Wednesday, 31 May 2017

How Negativity Bias Can Make Your Words Work

guestposting How Negativity Bias Can Make Your Words Work

As I’ve discussed over and over in many different ways, content strategy gets difficult because you really can’t fake good content. If a blog post is good, it’s good, and if it’s not, it’s not. Knowing which content users will gravitate towards or go viral is a bit of a toss-up, and hitting a wall where it feels like you’ve run out of things to say is inevitable. These things happen and it’s all part of the moving target that is an effective content strategy.

What remains the same is the need to leverage content (written content, as it applies to this particular post) in a way that bridges the gap between users and publishers. Establishing that connection is what keeps users engaged and pushes them further through the conversion funnel. Ultimately, the connection brands and bloggers foster with users is what will end up driving profit the most.

But how do you establish that connection when you’re maybe burnt out or feel like you’ve run out of happy, click-bait things to say?

Let’s think about this in terms of the 2016 presidential election. During the election, you probably noticed that there weren’t many positive, feel good articles circulating online. Rather, the most shared articles, both real and fake, all tended to be negative. And if you think about it, that makes sense. While positive content is definitely received well and draws engagement, negative content often out-performs it, and that’s simply a matter of human nature. For example, let’s say that I and a coworker both like to drink coffee. Coffee is great, we chat about it at the coffee pot in the morning, other people enjoy coffee as well, and everything is cool when we have coffee in common. But if I can’t stand when people leave their dirty dishes in the break room and neither can another coworker, then we have formed an instant connection that’s a lot stronger than our bond over coffee. This is what we call the negativity bias.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, negativity bias refers to the notion that, even when of equal intensity, things of a more negative nature (thoughts, emotions, social interactions, etc.) have a greater effect on one’s psychological state and processes than do neutral or positive things. This may seem like a backward way of looking at things, but it actually presents a powerful opportunity for content creators to connect with their audience.

Negativity bias has a powerful impact on user behavior, including impressions, how decisions are made, and how connected to a brand or piece of content users feel. Brands and bloggers can cash in on the efficacy of a negativity bias to balance out content by using a mix of a positive approach and a strategic negative approach. But that doesn’t have to mean you suddenly flood your blog with exclusively Debbie downer type articles. For example, you can take a neutral post about good office etiquette and create the negative opposite, like “What not to do in an office setting” or “10 awful pet peeves in offices.” Not only will you end up with multiple content ideas to work with, but you’ll also be establishing a connection with users by way of negativity bias. In doing so, you can add both value and impact to your content that will make your words work.

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Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Top 5 SEO Toolbars Reviewed

seo-analogies Top 5 SEO Toolbars Reviewed

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

Managing your SEO can be hard to keep track of, which is why having the right tools is so important. For SEO beginners or DIY-ers especially, using the right tools is often the difference for whether or not you’re being effective.

For SEO, one of the easiest ways to keep a thumb on relevant and useful information is using a toolbar. Yes, an SEO toolbar will probably take up a lot of space on your browser. But having one is like gaining a second set of eyes for your web surfing experience. It can also help you gain a better understanding of the competitive online landscape you’re working within and potentially highlight areas where your own site is underperforming.

There’s no shortage of SEO toolbars to use out there, but by and large, the seven below are considered the best. Check them out and see which one is right for you.

  1. MozBar– This is one of the most popular SEO toolbars used for its inclusion of Page Authority and Domain Authority metrics. They also include a number of linking sites and easily highlighted no-follow links on a page. Moz products, in general, are easy to use and unobtrusive by design, so it fits into your browser naturally.
  2. Ahrefs– Like Moz, Ahrefs is widely used and trusted as an SEO authority. Their SEO toolbar includes domain authority ratings, social insights, and a number of other metrics. The toolbar also has a unique Ahrefs Rank for web pages based on data collected by Ahrefs.
  3. Majestic– The nice thing about the Majestic toolbar is that it includes custom metrics, like their Trust Flow and Citation Flow chart. It’s also helpful for getting information about backlinks, as Majestic has its own crawling index.
  4. SimilarWeb– This browser extension can give you instant knowledge and insights about websites and apps. You can expect all the standard metrics, like authority and link analysis, in addition to data about user referrals and engagement.
  5. Link Research Tools– Again, this toolbar includes all of the expected metrics, like backlinks, domain and page authority, keyword rankings, etc. But it also includes social metrics and engagements as well as insights about link velocity, which can be particularly helpful for assessing the competition.
  6. SEO Quake– They offer several different parameter options. Besides the common metrics, like number of links and page rank, they offer Digg Index, Delicious Index, Google Trends, Quantcast Rank, Alexa Rank, and Technorati Index.
  7. SEO Toolbar– From SEO Book, this toolbar is clutter-free and provides extremely useful information relevant to SEO. It includes information on page rank, Yahoo domain backlinks, Yahoo page backlinks, number of directory links, site age, and estimated visitors. They also have a handful of other advanced features that you can use off of the toolbar, and it’s free.

