Categories
SEO

3-Step Approach to Reputation Management

A growing service among marketing consultants and agencies is something called “Reputation Management.” Some of them are even entirely devoted to this singular, specialized service.

The reason for its popularity is, in addition to improving their local SEO, many businesses are looking to improve their ratings, reviews, and overall reputation.

According to a recent study, 88% of consumers trust reviews when making a purchasing decision. Also, by increasing your ratings and the replies to reviews, you can increase your clickthrough rate by 57% and your conversion rate by as much as 25%.

Reviews are not only a trust indicator but also a ranking factor. In another study, they appear to be the most prominent ranking factor in local search.

But above all, reviews increase trust and credibility. They show your responsiveness, authenticity, and social proof. Clients crave transparency and connection these days, which reviews can provide.

There are three types of online reviews:

  1. Local Listings such as Google My Business and Bing Places.
  2. Review Sites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp.
  3. Social Media such as Facebook pages.

If you haven't claimed your profile on these local listing sites, you should. The purpose is not to directly use them as marketing channels (although, you could). It's to ensure you keep a finger on your reputation's pulse and to respond to anything unfavourable.

Here are three things you should do to help you manage your reputation.

1. Respond to Reviews

Ignoring reviews is the worst thing you can do. Both positive and negative. Google has publicly stated that replying to reviews (and doing so quickly) shows that you value your clients and you're committed to helping them.

How to respond to reviews deserves an article of its own. But for now, thanking your clients for their feedback is important — to both the client and Google.

If there's one tip I might give you, it's this: don't respond to negative reviews negatively. Leave emotions out of it. Don't be confrontational. Be kind, open, and diplomatic. Hostility, even a mere passive-aggressive tone, doesn't look good and will work against you.

For one, you will push people away from leaving any review, or anger those who might be on the fence and cause them to come to the negative reviewer's aid.

Second, legitimate reviews can only be changed by the reviewer. Hopefully, you can get them to modify their review. But a hostile approach will definitely destroy any chances of them changing their reviews to more positive ones.

Third, as a professional, laws dictate what you can say in reviews, such as HIPPA for example. Any information related to the delivery of the service cannot involve the client's specific case or their private information. So tread carefully.

feedback-reviews-reputation-management

2. Increase Positive Reviews

You cannot and should never influence the type of review. Doing so may cause you more damage than a negative review will. But you can and should ask for your client's feedback as often as you can.

There are three ways: inquire, include, and invite.

Inquire

Ask your clients for their feedback. Conduct a survey or offer a questionnaire in which you ask them to post their responses to an online review site. Include links to your listing to make it as easy as possible to leave a review.

One way to preemptively manage negative reviews is to have their responses sent to you first, where you can address the negative ones privately, directly, and appropriately, and send links to those who submitted positive ones and invite them to post their reviews publicly.

Another way is to simply ask them to send any negative feedback to you directly instead of posting them online, so you can address their concerns faster and more efficiently. Most will oblige.

Finally, if you incentivize reviews, remember that you cannot influence the type of review. The incentive is only meant to encourage feedback and not to entice positive ones. Some industries forbid this entirely, so be careful.

Include

Making it easier for people to leave a review will increase your chances significantly. By embedding reviews on your website, you not only show social proof but also make the reviews clickable and easy for visitors to post one.

If you have an email newsletter, include links to leave reviews, where clicking them can open directly with an online review form. Also, consider adding a link to your email signature.

Finally, don't forget “thank you” pages, purchase confirmation pages, email confirmations, and invoices. These are often the most opportune times to ask for reviews as the service is fresh and the client is (hopefully) satisfied — a feeling that degrades over time.

Invite

There are review management platforms and tools, which allow you to proactively invite and remind your clients to leave reviews. From offering suggestions and templates users can use, to the ability for users to share their reviews on their social media.

You can also post review-engaging content, success stories that incorporate your client's reviews, or periodic client spotlights where you link to their reviews.

Let's not forget good old advertising.

Some companies I know have ad campaigns for the express purpose of generating reviews. The purpose of the ad is to gather feedback, possibly via a survey, with some kind of incentive for doing so.

Just remember that you cannot ask for or influence the type of review.

3. Remove Negative Reviews

I worked with a cosmetic doctor who once had a rogue staff member. When she left, the disgruntled former employee unreservedly posted negative reviews all over the place. The content was mostly false and quite damaging.

