Aim for the Stars: Creating Truly Killer Skyscraper Content by @IAmAaronAgius

Aim for the Stars: Creating Truly Killer Skyscraper Content by @IAmAaronAgius

If you feel like it has become increasingly difficult to capture your audience’s attention and traffic is lagging despite your rigorous content schedule, then you’re not alone. The way audiences consume content and what they want from it continues to change. Audiences are demanding more value, and search engines like Google have no intention of giving your content top billings in the SERPs until that value is proven.

Don’t forget about the growing competition from other brands that are cranking out more content and flooding the already crowded pools of web content in nearly every industry imaginable.

Although 60% of marketers struggle to create engaging content, the majority (over 75%) of marketers still plan to produce more content this year. That trend isn’t likely to change, either.

But if your existing content isn’t generating traffic, and repurposing your best stuff isn’t doing much to move the needle, what other option do you have when it feels like your content campaigns are failing?

Before you throw your budget into paid promotions and sponsored posts to gain visibility, you should try the Skyscraper Technique.

What is Skyscraper Content?

The Skyscraper Technique is an approach to creating content for the purpose of producing a large volume of quality backlinks, all organically developed and completely on the level. This system was devised by Brian Dean over at Backlinko and he has shared a few case studies that show just how effective this method is:

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While the primary intent is to create backlinks, it’s also a foolproof method for generating a lot of organic traffic within a short span of time.

The major benefit of creating a surge of relevant traffic is that a percentage of those visitors are going to stick around. Also, the content is so well-shared that you’ll generate a ton of new visitors who will continue to return to your site.

So, what makes Skyscraper content much more effective than what you’re already producing?

In this case, you’re sourcing topics that are already pretty popular, including already-published content with a large volume of shares. You take that content and inject as much value as you can to fill in the gaps, creating a more comprehensive and engaging piece.

That high-value content is then promoted out to a very specific audience to maximize its reach within a short time frame. The result is an explosion in referral traffic and massive gains in quality backlinks.

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Why Skyscraper Content is So Effective

Think about the last time you had an intense craving for a specific type of food. When you finally got your hands on it, the feeling of satisfaction and relief was overwhelming. You fulfilled an intense demand for something, which impacted you on a psychological – and probably emotional – level.

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That’s one of the reasons this technique is so effective. There is already a demand for the type of content or topic. Tens of thousands of people online already indicate interest in the topic by the volume of shares. It’s clearly something they want, and if they already love it that much, imagine how satisfying it would be to get even more valuable content on the same topic.

This is the other reason why the Skyscraper Technique is so effective for racking up traffic. Rather than guessing what might work with your audience, you already know what they want. They have been primed and in turn, they’ve shown their cards.

You know exactly what is going to excite them, so it should be easy to create something that will blow them away.

Lastly, because of how well the original content was shared, you know that by creating something better, you will be able to target key publications among the distribution channels and audience to get massive exposure.

The more shares you get, the greater that spike in organic traffic and backlinks will be.

Creating Awesome Skyscraper Content

Producing top-notch content that delivers the kind of results seen in Backlinko’s case studies might seem like a deeply-involved process. However, it doesn’t take much more time than you might otherwise spend creating content from scratch.

In one case study, Brian revealed that it only took about six hours to create a single piece of content that produced over 17,000 visitors in one day.

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There’s a simple formula to follow to make this technique work for you:

1. Source the Best Content Opportunities

There are several ways to find hot topics that your audience is searching for, and some of these ways require a little more legwork than others.

  • Watch the communities: Tune into larger, more popular groups and forums where your customers spend their time, including relevant subreddits on Reddit.com. Find the most upvoted content or the top discussions. Watch for articles that are heavily shared and transform the hottest discussions into content ideas for your site.
  • Check aggregate sites: Sites like Alltop not only list what’s new from major publications, but they also show you the most popular stories that are trending or featured within any given industry.
  • Watch competitors: Keep a close eye on what your competitors are doing, especially the well-entrenched incumbents. Doing this will make it easier to pinpoint when some of their content gets picked up and carried by followers.
  • Use BuzzSumo: This is the easiest method to source the top content of all time for any given topic. Plug in your search term and BuzzSumo will return a list of articles ranked by the volume of shares.

