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Category Archive: AudienceBloom

  1. How to Increase the ROI of an Inbound Marketing Strategy

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    Inbound marketing can refer to a lot of different, separate marketing strategies, but no matter how you’ve mixed or matched them for your own brand, they need to work together if your overall campaign is going to be profitable. Content marketing, SEO, social media marketing, and other inbound traffic drivers can be separately optimized for peak performance, but what happens if collectively, your marketing strategy just isn’t paying off?

    For many new, inexperienced, or experimental marketers, this scenario is a frustrating reality. You’ve followed the instructions, implemented best practices, and you’ve even seen some decent results—but no matter what you do, you can’t figure out why you aren’t bringing in more than you’re spending. If this sounds like you, there are a few common oversights you’ll need to check—and correct—if you want to make your campaign profitable again.

    Remember to Account for Indirect Value

    articleimage1611 Remember to Account for Indirect Value

    If you keep calculating a low, or even a negative ROI, your first job is to rule out the possibility that you’re simply miscalculating. Go over the numbers one more time to make sure you’re accounting for everything properly, and remember there are some factors that aren’t explicitly measurable—namely, brand visibility, recognition, and reputation value. If someone comes to your site, reads your content, and gets a positive impression of your brand, they’ll be more likely to convert in the future (and tell their friends about you). That’s objectively valuable, yet there’s no easy way to incorporate that into your bottom line numbers since there’s no clear transaction present. Do what you can to estimate these indirect values, and check your ROI again.

    Segment Your Strategies

    articleimage1611 Segment Your Strategies

    If you haven’t already, segment out all your individual strategies. There’s a lot of overlap when it comes to inbound marketing, and Google makes it even easier to blur the lines since Analytics can give you high-level aggregated reports covering all your bases. But remember that fundamentally, each of your strategies is its own separate entity, with its own separate costs and returns. See if you can identify a weak link in the chain—maybe social media isn’t driving as much traffic as your search rankings are—and eliminate it or reduce your efforts if it’s costing you a disproportionate amount of money. Just beware of chain reactions an elimination could cause—for example, ceasing social media activity could have a negative effect on your content visibility.

    Focus on Processes, Not Products

    articleimage1611 Focus on Processes, Not Products

    When calculating ROI, it’s easy to look at end results to ascertain the value of a given strategy, but don’t forget that the process you take to earn those end results is just as important. For example, you might look at a piece of long-form content and recognize it as a valuable traffic- and authority-builder, but how long did it take you to create that piece? If you spent a whole week on it, hitting frequent research dead-ends, and starting from scratch halfway through because you changed your mind about the topic, you might have invested more time in it than the end result warranted. Work to optimize your processes—see what you can do to spend less time and money on specific items, while keeping the quality of those items high.

    Automate What You Can

    Going along with the “process optimization angle,” look for key areas of your strategies that can be automated. For example, instead of manually visiting competitors’ sites and forums to look for content ideas, you can use an aggregated reader to bring them all in for you. Be warned, however, as automation is not always a good thing; don’t take a shortcut if it would mean a lapse in the quality of your work.

    Improve Something Every Day

    articleimage1611 Improve Something Every Day

    There’s always room for improvement, whether it’s in the presentation of your latest article or the time you spend reviewing your site’s backlink profile. To maintain forward progress and steadily inch up the ROI of your campaign, find something new to improve every day. It could be something big, like introducing a new contest on your social media profiles, or something small, like changing your editorial calendar workflow. The point is to keep making forward progress, so your ROI gets better little by little—it’s much more manageable that way.

    Designate 20 Percent of Your Marketing as Experimental

    This strategy has two potential benefits, depending on how much you currently experiment. Marketing experiments are valuable, but they’re also risky, so 20 percent is a good starting balance for most brands. If you don’t currently experiment at all, bumping up your experiments to 20 percent of your total efforts can give you new opportunities to add value. If you’re currently doing nothing but experiments, decreasing your experimental efforts can help you hedge your bets.

    Narrow Your Focus

    Finally, don’t be afraid to narrow your focus. Minimalism is a value to most inbound marketing campaigns. Reduce your target audience to only who is most valuable. Eliminate any social media platforms that aren’t giving you fantastic results. Go local instead of national with SEO. By focusing only on the factors and audiences that are most valuable to your brand, you’ll be able to secure a much higher ROI—and remember, you can always scale back up.

    With these new steps in place, you should increase the amount of value you get from your inbound marketing strategies, decrease the amount you’re spending, or even better, a combination of the two. Your job as a marketing experimenter is never over, so don’t think you’ve topped out your ROI just because you’ve hit these steps once. Keep a close eye on your metrics as they develop further, and maintain ROI as your priority.

  2. 7 Signs That a Site Has High Authority

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    In the SEO world, authority is what counts most. A higher authority means more respect from Google and other search engines, and more respect from search engines means higher rankings for more queries. If your site has a high enough authority, you’ll rank naturally for any queries that might be relevant to your brand and company, but authority isn’t easy to come by. It can’t be purchased, stolen, or requested; it has to be earned.

    To make matters even more complicated, authority is invisible, and difficult to precisely quantify. Some companies have tried to produce a definitive “authority” score, like Moz’s MozRank, but since Google doesn’t explicitly publish its ranking algorithm, it’s tough to know exactly what goes into a calculation of authority.

