SEO Articles

SEO-friendly URLs

SEO-friendly URLs

The subject is up for much discussion: SEO-friendly URLs. Should or shouldn’t I include the category? Should the URL be as short as possible or is there room for extras? Could an URL be stuffed with keywords or not?

In this post, I’ll explain our take on SEO-friendly URLs and try to elaborate a bit on why we think that is the best option for that link. First, let me tell you that a SEO-friendly URL differs per type of website. In this article, I’ll discuss a few to show the differences. There are a few ground rules, but I strongly encourage you to keep the visitor in mind when setting up your URL structure.

Ground rules for SEO-friendly URLs

No matter what kind of website you have, there are a couple of ground rules that apply to all websites.

The main thing to keep in mind is that your URLs should be focused. Strip your URLs of stop words like ‘a’, ‘of’, ‘the’ etc. In 99% of the cases, these words add nothing of value to your URL. If possible, strip your URLs of verbs as well. Words like ‘are’ or ‘have’ are not needed in your URL to make clear what the page is about.
The length of your URL isn’t really a factor in this. We do recommend to keep your URLs as short as possible. It’s not that Google doesn’t like lengthy URLs, but shorter URLs are most probably more focused. Keep in mind that if you use breadcrumbs on your site, as we do, these could appear instead of the full URL:

Length isn’t that much of an issue: Google will show what they think is important for that visitor. Keep in mind that meta titles and descriptions are cut off at 512 pixels, and so is your URL.
Don’t use underscores, as these connect the words and make them into one. Dashes are preferred.

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These are the ground rules for SEO-friendly URLs. The best SEO-friendly URL differs per type of website. Pick your type of site to jump to the information that applies to your website:

Company websites
Online shops
Blogs or news sites

SEO-friendly URLs for your company website

If your website holds information about your company and/or services and that is basically it, no matter how many pages you have, I’d go with the shortest URL possible.

http://example.com/contact/
http://example.com/about-us/

SEO-friendly URLs for your online shop

If your website is an online shop, there are two ways to go about:

http://example.com/product-name/
http://example.com/category-name/product-name/

Some content management systems (like Magento) create both. In that case, use rel=”canonical” to point Google to the one you want to appear in Google.

The question remains what URL structure to use. In this case, SEO-friendly URLs should also be helpful URLs for your visitor. If your shop contains categories that make your visitor’s life easier, by all means, include these categories in your URL as well. That way your URL, breadcrumbs, and menu will remind the visitor where they are on your website:

http://example.com/birds/crane
http://example.com/equipment/crane

See what I mean? Decide for yourself if your categories add that value to the product and URL. If so, it’s also better for SEO to include the category, as category and product are very much related.

SEO-friendly URLs for your blog or news site

If your website is a blog or news website, there are a number of ways to construct your URL. Let’s go over these separately:

http://example.com/post-title/
If your site as a whole has a strong coherence, you could consider focusing on the post title and the post title only to create an SEO-friendly URL. The coherence will indicate the main topic of your website to Google, so no need to add that in the URL.
http://example.com/category-name/post-title/
In case that your website is a news website and you’re writing about different topics, adding the topic (for instance as a category name), will make even more clear what the page is about. It’s a bit similar as explained above at SEO-friendly URLs for your online shop.
http://example.com/mm/dd/yyyy/post-title/
If your website features daily news and the news is related to a date, be sure to include that date in the URL as well. If someone is looking for the latest news on Apple’s products, the date in the URL will already show if the page is about this year’s iPhone or not. My recommendation: only use the date in the URL if the date matters.
http://example.com/post-title/three-digit-ID/
Google News’ technical guidelines clearly state: “To make sure we only crawl new articles, please make sure your URLs are unique with at least 3 digits, and are permanent.” If for some reason you don’t want to include the date in the URL of your news article, you could add an ID for the post as well to get this covered. Keep in mind that Google News is only for news that matters to the world, which doesn’t apply to most company news 😉

TL;DR

There is no one way to create the best SEO-friendly URL. It depends on the type of website you have. Especially with a blog or news site, there are multiple options. The main thing is to keep your URLs focused. Besides that, make sure to include all the information that’s important to make clear what the page is about.

Read more:  rel=canonical • What it is and how (not) to use it  »

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Getting an HTTPS migration done in an enterprise environment

Getting an HTTPS migration done in an enterprise environment

There have been some excellent articles written about the steps necessary for a successful HTTP to HTTPS migration. Although we know that a move is becoming more and more pressing, knowing what to do is only a small part of the story when you’re working in an enterprise environment. Somehow, we need to figure out at the very least:

Who do we need to persuade, and what’s going to convince them?
How are we going to mitigate risk as much as possible?
How are we going to get the actual details done? – some of these steps are simple but hard

Many of you will be living this, and be feeling these challenges keenly. We’ve been putting a lot of thought and a lot of work into helping our points of contact make these cases and get these migrations done. Here are some pointers and tips we’ve learned along the way; hopefully they’ll help you.

Sidenote: read about how we used our ODN platform to help to ship an urgent HTTPS migration for a major retailer

If you want to get some sense of the challenges, or if you don’t regularly work with large sites in complex organisations, the journey of the BBC to secure their news section might give you some idea of the complexity:

Two years ago, they talk about making changes at their CDNs to enable HTTPS in the future when the individual products (e.g. homepage or travel news) get to the point of being ready on the back-end
By the end of 2017, they are talking about enabling HTTPS to their origins and worrying about how to warm up the HTTPS caches
June 2018 we get the Medium post about the elusive padlock on BBC News after problems like an Indian government-mandated network block that rendered the site totally inaccessible

And then even after all that effort, we realise that the first links I shared there are on the “BBC blogs” section of the site which is still insecure:

Making the case for the enterprise HTTPS migration

In some cases, I find that business cases and return on investment are the most powerful drivers of change, and there are possible approaches that could use data to make this case (looking first at drops in conversion rate from warnings over unsecured pages) but my first approach would be an argument that looks more like this:

We’re definitely going to have to do this eventually
External changes mean that we shouldn’t keep putting it off – there are reputational, business, and operational risks from delaying

It’s a more risk-averse argument focusing on avoidance of downside, but it has powerful emotional elements to it:

1. We’re definitely going to have to do this eventually

There are plenty of rational arguments for the move to HTTPS (great article) but this is mainly an argument that no matter what decisions we make, we can’t put this off forever. We can look at competitors, large sites, and external moves (e.g. by Chrome) to make this point powerfully:

Websites are moving to HTTPS at unprecedented rates

Google research shows that:

More than half of large sites now have HTTPS available (moving from 39% to 54% in the year to Feb 2017) with default HTTPS doubling in a single year
The bigger / more popular a site is, the greater its chance of having HTTPS available and the greater the chance of it using HTTPS by default
A majority of desktop browsing now occurs over HTTPS

All of which means that users are becoming more accustomed to seeing HTTPS everywhere and increasingly expect it. We have even seen this in qualitative feedback from website user testing (create a free account to watch this video):

High ranking websites are particularly likely to be HTTPS

In just 9 months, after announcing HTTPS as a (minor) ranking factor, the % of HTTPS results on page 1 of Google search results jumped from 30% to over 50%:

New features increasingly assume HTTPS connections

Features like HTTP/2 (which can bring significant speed improvements to many sites), and service workers (which are required for app-like capabilities such as offline functionality) require or assume the presence of HTTPS connections. If you aren’t already up to speed on them, this presentation by our VP Product, Tom Anthony will tell you what you need to know (create a free account to watch this video).

2. External changes mean we should do it now

Browser changes increase the urgency of making the change

We have known for some time that Google in particular was going to use their Chrome browser to push webmasters to HTTPS. Initially, the just flagged sites as insecure if they were on HTTP when a form was detected:

They then announced further changes to take it from just those pages to any HTTP page:

This actually isn’t Google’s last planned update on this theme, there will be a release of Chrome sometime soon that highlights the insecurity in red:

Not only is this change raising the profile of your security setup with your users and customers and most likely hurting engagement and conversion rate, but it is starting to bring bad press down on those who haven’t made the move yet. This BBC article, for example calls out a number of sites by name and cautions that while you shouldn’t necessarily entirely avoid sites that are still on HTTP, “you should be wary on those that require you to sign in or which let you buy goods and services through them”.

Mitigating the risk of an HTTPS migration

OK, so we know it’s something we want to do, and key stakeholders are coming around to the idea, but pretty early in the process, someone is going to bring up risk factors, and how we can minimise and mitigate as many of the risks as possible.

Aside from thorough testing in a staging environment, what else can you do to reduce the risks of going to HTTPS? One key tool in the arsenal is Content Security Policy (CSP) headers. One of the hardest parts of the move is avoiding mixed-content warnings, where your (secure) page references HTTP resources and assets. A good way of mitigating risks and avoiding UI issues and broken functionality from blocked assets is to roll out HTTPS initially with a very lax CSP that allows insecure assets, but reports them via the report-uri policy directive. This means, that on any HTTPS page that uses HTTP resources, the browser will still report the page as insecure but it will work and you will get collect data on which resources are still in use where.

As you then remove all HTTP dependencies, you can tighten up the CSP to much stricter policies and achieve the “secure” label in the browser. Once all pages are fully on HTTPS and redirects are in place, you can add HSTS (Strict-Transport-Security) to the mix. HSTS is a header served on the HTTPS version of your site that is cached by browsers and informs them not to trust the HTTP version in future and always to request the HTTPS version of every page on your site (until the expiry of the HSTS setting).

(Note: the more important security is to your site, the further down this rabbit-hole you may wish to go – right up to preloaded HSTS sites – though note that this is not easily reversible even temporarily in the event of certificate errors.)

There are a variety of great resources on the SEO details, with checklists and processes to follow, so I’m not going to repeat all of the steps here. I recommend:

This article on all the benefits of HTTPS and technical features you can use once you have moved over
Patrick Stox outlined the process, and Aleyda published a great checklist on the SEO steps and implications
You may find it useful to refer to the official Google line (from John Mueller) to reassure stakeholders about Google’s view of the process and its benefits

THOUGH I am very concerned about the advice to “use 302 redirects + rel=canonical to HTTP if you want to test HTTPS but not have it indexed”. I would not recommend ever having canonical links that point to pages that redirect back to the original page (even 302 redirects). I would recommend not doing this.

How are we going to get the details implemented?

As always, knowing what to do and getting agreement to go ahead is only a small part of the battle in many organisations. Large websites and big companies typically have myriad dependencies and integrations of older systems that throw up unexpected roadblocks in the way of the objective. In the case of an HTTPS migration, this is often things like:

We have mixed-content warnings that we can’t deal with at scale – how are we going to update all the references to images on http URLs? What about our 3rd-party plugins and embeds?
Our canonical links all point to the HTTP version of our site and the engineering work to update them across all the different page templates is going to add scary amounts of money to the cost of this project – potentially across multiple back-ends / CMS
We want to add Referrer-policy and especially Content Security Policy headers to enable better testing and mitigate risks, but we have no way to control HTTP headers through our CMS

Recommendations of what to do are worthless if you can’t get them done – a mantra that we repeat a lot at Distilled is it’s not our job to deliver reports – it’s our job to effect change. One of the ways we’ve done this is by building the ODN platform which makes it easy to make agile changes to HTML and HTTP responses. We just completed an urgent HTTPS migration for a major retailer where we addressed exactly these kind of blockers with the platform – you can read more about that here.

If you’re in the unfortunate situation of knowing you need to make the move to HTTPS, and having the organisation aligned, but being blocked by these kinds of technical issue, drop us a line to discuss whether we can help.

CONTACT US TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE ODN

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WordPress Keyboard Shortcuts To Work Faster

WordPress Keyboard Shortcuts To Work Faster

If you’re like me, I’m sure you’d want to bang out a blog post as quickly as possible. After all, we already have our hands full on other important stuffs right?

We all aim to be efficient in our work. Sometimes I’d think to myself, “Why should I reach over to my mouse to click on a tab. Isn’t there a quicker way to do it with my keyboard?” Luckily for us, there are a bunch of nifty WordPress shortcuts that will save you time and avoid unnecessarily expanding calories to click your mouse.

If you don’t already know, a large part of the Internet is powered by the content management system called WordPress. Almost every blogger loves using it, being user-friendly, SEO friendly, with easy publishing. While it is often known for a blogging platform, WordPress is more than that thanks to its extensibility.

Of course, you might think why you should go the extra mile to learn the WordPress keyboard shortcuts. This may not matter that much if you post in a low frequency, but if you’re likely to post several articles or more per day, it can add up pretty quickly. Thus, these WordPress keyboard shortcuts can prove nothing less than a blessing.

In the next few sections, we’ll look at shortcuts that you can use for different kinds of tasks.

How To Turn On WordPress Shortcuts

If you try using shortcuts in a fresh installation of WordPress, you will notice that nothing will happen. This is because keyboard shortcuts are disabled by WordPress by default. It may be inconvenient at first, but here are a few steps you should take before setting up.

1) Navigate to the WordPress Dashboard.

2) At the sidebar on the left, click on “Your Profile”

3) Once you reach the profile page, simply check the box next to “Keyboard Shortcuts” and click Update Profile.

It’s really that simple!

Editor Shortcuts
Basic Formatting

First up, let’s run through the basic WordPress formatting shortcuts. There’s a good chance you’re already familiar with these, but I want to make sure I cover everything because these are very important, though these WordPress shortcuts are widely known:

These are generic keyboard shortcuts that are used on most of the software applications.

Advanced Formatting

Now, let’s see the more advanced editor shortcuts:

Alt + Shift + l = Align Left
Alt + Shift + c = Align Center
Alt + Shift + r = Align Right
Alt + Shift + d = Strikethrough
Alt + Shift + j = Justify Text
Alt + Shift + u = Bulleted List
Alt + Shift + o = Numbered List
Alt + Shift + s = Remove Link
Alt + Shift + q = Quote
Alt + Shift + m = Insert Image
Alt + Shift + p = Insert Page Break

Shortcuts for Managing Comments

If you have a busy blog, sorting through hundreds of comments daily can become a real chore.

Luckily, if you memorize some of these commands, you should be able to cut down your moderation time to a matter of minutes. In order to do so, you must select the comment first and then press the corresponding key.

Here is the full list of commands:

A (Approve) – Approves the selected comment to be published
D (Delete) – Sends the comment to the trash and/or deletes comment
S (Mark as Spam) – Marks the comment as spam
Z (Undo) – Undo previous command
U (Unapproved Comment) – Sends a previously approved comment back into the moderation queue
R (Reply) – Start a reply to the selected comment
Q (Quick Edit) – Quick edit of selected comment
E (Edit) – Advanced editing of selected comment
X (X marks the spot) – Ticks the checkbox

Bonus WordPress Hacks You Should Know

Up until here, I figured it would be boring and insufficient to just talk about WordPress keyboard shortcuts. In this section, I’ve picked out 6 handy WordPress hacks that will change the way you blog forever (I will do a detailed post about it in the future).

Again, these WordPress hacks don’t require any sort of coding or technical knowledge, and you can implement them into your blogging routine immediately.

Let’s get started!

1. Go Full-Screen For Zero Distractions

To write as efficiently and effectively as possible, you need zero distractions. The simple solution is to switch to full-screen editor, which gives you a stark-white canvas to work from.

Upon clicking on it, the essential formatting tools such as headings, links and lists are still there. They are just hidden away, appearing only when you place your mouse pointed at the top of the screen.

To get into the full-screen editor (called the Distraction – Free Writing Mode in WordPress), click the full-screen icon from your standard WordPress editor menu.

You can also get there by using a keyboard shortcut. Just press Alt + Shift + w.

To close the full-screen editor, press Escape. Or click the “Exit full-screen editor” link. (Actually, just press escape. It’s faster, and that’s what this post is about right?)

2. Let WordPress Do the Heavy Lifting When Finding Internal Links

If you’ve noticed on all of our SEOPressor blog posts, we love to build internal links form our new articles to those published ones. So whenever we come across opportunities to link to something we’ve written before, we’ll jump at it.

In the past, this led to a ton of “site:blog.seopressor.com keyword” searches in Google to find a suitable content. But a far better way exists.

Inside the dialogue box to insert/edit a link, there’s an easily-missed option lurking at the bottom – “Or link to existing content”

The dialogue box expands to how all the posts you’ve ever written on your blog.

Click the post you want to link to and WordPress automatically copies that post into the URL and Title fields up above.

3. Clean Up Your WordPress Dashboard

If you’ve installed plenty of plugins, I’m sure your WordPress dashboard can get pretty messy. Want to clean it up so that it isn’t such an eyesore?

Keep what you need; hide what you don’t. Voila!

Simple. Just click on “Screen Options” at the top right corner of your dashboard, and a list of all the widgets/blocks which you’ve got on your dashboard will appear. You may hide or show the widgets as you please.

4. Keep Tabs On Your Word Count

You can check your word count any time by looking at the bottom of your post editor:

In the standard editor, the word count is at the bottom of the text box, just above the custom settings

5. Drop Images Right Into Your Post

This is a really cool feature on WordPress. For a while now, you could drag and drop images directly into the post itself, bypassing the “Add Media” button entirely!

A really helpful time saver.

6. Add Live Links With A Shortcut

If you’re linking out a lot to other contents when writing your posts, you’re sure to benefit from this feature. Basically, instead of having to select the text you want to add a link to and then clicking the “Insert Link” button from the toolbar, you can do it in a simpler way:

First, make sure that the URL that you want to use for the link is in your clipboard, then just highlight the text you want to link, and press Ctrl + v. The link will then be included automatically.

Takeaway

Now that you have been introduced to the amazing world of WordPress shortcuts, you should be able to exponentially increase your writing efficiency as you practice them. Condensing your actions down into split-second key presses will add up to a great amount of time especially when working on a long project.

Start byactivating your WordPress account to being practising. It’s okay if a shortcut or new workflow feels strange at first. Nobody becomes a true WordPress master overnight. But time spent learning these tricks could pay back ten times over.

In the near future, I will be back with a more advanced version of WordPress Keyboard shortcuts and hacks. So be sure to stay tuned!

What’s next you ask? Content optimization of course. To know more about it, you can check out this blog post on ways to optimize your On-Page SEO.

As for now, it’s time to take your blogging to the next level!

Do you have a favorite set of shortcuts that I haven’t touched on? Which shortcut do you find to be the handiest? Share your input down in the comments section down below and get the conversation rolling!

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background-size: contain;
background-repeat: no-repeat;
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font-family: “roboto”, helvetica, sans-serif;
margin-left: 20px;
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18 Effective Tips To Generate Ideas For Your Blog

The ultimate guide for every blogger to get more ideas for your blog post.
Identify the potential topics that you should have in your blog
Get more traffic to your website by applying these techniques
18 useful tips included to help you get creative on blog titles

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SEO for boring products

SEO for boring products

By SEO for boring products, we mean SEO for products that are impossible to write exciting content for. Products that need a thousand words to describe all tiny details and small print, but are, in the end, just car insurances, paper clips or emergency exit signs. We have all had or have been that customer that just could not come up with the right, engaging content. Sometimes it’s just hard to write something that makes sense about a product, from your own perspective. In this article, we’ll explain how to approach SEO for boring products!

Want to learn practical SEO skills to rank higher in Google? Our Basic SEO training is just what you need! »

$199 – Buy now » Info

First: get the basics right

Regardless of what product you’re selling, you always need to make sure that the basics of SEO for your site are right. That means that you’ll have to put some decent effort into:

keyword research
site structure
technical SEO

You’re in luck. At Yoast, we offer SEO courses for every one of those aspects. Or you could start out with our Basic SEO training and take it from there. And if you are using WordPress, install our Yoast SEO plugin and we’ll cover a lot of these basics for you. So far for commercial messages.

Are your products boring, to begin with?

Sometimes we feel like a product is boring, but in the end, it really isn’t.  We’re not selling insurance; we’re selling safety. You’re not selling paper clips; you’re cleaning up or organizing a messy office desk. A hammer isn’t used to drive in a nail; we’re using it to hang a painting.

If you look closely at the goal of your product for the end user, you might find that, even though your technical specs might be boring, there is still an engaging story to tell. SEO for boring products could be less about the product itself, focusing instead on the purpose of the product. That’s just the first step. Don’t be modest about your products, but look at them from your customer’s angle.

The product category, not the product

Even with the purpose of your product in mind, we understand that it’s incredibly hard to write engaging content for every one of your 1,500 types of screws. Yes, some may have other uses than others, but in the end, a screw is a screw. When it’s hard to optimize every single product page (I’m not saying it’s impossible), you could take a closer look at your category page instead. The same rules apply: look at your product category’s purpose, not at the actual products. We’re knitting a scarf, not selling threads of wool here.

Content ideas for boring content

Content used for SEO for boring products could be just informative. But it should also be content that people want to link to and share on social media. So, perhaps you could also think along the lines of more entertaining content, like a funny product video. We see a lot of these nowadays, right? Besides that, keep in mind that your product page isn’t the only place on your website that’s suitable to inform people about your product. You could have general pages about your company that are suitable for product promotion. And what about your blog? Your blog is an excellent spot to talk more in-depth about your products, like we do on our blog about our courses and plugins. A blog is obviously awesome to help with SEO for boring products.

Learn how to write awesome and SEO friendly articles in our SEO Copywriting training »

$199 – Buy now » Info

Here are some content ideas

The input for these pages can be found everywhere. And can be quite diverse.

Check social media for ideas – what is the competition doing? You are not the only one in your niche or industry, so you’ll probably get some good ideas on what to do and what not to do. See what the competition is doing, see if something similar fits your brand and create your own stories, blog posts, product pages based on that. Learn, but don’t imitate. Improve what your competitor is doing.
Talk to your users and get their stories, so people can relate to that. Recognition is always a trigger for me. If I can relate to a story about a product – not necessarily because the product appeals to me, but the person telling the story is someone that I can relate to- the product already becomes more appealing. Think similar social groups, age categories, etcetera. Talk to your users, tell their story about your product. What have they gained by it, what did it bring them? How did their lives become better after purchasing your product or reading your website?
Write an extensive how-to or manual – people are always looking for how-tos, right? If you are selling travel insurances, your visitor wants to know what they have to do when they actually need that insurance. Will it be hard to reach you and talk to you? I can imagine a lot of them want to know how to do that upfront. And why not go overboard: how to make an elephant out of a paper clip. I’m sure it can be done. But that’s a whole different angle.
Add videos. Perhaps even more than written howtos, people watch videos. When I’m looking for a product that will set me back a certain amount of money, usually certain gadgets and other stuff I think I really need, I watch unboxing videos, people using the product and preferably live reviews. I want to see other people sharing their stories, so feel free to create that video after talking to your users as mentioned before!
Create a user story and start storytelling. Storytelling is hot, you see it more and more. ‘Create’ users and share their experiences online. Social media is excellent for this, but your blog also provides a solid base for storytelling. We mentioned before in an article about testimonials that “stories have a positive influence on a customer’s perception of a brand, as well as the willingness to purchase. Stories can affect behavior, given that the story resonates with your visitor.” And you can craft that story to your own needs, as long as you keep it natural. Create a story people can relate to.
Top 10 tips and other awesome ideas with your product. I just wanted to mention this separately. The paper clip elephant could easily grow into a top 10 paper clip animals – great for social sharing. Emergency exit signs are boring, but I’m sure a few of those appear in leading roles in Hollywood blockbusters. On a more serious note, in the case of the insurances, the top 10 tips for travels to <insert country> and that travel checklist are great ideas that will attract visitors. Again, check the competition and learn from them.

SEO for boring products is about making a product less boring by focusing less on the product and more on the visitor/customer and the reason they need your product. These stories, combined with a solid SEO base and an engaging social media strategy will help you a lot.

Good luck optimizing

The last thing that I would like to mention, is that there is a real opportunity here. If you manage to make your SEO for boring products work, if you manage to create engaging content for products that you thought were dull and uninteresting, this is going to give you an edge on your competitors. You are not alone in finding it hard to come up with that content. All your competitors are probably struggling as well. Get creative! Good luck optimizing.

Read more: Product page SEO »

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Paid Search Targeting Brand Keywords = SEO Death

Paid Search Targeting Brand Keywords = SEO Death

For fans of the long-running SEO Death series, this isn’t really a new issue. About two years ago I posited Is Your Adwords Campaign Hijacking Your SEO Traffic?

The answer of course was “yes.” Here’s the graph that illustrated the problem:

I am re-upping this because we just got a new client that hired us because their organic traffic had started tanking, but when you looked at the data in Google Search Console, it only showed brand queries were tanking. And said tanking started pretty much when the paid traffic started increasing.

