December Webinar

Effectively planning ahead is crucial to your company's marketing success. Blogging is a great way to consistently earn visits and business, so developing a strategy for your blogs can only improve their performance. Learn how to get leads to your site and convert them into customers by writing efficient and effective blogs.

What you'll learn in this free webinar:

  • The 9 tips and tricks for 2013 blogging success
  • How to create influential call to actions
  • Key strategies for proper content creation and link building
  • The most critical errors of blogging in eCommerce
  • The importance of incorporating social media engagement

Join us and watch the recording of our webinar below:


View the transcription of this webinar below:

 

Mack McGee: All right. Good afternoon everybody. I’m Mack McGee from Groove Commerce. Thanks so much for your patience. Had a lot of people getting into today’s webinar, so wanted to give everyone ample time.

As always, thank you for joining us this afternoon and welcome to the final Groove Commerce Webinar Series of 2012. So here we are in December. We’ve got a great topic I think that will end this year nicely and kick off next year: 9 Blogging Tips for 2013.

We’re talking today about how to increase blog traffic and conversions. Definitely an important topic. Obviously you all thought so as well based on today’s attendance. So, thank you for joining us. We want to thank someone else for joining us as always, Ethan Giffin, CEO & Founder of Groove. Ethan, welcome.

Ethan Giffin: Thank you Mack. Very excited to be here today and very excited to close out 2012 with a great topic.

Mack: All right, Ethan. Obviously a lot of great content to get to today. We’ve got nine critical tips going into 2013 that you can use to improve blog traffic and conversions. We are going to get to that in a minute.

For those of you that are new to the Groove Commerce Webinar Series, welcome. Hope this is the first of many times you’ll join us on a monthly basis for this great hour of content, interactive questions, polls, and look forward to you participating hopefully in many more.

To get started today, wanted to tell you a little bit about Groove. We are a full service interactive agency out of Baltimore, Maryland, a Magento Gold Solutions partner, award winning and recognized for our work in design and development, as well as online marketing strategy, working with companies on how to generate more out of their online presence, leveraging all the services you can see in front of you on the screen today. So, thanks for joining us. Welcome. Hope you enjoy the webinar today.

So, with that we’re going to kick of poll #1 of the day because that’s what we do on this webinar series. It’s interactive and we want to hear from you, who is participating.

So, real quick, let us know: How often are you blogging? What’s the frequency? We want to see. Do we have any active participants, Ethan, or people that are maybe about to dip the toe in the water for the first time?

Ethan: It will be very, very interesting.

Mack: All right. It looks like we’ve got enough. We are going to go ahead and close those results. So, Ethan, obviously an interesting breakdown there.

Ethan: Wow.

Mack: So, one or more per week doing it, 53% there. Less than one a month is the other majority. So, with that I’m going to hand things off to you. You know a little bit more about our audience and now our audience is going to find out a little bit more about blogging for 2013.

Ethan: I think the numbers really kind of tell an interesting story, and you can kinda see this webinar is going to kind of cater to both audiences—those that are blogging a lot and those that aren’t blogging enough.

So today’s agenda, we’re going to talk a little bit about inbound marketing and blogs, why blogs are important to you, how consumers research and shop online. We are going to get into our nine content ideas for great blogs in 2013. And, as always, plenty of time at the end of this for Q&A. So start to send those questions in now via the GoToWebinar panel and we’ll start to go through those. And at the end of today’s presentation we’re going to spend a bunch of time answering those questions. So, please, please send them in. We love to do it, and these are one of the most popular parts of our Groove Webinar Series, is the Q&A.

So with that, the question is why are we doing this webinar? It’s hard to know, and this comes from a lot of frustration on our side. I was beyond frustrated overall with our blogging strategy here at Groove. You can kind of see me there with the Mr. Yuck face. I was the CEO that came in and slammed my fist down and was like, “We’re spending over 700 hours a year producing content,” and our traffic was very flat. And it was very frustrating and angry for me. We were investing a lot of time and money in it and we just weren’t getting the return on that investment.

Yet, six months later we’re starting to climb stairs. You can kinda see. I grabbed this out of our HubSpot account this morning. It basically shows these steps up. As we started to change our blogging and content strategy, you can kinda see that success climbing with that month over month. So I want to really talk a lot about that and kind of get into what we’re doing.

So, thinking about your own analytics and your own blogging, it’s time for our next poll.

Mack: Yeah, Ethan. So we saw how much people are blogging. Let’s see if they’ve got the Mr. Yuck face, too. Or, maybe they are smiling. Let’s find out. So how would you rate your blog’s effectiveness? We want to know. Let us know. Is this blog working for you? Are you working for the blog more than it’s working for you?

