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A Complete SEO Checklist for Website Owners

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A Complete SEO Checklist for Website Owners

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a broad discipline where it can be easy to get stuck or caught up in details.

Sure, the specifics matter – but a top-down approach with a comprehensive strategy to keep you on track is essential.

Whether you’re just starting out or are a Fortune 500 brand, you’ll find that an SEO plan that considers the full set of factors and ongoing updates will help you improve and grow.

So in this column, you’ll find a full checklist to help you craft an SEO strategy built for your unique needs. You’ll work through key considerations for:

  • Technical SEO.
  • On-page optimizations.
  • External factors.

You’ll want to keep these factors that make up a good website in mind, too. Have your content, UX, IT, and other marketing resources ready to join you on your SEO journey for the best possible outcomes.

Happy optimizing!

Technical SEO Cheat Sheet

Before focusing on the specific content that you want to rank in the search engines, you have to make sure that your site can be indexed and crawled.

This all falls into the category of technical SEO.

Free Reporting Platforms

Start off by making sure you have Google Search Console, Bing Webmaster Tools, Google Analytics, and Google Tag Manager tied into your site.

These tools all deliver great diagnostic and analytics data to help you along the way.

XML Sitemap

This is a table of contents for your website. The sitemap file is the modern way of “submitting” your pages to search engines.

Most website platforms have this built-in or have plugins/add-ons that will create a dynamic sitemap that stays in sync with the pages on your site.

At worst, you should at least have a static one that you can generate through a number of free tools.

Robots.txt

This file provides instructions to the search engines on what pages or parts of the site to not index. By default, the search engines will look at all the content they can find.

Even if you don’t want to restrict the search engines from indexing any pages on your site, make sure this file:

  • Is accurate.
  • Validates in Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.
  • Doesn’t accidentally block important content from being indexed (or your whole site).

See Best Practices for Setting Up Meta Robots Tags & Robots.txt to learn more.

Domains

If you own more than just your primary domain name, make sure you know what each of your additional domain names is doing. If they are parked and not in use, that’s fine.

If they redirect to your website, check to ensure that they 301 redirect to it (versus mirroring the site or doing a 302 redirect).

This could be a quick area to simply check and move on from, but don’t overlook it as it can cause issues with duplicate content and confusion over which domain name is the real one.

Site Architecture

The more hierarchy and structure you can build into your navigation and sections of your site, the better. This will benefit users and the search engines and present organized topics and content (more on that later).

Aim to get your directory structure and URLs to match the literal page and file structure of your site’s content.

Stepping back and mapping out your site structure or sitemap is a good starting point. This gets you to think about the content, how you prioritize certain aspects of your site, and how you want to funnel your users (as well as the search engines) through it.

Speed

We continue to see stats showing that users spend less and less time before bouncing.

The search engines have worked over the years to incorporate page speed into their ranking factors.

Look for ways to minimize the use of JavaScript and heavy loading pieces of code in your pages and find ways to cache or load elements externally.

There are some great developer tools that can help you identify the right areas to optimize in your own website to get your page load times to competitive levels.

See How to Improve Site Performance: 4 Speed Audit Quick Wins for more.

Mobile-Friendly

It’s a given that we have to be mobile-friendly. However, even if you built your site in a mobile framework like responsive design, it’s important to make sure that it actually validates.

Be sure to run it through Google’s mobile-friendly test.

Also, do as much user experience (UX) and quality assurance (QA) testing as possible to make sure it truly works for your users on all devices you anticipate them using.

404 Pages

Don’t forget to create a custom 404 page and put helpful information on it. You don’t want to lose a visitor to your site by having a default browser error come up.

You should create a 404 page that includes helpful links, navigation, site search functionality, and contact options.

SSL

Much like mobile-friendly and site speed needs, having a secure site is important.

If your website isn’t under an SSL, you may lose users before they even get to your site when they see a security warning in Chrome or other browsers.

Instill trust in your website by taking the typically simple step of implementing an SSL certification on your site.

Plugins, Add-ons, Or Extensions

If you’re using a content management system, chances are that you are already using plugins or other code extensions that you trust.

