Common Mistakes When Hiring Someone to Write Your Content

remarks-content-writer_600
Congratulations! You’ve realized that you have no time to generate your own content for your website, newsletter, or blog. You’ve taken the courageous step of hiring someone to help you write all of the articles and marketing content that you will ever need, right? Wrong.

A lot of people who hire someone to generate content make the following mistakes when working with a writer. As a result, they often get frustrated with the results and then end up having a sour relationship with that person. Worse yet, they will tend to revert to a “do-it-yourself” attitude and take over the writing; in which case it will never be finished.

If you’re someone who desires the creation of good content by utilizing someone talented in that regard, here are some common mistakes that can be made, and ways to avoid them:

    1. 1 Don’t assume that the writer will know about your product, service, or industry. Even if they do, they will never know as much as you do. You are the expert. Be a thought leader. You know what trends are relevant to your customers, right now. Handing your writer a bunch of articles someone else has written and asking them to go “research” the industry rarely ever results in a good article.

 

    1. 2 You must have a plan for content creation. Business is cyclical. There are prime buying times for your product or service. Sit down with your writer to plan what topics you would like to discuss throughout the year. Highlight the 2-3 things you want to talk about during each publication. Whether quarterly, monthly, or bimonthly, one hour of your time meeting and brainstorming with you writer is all it should take to figure out what you want to say an dhow to say it.

 

  1. 3 You will have to be involved in content creation—up to a point. The writer you hired may be a great writer, but no one can get inside your head and pull the information out of it. For each issue of your newsletter or blog, have your writer interview you for 30–45 minutes and then create a first draft of an article for your review. You’ll find that it is much easier to proof and make revisions to something that is already written than it is to come up with fresh content out of thin air. Avoiding these common pitfalls while working with a professional writer will make the process of developing regular content more efficient, productive, and satisfying. It will also eliminate a lot of the headaches that go with the constant pressure of creating something new each time you need to send out a newsletter or post a blog.

 

By: Ryan Hembree, Principal
Brand & Creative Strategy

Three Reasons Why Images Are Better Than Words

Blog-Graph-Graphic

“Big Data” pervades every aspect of business management today—everyone is concerned about capturing data: from customer demo- and psychographics to the lifecycle of a product or service. The “Internet of Things,” networked appliances, sensors and gadgets, are all providing real time reporting on everything, creating a tremendous amount of data. The problem is: what do we do with all of this information once we have it?

Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity by Alan Siegel and Irene EtzkornI have written about the importance of infographics in other posts, and how professionally designed visuals can help communicate complex information in more meaningful ways, but since then the problem of too much information has gotten worse. In their book Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity, Alan Siegel and Irene Etzkorn argue that “we need information, but what we’re getting instead is data—untamed and unfiltered, without order, structure, or shape, and ultimately, without meaning.”

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Susan Credle, a creative director for a global advertising agency, argues for companies to focus more on telling the story of their product or service, instead of simply presenting data about the brand. However, both of these goals may be achieved through the use of professionally designed infographics (information graphics)—and with better success than simply relying on words alone.

The reasons why infographics (visualized data) are better than words is:

1. The brain processes images better than words.

Words can have hidden meaning (especially if you are not familiar with the language) or be interpreted in different ways. This is one of the reasons why communication through email can be misconstrued so easily…without appropriate context, we are not sure of the tone, urgency or mood of the sender. I prefer face-to-face meetings with clients because I am able to not only hear what they are saying, but I can gauge their response through body language.

Core Catalysts Business Model graphic

2. Visual images invite the viewer to interact with the data.

Humans are hard-wired to discover patterns and interpret the world around them, ultimately filling in the blanks and drawing conclusions.

EPR Staycation Infographic
Infographic for EPR Properties blog post.

3. Infographics provide context for data by showing relationships, revealing outliers or anomalies, and showing patterns or trends.

