Hold on to your chairs marketers, brands and publishers, your world is about to drop off its axis.
I have on many occasions written about the massive move Facebook is going to be making, and I have on many occasions written about why you need SEO, but this time it is to warn you that you need it NOW.
Why now? On Thursday last week, the 30th of June 2016, all our comfortable marketing worlds were shattered when Facebook announced on its blog, the new algorithm update.
Facebook have moved to obliterate all your “free” marketing efforts as the algorithm is changing to send less traffic to your content sites.
The reason being says Facebooks Vice president of product management Adam Mosseri “The growth and competition in the publisher ecosystem is really, really strong, We’re worried that a lot of people using Facebook are not able to connect to friends and family as well because of that.”
Firstly, it was never your audience to begin with, so the panic we all feel is somewhat exaggerated by this realisation. Let’s dive deep into what this means for us locally. SocialFlow reported earlier this month that the reach of publishers has already dropped by 42%, and since most publishers generate about 70% of their traffic from Facebook, especially here is SA, it’s a rather bleak outlook.
It’s not like the writing wasn’t on the wall, we have all seen the little alerts Facebook pops out suggesting you should boost your post, well the future could mean exactly that. Let’s say you create this awesome Facebook post to this amazing article or offer you have and as you hit the post button Facebook gives you a message that reads: pay x amount to reach this audience. Your reaction would be along the lines of “NO that’s my audience!”… But the real answer is: No, its Facebooks audience. And we should probably get used to that as this is probably the only way we will reach those audiences.
This of course also means the cost of Ads on Facebook will go up.
Let’s look at Auto play video that took Facebook by storm, the question is: do you know why there was a sudden boom from brands and publishers to provide video? The video view counts with Facebook’s “auto play”, even though they may have been somewhat massively inflated, were through the roof, the perfect solution for publishers to prove their social media ROI, and this in turn caused a storm in the marketing world, you have to remember that the news feed does not give your video an unlimited supply of attention, it just looks that way. There is a list of 20 publishers that Facebook paid to make it look that way. Buzzfeed being one publisher that made millions off of this video move.
Gone are the days when there was a native advertising sweet spot, from now on a publisher on Facebook will be issued with a tag that says NATIVE, and this will hurt marketers and publishers as it breaks the illusion that we publishers or marketers are buying access to sacred audiences. The tag allows the brand to access all insights from a post that they are “tagged” in. It works like this: you will be able to see how much traffic you generate from NATIVE Ads rather than seeing organic traffic, this will allow marketers to calculate how big that ROI margin is and I promise you, you will be feeling like you have been robbed.
This algorithm change also means that publishers can share branded content from their official pages to drive traffic organically, but we will be having to rely on Native ads and paid advertising inside Facebook which poses a budget problem down the line.
Let’s look at how we can save this massive loss in traffic from Facebook. SEO is the only answer, it’s the only way to secure earned organic traffic. The principles of SEO do not change; quality content principles don’t change. I know some of you are saying Social is one of the pillars of SEO, yes and no. Social signals will always play a part in SEO ranking, but those are short lived, and have a life span of 48hrs in SERPs if you’re lucky. SEO on the other hand is also applicable inside social media, you just have to find the right SEO person for the job and that might be difficult with the number false guru’s we have trailing the net.
It’s not about their listing on Google, everybody is an SEO on Google Ads, its about finding the SEO that has the knowledge to give you that will equip you for the future. That will guide you and assist you not spew out an audit that means nothing to you. Choose wisely as the next 18months will be critical if you don’t.
My advice to all of you who use Facebook as your primary traffic engine or advertising channel, get SEO now or you will not be here playing digital marketing in 18months time.
There are many articles and info hubs online that offer you all the very best advice on SEO, the on page, the off page, the H1, the user journey, the meta this, meta that, oh, blah blah fish paste!
In reality we are all looking for that hack, right? That “one button fixes it all” thing. The hack that defies the need for you to be a rocket scientist. We want instant gratification. Whilst it may look as though I am defeating the ends of justice here, or that this magician is revealing her dark arts, the fact is that these dirty little hacks are totally within your control. Totally.