Most platforms have tools that you can add to your site that provide additional control over SEO and analytics functions.

Whether these are WordPress SEO plugins or others for Drupal, Magento, etc., you should watch for trusted plugins, extensions, or add-ons that give you maximum control and functionality.

Core Web Vitals

Core Web Vitals is a category of additional technical page factors that now matter to Google.

These ranking factors are in addition to the Page Experience factors like mobile-friendliness and page speed. These page experience factors can definitely take you down a path into detailed coding and IT areas.

Be sure to do your research to learn about CWV. If you’re not the person responsible for the technical implementation of updates to optimize for LCP, FID, and CLS, then prepare your compelling case why they matter to SEO and bring the information to the team members you’ll rely on for implementing.

Pre-existing Issues

Do you have baggage from a previous site or old, outdated SEO tactics?

Or, maybe you have a legitimate reason for having duplicate content all over your site and the web.

Knowing what you’re facing is important before you get into on-page optimization.

If you have multiple duplicate pages, for a good reason, you’ll want to consider a canonical strategy or how you want to use robots instructions for indexing.

This is important to be aware of and sort out before you invest time and effort into page-level optimization.

Copyscape and Screaming Frog are among my favorite tools for finding duplication and analyzing content before digging into on-page SEO.

On-Page SEO Cheat Sheet

Most people tend to think about on-page factors (e.g., keywords, content, title tags) whenever SEO is mentioned. However, the days of optimizing just single parts of pages or websites as a strategy are gone.

The search engines care about context way more than keywords, so don’t be tempted to just update meta tags or body copy and move on.

The way we build context is in all of the on-page elements within a page and then thinking about how pages relate to each other within sections and navigation of the site.

Keywords & Topics

Before you can really focus on building context, you have to know what you want to build it for.

If you haven’t done keyword research or broader research on your target audiences, you’ll need to pause here and take some time to learn what topics and phrases your audience will use to find your website.

Remember that the days of stuffing terms into page copy or tags are long gone.

We have to use SEO tools to uncover the right terms, phrases, and topics that align with what we do. From there, we can drill down into individual words to apply within the site architecture.

Basically, you need to know the terms that matter, map them to your content, and then get to work on the rest of the on-page factors list to follow.

Content

Content is necessary to show relevancy.

If you have few words and aspects to your website it is hard to compete with sites that are robust and full of content. More isn’t always better as high quality definitely beats high quantity.

But, if you can achieve both, you’ll be in an even better place.

Rich content written for users that resonates with them and is clear to the search engines is where you win. Don’t be tempted to use outdated tactics that will harm the user experience and put you at risk with the search engines.

See Why Content Is Important for SEO for tips.

URL

This is the first element of a page and one that is sometimes overlooked. The search engines can index ugly, faceted URLs just fine.

However, the URL is an opportunity to present a clean directory structure that includes keywords and context as to what the page is about.

Don’t miss the opportunity to customize the URL paths.

Title

Again, the title tag alone is not going to do much for you. However, you need to have a relevant, unique tag for each page.

Be mindful of best practices for length and the keywords that are most relevant to the page topic and write and implement static tags or ensure that you have dynamic formulas in place to populate the title.

Meta Description

Like the title tag, we need to have a custom and topically relevant meta description for each page.

Whether static or dynamic, make sure it is helpful to the user, contains keywords relevant to the content, and helps build context with the title tag.

Headings

Heading or “H” tags are debated in importance for SEO. Again, I’m not focused on a single element, but how all elements work in concert to build context.

If you can use heading tags, do so in an organized fashion and make sure they use keywords that are relevant. Try to use just one H1 tag and have it be the first.

Often website platforms or developers use these for CSS purposes so you might have no H1 tag on a page and a bunch of H6 tags. Be mindful of these and how they are woven into your code and content.

Body Copy

While much of the old school focus on latent semantic indexing, keyword density, and formulas for how many times words need to appear on a page is obsolete, you can’t ignore the fact that body copy on the page often accounts for the biggest block of indexable content.

Don’t skip out on including your focus keywords in the body copy as you need to tie into the context you’re building in the other areas up to this point.

However, don’t obsess over using a keyword 37 times. Do what’s natural and focus on the bigger picture and you’ll be in good shape.

