Google is also extending ‘Why this ad?’ notices to all services that display Google Ads, including YouTube, Google Play, Gmail, Maps and partner websites and apps.
Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
Why did you decide to come to dotmailer?
I first got to know dotmailer when the company was just a bunch of young enthusiastic web developers called Ellipsis Media back in 1999. I was introduced by one of my suppliers and we decided to bring them on board to build a recruitment website for one of our clients. That client was Amnesty International and the job role was Secretary General. Not bad for a Croydon company whose biggest client before that was Scobles the plumber’s merchants. So, I was probably dotmailer’s first ever corporate client! After that, I used dotmailer at each company I worked for and then one day they approached a colleague and me and asked us if we wanted to work for them. That was 2013. We grabbed the opportunity with both hands and haven’t looked back since.
Tell us a bit about your role
I’m the Global Head of Technical Solutions which actually gives me responsibility for 2 teams. First, Custom Technical Solutions (CTS), who build bespoke applications and tools for customers that allow them to integrate more closely with dotmailer and make life easier. Second, Technical Pre-sales, which spans our 3 territories (EMEA, US and APAC) and works with prospective and existing clients to figure out the best solution and fit within dotmailer.
What accomplishments are you most proud of from your dotmailer time so far?
I would say so far it has to be helping to turn the CTS team from just 2 people into a group of 7 highly skilled and dedicated men and women who have become an intrinsic and valued part of the dotmailer organization. Also I really enjoy being part of the Senior Technical Management team. Here we have the ability to influence the direction and structure of the platform on a daily basis.
Can you speak a bit about your background and that of your team? What experience and expertise is required to join this team?
My background is quite diverse from a stint in the Army, through design college, web development, business analysis to heading up my current teams. I would say the most valuable skill that I have is being highly analytical. I love nothing more than listening to a client’s requirements and digging deep to work out how we can answer these if not exceed them.
As a team, we love nothing more than brainstorming our ideas. Every member has a valid input and we listen. Everyone has the opportunity to influence what we do and our motto is “there is no such thing as a stupid question.”
To work in my teams you have to be analytical but open minded to the fact that other people may have a better answer than you. Embrace other people’s input and use it to give our clients the best possible solution. We are hugely detail conscious, but have to be acutely aware that we need to tailor what we say to our audience so being able to talk to anyone at any level is hugely valuable.
How much of the dotmailer platform is easily customizable and when does it cross over into something that requires your team’s expertise? How much time is spent on these custom solutions one-time or ongoing?
I’ll let you in on a little secret here. We don’t actually do anything that our customers can’t do with dotmailer given the right knowledge and resources. This is because we build all of our solutions using the dotmailer public API. The API has hundreds of methods in both SOAP and REST versions, which allows you to do a huge amount with the dotmailer platform. We do have a vast amount of experience and knowledge in the team so we may well be able to build a solution quicker than our customers. We are more than happy to help them and their development teams build a solution using us on a consultancy basis to lessen the steepness of the learning curve.
Our aim when building a solution for a customer is that it runs silently in the background and does what it should without any fuss.
What are your plans for the Custom Tech Solutions team going forward?
The great thing about Custom Technical Solutions is you never know what is around the corner as our customers have very diverse needs. What we are concentrating on at the moment is refining our processes to ensure that they are as streamlined as possible and allow us to give as much information to the customer as we can. We are also always looking at the technology and coding approaches that we use to make sure that we build the most innovative and robust solutions.
We are also looking at our external marketing and sharing our knowledge through blogs so keep an eye on the website for our insights.
What are the most common questions that you get when speaking to a prospective customer?
Most questions seem to revolve around reassurance such as “Have you done this before?”, “How safe is my data?”, “What about security?”, “Can you talk to my developers?”, “Do I need to do anything?”. In most instances, we are the ones asking the questions as we need to find out information as soon as possible so that we can analyse it to ensure that we have the right detail to provide the right solution.
Can you tell us about the dotmailer differentiators you highlight when speaking to prospective customers that seem to really resonate?
We talk a lot about working with best of breed so for example a customer can use our Channel Extensions in automation programs to fire out an SMS to a contact using their existing provider. We don’t force customers down one route, we like to let them decide for themselves.
Also, I really like to emphasize the fact that there is always more than one way to do something within the dotmailer platform. This means we can usually find a way to do something that works for a client within the platform. If not, then we call in CTS to work out if there is a way that we can build something that will — whether this is automating uploads for a small client or mass sending from thousands of child accounts for an enterprise level one.
What do you see as the future of marketing automation technology? Will one size ever fit all? Or more customization going forward?
