Tag Archive | "Opportunity"

Etsy CEO: Machine Learning is Opening Up a Whole New Opportunity

Etsy CEO Josh Silverman says that “machine learning is opening up a whole new opportunity” for the company to organize 50 million items into a discovery platform that makes buying an enjoyable experience and also is profitable for sellers.

Josh Silverman, CEO of Etsy, recently talked about their much-improved business and why it is working so well with Jim Cramer on CNBC:

Our Mission is Keeping Commerce Human

Our mission is keeping commerce human. It’s really about in a world where automation is changing the nature of work and we’re all buying more and more commoditized things from the same few fulfillment centers. Allowing someone to harness their creative energy and turn that creativity into a business and then connect with someone in the other part of the country or in another part of the world, that’s really special. We think there’s an ever-increasing need for that in this world.

It’s about value. We’ve been really focused on delivering more value for our makers. Etsy really is a platform that brings buyers to sellers and that’s very valuable. We raised our commission from 3.5 to 5 percent commission which was I think is fair value for our sellers, particularly because we’re reinvesting 80 percent of that into the growth of the platform.

Free shipping is pretty much table stakes today. Yet only about 20 percent of items have free shipping. About half of all the items on Etsy buyers say have shipping prices that are too high and yet we grew GMS at 20 percent last quarter.

Machine Learning is Opening Up a Whole New Opportunity

Machine learning is opening up a whole new opportunity for us to take 50 million items from two million makers and make sense of that for people. We have 37 million active buyers now and many of them come just for discovery, just to see what they can find, and that is exactly the right thing for someone out there. Our job is to create that love connection. Etsy over the past 14 years, with a large team effort, has I think done a great job.

One thing I want to emphasize is the quality and the craftsmanship with so many of the products on Etsy. That’s something that has been such a delight for me. People like Kringle Workshops that make these incredible products. What we have been doing a better job and need to continue to do a better job of really surfacing the beautiful artisanally crafted products that are available at a really fair price. You’re not having to pay for warehousing, you’re not having to pay for all the other things that mass-produce things have to pay for, you’re buying directly from the person who made it. So it can be both beautiful, handcrafted, and well priced.

There are 2 million sellers, 87 percent of them are women, over 90 percent are working from home or are businesses of one, who can create a global business from their garage or their living room. Etsy does provide a real sense of community for them and that’s really powerful.

Amazon May Open New HQ in Queens Near Etsy

We feel great about our employee value proposition and come what may. Here’s what we have going for us. We think we’ve got the best team, certainly in tech companies on the eastern seaboard. We think ours is the best and we continue to attract great talent. The reason is, first and foremost, our mission is really a meaningful important mission and that matters. Great people want to work in a place with a great mission.

Second, our technology challenges are interesting. For example, search and using machine learning to make sense of 50 million items that don’t map to a catalog. Third, our culture is really special. We have been a company that’s authentically cared about diversity from the beginning. Over 50 percent of our executive staff are women, we have a balanced board, 50 percent male and female, and 32 percent of our engineers are female, which is twice the industry average. People who care about diversity and inclusion really want to come to work at Etsy. All of that is going for us and we’re happy to compete with whoever we need to.

Earnings Call Comments by Etsy CEO:

Active Buyers Grew 17 Percent

Etsy’s growth accelerated again in the third quarter to nearly 21% on a constant-currency basis. Revenue growth exceeded 41%, fueled by the launch of our new pricing structure, and our adjusted EBITDA margins grew to nearly 23%, while we also increased our investments in the business.

Active buyers grew 17% to 37 million worldwide. This is the fourth consecutive quarter that GMS has grown faster than active buyers, evidence that we are seeing increased buyer activity on the platform, which is a key proxy for improvement in frequency. We grew the number of active sellers by 8% and GMS per active seller is also increasing.

Two principal levers contributed to our progress this past quarter. The first is our continued product investment, focused on improving the shopping experience on Etsy. By making it easier to find and buy the great products available for sale on Etsy, we’re doing a better job converting visits into purchases. The second lever was our new pricing structure, which enabled us to ramp up investments in marketing, shipping improvements and customer support.

Successful Cloud Migration

We achieved a significant milestone in our cloud migration this quarter, successfully migrating our marketplace, Etsy.com, and our mobile applications to the Google Cloud with minimal disruption to buyers and sellers. This increases our confidence that the migration will be complete by the end of 2019.

Once fully migrated, we expect to dramatically increase the velocity of experiments and product development to iterate faster and leverage more complex search and machine learning models with the goal of rapidly innovating, improving search and ultimately driving GMS growth.

In fact, we’re beginning to see some of those benefits today based on the systems we’ve already migrated. I’d like to thank our engineering team for their incredible work to get this – get us to this point.

 

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Designing a Page’s Content Flow to Maximize SEO Opportunity – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Controlling and improving the flow of your on-site content can actually help your SEO. What’s the best way to capitalize on the opportunity present in your page design? Rand covers the questions you need to ask (and answer) and the goals you should strive for in today’s Whiteboard Friday.

Designing a page's content flow to maximize SEO opportunity

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about a designing a page’s content flow to help with your SEO.

Now, unfortunately, somehow in the world of SEO tactics, this one has gotten left by the wayside. I think a lot of people in the SEO world are investing in things like content and solving searchers’ problems and getting to the bottom of searcher intent. But unfortunately, the page design and the flow of the elements, the UI elements, the content elements that sit in a page is discarded or left aside. That’s unfortunate because it can actually make a huge difference to your SEO.

Q: What needs to go on this page, in what order, with what placement?

So if we’re asking ourselves like, “Well, what’s the question here?” Well, it’s what needs to go on this page. I’m trying to rank for “faster home Wi-Fi.” Right now, Lifehacker and a bunch of other people are ranking in these results. It gets a ton of searches. I can drive a lot of revenue for my business if I can rank there. But what needs to go on this page in what order with what placement in order for me to perform the best that I possibly can? It turns out that sometimes great content gets buried in a poor page design and poor page flow. But if we want to answer this question, we actually have to ask some other ones. We need answers to at least these three:

A. What is the searcher in this case trying to accomplish?

When they enter “faster home Wi-Fi,” what’s the task that they want to get done?

B. Are there multiple intents behind this query, and which ones are most popular?

What’s the popularity of those intents in what order? We need to know that so that we can design our flow around the most common ones first and the secondary and tertiary ones next.

C. What’s the business goal of ranking? What are we trying to accomplish?

That’s always going to have to be balanced out with what is the searcher trying to accomplish. Otherwise, in a lot of cases, there’s no point in ranking at all. If we can’t get our goals met, we should just rank for something else where we can.

Let’s assume we’ve got some answers:

Let’s assume that, in this case, we have some good answers to these questions so we can proceed. So pretty simple. If I search for “faster home Wi-Fi,” what I want is usually it’s going to be…

A. Faster download speed at home.

That’s what the searcher is trying to accomplish. But there are multiple intents behind this. Sometimes the searcher is looking to do that..

B1. With their current ISP and their current equipment.

