Future of Digital Marketing: 8 Experts Share Their Predictions

With voice search and machine learning on the rise, we reached out to 8 digital marketing experts to get their insights on these developing technologies and share predictions on the future of digital marketing.

Read on to discover insights from industry leading digital marketing companies like Backlinko, Search Engine Land and many more.

 

We Asked Experts in the Field to Share Their Thoughts on the Future of Digital Marketing

 

Future of Digital Marketing - Brian Dean

Brian Dean

Founder & CEO at Backlinko

@Backlinko

 

1. Voice Search

It’s already HUGE. And it’s only going to get bigger.

Already huge: 40% of US adults use voice search once per day.

Going to get bigger: comScore estimates that 50% of ALL searches will be voice searches within the next 2 years.

And I’ve seen this myself. I’ve found myself talking more to my computer and phone than ever before. And as the technology improves, I’m going to type less and talk more.

2. Video

Like voice search, video is “the next big thing” that’s already here. I mean, YouTube is already the 2nd most popular website online (even more than Facebook).

But in many ways, video is just getting started. More and more people are producing videos for Instagram, Facebook and other platforms like LinkedIn. It’s also much easier to create a decent video on the cheap than in the past.

The data backs this up: Cisco reports that 81% of all traffic will be video by 2021.

3. Quality Over Quantity

Blog posts. Images. Podcasts. There’s WAY too much content online.

And people are tuning out: Email open rates are down. Blogs are losing readers. Facebook posts are getting ignored.

In short, people are focusing more on reading, watching and listening to the best stuff.

So marketers that focus on quality over quantity are going to have a big edge over the competition in 2018.

 

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Future of Digital Marketing - Robert Lee

Robert Lee

Co-founder & CEO at Circa Interactive

@CircaRob

 

1. Pullback on Persona Based Targeting Opportunities

It’s been a bumpy road for Facebook over the last six months. With the backlash around privacy concerns and the Russian election meddling, the platform has had to take drastic measures to ease the concerns of Facebook users by providing increased insight into how individuals can tighten up their personal information, while also introducing steps to eliminate some of the platform’s most useful targeting options.

Facebook even launched a large scale advertising campaign apologizing for their missteps and promising improvements into the future.

The most interesting aspect of all of this is the ripple affect spread across other digital environments that have mirrored Facebook in regards to their information collection processes.

Most of these platforms followed suit and many users noticed new alerts pop-up within these environments notifying them of new privacy and information collection policies.

While providing this level of insight to consumers is great, advertisers that rely on these platforms to drive targeted traffic will experience challenges. This could be the last nail in the coffin for more traditional job and skill related segmentation, and force Facebook and other platforms to advance their use of seed-list style advertising.

2. New Web Scraping and CAN-SPAM Regulation

While I can’t guarantee that the government is going to get their act together and move on something like this, having your email address and other contact information online has now become a massive nuisance.

The two elements to this equation are first the ability to crawl websites to acquire users information (which are predominantly done by automated crawls based on search parameters) and the outreach to these individuals via large scale outreach campaigns that are disguised as personal messages.

While this tactic can be very effective when it comes to distributing content and building links, many webmasters are starting to get frustrated with the bombardment as the strategy of automated scraping and outreach becomes more routine.

I personally receive at least 10+ cold outreaches a day even though I continue to opt-out of lists, and while I’m guilty of some of these tactics myself, you can tell a tipping-point is near.

3. Automation and AI

While the same can be said for most industries, automation and more intelligent human-informed (but machine implemented) decision making will continue to eat into the digital marketing job sector in 2018.

While a lot of the jobs that will get swallowed are more fringe digital marketing, strategies such as chat bots and bid-management will continue to advance and replace some of the less technical human-based skill-sets that currently exist.

Content and more specifically copy creation/writing are other elements that could be replaced by machines as technologies become more advanced at producing comprehendible language.

 

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Future of Digital Marketing - Barry Schwartz

Barry Schwartz

Executive Editor at Search Engine Roundtable & News Editor at Search Engine Land 

@RustyBrick

 

 1.Voice Search

All the data shows that voice search is growing fast now. Between talking to your phone, your Alexa, Google Home, Apple’s Home Pod and even talking to your car over CarPlay or Android Auto – voice search is the future.

Expect voice search to be a huge area in the near future and with that, you need to figure out how to optimize for “position zero” and handle transactional voice search commands.  Is it all very new now, so stay on top of it.

2. Mobile Search

Google launched their mobile-first index, which means Google will crawl the web from a mobile phone perspective.  Make sure your mobile site is equivalent to your desktop site and that nothing important is missing.

3. Speed

While speed seems to be less and less of a ranking factor today, Google keeps pushing AMP on webmasters.  AMP and PWAs might be the future or might not be, it is hard to tell.  But everyone wants faster sites, so expect more of an emphasis on this.

 

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Future of Digital Marketing - Alexis Sanders

Alexis Sanders

Technical SEO Manager at Merkle Inc., Writer for Moz

@AlexisKSanders

 

1. Mobile Remains Priority

Mobile conversion issues have been at the top of Google’s priorities, heightened by mobile overcoming desktop circa 2014. Google’s highly anticipated mobile-first index is scheduled to launch within 2018.

Accelerated Mobile Pages’ (AMP) have been improving dramatically and I suspect we’ll see more e-commerce case studies emerge in 2018.

Finally, Apple’s Safari will start to feel more pressure to support service workers for Progressive Web Apps (PWA). If Safari beings to support PWAs’ core functionality, it’ll drastically improve their marketability.

2. Web Performance Optimization Becomes Sexy

Websites have been growing in size creating a website obesity crisis (HTTPachive.org shows ~280% growth 2011 v 2017). Sites are going to have determine the right solution mix from their website as multiple remedies emerge (including: HTTP/2, AMP, PWA, CRP, RAILS).

3. We’re Going to Continue Hear About Machine Learning (ML) Victories

Google’s research blog has been publishing a ton about breakthroughs in ML, along with technologies that make ML more accessible to the average human being (think: Kaggle.comTensorFlow, and Facets visualizations). ML offers the potential to better understand multimedia content better.

We’ll likely see more poignant, targeted KG responses and SERPs in these areas. Also, as the training wheel supports for Google’s algorithm, structured data is an important aspect of developing data classification. In 2017, we saw their structured data documentation morph about every quarter.