“A picture is worth a thousand words” because it can tell the whole story about the data, not just a small part of it. It also makes the information more transparent and understandable.

Seaboard Foods Pork infographic
Infographics Indicia created for Seaboard Foods.

Businesses are so focused on “numbers,” the “ROI,” and “data,” that we often forget about the audience—the people who actually need to use the information. Having a bunch of information or facts is one thing; having it distilled in a way that is understandable and meaningful is another. Unless people can understand what all of the data means it is, for all intents and purposes, useless. Charles Mingus, a famous jazz musician, is quoted as saying, “making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple… that’s creativity.”

A great example of how complex information can be simplified is the updated design for the Nutrition Facts labels, found on over 800,000 food products sold in the U.S., and updated last May. While at first glance the difference between the old and new not be that apparent, key pieces of data have been made larger, bolder, and easier to understand.

Burkey Belser designed the original Nutrition Facts label (left) in 1993. For over 20 years the design has withstood the test of time, save for minor updates introduced in May 2016.

Part of the obesity epidemic in this country is due to people eating too much and not being active enough. The new Nutrition Facts label highlights not only the number of calories in a serving, but how many servings are in a container. For containers that in all likelihood would be consumed in one serving, the new labels show how many total calories are in a package. This might discourage some people from finishing, say, a whole bag of potato chip with their zero calorie diet cola.

DeLaSalle Infographics
Foldout graphics to display pertinent facts about DeLaSalle Center.

When using infographics, brands can visualize abstract ideas and concepts in a way that will resonate with viewers, helping them better understand the information. However, it is important to not pack too much information into one graphic … too much data creates clutter and confusion. Better to use multiple graphics to tell the story of your product or service’s features and benefits than one poorly designed one, or worse yet, a bunch of bullet point text.

By: Ryan Hembree,
Principal | Brand & Creative Strategy

How to Tell a Good (Brand) Story

Good brands tell stories. In order for your product or service to remain at top of mind, the stories you tell must not only be relevant to, but also connect emotionally with, its target audience. It turns out that telling an effective story involves knowing how people think.

Daniel Kahneman Thinking, Fast and Slow

Daniel Kahneman is a renowned psychologist, whose work has earned him a Nobel Prize in economics. In his book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” he examines how our minds work, observing that we think in two modes. We are “fast” thinkers most of the time, making quick, intuitive judgments and rapid-fire decisions based on minimal amounts of information. The “slow” thinking part of our brain, however, is more thoughtful and rational, and is responsible for memory. Based on his research, using the following tactics will allow you to develop a more memorable narrative for your brand:

1. Use simple language that anyone can understand.

Resist the urge to include a lot of technical jargon and acronyms. Using a lot of big words will not only make people feel as though they are being talked down to, it is a signal of poor intelligence and questionable credibility.

2. Don’t get lost in the details.

Having a lot of numbers or facts to back up your argument might be good for a dissertation or court argument, but not if you are trying to sell your brand. “The amount and quality of the data on which the story is based are largely irrelevant,” says Kahneman.

3. Don’t focus on length, focus on key points and the ending.

We typically don’t remember everything we read, but we can recall key points and the conclusions reached if a story is well written. Pacing the story so that highlighted information is sprinkled throughout the content, and then ending with a strong argument, will help keep the key benefits of your product or service at top of mind for your customers.

4. Color is key—especially for key information.

According to research, bright blue and red are more believable to readers. Using color can highlight important information that you want readers to remember about the brand. Avoid using green, yellow, or pale blue—they are harder to read.

5. Stories are most memorable when they use good prose.

Verses that rhyme or incorporate alliteration are easier to remember. Think of all the jingles from television commercials that get stuck in your head. Although they are annoying, you have a tendency to remember the product or brand that they are for.

 

The tactics above will help shape the perception of your brand in the mind of customers. For more thoughts about the importance of telling good brand stories, please see some of my other posts, such as “How to Make Customers Love Your Brand”, and “Successful Brands Tell Stories”.

 

By: Ryan Hembree, Principal, Brand & Creative Strategy

 

5 Steps to Win the Naming Game

how-to-win-at-the-name-game

5 Steps to Winning the Naming GameNaming a product, service, or company is not an easy task—not only must you find a name that is appropriate, but you need to make sure that no one else is using it. It must be possible to get a website address (preferably a “.com”), that is as close to the brand name as possible, so that customers can find you online. Finally, it must be possible to legally protect the name and brand.

So how does one win the naming game? Following the five steps below will help:

  1. Avoid generic words, terms, or phrases.

Names that use generic words such as “elite,” “premier,” or “quality” are ubiquitous. Everybody says their product or service is the best, so customers are therefore skeptical of those claims. Likewise, patriotic terms used to stress the idea of your product or service being “made in America,” such as “United,” “Freedom,” or “American” are hard to protect legally.

  1. Be specific to the industry that you are in.

Names that give customers an idea of what type of product or service you provide, without being too literal, can be effective. Just like you wouldn’t want a pink or baby blue logo for a construction company, you want a name that is appropriate for customer expectations and perceptions of the industry.

  1. Do a quick online search to see if there are other names like it on the market

One of the fastest ways to find out if the brilliant name you have come up with is already being used is to perform a Google search. Simply type the name and see what comes up. If there are too many companies with that same name, or there is not a website address that is close to the name, try other ideas. Since most web browsers (and customers) will automatically add the suffix “.com” to any web search, avoid the temptation to use a “.biz,” “.org” or any other domain suffix.

  1. Contact an I.P. attorney to help you register the name.

Being able to protect your brand is important to running your business. You do not want other people in the same industry or geographic area using your name. Registering the name at a State and National level helps protect the name and brand.

According to Cheryl Burbach of Hovey Williams LP (as quoted in the August 14, 2015 Kansas City Business Journal, “The two most important aspects are whether the marks [and names] are similar in appearance and sound, and are the goods and services related. Because if they’re not related, there could be multiple trademark owners of the same trademark, but consumers won’t be confused because the goods are so different.”

  1. Keep it Simple.

Names that are short and with fewer syllables are easier to remember. It is possible to use a shortened name for your logo or brand mark (legally, all that is required is for the complete business name to appear somewhere on the letterhead or business cards; it could be in tiny print or off in the margins). If names are unusual (think “Indicia”), they also are more likely to be remembered. Finally, avoid the “law firm” approach to naming; either using all partners’ last names or abbreviating the name to an alphabet soup of letters is ineffective.

Following these five steps for choosing a brand name can help your product or service win the Name Game, as well as the hearts and minds of customers. Of course, we still recommend consulting with an I.P. attorney prior to doing any kind of marketing or creative work for the brand—at which time we would love the opportunity to work with you!

 

By: Ryan Hembree, Principal, Brand & Creative Strategy

Stop Talking, Start Listening: 5 Ways to Better Hear what Customers Want

Is Your Brand's Message Getting Through

 

Shhh. Can you hear that? Your customers are out there, talking to you, telling you what they want you to sell them. But can you hear them, or are you too busy talking?

 

The average adult uses 40,000 words per day, or five hours of continuous talking. Most brands do the same thing—they are never quiet long enough to find out about their customers’ needs, pain points, desires, hopes, or dreams.

 

Traditionally, advertising has encouraged bombarding potential customers with generic messages. Repetition is the name of the game—and while it is true that it may take 7 times of hearing a message before customers will pay attention, the truth of the matter is that they simply don’t care about your product or service. They are too overwhelmed in their daily lives and simply cannot pay attention. What’s worse, because they hear so many competing advertisers shouting at the top of their lungs, each one vying for attention, they have simply tuned everyone out.

 

Marketers will tell you that you must be more focused. By selecting a handful of your existing and most profitable customers, this approach takes a more laser-beam approach to communicating your product, service, or company’s message. It’s true that marketing is more effective, but the problem is that you are still talking over your customers (and sometimes even down to them), and not listening to what they really need. It pays to listen.

 

Some of the ways in which companies and brands can listen—really listen—to their customers is through the use of the following tactics.

 

1. Observe customers while they are purchasing or using your product or service. Where do they buy it? How do they buy? How are they using it?

 

2. Observe the other brands that are around your product or service. Certain types of retailers will cluster around each other because their target audiences are similar. What are the messages they are using to communicate?

 

3. Find out what customers are reading. No matter how niche a market you have, odds are you will find a few magazines that appeal to your target market where you can discover trends that are affecting them, as well as imagery and messaging that appeals to them. These publications already do a great amount of research into your target market, so why not use that to your advantage?

 

4. Send Surveys to find out what customers think. This can be done with prospective customers to find out what they are really looking for, or as a follow up to a previous purchase in order to find out how you can do better at providing the product or service.

 

5. Engage a third-party person or company to call and interview current and former customers about their perceptions and experiences using your brand. Their time is valuable, so keep these calls short, and ask no more than 5–6 questions. Open-ended questions will provide insight into their true thoughts, feelings and motivations, as well as spur further discussion.

 

By: Ryan Hembree, Principal | Brand & Creative Strategy

How to Make Customers Love your Brand

Brand Love: How to Make Customers Love Your Brand

 

Is it possible to find love at first sight? While a recent Wall Street Journal article debated this topic for couples, there are several parallels between finding love between two people, and finding love between your product or service and its customers.

 

Why should you care if customers fall in love your brand? Simply put, it makes your product, service or organization more valuable. According to Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, in an interview with FastCompany magazine, “You can charge a premium for brands that people love.” If customers know that you provide a quality product backed by exceptional service.

 

How do you make customers fall in love with your brand? Arthur Aron, a research professor from Stony Brook University in New York has determined that three factors that must be present to make people fall in love (Wall Street Journal):

 

1. You have to like the other person’s physical appearance

 

2. You have to find the other person’s personality desirable

 

3. You have to feel that the other person likes you.

 

There is no doubt that physical appearance and attraction is an important part of any relationship. Looking handsome and making a good first impression often attract people: in the case of your brand, a sharp looking logo achieves this goal. Ask yourself if your brand looks fresh, modern, and professional. Is it memorable and does it stand out from your competitors?

 

Your brand’s personality is the perception it conveys: its tagline, positioning, and marketing messages all must resonate with customers. Does the brand clearly communicate its core values using a consistent voice and tone? Is your product or service memorable?

 

Love is reciprocal. It is one thing to love someone else, but in order to feel fulfilled, the other person must feel the same way. With brands, customers must feel that you genuinely care about their well being, and that you will be there in the long run. It is imperative that your brand engages in a conversation with your customers. Do you listen to their pain points, desires, hopes and dreams and respond with products or services that meet those needs?

 

In order for customers to love your brand, they have to connect emotionally with it. Empathy for your customers, commitment to solving their needs, as well as the passion to add value to the relationship all promote such a connection.

 

In his book titled Lovemarks: The Future of Brands, Kevin Roberts sums up the importance of customers loving the brands they use; Loved brands connect consumers to brands. Loved brands create loyalty. Loved brands belong in the hearts and minds of consumers who use them. In the book, Jim Stengel, Global Marketing Officer of Procter & Gamble makes the following observation: “…how would a consumer feel if you took the brand away. What would the person’s reaction be?”

 

By: Ryan Hembree, Principal | Brand and Creative Strategy

How to Create Analogies that Sell Your Brand

Comparison is to Selling Ideas as Analogy is to Business

 

Have you ever wondered why people use sports or other analogies to describe business relationships? Statements such as “getting on the same team” (because we all need to “wear the same uniform”) are commonly heard from managers discussing performance issues with their reports. Baseball analogies such as “keeping your eye on the ball” (and being careful not to drop it!) are often used by Sales and Marketing teams, while they must “swing for the fences” to achieve their goals.

 

Similarly, in business consulting circles, other analogies proliferate. Phrases like “getting the right people on the bus,” having “stretch” goals, and determining whether a new product or service fits within a company’s “wheel house” are often used. The reason analogies are so abundant is because they are effective in helping us understand complex ideas by juxtaposing them with more familiar (and simpler) ones.

 

Analogies are effective at selling brands because:

 

1. They use something familiar and relevant for your audience to understand what you are selling;

2. They highlight similarities while downplaying differences;

3. They tell a story about the product or service (and hopefully a consistent one!); and

4. They form emotional connections with the target market or audience.

 

According to John Pollack in his book Shortcut: How Analogies Reveal Connections, Spark Innovation and Sell Our Greatest Ideas, “It is only by making analogies that we connect ideas from one realm to another in a way that is relevant and useful…” Furthermore, “Persuasive analogies…are easy to grasp, and they communicate their main idea in a way that is sympathetic to their audience, intellectually and emotionally.”

 

Relevance is crucial for creating effective analogies that communicate your brand message, or help differentiate your product or service. It is OK to use a sports analogy; however, make sure it is the right sport—you wouldn’t want to reference a Cricket Match in the United States, or else all you would hear from the audience would be just that—crickets (not only a bad pun, but an analogy for “silence” as well!).

 

Developing an effective analogy to sell your brand is not as hard as you may think. The Latin word for thinking is “cogitate,” which literally translated means “to mix together.” Taking two unique or unlikely ideas or words and combining them together often yield unexpected results, and are a breeding ground for good analogies. Use the following brainstorming techniques to help you get started:

 

  1. Free Association thinking. Write down any word or idea that comes to mind when thinking about your brand, including emotions, colors, perceptions, adjectives or phrases; anything and everything is appropriate. After editing this list, create an idea tree using these words or ideas.

 

  1. Create an idea tree. Write down the name of your product, service, or brand within a circle. Branching off of this, use ideas or words generated from the Free Association exercise (see above) and write them down in circles with lines connecting them to the brand. From each of these words, write down, circle, and connect any more words and ideas that are related, and so on. Repeat this process for each word or idea until they become so specific or are no longer relative.

 

  1. Use a dictionary and thesaurus. Word definitions can be very descriptive about the nature of an object or idea. In addition to helping understand terminology used, the dictionary can be used to suggest visual symbols and metaphors that are analogous to the brand. You may use words generated through free association thinking or the idea tree. After defining key words that describe the brand, use a thesaurus to find related words or synonyms.

 

By: Ryan Hembree, Principal | Brand and Creative Strategy

People care about brands: An extreme case study

Portland International Airport and its beloved teal carpet.

 

If you have read any of my previous posts, you will agree with me that people are sentimental about brands. That’s because in order for a company, product or service to be effective and relevant, it must connect emotionally with its audience. Brands build trust, they build goodwill and loyalty, and they build memories.

 

PDX carpet before and after

 

One brand that is breaking the hearts of many is Portland International Airport, or PDX as Oregonians refer to it. Why? Because their beloved teal carpet, that is a symbol of the airport and their home, is being torn out and replaced after 20 years of wear and tear. Admittedly, I have visited Portland’s airport a couple of times, and I really didn’t give much thought about the carpet I was treading on. PDX Carpet inspired products from Made In Oregon website.

 

The PDX carpet, however, is different. Primarily teal (hello, 1993!), it consists of a pattern of dark blue, purple, and red crisscrossed lines that represent the view air traffic controllers would have of the airport’s runways. To Portlanders, this pattern has obtained a cult-like following. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, on Twitter there are over 1,500 followers (of the carpet!), thousands of pins are posted on Pinterest, and 31,000 photos on Instragram of feet on the carpet. Visit madeinoregon.com and there are dozens of products that pay homage to the iconic carpet, including apparel, home goods, and even beer brands. Some residents of the city have gone so far as to permanently ink the pattern on their body.

