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Category Archive: Content Marketing

  1. How to Hire and Manage Freelancers for Your Content Marketing Campaign

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    If you’ve decided to move into content marketing, one of the facts that you quickly learn is that it requires hard work – a lot of it. Doing the background research, developing your content calendar, writing or producing the content, optimizing it for publication, getting it published, disseminating it, engaging with your readers, and measuring your results is no small feat.

    Many businesses use freelancers to accelerate some or all parts of these processes. I’ve worked with freelancers throughout my career for various projects, and I’ve learned a few things along the way. Here are my top tips for ensuring you hire the right people for the job, building your relationships with your freelance team, and getting the most value out of these relationships

    Crafting the Job Advertisement

    For purposes of this article, I’ll use the example of hiring and working with a freelance writer. Everything outlined in the attached is applicable to any freelancer you’ll work with. The first place to get started is with defining the role and articulating those needs in your job description. If you need more ideas on the kinds of writing required for a content marketing strategy, I recommend reading “How To Build Your First Content Marketing Strategy.”

    There’s a wide variety of writers on the market. Skills range from beginner to advanced, as do price ranges and professionalism. The best way to vet your pool of candidates is to start by being very thoughtful in terms of how you structure your job ad.

    Start by sketching out a list of the deliverables that this person will handle: blog posts, guest posts, and articles, for example. How long do they need to be, and how frequently do you need them written? Different candidates will be drawn to one five hundred word post per week versus and two fifteen hundred word posts per day, for example. The more clear you are about your needs, the more candidates will self-select during the application process based on quality, pace, and topics required.

    Next, think about the kind of voice or function you want these pieces to have for your business. Are you looking for a journalistic voice that can help you educate readers about your space, or someone that can make the hard sell and move people toward a purchase right away? There’s no right answer, but it’s important that you consider the voice you’d like to use for your business. Versatile writers can often communicate in multiple voices, but specific candidates are also likely to have strengths.

    Finally, consider the work style that you’re most comfortable with. Do you need someone that’s very independent, who is comfortable developing and pitching topics? Are you looking for someone to deliver finished products that you can just publish? Or are you looking for a collaborative writer that can breathe life into your ideas, that is willing to conform to a strict style guide, and can run with your article titles or outlines? Once you’ve gotten clear on these points, you’re ready to draft the job description.

    Here are a few tips to take into account when writing the job description:

    1. Be very clear about your required experience: Can anyone smart and willing to research write these pieces, or does it require a certain level of area expertise or writing finesse?
    2. Use clear criteria to define the way that you’ll measure that experience: For example, if you’re hiring someone to write guest posts that you hope to publish on high-end tech blogs, one reasonable measure would be to ask for published examples from blogs such as Mashable, VentureBeat, or other well-known publications with strict quality guidelines for guest authors. If your goal is to write white papers and other content geared toward ethanol engineers, ask to see writing samples that demonstrate their expertise in that field.
    3. Always ask for examples: Whenever possible, ask to see at least five samples of someone’s work. If you’re hiring a less experienced person, it’s possible they won’t have a strong portfolio yet. However, seeing five samples of solid work on different topics or from different clients or publications can confirm that this is a person that can deliver a quality product that doesn’t require excessive editing.
    4. Request some background information: When you’re hiring a writer or creative, it’s unlikely that you need a detailed resume (but you should request one if it makes you feel more comfortable). What you do want to understand is their general background, the basis of their expertise or interest in your field, and what kind of writing career that they’ve had to date.

    Once you’ve written the job description, test it with three trusted colleagues, advisors, or friends. Ask them to give you feedback on clarity. Can they describe the role? Is the profile of person you’re trying to hire clear? The combined feedback of a few people should ensure that what you’re putting out there is attracting the right kind of candidate.

    Managing the Publishing Process

    Once the job description is written, it’s ready to be posted. There are a number of places on which you can post freelance work. Here’s a quick look at different options and their pros and cons.

    Bidding sites, like Elance or Guru: Sites like Elance allow you to post jobs in a variety of niches and get bids from vendors around the globe. The advantages are simple:

    • access to a pool of professionals;
    • a single interface to hire and manage projects and payment;
    • access to past performance data of each freelancer to help make your decisions.

    The downsides typically relate to quality: these sites are often a stepping stone for professionals that are building their careers. The most accomplished individuals usually look elsewhere for work.

    Your own networks: Don’t overlook the power of reaching out to your own networks. If you’re hiring, post a link to the job description on your social media networks or email it to trusted colleagues. Many times, someone you know has a person that they use for this specific service or a contact that’s seeking new clients. Pay extra attention to candidates that come your way via referrals.

    Specialty sites: Depending on which niche you’re hiring for, there are likely to be specific sites where you can connect with freelancers. For example, if you’re hiring writers you’d likely consider sites like JournalismJobs, ProBlogger, and Freelancewritinggigs. Hiring coders? Sites like Dice.com and Sologigs are the right places to start. Find a few of the top sites in the niche where you’re looking for talent and evaluate the quality of ads there. It may cost you a bit more in the beginning but you’re more likely to get responses from a highly qualified customer base.

    How to Vet Freelance Writers

    Once you’ve developed your pool of likely suspects, do a paid test article. There are three ways to approach this: none will always going to be the right approach, but each will give you slightly different insight to your candidates.

    Pitching: Ask your candidates to get to know your business a bit, and then have them pitch topics that would be good fits for your company, audience, and marketing goals. This approach gives you an instant understanding of how well they really get your company’s unique positioning, your audience, and what you’re hoping to accomplish with your content. It’ll also allow you to take a deeper look at the content they produce and their overall writing ability.

    Assigning the same article to different writers: To do more of an apples to apples comparison, take a specific topic (e.g. “The Top Things Entrepreneurs Should Know about Google Analytics”) and assign that to each of the finalists from your applicant pool. Seeing how the writers each tackle their assigned subjects will give you an excellent perspective on whose work resonates the most with your voice and style.

    Assign specific but different content pieces to your writers: There’s a good chance that you’ve got a looming pile of content ideas that need to be written. This audition could be a practical way to identify your new writer and make a dent in what you’re hoping to accomplish with your content marketing strategy.

    Ongoing Communication and Management

    Once you’ve found the right candidate, it’s time to put your communication and management plan in place. Every entrepreneur-writer relationship is different. Your ongoing communication and management should reflect a work style that keeps you informed and on track and syncs with what your writer needs to accomplish the most for your business. Here are a few recommendations that work for me or that my colleagues have mentioned as best practices that help them collaborate with freelance writers:

    Use a content calendar: Use a weekly content calendar that shows your specific campaign milestones and the writer’s deliverables. For a guest posting campaign, for example, you might list each specific venue and due date in a Google Calendar or Basecamp format. Having this guideline will keep your writers writing and allow you to gain steady traction over time.

    Monday pitch letters: Whether your writers are pitching topics or whether you’re assigning specific titles based on keyword research, consider using a Monday check-in letter as the basis of that week’s communication. Whoever is in charge of outlining titles should do so, along with publication targets and deadlines if appropriate. If you’re just beginning to work with a writer, consider asking for a title and a two to three sentence blurb that fleshes out each idea. You can then offer feedback and adjustments that meet your goals.

    Quarterly big trends and goals updates: Content marketing is only effective if it serves your business. In today’s environment, the reality is that a company’s needs and goals often shift frequently. Keeping your writers focused on your top yearly, quarterly, and even monthly goals will help them craft more effective content for your campaigns. For example, in a specific month, your goal might be to get articles published on as many new publishers as possible, or it might be to educate a specific demographic about your company. Whatever the objective, the more you communicate, the better the results you’ll achieve.

    Share periodic feedback: For many entrepreneurs, the idea of doing detailed line edits and sharing that feedback is daunting. Your role isn’t to be your writer’s managing editor (although it can be if that’s your approach). However, sharing periodic feedback is absolutely critical. Are certain topics or types of content getting real traction? Let the writer know. Are you seeing more success when you feature your links in a specific way? Send a quick note to share these insights. Did you really have to cut into a piece to make it fit your voice? In that instance, sharing detailed edits and asking the writer to review the changes can save you time down the road.