I believe we have a statistical majority, so we’re going to close this poll out now and take a look at the results. So, Ethan, there you go. What do you think?

Ethan: Wow. Only 6% of you are thrilled and everybody else is either satisfied or kind of under the line. So, hang on. We’re going to get into some thoughts. The goal for you is to kind of build those stairs. You know, have your analytics be those stair steps kind of going up month over month.

We’re going to touch a little bit about blogging and inbound marketing. There’s a lot of conversation around inbound marketing. We’ve had a previous webinar kind of really doing a deep dive into it. But just to kind of do a quick recap, traditional marketing is where businesses push their outbound messages at customers via things like TV telemarketing, radio, and trade shows. We kinda call that outbound marketing.

Inbound marketing is kind of the new school way of thinking about things, and it’s where businesses pull relevant prospects toward them through things like search engines and social media. And then we figure out how to nurture those prospects by email. So that’s kind of a very successful way to go about this.

The old school way of kind of pushing advertisements out across billboards doesn’t work as much as it used to. It’s really about how we pull them in via search and social and then how we get into the email aspect of things.

Some of the elements of inbound are shown here. It’s going around the horn. It’s things like your blogging and content strategy. It’s your PR. It’s your SEO. It’s pay-per-click marketing. It’s social media. Once you get them to your site it’s the conversion optimization. How are you going to get them to take action? And then once you kinda get people to your funnel, it’s that email nurturing aspect. So how are you going to nurture those folks via email and make sure that you are communicating with them and figuring out a way to kind of engage with those folks and get them bought into what it is as a business that you have to sell.

So, just a couple of stats. I just love these stats. Again, 78% of internet users conduct some type of product research online. So you are seeing kind of bricks and mortar retailers putting kiosks in their stores. People are going online before they are making purchases over and over again. So if you have the right content strategy, you can capture those folks and bring them into your site.

One-third of US consumers spend three or more hours online every day, and that’s growing. It’s growing year over year and people are spending much more time in new media than they are in traditional media like television, and we’re seeing those numbers really kind of rise across all demographics.

Next it is companies that blog get 55% more website visitors than those that don’t. That’s a pretty telling statistic. And we are big believers in blogging and content. I think that you should be as well, too.

A lot of people ask me: “Ethan, what is a blog?” A blog is content on a page. That’s it. In the early days of the internet a blog stood for web log, and it was a special software that you utilized to publish that in kind of short messages.

But really, where we are in 2012/2013, there are blogging platforms—things like Wordpress, and Drupal, and other platforms. But many of those platforms are basically content management tools. They are ways to dynamically publish content on your website without having a developer or a technical person do that for you.

So at this point and this day and age, really, there is nothing specially about a blog. It’s just content on a page. So I want you to think about it that same way as well.

Why are blogs important? They definitely build trust with your customers. It can jumpstart a conversation. We’ve seen that many times with the blogs that we put out. And we run the gamut from our own developer’s toolbox blogs about Magento, all the way down to general marketing and inbound marketing topics. So it jumpstarts a conversation.

So when someone calls here and they say, “Hey, I’ve read your blog and I was interested in this article, and it’s an area that we need help,” it can jumpstart that conversation with the prospects that are contacting your business.

You get to exercise your creativity. As an organization, you have a culture, you have a vibe, you have a soul. How are you going to exercise that and not be just kind of this sterile, generic organization? So you get to exercise that creativity.

When you blog you gets lots of organic search traffic if you do it the right way. And that’s probably the main reason why you want to do that.

You get the opportunity to become an industry thought leader if you provide valued commentary about your thoughts about your industry. And you are probably doing cool stuff that the world needs to know about.

Just about every one of our clients is doing something interesting and they’re not telling enough people about it. That’s getting interest in their products and their services. So you need to have a platform to kind of go out and get people interested.

In blogging, frequency really wins. And so, this is an interesting statistic from HubSpot, and it kind of shows you that people that blog less than monthly are 43% likely to get a customer through their blog. But people that blog weekly or 2-3 times a week that number is 66%-70%.

So I think that as you are blogging it’s really about knowing the companies that blog close more deals. If you blog weekly you are 53% more likely than those that don’t. and if you blog twice weekly you are 63% more likely.

I will definitely take those odds any day. And we’ve kind of proven it here as Groove as grown as an organization over the last six years online. So I will take those odds any day of the week. And we know that we will put the right content out, and you should be thinking about that, too. Whether you are lead generation or whether you are an e-tailer selling products, there’s lots of great ways to engage.

