Why Content is Still King For Ecommerce Sites

Here at Mountain Media, we often get asked the question: How can I make a website that people can enjoy and that ranks well in search engines? While the question is great, the answer is rather complicated.

As of late, Google has made changes to its algorithm to ensure quality websites outrank inferior websites. Through two Panda refreshers and one Penguin update, Google has made it easier to pinpoint and penalize those who create poor content by using keyword stuffing and unnatural language. At first, these updates left website owners at risk for big penalties including lowered rankings or being dropped altogether in Google’s search index. In turn, these websites risk a serious and costly drop in web traffic. For an ecommerce website, this can be extremely detrimental. These updates, as well as the inevitable future updates to search engine algorithms, are dramatically changing the role of SEO. While keywords are still important to a website, great content must be written for the benefit of the readers.

Now, back to the original question, the key to having a website that people can enjoy and that ranks well in search engines can be found in the Google guidelines. According to Google’s Webmaster guidelines, one should “create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content.” A useful website provides value or somehow benefits its visitors. It also includes information that cannot be found elsewhere on the Internet. Following these guidelines will help Google to find, index and rank your website. The challenging part is developing useful and interesting content. Now why is content important again?

Content attracts visitors

Unique content is important because it attracts visitor attention and builds interest in your website. Research shows that people are more likely to purchase products from a website that produces custom content. Where can you get unique content? Ask your boss! Business owners have a wealth of information regarding their particular product, service or industry. Unfortunately, this information often stays in their heads. Instead, take that knowledge and turn it into valuable web content. Publishing this information makes it tangible and a great resource for customers. Now that you have provided unique content to get them there, the challenge becomes keeping visitors on your website. You can do this by including video, photos and witty content. If you can provide this to your visitors, they will be more likely to stick around [Read: 3 Places for Video Love on Your Website].

Search engines score content

Publishing new and relevant content on your website is a way to show search engine spiders that your website is not stagnate. For example, Google measures all of your documents for freshness, then scores each page according to the type of search query. Search engines like Google want to provide the best user experience possible. Therefore, the goal of any major search engine is to return the most relevant results to users. Take an honest look at your website and see what pages will benefit most from freshness. Then, be fresh, relevant and most importantly, be useful.

Powerful inbound links

If you can write something useful and portray yourself as a thought leader within your industry, you create the opportunity for people to start writing about you and even linking to your articles. Having links from other websites to yours is a crucial SEO tactic. First, search engine robots follow links between websites. Therefore, the more inbound links you have the more often robots will visit your site. Secondly, many search engines consider inbound links as “votes” for you. They assume that if a lot of websites are linking to you, your site must be of high quality. Also, inbound links can bring more traffic to your website, which means potential leads and conversions. Essentially, the better your content is the more powerful the inbound links will be.

Content is an investment

Keep in mind, content is an investment in your site. Unlike Internet advertising, content is an investment that keeps bringing new visitors year after year. And all good things require effort. Writing web content is a skill that takes both practice and patience. As I’ve mentioned above, content should be both useful and interesting. It should also be SEO-rich. A good rule of thumb when it comes to writing web content is to use a keyword density of 3-5 percent—just enough to attract some new attention without sounding too redundant and disengaging. If your skills are not up to par, you may want to consider hiring someone well trained in the art [Read: PR & SEO: A Match Made in Cyber Heaven].

As you can see, the Google updates were quite alarming to the SEO professional who has always used traditional SEO techniques, like keyword stuffing, to help clients move up in the rankings. While there is still a need for optimization, good content is very important. This may mean hiring copywriters or public relations professionals to develop content strategies that include useful article topics, interesting blog posts, and website pages that engage readers in the future!

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Using Video Content for SEO Benefit: 3 Ways to Make it Happen

HD Cinamatic Wedding Videographer Videography Video Production AustinNow that everyone knows just how huge it is to keep fresh, high-quality, interactive content on your website that’s frequently changed, updated, added to, etc., it’s now important to understand just how to make that content work to your SEO advantage. Since I’m a video nut, I totally swear by the power of video content and the huge benefits it can have for your website, your brand and your business, but not many SEO’s out there know exactly how and why to implement it correctly.

The truth is, video can be used for a number of different reasons, and all of them have differing benefits for your site. Knowing how and when to use the videos that you have can make or break the success of your content marketing strategy, so it’s definitely something you need to learn now.

Brand Awareness

Tons of companies are now jumping on the video train to create corporate commercials that give some insight into their businesses – but what do you do with those videos once they’re created? The answer involves more than just posting these videos on YouTube, although that is a good starting point for this type of content.

In order to increase your brand awareness, you want to send a message to as many people as you possibly can, and YouTube is a great way to accomplish just that. Being the second-largest search engine in the world, behind only its parent engine, Google, YouTube is a fantastic way to get your content seen, and the more people that see your video, the more aware they become of your brand.

