PostHeaderIcon On-Page SEO in 2016: The 8 Principles for Success – Whiteboard Friday



Posted by randfish

On-page SEO is no longer a simple matter of checking things off a list. There’s more complexity to this process in 2016 than ever before, and the idea of “optimization” both includes and builds upon traditional page elements. In this Whiteboard Friday, Rand explores the eight principles you’ll need for on-page SEO success going forward.

On-Page SEO in 2016: The 8 Principles for Success

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about on-page SEO, keyword targeting but beyond keyword targeting into all the realms of the things that we need to optimize on an individual URL in order to have the best chance of success in the search engines in 2016.

So what does that involve? Well look, we could spend a tremendous amount of time on any one of these, but I’m going to share eight principles that are behind all of the tactical work that you would put into optimizing that page for that keyword term, phrase, or set of phrases. Most likely, in 2016, it is a set of phrases that you’re targeting rather than just a single keyword term.

Piece of the whiteboard: illustration of a SERPs page

1. Fulfill the searcher’s goal and satisfy their intent

What we are trying to do is fulfill the searcher’s goal and satisfy their intent. So there’s an intent behind every search query. I’m seeking some information. I’m seeking to accomplish a task. Oftentimes, that initial intent is different from the final goal that someone might have.

I’ll give you an example. When someone searches for types of wedding formal wear, we might infer from that query that, right now, their specific intent behind this search is they want to see different kinds of potential formalwear that they could wear to a wedding, maybe as a guest or as a bride or a groom. But their ultimate goal is probably going to be to decide on one of those specific things and then potentially purchase that item or take something from their wardrobe and add it in there.

But this means that we need to try and serve both intents. It’s actually going to be really tough if we’re an ecommerce player to say, “Hey, you know what, I want a rank for types of wedding formal wear, and I want to rank for it with a page that tells people to buy this particular tuxedo.”

That’s tough for a bunch of reasons. You don’t know whether that formalwear is going to be necessarily black tie in the United States, which is tuxedo. You don’t know whether that person is a male or a female when they’re performing the search. A woman, well, they might buy a tuxedo but probably not, at least statistically speaking, they’re probably not going to. They’re probably going to buy a dress. You might have much more success with a piece of content like 20 suits and tuxes men look great in at a wedding. Especially if I’m targeting men or if this is types of men’s wedding formalwear, that’s probably going to be the piece of content that has a great chance of serving the searcher’s intent and fulfilling their goals, especially if we then take that content and link off to the places where you can buy or accessorize all those different pieces. So we’re trying to do both of these items in number one.

Piece of the whiteboard: A negatively-trending graph with User Satisfaction on the Y axis and Page Load Time on the X axis.

2. Speed, speed, & more speed

This is very simplistic, but the idea is really easy here. We know that user satisfaction is a signal that Google interprets in some ways directly and in many, many ways indirectly. We also know that abandonment rates are very high, even higher on mobile for longer-loading pages. We know that pages that have fast load times earn more links and amplification. We know that pages that earn more links earn more engagement on them. We know that all of these things including speed itself is positively correlated with rankings, and we know that Google has made page load speed a small, albeit small, but a ranking signal inside their algorithm directly. So critically important.

Piece of the whiteboard: an illustration of a SERP with questions about why it's ranking or not.

3. Create trust & engagement through UI, UX, and branding

Related to number two is number three, which is creating trust and engagement through UI, UX, and branding. Speed is certainly a big part of the user experience. This is also critical because these two both touch on being mobile friendly, having that multi-device friendliness so that it’s capable on any device. UI, UX, and branding though go into some different areas. So if I have my website, I’m really looking for a few different aspects of it from the SEO point of view.

