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Category Archive: Internet Tools

  1. 10 Free Tools to Master Social Media Marketing

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    Social media marketing isn’t as easy as people think it is. It’s more than just posting an update for your business every once in a while; if you want to get a steady stream of revenue and build a passionate audience about your brand, you have to go all-out, managing and cultivating a community while accurately measuring and analyzing your impact.

    Fortunately, you don’t have to do this alone. Thanks to the increasing popularity of social media marketing, there are dozens of free tools available to help you keep your community under control and break new ground in your social strategies.

    Here are 10 of our favorites:

    1. Hootsuite.

    articleimage784hootsuite

    You’ve likely heard of Hootsuite before, and you’ve heard of it for a reason. It’s one of the best and most comprehensive social media tools available on the web, and it has full integration with most social media platforms you’ll need, like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Social post scheduling is the shining feature here and the one most commonly associated with the platform, but Hootsuite also features weekly analytics data and a handful of team delegation/task management features that make it useful for social media team members working together. There’s a free version and a paid version, though the paid version is still relatively inexpensive.

    2. Social Mention.

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    Social Mention is a search-based tool that works similarly to Google alerts. However, instead of providing alerts for news and information on certain keywords, Social Mention provides monitoring for more than 80 different social media platforms, including all the biggies—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, and so on. If you so choose, you can opt in for daily or weekly email digests featuring all the mentions of your chosen keywords during that time period, and there’s even an API to integrate it into your site. It also helps you measure the impact of your brand with metrics related to the frequency, positivity, diversity, and consistency of mentions.

    3. Followerwonk.

    articleimage784followerwonk

    Followerwonk is a niche tool, so it may not be useful for everybody, but for companies actively involved on Twitter, it’s extremely beneficial. Through Followerwonk, you’ll be able to retrieve detailed analyses of your followers and Twitter activity. All you have to do is enter your username, and you’ll receive information on your followers as well as the people you follow. This information includes when your followers are most often online, how influential your followers are, and how active your followers are. It’s very useful in better understanding your audience.

    4. Addict-o-matic.

    Addict-o-matic is a fairly straightforward tool, which is great news if you’re just looking for something simple to add to your lineup of social listening and analytics platforms. Through Addict-o-matic, you can perform searches to discover new trending topics, or monitor the web for mentions and discussions around your brand. Using whatever keywords you choose, the search tool will scour the web on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, and Flickr to find new mentions and instances that could be useful for you. It’s a near-perfect social listening tool that’s perfect for finding new things to talk about.

    5. HowSociable.

    If you’re looking for a general idea of how impactful and how successful your brand is in the social world, HowSociable is a perfect tool for the job. Using a free account, you’ll be able to monitor your progress on 12 popular social platforms—you can unlock 24 others with a relatively inexpensive “pro” level account. HowSociable will use information like your total following, your engagement, your total number of shares, and other tidbits to calculate an influence score you can use to ballpark your reach and influence. You can also use the tool to compare yourself against your competitors.

    6. IceRocket.

    IceRocket offers monitoring and analysis of a number of different platforms and languages, with interactive graphs that allow customization on the fly. It’s ideal if you want to keep a passive eye on developments in a given community, since they have more than 200 million different blogs at their disposal in their database. It’s perfect to find new trending topics and get a glimpse of your impact and reputation on the web.

    7. Sprout Social.

    Sprout Social is an all-in-one tool that allows active management of multiple social profiles on multiple different platforms. While LinkedIn is not currently supported, there is full integration with Facebook and Twitter. Through Sprout, users can schedule posts for the future and review them in a queue, assign and manage tasks to other team members on the platform, discover new content through social listening software, and view and manage regular reports on your progress. However, the free version of the program does not come with the same features as the paid version.

    8. TweetReach.

    TweetReach is similar to Followerwonk, at least in the sense that it’s a platform exclusive to Twitter. TweetReach, however, is specifically intended to help you figure out how far your tweets are travelling, and what you can do to maximize the reach of your tweets. For any tweet you study, or for your profile as a whole, you’ll be able to estimate the total number of accounts you’ve reached, including how many impressions you’ve achieved and how many shares got you to that point. You’ll also be able to view charts and graphs that detail your progress and compare your present and past efforts.

