OK, so last January we published the latest edition of the learning technology industry’s most popular Hot 100 highest rankers chart. No big deal really: Corral your best SEO and content experts into one locked room and sustain them with all you can eat pizza long enough and these kind of marketing milestones just sort of happen really.
But no, we didn’t do all of this just for the pizza. Frankly, we didn’t even do it for the industry-wide recognition we’ve received via the project (although that’s always nice). What we really like about the the Hot 100 rankers project is the forensic-class investigation that goes on behind the scenes: that’s why we do it.
You learn a lot when you undertake a project like this one, so we’re pretty stoked with data at the moment. Here’s the bottom line on the top stuff that’s blowing our minds right now.
Mind blowing bombshell #1: the very best content usually sits on the least optimised websites
It’s true! Some of the best content we found in eLearning, training and HR sits on some of the weakest websites (in terms of their SEO and SMO clout), and some of the weakest content sits on steroid induced, supercharged search and socially optimised powerhouses.
Why does this matter? Well: Awesome content marketing (that’s the kind that nurtures leads and converts web visitors into customers) depends on both. First, you need really compelling content. You know the kind of thing: It’s like, you just can’t look away! Second, you need a really intelligent web platform where customers and prospects can find your content easily, interact with it, endorse it and ultimately, share it.
The big bombshell that hits you when we research the world’s leading learning tech companies’ websites is that most of them are dramatically better at one of these dependencies than the other. It’s only when you get close to the upper echelons of the top 20 or so, that both content quality and platform efficiency start to receive equal billing.
How do we know? Well, the biggest indicator comes when you compare a website’s social traction (how often its visitors share, like or bookmark content) with what we might call its technical readiness for effective search and social marketing.
Routinely we found company websites scoring high because meticulous attention to search and social optimisation gave them impressive technical clout, but these supercharged websites seldom followed through with evidence that this clout was really being leveraged. Content which was technically well optimised for search, was only rarely being endorsed (liked, tweeted, dugg, shared, etc) by real people.
Conversely, most of the sites that made our chart on the strength of good, issues-based, topical content, tended to suffer somewhat because the news and insight they offered up was not housed on a well optimised, social friendly web platform. SEO scores on these websites were usually lower and an overall lack of social/sharing opportunities made these sites harder for those impressed with what they read, to spread the word.
Outside of the top 10, the upper half of our Hot 100 table is dominated with company websites that usually score best in terms of “technical readiness” (i.e.,Google likes them). Companies in the bottom half of the chart are usually there because they score higher in terms of social pick-up (i.e., people like them).
What could that mean? Well, we’re speculating a tiny bit, but a lot of this might be about bigger companies having budget to spend on SEO/SMO while smaller companies need to depend on good ideas and encouraging support from known communities. Good ideas housed on a supercharged search and social optimised platform will get you in the very top tier of the chart, but being pretty efficient at just one of these things is enough to win a spot somewhere at the table.
The big issue for many of the larger companies at the top half of the chart is that solving an SEO/SMO problem is usually much easier than solving a content problem. Optimising a website and ensuring that it’s equipped for search and social marketing requires only budget and the resources to commission a respected SEO expert: The majority of the companies listed higher than spot 50 in our chart would seem to have done this part already. Delivering well-designed, compelling content that connects with customers, nurtures leads and builds authority is much harder: Only the upper 15-20% of our hotlist can claim to be doing this really effectively.
The most often missed SEO hygiene factors could be corrected in less than a week.
When we say “hygiene factors” we mean the boring techie bits that the geeks at the Googleplex love but creative marketing types like us hate. Brace yourself young marketing master: you’re about to read a paragraph about meta data.
OK, so none of us did these arts degrees and MBAs so we could end up scrolling through reams of search friendly tags, but we should at least have the discipline to check that the poor coder or web designer we passed this eye-wateringly boring task over to has actually done it.
Putting the never ending, raging debate over meta tags aside for a second, two pieces of meta data really do matter: The title tag (that’s the 70 or less characters that asually appear in the blue bit at the very top of the browser) and the descriptions tag (that’s the 160 or less characters that should be there to summarise what a page is all about). These two tags are usually the first things that search engines use to match your business with potential customers searching online so if they’re not right, you’re left at the starting blocks while competitors get a head start. And fixing them is so incredibly easy.
Bombshells #4 – ’nuff already, I get the picture!
We’d love to go on, but the truth is, we’re a relevance marketing company and we’re pretty sure that we’re about to lose half of you if we proceed much further. What say we break things down and get a little personal?
Want to brainstorm some savvy SEO-tastic content marketingcaper of your own? Step one might be to work out what’s holding back your web marketing effectiveness via your own special B2B marketing hackday.