Friday, 28 April 2017

Hacked Sites Are Up 32%. Here’s What You Need to Know

hacker Hacked Sites Are Up 32%. Here's What You Need to Know

A couple of weeks ago, Google released a year in review regarding the State of Website Security in 2016. The report opened with the following announcement from Google:

“First off, some unfortunate news. We’ve seen an increase in the number of hacked sites by approximately 32% in 2016 compared to 2015. We don’t expect this trend to slow down. As hackers get more aggressive and more sites become outdated, hackers will continue to capitalize by infecting more sites.”

As you can probably tell from the statement, this news is unsurprising. With millions of websites already in existence and new ones popping up every day, the internet is an endless feeding ground for hackers. Even as website security continues to advance, malware and hacking strategies also shapeshift and evolve to exploit weak spots.

This presents a number of problems for both users and webmasters. First and foremost, the potential leaking, theft, and abuse of user information puts online consumers at risk. But what’s also concerning, namely for webmasters, is that when website security is compromised it can result in hefty penalties, which can significantly set back search engine rankings. In response to this problem, this is what Google wants you to know.

Top Ways Websites Get Hacked by Spammers

While specific malware and hacking spam varies, there is some consistency in how websites are typically hacked. They are:

  1. Compromised Passwords: Hackers have different techniques for guessing passwords until they guess correctly, like trying common passwords or rapidly testing random combinations of letters and numbers. Google recommends creating a strong password, never reusing passwords across services, and taking advantage of two-factor authentication (2FA) to make it as difficult as possible for hackers to compromise passwords.
  2. Missing Security Updates: Put simply, old software has vulnerabilities that new software doesn’t, so webmasters should periodically check for and run updates on their web server software, content management system, and any plugins or add-ons your website uses.
  3. Insecure Themes & Plugins: While themes and plugins can enhance the functionality of a website, they’re not always maintained by their developers. If a theme or plugin is in use but isn’t actively maintained, it opens a door for hackers to add malicious code. Check to see that your themes and plugins are secure, and if you remove a plugin, make sure you remove all files completely from the server as opposed to just disabling it.
  4. Social Engineering: This method is about exploiting human nature to bypass sophisticated security infrastructure. Phishing is a common example of this; an attacker will send an email posing as a legitimate organization and request security information. Websites that are managed by multiple people are more susceptible to this kind of attack, so Google recommends security training to educate webmasters on basic phishing protection tips.
  5. Security Policy Holes: General security weak spots can put an entire website at risk. If you’re a website administrator, try to avoid: allowing users to create weak passwords; giving administrative access to users who don’t require it; not enabling HTTPS on your site; allowing file uploads from unauthenticated users, or with no type checking.
  6. Data Leaks: This happens when confidential data is uploaded and a misconfiguration makes it publicly available. You can avoid this by periodically checking and restricting confidential data to trusted entities through security policies.

Clean Up Guides

A lot of websites share similar issues when affected by known hacks. To help fix the problem, Google created clean up guides for sites affected by those known hacks. The hacks are:

  • Gibberish Hack: The gibberish hack automatically creates many pages with nonsensical sentences filled with keywords on the target site. Hackers do this so the hacked pages show up in Google Search. Then, when people try to visit these pages, they’ll be redirected to an unrelated page, like a porn site. View the guide for fixing this here.
  • Japanese Keywords Hack: The Japanese keywords hack typically creates new pages with Japanese text on the target site in randomly generated directory names. These pages are monetized using affiliate links to stores selling fake brand merchandise and then shown in Google Search. Sometimes the accounts of the hackers get added in Search Console as site owners. View the guide for fixing the Japanese Keywords Hack here.
  • Cloaked Keywords Hack: The cloaked keywords and link hack automatically creates many pages with nonsensical sentences, links, and images. These pages sometimes contain basic template elements from the original site, so at first glance the pages might look like normal parts of the target site until you read the content. In this type of attack, hackers usually use cloaking techniques to hide the malicious content and make the injected page appear as part of the original site or a 404 error page. Learn how to fix this type of hack here.


Despite the damaging effects that hacking can have on a website, webmasters do have an avenue for recovery. If a website has been penalized for problems resulting from hacking, webmasters can apply for reconsideration and potentially remedy the consequences. According to Google, 84% of webmasters who apply are successful in cleaning up their sites, so there’s no reason a hacking incident has to tank your site forever.


What’s important to remember is that prevention is easier than correction. Taking the extra steps necessary to protect your website can and will ultimately save you the hassle and the headache of having to deal with a breach in security later and dip in rankings later on.

To practice adequate prevention methods, all webmasters should be registered for Google Search Console. Google found that 61% of webmasters who were hacked never received a notification from Google that their site was infected because their sites weren’t verified in Search Console. If your website is being attacked or experiencing issues from hacking and/or spamming, Search Console is the first place you’ll be notified about it. If your website isn’t registered and verified in Search Console not only will you not receive that notification, but your website will continue to suffer and be penalized.

In addition to Google Search Console, there are steps you can take to secure your content management system. The majority of websites are powered by WordPress, Joomla, Magento, or Drupal, all of which have their own security recommendations and resources specific to their system. If your website is powered by one of these, you can learn more about the best practices for securing your CMS and keep your site protected from hackers.

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Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Price, Performance, and People: How to Choose the Right SEO Agency

choose Price, Performance, and People: How to Choose the Right SEO Agency

When it comes to choosing an SEO agency to entrust with your website and/or online strategy, it can be difficult to know if you’re choosing the right company. Scams are everywhere, and it’s already hard to get past the no-guarantees nature of SEO services when hard-earned money is on the line and you can’t be sure of a long-term payoff. Plus, prices vary so much from agency to agency, so how do you know if one is ripping you off or another is too good be true?

While the right SEO agency for a business will depend on the specific needs of a brand, there are some steps that make the process easier. But first, there are a couple of important things to understand:

Not all SEOs do the same thing.

