6 Content Curation Tips for Delivering Maximum Value to Your Audience

Do you curate content from other sites on your own blog?

If so, you’re probably doing it one of two ways. Either you’re just posting excerpts (not the whole thing!) of other people’s articles and including a link back to the original source (this is actually called content aggregation).

Or you’re posting excerpts of other people’s articles and adding your own commentary to provide additional insights and context to the article (true content curation).

The first method offers some value to your audience in the sense that you’re doing a lot of the heavy lifting on their behalf thus giving them a quick resource for keeping up to date with relevant content. In exchange they rely on you to point them in the right direction for content on a particular topic(s). See Alltop.com as an example.

The second method offers even more value (to your audience and to you!) because adding your voice and unique perspective to the curated article tells people why the topic is important and also positions you as a trusted thought leader and expert in that area.

If you’re curating content on your website, here are 6 best practices to ensure that you’re delivering maximum value to your audience:

  • Make sure the excerpt from the original source is not too long
  • Include your own commentary to give insight and guidance to your audience
  • Turn off your ‘no-follows’ – the no follow attribute on hyperlinks tells search engines not to give SEO credit to the site you have linked to. Don’t use no-follows on links to the original publisher.
  • Make your commentary longer than the excerpt because it reduces the amount of duplicated content and is thus better for SEO value.
  • Re-title the article so that you’re not competing for the same title on search engines.
  • Share only the thumbnail size of the original image unless you have permission to share the full-size image

For more content curation tips check out Curata’s blog.

SEO Basics for SEO-challenged health professionals – Part 1

I asked a doctor friend what she thought SEO meant. She quickly responded, “I’m a physician, not a financial advisor.”  (I think she got it confused with ROI!).

If you’re in the health profession and have recently started ‘doing’ content marketing, then SEO might be a new term that you’ve come across as well.

SEO means search engine optimization and the idea is to make sure that when someone searches for “sore throat doctor” (or whatever key words that describe what you do) on Google or Bing, your website appears at the top of the search engine results page (SERP).

SEO may seem too technical to health professionals and can easily get written off. But the important thing to remember is that search engines reward content that is clear and user-friendly and optimization is about making your content do exactly that.

Here are some basic SEO principles to help you get started:

Optimizing the Page Header

The page header is the title that states what the page is about and is viewable to users in search engine results, on social networks and at the top of the browser when you are viewing the page. It’s purpose is to identify the page’s content and should be optimized as follows:

  • Use 10-15 words (no more than 70 characters), put the most important keywords first followed by a compelling description e.g.’5 easy ways to stay hydrated during hot summer months.”
  • Be sure that you assign a ‘H1′ tag to your title – each page should have only one h1 tag (If you need to have other headings in the page, they should be subheadings and for those you should assign h2 or h3 tags).
  • For your readers’ sake as well as for the search engine, make sure that the title of the page matches the content of the page.

Optimizing the Body Copy

If you’re targeting a keyword phrase (e.g. sore throat doctor) then your content should relate to that keyword phrase. Keep in mind that people search for keywords because they want information that is related to those keywords. Searchers have little tolerance for a page that optimizes a keyword but then delivers unrelated content.

  • Be sure to use the exact match target keyword phrase three to five times per 500 words or so. Variations and synonyms can also be helpful for better copywriting.
  • Avoid keyword stuffing i.e. overloading a page with keywords to the point that the text of the page is unnatural or even unreadable.
  • Try to work your target keyword phrase into the first sentence of your copy and then maybe two or three more times in the rest of the article.

Links in your Content

The content of your page should also have links in it. The most important thing to remember is to make it clear where a link will take your visitor. Also keep in mind that search engines are designed to look for the same clarity that humans want in a link.

