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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 5 WordPress Plugins to Help Create a Mobile Friendly Website

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    Optimizing for mobile is a necessity. The rise in popularity of mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, is shifting the landscape of search and user experience from a world confined to desktops to one that favors a responsive, flexible experience. With a generation of users becoming accustomed to browsing the web and performing searches no matter where they are, major players like Google are doing their part to ensure that the greatest number of users can have a fully satisfying mobile experience.

    What that means for webmasters is that Google is rewarding sites that offer a mobile experience, and punishing those that do not. Mobile-optimized sites get a ranking boost compared to their desktop-only counterparts, especially when accessed via a mobile device, so simply ensuring your site is mobile-optimized is a sure step in the right direction for more online visibility. Add to that the idea that not all sites are mobile-friendly and your users will value you for giving them one, and you’ll have an additional leg up on your competition.

    If you haven’t already taken measures to ensure that your site is optimized for mobile experiences, it’s time to do so. If you don’t, you’ll officially be behind the ball. Fortunately, these five fantastic WordPress plugins are invaluable for taking your site to the next level:

    1. WPtouch.

    articleimage778WPtouch

    WPtouch is a plugin currently used by 5.5 million different blogs. While you can’t judge the usefulness of an app simply by its popularity, the amount of recognition it has garnered is well received. WPtouch is the self-proclaimed “complete mobile solution for WordPress,” and is compatible with virtually any type of mobile device.

    With WPtouch, you’ll be able to choose a responsive WPtouch theme, which tends to run about four times faster than comparable responsive sites with touch enhancements. Furthermore, the WPtouch plugin features something called an “infinity cache,” which works to cache your mobile site on mobile devices, which will make your site even faster when accessed via mobile. The faster your site is, the happier your users will be—and you’ll get a ranking boost as well.

    The only potential downside of WPtouch is that, unlike the majority of WordPress plugins, it is not free to use. The basic version of WPtouch is $49, though there are more advanced versions of the plugin available, with a host of other features.

    2. Jetpack.

    articleimage778jetpack

    Jetpack is a single plugin that can help you optimize your site for mobile, and make other tweaks that enhance site performance and allow you to improve both SEO and user experience. The Jetpack plugin comes with 33 distinct special features, attempting to be a catch-all that can help you improve multiple different dimensions of your site performance.

    As one of the primary selling points of the plugin, Jetpack offers a mobile theme that you can use to make your WordPress site responsive, which will ensure that both desktop and mobile users have a similarly great experience when attempting to view your site. You can also customize your Jetpack responsive theme, so long as you’re familiar with CSS and bit PHP.

    In addition to its mobile-optimization functionality, Jetpack sports a number of verification and site enhancement tools. For example, the “photon” functionality will increase your site speed, and another feature can integrate directly with your social profiles.

    Best of all, Jetpack is completely free to download and use. Despite its many features, it’s a relatively easy plugin to learn, so if you’re not confident in your abilities, it’s a nice beginner platform to experiment with.

    3. WP Mobile.

    articleimage778WPmobile

    WP Mobile is an option for any webmasters who want to forgo the responsive style of web design in favor of converting your website into a mobile version. In a responsive site design, one web layout will adjust based on what type of device is accessing it. In this style, separate desktop and mobile versions exist, and users will have the ability to toggle between the two based on their preferences. From a search engine perspective, Google doesn’t care how you make your site mobile-optimized—responsive and mobile-specific designs are treated with equal weight. However, you may find a user experience advantage in one over the other, depending on your core audience.

    The WP Mobile plugin features a straightforward mobile theme, which is simple and easy to load, keeping your loading times well within your comfort zone. The adaptation feature of the app also auto-detects the device being used to access the site, so it automatically loads the appropriate version while still giving users the option to switch if necessary. It even comes with mobile advertising settings, which are optional, in case you want to pursue that route. The plugin is free to download and use, so if you want a mobile-exclusive version of your site—have at it!

    4. WP Mobile Detector.

    The WP Mobile Detector doesn’t have quite as many features as some of its competitors, but it’s a perfect fit for some businesses who only need a convenient way of detecting which users are accessing their site from a standard mobile phone or a smartphone. If you’re in a business where a sizeable portion of your audience is still using traditional mobile phones, it could be extremely useful.

    With this plugin, your site will be able to automatically detect the type of device being used to access it, and will load an appropriate theme based on that information. It also features an integrated analytics platform, which can help you identify your audience’s makeup and behavior, and seven pre-loaded mobile themes that you can use to ensure your site is properly optimized for mobile without compromising your brand standards.

    Like WPtouch, WP Mobile Detector is not free. The basic version of the plugin is $50, with more features and greater functionality attributed to the premium version, which is a bit more expensive.

    5. WordPress Mobile Pack 2.0.

    Last but not least is a plugin that comes from WordPress itself. The WordPress Mobile Pack 2.0 exists to help you consolidate your website and provide a similar experience across any platform, any operating system, and most importantly, any device. It has full compatibility with all the major players in the web world, and allows you to convert your website into a responsive format.