The 64 million dollar question. One size will never fit all. Companies and their systems are too organic for that. There isn’t one car that suits every driver or one racquet that suits every sport. Working with a top drawer partner network and building our system to be as open as possible from an integration perspective means that our customers can make dotmailer mold to their business and not the other way round…and adding to that the fact that we are building lots of features in the platform that will blow your socks off.
Tell us a bit about yourself – favorite sports team, favorite food, guilty pleasure, favorite band, favorite vacation spot?
I’m a dyed in the wool Gooner (aka Arsenal Football Club fan) thanks to my Grandfather leading me down the right path as a child. If you are still reading this after that bombshell, then food-wise I pretty much like everything apart from coriander which as far as I’m concerned is the Devils own spawn. I don’t really have a favorite band, but am partial to a bit of Level 42 and Kings of Leon and you will also find me listening to 90s drum and bass and proper old school hip hop. My favorite holiday destination is any decent villa that I can relax in and spend time with my family and I went to Paris recently and loved that. Guilty pleasure – well that probably has to be confessing to liking Coldplay or the fact that my favorite sandwich is peanut butter, cheese and salad cream. Go on try it, you’ll love it.
The top three reasons were People, Product and Opportunity. I met the people who make up our business and heard their stories from the past 18 years, learned about the platform and market leading status they had built in the UK, and saw that I could add value with my U.S. high growth business experience. I’ve been working with marketers, entrepreneurs and business owners for years across a series of different roles, and saw that I could apply what I’d learned from that and the start-up space to dotmailer’s U.S. operation. dotmailer has had clients in the U.S. for 12 years and we’re positioned to grow the user base of our powerful and easy-to-use platform significantly. I knew I could make a difference here, and what closed the deal for me was the people. Every single person I’ve met is deeply committed to the business, to the success of our customers and to making our solution simple and efficient. We’re a great group of passionate people and I’m proud to have joined the dotfamily.
dotmailer has been in business and in this space for more than 18 years. We were a web agency, then a Systems Integrator, and we got into the email business that way, ultimately building the dotmailer platform thousands of people use daily. This means we know this space better than anyone and we have the perfect solutions to align closely with our customers and the solutions flexible enough to grow with them. My role is to take all that experience and the platform and grow our U.S. presence. My early focus has been on identifying the right team to execute our growth plans. We want to be the market leader in the U.S. in the next three years – just like we’ve done in the UK – so getting the right people in the right spots was critical. We quickly assessed the skills of the U.S. team and made changes that were necessary in order to provide the right focus on customer success. Next, we set out to completely rebuild dotmailer’s commercial approach in the U.S. We simplified our offers to three bundles, so that pricing and what’s included in those bundles is transparent to our customers. We’ve heard great things about this already from clients and partners. We’re also increasing our resources on customer success and support. We’re intensely focused on ease of on-boarding, ease of use and speed of use. We consistently hear how easy and smooth a process it is to use dotmailer’s tools. That’s key for us – when you buy a dotmailer solution, we want to onboard you quickly and make sure you have all of your questions answered right away so that you can move right into using it. Customers are raving about this, so we know it’s working well.
I’ve been at dotmailer for eight months now and I’m really proud of all we’ve accomplished together. We spent a lot of time assessing where we needed to restructure and where we needed to invest. We made the changes we needed, invested in our partner program, localized tech support, customer on-boarding and added customer success team members. We have the right people in the right roles and it’s making a difference. We have a commercial approach that is clear with the complete transparency that we wanted to provide our customers. We’ve got a more customer-focused approach and we’re on-boarding customers quickly so they’re up and running faster. We have happier customers than ever before and that’s the key to everything we do.
I thought it was very important to create a NY office space that was tied to branding and other offices around the world, and also had its own NY energy and culture for our team here – to foster collaboration and to have some fun. It was also important for us that we had a flexible space where we could welcome customers, partners and resellers, and also hold classes and dotUniversity training sessions. I’m really grateful to the team who worked on the space because it really reflects our team and what we care about. At any given time, you’ll see a training session happening, the team collaborating, a customer dropping in to ask a few questions or a partner dropping in to work from here. We love our new, NYC space.
We had a spectacular reception this week to celebrate the opening of this office with customers, partners and the dotmailer leadership team in attendance. Please take a look at the photos from our event on Facebook.
