How to use custom campaigns

Google Analytics offers many ways to customize the data you’re tracking. One of these ways to track visitors, exactly the way you want, is custom campaign tracking. In this post, I’ll explain what custom campaigns are and how you can use them.

Custom campaigns

Custom campaigns are best explained with an example. We use custom campaigns to track the amount of traffic and sales coming from our newsletters, the amount of traffic and sales coming from the banners within our plugins, from our social media efforts and so on. Using custom campaigns you can track links to your site better, so you’ll have a greater understanding of how people land on your website. 

Optimize your site for search & social media and keep it optimized with Yoast SEO Premium »

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When you’re creating a custom campaign, you can manually set a referral source, a marketing medium and name your campaign, among other things. In Google Analytics you’ll be able to see where people came from and even exactly what link or banner they clicked to get there.

Let me clarify this by showing you one of the custom campaigns we use for tracking our posts on Facebook. The link structure always helps me understand custom campaigns, as it acts as a kind of guide on which data I have. And it lets me know exactly where to find this data in Google Analytics. This then shows me what data I can filter and analyze for.

As you can see, this is a pretty long link. There are actually 4 different elements to this link:

https://yoast.com/shop/#utm_source=Social&utm_medium=Facebook&utm_campaign=shop-sale-august-9

  • First of all, this link will simply go to our shop page which lists all of our products. It’s the first part of that link: https://yoast.com/shop/
  • Second, there’s the “#utm_source=Social” part of the URL. The hashtag is there to notify Google Analytics that this is a link with custom campaign tracking. The “utm_source=Social” part reveals that the source the user clicked to get to that page was from a social account. So now we know someone entered our shop page by clicking on a link on one of our social accounts.
  • The third part of the URL is “&utm_medium=Facebook”. The “utm_source=Facebook” shows that the medium which tempted the user to click that link was on Facebook.
  • The fourth part of the URL is “&utm_campaign=shop-sale-august-9”. This basically tells us what type of campaign it is. And that makes it much more specific. So when we check our Google Analytics data, we’ll know how much traffic and sales our Sale campaign got.

There’s also the “&utm_content” UTM tag. You can use this specific tag to define the type of content you want to track. For instance, you can add the title of your post here.

These campaigns are obviously custom, so you can name them whatever you want. However, for your and other’s understanding, it’s easier if you give these UTM tags logical names.

How do I get these URLs?

You don’t have to be afraid that you’ll have to memorize the setup of these URLs. Google has made a nifty little tool that lets you create custom campaigns like this with amazing ease. You can find that tool here. All you have to do is fill in a website URL, a medium, a source and a campaign name. After that you can click “Submit” and the tool will give you your custom campaign link!

However, if you generate your custom campaign links there, the links will start with a question mark instead of a hashtag. This might seem innocent, but in fact, it’s not. A question mark has a meaning on the server side of things. This means it’s an actual permalink (URL) in its own right. And that can create issues of duplicate content because there are now two (or more) different URLs with exactly the same content. If you instead use a hashtag, this won’t happen, since everything after the hashtag will be ignored by search engines.

Custom campaigns in Google Analytics

When you’re logged into Google Analytics, you’ll find the “Campaigns” menu item under “Acquisition”. When you click it, you’ll see all of your campaigns, sorted by the amount of traffic they generated.

Where to find custom campaigns in Google Analytics

Here you can select any element of your custom campaign to be your primary dimension:

Custom campaigns in Google Analytics

This can already give you a lot of insight into which campaigns are generating the most traffic, or the most money if you also have the Ecommerce Tracking set.

Custom campaigns as secondary dimension

Although viewing the custom campaigns as a primary dimension can give you interesting information, it’s still pretty general. And I always like to have my data as specific as possible. That’s why I mostly use my custom campaigns as a secondary dimension.

For instance, you can pick one of your pages (Behavior -> Site Content) and select “Source / Medium” as your secondary dimension:

source/medium secondary dimension custom campaigns google analytics

This will give you the traffic for that specific page, sorted by source and medium. Let me show you an example of our WordPress SEO article page:

As you can see, this shows us very specifically where traffic is coming from and how much of the page’s total traffic can be attributed to each (custom) campaign. If you’ve enabled Ecommerce Tracking, you can also do this for your products. This gives you a wealth of knowledge about where your traffic and sales are coming from. And, as I said, it also shows you how big a part your custom campaigns play in the totality of a product’s sales or page’s traffic.

Custom campaigns in segments

If you want to browse through all the Google Analytics tabs with just the data from your custom campaign, then creating a segment is the best and easiest way. I’ve written a post about segments in Google Analytics that explains how you can create segments yourself. But here’s a screenshot of the segment I’d make, based on the example given earlier:

Custom campaigns and segments

In the segment above, I’ve basically covered all UTM tags. But of course, you can get away with just adding campaign=shop-sale-august-9 since that’s the only UTM tag in our link that’s unique. 

Get the most out of Yoast SEO, learn every feature and best practice in our Yoast SEO for WordPress training! »

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Take note

Before you enthusiastically start tagging all the links you can think of for custom campaigns, there’s one thing you need to know. The way custom campaigns are set up, means that you will lose all other referral data.

For instance, if you start using custom campaigns on social media, be aware that you should specify the social medium in the campaign as well. Otherwise, you simply won’t know whether people came from Facebook or Twitter, because that referral data will be overwritten by your own custom campaign.

Read more: ‘Use Social Media to increase your sales’ »

Start customizing your tracking!

So now you know. You’re not completely dependent on what’s in the basic analytics of Google, you can pinpoint the exact data you want for yourself!

What do you think? Let us know in the comments!

