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Ask Yoast: Publish date on updated articles

Keeping your articles up to date is always a good idea, as it shows to your readers that your site offers current and relevant information. Furthermore, search engines will pick up on changes to your articles, and consider your site alive and up to date. That’s never a bad thing, right?

It’s especially important that you keep your cornerstone content articles up to date, but many other pages will benefit from updating as well. One question remains, though: what to do with the publish date? You may worry that people don’t want to read a blogpost that was published five years ago, even if the content is evergreen or if you’ve updated it just last week. Want to know how we handle the publish date on updated articles at Yoast? Let’s check this week’s question!

Kees van den Berg emailed us saying,

We’re often advised to update old articles. What to do with the publish date? Republish it on a new date? Or add a note that it has been updated?

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page for my answer!


What to do with the publish date on updated articles

“Now we do this all the time on Yoast.com, we go through our old content and we update as necessary. If we completely rewrite the article or if a major part of the article is new, then we actually publish on a new date.

If only a tiny portion of the article changes, then we add a note to the article that we’ve updated it and we keep the old date. It’s that simple… so a bit of both. Good luck.”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast, we answer SEO questions from our readers. Have an SEO-related question? Maybe we can help you out! Send an email to ask@yoast.com.

Note: please check our blog and knowledge base first, the answer to your question may already be out there! For urgent questions, for example about our plugin not working properly, we’d like to refer you to our support page.

Read more: ‘Keep your content fresh and up to date!’ »


The post Ask Yoast: Publish date on updated articles appeared first on Yoast.

Does Buying Instagram Followers Work?

You might know your Instagram content is good, but imagine how much better it will seem if it looks like 10,000 people agree.

Whether you’re trying to become a social media celebrity or simply looking to spread brand awareness on Instagram, it can seem tempting to pay for your first couple thousand followers.

There are plenty of services available that allow you to buy 1,000 followers for the price of a small Starbucks latte. But of course, if it really was that cheap and easy, everyone would be doing it. So what’s the catch? Is buying Instagram followers legal and safe for your business? Is it a worthwhile investment?

Here, we’ve gone ahead and covered all the questions you might have about buying Instagram followers to give you a better idea of how it actually works. We’ve also explored the pros and cons, so you can decide for yourself if it’s a good move for your brand.

As a quick Google search will reveal, there are many cheap services you can use to buy Instagram followers. For about $6 USD, you can get 500 followers, and for about $10 USD, you can get 1,000 followers.

The vast majority of these purchasable followers, however, are either bots or inactive accounts.

When you buy Instagram followers, you’re paying for a number alone. Engagement is not guaranteed, or even likely.

In addition to buying followers directly, you can also pay services to strategically follow other accounts on your behalf based on your preferences (location, hashtag usage, account type, and gender). Ideally, those followed accounts will then follow you back.

With this option, your followers are more likely to be real people, but engagement is still unlikely. Since you can’t even guarantee these accounts will follow you back, it’s a risky investment. Most accounts won’t follow you back, and even if they do, they probably aren’t going to be long-term, loyal, or active followers.

If your priority is simply to have a big follower count, than these services can definitely help you. When your number of organic followers dips, these services even replenish your pool with other followers.

But remember the risks: these followers will probably never like or comment on a post, and if you’re caught with a ton of fake followers, you could ruin your credibility with your real audience.

Think of it this way: would you keep following an account if you saw that most of their “loyal audience” were inactive accounts or bots? I’m guessing not. It could seem deceitful, and lead you to believe the brand couldn’t get authentic followers through content alone.

And how helpful, really, are 10,000 followers that don’t engage with you? Engagement is key to how Instagram’s algorithm displays posts to users. Without likes or comments, your post probably won’t show up on your audience’s newsfeeds, and it also won’t show up on any Explore Pages.

Having a lot of followers could convince users to follow you organically, but it’s not a guarantee.

Users might notice you don’t have a ton of engagement on your posts, which could deter them from following you. If you have 10,000 followers but only four likes per post, it won’t take people long to realize something is up.

Without real followers to engage with your content, your posts are essentially hidden from everyone except your unauthentic audience. Plus, your fake followers won’t share your post on any of their channels. And they won’t discuss your brand in real life with friends or family, because, well … they don’t exist in real life (no offense, bots).

