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  1. How to Find Great Press Release Topics Every Week

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    Writing regular press releases is a valuable strategy. Because you’ll be mentioning your company news, you’ll get more brand visibility and more attention. Because you’ll be writing great content, you’ll earn a stronger reputation in your industry. And because you’ll be earning brand mentions and links from news publishers and other high-quality sites, your domain authority and SEO ranks are going to significantly improve.

    If it sounds like a pretty sweet deal, it’s because it is. There’s only one downside: press releases aren’t easy. Just paying to push your press release to various publishers can be expensive, and perhaps more importantly, getting your press release published is tough. Most publishers have incredibly strict standards and only let the most newsworthy posts onto their sites. That means you can’t just write about anything and submit it to the press—you have to have deep, meaningful, or otherwise newsworthy material to submit.

    If you’re trying to submit a press release on a regular schedule, perhaps weekly, this poses a critical problem. How do you go about finding topics for press releases on a weekly and consistent basis without compromising the quality of your final product?

    Responding to a Crisis

    articleimage996 Responding to a Crisis

    This should be your first line for a press release, as it is the most urgent. However, this type of topic rarely, if ever, needs to be searched for. Crises appear randomly and without warning, but sending a press release off preemptively or in response to a crisis can be very helpful. For example, if one of your products is found to be defective, sending a press release is a perfect opportunity to explain the situation, clear your name, and get in front of the inevitable wave of negative attention that will come as a result.

    Legal Shifts and Public Information

    articleimage996 Legal Shifts and Public Information

    Also consider what legal shifts have occurred in the past week, or if any new information that’s publicly interesting has been revealed. For example, has your company experienced a transfer in ownership? Have you filed a lawsuit? Are you about to initially offer your stock to the public, or are you announcing any dividends? Any financial or legal information that you’re willing to publicly disclose could serve as a newsworthy press release, as long as you frame it in a way that emphasizes why it is valuable for the public to know about it.

    Upcoming Events

    articleimage996 upcoming events

    If there are no crises or legal shifts in your company, consider what upcoming events your company will be participating in or hosting. For example, does your company have any seminars coming up? Are you going to be appearing at a tradeshow? Will you be sponsoring an upcoming event? Keep in mind that these events don’t have to be large in scale, and they don’t even have to be in person. You could even write a press release about an upcoming webinar or online class series.

    Charity or Community Involvements

    These types of press releases are great because they’re about a local newsworthy event and they also portray your company in a very positive light. Take the opportunity to write a press release if your company makes a substantial charitable donation, or if your team is getting involved with some kind of charitable event. You could also write a press release if you sponsor a local event or team, or if you have any inspirational stories related to your brand that you could mention.

    Products, Promotions, or Contests

    Failing any charitable or community topics, you could move on to newsworthy events related to your products or offerings. Generally, these types of press releases are low on the totem pole; if you have something better to write about, write about it, and don’t just write about one of your existing products or your release is bound to be rejected. Instead, focus on brand new products coming out, major promotions you’re announcing, or a contest that needs a little help getting initial attention.

    Company Milestones

    Major milestones for your company are another potential press release topic, so long as the milestone is actually newsworthy. For example, have you reached an anniversary for your company? Have you recently revised your brand or updated your website significantly? Have you hit a specific revenue figure or made significant personnel changes? Have you won any awards or public recognition for your efforts? Any milestone like these could be turned into a valuable press release.

    New Market Trends or Other Thought Leadership Material

    If you’re still hard-pressed for a press release topic after considering all of the options above, you can write a release on new trends in your industry, or any new information you’ve uncovered in the course of doing business. New market research, studies, or polls work great here, as well as any events or situations that illustrate your personnel as authoritative in the industry.

    Press releases may seem intimidating at first, and there’s no question that they’re difficult to take on. But with a little experience and a lot of patience, you can start collecting more, better ideas for your press releases and write them with expert proficiency. Don’t be intimidated if many of your early press releases fail to make it to publication; it’s just the nature of the business. All you can do is write the best, most consistent material you can, submit it to the most relevant publication sources, and hope for the best. Even a handful of press links will make all your efforts worth it.

  2. How to Improve Your Onsite Search Functionality

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    Onsite searches can be highly valuable for improving your user experience, helping you understand user needs and behavior, and ultimately facilitating conversions on your site. While potential customers may be able to find your site easily, if they can’t find what they’re looking for on your site quickly, they may leave before they have a chance to interact with you.

    Setting up an onsite search is relatively simple, and you might already have one prepared. However, perfecting your onsite search approach is a different, more intensive issue. Like with any marketing or user experience initiative, there is always room for improvement, and improving your onsite search function could significantly increase your onsite conversions.

    Types of Onsite Searches

    articleimage780The Dangers of an Outdated Sitemap

    The central premise is identical—to use an onsite search function to find something—but there are actually three different types of onsite search. Each one caters to a different type of user with a different intention, and you’ll have to change your search function to best suit its ideal type.

    Destination-Oriented

    Destination-oriented searches are all about getting somewhere. It could be a returning user looking for a specific page, or a social follower looking for a recent post. In any case, this search function needs to display the most relevant result as quickly as possible.

    Information-Oriented

    Information-oriented searches don’t have a destination in mind. Instead, they’re focused on getting to a page that discusses a certain subject. These types of searches require a function that displays lots of results throughout your site, starting with the most relevant to the user’s query. Finding the “perfect” match isn’t the primary goal; finding multiple viable options is.

    Product-Oriented

    Product-oriented searches are exclusive to e-commerce platforms, and incidentally, e-commerce platforms have the most to gain from improving their onsite search functionality. These searches involve a customer searching for a specific product or service, and the type of search results you display in response could dictate whether or not the customer eventually purchases from you.