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Friday, 26 May 2017

Fact Checking is Being Built into Google’s UX: What You Need to Know

hv-blog-local-search Fact Checking is Being Built into Google's UX: What You Need to Know

Google is constantly updating and modifying to provide the best user experience possible. But because users and their behaviors are evolving all the time, it creates a constantly moving target. More recently, we’ve seen applications and search engines take efforts to address the amount of false information on the internet. In the past year or so, a flux of fake news and slander has circulated online. Following the 2016 presidential election, users and producers of content had a heightened awareness of just how detrimental and impactful popular, widely circulated falsehoods can be. As a result, many online leaders, including Google, have placed an emphasis on fact checking to provide the highest quality information to users.

The Fact Check Tag

The actual fact checking is not done by Google, but rather by reputable fact checking sources including Snopes and Politifact.  Per Google’s statement about fact checking, “Even though differing conclusions may be presented, we think it’s still helpful for people to understand the degree of consensus around a particular claim and have clear information on which sources agree.”

Publishers must first meet the guidelines to be included in this fact check feature, including usage of the ClaimReview markup, and that’s assuming the publishers are already algorithmically considered an authoritative source by Google. Also, Google says, “Content must adhere to the general policies that apply to all structured data markup, the Google News Publisher criteria for fact checks, and the standards for accountability and transparency, readability or proper site representation as articulated in our Google News General Guidelines.”

It’s worth noting that Google is not paying the fact-checking organizations for participating in this tag, nor are the article with fact checked labels ranked any differently in search results. This development is mostly about Google’s ongoing commitment to providing the best results possible for users. The fact check tag will help users more easily identify reliable content and information from unreliable to better satisfy user intent.

Shifts in User Behavior

This adaptation is indicative of a much larger shift in user behavior, attitudes, and needs. Today, when two people disagree on information or users want to know something, it usually ends in a web search. The internet is intimately ingrained into modern society, and the information found online clearly can have massive impacts on beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors.

Users are impressionable beings and gravitate towards popular content, sometimes regardless of whether or not it’s true. The development of this fact check tag directly addresses this particular evolution in user behavior and will hopefully help everyone find better quality results that are factual, productive, and actually worthy of being widely shared.

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Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Google is Launching a Job Search Service: What You Need to Know

tie Google is Launching a Job Search Service: What You Need to Know

In a constantly changing employment landscape, job sites are their own kind of wonderful. The top dogs, like Indeed, Monster, and Career Builder, connect millions of employees with job candidates in every field you can think of. Job sites are a booming and highly profitable industry, so it should come as no surprise that like most services that can be monetized, Google is jumping on board.

The home page of Google’s employment service, Google Hire, is active now:

GoogleHire Google is Launching a Job Search Service: What You Need to Know

Entry to the job site is currently locked, but it looks like future users will be able to make an account or log in using their gmail. In the meantime, the option of being placed on an email list to stay in the loop about Google hire does exist. In response to chatter and speculation surrounding this product, Google released the following statement:

“Google Hire is a product under development that will help G Suite customers manage their hiring process more effectively. The product will allow employers to collect candidate applications online. Only information that a candidate voluntarily provides would be passed to a prospective employer as part of their online application. Private information will not be shared.”

Google’s moves towards this particular vertical could pose a serious threat to the recruitment industry because job listings generate a lot of money from search results. Annually, the recruitment industry is worth around $491 billion and with Google taking the reins, there isn’t much existing job sites can do besides wait.

How will it work?

Based off of what’s been shared so far, it looks like Google Jobs will be structured similarly to Google Shop and the local listings pack. A job pack will show users job listings from multiple recruiters online that they can click through in one place. And, per a tweet from Dan Shure, the job pack will include information about when the job listing was posted:

GoogleHire Google is Launching a Job Search Service: What You Need to Know

Will it affect organic listings?

If and when Google Jobs fully rolls out, probably. Just as local listings, Google shop, and advertisements have slightly cut down the number of organic listings on the first page, Google Jobs will more likely than not have similar effects. It’s not yet totally clear if Google’s developing job recruitment site is directly linked or separate from Google Jobs. What is clear is that sites within the recruitment industry should poise themselves for a changing landscape across the industry and brace themselves to pay more for future listings.

Why is Google doing this?

This is yet another example of Google’s commitment to providing a top-notch user experience. Rather than it being about dominating every profitable industry that exists, it’s really just Google’s way of getting users all the content they need in front of them at once. Recruiters within this industry should follow suit and also focus on providing the best job content and listings possible, as that will be the best way to ensure relevance with Google.

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Monday, 22 May 2017

Spam, Ad Blocking, and How to Adapt

hv-blog-security-news Spam, Ad Blocking, and How to Adapt

In recent user experience buzz, Google is reportedly working on a new Chrome feature that would block “bad ad types” by default. For this particular feature, bad ad types are being defined as:

”Unacceptable ad types would be those recently defined by the Coalition for Better Ads, an industry group that released a list of ad standards in March. According to those standards, ad formats such as pop-ups, auto-playing video ads with sound and “prestitial” ads with countdown timers are deemed to be “beneath a threshold of consumer acceptability.”

While it may seem strange that a leader in digital ad sales, Google, would develop an ad blocking feature, this development isn’t all that unexpected given current user trends. On average, users are exposed to some 5,000 ads per day-a number that has steadily grown over the past decade. That high level of exposure to ads is likely the main reason that nearly half of online customers used ad block technology in 2015. The consensus is pretty clear: users are already exposed to an overwhelming number of ads on a daily basis and have little patience for ads that hinder and/or interrupt their online experience.