Image Alt Attributes

One of the biggest red flags I get in results from accessibility and on-page auditing reporting tools is missing alt text. Alt text is helpful for search engines to understand what an image is about.

This is another opportunity to work keywords into a page. Plus, you need to consider those in your audience who may be using a screen-reader and ensuring that your site is fully accessible.

Structured Data

While not necessarily a direct ranking factor – Schema.org markup goes right to the heart of building context.

Using the appropriate structured data markup for your website content can help provide another cue to the search engines as to what segment or category your subject matter is in.

If your website platform doesn’t have an easy way to add this and if it is a big line item in terms of cost or time, put it at the back of the line behind the items noted above.

However, keep it on your radar.

External SEO Factors

This is the bonus section.

External factors are things that you can’t control on your website and don’t necessarily fall into a checklist.

However, I’d be remiss if I painted a picture that all you need to do are the indexing and on-page things and that you’re going to rise to the top of the search engines.

On-page factors influence relevance and trust of your content to the search engines. External factors influence your “authority” status and validate your site as the subject matter expert.

Links

Inbound links (a.k.a. backlinks) to your website from credible and authoritative websites play a huge role in SEO. Also important are unlinked brand mentions (a.k.a. citations) and how much your website is talked about on the web.

There’s a lot to be said about creating great content that people naturally want to link to.

To supplement your awesome content, it doesn’t hurt to look for great sources of quality links through natural relationships, accreditation, and possible traffic sources in your industry.

You want to focus your efforts on quality sources that are relevant to your subject matter – and never pay for a link in a way that violates the search engines’ respective guidelines.

Local Search

If you have a physical or service-based business, local directory and search site citations are key.

While claiming and properly owning your listing helps protect your brand at a basic level, you need to make sure your name, address, and phone number (NAP data) are accurate and consistent across all local and social directory listing sites that are relevant.

There’s an entire local directory ecosystem and if you can at least tackle NAP data, you’ll build a good foundation.

Social Media

Social media can also enhance your SEO (and other digital marketing) efforts, even if it won’t directly impact your rankings.

Ensuring that your website links to your owned and active social media accounts and vice versa is an important first step.

Beyond that, you need to ensure that your level of engagement is on par with your high-ranking peers. This is a relative scale, but by understanding what your competition is doing you can ensure that the SEO aspect of social is covered.

Conclusion

I hope this checklist helps you optimize your website. By making improvements to your website’s technical and on-page SEO, you will help Google find and index your content.

As you continue to optimize your website, keep an eye on your organic search traffic in Google Analytics to see the results of your changes.

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Twitter Will Share Ad Revenue With Twitter Blue Verified Creators

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Twitter Will Share Ad Revenue With Twitter Blue Verified Creators

Elon Musk, owner and CEO of Twitter, announced that starting today, Twitter will share ad revenue with creators. The new policy applies only to ads that appear in a creator’s reply threads.

The move comes on the heels of YouTube launching ad revenue sharing for creators through the YouTube Partner Program in a bid to become the most rewarding social platform for creators.

Social networks like Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat have similar monetization options for creators who publish reels and video content. For example, Instagram’s Reels Play Bonus Program offers eligible creators up to $1,200 for Reel views.

The catch? Unlike other social platforms, creators on Twitter must have an active subscription to Twitter Blue and meet the eligibility requirements for the Blue Verified checkmark.

The following is an example of a Twitter ad in a reply thread (Promoted by @ASUBootcamps). It should generate revenue for the Twitter Blue Verified creator (@rowancheung), who created the thread.

Screenshot from Twitter, January 2023

To receive the ad revenue share, creators would have to pay $8 per month (or more) to maintain an active Twitter Blue subscription. Twitter Blue pricing varies based on location and is available in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, and Spain.

Eligibility for the Twitter Blue Verified checkmark includes having an active Twitter Blue subscription and meeting the following criteria.

  • Your account must have a display name, profile photo, and confirmed phone number.
  • Your account has to be older than 90 days and active within the last 30 days.
  • Recent changes to your account’s username, display name, or profile photo can affect eligibility. Modifications to those after verification can also result in a temporary loss of the blue checkmark until Twitter reviews your updated information.
  • Your account cannot appear to mislead or deceive.
  • Your account cannot spam or otherwise try to manipulate the platform for engagement or follows.

