Syndicating content without losing authority

In the world of digital marketing, content is very much king. Distributing your content via other websites will not only provide you with increased reach, exposure and traffic but it will also help support your brand and garner all-important links back to your site.

This syndication of content is all very good, however it is crucial not to forget the most important element of syndicating content, which is maintaining authority.

If your content is appearing all over the web, the search engines will see each piece of content (or page if you like) as a duplicate. When there are duplicate content issues, search engines “choose” which page to rank according to a number of factors, which include (but are not limited to) the one it spiders first, which page has the highest number of back links or where they place the most overall trust and authority. It is therefore not guaranteed that the original content on your site will be well ranked, despite the fact that you created it in the first place.

In fact, if your content is syndicated on very high profile sites or sites that update very regularly, the search engines may well spider the content on that site first which is likely to lead to the syndicated content ranking in favour of your website. All the hard work you have put into creating the great bit of content in the first place will reap benefits not for but for someone else.

You should therefore ensure that you maintain authority, or ownership if you like, for your content by following the advice below:

  • Always ask partners to include a link back to your site. This will not only maintain your authority for the content but it will also give you a lovely link to your site which will aid search engine rankings, especially if the site is of good quality and relevance, and you can incorporate a relevant search term into the anchor text
  • Ask your partners to include the rel=”canonical” tag on each page of syndicated content. A rel=”canonical” tag is a Meta tag that you place in the head section of code on each duplicated page of content, which will inform the search engines of the original page you want them to crawl, index and place weight on. You should therefore require that partner webmasters add this Meta Tag to the head section of each syndicated page of content

An alternative to the canonical tag is to use a robots no index Meta tag on each page of content or  request that partners disallow the page in their robots.txt file to tell the search engines not to index the page. However, I would advocate using the canonical tag as it directly informs the search engines of the original content source rather than the search engines having to figure this out. This could potentially result in the search engines giving slightly more weight and authority to your original content.

You could also consider syndicating partial articles or snippets as the search engines will seek to rank the full, most informative version (which would exist on your site.)  Or, consider releasing content on your site prior to syndicating. You would then only syndicate the content once the search engines have spidered and indexed the content on your site first.

By adhering to the above advice, you will take the necessary steps to safeguard your website so that you maintain authority for the content you are creating.

Do you have any experiences in the area of content syndication? Leave your comments below.

How to create and formulate an effective blog schedule

Crafting a detailed and well researched blog schedule doesn’t take the spontaneity out of blogging, so don’t panic. What it does, however, is help you plan a bespoke content agenda that houses everything from product launches and promotions, to useful ‘How to’ guides and ‘What’s on’ recommendations; all of which will not only reinforce your voice of authority, but also ensure fresh, engaging and pertinent content is constantly being fed into your blog. Do all the hard work now, and see your blog (and business) flourish from your efforts in the future.

Time management

OK, so where do you begin when you’re creating your blog schedule? Well, not just any blog schedule will do. You will need to invest and apportion sufficient time initially, and then over subsequent months, in order to prioritise your blogging. Your goal is to create a blogging schedule that works for you. It is very easy for bloggers to create their schedule, to then allow a host of distractions interfere with the fluidity and consistency of their submissions. Treat blogging as serious work please!

Resource
Well, the good news is that you know your business and target audience (hopefully) which means, if you haven’t done so already, you will have plenty of ideas circulating around in your head that now need to be put to paper. However, consider internal support with blogging ideas as content contribution from your staff will diversify the themes, topics, and more specifically, means the pressure is off you slightly when providing fresh content in the future. Look into establishing either a Netvibes or iGoogle page which will dispense up-to-the-minute news feeds, book marks and commentary.

Put your blogging cap on
Think instinctively what you would want to read on the blog, and then inject these informative, newsworthy and riveting posts with some of your personality. There are also lots of online tools which help you to explore what else is being read already online (try reddit and delicious). These tools can help you to find out what is popular within your sector – your blog posts may be responses to these posts or similar topics. It is good to follow the trends as it helps you to predict what is going to be popular in the future.

