When Is a Blog the Right Form of Content Marketing?

Posted by Isla_McKetta

You’ve heard the wisdom: 

“Your business should have a blog.” 

“Blogging helps your SEO.” 

“Why aren’t you blogging yet?” 

According to the experts, a blog will solve all your Internet woes. Blogging will increase your traffic, expand your audience, improve your engagement, position you as an authority, and allow you to shape the message in your space

In fact, blogging is so hyped as a panacea, you’d think that simply adding a blog to your site would also help you find the perfect spouse, cure the common cold, and even turn lead into gold. 

While I won’t deny the power of a good blog on the right site (seriously, as a writer, I’m pro-blog in general) to do all of those good things and more, you should always question anything that’s touted as the right answer for everyone (and everything). So should you blog?

When a blog is NOT necessarily the right form of content marketing

Now that you’re asking whether all that time and energy you’re putting (or planning to put) into your blog is really the right investment, let’s look at a few examples of when blogging is a bad idea (or is simply unnecessary).

1. You own your market

Johnson & Johnson. Amazon. Target. Google. These companies have already captured the hearts and minds of so many consumers that their names are nearly synonymous with their products. Here’s why blogging would only offer each of them a marginal benefit.

Traffic

Does Johnson & Johnson really care about traffic to its site when you already have Band-Aids (and all their other name brand products) in your medicine cabinet? Sure, they produce infographics, but there’s no real blog, and you were going to buy their products anyway, right?

Audience reach

Ordering anything from books to pet-waste bags online? You didn’t need a blog to discover Amazon, it’s so ingrained in your Internet history that you probably went straight there and those products will be on your doorstep in two days or less.

Engagement

Target mastered engagement when Oprah and Tyra started referring to the store as Tarzhay and shoppers only got more loyal as they added designer labels at discount prices. It didn’t matter that most of their products weren’t even available on their website, let alone that they didn’t have a blog. Their site has gotten a lot better in the past decade, but they still don’t need a blog to get customers in the door.

Authority

And Google… Sure they have a blog, but Google is such an authority for search queries that most of the consumers of their search results have no interest in, or need for, the blog.
So if you have little or no competition or your business is (and you expect it to remain) the top-of-mind brand in your market, you can skip blogging.

2. You have a better way of getting customers into the top of your funnel

A blog is only one way to attract new customers. For example, I live less than a mile from the nearest grocery store, and I can get there and back with a spare stick of butter before my oven even warms up. If the next nearest store had the most amazing blog ever, I’m still not going to go there when I’m missing an ingredient. But if they send me a coupon in the mail, I might just try them out when it’s less of an emergency.

The point is that different types of businesses require different types of tactics to get customers to notice them. 

My mom, a small-town accountant who knows all of her clients by name, doesn’t blog. She’s much more likely to get recommended by a neighbor than to be found on the Internet. If paid search brings you $50k in conversions every month and your blog contributes to $10k, it’s easy (and fair) to prioritize paid search. If you find that readers of white papers are the hottest leads for your SaaS company, offering a 50:1 ROI over blog readers, write those white papers. And if your customers are sharing your deals across email and/or social at a rate that your blog has never seen, give them more of what they want.

None of that means you’ll never have to create a blog. Instead, a blog might be something to reassess when your rate of growth slows in any of those channels, but if you’ve crunched your numbers and a blog just doesn’t pan out for now, use the tactics your customers are already responding to.

3. The most interesting things about your business are strictly confidential (or highly complicated)

Sure the CIA has a blog, but with posts like “CIA Unveils Portrait of Former Director Leon E. Panetta” and “CIA Reaches Deep to Feed Local Families” it reads more like a failed humanizing effort than anything you’d actually want to subscribe to (or worse, read). If you’re in a business where you can’t talk about what you do, a blog might not be for you. 

For example, while a CPA who handles individual tax returns might have success blogging about tips to avoid a big tax bill at year end, a big four accounting firm that specializes in corporate audits might want to think twice about that blog. Do you really have someone on hand who has something new and interesting to say about Sarbanes Oxley and has the time to write? 

The difference is engagement. So if you’re in a hush-hush or highly technical field, think about what you can reasonably write about and whether anyone is going to want (or legally be able) to publicly comment on or share what you’re writing. 

