Here’s Why Content Is More King than Ever – Here’s Why #218

You’ve heard that content is king, but today, content is more important than ever. Here’s why.

Content is king. It’s still king and it hasn’t really changed. And today, I’m going to show you three case studies that will show you that content is more king than it’s ever been.

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Content is king. It’s still king and it hasn’t really changed. And today, I’m going to show you three case studies that will show you that content is more king than it’s ever been.

I’m going to start though by talking a little bit about Google’s algorithm updates over the past 14-16 months. I’m currently showing a chart for you that shows all the major updates that were called “core algorithm updates” by Google.

Chart shows Google's Major algorithm updates dating from March 9, 2018 to March 12, 2019

It turns out that these updates all had a certain number of things in common. There seemed to be a pretty big focus on user intent and better understanding of user intent. They were looking to lower the rankings of poorer quality content and raise the rankings of higher quality content. But another element of it that I felt really emerged is a much bigger emphasis on the depth and breadth of your content. So, with that in mind, I want to jump into the case studies and show you some data.

Here’s the first case study. This is in the addiction marketplace. The first chart shows the publishing volume of one particular vendor in that marketplace.

Chart shows publishing volume of an addiction treatment site from January 2013 to January 2019

You can see that there are wild fluctuations, but at times we’re talking about hundreds of actual new pieces of content being published every month, some months as high as 700. So, that’s the first data point.

Second data point: Let’s look at the rate at which this site was adding links, that you see in this chart here.

Chart shows added link volume added to an addiction treatment site from Jan. 2014 - Jan. 2019

 The linked volume begins to grow rapidly around the same time as the content volume started growing.

And now for our third chart. This is the SEO visibility from Searchmetrics. You see that that begins to accelerate rapidly in May of 2017. So, it’s very interesting to see the correlation between the rapid content growth, the rapid linked growth, and how it drove massive changes in traffic to this particular site.

Chart shows SEO Visibility score of an addiction treatment site from May 2016 to August 2018Now let’s look at case study two. This one’s in the career space. And again, I’m going start with a chart on the publishing volume for this particular company.

Chart shows content publishing volume of a career site from January 2018 to March 2019

The volume was actually moderately heavy in 2017, running about 45ish pieces of content a month. That’s pretty significant—one and a half pieces a day on average. But in January of 2018, this scaled into many hundreds of pieces of content per month. So, now let’s look at the “rate of links added” chart for this particular company.

Here you see that the links did not really scale until you got into around March and April of 2018, when it has a really sharp spike.

Chart shows link volume added to a career site showing a spike in links adding in May of 2018

Now, what that sharp spike is actually showing us is: it turns out that that was due to a redirect of another domain to this particular domain, and so a lot of links transferred very instantaneously, if you will.

Let’s look at the traffic chart for this particular company. The traffic actually scaled very rapidly after the links took off in May of 2018.

Chart shows SEO visibility of a career site from 2018-2019 resulting

What I like about this case study is that it shows us that the content publishing at a volume where the links aren’t really growing isn’t going to do much for you. You need to create lots of great content. It’s a key part of the picture, but if you don’t promote it effectively, you’re not going to get the right results.

Let’s look at case study number three. This one is a consumer retail sales site. Let’s start with the publishing volume chart.

Chart shows publishing volume of a retail site from August 2018 to April 2019

This site has been adding content at a heavy volume for a very sustained period of time—it’s consistently in the thousands per month.

Now let’s look at the rate of links added for this chart. This doesn’t have as sharp a spike as the second example I showed, or even as dramatic growth as the first example.

Chart shows rates of added link volume of a retail site from 2013-2019

Yet you do see that links are being added steadily over time built on top of a very strong base.

Now let’s look at the traffic for this one. This is actually the SEO visibility chart again from Searchmetrics.

Chart shows SEO Visibility score of a consumer retail site from August 2017 to April 2019

In this particular case, the SEO visibility started at a very high level, but you get continuous steady growth over time, as supported by the strength of their publishing program and the rates at which they’re adding links.

I have two more charts for you before we wrap up.

This chart is data from a company called serpIQ that shows the correlation between ranking in Google and length of content.

Chart from a study conducted by serpOQ shows the correlation between ranking in Google and length of content. Google may rank longer content in a higher position.You’ll see from this chart there’s a clear bias for Google to rank longer form content. Now, before we go off and say that every page should have tons of content on it, it’s very dependent on the context. There are plenty of pages where you don’t need a long-form article. I’m not saying every piece of content or every page on your site needs to have a mass of text on it. That’s not the point. But from the point of view of informational content, it’s very clear that longer form is better

And then another chart. This one’s from HubSpot. This data shows that longer form content actually earns more links.

Chart from Hubspot shows longer form content actually earns more links

Now you can see how I’m making the connection here and drawing all the pieces together.