Keep reading: ‘How-to guide: Tracking your SEO with Google Analytics’ »

How to use custom campaigns

Google Analytics offers many ways to customize the data you’re tracking. One of these ways to track visitors, exactly the way you want, is custom campaign tracking. In this post, I’ll explain what custom campaigns are and how you can use them.

Custom campaigns

Custom campaigns are best explained with an example. We use custom campaigns to track the amount of traffic and sales coming from our newsletters, the amount of traffic and sales coming from the banners within our plugins, from our social media efforts and so on. Using custom campaigns you can track links to your site better, so you’ll have a greater understanding of how people land on your website. 

Optimize your site for search & social media and keep it optimized with Yoast SEO Premium »

Yoast SEO for WordPress pluginBuy now » Info

When you’re creating a custom campaign, you can manually set a referral source, a marketing medium and name your campaign, among other things. In Google Analytics you’ll be able to see where people came from and even exactly what link or banner they clicked to get there.

Let me clarify this by showing you one of the custom campaigns we use for tracking our posts on Facebook. The link structure always helps me understand custom campaigns, as it acts as a kind of guide on which data I have. And it lets me know exactly where to find this data in Google Analytics. This then shows me what data I can filter and analyze for.

As you can see, this is a pretty long link. There are actually 4 different elements to this link:

https://yoast.com/shop/#utm_source=Social&utm_medium=Facebook&utm_campaign=shop-sale-august-9

  • First of all, this link will simply go to our shop page which lists all of our products. It’s the first part of that link: https://yoast.com/shop/
  • Second, there’s the “#utm_source=Social” part of the URL. The hashtag is there to notify Google Analytics that this is a link with custom campaign tracking. The “utm_source=Social” part reveals that the source the user clicked to get to that page was from a social account. So now we know someone entered our shop page by clicking on a link on one of our social accounts.
  • The third part of the URL is “&utm_medium=Facebook”. The “utm_source=Facebook” shows that the medium which tempted the user to click that link was on Facebook.
  • The fourth part of the URL is “&utm_campaign=shop-sale-august-9”. This basically tells us what type of campaign it is. And that makes it much more specific. So when we check our Google Analytics data, we’ll know how much traffic and sales our Sale campaign got.

There’s also the “&utm_content” UTM tag. You can use this specific tag to define the type of content you want to track. For instance, you can add the title of your post here.

These campaigns are obviously custom, so you can name them whatever you want. However, for your and other’s understanding, it’s easier if you give these UTM tags logical names.

How do I get these URLs?

You don’t have to be afraid that you’ll have to memorize the setup of these URLs. Google has made a nifty little tool that lets you create custom campaigns like this with amazing ease. You can find that tool here. All you have to do is fill in a website URL, a medium, a source and a campaign name. After that you can click “Submit” and the tool will give you your custom campaign link!

However, if you generate your custom campaign links there, the links will start with a question mark instead of a hashtag. This might seem innocent, but in fact, it’s not. A question mark has a meaning on the server side of things. This means it’s an actual permalink (URL) in its own right. And that can create issues of duplicate content because there are now two (or more) different URLs with exactly the same content. If you instead use a hashtag, this won’t happen, since everything after the hashtag will be ignored by search engines.

Custom campaigns in Google Analytics

When you’re logged into Google Analytics, you’ll find the “Campaigns” menu item under “Acquisition”. When you click it, you’ll see all of your campaigns, sorted by the amount of traffic they generated.

Where to find custom campaigns in Google Analytics

Here you can select any element of your custom campaign to be your primary dimension:

Custom campaigns in Google Analytics

This can already give you a lot of insight into which campaigns are generating the most traffic, or the most money if you also have the Ecommerce Tracking set.

Custom campaigns as secondary dimension

Although viewing the custom campaigns as a primary dimension can give you interesting information, it’s still pretty general. And I always like to have my data as specific as possible. That’s why I mostly use my custom campaigns as a secondary dimension.

For instance, you can pick one of your pages (Behavior -> Site Content) and select “Source / Medium” as your secondary dimension:

source/medium secondary dimension custom campaigns google analytics

This will give you the traffic for that specific page, sorted by source and medium. Let me show you an example of our WordPress SEO article page:

As you can see, this shows us very specifically where traffic is coming from and how much of the page’s total traffic can be attributed to each (custom) campaign. If you’ve enabled Ecommerce Tracking, you can also do this for your products. This gives you a wealth of knowledge about where your traffic and sales are coming from. And, as I said, it also shows you how big a part your custom campaigns play in the totality of a product’s sales or page’s traffic.

Custom campaigns in segments

If you want to browse through all the Google Analytics tabs with just the data from your custom campaign, then creating a segment is the best and easiest way. I’ve written a post about segments in Google Analytics that explains how you can create segments yourself. But here’s a screenshot of the segment I’d make, based on the example given earlier:

Custom campaigns and segments

In the segment above, I’ve basically covered all UTM tags. But of course, you can get away with just adding campaign=shop-sale-august-9 since that’s the only UTM tag in our link that’s unique. 

Get the most out of Yoast SEO, learn every feature and best practice in our Yoast SEO for WordPress training! »

Yoast SEO for WordPress training$ 99 – Buy now » Info

Take note

Before you enthusiastically start tagging all the links you can think of for custom campaigns, there’s one thing you need to know. The way custom campaigns are set up, means that you will lose all other referral data.

For instance, if you start using custom campaigns on social media, be aware that you should specify the social medium in the campaign as well. Otherwise, you simply won’t know whether people came from Facebook or Twitter, because that referral data will be overwritten by your own custom campaign.

Read more: ‘Use Social Media to increase your sales’ »

Start customizing your tracking!