There’s nothing worse than a blog that lacks identity, or even worse, brags about itself! The key is to strike a balance. Like I mentioned earlier, incorporate a mixed base of ideas and have a minimum of four distinct and regular categories. For example, “The history of…” or “This Season’s must haves”; the aim is to produce a healthy bank of ideas that are now ready to introduce to your monthly schedule.

What should my schedule look like?
The layout of your schedule is of course your choice; however, I recommend that you keep it as simple as possible. Introduce headed columns within your spreadsheet or document, for example ‘Month’, ‘Title’ and ‘Expansion of title’ – within the latter it’s important to define and elaborate on it as much as possible. Again by doing all the hard work now you will save innumerable hours trying to come up with ideas on the spot in the future, and in your absence, your colleagues can refer to the schedule and maintain the blog to your detailed requirements.

Need help creating your schedule?
We have created well-researched and imaginative blog schedules for a fair few clients. Often clients do not have the time to produce one, or they just require a little guidance to get one started. A well executed blog schedule will help you realise why blogging is both beneficial to your business, and a fun part to your working month.

What next?
Sit down with your creative team, or agency, deliberate your ideas, get your coloured felt tip pens out, and think long and hard about what you want from your blog. We appreciate that defining your blog and creating a tailored schedule can be a laborious task, so our Content team would be more than happy to share their advice and insight.

Who are you and what do you want? Things to think about before talking to your web copywriter

Web copy is a far more difficult than it looks. Tone, style and brand consistency are of course fundamental to fulfilling a brief, but it’s growing increasingly common for clients not to know what tone they want. Throw search terms into the mix and you have the recipe for potentially bad copy!

What we recommend is for clients to have a good hard think about what they need from their web copy before they meet with us. Here are three things that are useful to think about before meeting your web copywriter:

Inspiration
Have a look at other sites. Your competitors and other companies that are in the same genre as you (industry, service, product or information) may have a tone or style that you like. Make a note of the URL, as well as elements about the copy you particularly like, and take your top three along to your copy brief meeting (or better still email them over first!).

Buzz words
Don’t come to a copywriter and say: “I want the copy to sell, but I don’t want it to be ‘salesy’; I want it to inform and be friendly, but I also want it to target businesses and for us to come across as experts. I don’t want it to be too techie, but I don’t want us to be fluffy”. All it will do is lead to generic copy lacking personality: we don’t like writing it; you don’t like reading it. Choose buzz words carefully and then…

Prioritise

Choose which parts of your brand’s identity are most important to you. Do you want to come across as:

• Formal or Colourful
• Salesy or Informative
• Passive or Active
• Conventional or Quirky

In a perfect world you would have looked at this when you were checking your search terms. Remember, those terms will be built into the copy so if you don’t want to come across as a posh villa in busy Spain for example, ensure the search term isn’t there, and scrutinise the rest for a cohesive brand identity.
Sadly you can’t be all things to all people. The strongest brands are honest and they are the ones that people buy into most. Think about how you want to speak to your audience. Think about who your audience is.

As branding and marketing is evolving, we are seeing a shift away from successful products and services satisfying their demographic simply by providing a great product/service at a fair price. As these things become less important to the consumer, what we see is the emphasis instead placed upon the identity of the brand. Are you a Mac or a PC person? Do you drink Coca-cola or Mecca-cola? Do you shop in Jack Wills or Primark? Consumers are buying into these brands as symbols for their identity, not just product and price.

Brand identity is vital to attract your demographic and persuade them to invest in your brand which says something about themselves. New questions must be asked. Instead of posing your users questions about what they want – you need to instead ask them who they are. The important aspects of your average target must then be replicated, both in the style and tone of your website. To communicate effectively you should sound and look like your users.