    Where to Place Your Search Bar

    articleimage765 Search Appearance

    The placement of your search bar will dictate how many people use it, and how easy it is for them to find it. The ideal user will want to use your search bar, look for it, find it immediately, use it, and get to their intended destination. Any break in this cycle could compromise your ability to ultimately convert that user. To make sure your search bar can be found easily, place it somewhere in the upper-right hand corner of your site; this is where most users initially look. Also be sure that the search function shows up on every page of your site.

    Predictive Search Functions

    Predictive search features aid the functionality of your search bar considerably. If a user isn’t sure what he/she is searching for, or if he/she only knows a piece of the information necessary to perform a search, a predictive search populating function can fill in the rest of the puzzle. This can also be extremely useful in helping users with typos or misspellings. If a user returns no results for a mistyped query, he/she may leave, but if your search bar corrects the query, you can avoid the problem altogether.

    Adding Filters

    Filters are great for product-oriented searches, but you may not find it useful for other types of onsite search. Filters are essentially options that your users can toggle on and off when searching for a product. For example, if a user searches for “shirts,” pop-up filters can allow the user to refine that search based on shirt size, price range, gender, style, and color. The type of filters you include will vary based on your industry and the types of products that are most popular on your site.

    Using Breadcrumbs to Simplify Navigation

    This is especially useful for product-oriented searches, but any search that features pages or products in categories and subcategories can benefit from it. For example, if a user starts by searching for a category of products, then drills down into a subcategory, a breadcrumbs-style mini navigation at the top of the search results page can help the user get back to the beginning of the process easily. It can decrease bounce rates and recover possible sales when the user doesn’t immediately find what he/she is looking for.

    Using Semantic Search

    Semantic search is a sophisticated search function that analyzes the intent behind a user query rather than analyzing the keywords they input at face value. This is becoming increasingly important as fewer people rely on keyword-based searches and more users rely on full phrases. If you can develop a semantic search functionality into your onsite search function, you’ll be able to give more accurate, relevant results for long-tail user queries.

    Reviewing Your Success in Analytics

    articleimage643 Left Data

     

    Once you’ve got your search functionality near-perfected, you can start reviewing the fruits of your labor. In Google Analytics, you can easily set up monitoring for your onsite search history. Once that’s in place, you can review onsite search trends including popular user queries, bounce rates post-search, and how many people ended up converting after finding what they were looking for. You can use this data to further enhance your search features.

    Your onsite search function is more important than you might have realized, especially if you’re running an e-commerce platform. Make whatever improvements you can, whenever you can, and keep a close eye on your data to determine what changes you’ll need to make in the future.

  3. How to Increase Authority for New Domains

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    articleimage990 How to Increase Authority for New DomainsAuthority is arguably the most important factor responsible for your SEO campaign. If your domain is considered authoritative, you’ll have a much easier time ranking for various keywords, and if your domain is not authoritative, you’ll have a much more difficult time. You can improve the strength of your domain authority over time, but the process is slow, leaving many businesses with new domains to wonder whether it’s worth it to pursue an authority-building strategy.

    The short answer is yes, it’s always worth trying to increase your authority, especially if you’re just starting out. Since authority increases faster over time and through consistent effort, the sooner you start developing your authority consistently, the better.

    Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to get a high domain authority out of the gates. But with a handful of carefully executed strategies, you can prepare your domain for steady, reliable long-term growth.

    Why New Domains Struggle With Authority

    The problem with authority for new domains is actually quite simple. One of the biggest factors Google considers when evaluating the reliability of a site is history. It makes sense; if a site has a long history of providing meaningful, accurate information to its users, it deserves to be seen as more authoritative than a site that just launched. Unfortunately for you that means no matter how hard you strive for perfection in your material and your approach, you won’t be able to touch the authorities of those long-established juggernauts (at least not for a while). Still, if you take the proper steps to build your authority at the beginning of your campaign, you’ll be in a prime position to start ranking in as little as a few months.

    Onsite Moves

    articleimage990 Onsite Moves

    First, we’ll look at the onsite changes and tactics you should use to boost your domain authority.

    Straightforward, Appropriate Navigation

    Your navigation means a lot to search engines. If your navigation is easy to follow, organized in a logical way, and well-documented with onsite sitemaps, search engines will be able to crawl your content easily and will consider you to have a high authority. Structuring your navigation also gives you the chance to create pages that correspond to your primary lines of business. Using pages as major anchors for those keywords can increase your authority for their related topics; for example, having a page for “content marketing” will make you more of an authority in the marketing and advertising world.

    Rich, Well-Written Content

    You’ll also want to make sure your site is full of interesting, well-written content. Make sure you have at least a few hundred words of content on each of your pages, including your home page. Otherwise, Google won’t have much to crawl, and it may consider you to have a lower authority as a result. Also be careful not to stuff your content with keywords related to your business; as long as you’re writing naturally for your target audience, Google will determine you to have a high authority in your industry.

    Recurring Blog Content

    The value of ongoing content for your domain authority cannot be underestimated, and the earlier you get started the better. One of the first moves you should make for your website is establishing a premise for a long-term blog. Prioritize publishing at least one new post a week, increasing in frequency as your website and your audience develop.

    Offsite Moves

    articleimage990 Offsite Moves

    It’s also important that you remember the offsite tactics that can build your authority over time.

    External Links on High-Authority Sites

    One of the biggest indicators for site authority is the quantity and quality of external links pointing to your site. Older, well-established sites have tens of thousands of backlinks pointing at them from all kinds of sources. You won’t be able to compete with that, but you can get started on the right foot. Build links only on sources that are relevant to your industry, or sources with a very high authority of their own, and be sure to diversify the types of links you build and the places where you build them. Your best bets are educational websites ending in .edu and government websites ending in .gov. These links can be hard to get, but they’ll go far in building your initial domain authority.