    Show appreciation: Last but not least, if you find a writer that gets your business and makes your content marketing job easier, take the time to let them know. Whether they get your voice better than other writers you’ve worked with or make it easier to hit your deadlines, sharing occasional praise will make you a valued client. Writers, especially freelance ones, work in a highly transactional context. Client request, write, rinse, and repeat. Taking the time to recognize their contribution will help ensure that they want to do their best to help you reach your goals.

    For more tips on hiring, see my article 10 Lessons That I Learned from Launching a Startup.

    Conclusion

    Identifying the gaps in your own ability or in your existing company’s talent base can help you create a roadmap for hiring freelance talent. Freelancers – whether we’re talking writers, coders, designers, or process consultants – can help you reach your business goals effectively and with less stress. Do you have tips for hiring and managing freelancers? Let me know in the comments below.

  2. 27 Creative Ways to Promote Your Infographic

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    Infographics can be very effective ways to spread your message. They are eye-catching and often much more compelling than plain text. Here are 27 powerful methods for promoting your infographics.

    1. Submit it to Infographic Directories

    Just as there are article directories and video sharing sites, there are also infographic directories. Some of the leading ones are Cool Infographics, Infographic Directory, Daily Infographic and Visual.ly.

    articleimage162Make a Video From It

    2. Make a Video From It

    You can get more mileage from your infographics by turning them into videos. A simple way to do this is to separate the different parts of the infographic and make them into PowerPoint slides. For added appeal, you can add music to it. You can also make this type of video using services such as Animoto.

    articleimage162Send it to Your Subscribers

    3. Send it to Your Subscribers

    If you have an email list, you should let them know whenever you publish a new infographic. The easiest way to do this is usually to give them a link to your blog. Sending attachments or inserting the infographic in the email itself are also possible, but these tactics can lower your delivery and open rates.

    4. Form Partnerships With Your Best Sources

    When you include links in your infographics, you are helping to drive traffic to these sites. You can therefore contact these bloggers or webmasters and ask them to help promote your infographic in return. They are, after all, helping themselves as well as you by doing this.

    articleimage162Tweet About It

    5. Tweet About It

    While you can’t include the full infographic in a tweet, you can include teasers. Tweet certain key points and include a link to the full infographic on your site.

    6. Send Out Press Releases

    If you have an infographic that is filled with valuable content, you can promote it using press releases. A press release must be written as a news story rather than an advertisement, but you can still include a link to the site where your infographic is published.

    7. Share it on Pinterest

    In addition to other social media sites, be sure to use Pinterest, which is an ideal platform for infographics. Since this fast growing site is image-oriented, infographics are very popular there. Be sure to create boards that attract the kind of traffic you’re seeking. You can create as many boards as you want on Pinterest.

    8. Optimize Your Infographics

    Whenever you create a new infographic, be sure to optimize it the same way you would an article, blog post or video. This means using a variety of keywords, both primary and long tail. It’s always a good idea to do keyword research to come up with words and terms people are searching for that you might not have thought of.

    9. Let People Embed Your Infographic

    If you want your infographic to get shared and go viral, you should make it easy for people to embed it on their own sites. It’s not difficult to learn how to create an embed code for your infographic, and this can help you get it out to a wider audience.

    10. Include Portions of the Infographic on Facebook

    Complete infographics often don’t look their best on Facebook, which is why it’s often better to publish teasers instead. This can also be a good way to get Facebook friends and fans to visit your website. As you’re creating your infographic, keep in mind which segments might be especially appealing to readers on Facebook.

    11. Repurpose the Text

    The text portion of an infographic can be repurposed into blog posts, articles or documents on sites like Scribd or Docstoc. When you do this, don’t forget to include a link to the complete infographic.

    12. Translate Infographics Into Other Languages

    This is an innovative way to get traffic from completely new sources. Images are by nature universal, so you just have to translate the text. Be sure to get good translations, though, as otherwise your messages could be distorted or misunderstood. This can be a good way to get traffic from other parts of the world.

    13. Publish it on Content Curation Sites

    There are lots of content curation websites where you can publish infographics. These can be a valuable source of traffic. Some of these include Bundlr, ScoopIt and Internet Billboards.

    14. Have a Main Site For Your Infographics

    If infographics are a major part of your marketing strategy, you should have one central place to publish them. This can be your WordPress blog, business website, Blogspot blog or anything that works for you. This way, no matter what promotional tactics you use, you can point traffic back to this central site. If your infographics are too spread out, it’s harder to promote them.

    15. Encourage People to Share it

    When you post your infographic on your blog, make sure you have share buttons for Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Don’t be afraid to ask people to share it if they like it.

    16. Use Paid Ads or Facebook Sponsored Stories

    If you are willing to invest a little money into promoting your infographic, you can use Google or Facebook ads for this purpose. Another useful tool is Facebook Sponsored Stories. To get the most out of these advertising platforms, it’s necessary to test and carefully track your results. Find out which headlines and ads bring you the most traffic.

    17. Connect With Influencers

    Influencers are the people in your niche or industry who have a large following and are considered experts. These are people who can help you connect with a wider audience. Reach out with them via Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and on their blogs. Study what type of content that they typically publish and pitch them about using your infographic.

    18. Choose a Catchy Headline

    As with other types of content, people will usually notice a headline before anything else. That’s why it’s important to choose a title for your infographic that people will be attracted to. This will depend on your target audience, of course. While you should be thinking in terms of keywords and SEO for headlines, you also have to make your headline compelling so that people will be drawn to the infographic.

    19. Pitch it to Blogs

    Many people are familiar with guest blogging, where you seek targeted blogs to publish your articles. A similar tactic can be taken with infographics. Make a list of active blogs in your industry and pitch them on using your infographic.

    20. Get Involved on Forums

    Forums can be good places to connect with a targeted audience and get people interested in your content. The best approach is to not be too blatant about self-promotion and to rely on your signature for promoting. You can use your signature to drive traffic to the site or post where your infographic is located.

    21. Pay Attention to Design Principles

    Not all infographics are equally popular. One key reason for this is that some of them are poorly designed. This can mean that there’s too much text, the wrong color scheme or a confusing layout. The best infographics are usually concise, not overly long without too much data. It should flow in a natural way, so the eye moves from Point A to Point B without getting distracted.

    22. Use Google Alerts to Find Additional Places to Promote

    Google Alerts can let you know when new content is published that is related to your infographic. You can then contact the publisher and let him or her know you have an infographic that might enhance their content.

    23. Promote Offline

    There are ways to promote your infographic offline. You can post links on business cards, bulletin boards or in classifieds of local publications. For this purpose, it’s best to have a simple and short domain name that can easily be remembered.

    24. Publish Images on Flickr and Instagram

    Just as you can publish the text portion of your infographics as articles, you can publish the images to sites such as Flickr and Instagram. In this case, you should include the link to the complete infographic with each image.

    25. Promote it on Answer Sites

    If your infographic solves a problem or answers a question, you can promote it on sites like Yahoo! Answers and other answer sites. Search for active questions and you can use the link to your infographic in your answer.

    26. Tie in Your Infographic With Seasonal Events and Holidays

    You can make your infographics more relevant by connecting them with events or holidays that people are thinking about. This may take some creativity, but you may be able to alter an existing infographic and tie it in with a certain holiday, sporting event, news story or pop culture reference.

    27. Link to it in E-books

    You can link to infographics from e-books. These can be free e-books that you use to build your mailing list or perhaps an e-book you publish on Kindle. Most e-book platforms, including Kindle, support live links.

  3. How to Find Royalty Free Legal Images to Use in Your Content

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    You don’t have to be a professional photographer or a graphic artist to include rich, high quality images on your website or blog. There are hundreds of sources on the Internet for the kind of graphic images that add value and interest to your content, and they’re readily available, royalty free.

    articleimage160Royalty Free Images

    TYPES OF IMAGES

    Before you look for images for your site, it helps to know what you’re looking for. Many websites that offer royalty free images provide a variety of image types, others specialize in photos, animations or vectors. While you may be familiar with these types of images, the legal and use implications may be unfamiliar to you.

