The Internet Marketing Driver: Glenn Gabe's goal is to help marketers build powerful and measurable web marketing strategies.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Killer Content, A Loyal Community, The Twitter Effect, and Its Impact on SEO


How the social web, great content, and seo all work together.
How's that for a title? I witnessed a pretty amazing thing last week from an online marketing perspective. I love finding dynamic examples of how the social web works, especially when it unfolds right in front of your eyes over just a few hours. What I experienced last week was an outstanding example of how great content, a loyal following, respect in the industry, and SEO all tie together. It's kind of like the perfect storm, but in a good way.

Organic Linkbuilding
First, I'm a believer that your best linkbuilding comes naturally. If you create killer content that provides value to your readers and visitors, you often will end up generating high quality links. In my experience, I've seen a direct relationship between the time and care you take to create content and the impact that content has from a linkbuilding standpoint. For example, I've developed content that took a relatively long time to create (days to write and sometimes weeks to research), but based on the popularity of that content, the buzz it generated, the targeted traffic, and subsequent inbound links, it was well worth the time. Compare that to content developed or written quickly, with little or no thought put in, provides little value, and subsequently has no impact. It makes a lot of sense if you think about it. Are you going to link to a quick post that provides no value and no original content? Probably not, right? But you might link to a post that greatly helps your efforts (for whatever you are trying to achieve).

How it Unfolded
So let's get back to what happened last week? Here's the deal. I watched an editor break a story on a website (providing killer content), I saw that content go viral on Twitter (due to a loyal following), then it got picked up by a popular industry website (due to respect in the industry), and then I saw that content go on to generate over 22,000 inbound links in a matter of days. I saw how the content ranked in just hours in Google (due to Query Deserves Freshness QDF), and then how it ended up ranking for dozens of competitive keywords in a short period of time. That's darn powerful.

Let's break down what happened and its impact:

1. Content
The content was great (a scoop), and probably wasn't easy to come by. But providing valuable content (in this case breaking news), is only part of the equation. That news could have easily led to little traffic, no links, and no rankings, right? Everyone has heard about sites getting their scoops ripped off. That's a good segue...

2. Loyal Community
Enter the next important part of the equation. If you're publishing to a black hole, who cares about what you write. But, if you've built up a serious following, earned respect, and engage your community, then amazing things can happen. In this case, community members starting tweeting, then retweeting, and more retweeting. You get the picture. I scrolled through pages and pages of tweets linking to the story. For people that think Twitter provides no value, please read this section again. :)

3. Respect in the Industry
Ah, the point at which things can take a different path. What happens if people try to steal your scoop? For example, they find out the breaking news from you and then post their own version of it, essentially watering down your impact. I don't care who you are, that's a horrible feeling and happens more than you think. But, if you've gained the respect of your peers (even beyond your community), you might see an interesting effect, like what I saw last week. A major industry website wrote an article about the breaking news and linked to the scoop I mentioned earlier. A “hat tip”, so to speak. That hat tip ended up being the top referring source for a few days. Again, powerful (and a great link for SEO too.)

4. SEO Power
The culmination of what I listed above was 22,588 inbound links, including links from some powerful websites in the industry. Inbound links are the lifeblood of SEO, so gaining thousands of them from relevant and powerful sites is a good thing. :) This article generated quality links, and a lot of them. This resulted in top rankings for competitive keywords around the subject matter. Right now, the site ranks for dozens of keywords related to the subject of the article. And, that was after just a few days.

Also, I mentioned Query Deserves Freshness (QDF) earlier. That's a part of Google's algorithm that determines when a query requests information about breaking news and which listings to provide that reference the breaking news. Google determines this by monitoring the activity around a given subject. The content Google provides in the SERPs may be new blog posts or stories from trusted sites that don't have any inbound links yet (or are in the process of increasing inbound links). The site I was monitoring is definitely a trusted site in the industry, and benefited from QDF. In case you want to learn more, Rand Fishkin from SEOmoz provides a video explaining the ins and outs of QDF. As usual, Rand does a great job explaining how it works.