This is frustrating because it touches on a lot of things that historically have been outside the control of search engine optimization professionals. Thankfully, as SEO becomes more multidisciplinary inside a marketing team, hopefully we have more ability to influence these things, stuff like:

  • Have people actually heard of your domain?
  • Do they know you, like you, and trust you?
  • Do you have UI and visual elements that make them perceive you as being trustworthy, even if this is the first time they’ve ever heard of you? That can be things like the images on the page. It can be the navigation. It can be the color scheme. It can be the UI library that you might be using or how you’ve done the visual layout of things. All of those pieces go into that “Do you look trustworthy?” That’s certainly a consideration that a lot of folks have when they’re looking at searches.
  • Are you intuitive to access? I mean intuitive both from a navigation standpoint and from the consumption of the content on the page as well.
  • Hopefully, you have some external validation signals to indicate that the content you have and the brand that you are is trustworthy. Those can be things like testimonials. They can also mean things like references or citations for the data or information that you’re providing or links out, all that kind of stuff.

Piece of the whiteboard: an illustration of a SERPs page with a sentence describing pogo sticking.

4. Avoid elements that dissuade visitors

You want to avoid elements that distract searchers or dissuade them from visiting you either at this time or in the future. The most common ones of these that we like to talk about a lot are ones that interfere with the content consumption experience. That’s things like overlays. “Do you want to stay married? If so, download our guide.” Then you have to say, “Yes, of course I want to stay married,” or “No, I’m a terrible person and I will not click on your popup,” and then another popup will come up.

Those types of overlays obviously have negative impacts, and you can see them in your user and usage data, your engagement data. You can determine how much of a sacrifice you’re willing to make in exchange for, “Well, we did get some email addresses out of this, or we got some conversion rate and so we’re willing to make that sacrifice,” versus “No, we’re not willing to make these sacrifices.” You have to choose what types of engagement-dissuading apparatuses you’re willing to put on your site.

But be aware, pogo sticking is a ranking signal. It’s something that they judge indirectly for sure and directly potentially as well. Pogo sticking meaning a searcher clicked on your listing in the results, they went to your site, and then they clicked the “Back” button and chose someone else from the results. Google interprets that and Bing interprets that very poorly for you.

A list of on-page elements described in detail in section 5.

5. Keyword targeting

Keyword targeting, classic on-page ranking signal, still true today. I know that many of us still see or are starting to see a lot more entrants into the search results that don’t do very particular keyword targeting, at least don’t do it the way we’ve historically perceived it, where it’s very keyword-driven. But it’s still incredibly smart to do this if and when you can. You just need to balance it out with all these other aspects.

Title element

Places that I would start. In fact, this is basically in order of importance. Title element, I would place the keyword term or phrase, the most important term or phrase that you’re targeting in the title element in the headline of the page. That can be the H1 tag, but it doesn’t need to be it. It could be just the bold, big headline at the top. That should match the page title generally speaking or be very close, because what you don’t want is you don’t want a searcher who clicked on one title element and then landed on a page that had a different headline and they perceived that mismatch, and so they clicked the “Back” button. That’s dangerous.

Page content, external anchor links, alt attributes, and URL

You want it obviously in the page content. If you can, when you can control it, you want it in external anchor links to the page. So if, for example, I have my home page about weddings and I am interviewed for something, I might put in my bio something about the wedding styles website that I own and control, and I would link back to that in that external anchor text. I want it potentially in the alt attribute of any images or photos or visuals that I’ve got on the page. I want it in the URL. Again, if I can control it and the URL is less important, so we’re going in decreasing order of importance here.

Image file name

I want it in the image name. Especially if I’m trying to rank in Google image search, image name, the file name of the actual image does matter and is important.

Internal links

Finally, I want it in internal links to the degree that it’s intelligent and balanced and doesn’t look spammy.

Do all these items, you’ve got your keyword targeting down. But this is not like the past, where just nailing keyword targeting is going to take my rankings to where they need to be. I’ve got to do all these other seven things too, including number six, related topics targeting.

An illustration of related topics targeting on a SERP.

