In Search [Episode 51]: Finding Content Marketing Opportunities
December 10, 2019 |
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Summary of Episode 51: Finding Content Marketing Opportunities
This week we talk content opportunities with the author of Marketing Now
, as the one, the only David Bain
- Where the emerging content opportunities lay
- How to best utilize audio and video content
- Unifying online and offline content
Plus, we talk about the impact of the Nov. 2019 Google Local Update on Local Pack Rankings - get ready for a wee bit of data!
A Bit of Data on Google’s November 2019 Local Update [00:02:38 - 00:19:14]
On December 3rd, Google announced that it has started to run a local algorithm update
in early November that finished its rollout towards the end of the month. The update makes use of Google’s neural matching. Now, this makes sense as Joy Hawkins, as usual, was all over this a few weeks ago pointing out that there were a lot of local changes happening and that they had less to do with proximity and more to do with relevance
. And this all makes sense because of neural matching.
In case you don’t know or you forgot what neural matching is, Google introduced neural matching back in September 2018. Neural matching is basically the connecting of loosely described phraseology to precise concepts. For example, if I search for walking with the ball in basketball, Google now knows this relates to the concept, i.e., the basketball rule, of traveling.
At the local level, the use of neural matching means that businesses that may have vague names and descriptions can be connected to specific local verticals. Meaning, different businesses are now ranking organically and within the Local Pack because now all of a sudden they’re deemed relevant.
Now some have said the use of neural matching at the local level means more Local Packs which is not true.
Let us explain:
- You can clearly see via our handy dandy SERP Feature Tracker that there is no change in the level of Local Packs.
- The fact that more Local Packs don’t exist makes total sense as neural matching in this instance does not tell Google what queries do or don’t have local intent. Rather, it tells Google which businesses are now possibly relevant to a query with a known local intent.
That said, Mordy wanted to have a look and see how the update impacted Local Pack listings stability. So Mordy did a mini-study (because that’s all he had time for)... but the data has a clear trend - so we’re going to share it with you!
So what Mordy did was he took 10 different local businesses and compared their total number of Local Pack listings (not total as is in all of them, but total across the keyword set he’s tracking). For the types of businesses, he chose a mix of hotels, restaurants, and shops. He then compared the total number of Local Pack listings for each business across two 45 day periods. One period ran from October 15th through the start of December and that reflects the period both right before, during, and after the local update. The other period ran from mid-July to the end of August which served as a baseline period.
Mordy recorded the number of Local Pack listings of each business at three different intervals over each 45 day period. For argument’s sake, let’s say one of the businesses was Allen’s Apple Farm. Here Mordy may have recorded that they had 5 Local Pack listings over all their keywords on July 15th, then they had 7 on Aug 15th, and 8 on Sept 1st. Mordy then did the same recording over the period spanning Oct 15th - Dec 1st (He actually did it through Dec 3rd but for the sake of making it easier to remember…).
The first thing Mordy wanted to see was how volatile the Local Pack was during the update period relative to the baseline. To find that, Mordy recorded the number of "listing changes” - i.e., either a listing gained or lost by a business in the Local Pack from one instance within each period to the next and then did an average of the number of changes between each data point.
To further illustrate, let’s say Allen’s Apple Farm had 10 Local Pack listings on Oct 15th and then 20 listings on Nov 15th making that 10 total listing changes. Now say Forest’s Fur Shop had 20 on Oct 15th and lost 10 by Nov 15th. Again, that’s 10 listing changes. Meaning, the average number of listing changes for these two entities for that time span is 10 listing changes. Finally, Mordy calculated what he recorded for each period and came to an average number.
We know you’ve been waiting patiently so here’s the data! The average number of Local Pack listing changes seen for a business over the baseline period was 2.55. The average number of Local Pack listing changes for a business over the update period was 4.1. Based on these averages, the update period was significantly more volatile in the Local Pack! (Again, the data here is VERY limited so what’s important is the trend, not the actual level of Local Pack listing volatility.)
But, there’s still one thing we don’t know. It’s possible that with all this volatility that the net Local Pack listing gain or loss for these businesses is 0! How can that be possible? Let’s look again at our fictitious listing, Allen’s Apple Farm. Let's suppose the business started with 20 listings before the update in the Local Pack and at one point over the course of the 45 day period, it lost a bunch of listings. Now it is possible that it suddenly gained them back and even though our study showed there was a ton of volatility, it’s possible that the net gain or loss was 0!