In general, you don't want to delete negative reviews. If they are legitimate, they provide balance and authenticity. According to the same survey mentioned at the beginning, 94% say they buy from companies who respond to their reviews. Including the bad ones.

(Sometimes, your response to a negative review can create more credibility, positivity, and traction than a positive review can.)

But in the case of truly fake reviews, there are steps you can take to report them. Many of these local directories and listings sites offer ways to contact support staff, report fake reviews, provide any supporting documentation, and offer proof (if possible) that the review is fake.

This is another reason why claiming your listing is important because it makes it easier to flag and remove defamatory reviews. In the case of the disgruntled employee above for example, the review was flagged, reported, and removed within 48 hours.

Finally, some reputation management services are more advanced.

For example, they include the removal of fake search engine results, the suppression of negative content, the removal of copyright and IP violations, countermeasures to address negative content, and the identification of anonymous attackers.

Nevertheless, reviews are important.

If you're specialized and marketing to a narrow niche, you won't have many competitors to grapple with. Hopefully, your reputation (the real kind) is a positive one. But even then, online reviews will help as they add to and confirm your existing stellar reputation.

However, it's likely that you are dealing with competitors in your space. If you both show up in search results, the business with the most and highest ratings tend to pull the greatest attention, clicks, and results.

Categories
SEO

6 Quick Ways to Spy On Your SEO Competition

I promised to talk about how to conduct a competitive analysis, so here’s a quick snapshot.

You first need to know your competitors.

You might have an idea, but you have to do a bit of digging first.

Some SEO competition s may not truly compete with you on the search engines. But they probably do better than you in other ways. Other competitors are siphoning traffic away from you, and they may not offer the same thing at all.

So the goal is to identify your direct competitors, which are the ones that offer the same thing you do or are probably located in the same geographical area, and target the exact same audience or solve the same problems you do.

Also, know your indirect competitors. They're competing with you only to the degree that they may “steal” traffic, leads, or clients away from you but without competing with you in a direct or purposeful sense. For example:

  • Indirect competitors may offer similar but different services than you.
  • They may solve the same problems you do but in a different way.
  • They may target the same audience based on the same topics or serve the same search intent.
  • Or they may offer the same or similar services but target a different audience altogether.

Identifying these competitors is important. There are a few ways to do this. But let me share with you my favourite go-to method.

1. Google Autocomplete and Suggestions

Google is often the easiest and most effective source to determine who your competitors are. After all, Google is telling you right there in the SERPs (or search engine results pages) other websites that are vying for the same eyeballs.

Once you’ve identified the key topics that people in your market are interested in (including the search intent you want to match content with, and the kinds of questions they ask that you can answer), search them on Google.

Look at the first page: what are the results and what are they telling you?

Other results are either direct or indirect competitors. Direct competitors are siphoning clients away from you, while indirect ones are stealing traffic.

Remember, there are five areas that can provide some great insights:

  1. The search results themselves.
  2. Autocomplete suggestions in the search bar.
  3. “People also search for” section further down.
  4. Related searches at the bottom of the page.
  5. Local pack suggestions (i.e., map and business listings).
  6. Search ads (paid ads) appearing at the top of SERPs.

Here's a quick video I recorded to give you an idea.

Make a note of these results.

Of course, there are other tools out there that can provide information about your competitors. I use tools like SEMRush, Moz, Ahrefs, Buzzsumo, SpyFu, and others. But after Google, SEMRush is my second favourite tool.

Also, don’t forget other, more traditional ways of discovering your competitors, such as industry newsletters, trade journals, associations, social media profiles, discussion forums, and your own prospects and clients.

2. Analyze Traffic and Clout

Next, you want to determine how well they’re doing. By punching in your competitors’ websites in a tool like SEMRush, you can get a quick, at-a-glance look at their traffic history, their top keywords, and their search activity.

SEMRush has a section called “competitive research.” In it, you will get an idea of their rankings, their domain score, their traffic (and traffic trend, which might indicate spikes or pivots that can give you some extra insights), and more.

But you don't need to signup for premium tools if you prefer not to. The goal is to get an idea of their traffic and clout so you can try to reverse engineer them.

There are plenty of free tools that can give you a lot of the most important data. For example, do they have a lot of backlinks? Is their domain authority higher than yours? Are they vying for the same keywords?

I also use a tool like ScreamingFrog to determine their number of pages and website structure. For example, they may have 200 articles while you only have 10. They may have a better content architecture or a more optimized site than yours (e.g., meta-tags, headers, text-to-html ratio, etc).