    Most websites carry stock images. These are photos and graphics that are widely available for use by anyone who needs them. They can be generic or very specific; using narrow search definitions will help you zoom in on exactly what you’re looking for and avoid using images that are already familiar to users.

    Stock images fall into to two main categories: royalty free and managed use.

    articleimage160TYPES OF IMAGES

    Royalty Free Images

    Royalty free doesn’t mean these images are available free of charge. The term means that these visuals are freely available for use on the Internet by anyone who pays the initial licensing fee. Once the nominal fee is paid, you’re allowed unlimited use of the images for any duration and any number of projects or applications. Royalty free images are subject to the Terms of Use from the website you purchase the rights from, so read the fine print carefully to learn about any restrictions that apply.

    Managed Use Images

    This type of image is also known as a rights-managed image. Usually these images are very specialized and there is one artist, photographer or group of artists that creates or supplies them. The purchaser gains the rights to use such images for a limited time. Additional restrictions may also be placed on the manner of use, location and number of applications. Again, read the fine print, TOS and FAQs of the website before you commit to anything.

    COPYRIGHT RULES

    Copyright laws cover any creative work, from the moment of its creation. All music, visual art, written works and their creators are protected under the laws by copyright laws in the 160 participating nations and by the U.S. Copyright Act. This applies to any video, photo or image you find on the Internet from any source. Violation of copyright, also known as infringement, doesn’t need to be intentional to be a crime.

    Avoiding Infringement

    There are two ways you can be considered in violation of a copyright: you can either violate the rights of the creator of an image or the legal holder of the rights to an image.

    Specifically, you’re in violation of a legal copyright if you:

    • Use part or all of an image or other work without permission
    • Use an image beyond the scope of what’s specified in the Terms of Use
    • Use an image beyond what’s stipulated in your licensing agreement
    • Adapt an image in another medium without the permission of the creator or legal copyright holder
    • Ask another artist or photographer to recreate an identical image

    You don’t have to be directly involved in the infringement to be considered guilty. You can also be considered in violation if you have knowledge of the violation, encourage someone else to violate a copyright on your behalf, or if you knowingly or unknowingly use an image from another source that didn’t have a legal right to publish or use the image in question.

    That’s why it important to know the source of your images and deal with a reputable website when acquiring photos or other graphics for use on your web page or blog. A reputable source will include legal protection, either free or for a small fee. This protection might also be called indemnification or a legal guarantee in the licensing agreement.

    When searching for images, find out from the supplier if they:

    • Have permission to license the image
    • Have on file model or property releases for their images
    • Offer additional legal protection in the case of disputed images
    • Have a protocol in place to identify risky images, such as trademarked items, before offering them for use

    HOW TO GET ROYALTY FREE IMAGES, LEGALLY

    There are several sources for high quality images that you can use. The two most common are stock photos and creative commons-licensed content.

    Stock Photos

    There are hundreds of websites where you can find stock photos. The only drawback for this option is that some of the images that are available for free aren’t print quality. Many of these are also in wide distribution. However, most are fine for basic website use. Just perform a general search for free clip art or stock photos to find a list of websites that archive and distribute stock photos. Some of the websites that supply stock photos require a small membership fee, then allow a certain number of images to be used royalty free for the duration of the membership. Each websites is different, so browse around for the best.

    Once you’ve found a source for images, use very specific terms in the site’s search box or browse the categories to weed out images that have already saturated the web. The sites that carry them typically already have them licensed for general use. Otherwise, the creator of the image simply needs to be notified about how and where the image will be placed. On rare occasions they’re available only for non-commercial use.

    articleimage160Creative Commons Content

    Creative Commons Content

    Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that provides a way around paying outright for copyrights and licensing. It’s the least expensive and most common source for high quality photos and graphics. You can either use websites such as Flickr, which contain a high volume of CC-licensed images, or you can filter a search to specify “CC-licensed only” images.

    There are different use requirements for Creative Commons content, but usually they’re limited to providing credit or a link back for the source. Clicking on the image itself will lead to information about any limitations or conditions for use.

    Other Options

    Another source of royalty free images is to find those that are considered to be in the public domain. Public domain means that the photos or images have passed the end date of the original term of the copyright, and the rights haven’t been reissued.

    Most of these type of websites are government or education sites, like NASA’s website. You’ll know them by the suffix .gov or .edu; unless otherwise stated on the photo, the images on these sites are for public use. There will be a copyright notice on or below the photo, but always click on the image to check if permission is required for its use.

    Getty Images now allows use of up to 35 million of their images, as long as they are for non-commercial purposes on a blog or personal website. This site consists mainly of news images that are high quality and are not normally available from other sources without payment.

    A strong image creates a visual impact that generates interest and draws readers in. However, the image you choose should be relevant to your content and add value, rather than detract from your message or intent. Powerful visuals and strong content go hand in hand to help create a user experience that sets your website or blog ahead of the rest of the pack.

  4. 5 Things We Hate to See When Reading An Infographic

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    A good infographic can be the perfect way to engage an audience about a complex topic. Infographics convey data in creative and interesting ways. However, a poor infographic may confuse or alienate readers. There are a number of pitfalls that designers must avoid in order to provide their audience with a positive experience.

    articleimage145toomuchtext

    Number One: Too Much Text

    It’s important to remember that the last seven letters in the word “infographic” spell “graphic.” Therefore, while some text serves a useful purpose in conveying information, the goal of an infographic is to provide this information in exciting and unusual ways. Filling an infographic with large blocks of text is precisely the opposite of this. Readers can always look up an article on the subject of the infographic if they are so inclined. While they are viewing an infographic, they want to see graphics. There should be images, graphs and text in reasonable proportions so that one of these categories does not overpower the others.

    It’s easy to write a long, unfocused paragraph containing every single fact that could conceivably relate to the subject at hand. It’s harder – and more effective – to produce a tightly edited piece that includes only the most important and intriguing details. Taking this approach to every aspect of an infographic will result in a balanced, entertaining layout.

    articleimage145Inaccurate, Irrelevant or Boring Data

    Number Two: Inaccurate, Irrelevant or Boring Data

    A huge part of the usefulness of an infographic is its ability to provide readers with data without overwhelming them. However, there are many ways in which the presentation of data in an infographic can go wrong. Any of these can completely negate the positive aspects of communicating information through an infographic.

    First and foremost, there is the danger of including information that is simply inaccurate. There may be a typo in a number that drastically changes its implications. Some data could be out of date and inconsistent with more recent information on the same subject. More subtly, the statistics could be up to date and accurate but still be tremendously misleading if the designer does not understand what can and can’t be reasonably inferred from a particular piece of information. It is important to make sure that data is offered with the proper context so it can be correctly understood by readers. Otherwise, there may be a significant backlash from readers who are knowledgeable about the subject.

    Even accurate data, presented in context, can be unhelpful. Information should also be relevant to the underlying narrative of the infographic. If a statistic doesn’t help promote the overall message of the infographic, it serves no purpose and should be removed. Along these lines, arcane details that bore readers are best left out.

    articleimage145badlayout

    Number Three: Bad Layout

    A bad layout is among the most dangerous traps for an infographic to avoid. The design of an infographic should be easy for anyone to understand. This often includes a logical path that the eye can follow, moving from one section to another in a sensible order. On the other hand, a poor layout might include bits of information randomly strewn about the infographic, giving the reader no clues regarding where to look first. Keep in mind that people usually read from left to right and from top to bottom. Therefore, readers will tend to start near the top left corner of the infographic and let their eyes wander from there. If there is an intuitive sense of where one should look next, most interested readers will follow the intended path. However, there should be a balance between looking unorganized and seeming rigid. Even though there is an intended path, readers should have the freedom to explore in whatever order they choose without getting lost. This means that each individual section of the infographic should make sense to a reader who has not yet looked anywhere else on the page.

    Another problematic issue regarding layout is the possibility of structuring a large infographic from left to right. It is important to consider the limitations of the devices readers are using to view the infographic. Generally, one scrolls downwards to continue reading an article or other piece of writing. Text is kept within certain margins and does not continue indefinitely to the right. It would be very unpleasant to read an article if one had to scroll to the right to read the end of each line. Similarly, readers will tend to prefer the experience if they can scroll downwards to continue viewing an infographic rather than having to scroll to the right.

