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The Web is quickly becoming the land of visual stories, but when it comes to digital marketing, Google is still king. Every publisher, blogger and web designer hopes to become a trending topic, but the Internet is a vast wasteland filled with more than a billion websites. For content to be seen, it first must be found. That’s where search-engine optimization plays a key role.
Google’s original search algorithm, named PageRank, utilized many off-the-page criteria such as link popularity that could not be manipulated by SEOs. Since well-designed websites with informative and attractive content were more popular, they naturally ranked higher. Plenty algorithmic changes have happened in the years since, and with each new phase Google eliminated more and more technical gamesmanship from SEO.
One thing that has never changed, however: Earning a high ranking in a search will drive traffic and increase business. Therefore, the job of the SEO is never complete.
Even data journalists, graphic designers and digital marketers can infuse their content with strategies to improve search rankings. Check out how to boost your SEO with these six visual storytelling strategies:
It doesn’t matter how often Google, Bing and other search engines update their algorithms, quality content that naturally attracts visitors is still the name of the game. Websites that give users what they’re looking for will always be more popular, and more popular websites will almost always rank higher in search.
What type of web content is the most likely to attract Internet users in 2017? Without a doubt, it’s visual storytelling. According to MarketingSherpa, as much as 50 percent of website visitors determine whether to continue navigating a web page or abandon it within 8 seconds. That’s how quickly marketers must grab and hold their attention.
Since the human brain is hardwired to absorb images – almost half of our gray matter is dedicated to visual processing – vivid imagery is an efficient and effective means of communication. It’s no wonder, then, that visual storytelling has emerged as such a popular way to deliver a message. For example:
Of course, creating a successful visual story isn’t as simple as pasting some images into some copy. There’s a true art to designing an effective graphic message. Fortunately for amateurs – as well as professionals who want to enhance their designs or find new inspiration – a variety of online resources can aid storytellers in translating their ideas into engaging presentations, infographics and other captivating web content.
Social media has revolutionized digital marketing and the ways brands communicate with their customers. One of the most effective methods companies now utilize to engage their customers is sharing visual stories. A prime example of a brand that expertly leverages visual storytelling on social media is National Geographic.
Who would have guessed a magazine founded in 1888 would be the most effective publisher in the social media space? But in 2014, the 139-year-old publication garnered an impressive 46.4 million engagements across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, thanks to images that told captivating stories and sweeping video footage of remote locations across the globe.
Google’s search algorithm is now so advanced, many experts believe social media affects page rank. After all, what better way to gauge a page’s usefulness to its audience than by taking a vote? Google’s team denies that social signals are part of its ranking formula, but anecdotal evidence strongly suggests not only do shared posts increase page visitors, but a brand’s social media followers may now significantly influence rankings. So even if social signals aren’t a direct ranking factor, a correlation still exists between social engagement and search results.
Growing your brand’s social-media following can be a slow process, even with widely shared content. But organically and strategically attracting users is vital to success. Google can even detect the quality of followers, so efforts to purchase large number of proxy followers will fail. Instead, consistently post shareable content, including useful articles, helpful tips and open inquiries that spark discussion.
Even though social media influences search ranking, social networks also offer their own search functionality. One of the best ways to optimize social content for internal search is through using hashtags. More than a passing trend, hashtags allow words or phrases within an overall post to be tagged for search.
Want to appear in searches for Super Bowl ads? Just tag your post with #SuperBowl2017 and #SuperBowlAds. Not only will your posts appear in searches on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram or LinkedIn, but it will also appear in Google searches for the tagged word or phrase.
Unsure which hashtags to use? Search by typing only the “#” symbol, the top suggestions will generally be the most popular tags at the time. Likewise, reference hashtags.org and @TopHashtags on Twitter for updated summaries of the most-used hashtags around the world.
Social engagement doesn’t have to originate from social media. Adding social sharing buttons to website content encourages visitors to post it to directly to their own pages. Plus, social share buttons generally display how many people have already shared the content, and high numbers only boost audience motivation to spread the message, akin to the classic bandwagon effect.
Well before Google incorporated social media metrics into its search algorithm, it began to place particular emphasis on authority level. How good a reference does a website make? One way the search engine interprets authority is by scanning a page for backlinks.
For those new to SEO, backlinks are links on other sites that direct toward your page, whether it’s a landing page, social-media profile, blog or other content. Therefore, per Google’s logic, if a lot of external sites’ admins think your page is worthy of mentioning, it must offer quality content. And the more authority a site that backlinks to yours has itself, the more the backlink influences your own page ranking. A backlink from the New York Times, for example, will offer greater benefit to ranking than the same backlink from Joe Smith’s personal blog.