    9. Google Analytics.

    If you aren’t using Google Analytics as part of your social strategy, it’s time to integrate it immediately. Head to the Acquisition tab to see a breakdown of your incoming traffic. This should give you a general idea of the success of your social campaign (at least in terms of site traffic compared to other sources). You’ll also be able to see a breakdown of which social profiles generate the most traffic within that span of users, and where those users are going. For example, you’ll be able to see which syndicated links tend to attract the most users, and you can adjust your posting strategy accordingly.

    10. SumAll.

    SumAll is especially useful if you’re managing multiple different accounts for your company, since it aggregates them into one interactive analytics platform. For example, SumAll features integration with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, as well as non-social media accounts like Google Analytics and PayPal. SumAll is specifically intended to serve small business owners, so if you fit that description, you’ll probably find use with it. You can also customize reports, so on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, you’ll be able to get a snapshot of your progress on all fronts.

    These tools aren’t necessary to be successful in a social media campaign, but they are extremely useful if you’re serious about getting results. Social listening software, scheduling features, and analytic insights are all important components of a long-term, uninterrupted engagement strategy.

    Since all these tools are free, you don’t have anything to lose. Try a few of them out as a trial, and get a feel for what you want and need in a social media solution. Of course, if you want to get serious about social media marketing, but don’t have the money or resources, you can always consult with us—we’re experts!

  2. 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.

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    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.

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    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.

  3. 5 Tools We Use to Check Our Blog Posts Before Publishing

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    Content marketing requires discipline and consistency in order to generate results, and as most writers know, consistency can be hard to achieve naturally. With every post, you need to ensure that your topic is relevant and valuable to your readers, that your grammar and wording is clear and free of errors, and that your post is formatted in a way that reads easily and catches the attention of your potential readership.

    Thankfully, there are thousands of tools available to help you maximize the efforts of your content marketing strategy. These five are some of the most useful we’ve found for checking, reviewing, and polishing our posts before we publish them:

    1. Google Drive.

    articleimage530Google Drive

    Google Drive is a free tool anybody with a Google account can use to markup and share any document or spreadsheet. If your content marketing strategy relies on more than just one person, this is a near-perfect tool for collaboration.

    Collaborating on written material is difficult when working independently, even with modern word processors. Microsoft word has their reputable “track changes” feature, which can showcase any changes one person makes to an already-existing document and allow for commenting to explain those changes, but it’s limiting for a number of reasons. First, the document needs to be passed back and forth a number of times before reaching its natural, definitive end. Google Drive allows for mutual access at any point, allowing users to keep track of each other’s changes—even as they occur in real time. Second, edits can get messy after a few layers of changes. Determining where one person’s intended phrase ends and another person’s edit begins can grow difficult quickly.

    Before we take a document live, we give it one more round of possible changes from everyone involved in collaborating on it. Even if your writers work independently, it’s still a good idea to pose them to the group for comments and additional thoughts. Plus, Google Drive automatically backs up all your information—so you never have to worry about a hard drive failure.

    2. PopSurvey.

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    The most important factor in your content marketing strategy’s success is your audience, and PopSurvey helps you understand yours. If you’ve ever wondered what your audience thinks about your content marketing strategy, or if you’ve ever wished you could read your customers minds and find out what they want to read—try using PopSurvey to get the answers.

    Think of PopSurvey as your content marketing focus group. Depending on the length and detail of your post, you might want to roll it out to a handful of your users to get their thoughts before publishing it for the masses. With a brief survey, you should be able to capture the thoughts of your readers accurately, and incorporate them into your article. For example, if your test audience finds that your article isn’t helpful because it doesn’t have enough concrete examples, you’ll then have the chance to rework the material in question.

    Obviously, you may not have time to scout for a test audience and send out a survey before every individual blog post, but you can also use them as occasional tests to see how your overall content plan is working. Ask your readers what they like and don’t like in terms of your topic choices, material length, material depth, and stylistic choices.