6. Related topics targeting

So related topics is basically this concept that Google has a huge graph of lexical combinations and semantic analysis. They can essentially say, “Hey, when we see wedding formalwear, we often also see these terms and phrases, terms like tuxedo, tux, wedding dress, bowtie, vest.” In the United Kingdom, almost certainly we would see waistcoat, which is what we call a vest here in the United States, or a wedding suit, which is what is traditionally worn in weddings in the U.K. versus a tuxedo here in the United States.

Now, given that Google sees these terms and phrases very commonly associated with this one, they’ve essentially started to build up this graph between these, and so these topics they would say are very important to this search term. If someone’s looking for wedding formalwear, it’s unusual for them to find a page that has high relevance for users that doesn’t also include these types of words and phrases.

Therefore, as a search marketer, as a content creator, we need to think about: What are those terms and phrases that are related here, and how do I make sure to include them in my content? If I don’t, my ranking opportunity may decrease compared to my competitors who’ve intelligently used those terms and phrases.

A piece of the whiteboard: check boxes next to all the on-page elements necessary.

7. Snippet optimization

With a page, we’re not just trying to drive the ranking. We’re also trying to drive the click. So ranking number four and earning a 6% click-through rate, that might not be great, especially if the average is more like 11%. Then we’re earning half the average for our ranking position. That seems a little funny. Those percentages are not precise, but you get the idea.

We want to have the best-optimized snippet that we possibly can in the SERP. So you can see here I’ve got this, “what to wear to a formal wedding,” “a guide from randsfashion.com” and it’s mobile-friendly. It’s published on May 10, 2016. Then it has this nice meta description, the snippet there. This is essentially my advertisement to searchers saying, “Please click on my link. I want your click.”

On-page elements

Bunch of elements that go into this: the title, obviously, the meta description. The URL format, this randsfashion.com, very simple on home pages, gets much more complex when we have pages that are internal because Google starts to assign categories if you have messy URL parameters or inconsistent categories, tagging systems that can get nasty.

Publication date

Publication date matters quite a bit, especially for searches that have a fresh component. So if people are searching for types of wedding formalwear, well, you might not need to worry too much. But what if lots of people who search for this search for types of wedding formalwear 2016? Well, now you really need that fresh publication date. In fact, if Google sees lots of people search for that, they might actually take it as an intent signal that types of wedding formalwear alone deserves that date in there and that they should be ranking fresher content higher up because lots of people are looking for more recent, modern stuff.

Use of schema

Whenever there’s an opportunity, for example, if you’re in the recipe space, there are schema markups specifically for recipes. If you’re in the news space, there are opportunities for news. If you do video, Google doesn’t really obey it very much, except with YouTube, but there are video opportunities for schema markup. There are all sorts of other kinds depending on what you’re in, certainly local and maps and a bunch of other ones.

Domain name

That is something to consider. In fact, when you’re registering a domain name and building out a site, you should be thinking about how people want to click on it, the brandability, the snippet optimization, all that.

Content format

Content format is particularly important because Google, especially when there’s a more question-based search query, they’ve started showing those longer meta descriptions. So if you can encapsulate what you know is essentially the critical piece of content that answers the user’s question, chances are you might be able to get that larger space, vertical space in the SERP, and that might mean that you can draw more clicks in as well.

This works really well with lists. It works nicely with forums and discussions, threads. It works nicely with elements where you have a bunch of specific how-to, step-by-step process, those types of things. Same story with instant answer possibilities that you want to appear at the top of that Google SERP with an instant answer if you can. We know that that actually doesn’t take away click-through rate. It actually drives more of it. In fact, the real estate there means that you often get more clicks than organic position one, which is pretty great. Of course, all the different kinds of SERP feature opportunities like we talked about — images, maps, local, news, what have you.

Piece of the whiteboard: A positively trending graph with quality of content on the Y axis and difficulty of ranking on the X axis.