Google will likely continue to expand structured data documentation. Bing will face more pressure to support JSON-LD, as websites being leveraging the format.

4. Google’s Going to Face More Media Pressure

Google will be at the center of public debates surrounding fake news, data security (against hacking attacks), privacy concerns, and proprietary information. Following this trend, Google will likely ramp up the importance of HTTPS. About 60% of the top 100 sites are on HTTPS already.

5. Conversational Devices and Voice Search

Voice search technology is becoming closer to conversational (within a word accuracy rate that people are willing to deal with). Once the capabilities reach acceptable levels, we’ll likely see a resurgence of chat bots.

I also anticipate seeing a shift in the marketing mindset surrounding fortified content strategies, striking the balance between making content obtainable for voice search and yet not allowing Google to completely “steal your thunder.”

 

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Future of Digital Marketing - Daniel Kempe

Daniel Kempe

Co-Founder & CEO at Quuu.co 

@DanielKempe

 

1. Content Diversification

At Quuu, we are excited to see how content marketing is diversifying, extending beyond articles or blog posts to include video, podcasting, infographics and more.

Companies will really need to adapt to this trend to stay in the game. We’ll see larger companies hiring video producers and graphic designers to collaborate with their marketing teams.

But where it gets really exciting is if you work for a startup; let’s say you’re a one or two-person marketing department, then you’re going to have to learn those skills yourselves.

2. Up-Coming Digital Marketing Tools

Luckily, there are tonnes of cool tools out there to help you create different types of content – without having to enroll in film school! Lumen5 was a big hit with content marketers last year (use it to repurpose your blog posts into short videos for social).

In 2018 I’m looking forward to exploring Anchor. Not only does it allow you to quickly and easily record podcasts from your phone, but it’s also a growing social platform in its own right.

What I’m most excited about are our own new tools, the Quuu Scheduler and Content Recycling tools. We are pushing these out shortly and even more exciting for our users, the price will stay the same.

We just want to make our users even more successful on social media by providing a suite of tools to facilitate, alongside our hand-curated content suggestions.

 

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Future of Digital Marketing - Stephen Panico

 Stephen Panico

Chief Growth Officer at BuzzStream

 

 

1. Google Gets Even More Intelligent

Digital marketing, particularly related to link building, is in an interesting place right now. Despite the penalties that sites have encountered by Google in the past, it seems like there is a lot of information going around right now that suggests that technical SEO and on-page optimization coupled with frankly shady tactics like link-buying are beneficial.

The reality is there is probably a grain of truth to that. Right now anyway.

Unfortunately, while there is some evidence that Google is being a little lax right now when it comes to enforcement of penalties, that can (read: eventually will) change at a moments notice.

The really messed up thing is that the opportunistic SEOs that take advantage of this fact won’t be the ones who are hurt, it will be their clients that get slammed with penalties.

So ultimately, teams that target their promotional efforts toward high authority publications with relevant content are going to outperform their peers, now and particularly as Google continues to get more intelligent (and everyone who has ever bet against that happening has lost big time). 

2. Rise in Uncovering the True Value of a Link

As far as tools, there are some interesting new thoughts on authority metrics that are getting tossed around right now. Effectively, we’re seeing more tools attempt to diagnose the true value of a link, which is certainly one of the most challenging aspects of link building, particularly when dealing with clients.

For example, Ahrefs Backlink Checker attempts to do this by providing a well-rounded dashboard giving full visibility into various aspects of link value, whereas some new metrics such as Verve’s Linkscore offer a proprietary algorithm based on blended on and off site metrics to deduce value. 

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Future of Digital Marketing - Devin Kostrzewski

Devin Kostrzewski

Founder & CEO at Authority Builders 

@Dmak_11

 

1. Back to Basics

I still always come back to the phrase “back to basics.” Despite the ever-changing world of digital marketing, the same basic formula still applies. Create a well-organized website, keep it up to date, and create the best content you can. The results will follow.

There are always new methods, tricks, software and ideologies that build off those principles but without the basic principles, nothing works. Even in my world of off-page SEO and link building, if the domain I am earning links for has improper coding, tags or descriptions then all my effort is for nothing!

If you hire some fancy social media agency who is able to push interaction and traffic to your site but your e-commerce store is not set up properly you likely aren’t going to covert much, adding to your wasted costs/efforts.

2. Digital Marketing Tools Continue to Evolve

As far as tools I need software for tracking SEO metrics and evaluating the quality of links for my clients, I always rely on Moz, Majestic and SEMRush. Ahrefs gets an honorable mention. They are always evolving and provide the best insights for my line of work.

 

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Future of Digital Marketing - Bryan Traficante

Bryan Traficante

Founder & CEO at TrafMarketing

@BTraficante

 

1. Social Media Improving the Impact of Smaller Brands

For social media posting and advertising, I see the biggest opportunities for smaller brands to make an impact if they focus on the user’s mindset and intent of the channel. Social media (especially Facebook and Instagram) is a form of escapism and educational discovery, keep that in mind when developing ads and engaging with your community.

2. Emotional Connections for Increased Customer Engagement

Organic posts (things you share on your wall/feed) should 100% be value first. An example of this would be post videos explaining topics you’re an expert in to educate your followers and documenting the ins and outs of your business and things you’re doing.

Organic posting (and comment responding!) is an opportunity to add human and relate-able elements to your company that people can develop an emotional connection to. Many of whom you’ll come to see as regular consumers of your content and even advocates for your company.

This organic connection then also provides your company leverage for selling in the future because that connection you’ve built produces trust and rapport.

3. Social Media: Advertising

For advertising, there are numerous strategies to deploy especially in the Facebook/Instagram/Audience Network space – which is where I see a lot of awareness and consideration marketing funnel growth for companies. I see good strategy trends moving more toward behavioral targeting.

Here’s a simplistic example: Say you’re a brewery and you have a blog post about stouts. You can target all people who have visited that blog post in the last X amount of days and deliver an ad to them on Facebook/Instagram/Audience Network. These people are obviously more aware of your company and have some form of interest in stouts.

Knowing that, you can custom tailor an ad targeting those people, ensure high relevance by recognizing that interest and then more easily suggest a business action. “Love Stouts? Same here! They’re creamy and delicious! We just tapped our new Coffee Nitro Milk Stout! Swing by our brewery and grab a pint!”

 

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If you have any insights on the future of digital marketing, feel free to share them in the comment section below. Also, if you’d like to join this list, email tyler@circaedu.com with your submission. 

Tools and Tricks to Help with Your Link Building Campaign

SEO continues to be a driving force in the marketing world, and as it becomes more integrated in other marketing functions, new roles seem to be popping up everywhere–SEO Analyst, SEO Content Strategist, and SEO Outreach Coordinator are just a few of the new titles we’ve seen lately.

Let’s narrow in on the SEO Content Strategist and the SEO Outreach Coordinator positions. These positions aren’t too surprising to see considering the fact that content and backlinks continue to be on the list of top SEO ranking factors year after year after year.

To oversimplify things, using content to boost rankings is something we can control. It comes down to doing the keyword research, optimizing your content, and tweaking things to get to the position you want–easy peasy, right?

Obtaining links on the other hand, is not as easy to control. You can reach out to as many publishers as you want, but you can’t force them to link to your site–hence the need for someone who specializes in outreach. While one position may seem easier than the other, they’re actually both just as complex, and both necessary for each other’s success.

The Content Strategist must not only focus on creating content that can rank, but also creating content that is engaging and valuable enough to merit links–making it easier for the Outreach Coordinator to earn links. Now, the Outreach Coordinator has to get links back to the content created by the Content Strategist in order to give the site and blog content the boost it needs to rise in the rankings.

Now that we understand how these two positions work together to boost each other up, we’ll go into some specific tools and tricks to help with link building.

Create wow-worthy content

We simplified it in the beginning, but creating great content that is optimized for search engines, but also engaging for people is not an easy task. That being said, you can control the value of the content that you put out.

Use keyword research to figure out what people are searching for–what do they want to know? Take that research and create amazing content that will fill the questions and needs of potential customers.

Finally, make sure that your content is not only optimized for search engines, but also visually pleasing and engaging. Canva is a commonly used tool that marketers use to easily create visual engaging content that increases shares and engagements. Users love it because it’s easy to import your own images and use the templates to make great images for social media posts and ads. Outgrow is another tool that users love for creating quizzes, calculators, and polls that will increase engagement and gather leads.

Increase efficiency with outreach tools

Backlink outreach campaigns can be painful. You can send 1,000 emails and get no response. You could put hours into building relationships with publishers on Twitter, but have zero backlinks to show for it.

While there’s no way to promise backlinks, you can increase the number of pitches you put out with outreach tools. Increasing efficiency is a crucial element of a successful outreach campaign, and below are a couple of suggested tools to try out.

Infusionsoft is a popular tool for sales outreach, but can easily be used for link outreach too. Users love the ability to prioritize contacts based on responsiveness. Buzzsumo is another popular influencer outreach tool. Users like the ability to create lists of influencers in a specific category using the platform itself.

A/B test different outreach emails and content types

Different types of content may have different success rates for earning backlinks. A/B test the different types of content you’re producing to determine which types are best for using in outreach emails. You should also A/B test the language you use in outreach emails to increase your ROI.

Earning links will not be an easy task, but with the right SEO team members working together, you can be sure that your content development and link building efforts are supporting and raising each other up.

Kelsey Reaves is a content-focused Marketing Manager at TrustRadius, a trusted site for B2B software reviews. When she’s not sharing her knowledge on the latest trends in software and B2B news, she nurtures her passion for travel by exploring new cities and binge watching Anthony Bourdain

15 Higher Education Digital Marketing Strategies for 2018

Every day, universities and colleges are coming up with exciting, innovative courses for the millions of motivated students all over the world. The higher education space is being redefined by innovation in design, delivery and employability for many degree programs. Education experts have the resources they need to craft, test and rollout cutting edge online degree programs. That’s why higher education institutions are bringing on board creative communication and marketing professionals to keep their institutions and programs visible and desirable. Here at Circa, we utilize unique higher education marketing strategies that help raise awareness of courses and programs while bringing in high quality students that enable online degree programs to flourish. 

Innovative PPC Strategies

Andrew Glasser and Farzin Espahani

The possibilities for higher ed marketing are seemingly endless when it comes to PPC. It is by and large the most immediate method for generating high-quality leads while broadcasting your brand to qualified individuals, ultimately turning clicks into prospective students. In Search, PPC is a hotbed for student acquisition, with degree-seekers constantly turning to Google and Bing to help them decide their career/academic path. Within Social, PPC offers increasingly advanced tools which we can use to hone in on subgroups of your target audience, fostering lead growth in the student acquisition cycle while simultaneously nurturing your Brand’s reach.

When it comes to paid advertising on social platforms, we notice a clear trend for universities who are marketing online graduate degree programs: All the ads are the same. The ad copy makes it clear that the program is flexible and completely online, and the visuals often convey a happy working professional looking satisfied in their new role. In 2018, it is our focus, mission, and purpose to ensure that colleges and universities make a commitment to standing out from the crowd by showcasing their true story. Students understand that they have basic needs in their degree program, but in 2018, millennials need to have a connection to something bigger. It is important for universities to look at their missions, ideals, and unique value propositions outside of online, flexible, innovative curriculum to begin conveying the information that matters to a student’s personal journey.

Mobile Optimized Search Ads

Studies continue to show that mobile devices are the go-to option for searching the internet. In fact, mobile devices are used more often for searches than desktop computers.  The average person checks their phone 150 times a day, the average time spend on a smartphone is 177 minutes per day, and amazingly, the average mobile session is 70 seconds. This means consumers are using their phones all day, every day, but in short bursts of time. By bidding higher for mobile devices in Google Adwords and Bing ads while utilizing mobile optimized ad extensions we can increase the CTR significantly.

Managed Placements And Interests

Managed placements is a good strategy when there are specific websites that you think are related to specific program or university where can be visited by a potential student. For example for an online MBA program, we want to place our display ads on education related websites and focus on pages relevant to higher education and career advancement. This will help us to make sure our ads are shown to those more likely to click on the ad to learn more.  

Facebook Retargeting Campaigns

The beauty and effectiveness of retargeting allows you to reach out to users who have already showed interest to your brand or program and to get them to re-engage with your brand. This is a slow but steady and cost effective strategy that converts more students compared to traditional targeting, since users are more likely to engage with ads from brands that they know. The best way to achieve a winner retargeting strategy is to start with a brand awareness ad to simply introduce your brand. Then running a retargeting campaign that shows new ads to those who have already engaged with your previous ad.

Fundamental SEO Strategies

Tyler Cooper

Every month, hundreds of thousands of prospective students are logging onto their computers, opening up Google, and trying to figure out where they should earn their degree. If your website’s SEO strategy is not up to par, chances are you’re missing out on the vast majority of these leads. While you can use Google AdWords to show up for these results, you’re going to be paying a premium for each click. When you rank organically, there is no cost per click. When looking at this from an ROI perspective, the value of SEO is undeniable. Having a large search presence means more organic traffic, more leads, more applicants, and more students. If SEO is not a part of your digital marketing strategy in 2018, you are doing yourself a huge disservice.

Link building

Link building is undoubtedly the most important aspect of your SEO strategy. In order to compete in competitive markets such as higher education, your website will need a steady stream of high-quality and relevant backlinks. There are a number of link building strategies. You can read more about those here.

On-Page SEO

In order to get the most out of your link building campaigns, it’s extremely important that your on-page SEO is in place. Make sure you all of the content on your website is properly optimized for search. This includes keyword rich title tags, relevant meta descriptions, keyword density, optimized header tags, internal linking, and much more.

Technical SEO

While this may require assistance from a web developer, it’s important that your site is technically sound so that it can be properly crawled by Google. The easier it is for Google to crawl and understand your site, the more your website’s pages will be shown in Google’s search results. On the other hand, if your website is full of technical errors, your search rankings will almost certainly suffer. Some things to look for when performing a technical SEO audit are: 404 errors, missing/broken XML sitemaps, slow page load times, duplicate content, irrelevant/thin content, and more! Use a tool like Screaming Frog to identify some of these common issues.

Website Content Strategies

Frederic Lee

Creation of website content (articles, infographics, data visualization, and more) is an essential aspect of any search marketing strategy. The primary reason being that Google favors websites with fresh content. With this in mind, a strategy of continuous creation and publication of content is important for website visibility in Google’s search results. In addition to creating fresh content, here are three core strategies to get the most ROI in this content.

Traffic and Rankings Focused Content

Through careful keyword research with an emphasis on target long-tail variations of your core keywords, content can be created with the best opportunity to rank in the search results. Keyword clusters/pods can be established in order to streamline content creation and may cover many keyword opportunity areas surrounding a long-tail variation. Upon completion and distribution, this content may rank for competitive keywords and either bring in large quantities of industry traffic, or a lesser, more valuable flow of conversion-focused traffic.

Conversion Support Focused Content

Depending on your business goals, conversion support content have a goal of providing detailed information about your product/service and industry. This content is designed to speak directly to individuals in the sales funnel. Through paid and organic social distribution and careful placement on your website, these articles are designed to be a strong touchpoint in the sales process.

Social Signal Focused Content

A portion of the Google algorithm involves having positive social signals pointing towards your website and content. Articles and graphics can be created with this exact goal in mind. A detailed analysis of your target audience and how they interact on social network is a key first step. This content must give them a reason to share and engage. Upon publication, strategic social sharing and promotion can help kick start this content on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other relevant networks to your industry.

Creative Digital PR Strategies

George Bradley and Joseph Lapin

In the higher education industry, digital public relations is an important approach for any SEO strategy. Here at Circa, we believe that the faculty are one of a university’s greatest assets, yet in general, many higher ed marketing companies are not utilizing these key stakeholders. By leveraging traditional public relations strategies for the digital world, digital PR not only influences brand awareness and thought leadership for universities, but it also allows us to create high level media opportunities for our professors in publications such as the Washington Post, The Hill and HuffPost. Not only are the professors being placed here, but we are obtaining backlinks to our program pages. This directly influences organic traffic that leads to conversions and new students. In collaboration with on-page SEO elements, content marketing, and other link building strategies, digital PR helps bring prospective students to a university and serves as a significant contributor to a diverse link profile for an authoritative website.

Relationship Building

Professors and reporters/editors are the two key relationships that should be built as part of a higher education digital marketing strategy. By building trusting relationships with faculty, you are able to gain an understanding of their research and passions and also create opportunities that are specifically focused on their expertise. Relationships with reporters can also prove to be greatly beneficial. When you have a reporter who trusts you, they are far more likely to respond to your pitch and come to you for a quote from one of your faculty members.

Creative Pitch Writing

Pitching compelling story lines and sources are the crux of any PR strategy. In the higher education digital marketing space, we leverage the faculty expertise to write pitches that relate to current trending topics in the news. There are often four key components to a pitch, and these are the lead, call to action, unique value proposition, and conclusion. You can find more information on how to write these pitches here.

Stay on Top of the News

Having access to and critically understanding the latest news is imperative because you want to stay ahead of the curve. There are various ways to understand what is happening throughout the world, and you should consider each method to be as important as the next. Understanding stories in the newspaper and tying in our professors is the perfect way to begin the pitching process. All of this comes back to understanding your professors and the people working on relevant stories within the media.

Organic Social Media Marketing

Audrey Wills

In 2018, social media is an imperative part to any digital marketing strategy –– especially for higher education. To put the importance of social media marketing into context, take a look at the graph below. When the Pew Research Center began tracking social media usage in 2005, less than 8% of 18-49 year olds in America used at least one social platform. Today, over 75% of 18-49 year olds are active on at least one social media site, meaning social media is the optimal medium for reaching higher education’s target audience.

While the growth in social media usage is a good thing in the world of higher education digital marketing, this increased usage leads to users being inundated with ads and content marketing. So much so that at the beginning of 2018, Facebook changed its algorithm to prioritize content from user’s inner circles. Thus, making it even more difficult to get content in front of your target audience –– organically at least. So what tactics can you use to ensure you continue to reach your audience and boost enrollment? Let’s take a look.

Know Your Platform

As mentioned before, Facebook changed their algorithm in the beginning of 2018 to prioritize content from a user’s family and friends. This means that whenever you post content, whether it is on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, you need to post content that best suits that platform.

Facebook’s algorithm favors content that people want to engage with. Think: would I share this with my friends? Content that is made for Twitter should be concise, yet informational. Let your followers know what you’re sharing and why. Do some research and identify the most active hashtags for your industry and use them throughout your tweets to help increase your reach. When creating content for Instagram, think visuals first, and make sure you have an eye-catching graphic that will grab your follower’s attention and get them to stop scrolling.

Keep up-to-date on social media marketing by attending a conference: http://circaedu.com/hemj/13-higher-education-marketing-conferences-in-2018/  

Live Video

One tactic that all social media algorithm’s love is Live Video. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter enable you to leverage live video to interact with prospective students. My favorite tactic for utilizing live video is hosting live Q&A info sessions to address general program FAQs and provide prospective students the opportunity to ask questions and receive answers in real-time. Hosting a series of Q&A info sessions that address different areas of your program. To give students a better feel for your program, have different team members host each session. Anyone from an alumni, a current student, a faculty member, or even dean are perfect candidates to provide their own perspective and create a connection with the prospective students.

Chatbots At Your Service

Social media has changed the way we all communicate, and chatbots are taking our new forms of communication one step further. Chatbots provide a modern way for students to get questions answered instantaneously. Implementing chatbots into your recruitment strategy can help your admissions team speed up the enrollment process by weeding out unqualified candidates, answering questions in seconds, not hours, and even following up with potential students to ensure they finish their applications before the enrollment deadline.

Circa Interactive is the premier digital marketing agency in higher education. Since opening in 2011, Circa Interactive has helped more than 60 degree programs increase lead flow, build brand awareness,and generate more students. To find out how our services could help your institution, please email clayton@circaedu.com. 

 

Understanding the Value of A/B Testing

What is A/B Testing?

Have you ever wondered if a certain piece of content on your website is performing to its full potential? If the subject line on your email campaign is compelling enough to maximize open rates, or even if a button on your website is the best color to attract a user to click? Many businesses and their marketing teams ask these and similar questions every day. Thankfully these questions can be answered by utilizing A/B testing.

A/B testing, or split testing, as some people like to call it, is a controlled experiment whereby two or more variants are tested against each other to find which performs better. This commonly used approach allows marketers to make the most of existing traffic that has usually taken a lot of time and money to get in the first place.

The Stages of A/B Tests

There are a handful of stages when running a successful A/B test. These stages can vary depending on who you ask but in general, four show up time and time again. These stages can be represented in four questions.

Do I need to conduct an A/B test?

Testing random ideas just for the fun of it will more than likely be a waste of time. For this reason, it is highly advised to create a hypothesis first. This hypothesis must be based on research into where the problem lives. For example, “if I make this change I expect to see this result”. This will help you gain information on not only what needs to change on your site but valuable information on your customers and their behavior.  

What metrics will define the success of this test?

This stage is the most important, and thus should be given the most time and focus. It is important to define what metric which will be used to measure if the experiment group is better than the control group or not. To help you decide this, you need to ask yourself what are you going to use the metrics for. There are two main categories of use that you will be using your metric for; Invariant checking, variants that should not change across your experiment and control, and evaluation of metrics and evaluation. These can be either high level such as increase in revenue or percent of market share. On the other hand, matrices can be more finer and look at user experience.  

It is important to note that some metrics may not be able to be completely measure correctly due to factors such as technology and demographics used. For example, Java may not run on certain web browsers resulting in incorrect CTR. As a result, filters may be needed to ensure data is not skewed and the metrics chosen can actually measure correctly.

How to design an experiment?

Designing the experiment includes deciding on a unit of diversion, deciding on the size and characteristics of the population and how long the experiment will run for.  

  • The unit of diversion is what units you are going to run the test on and comparing. Commonly, these can be event based (e.g. pageview) or anonymous ID (e.g. cookie id) or user ID. It’s important to ensure when you have a user visibility change to assign people instead of events. This is so the user will not get confused if they see a change, refresh the page and then see that the change has disappeared. If measuring latency change, other metrics like event level diversion might be enough.
  • The population of subjects that are eligible for this test is then selected. Everyone who visits your site may not be eligible for this experiment as you might be only looking at US traffic, of wanting only students depending on what and why you are experimenting.
  • Timing in a/b testing can be a deciding factor whether the experiment has been carried out correctly or not. When best suits to run the experiment? During the holidays? At night? Weekdays vs the weekend? This will depend on who the population is and what you’re looking to achieve. Making sure the experiments run long enough to gather a sufficient amount of data but not too long to miss out on the opportunity to use the better performing page with all of your site visitors.
How to analyze data?

Tests can end in three different ways, either the control wins, the experiment wins or there is no change. Reading this much is for the most part easy but it is important not to pat yourself on the back just yet. It is essential to dig deeper into these results and find out more about the behavior of your customers. As Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal explains “Only with A/B testing can you close the gap between customer logic and company logic and, gradually, over time, match the internal thought sequence that is going on in your customers’ heads when they are considering your offer on your landing page or within your app.”

A/B Testing Examples

MVMT

The Retention of customers is an issue for many watch companies as a customer is usually only in the market for a watch every few years. MVMT faced this issue and introduced a selection of interchangeable watch straps to their site. To ensure these straps increased consumer retention the way in which they were presented on the site was tested. The control in this experiment was with no cross selling of the straps with two test variations, one with the straps above the watches and one with the straps below the watches. By doing this test, MVMT were able to increase conversions by 5.5% for mobile shoppers and 2.2% for shoppers on desktop.

ASANA  

Teamwork-trafficking software Asana used a/b testing to successfully redesign and rebrand their website, improving user experience along the way. To ensure consumers were not surprised with a big website design, Asana implemented these changes slowly over time to gradually optimize the site for the best user experience. By breaking their tasks into two categories, Asana’s product team were able to first focus on core functionality features, implementing them once they had performed well in their test segments. After this, their rebranding team implemented the overall new look of the site and new branded look.

A/B testing is just one of the way’s that our PPC team ensures our clients campaigns are optimized and operating to their fullest potential. You can check out or PPC services here.

Aidan graduated with a Master’s in Digital Marketing from the National University of Ireland, Galway in 2016 where he gained a strong understanding of online marketing strategies, and marketing performance and productivity. Prior to his move to the US to work with Circa interactive, Aidan gained his experience in a variety of industries from festivals to medical devices. His current role within the Circa team is as the Jr. Digital marketing specialist, working with both the SEO team and the Marketing Analytics team, ensuring the service we provide is above the high standard expected from our clients.

How to Use Digital PR to Influence Organic Rankings

Public relations has always played an integral role in helping businesses and nonprofits to achieve their goals. But in today’s search-engine-reliant world, digital PR know-how has the potential to explode organizations’ visibility before the eyes of prospective customers. Unfortunately, too few PR pros understand how backlinking and search-engine optimization (SEO) work, and their importance in achieving their clients’ aims. By way of providing an introduction to this complex and rapidly evolving aspect of PR, I’m going to offer some insight into how we’ve helped enhance the visibility (and improved the bottom lines) of our clients.

Why Should PR Experts also be SEO Experts?

At Circa, our clients are institutions of higher learning, and much of our work involves elevating our clients’ professors and teachers as thought leaders. We do this, in part, by using traditional PR skills and tools to reach out to publications to arrange interviews with these professors and publish their content. Not only does this achieve the goal of increasing brand awareness, but it also accomplishes an increasingly critical goal for any successful business in the digital age: improved search engine visibility and rankings.

Our clients share a straightforward goal: to enroll more students into their university programs. In order to achieve this goal, they need to increase their brand awareness, and increasing awareness requires accomplishing two very specific tasks: showcasing the university’s value and also boosting its digital presence. By following our specific link-building strategy, we not only establish more credibility among our target audience, but we also rank higher in relevant keyword searches conducted by prospective students. Our strategy is one that could apply to any business that relies on PR to increase its overall brand awareness.

How to Leverage Digital PR to Gain More Digital Visibility

In the digital world, links are critical. Links help to boost a webpage’s rankings and ensure that search engines like Google recognize the page as genuine and credible. In the past, it was possible to buy or acquire links of little relevance from low quality websites in order to achieve a high search-engine ranking. That’s no longer possible. These days, web pages need to feature a select amount of natural keywords and links from other viable and relevant sites from high quality sources. The focus is quality of links. Acquiring these types of links can be challenging, especially since it requires establishing relationships between various content sources. However, this is a task that PR professionals are naturally equipped to tackle.

Using traditional tactics, PR professionals can actually generate significant digital results for their clients. For instance, a PR pro can pitch a reputable publication or website—one that’s relevant to the client’s specific interests—with the hopes of landing interviews or media placements. Once the PR professional is able to successfully land an interview or place a client-written byline in a publication, then it’s up to the PR professional to also achieve the crucial end-goal of acquiring the link to the desired webpage within the media placement.

Obtaining a link back to a desired page can be challenging depending on the publication, but it is certainly possible in many instances. Oftentimes, the best way to gain a link is through commonsense approaches. For example, a PR professional can ask a publication to link back to a specific site as a means of attribution. Additionally, the link shouldn’t be overtly self-serving—it shouldn’t take a viewer to a landing page, for instance, that pushes them to purchase something. Instead, the link should feature valuable, useful and relevant content.

If the client is a college, for example, and a PR professional is able to arrange an interview with one of the college’s professors to appear in a publication, then the link placed on the interview page should take the viewer back to the program’s homepage, giving the viewer a chance to learn more about the institution and potentially sign up for more information. This type of link placement strategy is fairly effective: the client receives a form of attribution and a natural link, but the publication won’t feel that it’s promoting the institution in an obvious or attention-grabbing way. When it comes to placing links, it’s all about common sense: PR professionals should use their networking and communication skills to ensure that their clients are properly attributed within the specific content.

The Data

In our experience, using expert commentary and byline opportunities coupled with keyword-based search campaigns and SEO-optimized webpage content efforts has helped to generate impressive results for our clients. For instance, our expert commentary efforts in publications like the Huffington Post resulted in over 2,000 social shares and 10 backlinks for one client, and the University of Wisconsin saw program inquiries jump by 33 percent because of our use of SEO-optimized content efforts .

In short, PR professionals can use their tried-and-true PR tools to not only boost their clients’ brand, but also influence search engine rankings. As long as PR professionals are willing to remain flexible and adapt to the demands of the digital world, they will be able to leverage their valuable communication skills to generate their desired results.

joeJoseph 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 Top Trends of 2018

With 2017 coming to a close, we look to the Holiday Season and New Year for resolutions, ambitious goals and change, but what changes more than the world of SEO? Now is the time to look to 2018 for trends and techniques that may take us in new directions or simply reinforce best practices. That said, let’s take a peek into what the New Year and Google hold for SEO.

Voice Search and Digital Assistants

Welcome Siri, Alexa and Cortana. The market for AI-driven personal assistants and bots will almost double in 2018, reaching more than $12 billion by 2020. The rise of voice search calls for a whole new keyword research routine: the difference being that voice search keywords take the form of natural, conversational sentences instead of the odd-sounding query lingo that often comes with a learning curve.

Visual Search

Visual search is another growing area of SEO that combines technological innovation and UX. As the internet becoming more visually focused, so does the development of powerful correlating search engines. This new trend is driving companies like Google, Bing, and Pinterest to invest in new ways to better understand the way we visually consume content which means your 2018 SEO strategy should act likewise and optimize your visual content.

Why is Video Content Important?

I find video content to be the most exciting trend because not only is it where our future is heading, but it also provides a whole other approach to creating content. In fact, 82 percent of all consumer IP traffic will be video by the year 2021. Video is no longer limited to social platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram and commonly shows up in page one search results. In addition to making your content stand out from your competitors, why not take advantage of having multiple players in the search world fight over you.  

Mobile and User Experience

Google has set to make 2018 a focus on user experience. Now more than ever, it will be important for a site to deliver a seamless experience for its visitors and shouldn’t simply be confined to one’s experience on the home page. Instead, it should adapt the UX process to consider multiple website entry points. Doing so helps make a site better suited to organic search success. As we know, a good UX generally increases the chances of an individual interacting with the site and visiting various different pages. This, in turn, helps search engines discover which pages are favored and most useful.

If you weren’t on the mobile-friendly train a year ago, it’s time you start playing catch up. With over 6.1 billion smartphone users globally by 2020, it would be an understatement to say mobile-friendly sites are important. This will play a huge role in UX as phones and tablets are largely starting to replace computers and are projected to drive even more traffic to sites than they already do.

Be on the lookout for the new mobile-first index. This will play a new and vital role in ranking websites. While Google has not announced the date it rolls out, we know it is lurking on the horizon. Mobile user experience will play a key role in the way sites are ranked, so not having a mobile-friendly version could greatly hinder your SEO efforts.

How Fast is Your Site?

Three Seconds…That is the time frame in which Google is expecting pages to load. A high loading speed is fantastic all around, and not just for mobile-friendly sites. For example, if your site is fast, users are less likely to “bounce” and more eager to stick around and lurk deeper instead. In fact, a study by the Aberdeen Group found that “A 1-second delay in page load time equals 11% fewer page views, a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction, and 7% loss in conversions.”

Rise of SERP Features

SERP features are increasingly stealing searchers attention and, with that, clicks from organic listings. We all know that the struggle to gain a #1 organic ranking is real, so much so that it’s often smart to consider additional initiatives. This in mind, there’s no better time than 2018 to analyze opportunities that SERP features pose. If you’re looking to take advantage and boost traffic, consider utilizing these popular SERP features:

  • Knowledge Panels
  • Featured Snippets
  • Related Questions
  • Local Packs

Making necessary adjustments with these features may even increase your click-through rate by 30 percent. As search results continue to get more diverse, it’s important to take advantage of SERP features as an opportunity to stand out. In fact, you’d better get at it right now, before a competitor does.

Guest Blogging and Link Building

Inbound links have been and will continue to be the most powerful ranking factors as we move into 2018. However, greater caution should be taken in the way they are obtained. Earlier in the year, Google warned publishers who solely rely on guest posting as a method of building links. This is Google’s attempt to decrease the amount of spammy and questionable links and it would be wise to anticipate they will keep a watchful eye on guest contributions that provide little to no value moving forward.

No need to panic. This doesn’t mean guest blogging is coming to an end. As is best practice, you’ll just have to keep it within the limits of what’s allowed taking caution to not hurt your brand’s reputation. There is no need to obtain links if they don’t align or prove to be relevant within your target niche. Google appreciates the varied strategy of link building as opposed to picking a single method of gaining links and milking it.

2018 seems to hold a lot in store for the world of digital marketing. With change consistently on the SEO horizon, it’s important to consider these best practices and what we can do to not only evolve but stay at the forefront of the industry. While traditional SEO techniques aren’t going away anytime soon, it will be important to diversify your strategy for an optimized search.

 

Keilah headshot Keilah is a graduate of the University of Idaho. Working as a Jr. Digital Marketing Specialist with Circa Interactive, she has gained experience in SEO and higher education content marketing while cultivating her creative skills. Keilah strives to become a future influencer in the digital marketing world.

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 Write a Media Pitch (with Examples)

Pitching compelling story lines and sources are the crux of any PR strategy. In the higher education digital marketing space, we leverage the expertise of professors from the programs that we partner with to help increase the school’s visibility, student enrollment, thought leadership, and brand awareness. For us, this is primarily an SEO and link-building tactic to help boost program search engine rankings and visibility. Professors make excellent sources for stories through their unmatched level of expertise and experience in their respective fields, but without the correct messaging and communication strategy, this may never come across effectively to the media when pitching them. Regardless of the industry that you’re in or represent, knowing how to effectively craft a pitch for the media is the most critical step to success in PR and content marketing. Here are some tangible tips and examples that will help you become a PR pitching pro in no time and write a persuasive media pitch.

In this article, I will go over best practices for media pitching in addition to reviewing the most common types of media pitches, with examples below. These include:

  • Initial (cold) media pitch
  • Pitch with an established contact (warm)
  • Personalized pitch
  • Follow-up pitch

How to Structure a PR Pitch

Before we dive into best practices, tips, and examples of PR pitching, I want to go over some of the basics of how to structure a media pitch. Creating a set standard for yourself and your team will not only streamline the process and allow you to be as efficient as possible, but it will also makes training and consistency amongst your team much more feasible. Below I have included the basic outline/structure of a PR pitch. For a more in-depth look, please see my article on how to structure and standardize PR pitching across your team.

  • First, start with the lead. There are two main types of leads that are the most effective when it comes to media pitching. The first is a news peg and the second is a time peg. To learn more about the differences between these two types of leads, read this article.
  • The second part is your call-to-action. This is the action you want your audience to take. Whether it is writing a product review, publishing a piece of content, or conducting an interview, it’s important to make your intention here as clear as possible.
  • Next comes your value proposition. This is a key piece of the puzzle as it will be the meat of the pitch; this is where you can showcase the value of what you are offering and why they should be interested in it. It is essential in differentiating yourself from the hundreds of other pitches they receive.
  • The last piece of the puzzle is your conclusion. This is pretty straightforward and is where you should recap your call-to-action and thank them for their time and consideration.

Create an Effective Subject Line

Subject lines are the first and sometimes only thing that a media contact will see–often times determining whether they will even bother to open your email or not. Ensuring that your subject line is clear, concise, and enticing are some of the most important elements. While many would assume that shorter subject lines work best, especially considering the character restrictions of mobile devices, a report from Marketing Sherpa actually found that subject lines with 61 to 70 characters had the highest open rate. This proves that you shouldn’t spend too much time trying to cut down your subject line, as it can actually be beneficial to have a longer one. While creating a subject line that entices the media to want to open your email should always be the goal, make sure that you don’t use “click-bait” phrasing as a tactic to draw the recipient in as this may leave a bad taste in their mouth and hurt the chances of them opening your future pitches. The last thing you want to do is mislead them or appear spammy.

media pitch subject line

Pitch Using Timely News Pegs or Research

Don’t do yourself the disservice of not using relevant news pegs or research as your hook for your pitch. It’s no secret that the media lives off of news pegs, trending topics, and new research to tell their stories. To increase the chances of someone showing interest in your pitch, it’s important to make their job as easy as possible; it’s a good idea to help to spell out the story for them so that your source or story fits in seamlessly with trending news topics and their target audience’s interests. Reporters and editors receive hundreds of pitches every day, so providing them with a story that their readers will be interested in and offering sources to help supplement that story will make them more compelled to move forward with the conversation. Along these same lines, always try to include hyperlinks to any research or statistics that you reference in your pitch. You don’t want them to shy away from expressing interest or continuing the conversation simply because they don’t have time to do the legwork to track down the sources themselves. When pitching a source for a story, I recommend abiding by this same rule of thumb and hyperlink to their bio page to provide more context and information on their specialities and background in case they’re interested.