Part of price variation from agency to agency is due to the fact that not all SEOs do the same thing. One agency might specialize in PPC while another strictly focuses on organic search. One agency might cater specifically to franchise businesses while another focuses on smaller, local businesses. An SEOs price range is something that’s been developed to reflect the depth and scale of service they offer, and in most cases, they’re happy to address a potential client’s monetary concerns and explain the logic behind their pricing.

The work you do beforehand can save you time, energy, and sometimes money.

The worst SEOs want you to approach them with as a blank slate, and the best SEOs want you to come ready to explain the what and why behind your goals. When you approach SEO service providers with general and shallow goals, such as climbing rank or increasing traffic, it shows that you haven’t considered what it is you’re really trying to achieve and, more importantly, why you’re trying to achieve it. This makes you vulnerable to shady SEO service providers because it allows them to dictate your goals in a way that makes you an easy profit. That’s why doing your homework beforehand can help protect you from not so great SEOs and prepare you for the right SEO agency for your business.

Bearing these two things in mind, here’s some of the best advice on how to choose the right SEO company for your business.

  • Know your goals: As I said before, the work you do before ever approaching SEOs can save you time, energy, and money. Before approaching an SEO agency, you need to know why SEO is the next step for your business and the specific goals you want to achieve by using it. Is it to boost your number of subscribers? To drive high-converting traffic? To rank for keywords that will bring you more of the traffic that converts? Before you approach an SEO company, spend some time identifying why your business needs this, and make sure your goals state what you want and why you want it.
  • Know your criteria: Again, don’t go into the process of choosing an SEO agency blindly. Before approaching them, determine your criteria, including your budget, range of services, contract duration, location, and any other factors that you see as necessities or deal-breakers in choosing the right SEO agency for your business. This will give you categories to compare and narrow down the list of SEOs, ultimately saving you time and ensuring you find the best possible SEO.
  • Prepare your questions: Once you narrow down your list of the top SEOs you’re considering for your business, put together a list of questions that will help you get a feel for how the SEOs carry out their services and manage their client accounts. In your questions, be sure to ask what processes they would use to achieve your goals, and why. Ask how they execute those processes, and always ask what their process for keeping clients informed and updated is, as well as how often you as a client can expect to hear from them or receive a status report. It can also help to ask for a case study or example of a business similar to yours that they were able to help be successful. The best SEOs will be helpful and eager to answer your questions, so be mindful of how the conversations go when you’re asking to make sure it’s the best fit for your business.

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Monday, 24 April 2017

Get it While It’s Hot: Voice Search is the Next Big Thing

voice Get it While It's Hot: Voice Search is the Next Big Thing

There was a time not too long ago when talking and giving commands to a computer was the stuff of futuristic Sci-Fi movies. But as the rapid development of voice search has taken over, we’ve become totally comfortable and more inclined than ever to speak out loud to our computer friends, like Siri and Alexa.

In a speech given at SMX West back in March, Google Zurich’s Principal Engineer, Behshad Behzadi, said that voice search is currently the fastest growing type of search. If you consider trends and reports of user behavior, that’s not all that hard to believe:

  • 55% of teens and 41% of adults use voice search on a daily basis.
  • Shifts in user behavior have taken strides to become increasingly hands-free.
  • Google says 20% of queries on its mobile app and on Android devices are voice searches.

Voice searches are primarily conducted on mobile devices, and mobile searches have been taking over desktop searches, so all of this makes sense.  But what does the rising popularity of voice search mean for your online marketing strategy? How will this affect SEO? What are the bigger implications regarding online user behavior?

Like any ‘new’ online development, voice search has sparked a lot of questions and conversations about the role it will play in the future of search. To help familiarize yourself with these voice search happenings, here’s what you need to know.

Natural language is here to stay.

When people use voice search, they’re mostly likely to use natural language. Because voice search is done by speaking out loud, users are going to speak in a conversational manner, asking complete questions and using complete phrases. Rather than just saying “pizza restaurants San Diego” like they would if they were typing, users would more likely say, “find pizza restaurants near me.” And rather than saying “weekend forecast,” people are more likely to say what they actually want to know, like, “will it be warm enough to wear shorts this weekend?”

Voice search technology has deliberately encouraged the use of natural language because they want using it to be just that: natural. Easy. As simple and efficient as asking someone a quick question. By personalizing this technology by naming them (Siri, Alexa, Cortana, etc.), they take on something of an identity. By having to say “Hey Google” to make a command or search, users are already starting off with the same conversational greeting they’d use naturally when speaking to a friend.  This leads me to my next point:

Long tail keywords and phrases are more important than ever.

The prevalence of natural language in voice search means short tail keywords won’t be as relevant for queries. In fact, the prevalence of natural language in voice search more likely than not means that we’ll see a lot of future development around conversational search queries.

While it’s unlikely that short tail keywords will ever leave the picture completely, the conversational nature that search is shifting towards requires some adaptation in how we bridge the gap between what people are searching for and what online marketers are trying to rank for. Marketers will need to spend more time investigating the specific questions their target is most likely to ask when searching things relevant to their businesses.

Local optimization is a must.

Many users conduct voice searches when they’re in need of immediate information. For example, let’s say you’re out running errands and need to know where you can buy something specific. You’d most likely be driving and would do a quick voice search to quickly get directions or find what you’re looking for.

For that reason, businesses absolutely have to account for local optimization in their strategy. Ensuring your business information is updated with current information (address, hours, contact info, etc.) and is easy to find in local listings will help you with local optimization as much as it will for voice optimization. That’s because…

Mobile optimization goes hand-in-hand with voice search optimization.

This directly relates to mobile users. Well over 50% of consumers who conducted a mobile search ended up in a store and making a purchase within one day. Since voice search is a primarily mobile feature, it’s safe to assume that it’s often used for mobile purposes. For quite some time now we’ve said that marketers can’t and shouldn’t avoid mobile optimization if they expect to have an overall successful online strategy. Similarly, marketers must start considering how voice search will affect their business and industry as a whole, and how they can prepare their optimization strategy for that.

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Friday, 21 April 2017

How to Find Out If Your Competitors Have a Better UX Than You

UXcompetitionstock How to Find Out If Your Competitors Have a Better UX Than You

As I’ve said before, one of the most important factors of a strong online presence is user experience (UX). UX is very much about the nuts and bolts of how your website looks and functions and how efficiently users are able to interact with your website has everything to do with how well they convert. That’s why UX creates an important added layer of competition between you and your competitors that you should definitely pay attention to.

