Archive for January, 2017

PostHeaderIcon Comment Marketing: How to Earn Benefits from Community Participation – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

It’s been a few years since we’ve covered the topic of comment marketing, but that doesn’t mean it’s out of date. There are clever, intentional ways to market yourself and your brand in the comments sections of sites, and there’s less competition now than ever before. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand details what you can do to get noticed in the comments and the benefits you’ll reap from high-quality contributions.

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 comment marketing. We talked about this actually five or six years ago, but it is time for a refresher because there are a lot of things that have happened in the world of online marketing, so this deserves a new take.

Comment marketing has not lost any of its power and influence. In fact, because fewer people are doing it today than were five or six years ago, especially in the digital marketing world, it’s actually become increasingly influential. There’s a limited number of blogs and communities in most sectors and spaces that have audiences that engage in the comments, but where they do, you find incredible levels of participation, of amplification, of opportunities for press and for links and for social following. I’ll show you how that works, and then I’ll talk about some tactics in terms of how to create great comments and a strategy to build around it.

How do comments help me/my site?

So, first off, why do comments help so much, and how do they help? Well, it turns out that if you leave great comments on other folks’ sites, they may lead to visits to your website through your profile, through links that you leave, through people clicking on your profile and then following that link, which can lead to links in future posts by the authors of the site where you commented or in future content pieces created by people who read that site.

If they see that your comment is particularly insightful, it brings up a great example, shows off a resource that is sorely lacking, especially when you are either leaving links or commenting about things, if you do so in a very respectful, diplomatic way. For example, one of the best strategies, best tactics I’ve seen for leaving a comment with a link in it is to say, “Hey, I want to make sure that this blog accepts links in the comments, but I figured I should point to X. Editor, feel free to remove if links are not appropriate.” So that way you’re saying, “Hey, I recognize that dropping a link in a comment could be a little sketchy.”

Or you could say something like, “We’ve actually been doing this on our site. If you go to our website, you can check out the link via my profile.” So you’re not even leaving it in there. You’re saying go check it out from there, then you can see this other thing that I want to show off in relation to the content here. But those can lead to great links to your site in the future.

Commenting can also lead to indirect links through exposure and exposure itself, meaning things like you leave consistent quality comments, people start to recognize you. You sort of see that profile picture again and you go, “I know that brand from somewhere or I know that person from somewhere. I have some positive association with them adding value.” That can lead to a better chance of engagement with you, your personal brand, or your corporate brand in the future, which can mean a better chance of future conversion.

It can also lead to social following growth. So you have lots of great comments. People will check out your social profile from your profile in those comments, and that can often lead to follower growth. You can, of course, juice this a little bit by choosing rather than linking to your personal site if you so choose, you could link directly to the social account that you are trying to promote or grow followership with.

So if you say, “Hey, I’m trying to grow my Facebook page. I’m going to make my Facebook page my profile link in here.” That works just fine. That can grow your Facebook audience. That may be how you’re best reaching your audience. Or it could be you’re doing it on your website or through Twitter or Instagram or another way. But all of these things basically follow the same format. People see those comments. If they’re engaging and they draw them in, it can lead to very good results.

What makes a comment great?

Basically, every single one of these start with you must leave consistent, high-quality, great comments. Greatness in a comment means a few things.

I. It’s gotta be on-topic

Meaning that while you may have lots of very interesting things to share, if you go off topic, you will, even if you provide great value, tick off the moderators of the community. You will often turn off a lot of folks who are reading those comments. It’s just not what people are there for. So you’ve got to keep it on-topic.

II. Respectful to the author and other commenters.

I say respectful because what I don’t mean is you can’t disagree. In fact, I think it is great to say, “Hey, I really love this post. I think you made some great points, but point number three and four that you made here or this one and that one, I disagree with and here’s why. This is my experience or I have this data or I conducted this survey or I want to show you this information, go check it out over here.” That is just fine. As long as you are respectful and kind, I think you’re in a great position to disagree and to add value. Disagreement actually does add a lot of value.

