Content is king in search engine optimization tactics
What’s a website without great content? It’s a site that’s of little interest to search engines and thus hard for customers—and potential customers—to find. Great content is critical for making your site discoverable to the world.

Let’s start by defining content. For our purposes, content is text on the page, videos with closed captioning or transcripts, downloadable files, blogs, and forums.

In the rest of this post, I’ll tell you what we mean by great content: content that ranks well in search returns and increases customer traffic. And which content attributes you should prioritize to improve search engine optimization (SEO).

1. Create original content that adds unique value

Original content might seem kind of obvious (like don’t copy someone else’s material), but there’s a nuance here. What I mean by original is writing about your product or offering in a way that it’s never been written about before. Throw away that boilerplate text—don’t repeat a single phrase that you’ve seen before.

Here’s an example of adding unique value that resonated with me. Far too many Facebook postings drive me nuts—but why? I hadn’t been able to figure that out. Then I found Tim Urban’s post, 7 Ways to Be Insufferable on Facebook. An aha moment for me: he beautifully describes annoying Facebook posts in a way I’ve never seen before.  And even though we’re not talking about writing for Facebook, there are lessons here for all of us. Namely, be interesting or helpful. (Talking at length about yourself, your product, or your company is rarely either.)

Be creative. Be innovative. Be completely original. Find that new and compelling context that no one has described before—that’s the unique value.

Got a product? Talk about how someone accomplished something unique and exciting with it. Show really cool things created with it.

Better yet, tell an interesting story that ties into your product in some small way.

Here’s an example. A friend lost his phone in the Clark river. Six weeks later, someone called him to tell him they’d found it—and it still worked, thanks to its waterproof case. Isn’t that more interesting than just talking about the specifications of the waterproof phone case?

And here’s a tip from my favorite SEO pro: Search for content similar to what you’re trying to create—and then create something better.

2. Publish content that others want to link to

If you create content that is original and unique; helpful, informative, or amusing; and clear and clean (free of typos and grammatically correct), authoritative websites or bloggers with an interest in the subject are more likely to link to it. Publishing content that other credible sources link to is one of the most important things you can do to increase your ranking in search results.

When you publish a new piece of content, make sure all those credible sources know about it. Announce it on all of your channels—especially your social media channels—to help get eyes on it and links to it. (And, referring to that earlier note about insufferable posts, make that announcement interesting, helpful—even intriguing. Don’t just say “Hey, I wrote this article. Here’s a link.”)

3. Know your audience and speak their language

Research words and phrases your audience uses for your product and use them in your content. Don’t make assumptions. If you don’t use terms your audience uses when they’re looking for information on your product or offering, your content won’t be returned in their search results. This article provides some good tips on how to do keyword research for SEO.

Just as important is understanding searcher intent: what question are searchers trying to answer? What information are they trying to find?  Search engines are optimized to return searches that match a user’s intent—so that should be your goal in content, too. Here’s some good information on addressing user intent with your content strategy.

Search engines recognize synonyms and word variations, so you can write naturally about your product, using the full variety of terms that may apply, throughout your content.  For example, if you’re selling electronic books, you can write about electronic books, e-books, and digital books—if your audience uses any of these terms to search and your content contains them, there’s a good chance your content will show up in search results.

4. Write for usability to improve SEO

What’s good for usability is good for SEO.

One way to improve content usability is to divide content into sections which are separated by compelling headings that contain relevant keywords. Your audience can more easily scan your content, and search engines will respond to the keywords.

Another usability tip is to put your most important information first: readers may not get to the end of your content, so front-load the critical information. For example, in this post, the most important things you can do to improve SEO are at the beginning. So even if you didn’t get past the first couple of sections, you got the most important information.

5. Keep content fresh

This is especially important for a new site. Search engines favor sites that publish new content regularly—it means you’re paying attention and staying up to date.

Create an editorial calendar that supports serving up relevant content on a consistent basis. And update your home page frequently to keep it topical.

6. Blog regularly

Blogs give you a bit more topic flexibility than your regular website. You can post about things that you wouldn’t cover on your website, giving you a chance to talk to your audience about areas where your product can add value—and to potentially attract a bigger audience.  If you blog, create new posts on a regular basis—fresh content! And remember to be interesting, helpful or both.