3. Branded vs. Non-Branded Traffic

You might be getting a lot of traffic from searches that include names, such as your name, or the name of your business, product, service, productized service (like a course), or process you’ve pioneered or trademarked, etc.

Competitors may compete with you on non-branded terms, but they might have branded traffic, too. Other than stealing your branded traffic (which is something to look out for), their own branded traffic comes from somewhere.

Branded traffic only comes from people who have heard about your business other than the search engine. So Google is a “second exposure,” if you will. The key is to identify the first exposure. Where did people hear about you first?

Do the same from a competitive analysis standpoint. Discovering where people heard about your competitors is a great indicator of how they drive their branded traffic, and how you can replicate their efforts or discover any gaps.

  • Perhaps it’s from a review site or a blog that talked about them.
  • Perhaps it’s from a discussion forum or an active social media presence.
  • Perhaps it’s from Google knowledge graphs or featured snippets.
  • Or perhaps it’s from Google My Business or other business listings.

These give clues as to where your competitors are gaining clout.

4. Google Alerts and Google Trends

Then, I recommend setting up Google Alerts. You want to be notified every time someone online mentions you. But you also want to do the same for your competitors. This offers a glimpse into those primary sources of exposure.

Google Trends shows the popularity and volatility of a topic, search term, and related topics and terms. It can be helpful for keyword research, but it can also provide you with insights into your competitor's audience.

Using the keywords your competitors are ranking well for, you can learn about their searchers' demographics and even psychographics. In other words, you can see traffic trends, where traffic is located, what type of traffic it is, and what are they interested in.

It can also be a useful tool to show you where traffic is heading, too.

Other than Google Alerts, you might want to set up other “listening” tools (such as for social mentions, keyword rankings, competitor position tracking, backlinks, etc), to get an idea of not only where people are talking about you or your competitors, but how they do so

5. Experience Indicators and Insights

If your competitors have less content than you, maybe even fewer backlinks than you, but they are getting more traffic, it might be a UX issue. If their website has a better user experience than yours, you will want to fix that.

Simply go to Google's Web.dev to analyze your site. Do the same with your competitors’ URLs to see how well they are doing, and then compare. Are their websites loading faster than yours? Are they easier to navigate? Are their pages more easily discoverable?

Then take a look at their messaging and copy. Is it clearer, stronger, more compelling, and easier to read? What about their design, layout, and supporting visuals? Do they offer a newsletter or any free resources such as tools, white papers, and downloads?

Remember, SEO relies on two things: the quality of your content and the quality of the user's experience. So when conducting your competitive analysis, you need to look at both of these areas and compare them with yours.

6. Content and Experience Gap Analyses

Speaking of these two things (i.e., content and user experience), the next step is at the heart of all good competitive analyses. What a gap analysis means is, you want to discover any gaps between your competitors and your website that you can take advantage of.

All the above are good indicators of what your competitors are doing that you are not, and what you need to improve. But there might be plenty of missed opportunities you can exploit to get a leg up on your competition.

Some of the tools I mentioned earlier provide some of this functionality with advanced insights. However, you can do a simple gap analysis, too.

The goal is to look at the content your audience is looking for that neither you nor your competitors are offering, or that either one of you is offering but doing a poor job at (e.g., outdated or hard-to-understand content).

After you’ve identified your topics and your users' search intent, you want to see where your competitors are failing to properly answer them.

  • Sometimes, it can be a lack of content on their end.
  • Sometimes, it can be poor content, which you can offer better.
  • And sometimes, it can be good content but your competitors are failing to help them further, whether it's the lack of a good UX, a lead capturing mechanism, or simply a chance to read further on the topic.

If you have content already, a gap might indicate the need to refresh your content to fill in gaps or outclass existing content from your competitors.

Finally, keep in mind that competitive analyses provide clues and ideas on how to dominate your space in more ways than one. While most of these tips above provide digital insights, the information can also be helpful for external marketing activities, too.

They can show you what your competitors are up to, what they see as important, how active they are outside of their operations, any strategic alliances, their pricing, their business philosophy, interviews they’re giving, etc.

Remember, the greatest killer of business is not competition.

It’s complacency.