8. Unique value + amplification

This is the final piece of things that we’re thinking about as we do on-page optimization in 2016. That is I need to be thinking about: What bar do I need to reach in order to have a chance to rank, rank well, and rank consistently?

This is tough. So if the difficulty of ranking is very easy, the bar that I need to cross is probably somewhere between classic, good, unique content, like this content is good, it’s unique, and it exists. That’s all it needs. That’s a very, very low bar. Even for easy rankings, I would not suggest making that your bar.

I’d put it somewhere between there and twice as good as anyone else in the competition, but essentially targeting the same types of things. You’re doing the same kind of content. You just feel like you’re better than anything else in the top 10. That might be a reasonable enough bar for an easy ranking.

If it gets moderate, if it gets tough, I need to go up to uniquely valuable. Uniquely valuable, by that, we’ve had a whole Whiteboard Friday on it, which we can refer to, but uniquely valuable being this idea that I provide a value that no one else in the search results provides. So it’s not simply that I’m doing a better job. I’m also doing a unique job of providing information or data or visuals, whatever it is that is more and different value than anybody else.

Then finally, what we’ve called 10x content. If you have an insane difficulty of ranking, that might be the minimum bar that you need to hit, and we’ll link over the 10x video as well.

Basically, the questions that I’m asking when I’m talking about providing unique value and being worthy of amplification, which is something that our content needs to consider too, is: What makes this better than what already ranks? Do you have a great answer to that question? If you don’t, you should probably get one before you try targeting those keywords and producing that content.

Why will this be difficult or impossible for others to replicate? What’s the barrier to entry that your content provides, that all the other content providers can’t just look and go, “Oh, well I see that Rand’s done a very nice job ranking there. I’ll just take that and do it. That should be easy.” You need a barrier to entry. What value does this page provide that no other page in the SERPs provides? That goes to our unique value question.

The last one, who. Who will help amplify this piece of content and why? If you don’t have a great answer to who and why, it’s going to be incredibly difficult to get that amplification. If you can’t get the amplification, it’s going to be really, really hard to rank, because as much as on-page optimization does matte — and all of these eight principles matter for rankings — SEO in 2016 is not merely about on-page but about off-page as well, just as it’s been the last decade, 15 years. So, as we’re creating content, we need to think about that amplification process too.

All right everyone, look forward to your thoughts, and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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PostHeaderIcon How to Create Content That Earns Engagement, Trust, and Loyalty for Your Brand



Posted by ronell-smith

[Estimated read time: 17 minutes]

A couple of years back, I received a call from the CMO of a small but popular and growing startup about taking on the brand as a content strategist. While I was initially lukewarm to the idea, they were adamant about working together, feeling that I “could help them reach their goals.”

Before hanging up the phone, I asked him to email me the main priority for the onsite content:

“Engaging content (e.g., shares, likes, tweets, etc.),” she wrote.

I thought, I can do engaging.

I reasoned I’d stick with how-to information content, in-depth evergreen content, and maybe a few interviews. In the online marketing vertical, these are what I call “can’t miss elements” for brands looking to create onsite engagement.

But not long after I started working with the brand, I saw some problems that should have been red flags from the beginning:

  • The type of content they wanted for the blog didn’t garner traffic
  • The type of content that did garner traffic didn’t garner engagement
  • When I talked to the CMO, her words were equally confusing: “Conversions are up, but we need to see engagement improve to continue the relationship.”

I was confused.

Is there EVER a scenario where increased conversions was a negative?

Shortly thereafter, the relationship dissolved. The culprit wasn’t a lack of engaging content, though.

Engagement, alone, is a poor choice for a goal

This likely sounds familiar to folks reading this post. Maybe someone says, “We have a shiny new website, so now we need to blog.”

The next question is “Who’s going to blog?”

Then, typically, the question after that is “What do we blog about?”

Someone always, and I do mean always, says, “About what we do. You know… stuff that will get folks talking about our brand.”

The next question and answer dooms us: “What’s the goal?”

