Friday, 31 March 2017

Make Evaluating Website Architecture Easy With This Advice

hv-blog-on-page Make Evaluating Website Architecture Easy With This Advice

One of the most important yet overlooked factors of SEO and digital marketing is User Experience (UX). There’s one analogy in particular that helps articulate the importance of UX and website design, and that is to think of the internet as a giant shopping mall. If the internet is a giant shopping mall, then your website and online presence is your storefront. Like any storefront, brands want to put their best foot forward to get shoppers to come into the store. But what’s equally important in this analogy and for websites is what happens once the customer is actually in the store.

A huge component of UX and digital marketing as a whole is website architecture. By definition, website architecture is an approach to the design and planning of websites that involves technical, aesthetic, and functional criteria. All of this is extremely important for UX and SEO, because it determines how easy it will or will not be for both users and search engines to crawl through your website.

Think of your website as a city, and your website architecture as the way the city is designed and spread out. You want it to be easy to navigate while also pushing users through to a desired outcome. By not paying attention or evaluating your website architecture from time to time, you could be missing out on opportunities to improve your online performance, or even suffering from snags in your structure.

Not a developer? Not a problem.

For many people, assessing website architecture can feel like a foreign and intimidating concept. A widely held belief is that if you didn’t build the website, you certainly can’t test to see if the structure is the best it can be. But contrary to such beliefs, you don’t have to be a master coder or web developer to evaluate your website’s architecture. You’re in charge of your website as much as anyone else is, and there are plenty of user-friendly guides that can walk you through the process of evaluating your website design. But before we get to that, there’s a simple way of looking at website architecture evaluation that will keep you focused on strategic website development rather than just broad optimization.

The Advice

In evaluating your website architecture, you should approach the process with one thing in mind: conversions. Specifically, your conversions, whether it’s shares, a purchase, or entering information in a form field, focus on whatever the action you want users to take is.

This may sound simple and somewhat obvious, but failure to develop website architecture around brand-specific conversions is what causes glitches in a brand’s funnel to pop up. While there are many templates and effective design strategies, there isn’t a one-size-fits all approach to website design.

Look at your website like a giant arrow or, more commonly, a funnel. The overall goal of your website is to have it structured in a way that points and nudges users along to take your desired action. With that in mind, approach your evaluation based on how effectively the different components of your website architecture satisfy that process. In doing so, you’ll be able to more accurately assess the performance of your website and identify the structural needs you’ll have moving forward.


For an initial evaluation of your website’s architecture, a good starting point is a guided Q & A walk-through of your website. This type of evaluation is a thorough way to better understand the navigation, analytics, aesthetic, content, and strategy evolution of your design. Two solid and beginner-friendly resources for this are Linchpin’s Website Design Checklist and DYNO Mapper’s Website Quality Evaluation. For a more analytic and SEO-focused crawl, try using a software or tool, such as Site Analyzer.

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Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The 5 Most Convincing Reasons to try Influencer Marketing

influence The 5 Most Convincing Reasons to try Influencer Marketing

When it comes to digital marketing, there are a lot of different routes you can take to raise awareness, promote, and successfully market your brand. The obvious and most widely used practices include things like SEO, paid search, content marketing, or social media marketing. But there’s another method that’s been picking up steam for a while and shows no signs of slowing down, and that method is influencer marketing.

In short, influencer marketing is a form of promoting and/or advertising your brand by using key individuals who are considered ‘influencers.’  Such individuals typically have a large following (online or otherwise) and considerable influence on their audience. The overall goal is for an influencer to drive a brand’s message and promote the products and/or services in an authentic and natural way.

While some digital marketers think influencer marketing has peaked and will soon die off, research has shown that it’s just as effective as ever. Rather than dying, influencer marketing is more likely just changing. That’s why, now more than ever, brands have a vested interest in considering an influencer approach to brand promotion. If you’re not sold on the concept or are wary of deviating from traditional marketing avenues, here are 5 of the most convincing reasons to try influencer marketing.

  1. It Builds Brand Trust

The value of trust in digital marketing is not to be underestimated, because a brand’s conversions and customer loyalty depend on it. One Nielsen study found that 92% of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, specifically recommendations, over all other forms of advertising-even if it comes from an individual they don’t know personally. This is the entire basis of influencer marketing: getting influencers to recommend your brand’s services or products, so that their following of users who trust their opinion also come to trust your brand.

Generating trust via influencer marketing works beyond just getting one single conversion. If a reputable individual swears by a certain product or service, their following is more likely to commit to trying it over an extended period of time. Influencers bridge the gap between brands and the loyal customers who repeatedly recall and return to the brand and are the most profitable.

  1. Millennials Ignore/Block Ads

If your target audience happens to consist of millennials and you aren’t already using influencer marketing, you’re behind. On average, users are exposed to around 5,000 ads per day. For users that spend more time online than others, like millennials, finding ways to reduce or eliminate the high number of ads becomes an increasingly popular option. That’s why it’s unsurprising that in 2015, nearly half of all online customers used ad block technology.

Unlike ads, influencer marketing is an effective form of native advertising. Rather than interrupt whatever users are doing online, such as browsing through Instagram, they insert their brand naturally into the platforms that the user is already looking at. A twenty-something year old browsing through Instagram is much more likely to pay attention to a favorite celebrity or influencer recommending a product than they are to sit through an advertisement or pop-up being promoted by the brand itself.

  1. It’s Really Cost-Effective

While paid search and advertising works in its own way and on its own terms, it is simply not as effective as ‘earned’ media. Advertising over a long period of time can get really expensive really fast, and despite being able to do a hefty amount of research on the front-end, there’s still no solid guarantee that users will respond to your ads in a favorable manner.

With influencer marketing, you have a built-in guarantee that the (hopefully very large) following of your influencer is going to be exposed to your brand in a positive and promotional light. Some compelling research has also shown that influencer marketing generates more than twice the sales than that of display advertising. Using influencer and email marketing in place of more expensive advertising options has a higher ROI for a fraction of the price.

