Why do you blog? Is it for traffic and attention?
If you blog to get more visibility, then you have a lot of company. One of the major reasons companies and individuals create content is to increase their share of attention, to build credibility, and to grow an audience.
HubSpot research indicates companies that blog generate 55% more website visitors, 97% more inbound links, and have 434% more indexed pages than companies that don’t blog
Becoming the number one destination for your market is no easy task, however.
You start with a little piece of the pie and then work up. Most websites never get to that most valued position, they remain one of many sites in their audience’s reading list.
How do you get your site to become a major destination for your market?
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Canada want to become the number one destination for consumers looking to purchase real estate in Canada. A tough ask, but here is my advice to them and to anyone else looking to step up to becoming the number one site in their niche …
1. Go Beyond “Daily Content” if You Want to Stand Out
First, if you want to be THE destination, you have to start thinking about content very differently. With that decision, the bar just got raised.
Stop thinking about blogging, or article marketing, or just turning out content. Instead you are creating the equivalent a magazine or “show”.
It’s not about just sticking to a regular schedule of content but about creating something beyond everyone else in your niche. You can’t just phone it in, you can’t just fulfil your quota. It has to be unique, it has to be rich, it has to be professional quality.
This is something that is very difficult to do solo and/or part time, to be in the top 20% of sites in your market takes resources and a team. As your content requirements grow you will probably need an editor, an editorial calendar, and a group of writers, at the very least. Great writers, not the cheapest outsourced labor you could find on Craigslist.
Yes, it is possible to have one person do everything, but they will be worn out and stretched thin. It’s so much easier with a team, even a team of volunteers.
Once your site has built a reputation then you will be able to attract great writers to guest post in return for exposure, before then you will need to pay.
Your writers should be named, your editorial process should have a ruthless attention to detail, and the visitors wants and needs should be the top priority.
- Talk to your target market and find out what they want and need. Don’t just write articles for the sake of it.
- Get the best writing talent you can attract.
- Proof read everything at every stage.
- Edit for flow, spellings, grammar, and readability.
- Lay out the articles attractively with images, subheadings, break outs, pull quotes, links and bullets.
This alone will make you stand out from 80% of the rest of the market because very few organisations put that much care into their online content!
2. Create Truly Valuable Resources
The next stage is to not just think in terms of professionalism, but extreme value.
Your reputation will be built on sharing content that people want to consume and share.
Worst case is people feel your content was a bait and switch, promising one thing but delivering another.
Ask yourself the following questions when looking at your content:
- Will the visitor come away having learned something useful?
- Is this the best article we could create on this topic?
- Are we using compelling headlines, stories and structure?
3. Write Content with Personality, Interaction and Character
Having a professional approach and something valuable to share will go a long way.
Adding personality and interaction into the mix will take it to the next level. Right now a lot of the Better Homes and Gardens content is “just the facts” or has a mixed tone of voice, plus there is little to no interaction.
Consider your favourite sites. Do your top sites have a “tone”, or “personality”? Do you feel a connection beyond the “value” that you receive? Do you feel like you know the authors?
Audio, video, webinars, live events, even just comments and social media, all combine to convey connection and personality, but only if they are built with that in mind. We have all seen (and switched off) “corporate” video, so speak to your audience like you are one of them.
You might go for a full community experience, or you might just inject stories, audio, and video that convey personality, but people will be much more likely to become advocates if they feel connected and valued rather than mere consumers.
4. Create a Compelling Customer Experience
Which leads us to customer experience.
Again, you are going beyond just throwing content up onto a website. This is not a “padding” activity, but you are creating a customer experience. You need to make it easy and enjoyable to interact with your website.
- Implement a design that works in mobile, or install a mobile plugin to take control of the mobile experience. More and more people are browsing the web using non-desktop devices!
- Use large fonts so that people can read more easily. Currently Better Homes and Gardens is using a tiny font for body text which is difficult to read on a desktop computer, probably harder on mobile platforms.
- Make information easy to find, through navigation, labels, linking and search.
- Add large, impactful images that help tell the story.
- Encourage interaction so readers feel a part of the experience.
- Run Q&A, competitions, projects, chats, hang outs, and anything else where people can feel a sense of event beyond reading.
- One thing to take into account is NEGATIVE indicators. Negative social proof can harm the visitor experience because nobody wants to go against the grain. Currently there are a lot of topics with zero shares, or very few. I would remove those unless you can get the counts up.
