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5 Easy Ways to Improve Your SEO in 2020

Optimize Your Content Marketing Strategy in the New Year and Stand Up to Your Competition

As 2019 wraps up, you’re probably doing a year-end review of your website traffic and other content marketing metrics. Maybe the other reports you’ve generated during the year are showing the same dismal results; your website and content just aren’t getting found online.

Instead of blindly moving into 2020 with a promise to write more blog posts and post more often on social media, we have another idea: take a look at your search engine optimization (SEO) and see how it can be improved.

SEO is Critical for All Content Marketing

A solid content marketing strategy is important for any brand, but it takes purposeful SEO implementation to really hit a home run. 

Your audience is conducting web searches, voice searches, and reading related information that could direct them to your content through backlinks. 

Even if you’re diligently writing and publishing content, you’re likely handing top search results to your competition if SEO isn’t part of your strategy. And if it’s not, don’t worry! SEO implementation does take some dedicated work, and many companies face time and bandwidth challenges not just with implementation, but with knowing where to begin. 

That’s why a digital marketing agency can be your new best friend.

Simple SEO Tactics to Boost Your Content Marketing Strategy

SEO is a natural next step after the creation of any digital content, whether it be on your website, blog, or resource library. It plays a huge factor in driving traffic to your content and helping deliver on the performance metrics you’re after, like lead generation and conversions. 

It’s important to note that simply being a digital marketing agency doesn’t automatically mean SEO fluency. At Fishnet, we diligently keep up with any changes to Google’s ranking criteria, and we leverage SEO tools that provide deeper insights into critical aspects of SEO strategy. 

There are a few critical steps that will jump-start any SEO implementation. These include:

  • conducting keyword research
  • tracking the competition to see what keywords they’re using (and how they’re using them) 
  • identifying new content opportunities to improve SEO. 

With those baseline steps in mind, here are 5 easy ways to up your SEO game in 2020. 

1. Take stock of your website’s current performance.

Like anything, it’s important to know where you are before you can know where you need to go. Conduct an SEO audit of your website to see how much traffic you’re getting and to which pages, and where those users are coming from. Google has many rules in place for how it ranks content, so you should constantly monitor your ranking to be sure you’re continuing to show up on Google’s search results pages (SERPs). 

2. Conduct keyword research to identify the keywords and phrases you should be using, and uncover new keywords to add to your content. 

Your SEO strategy is rooted in keywords, and when you know which keywords will be most effective in driving traffic to a specific piece of content (whether it be a webpage or a blog post), you can optimize everything you produce. 

There are a few tools you can use that provide keyword analyses, such as Google’s Adwords platform. For the purposes of this example, we’re going to use our favorite SEO tool, SEMrush. 

Let’s say, for example, your business provides health care coverage for individuals and corporations. You may pepper your website with the keyword “health care provider”; but keyword research uncovers different ideas.  

The most commonly-searched queries are featured in the left column, while the “volume” column shows how often they have been searched within a 12 month period. The “KD” column displays the percentage difficulty to rank for that keyword against your competitors. The idea combination is a highly-searched keyword with low difficulty.

3. Analyze your competitors’ activity – which keywords are driving traffic to their content? 

The keyword difficulty percentage is important for amplifying your search performance, but you can go a step further and view the keywords your competition is using and the level of traffic those keywords are generating.

4. Discover topics for your blog that your audience actually wants to read, because they’re already searching for them.

We’ve all found ourselves staring at the computer screen, knowing we have to write a blog post but blanking on a good topic. You can use keywords to come up with a topic, and because it’s a keyword-driven idea, you know it’s something your audience is already searching for online. 

To use the health insurance company example again, if you were to enter the keyword “health insurance coverage”, for example, you’ll get a host of common, related search queries to fuel your content ideas. Here’s a sample content search using SEMrush:

You’ll want to choose topics with higher search volume as those are the most commonly-searched. 

It has never been easier to come up with content ideas, and the bonus is that they’re all proven to be highly-searched topics.

