Three top digital marketing priorities for 2014

SEO, content and social media

So, 2014 is well and truly up and running! Christmas and New Year feel like a lifetime ago, we’re all back into our normal work routines and everyone’s marketing teams have finished planning for the year ahead.

Now that the dust has settled from a hectic month of predictions and expectations from across the blogosphere, I’ve had a proper chance to really consider my digital marketing capabilities and where I’ll be focusing my efforts over the next 12 months.

If we consider both econsultancy’s andSmart Insights’ survey results of the major trends in digital marketing for 2014, it’s clear that there are a number of common topics and areas that are high on digital marketers’ priority lists this year.

Smart Insights digital marketing trends 2014

Econsultancy/ Adobe digital marketing trends 2014

Whilst customer experience and personalisation stand out from econsultancy, both survey results show consistencies in social, big data, content marketing and mobile.

Unsurprisingly, these results correlate strongly with the broad themes I’ll be looking to work on and develop this year. However, for the purpose of this post I’m going to look in more detail at specific areas within these themes:

Stay on top of SEO trends

There were some big changes in the world of SEO in 2013, most notably from Google. Whilst the world’s largest search engine continued to roll out more Panda and Penguin updates, in September Google
announced the introduction of a completely new search algorithm, called Hummingbird, which is aimed at improving conversational/ semantic search to help understand users’ intent.

With 2013 also being the year that (Not Provided) hit 100% for many sites, and only this month an announcement from Matt Cutts that guest blogging is on the way out as an SEO tactic, Google has certainly shaken things up, prompting a rethink in strategy, tactics and analytics for many SEOs and digital marketers.

Key areas of focus:

Semantic search - With the introduction of Hummingbird, semantic search will play an increasingly important role in SEO. And this move to more conversational search will provide websites with the opportunity to create a variety of different types of content to answer specific questions and queries that will rely on the long-tail as much as higher volume head terms.

Rich snippets - 2013 saw the continued growth in rich snippets and structured data within the SERPs. Google is continually trying to contextualise search results for users and therefore authorship, product reviews/ratings (primarily using Schema.org) and local SEO will become an important tactic in 2014 from strengthening visibility within the SERPs and improving click-through rate.

Analytics - As mentioned above, Google’s move to 100% secure search has made things quite tricky for SEO analysis and reporting. Whilst there are ways of identifying keyword level data, in order to create really meaningful analysis using standard web analytics software, analysts will have to become much more creative and smarter in order to effectively idenitfy how search engine optimisation efforts are improving quality organic search traffic, conversions and sales.

Define a clear content strategy

Content and content marketing has been a hot topic for a number of years and this trend is unlikely to change in 2014. With search engines placing more and more emphasis on (quality) content as a ranking factor, and social media marketing continuing to attract attention of a wide range of demographics, I consider content to be the ‘glue’ that binds these two disciplines.

In order to execute content marketing effectively, marketers need to have a clearly defined content strategy so they can determine the direction they are looking to take. The content strategy will act as the roadmap for all content marketing efforts, outlining the key audience groups, competitors, resource considerations and measures of success.

Key areas of focus:

Formulate an integrated content strategy - To be successful in 2014, a content strategy should be created both to set the direction for content creation and syndication and to establish a process for introducing rigour and a level of quality around content production. The content strategy should be integrated across multiple areas of the business, including corporate communications, marketing, PR and brand.

Types of content - Article marketing used to be popular, as was guest posting and testimonials. And then came infographics. What will be the content de jour in 2014? It’s important to consider a range of different types of content and the value they can deliver. Every piece of content should be created with a clear objective in mind and a consideration as to how it will be used and what it can achieve.

Content planning - It’s important to plan what content you’ll be creating and where it will be hosted, both on-site and beyond. A content plan will ensure that the right content can be scheduled and produced for the right audience, at the right time. However, it’s also important for the plan to be agile and the inclusion of space to account for newsjacking opportunities.

The inbound marketing funnel

Create a strong, varied social presence

Whilst the dizzying allure of social media has diminished since its heights in the early part of the decade, social media still has a very big and important role to play digital marketing and is something I believe will be important to focus on in 2014.