Next we want to touch a little bit about how Google works. How does Google work? How does “The Google” work, as people like to say? AKA how to find things to blog about. It’s like a tree in the forest. If no one is there to hear it, did it really make a noise? There’s lots of ways to find interesting things to blog about, and then being able to match that with how people are looking Google for answers to those questions. That’s the whole topic of what we’re going to get after today.

But first, I want to give just a little bit of an overview of the SERP or the Search Engines Results Page. If you have been on our webinars before you kinda know. But we want to make sure everyone has the same vernacular in terms of education.

In the top, we all know that your query goes in that box. Then we have the paid ads, the pay-per-click, through Google AdWords. Those appear at the top and on the right-hand column. And then your organic results, the stuff that affects your SEO, appears underneath. And Google is playing with that over and over again. They’re adjusting these pages. They are testing new concepts of pages. But basically, this is what the SERP looks like.

Going back to why Google and why blogs are important, it’s this Google auto-complete. It changed the game. As you are typing it’s starting to make suggestions about what it is that you’re looking for. We’ve all seen this. That’s based upon real searches that people are making in the Google index every day. If you’ve ever been to the Googleplex, you can see they have a large wall that just shows query after query of what’s coming in. It’s kind of neat to be there and see it. It basically returns those suggestions based upon real searches. These suggestions can vary by region and language. If you are logged into your Google account, you are going to get different results than if you are logged out.

So, for example, for many of the screenshots that we’ve made later in the presentation, we’ve done that via a clean copy of Safari where we’ve cleared out all the cookies in the cache and reset the browser so we are not getting tainted screenshots from our previous Google searches. And things that you previously searched for, those will come up as well in those search suggestions.

If you need more insight there is a great blog post over on Search Engine Land about how Google Instant’s auto-complete works, and there’s a link there at the bottom of the screen that you can kinda se as well.

Auto-complete really changed the game and started to make suggestions, and it’s eliminated a lot of what we used to call the long-tail. But, at the same time, it’s getting people to the right place. For many searches it provides much better results.

Again, going back to my overall frustration, I was doing some searches, some Magento searches, in Google, and this was the search that set off the storm. I was doing a search for “Magento Nginx versus Apache”. Those are two different server software’s that run behind the scenes; not something you need to know about unless you are overly technical. But we had a very technical client asking for questions and feedback on each direction.

So I wanted to see what was out there. I got very frustrated very quickly because it was like, “Don’t we have content about this on our site?” It’s like I know that I’ve seen, promoted, liked, and shared blog postings around this very topic of Nginx and Apache on Magento. The answer was yes.

So I found the blog post and I was very frustrated about six month ago. I’m like, “Why doesn’t that show up?” I started to look and I started to do research, and I’m like, “Do we rank on page one in Google? Do we rank on page two? Do we rank on page three?” And basically, the answer was no. So we had this great content that was very specific to someone’s search based upon what Google was suggesting and we just weren’t showing up in the results for that search.

So it was, “All right. How are we going to kind of change our game here at Groove and start to look down a different path?” This is an example of what the old title would be and would a potential title would be if we were going to re-optimize that post. But we had kind of a very cute title that was: “Developer’s Toolbox: Need to Speed Up your High Traffic Magento Site? Start your Nginx”.

And so, really, again, it was that tree in the forest. We weren’t presenting the right keywords and content based upon the searcher’s expectations. If we were going to really optimize this blog for search, it would be: “Developer’s Toolbox: Nginx Versus Apache for Magento Sites”. We would use those words, “Nginx versus Apache” several times through the blog. And if were able to promote this out to your audience and get some Google+ 1’s, some Facebook likes, you will probably get a page one result for this type of tail word if you had the right content that was good.

And again, going back to my Google Panda presentation, you’ve got to have good, solid content. But with a few tweaks this posting would get a lot more organic SEO traffic.

We started to change direction and started to think about things differently here. Let’s do a sample search for “ecommerce web design trends”. And, again, that’s the Google auto-suggest giving suggestions. One of our frontend developers, Ryan McMurray, published a great blog about “2013 Ecommerce Design Trends to Watch For”. We got some great social traction with that. And next thing you know, for ecommerce web design trends, he gets a #1 search ranking for that word. And next thing you know, I’m going to show you here in a minute, we got some pretty significant traffic for that.

You can see the arrow there. We’ve done the author verification through Google so that they sync that with his author profile. He’s got a photo on there which has increased the amount of clicks that he gets for that traffic. But a #1 ranking for a very interesting word that wasn’t one of our prime keywords had a lot of effect.

If you look at “ecommerce web design trends for 2013”, we get a #2 ranking for that. And, to be honest, I’ll take that because the person ahead of him is in 5,133 Google+ circles, meaning a lot of people have kind of added him and this person is very popular, and Google syncs all of that information up. In that case I’ll definitely take a #2 behind that person because we would need to have a lot more social influence to get above that.