    Thriving Social Media Presence

    Google also uses social signals to evaluate your domain authority, so building a strong social media presence is crucial in your early stages. Publish and promote your content through Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and reach out to new contacts to build your audience. The larger your audience, and the more active your followers are, the more authority you’ll be seen to have.

    Social Sharing of Unique Content

    One of the best way to build links and authority is to create and distribute unique, highly valuable content. Pieces like infographics or whitepapers tend to get shared often, circulating online and attracting thousands of natural links at a time. Creating these pieces takes time, but if syndicated properly, the process is always worth it.

    The process of building authority for a new domain is time consuming and, at times, challenging, but if you put in the time and effort, eventually your domain will be running with the best of them. Prioritize the strength of your domain and remember that user experience must always come first. As long as you’re keeping your users happy and you’re publishing great material, the rest should come naturally in time.

  4. 7 Ways to Better Understand Your Audience

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    Your audience is the most significant factor in determining the success of your inbound marketing campaign. If you understand your audience well and give them what they want, they’ll become more loyal and will be more likely to engage with your brand through sharing and purchasing. If you fail to understand the needs, wants, and behaviors of your audience, your campaign will become stagnant.

    Before you start making changes to cater to your audience’s whims, it stands to reason that you first must understand your audience. It’s not enough to make guesses about your audience’s desires and mentalities—you have to empirically research that information and make measurable, real conclusions accordingly.

    Going through the steps might seem intimidating at first, especially if you’ve never done it before. But there are actually seven relatively simple ways you can work to better understand your audience:

    1. Take a Sampling of Your Social Audience.

    It’s nearly impossible to look through the social profiles of every one of your followers, but social profiles contain ample information about the types of people who choose to follow your brand. Instead, take a random sample of users from various platforms—let’s say 15 each from Facebook, Twitter, and any other social medium you use. Take a close look at those individuals’ profiles. Who are they? What are they interested in? What types of content do they like to share? Figuring out the answers to these questions can help you truly understand the face of your audience.

    2. Interpret Comments and Measure Interactivity.

    This is one of the more obvious strategies you can use to get to know your audience, but it’s also one of the most effective. Take a close, critical look at the types of comments you receive based on your content in social circulation. Which types of posts tend to attract the most comments? Which ones elicit the most insightful conversations? Which ones facilitate the greatest number of shares? As an immediate action, you can start posting more content in these areas, but in the long term, you can use this information to better understand your audience’s core needs.

    3. Use User Surveys to Get Real Opinions.

    surveys

    If you’re interested in what someone is thinking, why not ask them directly? User surveys are perfect for this. You can implement these on your website, on your social media profiles, or if you’re really ambitious, you can set up a separate survey site and use an email blast to attract people to fill it out. The type of questions you ask depend on your goals. Are you looking to improve web experience? If so, work on questions that revolve around the functionality of your website. Are you looking to improve your content marketing efforts? If so, ask your users’ thoughts on your current rounds of publication.

    4. Research Competitors and Influencers.

    Research Competitors and Influencers

    Odds are, there’s someone out there who is already doing a great job of appealing to your target audience. If you can figure out what that person or company is doing, you can gain insights to fuel your own campaign. Obviously, you do not want to copy their content or tactics directly, but you can figure out what qualities make their efforts so appealing. Start by taking a look at the major competitors in your area and see what kind of social following they’ve achieved. Then, do some searches for industry-related terms and find individuals who have become known for their expertise. What strategies do they use? What do their followers respond to the most?

    5. Use Demographic Analysis Tools in Google Analytics.

    Google Analytics is useful for more than just seeing how many people have visited your site. You can also use it to see what types of people visit your site. Head to the “Audience” section and take a look at some of the demographic-related tools available to you. Here, you can see the typical age, gender, and geographic location of your site visitors, as well as what types of devices are being used to access your site. This information is vital in understanding your average customer.

    6. Perform Keyword Research.

    Perform Keyword Research

    Keyword research is ordinarily reserved for fueling SEO campaigns, but it can also be useful in helping you understand the needs and motivations of your customers. Take a look at what keywords tend to bring the most traffic to your site, as well as high-traffic keywords related to your industry. This should help to illustrate what topics and matters are most important to your current audience, as well as some popular information that you may not yet be covering.

    7. Visit Community Sites.

    Finally, spend some time on sites that are popular within your community. In most cases, that means browsing through industry forums or neighborhood boards to see what problems your target audience is facing on a regular basis. Take note of the threads and posts that have been getting the most attention, and consider addressing those topics on your own site and social media profile. You can even get involved directly by commenting wherever you have a solution for a problem.

    Remember, better understanding your audience is only the first step. Once you have information on your audience’s needs, you can start customizing your strategy to meet those needs. Your audience is going to evolve over time, so be sure that your strategies start evolving alongside them. Eventually, you’ll reach a perfect balance and you’ll start earning conversions in no time.

  5. 10 Ingredients of a Great Subject Line for Email Marketing

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    Email marketing is alive and well. In fact, 59 percent of B2B marketers assert that email marketing is the most effective medium for generating revenue available. Despite critics insisting that the rise of mobile devices and social media are stifling the potential reach of email campaigns, a creatively and thoughtfully structure email blast can still reach thousands of people and generate tons of new leads for your business.

    The biggest problem facing email marketing today is not in new technologies or new formats (though a responsive email design is a necessity). Instead, the biggest challenge today is the same biggest challenge it faced a decade ago: getting people to open the email. And in order to get people to open your email, you need an awesome, captivating subject line.