However, instead of being managed as a separate function, it’s likely that social media will continue to be integrated into different areas of the business and permeate many different roles and positions. For example, just as social media now plays a more important role in SEO (although Google maintains that social signals may not directly benefit rankings, there is an indirect benefit from building engaging, valuable social identities that drive qualified traffic), with an increased focus on content and content marketing in 2014 it will continue to be a primary distribution channel for big and small brands alike.

Key areas of focus:

Focus on what works for you (and your audience)? - With the emergence of exciting, new challenger social networks, such as Instagram, SnapChat and Vine, it’s easy to forget about the continued development of established platforms such as facebook, Twitter and Google+. In 2014 it’s important therefore to have a presence of a blend of social platforms that best fit your brand values and the audience you wish to connect with.

Engage with influencers - In the early days of the social media boom, many brands were obsessed with growing the number of likes and followers they had across their social networks. But as businesses continue (and rightly) demand clear evidence of ROI from their social media efforts, more sophisticated methods of measuring success will be necessary.

As with SEO and content marketing, there should be more focus on quality over quantity. To really understand the ROI of social media, brands must begin identifying, engaging and reaching out to influencers to amplify their efforts and measure the conversations, interactions and leads that may be generated as a result.

Mobile - Some argue that mobile is now more important than desktop.

GOV.UK traffic stats for desktop, mobile and tablet

With mobile devices contributing an ever-increasing amount of website traffic, mobile will play a stronger role across social media as well as SEO and content. So in 2014 it’s worth considering how your social presence, and the way you engage and post messages, look and feel across mobile otherwise you could alienate an increasingly large section of your audience.

As mentioned at the start of this post, there are a number of key themes and trends to be aware of in 2014 and it’s likely that some will play a more significant role than others depending on the type of business you have and the sector you’re in. It’s also possible that some will be more influential than others as the year progresses whilst other new trends emerge.

The key will be to stay on top of the trends in what is already a very fluid and changeable area of marketing and be flexible enough to adapt wherever possible to stay ahead – or just keep up – with the competition.


My three words for 2014

Three doors by Tony Hisgett

It’s that time of year again when I choose three words to define the year ahead and guide me through the next twelve months. It’s a tradition that Chris Brogan started a few years ago and something I’ve continued since I began in 2011.

Whilst New Year resolutions are all well and good, many are doomed to fail, often becuase they are either too vague or completely unrealistic (e.g. “I will give up chocolate completely in 2014!”). However, although I will be making a list of New Year resolutions, I’ll be using my three words as more of an overarching guide for my behaviours and actions in 2014.

Before I unveil my three words for 2014, I’d like to look back and review my three words for 2013:

Inquisitiveness

Being inquisitive ensures that we stay alert to change and are able to spot and leverage new opportunities.

In 2013 I tried to remain inquisitive by not only reading and keeping up-to-date with information specific to my job and industry but also from a variety of other sources completely unrelated to what I do for a living.

For example, I read essays from The New Yorker, articles from Fast Company and watched and listened to presentations from TED about all kinds of topics to keep my inquisitive levels up.

My hope is that by remaining curious about the world around me I can take learnings from what others are doing that can be integrated into my own life.

Imagination

Albert Einstein once said that imagination is more important knowledge and it’s something that’s always resonated with me. As human beings we have the ability to create endless possibilities using our imagination and it’s the key to many of the great innovations and developments the world has seen.

To keep my imagination alive in 2013 I tried to remain inquisitive (see above), stay as open-minded as possible and learn about how people within the arts and sciences think and act to make the most of their imaginations.

In 2013 I also read my first fiction book since 2010. For three years I’d been so immersed in non-fiction and studying my craft that I’d forgotten the joy and benefits of really good, imaginative storytelling. I find that great fiction allows one to see first-hand what the power of imagination can produce.

Expertise

Developing a craft takes time, hard work and effort. To see a craftsman in action, be it a carpenter, tailor, artist or musician, is truly a thing of beauty.

Last year I attempted to develop my expertise by reading more quality content from a wide range of sources. These included great articles and studies from the Harvard Business Review, super blog posts from opinion leaders and classic books by authors including Malcolm Gladwell and the late Stephen R. Covey.

I also worked on my expertise by writing, notably on my own blog and externally for Smart Insights. I find that writing forces me to think deeply and analytically about a topic. Plus the thought that hundreds – maybe even thousands – of people might see what I have to say means that I have to produce content to as high a standard as possible.