    The plugin also comes with its very own custom theme, which features six abstract covers and plenty of customizable options to ensure that the theme becomes your own. Like the WP Mobile Detector, it also has a fully integrated analytics platform, which allows you to track your user behavior and regularly measure your site’s performance. It’s a simple, easy-to-use application that can help almost anyone optimize his/her WordPress site for a mobile experience. The plugin is free to download and use.

    Optimizing for mobile is a one-time responsibility, and with these WordPress plugins, it’s an almost painless one. Giving your users the option of accessing your site via desktop or mobile devices is a must in the modern era, and ensuring that the experience is seamless no matter what device is used to access it will ensure that your customers keep coming back for more. If your site isn’t currently optimized for mobile, download one of these plugins, and get moving. Your customers will thank you.

  5. 5 Psychology Studies that Provide Insight for Social Marketing

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    Social media marketing is a new field, and as such it’s been met with many differing opinions. Some view it as a fad while some hail it as the ultimate marketing channel. Some claim its benefits can’t be objectively measure, while others have tied their following numbers directly to an increase in revenue.

    No matter how much you’ve gotten involved with the medium in the past, a series of new psychology studies can help you better understand how social media has become such a powerful tool in our lives, and how social media marketers can take advantage of it. Read up on five of these important studies below:

    Princeton University Discovers the Importance of First Impressions

    articleimage757Princeton University Discovers the Importance of Fi

    Most people already realize the vital importance of first impressions. It’s why we dress up for interviews and meetings, and why we try to look and act our best on first dates. But a recent study from Princeton University suggests that first impressions can be based on incredibly subtle qualities—and are incredibly important in the social media world.

    In the study, participants were exposed to pairs of faces. Two sets of one identical pair were shown to separate groups of participants so that each participant would view the same two faces, but with slight alterations in their facial expressions. A subtle change in expression was more than enough to cause groups of people to significantly prefer one face over the other—people tended to trust one person more than the other, the person who was smiling, after briefly glimpsing each face.

    As a social marketer, you need to be wary that your followers’ first impressions of your online presence are going to set the tone for your entire relationship. Make sure your branding is consistent at all times, and each new piece of content you push out should in some way leave a lasting impression with the people who are seeing your brand for the first time. You should also take the time to welcome new followers individually and personally, to leave them with a positive first impression.

    The University of California Finds How Emotions Spread Online

    articleimage757University of Queensland

    When someone’s having a bad day at the office, they tend to bring down the mood of the entire place. When someone’s lively and having a great time, that jubilance is likely to spread. It seems intuitive that emotions are somewhat contagious, but much of that has to do with subtle things like body language and tonality, right?

    Actually, the University of California recently found that when a strong emotional reaction or sentiment is shared online, that feeling can spread socially just as it can in the real world. For example, let’s say you share something exciting. Your friends and followers who read that exciting statement are going to be more likely to post something exciting on their own over the course of the next few days, especially if they read more exciting posts in the meantime.

    Knowing that emotions are contagious, you can specifically create situations where people begin to associate your brand with positive feelings. For example, if you share something happy or funny and encourage your followers to do the same, you’ll introduce a wave of positivity throughout all your followers and followers’ followers. Strong emotional responses tend to generate more shares and more attention, so do what you can to introduce strong positive feelings whenever you can.

    Ipsos Finds Not All Sharers Are Equal

    Though not a Psychology study per say, Ipsos’s research into who shares what online and why shows us much about the nature of social sharing. According to this research, about one quarter of all people share “everything” or “most things” on their social media profiles, indicating a great willingness to divulge the details of their lives to the general public. However, another one fifth of the general population tends to share nothing at all.

    However, this data varies wildly both by region and by other demographics such as age and gender. Obviously, as a social marketer, you want to find an audience that shares your content as much as possible. The more your content is shared, the more visibility it’s going to get, and the more traffic and interest you’ll generate as a result.

    The key takeaway here is to write content that’s customized for the segments of your audience who are prone to sharing “everything” they encounter on the web. It may take you some time to figure this out, but if you can take advantage of this segment, you’ll maximize your content’s sharing potential.

    The University of Queensland Demonstrates the Sense of Community Online

    articleimage757 University of Queensland Demonstrates the Sense

    Communities function organically in the real world. When a person engages with a group, he/she feels more connected to the group, and vice versa. However, the online community has unique means of engagement—brands can interact with thousands of people simultaneously, while those people can respond or engage in conversations on their own.

    A recent study from the University of Queensland showed that users who were active posters on respective Facebook communities tended to feel more connected to those communities than inactive participants. This is somewhat intuitive; after all, if someone feels less connected to a community, he/she would certainly feel less inclined to post regularly.

    However, there is an important lesson here for social marketers. Engaging with your users in the form of a stream of content and responses to comments simply isn’t enough to foster a sense of community within your following. You have to find a way to get your followers actively involved with your page. If you can manage to influence more people to actively participate, you’ll cultivate a much greater sense of community amongst your own followers, and as a result, people will feel closer to your brand.