    These ingredients combine to make a fantastic subject line your email recipients can’t help but want to open:

    1. Conciseness.

    articleimage948 Conciseness

    Subject lines aren’t the place to get long-winded. You might be tempted to talk about the benefits your brand has to offer, or the special deals that await your users inside, but you only have about ten words, so you can’t afford to do anything but convince your reader to open the email. Buzzwords and fluff content have no place here; instead, use simple, meaningful words to convey a single idea. If you’re struggling, go ahead and draft out a long version of your subject line, then cut it down word by word, focusing on eliminating anything that isn’t absolutely necessary for your message.

    2. Personalization.

    articleimage948 personalization

    Nobody wants to open an email that was obviously sent to everyone under the sun. If there’s no personalization factor, there’s no individual incentive to open the email. Some companies use personalized subject lines to feature each recipient’s name. Other companies work to become familiar with their demographics and include something that’s very important to that portion of the population. Whatever you do, don’t make your subject line generic. Make it as personal as you can.

    3. A Tease.

    Don’t give everything away up front. If users can get everything they need out of a subject line, they have no reason to open the email. Use a tease to draw users into your material, along the lines of “discover the long-held secret…” This implies that there’s something very significant on the other side of the email without telling your reader exactly what it is. It’s a powerful tool that leads to many more opens.

    4. Time Sensitivity.

    Emails also tend to receive more opens when the subject line indicates some level of urgency. Don’t overly pressure your readers, but do subtly imply that your deal or offer is time sensitive. For example, you could use the phrase “today only” or “24-hour sale” to make users react quickly and open your email. Otherwise, they could postpone opening the email and never get to it.

    5. Authority.

    Though email subject lines don’t allow you much space to accomplish the feat, it’s important to distinguish your brand as an authority in the space. For some businesses, that means unveiling unique information by using words like “the latest data.” For other businesses, that means outpacing the competition by using phrases like “prices you’ll never see elsewhere.” The key is to make your brand (and therefore your email) stand out.

    6. Humor.

    A little bit of humor goes a long way. Giving your readers something unexpected will make your subject line pop out in an oversaturated email inbox, and making them laugh will endear them to your brand. Take, for example, Groupon’s now-famous email subject line: “Best of Groupon: The Deals That Make Us Proud (Unlike Our Nephew, Steve).” It was original, unexpected, and funny, and it got Groupon a lot of email opens and clicks.

    7. Originality.

    articleimage948 orignality

    People get dozens, if not hundreds of emails every day. If you want to get past the clutter, your subject line really needs to stand out. No more “try now” messages, or clichéd phrases that readers are sick of seeing piling up in their inboxes. Write something you know you’ve never seen in your own inbox before.

    8. A Question.

    Questions tend to lead to more opens, especially if the question is one the user has had before. Recently, real estate platform Zillow distributed an email with the simple subject line “What Can You Afford?” The subject line conjures plenty of emotions and thoughts without bogging the user down with special offers or special values. Instead, it simply invites the user in to find out more.

    9. Action-Based Language.

    People tend to remain idle unless prompted to do something. Using action words in your subject line is a perfect strategy to get people to take action and open your email. Of course, you don’t have to rely on the straightforward action words like “open” or “read;” you can use almost any command verb as long as it is somehow related to your purpose or your brand.

    10. Value.

    Finally, your email subject line should convey some kind of value to the user. In the simplest sense, you can mention a freebie coming out for your subscribers, but try to go beyond the conventional. Use concise words to effectively demonstrate how users will feel or how their lives will improve after opening the email—even if you only imply it.

    You don’t necessarily need to include all of these ingredients in your subject line, but it is important to include at least a few. You only have a few words to capture your audience’s attention, so make them count! Spend at least as much time writing your subject line as you do the rest of your email’s body.

  6. How to Use Social Bookmarking for an SEO Campaign

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    articleimage926 How to Use Social Bookmarking for an SEO CampaignSocial bookmarking is a strategy that builds a reference point for your website (or your content) on the web, making it available to the public and giving you a better chance at getting ranked high for keywords relevant to your business. Much like traditional website bookmarking, which is done on your personal browser, social bookmarking allows users to keep track of your content, and these “social bookmarks” in turn let search algorithms know that your content is valuable enough to be remembered, thereby increasing your authority.

    Using social bookmarks regularly and appropriately can be highly valuable for your SEO campaign, but only if you know what you’re doing.

    How Does Social Bookmarking Affect Your Rank?

    articleimage926How Does Social Bookmarking Affect Your Rank

    Regularly building social bookmarks increases your domain authority, which makes it easier for you to rank for keywords relevant to your business and industry. However, there are several qualities of social bookmarks that go into determining how much of an authority boost your site gets from them.

    Accelerated Site Indexing

    In order to generate and rank results, Google needs a running bank of information on all the websites available. It collects and stores this information in a process known as indexing, where it crawls the web for information and updates its collective knowledge base. Adding social bookmarks to the web, which help direct Google’s bots in the right direction, accelerates this process of indexation, which means your content gets found faster and will rank sooner than if you had no bookmarks.

    Improved Social Signals

    Social bookmarks also count as social signals, which Google uses to determine how popular your brand is among the public. For example, if you have a piece of content that is shared on Facebook 1,000 times, it’s going to increase your domain authority. Social bookmarks work the same way; if you have a history of producing content that results in a high number of shares, likes, or interest, you’ll receive a boost in authority and rank.

    Higher-Authority Backlinks

    Social bookmarks usually feature a link back to the original website, in this case yours. As you might expect, as long as this is a dofollow link, this will count as any traditional backlink and pass authority to your domain.