    3. Grammarly.

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    While no proofreading tool is completely foolproof, the tool over at Grammarly is pretty thorough. The types of spell checkers found in Microsoft Word and WordPress are great at catching spelling errors and a handful of grammatical errors, like incomplete sentences, but most other syntactical errors slip by, and sometimes these programs will identify mistakes that aren’t actually mistakes.

    Grammarly is no substitute for a human proofreader, but it can save you a lot of time by pinpointing errors that an ordinary word processor might overlook. The best thing about Grammarly is that it explains why each mistake is highlighted; for example, instead of merely highlighting a questionable phrase, Grammarly will explain the grammatical rule in question, and why the specific phrase is violating it. It’s an indispensable tool for new content marketers, as it educates and explains many common errors, but it’s also valuable for seasoned content marketers who just need an extra set of (digital) eyes on a work before publishing it.

    Before we go live with a blog post, we run it through one final check to make sure everything is in line with our quality standards.

    4. Storify.

    Storify is one of the best way to integrate streaming content into your blog—and by that, we don’t mean YouTube videos. We mean actual news and social updates from your users. While we don’t take advantage of this for every blog post, it is a great option to keep in mind, especially when you’re posting news or other time-sensitive content.

    The best feature of Storify is its easy social media integration. Storify works with dozens of social platforms, but one of the easiest and most beneficial for a blog draft is its use with Twitter. A Storify-treated blog can pull in up-to-the-minute tweets featuring a given hashtag or topic, giving your users an added layer of personal engagement and immediacy.

    Storify has other features at an enterprise level, designed specifically to help teams of content collaborators work together in a meaningful way. Not only can you research trends on social media to learn more about what users think of your source material, you can also link together with your fellow writers and reviewers to create the best, most up-to-date pieces for your blog.

    5. PhotoPin.

    PhotoPin is an awesome complementary tool we use to pair great images with our content. All the images found through this search tool come from Creative Commons, and are generally free to use. Simply including an image with your blog posts can increase engagement and click-through rates enormously, so if you’re not already adding an accompanying image with each of your posts, it’s time to start.

    We like PhotoPin because it has one of the most thorough and intuitive search functions on the web. Simply type in whatever you’re looking for, and you’ll immediately be met with hundreds of free photos to peruse at your discretion. Keep in mind that while most images are free to use, some images have restrictions for commercial use—and you’ll also have to give proper attribution out of respect for the image owner.

    Even with those restrictions, PhotoPin remains one of the best image searchers on the web. If you’re in the habit of including images in your blogs regularly, swing by PhotoPin to pick some up before every blog post.

    Every content marketer has unique preferences and a unique system of writing and editing, so if these tools don’t work for you, odds are there are plenty more that can enhance the quality or efficiency of your writing. Become familiar with whichever tools work best for you, and improve your capabilities even further.

    If you need more personal assistance with your content creation, or if you’re interested in partnering with experts on your core strategy, reach out to us, and we’ll work together to find a solution that works for you.

  4. How to Protect Your Website from Hackers and Malware

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    On the Internet, the threat of your website coming under attack is a constant one. You never know when you might become the target of a competitor looking to use Black Hat techniques to take you down, a hacktivist group looking to prove a point or a foreign hacking cartel trying to create chaos. No system is perfect, of course, but you can take several steps to limit the possibility of a successful hack.

    Apply All Updates

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    The number one largest vulnerability hackers use to access a website and gain control over it is out of date software. Companies push updates for two reasons; to add features and to patch holes. If you put off updating your site, you’ll find that you’re leaving security holes open. It’s like locking the deadbolt on your front door, but leaving it open when you do. Hackers with the knowledge to exploit these security holes will find it an easy matter to do so. Apply all updates, regardless of their content; there may be hidden bug fixes that close security holes.

    On that note, you should also avoid using old, unsupported software. Some companies fail and cease to support their old software. If a hacker discovers a vulnerability, the company no longer exists to create a patch. Even if the company still exists, unsupported software by definition no longer receives security updates.

    All of this goes for the software on your workstation as well. It doesn’t matter if your website is secure, when a hacker with a keylogger can steal your password when you log in. Maintain active virus scanners and firewalls, keep your operating system and software up to date and only sign in through a secure connection.

