Tuesday, November 25, 2014

You Cannot Afford a Bad Online Reputation

Let’s face it, people are talking about your brand – and not always in a positive way. Whether it’s true or not, negative information can hurt your brand.

Potential customers, business partners, employees, and investors are all looking at your brand’s digital footprint. This includes mentions in social media and blogs, review sites, the media and countless other sources. If you Googled your brand right now, would you be happy with what you see?

Thanks to the relative ease with which people are now able to post information online, your company’s reputation is just as likely to be shaped by the opinions and feelings of others as it is your own carefully penned branding. Don’t be caught off-guard. Online reputation issues are difficult and sometimes impossible to fix.

Instead, take time now to build a strong positive reputation and make a habit of monitoring what’s being said about you online. In this two-part series, we offer tips to help you establish, grow, protect and manage your online reputation.

Establish your online reputation. The first step in protecting your reputation is to establish a strong online presence. Cast a wide net to gain maximum exposure.

·        Include your brand’s name in your online domain name and purchase all extensions (.org, .net, .com, etc.) even if you plan to use only one. This is especially helpful if your brand name is similar to others or there are other people with the same name as you.

·        The same thinking goes with social media. Claim your brand’s profiles on all social media networks. Actively maintain the ones that are most useful to your brand.

·        List your business in all relevant local listings and your blog in relevant blog directories.

·        Use tools to help manage your social media accounts, or just limit yourself to the two essential networks for online reputation management: LinkedIn and Google+.

Grow your presence. This important step allows you to expand your audience by offering useful information about your brand.

     We can’t emphasize this enough: LinkedIn and Google+ are ORM superheroes. As highly ranked social networking platforms they help fortify your brand’s online reputation. Keep your profiles up to date, post interesting content, get involved in discussions, and answer other people’s questions.

     SEO can help you rank highly and give users a chance to read about your brand in your own words first. Use Google’s free webmaster tools and follow these SEO best practices.

Next month we’ll offer tips for protecting your reputation and how to handle common issues.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Do You Care More About SEO or UX?

I know one of the most pressing issues on your mind is how your customers find your content. That's because we field hundreds of questions every year about strategic SEO and writing for organic search. But… are you also thinking about what happens when users start engaging with your pages? If people find your content, but are confused once they read and interact with it, what’s the point?

We find this very often with the questions we receive about our linking style: Does how we write our links impact our SEO? Well, let’s find out.

Links Matter for the User (Who is Kinda Super Important)

When we write content, we make sure the underlined words of the link (or the tag) are over the same words that the user will find when they jump to the page. For example, if the page title (or the H1 tag) is “Diabetes Education,” we don’t write the link as “Type 2 Diabetes.”  Instead, the link reads as, “Learn more about diabetes education.”  This is important for your customers, because as they follow the link, they land on the page they expected to see. A critical principle in user experience is telling a user where they are on a site and where a click will take them next.

Understanding Exact Match Linking

When I teach digital writing workshops, I used to teach that this concept, called Exact Match, was incredibly important for SEO.  And back in the day, it was; particularly if you used keywords in your page titles (you should still do that). But like so many other things in SEO, Google found that webmasters were abusing Exact Match for external links.  So they discontinued using this factor in their ranking algorithm.

However, from an internal perspective, this is the absolute right way to write links on your web pages. Think about it from the perspective of your customer: That person wants to know what’s on the other side of the jump, especially in a mobile situation. Writing links in this manner creates clean and easy to read content—something we know Google prefers. When you jump people using nicely flowing call-to-action links, you make it crystal clear where the user is headed.

Exceptions for Usability 

Sometimes it may not make sense to use the page title of the page you are referring users to because it’s too long and unwieldy—like the name of a blog title.  In those cases, I think it's okay to depart from this style—but do use some words that are going to make sense to the person reading, so they can decide if they want to follow the link.

You can learn more about how to create findable, readable, understandable, actionable and shareable content by inviting us to teach a digital writing workshop at your company. The workshops are personalized, using your content as examples. Check out our digital writing workshops.               