One last chart. This one’s a bonus chart from a Perficient Digital study that we published on links as a ranking factor. In this chart, you can see that Google ranks content with more links higher based on a normalized link score that we created.

Chart shows data from Perficient Digital on links and ranking - Google ranks content with more links higher.

Look at the three pieces: longer form content ranks higher, longer form content gets more links, site with more links rank higher. These three things are all tied very, very closely together. The reason why content is king is that you’re not going to get the links if you don’t have the right content to earn them. So, content is indeed more king than ever.

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Why Your Content Must Be Created by Subject Matter Experts – Here’s Why #214

Consumers want accurate, reliable, easy-to-understand information. Can they trust your content?

In this episode of the award-winning Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Eric Enge explains why It matters who creates your brand content.

Publishing Note: Starting with episode #215 scheduled to publish on May 20th, the series will feature Eric Enge and a variety of select industry guests. After episode #215, the publish schedule will be every other week.

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Mark: Eric, why do we always say that our content needs to be created by subject matter experts?

Eric: That’s a great question, Mark. I think the big key is understanding what the content is being used for. At Perficient, our focus is usually on developing content for content marketing purposes, to build our reputation, increase our rankings in search, and increase our audience.

With all those things in mind, you have to realize that the kind of thing we’re trying to do is really thought leadership oriented. You can’t just expect anybody to create that content for you. You need someone who actually knows the topic really well, or else our audience won’t accept it.

Mark: You’re saying you should never use just copywriters?

Eric: First of all, not exactly. I mean, there are plenty of good roles for copywriters. There’s maybe a lot of content on your site which is really simple, product descriptions or something like that, where you don’t need a true subject matter expert.

I think the big key, in that case, is to give them the time to research the topic and be able to write intelligent stuff about whatever they’re addressing. But you can’t expect them to do thought leadership level content in whatever your marketplace is. You can’t just give someone 60 minutes of time, and suddenly, they’re a leading expert on the topic. It really doesn’t work that way, but there are still many ways to leverage the skills of copywriters.

Mark: Okay. Can you give an example where SME, subject matter expert level writers are required?

Eric: Sure. One is, if you’re trying to build a section in your site, like a content hub with thought leadership level advisory content. These really work best if you answer common user questions and address their needs related to whatever your market space is. This typically requires a pretty high level of expertise to execute really, really well, particularly if you want to create a resource that others might actually link to.

So, this might be a wide array of great, helpful articles or a video series, like “Here’s Why”. Hmm, that sounds like a great idea! Or user surveys or other types of research. This level of content really requires a subject matter expert level of, well, expertise.

Mark: Okay. How about another example?

Eric: If you engage in some level of off-site content marketing–so for example, I publish regularly on Search Engine Land, a column. This provides great visibility for our brand, which is awesome, but Search Engine Land isn’t going to let me publish on their site unless I know something about the topic.

So, this is a case where guest posting really makes sense. It’s good for visibility and really getting exposure to your target audience. You’ve got to use this tactic with care, though, because there can be too much of a good thing. So, focus your efforts on publishing in places that have sizable audiences, that are direct interest for your business to be in front of.


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A Content Marketing Conversation with Ann Handley and Eric Enge

Ann Handley and Eric Enge 's Webinar on Content Marketing - Featured Image

Technology makes it easier than ever to market to the individual at scale, but if you don’t truly understand your audience, your content could be perceived as generic and impersonal. Automated personalization helps, but it’s no longer enough. Customers want and expect useful, valuable, and relevant content that feels like it was created just for them. How can you deliver that?

To help answer this, I interviewed Ann Handley from MarketingProfs. We discussed why marketers need to think about content marketing as a one-on-one conversation with customers and the best ways to execute this strategy.

Check out our conversation in the video below, or scroll down to read the transcript.

Original Live Webinar aired on Monday, April 18, 1:00 PM


What is personalization, from a marketing standpoint?

Eric: What we want to talk about today is really personalization and content marketing together, and I think we should start the conversation with an opening question. What do we really mean by personalization? Are we talking about dynamic content optimization, or using data for automated content, or user-generated content, or tone of voice? What do we mean?

Ann: I think that the short answer, Eric, is a yes, right? It’s all of that. I think in marketing over the past few years, obviously we’ve had the opportunity to use data and technology to be able to deliver increasingly personalized experiences to the customers and the prospects that we’re trying to attract.

But as you just said, I think it’s so much more than that, too. I think it’s how we’re communicating—so, the tone of voice that we’re using through our emails, through our social channels, and all across the digital space. But I think it’s also things like, are you bringing your customers and their voice into your own marketing?

And then from a company standpoint too, are you personalizing who you are as a brand? Are you going behind the scenes a little bit? Are you showing your customers and your prospects who you are as much as you’re letting them know that you know who they are? So that’s how I think about it. I think of it maybe a little bit more broadly beyond just, you know, the sort of textbook definition of personalization. I don’t think it’s just about data and technology. I also think it’s about being human and really putting the “person” in personalization, from both a brand as well as an audience standpoint.