There’s some speculation that this is a strategic move by Google to prevent users from blocking ads entirely:

“Google would essentially have ‘more control’ over the state of ad blocking. Perhaps there’s a feeling within the company that if bad ads are filtered out, internet users will be more receptive to good ads and less inclined to block them.”

While there’s no concrete explanation for it at this time, what remains clear is that spam, digital advertisements, and the nature of ad blocking has been and will continue to change the competition and visibility landscape for advertisers.

In order to remain relevant-and unblocked-digital advertisers should target and optimize in a manner that aligns with the preferences and patterns of current user behavior. Here’s a quick guide on what that entails.

Digital Advertising in an Ad-Blocking World

  • Mobile-Ready, Multi-Device Ads: Responsible use of mobile advertising that adheres to Google’s permitted formats including interstitials that appear in response to legal obligation, login dialogs, and banners that use an appropriate amount of screen space. As shown below:

Google1 Spam, Ad Blocking, and How to Adapt

  • Avoiding Intrusive Interstitial Ads: In January, Google introduced penalties and a search engine wide crackdown on intrusive interstitial ads. These include popups that cover main content, standalone ads that have to be dismissed before accessing the main content, and layouts where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to standalone interstitial, but the original content has been inlined underneath the fold. As shown below:

Google1 Spam, Ad Blocking, and How to Adapt

  • High Quality Ads: General adherence to Google’s best practices for digital advertisements and formats are more important than ever. Since this is how Google makes money, Google is likely to protect ads/advertisers that follow their guidelines correctly and create high-quality advertisements.
  • More Native Advertising: Advertisers should channel some of their advertising efforts into more organic forms of reaching people, such as influencer marketing, online reviews, or customer loyalty programs. By reaching an audience/customer on a natural level, brands are better able to advertise their products, services, or content on a peer-to-peer level.

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Friday, 19 May 2017

How to Use the Best Keyword Research Methods to Create Blog Topics

hv-blog-ppc-ecommerce How to Use the Best Keyword Research Methods to Create Blog Topics

Any blogger or content writer knows that coming up with blog topics can be a royal pain. After a while it starts to feel like everything there is to say has already been said, and hunting through pages of news and articles looking for inspiration begins to feel more like aimlessly wandering. But the nice thing about SEO and digital strategy is that there’s always some overlap in how you can use best practices and online tactics.

For blog topic generation especially, you can use the tools and practices you use for keyword research to get ideas and inspiration that will stock your editorial calendar. The best part? Using keyword research methods to source blog topics takes the guesswork out of content ideation. You can see what questions people are searching for, check out keywords and phrases that are similar to your original topic idea, and base your blog topics off of the information users are actively trying to find. In doing so, you’re more likely to get the traffic and value you want most out of your content while also easing the difficulty of coming up with blog topics.

More likely than not, your keyword research practices are largely dependent on which keyword research tools you’re using. Regardless of which keyword tools you have access to, you can use them to quickly generate blog topics that are highly relevant to your audience. Below, we’ll cover some easy ways to start doing this and revisit some popular keyword research tools to try out.

Tips for Keywords, Titles, & Blog Posts

A quick word on why keywords should really play a big role in how you put together your content:

Keywords are the organizers of the internet. They’re what users build their search queries with to find what they’re looking for and help put the right content in the right place so they can find it. So, if you haven’t already, start by building out a list of keywords for your brand, business, or website. You’ll want to include broad keywords, narrowed keywords, and everything in between to target different levels of user intent and interest. This graphic from Kissmetrics illustrates different keyword types well:

kissmetrics How to Use the Best Keyword Research Methods to Create Blog Topics

Knowing your keywords for all of these categories will help you quickly determine which best applies to your blog titles and topics.

Using Keyword Research Methods & Tools to Create Blog Topics

The topic generation process for most keyword research tools is pretty straightforward:

  • Step One: Run a search for a keyword you want to develop blog topics around in the tool.
  • Step Two: Browse the keyword suggestions the tool retrieves to refine your search.
  • Step Three: Use the suggested keywords in a blog topic generator, like HubSpot’s.
  • Step Four: If offered, filter the results of your keyword search to show specific questions users searched for.

This simple process can help you quickly come up with highly relevant, heavy-hitting blog topics to fill your editorial calendar. While there are plenty of keyword research tools out there, my favorites for blog topic generation are Moz Keyword Explorer and Buzzsumo. Here’s why.

Moz Keyword Explorer

All of Moz’s tools are super easy to navigate and really thorough in terms of the information they retrieve. The Keyword Explorer pulls tons of information on keyword suggestions, questions users searched for, and keyword opportunity grades in just seconds for every search. Plus, they have this awesome guide on how you can use it to create hundreds of blog topic ideas in seconds.


Though not technically a keyword research tool, Buzzsumo is a great way to get a complete picture of what content exists around your keywords. By simply searching for a specific phrase or keyword, such as content marketing, you can see the top performing content within the past year, filtered by language, country, trending, content format, and more. It’s a good place to get ideas and see what kind of blog topics users gravitate towards most in relevance to your keywords.