  • One blog/week
  • To drive people to our website
  • To increase conversions

Inevitably, the main goal for the content itself, though, is engagement.

The biggest problem brands have in the move to content marketing is creating engaging content.

Why do you think that is?

  • Because it’s hard?
  • Because they don’t have writers who can produce it?
  • Because when they do produce it, folks still don’t engage with it?
  • Because they’re marketing to the wrong audience?

Nope!

Creating engaging content is a nice-to-have, first-step goal. But as the client I talked about earlier found out, engagement alone isn’t going to move your brand forward in what is now a sea of content.

Engagement is a goal; it shouldn’t be the goal.

First, engagement simply means people noticed your content and interacted with it in some, typically small, way. That could mean a social share, leaving a comment, sharing a link, etc. And for those of us just starting on the content marketing journey, that’s nothing to sneeze at.

Where the problem comes is when we use engagement as an all-important Key Performance Indicator (KPI) of how your brand’s content is performing.

I think Avinash Kaushik, Google’s digital marketing evangelist, says about all there is to say about engagement with this quote, taken from his blog:

“Even as creating engaging experiences on the web is mandatory, the metric called Engagement is simply an excuse for an unwillingness to sit down and identify why a site exists. An excuse for an unwillingness to identify real metrics that measure if your web presence is productive. An excuse for taking a short cut…”

He goes further, saying the only people who use engagement as a metric are those who are too lazy to discern the real reason for being for their website.

They refuse to ask “Why does it exist?”

So they assign value to something that is all but impossible to measure in a tangible way.

My experience mirrors those comments. Engagement is an easy, feel-good metric used by brands who lack clear purpose for their content marketing.

My core problem with using engagement as a metric of significance is it’s hard to measure, next to impossible to sustain and, worst of all, easy to copy.

In five simple steps, competitors can kill your engagement strategy:

  1. Visit your website and see which content is doing well: See the Facebook, Twitter ands Google Plus number, and that gets them to thinking…
  2. They go to Google, do a site:search and see what your top-performing content is. Then they tell their copywriting staff to take this idea and expound upon it — more details, richer graphics, etc.
  3. Then they use a tool such as Open Site Explorer to view your site’s backlinks to see where they are coming from and what content is getting the most links.
  4. They’ll reach out to those same brands and say, “We see you’re linking to this content. We created a similar post that has even more details.” They’re likely to add the competitor’s link, but they’re just as likely to unlink to your content.
  5. Your stellar content piece is likely to take a tumble in the SERPs and your site will miss out on traffic.

All because you chased the wrong goal.

I’ll add a huge “however” here: If you’re just starting out, OR if all you really truly care about is creating some potentially engaging content, you can do exactly what we outlined regarding the competition. You find a popular brand in your vertical and copy the content they’re creating, only you make it better: better written, better text, and you commit to outreach. I can tell you that of all the companies I’ve worked with and for — from mom and pop cupcake shops to, moving companies, fitness brands, apparel manufacturers and software companies — this is where the content creation process begins and, sadly, sometimes ends. So copy it. Use it. At least until you get better, see better, and know better what the audience wants.

But never hang your hat singularly on engagement.

What comes easily is just as easily taken.

Brand trust is essential for content marketing success

If engagement is a blind date, trust is going steady. It has to be in place before things get too serious.

In the strictest sense, trust is about how prospects and customers view your brand, how they view the people who represent your brand, what you stand for and how you make them feel.

(Image source)

While asking for prospects to trust your brand this much is definitely pushing it, brand trust is an imperative in today’s online marketplace.

When trust is in place, people come to see your brand as not simply a reliable option, but the reliable option; they feel good about association with it; and, most importantly, they seek out those interactions.

To get there, people need to see your brand and brand representative in lots of places, online and offline, to develop familiarity and form a positive association with the brand. (I call this positive ubiquity.)