    That being said, there are some important signs that only indicate sites with high authority:

    1. Your Domain Is Old and Established.

    articleimage1596  Your Domain Is Old and Established

    Google doesn’t exactly frown on new players, but it does favor older, more established domains over new, unproven ones. Like it or not, if you’ve only been around for a year or so, you’ll have a hard time ranking against a major competitor with 10 years of domain history (assuming all other factors are equal). There’s no real substitute for this quality, and you can’t push time forward, so remain patient and work on establishing the other qualities on this list while your domain gradually earns more experience here.

    2. You’ve Posted New Content Frequently and Consistently for Years.

    articleimage1596  You’ve Posted New Content Frequently and Consistently for Years

    Google heavily favors sites that post new content on a regular basis. A site that has posted a new article every day for the past five years will have a much higher authority than a year-old site that occasionally and sporadically posts new content. However, be warned that quantity isn’t everything here—in fact, a site that posts occasional, yet high-valued content will likely earn more authority than a site that posts constant, yet low-valued content. Make an effort to post new material consistently, but make sure it’s original, informative, or otherwise valuable to your users.

    3. You Link Out to Other Authorities.

    articleimage1596 You Link Out to Other Authorities

    It’s impossible to exist as an authority unless you also cite outside authorities. Imagine turning in a research paper in college without a list of references; the same principle applies here. You can certainly post your own thoughts, opinions, and knowledge, but if you want to exhibit yourself as an authority, you’ll have to occasionally cite valuable outside sources. University and government sites, with .edu and .gov domain extensions, are good here, as are major industry experts. Try to back up all of your claims with pre-existing research, even if those claims are original.

    4. Other Authorities Link Back to You.

    Even more important than your links to outside sources are the links your outside sources point to you. An external domain linking to yours is an indication that your domain has provided original value worth citing, which immediately factors into your overall authority. Of course, not all links here are equal—links from high-authority sites, sites within your niche, and links from a diverse range of sources are all more valuable. Work to increase the value and volume of these links over time by syndicating your greatest content and offering guest posts for external blogs.

    5. Your Content Is Concise, Informative, and Specific.

    Onsite content can factor heavily into your overall domain authority, so make sure each of your pages is up-to-date and well-written. The three most important factors for onsite content are conciseness, which means you can’t include any fluff, informational appeal, which means your content must be valuable, and specific, which means your content should be written for your industry and target audience. To achieve higher ranks for certain topics, you’ll have to pay attention to your precise phrasing, but for domain authority, good, descriptive content is plenty.

    6. Your Coding Structures Are Modern and Properly Formatted.

    articleimage1596 Your Coding Structures Are Modern and Properly Formatted

    The technical structure of your site needs to be up to modern standards. Your site map and navigation should be clear and decipherable. Your title tags and descriptions should be adequately and concisely filled out. You should also be including org microformatting, to ensure Google can pull rich snippets from your site. If you’re concerned you aren’t providing Google what it needs from a technical perspective, you can always log into Google Webmaster Tools and run some auditing scripts to see if there’s anything that needs correcting.

    7. Your Site Is Fully Functional on All Devices.

    This is a big one, especially now that the majority of online traffic comes from mobile devices. Your site needs to be responsive, or at least optimized for mobile, and all your images, video, and content should load quickly and completely across all web browsers and devices. If Google detects any hiccups, errors, or ridiculously slow loading speeds, it could cause your domain authority to take a hit. On the other hand, if your site loads fully and quickly on every conceivable device, you’ll enjoy a much higher authority.

    If your site displays most or all of these signs, it means you’re in good shape, authority-wise. If you notice yourself missing most of these, you definitely have some work to do. Even with all these factors in tow, you can always stand to improve your domain authority (and by extension, page authority) by writing better content more frequently, earning more inbound links, and making onsite tweaks that improve user experience.

  3. The 7 Reasons Most Users Leave Websites Prematurely

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    Traffic is always a good thing. Getting more people to your site means you’ll have more opportunities for conversion, which ultimately means more revenue. But traffic numbers can make you think you’re doing better than you actually are—getting 1,000 visitors a month is a decent start for a site, but what if only a fraction of those visitors stick around for longer than a few seconds?

    Today’s average user is impatient, discerning, and fast. If you don’t give them what they want, they’re going to leave before you even have a chance to convince them you’re a worthy brand. If you notice significant volumes of traffic bouncing before taking any meaningful actions, it’s probably due to one or more of these seven motivations:

    1. Advertising bombardment.

    articleimage1580 Advertising bombardment

    If you go to a site, and your first impression of it is a row of ads across the top, followed up with a pop-up ad, would you stick around? Neither would the average visitor. A handful of ads won’t be a problem for anybody, but if you bombard your users with advertisements, don’t expect them to stick around for long. This includes ads for outside products and vendors as well as direct ads for your own services. Keep your priority on your own design and content, and keep those ads to the sides, to small spaces in the header, and to slow-delay pop-ups that can easily be clicked out of.

    2. Outdated design.

    articleimage1580 Outdated design

    Design can be a subjective thing, so unfortunately no matter how “good” or “modern” your design is, you’re bound to get a handful of people leaving your site because of it. However, with an obsolete or clearly old-world design, you’ll wind up alienating the majority of your potential audience. If your site looks like it’s from 1997, or if it doesn’t seem to fit with sites of your competitors and contemporaries, it could be time for an update. You’ll also want to make sure your site is optimized for mobile—otherwise, you’ll lose out on a major percentage of the population immediately.