III. Provides unique value

Speaking of value, we are trying to provide unique value here. We want to provide unique value through our comments. When I say unique value, what I mean is you can’t just say things that were already in the post itself, things that have already been mentioned in other comments, or things that are sort of common knowledge, anyone could find them out or they’re instantly recognizable, they’re sort of already known.

We want insight or tactics, help, context, examples, data, whatever it is that is not found in the original piece or through common knowledge. That’s what makes a comment truly stand out. That’s what makes people vote up a comment, click on the profile, go check this person out. They seem really smart and intelligent and helpful.

IV. Well-written

There are a few other items. We want to be well-written — so grammar, spelling, language issues.

V. Well-formatted

So you should use spacing and paragraphs, bullet points if they’re available in the markup effectively to try and convey your point so that it doesn’t just look like a bunch of jammed together words and sentences. If you have a very long run-on paragraph in a comment, it can turn people off from even starting to read that.

VI. Transparent

Finally — this is important — transparent. So you should not try and pull the wool over people’s eyes in a comment. We want to not hide our intent or our associations. Even if you are doing comment marketing specifically as a commenting strategy to try and attract people, you can be totally up front about that.
You can say, “Hey, full disclosure, I work for company X, and I wrote this piece, but I think it’s relevant and helpful enough that I want to bring it up here. So, with permission, hopefully I’m linking to it. Editor, feel free to remove this link if it’s not appropriate. Here’s why I’m linking to it and here’s what the value is that it provides.” Now you’ve been transparent about your intentions and motivations, your associations, what you’re doing. You will get a lot more both forgiveness and leeway to leave comments that are valuable if you do that.

Building a comment marketing strategy

Final thing, if you’ve decided, based on the couple things we’ve talked about here, that comment marketing is something you want to try and engage in 2017, or for the future, I would urge you to build a true strategy around it, not just tactically say, “Well, maybe a couple of times I’ll leave a few comments.”

That’s fine too, but you can get the most benefit from this strategy if you truly invest in it by following a process like this:

A. Determine the goals you want to get out.

So maybe that’s build exposure to get links. Maybe that’s to grow a social audience. Maybe it’s to try and get influencers to engage with you so that they become brand proponents for you in the future.

B. Create measurements

You want to build some measurement around that. Comment marketing is tough to measure, very, very tough to measure because you can’t see how many people saw your comment. You only see the results of it. But you can look at traffic and visits that are referred to your site from the site on which you left the comments. You can look at growth in your social following. You could look at new links from sites in which you engage with in comment marketing, those kinds of things.

C. Identify list of sites/communities for engagement

Then you should identify a list of the sites or communities that you want to engage with. Those sites and communities, it is best if you don’t say, “Hey, I’m going to try and leave one comment this year on each of 200 communities.” Not valuable. Pick the top 10. Choose to leave 15 to 20 comments on each of them. You want to build up a reputation in these communities. You want that consistency so that people who are in those comments and the authors of them, the influencers who write them, consistently see you in there and build a positive association with you.

D. Research

Then you want to do some research. I’m urging you not to comment the first few times you read through it. Go through the backlog, look through their archives. Read and see what other people have commented on, see what other people have enjoyed and appreciated, see what comments do well and get noticed, see what the community is like.

E. Create and alert system when new content is published

Then create some sort of an alert system. This could be subscribing to updates via email or using RSS or if you follow them on Twitter and you get pinged every time they launch a new post, whatever it is, because early comments tend to do best. Right when a post is published, if you can comment in the first, let’s say, 30 minutes to 3 hours, that’s the best opportunity you’re going to have to be seen by the most people reading that post.

F. Use social to help amplify/spread your comments

Finally, I would urge you to use social media, especially Twitter because that’s where most publishers are, to amplify and spread your comments, meaning you go leave a comment and it’s really high-quality, then tweet, “Hey, I just left a comment on @randfish’s post here about blah, blah, blah.” Now I’m probably going to see that via Twitter, even if I don’t see it via my comment alert that I get through email, and I’m going to know, hey, this person is not only promoting their comment, they’re also promoting my post. That’s great. Now that builds further engagement with the people you’re trying to reach.