To make sure that possible outcome wasn’t true, Mordy tallied up the total number of listing changes from the start of each period to the end of each period (either a listing gain or loss) to see the total number of Local Pack listings each business had at the start of the period vs the total listings they had at the end of the period, i.e., how many total listing changes did the business see from before the update to after the update.
So say at the start of the update period Bob’s Beaver Farm had 20 listings and after the update ended it had 5 listings. That’s considered 15 "listing changes” since a change can either be a loss or a gain.
The results? The baseline period saw 35 listing changes while the update period saw 44 listing changes. Meaning, the update period was not just more volatile than usual but it actually caused net losses and net gains for businesses. They didn’t just see reversals, there is an actual change in the number of listings these businesses see in the Local Pack now with each seeing an average of 4.4 listing changes as a result of the update when their normal increase/decrease was 3.5 per the baseline! (And again, the data here is VERY limited so what’s important is the trend, not the actual level of Local Pack listing volatility.)
Discovering New Content Opportunities: A Conversation with David Bain [00:19:16 - 01:01:10]
[This is a general summary of the interview and not a word for word transcript. You can listen to the podcast for the full interview.]
Welcome to another In Search SEO interview session. He’s a marketing MC extraordinaire, a familiar voice to many in the SEO community, and the author of the upcoming book, Marketing Now. He is the great David Bain
Thank you, Mordy, for inviting me.
Please, tell me about your book.
It’s a crazy thing. It interviews 134 some of the world’s leading marketers, certainly digital SEO type people are eschewed towards marketers. It wasn’t produced conventionally, I interviewed them in the form of an 8-hour live stream. However, it’s not just a transcript. I ended up rewriting everything everyone said. It was actually a lot harder to write it that way than writing a book of 6,000 words.
Yeah, but that’s a way better experience because we don’t write how we talk hence voice search is totally different than conventional search
Can you please throw out some names of people in the SEO community who are in this book?
D: Aleyda Solis
, Lukasz Zelezny
, Larry Kim
, and Marcus Sheridan
to name a few. It’s very difficult to give people big shout-outs because the quality of information given by everyone was superb and I don’t want people to judge it by the quality of the names that were part of it.
Absolutely. Let’s get started with content opportunities. But first help us out here by getting everyone on the same page. How would you define a "content opportunity?”
A content opportunity is an organic touchpoint that has a small possibility of resulting in a sale at some point in the future. That can be any type of content out there. It could be a massive 10,000-word blog post, a video, or just answering a question. If you think of where your target audience will most likely be in terms of mindset before they complete a transaction, you can get a feel for the things they’re interested in and meet them at that point. It’s not necessarily talking specifically of your products. You want to see the potential and talk about the things that will appeal to your target market.
So you have to think broader than targeting a particular user at a particular moment.
Yeah. Paid search nowadays is all about audiences and I believe SEO is moving to knowing who your audience is and what things they are likely to like and enjoy interacting with as well as things that are directly connected to your products and services.
What’s interesting is you mention what your audience enjoys interacting with as opposed to what users might find on the results page. In other words, users may find their answer on the SERP and not click on your site URL. How do you find opportunities in an era where it seems there are so few?
Yes, the SEO world has changed with schema markup and answers directly on the SERP and the user doesn’t behave on the SERP as they used to, but it doesn’t mean from a brand perspective or from a way to attract those consumers to do business with you is gone. It’s definitely harder, but it’s a challenge. The challenge is how do you become the first in mind to the consumer when they decide to make a purchase. We know from an SEO perspective there isn’t a standard CTR on the SERP. We used to think the higher the position the higher the CTR, but nowadays we know it depends on the type of search. If they’re searching for a product and they recognize the brand in the search then they’re more likely to click on that. I think your business nowadays as a content marketer for someone who engages with your content but doesn’t click through is one of brand recognition and making the consumer more likely to search for your brand or when the time is right for them as a consumer to click through on a piece of content.
We all know what it means to build a brand identity from a brand perspective, but from a search engine perspective how do you use content to create that core identity?