    Use Strong Passwordsarticleimage123strongpassword

     

    If security holes are like locking an open door, weak passwords are like using a deadbolt made of paper. Take a moment to read one of the annual published lists of most common passwords. Is yours on the list? If so, change it immediately. There are a number of rules to follow to create a strong password.

    • Avoid using dictionary words. This applies even if you replace some letters with numbers, like the word “That” spelled “Th4t” — dictionary-based password cracks include common letter substitutions. If you want to use a word, interject a random letter or number in the middle of the word. Try “Th33at” in this example.
    • The longer the better, within reason. Some password systems refuse to accept passwords beyond a certain length. Most websites and account creation software will recommend a password of at least seven or eight characters. Ideally, you will want to double that number; a 14-character-long password is much harder to guess, particularly if the letters and numbers are semi-random.
    • A random, non-word-based password is best, but can be difficult to remember. Avoid writing down your password, either digitally or on paper. Hackers aren’t always external forces, after all. If you can’t remember your password, use a secure password manager.

    There are other password tips as well; it’s a subject on which much has been written. Review articles by top security experts for more information.

    Use Security Add-ons

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    Some website software, particularly WordPress, allows additional plugins and add-ons to increase functionality. One plugin you should always get is an up to date security suite. Of course, make sure any add-on your use is up to date as well.

    Always be wary about the third party content you use on your site. Add-ons can be very helpful, but if they’re published by an untrusted source — or they’re several years out of date — they may be gaping security holes waiting to happen.

    Use a Dedicated Shopping Cart Suite

    If you sell anything through your website, do not, under any circumstances, program your own commerce platform. There are several good commerce platforms to choose from online, all of which are designed with security in mind. Programming your own is both reinventing the wheel and opening yourself up to outside access. Use an online shopping cart suite from a trustworthy developer, process transactions in a secure manner and maximize security each step of the way.

    Use Encryption

    Any data sent between the user and your website should be encrypted. This means using SSL and HTTPS for your data traffic. You want to do this for two reasons. First, in case there is any device on your network or software on your server that can monitor or access user data, the data it can access is unreadable. Second, in case your user has compromised security. You cannot control how security-conscious and updated your users are. Rather than risk data leaks from an external virus, encrypt your traffic.

    When you’re updating your website, use encrypted channels as well. Regular FTP is a plaintext, easily readable format. You’ll want to use secure FTP to upload your data through an encrypted channel.

    Inform Your Users

    Take steps to keep your users informed about security. Let them know that there may be imitators looking to impersonate your site to steal their information, in a process called phishing. Let them know that to increase their own data security, they should maintain active virus scanners. One particularly good avenue for these basic security tips is through your e-mail newsletter. Don’t forget to add security descriptions, certificates and other information to your checkout process. The safer users feel when they use your platform, the more likely they are to return.

    Store Data Encrypted

    This goes hand in hand with using encryption to transmit data. No matter how secure your data is when you transmit it from one place to another, if that destination is plain text, hackers can simply read it without issue. Store user data in encrypted databases.

    Maintain Backups

    If something happens and your site is compromised, what can you do? You need to keep regular backups of your website, user data and other important information. You can store this locally, on a remote server or on the cloud. Make sure it is stored encrypted, of course. Maintaining a backup is an important part of data security.

    Search Yourself

    Occasionally, a site may be infected with malware without the owner realizing. One way to learn is to search your site on Google. Google is very good about flagging a site as untrusted or malicious when there is an infection present. Make sure your site looks as it should from a search engine perspective. If you use Google Webmaster Tools, you will also receive a notification if malware is detected on your site.

    Have a Recovery Plan

    No matter how good your security is, how strongly encrypted your information or how secure your passwords, it’s always possible for your site to be hacked. Don’t fall prey to overconfidence; plan for disaster. A disaster recovery plan will help you recover from a potential hacking as quickly as possible, to reassure users and to maintain your own flow of commerce. Your business can’t afford the downtime associated with lacking a disaster recovery plan.

    With these steps taken, your website will be as safe as it can be. Again, no system is perfect, and it’s always possible there’s a flaw yet to be found in some software you use. Do your best to protect yourself and chances are you’ll be safe.