They want to know things they can optimize that don’t cause them to spend money. Can they place their router in different places? Can they change out a cable? Do they need to put it in a different room? Do they need to move their computer? Is the problem something else that’s interfering with their Wi-Fi in their home that they need to turn off? Those kinds of issues.

B2. With a new ISP.

Or can they get a new ISP? They might be looking for an ISP that can provide them with faster home internet in their area, and they want to know what’s available, which is a very different intent than the first one.

B3. With current ISP but new equipment.

maybe they want to keep their ISP, but they are willing to upgrade to new equipment. So they’re looking for what’s the equipment that I could buy that would make the current ISP I have, which in many cases in the United States, sadly, there’s only one ISP that can provide you with service in a lot of areas. So they can’t change ISP, but they can change out their equipment.

C. Affiliate revenue with product referrals.

Let’s assume that (C) is we know that what we’re trying to accomplish is affiliate revenue from product referrals. So our business is basically we’re going to send people to new routers or the Google Mesh Network home device, and we get affiliate revenue by passing folks off to those products and recommending them.

Now we can design a content flow.

Okay, fair enough. We now have enough to be able to take care of this design flow. The design flow can involve lots of things. There are a lot of things that could live on a page, everything from navigation to headline to the lead-in copy or the header image or body content, graphics, reference links, the footer, a sidebar potentially.

The elements that go in here are not actually what we’re talking about today. We can have that conversation too. I want a headline that’s going to tell people that I serve all of these different intents. I want to have a lead-in that has a potential to be the featured snippet in there. I want a header image that can rank in image results and be in the featured snippet panel. I’m going to want body content that serves all of these in the order that’s most popular. I want graphics and visuals that suggest to people that I’ve done my research and I can provably show that the results that you get with this different equipment or this different ISP will be relevant to them.

But really, what we’re talking about here is the flow that matters. The content itself, the problem is that it gets buried. What I see many times is folks will take a powerful visual or a powerful piece of content that’s solving the searcher’s query and they’ll put it in a place on the page where it’s hard to access or hard to find. So even though they’ve actually got great content, it is buried by the page’s design.

5 big goals that matter.

The goals that matter here and the ones that you should be optimizing for when you’re thinking about the design of this flow are:

1. How do I solve the searcher’s task quickly and enjoyably?

So that’s about user experience as well as the UI. I know that, for many people, they are going to want to see and, in fact, the result that’s ranking up here on the top is Lifehacker’s top 10 list for how to get your home Wi-Fi faster. They include things like upgrading your ISP, and here’s a tool to see what’s available in your area. They include maybe you need a better router, and here are the best ones. Maybe you need a different network or something that expands your network in your home, and here’s a link out to those. So they’re serving that purpose up front, up top.

2. Serve these multiple intents in the order of demand.

So if we can intuit that most people want to stick with their ISP, but are willing to change equipment, we can serve this one first (B3). We can serve this one second (B1), and we can serve the change out my ISP third (B2), which is actually the ideal fit in this scenario for us. That helps us

3. Optimize for the business goal without sacrificing one and two.

I would urge you to design generally with the searcher in mind and if you can fit in the business goal, that is ideal. Otherwise, what tends to happen is the business goal comes first, the searcher comes second, and you come tenth in the results.

4. If possible, try to claim the featured snippet and the visual image that go up there.

That means using the lead-in up at the top. It’s usually the first paragraph or the first few lines of text in an ordered or unordered list, along with a header image or visual in order to capture that featured snippet. That’s very powerful for search results that are still showing it.

5. Limit our bounce back to the SERP as much as possible.

In many cases, this means limiting some of the UI or design flow elements that hamper people from solving their problems or that annoy or dissuade them. So, for example, advertising that pops up or overlays that come up before I’ve gotten two-thirds of the way down the page really tend to hamper efforts, really tend to increase this bounce back to the SERP, the search engine call pogo-sticking and can harm your rankings dramatically. Design elements, design flows where the content that actually solves the problem is below an advertising block or below a promotional block, that also is very limiting.

So to the degree that we can control the design of our pages and optimize for that, we can actually take existing content that you might already have and improve its rankings without having to remake it, without needing new links, simply by improving the flow.

I hope we’ll see lots of examples of those in the comments, and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Understanding and Harnessing the Flow of Link Equity to Maximize SEO Ranking Opportunity – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

How does the flow of link equity work these days, and how can you harness its potential to help improve your rankings? Whether you’re in need of a refresher or you’ve always wanted a firmer grasp of the concept, this week’s Whiteboard Friday is required watching. Rand covers the basic principles of link equity, outlines common flow issues your site might be encountering, and provides a series of action items to ensure your site is riding the right currents.

Link equity flow

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about understanding and harnessing link equity flow, primarily internal link equity flow, so that you can get better rankings and execute on your SEO. A big thank you to William Chou, @WChouWMX on Twitter, for suggesting this topic. If you have a topic or something that you would like to see on Whiteboard Friday, tweet at me. We’ll add it to the list.

Principles of link equity

So some principles of link equity first to be aware of before we dive into some examples.

1. External links generally give more ranking value and potential ranking boosts than internal links.

That is not to say, though, that internal links provide no link equity, and in fact, many pages that earn few or no external links can still rank well if a domain itself is well linked to and that page is on that site and has links from other good, important pages on the domain. But if a page is orphaned or if a domain has no links at all, extremely difficult to rank.

2. Well-linked-to pages, both internal and external, pass more link equity than those that are poorly linked to.

I think this makes intuitive sense to all of us who have understood the concept of PageRank over the years. Basically, if a page accrues many links, especially from other important pages, that page’s ability to pass its link equity to other pages, to give a boost in ranking ability is stronger than if a page is very poorly linked to or not linked to at all.

3. Pages with fewer links tend to pass more equity to their targets than pages with more links.

Again, going off the old concept of PageRank, if you have a page with hundreds or thousands of links on it, each of those receives a much more fractional, smaller amount of the link equity that could be passed to it than if you have a page with only a few links on it. This is not universally… well, I just want to say this doesn’t scale perfectly. So it’s not the case that if you were to trim down your high link earning pages to having only one link and point to this particular page on your site, then you suddenly get tremendously more benefit than if you had your normal navigation on that page and you link to your homepage and About page and products page. That’s not really the case. But if you had a page that had hundreds of links in a row and you instead made that page have only a few links to the most important, most valuable places, you’ll get more equity out of that, more rank boosting ability.

4. Hacks and tricks like “nofollow” are often ineffective at shaping the flow of link equity.

Using rel=”no follow” or embedding a remotely executable JavaScript file that makes it so that browsers can see the links and visitors can, but Google is unlikely to see or follow those links, to shape the flow of your link equity is generally (a) a poor use of your time, because it doesn’t affect things that much. The old-school PageRank algorithm not that hugely important anymore. And (b) Google is often pretty good at interpreting and discounting these things. So it tends to not be worth your time at all.

5. Redirects and canonicalization lose a small amount of link equity. Non-ideal ones like 302s, JS redirects, etc. may lose more than 301, rel=canonical, etc.

