The Point

Archive for the ‘Search/SEO’ Category


32 Ways a Digital Marketing Consultant Can Help Grow Your Business

A lot of clients—marketing professionals and business owners—get in touch and ask me to help plan, write, and create websites, eBooks, and blog posts. That’s far from a complete list, but three common requests.

On the other hand, a lot of clients reach out to me without a specific task list in mind. They know they want to grow their business. They know they want to produce traffic, leads and sales. And they think they need the help of digital marketing consultant.

They’re right, but their question is often oh-so-broad: “How can you help me?”

Shwew. My answer could be any number of things and at that point, not having the benefit of knowing where their digital marketing currently stands, I’m seldom able to quickly deliver a perfect answer.

I certainly don’t want to blurt out a specific digital marketing tactic… “YouTube is the answer” or “An email campaign will make rain for you.” That’d be reckless.

A digital marketing consultant should recommend tactics based on needs identified from a carefully considered audit. I’m a strategist. I’m a copywriter. But I’ve been doing digital marketing since it existed, so there are a substantial number of ways I can help you grow your business through digital marketing.

Here they are.

The list won’t magically nail an effective strategy, but my hope is it’ll provide some answers to the “How can you help me?” question and give us lots to talk about.




Do Backlinks Still Matter?


True or false? Backlinks are the holy grail of search results.

The confusion remains. The speculation continues. And the research keeps pouring forth. The more you read this stuff, the less clear you are on the answers.

See, anyone can publish their take on SEO ranking factors. The search results themselves may be our best measure of credibility, unfortunately. Search engines are pretty amazing, but they’re definitely not lie detectors.

Even so, I asked Google for the answer. Or I should say, I asked Google to show me the top ten results for my question. I’m going to show you what I found, reflect on how much of what I read matters, and close with my opinions.

FYI: the data I present in the “numbers” for each search result come from:


  • MozBar—for links and domain authority (DA)
  • Buzzsumo—for social shares (which excludes Buffer and many popular networks and isn’t always up to date)

Here are the first five results on my SERP (search engine results page). (more…)


SEO 2017: User Experience Optimization is What Matters Most [The Poodle Update]

SEO 2017 - Poodle

I’m going to scope out my take on SEO 2017.

Take it for what it’s worth. See, I don’t know what most SEO experts know. I’m a different kind of search engine optimization expert.

I’m a reluctant SEO expert

I never used the term “SEO” to describe my services or myself. I never liked the term “search engine optimization.” I never liked studying it. And I certainly never considered myself an expert.

Until I became one.

I learned how to separate the wheat from the chaff (oy) and do the research and writing required to publish content that appears on the first page of search. A lot of my posts and pages appear there. A lot of them got there fast—with no link building, buying or bartering.

What can I say? I should write a book about SEO to help simplify it for you. Wait, I did that.

Learn the essentials of SEO in under an hour banner

So heed my disclaimer. Want scientifically extracted theories about causation and correlation? I’m going to let you down.

Want me to reveal, review or re-order the 200-plus search ranking factors you need to know to form more informed hypotheses about the world’s most mysterious algorithm? Goodbye and good luck.

You’ll have to settle for some simple speculation

The future of search is about the user experience. If it needs a name, we’ll call it user experience optimization. UXO? Why not?

The history of search was about relationships. Not human relationships, but relationships between websites, a.k.a., links. I’m not dissing links. They played an immense role. They still do.

Links fuel the machine. The Google database, enormous beyond comprehension, stores the locations of pages that are published, what’s on the pages, and which pages point to the pages. It wouldn’t work otherwise.

For better or for worse, links became the name of the game. The game became seedy. An endless appetite for backlinks gave birth to a business where ethics became optional.

I should know. Because of my achievements in guest blogging, and to a lesser degree, the momentum of my own blog, I’m often perceived to be (and pursued as) a link in the chain to bigger and better links. Translation: link seekers seek me. Everyday.

But there’s a problem with all this lust for links. People don’t care about links. Search engines do. People care about content.

We’re all outsiders trying to look into how Google does its thing. We know far less than we’d like, but we can agree on a few things:

  • Google sells ads and allocates its most valuable page real estate to those willing to pay for them.
  • Google’s less concerned about rewarding non-advertisers with clicks than it once was.
  • Still, Google aims to reveal pages containing the content its users want.
  • Google tracks and analyzes what happens after we click.

The point I’m making is based on that fourth bullet. What happens after we click, the user experience, is what will matter most going forward.

User experience optimization is based on three things

  1. Clicks
  2. Consumption
  3. Action

Got it? There might be better names for these things and I suspect us marketing folks will throw everything we’ve got at labeling them. Let’s settle for clicks, consumption and action for now. And let’s get into ‘em a bit. (more…)


Why Content Marketers Must Understand Domain Authority

Copy of Episode 13

The content marketing planets aligned when your hosts, Andy and Barry, selected theme music for our program written and recorded by our friend (and content astronaut) Robert Rose.

The groove of the tune was the reason it worked for us, but if you listen closely, you hear a vocal loop Robert uses with a female singing, “It’s gonna’ take a little time.”

