Three of the Best Books to Transform Your Digital Marketing Company

Over the last few years, our team has been looking for ways to transform our company, push our creative abilities, and ensure that we are constantly evolving to provide better results for our higher education clients. So, our leadership team asked a tough question: How do we ensure that we’re not getting stagnant? Well, the solution was pretty simple. We needed to learn from other professionals, inside and outside of digital marketing. We’re not in the higher education space simply because we believe there is an opportunity in the industry to provide better marketing efforts; we’re in higher education because we believe in the power of higher education. Therefore, we personally challenge ourselves and all of our employees to never stop learning, and I have read a few books that I think are important to help transform any digital marketing company.

1. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

deep-work-cal-newport

Cal Newport, an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University, asks a simple question in his new book, Deep Work: How can an invidual focus on the tasks that matter most? This is a question I have been pondering for a while. In the digital world, there are so many distractions, and our clients’ goals are big (rank #1 for computer science online), and they take sustained effort and creativity.

But when you break down the types of work that digital marketers have, it comes down to deep and shallow tasks. Shallow work consists of all the emails, the admin, the busy work that is necessary but doesn’t require a lot of brain power, and Deep Work consists of the big tasks that can move a company forward. For example, filing a report for your client on how many links you built in Q3 is a necessary task, but it’s somewhat superficial work. However, creating a strategy overview that will help that same client rank number one for a relevant student-generating keyword can directly impact a company’s bottom line.

Cal Naughton examines how to build a working life where there is more focus on the deep work. Some of the biggest takeaways from his book are as follows:

  • Social media is a distraction: Yes, I know this sounds like blasphemy. Even though digital marketers need to have a social presence and maintain the knowledge of trends, the constant chirps of tweets and notifications from Facebook and other platforms will distract you from deep, focused work. Turn off your notifications—or completely remove yourself from social media when you’re under a deadline or working on a big project.
  • Slack and other workplace communication platforms can be great, but they can also kill your productivity. If you’re on Slack, then you are probably aware of how many times you’re interrupted by a notification or a message. This constant form of communication helps teams stay connected, but it also distracts individuals. Turn off the Slack function or hit the snooze button and allow your mind to stay immersed in the bigger projects.
  • It’s important to think about focus as a muscle. It’s something you can train. The more you focus on deep work, the more your mind develops. You’re literally developing your neural circuitry. If you can focus on a task, you’re not just being more productive, you’re working on the very structure of your mind to perform at a higher level. Time productivity sessions and follow the Pomodoro technique.
  • While there is a lot of focus on being productive and efficient in the workplace, it’s important to take the same lessons for deep work in the office and apply them to your personal life. For example, Cal Naughton mentions that your mind isn’t like your bicep, which tires after exercise. Your mind never stops, but what it needs is different forms of activity. So, while you might have an important deadline to meet with your client, it’s important to take the time away from your work and focus deeply on relaxing or another activity. Give your mind a break and schedule “free” time for your mind to wander.

2. The Undoing Project: A FRIENDSHIP THAT CHANGED OUR MINDS.

9780393254594_198Michael Lewis is, of course, famous for many books, including Money Ball, but what Lewis didn’t know when he wrote Money Ball was that he was going to miss something critical to the history and logic of his most famous book. In the beginning of the book, readers learn that Lewis owed many of the lessons in Money Ball to two Nobel Prize winners and Israeli psychologists, Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky.

Basically, the book is about how Kahneman and Tversky created a Nobel Prize-winning theory and how that theory altered our perception of reality. It sounds complicated but there is a key lesson that digital marketers can take from the book: Humans are inherently emotional, not logical. What Kahneman and Tversky were able to show through their studies was that people were making poor judgments in uncertain situations, and they relied on their gut rather than data and logic.

So, what does this have to do with digital marketing? It comes down to a key lesson in communication that can help digital marketers talk to their clients and co-workers. Since individuals make decisions based on emotion, it’s important to recognize how issues are framed. Kahneman and Tversky’s studies showed that people changed the way they responded to situations depending on how it was framed. This is an important lesson for digital marketers. If we can think about how to frame strategies, ads, content, etc., to our clients or to the marketplace, then we may be able to push initiatives that are risky yet rewarding and help educate our clients on the benefits of a digitally focused strategy in the world of higher education.

3. Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

creativity_incOut of all the books, Creativity, Inc. might have been the most enjoyable. It’s not just because it’s an unbelievable treasure trove of advice on how to build a creative organization, but it also goes into great detail about how Pixar was created as well as behind-the-scenes insight into their movies.

Storytelling is the root of great digital marketing campaigns, and Pixar and Disney are the best storytellers in our world. What is key about the book is that in order to build an organization that is focused on quality storytelling in their messaging, it’s essential to build candor and positive feedback into their organization. If a company does not share the ability to be candid with each other because of hierarchies that stranglehold opinions, then the organization will never grow.

Everyone in the Pixar building, according to Ed Catmull, from the janitor to the director, has the ability to create an idea that will move a project forward. (Think about Ratatouille and the expression: “Anyone can cook.”)

In our organization, we’re trying to find ways to strengthen the structure that breeds candid and constructive feedback. One suggestion in the book is to hold “Notes Meetings.” It’s a simple concept. Individuals in the company submit questions to a leadership team on things they are struggling with. It doesn’t have to relate to a specific department, and the leadership picks the questions and sends them to the team. Then they have a meeting where everyone freely tries to problem solve the issue. This is an opportunity to improve the way feedback is delivered and develop candor. Great ideas can not become great unless they are challenged by people who care about mutual success.

21122451_10100725895142291_2139116181006518570_o (1)

Joseph Lapin M.F.A. is an author, creative director, and journalist, and his writing has been published in the Los Angeles Times, Narratively, Salon, Slate, and more. He is a former adjunct professor at Florida International University, and he has worked on PR campaigns for Ernst & Young, Brentwood Associates, and more.

SEO Link Building Strategies: Three Evergreen Content Ideas

In the world of search engine optimization and ranking factors, the most important correlation to search engine result page (SERP) rankings was found to be the number of backlinks and overall link authority. With over 70% of users clicking on first page results, universities are always looking for ways to get their programs to jump up the rankings. So you may be asking, ‘How can I create content that naturally attracts backlinks and will rise in the SERPs?’ Today you’re in luck because I’m about to take you through the entire process from starting a link-building strategy to developing evergreen content ideas that attract SEO backlinks, but first, we need to understand a few SEO basic ideas before we can fully understand the immense value of evergreen.  

Learning SEO Basics

Before I dive into the world of developing evergreen content ideas, I’d like to lay out a few search engine optimization basics for any of the readers who may not fully know what these terms or tactics mean.

What is link-building?

Link-building can simply be described as a process to acquire valuable SEO backlinks or hyperlinks from other websites to your pages. As a marketer, we see these links as the Holy Grail and let me tell you why. SEO backlinks are a major component of Google’s PageRank algorithm which is considered to be one of the most important factors of Google’s SERP. The PageRank factor measures the importance of content and helps Google determine whether it should rank for a specific user’s intent. It is able to do this by analyzing a web page’s backlink structure as it takes in more factors such as the number of backlinks, link diversity, quality of links and other proprietary information.

 

Here is a quick excerpt from Google explaining their ranking philosophy.

“Google search works because it relies on the millions of individuals posting links on websites to help determine which other sites offer content of value. We assess the importance of every web page using more than 200 signals and a variety of techniques, including our patented PageRank™ algorithm, which analyzes which sites have been “voted” to be the best sources of information by other pages across the web.”

 

Though there are a number of factors that go into the SERP, in order to increase online visibility and improve search engine positioning, your business will need to achieve a higher PageRank. To do this, you’ll need a team focused on creating a tactical digital marketing plan with the essential objective being a SEO backlinking strategy through evergreen content marketing.

SEO Backlinking Strategy

It is important to note that a backlinking strategy is not made up of one technique or skill, but rather a wide range of skill sets including content creation, research, competitive analysis, email outreach and nurturing editorial relationships. The strategy begins by strategically producing evergreen, valuable, high-quality content that’s targeted for high volume search intent and your customer base. The word content has been pounded into our minds for years as digital marketers, but it’s no surprise because that’s what Google search is all about. It is a search engine that matches a user’s intent with the most relevant and quality content possible, such as “what’s the value of an online MED.” Hence, the importance of developing evergreen content ideas to attract SEO backlinks.

What is evergreen content?

Typically, evergreen content is based on popular topics, high volume search terms or niche specific keywords, and is content created with the intent to be informational and provide an instructional viewpoint on your topic of interest. Evergreen content does not lose its value over time and is commonly created for utilization purpose. This means the content is developed with the idea that searchers will reference the content multiple times, which in return increases your web traffic, on-page time, brand awareness and top-of-mind recall for specific niches.  

In order to create evergreen topics, you must first understand the search intent of your target audience and then strategically construct a topic that matches the user’s intent. So stop creating general, boring regurgitated content! This isn’t the Age of Fluff, this is the Age of Information for a reason.

So without further ado, I present to you three types of evergreen content ideas that can be implemented right here, right now.