It’s also practically impossible to measure how well your target audience is connecting with your brand if a high percentage of that audience isn’t real. How will you measure posts that do well with your real audience if those bots and inactive accounts skew the ratio?

If you don’t know how well your posts are doing or what your real audience thinks, you’ll never convert your Instagram followers into real customers. And isn’t that the point?

Ultimately, if you pay for Instagram followers, you aren’t paying for quality, real-life followers. You’re paying for a blank number. And since Instagram’s algorithm is largely tied to engagement, not followers, buying followers isn’t a long-term solution. In fact, it isn’t really a solution at all.

Take the time, energy, and money that you would’ve dedicated to buying followers, and focus instead on building genuine relationships with a real audience. If your content is engaging and authentic, your loyal followers will spread the word and engage with your brand without needing any bribes.

Where Clickbait, Linkbait, and Viral Content Fit in SEO Campaigns – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

When is it smart to focus on viral-worthy content and clickbait? When is it not? To see fruitful returns from these kinds of efforts, they need to be done the right way and used in the right places. Rand discusses what kind of content investments make sense for this type of strategy and explains why it works in this week’s Whiteboard Friday.



Where clickbait, linkbait, and viral content fit in SEO campaigns

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!


Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re chatting about when and where you might use clickbait and linkbait and viral-focused content as compared to other types for your SEO-driven campaigns.

There’s a lot of savvy sort of folks at the intersection of SEO and content marketing who are practicing things like this right now. We’ve actually spoken to a few agencies who are specifically focused on this, and they have really solid businesses because many brands understand that these types of investments can produce significant returns. But you have to apply them in the right scenarios and the right spaces. So let’s walk through that.

Content investments

Let’s say that you’re a payroll software provider. Your goal is to increase traffic and conversions, and so you’re considering what types of content investments you and your consultant or agency or in-house team might be making on the content front. That could be things like what we’ve got here:

A. Viral, news-worthy linkbait

I don’t necessarily love the word “linkbait,” but it still gets a lot of searches, so we’re putting it in the title of the Whiteboard Friday because we practice what we preach here, baby.

So this might be something like “The Easiest and Hardest Places to Start a Company.” Maybe it’s countries, maybe it’s states, regions, whatever it is. So here are the easy ones and the hard ones and the criteria, and you go out to a bunch of press and you say, “Hey, we produced this list. We think it’s worth covering. Here’s the criteria we used.” You go out to a bunch of companies. You go out to a bunch of state governments. You go out to a bunch of folks who cover this type of space, and hopefully you can get some clickbait, some folks actually clicking, some folks linking.

It doesn’t necessarily have the most search volume. Folks aren’t necessarily interested in, “Oh, what are the hardest places to start a company? Or what are the hardest versus easiest places to start a company?” Maybe you get a few, but it’s not necessarily going to drive direct types of traffic that this payroll software provider can convert into customers.

B. Searcher-focused solutions

But there are other options for that, like searcher-focused solutions. So they might say, “Hey, we want to build some content around how to set up payroll as an LLC. That gets a lot of searches. We serve LLCs with our payroll solution. Let’s try and target those folks. So here’s how to set up payrolls in LLCs in six easy steps. There are the six steps.”

C. Competitor comparison content

They see that lots of people are looking for them versus other competitors. So they set up a page that’s “QuickBooks versus Gusto versus Square: Which Software is Right for Your Business?” so that they can serve that searcher intent.

D. Conversion-funnel-serving content

So they see that, after searching for their brand name, people also search for, “Can I use this for owner employees, businesses that have owner employees only?” So no employees who are not owners. What’s the payroll story with them? How do I get that sorted out? So you create content around this.

All of these are types of content that serve SEO, but this one, this viral-focused stuff is the most sort of non-direct. Many times, brands have a tough time getting their head around why they would invest in that. So do SEOs. So let’s explain that.

If a website’s domain authority, their sort of overall link equity at the domain level is already high, they’ve got lots and lots of links going to lots of places on the site and additional links that don’t go to the conversion-focused pages that they’re specifically trying to rank for, for focused keyword targets isn’t really required, then really B, C, and D are where you should spend your time and energy. A is not a great investment. It’s not solving the problem you want to solve.