  1. The Success Rate is High

When done right, even the smallest brands can make it big using influencer marketing. Take, for example, Daniel Wellington watches. The brand’s digital marketing strategy consisted of finding thousands of influencers in niches ranging from travel and photography to fashion and lifestyle. Each influencer promoted the watches to whatever niche they fell within using a unique 15% off discount code. The revenue speaks for itself, with the company’s revenue weighing in at $220 million in 2015. And now, if you visit their website, you’ll find super influencer Kendall Jenner stylishly modeling a watch on the home page.

Similar brands have found a way to bolster their success by turning to influencer marketing, including Chanel, FabFitFun, Tiffany’s, and countless others. With 81% of users admitting to being influenced by what they see shared on social media, it’s easy to see why there’s such a high success rate among influencer marketing strategies.

  1. Brands Gain Access to a Wider Audience

Perhaps the entire point of influencer marketing is that it facilitates brand exposure on a much broader scale. Traditionally, all marketing and especially digital marketing concerns the targeting of a specific audience using ads, content, campaigns, or other forms of marketing. The goal is to make influencers the emphasis of your digital marketing strategy rather than target your specific market as a whole.

This works, because by using influencer marketing your influencers expose and promote your brand to a much wider audience. Moreover, your brand is being exposed to a wider audience in an organic and convincing way that’s more likely to resonate with users.

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Monday, 27 March 2017

Data is the Core of Content Marketing: Here’s How to Use it

hv-blog-competitive-analysis Data is the Core of Content Marketing: Here's How to Use it

The biggest falsehood I encounter/tell myself/see other people tell themselves is that content marketing creative strategy is separate from data and analytics. While content marketing is certainly a practice that requires creativity and outside-the-box thinking, it is also fueled by data. In fact, data is really at the core of all successful content marketing strategy.

One of the greatest assets to digital marketing online practices is that everything can be tracked. You can know how many people visit your website, how long they stay there, the exact terms they’re searching for, how they found your website, and so much more. Every last component of digital marketing is trackable, so why would content marketing be any different?

While the importance of using data may seem obvious for content marketing, a whopping 65% of marketers still aren’t able to determine which content is and is not effective. Check out these figures:

b2bcontentmarketers Data is the Core of Content Marketing: Here's How to Use it

Notice any similarities between some of the challenges on this list? Quite a few of them highlight the relationship between content performance and data. This explains why content marketers, despite knowing the importance of data, are still ignoring the necessity of it. We spend so much time trying to churn out new content and find the next angle that we never stop to analyze the existing pieces of content strategy. This is an issue, because without stopping to adequately analyze what has and hasn’t worked, your efforts could be blind or misguided.

The Future of Content Marketing is Data-Driven

As the internet becomes more saturated with content and information, data becomes increasingly important. Your content marketing can be creative-inspired, but should ultimately be data-driven. As the understanding and power of using data to drive creative strategy catches on, tracking the performance of your content becomes less of a suggestion than it is an outright necessity. Plus, if the top producers of content online are already using data to guide their strategy, then you’re already behind.

How to Get Started

Part of the problem is that adding another factor into the content marketing mix can be a pain, because you’re trying to juggle brainstorming, production, outreach, sharing, and everything else all at once. Another part of the problem is that some content marketers simply don’t know where to start. But integrating the use of data and analytics doesn’t have to be overly complicated or throw off the routines and practices you currently have in place. Below are a few good places to start paying attention to the analytics behind your blog or business website to make data a focal point of your strategy.

  • Monitor Engagements

Engagements are indicators of success, which is why tracking them with a critical eye is so important. On a topical level, you can see which content is performing the best based on how many users are engaging with it. You can then use that information to try and find similarities between content pieces that draw the most engagement. For example, maybe there’s a certain style of headline that your audience responds favorably to or a content format that always results in a high number of shares.

Compellingly, a study by Chartbeat revealed that users who spend at least 3 minutes viewing or reading content return to and recall the brand twice as often as users who spend one minute or less on the page. By tracking engagements thoroughly (shares, comments, time spent on page, etc.), you can use this metric to identify what makes top performing content resonate with users.

  • Measure Growth

It’s a rare and unlikely occurrence that a brand’s online presence blooms to full growth overnight without any notice. Most of the time, the growth of an audience and development of an online presence is deliberate, with special attention paid to measuring growth. Whether it’s weekly or monthly, measuring growth is a big part of using data to understand the performance and needs of your blog or website.

Growth charts can illustrate the momentum (or lack thereof) of your online presence so that you can set deliberate, well-researched goals that continue to advance your brand in a feasible, sustainable manner. Monitoring the growth of your brand in terms of something like followers or subscribers can also help you better track the aforementioned engagements. Ideally-and typically-your engagements and website growth will have a proportional relationship that helps you more clearly identify which parts of your content strategy work and which don’t.

  • Track Referral Sources

Understanding where your internet traffic comes from is essential to knowing how and where to reach and target your audience. Where your users are before they land on your website can reveal a lot about the behavior of your users as well as what the most effective outreach and advertising strategies are to get users in your funnel. And if you haven’t been paying attention to it already, finding a way to improve your referral traffic might be the missing piece of your content strategy.

Keeping an eye on your referral traffic in Google analytics illuminates the channels that are the best use of your time. Think of it like this: if you write a guest blog every week for another website and receive an insignificant amount of referral traffic from it, but comment on discussions on reddit or LinkedIn weekly and receive a lot of referral traffic from it, which is the better use of your time? If more of your traffic comes to your website from Facebook than it does Shopify, where should you spend the majority of your advertising dollars? Tracking your referral sources can save you time, energy, and money while helping you better achieve results.

