Bing It: Does Bing Even Matter, Or Is It Just a Waste of Time?

Let’s be honest. When we’re talking about search engine optimization, we’re talking about Google. We can ask ourselves questions like “Who’s Really Winning The Search War?” but they’re hypothetical at best and, yes, even a little patronizing. Google is clearly the girl that we all want to take to the dance. Realistically, anywhere between 80% and 90% of search traffic today comes from Google. So should we even care about Bing?

weight-loss-648689_1280The Internet Is Made for Porn

Every time the question of Bing comes up, someone kind of laughs and says “Well, it’s great for porn.” Then everyone kind of nods their head and chuckles, as though it’s just a joke. But it’s not. For the past few years Bing has actually been a remarkable search engine for pornography. Even when you didn’t want it to be. Even innocent searches would turn into pornographic ones, if you didn’t have your safe settings in place.

This is actually due to Bing/Yahoo’s algorithm, which has not “learned” the way that Google’s has that not all Internet searches can be judged based on popularity… because then the Internet would just be porn. What initially appears to be nothing more than a joke or a curious fluke is actually a very telling revelation of Bing’s major flaw as a search engine. It has no context; it’s not “smart.”

But that also means that it can be taken advantage of. Google has many exceedingly complicated algorithms designed to promote good content and demote spammy content. Bing/Yahoo provides a little of that — just enough that the web isn’t really, really atrocious — but not as much of it. So it’s probably understandable that some low quality sites may still focus on Bing, or that black hat techniques may frequent it.

hands-545394_1280But Some People Do Use Bing

And they’re not all perverts. For instance, this guy switched to Bing literally because he was being paid to do so (through Bing’s rewards). This weirdo thinks Bing is more aesthetically pleasing, because my search queries require a scenic backdrop. Others admit to using it because “it was default on [their] phone.” And it’s dumb, but that could actually be something we need to watch out for in the future — because most people don’t change the default search engines on their mobile devices, or even on their computers. (Who knows, maybe when Project Spartan ships, it’ll create a whole new wave of people who don’t know how to change their browser settings.)

Taking a broader view, it appears that Yahoo/Bing has a more mature age group, with more men than women. And yes, a great deal of mobile searches come from iOS, since Bing is the default search engine for both the browser and Siri queries. One might wonder if this skews the audience, and it most definitely does: as a whole, users on Bing tend to be wealthier. Why? Well, not to make too many assumptions, but it’s probably because they’re old enough that they don’t know how to change their default search engine.

UntitledOK, The Snark Aside… What About Ads?

As we move into more niche markets for our Google advertising, we realize that traffic isn’t necessarily anything. We’re using long-tail keywords and demographics to drill down to specific segments in Google… so why not use Bing? It really doesn’t make any sense to both claim that a smaller audience is better (in Google) and then claim that a wider audience is better (in Bing).

In fact, it appears as though Bing paid advertising could actually be more effective than Google ads. And less expensive. (Of course it’s less expensive; they’re desperate.) And if we’re going for a demographic that’s already within Bing’s small but stubborn realm, all the better. And if we’re paying per click, we can simply extend our advertising campaigns. Very few of us are actually paying for as much traffic as there is on offer.

But, of course, a PPC campaign is a radically different beast from search engine optimization. What about organic search? Are there ways that you can tailor your content to Bing in a way that Bing isn’t utterly irrelevant?

search-engine-optimization-687236_1280Search Engine Optimization  for Bing

Believe it or not — and you’ll probably believe it — there’s not a lot of information out there for SEO and Bing. While Google maintains a significant amount of Webmaster documentation and tools, Bing/Yahoo probably lost their own internal documentation years ago. Tailoring your site for Bing is a lot like tailoring your site for search engines circa 2008: a lot of keywords, above the fold content and fewer backlinks. Perhaps most hilariously, Bing only actually reads the first 100kb of a page. But unlike search engines in the days of yore, Bing pays attention to multimedia documents and social media signals. This probably pushes back to the whole porn angle, somehow.

Okay, so actually — tailoring your content towards Bing can actively harm your Google standing. For instance, Bing likes keyword-laden anchor text; Google hates it. But there are other areas in which the search engines aren’t at odds; Bing uses social media signals and Google simply discards them.

So, is it worth it to work Bing into your digital marketing campaign? It certainly seems as though PPC advertising may be more effective on Bing, or at least compelling enough to be tested. And if you happen to have a lot of resources at hand, it probably won’t hurt.