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Confessions of a Content Strategist: Jenny Magic

Imagine you are on a website buying clothing for your son, and the website immediately takes you to the section for his size and age. Or, what if you are presented with an online ad for pet food, and the headline matches your pet’s breed and age?

That’s the promise of personalized content, and it’s something Jenny Magic and I talked about when I interviewed her for this month’s Confessions of a Content Strategist. Jenny introduced me to a new role, “the content engineer”, Headless Drupal and what she thinks is working and not working in our industry. Her goal is to challenge content and technology teams to work together more effectively: to determine how quickly they can bring their mutual talents to bear on the problems we are all having delivering effective content.

Ahava Leibtag: “So when you and I met, we both seemed to overlap in the worlds that are content marketing and content strategy. And I’m curious about that, because there seem to be so few people who have one foot in both of those worlds. How do you define the roles of a content marketer and a content strategist?”

Jenny Magic:Content strategists define the process and content marketers work within that process. The changing demands on the entire marketing system mean that those processes have to change really quickly. And the demands are quickly shifting to the technology, which is evolving so rapidly. Becoming a marketing technology expert or content engineer isn’t necessarily part of the content strategist’s skill set—understanding relational databases, structured content, how automation tools will integrate, choosing the right CMS, technical implementation, etc. But, without a smart person making those decisions, too many times content folks get backed into a platform without a lot of good choices. Because the CMSs are getting more expensive it’s too costly a mistake for companies to make. That’s why content engineers are so vital to the future of content.”

AL: How did you get started in the business of content?

JM: “I kind of accidentally stumbled into it.  First, I was a marketing director at a tech start-up that didn’t even have a name yet; I got to name the company, the products, and build the website. That really got me started thinking about users and meeting their needs. From there, I had the chance to oversee a number of website redesigns from the client side of things. In the process of managing those projects, I kept chafing at how late in the process content was discussed, including goals.
I had a chance to move out to San Diego, and I ended up starting a freelance content business, Better Way to Say It. I just started knocking on doors of website design firms, asking them ‘how many jobs could you launch tomorrow if you had the content?’ This was in 2008 when websites still usually designed in Photoshop, filled with Lorem Ipsum filler text. They were wasting so much time waiting for clients to write content, and when they did finally get it, it broke design.  I had seen that a number of times from the inside and was then trying to solve the content problem for websites. I didn’t see myself as a content strategist. I didn’t even know what that was.
Then in the spring of 2009, I met Joe Pulizzi and Kristina Halvorson, and I realized, ‘This thing is called content strategy, what I’m doing.’ It was time to pick my head up from website content and think about the work I was doing from the bigger picture.”

AL: Let’s talk about this concept of content engineers, because it sounds super exciting, and just the kind of role we need.

JM: Well, we’re trying to bridge the gap between technologists and marketers. The need for interaction and integration only grows stronger, and it’s important for developers to understand that the content team is not trying to ruin your project and they do value your process and they would like to integrate in your process. Content experts can be helpful in what used to be development tasks like microcopy and error messages. Content teams are trying to learn from and even implement Agile methodologies into the content process. It’s also about going to content folks and reiterating that technology is not an afterthought—technology is critical in getting content in front of the right user at the right time. So there needs to be that person who functions as that translator of sorts between the content marketers and the technologists—who gets both.”

AL: So what are the major challenges for someone in this role? Besides being able to talk to two sets of people who really are left-brained and right-brained?

JM: “From the content side we have a big change management problem as it relates to what the technology is capable of—if you personalize content for the audience you have ridiculously higher conversation rates. We know that putting the right content in front of folks and being specific is really important. But that means having the will to write four different product descriptions. (Think of the pet food example—you have to write a headline that would include the ability to personalize for each breed and age of the pet.)
It doesn’t just mean being well-rounded in your messaging strategy—it means being able to actually write all those headlines. When we show people what’s possible with personalized content, they look at the statistics and get excited about it and sign off on it but when it does come down to actually trying to do it—it’s really difficult. I feel like a personal trainer and I have to encourage them if they want to look good in their swimsuit they need to do one more sit up—but actually getting them to write the content that will make the conversions happen is so difficult. So it’s not only about communicating, it’s also about actually making the work happen.”