Where to Find Your Website Data

All of this comes under the assumption that you have (or will have) a Google Analytics account. It’s the most widely used, free analytics service on the internet and will show you everything you need to know about your engagements, growth, referral sources, and more. While many brands and businesses have a Google Analytics account, not everyone uses it to the extent that they should. Don’t let your Google Analytics account sit dormant; instead, use that data to drive your content marketing strategy.

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Friday, 24 March 2017

Blog Topic Ideation: Spark Your Creativity with this Brainstorming Activity

brainstormingstock Blog Topic Ideation: Spark Your Creativity with this Brainstorming Activity

Running out of blog topic ideas can be a bummer, but it can also be kind of exciting. Exciting, because it’s a chance to come up with a bunch of fun, new ideas to talk about. A bummer, because brainstorming enough topics to last you for a couple of months can be difficult and time-consuming. Sometimes it really can feel like everything there is to say has already been said somewhere online, but there’s always a unique topic or angle just waiting to be discovered.

Over time, I’ve figured out which practices and habits help me best maintain my blogging routine. Whether it’s dealing with writer’s block or checking blog performance, I typically have a go-to procedure for blog maintenance. The same goes for coming up with new blog topic ideas. While it is certainly not the most groundbreaking or innovative brainstorming activity in the world, it does keep the production wheels moving. Next time you find yourself struggling to come up with a list of blog topics for your editorial calendar, give this brainstorming exercise a try.

Step 1: Put Your Heads Together

I’m a firm believer in teamwork, especially when it comes to brewing up new ideas. That’s why my first step is always to get some creative thinkers together in front of a whiteboard. For this blog, I like to reference my coworkers. A creative department brain, a PPC brain, an account manager, and so on. Having all the functions of our business represented in one room helps me stay in touch with the bigger picture rather than just the blog. This kind of collaboration is especially helpful for coming up with blog topics, because it broadens the conversation to a wider range of topics.

You can do this even if you’re a solo blogger by tapping into your audience or collaborating with other solo bloggers. More often than not, people are quick to collaborate and eager to help. Try asking your audience what they want to know more about, or try and find guest bloggers/like-minded individuals you’re not in direct competition with to collaborate with.

Step 2: Develop Categories

For some reason, if I don’t remind myself of all the broad categories this blog represents, I end up with topics about the same thing over and over. For that reason, I keep a list of all the categories I can write about in front of me (SEO, PPC, social media, search engine updates, blogging, analytics, etc.). Simply by having a visual reminder in front of you, you prevent yourself from the tendency to narrow in on one specific area.

In developing your broad categories, it can be helpful to add subcategories. For example, if you run a political opinion blog, and you have a broad category on education, it might be helpful to have a sub category of the latest policies or news. The development of categories and sub categories sets up specific areas that you can later fill in with a bunch of blog topics.

  • Content Types: Similarly to how you develop your category lists, develop a short list of the different content formats you can do in order of the most common to the least common (article, how-to, Q&A, infographic, tutorial video, etc.). When you use your categories to come up with your blog topics, you can then decide what format you want the content to have. This will help you prioritize the production of your blog topics on your editorial calendar once you have your complete list.

Step 3: Toss Around Topic Ideas

Surprisingly, once you complete steps 1 and 2, step 3 comes pretty naturally. You have your collaboration team or input from your collaboration team, the categories you want your topics to fall within, and the content formats you can work with. From here, tossing around topic ideas is the fun part! If you’re struggling for a place to start, strike up a conversation about a recent development in your industry. See where the conversation takes you, and turn some of your discussion thoughts into blog topics. Ask yourself: What should my audience know about recent industry developments? What’s something I haven’t covered on my blog before? What’s my brand’s opinion on current trends or practices?

  • Find the Negative: To mix up how you talk about your topics, try and find the negative angle. For example, instead of or in addition to “10 Ways to Mix Up Your Wardrobe this Spring”, try “10 Wardrobe Mistakes Not to Make”.

End Note

Even though I use this method for brainstorming, it can definitely be applied to other aspects of digital marketing. You can tailor this process and use it to come up with ideas for new marketing campaigns, ways to attract customers, social media ideas, and whatever else your brand needs. The key is to collaborate and avoid thinking in a confining and linear way, so you can bounce ideas around and strategize for your business.

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Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Top 10 Free Keyword Research Tools

google Top 10 Free Keyword Research Tools

Editor’s Note: This post originally published in February 2011 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

When it comes to SEO and any branch of digital marketing, keyword research is incredibly important. It plays into knowing your audience as well as the user behavior that drives them, which ultimately dictates your online performance. Without spending adequate time doing keyword research for your industry, market, and audience, much of your SEO efforts will just be blind guesswork.

But like many digital marketing practices, keyword research services and software can be really expensive, costing as much as a few hundred dollars per month. The good news is that there are plenty of free keyword research tools available for brands to better understand how their users are searching for products and information online.

The following tools may be free or offer free trials, but they certainly don’t skimp on value. Using them, you can identify the best keywords for your industry and searches, identify the highest points of keyword competition and therefor better understand your competitors, and get the information you need to drive up your search engine rank. To get started, check out these 10 free keyword research tools.

  1. Google AdWords: Keyword Planner

This is probably the most widely used keyword tool around, and it’s totally free of charge other than what you pay Google if/once you start advertising through AdWords. This keyword research tool provides estimated search volume on Google’s network for each keyword and phrase, and it provides tons of keyword suggestions. In it, you can compare keyword trends and create a plan for targeting specific keywords and phrases. The Keyword Planner will help you prioritize which keywords you should be targeting while helping you discover new keywords you didn’t already know.

  1. SEMRush

SEMRush will give you data on the top 10 keywords that your competitors are receiving traffic on for paid and organic search. With this tool, you can find the right keywords for SEO and PPC campaigns, gather phrase matches and related keywords, and get long-tail keywords. As an added perk, you can get information on multinational and multilingual online environments. This will help you enrich your web content and ad copy while giving you hard data behind the keywords you’re targeting. There is an option to upgrade after the free 14 day trial period.