    3. Requirements.

    articleimage1580 Requirements

    Nobody likes to be forced to take action before they even get a look at your content. Forcing your users to sign up for an account or hand over their email address for a newsletter is a surefire way to send most of them out the door. Asking for this information isn’t bad—in fact, it’s a good way to get more leads and learn more about your target audience—but do so only after a user has been on the site, and don’t withhold your content to force the move. Make at least some of your content visible no matter what.

    4. Uninformative or boring content.

    articleimage1580 Uninformative or boring content

    The content on the first page your users land on will be the most significant in persuading them to stay. Because users could theoretically enter on any page of your site, it’s in your best interest to make sure every page of content is informative, clear, interesting, and written in your unique brand voice. If your words don’t “speak” to a consumer the moment they enter, you can say goodbye to any chance of them looking around for more.

    5. Slow loading times.

    Loading time may not seem like that big of a deal, but users can sometimes abandon a site within seconds if it doesn’t load fast enough. Modern users are used to near-instant connection speeds, so if your site has even a brief hiccup, it could be enough of a dissuasion to force a departure entirely. Your big obstacle here is the mobile realm—sites tend to load slower on mobile devices, which means valuable seconds are added to your loading time. Be sure to clean your images of meta data, shrink your images, remove any unnecessary plugins, and remove old content to keep your site in working order.

    6. A confusing navigation.

    Users need to be shown where to go immediately or they’ll lose interest and never come back. A clear, concise navigation bar will help them immensely. Offer up your most important pages (usually four or five), then group your sub-pages into those broader categories. Theoretically, in a matter of seconds, users should know exactly who you are, exactly what you do, and exactly what pages they need to find out more or make a decision. You’ll also want to include a sitemap in the footer.

    7. Irrelevance or impracticality.

    This is the most subjective item on this list. If your content and purpose are deemed irrelevant or impractical by your audience, they’re going to leave. This could be because a user doesn’t fall into your target demographic or because your messaging isn’t clear or concise enough to make a compelling case. Which reason is up to you to decide—it either calls for an adjustment to how you’re attracting an initial audience or an optimization of your content.

    Now that you understand the main reasons why people leave websites prematurely, you can take action to stop it from happening altogether. Like optimizing ads for maximum potential or optimizing a content strategy, it’s almost impossible to do all at once. Instead, you’ll have to take it one step at a time, making a fix, checking the results, and keeping the fix if it appeared to do some good. Be patient, watch your data closely, and eventually, you’ll be able to keep your visitors onsite for longer.

  4. 7 Headline Mistakes That Can Cost You Major Clicks

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    Headlines are the only piece of your content that you can almost guarantee that people will read. Some users might get to your article only to skim it or click away immediately, and some users won’t ever click through at all—but almost every user who encounters your headline will look at it to see if it’s worth checking out.

    That’s a good argument that your headline is the most important piece of your content. Write a compelling one and you’ll attract plenty of clicks and readers, but if you slip up, even a fantastically written article can go almost entirely unnoticed.

    These headline mistakes are some of the most common, so avoid them at all costs:

    1. Using filler words or vague non-descriptors.

    articleimage 1570 Using filler words or vague non-descriptors

    Vague words instantly make people skip to the next headline in the series. Filler words and soft words that carry little to no actual description ultimately weaken your headline and make it seem like the content behind it is equally fluffy or unhelpful. For example, compare these two headlines: “7 Reasons Your Site Content Needs Updated” against “7 Reasons You Should Think About Going on Your Site and Making Some Improvements to Your Content.” The phrases “should think about going on your” and “making some” are completely unnecessary. The more concise your headline is, the better.

    2. Failing to use a proper length.

    articleimage 1570 Failing to use a proper length

    This goes along with conciseness, as every word of your headline needs to count, but don’t make the mistake of thinking a shorter headline is a better headline. It’s also possible to go too short with a headline and fail to communicate any significant value to your potential audience. For example, compare the headline “7 Content Rules” to “7 Relevance Rules That Make Your Content Worth Reading.” The former tells you almost nothing about the content waiting for you behind the headline. Generally speaking, seven words is the ideal length for a headline, but don’t be afraid to go a bit longer or shorter for a headline that demands it.

    3. Leaving nothing to the imagination.

    Your goal with a headline is to concisely inform a reader and pique his/her curiosity—not to tell a reader everything you plan to cover in the span of a few words. It’s in your best interest to leave something to the imagination. For example, “The One Rule You’re Not Following for SEO Success” is much more inviting and compelling than “Start Guest Posting on More Authoritative Sources for SEO Success.” You don’t have to completely shroud your topic in mystery, nor should you, but you do have to let your readers’ minds wander enough to make them want more.

    4. Neglecting your value proposition.

    articleimage 1570  Neglecting your value proposition

    All articles need to give some kind of value to a reader; otherwise, they simply won’t click your headline. You have only a few words to communicate the value of your article to your audience, so make them count. If there’s something they can walk away with, show that to them. If you’re presenting an argument they’ve never considered before, tell them that. Again, don’t give away the specifics of your material, but do tell your readers what they can expect to walk away with after reading it.

    5. Writing a headline like an advertisement.

    articleimage 1570  Writing a headline like an advertisement

    I’ve seen too many marketers trying to use content marketing as a glorified form of advertisement, shoehorning their products and services into topics and thinking it will attract more buyers. If this is evident in your headline, people aren’t going to click. Instead, write about things that are actually valuable to your consumers, and make sure your headline reflects that value. Compare the headlines, “7 Reasons You Need to Buy a _____ Product” against “7 Advantages ______ Products Have Against _______ Products.” The former is almost blatant advertising, while the latter favors a product, but is more focused on being informative.