  5. 3 Great Spam Backlink Checkers to View Your Links

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    Getting inspiration from the link profiles of your competitors is one of the oldest and most effective search engine optimization tricks in the book. It has become increasingly difficult to do this, however, with the changing of the Yahoo search engine.

    Being able to get rid of spam backlinks is another use of link checkers. With the recent updates of the Google search engine, this is perhaps the most important use for the technology. The major search engines will now complete ban a website that has too many spam links.

    In order to maximize your link profile, you need a top flight link checker. Below is a comparison of three of the best.

    SEO Spyglass

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    SEO Spyglass Is a unique type of back link checker in that it is part of a larger suite of applications. It is, however, quite an effective tool in and of itself. If you are looking for a back link checker that is easy to use with a simple layout and intuitive structure, then this might be the application for you.

    When it comes to getting rid of spam back links, the Spyglass application will download your back links from many sources around the Internet into a proprietary database. You will be able to access these links from the software directly and receive real-time data on the links that have been created.

    Within each of the listings, you will be able to determine the page ranks, the anchor text and many other features of links that have your website as the underwriting entity. You will be able to easily export these reports into PDF format for the benefit of clients or for internal use in your company.

    You will be able to see if your website links back to these internal links and the total amount of links that each link service such as Alexa credits your website with. With these tools, you can actually limit your exposure to different aggregation sites depending on the type of search optimization that you are looking to create for yourself.

    The Spyglass application is available for a one-time fee, which can be reduced significantly if you purchase the entire suite of applications that it is a part of. It is also one of the few top-flight back link checkers that has a free trial that is available online to the general public.

    Ahrefs.com

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    The overall functionality of the Ahrefs.com back link checker is second to none. Even on the most basic of functions, the data includes the number of links that your site has, the number of IP’s that the links are coming from, which pages are being linked to and the anchor text that is being used as well. This data can be viewed in a number of different formats depending on the characteristics that you feel are most important. The program also has its own proprietary ranking structure that has proven to be quite useful when used in conjunction with the ranking structures of the major search engines.

    Data is presented with many different, completely customizable characteristics including do follow links, no follow links, links that are sitewide versus links that are not sitewide, redirect links, links that include an image, links from.gov and.edu sites and any other determining characteristic that you can think of or create. The reports also include errors, warnings and notices so that you can easily locate and destroy any links that are old or which lead to a misdirect.

    The data is also presented in a highly attractive visual format that is easy to interpret, even if you have not had a great deal of experience with back links for search engine optimization. You can view links using line charts, line charts or numeric charts depending on your preference.

    The pricing on this particular tool is expensive; however, there is a free option that allows you to pull a limited amount of reports and results. The data is so intensive that even the less expensive packages will provide plenty of results for small businesses. This is definitely an enterprise-level program that is scalable for growing companies. The pricing is also per month rather than a one-time fee.

    Be sure that you have the money set aside in your budget every month, because once you begin using this tool, it can quickly become an integral part of your online marketing strategy. Losing it after relying on it for even a short period of time can be devastating to online strategy.

    Raven Tools

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    Raven Tools is the reason that the much more well-known link tracking tool SEOMoz is not on this top three list. The two programs have a great deal in common; however, Raven Tools builds on many of the weaknesses that SEOMoz has failed to patch during its long tenure as one of the most well known programs on the market.

    If you are familiar with the SEOMoz layout, then you will take warmly to the Raven Tools landscape. Aside from being a simple back link profiler, Raven Tools is actually a complete suite of online marketing tools that can manage your online campaigns from beginning to end.

    The functionality of the reports is much wider in scope than either of the other two entries within this article; however, it may simply be too much for a company that does not have a need for a full search engine optimization suite. As a matter of fact, Raven Tools is actually much better suited for a company that has its own IT in-house, as many of the data that you receive are only useful if is able to be acted upon in real time.

    The reports are easily customizable according to the data that you feel is most important within your online campaign. You can receive reports on the number of links that you have online, the ranking that the linking sites have as well as the effect that these links are creating on your own Page Rank. The tools will allow you to easily disassociate yourself from any website that is pulling down your search engine rankings.

