Tools to assist your SEO check-up

Whether you are new to SEO and looking for a litmus test of your website’s health, or have an ongoing campaign that may need a little refreshing, it’s always a good idea to perform regular check-ups or audits.

If you have complex campaigns that are already in full swing this may seem like a lot of effort. It’s a bit like going to the dentist; you may not like it but it’s necessary. Better to identify areas for improvement or success that can be capitalized on than to continue blindly following the original strategy with more limited results.

This article explores some of the tools that are available to you in order to perform an SEO check-up.

Keyword research

With the growing complexity of inbound marketing, voice search, Rankbrain and content marketing, the phrase ‘keyword’ is starting to feel somewhat of a profanity. In fact, Hubspot is even in the process of removing its keyword tracking function from the platform.

However, there is still significant emphasis placed on high value target keywords by clients and management alike. Furthermore, sound keyword research (or searcher intent-led research) can be incredibly valuable as a foundation for a more comprehensive, conversion-driven campaign.

The queries that searchers use to find your business can change over time so it’s always a good idea to audit existing target keywords to ensure that they are still viable. Google’s Keyword Planner should be your first port of call; after all it provides direct access to search data.

If you understandably don’t want to pin your campaign to certain keywords, focus instead on the solutions and value that you are trying to provide for your clients. This will help you analyse the overarching objectives of your campaign and influence how you then track the successes and areas for improvement. Use your analytics data (more on this later) to see whether the campaign is performing according to your original strategy.

Of course, there are other research tools that you can use including Answer the Public, Keywordtool.io or BuzzSumo.

Indicative metrics

For many, having indicative metrics can provide peace of mind with regard to the incremental improvement of campaigns. While this can be somewhat of a flawed system, they do provide easily digestible statistics to help with a check-up.

The two most popular metrics used by the industry are provided by Moz and Majestic. These figures should be viewed as quick indicative figures and should not be taken as chapter and verse for the health of your SEO campaign.

Moz’s Open Site Explorer

Domain authority (DA) is the most popular of the metrics provided by Moz’s Open Site Explorer, providing a score between 0 and 100. The theory is that according to the factors taken into account by Moz’s analytics, a website with a higher DA is more likely to rank in search. Moz also provides page authority, which is useful for landing or category pages on your website.

Majestic

In the same vein as Moz, Majestic provides two main metrics: trust flow and citation flow. These metrics are heavily based on the quantity and quality of linking domains and are potentially more useful for a check-up owing to the specific nature of the metrics. Majestic also provides a deeper breakdown of link factors, allowing users to deep dive into the health of their website’s backlink portfolio.

Pingdom, GT Metrix and PageSpeed Insights

With the roll out of Google’s mobile first index, load speed has never been more important. A slow loading website is a slow loading website. It has a dual impact: lower rankings and lower conversion rates, all underpinned by a poor user experience.

Any SEO check-up or audit should evaluate a website’s load speed. There are a number of tools available, all with their pros and cons. Google’s PageSpeed Insights is much like the Keyword Planner; it’s run by Google so pretty hard to ignore. However, the advice provided is reasonably generic. Use it conjunction with other tools such as Pingdom’s Website Speed Test and GT Metrix to really hone in on some of the load speed issues faced by your site and get your site loading quickly on both desktop and mobile.

W3C Validator

Websites are like cars: the more you use them, the more maintenance they need. Over time a website is likely to develop errors in the code, which will have an impact on how your website is viewed Google, especially if it then effects the aforementioned load speed. Use W3C’s Markup Validation Service to highlight errors in the code for your development team to fix.

Consumer research

The tools mentioned thus far give an overarching view of your website’s SEO health, allowing you to start to form, or reassess, the foundations of a campaign. However, it’s always possible to dig a little deeper to draw user-based insights into the current performance of a website and therefore not only provide higher value to the user (and therefore increase your chances of being returned in the SERPs), but also have a positive impact on your conversion rate.

User and usage data is essential for any successful, agile campaign. It provides the data necessary to see if your original strategy is paying dividends, or whether you need to start shaking things up!

Google Analytics and Search Console

If you haven’t already set up detailed conversion tracking on your site, please do so now. Conversions are often what dictates a campaign’s success so make sure that you can correctly attribute them.

Using Google Analytics for data that can positively influence an SEO campaign is a whole suite of articles alone. However, here are a few quick wins for you.

Content analysis

Chances are that you are investing heavily into your own content creation, which is great. The pitfall is that you create on piece of content and then move on to create a completely fresh piece. Use your check-up/audit as an opportunity to refresh existing content by:

Identifying successful pieces. Can they be improved or updated? Do they have impressive user metrics but are not delivering conversions? Is there a pattern appearing with successful articles that can influence ongoing content creation?
Improving underperforming posts. Can you spot posts that are failing to rank in the SERPs? They may need to be reviewed for a more focussed value proposition, or maybe your onsite is lacking. These present real opportunities to make the most of time that you have already invested into content, effectively retrofitting to ensure performance.
User flow

Keyword rankings are but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to measuring SEO success and they are by no means the most pertinent data. Conversions are the real gold at the end of the rainbow and without a clear user flow you can severely inhibit your conversion rate.

The user flow function in Google Analytics shows you entry and exit pages, as well as the main flow from page to page. Geek out even further with tools like Hot Jar but be warned – you can waste a lot of time watching endless videos of your users’ sessions.

Review searches

Google Search Console is invaluable for making sure that all of your onsite optimization, content creation and link building is actually delivering the right type of traffic to your site. Use the platform (you can also sync and view data via Google Analytics) to make sure that the types of searches people are using to find your website are relevant. Another tip is to find those search terms for which you are gaining lots of impressions, but have a low CTR – this can help you refine how your pages actually appear in the SERPs.

Conclusions

You only need do a brief search to understand that there are multiple tools for just about every aspect of SEO, although hopefully the ones listed above will get you off to a healthy start in your review. You may already be a premium subscriber to platforms such as Ahrefs or SEMrush, in which case we would advise exploring the functionality offered by these providers. For example, the site audit feature on SEMrush is particularly useful.

Use these tools to provide indicators of success or areas for improvement. Don’t be afraid to adjust your strategy according to the findings of your check-up – you may well spot opportunities in the market that your competitors have not.

Read more about performing a technical SEO audit on Marcela De Vivo’s most recent column.

How to expand marketing reach in the slow season, part 3: Yahoo Gemini

When most marketers think of Yahoo, they think of low volume and little impact to overall scale. However, Yahoo Gemini is not only search, but it taps into native advertising also.