So if I have a 301 or a rel=canonical from one page to another, those will lose or cost you a small, a very small amount of link equity. But more potentially costly would be using non-ideal types of redirects or canonicalization methods, like a JavaScript-based redirect or a 302 or a 307 instead of a 301. If you’re going to do a redirect or if you’re going to do canonicalization, 301s or rel=canonicals are the way to go.

So keeping in mind these principles, let’s talk through three of the most common link equity flow issues that we see websites facing.

Common link equity flow issues

A. A few pages on a large site get all the external links:

You have a relatively large site, let’s say thousands to tens of thousands, maybe even hundreds of thousands of pages, and only a few of those pages are earning any substantial quantity of external links. I have highlighted those in pink. So these pages are pointing to these pink ones. But on this website you have other pages, pages like these purple ones, where you essentially are wanting to earn link equity, because you know that you need to rank for these terms and pages that these purple ones are targeting, but they’re not getting the external links that these pink pages are. In these cases, it’s important to try a few things.

  1. We want to identify the most important non-link earning pages, these purple ones. We’ve got to figure out what these actually are. What are the pages that you wish would rank that are not yet ranking for their terms and phrases that they’re targeting?
  2. We want to optimize our internal links from these pink pages to these purple ones. So in an ideal world, we would say, “Aha, these pages are very strong. They’ve earned a lot of link equity.” You could use Open Site Explorer and look at Top Pages, or Ahrefs or any of our other competitors and look at your pages, the ones that have earned the most links and the most link equity. Then you could say, “Hey, can I find some relevance between these two or some user stories where someone who reaches this page needs something over here, and thus I’m going to create a link to and from there?” That’s a great way to pass equity.
  3. Retrofitting and republishing. So what I mean by this is essentially I’m going to take these pages, these purple ones that I want to be earning links, that are not doing well yet, and consider reworking their content, taking the lessons that I have learned from the pink pages, the ones that have earned link equity, that have earned external links and saying, “What did these guys do right that we haven’t done right on these guys, and what could we do to fix that situation?” Then I’m going to republish and restart a marketing, a link building campaign to try and get those links.

B. Only the homepage of a smaller site gets any external links.

This time we’re dealing with a small site, a very, very small site, 5 pages, 10 pages, maybe even up to 50 pages, but generally a very small site. Often a lot of small businesses, a lot of local businesses have this type of presence, and only the homepage gets any link equity at all. So what do we do in those cases? There’s not a whole lot to spread around. The homepage can only link to so many places. We have to serve users first. If we don’t, we’re definitely going to fall in the search engine rankings.

So in this case, where the pink link earner is the homepage, there are two things we can do:

  1. Make sure that the homepage is targeting and serves the most critical keyword targets. So we have some keyword targets that we know we want to go after. If there’s one phrase in particular that’s very important, rather than having the homepage target our brand, we could consider having the homepage target that specific query. Many times small businesses and small websites will make this mistake where they say, “Oh, our most important keyword, we’ll make that this page. We’ll try and rank it. We’ll link to it from the homepage.” That is generally not nearly as effective as making a homepage target that searcher intent. If it can fit with the user journey as well, that’s one of the best ways you can go.
  2. Consider some new pages for content, like essentially saying, “Hey, I recognize that these other pages, maybe they’re About and my Terms of Service and some of my products and services and whatnot, and they’re just not that link-worthy. They don’t deserve links. They’re not the type of pages that would naturally earn links.” So we might need to consider what are two or three types of pages or pages that we could produce, pieces of content that could earn those links, and think about it this way. You know who the people who are already linking to you are. It’s these folks. I have just made up some domains here. But the folks who are already linking to your homepage, those are likely to be the kinds of people who will link to your internal pages as well. So I would think about them as link targets and say, “What would I be pretty confident that they would link to, if only they knew that it existed on our website?” That’s going to give you a lot of success. Then I would check out some of our link building sections here on Whiteboard Friday and across the Moz Blog for more tips.

C. Mid-long tail KW-targeting pages are hidden or minimized by the site’s nav/IA.

So this is essentially where I have a large site, and I have pages that are targeting keywords that don’t get a ton of volume, but they’re still important. They could really boost the value that we get from our website, because they’re hyper-targeted to good customers for us. In this case, one of the challenges is they’re hidden by your information architecture. So your top-level navigation and maybe even your secondary-level navigation just doesn’t link to them. So they’re just buried deep down in the website, under a whole bunch of other stuff. In these cases, there are some really good solutions.

  1. Find semantic and user intent relationships. So semantic is these words appeared on those pages. Let’s say one of these pages here is targeting the word “toothpaste,” for example, and I find that, oh, you know what, this page over here, which is well linked to in our navigation, mentions the word “toothpaste,” but it doesn’t link over here yet. I’m going to go create those links. That’s a semantic relationship. A user intent relationship would be, hey, this page over here talks about oral health. Well, oral health and toothpaste are actually pretty relevant. Let me make sure that I can create that user journey, because I know that people who’ve read about oral health on our website probably also later want to read about toothpaste, at least some of them. So let’s make that relationship also happen between those two pages. That would be a user intent type of relationship. You’re going find those between your highly linked to external pages and your well-linked-to internal pages and these long tail pages that you’re trying to target. Then you’re going to create those new links.
  2. Try and leverage the top-level category pages that you already have. If you have a top-level navigation and it links to whatever it is — home, products, services, About Us, Contact, the usual types of things — it’s those pages that are extremely well linked to already internally where you can add in content links to those long-tail pages and potentially benefit.
  3. Consider new top-level or second-level pages. If you’re having trouble adding them to these pages, they already have too many links, there’s no user story that make good sense here, it’s too weird to jam them in, maybe engineering or your web dev team thinks that that’s ridiculous to try and jam those in there, consider creating new top-level pages. So essentially saying, “Hey, I want to add a page to our top-level navigation that is called whatever it is, Additional Resources or Resources for the Curious or whatever.” In this case in my oral health and dentistry example, potentially I want an oral health page that is linked to from the top-level navigation. Then you get to use that new top-level page to link down and flow the link equity to all these different pages that you care about and currently are getting buried in your navigation system.

All right, everyone. Hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. Give us your tips in the comments for how you’ve seen link equity flow, the benefits or drawbacks that you’ve seen to try and controlling and optimizing that flow. We’ll see again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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Writers: An Opportunity to Get Copyblogger Certified

"Apply to join Copyblogger's list of recommended writers." – Sonia Simone, Chief Content Officer

This one is just for the professional writers in the audience.

You may have seen that we have a listing of recommended Copyblogger Certified Content Marketers. I’m going to tell you a bit about who those folks are and how they’re selected.

If you want to hire an excellent professional writer who understands content strategy, that’s where you look for one.

And if you’d like to join that group of recommended writers, this is how you can apply.

What’s in the program

Certification has three main components:

Education

The Certification program starts with a four-week online course taught by me and Brian Clark. It’s designed to take you from being an excellent writer to being an excellent writer who can implement content strategy.

“The Certification program pulled it all together for me. It was truly my aha moment — I got it! Not to be melodramatic, but all the components of content marketing aligned for me.” – Mark Crosling

Note: This isn’t a writing course. If you don’t come into the program with solid writing skills, you won’t leave with them, either. We may do a writing course at some point (I’d like to), but that day is not today.