Types of Evergreen Content:

  • Infographic Visuals
  • Industry Expert Roundups
  • Informative and High Utility Content

Infographic Visuals

Infographics are a fantastic way to build links to program specific pages, which will help increase your overall Google rankings. If you didn’t know already, the number of backlinks linking to a specific page has the strongest correlation with rankings compared to any other factor. This includes domain history, title tags, and optimized keyword pages. When infographics are built with reliable statistics and appealing design, these visuals resources will make you appear as a thought leader within specific industries and enable you to naturally gain links. Evergreen infographics are based on newsworthy, current trends and show in-depth statistics on specific topics that relate to a university’s program curriculum. When a university builds an infographic around trending news stories or case studies, they are able to take what may seem like a complex idea or boring subject and turn it into an easy to understand visualization. Below I have provided some fascinating facts from Kissmetrics on why infographics perform so well in this digital age;

  • High-quality infographics are 30 times more likely to be read than text articles.
  • 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text.
  • Infographics are 40 times more likely to be shared on social networks.

In your opinion, what looks better, Image 1 or Image 2?

Image 1 is a journal study explaining the challenges of storing medical imaging data

Image 2 is a medical imaging infographic explaining the same information.

Image 1

digital imaging journal

Image 2

imaging archives infographic

If I do say so myself, Image 2 is softer on the eyes and helps to break down this complex information so any non-technical reader can understand it. The icons give the viewer a great understanding of what the subject is about without having to read the detailed material.

Now that we understand why publications post these visual resources, the next step is to understand how to build an infographic around a topic that is considered link worthy.  As we discussed above, the best performing infographics are built around newsworthy time pegs and trending current events. To identify newsworthy time pegs, I believe our creative director, Joseph Lapin, has the best approach. He tells our team to consistently look at the front page of the newspaper to find out what editors from top publications, such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, seem to be the major stories in the U.S. and throughout the world. If these publications are putting these stories on their front page, then it shows insight on what topics are most newsworthy while showcasing developing trends within the news curve. Once you understand which topics are repeatedly gaining traction, you can build infographics based on these trending stories and immediately pitch them to publications. With graphics built around such hot topics, they can be leveraged throughout the whole news cycle which can help program pages gain a number of valuable links.

news curve

Infographics should be built using studies and statistics from a number of publications ranging from high-level organizations to niche blogs. Each source should be seen as a link building and relationship development opportunity because the publication you use as sources are very likely to share the infographic with their audience. If we step back and think about this for a second, we can understand why it would be more valuable to have 20 sources instead of 10. In the end, it is a numbers game and the more sources used, the more link building opportunities there are! For instance, Circa Interactive created an infographic on Creative Ways to Make Higher Education More Affordable. In each visualization, sources are included at the bottom of the graphic.

source link building

For each source, an outreach message should be sent to the editor at that site. Here is a real outreach email I used to gain links through from infographic sources.

outreach for source links

Helpful infographic resources:

Industry Expert Roundups

In marketing and communication, a roundup is a term that is used to describe the collection of popular resources that are highlighted to build one article. Expert roundups are no different, except that instead of using popular informative resources, industry experts are utilized to create a comprehensive analysis on a particular subject. Expert roundups are relatively easy to structure and publish, but there is some groundwork needed in the beginning. First, your content creation team will need creatively come up with a keyword rich question that your experts will answer. The question needs to be based on a keyword that your program wants to rank on Google’s first page. This is important because when searchers view your page and see the expert knowledge being freely shared than they are more likely to link back and reference to a collection of experts compared to a personal opinion. Here is a quick example: Let’s say you want to rank for the keyword “future of artificial intelligence” and the blog post title is ‘32 Expert’s Future Vision of Artificial Intelligence’. A great question to ask your industry experts could be “What is one or two major advancements you envision happening within artificial intelligence over the next 5 years?”

Having developed the question, the next step is to scour the web looking for industry experts talking about similar topics in the artificial intelligence industry. You’ll want to create an outreach list that is three or four times the number of your intended expert commentaries that will be placed in your blog. The best way to identify potential experts in your industry is by using Google News and Followerwonk.

followerwonk

I used Followerwonk for this example, a tool that searches through Twitter bios and highlights the top users related to specific keywords. Within the top six results, there are two great artificial intelligence experts who should be added to your list. They are both executives within the big data and artificial intelligence field with a high number of followers. Keep in mind that your intent is to gain a link back and social shares from these experts because you are freely sharing their expertise. We want to show our own personal audiences that we are featured on another site so we can get the recognition we think we deserve.

Once you identify the top industry experts and build your list, it is time to send your outreach message. The outreach message should be a short blurb complementing their expertise and asking them if they would be interested in being featured in your post. If you don’t get a response back from them, follow up a week later and emphasis the benefit they are getting by giving you a quick one to three sentence response.

 

joey outreach


Once you begin to receive responses, structure the blog with the experts who were quick to respond to your question towards the top of the article. This will flatter them because you chose to feature them within your top ten experts. The next focus should be adding the experts who you expect to get a link back from. The best way to actually gain a link is by not directly asking them to link to the article. I know it sounds crazy, but by simply thanking them for their time and expertise, the flattery works a lot better than aggressively begging for a link. When sending the experts the “thank you” message, it is extremely similar to the infographic source email. The main difference in this outreach is to create a pre-populated tweet with in the email so all the expert has to do is press one button to share with their follower base. Free services such as 
ClicktoTweet allow you to create tweets in quickly. Feel free to use my email below as your template.

joey outreach 2

Helpful expert roundups examples:

 

Informative and High Utility Content

Recent studies have shown that longer pieces of content between 1,700 and 2,000 words rank higher in Google position. The average first page results having at 1,890 words.

length of content and rankings

There are a few ranking factors that also correlate with longer posts, which include time on page, more social shares, and lower bounce rates because more users will browse other content on your site. Still, these long post must be made of high-quality content because if not, they are worthless words and filling up cyberspace. That is something Google hates to see. 

What determines quality you may ask? It all comes down to whether the content is informative to the audience and has some form of usability that can be implemented by your readers. According to Brian Dean, one of the top link-building marketers of our time, longer, high utility content strikes a sense of awe into the audience, meaning that when a reader visits a page that has a lot of useful information they understand how much work was put into that post and they are more likely to return to that site over and over again seeking similar content.

brian backlinko quote
Here at Circa Interactive, our team likes to produce a multitude of content ideas because different audiences respond to different types of articles including listicles, how to guides, and in-depth evergreen content. I’d like to show you a recent example of evergreen content that was created by our own Chief SEO Analyst, Tyler Cooper.

The Ultimate Guide to On-Page SEO
This is a great example of high quality, informative content that focuses on a specific audience and the knowledge inside this article can be applied immediately regardless of your knowledge of on-page SEO. In total, this ultimate guide article has a total of 3909 words. Content length has a direct impact on the number of average shares and links a piece of content receives. Moz conducted research on 489,000 text based articles. Here are their findings:

moz content length


As you can see, it is apparent that content length is incredibly important when developing content for your site. So when creating content do not forget these three types of evergreen content that will enable you to build links back to your university pages.


If you found this article helpful in any way do not hesitate to leave a comment below. I would love to hear any feedback you may have about a topic and know what type of evergreen content ideas you use in your organization. Additionally, if you need advice or have questions on link building feeling free to connect with me below.

 

andersonidea

Austin Anderson is a forward-thinking, motivated marketing specialist. Before Circa, Austin ran an e-commerce business and managed online marketing for startups in San Diego. Austin strives to be a future influencer in the world of digital marketingConnect with Austin on LinkedIn and Twitter @andersonidea.

How To Appear In Google’s Featured Snippet In 2017 (Knowledge Graph)

In May of 2012, Google announced the launch of their knowledge graph. This is a knowledge base that is used by Google in order to enhance search engine results. Basically, it increases user experience by displaying information from a query directly in Google’s search results without requiring a user to click through to a site.

This may seem like a nightmare for digital marketers since we want users to click through directly to our websites, however, knowledge graph results take up an incredible amount of real estate within organic results. It’s actually hard NOT to click them.

Before we get into how to be featured, let’s look at some examples of the different ways we see the Knowledge Graph in Google’s search results.

Types of Knowledge Graph Results

People

The first type of knowledge graph result is the detailed view of a person. These appear on the right hand side of Google’s results. For example, I did a search for the president of Florida State University. See below:

knowledge base example: people

As you can see, Google pulled much of this information directly from Wikipedia.

Universities/Organizations

A query for “FSU” returned a similar graph result that offers a ton of information about the university.

fsu knowledge graph

Featured Snippets

Featured snippets are a powerful Knowledge Graph result and will be the main focus of this article. The reason behind this is that we cannot control what is shown in the other knowledge graph results listed above, because the information is often pulled directly from Wikipedia and other larger informational websites. With featured snippets, Google will pull information directly from our website and display it as the first organic result, with a valuable link to your website.

Another great aspect of featured snippets is that you essentially have two organic spots within the results. For example, you may be ranking fifth for your target keyword; however, if the information on your page is structured correctly, Google will show your information as the featured snippet AND keep your original organic ranking. Plus, there’s always the chance that making these on-page changes could help bump you up the search results a few spots.