Categories
SEO

Funnel Marketing: 5 Things to Laser Focus On

Today, I posted a rant on LinkedIn because I was getting frustrated with the number of connection requests that only amount to spam. This is the exact opposite of applying effective funnel marketing techniques. The vast majority of people who attempt to connect with me have one of five things in common:

  1. Some freelance network (e.g., Fiverr, Upwork, etc);
  2. Some lead generation type of business;
  3. Some virtual assistant or outsourcing service;
  4. Some LinkedIn-related marketing service;
  5. Some “High-Ticket” closer or other B.S.

I understand that it's part of doing outreach. But there are better ways to do that than attempting to connect with someone only to spam their DMs less than a few hours later.

Many of these are automated, too, which is worse.

Some are oblivious “drive-by” spammers who don't care about relationships. For example, I accepted a connection request. I get spammed. So I removed the connection and deleted the DM. But they kept following up, oblivious to the fact that I removed them.

They don't care if you unfriend them. Because once you're connected with someone and they send you one direct message, they have access to your DM box in perpetuity, unless you block them.

They would be a lot more productive if they funnelized their approach.

Sure, they can use Sales Navigator and InMail credits to pitch me. I tend to read those — either for the education or the opportunity.

But rather than spam me, use disingenuous ways to access me, or hit me over the head with a pitch, a better way is to turn their attempt to sell me into a funnel that takes me through each step of the relationship.

There are myriad ways to funnelize your outreach approach, too. It's good old multistep-marketing taught by top marketers like Dan Kennedy.

Now, I understand that this is part of doing outreach. Personally, I hate doing outreach. I'm a fan of positioning, not prospecting. I prefer to attract clients to me and not me chasing them.

Chasing clients hints of desperation, conscious or not. It's the “ketchup stain” principle. It creates antagonism and puts you in a weaker position.

I prefer a “permission marketing” approach, a la Seth Godin.

Traditional marketing is a form of interruption marketing. It's a competition to win people’s attention. Whether it's email spam or social media DM spam, it's unwanted, interruptive, dismissable, and even repulsive.

Permission marketing focuses on creating a relationship instead of making a sale. It's a graduated process that takes place over time. Sometimes, it can be short. Other times, long.

Funnelizing your marketing focuses on demand generation and lead nurturing. And the best way to generate leads is to attract them. Once you do, it's easier to get to know your client, educate them, ask questions, and of course, make an offer. It's also easier to retain them.

The typical sales funnel has 5-7 phases, depending on the industry and who you ask. There are many variations. But the one I prefer is this:

  1. Awareness
  2. Interest
  3. Consideration
  4. Evaluation
  5. Purchase (or Conversion)

The remaining two are Loyalty (repeat sales) and Advocacy (referral sales). But for the sake of brevity, let's stick with the first five.

1. Awareness

Creating awareness is where your content attracts search engine traffic, natural backlinks, social media shares, brand mentions, and so forth. It's not limited to your website. It can include your social media networks, public relations, even paid ad campaigns.

2. Interest

The goal of creating awareness is to drive qualified users to your website, social media profile or page, email list, etc so they can enter your funnel. In short, you want them to raise their hand and show interest — or create it.

Landing pages can drive your audience into your funnel. Marketers call these “lead magnets.” The key is to get them to take the first step, which in most cases is giving up their email address.

3. Consideration

By providing content, you're taking them from being interested in what you say to being interested in what you offer. You educate your qualified leads about your business, your services, and the types of problems you help solve.

You can do this via a newsletter, or it can be dripped over time through an autoresponder series or multipart course. Some people I know “spoonfeed” their otherwise long salesletter through multiple, easier-to-digest emails.

4. Evaluation

Obviously, this is where you make an offer of some kind. You're moving from educational content to transactional. But it's still educational to a great degree as you want to provide enough information to help them make a decision.

You can start sales conversations, engage with prospective clients about their situations, answer questions they might have, offer comparisons with competing alternatives, provide different purchasing options, and so on.

5. Purchase

Selling is not a single event. It's about solving problems and creating relationships. Whether you're a dentist or a doctor, an engineer or an accountant, a consultant or a coach, you're also a salesperson. Like it or not.

The best salespeople are advisors.

If a competing solution best solves the client's problem, tell them. It's in your best interest to do so. Good-fit clients come not just from problems you can solve but also from the relationships you can nourish. Your best clients can even come from non-clients.

Relationships are more important than transactions.

Finally, keep this in mind.

Funnels can be long or short. They can take place within a matter of days or over a period of years. It depends on the industry, the length of the sales cycle, the complexity of the problem, and the urgency.

But if you've positioned yourself well, chances are clients are already aware, interested, and considering your services before entering your funnel.

