Category : SEO

gShift Acquires Influencer Marketing Technology Platform InNetwork

Addresses Massive Gap in Influencer Analytics and the Dark Sales Funnel

San Francisco, CA – March 21, 2016 – gShift, a worldwide provider of web presence analytics for brands and agencies, announced today from Booth 309 at the MarTech Conference, it has acquired InNetwork, an influencer marketing platform company based out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, in an all-stock deal. The integration of the two companies’ platforms provides digital agencies and brands with a unique marketing technology suite for planning, optimizing, amplifying and reporting on content marketing strategies and investments.

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5 Ways That Influencers Can Boost Your SEO & Content Marketing

content-its-kind-of-a-big-deal

One of the best things about influencer marketing is its flexibility. We’ve been helping brands roll out influencer campaigns for years and have seen first hand the changes that Kyle Wong forecasted for 2015. Yes, sponsored content is still at the heart of most influencer programs, but since content is king, and comes in so many shapes and forms, this leaves us with even more ways to incorporate influencers into our SEO, content, and social media strategies than we even have time for. But that’s just the point isn’t it, partnering with influencers can save you time, boost your content creating power, and amplify your message to not just new audiences, but the right audience.

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Build Owned Media Assets with Influencers

owned media influencersI deal with bloggers and influencers on a daily basis. I’m marketing lead at an influence marketing software company, and I also co-founded SteamFeed.com, a multi-author blog. I have conversations with marketing and PR professionals all the time about influence marketing, influencer strategies, how to engage them, etc.

The conversation always seems to be about engaging influencers and bloggers so they start promoting the company/products you’re representing on their own site. But I honestly think companies are missing a huge opportunity – developing owned media assets with influencers.

Finding Influencers To Contribute To Your Corporate Blog

I had a great conversation with Daniel Newman not that long ago about this, and I’ve been a strong believer in this strategy for quite some time.

Owned media is really important for companies. If you want your company to rank on search engines, if you want customers to engage with you on social networks, if you want to build email lists, generate leads, etc., you need to create content.

Most companies don’t have the capacity to create the daily content required to generate a decent amount of traffic and leads. So instead of hiring more staff to increase the output, they hire freelancers or ghost writers to post on their site.

Now this is an acceptable strategy, but often times the content isn’t that great of quality, and it doesn’t reach a new audience. Freelancers don’t always have the expertise for topics you need to cover, and it shows in their writing.

Expertise, New Audiences, and Higher Quality

Here’s where working with influencers to build your owned assets gets interesting.

You can find people that really know what they’re talking about on social networks. People that have great backgrounds, lots of experience in your industry, that like to share their voice. And the beauty of influencers is that they REALLY want to share their voice. Giving them a new channel to write, to share, to associate themselves with a brand, and to reach your audience is something that they’re excited about – if it brings value to them

In return, you get to fill the expertise gaps that your staff and freelance writers can’t fill. Also, they’re better than a freelance writer in a sense. Why? Because when you work with influencers, they will want to bring their audience to your blog. They share their content. They promote it. Their audience is receptive, and targeted (if you’ve done your homework) – win-win, because you get new eyeballs on your website.

Last point in this section – since the content influencers create come from deep understanding of a topic, it usually ends up being higher quality. If your corporate blog showcases a multitude of different opinions from influencers/industry experts, and have a lot of social shares and comments (since the influencers can bring a new audience), people that land on your blog will view you as higher quality, and higher credibility.

Why Owned, and not Earned?

Don’t get me wrong! I like my fair share of earned media! We get 20% of our leads through earned referral traffic. We get backlinks from people linking to our content. But do you know where we get more leads? Search engines. 55% of our leads to be exact. And a lot of them are high quality, and convert into customers.

With building out our owned media assets, we get more pages indexed through search engines, which brings more leads to our website.

Why? People go to search engines with a question in mind. They want to find a solution to their problem. If your website has the answer, they click on it, explore, and possibly convert.