    One of the best features of Raven Tools is that it has a full month trial that is completely free and fully functional. You will be able to determine if this solution is the best back link profiler for you without any hangups in the functionality.

    The blog that you can access from the website is also one of the most informative social media tools that is available within any search engine optimization company. You will always be kept up-to-date on the latest happenings in technology and how you can apply them to your current Raven Tools suite in order to give yourself a leg up on your competition. Raven Tools is also one of the best companies when it comes to creating updates based on the needs of its client base, updates that will be profiled in their blog.

    The Final Verdict

    Each of the programs profiled above has a personality that will definitely match with different types of companies. Take advantage of the free trials that are available for all of these programs and decide based upon the integration within your specific company rather than just the statistics. This will give you the most effective program for your needs.

    Want more information on link building? Head over to our comprehensive guide on link building here: SEO Link Building: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide

  6. How to Perform a Full Backlink Audit to Remove Toxic Links

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    In May, 2013, Google launched the Penguin 2.0 update and suddenly sites all across the Internet dropped in Page Rank. Not surprisingly, porn and gaming sites were among the sites that suffered the most, but they were not the only ones. Many legitimate companies saw their websites suddenly drop in search engine visibility as well. Toxic backlinks, which had previously had little effect on websites’ Page Rank, began to harm many websites in a noticeable way.

    What are Toxic Backlinks?

    articleimage515toxicbacklinks

    “Backlinks” are basically incoming links. When website A links to website B, it creates a backlink for website B. Backlinks are important because the more reputable backlinks a website has, the higher the site will rank in Google searches and the more likely searchers are to find it.

    Not all links are created equal, however. Some backlinks pass on positive ranking juice, others pass on negative ranking juice and still others are ignored by Google altogether. Toxic backlinks are backlinks that harm a website’s search engine optimization (SEO), or the ability to rank well in a Google search. Paid links, links received from link schemes, link wheels and blog networks, and links from porn, gaming or payday loans sites are all considered toxic.

    Why is it Important to Remove Toxic Backlinks?

    articleimage515Why is it Important to Remove Toxic Backlinks

    Toxic backlinks reduce the Page Rank of the sites they link to so website owners want as few of them as possible. If Google notices that a site has a fair number of toxic backlinks, it likely will reduce the site’s Page Rank. If Google notices that a site has a very large number of toxic backlinks, it likely will exclude the site from its database altogether.

    How Do I Know if I Have Toxic Backlinks?

    articleimage515How Do I Know if I Have Toxic Backlinks

    There are several ways you can find out if your site has toxic backlinks. Here are four common ways.

    •  You Know Because You Created Them

    If you created the toxic backlinks yourself through suspicious web activity such as paying for links or content spamming, then you already know the links exist.

    •  You Receive a Warning Notification from Google

    It is possible that you didn’t create the toxic backlinks yourself. They may have been created by a scammer or a questionable SEO company you hired in the past. If you are genuinely unaware of the toxic backlinks, you may not find about them until you receive a warning message from Google.

    • You Notice a Sudden Drop in Traffic

    If your organic traffic levels suddenly dropped, particularly around May 22, 2013 when Penguin 2.0 took effect, toxic backlinks are likely the cause.

    • You Pull Up a List of Your Backlinks to Check

    If you are nervous about the latest Penguin 2.0 update like many other website owners are, you may want to pull up a list of your backlinks just to check for any suspicious links. You may or may not find any, but it never hurts to make sure.

    Where Can I Find a List of My Website’s Backlinks?

    Google recommends that the first and only place you should look to find a list of your website’s backlinks is in your site’s Google Webmaster Tools. To do this, log into your Google Webmaster Tools account and select traffic, then links to your site, then more. Here you will find a sampling of the backlinks to your blog. However, if you wanted a complete list, you will need to pay a backlink checking service such as Ahrefs, SEOmoz or Majestic SEO.

    How Do I Determine Which Backlinks are Toxic?

    Take a look at each of your links to see where they are coming from. You will want to keep links that come from high-quality sites and get rid of links that come from low-quality or spammy sites. If your links come from any of the following types of sites, they are most likely toxic links and need to be removed.