5. Increase backlinks to your content to increase inbound links to your content. 

A backlink strategy is an important part of any marketer’s overall content marketing strategy. Part of this effort includes gaining unique insight into where your competitors are getting their backlinks from. 

Once you’ve identified the websites that are linking to your competitors’ sites, you can incorporate those or similar sites into your own content strategy through tactics like guest blogging or offering your content as a resource for their website. You’ll be seeing more inbound traffic in no time. 

The end of the year is a perfect time to take stock of how your content marketing strategy has been performing and identify ways to improve it. 

Creating or boosting your SEO strategy doesn’t have to be a daunting task – with a digital marketing agency that knows its way around SEO, it’s easy to make the necessary improvements and begin reaping the rewards. 

Want help with your SEO efforts? Contact us to get pricing on an SEO audit and recommendations for improving your content marketing strategy in the new year.

User Experience Depends on Collaboration Between Content and Design

In the marketing world, the word “content” is used a lot. Content marketing, content strategy, website content, blog content – it often becomes almost synonymous with “copy”, but those are two very different things. 

Copy refers to the actual words that go on your website pages or make up blog posts.

Content, on the other hand, refers to everything contained within an asset and therefore is inclusive of both copy and all elements of design, such as videos and imagery. 

For this reason, it’s easy to see why content strategy and design must work together – what goes on a webpage or piece of collateral relies on both those functions to deliver a great user experience

Why Are We Even Talking About Aligning Content and Design?

It may seem obvious that two critical marketing departments would have to collaborate to ensure an effective final product, and for years these two functions have been doing just that. And the way digital technology is evolving has only emphasized the importance of establishing alignment between content and design.

Content is About More Than Content

Every brand is doing some form of content marketing today, which has put pressure on companies to churn out blog posts, email newsletters, thought leadership pieces or videos and podcasts, all with the goal of increasing searchability and driving traffic.  As a content strategist, I think this mindset is great – with one caveat. Brands must ensure that content isn’t just quality (i.e. it provides relevant information to the right audiences in the right way) but that it delivers a great user experience. 

Bad content won’t deliver a great user experience (or even a good one), but even excellent content won’t do your brand any favors if the user experience around that content is poor. 

We often get clients who are looking for content strategies, but the first thing we do when we get this request is to audit their website to see how that content strategy would be applied from a user experience perspective. If your website is hard to navigate, slow to load or includes broken links or confusing labeling, implementing any type of new content is like putting a band-aid on a broken arm–it’ll be visible, but it won’t help. 

Content is About the User

The trend toward cleaner designs with more white space and a minimal amount of copy is great from a UX perspective, but poor from a search engine optimization perspective – unless it’s done right. 

The first thing content strategists and UX designers should discuss is the user themselves. 

At Fishnet, we say, “give them what they want.” The final product is for the user, after all. You should fully understand your user persona: what information do they care about? What is the primary action they want to take when they get to your site? How do they like to get content – some users in your target audience might really like white papers, while others gravitate toward highly-visual information like videos or infographic-type content. 

Build the user experience for the user, and the content and design will come together to complement what that experience should be. 

Changes in User Behavior Require a Collaboration of Content Strategy and UX

User behavior has changed drastically as technology has evolved, specifically for mobile. 

People use their phones for everything. They want the most important information, but they want it quickly and in a way that is simple to understand and act upon. 

UX Magazine sums up this preference by saying that reading has been replaced with skimming, and skimming has been replaced with glancing. This news isn’t shocking – we all do it. So how should brands respond? The collaboration between content and UX becomes critical when considering these behavior trends. 

UX and content together influence behavior.

Many B2B websites for e-commerce really have to focus on how content and design work together because of both the quantity of information the site needs to contain and the various actions different users will want to take on the site. Grainger, which sells industrial supplies and safety products, consistently is ranked as one of the best B2B e-commerce sites. It helps users easily search for and find the items they’re looking for, and relevant information about that item. Users who move to purchase can act on a buying decision easily. Without a combination of UX design and content strategy, this experience would be much different and you (the customer) would likely lose interest and move on. 

UX and content together reinforce an idea.

