One of the leading global event series, SES Conference and Expo, is headed for New York city the week of March 19th. The conference focuses on search and social media marketing, putting a special emphasis on tactics and best practices.The impressive agenda includes three full days of presentations by industry heavyweights including Avinash Kaushik, Marty Weintraub, Bruce Clay and Lee Odden.
Lee Odden, CEO of TopRank Online Marketing, will be speaking on the third day of the conference along with 4 other presenters during the afternoon session. His spotlight presentation is entitled ‘Content Marketing Optimization’ and he was generous enough to take the time to answer some tough questions on everything from Google+ dominating Facebook to how to make your blog successful. Thanks for the great insight, Lee! I’m looking forward to seeing you in New York.
Your SES NY presentation is entitled: ‘Content Marketing Optimization’ and focuses on optimizing content for search engines. How has the growth of the social web and Google’s social search impacted Search Engine Optimization?
There’s an interesting infographic about what happens on the web in 60 seconds that cites 694,445 queries on Google and 695,000 status updates on Facebook which really begin to underscore the growing parity between search and social. The value of networks has always been important but the growth of social interactions online are too rich to ignore both for their first level effects in terms of awareness and engagement but also latent influences as search engine ranking signals. A simple example is the effect of having your Google+ account included in a substantial number of others’ circles. The more people who have you in their circles, the more likely the things you’ve shared and interacted with (including your own content) will appear in their search results while logged into Google.
The other impact of social growth on search concerns the shift in consumer behaviors towards content and how they discover information online. The linear experience of searching, finding and purchasing is no longer the norm for most searchers. The consumer journey in becoming aware of solutions often weaves through social references and referrals to search engines for validation and facts then back to social before arriving to purchase (or some variation). The acts of content discovery, consumption and sharing represent new ways to look at optimization opportunities. A more holistic view towards optimization will help companies capture and keep customer attention using a combination of standard SEO and social media optimization. This is essentially the premise behind Optimize http://optimizebook.com
How would you define ‘Optimized content’?
Content that attracts, engages and inspires consumers to act in a way that is beneficial for the brand, the consumer and the network that the consumer is connected to.
In your recent blog post, ‘Social Engagement ROI & the Value of Exchange’ you discuss the dilemma of trying to establish a direct rate of return on social media tactics. How can marketers and agencies change this ‘direct rate of return’ model with their clients?
Short term gain is the lens through which marketing investments and marketer performance are most often judged. The post on social engagement ROI draws attention to the value of also measuring the long term value of building brand equity and connections through social networking and content.
A company that makes a compelling and relevant offer through social media channels might motivate the consumer exposed to it towards an act of commercial intent like download, sign up, trial, demo or even purchase. That has value of course and social media marketers should be held accountable to those kinds of outcomes when they’re promised.
At the same time, the effect of creating information and experiences for networks of people to conclude that your brand is the “go to solution” for a particular category can have a multiplier effect on word of mouth referrals, positive brand sentiment and effects like shorter sales cycle, greater order quantity, frequency and volume. If the only measurement on social media marketing activities is on short term revenue and not also on the long term and bigger picture effects of how a company is perceived, it becomes a matter of “can’t see the forest for the trees”. What value is there in getting 10 sales short term vs. getting 100’s of sales over a longer period of time with a similar rate of investment? It’s a matter of working, hard, smart and seeing the long term value.
In the same blog post, you indicate there are other non-ROI specific efforts worth measuring. Can you outline a few metrics or KPI’s that socially empowered businesses should be taking into account?
Benchmarking is important with any measurement endeavor and revenue related metrics like shorter sales cycle, greater order quantity, frequency and volume are worth paying attention to. At the same time, KPIs that reflect social awareness, engagement and sharing can reveal the “social health” of an organization. Some of those metrics include: mentions + context and sentiment, social referrers, community / network size and growth rate, inbound links, rate of engagement in terms of comments, RTs and shares + topics relevant to your business, micro-conversions from social channels such as demos, sign-ups, registrations, downloads, coupon redemptions, contests and trials. The mix really depends on the unique characteristics of the community and how the brand wants to participate.
While brands may be successful at specifically targeting content to an interested audience on social channels, not everyone is a prospect. That means making sure for those who connect with brand social content that it’s not just easy to buy but also to share. Some people may never buy a company’s product/service but it’s entirely possible that they’d refer that same company to their network. Word of mouth is still one of the most powerful means of customer acquisition and sales. Measuring the KPIs that reflect community engagement with a brand’s key messages and content are as much a proxy towards social ROI as rankings, links and visitors are KPIs for SEO.
When thinking about the future of social, do you feel Facebook will be ousted as the largest, global social network? If so, how soon? Do you feel Google+ offers any threat to Facebook?
Let me pull out my crystal ball. Darn, it’s a bit cloudy today. :) I think it’s interesting that Google is much further along in creating a social network than Facebook is in creating a useful search engine. But I don’t think Google+ offers a substantial threat to Facebook at this point. It’s hard to imagine Facebook suffering the fate of Myspace but as we’ve seen over the past 5-6 years of the social web, anything is possible. Google’s integration of Google+ into search makes it a “must have” in the search marketing mix, but I think it’s too early to claim it a major threat to Facebook. Google+ might just be more of a search play than a true social network effort. In other words, the rich data available to Google because of Google+ puts it that much further ahead of other search engines. Even if Google+ doesn’t become a major social networking threat to Facebook, Google still wins by having a better search engine.
You edit the extremely popular blog, ‘TopRank Online Marketing Blog’ and offer blog services to your clients. What are your top tips for businesses and marketers trying to grow their OWN blog communities?
Find a niche related to the major problems your business solves for customers and dominate it. Document what has made your niche efforts successful and duplicate that process to other topics relevant to your business.
As for the mechanics of growing a blog community, here are a few simple tips that have served me and TopRank quite well:
1. Facts tell, but stories sell. Tell stories! Whatever it is that you’re trying to communicate – boring, exciting or neither – always think of what “the story” is. You can find good stories in anything.
2. It’s not about you, it’s about them. Empathize with whatever market or audience you’re after. Put yourself in their shoes when thinking of topics, pain points and goals. Write about the journey to solving those problems.
3. People will work for a living, but die for recognition. Find ways to ask your readers, subscribers, fans, friends and followers to interact and participate. Reward and recognize the kind of participation you’re after. Repeat. The simple satisfaction of contributing and being recognized is one of the most powerful when developing a strong blog community.
4. A quantity of quality is what wins with blog content. There’s a lot of competition in the blogging space so it’s important to produce high quality, relevant and sharable content on a regular basis. We help companies plan and implement this but it’s entirely possible for companies to figure it out. Provide something your readers can’t find elsewhere and do that consistently.
5. Optimize and Socialize. Blog content that is easy to find in search and that is shared by credible sources on the social web can grow your community in very meaningful ways. People that search are often looking for something specific and when your blog content “ranks” well for those phrases, it lends instant credibility that can manifest as a subscriber and even media coverage from other bloggers and journalists.
About Lee Odden, CEO TopRank Online Marketing
Lee Odden is the CEO of TopRank Online Marketing, specializing in Internet marketing consulting, training, and implementation services. A veteran Internet marketer, Odden has consulted for clients such as HP, McKesson, Gorkana, Marketo and StrongMail. He is the author of Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing, and has been cited by The Economist, U.S. News & World Report, and Fortune Magazine. He writes a monthly column for ClickZ called Social Media Smarts and edits Online Marketing Blog, rated a top marketing blog by Advertising Age, Social Media Examiner and Junta42. He also conducts seminars for companies, and regularly presents at marketing, media, and public relations industry conferences world-wide.