Do You Know How To Be Effective At Online Marketing?


It’s the biggest impediment to your success. It’s what just about every business struggles with most. It’s likely the No. 1 thing holding back your business. It’s so simple a 5-year-old could solve it, but so easy to miss teams of people with advanced degrees spend countless sums struggling to get over the hurdle.

That “it” is the inability to ask the right questions, the tough “must-be-answered-before-we-do-anything-else” questions.

  • Why are we doing this?
  • How will we measure the impact?
  • What comes next?
  • How will we define success?
  • Who should be involved?

The list goes on and on and on.

One of the biggest holes in content marketing is “do-it-a-lot-before-learning-to-do-it-well” syndrome. Everyone jumps right into content creation without ever defining why they are doing so or who it’s designed to help. Then, when the results they’d hoped for never materialize, everyone sits around looking dumbfounded, or worse yet, they denounce content marketing for being a failure.

The real culprit is marketers love to jump right into tactics without ever clearly defining our objectives.

The Only Place To Start With Online Marketing

My indoctrination with this line of thinking happened more than a decade ago, when I applied for a business writing job at a newspaper. I’d just aced the interview with the executive editor and the lifestyle section editor, when the metro editor comes in and starts peppering me with questions.

Instead of staying the course and highlighting what I brought to table over a traditional journalism grad, I played to the crowd, starting in about knowing AP style, being an avid reader and studying the reporting style of well-known writers.

When the metro editor left the room, the lifestyle editor gave me the business.

“We don’t need better journalists,” she said. “We need someone who’s willing to ask the tough questions.”

That three-minute conversation made me a better writer, researcher and reporter.

There appears to be a lot of confusion on the web about where to start with online marketing. Is it SEO? Technical SEO? User experience? Content? Information architecture? Personas?

It has to be one of these, right? After all, these are the buzzwords that set hearts aflutter online.

Maybe I’m biased, but this is why I love content strategy, which I have come to call the great clarifier. As Kristina Halvorson has said, content strategy brings to the table the “right questions way before any work actually kicks in or gets done.”

We can agree or disagree on just what those questions should be, but this plotting of the right path cannot be overstated in its importance.

It also ensures that what’s important remains a priority throughout the process, no matter what the overall objectives are for the business.

Never Stop Asking ‘Why Are We Doing This?’

now what?If every meeting began with someone asking “Why are we doing this?” a lot of the heartache associated with online marketing would be alleviated.

That’s just want I want you to start doing, however.

Before any content is created, any websites are designed or any social media platforms are chosen, get to the bottom of why you’re doing it in the first place. It could very well be that the answer you get saves time, money and a huge investment in resources your team does not have.

To see this plan at work, we’ll use a conversation I had recently with an executive coaching client looking to rebrand himself as a thought leader outside the confines of his current company.

His goal is to grow his presence outside of corporate America with hopes of being hired as a consultant by some of the brands who are now vendors to his current company.

His idea was to post weekly content on LinkedIn, daily content on Twitter, Google Plus and Instagram, and blog at least once per week.

By asking “Why are we doing this?” I find out he’s looking to exit his current job within the next 12 months, so moving quickly is seen as the only option.

However, he lacks the time for such a full-on rebranding assault.

With his overall goal laid bare, we see where he is trying to go, yet we also recognize the flaws in how he is trying to get there. Now we can plot a workable plan of action that should be no less effective, but places the emphasis where it should be: On the desired results, not the process, which can become a quagmire that’s impossible to extricate yourself from.

That’s the beauty of asking “Why are we doing this?” It strips away process, forcing you to focus on what matters most—and only what matters most at a given point and time.

There is no room for distraction.

Making “Why are we doing this?” work for your business is easy and necessary.

Here’s a simple example:

Your team is planning for a big new product launch in the spring. The goal is to generate significant momentum leading up the launch, then have the pieces in place to sustain the momentum as the sales channels continue to materialize.

By asking “Why are we doing this?” you get a very clear, finite answer: to goose sales.

See what happened there? Your team doesn’t get bogged down in the details. You don’t create silos, since the content, web development and SEO teams aren’t pitted against one another for resources initially and, most important, the work becomes about the over-arching goal, not the process of getting there (e.g., web redesign, hiring sales team members, content marketing, etc.).

I’m convinced online marketers would all do well to start asking themselves the same question.

The results could be astounding.

Give this approach a try in your business and let us know what you think.

