As we move into the final session of the SLC|SEM Digital Marketing Conference 2016, the level of speakers and information certainly did not disappoint. We started with a discussion on a lot of the technicalities of SEO and wrapped up with some talk about real creativity.
SEO Tasking Goals – Where & When to Compromise | Alan Bleiweiss
While Purna talked about the future of search and how voice control will be a major part of that, Alan Bleiweiss brought us right back to the here-and-now with a detailed discussion on technical SEO. More specifically, how to build out a sustainable SEO strategy whether a site is new and never had any problems or a well-established site that has built in all kinds of confusion.
Alan was quick to point out, though, that while sustainable SEO is the ideal, it may not always be realistic. A sustainable campaign is all about creating a stable environment with consistent signals designed to increase revenue. That is certainly a valid goal, but not every company is set up to maintain it.
So how can you get as close to the ideal as possible when you might not have the personnel or the budget to do everything you need? Alan provided a few suggestions on where you could make some compromises and still get a good, sustainable campaign.
Getting started is easy. You have to evaluate where you’re currently at so you can make a clear and actionable plan.
SEO Tasking Goal Planning
The ideal goal may not always be realistic, but you can set goals for SEO tasking that is within the realm of possibility for your company. You can do this by:
Determining your objectives
Evaluating your needs and limitations
Determining where and when to compromise
The types of goals you create should directly affect the business, and while it’s important to create goals within goals, you shouldn’t get so granular that you get lost in planning and never getting doing.
What Tasks Need to Be Performed?
Do you need new content? How much do you need? How often should you publish it? Maybe you need some website updates to stay relevant with the latest search engine changes. You need to know what needs to be done immediately so you don’t waste time on things that don’t add value.
In order to do that effectively, you’ll need to know how difficult it will be to reach your goals, which means performing several assessments:
Existing weakness assessment
Existing opportunity assessment
Existing competitive landscape
Do You Need a Website Audit?
Too often, Alan said, site owners and managers fail to evaluate their situation properly before diving into action. An audit can show you what’s realistic, what’s important, and what’s possible. (Just take a look at our recap of Annie Cushing’s presentation for support of that statement.)
A strategic audit should help you get insight into your particular needs, and show you where you need to compromise. He did warn that, above all else, when you’re compromising, keep the 5 Super-Signals of SEO in mind as your guiding principles. These signals are:
(He specified that Quality means getting the right people, and the “right” people does NOT include the CEO’s nephew, the IT department, or people suck in the old ways.)
Different types of compromises may be necessary for different situations.
For companies with limited resources – Consider a hybrid approach to your campaign. It may be okay to outsource some things, but someone in the company still has to know what’s going on.
For content – Scale up when you can and when it’s necessary. You could consider doing more social and PR than blogging and guest blogging. You could supplement organic SEO with PPC. And you could use more links to compensate for fewer pages. And, of course, you could work on fewer, but higher-quality pieces.
For topical focus – Understand the “Hierarchy of Reinforcement.” In other words, Titles>H1s>H2s etc. Also, your main content>sidebar content. We can take that a step further and say that communication of a concept>keyword frequency.
For speed improvements – If you can’t get the load speed to 3 seconds, then get it to 10. You may be off from the ideal, but if you’re faster than the competition, then that still works. So clean up the bottlenecking in steps. Consider switching servers if necessary.
In all these compromises, it’s important to always start with your important pages first so you’re always spending your time on the things that will deliver the most value.
How to Reverse Engineer Your Content Marketing Plan | Justin Champion
The next speaker was Justin Champion, the Principle Content Marketing Professor at HubSpot, and he started off by talking about how a lot of this came from the way he noticed a fundamental issue for most of his clients was creating content. So this, he said, was a simple solution.
1. Content Creation Overview
Creating content isn’t always easy but it can be done. And just like Marcus Sheridan said in his opening keynote, it’s not something that you can dip your toes in and hope it will pay off in the end. At the same time, you can’t treat it like trying to sprint a marathon because you’ll just burn out too quickly.
The most common roadblocks he said companies experience is limited bandwidth, not being sure how to communicate a brand story across multiple channels, the inability to stay consistent or to connect all their content in different marketing channels.
2. Identifying Buyer Persona and Buyer Journey
Buyer persona = Your ideal customer, as defined by the data. You need to know who you’re writing for.