UX is already critical for how your website performs on search engines because all of Google’s efforts are driven by the goal of providing users with the best search results possible-including UX. Your competitors also know this and are accounting for UX in their strategy, so what happens if theirs is better than yours? The slightest leg up your competitors have in UX could be all it takes for a customer to choose your competition over you. Think about it: if one website requires a user to fill out 10 form fields and another only requires 5, which will the user gravitate to? If your website is slow loading and your competition has a virtually instant page loading speed, which will users gravitate to?

These sessions add up to dollars, cents, and engagements you’re losing to competitors. You might think your UX is great, but the UX of your competitors might be superior and therefore holding you back. Fortunately, there’s something you can do. The best way to find out how your website stacks up against your competitors is to complete a competitive analysis of their UX.

What is a UX competitor analysis?

A competitor analysis is exactly what it sounds like-an analysis of your competitors. As it applies to UX, a competitor analysis is simply the process of taking a closer look at the UX factors of your competition and comparing it to your own. It can help you identify weak spots and areas your competitors may be out-performing you so that you can make a plan for enhanced strategy and overall UX improvement.

A Simple, DIY Competitive Analysis for UX

Completing your own UX competitor analysis doesn’t have to be that difficult because even a topical investigation can reveal useful information about how you’re performing in comparison to your competition. Here are a few steps to break down the process:

  1. Choose Criteria

First and foremost, decide what you want the criteria to be for analyzing the UX of your competitors. Since this applies to online presence, you’ll want to include the general components of UX, including aesthetics/layout/website design, social media buttons, page speed, displayed security seals, etc.

There may also be other things that apply specifically to you and your competitors, like content quality, the number of blog posts, average number of internal links in articles, displayed reviews, obvious prompts for users to enter the conversion funnel, or clearly displayed contact information. Depending on your industry, you may need to include criteria that relate to products or services you and competitors offer. Be sure to include any and all factors that contribute to UX so you can be as thorough as possible in your analysis.

  1. Make a Chart

The easiest way to organize the information from your competitor analysis is to make a chart. Along the top, you can list the name and URL of your website and your competitors’ websites. Then you can list the criteria you choose to analyze along the left side so all you have to do is fill it in as you go.

You’ll want to come up with a grading scale that helps you score the factors of UX. Maybe an ‘X’ can mean the competitor doesn’t satisfy the specific criterion, while a check mark means they do. It also helps to include a space for notes and observations about things that were done particularly well by a competitor or things you want to implement on your own website.

  1. Fill it Out

Once you put together your chart and criteria for a UX competitor analysis, it’s time to start filling it out. Work through each competitor slowly, paying attention to details. Ask yourself questions like, what makes users want to stay on this page? If I were my potential customer, what would this website have that I don’t? Is there something that is glitchy or flawed on the website? Is the website easy to navigate? Does it naturally prompt me to an action that would result in a conversion?

One tool that would be helpful in conducting your UX competitor analysis is SimilarWeb. It gives you an overview report of how your website compares to competitors within your industry and includes data on things like page speed, average visit duration, bounce rate, traffic, and more.

Considering UX Tools & Services

In completing your competitive analysis, it may prove beneficial to have an unbiased opinion conducting the review of your site as well as the sites of your competitors. Since you’re familiar with your own website and perhaps even your competitors’ websites, you won’t have the same reaction or experience that a new user or potential customer would have. The goal is to have as much honest and useful information about the UX your competitors provide, and sometimes the best way to achieve that goal is by using external tools and resources.

Two great tools to use in conducting your UX Competitive Analysis are:

  1. UserTesting: Many big name companies with awesome UX use this tool, including Facebook, Airbnb, and Apple. By using it, you’ll get videos of users from your target market using your website (or app) and can run tests to see how well people react to it.
  2. UsabillaLike UserTesting, Usabilla works to give brands real user feedback about their websites, emails, and apps. It allows users to give feedback on your websites anytime, anywhere, and deliver key insights report full of the data you need to improve your UX.

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Wednesday, 19 April 2017

10 Tools Every Digital Agency Needs To Do Their Job

tools 10 Tools Every Digital Agency Needs To Do Their Job

SEO agencies do a lot of work for businesses, and whether it’s PPC, SEO, or content strategy, there are tools that help us get the job done every step of the way. Having a solid toolkit not only makes the services that SEO agencies provide possible, but it also makes long-term management and progress tracking easier. All of this eventually comes back to ensure that clients we serve are happy and getting the best results possible.

To keep our clients satisfied and our services top notch, these are the tools we and many other SEO agencies often turn to.

  1. Ahrefs

ahrefs 10 Tools Every Digital Agency Needs To Do Their Job

Ahrefs has a range of tools that facilitate competitive analysis, keyword research, backlink research, content research, rank tracking, and web monitoring. They regularly add new tools and features that keep their products as relevant and top-of-the-line as possible. Ahrefs is used by all the leading experts in marketing and SEO for its efficiency, data quality, and usability-all of which make it a must-have tool for SEO agencies.

  1. Asana

ahrefs 10 Tools Every Digital Agency Needs To Do Their Job

For team collaboration and project management, Asana is a really popular tool.  SEO agencies have to stay organized internally and keep the moving pieces of their work flow and projects all in one place, and Asana offers solutions for that. Through their Workflow and Team Solutions, agencies can report, track, organize, and manage every aspect of their client projects. Plus, Asana has integrations, apps, and social uses.

  1. BuzzSumo

ahrefs 10 Tools Every Digital Agency Needs To Do Their Job

For researching and developing content strategy many people use BuzzSumo. You can search any topic or domain and refine the search results through filters like content type, country, language, or date. The search results will show you the most popular content for your search including the number of engagements each search result has had across different platforms, the number of backlinks, the author, and more. This tool is great for getting inspiration or a better understanding of your content strategy.