9 Things You Might Be Getting Wrong With Your Blog Images

When you construct a blog post it’s important to have the right visual content. I believe it can actually be as important as the writing in most cases. In the name of corny awesome Buzzfeed style listicles I’ve outlined some of the most common errors I see professionals and non-professionals make with their blog image choices. Here we go!

1. Not Using Images At All

While the United States may rank 27th for broadband internet the reality is that the average internet connection speed is 31.02 MBPS, which is far more than enough to load reasonably sized images. If you’re not using images, you’re missing out on the social sharing potential for your posts. Because without a specific image with Twitter-cards or OG markup then you’ll either get a random logo or design element pulled onto those social posts or worse, none at all.

2. Using Small 100-300px Images and Right Aligning Them

The Rubiks Cube Of GoogleWhat is this 2004? You don’t need to offset small images set on left and right alignment for each paragraph. The era of big, beautiful images is here (hooray!). You should embrace the quality of your images and allow them to take up the full width of your blog post.
If you’re not prepared to go big, then you’ve chosen the wrong image. The second issue with using these tiny images is that they are below the minimum size to be eligible for them to trigger those beautiful image powered posts on social, just as if they didn’t exist. Boo.

3. You Never Named Your Image File

 Untitled Images - We all have our folders of unlabled shame.
It’s a pain, but a necessary step. You’ve got to take the time to rename the file before you upload it. Google has included the file name into the list of elements that it considers when it determines the relevance of an image. We’re definitely going for relevance here.

4. You Didn’t Minify Your Image

Small Mario can be useful!

This GIF originally was 4.5 MB. I cropped, scaled and optimized it in GIMP down to 1.8 MB. Small Mario has some advantages!

You can minify your JPGs and your PNGs to help decrease your load time and still retain the high quality image you selected. There are of course also a range of WordPress plugins that can minify images automatically as you upload them so you don’t have to worry about it. If you are shrinking a GIF you can try some tools like this one, scale down the size of the image in Gimp/Photoshop or remove parts of the layers that don’t change from frame to frame.

5. You Let WordPress Create A Title & Alt Based On That File Name

 Oh Silly Krang
FVB122.ico.tmz is super helpful to both the disabled users that visit your site & to  Googlebot to understand the image (said no one ever).

6. You Chose A Generic Stock Image Graphic

SEO and hands with lens flares by J.J Abrams

I need an image of the letters SEO with random hands that also has lens flares by J.J Abrams. Yes! Thank you Mjohns2839 just what I needed!

Stock photos are seen as a cure for a marketing image needed by many businesses who don’t, can’t or won’t put more resources into their websites and online marketing efforts (sorry about the run-on). Stock photos are actually like one of those prescription drugs where the list of “side” effects are truly horrific.

Yea, it’s actually better not to use any images instead of going with true with a selection of obvious stock images. Recently there has been a rise in “non-stock photos” which sounds great, but they have their own issues.

7. You Didn’t Add A Much Needed Caption

Who knows why you chose this image from taken by Ryan Tauss

It’s tempting to just grab a big image from one of the many non-stock photo sites that have cropped up to provide an alternative to WTFstock photos. But you had a deadline and kinda just picked something that maybe sorta possibly related to your topic. Sorta.

I don’t blame you. It’s pretty tedious to scroll through all those sites hoping to find something related to the post you’re writing about the “super exciting” world of binary load lifters or moisture ‘vaporators. But if you can’t get quality images that you take yourself or have professionally photographed then at least add a caption to tie that image securely to the topic being discussed. (It doesn’t have to be in Bocce).

8. You Set Yourself Up To Get Fined By Getty Images

If you’re blindly picking images you find in Google’s image search then you’re just begging for problems. If you so happen to choose a Getty Image they will use reverse image software to hunt you down, send a “violation letter” and demand a multi-hundred dollar fee. Per image.

Even though the actual  image license itself costs just a few pesos, they will claim that “damages” were done. As disreputable as this may sound, you can take some steps to protect yourself and your client from this headache by carefully sourcing your images.

9. You Didn’t Just Take It Yourself

When you are the creator of an image or you pay someone to create an image for your blog post you’re putting something new out there. Take out that lonely SLR, your 45 megapixel Nokia Lumia or hire a talented photographer. It’s much easier to rank for new content you’ve contributed over something that already existed that you just tweaked (if that) and appropriated for yourself.


See? I took this photo of my designer friend drawing carrots for a logo and it looks awesome right?