Here’s an example of a featured snippet from U.S. News:

best online mba featured snippet

Here’s another example from CostHelper:

featured snippet example

Now, let’s dive into how to show up as the featured snippet.

How To Show Up In The Featured Snippet

The most important factor in showing up in the featured snippet is giving clear and direct answers to the search query or keyword. However, in order to show up, your site needs to be ranking on the first page for queries that are showing featured snippets.

If you’ve got some page one rankings, then follow these steps to take over the featured snippet spot. Wondering how to rank on page one? Be sure to check out other articles around our blog, like this one  .

Step 1: Find Which Queries Have Featured Snippets

This is an important step, as you don’t want to commit a bunch of your time trying to show up in the featured snippet for a query that does not have one. The best way to find out which queries have featured snippets is to use the tool SEMRush.

To do this, enter in your website and under “organic research” select “Positions.” You will be brought to this page:

how to find queries that have featured snippets

On the right-hand side under “SERP Features” you will see the “Featured snippet” link. Click that and you will be shown a list of keywords that have a featured snippet. You’ll want to check these keywords and see if you already own that featured snippet. If not, then it may be time to start optimizing around that keyword!

Step 2: Used Structured Markup To Directly Answer Queries

The majority of the featured snippets that you will come across will be pulling information that lives within structured markup. Here are the most common:

Unordered Lists

You will recognize these as the bulleted results you see. Creating unordered lists is simple and just requires basic HTML that looks like this:

<ul>
 <li>List item 1</li>
 <li>List item 2</li>
<li>List item 3</li>
</ul>

Unordered lists would be beneficial when trying to show up for a search term such as “types of business degrees.” Here is how it would show up in the search engine results:

example of an unordered list showing up in googles knowledge graph

Ordered Lists

These are very similar to unordered lists. The only difference is that the information within them is numbered. This is ideal for queries that are ranking degrees or programs. Here is the HTML used to create an ordered list:

<ol>
<li>List item 1</li>
<li>List item 2</li>
<li>List item 3</li>
</ol>

Ordered lists are great for “how to” type queries. For example, let’s look at the search engine results for “how to become a lawyer”:

example of an ordered list showing up in googles featured snippet

Tables

While tables are not as common as the previous two, Google will still occasionally show well-structured tables in the featured snippet. Tables can be a very effective way of showing a matrix of data.

If you are using WordPress, there are table plugins such as Tablepress that Google tends to favor. Otherwise, you can manually create a table using HTML, but be sure to include metadata within these tables. Did you know tables can have a meta description? To learn more about creating tables, check out this resource. Here is an example of a table in the featured snippet:

example of a table shown in the featured snippet

Header Tags

These are essential to showing up in the featured snippet. You will notice that almost every snippet begins with an H2 or H3. They also almost always contain the main keyword that is being searched for. For instance, check out the featured snippet for “best masters degree.” The bolded text that says “Best Master’s Degrees for Finding a Job” is marked up as an H3 on the page.

importance of headers when trying to get into the featured snippet

It’s extremely important that your H2/H3 tag:

  1. Directly precedes the structured markup
  2. Includes the keyword you’re trying to rank for

Step 3: Perfect Your On-Page SEO

Google will reward you for having an exceptionally optimized page. Make sure you hit all of the checkpoints and leave nothing out. This includes things like alt tags, proper use of headers, internal linking, etc. Be sure to read my in-depth guide to on-page SEO .

Note: If a competitor already has the featured snippet, taking your on-page SEO to the next level could help give you a bump and take the featured snippet from them.

Step 4: Include An Image

It’s always a good idea to accompany your structured markup with a well-optimized image. Make sure you use an alt tag as well as an image title here. While writing your alt tags and image titles, make sure you are as descriptive as possible, and don’t simply include the keyword and move on. Additionally, take some time to really describe the image using synonyms of your keyword as this will most likely put you a step above your competitors. As you can see in the examples above, almost all of the featured snippets contain an image.

Step 5: Enjoy The Extra Traffic

That’s it! Once your page gets reindexed, you’ll have a MUCH better chance at being the featured snippet. If after all of this you still haven’t taken over the feature snippet spot, don’t panic. Take a look at what the competitor’s doing and see how you can improve on it.

While following these steps will not guarantee results, it will put you in a much better position to steal the featured snipped. Take action today and claim that extra organic real estate.

If you have any questions or comments feel free to comment below!

6 Free Keyword Research Tools For Beginners and Experts

When it comes to digital marketing, keyword research plays a big part in implementing an effective SEO strategy. Google and other search engines are evolving and becoming smarter in evaluating the best search results for the searched terms, so it’s no longer enough just to write content for blog posts, products, services, etc. without doing proper keyword research. Otherwise, content will be lost in the 20+ search engine result pages and nobody ever will find it.

If you are beginner and can’t afford any of the paid keyword research tools, then you’re probably wondering, “What is the best free keyword research tool?” If so then you’re in the right place. Below, I’ll share my top six favorite free keyword research tools and how to incorporate them in your content marketing.

Soovle

Soovle is a great keyword research tool for beginners. It’s simple to use and will not take a long time to gather the keywords list to use for your blog post. Soovle provides autocomplete suggestions from the major search engines: Google, Wikipedia, Yahoo, Ebay, Youtube, Bing, Amazon, and more. Since its not a very advanced tool, I would suggest combining Soolve with another tool to get more information for your content. Since this tools provides data for multiple search engines, it can be a great option for someone who is looking to sell products on Ebay or Amazon.

Interface of Soovle keyword research tool

 

Google Trend and Google Suggest

 Google Trends

Consider Google Trends as your inspiration for finding the next hot topic. By simply entering the keyword in the search bar, Google Trends provides over five years of data for that keyword and helps in identifying if that particular search term is still relevant for the consumer/reader. Google Trends is also popular for being a very customizable tool. It allows you to search for multiple terms at the same time, and data can be filtered by the country, period of time, different categories, and the type of search.

Google Trends not only analyzes historical data for the particular search terms, it also shows the interest by subregion and related queries. It’s a great way to identify if the content you’re planning to produce will be relevant to the audience you are trying to reach.

Google Trends Interface

 Google Suggest

Google Suggest is another tool that is popular within the marketing industry and well known by frequent users of Google. To use Google Suggest, simply start typing keywords in the Google search box, and Google Suggest will autofills the search box with keywords that other people are looking for or they are related to your search query. It’s perfect for generating insights on popular search queries relating to your search term.

Google Suggest Interface

Keywords Everywhere

The Keywords Everywhere extension is a free keyword tool that can be easily installed on either Chrome or Firefox. Keywords Everywhere shows Google keyword search volume, cost per click, and competition data of keywords on multiple websites including the ones mentioned above Soovle and Google Suggest. With this extension you will no longer need to wonder which keywords to choose for your content as all the necessary data is presented.

Keywords everywhere extension on Soovle

Google Suggest Keywords Everywhere extension

SERPs

SERPs is a fast and simple to use tool that is great for the beginners and experts. It provides related keywords for the searched term, volume, CPC, and value. SERPs shows all of this data on one page, allowing you to filter the results with secondary keywords and add them to the “Saved Results List,” which is downloadable in .csv format. Although, SERPs is a good tool to use for daily content creation, I would recommend taking their provided data on CPC and Value with a grain of salt by confirming the volume and difficulty with another keyword research tool.

SERPs keyword research interface

Answer The Public

Answer The Public is a very unique keyword research tool that provides questions containing the searched keyword. It can be very helpful for those looking to understand what people are asking for, what they are looking for, and what questions they have about that searched term. With such valuable insights, Answer the Public offers writers the opportunity to create content that could answer all of these questions. If the writer’s content is relevant, it might even be featured in the rich snippets in Google the next time someone searches for similar answers. This kind of content could provide great value for the business in every stage of the buyer’s journey. Answer the Public also includes results with prepositions for the long tail keyword opportunities and is friendly to Keywords Everywhere extensions mentioned earlier.

Answer the Public Interface

LSI Graph

LSI stands for latent semantic indexing. LSI keywords are keywords related to the searched term that are semantically linked. If incorporated into your SEO strategy, then LSI keywords can increase organic traffic and improve rankings. By incorporating longtail keywords and semantic keywords to your blog posts, the content becomes more user friendly and sounds more natural than just trying to use all the high volume keywords.

LSI Graph keyword research interface

Knowing how to choose and use keywords can help to increase organic traffic for your website. Although paid tools tend to over more advanced options, beginners, firms without big budgets and experts looking for alternatives can benefit from free keyword research tools.
If you now feel inspired to write some blog posts about your university but are not sure where to start, keep reading to find out 3 tips for finding blog topics for universities.

 

Martyna's headshotMartyna is a graduate from Vilnius University in Vilnius, Lithuania. With 2 years experience in digital marketing industry, Martyna adds in-depth understanding of on-page and local SEO to the Circa team. Her passion and continual education in SEO initiatives help contribute to Circa’s expanding higher education digital marketing presence.

 

Increasing Web Traffic: Content Strategies to Achieve Marketing Goals

For the past decade, digital marketing agencies and experts around the world have emphasized the phrase “Content is King,” but even to this day, a majority of marketers still do not understand how to increase website traffic to the content they’ve generated. For this reason, I have decided to tackle the intricate subject of content development and discuss how this can help to drive traffic to your site.