Yahoo is one of the top sites for premium content and generates over 1 billion monthly visitors. Gemini primarily lies in-feed alongside Yahoo’s owned content; it also gives your ads access to Yahoo’s top syndication partners such as Hearst and Vox. Overall, it provides great access to extensive audiences.

Yahoo Gemini ad types

Yahoo Mail Ads

These ads reside in Yahoo Mail and come in a variety of different formats

Pencil ads: Native ads that appear within a user’s mailbox:

Sponsored Mail ads: Native ads that appear in your mailbox with a ‘learn more’ button that opens up to a more detailed ad:

Video Mail ads: Video ads located on the side of the mailbox:

Dynamic Product ads: Dynamic retargeting ads that are personalized to each user’s shopping experience and show up in the feed (note: if you are an ecommerce company, you will definitely want to leverage these ads):

Static ads: This is the simplest and most straightforward ad format: static ads that appear right within the native feed:

Carousel ads: These vary between desktop and mobile in format. Desktop allows advertisers to show a more premium format for their ads:

Mobile allows advertisers to use up to five images to tell a visual story:

Tips for maximizing Yahoo Gemini

When launching on native, start with carousel ads as your preferred ad type. Carousel ads tend to perform better with regard to direct response because they are only served on Yahoo properties with premium placements.

Break out desktop versus mobile campaigns. You can do this by creating separate desktop campaigns in which you reduce mobile bids by max levels. Having separate desktop and mobile campaigns allows you greater control over each campaign’s performance and budget.

Similarly, break out your Yahoo Mail campaigns. We have found that whenever Mail campaigns are combined with general native campaigns, the majority of spend will go to Mail because of its vast impression volume. Again, segmenting campaign types allows better control over budget allocation and overall performance optimization.

If you have solid competitors in the space, you should run a Mail domain-targeting campaign in which you target users who receive ads from your competition.

Summary

Yahoo Gemini can be an excellent source of reach, new users, and even direct response with its retargeting options. It’s worth investing your time in as you hit your slow season and are looking for incremental volume.

Read more in this series:

Part 1: How to expand marketing reach in the slow season with Quora

Part 2: How to expand marketing reach in the slow season with Amazon Marketing Services

The 12 most important elements of a technical SEO audit

Contrary to popular belief, technical SEO isn’t too challenging once you get the basics down; you may even be using a few of these tactics and not know it.

However, it is important to know that your site probably has some type of technical issue. “There are no perfect websites without any room for improvement,” Elena Terenteva of SEMrush explained. “Hundreds and even thousands of issues might appear on your website.”

For example, over 80% of websites examined had 4xx broken link errors, according to a 2017 SEMrush study, and more than 65% of sites had duplicate content.

Ultimately, you want your website to rank better, get better traffic, and net more conversions. Technical SEO is all about fixing errors to make that happen. Here are 12 technical SEO elements to check for maximum site optimization.

1. Identify crawl errors with a crawl report

One of the first things to do is run a crawl report for your site. A crawl report, or site audit, will provide insight into some of your site’s errors.

You will see your most pressing technical SEO issues, such as duplicate content, low page speed, or missing H1/H2 tags.

You can automate site audits using a variety of tools and work through the list of errors or warnings created by the crawl. This is a task you should work through on a monthly basis to keep your site clean of errors and as optimized as possible.

2. Check HTTPS status codes

Switching to HTTPS is a must because search engines and users will not have access to your site if you still have HTTP URLs. They will get 4xx and 5xx HTTP status codes instead of your content.

A Ranking Factors Study conducted by SEMrush found that HTTPS now is a very strong ranking factor and can impact your site’s rankings.

Make sure you switch over, and when you do, use this checklist to ensure a seamless migration.

Next, you need to look for other status code errors. Your site crawl report gives you a list of URL errors, including 404 errors. You can also get a list from the Google Search Console, which includes a detailed breakdown of potential errors. Make sure your Google Search Console error list is always empty, and that you fix errors as soon as they arise.

Finally, make sure the SSL certificate is correct. You can use SEMrush’s site audit tool to get a report.

3. Check XML sitemap status

The XML sitemap serves as a map for Google and other search engine crawlers. It essentially helps the crawlers find your website pages, thus ranking them accordingly.

You should ensure your site’s XML sitemap meets a few key guidelines:

  • Make sure your sitemap is formatted properly in an XML document
  • Ensure it follows XML sitemap protocol
  • Have all updated pages of your site in the sitemap
  • Submit the Sitemap to your Google Search Console.

How do you submit your XML Sitemap to Google?

You can submit your XML sitemap to Google via the Google Search Console Sitemaps tool. You can also insert the sitemap (i.e. http://example.com/sitemap_location.xml) anywhere in your robots.txt file.

Make sure your XML Sitemap is pristine, with all the URLs returning 200 status codes and proper canonicals. You do not want to waste valuable crawl budget on duplicate or broken pages.

4. Check site load time

Your site’s load time is another important technical SEO metric to check. According to the technical SEO error report via SEMrush, over 23% of sites have slow page load times.

Site speed is all about user experience and can affect other key metrics that search engines use for ranking, such as bounce rate and time on page.

To find your site’s load time you can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. Simply enter your site URL and let Google do the rest.

You’ll even get site load time metrics for mobile.

This has become increasingly important after Google’s roll out of mobile-first indexing. Ideally, your page load time should be less than 3 seconds. If it is more for either mobile or desktop, it is time to start tweaking elements of your site to decrease site load time for better rankings.

5. Ensure your site is mobile-friendly

Your site must be mobile-friendly to improve technical SEO and search engine rankings. This is a pretty easy SEO element to check using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test: just enter your site and get valuable insights on the mobile state of your website.

You can even submit your results to Google to let them know how your site performs.

A few mobile-friendly solutions include:

  • Increase font size
  • Embed YouTube videos
  • Compress images
  • Use Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).

6. Audit for keyword cannibalization

Keyword cannibalization can cause confusion among search engines. For example, if you have two pages in keyword competition, Google will need to decide which page is best.

“Consequently, each page has a lower CTR, diminished authority, and lower conversion rates than one consolidated page will have,” Aleh Barysevich of Search Engine Journal explained.

One of the most common keyword cannibalization pitfalls is to optimize home page and subpage for the same keywords, which is common in local SEO. Use Google Search Console’s Performance report to look for pages that are competing for the same keywords. Use the filter to see which pages have the same keywords in the URL, or search by keyword to see how many pages are ranking for those same keywords.