Eric: Yes, and I think a big thing that a lot of people miss, to put it in my own words, is having your own personality associated with your brand or the people representing the brand. Really projecting that well and giving something that people can attach to is as important as figuring out how to interact with them.

Ann: Yes, exactly. And I think that’s the “person” in personalization—you want to use your personality. You also want to make sure that you’re using personalization to create an emotional connection.

You’ve probably heard this, but one of the biggest problems, I think, with personalization is that it does veer into the creepy lane sometimes. We’ve all had those experiences where we’re shopping for something online, or we’re looking at something on Instagram, and the next thing you know, this thing is following you all over and you’re getting an email that says, “Hey! Did you mean to put this in your cart?”

That’s where I feel, as brands, we tend to go immediately. We tend to think about the technology first—let’s chase these people, let’s let them know, let’s harass them through personalization. But at the same time, I think the opportunity is so much greater than that. Like you just said, it’s really thinking about your personality as a brand and connecting in a very human, emotional way to the people you are trying to attract.

Eric: Yes. One kind of side topic, but I want to bring it up anyway, is that this really parlays itself into nearly every environment you’re communicating in. I did a presentation not too long ago with Duane Forrester about the evolution of voice interactions.  It starts with voice search, but more broadly covers just voice interactions between brands and their customers. You’ve got to project your persona even at the voice level, even if that’s the only element that you have in the entire picture in the communication. This has shown itself everywhere.

Ann: And I guess that’s sort of what we mean by omnichannel, right? I kind of hate that word as much as I love it because it feels so buzzword-y. But really what it means is, are you presenting the same way on social media as you are in your blog, on your website and voice communications—you know, across everything?

And it’s interesting that you bring up voice, because I think there’s a lot of unexplored territory there. We’re really just at the beginning of figuring it out. How do we leverage that channel as part of this omnichannel experience? How do we bring all those touch points together? And so I think, you know, sort of the next challenge for brands is not just in voice, but how do you actually align all the pieces so that it is sort of a coherent, cohesive customer experience, so to speak.

Eric: Absolutely.

Personalization at scale for marketing

Eric: So, what about this though? Is personalization really the enemy of scaling, because everybody wants to scale? That’s what everybody thinks about. You know what I mean?

Ann: I don’t think it’s necessarily the enemy of scaling if you think about just the technology we have available that allows you to scale personalization and that allows you to use personalization at scale. But I also think that using things like our brand voices—that’s something that we can all do at scale. What’s your take on that, Eric?

Eric: One of the things that I like to think about is when people say scaling, my fear is that they’re at the point where they want to be all things to all people, and they’re trying to address every single audience. Here’s a slide just to capture this concept, right? To me, effective scaling and personalization both start with really identifying your target audience and learning how to deliver your persona or your personality to that target audience, which means excluding others.

Design content that is the best fit for your target audience only - not for anyone and everyone

And that’s actually a good thing. If you’re really trying to grow your business and you try to address everybody, you’ll fail. That’s the path to mediocrity.

Ann: Yes, 100%. I totally agree with that. I think there is a default in marketing that we want to get as many people into in the B2B world—the top of the funnel, so to speak. We want to appeal to as many people as possible and then, you know, nurture the heck out of those people throughout our content, at campaigns, throughout our everything that we’re doing right over time.

But I think that’s the wrong approach. I think it is much smarter and more efficient long term to figure out who it is we’re actually talking to. And that’s one way, I think, to do that. One way to figure out how to weed out those people that aren’t going to be a good fit for us is through things like the content that we’re publishing and the tone of voice that we’re using. You’re automatically going to attract the people to you if you know who you’re talking to. You’re going attract those people to you as much as you will repel the people who are not a great fit for your brand.

So, I think to the degree to which we can figure out who we are as brands and think through our personality and persona, and who we are as a company, and who we are as people, and why we are doing what we’re doing—that is number one. And then, who is the best fit for our products and services, and who are they, and really having a conversation with those people and approaching your marketing more in that way.

Versus just brand to target, I think it’s much more efficient and effective to think about marketing in a human way to the people we’re trying to connect with. So again, it’s putting the “person” in personalization and not thinking about target audiences as much as actual people, because that’s what we are, right? Which sounds so elementary, but I don’t see enough of it really, especially in the B2B space.

Eric: I couldn’t agree more. This whole thing about connecting and having a connection—that really is, sort of, at its heart. There’s this one-on-one aspect to it. Now brands can accomplish it with the right kind of personalization, sometimes operating in scale depending on how you do that, just by understanding who they’re trying to connect with, what those people are like and what they might respond to, and focusing on those things. And as we’ve both said, now it necessarily means you’re shutting some other people out. And that’s actually a good thing.