In summary, develop original, one-of-a-kind content that others will want to link to, make sure it addresses audience intent, and keep it fresh.

Resources Online can help you plan, create, and publish content that brings visitors to your site—contact us today.

For more information:

Build a solid SEO foundation

Backlinks for SEO

Original content that adds unique value

Content matters for B2B customers

Content remains a critical tool for marketers. To help you understand which content can help you sell to your customers, we distilled key learnings from some recent surveys and studies on business-to-business (B2B) content.

Content matters in the sales cycle

Customers see your content long before they talk to you. Only 25 percent of buyers revealed their interest in a product or service to the vendor early in the sales cycle. More than half of the respondents in one survey said that they viewed at least three pieces of content before talking with a salesperson.

Savvy marketers have a strategy for producing content that targets specific phases in the sales cycle.

Customers prefer certain B2B content types

The studies we looked at included a variety of content types, from white papers and case studies to podcasts and webinars. Customers have their own preferences, so most content types are beneficial to some portion of your audience. But marketing budgets are limited. To get the most bang for your buck, studies show that you should focus on these types of content:

  • Blog posts
  • White papers
  • E-books
  • Product and datasheets
  • Infographics
  • Webinars
  • Videos
  • Interactive tools

Blog posts and white papers are widely read and frequently shared. Business customers report reading white papers frequently and at more points in the sales cycle. In a 2015 study, 83 percent of business buyers reported reading a white paper in the last year. Webinars took second place, followed by e-books, which 68 percent of buyers read.

Choosing the right content type is half the battle. It’s equally important to present each type of content when it’s most valuable.

When is B2B content consumed during the sales cycle?

Not all content is not effective at every point in the customer journey. The studies clearly show customer preference for different types of content at different stages. Based on our review, here’s when you should use each type of content:

Content type for each stage of the B2B customer journey

Like all of us, your customers are inundated with content and have limited time. So keep it short, especially in the earlier phases. The further that customers move down the funnel, the more time they are willing to invest in content. Mid-size business and enterprise customers consume more content than do small business customers, and decision-makers spend more time with content than do influencers.

How do people find and share B2B content?

Most business customers find content through search. If you want to make it to the consideration phase with your business customers, search engine optimization (SEO) is critical.

Sharing is also a powerful tool. If your content is compelling, readers share it through email and, less often, on social media. LinkedIn is the top social media site for content sharing, followed by Twitter. Provide an easy way for customers to share blog posts and other content using all three methods.

Interactive content is increasingly important

More and more companies are creating interactive content, such as SlideShares, calculators, and assessments, among others. Interactive content takes more time and money to develop, but it also helps you stand out from the crowd: customers perceive it as more valuable. According to the B2B Technology Content Survey Report, “Seventy-three percent say a high level of interactivity somewhat or greatly increases the influence of content.” And, according to the Demand Gen Report’s 2014 B2B Content Preferences Survey, “Buyers are increasingly relying on infographics, videos and other interactive content, such as ROI calculators and assessments, as they make their buying decisions.” Maybe that’s why marketers report moderate or high conversion rates for interactive content 70 percent of the time, versus only 36 percent of the time for passive content.

In the first two phases of the customer journey, you can use interactive content to help customers understand that they have a problem and that your product or service can be the solution. The key is to keep interactive tools general and helpful, while making customers aware of your product or solution. Also, give them a clear next step in their journey. Expect to see increasing uses of interactive content—and increased competition to develop new, more engaging and informative formats.

Most of all, be useful

Buyers want useful information that’s pertinent to their phase in the customer journey. In the early stages of the journey, they continue to report that too much content is marketing-focused and product-oriented, rather than general and helpful. Even further down the funnel, it’s important that your content stays informative and appropriately biased. Nobody expects a company to talk about its products or services without highlighting the strengths—but a pure marketing pitch is a big turn-off.

Not surprisingly, 97 percent of buyers gave more credence to peer reviews and user-generated content. Barring that, in the early stages, buyers prefer content that is backed up by research. So in the early stages, provide valuable information in a short, easy-to-digest manner. Keep it informative and useful, as you help prospects move through the sales cycle, increasing the product focus and level of detail at each stage.

And if you want help developing content or a content strategy for your company, reach out to us.

Better SEOThe search engine optimization (SEO) process helps to ensure that your content is accessible to search engines and that your topics match your audience’s search terms. Having someone available, whether a consultant or a staff member, to advocate for SEO as part of your production process will reap rewards such as more visits to your website from people actually interested in your products, services, or organization.

Search problem

The marketing manager for a product at global technology company, henceforth referred to as Brand X, engaged with Resources Online to improve the product’s visibility in Google search results for very competitive terms and to increase the percentage of traffic coming from organic search. (Organic search is the results the search engine delivers based on relevance versus results listed because they were paid for, i.e. ads. Users trust organic search results more than paid results.)  The company’s content development processes at that time did not include SEO considerations. Content was marketing-driven and lacked keywords. The details of basic on-page optimization—including metadata, image optimization, and other considerations—were left up to the developers who didn’t have SEO training or, worse, to nobody. The company’s website structure was also not search-engine friendly.

SEO approach

Resources Online started off by conducting keyword research on the product to understand how customers were searching for similar products and services, using generic terms, synonyms, and related terms. We then updated the webpages to include the most popular terms. This helped to ensure that the actual page content matched searchers’ queries. Throughout the process, our SEO specialists educated the Brand X marketing team about what search engines look for in terms of content length, topics, and substance, and we explored how to best meet those needs.

With a scheduled site redesign in the works, we also took the time to remove spider barriers and to make the site search-engine friendly. Spiders are code the search engines use to check pages on a website and identify and pull information that is then used by the search engine algorithms to deliver search results. If the spiders can’t effectively crawl your website and find key information, it negatively affects your site’s rankings.

Search engine results

Ranking. By knowing which high-volume keywords were important to track, we were able to refine and re-focus tracking of search rank. Year over year, the number of tracked business-critical generic keywords showed improvement in Google search results as follows:

  • 100%: The number of keywords in position #1 doubled.
  • 39%: Keywords on page 1
  • 35%: Keywords on pages 1 and 2
  • 20%: Average position of all tracked keywords

Number of keywords on page

Organic traffic. By revising metadata to make it more compelling and user-focused and by adding keywords, Brand X experienced the following traffic improvements:

  • 30%: The number of sessions from organic search engines
  • 25%: The number of new users coming to the site

Conversions. Better keyword targeting brought more qualified searchers to the site:

  • 54%: Purchase page clicks
  • 98%: Product trial sign-up page completions
  • 150%: Demo sign-up completions from organic

Configuration. We worked with the development team to:

  • Ensure that international content was delivered to the correct country or region, by applying hreflang tags.
  • Eliminate duplicate content, through the use of canonical URLs.
  • Capture link equity, by converting unnecessary 302 redirects to 301s.

Indexation. We added sitemap.xml files and removed spider barriers, thus allowing more pages to be indexed and found through search.

Number of pages indexed by SEO spiders

Building a strong SEO foundation and doing the ongoing SEO work takes time, persistence, and education, but the impact on traffic, discoverability, and conversions can be enormous. Ultimately drawing the right traffic to your site can result in the downloads or sales that directly impact your bottom line.

Posted in SEO.

Protecting your wordpress site from hackers

If you’re hosting a WordPress site, you’re likely already aware of the need for security. But you may not know just how complicated it is to set up and maintain a really secure website. It can be even more complex than designing the site itself or developing the content.

This articles covers a number of steps Resources Online routinely takes to make websites secure. It assumes a basic familiarity with WordPress, but not much more. To get technical details on the recommended solutions, do a quick online search.

Keep WordPress and your plugins up to date

This is the single most important thing you can do. Because WordPress is so widely used, when vulnerabilities are discovered, attackers know that there are many susceptible websites. There were six WordPress core security updates last year alone, along with many more plugin updates.

It’s critical that you continually monitor and patch your site.