5. Social Sharing and Google
All of the aforementioned tips will help your site stand out from the rest, but you will also see other positive impacts.
Yes, if you do all the stuff we have already discussed then you will get more social sharing and more Google traffic! This is because you will stand out from the crowd. It’s common sense, but seldom common practice.
I put Google and Social this late in the article because the other stuff is the priority, even though many website owners seem to believe otherwise.
What you have to remember is even when taking into account Social and Google, it is human beings who share, link and search.
Getting indexed is job number 1 with Google. If you want to rank, then Google needs to be able to see all your content.
Check with Google Webmaster Tools to see if there are any problems. Better Homes and Gardens are doing pretty ok in this area – they have a site map and crumb trail navigation, which do help – but don’t think that’s all you need, there is no substitute for good, standards based, code and good internal linking.
The big question is, can a visitor (or Google) get to every page of the site from any other page of the site, and can the visitor (or Google) infer a hierarchy?
So regardless of if you use a tree, hub or pyramid structure for your content, if a visitor drops deep into your content from search, they MUST be able to navigate around.
Using persistent navigation, categories, tags, and related (or most popular) content can all aid spiders and visitors to find more of the content they are looking for.
Remember to have a meaningful “page not found” landing page for when things go wrong! This is both a kindness to your visitor (remember the customer experience advice?) AND will give you points in Google’s analysis also. (Currently I think Better Homes and Garden’s 404 Page might be broken …).
Next see where you currently are in terms of performance, and where your competitors are ahead of you.
Open Site Explorer will allow you to check your search metrics and do competitor analysis.
Beyond the stages I shared earlier, which will all help you grow more authority with Google because they will influence human beings, these following factors have the most influence.
- Inbound Links – You want LOTS of good quality links from top authorities. While Better Homes and Gardens is doing pretty well, they are competing with organisations who have established a big head start. Getting links from traditional media and respected organisations such as government or educational bodies usually offers a boost. In addition you will want links to be as highly relevant as you can. Don’t take part in reciprocal linking exchanges or purchasing them – both are looked on with disapproval by the search powers that be. Creating valuable resources is the best way to attract links rather than work on acquiring them.
- Internal Links – Wherever possible you should have multiple internal links in each resource you create. Those links will provide more information for people who are looking for it, and will also give the search engines a hint as to which pages on your site are most relevant and important. The more important a page is, the more internal links you should have pointing at it. Where most people go wrong (including me to an extent) is we have a bunch of irrelevant stuff linked from every page of our site, from the top navigation, from the sidebar, and from the footer.
- Keywords – As well as researching which keywords your audience is looking for (Scribe is useful for this), you should be intentionally using your keywords in your titles, headlines, anchor text, body text and even the image filenames and descriptions. Don’t use words like “Home page” in titles – consider that these phrases impact how you are found but also if your link will be clicked! Keywords toward the start of a title tend to be more important than those toward the end, and keep things short and simple. Shrink your URL “slugs” (the “filename” part of your article links) but maintain the key words there also. You can normally cut out superfluous words like “the”, “and”, etc. Right now a lot of the internal links say things like “More Articles” etc.
- Long Tail – You need to be writing about topics that people are looking for but don’t just write about the most competitive terms (you should write about them, just not exclusively). A lot of your traffic will come from the less competitive stuff in aggregate. Google rewards comprehensive sites as well as sites with a few important pages.
Create landing pages that serve to …
- Educate your audience – Aggregate all your best information about a topic in one place. For example, you might talk about condos, or you might talk about specific communities.
- Attract search traffic – Optimise the page to your sought after keywords and link to the page a LOT.
- Get social shares – Give call to actions to encourage sharing.
6. Remember … Retention!
Finally, a big part of becoming THE destination is not just the attraction part but the retention aspect.
Get people to join your email list! Email is the number one way you can have future attention on tap (providing you treat your subscribers well … customer experience again).
If you can’t get them on your list, at least give people reasons to follow you in social media so you can continue the connection.
Better Homes and Gardens are falling down on the email side but are doing well in social media. Ideally I would like to see a nice Email sign up box prominent on the homepage (maybe instead of the big “Hello” banner), and again in the sidebar or navigation on content pages.
Why should someone return? How? Make it easy for people to stay in touch!
Becoming the must have resource of your market does not come easily, and it does not come from doing the same things everyone else does. Don’t be daunted, however, take it one step at a time and focus on your audience!
How well do you think Better Homes and Gardens are doing? Please share your thoughts in the comments …