Know the Reporter’s Beat

You can have the best pitch in the world, but if it doesn’t align with the reporter’s beat (the types of stories they cover), then it will provide no use or value to them. In fact, it will only blatantly show that you are sending out mass email distributions and aren’t doing the appropriate research and legwork before pitching them. While it’s not always realistic or feasible, personalize pitches whenever possible and mention any related articles that they recently wrote.

Keep it Concise & Know your Story

As I mentioned earlier, media contacts receive hundreds of pitches a day. If you’re lucky enough to get yours opened, the worst thing that someone with very little time can be confronted with is an unnecessarily long pitch. Find out how to say everything that you need to say in a paragraph or less (with rare exceptions). The more specific and focused you can be, the better. It’s also crucial to understand and communicate the story you’re trying to tell and how it aligns with the larger media trends yet provides a unique angle to the storyline. Here’s how our typical pitch is structured:

Following up is Key to Media Pitching

Following up on initial email pitches is one of the most important pieces to the puzzle. This is where most of your interest and responses will come from, so ensuring that you schedule reminders to do so is vital. It’s good to wait around one week until you send follow-ups out; this will ensure that the media contact has sufficient time to get through their emails and respond if they are planning to. If the story is incredibly time-sensitive, it’s ok to follow-up a bit sooner. Similarly, if it is not a time-sensitive story at all, then waiting a little longer than a week is also fine. Include your original pitch at the bottom of your follow-up email to help jog the recipient’s memory and provide more context for them. To see more about how to follow up on a pitch, see my example below.

Media Pitch Examples:

Initial (cold) pitch:

Hi [NAME]

A recent report pointed to the frightening reality that hackers using ransomware on medical devices could pose the biggest–and most dangerous–cyber security threat in 2016, with insulin pumps and pacemakers being some of the devices most vulnerable to these risks. For this reason, I wanted to see if you were interested in speaking with [NAME], a leading encryption and cybersecurity expert, DARPA contractor, and professor in NJIT’s Computer Science program. He has been conducting research on security and homomorphic encryption of embedded medical devices and can discuss the severity of this looming threat and the ways that we can leverage new protection techniques against this potentially fatal new cybercrime tactic.

Please let me know if you’re interested. Thanks for your time and consideration.

Pitch for established contact/relationship:

I hope all is well. Thanks again for featuring [NAME] in your article on ICD-10. I wanted to reach out about a new story and source that I thought you might be interested in:

Scientists are reporting a sharp rise in colon and rectal cancers in adults as young as their 20s and 30s, according to a new study by the American Cancer Society. For this reason, I wanted to see if you were interested in speaking with [NAME], a professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Ohio University and an expert in colon cancer, who is currently applying principles like fluid dynamics to look at how cancer cells move through the body and how metastasis can be countered. Dr. [NAME] is also researching the potential of liquid biopsies for less invasive cancer screenings and their ability to impact personalized medicine. While increased rates of screenings like colonoscopies among older adults have been considered the reason that colorectal cancer rates have declined overall, they have usually been deemed unnecessary and invasive for younger populations. However, with this new upward trend among young adults, research that Dr. [NAME] is conducting in this field could be the key to reversing these ominous trends.

Please let me know if you’re interested in speaking with [NAME] about the important work she is doing in this area and how it could impact cancer trends. Thanks for your time and consideration.

Personalized pitch

I really enjoyed reading your article, “CBO’s estimates of the revised Senate health bill” and wanted to see if you would be interested in speaking with [NAME] about the impact that this would have on our doctor shortage crisis. When we reduce insurance coverage, we make it harder for patients to address their preventative needs, and therefore create a more sick population with an increased need for doctors who can treat subsequent ailments. [NAME] is the program director and professor of healthcare systems engineering at the University of Central Florida and is actively looking at the most pressing long-term issues facing our healthcare system, such as the doctor shortage crisis, and how we can take steps to address and alleviate such crises. Extended life spans and treatable diseases are straining our already burdened system, and studies show it’s only going to get worse. [NAME] can discuss the complexities of solving this issue and how repealing the ACA will have a direct impact on the doctor shortage crisis.

Please let me know if you’re interested and I would be happy to set something up. Thanks for your time.

Follow-up Pitch

Subject: Re: Just Following Up: Medical Device Ransom is Biggest Cyber Threat of 2016

Hi [NAME],

I just wanted to follow up and see if you were interested in speaking with [NAME] about the dangerous and inevitable threat of medical ransomware.

Thanks for your time. Any feedback is appreciated.

Caroline Khalili
Circa Interactive
circaedu.com

On Mon, Dec 21, 2015 at 6:38 PM, Caroline Khalili caroline@circaedu.com> wrote:

Hi [NAME],

A recent report pointed to the frightening reality that hackers using ransomware on medical devices could pose the biggest–and most dangerous–cyber security threat in 2016, with insulin pumps and pacemakers being some of the devices most vulnerable to these risks. For this reason, I wanted to see if you were interested in speaking with [NAME], a leading encryption and cybersecurity expert, DARPA contractor, and a professor in NJIT’s Computer Science program. He has been conducting research on security and homomorphic encryption of embedded medical devices and can discuss the severity of this looming threat and the ways that we can leverage new protection techniques against this potentially fatal new cybercrime tactic.

Please let me know if you’re interested. Thanks for your time and consideration.

 

To learn more about our digital PR services, read here: Digital PR.

Caroline-Black-and-White-tan-3-4Caroline brings a wealth of knowledge in communications, marketing, and account management to the Circa Interactive team, and she has worked with partners such as HP, Cisco, and Adobe. Graduating with honors in Business Administration and Marketing from the University of Oregon in 2011, Caroline now plays a key role in Circa Interactive’s digital PR strategy by building long term relationships with internationally recognized media outlets on behalf of our clients.

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.

 

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.