The course will show you how to think about content strategy at a professional level. It includes workbooks and checklists you can bring with you to client meetings, so you can nail down the hard questions (and look incredibly smart and prepared) before you write a single line for your clients.

Once you’ve completed the course, you’re eligible to submit your work and apply for Certification.

Application

Not everyone who completes the course becomes Certified.

Every application is closely reviewed by someone on our writing team. We’re looking for excellent writing, professional presentation, and a demonstration of solid content strategy. If your application shows us a writer we’d be proud to recommend, you’ll be Certified.

Every evaluation includes a detailed critique. So if there’s a fixable problem, you’ll know what the specific issue is and how to correct it … and you can re-apply.

For me, this individual application process is at the heart of what makes Certification valuable. You’re not showing that you could pass a multiple-choice quiz — you’ve shown work that demonstrates, to a fellow professional writer, that you’re a pro with solid skills.

Ongoing education

The program also includes membership in our Authority community of content marketers. That’s where you’ll get ongoing education for your Certification, including sessions on traffic strategies, evolving content best practices, and insights into how to run a more profitable business.

You can even apply for an in-depth mastermind-style “hot seat,” where we take a close look at your business and help you develop a plan for how to reach your next goals.

“The other thing about the program that’s great is the invaluable support and information you get during and AFTER you’ve completed it. Being in the Authority program gives me access to awesome continuing education. Worth every penny — and the listing on the site has really gotten me a ton of work.” – Trudy Roth

What it’s doing for our writers

Making a living as a writer isn’t easy. Finding new clients, managing your business as a business, positioning yourself to rise above the pennies-per-word freelance treadmill.

The Certification program exists to reward good writers with more clients, more revenue, more stability, and more respect.

“The education Rainmaker Digital provides through Authority and the Content Marketing Certification program has helped me further advance my freelance writing career, and the result has been an increase in the quantity and quality of client inquiries.” – Kristi Hines

We also, of course, reap the benefits of having a highly qualified group of professional writers we can point to when businesses tell us, “We’re sold on content strategy, but we can’t find anyone who can implement it well.”

What you should do next

  • If you’re a writer and you want to turn yourself into a valued content strategist
  • If you’re a writer and you want support and advice on reaching your professional goals
  • If you’re a writer and you want to find better clients and belong to a prestigious list of recommended writers

… then you want to join us and get Certified.

Take your writing business to the next level with our Certified Content Marketer training

If you’re interested in becoming a Certified Content Marketer, add your email address to our waiting list below to be the first to hear when the program reopens.

Find out when our Certified Content Marketer training program reopens:

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SEO in 2017: Seizing opportunity, evangelizing success, achieving overarching growth

Columnist Jim Yu contends that to succeed in 2017, brands will need to coordinate organic and paid search marketing disciplines and understand how they can work together to build the relationship with customers.

The post SEO in 2017: Seizing opportunity, evangelizing success, achieving…



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Get Advanced Training and the Opportunity to Be Certified by Copyblogger (Open 1 Week Only)

writers-stand-out

Content marketing is exploding right now — and we’re working hard to meet the needs of the market.

We create new educational content each week here on Copyblogger. And we offer advanced content marketing training in our Authority program.

But for an elite group of professional writers, we offer our most advanced training: the Copyblogger Content Marketer Certification program.

This program offers writers the opportunity to submit their content for review by a member of the Copyblogger editorial team. Those who pass the application process are featured on our Copyblogger Certified Content Marketer page.

This week, we are opening the program again for a short time to allow a new group of writers inside.

If you’re a writer who’s ready to outperform the competition and fill your plate with better clients who pay you more for your work, please join us.

Register for the Certification program

Current Authority members, please log in for the best price.

Is the Certification program for you?

The Certification program gets results for its graduates.

Want to hear specifics? Read about the experiences of writers who’ve worked through the program and become certified: Certified Stories.

cert-outline-syllabusWe know you may have questions about the program and we want to give you all the information you need to make a smart decision. That’s why we created a free course outline and syllabus for our Certification program. It covers:

  • Details about the material you’ll learn
  • How the program works — how long it takes and what the Certification process is like
  • Information about your teachers, Brian Clark and Sonia Simone

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How to Find Your Brand’s Disruptive Opportunity

Posted by ronell-smith

[Estimated read time: 9 minutes]

In 2009, I wrote a magazine story about a Japanese lure company selling high-end fishing lures in the US for $ 20 to $ 50 each. With anglers buying the lures in droves, it was only a matter of time before competitors followed suit, creating carbon copies of the best sellers, which lead to a market frenzy the industry had never seen.

Months later, I interviewed the owner of the lure company everyone was copying. His comments were eye-opening and accurate.

“I don’t get it,” he said, referring to the competition. “I sell one million lures for $ 25. They sell 10 to 15 million lures for $ 5 to $ 10. I should be copying them.”

Basic math highlights the truth of his words: $ 25 million < $ 50 million–$ 150 million.

A good idea doesn’t mean good for your brand

What looked like an idea — selling more expensive products to eager buyers — sufficed as a blinder to what would become an amazing opportunity: finding a way to sell more low-cost lures.

For those of us involved in content marketing, we’re used to scenarios like these. Right?

The competition does something cool or interesting or that gets links, likes, or conversions, and we lose our minds in an attempt to copy them, even if it makes zero sense for us to do so.

Buzzfeed, anyone?

Sure, list posts can be and have been effective, but other than throwing some traffic your way, for most businesses the long-term value simply isn’t there.

But we live in a monkey-see, monkey-do world, so whatever the competition does, we attempt to do it better.

Never mind the fact that (a) we don’t really know how successful they are, or (b) how successful attempting the same tactics will prove for us.

Most important, because our resources are limited, we don’t often see how choosing to chase others’ ideas means we typically cannot adequately focus on the opportunities right in front of us.

Opportunities > ideas

At Mozcon 2015, the word “disruption” kept being spoken by speakers on stage. In fact, a prominent theme of Rand’s opening talk was how a number of prominent brands were willing to disrupt themselves:

  • Facebook: The brand’s Little Red Book, given to all employees, contains many useful, guiding tidbits, among them, “If we don’t create the thing that kills Facebook, someone else will.”
  • Microsoft: After years of openly expressing contempt for Linux, the brand is welcoming working with the open-source outsider.

And as someone who was fortunate enough to stumble onto disruption (correctly called disruptive innovation) after college, hearing Rand talk about this theory made me very proud.

Problem is, what these businesses he described are doing is not really disruption.

In a strict business sense, the examples he shared are known as a pivot, where businesses re-imagine (or refashion) themselves and/or their assets in an entirely different light, as a way to grow, ward off competitors, solve big problems or grow their audience.

What is disruption?

Disruption is something far more significant, especially for brands looking to set themselves apart in competitive markets.

Coined by current Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen in his 1996 book “The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail,” innovative disruption refers to the transformation of a product or a service in such a way that it makes it more affordable and more accessible to a wider audience.