Bing/Yahoo can represent up to 20% of your market, depending on your industry, and that’s not an entirely insignificant amount. Moreover, Bing can more readily be manipulated and it has rather specific audience demographics — I mean, there’s like a 50% chance that the person finding your website is doing it through Siri.

 

SEO Q&A: What Exactly is “Duplicate Content” and How Badly is a Site Penalized for It?

Question: I’m worried about duplicate content on my site. If I place a blog post on multiple sites, is that going to harm my search rankings? Will it be marked as spam?

 

Placing a piece of content on multiple sites isn’t always a good idea, but not necessarily for the reasons that you might think. There is no such thing as a duplicate content penalty. Google does not penalize sites for having duplicate content. And Google does not consider duplicate content spam.

Google does take action against sites that seem solely scraped from another site; in effect, the entire site is a duplicate of another site. But that’s really another issue entirely, and not likely to be one that you will casually encounter.

I occasionally see marketers avoiding quotations out of a misguided fear that it will show as duplicated content. Google looks for pages that are identical in content, not paragraphs of quoted content — so this is unnecessary. There are many situations in which a quote can be used to add value to content, so this would be disingenuous on Google’s part.

So why is it bad to have duplicate content? Google will generally combine multiple copies of a page into a single entry, and the entry that has the greatest PageRank will be the only one shown. So it’s not really bad for SEO, it’s just kind of pointless. The other listings will only be shown if the user specifically asks to be shown all the listings, which really only happens when someone is desperately searching for an obscure tech support issue.

But it is bad for the overall user value of a site to have multiple pieces of entirely duplicated content, so that’s something that needs to be considered. For the most part, a carefully curated outbound link is probably more usable and useful.

 

Answer: Duplicate content being considered “spam” is actually a myth. Duplicate content does not lead to any site-wide penalties. Google will group together duplicate content in the search engine page, so it isn’t great for SEO on an individual basis, but it doesn’t hurt the domain.

SEO Q&A Does the Age of Your Domain Matter for SEO?

Question: How does the age of a domain name affect SEO? Is it better to purchase an older domain or a newer domain?


It’s a common myth that the older a domain name is, the better it will perform in search engine rankings. It’s very easy to see why this myth would become popular: the older a domain is, the more content it’s likely to have — and, thus, the better it will perform in terms of SEO. Even worse, some domain services themselves have touted the benefits of having an older, well-seasoned domain, especially services selling already registered domains.

According to Google, there’s really no difference between a site that is two years old, three years old or five years old. It’s all about the actual content on the site. Additionally, Google doesn’t use whois data to determine the age of a website — they use when the website was first crawled by them or when they first saw a link to the domain.

However, Google has stated that website age doesn’t matter “as long as the site is two months, three months” old. So that indicates that very new sites may see some form of penalty initially — though not a significant one. This could either be intentional or just a by-product of the algorithm not having enough information yet on how to place the site.

Finally, when considering the purchase of older domains, don’t forget that a domain can carry baggage. If the domain has had black hat SEO techniques used by a webmaster before, there might still be some harmful links out there just waiting to hurt your new site’s search engine rankings.


 

Answer: After the first few months, the age of a domain does not affect it significantly in terms of SEO. It’s better to worry about the quality of a domain than its age.

Does Your Domain Extension (.COM, .ORG, .NET) Really Matter?

No — but yes. If only the world of digital marketing was clearer. Your domain extension does matter to your search engine optimization, but perhaps not in the way that you think. Mechanically the differences are small; most of the key issues involve usability. After all, an organic web search runs based on user behavior; even Google can’t tell how relevant a website is without links, popularity and other behavior-driven data.

httpDispelling the Myths

Google, Yahoo and Bing do not take into account a domain extension when they promote a website, even if the search query happens to be government or education related. So whether you’re .net or .org, you’re probably safe in terms of Google’s matching algorithm. But that doesn’t mean that your domain extension has no effect on your organic search rankings, which is another common myth. There are still ways that your extension can affect your position on the SERP.

Consider this. Google most definitely uses links — and the quality of those links — to measure whether your site has prominence. Sites that have .gov, .edu or .org domains are generally considered to be more reputable in academic situations than .coms, so they are more likely to be referenced by high quality sites. Likewise, .coms are more often considered to be reputable than .nets. So it’s easy to see that having a specific domain extension can have a potential impact on your organic search ranking even if the search engine itself isn’t actively scanning for it.

computerThe Human Component

And it isn’t just a question of search engine results — you also need to consider the human component. Namely, people are used to .com addresses and they are very unlikely to remember more obscure extensions. If your website is AwesomeWidgets.net, you’ll find a lot of people getting lost when they try to type in AwesomeWidgets.com. One way that some sites have gotten away from this is by directly incorporating the domain into their site’s name somehow. Fish.Net, for instance, is memorable.