Every website on the Internet creates content that serves a specific purpose related to the site’s marketing objectives. An online content strategy should provide transparency about daily operations, share relevant industry news and allow the company to share their unique story. As we all know, a strategy that incorporates content marketing and link-building can bolster content SERP rankings which in return will increase the amount of organic traffic. My analysis shows that there are four primary types of content marketing objectives a website can optimize for, but the best equation for any website is to use a multifaceted content approach by utilizing each of the following content marketing objectives.

 

Lead Generation:

To reach this objective, content is created based specifically on user-intent searches or an audience that is actively searching the web for information on any given subject. Since the content is built to be extremely relevant to the user’s search, the end goal for this type of content is to collect a lead which usually consists of a visitor’s name and email address.

  • Example search: What is the best car insurance for teenagers?
  • Example content for search: The Best Car Insurance for New Drivers

 

Advertising:

When building a site using a business model based on advertising, content is created for a niche audience with an entertainment purpose. Most of these advertising-based sites implement Google Adsense or native advertising, which pays the web owner through three different methods: cost-per-click (CPC), cost-per-impressions (CPM) and cost-per-engagement (CPE). In order to generate as much advertising revenue as possible, it is imperative that these sites drive high amounts of traffic through their shocking, entertainment articles to increase ad impressions and clicks.

  • Example search: What did Kanye West Talk to Michael Jordan About?
  • Example content for search: Jordan and West Speak on Upcoming Shoe Collaboration

 

Informational:

This type of content objective is used to drive traffic based on informational, educational and newsworthy articles that provide value to the reader. Some of these sites may generate minor income from advertising but that is not their sole purpose. An informative site’s core mission is to bring together a like-minded community of individuals with similar demographics. Once the strong niche community is established, the site can promote new jobs, national events and sponsored posts to this audience.

  • Example search: How do I find a civil engineering job?
  • Example content for search: 10 Civil Engineering Job Hunting Tips

 

Awareness:

To meet this objective, websites create content that provides a behind-the-scenes perspective on daily operations, showcases business transparency and creates a community for social good. Unfortunately, there are very few sites that are created for pure awareness and transparency purposes.

  • Example search: How much pollution do Nike factories create annually?
  • Example content for search: Nike Reduces Pollution by 25% Thanks to Volunteers

 

The Sites We Analyzed:

Through countless web searches and backlink analyses, I found the four best sites that provide unique insights on content marketing and highlight the different SEO and ranking metrics that prove each content strategy works.

Lead Generation: Bankrate

Advertising: Only in Your State

Informational: Education Week

Awareness: Coca-Cola Unbottled

 

Bankrate

bankrate

Bankrate has a major emphasis on lead generation within the automotive loans, mortgage loans and credit card industry. When taking a quick glance at their homepage, you’ll notice topics like “10 Best Tips for Buying a Car” or “Anxious about the mortgage process? Start Here.” As you can tell, each of these topics is built around a user’s intent, and in this case, they are topics that emphasize a purchase that would require a loan. Throughout Bankrate’s articles, their team will include call-to-actions (CTAs) which ask the visitor to conduct a loan or credit card rate search. These CTAs link back to their loan, mortgage or credit card rate calculators. When a visitor fills out the rate calculator form, their information is collected as a lead and then usually sold to a number of loan companies. With Bankrate, creating content that precisely matches the user’s intent, whether it is tips on buying a car or mortgage refinancing, provides the user value with their easy-to-use calculators, which then generates a lead for them.

Site Statistics:

ahrefs-bankrate

13.9 million backlinks

76,200 referring domains

6.7 million monthly organic traffic

1.4 million organic keywords ranking

Top Organic Keyword: “Mortgage calculator” generates 372,110 visits per month

Top Content by Traffic: Bankrate Auto Loan Calculator – 614,400 monthly traffic

Top Content by Backlinks: Bankrate Mortgage Calculator – 95,926 backlinks

 

Only In Your State

only in your state - sedalia, mo

This website was created for entertainment and advertising purposes. Only in Your State has a unique approach on how they create content, but it is apparent that their end-goals for the website was to become an advertising revenue platform. Right when you enter the page, you’ll see a number of banner ads displayed at the top of the page and off to the right-hand side. Only in Your State isn’t focused on advertising a particular product or service, their goal is instead to give the ad position to the highest bidder. But you may be interested in knowing how they drive nearly a million organic visitors a month. Here’s how: their blog is focused on geo-based or localized content within each state, so not only do they produce content related to specific residents within each state, but they utilize “near me” searches as content opportunities. For instance, Only in Your State has created numerous articles on “fireworks displays” you must see in each state.

fireworks

Anytime someone types in the phrase “fireworks near me,” Only in Your State generates a large amount of traffic because they have localized content with high SERPs for searches in every state. Additionally, many residents are passionate about their state and where they live, so they are more inclined to share content that reflects who they are. This is another reason why they are able to generate high amounts of organic traffic and backlinks. Overtime, the more backlinks they receive the higher their domain authority gets and this will increase the number of organic keywords they rank for. As you can see, when developing a site based on the advertising objective, traffic is your best friend. To learn from Only in Your State’s strategy on generating traffic, be sure to create content that is localized to an audience, relates to people’s personalities, provides a laugh and easy to read.

Site Statistics:

ahrefs-onlyinyourstate

131,000 backlinks

5,410 referring domains

875,000 monthly organic traffic

835,000 organic keywords ranking

Top Organic Keyword: “Fireworks near me” generates 2,250 visits per month

Top Content by Traffic: Texas Amazing Beaches – 7,822 monthly traffic

Top Content by Backlinks: The Ultimate Georgia Waterfalls Road Trip – 341 backlinks

 

Education Week

education week

Education Week was created as an informative central hub for all K-12 educational news. EdWeek emphasizes that they are the leading news community for American educators and administrators. Since they are targeting a specific niche, they are able to create personalized high-quality content pieces for the sole purpose of informing this demographic. As they continue to create trust and loyalty as a leading education news source, there will an uptick in the number of repeat visitors and the community will only get stronger. Once established, they are able to start to promoting career fairs, job boards and educational events which is one of their revenue streams. With EdWeek being viewed as a leader in education, they receive higher engagement rates and generate more backlinks from other education and news sites.

Site Statistics:

ahrefs-edweek

6.68 million backlinks

25,300 referring domains

127,000 organic keywords ranking

119,000 monthly organic traffic

Top Organic Keyword Phrase: “No child left behind” generates 14,204 visits per month

Top Content by Traffic: No Child Left Behind Overview – 35,634 monthly traffic

Top Content by Backlinks: Carol Dweck Revisits the ‘Growth Mindset’ – 892 backlinks

 

Coca-Cola Unbottled

Coke-Unbottled

This blog was created by Coca-Cola with the purpose of transparency in addition to creating a community for the millions of worldwide Coke fans. Coca-Cola wants to create awareness on their social responsibility and provide behind-the-scenes access to their products. Their top organic search term is “Coca-Cola Life” which is one of their newest products that uses cane sugar and stevia, so when users search this term, they will find the product information and ingredients. As you can see from the other types of top content by traffic and backlinks, Coca-Cola focuses on highlighting community initiatives such as “Share a Coke” and conservation partnerships that impact the world. When implementing awareness as your main content objective, use the Coca-Cola Unbottled Blog as an example and be sure create content that provides insights your brand’s values and overall mission.

Site Statistics:

ahrefs-unbottled

31,600 backlinks

2,630 referring domains

16,000 organic keywords ranking

24,000 monthly organic traffic

Top Organic Keyword Phrase: “Coca-Cola Life” generates 1,261 visits per month

Top Content by Traffic: Is Your Name on a Coke Bottle? – 6,874 monthly traffic

Top Content by Backlinks: Happy Anniversary: Coke, WWF Celebrate Progress for the Planet – 536 backlinks

 

Conclusion:

As you continue to plan your future content and fill your editorial calendar, remember to first decide what content marketing objective you want to achieve. From there, the subject matter of your content is all based on what industry or niche you reside in. As I mentioned, your website may have one main objective, such as advertising, but that doesn’t mean every post should be created for entertainment purposes. It is smart to diversify the type of content your site produces in order to attract new audiences, generate more traffic and reach the business’s overall goals. Now that you’ve finished reading this article (thanks again!), it shouldn’t take you very long to formulate your next post and start generating traffic.

 

andersonideaAustin Anderson is a forward-thinking, motivated growth marketing specialist. Before joining Circa, Austin built an e-commerce business and managed online marketing for startups in San Diego. Austin strives to be a future influencer in the world of digital marketing and e-commerce. Connect with Austin on LinkedIn and Twitter @andersonidea.

The Ultimate Guide To On-Page SEO For Higher Education In 2017

Introduction

You’ve built your links, promoted your infographics, finished up an epic outreach campaign, and even landed some new contributor accounts. These are all great off-page SEO tactics that have been proven to help your website’s rankings. But for some reason, you still can’t seem to land those page 1 rankings.

What’s the issue?

Your On-Page SEO has been neglected.