The user experience isn’t just important for e-commerce. Imagine you’re looking into attending an event. An event webpage with a good user experience would contain important event information in an easily-navigable way, with visuals to not only illustrate the experience but help guide you through to purchasing tickets or signing up. We recently launched this event page for MIT’s AI and the Future of Work Congress. You can see how the combination of design and content draws users in and helps reaffirm their desire to attend.

UX and content together tell a better story.

If your brand has a unique story to tell, content and UX design can help you make a big impact with your audience. Apple, even though it has massive brand recognition, still offers a great website experience with bold visuals and minimal content, so users become immersed in the products and the aspirational world of Apple. Not every brand can get away with such minimal content, but when UX design is applied to content strategy, the brand story can come alive. Medline is a B2B medical supplier whose website tells a compelling story about the brand and its connection to the customer while offering a simple, efficient and user-friendly site experience.

User demands are high, and they should be. If people can’t get what they want with your brand, it’s not difficult for them to find it elsewhere. To attract leads, convert leads, and increase brand loyalty, the quality of your content needs to be high, but the quality of the experience around it needs to be high as well. 

Increase your brand’s performance with a website that offers effective content and a great user experience. Contact us today

How to Configure Google Analytics with Google Tag Manager

I’ve been placing the Google Analytics tracking code on websites since before I needed to shave. Seriously.

As a technically-savvy digital marketer, it may be the most common job function I’ve performed over the course of my career. Up until a few years ago, the process was fairly simple: create an account, copy the tracking code, and place on your website.

With the introduction of Google Tag Manager in 2012, the installation process became slightly more involved even though its purpose was to simplify tag management (which it does by consolidating tags with a single snippet of code that you can manage from a web app).

Before getting into the setup process, I want to provide a little bit more context and purpose to make sure you’re drinking the Kool-Aid.

What is a Web Tag?

Web tags are tiny bits of website code that help provide useful insights like behavior patterns or trends by gathering data on a website. They have many applications like third-party tracking, analytics, reporting, remarketing, conversions, live chat…the list goes on. Generally speaking, they are an important piece of an organization’s marketing technology.

Why Use Google Tag Manager?

Although you can still configure Google Analytics without Google Tag Manager (GTM), it’s recommended to configure both at the same time. There are plenty of advantages in setting up both, especially when you think beyond just Google Analytics.

Do you use Adwords Conversion Tracking, Adwords Remarketing, or the Facebook Pixel? These applications can all be set up in Tag Manager and you can determine when the tag should fire, when the tag shouldn’t fire, what pages the tag should fire on, and what the tag should do when it fires.

There are many advantages beyond managing many tags in the same place:

  • Place the GTM container code on your website once and eliminate the need to edit website code again.
  • Test and deploy tags quickly, without the assistance of an IT or web team. Remember, you only need to place the container code on your website once!
  • Many tags already built into GTM provide advanced analytics tracking. For example, globally add event tracking on external links or buttons without manually adding the code to individual links.
  • If one tag deploys asynchronously (loads more slowly), it won’t affect other tags being fired on the page.

See the benefit in configuring Tag Manager with Google Analytics?

How to Set Up Google Tag Manager

Setting up Google Tag Manager is quick and easy—you create an account, add one snippet of code to your site, then start managing tags.

Create an Account

This is pretty straightforward. Navigate to tagmanager.google.com and click “Create Account”. You should see a screen that looks like this:

Creating a Google Tag Manager account

Fill out relevant details related to your website and select “Web” for Target Platform. Next you’ll have to read and approve service terms to officially create the account.

Install Google Tag Manager Snippet

As soon as you create the account, a screen pops up with instructions on how to install the code snippet:

Google Tag Manager snippet

Send those instructions to whomever manages your website. Additionally, Google provides a quick start guide on their website.

You’ll want to test that the tracking code has been placed correctly. We recommend downloading the Google Tag Assistant off the Chrome web store. It’s really easy to use and it will be helpful later to test whether the Google Analytics tag is firing correctly.

At this point, you’re ready to start adding tags.

Deploy Google Analytics with Tag Manager

We’ve created our GTM account and placed our code successfully. Now, we’re going to install the Google Analytics tag.