 

Although the three words I set each year are specific to a particular year, all the previous ‘three words’ (which have included Create/Ship/Improve and Focus/Confidence/Energy) are still extremely meaningful and something I will continue to use to help guide and shape my life.

However, for 2014 my three words to live by are:

Network

Whether online or offline, I believe it’s important to develop networks of trusted friends, allies, colleagues and fellow enthusiasts to stay in touch with changing trends and to progress as an individual.

Whilst I developed my expertise in 2013 by researching, reading and watching other experts on my own, to truly develop as a person and as a marketer I need to work more with others and to contribute more to groups and networks. By doing this I’ll be able to develop my expertise as, improve my inquisitiveness and imagination and hopefully add value to other people’s lives, too.

Exercise

When I say ‘exercise’, I am referring to the focused improvement of both physical and mental skills and abilities.

Physical exercise is a common New Year’s resolution but often fails once the initial excitement in January wears off. Goals are often vague and focus is soon lost. However, I will be making sure that my physical exercise goals are SMART and measured intermittently throughout the year to ensure I remain focused on exactly what I want to achieve.

I will apply the same structure to my mental exercise. To continue refining my craft and expertise, I will set goals based around what I want to read (both fiction and non-fiction), write, research and apply in my day-to-day life, both professional or personal.

Relax

There is always a danger that we can become consumed by the amount of noise and distractions omnipresent within our hectic lives. There is always so much to do, so much we need to be achieving to stay ahead of the curve and to reach the next milestone.

Whilst I do want to achieve good things in my personal and professional lives, I have learnt that sometimes I need to relax in order to take stock and reflect on where I am and what I may need to do next. Time needs to be taken to appreciate appreciate and enjoy what we’ve already got.

So as hard as I’m planning to work this year, I’m also going to take time to stop and relax. Maybe that way I’ll be more refreshed so I can continue taking on new challenges with enthusiasm and commitment!


Google Webmaster Tools vs 100% (Not Provided)

Google Webmaster Tools
Earlier this Autumn, Google made the step that many SEOs and digital marketers were fearing: the encryption of all organic search traffic. The dreaded (Not Provided) had already been creeping up steadily, but now it’s approaching 100% making it impossible to see in the original SEO reporting in analytics which keywords from Google are driving visits and converting.

Whilst we can argue about the rights and wrongs of this change, it means that we can no longer access organic keyword-level data in our web analytics solutions, such as Google Analytics and Adobe Sitecatalyst. This data is extremely valuable to digital marketers, since it allows us to:

  • Find opportunities to improve the performance or ranking of a particular page
  • Identify what keywords are driving traffic to a website or page
  • Demonstrate how an increase in SEO efforts have improved rankings
  • Understand how searchers perceive our brand, content and website
  • Unearth new keyword opportunities

So, where can we go to get hold of keyword-level data in order to continue working on some of the tasks listed above?

There are a number of potential solutions and in this post, I’m going to focus on one of the options – the Google Webmaster Tools SEO data which is also available in Google Analytics if you enable integration between two accounts.

Google Webmaster Tools

One of the solutions we can use to get hold of the remaining keyword-level data available to us is Google Webmaster Tools:

We can access this data by going to Search Traffic -> Search Queries or in Google Analytics see this support post from Google which explains how to set up integration with Google Webmaster Tools (GWT).

Google Webmaster Tools

Limitations of Google Webmaster Tools SEO data

One thing to note up-front is that the keyword-level data available from Webmaster Tools is less accurate than anything we could ever get from Sitecatalyst or Google Analytics.

You need to be aware of these limitations and explain them to clients or colleagues when presenting your data:

Nevertheless, Webmaster Tools is not as inaccurate or useless as some suggest and in a world where we have limited keyword-level data from elsewhere, I believe it’s important that we embrace what we can get from a free tool that and can provide some very valuable insights.

Plus, an added benefit is that you can now access Webmaster Tools search optimisation data directly from Google Analytics so that web data from Google can be consolidated in one play.

Setting up Google Analytics data to analyse the GWT data has additional benefits in that you can apply secondary dimensions for country where visits originated or different types of SEO traffic, e.g. from images or mobile as shown below:

Google Analytics data

What does the search queries report provide?