It’s tough. I’m a big fan of speaking directly to your users or target marketplace. I like using services like usertesting.com. They’ll let you see recordings of your target audience reacting with your website and seeing what they do. You can see whether or not they’re able to figure out what your business is about and what they click through to. So speaking directly to your users or seeing recorded videos of your target market interacting with your website is a good place to start and it will direct you in knowing if the content on your site is user-friendly. But in terms of the content writing approach I’m a big fan of Simon Sinek’s Why, How, What structure. I think a lot of SEOs are methodical in nature. If SEOs were to write content I believe they would start with the What of the product and in general, consumers are emotional to begin with so it’s important to start off with the Why.
I’m also a big fan of analyzing landing pages. If you’re looking at competitive marketplaces where the paid SERP may be as much as $50 per click or more, if businesses continue to advertise then they’re landing pages are exceptional because they’re managing to make a profit while still paying huge amounts of money for those visitors. If you look at those landing pages you’ll see they start off with a very emotional Why and a very specific testimonial there. Then they go into the How the product works, and then further down the page they talk about the What of the product. A lot of landing pages are very similar to that. If you have a look at Wix’s videos on YouTube they use a similar emotional start to it. An accounting software I was looking at on Google, I believe it was Sage, started up with an emotional reason. So having that Why, What, How weaved through your content and landing pages is what I recommend.
How strict do you have to be as a brand? If you’re writing content either around products, around a service, or you’re an information site, to what extent do you have to stick to one core product or one core area and not branch out to other areas in order to build brand identity and entity awareness for the search engine?
I think if you’re an individual providing contracting or consultancy services you are your own persona so you got to produce content that will most likely resonate with you and you’re going to end up building a target market more easily than if you invented a persona. However, if you’re a bigger business it’s a little tougher. You have to be a lot more defined in terms of the content you’re producing and the purpose behind it.
I looked at various content marketing models when I was designing a digital marketing training program because I believe content marketing is at the center of digital success. The content marketing model I liked was Google/YouTube’s Hero Hub Help model. That’s comprised of three spokes the first being Hero content. Hero content is incredible, quality content that people resonate with and that people are likely to share. It’s content that you will put a lot of time and effort into.
Hub content is more episodic so more blog articles, podcasts, or a series of videos on YouTube. For that kind of series, you’re more likely to be broader. I once heard of a law firm that started a golf podcast. The podcast has nothing to do with law, but they know their target market doesn’t care about learning law, all they care about is a law brand they can trust being there when they need them.
The Help content is more about the traditional SEO, the common queries that you answer on your website. In fact, there’s a book about that called "They Ask You Answer”
by Marcus Sheridan that goes into real depth on how to write that type of content.
I wasn’t comfortable that there wasn’t a content pillar for commercial content, the content you’ll see on a landing page, so I added a fourth H that I call Heart content, the heart of what a business does, and that’s product pages.
I think that’s an interesting model for big businesses to use when they’re planning for the long term and want to do things like thinking of their target persona and planning out what type of content to use where.
Can you please go into more on how to write a great landing page? What have you seen that works?
I think the best place to start is what your best customers are saying about your brand. If you can weave a story from your customers into that, not directly talking about your product/service but how it made them feel, the problems it solved. Try striking a chord emotionally. I understand it can be counterintuitive for technical-minded people because they tend to be fact-driven, but it’s been proven to work. And if you’re not sure then try split-testing it.
You’re very much into storytelling then.
I’m not naturally. Naturally, I’m fact-driven, but I’m driven by results and I’ve seen the brands that are the most successful and those tend to be brands that are driven by emotions to begin with. I think you should then follow what leads to success.
That makes sense. When it comes down to it, that's what it is.
Absolutely. It’s challenging because you’re not necessarily doing what comes naturally to you and hopefully when you mature as a marketer then you’ll accept that you don’t know everything and you shouldn’t prejudge anything. You should bring in different options, interview people, and try not to see things from a very experienced perspective. The obvious example is a web page. If you work in a business for five years you might find it easy for a user to navigate it, but a new user seeing it for the first time probably won’t see it from the same perspective.
In SEO, one of the things we get stuck with sometimes is we want to write 10x content, but because we’re not great at let’s say storytelling then we won’t write it because in our minds we think it won’t be 10x. In my mind, sometimes being just good is okay enough.