So, who are you and what do you want to say?

Why bloggers are killing Twitter spam

As a self-confessed-guilty-as-charged-blame-it-on-the-parents ‘scanner’ of any online content that I encounter, you’d hope that, as an online copywriter, I make my copy as concise and engaging as possible, right?

Well, that’s my intention anyhow. To be honest, I don’t actually blame my parents at all. Not once do I recall a moment when they forced me to use the internet as a child; in fact, they were unequivocal in their stance for me to read in a more traditional way – books.

I didn’t get a mobile phone until I was about 16, which is at least 10 years older than the average kid I see carrying a handheld in the streets today. Damn, I’m now sounding like my parents, but my point is that I believe mobiles are partly to blame for why the next generation and subsequent will have a short attention span when they read online; not to mention how they choose to execute these words in texts.

For example: “Soz we cldn’t meet lst nite. I cn meet 2nite tho?” does make me want to grab their phone and give them a crash course on elementary English, but I’d probably get beaten up, or worse.

And, as much as Twitter has made micro blogging accessible and convenient for even the busiest of busy folk, it has affected the way we read and write, and joins a growing community of social media platforms that dictate how content is now greeted by us.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m an advocate for all things quick and easy, but somehow I feel Twitter has deprived us all of an attention span, and replaced it with efficiency and impatience. But, may be this is how things are to be for the foreseeable future…

What sparked my minor rant was a fantastic post I saw recently by Rajesh Setty on the Lateral Action blog, where he’d cleverly (and worryingly?) created a ‘response scale’ that displays the various stages of content versus return.

If you’ve struggled to even read this with maximum concentration, then I recommend you consult your GP immediately. Not online though…

As a copywriter, there is nothing more demoralising than your content being ignored, condemned or generally not reaching its desired destination – so what do I do? Well, I either make sure that every recipient reads my copy with vigour and enthusiasm by sitting next to them on its arrival; then ask them to tell everybody they know how brilliant it is. Unfortunately, this is highly unfeasible (and absurd), so my only option is to distribute great content that compels and inspires the online reader. No pressure then.

Read the full post by Rajesh to work out how your online content is potentially being received and 9 realistic ways your audience could respond to it.

How to sell your web copy

“Forget words like ‘hard sell’ and ’soft sell.’ That will only confuse you. Just be sure your advertising is saying something with substance, something that will inform and serve the consumer, and be sure you’re saying it like it’s never been said before.”

This is a well-documented and famous quote by William Bernbach, the eminent advertising guru who was the catalyst behind the American Creative Revolution of the 60s and 70s, and more specifically, was credited for being the very first to merge the in-house skills of the copywriter and creative director – a team that is effective and congruous as ever today.

There are two reasons why I can relate to Bernbach’s quote. Firstly, I was in sales, marketing and advertising for over 10 years before finally calling myself a fully fledged copywriter, and the terms ‘hard sell’ and ‘soft sell’ were used with such ferocious regularity in my previous roles, that it was enough to make a young man feel inadequate and under pressure to perform.

And secondly, when I write web copy, irrespective of the client, industry, product and service, I always want to inject it with a healthy dose of insight and originality. In order to achieve “you’re saying it like it’s never been said before” there are still many factors you need to consider to produce high quality, engaging sales copy.

Here are my top 10 tips for successful online copy:

1. Grab attention with a great headline.
2. Write from your customer’s point of view.
3. Write about benefits, not features.
4. Read your copy out loud.
5. Get a colleague or customer to review your copy.
6. Write as if you’re speaking to one person.
7. Be specific.
8. Be simple.
9. Include an offer (or link) “above the fold.”
10. Include testimonials.

Although this is already an overwhelming list of goals, another useful thing to do, or ask yourself rather, is: “Would I ‘buy’ because of this copy?” Your target audience will decide just as quickly and ruthlessly as you, so in the modern era of online customer satisfaction, I’m afraid to say that the customer is always right. Stick robustly to the above check list and your web copy will be more than right.