    Pew Research Center Identifies the Place of Influencers in Social Media

    The Pew Research Center recently published an article that identifies “power users” as the culprits behind the phenomenon we’ve all experienced—there are far more people consuming content on social media than there are producing content. These “power users” are responsible for the vast majority of all posts and tend to have the greatest followings as a result.

    As a social marketer, there are two things you can take away from this. First, you can woo these “power users” early on to increase your chances of getting shared and seen, not to mention building your following by dipping into those users’ followings. Second, if you eventually build yourself into your own “power user,” you can become a much greater influencer in your field. The key is to make yourself known as an authority by posting valuable, unique pieces of content and getting involved in as many conversations as possible pertaining to your field of expertise.

    Understanding the psychology behind social media use and interactions is the first step to building a social presence that makes an impact. If you can cater your strategy to your most valuable audience segments, make a great first impression, stimulate positive emotions and eventually build yourself into a social media “power user,” you can tap into the untold potential of the marketing channel and dramatically increase the traffic to your site. Beyond that, truly get to know your followers and give them the content they want to read.

  6. 6 Strategies to Optimize Text for Click-Throughs

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    If you’re managing an active online presence, the more traffic you can get to your site, the better. Finding ways to drive more clicks and more visits to your site is a surefire way to get more visibility for your brand, more conversions on your site, and of course, a greater stream of revenue as a result. With a myriad of external links pointing to your website embedded or sandwiched in text, if you can optimize that text to increase the likelihood of viewers clicking through, you’ll enjoy the benefits.

    Increasing Click-Throughs for Syndicated Links

    Whether you’re working on building your domain authority for SEO through external links or building your brand reach through syndicated content on social media, there are dozens of places where you post links to your site on a regular basis. Cleaning up the text you use to introduce those links will give your users a more concise, more compelling message, which will increase their tendency to click your link and visit your site.

    Increasing Click-Throughs for a Google AdWords Campaign

    In a Google AdWords advertising campaign, you’re only going to pay for people who click on your advertising, up to your set budget. Therefore, increasing your total click-throughs will not increase the total traffic to your site—it will just help you hit your budget faster.

    However, increasing your click-throughs on an AdWords campaign has a ton of other benefits. It can increase your Quality Score, which can indirectly give you a boost in rankings, and simultaneously lower your average cost per click and minimum bid—making your entire campaign cheaper in the process. High click-through rates are a sign of authority and quality, both of which are favorable qualities to Google, and Google always rewards the sites that play by its rules.

    No matter what types of campaigns you run, you can use these strategies to optimize your text to get the greatest number of click-throughs:

    1. Explain the unique value of clicking to the user.

    articleimage756Explain the unique value of clicking to the user
    There are a lot of links floating around on the web, and most of them are garbage. The average user is aware of this fact, and generally browses past hundreds of links a day without clicking a single one of them.

    If you want to attract someone to click your link, you have to explain why it’s valuable for them to click it—either directly or indirectly. Complicating things even further, you have to explain why it’s uniquely valuable—why would your user click this link before any other similar links he/she encounters?

    For example, if you’re posting a link on social media to a recent how-to guide you’ve written about repairing an old sink, don’t just post a link that says “Sink repair guide.” It’s too general, and it doesn’t explain what the benefit is of reading it. If, however, you dress up your language using something like “Learn how to stop your leaky sink and save moneyon your water bill,” you’ll be giving your users plenty of reasons to click through.

    2. Call the user to action.

    articleimage756Call the user to action

    Using indirect language that compels a reader to take action is a subtle strategy that increases the chances of a user eventually clicking. You can’t be too blunt with this—using wording like “CLICK HERE!!!!” is going to alienate your users and earn you scorn from Google.

    Instead, strive to use your language more subtly. Command words that start sentences like “Read how…” or “Join us” lead people to a natural conclusion that taking action is necessary. Imbuing your text with a sense of urgency, using words like “now,” “today,” or other time-related modifiers, can also increase your average user’s chance of clicking.

    For example, if you’re running a promotion that includes a discount on users’ total orders, the phrase “Significant discounts applied to your entire order on our site” doesn’t exactly call a user to take action. On the other hand, something like “Join today and you’ll earn discounts of up to thirty percent on your next order,” calls the user to action immediately and also explains the unique benefits of clicking.

    3. Tease, but don’t give away the full story.

    articleimage756Tease, but don’t give away the full story

    This strategy is especially useful for content marketers trying to entice people to read more of their stories. You might see this strategy used for article teases that pop up on your news feed, and while it can be annoying if overdone, it can also be highly effective if used tactfully. Consider the article title, “This dog walks into a liquor store, and you won’t believe what happens next!” It’s bona fide click bait that will earn more links than a flat headline but might also give users a bad impression of the brand—the point in this exaggerated example is to show how the writer teases the full story without giving everything away.
    You can do the same thing for your articles to increase their appeal. For example, if you’ve written an article about a new exercise routine, you can tease it by saying something like, “Three weeks, and this exercise routine will have you six pounds lighter and happier than ever.” It implies the full body of the content without giving everything away up front. It lures the user to click so he/she can read more.