So now you know. You’re not completely dependent on what’s in the basic analytics of Google, you can pinpoint the exact data you want for yourself!

What do you think? Let us know in the comments!

Keep reading: ‘How-to guide: Tracking your SEO with Google Analytics’ »

SEO basics: What is a permalink?

The permalink is the full URL you see – and use – for any given post, page or other pieces of content on your site. It’s a permanent link, hence the name permalink. A permalink could include your domain name (www.yoast.com) plus what’s called a slug, the piece of the URL that comes after the domain name. This might include a date or a category or anything you please. A simple permalink makes a URL easy to understand and share. In this SEO basics article, we’ll take a closer look at the permalink.

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Permalinks should be SEO friendly

Permalinks are an important part of your site as both search engines and visitors use these URLs to index and visit your site. The type of permalink you pick influences the way these two parties see and value your site. A URL with a load of incomprehensible gibberish at the end is a lot less shareable and enticing than a short and simple SEO-friendly URL. An example permalink could be:

https://www.yoast.com/category/post-name

It could also be something like:

https://www.yoast.com/10/10/2017/post-name

or

https://yoast.com/post-name

By default, WordPress uses a permalink structure that’s not SEO-friendly. These look something like this:

https://yoast.com/?p=101

The number you see is the ID WordPress had in mind for this particular article. It’s article number 101 in the database of your site. While Google still understands the content on that page, a URL like this does nothing for your SEO. It does not describe what kind of content the page offers and it’s not something that users are inclined to share. And did we mention that it’s not very professional looking? If your URL contains relevant words, this provides users and search engines with more information about the page than any ID or parameter would.

permalink common settings

Common permalink settings in WordPress

Considerations for your permalinks

Make sure you pick a permalink structure that fits your goals. If you have a news site, it might make sense to add the publication date of the article to the URL. If, however, you are planning to write killer cornerstone content that has to stand the test of time, it’s not recommended to use a date in the URL as this could make the content look ‘old’.

We recommend using a simple and clear permalink structure. For most sites, it makes sense to append the post name to the domain name. So in WordPress that would be the /%postname%/ option. In some cases, a category will help create a hierarchy in the URLs. Keep in mind that this could also result in too long URLs.

Yoast SEO and permalinks

Yoast SEO is a must have tool that makes SEO available to everyone. It’s an easy to use tool that gets out of the way and helps you make a perfect website. For instance, if you install WordPress and don’t change the default permalink settings Yoast SEO will urge you to change it.

Yoast SEO has several other options that can help you clean up those permalinks, like keeping stop words from appearing in the slug or stripping the category base (usually category). You can find the permalink options in the advanced settings of Yoast SEO. Last but not least, Yoast SEO Premium has a brilliant redirects manager that helps you to fix your redirects.

Finally, a word of warning

Pick your permalink structure wisely. Don’t change your permalink structure for the sake of it. Incorrectly redirecting your old URLs to the new URLs might lead to problems and could get you dropped from the rankings. Please think about your permalink structure before launching your site. Should you need to change your permalinks you can find more information on how to change your permalink structure or visit Google’s page on moving your site.

Read more: ‘Why every website needs Yoast SEO’ »

8 Writing Tips I Wish I Knew Before I Started Blogging

I wrote my first blog post two summers ago. And I wish I could erase it from the internet. Reading it is like looking at my middle school Facebook pictures — it’s almost too cringe-inducing.

Maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, though. I had just finished my freshman year of college, and the last paper I wrote was about the Odyssey. I didn’t know what I was doing.

But after completing several content marketing internships and taking classes like business writing, electronic journalism, and creative writing, I’ve learned how to write for an audience. Blogging is almost second nature to me now.

If you’re just starting out with blogging and struggling to produce something you’re truly proud of, don’t get discouraged. You don’t need to enroll in a bunch of writing classes or join a content marketing team to become a good blogger (although it certainly doesn’t hurt). You can hone your writing skills online — and this blog post can be one of your bookmarkable resources.

Listed below are eight essential writing tips I’ve gleaned from all my classes and content marketing experience. Check them out to learn how to engage your audience with clear, concise, and compelling content — and make me even more embarrassed about the first blog post I ever wrote.

8 Essential Writing Tips for Crafting Clear, Concise, and Compelling Content

1) Trim the fat.

The more unnecessary words your trim from your writing, the easier it is to understand. Concise writing is lean. And readers can zip through it with little effort. To sharpen your writing, follow the four pointers below:

  • Avoid linking verb phrases like “Sam was writing about his van.” “Sam wrote about his van.” sounds more forceful. Linking verbs have a passive effect, which is why they can’t pack much of a punch.
  • Change prepositional phrases like “The decision of the board was final.” to “The board’s decision was final.” Prepositional phrases make sentences longer and harder to follow.
  • When a noun ends in -tion, change the noun to a verb. For example, “They will collaborate to create a new style guide.” sounds cleaner than “They will collaborate in the creation of a new style guide.”
  • Reduce verb phrases like “The results are suggestive to the fact that on-page SEO still works.” to simple verb phrases like “The results suggest that on-page SEO still works.” The latter sounds much smoother.

2) One sentence should only cover one idea.

A clear sentence that’s easy to understand covers one main idea. But sometimes writers focus too much on sounding smart rather than conveying information in a simple way. This can lead to complex sentences that confuse readers.

You must remember your readers don’t care about your writing prowess. They want to quickly understand the solutions to their own problems, and simple sentences can fulfill that need.

Use the Hemingway App to gauge whether your sentences are bold and clear.

3) Sentences don’t live in isolation.

If you want to craft a compelling sentence, you need to account for its surrounding sentences first. Using the same word in consecutive sentences or covering similar ideas in two different sentences is redundant. To create a more stimulating experience for your readers, vary your language and cut repeat information.

Use Power Thesaurus to replace overused words with dynamic synonyms.

4) Vary sentence length and structure.

I saw a graphic called “How to Write” on Twitter about a year ago, and it took my writing skills to the next level. Take a look.

How to Write.jpg

Humans crave variety. And just like how short, medium, and long sentences complement each other, simple and compound sentences complement each other too.

Your writing becomes repetitive and boring when your sentences have the same structure or length. Diverse sentences make your writing pleasant to read.

5) Scrap the cliches.

Would it be cliche to begin this paragraph with a cliche? I thought so. That’s why I didn’t do it. Cliches sap your content’s originality.

People use these phrases so much that they lose their true meaning. Some studies even claim that figures of speech like “hungry as a horse” or buzzwords like “leverage” can’t activate the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for experiencing emotions. They’re too stale to impact you.

A good way to test cliches is by asking yourself if you’ve heard the term before. If so, aim to express your idea in a new, fresh way. You can also nix cliches by filtering your content through a cliche finder tool.

6) Appeal to the senses.

Good fiction writers can make their readers experience the stories they write. By using concrete details that appeal to their reader’s senses, they can paint vivid pictures with only words.

Skeptical? Well, in a 2012 study at Emory University, researchers monitored participants’ brain activity when they read metaphors involving texture. Metaphors like “He had leathery hands,” lit up their sensory cortex, which is responsible for perceiving texture through touch. When they read a similar phrase like “he had strong hands,” their sensory cortex didn’t activate.

“Leathery” is a concrete detail that appeals to touch. And it places readers into the exact scene the writer described. Metaphors and similes also help people visualize things by comparing a concrete picture with an abstract idea.

Business writing definitely differs from creative writing, but you can still harness the power of sensory language in your blog posts. If your readers can see, hear, touch, smell, or taste your ideas, then they’ll be hooked on your content.

Having trouble grasping this concept? Here are some examples:

  • Visual: “You immediately glue your eyes to the skip button’s countdown clock and wait … until those lingering seconds finally slug by.” – Can you see how long this ad is?
  • Auditory: “But the 20 pen slips below were so hilarious and shocking that my laughter pierced through all my colleagues’ noise-canceling headphones.” – Can you hear his obnoxious laugh?
  • Touch: “Let your well-formatted paragraphs put her attention in a guillotine hold.” – Can you feel how captivated she is?”
  • Smell and taste: “Turn bland writing into zesty sound bites.” – How strong was that quip’s flavor?

7) Let things go.

When you write an elegant paragraph or sentence, your inner author latches onto it. But even if it doesn’t fit within the scope of your content, you still might try to force it in there. You can get too attached to let it go.

Paragraphs or sentences that don’t deepen your readers’ understanding of the topic, provide new information, or spark interest in the next section are just fluff. And all fluff does is muddle your writing.

Instead of building around fluff, strip it away and start something new from scratch. Abandoning beautiful writing is always hard, but if it doesn’t provide value to your readers, let it go.

8) Take a break.

Have you ever reread your final draft so much that you can’t determine whether it’s Neil Patel good or high school essay bad? You can even convince yourself that a lousy draft looks great if you’ve worked on it for long enough.

Before you submit your final draft, it’s crucial to walk away from it. Forgetting about your work will help you develop fresh editing eyes that can discover overlooked errors and new creative opportunities.

Eddie Shleyner, copywriter and content marketer at Workforce Software, follows “The Rule of 12” when he edits his blog posts. After writing his final draft, he walks away for 12 hours. Then he makes his final round of edits, where he always finds a mistake or a better way to polish his copy.

What writing tips do you find useful? Let us know on Twitter!

free guide to writing well

10 Ways to Distribute One Piece of Content (Besides Social Shares)

Long gone are the days of the old publish-and-pray method of content distribution. And even if it ever did work — it was far from effective.

Today, planning the actual distribution of the content you’ve spent so many hours and resources expertly creating is just as critical to your marketing strategy as the quality of the content itself.

Unfortunately — for audiences and marketers alike — too many would-be content marketing rockstars give themselves a nice pat on the back for sharing content on Twitter and Facebook and calling it a day. So before you toast to your status as a progressive marketer who also publishes on LinkedIn and posts on Reddit, consider this: There are dozens, if not hundreds, of methods for content distribution beyond social that you might be overlooking.

But we’re not about to leave you empty-handed. Below you’ll find 10 creative ways to distribute your content — with a little bit of background to set the stage.

The Content Distribution Strategy Experiment

A few months ago, my team — the marketing department at Influence & Co. — sat down for a meeting to accomplish one mission: to come up with more than 50 ways to distribute one piece of content, which was our latest industry research report, “The State of Digital Media.”

We spent a lot of time surveying editors. We analyzed millions of pieces of published content and pored over the results, before we created, designed, and edited this report. We knew our findings were valuable to our audience, so the last thing we wanted to do was publish this report, share it on Twitter a few times, and let it collect dust.

So we gave ourselves one hour, four cups of coffee, and a huge whiteboard — and got to work brainstorming creative ways to distribute this content.

First, we divided our distribution tactics into different categories, based on the departments they benefited, the goals they achieved, and the extra resources they required. For example, the tactics that leveraged our publication relationships would fall under marketing and sales enablement categories. Those with a more educational perspective, on the other hand, were a better fit for HR, because they complemented that department’s recruiting and training efforts.

With a whiteboard full of over 50 ideas, we began executing our new distribution strategy — and just four months after the launch of the report, we already saw impressive results. When we compared that to the performance of a whitepaper we previously published, we found that this experiment resulted in a nearly 150% increase in page views, and a nearly 40% increase in submissions.

To help you get more creative — and effective — in your content distribution, here are 10 unique ways to distribute content, broken down by department.

10 Ways to Distribute Content Beyond Social Shares

Marketing

As marketers, many of us frequently think about content distribution tactics that fit within — and give a boost to — our marketing goals. Among them are the obvious and necessary tactics like social sharing, but there are others that can help you achieve greater brand awareness, influencer relationships, industry leadership, audience engagement, and more.

1) Personalized emails

Segment your email list down to the exact audience that would benefit most from your piece of content. Write a custom email to each of these audience members to add a level of personalization to your message. Explain what the content is, and why you think he or she will enjoy it. Personalized emails have shown a 6.2% higher open rate than those that aren’t.

2) Guest posting

Write an article that discusses — in a non-promotional way — the key findings or points within your content, and send it to the editor of an online publication that reaches your target audience. But be strategic about it. Make sure the publication not only helps you achieve your own reach goals, but also, has something to gain by sharing your insights, from your particular brand.

3) Influencer outreach

Reach out to relevant influencers in your industry for quotes to include in your content, and send them the piece once it’s published for them to share with their networks. Remember, personalization plays a role here, too — being able to personalize and segment emails is one of the most effective tactics for about 50% of marketing influencers.

Sales Enablement

The Influence & Co. sales team uses content just about as much as — if not more than — our marketing department. Our reps use it at every stage of the buyer’s journey to educate, nurture, and engage leads, and overcome objections with prospective clients. Use one of these distribution methods to do the same for your team.

4) Follow-up emails

Encourage your sales team to include a link to your content in their follow-up emails to prospective clients, to answer their questions and position your company as a resource they can trust. Note: This tactic works best when the content you create is educational and addresses specific questions or concerns your leads have — and is actionable enough for them to immediately apply it to their own plans or strategies.

5) Lead interviews

Work with your sales reps to identify prospective clients you can interview for your content. Include a quote in your content, and share it with them once it’s published. Not only can that keep your leads engaged over time, but they’ll appreciate the opportunity to be featured — and you benefit from the additional exposure to their networks when the content is shared with that audience.

6) Proposal references

The best proposals are often supported with relevant data that corroborates the solutions you’re suggesting to a prospect. And while we suggest citing a variety of authentic, reliable sources — otherwise, you might look biased — referencing your own research content can be effective. Not only is it another way to distribute your work, but also, it illustrates the time and thought your company has invested in this school of thought.

That said, some prospective clients like proposals to be brief. In these cases, if you preemptively anticipate additional questions, you can amend your proposal with a link to the content as a source of further reading and information.

Client Retention

Marketers who overlook their current customers in favor of prospective ones risk missing out on a major opportunity. Keeping in touch with your current clients and helping your customer service teams do the same can have a positive impact on both the customer lifetime and the potential for referrals — so don’t forget these internal distribution methods.

7) Client drip campaigns

If your content is related to your clients’ respective industries, or products and services, sharing it with them can enhance your collaborations and further nurture that relationship. Remember, it’s called client retention for a reason — you want to continue being a valued resource and partner for your existing customers. Consider creating something like an email campaign that uses your content, to continually educate and engage your clients.

8) Email signatures

Encourage your customer service reps or account management teams to feature your content in their email signatures. That can help to keep those cornerstone pieces of content top of mind for both current and prospective clients each time they receive an email from someone on your team.

Recruitment

People want to work with trustworthy companies that are true leaders within their industries. Content can communicate expertise and build trust. In fact, we used content to hire more than 30 people in one year.

But for many teams, unfortunately, content is often most underutilized in the areas of employer branding and recruitment marketing. Take advantage of content in HR with these tactics.

9) Content-rich job listings

Include your content in job postings. HubSpot, for example, links to its Culture Code at the end of every job description. By providing educational content up front, applicants can gain a more comprehensive understanding of your industry and how your company approaches it — directly from you.

10) Interview materials

When a job candidate progresses to the next step in the hiring process, share your content with her prior to the following interview, and ask her to come prepared to discuss it. That helps to get your content in front of qualified people in your industry — plus, it gives you the chance to talk in-depth about the concepts and ideas behind your marketing strategy. Even better: It can help you weed out candidates who don’t follow directions.

Whatever tactics your team uses, the most important thing to remember is that content distribution shouldn’t be an afterthought. With the right distribution strategy in place from the beginning, your team can more effectively put your content to work for you, reach more of the right audiences, and drive results for your company.

The Perfect Blog Post Length and Publishing Frequency is B?!!$#÷x – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

The perfect blog post length or publishing frequency doesn’t actually exist. “Perfect” isn’t universal — your content’s success depends on tons of personalized factors. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains why the idea of “perfect” is baloney when it comes to your blog, and lists what you should actually be looking for in a successful publishing strategy.

https://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/vhkmto6gk4?videoFoam=true

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the perfect blog post length and frequency

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about blog posts and, more broadly, content length and publishing frequency.

So these are things where a lot of the posts that you might read, for example, if you were to Google “ideal blog post length” or “ideal publishing frequency” will give you data and information that come from these sources of here’s the average length of content of the top 10 results in Google across a 5,000-keyword set, and you can see that somewhere between 2,350 and 2,425 words is the ideal length, so that’s what you should aim for.

I am going to call a big fat helping if baloney on that. It’s not only dead wrong, it’s really misleading. In fact, I get frustrated when I see these types of charts used to justify this information, because that’s not right at all.

When you see charts/data like this used to provide prescriptive, specific targets for content length, ask:

Any time you see this, if you see a chart or data like this to suggest, hey, this is how long you should make a post because here’s the length of the average thing in the top 10, you should ask very careful questions like:

1. What set of keywords does this apply to? Is this a big, broad set of 5,000 keywords, and some of them are navigational and some of them are informational and some of them are transactional and maybe a few of them are ecommerce keywords and a few of them are travel related and a few of them are in some other sector?

Because honestly, what does that mean? That’s sort of meaningless, right? Especially if the standard deviation is quite high. If we’re talking about like, oh, well many things that actually did rank number one were somewhere between 500 words and 15,000 words. Well, so what does the average tell me? How is that helpful? That’s not actually useful or prescriptive information. In fact, it’s almost misleading to make that prescriptive.

2. Do the keywords that I care about, the ones that I’m targeting, do they have similar results? Does the chart look the same? If you were to take a sample of let’s say 50 keywords that you cared about and you were to get the average content length of the top 10 results, would it resemble that? Would it not? Does it have a high standard deviation? Is there a big delta because some keywords require a lot of content to answer them fully and some keywords require very, very small amounts of content and Google has prioritized accordingly? Is it wise, then, to aim for the average when a much larger article would be much more appreciated and be much more likely to succeed, or a much shorter one would do far better? Why are you aiming for this average if that’s the case?

3. Is correlation the same as causation? The answer is hell no. Never has been. Big fat no. Correlation doesn’t even necessarily imply causation. In fact, I would say that any time you’re looking at an average, especially on this type of stuff, correlation and causation are totally separate. It is not because the number one result is 2,450 words that it happens to rank number one. Google does not work that way. Never has, never will.

INSTEAD of trusting these big, unknown keyword set averages, you should:

A. look at your keywords and your search results and what’s working versus not in those specific ones.

B. Be willing to innovate, be willing to say, “Hey, you know what? I see this content today, the number one, number two, number three rankings are in these sorts of averages. But I actually think you can answer this with much shorter content and many searchers would appreciate it.” I think these folks, who are currently ranking, are over-content creating, and they don’t need to be.

C. You should match your goals and your content goals with searcher goals. That’s how you should determine the length that you should put in there. If you are trying to help someone solve a very specific problem and it is an easily answerable question and you’re trying to get the featured snippet, you probably don’t need thousands of words of content. Likewise, if you are trying to solve a very complex query and you have a ton of resources and information that no one else has access to, you’ve done some really unique work, this may be way too short for what you’re aiming for.

All right. Let’s switch over to publishing frequency, where you can probably guess I’m going to give you similar information. A lot of times you’ll see, “How often should I publish? Oh, look, people who publish 11 times or more per month, they get way more traffic than people who publish only once a month. Therefore, clearly, I should publish 11 or more times a month.”

Why is the cutoff at 11? Does that make any sense to you? Are these visits all valuable to all the companies that were part of whatever survey was in here? Did one blog post account for most of the traffic in the 11 plus, and it’s just that the other 10 happened to be posts where they were practicing or trying to get good, and it was just one that kind of shot out of the park there?

See a chart like this? Ask:

1. Who’s in the set of sites analyzed? Are they similar to me? Do they target a similar audience? Are they in my actual sector? What’s the relative quality of the content? How savvy and targeted are the efforts at earning traffic? Is this guy over here, are we sure that all 11 posts were just as good as the one post this person created? Because if not, I’m comparing apples and oranges.

2. What’s the quality of the traffic? What’s the value of the traffic? Maybe this person is getting a ton of really valuable traffic, and this person over here is getting very little. You can’t tell from a chart like this, especially when it’s averaged in this way.

3. What things might matter more than raw frequency?

  • Well, matching your goals to your content schedule. If one of your goals is to build up subscribers, like Whiteboard Friday where people know it and they’ve heard of it, they have a brand association with it, it’s called Whiteboard Friday, it should probably come out once a week on Friday. There’s a frequency implied in the content, and that makes sense. But you might have goals that only demand publishing once a quarter or once a month or once a week or once every day. That’s okay. But you should tie those together.
  • Consistency, we have found, is almost always more important than raw frequency, especially if you’re trying to build up that consistent audience and a subscriber base. So I would focus on that, not how I should publish more often, but I should publish more consistently so that people will get used to my publishing schedule and will look forward to what I have to say, and also so that you can build up a cadence for yourself and your organization.
  • Crafting posts that actually earn attention and amplification and help your conversion funnel goals, whatever those might be, over raw traffic. It’s far better if this person got 50 new visits who turned into 5 new paying customers, than this person who published 11 posts and got 1 new paying customer out of all 11. That’s a lot more work and expense for a lot less ROI. I’d be careful about that.

*ASIDE:

One aside I would say about publishing frequency. If you’re early stage, or if you were trying to build a career in blogging or in publishing, it’s great to publish a lot of content. Great writers become great because they write a lot of terrible crap, and then they improve. The same is true with web publishers.

If you look at Whiteboard Friday number one, or a blog post number one from me, you’re going to see pretty miserable stuff. But over time, by publishing quite a bit, I got better at it. So if that is your goal, yes, publishing a lot of content, more than you probably need, more than your customers or audience probably needs, is good practice for you, and it will help you get better.

All right, everyone. Hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. We’ll see you again next week. Take care.

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Ranking your local business part IV: Inbound links

This is the fourth post in an 8-part series on how to rank your business for local searches at Google. Previously, I’ve listed the most important aspects that influence your local ranking, discussed how to get the most out of Google My Business, and covered best practices for on-site optimization. Here, I’ll focus on another essential asset for local SEO: earning inbound links to your local business website. Learn why and how to do that!

Since the ascent of Google as the world’s #1 search engine, links have been the primary concern of most SEO practitioners. The seminal idea behind Google’s ranking technology makes it clear that inbound links are the primary vehicle by which Google discovers new pages and websites on the Internet, and they’re the primary way Google assesses the credibility of a given website.

Google’s emphasis on links is the most significant area of overlap between its organic and local ranking algorithms. According to the experts of the Local Search Ranking Factors survey, links make up the biggest piece of the pie in localized organic results. They’re the #1 competitive difference-maker across all types of local results.

Local businesses can’t be fully evaluated on the basis of links, for reasons you’ll see in my next pos. But there’s no question that a strong inbound link profile (links pointing from other websites to yours) has a positive impact on how well your business ranks. 

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Why links in the first place?

I know you’re probably thinking, “hey, I want to rank #1, just tell me what to do!” But understanding why Google values links so highly can help you assess the strength or weakness of your own link profile. This can help you determine your link acquisition strategy.

Google’s robots, or “spiders,” crawl the Internet by “clicking” one link after another after another. They discover new pages and websites as part of that crawl, and store the content of each of those pages in a giant database.

In addition to storing the content of each page, Google also stores how its crawlers arrived on the page. In other words, it remembers the pages and websites that were linking to it. A link from one site to another is like a vote or endorsement for the credibility of the second website.

google crawling links

 

 

Diagram courtesy of Aaron Weiche, GetFiveStars

Sites with the most endorsements (green circle) tend to rank better than those with few or no endorsements (yellow circle). Especially links from websites that are heavily-endorsed themselves improve your ranking. You need endorsements in order to get elected, and you need links in order to rank well.

Link attributes

Topical context

Google counts thousands of PhDs as employees. And while its algorithm over the years has been incredibly vulnerable to abuse by spammers, increasingly it’s taking into account the context in which a link appears. Google largely devalues links that appear on completely unrelated websites. For example, a personal injury lawyer that receives a link from a Russian real estate forum. In fact, increasingly these kinds of links put you in jeopardy of a Google penalty.

Conversely, links that you acquire or earn that are likely to refer you actual customers are increasingly the ones that Google values. For example, a personal injury lawyer that receives a link from a neighboring chiropractor’s website.

Eric Ward a.k.a. “Link Moses,” was building links before Google was even a gleam in Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s eyes. As such, his still-highly-relevant advice is to build links as if Google didn’t even exist. Living by this “first commandment” of link building makes it incredibly unlikely your site will ever be penalized by Google. And, it will make the impact of your link building more permanent and effective.

Page / domain authority

The source of a link matters a great deal to how much weight it carries in Google’s algorithm.

Going back to my earlier analogy, endorsements from major groups and figures help politicians earn votes more than do endorsements from anonymous individual voters. In the same way, links from pages and websites that are themselves heavily linked-to (such as BBC.com or WashingtonPost.com) are going to benefit the linked site much more than a link from a hobbyist blog or tiny startup.

In particular, links from government, school, and non-profit websites tend to be particularly powerful. These are high-trust websites that aren’t going to link to low-trust businesses or scam artists very often. So websites that earn links from these high-trust, high-authority websites, have a leg up on their competition.

Anchor text

I mentioned the concept of anchor text briefly in my last column. Anchor text are the words that make up the link itself. Such as “my last column” in the previous sentence.

The text of the link helps provide Google additional context about the topic of the linked page, i.e. what keywords that page should rank for. So links that contain keywords related to what you sell or where you’re located – and even links for your brand name – are going to help you rank. They’ll help you more than links using generic terms like “click here” or “read more.”

You have complete control over anchor text on your own website, and you should use it to your advantage. But you don’t really have control over what text people use on other websites. In general, it’s not the best use of time for local businesses to influence what anchor text others are using. It’s just a ranking factor to be aware of.

Assessing your existing link profile

Any number of tools exist to analyze your existing link profile, but in my experience the one that gives the most complete picture for local businesses is aHrefs. It’s a robust product that provides more information than the average local business needs. But just take a free trial and capture a high-level summary of your link profile. Most small businesses won’t need to continue usage beyond a day or two.

hrefs for inbound links local seo

 

The key aHrefs numbers are in the top row of the screenshot above: UR, DR, and referring domains. UR and DR refer to Page / domain authority. The number of referring domains is the best heuristic for most local businesses as to how strong their existing link profile is. Click the number under Referring Domains to view a list of the sites that are already linking to you. Are there obvious sites not in that list that should be linking to you? Consider reaching out to them to let them know how much a link would help your business.

During your free trial of aHrefs, I also recommend researching the profiles of the sites that rank above you for your target keywords. Take a look at their DR and number of referring domains. In particular, comparing those two metrics will give you a rough sense of how much link building work you’ll have to do to move the needle on your rankings.

Links that move the needle in local search

Google likes to pretend that great content, and great websites, will naturally acquire links. But for 99.999% of businesses, that’s terrible advice. The old question “If a tree falls in a forest and no one’s there to hear it, does it make a sound?” applies to content and links.

If you produce great content, but no one’s there to see it, does it acquire links? The answer is a resounding no. Businesses need to be proactive about acquiring links. As long as you follow Eric Ward’s first commandment and acquire links that will actually send you customers, you shouldn’t fear a Google penalty.

Over the years, many local businesses haven’t followed Eric’s advice, have fallen victim to scam artists selling hundreds of links. Or have otherwise been too aggressive about acquiring links. The reality is that, for many businesses, 10-20 high-quality links will lead to top rankings in short order – sustainable rankings will last for years. Take the time to earn these high-quality links and don’t pursue those over-aggressive tactics.

Industry-relevant links

Industry-relevant links are often the easiest links for small business owners to acquire, as many of them simply involve asking your existing contacts at companies or organizations with whom you do business.

Local business and neighborhood associations

Are you a member of your local chamber of commerce, business association, or neighborhood association?  Most groups like these operate a member directory, and you want to make sure that directory is online, visible to the public, and to Google’s spiders.  If the websites of these groups are not showing up in your aHrefs backlink profile, bring up the issue with the director or marketing manager of these associations and ask them to put up a webpage that links to each member.

Regional/national certification boards and industry organizations

Depending on your industry, you may also be licensed by, or participate in, a regional or national organization.

Don’t just display your certification on your website — link to your business’s online profile on the websites of these certifying boards and industry organizations. This not only increases the credibility of your business to potential customers, but helps Google’s spiders discover and crawl your profile on these highly-trusted sites.

Distributors (directories or announcements)

For those of you who are retailers, think about the products that you sell in-store.  Are you unique, or one of the few stores in your local market that carries a particular product? If so, consider asking the manufacturer or distributor of that product for a link from their website, possibly from a “where to buy” directory.  At the very least these companies should partner with you on a press release–containing a link to your website–to announce to their customers (and Google!) where people can buy their product in your area.

Vendors (testimonials)

Are there particular vendors from whom you purchase a lot of goods or services? Ask them if you can contribute a testimonial to their website, and if they really appreciate your business, that testimonial will contain a link back to your site.

Interviews and guest columns

Getting featured in a trade publication is not only a great driver of business–especially referral business– but can provide a powerful link back to your website.  These links are a little more difficult to acquire, as they require building a relationship with authors or influencers in your industry.

To get started, see if a friend can make an introduction on your behalf to one of these key columnists.  Intelligence Software offers this free tool that taps some of Facebook’s more advanced search capabilities. (LinkedIn Premium offers some of the same features, but it’s a paid product.)

Essentially, you want to search for writers and editors who are employed at some of the key publications in your industry to see if and how you’re connected to them through friends. Once you see how you’re connected, you can ask specific friends to put in a good word for you.

Here’s an example of the output of an Intelligence Software search for employees at Third Door Media (the parent company of Search Engine Land, one of the top news outlets in SEO):

https://www.facebook.com/search/str/third%20door%20media/pages-named/employees/present/intersect

As you can see, the search would be pretty complicated to type in, but the tool from Intelligence Software makes it easy.

Locally-relevant links

Charities—or schools—to which you’ve donated money or goods, or volunteered with.

Many of you, and perhaps many of your employees, are likely involved in local charities on non-profit organizations. These links are highly-valued by Google, as charities tend to be trusted institutions in the offline world as well as online.

You want to make sure your involvement is acknowledged online.  As my friend Mike Blumenthal likes to say, “You don’t need a thank-you from the executive director. You don’t need a plaque. If they really want to thank you for your involvement, they’ll give you a link from their website.”

Groups for whom you host events at your physical location

Hosting events for outside groups is one of the lowest-cost, lowest-work link building initiatives you can undertake. Chances are good that the business or group hosting the event at your business will link to your website’s contact/directions page when they post their invitation online.  Someone else is doing your link building for you — and who knows–some of the attendees may even turn into customers!

Complementary businesses

You probably have colleagues in related industries to whom you refer business, and from whom you’re referred business, all the time. Make sure these referral relationships are represented online, in the form of links, so that Google knows that your businesses vouch for each other just as you do in the offline world.

Interviews and guest columns

Local publications like newspapers and alternative weeklies or monthlies are terrific places to get your business featured. And the chances may be better, especially in smaller towns or tightly-knit neighborhoods, that a friend of a friend may work at one of these companies.

Using the same Intelligence Software tool, you can perform searches like this to get a list of journalists (or columnists) in your city, and see how you’re connected to them through friends or family:

https://www.facebook.com/search/str/journalist/pages-named/employees/present/intersect/str/portland%2C%20oregon/pages-named/residents/present/intersect

The future of links and rankings

Some SEO professionals have been predicting the demise of links for a several years. But there’s little evidence to support this trend so far. Certainly Google has gotten better at penalizing low-quality links over the course of various algorithm updates, but if anything, high-quality links have been that much harder to come by, and even more valuable to their recipients.

Links may very well become “democratized” as they become less representative of the overall sentiment of the online world. A very small percentage of internet users has ever published a link on a website or blog, and more and more non-link signals are available for Google to analyze to assess the popularity and credibility of a local business (more on these signals coming in the final installment of this series). 

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More on links

You can truly go crazy with link building, and there are entire companies and agencies devoted entirely to this niche within SEO. It’s probably not the highest and best use of your time as a local business owner, or even a local business marketer. But it is important that every local business have a reasonable link foundation underpinning their other marketing initiatives.

Here are four amazing resources for those of you wanting to take an even deeper dive into link building:

Neil Patel has this great summary of link building tools and techniques that have helped him build his own, and his clients’, businesses.

The aforementioned aHrefs has published this excellent guide on the discipline their company was founded to help master.

Phil Rozek has a terrific series of questions you can ask yourself as you try to identify what low-hanging link opportunities might be available to you.

And Megan Hannay of ZipSprout has created an awesome product to help you identify non-profit organizations that recognize supporters and volunteers online.

Summary

  • Inbound links pointing from other websites to your website are critical to establish the credibility of your business in Google’s eyes.
  • Build links as if Google didn’t even exist — links that will bring you customers in addition to rankings.
  • Assess your existing link profile, and the profiles of your competitors with aHrefs, paying special attention to DR (Domain Rank or authority) and the number of referring domains.
  • Seek out industry-relevant and locally-relevant links from groups and websites with which you already have an offline relationship.
  • Ask for introductions from colleagues, friends, and family to key influencers who write for industry and local publications.

Read more: ‘Ranking your local business at Google: Introduction’ »