Instead, you might want to take the example of Deloitte which thinks beyond the concept of your typical blog to create all kinds of interesting evergreen content. The result is a host of interesting case studies and podcasts that could have been last updated three years ago for all it matters. This puts content on your site, but it also allows you to carefully craft and vet that content before it goes live, without building any expectation associated with an editorial calendar.

4. You think “thought leadership” means rehashing the news

There is a big difference between curating information and regurgitating it. True life confession: As much as I hate the term “thought leader,” I used it many a time in my agency days as a way to encourage clients to find the best in themselves. But the truth is, most people don’t have the time, energy, or vision to really commit to becoming a thought leader. 

A blog can be a huge opportunity to showcase your company’s mastery and understanding of your industry. But if you can’t find someone to write blog posts that expand on (or rethink) the existing knowledge base, save your ink. 

Some people curate and compile information in order to create “top 10” type posts. That kind of content can be helpful for readers who don’t have time to source content on their own, but I wouldn’t suggest it as the core content strategy for a company’s blog. If that’s all you have time for, focus on social media instead.

5. Your site is all timely content

A blog can help you shape the message around your industry and your brand, but what if your brand is built entirely around messaging? The BBC doesn’t need a blog because any reader would expect what they’re reading to be timely content and to adhere to the BBC’s standard voice. If readers want to engage with the content by commenting on the articles, they can. 

If you can explain the value that blogs.foxnews.com adds to the Fox News site, you’ve got a keener eye for content strategy than I do. My guess, from the empty blog bubbles here, is that this is a failed (or abandoned) experiment and will soon disappear.

6. Your business is truly offline

There’s one final reason that blogging might not fit your business model, and that’s if you have chosen not to enter the digital realm. I had lunch with a high-end jeweler in India recently where he was debating whether to go online (he was worried that his designs might get stolen) or continue to do business in person the way his family had done for at least three generations. 

If you are successful at selling your products offline, especially if your product has as much variation as a gemstone, an argument can be made for staying offline entirely.

When you should be blogging

Now that we’ve looked at some times it’s okay not to have a blog, let’s take a quick, expanded look at five reasons you might want to blog as part of your content marketing strategy (just in case you thought you’d gotten off scot-free by almost fitting into one of the boxes above).

1. You want traffic to your website

Conventional wisdom goes that the more pages you build, the more chances you have to rank. Heck, the more (good) content you create on your blog, the more collateral you have to showcase on your social channels, in email, and anywhere else you want to.

2. You want to expand your audience

If the content you’re creating is truly awesome, people will share it and find it and love it. Some of those people will be potential customers who haven’t even heard of you before. Keep up the excellence and you might just keep them interested.

3. You want to connect with customers

That blog is a fantastic place to answer FAQs, play with new ideas, and show off the humanity of all those fantastic individuals you have working for you. All of those things help customers get to know you, plus they can engage with you directly via the comments. You might just find ideas for new campaigns and even new products just by creating that venue for conversation.

4. You have something to add to the discussion

Do you really have a fresh perspective on what’s going on in your industry? Help others out by sharing your interesting stories and thoughtful commentary. You’re building your authority and the authority of your company at the same time.

5. You’re ready to invest in your future

Content is a long game, so the payoffs from blogging may be farther down the road than you might hope. But if a blog is right for your company, you’re giving yourself the chance to start shaping the message about your industry and your company the day you publish your first post. Keep at it and you might find that you start attracting customers from amongst your followers.

The gist

Don’t blog just because someone told you to. A blog is a huge investment and sustaining that blog can take a lot of work. But there are a lot of good reasons to dig in and blog like you mean it. 

What’s your decision? Do you have a good reason that you’ve decided to abstain from blogging? Or have you decided that a blog is the right thing for your business? Help others carefully consider their investment in blogging by sharing your story in the comments.

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Eye Tracking in 2014: How Users View and Interact with Today’s Google SERPs

Posted by rMaynes1

In September 2014, Mediative released its latest eye-tracking research entitled “The Evolution of Google’s Search Engine Results Pages and Their Effects on User Behaviour“.

This large study had participants conduct various searches using Google on a desktop. For example, participants were asked “Imagine you’re moving from
Toronto to Vancouver. Use Google to find a moving company in Toronto.” Participants were all presented with the same Google SERP, no matter the search
query.