    4. Make your copy ultra-specific.

    Each phrase you use in your introductory copy should be as specific as possible. That doesn’t mean contradicting the mysteriousness we set in point 3, but it does mean refining your word choices to be as unique and specific as possible. In the example from the above point, we call the user out with indications of “three weeks” and “six pounds,” both highly specific values. If the title read, “This new exercise routine will make you lighter and happier than ever,” it wouldn’t carry nearly as much click power. Use numbers and specific adjectives whenever you can.

    Users crave specificity because there’s a lot of content on the web, and if you write ambiguously, your text will fall into a pit of white noise, never to be seen or clicked.

    5. Cut out any unnecessary words.

    This step can be difficult, especially if you’ve added several words to make your text more specific, in compliance with point 5. However, cutting out any unnecessary words from your introductory text is a perfect strategy to put the final polish on your copy.

    As much as users crave specificity, they crave conciseness. Fleeting attention spans and infinite volumes of content have significantly shortened the chance you have to capture a user’s attention. If your text has too many filler words, it will be gleaned over. If your text is too long, it will be ignored entirely. Study every word in your sentences and evaluate their necessity in your copy. Eliminate any that aren’t absolutely necessary for your message.

    6. AB test.

    There are some intangible factors that affect click-throughs, which can’t be concisely identified in a bullet point. Some users prefer the texture of certain words over others. Some prefer subtlety while other prefer frankness. You won’t know for sure until you test in the field.

    Use AB tests to measure different variations of your copy against each other. Set each to run under similar circumstances, at similar times of day and on identical platforms, and measure which variation is more effective at generating clicks. Do a few rounds of this, and you should be able to form a clear conclusion on which text works best, and apply those findings to the remainder of your campaign.

    Put these strategies to good use when writing any new text around your external links. Measure the results of your efforts, make adjustments when necessary, and eventually you’ll hone a near-perfect strategy to attract more people to your site through links.

  7. How Frequently Does Penguin Update on Average?

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    The Penguin update has been making waves for the search engine community since its introduction back in 2012, but the seemingly irregular intervals of updates and data refreshers has a majority of search marketers scratching their heads. Staying apprised of Google’s updates is a necessity in the modern era, as is updating your strategy to adhere to new best practices and stay in Google’s good graces. That process becomes especially difficult when you don’t know what to expect from the search engine giant.

    Fortunately, with a bit of analysis, you can determine the average length of time between Penguin updates, and implement a strategy to proactively prepare for a possible hit.

    Penguin to Date

    articleimage755 Penguin to Date

    In order to understand the significance behind Penguin update intervals, we must first understand the history of the Penguin update from the beginning. Penguin first debuted on April 24, 2012, under the generic name “the Webspam Update.” Intended as a follow-up to the Panda update, which penalized sites with weak or irrelevant onsite content, the Penguin update focused on black hat offsite practices, such as spamming links or posting links on irrelevant external sites. It was considered a major update, impacting approximately three percent of all search queries.

    Google followed up with a new iteration, Penguin 1.1, on May 25, 2012. Rather than a major update (which would have been called Penguin 2.0), this update was considered a “data refresh,” incorporating no significant algorithm changes but instead simply keeping the system up-to-date. The next Penguin update, informally referred to as 1.2, came in October 2012, impacting less than one percent of search queries. It was also suspected to be a data refresh.

    The next significant update for Penguin was 2.0, and it was a major algorithm update rather than just another data refresh. Impacting 2.3 percent of search queries, the update was released in May of 2013, marking approximately one year since Penguin 1.0. Another data refresh, affecting about one percent of search queries, was released in October 2013, mirroring Penguin 1.2’s release in October 2012.

    Following this pattern, many search experts anticipated a new Penguin algorithm update in the spring of 2014. It wasn’t until October of 2014 that we finally got a new iteration. Referred to as Penguin 3.0, mostly because of the massive length of time since the last Penguin update, the algorithm update was not assigned a version number by Google. It rolled out over the course of a few weeks, rather than the usual day or two, and ultimately affected about one percent of all search queries. There are some reports that suggest this update was not a major algorithm change, and that instead, it is merely a large-scale data refresh.

    Average Penguin Update Timing

    Looking at the historical timing of Penguin updates and refreshes, we can make a few assumptions about the average update timing. First, major algorithm changes are at least a year apart. It was about a year between Penguin 1.0 and 2.0, and a year and a half between 2.0 and 3.0. If we’re getting technical, if 3.0 isn’t truly a fundamental algorithm change, then the next algorithm update is yet to come.

    Looking at the data refreshes, which can shake up the search rankings almost as much as an algorithm change, these seem to come out around October of every year. Excepting the lack of a major algorithm update in May of 2014, Penguin updates have followed a pattern of release in both May and October of each year. While it’s still fairly early in Penguin’s history, this pattern has remained almost unbroken for three consecutive years, and can likely be considered reliable as you plan your strategy.