In this example, notice that there are many pages on the same site with the same exact keyword. It might be ideal to consolidate a few of these pages, where possible, to avoid keyword cannibalization.

7. Check your site’s robots.txt file

If you notice that all of your pages aren’t indexed, the first place to look is your robots.txt file.

There are sometimes occasions when site owners will accidentally block pages from search engine crawling. This makes auditing your robots.txt file a must.

When examining your robots.txt file, you should look for “Disallow: /”

This tells search engines not to crawl a page on your site, or maybe even your entire website. Make sure none of your relevant pages are being accidentally disallowed in your robots.txt file.

8. Perform a Google site search

On the topic of search engine indexing, there is an easy way to check how well Google is indexing your website. In Google search type in “site:yourwebsite.com”:

It will show you all pages indexed by Google, which you can use as a reference. A word of caution, however: if your site is not on the top of the list, you may have a Google penalty on your hands, or you’re blocking your site from being indexed.

9. Check for duplicate metadata

This technical SEO faux pas is very common for ecommerce sites and large sites with hundreds to thousands of pages. In fact, nearly 54% of websites have duplicate metadata, also known as meta descriptions, and approximately 63% have missing meta descriptions altogether.

Duplicate meta descriptions occur when similar products or pages simply have content copied and pasted into the meta descriptions field.

A detailed SEO audit or a crawl report will alert you to meta description issues. It may take some time to get unique descriptions in place, but it is worth it.

10. Meta description length

While you are checking all your meta descriptions for duplicate content errors, you can also optimize them by ensuring they are the correct length. This is not a major ranking factor, but it is a technical SEO tactic that can improve your CTR in SERPs.

Recent changes to meta description length increased the 160 character count to 320 characters. This gives you plenty of space to add keywords, product specs, location (for local SEO), and other key elements.

11. Check for site-wide duplicate content

Duplicate content in meta-descriptions is not the only duplicate content you need to be on the lookout for when it comes to technical SEO. Almost 66% of websites have duplicate content issues.

Copyscape is a great tool to find duplicate content on the internet. You can also use Screaming Frog, Site Bulb or SEMrush to identify duplication.

Once you have your list, it is simply a matter of running through the pages and changing the content to avoid duplication.

12. Check for broken links

Any type of broken link is bad for your SEO; it can waste crawl budget, create a bad user experience, and lead to lower rankings. This makes identifying and fixing broken links on your website important.

One way in which to find broken links is to check your crawl report. This will give you a detailed view of each URL that has broken links.

You can also use DrLinkCheck.com to look broken links. You simply enter your site’s URL and wait for the report to be generated.

Summary

There are a number of technical SEO elements you can check during your next SEO audit. From XML Sitemaps to duplicate content, being proactive about optimization on-page and off is a must.

From being too broad to being too lazy: three common PPC fails 

PPC and search marketing are both vital to a company’s success. So, it’s amazing to see the mistakes that so many brands still make today. AdWords has added tools like upgraded URLs to make it a little easier to manage campaigns.

But glaring errors still happen – and frequently. While these mistakes can seem small – especially if a brand has a big SEM budget – each one can have a significant impact on an advertiser’s reputation and ROI. Here are a few of the most common PPC mistakes search marketers make, and some methods to address them.

Your search terms are too high-level

A common mistake for many first-time (and even experienced) search advertisers is that they start out too broadly. For example, if you’re an electrician in Boston starting out AdWords for the first time, you don’t want to go in big on the mains terms such as [electrician] and rely on city geo-targeting. Instead, be selective about your target keywords and build campaigns around specific terms such as [Electrician Arlington], or [24 callout Brookline Electrician].

The same rule applies to different verticals, including for example retail. It can be costly to start driving traffic on the term [dresses] if you’re a retailer. However, terms like [size 12 red dress] would have a higher propensity to convert. Start with these terms, then start adding more terms that could be higher up in the funnel for more awareness.

This process will install more discipline into how you measure the individual ROI of your range of keywords and bring scale when running on AdWords.

If you’re about to make the leap into broad expensive generics, then why not just target these keywords with RLSA only to build retargeting lists. It’s a more conservative step than going full throttle to make an impact in that auction.

Lazy ad management

Lazy ad copy is a big no-no in paid search. And using the same copy for all sponsored listings should be banned. Tailored ad copy offers the best way to get clicks and conversions, boosting ROI and generally making a much bigger impact than if a brand used the same ad copy for every keyword they were targeting.

Brands should always add context to their ad copy, and changing the wording for specific ads allow them to do that. For example, if a cruise line offers ads for an all-inclusive trip, they also need to add something tailored to the copy, like the customer perks, to make users want to click. For trips that aren’t all-inclusive and are designed for families with children, the cruise line should change the copy to appeal to those looking for the best deals for kids or for example entertainment.

Speaking of lazy ad management, in these two ads, the brands somehow forgot to change the auto prompt in their ad setup. This means they’re not only targeting the string “add your keywords here,” but they’ve also set the ad to autofill the headline based on the keywords. This results in a silly ad that’s unlikely to get any clicks.

Now, this could be a simple oversight, since the prompt text sometimes fails to disappear when you start typing your keywords into the box. However, marketers need to check their targeted keywords on an ongoing basis to achieve truly successful PPC management.

In addition, as Google continues to push for more hands-off automation in the AdWords workflow — through features like Dynamic Search Ads — it’s important to keep a close eye on what’s going on. These suggestions may help you automate, but they might not be the best fits to meet campaign goals and could actually hurt your standing if they don’t take the actions of your competitors into account. So advertisers, stay vigilant.

Not mastering your seasonal spikes in demand

If you don’t know your seasonal trends inside out, then there’s a very good chance you’ll be left behind in auctions and miss the spike in demand.

AdWords and analytics allow you to get into the weeds as far as time of day, or week that’s driving impressions. You must be ready to react to these trends, but still within your target margin for a good ROI.

For some big brands, plans around mastering Black Friday peak periods start around three months before the event. A great deal of planning goes into the price, product and type of promotion for this XX day period. As auctions become increasingly competitive, it’s vital that you have a strategy to win, too.

To get the most out of your seasonal spikes, you need to master all match types, segment your RLSA lists, increase bid modifiers by device and day/part bidding where possible and opt into DSA to fill in any gaps you may have missed.