People are also conditioned to treat domains that are not .com, .gov, .edu or .org with some suspicion. In particular, .net domains have always been referred to as “Nuts! Everything’s Taken.” It’s considered a last result domain name that only occurs through poor planning or fly-by-night operations. No one wants a .net domain name, the rationale goes, so one should be suspicious of someone who has one. Of course, as the proliferation of .com addresses has continued, this poor reputation has been somewhat reduced.

bakerHere Come the gTLDs

OK, so what about all those entrancing new gTLDs that just popped up? .butcher, .baker, .candlestickmaker? These new domain names are so specific and so out there that they require some additional consideration. gTLDs, just like other TLDs, don’t affect search directly. Google doesn’t say “Oh, it says .baker, I’d better send all queries about cakes there.”

But what a gTLD does do is it inserts a major keyword into every single URL. If you have .baker, and you’re, well, a .baker, you’re going to have that keyword in your URL every time someone searchers for a “baker” in your area. And this had led many people to believe that a gTLD might actually be better for SEO than an ordinary domain.

And that might be true — a little. Still, if you’ve been properly optimizing your site, you should already have your major keywords in your site’s URL — as it does “help a little bit.” But it doesn’t help a lot —  remember, Google really mostly looks at the content of your site, not the URLs. And it may not help enough to alter some of the usability issues.

Mainly — users think it’s weird. Many users aren’t comfortable typing in losangeles.baker and having it actually go to a website. This also gives them one more thing to remember — they can’t just type in losangeles.com — and it makes them less likely to link to your site (because they can’t remember the URL). Obviously this isn’t true for all users, but it’s true for the majority of users. This might be different for a tech-oriented or youth-oriented website.

As developers and marketers, it can be easy for us to forget just how challenging small changes can be for a user base. When choosing a domain for your site, you should think largely about how that domain is going to be received by your audience. Google and other search engines really don’t care what your domain name is or what your domain extension is, but something that you think is charming, quirky or clever may actually be impossible to remember. Short, sweet and .COM is usually the best answer.

How Social Media and Search Engine Optimization Work Together

How does social media really impact search engine optimization? As with most areas of digital marketing, there are a lot of myths out there and not a lot of hard facts. Social media and search engine optimization are both incredibly important aspects of a digital marketing campaign, but that doesn’t mean that they necessarily have a lot of overlap. There are very few ways in which social media can be used for SEO, and a few of known strategies are either misleading or mythical.

facebookSocial Media Signals Do Not Affect Search Ranking

Matt Cutts has described exactly why Twitter and Facebook messaging aren’t generally considered any different from other crawled pages… and, further, why social media signals are not used in their ranking algorithm. While it would be easy to simply say it’s too difficult — and it would be very difficult — Cutts also points out that they can randomly lose access to the information on Twitter, Facebook or other platforms, and that it would be prohibitively time-consuming for their engineers to manage the signals from platforms that they may or may not continually have access to.

Some have theorized that sharing through social media will directly affect SEO, but Google states this isn’t true. Instead, it’s simply that popular pages are more likely to both be shared and to rank highly on the SERP — it is not that one is causing the other.

trafficSocial Media Traffic Doesn’t Have Significant Impact on SEO

Some marketers believe that social media traffic can make your site seem more popular, which will then boost your place in the SERP. But in actuality, that isn’t likely to be true — for a couple of reasons. Think about it from a technological point of view. If a person clicks a link on Facebook and gets sent to YourReallyCoolSite.com, Google is not going to track that traffic; Google is not some all-knowing, all-encompassing entity… at least, it’s still pretending that it’s not, until it takes over the world. What happens between a person, Facebook and YourReallyCoolSite.com stays inside of that transaction.

Second, there are some indications that Google pays more attention to authority than strict popularity, regardless. In particular, backlinks remain critical to Google’s algorithm; Google has experimented in searching without links in the past and found that the results were extremely poor. As Cutts himself has noted, if searches were run by popularity, every result returned would be pornography.

linksSocial Media Cannot, As a General Rule, Be Used for Link Building

Curiously, many marketers mention that social media is the “new link building.” It’s curious, because almost all social media links are marked “nofollow. They have absolutely no impact on search engine rankings. You can simply view the source on a Twitter page to see that all the links are marked nofollow — so it’s strange that this strategy gained traction. One notable exception — which we’ll get into a little more below — is Tumblr, due to it being a hybrid of social media network and blogging site.