Here’s another reason to focus on owned media – you can’t get earned media and backlinks unless you have something that’s worth linking to. How do you do that? By developing more owned media.

Examples of Companies Using This Strategy

My favourite example, which I have used over and over again, was the Radian6 blog (before the Salesforce takeover). They had 3-5 articles going out each day – a few from their staff, a few from industry experts. They filled the expertise gaps by bringing in people that were knowledgeable, that had a good audience, and that were social in every way. They did very well.

Our company, InNetwork Inc., uses different bloggers and professionals to fill in expertise that’s appealing to PR professionals. It attracts the right audience to our website, allows us to publish more content, more often, and indexes more content on Google, resulting in more leads.

American Express Open Forum is a great example as well! They bring in different people with different expertise to create a great resource for small business owners.

I could go on with more examples, as there are so many great ones out there!

But the point is, don’t just look at building relationships with influencers for earned media purposes. Be creative in the way you work with influencers. The most important thing to remember is to understand your digital marketing goals, and see what’s the best way to achieve them. If owned media and increased content output solves your problems, then perhaps working closely with experts and influencers in your industry might be the best way to go for you and your company.

*This post by Daniel Hebert first appeared on LinkedIn, and was re-published with permission.*

photo credit: Mexicanwave via photopin cc

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Matt Cutts: Guest Blogging Is Dead… For SEO

Google SEO guest blogging

photo credit: MoneyBlogNewz via photopin cc

Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s webspam team, announced yesterday that guest blogging is dead. After receiving a spam email from an agency halfway across the world, asking to guest post for their client, paying him, and adding “dofollow” links, Matt simply got fed-up with spammy, low-quality guest posters, and announced that Google was taking action against guest bloggers:

Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.

The internet went into a panic after Matt made this statement:

So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy. In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well. Likewise, I wouldn’t recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a linkbuilding strategy.

Being the owner of a multi-author blog myself, and the fact that the InNetwork blog has regular contributors made me very nervous and question our content strategy for 2014. And for good reason – Matt didn’t make it very clear what would happen to multi-author sites in his post. A guy with that kind of influence over marketers needs to be better with his words!!!

After quite a few comments on his blog, Matt replied to the questions and worries that most marketers and bloggers had:

Added: It seems like most people are getting the spirit of what I was trying to say, but I’ll add a bit more context. I’m not trying to throw the baby out with the bath water. There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future. And there are absolutely some fantastic, high-quality guest bloggers out there. I changed the title of this post to make it more clear that I’m talking about guest blogging for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes.

So let’s dig deeper into what this means for you, as a marketer or blogger, in 2014:

  • Guest posting is no longer a viable strategy for SEO backlinks. If guest posting was a part of your SEO strategy, then you’ll have to revise this.
  • Guest posting is still a viable way to increase credibility, personal branding, awareness, community, and web traffic.
  • If you do publish guest posts on your site, make sure the article is of high-quality, and that all links are rel=”nofollow”. This is absolutely important! If you’re not sure about the quality of the article, or you find the link too spammy, don’t publish the post.
  • Multi-author sites are OK, as long as articles are of high-quality, and that your authors have Google Authorship set-up. This will let Google know that your authors are regular contributors to the site, and links will be fine.

Why Should You Guest Post Besides SEO?

A lot of you are probably wondering why you should still invest time into guest posting if it won’t boost your SEO. Guest posting and multi-author sites existed long before Google SEO, and for good reason.

Increase Personal Branding and Awareness

Think about how a lot of influencers and thought leaders develop their personal brand and awareness. Writing your own blog is great, but writing for Hubspot, Huffington Post, Mashable, TechCrunch, Ragan.com, etc., looks great on a bio/résumé. Being associated with publications of that reputation increases the value of your personal brand, and raises your visibility. Once you start writing for reputable websites, you’ll see a natural flow to your own blog as well, as your credibility increases and people want to hear from you more.