Did you receive a Blue Verified checkmark before the Twitter Blue subscription? That will not help creators who want a share of the ad revenue. The legacy Blue Verified checkmark does not make a creator account eligible for ad revenue sharing.

When asked about accounts with a legacy and Twitter Blue Verified checkmark, Musk tweeted that the legacy Blue Verified is “deeply corrupted” and will sunset in just a few months.

Regardless of how you gained your checkmark, it’s important to note that Twitter can remove a checkmark without notice.

In addition to ad revenue sharing for Twitter Blue Verified creators, Twitter Dev announced that the Twitter API would no longer be free in an ongoing effort to reduce the number of bots on the platform.

While speculation looms about a loss in Twitter ad revenue, the Wall Street Journal reported a “fire-sale” Super Bowl offer from Musk to win back advertisers.

The latest data from DataReportal shows a positive trend for Twitter advertisers. Ad reach has increased from 436.4 million users in January 2022 to 556 million in January 2023.

Twitter is also the third most popular social network based on monthly unique visitors and page views globally, according to SimilarWeb data through December 2022.


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AI Content Detection Software: Can They Detect ChatGPT?

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AI Content Detection Software: Can They Detect ChatGPT?

We live in an age when AI technologies are booming, and the world has been taken by storm with the introduction of ChatGPT.

ChatGPT is capable of accomplishing a wide range of tasks, but one that it does particularly well is writing articles. And while there are many obvious benefits to this, it also presents a number of challenges.

In my opinion, the biggest hurdle that AI-generated written content poses for the publishing industry is the spread of misinformation.

ChatGPT, or any other AI tool, may generate articles that may contain factual errors or are just flat-out incorrect.

Imagine someone who has no expertise in medicine starting a medical blog and using ChatGPT to write content for their articles.

Their content may contain errors that can only be identified by professional doctors. And if that blog content starts spreading over social media, or maybe even ranks in Search, it could cause harm to people who read it and take erroneous medical advice.

Another potential challenge ChatGPT poses is how students might leverage it within their written work.

If one can write an essay just by running a prompt (and without having to do any actual work), that greatly diminishes the quality of education – as learning about a subject and expressing your own ideas is key to essay writing.

Even before the introduction of ChatGPT, many publishers were already generating content using AI. And while some honestly disclose it, others may not.

Also, Google recently changed its wording regarding AI-generated content, so that it is not necessarily against the company’s guidelines.

Image from Twitter, November 2022

This is why I decided to try out existing tools to understand where the tech industry is when it comes to detecting content generated by ChatGPT, or AI generally.

I ran the following prompts in ChatGPT to generate written content and then ran those answers through different detection tools.

  • “What is local SEO? Why it is important? Best practices of Local SEO.”
  • “Write an essay about Napoleon Bonaparte invasion of Egypt.”
  • “What are the main differences between iPhone and Samsung galaxy?”

Here is how each tool performed.

1. Writer.com

For the first prompt’s answer, Writer.com fails, identifying ChatGPT’s content as 94% human-generated.

Writer.com resultsScreenshot from writer.com, January 2023

For the second prompt, it worked and detected it as AI-written content.

Writer.com test resultScreenshot from writer.com, January 2023

For the third prompt, it failed again.

Sample ResultScreenshot from writer.com, January 2023

However, when I tested real human-written text, Writer.com did identify it as 100% human-generated very accurately.

2. Copyleaks

Copyleaks did a great job in detecting all three prompts as AI-written.

Sample ResultScreenshot from Copyleaks, January 2023

3. Contentatscale.ai

Contentatscale.ai did a great job in detecting all three prompts as AI-written, even though the first prompt, it gave a 21% human score.

Contentscale.aiScreenshot from Contentscale.ai, January 2023

4. Originality.ai

Originality.ai did a great job on all three prompts, accurately detecting them as AI-written.

Also, when I checked with real human-written text, it did identify it as 100% human-generated, which is essential.