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Wednesday, 17 May 2017

A Deeper Look at Evergreen Content and How to Optimize It

unnamed A Deeper Look at Evergreen Content and How to Optimize It

Somewhere along the line, people started interpreting “content is king” as a green light for flooding their online space with as much content as possible, sometimes at the expense of quality. There are few things as frustrating as investing time, energy, and resources into cranking out lots and lots of content and having little to show for it, and yet that’s exactly the situation so many content marketers find themselves in. So, if the problem is creating too much of the wrong kind of content, then what exactly is the right kind of content? The answer to that question and the solution to the problem of wasted content creation is, in part, evergreen content.

Why Evergreen Content Should Be a Focus of Your Strategy

If you were to analyze the top results in response to search queries, you’d find that most of them are a couple of years old, 2-3 to be exact. This shows that users gravitate towards the same pieces of content that most adequately answer their questions and provides the information they need. The creators/owners of those top ranked pages have created an evergreen piece of content that lasts long after the date it was published on. From there, they can periodically update the page for accuracy and comprehensiveness and stretch the utility of just one high performing piece of content for years.

This is exactly why creating evergreen pieces should be a focus of your content strategy. When “content is king” became the mantra of SEOs/content marketers, there was a tendency among people to interpret that as “create tons of content all the time.” But because users already have access to so much information, it’s not really about having more content as much as it’s about having the right kind of content. This ends up being better for content marketers as well because it requires them to work smarter, not harder. If you’ve been putting a lot of time and energy into constantly cranking out articles with minimal return, then it’s probably time to shift your focus to producing evergreen content.

Making and Optimizing Evergreen Content

Even though creating evergreen content typically requires more work on the front end than just any old piece of content, you’ll ultimately get way more out of it in terms of value and shelf-life. Even so, it can be hard to know what ideas will make for a really great piece of evergreen content and what the production process will look like.

A little brainstorming and inspiration is always the best place to get started on content ideation and a great resource for that is this article:

evergreen1 A Deeper Look at Evergreen Content and How to Optimize It

The article is full of ideas and examples of evergreen content and different formatting, topic, and production ideas. Different content styles may perform differently across industries, so in reviewing this resource be sure to keep an open mind about what kind of format/topic your audience will find most useful for the long haul.

It’s good to start focusing on producing content with a longer shelf-life and bigger ROI, but what if you already have some pieces of evergreen content? If you monitor the performance of your content, then it’s likely you’ve already identified some of your existing pieces as being high performing or constant traffic generators. In that case, you want to optimize that existing evergreen content to get as much value out of it as you possibly can.

Reposting and upcycling old content are things we’ve covered before and are considered best practices for any blog’s top performing content, ideas, and formats. Another great resource for optimizing evergreen content is this article:

evergreen1 A Deeper Look at Evergreen Content and How to Optimize It

It’s a thorough guide with ideas, tips, and spreadsheets to help you analyze and optimize your best content pieces. Remember, the goal is not to flood the internet with content produced at a spam-like rate, but rather to produce lasting content that your brand can continue to benefit from long after it’s created and published.

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Monday, 15 May 2017

What Google’s New Verified Reviews Update Means for You

hv-blog-local-search What Google's New Verified Reviews Update Means for You

Reviews have become one of the most important components of optimization, especially for businesses that primarily interact with their customers online. As I’ve said before, the data shows the importance of reviews with the majority (88%) of consumers trusting online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, 40% of buyers forming an opinion after reading just 1-3 reviews, and 72% of buyers taking action only after reading a positive review.

But as businesses became more aware of the importance and efficacy of reviews in recent years, they began looking for ways to shortcut and obtain more of them, not always in the most honest ways. Fake reviews have become more and more prevalent, and some studies even claim that up to 15% of all online reviews are fake. This is a problem because user-generated content (UGC), like reviews, is an enormous part of what motivates user action and contributes to overall user experience. In light of the fraudulence infecting online reviews (Yelp, Amazon, Google, etc.), many platforms began taking actions to prevent fake reviews and ensure honest and trustworthy reviews for users.

Reviews on Google

In the past, Google has used its Trusted Stores program, which is essentially just “Google Reviews.” It allows pretty much anyone to leave a review on a business’s Google listing, regardless of whether or not they’re a real customer. But with shady business practices and fake reviews becoming more of a problem, Google has retired its Trusted Stores review program and replaced it with Verified Customer Reviews.

What’s new about Verified Customer Reviews?

Rather than just anyone being able to leave a review, Customer Reviews are verified as being written by customers who have made a purchase from a business’s website. This also means that Customer Reviews are exclusive to businesses that have an online store as opposed to just having a business listing on Google.

Some other new features to this type of review include customizable options that businesses can use, include how their review badge looks to users and where seller ratings from these reviews appear through AdWords and Google Shopping.

How can I participate in Google’s Verified Customer Reviews?

Using this new review feature is totally free and easy to implement. Per Google’s blog post about Customer Reviews, here’s how to implement it:

  • Sign in to yourMerchant Center account (or sign up if you do not have an account).
    2) Select “Merchant Center programs” from the dropdown in the upper right-hand corner.
    3) Click “Get Started” in the Google Customer Reviews card and accept the Program Agreement.
    4) Add the survey opt-in code to your website.
    5) [Optional] Add the badge code to your site wherever you want. This will make the badge appear on your site, allowing you to display your seller rating and show customers that you’re integrated with Google Customer Reviews.