  1. CoSchedule

ahrefs 10 Tools Every Digital Agency Needs To Do Their Job

Blog management and content production can create a lot of floating pieces in a project, which is exactly why having an editorial calendar helps keep things organized. CoSchedule is a popular tool for editorial management because it condenses all puts all of your tasks, content, social sharing, analytics, and ideas into one clean, user-friendly interface. Like Asana, CoSchedule has features for teamwork, personal workflow, marketing management, and more.

  1. DeepCrawl

ahrefs 10 Tools Every Digital Agency Needs To Do Their Job

There’s a reason DeepCrawl is used by giants like Home Depot, Uber, and Staples. With DeepCrawl, SEO agencies are able to manage the more technical aspects of their services. They can use it to test website changes against live sites, review canonicalized pages for correct tag implemented, run site audits, identify problems like low quality or thin content, and much more. Overall, DeepCrawl helps its users identify and correct technical SEO issues that search engines look for.

  1. Link Research Tools

ahrefs 10 Tools Every Digital Agency Needs To Do Their Job

This is a suite of valuable research tools used by big names like LinkedIn, MTV, and ebay. It’s great for by the book link building and removing and recovering from Google penalties, as well as recovering lost links after a site migration. Since link building management is such an important and in-demand service for SEO agencies, having a suite of tools that brings together research, recovery, implementation, and management is both impactful and efficient.

  1. Moz Pro

ahrefs 10 Tools Every Digital Agency Needs To Do Their Job

Moz is an industry leader for all things SEO, so it should come as no surprise that SEO agencies reference their tools often. Inside Moz Pro, there are tools that cater specifically to rankings, keyword research, links, site crawling, page optimization, and reporting. All of these tools give detailed, usable information on the metrics that matter most for SEO that comes from Moz’s industry-leading data.

  1. Screaming Frog

ahrefs 10 Tools Every Digital Agency Needs To Do Their Job

There are a number of products and services offered by screaming frog, but most used by SEO agencies is the Screaming Frog SEO Spider. It’s a website crawler that allows you to crawl websites’ URLs to get real-time results. With it, you can find broken links, analyze page titles and meta data, audit redirects, find duplicate content, generate XML sitemaps, and much more.

  1. SEMrush

ahrefs 10 Tools Every Digital Agency Needs To Do Their Job

SEMrush serves as an all-in-one marketing toolkit for SEO professionals. Its features include technical SEO auditing, analytics reports, advertising research, backlink analyzing, keyword research, project management, social media organization, PPC research and management tools, and much more. It really is a one stop shop for SEO tools and covers everything from paid campaigns to content strategy, which is why SEMrush is trusted by hugely successful brands like Amazon and Disney.

  1. WordStream

ahrefs 10 Tools Every Digital Agency Needs To Do Their Job

For PPC, WordStream is recognized by Google as an industry leader with the highest level of experience and proficiency in developing, launching, and managing AdWords campaigns for local merchants and small businesses. With WordStream, agencies can manage their client workload through a streamlined process and in an efficient amount of time.

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Friday, 14 April 2017

Hosting Accounts and SEO: Are they related?

hv-blog-security-news Hosting Accounts and SEO: Are they related?

Web hosting can impact a number of important factors related to a website’s online performance, which is why the health of any website is so intimately related to hosting. With so many important website factors on the line, many users can’t help but wonder if web hosting can have an effect on SEO, and the answer is yes, it can. Web hosting might not always have an effect on SEO, but the potential certainly exists.

While it’s not so much that search engines show preference to certain web hosts over others, there can be negative, SEO-related consequences for poor hosting. This is mostly because a lousy web host can hinder certain website functions that factor in to a website’s overall SEO performance. By and large, the relationship between a website’s SEO and web host boils down to these four main things.

  1. Location

The correlation between the location of a web host and the SEO of a site is a loose one at best, but one that exists nonetheless. If you have a website in the US and are trying to rank on Google US, it might hold you back to have a web host that’s in the UK. For web hosting, the closer users are to the server’s datacenter, the better and more quickly the server can respond. For that reason, proximity can make a big difference on the ability of the server to respond to user commands. This segues nicely into the next factor, which is speed.

  1. Speed

There’s a strong relationship between site speed and organic rankings, and by now we know that speed is accounted for in search engine algorithms. The location of your web host is related to speed due to the aforementioned issue of user proximity to the server’s datacenter: the closer the users are, such as in the same country, the faster the server response time will be. But another component of web hosting and speed is how many sites are using the server’s resources. In general, cheap web hosting options will plop your site on a server with hundreds of other sites. That’s not always a bad thing, but if your website gets a lot of traffic or has a complex design, it’s probably not your best option.

  1. Uptime/Downtime

Also known as accessibility, uptime/downtime refers to the how consistently available your website is, and that all comes back to the servers. It’s safe to assume that search engine spiders probably crawl your site a couple times each day. If your website is down because your web hosting server is down the spiders won’t be able to crawl the site, which is bad for SEO. Most reputable and prominent web hosting companies boast an uptime of 99-99.9%. Whether or not that figure is entirely accurate leaves some room for debate, but for the most part it’s pretty reliable. Top tier web hosts will have protection and guarantees of support built in to their terms of service, which is something all website owners should investigate thoroughly.

  1. Security

Few things as detrimental as hacking can happen to a website, which makes having a secure web host imperative. If a website gets hacked and something awful happens, liked customer information theft or a flux of spam, it can and will significantly hurt the SEO of that website. Even more problematic, it can be very difficult to recover lost ground in rankings after a website has been hacked. The best web hosts will have a secure datacenter, boast a high uptime, backup website data in case of emergencies, and even offer a manual reboot in the event of a security breach.

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Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Your Business Should Use Facebook Lookalike Audiences – This is Why

hv-blog-ppc-ecommerce Your Business Should Use Facebook Lookalike Audiences - This is Why

Facebook is undeniably one of the most powerful marketing channels out there, and with good reason. The platform has a massive base of 1.79 billion active users, 40 million business pages, and the highest ROI of all social media platforms (source: eMarketer). And, as far as social-marketing-content-etc. platforms go, it’s incredibly user friendly. For marketers especially, Facebook is an invaluable tool that provides a meeting ground for the intersection of the social, e-commerce, and content-driven demands of users across multiple generations.

