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The Relevance of Traditional SEO in 2014

The Relevance of Traditional SEO in 2014

The Relevance of Traditional SEO in 2014

It seems like only yesterday the "experts" were advising that to achieve the best search engine performance you needed a properly optimised website layout along with the use of hand-picked keywords in the important areas of the pages.

The way Google ranks search results has changed the SEO game dramatically, however, and the tactics and strategies for Search Engine Optimisation have shifted to be almost totally content focused.

It would seem content marketing has replaced "traditional" methods of search engine optimisation (SEO), so we ask, how relevant are these   traditional SEO practices and is there any use in still following them?

Let's begin with a quick look at the history of traditional SEO.

Traditional SEO

Keywords and inbound links are the two broad philosophies directing the SEO industry. The goal: to have your website at the top of the results pages whenever a specific keyword is typed into a search engine.

This gave rise to strategies that aimed to deceive search engines using techniques such as "keyword stuffing" (using keywords or phrases numerous times on a page without any context or providing meaningful content for the reader), creating link farms and other practices that took advantage of the simplicity of search indexing algorithms to gain a higher ranking.

Legitimate websites found it difficult to rank highly in Search Engine Results Pages against these tactics, and it ultimately led to search engines changing the way they index and rank websites to ensure that the end user was being given high quality search results that gave them the information they were searching for.

New Age SEO

In response to deceitful SEO tactics, Google introduced a new algorithm that uses latent semantic indexing, which follows the idea that words used in the same context tend to have similar meanings. For example, the phrase "complete guide" is given the same ranking as "definitive guide" when either phrase is used in a search query.

Suddenly, the websites that had a stronghold on certain keywords and key phrases, and that were reliant on being at the top by pushing the competition out of the circle, found themselves now having to compete with websites using similar phrases. The distinguishing factor was now the content that was being provided to the user, not just the keywords in the search query.

Enter Content marketing. Content marketing, which involves the creation of high quality content to get ahead in website rankings is being touted as the new SEO.

Content marketing strategy also provides a greater return on investment by boosting a website's ranking through content being shared on a variety of social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and others.

A case study by Kissmetrics, presented by Neil Patel, studied the number of visits and back-links to 47 info-graphics which cost $28,200 to produce. These info-graphics received 2,512,596 page views and 41,142 back-links from 3741 unique domains. The social media contributions were 41359 tweets and 20,859 likes.

Patel estimates that the costs of trying to manipulate Google by buying Tweets, Likes, visitors and links would be $1,072,905.80 as compared to the $28,200 spent on producing the infographics. 

That is quite a difference.

Apart from the cost factor, another major advantage for content marketing as an SEO strategy is the fact that good quality content will remain unaffected by future changes that search engines might make to their algorithms.

The Conclusion

The positive practices of traditional SEO that helped search engines to deliver high quality search results to their users have remained a part of the New Age SEO practices, while the practices that worked against helping search engines have been dropped.

The answer to our question - how relevant are the traditional SEO practices today and is there any use in still following them? - is that since the positive traditional practices are part of the new age practices, it is worth focusing on a content marketing strategy to provide and boost SEO rather than trying to implement and manage two strategies in parallel.

As Aaron Agius from Louder Online told Huffington Post recently, "Content is the foundation of any successful online marketing campaign. A great strategy is needed in order to fuel social media activity, to create high converting landing pages for pay per click marketing and to power increases in search engine rankings for target keywords."

Further Reading:

What is your current SEO strategy? Have you shifted your focus, or are you still following the same practices? Let us know on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


If you Post It, Will They Come?

If you Post It, Will They Come?

If you Post It, Will They Come?

5 Content Marketing Fundamentals

A well planned and executed content marketing strategy is no longer optional in order to stand out in the crowded digital landscape.

Content marketing is now a mandatory component of any Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) strategy and a powerful way to give your audience a great experience of your brand.