The start-up space is a great place to learn. You have to know where every dollar is going and coming from, so every choice you make needs to be backed up with a business case for that investment. You try lots of different things to see if they’ll work and you’re ready to turn those tactics up or down quickly based on an assessment of the results. You also learn things don’t have to stay the way they are, and can change if you make them change. You always listen and learn – to customers, partners, industry veterans, advisors, etc. to better understand what’s working and not working. dotmailer has been in business for 18 years now, and so there are so many great contributors across the business who know how things have worked and yet are always keen to keep improving. I am constantly in listening and learning mode so that I can understand all of the unique perspectives our team brings and what we need to act on.
On our path to being the market leader in the U.S., I’m focused on three things going forward: 1 – I want our customers to be truly happy. It’s already a big focus in the dotmailer organization – and we’re working hard to understand their challenges and goals so we can take product and service to the next level. 2 – Creating an even more robust program around partners, resellers and further building out our channel partners to continuously improve sales and customer service programs. We recently launched a certification program to ensure partners have all the training and resources they need to support our mutual customers. 3 – We have an aggressive growth plan for the U.S. and I’m very focused on making sure our team is well trained, and that we remain thoughtful and measured as we take the steps to grow. We want to always keep an eye on what we’re known for – tools that are powerful and simple to use – and make sure everything else we offer remains accessible and valuable as we execute our growth plans.
The questions we usually get are around price, service level and flexibility. How much does dotmailer cost? How well are you going to look after my business? How will you integrate into my existing stack and then my plans for future growth? We now have three transparent bundle options with specifics around what’s included published right on our website. We have introduced a customer success team that’s focused only on taking great care of our customers and we’re hearing stories every day that tells me this is working. And we have all of the tools to support our customers as they grow and to also integrate into their existing stacks – often integrating so well that you can use dotmailer from within Magento, Salesforce or Dynamics, for example.
In addition to the ones above – ease of use, speed of use and the ability to scale with you. With dotmailer’s tiered program, you can start with a lighter level of functionality and grow into more advanced functionality as you need it. The platform itself is so easy to use that most marketers are able to build campaigns in minutes that would have taken hours on other platforms. Our customer success team is also with you all the way if ever you want or need help. We’ve built a very powerful platform and we have a fantastic team to help you with personalized service as an extended part of your team and we’re ready to grow with you.
I’ve spent a lot of time on the road, one year I attended 22 tradeshows! Top tip when flying is to be willing to give up your seat for families or groups once you’re at the airport gate, as you’ll often be rewarded with a better seat for helping the airline make the family or group happy. Win win! Since joining dotmailer, I’m focused on being in office and present for the team and customers as much as possible. I can usually be found in our new, NYC office where I spend a lot of time with our team, in customer meetings, in trainings and other hosted events, sales conversations or marketing meetings. I’m here to help the team, clients and partners to succeed, and will always do my best to say yes! Once our prospective customers see how quickly and efficiently they can execute tasks with dotmailer solutions vs. their existing solutions, it’s a no-brainer for them. I love seeing and hearing their reactions.
I’m originally from Yorkshire in England, and grew up just outside York. I moved to the U.S. about seven years ago to join a very fast growing startup, we took it from 5 to well over 300 people which was a fantastic experience. I moved to NYC almost two years ago, and I love exploring this great city. There’s so much to see and do. Outside of dotmailer, my passion is cars, and I also enjoy skeet shooting, almost all types of music, and I love to travel – my goal is to get to India, Thailand, Australia and Japan in the near future.
Want to find out more about the dotfamily? Check out our recent post about Darren Hockley, Global Head of Support.
At dotmailer we try our best to keep the bad guys out, but if they already have your password, there is very little we can do to detect, and stop them logging in as you…unless, of course, you have already turned on two-factor authentication (2FA). Two-factor in most cases is something you know (your username/password), and something you have (a single use access code or authentication link).
There are various ways an attacker may have access to your login details, but some of the possible methods include:
If the computer you use to log in to your online accounts is infected with malware, it is possible that your keystrokes and even screen captures are being logged and sent back to the bad guys…..yep, including your passwords, and other authentication details.
If an attacker has access to the network from which you are logging on to an online service (e.g. public Wi-Fi hotspot), in some cases it may be possible to capture the data as it passes to the server…..yep, including your password, and other authentication details. This is where looking for HTTPS in your browser address bar becomes very important. At dotmailer, all authentication data passes over a secure channel, thus protecting you from this sort of attack.
It’s really important not to use the same password across different services. We’ve seen an awful lot of very big data breaches in the news recently, and the attackers have been using the stolen authentication details from these breaches to try and log on to other online services…with what seems to be a great deal of success! This sadly means that many people are still using the same password everywhere they go online. This is one of the reasons why your dotmailer password is set to expire, and you are asked for a new one every 90 days; and why you should be choosing something completely different every time. Simply incrementing that number at the end of your password is not cool!