    6. Not showcasing digestibility.

    Most modern users want to read articles that they can skim and digest quickly, and your headline can speak volumes about the density of the content behind them. One of your greatest tools for this is the use of numbers—when users see numbers in headlines, they immediately learn that a piece of content is skimmable, and they’re far more likely to click. A simple change from “Why You Need to Change Your Oil Every 6 Months” to “7 Reasons to Change Your Oil Every 6 Months” instantly makes the article more clickable.

    7. Going for clickbait.

    articleimage 1570  Going for clickbait

    An entire genre of content has evolved to take advantage of the fact that some headlines get clicked more than others. They use all the cheap tricks they can find to make their headlines clickable, but the content behind them rarely delivers. This genre is known as clickbait, and it’s losing popularity at a startling pace. Headlines that contain phrases like “…and you won’t believe what happens next,” or “learn the one secret your ______ doesn’t want you to know” are cheap, tabloid-like ways to trick your audience into clicking through to your site. Don’t rely on these tactics to attract an audience; you’ll end up being resented by your readers and you could even suffer a visibility penalty from syndication platforms like Facebook.

    Headline writing is something of an art form, so spend some time honing your craft. Experiment with different formats, structures, wording, and other variables when writing your headlines, and try to come up with at least two for a handful of test pieces. Put those two variant headlines out to the public in the same platforms, and see which one performs better. Run a handful of experiments like these, and you’ll quickly learn what type of headlines your readers respond to and which ones tend to fall flat.

  5. 7 Ways to Earn More Favor in Local Reviews

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    Local reviews are one of the most important elements of a local business’s SEO strategy—or any business, for that matter. Google draws on information provided from local directories and review sites (think of major players like Yelp and TripAdvisor), and aggregates that to illustrate a picture for each indexed brand—get more reviews and better reviews, and you’ll rank higher naturally in local searches. Plus, your directory profile pages will rank higher, you’ll get more direct traffic from those third party sites, and to top it off—your reputation will increase?

    It’s not easy to build up a cache of extremely positive reviews—especially since most review sites explicitly forbid companies from directly asking for reviews from their customers. However, there are a number of strategies you can use to win more favor among your reviewing audience:

    1. Let people know where you’re listed.

    articleimage1554 Let people know where you’re listed

    Most people don’t go out of their way to hunt down businesses to review. If you want people to review you, you have to take measures to prompt them to do so. Most third party directory sites offer free promotional materials to help you guide your in-house customers in the right direction. For example, Yelp offers free stickers and other pieces of collateral that show your users where they can review your business. As a side note, the more places your business is listed, the better—so try to claim your profile in as many local directories as you can find.

    2. Open a dialogue about the quality of your service.

    articleimage1554 Open a dialogue about the quality of your service

    With every customer, try to open a dialogue about the quality of their experience. You’ll probably learn some valuable insights you can use to make adjustments and improvements to the business. If you don’t learn anything new, you’ve at least encouraged the customer to think carefully about his/her experience, which will make him/her more likely to take the action of posting a review. Think of it as an informal pre-survey that can help you catch problems proactively and encourage more people to leave formal pieces of feedback.

    3. Reinforce the positive reviews.

    articleimage1554 Reinforce the positive reviews

    When someone leaves a positive review, don’t consider your job done quite yet—follow up with a personal greeting, or a simple thank-you message for taking the time to type out the response. This will accomplish several things for your brand; first, it will make that customer more likely to come back in. Second, it will show that your brand is attentive and caring enough to read each review individually. Finally, it will encourage more customers to leave positive feedback to elicit a similar positive response. Just don’t attempt to bribe your customers—that’s a violation of most directories’ terms of service.

    4. Apologize for negative circumstances.

    articleimage1554 Apologize for negative circumstances

    No matter how hard you work, the occasional negative review is inevitable. When you get one, immediately apologize for the unfortunate circumstances, and do your best to explain yourself. For example, if service was slow you can explain that your business was particularly busy that night. Show that you regret the situation, and invite the user back to give you another shot—this looks great to other users, and might even earn you a review revision if you make the customer happy.

    5. Make up for any customer problems publicly.

    articleimage1554 Make up for any customer problems publicly

    This is perfect for a negative review about a defective or unsatisfactory product. If your customer is completely dissatisfied, offer something tangible to make it up to him/her. For example, if a restaurant patron complains about a cold meal, you can offer a new meal on the house to make up for the mistake. Discounts and free offers are often welcome here, as are changes to policies and procedures.

    6. Get social.

    Most people write up reviews when they’re online, so if you can get your brand top-of-mind when they’re already online, you’ll have a higher chance at earning those reviews. You can use your social media profiles to link to your review pages, but remember—you can’t actively ask people to review you. Instead, work on building the image and reputation of your brand, and attract new followers by posting great content. You can also drive better customer experiences by offering social media exclusive deals and specials. Since the most active social media users tend to be the most active online reviews, you can’t lose.

    7. Make changes in response to positive and negative reviews.

    Instead of looking at reviews as an end point—the result of an experience that’s already done and over with—look at them as a starting point. Each review offers you some kind of opportunity to improve your business. If there’s a positive review about the friendliness of your customer service, do more to emphasize that value with your other customers. If there’s a negative review about your product availability, work harder to ensure it’s not a problem for your future customers. You don’t have to jump through hoops to make everyone happy, but do actively listen to your customers’ comments and concerns.