Ann: Yes, I think so. I was just thinking as you were talking. The spring has been kind of a crazy spring for me, and I’ve been at just a string of marketing conferences and marketing events. A big theme of a lot of the events that I’ve been to recently has been about this customer experience.

Marketers and marketing leaders are really feeling this pressure to really execute on the customer experience, to really put the customer at the heart of everything that they do and that the organization does. Which again sounds super elementary, like, aren’t we already doing that? But I don’t think we are. Like, I think we’re still communicating as brands versus trying to think about what the customer actually needs from us. So, I think that another mandate, as part of the customer experience, is really thinking through your personalization strategy and how you actually connect with people as individuals.

Eric: Absolutely.

Personalized content marketing

Eric: So, what are some things that marketers should change to make content marketing a more personalized conversation?

Ann: So, I’d like to show some tidbit of research from the content marketing study of 2019 that MarketingProfs did. We’ve done it every year with the Content Marketing Institute. I think this is the ninth year that we’ve done it, or something like that.

Eric: Awesome study by the way. Anybody out there who hasn’t looked at this study, you need to go get this data. It’s amazing insight about B2B focus, and you do B2C versions too, for content marketing. It’s just fantastic stuff, but I’m sorry. Please go ahead.

Ann: Thanks for that plug. And if anybody here wants to pick it up, you can go to the MarketingProfs SlideShare channel, and you can grab a copy there. It’s ungated, it’s free. You can pick it up.

But you know, the beauty of the study is that it does give brands a sense of what’s going on in content marketing. It’s sort of the state of the industry and content marketing from a B2B and B2C perspective. And it’s interesting because over time—like I said, this is the ninth year I think that we’ve done it—it does really give you a sense of sort of where we’re at in the industry. So, just pull the numbers up just one more time again so I can just talk through them. Sorry, I went a little too long in the preamble, maybe.

Eric: Let’s look at the data from the study that you mentioned earlier.

MarketingProf research on b2b content marketing shows that 42% of the marketers are actually talking to their customers to understand their needs

Ann: Yes, we were talking about opportunities. So basically, how do you start to think about personalization through your content marketing from a content marketing point of view? What that top step there says is 42% of the marketers are actually talking to their customers to understand their needs—that’s only 42%. I mean, that to me spells enormous opportunity that, you know, so many more of us I think could actually be talking to our customers to figure out how it is that we can serve you better. What information is useful to you? How do you make decisions? Where do you get your information from? All those things, like trying to get a sense of who it is they were actually talking to. Who is it they were marketing too?

And then that second step there is really talking about how only 23% of us are using any sort of audience participation. So, things like user-generated content and really getting your customers into your marketing as part of the conversation. So, I think again, an enormous opportunity there as well. So, I just wanted to share those because I think when you ask where to start, I think those are two really great places to start talking to your customers and really gathering insight on a regular basis.

And it doesn’t have to be super complicated. It can be a survey, it can be a phone call, it can be coffee with a customer—it can be any of those things. I still don’t think that marketers are talking to customers enough. And then secondly, try to bring new voices to the table. Bringing the voices of your customers directly into your marketing, I think, is a super effective way to think about personalization.

Eric: Absolutely. And one of the really neat things that’s happening more broadly, from an SEO perspective and what Google is doing these days, is Google is investing so much of their energy into who they’re sending people to from their search results, around the goal of really what ends up being the best customer experience for the people that they send to a given website. So, if you invest in the right kind of content marketing strategies, not only are you doing really great stuff from a traditional content marketing point of view, but you’re probably also driving the crap out of your SEO.

It’s an amazing amount of opportunity that Ann has just really given us a sense of. Yes, it can be a big investment—we’ll talk about that more in a second. But the fact of the matter is, your competition probably isn’t doing it. That’s how I spell opportunity.

Ann: Right. And actually, I don’t think it needs to be a bigger investment necessarily. I think, like we talked about, it’s thinking about how it is that you are communicating and really understanding and nailing those elements first. That’s not a massive investment.  I mean, certainly the more you dig into the data and the tech side of it and being able to do things like dynamic content and being able to customize customer journeys and all that kind of stuff—that can get expensive. But I don’t think that it has to be, and I also feel like there are ways to do it. There are ways to personalize your brand and personalize who you are as a company that really don’t cost you anything at all aside from maybe a lot of brainpower.

Eric: Right. Projecting your own persona, right, should be fairly straightforward, for example. And I agree, you don’t necessarily have to invest a ton of money to make this work. And also, if you’re a small local business, the way I’m trying to think about it is, am I doing a better job at it than the people I’m competing with? And if I’m a small local business and I’m not competing with some Fortune 200 company, I just have to be able to do something that’s at the scale that works for my size of business and make sure that I’m standing out well compared to the people I’m competing with. So, what’s the coolest example of personalized marketing you’ve seen of late?