What Have You Done Wrong With Your Images?

Feel free to share any mistakes you feel you’ve made in the past with your images. C’mon, we’ve all done it.

If You’re Doing Social Media For SEO, You’re Doing It Wrong


My dad used to say, “If you tell the same lie long enough, eventually it catches up to you and you have to account for it.” You’d think my dad was a content marketer, since many of the “white lies” we’ve been telling brands for years are finally coming home to roost. The biggest among those untruths is overstating the value of social media to brands who are neither prepared to take advantage of those benefits nor discerning enough to parse the information we were sharing.

It went something like this.

Marketer: “You have a good website, strong SEO, your main keywords are where we need them to be, and your content is great since the redesign. But you need social media to really take your business to the next level. When people visit your blogs, then share them in social media, the social signals will help your site rank better.”

Client: “So social signals are like links? They are links, basically? Is that what you’re saying?”

You see where this is going right. The marketer, realizing the opportunity to close the deal, chooses to tell one little white lie, which will come back to bite her in the backside months later.

Marketer: “Yes, exactly. Social signals are basically links.”

(I was privy to conversations that proceeded like this on numerous occasions.)

It’s the lie that slices like a knife but hurts mainly because it doesn’t have to be told.

Do Social Media For The Right Reasons

Search signals are not links, and they never will be links. But you know what? That doesn’t matter. You should do social because it’s one of the cheapest and most effective ways to conduct online PR, branding and customer service for your brand. Of all the things you can do online to help your business, social media has the ability to give your brand the reach, visibility and a lasting presence few mediums can provide.

The search benefits, which are real and can substantial, are a bonus.

Now that you know why you should do social media, let’s discuss how to smartly deploy social media for your business.

Define your target audience, then discern where they are congregating online.

Don’t assume it’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram just because they have the number. You need to know where the people are who would be interested your content and who could be classified as a qualified lead.

Determine the content they are interesting in by looking at the content they share, converse about and link to.

To do this, create a list of some of the most active participants in your vertical online, then pay attention to what they are sharing and linking to. (To get a simple look at what they are linking to, visit their website and read their content or use a program like Open Site Explorer or Screaming Frog to peek at backlink.)

Create the content you’ll ultimately want to promote.

Strive to make it as in-depth and actionable as possible, in addition to adding several meaningful graphics. Be sure to include clear, compelling calls-to-action, which should aid commenting, sharing and linking.

Publish the content and get busy promoting it online.

Tag or tweet to members of the audience who are key in sharing the content. Elicit discourse on social media by asking questions, tagging others and inviting public discussion.


As you can imagine, if your business is creating stellar content consistently, then sharing it with the right audience members, links will follow. And those links will help your SEO.

However, content is not synonymous with links, so don’t make the mistake of assuming there is a 1:1 relationship between the two, as in more shares equals more links.

If you’re doing content and social media wisely, your business will see the benefits, by way of shares, links and enhanced organic search reach, as the topics you’re blogging about slowly begin to show up higher in the SERPS. This is typically a slower process than most business owners would like for it to be, though, which explains why the little white lie becomes a big lie that ultimately loses content marketers clients.

You should use social media because it’s an effective medium for establishing your brand’s online presence and maintaining top-of-mind awareness. The links and social signals that should follow are gifts.

(Hat tip to Eric Enge for his recent post on social media and SEO, which served as the impetus for me to share my personal experience.)

What are your thoughts?

Why Our Now Provided Report is Essential For Your SEO Toolset [Podcast]

Last week Dan Kaplan, who is a long-time, valued client and also the CoFounder of periscopeUP, interviewed our CEO Chase Granberry about our Now Provided Reports. Below is the Podcast and in this video you can see all the benefits of our report. You can see screenshots, see how easy the set-up is, understand how the process works and then see the resulting data. Chase also goes over some other tool options you may not have been aware that AuthorityLabs provides.

Analyzing Page Titles with Screaming Frog [VIDEO]

I’m sure many of you have read Brian LaFrance’s latest post on how Google looks at your page titles. If you haven’t checked it out yet. Do ett!

In this tutorial, I will show you how to take your page titles and give them a make over! Screaming Frog is an incredible tool to do that with. I’ve released two other tutorials on how to use Screaming Frog, and how to pair Screaming Frog with Google Analytics. Check out the full video tutorial below. Or scroll down for the picture-book-walkthrough.

