‘Is It Evergreen?’ Our First ‘Industry Question of the Week’ Concerns Updating Popular Content for SEO

We are so fortunate to have among our membership and audience various experts on multiple subjects who are very willing to share their knowledge. So we will take advantage of this huge asset in a new feature called Industry Question of the Week. If you have a question that you would like me to offer to the experts, please email me at rlevine@siia.net.

Here’s our first question:

We are having a debate at our company about updating old online content for SEO and engagement purposes. We are being told by an SEO and engagement expert (whose background is in content marketing, not journalism) that we should go back to older articles that are still performing well in SEO, or that are relevant to a keyword we want to target as a subject for improving search results, and update them, including changing the date. If we did change the date, we would have to make sure the information in the article is up to date, which would mean trying to get in contact with old sources. At that point it would probably take less time to write a new article on the same topic.

And here are answers from three experts:

Kim Mateus – chief strategy officer, Mequoda

“In our view, there are two kinds of journalism online—one approach that keeps the original date forever in order to maintain that proper historical record, and another approach that is appropriate for evergreen content that we publish through our portals (aka the free sections of our site that we use for audience development). We believe both of these content types have a place in a publisher’s portal. For evergreen content, we believe the best service you can provide your readers is to keep the content updated, and simply keep a note on the bottom of the post stating the original post month and year, i.e ‘This post was originally published in January of 2008 and is updated regularly.’

“So for this particular example, they should determine if this content is evergreen and needs to be updated and maintained like you would a reference book, or if it is more like a newspaper article that you want to keep on record and maintain its chronology forever. In our view, the example could be considered an evergreen piece and could be updated with a new publish date, and reference that the quote was originally acquired in 2008, while also adding in that sentence at the bottom of the article that says, ‘This post was published in January of 2008 and is updated regularly.’ The fact that the company name has changed and that [a person quoted] is now deceased could be acknowledged in a slight rewrite of the post’s lede and anywhere else in the post where an updated reference is needed.

“Google is clearly giving publishers an incentive to keep evergreen content updated by sending publishers traffic to these evergreen posts, and this is a strategy we’ve seen enormous success with across our entire client base for many years.”

 

Matt Bailey – author, digital marketing expert and founder of SiteLogic and the Endless Coffee Cup podcast

“Yes, I’ve heard this one before. It’s made the rounds a few times, and it is just as useless as other ‘SEO tricks.’ Update a few words here or there for SEO (page title, headline), but don’t lie to your readers or to Google. Changing the date is cheating, IMO.

“It’s a terrible theory that made its way into mainstream SEO articles. I’ve seen some people remove all dates from their websites, but it doesn’t change anything. Plus, it makes readers upset when they can’t trace a date to the information! When Google spiders a page, it downloads the meta data (date pub, language), the content of the page, URL, etc. Any changes are matched against the original to update Google’s index. Changing the date doesn’t change the history

 

David Longobardi, chief content officer, CyberRisk Alliance

“I agree it’s wrong to simply change dates on old content. But you are on the right track about updating certain assets. The concept is known as managing ‘living URLs,’ and it can be a great SEO support. The idea is to review all of your high-ranking content and identify all of your ‘annuals’ and ‘evergreens.’ Annuals include stuff like rankings, and listings, year-end outlook features and so on. Evergreens (in this context) would be other content you might justifiably elevate to annual or quarterly status. Be generous in what you choose to bring under these umbrellas; think of it as part of your content strategy rather than SEO system-gaming.

“In looking at annuals, I’ve found that one year’s iteration of, say, a Top 40 Under 40 feature, always seems to outperform others in SEO and often it’s one of the older, outdated iterations!. Going forward, rather than spread that content across multiple URLs, there’s a way to structure it all under one, so that the full authority remains concentrated and searchers have the optimal experience. Meanwhile, in thinking about evergreens, you may find service features that have real shelf life and might legitimately be updated on some regular cadence. For example, if you hit an SEO home run with an explainer or how-to piece in 2018, decide whether it would add audience value to update it annually.”

We thank our three experts. Again, if you have a question, please send to rlevine@siia.net.

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‘This Will Take You to a Whole Other Level’; BIMS Speakers Lay Out the Strategies

“Company A Acquires Company B.” “Great, I read the same thing in Google,” Jim Sinkinson of Fired Up! Marketing once told us about a headline he received. “Your content should not be about the industry per se, it should be about the reader. There are important developments afoot in that acquisition that are going to affect me.”

Do you always have the reader in mind and the value you are conveying to her or him?

 

According to Sinkinson—who led The Ultimate Copywriting Bootcamp: Emails and Landing Pages at BIMS 2020—you should. “Company A Acquired Company B, and This Is How It Will Affect You,” he rejiggered the headline. “There’s a lesson here and we need to be prepared for the next lesson that looks like this. That will take your editorial to a whole other level.”

 

It was Matt Bailey who told me in September that “the landing page is the critical part that a lot of people forget about in this type of lead marketing or content marketing or even dealing with the [sales] funnel.” So Sinkinson’s bootcamp is must-see TV.