  • Be sure to use internal links in your content. An internal link is one that links to another page on your own site (not someone else’s site). Internal links encourage visitors to engage with other content on your site.
  • A link’s color should be different from the main text. Most people expect links to be blue and underlined so be sure to have your web designer include that in your site’s style sheet.
  • The actual text that is linked i.e. the text that is blue and underlined is called “anchor text”. Because it is highlighted and draws attention to itself, make sure that the highlighted words give a good clue to the content you are linking to. E.g. If the anchor text reads “sore throat remedies’ then it should link to a page that talks about sore throat remedies not something else.
  • Avoid as much as possible using generic anchor text such as “click here” or “more”. Remember that relevance is a priority to both human readers and search engines.

Key Takeaway

The heart of SEO is to make web content search-engine friendly. Remember that your goal is to make it easy for search engines to ‘crawl’ the pages of your site so that they can produce search results that are relevant and useful to users. In the next section we will continue to discuss some more SEO basic principles that help your content to be easily found by users searching on the Internet.

Over to you: How familiar are you with SEO? Please share some of the practices that you use to optimize your content.

How to Find the Best Keywords for Your Content Marketing Strategy

Do you find yourself struggling to figure out what keywords to use on your website content or blog?

Identifying and using targeted key words helps to create synergy between all your content marketing efforts. It’s a great SEO strategy that helps to strengthen your marketing around the keywords you want to rank highly for in search. It also helps to generate coveted back-links to your website or blog. Read full article here.

Not Blogging? 5 Reasons Why You’re Missing Out

The numerous strategic benefits of business blogging are HUGE, and quite frankly I’d have a tough time trying to scratch that surface in this article.

But supposing for one moment that you’re one who knows the benefits of blogging, but hasn’t got around to doing it. Let me tell you what you’re missing.

  • Content Marketing:

Content marketing is the use of content to attract and retain customers. It’s a trend that’s hard to ignore these days, especially since it has relegated the  ‘hard sell’ approaches of yester-year to a very tough and endangered marketing space.

Brands that have something interesting to say – something that educates and brings value to the consumer – are saying it through dynamic and versatile content i.e. business blogs, video, slide-share and social-media. Not only do these platforms provide a subtle marketing approach but they also facilitate the kind of responsiveness and customer engagement that ‘push’ tactics cannot.

  • Community Building

When readers have a personal attachment to your content, then they will return again and again.

A blog that creates and sustains its own community (via comments, track-backs, RSS etc) is one that engages readers and creates a positive impression about your brand. At the same time, that sense of community creates more loyal readers and leads to the growth of the community. Think of Seth’s blog and the ‘tribe’ that he has created through that platform.

What ties a community together is your leadership (as a blogger)  and the ideas that you generate through your blog. This opportunity provides HUGE  potential benefits for your brand.

  • Social Media

In a world where consumer information changes fast and furiously,  customer demand for new information is insatiable. This morning’s news is history! If you’re not blogging then clearly you’re missing the opportunity to create fresh content. And this has a social media implication.

Social media is primarily a distribution channel for fresh content. Think of brands such as Huffington Post and Mashable – they generate new content several times a day and their social media influence is unparalleled in their respective industries (according to Technorati.com). Without fresh content, your social media existence is at risk of a quick demise.

  • SEO

Blog pages are naturally search engine friendly because they contain rich key-words, links and frequently up-dated content that search engines love. In turn, search engines reward fresh content with increased traffic.

This means that your site can be ‘crawled’ or indexed more frequently, allowing your content to be found faster and therefore encouraging new visitors.

Also blogs that post product or service information can link anchor text to purchase pages or landing pages within the website, facilitating the conversion of visitors to customers.

  • Influence

Fresh content is a sign of an authoritative website. Kevin Gibbons a highly respected blogger, founder and CEO of UK search agency SEOptimize offers good advice:

The potential benefits of a well-executed corporate blog are simply huge. In addition to boosting your organic search engine optimization (SEO) by filling your pages with keyword-rich link bait, it also builds your reputation as an industry authority.