    Side Note: Referral Traffic

    While it won’t directly affect your ranking in search engines, social bookmarking will incidentally increase the total amount of traffic to your site via referrals. People seeing your content bookmarked on popular social bookmarking sites will be likely to follow the link and get to your site directly. It’s worth mentioning, since successful social bookmarking strategies can nab thousands of new visitors every month.

    Best Practices for Social Bookmarking

    articleimage926Best Practices for Social Bookmarking

    Like with backlink building or social media marketing, the process of social bookmarking has a handful of best practices that must be followed if you want to see great results.

    • Look for quality. Authority matters. High-authority sites like the ones I list in the next section are important to pursue because they pass a correspondingly high amount of authority. Low-authority social bookmarking sites could actively damage your domain authority and reduce your rank—so don’t affiliate yourself with spammers.
    • Don’t skimp on your profiles. Each social bookmarking site will give you the chance to claim a profile and fill out information about yourself. Don’t ever leave a field unfilled! The more information you fill in, and the more consistent you are with it across the web, the better indexed your site will be with Google.
    • Engage with others. Social bookmarking is much like social media marketing. If you want to be successful, your best bet is to build a community. Start engaging with other users of your core social bookmarking platforms, and give back to the community whenever you can.
    • Stay active. It’s not enough to submit a handful of links and be done with it. Social bookmarking is best implemented as a recurring, long-term strategy. Make it a point to build new social bookmarks on at least a weekly basis, and don’t abandon any of your profiles.

    Great Social Bookmarking Sites and Tools

    Below you can find some great social bookmarking sites to get started on:

    • StumbleUpon is one of the most well-known social bookmarking tools, and you can get started with it after one simple download and toolbar installation.
    • Delicious is another content discovery site that allows a Twitter-like interaction of following and subscribing between online brands and users.
    • Reddit is an incredibly popular site, but you’ll need to be extra careful to comply with the rules of the community when you post.
    • Digg has a very high authority, and if you can get your content popular enough to reach the front page, you can count on an overwhelming amount of traffic.
    • Pearltrees is relatively easy to use, and serves as a perfect introduction for users new to social bookmarking as a strategy.

    Like with any facet of your overall SEO campaign, it will take some time before you figure out exactly which tactics and resources will best promote your site. What works for one business in one industry won’t necessarily work for another. Keep a close eye on your organic search traffic as well as your referrals traffic, and take note of which social bookmarking platforms tend to enable your content to perform its best. As you learn more about the process and what works for your business, make gradual adjustments, and start honing your approach to perfection.

  7. 6 Ways to Engage With Online Influencers

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    Put simply, online influencers are professional celebrities who work in a specific niche. While typically these influencers are individuals sporting a personal brand, it’s not uncommon to see big companies with a great social media presence take over the role. They have a large volume of followers, they post frequently and engage in conversations often, and because they are seen as leaders in the industry, they can motivate people to take action and change people’s minds more easily than the typical social media user. Finding ways to reach out to these influencers and get seen beyond the white noise can be tough, but it’s more than worth it, especially if you’re an emerging brand.

    How Working With Influencers Builds Your Brand

    When you’re first starting out on social media, your reputation is virtually nonexistent. You might have a couple hundred followers in the form of existing customers, friends, or family members, but you don’t have the perceived authority necessary to influence massive groups of people. In order to be successful on social media (and online in general), you need to build that reputation.

    It’s possible to build your reputation on your own, through content marketing and patient self-promotion, but this approach takes a very long time to pull off. If, however, you can manage to get noticed by an influencer, you’ll have near-immediate visibility to a sizable portion of their following, and you’ll be perceived as something of an authority-by-proxy. Do this several times on a recurring basis with multiple influencers, and you can easily jump-start your reputation building campaign. The biggest hurdle to overcome is that initial influencer engagement, and there are six great strategies you can use to do it:

    1. Ask Them a Question.

    articleimage926ask a questionInfluencers generally get to where they are by being an authority on a given topic. Because they’re socially active and proud of that authority, asking them a direct question related to their expertise is a perfect way to get noticed. First, it’s flattering—coming to them with a question means you respect their authority and you’re interested in hearing what they have to say. Second, it demands a follow-up. Rather than a simple comment (which can be valuable in other ways), a question opens the door to a bigger conversation, which can eventually turn into a working relationship.

    2. Comment on Their Blog.

    articleimage926 comment on their blogThe power of a comment is big. One comment on the right influencer’s blog can make you seem like just as big of an authority as the author. Be relevant to the original title, offer something new and insightful, and don’t hesitate to link back to your website if it’s relevant to the conversation. This will pass domain authority back to your site, and will also introduce the influencer’s audience to your brand. Do this on a semi-regular basis, and eventually both your influencer’s audience and your influencer will begin to respect you as a regular contributor to the community.

    3. Offer a Free Trial or Sample.

    One of the best ways to get noticed by an influencer is to offer them some kind of value. Make mentioning your brand worth their time by giving them a free sample of your product or a free trial of your work. Approach them personally (that is to say, don’t use a template message that you repeat ad infinitum across the web), and ask if they’d be willing to try your product or service out. If they agree, they’ll likely post about the experience and write up a brief review if you ask them. People love to make buying decisions based on the opinions of other people, so this promises a perfect opportunity.

    4. Get in on a Conversation.

    Keep your influencers organized in a list, and review that list daily to monitor their activity. If you see them engaged in a heated debate or a long public conversation, don’t be afraid to jump into the action. Offer supporting evidence or a different point of view, and you could get instant new visibility. Alternatively, you can search for hashtags related to your ideal conversation, and find places where these types of conversations are already occurring—this is a great strategy to find new influencers as well.