Reach New Audiences and Communities

Often times, when you blog on your own, you reach a limited audience and community. It takes a long time to develop an email list, twitter network, social communities, and regular readership on your own blog. And it also takes a long time to develop high-quality content. So by posting high-quality content on someone else’s blog, you’re able to reach a new audience that you couldn’t through your own blog, spreading your thoughts even further. This will organically increase your own community, as they start following your personal website as well, because they just LOVE your high-quality content.

Drive Targeted Web Traffic Through Links, Not SEO

Even though you should use rel=”nofollow” links in guest posts, it doesn’t mean it can’t drive web traffic to your site. One of the posts we wrote about how to increase Facebook likes way back in February on SteamFeed had a nofollow link to a social media tool that we had recommended using for posting on Facebook. That link received thousands of clicks, and hundreds of registrations, even though it did not affect the SEO of the company. Links can still drive traffic to your websites, especially in your bio.

What Can I Do To Replace Guest Posting for SEO?

Now that Google is pretty much treating guest posts as advertorials, which have implications in terms of SEO, you’ll need to come up with a “new”, better strategy to get backlinks. Some of us have been using this strategy for quite some time, so it’s really only new to spammers. There are two strategies that come to mind that everyone with an SEO strategy should consider:

  1. A well-planned content marketing strategy, with long-form high-quality articles.
  2. An influence marketing strategy, targeting influential bloggers in your industry.

Content Marketing and SEO

The main driver of SEO, on any search engine (not just Google) is content. And for Google, which is the search engine that sparked-up this post, written content is the most important. Google has always made it clear that they want to present the best, highest-quality content to people using their search engines. In order to do this, marketers and bloggers need to spend a lot of time on improving the quality of their own content.

300-word articles don’t rank well on Google. 700-word articles are OK. 1000 words are better. 3000 words is amazing! Google likes to present complete ideas to whoever is searching – relevant content, formatted in an easy-to-read way (i.e. proper headers, sub-headers, bullets, lists, numbers, bold fonts, italics, etc.). Well-written, complete ideas, will always outrank crappy, half-baked content.

And guess what – do you know what attracts the most organic backlinks that affect SEO? You’re right – high-quality content. When people read engaging, valuable articles, they share them, they write about them, they link to them, etc. The only way to achieve this is to revamp your content strategy, and focus on quality over quantity.

Bonus: Individual keywords in your content aren’t as important as they used to. Focus more on natural language patterns – think about how Siri (and other voice recognition software) is changing the way people search for information. Grab your phone (or tablet), and start asking questions about, well… whatever you want to find! Take note of how you asked the questions, and use this as your starting point of an SEO-rich article. Focus on keyphrases, not individual keywords, and you’ll rank better.

Influence Marketing Strategy – Focus On The Author

I recently read a great article on Moz that confirmed what I’ve been doing for the last couple years in terms of influencer relations. The premise was instead of focusing on webmasters and high-quality websites (you can determine this with opensiteexplorer.org, with domain ranks) to guest post and build links, focus on building relationships with key authors.

For example, we built close relationships with Danny Brown (@dannybrown) and Sam Fiorella (@samfiorella), authors of Influence Marketing, for our own content marketing strategy at InNetwork. We had several online conversations with them, promoted their book through our website, had several offline conversations, and even sponsored their book launch in Toronto last summer. By doing this, they built a keen interest in InNetwork, our software, our story, and our process, and decided to write about us on their own blog, blog comments, on other websites they guest post for, and share our content through their social networks. This allowed InNetwork to be introduced to their community and audience, as well as build organic backlinks to our blog posts and website.

A New Outlook on SEO in 2014

The SEO landscape has been changing a lot over the past few years, and Google is adamant on getting rid of spam. No longer will you be able to send mass email outreach to hundreds or thousands of bloggers to guest post and drop a link on their site. No longer should you accept lower quality guest posts, just to get that extra content and pageviews (not that you should have done this in the first place). Spammers, be gone! But multi-author sites are safe. And high-quality guest posts are safe. If you’re unsure, just use the rel=”nofollow” attribute on links, or decide not to publish guest posts at all.