Facebook has long offered different features that aid marketers in their efforts to connect with users, like Facebook Live Video and Facebook Advertising. But one feature in particular has risen as a favorite among marketers, even being hailed as the most effective Facebook targeting tool by the Social Media Examiner. Which tool is it? Facebook Lookalike Audiences.

What are Facebook Lookalike Audiences?

This tool is a way to reach new people who are likely to be interested in your business because they’re similar to other people who already are. First, the tool takes several sets of people as ‘seeds.’ Then, Facebook builds an audience comprised of similar people.

The tool goes beyond the general demographic and interests targeting you’d expect to see so that you can have as accurate of a Lookalike audience as possible. This is done by allowing marketers to choose a source (a conversion tracking pixel, a custom audience, a page, etc.) around which the audience will be built. In choosing the source, marketers are more likely to end up with Lookalike audiences that are nearly identical to their existing audiences.

So, in short, you’ll specify the people (source) in your custom audience, and Facebook will go through that list and find other users with the most shared similarities. The people Facebook finds with the most shared similarities will then make up the new Lookalike audience.

Why Businesses/Marketers use Facebook Lookalike Audiences?

The best way to explain the main appeal behind using Facebook Lookalike audiences is to review what’s already been done. Up to this point on Facebook, one of if not the most impactful and effective methods of marketing/advertising has been retargeting. When a user abandons a pair of shoes in a shopping cart on one website and later sees that same pair of shoes appear in an ad as they browse Facebook, it works. Retargeting works just as well for current customers as it does potential customers.

Facebook Lookalike Audiences goes one step beyond what retargeting already does, because it generates a completely new audience full of eyeballs that have yet to be exposed to your brand. While such a feature may not seem totally necessary just yet, it will prove tremendously beneficial once marketers have exhausted their existing audiences and users stop responding to retargeting efforts.

Rather than start from scratch and try and create interested customers out of thin air, Facebook Lookalike Audiences will find users with interests and habits so similar to your existing customers that they’re more likely than not to take an interest in your business.

The evolution of targeting and advertising on Facebook continues to develop at a speed that’s consistent with the rate at which marketers are cranking out campaigns and burning through their audience. Much like features that came before it, Facebook Lookalike Audiences pushes the performance of Facebook marketing into more effective territory, giving users a more enhanced and evolved experience on the platform.

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Monday, 10 April 2017

Top Ted Talks about Digital Marketing Not to Miss

ted Top Ted Talks about Digital Marketing Not to Miss

Entrepreneurs are always discussing their favorite Ted Talks or crediting their favorite Ted Talks to an aspect of their success, so why can’t online marketers do the same? While online marketing may not seem like the kind of industry where you would find an inspiring story or be able to make entertaining enough for a Ted Talk, those videos are out there; and they’re great. Digital and online marketing is full of cool and complex ideas, but if the industry is getting tiresome for you then a Ted Talk is probably just what you need to reignite that excitement in your field and learn something new.

5 Ted Talks about Online and Digital Marketing

We’ve covered three popular Ted Talks here in a past article (which I highly recommend checking out), but below are a few more Ted Talks and a more detailed description of why and how you can make them beneficial for your online marketing experiences.

Derek Sivers: How to Start a Movement

This is a Ted Talk you see on a lot of lists when researching this topic, but it’s one of our favorites. It’s less than 4 minutes long so it’s easy to watch; yet it manages to go into detail about the importance of creating a community and how to make it happen. In the video Sivers uses an example of someone dancing alone at a festival (so yes, this isn’t a digital marketing example), and then goes into the importance of that second follower to create momentum. It was risky, but it was public, and ultimately a movement and community was created at that festival. The same can occur online with your own community.

Johanna Blakley: Social Media and the End of Gender

This Ted Talk isn’t quite as popular as the last one and may not seem overly important for online marketers just by the title, but it makes some incredibly important points. For example, it’s important that online marketers change the demographics they may have been focusing on before (and not just gender) because social media will change our stereotypes and more and more people begin to research online. Social media is all about making connections, so who you make connections with will change when using social media. It’s not something too many marketers focus on when thinking about posting on social media, so this talk could change the way you publish on your accounts.

Renny Gleeson: 404, The Story of a Page Not Found

This is a talk that focuses heavily on online marketing ideas as opposed to using metaphors or talking about something in a general sense. Gleeson is a former game designer so he has some interesting insight on 404 pages and keeps things pretty hilarious throughout. This is a great talk not only because Gleeson does such an entertaining job and it’s only 4 minutes long so it’s easy to watch, but he focuses on a topic that so many brush aside and don’t take seriously. Extra: Also visit this article to learn about how to make your 404 pages more interesting if users ever do encounter one on your site.

David Carson: Design and Discovery

Even if you’re an online marketer and not a designer, many of the lessons that Carson teaches in this talk will apply (and will still apply even though the talk is from 2003!). Design is connected to online marketing if you focus on how to communicate ideas, understand your audience, and worry about navigation. Designs need to be unique and get your message across in a clear way and not just a way that looks clear to you. It’s all about creating that communication in design despite all of the ways that design and technology is changing and evolving. If you’re looking to create a more personal touch with your brand, this is the Ted Talk for you.

Chris Anderson: How Web Video Powers Global Innovation

This is another older Ted Talk (2010) by the then head of YouTube that talks about online video and the importance of “crowd accelerated innovation.” What this means is that video is actually going to launch an entirely new cycle of people innovating and then sharing their talents through video, or “a self-fueling cycle of learning that could be as significant as the invention of print,” which makes sharing ideas in this format crucial for small businesses. He discusses how you can take advantage and embrace this inevitable change.

Of course there are many more great Ted Talks out there that apply to online marketers (Seth Godin and Malcom Gladwell being two of the most popular). Check out this article to learn about these and a few more great videos, and then let us know your favorite talks in the comment section below.

