history to provide context. That’s one reason why you and I might get different results for the same search, or you might get different results if you’re using Chrome or Safari—the browser you’re using will affect your search results. It also takes in account what other people click on in search results using the same term.

Optimize everything . . .

Optimizing your content’s title by using H tags and keywords, your images with alt tags and using descriptive metadata are all part of what makes your content SEO-friendly. But creating great content that is meaningful to your online audience is the best way to ensure organic success for the long haul.

Do you need help with your content marketing program?

Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and internet marketing experts.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

You Can't Underestimate the Power of Rock-star Headlines

These days, we’re all marketers. We’re all competing for eyeballs, frantically posting to our websites, blogs and social media hoping to build trust, brands and audience loyalty. But let’s be honest--what we’re really hoping to get out of this is new clients.

It’s hard to underestimate the importance of rock-star headlines

Each new social media application and blog platform that hits the marketplace represents new competition. So how do you set yourself apart? It’s difficult to overstate the importance of rockstar headlines. A good headline can entice and engage your audience to click, read, and share your content. Unfortunately, in many cases, headlines are the thing that is shared rather than the article. This is pure clickbait. It’s a scam when there’s no relationship between the headline and the article, and it’s doing a big disservice to your audience and the industry. But do you know what makes an engaging headline?

Listen to this: BuzzSumo analyzed 100 million article headlines. They examined stuff like:

  1. Headline phrases that drive most engagement on Facebook
  2. Worst performing headline phrases on Facebook
  3. Most effective phrases that start or end headlines
  4. Optimum number of words and characters to use in a headline
  5. Numbers to use in headlines that have the most impact
  6. Most engaging Twitter headline phrases
  7. Differences between B2C and B2B headlines
While there is no magic formula for creating a viral headline, by taking a look at what’s successful, we can model our own headlines on these formulas and capitalize on some of these trends.
Note: This research looks at the most shared headlines on Facebook and Twitter which tend to be dominated by major publishers and consumer content. Thus the insights will be particularly interesting for publishers. Business-to-business comes later this year.

Popular phrases in no particular order:

  1. Tears of joy
  2. Is what happens
  3. Are freaking out
  4. The only reason is
  5. Give you goosebumps
  6. Is talking about
  7. This is why
  8. Will make you
  9. Is too cute
As a serious business owner, a few of these phrases would never work for me. It’s clearly important to consider the industry. I’m very aware of the power of headlines and I work hard to make mine and those of my clients compelling and attention-grabbing. But there’s a caveat here. If you’re sending out a newsletter or posting a blog for someone in the legal or financial services industries, for instance, numbers 3, 5 and 9 are probably never going work for you. In fact, they’re wholly inappropriate for a lot of industries.

Data makes you rethink headlines

In the BuzzSumo sample, the most powerful three-word phrase used in a headline was: “Will make you … “ This phrase gained more than twice the number of Facebook engagements as the second most popular headline trigram. So why does this particular trigram or three-word phrase work so well? It’s a linking phrase. There’s a promise of a direct impact on the reader; it’s trying to elicit an emotional response; it’s the start of a relationship, which is what it is all about.

Curiosity and voyeurism also gain Facebook engagement

Headline phrases that provoke curiosity, tension and a sense of voyeurism also gained a high level of engagement on Facebook. For example:
  • What happened next
  • Talking about it
  • Twitter reacts to
  • Are freaking out
  • Top x songs
These days, with the White House in a daily state of meltdown, a lot of the headlines that gained traction are politics-specific. But this is a good example--readers are often curious about what is being talked about by people, what the top items are in a league table, or what is being said by people on Twitter about a topic or event. This type of content appeals to our curiosity and voyeurism. With the Trump administration in Washington, we’re seeing a lot of headlines with “are freaking out” in them, and they’re killing the ratings.
BuzzSumo cautions writers to avoid ‘what happened next’ style headlines. While they have performed well, Facebook now categorizes headlines that withhold information as clickbait and demotes them. I believe this is a good thing. We’re seeing way too much clickbait—headlines that just don’t deliver that shows a clear lack of integrity.

 Other engaging headline phrases are explanations

  • This is why
  • The reason is
We all want to feel that bit smarter after reading a piece of content. Explainer articles promise you an extra nugget of insight. In some ways they are similar to the “will make you” phrase headline as they make a promise about what you’ll gain as a result of reading the article.
We’re all looking for community these days, a sense of belonging to something. A word that has become part of our vernacular is “tribe”. These popular headlines appeal to a sense of tribal belonging. But don’t take these at face value. Model these headlines and make them work for you. Appeal to your own tribe.
  • 25 Things Only Teachers Will Understand
  • 17 Things Only Anglers Understand
  • 9 Things Only Girls Who Grew Up With Older Brothers Will Understand
  • 10 Things Only Night Shift Nurses Understand

Is a subject line important? It's everything.