The common theme here is a lack of attention. It’s important that PPC advertisers always monitor campaigns to ensure that they don’t make the same mistakes seen here. This means a more thoughtful strategy, with the right tools – safeguards in AdWords, third-party technology to support by monitoring for errors and mistakes and beyond – in place on the back-end to safeguard.

An introduction to innovation in consumer search optimization

It may be obvious statement, but over the last 15 years the internet has completely transformed the retail industry. The once flourishing high-street is declining, as more and more consumers are swapping the shopping experience for the convenience and added choice that online retail offers. Mobile technology means more people are purchasing products via apps while on-the-go, rather than popping out on a Saturday morning to browse the isles and rails in-store.

The digital retail space has seen a huge number of disruptive innovations over the years, from artificial intelligence (AI) offering tailored recommendations to smart chatbots transforming and streamlining customer service and the new additions of drone deliveries and augmented reality – it’s an exciting time. Despite these leaps, most search technologies still used by modern retailers and brands are lagging behind. It’s these search engines that are the next element of the retail sphere set to have an innovation makeover.

Search engines today

When it comes to current search engines there are some big issues with accuracy. A Spoon Guru scan of the food search landscape revealed that the majority of leading supermarkets around the globe – including Walmart in America, Sainsbury’s in the UK and Carrefour in France – fail to return accurate search results for common dietary search terms, such as gluten free, low sugar or vegan. These needs seem simple, so imagine the difficulty of finding the right food if you have more complex requirements or multiple preferences.

Similarly, Google – the biggest search engine on the planet – came up short when looking for specific requirements. An analysis of the first page of results on a Google shopping search for vegan sausages found a staggering 19 of the 40 products are not vegan. In fact, two even contained pork.

So, what do you cook when you have a vegan, coeliac and nut allergy sufferer coming over for dinner? It isn’t the start of a bad joke as I’m sure you suspect, but a real-life scenario.

The grocery market (the industry in which Spoon Guru’s technology currently sits) is of course an area where there should be no margin for error, as for those with serious allergies and intolerances the consequences of a mistake can be fatal. However, no matter what the search enquiry – from homeware to sports equipment and clothing – these days consumers deserve, and ultimately should be able to get correct results that perfectly match their personal requirements.

The next generation of search technology

Despite a wealth of available products, people are still finding it challenging to find what they need owing to unstructured metadata and unconnected databases. Being innovation-led is crucial for retailers and brands who want to survive the digital boom, and responsive changes are required to match the shift in consumer expectations. Consumers want a personalized, seamless sand consistent experience. So how do you optimize search capabilities to match this?

A combination of AI, machine learning and human expertise, powers the next generation of search technology: Customer Search Optimisation (CSO). The secret to the CSO system is tagging and natural language processing. Natural language is the biggest problem facing machine learning, as it is presented with imperfect data owing to the ambiguities and variables within it.

Spoon Guru’s TAGS technology breaks down this language and translates it into labels that can then be assigned and organized. Over 24 hours, the system analyses 14 billion data tags, 2.5 million statements and over 16 million words, classifying over 180 preferences within the grocery retail space. CSO literally crunches billions of data points every day, opening up the market to match more products than ever before to specific consumer requirements.

Another important part of CSO is the human-in-the-loop system. Incorporating expertise – in Spoon Guru’s case, nutritional expertise – with the algorithms means that any inconsistencies, conflicts or erroneous classifications can be resolved. It also means that the latest scientific knowledge continues to be integrated into the technology’s DNA.

Tesco have already adopted the TAGS technology on their digital shopping platforms – via desktop and the app, helping shoppers find more products to match dietary needs, from the simple to the very complex.

CSO not only provides a better service for users and consumers, but by appearing in specific online searches, it will help boost brands’ profiles by providing further visibility, as well as becoming a core revenue driver.

Future-gazing

Currently TAGS technology and CSO is transforming the grocery industry, as it is an area where specific requirements are becoming more of a necessity to the consumer – 64% of the world’s population are now on some kind of exclusion diet. With Tesco, one of the UK’s largest retailers, on board we can expect the technology to become a set standard across the industry.

Eventually this technology can be expanded and modified to work across different sectors, from entertainment, fashion, sports, hospitality, events, and pets. The possibilities of this transformative technology are pretty wide.

By leveraging smart technology (and smart people) we can cater for the modern multi-preference consumer, providing much more accuracy, relevance and choice.

When to just say “no” to bidding on brand

Brand bidding is often touted as a hotly debated topic in paid media. That said, a cursory glance will reveal that the typical advice given by PPC experts is to bid on it, without exception. But the question is whether this is good advice or just self-serving. Let’s look at each of the main arguments for brand bidding in more detail and see if the answer is a bit more nuanced and not just black and white.

Protect your brand

If you have competitors appearing for brand terms, either in paid or organic then yes, you need to consider how you protect this traffic stream and PPC brand bidding is an obvious option, along with improving your SEO rankings. On the flip side, if you have limited or no competition, it really is worth considering pausing branded PPC.

Logic would dictate that if a user is searching specifically for your brand, then they want to visit your site or engage with content. If your SERPs don’t contain competitors and only links associated with properties you own, then the benefits of bidding on brand terms become dubious.

Even if you are convinced that you will lose some brand traffic in this scenario, you need to ask yourself if the incremental value that PPC provides is worth it. Let’s say you lose 5% of brand traffic by turning off PPC brand. What that’s telling you is that 95% of your PPC brand traffic did nothing.

In other words, because you would have to appear on 100% of those impressions to protect your brand loses, a £10,000 brand spend which usually would get a £100,000 return, would actually have an incremental return of just £5,000 When viewed this way your ROI goes from 9.00 to -0.5.

Dominate the SERPs

Dominating the SERPs is a desirable goal for a lot of advertisers, however, this argument falters if you are already dominating the SERPs without a paid ad hogging the top spot. If you don’t have paid competitors bidding on your brand terms and you have good organic rankings for your owned properties you already dominate the SERPs and are just paying to push all your other listings down the page.

If you do have some organic competitors creeping onto your first page results, you should look to manage your other properties outside of your main site. This is a good way to ensure that you capture as many organic listings as possible and push any SEO competitors of the first page longer term. Ensure that your social media sites, Wikipedia page, and local listing are optimized and appearing for brand terms.

Control your messaging

It’s often argued that PPC is better at controlling message and landing page choice. While it is indeed more agile at both, you still have control from an SEO point of view. SEO’s have been optimizing listing copy in the meta descriptions since SEO began and any half decent SEO team will have categorized your pages and actively optimized your brand terms to land on the most appropriate pages.

Potentially if you have a sale running or have launched a new range, you may want to quickly reflect this in your copy. But again, if you have no competitors, it’s logical that you will get the click anyway and you can use your landing page to convey any important messaging.

Your brand terms are cheap

Brand terms often are cheaper than non-brand terms, but unless they add benefits, it is just an additional and unnecessary cost. You could be using that spend on other new customer driving activity to grow your business.

Capture high-quality traffic near the point of conversion

PPC managers and teams love to bid on brands because it converts well, makes reports look great and can mask poor performing activity.

This obviously isn’t a good enough reason on its own and only applies if you must defend from losing conversions against competitors. Otherwise, you are just taking credit for conversions you already would have received.

Brand terms improve overall account quality score

The premise here is that brand bidding will improve overall quality score and therefore decrease cost per clicks on other terms (at least in the early stages when you launch new keywords and they are yet to establish a QS). However, Google has never admitted that account level quality score exists. They have chopped and changed QS measurement over the years, all new keywords used to launch with a QS of 6, now they start at zero and build as they accrue data. According to Google, keywords are assessed on their own merit and gain a quality score once they build data. PPC experts have asserted that account level QS exists, but we have little hard evidence to support that claim, so the known benefit is wishy-washy at best.

My view is that brand bidding should be avoided if possible. A PPC manager will only add value by growing prospecting activity, not piggybacking off the success of a brand name.

If you can turn off brand, ensure that you break your brand terms into different categories and assess the need to bid on them independently. A core brand term [brand x] may have no competition, but a brand + product term [brand x shoes] may be more likely to receive competition as other advertisers broad match on the product term (rather than directly bidding on your brand). Also, add negatives as well as pausing keywords and continue to monitor the situation, in case competitors appear.

If you must bid on brand, then task your PPC manager with making it work for you as efficiently as possible, getting that traffic cheaply. If it’s within your power, take steps to remove the need to bid on a brand. Boost SEO rankings on other owned properties, like Facebook and Wikipedia, reach out to resellers and even competitors about brand bidding, you may be able to reach an agreement to stop bidding on each other’s terms.

Do remember to assess your situation on a case by case basis and understand if brand bidding is right for you.

A review of the payday loans algorithm in 2018

For several years, the search term ‘payday loans’ has regularly attracted more than 200,000 searches per month on Google.co.uk. Whether providing loans or generating leads, the payday loans industry has notoriously been big business and at its peak, was estimated to be worth around £2 billion per year.

Because of this, the top positions on Google’s SERPs for ‘payday loans’ have been a hugely lucrative and sought-after search term; and subsequently was dominated by SEO professionals using massive manipulation to hack their way to the top of the search results.

Until 2013, page one for payday loans barely listed a real payday loan company. Instead, the listings were made up of ‘hacked sites’ including bicycle sales, women’s magazine and frankly, just random domain names that once clicked on redirected to a dubious data capture form.

Introducing the payday loans algorithm

With customer data at risk and a mountain of complaints from UK consumers (and similar results in the US), Google reacted and introduced an official “payday loans algorithm” in June 2013. For the search giant to acknowledge a particular search term – demanding its own algorithm and focusing on a micro-industry across the pond – it was certainly out of the ordinary and we are yet to see any other industry treated in the same regard.

The payday loan algorithm update was rolled out over a two-month period. The first payday loan update occurred in June 2013, followed by Payday 2.0 on 16 May 2014 and Payday 3.0 which was rolled out shortly thereafter in June 2014.

Whilst the first algorithm change was a general clean up, payday loans algorithm 2.0 focused on targeting spammy queries, abusing Google+ accounts, doorway and hacked websites. Payday loans 3.0 was geared towards tackling spamming links including links of low quality, reciprocal links, forums, blog networks and websites which require paid submissions in exchange for a link.

Soon after the rollout of Payday 3.0, the search results were essentially cleaned up and have since been a much clearer representation of how rankings for payday loans should be by showing legitimate companies.

Those websites that were targeted by changes in the algorithm were subsequently penalized from Google searches, which included dropping 10 pages or even off the face of Google altogether. There were a handful of sites that had previously dominated the SERPs and then ceased to maintain any online real estate including Tide U Over and Red Wallet.

Bringing payday to today

The payday loans business took another drastic change following the introduction of FCA regulation in January 2015. Whilst the industry remains lucrative, the number of companies’ active has diminished significantly in the last three years – from 200 lenders to around 40 and originally hundreds of comparison sites to around a dozen. Margins have been hit by the introduction of a price cap, keeping the daily interest at a maximum of 0.8% and tougher regulation on the selling of data – leading to much higher operating costs and barriers to entry.

While there have not been any additional releases of the payday loans algorithm, Google is still keeping an eye on it and even implemented a ban on PPC ads for payday loans in 2016. The outcome was far stricter in the US than in the UK where lenders and comparison sites can still show paid ads but are required to show proof of their regulatory license to Google before going live.

How to successfully rank for payday loans in 2018

Fast forward to 2018 and there are 10 legitimate companies ranking in the top 10 for ‘payday loans’ in the organic search on Google.co.uk.

Our SEO company has successfully ranked five of the websites that are currently positioned in the top 10 and based on the success we have seen, we have identified some of the main trends below, which seem to be very specific to a payday loans algorithm and differ to the techniques used for ranking for other keywords in loans and insurance.

Direct lenders win over comparison websites: All websites positioned in 1 to 10 are essential providers of payday loans, known as ‘direct lenders’ and not comparison websites. While the main comparison sites in the UK dominate the search results for things like life insurance, car insurance and personal loans, none of these companies come near the top 3 pages for ‘payday loans’ despite all having a landing page to target this keyword.

In positions 1 to 20, there is only one comparison website that features all the lenders and we are responsible for their SEO. However, their homepage resembles a more direct lender with a calculator and apply now button versus a comparison table format.

Brands win over exact match or partial match domains: There is no website listed in the top 10 that has the word ‘payday’ in their domain, suggesting that Google prefers to see brands over exact match or partial match domains. Compare this to other industries where logbookloans.co.uk ranks first for ‘logbook loans’ and two companies ranking on page one for ‘bridging loans’ that include the main keyword in their domain name.

Keeping in line with the brand theme, sites that rank well will have quality traffic from several sources including direct, paid, social and email. To benefit their SEO, the users should have high engagement rates, high average time on site and low bounce rates. This can be hugely beneficial for search rankings but is not an isolating factor. Companies such as Sunny and Lending Stream advertise heavily on TV and will generate good direct traffic as a result, but their lower search rankings do not correlate with enhanced direct traffic.