It will take a little more work on your part, though, than simply posting to YouTube and letting Internet users do the rest of the work. Overly-commercial content on YouTube isn’t going to be successful – engaging content will. Take this Nike commercial, which was meant for web purposes based on its length (2:30 is far too long for a television ad, but online, people will spend the 2:30 to engage with content that’s entertaining like this) – 2.6 million views later, everyone knows about Nike Free sneakers and how they stand for true love (metaphorically speaking):

If you wish to create this kind of content, keep in mind that your audience is much broader than your typical target audience. Insert and reflect your brand wherever and however possible, but know that the content still needs to be share-worthy. Then, after your video is posted, do what you can to share it. You can post your content across your social media platforms, write guest blog posts with the content embedded in it and simply share with your company’s contact list.

Good quality content will handle the rest – once you’ve done your part to share it, others should pick up on it.

Building Links

Say you want to get hundreds or even thousands of high-quality backlinks to your site, which has become so much harder to do in the post-Panda realm that we SEO’s now live in. It’s easier said than done, but if you have the right kind of quality video content, at least you have a starting point.

If you’re looking to build links, viral video content will be your best friend. You’re looking for something that’s going to be entertaining enough to be shared, and hence lead to more links to your website. So make sure you have a funny corporate video like the Dollar Shave Club guys (see below – this is my favorite!), or some kind of video that’s going to attract attention and encourage people to like and share your content.

Now, to help in your link-building goal with your awesome video, there are a couple of things you’ll have to do after you’ve implemented it on your website using a third-party media server (we like Vimeo Pro). First, when you’re loading your video on to your third-party server, make sure you click the settings to allow your video to be embedded anywhere. Then, embed it onto your website using HTML5 or JavaScript – steer clear of using iFrames, as these are difficult for search engines to read.

You can create custom embed codes to share with others so that when your video gets shared, your website gets credit for the additional embed. Target the page with your video content using optimized anchor text and make sure you give users the option to share the video across the major social media platforms (typically Facebook, Twitter and Google+).

Then, share away! Use your custom HTML5 or JavaScript embed code to share to your business’ own social media profiles, and let the quality of your video content do the work from there. Voila – natural, quality backlinks to your site!

Increasing CTR/Conversions

Obviously, every website’s goal is to rank on the first page of search results, if not own the #1 position. We all know how difficult that can be, and there’s no real trick to make it happen quickly, although video content, when implemented correctly, can definitely help move your website up in the rankings and increase your click-through rate.

Search users are proven 80% more likely to click on a search result that features a rich snippet thumbnail of any sort, especially video. When more users click on your search result over others, despite its position in the SERPs, Google interprets that as your site being of high-quality that people regularly find valuable information on. Then, Google begins to trust your site more, and then begins to rank you higher in the SERPs. As you rise in the SERPs, your CTR could increase by as much as 60% because of your video snippet. It’s really a cyclical win-win for all involved.

As far as your conversions go, having a video on a product page of an ecommerce site can hugely increase the likelihood of a customer purchasing a product. It gives a customer a chance to really “see” the product in a way that they can’t through images and text alone.

So, to implement a video for these purposes, simply create a product video that doesn’t necessarily have to be all too engaging outside the context of your website, and upload it to a third-party media server. Select the settings that hide the video from the third-party server to ensure the video will appear on your website and your website alone (so Vimeo or Wistia or whichever service you’re using won’t rank for content that’s yours).

Then, place it on the desired page of your website using HTML5 coding (the “old embed code”) that’s readable by search engines. There are some ups and downs to this – HTML5 is not readable by mobile devices, only iFrames are, but iFrames aren’t read by search engines. So you either have to choose which is more important to you, or program in a way to serve up different versions of the video to different servers/bots based on their entry point (mobile vs. desktop).

Mark-up your video content using schema.org Video Object tags, and submit a video XML sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools (some third-party media servers, such as Wistia, create these sitemaps for you – others, you’ll have to work with your web provider to create and upload to your website). Wait a week or two, sometimes more depending on the overall power of your website, and you should begin to see your video snippets appearing in search results when you enter the query for which you optimized your video for when you marked it up.

Here’s an example of a video we recently implemented earlier in 2012 for a phrase that receives 3,600 monthly searches and is highly competitive. This website ranked at the 46th position in the SERPs prior to video implementation, and after the video was placed and indexed, the search phrase jumped to the number 2 spot:

Now, that page of the website is one of the top performing pages, and the conversion rate has increased on the page, as well. The video, while not otherwise too terribly engaging, is serving its purposes of producing the video rich snippet in search results to increase keyword rankings, CTR and conversions, just as intended.

If you’re considering adding video content to your website, just make sure you have a plan in place based on your goals for the content prior to creation and implementation. How you place the video can change its overall performance drastically, so make sure you and the marketing company that your business is working with understand the goals and know how to implement your content properly to achieve them.