I just updated the list I keep by my computer—I try to incorporate these phrases into my blog and newsletter headlines and social media posts when they’re appropriate because I know that they’re powerful. I was working with a client one time and we were getting ready to send out her newsletter. I wanted to get her feedback on several subject lines. She was indifferent. “Is it important?” My answer: “It’s everything.”  

Do you need help with your content marketing program? 

Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and internet marketing experts.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The State of Internet Marketing: 2017

Mary Meeker, the Kleiner Perkins venture partner who publishes a yearly report on the state of the Internet, released her annual Internet Trends report in June—a total of 355 PowerPoint slides. Her report covers online trends in sectors ranging from media and healthcare to China and India. A few key trends in retail and e-commerce:
  1. A withering brick-and-mortar landscape as Amazon/e-commerce grows. Amazon, in particular, is proving to be a formidable foe, inflicting deep wounds on brick-and-mortar retail chains. “Store closings may break a 20-year record” according to a 2017 estimate by Credit Suisse. The report estimates that more than 8,600 brick-and-mortar stores may close in 2017. “Barely a quarter into 2017, year-to-date retail store closings have already surpassed those of 2008,” according to Credit Suisse. Unless you’re just crawling out of Sleepy Hollow, you know that Macy’s has closed 68 of its stores nationwide, resulting in the loss of 10,000 jobs. In March, Staples announced they were closing another 70 stores. J.C. Penney, Bebe, Target and nearly a dozen other retailers have announced store closings.
  2. Online sales grew again in 2016, rising 15% percent year/year. Retail sales clerks may be losing their jobs, but your UPS driver is keeping busy; parcel deliveries in the US have been steadily increasing over the past six years and rose 9% year/year in 2016.
  3. Walmart is sprinting to catch up online. Brick-and-mortar behemoth Walmart, which has had relatively lackluster impact online despite past investments, rapidly accelerated its e-commerce efforts this past year. It acquired in August 2016, and already this year it has bought or invested in Shoebuy,, Moosejaw and Walmart’s e-commerce revenue grew 63% year/year last quarter. Walmart is, of course, trying to unseat Amazon, and the stakes are high.
  4. The new retail is mobile-informed. Retail isn’t really dead; rather, it’s evolving. Warby Parker, Lowe’s augmented-reality experiment with Google to help consumers locate items in-store, and Amazon itself opening up self-checkout retail stores as examples of ways retail is evolving to meet the needs and expectations of mobile-enabled consumers.
  5. Retailers are taking advantage of online-offline feedback loops. Other examples of hybrid online-offline commerce experiences include MM.LaFleur, which offers both online and in-store personal shopping advice and incorporates that information back into its bento-box-style e-commerce operation, and shirt retailer UNTUCKit, which incorporates online and offline feedback into its brand experiences.
  6. Location-driven advertising is becoming more targeted and accountable.Location-targeted ads from Google Nextdoor and xAd and Uber’s in-app ads powered by Foursquare are examples of how ad delivery and the ability to track outcomes are changing the dynamic between online marketing and offline commerce. Google has tracked more than 5 billion in-store visits globally, and just last week introduced its store purchases tracking solution to link ad clicks to physical transactions.

The landscape is changing rapidly

Since Meeker’s report came out, Amazon purchased Whole Foods, and there’s a lot of speculation about how this one’s going to turn out. Jeff Bezos is a pretty smart guy—remember when Amazon used to sell books? That was a lifetime ago. But can he merge his huge online empire with the luxury, high-touch food operation? I rather suspect he will figure it out. He may find a way to completely reengineer it. An editorial in Sunday’s SF Chronicle from Alice Waters was a plea to Bezos to find a way to quit trucking produce cross country and calling it local. To start focusing on fresh and local, building relationships with local farmers to bring the most nutritious and cost-effective food to his new markets. And let’s not forget that Amazon is now building brick and mortar stores—there’s a new one opening soon in Walnut Creek, among other locations.
As we watch a traditional store like Macy’s falter—and if you’ve ventured into one lately, you understand why—another kind of department store is rising. Anthropologie has opened two flagship stores in the Bay Area—one in Walnut Creek, the other in Palo Alto. With many different departments under one roof, these qualify as department stores, but they’re a new-concept store, complete with bridal, home and garden shops and a high-end restaurant. Once their customers come through their doors, they don’t want them to leave.

People still want the personal experience of shopping

They like the first-hand experience of seeing and touching what they’re going to purchase. The new Anthropologie stores are packed with eager shoppers with money to spend. The key ingredient may be that their demographic is millennials. We’re also seeing that there’s a place for the combined online/brick and mortar presence. Savvy online eyeglass provider Warby Parker has two stores here in the Bay Area. They understand that glasses are now an accessory; people want a number of pairs to match their outfits and their moods. Ordering glasses online works, but it’s still a bit of a crapshoot. Being able to actually see what those specs look like is a better experience. There’s still demand for brick and mortar, but retailers have to be clever about how they package their merchandise.

Do you need help with your content marketing program? 

Talk to us at Top of Mind Marketing. We’re writers and internet marketing experts.