Originality.aiScreenshot from Originality.ai, January 2023

You will notice that Originality.ai doesn’t detect any plagiarism issues. This may change in the future.

Over time, people will use the same prompts to generate AI-written content, likely resulting in a number of very similar answers. When these articles are published, they will then be detected by plagiarism tools.

5. GPTZero

This non-commercial tool was built by Edward Tian, and specifically designed to detect ChatGPT-generated articles. And it did just that for all three prompts, recognizing them as AI-generated.

GPTZeroScreenshot from GPTZero, January 2023

Unlike other tools, it gives a more detailed analysis of detected issues, such as sentence-by-sentence analyses.

sentence by sentence text perplexityScreenshot from GPTZero, January 2023

OpenAI’s AI Text Classifier

And finally, let’s see how OpenAi detects its own generated answers.

For the 1st and 3rd prompts, it detected that there is an AI involved by classifying it as “possibly-AI generated”.

AI Text Classifier. Likely AI-generatedAI Text Classifier. Likely AI-generated

But surprisingly, it failed for the 2nd prompt and classified that as “unlikely AI-generated.” I did play with different prompts and found that, as of the moment, when checking it, few of the above tools detect AI content with higher accuracy than OpenAi’s own tool.

AI Text Classifier. Unlikely AI-generatedAI Text Classifier. Unlikely AI-generated

As of the time of this check, they had released it a day before. I think in the future, they will fine tune it, and it will work much better.

Conclusion

Current AI content generation tools are in good shape and are able to detect ChatGPT-generated content (with varying degrees of success).

It is still possible for someone to generate copy via ChatGPT and then paraphrase that to make it undetectable, but that might require almost as much work as writing from scratch – so the benefits aren’t as immediate.

If you think about ranking an article in Google written by ChatGPT, consider for a moment: If the tools we looked at above were able to recognize them as AI-generated, then for Google, detecting them should be a piece of cake.

On top of that, Google has quality raters who will train their system to recognize AI-written articles even better by manually marking them as they find them.

So, my advice would be not to build your content strategy on ChatGPT-generated content, but use it merely as an assistant tool.

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Five things you need to know about content optimization in 2023

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5 Things You Need To Know About Optimizing Content in 2023

30-second summary:

  • As the content battleground goes through tremendous upheaval, SEO insights will continue to grow in importance
  • ChatGPT can help content marketers get an edge over their competition by efficiently creating and editing high-quality content
  • Making sure your content rank high enough to engage the target audience requires strategic planning and implementation

Google is constantly testing and updating its algorithms in pursuit of the best possible searcher experience. As the search giant explains in its ‘How Search Works’ documentation, that means understanding the intent behind the query and bringing back results that are relevant, high-quality, and accessible for consumers.

As if the constantly shifting search landscape weren’t difficult enough to navigate, content marketers are also contending with an increasingly technology-charged environment. Competitors are upping the stakes with tools and platforms that generate smarter, real-time insights and even make content optimization and personalization on the fly based on audience behavior, location, and data points.

Set-it-and-forget-it content optimization is a thing of the past. Here’s what you need to know to help your content get found, engage your target audience, and convert searchers to customers in 2023.

AI automation going to be integral for content optimization

Technologies-B2B-organizations-use-to-optimize-content

As the content battleground heats up, SEO insights will continue to grow in importance as a key source of intelligence. We’re optimizing content for humans, not search engines, after all – we had better have a solid understanding of what those people need and want.

While I do not advocate automation for full content creation, I believe next year – as resources become stretched automation will have a bigger impact on helping with content optimization of existing content.

CHATGPT

ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI, is a powerful language generation model that leverages the Generative Pre-trained Transformer (GPT) architecture to produce realistic human-like text. With Chat GPT’s wide range of capabilities – from completing sentences and answering questions to generating content ideas or powering research initiatives – it can be an invaluable asset for any Natural Language Processing project.

ChatGPT-for-content

The introduction on ChatGPT has caused considerable debate and explosive amounts of content on the web. With ChatGPT, content marketers can achieve an extra edge over their competition by efficiently creating and editing high-quality content. It offers assistance with generating titles for blog posts, summaries of topics or articles, as well as comprehensive campaigns when targeting a specific audience.