    Number Four: Lack of Variety or Creativity

    A good infographic should never bore the reader. One important way that this is accomplished is by maintaining a healthy amount of variety in the types of imagery and text used. For example, one bar graph may be the ideal way to communicate the differences between several numbers. However, five identical bar graphs used to express five different sets of numbers will feel dull and repetitive. For the same reason, using a few different typefaces throughout an infographic can be more engaging than using a single typeface everywhere.

    Creativity is another important aspect of keeping the reader engaged. Even an infographic that carefully avoids repetition can be boring if it consists of nothing but generic examples of standard types of images: bar graphs, pie charts and important numbers written in a large font. While all of these ways of conveying information can be useful, they should be balanced with imagery specific to the subject of the infographic. For example, if one were comparing the gas mileage of two cars with a bar graph, the graph might include images of the two cars on roads, with one car far ahead of the other.

    Number Five: Lack of Unified Feeling

    When an infographic feels like a series of facts and figures thrown together for no particular reason, readers will lose interest. An infographic should have a clear tone and purpose. This manifests itself in a variety of ways. One central feature of a good infographic is an underlying story. This is the way in which different sections of the infographic, meant to be viewed in a certain order, build on each other towards a conclusion. This provides an emotional resonance that keeps the reader engaged from beginning to end.

    This sense of unity among all the different parts of the infographic is as important in style as in content. Therefore, while some variety is useful, it is crucial that some basic stylistic elements remain consistent throughout the infographic. These include a color palette and a general aesthetic. A good infographic speaks with a single voice.

    Conclusion

    When it comes to creativity, there are no rules. No guideline should ever stand in the way of trying a really good idea. However, as a general rule, the above concepts tend to be a large part of what separates good infographics from mediocre ones. The text and data should be accurate and relevant, the layout should be as easy to follow as possible and there should be a balance between variety and unity. An infographic succeeding at all of these things is one that readers will respond to and will eagerly share with others.

  5. Ten Reasons Your Content Strategy Is More Important than Link Building

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    Reasons-Your-Content-Strategy-Is-More-Important-than-Link-Building

    There is a huge debate about which is better, content strategy or link building. The truth is that they both have their benefits, but one of the two seems to emerge as the leader in most instances. Here’s what you should expect about link building:

    1. Link Building is More Tedious and Time Consuming than Content Marketing

    Link building is a time consuming process that requires building massive Excel spreadsheets and keeping track of which links are actually generating traffic and which ones are hurting the website’s ranking position. Link building is a long and tedious process that requires patience.

    Writing content, on the other hand, requires a few hours and ingenuity, but that’s it. After it’s finished, it may need polishing, but it doesn’t require massive amounts of time looking at daunting spreadsheets that may require a detail-oriented person to navigate it.

    2. Content Marketing Costs Less than Link Building

    Content marketing costs less to produce than link building. Hiring a content marketer is more cost effective than a link builder because the work is less intense in most instances. Content marketing is effective for less money than most people think. Hiring a content marketing professional through a crowd sourcing firm will cost less than people think.

    3. The Value of Content Marketing is More Measurable Than Link Building

    The value of content versus the value of link building is surprising. In part, because the value of a link is difficult to quantify. It’s much easier to measure how many links content has created or how much traffic has visited the site based upon the last post than it is to measure the value of link building. It’s always easier to measure social votes and referral visits than to try and measure how much traffic was gained from adding a single link.

    It’s easier to determine how much revenue content generates if the purchase is made directly after reading the content. Most content generators can quantify that content will generate a certain amount of dollars over a period of time, but link building focuses on increasing rankings. From increased rankings, you can get more traffic, but this does not always equate.

    4. Content Marketing is Scalable

    Content marketing is scalable, but link building is less scalable. When you are scaling a content marketing team, it’s easier than trying to scale a link building team because the skills are more specialized. Copywriters are cheaper than link builders. So, the task is more achievable. Community managers, infographics designers, and video producers are also good choices for companies who want to hire a team that’s scalable and that can assume other positions on the team.

    5. Content is a Conversation Starter

    Content can build communities through conversation. People who engage in conversations online are more likely to buy products and services when they converse with other people who have benefited from the product or service. This increases sales conversions and also increases interest the products or services long term. Post content and ask copious questions from the audience and one social media forums to generate interest and feedback. A link is not capable of accomplishing this task.

    6. Content Marketing Builds Loyal Customers

    Builds-Loyal-Customers

    Content marketing builds loyal customers, which saves companies money. When companies save money, they can reinvest in other mission critical items in the organization. Marketing to loyal customers is much more cost effective than marketing to new customers. Loyal customers can act as advocates for your products and services. This is not possible with a simple link.

    7. Content Marketing is More Immune to Algorithm Updates

    As algorithm updates are issued, it most often will affect link building. Links may have to be removed or redirected based upon the new updates. This is undesirable by most webmasters.

    Since content marketing is more immune to algorithm updates, it is the optimal choice. At most the keywords may have to optimized, or the content may have to be freshened, but generally, it doesn’t require major work. In most instances, the content will serve the public for a considerable period of time.

    8. Content Marketing is Predicted to Be the Wave of the the Future

    Content marketing is predicted to be the next best thing that will change the way people present information on the internet. Content marketing is a huge part of any companies social strategy. Every company should have content for social media forums such as Twitter, and Facebook.

    Content marketing helps companies reach out to the people who purchase their products or read their blogs daily. Companies learn about the people that read their blogs by writing content. They will learn nothing by adding links to their website. When people trust the bloggers as authoritative sources, they are more likely to buy whatever they recommend.

    9. Establish Your Company as an Authority in the Industry with Content Marketing

    Every blog starts off in the industry trying to prove that they can offer content that is trusted. If bloggers establish themselves as authority figures, they can build a larger clientele and sell more products and services.

    This task is not always easy. It requires original content with viable sources. This will help bloggers develop a loyal following. When your company is established as an authority, people will look to your blog first for advice. This will present the opportunity to advertise and recommend products that you know to be useful. A link cannot accomplish this goal. Content marketing is the only answer.

    10. Content Marketing Has More Longevity than Link Building

    Content marketing has more longevity than link building and can be useful to people for longer periods of time. Links often lose their effectiveness over a period of time if the material is not fresh. Content can stick around on a website longer as long as it is relevant and new content is being added around it. Blog posts written numerous years ago are still generating page views and sales. It just depends on the interest of the public. This is not always true of links. They have to be refreshed more often.

  6. How to Find LSI (Long-Tail) Keywords Once You’ve Identified Your Primary Keywords

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    LSI keywordsFor many SEOs, keyword research is all about finding keywords with a high number of monthly searches and low competition. Some of the more advanced will move on to long tail keywords, or keyword phrases, or look to local keywords to help lower the competition and leap to the top of the search engine results page.

    These are all great strategies, but to truly show your skills as a keyword ninja, and find those untapped gold nuggets, you have to know how to identify long-tail, LSI keywords.

    What are LSI Keywords?

    If you were to search for a definition to LSI, or latent semantic indexing, keywords you would find answers all over the map. Most people will tell you that LSI keywords are simply synonyms for your keywords. The belief is that by finding similar terms for your primary keywords you can make your content look a bit more natural while adding more possible search terms into the mix.

    However, this rudimentary explanation of the term doesn’t do enough to serve our purposes. If you want to master the LSI keyword we have to get elbows deep in what it means. I wrote an article specifically for that purpose: “Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI): What is it, and Why Should I Care?

    Wikipedia describes LSI as having the, “ability to correlate semantically related terms that are latent in a collection of text;” a practice first put into use by Bell Labs in the latter part of the 1980s. So it looks for words (keywords or key phrases, in our case) that have similar meanings and words that have more than one meaning.

    Take the term “professional trainer,” for example. This could mean a professional fitness trainer, a professional dog trainer, or even a professional corporate trainer. Thanks to LSI, the search engines can actually use the rest of the text in the surrounding content to make an educated guess as to which type of professional trainer is actually being discussed.