    There’s no magic formula to getting more and better reviews, but if you remain consistent with these best practices, eventually you’ll find the general attitude shifting in your favor. The biggest overall key to success is remembering that your customers are the ones writing these reviews. Treat them well, listen to them, and work hard to improve your business any way that you can.

  6. 7 Changes to Try When Your Audience Just Isn’t Biting

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    Sometimes, even when you’re confident about your titles, excited about your content, and feeling great when you start syndicating on multiple outlets, your audience just doesn’t respond the way you’d hope them to. In some cases, this may persist for weeks, or even months. You’ve run through all the usual suspects, making sure your content is well-researched and well-written, and scanning for any technical hiccups that could prevent users from sharing and commenting on your material, but for some reason, you just can build any momentum.

    This is a more common dilemma than you might think, and there are actually a number of proven strategies that can help you overcome it. The next time your audience just isn’t biting, try one of these seven tactics to shake things up:

    1. Ask your readers what they would like to see.

    Ask your readers what they would like to see

    This first step is the easiest, but it can provide you with the most valuable direction for the future. Your audience is the reason you’re writing content to begin with. If they aren’t biting, you can ask them to figure out why. Pose a simple question on social media or put together a brief survey that will help you figure out what your readers would like to see in a blog like yours. You may find that different titles, different mediums, or different approaches would suit them better. Keep an open mind, and if your audience is consistently asking for something—do whatever it takes to give it to them!

    2. Try a new channel (or eliminate one).

    There are hundreds of possible channels for your content, but not all of them are going to be effective. If you’re marketing to middle-aged business owners, you probably aren’t going to get much value out of Snapchat or Instagram. If you’re aiming at younger adults who are still in college, LinkedIn isn’t a good outlet for you. Do some research to dig up new social platforms, blogs, and forums that you can use as outlets for your content. Try one or two new ones, and in the meantime, take a look at your current lineup, and cut out any platforms that simply aren’t working for you.

    3. Redefine your purpose.

    Redefine your purpose

    What is the main intention of your site (and your content marketing strategy)? Is it to provide information to your users? If so, what kind of information? Take a close look at how well your content is adhering to that core purpose. If you aren’t adhering, try readjusting your content to be better in line with your goals. If you are adhering, it might be time to tweak or completely overhaul your mission. For example, instead of informing your readers with raw information, you could work to make existing information more easily understandable.

    4. Introduce user-generated content.

    Introduce user-generated content

    User-generated content has a handful of key advantages—first, since your users will create it, you’ll have less work to do yourself. Second, it’s naturally contagious, so it’s more likely to spark a viral trend. The disadvantages are that you have less control over the final products, and you’ll have to bribe people to earn this type of content, with discounts, free products, or entries into a giveaway. Still, with that little upfront investment, you could easily inspire a wave of new readers (and followers) who associate your brand with collaboration.

    5. Spark shares by trying something risky.

    Spark shares by trying something risky

    Nothing attracts social media shares quite like a surprise. Try surprising your readers with a topic or a format that your brand doesn’t usually pursue—potentially something risky or edgy. For example, you might introduce a much more casual tone or crack a joke about one of your competitors. As long as you do this tactfully and with the possible repercussions in the back of your mind, you should escape unscathed even if something goes wrong. The key here is to break out of your shell with a type of content you wouldn’t ordinarily consider.

    6. Bring in outside authorities.

    Inject new life into your content strategy by bringing in some new outside authorities to post on your blog. You don’t have to allow them to write entire posts on your site if you don’t want to, but you do have to give them a presence. For example, you could start interviewing some of your peers, and leading authorities in the industry. The name recognition could trigger an increase in your brand reputation and audience, and you’ll be able to cross-pollinate readers with your associated authorities.

    7. Leverage a non-digital content medium.

    Digital content in the form of blog posts, whitepapers, social posts, and so on aren’t the only type of content you can produce. Try getting involved in more tangible mediums—for example, you could try to get an article published in a magazine or newspaper. You could even write and design a presentation that you use for speaking events in person. Attract a new audience in the real world to complement your digital efforts.

    If you try each of these strategies individually, you’ll probably find that some will attract a noteworthy increase in comments, visits, and shares, while others bear no discernable difference. Each content campaign is unique, so you’ll need to experiment, mix, and match in order to uncover the best overall approach. Even when you find it, you’ll still need to tweak things occasionally, so get used to this process of experimentation and implementation.

  7. How Much Power Do Rich Snippets Really Have?

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    How Much Power Do Rich Snippets Really Have

    Rich snippets have been around for many years, but only now are they starting to get the attention they deserve from the SEO community. In case you aren’t familiar, “rich snippets” are the bits of information that you see alongside major entries in Google’s (and other search engines’) SERPs. Rich snippets are actually a form of structured data or structured markup, which is an organizational format used by search engine crawlers to properly understand and categorize your site, while using bits of that information to aid searchers in finding their intended destinations.

    On the surface, it may not seem like rich snippets have much power, but they’re growing in importance as search engine functions expand and users demand more from their typical onsite experience.

    The Purpose of Rich Snippets

    The Purpose of Rich Snippets

    First, you have to understand why rich snippets exist in the first place.