As we get better at using good passwords, and preventing malware infections; sometime, the bad guys just find it easier to ask us for our passwords. At dotmailer, our support team will never contact you asking for your password.
If one of the above unfortunate events were to happen, 2FA adds another layer of defense, as the attacker would also need access to the authentication link or SMS code. In reality that would mean having access to your mailbox, or mobile phone. We’ve already seen that it’s possible that an attacker has obtained your password due to a compromised computer, or network; which is why we would always recommend using an “out-of-band” communication such as SMS as the means to deliver the 2FA authentication token where possible. dotmailer offers SMS 2FA to all customers. It’s simple to setup, and its free!
Without access to the authentication token, the attacker could of course try and brute force the code, but that is where our other controls such as failed login account lockouts kick in.
Log in to your account, and click the user icon in the top right, and select Account:
In the resulting window click on the “Account Settings” tab, and scroll down to the “Security” section. Simply tick the Two-factor authentication box, and enter your mobile phone number, and hit save settings at the bottom of the page.
Done! Congratulations, you have just gone one step further in protecting your valuable data.
Now you have protected your dotmailer account, check out TurnOn 2FA and see which of your other online services offer a similar feature, and SWITCH IT ON!
Check out my last post on protecting your online account from unauthorized access. See also our previous support article on securing your account with two-factor authentication, and for more general information on what dotmailer do to protect you and your data, please visit our Trust Centre.
Note: If you are a managed user, you will need to ask your account administrator to do this for you. For obvious security reasons, you will not be able to disable this feature without the help from our support team.
As an open source ecommerce platform, Magento is flexible and accessible for developers to work with and as a result, an active community of developers emerged on online forums and at offline meetups all over the world. Many of these were happily plugging away independently of Magento until the split from eBay in early 2015.
Free from the reins of eBay, Magento has decisively been reaching out to, promoting and rewarding the individuals, agencies and technology providers that make up its ecosystem. Last February they announced the Magento Masters Program, empowering the top platform advocates, frequent forum contributors and the innovative solution implementers. Then at April‘s Magento Imagine conference (the largest yet) the theme emerged as ‘We are Magento”, in celebration of the community.
The new Xcelerate Technology Partner Program focuses not on individuals but on business partnerships formed with the technology companies that offer tools for Magento merchants to implement.
Sharing ideas, opportunities and successes:
This is the Xcelerate Program tagline, which acts as a sort of mission statement to get the technology partners involved moving with regards to continuously considering Magento in their own technology roadmap and jointly communicating successes and learnings from working on implementations with merchants.
“In turn, the program offers members the tools to get moving, through events, resources and contacts. Our goal is to enable you to be an integral part of the Magento ecosystem” Jon Carmody, Head of Technology Partners
The program in practice:
The new program is accompanied by the new Marketplace from which the extensions can be purchased and downloaded. The program splits the extensions into 3 partnership levels:
Registered Partners – these are technology extensions that the new Magento Marketplace team test for code quality. Extensions must now pass this initial level to be eligible for the Marketplace. With each merchant having on average 15 extensions for their site, this is a win for merchants when it comes to extension trustworthiness.
Select Partners – extensions can enter this second tier if the technology falls into one of the strategic categories identified by Magento and if they pass an in-depth technical review. These will be marked as being ‘Select’ in the Marketplace.
Premier Partners – this level is by invitation only, chosen as providing crucial technology to Magento merchants (such as payments, marketing, tax software). The Magento team’s Extension Quality Program looks at coding structure, performance, scalability, security and compatibility but influence in the Community is also a consideration. dotmailer is proud to be the first Premier Technology Partner in the marketing space for Magento.
All in all, the latest move from Magento in illuminating its ecosystem should be positive for all; the merchants who can now choose from a vetted list of extensions and know when to expect tight integration, the technology partners building extensions now with clearer merchant needs/extension gaps in mind and guidance from Magento, and of course the solution implementers recommending the best extension for the merchant now knowing it will be maintained.
Posted by wrttnwrd
In spite of all the advice, the strategic discussions and the conference talks, we Internet marketers are still algorithmic thinkers. That’s obvious when you think of SEO.
Even when we talk about content, we’re algorithmic thinkers. Ask yourself: How many times has a client asked you, “How much content do we need?” How often do you still hear “How unique does this page need to be?”
That’s 100% algorithmic thinking: Produce a certain amount of content, move up a certain number of spaces.