    If the rest of your content discusses Labrador Retrievers, collars, and treats, then the search engine will understand that the “professional trainer” being referenced is likely a dog trainer. As a result, the content will be more likely to appear in search results for dog trainers.

    Another case would be where multiple synonymous terms exist in the same piece of content. Take the word “text” for example. If this were a keyword for which you were trying to optimize your page, words like “content,” “wording,” and “vocabulary,” would all likely appear within the content because they are synonyms and/or closely related terms.

    The benefits of LSI keywords

    The most obvious benefit to LSI keywords is that your keyword reach becomes broader by using synonyms. As I wrote in my article “The Rise of the Longtail Keyword for SEO,” “they are playing an increasingly essential role in SEO.”

    In addition to the broader reach, your content will rank higher in search engines because of the supporting effect of the LSI keywords. Repeating your keywords over and over throughout the text in an attempt to achieve the perfect keyword density (which, by the way, is a completely outdated SEO term and tactic) makes the content read awfully funny; and the search engines are smart enough to detect this sort of manipulation, too. Using synonymous keywords helps make your content a richer experience for the reader, and more legitimate (and thus, higher ranking) to search engines.

    Finally, LSI keywords help keep you competitive for your primary keywords in the right context. If you are optimizing for the term “professional dog trainer,” you’re less likely to be competing against the other types of professional trainers in search results.

    Great, how do I find LSI keywords?

    The search for LSI keywords starts with your primary keywords. They are the foundation of your SEO efforts, so if you don’t have these identified yet, then go back and find these first. Once you have them you can get started with LSI keywords. How do you find primary keywords? See my article, “The Definitive Guide to Using Google’s Keyword Planner Tool for Keyword Research.”

    Contrary to what you learned in high school, the thesaurus is not your first stop to find synonyms for your LSI keywords.

    The easiest way to find out what the search engines think are terms related to your keyword are to use the search engines themselves.  Go over to Google, and start typing your primary keyword into the search box. Note all of suggestions that are provided and you will not only have a list of related keywords, but a list of keywords that Google knows are related.

    Once you’ve made your list, hit enter to perform a search for your keyword. Scroll to the bottom of the results page, and look at the Searches related to <your keyword>. This will also give you some insight as to good ideas for your LSI search terms.

    Google’s Keyword Planner

    There have been a few changes, other than the name, when it comes to Google’s new Keyword Planner, but anyone familiar with the old Keyword Tool should be able to navigate through it with no problems.

    You can use it to find LSI keywords, and the process is simple. First, click on Search for keyword and ad group ideas and enter your primary keyword in the Enter one or more of the following box and click on the Get Ideas button at the bottom. On the following page, click on the Keyword ideas tab to get a look at not just a list of recommended LSI keywords, but their monthly searches, competition and other metrics that can help you decide which ones to target.

    Paid keyword tools

    Like anything else in SEO, there are plenty of software packages and services you can buy that will help you in your search for LSI keywords. The downside to these is that you are paying for something that you can get for free. The upside is that the training and support that comes along with most of these purchases will help you learn how to find these keywords more easily.

    The secret operator

    Actually, this is no real secret, but if you place a tilde (the squiggly line ~) before your primary keyword in the Google search engine, it will provide you with the results for synonyms to your search term; for example, ~professional dog trainer.

    Reading over the titles and descriptions of the results, you’ll be able to find some good LSI keywords. If you want to leave a term out of the results, add that phrase to the query with a minus sign in front of it. For example: ~professional dog training –dog grooming.

    Like your primary keywords, you need to make sure that you don’t over-do it when it comes to LSI keywords. A few closely-related terms will be sufficient to help your SEO efforts. And like your primary keywords, don’t try to insert LSI keywords into the text where they don’t fit.

    Remember, latent semantic indexing will only help you if you are writing good content for your readers. LSI keywords will give the search engines the information and evidence they need to understand what your content is saying and reward you accordingly.

  7. How Valuable is an Email List?

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    According to Australian business coach Casey Gollan, businesses would be wise to remember that email lists are not a thing of the past; in fact, email lists are more necessary than ever.

    In a day and age where businesses put a bulk of their marketing efforts into social media campaigns because of the buzz surrounding it, other types of marketing can easily be overlooked. Combine this with increasing regulations and laws governing email marketing designed to combat spam, and it’s easy to see why 97 percent of marketers are using social media while the number of people who maintain email lists doesn’t even compare.

    But forgetting about email could be a mistake, at least from Gollan’s viewpoint, who makes a valid point on his blog that contrasts the two marketing techniques:

    “Social media is great, don’t get me wrong. Social media gives you daily access to people who are interested in what you have to offer. It can be a true dialogue, where business and customer connect. But here’s the thing. You don’t own your social media followers. What I mean is this: You can spend years gaining new Facebook fans or Twitter followers. Then poof! One day the algorithms change and all your hard work is down the drain.  Because you own your (email) list, it’s often far more worthwhile to focus on growing your list than growing your social media presence.”

    Other marketing professionals have made claims that support the need to continually grow a solid email list. Eric Didier from MarketingProfs wrote that, “Email averages a return on investment (ROI) of $40 for every $1 spent, far outstripping banner ads ($2) and keyword ads ($17).”

    While a solid ROI is often reason enough for most people to jump aboard a bandwagon, Gollan gives some other reasons why businesses should not abandon their email list:

     1.     People have email even if they are not on social media.

    For business to business, working through email is still essential because many organizations still block access to social media sites from being accessed at work. But for business to consumer sales, surveys show that people often take breaks from their social network sites due to drama or lack of time.

     2.     Email is more personal.

    When emails are collected the right way, using ethical means and double-opt-in (where the person signs up to receive emails and then verifies that they did sign up), businesses know that the individual wants to hear from them. Also, not everyone receives “special” emails. Only those who signed up to receive these messages are notified of sales, events or promotions. Marketing done via social media is shared with the entire world.

    3.     Email can keep things professional

    Businesses have come to accept social media, however there are still those who do not allow it in their workplace. Connecting and communicating via email is still considered a more business friendly atmosphere.

    These are all valid points in favor of maintaining a solid email list, but these factors all depend on what you are marketing and to whom. Certain products and demographics in the business-to-consumer space will certainly do well with social media marketing while business-to-business does generally fare better when email is the focal point.

    Drawbacks to Email Marketing

    As stated earlier, email marketing can have significant drawbacks. For one, you have to build a list. Some companies do opt to purchase or rent email lists, but this is usually met with little success. Even lists that are advertised as 100 percent opt-in lists are not usually well-targeted toward your customers. These lists, as well as those that come from harvested email addresses, will create more problems than success stories.

    To begin with, people on a purchased or rented list are not expecting to hear from you. In fact, many will likely be irritated that you contacted them without their permission. Second, many of the email addresses that are sold in lists are no longer managed. They have been sold to so many different marketers that people often abandon them as a result of being inundated with what they believe to be spam.

    That brings us to another potential pitfall; you might be sending spam. When you send out an email blast to people who never opted to receive messages from you, you are spamming them. Worse still, if you email them too often or if you don’t craft your emails carefully, technical controls put in place to stop illegitimate emails could label you as a spammer.

    If too many complaints are received about your organization, you could find your domain listed on a DNS block list or even subject to fines. Worse still is the damage that can be done to your reputation if your business is labeled as a spammer.

    However, going through the trouble to create a double-opt in email list and writing content-rich emails that provide value to your readers is worth the effort, as higher quality content helps businesses build their reputation. Research from Casey Gollan also shows that single opt-in subscribers are less likely to convert, and more likely to unsubscribe than those who are required to take the extra step to verify that they in fact want to receive emails.

    The Best of All Worlds

    While email marketing does have its strong points, it doesn’t have to stand on its own. In fact, merging your email marketing with other channels makes perfect sense.

    Using social media, you can steer visitors toward your subscription page. Conversely, your emails should contain links to your social media accounts so that people who are more inclined to connect with you this way can do so as well.

    Creative email marketing can also help with SEO marketing. Newsletters and other marketing materials that are sent via email should be housed on a page on your website. Each marketing email should also provide a link to its web content as well for people who cannot view images or have other restrictions on their email.