Search queries report - homepage

The search queries report provides a range of information that can be used to evaluate organic search performance and identify any specific areas that might need to be looked at further.

The main elements of the report include:

  • Queries: The total number of search queries for which pages of your site was shown in organic search over a given period of time.
  • Impressions: The number of times pages from your site appeared in search results.
  • Clicks: The number of times a user clicked your site’s listing in search results for a particular query.
  • CTR: The percentage of impressions that resulted in a click to your site.
  • Average position: The average top position of your site on the search results page for a given query.
  • Top pages: This tab shows the top pages of your site appearing in organic search results.

As you can see, in addition to ‘Queries’, Webmaster Tools also provides extra insight in the form of CTR, impressions and average position data for each query, all of which can produce a more rounded view of performance.

As well as forming an understanding of what your audience is interested in, by looking at queries that also contains impression data, average ranking and CTR, when traffic falls you’ll be able to get a better idea as to whether this is due to ranking issues or seasonality (see more here).

Queries

With the lack of keyword-level data available from standard analytics tools, you can now start to make an assessment of what keywords are performing well for your site, what you would expect to see doing well and any anomalies that are standing out. This data can give you a baseline to measure performance and begin to set actions in place for optimisation.

Take some time to review the summary of the top performing queries as well as drill down into specific, individual keywords to get an idea of how you’re performing for each term:

Search queries drill-down report

This data will provide insight into which pages are ranking for those terms and help you to further develop your content strategy.

For example, as well as assessing the performance of your existing content for targeted keywords, you can also identify other keywords with good potential that could be integrated into new content, such as articles, blog posts, videos or infographics.

Click through rate

Click through rate (CTR) can be really helpful for identifying where meta data could be improved.

For example, although a search term may be ranking quite highly, if the CTR is low this may indicate that the title tag, description or any additional structured data, e.g. Schema.org, could be tidied up and improved.

Average position

Although they are approximations, Google provides average positions for all the different keywords in the query report.

This offers some interesting data that can help you see how your keywords are performing and their impact on traffic.

Average position can also be used to track rankings over time. As you put more effort into optimising the content and structure of your website, you can monitor ranking fluctuations month-on-month to assess your SEO efforts.

Top landing pages

The ‘Top pages’ report allows you to evaluate which content and pages across your site are getting the most impressions and clicks and enables you to look for new opportunities for improvement:

Top landing pages report

For example, the data in this report may indicate that there are pages within your site that are ranking on page 2 or lower and yet receive a large amount of impressions or have a good CTR.

Using this insight, you can adjust your SEO strategy and optimise these pages to help improve their performance within the SERPs.

Assess performance over time

Use the ‘with change’ feature to track your performance over time:

Assessing performance over time

This feature is useful if you want to assess your SEO efforts, especially after the launch of a new product or piece of content to see if your updates are effective, or even to track how search engine algorithm updates or changes may be impacting your average rankings and conversions.

Summary

With the 100% encryption of keyword-level data in our web analytics solutions, it’s important that we look for other opportunities to retrieve whatever keyword data we can in order to improve our content and SEO efforts.

Whilst the data available from Google Webmaster Tools may not be as accurate or helpful as that we could previously derive from Google Analytics, the tools does provide a wide range of interesting and very useful insights to help us assess how our sites are performing and the actions we can take to make further improvements.

A version of this post was originally published on Smart Insights on 5th December 2013. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure!


Why ‘aggressive’ link-building isn’t sustainable

Link Building is no longer needed for PR Now by Mark Kens

I recently stumbled across a link-building services site that proudly announced on its homepage that it can build links so that businesses could “focus on getting richer” instead of “wasting time and energy building links”.

There are two things about this statement that bother me:

1. Outsourcing link-building is fraught with potential problems. You’re putting your faith in a third-party who may be deploying all kinds of dodgy tactics in order to build links that may ultimately impact your business
2. Link-building isn’t “a waste of time and energy”. Search engines value quality over quantity when it comes to links and you don’t need to build hundreds a month. Most of all, link-building can be fun, productive and very beneficial for a business.

Perhaps I’m being naive, disillusioned or just a bit silly, but whenever I see an ad or promotion from someone claiming that they can build thousands of links, at scale, from ‘high authority’ sites for a nominal fee, my heart sinks a little. As a creative digital marketer I can’t help but think we can do a lot better than this and should be aspiring to a higher level of quality in our marketing.