If the campaign needs…

  • More raw brand awareness – People knowing who the company is, they haven’t heard of them before. You’re trying to build that first touch or that second touch so that people in the space know who you are.
  • Additional visitors for re-targeting – You’re trying to get additional visitors who might fit into your target audience so that you can re-target and remarket to them, reach them again;
  • You have a need for more overall links really to anywhere on the domain – Just to boost your authority, to boost your link equity so that you can rank for more stuff…

Then A, that viral-focused content makes a ton of sense, and it is a true SEO investment. Even though it doesn’t necessarily map very well to conversions directly, it’s an indirect path to great potential SEO success.

Why this works:

Why does this work? Why is it that if I create a piece of viral content on my site that earns a lot of links and attention and awareness, the other pieces of content on my site will suddenly have a better opportunity to rank? That’s a function of how Google operates fundamentally, well, Google and people.

So, from Google’s perspective, it works because in the case where Google sees DomainX.com, which has lots of pages earning many, many different links from all around the web, and DomainY.com, which may be equally relevant to the search query and maybe has just as good content but has few links pointing to it and those links, maybe the same number of links are pointing to the specific pages targeting a specific keyword, but overall across the domain, X is just much, much greater than Y. Google interprets that as more links spread across the content on X makes the search engine believe that X is more authoritative and potentially even more relevant than Y is. This content has been referenced more in more different ways from more places, therefore its relevance and authority are perceived as higher. If Y can go ahead and make a viral content investment that draws in lots and lots of new links, it can potentially compete much better against X.

This is true for people and human beings too. If you’re getting lots and lots of visitors all over Domain X, but very few on Domain Y, even if they’re going in relatively similar proportion to the product-focused pages, the fact that X is so much better known by such a broader audience means that conversions are likely to be better. People know them, they trust them, they’ve heard of them before, therefore, your conversion rate goes up and Domain X outperforms Domain Y. So for people and for search engines, this viral-focused content in the right scenario can be a wonderful investment and a wise one to make to serve your SEO strategy.

All right, everyone. Look forward to your comments below. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Blog SEO: How to Search Engine Optimize Your Blog Content

Search engine optimization is incredibly important for marketers. When you optimize your web pages — including your blog posts — you’re making your website more visible to people who are entering keywords associated with your product or service via search engines like Google.

But Google’s copious algorithm updates make this tricky. And today’s SEO best practices are all about relevancy and intent. Keep reading — I’ll explain.

How do you know what matters and what doesn’t? What are today’s blog ranking tactics, and what’s considered “old-school”? How on Earth can you keep it all straight?Click here to download our free guide on how to double your blog traffic and  leads.

Confusion is a common issue facing digital content marketers — and we want to help. In this post, we’ll cover how to optimize your blog posts for the keywords you care about, along with a few other optimization tactics you should keep in mind.

Note that this list doesn’t cover every single rule under the sun. Rather, the following 10 SEO tips are the on-page factors to get you started with an SEO strategy for your blog in particular.

SEO can be confusing. Listen as HubSpot’s own Matt Barby and Victor Pan clear things up:

HubSpot customers: If you want to see specific SEO optimization tips for your individual blog posts, click the bar graph icon on the far left side of the blog editor when you’re working on the post to access the SEO Optimization screen.


If you’re not a customer, you can use these tips as a checklist as you blog.

(Want to learn more about content creation, strategy, and promotion? Sign up here to take our free Content Marketing Certification course.)

10 Blog SEO Tips to Search Engine Optimize Your Blog Content

1. Focus on 1–2 long-tail keywords that match the intent of your ideal reader.

Optimizing your blog posts for keywords is not about incorporating as many keywords into your posts as possible. Nowadays, this actually hurts your SEO because search engines consider this keyword stuffing (i.e., including keywords as much as possible with the sole purpose of ranking highly in organic search).

It also doesn’t make for a good reader experience — a ranking factor that search engines now prioritize to ensure you’re answering the intent of your visitors. Therefore, you should use keywords in your content in a way that doesn’t feel unnatural or forced.