    Of course, your email list could also be used to announce your content marketing efforts. Did your company recently release a new white paper? Does a new blog post solve an important problem? Maybe you have a new video hosted on a video sharing site that your customers just have to see. Any of these things should be presented to your subscribers in your newsletter or other announcement that you send out.

    Is email marketing superior to any other form of online marketing? It depends on the end goal and the audience. Whichever industry you’re in, and whatever demographic you’re trying to reach, email marketing can help you achieve your goals. Is it the be all, end all? No, but it should be a part of what you are doing.

    Conclusion

    As with any marketing campaign, it is best to constantly test your email marketing to see what works best for your organization. Combine your email list with your social media marketing and other Internet marketing campaigns to see which combination yields the best results for what you are trying to accomplish. For more on email marketing, see my article “Email Marketing: Should I Embed Images in My Email Template?

  8. How to Make Sure You’re Not Publishing Duplicate Content

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    You’re probably already well aware of how important it is to upload fresh and relevant content to your site on a regular basis. It increases website traffic and inbound links, increases brand awareness, and increases conversion rates.

    And if you’re doing it right, it’ll help your site rank higher in the search results. To put it simply, the more online presence your business has, the more successful it’ll be.

    There are many other benefits to updating your site often besides search rankings, though. It helps with user integration and branding as well. For instance, if you’re fully connected to all the most widely used social networking platforms (like Facebook and Twitter) and constantly putting your business in front of existing and potential clients, then this will benefit your company in the long run.

    It’s vital to use a blogging format in order to upload new content on a frequent basis to the actual website. One reason blogging can be so crucial to your company’s success is because of the SEO benefits.

    Google favors sites that have fresh, new content — as long as it’s original and helps readers find what they’re looking for. That means you need to make sure that duplicate content isn’t being published on your site.

    Tools to use in order to avoid publishing duplicate content

    The most important thing to consider when uploading content to your site is that each and every article is original. If your site has duplicate content, you run the risk of having that content get de-indexed by Google. Too much duplicate content could result in harsher, site-wide measures, along with a negative impact on your traffic and sales.

    You may have duplicate content appearing on your site and not even be aware of it. If you have hired a writer to post content to your site, there’s a chance that the person may not be producing original content for you. This writer could well be posting identical copies of the articles you commissioned to a variety of other websites.

    But don’t worry. There’s a great tool you can use to make sure that all your content is 100% original: Copyscape. Copyscape uses innovative technology that can tell you in a matter of seconds whether your content is original, or if it has been stolen. Simply type in the URL of your website on the homepage, and it does all the work for you.

    They also offer an additional service called Copysentry, which will send you e-mail notifications to alert you when duplicate content is found in relation to your site. This is great for those who wish to keep an eye on the company, but don’t have the time or resources to do it alone.

    Even though there may be someone in your company whose role is to manage blogging activities, it’s still nice to stay in the loop yourself, and receive the warnings directly. Remember that people can easily make a mistake and fail to identify duplicate content properly and explicitly; the speed and thoroughness of computers and search programs make identification of duplicates a lot more certain.

    I recommend upgrading to Copyscape premium and you have an option to check whether or not a piece of work is original before you even publish it on your site.

    Conclusion

    To sum up, it’s important that you regularly upload awesome new content to your site in order to boost growth and exposure. All your content must be original, however, or you’ll risk a duplicate content penalty.

    Software programs such as Copyscape can assist you in making sure your site avoids the publication of duplicate content, as well as letting you know when others may be stealing your content.

    If you need help cleaning up your site and ensuring it has nothing that Google is likely to view as duplicate content, or you could use a little assistance in generating the kind of high-quality original content the search engines love, we can help.

    Simply contact us. We’ll get in touch with you ASAP to develop a unique strategy to market your business online and increase your rankings.

  9. Q&A From the MarketingProfs University Search Marketing School

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    On Thursday, August 8th, I helped kick-off MarketingProfs University’s Search Marketing School. It was a great session with tons of questions at the end, so I figured I’d answer those questions here. Without further adieu, let’s begin!

    Audience Questions from class one by instructor Jayson DeMers: 

    SEO in 2013 – Current Trends and Future Predictions

    Q: When your website is very similar to your competitors – a generic design with similar use of images and message (words) – how do you decide on changing the design so that it becomes more interactive

    A: Ask your clients, members, or visitors for website feedback. You can start by asking friends and family, too. See what their complaints or difficulties are and address those. Also, look at your competitors’ websites that are ranking in the top 10 results for your top keyword. What do their websites have or do differently from yours? You can get ideas for improvement from doing a bit of competitive analysis.

    Q: What’s your best strategy for back links (quality back links that is)?

    A: Guest blogging. I actually wrote a step-by-step guide for business owners looking to get started with guest blogging. You can find it at bitly.com/demers-guest-blogging

    In a nutshell, you’re going to go through a process that involves first identifying authority publishers in your space, finding contact information for their editors, then reaching out with a solid pitch for an article. The more articles you publish, the easier it’ll be to get more guest publishing opportunities. Eventually, you can work your way up to becoming a contributor at some of the Web’s top media outlets, where you can really improve visibility, exposure, and grow your business while helping others.

    Q: With regards to responsive websites. there are sites that will take your existing site and turn it into a responsive, mobile-friendly site.  What are your thoughts regarding designing a site with native responsiveness VS. these sites that will convert your existing site into a mobile site?

    A: I have never used a site that converts your existing site into a mobile site, so I can’t really speak to that from a perspective of personal experience. However, from what I’ve heard, they work just fine.

    Q: How is “quality” content determined/measured?

    A: You may find this article I wrote helpful:

    http://www.searchenginejournal.com/7-ways-to-find-what-your-target-audience-wants-and-create-epic-content/63798/

    Basically, in the end, ask yourself if your content provides significant value to your target audience.

    Q: None of our competitors are doing blogs and internally there is resistance to something that sounds “soft”.  We are a highly niche technical B2B.  Suggestions? We are doing guest blogging now.

    A: If none of your competitors are doing it, then that sounds like a ripe opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition. I 100% recommend you beginning a blogging strategy.

    Q: When engaging in guest posts (external) what is the best way to ensure your activity externally is linked to your corporate online presence without overtly dropping company name or links?

    A: I don’t see a reason not to include company name (in your author bio) and a link (or multiple links throughout the body of the article). But if you’re trying to avoid that for whatever reason, then you could link it to your corporate online presence by sharing the article from your corporate social media accounts.

    Q: I recently read an article that Google requests no follow on links in press releases and guest blogs.  Is this something that may be penalized in the future?

    A: Yes, this could be penalized in the future. But the vast majority of business owners and webmasters know little or nothing about Google’s algorithms, no-follow, or anything of that sort. Because of that, it’s hard to imagine Google will dish out strict punishments for these sorts of things.

    Q: Will I get penalized by using stock photography VS photos I take in-house?

    A: As of now, no. However, Cutts stated in a recent webmaster video that he’d like to consider rewarding pages that have original images. As such, it’s probably best practice to begin using original images now.

    Q: Is there any recent research on the utilization of hashtags? Not necessarily by brands but by the Twitter “audience.” Are people actually searching based on hash tags or setting up feeds for them?  Or is it true that people are searching more naturally, for words or phrases or users?

    A: I’m not aware of any current research in this area. However, people do search based on hashtags, and many set up feeds for them (though many of those folks are likely to be marketers). But people are searching more naturally as an overall trend, and I expect that trend to continue.

    Q: What is the easiest way to find relevant hash tags for twitter and Facebook … for your particular industry

    A: I haven’t used it, but I’ve heard that hashtags.org is a good place to start. Other than that, I’d probably just do some brainstorming with my colleagues and do some testing.

    Q: How often do you suggest tweeting something? Is there value to multiple times per day?

    A: This depends on your niche/industry and your target audience. In general, tweeting several times a day is considered a good practice. However, in some niches, tweeting 50 times a day is perfectly reasonable. It all depends on how much interaction and engagement your audience is receptive to.

