Category Archives: internet marketing

4 Steps to Creating Effective Online Videos

1. Develop a script.

One way you can avoid stage fright on camera is by developing a script before you hit that record button. Developing a script for a business video sounds way more fancy than it is. Basically, the goal of writing your script is not to develop an elaborate essay. Rather, it’s to create a detailed outline about the bullet points you want to mention in your video.

So how do you actually go about creating a script? Well, the first step is coming up with your specific topic idea. Without worrying about form or layout, begin to write down supporting details of your topic. Once you have a satisfying amount of supporting details, you then begin to work on the layout.

It is a good practice to begin with the main message you are trying to convey, then start flowing into the supporting details. Once you come up with all your ideas, organize them in a way that makes sense for your audience.

Take your organized ideas and begin to lay them out in a script format. Remember, though, this is not an essay. You want to make sure this script will be vocalized fluently. Read your current script aloud; when you come across a section that doesn’t feel natural, make adjustments.

2. Look your best on camera.

Part of the reason so many people are worried about getting on camera is because they are worried about what they look like or how they’re being perceived. Here are a couple of tricks to ensure you look the best on camera to eliminate the unnecessary anxiety.

One of the biggest things to focus on when shooting your video is the light quality of the image. Many people who are new to video overlook this simple yet important detail. A cost effective method to increase the light quality is to shoot your video next to the window to use natural sunlight on your face, because nothing beats the quality of natural sunlight.

If using sunlight is not an option, find a couple of light sources around your office or house. Try to find multiple lamps and use them to light up both sides of your face. Getting even light is the key.

Another mistake many new video creators make is they don’t focus on the framing of the shot. Just because your eyes and your mouth are in the frame of your camera doesn’t mean your shot looks good. Try keeping your camera at eye level. If you’re using a webcam on a laptop do what you can to raise the laptop webcam to the level of your eye. The biggest benefit to shooting your video in this way is getting rid of an unflattering double chin.

3. To edit or not to edit?

This step is completely optional. Sometimes editing your videos is a necessity to remove long pauses, and other times it increases production value. However, video platforms such as Facebook Live,Snapchat and Instagram Stories are increasing in popularity, which means audiences are gravitating toward the natural, raw and uncut look of videos.

If you do prefer to edit your videos, video beginners should start with iMovie if you’re on a Mac or Windows Movie Maker if you’re on a PC. When you’re editing you might find that there are many areas you need to cut out. A great way to cover up your edits is by using additional footage, otherwise known as B-roll. Take this additional footage and play it over cuts to make them less noticeable.

4. Upload and optimize for search.

As entrepreneurs, we need to focus on creating a voice for ourselves and our businesses. One of the best ways to do that is being found in organic search. If you want your videos to be discovered in search you need to be uploading them to YouTube. YouTube is owned by the largest search engine in the world, Google. What that means is Google’s algorithm is biased towards YouTube videos, so YouTube is the place to be.

Don’t expect to upload a video and be found by thousands of people, though. What you need to do is optimize your YouTube videos. The best way to do this is by doing keyword research by using Google’s Keyword Planner. Come up with the keyword ideas around your topic that are getting the most traffic on Google. Use these popular keywords in your title, description and tags when uploading your video. This is the data the YouTube algorithm uses to determine where your video should be ranked in search.

7 Social Media Secrets Every Entrepreneur Should Know

When I first stepped into the world of social media marketing, I thought it was as easy as putting together a list of Facebook posts and hitting publish. I was dead wrong.

Good social media is evocative and connects with your specific audience on a deeper level. Just as businesses add value to customers’ lives delivering products and services, the best social media campaigns add value to their demographics.

If you want to truly stand out from the rest, here are the eight secret avenues I have learned over the years that can lead you to big success with your social media strategy:

1. Know yourself

Most marketers overlook a very basic principle when it comes to social media: understanding their own company, its strengths and weaknesses and its desired place in the market. Being open and honest with yourself on what you are good at is the most important thing to not just social media, but all aspects of business. You must first identify the following before becoming successful on social media:

  • Your goals and intentions with social media
  • Your audience
  • What your audience cares about
  • What you know a lot about
  • What content type matches your team’s personality, culture and capabilities

Once you know all of these things, you’ll be able to effectively craft a social media and content marketing plan. But until then, you’ll likely be like most organizations, blindly attempting to mirror the social media success of another company. Beyond the secret of “knowing yourself” is the power that comes with understanding the overlap of what you are good at and what your audience truly wants.

2. The content plan and dashboard

Social media should be looked at like any other facet of business. In operations, you have a process and structure to deliver your products/services. In finance, you have a comprehensive annual plan, with weekly and daily checkpoints to ensure success. In sales, you have targets, action plans and specific checkpoints and quotas to meet top line goals.

Social media is not unlike these arenas. To be successful, there must be clear plans and clear intentions that are metric driven and add real business value. So before shelling out significant social media investment or even hiring a social media manager, first create a structure, an annual plan and a dashboard that shows performance metrics.

In your content plan, you should map out annually all the content you are going to make. You should also figure out what formats your content will take, how you will distribute, the marketing funnel from the content to sales and your final KPIs to present in a dashboard. All this information can be done using a marketing automation tool or simply in a spreadsheet that you make.

Regardless of what you decide, if you are equipped with a content plan and dashboard, you’ll be able to quickly and effectively judge your social and content performance. This is key to making investment and hiring decisions. Don’t be caught blindly spending and guessing on your social performance. Plan it out, prepare for social media trends and link the results to valuable business metrics.

3. Meaningful interaction

When people comment on your Facebook posts or tweet at you, take it seriously. A huge secret to success with social is truly looking at online social interaction as an opportunity to make a significant and meaningful relationship with the user.

While it requires extra time, and some good amount of creativity, thinking of unique ways to respond that are personalized to audience can make huge payoffs.

Whether it’s sending them a gift in the mail or just crafting a clever direct message that relates to something on their profile, taking the extra time to make a personalized message can go so far in building brand advocates.