Domain age less relevant: Whilst several industries such as car insurance use the age of the domain as an important ranking factor, this seems to be less relevant for payday loans. Notably, 3 of the top 5 that rank (Cashfloat, Drafty and StepStone Credit) are less than two years old. This could be attributed to accumulating less spam and a history of low-quality links compared to much older domains.

Links still win… domains with more links tend to outrank those with fewer links. Interestingly, around 7 of the top 10 seem to have similar domains linking to them, suggesting there are some links that Google clearly values in this industry. However, finding the balance here is key as some of these similar links have a very low DA and spammy link history. Understanding which will work well will be the difference between better search positions or a penalty.

Strong user experience: A strong UX making it clear where to apply for a payday loan is proving to be more effective than providing thousands of words explaining what payday loans are. Keeping in line with user intent, successful websites are making use of calculators, images and videos to drive the application and not provide thin content.

Room for alternatives: Two sites currently in the top 5 for payday loans are offering alternatives (StepStone Credit and Drafty.) This could highlight Google’s moral obligation to offer a variety of products and not just high-cost short-term loans, thus alluding to whether they are in fact manually organizing the SERPs themselves.

To conclude, the usual SEO techniques of brand building, link acquisition and good user experience still apply to rank well in a modern payday loans algorithm. However, there is no doubt that payday loans in 2018 still requires a very specific approach; which can be achieved by looking at the sites that rank successfully and getting a feel of what content they write and what links they get.

In an ideal scenario, we should see MoneyAdviceService ranking top of the tree since it has the most authority and has numerous links from every single payday loans company in the UK – but as they sit on page 3 and have for some time, this is proof that the beast of ranking for payday loans surely has a mind of its own.

Technical considerations before purchasing a commerce platform

Choosing a commerce platform is one of the most crucial and important decisions you’ll make in the early life of your business. There are a number of factors to consider before purchasing a commerce platform – in fact, the choices are endless. But what’s really important? Here are some of the key considerations.

The product catalogue

Your product catalogue is technically a reservoir for every item you sell. Its role is to promote the items you want to push and simultaneously help your customers find the items they are looking for with ease.

A poorly constructed product catalogue can be rigid and uncompromising, especially if the product attributes you want to store don’t naturally align with the definitions set in your commerce application.

Some commerce platforms charge based on the number of products on your platform. Depending on the requirements of the ecommerce marketplace, you can choose accordingly.

In the case of a multivendor ecommerce marketplace, the product list can easily grow to more than 10,000. It is therefore important to choose an ecommerce platform that doesn’t put a limitation on the number of products a marketplace can have.

The good news is that there are a number of product catalogue software that offer user-friendly tools and outstanding features to provide high-level functionality to entice your customers. Volusion, Big Commerce, Shopio and Shopify are a small selection of the platforms that offer a comprehensive solution, while keeping all aspects of your website up-to-date.

Identifying how you intend to organize your catalogue will have a dramatic impact on how your ecommerce website is developed – and on how well it converts visitors to customers.

Content

Products are extremely important with regard to how successful your online store can be. When you have a quality product with a customer demand, the content you include on your website and your interaction with customers will play a huge role in your success.

According to Rapt Media, 63% of customers said they’d think more positively of a brand if it gave them content that was more valuable, interesting or relevant.

Product photos and descriptions ought to be well written and highly informative; consumers won’t buy something that they cannot clearly see or understand. This is Sales 101 and something that everyone should be aware of when it comes to content on your website.

Taking your content further can really help your business to grow. Consider including a blog page on your online store with posts relating to the niche or industry in which you are selling. This shows customers that you’re an expert on the topic and invested in what you are selling, thereby building trust.

Do you have video or visual presentations as content? Webinars as a sales tool is another alternative. An example of a niche ecommerce solution that specializes in sites for online course merchants is Kajabi. This provides users with email funnel templates and one-click upsells, allowing you to generate sales/leads with one button.

Furthermore, the inclusive nature can encourage loyalty from consumers – and repeat purchases.

Consider a platform that allows customers to leave comments, ask questions and review your products online. In addition, ensure they can share via social media as 71% of consumers who have had a good social media experience with a brand are likely to recommend it to others –essentially creating free advertising for your store.

If you decide to use this, then ensure you respond to every question or comment. This will help build lasting relationships with your customers and help grow your brand exponentially.

Scalability

When choosing a platform for your business, it is crucial to check its scope for scalability. This ensures that the platform will grow alongside you.

Choose an ecommerce platform that not only works best for your platform today, but one that will support your business as it grows. As your platform experiences increasing traffic, it is imperative to ensure your platform can handle your peak traffic, maximum orders and page visits without speed reduction.

Will the site perform efficiently through traffic peaks and troughs? Slow internal applications are annoying, but unresponsive customer-facing applications will frustrate your customers, drive them to your competitors, and prove detrimental to your business.

An ecommerce platform is only measurable against the way it can handle its peak traffic. As your website popularity increases, it needs to scale with minimal effort so you can avoid incurring disproportionate infrastructure management costs.

Choose a platform that you can scale to your business size and that won’t charge outrageous fees for doing so. As a result, you won’t have to pay for features and storage that you’re not using when you first start out. You also want to keep up with higher demands as your business takes off.

Mobile ready

Mobile phone usage is now at an all-time high. Statista believes that in 2017, mobile accounted for 50.3% of all web traffic generated worldwide. With these numbers quickly increasing, retailers should endeavor to create an effective mobile strategy that will reach the masses and convert the clicks into dollars.

Having a user-friendly, fast and easy to navigate mobile site will instantly keep your customer interested, which will directly affect your retention rate. With this in mind, users are significantly affected by a slow site performance; only 2% of the top 100 ecommerce sites load in fewer than 4 seconds on smartphones.

Ensure that your platform is fully integrated and has an infrastructure that enables you to deploy a mobile-ready site, along with social sharing capabilities to maximize the reach of your business.

Having a platform with reliable payment gateways instantly makes your online store functional and profitable. The mode of payment acceptance should be in accordance with the operations of your business. Regardless of whether you require a payment gateway and merchant account – or a payment service provider to handle your payments – your platform should integrate with the payment method.

Whichever experience the commerce platform offers, it should be smooth, reliable and secure to boost customer trust and retention in your site. The ecommerce platform you select should be compatible with the payment gateway of your online store, or it may result in a technical glitch or unacceptability. PayPal, Stripe, and Amazon Payments are just some of the best payment gateway platforms that make payments for online transactions easy.