A good rule of thumb is to focus on one or two long-tail keywords per blog post. While you can use more than one keyword in a single post, keep the focus of the post narrow enough to allow you to spend time actually optimizing for just one or two keywords.

Why long-tail keywords? These longer, often question-based keywords keep your post focused on the specific goals of your audience. Website visitors searching long-tail terms are more likely to read the whole post and then seek more information from you. In other words, you’ll generate right type of traffic: visitors who convert.

2. Include these 1–2 keywords in specific parts of your post.

Now that you’ve got your one or two keywords, it’s time to incorporate them into your blog post. Where are the best parts of your posts to include these terms so you rank high in search results?

There are four essential places where you should try to include your keywords: title tag, headers & body, URL, and meta description.

Title Tag

The title (i.e., headline) of your blog post will be a search engine’s and reader’s first step in determining the relevancy of your content, so including a keyword here is vital. Google calls this the “title tag” in a search result.

Be sure to include your keyword within the first 60 characters of your title, which is just about where Google cuts titles off on search engine results pages (SERPs). Technically, Google measures by pixel width, not character count, and it recently increased the pixel width for organic search results from approximately 500 pixels to 600 pixels, which translates to around 60 characters.

Long title tag? When you have a lengthy headline, it’s a good idea to get your keyword in the beginning since it might get cut off in SERPs toward the end, which can take a toll on your post’s perceived relevancy. In the example below, we had a long title that went over 65 characters, so we front-loaded it with the keyword for which we were trying to rank: “on-page SEO.”

Search engine result link with a keyword-optimized title

Headers & Body

Mention your keyword at a normal cadence throughout the body of your post and in the headers. That means including your keywords in your copy, but only in a natural, reader-friendly way. Don’t go overboard at the risk of being penalized for keyword stuffing. Before you start writing a new blog post, you’ll probably think about how to incorporate your keywords into your post. That’s a smart idea, but it shouldn’t be your only focus, nor even your primary focus.

Whenever you create content, your primary focus should be on what matters to your audience, not how many times you can include a keyword or keyword phrase in that content. Focus on being helpful and answering whatever question your customer might’ve asked to arrive on your post. Do that, and you’ll usually find you naturally optimize for important keywords, anyway.


Search engines also look to your URL to figure out what your post is about, and it’s one of the first things it’ll crawl on a page. You have a huge opportunity to optimize your URLs on every post you publish, as every post lives on its own unique URL — so make sure you include your one to two keywords in it.

In the example below, we created the URL using the long-tail keyword for which we were trying to rank: “email marketing examples.”

Search engine result link with a keyword-optimized URL

Meta Description

Later in this post, we’ll dive into meta descriptions a bit more. Your meta description is meant to give search engines and readers information about your blog post’s content — so be certain to use your long-tail term so Google and your audience are clear on your post’s content.

At the same time, keep in mind the copy matters a great deal for click-through rates because it satisfies certain readers’ intent. The more engaging, the better.

3. Make sure your blog is mobile-friendly.

Did you know more people use a search engine from their mobile phones than from a computer?

And for all those valuable search queries being done on mobile, Google displays the mobile-friendly results first. This is yet another example of Google heavily favoring mobile-friendly websites — which has been true ever since the company updated its Penguin algorithm in April 2015.

(HubSpot customers: Breathe easy. All content created on HubSpot’s platform is automatically responsive to mobile devices.)

So, how do you make your blog mobile-friendly? By using “responsive design.” Websites that are responsive to mobile allow blog pages to have just one URL instead of two — one for desktop and one for mobile, respectively. This helps your post’s SEO because any inbound links that come back to your site won’t be divided between the separate URLs.

As a result, you’ll centralize the SEO power you gain from these links, helping Google more easily recognize your post’s value and rank it accordingly.

Pro tip: What search engines value is constantly changing. Be sure you’re keeping on top of these changes by subscribing to Google’s official blog.

4. Optimize the meta description, and use all the space.

To review, a meta description is the additional text that appears in SERPs that lets readers know what the link is about. The meta description gives searchers information they need to determine whether or not your content is what they’re looking for, and ultimately helps them decide if they’ll click or not.

The maximum length of this meta description is greater than it once was — now around 300 characters — suggesting it wants to give readers more insight into what each result will give them.

