Online Content Has Significant Impact On Buying

Content marketing professionals reaffirm that relevance plus relationships lead to results. If either includes being easy and engaging, effective is inevitable in the majority of cases.

CMO Council finds online content has significant impact on buying

The Chief Marketing Officer Council finds online content has significant impact on buying decisions. By Kate Maddox. June 10, 2013 – 6:01 am EDT 

Online Content Has Significant Impact On BuyingThe vast majority of b2b buyers find online content a valuable resource when researching products and services, according to a study released last week by the Chief Marketing Officer Council.

The study, “Better Lead Yield in the Content Marketing Field,” was based on an online survey of more than 400 b2b buyers, conducted in April in partnership with NetLine Corp. Eighty-seven percent of respondents said online content has either a major or moderate impact on vendor preference and selection.

Content Process“Most companies spend at least 25% of their marketing budgets on content creation and distribution on digital channels,” said Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council, pointing to a recent survey by the Content Marketing Institute. “Our focus [with the CMO Council study] was to see how effective is that spend, to what degree are companies producing content that is meaningful and useful to buyers, and what are the nuances around how people are utilizing and sharing that content with their peers.”


According to the study, the most valuable sources of online content in shaping purchase decisions are:

  • professional associations, online communities (cited by 47%);
  • industry organizations and groups (46%);
  • online trade publications (41%);
  • seminars and workshops (41%); and
  • trade shows (35%).


 Relevance – Relationships – Results

Relevance, Relationships, Results“Clearly, what we’re seeing is that people want peer-based content,” Neale-May said. “Those are the most trusted sources—professional affinity groups where buyers can get feedback or advice, industry groups and professional associations.”

The specific types of content b2b buyers value most when making purchase decisions include:

  • professional association research reports and white papers (cited by 67%),
  • industry group research reports and white papers (50%),
  • customer case studies (48%),
  • analyst reports and white papers (44%), and
  • product reviews (40%).

“Content should be created and deployed to take customers through the various procurement phases and upsell and cross-sell opportunities, not just [to] acquire a lead,” Neale-May said. “In qualitative interviews, we found that people are much more cognizant of content being a requirement across the entire customer life cycle.”

B2b buyers said the characteristics they most value in online content are

  • breadth and depth of information (cited by 47%);
  • ease of access, understanding and readability (44%); and
  • originality of thinking and ideas (39%).

The content characteristics buyers most dislike include

  • too many requirements for downloading (50%),
  • blatantly promotional and self-serving (43%) and
  • non-substantive and uninformed (34%).

Easy, Engaging, Effective“I don’t think marketers are necessarily getting it,” Neale-May said. “Part of the problem is that a lot of content gets produced by product people—not content strategists—so it is more self-serving. Marketers are wasting a lot of money putting out content that people are not interested in or responding to.”




The survey also found that 59% of buyers share online content

with more than 25 people.

“These findings suggest that the value of a [content] download is probably greater than you think,” Neale-May said. “Marketers need to rethink and be more adept at tracking where and how content gets shared. Despite all the talk about social networks and collaborative networks, the primary way for sharing content is still through email.”

The survey also found that

  • 41% of b2b buyers use smartphones to access content, and
  • 30% use tablets.
  • Desktop computers are still the most widely used method of accessing content (68%).

“Our goal is to try to get marketers to create better content and track consumption and use of content across the entire customer life cycle,” Neale-May said. “We find that a lot of companies don’t have content strategies, don’t evaluate the performance of the content, don’t have strong advocacy themes and content performance isn’t what it should be.”

– See more at:

Physicists Predict The Existence of Time Crystals

Physicists Predict The Existence of Time Crystals

If crystals exist in spatial dimensions, then they ought to exist in the dimension of time too, says Nobel prize-winning physicist

One of the most powerful ideas in modern physics is that the Universe is governed by symmetry. This is the idea that certain properties of a system do not change when it undergoes a transformation of some kind.

For example, if a system behaves the same way regardless of its orientation or movement in space, it must obey the law of conservation of momentum.

If a system produces the same result regardless of when it takes place, it must obey the law of conservation of energy.

We have the German mathematician, Emmy Noether, to thank for this powerful way of thinking. According to her famous theorem, every symmetry is equivalent to a conservation law. And the laws of physics are essentially the result of symmetry.

Equally powerful is the idea of symmetry breaking. When the universe displays less symmetry than the equations that describe it, physicists say the symmetry has been broken.

A well known example is the low energy solution associated with the precipitation of a solid from a solution—the formation of crystals, which have a spatial periodicity. In this case the spatial symmetry breaks down.