But again, a #2 ranking there for a very interesting keyword. And so, the results were, in basically just over a month, was it was kind of killing all of our other blog posts in terms of average traffic by almost 400%. So this very innocuous kind of term gets a lot of traffic by doing the right things.

So really thinking about, again, going to the Google auto-complete, typing in your searches and kind of seeing what comes back and blogging to those is a great strategy that you want to think about when you are crafting your blog topics.

So far this year, again, a blog that was posted in September has a significant amount of traffic based upon stuff that’s been [xx 19:20] for the last 12 months and in the top five pages for that.

So again, you really want to think about how you are kind of crafting your blog titles, how you are putting it together, and what the expectations are when people are searching for topics related to your business.

I want to ask you, what keywords describe you? That’s one of those exercises that you need to go through as part of your business. What keywords describe you as an organization?

Let’s dig into where we’re headed today, and that’s nine content ideas for great blogs in 2013. That would actually make a great blog title. If you search for content ideas for blogs 2013 that would align up with the types of things that people are looking for.

Let’s kind of dig into our first out of nine: Project cost and price. So, what questions are prospects and clients asking you when they call on the phone and talk to you? How long do typical projects take? What do typical X projects cost? What do X take to create?

There’s a huge argument about whether you give away pricing and timeframe within your website. People can go back and forth, and that’s been a topic of sales conversations since the end of time. This definitely isn’t something that you would be very exact about. I would use ranges—ranges of prices, ranges of timeframes to really kind of put that there and not paint yourself into a corner. But you can kind of see from the Google search down below, “How long to rehab a house?” “How long to build a Magento website?” “How long to implement HubSpot on your website?” “How long to implement a Wordpress site?” Those are the types of questions that people have. And there’s probably 10 or 20 ways that you could kind of run that through your industry.

So I would talk to your sales people, your customer support: “What are the types of questions they are asking you when they talk to you on the phone?”

Next is: 99 problems, but a blog ain’t one. What are the typical problems with your industry or products? An example is “Top Samsung TV problems”, “Top five Magento problems”, “Six common Wordpress problems”. Take a stand in your industry and educate people about the pitfalls that they are going to come across when they are going to purchase your products and services. People want to be educated on these things. So the more information that you can put out there, you can drive people in through a page that talks about the problems, educate them on the solutions to that problem, and they’re going to be very excited about what you’ve taught them. So, again, people are always looking for problems.

Versus and compare. Again, people always want to do versus. They always want to compare. Again, prospects are always looking for education. You can see here my example is “Best Buy versus H.H. Gregg”. You know, “Lowe’s versus Home Depot”, “Coke versus Pepsi”, “Wordpress versus Drupal”, “Magento versus Volusion”. You can go up to Google and you can start to type in the things that you do with “versus” and you can come back with a whole bunch of ideas for blog posts that will help you to educate and gain a lot of great organic traffic. You could brainstorm. And everybody on this call today could probably come up with 10-20 things that they could do “versus” with their industries and come back with a great result.

Lists. Top five lists and more lists, right? Everybody loves Dave Letterman and everybody loves the list.

Mack: Dave Letterman loves lists.

Ethan: Dave Letterman loves lists. So, top 10 lists, top five lists. People love things with numbers in them.

Mack: Nine blogging tips.

Ethan: [laughs] Nine blogging tips. That’s right. You’ll see here “Top five dishwashers under $500”, “Top five dishwashers for 2012—great blogging things if you sell dishwashers. You can replace dishwashers with anything that you do: “Eight reasons for X”, “65 reason for this”, “Five tips with that”, “10 tools you must have to be successful online.” People love to see these lists. We use them over and over again. I would suggest that you can replace your keywords in any of these, whether you are selling products or whether you offer a service. Again, great ways to build traffic, great ways to build excitement.

Next: Create an interview series. Reach out to industry leaders you respect. You can do that through Twitter. You can do that through Facebook. You can do that through email. Send someone 4-6 well thought out questions in a Word format. Link to them.

People love to do these. I do them all the time. People love to do these. And a great SEO hint is everyone loves a link. So if you say, “Listen, I will link to your site if you do this interview for me.” They will do it and they will love it, and it will be great, and you will get some great content. Then they are going to link back to you. They might not link back to on their blog, but they are definitely going to Tweet about it and they are going to be Facebooking about it, and you are going to be generating social links back to your site. So all of that social promotion is great.