    • Providing information to searchers. The first and perhaps most important role of rich snippets is to provide valuable information to searchers. As a simple example, the meta description of a given page always pops up under the page title. This description informs a reader of what they might expect should they decide to click through, and could either persuade or dissuade that user from clicking accordingly. Other information, like product information, review ratings, and notifications like “in stock” can also qualify as rich snippets so long as they appear in Google’s actual search result.
    • Providing categorization information to Google. Google loves rich snippets because they help its algorithms understand the purpose of individual pages. Your page titles do much to inform the search engine about the topic of your page, but rich snippets offer more in-depth, specific information that Google can then use to ensure your site shows up for relevant searches.
    • Providing raw information to Google. Additionally, Google uses rich snippets (and other forms of structured markup) to accumulate raw information that it can then compile in its Knowledge Graph, which provides direct answers to common user questions. This doesn’t help your site in any meaningful way, but it’s another reason why Google loves to see rich snippets.
    • Increasing your domain authority (eventually). Currently, there is no ranking benefit to including rich snippets throughout your site. However, Google recently implied that rich snippets will be considered in its master ranking algorithm eventually, meaning your inclusion of rich snippets will eventually pay off in the form of higher ranks.

    How Important Are Rich Snippets?

    How Important Are Rich Snippets

    Now that you’re familiar with the general purposes of rich snippets, we can take a look at exactly how important each of these functions are to your site.

    Earning higher ranks

    Like I mentioned above, currently there’s no direct ranking benefit in including rich snippets on your site. However, if your rich snippets are detailed and compelling enough to encourage a greater number of click throughs, you might earn a slight increase in rank from that extra relevant traffic. In the future, rich snippets can (and almost certainly will) benefit your rank.

    Increasing traffic

    Rich snippets are highly important for attracting more clicks from your search ranks. In fact, you can generally count on an increase of up to 30 percent when you include rich snippets versus leaving them out entirely. That’s a major increase for a relatively simple step, so it’s definitely worth your time to include. The more detailed, concise, and compelling you are in the language you use, the better results you’ll see.

    Multiple purposes

    Also keep in mind that some pages (and some sites in general) stand to benefit from rich snippets more than others. For example, an ecommerce site might be able to show off newly discounted prices, or items that are in stock, or user ratings of specific products all within a search entry to maximize the chances of eventual conversion. Sites that can take advantage of this should always use rich snippets, no matter what.

    The future

    In the next few years, Google is going to do more to reward sites that offer rich snippets, and users are going to become more reliant on them to make informed decisions. They’ll also become easier to incorporate and manage as technologies respond to these needs. In short, rich snippets are very important already, and will continue to grow in importance over time.

    How to Implement Rich

    How to Implement Rich Snippets

    Some CMSs offer easy editing for rich snippets, enabling users to directly manipulate the information that search bots pull from your site. In other cases, you’ll have to enlist the help of a developer, who can directly encode the information in the code of the site. Either way, you’ll have to make the time and effort to establish appropriate rich snippets for each page of your site.

    If you aren’t familiar with structured data or microformatting at all, a good place to start is Schema microformatting is the generally accepted system of categorization on the web, sponsored by Google, Microsoft, Pinterest, Yandex, and other major brands. On their site, you’ll find all the tools, tips, and instructions you need to incorporate proper structured markups on your site.

    If you haven’t already, work to include rich snippets for all your site’s pages. They’ll work wonders in increasing click throughs to your site, and in the future, they might even increase your rank. Just be sure to keep a close eye on new developments in this area, as microformatting is liable to evolve over the next several years.

  8. How to Build a Relationship With a Guest Posting Source in 5 Steps

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    Guest posting is here to stay. It’s a great overall strategy, and an integral part of multiple marketing angles, including content marketing, personal branding, social media marketing, and even SEO. If you post on a diverse range of sources with great content pointing back to your site, you’ll earn direct referral traffic, more social media followers, a better personal brand image, and an increase in your search ranks.

    The problem is that you can’t just post content wherever and whenever you feel like. The sites with the highest authority on the web got to where they are because they only allowed great content to be posted. Getting past the gatekeepers can be tricky, and establishing a great long-term relationship is even harder.

    Thankfully, there’s a relatively solid system you can use to build up a store of guest posting sources. Follow these five steps, and you should have little trouble establishing a relationship with a relevant source:

    Step One: Identify Your Prospect.

    articleimage1483 Identify Your Prospect

    Your first job is to identify a source worth establishing a relationship with. For this, you’ll need to consider three main factors:

    • The source’s level of authority. How recognizable is their name? How high do they rank in searches? The more authoritative the site the better.
    • The source’s relevance to your industry. The closer the fit, the better. Avoid any source that serves a niche outside your own, but general-purpose sources are okay provided they offer a high enough authority.
    • The source’s appropriateness to your experience level. When you’re first starting out, the highest authority and most relevant sources aren’t going to take you. You have to start small and work your way up.

    Finding possible sources is as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. You can use a blog aggregator or simple Google searches to find relevant publishers in your industry, or follow personal brands you want to emulate and see where they post. Once you’ve identified a perfect source, your job is to find the contact information for the person in charge of publishing. You can sometimes find this on the site itself, but you might have to send a query via a contact form.

    Step Two: Reach Out With a Pitch.

    articleimage1483 Reach Out With a Pitch

    Once you have a source in mind, you have to reach out with a pitch—this is a brief outline of a post you intend to write for the source. Keep your pitch in line with other material you know the site has posted in the past; for example, you could reference a previously popular post and offer a more detailed follow-up or a rebuttal. You could also cover a topic you know has never been covered before by this particular source.