The WordPress core application has the ability to automatically update whenever a new version is released. Automatic updates are also available for certain plugins. If your website is not that complex and you’re comfortable with code changes to your site without a thorough review, turn on automatic updates. In new installations of WordPress, this is on by default. Follow WordPress instructions to manually turn on automatic updates.

If your website is complex or you’re worried that an automatic update may break it, set up a testing environment and manually update WordPress. Modern versions of WordPress actually make this quite simple. The Updates page on your WordPress site shows a list of all available releases. You can install them individually or all at once with just a few mouse clicks.

If you have a lot of plugins, consider updating them a few at a time and, as you go, verify that the website still functions properly. This way, you can isolate the source of any potential problems caused during the update process. After you’ve made all the updates and verified the site functionality in your testing environment, follow the same process on the production site.

Note for developers: obviously, modifying WordPress core code or plugin code makes it very difficult to update plugins and stay secure. Use care!

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Maintain good login security

Having secure code doesn’t help if you leave the front door open. One of the most common causes of WordPress site outages is the brute force login attack. That’s where an attacker writes code that repeatedly tries different passwords to log in to your site.

Take these steps to defend against this type of attack:

  • Always use strong passwords.
  • Disable the default admin account (a common target of attacks).
  • Limit user roles to only specific, required functions. For example, don’t make everyone an admin.
  • Rename the login page to something non-standard, so attackers can’t find the page. We have had good success with the Rename wp-login.php plugin.
  • Install a plugin to limit brute force attacks, force strong passwords, and force password expiration. If you are not installing a more comprehensive security plugin, try this Login Security Solution from WordPress.

Pick your plugins carefully

Every plugin you install on your site potentially contains vulnerable code. Virtually anyone can write and offer a plugin. Look for plugins that:

  • Are highly rated.
  • Have a large numbers of installs.
  • Are offered by reliable sources.
  • Have good user reviews.
  • Show frequent updates (indicating they are being maintained).
  • Are available on WordPress.org.

Some plugins have write access to your WordPress files and directories. A malicious or vulnerable plugin with that kind of access has complete control over your site. Be very cautious with these. And, in general, limit your plugins to only those you need, delete any unused plugins, and carefully consider the trade-offs when adding new ones.

Install a good WordPress security plugin

There are dozens of different steps and techniques available to properly secure a WordPress site. Installing a WordPress security plugin simplifies this process for developers and for less technical users. Security plugins can conflict with one another, so if you install more than one, be careful to select compatible plugins. Our favorite security plugins include:

BulletProof security, which provides more of a firewall, detecting and blocking malicious traffic before it gets to your WordPress installation. It does this through a series of rules defined in the Apache .htaccess file. Installation is simple: use the setup wizard, and select the options you prefer. The plugin generates and saves the correct .htaccess file to your web server.

Wordfence, which provides security from within WordPress itself. It not only provides basic firewall-level intrusion prevention, but also it:

  • Scans for infected files.
  • Compares all of your core and plugin files against the original versions.
  • Shows you real-time traffic to your site, which can allow you to detect and troubleshoot attacks.
  • Protects against brute force attacks.
  • Monitors disk space.
  • Logs traffic, allowing you to investigate issues.

We like using BulletProof security and Wordfence together because of their complementary features.

Back up your site!

Disasters, such as site corruption or hacker-caused data loss, are a lot easier to deal with if you know that you have a good backup of all of your code and content. Install a plugin to make daily backups of your website, including the code and database. Make sure to back up your server, as well. And test your backup to make certain it that can actually be restored.

Our favorite free backup plugin is UpdraftPlus. It supports automated backups, prunes old backups, does remote storage to Dropbox, and will even automatically back up your site and database at the moment you are installing new plugins, allowing for an easy rollback if something breaks. The paid plugin BackupBuddy is also an alternative to consider.

Monitor and maintain

Your site won’t stay secure on its own. You need to monitor your security logs, apply regular updates, look for suspicious or abnormal activity, verify that your backups are still working, and keep an eye on your database size and available disk space.

Your security plugin helps by notifying you of issues via email, but there’s no substitute for periodically logging in and checking things out.

For more information

Here’s to keeping your site safe and secure!