    5. Share Their Content Regularly.

    Sharing an influencer’s content is the perfect way to give an influencer direct value. Sharing their content is a show of both respect and appreciation, and they’ll like you better because of it. You’ve instantly expanded their audience (even if it is already sizable), and have shown that you’re paying attention. If you’re lucky, they might share a piece of your content in return, giving you access to a far bigger pool of potential readers. Even if they don’t you’ll get more brand recognition and some authority-by-proxy just by referencing the influencer’s social account.

    6. Introduce Yourself.

    articleimage926 introduce yourselfSometimes the simplest strategies are still the best. Don’t play around with some subverted attempt to get their attention—just introduce yourself! Say who you are, what you do, and why you want to talk to them. This introduction could open up a conversation that leads you to some mutually beneficial future engagement strategy. You can also look for influencers in your city, and go out of your way to meet them in person. It makes a great first impression and could be the catalyst for a great online visibility campaign.

    Don’t be afraid to reach out to influencers. One word of acknowledgement from the right influencer can save you months of organic reputation building. Diversify your strategy by reaching out to many different influencers, and with enough time and persistence, you can eventually become an influencer in your own right.

  8. 7 Secrets to Writing Great Copy for Paid Search Ads

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    Paid search has taken a lot of criticism lately. Rising competition and rising prices in Google AdWords is making PPC advertising less cost effective than it used to be, and organic means of increasing traffic have gotten more attention and increased popularity. Still, paid advertising is an effective means of generating new traffic to your website or landing page, especially if you know what you’re doing. It serves as a complement to organic traffic increase efforts, which take time and grow exponentially; instead, paid search traffic rises immediately but stays consistent.

    The trick to getting the most out of your PPC campaign is to write your advertisements effectively. Having great copy can take an otherwise lukewarm campaign and accelerate it into something powerful, and these seven secrets can help you achieve that level:

    1. Cater to the Search Term.

    articleimage847Cater to the Search Term

    This might seem like an obvious strategy, but you’d be surprised how many advertisers neglect it. For example, if your target search term is “blue sweater,” make sure to include the phrase “blue sweater” somewhere in your ad copy. Generic variants which are loosely related, in our example something like “high quality sweaters” might seem appropriate, but remember—they’re going up against similar products, and your customer has a very specific search in mind. Include your keyword or keyword phrase in the heading of your ad copy when possible, or definitely in the description. This is an important first step you should take no matter what.

    2. Demonstrate Value.

    articleimage847Demonstrate Value

    Don’t just describe whatever it is you’re selling. Take the extra step of describing exactly what the value of clicking your ad is. If you don’t have a lot of space, this can be tough, but try to think about the most important benefit your product or service offers. For example, if you’re selling a piece of software, you could say something like “learn a new language in 60 days or less,” which explains exactly what the product does and why it’s beneficial to the customer. Anything you can do to make your ad seem valuable to a user will improve your click through rates—just make sure it’s accurate, or you’ll lose potential conversions.

    3. Use Action Words to Increase Clicks.

    If they aren’t prompted to do anything, your users are likely to skip right past your ads. If you want to draw them to your landing page or encourage them to click through, you’ll have to compel them to take action. Using strong action-based words can help you accomplish this. In the old days, gimmicky calls to action like “click here!” used to be the most effective; today, these types of practices are considered spam, so you’ll have to tread carefully and write with tact. Something simple like “learn more today” or “reach your goal” subtly calls a user to action, and can increase your CTRs.

    4. Know Your Buyers’ Needs.

    articleimage847Know Your Buyers’ Needs

    Doing extensive keyword research and learning about your different customer types can help you better understand what each of your individual customers’ needs are. Once you understand those needs, you can write ad copy that caters to them directly. For example, are your customers primarily concerned about price? Use your ad space to explain how cost efficient your product is. Do your customers need reliable service? Use your ad space to mention your 24/7 support. Addressing those immediate, important needs is the best way to earn a reputation in as few words as possible.

    5. Stand Out.

    Take a look at what your competitors are doing. Perform some searches for the target keywords and phrases you’re going after, and read the advertisements your competitors have posted. What approaches do they use? What words do they use to compel their audience? How do they describe themselves? You can use some of these pieces of information as inspiration to fuel your own writing campaign, but more importantly, you need to find a way to differentiate yourself. If you don’t stand out, you aren’t going to get clicks. It’s as simple as that.

    6. Experiment with Extensions.

    In Google AdWords, you have the ability to include ad extensions, which change the format of your ad listing to include more specific information, almost like a drop-down that extends beyond the scope of your original ad. Here, you’ll be able to include information like your address and hours, but you’ll also be able to include hyperlinks to specific pages on your site or landing pages. It gives you an extra opportunity to write more specific calls to action and get your users exactly where you need them to go.

    7. Never stop revising.

    Finally, it’s important to view the process of writing great ad copy as an iterative one. Even if you strike gold by luck on your first attempt to write great PPC ads, there is always going to be room for improvement. Regularly measure the impact of your ads, judging their effectiveness based on click through rates and eventual conversions, and discard the variants that seem to be lagging behind your primary breadwinners. Examine those successful ads and determine which strategies led them to perform better, and apply those strategies in newer, more refined excerpts for your campaign.

    With these seven writing secrets put into practice, your ad copy will develop into something far more effective. It may take a little extra time and research up front, but maximizing the value of your paid advertising budget is more than worth it. Regardless of which platforms you choose for your advertising needs, make sure to use some form of analytics to track your results and measure your ROI to keep a close eye on your overall return.

  9. 15 Ways to Keep Visitors on Your Website for Longer

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    Visitor behavior can dictate the ultimate success or failure of your website. The amount of traffic you receive does play a role in the amount of revenue you can generate, but even the highest level of traffic won’t mean much if you can’t lead that traffic to convert.