A quick word about best practices for customer reviews…

If you haven’t been already, now is a good time to make reviews part of your online marketing and optimization efforts. UGC is one of the easiest and most effective ways to drive original and unique content for your website and more likely than not, your audience wants to see honest reviews from previous customers. You can get ideas about different ways to get reviews here and learn about the importance of having reviews across multiple platforms here.

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Friday, 12 May 2017

Why You Should Use Social Listening (and Tips on How to do it)

socialpic Why You Should Use Social Listening (and Tips on How to do it)

Since its early development, social media has become an increasingly important and constantly evolving component of online behavior. What used to be platforms for connecting with friends have expanded to include features that integrate everything users need and do online. That overlap includes everything from reporting features and live video sharing to news publications and e-commerce transactions, all streamlined in a way that makes social media platforms the watering hole for modern users. Users now turn to social media platforms to stay informed, post reviews, buy things, and more, and the data that shows just how many users do that is staggering:

  • 81% of millennials check Twitter at least once per day
  • More than 56% of online adults use more than one social media platform
  • 79% of American internet users are on Facebook
  • 93% of Pinterest users use the platform to plan or make purchases

This is exactly why brands have a vested interest in not just securing their presence on different social media platforms, but in using the prevalence of it to track their brand. To miss out on what’s being said about a brand or industry online is to willfully bypass an opportunity for business growth and improvement. This is where social listening comes in.

Social Listening is when brands monitor what’s being said about them or their industry in conversations online. Whether a brand follows a set of keywords relevant to their industry or their specific brand name, monitoring what’s being mentioned about them can provide useful information that can provide huge insights. For example, if a brand using social listening began observing several mentions about one of their product’s shortcomings, they could take how their audience is responding to it and use it to address problems. Or if an industry’s customers are buzzing over a specific trend or topic, brands would know what to weigh in on and how to engage their audience.

The idea behind social listening is for brands to keep a finger on the pulse of their own business and industry so they can perform better, and it’s not hard to do. Here’s how you can get started.

Tools for Social Listening

First, you’ll need to use a tool that helps you track the brand name or industry keywords you want to monitor. One of the best tools for this is Google Alerts, because it’s free and is convenient if you’re already using Google Analytics. Other options for social listening tools are Mention, Social Mention, Brand Watch, or Who’s Talkin.

For these tools, all you have to do is input the brands, phrases, or keywords you want to monitor. The tools will return the queries and mentions of them online, and from there you can decide how you want to use them.

How to Use Social Listening for Your Brand

You can use the information you gather from social listening however you see fit for you brand, but here are some ideas on how to get started.

  1. Get Content Inspiration

Anyone with a blog knows that constantly coming up with fresh content ideas can be challenging, and social listening can help with that. By reading the mentions and conversations happening around keywords pertaining to your industry, you can see what questions people are asking or what they’re excited and/or talking about to generate ideas for your website or blog. Or, at the very least, you can see what your audience is talking about so your brand can better participate in conversations and engage in relevant discussion.

  1. Identify Problems

If you’re monitoring a specific product, topic, service, or otherwise, you can use social listening to potentially identify problems that need addressing. Maybe there’s a glitch in a product that people are talking about or a snag in an online service. By finding the problems through your social listening tools and seeing what people have to say about it, you can use that information to identify and correct problems related to your brand.

  1. Reputation Management

Similarly to how social listening can be used to identify problems, it can also be used to manage brand reputations. Monitoring what’s being said about your brand can reveal damaging mentions or reviews that could contribute to a negative image. By having a tool and process in place for tracking those kinds of mentions, your brand can stay on top of its reputation and know what’s being said online.

  1. Crowdsourced Campaign Ideas

A lot of research goes into social media or marketing campaigns, and social listening is a great way to enhance that research. Brands can review mentions to get ideas on what type of campaign/content will be successful with their audience, see what the brand is doing that users like or dislike, and use those brand mentions to crowdsource marketing ideas.

  1. Find Influencers

Influencer marketing has become one of the most effective ways for brands to communicate with their audience, but sometimes finding the right influencers can be difficult. With social listening, brands can potentially find users that are saying a lot about their products or services online and recruit them to advocate on behalf of the brand.

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Wednesday, 10 May 2017

How to Overcome a Bad SEO Experience

badseo How to Overcome a Bad SEO Experience

As an SEO agency, we deal with a wide range of clients. From extremely niche industries, like selling pre-engineered steel buildings, to broader industries, like fitness, our clients come to us from totally different situations with completely different needs. While variations in the industries and needs of our clients presents challenges, there’s almost always a way to help them succeed online with SEO strategies and practices.

Despite how different our clients are and their histories with digital marketing have been, there is a common experience we hear pop up from time to time that’s concerning for us as an agency and others as consumers. A bad SEO experience, or getting burned by an SEO agency, is problematic for both us as service providers and potential clients as consumers for a few reasons:

  1. First and foremost, it’s problematic for the client that’s been burned because they’re angry, didn’t get the results they expected, probably lost money, and are ready to throw in the towel with SEO altogether.
  2. It’s problematic for us as an agency because a bad SEO experience makes the whole industry look shady and unreliable, thereby deterring future opportunities to help businesses.
  3. It presents a unique problem because more often than not, the way to recover from a bad SEO experience is by having a good SEO experience.