So here it is, the low down dirty SEO hack guide:
Content is and always will be king. If you have crap content, nothing on this list is going to serve you in any way. Create valuable, informative, rich content and Google will not penalise your search rankings for low quality content. Research has shown that long form content is working better on desktop than this short snackable formats we have become accustomed to. Title your content with short enticing yet descriptive titles, like this article.
- Alt Tabs and Descriptions:
When loading content, make sure that you fill in all the area’s, IE: The name of the piece, the description and the ALT tag, as this allows for content to rank for different keywords and terms, as I’ve mentioned before in previous articles.
If your content is authentic and relevant to your audience, your keywords will naturally populate your content, Google has a myriad of checks in an algorithm, and keyword stuffing falls directly under their radar, so make sure your keywords are only mentioned 3-5 times in a copy.
- Tech Stack Compliance:
Now this one is a killer, there are so many web developers out there, all offering the most amaze graphic design and artwork, with no idea about SEO, search visibility, google algorithms, code & language, and how this affects search visibility. What I mean is this, if you go to a building contractor and say “build my shop here”, he is not going to enter into a conversation about foot trade and parking, entrances and exits to the roads is he? No, he is going to build what you tell him to. Same applies for web developers. Make sure your sites technology stack is Google friendly, if not, most of this list is probably obsolete for you.
Hmmm, yes the sitemap is very important, without this guy, Google spiders are lost, and the result is the site is literally “lost” in search results. The sitemap makes sure that all of the links and content on your site are indexed in a manner the bots understand and easy to find and follow, the low down dirty hack here is that it should be at the bottom footer on your website for a prime “crawlable” presence.
- Local SEO:
It’s not as hard as you think, and it’s not a dark art, it’s a geographical locational listing, called Google My Business. It’s a simple process: Go to your browser, search for Google My Business, and follow the instructions. Google will send you a personal code in the post, you go online to the address given and enter code, VIOLA! You can set up your business on Google.
- Site Speed & Mobile Readiness
Google are issuing a bright red “SLOW” tag to all sites that are too slow to load, this is very visible from search results especially from a mobile search. As you probably suspect this is in aid of mobile search, dominating search globally, so make sure your site loads fast and that it is either responsive, mobile or you have a mobi version. The dirty on this one is, make sure your site loads in milliseconds, and Google bots wont penalise your site in desktop or mobile search results.
These are what we call Accelerated Mobile Pages and these are pages that are designed to the mobile page’s load much faster, and now with the emphasis on speed and user experience, AMP’s will definitely have an influence on search results. If you’re a WordPress user, there is a plugin for AMP, check it out.
- Internal Search Data
This is a wealth of juicy data, the pot of gold, that will allow you to craft the content related to the user’s actual search terms on your site. Need I say more?
- Social Media
Social search is taking the globe by storm, and as I’ve mentioned in previous articles, Tweets can now be found in search results by adding a # to your search term. In Facebook the same applies, if you add a # to a term and a reader click’s on that, that user is taken to all the hash tagged content in that category and or topic! So use your social media platforms to generate site traffic and SERP’s, by staying on top of social media like Twitter, and having valuable share worthy content, you would have achieved what most hope for in search visibility.
As we can divulge, there really is no quick fix to SEO, no low down hacks, but there definitely are simple and effective processes one can do to have a positive effect on your SEO.
The Things You Have to Know About Social Media:
There is a misunderstanding about how SEO & Social Media work together, whilst we know that social media does affect the search rank, nobody seems to understand how. Social visibility is only achieved by being active, engagement is key, but creating and posting great content that shares quickly is also only half the job done. One cannot simply schedule standardized posts to go out across all social networks.
The SEO and Social Media discipline is not just about creating and posting great content, it’s about promoting that content so that it achieves the results we are looking for. Consider the following when thinking about your social media and how to derive the best SEO value from it.