On-Page SEO is regularly overlooked. Whether it be missing title tags, meta descriptions, or page headers–all of these should be taken care of first as it’s the one thing you truly have control over in SEO.

Most digital marketers are more concerned with their link-building and outreach campaigns than they are with properly optimizing their site. And rightfully so. The importance of high-quality inbound links is repeatedly pounded into our heads by every blogger out there.

But what if I told you that by tweaking a few on-page elements, you could see a significant boost in rankings? In a competitive vertical like higher education, it’s imperative that we take advantage of these easy wins. Stop ignoring your on-page SEO, implement these tactics, and you will be amazed by the results.

In this multi-part series, I will cover some important on-page elements including the most common mistakes and current best practices for higher education sites.

1. Title Tags

What Is A Title Tag?

A well-written title tag is between 60-65 characters, and it’s a crucial part of your website’s SEO as it really defines what your content is about. Typically, this is where you target your main keywords. A well-written title-tag targets several keywords while also maintaining a high click-through rate.

While the title tag is not as important as it once was, it’s still a significant piece of the puzzle. It’s the first thing that everyone sees (including Google).

How To Write A Great Title Tag

Length

No title should be over 65 characters. Anything longer than this will be cut off in the SERPs (or Google’s search results). See example below:

how to write a great title tag

While a long title is not going to result in your website plummeting in the rankings, it does seem sloppy and can have an adverse impact on your click-through rate.

Keyword Usage

Finding creative ways to include more than just one keyword is crucial to writing a high-quality title tag. However, it’s important that you avoid keyword stuffing when creating your titles.

Keyword stuffing is when a page’s meta information (title tags, meta descriptions, alt tags, etc.) are loaded with keyword after keyword. Typically there is no other context other than a list of keywords. It’s important to avoid this as websites that use this tactic are typically banned or penalized by search engines.

Here is an example of a well-written title tag that takes advantage of several keywords:

take advantage of multiple keywords in your title tag

Character count: 62

Keywords targeted in this example:

  • Online MBA
  • Online MBA programs
  • Master of business administration
  • Master of business administration degree

Take a look at your title tags and see if there are any opportunities for you to target some related keywords.

2. Meta Descriptions

What Is A Meta Description?

The meta description is a 160 character snippet that briefly summarizes your page’s content. Users see this description when they are browsing Google results. It has a lot of value in terms of SEO as well as clickthrough rate.

How To Write The Perfect Meta Description

Similar to the title tag, we can take advantage of the meta description to target some long-tail keywords and encourage users to click on our search engine result. There is a surprising amount of people who just do not create a custom meta description. When you do this, Google attempts to auto-generate one for you by pulling content directly from your page. Unfortunately, these auto-generated descriptions do not do your content justice and may result in a user looking past your website.

Here are some things to keep in mind when writing your descriptions:

  • Be sure to keep the character count under 160. Anything else will be cut off and decrease the readability.
  • Include some long-tail keywords but be sure to avoid keyword stuffing. Find creative ways to add keywords into sentences so that it sounds natural.
  • Include call-to-actions in your descriptions. Adding phrases like “read more here” and “find out how…” will do wonders for your click-through rate.

3. Header Tags

Do not ignore header tags. Making proper use of headers is essential to good on-page SEO.

What are header tags?

Good question. Simply put, they are HTML tags (<h1>, <h2>, <h3>, etc.) that organize the content on your page for users and search engines alike. Using headers drastically improves the readability of your content. Improving the readability will result in better on-page metrics, such as time on page and bounce rate. Both are positive signals that Google takes into consideration.

How To Properly Use Headers

While this may seem pretty self-explanatory, you would be shocked to see how many higher education websites are making crucial mistakes. Here are some quick tips on using header tags:

Use Only One <h1> Tag

Only use 1 <h1> tag. This tag should typically be the title of your post and should contain your main target keyword. Again, it’s important that there are only 1 of these tags per page. Having multiple H1 tags can make it difficult for Google to crawl your page effectively.

This rule does not apply to the subheaders. As long as it makes sense, you can use as many h2, h3, and h4’s as you want.

Include Target Keywords

Each of your header tags should include your target keywords. This does not mean your header tag should just be a keyword and nothing else. Make sure it’s natural and effectively defines the section. (Keep in mind that if you are working with a site that runs WordPress, the title of your post/page will automatically be assigned an h1 tag.) Here is an excellent example of a well-written <h1> tag that targets multiple keywords:

how to write the best h1 tag for seo

You should consider using LSI keywords in your headers. LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords are semantically related to your target keywords. For example, if your target keyword is “online MBA,” a good LSI keyword would be “master of business admin program online.”

Google is advanced enough to understand that these different phrases are referring to the same thing. It is an excellent way to avoid keyword stuffing as well as making your content flow more naturally.

Directly Answer Common Queries

When doing keyword research for your piece of content, you will most likely run into common questions people ask Google. Include these queries directly in your header tags. Furthermore, answer these questions in a very straightforward format. Lists and tables work great here. We want to make it as easy as possible for Google to crawl and understand we are providing a clear answer to people’s question.

Do this correctly and Google will reward you with a boost in rankings and traffic. See below:

4. Alt Tags

Do you put a lot of effort into writing alt tags? Do you even include alt tags on your photos? If you answered no to either of those questions, you are making a huge mistake.

Alt tags are important in Google’s eyes. So they should be important to you.

Why Are Alt Tags Important?

Think about it this way–how else will Google be able to understand what an image on your site is about if there is not metadata to go along with it? Once Google knows what your image is, you may even get some traffic from Google Images. It’s a win-win.

Alt tags are another piece of the on-page puzzle, and by not including them, your SEO is incomplete.

I recently ran a test of my own and simply added/updated all of the alt tags on a single page. I did not change any other elements on the page. Within 48 hours I noticed a significant boost in rankings. Try it yourself if you don’t believe me!

increase search engine rankings by adjusting alt tags

How To Write A Solid Alt Tag

A common mistake that most people make when adding alt tags to their images is they simply include a target keyword. While this is better than nothing, we can do much better and improve our on-page.

Be as descriptive as possible. For example, your main image on a page targeting “online MBA” should have an alt tag that looks something like this:

“XYZ University offers the best online MBA in the world”

The same thing applies to the title of the image. Make this just as descriptive as the alt tag and considering adding some LSI keywords in there. The code for your image should now look like this:

<img src=”www.university.edu/images/online-mba.jpg” alt=”XYZ University offers the best online MBA in the world” title=”Find out more about the XYZ master in business administration program” />

Apply these tactics to your site’s images and watch your rankings soar.

5. Keyword Density

As I’ve mentioned throughout this post, we want to avoid keyword stuffing at all costs. Google’s Panda updates have cracked down on sites with thin content and those who blatantly overuse keywords without adding any real value.

Keyword density gives us an insight into whether or not we are overusing our target keywords on any given page. It is a percentage that is calculated by dividing the number of keyword uses by the total number of words on the page.

Typically, you want to keep your keyword density for your target keyword around 1%. This is definitely on the safer side. So if you have 1000 words on your page, you can safely use your keyword about ten times.

In the example below, you will see that “online MBA” is only at 0.32% density. This means the page could easily include a few more instances of the target keyword.

best keyword density to use in your SEO content

This does not mean you can’t target LSI keywords and other long tail keywords. The keyword density only applies to exact matches.

If you find that your page is having trouble moving up in the rankings, then check your keyword density and see if you are using your keyword too many times. You can use a Chrome plugin like SEOQuake to check your density quickly.

6. Internal Linking

Internal linking is up there as one of the most important on-page SEO elements. Internal linking is essentially the act of linking to other pages on your site from any given article. If you ever find yourself questioning the power of internal linking, take a look at any Wikipedia article, and you will see how often they implement this tactic. And not many people do SEO better than Wikipedia. Look at the opening paragraph of one of their articles:

why internal linking is important in higher education

Why Internal Linking Is Important

Spreads Link Juice

Interlinking your site is important for a number of reasons, because it’s a way of spreading the “link juice” throughout your website. In short, “link juice” can be defined as the power that individual links provide your site. So if the majority of links pointing to your site are going to your home page, then linking to other pages on your site from your home page is a good way of dispersing that link juice throughout the rest of your site. The more link juice the internal pages of your site have, the higher your rankings will be.

Increases User Experience

Internal linking is important because it helps with user experience and overall usability. For example, if people are reading a blog post on your website about the benefits of an online MBA, linking to the online MBA degree page would be very beneficial. Linking to other helpful resources on your site is always going to add value to the visitor.

Lowers Bounce Rate

To go along with usability, when users are visiting other pages on your site, it’s lowering your site’s bounce rate. As mentioned before, having a low bounce rate sends a positive signal to Google, essentially telling them that you have a very resourceful site.

Best Practices For Interlinking

Number of Links

Many people wonder if there is a limit to how many internal links you can include on a page. There is no limit. As long as the page you are linking to is relevant to the current page, then you should link to it.

Relevance Of The Link

On the other hand, you do want to avoid linking to unrelated pages. For instance, if your article is about nursing degrees, it probably wouldn’t make too much sense to link to an article about social work degrees. The idea here is to make sure your article is as natural as possible. We want to make sure Google doesn’t think you are trying to “game” their algorithm.