Buyer’s Journey = Awareness => Consideration => Decision. Basically, someone has a problem, they identify a solution, and then connect with a product or service. You need to have content for every step of this journey. (You should also identify a buyer’s journey for each persona.
3. Reverse Engineering Content
In order to do this effectively, Justin recommended retrograde analysis, which is to say that in order to look ahead, it helps to look backward. The benefits you get from this process is that you can create a pre-promotion plan for your content while creating a sustainable creation process. It can also connect short term content activities into long term content goals. It works like these:
Decide on a content theme
Make a list of supporting topics (they should be able to stand alone)
Decide which topics are most relevant (but you should keep the throwaways for future content)
Write a blog post for those supporting topics
Integrate distribution channels by telling the same story through a different lens
Create a template for the guide
Recycle those blog posts into the new guide, each blog becoming a chapter, with an added intro and conclusion and maybe some expansion on those posts
Update the CTAs on every single one of those blog posts so you can support the guide
This way, you’ve got established content supporting the new downloadable as well as CTAs on those posts that are actually really relevant to the information those customers want.
4. Conversion Funnel
It’s important to understand the best practices for optimizing the user experience. Justin also noted that one thing to pay close attention to is that forms can be a real hindrance if they’re too long. So don’t ask for any information that you cannot or will not use.
5. Repurpose Content
If you’ve spent a lot of time creating this content, you don’t have to be done with it as soon as you finally publish your guide (or eBook or whatever). You can really start to stretch the value of your content by looking at it and deciding how else someone might want to consumer it.
6. Take the Next Steps
Here, Justin had a little bit of self-promotion, but it was certain valid and worth a look. He talked about how HubSpot was not going to be offering Content Marketing Certification Courses for anyone who wants to go a little further with it. And we’ll mention it here, too, because HubSpot is pretty good about always offering these types of resources for free. (The first taste is always free, right?)
So what comes after all this?
You go back up to the start of this list and do it all over again.
Produce Your Authority: How to Create Video that Builds Brand Influence | Amy Schmittauer
Video is a medium that you simply cannot ignore. It had already been mentioned in the morning session as well as a little bit on Thursday. But here’s a quick reminder: video is how more and more people want to consume their content, and it needs to be a huge part of your content marketing plans.
Amy Schmittauer is a video authority, coach, and host of Savvy Sexy Social, and she brought a presentation that went beyond why you should make video and got straight into how. What really set it apart, though, was the way she encouraged the audience to believe they could do it.
In order to establish that you could do it, she first started by addressing one of the most common excuses to put it off: the gear.
Forget having the right personality for video, most people are worried that they don’t have the right gear.
So she asked the audience: do you have a smartphone? If yes, then you have the gear you need to get started. Just to really make her point, she showed the difference between the original computer that guided a ship to the moon and back and what we currently have in our possession right now.
Yes, people will recognize your footage as being filmed on a phone (well, only the serious video snobs will), but for most people, smartphone video is relatable, and that is the name of the game.
YouTube mobile views are increasing 100% year over year, which tells you if people are willing to watch video on a phone, you’re fine to make video on a phone.
Get Past the Fear of Gear
A phone can be effective, but there are still some things you can do to make the results a little better.
Some simple accessories like tripods and lens expanders can make big increases in quality.
People will forgive a lower quality picture more than they will lower quality audio, so if you are going to invest, make sure you get a good microphone. (She recommended the Rode Smartlav.)
You can even use the tools on the phone to edit.
You should always use the tools to back up your video content.
While many people feel like they have to immediately dive into major equipment purchases to get their video marketing up and running, that isn’t necessarily true. If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it “right,” we think, and then end up buying every last product recommended by the sales person at the tech store. In fact, she said, you need to remember that equipment is just an expense if you don’t know you need it.
The Keys to Video
Amy gave us three keys to getting the most out of your video: Content Design, Content Flow, and Content Distribution.
Your brand, your mission, and your medium must be considered for every video. Therefore, when you decide to make a new video, fill in the blanks to the following sentence:
I make a video for _____________, about _____________, so I can achieve _____________.
That last part of the sentence is the part that most people forget. The “why.” This is very critical to producing videos that someone will actually want to watch.
Remember, your viewers don’t care about you. They don’t care about your business. They just want to know what value you provide. So address their problems by adding solutions, Address pain points by adding remedies. And address questions with answers.