As I’m sure you can imagine, it can be a little difficult to explain why a business should consider SEO with another agency after they’ve just lost time, money, and hope on another. “Why should I put more resources into SEO when it’s how I got into this mess in the first place?” “How do I know the same thing that happened with the last SEO agency isn’t going to happen with this one?” We’ve heard both of these valid concerns from clients who have been burned before, and this is how we tell them to overcome a bad SEO experience.

Reflect on what went wrong.

We never blame the client for a bad experience with SEO, but we do ask them to identify what went wrong and how it went wrong. Between businesses and SEOs, it’s easy for the lines of communication to get crossed or for responsibilities to get scrambled, and that’s where problems start to arise. If you’ve had a bad experience with an SEO company, ask yourself: Was I unclear about my expectations? Was there something on my end I needed to do but wasn’t aware of? Were there questions I didn’t know to ask that could’ve prevented this?

By taking a good, critical look at how your situation played out, you can sometimes identify actions or steps that either shifted the course of your strategy or could have been taken to prevent mishaps. If you understand everything that happened and could have been done better on your end, you’ll be more prepared moving forward.

You can learn from your mistakes.

Once you’ve identified what went wrong and have some clarity on the situation, you can use what you’ve learned to have better experiences moving forward. The trick is to use the bad experience you’ve had to set yourself up for success and to do that, you have to prepare. Post bad SEO experience, you have to regroup and reassess your goals. What were the new goals, and what are your goals right now? What needs to happen this time that didn’t happen last time? What questions didn’t get asked last time? Again, use the past experience to broaden your understanding of how SEO works and what was lacking with the company doing it for you.

Think critically about what the solutions to your problems are.

So, the company you hired took you for a ride, and bad SEO has had an adverse effect on your business’s online performance. Now what?

For many businesses that have been burned by SEO, the tendency is to dump it as part of their strategy and never look back. This is understandable, because why would anyone want to invest more time and money into something that failed them? But the problem with that logic is that damage done by bad SEO is often only corrected by good SEO. If bad SEO got your website a penalty, bad rankings, or a messed up site, then good SEO is what gets you out of that.

As natural of a reaction as it may seem, don’t swear off of SEO because you’ve had a bad experience. The right SEOs can and will help you recover and find solutions that will not only help you bounce back but help you have greater success than before.

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Monday, 8 May 2017

Topic Spotlight: The Death of Organic Search

spotlight Topic Spotlight: The Death of Organic Search

If you haven’t noticed, there have been a lot of articles circulating lately about “the death of organic search.” Half of these articles are dramatized accounts of SEOs impending irrelevance, while the other half are high-level tech-talks that discuss the future of machine learning. In between are everyday business owners who have invested in SEO services and are getting freaked out by all the chatter regarding the alleged dying out of SEO. To clear up some of the common confusion surrounding this topic, here’s a simplified overview of the main things you should know.

So, first thing’s first:

Where did all the death talk come from?

This topic stems from developments that have been made in machine learning and chatter about how it will affect organic search. To understand why people are talking about this, you first have to understand the role of machine learning and AI (Artificial Intelligence) within Search.

A Brief Understanding of Machine Learning and AI

It used to be that keyword stuffing-in titles, headings, content, etc.-was enough to climb to a top ranking position because search engine algorithms started off pretty simple. But that quickly changed as search engines became more sophisticated and adept at spotting shady SEO practices, such as spammy link building or hidden text on web pages. Penguin 1.0 served as the initial game changer for what I’ll loosely refer to here as the ‘Old SEO’, and since then search engine algorithms and advancements have only made it more difficult to game the system.

Since then, search engines have become less focused on a set of simple factors and more concerned with an ongoing and comprehensive approach that commits to user experience. Now, ranking factors determine which sites provide users with the best experience and information (quality content, mobile-ready, fast page speed, easy to navigate site structure, etc.). That means digital marketers have had to get a whole lot more strategic and think holistically about quality and what their audience is most likely to find useful or interesting enough to engage with. So, in other words, there’s been a lot less faking it for SEO.

As a result of all this, search engines now develop and use machine learning AI systems as part of their algorithms to process search results. That’s part of why search has taken on a more natural tone as of late and why Google can guess what you’re searching for before you even finish typing it. It’s also why forcing keywords doesn’t work anymore and says a lot about the direction search is heading, which you can read more about in this awesome article by Jeremy Knauff. The point is that advancements in machine learning AI have changed how SEO works and how it will work in the future.

Connecting the Dots

I’m sure you’re wondering where the advancements of ranking signals and machine learning make the drastic jump to the death of organic search. In short, fear and predictions about shrinking organic space stem from developments implemented from machine learning and Google’s efforts to drive revenue through paid ads.

Basically, it goes like this: findings from machine learning AI systems are used to further improve user experienceàsearch engines adapt by modifying the layout and functions of their search experienceàthe results of machine learning are processed and prioritized in how search engines look and workàthe space for organic search results shrinks. Specifically, the space for organic search results is shrinking under things like more paid ads on top and carousels. Just in October, data showed that the number of traditional organic search results dropped from 10 to 8.5, and that is where the hype surrounding the death of organic search really takes off.

