Optimizing Content on Social Media: What Marketing Tactics Are Making Good Things Happen [Study Results]

As small business owners and marketers, producing content is just one step in the process of using it to help us reach our business goals…We also need to take steps to optimize it to get it in front of as many eyes as possible in our target markets.

Software Advice has partnered with Adobe in launching a  Social Media Content Optimization Survey to find out what marketers’ most effectively achieve through social media, which tactics work best, and more. They’ve been so kind as to share the information they’ve gathered so far, so I can share it with you.

While the Social Media Content Optimization Survey is still open, the early results show some interesting trends…

    • Marketers say that using images and photos is the most important tactic for optimizing content on social media.

 

    • Nurturing relationships, increasing brand awareness, and growing followers are top outcomes of optimizing social media content.

 

  • Generating leads and driving direct-response sales are least-impacted by social media content optimization.
According to Ashley Verrill of Software Advice who is leading the study, “Our survey results showed that images and photos are among the effective elements for ensuring your social media content is successful towards campaign goals–particularly when combined with #hashtags, username callouts and @-mentions that allow you to target specific people.”

 

Which social media content optimization tactics are working?

Here’s how they stack up according to the respondents so far…

Most effective social media content optimization tactics

 

What do marketers find social media most effective at accomplishing?

Here’s what survey participants have said they’ve gained through their social media efforts…

 

Top outcomes of social media marketing
Do the most effective tactics and accomplishments shared by the respondents match what you’ve experienced in your social media efforts? I’ve found much of what the participants have shared to be true in my solopreneurial business…although I’d score “generate leads” a bit more favorably.

 

Social media success: What does it mean?

“Success” with social media can mean different things to different people. It all comes down to expectations and aspirations.

 

Verrill explains, “As far as what ‘success’ means for social media marketers when it comes to optimizing content, most are using the medium for nurturing relationships with existing customers over driving direct sales–hence the emphasis on using tactics that target specific people and groups; It’s a more personalized means for connecting with customers. At the same time, marketers said social content optimization is really important for building brand awareness. I think this is actually very connected to their efforts to nurture relationships because the more they can get customers talking about their brand, the more that customer’s friends, family and social circles will be exposed to it.”

 

For more information about the survey results, please visit the related post on the B2B Marketing Mentor blog by Software Advice.

 

By Dawn Mentzer
Another Insatiable Solopreneur™ post

Duplicate Content: Could Allowing Another Site to Copy Your Content Strip Your Website of Its Stripes?

When another blogger asks permission to share your content, it’s flattering. What a satisfying feeling to know others 2 zebra imagebelieve your insight is worth sharing with their audience. Most often, people will simply share your post’s link via their social channels or give your post mention in one of their posts. But occasionally, you may discover that someone who has asked permission to share your post has duplicated your post’s content entirely – the only difference between their content and yours being a note of attribution with a link to your original post.

Duplicate Content – Could an earnest, honest effort to raise awareness of your content get your website slapped by Google?

It happened to me just about a month ago. A very nice, professional, courteous connection asked if he could share my post via his channels provided he gave attribution. I was of course thrilled to give my approval. But when I discovered my post, including the title, was directly duplicated (aside from the attribution) on his blog, I felt my heart leap into my throat for a moment as visions of being penalized in search or ranking by Google played on my mind. Assuming the duplicate content could negatively affect both my site and his, I reached out to him and asked if he could alter his title, write an introductory blurb with an excerpt from my post, and then link to my blog rather than copying and pasting the entire article. He cooperated immediately; he hadn’t realized copying the content could potentially create problems for our sites.

We dodged that bullet, right? That’s what I thought, but then I noticed duplicate content shown by some other sites and began wondering if there was any bullet to dodge at all. For example, I ran across this blog that essentially copied and pasted this other blog’s post verbatim – title and all! And neither the syndicator nor the syndicated are novices or newbies!

What Google says about duplicate content.

According to its guidelines in the Webmaster’s Tools Help section of Google’s Support site, Google doesn’t automatically penalize sites for duplicate content; only if it perceives the duplication has been shown with intent to manipulate rankings and deceive Google search users.  The penalty if Google deems duplicate content was done in an attempt to game the system: “As a result, the ranking of the site may suffer, or the site might be removed entirely from the Google index, in which case it will no longer appear in search results.”