    Q: What about hash tags on Facebook? Seeing any traction there?

    A: I don’t have any experience with this, so I can’t speak to it.

    Q: What tools would Jayson recommend for hearing “social signals”? We used Netbase before but it’s quite pricy. Thanks!

    A: I’ve used Sendible (sendible.com) and I really like it. I think SproutSocial.com also offers the service, but I’m not entirely sure.

    Q: Is it possible for your FB page to be tracked by Google Analytics?  If so, is it possible to link to a GA account that’s already set up for your e-commerce site?

    A: Not to my knowledge (regarding both questions).

    Q: What are your thoughts about news releases and sites like PRNEWS etc..? A benefit or waste of time?

    A: I don’t think they have much inherent SEO value, but I do recommend them to my clients. Here’s an in-depth article I wrote about it:

    http://authoritylabs.com/blog/googles-matt-cutts-says-press-releases-dont-have-seo-value-or-do-they/

    Q: Ads above the fold.  What does Google consider an ad?  Something that’s part of an ad network?  Or something that simply looks like an ad?

    A: I don’t know the specific algorithm, but I’d guess that there are a number of known ad networks that leave a footprint which Google can easily identify. Aside from that, certain triggers like images that are sized like standard display ads may be labeled ads.

    Q: How to we determine “above the fold” given various screen sizes? Will responsive design address that?

    A: Traditionally, the standard monitor size for “above the fold” calculations has been 1024×768, but I found this article (http://techcrunch.com/2012/04/11/move-over-1024×768-the-most-popular-screen-resolution-on-the-web-is-now-1366×768/) which claims otherwise. Nobody knows for sure, but I’d still go with 1024×768 as the baseline for now.

    To be honest, I’m not sure how Google reacts to responsive (mobile) sites with above-the-fold violations. My guess is that they treat it the same way as they’d treat the desktop version.

    Q: He says avoid Meta tags. All of them? Title, description?

    A: I don’t mean you should avoid them entirely – what I mean is that the days when they played a critical role in the algorithm are gone. Title tags and meta descriptions should still be present and unique on every page of your site. But beyond that, spending much time on them is just a waste of time. Meta keyword tags are completely dead and should be avoided entirely.

    Q: Does “publish epic content everywhere” include PR tactics? For instance pitching bylined articles/blogs to target journalists. I assume this would be helpful as well – is it helpful even without links embedded?

    A: Yes, absolutely. And yes, this would be helpful even without links embedded, though I’d do my best to ensure the link is present.

    Q: What about a mobile home page customized with just map, call, email, etc? Then a button to continue to full site.

    A: Google may not like to rank a page highly that has such sparse content – this is a bit risky. However, I haven’t seen any case studies that indicate one way or the other. It’s worth testing!

    Q: Can you point to any research/studies on mobile SEO and the trends Jayson is discussing? The growth rates of voice search, industries, locations of prevalence, etc.? Specifically, B2B

    A: I don’t have any specific studies on-hand, but they’re all over the Web. I’d recommend a Google search and some time perusing the results.

    Q: How SEO rules in Google are different from Baidu, Chinese clone of Google or Russian clone, Yandex?

    A: I have no idea, unfortunately. I really only care about Google ;)

    Q: Does bad media/press that generates inbound links improve your search engine rankings?

    A: There’s no way to know for sure, but my thought is that it does help your rankings. Google surely would love to get to a point where it can reliably understand the context and sentiment surrounding a link, but I doubt they’re sophisticated enough for that yet, and I don’t think they’ll implement anything like that until it works flawlessly.

    Q: Why is Google Authorship important?

    A: Several reasons.
    - Allows authors to claim their content, preventing scrapers from claiming it and taking credit for it
    - Allows users to easily find more content by any single author, helping authors build a following and an audience
    - Helps establish credibility and legitimacy of content
    - It’s the first step toward verifying author identity, which will soon (if not already) be used to calculate Author Rank, which I believe will have a growing score in the algorithm in the coming months and years.
    - Websites that have it set up get higher click-through rates due to authorship markup applied in search results, which looks like a headshot of the author next to the text listing, drawing the eye and attracting clicks.
    - Increased social signals for your content from Google+, which impacts how your content ranks in search engines.

    Q: If my website makes money from ads on the site, could that hurt my rankings?

    A: Possibly. Ads are a spam signal, but only when implemented in a way that detracts from the user experience. One Google algorithm update called “top-heavy” that was released about a year ago specifically targeted sites with too many ads and images above the fold. If you’re going to use ads, make sure you do so in a non-spammy, non-intrusive way.

    Q: How do I know if my website needs to be redesigned?

    A: Ask your clients, members, or visitors for website feedback. You can start by asking friends and family, too. See what their complaints or difficulties are and address those. Also, look at your competitors’ websites that are ranking in the top 10 results for your top keyword. What do their websites have or do differently from yours? You can get ideas for improvement from doing a bit of competitive analysis.

    Q: How do I know if my content quality is good enough?

    A: Ask yourself if a major media publication in your industry would publish your content. Be honest. If not, it’s probably not good enough. Ask your colleagues, friends, or employees to read some random samples of your website content and provide feedback.

    Q: How do I find out if I have bad inbound links pointing to my site?

    A: Unless you’re an SEO professional, you’re probably going to need to find a professional to conduct a link audit for you. The purpose of the audit should be to diagnose the health of your inbound link profile and identify any links and/or domains that should be removed or disavowed entirely.

    Q: How do I get started with guest blogging?

    A: I actually wrote a step-by-step guide for business owners looking to get started with guest blogging. You can find it here: The Ultimate, Step-by-Step Guide to Building Your Business by Guest Blogging.

    In a nutshell, you’re going to go through a process that involves first identifying authority publishers in your space, finding contact information for their editors, then reaching out with a solid pitch for an article. The more articles you publish, the easier it’ll be to get more guest publishing opportunities. Eventually, you can work your way up to becoming a contributor at some of the Web’s top media outlets, where you can really improve visibility, exposure, and grow your business while helping others.

  10. Q&A From the MarketingProfs University Search Marketing School

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    On Thursday, August 8th, I helped kick-off MarketingProfs University’s Search Marketing School. It was a great session with tons of questions at the end, so I figured I’d answer those questions here. Without further adieu, let’s begin!

    Audience Questions from class one by instructor Jayson DeMers: 

    SEO in 2013 – Current Trends and Future Predictions

    Q: When your website is very similar to your competitors – a generic design with similar use of images and message (words) – how do you decide on changing the design so that it becomes more interactive

    A: Ask your clients, members, or visitors for website feedback. You can start by asking friends and family, too. See what their complaints or difficulties are and address those. Also, look at your competitors’ websites that are ranking in the top 10 results for your top keyword. What do their websites have or do differently from yours? You can get ideas for improvement from doing a bit of competitive analysis.

    Q: What’s your best strategy for back links (quality back links that is)?

    A: Guest blogging. I actually wrote a step-by-step guide for business owners looking to get started with guest blogging. You can find it at bitly.com/demers-guest-blogging

    In a nutshell, you’re going to go through a process that involves first identifying authority publishers in your space, finding contact information for their editors, then reaching out with a solid pitch for an article. The more articles you publish, the easier it’ll be to get more guest publishing opportunities. Eventually, you can work your way up to becoming a contributor at some of the Web’s top media outlets, where you can really improve visibility, exposure, and grow your business while helping others.

    Q: With regards to responsive websites. there are sites that will take your existing site and turn it into a responsive, mobile-friendly site.  What are your thoughts regarding designing a site with native responsiveness VS. these sites that will convert your existing site into a mobile site?

    A: I have never used a site that converts your existing site into a mobile site, so I can’t really speak to that from a perspective of personal experience. However, from what I’ve heard, they work just fine.

    Q: How is “quality” content determined/measured?

    A: You may find this article I wrote helpful:

    http://www.searchenginejournal.com/7-ways-to-find-what-your-target-audience-wants-and-create-epic-content/63798/

    Basically, in the end, ask yourself if your content provides significant value to your target audience.

    Q: None of our competitors are doing blogs and internally there is resistance to something that sounds “soft”.  We are a highly niche technical B2B.  Suggestions? We are doing guest blogging now.