These products start at the bottom, catering to a market that cannot afford the more expensive (and more popular) option. But, as in the case of the lure companies, by focusing on the bottom of the market, there is less competition and greater numbers who can afford the product.

One of the most prominent and most vivid examples of disruptive innovation is how smartphones disrupted the laptop market, which in the 1980s disrupted the desktop market, which itself disrupted the mainframe computer.

Disruptors enter the market at the bottom, where people or industries are being underserved, which is a result of the major players in a vertical choosing to go upstream and over-serve the market, often through added features and benefits people cannot use and don’t need.

But while they continue to cater to the high end of the market, disruptors slide in and gobble up market share at the bottom, before moving upstream to challenge their biggest competitors as the former’s products or services improve in quality, grow in popularity, and suffice as a viable option for even those with more discerning taste.

Why should content marketers care?

For those of you wondering what any of this has to do with content marketing, I say “plenty.” Think about the biggest challenges currently weighing down content marketing, beginning with brands…

  • Laboring to create engaging content
  • Failing to to understand their audience and their needs
  • Lacking clarity on which metrics to use in determining the success of their marketing efforts

I’m convinced this occurs because brands are too focused on better serving audiences they neither own nor enjoy the full support of, instead of looking for the next opportunity on the horizon. Or they’re too focused on ideas, instead of opportunities.

Finding your brand’s disruptive opportunity means you’re not competing in the same sandbox as everyone else, which means your chances of dominating the category are much, much higher.

Brands making it work

When Facebook announced 2G Tuesdays, whereby it asks some of its employees to use their brand’s apps over a slower 2G connection, it was billed as an opportunity for the company to see the challenges people in the developing world have when using their products.

Maybe.

That’s probably only part of the story. It’s just as likely that the company, which has nearly one billion active users, is looking at what additional services it can offer people in developing countries. It’s a good bet that, to garner interest from the other 6.4 billion people on earth, the service they offer won’t look anything like the Facebook we now know and (mostly) love.

Or what about Wavestorm, a company which sells surfboards for $ 99.99 and are offered exclusively at discount warehouse Costco? The company entered the bottom of the market, where surfboards regularly cost $ 300 to $ 1,000 or more. Even the brand’s owner is not shy in saying that he realizes the folks who can only pay $ 99 today will likely be willing to spend far more in the future.

Is your brand ready to find its disruptive opportunity?

Seize your brand’s disruptive opportunity

The beginning is always the most painful part, and this exercise will be no different. Begin by pulling the marketing team together for a brainstorming session.

Then throw two ideas on the table:

  1. What are the verticals where a large portion of the audience is underserved?
  2. What are we uniquely qualified to offer at least one of these markets that the competition would have a hard time beating us on?

Here’s the kicker: You cannot limit yourself to any specific vertical.

To many of you, the idea will sound crazy at first. That is, until you re-read the questions and see that what you’re really asked to do is think of where you should be looking for growth, expanded opportunities that you maybe have not and would not otherwise look for.

When I talk to brands, what I frequently hear is that they have maxed out in a market, lack the skilled staff to compete in their vertical, or are no longer able to connect with the audience in a meaningful way.

As tastes have changed, these brands have not been able to keep up.

So instead of playing catch-up, my suggestion is to slowly but surely start charting a new path, one where the territory is fertile (i.e., lots of opportunities) and the competition is not entrenched.

Don’t let fear get in your way.

Maybe you’re an agency sick of losing clients. You could take options off the table, offering only those services that you’ve determined, during the discovery process, will benefit the client. Any prospect who wants to cherry-pick services would have to look elsewhere.

How is this disruptive? The vast majority of agencies offer a smorgasbord of services, many of which they do poorly, while many others specialize in areas where they have deep expertise. The sweet spot is often in the middle, where you identify needs but only take on the most glaring of those needs, or very specific needs, which could move the business forward. (The management consulting field is currently being disrupted in similar fashion.)

Let’s take a look at a couple of examples of disruption at work.

Disruption in action

When I first encountered strength coaches Dean Somerset and Tony Gentilcore, they were both making a name for themselves as bloggers and trainers in Canada and Boston, respectively. Fast forward seven years, and they are now two of the most well-known, most-sought-after young experts in the field.

While most trainers go after the largest piece of the pie — fat loss clients — they’ve focused on helping folks to move better (i.e., mobility) rather than just look better, which means clients can enjoy their newfound size and weight. Also, they spend a considerable amount of time traveling the US, Canada and Europe, teaching other strength coaches how to be better at their jobs.

One of my favorite examples of a small brand that’s taken up the challenge to disrupt a sector is Boston-based Wistia, the video-hosting company that makes it easier for businesses to add their videos to the web.

The brand was founded in 2006, which is significant because video-hosting juggernaut YouTube came to fruition in 2005.

You might ask yourself, “What were [Wistia] thinking?” One word: Opportunity.

Where others saw a dominant player owning a category, they saw a dominant player opening a category so wide that others had room to thrive.

(Not shown to scale, of course)

“We had an opportunity to go deeper on one segment of this market and create specialized features that YouTube would never build as a broad-based platform,” says Wistia co-founder and CEO Chris Savage.

So while YouTube focuses on being everything to everyone, Wistia has singled out a lucrative, largely ignored piece of the pie they can own and dominate.

Next steps

Let me be emphatic: I have no expectation that businesses will read this post, then dramatically reshape their products, product lines, or services overnight. The point of this article is to make it clear that opportunities are all around, and the more open we are to these opportunities, the more we’ll increase our chances of continued success and limit the number of missed opportunities.

In the end, the lure companies chasing the Japanese brands realized their error too late: The category is now dominated by low-cost alternatives that cost a fraction of the price of the originals.

If only one the copycats had looked more closely at the numbers, they could have seen the opportunity ahead.

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Off with Your Head Terms: Leveraging Long-Tail Opportunity with Content

Posted by SimonPenson

Running an agency comes with many privileges, including a first-hand look at large amounts of data on how clients’ sites behave in search, and especially how that behavior changes day-to-day and month-to-month.

While every niche is different and can have subtle nuances that frustrate even the most hardened SEOs or data analysts, there are undoubtedly trends that stick out every so often which are worthy of further investigation.

In the past year, the Zazzle Media team has been monitoring one in particular, and today’s post is designed to shed some light on it in hopes of creating a wider debate.

What is this trend, you ask? In simple terms, it’s what we see as a major shift in the way results are presented, and it’s resulting in more traffic for the long tail.

2014 growth

It’s a conclusion supported by a number of client growth stories throughout the last 12 months, all of whom have seen significant growth coming not from head terms, but from an increasing number of URLs gaining search traffic from organic.

The Searchmetrics visibility chart below is just one example of a brand in the finance space seeing digital growth year-over-year as a direct result of this phenomenon. They’ve even seen some head terms drop backwards by a couple of places while still seeing this overall.

To understand why this may be happening we need to take a very quick crash course into how Google has evolved over the past two years.

Keyword matching

Google built its empire on a smart system; one which was able to match “documents” (webpages) to keywords by scanning and organizing those documents based upon keyword mentions.

It’s an approach that has been getting increasingly too simplistic in a “big data” world.