Tweeting your links is an excellent way to build an audience and gain exposure, but there’s no reason to believe that a tweeted link is going to build any form of search engine traction. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Google+ all create nofollow links.

likeThe Google+ Like Exception

Here’s a weird little thing that you might not have known… and, to be frank, I don’t know how anyone could reliably shoehorn it into any social media or SEO strategy. Google will mark links that your other friends have liked through Google+, provided you’re signed in at the time. So if a ton of your friends have liked a certain page, you’ll see it noted below the link. That’s not to say that it will be pushed up the SERP — it will just be more visible.

Now — is that useful? Well… eh. Maybe. It’s useful on a very niche level; if you have a campaign to get Google+ likes in place, you’ll be more visible to other people on Google+. But realistically, no one uses Google+ — so that’s already dead in the water.

tTumblr Inhabits a Unique Space

Tumblr is interesting. When we think of WordPress, we of course know that it is a content management system and that things published on WordPress will be crawled by search engines. But, one thing you may have noticed, is that items posted on Tumblr — which is primarily a social media site, but also a blogging site — tend to rank fairly high in search engine results. For whatever reason, Tumblr appears to have fairly high domain authority, and this is being pushed to (of course) everything on its domain.

When you deal with Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn updates, it’s not very likely that you will be returned in search engine results at all. When you post in WordPress, it really depends on your personal domain or site — and even if you’re on WordPress.com, you may see limited traffic. But Tumblr posts appear to have some inherent search engine traction, for a variety of reasons. What holds Tumblr back (or, for some, actually makes it better), is its rather niche demographic.

authorThe Google+ Authorship Debacle

Google+ pushed their “authorship” program hard. Through authorship, a profile photo and follower information was shown on Google’s search engine pages if the author of said page was registered with Google+ and the domain. Google authorship never affected search engine ranking directly. What it did was increase search engine visibility. People were often more likely to click on articles that had a trusted face beside them.

It’s understandable why Google would do this. Google has always had this overarching vision of linking everything together through people rather than through pages and posts, but they’ve been held back because they have little control over the other social media platforms. But it’s also understandable that they pulled the program. It put too much of an emphasis on their own property — Google+ — and provided too little in terms of value. Regardless, even if it had affected search engine ranking (which it didn’t), it’s gone now.

As with anything, testing is really necessary to confirm or deny any theories regarding social media and search engine optimization. There’s a lot of competing information, conspiracy theories and conflicting strategies that can alternately distract and damage. But overall, there should not be any direct connection from social media to search engine optimization; nothing that happens on social media should impact your search engine rankings.

That doesn’t mean that social media doesn’t aggressively grow traffic — we know that it does — it just doesn’t do so through the SERP.

11 Tricks for Revitalizing Old Content and Increasing Its Lifetime Value

Don’t just abandon your content once it’s been published. Your old content can be just as valuable as your new content — you just need to keep it updated and circulated. In fact, old content can actually be more valuable than your newer content because it tends to rank higher in search engine queries. Well-written content can be leveraged for years to come with just a few simple techniques.

pages1. Add Interlinks to New and Old Content

Go through your older, more popular pages and find areas in which you can potentially interlink new content that you’ve written. Interlinking can greatly reduce bounce rates — provided that it is done sparingly and usefully. At the same time, make sure that all of your new content is properly interlinked to relevant content that you have created in the past. Conscientious interlinking is one of the best ways to push traffic towards older articles and to improve overall engagement.

2. Improve Your Most Popular Content

Your most highly-trafficked pages and posts are the cornerstones on which your traffic is built. If they fade from relevance, your site will fade from relevance. You can’t always guarantee that you’ll have a new “hit” on your hands. Protect your traffic by improving the content that is most often visited on your site. Add new information, curate better links and answer any relevant questions you’ve received. One important thing: don’t remove content while you update. If you need to update, it’s better to add additional content either at the top or the bottom. Apart from glaring errors or mistakes, removing content can be harmful.

brokenlink3. Periodically Check for Broken Links

Tools such as the Online Broken Link Checker can crawl your site for broken links. Articles that feature broken links will not be as useful to readers and not as readily shared. You may also have broken links to your own site and just not realize it — especially if you have restructured your website at any point. Broken images should also be reviewed for; nothing makes a website look unprofessional as easily as a broken image.