- Google does not directly factor in social signals, however, they do not ignore them either. It’s the results we SEO’s are looking for from social sharing, not the rank. The organic reach and engagement.
- Having “social presence” does not equate to rank increase. Great content, activity and engagement will lead to increased visibility and links, and its these links that lead to a higher rank over time.
- The amount of followers, connections and influencers that are connected to your social media platforms have a notable upward effect on your ranking, the SEO catch is this audience must be earned, not bought and that means you will need to build this following organically, which is ultimately a slow but very effective SEO process.
- SEO’s are forever hunting the backlink, and social media provides the perfect platform for this. Google is looking for diversity in the links to your site, so social media encourages this, as long as your content is of course, useful, original, relevant to your audience both on your website and the social platform.
- Post optimisation is extremely important, think about the channels you are going to use, and know that you CAN rank for the same post with different search terms. This is where SEO comes in real handy. Although this comes with a caution, if your SEO knows nothing about content you have a problem Houston. Ideally you want your content person to know a whole lot about SEO.
- It is totally possible to increase your online rep and this can be significantly beneficial to SEO. Content is the answer, high quality syndicated content can increase brand presence by up to 89% simply on share value, sounds like a branding opportunity doesn’t it? It could be, but it carries a heavy warning and this is the tricky part, you will need a SMO (social media optimisation) and SEO specialist to help you. This skill truly is an art.
- Social media will never be the engine of survival for sales conversions, but SEO will, together these 2 have a specific synergy that unfortunately does require investment if one is to use these 2 to drive sales and conversions.
- Yes, Google and Twitter are in bed together, your latest tweets can be found in search results, Google bots go out and search for the very latest in that particular topic and if it should be your tweet, you shall rank first on a Google search. This too comes with a deep understanding that this instant rank can move to page 103 if other more relevant information can be found.
- SEO and Social media are both considered to be inbound marketing techniques, or pull marketing, pushing product to your audience all the time will push them away and straight to your competitors, so focus on pulling them in with great content and conversation, identify their passions and fulfil a need, then and only then will selling be easy.
- Implement Google Knowledge Graph and Google my Business as soon as possible, this helps search engines, especially Google, rank your social media and web posts better than those who do not have this implemented
As we move into 2016, it’s important that businesses’ and brands make allowances for social media, content marketing and SEO in their marketing budgets, and have these disciplines implemented in their business this year, as without these things working like a well-oiled machine, I fear those left behind in 2017 will stay behind.
2015 has been a long year, with a myriad of new algorithms affecting search and social media, content quality taking center stage, long form content fast on its heels, not to mention the advance of video marketing and the micro moment. PR and SEO are now one output or at least should be, as is SEO and content marketing. The blurred line is spreading across all the digital marketing outputs. We now know that SEO and SEM are not the same thing, that syndicated content is duplicate content, that social media has serious ranking power and that authenticity and relevance are key in content. Click baiting and link farming are the cardinal sin, and, we know that content is STILL king, and that the marketing of that content is the queen.
Yet the deeper insight here is often missed. In this past year I have had the pleasure of working with some of the largest news publishers in the country, the largest marketplace in SA, and some of the best digital agencies in town. And this is the insight I have for you.
The Content Marketing Deluge
The biggest threat to content marketing as a practice is content marketing itself, as content marketing does not equate to content marketing success. The issue I have found most prevalent in the industry is that there is a skills shortage, of epic proportions in the severe lack of content managers, content strategists & content marketing professionals.
Businesses need to build on their internal content teams, ensuring they are equipped with up to date SEO knowledge, principles of copy-writing, ORM and PR basics and of course social amplification techniques.
Copy-writing agencies are now content farms, digital advertising agencies are now social media experts, video production companies are now rich media creators, contract publishers are now rebranding themselves as content marketers… and all this is based on content created from a mix of inexperienced content creators that are already stretched to the limit with no idea on how content marketing works.