So, in addition to being reader-friendly (compelling and relevant), your meta description should include the long-tail keyword for which you are trying to rank.

Google result link with extended meta description

In the example above, I searched for “email newsletter examples.” The term is bolded in the meta description, helping readers make the connection between the intent of their search term and this result. You’ll also see the term “E-Newsletter” bolded, indicating that Google knows there’s a semantic connection between “email newsletter” and “E-Newsletter.”

Note: Nowadays, it’s not guaranteed that your meta description is always pulled into SERPs as it once was. As you can see in the above image, Google pulls in other parts of your blog post that includes the keywords searched, presumably to give searchers optimal context around how the result matches their specific query.

Let me show you another example. Below is an example of two different search queries delivering two different snippets of text on Google SERPs. The first is a result of the query “no index no follow,” and pulls in the original meta description:


The second is a result of the query “noindex nofollow,” and pulls in the first instance of these specific keywords coming up in the body of the blog post:


While there’s not much you can do to influence what text gets pulled in, you should continue to optimize this metadata, as well as your post, so search engines display the best content from the article. By creating reader-friendly content with natural keyword inclusion, you’ll make it easier for Google to prove your post’s relevancy in SERPs for you.

5. Optimize your images’ alt text.

Blog posts shouldn’t only contain text — you should also include images that help explain your content. But search engines don’t just look for images. Rather, they look for images with alt text.

Because search engines can’t “see” images the same way humans can, an image’s alt text tells them what an image is about — which ultimately helps those images rank in Google Images results. Alt text also makes for a better user experience, as it’ll display inside the image container when an image can’t be found or displayed, and can improve accessibility for people with poor vision who are using screen readers.

Technically, alt text is an attribute that can be added to an image tag in HTML. Here’s what a complete image tag might look like (bolding added for emphasis):

<img class=”wt-blog__normal-image” src=”image.jpg” alt=”image-description” title=”image tooltip”>

Adding keywords to your alt text may seem minor — and it isn’t going to impact your search rankings as much as other things on this list. But it is worth the extra minute it takes to change the name from “IMG23940” to something accurate and descriptive, like “puppies-playing-in-basket:”


Read this blog post to learn more on-page SEO tips for keyword optimizing the most critical parts of your website.

HubSpot customers: The SEO Panel will recognize whether or not you have optimized your images. Though these elements are not as important as some other optimizations, they’re still necessary (not to mention easy to add).


6. Don’t use too many similar topic tags.

Topic tags can help organize your blog content, but if you overuse them, they can actually be harmful. If you have too many similar tags, you may get penalized by search engines for having duplicate content.

Think of it this way: when you create a topic tag, you also create a new site page where the content from those topic tags will appear. If you use too many similar tags for the same content, it then appears to search engines as if you’re showing the content multiple times throughout your website. For example, topic tags like “blogging,” “blog,” and “blog posts” are too similar to one another to be used on the same post.

If you’re worried that your current blog posts have too many similar tags, take some time in the near future to clear them up. Choose about 15–25 topic tags that you think are important to your blog and that aren’t too similar to one another, and then only tag your posts with those keywords. That way, you won’t have to worry about duplicate content.

7. Use URL structures that help your visitors.

The URL structure of your web pages (which are different from the specific URLs of your posts) should make it easy for your visitors to understand the structure of your website and the content they’re about to see. Search engines favor web page URLs that make it easier for them and website visitors to understand the content on the page.

This differentiation is baked into the HubSpot blogs’ respective URL structures. If I decided to go to the Marketing section from this main page, I would be taken to the URL http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing. If we want to read the Sales section, all we have to do is change where it says “marketing” in the URL to “sales”: http://blog.hubspot.com/sales. This URL structure helps me understand that “/marketing” and “/sales” are smaller sections — called subdirectories — within the larger blog.

What if there’s a specific article we want to read, such as “How to Do Keyword Research: A Beginner’s Guide”? Its URL structure — http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/how-to-do-keyword-research-ht — denotes that it’s an article from the Marketing section of the blog.

In this way, URL structure acts as a categorization system for readers, letting them know where they are on the website and how to access new site pages. Search engines appreciate this, as it makes it easier for them to identify exactly what information searchers will access on different parts of your blog or website.