Because of the social nature of blogging, blogs link very easily with other blogs much more than static websites do. By employing highly sharable content such as video, audio, breaking news or trending topics, blogs attract in-bound links which enhance their credibility and authority in that particular industry.

Now I realize that consistent blogging is tough for those who are not bloggers by profession (or passion), and I have some special tips for you to help you start or improve your blogging experience.

However I think we’re in agreement that the ‘social content revolution’ is here to stay. Web site platforms are now being built as content management systems (with the assumption that they will support and manage new, versatile, and user-friendly data). I think consumers will gradually come to expect corporate brands to provide key product information through their blogs as well.

What are your thoughts on blogging? Can you think of other reasons why non-bloggers are missing out? Please share.

Keeping Non-Profit Websites Beautiful: Updated Content Management Systems

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. I’m not sure how to tweak this old saw to make itexpressthe importance of replacing outmoded Content Management Systems for Non-Profits with Web 2.0 solutions…but the analogy is there. To use another slightly cheesy metaphor: if your non-profit is still fiddling around with graphics and updates on a static HTML or ‘brochure-style’ site, you may be polishing the brass on the Titanic. That ship has sailed.

The economic downturn and the slow crawl to recovery has been a galvanizing and sometimes frightening time for most of the Non-Profits that I’ve talked to in the past few years. Private contributions tend to decrease as personal incomes take a hit, government funding gets cut, and endowments get soaked as the market jackknifes. On the other hand, downturns can concentrate talent, passion and commitment just as they tend to force innovation.

During this last downturn there has been a kind of revolution in Content Management Systems that has been especially critical for Non-Profits and small businesses. This shift in the way that websites are managed has been about putting the power to control a company’s web-presence into the hands of regular managers and employees—not just tech-guys and web-contractors.

As envelope-stuffing and e-mail blasts become less effective as stand-alone strategies for Non-Profits to solicit contributions, SEO and fluid, easy-to-use, easy-to-update websites become more important.

How does this CMS transformation work in laymen’s terms?

Try to imagine the difference between the ‘old’ and ‘new’ models of page and content organization as being like the difference between a collection of numerous Microsoft Word Documents and a single Microsoft Excel Document.

If minor thematic or informational changes need to be made in your collection of Microsoft Word documents, you’ll need to change them one by one.

You might have to hire someone to do this. Either that, or you’re likely facing an organizational nightmare that’s going to suck hours out of your work week and take a toll on your energy and morale.

If you change one cell in an Excel document on the other hand, the corresponding changes that need to be made happen automatically. By rough analogy, this is the way that Web 2.0 works for you.

Non-profits are an important part of our culture and they enhance the quality of life in our communities. Part of our job is to make it easy for you to make life a little better. A new CMS for your website is likely to be a part of that process as our century speeds up.

Thomas Swanson is Content-Manager & SEO Consultant at SmallBox Web Design

Social Media or SEO: Where’s The Biggest Bang for Your Buck?

It’s an interesting conversation – one that’s not about to go away anytime soon. For instance, I came across a great article on Problogger.net written by guest blogger Gary Arndt in which he argues that social media yields a better return on investment than SEO. No doubt a controversial allegation.

The purpose of SEO is to drive traffic to your website, while the purpose of social media is to engage people and get them excited about your brand. Is it an “Either-Or” issue?

I think the important question to ask yourself is, “What is the outcome that I am looking for?”

In my opinion, traffic is only a means to an end. The end is to convert visitors into subscribers or paying clients. In other words, the end is the bottom line.  Having a million visitors whose conversion rate is zero is entirely a waste of time and effort.

Also, consider (as Gary points out) that there’s only so much you can do in terms of SEO – use strong key words, in-bound links, relevant plug-ins and a few other things. But while creating sharable content that is fun to read and highly engaging is a long and weary road, eventually it leads to the same destination that SEO is supposed to take you to.

Also consider how volatile search-engines are – always making changes that seriously interfere with your search rank. I’ve heard of organizations that have been severely damaged by numerous changes made by Google.