The answer, it seems, is to focus more on the user intent behind that query and get at exactly what it is the searcher is actually looking for.

Hummingbird

The solution to that challenge is Hummingbird, Google’s new “engine” for sorting the results we see when we search.

In the same way that Caffeine, the former search architecture, allowed the company to produce fresher results and roll worldwide algorithm changes (such as Panda and Penguin) out faster, Hummingbird is designed to do the same for personalized results.

And while we are only at the very beginning of that journey, from the data we have seen over the past year it seems to be crystallizing into more traffic for deeper pages.

Why is this happening? The answer lies in further analysis of what Google is trying to achieve.

Implicit vs. explicit

To better explain this change let’s look at how it is affecting a search for something obvious, like “coffee shop.”

Go back two or so years and a search for this may well have presented 10 blue links of the obvious chains and their location pages.

For the user, however, this isn’t useful—and the search giant knows it. Instead, they want to understand the user intent behind the query, or the “implicit query,” as previously explained by Tom Anthony
on this blog.

What that means, in practice, is that a search for “coffee shop” will actually have context, and one of the reasons for wanting you signed in is to allow the search engine to collect further signals from you to help understand that query in detail. That means things like your location, perhaps even your brand preferences, etc.

Knowing these things allows the search to be personalized to your exact needs, throwing up the details of the closest Starbucks to your current location (if that is your favourite coffee).

If you then expand this trend out into billions of other searches you can see how deeper-level pages, or even articles, present a better, more refined option for Google.

Here we see how a result for something like “Hotels” may change if Google knows where you are, what you do for a living and therefore what kind of disposable income you have. The result may look completely different, for instance, if Google knows you are a company CEO who stays in nice hotels and has a big meeting the following day, thus requiring a quiet room so you can get some sleep.

Instead of the usual “best hotels in London” result we get something much more personalised and, critically, something more useful.

The new long-tail curve

What this appears to be doing is reshaping the traditional long-tail curve we all know so well. It is beginning to change shape along the lines of the chart below:

That’s a noteworthy shift. With another client of ours, we have seen a 135% increase in the number of pages receiving traffic from search, delivering a 98% increase in overall organic traffic because of it.

The primary factor behind this rise is the creation of the “right” content to take advantage of this changing marketplace. Getting that right requires an approach reminiscent of the way traditional marketing has worked for decades—before the web even existed.

In practice, that means understanding the audience you are attempting to capture and, in doing so, outlining the key questions they are asking every day.

This audience-centric marketing approach is something I have written about previously on this blog and others, as it is critical to understanding that “context” and what your customers or clients are actually looking for.

The way to do that? Dive into data, and also speak to those who may already be buying from or working with you.

Digging into available data

The first step of any marketing process is to collect and process any and all available information about your existing audience and those you may want to attract in the future.

This is a huge subject area—one I could easily spend the next 10,000 words writing about—but it has been covered brilliantly on the more traditional research side by sites like
this and this.

The latter of those two links breaks this side of the research process into the two key critical elements you will need to master to ensure you have a thorough understanding of who you are “talking” to in search.

Quantitative concentrates on the numbers. Focus is on larger data sets and statistical information, as opposed to painting a rich picture of the likes and dislikes of your audience.

Qualitative focuses on the words and on painting in the “richness.” The way your customers speak and explain problems, likes and dislikes. It’s more of a study on human behavior than stats.

This information can be combined with a plethora of other data sources from CRMs, email lists, and other customer insight pots, but where we are increasingly seeing more opportunity is in the social data arena.

Platforms such as Facebook can give all brands access to hugely valuable big-data insight about almost any audience you could possibly imagine.

What I’d like to do here is explain how to go about extracting that data to form rich pictures of those we are either already speaking to or the very people we want to attract.

There is also little doubt that the amount of insight you have into your audience is directly proportional to the success of your content, hence the importance of this research cycle.

Persona creation

Your data comes to life through the creation of personas, which are designed to put a human face on that data and group it into a small number of shared interest sets.

Again, the point of this post is not to explain how to best manage this process. Posts like
this one and this one go over that in great detail—the point here is to go over what having them in place allows you to do.

We’ve also created a free persona template, which can help make the process of pulling them together much easier.

When you’ve got them created, you will soon realize that your personas each have very different needs from a content perspective.

To give you an example of that let’s look at these example profiles below:

Here we can see three very distinct segments of the audience, and immediately it is easy to see how each of them is looking for a different experience from your brand.

Take the “Maturing Spender” for example. In this fictional example for a banking brand we can see he not only has very different content needs but is actually “activated” by a different approach to the buying cycle too.

While the traditional buyer will follow a process of awareness, research, evaluation and purchase, a new kind of purchase behaviour is materializing that’s driven by social.

In this new world we are seeing consumers driven to more impulsive purchases that are often driven by social sharing. They’ll see something in their social feeds and are more likely to purchase there and then (or at least within a few days), especially if there is a limited offer on.

Much of this is driven by our increasingly “disposable” culture that creates an accelerated buying process.

You can learn this and other data-driven insights from the personas, and we recommend using a
good persona template, then adding further descriptive detail and “colour” to each one so that everyone understands whom it is they are writing for.

It can also work well to align those characters to famous people, if possible, as doing so makes it much easier to scale understanding across whole organizations.

Having them in place and universally adopted allows you to do many things, including:

  • Create focus on the customer
  • Allow teams to make and defend decisions
  • Create empathy with the audience

Ultimately, however, all of this is designed to ensure you have a better understanding of those you want to converse with, and in doing so you can map out the key questions they ask and understand their individual needs.

If you want to dig into this area more then I highly recommend Mike King’s post from 2014
here on Moz for further background.

New keyword research – personas

Understanding the specific questions your audience is asking is where the real win can be found, and the next stage is to utilize the info gleaned from the persona process in the next phase: keyword research.

To do that, let’s walk through an example for our Happy Couple persona (the first from the above graphic), and see how things plays out for this fictional banking brand.

The first step is to gather a list of tools to help unearth related keywords. Here are the ones we use:

There are many more that can help, but it is very easy to complicate the process with data, so we like to limit that as much as possible and focus on where we can get the most benefit quickly.

Before we get into the data mining process, however, we begin with a group brainstorm to surface as many initial questions as possible.

To do this, we will gather four people for a quick 15-minute stand-up conversation around each persona. The aim is to gather five questions from which the main research phase can be constructed.

Some possibilities for our Happy Couple example may include:

  • How much can I borrow for a mortgage?
  • How do I buy a house?
  • How large a deposit do I need to buy a house?
  • What is the best regular savings account?

From here we can use this framework as a starting point for the keyword research and there is no better place to start than with our first tool.

SEMRush

For those unfamiliar with this tool it is designed to make it easier to accurately assess competitor and market opportunity by plugging into search data. In this example we will use it to highlight longer-tail keyword opportunity based upon the example questions we have just unearthed.

To uncover related keyword opportunity around the first question we type in something similar to the below:

This will highlight a number of phrases related to our question:

As you can see, this gives us a lot of ammunition from a content perspective to enable us to write about this critical subject consistently without repeating the same titles.