Yeah and good is the only way to become great. When I was speaking to Evan Carmichael he said he publishes three videos every day on YouTube and now they’re great but the first 100-200 sucked, but he wouldn’t have gotten to where he is without that volume. Obviously, you got to try for it to be a reasonable standard but you can’t be great unless you’re good first.
Absolutely, and you’ll never know what you’re good at until you actually get into it so you might surprise yourself.
Exactly and the style you produce will change as well. The more you produce the more you’ll find your voice.
Yeah, even from a personal perspective, the SEO blogs I wrote 4-5 years ago is not in the same voice as what I’m writing now.
Since we’re talking about video I want to jump into the different forms of content and since we’re on a podcast, let's talk about audio. Podcasts have really boomed and it’s almost surprising that in the days of video that audio-only content has really caught on. Why did you think they have and where do you think there’s room to separate yourself now that the podcast market is really filling itself out?
A lot of things came together at the same time. Obviously, there was the rise of smartphones where you had the ability for users to subscribe directly on their phones. There’s also from the content production perspective the ease to produce that content. Microphones have become better or people have more access to better microphones. It’s also easier now to produce a podcast with so many services that help quickly produce the content. But also it’s much more normal to scooch your personal brand forward. Ten years ago, everything that happened online was business brand-oriented. People hid behind the brands. Live streaming didn’t happen and people were very cautious with putting their name forward. With the advent of live streaming, it’s very normal to put your personal brand forward and for consumers to look at that in a way of trusting a business. Producing podcast content is just another way to augment that personal brand.
I understand how we switched our focus from business brand to people brand, but now I feel we’re micro-people focused. Meaning, while we used to hover over larger influencers. I find that I have more success with micro-influencers. People with a nice community and a nice support network around them.
I want to talk about live streaming because for my comfort level I prefer recording over live streaming as you can rerecord or edit things outs. When doing a podcast, is there really added value doing it live?
I do it largely because I enjoy it and I have fun doing it. It’s also a way of producing video content at the same time, but understand that it doesn’t reduce the quality of the content you’re trying to produce. So if I’m laughing and joking with my live audience and doing things that only work in a visual form then that will be negative for your podcast audience so be careful.
The only other thing I’ll say is don’t try to do everything at once straight away. You don’t want to be recording a podcast, and live streaming, and interacting with your live chat, and bringing in intros and bumpers and other guests at the same time. That’s just a recipe for trouble. You can do it with a step-by-step approach. You can first do recording only and then you can work your way towards doing things in your comfort zone. I find with live streaming that I can bring a decent amount of people to watch live and bring in about 50 people without any marketing going on but then within 24 hours I’ll have over 2,000 who watched the video. So if I only did the audio podcast then I wouldn’t have had that audience as well.
How do you bring in that live audience? Speaking for myself, I see a lot going on with live streaming and watch parties and I completely ignore them.
Facebook isn’t as enjoyable as it used to be partly because of the lack of organic reach has been dialed down too much. It’s just not fair, there should be a reasonable amount of organic reach if your content is good. Because of that, you can go live without many people noticing unless you promote but even then you can’t actually promote it until after you’ve gone live so it’s ridiculous. For LinkedIn, I’m fortunate to have access to their Better Program and because it’s fairly new people you’re connected with will get notified when you go live as long as they’re on LinkedIn and because of that, I get a lot of engagement.
The only thing is because you’re a podcast you’re probably used to only things you’ll discuss and not used to new questions so what I suggest is for the first five minutes to tell people what you’re going to talk about today, greet people as they come in, say hi, ask where they’re from, ask if they have questions on the topic, and just focus on the live audience for the first five minutes. That will bring in a little more interaction. Then you go into the main discussion and try to go into the questions and bring the person’s name up as part of the discussion. Then at the end of the podcast recording don’t go straight off-air, try to thank everyone for being a part of it. At the end of the day it’s just fun so just give it a go.
So if you get stumped it’s okay?
Absolutely. The more you do the more likely you’ll have a major issue happen. In the scheme of things, it’s just not important at all.
Right, and you also have to trust your audience that they realize you offer great content so when a fluke happens they are understanding.