 

PDX tattoo on Emma Milkin, a native Portlander. From the Wall Street Journal.

 

Most people might not think or care much about the carpet they walk on, and this is true of most products or services that we use—generally we take them for granted. The key to creating a memorable brand is to connect emotionally with your audience. Use messaging, graphics and images that tell them a story: one that is relatable, believable, and familiar.

 

A Relatable brand is one that is personable. The target audience understands the brand at a visceral level, including what the product or service is, what it does, and why it matters to them. People should just “get it.” Apple incorporates such an intuitive user experience with every one of its products that it has developed a loyal following of brand advocates.

 

Believable brands are authentic: they don’t try to pretend to be something they’re not. Any claims that your brand makes about solving a need or problem must be backed up by evidence. Using customer testimonials, anecdotes, analogies, or qualitative information (“just the facts, ma’am”) helps make your case. Google and FedEx have been so ingrained in culture that they are now used as verbs: we “google” information on the web and we “FedEx” overnight packages.

 

Familiar brands are those that make us feel comfortable. These brands are loyal to their customers and never let them down. They are nostalgic, throw-backs, or “retro,” in that they reference the past, and often simpler times. They are dependable, and hardly ever change. Whether you are in the Middle East, China, or Europe, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s look and feel the same.

 

The PDX carpet is an example of a familiar brand. It reminds Portlanders of their home, so much so that it has created a loyal following. So how are you exciting people about your brand, so they will be just as sentimental, and even downright fanatical, about it?

 

By: Ryan Hembree, Principal | Brand & Creative Strategy

Creating content when you have no time

Writers Block image

 

In a previous post, I wrote about the importance of constantly creating content for your company, product, or service’s website in order to stay relevant for Google’s search algorithms. If your website has been built on a content management platform such as WordPress, it is relatively easy to keep generating valuable content for your site in the form of blog posts or news articles.

 

Blog posts or content updates to your website should be anywhere from 350–500 words, and occur at least twice per month. While this may seem like a daunting task, or you can’t possibly imagine what to write about, there are a lot of interesting and relevant things that you could share with visitors to your site. The trick is getting it out of your mind.

 

How to Get Started Writing

An easy way to get started (if you have never written a blog post or article for a newspaper or trade pub before) is to develop an editorial calendar of topical information that your customers or prospects would like to know. This is essentially a blueprint of the information you can write about throughout the year—one approach that I like to use is to think about the seasons of the year or each fiscal quarter, and the issues, concerns, or observations that occur during these timeframes.

 

Why use quarterly or seasonal increments for the development of an editorial calendar and content? First, it is easy to group topics this way: based on weather, sales trends, budgets, etc. Secondly, timeframes longer than 90 days can be overwhelming to many—in Gino Wickman’s book “Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business,” he refers to this type of thinking as a “90-Day World.”

 

Rather than be overwhelmed by the monumental task of accomplishing [everything], this allows you to break it down into bite-size chunks called Rocks and focus… Do less, accomplish more. Most organizations start out the year with a huge ball of priorities and get very little done by the end of the year.  Gino Wickman, Traction

 

 

Once an editorial calendar of possible topics is created, the next step updating your website with relevant content is to begin writing. Select a topic from your list and then create a Headline or summary statement about it. Develop an outline of subtopics or discussion points, and then fill in the gaps with verbiage that is clear, concise, and doesn’t require a PhD to comprehend it. This is the same process that I used to develop this blog post.

 

Even Hillary Clinton had Ghostwriters.

Ghostwriters are professional authors and writers who work with famous people to create memoirs, biographies, or other stories in which that person’s notoriety and fame will help sell a lot of books. This same principle can be applied to writing content for your website.