She might have been rapping about content marketing. Or search. Or building “domain authority” (DA).

We’re riffing on these things in this episode with a focus on the increasingly important measure of domain authority. Andy’s published answers to common questions about DA on the Orbit Media blog and now his extensive knowledge on the topic is ready to be fed directly to your ear drums.


Tune in for 22 minutes to learn:

  • What is domain authority (DA)?
  • How’s it compare to Google’s PageRank metric?
  • What’s page authority (PA)?
  • Which one matters more for keyword research, DA or PA?
  • How measure the value of a link from another website to inform your planning process
  • Must-do techniques to increase your domain authority (and the magnetic power of your website)



White Hat vs. Black Hat SEO: Are You Wearing the Right One?

 White and black hat SEO


State of SEO 2016: Is Black Hat SEO Really Dead?

The white hat vs. black hat SEO debate rages on. And many remain confused. Blogger Gareth Simpson, an SEO Consultant based in Bristol, UK, offered this post to help you get your head around the issue. 

The way that SEO marketing has been going over the last few years seems to proudly proclaim the death of all black hat methods, nailing the coffin lid shut unceremoniously in blog post after blog post.

White hat SEO and white hat link-building are now being touted as the only way to do SEO in 2016. But if search engines officially want completely unmanipulated search results, where do you draw the line with white hat link-building? Isn’t some white hat SEO really taking a leaf out of the black hat book? It’s time to cut through the hype and be honest about the state of SEO.

Origins of the white hat/black hat divide

During the history of trade & commerce, there’s always been people willing to take risks and use ‘creative’ tactics to sell products or services. In that way, black hat SEO is no different to many other forms of marketing and selling.

After Google had made backlinks a ranking factor, differentiating itself from all other search engines at the time, SEO really took off. Black hat tactics flooded the internet, from keyword stuffing to blog comment spam and content cloaking. For many years, these tactics were widely used across the entire SEO community. It wasn’t until a few years ago that Google made a lot of people in SEO clear up their act, after it had finally developed algorithms to sift through SERPS better.

Google hit out with its succession of updates targeting low quality SEO: Panda in 2011, Penguin in 2012 and Hummingbird in 2013. This post recaps some of the updates’ effects on SEO.

Many sites, link farms and blog networks were hit with massive penalties, some never recovering. This scared people into clearing up their SEO act; many SEOs renounced their black hat ways- saying goodbye to spam and tactics like hiding text from users ‘for good’. Many felt that black hat SEO would never recover.

But now, years later, black hat SEO seems to be still very much around, despite proclamations to the contrary. So if black hat SEO is not dead, what is happening to it instead? Where is SEO, both white hat and black hat, going in 2016? (more…)


The Way To Do SEO that Works [Content Matters Episode 11]

Episode 11 Content Matters

If you want to start cranking your ranking, you need to understand SEO that works. 

Just a few years back you might have achieved super SEO powers by droppging keyword bombs on your pages and “acquiring” links here, there and everywhere.

Welcome to 2016 where getting your pages and posts to top Google’s search pages calls for the right balance of basic on-page SEO tactics and a serious commitment to creating a stellar experience for your visitor.



SEO Blog Post Checklist: 21 Ways to Crank How You Rank

21 Point Blog Post Checklist


This “SEO blog post checklist” gives you:

21 tips, organized in three lists, to cover:

  1. 5 ways to optimize a blog post for SEO
  2. 10 tactics to help engage readers and realize greater success with social media
  3. 6 elements that will embellish your blog posts and inspire readers to spend more time on your site

By applying these techniques, you’ll make serious progress toward getting your blog posts discovered via search and social media—and read and shared more.

5 steps to optimize your blog post for search

All credit to Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media, the author of the web content checklist, the source of these tips. Andy begins with five elements you need to optimize to indicate the relevance of your blog post to the search engines. These are the key places to use target phrases and increase the likelihood your blog post or page will rank. (more…)


The 4 Indispensable Pillars of Effective Digital Marketing [Free eBook Too]

Pillars of effective digital marketing

We’re going to talk about post website depression (PWD).

If you’re a sufferer, I urge you not to be embarrassed. You’re hardly alone.

Generally, PWD is preceded with wild mood swings. For months you’re knee-deep in the grind. Meetings and conference calls. Site maps and wireframes. Copy and code. Layouts and links. Flurries of emails. Portals. Staging sites. Browser testing. Blood, sweat and title tags.

Then finally…

After an exhausting Friday of tedious troubleshooting you’ve blasted past every last imperfection (you think). The flip gets switched over the weekend and you’re live. The new site looks tight. It loads in a flash. Isn’t the web wonderful?

High fives are flying all around the office Monday morning. The boss even sprung for donuts. But in the coming days, the buzz wanes. A week or two later, the source of your depression becomes clear: a million perfectly composed pixels can amount to zero effect on the business.

4 Pillars - eBook



This is a 4,000-word post. If you’d rather “Pocket” it or download it to read at another time, click here or the image on the left to get a free eBook version.