That’s why making too big of a deal about onsite content is a mistake. It’s important. But, let’s be honest, if there are only three people reading your blog, your impact is going to be very limited. Wouldn’t you agree?

In addition to writing posts and sharing your brand’s content, you should also be sharing valuable content from other non-competing brands; engaging in meaningful online conversations surround your vertical; interviewing influencers in your space; and creating a presence that moves seamlessly between online and offline, social and content, human to human.

The fact of the matter, though, is that people respond best to people. Not words or images or fancy design. And as reluctant as you might be to have public faces for your brand, you need it to make your content marketing efforts work.

People are what lead prospects to build an affinity, not simply an association, with your brand. It’s akin to going from an encounter to being noticed.

Think…

  • Apple and Steve Jobs
  • All State Insurance and the Mayhem man
  • Blendtec and its zany CEO (shown below)

(Image source)

Make this work for your brand.

Why not highlight subject-matter experts (SMEs) inside the company?

Instead of simply forcing everyone to blog, find out what individual team members are good at and have a passion for, then allow them to express their creativity for the brand in their own way.

  • Maybe another team member is passionate about radio. Why not have her do a podcast for the site, but also share it via iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever else it makes sense to share it?
  • Every office has the resident know-it-all. Why not create a Twitter handle and associated hashtag for this person, and allow them to spend 30 minutes a day online answering questions for the brand?
  • Maybe you find that someone hates writing blogs, but is interested in theatre and would love doing vblogs for the site as well as posting them on YouTube or Wistia.

(Image source)

And while you’re building that brand affinity, people who aren’t even in the market for your product or service will take note, realizing that your brand cares.

You aren’t out for simply earning a dollar. You’re really helping people, even when those people aren’t likely to buy anything from you.

I know what you’re thinking: “Ronell, who has time or resources for that?”

My answer is, “You don’t have to do any of this. Really, you don’t.”

But I’ll add that if you do at least some of this, consistently, you will be more successful than you likely assume, in large part because most of the competition is unwilling to do it.

Whenever I hear people talking about how difficult it is to find success in content marketing, it reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite strength coaches.

One of his clients said, “Squatting hurts my knees.” After witnessing a demonstration of what the client called a squat, the coach said, “Squats don’t hurt your knees. What you’re doing and calling squats hurts your knees.”

Content marketers are a lot like this, right? We throw ideas at the wall, then call what sticks a success.

We’re better than this.

The path to content marketing success leads to loyalty

Typically, when we set out on this content marketing journey, we, as a team, set these arbitrary goals: We need X number of tweets, X number of Likes and shares on Facebook, Google Plus and so on.

A better way to do it was exposed by Buzzfeed.

Yes, that Buzzfeed.

The site might post an inordinate amount of dumb stuff, but has an amazing data science team. That team studied how content is shared across the web and uncovered some interesting findings.

Leading to what we now know as P.O.U.N.D.: the Process of Optimizing and Understanding Network Diffusion.

We tend to think that a Facebook Like leads to a Facebook Share, which leads to more Facebook Likes and Shares. And a tweet leads to more tweets, etc., etc., for the other social networks.

What they found is network diffusion doesn’t happen in a linear fashion.

Basically, people jump between social networks and links and back again. For example, a Facebook Like might lead to a Facebook Share that leads to a Twitter Share that bounces to a website via a link then back to Facebook as a Like or Share.

This petri dish-looking thing below is really is a graphic depiction of network diffusion, where the dark blue areas are Facebook, the light blue areas are Twitter and the white areas are links.

What Buzzfeed found is that they get links as a byproduct of network diffusion. They don’t need to optimize for links or make link building a focus. The lesson for them, as it should be for us, is that the more they optimize for network diffusion, the more links they’re going to see.

This is not just fascinating; it’s instructive.

Instead of concerning ourselves with link building and outreach and hoping we get links, if we simply optimize our efforts at creating and sharing content, links naturally occur.

