June 26, 2014: Have you seen this joke make the rounds through your LinkedIn or even Facebook news feeds? As illustrated in this screen grab of a tweet from Shaun Moynihan in late 2012, @Moynihan received an astounding 2,300 retweets and 630 favorites for it, but The Atlantic actually covered “Twitter’s Best Joke”, among other humorous variations, nearly a year earlier.
Unfortunately, the joke is based on a bit of truth. You see, variations of this tactic worked really well in the late nineties (and maybe in several years following). Check out the agenda for the very first Search Engine Strategies in November 1999. An entire panel was dedicated to writing meta tags! Yes, this type of page optimization mattered back then.
Screen Grab via Search Engine Strategies
If you read Danny Sullivan’s retrospective of the event, word repetition, use of commas, etc all came into the best practice discussion. Synonym usage, keyword density, and other word variations would come into for SEO play over the following years too.
But it’s pretty cool that industry thought leaders like Shari Thurow and Sullivan were already beating a drum well heard in today’s search environment. Thurow expressed the fact that SEO’s still needed to “build sites that can please humans and search engines combined”. Sullivan’s “Back to Basics” presentation highlighted page content as it’s first bullet point in search ranking importance.
So while a lot has changed; a fair amount has stayed the same as well. As search engines get better at understanding language and word patterns, content quality matters much more than the integration of a bunch of synonyms and certainly a percentage of keywords in text. So in a sense, the role of onsite SEO recommendations have changed.
How do you integrate SEO strategy with quality content optimization recommendations? Here are three tactical best practices to consider, with examples where possible.
Create an Authoritative Visitor Experience
Focus on having the best resource available for the particular keyword query you’re trying to gain visibility for. A well optimized resource center is one idea. Here are some examples we’ve come across online.
- Moz has set the standard in our community. Perform a search for “learn SEO”, “SEO” or other information-gathering searches and Moz deservedly ranks pretty high in search engine results. Their “learning center“, with crisp visual callouts, concise navigation, and clear call-to-actions creates an easy to explore experience coupled with highly valuable, well-written content.
- Eloqua’s best practice section is a great example of what we recommend for many of our clients developing a set of resources for their customers and site visitors. The section by itself could stand alone as it’s own web experience. Eloqua incorporates comprehensive summary details and cross-links for each sub-section as well as “featured” resources in main content area. It’s no surprise they perform well in search engine results for many of their “best practice” keyword phrases.
- Need a more streamlined approach? Lista’s straight-forward approach to their resource center allows for streamlined viewing and access by content marketing asset type (IE, white papers, media, product literature, etc). And don’t forget your call to action(s). Lista makes certain visitors have access to important sales communication at the bottom of each web page.
Resource centers are a great idea but certainly require time and commitment to put together well. What about individual blog posts and articles? How should B2B SEO’s go about evaluating how to develop the best content for ongoing SEO initiatives?
Here is a bullet list of questions to ask:
- Evaluate the competitive keyword space: What publishers rank well for particular keyword targets? What are the objectives of their content?
- Evaluate the performance of content: How long / in-depth is each article? How many shares did their content get, per platform? How many comments did they receive?
- Evaluate the author and publication: How active are they in social media? How large of a social network do they appear to possess? How influential is the network of the publication itself?
Once you have a list of content assets that perform well, map out the various performance factors out and make a determination on how your organization can deliver something even better. For example, if all of the blog posts and articles that well feature content in excess of 1,500 words, you know you’ll need a more expansive piece.
And if you don’t believe having the best resource possible matters in helping to achieve online marketing success (let alone B2B SEO success), take a look at the details behind the anatomy of the perfect blog post as detailed by Kevan Lee for Buffer last month. Factors and performance benchmarks of well written content might surprise you but certainly shouldn’t be taken lightly if you’re serious about online marketing success.
Make Your Content Link-Friendly
Link building is still a pretty important component of B2B SEO strategy, no matter what you read or hear. And while B2B marketers can obviously just ask for links from target audiences, make it easy for other site owners to easily link as well.
What do I mean by that? Consider the following tactical examples:
- Embed Code: Have you built the next great infographic or data visualization? Make sure other site owners can quickly grab the right code, with your site’s important links, to place your content marketing asset on their website. Check out this example from Wikibon on how they curate and place embed code instructions for their infographics on one easy-to-find landing page.
- Cross-Link Related Resources: You’ve built the next great content marketing asset. Now what? Encourage readers not to just drop off the site after one page view. Add simple call-to-actions cross-linking related material or even more sales-oriented call-to-actions if appropriate. Hopefully your readers find more value, and more reasons to link to your thought leadership. Evernote does a nice job with subtle, less intrusive cross-links in the footer of each blog post (see below, example here).
- Social Sharing Buttons: Incorporate social sharing opportunities throughout content marketing assets. You need to go no farther than the top section of this blog post for example. And while it’s debatable how much of an impact social sharing has on SEO, at the least you stand a better chance of getting your content into the browser window of those more likely to link. Don’t forget to incorporate social sharing elements best representative of your audience as well. For example, your site might have an active fan base on Pinterest. If so, make sure you add easy-to-pin elements on your web pages and through your media.
Share The (Link) Love
In particular when B2B organizations start engaging in ongoing content marketing initiatives, blog posts, articles, and bylines, (both onsite and meant for third party publications) become increasingly important. Don’t forget to link out to appropriate references and resources, designed to either enhance the reader’s experience or support / validate the information presented.
Matt Cutts, Google’s Head of Google’s Webspam team, offers suggestions on how and why site publishers should link out to third party publications when citing sources. The two videos are below:
If I write about another article, where should I link to the original source?
If I quote another source, will I be penalized for duplicate content?
Beyond Google’s recommendations, a few other points to consider when linking out:
- Keywords: Don’t force keyword-specific cross-links. Anchor text still plays a role in search relevance but it’s also important to make sure copy makes sense for users as well.
- Multiple Links: Your first reference to the same web page may matter more. As indicated in the previous link reference, Moz experiments have shown that if two links are targeting the same URL, only the anchor text used in the first link is counted by Google. Matt Cutts has since come out and partially validated these statements, but cautions against making this type of analysis a high priority for SEO.
- Outreach: It doesn’t hurt to let people know you linked (to them). Beyond SEO, it’s nice to let people know you’ve given them the compliment of linking to their resource (assuming it’s a positive reference of course!).
Good on-site SEO goes way beyond word patterns and usage, evaluating factors like content quality, opportunity to encourage link acquisition, and building a more connected resource. How have your onsite optimization initiatives changed in recent years? I would love to read your perspective and feedback via comments below.