It’s time to call a content marketer

That’s me. And this is a call I’m a part of a lot.

I’m happy to have this call because I can answer most of the questions and steer the ship forward from here. But I must admit, this call tends to include two waffles I could live without.

Waffle 1: Uncertainty

I told you the impetus behind this consultation: PWD. The company’s learned a new website in and of itself is no rainmaker. Now, at least to some extent, the marketer/owner/person I’m talking to realizes her or his company needs more than a shinier home on the web; they need a more significant digital footprint.

They need to publish content—onsite and off (but first, on) so they get discovered more. Known more. Liked more. Trusted more. This is how digital marketing works.

But then, ugh, the question, the inevitable question, dare I say, the “you’ve got to be kidding me” question…

“Barry, in our business we’re not so sure potential new clients go online to blah, blah, blah, blah, blah (read, research, make decisions, buy, etc.).

Here’s what I think at that moment: Are you serious? Where do you think they go? Where do they get their books? Where do they do research for their personal needs? Where did you find me? And WHY are we talking?

Here’s what I say at that moment: Yes, they do. (And the client knows it.)

And one more thing: In digital marketing it’s dangerous to forge a strategy based on what you think or your opinion. You need to know how your prospects and customers behave.

Waffle 2: Commitment

Somehow we get past the ridiculousness. It’s understood: content must be produced. We proceed to the double-headed time and money monster. This part of the conversation could go a number of ways and at this point it’s a bit premature to do a content marketing plan, but to do my part I say what needs to be said:

Yes, it’s going to take time and money. And if you’re not committed to it long term, you’ll be wasting both.

So what’s it to take to make digital marketing work?

The most successful businesses are becoming customer-centric marketing machines. They’re able to:

Research indicates buyers are commonly two-thirds (or more) of the way through their journey before they reach out to the vendor. Marketing’s role has become enormously different.

  • Marketing is sales. Marketing—not sales—guides buyers through the early stages of the buying process.
  • Touch points multiply. Marketers need to engage customers across an expanding array of channels.
  • Timeliness is crucial. Relevant marketing messages and content must be delivered fast and at every stage of the buyer’s journey.

Good news: your company can shift into digital gear to become more in touch with your customers’ needs, more responsive in delivering the content they seek when it matters most, and more effective and efficient.

Though there are countless strategies that may come into play there are four pillars of effective digital marketing your company needs to master:

1. Content marketing
2. Search engine optimization
3. Social media marketing
4. Marketing analytics

None of the above is optional. Think of them as four legs of a stool or table that forms the foundation of your digital marketing. Try to get by without one and your foundation falls down.

Digital marketing CTA banner

I’m now going to dive into each of the four to help you begin to get a basic understanding of the pillars of effective digital marketing. (more…)


Digital Marketing Basics: Simplified and Comprehensive

Digital marketing basics

Marketing works differently now.

Push is out. Pull is in.

You have to think inbound.

Traditional “outbound” marketing tactics that dominated the pre-Google world are now alarmingly ineffective. We all have the power to filter out advertising and we’re not afraid to use it.

The customer is in control. The communications process begins if and when the customer wants. Without advertising. Without phone calls. Without you.

Instead of pushing out messages via paid media, to reach this customer, you must put the power of content marketing, search, and social media to work. The relationship with your brand begins there.

SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate, while outbound leads
(such as direct mail or print advertising) have a 1.7% close rate.
~ Search Engine Journal

To be an effective marketer, you have to do a complete 180. The strategy is to pull people to your website with magnetic content.

Additional resource: introduction to inbound marketing.

Define objectives by beginning with the end in mind

“Our digital marketing isn’t working.” 

The great thing about digital marketing is how easy it is to measure results. So if you say the program isn’t working, it’s only a valid assessment if you’ve defined what “working” actually means.

Your sales and marketing team must agree on the program’s objective. Objectives differ from company to company, site to site, and program to program. Generally speaking, the mission is to generate traffic, leads and sales.

Are you aiming to expand an email database? Sell off the page? Foster word of mouth?

You’re going to experience failure and success. Digital marketing is forever experimental. You know what you need to conduct a meaningful experiment, right?

You need an outcome.

Additional resource: fast-track approach to setting objectives and planning.

Digital marketing CTA banner



How to Take Advantage of the Web’s Two Most Important Words

Two most important words

Two words: how to. Simple. Effective. Foolproof. Timeless.

“How to” are the two most important words on the web. Experienced writers know it. Now you do too.

Should every headline begin with “how to?”

No. That’d be boring as the Celine Dion catalog.

Should every business blog include how-to articles?

Yes. Some blogs use the technique in practically every post. Again, snoozeville. Some bloggers purposely avoid the “how to” headline. They find it too cliché. Big mistake. Here’s the thing about clichés: people get ‘em.

You can make every post title include “how to” or never type the two words your entire publishing career. Doesn’t matter.

What does matter is your blog posts, web pages, infographics, podcasts, videos, SlideShares, and every friggen helping of content you serve should serve your audience. The sooner you start applying this principle, the sooner you’ll have an audience.