4. Share Your Old Articles on Social Media

Don’t use your social media accounts purely for new content. Share some of your most popular articles on your social media accounts from time to time. If you have a scheduling application, consider scheduling promotional posts in advance every time you post a new article. That way you can ensure your older posts are not forgotten.

oldletters5. Create Random and Flashback Features On Your Site

Your site can promote random, related and flashback posts to connect readers directly from new content to old content. Related posts are more likely to increase engagement because they are already related to what the reader is looking for — but random, popular and flashback features may be more effective for entertainment sites, where the reader may not be looking for anything in particular.

6. Elevate Everything to Current Content Standards

When a site is first developed, it can be tempting to try to build a content inventory through any means necessary. Due to the way that Google scores website quality, this isn’t a great idea; an entire domain can be dragged down by its worst pages. Go through your very old content and make sure that it meets your current editorial standards. Add images, improve grammar and extend the length of content as necessary. At the same time, you may want to check on the continued accuracy of any facts and statements.

comments7. Take a Look at Your Least Visited Content

If you have a few pages or posts that are never viewed, you might want to consider either redoing them or deleting them entirely. As mentioned above, a single low quality piece of content can actually have a detrimental effect on your site’s overall quality rating. But sometimes there’s a reason that content isn’t being viewed. Perhaps it is poorly keyword optimized or it has a particularly generic title. Improving upon this content could increase your site traffic without needing to create entirely new content.

8. Answer Comments and Engage Visitors

Many visitors — through many comment systems — will be notified when you’ve replied to them. If you want to create a highly engaging website, as well as build customer relationships, responding to comments and otherwise directly engaging visitors on older posts and pages is a superb opportunity to do so. Readers will also be able to benefit from the comment thread when they visit your post or page in the future.

grammar9. Run a Spelling and Grammar Tool

Sometimes there are issues that just slip past us. There are a few tools that you can use to check your spelling and grammar: Grammarly and After the Deadline are two of the most popular. If you’re already editing your old content, it can’t hurt to check for any grammar, spelling and style errors.

10. Try to Avoid Repeating Yourself

If you post too many articles on a single topic, you could end up in a situation where you’re actually competing against yourself. It’s better to improve upon old articles than to repeat or rehash them, as tempting as it may be to cover ground that is familiar to you. If you do need to write again on a similar topic, make sure that your new content is different from your old content in structure and focus.

archive11. “Archive” Content That You No Longer Want to Promote

What do you do with content that’s still valuable but isn’t great? You don’t want to get rid of it — but you also don’t want to be judged on it. Archive it by moving it to less often trafficked areas of your site. For instance, you might remove it from all categories except for one in a WordPress blog. It will still be accessible through search engines — and still contribute to overall SEO — but it won’t be as easily viewed by the casual reader. You can also add a banner or statement at the top, such as “We’ve covered this topic in a new article! Click here to read our updated thoughts…”

Every piece of content on a website contributes to its overall quality and health. If your older content is languishing unattended, your entire site will suffer. Taking some time to renew, revitalize and repair your old content is a great way to get a boost without having to invest in all new media — and it’s also a good way to take a bit of a mental break and get some inspiration for the future.

The Slow Death of Guest Blogging: the Good, the Bad and the Future

When Matt Cutts initially warned webmasters against guest blogging, way back in 2012, most just flat out ignored him. Many believed that their guest posting strategies were inherently superior to other, spammier strategies. Some even saw the negative influence of guest posts as an opportunity. Popular bloggers would do “blog tours” to promote new content and less scrupulous marketers constantly swapped low-effort posts in an effort to expand their audiences. So Matt Cutts warned us again. And and again… and again. It seems as though no one really got the hint until Google began actively taking action against guest blog networks.

train stationWhy Are We So Stubborn When It Comes to Guest Blogging?

It used to work. But it used to work in the same way that Stephen King sending in a short story to Playboy worked and a teenager handing out CD mix tapes at a train station does not. It was all about the quality of the work and the context. Guest blogging started as a way for already popular bloggers to engage with each other and share their thoughts. When guest blogging became a method of developing search engine rankings first — and a method of connecting with an audience second — it became a flawed strategy.

Google has told us time and time again that all that really matters is the reader and providing the reader what they want. Everything else is just smoke, lights and magic. And there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, either: if someone approaches you with a guest blog, it’s probably not going to be the best content they are capable of producing. It may not even be unique. It may not even be theirs.