But you and I know it’s complete bullshit.
I’m not suggesting you ignore the algorithm. You should definitely chase it. Understanding a little bit about what goes on in Google’s pointy little head helps. But it’s not enough.
I have this friend.
He ranked #10 for “flibbergibbet.” He wanted to rank #1.
He compared his site to the #1 site and realized the #1 site had five hundred blog posts.
“That site has five hundred blog posts,” he said, “I must have more.”
So he hired a few writers and cranked out five thousand blogs posts that melted Microsoft Word’s grammar check. He didn’t move up in the rankings. I’m shocked.
“That guy’s spamming,” he decided, “I’ll just report him to Google and hope for the best.”
What happened? Why didn’t adding five thousand blog posts work?
It’s pretty obvious: My, uh, friend added nothing but crap content to a site that was already outranked. Bulk is no longer a ranking tactic. Google’s very aware of that tactic. Lots of smart engineers have put time into updates like Panda to compensate.
He started like this:
And ended up like this:
Alright, yeah, I was Mr. Flood The Site With Content, way back in 2003. Don’t judge me, whippersnappers.
Reality’s never that obvious. You’re scratching and clawing to move up two spots, you’ve got an overtasked IT team pushing back on changes, and you’ve got a boss who needs to know the implications of every recommendation.
Why fix duplication if rel=canonical can address it? Fixing duplication will take more time and cost more money. It’s easier to paste in one line of code. You and I know it’s better to fix the duplication. But it’s a hard sell.
Why deal with 302 versus 404 response codes and home page redirection? The basic user experience remains the same. Again, we just know that a server should return one home page without any redirects and that it should send a ‘not found’ 404 response if a page is missing. If it’s going to take 3 developer hours to reconfigure the server, though, how do we justify it? There’s no flashing sign reading “Your site has a problem!”
Why change this thing and not that thing?
At the same time, our boss/client sees that the site above theirs has five hundred blog posts and thousands of links from sites selling correspondence MBAs. So they want five thousand blog posts and cheap links as quickly as possible.
Cue crazy music.
SEO is, in some ways, for the insane. It’s an absurd collection of technical tweaks, content thinking, link building and other little tactics that may or may not work. A novice gets exposed to one piece of crappy information after another, with an occasional bit of useful stuff mixed in. They create sites that repel search engines and piss off users. They get more awful advice. The cycle repeats. Every time it does, best practices get more muddled.
SEO lacks clarity. We can’t easily weigh the value of one change or tactic over another. But we can look at our changes and tactics in context. When we examine the potential of several changes or tactics before we flip the switch, we get a closer balance between algorithm-thinking and actual strategy.
At some point you have to turn that knowledge into practice. You have to take action based on recommendations, your knowledge of SEO, and business considerations.
That’s hard when we can’t even agree on subdomains vs. subfolders.
I know subfolders work better. Sorry, couldn’t resist. Let the flaming comments commence.
To get clarity, take a deep breath and ask yourself:
“All other things being equal, will this change, tactic, or strategy move my site closer to perfect than my competitors?”
Breaking it down:
A change takes an existing component or policy and makes it something else. Replatforming is a massive change. Adding a new page is a smaller one. Adding ALT attributes to your images is another example. Changing the way your shopping cart works is yet another.
A tactic is a specific, executable practice. In SEO, that might be fixing broken links, optimizing ALT attributes, optimizing title tags or producing a specific piece of content.
A strategy is a broader decision that’ll cause change or drive tactics. A long-term content policy is the easiest example. Shifting away from asynchronous content and moving to server-generated content is another example.
No one knows exactly what Google considers “perfect,” and “perfect” can’t really exist, but you can bet a perfect web page/site would have all of the following:
These 8 categories (and any of the other bazillion that probably exist) give you a way to break down “perfect” and help you focus on what’s really going to move you forward. These different areas may involve different facets of your organization.
Your IT team can work on load time and creating an error-free front- and back-end. Link building requires the time and effort of content and outreach teams.
Tactics for relevant, visible content and current best practices in UX are going to be more involved, requiring research and real study of your audience.
What you need and what resources you have are going to impact which tactics are most realistic for you.
But there’s a basic rule: If a website would make Googlebot swoon and present zero obstacles to users, it’s close to perfect.
Assume every competing website is optimized exactly as well as yours.
Now ask: Will this [tactic, change or strategy] move you closer to perfect?
That’s the “all other things being equal” rule. And it’s an incredibly powerful rubric for evaluating potential changes before you act. Pretend you’re in a tie with your competitors. Will this one thing be the tiebreaker? Will it put you ahead? Or will it cause you to fall behind?