So, it sounds like we might have been in the clear after all. Surely, Google would be able to tell we weren’t trying to pull a fast one on them, right?

Maybe so, but after talking with a local online marketing and SEO expert, I feel like I made the right decision.

Real world observations about how duplicate content is treated by Google.

Owner of 1 Sky Media, John Oppenheimer, shares his insight and experience regarding the duplicate content issue…

Duplicate content has always been a concern for webmasters. Google has always suggested that duplicated content would not rank well. Their stance had been that the original copy would be indexed and potentially rank well, while subsequent copies would be ignored. In real world practice, however, this has not always been the case. We’ve had original test sites that have garnered the wrath of a Google penalty while later launched copies have lived on without issue. We’ve also had virtually duplicated sites that lived harmoniously.

In the winter of 2011, with the emergence of Google’s Panda algorithm update, the search world changed. Google’s policy regarding duplicate content grew some teeth. We witnessed duplicated sites/pages drop instantly from near the top of Google’s ranking to the basement floor. The handwriting had been on the wall for this for years, so it was really no surprise when the change came. Today, we suggest that if your website writings are to be copied that you request a delay in the copy such that your copy can be indexed first and hopefully gain recognition as the original source. We also suggest that an excerpt is better than a pure copy and that in either case a credit and link must be given on the copied text directly to the source page of the original.

Duplicate content: You decide.

With all that John shared, I’m confident the smart thing to do was play it safe, but you need to decide for yourself when someone asks to share your content. Have a policy in place about how you’ll want your content shared from someone else’s blog and follow up after it’s posted there to make sure your wishes have been carried through.

All in all, keeping in the clear just takes a minute or two of your time and some clear communication. And keep in mind that although we fuss and fret over the changes Google has made, ultimately they have vastly improved the user’s search experience.

In the words of John at 1 Sky Media:

Seems somewhat odd when you think about it, Google is nothing more than copies of all websites indexed, yet we must be concerned about copying! The enforcement of duplicate copy rules has in fact improved the search experience because we no longer need to go through page after page of virtually identical copy, supplied from different websites, whenever searching competitive topics.

 

Your turn: Have you let others copy and paste your content onto their blogs? Have you experienced any repercussions by Google as a result?

 

By Dawn Mentzer

 

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SEO for Solopreneurs: Common Mistakes and Practical Tips

SEO. The mere sight and sound of it makes some solopreneurs and small business owners cringe. Yes, we want our ID-10091654websites to be found by search engines. No, we don’t want to spend a gazillion dollars to make that happen. Yes, it’s all very confusing! So what’s a solopreneur or freelancer to do?

I’ve had the opportunity to get some answers to a few solopreneur-focused SEO questions from Ashley Verrill, Market Analyst at Software Advice. I think her insight and practical tips will give you a better understanding of SEO – and a firmer grasp on what elements of SEO are within your control.

In your experience, what do you think the biggest mistake solopreneurs/freelance professionals make with their websites from an SEO perspective?
I would say the biggest mistake I see is people not ensuring that they have the most relevant keywords in the right places in their website architecture — the most important (though not the only) being the Title Tag, H1, and meta description. These will dictate not only how Google, Bing and other search engines rank you; but also your click through rate. SEO is kind of a moving target, so what’s good today, might not be the best next year. So, you should definitely read-up on best practices for these website infrastructure attributes before committing to anything. You also want to make sure that the keywords you choose are not only relevant, but receive the most traffic. Google Adwords can easily help you with both of these things.
Another huge mistake I see is companies falling for these so called “magic link builders.” A lot of these black hat link-building kind of websites that offer free or paid link directories will actually damage you more than they help you. In fact, I would say they won’t help you at all, especially in today’s SEO climate.

What would you say are the top 3 things solopreneurs/freelance professionals can do on their own to improve their SEO?

Like I said, SEO is changing all of the time, and no one really knows “the answer” to cracking the Google algorithm. But there are definitely three things I can say are valuable for any website right now. These would be in addition to making sure all of the pages on your website are optimized for keywords that drive really relevant traffic, avoiding duplicate content, and maintaining the order of your website infrastructure.

One, would be building links from highly-authoritative websites (e.g. big media) and websites that are highly-relevant to your market and industry. These links should be natural (a link in the comment section of an article doesn’t count). The second most valuable thing right now would be website engagement. So ensuring that a healthy proportion of your website visitors stay on site, click to other pages, and interact with things on the page (rather than immediately navigating away). This signals to Google that you are a real business, and you are providing information and services that people actually want. This is where blogs play a big role. Not only do they drive traffic, but they drive visitors that actually stick.

The last factor is social media signals, for a lot of the same reasons as onsite engagement. Every time someone shares something from your website, it’s like a vote to Google for your authority (similar to how they count links, but not in the same way, at least not yet). Again, this is another place where your blog (and other content, e.g. infographics, eBooks, Webinars, etc.) will really determine your success.

We all know that blogging can provide a lot of benefit with regard to SEO, how often do solopreneurs/freelance professionals need to blog for it to have a positive effect?

The frequency is not as important as the content. You can publish 20 blogs a week and never move the needle. You need content that is unique, valuable and relevant to your business. Google wants to see that you are driving relevant people to your website. If you’re just starting out, I would say do some keyword research around your ideal buyer’s biggest pain points, and use those as guides for finding the right topic. You won’t really know what’s successful until you have some data, so you’ll just need to start publishing. Watch your analytics to see which articles and topics get the most visits, shares, and time on page. Continue to write more about the most popular topics and make sure you’re adding to the conversation (not just regurgitating what other people have said).

Is “link building” still a valid way to build up your SEO mojo? What’s the best way to go about it?
Absolutely, but what we are learning is that it’s not about quantity of links as much as quality. The best way to get links is really just turning into good marketing. Create something valuable, promote it to key journalists, get a writeup, and that will organically produce links as other people read and share the article. We’ve had a lot of luck with original research. These are really easy to write about (people love data) and it’s natural to link to us because we are the source of the information.

Social media seems to play a BIG role in SEO. What recommendations can you make to solopreneurs/freelance professionals for optimizing how they use social media to improve their website ranking?
Make sure that you are participating in the the right communities and have relationships with the heavy hitters. Klout is great for finding the most influential people in your industry. Find them, and gather in the same communities they do. Sometimes the best method is to look at who’s doing it best in your community, then mimic everything they do. Also, you need ammunition, so again, really quality content is crucial. You need to give people a reason to follow you, and share your content. Also, return the favor. If someone likes your articles, find another time to go and comment on something they posted (and make sure it’s more than “great article”). You need to prove that you’ve actually read what they posted and have something insightful to say about it.

Ashley Verrill is a Market Analyst at Software Advice, as well the Managing Editor for the Customer Service Investigator blog. Ashley VerrillShe has spent the last seven years reporting and writing business news and strategy features, including articles for GigaOM and CIO.com. Her work has also been cited in myriad publications including Forbes, the New York Times and Inc. Previous to her current roll, she worked for five years as a Web Editor and Reporter for the Upstart Business Journal, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal. She also spend time in sales management and advertising with an Austin-based startup. She graduated from the University of Texas graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.

You can follow her on Twitter at: @CRMAdvice

Image courtesy of stuart miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Easy Money or Bad Deal? What You Might Put at Risk by Posting Paid Links in your Blog Posts

Last week, I received an email with this message…Links and shadow

Hello and Good Afternoon,

 I represent a client who is interested in purchasing a link advertisement on a new or upcoming post on your website, The Insatiable Solopreneur. I feel as though it is relevant and a great fit for your site! You can be as creative as you like when it comes to relating the link to your readers. Please let me know if this is something that may interest you or if you have further questions. I look forward to your response.

 Thank you in advance.

 

Sounds like easy, passive income for the earning, right? Accepting pay for posting links is legal and apparently not at all uncommon. But with Google’s refinement of its algorithms to identify (and give ranking priority to) quality, relevant content, you might want to weigh the risks and rewards before saying “Yes” to opportunities that cross your path.

Walking the Fine SEO Line

In case you’re approached with a similar opportunity, I’ve found several posts by SEO-savvy folks that share more insight about what might be at stake.

My take away from these is that you can include links for pay in your blog posts, but do so at the risk of your site’s own SEO well-being. The sites that the paid links connect to are apt get a slap from Google if the links are deemed “unnatural” (aka there purely for the sake of improving rankings). And as the publishing site, a particular blog post or your entire site might get also get penalized with lowered rankings on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page).

Penguin 2.0 Forewarning: The Google Perspective on Links by Eric Enge via Search Engine Watch

Google: That Paid Links Thing Goes For Google News Too by Chris Crum via WebProNews

Google Admits To Penalizing the BBC, But Only Granularly by Barry Schwartz via Search Engine Roundtable

Why You Should Fear Paid Links by Dustin Wright via Collective Publishing Company, Inc.

Tossing Credibility to the Curb

As scary as taking an SEO hit because of posting paid links might be, would you want to risk losing credibility with your readers? Your blog readers follow you faithfully because they trust you and find value in what you share. Start adding links to your posts for the sake of money rather than for the benefit of your readers and you’ll shatter your credibility. Unless the links are explicitly related to the content in your posts and add depth and additional information, it really won’t take very long for your followers to figure out that you’re a sellout.

What about you? Have you been approached about publishing links in your posts for pay? Or do you pay to have links to your posts published on other blog sites? I’m always open to alternative points of view and friendly debate, so I welcome you to comment here and share your thoughts!

Image courtesy of Carlos Porto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Getting Found Online: 3 Behaviors Essential to DIY SEO

Being part of the small business community as not only a solopreneur, but also as a volunteer with the local chapter of SCORE and my town’s Main Street organization, I know my fair share of new business owners who have websites that aren’t ranking well in online searches and who don’t know how to otherwise draw attention to their sites.

It’s frustrating for them – to say the least. When you’re getting your business off the ground, you want and NEED to be found. But most startup entrepreneurs don’t have the cash on hand to hire an SEO/SEM expert to help them drive traffic their way.

I’m certainly no SEO expert, but I’ve learned a lot and have realized some favorable results through my own experimentation with my online presence “formula.”  And there’s no reason why you can’t economically (i.e. free) make improvements to your online situation. My advice: emulate much of what web hosting and managed services provider Dynamicnet, Inc. published its blog post, Do It Yourself Search Engine Optimization

In a nutshell, blogging and social media hold the key to making others aware of your business, your offerings and your value proposition. And there are some core behavioral practices you’ll need to make part of the equation as well:

  • Be willing to do the hard time. – Setting up your blog and social media profiles takes thought and more time than you’ll want to spend, but you’ll need to suck it up and do it. The more consistent your brand is across each and every one of your points of online presence, the better your chances of being found when prospects are looking for someone who offers the services or products that you do.
  • Keep up keeping up. – Blogging and social media require discipline and ongoing attention. You need to be consistent in your efforts to engage and interact with your audience on those marketing channels. Luckily, your blog posts can serve as content for your social media posts, so you can kill multiple proverbial birds with one stone when you publish new blog articles. And there are tools (for example: Hootsuite, Buffer, Tweetdeck and others) that automate the sharing of content on – and simultaneously across – various social media.
  • Stick with it. – DIY SEO is not for the faint of heart. You may not see results the first day, or in the first week, or in the first month. Heck, you could be looking at a year or even longer before you actually get emails and phone calls from prospects who say, “I found you on Google.”  That doesn’t mean that your blogging and social media efforts won’t be driving people to your website or generating leads sooner, but getting found via organic search results can take much longer as a multitude of variables comes into play. And remember, not everyone can be on the first page. You might indeed need to hire someone to increase your chances of ranking there.

Recognize that getting noticed on the web won’t happen overnight. But with consistent effort to cross-pollinate by blogging and staying current with your social media, you’ll steadily increase the visibility of your business online.

 

 

Your turn! If you’ve done DIY SEO, what challenges and triumphs have you experienced? What strategies and tactics have worked best for you?