Ann: I have a couple of favorites that I pulled ahead of time to share with you today. You know I’m a writer, right? I’m a real content nerd, and one of the brands that I use on a regular basis, I have a browser extension. It’s called Grammarly, and essentially what Grammarly does is it helps me improve my writing and my communication.

Whatever I’m creating, it’s kind of like a spell check on steroids. It’s like a spell checker with an editor kind of wrapped into one. I don’t think it’s a substitution for an actual, live editor because I use one of those, too. But Grammarly is kind of—I think of it like my first pass.

A screenshot from Grammarly insights email show how usage and productivity dashboard of a user

And so, what you’re looking at here is a copy of an email. Every single week, they send me an email with my statistics, right? So, they tell me sort of where I compare as compared to the rest of the Grammarly audience. And again, I’m kind of a nerd, right? So, I love getting this email because there’s something that makes me kind of proud about seeing whether I’m more productive then the rest of the audience or how many different words I use. They give me all these sort of touch points or all these different benchmarks, I mean, just to tell me, like, where I am. And it just kind of gamifies it for me, but the way they deliver it is incredibly personalized. Now obviously, Grammarly has all of this data on me because it’s their own data that they’re collecting, but the way they deliver it is just very fun.

The other thing that they do is that they use my usage of their program to reward me. So, they’ll deliver badges to me. When I do a particular thing, like when I’ve been using Grammarly for so many weeks, I get a badge.

A screenshot of Grammarly badges shows achievements of a Grammarly user

When I’ve used complicated words more than other users of the Grammarly product, I get another badge. So, I’m unlocking all of these badges. And this is so goofy and it’s completely meaningless, but it keeps me engaged with the Grammarly product, because I think it’s fun and I like to see, oh, where am I at? What am I doing? How have I done this week? Super silly, but again, just sort of a fun way I think to keep me engaged with their product and to remind me just how valuable Grammarly is to me on a consistent basis.

Eric: Well, the thing is, you call it super silly and of course, the way they present it to make it fun and so on. But come on, they’re feeding that self-improvement, self-measurement, make-myself-better kind of mentality. An uber-geeky, highly-driven person will just dive in headfirst.

Ann: Right! But they’re using data, and they’re making it fun and accessible because they know that some of the people who use their platform, right, and who use their software are writing geeks like me. And so, I love to see that the words that I’m using are just more unusual than say, I don’t know, 90% of people who use Grammarly. It’s sort of like, yes, it’s silly. But it’s a fun way to keep me engaged.

Eric: Absolutely.

Now, let’s spend a few minutes and take some questions. So, if you have any questions for Ann or me, you know, please feel free to put those in the chat. We’re a very much looking forward to seeing what those of you out there want us to pontificate on.

Ann: While we’re waiting for questions, I wanted to show you another one of my favorite examples.

Eric: Okay, sure. Let’s do that while we’re waiting for questions.

Ann: So, as I’m talking to you here today, I have a 15-year-old—she’s almost 15 years old—Cavalier King Charles spaniel, a little dog, underneath my desk. She’s, you know, she’s a fantastic dog. She’s my heart. She’s such a great girl, but BarkBox will forever be cemented in my brain as one of my favorite brands, because they do such a great job personalizing their email, right? So, they know that my girl is an old girl, and they send me offers on a regular basis to add to her quality of life and make sure that she’s living the best life she possibly can live, and that we can make it as long as we possibly can.

A screenshot of a personalized email from Barkshop

They know that Abby is almost 15, so they’re detailing that. But, we were talking about tone of voice and how important that can be just from a brand perspective to personalize the experience for your customers. BarkBox does such a great job because the email is hilarious. It’s so well written now. It’s not hilarious for everybody, but for dog people like me especially, you know, older dog people or people with older dogs—yes, that’s what I wanted to say. You know, it’s just, it’s such…it delivered such a great experience to me, like that top photo right there of Carl, who’s 72 years old. The copywriting on there, the tone of voice that they’re using—it just completely grabbed me. And yes, I absolutely did fetch some hip and joint treats for her because it really just spoke to me as the owner of an older dog, not only because they were targeting me through their promotion, but the way that they wrote this email and the voice that they used, not just in this email but across everything. It just…they do such a nice job with it. So, that’s my second-favorite example of personalization.

A screenshot of different persona of Barkbox customers

Eric: That’s awesome. And basically, again, back to the tone of voice and how well they did with all of that. But while we’re waiting for questions to come in, I’m going to actually just expand a little bit on the voice conversation, because I mentioned the joint presentation I did with Duane Forrester a while back. And leading into that, what we did is we did some research into effectively what research has been done around voice and how humans respond to voice. This was actually spawned by the advent of Interactive Voice Response Systems way back in the ’80s and ’90s, and they found things like we’re really wired as human beings to respond to voice.