Each of those long-tail terms can be analyzed ever deeper by clicking on them individually. That will generate a further list of even more specifically related terms.

Soovle

The next stage is to use this vastly underrated tool to further mine user search data. It allows you to gather regular search phrases from sites such as YouTube, Yahoo, Bing, Answers.com and Wikipedia in one place.

The result is something a little like the below. It may not be the prettiest but it can save a lot of time and effort as you can download the results in a single CSV.

Google Autocomplete / KeywordTool.io

There are several ways you can tap into Google’s Autocomplete data and with an API in existence there are a number of tools making good use of it. My current favourite is
KeywordTool.io, which actually has its own API, mashing data from Google, YouTube, Bing, and the Apple App Store.

The real value is in how it spits out that data, as you are able to see suggestions by letter or number, creating hundreds of potential areas for content development. The App Store data is particularly useful, as you will often see greater refinement in search behavior here and as a result very specific ‘questions’ to answer.

A great example for this would be “how to prequalify yourself for a mortgage,” a phrase which would be very hard to surface using Google Autocomplete tools alone.

Forum searches

Another fantastic area worthy of research focus is forums. We use these to ask our peers and topic experts questions, so spending some time understanding what is being asked within the key ones for your market can be very helpful.

One of the best ways of doing this is to perform a simple advanced Google search as outlined below:

“keyword” + “forum”

For our example we might type:

This then presents us with more than 85,000 results, many of which will be questions that have been asked on this subject.

Examples include:

  • First-time buyer’s mortgage guide
  • Getting a Mortgage: Boost your Mortgage Chances
  • Mortgage Arrears: What help is available?
  • Are Fixed Rate Mortgages best?

As you can see, this also opens up a myriad of content opportunities.

Competitive research

Another way of laterally expanding your reach is to look at the content your best competitors are producing.

In this example we will look at two ways of doing that, firstly by analyzing top content and then by looking at what those competitors rank for that you don’t.

Most shared content

There are several tools that can give you a view on the most-shared content, but my personal favourites are Buzzsumo or the awesome new
ahrefs Content Explorer.

Below, we see a search for “mortgages” using the tool, and we are presented with a list of content on that subject sorted by “most shared.” The result can be filtered by time frame, language, or even by specific domain inclusions or exclusions.

This data can be exported and titles extracted to be used as the basis of further keyword research around that specific topic area, or within a brainstorm.

For example, I might want to look at where the volume is from an organic search perspective for something like “mortgage paperwork.”

I can type this term into SEMRush and search through related phrases for long-tail opportunity on that specific area.

Competitor terms opportunity

A smart way of working out where you can gain further market share is to dive a little deeper into your key competitors and understand what they rank for and, critically, what you don’t.

To do this, we return to SEMRush and make use of a little-publicized but hugely useful tool within the suite called
Domain Comparison Tool.

It allows you to compare two domains and visualize the overlap they have from a keyword ranking perspective. For this example, we will choose to compare two UK banks – Lloyds and HSBC.

To do that simply type both domains into the tool as below:

Next, click on the chart button and you will be presented with two overlapping circles, representing the keywords that each domain ranks for. As we can see, both rank for a similar number of keywords (the overall number affects the size of the circles) with some overlap but there are keywords from both sides that could be exploited.

If we were working for HSBC, for instance, it would be the blue portion of the chart we would be most interested in in this scenario. We can download a full list of keywords that both banks rank for, and then sort by those that HSBC don’t rank for.

You can see in the snapshot below that the data includes columns on where each site ranks for each keyword, so sorting is easy.

Once you have the raw data in spreadsheet format, we would sort by the “HSBC” column so the terms at the top are those we don’t rank for, and then strip away the rest. This leaves you with the opportunity terms that you can create content to cover, and this can be prioritized by search volume or topic area if there are specific sub-topics that are more important than others within your wider plan.

Create the calendar

By this point in the process you should have hundreds, if not thousands of title ideas, and the next job is to ensure that you organise them in a way that makes sense for your audience and also for your brand.

Content flow

To do this properly requires not just a knowledge of your audience via extensive research, but also content strategy.

One of the biggest rules is something we call content flow. In a nutshell, it is the discipline of creating a content calendar that delivers variation over time in a way that keeps the audience engaged. 

If you create the same content all of the time it can quickly become a turn-off, and so varying the type (video, image-led piece, infographics, etc.) and read time, or the amount of time you put into creating the piece, will produce that “flow.”

This handy tool can help you sense check it as you go.

Clearly your “other” content requirements as part of your wider strategy will need to fit into this strategy, too. The vast majority of the output here will be article-focused, and it is critical to ensure that other elements of your strategy are also covered to round out your content output.

This
free content strategy toolkit download gives you everything you need to ensure you get the rest of it right.

The result

This is a strategy we have followed for many of our search-focused clients over the last 18 months, and we have some great real-world case studies to prove that it works.

Below you can see how just one of those has played out in search visibility improvement terms over that period as proof of its effectiveness.

All of that growth directly correlates with a huge growth in the number of URLs receiving traffic from search and that is a key metric in measuring the effectiveness of this strategy.

In this example we saw a 15% monthly increase in the number of URLs receiving traffic from search, with organic traffic up 98% year-on-year despite head terms staying relatively static.

Give it a go for yourself as part of your wider strategy and see what it can do for your brand.

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How to Determine the Potential Size of Your Content Marketing Opportunity

Image of a Vintage Globe

In my last Copyblogger article, I talked about how to build an agile content marketing team. This time around, I’m going to focus on how to determine the potential size and reach of your content marketing opportunity.

One way to accomplish this is to see if readers are already displaying a passion for your space. Are they looking for the type of content you’re producing, or want to produce? Are they sharing it? If you create the right content, is there evidence that they would be willing to do so?

Don’t leap to early conclusions just because you think your space is not sexy.

Consider Seventh Generation’s Facebook page. They make household cleaners, laundry detergent, baby care, and personal care products. Yet their Facebook page has more than 1 million likes and almost 60,000 people talking about it. Those are serious numbers.

So, let’s dig in and do the research. How can you determine the reach of your content marketing opportunity?

I’ve listed eight specific steps below to help you do just that …

1. Use a keyword tool to get search volume info

Start doing searches on keywords and phrases that are relevant to your business goals.

The idea at this stage is to simply to get some idea of how many people are searching for your type of stuff. You’ll want to try different types and combinations of phrases. There are many great tools for this kind of work. One that I often use is the Google AdWords Keyword Tool:

With results from the keyword volume data, you now have an estimate of just how often people are actually searching for topics related to yours.

Filter this information with your own knowledge of how likely these types of searches will move towards your conversion goals, or begin an ongoing audience relationship with someone that may become a customer at a later date.

2. Brainstorm targets in a conference room

In my eyes, this is one of the most overlooked steps in digital marketing today — simply putting your people in a conference room and brainstorming.

We all want to rush to our favorite search engine and/or social networking site and ask them to give us answers.

Don’t do that first.

The reason I insist on this is that effective critical thinking is what differentiates success and failure in this world. You want to exercise that brain of yours (and that of your team) every chance you can get.