So how do you get more backlinks? You could wait around and hope some popular bloggers or journalists happen to notice your content through social media. Or, for far more efficient results, you can reach out to bloggers, editors and publishers and request they feature your design.
Obviously, the first step in gaining search authority is creating and publishing content that users find authoritative. When designing your visual story, be sure and utilize classic techniques in color, space, font and layout. If you aren’t a talented graphic designer, use an online resource to help create your graphic.
Likewise, when designing your visual presentation, choose a fresh and relevant topic. Web masters are tired of time after time publishing the same story in a new package. But content dealing with a bizarre topic that has never been used before is less likely to be found via search – simply because no one will be curious enough to search for it. If, however, content addresses a topic from a new angle, it’s likely to catch their eyes and attention.
Want to create an infographic that attracts outside publishers? Take a look at 2016’s best infographics and our summaries of what designers can learn from them.
Once captivating visual content is created and published, it’s time to contact publishers and request a guest post. But where do you begin? Fortunately, that homework has already been completed by marketers who came before you. Take a look at the list Buzz Blogger provides, filled with websites that accept guest posts, articles, links, etc. It even breaks the list down by categories, so you can focus most of your time contacting publications with readership interested in your topic.
There’s no question that video now dominates the digital landscape. In 2014, video accounted for 64 percent of all internet traffic, and Cisco forecasts the medium will make up as much as 80 percent of traffic by 2019. eMarketer estimated that $7.77 billion was spent on online video marketing in 2015, a budget that is expected to double by 2019.
Why is video so popular? It’s efficient and effective at both communicating a message and inspiring viewers to take action. But how does it impact search rankings? A few years ago the answer would have been simple: It didn’t. But the rise of online video has moved the folks at Google to account for it in their search algorithm. The king of search now recognizes that video is evidence of quality content, and its presence will only continue to increase its ranking factor moving forward.
YouTube, owned by Google, is now the world’s second-largest search engine. So posting content to the site automatically increases overall search rankings. YouTube ranks videos by a variety of factors, including:
Original videos can be optimized for search by implementing keyword labels that provide important information to search engines to identify the video’s primary focus and target audience. Videos can be labelled with keywords in many of the same ways as images, by including them in metadata such as titles, file names, descriptions and tags.
Be aware, the keywords used to optimize for search on Google will vary from those frequently searched on YouTube. Check out these online tools to help research the best tags and optimize for YouTube.
Also, keep in mind that a video transcript deciphers the entirety of your audio content for search. If your video is bogging down your site, you can use an embedded video thumbnail that doesn’t load the video player until the play button is selected. Choose a thumbnail image that is clear and relevant to your content.
Frequent, consistent updates. It’s the life blood of modern SEO. Each new post – whether it’s a blog entry or a tweet – is an additional hub for search engines to visit. The more a search engine visits a web site, the better the opportunity to achieve a higher ranking. According to a HubSpot study of more than 13,500 websites, companies that published 16 or more blog posts per month saw almost 3.5 times more traffic than companies that published four times or fewer each month.
But who has the time – not to mention the creativity – to consistently publish fresh, quality content every couple of days? What happens when you run out of new ideas? Strategic publishing involves repurposing excellent content as much as creating it.
When original content is repurposed, the same information is personalized for presentation to different markets and through different mediums. One popular method of repurposing old content is presenting it in a video format. For example, a company that invested in the creation of an 18-page white paper can repurpose the content for use in podcast interviews, animated video presentations, shorter blog posts and infographics. Each of those posts can then be shared multiple times through various social-media venues. The original publication can be repurposed enough times to fill an editorial calendar.
As any digital marketer can attest, you can create a superior visual presentation, share it all over the Web and repurpose it for every market, but all will be for naught if Google’s web crawlers don’t know what it’s about. Optimizing a website’s underlying code tells the bots just what audiences can expect from your video.
As previously mentioned, metadata factors within the HTML code allow the web bots to decipher an image’s or video’s content. Entire books have been dedicated to skillfully optimizing HTML. Such elements include:
While tagging visual content is vital to optimizing it for search, it’s just as important to tag it with the proper keywords. After all, every Google search begins with some sort of keyword search.
Is the first page of your test search of a potential keyword filled with the highest authority sites – content from the most popular such as the New York Times and Huffington Post? If so, you might have a hard time competing. Instead of focusing on the general term “furniture,” for example, tag your video with more specific phrases such as “hand-crafted oak furniture.”
Ranking on YouTube requires similar optimization, but best practices differ. Not only will the most powerful keywords differ, but the optimal tags and search signals vary from basic SEO. With videos, make sure to:
Have you optimized visual storytelling for search? What was the most effective method you used? Let us know in the comments section below!