4. LinkedIn sales navigator

In B2B social sales, you need to be able to connect with the specific decision-makers at the accounts you are aiming to win. Finding these people can be tough, but with the LinkedIn Sales Navigator, you’ll have access to an incredible amount of information.

Not only can you use this paid tool to access all the accounts of people at companies you want to sell to, but you can see who has recently changed jobs, have access to their other social media accounts and gain a ton of other valuable B2B social insight. You can use this social information to interact with your decision-makers and build real interactions with them on social that can translate to in-person relationships.

5. Facebook groups

Facebook groups are an overlooked social media tactic, and using them properly can yield huge social and business payoffs. If you’re B2B, you can create groups for the type of professionals you’re selling to.

The key is starting with a niche that aligns with your audience and products, then building it organically by curating great content and encouraging engagement. A great example of this is Tai Lopez, who has been able to share his exciting and inspirational views across social media channels.

You should create posts that ask questions that are relevant to the audience. Go “live” while in the group to chat directly with people or implement other video marketing trends in the group for maximum engagement. Many marketers have successfully built large groups with thousands of target demographic users.

This is a long-term game. Pushing for the sale too quickly can result in loss of trust from your initial group members, so be sure to slowly and authentically build trust and demand for your products and services. Always focus on building a community that is valuable for everyone in the group.

6. Facebook dollar a day

While Facebook groups are a slow game to building a community, the paid Facebook ad is an incredibly powerful tactic that can rapidly grow your audience and social reach on demand. The dollar-a-day tactic is a simple way to start with Facebook advertising. Basically, you start by identifying an audience, then create a few “lighthouse” clients and pieces of content and boost these posts to your audience continually for a dollar a day.

This, at the very core, is the stage one structure of success in building a successful paid ad strategy on Facebook. While a simple paragraph can’t do the justice of the potential and complex nature of paid ads, the dollar-a-day strategy is a good way to start. Dig deeper into this topic and you won’t regret it.

7. Track success

Knowing what content is working on social can significantly improve your social strategy. Track the specific posts so you can report at the end of the year which posts performed best and why.

If you do this, over time you’ll be able to determine what types of posts your audience are most interested in and be able to create more of that and less of the posts that didn’t create interaction. So you might find that the unique 360 VR video you created got the most comments. Or maybe it flopped. But either way, knowing can help you make smarter choices next year.

Tips to Optimize Your Product Online

If you want to generate consistent sales, you need to optimize your product listings. Here’s how.

Get your customers to refer their friends.

Your customers aren’t going to tell their friends about your business unless there’s a compelling reason. Every sales professional knows the power of getting referrals from paying customers; it’s a good way to find new customers and open a larger market.

Crazy Egg suggests offering referral discounts to boost sales. It notes that both Optimizely and Airbnb have tested similar offers where customers could earn credit by referring a friend. Optimizely was able to increase its engagement by 60 percent just by changing the copy for its button. Airbnb tried a closed-beta program that brought in an additional 2,107 members from its original 2,161. Essentially, for every customer it already had, it brought in another.

So, whether you offer cash credit or a discount, a referral program with these rewards may help you double your results without doubling the money you put into your marketing. The exact amount you offer your customers will depend on how much they’ll be spending with you and on your profit margin.

Build trust and credibility with your website visitors.

According to UX Booth, studies conducted by both McAfee and VeriSign show that ecommerce sites can boost their credibility by 10 percent to 36 percent simply by displaying familiar trustmarks. These include the Better Business Bureau, VeriSign, PayPal and other organizations your visitors are likely familiar with.

Be careful not to display these badges on your site simply because you can; get validated. You can also display the major credit cards you accept, as well as the logos of recognizable brands whose products you sell.

Marketing expert Neil Patel also encourages online sellers to use what he calls “logo porn” to boost credibility. He is referring to notable publications you’ve been mentioned in or awards you’ve received. He says he discovered that removing these logos reduced his conversion rate by 9.9 percent, again showing that third-party recognition helps with credibility.

If your store is still new, and you haven’t gotten any press yet, it may be worth it for you to build an authority blog, network with publications and columnists in your industry, partner with known service providers or vendors or seek out opportunities to get featured in the media using a service like Help A Reporter Out.

Utilize reviews and testimonials.

Reviews and testimonials boost your credibility. According to BigCommerce, product reviews can increase sales by up to 18 percent. It also notes that 40.9 percent of customers believe reviews and testimonials are an important purchasing factor. In addition to your product pages, you might consider using positive feedback on your home page, sidebar or footer. This demonstrates that real people shop with you and enjoy what you offer.

Email is one of the best tools you can use to survey, and get feedback from, your customers. If you haven’t begun building an email list yet, that’s a good place to start. This is because you’ll likely send your customers that SurveyMonkey or GetFeedback survey you’re using through email.

For better or for worse, remember that it’s best not to game the system, especially if you’re selling on Amazon. You could put your business at risk by incentivizing reviews. Instead get real testimonials from real customers — the best way to build trust with your prospects.

Use a service to improve your product listings.

Are your Amazon listings not converting at the rate you expected them to?

According to Asteroid Aim, this may be because your product isn’t adequately optimized for the keyword it should be ranking for. Another common problem is a lack of persuasiveness. The language you’re using on your listings may not be building confidence in those viewing your products.

Asteroid Aim will find keywords on your behalf and tweak your product description to convert more visitors. It even offers unlimited revisions for free.

Even if you aren’t an Amazon seller, keyword and copy optimization is crucial. Tools like SEMrush can help you identify keyword opportunities, and there’s nothing quite like knowing your customer pain pointsto help you put together compelling product descriptions. Do your research.

Brilliant Ways to Use #Hashtags in Social Media Marketing

I was watching the Super Bowl (#GoHawks) when my wife asked me about hashtags. Granted, I was writing down every hashtag that came up on the screen for an analysis I did later that night, but her question surprised me.