But in spite of all this, we’ve still stuck with guest blogs. Even if we don’t use it as an SEO strategy, we often use it as a strategy to sell product or build branding. Many guest bloggers are selling something specific — such as a new book. And the problem here is that any website accepting this type of content quite quickly becomes inundated with exactly that type of advertising. If every single piece of content on a site is trying to sell you something (and different things, at that!), you’re going to rapidly become disenchanted. You may even stop visiting the site entirely. And once that site’s authority plummets, it’s all over.

damage2But I Wanna Anyway: Limiting the Damage

It’s difficult to say that any strategy is bad. Strategies that are bad for 95% of the marketers may still be leveraged appropriately by that last 5%. Some marketers may find that guest blogs are still useful to them and their unique campaign. And when that happens, it becomes an issue of reducing harm.

The great news is that it’s not difficult: nofollow, nofollow, nofollow. Pretty much the only way to ensure that your PageRank isn’t adversely impacted by guest blog spots — and to make sure that your own site isn’t targeted by spam — is to only use nofollow links, which indicates to the search engine that the link should be effectively ignored.

Using a nofollow link still means that the audience can follow your links; so it’s still a good solution for audience building and general networking. It just means that guest blogging, contrary to what many have said for years now, isn’t really a good search engine optimization strategy.

And that also means that the content is, once more, at the forefront of the campaign. If the content isn’t good — and the site isn’t well-trafficked — it’s not likely to produce any significant results.

typingThe Peripheral Effect of Guest Blogging on Highly Trafficked Sites

There is, sort of, in a sense, a kind of roundabout way in which guest blogging can affect your traffic through a search engine — though, frankly, it’s a bit circuitous. Say you write a rather astonishing guest post on a blog with very high authority. Your guest post itself is going to have a high search engine ranking. And if that guest blog post happens to have a nofollow link to your own site, you may still see an influx of traffic indirectly through search engine results, because people are finding that guest blog through search engines and then clicking through.

The only reason we care about search engine rankings is because it makes it easier for people to find our content. So, technically, a guest post is still valuable in that sense. If you place a guest post on a site that already has good authority, you can easily drive traffic to your site through a search engine even if you are not actively increasing your own search engine relevancy. And, as a website owner, you can certainly build authority through quality content produced by guest bloggers, provided that this content does not serve as link spam.

But all of this already presupposes a high quality of both guest post and website, which again sends us back to the mix tape at the train station scenario.

audienceAudience Retention and the Guest Blogger

If guest blogging isn’t being used primarily to drive organic search traffic, then it’s being used mostly to bring over an audience. But the question is whether this audience is really retained. There are a few major goals that a guest blogger might have:

  • Building a brand through repeated exposure with a wider audience.
  • Creating awareness of a product or service that is either being launched or improved.
  • Driving social media engagement and bringing in new followers.
  • Improving website traffic (and hopefully conversions).

All of these goals are worthy ones, but they also need to function as part of a larger, concerted effort. Brand building and product awareness aren’t likely to be achieved without tremendous volumes of content. Social media engagement requires a dedicated social media strategy — as does capturing an audience once they have clicked through. For most, the traffic boost that they experience after a guest blog post will quickly wane.

businessinsiderGuest Blogging 2.0: What Will We Kill Next?

You know who doesn’t use nofollow links? The Huffington Post. And Forbes. And Business Insider. And…

Guest contributing has become the new guest blogging. And while Forbes and Business Insider may curate their links to ensure that the links themselves are already high authority, not all sites do. There are many entertainment, health, travel and hobby magazines today that run on guest contributions. And what is the difference between a guest blog and a guest contribution…?

Well, nothing really, except insofar that the websites are of a larger scale and they usually have a dedicated group of at least a few staff contributors. In reality, the only difference between guest contributions and guest blogs is — and this makes absolute sense — the quality and goal of the submissions.

But that doesn’t mean some people aren’t being sneaky about it. Many writers today are being paid by marketers to get information into HuffPo, Forbes and other similar publications. The press release junket used to be used for this purpose, until it was effectively tanked by Google for, of course, issues of quality, intent and user value.

So what’s the wrap? Guest blogging is a technique that has limited if any usefulness as a search engine optimization strategy, though it can be useful for brand awareness and audience building. Over the past couple of years, it has been slowly replaced as a strategy by guest contributions, which require a higher level of content standards but provide a better payoff with fewer limiting factors. But guest contributions, too, may eventually find themselves on the wrong end of Google’s sharp stick — it all depends on how they are used and to what end.