If you are an expert in your niche, brainstorming with real people first is — in my opinion — absolutely the right way to go.

3. Develop a list of other sites publishing related content

Once you have an idea of the keywords for your space, go expand your search on some of them.

Make sure you place those key phrases in double quotes “” so you’ll get a refined list of sites publishing related content. Here is a sample search for “adult diapers” in Google Blog Search:

Fascinating, wouldn’t you say? You never know what you will learn when working on any given article … but, I digress.

Note that for many types of searches, the results may be highly commercial. For this exercise, we want to find the people publishing related content, so you may need to append some modifiers to see what you want.

For example, if you are in the machine tools space, you might want to search on machine tools blog (without the quotes):

Make a list of the sites you see as your content competitors in your niche. These are blogs or content-centric areas of web sites that are publishing related content.

4. Go to the other search engine

Now, head over to Bing and repeat the same searches (same goes for you Bing devotees, repeat your searches in Google).

This step is invaluable, simply because diferent search engines return different results. Doubling up can help add some bulk to your list:

In the example search I show here, only the first result is the same. This diversity continues as you comb further through the search results.

Use the other search engines (whichever it is for you) to increase the size and depth of your list.

5. Go get readership numbers

For those sites with RSS feeds, you can get an estimate of their subscriber base. The easiest way to do this is with Google Reader.

First, use Google Reader to subscribe to the blog, and then select that feed. Then, select “View details and statistics” as shown here:

Once you make that selection, you’ll get a report that looks like this one.

Of course, people use many different tools to read RSS feeds, and Google Reader is just one of them. However, one decent sized blog put Google Reader’s share of their subscribers at 59% back in 2009. That is probably a tad high, but even so, we can stipulate that the share of market for Google Reader is still very significant.

Use this data judiciously, and know that there are many other readers, but it will give you some feeling for readership.

There are also traffic tools out there that can help you see what traffic is going to given web sites. Some of these include Compete.com, Quantcast, Alexa. Here is a look at traffic stats on Alexa:

Numbers from these tools are crude at best, as they are based on a small sample size of total web traffic, but they still should give you a general sense of the traffic to the site.

6. Find the large audiences on Facebook

Start doing some queries using Facebook Search to find the more active sources of the type of content you’re producing:

You should click through and visit the individual pages so you can collect data on how many people are “talking about this” to get (what I consider) the most interesting numbers. This will enable you to get a sense for your ability to reach an audience beyond your direct fans.

Then take the search a bit further and try other variants such as “mechanical engineering,” if that makes sense for your business.

You can also try searching Facebook groups:

Last, but not least, see if a search with your favorite search engine turns up different results:

As Bing has a direct data feed from Facebook, they may be the best source of data for this type of information. In addition to the differentiated data, you can also see which of your friends know something about the topic on their social sidebar.

7. Find the large audiences on Twitter

Now it’s time to repeat the same exercise using Twitter Search.

Here’s a search on the hashtag: #furniture:

You can try this as a non-hashtag search as well, or play with Twitter’s Advanced Search to see if you can get better results.

8. Sum up the social media analysis

Another way to get at this data, for both Facebook and Twitter, is to go back to all the sites you brainstormed and found in your earlier research, and see what their feeds look like.

After all, if they’re big on publishing content to their site or blog, chances are many of them also do some serious social networking too.

Of course, there are other significant social media sites, but the point of this analysis is to get a rough sizing of the opportunity, so you can decide how to invest in the strategies your content marketing team is working on.

Don’t ignore the other social sites entirely, just spot check them to see if they are active in your space.

Later, when you actually launch your content marketing effort, other sites may become large players in it, but seeing what’s happening on Facebook and Twitter should get you the info you need to begin.

The key thing to focus on is not the number of Followers or Fans, but instead on the interactivity. That’s the true multiple here.

People who initially become your Followers or Fans are probably not the ones you’re trying to reach. They already know about you! The payoff is when they tweet/retweet/share your stuff, because they’ll be exposing you to their audiences. That’s where things start getting interesting in social.

Cool, but what now?

After all this analysis, you now should have a good idea of what your competitors are doing in the space, how they are investing, and what your options are.

Here are four thoughts on how to process all the data you’ve collected:

1. Assess the Unique Advantages You Have

What platforms would they best work on? How does that match up with the audience you are trying to reach? Is competition already there? How will you differentiate? What level of effort will it take to succeed? These questions are a part of understanding what advantages you may have in approaching your content marketing strategy.

2. Consider the Potential Payoff

Are you looking to drive direct conversions? Build your brand by creating high levels of viaibility and showing your expertise? This is a key step in sizing the investment you want to make. Also, seeing how your competition is doing helps you decide how large a benefit you can get.

3. Decide on an Investment Focus

Now that you’ve scoped out — in detail — what others are doing, start thinking about the best way for you to engage in your social media strategy. Here are some questions to ask along those lines:

  • Will you have a blog on your own site?
  • How much high end guest posting will you be doing? Note that I consider it a given that you will do this at some level.
  • Do you want to allow guest writing on your blog?
  • What social networking sites will you be active in?
  • How much effort will you put into social networking vs. writing?
  • What role will giving interviews play in your strategy?
  • How many conferences / speaking engagements will you (your company) be involved in?

You should put a lot of weight on what your content marketing team can actually pull off. Your subject matter expert (SME) may have some strong preferences, and that is a key part of the puzzle.

4. Decide on an Investment Level

This is where you have to do some math that is specific to your business.

Your research will have shown you what the competition is doing. You know what your budget restrictions are (or should be able to find that out). Now you need to make a call, but with the information you’ve gathered, you should be able to make a decision on how aggressive you want to be.

Good luck!

About the Author: Eric Enge is President of Stone Temple Consulting, a digital marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) firm. He is also a speaker at industry conferences about SEO and Social Media. Get more from Eric on his blog, Twitter, or Google+.

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A Quick Look at Cell Phone SERPs & the Mobile SEO ‘Opportunity’

Mobile Ad CTR

Worstream recently put out an infographic where they suggested that 64.6% of search result clicks on highly commercial keywords are clicks on AdWords ads. Shortly before Google’s quarterly announcement RKG put out their digital marketing report. In it they highlight how search ad CTR differs by device.

What causes a higher CTR on cell phones & tablets? A smaller search interface, which allows ads to dominate a larger portion of the screen real estate.

Screen Real Estate

Vertical iPhone = 1/3 of an organic listing above the fold.

Horizontal iPhone = all ads above the fold.

Vertical iPad is about 2/3 ads above the fold.

Horizontal iPad has about half of a single organic listing above the fold.

Vertical Kindle is about 2/3 ads.

Horizontal Kindle is 100% ads above the fold.

And the above interfaces are not going to look any less ad heavy as Google adds paid inclusion shopping results.

Controlling the Ecosystem

Google offers sitelinks when they think a search query is navigational in nature. In spite of that, for some brands they will still show 3 AdWords ads above the organic search results, in an attempt to force the brand to re-buy their own brand equity.

If you control what is above the fold (and can get away with serving nothing but ads above the fold) you can make a lot of money.

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