On the other hand, social media is not as unpredictable as search. Once you have a good reputation with your followers, it is not likely to be taken away from you unless you do something stupid and self-destructive. There’s stability and longevity in social media.

Long-term, on-line success depends on social interactions with like-minded people not complicated algorithms that are impossible to figure out. My advice is to focus on creating content that is enjoyable and sharable. And then if you have the time to spare, go ahead and knock yourself out with SEO.

Which do you think shows a better return on investment?

5 New Rules For Sizing Up the Competition

Sometimes it’s easy to identify your key competitors. You can Google them using relevant key words, find them on business directory listings or at your local Chamber of Commerce. But once you know who they are, you want to know what they’re doing and whether it’s working!

Here are 5 new rules for sizing up your competition:

  • Use Google Alerts: Google alerts are email updates of the latest, relevant, Google news based on your choice of key words. You may enter search terms that describe your industry or your competition. Then whenever there is new information, you will receive an email that helps you keep close tabs on your area of interest.
  • Check out their social media presence: Are your competitors on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn? Are they using these networks to engage prospects, generate interest in their brand and even encourage online sales? Investigating your competitors’ social media strength helps you to analyse your own strategy and make the necessary adjustments.
  • Use SEO: Find out what keywords your competitors are using on their website. These are located in the description meta tags within the HTML script of their index page. The way to do this is to right-click on their home page and choose ‘View page source’. This opens up to the HTML script where you can then locate their keywords. This information will help you figure out if there are keywords that you should be using that will help you rank higher in organic search.
  • Visit their websites every week: It’s not enough to visit their website just once. Go back to your competitors sites regularly to see if they have posted new content. New content might take the form of seasonal promotions, freebies and giveaways, or they may be posting new blog articles every week! Also watch the feedback that they’re getting from these activities.
  • Blind shop them: Call and ask for a quote or visit their location if possible. Rate their services based on your experience: How was their customer service; How long were you on hold; Was the sales person courteous and helpful or pushy and impatient; Did you get what you needed right away or were there several steps in the process; Are their prices similar to yours? Even better, go ahead and actually buy from them and learn from their processes.

What you will learn from these rules might open your eyes to things that you might be missing and also get you excited about the improvements that you could make!

Do you have any other strategies that you have used to size up the comp?

Google’s Place Search Overhaul: Small Business Is the Big Winner

Last week, Google revamped the way that they “organize the world’s information,” giving ‘place’ a new centrality in how they rank websites.  What that means, in SEO speak, is that they’ve merged place results with organic search results.

This has a number of important implications, but the long-story-short is that this is good news for small local businesses.

Most searches used to look like this:

At the top of the page, the website with the highest organic ranking would appear.  Then, further down the first page, ‘Places’ would appear.

Appearing at the top of the place list could be important, but without a tagline describing your business in your place-listing, your business had no chance to win traffic by distinguishing itself.

The website with the No. 1 ranking at the top of the page usually wound up winning the highest search-traffic.  Now that Google has merged ‘place’ and organic search results, for local searches Google’s page 1 often ends up looking like this:

As you can see, the red place-balloons with the business’s address and phone-number, now appear beneath the organic listing.  What this means is that maps optimization and organic SEO are no longer compartmentalized in terms of how businesses appear in search.

This weeds national competition that does not have a local presence out of the top slots in many cases. For example, say that your customers enter the search terms:  ‘flowers Indianapolis.’  If the national flower-delivery service that does not have a local flower shop formerly appeared in the top-slot, they are likely to fall in the rankings to the best optimized local flower shop.

On the other hand: whereas formerly, businesses that were well-optimized on Google Place without any organic SEO (or without a website), might have had an advantage over other businesses that were not well-optimized on Place, now they’ve lost that advantage.  This makes having a well-optimized website even more important for local businesses.

Location-based services are definitely starting to gain a lot of momentum. What are your thoughts on this growing trend?