Spatial crystals are well studied and well understood. But they raise an interesting question: does the universe allow the formation of similar periodicities in time?

Frank WilczekToday, Frank Wilczek at the Massachussettsi Institute of Technology and Al Shapere at the University of Kentucky, discuss this question and conclude that time symmetry seems just as breakable as spatial symmetry at low energies.

This process should lead to periodicities that they call time crystals. What’s more, time crystals ought to exist, probably under our very noses.

Let’s explore this idea in a bit more detail. First, what does it mean for a system to break time symmetry? Wilczek and Shapere think of it like this. They imagine a system in its lowest energy state that is completely described, independently of time.

Because it is in its lowest energy state,  this system ought to be frozen in space. Therefore, if the system moves, it must break time symmetry. This is equivalent tot he idea that the lowest energy state has a minimum value on a curve on space rather than at a single isolated point

That’s actually not so extraordinary. Wilczek points out that a superconductor can carry a current—the mass movement of electrons—even in its lowest energy state.

Time Crystals The rest is essentially mathematics. In the same way that the equations of physics allow the spontaneous formation of  spatial crystals, periodicities in space, so they must also allow the formation of periodicities in time or time crystals.

In particular, Wilczrek considers spontaneous symmetry breaking in a closed quantum mechanical system. This is where the mathematics become a little strange. Quantum mechanics forces physicists to think about imaginary values of time or iTime, as Wilczek calls it.

He shows that the same periodicities ought to arise in iTime and that this should manifest itself as periodic behaviour of various kinds of thermodynamic properties.

That has a number of important consequences. First up is the possibility that this process provides a mechanism for measuring time, since the periodic behaviour is like a pendulum. “The spontaneous formation of a time crystal represents the spontaneous emergence of a clock,” says Wilczek.

Another is the possibility that it may be possible to exploit time crystals to perform computations using zero energy. As Wilczek puts it, “it is interesting to speculate that a…quantum mechanical system whose states could be interpreted as a collection of qubits, could be engineered to traverse a programmed landscape of structured states in Hilbert space over time.”

Altogether this is a simple argument. But simplicity is often  deceptively powerful. Of course, there will be disputes over some of the issues this raises. One of them is that the motion that breaks time symmetry seems a little puzzling. Wilczek and Shapere acknowledge this: “Speaking broadly speaking, what we’re looking for looks perilously close to perpetual motion.”

That will need some defending. But if anyone has the pedigree to push these ideas forward, it’s Wilczek, who is a Nobel prize winning physicist.

We’ll look forward to the ensuing debate.

Refs: Quantum Time Crystals Classical Time Crystals

The Consumer Email Habit Loop

The Consumer Email Habit Loop
by Kara Trivunovic, Monday, June 24, 2013

I recently started reading “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business,” by Charles Duhigg. Going in, I wanted to tap the information about the habits of successful organizations, but as it turns out, I’ve found myself absolutely intrigued by the science behind the development (and re-development) of habits in individuals.

A major theme of the book focuses on the idea of a three-step habit loop that turns our everyday behaviors into auto-pilot habits. I’ll argue that email marketers have created a similar three-step email habit loop with consumers and subscribers. But are we using the habit loop effectively, to bring marketers the results we want?

The three stages of the habit loop are

  1. cue,
  2. routine and
  3. reward.

The cue is what triggers the behavior; the routine is the physical, emotional or mental action that is taken as a result of the cue/trigger; and the reward is… well, the reward for completing the routine. In addition, there is one critical element that writes this loop to the brain, emblazoning it as a habit: the craving.

You can find this psychology embedded somewhere in just about every good and lasting marketing campaign. As marketers, we create the cue, incent the routine and provide the reward – with the goal of instilling that craving that compels the consumer to complete the habit loop again.

Armed with this knowledge, how can you use it deliberately to strengthen your email marketing programs? Let’s start with where most marketers are today. The cue occurs when subscribers get their email (could be the blinking of a light on the phone, a vibration or a noise, even a time of day). The routine is for them to check that email, and the reward (hopefully) is to receive a relevant and timely discount or sale from the brand(s) they love. The question remains, though: Have you successfully created anticipation and craving for more?


In addition to the simple receipt of the email, marketers can further enhance cues with “from” names and compelling subject lines. There’s probably some optimal combination of “from” name, subject line, brand perception and timing that creates the optimal cues for the customer and drives the routine.