  1. Google Correlate

Yet another tool from Google, only this one is often overlooked. Google Correlate is helpful because it shows you which keywords get searched for together. It’s not always feasible to rank for the top keyword of industry, because it’s expensive and likely dominated by a more prominent business. But by using this tool, you can find related keywords that people are searching for and create content or develop advertising strategies that cater to those related terms. Overall, Google Correlate will help you grow you keyword list and cast a bigger net.

  1. Alexa

The Alexa tool will let you see search queries of a competitor and the percentage of traffic it brings to the website. All you have to do is enter the URL in the site information area, and Alexa will retrieve details on keywords and search analytics on the specified domain. You can get a lot of keyword research done in the free 7 day trial, but after that you’ll have to upgrade to a paid version.

  1. Moz Keyword Explorer

It should come as no surprise that SEO powerhouse, Moz, has a wildly popular and effective keyword research tool. The keyword finder offers intuitive suggestions that factor in a number of metrics, as well as a full SERP analysis. Using this one tool will help you discover and prioritize all the keywords you need to boost your search rank and get insights about your competition. You can get full access to Keyword Explorer with Moz Pro for a free 30 day trial.

  1. Keyword Tool

With the free version of this tool, users can generate up to 750+ long-tail keyword suggestions for every search term. It’s considered one of the best free keyword tools and a competitive alternative to Google Keyword Planner, because it works so well for SEO and content creation. The tool can also be used to research keywords internationally, for advertising, and more.

  1. Uber Suggest

This tool is nice, because there’s actually a “KeywordEverywhere” extension for Chrome and Firefox that gives you keyword volume, CPC & competition data for free. Uber Suggest lets you sort by country and where on the web you’re researching keywords, like images, shopping, YouTube, or news content. For generating keyword ideas, the tool works well and helps users with a word cloud and trend data. Plus, it was recently acquired by digital marketing expert Neil Patel, and there are even more free features coming soon.

  1. WordStream

All of WordStream’s software and services aim to take the guesswork out of online marketing, so you can expect nothing less of their keyword tool. There’s even a “nichefy” filter that works well for specific industries/niche targeting. The keyword tool is free, but users get 10 keyword searches up-front, then one free keyword search per day going forward.

  1. Wordtracker

Wordtracker is great for SEO research, because it has an SEO competition metrics feature as well as a SERP comparison. The tool pulls together an extensive profile of relevant keyword information across the user’s designated territory. You can use it to find related terms and assess the difficult of the competition, all right from the tool. Users can try a free 7 day trial, with account options starting at $27/month after.

  1. Bing Keyword Research

All the data from Bing’s keyword tool comes from organic search rather than paid search or search advertising data. This is important, because it exposes users to the most natural keyword ideas and highly accurate numbers. Through the tool, you can generate keyword suggestions for all the markets you serve and in a wide range of languages.

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Monday, 20 March 2017

User Responsibility in a Time of Misinformation

facts User Responsibility in a Time of Misinformation

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Google’s new API, Perspective, that filters hurtful comments from the open comments section on publisher’s websites. The goal of the tool is to enhance user experience by making the comments section more suitable for productive, diverse, non-trolling discussions. The API is no doubt a response to the growing problems of online trolling and the widespread “fake news” pandemonium across the internet. That’s likely the same motivation behind Google’s recent effort to flag upsetting and offensive content online.

The Problem of Misinformation

There’s a growing problem among users to seek out information online that reinforces their opinions. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it becomes problematic when used to reinforce radical, untrue, or discriminative opinions. This is especially true of user behavior within the last couple of years, as global climates have become tense due to terrorism and political affairs among countries aggressively polarized (think: the U.S. presidential election of 2016).

As a direct result of this polarization, users began producing and seeking a flux of information that reinforced their opinions, arguments, and beliefs. While there has never been a greater need for accurate content online, the reality is that the production of and user demand for wildly polarized, radicalized, and one-sided content has crowded out factual, proven, trustworthy information.

Think of it like this: In the month leading up to the presidential election, you likely saw content in your Facebook feed with titles like, “Proof that the Majority of Muslims in the U.S. are Working for ISIS” or “Hillary Clinton Kicked a Navy Seal.”  Unfortunately-and embarrassingly-highly polarized and clearly false news headlines similar to these were the most shared and viewed content pieces online.

As a result and consequence, that’s the type of information that ranks at the top of search results. This is a problem, because in response to user behavior, the algorithms are ranking extremely low quality content under the most reliable content.

Google Adds to Guidelines for Quality Raters

Google has had quality raters (10,000+ contracted individuals) for a long time. They conduct actual searches on the web based on the real searches Google sees from its user, and try to identify issues with websites. More likely than not, Google uses the quality raters’ finding for future updates and algorithms. When the quality raters go through and try to understand and evaluate web page content, they use the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines provided by Google. The comprehensiveness guidelines, which are roughly 160 pages long, outline in detail how the quality raters are to evaluate websites. The guidelines account for nearly every aspect that factors into the quality of a website, including reviews, advertisements, quality of page content, and much more. Based on these guidelines, the quality raters flag different issues on websites/pages.

Now, the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines also includes an “Upsetting-Offensive” content flag. As defined in the guidelines, upsetting and/or offensive content is typically:

  • Content that promotes hate or violence against a group of people based on criteria including (but not limited to) race or ethnicity, religion, gender, nationality or citizenship, disability, age, sexual orientation, or veteran status.
  • Content with racial slurs or extremely offensive terminology.
  • Graphic violence, including animal cruelty or child abuse.
  • Explicit how-to information about harmful activities (e.g., how-tos on human trafficking or violent assault).
  • Other types of content which users in your locale would find extremely upsetting or offensive.

These examples from the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines demonstrate how the uspsetting-offensive content flag works:

holocaustexample User Responsibility in a Time of Misinformation

holocaustexample User Responsibility in a Time of Misinformation

Again, the end goal is to improve user experience and point users in the direction of the most reliable, factual, highest quality pages in response to search queries.  At the end of the day, Google just wants to make the internet a safer place. Just like Perspective, this effort is not about prioritizing certain beliefs, opinions, or views over others, just as it is not a form of censorship. Rather, it’s about improving user experience for everyone by improving the kind of content we are presented with when we conduct searches.

The “Highly Meets” Rating

Sometimes users deliberately search for offensive content, perhaps to understand another side of an argument or simply to see the offensive content. In such cases, the goal is to return relevant, authoritative, and credible information. Here’s an example of how that works:

holocaustexample User Responsibility in a Time of Misinformation

Per the guidelines, when the user’s query seems to either ask for or tolerate potentially upsetting, offensive, or sensitive content, they will call the query an “Upsetting-Offensive tolerant query”. Google and the quality raters will assume that users have a dominant educational/informational intent for upsetting-offensive tolerant queries, and the results will be rated on the “Needs Met” rating scae assuming a genuine educational/information intent.

The Impact on SEO

It’s important to note that flagging a page as having upsetting or offensive content doesn’t immediately result in a ban or penalty. The findings of quality raters remains used in the same way it always has been: a collection of “training data” that Google will use for future algorithms. When the quality raters see and flag a lot of problem recurring within a specific industry or in response to certain searches, Google coders use that information for future updates and algorithms so that the search engine will be able to auto-identify upsetting-offensive material.

That being said, it’s entirely possible that some flagged websites will later be internally reviewed by Google and result in a penalty or demotion. For instance, some manual penalties on websites have come about as a result of quality rater findings. Though the purpose of quality rater findings is to accumulate data for future updates, it is by no means a stretch to suspect that some upsetting-offensive content flags will impact the SEO of certain websites.

User Responsibility in a Time of Misinformation

These steps towards having more credible and reliable comments sections and search results are exciting. As users, we all stand to benefit from having access and exposure to the best possible content out there, so we can continue to learn, share, and produce ever-improved ideas.

However, the need for such tools speaks volumes of current user/search behavior. If the top search results we see are “news sources” that are eye-level with tabloids, what does that say about the kind of content we consume? Google has contracted over 10,000 people to flag racial slurs, graphic violence, and content that promotes hate and violence against entire groups of people based on race, religion, gender, citizenship, etc. But what does the overwhelming prevalence of that material say about what users are putting online?

All users have a responsibility as both consumers and producers of content to be both pragmatic and respectful in their online communities. We can’t blame online platforms for blind partisanship, irresponsible speech, or inappropriate content, because the algorithms of Google and Facebook have nothing to sort and rank without our user behavior.

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Friday, 17 March 2017

5 Out of the Box Ideas to Get More Reviews

reviewstock 5 Out of the Box Ideas to Get More Reviews

Reviews have a lot of value for brands, especially when it comes to smaller businesses. What other buyers are saying about your business is often the make or break factor for future customers. This is especially true now that so many users look for recommendations. Surveys seem to indicate that, despite some issues with fake or paid testimonials, reviews are still important to consumers:

  • 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
  • 40% of buyers form an opinion of a business after reading just 1-3 reviews
  • 72% of buyers will take action only after reading a positive review

Reviews play an important role in SEO as well, because the constant generation of unique content (reviews) from a wide range of users (customers) has a positive impact on website rank. In fact, reviews can have an impact of up to 10% on a business’s search ranking.

It’s important to be ethical in your pursuit of accumulating business reviews, which is why paying people to write or post fake reviews isn’t the best method. Luckily, there are some unique ways to generate more reviews from customers without being shady about it. Here are 5 ideas to get you started.

  1. Check-in Perks

It’s not quite a full review, but it does turn heads towards your business. Having customers check-in when they’re in your store and mention something about their experience is a great way to gain exposure across a broader network. It’s also a good way to foster customer loyalty and keep regulars coming back.

Real life example: One of my favorite pizza places has check-in Tuesdays. If you check in at the pizza location on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram and say something about pizza, you get a discount on your meal or a free drink. Now, pizza is a standing option for lunch on Tuesdays.

Any business can employ a similar tactic, whether it’s a freebie or a discount, and see more return than it costs.

  1. Text Reviews

Half of the battle is finding a way to reach customers where they’re at. It’s easy for customers to ignore an email or forget to visit the Yelp or Google Reviews page of a business, so where do you find them? One great way to streamline the review process is to follow-up via text message.

Real life example: I recently tried out a class at a new yoga studio, which required the usual sign-up information (name, email, cell phone number). The day after the class, I received a text message asking to rate my experience on a scale of 1-10. Sending back a number was quick and easy, so when they replied asking me to write a few words about a review, I didn’t hesitate. Two texts later and the yoga studio had both a rating and review within 24 hours of a purchase.

If your customers are people on-the-go, try finding a way to reach them where they’re most likely to engage. If you can eliminate any steps from the review process, your chances of getting a review go up.

  1. Find the Naysayers

One of the best kinds of reviews a business can get is one from a customer who was initially skeptical of the service or product. If you can turn your most skeptical buyer into a customer with a positive experience, then their testimonial has potential to convince other on-the-fence customers of your value.

Real life example: I don’t care for subscription service businesses, such as Blue Apron, Fab Fit Fun, or Hello Fresh, because they seem like a waste of money for things I could purchase myself. A friend of mine shares this opinion, but tried cosmetic subscription service, Ipsy, and loved it. Because she is also skeptical of subscription services but had such a positive experience, I decided to sign up and try a product I didn’t even know I wanted.