Anchor Text

You want to link out to your pages using your target keywords. This may seem pretty obvious, but it’s very important. For example, if you’re trying to get your MBA page to rank for the term “online MBA,” then you will want to link to that page using that keyword as the anchor text. Be careful not to overdo this, however. It’s a good idea to use a few other LSI keywords when linking to this page. Remember, keep things looking natural.

7. External Linking

While not nearly as important as internal linking, external linking can help give your site the extra boost that it needs. External linking means linking out to relevant websites within your article or pages. For example, with our higher education clients, Circa Interactive recommend they link externally to published studies.

Why Should We Link To Other Sites?

It may seem a bit counterintuitive to link to other sites since the goal is to keep visitors on your pages. However, by linking to high authority sites, you’re showing Google that your site is a solid resource page. You want to give off the impression that your site is a hub of information.

In the same sense that internal linking is good for user experience, it’s also a good idea to build external links to valuable resources for your visitors. If there is a resource somewhere online that can provide supplemental information on your page’s topic, then this would be very helpful to the user. Even though they are leaving your site, chances are they will remember your school being very helpful, giving them a reason to return as a visitor.

For example, using our Online MBA example again, if your page makes mention of scholarships being available for this program, then linking out to a list of relevant scholarships would be a very good idea.

Best Practices For Linking Externally

When it comes to linking externally in higher education, we want to make sure we’re linking to reputable sources. If you happen to have Moz bar installed, one rule of thumb is to make sure you are only linking out to websites that have a domain authority of 65+. While this is not a perfect way to filter sites, it’s a fairly accurate representation of how much we can trust a site.

Here are a few examples of pages we can comfortably link to:

  • Other .edu domains
  • Any .gov domains
  • Published studies
  • Scholarship pages
  • Websites with domain authority of 65+

8. Length of Content

When I first started out in SEO, digital marketers could throw up 300 words of content and expect the page to rank for its target keywords, but due to new algorithm updates, these days are long gone, especially for the more competitive terms. The length of your content now plays an important role in how a given page ranks in Google.

Benefits Of Longer Content

Better rankings

Well, that’s the obvious answer at least. But it’s true. If you take the time to look at the pages that are ranking for your target keyword, then chances are the ones with the most content are in the top spots. Obviously, this is not the sole factor in what is making these pages rank, but it’s a common denominator. Let’s take a look at the site ranking number 1 for “online MBA.”

content length for higher education seo

As you can see, they nearly have 4,000 words of content. How does your website stack up against that?

This does not mean that you should go add an additional 1000 words of useless fluff to your pages. Google is smarter than that, and you could end up getting slapped with a “thin content” penalty. The goal is to make sure our content is adding ACTUAL value to our visitors. Which brings us to the next benefit…

Adds Value

Having tons of useful information on a page adds value in both the eyes of Google and for the visitor. As mentioned before, the goal is to have your site become a hub of information. Take a look at Wikipedia again as an example to see how long their articles are on any given topic. I can save you some time by telling you: They are very long and full of useful information.

Target More Longtail Keywords

This might be the most important benefit of adding more content to your pages. The longer your content, the more chances you have to rank for long tail keywords. While these long tail keywords don’t have much search volume behind them, it does add up. Think about it this way; you can easily rank for five keywords that each have 100 searches/mo. Simple addition tells us that you are essentially ranking for a keyword with 500 searches/mo.

What Is The Standard In 2017?

Now, you’re probably wondering, “How long should my content be?” A good rule of thumb here is to look at how much content your competitors have. If all of the top results for your target keywords have pages with 2000 words, then you should consider at least matching that. It’s imperative that you do not write content just to get the word count up. If you don’t have actual valuable content to add, then don’t do it. With that being said, there are always ways to get creative and up that word count.

9. Schema Markup For Higher Education

Schema is undoubtedly the most underused method of search engine optimization today. This is partly due to the fact that it’s fairly new and partly because most people don’t understand what exactly it is. So what is it?

Schema is code that is placed on your website which helps Google better understand what exactly your content is about. Think about it as presenting your content to Google on a golden platter. This allows them to display your content in a more informative way in the search engine results. For example, take a look at the search results for “online MBA.” You will see some links going directly to different pages of the site.

using schema markup for colleges and universities

Another way of looking at schema is that it allows the search engines to understand what your content means and not just what it says. The better Google understand what your content is about, the more they will reward you with rankings.

How To Use Schema In Higher Education

Now that you have an idea of what schema markup is let’s look at how we can apply it to higher education marketing. First, take a look at the documentation here.

You will see a ton of options of marking up information regarding your college or university. For example, you can markup the address of the university, notable alumni, any awards that may have been won. If you click on any of the properties on this page, it will go into detail on how to implement them on your website. The process is pretty intuitive, however, does require some basic knowledge of HTML.

It was recently announced that schema.org will be including markup for college courses. This is fantastic news for those interested in higher education. The property is still pending, but you can periodically check here to see if it’s been released.

10. Site Speed

Here is another commonly overlooked on-page factor in the higher education world. If you don’t think the speed of your site matters, then you are about ten steps behind your competition. Not only is site speed incredibly important for your website’s visitors, but it’s just as important in the eyes of Google as well.

Importance Of Website Speed

Let’s say you’ve finally got your university’s site to rank for your target keywords, and prospective students are arriving at your landing page, but it’s taking forever to load. How long do you think before they become frustrated and go to a competitor’s site? With so many other options out there, I can tell you it won’t take long.

Think about the times you’ve been browsing the web and came across a site that took a while to load. You probably click the back button and went to the next search engine result. Having a slow site has a huge effect on bounce rate, which sends a negative signal to Google. If you still aren’t convinced that site speed plays a part in search engine rankings, here is a detailed study from Moz that should make you a believer.

Some Quick Fixes

Get Better Hosting

One of the most common causes of a slow site is a slow host. If you’re paying next to nothing for some shared hosting, chances are it’s having a large effect on your response time. You should consider hosting your website on a dedicated server. While this will be a bit pricier, it will do wonders for your site’s speed.

Compress Large Images

It’s a common issue to have too many large images on a site, which impacts site speed. I recommend compressing images before uploading them. It’s extremely easy, especially with online tools such as Compressor.io.

Minify Your HTML/CSS/JS

This can be a bit technical, but it’s a great way to quickly reduce the load time of your website. If you happen to be running WordPress, there are great plugins that will do this for you automatically, such as W3 Total Cache. If you’re not running WordPress, then I recommend reaching out to a developer to help you accomplish this.

Use A Content Delivery Network

Content Delivery Network’s or CDN’s are great to use for both site speed and security. A CDN is essentially a network of servers around the globe that delivers your webpages to users based on their geographic location. These are fairly easy to setup. Cloudflare is a great one to start with (and free).

To get an idea of where your website stands regarding site speed, you can use this tool from Pingdom. Here is what a well-optimized site looks like:

great site speed for colleges and university websites

If you want to learn more about site speed optimization, then there are tons of resources around the web. Here is an excellent guide to get started.

Wrapping Things Up

I encourage anyone reading this post to implement these tactics on their higher education site. Most of these are quick fixes you can apply today. Doing so will give you a significant advantage over your competition as most people fail to optimize their sites properly.

Be sure to join our mailing list as this all-inclusive guide will continue to be updated. Google is updating their algorithm regularly, so it’s important you stay on top of the game. Thanks for reading and be sure to drop and questions or comments below!

3 Things Higher Education Marketers Should Consider in 2017

Whether it’s the increasing use of mobile devices or Facebook’s unveiling of lead ads, there have been a number of changes to the digital marketing landscape over the past few years. Some of these changes have had substantial impact, and many digital marketers have been scrambling to adjust and align their initiatives in order to remain competitive within the industry. While quick adjustments are often essential, it’s also important for higher education digital marketers to take a step back and conduct a full assessment of the current marketing strategy. With the new year soon approaching, now is a great time for digital marketers to reassess their current initiatives and test out new strategies for 2017. Below, I’ll offer some questions to consider during the review process and highlight a few new strategies to consider for 2017.

Review & Fine Tune

When reassessing your current higher education marketing strategy, you’ll want to consider two key elements: goals and data. If you’re a larger university with a number of initiatives, be sure to keep it simple at first. Perhaps start with the question: Did we reach all of our lead goals that we set for 2016? If no, this is where you’ll want to examine data to uncover where lead goals were missed and why. Outside of lead goals, you’ll also want to consider goals relating to your online presence, such as site visits, followers on social platforms and user engagement. When considering these metrics, examine the data to see if you can identify any trends or patterns to give you an idea where your audience may heading in 2017. For example, a major Q4 increase in traffic to social platforms along with a decrease in site visits could signal that potential students are more interested in reviewing a school’s social identity than they are the traditional web page.

After the review process, be sure to prioritize your goals for 2017 (example: “We’re more concerned with user engagement on social platforms than we are on site visits”), then fine tune your strategy to fit. Questions to consider while fine tuning include:

  • Do we want to reallocate our budget in any areas?
  • Should we remove any marketing initiatives?
  • What social and blog posts were most successful this past year?
  • What sources are most of our leads coming from?
  • Are there new social platforms that we should test?
  • What initiatives are we going to implement to get X number of followers?