Content marketing helps attract new visitors and build a loyal audience, which generally leads to increased conversions. Content marketing as defined by the Content Marketing Association is the discipline of creating quality branded editorial content across all media channels and platforms to deliver engaging relationships, consumer value and measurable success for brands.

For most of small businesses, all media channels and platforms typically means a corporate website, some Social Media engagement and hopefully some level of pro-active marketing in the form of promotional e-mail campaigns or other digital or traditional media advertising.

To point you in the right direction, we've listed 5 Content Marketing Fundamentals to help you plan and develop a content strategy that delivers on your investment.

1. Plan: Know your Audience and Objectives

Before you start chalk out a plan.

You may not have all the questions to begin with, let alone the answers, but beginning with why, who, when and how is a good place to start.

Who are you talking to and what areas of your business is of interest to them? How will you communicate and engage your audience?

Remember - it's all about building a community interacting with your brand!

2. Be Prepared to Spend

Ongoing creation of high quality content is neither easy nor cheap.

As a professional in your industry you are well placed to set the content agenda, but if you're talents (and time availability) don't allow you to be hands on in the entire process you might consider outsourcing as an option.

Here at Hub Com Digital, our management team develops an editorial calendar containing the topics we want to focus on for the coming weeks.

We then internally work up an overview for each individual content piece.

In the case of an article that will be published on our company Blog as well as our Social Media platforms, we would first develop the overall premise of the article and give it a working title. We then attach a couple of suggestions for a headline and send all that information to our graphic designer to create a suitable image for the article.

The articles themselves are either entirely written by our internal staff, or outsourced to external professional content developers, who write the actual article based on the premise / title and headline suggestions we provide.

3. Content for Brand Building

Gaining respect for your brand is not easy. It's the outcome of a process containing many steps over time.

Relating information about the evolution of your brand and your journey to the present gives credibility and builds empathy.

When planning your content marketing strategy, be sure to include reference to your origins, what motivates you to succeed and what motivates your customers to keep coming back.

The aim here is to create personal connections with your audience and reinforce what your brand represents.

According to Robert Rose, Chief Strategist at the Content Marketing Institute, telling the story of your brand can be likened to conventional story telling at a level. In a post on CMI, Rose lists out ten steps divided into three broad categories which will help you understand how to create content that captivates and enthrals.

4. Content for Reputation

On-line reputation management, which involves the maintaining of your digital reputation as well as dealing with negative public feedback, has become a thriving business today. Many of us have Googled the names of companies along with keywords like 'negative', 'bad' to check the reputation of companies (and people) we are planning to deal with.

While most reputable organisations are unlikely to be subject to an attack like the infamous case where a large number of websites attached the keywords 'miserable failure' with a link to George W Bush's official biography page hosted by the White House, the reality is that social media networks have given customers a powerful platform and dealing with negative feedback - whether it is true or not - is an increasingly important part of modern business operations.

A pro-active content marketing strategy distributing positive content on-line is a powerful way to mitigate the damage of an attack. It also pays to have a solid policy for dealing with negative feedback in place. Refer to our Blog article: Five tactics to address negative customer feedback.

5. Content for Search Performance

Search Engines like Google are making it increasing difficult to manipulate their search rankings artificially. Google's documentation clearly states they reward "high-quality" sites, and by this they mean websites that give "great user experience" and "fulfill information needs".

Just as Google rewards "high-quality" sites, it penalises sites for "low-quality content". Before embarking on your content marketing journey have a look at this important article on building high quality websites in the Google Webmaster Central Blog.

Summary

A content marketing strategy requires a significant commitment of resources. The impact is not usually instant and mistakes can be very costly.

On the other hand, the long term benefits from building and nurturing a community centred on your business are coveted by many for good reason.

Want to discuss this some more? If you would like to know more about content marketing or about anything in this article please let us know on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


Why Facebook Likes Just Got a Whole Lot Better

Why Facebook Likes Just Got a Whole Lot Better

Why Facebook Likes Just Got a Whole Lot Better

In a recent announcement on their Developers Blog, Facebook outlined a game-changing inclusion to their Platform Policy.