All right, everyone. Hope you give this comment marketing strategy a spin. If you have other tips, things you’ve seen be successful, feel free to leave a great comment in the comments down below, and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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PostHeaderIcon How to Delegate SEO Work Effectively

Posted by zeehj

Whether you’re the only SEO at your company, work within a larger team, or even manage others, you still have to stay on top of your projects. Project management skills aren’t and shouldn’t be exclusive to someone (or some tool) with the title “project manager.” I believe that having good project manager skills is essential to getting work done at all, let alone delivering high-quality work in a timely and efficient way.

In defense of management

Freakonomics Radio released this podcast episode in October called In Praise of Maintenance. The TL;DR (or TL;DL, rather) is that our society rewards innovators, but rarely (if ever) celebrates the maintainers: the people who get sh*t done, and do it reliably, often without anyone’s noticing. This podcast episode confirmed what I’d been feeling for a long time: We don’t award enough praise to the good project managers out there who keep engagements moving forward. And that’s largely because it’s not a sexy job: it’s not exciting to report to stakeholders that necessary services that have been reliable for so long are, as always, continuing to be reliable.

It’s only when things aren’t running smoothly does it seem project managers get recognition. A lack of a rewards system means that we’re not teaching PMs, Consultants, Account Managers, and more that their excellent organizational skills are their most valuable asset. Instead, the message being communicated is that innovation is the only praise-worthy result, which oftentimes may not be essential to getting your work done. The irony here is that innovation is the by-product of an excellent project management framework. The situational awareness of knowing how to delegate work to your colleagues and a repertoire of effective organizational habits is vital if you ever want to free up your attention to allow for the headspace and concentration ingenuity requires.

Sound familiar? Lately I’ve been focused on the idea of a cluttered headspace, where it feels like everything on your to-do list is floating ephemerally around in your head, and you can’t seem to pin down what needs to be done. Of course, this isn’t specific to just professional life (or consulting work): it can happen with personal tasks, which can present their own set of organizational challenges. Regardless of your professional role, crunch time is exactly when you need to put on your project manager hat and get yourself organized. Read on to find out the tools and tricks I use to stay on top of my work, and how I delegate work when needed without losing a personal touch on projects.

Manage projects with tools that work for you

What do you do to make that process easier? One Slack conversation that seems to always come up is which project management tools do we use (and which is best). I take the annoying middle-ground stance of “whatever tool you use is best” and I stand by it (don’t worry, I’ll get to the actual list in a minute): a tool is only useful if it’s actually used.

So how do you get started? It’s always important to have preferred methods for project tracking, note keeping, and reminders. Depending on your role and learning style, you may find that some tools work better than others for you. For instance, while I have a few tools I work with to stay on top of client work, I also have a clear plastic desk cover that I can jot down notes and reminders on. Here’s a breakdown of the tools I use to manage projects, and the needs they meet.

  • Inbox by Gmail. Yes, it’s different from classic Gmail. The two greatest aspects of Inbox, in my opinion, is the ability to snooze emails until a specific day and time, and save reminders for yourself (e.g. “Check in on Ty’s progress for the page speed audit,” or “Watch the video in this link after work”).

    Why are these my favorite Inbox features? Both functions serve similar purposes: they tell you what you need to know, when you need to know it. The ability to snooze emails and save reminders for yourself is invaluable when we’re talking about headspace: this way, you can use your email as your to-do list for any given day. If you know you don’t have to respond to someone until X date, there’s no reason their previous email should sit in your Inbox taking up space. As a result, I use Inbox as my personal assistant to remind me when I need to jump back to a deliverable or respond to a client. It’s possible to reach Inbox zero on a given day, even if you have an email awaiting your response. Just snooze it and attend to it when you really need to.

  • Google Drive. Sure, not a sexy or new tool, but it’s my home for everything. Not only does GDrive cover all the file types that I need (Documents, Sheets, and Presentations), it also allows for easy, real-time collaboration on files with your colleagues and clients. If you like to nudge people to do things, too, you can assign contacts work to do from your GDocs (just highlight text, click the comment icon to the right, and insert the @ symbol with their name). If you’re crafting a presentation with a colleague, for instance, you can assign slides with questions for them. I recommend tagging them with your question and including a due date for when you need their answer.
  • Tools my colleagues love:
    • Trello. It’s not my personal favorite, but a lot of my teammates love using Trello as their to-do lists, or even for tracking web dev or SEO projects. If you prefer text over visuals, you can also try Basecamp (which I tend to prefer).
    • Asana. Another great project management tool — I tend to use it on a project basis rather than a to-do list. If you’re a developer, you may prefer JIRA.