    • Obviously spammy sites, porn sites, payday loan sites or gambling sites
    • Sites that are not indexed by Google
    • Sites with a virus or malware warning
    • Sites that have no Page Rank
    • Sites with very new domain names
    • Sites with very little traffic
    • Link networks
    • Sites with an unusually large number of external links
    • Irrelevant sites

    You will also need to remove all paid links and some site-wide links, such as those that show up in website footers and blogrolls. Not all links that come from sites such as these are toxic, however. It is important that you go through each of your backlinks manually so that you can be sure to delete all the negative ones while maintaining all of the positive ones.

    How Do I Remove Toxic Backlinks?

    Once you determine that your site does have toxic backlinks that are currently affecting your Page Rank or that could affect it in the future, you will want to act immediately to clean up your links. Here are four steps you should take.

    1. Delete Them Yourself

    If you own the sites that the toxic backlinks are on, delete them yourself.

    2. Contact the Site Owners

    More than likely, your toxic backlinks will be on sites that you do not own, however. You will need to make a good faith effort to contact the site owners and ask that your links be removed. You may have to contact them several times. Be sure to tell the website owners which links you want taken down specifically, and document your efforts so you can show them to Google later, if you need to.

    3. Disavow Toxic Backlinks

    Once you have done your best to get your toxic backlinks removed, use Google’s disavow tool for the rest. This tool asks Google to not take the links into consideration when determining Page Rank for your site. This tool should only be used by advanced webmasters who have made every effort to have their many toxic backlinks removed, however. The majority of website owners should not need it.

    4. Delete Your Website

    If your website is new, it has little traffic and you have far more toxic backlinks than you can reasonably take care of, you may wish to simply delete your website and start over.

    What Should I Do Next After I Have Removed the Toxic Backlinks?

    Once you have cleaned up your website’s backlinks, you will want to file a reconsideration request with Google. In this request, you should admit your mistake, outline the steps you took to correct the problem and promise to use only best practices in the future. Be sure your request is polite and detailed. Once your request has been submitted, expect to wait between two to three weeks for a response.

    While performing a backlink audit can be arduous and time consuming for websites that have a large number of toxic backlinks, it is worth the effort for website owners who want their websites to do well. Google seeks to reward websites that have high quality content and that gather positive backlinks naturally. Removing toxic backlinks is one essential steps website owners must take if they hope to rank well.

  7. How Often Are Moz’s Domain Authority Scores Updated?

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    articleimage524How Often Are Moz’s Domain Authority Scores Updated

    Domain Authority metrics report on domain performance rankings on Google search results. Moz Analytics campaigns as well as Mozscape API contribute to those rankings. Score compilation of over 40 signals, including reporting from MozRank, MozTrust and Mozscape web index inform Domain Authority correlation of rankings.

    A machine learning model algorithm that predicts rankings across thousands of search results allows users to observe aggregate performance of their domain over time. The total tracking strength reported for a domain is derived from these results, and calculated in a single score. Domain Authority metrics account for fluctuation of those results, as well as competitive reporting as a measure of SEO campaign performance.

    On-demand, daily reporting is part of the Domain Authority analytics feature, allowing for thousands of links per domain. Domain Authority reports on rankings across clients once per week. Each domain has an assigned reporting day that coincides with the first day that a Domain Authority campaign was set up. The reporting day is static and cannot be altered.

    Link analysis data in Domain Authority taken directly from the SEOmoz Mozscape index which is updated every 3 to 4 weeks. The Mozscape index populates the data field with key information in the SEOmoz Web App for each campaigns. SEOMoz tracking in Domain Authority offers result on the top 50 rankings. Although there is some delay in data population updates due to the now over 20,000 campaigns currently tracked in SEOmoz tracks, users can also obtain new data from Open Site Explorer.

    Domain Authority Scoring Metrics

    articleimage524 Domain Authority Scoring Metrics

    Domain Authority score indices are a 100 point, logarithmic scale. The more your score advances, the easier it is to improve it. Thus, growing a score closer to 100 rather than a score on the other end of the spectrum is more expedient. Comparison of search engine rankings offers a combined metric for aggregate performance modeling measure of your dedicated domain. The combined metric approach uses link scaling (i.e. linking root domains, number of links, MozTrust and MozRank) in reporting of a single score.