Previously, the thinking was to create a piece of content, then build links to it.

But now, with what we know about network diffusion, we’re going to focus on publishing all of our content to the right streams and to the right audience. We’re optimizing for which social streams move the fastest for the specific topic.

As a content marketer, this information should excite you, especially if your team is ready to commit to the right, and best, goal, which is content loyalty.

If that’s not your goal, scrap your goal and adopt this one.

Content loyalty means you aren’t having to work so hard for your content. Your content is working for you.

  • Folks are avid fans, actively seeking out each and every piece of content you create.
  • Instead of you having to carry the load with sharing and promotion, these fans are sharing and promoting like crazy.
  • Instead of worrying about what content to create, your fans, followers, prospects and customers are actively involved helping you via comments on the blog, questions and responses on social media, interactions with the help desk, and sundry other touch points whereby they interact with the brand.

“The shortest path to break through the noise and create a sustainable content strategy is to create content loyalty,” says Moz’s Matthew J. Brown, who is chief of product strategy and design.

It’s difficult but doable.

Parse.ly, an audience insight platform for digital publishers, found that 2.6 days is the median pageview peak for any single piece of content. Pageviews basically fall off a cliff shortly thereafter.

If you get 20% of your traffic from social, things are a little bit better: 3.2 days

But by and large your window is two to three days.

But the biggest takeaway from their research, which looked at hundreds of sites and billions of pageviews, showed that the average site sees only 11 percent of its visitors returning at least once in a 30-day period.

You heard right: 11%.

That number might sound low, and it is. But it highlights an opportunity.

If you can get that number up to 20%, you’re doing 2X better than the competition.

So how do you get there?

A content marketing playbook

Vulture.com conducted a study with Chartbeat to find what on-page content attributes led to content loyalty. They wanted to figure out what led readers to return to their site.

They found that if they could get their readers to return to the first page of their site 5 times, the readers would be what they term “loyal visitors” of their site, returning frequently to consume information.

In other words, five days was their core loyalty metric, and the primary starting place for the brand’s content efforts.

They looked at factors ranging from text length to images and the number of ads on the page, and what they found was surprising and illuminating: For them, the key was the amount of text above the fold.

That is, loyal readers expected to consume a certain amount of content above-the-fold. (Click the link above for the details, which are quite interesting.)

Armed with this information, Vulture.com could focus on a targeted attribute that led to their 5X, loyal, readers.

Nothing is stopping you from doing the same.

Making content loyalty work for your brand

Your first step toward content loyalty, is to define your goal post (e.g., visits per an allotted amount of time), then optimize for the attributes that lead to that goal.

For your brand, it might be content length or number of ads or GIFs or videos.

The key is to dial in those attributes that are specific to your site, then continue to optimize for them.

You likely have some inkling of what content types help earn loyalty in your vertical, based on popularity and such. Same thing for content types. We know that for many industries, blogs, videos, infographics, and the like are the most shared and most linked to types of content.

Your brand can do the same, provided you have the heart and the patience to do so.

One of the reasons brands are struggling with content marketing is they aren’t giving it enough time. Create a program, set a plan, and let it run.

It’s not a 90 day thing.

“The sheer majority of brands will continue to crash and burn with their content creation and distribution efforts. Simply put, most brands resist telling a truly differentiated story, and even those that do tell one aren’t consistent or patient enough to build loyal audiences over time,” says Content Marketing Institute founder Joe Pulizzi.

If you’re willing to put in the work, though, you can have success.

The natural starting place is a content audit.

I know many of you cringe upon seeing that word. But you have to start somewhere, and the content audit is the best somewhere.

Besides, before you get started producing content, you need to know what you have and how well it’s performing.

If, like me, you’ve done content audits, you know they can be a time-consuming chore, especially when done from scratch.

Luckily, you don’t have to start from scratch.