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2. Create a Distribution Plan

Every content strategy needs a distribution plan. Even the best content won’t perform if it’s not promoted effectively. The first step is to build your foundation on who shared the original content.

In BuzzSumo, you can view the backlinks and sharers then make a list of the most prominent and influential people and publications. That’s who you’ll target with your promotions.

Also, consider what other channels you can use to promote your content. These could vary based on the format of your content, but be sure to check out LinkedIn Pulse, Medium, SlideShare, Reddit, StumbleUpon, and targeted communities where your audience spends their time.

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3. Build a Better Mousetrap

The approach is quite simple here: take the original content and find ways to make it better. You don’t want to copy it, but you certainly want to take a topic that people loved and reproduce it in a way that is 10x better than the original:

  • Give it a new angle
  • Update statistics and data
  • Flesh it out to add more value
  • Improve the visuals
  • Fill in any gaps to make it a more comprehensive piece

Alternatively, you could produce something better in a different format than the original. For example, take a short podcast or infographic and create an amazing, in-depth blog post on a similar topic.

4. Publish and Start Promoting

Once your content is live, it’s time to gain momentum. Reach out to those who shared the original on social media and tip them off to your new-and-improved content.

For publications that linked to the original, connect with their editors and show genuine interest in providing value to their audiences. Share your content with them and be clear about what you’re asking. Don’t be afraid to ask them to share it.

Conclusion

The keystone of the Skyscraper Technique is value, so make sure you’ve created a truly comprehensive piece with takeaways that align with the audience of the original. Through targeted outreach and expanded distribution to new channels, you should see a sharp increase in traffic and backlinks for your Skyscraper content.

Then continue to replicate the process for other great content you already created to expand your audience and visibility.

Have you used the Skyscraper Technique for building traffic and links? Share your results with me in the comments below.

Image Credits

Featured Image: cegoh/DepositPhotos.com
All screenshots by Aaron Agius. Taken September 2016.

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Tom Anthony Talks About the Future of Search on #MarketingNerds

Tom Anthony Talks About the Future of Search on #MarketingNerds

Visit our Marketing Nerds archive to listen to other Marketing Nerds podcasts!

In this Marketing Nerds episode, SEJ Chief Social Media Strategist, Brent Csutoras, was joined by Tom Anthony, Head of Research & Development at Distilled, to talk about the future of search, other technology trends, and how to put it all together to understand the main trajectories in the industry.

#MarketingNerds: Tom Anthony on the Future of Search | SEJ

Here are a few excerpts from Brent and Tom’s conversation, but be sure to listen to the podcast to hear everything.

Why Thinking About the Future is Good for SEO

Thinking about the future, I just think is so important for doing good SEO. We don’t want to be doing SEO in a way that next year, we’re undoing the things that we did this year.

So, I pushed for Will and Duncan, the founders of Distilled, that we should have a department that just focuses on trying to understand the future—trying to know where is Google taking us and how we can use our understanding of that right now.

So, a large part of my role is looking at the publications that Google puts out, looking out anything they’re blogging about, the other technology trends, trying to put it all together, and thread everything together to understand the main trajectories.

It’s impossible to understand exactly where we will go, but if you understand the main direction, [it’s] surprising how often that’s helpful in setting strategies for our clients.

How Voice Search Will Affect the Future of Search

Voice is something we’ve been talking about a lot, and it’s similar to how we talked about the year of the mobile. At some point in that conversation, we surpassed the moment that we were in the year of the mobile, so it was the era of the mobile, but there was never a watershed moment.

We’ve been talking about voice search for a couple of years now. There’s not going to be a watershed moment. It’s just going to slowly increase in importance until, one day, somebody will realize how important it is.

I think in May this year, Bing said that 20% of mobile queries are now voice searches, and if you look at the fact that mobile traffic almost doubled in 2015, then you start to realize, “Okay, this is starting to become something that’s appreciably huge.”