This translates to an influx of crappy content, and that means that its just a matter of time before content marketing blindness takes over. Consumers will wisen up to this “new” tactic of mass publication pretending to valuable content. The reality is that content marketing is a powerful tool to get the consumer to drop their defenses for just a little while so we can gain their trust and become their custom. But with crap content disguised as great content, the user who is bitten will not be clicking on the good content in a hurry. So content marketing in my view will become harder with diminishing returns as long as we continue to mass produce content under the guise of believing that hordes of content published means you are a successful content marketer.
Branded content, in my opinion, and yes it is jaded, is the swearword of the digital marketing space, the term “branded content” was created by the world of paid media – it has no place in content marketing in 2016, but allow me to elaborate: Unfortunately, the problem is that the people in control of marketing media budgets in this industry do not understand content marketing as a concept nor as a business strategy.
SO, Who and or what will be successful in content marketing? It’s going to be the businesses and brands that create something of value, something unique, something so close to the audience, it will be precious to them. Those who build a “content brand”, not brands publishing branded content. What brands often forget is that the consumer has enough wit about them to know that:” Brands are a symbol of a promise, and a strong brand is built on promises upheld”
Brands and publishers alike need to stop applying the same old marketing structures and principles to content marketing. Content marketing does not require content assets to be effective, however producing high quality content consistently will be a challenge and the key is: less really is more, less quantity but more quality”.
Smart Content Marketing Tips
Here are some examples of “smart” content:
- Answer A Question: Can be called the “how-to” format. This is perfect for instructions like how to bake a cake, or teaching your audience something.
- Provide Opinion: Kind of like a review style and a great opportunity to show your perspective on a specific topic.
- Add Context: Pick an angle to follow with your particular topic, this is the ideal format for interviews and event coverage. Always focus on connecting with your audience first, if you can illicit some sort of emotional response you’re on the right track, and PS: It’s at this level that people connect and make purchasing decisions.
- Smart content uses more than just words, it uses images, graphics, animations and video so use these to bring your content to life.
In my escapades in this digital landscape I have too many times heard that content marketing IS social media marketing, and that is TOTALLY untrue!
Lets debunk this myth once and for all.
Although content marketing does involve some heavy investment in social media and the two may overlap somewhat, infact better said that they work in tandem, but there are a few very distinct differences between these entities. They have completely different processes, focal points and goals. Let’s look at the 2 biggest differences that are pertinent to a good content marketing strategy.
FACT: If you publish anything online, be it social or a blog post, you are a PUBLISHER.
The Gravitational Mass:
When looking at social media we focus our marketing activity inside the social media networks themselves, IE: As we create content, we aim to inject all our content into either of the platforms, be it Facebook, Twitter, G+ or LinkedIn. The centre of gravity is the social platform.
The contrasting centre of gravity for content marketing is the brand website, be it a branded URL, or a microsite, makes no diffs, but the social media efforts are vital here and used primarily for backlinks to the actual content on the brands site. Social media here then is not the container of the content but the conduit.
The Content Types:
When talking about social media marketing, brands model their behaviour based on those using the social media; the content has to be built to fit in with the context of that channel, IE: Twitter allows 140 characters, an image etc, while things like infographics, video, and how to’s work in FB.
When looking at content marketing, brands model their behaviour based on that of a media publisher, the website offers longer forms of content and brands are not limited to what they can publish, IE: videos, blogs, eBooks, etc.
Social media objectives are firstly brand awareness, by generating discussion and activity around the brand, then secondly, its best used for customer satisfaction and retention. It’s a proven fact that brands that use their social media for customer dialogue and care, are trumping the social media race.
In contrast however, having the website based center of gravitational pull, content marketing can be focused on demand generation of quality content, that way developing a relationship with prospects, as quality content brings quality prospects to one’s site, and this could lead to conversions.
As brands settle down into their new roles as publishers, the natural progression will be content marketing, but the bar is set really high, they not only have to create long form quality content that builds audiences on their own site, they have to engage more deeply with their audiences in all channels, and knowing the difference between content marketing and social marketing is just the beginning.
Content marketing strategies should include social media as they are there to not only support the audience but the long term content marketing objectives of the business or brand itself.