Unfortunately Bernbach died in the early 80’s, but his passion and knowledge are immortally engrained in the minds of many copywriters, and I for one will always pass it on.

News flash! Old school journalists are having to make way for the new wave of digital copywriters

When I reflect back to when I was a freelance journalist working in print, I feel acutely nostalgic. Not in the sense that I was roving reporter during the days of a stumpy pencil behind my ear, trusty pad in one hand and an insipid coffee in the other (I’m nether old enough or fortunate enough to experience such vintage journalism); what I mean is it feels like an eon ago that I was an actual “journalist” – This, might I add, was only up until three years ago, so I am still happy, if not proud, to call myself one – the only problem is now the occupation is gradually dispersing; evaporating into the clouds of distant memories where a storm is brewing. A storm that has sparked a thunderous debate about the future of journalism, and more pertinently, news reporting.

After reading an engaging article on the Brand Republic website this week entitled “Are online publishers just Digital Windsocks?” by Dan Leahul, about an Association of Online Publishers (AOP) forum rounding up an adept panel to discuss the “editorial impact of SEO and to look at what the future for news production might be,” I began to really question the future of conventional reporting. In addition to this potential heavyweight polemic, they were also considering whether journalists can adapt to the pace of SEO and would the end result be the extinction of quality journalism altogether?

Even if you’re reading this not through the eyes of a writer/copywriter/journalism, or general wordsmith, you’ll surely agree that these are big questions that require immediate answers. If not for the sanctity of the profession and the deep foundations it’s built upon.

Leading the discussing was Andrew Currah, a renowned lecturer for Reuters Institute of Journalism at Oxford University, whose book “What’s happening to our news?” focuses on journalism in the digital age and introduced the concept of a “Digital Windsock” – where publishers follow the audience and the substantial advertising revenue at stake, in turn severely affecting the quality of the content.

Currah explained: “Now there is a focus to accumulate attention around news to build advertising revenue. Publishers are chasing clicks, but have no clear sense of how much the digital audience is worth or when digital revenues will recoup the costs of multimedia integration.” Interestingly, commercial news traffic has clearly become more fickle and less committal by entering through “side door” of websites and then vacating within a few minutes.

Here’s another news flash: In the UK, 30% of time spent online is on 10 URLs or less, none of these are commercial news sites. I can say right now that this statistic doesn’t include me, but this is possibly indicative of the style and tone of content that is preferred and the amount of the time the user intends to spend reading it.

Currah then added: “New forms of reading are emerging. People now power browse, looking horizontally through titles and a few lines down the left side of the content, scouring for anything of interest, before moving on. Publishers are now frequently looking towards experimental methods to take advantage of the user “click stream”, some even turning to neuroscience to measure the subconscious foundations of the web user.”

There goes my comment that online journalism isn’t science, but hey, maybe this is the direction the profession is heading. We all know there is an art to writing, so is it time to introduce it to science? The Web provides an infinite space, our Universe if you like, that we occupy as indeterminate specks, so incorporating a rational scientific approach could be one solution. Freud believed that psychoanalysis needed to be grounded on the natural functions of the brain, psychoanalytic and neuroscientific approaches to the study of mind have kept their distance for the better part of the twentieth century, but could be an interesting application to a modern web user.

Currah then continued with a warning: “A dark side to the innovation and the pursuit of clicks, such as what happens to quality when content is shaped for the digital crowd, will new techniques like SEO lead to softening of the news agenda and will publishers continue to funnel resources into keywords instead of news breaking content?”

If it is true that the reader is now attracted to newsworthy and quirky content, then clicks can act as a reliable judge between “interest versus boredom” and could ultimately reshape the way editorial teams think and work.