Using the template found in Mike King’s deck from Authority Rainmaker, you can get an excellent snapshot of the strongest-performing content on your site. Then you simply aggregate that data to see what’s resonating with your readers, what’s creating that network diffusion for your brand.

For example, you can find the most shares for various types of content, which can help you better discern what types of content you should be creating and sharing more of.

Once you have your content audit in hand, the next step you want to take, before execution on your new content strategy, is to calculate your ROI. This Content Marketing ROI Calculator from Siege Media allows you to plug in the costs associated with creation, including how many links and shares and loyal visitors, which makes it easier to make the case for your boss or your clients. This is a must-have when you’re trying to not only get buy-in but also get the time you need to execute your plan.

If your brand is like many of those I’ve worked with in the past, meaning you don’t have a wide base of content from which to pull a great deal of data from during the audit, I suggest using tool like BuzzSumo, which is a newcomer that has become very popular very fast in content marketing circles.

And for good reason.

It can help you get up and running really fast, and you can learn a great deal about how your content is performing along the way.

BuzzSumo allows you to view the social landscape across myriad topics for the entirety of your competitive landscape.

So, by the time you get started, you can have a complete list of targets and categories to optimize for, even if you don’t have a strong content inventory.

One of the coolest parts about working with Moz — aside from the Roger notepads and pens — is the great people who are always designing and creating tools for us to use, then share with the audience.

For a while now, we’ve been privileged to play with something called One Metric.

Created by our audience and data teams, it allows us to weight social sharing, traffic and links and on-page attention, and reader engagement to create a more organic content score that ensures we’re looking at the entire picture.

Earlier this year, Moz released Moz Content, which is basically One Metric plus 10 and times one million.

With Moz Content, you can crawl your site, then integrate the various bits of information, including content types, your author performance, your social sharing, your links, etc. Even better, you can create, track, and save multiple content audits, making it possible to see how well your content is doing over time, and with ease.

The goal is to make that first step when performing a content audit much easier.

Even better, using the newly created Moz Context API, you’re able to extract the most relevant topics for your site. It can tell you what topics and what keywords are the most relevant for your site and across the web.

This allows you to create a topic inventory for your site.

Let’s say, based on performance, visitors are engaging with these content types and topics most on your site. That way you don’t have to guess about what content to create.

You can then focus on optimizing for creating and sharing the right content in the right places for the right audience, instead of blindly creating content with the hope that it performs optimally.

Maybe my favorite feature, and the one that I can see many brands using most to position themselves favorably against the competition, is the Content Search feature. It allows you to see topics — -your topics — across the web, enabling you to harness information on what’s getting the most shares, what’s gaining social traction, what’s resonating with your audience.

With this view, you’re getting a bird’s-eye view across the web, so you can see what’s working for the competition, what they’re having success with and what, maybe, you should consider trying.

Full disclosure: Since Moz Content is new, I still rely on BuzzSumo for getting a quick, easy, and clean snapshot at the topical level, then use Moz Content to get a deeper look at the content landscape I’m hoping to track, whether for myself or for a client or prospect. And because both platforms offer a level of free service, I’d suggest using them in tandem, especially at first, to get a feel for which has the features better suited for your needs.

Take your content marketing to the next level

Hopefully, you have a better sense of how to be successful, in addition to having a more in-depth understanding of what it takes to attain long-term success in content marketing. The overall goal for this post, however, was to make it clear that, with regard to the content you create, share and promote, loyalty is THE goal, not a goal.

Remember, content is meant to support your marketing efforts; it should not define them. If the content you create can draw readers to your site consistently, your team can then set about ensuring that the various messaging needed to call attention to or sell additional products are in place, even as you further optimize the content to increase views and viewers.

By making content loyalty your goal, you make it palatable that more of your brand’s goals are attainable.

What are your thoughts? Do you think loyalty is the right goal for your content?

[Ed. note: A big shout-out to Moz teammates Matthew J. Brown and Jay Leary for the insight they provided as I was pulling together the information for this post.]

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