    The longer your users stay on your site, the better chances you’ll have to convert them, and the more familiar they’re going to become with your brand. Bounce rates, an indication of traffic leaving instead of venturing further into your site, can wreak havoc on your onsite revenue, but there are several strategies you can use to keep your visitors on your site for longer:

    1. Avoid Excessive Advertising.

    articleimage830Avoid Excessive Advertisin

    There’s nothing wrong with a little advertising on your site, whether that’s in the form of branded callouts or banner ads for affiliates, but there’s a point where it becomes a problem. Obnoxious, flashing advertising or aggressive, repetitive pop-up ads can be annoying, especially to repeat visitors, and could damage your reputation as a brand. When including advertising on your site, make sure it’s included tastefully.

    2. Lower Your Site Speed.

    articleimage830loweryoursitespeed

    This is always a good idea. Modern digital users are impatient, and even the smallest delays could impact a portion of your user base. Imagine pulling a page up on your mobile device and experiencing aggravatingly slow load times. You probably wouldn’t want to continue onto another page of the site. Clean up your website by reducing image sizes, using a caching plugin, and keeping your code clear of any unnecessary inclusions. As a useful side effect, you’ll also get a boost in search rankings.

    3. Fix Your Navigation.

    Your navigation is a roadmap that tells your users where to go and what they can find. If any part of your navigation is inaccurate or non-intuitive, your users aren’t going to find what they’re looking for. Keep your navigation clean, with the initial heading containing only broad categories, and keep your page distinctions concise, so users can easily tell where to go. If you can optimize your navigation for site exploration, you’ll have won half the battle.

    4. Make Your Text More Readable.

    articleimage830Make Your Text More Readable

    Text that’s difficult to read is an instant turn-off for almost any visitor. Fortunately, there are many ways to optimize your text for readability. First and foremost, make sure you have a color that shows up legibly on any device—and that includes both the color of the text and the color of your background. Next, make sure your font is large enough and readable enough to draw a user further into your site. Remember, that goes for both headlines and body copy.

    5. Improve the Appeal of Your Design.

    Your site design is likely the first thing people are going to notice when visiting. They’re going to form an impression of your brand and your site immediately, whether consciously or subconsciously, and determine where to go from there. Be sure your design is visually strong, but minimalistic with ample white space so users can get a feel for your brand and feel welcomed into the site.

    6. Optimize for Mobile.

    This goes without saying in 2015, but your site needs to be optimized for mobile devices. If your site isn’t easy to use on a smartphone or a tablet, you’re going to lose out on a massive share of users. Plus, non-mobile-optimized sites get a ranking penalty from Google, so you might also suffer from reduced initial traffic.

    7. Provide More Valuable Information.

    This is sometimes easier said than done, but your content needs to be valuable to your users, or else they’ll have no reason to continue. In most cases, this is primarily a problem on your blog, but you also need to consider the value of the content on your core navigation pages. Are you giving your users valuable information? Is it worth it for them to venture deeper and read more?

    8. Interlink Your Internal Pages.

    This is a relatively straightforward tactic, but if you neglect it, you’ll be missing out on a significant stream of user engagement with your site. Find ways to interlink your pages with hyperlinks to draw users deeper into your site. For example, your blog could link to your Services page so users can learn more, and your About page can link to your Contact page if users want to reach out to you.

    9. Write for a Target Audience.

    What type of person is accessing your site? If you don’t have a clear answer, you need to address the problem of your target audience. Websites work best when they are written and designed for a specific type of user, rather than the vaguest demographic of “everyone.” If you can appeal to that specific demographic, you’ll keep your users interested and present on your site for a longer period of time.

    10. Use Site-Wide Searching.

    As part of your site structure, include a custom search box in the corner of your site. This is especially useful if you have an ongoing content program or an e-commerce platform. Instead of browsing through a navigation or relying on interlinking, users can search for the topics most important to them and stay on the site for a longer period—plus you’ll gain key insights into what your users are looking for.

    11. Keep Your Blog Posts Concise.

    Fluff content drives users away. Your content needs to be as concise as possible. That doesn’t necessarily mean short—you can easily have a long, yet concise article if you include enough detail—but if a user isn’t gaining some kind of value from every sentence in your blog posts, you stand a pretty good chance of losing their attention.

    12. Never Send Your Users Away.

    This is a basic rule for web development, but you would be surprised how often it is neglected even in the modern age. Never send your users away from your site with external links. It’s perfectly fine—and valuable, in some cases—to link to external sources, but make sure all those links open in new tabs or new windows.

    13. Call Your Users to Definite Action.

    Sometimes, users leave your site simply because they weren’t told to do anything else. Providing clear calls to action in the body of your content can compel users to continue further in your site. For example, you can draw users to other blogs by saying “If you’re interested in more, be sure to check out our post on…”

    14. Don’t Fill Space With Distractions.

    It can be tempting to put as much content as possible on the web in the form of images, videos, and written words, but don’t overstuff your site. Putting irrelevant content somewhere it doesn’t belong only serves as an unnecessary distraction that can turn your users away and compromise your chances of earning a longer visit.

    15. Learn What Your Customers Want—and Give It to Them.

    Use user behavioral insights and direct feedback from your customers to figure out why people are using your site, including what they do and don’t like about your current approach. Then, take the feedback constructively and start making changes to make your users happier. It really is as simple as giving your users what they want.

    Put these strategies to good use, and keep that incoming traffic interested. If you can engage your users for long enough, almost any inbound lead has the potential to become a real customer.