Ephemeral vs Eternal: Managing Your Content’s Lifetime Value

There’s a divide developing between search engine optimized content and shareworthy content. Marketers no longer need to merely consider their content’s intent; they also need to consider their content’s lifetime value. Shareworthy content tends to have a very short shelf life — sometimes as little as 24 hours. Search engine optimized content is aimed towards having a much longer shelf life — usually months, sometimes years. But neither content type is inherently better than the other, and a mix of the two may be appropriate for most.

shareworthyShareworthy Content: A Fusillade of Bits and Bytes

Entertainment news websites are the best example of primarily shareworthy content. They achieve traffic and engagement via a continuous fusillade of information. The content burns short and bright: each article may trend only for a matter of hours, but combined they create sustainable traffic. The raw quality of the content isn’t always a primary concern; quantity is more important. But quality is still a consideration.

Most companies cannot keep up a constant stream of content, nor should they. One failing of shareworthy content is that the bulk of the traffic will immediately begin to wane should there be any break in publishing. Shareworthy content is usually so highly specific that it is not usually aimed at bringing in any meaningful traffic from search engines. It can also be difficult to measure the effectiveness of shared content. But that does not mean that it is exclusive of search engine optimization; it only means that this isn’t the principle goal.

Increasing the shelf life of shareworthy content:

  • Share content on multiple platforms. Studies have shown that engagement lasts longer on LinkedIn and the shortest on Twitter, but each platform is a new audience.
  • Don’t forget your links. Internal linking between pages of your site, from new content to older content, can be used to drive users from current shareworthy articles to prior ones.
  • Promote internally. Random posts, top posts, trending posts and archived posts are all ways to drive traffic from current pages to previous pages.

seoSearch Engine Optimized Content: A Slow Build of Momentum

Even well-optimized content will take at least a day or two to gain traction — often much more. SEO content could peak weeks, months or even years after publishing. Through a constant publishing schedule, companies can create building momentum. This momentum will carry the content forward, allowing for more time between publishing. Each piece of content has more room to land and breathe — but by the same token, each piece of content also needs to be of very high quality.

Search engine optimized content is more stable than shareworthy content. Shareworthy content can be very fickle and even expert social marketers are not always able to anticipate the popularity of a content strategy. But search engine optimized content is also highly competitive due to the incredibly high quality of content required.

Increasing the shelf life of search engine optimized content:

  • Renew and revise. Your most popular posts and pages won’t stay accurate and timely forever. Update your best performing pages to ensure that they remain at the top.
  • Pay attention to the context. If your site’s overall quality goes down, the visibility of all your content will go down. Make sure you curate your content appropriately.
  • Get those deep links. Get high authority sites to link to your content from throughout the web by providing valuable, insightful and informative content.

shelf lifeHybridizing Your Content: Increasing Your Content’s Shelf Life

When investing in content, you may want to consider your content’s lifetime value. What will your content’s shelf life be? What are your content’s goals? How much your company will actually gain from the content once it has been created? There are many strategies for increasing content shelf life. Both shareworthy content and search engine optimized content can become obsolete.

Many content marketing strategies focus on the hybridizing of content; creating content that is both shareworthy and search engine friendly. But either way, the content needs a focus. Is it shareable content with search engine optimization or is it search engine optimized content that is also shareable?

You can do both, but you can’t do both equally. One of the trending articles on Buzzfeed right now is “Man Late To Work Because Of Chupacabra.” A totally shareworthy title — but probably not a top search engine query. Probably not even a long tail query. Naturally, the article is search engine optimized in other ways, but the title shows its primary objective.

Increasing the shelf life of hybridized content:

  • Identify the “well, it can’t hurt” areas. Rewriting a title? Probably harmful. Adding a few long tail keywords into the text? Probably inconsequential.
  • Play to the content’s strengths. Figure out whether the content works best shared or optimized and begin on that foundation.
  • Create complementary content. When one piece of content is doing well, consider creating another piece of related content from a different perspective.

focusA Question of Focus: When Multitasking Obscures Your Content’s Goals

Hybrid content isn’t always a good idea. After all, most people would study to become a doctor or a lawyer — not both. Doing one thing well is often better than doing two things poorly. Many content marketing strategies will benefit through the creation of focused content in both areas rather than creating individual pieces of content that can be seen both ways.