Buying is a social experience, and customers will consider the past experiences of others to influence their future buying. Getting your naysayers to sing your praises will bolster your brand’s value in an authentic and convincing way.

  1. Links and Buttons in Email

Most brands and businesses send emails to subscribers with promotional information, coupons, store updates, and other brand happenings. If you’re already regularly sending emails, why not add review buttons to the bottom? Subscribers who receive these emails mostly look for coupons and discounts, giving brands a perfect opportunity to get more reviews.

By adding a link to your brand’s Yelp profile or Google Reviews, you can naturally build review writing into the body of the email. To really incentivize writing reviews, try offering a discount for those who share their experience.

  1. Attach Reminders to Bills & Receipts

If you’re a business with a storefront location, attaching review reminders to bills & receipts can be an effective way to follow up with your customers. A simple line at the bottom of the receipt that asks for their opinion of your service and/or products shows that you value customer input and want feedback.

Trying adding a line at the bottom of receipts that says something like, “How’d we do? Tell us about your experience at xyz,” or “We want to hear from you. Give us feedback at xyz.” Most buyers look for and expect to see businesses seeking feedback in this manner.

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Wednesday, 15 March 2017

The Best 10 Slack Communities for Digital Marketers

slack-stock The Best 10 Slack Communities for Digital Marketers

At this point, just about everyone knows what Slack is. In case you don’t, Slack is a super tool and champion of office communication. It brings all the communication (chatting, office-wide announcements, document sharing, polls, etc.) of your office into one seamless and easy to use interface, and serves as a productivity product.

Moreover, it serves as a collaboration product by creating communities and channels for like-minded individuals. While Slack is used by entire organizations and offices, the broader Slack communities bring people from all over the world together by organizing them around a single topic.

What do Slack Communities have to offer?

A lot, really. In Slack communities, you can learn, network, and even bounce ideas of other people in similar fields. This is especially helpful for marketers, influencers, and online pioneers, because the collaborative nature of Slack helps you find what and who you’re looking for in half the time. Plus, users and community members can respond and react immediately.

If you’re a digital marketer using Slack, try checking out these communities. If nothing else, you’ll learn something and make some new connections in the process.

  1. Online Geniuses

Right now, Online Geniuses is one of the biggest marketing Slack communities (over 2,000 members). Members network and talk about all things SEO and digital marketing related, from small niches to powerhouse PPC experts.


As you can probably put together by the name, this community focuses on inbound marketing topics and practices. Conversations bloom around SEO, content strategy, linking, and other trends relevant to inbound marketing.

  1. Conversion World

This community is all about getting to, driving, and encouraging conversions. The conversations in Conversion World tend to be data-driven and analytics-backed, so bring your top geek game to join in on the discussion.

  1. Marketers Chat

Marketers Chat brings together marketing professionals across a broad range of disciplines, including mobile marketing, PPC, SEO, bloggers, and more. It’s a diverse community in which you can expect recommendations for tools, tips and tricks of the trade, and to make connections with affiliate marketers.

  1. Designer Hangout

User experience is a fast moving and integral part of how marketers are able to relay their message to their audiences. The members of the UX Guide Slack community understand that, and pull together UX designers, researchers, and professionals from all over the world to discuss the latest and greatest in UX. The slack channels within the community are localized, so you can speak with UX innovators near you.

  1. Buffer

Buffer is a community of marketers who mostly work with social media platforms and campaigns. It’s a good community to find resources, get feedback or encouragement, and connect with other social marketers.

  1. Growmance

Members of the Growmance community are quick to feedback and participate in open discussions about growth marketing. It’s easy to insert yourself into conversations in this community, and you can gain valuable insights and connections from other members.

  1. SaaS Community

This community is specific to the software as a service community, specifically founders and practicing professionals. In it, members exchange knowledge and experiences, as well as ideas and best practices for SaaS development.

  1. Backlinks

If you’re trying to grow as a blogger or online networker/influencer, this Slack community is probably the most helpful. Members are all looking for similar things in terms of creating valuable professional connections and growing backlink profiles in an effective, meaningful way.

  1. Grey Fedora

It’s a small Slack community, but one in which you’re likely to learn something new. A self-proclaimed community of “hustlers, hackers, and hipsters aiming to connect and reach their ultimate goals,” you can expect nothing less than some marketing inspiration from the musings and conversations that take place.  

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Tuesday, 14 March 2017

10 Factors that make for an Awesome User Experience

hv-blog-local-search 10 Factors that make for an Awesome User Experience

One of the most important factors of a strong online web presence is how well users are able to interact with your site. Whether your users are on desktops, mobile devices, or tablets, the experience your website provides is directly related to conversions and overall online performance. Despite the undeniable importance of user experience, we often see that it’s a factor most overlooked.

Sometimes it’s simply that a few changes and updates need to be made to help a website perform better. In other cases, it’s that a website is outdated and needs to be completely revamped. Regardless of where you’re at with your own website, checking these 10 elements of user experience will help you identify weak spots and identify avenues for growth or improvement.

  1. Page Speed

After a user clicks on your website, you have about 1/10th of a second to make an impression and push them closer to a conversion. There are millions of websites online, so if the load speed of your site takes too long, it’s highly likely that a user will bounce from your page and find another website. Test your site speed using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. If you find that it’s lagging, talk to your web developer about improving it.

  1. Mobile-Friendly

Ensuring that your website is mobile-friendly and has a design that’s responsive across all devices is imperative to online success. This is especially true now that shifts in search behavior reveal a huge rise in the number of mobile searchers compared to desktop. You can see how your site performs by using Google’s Mobile-Friendly test.

  1. Contact Information (CTA) Buttons

According to a recent study, 44% of website visitors will leave a company’s website if the contact information or phone number isn’t displayed and 51% of people think “thorough contact information” is the most important element missing from company websites. For mobile optimization especially, you should have easy to find contact buttons that clearly illuminate a path for your users to reach you.