Interviewing someone over the phone is a little bit challenging and it’s very difficult sometimes to get on people’s schedules. But if you can send out those interviews and let people complete them and send them back to you at their own time, whether it be midnight or one o’clock in the morning, people that are well respected are typically very busy. People that are successful are busy. So create that interview series, send those questions out, and start to get them back. You could basically send that out to 12 people and do one a month and there you go, you’ve got some great blog content for every month. You kind of add some of these other ideas in and you could do 2-3 blog posts a week and be generating great content that’s very search engine friendly.

Mack: They’re the gift that keep on giving. It is the holiday season. Links. There you go.

Ethan: It is the gift that keeps on giving. Next up: Humans love secret. Everybody loves a good secret. So why not the secret guide to X? “Cracking the X secret”, “Six ecommerce secrets you never knew”, “Holiday E-commerce Secrets from @ScentTrail”.

So think about creating, again, you are kind of building excitement. People love secrets. They love tips and ideas. So putting those out, people will click on those all day. If you are tweeting about this, and again, I would recommend that you are tweeting out this content on a regular basis. You are evergreening your old content and putting that out on a regular basis as well. We definitely have a very active Groove Commerce Twitter account, and there are posts that are very popular that are years old. We continue to tweet those out and they get traffic and likes all the time based upon that. So don’t think just because you tweet something once or you post it on Facebook once that’s enough. People are very busy and there’s a lot of noise out there, so you need to tweet it at different times of the day, different days of the week and really kind of put that out there and you will get clicks.

One of my best friends has an automotive website that educates on automotive selling, and he tweets out his most popular forum posts, some of which are five and six years old. And every time he tweets it they continue to get traffic and no one ever complains or unsubscribes. So, again, put that content out frequently and it will continue to always generate traffic.

Next is industry events and news. You want to show your thought leadership throughout the industry and provide some type of industry commentary. You want to make it worthwhile.

Some of the areas that are pretty easy and straightforward are things like conference previews and recaps. I’ve got a screenshot example of this. I was recently at PubCon in Las Vegas, 2012. You can kind of see there was a recap from that. There was also a recap from PubCon Paradise that was in Honolulu in the late winter. But you’ve got to be agile and fast to market when you are creating these.

If you are manufacturing or coming out with new products, you want to be fast with that. If changes are happening in industry organizations, those are things to tweet out and talk about. If there are conferences that are coming up, you could put content out about that and get lots of great traffic from that as well, too.

If you are going to be at conferences, another little side tip is to even take out some pay-per-click utilizing those conference names. It’s usually fairly inexpensive unless it’s a huge conference, and you can get some decent paid traffic as well to your site as part of that process, too.

Next we have: Show your experience. Let your prospects know your project and industry experience. You want to create some how-to’s. there’s probably a ton of things in your business that you can create how-to’s about. If you are an e-tailer I would create how-to’s about how to utilize the products that you sell. If you are on the services side you can create some how-to’s around the services that you offer.

I would make a recommendation of not to technical or detailed. You are not a how-to site. There’s other methods for that. But you want to show that experience. It’s a great way to even discuss things you are not allowed to talk about from a client perspective, from an NDA standpoint, but you could talk about your integrations and other things in a much more general way that doesn’t mention those things.

For example, how to integrate Wordpress and Magento. It’s a very commonly searched topic and we’ve got a great blog post about it. How to repair a dishwasher. If you sell dishwashers: “How to repair a dishwasher pump”, “How to repair dishwasher door spring”.

Mack: Did your replace your dishwasher recently? Is that what happened?

Ethan: I did. I’ve got a lot of dishwashers on my mind. I had to replace a dishwasher and it is much more confusing than you would think.

Again, I would really kind of think about how you can show your experience in your projects, how you can show your experience in the industry and create some great content in the process. If you’ve got people within your business that refuse to blog or can’t put that content together, a great way to kind of get this from them is to sit them down with your iPhone or an MP3 recorder and interview them on this, and then send it out, have it transcribed, edit it up and build a great blog post out of it. So there’s lots of ways to kind of get this out of folks within your business and not have to have them sit down and write 400-600 words about what is that they’re doing.

And then, next, our #9 is: The best of the year/Our top of the year. So be a judge. These are three of my favorite judges here from America’s Got Talent—Howard Stern, Sharon Osborne, and Howie Mandel. But be America’s judge.

Create industry lists about the top things in your industry—“The best of 2012”, “The top for 2012”. Create lists about things that are even outside of your specific realm. Create a list about people that are not specifically your clients or things that they do. Again, you will have the opportunity to get links and social mentions back from those folks if you are able to link them to that.

So, how can you put together top lists? How can you put together the best things around your business for 2012 and really kind of create those industry lists to kind of become that judge? Really set yourself out there as a judge within your industry and you will start to get traffic and buzz from that as you grow that and as you get more traffic.