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The Benefits of User Generated Content and How to Implement It

This week, we’ve decided to try something a bit different and bring to you our very first ever video blog! In this week’s episode, we explain just why user generated content is so important for a website, especially in ecommerce, and how and where you can implement it on your own website for maximum benefit. Sit back, watch and enjoy!

Video Transcript:

Hi guys, I’m MacKenzie Liptak from Mountain Media and today I’ll be talking about user generated content in the world of internet marketing.

Often abbreviated as UGC, user generated content covers a fairly broad range of words, images and videos that you see and hear on the internet. A great example of UGC is Wikipedia, the human-created encyclopedia.

Why is UGC important? Well, it has the capacity to influence purchase decisions, brand affinity and brand loyalty.

Here at MM, we work with a lot of ecommerce clients, so I’m going to talk about the benefits of UGC in regards to your website. The first benefit of UGC is increased user engagement. When people have a place to speak their mind on your website, they tend to stick around longer. Also, people want to read about what others are saying about your products and services, therefore UGC has the potential of creating a great community for your online audience.

Another benefit of UGC is a more effective marketing strategy. As people, we tend to trust reviews more than we trust traditional marketing tactics. Therefore, if you can get a customer to write a review about your products or services, be that good or bad, it’s going to be a lot more effective than you telling customers how great your products or services are.

The third and final benefit of UGC is improved SEO. Of course, fresh content is good for your website, and your search engine optimization. With UGC, you get new content uploaded daily to your website, and you don’t have to do a thing – search engines like that!

Where do people find user generated content? Well, the number one place people find UGC is on social media. This includes Facebook, Twitter, blogs and review sites. The second most prevalent place people find UGC is search engines – that would be your Google, Bing and Yahoo.

Now that you’ve learned a little bit about UGC, here’s what you can do to include it on your website. For starters, you can make it easier for customers to write reviews on your products or services. You can do this by enabling comment functions on your blog or under your products, you can provide a star ratings system, which will allow people to vote on the quality of your products and you can also create customer forums, where people can post questions daily regarding your products or services.

Another thing you can do in regards to UGC is ask for customer testimonials or case studies. This is a form of supplement user generated content because it highlights a customer’s opinion. It’s still beneficial.

The next thing you can do in regards to UGC is to encourage social discussion. This means using social media to encourage discussion among your fans and followers. Ask people to share their experiences with your products and/or services. Talk about what they like and what they don’t like. Seeing your social network engaging with you will paint you in a very positive light.

Lastly, when it comes to UGC, it’s important to be transparent. Let’s face it, it’s inevitable that people will say something negative regarding your brand. Rather than deleting the comment, take this opportunity to connect with that customer. Respond quickly and in public, stay positive and deal with the details privately.

Thanks for stopping by the Mountain Media blog – I hope you found this video helpful and learned a little bit about user generated content. Stop by daily for some more helpful web tips.

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PR & SEO: A Match Made In Cyber Heaven

MarriageAs of late, SEOs have pointed out the benefits of working with public relations (PR) professionals. More specifically, Ken McGaffin of Search Engine Watch pointed out ten reasons why PR should be on your radar in 2013. As Ken mentions, the latest Google Panda and Penguin updates have put an emphasis on high quality websites that include unique content and powerful backlinks, as well as how partnering with PR is a great business tactic.

I can empathize with the groans of frustration from SEOs around the world. Why would Google do this to us?? The answer is simple: Search engines want to provide the best user experience possible, period. Therefore, sites that offer little value to users or include duplicate content from other websites are going to drop significantly in rankings (as we’ve already seen). Contrarily, high-quality websites that offer original content and useful information to users will see a spike in search engine rankings.

The Power Couple

While many SEOs rack their brains as to how they can overcome Google’s latest changes, the easiest and most beneficial option for everyone would be to develop content that is both human and search engine friendly…hence the collaboration with PR. Many of you are probably thinking how can SEO benefit from PR? Or, you may have a negative perception of PR altogether. For instance, PR practitioners are all liars and spin-doctors (thanks a lot Edward Bernays). However, with a background in PR, I am here to put your fears to rest and tell you that is not the case. PR practitioners are actually skilled storytellers and content generators. And their primary function is to build mutually beneficial relationships.

SEOs on the other hand, have a strong background in coding, keyword research and link building. For the most part, their efforts are done behind the scenes, which can make them, how do I put this nicely? Not the most engaging copywriters. Hey, I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum! But together, PR and SEO make quite the power couple.

Call to Action

The Panda/Penguin updates call for unique content that is linked to by quality sites. Therefore, there is a strong need for quality content that can interest new viewers. There is also a need for authentic and engaging social media posts. In addition, press releases can attract the attention of authoritative websites through blogger outreach and media relations. SEOs must also learn how to build relationships rather than links. By combining the skills of PR and SEO, we can produce engaging, keyword friendly web content and powerful backlinks, ultimately creating high-quality websites.

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