First and foremost, if you already have Google Analytics installed on your site, you’ll want to have your web admin remove it. The reason for this action is if you use both, it’ll track everything twice and provide inaccurate data.

Once that’s squared away, follow the steps below.

1. Within the main GTM interface, you’ll want to click “Add a new tag”. You’ll be brought to a screen that looks like this:

Add a new tag in Google Tag Manager

2. Click on “Tag Configuration” and then select “Google Analytics: Universal Analytics”. You’ll see a bunch of other options, but let’s ignore those for now. You’ll be brought to another screen that looks like this:

Add Google Analytics tag to Google Tag Manager

3. Leave the Track Type field as “Page View”. Know that this is where you can configure items like link clicks and event tracking in the future. Remember, one of the benefits of GTM is advanced analytics tracking.

4. Next, you’ll want to select “New Variable” on the Google Analytics Settings picklist. Note that you may have a variable already created, in which case you can select the desired variable from the picklist.

You will be taken to a screen that looks like this:

Configure a variable in Google Tag Manager

a. In the Tracking ID field, enter your Google Analytics ID.

b. If you have no other Google Analytics tags deployed on your site via analytics.js or from Tag Manager, you should leave this value set to “auto”. If you have other Google Analytics tags set up on your site or in Tag Manager, you should confirm that the Cookie Domain value is consistent.

c. Let’s ignore the additional settings for now. Know that you can configure a bunch of other settings like custom fields, custom dimensions, custom metrics, content groups, display advertising features, cross domain measurement and much more.

d. Finally, name the variable and click “Save” to complete creating the variable.

5. We’re almost done. Click on “Triggering” and select the default option that comes up “All Pages”.

6. Name the tag and click “Save”. At this point, your screen should look similar to this:

Trigger Google Analytics on all pages

Finally, you’ll want to click “Submit” and then “Publish” to push your changes live.

You can test two different ways to see if the code is working. Either navigate to your website where the container is placed and use the Tag Assistant extension to confirm. Or, navigate to your website then login into Google Analytics and check Real-Time tracking to see if your pageview is being tracked.

That just about covers a basic Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager installation; however, there are a ton more configurations you can make to get more detailed tracking and analysis. I recommend setting up events next.

If you have any questions, we’re here to help! Click on the chat in the bottom right corner and we’ll guide you in the right direction.

Do Your Research

You Don’t Really Know Your Target Audience Until You Ask the Right Questions

If you’re buying a gift for someone and want it to be something they will appreciate, you have to know at least a little bit about that person’s likes and dislikes. You might find yourself asking questions of the person (or someone who knows them well) to learn these personal details.

Creating messaging that resonates with your target audience is really no different; however, we often skip the step of seeking out those important details about our personas.

Why is that?

While we have access to many tools and platforms (especially social media) that provide insight into target audience groups, there is a far lesser emphasis on learning about our customers on a deeper and more reliable level.

Only research allows us to go beyond tools and social platforms and truly understand our audience personas.

These 6 research tactics will help you get deeper insights into your target audience and empower you with the information you need to create robust content strategies that drive effective buyer journeys.

  1. Tap Into Their Challenges

If you sell a product, you know all about that product. And you want to tell prospective customers all about it, too.

But wait!

Your customers have real challenges they’re trying to solve, and they want to know how you can help solve their problem.

Maybe you sell software that makes a cumbersome process faster and more efficient. That may seem like a great value proposition, but your target customer wants to know how your product’s speed and efficiency can help them. They might be spending revenue on additional software they would no longer need with your solution. Or, perhaps they are having trouble hiring because of the system they currently use.

Be sure your messaging speaks directly to the problem your customer is trying to solve. Here are a few easy research tactics:

  • Ask existing customers for specifics on how your product has helped them. This step can be done using a survey or having sales reach out.
  • Include specific questions about business challenges on forms for lead generation purposes.
  • Leverage conversational marketing to identify specific challenges at the time leads visit your website or landing page.