 

Here are five more strategies from BIMS 2020 speakers:

 

1. Customers want something to change. They spend money and expect something to happen, Sinkinson has said, perhaps even more so this year. “People do not buy your content because it is content. They are not buying facts from you.” They want benefits. “Learning is not a benefit, updates are not a benefit. Knowledge is sufficient but it is not enough. It doesn’t take you anywhere. You have to tell people what to do with it.”

 

2. Let your subscribers/audience tell stories. MedLearn Media depends on their Monitor Mondays podcast to bring a big audience in. When COVID-19 began, they “invited more healthcare professionals to the podcast to share and tell their stories of what they have been experiencing and seeing each week,” said executive director Angela Kornegor. “The response on the new format was astonishing. Our live attendance to our podcasts increased by 50% which not only gave us great insight and feedback into what our customers were looking for and craving, but gave us intel on topics we could produce webcast topics around.”

 

3. Build data products. “None of us spend as much time as we need to envisioning data products that solve specific problems,” BVR CEO David Foster has said. “Meanwhile, so many new market entrants have figured out ways to process results in real time and then build services around that information. Hearing these stories, with all their buzzwords, can scare niche information companies into inaction… The field remains wide open to provide value by creative analysis by market-knowledgeable experts. It’s what we’ve always done. We best add value to data in the same ways we’ve always thrived—with superior product plans for content extraction, refinement and delivery.”

 

4. Lead customers to the next level. “What’s the last question that you want to leave your client with so they’re going to move forward?” asked Leslie Laredo, president Laredo Group and the Academy of Digital Media. “It’s really interesting how many people haven’t prepared enough to know that question.” Laredo said you need to have your “ask” ready. “How are you going to advance the conversation?”

 

5. Develop a clear 2021 marketing strategy. “You need a full calendar that builds social media posts around what’s important to your readers,” Charity Huff, CEO of January Spring, once told me. “You can take the editorial you do and use it in so many different ways. We are helping publishers reach new readers, drive them to their site, and then monetizing them to advertisers and sponsors. Without a strategy, you end up chasing stuff that doesn’t matter or turn into revenue.”

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Value Propositions, Innovation and Engagement Get People to Join/Renew

In my Q&A with Matt Bailey last week, I mentioned the exercise he had us all doing at BIMS one year: state your company’s definition—what-it’s-primarily-about—in six words. It really made you get rid of the excess language we tend to use, and think about your main revenue driver.
I recall that because in Marketing General’s 2020 Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report (download here), they say the following: “The first and most noteworthy condition for membership success is understanding and building the value proposition for your membership. The data shows that members join for networking with others in the field, continuing education, accessing specialized information, and learning best practices in their profession.”

They also say that “only about half of [organizations] consider their value proposition to be very compelling or compelling (48%). On the other hand, 42% find their organization’s value proposition to be only somewhat compelling.

That’s a bit staggering and in need of change. They add that the organizations gaining members are the ones who say that they do have a compelling or very compelling value proposition—obvious but still worth noting.
Here are more highlights from the report.
Even now—or maybe especially now—it’s important to encourage innovation. “Our data shows that a culture of innovation is the critical driver for creating member value. “Try something new or you’ll plateau and decline,” one respondent said. Again, those who have seen member gains “are significantly more likely to have a process in place for innovation and new ideas” and vice versa.

Amplify these areas. We all talk about wanting greater interaction with our audience/members/community. Here are four areas where respondents are seeing it:

– the use of an organization’s mobile app;
– participation in social networks;
– webinar attendance; and
– participation in their young professionals programs.

Have a plan to engage. This is not a surprising one, but respondents have been consistent in sharing why they do not renew—a lack of engagement with the organization. “However, when associations establish an active program to engage members and increase their usage of benefits, membership retention increases. Almost 80% that have seen an improvement in renewals state that they have a tactical plan to increase engagement.”
Get people talking. By quite a large margin, word-of-mouth recommendations is the best channel for acquiring new members. Email is second but its numbers have gone slightly down. Events/meetings came in next but this was pre-pandemic.
Still have to try to facilitate networking. When asked for the top three reasons members join, 61% said “networking with others in the field.” Even on Zoom calls—as much as we all know that Zoom fatigue is real—you can see faces light up when they see people they haven’t seen in a while. And you can see the engagement they get from hearing colleagues talk about their experiences.
Stand for something. In that same category, 25% said “supporting the mission of the organization.” And another 21% said supporting advocacy. Learning best practices in the field is also a common denominator of those organizations that have experienced recent growth.
Offer toolkits. This came from one respondent: “Our largest source of new members comes from current members referring non-members to our organization. We provide toolkits, complete with links to resources, for our membership annually and encourage them to keep up the good work!”
Reach out and touch. One respondent wrote: “Personal touches make the most difference. The challenge is freeing staff from other tactics to make the calls and reach the members.”
Use your data. “We’ve modeled our prospects, scoring them with the likelihood to obtain our certification. This has allowed us significant savings on marketing costs after test results showed drastically higher response rates for the top scored prospects. There are so many fingerprints within data that people can use to identify the most likely to help meet the organization’s goals. Everyone should be tapping into this.”
Again, download the report here.
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‘The Landing Page Is the Critical Part’; Bailey Talks Sales Funnels and Websites