Perfect is great, but unattainable. What you really need is to be just a little perfect-er.
Chasing perfect can be dangerous. Perfect is the enemy of the good (I love that quote. Hated Voltaire. But I love that quote). If you wait for the opportunity/resources to reach perfection, you’ll never do anything. And the only way to reduce distance from perfect is to execute.
Instead of aiming for pure perfection, aim for more perfect than your competitors. Beat them feature-by-feature, tactic-by-tactic. Implement strategy that supports long-term superiority.
Don’t slack off. But set priorities and measure your effort. If fixing server response codes will take one hour and fixing duplication will take ten, fix the response codes first. Both move you closer to perfect. Fixing response codes may not move the needle as much, but it’s a lot easier to do. Then move on to fixing duplicates.
Do the 60% that gets you a 90% improvement. Then move on to the next thing and do it again. When you’re done, get to work on that last 40%. Repeat as necessary.
Take advantage of quick wins. That gives you more time to focus on your bigger solutions.
Google has lots of tweaks, tools and workarounds to help us mitigate sub-optimal sites:
Easy, right? All of these solutions may reduce distance from perfect (the search engines don’t guarantee it). But they don’t reduce it as much as fixing the problems.
The next time you set up rel=canonical, ask yourself:
“All other things being equal, will using rel=canonical to make up for duplication move my site closer to perfect than my competitors?”
Answer: Not if they’re using rel=canonical, too. You’re both using imperfect solutions that force search engines to crawl every page of your site, duplicates included. If you want to pass them on your way to perfect, you need to fix the duplicate content.
When you use Angular.js to deliver regular content pages, ask yourself:
“All other things being equal, will using HTML snapshots instead of actual, visible content move my site closer to perfect than my competitors?”
Answer: No. Just no. Not in your wildest, code-addled dreams. If I’m Google, which site will I prefer? The one that renders for me the same way it renders for users? Or the one that has to deliver two separate versions of every page?
When you spill banner ads all over your site, ask yourself…
You get the idea. Nofollow is better than follow, but banner pollution is still pretty dang far from perfect.
Mitigating SEO issues with search engine-specific tools is “fine.” But it’s far, far from perfect. If search engines are forced to choose, they’ll favor the site that just works.
By the way, distance from perfect absolutely applies to other channels.
I’m focusing on SEO, but think of other Internet marketing disciplines. I hear stuff like “How fast should my site be?” (Faster than it is right now.) Or “I’ve heard you shouldn’t have any content below the fold.” (Maybe in 2001.) Or “I need background video on my home page!” (Why? Do you have a reason?) Or, my favorite: “What’s a good bounce rate?” (Zero is pretty awesome.)
And Internet marketing venues are working to measure distance from perfect. Pay-per-click marketing has the quality score: A codified financial reward applied for seeking distance from perfect in as many elements as possible of your advertising program.
Social media venues are aggressively building their own forms of graphing, scoring and ranking systems designed to separate the good from the bad.
Really, all marketing includes some measure of distance from perfect. But no channel is more influenced by it than SEO. Instead of arguing one rule at a time, ask yourself and your boss or client: Will this move us closer to perfect?
Hell, you might even please a customer or two.
One last note for all of the SEOs in the crowd. Before you start pointing out edge cases, consider this: We spend our days combing Google for embarrassing rankings issues. Every now and then, we find one, point, and start yelling “SEE! SEE!!!! THE GOOGLES MADE MISTAKES!!!!” Google’s got lots of issues. Screwing up the rankings isn’t one of them.
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!
Posted by Isla_McKetta
Quick note: This article is meant to apply to teams of all sizes, from the sole proprietor who spends all night writing their copy (because they’re doing business during the day) to the copy team who occupies an entire floor and produces thousands of pieces of content per week. So if you run into a section that you feel requires more resources than you can devote just now, that’s okay. Bookmark it and revisit when you can, or scale the step down to a more appropriate size for your team. We believe all the information here is important, but that does not mean you have to do everything right now.
If you thought ideation was fun, get ready for content creation. Sure, we’ve all written some things before, but the creation phase of content marketing is where you get to watch that beloved idea start to take shape.
Before you start creating, though, you want to get (at least a little) organized, and an editorial calendar is the perfect first step.
Creativity and organization are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they can feed each other. A solid schedule gives you and your writers the time and space to be wild and creative. If you’re just starting out, this document may be sparse, but it’s no less important. Starting early with your editorial calendar also saves you from creating content willy-nilly and then finding out months later that no one ever finished that pesky (but crucial) “About” page.