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Friday, 7 April 2017

7 Best Affiliate Marketing Promotional Methods

Affiliate-Marketing 7 Best Affiliate Marketing Promotional MethodsAffiliate marketing is a well-known and relatively easy concept – a marketing practice in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each customer brought about by the affiliate’s own marketing efforts. While the theory of affiliate marketing is simple, it’s not an easy task to market affiliate products successfully. Most affiliate marketers typically only earn a few dollars of supplemental income a month; however the more experienced marketers earn well over six figures a month.

To become one of the top affiliate marketers making that much money you’re going to have to decide how you are going to promote your affiliate product. To be successful, you need to refer customers to the affiliate website. To do this you need to select a way to promote them. There are number of ways to promote a product. Some are totally free and others might be somewhat costly. Here is a list of the 7 best affiliate marketing promotional methods:

PPC – The most popular fashion of promoting affiliate products. With PPC you bid on relevant keywords related to the product you are trying to market. PPC is not as easy as just writing an ad with a few choice keywords and leaving it at that – this will not get you any sales. To really excel at PPC you must be fairly familiar with how AdWords works and most importantly you must track everything to determine what keywords are generating conversions for you and what aren’t.

SEO – Another popular method of promoting affiliate products but also the most difficult is Search Engine Optimization. SEO is the process of improving the visibility of a website or a web page in search engines via the “natural” or un-paid (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results. SEO doesn’t bring results instantly but it can be extremely rewarding in the long run.

Coupon – The recession has seen the way that customers shop online change. Savvy shoppers know there is often a discount to be had by shopping online and will conduct searches geared towards finding these discounts. With that being said there are many coupon type websites that promote affiliate products. This is by far the fastest gainer in terms of popularity and success for affiliates.

Incentive/Loyalty – As mentioned before with the change in how consumers shop online. Incentive and Loyalty websites have popped up where they share a portion of their affiliate earnings with users in the form of a reward, such as miles, points, cash, donations to a charity, or merchandise.

Email – This is the best way to stay in touch with people. Even just a monthly newsletter is a good internet marketing promotion.

Social Media – Social media is the hottest sector on the Internet right now and only getting bigger and more powerful. This means, as an affiliate, you need to be actively using social media sites to promote yourself and your websites/blogs. Here are some practical ideas for using Social Media to enhance your affiliate marketing efforts.

Website/Content – Affiliates who develop and publish content (such as news, information, reviews, or some other area of interest) to a destination website.

What affiliate marketing promotional methods have you seen or what has worked the best for you? Every vertical and every site is different so the methods could change depending on what you market. It all comes down to making sure the traffic you generate is targeted enough to make the sale!

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Wednesday, 5 April 2017

How to Optimize Your Amazon Product Listings (2017+ Edition)

amazon_logo How to Optimize Your Amazon Product Listings (2017+ Edition)

Editor’s Note: This post originally published in August 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Amazon is a search engine just like any other, so it’s important that you think about optimization and how optimization best practices may have changed each year. If you’ve never worried about optimizing your products for Amazon you don’t have far to go, but now is a great time to start creating a strategy. Google should be your first priority, but for e-commerce companies or companies that focus on selling a product, Amazon is probably a close second.

Fortunately, optimizing for Amazon isn’t so hard once you understand optimization in general, and once you put a strategy in place you can be pretty set to go—the Amazon algorithm doesn’t change nearly as much as the Google algorithm.

Tips and Tricks to Ranking Well on Amazon

Before jumping into optimization tips, it’s important to really stress that Amazon is different than Google in a few fundamental ways. You’ll notice that many of the tips below are very similar, but understanding how Amazon is different than what you might be used to is crucial. According to a Moz article, there are four major differences between Amazon and Google:

  • Conversion vs. user satisfaction. Google was built to sell ads; Amazon was built to sell products. This means Amazon finds success by measuring revenue or gross margin per search as opposed to Google’s success metrics like CTR or time spent on a page.
  • Structured vs. unstructured data. Amazon’s index is completely structured, meaning you need to give them exactly what they want in their specific format. Google is a little bit more lenient (although this is slowly changing in 2015).
  • On-page vs. on-page and off-page. Amazon is really all about on-page optimization. Building links off-page will not affect your rankings the way it will for Google.
  • Compelling vs. unique content. Most of your traffic will come from someone who is already searching on Amazon, and Amazon doesn’t care about unique content nearly as much. If you have the same titles and bullet points as another listing, no problem.

Once you understand a few of these fundamental differences you can start your optimization process. This will involve both optimizing your actual Amazon product page as well as using some of their features to drive traffic to that page. Below explains the process:


Optimizing Your Page

Follow the Image Guidelines and Upload a Good Amount


You always want to make sure you have more than one image (5-6 is usually a good rule of thumb) so that visitors can get a feel for your product from all different angles. It’s also important that you follow all of Amazon’s Product Image Requirements.

You’ll notice there are a quite a few on the official page that talk about specific industries and their standards, but the basics include using a professional photograph (no drawings), the product and props should fill 85% or more of the image frame, no watermarks, and image pixel dimensions of at least 1000 or larger in either the height or width is preferred.

To really enhance your product images, check out these ideas:

  • Show the product being used
  • Have a picture of the product packaging
  • Include photos that show the size of the product
  • Show the product from multiple angles

The images you provide for a product listing are often the make or break factor for many users. Pretend the images you use are the only way you get to communicate with users, and try to make them powerful enough on their own to inspire a purchase.

Focus on Your Product Title

Just as with Google title tags are very important, but instead of 60 characters you get 500 with Amazon. Also unlike Google, the longer and more detailed the title, the better. With Amazon it doesn’t have to be compelling or grab a viewer’s attention; it just has to give off enough information for someone to make a purchasing decision. For this reason, using all of the 500-character limit is encouraged. If you look around Amazon, you’ll notice that the products with long, keyword-rich titles outrank those that are simple and clean. Below is an example that shows just that:

title How to Optimize Your Amazon Product Listings (2017+ Edition)


It can be hard to get used to this after coming from optimization for Google, but it’s an important step. According to an Amazon help page, you should follow a formula to help create your titles. For example, the style for many products may be:

Brand + Model Number + Model Name + Product Type, Color

One example of using this formula for a title would be:

KitchenAid KSM150PSER Artisan 5-Quart Mixer, Empire Red.