I still believe (in my humble opinion, of course) that the reader will always demand high quality, well-executed content, irrespective of the site they are visiting. It is the person who writes this content, whether for a reputable news site, blog or forum that clearly has to adapt to the evolution of digital content. Maybe I can no longer call myself a journalist; maybe as a digital copywriter my role fortunately provides me with all the necessary skills to survive in such a competitive and advancing profession. Print certainly isn’t dead, but it’s long live web copy…

The ‘holy grail’ of search – regularly updated content

When was the last time you added something new to your website, perhaps an article, a white paper, an updated product description or some latest news?

Regularly adding to and updating the existing content on your website is integral to your search engine marketing efforts for a number of reasons, the main being concerned with your target audience. Fresh, unique and relevant content encourages repeat visits to your site whilst also building trust within your community.

We always advise our SME clients that the ‘holy grail’ for their search marketing efforts is to be considered THE ‘authority’ in their field. By this we mean the most trusted resource for information within their market.

This is relevant to even those clients in a B2C environment where historically the main objective has been solely to sell their products online. One way in which you can build trust in your brand, your products and your website is by going the extra mile and adding good quality content, such as more detailed descriptions, product reviews and buying guides.

This leads to a richer user experience and therefore a more informed purchasing decision can be taken. The number of people purchasing products online is growing by the year but there remains a massive segment of society who are nervous about buying online for a whole myriad of reasons but nearly all of them stem from trust. By adding good quality content to your website you can help to bridge the gap and encourage those that may be visiting your site, especially for the first time, that your products are of good quality and that you can be trusted.

At the end of the day you can optimise your site all you like, build links, participate in social media and so on but if visitors coming to your website do not have trust in you, all of these efforts are wasted because quite simply they will not buy from you! In my view those sites that simply offer a product or service and nothing more will find themselves lagging behind in the coming months and years. The sites that are most successful will be those that look to offer something more; something of real value, over and above the normal ‘call of duty’.

Another benefit of regularly updated content is concerned with the search engines themselves. It is very difficult to quantify to what degree fresh content specifically aids search engine rankings. However, it is generally accepted that search engines favour sites where content is dynamic and fresh over those sites where content is ‘stale’ and added to very rarely.

Saying all of this, for many small businesses, finding the time to regularly add fresh content to your website can be difficult. However, there are tools and companies out there that can help.

We have recently begun partnering with SelectNews from PA Business (part of the The Press Association) to offer our clients a tailored newsfeed service. PA Business work with our clients in defining their specific requirements and in devising a tailored news brief. This in-depth brief is taken by a group of dedicated PA editors who write bespoke news articles which are then fed to a clients site at regular intervals throughout the day by ftp or email. By sharing our expertise in SEO, and in particular keyword research, PA can tag content by topic or keyword and incorporate links to internal or external site pages.

The vast majority of news content across the Internet is syndicated; in other words it is replicated across hundreds, perhaps thousands of other sites. The beauty of the service from SelectNews is that the content is unique to each clients site.

This dynamic service ensures sites remain fresh and unique, furthermore increasing the number of new visitors and encouraging repeat visits. In turn, the service aids online brand development as customers come to know and trust that the latest industry developments can be obtained by visiting the site.

This is just one way (and I would like to add a pretty cost-effective way) of regularly adding new content to your website. For most SME’s participating in these activities comes down to two factors; time and money. Either there is not enough internal resource to research and write content on a regular basis or budget means that only the most essential of online tactics can be adopted. However, regularly updated content, in its many forms, will only become more and more integral in differentiating the good sites from the ordinary ones.

Therefore, consider finding the time or resource to dedicate to the holy grail of search; content. It could be a key factor in you surviving growing online competition.

P.S. You can read more about our partnership with SelectNews in the recent press release.

The ‘holy grail’ of search – regularly updated content

When was the last time you added something new to your website, perhaps an article, a white paper, an updated product description or some latest news?