Get more best practices for URL structure from Moz here.

8. Link internally when possible.

Inbound links to your content help show search engines the validity or relevancy of your content. The same goes for linking internally to other pages on your website. If you’ve written about a topic that’s mentioned in your blog post on another blog post, ebook, or web page, it’s a best practice to link to that page.

You might’ve noticed that I’ve been doing that from time to time throughout this blog post when I think it’s helpful for our readers. Not only will internal linking help keep visitors on your website, but it also surfaces your other relevant and authoritative pages to search engines.

HubSpot customers: The SEO Panel automatically suggests linking to other internal resources on your website. Think of it as solving for your SEO while also helping your visitors get more information from your content.


If you’re looking for more internal links to add to your post but aren’t sure which would be relevant, you can click “Explore some internal links you might use in this post” for a list of recommendations.

9. Use Google’s Search Console.

Google’s free Search Console contains a section called the Search Analytics Report. This report helps you analyze clicks from Google Search, and it’s useful to determine which keywords people are using to find your blog content. Learn how to use it by reading this blog post written by my colleague Matthew Barby, and by checking out Google’s official support page here.

If you’re interested in optimizing your best-performing older blog posts for traffic and leads like we’ve been doing since 2015, this tool can help identify low-hanging fruit.

Line graph showing keyword performance on Google Search Console

A lot of content marketers struggle with optimizing their blog posts for search. The truth is, your blog posts won’t start ranking immediately. It takes time to build up search authority. But when you publish blog posts frequently and consistently optimize them for search while maintaining an intent-based reader experience, you’ll reap the rewards in the form of traffic and leads long-term.

10. Use topic clusters.

The way most blogs are currently structured (including our own blogs, until very recently), bloggers and SEOs have worked to create individual blog posts that rank for specific keywords. The result is disorganized, and hard for the user to find the exact information he or she needs. It also results in your own URLs competing against one another in search engine rankings when you produce multiple blog posts about similar topics.

Here’s what our blog architecture used to look like using this old playbook:

Flowchart of HubSpot's topic cluster SEO model

Now, in order to rank in search and best answer the new types of queries searchers are submitting, the solution is to use the topic cluster model: Choose the broad topics for which you want to rank, then create content based on specific keywords related to that topic that all link to each other, to create broader search engine authority.

Using this model, this is what our blog infrastructure looks like now — with specific topics surrounded by blog posts related to the topic, connected to other URLs in the cluster via hyperlinks:

A set of topic clusters for SEO

This model uses a more deliberate site architecture to organize and link URLs together to help more pages on your site rank in Google — and to help searchers find information on your site more easily. This architecture consists of three components — pillar content, cluster content, and hyperlinks:

SEO model using icons for pillar content, cluster content, and hyperlinks

We know this is a fairly new concept, so for more details, check out our research on the topic, or the video below.

We don’t expect you to incorporate each of these SEO best practices into your content strategy right away. But as your website grows, so should your goals on search engines. Then you’ll be able to do some link building to get other websites to link back to your blog!

Once you identify the goals and intent of your ideal readers, you’ll be on track to deliver content organically that is always relevant to them.

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This Is How You Tell a Story (and Other Things SXSW Taught Me)

I write a lot about creating an experience.

About humanizing. About authenticity. About telling a story. About being helpful.

In a marketing context, much of this boils down to the idea of your brand: about who you are, what you can do, and how that shapes the messages you send your audience, and how you send them.

And personally, I closely align all of those things with the idea of a story. A brand story, perhaps.

But what I’ve learned at SXSW is this: your story is just as much about what you aren’t as it is what you are, especially when you’re creating an experience for your audience.

Here’s how I came to that conclusion — and what I learned about how to tell a story.

What SXSW Taught Me About Storytelling and More

Brand Activation

At SXSW, there’s been a great deal of buzz around the term “brand activation,” which branding firm Cramer defines as “any campaign, event, or experience that enables your brand to engage directly with consumers and build a loyal brand community around your product or service.”

Which, coincidentally, is how I’ve always defined experiential marketing. Essentially, you’re creating a real-life, hands-on way for people to experience your brand — or, as the saying goes now, activate it.