Step 1 – Page Title Length

Brian and I collected and analyzes thousands of site’s page titles. We found that Google most commonly changes your page titles to be within the 50-59 character range. Fun fact: the optimal pixel width for a title tag is 512 characters.


Step 2 – Filter Options

Feel free to scroll over and filter by Title Length or Title Pixel Width. Simply click on the column title.  


Step 3 – Lower Window Magic

Many Screaming Frog explores seldom use the lower window. I touched on this window in earlier tutorials. But, we’re really going to dive in and take full advantage of these features.

URL Info: This tab contains a snapshot of the following elements:

  • Address
  • Status Code
  • Content Size
  • Title
  • Meta Description
  • H1
  • Canonical Link
  • Word Count
  • Level
  • Inlinks
  • Outlinks

Step 4 – #AllTheLinks

In the next tab over you can view which links are linking to the page you have selected, and are linking away. You can even check on your Anchor Text and Alt Text for each of the links.


Step 5 – Images

This info is helpful to check if your images have the proper Alt Text and what they’re linking to.


Step 6 – Bread Winner! – SERP Snippet

Pro Tip: To bask in the full glory of the SERP Snippet window, resize it be clicking and dragging the dotted lines. 

SERP Snippet: This tab gives you an overview of how your landing page looks in Google.


Step 7 – Check yo’self

If you look to the right of your SERP preview, you can see a character counter and pixel width counter. Screaming Frog highlights the title metrics in red if they are greater than what would be viewable in Google. So helpful!


Step 8 – A New View

This view also allows you to view your SERP Snippet as if you were viewing them on desktop, mobile, or tablet.

step8 - different views

Step 9 – Try, try, again

One really cool tool in Screaming Frog is that you can edit your page titles and meta descriptions. You can use this to edit multiple landing pages and then export those edits and then ad them to your site.

Pro Tip: There is a little bug. If you want to reset the Title & Description to the original version make sure you don’t navigate away from this selected landing page. 

step9- edit or reset

Step 10 – Tips ‘n Tricks

Scroll over different parts of the SERP Snippet to get tips on each other the aspects.

 step10- scroll

Step 11 – Export

Change the titles/meta/keywords/etc to the correct lengths, then export them!

step11- protip-export

Step 12 – Pretty Time!

Check out the conditional formatting section of my tutorial for a detailed walk-through. Or, if you’re most confident in your Excel skills then you can reference these cheat sheets on how to format your results.

step13- formatting step14- formatting

Thank you! 


And happy exporting!

Link Building Or Content Marketing? What’s Best For Your Business?

Despite all the talk about Google one day “suppressing” the value of links in favor of other ranking factors, those days have not arrived yet, which explains why you continue to fret over too few links given the amount of money you’re now spending on content. Should you focus less on content creation and more on link building? Or should you go all-in on content marketing with hopes that links begin to materialize at some point in the near future?

The correct answer is “neither.”


The safest, surest way to acquire links to your website is by creating content your audience desires, consumes, finds worthy of sharing and, most important, linking to. The only way that happens consistently, however, is by emphasizing link worthiness with the majority of the content your business creates, a process that pays dividends in all areas of your company.

  • Quality becomes and remains a focus for everyone who creates content at the company
  • Awareness of your audience and its needs is made a priority
  • Content and SEO teams are energized to create, promote and share content more frequently
  • Outreach becomes a part of your business
  • Content and SEO can no longer remain siloed

Instead of framing the question as “Should you become a link builder or a content marketer?” I say we frame it as “How do we create quality content that serves to facilitate gaining links for our website?”

It requires a change in mindset.

Ignore Your Audience To Create Link Worthy Content

When it comes to content creation, even the brands that do it well typically do it wrong. They create amazing content they know their audience will love and share, but they miss two all-important elements as regards gaining links:

  • Who among the audience shares links to content
  • What content/content type they most often link to and share

Your business can create the best content in the world, then see it get shared and talked about nonstop online, but never acquire a significant or meaningful number of links. How does this happen?

You’re creating content primarily for consumption and shareability, when you should be thinking about linkability first.

That’s done by ignoring the noise and focusing intently on (a) who the most active linkers (Rand Fishkin calls them “linkerati“) are in your vertical, (b) creating content that closely matches the style, tone and quality of what they are linking to, and (c) enlisting their help in promoting your content.

I can read your mind.