Regularly adding to and updating the existing content on your website is integral to your search engine marketing efforts for a number of reasons, the main being concerned with your target audience. Fresh, unique and relevant content encourages repeat visits to your site whilst also building trust within your community.

We always advise our SME clients that the ‘holy grail’ for their search marketing efforts is to be considered THE ‘authority’ in their field. By this we mean the most trusted resource for information within their market.

This is relevant to even those clients in a B2C environment where historically the main objective has been solely to sell their products online. One way in which you can build trust in your brand, your products and your website is by going the extra mile and adding good quality content, such as more detailed descriptions, product reviews and buying guides.

This leads to a richer user experience and therefore a more informed purchasing decision can be taken. The number of people purchasing products online is growing by the year but there remains a massive segment of society who are nervous about buying online for a whole myriad of reasons but nearly all of them stem from trust. By adding good quality content to your website you can help to bridge the gap and encourage those that may be visiting your site, especially for the first time, that your products are of good quality and that you can be trusted.

At the end of the day you can optimise your site all you like, build links, participate in social media and so on but if visitors coming to your website do not have trust in you, all of these efforts are wasted because quite simply they will not buy from you! In my view those sites that simply offer a product or service and nothing more will find themselves lagging behind in the coming months and years. The sites that are most successful will be those that look to offer something more; something of real value, over and above the normal ‘call of duty’.

Another benefit of regularly updated content is concerned with the search engines themselves. It is very difficult to quantify to what degree fresh content specifically aids search engine rankings. However, it is generally accepted that search engines favour sites where content is dynamic and fresh over those sites where content is ‘stale’ and added to very rarely.

Saying all of this, for many small businesses, finding the time to regularly add fresh content to your website can be difficult. However, there are tools and companies out there that can help.

We have recently begun partnering with SelectNews from PA Business (part of the The Press Association) to offer our clients a tailored newsfeed service. PA Business work with our clients in defining their specific requirements and in devising a tailored news brief. This in-depth brief is taken by a group of dedicated PA editors who write bespoke news articles which are then fed to a clients site at regular intervals throughout the day by ftp or email. By sharing our expertise in SEO, and in particular keyword research, PA can tag content by topic or keyword and incorporate links to internal or external site pages.

The vast majority of news content across the Internet is syndicated; in other words it is replicated across hundreds, perhaps thousands of other sites. The beauty of the service from SelectNews is that the content is unique to each clients site.

This dynamic service ensures sites remain fresh and unique, furthermore increasing the number of new visitors and encouraging repeat visits. In turn, the service aids online brand development as customers come to know and trust that the latest industry developments can be obtained by visiting the site.

This is just one way (and I would like to add a pretty cost-effective way) of regularly adding new content to your website. For most SME’s participating in these activities comes down to two factors; time and money. Either there is not enough internal resource to research and write content on a regular basis or budget means that only the most essential of online tactics can be adopted. However, regularly updated content, in its many forms, will only become more and more integral in differentiating the good sites from the ordinary ones.

Therefore, consider finding the time or resource to dedicate to the holy grail of search; content. It could be a key factor in you surviving growing online competition.

P.S. You can read more about our partnership with SelectNews in the recent press release.

Search Marketing Word of the Week (9)

Firstly, the Frogg would like to apologise for his absence last week; he had already jumped ship and made his way to the far reaches of the pond for a weekend of rest and relaxation before I could catch him for the weeks letter!

Have no idea what I’m talking about? There is a purpose to this regular post.

Anyway, away with this weeks letter please…

F

OK, let’s go with ‘Feed’

This is content which is automatically delivered to a website via a particular piece of software or program.

A good example is a news feed; in fact, have a look on the Leapfrogg site for a new service we have recently introduced in partnership with The Press Association whereby bespoke news content can be delivered to a website every day. The advantage of such content is in keeping your target audience interested and therefore returning to your site over and over again. An element of trust is developed in the fact your site offers reliable, up to date information.

Have a good weekend!