Again it’s not the prettiest title and it’s very different than something you would use on Google, but this is how it works on Amazon! You only have to have your keyword appear once in your title (that’s right, keywords in your description are less important), so again, that’s why you see some of the companies above using several different keywords all in one title.

Use Bullet-Point Content Form and Focus on a Description

You often see bullet points for a product on Amazon under the title. This is a great place to add keywords and really show what you’re all about. It’s close to you images and actually appears above the title, so make sure you don’t skip this step. Below shows an example of what the bullet points look like:

title How to Optimize Your Amazon Product Listings (2017+ Edition)

Because the bullet point feature is so prominent, sometimes companies get confused about the description and forget to add it altogether (it’s not required after all!). The description still appears it just appears further down on your page. This doesn’t mean that it’s not as important, it’s just not as important as the bullet point section. I would still add in a description, not worry too much about keywords, and make it detailed but short and sweet all at the same time. Below shows where the description shows up:

title How to Optimize Your Amazon Product Listings (2017+ Edition)


Actively Work to Increase Your Amazon Reviews

Although it has never officially been said that reviews have anything to do with rankings and with the Amazon algorithm, they’re very important if you want to make a sale so it’s worth mentioning. Reviews fuel product ratings and give your Amazon listings credibility with future buyers, which is a really important part of your growth and optimization plan. You can try and improve your review count the same way you would on Yelp or Google—create an outreach campaign, utilize social media, talk with your loyal customers, etc.—or provide a product for free if someone leaves an unbiased review.

Driving Traffic to Your Page

Use the Sponsored Products Feature

This is an Amazon PPC ad option that allows you to create ads on Amazon that will show up next to search results for the keywords you specify. All you have to do to get started here is select your keywords and your products and then set bids for how much you want to spend. This will help improve your sales rank, which will hopefully improve your organic listings. You can get started create these ads here. Below is what a Sponsored Product ad looks like:

title How to Optimize Your Amazon Product Listings (2017+ Edition)


Fill Out all of the Relevant Categories

You may have heard the term “Browse Tree Guide” from a number of different sources. This refers to Amazon’s category and sub-category structure. When someone searches for a product on the homepage they are taken to a list of results, but once they click those results then anything they do from that point forward will be within a certain category (Amazon takes care of all of the so the shopper usually has no idea). If you’re not categorized correctly and are not in that category, you’re out of luck. You are prompted to select categories when managing your page, so choose wisely! At the very least, just choose something.

List an ASIN in Your Product Field

This was something that Search Engine Journal mentioned here that can help drive traffic to your page even if you’re not ranking. What you want to be able to do is get your product listed on a product page that is ranking. This is an excellent option if you can compete for price with an almost identical product. Below is a screenshot of what this means:

title How to Optimize Your Amazon Product Listings (2017+ Edition)

To make this happen, you have to change your product fields by listing an ASIN (what Amazon listings are called). You can find the ASIN by looking at the URL. For example:

In the above URL, B011ZLWHOE is the ASIN. Add that ASIN to your product fields, change the brand in your product fields to the brand on the listing, make sure you have a lower price than the product you’re competing with, and you’re done! Visit the link above for more detailed information.

Product Listing Grader

To test how you’re doing in all of the aforementioned optimization categories, you can check your product listings using Jungle Scout’s Product Listing Grader:

title How to Optimize Your Amazon Product Listings (2017+ Edition)

The tool is completely free and will give you a breakdown of how each part of your product listing is performing, so you can identify and address weak spots.

Extra Tip: Avoid Duplicate Content

It may sound obvious, but you have to make sure you remember that all of your product pages on Amazon must use different content than you’re using on your own e-commerce website. Because they are two different search engines a common mistake businesses make is using the same content, the most common example being the description, but this can actually still cause duplicate content issues.


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Monday, 3 April 2017

5 Underrated Instagram SEO and Optimization Secrets for Businesses

instagram 5 Underrated Instagram SEO and Optimization Secrets for Businesses

Editor’s Note: This post originally published in February 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Instagram is a social network continually growing in popularity, so even companies that don’t have photo-driven initiatives and flashy products are getting involved. For many, this obviously means that creativity needs to be at an all-time high, but a strategy can happen and it can help you reach your goals faster. I recommend checking out this article to learn more about creating an Instagram business presence in general before really jumping into the SEO aspects of your strategy. However, once you have a smooth process for Instagram and you think you’ve finally done all you can do for your Instagram business account, the following 5 tips will help take you to the next level.

  1. Do Keyword Research on Hashtags

This idea brings more traditional SEO techniques onto the network. While Instagram may not seem like a search engine, it does still have a search function, and the most popular search is actually hashtags, or what you can think of as keywords with ‘#’ in front. You want to utilize the hashtags that are getting the most search volume and that are relevant to your photos for maximum exposure. The cool thing about hashtags, as opposed to keywords, is that you can add as many hashtags as you want right at the end of your post. No need to naturally squeeze them in or worry about keyword stuffing—simply listing the hashtags at the end of your post is totally acceptable.

So how many hashtags should you use and how do you know which ones to use? Unlike the Keyword Planner you have for Google, you won’t have one for Instagram. It is therefore up to you to determine which hashtags are relevant, but not over-used. You can do this by searching for your ideas and seeing who is using the hashtag you’re considering. You can also check out the top 100 hashtags on Instagram through Websta to get some ideas and see what people are using most often. Below is a screenshot of what Websta looks like:

Websta 5 Underrated Instagram SEO and Optimization Secrets for Businesses

The cool thing about Websta is you can filter by location. This means that you can see what people in your area are hashtagging, which is crucial if your business thrives on local marketing.

Also keep in mind that you can attempt to create your own, unique hashtag, but it’s usually big brands that see success with this. Still, if you run a contest for example and you ask people to use a specific hashtag to win, you could start carving out your own hashtag to get going in the future, which brings us to our next point.