    The key here is to offer value to your source. Make a bold impression by suggesting content the editor or publisher will be excited to incorporate on site. This is easier said than done, of course, but if you can find appropriate, exciting content to pitch, you’re a shoo-in as a new guest poster.

    Step Three: Deliver Great Content.

    articleimage1483 Deliver Great Content

    If your pitch isn’t accepted, you must submit a new pitch or move on to a different source. If and when a pitch is accepted, it’s your job to deliver on your promise. That means creating great content that will actively add value to your selected source. The definition of “great” will vary from source to source, but a few things you’ll have to keep in mind:

    • Follow any and all rules specific to your source. There may be length or formatting requirements.
    • Never directly pitch your own brand or products. Your goal is to provide information.
    • Back up your claims with external sources or evidence. The more thoroughly you research your topic, the better.
    • Proofread, proofread, proofread. Don’t let a simple error compromise your future relationship with the publisher.

    In addition, make sure to use a unique, recognizable brand voice across all your platforms and publishing sources. It will help your readers grow loyal and familiar with you.

    Step Four: Follow Up With an Offer of Value.

    articleimage1483 Follow Up With an Offer of Value

    Once your post has been accepted and published on your target source, it’s your job to follow up at a later date and offer something of value. That something of value is subjective and variable—it could be another pitch for a different piece (and this is probably your best option). It could be an interview. It could be a syndication opportunity for the publisher. The key is to make yourself useful again.

    Step Five: Establish a System of Regular Exchange.

    articleimage1483 Establish a System of Regular Exchange

    Once your target source gets to know you, and learns that you’re a valuable and reliable resource, the doors are open. As long as you feel a mutual trust and respect, feel free to ask for a system of regular exchange. For example, you might offer to provide a new post every week, or every month, in exchange for being listed as a regular contributor. Start with a small ask—there’s always room to grow. The more posts you submit and the longer you work together, the more likely you’ll be to earn more opportunities in the future.

    I should also mention that step one and two are almost impossible to get past unless you have some kind of established authority on the web. For example, if you send a potential source a pitch with no onsite blog posts, no social media following, and no real offsite web presence whatsoever, you’re likely to get rejected. In contrast, as you start building more relationships with more online sources, steps one and two get easier—you might even find outside sources coming to you with a request for new content!

  9. 20 Changes You Can Try to Increase Landing Page Conversions

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    Optimizing for conversions is tough because there isn’t a mathematical formula for success. There are a handful of best practices that can almost always boost your conversion rates, but user behavior is unpredictable, and sometimes even counterintuitive changes can make a big difference in how many visitors end up making a purchase (or filling out a form).

    If you’re stuck with a landing page that just won’t convert, or if you’re looking for new ways to maximize your conversion rate, try any one (or more) of these 20 ideas for more conversions:

    1. Decrease your number of required fields.

    articleimage1474 Decrease your number of required fields

    Users generally want to do as little as possible. If you have too many fields, it will turn people off right away, so try decreasing the number of fields you require. As a simple example, you could combine “first name” and “last name” into a simple “name” field (in some situations).

    2. Add more directional features.

    articleimage1474 Add more directional features

    Directional features draw a user’s eyes to a certain place. For example, you could use drawn arrows or the eyeline of a person in your image to point to the call-to-action. Add more to see if they increase your conversion rate.

    3. Change the color scheme.

    articleimage1474 Change the color scheme

    Simple changes in color can make a substantial difference in your total conversions—experiment with different tones and contrasts.

    4. Include more benefits.

    articleimage1474 Include more benefits

    Bulleted lists of benefits are always a sure way to earn trust and show value. Try expanding the list with more benefits of your product (or the benefits of signing up).

    5. Use different headlines.

    You might only have one headline, but it’s going to attract a lot of attention. One weird word could be stopping your users from converting, so experiment with lots of different headlines to see what works best.

    6. Use different buttons.

    Seemingly innocuous, the size and shape of your “submit” or “buy” button can make a big difference. Try a circle instead of a triangle, or increase the size.

    7. Include more action words.

    Action words are strong verbs that imply some form of initiative. For example, “try it for yourself” implies action whereas “you’ll see for yourself” does not.

    8. Feature more testimonials.

    Users trust other users more than corporations or brands. Include real testimonials from people who have bought from you in the past, and use real names and faces if you can.

    9. Add a guarantee.

    Oftentimes, people fail to convert simply because they aren’t ready for the risk of not being satisfied with the order. Prevent this by adding a satisfaction guarantee.

    10. Minimize what’s on screen.

    If your landing page is too busy, it can distract users from the call-to-action. Minimize what a user sees at any given point in time by allowing more white space in your design.

    11. Try a video (or a different video).

    Today’s users want as much visual imagery as possible, and that means including videos if you want to show off your product or service. If you already have a video, experiment with a few different ones to see if you can get any better results.

    12. Eliminate buzzwords.

    It’s natural to want to include sharp-sounding buzzwords in your copy, like “ROI” or “out-of-the-box” because they sound impressive, but to most users they register as empty white noise. Scrap these buzzwords and shoot for more sincere language.

    13. Find and list common objections.

    Use surveys or past experiences to find and document common objections to your product or service, then address them directly on your landing page. It’s your chance to quell your visitors’ concerns before they prevent a conversion from happening.

    14. Tell a story (or a different story).

    Stories are a powerful mode of communication, so if you haven’t already included one in your landing page (even if it’s in a short form, like a bulleted list or a short testimonial) try one. If you’re already using one, try a different one or make small tweaks to the one you have.