AL: Where do you see the successes possible for someone in this role? Where is it working?

JM: “The technology has come a long way. Headless Drupal is an example: To deliver structured content and you need to break everything into finite chunks. So some smart developers are using the modular architecture of (open-source CMS platform) Drupal as the back end of your content independent of the user-facing structure of your website. Detaching the content model and organization of content from the presentation layer is really exciting and everyone is playing with new ways of getting personalized content in front of people—how do we reuse different pieces of existing tools to get to a new result?
I want to have personalized content where Visitor A who has lingered on my resources page has a different call to action than Visitor B—that’s not just a content problem, it’s a technology problem. The current solutions are not necessarily pretty, when people realize how much more both their content and their technology can do—but it’s inspiring for people to see what’s coming down the pipeline.”

AL: Predict what you see happening in the marketplace next.

JM: “I see a big consolidation in the marketplace around personalized content—you might solve it at the marketing automation layer or the CMS layer. We are seeing some integration and some solutions, but it’s a confusing time to be purchasing marketing technology because it might be the next big thing or bought by someone big and shelved. What is exciting is that what’s possible now is dramatically different than a year ago. But there are still not a lot of brave souls ready to invest and develop their content willpower to fill their systems with structured, personalized relevant content. But the technology is still developing and eventually it will happen.”
What do you think? Are you playing the role of content engineer without even realizing it? And what do you think is next for marketing automation and CMS technology? And do you think we need another content professional role who can translate for the engineers and marketers? Let us know in the comments.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

12 Ways to Keep Your Content Fresh

One of the most common questions we get asked as web marketers is how often businesses should update their website. While there is no single strategy that will work for everyone, you certainly could do no harm in making at least one update every month.

Here’s why: The Google crawler gives priority ranking to pages with original content. Every time you publish, Google gets a “ping,” so even minor changes give the search engine a new reason to browse and index your pages, which can improve your rankings.

It can be challenging to find time every month for making an update, but you can’t afford not to. Businesses that make regular updates are giving visitors reasons to come back, strengthening their loyalty to your brand and driving conversion.

Keep your content fresh for the next year with these 12 updates:  

  1. Add content to your frequently asked questions (FAQ) page. Search engines love FAQ pages and your customers will appreciate the useful content.
  2. Stream your social media feeds right on your homepage. This is a very easy update. If you’re using WordPress just install a streaming plugin. Check out the 20 best social media plug-ins for WordPress.
  3. Make sure your call to action is aligned with current marketing goals. And while you’re at it, see if you can add call-to-action language elsewhere on your site.
  4. Embed a Google Map of your physical location. In addition to helping customers find your store or office, having a map can boost local search engine rankings.
  5. Demonstrate your expertise by adding a page to your website. Blog comments and social media interactions offer keen insights into what your audience would like to know more about.
  6. Create an events calendar.  Many calendar plugins include built-in SEO features that automatically optimize words and links in your event descriptions. 
  7. According to experts, case studies and customer testimonials have the best ROI when it comes to adding low cost, highly effective content to your site, according to a TechValidate survey.
  8. Get rid of your news section. One study found that less than 1 percent of visitors are actually reading press releases. Instead, post this information in your blog or better yet on social media.
  9. Updates don’t always mean adding content. Optimize white space by removing visual clutter and making sure your content is crisp and to the point.
  10. No time to write? Update your site with video content. Google gives priority ranking to pages with video over pages with just text.
  11. A regularly updated blog is a great way to add new content. If you’re pressed for time, ask a colleague or trusted subject matter expert to write a guest post. 
  12. Using SlideShare, you can embed someone else’s presentation on your site. They get wonderful exposure and you get great content. Simply write an introduction, embed the SlideShare and finish with relevant commentary. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Exciting Changes at Aha Media Group

When I first started Aha Media Group, I never imagined we would grow to be a content consultancy with more than 500 content projects completed, including websites, newsletters, blogs, portals and print collateral.

My goals when I started the company were to work part-time and write freelance projects on the side. Well, we know how that turned out: In the past 9 years, we have grown to a company of 15 amazingly talented writers, content strategists and support staff.

Our Exciting Changes

·       Jena Triggs is now working with us as a Project Manager. She is reporting directly to Nancy Stewart, our Director of Content Development. You will absolutely LOVE working with Jena who is a former award-winning healthcare journalist. Meet Jena.

·       Betsey Royston has joined Aha Media Group as the Director of Finance and Operations. Betsey replaces Christine O’Neil who has been with Aha Media since 2011. Christine was instrumental in growing Aha Media by creating system and process improvements and encouraging us to grow the company in a smart, controlled fashion. Now she is moving on to build her own bookkeeping consultancy. While we will miss her, we wish her much luck and congratulate her on this new opportunity.

More Exciting Changes

Because Aha Media has grown and changed so much since we began, we have spent the last few months working on a rebrand and new website. We are excited to reveal those changes to you later this year.

We’ve been blogging up quite a storm lately and adding some popular presentations to Slideshare. Please check out these popular posts:

Monday, November 3, 2014

Choosing a Physician: What Patients Want

It is the challenge that every healthcare marketer faces: How do you represent your physicians so patients will choose your hospital or practice?

We polled patients over a six-week period in May and June of 2014 to find out what information sways consumers to choose physicians. (You can see their demographics at the end of this blog post). We asked 200 people using SurveyMonkey to answer these two questions:

  • When you select a physician, what is most important to you?
  • What is most important to you when choosing a physician to perform a procedure?

When you select a physician, what is most important to you?



As you can see, people care most about:
  • Insurance Coverage (2.8/5 average rating)
  • Experience (2.78/5)
  • Recommendation by friends and/or family  (2.54/5)
  • Personality (2.48/5)
  • Gender (1.68/5)
  • Ethnicity (1.22/5)

This data suggests that when you’re promoting physicians, you should focus on their experience. You should also try to demonstrate the doctors’ personalities, through pictures, videos or a line in their bios about what they enjoy doing in their leisure time. Paint a holistic picture of a doctor because the details do matter to patients.


What is most important to you when choosing a physician to perform a procedure?

Overwhelmingly, patients want to know how many times a doctor has performed a procedure. However, we know that doctors typically work in teams to provide comprehensive, seamless care for patients. Therefore, it makes sense for service line and department pages to include information about the total number of times that team has performed a procedure or treated patients. Content strategy tip: Include the year, so that the information is relevant and recent (You should update it every two years).

Example: Since 1999, our department has performed 1,500 electrophysiology studies. The national average for most centers in the United States is 800. Our depth of experience is crucial for determining your heart health, as well as treating your condition.


About the Participants in our Study




Tuesday, October 28, 2014

How to Use Content Audits to Create Great Content

Content audits can be mind-numbingly boring and time consuming. They require an incredible amount of patience and curiosity. People tend to avoid them because:

·        It’s shocking to see the state of your content.

·        Who wants to get blamed?

·        Content is often lost, missing or “ghosted”.

·        They are a major time suck.

·        Nobody does anything with information you gather.

However, content audits are an absolute necessity for all businesses because they give you the date you need to make excellent choices about your content. Great content begins with great audits.

In this presentation, delivered at LavaCon 2014, in Portland, OR, you will learn how to:

·        Distinguish between different types of content audits

·        Decide what type of content audit you need

·        Perform a gap analysis

·        Use the information you glean from content audits

·        Get creative when you encounter a wall

Ahava used three case studies—a major university, a healthcare client and a major publishing company—to illustrate how to make sense of content audits. The focus is on understanding content requirements, how to present data to the C-suite as well as how to use all the information you learn from a content audit without losing your mind.