But what you think is the right cue may not be. Duhigg uses Febreze® air freshener and odor eliminator as an example. Initially, researchers felt the right cue would be the bad smells that occur for certain consumers, like pet owners, park rangers, and parents with teenagers. But they found this cue to be unsuccessful. Ironically, the people who most needed to eradicate strong odors had grown so accustomed to them that they didn’t recognize that they had a problem! Instead, the successful cue was the simple act of vacuuming. Look at the cues you are using for your programs carefully, and validate that they are, in fact, the cues that will drive your success.


As an email marketer, you likely want to accomplish one of these routines in your habit loop: repeatable site traffic, open and/or click on your email content, and/or conversion or completion of the desired task. To drive the routine, you may need to encourage or nudge the customer in the proper direction the first few times. Febreze gave households free samples and suggested spraying a room when the vacuuming was complete. It doesn’t hurt to actually tell the customer what it is you are asking of them.


What rewards are you offering your customers? Discounts, sales, coupons, insight, information? The reward must be worthwhile and of value to the customer — but that doesn’t mean it always has to be monetary. Febreze completed its habit loop with a reward of the fresh smell of a clean room as the test participants walked out of the rooms. A fresh scent (and a sense of accomplishment) was all it took to drive Febreze’s success — which continues today.

If you apply the habit loop framework to common activities in your life, you’ll find it easy to begin dissecting the concept and identifying how applicable it really is? For example, is Facebook the first page you look at when you pop open your browser? These are the types of habits we should be striving to drive with the email programs we send — so much so that the consumer anticipates the message from your brand and craves the reward that you provide. If you don’t believe your programs are driving to an effective habit loop, now is as good a time as any to start working toward it.

But the reality is that marketers have their own email habit loop. I’ll explore this with you in my next post. Meanwhile, I encourage you to start exploring your cues and rewards. And as you do, ask yourself the critical question: “Is my email habit-forming?”
Post your response to the public Email Insider blog.

See what others are saying on the Email Insider blog.

Kara Trivunovic is Vice President of Strategic Services for BlueHornet, an enterprise email service provider.
Email Insider for Monday, June 24, 2013:

Social Media Metrics – Separating Vanity From Valuable


Thanks to Simply Zesty for an introduction to metrics to pay attention to, especially when getting started.

No matter what industry you’re in, data will always play a key part. Data provides certainly and cold, hard facts that can help businesses thrive. It’s no surprise that by their very nature, the Web and social media have sped up the progress of analytic tools, becoming faster and more accurate. It’s why the majority of social media sites offer up their own analytics tools and why there are many so many are looking for real stats to work from.

Yet sometimes having a lot of data at your fingertips can be a hindrance. Our analytics can be filled with so much data that it can be difficult to determine what data is useful. It can be dangerous to take one metric on its own at face value so a combination of different metrics can help paint a picture of how well your social media activity is going.

Type of Metrics

There are a number of different engagement types out there, but here are the ones you should keep in mind when you’re devising a strategy.

Perhaps the most important metric you can find, knowing the type of engagement levels is paramount to success on social media. These are the conversations, the likes, the retweets, the mentions and shares that happen online around your brand and page.

Some sites provide an engagement figure for you to work from, but it’s usually better to look beyond that and analyse each post in particular. How many people commented? Did anyone share it? What was the quality of comments like? Has the post sparked a discussion? Delving into how people interact can provide greater results, as you’ll discover what topics resonate with your fans.

For most social media analytics, this figure is made up of likes, shares and comments and while it’s fine to take this figure at face value, but sometimes a deeper analysis is required.

Basically how many people are able to see your posts when you first publish something, making this the second most important metric for a business. More importantly, you’ll be able to see whether your audience is growing or not. Again, you shouldn’t use this figure at face value simply because reach only tells part of a story (for one, it doesn’t tell how many people actually engaged with your content), but using it in conjunction with engagement figures can tell you how much of your audience is actively engaging with your content.

Views/Time Spent
Mainly for visual mediums like slides, images and videos, views basically tells you how many people have watched or looked at your video. For the most part, YouTube relies upon this metric to say whether a video has become a success or not, but it’s introduced another new metric which shows you how many minutes were spent watching a particular video.

Mainly for those using web tools like Google Analytics, referrals tells you where your traffic is coming from, be it from search engines, social media and third-party sites. The aim for any site is to ensure that more people stay on the site so looking at this figure alongside the amount of time spent on your site. If you’re using a particular site to drive traffic (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.), this is a good way to see what content works and engages with users the most. It’s better to compare it with two different sites as you could have vastly different audiences for each.

Another area worth looking at is the bounce rate (the percentage of visitors who enter the site and immediately leave). A high bounce rate is common for blogs and any content posted via social media as it means that people are only visiting your site for that particular link.