48% of B2B buyers are more likely to consider solution providers that personalize their marketing to address their specific business issues. (ITMSA)

  1. Build Detailed and Robust Customer Personas

There’s irrefutable evidence that building personas, and mapping content to those personas and where they are in the buyer journey, generates results for businesses.

Customer personas today are far more detailed than ever before. It’s not enough just to know, for example, that your audience is largely made up of female owners of investment firms in New England.

Your personas should be specific to the individual so when you put content in front of them, it speaks directly to their situation. Even something as basic as knowing a user lives in Vermont versus Connecticut can make a huge difference along their buyer journey.

Build your personas using the following criteria, and get as detailed as you can:

  • Give the persona a name and state their unmet need/business challenge.
  • Identify the action you want them to take based on that unmet need/business challenge.
  • Apply specific information to each persona based on the research you have conducted. This would typically include geographic and demographic data, personal preferences, and psychographic data such as behaviors, reactions to marketing activity, ethics and mentality.
  • Analyze and segment your audience data so you can identify the trends that uniquely set each persona apart from another. Resources like Chambers of Commerce, industry and trade research, and even the Bureau of Labor and Statistics can provide validating or insightful data.

55% of marketers create content that is relevant to the buyer journey and/or ideal customer profiles. (Uberflip)

  1. Map Keywords to Your Target Audience

The way each of us search for information online could almost be considered a fingerprint of our individuality. If two users who own different travel agencies are searching for a specialized software solution, one might search “CRM for small travel agency” while the other might search, “booking software easy for travel agency business”.

If you understand that your target audience has business challenges that include managing customer relationships and cumbersome booking software, you can incorporate keywords that speak to those needs to ensure users find your content–and find it useful.

  1. Pay Attention to Feedback and Negative Reviews

It can be so easy to view negative reviews or undesirable feedback as an irritating side-effect of being in business. But the truth is, all feedback–negative or positive–is an opportunity to learn more about your customers’ experiences.

Jet Blue airlines is wonderful at responding to customer feedback, and always replies to comments on social media in an effort to understand more about the situation and how they can help. If a customer has a negative experience because of something that’s simple to correct, wouldn’t it be worth knowing about?

This information can help you in several key ways:

  • Learn more about the particular customer and their mindset, which can deeply inform that persona.
  • Identify gaps in your messaging based on whether their issue stemmed from a misunderstanding or confusion after engaging with your brand.
  • Discover trends among personas by assessing similar feedback, positive or negative feedback, or the type of persona authoring the feedback. Then, you can be more strategic in how you message to those personas going forward.
  1. Hold an Event and/or Go Where Your Customers Are

Nothing brings customers together quite like a conference or networking event. It’s a veritable trove of opportunity to learn more about your target audience–and yet, many companies don’t prioritize hosting or attending industry events; and if they do, they often fail to execute marketing tactics that would provide more information about their audience personas.

The first step, of course, is to hold an event for your customers and others in your network, or attend events at which you know your customer base will be. After doing so, you’ll want to execute on the following:

  • Engage directly with customers by asking leading questions that delve into the information you need and want – their key business challenges, their current processes, and other information critical to building a persona.
  • Collect information from leads to ensure you can follow up with correspondence and a piece of content that demonstrates you understand their needs and can help solve their challenges.
  • View the opportunity as a long-term benefit to your business rather than trying to secure a single sale. The more you research your target audience, the better positioned you’ll be to drive greater business in the long run.
  1. Be Involved in Your Support Platform

If your company leverages a support platform, this is a great place to learn more about your customers and fuel your target audience research. Share this information with other departments–support should not be done in a silo as it can provide critical data for sales and marketing.

Paying attention to your support platform could provide information about:

  • Which aspects of your solution or product matter most to your customers and why.
  • Where frustrations or confusion lie when using or implementing your solution or product.
  • What aspect of your solution or product provides the most value, and why.

We live in a fast-paced digital world that makes it easy to use certain tools and social media and feel like you’ve adequately researched your audience. But in truth, there’s nothing more informative than speaking directly with customers to learn how they think, feel and act. Doing this type of boots-on-the-ground research will be far more effective for your business in the long run.

Want help with market research? Contact us!