    A: If none of your competitors are doing it, then that sounds like a ripe opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition. I 100% recommend you beginning a blogging strategy.

    Q: When engaging in guest posts (external) what is the best way to ensure your activity externally is linked to your corporate online presence without overtly dropping company name or links?

    A: I don’t see a reason not to include company name (in your author bio) and a link (or multiple links throughout the body of the article). But if you’re trying to avoid that for whatever reason, then you could link it to your corporate online presence by sharing the article from your corporate social media accounts.

    Q: I recently read an article that Google requests no follow on links in press releases and guest blogs.  Is this something that may be penalized in the future?

    A: Yes, this could be penalized in the future. But the vast majority of business owners and webmasters know little or nothing about Google’s algorithms, no-follow, or anything of that sort. Because of that, it’s hard to imagine Google will dish out strict punishments for these sorts of things.

    Q: Will I get penalized by using stock photography VS photos I take in-house?

    A: As of now, no. However, Cutts stated in a recent webmaster video that he’d like to consider rewarding pages that have original images. As such, it’s probably best practice to begin using original images now.

    Q: Is there any recent research on the utilization of hashtags? Not necessarily by brands but by the Twitter “audience.” Are people actually searching based on hash tags or setting up feeds for them?  Or is it true that people are searching more naturally, for words or phrases or users?

    A: I’m not aware of any current research in this area. However, people do search based on hashtags, and many set up feeds for them (though many of those folks are likely to be marketers). But people are searching more naturally as an overall trend, and I expect that trend to continue.

    Q: What is the easiest way to find relevant hash tags for twitter and Facebook … for your particular industry

    A: I haven’t used it, but I’ve heard that hashtags.org is a good place to start. Other than that, I’d probably just do some brainstorming with my colleagues and do some testing.

    Q: How often do you suggest tweeting something? Is there value to multiple times per day?

    A: This depends on your niche/industry and your target audience. In general, tweeting several times a day is considered a good practice. However, in some niches, tweeting 50 times a day is perfectly reasonable. It all depends on how much interaction and engagement your audience is receptive to.

    Q: What about hash tags on Facebook? Seeing any traction there?

    A: I don’t have any experience with this, so I can’t speak to it.

    Q: What tools would Jayson recommend for hearing “social signals”? We used Netbase before but it’s quite pricy. Thanks!

    A: I’ve used Sendible (sendible.com) and I really like it. I think SproutSocial.com also offers the service, but I’m not entirely sure.

    Q: Is it possible for your FB page to be tracked by Google Analytics?  If so, is it possible to link to a GA account that’s already set up for your e-commerce site?

    A: Not to my knowledge (regarding both questions).

    Q: What are your thoughts about news releases and sites like PRNEWS etc..? A benefit or waste of time?

    A: I don’t think they have much inherent SEO value, but I do recommend them to my clients. Here’s an in-depth article I wrote about it:

    http://authoritylabs.com/blog/googles-matt-cutts-says-press-releases-dont-have-seo-value-or-do-they/

    Q: Ads above the fold.  What does Google consider an ad?  Something that’s part of an ad network?  Or something that simply looks like an ad?

    A: I don’t know the specific algorithm, but I’d guess that there are a number of known ad networks that leave a footprint which Google can easily identify. Aside from that, certain triggers like images that are sized like standard display ads may be labeled ads.

    Q: How to we determine “above the fold” given various screen sizes? Will responsive design address that?

    A: Traditionally, the standard monitor size for “above the fold” calculations has been 1024×768, but I found this article (http://techcrunch.com/2012/04/11/move-over-1024×768-the-most-popular-screen-resolution-on-the-web-is-now-1366×768/) which claims otherwise. Nobody knows for sure, but I’d still go with 1024×768 as the baseline for now.

    To be honest, I’m not sure how Google reacts to responsive (mobile) sites with above-the-fold violations. My guess is that they treat it the same way as they’d treat the desktop version.

    Q: He says avoid Meta tags. All of them? Title, description?

    A: I don’t mean you should avoid them entirely – what I mean is that the days when they played a critical role in the algorithm are gone. Title tags and meta descriptions should still be present and unique on every page of your site. But beyond that, spending much time on them is just a waste of time. Meta keyword tags are completely dead and should be avoided entirely.

    Q: Does “publish epic content everywhere” include PR tactics? For instance pitching bylined articles/blogs to target journalists. I assume this would be helpful as well – is it helpful even without links embedded?

    A: Yes, absolutely. And yes, this would be helpful even without links embedded, though I’d do my best to ensure the link is present.

    Q: What about a mobile home page customized with just map, call, email, etc? Then a button to continue to full site.

    A: Google may not like to rank a page highly that has such sparse content – this is a bit risky. However, I haven’t seen any case studies that indicate one way or the other. It’s worth testing!

    Q: Can you point to any research/studies on mobile SEO and the trends Jayson is discussing? The growth rates of voice search, industries, locations of prevalence, etc.? Specifically, B2B

    A: I don’t have any specific studies on-hand, but they’re all over the Web. I’d recommend a Google search and some time perusing the results.

    Q: How SEO rules in Google are different from Baidu, Chinese clone of Google or Russian clone, Yandex?

    A: I have no idea, unfortunately. I really only care about Google ;)

    Q: Does bad media/press that generates inbound links improve your search engine rankings?

    A: There’s no way to know for sure, but my thought is that it does help your rankings. Google surely would love to get to a point where it can reliably understand the context and sentiment surrounding a link, but I doubt they’re sophisticated enough for that yet, and I don’t think they’ll implement anything like that until it works flawlessly.

    Q: Why is Google Authorship important?

    A: Several reasons.
    - Allows authors to claim their content, preventing scrapers from claiming it and taking credit for it
    - Allows users to easily find more content by any single author, helping authors build a following and an audience
    - Helps establish credibility and legitimacy of content
    - It’s the first step toward verifying author identity, which will soon (if not already) be used to calculate Author Rank, which I believe will have a growing score in the algorithm in the coming months and years.
    - Websites that have it set up get higher click-through rates due to authorship markup applied in search results, which looks like a headshot of the author next to the text listing, drawing the eye and attracting clicks.
    - Increased social signals for your content from Google+, which impacts how your content ranks in search engines.

    Q: If my website makes money from ads on the site, could that hurt my rankings?

    A: Possibly. Ads are a spam signal, but only when implemented in a way that detracts from the user experience. One Google algorithm update called “top-heavy” that was released about a year ago specifically targeted sites with too many ads and images above the fold. If you’re going to use ads, make sure you do so in a non-spammy, non-intrusive way.

    Q: How do I know if my website needs to be redesigned?

    A: Ask your clients, members, or visitors for website feedback. You can start by asking friends and family, too. See what their complaints or difficulties are and address those. Also, look at your competitors’ websites that are ranking in the top 10 results for your top keyword. What do their websites have or do differently from yours? You can get ideas for improvement from doing a bit of competitive analysis.

    Q: How do I know if my content quality is good enough?

    A: Ask yourself if a major media publication in your industry would publish your content. Be honest. If not, it’s probably not good enough. Ask your colleagues, friends, or employees to read some random samples of your website content and provide feedback.

    Q: How do I find out if I have bad inbound links pointing to my site?

    A: Unless you’re an SEO professional, you’re probably going to need to find a professional to conduct a link audit for you. The purpose of the audit should be to diagnose the health of your inbound link profile and identify any links and/or domains that should be removed or disavowed entirely.

    Q: How do I get started with guest blogging?

    A: I actually wrote a step-by-step guide for business owners looking to get started with guest blogging. You can find it here: The Ultimate, Step-by-Step Guide to Building Your Business by Guest Blogging.

    In a nutshell, you’re going to go through a process that involves first identifying authority publishers in your space, finding contact information for their editors, then reaching out with a solid pitch for an article. The more articles you publish, the easier it’ll be to get more guest publishing opportunities. Eventually, you can work your way up to becoming a contributor at some of the Web’s top media outlets, where you can really improve visibility, exposure, and grow your business while helping others.

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-The AudienceBloom Team