Tag Archive | "Internal"

Internal Linking & Mobile First: Large Site Crawl Paths in 2018 & Beyond

Posted by Tom.Capper

By now, you’ve probably heard as much as you can bear about mobile first indexing. For me, there’s been one topic that’s been conspicuously missing from all this discussion, though, and that’s the impact on internal linking and previous internal linking best practices.

In the past, there have been a few popular methods for providing crawl paths for search engines — bulky main navigations, HTML sitemap-style pages that exist purely for internal linking, or blocks of links at the bottom of indexed pages. Larger sites have typically used at least two or often three of these methods. I’ll explain in this post why all of these are now looking pretty shaky, and what I suggest you do about it.

Quick refresher: WTF are “internal linking” & “mobile-first,” Tom?

Internal linking is and always has been a vital component of SEO — it’s easy to forget in all the noise about external link building that some of our most powerful tools to affect the link graph are right under our noses. If you’re looking to brush up on internal linking in general, it’s a topic that gets pretty complex pretty quickly, but there are a couple of resources I can recommend to get started:

I’ve also written in the past that links may be mattering less and less as a ranking factor for the most competitive terms, and though that may be true, they’re still the primary way you qualify for that competition.

A great example I’ve seen recently of what happens if you don’t have comprehensive internal linking is eflorist.co.uk. (Disclaimer: eFlorist is not a client or prospective client of Distilled, nor are any other sites mentioned in this post)

eFlorist has local landing pages for all sorts of locations, targeting queries like “Flower delivery in [town].” However, even though these pages are indexed, they’re not linked to internally. As a result, if you search for something like “flower delivery in London,” despite eFlorist having a page targeted at this specific query (which can be found pretty much only through use of advanced search operators), they end up ranking on page 2 with their “flowers under £30” category page:

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

If you’re looking for a reminder of what mobile-first indexing is and why it matters, these are a couple of good posts to bring you up to speed:

In short, though, Google is increasingly looking at pages as they appear on mobile for all the things it was previously using desktop pages for — namely, establishing ranking factors, the link graph, and SEO directives. You may well have already seen an alert from Google Search Console telling you your site has been moved over to primarily mobile indexing, but if not, it’s likely not far off.

Get to the point: What am I doing wrong?

If you have more than a handful of landing pages on your site, you’ve probably given some thought in the past to how Google can find them and how to make sure they get a good chunk of your site’s link equity. A rule of thumb often used by SEOs is how many clicks a landing page is from the homepage, also known as “crawl depth.”

Mobile-first indexing impacts this on two fronts:

  1. Some of your links aren’t present on mobile (as is common), so your internal linking simply won’t work in a world where Google is going primarily with the mobile-version of your page
  2. If your links are visible on mobile, they may be hideous or overwhelming to users, given the reduced on-screen real estate vs. desktop

If you don’t believe me on the first point, check out this Twitter conversation between Will Critchlow and John Mueller:

In particular, that section I’ve underlined in red should be of concern — it’s unclear how much time we have, but sooner or later, if your internal linking on the mobile version of your site doesn’t cut it from an SEO perspective, neither does your site.

And for the links that do remain visible, an internal linking structure that can be rationalized on desktop can quickly look overbearing on mobile. Check out this example from Expedia.co.uk’s “flights to London” landing page:

Many of these links are part of the site-wide footer, but they vary according to what page you’re on. For example, on the “flights to Australia” page, you get different links, allowing a tree-like structure of internal linking. This is a common tactic for larger sites.

In this example, there’s more unstructured linking both above and below the section screenshotted. For what it’s worth, although it isn’t pretty, I don’t think this is terrible, but it’s also not the sort of thing I can be particularly proud of when I go to explain to a client’s UX team why I’ve asked them to ruin their beautiful page design for SEO reasons.

I mentioned earlier that there are three main methods of establishing crawl paths on large sites: bulky main navigations, HTML-sitemap-style pages that exist purely for internal linking, or blocks of links at the bottom of indexed pages. I’ll now go through these in turn, and take a look at where they stand in 2018.

1. Bulky main navigations: Fail to scale

The most extreme example I was able to find of this is from Monoprice.com, with a huge 711 links in the sitewide top-nav:

Here’s how it looks on mobile:

This is actually fairly usable, but you have to consider the implications of having this many links on every page of your site — this isn’t going to concentrate equity where you need it most. In addition, you’re potentially asking customers to do a lot of work in terms of finding their way around such a comprehensive navigation.

I don’t think mobile-first indexing changes the picture here much; it’s more that this was never the answer in the first place for sites above a certain size. Many sites have tens of thousands (or more), not hundreds of landing pages to worry about. So simply using the main navigation is not a realistic option, let alone an optimal option, for creating crawl paths and distributing equity in a proportionate or targeted way.

2. HTML sitemaps: Ruined by the counterintuitive equivalence of noindex,follow & noindex,nofollow

This is a slightly less common technique these days, but still used reasonably widely. Take this example from Auto Trader UK:

This page isn’t mobile-friendly, although that doesn’t necessarily matter, as it isn’t supposed to be a landing page. The idea is that this page is linked to from Auto Trader’s footer, and allows link equity to flow through into deeper parts of the site.

However, there’s a complication: this page in an ideal world be “noindex,follow.” However, it turns out that over time, Google ends up treating “noindex,follow” like “noindex,nofollow.” It’s not 100% clear what John Mueller meant by this, but it does make sense that given the low crawl priority of “noindex” pages, Google could eventually stop crawling them altogether, causing them to behave in effect like “noindex,nofollow.” Anecdotally, this is also how third-party crawlers like Moz and Majestic behave, and it’s how I’ve seen Google behave with test pages on my personal site.

That means that at best, Google won’t discover new links you add to your HTML sitemaps, and at worst, it won’t pass equity through them either. The jury is still out on this worst case scenario, but it’s not an ideal situation in either case.

So, you have to index your HTML sitemaps. For a large site, this means you’re indexing potentially dozens or hundreds of pages that are just lists of links. It is a viable option, but if you care about the quality and quantity of pages you’re allowing into Google’s index, it might not be an option you’re so keen on.

3. Link blocks on landing pages: Good, bad, and ugly, all at the same time

I already mentioned that example from Expedia above, but here’s another extreme example from the Kayak.co.uk homepage:

Example 1

Example 2

It’s no coincidence that both these sites come from the travel search vertical, where having to sustain a massive number of indexed pages is a major challenge. Just like their competitor, Kayak have perhaps gone overboard in the sheer quantity here, but they’ve taken it an interesting step further — notice that the links are hidden behind dropdowns.

This is something that was mentioned in the post from Bridget Randolph I mentioned above, and I agree so much I’m just going to quote her verbatim:

Note that with mobile-first indexing, content which is collapsed or hidden in tabs, etc. due to space limitations will not be treated differently than visible content (as it may have been previously), since this type of screen real estate management is actually a mobile best practice.