We did some back of the envelope calculations on SEMRush CPC data available for their brand queries and we calculated this client is spending an additional $20,000/day to buy $50,000 in revenue*. This isn’t such a bad deal until one considers that until the increase in paid search traffic, the client was spending ~$0 to achieve that revenue. So their margins just took a 40% haircut.

So, next time your organic traffic tanks, before you panic try this:

 Look at the Performance report in Google Search Console for your site (for all variants)
Filter the report by “Queries containing” a proxy for a brand query. It may not always be easy to do when you have a generic brand name, but try different phrases to see what captures the most traffic that is properly bucketed
If you see the traffic for queries containing your brand term going down while traffic for queries not containing your brand term is flat or going up, move on to step #4
Look over at the paid search team. If they are high-fiving each other, we have a winner…

 

*Data has been changed to protect the innocent

The post Paid Search Targeting Brand Keywords = SEO Death appeared first on Local SEO Guide.

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Why Content Marketing Works for Me and Not You

Why Content Marketing Works for Me and Not You

It’s funny, when I meet people who are leveraging content marketing, they always tell me one of two things…

Either they can’t figure out how to generate traffic (no matter how many blog posts they publish)…

OR

They’ve figured out how to generate more traffic, but the traffic hasn’t turned into any sales or new customers and they can’t figure out why.

Now, I know what you are thinking… there are so many companies that make millions from content marketing that there must be a way to make it work.

But here’s the thing. Because of my ad agency, I am able to talk to thousands of companies each year and dig into their marketing. And of the ones that leverage content marketing, most aren’t able to generate even one sale from it.

In other words, it’s not working for them.

It’s not because content marketing is flawed. It’s that most people don’t fully understand it.

Why doesn’t content marketing work for most businesses?

What most people don’t realize is that all visitors are not the same. And I’m not talking about demographics and income, I’m talking about intent.

When you land on a web page that ranks on Google because of content marketing, your actions are going to be different than if you clicked on a paid listing.

And it’s not because one is paid and one is organic… here’s what I mean.

When you do a search on Google for the term “auto insurance” you’ll see a search results page that looks something like this:

And you’ll either click on a paid listing or an organic one.

Here’s what one of the paid listings looks like:

And here’s what one of the organic listings looks like:

As you can see, the organic listing contains a lot of content… including information about the city where I performed the search, insurance options, and why I should choose Nationwide.

To some extent, it is educational and salesy all at the same time, but I’m not being sold as hard as the paid listing from AAA.

The AAA landing page only has 73 keywords. That’s it… a measly 73 keywords.

In other words, if you land on the AAA landing page you are going to click on one of the two insurance options.

On the other hand, if you land on the Nationwide site (who leverages content marketing), your eyes focus on the text instead of filling out the auto insurance lead form.

And that’s what I mean by intent.

Even though I performed the search “auto insurance,” I’m more likely to buy from the AAA site because it’s a more aggressive landing page. The Nationwide site puts me in a more educational mindset, in which I am going to read and do some research versus just getting a quote.

And Nationwide isn’t doing this because they want to educate. They are doing this because it is really hard to rank organically without providing tons of content.

Google loves content, hence the average web page that ranks on page one contains 1,890 words.

That’s why Wikipedia ranks for everything under the sun.

If you are going to leverage content marketing, you have to keep in mind that when people land on your site it will put them in the mood of reading and learning instead of buying.

So, does that mean content marketing doesn’t work?

Content marketing is amazing, and it still works really well. It doesn’t produce as many conversions as paid advertising, but you can also build up massive amounts of traffic without burning a hole in your wallet.

Let’s look at NeilPatel.com and how I leverage content marketing.

Over the last 31 days, this blog has generated 2,510,893 visits of which 1,609,314 were unique. And those visitors generated 5,890,103 pageviews.

That’s not bad, especially if you consider that I am not really leveraging paid ads (other than the few blog posts I modestly boost on Facebook each month).

And during that time period, we generated 1,942 leads within the United States of which 262 came from companies who were spending over $5,000 a month on marketing.

Most leads don’t turn into sales within 30 days as our sales cycle is longer, but so far those leads have generated $972,860 in contract value (we haven’t collected all of that money yet, but we will over the next 12 months).

The number I shared above is just revenue, it’s not profit. That number, of course, will go up as many more of the leads will turn into contracts but at the same time, my expenses will go up too.

So, can you guess how I generated almost a million dollars in new contracts in just 30 days.

Well first off, it wasn’t me… I have an amazing sales team lead by a guy named Nick Roshon. And we have an amazing fulfillment team that helps the sales team close more deals.

But the lead generation is all me… and that came from content marketing.

In other words, content marketing works… as long as you think about it the right way.

So how should you think about content marketing?

The first part is traffic. You need traffic before you can do anything else.

How do you build up traffic via content marketing?

Well, you need to write blog posts. I won’t go too in-depth on how to write blog posts as I have tons of blog posts already on that.

How to write a blog post in 45 minutes – this post breaks down how you can write amazing content without it taking up too much of your time.
How to become a better blogger in 30 days – once you’ve committed to blogging, you naturally want to improve your skills. This post will teach you how to do that over the next 30 days.
Or hire my agency – if you just want someone to do it for you, you can always reach out to us.
Or hire and manage writers yourself – you can always use the Problogger Job Board to find writers.

If you are going to take the route of hiring other writers, make sure you tell them the following rules:

You and I – use the words “you” and “I” to make the blog posts seem like a conversation. For example, “Don’t you hate it when people tell you that some things just aren’t possible? I know I do.” You see how that sounds conversational?
3 sections – a blog post should be structured with 3 main sections: Introduction, body, and conclusion. By structuring every one of your posts the same way, your readers will know what to expect and it will make it easier to skim your content. (The majority of your website visitors will skim and not read.)
Conclusion – the conclusion should be labeled “Conclusion.” The reason you want to do this is that roughly 8% of your readers will scroll down to the bottom of your blog post to read the conclusion. If they like the conclusion they will scroll back up and read the rest. (The 8% stat is from NeilPatel.com. I’m not sure what the percentage will be for your blog but I used Crazy Egg to figure this out.)
Subheadings – the body should contain subheadings, that way it is easier for people to skim. The subheadings should describe what the section is about and if you can naturally place keywords within it, feel free to do so. Just don’t force it.
Short paragraphs – try to keep the paragraphs less than 5 or 6 lines. It’s easier on the eyes, especially on mobile.
Facts and data – use stats and data to back up your talking points. Feel free to reference other sites and link to them. This will validate your content and also brand you as an authority over time.
Images – use screenshots and photography to help get your point across. Some people are visual learners, so use images when it makes sense. If you are using someone else’s images, look for copyright information and make sure you cite your sources.
2,000 to 3,000 words – it varies per industry, but if you are in a competitive industry, consider making your blog posts 2,000 or more words. I showed you earlier in this post how Google prefers ranking content that is at least 1,890 words on page 1. If you are not in a competitive industry, you can write content that is less than 1,000 words. Over time you can go back to the blog posts that are gaining traction and expand them.
Headlines have to be amazing – 8 out of 10 people will read your headline but only 2 out of 10 will click through and read the rest of your article. Before you hit the publish button, check out these stats from Buzzsumo on writing appealing headlines.
End with a question – wrap up your conclusion with a question. People are more likely to leave a comment when you ask them a question. Make sure you do this as you want engagement.

Now that you have the writing process down, it’s time to come up with topic ideas. The easiest way to figure out what’s hot is to just type in keywords within your space on Buzzsumo.

You just insert a keyword and Buzzsumo will show you all of the articles around the web that are popular related to that keyword.

By doing this you will see what people like in your space. I’m not saying you should copy these articles but instead to use them for ideas. The last thing you want to do is write content that people don’t care to read.

In addition to typing in a keyword, you can also type a URL into Buzzsumo. For example, I typed in Hubspot.com and it shows me all of their top articles.

This will give you an idea of what is working for your competition.

Now that you have some topic ideas, it’s time for you to write a blog post (or pay someone to write it for you). Just keep in mind your content has to be better than your competition. If it isn’t better than what they have, it will be hard for you to get more social shares or outrank them.

When I publish a blog post, I like asking myself the following questions:

Is your blog post more actionable than your competitors? (If not, fix it.)
Did you write on something unique or provide a different perspective than your competition? (If not, fix it.)
Would you be embarrassed if a friend or co-worker read your article? (Don’t ever publish something you wouldn’t want others to read… fix your content.)
Would you be willing to ask other people to share your content on social media and link to it? (If not, make your content better.)
Did you come up with 10 headline variations? (Don’t settle on your first headline, try to think of better ones.)

Assuming you passed all of the questions, it’s time to publish your content and generate some traffic.

So how do I generate traffic?

Sadly, there is no quick way to grow your traffic. It’s a slow grind, but over time your traffic will go up.

Here’s the traffic to the NeilPatel.com blog when I first started:

As you can see I generated 9,065 unique visitors in my first month back in August of 2014. I generated those visitors from the 4 strategies that I will break down in a bit (they still work).

And if you fast forward to the 1-year mark, I was able to 10x my traffic by August of 2015.

My traffic has continually gone up over time as well, which you can see by scrolling back up towards the beginning of this post (I’m now at 2,510,893 monthly visits, yay!).

So how do you generate more traffic?

Well, first off you need to be patient. Don’t expect the same results I achieved. Marketing is what I do, and I’m willing to dedicate more time and energy than most people.

So here are the 4 strategies I used when I started NeilPatel.com (and I still use them today).

Keep in mind that these tactics work for all types of sites and I’m assuming here that you don’t have a social following, so I won’t be giving you basic advice like “share your article on LinkedIn”.

Strategy #1: Boosting posts

Still to this day I boost my posts on Facebook. It worked even better when I was starting off, but it still works well today as it helps generate traction.

As you can see from the screenshot above, I boosted my last week’s post. I tend to boost all of my posts, which is roughly 4 times a month.

I spend $400 per post. I pick the regions: United Stated States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom when boosting.

You should pick the regions where most of your ideal customers are (ideally, I should only be boosting within the United States) and make your boost lasts 2 weeks as the clicks will be cheaper than if you spent it all in one day.

If you continually do this your traffic will grow over time and you will also get more organic Facebook traffic by boosting.

If you aren’t, that means people don’t care for your content… which means you need to go back and adjust your content with the tips I broke down above.

Strategy #2: Email everyone you linked to

Within your blog post, you should have linked to other sites. As I mentioned above, you want to cite your sources and link to places where you are finding data/stats.

Every time I link to a website, I will go to their site and try to find the email of the website owner so I can let them know I linked to them.

But before I share with you an email template to send, keep in mind that you will have to modify it for your website. I can’t emphasize this enough.

And I know some of you don’t think emailing works because you get so many link building requests, but if it didn’t work you wouldn’t be getting all of those emails. 😉

I typically send an email that goes something like this…

Hey John,

Thanks for taking the time to come up with stats around XYZ. I know it’s hard work, but bloggers like me appreach it. I just borrowed some of your stats for my latest blog post and of course I linked to you and gave you credit.

[insert link to your blog post]

Feel free and check it out and let me know what you think.

Cheers,

Neil Patel

PS: If you like the post, feel free and share it on your favorite social network. 

PPS: If you ever come up with any other cool research, let me know. I may want to include it in a future post.

You need to customize the email template because the more customized it is, the better it will do.

I’ve found that if I email out 20 people, 4 or 5 usually will email me back saying thanks.

When emailing people, keep in mind that there are GDPR rules. So, you may be better off going through the contact forms on people’s website versus just sending them a cold email.

If you aren’t sure if you are breaking any GDPR rules, check with a lawyer as they’ll know much more than I will.

Strategy #3: Top sharers

One of my favorite features of Buzzsumo is that it shows you all of the people who shared your competition’s content.

All you have to do is type in the URL of your competition and click on “view sharers.”

From there you will be presented with a list of people who shared that content.

You’ll want to go to each of their Twitter profiles (or do some Googling) to see if you can find their email address or website.

Similar to the previous strategy, you’ll want to email them something that goes like this:

Hey Amanda,

Hope you are doing well.

I noticed that you tweeted out [insert the title of the article they tweeted] by author [insert author name].

It’s a good article, but it doesn’t discuss [insert what the article is missing].

Because of that, I wrote a similar article that’s more complete and up-to-date.

Let me know if you would like to check it out.

Cheers,

Neil Patel

You’ll notice that I didn’t link to my article. I first wait for their reply as I have found it to produce better results.

Typically, they will email back with something like:

Sure, I would like to see it.

And then you’ll respond with:

Here you go:

[insert link]

Feel free and share it if you like it 🙂

Cheers,

Neil

PS: Let me know if I can share anything for you.

It ranges depending on which industry you are in but typically 9% to 30% of the people you email will share your article out as well.

If you are getting a percentage that is lower than that it means that your content isn’t that great or the people you are emailing tweeted the original article out years ago instead of recently (people forget what they tweeted over time).

Again, make sure you follow GDPR rules with this tactic (feel free and consult a lawyer). You can always message people through their website contact form as well.

Strategy #4: Beg for links

The last thing I like to do within Buzzsumo is to see who linked to my competitors. You can click on “view backlinks” to see who links to similar articles from your competitors.

From there you will see a list of backlinks pointing to your competition:

And just like the previous strategies you can do some manual outreach and send them an email that goes something like:

Hey John,

Hope you are doing well.

I was reading [insert URL of the page on their site that is linking out to your competition] and I noticed you mentioned [competition’s name].

The problem with the link is that you are pointing your readers to an article that isn’t complete. It doesn’t discuss [talk about why the competition’s article isn’t as useful and thorough].

If you want to fix this, check out my article below as it addresses everything I mentioned above.

[insert link to your article]

Cheers,

Neil Patel

PS: If you want to provide more value to your readers, feel free and link to my article.

PPS: Let me know if I can do anything for you.

The email template is a bit generic, but if you modify it, personalize it, and adapt it to your business you’ll see decent results.

If you email out 100 people you should get at least 4 to 6 links.

Again, make sure you check in with a lawyer about GDPR rules as you don’t want to get in trouble for sending off cold emails to people that you shouldn’t be.

You can also send the message using the contact forms on peoples’ websites.

Now that your traffic is growing, let’s focus on building up a community.

How to build a community

A blog without a loyal fan base is tough to monetize. Without this, you won’t do well. This is the big reason that most companies I talk to never do well with their content marketing.

They just lack a community.

This doesn’t mean you won’t be able to monetize if you don’t have a community, it just means it will be harder.

But before I go into building a community, you’ll want to leverage social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn. Just remember that as they continually adjust their algorithms, it will be harder to rely on them.

For that reason, I like focusing on the tactics below.

Tactic #1: Subscribers

Some of you may have noticed that every time I publish a new blog post you get a browser notification telling you about it.

Just through browser notifications, also known as push notifications, I am able to generate an extra 42,316 visitors per month.

The way I do this is through a free tool called Subscribers.

Subscribers allows your blog readers to subscribe to your blog through their web browser (Chrome, Firefox, etc.).

The way it does this is by asking people if they want to receive “notifications” from your website (aka subscribe).

It’s the same strategy as Facebook and YouTube use.

The best part about it is that it is easy for your readers to subscribe because all they have to do is click “allow”. They don’t have enter in their name, email address or any personal information.

Once you sign up for Subscribers it will give you a JavaScript or a WordPress plugin to install. Every time someone goes to your website they will then receive a notification similar to the Facebook example above.

And over time your subscriber count will continually increase… here’s a screenshot of my dashboard with my subscriber count:

As you send out push notifications, you’ll see that people will “unsubscribe” themselves, similar to email, which is fine. But in general, it is the most effective way to boost your traffic.

All you have to do is hit the “send a notification” button within your Subscribers dashboard if you want to notify your subscribers of a new blog post. When you hit the “send a notification” button, you will see a screen that looks like this:

You can even add UTM codes, which will give you tracking within your Google Analytics.

You can pick what image you want to include with the push notification (as well as see a preview of it on the left side) and you can schedule it if you want it to go out at a later time or day.

Once you hit send, your subscribers will get a notification that looks something like this in their browser:

Whether you decided to use UTMs or not, you can always see your stats for each push within your Subscribers dashboard.

Even though I don’t talk about push notifications much, it really is the easiest way to build a community and get people to come back to your site.

There is only one issue when you use tools like Subscribers, you have to be patient. You won’t have a big list of subscribers from day one. It will take months before you see it really kicking in.

It’s more effective than email marketing and best of all Subscribers is free.

Tactic #2: Collect emails

Similar to tactic number 1, a lot of you are on my email list. I received 37,726 visitors from emailing out blog posts over the last 31 days.

Although that number may not seem high, emails make up one of my most loyal segments. If I do an email blast selling a product or service, I can instantly generate $100,000 (seriously).

And similar to Subscribers, I use a free email collection tool called Hello Bar to collect emails and build a community.

You can go, signup, add your website, and install the WordPress plugin they give you (or JavaScript).

Once you are up and running I would create an exit popup similar to what I have on NeilPatel.com.

I know most of you don’t like exit popups, but they are really effective. I collect over 1,000 emails a day from my exit popup.

As long as you are providing value and giving away something people will love, then they won’t mind entering their email address.

There are two cool parts about Hello Bar that I love:

It’s GDPR compliant – they have GDPR settings in there.
It has custom targeting settings – you can pick who sees your optin and when they see it. For example, I only show it to people once and only when they are leaving the site.

Once you log into Hello Bar, you’ll see a wizard that looks something like this:

You can choose from tons of different templates and designs. You can even upload a custom background image if you want (for this purpose I just picked the most basic template to show you how it works).

And once you pick a template you like, you can easily modify the design or image using the WYSIWYG editor.

If you also have traffic from different sources like I do (mobile, tablet, desktop) you can pick different layout types and designs for each device type.

You can also create different popups for different regions. For example, here is my Hello Bar exit popup for Brazil:

Out of all the methods I’ve tested for email collection, exit popups work the best.

But if you really don’t want to use them, you can create sliders, bars, and other forms of email collection boxes using Hello Bar that aren’t as aggressive.

Now that you have an email list going, you’ll want to send out an email blast to your list every time you publish a blog (or every time you publish an amazing one if you blog too often – you don’t want to clutter people’s inbox).

What I’ve found is that I generate more comments and social shares from my push notification and email list than any other channel.

To give you an idea, over the last 31 days, push notifications made up 38.5% of my blog comments and email has made up 32.3% of my comments.

It’s crazy… they beat out every other channel by far.

So, what’s next?

Well, assuming you are growing your traffic, collecting more subscribers and emails… you should be building a nice solid user base to monetize.

You have a few ways you can monetize.

The first is to just sell more products. A great example of this is Legion Athletics. It’s an 8-figure business that started with content marketing.

When you go to Legion’s blog, you’ll notice that they do a few things…

First, they try and push you into taking their quiz as it is a great way for them to make product recommendations based on your needs.

Once you start taking the quiz, they’ll ask you personalized questions so they can direct you towards the right supplements for you.

It’s one of the best ways to convert blog readers into customers. And if you don’t know how to create a quiz, just check out Lead Quizzes. It’s a software that does it for you.

It works so well, I even have a quiz on NeilPatel.com.

In other words, quizzes work well for both B2B and B2C sites. It doesn’t matter if you are selling a product, service, or info product, quizzes work.

Heck, at one point I was able to grow my lead count by 500% through quizzes.

Now going back to Legion, they also do a few other things really well.

They notify you every time there is a new purchase made on their site. (Timothy Sykes also does a great job with this.)

And they have different types of exit popups depending where you are on their site.

Some of them sell products:

And some focus on collecting emails (they do something smart, which is they ask you a question before asking for your email… typically converts better):

By showcasing all of these examples from Legion, I am trying to show you that content marketing does convert if you focus on the conversion aspect.

Remember how earlier I talked about how when people go to websites with content they are there to read and learn? That doesn’t mean you can’t convert them into customers. You just have to put in a bit more work than just telling them to buy your product.

Legion grew to 8 figures a year using these tactics, which means it works. Sure, you all know I can do it, but the Legion team isn’t made up of marketers, it is made up of fitness fanatics.

Even Timothy Sykes, he generates 61% of his sales from content marketing. That’s a business that makes well into the millions of dollars per month.

So what’s my secret sauce?

I showed you how Legion monetizes their blog, now I want to show you how I monetize my blog.

I use 5 main channels to convert my content marketing traffic into leads and then my sales team converts those leads into revenue.

But before I go over them, keep in mind this will work if you have a personal blog or a corporate blog. And it will work if you are in B2B, B2C, selling products, collecting leads, or selling a service. In other words, it pretty much works for all blogs. 😉

Let’s go over each of them…

Tactic #1: Exit popups

I showed you my exit popup above and that’s I how I collect most of my emails. Once I collect an email, I send off an email that looks something like this:

[insert first name], as promised, here is the cheat sheet that breaks down how I ranked on page 1 of Google for terms like “online marketing” and “SEO”. (I hope you enjoy it… I spent a lot of time creating it.)

Just as a heads up, the cheat sheet is advanced, but if you follow it you’ll do well.

It goes over the tactics I personally use and over the next few weeks, I’ll also share a few marketing hacks that you won’t find anywhere else. 😉

Now, if you need more help, feel free and check out my ad agency, Neil Patel Digital, where we can do everything for you.

And if you have any questions, just hit the reply button and ask away. It’s my personal email and I am here to help you.

Seriously, don’t be shy.

Cheers,

Neil Patel

If you look at the email above, you’ll notice that I link to my ad agency.

That email helps collect a solid portion of my qualified leads. It doesn’t bring in the majority, but I’ve found that people on my email list are 278% more likely to turn into customers.

When you collect emails, don’t be afraid to promote your product or service. It doesn’t have to be in your first email, you can do it over time.

For example, Ramit from I Will Teach You to be Rich, usually waits 30 days to promote his products. You typically have to be on his email list for at least 30 days before you see any promotions.

Tactic #2: Lead flow funnel

On NeilPatel.com, you’ll notice that I have a few different URL optins.

On my homepage, I ask you for your URL:

And I push you through an analyzer that looks like this:

And then I collect a lead that gets passed to my sales team:

I have a similar flow on every page. For example, on blog posts, I have a top bar:

I also have them within the sidebar of my blog posts:

That simple analyzer that I am pushing traffic to accounts for over 90% of my leads. It works that well. Just look at how much revenue my sales team closed in the last 31 days (I shared it above).

You have to get creative with your funnel. If you are unsure of how to create a funnel, check out this blog post.

Tactic #3: Webinars

Once you are on my email list, you will see the opportunity to join my webinar.

From there I pitch you on my agency. If you are wondering how a webinar funnel works, you should read this blog post as I break it all down in there.

When I used to sell info products, for every 100 webinar registrations I was generating 3.6 sales. Each sale is worth $997. After refunds, the 3.6 sales would turn into $3,050.82.

I eventually ditched the info product webinar and focused on collecting consulting leads.

If you want to see my latest webinar presentation (feel free and use my slides and modify it for your business), you can download them here.

Tactic #4: Thank you pages

Have you seen my thank you page?

Everyone who opts into my email list sees it. I talk about my ad agency in a short video and it helps drive leads.

Tactic #5: Blog mentions

The last tactic I use to generate sales from content marketing is to just mention my business within my blog post.

How many times do you think I mentioned my ad agency, Neil Patel Digital, in this post?

Probably enough to generate an extra 500 to 1,000 visitors to my agency site.

The last time I did it, the agency had an all-time high of 970 visitors in one day. That’s not too shabby.

Sometimes it generates qualified leads and other times it doesn’t. But it’s a numbers game.

Conclusion

It’s much easier to grow traffic to a blog than it is to monetize. Content marketing is effective as long as you can drive qualified traffic and you can convert those visitors into customers.

For example, on NeilPatel.com I have a lot of posts about Instagram and how to grow followers. Although this Instagram post is one of my most popular pieces of content… in multiple languages…

Those visitors will never convert into qualified leads.

Before you do any form of content marketing, make sure you are really going after an audience that will buy your products and services.

Once you’ve got the targeting down, then start cranking out content, promoting it and building a community.

In general, it will take you a year to see decent results in traffic. And I would recommend that you avoid monetizing within the first 12 months. You could try to monetize earlier, but I’ve found it to slow down traffic growth.

So, I prefer investing in pure traffic growth during the first year and then slowly transitioning into monetization in year two. And to clarify, I don’t slow down on traffic growth and marketing, instead, I focus on both traffic and conversions.

Do you see why content marketing works for me and not most people? So, what are you waiting for… are you going to implement what you just learned?

The post Why Content Marketing Works for Me and Not You appeared first on Neil Patel.

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