  1. Instinctive Navigation

In the most successful web designs, users instinctively know where to click and how to navigate through a website. An important part of facilitating that intuitive use is having a readily displayed and user-friendly navigation menu that maps out your site. Ideally, it will direct users to the most important parts of your website in as few clicks as possible.

  1. Brand Logo Linking

In keeping with navigation, linking your home page to the displayed logo of a website is an important detail not to miss. One study showed that, after reaching a site via a referral site, 35% of visitors will click on the company’s logo to reach the homepage. It’s an intuitive part of user behavior and an easy user experience detail for websites to have.

  1. Short Forms

Form fields are an important part of the conversion process for many companies. If a user wants to request more information or download something off of a website, then a simple form field should request and require their contact information. That being said, having too many form fields will turn users away. Try to limit your form fields to the basics: name, email address or phone number, and reason for stopping by.

  1. Advertisements/Pop-Ups

There’s a fine line between too much and just enough when it comes to ads. For an example of a company that crosses that line, look no further than Forbes. Users are first directed to a page with a quote of the day, as well as an advertisement on the right, that they must stay on for a countdown of 3-5 seconds. Upon clicking on an article, users will see an advertisement in the header, on the right side of the page, and mixed in with the content. While I love Forbes and the content they produce, I avoid their website at all costs, because I know I can expect a poor user experience. Make sure your ads are not intrusive and don’t cross the line.

  1. Auto-Playing Media

This is also along the lines of making sure ads and pop-ups aren’t ruining the user experience of your site. Media–in ads, as part of your website content, or elsewhere–should not play without user interaction. If the user doesn’t click on or hover over the media, it should not play! If media does play without user interaction, you’ll end up being the website that users promptly close out of to escape unwanted audio.

  1. Site Search Feature

An internal site search bar can help keep users on your website longer. If the navigation menu fails to show a user what they’re looking for, an internal search feature can be the last stop. This is particularly effective for users searching for something specific. Adding a site search feature in the footer of your website or next to the navigation bar will give users another way to browse your site.

  1. Visual Appeal

Aesthetics matter, especially online. Adobe’s studies show that 38% of people will stop engaging with a website if the content/layout is unattractive, and that when given 15 minutes to consume content, two-thirds of people would rather read something beautifully designed than something plain. The color, balance, layout, and images your website has all play a hand in the overall look and feel.

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Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Generating Backlinks With Pinterest

pinterest Generating Backlinks With Pinterest

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in December of 2011 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Backlinks are still a major part of SEO and an integral part of organically raising search engine rankings. Yet the practice of collecting and generating backlinks seems as tedious and easy to mess up as ever. Since search engines now prioritize topic relevance and user experience so highly, no longer will the washed-up, Free-For-All (FFA) backlink practices cut it.

Comment spam is also well on its way out of the SEO repertoire; following Google’s ‘do or die’ philosophy is a pain, yet a necessary evil, and the task of exposing your content and/or website can feel a lot like running in place. Fortunately, the success of so many platforms and channels provides a perfect opportunity to generate backlinks. Pinterest is a perfect example of a platform that’s had a lot of success in a short amount of time, and with a tactical approach, you’ll have an opportunity to gather bunch of backlinks, in a short amount of time, while boosting your site’s worth in the process.

If you’re wondering why you should even bother putting together a Pinterest strategy when you already have other social channels, here are a few compelling facts:

  • There are 150 million active users on Pinterest; 176 million registered users total
  • 55% of U.S. online shoppers pick Pinterest as their favorite social media platform
  • 47% of U.S. online shoppers bought something as a result of a Pinterest recommendation
  • The half-life of a Pinterest Pin is about 1,600 times longer than a Facebook post

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Pinterest is the golden goose of free marketing for businesses. It’s the perfect platform to share content, get backlinks, and participate and exist among your audience. With the implementation of a few best practices, your business can strategically use a Pinterest presence for SEO.

Some things to keep in mind about generating backlinks on Pinterest:

  • Images are paramount in establishing the feel of an article or product when a visitor comes to your site.  Having poorly tagged images is firstly embarrassing, and secondly costs you organic rankings.  Pinterest is a visual platform, and the images you use bridge the gap between users and your content/products/website/whatever. To generate backlinks on Pinterest, you’ll need to make sure you have appealing, eye-catching images attached to Pins.
    • Choose the ‘create new pin’ option and enter the URL of your website or blog.  From there, Pinterest will scan your site and yank all available images (even affiliate banners) for you to choose from. Once you select your image, the page it came from will automatically be appended to the image.  Give your image a small description that includes the keyword of the page where the image lands and a direct link to the page. You’ll earn 2 deep backlinks that will bolster the credibility of your site-and that’s just from one Pin.

Bad Pinterest Image:

badpin Generating Backlinks With Pinterest

  • Like any social platform, optimizing your profile is an important part of earning high quality backlinks. With a half-completed profile, you run the risk of looking fraudulent or lacking in credible. Users should have access to plenty of your business or brand information simply by viewing your profile.
    • Start by making sure your username is concise and easy to follow. It should reflect your brand or business and will ultimately serve as your keyword, so make sure it’s congruent with the identity you want to have and maintain on Pinterest. The About, Location, and Website fields should all be filled with your current brand information, and a relevant profile picture should be added as well.
  • The Pinterest boards you have should be a fully functioning archive of links, visuals, and concepts that reflect the values and offerings of your brand. Pins/Repins from users are nice, but getting a user to follow you depends heavily on the kind of content you populate your boards with.
    • Create several well-themed boards and populate them with a diverse array of Pins, both from your site and elsewhere. The goal is to relate to your audience and exist among users, so search for keywords that are relevant to your industry and Pin content that your users would want to see and that inspires and complements your brand.