And at SXSW, these types of experiences tend to run rampant — whether it’s from YouTube, Mercedes-Benz, Google, or an app for meditation (in this case, Headspace). 


Each one of these experiences seemed to center around a single phrase or keyword. YouTube’s, for instance, was the concept of stories — classic ones, like fairy tales, that were retold in its big red “house” (the “YouTube Story HQ”) by way of digital videos and interacting with them.

When users first arrived at the house, they were asked to blow into a microphone. Why? Because they were being inserted into the role of the big, bad, wolf from the story of “The Three Little Pigs” — and by blowing into the microphone, they would see by way of a video broadcasted on a screen above it what would happen to that little pig’s house.

(Full disclosure: I didn’t actually know what I was doing at the time and felt terrible for blowing down the pig’s house, even if it was just a fictional video.)

But here’s the thing: at the core of YouTube’s brand is video, whether we use the platform to view it, create it, or share it.

And by participating in this experience — I was activating the brand.

What isn’t necessarily central to the YouTube story, however, is the concept of fairytales — especially in the context of recent scrutiny its received for some of the content shared on the platform and how the company is handling it.

When the average online consumer thinks of “YouTube,” I would predict that the first associations that come to mind aren’t the tales of Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, or The Three Little Pigs. Personally, I think of makeup tutorials, hours-long videos of relaxing music that I leave on for my dog while I’m at work, and “Saturday Night Live” skits that I missed. 

But fairytales? Not so much.

Which is what makes what YouTube did at SXSW so brilliant. It took something that’s not associated with its brand and used what it’s known for to re-tell these classics in the best way the brand knows how to: by way of video.

This experience was as much about what YouTube isn’t, as much as what it is. At the center of YouTube’s SXSW story was, well, stories — and re-framing them in a way that aligned with the brand.


The keyword for this story was “smart.”

One of the first sessions I attended at SXSW was a talk given by Wilko Stark, VP of Mercedes-Benz Cars Strategy, on little-known facts about self-driving cars.

What underscored his points was the idea of automobiles as intelligent machines — cars that are smart enough to take care of themselves and navigate their surroundings in a way that allows passengers to carry out their day-to-day lives during the ride.


And that’s a key component of this story: not just the smart factor, but how it helps the audience.

It reminded me of something that Facebook Product Design Manager Tutti Taygerly said at a different panel: “Anchor on the core people problem, and then figure out, ‘What is the work?’ ‘What are the use cases?'”

Mercedes-Benz had quite a widespread presence throughout SXSW that went far beyond this talk. In fact, the brand took over a park in Austin to create an entire multi-installment experience based on the foundation of “smart,” in the form of cars, homes (in this case, a “Kasita”), and more.

But wait — Mercedes-Benz doesn’t make homes. At the core of its brand is cars: high-end, luxury, and often cost-prohibitive cars. So what place did the idea of smart homes have in this experience?

The “smart” part. Mercedes-Benz is building the concept of intelligence into its brand, whether it’s by way of autonomous technology or vehicular efficiency, the latter of which was made apparent in this somewhat compact but well-equipped car that I got to take for a make-believe spin:

Plus, it was just a really cool thing for the audience to see at an experience under the Mercedes-Benz name. So while this particular brand doesn’t build houses — it can build an overall smart experience. And to do that, it partnered with another brand — Kasita — to help.


Headspace is an app that provides users with guided meditations, mantras, and other calm-inducing experiences. It’s something you find on your phone, and experience virtually.

But at SXSW, Headspace brought that experience to live with its “Room to Breathe.”

It’s not always easy to bring something like a mobile app to life in a tangible, hands-on way, especially when that app is what Wired once called “incredibly ironic”: a digital service that’s meant to give us space from, well, our often over-connected digital lives.

Here, it made sense. For all the benefits of SXSW, it could also be described as overwhelming: a constant sea of music, film, panels, and brand activations.

But here, the brand was activated when attendees stepped away from the chaos and into a room with space to breathe.

There wasn’t anything particularly fancy about it. The room was small, and there were no big and shiny installations, with the minor exception of a projection screen that displayed guided mindfulness exercises.

Instead, there were small stations with mobile devices and headphones where users could read about different meditation exercises offered by the app, and choose the one that best fit their schedules.