In the example above, trying to SEO a title can potentially damage its shareworthiness. Likewise, trying to shareworthy a title can damage its optimization. In this case it’s a bit of a peanut butter and jelly scenario: sure they go great together, but the market has spoken: no one wants to buy them in the same jar.

Increasing the shelf life of focused content:

  • Cross-integrate your content. Connect share-focused content with SEO-focused content for a more holistic marketing strategy.
  • Make sharing a priority. Optimize your website itself to encourage the sharing of all your content, not just shareworthy content.
  • Don’t neglect the quality. Low quality but shareworthy content can tank your site’s authority, taking your optimized content with it.

A perfectly search engine optimized, shareworthy piece of content is a marketer’s holy grail: it’s something that we should all pursue, but it just may not always be obtainable. Meanwhile, it may actually be detrimental to our content’s value to try to do too many things with the content at once. It’s often better to understand the goals of each piece of content and its place within your content strategy than to try to shoehorn each piece of content into a single rigorous set of metrics. By playing to your content’s strengths, you can increase its lifetime value and ultimately the value of your campaign as a whole.

Why Are So Many Digital Marketers Still Doing SEO Wrong?

It’s 2015. So why are we still seeing keyword stuffing? Why haven’t digital marketers grasped the fact that “stop words” no longer have any relevance? Why are they still producing spun content and aggressively developing shady backlink channels? Why any of this, when we already know that these strategies are ineffective at best and harmful at worst?

drone-674238_1280The Problem of Inertia

Amazon recently slammed the FAA for taking so long to approve its drones that the drones in question are now obsolete. Of course, the fact is that we probably don’t even want to make it easy for companies to jettison things into the sky, but it’s also a question of inertia. FAA regulations are incredibly dense, so dense as to almost be intractable. It takes quite a bit of effort to make any changes at all, let alone free-flying corporate drones.

Search engine optimization is similar. It is not governed by any unifying whole; it is a morass of strategies and tactics, some worthwhile and some misleading. Once the industry built a sort of universal consensus on the techniques that did work, it became embedded within the marketing zeitgeist. And it’s almost impossible to change all those minds at once.

privacy-policy-510731_640If It Ain’t Broke…

Part of the problem is that marketers are beholden to the customers — and to most customers, SEO appears to be some kind of digital voodoo. Customers that are already experiencing high returns on their digital marketing campaigns thanks to now outdated techniques aren’t going to see anything worthwhile about changing it. In fact, the idea of changing what appears to be a successful marketing campaign may be outright loathsome to them.

Though they may not yet be feeling the effects (because they already had built a substantial web presence), they will eventually be lapped by companies that are using more modern techniques. And it’s only at that point that they may begin to wonder where they went wrong. It’s a marketer’s job to educate their clients, but a marketer has no power to make decisions for them.

The Sunk-Cost Fallacy

But what happens when it is broken? Sometime they still don’t want to adjust. Many companies sunk huge amounts of time and money into building up a content inventory that is now essentially worthless. Digital marketers may have seeded the web with thousands upon thousands of spun, keyword-saturated articles for the purposes of now useless backlinks.

At that point, it can be difficult for a company to admit that their investment has been wasted. They may, instead, be inclined to double down and assume that they can salvage their strategy if they only invest more.

sleepy-443606_1280Laziness Reigns Supreme

Of course, there’s also another, more obvious, reason — it’s easy to use outdated search engine optimization techniques. Stuffing an article full of keywords is far easier than having to create an interesting, compelling and unique piece. Quite a few of the more affordable digital marketing companies can’t create reliable content marketing; they simply don’t have writers. But what they can do is spin content and stuff that content full of keywords. These are often hit-and-run digital marketers; marketers who create campaigns with no real goal of building a lasting relationship with their customers.

structure-620304_1280A Self-Reinforcing Conundrum

People generally tend to go with the herd, more often than not. The more marketers use these outdated techniques, the more these techniques start appearing to be viable. It can be very easy to fall into the idea of: well, it can’t hurt, so why not do it? But it can hurt, when the emphasis becomes less on creating content that is search engine optimized and more on creating content that appears to be search engine optimized.

SEO is already a confusing field. There are few black-and-white answers in the world of SEO; like quantum physics, it’s mostly based on theories and rumors that seem correct. This makes retaining outdated techniques even more problematic because it adds an additional layer of non-essential complexity that most marketers simply don’t need. It’s better for marketers to focus primarily on the newer techniques that they know work and shed the outdated techniques as they go.