For example, a baby in the mother’s womb can recognize their mother’s voice, and we know that because their heart rate goes up when their mother talks and the heart rate goes down whenever anyone else talks, which is a really interesting thing. And then there’s other data points that show that people who are introverted respond more to introverted voices. Men respond more to men and women respond more to women.

Those associations have been proven through extensive research for people who want to dig into that more. There’s a very famous researcher guy called Clifford Nass that led a lot of this work. But it is offered because it just shows how the breadth of personalization really impacts us.

It looks like we do have a question here. First question is from Katie Goh. Eric, you mentioned that personalization can boost SEO. How can you leverage SEO within your personalization strategy if Google can’t always read dynamic content? So, on pages, emails, custom dashboards?

Eric: So, I’m actually going to relate that back to what you said in the very beginning and the response to the first question. It’s not really about the level of personalization you saw on the BarkBox example or on the Grammarly example that Ann shared, but more in the way that you appropriately identify your audience, broadcast your personality to that audience, and create a good match between that persona you’re broadcasting and your target prospects. And if you do that effectively, that’s what will draw a good SEO response. The more individualized personalization is at a whole other level, so not something that Google necessarily responds to.

So, this question is from Ateeq Ahmad. Is scale all that important for small businesses? Don’t they need to personalize anyway just even to basically survive? Ann?

Ann: Well, to the second part of that, yes. And I also think that for small businesses, the idea of personalization, especially in how they’re communicating, is a whole lot easier.

 I talk to big brands all the time who really struggle with things like communicating in a human way and having a real human voice through all their social channels and all across every way that they’re reaching out to customers. And so, I think that challenge is so much easier for smaller brands. I don’t think you necessarily have to scale, but I absolutely do think that you need to personalize the experience that you’re delivering to customers. And again, I think it’s a lot easier for smaller brands. At least, that’s my take on it.

Eric: Yes. It’s hard for them to find the time, but as I said earlier, if you’re a smaller business and you’re competing with other small businesses, you’re not talking about having to put out content every single day, probably. You take things in a more entry level.

One more question here. What are some of the metrics that Google uses to measure customer experience on a website?

Google has a lot of patents published about potentially measuring and evaluating customer experience and user experience, but there is nothing currently confirmed about what they’re doing, so it’s actually a very difficult question to answer. I think the way I would answer is that we know that Google cares a great deal about this. So even if the only thing you cared about in the world was SEO—and it shouldn’t be the only thing you care about in the world—but if it were, you should therefore still care about customer experience and user experience. It’s an incredibly important part, even if it just plays itself out and is how you get links, how people refer to your content, or how people share your content. That’s reasonable enough. And by the way, it drives conversion at the same time, too. So, there’s just so many reasons to do this.

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Why Three Priorities Should Guide Your Content Marketing – Here’s Why #211

Content marketing is a complicated and relatively young practice. What really matters to achieve success? 

In this episode of the award-winning Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Mark Traphagen gives you the three top priorities to get ROI from your content strategy. 

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Eric: Mark, content marketing is a complex topic. What would you say are the most important things content marketers should be pursuing right now?  

Mark: I have three priorities that I try to follow myself. Number one is to balance quantity and quality, two is to prioritize content hubs, and three, build content bridges.  

Eric: All right, let’s take those one at a time then. Start with balancing quantity and quality in your content.  

Mark: In the old days, the conventional wisdom was to create as much content as you can. In an upcoming video in our “Here’s Why” series you’re going to talk a little bit more in detail about what that means and what that looks like in terms of balancing those two things.  

Let’s talk for a moment about why it seemed to used to make sense to just create as much content as you possibly can.  

Before social media, for example, almost all content had a short lifespan. Most people got their content through an RSS feed or email notification and that was it; it was gone forever. Now with social media, if you’re doing it right, you can take your best content, your evergreen content, promote it again and again and again so more people see it.  

Also, Google hadn’t yet shifted its focus fully to content quality and user-value. All the traditional signals are still there in Google, but these are things that they’ve done a lot better with in recent years. So having really great quality content now can become evergreen in search where Google keeps promoting it even if it’s older, if it’s still relevant.  

And finally, everyone was playing catch up back then because most brands lacked sufficient quality or quantity of content. I think those are the reasons why they concentrated on quantity. Now Google’s shift to machine-learning driven content quality has swung the pendulum the other way where content quality has become more of a priority.  

So the ideal I think isand this is if you have the capacity and the resources to do thisis to put as much as you can toward that high-quality user-focused, highly-relevant content. If you have the capacityfill that in with shorter posts in between other kinds of content so that you keep top of mind but you’re giving lots of context around your content.  

Eric: Let’s talk about the importance of content hubs. 

Mark: Yes, and this is something I learned from you, and I love it now because I see what it does in our own content and that of our clients, for sure. So, once you get a quality content mindset, content hub creation is the next step.  

Let’s talk about what a content hub is. At the most fundamental level, it’s a centralized curation of your content around one of your main topics.  

