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The Truth About the Concept of Content Being King

If you've participated in automotive internet marketing for long enough, you've very likely heard the concept that "content is King." It was in play back in the days when I started researching search engine optimization all those years ago and it never really stopped. There was a dirty little secret that few of us in the SEO community ever mentioned, but it's been safe to say it for a little over a year now.

Content wasn't really king. It was important, but it wasn't king - not by a long shot.

When I started at TK Carsites in 2007, I wanted to prove that point. I was given a single website that belonged to the company that we wanted to rank for the important "used cars" keywords. They had a gameplan that included creating pages for every major metro in the country, populating them with tons of unique content, and playing the game the way that it's supposed to be played. I told them to hold off for a while. This was an opportunity to do some testing.

We didn't add the content... nothing. The homepage was flash and had three words in the title tag - two of them being "Used Cars". I then went through an extremely aggressive link-building process and started attacking dozens of cities. In less than two months, we were ranked in the top 3 for over 30 major metros and #1 for a dozen. These weren't easy keywords. "Baltimore Used Cars". "Dallas Used Cars". "New York City Used Cars". We Google-bombed the site and it paid off. Sadly, we didn't develop the site very much after that, but the point was made.

Fast forward about a year and we started recognizing that Google was changing the game. I was certain that they were heading towards a set of quality-control mechanisms that would make the spammy techniques obsolete. We started shifting towards a content model that included high-value sites, blogs, and guest posting. We still used some of the lesser link-building styles such as directory submissions, but we stopped all forms of footer/sidebar/signature link building. If it could be done in bulk, we weren't going to use it. Google was catching on. I was sure of it.

2009 came and went. No major change. Content was a little more important, but link-building still ruled. In fact, our high-touch, high-maintenance technique was working but not much better than the spammy techniques some were using that we had long-abandoned.

2010 - same thing. I was getting worried. I was sure Google was close. They had to be. Unfortunately, I was getting a little pressure from the SEO team because they were seeing that the techniques that I assured were evil were still working.

2011 - Panda. YAAAAY! No, wait. It didn't address the links. The spammy techniques were still working and my expensive strategy was having trouble fighting off the bulk players.

Then it happened. Penguin. April 24, 2012. The day that I thought would be coming in 2008 or 2009 finally arrived and all of the things I had hoped for came true. Some of our competitors fell of the map, Death-Star-style... "as if millions of SEO's cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced."

Today, the strategy, a content- and quality-based strategy, is alive and well. Finally.

So what was the point of all that? Today, content truly IS king, but not in the way that most perceive it. The reason that I built a new company that focuses solely on content, search, and social is that the three are now part of the same digital marketing strategy. You cannot do well with any one of them without doing well at the other two. Content is king because the quality necessary for pure link earning and social media marketing is finally bridging the gap. Unfortunately, that's bad news for the vast majority of dealers because the boilerplate content that populates so many dealer websites is hurting you. Chances are you're not really feeling it because you've never experienced the difference; if nearly everyone is doing it wrong, then "bad" is actually average.

Here is a good infographic that demonstrates many of the connections that are associated with content as part of SEO and thus part of the holistic digital marketing strategy, via automotiveseo.org. Enjoy!

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Hodgepodge

It's that time of year, again. We're going to eat a lot of different foods that we rarely eat the rest of the year and we're going to hear a lot of predictions about the future of marketing. The future, of course, is made up of a ton of digital marketing practices. Every year, it gets bigger. Every year, there are more options.

It can actually get pretty confusing.

One of the common themes of the hodgepodge of statistics in the infographic below is that spending will continue its shift away from traditional advertising and more into digital. This trend has been happening for over a decade now and it shows no signs of slowing. The funny part is that what's not mentioned in the graphic is any indication that traditional media such as television is shifting dramatically to include the second screen as a way to interact with content being shown on ads. This is a no-brainer, yet it seems like very few are doing it right.

Another shift is the continued growth of social media throughout the marketing spectrum. Whether through email social sharing buttons, increased spending on various social media advertising platforms, or the good ol' content marketing practices that have been driving us all for the last couple of years, social is clearly the biggest gainer throughout 2013 and will continue to make gains (for both the social sites themselves as well as the advertisers) into 2014.

One final omission from the graphic - an emphasis on video. There's no doubt that video is getting bigger every day. People are spending more time on it. Businesses are spending more money on it. Mastering the art of getting your message to flow and resonate on video advertisements is going to get more and more important. Faster devices. Faster internet connections. It's a recipe for success to those who recognize it.