Online shoppers are not just looking at the product and price; they expect a seamless experience on the platform while making any purchase.

Reports and analytics

Ecommerce platforms house an abundance of information about your customers, their behaviors and preferences. However, businesses tend to find it hard to figure out how to leverage the business value this data holds.

The platform you choose should come with a variety of features to assist marketers, with the most important tool being powerful analytics and a report generation system. Marketers rely on analytical information driven by ecommerce – specific key performance indicators (KPIs) to stay informed regarding sales, strategy and methods to improve sales or traffic.

Payment gateways

Reporting and analytics deliver insights that act as a catalyst in your routine decision making. Popular commerce platforms like Magento will not only help you with marketing automation, but will also provide out-of-the-box integrations with Google Analytics (GA). GA commerce tracking is a powerful engine for ecommerce sites delivering information including transactions, time to purchase and typical sales cycle.

You should choose a commerce platform that allows you to track the activities of visitors, know where a visitor lost interest while checking out, and conduct tests using two different inputs to improve services.

Taking these points into consideration will help you make an informed decision when purchasing a commerce platform. After careful consideration, you’ll be well on your way to opening an online store and joining the wonderful world of ecommerce.

Pius Boachie is the founder of DigitiMatic, an inbound marketing agency.

No need for Google: 12 alternative search engines in 2018

Working at Search Engine Watch isn’t all about studying, understanding, and reporting on Google. With more than 9% of web users searching on other engines, it’s important that we occasionally take the time to check out what they are using and what those platforms are up to.

Read on for my hotlist of 12 alternatives to ‘The Big G’. As you’ll see, there’s been some changes in the alternative search world since my colleague Christopher Ratcliff wrote his comprehensive listicle back in early 2014. Since then, some have dropped off the map and others have been usurped in usefulness by Google’s increasingly rich functionality, and are not featured here.

  • Bing
  • Globally, Bing is still the second biggest search engine after Google and it also still powers the third biggest, Yahoo!.

    With its clean white background, blue links, and green URLs, it sure looks familiar although it also features a few things that sets it apart. For example its ‘Rewards’ scheme gives you points when you shop or search via the service that can then be used to go towards buying things like apps and movies.

    Bing also has a ‘My Saves’ function acting as a bookmark tool. It also boasts some prominent – and handy – filters for results by date, language, and region.

  • Baidu
  • If you have an interest in digital in Asia, you need to know about Baidu.

    Baidu is the search engine of choice for around 77% of China’s internet market. Though its dominance can be seen to fluctuate – thanks to fierce competition from other domestic rivals such as Shenma and Haosou.

    Like Bing, you have to look closely at Baidu to see many differences between it and Google (other than it being in Mandarin). It is similar aesthetically, has a reliance on ads, and is also making moves to incorporate more rich features in the SERPs.

    On the flipside though, the service is noted for its censorship of certain images and blocking of pro-democracy websites – to the extent that might seem quite extreme to searchers who are used to Google.

  • Yandex
  • Yandex is to Russia as Baidu is to China. More than 53% of Russian search engine users favour Yandex. It also has a presence in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Turkey, and Belarus.

    The search engine is available in English and Cyrillic and incorporates social logins. And if users choose to use Yandex Disk – its cloud storage service – it is easy to search your files right from the search bar.

  • Ecosia
  • As more of our computing moves into the cloud, users are becoming increasingly aware of the environmental impact of day to day digital activities.

    Googling is – perhaps surprisingly for such a quick innocuous activity – a formidable Co2 producer.

    Launched in 2009, Ecosia is a Co2-neutral alternative. With every search made, the social business uses the revenue generated to go towards its tree-planting scheme. On average, 45 searches are needed to make a single tree.

    Much of the engine itself is powered by Bing.

  • DuckDuckGo
  • We have covered DuckDuckGo extensively in the past and the engine is still going strong.

    Its USP is simple: it doesn’t collect, store, or pass on any personal information about its users. It’s a logical choice if you want a search experience which is free from ad targeting and if potential data storage about your search activities makes you feel uneasy.

    While the service doesn’t target users with ads or suggestions based on search history, it is not free from ads altogether. The ads it does deliver are syndicated via Bing.

  • StartPage
  • Like DuckDuckGo, StartPage was founded with strict user Privacy as its USP. Again, it doesn’t track and store your data, and it doesn’t target ads based on your behaviors.

    The engine is powered by Google and does use ads (delivered by Google) to generate revenue. Each search result is also delivered with a ‘Proxy’ option which allows users to browse the following site anonymously.

  • Twitter
  • I’ve included Twitter because I think its search functionality can be useful in certain situations.

    For instance, during a breaking news event, tweets from people in the vicinity are likely to be the quickest up-to-the-second updates of what’s going on before initial news sites and Google’s algorithms catch up.

    You can see this ‘First For News’ authority being something the service is increasingly exploring. Any search on Twitter will lead to a filtered ‘News’ tab initially, but users can easily click over to the ‘Latest’ tab to see updates come in from anyone using that search term second by second.

  • CC Search
  • CC Search is a great tool for finding copyright-free content.

    Whether you want an image to use on a blog post, a piece of music to add to a video, or you just want a piece of media to remix – it is a really h engine.

    The site works by drawing in search results from existing platforms – such as Flickr, or Soundcloud – which have been tagged as Creative Commons material.

  • Internet Archive
  • Continuing in the spirit of accessible content, Internet Archive (often known by its URL, archive.org) is a vast collection of documented material – including music, books, video, educational texts, and more.

    It is also home to the endlessly fascinating Wayback Machine, a tool which has been taking snapshots of the internet since the 90s.

  • Wiki.com
  • You are probably all familiar with Wikipedia but there are thousands of other wikis which are an amazing resource on a range of topics – from politics to pop culture.

    Wiki.com is a handy search engine which draws in content from wikis only if you want community-led encyclopedic know-how about something (aside from Wikipedia).

  • Boardreader
  • Boardreader is a search engine which pulls in results from forums and message boards.

    It’s a convenient tool if you’re searching for content written by everyday users about a topic, but you aren’t necessarily familiar enough with the niche to know the best forum or board to visit from the outset.

  • Slideshare
  • Slideshare, now hosted by LinkedIn, is a great tool for searching documented slideshow presentations, as well as PDFs and eBooks.