Mack: With that, Ethan, we are going to kick off our final poll, the conversion point, if you will. So, real quick selfish question from us here at Groove: If you’d like to be contacted by us based on today’s content, I want you to go ahead and submit that response now. Just going to collect these poll results for a second and then we’ll close that out and get to Q&A. A lot of great questions coming in, Ethan, so excited to see where you weigh in on some of this.

Great topics. I think very effective tips, hopefully, as you all found today. So we’ll go ahead and close that poll out. Thanks, everyone, for your participation in that poll.

So, Ethan, we’re going to jump into Q&A. Want to let everybody know the 2013 blog calendar for Groove is finalizing itself as we work with some really exciting speakers to kick of the year. We are kind of dug on some exciting schedules, which makes for some moving webinar dates. Very excited about that, so everybody stay tuned.

In the meantime, if you are looking for some last minute tips…I think that would count as last minute at this point if you are still optimizing that holiday site…but download our e-book now. It’s available on the website. So we encourage you to do that. A lot of great feedback from people who have read it, really enjoyed the content in that as well. So, available at GrooveCommerce.com, and there’s the other ways you can contact us.

We want to leave that there for a second. Ethan, let’s jump into some of these questions. I’m going to start here with the first one that came in. “I’ve got a large product catalogue. Where do I start with blogging?” Sounds like an e-tailer, large SKU base, large inventory in terms of wide variety. They want to know, where do they get started? How do they decide? If they are going to get into this blogging thing, what do they do?

Ethan: I would really think about the best products and the best manufacturers that you sell and kind of bite off the top 10% of that. You start small and then you grow, and over time you begin to see results. I would create some buyer’s guides. I would create some gift guides. I would create some reviews of products. It’s a great way to kind of go there…top lists of the things that you sell.

E-tailers tend to try to be all things to everybody these days, but having an opinion matters. My good buddy Rob Snell, who I often speak with, from Gun Dog Supply is always…they take opinions on things. They have buyer’s guides and lots of good stuff there.

So I would have an opinion on that and I would state that opinion. But I would just lay out a path where you are going to create one blog a week about a very specific thing, map that out for a quarter, and next thing you know you are going to have 12 great blogs. When you get a point where you can grow it you add two blogs a week. Next thing you know you are going to have 24 great blogs. Start to put those resources together. At the end of six, seven months you are going to have a ton of content that’s all generating incremental traffic over time.

Mack: All right, Ethan. Next question, interesting one. This guy is asking: Some blogs elect not to post relative with a time and date on it, so as not to create a life expectancy for the blog. Any thoughts on that based on frequency as to that decision? This person wants to know, is this dishonest or does it encourage viewers to search and read it more?

Ethan: I would say it’s not dishonest at all. There’s definitely different strokes for different folks. There’s a whole kind of blog SEO conversation that you can get into around whether you want to have the post appear in a category or not, and yada, yada, yada. A lot of folks don’t put the date on there within the frontend. If you have an RSS feed or something you need to do that that way.

But it’s fine. There’s different strokes for different folks, as long as it’s timely, good content. One of the things that we’ve seen with the Panda update is kind of poorly written bad content is not showing up in the results like it used to.

As long as you are not doing anything that’s kind of Black Hat or wrong, if you don’t want to put the dates on your content that’s fine as well, too.

Mack: All right, next question. Tough one. Ideal block length. You talked about this a little bit, but any recommendation for folks? When is a blog a diatribe, I guess?

Ethan: I would look at, at least somewhere between 300-600 words. You are not writing “War and Peace”, but three sentences also aren’t that good. That’s what Twitter is for. So I always say that you want a solid block. You probably want an introductory paragraph, a closing paragraph, and 4-6 paragraphs in the middle. And really try to hit that 400-600 word mark and really have enough content there that Google is able to tell that that’s a real page and not just a templated page with two paragraphs of content in it.

Mack: OK, great. Next question. This is a debate. I know that Groove’s clients go different ways with this one in terms of decisions. But what’s your opinion on where the blog sits? Within the site? Do you grab a vanity URL of some kind? Do you kind of become an authority at some level? What’s the opinion? Inside, outside? What do you do?

Ethan: I really think it depends on the amount of overall content that you are planning on creating. And also, I think some of it is people have…it’s like going to the all you can eat buffet. People have big eyes, but ultimately the get fooled very fast. So don’t try to bite off more than you can chew with creating blogs.

For most folks, creating a blog within your site is where the SEO value is going to come. I would want to make sure that if I had a site, I would want to blog on my site where I had 1-3 posts a week going out. And if you have the ability to create more content than that, then maybe you can create a mini site. But a lot of the days of creating all these micro-sites all over the web are kind of fading. It’s hard to get enough links to those and enough social traction unless it’s something really interesting.