The Bottom Line

An important thing for digital marketers to understand is that as search engines get better at predicting user intent and what search queries will be, there are fewer opportunities to be viewed by users. Think of how voice search has evolved: when a user conducts a voice search, search engines pull the best result without user selection. And while all of this may not mean organic SEO is dying out completely, it certainly does mean it’s changing.

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Friday, 5 May 2017

New to SEO? Here’s how to get started.

new New to SEO? Here's how to get started.

If SEO is brand new to you, knowing where to learn or start can be difficult. In fact, SEO can be difficult and overwhelming even if you’re not brand new to SEO. Some people want to learn about SEO so they can do it themselves, while others want to sharpen skills for their digital marketing career. Regardless of what brings newcomers to SEO, it can’t be denied that at least understanding and keeping up with the world of search can be beneficial across many industries.

SEO is an integral part of business, online behavior, and an evolving marketing landscape.

For that reason, it’s near impossible to avoid hearing about-after all, when was the last time you heard someone say “I don’t need SEO for my business”? When the majority of your competitors and businesses within the same online space are all doing something, it gets harder to ignore, which is exactly what’s happened with SEO. The term SEO pops up in conversations, at work, in job interviews-it’s everywhere, and that’s why having a basic familiarity or working understanding of it is so important. Regardless of whether you’re considering SEO as a potential service or just wanting to learn more, here are some simple tips to get you started.

  1. Identify what you want from SEO.

First and foremost, identifying why you even want to learn about SEO in the first place can help guide your approach. Are you interested because you’re considering SEO services for your business? Are you looking into starting a career in digital marketing/SEO? Or are you just curious about the developments of search and how they impact the lives of everyday consumers? Depending on what you’re trying to achieve, ‘getting started with SEO’ can mean different things for different people.

  1. Start learning.

Once you know what you want from SEO, you can start learning. For a beginner crash course, Moz Academy is a good starting point. A series of friendly videos will walk you through the fundamentals (and beyond) of SEO. When it comes to SEO, there is always more to learn, and you can always choose to add to your knowledge of it once you nail down the basics. To learn about the latest happenings within the world of SEO, read the latest articles produced by reputable search news publishers, such as Search Engine Journal, SEO Round Table, the Moz Blog, and Search Engine Land. Reading the content they produce and following the leaders who write them (their blogs or social media accounts) will help you see what conversations are happening within the industry and put you in the know with who’s who.

  1. Talk to people who know SEO.

No matter how far the digital world advances, people remain the greatest resource we have. Regardless of what draws you to SEO, a little good old fashioned conversation can sometimes be the most productive way to get started. For example, if you’re looking into SEO because you’re considering it for your business, then chatting with an agency or SEO professional could help you determine whether or not it’s the right move or the specific practices you’d benefit most from. If you’re interested in becoming an SEO professional, speaking with one can help you get an idea of the skills and prerequisites necessary to make that happen.

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Wednesday, 3 May 2017

SEO Short Cuts are Tempting, But Not Worth It

direction SEO Short Cuts are Tempting, But Not Worth It

As an agency, all our clients come to us expecting different things and holding different ideas about SEO. Some clients are looking for a way to grow their traffic a little more, while others are making a last-ditch effort to save a sinking business. Regardless of the situation they come to us in, we end up hearing a lot of the same questions, comments, and concerns: How long will it take? What works the fastest?

In response to these questions, we find ourselves explaining time and time again that there aren’t any shortcuts to instant viral content or top rankings overnight. Even as an SEO agency and Google Partner, we don’t have special insider hacks or cheats that allow us to bypass the best practices and strategies that take time to help websites. Google is also very clear about the fact that there are no shortcuts for SEO. In fact, in a recent video, they stated 4 months to a year as the typical amount of time needed for SEOs to first implement improvements and then see potential benefit:

There is no secret formula, shortcut, or back door method for SEO, and we think that’s a good thing. Here’s why.

If there were a shortcut, everyone would take it.

SEO has a broad range of approaches, so businesses can pick and choose which strategies will work best with for them (and their budget). SEO is by no means a one size fits all solution and that’s a good thing, because it creates multiple pathways for online success. If there were a shortcut for secret formula that bypassed the process of SEO, everyone would take the easy route. The result would be a bunch of jumbled together results in response to user queries, none of which stand above the rest because they’ve all taken the same shortcut to get there. Search engines are driven by user intent and focused on user experience, and the absence of shortcuts keeps it that way.

Transparency is part of SEO’s appeal. 

Part of what makes SEO such an attractive option for websites is its transparency. Our clients can look up and read about the exact methods we’re using for their account, how it works, why it works, and more. In an industry with a lot of moving, it’s rare to have transparency on how it all works. The areas that lack that transparency, like black hat SEO, are the ones most likely to offer shortcuts and quick fixes, which is exactly what you should be avoiding.

Quality is imperative-and that’s a good thing for businesses.

In a world full of fraudulence, quality remains one of the few things that’s really hard to fake. That’s why the foundation of successful SEO starts with a good hard look at the quality of your website, content, usability, and so on. The best SEO strategy in the world won’t work if it’s for an extremely low-quality business or blog. Part of the reason there aren’t recognized SEO shortcuts is because it would take away from the necessity of quality that search engines are trying to provide users with. Plus, when has improving the quality of business practices and/or content ever hurt a business?