Of course, it’s possible to manage and delegate work without these, but I’m of the mind that pen, paper, and email can only get you so far, especially if you want your delegation process to be somewhat automated (think tagging colleagues in comments within documents, or assigning projects to them within standard project management tools like Asana).

How to delegate effectively

Tools can only get you so far: any good delegation process starts with a conversation (no more than five or 10 minutes) about the work you need and a great brief. The conversation establishes whether your colleague actually has the bandwidth to take your work on, and the brief goes into greater detail of what you actually need done. The brief format I follow works for a large number of different deliverables — I’ve used this same layout to delegate page speed, technical and backlink audits, and content briefs to colleagues. Below are the fields I always include, and the type of information always provided:

Subject: [BRIEF] Work I Need Done

Deadline: The precise date and time you need it, with enough time for you to review the work before delivering it to your stakeholders or your client. If it’s something like a page speed audit, I would allow up to a full week to review it and ensure that it’s in the best format and all the information is correct. Of course, it also depends on how familiar the delegate is with projects like these — if they’ve done a number of audits for you in the past, they may know your style and you may not need as much time to edit their final work.

Output/Deliverable: The format in which you need this work delivered to you. Maybe it’s a Google Doc or an Excel Spreadsheet. This brief format can work for any output you need, including more creative pieces (do you need a video edited to :30 seconds in a .mov format? A photo edited to certain specs and saved as a PNG or IDD?).

Expected hours: This may be the most challenging element of the entire brief. How long do you anticipate this work to take, start to finish? Keep in mind the experience level of the person to whom you’re delegating. Is this their first SEO technical audit, or their 30th? You will almost definitely need to check in with your delegate a few times (more on that later), so how long do you anticipate these meetings to take? Just like the deadline timing estimate, use your best judgment based on work you’ve done with this person in the past, and the type of work you’re assigning.

Relevant materials: This is where you can provide additional articles or tools that should help your colleague do the work you’ve assigned to them. Some good examples are 101 articles (like ones on the Moz blog!), or a tool you know you always use in projects like the one you’re delegating (think SEMRush, new photo editing software, or Google’s Keyword Planner).

Check in with your delegate along the way

Once you’ve delivered your brief, the next step is to make sure you check in with your delegate along the way. Even the most experienced person can benefit from added context, so whether it’s an in-person meeting or a five-minute call, touching base shortly after delivering a brief is necessary to ensure you’re on the same page. Beyond kicking off a project, it’s important to have check-ins along the way to stay on track.

At Distilled, we like to follow a check-in model at the following completion points:

  • 1% (kickoff conversation);
  • 5% (validation of process);
  • 30% (ensure you’re on the right track before you invest too much time into the project);
  • and 90% (final editing and proofing).

Not only is this good to keep everyone on the right track, it’s even more valuable both to the person delegating and the delegate to know how much work should be completed at which points, and how much detail is required as you give feedback.

In many ways, great project management and delegation skills are really future-proofing skills. They allow you to be on top of your work regardless of what work (or life) throws at you. You can be the best SEO in the world, but if you can’t manage your projects effectively, you’ll either fail or not see the greatest impact you otherwise could achieve. It’s time to ditch praising the model of a lone innovator who somehow “does it all,” and instead truly celebrate the maintainers and managers who ensure things remain operational and steady. Often, our biggest problems aren’t best solved with a complex solution, but rather a clear mind and supportive team.

A large part of turning projects around comes down to improving the project management process, and being organized allows you to juggle multiple clients and acknowledge when you’re at capacity. Without a solid foundation of project management skills, there is no groundwork for successful innovations and client projects. The next time you’re looking to bolster your skill set, do an audit of how you manage your own work, and identify all of the things that prevent you from delivering the best work on time.

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