Sentiment analysis
A recently formed metric, this looks beyond the hard data and measures the overall mood of people on social media. This metric is imperfect at best as there hasn’t been a sophisticated enough algorithm to properly measure this. The best to currently measure this, provided you aren’t overwhelmed with mentions every day, is to take each tweet/comment individually and determine whether’s it’s positive, negative or neutral. Tools like Social Mention can calculate this for free, but it’s best not to rely on this method too much.

Share of Voice
Another metric that’s been around for a while, but has received a new lease of life through social media, Share of Voice refers to how many times your mentioned is mentioned in comparison to other brands who are in the same category. Calculating it is by dividing the number of conversations or mentions of your brand by total overall mentions. A number of tools like Radian6 offer features that can calculate this for you

Danger Of Vanity Over Real Metrics

While there are a lot of metrics to choose from, it’s important to know which ones are worth noting and which ones are just nice to look at. Some of the figures that are thrown about in social media tend to be vanity metrics – those that look nice or sound important, but provide little overall value.

A good example would be Facebook, pretty much everyone knows that using likes as a way of measuring success is shortsighted at best. Instead, you focus more on engagement metrics like “People Talking About This” and combine them with other metrics to get a better idea of how you’re progressing.

Social Media Metrics

As mentioned earlier, don’t resort to likes as a way of measuring success. Instead what you should focus on is engagement figures like “People talking about this” and delve into insights. For each post that you publish on the site, you will also get figures for engaged users, the reach and the overall virality (those who created stories out of your post).

While LinkedIn provides the usual impressions and engagement statistics, one features that you should keep an eye on as well is follower demographics, most specifically function. This shows you exactly what industries your audience is in, which gives you an idea as to what content will resonate with them. Region and industry can come in useful too, but since your audience will be looking for content that relates to their positions, it’s better to plot your updates this way.

The number of views your video gets is still king, but you should also take into consideration the other metrics at your disposal. One that will be very useful in determining the success of your videos will be the “estimated minutes watched” section. Dividing this number by the number of views your video has received should give you an idea as to whether people are watching the full video or not.

Google Analytics
If you’re new to Google analysis or just want to simplify the experience, there are a few metrics you should focus on. The first should be traffic sources. This can be broken down into four main sections, search traffic (from Google. etc.), referral traffic (from social media, third-party sites), direct traffic and campaigns. If your traffic from search is high (more than 70%), you may want to address it as any changes to Google’s search algorithm will hurt you badly.

The second is visitor count which comes up when you first login to analytics. While this can be a vanity metric at the best of times, you should monitor it for any notable change in the number of people visiting your site. If a change occurred because you modified your site or tried a different social media strategy, then the results will begin to show themselves here.

The other factors to take into account is average time on page/site and bounce rate. The latter tells you what percentage of people who visit your site leave without viewing a second page on your site. If the bounce rate is high and the time spent on your site is low, you might want to reconsider the type of content you’re putting out there.


Tools For Analyzing Financials

 | Inc.magazine

Nov 2, 2012

My Favorite Tool for Analyzing Financials

Must-haves: Why entrepreneur Jennifer Cattaui loves using BodeTree to analyze her company’s financials.

 Jennifer Cattaui , founder of Babesta New York City

Courtesy Subject

Jennifer Cattaui, founder of Babesta New York City

My husband and I own a company that sells children’s clothing, gear, and furniture online and in two brick-and-mortar stores in New York City. We were looking for a way to get a quick snapshot of our finances and help our store managers understand how the decisions we make affect the financial health of the company. In April, I read about BodeTree, a visual financial analysis tool, and we started using it right away.

After signing up for an account on the BodeTree site, we entered our QuickBooks credentials and filled out a brief questionnaire. Now, we can log on to our dashboard to check a variety of financial metrics, including cash balance, cash flow, and revenue. Each metric appears on a gauge.

If the needle is in the red zone, we know it’s an area of concern. If it’s in the green zone, we’re doing well. We can click on any metric to get more detailed reports. After looking at an inventory turnover report, for instance, we realized we had been sitting on certain pieces of furniture that weren’t selling. Now, we’re carrying fewer of those pieces and increasing turnover.

During our weekly conference call, we share the dashboard with our managers using Microsoft Lync, pointing out areas that need more focus. We pay $25 a month for BodeTree. It’s well worth it.

–As told to Issie Lapowsky

Microsoft Brings Star Trek’s Voice Translator to Life

Software turns English into synthesized Chinese almost instantly.   November 8, 2012

Why It Matters

Software that instantly translates spoken speech could make communicating across language barriers far easier. We’re rapidly moving into a world of closer relationships with technology offering an exciting possibility for self expression and transformation.