When in the assessment and fine-tuning process, you’ll also want to consider recent changes within the industry. Below, I’ll highlight a few of the major changes over the past few years that you’ll want to consider.

Increase in Mobile

Since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, the use of mobile has steadily increased, largely due to the ease of apps and mobile platforms. Yet up till this past year, desktop was always considered the primary source for reaching potential students. According to a comScore report, that now has changed as users are trading desktop for the convenience of mobile. This change has occurred for a number of reasons, but one of the main driving factors is the refinement of apps. For example, when Facebook Mobile was first released, the platform was congested and difficult to use compared to the desktop website. Yet over the past few years, Facebook and other leading tech companies have placed a major emphasis on attracting the millennial audience who tend to rely heavily on mobile. With this switch in focus, companies upgraded their mobile apps and platforms to enhance the mobile experience with improved configuration and additional perks, such as being able to order a pizza without having to leave the Facebook platform. These improvements have resulted in a 394 percent increase in mobile usage, a number that is only projected to increase in the coming years.  

As a higher education marketer, it’s important to know how the aggregate are leaning in their use of digital media, but it’s equally essential not to confuse the aggregate for your own audience. Be sure to dig through your data to see if you can identify a similar shift to mobile amongst your audience. If so, be sure to evaluate paid search strategies, as well as the content on your blog and social platforms to see if there are any adjustments that can be made so content is more mobile friendly.

Facebook Lead Ads

Mark Zuckerberg has turned Facebook into one of the premier advertising platforms, so it’s no surprise that they are leading the transition to mobile advertising with their introduction of leads ads. Within Facebook’s older advertising platform, clicking on an ad would send users outside of Facebook, which proved to be inconvenient for Facebook and its users. Lead ads changed all of this, making it so users can express interest in a school without ever leaving the Facebook platform.

Here’s how lead ads work: when users click on an ad, a lead form opens up within the Facebook platform that’s already automatically filled out based on what kind of information they share with their Facebook audience. So, for most, clicking on a lead ad would open a lead form with their name, phone number and email, and all the user would have to do is click submit to complete the lead form process. So far, the convenience of lead ad forms have proven to be very successful, dropping the aggregate CPL of one of our programs by about $15, all the while boosting lead volume in the process.

If you’re looking to have a strong start to 2017, now is the time to begin auditing your current strategy and implementing new initiatives where they seem fit. Remember to ensure that your current plan aligns with your overall goals, and don’t forget to examine analytics data to get a better understanding of where your audience may be heading in the new year.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comment box below!

 

Tyler Putz of Circa Interactive Tyler is a retired division two college basketball player and a recent graduate from the University of Iowa. His creativity, as well as passion for entrepreneurship and the expansion of technology and communication, helps Circa to continue to stay on the cusp of new technologies and trends influencing future generations of students.

How to Build Backlinks to Infographics

In the online SEO world, there are a plethora of ways to build links and drive visitors to your resources. As many professionals already know, the two main ways to drive traffic to a site is through paid and organic search. Paid search involves using a marketing budget to boost online campaigns such as Facebook advertising and Google AdWord, whereas organic traffic is traffic that comes to your website as a result of unpaid search and is often achievable when appearing on the first page of Googles search results. As most of us already know, the number of links pointed to a particular domain has a direct correlation with search engine ranking results. So overtime, as resources and infographics gain more links, they will slowly rise to the top of the search engine results page for target keywords and drive the organic traffic you’re looking for.

 

Why are Infographics Used?

Many higher education institutions create infographics around breaking news stories or trending studies. They are then able to take a complex subject and turn it into an easy to understand visualization. When infographics are used as a link building strategy, especially in higher education, they can be leveraged to build links since they are educational, informative resources from high authority universities. As I mentioned in my last Higher Education Marketing Journal post, the reason infographics are preferred over other resources is because humans respond better to visual content and statistic show they are more likely to be shared.

Fast Fact: 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text.

 

Where do I Find Link Building Opportunities?

Now that you understand the underlying reasons as to why infographic resources are used, one of the first questions that may come to mind is “Where do I find a prospective audience who will link to this resource?”

Before you can start finding potential candidates for your infographic resource, you need to breakdown the infographic into topic specific sections. This will enable you to get a full understanding of what the infographic will discuss, and you’ll be able to identify specific niches and buzzwords which can be used to segment prospective bloggers.

After you’ve completed an in-depth analysis of the visual resource, you can start applying the three following tactics to begin your link building process.

  1. Backlink Analyses on Similar Graphics
  2. Capitalize on News Trends
  3. Identify Niche Experts

1) Backlink Analysis on Similar Graphics

Before you can build links, your first step should always be to find relevant contacts in your niche. The best way to do this is by running a backlink analysis to help you discover the sites that are linking to a specific domain.

In order to run backlink analysis, the first step is to find a list of infographics with similar titles or topics to the infographic you’re trying to link build to. For instance, the following infographic describes the leadership hierarchy in hospitals and healthcare.


leadership in hospitals
Using this as an example, you should run a Google search using the keyword phrase “healthcare leadership infographic” and then start browsing the top search results and images for similar infographic that have similar topics.

healthcare leadership

When you have found an infographic that is similar to yours, the next step is to take the specific infographic URL and put it into a backlink analysis tool such as Moz or Ahrefs. Once you place the URL in the backlink analyzer tool, you will be able find the sites that have linked to other health infographics.

backlinks
You now have a collection of sites that link to infographics within your niche. Next, you need to select the contacts and sites you want to get a link from. If a site has an extremely high domain authority (over 85), the publication will probably not post your infographic because it will not match their editorial guidelines. However, if the resource explains a trending subject in their industry it could still be worth attempting to gain a link from some highly authoritative sites. After you narrow down the most relevant link building candidates, you need to add them to your outreach list and send an email asking if they would be interested in your resource.

 

2) Capitalize on News Trends

The second link building tactic relies on finding publications that are discussing breaking news or trending stories within your specific niche. Since the news is always timely and constantly changing, you’ll be able find a number of news pegs that relate to your infographic. The main objective of this strategy is to tie in your infographic as an additional resource to what is happening in the news. This is a way to give reporters and bloggers a way to back up their initial stories. As an example, let’s say that you have an infographic that discusses the impact of climate change. You simply search for climate change in Google News and filter through the search results to find publications that are speaking about the latest developments on this subject. Check out this screenshot to get a better understanding of what you will be looking at.

climate change search

As you can see, climate change is being discussed on a consistent basis. These are only the first three results and they could all be added to your outreach list. Now let’s take this a step further. In order to improve the chances of gaining a link, you would want to click-through each article and find the exact author who wrote on the subject. Once the author is identified, you’ll be able to angle a pitch that speaks directly to the writer’s interest, giving you higher chance of landing a link. Always remember that the news will change, but with enough creativity you can get your resources tie in with the trending stories.

 

3) Identify Niche Experts

With over 2 million blog post being written each day, there are limitless link building opportunities available. Think about that for a second. This means over 1,389 articles are being published each minute. Now all you have to do is find the right people to reach out to, and luckily enough, the Internet has made it possible to contact numerous experts in fields ranging from artificial intelligence, labor outlook, health trends, and everything in between. The best way to find these experts is by searching keywords through social media platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. For this example, let’s use the climate change topic again. A great tool to use to assist you with finding these experts is the Twitter Advanced Search Feature. Once you reach advanced search page, always add your collection of keywords in the first line of the search bar and change the date parameters to only focus on the past year.

twitter advanced search
Once you run this search, you’ll be able to filter through the top post, accounts, photos, videos and more, but in order to narrow down to the field experts you’ll want to segment by accounts. Here are the results that were produced from the above search.

climate change twitter
Each of these accounts are either niche publications or experts focused on developments happening in climate change and global warming. Now that you have a collection of climate change individuals at the tip of your finger, the next step is to scrape the entire Twitter search results and add them to your outreach list.

After using these three link building strategies, you will have compiled a list of highly targeted individuals that have built links to infographics before. To finish this process, the final step is to divide up the publications and experts into niche subsegments so you are able to create a personalized outreach pitch that will intrigue each expert.

I hope you are able to build awareness around your infographic resources, gain an abundance of backlinks, rise up in Google rankings and drive organic traffic! Now it is up to you to create your outreaches and email your list of prospective link builders. Happy link building!

 

andersonidea

Austin Anderson is a forward-thinking, motivated marketing specialist. Before Circa, Austin ran an e-commerce business and managed online marketing for startups in San Diego. Austin strives to be a future influencer in the world of digital marketing. Connect with Austin on LinkedIn and Twitter @andersonidea.

3 Ways Higher Education Marketers Can Leverage the 2016 Presidential Election

We are one month from the first presidential debate, and the 2016 election has already proven itself to be one of the most digitally reported and discussed elections in the history of the United States. In fact, over the past 12 months, Americans have spent over 1,284 years reading Donald Trump related content on social media. As we all know, the internet and social media are changing the way Americans interact with presidential candidates, and this provides an enormous amount of content marketing opportunities. The 2016 Presidential Election creates a variety of opportunities for higher education digital marketers to promote their schools and programs, and I’ve put together three ways that digital marketers can leverage the news cycle to build high quality backlinks. 

