Editors Note: Search, social and content marketing are practically the holy trinity of online marketing today, and on Thursday, May 30, Arnie Kuenn from Vertical Measures offered a comprehensive plan to excel at all three in the webinar “How to Win at Search, Social and Content Marketing.”—which you can still watch on demand if you click here—including answering a volley of questions during the live Q&A. However, we couldn’t get to all the 40-plus questions our audience asked. Of those, here are some of the most important to successful content marketing with Kuenn’s answers for how to do them right.
1. What is a micro format?
Microformats, microdata and RDFa are similar types of structured markup: additional tags added to HTML code that provide search engines with more information about the content they contain. For example, an e-commerce site owner could add the markup to a product page, identifying the product’s name, price, brand, description, product rating and other standardized fields. Doing so helps ensure that search engines recognize specific kinds of content and potentially present them as rich snippets in search engine results.
Rich snippets are custom search results for certain types of content, including products, businesses, people, events, recipes, reviews and more. They are more informative and eye-catching, which can be an advantage on the results page. For example, see the image in the media player at right, the recipe result shows a thumbnail photo, user rating and preparation time.
About two years ago, the major search engines chose schema.org (based on microdata) as their preferred structured markup format. To simplify the markup process for non-coders, Google also implemented the Data Highlighter tool.
2. How important are properly named and captioned images to content?
When you write a great post, adding images are the icing on the cake. It has been said that posts with accompanying images receive 94 percent more views than posts without images. Eye-catching, relevant images help break up the content, keep visitors reading along, encourage the sharing of your post, and can garner links to your content.
Once you’ve found your images, from a legit source, and they are approved for your use, they need to be handled appropriately so they help with SEO and user experience. Here are some tips:
- Descriptive File Name: Remember, images found on Google Images can generate a lot of traffic to your site. Choose a descriptive file name for your images. Photos usually have a generated letter and number file name, but be sure to change it to include keywords. For example: “cake-with-icing.jpg” is much better than “7cb3e9.jpg.” You can actually check your analytics for search terms that your visitors are using; this will help with your naming convention and ensure your photos will be found.
- Don’t Forget Alt Text: Search engines can’t “read” images, so you need to tell them what your image is about. This is where alt text comes in. Again, you should be very descriptive. For the example above, here is how the alt text might look: .
- File Size: Page load time is very important. Search engines, and users, do not like slow loading pages. Reduce the file size of your images so they don’t bog down your page. You want to use as small a size as possible without losing quality. You can always provide a pop-up if users need to see a bigger image.
- Captions Are a Must: When visitors land on a page they usually scan it quickly. Obviously, they spot the images first and will see the caption for the images right away. Captions don’t really affect rankings, but bounce rate and time on page do. Great captions can help keep visitors from bouncing quickly and stay on the page longer. Without a caption, visitors will come to their own conclusions about a photo. Captions help them to understand the point you’re making, and also make great places for a call to action.
3. How do you feel about soliciting guest blog posts from experts in your target audience’s industries to help support content marketing efforts?
This is absolutely a great idea. People like to listen to new perspectives and having people who can inform them at your site reduces the need to go elsewhere. On the flip side, writers like new audiences and different questions and angles that may result from it.
The new perspectives, of course, help your own company consider different things, as well. Having a guest blog post is almost certainly a win-win situation whichever way you look at it. I can’t think of a situation where there is any downside, whatsoever.
A couple of tips: One, work the guest blog post into your editorial calendar that hopefully is already set up. Two, give the person plenty of lead time to write it and follow up with a couple of “how’s the blog post coming along” e-mails two weeks and one week out.
4. As part of a “Fortune 5 Million” small biz, do you have any suggestions for finding people to create content?
As one small business among millions, it’s a challenge to get noticed, which is why you’re interested in content marketing to begin with. Thinking and focusing locally in your business scope is the best way to get a business off the ground. That’s also true of finding people to help with filling your website with good, useful—and search-desirable—information.
First, know the structure what you want on your site and the tone you want to develop overall. Your industry may demand technical articles with niche knowledge that need to be right and serious more than entertaining. Or you might instead sell bath toys for kids or crazy straws, and would therefore want to cultivate more of a sense of fun.
You need to pay them or show a strong mutual benefit. A few ways to find people are to take note of people you find interesting, when you meet them. Whether you meet them at a conference, on Twitter or LinkedIn, or in line waiting to see a movie, they need to be people you believe will add to your site. Social media outlets have the added benefit of being places where you’ve already self-selected people you find interesting or have something to offer you. With Twitter, you could even make a private list of people you would want to write for you, so it’s constantly being refreshed.
Ideally you will have talked to the people who will write for you in some direct way. One exception, however, is asking students in nearby community colleges or universities whether they can help out. If you have a lot of non-salesy content, it’s worth the inquiry to the department head of the area(s) of expertise you need.
5. When you get to the point of actually writing content, do you recommend hiring a professional writer, or just doing it in house?
With the risk of sounding wishy-washy—both. It’s amazingly satisfying to create and control the content that comes out of your shop from beginning to end; to know that your crew created fabulous articles, infographics, podcasts and everything else that falls under the umbrella of content.
In many ways it’s easier because you can set expectations and you know the strengths and knowledge centers of the people who write for you. At the same time, if you want a lot of content out there and you’re trying to strike a comfortable balance of volume and quality, a writing agency is excellent value for money. Or with a little more work, developing a cadre of freelance regulars. You can still develop writers through guidelines and direction. What you tell writers can really make a marked difference in improving the quality of writing you receive.
Think like a publisher. Magazines have both in-house regular writers and also accept a great deal of freelance work, so it usually isn’t either/or.
Another tactic to solicit guest blog posts of people who use your products or your client’s products is to have a contest.