It’s hard to believe that 2014 is nearly a wrap. And what a year it has been! From the sunsetting of Google Authorship and PageRank, to the digital war on Sony about their new movie The Interview, we have certainly had tons to talk about.
With the year winding to a close and a short week upon us, I decided to do another installment of Return On News. For those of you new to the site, Return On News is where I review all of the most recent content I’ve curated and share the best of the best right here on our own blog. Think of this as my holiday gift to you – some great, in-depth reading to kick off your holiday season (or catch up after you get back to the office if you prefer to go completely off the grid for the holidays).
I am packing as many articles as possible in this one, so let’s get to the links and brief explanations of why you should take time to read each of them.
Return On News: December 2014
NOTE: The headers below are clickable URLs. Simply click on the title to view the original posts and articles.
By Kim McLaughlin of Lyra Communications
It was a standing joke a few years ago – as soon as Social Media became a “thing” for marketing, there were suddenly two million social media experts coming out of the woodwork. Most of them had been dabbling in it for a least a few months, but very few were true experts. At this point, longevity may be all that some social media providers have going for them. This article discusses how to figure out if someone is talking a good game, or an actual thought leader with respect to social media marketing.
By Eric Enge of Stone Temple Consulting
Stone Temple and Eric Enge generate some of the most intriguing content you will find on the web. This month, Eric published the results of a Twitter study, where over 4,000,000 tweets were analyzed. The goal was to determine exactly what this mystical “engagement” really is, since that’s what all the pundits keep telling you it’s what you need to focus on. This is an outstanding article, hitting how how engaging content is across a spectrum of variables, from content type (images, video, etc.) to how authority of the curator impacts engagement.
By Joe Pulizzi of Content Marketing Institute
For seven years now, Joe Pulizzi and CMI have been polling industry thought leaders to cull together a list of predictions for the coming year. In cooperation with Marketo, they have pulled the results into an ebook. This post hits on the highlights of the predictions, and also includes a slide deck that shows all 60 predictions individually. I was proud to be included as one of the 60, and thought the whole list of ideas was worth sharing. There were some solid ideas and big names on the list.
By Neil Patel of QuickSprout
Neil Patel is a well known and deeply experienced blogger, focusing on topics such as SEO, web analytics, content marketing, and inbound. I’ve followed his personal blog, QuickSprout, for some time now. It seems he uses this blog as a test ground for new ideas, as he is constantly dabbling with different content marketing trends on the blog. While I prefer some of his work above others (e.g. I’m not a fan of infographics for consuming information, and he uses them a lot), Neil manages to publish something of great interest at least once a month on average. This is perhaps his best post of 2014 – packed with ideas that you can immediately apply in your own blogging effort.
By Roger C. Parker of Content Marketing Institute
It should come as no surprise that I’m a big fan of CMI – if you follow me on Twitter, you see links to their site weekly. So in a second CMI listing, I present to you a list of the best books about Content Marketing from the past 12 months. I haven’t read them all at this point, but plan to grab a few of them in the early part of 2015 to start off the year with some new ideas. Go see if you can find some inspiration as well.
By Henneke Duistermaat of Unbounce
As purveyors of one of the better known landing page testing platforms, Unbounce always provides interesting content on conversion rate optimization tactics and techniques. This post nails it – from thinking about customer personas to building around your call to action, it provides quality and actionable advice to help you write better content for your landing pages. If you are responsible for lead gen and struggling to hit the conversion rates you desire, read this post and see what you can use for your own marketing programs.
By Ben Slater of Seed Jobs
It’s not very often that I find inspiring inbound marketing content on HR or jobs related blogs, but this one was absolutely worth a read. Sure, the post was about how to create content to attract job candidates, but it’s useful for much more than that. He covers how to use analytics to determine what is and isn’t working, how to use Buzzsumo to identify hot trends, and even some tips on how to project manage your content efforts to success. A surprising yet very useful find from Ben Slater.
By Kate Maddox of AdAge
I’m a big fan of Forrester’s approach – they have no problem calling out dying trends (e.g. how the Buyer’s Journey isn’t what it used to be) and poorly executed marketing efforts, when it needs to be said. This article reviews the results of Forrester’s report “B-to-B Content Fails the Customer Engagement Test,” which uncovers a major issue with B2B content marketing today – it’s simply uninteresting and self-serving. Anyone who excels in content marketing knows that content should provide value to the reader. In B2B, it seems, most content marketers are experts in chest-beating, but not in engagement. Perhaps this study will help nudge along more in B2B industries to take a new approach in 2015. If you marketing to businesses, take time to read and understand the report.