“What do you mean ‘what is this?’ It’s a hashtag.” I said, amazed by my wife’s unfamiliarity with the topic (#DoYouLiveUderARock). “You use it to tag your tweets or other social media posts.”

Now, my wife’s social media activity revolves around reading other people’s updates on Facebook and Instagram, so I wasn’t mad or anything, just disappointed when she asked me “Why would you want to tag your posts?”

To be fair, it wasn’t always that obvious that hashtags will change the way we use Twitter and other social media channels.

Hashtags were a user-innovation that was later adopted by Twitter as an actual feature when Twitter decided to hyperlink hashtags to search results. The rest of the socialsphere followed in its own pace, and Facebook, my wife’s go-to social destination, only recently decided to give in and add hashtags as a feature. It’s no surprise that for the masses over the age of 30, hashtags are still a novelty.

So whether you’re in that group, or just want a short social history lessons, here’s the brief history of hashtags. Then we’ll look at a few recent examples of brilliant marketing uses of hashtags.

A Brief History of Hashtags

There seems to be a consensus on the origin of hashtags and most people attribute the proposal to use hashtags in tweets to Chris Messina, through a tweet dating back to August 23, 2007.

But the first time a hashtag was used extensively as a way to categorize tweets and was adopted by the public was during the San Diego fire on October 23, 2007, when Nate Ritter used Twitter to report on the fire and included the hashtag #sandiegofire.

On July 2, 2009, Twitter officially embraced hashtags and hyperlinked them to search results. Tumblr was one of the early adopters of hashtags when it launched hashtags on August 18, 2009. A few months later, on March 30, 2010, in another homepage redesign, Twitter moved Trending Topics to its homepage, formalizing hashtags as a conversation driver on Twitter.

As Twitter users adopted hashtags as a normal part of the Twitter conversation, in a typical fashion to Twitter, hashtags stared in popular culture like TV shows, celebrities’ promotions and mainstream media.

The pop-culture adoption of hashtags helped push hashtags into other social networks. Instagram adopted hashtags on January 27, 2011, Flickr added hashtags on March 17, 2013 and Facebook finally broke and adopted hashtags on June 12, 2013.

Hashtags Adopted as a Marketing Tactic

An analysis of the Interbrand 100 list (the world’s top 100 brands) and their activity on Twitter, reveals that the world’s top brands have adopted the use of hashtags almost completely. In Q4 of last year, 97 percent of the brands posted at least one tweet that included a hashtag. Out of the 34,707 regular tweets (tweets that don’t include an @ reply or a retweet) that the Interbrand 100 companies posted, 45 percent included at least one hashtag and more than 67 percent included one or more hashtags.

1. Drive Engagement: # + Link = More Engagement

These companies have realized that hashtags help drive engagement. When compared to Tweets without a hashtag, tweets with hashtags showed 12 percent more engagement (RT, favorite or @ reply). Tweets that included a link anda hashtag, showed the highest engagement rate of any other type of tweet.

2. Test Your Messaging: #SOTU

During the last State of the Union address (#SOTU), the White House media team prepared content and tested 26 different hashtags.

  1. #SOTU
  2. #StateOfTheUnion
  3. #OutOfManyWeAreOne
  4. #OpportunityForAll
  5. #CollegeOpportunity
  6. #MadeInAmerica
  7. #ActOnClimate
  8. #ActForOurVets
  9. #RebuildAmerica
  10. #ActOnJobs
  11. #InvestInSTEM
  12. #ActOnCIR
  13. #ActOnUI
  14. #ActOnPreK
  15. #ConnectED
  16. #EqualPay
  17. #RaiseTheWage
  18. #ActOnTenTen
  19. #GetCovered
  20. #ACA
  21. #PeopleOverPolitics
  22. #RightToVote
  23. #ActForOurKids
  24. #SaluteOurTroops
  25. #Iran
  26. #TeamUSA
  27. #ActForOurTroops
  28. #SOTUChat

The next day (January 29) the White House focused on only seven of these hashtags and the vast majority of its tweets promoted the top three hashtags:

  1. #OpportunityForAll
  2. #RaiseTheWage
  3. #EqualPay
  4. #ActOnJobs
  5. #ActOnTenTen
  6. #CollegeOpportunity
  7. #MadeInAmerica

5 Social Media Marketing Strategies

Why Use Social Media for Marketing?

As a product of the Mark Zuckerberg generation, it is easy to understand why people are so obsessed with social media; for marketers, the potential to grow their business via these networks is endless. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+ – these are some of the prime networks every company, big or small, young or established, needs to have an active presence on. It is now inexcusable for any business that wants to thrive to not be tweeting!

And now we are being exposed to more and more social advertisements. As I complete my morning ritual of sipping coffee and scrolling through my Instagram feed, I now notice sponsored ads appearing in between filtered pictures of scenery and food. It is impossible to visit one’s Facebook news feed without popping into a few compelling ads along the way. And I’m not going to lie, I’ve fallen victim to several of these ads, and been captured and clicked through to their site, sometimes even converting – shameful, I know.

But before diving into paid social ads, it is important to build out your social channels with rockstar content, quality customer service, and eye-catching visuals. Once you optimize your social channels for success, you will not only gain loyal brand promoters, but you will begin capturing leads and converting visitors into customers.

For those of you who have let your social channels develop cobwebs and cockroaches over the past year, here are five key social media strategies to take control of your social channels and give them a much needed facelift this year.

Social Media Marketing Strategy #1: Create a Game Plan & Stick to It

If you have no execution strategy, your content is likely going to fall through the cracks. Set a limit on how many tweets you have to publish per day. This number can be adjusted as needed, but having a number you have to hit, even something as small as four tweets per day, gives you a benchmark and a goal at the very least.

TIP: Investigate how often your competitors are posting and conduct industry research to see the ideal amount of content to publish per day on each channel. You want to be active, but not overly active.

Compile all content in an easy-to-read editorial calendar. Google Excel Docs is a good place to start. Set up a weekly, shareable publishing calendar, then separate by social channel, and provide columns for co-workers within your content team to provide their feedback before posting. Plan ahead, but continue making additions as necessary, for example if a great PR hit is published cover this in a timely manner even it was not on your original posting schedule.

Look into social media management platforms, like Hootsuite, Buffer, and TweetDeck, to help schedule posts ahead of time, monitor and manage your social feeds, and access performance analytics.

Social Media Marketing Strategy #2: Treat each channel as an individual entity

Each social channel needs to be treated as a separate entity. There can be content that is spread across all channels – for example if your business was recently acquired by a global company, this is likely news you want to share across the board, but you should adjust your strategy depending on the audience for that channel.

For example, LinkedIn tends to have a more business-focused audience looking for in-depth, educational content, compared to Instagram, which is likely to have an audience looking for engaging visual content. Pay attention to your follower demographic on each channel to publish content that appeals to them.

Social Media Marketing Strategy #3: Go above & beyond in customer service

If a visitor tweets at your handle or posts on your Facebook page and never receives a response, trust is lost. Due to your lack of communication, the dissatisfied potential lead is now turning to your competitors to seek answers to their questions. On the other hand, when you deliver a thoughtful response in a timely manner that visitor is flattered and intrigued by your brand. It’s humanizing to take the time respond to a personal inquiry, and it builds your authority.

Alexa, a friend of mine who formerly resided in NYC, commented on a picture on Instagram posted by her favorite city dive bar. The social media manager quickly responded by offering her a free T-shirt for the positive feedback. A few weeks, when later Alexa drove six hours from Boston to collect her free shirt (and visit a few friends), the bartender realized, “Wow! Social media does work!” She has in turn become a free promoter for the bar, and encourages her large network that still resides in New York to check out her former go-to spot – essentially free PR for this small, neighborhood bar. And this is one minuscule example – if you haven’t heard the Morton’s Steakhouse story about delivering a joking tweeter a free steak at the airport, I suggest you use this as a prime example of BOMB social media customer service that led to a ridiculous amount of free press.

Negative feedback needs to be addressed as well, preferably with patience and respect. But think of your social channels as an opportunity to display how awesome you treat your customers.

Take these four steps to boost the happiness of your Twitterbirds:

  • Assign a first responder to post and monitor each channel your brand has a profile on.
  • Create a troubleshooting library of common bugs or complaints that arise, and how to handle these issues. This will ensure the issue is addressed properly and in a timely manner. (NOTE: If the issue needs further investigation or requires confidential information, have the user email support, send a private message, or call your help line.)
  • Be creative – use giveaways, personality, and a sense of humor to engage followers and convert them into free brand promoters.
  • DO NOT IGNORE any comment posted to your account on social, whether stellar or critical. No need to create brand detractors!

Social Media Marketing Strategy #4: Embrace mishaps

We are humans, so mistakes are unavoidable. This is especially true when it comes to the fast-paced world of social media. Rather than flat out ignoring these hiccups, embrace them. I am not saying that when a comma is missed in a tweet you should announce this small grammar error, but DO NOT delete the tweet. It has already been published, and followers are more likely to notice if you are continuously re-posting. For larger mistakes, like a product error or multiple overcharges to customer credit cards, you’ll want to proactively respond in an apologetic, actionable manner, and send out content from your social accounts apologizing and addressing how the error is being handled so customers are aware.

But what happens if a BIG, truly embarrassing mistake is made? Personally, I love how Pamela Vaughan, a HubSpot employee, handled her baby bump mishap. Pamela accidently posted a picture of her growing pregnant belly to HubSpot’s company Twitter account, which has close to 350,000 followers. Instead of crawling into a hole of embarrassment, Pamela embraced her faux-pas and created this awesome blog post. The post has received a lot of love, with several shares and comments mostly showing respect for HubSpot’s human element – a key that makes them one of the most loved marketing companies out there.

Social Media Marketing Strategy #5: Track & Talk!

Tracking is often perceived as tedious and time-consuming. It can be, but it only needs to take a few hours each month. Set aside time to review metrics that are important to your business on a monthly basis (preferably the first day of the month). Here are some stats to focus on: number of posts, follower growth, clicks to your site/products, pageviews, post likes or shares, impressions, etc. Look at each channel separately, and compare to your largest competitors to get a sense on how you’re matching up (or how you’re CRUSHING them!).

If you’re crunched for time and analytics is not your thing, invest in software to help track data. A lot can be tracked using free social media tools like bit.ly, Google Analytics, and Hootsuite. Diving in to see which content received the most clicks, shares, etc. will show you what to repurpose in the future. Look for common themes in your analysis, for example if advice posts with numbers in the title perform wonderfully on Facebook then up these on that platform.

Share your results and set monthly strategy meetings with your different marketing forces within your company to plan for the future. Working collaboratively and taking a step back to brainstorm and reevaluate your strategy can drastically improve your social efforts. Also leverage other departments within your business. Various teams like client services and sales might have stellar ideas for social since they are the people who communicate with prospects and customers on a daily basis.

An Open Letter To The New SEO Generation

SEO is almost 20 years old. Can you believe it? There’s some argument about when the practice started, as well as when the term itself was coined, including a failed patent attempt from 2007; but most industry old-timers put the birth of SEO at around 1995.

So, after almost 20 years, what do we have to show for it? SEO has matured in some aspects; it’s now a line item on the budget of most Fortune 500 companies. I’ve been in SEO since 2000, and I am grateful that now when I tell people what I do, I can just use the terms “SEO” or “internet marketer,” and don’t have to rely on my old standby of “I work with computers. I could explain more, but I’d need charts and an easel.”

It always got a laugh but made me feel distinctly out of place. Now at any given gathering, I’m likely to find someone who says “SEO? Oh, we’re seeking a new firm. Do you have a card?”

In other ways, SEO has earned a bad name, with pretty much everyone having been burned by some unscrupulous “SEO” that has promised the moon but delivered an everything bagel (even if you do like these, which I don’t, it’s a far cry from the moon).

If you work with people that have earned penalties, it can be disheartening to see the heavy hand of Google at work. After all, most of these companies simply followed the crowd in the tactics they implemented several years ago, and now they’re being burned at the stake for it.

Many small businesses have simply closed up shop, unable to compete. And larger businesses often find they’re behind the 8-ball with critical integrations like mobile readiness. Without a well-known name or a large, well-respected agency at your back, it can be hard to achieve legitimacy in this industry.

But I’m here to tell you a secret. It’s been 20 years, and the old-timers are getting tired. Lots of them are leaving SEO, including the incomparable Jill Whalen and Jonathan Colman. Some are retiring, having made their fortunes. Others are renaming themselves, trying to leave the name, the limiting factors and the stigma of “SEO” behind. For our purposes, we’ll still call ourselves SEOs.

In my SEO-happy city of Raleigh, NC, you can see this phenomenon playing out, too. Several meetup groups or Google Plus communities are looking for new leaders. The old leaders have been doing it for several years, and they’re tired, ready to try something new, or just so successful that they no longer have the time to devote.

It’s time for the next generation of SEOs to step up and take the helm.

You may be discouraged at first, as you try to become a voice in an increasingly noisy and saturated market, but I’m here to offer you some advice on how to make yourself stand out in the crowd by helping you understand what SEO is really all about.

SEO Is Marketing

The funny thing about SEO is that the more things change, the more they stay the same. The tactics shift, the penalties increase, and the blackhats get smarter; but, SEO is still fundamentally just marketing.

Marketing is about being amazing. At the end of the day, make sure you’re building, making, creating and selling something great. Make people happy or help them solve their problems. Make their lives just a little bit easier.

The internet is not a get-rich-quick scheme. That ship sailed back in 2000 when the dot-com bubble burst. You need to have a legitimate product or service that is as well-supported offline as it is online. I’m not saying you have to open a brick and mortar, but your company must have real people behind it to succeed. The days of selling vaporware are over.

SEO Is Relevance

Far beyond getting a certain number or ratio of links or using keywords a certain number of times, your site must be relevant to obtain good positioning on search engines. And to get into the top 10, it’s got to be far more than just “relevant.” There’s a lot of competition out there for virtually every search term, so you need to be outstanding in some way — whether it’s customer loyalty and love, superior product quality or something truly innovative.

Make sure your site is not just readable on mobile, but mobile friendly. Go the extra mile to provide a pleasant experience with your email campaigns, your coupon experiences, your customer service. There is nothing better for SEO than a bunch of happy customers.

SEO Is Strategic

You must think about the future. Wearables like Google Glass and the iWatch are only the beginning. We have already pushed well beyond search engines into Experience Optimization on review sites, Facebook, Pinterest and more. Soon, we will push beyond the limiting edges of websites, too.

SEO is not a series of tactics, or a system you can game.  Studying Google’s algorithms, patents and updates is fun if you’re into data. But if you’re doing it just to reverse-engineer the algorithm, you’re going to fail.

Consider critically how your product or service fits in. How will you leverage new technology in your business or the businesses of your clients? Building these skills and knowledge now will really put you at an advantage over us old-timers, because it’s hard to teach how to “think fourth dimensionally.”

SEO Is Relational

Feel free to scoff at the notion of schema; laugh at the worshippers of FreeBase, and turn your nose up at Wikipedia. Just know that while you’re doing that, they’re laying out the future of how we’ll find things. I hesitate to even call it search, since it won’t be about strings of data, but about understanding things. If you’ve never read the post by Google, Introducing the Knowledge Graph: things, not strings, you need to.

The fundamental problem with the way we’ve always searched is that we use language. And language, by definition, is imperfect and ambiguous. As we leave the four corners of websites behind and strive to understand fundamental connections between things, or “entities,” the rush to schema will make more sense.

Whether we have to keep tagging everything ourselves or search engines just get more advanced at discovering the relationships themselves, entities are the future of how we’ll search. It’s nothing new really, but if I hear one more person refer to Hummingbird as an algorithm update or a penalty…

Hummingbird is a fundamental change in the way the Google database is structured — in the way that the algorithm processes information. It’s the largest change to Google since the introduction of PageRank. To optimize in the age of Hummingbird, it is critical that you understand this.

This by the way, is why guest posting is not dead, directory listings are not passé, and reciprocal links aren’t necessarily evil. Too much of any of these things is bad, and doing them for the purpose of gaining links is bad. But in order for people and search engines to understand where you fit into the universe, they need some of these relational cues.

Do any one of those too much and you’ll encounter the Google algorithm’s wrath. Think about what will help your business, and do that instead. If you have the opportunity to post on an industry publication that is well respected, don’t think twice — do it! If you have a business where location is important, get it listed in the online yellow pages!

Beginner’s Guide to Link Building

We could tell you all about how high-quality, authoritative links pointing to your site benefit your standing in the SERPs, but instead we’ll just copy the words straight from the proverbial horse’s mouth:

Link building is one area of SEO that has changed significantly over the last several years; some tactics that were once effective are now easily identifiable and penalized by Google. At the same time, earning links remains vital to success in search marketing: Link authority features showed the strongest correlation with higher rankings in our 2013 ranking factors survey. For that reason, it has never been more important for marketers to truly earn their links, and this guide will have you building effective campaigns in no time.


What you’ll learn

1. What is Link Building, and Why Is It Important?

This is where it all begins. If you’re brand new to link building and aren’t sure whether or not it’s a good tactic to include in your marketing repertoire, give this chapter a look. Even the more seasoned link earners among us could use a refresher from time to time, and here we cover everything from what links mean to search engines to the various ways they can help your business’s bottom line.


2. Types of Links (Both Good and Bad)

Before you dive into building links of your own, it’s important to understand the three main types of links and why you should really only be thinking about two of them. That’s what this short and sweet chapter is all about.


3. How to Start a Link Building Campaign

Okay, enough with the theory; it’s time for the nitty-gritty. This chapter takes a deep dive into every step of a link building campaign, offering examples and templates you can use to build your own foundation.


4. Link Building Tactics

Whether through ego bait or guest blogging (yes, that’s  still a viable tactic!), there are several approaches you can take to building a strong link profile. This chapter takes a detailed run through the tactics you’re most likely to employ.


5. Link Building Metrics

Now that the links are rolling in, how do you prove to ourselves and our clients that our work is paying off? The metrics outlined in this chapter, along with the tools recommended to measure them, offer a number of options for your reports.


6. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Link Building

If we’re preaching to the choir with this chapter, then we’re thrilled, because spammy links can lead to severe penalties. Google has gotten incredibly good at picking out and penalizing spammy link building techniques, and if this chapter isn’t enough to make you put your white hat on, nothing is.


7. Advanced Link Building Tips and Tricks

Mastered the rest of what the guide has to offer? Earning links faster than  John Paulson earns cash? Here are a few tips to take your link building to the next level. Caution: You may or may not find yourself throwing fireballs after mastering these techniques.

The Ideal Length of Everything Online

 Every so often when I’m tweeting or emailing, I’ll think: Should I really be writing so much?

I tend to get carried away. And for the times that I do, it sure would be nice to know if all this extra typing is hurting or helping my cause. I want to stand out on social media, but I want to do it in the right way.

Curious, I dug around and found some answers for the ideal lengths of tweets and titles and everything in between. Many of these could have been answered with “it depends,” but where’s the fun in that? Solid research exists to show the value of writing, tweeting, and posting at certain lengths. We can learn a lot fromscientific social media guidelines like these. Here’s the best of what I found.

The ideal length of a tweet is 100 characters

Whom should you trust when it comes to advice on the ideal length of a tweet? How about Twitter itself?

Twitter’s best practices reference research by Buddy Media about tweet length:100 characters is the engagement sweet spot for a tweet. 

Creativity loves constraints and simplicity is at our core. Tweets are limited to 140 characters so they can be consumed easily anywhere, even via mobile text messages. There’s no magical length for a Tweet, but a recent report by Buddy Media revealed that Tweets shorter than 100 characters get a 17% higher engagement rate.

The Buddy Media research falls in line with similar research by Track Social in a study of 100 well-known brands that are popular on Twitter. Track Social also found that the perfect Tweet length was right around 100 characters.

Their analysis saw a spike in retweets among those in the 71-100 character range—so-called “medium” length tweets. These medium tweets have enough characters for the original poster to say something of value and for the person retweeting to add commentary as well.

The ideal length of a Facebook post is less than 40 characters

Forty characters is not much at all. (The sentence I just wrote is 35 characters.)

But 40 is the magic number that Jeff Bullas found was most effective in his study of retail brands on Facebook. He measured engagement of posts, defined by “like” rate and comment rate, and the ultra-short 40-character posts received 86 percent higher engagement than others.

The 40-character group also represented the smallest statistical set in the study (only 5 percent of all posts qualified at this length), so best practices on Facebook also include the next most popular set: Posts with 80 characters or fewer received 66 percent higher engagement.

Many different studies over the years have confirmed that shorter posts are better on Facebook. One such study by BlitzLocal looked at nearly 120 billion Facebook impressions and found that performance tailed off as posts grew longer. Their particular data found significant advantages to question posts between 100 to 119 characters.

The ideal length of a Google+ headline is less than 60 characters

To maximize the readability and appearance of your posts on Google+, you may want to keep your text on one line. Demian Farnworth of Copyblogger studied the Google+ breaking point and found that headlines should not exceed 60 characters.

Here is an example of what we mean. The post below had a headline exceeding 60 characters and got bumped.

This post kept the title within 60 characters and stayed on one line.

Demian’s advice goes even deeper. If your Google+ headline simply can’t be contained in one line, then you can turn to Plan B. Write a superb first sentence.

In the last update, Google changed the layout of posts so that you only see three lines of the original post before you see “Read more” link. In other words, your first sentence has to be a gripping teaser to get people to click “Read More.”

Here is Demian’s killer example:

In terms of overall post length, Google+ posts average 156 characters, according to Qunitly Research. Digging further, Quintly found the largest spike in engagement at posts of 5 characters in length and the second-highest spike in posts of 442 characters. Takeaway: You can write a lot longer on Google+ and still find great results.

The ideal length of a headline is 6 words

How much of the headline for this story did you read before you clicked?

According to a post by KISSmetrics, you might not have read it all.

Writing for KISSmetrics, headline expert Bnonn cites usability research revealing we don’t only scan body copy, we also scan headlines. As such, we tend to absorb only the first three words and the last three words of a headline. If you want to maximize the chance that your entire headline gets read, keep your headline to six words.

Of course, six-word headlines are rare (and hard to write!). If you can’t cut your title down to six words, you can still be aware of how your headline might be read, and you can adjust accordingly. As the KISSmetrics post says:

Of course, that’s seldom enough to tilt the specificity-meter into the red. And I have it on good authority that some of the highest-converting headlines on the web are as long as 30 words. As a rule, if it won’t fit in a tweet it’s too long. But let me suggest that rather than worrying about length you should worry about making every word count. Especially the first and last 3.

 

The ideal length of a blog post is 7 minutes, 1,600 words

When measuring the content that performs best on their site, Medium focuses not on clicks but on attention. How long do readers stick with an article?

In this sense, an ideal blog post would be one that people read. And Medium’s research on this front says that the ideal blog post is seven minutes long.

To arrive at this number, Medium measured the average total seconds spent on each post and compared this to the post length. All Medium posts are marked with a time signature for how long the read should be. After adjusting their analysis for a glut of shorter posts (overall, 74% of posts are under 3 minutes long and 94% are under 6 minutes long), they came to their conclusion:

And there we have it: the average total seconds rises for longer posts, peaks at 7 minutes, and then declines.