“We’re an accounting firm, Ronell! A six-person business that can barely produce four blog posts a month, at that. How in the world can we find these linkers and get them to share our content, when we don’t know who they are, what they want? Leaving aside our inability to create such content.”

A year ago, I was in the same boat with you. My clients could barely afford to pay for content, and they did so only because they were paying for SEO in hopes of staying on top of their main keywords. But with the advent of Not Provided and the difficulty of wrangling the ranking monster, those clients began to ask “Why are we producing content, if it’s not acquiring links?” And those who weren’t asking that question began to ask another similar one: “According to everything I read, links are still the No. 1 factor when it comes to my website showing up on the first page of Google. Why don’t we just focus on link building instead of wasting money on content?”

This line of questioning made me change my approach and adopt an entirely different mindset regarding content marketing: A significant percentage of the content your business produce every month must be link worthy.

Exactly what that percentage will vary by business and vertical, but for a business that’s only able to create four pieces of content a month, my number is 25 percent, or one piece of content.

The less content you produce, the fewer opportunities you have for links, so you have no choice but to make them count.

With the 25 percent philosophy, I’d recommend the company blog four times a month, but one of the posts would be a meaty piece designed to garner links. Trust me, it’s easier than it sounds, and it starts with identifying the linkers.

Baking Linkability Into The Content Marketing Process

Using the example of the fictitious accounting firm mentioned above, I’ll lay out a strategy any business can use effectively.

Develop a rapport with the linkers. No matter your industry or vertical, there are websites devoted to the profession. And what everyone of these websites has in common are diehard followers, supporters and “watchers” of the craft. These people are easy to spot, for they are always sharing content via social media, always active in the most important conversations in the vertical and they frequently post links to content via their website.

These are the people you need to form a relationship with: share  and discuss their content; engage them in online conversation; email them questions or suggestions; share comments on their blog; tag them in Google Plus posts; and invite them to be a part of your content, through quotes in blogs or, better yet, in podcasts or Google Hangouts. In this way, you’re creating a reciprocal relationship, by helping them as they help you, which is something Stone Temple Consulting does with their “Digital Marketing Excellence Show.”

Identify the content they are sharing and, most important, linking to. Now that you’ve identified the linkers, it’s time to hone in on the content they most often link to on their websites and share online.

  • Are they certain content types that are linked to most often?
  • Do certain content topics get more links than others?
  • Is the content image-heavy?

Once you have a handle on what type of content to create, you must focus on creating a piece of content that’s the best of it’s type on the topic, which equates to baked-in shareability. To do this, you’ll mosey over to Google and look for the highest-ranking pieces of content on the topic. For our purposes, we’re looking for “Top accounting worries for new homeowners.”

top accounting worries for new homeowners - Google Search 2014-10-29 10-15-14

We’re only interested in the top three organic results. The No. 1 result looks intriguing. Once inside the post, we see that “Don’t Overspend on Furniture and Remodeling,” “Don’t Ignore Important Maintenance Items” and how to “Hire Qualified Contractors” are the top concerns.

Hmm…Getting interesting, right?

Produce the content, then set about enlisting the help of the linkers. I’d have the client produce a 1,500 to 2,000 word blog post titled “How First-time Homebuyers Can Furnish Their Home Without Breaking The Bank.” The post would be written in list format, contain at least five images (one per every 350-400 words) and feature interviews with accountants and other finance pros having active, engaged audiences, in addition to high profile furniture store owners or managers, many of whom are every active online.

Once the content is produced, I’d post the content to the company blog, then, simultaneously, reach out to the linkers for help sharing and answering comments on the site. (Be sure to list the personal names, business names and social media handles of those interviewed when sharing via social, which creates additional buzz for those involved and further incentivizes them to link to the post.) Also, ask those who were interviewed if they would mind running a snippet of the post on their website, then link to the original post. If it helps, you could have a staff member write the snippet, then email it to the linker to post on their site.

Continue to fan the flames well after the content is posted. You need to keep the linkers in your stable while you reach out to interact with other linkers in the community. Also, you must keep your eyes open for the next piece of  link-worthy content, which you are now on the hook for once per month.

The strategy laid can and will work for your business, provided you’re willing to do the leg-work of identifying linkers and developing a rapport with them. The more you share and interact, the more links you can expect and the easier the task become over time.

Please share your thoughts below.

(I must give a huge shout-out to Rand Fishkin and Brian Dean for influencing my views on link building and the role it should play in content creation.)

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