Combined with a more sensible quantity of internal linking, and taking advantage of the significant height of many mobile landing pages (i.e., this needn’t be visible above the fold), this is probably the most broadly applicable method for deep internal linking at your disposal going forward. As always, though, we need to be careful as SEOs not to see a working tactic and rush to push it to its limits — usability and moderation are still important, just as with overburdened main navigations.

Summary: Bite the on-page linking bullet, but present it well

Overall, the most scalable method for getting large numbers of pages crawled, indexed, and ranking on your site is going to be on-page linking — simply because you already have a large number of pages to place the links on, and in all likelihood a natural “tree” structure, by very nature of the problem.

Top navigations and HTML sitemaps have their place, but lack the scalability or finesse to deal with this situation, especially given what we now know about Google’s treatment of “noindex,follow” tags.

However, the more we emphasize mobile experience, while simultaneously relying on this method, the more we need to be careful about how we present it. In the past, as SEOs, we might have been fairly nervous about placing on-page links behind tabs or dropdowns, just because it felt like deceiving Google. And on desktop, that might be true, but on mobile, this is increasingly going to become best practice, and we have to trust Google to understand that.

All that said, I’d love to hear your strategies for grappling with this — let me know in the comments below!

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Internal links: Link building’s secret sauce

Contributor Andrew Dennis explains why you shouldn’t overlook internal links on your site: They leverage link equity from external links and direct organic visitors to important, converting pages.



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

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Voice-Over Coaching: Tips for improving external webinars, internal trainings and other content

Here are 12 tips to help develop your speaking voice for more effective communication in webinars and interviews because many marketers don’t have time or budget for professional voice-over (VO) artists, or they don’t want someone external representing the brand.
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Should SEOs Care About Internal Links? – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Internal links are one of those essential SEO items you have to get right to avoid getting them really wrong. Rand shares 18 tips to help inform your strategy, going into detail about their attributes, internal vs. external links, ideal link structures, and much, much more in this edition of Whiteboard Friday.

Should SEOs Care About Internl Links?

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat a little bit about internal links and internal link structures. Now, it is not the most exciting thing in the SEO world, but it’s something that you have to get right and getting it wrong can actually cause lots of problems.

Attributes of internal links

So let’s start by talking about some of the things that are true about internal links. Internal links, when I say that phrase, what I mean is a link that exists on a website, let’s say ABC.com here, that is linking to a page on the same website, so over here, linking to another page on ABC.com. We’ll do /A and /B. This is actually my shipping routes page. So you can see I’m linking from A to B with the anchor text “shipping routes.”

The idea of an internal link is really initially to drive visitors from one place to another, to show them where they need to go to navigate from one spot on your site to another spot. They’re different from internal links only in that, in the HTML code, you’re pointing to the same fundamental root domain. In the initial early versions of the internet, that didn’t matter all that much, but for SEO, it matters quite a bit because external links are treated very differently from internal links. That is not to say, however, that internal links have no power or no ability to change rankings, to change crawling patterns and to change how a search engine views your site. That’s what we need to chat about.

1. Anchor text is something that can be considered. The search engines have generally minimized its importance, but it’s certainly something that’s in there for internal links.

2. The location on the page actually matters quite a bit, just as it does with external links. Internal links, it’s almost more so in that navigation and footers specifically have attributes around internal links that can be problematic.

Those are essentially when Google in particular sees manipulation in the internal link structure, specifically things like you’ve stuffed anchor text into all of the internal links trying to get this shipping routes page ranking by putting a little link down here in the footer of every single page and then pointing over here trying to game and manipulate us, they hate that. In fact, there is an algorithmic penalty for that kind of stuff, and we can see it very directly.

We’ve actually run tests where we’ve observed that jamming this type of anchor text-rich links into footers or into navigation and then removing it gets a site indexed, well let’s not say indexed, let’s say ranking well and then ranking poorly when you do it. Google reverses that penalty pretty quickly too, which is nice. So if you are not ranking well and you’re like, “Oh no, Rand, I’ve been doing a lot of that,” maybe take it away. Your rankings might come right back. That’s great.

3. The link target matters obviously from one place to another.

4. The importance of the linking page, this is actually a big one with internal links. So it is generally the case that if a page on your website has lots of external links pointing to it, it gains authority and it has more ability to sort of generate a little bit, not nearly as much as external links, but a little bit of ranking power and influence by linking to other pages. So if you have very well-linked two pages on your site, you should make sure to link out from those to pages on your site that a) need it and b) are actually useful for your users. That’s another signal we’ll talk about.

5. The relevance of the link, so pointing to my shipping routes page from a page about other types of shipping information, totally great. Pointing to it from my dog food page, well, it doesn’t make great sense. Unless I’m talking about shipping routes of dog food specifically, it seems like it’s lacking some of that context, and search engines can pick up on that as well.

6. The first link on the page. So this matters mostly in terms of the anchor text, just as it does for external links. Basically, if you are linking in a bunch of different places to this page from this one, Google will usually, at least in all of our experiments so far, count the first anchor text only. So if I have six different links to this and the first link says “Click here,” “Click here” is the anchor text that Google is going to apply, not “Click here” and “shipping routes” and “shipping.” Those subsequent links won’t matter as much.

7. Then the type of link matters too. Obviously, I would recommend that you keep it in the HTML link format rather than trying to do something fancy with JavaScript. Even though Google can technically follow those, it looks to us like they’re not treated with quite the same authority and ranking influence. Text is slightly, slightly better than images in our testing, although that testing is a few years old at this point. So maybe image links are treated exactly the same. Either way, do make sure you have that. If you’re doing image links, by the way, remember that the alt attribute of that image is what becomes the anchor text of that link.

Internal versus external links

A. External links usually give more authority and ranking ability.

That shouldn’t be surprising. An external link is like a vote from an independent, hopefully independent, hopefully editorially given website to your website saying, “This is a good place for you to go for this type of information.” On your own site, it’s like a vote for yourself, so engines don’t treat it the same.

B. Anchor text of internal links generally have less influence.

So, as we mentioned, me pointing to my page with the phrase that I want to rank for isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I shouldn’t do it in a manipulative way. I shouldn’t do it in a way that’s going to look spammy or sketchy to visitors, because if visitors stop clicking around my site or engaging with it or they bounce more, I will definitely lose ranking influence much faster than if I simply make those links credible and usable and useful to visitors. Besides, the anchor text of internal links is not as powerful anyway.

C. A lack of internal links can seriously hamper a page’s ability to get crawled + ranked.

It is, however, the case that a lack of internal links, like an orphan page that doesn’t have many internal or any internal links from the rest of its website, that can really hamper a page’s ability to rank. Sometimes it will happen. External links will point to a page. You’ll see that page in your analytics or in a report about your links from Moz or Ahrefs or Majestic, and then you go, “Oh my gosh, I’m not linking to that page at all from anywhere else on my site.” That’s a bad idea. Don’t do that. That is definitely problematic.

D. It’s still the case, by the way, that, broadly speaking, pages with more links on them will send less link value per link.