In either case, just be cognizant of:

  1. What are the various steps in your funnel;
  2. What's your user's stage of awareness at each step;
  3. What each step does to take the user to the next stage;
  4. And how each step performs and can be improved.

You might have one, two, three, or more funnels. One client, a dermatologist, has 40 landing pages, where each one is a funnel or an entrance into one.

But if you don't have any, just start with one. If you've been in business for a while, you already have one right now, whether you're aware of it or not.

So map out the journey your clients go through, from awareness to purchase, and understand what they get at each step and how they get to the next one. Then tweak it.

In short, magnetize, funnelize, and optimize.

Categories
SEO

Kickstart Your Results With an SEO Keyword Audit

My SEO approach is simple, as it should be with you. Serve your audience first, focus on quality content, attract natural links, and structure around topics.

More content doesn't always mean better. Sometimes, the benefits of refreshing existing content outweigh those of creating new content. The goal is to match the audience's search intent as best as possible to improve ranking. The more you do, the higher the quality traffic and conversions you will generate.

To do that, you need to carry out an SEO keyword audit.

If you have a website and it has been live for at least six months, chances are Google has crawled and indexed it. If so, here's a tip that I encourage every professional to do. Go to Google, and type in the following:

site:yourwebsite.com "keyword(s)"

Google will list what it thinks is the best page from your website that matches that keyword or keyphrase. If your search turns up many pages, the topmost one is the one Google has determined to be the most relevant

You can do this right now if you have a good idea of who your audience is, what they're searching for, and what stage of awareness they're at.

But if you don't know what topics your audience is searching for, you can conduct some keyword research to get an idea of the topics you want your content to cover. With the tip above, you will see if you currently have any pages that match any topics you're after.

In SEO, we call this technique “pagematching.”

The goal is to find the page that best matches the keyword and the user's search intent. If the top page Google thinks is the best is either irrelevant or not the best match, then you have one of three choices to make:

1. Find and edit a page that matches it better.

You may find a more relevant page that appears further down. For example, you're a dentist. You type in “best price for dental crown” as your keyword. Google gives you 12 search results from your website. And result number seven may be the most relevant page.

Take that page and edit it to focus on that topic more. It's not about keyword stuffing. It's about matching the topic and the user's search intent.

Either that or you can edit the less relevant ones(s) to downplay the topic. This might be a lot of work if you have several pages outranking the most relevant one. But it might help if those pages are similar and stealing traffic from the best one through keyword cannibalization.

2. Deduplicate and redirect less relevant pages.

Speaking of similar pages, look at the list of URLs Google is giving you, and see if they're duplicates. Determine the primary one and delete the others.

But be careful.

There's a difference between “duplicate” and “related” content. If the goal of each piece is the same or similar, they're likely dupes. But if the goal is different, then they're related. Kill the dupes, not the related ones.

Also, before you delete anything, check to see if there's any content you want to keep. You can take out paragraphs that you can merge into the primary one. Add them where it makes sense and edit for flow. Then delete the dupes, and redirect them to that primary one.

As a quality assurance step, see if any of your other content links to the dupes you've deleted. Make sure they now point to the consolidated one.

3. Write a new, more relevant piece of content.

If Google shows no result for your keyword at all, it will say “no results found” and show broad matches. Using the previous example, you might have articles that match “dental,” “crown,” and “price,” but not in that exact order.

Look at the results of those broad matches. They may be synonymous or contextually related. Are any of these pages relevant to the search? If yes, go back to step one or two (i.e., edit or merge). If not, write a new piece of content focusing on that topic.

Finally, you might want to create an inventory of all your existing pages and match them with the keyword (i.e., “focus keyword”) they should rank highest for. And then list the URL of the page that actually does rank highest based on the previous exercise.

Do they match? Are they similar? Is one more relevant than the other?

If your website only has a few pages, this list should give you a good idea of which pages to fix, merge, or delete. But if you have quite a few, you might want to pull performance reports from Google Search Console and compare it against your analytics.

But that's for another day.

Categories
SEO

4 Keyword Research Tips (Hint: It’s Not About Keywords)

When it comes to SEO keyword research tips, my mantra is and always will be to create quality content and a quality user experience. Those are the two fundamental practices you need to focus on. Everything else is gravy.

Does that mean you should write content on every little thing in your field? No.

The best non-SEO tip I've heard was to discover what questions that your market is asking, and then to answer them.

Is it really that simple? Yes. But if you need guidance to help find those questions, keyword research is a tool that can certainly help…

… With one small caveat.

SEOs tout the importance of keyword research.

I agree, but only to a certain extent.

As a professional, you'll likely know your audience and the kinds of questions they're asking. So you simply produce content that answers their questions, solves their problems, or overcomes their challenges. As far as SEO is concerned, you've won half the battle.

After all, Google is not your client, but you both share the same clients.

The issue is, Google is becoming increasingly smart, too.

Its sophisticated intelligence, using machine learning and natural language processing, learns about the user's search intent, your content's intent (or better said, its context), and how the two are connected — in relation to all other alternatives on the Internet.

The above is super-important. Re-read it if you must.

Therefore, keyword research is useful in that it helps you understand your audience and what they're looking for, and your competition and what they're offering your audience.

To be clear, “competition” doesn't mean your direct competitors, although they may be. They are those who answer your audience's questions better than you do, and therefore rank higher. They may not be businesses at all, for that matter.

Here's a little insight into why “keywords” are not as important as you think.

Google is paying more and more attention to topics. Many SEOs are in fact gravitating towards “topical research” rather than “keyword research.”

Why is this important?

Google's sophisticated AI-like technology (called “Rankbrain”) is becoming increasingly aware of the intent behind a person's search.

If you have a piece of content that answers a person's question, even though it may not have a single mention of that keyword in it, Google will serve up your page as the best possible result for their query.

Because it's on-topic, not because it's keyword-stuffed.

Here's my point.

Keyword research is not about researching keywords in a direct sense. It's to help you understand what people are searching for and why.

That's why question-based searches are becoming increasingly popular. Before the days of voice-enabled smartphones and devices, we used to type in our searches into Google, for the sake of efficiency, by using a word or two. That's it.

Today, you can use voice search and blurt out entire questions.

You might ask a question, like: “Hey Google, where can I order a deluxe pizza?” Google is context- and location-aware, so it will serve up a listing of local restaurants for you, and maybe ask for or suggest next steps.

You don't just say, “Pizza.” Google will probably ask, “OK, what do you want to know about pizza?” (Correction: I just tested this on my Android, and sure enough, Google gave me a listing of restaurants nearby. That's how smarter it has become. I also order pizza often, so it knows me.)

The point I'm trying to make is this.

You don't want to stuff your content with keywords, write content around them, or even try to rank for them. I've worked with professionals who chased vanity keyword metrics, which was misguided, fruitless, and oftentimes very expensive.

You want to focus on topics instead.

What about a tool to help your research?

There are tons of keyword tools out there, and I've listed a few of them before. But if you want a resource that's easy, useful, and free, then use the most useful tool of them all: Google itself!

I'm not talking about Google Keyword Planner (although you could if you want to), which is a tool intended for those using Google Ads.

But I'm talking about suggestions Google themselves are giving you. As you start typing in the Google search box, you get a drop-down list of autocomplete suggestions based on previous searches.

It's a great way to see what kinds of questions people are asking, which will give you some content ideas. But it can also provide clues as to what your competition is doing when you look at the resulting listings.

But don't stop there.

When you type in your query, Google's search results page provides two other important lists of suggestions, first under the “people also ask” section, and second at the bottom under “related searches” (searches related to your topic).

You can click on any of these to see the resulting results page, which will provide once again another host of “people also ask” and “related searches” for you, and so on. Rinse and repeat.

I've recorded this short five-minute video clip to show you an actual example.

You have a lot of ammunition to help you. Regardless of the tools you use, the key is not to research specific keywords but to learn about your audience, what they're searching for, and who you're up against.

Categories
SEO

Do Page Builders Affect WordPress SEO?

Another SEO consultant reached out to me on LinkedIn. She asked my advice on the best WordPress plugins for SEO:

“My client is struggling during the pandemic. She is trying to decide if and determine how having the website developer she already engaged launch and build her WordPress WooCommerce site using the drag ‘n drop capabilities of Beaver Builder will impact her from an SEO standpoint.

“My experience as an SEO expert has been to-date that drag ‘n drop sites don't perform as well due to ‘bloated' or less-easily-indexed-by-Google code, but I get this would be kind of a hybrid site — one built in a strong CMS like WordPress, but employing Beaver Builder capabilities.

“I've read online that Beaver Builder impacts SEO negatively, but hoping you might provide some objective thoughts since you appear to build sites in many platforms. Thanks for any thoughts you are willing and able to provide.”

Beaver Builder is a drag-and-drop page builder for WordPress, the world's most popular CMS. There are many others, like Elementor, Visual Composer, and Divi.

Page builders are becoming quite popular because they allow non-developers the ability to create websites with ease and minimal technical intervention.

I use Beaver Builder on my own website and several of my clients' websites. I chose it because it is one of the oldest (meaning, it has a lot of maturity and stability), has a stronger support community, and is the most flexible among all page builders.

It's a contentious issue, but In my personal experience, Beaver Builder is perfectly fine for SEO.

Is there bloat? Yes, which is why it's contentious. But most modern page builders have clean code that's easily parsable. The “bloat” issue stems from the earlier iterations of page builders that gave all page builders a bad reputation.

Beaver Builder as well as Elementor are the least bloated of all page builders, and they are known for their cleaner, leaner code. Google can easily parse the information, so hindrance is not a factor.

There are a lot of other things that add to a website's bloated code, including poorly structured themes and too many plugins loading competing scripts and redundant resources on every page.

Add structured data to make your content easier to parse. SEO plugins and schema plugins do this. Adding schema helps Google understand your content better. I recommend this with all websites, with or without a page builder.

Now, the only reason a “bloated” website would affect SEO is that it slows it down. Page speed is a major ranking factor. But while code bloat does add to the loading time, page builders only slow it down a little. It depends on a number of other factors.

Having too many plugins (as mentioned previously), large images, database queries, etc affect page load. But your host's processing power and its server response time are more important.

Ecommerce, and WooCommerce specifically, are also key factors. Adding ecommerce capability to a website can add bloat and reduce speed.

While speed does affect SEO, in this case it can also affect sales. Slow speeds create friction at checkout, reducing conversion rates considerably.

One client of mine had a very large site with Beaver Builder, Beaver Builder add-ons, WooCommerce, and several WooCommerce add-ons, too. So we hired a “speed” expert, a developer with specific expertise in finding bottlenecks to improve page speed, particularly with ecommerce sites.

He conducted a thorough audit of the site and ran a battery of performance tests. He revealed three key bottlenecks that, combined, affected speed: my client's hosting platform, WooCommerce, and Beaver Builder.

So we switched hosts, added a tool that allowed us to load select resources on a per-page basis (such as loading WooCommerce only in the store section of the website), and used a speed tool that improved caching and compression.

The result was a ~690% improvement in page speed.

One final note.

Page builders are increasingly popular, and some of the highest-ranked websites use them. Not only that, but even WordPress themselves recognize the growing need for page builders, which is why they are adding their own version in an upcoming release.

So to a certain degree, it's irrelevant.

I recommend to choose a good host that performs well and offers a quick response time, and to use tools to improve SEO and speed.

Here's the bottom-line: if page builders help make it easier for your client to post more quality content, my vote is to keep the page builder.

Categories
SEO

Content Marketing SEO, Without Context, Is Meaningless

In the late 90s, I taught marketing classes at a local college. I vividly remember a particular lecture I often gave on the power of storytelling in communications.

Stories are not just for entertaining our audiences. They also give our content context. Context is far more important than we think especially in content marketing SEO.

In Daniel Kahneman's seminal book, “Thinking Fast and Slow,” the brain makes quick and intelligent guesses based on its unconscious use of context. The lack of context creates confusion. According to Dr. Peter Vermeulen:

“In making sense of the world around us, context is our guide, especially when the input is vague, incomplete, or ambiguous. Our brain (is) an expert in using context, which not only helps us to predict and recognize communication, but also helps us to avoid all the confusion of the ever-changing meanings of what people say or show us.”

We have an overwhelming compulsion to compare and contrast almost everything we encounter. We think in relative terms, not in direct terms.

We relate things. That’s how our minds work.

So if we construct our communications — whether it's educational content or the copy in advertising campaigns — by applying this simple rule, our efforts will perform significantly better.

During one of those lectures I mentioned earlier, one of my students, who was also a bit of a class firebrand, approached me after my talk. He wanted to illustrate my point — or perhaps make one, I'm not sure.

He pulled out a chair and placed it beside my desk, and asked me:

“Mr. Fortin, what's the difference between this chair and your desk?”

“One is to sit on and the other is to write on,” I said.

“No,” he said, “you're relating the difference rather than stating it.”

He was absolutely right. The difference is their function. “Function” is the absolute answer. Describing the difference by comparing the function of the desk with the function of the chair is the relative answer.

I was relating the difference as opposed to stating it directly.

For example, I could have said:

  • The desk is made of wood and the chair is made of plastic.
  • The desk is five feet long and the chair is only two.
  • The desk is brown and the chair is red.

But in each of these examples above, I wouldn't have directly stated what makes them different; I only related it. Their differences are, respectively, their construction, size, and color.

The point is this.

Giving your marketing context reduces friction and unnecessary critical thinking when trying to interpret your information. Also, your message will be more powerful and impactful when you give it something the mind can relate to, such as through the use of metaphor, simile, analogy, and story.

This applies to all communications, not just marketing.

Without context, one of two things might happen:

  1. You create confusion and subsequently reluctance in the mind of your audience. “The confused mind never buys,” goes the adage, whether it's selling an idea or a service.
  2. You allow if not force your audience to decide on their own what you mean, to come up with their own conclusions, which may be something completely different and perhaps unfavorable.

So the more context you provide your audience, the faster their comprehension will be, and the more meaningful what you say (and sell) will become.

Tell stories, use metaphors, make analogies, or at the very least, offer comparisons. Give your content context.

Because content, without context, is meaningless.

Categories
SEO

Digital Marketing Specialist: Communicate Authority by Association

In a previous article, I wrote about five different ways to build perceived value as a professional. I call them the “5 Cs.” Quickly, they are: content, credentials, case studies, community, and care.

“Community” is where you create a rassemblement of clients and peers who can share success stories and best practices, and support each other.

One subscriber asked, “How can a lawyer create a community of clients without breaking privilege?”

Having a community of existing clients in certain professions, such as lawyers and doctors, is obviously challenging if not prohibitive. But one way is to create a public community where people can follow you.

For example, create a page on social media that people can like, follow, comment on, engage with, and interact with you and your content. This gives your audience a place for knowledge and information exchange.

Social media offers the ability for people to follow you and share of their own volition. I've also seen professionals do this with private Facebook groups, Slack channels, discussion forums, blogs with comment sections, etc.

One professional (a computer engineer) has a voluntary Slack channel for clients to join, but has moderators, a set of rules to follow, and openly warns his members to refrain from posting any sensitive information.

There's also another extremely powerful way.

Over the course of my career, I've advised many professionals to start their own associations — and several have.

Sure, most professionals have memberships in associations that certify, license, set codes of conduct, and oversee their profession. But I'm referring to business associations or industry associations that can meet an unfilled need in your community.

One client of mine, a cosmetic surgeon, created his own association for the advancement of specific surgical procedures in his field. At last count, his association has 1,000 members throughout 70 countries.

He offered professional development opportunities, invited the sharing and collaboration of ideas and new techniques, gave out awards at conferences and events, and more.

But the best part is, his bio included that he was the founder and past president of the association, which he proudly displayed alongside his credentials, on his website, in his marketing materials, and in his byline when publishing articles.

Creating an association also uses the other “Cs” I mentioned earlier: not only does it create a community, showcase your content, and add to your credentials, but it also allows you to build case studies and shows you care about your industry, your profession, and your clients.

Launching your own association has three major benefits:

1. Being the leader in the first year, you have more leverage.

Leaders (i.e., director, president, chair, etc) are typically elected in subsequent years. But being the leader at the beginning, it gives you more leverage over the structure of the association and, above all, its marketing, too.

2. Being the founder will provide a great deal of implied authority.

No matter who gets into the leadership position later on (however, the chances are you will be nominated in the first few years, anyway), being the founder adds to your reputation and will stick with you pretty much for the rest of your career.

This is, by far, the greatest reason why a professional would start an association.

3. It gives you access to networking and research opportunities.

You can network with likeminded people, including competitors. The hidden benefit is that it gives you a leg up on what the industry is up to, what are your members' interests and concerns are, and if there are any unmet gaps that exist.

There are many other reasons for associations. But there are three common types I've found:

  1. Educational associations provide members with advanced training, specialized information on their industry, access to literature and special conferences, and more.
  2. Collaborative associations share news, recommendations, best practices, and a wealth of other knowledge and opportunities such as group purchasing.
  3. Advocational associations create lobbying opportunities, address issues, take a stand on law and policy that might impact their members' profession or their clients, etc.

Bottom line, being the founder of an association not only creates a community but is also one of the most powerful ways to communicate implied value, authority, and superiority. Without having to outright claim it.