So if you already have a website, and I’m not talking about people that are just kind of blogging on things as their business strategy, I’m talking about blogs that are a part of a business, having it be a part of your site, being able to put up 1-3 posts is hard enough for most of our clients. So I would not put it on a subdomain. I’d put it as part of the site.

Mack: All right, next question. Another fun one for you: What kind of ROI should I expect from blogging, and how long is it going to take for me to get there? So, no pressure.

Ethan: Yeah, no pressure. I would say that we have had blogs that have won us six figure projects. We have blogs that are very popular month over month and continue to generate traffic. That said, if you are just starting out down this path, a great content strategy is going to take you 6-9 months to really realize.

As I kind of expressed my frustration earlier in the presentation, we were putting out a lot of great content, but we kinda needed to reevaluate ourselves the way that clients come to us and ask us to evaluate their strategies. It took kind of changing the direction of the ship, but we kind of got there, and it took about six months to really start to see that evolve to where we are today.

I would say that it’s not going to come fast. You may have some small wins that have nice increases, but it’s really going to take a good 6-9 months to see that kind of strategy really evolve to the place where you are generating consistent traffic and getting qualified leads coming through the door.

Mack: OK. This attendee feels with Amazon and Google owning the top of search results pages, is this something that can help other companies fight back? Is that kind of the insulation of today’s blog?

Ethan: Well, I don’t know that it’s necessarily as much fighting back as it’s being consistent and remaining competitive. If everyone is creating more content, it’s not just…people come to us all the time like, “Well, in 2006 I used to rank for these terms all #1 and I don’t anymore. What’s the problem?” You ask what they’ve done since then and it’s like, “Nothing.”

Your competitors are constantly getting better. So if you are not constantly getting better, Google’s grade of you is kind of getting lower and lower because they are seeing better and better content come out there.

So you gotta remain competitive to what other folks are doing, and this is a great way to do that. It’s true Amazon’s product pages are kind of notorious for having tons of great content based upon the reviews that come in from those products just from the overall scale of their sales. But if you are a smaller e-tailer or a niche e-tailer you can put out great content about your products, have an opinion, drive people to the right place and you are going to get good results from that over time.

Mack: Ethan, this e-tailer sells multiple brands and wants to know how they could do blogging around particular brand products without ticking off the other brands. I guess that’s the question here.

Ethan: The Snell Brothers have made it a point to kind of beat up their favorite manufacturer’s, and there’s definitely a great case study in what they’re doing, so much so that the manufacturers come to them to beta test products and give feedback.

If you don’t have an opinion, then what are you? I mean there’s tons of people out there that are just taking catalogue feeds and importing CSV’s into their website of drop shippable items. But if you are not going to have an opinion, what’s the value for you over Amazon?

Every manufacturer has strengths and weaknesses. When you go into Best Buy and look at TV’s, some of them have better color, some of them have better smart TV packages, some of them have better internet connectivity. Be honest about that and put that out there. Ultimately, that’s going to help you to sell more.

Mack: This next question sounds like something that we dealt with here at Groove. This person’s got a ton of great content on their site, but a lot of it doesn’t get much traffic anymore. So, a ton of blogs and not a lot of viewership. Anything to do to salvage that content?

Ethan: Well, first off, what we do when we look at folks’ sites and engage is we look at content on it. So, what are the pages on the site that are generating consistent traffic month over month through Google Analytics? What are the pages that are generating consistent conversions? And you want to make sure that you mark what they are.

But then, really important is what are the pages on your site that get zero or minimal amounts of traffic? So let’s say you have a blog and you’ve got 300, 400 posts on your blog, and you kind of do an evaluation and you find out, well, 200, 250 of my posts have gotten 10 clicks or less across 6-9 months. You really have to start to think about a couple of things there. Should you maintain that content? Again, it used to be that you could slap a page title and an H1 tag on a page and start to rank for tail terms. That’s all changed from the Panda update. So you want to start to evaluate is that content worthwhile, because Google is grading your site on the total number of pages that it finds. And if you have a couple hundred pages with low value, or outdated content, or just stuff that isn’t important anymore, I would really evaluate kind of cleaning that out every now and again and kind of jettison what isn’t getting traffic.

You probably have some good content in there that just needs to be re-optimized and updated. You don’t want to change the URL, but you might be able to go in and update it for 2012 if it was written in 2007. Update the page title a little bit and some of the content, relook at it, and you might be able to have some fresh content with just a little bit of polish there.