And in terms of word count, a 7-minute read comes in around 1,600 words.

(A photo-heavy post could bring the average down closer to 1,000. Medium’s seven-minute story on ideal post length was filled with images and graphs and contained 980 words.)

SerpIQ examined the question of ideal post length from an SEO perspective. They looked at the top 10 results on search results pages and counted the words in each article. Their data included text in the sidebars of posts, so you can knock a few words off of the totals below.

Of course, as with any of these ideal lengths, the answers you find here could very well be taken as “it depends,” since research varies from site to site. For instance, Moz found that longer posts on their blog get linked to more often, and Upworthy found little correlation between length and attention when they tested Medium’s hypothesis for themselves. (Upworthy cited factors like type of posts and audience as a couple of possible explanations for the discrepancy.)

Perhaps the best takeaway here is this, borrowed from the conclusion of Medium’s study:

What it does mean is that it’s worth writing however much you really need. Don’t feel constrained by presumed short attention spans. If you put in the effort, so will your audience.

Advanced Guide to Google Penalty Removal

 Few things put a site owner or an SEO on edge more than the appearance of a Google penalty.

In recent years there has been a regular rollout of major algorithm updates and changes. With the Panda update in 2011, Penguin in 2012, and Hummingbird in 2013, and almost constant smaller updates and data refreshes, it’s difficult to keep up with them all.

Future updates are going to be just as stressful for those who aren’t following these trends, cutting corners with their link-building, and not keeping on top of their link profile by being aware who links to them.

We wanted to make an in-depth guide to Google penalties, what they are, how to avoid them, how to protect yourself from all future changes and mostly how to rectify the situation if your site is penalised.

You want to get your rankings back? Follow our advice and you will.

WHO IS THIS GUIDE FOR?

You might be a business owner with an online store, an employee working in the internet marketing department of a FTSE 100, or a freelance SEO whose client has just been hit. Whatever your reason for being here, it’s likely that you have a big problem to solve.

Sales used to be arriving through the search engines, and maybe that revenue source has completely dried up. It’s a scary situation to be in, but all is not lost. There is always something to be done, and no domain is ever completely burnt.

Any site can clean up its act, and when it does, it will generally be in a much better position than one that’s brand new.

If you haven’t been hit yet by a Google penalty, you’re lucky to have found this while you have! Bookmark it, downloaded, print it out, internalise the information contained in this guide and use it to protect your business (or your job!) for many years to come.

HOW TO USE THIS GUIDE?

If you know nothing about SEO or Google’s misleadingly-fluffily named updates, don’t worry. By the end of this guide you’ll know more about recovering from a penalty than the guy you considered hiring to do it for you. We’re going to walk you through every little step, from identifying the penalty, to figuring out where it came from, from discovering the root cause, to fixing the problem, and finally, to recovering your much needed search engine rankings.

You might only need one chapter. It’s a reference guide, not a novel, so read through the descriptions below and navigate to the one you need.

CHAPTER
01

HOW TO IDENTIFYA GOOGLE PENALTY

In the first chapter, we’ll illuminate the dingy world of Google penalties, and show you the fastest ways to see where you stand with the world’s biggest search engine. You’ll learn how to identify which type of penalty you’ve received, and exactly how extensive the damage is, which makes a big difference in how you should proceed.

CHAPTER
02

WHAT CAUSED YOUR PENALTY(and How to Fix it)

In the second chapter, we’ll show you each and every possible reason for a Google penalty, starting with the most likely and highlighting the quickest results. You’ll discover what the different updates actually meant for your site, what they didn’t mean, and what you really need to be paying attention to.

CHAPTER
03

GATHERINGTHE CRITICAL DATA

In this chapter, you’ll learn how to gather your link data quickly and cheaply. This is the all important first step in the process of revoking your site’s penalty. There are a plethora of tools we can use, and we break down the best ones for the job, and how to use them to get a full panoramic view of your site’s current situation.

CHAPTER
04

HOW TO READYOUR DATA

In chapter four, we see that analysing your data can be the most interesting part of this process. If you understand what you’re doing, and know which tools are best for the job, you can breeze through the relevant metrics, pull the right numbers together, and see what they all mean. We’ll also cover how crucial your records of this stage are when getting a manual penalty revoked.

CHAPTER
05

CLEANING UP YOUR WEBSITEFOR LONG-TERM RANKINGS

Chapter five is where we do the work of removing all the signals that tipped Google off to shady activity in the first place. We’ll see how to make sure the links pointing to your site are squeaky clean, and how to make content that is excellent for visitors. While some will say that a good link is one you didn’t encourage, and good content is, well, just good content, we’ll take the time to see what Google is actually looking for, quantify it, and use it to our advantage.

CHAPTER
06

SUBMITTING A REINCLUSION REQUESTTHAT’S SURE TO BE APPROVED

In chapter six we’ll get into the heads of the Google employees who will be reading your reinclusion request and making the decision as to whether or not you will be allowed back into their index. There’s a right way and a wrong way to do everything, and when a denial can put your progress back by months, we’re going to take every measure to ensure this is done the right way.

CHAPTER
07

RECOVERY:WHERE TO GO FROM HERE

Finally, in chapter seven you’ll learn what to expect from the reconsideration process, how long rankings usually take to resurface, why they might not for some time, what to do about it. You want your rankings back quickly, and while removing a penalty lifts the cap on what rankings you can achieve, the process of clean-up and removal can leave your SEO a little worse for wear. We’ll show you how to rectify that and lead you into the promised land of sustainable page 1 rankings.

Tips to Create a Winning Content Promotion Plan

 Planning

A good promotion plan begins with audience research and the development of targeted messaging.

Audience Research

If you have the time and budget, doing research like survey analysis is really helpful. At BuzzStream, we’re a bit more informal. Our planning stage usually involves a discussion of who we’re creating the content for and what their needs are. We use analytics data from previous pieces, information about what we’ve seen performing well on Twitter, and insight from conversations we’ve had with customers.