Don’t chase an algorithm that’s constantly changing

Following a series of algorithm updates from Google over the past two years, creating mediocre content and/or manipulating links in order to generate better rankings has made these SEO tactics a lot less effective.

Whilst I empathise with smaller businesses who can not rely on the authority of a big brand name to boost search visibility, I don’t believe that ‘chasing the algorithm’ with spammy tactics has ever been a good way of doing business. It just feels cheap and shady and tarnishes the good work carried out by the vast majority of the SEO community.

Earn your way to organic search success

Search engine optimisation is a form of earned media marketing, meaning websites have to earn the right to appear highly in search engines by having a relevant site and/or piece of content for any given related search phrase. Any attempt to trick a search engine algorithm in order to gain (perceived) authority is not a sustainable route to success. You’re betting that the algorithms will remain constant and consistent whilst all the evidence suggests that they will continually evolve in order to improve the quality of their listings.

Focus on the SEO factors that you can control

Although organic search gives websites an opportunity to generate ‘free’ clicks to their content, it takes time, effort and focus to build a legitimate, sustainable presence. It’s important not to optimise a website based on how the algorithm is believed to work today. Optimise a website based on what your customers are looking for and consider these main factors:

Website structure

Make sure that all on-site SEO best practices are put in place and related pages link naturally to one another so that authority can flow throughout the site. The structure should allow humans and search engines to intuitively navigate around the site.

User experience

Websites shouldn’t be built and structured with only ‘SEO’ in mind. I say ‘SEO’ because search engine optimisation isn’t just about keywords, meta data and link-building anymore. It’s also about creating a user experience that effectively meets the requirements of the customer.

When looking at website structure, it’s also important to consider design, user journeys and the devices (PC, tablet, mobile) customers are most likely to use when accessing your site.

Great content

Aggressive link-building companies use content to generate links. But it is the quality of content they use that I question. Hiring external agencies to build content for your company and brand is risky. Only you and your closest partners will know what really works for your site and customers.

Content can come in many forms, shapes and sizes but it’s important that content is:

  • Relevant to your company/ brand
  • Credible
  • Useful
  • Engaging
  • Informative
  • Educational

 

As with any worthwhile in life, there is no short-cut and this applies to SEO, content creation and effective use of social media – it takes time, effort and commitment. There is no silver bullet to success.


The true benefits and value of Google authorship

Typewriter B/W....now write the story by geishaboy500

As search continues to advance, the concept of authorship and identity will grow in importance. Many opinion leaders believe that over time websites will begin to be ranked based not just on the keywords they contain and the inbound links they attract but also the people and authors behind the content being produced.

Earlier this year, Google’s former CEO Eric Schmidt stated:

“Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles will be ranked higher than content without such verification”.

At the time, some commentators suggested that this statement was proof of ‘AuthorRank’, a situation where Google will give certain pieces of content a rankings boost based on the author of that content.

However, whilst there’s no definitive evidence to suggest that AuthorRank is in effect now, authorship mark-up is in place and may well play a part in any potential AuthorRank developments in the years ahead.

Developing a richer search experience

It’s already becoming clear that Google is using authorship to develop a richer search experience. By associating real people with content, we’re starting to see the end of the ‘faceless web’ and the beginning of more personalised search results based on the social connections and preferences of the user.

Authorship results

Whilst Google+ is Google’s ‘identity platform’, it’s important to stress that other sites including Twitter and Facebook, for example, may also be used to identify content producers within search results. However, for the purpose of this post I’ll be focusing primarily on Google and their efforts to develop an effective authorship programme.

So what are the advantages of authorship?

Authorship provides a number of advantages for both content consumers and producers alike. For content producers, authorship provides a number of unique advantages, including:

Increase Google’s understanding of your online profiles

As search engines have progressed, so have the various ways in which SEOs have attempted to ‘game’ their algorithms. At first it was about keyword stuffing before the manipulation of links became common practice. For years links have been used as a signal of authority – more links = more authority.

However, this isn’t always the case and so Google are attempting to use authorship to help them serve up results based on more trustworthy signals in addition to links, such as +1s, likes, mentions, comments, citations and associations.