Something—maybe a reminiscence about his narrowing down your main marketing message to six words (try it)—led me to Matt Bailey’s excellent blog last week, Endless Coffee Cup. The subject was the sales funnel. Apparently there has been some doubts raised about it.
“I can’t imagine why someone would say the sales funnel is dying,” he told his equally lively co-host Ashley Schweigert. “Maybe we’ve seen a flattening—the places people are coming into the funnel—[but if anything] it’s getting greater.
“The reason we’ve had the funnel to begin with is that we need a visual representation of what’s happening. Just looking at numbers alone is not an understandable way about where are people in our sales process. How are we acquiring? Where are they? What stage do they go to next?”
That made me want to call Bailey—an accomplished speaker, trainer, author, marketer and founder of Site Logic—and ask him a few of my own questions. It was good to see him, even if it was just in his man-caved office on the Zoom window.
“It’s funny because Ashley had been asking for that podcast for months,” he told me. “I’m not sure,” he mimicked himself weakly saying to her. “’I’m being a little evasive. Sell me on it, Ashley, sell me on it.’ When she started by saying that ‘Hubspot says it’s dead,’ [I said,] ‘okay, let’s go.’”
Here’s more of the Q&A between Bailey and I:
RONN LEVINE: I love your podcast44 episodes, that’s impressive.
MATT BAILEY:
 Thanks. It’s been great to get feedback from it. Which shows people listen to, what’s downloaded the most. Themes definitely start emerging.
RL: I’m sure anything about revenue diversification plays well now, given the state of in-person events. 
MB: Yes, in-person event revenue is obviously down. But there are so many ways to make money on the Internet. Look and see how others make money. Before COVID, 80-90% of my business was in-person events. Training, conferences, then all this hit. It’s definitely the longest I’ve been home. What enabled me to make the transition is that I look at 5, 7, 10 years ago, developing additional streams of revenue—training products, classes, exercises—that can now be on Zoom.
RL: How have you adapted to doing everything on Zoom?
MB: It’s been good but I’m more exhausted by the end of day, working from home, than all the traveling I was doing. [He spends an average of 4-5 hours a day on Zoom.] I’m constantly thinking, ‘how do I make this more exciting, more entertaining, and communicate more efficiently, more effectively.’ As Marshall McLuhan famously said, ‘the medium is the message,’ and that’s Zoom right now.
RL: How has it changed how you do your training?
MB: Some of the training that we’re doing, we try to make fun. We have an active chat channel, and then there’s also a Whats App back channel, and I find the most engaging sessions we have is where people respond by voice. They have their cameras on, they’re talking that way, but at the same time there’s an active chat going on. So it’s demanding that you are paying attention to questions, you’re answering questions, you’re also watching the chat, you’re also managing the discussion, and so it’s truly demanding this multitasking approach to presentations.
RL: On the good ones I’ve been on, that chat takes on a life of its own. Another theme I’d like to get into is websites. Are websites still as important as they’ve always been?
MB: Absolutely. It’s a core of content for inbound marketing. In the analytics that I look at for different companies, search is still your number one source for visitors—very rarely do I see a social channel. Honestly, the only social channel I see compete with Google is Pinterest. I’ve never seen another social channel peak at the level or even near the level of search. So it tells me that content marketing, inbound marketing is more than alive and well and because of that you’ve to have a system to filter those people through, answer their questions, present your company, get the lead, move through there.
RL: So is it still about the landing page or is the homepage still important?
MB: The landing page, it’s one of those things, it can become its own science. The landing page is the critical part that a lot of people forget about in this type of lead marketing or content marketing or even dealing with the funnel. I just saw something the other day that showed up in my email about landing pages. [Reading.] “At Dell, every new landing page is a multi-faceted project that requires several handoffs taking 6-8 weeks to customize and globalize for testing. Contact form completions rise 50% and increases as high as 300% on dedicated landing pages.”
RL: Wow, 6-8 weeks. That does say a lot.
MB: I deal with so many companies, very focused on being at the top of the funnel. Let’s get people there with our content, let’s answer their questions, let’s give them great content. And then they forget about their landing page, throw up the same one they used last year, change a few words and I’m done, not realizing that landing page is just as important as the content you used to get them there. And now you have to convert them. Testing your landing page, testing your call to action, testing your offer. All of these things are just as vital as the content you use.RL: You do get the feeling that companies focus more on home pages. 
MB: Yes, and I think most people don’t even view the home page. They get into the content or they get to that landing page. They may go to the homepage after they finish a conversion or exchange.

Again, check out Endless Coffee Cup at this link.