However, it is important to remember that this technology should be used to enhance human creativity rather than completely replacing it.

For many years now AI-powered technology has been helping content marketers and SEOs automate repetitive tasks such as data analysis, scanning for technical issues, and reporting, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. AI also enables real-time analysis of a greater volume of consumer touchpoints and behavioral data points for smarter, more precise predictive analysis, opportunity forecasting, real-time content recommendations, and more.

With so much data in play and recession concerns already impacting 2023 budgets in many organizations, content marketers will have to do more with less this coming year. You’ll need to carefully balance human creative resources with AI assists where they make sense to stay flexible, agile, and ready to respond to the market.

It’s time to look at your body of content as a whole

Google’s Helpful Content update, which rolled out in August, is a sitewide signal targeting a high proportion of thin, unhelpful, low-quality content. That means the exceptional content on your site won’t rank to their greatest potential if they’re lost in a sea of mediocre, outdated assets.

It might be time for a content reboot – but don’t get carried away. Before you start unpublishing and redirecting blog posts, lean on technology for automated site auditing and see what you can fix up first. AI-assisted technology can help sniff out on-page elements, including page titles and H1 tags, and off-page factors like page speed, redirects, and 404 errors that can support your content refreshing strategy.

Focus on your highest trafficked and most visible pages first, i.e.: those linked from the homepage or main menu. Google’s John Mueller confirmed recently that if the important pages on your website are low quality, it’s bad news for the entire site. There’s no percentage by which this is measured, he said, urging content marketers and SEOs to instead think of what the average user would think when they visit your website.

Take advantage of location-based content optimization opportunities

Consumers crave personalized experiences, and location is your low-hanging fruit. Seasonal weather trends, local events, and holidays all impact your search traffic in various ways and present opportunities for location-based optimization.

AI-assisted technology can help you discover these opportunities and evaluate topical keywords at scale so you can plan content campaigns and promotions that tap into this increased demand when it’s happening.

Make the best possible use of content created for locally relevant campaigns by repurposing and promoting it across your website, local landing pages, social media profiles, and Google Business Profiles for each location. Google Posts, for example, are a fantastic and underutilized tool for enhancing your content’s visibility and interactivity right on the search results page.

Optimize content with conversational & high-volume keywords

Look for conversational and trending terms in your keyword research, too. Top-of-funnel keywords that help generate awareness of the topic and spur conversations in social channels offer great opportunities for promotion. Use hashtags organically and target them in paid content promotion campaigns to dramatically expand your audience.

Conversational keywords are a good opportunity for enhancing that content’s visibility in search, too. Check out the ‘People Also Ask’ results and other featured snippets available on the search results page (SERP) for your keyword terms. Incorporate questions and answers in your content to naturally optimize for these and voice search queries.

SEO-and-creating-content-in-2023

It’s important that you utilize SEO insights and real-time data correctly; you don’t want to be targeting what was trending last month and is already over. AI is a great assist here, as well, as an intelligent tool can be scanning and analyzing constantly, sending recommendations for new content opportunities as they arise.

Consider how you optimize content based on intent and experience

The best content comes from a deep, meaningful understanding of the searcher’s intent. What problem were they experiencing or what need did they have that caused them to seek out your content in the first place? And how does your blog post, ebook, or landing page copy enhance their experience?

Look at the search results page as a doorway to your “home”. How’s your curb appeal? What do potential customers see when they encounter one of your pages in search results? What kind of experience do you offer when they step over the threshold and click through to your website?

The best content meets visitors where they are at with relevant, high-quality information presented in a way that is accessible, fast loading, and easy to digest. This is the case for both short and long form SEO content. Ensure your content contains calls to action designed to give people options and help them discover the next step in their journey versus attempting to sell them on something they may not be ready for yet.

2023, the year of SEO: why brands are leaning in and how to prepare

Conclusion

The audience is king, queen, and the entire court as we head into 2023. SEO and content marketing give you countless opportunities to connect with these people but remember they are a means to an end. Keep searcher intent and audience needs at the heart of every piece of content you create and campaign you plan for the coming year.

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