Let's summarize what happened:
So, after just a few days the article ended up being one of the most popular pages traffic-wise, it generated quality visitors, and incredible rankings in organic search. It's a great example of how the social web works and its connection to SEO. A quick side note, the page wasn't perfectly optimized for SEO, but it still ranks like mad. I think it shows which SEO factors are most important, right? (cough, quality inbound links) I can only imagine what the page would rank for if it was well optimized! :)

So, have you witnessed something like this? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

GG

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Check Your Search Engine Rankings, Why Your Competitors in Organic Search Might Not Always Be Who You Think They Are


Finding your actual competition in organic search.When beginning a new SEO project, there are some questions that always come up during initial meetings. How does organic search work? Which keywords should we target? Do we need to redesign our entire website? And…how do we compare to our competition in natural search? I’m going to focus on the last question in this post, because there’s an important point I’d like to make. Whenever I ask someone who their competition is in natural search, I typically hear the names of their core competitors (business-wise). Although that’s true in a pure business sense, that’s not necessarily the case in natural search. So, I often run a competitive position analysis to determine where a site ranks in the search engines as compared to its competition. It helps you (and your client) understand who their actual competition is and then sets the stage for deeper competitive analysis.

Don’t drop names with Google…
Outside of search, you might be able to throw a big brand name around and get somewhere. Unfortunately, the search engines don’t necessarily care. That’s one of the reasons you’ll see all types of websites ranking for highly competitive keywords. Actually, I’d argue that some smaller online businesses can easily outmaneuver larger websites and companies in SEO. When it comes down to it, the engines care about quality content, a good user experience, relevancy, and popularity. In other words, create outstanding content that can be easily crawled and indexed, optimize that content based on keyword research, make it easy for your visitors to find and use your content, and if those visitors find that content valuable, you might gain important inbound links (AKA votes). If that happens, subsequent rankings can follow… BTW, you’ll notice I didn’t mention that you need to be a big brand or a multi-billion dollar company to do this. That’s part of the reason blogs have become so powerful. They give the small guy a voice…and that small guy can often outrank large companies in the SERPs. Empowering, yes? Scary to large businesses and big brands, you bet.

Seriously? That’s My Competition in Natural Search??
Yes, I hear this often (with a few other words that I cannot put on my blog!) Once you run a position analysis using competitive keywords (based on keyword research), you and your client can clearly see who owns the SERPs for those keywords. Sure, the rankings can change over time, but you have a snapshot of which sites are ranking at that point in time. Then, you can take the next step and perform a competitive analysis to help you determine what type of content ranks, how the websites structure their content, and which sites link to them. Remember, quality and relevant inbound links are the lifeblood of SEO.

Let’s take a look at a few examples:
Note, since search engine rankings change often, you might not see the same exact results that I did during my test.

Flatscreen TVs
HD TV’s are obviously hot, so let’s check out a competitive keyword like flatscreen tvs:

Google search rankings for flatscreen tvs.

This is a great example. There are only 2 manufacturers in the top 10 (Samsung at #7 and Westinghouse Digital at #10, which isn't visible in the screenshot above). More on Samsung in a minute. The rest of the sites include reviews, news stories, a buying guide, an e-commerce website, etc. I’ll bet if you walked into LG, Panasonic or Samsung and asked who they compete with in natural search for a keyword like flatscreen tv's, you would hear the other big brands and not the sites in this list. Note, Samsung was pretty smart with creating the page that ranks on their website. Someone at Samsung (cough, cough, SEO guy), understood what people are searching for and provided that content on Samsung.com (Pagerank 8...) There are other good things about this page that I'd like to cover, but that’s for another post. :)

Cabernet Sauvignon
Any wine drinkers out there? Imagine you owned a winery and had an award winning cab? You would probably want to rank highly, right? Let’s see which sites rank for the keyword cabernet sauvignon:

Google search rankings for cabernet sauvignon.