Mediative wanted to know where people look and click on the SERP the most, what role the location of the listing on the SERP plays in winning views and
clicks, and how click activity on listings has changed with the introduction of Google features such as the carousel, the knowledge graph etc.


Mediative discovered that, just as Google’s SERP has evolved over the past decade, so too has the way in which search engine users scan the page before
making a click.

Back in 2005 when
a similar eye-tracking study was conducted for the first time by Mediative (formerly Enquiro), it was
discovered that people searched in a distinctive “triangle” pattern, starting in the top left of the search results page where they expected the first
organic listing to be located, and reading across horizontally before moving their eyes down to the second organic listing, and reading horizontally, but
not quite as far. This area of concentrated gaze activity became known as Google’s “Golden Triangle”. The study concluded that if a business’s listing was
not in the Golden Triangle, its odds of being seen by a searcher were dramatically reduced.

Heat map from 2005 showing the area known as Google’s “Golden Triangle”.

But now, in 2014, the top organic results are no longer always in the top-left corner where searchers expect them to be, so they scan other areas of the
SERP, trying to seek out the top organic listing, but being distracted by other elements along the way. The #1 organic listing is shifting further down the
page, and while this listing still captures the most click activity (32.8%) regardless of what new elements are presented, the shifting location has opened
up the top of the page with more potential areas for businesses to achieve visibility.

Where scanning was once more
horizontal, the adoption of mobile devices over the past 9 years has habitually conditioned searchers to now scan
more
vertically—they are looking for the fastest path to the desired content, and, compared to 9 years ago, they are viewing more search results
listings during a single session and spending less time viewing each one.

Searchers on Google now scan far more vertically than several years ago.


One of the biggest changes from SERPS 9 years ago to today is that Google is now trying to keep people on the result page for as long as they can.

An example is in the case of the knowledge graph. In Mediative’s study. when searchers were looking for “weather in New Orleans”, the results page that was
presented to them showed exactly what they needed to know. Participants were asked to click on the result that they felt best met their needs, even if, if
reality, they wouldn’t have clicked through (in order to end that task). When a knowledge graph result
exactly met the intent of the searcher, the
study found 80% of people looked at that result, and 44% clicked on it. Google provided searchers with a relevant enough answer to keep them on the SERP.
The top organic listing captured 36.5% of pages clicks—compared to 82% when the knowledge graph did not provide the searcher with the answer they were
looking for.

It’s a similar case with the carousel results; when a searcher clicks on a listing, instead of going through to the listing’s website, another SERP is
presented specifically about the business, as Google tries to increase paid ad impressions/clicks on the Google search results page.

How can businesses stay on top of these changes and ensure they still get listed?

There are four main things to keep in mind:

1.
The basic fundamentals of SEO are as important as ever

Create unique, fresh content, which speaks to the needs of your customers as this will always trump chasing the algorithm. There are also on-page and
off-page SEO tactics that you can employ that can increase your chances of being listed in areas of the SERP other than your website’s organic listing such
as front-loading keywords in page titles and meta descriptions, getting listed on directories and ratings and reviews site, having social pages etc. It’s
important to note that SEO strategy is no longer a one-size-fits-all approach.

2.
Consider using schema mark-up wherever possible

In Mediative’s 2014 Google SERP research, it was discovered that blog posts that had been marked up using schema to show the picture and name of the author
got a significant amount of engagement, even when quite far down the first page—these listings garnered an average of 15.5% of total page clicks.

Note:

As of August 2014, Google removed authorship markup entirely. However, the results are still a good example of how schema mark-up can be used to make
your business listing stand out more on the SERP, potentially capturing more view and clicks, and therefore more website traffic.

In the study, participants were asked to “Imagine that you’re starting a business and you need to find a company to host your website. Use Google to find
information about website hosting companies”. The SERP presented is shown below:

Almost 45% of clicks went to 2 blog posts titled “Five Best Web Hosting Companies” and “10 Best Web Hosting Companies”.

In general, the top clicked posts were those that had titles including phrases such as:

  • “Best…”
  • “Reviews of…”
  • “Top 5…”
  • “How-to…”

According to Google, “On-page markup helps search engines understand the information on webpages and provide richer results…Google doesn’t use markup
for ranking purposes at this time-but rich snippets can make your web pages appear more prominently in search results, so you may see an increase in
traffic.”