There’s no wrong way to set up your editorial calendar, as long as it’s meeting your needs. Remember that an editorial calendar is a living document, and it will need to change as a hot topic comes up or an author drops out.
There are a lot of different types of documents that pass for editorial calendars. You get to pick the one that’s right for your team. The simplest version is a straight-up calendar with post titles written out on each day. You could even use a wall calendar and a Sharpie.
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Teams who are balancing content for different brands at agencies or other more complex content environments will want to add categories, author information, content type, social promo, and more to their calendars.
Truly complex editorial calendars are more like hybrid content creation/editorial calendars, where each of the steps to create and publish the content are indicated and someone has planned for how long all of that takes. These can be very helpful if the content you’re responsible for crosses a lot of teams and can take a long time to complete. It doesn’t matter if you’re using Excel or a Google Doc, as long as the people who need the calendar can easily access it. Gantt charts can be excellent for this. Here’s a favorite template for creating a Gantt chart in Google Docs (and they only get more sophisticated).
Complex calendars can encompass everything from ideation through writing, legal review, and publishing. You might even add content localization if your empire spans more than one continent to make sure you have the currency, date formatting, and even slang right.
Governance outlines who is taking responsibility for your content. Who evaluates your content performance? What about freshness? Who decides to update (or kill) an older post? Who designs and optimizes workflows for your team or chooses and manages your CMS?
All these individual concerns fall into two overarching components to governance: daily maintenance and overall strategy. In the long run it helps if one person has oversight of the whole process, but the smaller steps can easily be split among many team members. Read this to take your governance to the next level.
The scale of your writing enterprise doesn’t have to be limited to the number of authors you have on your team. It’s also important to consider the possibility of working with freelancers and guest authors. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of outsourced versus in-house talent.
Guest authors and freelancers
You (as part of their salary)
You (on a per-piece basis)
Subject matter expertise
Broad but shallow
Deep but narrow
Capacity for extra work
As you wish
Show me the Benjamins
On a dime
From that table, it might look like in-house authors have a lot more advantages. That’s somewhat true, but do not underestimate the value of occasionally working with a true industry expert who has name recognition and a huge following. Whichever route you take (and there are plenty of hybrid options), it’s always okay to ask that the writers you are working with be professional about communication, payment, and deadlines. In some industries, guest writers will write for links. Consider yourself lucky if that’s true. Remember, though, that the final paycheck can be great leverage for getting a writer to do exactly what you need them to (such as making their deadlines).
So those are some things you need to have in place before you create content. Now’s the fun part: getting started. One of the beautiful things about the Internet is that new and exciting tools crop up every day to help make our jobs easier and more efficient. Here are a few of our favorites.
You can always use Excel or a Google Doc to set up your editorial calendar, but we really like Trello for the ability to gather a lot of information in one card and then drag and drop it into place. Once there are actual dates attached to your content, you might be happier with something like a Google Calendar.
If you need a quick fix for ideation, turn your keywords into wacky ideas with Portent’s Title Maker. You probably won’t want to write to the exact title you’re given (although “True Facts about Justin Bieber’s Love of Pickles” does sound pretty fascinating…), but it’s a good way to get loose and look at your topic from a new angle.
Once you’ve got that idea solidified, find out what your audience thinks about it by gathering information with Survey Monkey or your favorite survey tool. Or, use Storify to listen to what people are saying about your topic across a wide variety of platforms. You can also use Storify to save those references and turn them into a piece of content or an illustration for one. Don’t forget that a simple social ask can also do wonders.
Content doesn’t have to be all about the words. Screencasts, Google+ Hangouts, and presentations are all interesting ways to approach content. Remember that not everyone’s a reader. Some of your audience will be more interested in visual or interactive content. Make something for everyone.
Don’t forget to make your content pretty. It’s not that hard to find free stock images online (just make sure you aren’t violating someone’s copyright). We like Morgue File, Free Images, and Flickr’s Creative Commons. If you aren’t into stock images and don’t have access to in-house graphic design, it’s still relatively easy to add images to your content. Pull a screenshot with Skitch or dress up an existing image with Pixlr. You can also use something like Canva to create custom graphics.
Don’t stop with static graphics, though. There are so many tools out there to help you create gifs, quizzes and polls, maps, and even interactive timelines. Dream it, then search for it. Chances are whatever you’re thinking of is doable.
Less is more. That’s not an excuse to pare your blog down to one post per month (check out our publishing cadence experiment), but it is an important reminder that if you’re writing “How to Properly Install a Toilet Seat” two days after publishing “Toilet Seat Installation for Dummies,” you might want to rethink your strategy.