  1. Hold Contests for Prizes

This is a common social media tactic so it may be something you’ve already tried, but it’s worth mentioning again because some companies are not offering prizes on Instagram. Remember that prizes will go a long way on social media, so spend some money here and get those contests going. According to Neil Patel, he leveraged his giveaways to get more followers and “a single giveaway could score [him] a few thousand extra followers.”

There are of course a variety of ways to create a contest for social media, so when it comes to Instagram just remember why users like the app in the first place. Put a focus on images and hashtags to get the most engagement. For example, ask your customers to show off their photos of something similar using a hashtag you created. The best picture wins. Below is a great example from Travel Country:

Websta 5 Underrated Instagram SEO and Optimization Secrets for Businesses

  1. Partner with a Nonprofit or Charity

People like to support companies that are doing something for the community. Even if your business isn’t helping directly, you can help indirectly by giving some of your profits away to a nonprofit that is related to your industry, you could fundraise for a cause you care about, send employees on community service trips, and more. This is great for your business and your website in general, but it’s especially helpful on Instagram because images can be so powerful.

Wordstream offered a great example in their article about the lunch spot SweetGreen partnering with the non-profit FoodCorps. Both SweetGreen and FoodCorps focus on health, so SweetGreen was able to create a partnership and use that to their advantage to get people engaged. Each business’s followers see the other link, so it’s a win-win. Below is the screenshot that the article included:


Websta 5 Underrated Instagram SEO and Optimization Secrets for Businesses

It’s also worth noting that really any partnership could work if done right. Partner with a complementary company and ask them to share your posts and vice versa. As long as you have the same audience but you aren’t competitors, it’s a great option.

  1. Utilize Instagram’s Business Tools for Advertising

For many businesses, Instagram is all about connecting with the audience through stories, relevant photos, utilizing the right filters, and getting the images out to the right people, and then the next step is oftentimes paid advertising. While all of these things should come first, your next step needs to be utilizing Instagram’s features that were created specifically for businesses. These features allow you to see metrics on how certain posts are performing (sound familiar?), so they’re essentially the Insights option of this social platform, and they’re available to everyone. Some of this data includes impressions, engagement and shares, reach, insights, and more, all for your paid advertisements.

You can find these metrics by navigating to the Campaigns section of your account. Below is a screenshot of what it may look like for a business:

Websta 5 Underrated Instagram SEO and Optimization Secrets for Businesses

Instagram has three ad formats: Photo, Video, and Carousel. Visit here to learn more about advertising on Instagram specifically.

  1. Buy an Instagram Account with Already Established Followers

This was an idea that came from a KISSmetrics article, and while it’s last on our list for a reason, it can work for some businesses and it’s certainly unique and something you probably haven’t considered. The biggest problem with this approach is that this already established audience might be the completely wrong audience for your company, and for social media and just about everything online marketing, it’s always quality over quantity.

However, what KISSmetrics author of the piece Neil Patel found when he bought an account with 131,000 followers and then changed the name was that while he did lose quite a few followers (it dropped from 131,000 to 21,000 in a few weeks), that pace eventually started to slow down. Before you know it, he still had 20,000 followers and started growing his account. You want to find an account that has at least a somewhat similar audience—consider talking with a few bloggers in your industry about buying an account, for example—but after a while, it could help give you that jumpstart you need to get people interested in the first place; thus helping your numbers grow. After all, even as a consumer wouldn’t you be more inclined to follow a company with 20,000 followers than one that has just 20?

Bonus Ideas

Try Influencer Marketing

This is something that a lot of brands have found success with. Influencers are Instagram power users with a large following of people who, as you may have already guessed, they have a lot of influence over (think: celebrities, well-connected people). Businesses can partner with influencers within their niche and in turn, the influencer promotes the business. Here’s an example of what an influencer post looks like:

Websta 5 Underrated Instagram SEO and Optimization Secrets for Businesses

Now, a bunch of users who follow the Instagram account above for food inspiration have the idea of a super cool watch in their heads that someone they admire wears. It works so well because users trust recommendations over almost every other form of marketing. When an influencer promotes a brand’s product or service, it’s like a business is given thousands of recommendations in a natural way. The use of influencer marketing can help build a strong link profile and increase the overall reach and impact of your content. Plus, this type of native advertising gives businesses an added sense of credibility and appeal among buyers.

Use the Stories Feature to Personalize the Brand

The somewhat recent Stories feature on Instagram provides businesses with a channel for bringing their brand to life. Sometimes just regularly posting on Instagram can get flat; too much posting makes you spammy, too little posting makes you irrelevant. Stories is a good way to space out posts while still staying active, and it also helps businesses seem more personable to an audience. Businesses can use Stories to show what a day in the life of your business is like, create interest around a product or service, and even show teasers or coupons to followers:

Websta 5 Underrated Instagram SEO and Optimization Secrets for Businesses

Please note that using the Stories feature will have no bearing on your SEO efforts; rather, it enhances the way your audience relates to and identifies with your brand.

Remember: Links Don’t Work on Instagram

You can put a link back to your website within your profile, but that’s it. Links in a caption or a comment will not work, so Instagram is definitely the place to increase visibility and improve the image of your brand—not to improve your SEO through link building or to promote web content.

Social Media & SEO

The relationship between social media and SEO is a little complicated, but important to understand. With search engines, specifically Google, there’s been some back and forth on whether or not search engine algorithms account for social signals. In 2010, Google said that social signals were a ranking factor, but in 2014, this video was released by Matt Cutts (Google Webmasters) saying that social signals do not affect search rankings. Bing has said that they do look at the social authority of a user and that it can add some weight to search listings.

Despite all the back and forth, it’s important to remember that the landscape of search engines is always evolving and that just because social signals may not be accounted for now doesn’t mean they never will. Search engines are continuously tailoring the search experience to be more personal and specific to its users, so it’s entirely possible that social signals will eventually get a seat at the table.

Social platforms are smaller search engines with their own algorithms, optimization practices, benefits, and users. By using them to reach a target audience or expand online presence, brands only stand to gain from taking action on platforms that bolster their authority.

For even more quick tips, check out this article from Small Biz Trends, and visit here to get started with Instagram for Business.

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