Some things to keep in mind…

SEO is not for everyone.

Different businesses have different needs, and you shouldn’t do SEO if you think it’s going to be a magical, instant fix for all of your challenges. Prior to seeking SEO services, business owners should always look into what their competitors within their industry are doing. Maybe they’re focused on different forms of marketing, or maybe your business just doesn’t have the need for SEO that others do. If your business is on its last leg, maybe there’s a more effective way to spend your last marketing dollars rather than pour them into SEO. Whatever your situation may be, do your homework and decide early on if SEO is the right solution for your business.

Patience is important.

If you do decide that SEO would be beneficial to your business, try and have patience right from the start. As I stated earlier, SEO is not an overnight fix or a quick solution. SEO done well and SEO done right takes some time, and no honest or worthwhile agency will promise you a shortcut.  In fact, a recent study by Ahrefs investigated how old the top ranking pages on Google are and how long it takes a page to rank on average, and the results all reinforce the same message: it takes time, often at least a year:

page-rank SEO Short Cuts are Tempting, But Not Worth It

Remember: a customized SEO strategy that’s both well put together and executed will take time, patience, transparency, and quality.

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Monday, 1 May 2017

3 Awesome (and Easy) Ideas to Boost Brand Personalization

hv-blog-local-search 3 Awesome (and Easy) Ideas to Boost Brand Personalization

The relationship between consumers and brands is something that’s always evolving and shapeshifting as new trends, behaviors, and channels of communication develop. Marketers have always had to adapt to the demands of consumers, finding new ways to appeal to them and position themselves as relevant, desirable brands.

In recent years, those developments have created a need for increasingly personalized performance and consumer interaction between brands and consumers. Now more than ever, highly targeted and uniquely personal strategies are necessary for brands to effectively connect with and resonate with their audience. Thus, a new imperative in online branding was born: brand personalization.

Brand Personalization

The rise in popularity of more natural marketing tactics, such as native advertising, has indicated some important things about how users interact with brands. Overall, it seems that users are most receptive to brands that position themselves as peers. People want the brands they support to be reflective of their values or align with/contribute to who they are as individuals.

For as many new challenges as this poses for brands, it also creates a lot of new opportunities to be creative and connect with target audience in a more impactful way. When a consumer comes to view a brand as not just someone trying to sell or promote something but rather as a peer that has something of value to offer them at eye level, the likelihood of brand loyalty goes up. Even better, brands that consumers feel a strong connection or sense of loyalty to is one they’re more likely to recommend to their peers over others:

relevantbrands 3 Awesome (and Easy) Ideas to Boost Brand Personalization

Source: OneSpot/Marketing Insider Group

Brands are more than just sellers of goods, services, and information now, which is why brand personalization is critical for long-term success.

Easy, Beginner Ways to Boost Brand Personalization

For as big of an undertaking as all of this may sound, brand personalization is probably much easier than you think. There are easy, pain-free ways to bring a more personalized, effective element to your brand that will set you up for further success down the line. For a quick and easy-to-implement start, check out these ideas.

  1. Personalize Emails

Email marketing is a powerful and effective way for businesses to generate leads and maintain relationships with their customers. Brands have an opportunity to convert and permeate their presence every time an email lands in an inbox, so ensuring that users open up and interact with those emails is crucial. Moreover, an inbox is more personal than other marketing channels; brands are directly communicating to their audience and therefore have an opportunity to position themselves as acquaintances or friends just trying to stay in touch. For that reason, personalizing emails help brands become more memorable to users and seem less like spam, which in turn yields a more positive reaction to the emails in the first place.

Personalizing emails doesn’t have to be needlessly complicated. It can be as simple as adding dynamic tags to address email recipients individually, or using a little retargeting to suggest similar items after an online purchase. The point is to put voice and personality into your emails to make your brand seem personable. This makes customers more likely to acknowledge what you’ve sent rather than treat it as just another spammy, promotional offer.

  1. Create Social Buzz

Social media channels are one of the best ways for brands to develop a persona. By maintaining active social media profiles, users start to recognize brands as peers and engage with them. That’s why brands have to use social media to build identity-because it contributes to the social network of their audience members.

Consistency across social media channels is key for brand personalization. Voice, tone, posting frequency, and engagement are all things that should be consistent so your brand develops a presence that’s as identifiable on a daily basis as it is throughout campaigns. Responding and engaging with users gives you a chance to showcase the persona behind your brand while also encouraging your audience to share their experiences and interact.

  1. Implement Loyalty Programs

If you want to cement your brand as being identifiable and have customers who recall and return often, then loyalty programs might be the best way to personalize your brand. A method that brings people back to the brand over and over is one that develops a relationship. This makes your brand a fixture in the minds of consumers, especially when there’s a benefit or added incentive to their loyalty.

Loyalty programs don’t have to be overly complex or expensive. Any business can implement practices that reward new customer referrals with something small, such as a discount or freebie. Many businesses develop more detailed loyalty programs, rewarding continued customer loyalty with rolling perks and recognitions throughout the year. Overall, a loyalty program facilitates the relationship between businesses and their client base that ultimately helps brands further the develop the identity and relevance necessary to become more personable.

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