20% of the search pie is on mobile which means it is something we should be paying attention to.

Issues in Adopting Voice Search Technology

I think there is a concern and there isn’t a concern. You got to remember that you and I are in the industry. We’re playing with technology earlier than most people are starting to use them.

By the time they start to get more mainstream, the error rate in the last two years dropped from 25% to 8% for Good voice queries. Apple has talked about similar numbers with the machine learning that they’ve been doing to understand Siri queries.

Google put a related function on Android where you can lock the phone with just your voice, so it recognizes your voice. I think we might start to see devices doing that sort of learning. Apple is doing a lot of machine learning where their learning happens on the device as part of the privacy standpoint.

How Can Marketers Pay Attention to Voice Search?

The exciting thing about voice search, from my perspective, isn’t the fact that it’s using your voice. It’s the fact that when you speak a query you naturally use natural language.

This lends itself to doing that sort of conversational query type thing, where I revise a query. So I ask a question, and then I say, “Actually, Siri, I meant this, so find me a list of recipes books. Actually, just show me the vegetarian ones.” You start getting what I call compound queries where I do a follow-up query to either revise my initial query or ask something else.

Once you have this natural language interface, you start to remove some of the barriers of having a visual interface. As soon as you have a natural language interface, and there are no visual indicators, you remove all of those barriers, and so people start doing far more complex queries than ever before.

I think that’s going to have a massive knock-on effect regarding the types of queries we see people doing, which is going to lead to us having to do SEO in a different way.

An example is something I call faceted search. At the moment, a typical e-commerce search query might be I search for fridge/freezers in Google. I get a list of ten blue links. I click on one. I go off to a website. I see a whole bunch of fridges. There, I might filter and sort those fridges, and then none of those are right. I bounce back to the search engine. I click another blue link, and I go off into another round of filtering and sorting.

What we’re going to see happen is people expect to be able to do all of that inside the search engine, so I’m going to say, “Show me a list of fridge/freezers that have a capacity of 40 liters for the freezer section or more,” and Google is going to have to be able to start answering those queries.

Making Computers Do the Work for You

That’s the terrifying, exciting future; but we’re not there yet.

It’s another one of those things. It will gradually creep up on us, and I think we’re already going to start to see the computers doing stuff for us.

We’re already starting to see that. If you look at Google inbox, 10% of the messages people send from the Google Inbox app have been written by a machine-learning app called Smart Answers that you send me an email, and it just suggests what I should reply. And 10% of the replies people are sending are being written by the algorithm, so we’re already starting to see computers doing stuff for us.

At some point down the line, it’s not even going to wait for me to say, “Yes, send that email.” It’s just going to send it for me.

I think we’ll see in the next two or three years is something that I call computational queries.

We’re going to see the computer starting to help you process a query. For example, I might say, “Find vegetarian restaurants near the city center which are well-rated and let me know which are closest.”

That search query is quite complex because it needs to know my context, it needs to know what city center am I talking about. It needs to go away and look up those vegetarian restaurants; then it needs to look up how well rated they are. It needs to understand what do I mean by well-rated, because what I mean by well-rated might be different to what you mean by well-rated, so it’s got a personalization aspect.

Then I want to know which ones are closest, so then it needs to go and look up that information based on the results of the first part of the query, but it needs to do all of that in one go, in one step, and those computational queries.

I think it’s very realistic that we will see those in the next two or three years, and those could have a dramatic impact on SEO.

Conversational Search Queries

There’s an interview that was published last year with a Google engineer. I can’t remember who it was, but he talked about exactly that scenario where you ask Google a query.

It’s probably going to be a voice query because that lends itself to this conversational approach, and it says, “Did you mean this or that?” It was trying to make sure it properly understood your intent because that’s something that has been a key goal of Google with search queries.

To listen to this Marketing Nerds Podcast with Brent Csutoras and Tom Anthony:

Think you have what it takes to be a Marketing Nerd? If so, message Kelsey Jones on Twitter, or email her at kelsey [at] searchenginejournal.com.

Visit our Marketing Nerds archive to listen to other Marketing Nerds podcasts!

 

Image Credits

Featured Image: Image by Paulo Bobita
In-post Photo: LDProd/DepositPhotos.com

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Webmaster Forums Top AMP Questions

Webmaster Forums Top AMP Questions

It has been busy here at Google Webmaster Central over the last few weeks, covering a lot of details about Accelerated Mobile Pages that we hope you have found useful. The topics have included:

We’ve also been seeing a few AMP questions coming to the Webmaster forums about getting started using AMP on Google Search. To help, we’ve compiled some of the most common questions we’ve seen:

Q: I’m considering creating AMP pages for my website. What is the benefit? What types of sites and pages is AMP for?

Users love content that loads fast and without any fuss – using the AMP format may make it more compelling for people to consume and engage with your content on mobile devices. Research has shown that 40% of users abandon a site that takes more than three seconds to load. The Washington Post observed an 88% decrease in article loading time and a 23% increase in returning users from mobile search from adopting AMP.

The AMP format is great for all types of static web content such as news, recipes, movie listings, product pages, reviews, videos, blogs and more.

Q: We are getting errors logged in Search Console for AMP pages; however, we already fixed these issues. Why are we still seeing errors?

The short answer is that changes to your AMP pages take about a week to be updated in Search Console. For a more in-depth answer on why, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller shared a detailed post on Search Console latency challenges.

Q: Our AMP pages are not showing up on Google Search. What should we do?

Only valid AMP pages will be eligible to show on Google Search. Check the validity of your  AMP pages by using the AMP HTML Web Validator, the Chrome or Opera Extension or through a more automated process such as a cron job to make sure all new content is valid.

While it’s good practise overall to include schema.org structured data in your AMP pages (we recommend JSON-LD), it’s especially important for news publishers. News content that includes valid markup properties are eligible to be shown within the Top Stories section in Google Search results. To test your structured data, try using the structured data testing tool.

If you have more questions that are not answered here, share your feedback in the comments below or on our Google Webmasters Google+ page. Or as usual, feel free to post in our Webmasters Help Forum.

Posted by Tomo Taylor, AMP Community Manager

via Google Webmaster Central Blog Read More…

Webmaster Forums Top AMP Questions

Webmaster Forums Top AMP Questions

It has been busy here at Google Webmaster Central over the last few weeks, covering a lot of details about Accelerated Mobile Pages that we hope you have found useful. The topics have included:

We’ve also been seeing a few AMP questions coming to the Webmaster forums about getting started using AMP on Google Search. To help, we’ve compiled some of the most common questions we’ve seen:

Q: I’m considering creating AMP pages for my website. What is the benefit? What types of sites and pages is AMP for?

Users love content that loads fast and without any fuss – using the AMP format may make it more compelling for people to consume and engage with your content on mobile devices. Research has shown that 40% of users abandon a site that takes more than three seconds to load. The Washington Post observed an 88% decrease in article loading time and a 23% increase in returning users from mobile search from adopting AMP.

The AMP format is great for all types of static web content such as news, recipes, movie listings, product pages, reviews, videos, blogs and more.

Q: We are getting errors logged in Search Console for AMP pages; however, we already fixed these issues. Why are we still seeing errors?

The short answer is that changes to your AMP pages take about a week to be updated in Search Console. For a more in-depth answer on why, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller shared a detailed post on Search Console latency challenges.

Q: Our AMP pages are not showing up on Google Search. What should we do?

Only valid AMP pages will be eligible to show on Google Search. Check the validity of your  AMP pages by using the AMP HTML Web Validator, the Chrome or Opera Extension or through a more automated process such as a cron job to make sure all new content is valid.

While it’s good practise overall to include schema.org structured data in your AMP pages (we recommend JSON-LD), it’s especially important for news publishers. News content that includes valid markup properties are eligible to be shown within the Top Stories section in Google Search results. To test your structured data, try using the structured data testing tool.

If you have more questions that are not answered here, share your feedback in the comments below or on our Google Webmasters Google+ page. Or as usual, feel free to post in our Webmasters Help Forum.

Posted by Tomo Taylor, AMP Community Manager

via Google Webmaster Central Blog Read More…

Optimizing for RankBrain… Should We Do It? (Is It Even Possible?) – Whiteboard Friday

Optimizing for RankBrain... Should We Do It? (Is It Even Possible?) - Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

If you’ve been stressing over how to optimize your SEO for RankBrain, there’s good news: you can’t. Not in the traditional sense of the word, at least. Unlike the classic algorithms we’re used to, RankBrain is a query interpretation model. It’s a horse of a different color, and as such, it requires a different way of thinking than we’ve had to use in the past. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand tackles the question of what RankBrain actually is and whether SEOs should (or can) optimize for it.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about RankBrain SEO and RankBrain in general. So Google released this algorithm or component of their algorithm a while ago, but there have been questions for a long time about: Can people actually do RankBrain SEO? Is that even a thing? Is it possible to optimize specifically for this RankBrain algorithm?

I’ll talk today a little bit about how RankBrain works just so we have a broad overview and we’re all on the same page about it. Google has continued to release more and more information through interviews and comments about what the system does. There are some things that potentially shift in our SEO strategies and tactics around it, but I’ll show why optimizing for RankBrain is probably the wrong way to frame it.

What does RankBrain actually do?

So what is it that RankBrain actually does? A query comes in to Google. Historically, classically Google would use an algorithm, probably the same algorithm, at least they’ve said sort of the same algorithm across the board historically to figure out which pages and sites to show. There are a bunch of different ranking inputs, which we’ve talked about many times here on Whiteboard Friday.

But if you search for this query today, what Google is saying is with RankBrain, they’re going to take any query that comes in and RankBrain is essentially going to be a query interpretation model. It’s going to look at the words in that query. It’s potentially going to look at things possibly like location or personalization or other things. We’re not entirely sure whether RankBrain uses those, but it certainly could. It interprets these queries, and then it’s going to try and determine the intent behind the query and make the ranking signals that are applied to the results appropriate to that actual query.

So here’s what that means. If you search today — I did this search on my mobile device, I did it on my desktop device — for "best Netflix shows" or "best shows on Netflix" or "What are good Netflix shows," "good Netflix shows," "what to watch on Netflix," notice a pattern here? All five of these searches are essentially asking for the very same thing. We might quibble and say "what to watch on Netflix" could be more movie-centric than shows, which could be more TV or episodic series-centric. That’s okay. But these five are essentially, " What should I watch on Netflix?"

Now, RankBrain is going to help Google understand that each of these queries, despite the fact that they use slightly different words and phrasing or completely different words, with the exception of Netflix, that they should all be answered by the same content or same kinds of content. That’s the part where Google, where RankBrain is determining the searcher intent. Then, Google is going to use RankBrain to basically say, "Now, what signals are right for me, Google, to enhance or to push down for these particular queries?"

Signals

So we’re going to be super simplistic, hyper-simplistic and imagine that Google has this realm of just a few signals, and for this particular query or set of queries, any of these, that…

  • Keyword matching is not that important. So minus that, not super important here.
  • Link diversity, neither here nor there.
  • Anchor text, it doesn’t matter too much, neither here nor there.
  • Freshness, very, very important.

Why is freshness so important? Well, because Google has seen patterns before, and if you show shows from Netflix that were on the service a year ago, two years ago, three years ago, you are no longer relevant. It doesn’t matter if you have lots of good links, lots of diversity, lots of anchor text, lots of great keyword matching. If you are not fresh, you are not showing searchers what they want, and therefore Google doesn’t want to display you. In fact, the number one result for all of these was published, I think, six or seven days ago, as of the filming of this Whiteboard Friday. Not particularly surprising, right? Freshness is super important for this query.

  • Domain authority, that is somewhat important. Google doesn’t want to get too spammed by low-quality domains even if they are publishing fresh content.
  • Engagement, very, very important signal here. That indicates to Google whether searchers are being satisfied by these particular results.