    The Lasting Effects of Penguin 3.0

    articleimage755 Thelastingeffectofpenguin

    There is one recent changeup in the pattern that might predict a revolutionary new format of Penguin updates. Penguin 3.0, rather than being released over the course of a few days, was released over the course of a few weeks. Over the course of Thanksgiving, more than six weeks after the first impact of Penguin 3.0, Google acknowledged that ranks were still fluctuating as a result of the refresh.

    As these fluctuations are still occurring, Google may have introduced a new, gradual style of updating Penguin. The Panda update, related to Penguin, also featured a recent update that rolled out slowly over the course of a few weeks. This change in approach might be Google’s way of trying to stabilize rankings while they make changes, limiting the tumultuous nature of algorithm updates while simultaneously making the changes it needs to make.

    When Will the Next Major Rollout Begin?

    The future of the Penguin update depends on Google’s approach. If they try to take a much more gradual, long-term approach to the update, as possibly indicated by the weeks-long release of Penguin 3.0, the entire Penguin pattern to date could be obsolete at this point. In this case, Google would simply roll out Penguin refreshes on a regular, perhaps monthly basis to keep their algorithm fine-tuned without making waves.

    However, it’s more likely that this update pattern will continue, albeit with more gradual rollouts to mitigate the chaos of sudden, major updates. If this is the case, we could potentially expect a significant change to Google’s ranking algorithm in May of 2015 (assuming they don’t skip another year). At the very least, we can expect a data refresh in October of 2015, which will affect up to one percent of all search queries.

    How to Tell if You’re Hit

    articleimage755How to tell if you are hit

    If you haven’t already experienced volatility in your ranks as a result of the most recent Penguin 3.0 update, you’re probably in the clear. While there are a few spurts left over from the weeks-long rollout, the majority of the update’s impact has already manifested. If you’ve noticed a sharp ranking drop for any keywords or a sharp drop in your organic search traffic, it could be a result of a Penguin-related penalty.

    To determine the root cause of the Penguin-related drop (and correct it as soon as possible), take a look at your backlink profile using an online tool like Moz’sOpen Site Explorer. Here, you’ll be able to browse through your current external links and locate any that appear to be built unnaturally—keep a special eye out for:

    • Links built on low-quality sites, like article directories
    • Links built on non-relevant sites, such as those not related to your industry
    • Links anchored in keywords
    • Excessive links built on the same source
    • Links irrelevant to the content of the page or to the users seeing your links

    How to Prepare in the Meantime

    While Google’s updates do follow a loose pattern, they are still somewhat unpredictable. Google is known for changing the game, and they like to keep search marketers on their toes. As such, it’s impossible to be fully prepared for everything Google has in store for the future.

    Instead of trying to take advantage of the current state of the algorithm or trying to predict what’s in the pipeline, focus on giving your customers and web users the best possible online experience. Build links that are truly valuable to the people encountering them, and build meaningful online relationships with reputable sites. These actions will always be favored by search engines, and you’ll never face a penalty for creating genuinely valuable links or content.

  8. How to Make Your Job Easier as a Social Media Manager

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    The life of a social media manager is a hectic one. You’re responsible for monitoring, managing, and measuring the growth of your entire company’s social media presence, and that means constantly coming up with new ideas, checking for new comments, and staying ahead of new developments. Every time you catch up on tasks, a new pile of tasks is waiting for you, and there’s never an end to the stream of content you’re responsible for maintaining.

    It is a challenging and stressful responsibility, but fortunately, there are a number of strategies which can help you manage the chaos and make your job easier as a social media manager:

    Focus Your Strategy by Eliminating Unused Social Profiles

    If you’re like most social media managers, you’ve probably claimed a profile for your company on every conceivable social profile—you’ve got the biggies like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, but you’ve also got some small-time players like Snapchat, Vine, and some new up-and-coming network that nobody’s using yet.

    Take a look at the response rates and incoming traffic from your individual profiles. Are any of them significantly lacking compared to the others? For example, if you spend half an hour a day on Pinterest and you’re only bringing in a few new visitors a week, you may want to consider eliminating that work and putting it toward something more valuable, especially if that means enjoying a less frantic schedule. Don’t waste your time on inactive social profiles. Quality is better than quantity.

    Use a Scheduling Tool

    articleimage754 Use a Scheduling Tool

    If you aren’t already, pick up a scheduling tool for your posts like HootSuite or Sprout Social. It’s going to make your life much easier.

    Rather than timing your posts appropriately, or trying to schedule each set of posts for each social media profile, a social scheduler will allow you to schedule the posts for each of your profiles and manage that schedule all in one platform. If you plan it right, you could schedule your posts more than a month in advance and virtually eliminate the time it takes to draft and plan out the timing for each one.

    As a bonus, these scheduling tools usually come paired with some kind of analytics tool, so you can easily look back and measure the impact of your work.

    Dig Into Your History for Inspiration

    If you’re having trouble coming up with new ideas for posts or if you’re spending too much time brainstorming when you could be doing something else, try looking into your company’s own past for inspiration. Look to blogs you’ve posted a few years ago and see if they’re relevant enough to rewrite. Find new headlines to reintroduce links to your newest content. Look at your older social media posts and see if you can rework them or follow up on them with a new idea.

    The key here is to preserve some level of variation. Don’t repost your older content verbatim, but feel free to dress it up in new packaging. Doing so can eliminate hours of your workweek and keep your content streams just as full as they were before.

    Jump Into Pre-existing Conversations

    articleimage754 Jump Into Pre-existing Conversations

    Part of the job of a social media manager is to facilitate great discussions that stimulate community growth and help your company appear as an expert in the field. Typically, managers try and start their own conversations with open-ended questions and debatable subjects. While this is a good strategy, you can save time and cut right to the chase by hijacking conversations that already exist.

    Look to fellow members of your industry or other influencers for discussions that are already in progress. Jump on as a participant, or share the post on your own feed, inviting your users to chime in with their own ideas. Doing so is a shortcut that could save you a couple hours a week, depending on how much discussion you usually facilitate.

    Form Custom Lists and News Feeds

    articleimage754 Form Custom Lists and News Feeds

    Most social sites allow you to create custom news feeds that give you exactly the type of information and content you’re looking for. For example, Twitter allows its users to create “lists” of the people they follow, grouping them into categories based on subject matter, relationship status, or pretty much any other qualities. Creating and maintaining lists like this can help you zero in on the exact content you need to learn or draw inspiration from.

    Similarly, you could subscribe to a free blog reader program, which can generate new reading material for you automatically based on a pre-existing set of preferences. Either way, you’ll eliminate the amount of time you spend searching for news or potential material to base your posts on.

    Find a Social Listening Tool

    Social listening is an automated tool that can help you stay apprised of any developments on your social media profiles—without checking into each profile individually. Rather than checking for new comments, posts, and mentions on each of your individual profiles and doing manual searches for mentions of your company name, a social listening tool is able to aggregate any activity of types you specify. For example, you’ll get an alert any time your name is mentioned on a social profile, or any time a user posts a new comment on your news feed.

    Once you’ve set your listening tool up reliably, you can virtually eliminate all the logging in and logging out that comes with social media management.

    Block Your Time

    It’s easier to manage your time when you can visualize it in chunks and segregate it based on your priorities. It’s too easy to lose track of time when you’re reading the news for inspiration or scrolling through news feeds and search results for new comments.

    Block your time out every day to overcome this—set a firm schedule, such as one hour dedicated to checking emails and checking news feeds, a half hour dedicated to reading news, and an hour dedicated to scheduling posts. Keep yourself accountable for maintaining those timetables, and you’ll be able to effectively avoid spending unnecessary time on low-priority items.

    Set Up Automatic Reporting

    Measuring and analyzing your results is one of the most important functions of a social media manager. On a weekly basis, you should be logging in to each profile and Google Analytics to measure your effectiveness and make adjustments to your strategy for the future.

    However, it’s much easier if you set up automatic reporting whenever possible, so you can take a look at consistent metrics at a glance. For example, in Google Analytics, it’s possible to have yourself emailed a PDF for each report you typically view, for any time period you set. Most social management platforms offer similar functionality to report new likes, follows, and shares.

    Your job as a social media manager may never be “easy,” but it can be made easier by applying these strategies. By eliminating some of your unnecessary work, automating the tasks that can be automated, and creating an environment that allows you to thrive, you can maximize your productivity and increase your impact in the social world. Not only will your job be easier to handle, but you might even see a boost in your followings as well!

  9. The Ultimate Guide to Leveraging Video Marketing for Websites

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    Video marketing, the art of creating and syndicating videos in order to generate more brand visibility and traffic, is becoming less of a novelty and more of a necessity in the modern era. In 2014, video marketing began to swell in prominence and significance, and by 2015, businesses will practically require some kind of video marketing strategy in order to stay afloat.

    Fortunately, video marketing is relatively easy to comprehend. It takes a lot of time and effort to research, strategize, plan, execute, and measure the results of your campaigns, but if done correctly, the strategy rewards your business many times over.

    There are many facets of video marketing, some or all of which will apply to your specific business. Each has advantages and disadvantages, but almost all of them can be used by some businesses as an exemplary way of showcasing their brand and building customer loyalty.

    Video Testimonials and Reviews

    articleimage753 Video Testimonials and Reviews

    The first type of video is one of the easiest to acquire, since it depends on your customers to do the heavy lifting. Video reviews are exactly what they sound like; a user showcases one of your products in a video format, and reviews your product based on what they personally like and dislike. As long as your products are solid, the majority of these videos will be positive, so you don’t need to worry much if a handful of people have something negative to say about your brand or your product.

    Encourage video reviews and testimonials by reminding your users to post one after each purchase, or by sponsoring a competition that rewards a random participant with free products or discounts on future orders. However you choose to do it, if you foster this community carefully, you’ll end up with several dozen video reviews and testimonials from your users uploaded directly to sites like YouTube. You’ll earn a backlink back to your site, which will help your SEO efforts, and the people watching these videos will trust the unbiased, personal sources, giving your brand and your products more credibility.

    Video Demonstrations and Tutorials

    articleimage753Video Demonstrations and Tutorials

    Demonstrations are valuable because they showcase your products in a real environment. These are usually produced in-house, featuring a product specialist or, if your strategy warrants it, a real user of your product. The demonstration can be as in-depth or as general as you see fit; short videos less than 30 seconds or so are watched in full more often, but videos longer than five minutes tend to attract the most serious users to watch them. If you’re more interested in highlighting the product, shorter is better. If you’re more interested in informing the user, longer is the best route.

    Tutorials also come in handy, especially when paired with a corresponding how-to article. Tutorials walk the user through a series of step-by-step instructions that guide them through a specific task. Almost any how-to article can be converted into a video format, which will maximize your potential audience and give you more visibility on video sites like YouTube.

    Informational and Introductory Videos

    articleimage753 Informational and Introductory Videos

    Informational videos are similar to video demonstrations and tutorials in the sense that they’re designed to inform or educate a user. However, they’re generally focused on a different range of topics. For example, a demonstration might focus on how a product is used, a tutorial might illustrate a step-by-step guide, and an informational video might introduce a user to a broad topic or identify and explain a new trend in the industry.

    Introductory videos could also double as subtle advertising for a new line of products or a new service your company is featuring. They are designed to capture the interest of the user and inform them about what’s coming up. The biggest drawback with introductory videos is that they tend to be short-lived; tutorials and informational videos generally cover “evergreen” subjects, which aren’t specific to any season or time period.

    Entertaining Videos

    Entertaining videos are a must if you’re interested in maximizing social shares and visibility. Videos that are humorous, amusing, shocking, or otherwise engaging tend to be viewed multiple times and shared, and eventually they reach a wider audience as a result. While going the entertainment route exclusively may not align with your current brand standards, you can always inject an “entertaining” factor into any of your other videos in order to increase shareability.

    Entertaining videos aren’t just limited to funny or shocking videos, however. You can also post casual interviews with industry professionals or leadership within your own organization, or videos of special events you’ve hosted or attended.

    Starting a Video Marketing Campaign From Scratch

    If you’ve never started a video marketing campaign before, you might feel intimidated, especially since the medium has evolved radically over the past several years, but getting set up is relatively simple.

    Step One: Claim Your Accounts

    First, you’ll want to find an easy way to upload, post, and share your videos. Otherwise, your audience won’t be able to see them! Claim a YouTube account for your company if you haven’t already, and set up at least one channel—more if you plan on having separate subjects of videos to upload. Then, make sure your site and social media profiles are ready to hold videos you choose to embed or share.

    Step Two: Outline Your Goals

    Before you start shooting footage or sketching outlines for future videos, you need to identify your key goals. Are you trying to build your brand’s reputation? Are you trying to earn more backlinks for your SEO campaign? Are you trying to make your brand visible to a greater number of people? The answers to these questions will help you determine what types of videos you need to produce.

    Step Three: Set Your Schedule

    After you’ve set your goals firmly, you can outline a general course for your video production schedule. For example, you could aim to produce one new tutorial video per week while encouraging video reviews and testimonials in the background. Keep your production schedule in line with your goals, and leave room for adjustments either way.

    Step Four: Produce

    Choosing your team is one of the most important stages of the process. While many amateur videographers are perfectly capable of handling short videos, you’ll want to ensure your brand is presented consistently in the medium. Hiring a professional videographer may be a better option if you have the budget and the production capacity for it. Otherwise, you could split the planning work between your existing team and hire a freelancer to fill in the rest.

    Once produced and posted, syndicate your videos regularly on social media to get the greatest visibility for your work.

    Step Five: Measure and Adjust

    Keep tabs on how many views and shares your videos are getting. Pay close attention to your most popular and least popular subjects, and start adjusting your production schedule accordingly. The key to being successful in a video marketing campaign is to give your audience what they want—so read comments and engage with your viewers directly to discover their needs and adapt your strategy to accommodate them. You should also measure how much your traffic increases at regular intervals once your video marketing strategy begins to determine its overall ROI.

    It will take a few months before you get into the groove of your video marketing campaign. Don’t worry; the more you learn about your specific audience and what kind of reception your videos are getting, the easier it will be to adjust your campaign and really start seeing results.

  10. Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Long-Tail Keywords

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    Successful search marketing is about getting more visibility on the web, and that requires a careful balance between points: finding opportunities that have the greatest visibility and finding opportunities that require the least amount of effort (or spending). For conventional SEO, that means having a profile of keywords that give you a nice blend of highly searched-for terms and terms that are easy to rank for.

    Long-tail keywords arose as a strategy in partial response to this outlook, serving as keywords that were easy to rank for. However, as we enter a new era of search marketing, researching and optimizing for long-tail keywords has become somewhat obsolete.

    What Are Long-Tail Keywords?

    articleimage752What Are Long-Tail Keywords

    There are different definitions for what constitutes a “long-tail” keyword, but the simplest is this: long-tail keywords are keyword phrases more than a few words long. There’s no strict definition for the minimum or maximum length, nor is there a definition for how they appear in context. Generally, these long-tail keywords take the form of sentences, such as “the best steak house in southern California” rather than the simpler keyword phrase “steak house California.”