The thing is, and I’m going to use another cliché here to drive home the point, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Potential customers are roving the Internet right now looking for exactly what you’re selling. And if what they find is an only somewhat informative article stuffed with keywords and awful spelling and grammar mistakes… well, you don’t want that. Oh, and search engines think it’s spammy too…
We’re not copyright lawyers, so we can’t give you the ins and outs on all the technicalities. What we can tell you (and you already know this) is that it’s not okay to steal someone else’s work. You wouldn’t want them to do it to you. This includes images. So whenever you can, make your own images or find images that you can either purchase the rights to (stock imagery) or license under Creative Commons.
It’s usually okay to quote short portions of text, as long as you attribute the original source (and a link is nice). In general, titles and ideas can’t be copyrighted (though they might be trademarked or patented). When in doubt, asking for permission is smart.
That said, part of the fun of the Internet is the remixing culture which includes using things like memes and gifs. Just know that if you go that route, there is a certain amount of risk involved.
Your content needs to go through at least one editing cycle by someone other than the original author. There are two types of editing, developmental (which looks at the underlying structure of a piece that happens earlier in the writing cycle) and copy editing (which makes sure all the words are there and spelled right in the final draft).
If you have a very small team or are in a rush (and are working with writers that have some skill), you can often skip the developmental editing phase. But know that an investment in that close read of an early draft is often beneficial to the piece and to the writer’s overall growth.
Many content teams peer-edit work, which can be great. Other organizations prefer to run their work by a dedicated editor. There’s no wrong answer, as long as the work gets edited.
The good news is that search engines are doing their best to get closer and closer to understanding and processing natural language. So good writing (including the natural use of synonyms rather than repeating those keywords over and over and…) will take you a long way towards SEO mastery.
For that reason (and because it’s easy to get trapped in keyword thinking and veer into keyword stuffing), it’s often nice to think of your SEO check as a further edit of the post rather than something you should think about as you’re writing.
But there are still a few things you can do to help cover those SEO bets. Once you have that draft, do a pass for SEO to make sure you’ve covered the following:
Writing (assuming you’re the one doing the writing) can require a lot of energy—especially if you want to do it well. The best way to find time to write is to break each project down into little tasks. For example, writing a blog post actually breaks down into these steps (though not always in this order):
So if you only have random chunks of time, set aside 15-30 minutes one day (when your research is complete) to write a really great outline. Then find an hour the next to fill that outline in. After an additional hour the following day, (unless you’re dealing with a research-heavy post) you should have a solid draft by the end of day three.
The magic of working this way is that you engage your brain and then give it time to work in the background while you accomplish other tasks. Hemingway used to stop mid-sentence at the end of his writing days for the same reason.
Once you have that draft nailed, the rest of the steps are relatively easy (even the headline, which often takes longer to write than any other sentence, is easier after you’ve immersed yourself in the post over a few days).
Every designer and developer is a little different, so we can’t give you any blanket cure-alls for inter-departmental workarounds (aka “smashing silos”). But here are some suggestions to help you convey your vision while capitalizing on the expertise of your coworkers to make your content truly excellent.
From the initial brainstorm to general questions about how to work together, asking your team members what they think and prefer can go a long way. Communicate all the details you have (especially the unspoken expectations) and then listen.
If your designer tells you up front that your color scheme is years out of date, you’re saving time. And if your developer tells you that the interactive version of that timeline will require four times the resources, you have the info you need to fight for more budget (or reassess the project).
Things change in the design and development process. If you have interim check-ins already set up with everyone who’s working on the project, you’ll avoid the potential for nasty surprises at the end. Like finding out that no one has experience working with that hot new coding language you just read about and they’re trying to do a workaround that isn’t working.
Your job isn’t done when you hand over the copy to your designer or developer. Not only might they need help rewriting some of your text so that it fits in certain areas, they will also need you to proofread the final version. Accidents happen in the copy-and-paste process and there’s nothing sadder than a really beautiful (and expensive) piece of content that wraps up with a typo:
Conflict isn’t fun, but sometimes it’s necessary. The more people involved in your content, the more watered down the original idea can get and the more roadblocks and conflicting ideas you’ll run into. Some of that is very useful. But sometimes you’ll get pulled off track. Always remember who owns the final product (this may not be you) and be ready to stand up for the idea if it’s starting to get off track.
We’re confident this list will set you on the right path to creating some really awesome content, but is there more you’d like to know? Ask us your questions in the comments.
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