Here's the graphic itself from the folks at WebDAM.

Marketing 2014 Infographic

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Basic Equation

In my recent exploration of various social media profiles being used by local businesses, I found a disturbing trend. While there are definitely those who are doing it right and utilizing Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest the right way, there are also plenty who are simply failing at it miserably. They are forgetting the most fundamental aspect of managing their profiles, namely posting the right way.

There are components of this infographic by MyCleverAgency that I don’t fully agree with, but they are minor points, opinions really. For the most part, the advice is sound. You should be posting with a mobile perspective in mind onto Facebook. You should be engaging with users on Twitter, not just posting blog post titles and links. Unless a post is about people, don’t include people (particularly faces) in your pins. Tag, tag, and tag some more on Google+. These are great pieces of advice.

Here’ the infographic. Read each point in it and ask yourself if you’re doing these things on your Facebook page or not.

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Are You Truly Recognizing Your Employees?

Success

We work to make money. That’s the point. While many of us find fulfillment through our work, it still normally comes down to money as the driving force that gets us up in the morning, puts us in our cars, and heads us down the road to our job. While money might be the motivating factor for having a job, it’s not the most important motivator for keeping employees happy.

In this infographic we created for Salesforce, we explored many of the factors that keep employees happy and working at their peak levels of performance. While 56% of senior managers thought their company was above average at delivering appropriate appreciation, only 23% of their employees agreed.

Take a long look at this graphic. If you’re not the boss, maybe you should send this link to them as a not-so-subtle hint of information they could use to make them better at their own jobs.

How to Recognize Employees Infographic

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Content Search Social

It's very possible that I'm beating a dead horse on this one, but I'd rather beat a dead one than a live one.

If you hear me speak or read my writing, you'll know that I've been pushing this concept for a long time. This is the last plea I'll be making. It's the eleventh hour, so everything I post going forward on the subject will be tips for those who have decided to do it the right way. No more heartfelt pleas - either you get it or you don't.

Social media is embracing search as a primary missing piece to the time-domination puzzle. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest - they all realize that being integrated properly with external search while allowing for robust search features of their own is the key to taking the tremendous amounts of personal data they have on us all and turning it into something useful for both users as well as the all-important advertisers and data-collection services.

Google and Bing are acutely aware that they have all of the outside data that they need. The only part that's been missing to some degree for a decade has been true human sentiment on a personal level that is not tainted by artificial inflation techniques. Finding that balance between understanding what the people really feel versus being manipulated by blackhat techniques is the last victory they need to make their search engines nearly perfect which is why both have been trying for three years now to properly integrate social signals into their search ranking algorithms.

Content is the binding force in all of this. It's very similar to the food that a restaurant serves. From a search perspective, understanding the way that food at a restaurant makes them feel is a key to getting a true understanding of consumer sentiment surrounding that restaurant. In other words, the things that people are saying about the food helps the search engines know which restaurants to recommend. From a social perspective, they need to be able to gather all of the data about the restaurants themselves. They know individual sentiment. Now they need to combine it to form conclusions.

This is the bare essence of the merging of search and social around the hub of content. Businesses that are creating high-quality content and using the right strategies to get this content out there from a search and social perspective are the ones that will win in the long run. Before anyone starts saying that they need strategies that work today, it should be noted that marketing is often like driving a car (warning - it's another analogy so brace yourself). You don't look at the road directly in front of the bumper on your vehicle to steer the car. You look down the road. You see what's happening beside you, behind you, and in the distance in front of you. When you're barreling down the highway and you see brake lights ahead, you put your foot on your own brakes.

The same holds true for internet marketing. Knowing that search and social are hovering around content as the key to both disciplines and uniting all three around a unified strategy is what we're seeing on the highway ahead. As a result, we're able to drive the road that we're on more efficiently, at a higher rate of speed, and with the knowledge that we're going to be able to make turns or hit the brakes before getting into an accident. This is the strategy that helped us be preparing for the Google Penguin update years before it was ever introduced. It is the strategy that helped us avoid the pitfalls of artificial page like inflation on Facebook well before it became more of a detriment than a benefit.

This is what's coming. Are your eyes on the road ahead or are you peering over your bumper to look at the road conditions right now?

Here's an infographic by Marketing Adept that gives a decent breakdown of what's happening now. Knowing that can help you look to the future.

Content Search Social Infographic

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Let’s Face It. Google Is Search.