So you definitely have your top revenue producing content that you want to protect. Next you’ve got a level of content that’s good. It’s 400-600 words but it’s not really generating any traffic. Could it with a little bit of optimization? And then you just have kind of poor content that really just needs to go and shrink the overall base of your site.

That same kind of thing lends itself to e-tailers that don’t have product descriptions for some of their products. We make recommendations to “no index” those pages in Google because there’s no value to them and you are increasing the footprint of your site and you are lowering your overall quality of your site by having more pages indexed with no content.

So I would really evaluate what you have and see if you can’t punch some of it up and start to get some traffic from it.

Mack: OK. The next question is: How do you analyze your blog searches?

Ethan: In terms of revenue, you want to look at traffic, you want to look at conversions, you want to look at revenue. You want to see how people are signing up for your email list on our blog. There is a whole topic around just that aspect of things of engagement and conversion once you get them to your site.

So I would look at all of those things as important. I would look at visits. I would look at conversions. And I would look at revenue that’s driven from there.

Mack: I guess play that out on the other side. We’ve got a couple questions that all kind of touch on the same thing. Ethan, on the lead gen side, I’ve got one person saying, “I’ve got a long sales process” and I’ve got another person saying, “I’ve got a high-end purchase.” So the point from conversion leads them into the sales cycle. How do you use blogging in the mix here to kind of kick start that process?

Ethan: I think it’s all about kind of engagement on the site. So, can you get people to fill out and sign up for an email or an offer on your site and get them into the funnel and start to kind of engage them with some kind of email nurturing over time?

I think having expertise if you are selling high-end items, showing your expertise online is very important and will make people feel much more confident in making that purchase from you as you are selling those things. I think that all of this content that you are creating is helping to build your overall online reputation with the prospects that are visiting your site.

Mack: All right, next one. Fun question here. What is the magical day and time that you post your blog every week?

Ethan: [laughs] I think that that can change for everybody. I wouldn’t do that in the middle of the night. I would definitely figure out the best times of day to update your social presence, whether that be Facebook or Twitter. There’s a lot of great tools to do that. But I wouldn’t be worried, necessarily. You can try it and see based upon page views. But definitely when you post a blog you get initial traffic, but the goal is to kind of get an initial bump of traffic but get long-term consistent organic traffic. And so, that’s not as time sensitive in terms of Google’s mind. It’s going to take them some time to grab the content, get it in their index, and rank it, especially if it’s a new page on your site.

Mack: Couple more questions here, Ethan. One of the final ones here we had a couple people ask about this, the Google author verification process. Can you touch at a high level on that?

Ethan: Yeah. It’s really interesting, but Google wants you to kind of star to verify authorship of your blog and your blog posts with your Google+ profile. So that does a lot of things. We’ve kind of seen the first wave of that with Google Webmaster Tools. But we know that when you verify the authorship and you get that photo you get more clicks, especially if you have an attractive photo, like make sure that it’s not some crazy photo. People just don’t like to click on links with that.

If you are using Wordpress there are some great plugins that will help you kind of get there and do that. You basically need to insert some code into the HTML of your page. And then you need to go to your Google+ profile page and enter some code on that page to verify yourself as well.

So you can kind of do that as both a publisher at a high level on your site and you can do that as an author level as well, too. It’s something that is going to drive more value in terms of organic SEO.

Mack: All right, Ethan. Final question of the day. This person wants to know, “So how do I have a conversion point or a call to action in my blog without it seeming like a blatant sales pitch?”

Ethan: I would come up with something and think about an offer on your site, whether you have products or services, to get people to engage with you, to sign up for an email list, or to take some kind of assessment, or to download something that you make available. That’s kind of moving people from that anonymous stage to really kind of the top of the sales funnel in your website and kind of increments them towards the middle of the funnel and bottom of the funnel.

So you always want to be moving those chains forward. You are creating good content, so sometimes you can be a little blatant with it. There’s different types of buying personas. A lot of folks want to do more research and learn more about the things that you are doing. If you can provide that to them they will gladly give up some demographic information to do that.

Mack: Awesome. Awesome content today. Again, everyone, want to thank you for joining us for this December webinar series. I hope you’ve found today’s topic useful. This webinar, as always, will be available online within the next few days.

But thank you for joining us. Ethan, thank you as always. Awesome content.

Ethan: Thank you very much, Mack. Glad to be here and happy holidays to everyone.

Mack: All right, everyone. Thanks so much. As we said, 2013 webinar schedule we’ll be finalizing on our site soon. In the meantime, follow us, tweet with us, play with us on Facebook, connect with us through email. You’ll stay up on all the latest and greatest coming out of Groove Commerce. Happy holidays to everybody. Thanks so much. Have a great day.

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