It could be the next best thing to learning a new language. Microsoft researchers have demonstrated software that translates spoken English into spoken Chinese almost instantly, while preserving the unique cadence of the speaker’s voice—a trick that could make conversation more effective and personal.

The first public demonstration was made by Rick Rashid, Microsoft’s chief research officer, on October 25 at an event in Tianjin, China. “I’m speaking in English and you’ll hear my words in Chinese in my own voice,” Rashid told the audience. The system works by recognizing a person’s words, quickly converting the text into properly ordered Chinese sentences, and then handing those over to speech synthesis software that has been trained to replicate the speaker’s voice.

Video recorded by audience members has been circulating on Chinese social media sites since the demonstration. Rashid presented the demonstration to an English-speaking audience in a blog post today that includes thisvideo.

Microsoft first demonstrated technology that modifies synthesized speech to match a person’s voice earlier this year (see “Software Translates Your Voice Into Another Language”). But this system was only able to speak typed text. The software requires about an hour of training to be able to synthesize speech in a person’s voice, which it does by tweaking a stock text-to-speech model so it makes certain sounds in the same way the speaker does.

AT&T has previously shown a live translation system for Spanish and English (see “AT&T Wants to Put Your Voice in Charge of Apps”), and Google is known to have built its own experimental live translators. However, the prototypes developed by these companies do not have the ability to make synthesized speech match the sound of a person’s voice.

The Microsoft system is a demonstration of the company’s latest speech-recognition technology, which is based on learning software modeled on how networks of brain cells operate. In a blog post about the demonstration system, Rashid says that switching to that technology has allowed for the most significant jump in recognition accuracy in decades. “Rather than having one word in four or five incorrect, now the error rate is one word in seven or eight,” he wrote.

Microsoft is not alone in looking to neural networks to improve speech recognition. Google recently began using its own neural network-based technology in its voice recognition apps and services (see “Google Puts Its Virtual Brain Technology to Work”). Adopting this approach delivered between a 20 and a 25 percent improvement in word error rates, Google’s engineers say.

Rashid told MIT Technology Review by e-mail that he and the researchers at Microsoft Research Asia, in Beijing, have not yet used the system to have a conversation with anyone outside the company, but the public demonstration has provoked strong interest.

“What I’ve seen is some combination of excitement, astonishment, and optimism about the future that the technology could bring,” he says.

Rashid says the system is far from perfect, but notes that it is good enough to allow communication where none would otherwise be possible. Engineers working on the neural network-based approach at Microsoft and Google are optimistic they can wring much more power out of the technique, since it is only just being deployed.

“We don’t yet know the limits on accuracy of this technology—it is really too new,” says Rashid. “As we continue to ’train’ the system with more data, it appears to do better and better.”

 Other Options

This from my friend Allen B.:


This message is being typed, using DragonDictate. I was introduced to Dragon back in 1997 and achieved great success with it, and found it to be extremely accurate. With the aid of this product, I was able to write 10 page papers (for finals, etc.) in no time. Even though I was using a Pentium II computer with software that is now 15 years old, I found it to be not only useful, but actually a necessary tool to help me succeed in my collegiate endeavors. Now that the software has improved exponentially (nearly every year), and computing power has increased that even a faster rate, the accuracy and usefulness of this tool has become unequaled.

Check out YouTube for applications ranging from professors, to doctors, to even lawyers.

Tip 1: you can locate this software online (NewEgg, TigerDirect, Amazon, etc.) on sale for about $.35 on the dollar!

Tip 2: I strongly recommend purchasing a USB headset – ($20 and up) and use it from day one.

Tip 3: selecting the auto function feature will automatically insert commas and periods.

Try it out for a weekend and watch your productivity scream .

Take care,

Retailers: Understanding and Increasing Your Average Sale

Bob Phibbs gives a great drill down into metrics that matter in terms of retail success. Staff training focusing on engagement with customers show that an interaction with an employee has a 50% more likely chance of that interaction resulting in a sale.

Rewarding Experience Drives Revenue.

Moneyball, the movie with Brad Pitt showed how one baseball team began winning by picking players based on their averages rather than a gut feeling how a player “could do.”

As a retail consultant, I always run six financial reports when working with a new retailer. There are two retail sales reports in particular that detail the averages any retailer must look at to increase their sales:  Your Average Sale (also known as the average check in the restaurant industry,) and Your Average Number of items.

Here is why each is important and how to increase. These two metrics are most able to increase your retail sales and profitability.