By Ian Harris via Search Engine Journal
For regular readers of the Return On Now Blog, you know that my posts tend to be longer – usually around 2,000 words each. That is by design. If you wonder why I’m so long-winded, read this post and it will all make sense.
By Arnie Kuenn of Content Marketing Institute
While this post is nowhere near ground breaking in nature, it’s a great reminder to keep the chairs in order on your deck. This article is most useful to SEO rookies, and it hits on some of the areas where we tend to focus during Austin SEO Audit projects and Austin SEO campaign kickoffs. Start with these 10 items to self-diagnose, and if you find a problem too advanced to fix yourself, contact us for assistance.
By Russ Jones of Angular Marketing
If you follow the latest trends in SEO, you already know that Google went after Private Blog Networks (PBNs) in 2014. Many bloggers and analysts declared that PBNs are dead, but still others continue to use them with medium to great success. Though they can work if managed properly, PBNs are not for the faint of heart. There is a great deal of expense and overhead required to do it in a way that won’t leave a footprint or get you penalized. This article spells out the cost and effort clearly, to be sure you understand exactly what it would take to do it yourself. For most of us, it’s simply not worth it.
By Patrick Coombe of Elite Strategies
Although it’s a very hot topic among the most SEO savvy of us, Blackhat SEO is still an unknown entity to the vast majority of business people out there. But most of us remember the state of the internet a few years ago, when most of the shoddy techniques outlined on this post were commonplace. Whether for nostalgic reasons for those of us “in the know” or as education for those who are not, this is a useful read to look back at where Blackhat SEO has been over the years.
By Marcela De Vivo via Search Engine Watch
For a couple of years now, the conversation has shifted from “link building” to “link earning.” In this article, Marcela De Vivo reviews the things NOT to do, and then goes through her own process for managing the link earning effort. She covers everything from tools, to content assets, to outreach. If you are mystified by the idea of link earning and how you’d manage the process, this post is for you.
By Patrick Hathaway of URLprofiler
Heading into 2015, it’s time to accept the fact that user experience matters for ranking and traffic, moreso than it ever has before. Sure, it was important to take UX into account when designing a website, but that was most often thought of as a “stickiness” or conversion influencing factor. During 2014, it became paramount to ranking and overall visibility, even offsite. Patrick Hathaway gives a great overview of everything from the importance of optimizing for mobile to how page load time impacts SEO. In many ways, UX comes before on and off page, so be sure to read this and take it seriously if you’re not already on the UX bandwagon.
By Bartosz Góralewicz
Every SEO should be aware of the potential for link spamming to drive negative SEO to competitor or other websites by now. It has been heavily discussed in the past. But did you know that it is possible to negatively impact SEO without ever building a single link? If you have the right skills used in the wrong way, it is absolutely possible. Learn more in this post.
By Matt Lawson, Director of Performance Ads Marketing for Google via Search Engine Land
It’s not every day that you get to read detailed advice about AdWords directly from one of the hands-on guys at Google. This article goes into some very interesting and advanced topics, helping you better understand the recent updates about close variants as well as the right way to use modified broad match. Even more advanced SEM practitioners might get a nugget or two out of this article.
By Philip Petrescu via Search Engine Land
Search marketers worldwide frequently speculate about the interplay between organic click thru rates and the presence of PPC ads. Earlier in my career, I held strong to the belief that the two do not impact each other. Several years ago, I learned through testing of some high volume keywords that the two absolutely impact each other. Is it a psychological interplay, where seeing the ad in addition to the organic listing on page 1 of the SERP reduces friction for the user? I don’t know the eact reason, but I do know its impact. This post on Search Engine Land shares data to prove the point for those of you who are skeptical of the overlap.
By Ramli John on Growth Huddle
I’ve always had a problem with the term “growth hacking” in and of itself. It’s just a fancy new word for what bootstrapping entrepreneurs have been doing for decades. But given its widespread adoption, growth hacking has become somewhat of a badge of honor for too many people. This post analyzes why you may need to take a step back and be sure your strategy is right before continuing along the growth hacking path. Bottom line: Aim first, fire later. Otherwise, you may shoot the wrong prey and find yourself hungry in the end.
Okay, after that bad analogy, I’ll move along and let you enjoy your holiday week. I want to close by saying thank you to everyone who frequents and reads this blog. We work hard to push out quality content, and your continued interest keeps me inspired to work harder each week. Best of luck in early 2015.