What do you think about this move from Google? Do you think it will improve the quality of web-content? Do you think they’re too harsh, and risk penalizing legit guest-posters in the process? What’s your take on SEO moving forward in 2014? Please leave a comment below!

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The Rhythm of Content Marketing

I sat in on a presentation at a marketing conference this month in which the presenter equated the volume of online content to “digital pollution.” Thanks to social media, he argued, the web has become polluted. Blogs, videos, comment/rating engines, memes, and picture sharing sites are clogging up the Internet to a point that Greenpeace, the environmental activist group, might very well make it the focus of their future activity.

content marketing digital noise

Yes, the volume of data, be it user-, media- or brand-generated, has polluted our digital ecosystem.  Our time online is less productive and less enjoyable when we have to struggle with clutter in order to find the data that we need or want.

The argument that was missed – and what I find more fascinating about this situation – is that the content filling up the digital ocean is not necessarily garbage. In fact, much of it is worthy and necessary, albeit repetitive. The quality of the content being produced and shared is not the problem, the quantity is.

Given that there is valuable and worthy content being produced every day, maybe digital pollution is the wrong tag to associate with this growing problem.  “Digital noise” might be a more apt descriptor. The incredible volume of content being produced every day has certainly made the Internet a very noisy place.

Content Marketing Key Player in Digital Pollution

Further, content marketing, the current darling of bloggers, marketers, and marketing agencies, has only contributed to this mess. Marketers and social scientists trip over themselves drafting best practices for content marketing. They preach about the importance of content marketing for brand building, community engagement, search engine optimization, and the establishment of social proof around a brand.

Others point to the necessity of user-generated content for effective advocate and influence marketing programs. In fact, influence marketing has, in large part, become popular due to the amount of digital noise online. How does one cut through the clutter? Influencers are touted as those who can elevate a business’s brand or product above the noise for all to see and experience. Yet, for the most part, they all rely on more content marketing to elevate that original piece of content.

At what point do we realize that we’re simply contributing to more noise? When will influence marketing – or social media marketing for that matter – stop being about content marketing and become an exercise in cutting through the clutter?

Rethinking Content Marketing

I will argue that digital content, no matter how valuable and targeted to its intended audience, is just noise. If the content produced does not connect someone who influences a purchase decision with potential buyer, or a prospective customer to a product they need at that moment, what’s the value of that content to the business? Yes, there’s potentially value in SEO back-links, etc. but more and more executives are demanding answers to the increasingly popular C-Suite question: What was the ROI of that campaign budget?

Content marketing strategy must shift away from best practice-lists that include how evergreen the content is, how newsworthy it is, and what tone of voice is used, to an exercise in mapping the customer’s life cycle, and inserting specific content in the path of the customer’s experience with almost surgical precision. Simply creating great content will do little more than add more noise to the cacophony of the Internet.

Focused content, placed in the path of a prospective or existing customer’s experience with your brand will do more to answer the ROI question than simply creating more quality content.  So before you produce that next killer blog post, take a step back and ask yourself:

  1. What is my customer’s current experience with my brand?
  2. What are the steps that a typical prospect progresses through on their way to a purchase?
  3. What are the steps that a typical customer progresses through (after a purchase) on their way to loyalty and advocacy?
  4. What are the motivations of those customers at each stage?
  5. Who influences those decisions at each stage?

Then you can ask yourself: Does the content I’m producing affect the prospect’s path towards a purchase decision? Does it affect their path towards becoming an advocate? How do I make this content appear in that path, be it on their phone, computer or in person, to ensure they don’t have to search for it?

It’s time to focus on the rhythm of content marketing, not just the notes.

*This is a guest post by Sam Fiorella. The author’s posts are entirely his own views (excluding the event of being possessed by an alien parasite that controls his mind) and may not always reflect the views of InNetwork.*

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