Let’s call it what it really is, shall we? Despite efforts by Bing/Yahoo to stay relevant as well as efforts by Facebook and Twitter to enter the search game, there really is only one. For years, I’ve always had to add the caveat when discussing search marketing that “When I say Google, I mean Bing and Yahoo as well.”

I won’t be saying that any more. If we’re talking search, we’re talking Google.

It’s not that the others don’t exist. They do and they’re still somewhat relevant. Millions still use them on a daily basis so they cannot be ignored completely. However, when it comes to making decisions about search marketing, there’s only one algorithm that needs to be taken into account, one traffic source whose numbers should be used to steer the strategy.

The infographic below asks the question of whether or not Google is a monopoly. In reality, that’s not important, though the infographic points to a glaring fact that Google is the leader not only in market share but also in innovation and others, specifically Bing, are always just chasing the leader from a distance. The important takeaway is this: if you want to craft your strategy for search, particularly organic, mobile, and local search, then Google is the only thing to consider. Again, Bing and the other options are still valid, but if you build your strategy around Google, the others will eventually fall into line.

It’s been like that for a while. Google was the first to look at inbound links as a primary ranking factor and the others followed. Google was the first to truly integrate personalization and the others followed. Google was arguably the first to truly integrate social media into their search algorithm through the use of social signals, though in this case the competition wasn’t far behind. It doesn’t matter. Think Google when you’re thinking about your strategy and the rest will fall in line.

Paid search is a different thing altogether and many have found success with the cheaper clicks through other search engines, but even in that case the only way to truly hit a bulk level is through Google. Facebook is making strides in this arena, but they’re still worlds apart.

The funny part of it all is that Google is extremely vulnerable to manipulation, second only to Twitter when it comes to ease. Both rely more heavily on real-time data than the others, which is both their strength and vulnerability.

Here’s the graphic…


Source: Franchise Gator

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This is a topic that has been covered so many times that one might wonder how it keeps popping up. The reality (from a content perspective) is that Facebook posting best practices is the gift that keeps on giving. It’s frustrating to dealers and annoying to bloggers, but at the end of the day there’s one simple truth: whatever worked yesterday may not work today but may work again tomorrow.

That’s Facebook. It’s social media in general from a dealership perspective. There are three dynamics at work and they rarely do more than lightly influence the other two:

  • Facebook and other social media sites are constantly changing. As a result of changes to their algorithms, posting rules, and layout/design/UI, the game is continuously changing for dealers who want to be successful on social media.
  • Users are changing. It’s not just that more people are getting onto social media. The trends of what they like to post, how often they post, and the platforms through which they post are all in constant flux.
  • The world is moving. This is one of the factors that few really take into account but that has a dramatic effect on social media posting strategies. Political sentiment, breaking news, natural disasters, new gadgets, more websites… this list could go on indefinitely. Anything that’s not directly associated with the social media platform or its users can fall into this category.

With so much “posting turmoil” in the strategy tsunami of social media marketing, it’s no wonder that there are major points of confusion. There was a time, for example, when businesses were told not to post on weekends. Today, depending on which study you read and whose advice you take, there is evidence that the weekends are exactly when businesses should be posting more. Go figure.

There have been numerous studies and infographics on the topic, but the one below by Pagemodo does a nice job of giving “JD-Approved” advice on posting times, styles, and frequency. One major point of contention, though, is that the advice to post 2-3 times a day should not be considered a general rule. It all depends on your goals, of course, and unless your goal is strictly branding, this is not the appropriate frequency. Otherwise, the data is sound.

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Chevy SS Website SEO Content

Back in the days when Yahoo was fighting against Alta Vista, when Bing was still called Microsoft Live, and when Google was trying to get the big Y to buy them, onsite content and meta tags were search. It was a day of keyword stuff, of hidden text, and of content scraping that helped porn sites rank for the term “toys” while male enhancement drugs could be found on searches for “big fun”. Google emerged as the leader in part because of their pure design, but also because they started looking offsite for signals about search rankings.

The days before Google’s innovation were the peak of onsite SEO. Google turned search on its head by focusing more on what other websites were saying about your website through links rather than anything you put on your site itself. PageRank changed search forever and helped to eliminate some of the poor spammy techniques that websites employed for the sake of getting search engine traffic. Of course, with any good thing comes the bad parts and spammers started learning how to manipulate offsite signals as well.

This persisted until about a year ago. It was at SXSW 2012 that Google’s Matt Cutts and Bing’s Duane Forrester told SEO guru Danny Sullivan that changes were in the works to help rein in offsite link spamming. A month and a half later on April 24th, search was changed forever with the introduction of the Penguin search algorithm update. It helped to eliminate a lot of the offsite spamming techniques, enough so to take some companies out of the SEO business (or out of business altogether).