    If you’re tasked with needing to do a presentation yourself, or you need information about a topic that is likely to have seen a presentation made for it in the past, Slideshare is a valuable repository. You can save slides you might need to refer to later and download entire slideshows direct from the platform.

    Insights into a newsroom: learnings for content marketing

    Journalists are renowned for sniffing out a good story; they instinctively know how to get to the crux of a matter, asking the right sort of questions to get to the truth, and can decipher complicated subject matters succinctly for everyone to understand.

    Pick up any newspaper or magazine and you’ll find it packed with a wide variety of content with something for everyone; from hard-hitting news investigations to human-interest features, opinion-based columns and picture stories.

    Print media may be on the decline, but there is a lot that content marketers can learn from this profession. While content that targets a Google algorithm is a good strategy to have, you should also create content that builds and engages with people.

    Back to the start

    My career in journalism began in 1989, when I joined the Bucks Herald as an editorial assistant. One of the first lessons I was taught was how to write attention-grabbing content to grab attention from the very beginning.

    I had been shadowing a senior reporter and went with her to the local police station to find out what crimes had been committed overnight. We then had to come back to the newsroom to write a series of short, snappy articles – news in brief (NIBs) – to publicize the incidents.

    I started my first story: “A house in Wendover was broken into on Wednesday night and £300 worth of jewelry was stolen.” But this was quickly edited to read: “Heartless thieves stole £300 worth of jewelry from a house in Wendover on Wednesday night.”

    The senior reporter explained that although my attempt was factually correct, starting with ‘A house’ was not anywhere near as powerful as starting with ‘Heartless thieves’.

    This was an invaluable lesson and one that holds true for content marketers: it is vital to hook a reader in from the beginning using emotive language that makes them want to read on.

    Keep it succinct

    When writing a news article, it’s paramount to summarize the story in the first few paragraphs, giving the reader all the facts quickly. The who, what, where, when and how must be covered in the first two to three paragraphs, while subsequent paragraphs will add more color and detail to the story.

    Just look at The Sun newspaper, for example; love it or hate it, they give readers all the information they need/want in around 5 minutes.

    The content we consume daily – particularly on social media – is the same; it’s attention-grabbing, quick and easy to understand.

    We often enjoy this content on-the-go because we don’t always have time to read swathes of copy, or are more frequently consuming content on mobile devices.

    However, sometimes short and sweet just isn’t enough. Once you have a person hooked, you may find they want/need more, which is when in-depth content can be invaluable.

    Getting into the detail

    In newspapers, feature articles are included in every edition. These tend to spread over two pages, with the words broken up by pictures, fact boxes and graphs.

    One of the best ways to keep a reader engaged with a longer piece of content is using quotes. Depending on the subject matter, you can include quotes from thought leaders in a given field or bring a story to life with the power of the human interest angle.

    Of course, it depends on the subject matter, but ultimately people love reading about people and will engage with long-form content that educates, informs or entertains. This is important to remember when creating long-form content for marketing; while you may be writing to capture a particular keyword of with SEO in mind, you can still be creative.

    Every piece of content should keep ‘the audience’ in mind. Ask yourself:

    • Who are you writing for?
    • What kind of questions do they want answers to?
    • How do you keep them engaged/reading for longer?
    • What will make your content stand out from the crowd/capture those answer boxes/make people remember you/go back to your site?

    Google rewards sites with a low bounce rate and it’s clear why: if people are visiting your site for longer, you have given them content that is not only relevant to their search, but also resonates with them in some way. There is nothing worse than clicking on a meta title and description that you think answers your question, only to find the content beneath it is irrelevant.

    A picture is worth a thousand words

    In 2001, I became editor of the Boston Standard in Lincolnshire. Boston is a busy market town with a small port, and agriculture is one of the main industries. Consequently, it attracts a high volume of workers from outside the UK and as a result, tensions between communities ran high.

    In 2004, when England were defeated by France in the European football championship, this tension spilled onto the streets with more than 100 people rioting. We covered this story in detail, interviewing the police, shopkeepers and witnesses, but we wiped out the front page using just one image to capture the carnage and destruction – better than words ever could.

    This ethos can also be applied to content marketing efforts; sometimes an image, video or graphic can be a powerful tool to bring a written story to life.

    Nowhere is this more evident than on social media, and particularly Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and Snapchat, which rely on images and video to spread a message, including light-hearted memes and funny videos.

    What makes a good story?

    Understanding what makes a good story is an essential part of being a journalist.

    When working as a features editor, the news editor and I would meet every morning with the editor and deputy editor to discuss a list of potential stories we thought were worth pursuing and agree where they would go in the paper.

    The basic rule of thumb we followed for coverage and placement was based on how interesting the story was deemed to be, and how many people it affected.

    Of course, this can be subjective, so when trying to decide whether a content marketing campaign has the potential to go viral, ask yourself the following questions:

    • What is the hook?
    • Do you have unique data?
    • Is the idea open to ambiguity?
    • Is it credible?
    • Does it provoke an emotional response?
    • Does it tell a story?
    • Why this idea now?
    • Who – and how many people – does it affect?

    Appealing to your audience

    The types of content we included in every newspaper was varied and would, we hoped, appeal to a variety of people – a process that content marketers could also to adopt. However, in order to do this properly, it is paramount to understand who you are targeting, the sort of content they enjoy and where you can find them online.

    It is easy for a newspaper as the journalists know they have to produce content that appeals to everyone in the community they serve, but in content marketing it can be slightly more restrictive.

    The brand you’re working for should have plenty of audience data, but there are also a wide variety of tools available online to help you flesh out your personas and give them a personality to target your content with.

    Where to find story inspiration

    Despite all these tips and tricks, they can only really be put to good use when you have something to write about. An easy way to continually have content to share is to localize a national story, for example.

    Content marketers often do the same by blogging or Tweeting about a national story or seasonal event. Often referred to as ‘newsjacking’, this is a powerful tool to promote a brand across the web.

    One of the best examples I have seen is by the toilet tissue brand, Charmin, using the Oscars to promote the brand:

    But you must act fast for the greatest impact – sending the tweet after the main event would have had little impact for Charmin.

    The final word

    As you can see, there are plenty of valuable lessons the digital world can learn from print. It really is simple: people want content that resonates with them. Content that educates or entertains them; something they can share with others to make them look good or make them laugh.

    Print media may be declining, but the journalistic principles many of us hold dear still ring true. Storytelling is as relevant today as it has ever been; the platforms may have changed, but the delivery remains the same.