Remember, when used correctly, Pinterest has a lot of potential as a resource. It’s an ideal platform for generating backlinks, but it’s also a highly trafficked, user-friendly place to position your brand as an authority with your audience.

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Monday, 6 March 2017

Google Launches New Troll Filtering Tool-What You Need to Know

mobileindex Google Launches New Troll Filtering Tool-What You Need to Know

The internet is a place where many things can happen. People use it to inspire, motivate, organize, inform, and debate. But like all powerful outlets with minimally regulated environments, the internet has also become a place where disagreements can quickly turn into verbal sparring and even harassment. The removal of face-to-face contact and the anonymity provided by a screen and keyboard emblazons some users to unleash on one another, or rather, troll one another.

In case you’re unfamiliar with trolling:

trolling Google Launches New Troll Filtering Tool-What You Need to Know

Since the rapid takeoff of social platforms and the recognition of deeply problematic issues like cyberbullying, trolling has become as ingrained in the culture of online users as any other part of the internet. Some platforms, such as Yik Yak, seem to exist for the sole purpose of trolling, and online users can now expect the comments section of any shared post or news article to be flooded with deliberately offensive, provocative, and unproductive comments.

Trolling Hinders User Experience

Though the problem of trolling existed long before, it’s seemed to sky rocket in the past few years. A deeply controversial presidential election, growing concern surrounding international affairs, and an infectious fear of terrorist activity have all had a pernicious influence on online communities. The nature of trolling has only been made worse by the widespread sharing of actual fake news, as well as a more recently led witch hunt that promotes the defamation of prominent and reputable news source.

This, perhaps, is the inspiration behind the development of Google’s newest API, Perspective (API stands for Application Programming Interface-a set of instructions that tell developers how to integrate to an existing piece of software).

trolling Google Launches New Troll Filtering Tool-What You Need to Know

What is Perspective?

Perspective is an API made for publishers to incorporate into their websites. It cross-checks user comments against a human-generated database of comments that have been listed as offensive. As a user is leaving a comment, Perspective compares it to the hundreds of thousands of offensive comments in the database and then delivers a “toxicity” score on a scale of 0-100.

As it applies to the API, toxicity is defined as how likely a comment is to offend another user or cause someone to leave a conversation:

trolling Google Launches New Troll Filtering Tool-What You Need to Know

Working from this definition of toxic and the databases full of examples of such comments, Perspective will give feedback to commenters and website moderators in real time, like this:

trolling Google Launches New Troll Filtering Tool-What You Need to Know

Publishers will receive notification of comments that reach their toxicity threshold, and can then decide what to do with them.

Is this Google’s version of censorship?

The answer to this question might take some time to reveal itself. The API, only just launched at the end of February, does give publishers the power to determine their own toxicity threshold. Publishers can decide on a toxicity threshold of comments scored at 59 or 99, and the actions taken in response to such comments are also made at the publisher’s discretion.

Rather than being an application that censors conversation by way of placing a higher value on certain topics, the goal of Perspective is to improve conversations; part of improving conversations is making sure users aren’t driven away from the conversations in the first place, and thus the basis of Perspective was born.

Who’s using Perspective?

Since Perspective is so new, it has only been launched in partnership with a handful of highly reputable publishers, including the New York Times. Having won more Pulitzer prizes (119, to be exact) than any other news organization and being a leading producer of content across all cultural spheres (politics, art, opinion, international affairs, and more), the New York Times makes for a perfect test pilot for Perspective.

For the New York Times and platforms like it, the hope is that Perspective will facilitate diverse discussion, expand viewpoints, and provide a safe and respectful platform for their readers’ voices to be heard.

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Friday, 3 March 2017

Here’s What You Need to Know About the New AdWords Extensions

adwords_stock Here's What You Need to Know About the New AdWords Extensions

As you may have heard, Google AdWords has two exciting new extensions released in beta: Visual Sitelinks and Promotions Extensions. Because they are in beta, they are not officially rolled out and are therefore not fully available to AdWords users just yet. At this time, advertisers have to request to be whitelisted to participate in the experimentation of these extensions. However, data from beta testing should reveal the potential and efficacy these new extensions will provide advertisers. Here’s what you can expect from these new extensions.

Visual Sitelinks

Visual Sitelinks allow you to include images in extensions that appear along with text that is displayed in the Sitelink Extensions of Google Search Ads. This is important for advertisers, because the use of images can significantly enhance ad resonance with users. The expectation is that Visual Sitelinks will highlight the product experience to evoke an emotional response from users.

Guidelines and specifications for Visual Sitelinks:

visual-sitelinks Here's What You Need to Know About the New AdWords Extensions


visual-sitelinks Here's What You Need to Know About the New AdWords Extensions

Promotion Extensions

This will allow advertisers to highlight specific sales, discounts, or promotions across their AdWords ads without having to rewrite the creative every time you run a sale. This is good for both advertiser and user, because advertisers can display relevant promotion information to users without it coming at the expense of complementary, useful information in the creative text they see. Advertisers can schedule promotion extensions to appear on dates, days, and at specific times. Promotion Extensions will appear like this:

visual-sitelinks Here's What You Need to Know About the New AdWords Extensions

One thing advertisers should be mindful of in utilizing this Promotion Extension is putting all the necessary information on the landing page users will end up on. If a user clicks on a promotion extension, they should end on a landing page that advertises that very promotion front and center. If the user has to hunt across the website for the promotion they saw, one of two negative outcomes could happen: 1) they don’t see the promotion they clicked on and bounce from the page or 2) they back track to make sure they saw the promotion correctly, reclick on the ad to find the promotion, and the advertiser ends up paying double for one user.

Incentivized Clicks

True to their commitment to providing the best user experience, Google is continuing to add features that enhance Google Search Advertising. By allowing advertisers to display as much information as possible right from the start, users can see more information in fewer clicks. You can expect Google to continue adding opportunities that incentivize users to click, while also providing a positive user experience.

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