The pre-PageRank days were the only ones when having the right website made more of a difference than it does today. With the rise of content marketing as a hub for SEO and social media marketing rather than a component of the two disciplines, having the strongest possible website content is essential in promoting a brand on search as well as social media sites like Facebook. You can’t just have a website and drive links to it anymore. Today, you have to “bring it” from a quality perspective. While it’s possible to have a dealer website that stays completely focused on the task of selling cars and services, it’s better to have one that’s diverse with information, articles, and other pieces of content that bring value to the visitors whether they want to buy something or not.

Google is smart. Bing may be smarter, albeit not at marketing themselves. They can tell the difference between SEO content and valuable content for the website visitors much better than most are will to admit. SEO spam is dying. Bulk is dying. Today, the search engines want to see effort. They want you to amaze people with the content you put on your website.

Link Building Basics 2013
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Prius vs Hummer

Most infographics are designed to convey a message in a visually stunning fashion that allows the viewer to digest large amounts of information through the fastest method of transfer available: visually. Sometimes, the results can have a different effect.

When you view the infographic below from Confused, you'll see that it's intended to give useful tips to those who want to save on gas. It's a worthy effort, visually pleasing, and with enough tips to make it useful. However, there's one other effect that comes from viewing it. Wouldn't it make more sense to get a fuel-efficient vehicle rather than go through the processes described in the infographic.

Even the most conscientious gas saver has a hard time increasing their mileage by 4 MPGs. If I worked at a car dealership that sold high MPG vehicles, I'd have this puppy hanging in every office. Again, it's not a bad infographic, but it goes to show that sometimes there are other effects that can come from visualizations.

Fuel Saving Tips

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Hidden

EdgeRank. It’s a mythical beast in many ways, not because it isn’t real but because it is very misunderstood by many. It’s one of those things that makes total sense once you get it but that can be very misleading before the light bulb ignites.

The basic way to understand it in one sentence is this – when your content gets positive engagement, it can be seen by more people, but when it gets negative sentiment, it gets hidden. There is a science behind it but that’s not really necessary for success. When you post good content and the people that do get to see it interact in a positive manner, the chance that others will see it too goes up. The opposite is true as well.

This is where posting the right content and “earning” the right for your business to market on Facebook comes into play. Some will say that Facebook can only be used as a branding tool, that if you focus on putting out high-quality content and never actually talk about the business, that you’ll get the maximum benefit. It’s a fair strategy, a safe on, but not necessarily the best, particularly for local businesses. A good mix of engaging content with marketing material mixed in is the best strategy, but that takes more than a blog post or an infographic to explain fully.

In the meantime, here’s an interesting infographic by PostRocket to get you started.

EdgeRank 102

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Hidden Under Hat” image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Around the World in Social Networking

Around the World

When we hear about how social media is growing, we often look at the rest of the world. Americans are all on social media, right? Not so fast.

In this infographic we made for Mashable, we highlight the way that social media is consumed on a global basis. It shows some good and bad trends from a pure business perspective in America – on one hand, there is still an amazing upside to social in the states with more potential popping up left and right. On the other hand, the biggest cities and fastest growing countries on social media are not in North America, making it even more important for businesses in the US to be mindful of who they follow, who is following them, and how the content interacts with the world. It’s not that we want to shut out the world. It’s that we have to stay focused on the local benefits even if the rest of the world is starting to catch on quickly.

Here’s the graphic. Click to enlarge.

Wordl Consumption of Social Media

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"Social media participation is not something to be ignored or taken lightly. Aside from some of the older and more understood tactics and strategies affecting your SEO, great social media activity absolutely begets great SEO. This infographic simply explains several ways that social media has a direct impact on how fast and how effectively your social media activity improves your website’s SEO. Enjoy!"

Infographic source: Being Your Brand

Related :'Is anyone clicking on your tweets? 3 tips to make sure they do."

"If You Don’t Think Social Signals are Important for SEO, You Don’t Know Google Very Well"

Why Attend the Internet Sales 20 Group?

 

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Do you remember the person who consulted with you about social media and told you that brands are having tremendous success on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest? That's the type of person that you're reaching the most according to a report by NBCUniversal Integrated Media.

The report is designed to show how consumers who are part of GenX and GenY are digesting their influences. It took a split approach to the study which consisted of 2,500 people - 2,000 were average respondents age 18-49 and the other 500 were "digital trendsetters" in the same age group which represent 5% of the national population who are "first adopters" of technology and are highly active on social media.

Could it be that the real people you're actually reaching with social media are the same ones who are telling you that social media can reach people? It sounds like a double-talk question but it's important to understand based upon your business. If you're selling a trendy footwear product or pushing a music discover service, there's little doubt that the trendsetters are the ones you want to be able to hit. What if you're selling cookware? Is social media a valid venue?

The answer is yes and no. On one hand, you have 39% of regular people saying they interact with companies on social media while 67% of the trendsetters are engaging. This means that the people who live on social media are the ones that are accepting the messages being put out by brands and according to the study, that's only 5% of the population. On the other hand, 39% isn't a small amount. It's not ideal, but it seems to be growing.

On average, people are following 27 brands on social media. This might seem like a low number and a challenging group to try to get into if you're selling cookware, but considering that in 2011 the number was 9, we're heading in the right direction.

In the end, it really comes down to what your brand is doing and how successful you can be on social media. It's worth a valid attempt and a bit of effort to see if it's going to work for your brand, but I wouldn't be sinking big chunks of my marketing dollars into social media if my target customer is 55+. While the older generations are starting to get into social media and it's the fastest growing demographic, it's also the one that is least likely to be using social media for anything other than seeing pictures of little Timmy sliding into third base.

Here's a graphic from NBCUniversal that breaks down a good chunk of the findings.

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"Trendsetter" image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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One advantage of dashboards like Hootsuite: stats

Purists will say that using apps and dashboards like Hootsuite or Buffer take away the fundamental interpersonal relationships that are built through social media. By scheduling posts or sending them through these tools, users won't be able to see the person behind the message, they say.

Marketers find other reasons to avoid dashboards, particularly with Facebook. The posts often do not carry as much weight as ones posted directly through Facebook, making it convenient but less effective to use tools. Both purists and marketers may be correct, but there's one major advantage that dashboards give us: statistics.

In this infographic by Hootsuite, we explore the usage trends of one of the biggest dashboard companies out there. The focus is on Twitter, but expansion into other apps and services allow these companies to start consolidating the overall posting process, particularly for businesses. Click to enlarge.

Enhanced by Zemanta
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How to Get Links without Breaking the Rules

Despite the rise of social signals and the continued prominence of content as primary search engine optimization tools, high-quality inbound links remain one of the three big components in improving rankings. The automated processes have been devalued; low-quality posts, footer links, and sidebar links are a thing of the past and in excess can actually hurt a website.

 

Strong, contextual links are still valid. In fact, some have shown that they're more important than ever.

 

In this infographic by Digital Net Agency, they examine the two different types of link-acquisition strategies. They talk about the six major bad strategies to avoid and then highlight five techniques that work. One in particular, "contributing", should be fleshed out a bit. The idea is that by creating and sharing content that brings value to others, it's possible to generate high-quality contextual links by the sheer merits of the content and its promotion. In essence, if you're bringing value, you'll get value in return.

 

Click to enlarge.

"Links" image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Despite social media’s rapid ascent to its current status as the “must-have” channel for all marketers, the most effective marketing tool for business may still be email marketing. A well planned and executed email campaign has the ability to produce higher rates of engagement and user action than a similar social campaign. Not bad for a channel that’s been around since before Mark Zuckerberg was even born.

However, email can be a difficult medium to master for many marketers. From subject lines to send times, there are hundreds of variables that affect the success or failure of a given email campaign. In a recent Pardot survey, respondents reported using email marketing for a number of different purposes as well. With so many elements to consider, email can be overwhelming for many marketers. It’s for this reason that we have created the infographic below to help marketers design successful campaigns quickly, by focusing on the steps that matter the most.

Source - http://www.pardot.com/infographic/6-steps-effective-email-marketing-infographic 

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5 Keys to SEO with Google Penguin

The rules have changed in automotive SEO. In fact, they've changed for the entire search engine optimization world. It's no longer a function of quantity that determines rankings. More content, more links, more social signals - that's fine, but it won't help you as of April 24, 2012, the way it used to.

Today is the world of SEO quality over quantity. These changes have been anticipated for some time but only now are they really becoming apparent. Some dealers are dropping in rankings based upon their (or their vendor's) SEO efforts. As a result, others are moving up. Which side of the fence do you want to be on?

Here are some best practices to help you get on the right side of the fence. Click to enlarge.

5 Keys to SEO Under Penguin

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