You can have multiple content hubs on your site, but each one is centered around one of the things you really want to be known for. So blog content we know gets pushed down and disappears. A hub creates a better user experience, because everything that the user wants to know about that topic they can find in that one place, but it also helps search engines to see what you should be known for.  

Examples on our site include our hubs built around our research studies. Because of those, we’ve got number one ranks for over a year now for mobile versus desktop, digital personal assistants,” and many other highvolume keywords that are really important to our business.  

Eric: Right. And I think what most people don’t realize is that in a blog constructthis is a little bit of research work I did75% of the content that goes in a blog are things that Google really shouldn’t index. And like you said, that content gradually disappears over time as it descends in the hierarchy. 

Mark: And it should, right? 

Eric: Yes. But in a content hub, you have the big advantage of really controlling where everything shows up which is great.  

But the last priority you mentioned is building content marketing bridges. What do you mean by that?  

Mark: First of all, I have a lot more detail about that in another “Here’s Why” episode and also a blog post that I published about it, but let’s talk about the basic idea.  

A content bridge means bridging the gulf between brand goals and consumer wants and needs. I see the most successful content has the right balance of both. You can be out of balance either way too much, trying to engage consumers but little about your products or services or what your brand is really about, or the other way of just trying to sell, sell, sell that people don’t want to see with no helpful informational content.  

So you want to find the bridge, the balance between those two. 

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Why You Must Publish Frequently (But Keep Quality High!) – Here’s Why #210

One of the age-old debates in SEO is whether or not it matters how much content you publish or how frequently. 

In this episode of the award-winning Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Eric Enge shows evidence that having more content can be an advantage, but you must never sacrifice quality to get there. 

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Mark: Eric, here at Perficient Digital, we’ve developed advanced content marketing strategies for major brands that drive brand awareness and consumer interests, but we also use that content to gain big SEO wins for those businesses. Now, a question I hear a lot about that is, “Does it matter how frequently a company publishes content, at least for SEO purposes?”

Eric: Sure. It can make a difference, but it’s not the only factor.

Mark: What do you mean by that?

Eric: To answer that, let me tell you a tale of four sites, all in one single marketplace.

The chart that you’re looking at right now shows the number of content updates in a year for four companies in the same industry.

Chart Shows Publishing Volumes among Four Websites

So, site one in this chart, even though the bar looks really, really tiny, is actually publishing three pieces of content a month, and site two is actually publishing 16 pieces of content a month, which most people would consider a lot. I certainly would. But, site three published almost 100 articles a month, while site four was publishing 500 articles per month.

Now, let’s look at the next chart.

Search Visibility Line Chart from SearchMetrics shows traffic of 4 different websites over the course of two yearsThis is a Searchmetrics search visibility chart over the past two years, and the green line is the brand that published five times more than the others, the biggest volume brand. It started out at last place. In fact, its site launched two years ago and by August 2018 had established itself as the dominant player in the market.

I believe that was solely on the back of the volume of content they were publishing, and their coverage of the marketplace with a great deal of depth and breadth.

Mark: That’s it then. That’s it, folks. The magic secret to SEO, outpublish your competitors. We’ll see you…

Eric: Not so fast. Let me tell you the rest of the story.

A line chart shows traffic of a website that has published a large volume of content - it can still face traffic drop due to Google algo updates in September and October of 2018

When you look at this chart, in September of 2018, the site that was publishing 500 articles a month suddenly sees a big drop in its SEO visibility.

So, it looks like that the September/October updates hit this site really hard. And like the rest of the updates that Google put out in 2018, there seemed to be this continual focus on content quality and how well you met user intent and those sorts of things.

Mark: So, they were cranking out a lot of content, but it wasn’t necessarily all that great?

Eric: Exactly right. So, I think what we see here is with the volume of content, they rode that wave up, but because it wasn’t good enough quality content, they kind of took the hit in the September/October updates, since Google continued to adjust their algorithms.

So, I think it’s really important to understand that hey, volume is great, content breadth and depth is great, but it better be good stuff.

Mark: Got you. So, what lesson can we take away from all this?

Eric: I think you have to have a lot of content on your site and really think about covering your market area in breadth and depth, if your goal is to have a strong role in the SEO results for Google.

But, if you don’t have the right level of quality, it will bite you in the end. So, now you have to set the balance between, “How do I get that coverage in depth and breadth, and really get a volume of stuff going out there so I get that coverage, but keep the quality really, really high?”

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Why These 3 Elements Are Critical for Content Marketing Success – Here’s Why #209

What are the most essential elements necessary for a successful content marketing campaign?

In this episode of the award-winning Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Eric Enge reveals how to win at content marketing.

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Mark: Eric, what are the key elements of successful content marketing? 

Eric: That’s a big question and obviously it depends on the exact goals of the campaign and stuff like that, but all campaigns have some common elements to them.  

Mark: What are those common elements?  