Average Sale / Average Check

This report shows the value of each customer that day. If you have a lot of part-timers, they might not have the highest retail sales because they work in the “off” shifts. Average sale shows you when they do help a customer, how much – on average – a customer purchases from them.  This can help you spot the bright stars who might be hidden.

Cross Sell, Up Sell, Down Sell

This is the most immediate report you can use to grow retail sales because this report measures how well your sale crew can move your products. The more people like your employees, the more trust employees will be able to create and use to upsell each order.  This is what raises your average sale.

Every business calls it a different thing, from average ticket in a restaurant to the average daily rate in hotels.

Whatever you call it, it is the closest we can get to how many sales you received in a day.  Careful Analyticals don’t get caught up thinking of exceptions that can bring your average down like ringing up a piece of candy vs. your usual sale.  Using your POS report averages everything so you have a true number to work with.

Be Rational, Get Real

How To Increase Your Average Sale

  1. Prioritize retail sales, not stocking. In the restaurant business there is a saying, “If  you can lean, you can clean.” In the retail business I think it should be, “If you can stock, you can sell.”  Too often we let employees think stocking the store shelves with product is more important than moving the product out the door.  Displays are supposed to get messed up, products are supposed to look almost out. Your employee training has to explain this or your well-meaning employees will fail you.
  2. Hire more employees so there is time to upsell during busy times.
  3. Increase add-ons through impulse items displayed strategically around your store. We’ll cover that in our next chapter.
  4. Raise sales of higher ticket goods by using both features and benefits and add-ons through improved sales training.  We’ll cover this extensively in Chapter 4.

Average Number of Items

This is your total number of items sold divided by number of transactions. Tracking this is another way to measure how good a job your sales crew is doing, and if your displays and signage are tempting customers to add-on.

The higher you can move this, the more profit you will make.  You make profit on the second item so your goal should always be an average of two.


For example, if you are having a big sale, employees should be suggesting, “Since this is such a good price, how about getting two?” That simple suggestion builds the unit sales without any additional marketing costs.

When managaing your retail sales crew, you must utilize your computer printouts religiously to monitor how your crew is actually doing, not just your merchandise.  What tips do you have to increase average sale or average number of items?

For more tips how to grow your retail business, check out my manifesto: Brick and Mortar Retailing At Risk in the Digital Age for suggestions how to win more customers.

Hubspot Answers Your Top 7 Questions About the State of SEO In 2012

Posted by Rebecca Churt
Thu, Aug 23, 2012 @ 11:30 AM


We recently co-hosted a smash-hit webinar with SEOmoz, The State of SEO. SEOmoz CEO Rand Fishkin and HubSpot Co-Founder Dharmesh Shah held a captive audience (and cracked a few jokes) talking about the SEO industry in 2012 — and boy has it come a long way. During the webinar, attendees asked tons of fantastic questions, and unfortunately we couldn’t get to all of them. So we figured a blog post was in order to address the SEO questions that were more frequently asked by attendees. Here are answers to your top 7 questions about SEO, and if you missed the webinar, download it for free here and listen at your leisure!

1) If I’m just getting started in SEO, where do I begin?

If you’re just getting started with SEO, you’re probably going to want some quick wins. And the easiest way to get those quick wins is to target long-tail keywords — typically classified as phrases that are three or more words in length. Long-tail keywords typically have less search volume than head terms, but they are also less competitive. Think about it … it’s probably harder to rank for “lawyers” than for “reliable family lawyers in boston,” right? Here, take a look at this image to understand the value of long-tail search a little more:

long tail seo strategy resized 600

See that callout in the chart above that says long-tail search yields an average 36% conversion rate? That’s the other benefit of targeting long-tail keywords — because they’re more specific in nature, the traffic you’re driving by ranking for them is more targeted. And more targeted traffic means higher conversions! Piggy-backing off of our lawyer example, there are millions of people that could be looking for a lawyer; that doesn’t help the family lawyers in Boston looking for new clients. So even if they drove traffic to their website for the term “lawyer,” chances are, most of that traffic isn’t going to turn into a new client … hence the benefit of targeting long-tail keywords, instead! Less competition. Quick wins. Higher conversions. Good stuff.

2) What’s the deal with rel=Author? What does it mean?

When you see rel=Author, it simply denotes the author of a page — think of it as a way to connect authors with their content on the web. Google is using it to help surface content from great authors in the SERPs. They know that the best content comes from awesome authors, and Google obviously wants to return the highest quality content possible in their search results. They hope this tag will highlight those authors, and help their content rank in search results without having to rely so heavily on inbound links to achieve high rankings.
rel author use for seo

When this markup language is employed, it also links to your Google+ profile and through that, pulls in your profile image. This should help make that content more engaging in the SERPs, improving click through rates, showing a new focus on not just ranking in SEO, but actual engagement. To start taking advantage of rel=Author, just follow these steps:

1) Have a Google+ account with a full profile. Make sure the email address for the profile matches the author email and name.