Wow, I’m not exactly a wine connoisseur, but I don’t see any popular wine brands here (other than in the shopping results, which I'll tackle in a minute). You have Wikipedia (big surprise), about.com, an article about Obama, and then a spattering of other wine-related educational pages. Needless to say, this list of websites is probably not what a leading winery would expect to find ranking for cabernet sauvignon.

Enter Universal Search: Also, in the middle of the page you will see shopping results listed. This is Universal Search in action, where Google is mixing additional types of results within the organic rankings. More on this below, but you should start to think about all the different ways you can rank in organic search beyond traditional webpage content. For example, video, images, news, shopping, local, etc.

HD Video Camera
HD Video is all the rage, let’s take a look at the keyword HD Video Camera:

Google search rankings for hd video camera.

Very interesting. There’s only one big brand in the list (Canon at #4). The rest of the list includes reviews at cnet, an announcement from camcorderinfo.com, two YouTube videos (more on this in a minute), some news results, and then amazon.com. Again, if you walked into Sony, Panasonic, or Canon, do you think they would guess that they are competing against YouTube videos? Probably not. On that note, you can see Universal Search in action here again, with two video thumbnails in the organic results (at least at the time of my test). One is from Tiger Direct and the other is from Chris Pirillo! Great job Chris, you outrank major manufacturers of HD video cameras. :)

So, if you haven’t started thinking about Universal Search and the impact that it can have, just take a closer look at the screenshot above. I think you’ll change your mind. There's also a news result right under the video thumbnails. Both the video results and news results are powerful, especially since they have thumbnails associated with them. If you are interested in learning more about optimizing your video content, then check out my post about Video SEO.

Fuel Efficient Cars
Based on the spike in gasoline prices during 2008, let’s check out a search for fuel efficient cars:

Google search rankings for fuel efficient cars.

Holy smokes, there’s not 1 car manufacturer in the list. Not 1. I highly doubt that Ford, Honda, Toyota, Chrysler, and GM would take me seriously if I walked in and said that they compete with a government agency, a green publication, and a newspaper in natural search! That said, you need content on your site in order to rank... I was shocked to see several car manufacturer websites without a single occurrence of the keyword fuel efficient cars. I had to check a few times to believe it...

You will also see another example of Universal Search in the screenshot above. Google is providing news results mixed in the organic rankings (in the middle of the page). This is just another reason to start thinking about all of the ways to rank in organic search (and the different types of content you can optimize). All of your digital assets come into play with universal search.

So, are you ready to conduct a position analysis?
OK, I think you get the point. Performing a position analysis is an important step in understanding your actual competition in natural search. I would begin the process by identifying your competitive keywords via extensive keyword research and then determine where you rank against your competition for those keywords. Then, once you know the competition, you should complete a thorough competitive analysis to see how you can strengthen your organic search power and increase your search engine rankings.

Good luck and be ready for some interesting looks as you tell people who they really compete with in natural search. :)

GG

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

YouTube Insight, How to Optimize and Enhance Your Online Videos Using Analytics


YouTube Insight, Optimizing Your Video Clips Using AnalyticsToday I get to write about two of my favorite things, Web Analytics and Online Video. Lucky me! Given that YouTube just surpassed Yahoo as the #2 search engine, I think it’s safe to say that many of you probably visit YouTube regularly to watch videos online. In addition, I know some of you are taking the next step and producing your own videos to share with the world. That covers watching, producing, and sharing, but there’s another concept I wanted to introduce today, and that’s optimization. Did you know that YouTube gives you access to a video analytics package free of charge, right in your YouTube account? It’s called YouTube Insight and it gives you the ability to constantly glean insights from your video clips and viewers. Video producers that use Insight already know its power, but I still think many people don’t know what to do with it, or more importantly, how to optimize their videos using the data provided by Insight. If you’ve read my blog before, then you know how I feel about the importance of web analytics. Well, this is simply an extension of web analytics, but specifically for your own YouTube video clips. Let’s dig in.

What is YouTube Insight?
YouTube Insight is a video analytics tool that provides you with valuable information about your video clips (and your viewers). Insight gives you several reports, including views, popularity, discovery (how people find your videos), and a new piece of functionality called hotspots. Insight Hotspots enable you see which parts of your video are hot (higher engagement) and which parts are cold (less interest and engagement). I will explain more about hotspots below.

Improving Your YouTube Videos with Insight
Let’s face it, producing videos is darn time consuming. I began shooting and editing video in 1995 and one thing I learned very quickly was that producing a video is not easy and takes a lot of time. So, if you are going to spend the time to brainstorm, script, shoot, edit, and publish videos for YouTube, then you are probably going to want to know what works and what doesn’t. For example, which videos are more engaging, which garner most of your views, how popular were they compared to other videos, which parts of the video were more engaging, etc. You want to know this information so you don’t waste valuable time in the future.

Accessing YouTube Insight
You can access Insight in a few different ways once you have logged in. First, you can access your Insight Dashboard by clicking the Account link in the top right of your screen. Then you can click YouTube Insight from the Performance and Data Tools section located near the bottom of the page (left side).

First Click Your Account Link, Then Click YouTube Insight on Your Account Page:
YouTube Account Link

YouTube Insight Link

The second way to access Insight is by entering the My Videos Page (Uploaded Videos) and clicking the Insight button (for each video). The button for Insight is below the video information and is next to Audio Swap.

YouTube Insight Button Located on My Videos Page:
YouTube Insight Button

Insight Dashboard (a snapshot of all videos)
Your Insight Dashboard functions just like a dashboard in any web analytics package and gives you an aggregate view of your videos (your channel). For example, your dashboard will show you which videos are most popular, how many views your channel is getting, which geographic regions hold the most viewers, popularity of videos in your channel, demographics of your viewers, etc. It’s a great way to get an overall view of how your channel is performing. That said, you really should drill into each video to gain the most valuable information… Aggregate data at the channel level doesn’t really give you actionable information.

Tip: When you are ready to analyze a specific video, you can either click its name in the Views tab of your Insight Dashboard or you can go to your My Videos Page and click the Insight button under each video clip. If you always want to begin by analyzing specific videos, then you might start your visit by accessing the My Videos Page instead of the dashboard.

Visits
You can click the Visits tab to see the number of visits each video received in all countries, or in specific regions. You can change the timeframe on the graph and you can choose a specific country from the dropdown on the right. Then, let’s say you choose the United States, you can click on specific states to see your visits per state. To change the date range, you can click the Zoom links in the top of the graph for 1 day, 5 days, 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, or Max. Or, you can use the slider below the graph to quickly change the date range of your report.


YouTube Insight Views:
YouTube Insights Views

Popularity
Insight also gives you the option of seeing how popular your videos are compared to other videos in the selected region during that timeframe. Just like with visits, you can click a country on the map to target that region, or you can drill into a region to get more granular. For example, you can click a state in the US to see the popularity within that state. You can also click specific countries within a region like Turkey within the Middle East or China within Asia.

YouTube Insight Popularity:
YouTube Insights Popularity

Discovery (or Traffic Sources)
OK, who else is addicted to checking traffic sources for their website in their web analytics package? It’s hard not be, right? The Discovery tab provides the traffic sources for your video clips. I love it. In a nutshell, it's how people found your video. There are five links within this section and they include:

YouTube Search, or which keywords people are entering to find your videos on YouTube.
Related Videos, or other videos on YouTube where your video thumbnail showed up as a related video and people clicked that thumbnail to get to your video.
Embedded Player, or which sites have embedded your video clip (using the embed code in YouTube).
External Links, or websites that link to your video clip (AKA referring sites).
Google Search, or keywords people are entering in Google to find your video clips.
Google Video, or keywords that people are entering on Google Video to find your video clips.
Other, or links to your video where there is no referring URL (AKA Direct Traffic). This might be a person emailing the link to someone else, IM’ing the link, etc.
YouTube Other, or other pages on YouTube that are linking to your video clips (not related videos).

YouTube Insight Discovery:
YouTube Insights Dicovery

Demographics
Insight provides some basic data regarding the demographics of your viewers. For example, you can see the age range and gender for viewers. In addition, you can click on a specific gender to see the age range within that gender. So, you can click Female and see the age range of your female viewers. {Marketers, can you say Test Group?} More on this later.

YouTube Insight Demographics:
YouTube Insight Demographics

New Addition: Insight Hotspots (and Coldspots)
YouTube just recently made this feature available. Using Insight Hotspots, you can see which parts of your video are more engaging (or less engaging) as compared to other videos of similar length. As the video plays in Insight, there is a graph on the left side of the screen that displays whether that segment of video was hot or cold. If it’s hot, fewer people are leaving your video at that point, or even rewinding the video to see that part again. If it’s cold, more people are skipping that segment or leaving the video at that point. I’ll explain more below about how to use this feature to enhance your videos, but needless to say, it’s an outstanding addition.

YouTube Insight Hotspots:
YouTube Insights Hotspots

This All Sounds Great Glenn, But How Do I Use Insight To Optimize My Videos?
Just like web analytics, having the data available is one thing, but using the data to enhance your efforts is another. Don’t fear! I’ll explain some basic things you can do in order to glean insights from your reporting to optimize your future videos.

1. Your Ad Hoc Focus Group
Companies spend a lot of money testing their creative to understand what will engage targeted viewers. Well, you can use Insight Hotspots to see what is working in your videos and what isn’t, and for free! You can see which parts of your video people like (rewind and watch again) versus don’t like (they skip through or exit the video). For example, you might find that physical stunts are extremely hot where dialogue is cold. Or you might test a few different versions of a video to see which angles yield the highest engagement. Does humor work, action, or a combination of both? Using Insight Hotspots, you can begin to take guesswork out of the equation and make decisions based on data (which is always a smart move!)

2. Using Insight For Keyword Research
I spend a lot of time talking about the importance of Keyword Research for SEO. It’s an incredibly important process to go through in order to optimize your website based on what people ACTUALLY search for (versus what you think they search for). With Insight, you have access to YouTube searches that lead to your videos, Google searches that lead to your videos, and Google Video searches that lead to your videos (and all for free). By analyzing these keywords, you can start to understand the ways in which people search for different types of content and then you can use that information to optimize future videos (and the text content you provide for those videos like your descriptions, tagging, titles, etc.) For example, are people searching for a category, a specific product, do they enter questions or is it by major keyword?

3. See Which Videos Spike Quickly Versus Providing Sustained Visitors
You might find that an entertaining video has a spike in visitors and then fizzles out, where an educational video builds traffic over time and constantly drives viewers your way. Since you can view visits trended over time, then you can start to get a feel for the lifecycle of specific videos. The more you know about the different types of content you produce, the more you can tailor future content to meet your specific needs (or the needs of your clients).

4. Understand Related Videos That Drive Viewers To Your Video Clips
You can start to learn which types of videos are considered “related” and which videos drive the most viewers. The more you understand the videos that drive people to your own clips, the more you can target future content to that target audience. For example, maybe you had a lot of visitors from How-To videos. You might use this angle in the future to make sure you show up there again, or to capture that traffic from the start...

5. Learn Which Websites Link To Your Video (Referring Sites)
Checking your external links, you can see which websites are linking to your video clips on YouTube. From an SEO standpoint, this provides a great opportunity for link-building. For example, if a site in your industry is linking to your YouTube clips, then maybe they would want to link to your website as well. Links are the lifeblood of SEO and finding topical and relevant link opportunities is extremely important. Note, you can’t see specific URL’s in Insight…you only get domain information, which is a little frustrating. That said, you can probably track down the specific webpage by doing a site command in Google. :)

6. Find Out Which Video Clips Go Viral
If you see a lot of viewers from “Other” in your discovery report (direct traffic), then that’s probably from email, IM, etc. Basically, someone sent around the link for your video to their friends, coworkers, etc. If you had a high percentage of viewers from Direct Traffic, then you might have found something that gets people talking. You can follow this path and test out future videos using similar types of content.

7. See Which Geographic Regions Watch Your Videos (Countries And States)
Are your videos more popular within certain countries or regions? Why were they more popular? For example, did you get a lot of traffic from New York when you shot a video in Times Square? Did you get a lot of traffic from Massachusetts when you showcased Boston Baked Beans in your video about the Best Ideas for Sunday Dinner? On the flip side, did you get a lot of viewers from Hawaii to a video about Surfing the Web on Your Blackberry? Were they interested in surfing or a Blackberry??

Produce, Upload, Analyze, and Refine
Let’s face it, videos are not easy to create (good videos). They cost money, take a lot of time to produce, and a huge amount of effort to pull off. If an average blog post takes a few hours to brainstorm, write, edit, and publish, then a good video takes 4-5X that at least to brainstorm, script, shoot, edit, publish and share. Given the time commitment involved, I highly recommend using YouTube Insight as your video analytics package to glean insights from your viewers in order to optimize and enhance your future clips. If you don’t, then you’re just flying blind. As you can probably guess, I’m against flying blind and you should be too, especially when someone hands you a free analytics package like YouTube Insight!

GG

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Link Building Ideas, Teach a Man to Fish and He’ll Bring You… Links


Link Building Tip, Creating Instructional ContentWhen it comes to building high search engine rankings, building links is probably the most important thing you can do. There are obviously many factors that go into achieving high search engine rankings, but naturally building links to your website is the most important way to notify Google and the other engines that you are providing valuable content (and to prove it's valuable, other people have linked to it). Each link to your website is casting a vote for you, and the quality of the sites linking to your content is also important. For example, if you focus on business consulting, then gaining links from other business consultants is much more valuable than building links from comedy websites. I’m simplifying things a bit, but I think you get the point.

OK, I Have A Blog, But What Will I Write?
I hear this question a lot. Whenever I recommend setting up a blog, I frequently get the question, “But what will I write about?” It doesn’t matter which industry you focus on, there are always dozens of angles for blog posts. Do you sell printers? Write a blog post explaining the top ways to troubleshoot inkjet and laser printers. Are you a fitness trainer? Write about the most common ways that people injure themselves while working out and then how to correct those issues. Did you create a new beverage? Write a blog post explaining the top mixed drinks of the year and how to make them, and of course use your product for some of the recipes. :-) There’s a common thread with the examples I’ve been providing. They all teach people how to do something. In my experience with helping clients across several industries, one thing remains constant. If you teach someone to fish (or fix printers or exercise correctly or mix drinks properly), they will bring you links and exposure, which will ultimately help you increase your natural search rankings.

They’re not a flash in the pan…
Believe me, I’m definitely not against many forms of content for link-building, but in my experience, providing instructional content works extremely well. One reason for this is that instructional posts typically stand the test of time. If someone finds your post a year after you write it, you can still generate links. On the flip side, if you create an entertaining post (like a really funny video using your product), you might get a lot of exposure in the short-term, but it will probably fade out after a few weeks (or days). Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen some entertaining content generate a lot of exposure, but if I had to choose, I would still recommend teaching people how to do something.

Kills Two Birds with One Stone
For those of you not familiar with link building, the content you create is often not intended to generate sales directly. Instead, it’s there to build links and exposure, which can help increase your natural search rankings, which in turn can help you generate sales down the line. That said, the content you develop can definitely increase sales if you directly link it to solving a problem for your target market. For example, if you own an electronics repair company and explain how to perform some quick fixes on the most popular digital cameras, then you could very easily end up landing new customers from that post. They might be so impressed with the information and tips you gave them in the post, that they end up getting in touch with you when they really need their camera repaired. In addition, they might link to that post from their own site or blog and possibly add that post to popular social media sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, Del.icio.us, etc. I’m not saying that your link building content will always be a driver of sales, but it could be…

Brainstorm some link building ideas today…
Excited about link building? Then start today by brainstorming some ideas. Think about your customers, what would help them achieve their goals, what’s unique about your products or services, and then clean off that white board! If you find yourself having trouble brainstorming link building ideas, then contact me today. There’s a reason that my office is covered with post-it notes containing ideas for new blog posts! ;-)

GG

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