And that’s exactly what the app itself provides: only here, it took place in-person in a nicely-decorated room that also hosted daily guided meditation sessions by a human, not a recorded voice on a device.

The moral of this story, I thought, was “pause” — which was in part reflected in the simplicity of the story the experience told.

The question I pose now is this: What’s your story?

In answering that, remember that stories have more than one character. And while they have protagonists, that central character is supported by others. 

The same is true of brands. Your story is about who and what you are — the protagonist — as much as what you aren’t.

And when it makes sense to include what you’re not in your story, that’s where your supporting characters come in. Sometimes, that’s a co-brand, or something new that might not be your primary offering, but still fits into your story and helps to tell it in a way that creates a better experience for the user.

Here’s to the occasional plot twist.

SEO basics: What is a keyword?

When looking for information about keywords in relation to SEO, you get bombarded with information about keyword research. And of course, keyword research is crucial if you’d like your page to rank. But it’s also important to understand what the basic principle of a keyword is. And that’s the thing I’ll explain here.

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What is a keyword?

A keyword, or a focus keyword as some call it, is a word that describes the content on your page or post best. It’s the search term that you want to rank for with a certain page. So when people search for that keyword or phrase in Google or other search engines, they should find that page on your website.

Let’s say you’ve got a website about pianos: you sell all sorts and types of pianos. You blog about what to look at when buying a piano and you share reviews about the pianos you offer on your online shop. You sell digital pianos so you’ve created a product category page about digital pianos. Ask yourself this:

  • What kind of search term do you want to be found for?
  • Which words do you think people will use in search engines to find you?
  • What would the search query look like?

Probably [digital piano], right? Because this keyword reflects what’s on the page best. If you’d have to explain the bottom line of your content, how would that look? What words would you use? That’s your keyword or key phrase – if it consists of multiple words.

We use the word ‘keyword’ all the time, this does not mean it consists of only one word. A lot of times keywords consist of multiple words. So when talking about keywords, a lot of times we mean a phrase instead of just one word.

Why are keywords important?

One of the things Google looks at when ranking a page is the content on that page. It looks at the words on the page. Now picture this, if every word on, for instance, a blog post about a digital piano is used 2 times, then all words are of equal importance. Google won’t have a clue which of those words are important and which aren’t. The words you’re using are clues for Google, it tells Google and other search engines what the page or post is about. So if you want to make Google understand what your page is about, you need to use it fairly often.

But Google isn’t the only reason why keywords are important. Actually, it’s less important, because you should always focus on the user: on your visitors and potential clients. With SEO you want people to land on your website when using a certain search term or keyword. You need to get into the heads of your audience and use the words they use when they are searching.

If you use the wrong keywords, you’ll never get the visitors you want or need, because your text doesn’t match what your potential audience is searching for. But if you do use the keywords people are searching for, your business can thrive. So if you see it like that, your keywords should reflect what your audience is searching for. With the wrong keywords, you’ll end up with the wrong audience, or none at all. That’s why having the right keywords is really important.

How do you use keywords in your pages and posts?

There used to be a time where you could add a lot of keywords to your pages and posts, do some old-fashioned keyword stuffing, and you’d rank in search engines. But a text with a lot of the same keywords in it is not a pleasant read. And because users find this kind of copy terrible to read, Google finds it terrible too. That’s why ranking in Google by doing keyword stuffing, fortunately, became hard to do. 

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So what are the rules of thumb here? First and foremost, it’s very important that your content is easy to read. Of course, you should use your keywords in your text, but don’t stuff your keywords in almost every sentence. In general, if 1 or 2% of all words of your copy, is your keyword, then you’re not overdoing it. Make sure your keywords are well-distributed throughout your text. Don’t put all your keywords in the first paragraph thinking you’re done with that part of the optimization. Naturally spread the keywords throughout your page or post. Use your keywords in a subheading or a couple of subheadings, depending on the length of your page or post. And use the keyword in your page title, first paragraph and in your meta description. You can find all of these recommendations in the SEO analysis of Yoast SEO.

Now you have a common understanding of what a keyword is. This knowledge will really help you with your keyword research, which of course is the next and vital step!

Read more: ‘Keyword research: the ultimate guide’ »

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