Schema markup is probably the most under-utilized tool for SEO, presenting a huge opportunity for companies that do utilize the Google approved tool.
Searchmetrics reported that only 0.3% of websites
use schema markup, yet over a third of Google’s results contain rich snippets (additional text, images and links below the individual search results).
BruceClay.com reports rich snippets can increase CTRs of listings between
15-50% and that websites using schema markup tend to rank higher in search results.

Schema mark-up can be used to add star ratings, number of reviews, pricing (all shown in the listing below) and more to a search results page listing.


3.
Know the intent of your users

Understanding what searchers are trying to discover when they conduct a search can help determine how much effort you should try and put into appearing in
the number one organic listing, which can be an extremely difficult task without unlimited budget and resources—and, even if you do make it the number
one organic listing, traffic is not guaranteed as discovered in this reaserch. If you’re competing with big name brands, or ratings and review sites, and
THAT is what your customers want, they you are going to struggle to compete.

The importance of your business being the first listing vs. on the first page therefore, is highly dependent on the searcher’s intent, plus the strength of
your brand. The key is to always keep
user intent top-of-mind, and this can be established by talking to real people, rather than
guessing. What are they looking for when they are searching for your site? Structure your content around what people really want and need, list your site
on the directories that people actually visit or reference, create videos (if that’s what your audience wants)—know what your actual customers are
looking for, and then provide it.

There are going to be situations when a business can’t get to number one on the organic listings. As previously mentioned, the study shows that this is
still the key place to be, and the top organic listing captures more clicks that any other single listing. But if your chances of getting to that number
one spot are slim, you need to focus on other areas of the SERP, such as positions #4 or higher, which will be easier to obtain ranking for—businesses
that are positioned lower on the SERP (especially positions 2-4) see more click activity than they did several years ago, making this real estate much more
valuable. As
Gord Hotchkiss writes about, searchers tend to
“chunk” information on the SERP and scan each chuck in the same way they used to search the entire SERP—in a triangle pattern. Getting listed at the top
of a “chunk” can therefore be effective for many businesses. This idea of “chunking” and scanning can be seen in the heat map below.

To add to that, Mediative’s research showed that everything located above the top 4 organic listings (so, carousel results, knowledge graph, paid listings,
local listings etc.) combined captured 84% of clicks. If you can’t get your business listing to #1, but can get listed somewhere higher than #4, you have a
good chance of being seen, and clicked on by searchers. Ultimately, people expect Google to continue to do its job, and respond to search queries with the
most relevant results at the top. The study points out that only 1% of participants were willing to click through to Page 2 to see more results. If you’re
not listed on page 1 of Google for relevant searches, you may as well not exist online.

4.
A combination of SEO and paid search can maximize your visibility in SERP areas that have the biggest impact on both branding
and
traffic

Even though organic listings are where many businesses are striving to be listed (and where the majority of clicks take place), it’s important not to
forget about paid listings as a component of your digital strategy. Click-through rates for top sponsored listings (positions 1 and 2) have changed very
little in the past decade. Where the huge change has taken place is in the ability of sponsored ads on the right rail to attract attention and clicks.
Activity on this section of the page is almost non-existent. This can be put down to a couple of factors including searchers conditioned behaviour as
mentioned before, to scan more vertically, thanks to our increased mobile usage, and the fact that over the years we have learned that those results may
not typically be very relevant, or as good as the organic results, so we tend not to even take the time to view them.

Mediative’s research also found that there are branding effects of paid search, even if not directly driving traffic. We asked participants to “Imagine you
are traveling to New Orleans and are looking for somewhere to meet a friend for dinner in the French Quarter area. Use Google to find a restaurant.”
Participants were presented with a SERP showing 2 paid ads—the first was for opentable.com, and the second for the restaurant Remoulade, remoulade.com.

The top sponsored listing, opentable.com, was viewed by 84% of participants, and captured 26% of clicks. The second listing, remoulade.com, only captured
2% of clicks but was looked at by 73% of participants. By being seen by almost 3/4 of participants, the paid listing can increase brand affinity, and
therefore purchase (or choice) consideration in other areas! For example, if the searcher comes back and searches again another time, or clicks to
opentable.com and then sees Remoulade listed, it may benefit from a higher brand affinity from having already been seen in the paid listings. Mediative
conducted a
Brand Lift study featuring Honda that found the more real estate that brands own on the SERP, the higher the
CTR, and the higher the brand affinity, brand recognition, purchase consideration etc. Using paid search for more of a branding play is essentially free
brand advertising—while you should be prepared to get the clicks and pay for them of course, it likely that your business listing will be
seen
by a large number of people without capturing the same number of clicks. Impression data can also be easily tracked with Google paid ads so you know
exactly how many times your ad was shown, and can therefore estimate how many people actually looked at it from a branding point of view.