    15. Try less copy.

    Copy is great for convincing users of the value of your product (and using specific words to prompt them to take action), but too much of it can get in the way of your efforts. Try eliminating some.

    16. Offer a chat option.

    Use a chat pop-up window to help indecisive users find reassuranceor information and potentially move forward.

    17. Offer various contact options.

    Users feel more secure when they see a landing page that offers contact information—preferably in multiple forms. Your company name, address, and phone number should all be visible.

    18. Try different images.

    Hopefully, you’re using at least one image on your landing page. If so, swap it out for something different. Subtle cues from a different visual could lead to very different results.

    19. Make it urgent.

    Add more language that conveys a sense of urgency, or use a timer counting down to prompt more users to convert. If they feel like they can wait, they’ll probably never buy.

    20. Eliminate the options.

    Don’t let your users do anything other than convert. Eliminate any other distractions on the page.

    Conversions are your gateway to revenue; the more conversions you get, the more money your company stands to make. Don’t stop trying to get more. Conversion optimization is a constant experiment, dependent on small tweaks and changes that iteratively make a better system. You never know what will stick until you try, so keep making alterations until you’ve got a system that works.

  10. 10 Questions to Help You Find the Perfect Brand Voice

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    Don’t underestimate the power of a brand voice. Though somewhat subjective in nature, your choice of words, tone, and direction throughout all forms of your company’s content can have a major impact on how many people read that content (as well as how they react to it). Unfortunately, you can’t choose a brand voice for your company the way you choose a flavor at an ice cream parlor. There are too many variables and options to consider, and even when you’ve crafted the ideal starting point, you’ll still likely have to make tweaks as you get comfortable with it.

    To start things off, try asking these 10 important questions. They’ll help you understand the nature and intention of your brand voice, as well as how to start writing in it effectively:

    1. Who is your target audience?

    Who is your target audience

    This question will feed into several of the others, so it’s the one you need to ask yourself first. Writing a voice for a brand that caters to teenage boys must be different than writing one for a brand that caters to retired women. Different generations, sexes, belief systems, economic and education levels all have different perspectives on life and different values, so you need to keep those in mind when you start developing the voice that will be speaking to them.

    2. How formal do you want to be?

    how formal do you want to be

    The formality of your voice can dictate a reader’s initial reaction. Do you want to speak formally, with precise, professional language and an almost stoic tone to give the impression that you’re an absolute professional with old-time values? Or do you want to speak informally, with conversational, casual language and a playful tone to connect with younger audience or seem more approachable? There’s a lot of gray area to work with here.

    3. How complex will you present your content?

    How complex will you present your content

    How familiar is your reader going to be with your industry and your topics? This should dictate what level of vocabulary you choose to use, as well as what topics you select. For example, if you run an automotive repair shop, will you speak to readers like they’re in the habit of fixing their own mechanical issues, or like they’ve never driven a car before in their lives? You could instantly turn someone off by choosing the wrong level of complexity.

    4. What emotions should your brand elicit?

    What emotions should your brand elicit

    This is a big one. When readers think about your brand, what emotions should be conjured up? Should they get a warm, cozy, home-like feeling? Do you want them to feel energized and excited? Should they feel challenged and inspired? These feelings need to come across in your voice.

    5. What is your brand’s mission?

    Why does your company exist? Most companies have a succinct mission statement already—if you do, use that as inspiration for developing your brand voice. Make that message a part of what you say at all times. If you don’t already have a mission statement, it’s time to create one. What’s the most important duty your company performs for people? What do you give them that they need?

    6. What are your competitors doing?

    Run a quick search for your competitors and see what their brand voices are like. Read a few of their blogs and see what they’re posting about on social media. What kind of tone do they use? What kind of audience are they speaking to? If they don’t seem to have a consistent voice at all, you’re already ahead of the game.

    7. How are you different from your competitors?

    Now that you have a good understanding of what your competitors are doing, you need to ask yourself how your company is different. Are you more casual and less formal? Are you more exciting and inspiring? There needs to be some differentiating factor here, or your customers won’t care who they end up buying from. Choose your factors carefully.

    8. How entertaining are you willing to be?

    Most brands do well with a careful balance of useful information and entertainment—such as jokes, informal language, and interactive images and videos within content. The question for your brand voice is how much entertainment are you willing to provide? Too much or too little could skew the image you’re striving for.

    9. What would your brand never say or do?

    Think of at least two or three different statements, topics, or content types that would be completely out of character for your brand. Sometimes, imagining what your company wouldn’t say is easier than imagining what it would say—use this exercise to help you figure out the latter.

    10. If your brand were a person, what is he/she like?

    This is the most useful question on this list, since it’s easy to answer and can help you develop a natural-sounding voice without overcomplicating things. Think of your brand as a human being. Is your brand male or female? How old? What educational background? How does he/she dress, act, think, and talk? What are his/her friends and family like? Give your brand a real, personified character and use that image to feed your streams of content to come.

    Remember, above all else, your brand voice needs to be consistent. Deviating from your brand’s standard will make your customers feel alienated, and won’t ever give them a firm grasp of “who” your brand is. Carry this voice across all your chosen platforms, including not only your blog but also your advertisements, your social media channels, your press releases, and all other forms of company communication. Make tweaks gradually and only when necessary, and eventually your customers will come to know, love, and appreciate the personality of your brand.

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-The AudienceBloom Team