  10. What is Considered a Low Website Loading Time?

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    Site speed is a critical component of your user’s online experience. In today’s world, users are impatient and demanding, and they’ll make a decision within a matter of seconds. If your site loads more slowly than a competitor’s, you may instantly lose a potential customer. To make matters worse, slow site speeds can also interfere with your search ranks, stifling your potential traffic growth.

    Obviously, the faster a site loads, the better. But not all of us have the time or resources to shave our loading times down to mere microseconds. It’s even harder to avoid having a low site speed when there are no specifically outline site speed requirements—so what exactly is a “low” website loading time?

    Why Site Speed Is So Important

    articleimage822Why Site Speed Is So Importan

    There are two main reasons why your site speed is important, and both of them affect your bottom line as an online business.

    First, your site speed is a major component of user experience. Today’s users demand content faster than ever, and if they’re forced to wait around for a slow-loading webpage, they may become frustrated. Ultimately, that’s going to lead to one of two possibilities: they’re either going to leave your site before it’s finished loading, or they’re going to be left with a negative impression of your brand. Neither of those options are good for an online brand.

    On the other hand, if you keep your site loading speeds as fast as possible, you’ll greatly improve your user experience, and even if it’s only subconsciously, your users will be more likely to stick around or revisit your site in the future.

    Second, Google takes your page loading times into consideration when it calculates your eventual rank. Google hasn’t completely clarified what types of loading times it takes into consideration, or if there’s a threshold for “bad” site speeds, but we do know that faster loading sites tend to rank higher in the SERPs. That means if your site loads too slowly, you’re going to have a reduced stream of traffic from organic searches, but if you can improve your site speed, you can increase your visibility and search traffic.

    How to Measure Site Speed

    articleimage822How to Measure Site Speed

    Site speed can actually be considered in a number of different ways, and all of them culminate in your overall speed and loading times.

    Document Complete-Based Page Loading Times

    When you access a webpage, the information streams in gradually. You see words and images appear on the page at different times, and this is especially apparent on slow-loading websites. A webpage is considered loaded as “document complete” when it has loaded enough to allow a user to start clicking buttons or entering written text. It’s possible that not all of the content is fully loaded, but a user can begin to take action.

    Full Render-Based Page Loading Times

    On the other hand, it’s also possible to measure page loading times based on when the entire page is fully loaded. This loading speed is always longer than a “document complete” loading speed, but the difference between the two values may be different for two different sites.

    Time to First Byte

    Finally, it’s also possible to measure your overall site speed by looking at the “time to first byte” (TTFB) metric, which is the amount of time it takes for a browser to download the first byte of information from an online source. Essentially, it measures whether or not there is any significant delay between the request for information and your web server’s response. Where page loading times generally depend on your site settings and the type and amount of content you have on your page, TTFB measurements are usually indicative of your server settings.

    The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

    Now that we know how site speed can be measured in different ways, we can come up with a ballpark for what are considered “good” or “bad” metrics. Like I mentioned earlier, Google doesn’t publish what types of site speeds it takes into consideration, or if there are any specific numbers it looks for, but we can make reasonable assumptions for target loading times based on other sites we’ve seen, and based on a recent analysis by Google.

    According to this analysis, the average “full render” page loading time is roughly 7 seconds on desktop devices, with a median page loading time of roughly 3 seconds. On mobile devices, the average page loading time is more than 10 seconds, with an average of nearly 5. It’s difficult to compare individual sites against such broad metrics, especially with such a sharp rift between the median and mean values, but if your site loads slower than the average page, you can generally consider your site to be too slow.

    According to Moz, the median TTFB figure for high ranking websites is roughly 0.4 seconds, with that same figure being closer to 0.6 seconds for lower-ranking websites. If your site’s TTFB is greater than 0.6 seconds, you have some room for improvement.

    If you’re looking for a way to measure your own site speed to compare it against these metrics, try out WebPageTest. It’s a free tool that will allow you to perform multiple types of tests to measure your site’s performance.

    How to Improve Your Site Speed

    articleimage822How to Improve Your Site Speed

    If your page loading times are suffering, there are a number of ways you can take corrective action:

    • Reduce the size of your images. High-resolution images are the usual culprits for slow page loading times. Reduce them to decrease the size of your website.
    • Keep your content limited. Including tons of images and videos on your site is going to drag your speed down. Keep it clutter-free.
    • Get a caching plugin. Use some form of caching on your site, but don’t tinker around with the settings too much—you could do more harm than good if you don’t know what you’re doing.
    • Keep your site free of excess information. Strip images of meta data and delete any unused blog drafts. Your site needs to be lean if you want it to be as fast as possible.

    However, if your TTFB site speed is what’s lacking, there are three potential reasons why:

    • There could be a network latency disrupting the connection between a visitor and the server.
    • The web server could be overloaded with requests, spreading bandwidth thin.
    • The website’s back end is unable to generate content quickly enough for the server to distribute.

    These problems can usually be corrected by upgrading your server capacity.

    Putting Things In Perspective

    There are two factors you should bear in mind when analyzing your site speed and making preparations for the future:

    • Every site is unique. What’s considered “fast” for one type of site may not be considered “fast” for another type. For example, open Google’s homepage, then open CNN’s homepage. You’ll notice a huge difference, but both sites have a very high user experience rating. You shouldn’t make your site fast compared to the rest of the world—make it fast for the type of site it is.
    • The big picture is what’s important. Ultimately, lowering your site loading times by half a second is a positive change, but it’s not nearly as effective as improving user experience with bigger changes—like institutinga more intuitive navigation.

    Still, if you’re concerned about your site speed and you want to make it better, you can only stand to benefit. Don’t obsess over site speed, but do whatever it takes to give your users a great experience.

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