2) Use this link to connect your website to your profile:

3) Wait for the content to be indexed — this may take up to a week or longer.

Follow the guidance from Google Webmaster Tools for additional best practices.

3) What kind of content should marketers create for optimal SEO results?

Search engines are built to mimic human behavior. What’s good for your audience is good for them. If people like your content because they find it helpful or enjoyable, they’ll read it, bookmark it, and share it. That makes search engines happy.

That means the content you’re creating should make readers happy first. And you can do that by making your content specialized and focused. You know, written with your target audience in mind. When you’re creating content with passion and the intent to help someone, you’ll naturally be creating great SEO content. So be thorough, think of topics that your audience wants to read, and offer it up in a palatable way — well written, well formatted, and sometimes even in visual formats. If you do this, you won’t have to un-naturally force a certain number of keywords into your content just to try to rank in the SERPs. In fact, doing that will make the crawlers and your readers really, really unhappy.

4) Do you have any tips on local SEO?

Why yes, I do. Before I get into some nitty gritty tips, let’s get one more general best practice out of the way.

Google has been consistently supplementing search results with immediate answers when conducting local searches. It’s their attempt to get you answers more quickly and improve your experience. As a local business, you need to leverage your knowledge and expertise to appear in these supplementary results. To do that, offer much more depth of content, and cover topics that Google may never offer up content on (simply because they don’t know). Be as specific and detailed as possible, showing a depth of knowledge that cannot be replaced by a machine.

Now that we have that out of the way, here are some golden nuggets for great local SEO:

  • Add yourself to local directories like your local Chamber of Commerce.
  • Write about local events, history, and the people who work at your company, if possible.
  • Get reviews from sites like Yelp!.
  • Have a Google Places Account — which is now managed through Google+. Bing and Yahoo offer their own versions, too.
  • Have a Facebook Account so people can perform local check-ins.
  • Have a true “Contact Us” page with a working phone number, physical address, and map.
  • Exercise superior customer service. What people experience in the real world, they talk about online.

5) It seems like larger websites need a slightly different approach to SEO. Do you have any enterprise SEO tips?

Enterprise SEO doesn’t need to be radically different, it’s just that enterprise businesses typically have more resources. So use them! Here are some tips on how you can leverage your resources for better SEO:

  • Vary your content. In other words, think of content outside of the realm of just text-based content. Make use of videos, surveys, visual content, and industry trends backed up by data.
  • Segment your content. Google really likes segmentation. It drives better search results if you segment content by, say, industry, because it lets them deliver more specific results.
  • Leverage multiple contributors and authors, especially when those contributors may have segment specialization and want to build thought leadership online.
  • Continue improving your overall website speed and uptime. Nothing is worse — for users and search engines — than a slow site, dead ends (404s), or worse, a site that’s frequently down.

6) What best practices do you have for pay-it-forward link building?

Link building is like relationship building. Come at it with a long-term, mutually beneficial approach. Think about it … if you were looking to foster a good relationship with a new co-worker, what would you do? Probably slowly get to know them on a more personal level, try to be helpful with projects, do nice things for them periodically, and do things to make them more successful at work. You know, just general, good-person things.

That’s what link building is like. Give websites links to their content because it’s awesome, and you think they deserve the credit and boost in the SERPs. Connect with them non-aggressively, like on social media. When they post a fantastic blog post, or you share a snippet of their content in your own, tweet at them to let them know you think they rock. As time goes on (and you continute to create excellent content, of course), you’ll appear on people’s radar naturally. You’ll have built a relationship with high quality webmasters, and you’ll be one yourself. Birds of a feather flock together!

7) What are considered to be “sketchy” SEO tactics?

A good rule of thumb is if it doesn’t help the searcher’s experience, it’s probably considered sketchy by Google’s crawlers. Here are a few more concrete things not to employ, though:

  • Keyword stuffing in your content and URLs
  • Overuse of tags on your blog
  • Buying links
  • Aggressively adding yourself to directories
  • Pumping out extreme amounts of low quality content
  • White on white text — for the purpose of keyword stuffing or receiving inbound links

The list could go on and on. The reality is that if it seems shady or is being practiced with the intent of just beating the algorithm — not helping readers — then chances are you shouldn’t do it. Here is a guide on how to build links using social media that is a more holistic approach to gaining traction online.