We segment our audiences based on the value they’ll get from the content. For example, one group might be new to online marketing and would use the guide to level up their skills. Another group might be people in charge of outreach teams who could incorporate our guide into their training materials. A third group might be influencers who don’t really need to learn anything new but who appreciate good outreach content to share with their followers. These segments become the foundation for influencer lists and outreach messaging.

Messaging

Before beginning content creation, you should spend some time thinking about what you want to communicate to each of your audience segments. (Developing personas can be really helpful here.) Think about what benefit each segment will get from consuming your content. Ask yourself what will motivate people to share it, and then spend some time thinking about reasons why people might choose not to share.

If you’re a team of one, this process can be more of a mental exercise than a physical document. If you have a team, creating a shared doc that everyone can refer back to is extremely useful.

Here’s an example of some of the questions you’ll want to ask during this stage:

Once you nail your audience segments and messaging, you can be more confident about content creation. You’ll know exactly how and why you’re benefitting the groups of people who are most important to your business, and that knowledge can guide you as you make important decisions about the piece.

2+ Weeks Before Launch

As you’re developing the actual content, you should also develop a list of people and websites that you want to share it. The earlier work you did on audience development can is your foundation here. For each segment, create a list of top-tier and mid-tier influencers.

As you go, make note of what medium you want to use to reach each of the influencers (email, social, etc.) You should also figure out whether a cold pitch will work or if you’ll need a relationship first.

List Size

To figure out how big your influencer lists should be, think about what your coverage or sharing goals are. How many people do you expect to write about you? Take that number and divide it by your usual outreach response rate. That’s how many people you’ll need to send outreach to.

Good content marketers often begin with long lists influencers and then narrow them down to only the most relevant, targeted prospects for outreach. It’s a time-consuming but worthwhile process. If you want to work this way, your initial list length should be about 5X the length of your ideal outreach list.

Engaging Before Launch

Next, take your influencer lists and make a goal to engage with each person or website on that list at least once before you pitch your content.

For those influencers that you think would be okay with a cold pitch, you can do something simple like a tweet a post and @ mention them. This will at least get your name on their radar.

Influencers who you want more of a relationship with will require more involved engagement. Begin monitoring them via Twitter lists or Feed.ly and look for opportunities to provide commentary on something they’ve written or shared. A single @ mention on Twitter isn’t enough. Try to reply to a tweet and spark a conversation or consider leaving a thoughtful comment on one of their blog posts. If you have the time and resources, look for opportunities to meet them in real life at conferences and events.

Week Before Launch

The week before your content goes live should be a very busy one. This is when you’ll need to draft all of your social media posts, outreach emails, and customer messages. You may want to queue up social media ads and plan targeting, as well.

Pretest Content

One of the best things you can do before your content goes live is pretest it with influencers. You get the benefit of their buy-in and their good advice about ways to improve your content or messaging before you share it with the world.

You can be really strategic and send your content to a subset of influencers who you want to target, but we’ve honestly seen a lot of success just by asking for volunteers.

However you go about it, be sure to give the influencers enough time to actually look over your content and provide feedback.

Outreach Emails

You should plan to write at least two email templates for each of your audience segments. (If you have three segments, that’s at least six templates total.) The template variations should test elements like subject line or CTA. They should also leave room for personalization.

Your most important influencers (the top 5 or 10 people and websites on your list) should get completely custom messages. To save yourself time on the day of launch, write them in advance. Hopefully by this point you’ve chatted or engaged at least a few times, so that personalization can refer back to previous conversations you’ve had.

Day of Launch

The day your post goes live, your goal is to share it as much as you can. This means post it to social media, put your ads live, and begin outreach.

Outreach

As you work through your outreach list and begin sending messages you’ll start to see patterns in the results. Certain templates will perform better than others. When this happens, kill the bad ones, go with the good ones, and then maybe even create a new variation to try.

You’ll also often find that you’re connecting with some groups better than others. If this is the case, invest more deeply in the segment that’s working. Expand your influencer lists and try more outreach to that group.

Moderate & Respond

Make yourself available to moderate comments on what you’ve shared, retweet the nice things other people have said, and reply to any questions that come up. This will help you build stronger relationships with the audiences you care about and give you opportunity to further amplify your content.

Week of Launch

The initial buzz your content created will likely begin to fade out as the week continues. Use this time to do more of what’s working and claim some of the easy victories.

Paid Social

Look to see which of your paid social media campaigns performed the best on day one. Invest more heavily in those channels and that messaging. If you find that everything has flopped, try again with a different headline or different targeting criteria.

Social Media

Continue to share and retweet the nice things people have said about your content. Pay special attention to major influencers who say nice things during off-peak hours. A well-timed retweet could provide a nice traffic spike.

Easy Wins

Make sure you take the time to submit your articles to email newsletters and weekly roundups. Be sure it’s been shared within relevant subreddits and social bookmarking sites. These are simple things to do that can bring nice, qualified traffic to your content.

Reclaim Links

If your content went even a little bit viral, there’s a good chance people shared it without crediting you. Use reverse image search, tools like Fresh Web Explorer, and other link reclamation tactics to find all of those instances and secure the link.

On-going Opportunities

As things wind down, don’t close the door on your content. Keep a Tweetdeck search running in the background so you’ll catch when people share it. Be sure to send a genuine thank you when they do.

Use the twitter and feedly lists you created to continue to engage with influencers. Odds are that if they were important to this campaign, they’ll be important in the future, too. The more you can do to build relationships, the better.

Monitor social media, email services like HARO, and the web in general for opportunities to repurpose or reshare your content. You may find opportunities to turn it into a case study or suggest it as a resource.

You could also use tools like BuzzStream to schedule regular site prospecting and get a batch of fresh contacts delivered to your inbox on a weekly basis. Scroll through these sites for opportunities to place your content.