Rebecca Maynes is a Marketing Communications Strategist with Mediative, and was a major contributor on this study. The full study, including
click-through rates for all areas of the SERP, can be downloaded at

www.mediative.com/SERP.

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Thank You for 10 Incredible Years

Posted by randfish

Below are letters written to you all (yes, you!) from both Rand and Sarah.

The first is from Rand:

Dear Moz Community,

Wow. Ten years. It’s been an incredible ride. Through the ups and downs (and there have been 
plenty of both), there haven’t been many constants in my life—my wife, Seattle, and, strangely enough—you, the Moz community. From my first days on the blog and in the forums of the SEO world, when I was deeply in debt and had no idea how to dig my way out, to the incredible rush of 2007 and 2012 when we raised funding rounds and felt like the sky was the limit, you’ve been there. And in the darkest hours of the past decade, when I’ve felt the most alone, guilty, and insecure, you’ve been there, too.

I get to see many of you in person—at conferences and events around the world. But I get to see you right here on the web, too—on Twitter, in the comments, through my email. Your support, empathy, and unwavering belief that Moz could and would do great things has been a beacon of hope and a challenge that I constantly strive to meet.

A decade is a long time. Few things in our lives or in the world last that long—the average tech startup 
doesn’t quite make two years. I’m honored and humbled that you’ve stuck with us all that time, and I promise that in the decade ahead, Moz will deliver more and better work in the areas you need most. We believe in making data that others hide transparent and accessible. We believe in delivering remarkable education and software that everyone can afford. We believe that all of this can be done not just without evil, but with real generosity of spirit and action.

Thank you for the ten remarkable years of warmth, friendship, and support. We absolutely couldn’t have done it without you, nor can we take the next steps without your help. I hope you’ll keep holding us to high standards, and telling us when we’ve met your expectations and when we’ve let you down.

With deep appreciation,

Rand Fishkin

Co-founder & individual contributor

Moz

The second letter is from Moz’s CEO, and one of the company’s earliest employees, Sarah Bird:

Dear Moz Community,

Moz is the steward of this community, but it’s owned by everyone who contributes with posts, comments, shares, and visits. Many, many people have passed through the community, leaving an indelible mark. I get emotional remembering the humor and generosity of 
Goodnewscowboy. I’m grateful and relieved that Dana Lookadoo is still fighting the good fight. I’m STILL impressed with the solid that Rhea Drysdale did the SEO community when she fought a nasty trademark battle on the community’s behalf. I salute all of the folks, and there have been many, who’ve been a force for good in my life and helped us all to take our game to the next level.

Our community is dynamic, but always TAGFEE. In fact, I’ve come to believe it is the truest expression of TAGFEE. People share openly and without a promise of getting anything in return (TAG). It’s a positive and supportive environment to become your best professional self (FEE). I’m proud that the Moz community is one of the few places on the web I’m not afraid to read the comments; I seek them out because they are consistently insightful and stimulating.

Thank you to those who paused here for a bit before continuing on your journeys, and for those who have stuck with us. There are people out there RIGHT NOW who haven’t yet discovered the Moz community, and who are going to help us keep it amazing in the future. I can’t wait to meet them. Without all of you, there is nothing here.

It’s been 10 years, but there is still a lot to learn and a lot to teach. It still feels like day one. The pace of innovation has increased, and the stakes are higher. We strive to share, adapt, and become the most TAGFEE and impactful professionals we can be. Thank you for creating a space to do that every day. Together, we dig deeper and go farther than would be possible without each other. Let’s keep it going and growing for the next ten years.

Hugs and High Fives,

Sarah Bird

CEO

Moz

If you have any fun or interesting memories from the last 10 years, whether they’re related to Moz, SEO, or whatever you think we might like to hear about (we’re feeling awfully nostalgic), please share them in the comments below!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

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