Leverage Your Professors

Throughout the election, candidates are asked to provide insight on a number of issues ranging from civil rights to the federal budget to foreign policy. These topics may be the focal point of a professor’s area of expertise which digital marketers can leverage when seeking PR opportunities.

When leveraging professors, it is important that digital marketers clearly articulate the value that professors can provide reporters. Professors are often the thought leaders of their industries and niches and can provide high-level insights that have yet to be published. For example, the release of Hillary Clinton’s Initiative on Technology and Innovation, which places a major focus on investing in computer science and STEM education, provides Circa’s PR team with the opportunity to leverage our engineering, computer science, and other STEM-related professors for articles providing expert commentary on what Clinton’s initiative could mean for the STEM industry, as well as its potential impact on the future of our education system.

Another way to leverage your professors is through HARO. For those that don’t know, HARO (which stands for Help a Reporter Out) is an online service designed to provide reporters with quality sources for upcoming stories and sources with the possibility to obtain media coverage. Those who have signed up for HARO as potential sources receive daily emails featuring a list of reporters seeking quotes or insights for upcoming articles. If an article seems to fit a professor’s area of expertise, all a PR specialist needs to do is respond to the email and pitch the professor by noting the expert angle or insight that she or he could provide to the story.

As campaign coverage continues to gain speed, there will likely be an increase in HARO opportunities with reporters seeking academic or professional insight, so if you haven’t signed up for HARO yet, it is certainly worth exploring.

Create Resources Highlighting the Election

Being one of the key events of 2016, the Presidential Election is a prime time-peg that higher education digital marketers can use in creating resources for their schools and programs. There are a number of different angles to take when creating resources. Some of the most popular include:

  • Blog posts
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • GIFs

For those that don’t know, visual resources are great for creating informative, yet appealing content, so infographics would be particularly good for highlighting the election. There are a few different ways to highlight the election through infographics, which would include leveraging content on a topic candidates are discussing (Ex. cyber security) or creating an infographic on the election, such as this one on social media and presidential campaigns.

Within the creation process, keep in mind that the main goal of infographics is to build links back to your program, and the best way to build links is to create intriguing content that provides value to the viewer. Sometimes value can come from a unique angle, newsworthy content or reliable statistics; other times it can be through a graph or visual that highlights an intriguing contrast. Either way, be sure that your graphics provide value of some kind so that viewers will be more inspired to share them with their network.

Add to the Social Commentary

Whether it’s a insensitive statement or previously unreleased documents, every day it seems as though there is a new story involving Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. And while journalists report the initial story, higher education digital marketers have the opportunity to leverage this content and add to the social commentary. For those that don’t know, social commentary is considered an act of expression that comments and thus expands upon a social issue within society. If this sounds complicated, it really isn’t. In fact, adding to the social commentary can be as simple as sharing a news story or quote on social media platforms and asking followers to share their opinions. Higher education digital marketers could also take this a step further by including a quick quote from a professor on the current political issue.

Regardless of what approach is taken, it is important that a call to action (CTA) is included at the end of the social post. This CTA doesn’t necessarily have to be anything complicated, just something to encourage the reader to share their insight or opinion.

If the election coverage continues to progress at its current pace, there may not be a more consistent time peg than the 2016 Presidential election, so digital marketers would be wise to leverage this opportunity as much as possible for their schools and programs. No matter what approach you take, make sure to clearly position your programs and professors as the leaders within their niche. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to be creative and have fun with whatever method you choose.
Have you been leveraging the presidential election in your digital marketing efforts? If so, what has worked for you? We’d love to hear your insight!

Tyler Putz of Circa Interactive Tyler is a retired division two college basketball player and a recent graduate from the University of Iowa. His creativity, as well as passion for entrepreneurship and the expansion of technology and communication, helps Circa to continue to stay on the cusp of new technologies and trends influencing future generations of students.

A Step-by-Step Guide on how to Leverage University Events for Your SEO Strategy

Universities throughout the United States regularly host events and conferences with the intention of bringing awareness to certain topics and causes, while simultaneously building upon their thought leadership within the industry. However, while more organizations and institutions are beginning to leverage online tactics to promote their events, many are still missing out on a key opportunity to build links to their event, which will in turn help with rankings and visibility for the program. Here at Circa Interactive, we have found that using university events and conferences as an SEO and link building tactic can be a very effective strategy in boosting our clients’ rankings and brand awareness. The reason that this strategy is so successful is because featuring relevant industry events can provide great value to a publication’s readership. For example, we recently acquired twelve links over a ten day period for a brain summit hosted by one of our university clients, which clearly proves that this strategy can be a powerful and effective one. Here is a step-by-step guide on how you can achieve the same results for your university program events, including but not limited to: conferences, conventions, exhibits, and university tours.  

Start with Event Websites

You should begin by targeting national event listing sites as these will be relevant to every event that you host and serve to create easy link wins. Many of these sites simply require you to send them the details of the event, along with the URL, so that they can verify whether it is a legitimate event. This is a great tactic to obtain your first batch of links. These links are also likely to be diverse in comparison to many others you may have in your portfolio, thus further increasing the value of these placements. A diverse backlink portfolio with a variety of high quality wins is seen as a positive indicator to Google and will therefore be beneficial from an SEO standpoint. Some national event listing sites that I would recommend starting with are: lanyrd.com, conferencealerts.com, and eventbrite.com.

Write a Press Release

The concept behind a press release is to share newsworthy content with relevant contacts. This should be used to accompany your link building efforts. If possible, also factor in how this press release will work best from an SEO perspective and how a search engine will recognize your keywords. Your press release should elaborate on the details of the event, discuss the target audience, and note who the key speakers are. Also remember to include any contact information so that media outlets can obtain more information if needed. Alongside this, remind the media contact why this topic is important in a wider context. This can be achieved by using a news peg that is closely associated with your event. Prior to our client’s brain summit, a report stated that the rate of ADHD diagnosis had risen 5% each year since 2003. This data signified the importance of continued brain research and enabled us to provide media contacts with an additional reason to publish information on the event. A press release has the potential to spread far and wide because many media outlets pick up stories from other local media sources. If you can find a few sites that are willing to post your press release, then this could create a ripple effect and you might end up with a number of placements in a short amount of time without having to manually acquire all the placements yourself.  

Look for Local Links

A big part of your strategy should be to target sites that report on news in the area where your event is being held. Being featured on the main page of newspapers, tourism sites, and local news sites can be difficult, but securing a link placement in their events section is certainly possible and very valuable. This provides a great opportunity to land a diverse set of links that may have been otherwise been very difficult to attain. News outlets are also more likely to be interested in an event that is being hosted in an area that they regularly cover and that is of interest to their readership.

Target Industry-Specific Sites

In addition to targeting sites that report on local news and events, it is important to pitch your event to industry-specific sites. If your event is based around the topic of mental health, then it makes sense to target blogs and news sites that cover mental health related topics. However, you should not solely limit yourself to these confines and should not be afraid get creative and expand your outreach whenever possible. Reaching out to sites that cover other medical related topics would not be too far fetched in this case. If you can position the event to be relevant and valuable to the publication’s audience, then you will have a better chance of getting a media placement and link out of it.

Conduct a Competitor Analysis

You are unlikely to be the first organization that is hosting an event or conference related to your specific niche. Discovering where similar events have been posted is a surefire way to find websites that you know are willing to post this type of content. Again, if you are hosting a conference on mental health, searching for simple keywords like “mental health conferences” in Google will enable you to find a host of previous events on this topic. You can then conduct a competitor backlink analysis for each event to discover which sites linked to them. There are a number of tools out there that can be used to conduct this analysis, but here at Circa we use Moz. You simply need to enter the event’s URL into Moz’s Open Site Explorer search bar and from there you will be able to view all inbound links to that particular URL. Moz only allows you to have three free searches a day unless you upgrade to Moz Pro. However, you can test out this software with a 30 day free trial. Once you determine which sites are good quality, a competitor analysis will provide you with an important set of leads to go after. One easy way to help determine which sites are high quality is to reference the information provided alongside the list of inbound URL’s, which includes the domain authority (DA) and the spam score. The domain authority ranges from 1-100, and the higher it is, the better and more high quality the site is. Conversely, you want the spam score to be as low as possible. By finding and targeting sites that have posted similar event information in the past, you will likely save time and resources on outreach while also increasing your success rate.

Follow Up After the Event

Even if you have acquired a respectable number of links prior to the event, your outreach shouldn’t stop there. Some of the best opportunities will come after the event, which is particularly relevant following a conference. The findings from a conference are often a great source of content for media outlets. Conducting searches on Google and social media will help you find individuals who have been talking about topics that relate to your event. Creating a new page on your website which discusses and dissects the findings will also help you to gain links following the event.

George has recentGeorgely joined the Circa team in California following the completion of his master’s in marketing management and strategy degree, where he graduated with distinction from Plymouth University in England. George is a PR and digital marketing specialist who is passionate about creating high level opportunities for professors within national publications.