 

Sometimes a blank sheet of paper or word processor screen is intimidating. Admittedly, not all of us are proficient writers, and we all face “creative block” from time to time. If you dread the idea of writing, or can’t possibly find the time to do so, then it is time to turn to the professionals.

 

For a small fee, you can hire your own ghostwriter who can write blog posts for you. Not only are copywriters trained in journalism (most of the time) and proficient with the English language and appropriate grammar, they can distill the complexities of your product or service into content that is easily understood, using a “voice” that will resonate with your audience.

 

The Benefits of Hiring a Copywriter

Even though you could probably write your website’s content, the more important question is: should you? As mentioned above, the cost of hiring a copywriter might cost a few hundred dollars for a couple of blog posts per month. How much is your time worth? Chances are it will take you a lot longer to develop your own content, and it might not be as polished or as interesting as it could be. Hiring a copywriter results in engaging, thought-provoking content that is more likely to be read by prospects and customers.

 

What about subject matter knowledge, you might ask? A copywriter couldn’t possibly know all of the ins- and outs- of your business, you might say. While this is true, a copywriter will interview you about your topic, gather any research or information that might be needed, and then deliver to you a professionally crafted blog post or article for your website. Instead of creating something from scratch, all that is required on your part is to take the time to edit what has been written for you and make sure it is factually correct.

 

Updating your website’s content is not as hard as you think. While adding another “to-do” on a seemingly endless list of projects, if you want your brand’s website to be found online through Google search, then it must be done. Whether completed internally or outsourced to a copywriter, content creation is king.

 

By: Ryan Hembree, Principal | Brand & Creative Strategy

Getting a grip on the mystery of Google Search

Remember when the key to running a successful business was based on the age-old adage that “cash is king?” Over the past couple of years, that concept has been turned on its head, as success for many brands is now determined by Google search rankings—when customers and prospects are able to easily find their products, services, and organizations online—which ultimately drives revenue and profit.

 

Getting a Grip on Google Search

 

Content is King

In the past year, Google, in an attempt at leveling the playing field of marketing and advertising, has changed its algorithms for displaying search results. It used to be that “optimizing” a website for keyword searches (often by loading the site’s content with those words, having them as metatags within the site code, and using them within page and image titles) was the best way to leap-frog the competition and be displayed higher within search rankings. Not anymore—now to rank higher in Google organic search results, brands must be relevant to what users are searching for.

 

So what does Google look for when ranking websites?

In order to be ranked as relevant to searches, Google scans websites for many different factors. Simply using keywords is not enough; now content must be “rich,” link to other sites (and have sites that link to it), and be constantly updated. Rich content includes video, animations, and blog posts; things that are engaging to users and keep them on your site. Linking blog posts from Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and linking to other content also raise the relevance of your website through the lens of Google’s search algorithms. Updating your website requires posting blogs, articles, or other useful information to your website at least twice per month.

 

Get Mobile or Get Passed Over on Mobile Search

Improving user experience across all types of devices is now something that Google is paying particular attention to when ranking websites. In a November 2014 blog post Google made it clear that if websites were not mobile friendly, your search rankings would suffer.

 

What qualifies a site as mobile friendly, or unfriendly? Some of the specific things mentioned in the post include the use of Flash on a website, having to pinch and zoom to view a website, and a lot of small links as being detrimental to the mobile viewing experience. In other words, your website should be built using “responsive” design, meaning that the site will resize to fit the width of a tablet or smartphone, and content will be re-prioritized so that the most relevant information appears first.

 

The days of simply loading up a site with keywords are over. Getting a grip on Google search is not as complicated or mysterious as one may think. It does require diligence in maintaining your website with relevant and “rich” content that engages with your customers and prospects. This may require building the site using a content management platform such as WordPress, or hiring a professional to help ensure it is built responsively for a pleasant user experience on all devices.

 

By: Ryan Hembree, Principal | Brand & Creative Strategy