Building a genuine profile, with a history and body of work, is very difficult to pretend – it takes time, effort and commitment. So if you take the time to focus on producing quality work, content can be accurately linked to a trustworthy profile resulting in an increase in the accuracy and reliability of search results for users and higher rankings and better click-through rates for the content producers.

Increase click-through rate from search results

By using Google authorship, content producers will allow Google to display their author information in search results and give them an opportunity to stand out from the crowd.

The Power of Mental Fortitude authorship search result

Research shows that rich snippets within search results helps improve click-through rate (CTR) and further studies indicate that associating a (good) picture with your Google+ profile can help boost CTR from search results as part of authorship mark-up.

 

For content consumers, effective use of authorship also provides a number of advantages that savvy content producers can benefit from:

Adds credibility, context and meaning to content

I’m a big fan of Mitch Joel’s work. Over a long period of time I’ve read Mitch’s blog posts, articles and book as well as listen to his excellent weekly podcast. I’ve developed a deep admiration for his style, craft and experience and therefore rely on his opinion and insight.

So when I come across a piece of content from Mitch I immediately feel a sense of quality in what I’m consuming based on my knowledge about him. I’m not reading just any old post about thought-leadership. It’s a post about thought-leadership from someone I know has the knowledge, intelligence and professional background to talk confidently about this subject.

Provides a visible reputation behind content creators

Whether you’re logged in to Google or not, search results for certain topics will show an author’s profile picture next to a search listing if the author has chosen to link the published content to their Google+ profile.

For example, if someone were to search for ‘SEO best practices’ they might see the following results:

Search result for 'seo best practices'

Whilst any of these results might be suitable, if the searcher is familiar with my work, for example, through my blog, Smart Insights or from a professional event, they may feel more confident that the content I’ve produced will answer their question rather than the other results (and of course the opposite is true if they don’t trust my opinion – reputation works both ways!).

Logging in to Google personalises search results

Searches are becoming increasingly personalised, especially for those that are logged in to Google. Search results are taking account of sites have been visited most frequently and content that’s been +1ed and favourited.

Authorship is playing an important role for those developing a following on Google+. For example, when I search for a subjects when signed in to Google, results are sometimes personalised and content prioritised based on my social connections on Google+.

Claim your identity!

There a number of great advantages to using Google’s authorship mark-up so make sure you claim your identity and get started.

Focus on becoming a known, credible topic expert of the subjects you’re passionate about and build your online profile and manage your reputation across multiple platforms.

A version of this post was originally published on Smart Insights on 16th October 2013. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure!


How to develop a modern marketing portfolio

The Art of Social Media by mkhmarketing

For many new graduates encountering the job market for the first time, they’re discovering a very harsh and competitive environment. Whilst UK unemployment has been falling recently, the number of long-term jobless has hit a 17-year high illustrating that competition for jobs has never be tougher for both young and experienced professionals.

However, with the explosion of social media and other digital communication channels, it’s sometimes difficult to understand why prospective employees still rely primarily on the trusty 2-page CV to promote themselves. Whilst still a very important tool, the CV often paints a very one-dimensional picture of one’s professional history, skills and achievements.

In contrast, digital channels such as websites, blogs, podcasts and social networks can be used to build up a much deeper, more fluid representation of one’s interests, passions and professional experience. When we look at what these channels can do, it’s hard to imagine how this could be effectively captured within a standard CV.

The Modern Marketing Manifesto

In May this year Econsultancy introduced their Modern Marketing Manifesto. The manifesto aims to outline why Econsultancy believe marketing is increasingly valuable and to define what it is to be a modern marketer. The manifesto doesn’t look at digital and traditional marketing in isolation. Instead, it considers how the two can be fused to reconstitute what modern marketing is today.

The two manifestos successfully sum up where the modern marketing landscape should be heading and offers clues as to where marketers should be focusing their efforts. Using this as a backdrop, it’s possible to begin looking at the tools, tactics and channels modern marketers should be using to demonstrate who they are, what they believe in and the top skills many recruiters are looking for.

What do you want to do?

From the outset, it’s important to be clear about what type of marketer you are and the role you’re looking for. Knowing what you believe in and where your passions lie will allow you to shape and refine the messages you want to communicate and identify the channels that will work best for you.