And trust yourself. If someone doesn’t like what you do then that’s fine.
I want to harp on your book. I like that we’re bringing the written word on marketing which is funny to me with everything being digital that there’s actually a world of books out there. I’m wondering how you see the relationship between digital and print interweave.
I think it’s important now when the world of SEO and online content marketing is getting so competitive to look for outside the box opportunities. When was the last time you read a book?
I just finished reading The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell. It was amazing.
Great, so you’re still reading physical books, but you’re probably not linking that together with online content.
No, not at all. Total schism.
I think there’s an opportunity to drive people from your offline content to your online content. At the end of each section of my book, I add a link for people to go to marketingnowbook.com and watch the workshop video. It’s part of the live stream launch that I will be doing in a couple of weeks’ time. I’m going to be getting panels and having people submit their websites for review and have the panel give them actionable advice in relation to the content that’s shared in the book. So those workshop recordings will be an addition to the book. It will hopefully get readers to implement what they read in the book, but of course, it’s a way to drive people to my website, getting people to opt-in, and experience other online content that I produced as well. This integration is probably relatively in its infancy and there’s probably a lot of opportunities there.
There is a natural integration when it comes to reading books. After reading a book people tend to do more research online. I just did that actually with this book I just finished.
Right, and it’s not something you were forced to do but you wanted to do because of the quality of the content shared in the book. As digital marketers, we need to create fantastic experiences that will make it natural for people to find more about you. We shouldn’t think of digital marketing as forcing people down the next step of the funnel.
Before we wrap it, how did you go from SEO to podcasting to writing a book and what have you learned about SEO and content along the way?
In terms of traffic SEO is harder than it used to be and you need to start thinking outside the box. Obviously, you need to make sure your website is an incredible user experience, it looks up to date, and has a good mobile experience. I will also add that from a content marketing perspective your competition isn’t who you think they are. Your competition isn’t businesses doing the same thing that you are. Your competition is other websites or publishing houses out there that are publishing content that appeals to your target audience. That could be the BBC or Netflix. From that, think about the quality of content you produce and if it's enough to engage consumers and compete with that level of publishing experience.
Optimize It or Disavow It
Audio or video content. If you could only do one which would you do?
I would create audio content. I enjoy producing video, but for me, it's a marketing channel, but a podcast is my hub content. It’s where people come back on a regular basis and it’s important to continue that engagement over time. Recently, I’ve been having trouble with YouTube where in the past I would get over 100,000 views now I feel I don’t get as much organic engagement. I think that’s because they want you to be an ongoing publisher and unless you’re publishing videos every single week then you’re less likely to get that organic reach.
But with publishing a podcast it’s slightly easier to continue once a week. I published a podcast that easily got over 20,000 downloads a month and I didn’t do that with any external marketing and you can’t do that with a blog nowadays unless you put in a lot of work. So the opportunity to get that volume of organic reach I would lean towards audio.
Thank you, David, for coming on and good luck with the book!
Thank you very much. It was great to be here.
SEO News [01:01:28 - 01:05:57]
Google Confirms Local Update:
As we said earlier, Google confirmed its November 2019 Local Update
. We think we’ve said enough here already!
Google Co-founders Step Down:
Google founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brinn, have stepped down from being the CEO and President
of Google’s parent company, Alphabet. Current Google CEO Sundar Pichai will be taking over.
Is Google Ignoring Rel=Canonical?:
Google reiterated that they use the rel=canonical to determine original news content
. However, SEO expert Glenn Gabe
noted that Google seems to ignore the attribute at times.
Google Updated its Quality Raters Guidelines:
Finally, Google has updated its Quality Raters Guidelines! The new changes include:
A new section that explains that different users have different needs when searching which means they need different types of search results.
A call on raters to evaluate based on their local perspective.
Google also outlines the definition of a search engine and a user as well!
Fun SEO-Send Off Question [01:05:57 - 01:07:42]
If Google used emojis, which one would it use the most?
Sapir the emoji that rolls its eyes as if Google is done with everyone’s nonsense. Mordy chose the emoji of the guy or girl who slaps themselves in the face for any time an SEO tries to figure out their "secret plans.”
Tune in next Tuesday for a new episode of The In Search SEO Podcast