Not sure what to make videos about? Try using the predictive search in YouTube and Google. Just start typing in some basic keywords and, congratulations, you’ve found a list of the most searched for terms on YouTube.
Getting started can be tough, but she had some encouraging words for us. Amy let us all know that our first videos will always suck. There’s just no way around it. No one gets to be a pro right off the bat. You have to put in the hours.
To that end, she showed Amy’s Authority Video Formula. In it, it follows this pattern:
Subject first – You are the subject. Not a 30-second intro song.
Loyalty treatment – Treat every viewer like they’ve been there forever. You don’t need to give your pitch at the start of every video. Assume they’re here because they know something about you and want to be here.
8-second rule – This is why you have to get to the important stuff immediately. If someone will stay past those 8 seconds, they’ll probably watch at least half of your video.
Minimal branding – 2 seconds of branding or less.
Keep their eyes moving – Are you just standing there for one long take? Maybe not too interesting.
Factor time to close – Give yourself time to close the video right and still stay within your ideal video length.
Audible and clear CTA – Say out loud what you want them to do because many people are just listening while they work or read a different webpage.
2-5 minutes – Business videos don’t need to be long, and no one will sit through an hour of content if they don’t know you. Longer vids can come after you’ve established a relationship. Besides, you could split that hour up into 10 smaller vids, so give yourself a chance to make more content instead of longer content.
There are many ways to get your videos out there and start getting more eyes on it.
Social – Facebook has its own video thing, but no one wants to watch more than a few seconds of video there. So if you do use social, consider uploading a short teaser vid that connects to your main video.
Collaboration – Who can help spread the word about your videos?
Repurpose – You don’t have to keep making more videos on the same topic. How else can you visually cover the information?
Search – YouTube SEO can help you rank your videos on the front page of Google.
Always take the time to promote your videos. That’s probably an important step that most people forget.
In the end, Amy said, getting started is the hardest part of video marketing. So she made us all turn on our cameras and take a video of ourselves repeating some cheesy phrases and then informed us that we’ve all already made our worst video. It can only get better from there, so get out there and start creating.
Good Guys Finish First | Jonathan Maberry
Jonathan Maberry, the NY Times bestselling author, would be the one to close out this year’s conference. And, since this entire conference is really about bringing the internet marketing community together, he discussed community networking and finding a hook with your audience.
He started the presentation by sharing a story about how, in his young days, he was able to get introductions to other famous writers, and how he knew this was an opportunity that he absolutely didn’t want to screw up. He knew he needed to convince them that he wasn’t just like all those other wannabe writers. Everyone asks them about how to write the greatest novel ever, or where they get their ideas, or would they kindly read the wannabe’s latest chapter.
Jonathan came at it like a business, and he asked them about the business side of writing, and that was his hook. He was able to capture their attention because he talked to them on their level – as someone who wanted to write and sell.
Find the Audience for Your Medium
Jonathan talked a little more about the different audiences he learned to write for. The story he told was how he was big into martial arts, and attempted to sell some articles to a martial art’s magazine. The problem was, despite the high quality of the magazine, the articles that people wanted was on a much lower level than he was writing. He was speaking of the things that pros would know and understand, but the magazine readers really just wanted something for beginners.
So you need to find your audience, understand what works for them, and write to match it. (Like the Buyer Persona’s we discussed in Justin Champion’s presentation.)
A writer writes. So if there’s a new form or a new medium, you need to adapt. You can’t say that the old way is the way you’ve always done it. You need to be able to change as the industry demands.
Jonathan talked about how writers can pitch their books. He told the story about how his first query letter was noticed not because he talked about how great the story was, but how well it would fit in the marketplace.
He also said that, along those lines, you should never pitch yourself by saying your better than something else – especially when that something else has had a long history of success. Putting other things down, he says, is not a hook. Your hook has to be something that you bring to the table… not the things that other people spilled on the table.
So What’s This About Good Guys Finishing First?
All your public pages – on your blog or your website – are part of your brand. So why bring negativity into it? Social media is to punch, but to beckon.
Good guys finish first because that’s how you get in the community, and then you’re creating a place where you can be among the best.
Everyone benefits from inclusion. Positivity sells and is infection. Inclusion and positivity, then, are a great way to hook your audience.
And that was it for the SLC|SEM Digital Marketing conference for 2016. While the format was something new, I think it was a good decision to split the conference into two days and focus on two distinct parts of online marketing. We’re looking forward to see who they bring in next year.