The new policy reads:

You must not incentivize people to use social plugins or to like a Page. This includes offering rewards, or gating apps or app content based on whether or not a person has liked a Page. It remains acceptable to incentivize people to login to your app, checkin at a place or enter a promotion on your app's Page. To ensure quality connections and help businesses reach the people who matter to them, we want people to like Pages because they want to connect and hear from the business, not because of artificial incentives. We believe this update will benefit people and advertisers alike.

You can view the full details here.

The policy change is aimed at curbing a practice known as Like-Gating - better known as "Like our page to get access to" or "Like our page to go in the draw" - which up until now, has proven to be an effective way to get a boost in page Likes in a short amount of time.

The new policy is also in line with Facebook's current promotions policy prohibiting the practice of sharing posts to gain entry to a competition or access to content.


Hub Com Digital Likes This

The new policy makes sense. It is to discourage the fake Like culture of Facebook and give more value to a single Like. As Facebook stated, the policy change has been made with the aim that people will Like a page because they actually Like the page (or page owner), giving a clearer indication of true followers rather than just a number of contest entries that haven't engaged with the page since.

It also means that companies will need to work harder to gain a Like by increasing their engagement, improving the quality of their content, and giving Facebook users a legitimate reason to Like their page.


The Like-Gate Alternative

The replacement strategy for Like-Gating is being referred to as Action-Gating - encouraging actions that generate true engagement from the user, such as providing some details or answering a survey in return for valuable content (or a competition entry).

This method is already a successful practice on websites, and it makes sense to use the same practice to generate leads on Facebook as well. The information that is collected this way is far more valuable than 1000 fake Likes on a Facebook page.


Further Reading:

What is your opinion about Like-Gating? Did you ever like-gate on your Facebook page? Or do you think the practice is right to be banned? Share your thoughts with us on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


9 Fantastic On-line Promotional Tips

9 Fantastic On-line Promotional Tips

9 Fantastic On-line Promotional Tips

So you have an awesome shipping policy and a killer returns policy ready to go, now it's time to move to the next area of eStore brilliance - On-line Promotions.

There are countless types of promotions...new stock arrivals, VIP benefits, seasonal clearances...promotions are an age-old tool designed to encourage customers to buy.

Promotions can be used to satisfy one of the fundamentals of great sales and marketing: fear of loss, which is arguably even more powerful and important in the fickle e-commerce world.

Great promotions are not just about discounts. Be creative. Promotions could be in the form of a bonus (free shipping), a "buy this get that" or a free sample. The key is to offer real value and incentive for customers to buy and to buy more and to buy NOW.

So, after much careful consideration, here's the 9 fantastic promotional tips that made the list.

HCD's Top 9 Tips for Fantastic On-line Promotions:

  1. Have at least one promotion running at all times. The only time you shouldn't have a promotion, is when you have nothing to sell
  2. Don't be predictable. Alternate the terms, length and other parameters to keep your customers guessing (and find what works best)
  3. Repeat successful promotions regularly and ditch the less successful ones
  4. Have at least one regular annual "Event", a promotion that customers can expect and anticipate. Make it HUGE
  5. Spread your promotions across your entire product range and target all your customer demographics
  6. Target customers who have purchased products with special promotional incentives on related products
  7. Align your physical store promotions with your on-line promotions
  8. Be aware of your competitors promotional activities and where possible out promote them or meet them head on
  9. Include post-sale promotions within orders shipped to customers. A thank you letter with a unique promotion code is a proven sales champion

Join the Conversation - Do you agree with our top 9? Perhaps you have your own tips for on-line promotions that you would like to share? Leave us a comment on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.


On-line Resources:

The #1 reason in-store-only shoppers refuse to buy online.

The #1 reason in-store-only shoppers refuse to buy online.

The #1 reason in-store-only shoppers refuse to buy online.