This is a high-engagement query too. So on low-engagement queries, where people are looking for a very simple, quick answer, you expect engagement not to be that big. But for something in-depth, like "What should I watch on Netflix," you expect people are going to go, they’re going to engage with that content significantly. Maybe they’re going to watch a trailer or some videos. Maybe they’re going to browse through a list of 50 things. High engagement, hopefully.

  • Related topics, Google is definitely looking for the right words and phrases.

If you, for example, are talking about the best shows on Netflix and everyone is talking about how hot — I haven’t actually seen it — "Stranger Things" is, which is a TV program on Netflix that is very much in the public eye right now, well, if you don’t have that on your best show list, Google probably does not want to display you. So that’s an important related topic or a concept or a word vector, whatever it is.

  • Content depth, that’s also important here. Google expects a long list, a fairly substantive page of content, not just a short, "Here are 10 items," and no details about them.

As a result of interpreting the query, using these signals in these proportions, these five were basically the top five or six for every single one of those queries. So Google is essentially saying, "Hey, it doesn’t matter if you have perfect keyword targeting and tons of link diversity and anchor text. The signals that are more important here are these ones, and we can interpret that all of these queries essentially have the same intent behind them. Therefore, this is who we’re going to rank."

So, in essence, RankBrain is helping Google determine what signals to use in the algorithm or how to weight those signals, because there’s a ton of signals that they can choose from. RankBrain is helping them weight them, and they’re helping them interpret the query and the searcher intent.

How should SEOs respond?

Does that actually change how we do SEO? A little bit. A little bit. What it doesn’t do, though, is it does not say there is a specific way to do SEO for RankBrain itself. Because RankBrain is, yes, helping Google select signals and prioritize them, you can’t actually optimize for RankBrain itself. You can optimize for these signals, and you might say, "Hey, I know that, in my world, these signals are much more important than these signals," or the reverse. For a lot of commercial, old-school queries, keyword matching and link diversity and anchor text are still very, very important. I’m not discounting those. What I’m saying is you can’t do SEO for RankBrain specifically or not in the classic way that we’ve been trained to do SEO for a particular algorithm. This is kind of different.

That said, there are some ways SEOs should respond.

  1. If you have not already killed the concept, the idea of one keyword, one page, you should kill it now. In fact, you should have killed it a long time ago, because Hummingbird really put this to bed way back in the day. But if you’re still doing that, RankBrain does that even more. It’s even more saying, "Hey, you know what? Condense all of these. For all of these queries you should not have one URL and another URL and another URL and another URL. You should have one page targeting all of them, targeting all the intents that are like this." When you do your keyword research and your big matrix of keyword-to-content mapping, that’s how you should be optimizing there.
  2. It’s no longer the case, as it was probably five, six years ago, that one set of fixed inputs no longer governs every single query. Because of this weighting system, some queries are going to demand signals in different proportion to other ones. Sometimes you’re going to need fresh content. Sometimes you need very in-depth content. Sometimes you need high engagement. Sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you will need tons of links with anchor text. Sometimes you will not. Sometimes you need high authority to rank for something. Sometimes you don’t. So that’s a different model.
  3. The reputation that you get as a website, a domain earns a reputation around particular types of signals. That could be because you’re publishing lots of fresh content or because you get lots of diverse links or because you have very high engagement or you have very low engagement in terms of you answer things very quickly, but you have a lot of diverse information and topics on that, like a Dictionary.com or an Answers.com, somebody like that where it’s quick, drive-by visits, you answer the searcher’s query and then they’re gone. That’s a fine model. But you need to match your SEO focus, your brand of the type of SEO and the type of signals that you hit to the queries that you care about most. You should be establishing that over time and building that out.

So RankBrain, yes, it might shift a little bit of our strategic focus, but no, it’s not a classic algorithm that we do SEO against, like a Panda or a Penguin. How do I optimize to avoid Panda hitting me? How do I optimize to avoid Penguin hitting me? How do I optimize for Hummingbird so that my keywords match the query intent? Those are very different from RankBrain, which has this interpretation model.

So, with that, I look forward to hearing about your experiences with RankBrain. I look forward to hearing about what you might be changing since RankBrain came out a couple of years ago, and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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