Website/ blog

Although it’s often easier and less costly to own a free profile on a social network or blogging site, I believe it’s important to create a self-hosted website that allows you to own your very own piece of digital real-estate. You’ll have more control over visibility and user experience as well as design and the way content is presented.

Based on the previous section (‘what do you want to do’), decide how you want to position yourself, your site and what it will be about. It could be a blog or simply a professional landing page/ nameplate site.

Blogging is one of the most effective ways of building authority and thought-leadership and gives anyone the opportunity to publish their work, ideas and designs in a multitude of formats.

Blogging also offers you the opportunity of getting noticed within both search and social. Great blog content can help you rank in search engines for what you specialise in (e.g. ‘digital marketing specialist Manchester’) and original, helpful, unique content is more likely to get shared across social channels, especially Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

Guest blogging

If you decide to blog, you may also want to consider blogging for others people’s sites, too. Guest blogging can give enthusiastic bloggers an extra way of getting their message out to often a wider and more diverse audience.

Writing for sites other than your own can add credibility and shows employers or potential clients that you have the skill and flexibility to adapt your writing and thinking to different situations.

Social media

Social media has been a real game-changer for job-seekers and potential employers alike. Never before have people had the opportunity to craft and shape their message with so much freedom and reach such a wide audience at the push of a button.

There are hundreds of social networking platforms to choose from but only so many can be effectively managed at one time. Some social networks are likely to be more useful than others to showcase your professional skills although each will also be dependent on where your interests lie.

LinkedIn

One of the first things many recruiters will do is to check out prospective employees’ profiles on LinkedIn, so at the very least it’s worth making sure you have a detailed, up-to-date record of your work history, skills and achievements.

However, LinkedIn is so much more than a place to store one’s online CV. As a professional social network, LinkedIn gives users the opportunity to update their newsfeed with original and curated stories as well as join and participate in groups around the subjects they’re interested in.

Twitter

Twitter is a brilliant way of connecting with like-minded individuals and thought leaders in any field anywhere in the world.

The real value of Twitter lies in its brevity and the ability it gives users to easily share other people’s content (e.g. through retweets) and start conversations around tweets and hashtags. It’s also another way of demonstrating what you’re interested in by curating content from others you’re following. For example, if your interests lie in social media, regularly sharing and commenting on tweets from experts like Brian Solis, Jeremiah Owyang or Mitch Joel is a great way of demonstrating how you’re keeping up-to-date.

Google+

Although it may not have the appeal of Twitter, the professional reputation of LinkedIn or the sheer popularity of Facebook, Google+ is brilliant ‘information network’, allowing you to keep on top of the top trends in marketing.

Many of the influencers on Google+ are passionate advocates of their areas of marketing and building a profile and engaging with followers on Google+ is brilliant for not only developing your own knowledge by discovering new and interesting content but also for syndicating your own ideas and interests.

SlideShare

While often considered the less glamorous cousin of the ‘big 4’ social networks, SlideShare is super platform for demonstrating your skills and experience in a much more visual format through slides and presentations.

Pinterest/ Instagram/ Flickr

The increase in popularity of photo-sharing sites and apps like Pinterest and Instagram prove that great imagery and photography is an effective way of connecting with others.

Whilst it’s not quite as obvious how photo-sharing can build an online curriculum vitae, I’d argue that the huge popularity of Instagram and Pinterest, as well as the dependable Flickr, are great platforms for showing off your personality, sharing pictures from professional events and if you’re a creative, a brilliant way of demonstrating your ideas and concepts.

Networking

Despite the many benefits of developing and showcasing your skills online, there is still a huge amount of value in networking and meeting people in real life.

Attending conferences and summits is an excellent way of fine-tuning your knowledge whilst meeting fellow professionals in between seminars and keynotes. Getting to know others in your field of interest at conferences and networking events will allow you to make a more personal connection and guide them towards your website and digital profiles where they can discover more about you online.

The CV

Although digital channels offer job-seekers a big opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and reach a wide audience, the humble CV should still not be forgotten. Most recruiters and employers will use CVs as the first stage in the vetting process for new employees so it’s important that your CV is professionally written alongside a compelling cover letter tailored for every role you apply for.

A version of this post was originally published on Smart Insights on 10th September 2013. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure!