Google’s head of Spam, Matt Cutts, answers a question about internal links, exact match anchor text and penguin.
If you’re a smaller business and competing in an industry with big brands that perpetually dominate the search results, it can be tough. At times, you probably get frustrated and simply feel like you’ve been run over. No matter what you do, you feel like you can’t break through to gain the recognition you deserve.
Google has a reputation for preferring the big boys, and their brands seem to always appear at the top of the search results. It makes some sense, though. These are trusted brands that many customers as well as the search engines feel confident about.
So what can you do?
Plenty, actually. You’re not alone, and you DO stand a chance of winning some games in the big leagues. You just have to adjust your way of thinking and use the right tools. Here are a few ways that you can improve your playing strategy.
Focus on Branding
Stop spending so much time trying to research keywords and rank specifically for them. That’s always going to be a part of SEO, but we’re talking about stepping onto a much broader playing field—one whose boundaries don’t stay within the realm of SEO.
The way you convey your brand through visuals is important. It’s the first thing that registers in peoples’ minds. Before they read a single sentence, the colors and the overall feel of your logo and website have already made a statement.
Your logo should represent what you stand for. The color scheme should do the same. Your color scheme plays a big role in your branding. I’m sure you are aware that certain colors tend to evoke certain emotions. Did you know that there are also good color combinations and bad ones? Here are a few sources to help you out with that:
- Smashing Magazine’s in-depth guide to colors, what they convey, and examples of each
- Tons of color combo’s submitted by users in the ColourLover community
- The theory behind why some color combinations are just better for business, with examples
This doesn’t have to be an expensive proposition. It’s easy to find freelance designers who are very affordable. Once your designs, colors, and logo are ready to go, it’s time to bring in the copywriter. At this stage, you have to develop an original, catchy set of slogans, taglines, and other messages.
Brand Keywords & Steering Clear of Extremely Competitive Keywords
Let’s say that you run a store for dog toys. Instead of focusing all your content, titles, and keywords around “dog leashes” and “puppy chew toys,” switch to more brand-related keywords. If your store’s name is Zippy’s, for example, then use “Zippy’s dog leash sale” and the like.
Of course, you still want to include some generic keywords that people often search for; but don’t try to compete with PetCo and other big brands for the most common and obvious one- or two-word phrases. Instead, shoot for long-tail keywords. You’ll stand a much better chance at ranking for them.
Branding is about consistency and making sure that consumers think of you when they need your product or service. At the very first glance, they should recognize that an ad, a sale, or even an email is yours. Everything that you do should reflect your brand. Anything you do on social media should include it—your emails, your ads, your website. Everything.
If you’re a business that serves your local area, then you need to be concerned about and use local SEO to your advantage. If you do it right, you can generate an extensive amount of business.
Big brands might dominate most of the top search results. But in many cases, Google will place local results at the top for a lot of searches that people perform. Local, dedicated server hosting is one way to match what the big brands are doing if you want to compete for local search results. An entire book could be written around local SEO, so it would be a bit much to try to cover it all here. However, this guide to local SEO will get you geared up and ready to go.
Find Your USP & Get Creative
One of the best things you can do is to sit down and figure out what makes you different from the big boys. What do you have to offer that they don’t? That’s your unique selling point (USP), and it’s something that can set you apart and reward you with loyal customers.
Once you know what your USP is, get creative about letting people know about it. I actually found out about a company called Dollar Shave Club while reading a blog on branding here. This company nailed it, and they figured out how to let the world know! Just check out their video below:
Sure, Dollar Shave is competing with some very huge companies and brands. But they deliver what seems to be an amazing service, with a high-quality product that those big companies don’t have. They found their USP and they definitely got creative; they weren’t afraid to step outside the box. This video was uploaded merely a year ago and has received more than 9 MILLION views.
Don’t Forget Social Media
Social media can be a powerful tool for smaller businesses. It gives you the chance to do many things. You can put yourself on an almost-level playing field here: engage customers, run contests, and get attention just like anyone else.
One place in particular that will probably become a powerhouse for local businesses is Facebook Graph Search. If you aren’t active on Facebook, now is the time to start!
Image Credit: Shutterstock / iQoncept
While many elements of online marketing have changed over the years, content marketing is one that has more or less stayed the same. Sure, we have different ways of sharing that content. One example is social media marketing, which has become a powerhouse and continues to grow as new platforms gain popularity. But, the use of content remains consistent at its core, giving us what is perhaps the most stable form of marketing available.
That doesn’t mean there has been no change in how content is marketed. Just the way it has shifted to fit an expanding web has shifted both the way information is presented, and how it is received by the reader.
What Is Content Marketing?
A better question (and a harder one to answer) is ‘What is content?’. In the past, this was not a question at all because we had a very solid definition for what content entailed. Once upon a time, content was regarded as information published by experts (journalists and public figures, or novelists). Experts were someone who had a sturdy history behind them, in a particular area, and they had used this as a foundation to build their credibility.
Today, we have a much different definition of what constitutes content. Anyone can make it, anyone can publish it. More importantly, anyone can establish themselves as an expert by using it. Now, the implication of that fact used to make others nervous. One example is the initial reaction of journalists to the political or event bloggers that were popping up on the web a decade ago. As of today, a fair amount of content shared by news sources has actually been broken by those very same bloggers.
Since the definition of content has changed, the definition is much broader than it ever was before. Content, in the context of the online world, can be anything, from an article to a photo. As long as it holds relevance to readers, and it has the potential to spread through social media, I would argue that it is content. And so, it is perfect for content marketing.
You can find an interesting article on content prior to 2004 at Content Marketing Experience.
Again, What Is Content Marketing?
Because of the evolution mentioned above, content marketing is much easier to define. It is simply using whatever content you publish on the web as a means of generating visibility and monetizing those views. There are definitely better ways to put it… Here are a few great definitions I have come across:
Zemanta: “content marketing is creating and sharing valuable, relevant content with prospects for the purpose of turning them into customers and regular buyers.”
Rand Fishkin (this one is GOLD): “Content marketing isn’t just about attracting customers. It’s about attracting and appealing to anyone who might influence (!) a potential customers.”
Quora: ”content marketing is the umbrella of all techniques that are used to generate traffic, leads, online visibility, and brand awareness/fidelity.”
- Content marketing versus content strategy as discussed at Quora
- 5 Ways to use Content Marketing to Build Your Authority Status by great Jennifer Mattern at DirJournal
That being said, content marketing is all kinds of marketing you already know – done through content.
Basic Content Marketing Channels
How you actually “market” is going to vary, but you should be utilizing the basic tools for anyone on the net:
No matter what you have heard, SEO is not going anywhere. It remains the main tool for marketing your content online because search engines are still able to provide your glamorous content with steady exposure.
Perhaps my favorite quote on this topic came from James Gurd in a recent interview with eConsultancy. “Content Marketing is not SEO, but it is complementary and should be integrated.” He makes a good point, and it should be a lesson to those who mistake SEO as spam, when used with quality content.
Another thing to mention here is of course Google Authorship – which is verifying your authorship with Google. It’s not yet a ranking factor, but it can definitely boost the exposure of your content since verified content shows the author’s photo in search results and thus increases its click-through!
Link building has evolved incredibly. Now it’s no longer cool to say “build links” – we say “attract links” or even “deserve links”… And the best way to “attract” links is… right: Through awesome content people keep referring to!
Content-focused link building tactics include:
- Ego-bait (and various types of it; here’s a good case study: How I Got an 80% Success Rate on My Latest Outreach Campaign)
- Guest blogging (I have written a free guest blogging eBook detailing the whole process step-by-step)
Social Media Sharing
This is the big one. Go to your Facebook friend feed and see how many third-party links are being shared. How often have you shared links to content yourself? The two forms of marketing go hand in hand, and I see them as an extension of one another. You should have social media profiles across major and niche communities, and you should be using them to spread content as far as possible.
Tools and further reading:
- Kikolani’s eBook on promoting each piece of content as well as Dan Zarrella’s “Science of ReTweets”
- Viral Content Bizz to get essential core votes to get the word out
Content Marketing Channels
Because content types may vary broadly (moreover, you can re-package your content into many types), there are lots of specific channels where you can market your content. Below listed are just a few possible channels – what’s more important is that there’s a third-party case study with each channel that you can use to learn how to market your content there and sky rocket your strategy!
One of the most amazing bloggers on YouTube is Lisa Irby. Her content is always immensely useful. Check out one of her recent video, for example, that introduces content promotion tactics. It’s a must for everyone building websites for profit!
Lisa is an excellent example of a great content marketer. Read her tutorial and personal case study on using YouTube as a content marketing channel!
Slideshare is one of the most under-utilized content marketing channels. Everyone starting a project is rushing up to create a Google Plus page and a Twitter account but how about utilizing and re-using your own presentations?
Read this very detailed guide “How to Milk SlideShare Homepage for All the Traffic You Can Handle” from Anna Hoffman as well as her personal stats!
Have you ever heard podcasting is about to die? Never believe it! People still love listening to what you have to say – especially while on the go!
If you do videos or Google Hangouts, podcasting is another brilliant idea to reuse that content to another channel: iTunes!
Michael Stelzner is one of the best examples of brilliant podcasters. Here’s his own guide starting a successful podcast.
What Is The Future of Content Marketing?
It is hard to say, but I would venture a guess that it will more or less stay the same. Providing high quality content is the consistent root that has never evolved. Low quality content has always been seen as spam for SEO manipulation, and search engines have been adapting to catch it. This has led spammers to switch to scraping articles to sell as their own, a problem Google addressed with the creation of Google Authorship.
This shows a pattern: content marketing and production will remain steady and the same, but the standards for finding scams will continue to adapt. All you have to worry about is writing high quality content, publishing it with authentication, and waiting for the benefits.
>>> Further reading: “Content marketing trends”
To me, content marketing comes down to one principle: If you make something good, people will like it. If they like it, they will share it. Nothing in that rule is difficult to understand and it is a simple principle to follow. You should just be doing what you should have been all along-> providing readers with something awesome they will want to show others.
What do you think of content marketing? Let us know in the comments.
There has been a lot of talk over the years about websites being negatively affected by other spammy or unethical sites on the same server or IP address. Google’s Matt Cutts answers a question about the possibility of a web host’s reputation affecting an individual website’s ranking in the SERPs. The answer is not a “hard no”. I suggest you watch and find out why.
In this video David Mihm, the Director of Local Search Strategy for SEOmoz, reviews the evolution of the Google local algorithm.
This is important for business owners to watch so they can see how algorithms change and evolve, but more importantly businesses will know if the local search advice they are given by SEO’s or search consultants is recent/valid.
David speculates on what he thinks Google will do in the future. David is a very respected man in the search industry. I would pay close attention to his “speculations” and perhaps start engaging in marketing options he thinks will be a factor in the future.