    Long-tail keywords are advantageous over shorter keyword phrases because there’s much less competition clamoring for them. While a phrase like “steak house California” might get thousands of regular searches, it’s also being sought after by thousands of businesses. On the other hand, “the best steak house in southern California” might only get a few dozen regular searches, but it would be a much easier keyword to rank for. Under these circumstances, most businesses would rather have a sure shot at visibility for a few dozen searchers than a small possibility after months of hard work for a few thousand searchers.

    To use long-tail keyword phrases properly, most businesses conduct research, brainstorming about the potential long-tail phrases their customers might search for and comparing them against each other in terms of search volume and competition. Then, these keyword phrases would be carefully and precisely implanted into recurring content, usually somewhere in the title. Within a short span of time, the business would rank for the keyword phrase in question, and new long-tail phrases would be supplemented in its place.

    This has been a sound strategy for years, but the changing landscape of keywords has put a wrinkle in the otherwise valuable opportunity.

    The Keyword Problem

    articleimage752keywordproblem

    Keywords are waning in importance. Users are still relying on specific phrases in order to accomplish their searches, but the way Google views and analyzes keywords has been rebuilt from the ground up, and that change has compromised the traditional methods of long-tail keyword research and implementation.

    Starting with the Hummingbird update in 2013, Google has been making steady changes to its algorithm to incorporate a function known as “semantic search.” In the old way of searching, Google would break down user queries into shorter segments known as keywords and keyword phrases. It would then compare those keywords to keywords as they exist on the web, searching for sites that used those verbatim phrases the greatest number of times and in the most relevant places.

    Semantic search changed everything. Rather than analyzing user queries based on the keywords that make them up, Google’s algorithm is now sophisticated enough to analyze the intent behind each user query. In essence, when you search for “the best steak house in southern California,” Google isn’t examining your phrase and finding matching instances of that phrase throughout the web. Instead, it’s analyzing the fact that you are looking for the greatest steak restaurants in southern California, and attempting to give you the most relevant results.

    The traditional long-tail keyword approach relied on the search engine looking for instances of an exact phrase. For example, even if you include the phrase “the best steak house in southern California” all over your site and blog, Google may still not consider you a candidate for the best steak house in California if it knows your business is located in Nevada, or if negative customer reviews have compromised your candidacy for being the “best.”

    As a result, long-tail keyword research is meaningless—finding long-tail phrases that are commonly searched for and using them word-for-word on your site will no longer get you the results you’re accustomed to.

    Long-Tail Keywords Are Still Important

    articleimage752Long-Tail Keywords Are Still Important

    While the traditional use of long-tail keyword phrases is dying, long-tail phrases themselves are still important. Instead of using your long-tail research to uncover phrases to use in your content directly, you can use your research to uncover topics that need to be addressed. For example, if you see a high volume of search queries for “how to build panpipes out of PVC pipe,” a long-tail keyword phrase, you would no longer need to worry about including that exact keyword phrase two to three times in the body of your blog posts. Instead, you would need to make sure you write the best, most detailed, most accurate article about building panpipes from PVC pipe on the web. Doing so, and building your overall domain authority over time, will increase the likelihood of you ranking for such a phrase.

    Essentially, you’ll be using long-tail keyword research as a platform for uncovering subjects to write about. It’s still a good idea to keep your titles accurate to your subject matter, but the exact phrasing of your keywords doesn’t matter nearly as much as it used to.

    Finding Niches

    Long-tail keyword strategies were all about finding words that nobody was competing for, and claiming them as your territory. It was an easy way to get a small amount of visibility, and when done enough, could generate a substantial amount of traffic to your site.

    The new way of using long-tail keywords is fundamentally similar. Instead of finding long keywords that nobody is ranking for, you’ll be finding niche topics that nobody is writing about. Instead of striking the balance between keywords that carry a large search volume and keywords with minimal competition, you’ll be striking a balance between content that appeals to the greatest number of readers and content that hasn’t been covered in detail.

    Finding those niche topics can be daunting, especially if you’re new to the world of content marketing, but there are several paths that can lead you to this goal. In addition to using traditional long-tail keyword research to find potential topics, one of the best ways to generate ideas is to simply ask your readers directly. Conduct surveys or focus groups with some of your most avid readers and most loyal customers to hear what they’d like to read in a blog, and what they’re currently missing from their regular material. These conversations can guide you in the right direction when it comes to seldom-written, highly-valued content opportunities.

    Remember, the long-tail keyword strategy isn’t totally extinct—it has just evolved into something simpler. You no longer have to worry about precise phrase inclusion or hitting a target number of keyword phrases. Instead, your focus belongs on your main priority—your users. Write the content that your users need, and the content that your competitors aren’t already covering. In time, that will be sufficient to build your audience and capitalize on the search traffic that comes from those highly-specific, long-term keyword phrases.

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