So, essentially, you remember the original PageRank formula from Google. It said basically like, “Oh, well, if there are five links, send one-fifth of the PageRank power to each of those, and if there are four links, send one-fourth.” Obviously, one-fourth is bigger than one-fifth. So taking away that fifth link could mean that each of the four pages that you’ve linked to get a little bit more ranking authority and influence in the original PageRank algorithm.

Look, PageRank is old, very, very old at this point, but at least the theories behind it are not completely gone. So it is the case that if you have a page with tons and tons of links on it, that tends to send out less authority and influence than a page with few links on it, which is why it can definitely pay to do some spring cleaning on your website and clear out any rubbish pages or rubbish links, ones that visitors don’t want, that search engines don’t want, that you don’t care about. Clearing that up can actually have a positive influence. We’ve seen that on a number of websites where they’ve cleaned up their information architecture, whittled down their links to just the stuff that matters the most and the pages that matter the most, and then seen increased rankings across the board from all sorts of signals, positive signals, user engagement signals, link signals, context signals that help the engine them rank better.

E. Internal link flow (aka PR sculpting) is rarely effective, and usually has only mild effects… BUT a little of the right internal linking can go a long way.

Then finally, I do want to point out that what was previous called — you probably have heard of it in the SEO world — PageRank sculpting. This was a practice that I’d say from maybe 2003, 2002 to about 2008, 2009, had this life where there would be panel discussions about PageRank sculpting and all these examples of how to do it and software that would crawl your site and show you the ideal PageRank sculpting system to use and which pages to link to and not.

When PageRank was the dominant algorithm inside of Google’s ranking system, yeah, it was the case that PageRank sculpting could have some real effect. These days, that is dramatically reduced. It’s not entirely gone because of some of these other principles that we’ve talked about, just having lots of links on a page for no particularly good reason is generally bad and can have harmful effects and having few carefully chosen ones has good effects. But most of the time, internal linking, optimizing internal linking beyond a certain point is not very valuable, not a great value add.

But a little of what I’m calling the right internal linking, that’s what we’re going to talk about, can go a long way. For example, if you have those orphan pages or pages that are clearly the next step in a process or that users want and they cannot find them or engines can’t find them through the link structure, it’s bad. Fixing that can have a positive impact.

Ideal internal link structures

So ideally, in an internal linking structure system, you want something kind of like this. This is a very rough illustration here. But the homepage, which has maybe 100 links on it to internal pages. One hop away from that, you’ve got your 100 different pages of whatever it is, subcategories or category pages, places that can get folks deeper into your website. Then from there, each of those have maybe a maximum of 100 unique links, and they get you 2 hops away from a homepage, which takes you to 10,000 pages who do the same thing.

I. No page should be more than 3 link “hops” away from another (on most small–>medium sites).

Now, the idea behind this is that basically in one, two, three hops, three links away from the homepage and three links away from any page on the site, I can get to up to a million pages. So when you talk about, “How many clicks do I have to get? How far away is this in terms of link distance from any other page on the site?” a great internal linking structure should be able to get you there in three or fewer link hops. If it’s a lot more, you might have an internal linking structure that’s really creating sort of these long pathways of forcing you to click before you can ever reach something, and that is not ideal, which is why it can make very good sense to build smart categories and subcategories to help people get in there.

I’ll give you the most basic example in the world, a traditional blog. In order to reach any post that was published two years ago, I’ve got to click Next, Next, Next, Next, Next, Next through all this pagination until I finally get there. Or if I’ve done a really good job with my categories and my subcategories, I can click on the category of that blog post and I can find it very quickly in a list of the last 50 blog posts in that particular category, great, or by author or by tag, however you’re doing your navigation.

II. Pages should contain links that visitors will find relevant and useful.

If no one ever clicks on a link, that is a bad signal for your site, and it is a bad signal for Google as well. I don’t just mean no one ever. Very, very few people ever and many of them who do click it click the back button because it wasn’t what they wanted. That’s also a bad sign.

III. Just as no two pages should be targeting the same keyword or searcher intent, likewise no two links should be using the same anchor text to point to different pages. Canonicalize!

For example, if over here I had a shipping routes link that pointed to this page and then another shipping routes link, same anchor text pointing to a separate page, page C, why am I doing that? Why am I creating competition between my own two pages? Why am I having two things that serve the same function or at least to visitors would appear to serve the same function and search engines too? I should canonicalize those. Canonicalize those links, canonicalize those pages. If a page is serving the same intent and keywords, keep it together.

IV. Limit use of the rel=”nofollow” to UGC or specific untrusted external links. It won’t help your internal link flow efforts for SEO.

Rel=”nofollow” was sort of the classic way that people had been doing PageRank sculpting that we talked about earlier here. I would strongly recommend against using it for that purpose. Google said that they’ve put in some preventative measures so that rel=”nofollow” links sort of do this leaking PageRank thing, as they call it. I wouldn’t stress too much about that, but I certainly wouldn’t use rel=”nofollow.”

What I would do is if I’m trying to do internal link sculpting, I would just do careful curation of the links and pages that I’ve got. That is the best way to help your internal link flow. That’s things like…

V. Removing low-value content, low-engagement content and creating internal links that people actually do want. That is going to give you the best results.

VI. Don’t orphan! Make sure pages that matter have links to (and from) them. Last, but not least, there should never be an orphan. There should never be a page with no links to it, and certainly there should never be a page that is well linked to that isn’t linking back out to portions of your site that are of interest or value to visitors and to Google.

So following these practices, I think you can do some awesome internal link analysis, internal link optimization and help your SEO efforts and the value visitors get from your site. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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5 Actionable Analytics Reports for Internal Site Search

Posted by ryanwashere

I was furious when
keyword data disappeared from Google Analytics (GA).

putersmash.gif

I mean, how could I possibly optimize a website
without keyword data?!?!

It didn’t take me long to realize I was overreacting. In fact, I quickly realized how trivial keyword data was.

Search engines are pretty damn good at what they do. If you properly optimize your content, people will find it with the keywords you intended. (You should set up an
SEO dashboard in GA to verify your results.)

The truly valuable keywords are the ones visitors use
within your site.

When mined correctly, internal terms uncover
how and
why users engage with content. These insights provide clear direction to improve content, SEO, and the user journey (resulting in increased conversions, leads, and sales).

In this post, I’ll cover three things:

  1. How to set up internal search reporting in GA
  2. How to access and analyze five internal search reports in GA
  3. Two client case studies using internal search data

Prepping your analytics account

Before I get into the details, make sure you have the following set up in your GA account:

  1. Exclude internal traffic (filter). You wouldn’t believe how many organizations don’t do this. This simple filter makes all the difference when it comes to data quality. Make sure your website is excluding all internal traffic (step-by-step directions: how to set up internal filters in GA.)
  2. Goals, events and conversions. In order to discover user intent, we need to be able to segment reports by conversions. Make sure that your website has clearly defined key performance indicators (KPIs) that are represented by goals in GA (step by step directions: how to set up goals in GA.)

Supplemental reading: How to set up Google Analytics on your website

Setting up GA site search reporting

Standard GA implementation doesn’t have internal search reporting configured. In order to get the data, we need to input some information into GA manually.

Follow these steps to get it up and running:

  1. Navigate to the “Admin” tab
  2. Click “View Settings”
  3. Go to the bottom, where you’ll find “Site Search Settings”
  4. Click the button so that its setting is “On”

In order to complete the tracking, you’ll need to locate your site’s query parameter.

  1. In a new browser tab, open your website
  2. In your website’s internal search bar, type the word “seo” and click “search”
  3. You will be redirected to your website’s internal search landing page
  4. Look at the URL on the landing page (see screenshot below)
  5. You will see your search term, along with these characters: “?”, “random letter”, and “=”
  6. The letter before the equal sign (“=”) is your website’s query parameter
  7. Enter this value into the appropriate box in GA
  8. Click save

moz-10.png

EXAMPLE

Search query: seo
Landing URL: http://webris.org/?s=seo
Parameter
: ?s=seo
What to enter in GA: s
Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 12.25.51 PM

GA
will not post-date searches. In other words, searches that took place before you set up reporting won’t populate. You will only get data from searches occur going forward.

For this reason, you’ll need to wait about 30 days after setting up site search tracking in GA before analyzing the site search data. Otherwise, you won’t have sufficient data to conduct meaningful analysis.

Analyzing the site search data

To access your site search data, navigate to
Behavior > Behavior Flow > Site Search in GA.

There are five reports under Site Search:

  1. Overview
  2. Usage
  3. Search Terms
  4. Pages
  5. Any/All Reports (Segments)

Report #1: Overview

How to get there: Behavior > Behavior Flow > Site Search > Overview
What the report tells us:
Lists the high-level metrics related to your site’s internal search
Potential insights
:

  • Visits With Site Search, % Search Exits, and % Search Refinements: When looked at together, these metrics can tell you a lot about how visitors are finding content. If all three numbers are high, it likely means users can’t find what they‘re looking for.
  • Time after Search and Average Search Depth: Conversely, if these two metrics are high, it probably means users find a lot of value in your site search.
  • Overview (graph): Pay close attention to spikes and surges in internal searches. Were you running campaigns during this time? Use traffic segments to dig into causation.

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 12.22.50 PM


Report #2: Usage

How to get there: Behavior > Behavior Flow > Site Search > Usage
What the report tells us:
User journeys that used site search vs. those who didn’t
Potential insights
:

  • Pages/Session, Average Session Duration: If the pages viewed and session duration is higher with visitors using site search, this indicates your website has the right content (i.e., users are finding the content they are searching for). Keep a close eye on these metrics and test widgets, sidebars and “suggested article” plugins to help you figure out how to improve navigation.
  • Goal Completions: These are important metrics. Plain and simple, this tells us whether or not site search helps drive goal completions. If so, you may want to consider making your site search more prominent, or make it stand out with specific calls to action.
  • Secondary dimension: You can add a number of dimensions to this report to get deeper insight. I like to add “Medium”—it gives you a breakdown of each traffic medium, segmented by Visits With Site Search and Visits Without Site Search.

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 12.37.39 PM

Untitled-1


Report #3: Search terms

How to get there: Behavior > Behavior Flow > Site Search > Search Terms
What the report tells us:
Lists the most used search terms with corresponding engagement metrics
Potential Insight
:

  • Look at each engagement metric for discrepancies between search terms. If one search term has an abnormally high % Search Exits or % of Search Refinements, then you most likely don’t have content those visitors are looking for.
  • Look at the complete list of terms—are these included in your PPC and SEO keyword targeting strategies? If not, they should be. These are the terms your visitors expect to see on your site.
  • Add traffic channel segments to see which channel drives the most internal searches. These terms should match up with your PPC and SEO strategies. If a visitor is using site search to refine what they’re looking for, it could mean that they didn’t find your site from the right landing page.

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 11.05.25 AM


Report #4: Pages

How to get there: Behavior > Behavior Flow > Site Search > Pages
What the report tells us
: The pages users made their queries on
Potential insights
:

  • Overall: Looking at the overall picture of the data will show you where users are having problems finding content. Take a closer look at how your top pages are structured—can users find what they need?
  • Secondary dimension: I like to layer on the “Previous Page Path” dimension. This helps create a greater context for the problems users are have navigating your site.

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 11.03.24 AM


Report #5: Segments

How to get there: Behavior > Behavior Flow > Site Search > Any/All Reports

What the report tells us: Segments add additional depth and value. I often use the following segments to drive more insights:

  • Mobile traffic: Segmenting by mobile allows you to see visitors are using site search more from mobile. This can yield insights into mobile design and layout.
  • Converters or Made a purchase: Is site search driving conversions or adding roadblocks?
  • Organic traffic: What percentage of users that find your website through search engines need to refine their searches? The internal keyword searches are the keywords that users are really looking for when they find your site.
  • Returning users: Returning users are loyal—they enjoy your content enough to return for more. Use the internal search data to find out what content you need to best serve them.

Screen Shot 2015-05-12 at 11.01.26 AM


Case Studies: Driving action from internal search

The internal site search reports described above are high-level. Sometimes it takes seeing them in action to understand how to truly apply them.

As such, I’ve included two case studies that show exactly how I’ve used internal search data to drive meaningful action.

Case study #1

Site: Pop culture publisher (online only)
Marketing channels: SEO, social, and content

Problem:

  • The site drives traffic from five to eight daily blog updates about niche pop culture celebrities
  • In November, traffic stagnated, and then started to decline

Research:

  • The site thrives by creating content about niche celebrities, the ones few other sites write about. This gave them the monopoly on both the SERPs and avid social media fans
  • Digging in further, I found social traffic was steadily declining, while organic was remaining nearly the same, month-over-month
  • A full-scale content analysis was completed, finding that more and more content was being created about the same niche celebrities. This was causing diminishing returns on social and organic traffic.
  • The site suffered from content exhaustion: Writers were covering the same topics over and over.
  • In order to build traffic, they needed to scale efforts horizontally by creating content around new niche celebrities.

Solution:

  • I consulted the Search Terms report (Behavior > Behavior Flow > Site Search > Search Terms) to see what visitors were looking for on the site
  • By adding a filter for “no-results”, I could see what content visitors were searching for on the site that turned up no results
  • I dumped this list into Excel, and had the writers create new content based on the search terms in the report

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Results:

After launch of the strategy, the site saw amazing results:

  • 201.05% increase in month-over-month traffic
  • 210.99% increase in month-over-month pageviews
  • 3.30% increase in pages per session
  • 3.15% increase in session duration
  • 4.75% decrease in bounce rate

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Up and to the right!

Case study #2

Site: Online travel site
Marketing channels: SEO, PPC, email, social, content, display, TV, radio, and print

Problem:

  • Large spike in month-over-month internal searches on client’s site, with poor metrics for actions following internal searches
  • Both the search volume and search rate had nearly doubled (35,457 to 65,032; and 4.37% to 8.56%, respectively) month-over-month

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Research:

  • Digging in, I found traffic on-site increased by 40,000 month-over-month; when segmented, I found the increase was strictly organic traffic
  • Consulted GA Landing Pages report with Organic Segment to find which pages the increase in traffic was going to
    • (Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages > Organic Segment)
  • This showed that 100% of the increase in month-over-month traffic went to the home page
    • This was out of the ordinary, as 80% of organic traffic generally goes deep into the site, not to the home page

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  • Next, I consulted the Google Webmaster Tools (GWT, recently rebranded as Google Search Console) Search Analytics report to see what keywords were driving the increase

    • (GWT > Search Traffic > Search Analytics)

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  • GWT analysis showed the increase came from queries consisting of branded keywords + “giveaway” (e.g., client giveaway promotion and client giveaway)

Solution:

  • I reported the findings to the client, and found out they’d been running a series of offline ads promoting a giveaway in attempts to generate email leads

    • Note: Large organizations often have employees, agencies, contractors, and consultants running for multiple efforts. It’s not uncommon for efforts to operate in silos.
  • The giveaway was set up on a landing page that was difficult to find unless typed in directly (e.g., clientsite.com/giveaway)
  • I recommended that the client include a call-to-action on the home page that linked to the giveaway

Results:

  • Sessions with search decreased by nearly 10%
  • Results after search increased by 6.45%
  • Search depth increased by 9.01%
  • Most importantly, users were able to find the giveaway. Email leads increased by 245%!

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Closing

When mined properly, internal search data will give you the information you need to greatly improve your web content, design, and search engine optimization efforts.

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How Communication Resolves Internal Issues

Posted by RonGarrett

After working at a handful of consulting agencies, as well as starting my own businesses, I have learned how to anticipate, spot, defuse, and resolve different levels of issues and interpersonal challenges in order to keep teams focused and on track. When the stakes are high and everybody on the team is dedicating themselves to the success of their clients, their company, their team, and their own personal development, it is critical that it's somebody's job to own conflict resolution within the organization – even if that person is you!

Push yourself and your teammates to communicate early and often, even when the individual doesn't think the problem is easily solvable. From my experience, most issues arise from a lack of communication or a misunderstanding. Internal conflict and issues can lead to unhappy clients, unhappy employees, and unproductive teams.

Over the years, I have learned that keeping people happy, focused, and efficient at their job while still making sure they have the ability to be creative, be heard, and express their passion/ability in a meaningful way is an art form, and today I will share some of the specifics around how I have managed this process successfully to date.

This post was written for:

  • Individuals that manage their own team or company
  • Individuals whose job requires them to effectively interact with multiple teams/departments
  • Individuals that manage client relationships
  • Individuals who one day aspire to be managers themselves and want to set themselves up for success when they finally take that opportunity

Clearly communicate the company's mission, vision, and culture (values)

It's extremely important for a company to have a clearly defined mission, vision, and sense of culture (values). Equally crucial is to communicate these things on a somewhat consistent basis to the members of your team and to periodically review them to make sure that they are growing and evolving as your business grows. Regardless of whether you are a big fortune 500 company or a small three person team, it will serve you, your partners, and your employees well to have a sense of purpose, direction, and a core set of values from which to make decisions and keep everyone focused.

Here are times and places within the organization you should look to communicate this information:

  • During interviews, which can ensure that you are hiring individuals who are the right fit for your company
  • On-boarding processes for new hires
  • Company-wide meetings
  • Team meetings
  • Regular employee reviews (semi-annual, annual, etc..)
  • Posting it visibly inside the office (by the entrance, in lunch areas, etc…)

Grovo is a company doing a tremendous job at communicating their core values

Grovo Values

Company Values Board at the Entrance of Grovo

For smaller businesses or managers of a  team, it can be daunting to create a mission, vision, and culture. If this is not something your company has defined, you can start by making sure that whenever a new individual joins your team, someone is responsible for making sure that the employee has a clear understanding of why they were brought into the company.

An example of a clear "why" for a SEO company could be:

"We hired you as an SEO consultant to handle anywhere between 3-5 clients of your own, deliver value for your clients, and retain and grow the relationship over time."

Another example for an executive role could be:

"We hired you to research, build, and innovate upon a new marketing channel for our company. The goal for your role is to have this channel up and running within six months and expand into the European Market within 12-18 months."

This immediately establishes a clear definition and direction for that individual, as well as begins to paint a picture of how their role fits in within the rest of the team. By clearly defining and communication the "why" to that individual, you avoid potential confusion and frustration by this team member down the road.

Another added benefit of making sure every person on the team is clear in their role and what the company/team manager expects of them, is they will have a clear framework for making better decisions. They will know how to treat/work with their co-workers, have the ability to self reflect and up with solutions on their own, and encouraging others to live up to their full potential. This empowers people to solve their own issues by asking themselves “What would my company expect of me in this situation?”

Effective communication creates problem solvers, NOT problem creators

I often espouse to my colleagues that “just because we all speak English doesn’t mean we speak the same language.” I believe that taking into account the audience/person you are speaking to, as well as considering their specific listening, learning, and comprehension types is extremely vital in being an effective communicator. It is not enough just to talk AT someone. When you want a person or group of people to truly listen, process, and interpret what you are saying, you have to think about things from their perspective and demonstrate you've put thought into their considerations, not just what you plan to communicate.

Below is a list of questions I ask myself before I attempt to communicate with another individual.

  • What is this person's or group's communication type? (brief/succinct/to the point OR detail-oriented/needs lots of examples/very thorough)
  • How much does this person or group value me as a person?
  • How much do I think this person or group will value the things I say?
  • Have I earned this person's or group's trust and respect?
  • Is what I’m about to communicate applicable to this person or group?
  • Have I spent time listening to them when they have communicated to me in a way they deemed meaningful?
  • What mood is this person or group in?
  • If I plan to communicate something at this time, will this person or group be focused on what I’m communicating?
  • Do I want this person or group to find what I’m communicating to be memorable?
  • If I want this person or group to take action off the back of what I’m communicating, how actionable am I making it?
By creating a team of effective communicators and listeners, you create structured channels in which people can feel appreciated/understood and be effective. This is another efficient and productive way to instill a culture of problem solvers rather than problem creators at your company.
 

Building a successful framework for creating, setting, and reviewing expectations

Every company should build a framework for creating, setting, and reviewing expectations. This ensures that as people and teams grow, become more efficient/effective, and blow past existing targets, company expectations are growing alongside it in an organic way.  This is also a great way to encourage personal development and growth. 

What a framework for creating, setting, and reviewing expectations looks like:
 
Framework for Setting Expectations

Creating expectations (goals)

When creating expectations (goals) for those within your organization, it’s important to map out what is required from the position, from the individual/team, and from the business. This will help define what success looks like. When defining expectations, it’s always important to leave an area of flexibility so that the person can help define expectations that match also match their passion/goals/strengths. Don’t just look to meet your needs, but create a win-win situation for the individual as well.

Setting expectations for everyone at the company

In both the world of consulting and working in-house, there is nothing more important than setting expectations (with the exception being delivering on your primary job competency). This applies to setting a client's expectations, setting your boss's expectations, and even setting up your own expectations. It’s important to make sure all expectations are clear, consistent, and that you regularly revisit them to make sure they haven’t shifted over time, otherwise before you know it, this could be you (see below). Painful right?

Communication Cartoon

Image Courtesy of Savage Chickens

Below is a list of the items I find helpful when setting someone's expectations:

  • Make sure you set aside dedicated time in your schedule for this task
  • Pick an environment that allows for few or no distractions
  • Make sure everyone who needs to be involved is a part of the process
  • Be sure to preface the conversation by telling the individual the purpose of this conversation, why it’s important, who it’s important to, and how important it is
  • Be explicit/extremely clear
  • Make sure you are pacing yourself when you communicate expectations and aren’t speaking too quickly
     
  • Find appropriate places to pause and ask the person or group, “Does all of what I’m communicating make sense?”
  • Encourage and allow the person or group to ask questions should something not make sense (even if that means pausing the conversation momentarily)

Once you have communicated all of this information to the person/group, take some extra time to have them communicate the information back to you. This is a great way to make sure they were listening and also keeps them engaged, especially when stakes are high (such as when deadlines have to be met, when reputation is on the line, or any type of sensitive situation is taking place). Below is an example of something I would say:

“I appreciate your time this afternoon. Now that we’ve gone through expectations together, I wanted to make sure I was clear and we are all on the same page. Would you mind communicating back to me the expectations that I have laid out to the best of your ability?”

Once you feel the person/group has taken in all of the information you have provided them and processed it, be sure to ask if they feel comfortable/confident living up to or exceeding those expectations. For example, I would say:

"That is exactly what I had in mind. Thank you for communicating that back to me. Based on what I have communicated today, do you feel like these are expectations you feel comfortable meeting or exceeding?"

Once you have a sense of whether or not the person/group feels confident they can meet or exceed expectations, don’t hesitate to get a commitment from them. Getting a commitment makes it real for most people. Once it becomes real, the person feels both a moral and professional obligation to live up to those expectations. I would conclude by saying:

“That’s great to hear! We are proud to have you on our team. Can I get a commitment that you will work towards meeting or exceeding these expectations over the coming 60-90 days?”

It is VERY, VERY IMPORTANT that with any verbal/written agreement between people, you must also leave room for flexibility. Any time you are too rigid, it puts people off or makes them feel like they can’t bring challenges, mistakes, or missed targets up to you in instances when they can’t meet expectations. That damages the communication and relationship between individuals/groups of people. 

“I want to be very clear that although these are the expectations we have for you right now, I also expect things to change because I know that nobody is perfect. What is more valuable to me than meeting expectations is ensuring that we maintain an open line of communication, so that in instances when expectations change or you're struggling to meet expectations, we can openly discuss it together and figure out a way to ensure your success here. How does that sound?”

At the end of every such conversation, I want to ensure the person/group feels good about the meeting we had and feels like they have clarity, direction, and an open channel of communication to feedback on how they are doing moving forward. I will then find a way to talk about something a bit more light-hearted and loosen up the tone of the conversation. A great way to do this is to tell them something personal about yourself and then ask them something personal about themselves.

"Really appreciate you making time to have this discussion with me. Do you have any fun plans for this weekend? <PAUSE AND LISTEN.> Oh that sounds like fun. My wife and I are planning a trip to the mountains later this month to go fishing and get some fresh air. I can’t wait!”

Reviewing expectations (goals)

A great way to review expectations with people at your organization is to set-up a line manager meeting with them. This is an opportunity for each individual within the company to sit down in a one-on-one environment to discuss performance, personal goals, as well as struggles at work. Also set-up quarterly reviews to make sure that each individual is on track for meeting or exceeding agreed upon expectations (goals). Both types of reviews provide multiple touch points throughout the year to ensure things are on track and in areas where something is lacking, defining solutions to get back on track or reset expectations.

Scaling communication: what happens as offices get bigger and/or open up in multiple locations?

As companies grow and expand into new territories, communication, knowledge sharing, and time for one-on-one chats become more challenging to execute effectively.

Image Courtesy of SpaceToday

Make it easy
 
Many organizations invest into tools such as BaseCamp, Yammer, or Chatter (if you are a sales driven organization). At Distilled, we have selected the Google ecosystem as our preferred method of centralized communication. Between Gmail for email, internal Google+ for social communication, Google Hangout for video chats, Google Chat for quick back and forth conversations, and Google Docs for collaborative efforts, it has proven to be a great way to keep in touch and keep and stay informed no matter where we work or how busy the work schedule.
 
Example of how Distilled uses Google+ internally (to promote good work from employees)
 
+Michael has done an incredible job at creating value for his clients. I received a phone call today from Client A and they mentioned how helpful, forward thinking, and valuable his recommendations have been. I just wanted to flag it up to the company on how awesome this was. Keep up the great work +Michael.
 
Example of how Distilled uses Google+ internally (to crowd source ideas)
 
I was looking at examples of social campaigns on Pinterest that have done well over the past 90 days. I found an interesting article about the demographics on Pinterest (insert link), great examples of content that have done well (insert link), and the providers that created the pieces (insert providers). It would be great to get everyone's feedback on social campaigns that have inspired them. 
 
Google Hangout (video chat)
 
For conversations that are too complex for chats and email or require quick turnaround times/iterative feedback, I find picking up a phone or even better, using a platform like Google Hangout to video chat can be an effective platform for communication.
 
Creating office hours
 
It’s important to keep an open door policy and make yourself accessible to others within the organization, even if that means an open “digital” door policy. By creating office hours, you budget in time each week to have scheduled meetings/discussions with anybody who needs some of your time. This can be a great way to stay approachable, no matter your location or your schedule.
 
Ways to make office hours time efficient and effective:
  • Create 20 minute windows of time for each meeting (with the ability to request more time if needed)
  • Have the person requesting the meeting send over an agenda prior to the meeting
  • E-Mail any information or specifics over to the person should they need to do any preliminary reading or research

Keep it simple
 
I find keeping things simple is not always as easy as one might think, especially when communicating via text (email, chat, social, etc.).  It's important to ensure that the message doesn’t get misrepresented and that the person receiving the communication has all of the context he/she needs to stay informed. The trick is being able to identify what the most critical bits of information that need to be conveyed are for the message to make sense while staying focused and succinct
 
Start off by prefacing the most important part of the email with a to the point message. At Distilled, we use TL;DR, which stands for "too long; didn’t read." After TL;DR, put the point of the email in a one or two sentence snippet, so that even if the person doesn’t have time to read the entire email, they understand the important takeaways of the message
 
Keeping E-Mails Simple using TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read)

Bob,

TL;DR: We are hiring for a new position; I need someone to own this and would like to see if you are up for the task.
 
We have recently seen the amount of retained clients go up significantly within the past 12 months and would like to continue to grow each office by a rate of 30% per year. In order to accomplish this, we need to hire 4 more consultants over the next 6 months. We noticed you referred our company 2 out of the last 4 people we have hired and would like to see if you’d be interested in reducing consulting work in order to focus more of your time on recruiting. If this is something you'd like to be a part of, let’s catch up early morning Friday. Thanks in advance and speak soon!
 

Keeping a pulse on your organization

As organizations grow, mature, and age, it’s important to keep a hand on the pulse of your company and its ever changing needs. Find ways to figure out what your organization needs in order to be successful and invest in infrastructure. So many organizations depend on people in order to solve problems and as a result, it's crucial to find solutions that connect people, create engagement amongst teams, and facilitate learning.

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Marketing Career: Crafting an internal performance whitepaper

Tweet An email recently came across my inbox with an interesting attachment, and I’m really looking forward to sharing it with the MarketingSherpa blog audience, because it’s a positive example for something I’ve seen many marketers struggle with – internal marketing. In fact, when we asked 1,646 marketers their most pressing challenges in MarketingSherpa’s 2012 [...]
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How to Stop Internal Bureaucracy From Preventing Blogging Productivity

business blogging hurdlesintermediate

Most aspiring inbound marketers have a few business blogging hurdles to get over. The first hurdle? Truly believing — like, in the darkest recesses of your soul — that blogging is an indispensable part of being a successful inbound marketer.

Once you believe that you have to blog, the next hurdle is actually blogging. We’ve written a whole post (several, actually) with tips and tricks to make business blogging less of a time suck. Although if you’re already an avid blogger, you know that even with all the shortcuts in the world, you really just have to sit down and write. As Nike says, just shut up and do it (creative liberties taken for dramatic effect).

Cool — now you’re pumping out blog content left and right. What’s the last hurdle? For many companies, it’s publishing that content.

Wait … really? It’s just the push of a button! What’s the big deal? Bureaucracy, that’s what. Just because you know your post is ready to ship doesn’t mean everyone else in your organization is convinced. And with too many cooks in the kitchen, it gets to be nearly impossible to maintain a consistent publishing volume on your business blog. This post will help you get over that last hurdle, addressing some of the most common internal organizational blockers marketers face when trying to get their blog content published.

Blocker #1: Blogging is taking your time away from other duties.

Yes, it probably is. Blogging takes time. But a boss who is airing this grievance in the face of your attempts to blog is a sign you haven’t sufficiently sold the importance of business blogging. It’s time for you to do a little internal education to alleviate this notion that blogging shouldn’t be a high priority for your marketing team.

Lucky for you, we’ve written a full blog post about how to sell your boss on business blogging. Read it, learn it, live it. You’ll likely need to recite these responses more than once as you ramp up your business blog — although after a while, the results will speak for themselves ;-) . And to get you started convincing the ol’ bossman, here are a few data points from our 2012 State of Inbound Marketing Report you should memorize on the ROI of business blogging:

  • Blogging frequency directly correlates with customer acquisition. 92% of companies who blog multiple times per day have acquired a customer from their blog. (Holy cow, you guys!) But even if you only have time for it once a week, don’t worry — 66% of those marketers have acquired a customer, too!
  • Everyone else is doing it … 70% of marketers are blogging at least once a week. Probably because they’re all getting customers from it.
  • Not only do marketers rank inbound marketing channels as those that deliver the lowest cost per lead (CPL); 52% of marketers who blog say it delivers the lowest CPL of all other inbound marketing channels.

Once you’ve convinced your boss, you have two options. Either keep doing it yourself because your boss is convinced it’s worth your time, or outsource it. If you’re asked to go the outsourcing route, read this post about how to outsource a killer content creation team.

Blocker #2: Your boss wants to review everything before it’s published.

Bosses are busy. At least that’s what they want you to think. (Don’t let them see this part of the post.)

But if your boss is so worried about losing control that they need to read everything before it goes out, you’re going to suffer a huge bottleneck in the content publishing process — because almost no boss on the history of earth has both remembered to, and also completed, a task you’ve requested of them in the timeframe you set forth. And if that’s a bit of an exaggeration, it’s probably not by much. The fact of the matter is, you’ll spend more time chasing them down, asking them if they could please read that post you gave them two weeks ago already.

So what do you do? First, tell your boss that you agree it’s important to have another person review blog content before it gets published … because it is. We do that here at HubSpot, actually. Nothing gets published on this blog without a second set of eyes. But tell your boss that you’d like to have a colleague trained on the approval process so your boss isn’t responsible for the task any longer. Depending on what type of personality your boss has, you might even want to position it as his/her time being worth more than that type of minutiae, or offer to let him or her train that designated colleague.

Why does this method — working with a colleague instead of a boss on content approval — work? Because when a colleague reviews content, it’s more of a team effort, as opposed to an annoying task that keeps clogging up your boss’ calendar. You and your colleague will enjoy a shared success when your blog takes off. And when you’re relying on one another to complete a project together, that bottleneck disappears, because your success is tied to one another’s productivity.

Blocker #3: Oh, and you need to get your SEO people to look at it, too.

Ha! You thought the approval bottleneck was taken care of, didn’t you?

This is another bureaucratic nightmare that often stems from a lack of SEO understanding. Well, that’s not totally true. It stems from a lack of understanding of 2012 SEO — your boss probably gets SEO from 2001 just fine.

If you’re being forced to have an SEO specialist look at every blog post before it gets published, your boss probably thinks SEO is about keyword density and other smoke and mirrors tricks. It’s not. On-page SEO is something any blogger can master, because it’s really just about creating quality content with a bit of a consideration for keywords for which you’d like to rank. Google’s major Panda and Penguin algorithm updates have all had one thing in common — they’re trying to reward content creators for how helpful they are to readers. Not for how good they are at stuffing keywords into their blog posts. If your boss doesn’t understand this new way of “doing” SEO, refer him or her to these posts that detail why the only thing you need to be concerned about to have excellent on-page SEO is quality content:

Blocker #4: Legal counsel needs to review everything!

This is a hurdle we hear all the time from customers who work in industries like financial services, medical services, or, somewhat ironically, legal services. Getting over this bureaucratic hurdle comes down to advance preparation. Here’s what you can do.

First, ask your legal team to do a little upfront work. Just like you have an employee manual that serves as guidelines for your in-office performance, your legal team should write down some guidelines that dictate what can — and more important, what cannot — be published in your blog content. Ask them to provide examples of each so you truly understand the nuances of their requirements. This will help prevent time wasted on blog content you could never, ever publish.

Speaking of wasting time on blog content you could never, ever publish, the next thing you should do is create an editorial calendar full of blog topics. Send this to your legal team, and ask them to approve and reject topics, adding notes next to each topic of anything they think the writer should beware of to sidestep legal landmines. Try to send as many topics in one spreadsheet as possible; it’s more likely you’ll get speedy responses if they have one document to review once a month, instead of one document to review every week.

Once in a while, you’ll want to write about things that really do require massive amount of legal revisions. That’s okay. But to do that, you’ll need a backlog of content that doesn’t require a ton of legal finesse to get published. That way, you’re not left hanging when a legal team takes several days or weeks longer to approve your blog post than they said they would.

Blocker #5: You forgot to mention X! And Y! And Z!

Do me a favor. Scroll back up to blocker #3, the one that talks about requiring SEO approval of blog content, and make quick note of the three bullets I placed there. Why did I do that?

Because sufficiently explaining the Penguin and Panda algorithm updates requires several separate blog posts of their own. They’re huge topics. If I went into detail about them in this blog post, I’d be going off on a major tangent, and I’d lose readers. I mean, where would it end? As I explain Panda and Penguin I would encounter countless other tangents I could go off on, and before I knew it, I would have just written a 500,000-word blog post about all of internet marketing.

That’s why internal linking was invented. It’s why I didn’t republish the entire 2012 State of Inbound Marketing Report in this blog post. It’s why I’m placing this really meta internal link right here that leads you to a blog post about internal linking. Introduce your company’s blogging roadblocks to the concept. And remind them that when you break up blog posts into shorter, more specific topics, you not only get to do things like optimize for long-tail keywords and get more targeted traffic coming to your blog — you also struggle way less to come up with more blog topics to write about later down the road!

Blocker #6: Your blog posts don’t sound on brand.

Inconsistency in the style, tone, and even grammar of your content is a fair gripe, especially in larger organizations. And if you have more than one person in charge of content creation, it’s made even more difficult. You can solve that, however, by getting everyone on the same page with a content style guide. A style guide for your written content will ensure everyone creating content is playing by the same rules, and give everyone one place to consult for their questions … whether about the decision to hyphenate a word, or whether their audience would truly appreciate that joke you want to make in the last paragraph of your post.

We’ve written a blog post to help you create your own thorough content style guide, and have even created The Internet Marketing Written Style Guide to get you started with general style guidelines, tips on common grammar mistakes, advice on proper source attribution, and all-around help creating your first written content style guide so all of your content maintains a consistent brand voice.

What other bureaucratic hurdles within your company prevent you from blogging as much as you’d like to?

Image credit: Soggydan




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3 Tips for Better Internal Marketing Communication

shoutingThis is a guest post written by marketing strategist Mike Gospe who is co-founder of KickStart Alliance and the author of Marketing Campaign Development. His new book, The Marketing High Ground, is a B2B marketer’s playbook describing the best practices surrounding persona development, positioning statements, and messaging.

The biggest irony with most marketers is their inability to successfully communicate internally. By and large, we inbound marketers are experts in our functions of content creation, search engine optimization, social media, and the like. But when it comes to sharing our plans internally across the marketing department or aligning a master plan with sales, the act of communicating clearly and succinctly could stand a fair amount of improvement. One of my first bosses pointed this out to me early in my career after a campaign snafu that resulted because the press relations and advertising teams were out of sync. (Read that humbling story here.)

A Failure to Communicate

Picture this scenario: Someone (it could be anyone in a business unit or a corporate marketing team) produces a 50-page inbound marketing plan and emails it to a long list of folks with a short introductory sentence: “Here’s the plan.” On the distribution list are folks ranging from various marketing functions to sales leaders. The email is sent once. There is no cross-functional kick-off meeting. And there’s no executive summary. No follow-up Q&A. Weeks pass. Worst of all, the plan sits on a shelf and is never actively referenced. Then, in the midst of executing a set of marketing activities, frustration erupts when the copywriters are fired because they “can’t get the messaging right.” Sales people continue to wonder what the heck marketing does, and executives decide to change the direction of the campaign largely because they don’t know (or remember) what the objective was in the first place. What’s going on here?

The short answer: The marketers in charge of the planning process failed to clearly communicate the plan internally, lobby support, and provide helpful short-hand reminders about its strategy. These are sure-fire symptoms that the plan was not communicated clearly enough or defined properly to ensure that the larger team responsible for its implementation understood it. The good news is that this common tale of woe can easily be avoided.

3 Steps for How to Socialize the Plan

Development of the go-to-market plan is a team sport. No single person working in isolation from corporate marketing, sales, product management, and customer support should develop the marketing plan. If so, the plan is instantly worthless because nobody else has a stake in the output. Shared ownership is a requirement. So, the development process needs to harness the creativity and ownership from across the company.

But once the plan is drafted, the marketing team leader’s job is far from over. Everybody in marketing and sales needs to know about the campaign, its objectives and goals, and the timing of key tactics that will unfold. But how can you communicate the essence of your plan so the entire extended team will a) understand it, b) remember it, and c) echo the plan’s objectives and themes in their own work?

Here are three tactical ideas to help you socialize the output and invite colleagues to join you on the marketing high ground:

1. Think Small

Share only a few key slides. More is not better. Avoid the temptation to share your entire 42-page plan. No one will read it. Only the marketing core team needs to know the full details of the plan. For everyone else, share the executive summary. If folks want more information, they will ask for it. Here are the basic slides I use every time I’m launching a new campaign:

  • Objective of the marketing campaign
  • Target audience and persona priorities
  • Positioning statement
  • Message box
  • Description of key activities and offers
  • Timeline for execution

Once you’ve created these 6 key slides, encourage everyone to tack these slides to their cubicle walls. Imagine walking down the hall where you see the persona slide tacked to the PR manager’s wall, or the positioning statement slide tacked to the wall of the product director. It’s powerful stuff.

2. Get Seen

Become a guest speaker. Just because you draft a few slides and email them doesn’t mean that anyone has read them or understood the implications. You need to engage the organization by making the plan visible. This means getting out in front of groups of employees to talk about the plan and answer their questions. It’s what marketers can do better than any other function, yet it rarely happens. I encourage marketing directors and integrated marketing leaders to make the rounds to key staff meetings, starting with sales, product management, engineering, and customer support teams. No other outreach effort on your part will work as well to establish your credibility with internal audiences. Ask for 15 minutes on their agenda. Not only is this extremely valuable for bringing your marketing plans and programs to life, but it is also a powerful skill set to hone for your personal career growth.

3. Lead the Way

Facilitate a marketing-sales summit twice a year. Being the ambassador for your marketing plan is very effective when it comes to sharing information. However, to pursue effective cross-organizational alignment, a different tactic is needed. Carefully structured summits are “working meetings” attended by marketing and sales leaders. They are the perfect venue for sharing plans, gathering feedback, and solidifying a shared understanding of sales’ expectations and marketing’s goals and objectives.

Could your marketing team do a better job of marketing its own initiatives internally?

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