Eric: Still a great question.  

The first one is actually user value. You have to be adding value to the user. That can mean many different things, but in all cases you have to be adding value to the users and creating a sense of connection with your brand.  

The second one is differentiation. What makes your content unique and is it something that many other people have written about already? You want to be doing something unique, and then figure out what you can do to bring a new angle.  

Also, think about the depth and breadth of your content. 

Mark: What do you mean by that term depth and breadth?  

Eric: The basic idea is to provide unusually deep coverage of a topic area. For example, your competition might have five articles on a topic. What if you did the extra research and wrote 10? How about 20? That could be a great value to users. Would the result be the best resource on that topic in the entire market? That’s not necessarily a bad place to be.  

Mark: Okay. Before we go, do you have anything else you want to add about making a campaign successful?  

Eric: Sure.  

First of all, don’t overlook the promotion side of things. Once you create the amazing content you do need to tell the world about it. You need to plan your promotional campaign even before you start creating content. One of the things that might happen is in looking at the places where you’re thinking about promoting, you might get more good ideas for what to write because now you kind of know what’s going on in their brains and you can design your content to fit something that’s eminently promotable.  

Then figure out how to contact the people that have written about the related topics that you researched in putting together your content plan and figure out how to pitch them in a way that might cause them to reference your stuff.  

Really incredibly important that your pitches be customized to every single individual. No mass mailings, please. And then follow-up with an effective outreach campaign to get the word out there.  

Mark: Thanks, Eric.  

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Why Google’s Search Quality Raters Guidelines Matter to Content Marketers – Here’s Why #203

Google publishes regular updates to its Search Quality Raters Guidelines. What should content marketers take from them?

In this episode of the popular Here’s Why digital marketing video series, Mark Traphagen explains what the guidelines are and how their recommendations can help you do better content marketing.

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Eric: Mark, why don’t you start by explaining what the Google Search Quality Raters Guidelines are? And since that’s a mouthful, maybe we’ll just refer to it as SQRG for the rest of this video.

Mark: That sounds like a great idea, Eric.

For a number of years now, Google has contracted a group of people who are trained to evaluate the quality of the top search results for a given query. The SQRG is the training manual and handbook for those raters. It helps them understand what Google thinks is a high-quality page that completely satisfies the needs of the reader.

Eric: Do we have access to those guidelines?

Mark: We do now. We didn’t always; they used to be considered top secret. But a copy always somehow kind of leaked out. Many of us suspected that Google allowed the leaks because they really wanted to be nudging us toward the standards in those documents.

But in any case, starting a few years ago, they’ve made available a public copy of the document each time it’s updated.

Eric: And what are the search quality raters actually doing?

Mark: Their job is to help Google search ranking engineers evaluate how their algorithms are doing at providing us with the best search results. Their feedback helps those engineers to know where they might need to tweak an algorithm to get better results that will satisfy real human users.

Eric: Do the guidelines tell us Google’s ranking factors, at least as far as content on the page is concerned?

Mark: No, they don’t. I mean, at least not in any direct way.

The guidelines are not meant to delineate specific ranking factors. In fact, Google’s John Mueller emphasized this in a recent webmasters hangout when he said, “It’s not the case that we take the quality rater guidelines and, one-to-one, turn them into a code that does all the ranking.”

A screenshot of Google's John Mueller during his webmaster hangout

However, I think they are still highly useful to any of us who do content strategy or creation for two reasons.

First,hey tell us about the kind of pages and content Google aspires to have ranking highly in their results. Now, as John Mueller put it in that same video, they give some idea of where we would like to hit with regards to search.

So even if you can’t map things in the guidelines, one-to-one, with specific ranking factors, if you’re striving to improve those things, you’re closer to becoming a site Google wants to rank well.

Second, we should always remember that bringing in organic search traffic isn’t the only job for our content. It’s just as important, and maybe even more important, that our content pages are truly useful, helpful, complete, easy to use for our real human site visitors.

Our content is often the first impression someone has of our brand. It’s your first salesperson. You should want to present your best face, and the SQRG is really an excellent tutorial on creating high-quality web pages for real humans.

Eric: To finish up, can you share one insight from the guidelines that would help our viewers create better content?

Mark: There’s a concept that flows throughout the entire document that I think sums up Google’s take on quality content, that’s known by the acronym E-A-T, or EAT, which stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness.

Google is clear that they don’t use that all the time. It’s more important on sites that are your money/your life type sites, but I still believe that focusing on those standards is the most important goal you can have for your content marketing.

Let’s start with expertise. Your content creators need to know what they’re talking about. In the internet age, it’s way too easy for people to discover errors or miss directions.

Next, work to build authority in your space. This takes time because you have to build a track record of content that both influencers and regular people come to rely on.

And finally, be trustworthy. Don’t take any shortcuts that could compromise your reputation. Respect your audience, and they will repay you with their attention.

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