What other questions or tips do you have about SEO? Share them in the comments!

Image credit: seoz87

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Reality Video Idea For Moving People: Holmes On Holmes Meets Bath Crashers

If you’ve ever had to pack up, move, and hit the ground running you’ll have some appreciation for this video pitch for a reality show based on having a rewarding experience from moving instead of the usual stress filled affair it can be.
If you don’t have access to General George Patton’s 3rd Army, an outfit famous for taking on tough challenges, a show like this could be the start of a new shift toward showing how life’s challenges can be enjoyable, workable, and profitable.
By Larry Dobrow Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012

“Busted Move”: A Video I’d Like To See Created

There are legends and there are heroes, and then there are people who have picked up the phone when destiny called, listened intently, and replied with a steely, “Yes, I am the champion of virtue that you seek, and I accept most major credit cards.” My preparation, selflessness and resolve in the days leading up to our move to the ‘burbs qualifies me for that latter group.

While The Missus has been tending to mundanities like packing, hiring the movers, setting up utilities, cooking and cleaning, helping me find my shirt and raising our child, I have fearlessly charged through 26 hours of TV shows frozen for eternity on our soon-to-be-returned DVR. As a result, I was barely able to make it through my usual ration of three newspapers last Sunday. Is the proper recognition for such brave comportment a street named in my honor, or are we in presidential-citation territory here?

Either way, I was hoping to complement my moving musings with a survey of what I imagined would be myriad branded video series chronicling the process. I expected to find a solid 15-20 clips/series in which an overburdened family – two working parents, three drooling children, and an incontinent pet – were rescued from moving chaos by a zenboy/spiritgirl who just happened to be brand-affiliated. He/she would walk the family through the four major stages of moving evolution (purging, preparing, packing, dropping box on pinkie toe) and neutralize anyone who wasn’t with the program. At clip’s end, we’d see the family happy and established in its new home, a domestic scene that could be my own before the decade is out, and the brand all prominent and whatnot.

Yet there isn’t a single clip out there that approaches this description. We have 8,200 branded series set in workplaces populated by comely white 20-somethings, 8,199 of which ape the Office mockumentary model, but not a one that dramatizes the disruptive life trauma that is a move from one domicile to the next? Videos posted to YouTube by blissfully self-involved oversharers don’t count. This is the worst instance of omissive marketing since the stealth rollout of Jalapeno Cheddar Tortilla Combos (“made with stone ground corn”).

Any number of brands across a range of product and service categories could benefit from affiliation with such a project. Moving companies themselves are the obvious candidates, as their primary marketing tools appear to be self-submitted Yelp reviews (“on time very polite A++++”) and begging random passersby to shower them with Facebook affection. But how about the major-league brands that play a role, sooner or later, in every homeowner’s existence? Samsung is so eager to network my house with its audio and video components that I might have to apply for a restraining order. And I’ve spent so much time in Lowe’s over the last few weeks that I’ve met four of the flooring guy’s five kids (such scamps!).

With the caveats that I know less than nothing about marketing or content creation and that my primary focus of study in college was gerunds, here’s how “Busted Move” – that’s the working title, because you can never go wrong with a slightly negative-sounding moniker that plays off the title of a 1980s hit – might go down. We’d open on a family house in a state of major disarray – boxes everywhere, brush fires in the kitchen, screaming kids smeared with war paint, dad cowering in the corner, mom trying to stop her hands from shaking long enough to down her Chardonnay, etc. Then we’d go back to the start: the picture-perfect family meeting with a moving consultant (or Lowe’s new-home-fixer-upper guy, or whoever). From there, we’d be treated to scenes from both the actual universe (an attentive, orderly moving process, guided by our serene brand ambassadors) and the alternate one (overexaggerated filth, wanton property destruction and inward-directed fury).

It’d be funniest if the alternate version depicted a simultaneous unraveling of the family unit – the moving process exposing schisms that nobody knew were there – but clearly any rough edges would have to be sanded smooth to get brands on board with it. So maybe there’s mild, respectful sparring over whether to chuck the circa-1997 La-Z-Boy recliner (branding!)? Something like that. I’ve clearly thought this through. And honey, I’m keeping my effin’ chair.

Since this ranks among the greatest ideas in the history of online video, I’ve taken the liberty of copyrighting it. I’d watch “Busted Move.” You’d watch “Busted Move,” assuming you recently moved, plan to do so in the indeterminate future or have too much time on your hands. It will claim awards and a place in your heart. Get on it, brand minions.

Larry Dobrow is a Contributing Writer. Reach him at