The #1 reason* that in-store-only shoppers refuse to buy online is the Returns Process.

If you think that's a powerful statistic, consider this: 89% of customers say they'll shop again at a store after a positive returns experience*.

We recently looked at how shipping policies can be used to improve online sales performance and customer satisfaction in our article 4 Awesome Shipping Tactics. Here we re-visit the randomly selected websites analysed in that article to look at their returns policies.

All policies we reviewed specify that items must be returned in perfect / as new condition, with tags, and in the original packaging; unless mentioned otherwise.

Target customers can return online purchases in-store, or by post, within 28 days of purchase. Returns by post require a returns form to be downloaded, completed and included with the item in a parcel. Target include an eParcel slip with orders which the customer can take to any Australia Post office. It isn't clear, but it appears Target pay the fee associated with returning the item unless they need to send it back again.

HCD Note: Allowing up to 28 days to return an item, and providing an eParcel slip with their orders to allow for easy returns is great, but their returns policy itself still left us puzzled.

Myer recommends customers use the FREE option of in-store returns. If the customer chooses to return the item by post, they must contact Myer for returns details. The customer must cover the cost of postage, and returns must be made within 30 days of purchase.

HCD Note: Myer, did you know the #1 reason in-store-only shoppers refuse to shop online is the returns process? Now you do!. 

The Iconic allows returns within 100 days of purchase, and customers can print off a shipping label for the package. The Iconic pays for the cost of returning the item, plus, customers can choose to receive a refund, an exchange, or 110%(!!!) store credit(!!!).

HCD Note: If you couldn't tell by the (!!!), again we are impressed with The Iconic eStore. Full marks, plus 10 bonus points for a cleverly structured policy page in the form of an FAQ. If this policy doesn't make a customer happy, they never will be.

That Online Shop allow returns within 14 days of purchase. The customer must contact That Online Shop to receive a returns form and instructions.

HCD Note: A stock standard returns policy. We get the no-capitals style the website is going for, but it does make reading the returns policy difficult. Compare this to The Iconic and think which is more likely to capture that 89% of return business following a "positive" returns experience.

PS: Sad to see the shopping cart layout is still broken on That Online Shop. We did contact them last week in case they weren't aware. No thanks was necessary - or forthcoming!

Oxfam Shop clearly states that return postage is free within Australia, and items can be returned 35 days after purchase. There are some items that cannot be returned however, such as food items.

HCD Note: Perfect! Very clear and simply written policy. More than enough time to receive, try and decide to return an item, and free return postage. Items that can't be returned are clearly listed.

The T2 Tea returns policy is a little unclear. The website allows returns to be made within 30 days of purchase, but it is unclear whether the customer can just send the item back, or if they need to contact the website first.

HCD Note: Probably the worst example we reviewed, not only is the returns policy a small paragraph at the bottom of the Terms page, it provides no information other than they will meet their legal obligations. We recommend doing the opposite of this example.

The Results:  The only common trait in the returns policies of the reviewed websites, is that items must be returned in near-new condition, unused and with the original packaging. Beyond that, the policies are very varied. All meet their state and national legal obligations, and it is about 50-50 in regards to whether the store covers the costs of returning the item, or whether the customer does. Even the time period to return an item varies widely between 14 days and 100 days.

HCD Tactics: Be reasonable, and realistic, with the aim of making the majority of returns a positive, hassle-free experience for the customer. Conversion is the main goal, so if your competitors are offering free returns, then you should too, or reduce the costs as much as possible. Make your returns policy clear and concise, and make the returns process as convenient as possible for the customer. Provide a returns label if possible. Lastly, look for ways to eliminate the need for returns through the store-front, by providing more than enough information about the product that the customer will need, such as sizing charts, extra-large images, product reviews and demonstration videos.

For more information about returns policies, we recommend the following reading:

* Statistics from Entrepreneur's infographic What Consumers Want from Returns and Why it Matters.