    MozRank provides the global link popularity score for SEOmoz compares the ranking power or relative link value between URLs. With continuous updates, MozRank outperforms Google’s PageRank metric in frequency and precision. Average MozRank for a domain: 3.00.

    The global link trust score for SEOmoz, mozTrust is measures link trust rather than value. The measurement between the distance of the seeded trust source on the Web, and a given page determines the trust score. Seed trust are generally recognized, lead institutions and organizations such as governmental departments, not-for-profit organizations, scientific associations and university websites.

    Other link metrics include measurement of total links, external followed links, linking root domains, followed linking root domains and linking C-blocks. Metric analysis of total links reports on all links. With total links metrics, more than a single link from the same URL is still treated as a single page. External followed links are measured from the external root domains for pages on a domain.

    Linking root domains are the number of unique root domains containing at least a single linking page to a domain. Followed linking root domains are the number of domains with at least a single followed link for any page page signaled from the root domain. Linking C-blocks or group domains are administrate clusters of domains and the links between them. More than one domain on the same C-Block indicates ownership by the same party.

    How to Mobilize Domain Authority to Boost Website Performance

    articleimage524How to Mobilize Domain Authority to Boost Website Performance

    Users observe the top five pages linking a domain. Once anchor text and Authority metrics have been input, the client can request export of up to 10,000 backlinks, or access Open Site Explorer for additional metric reporting information and links.

    Review of the top five most linked to pages to a domain allows a user to explore competitor content. Search for URLs with the most high quality links not currently redirected to the domain under your ownership (i.e. HTTP Status 404, 302). Identify the link strategies that will best work for your domain. Having knowledge of how competitor domain earn links, informs strategic link acquisition.

    The domains with more link value are those that will rank higher in response to optimization, and convert value to other domains that require rankings. Application of Competitive Domain Analysis metrics such as MozRank and MozTrust, and linking data, analysis of the root domain or the root domains of competitors can be analyzed further.

    Rankings for new keywords are indicated under the ‘Account Settings’ tab on the dashboard. The rankings schedule is displayed as a calendar with a day of the week posted to indicate that an attempt to collect rankings in the PM of that day will be made.

    Domain Authority Reporting Analytics

    The Domain Authority models predict search engine position. Rankings are updated periodically to capture changes in page position of a given domain. The search engine ranking algorithms update data about domain performance over time. Domain Authority offers on-demand reporting. The model also affords better accuracy than competitor metrics. Multivariate analysis features offered in Domain Authority create sophisticated graphical illustrations of requested computations.

    SERP results can be manipulated in co-efficient analyses in queries about domain wide rankings. Taken further, comparative frequencies in linear regression report median performance of domains across time. Prediction of SERP ordinals is also availed in Domain Authority, for reporting of higher to lower score values. Domain Authority has the capability to report on large aggregate datasets. For instance, aggregate metric reporting on 10,000 SERP can be analyzed for comparison of a single or multiple domains.

    Domain Authority accuracy ratings are said to be in the 70% range. While hardly a normal standard deviation from mean performance in the conventional sense, self-reporting by the application is actual rather than trending in comparison with similar search engine analytic providers. Best proximate scores to domain-specific link metrics are possible by eliminating keyword specific features (i.e. anchor text, and on-page keyword usage). Scoring will then report query-independent or non-keyword-based ranking inputs rather than random selection.

    Most Web-metric analytics specialists agree that Domain Authority is the highest caliber predictor of all search engine ranking applications. Use Moz Domain Authority to track, score and analyze your website domain in comparison with those in the same sector of field. Application of link metrics to define a single, predictive score ensures that forecast of trends in domain performance makes better future results highly probable.

    About Domain Authority

    Domain Authority is a marketing analytics software designed to assist in improving website domain and SEO advertising search engine ranking performance. Improve social media outreach, and increase brand awareness connected to your domain with Domain Authority’s compendium of Web-based power analytics tools. Improve the position of your domain across search engines with Domain Authority.

    Moz members can join the 300,000+ community of SEO marketing specialists and Web analysts to find out more applications for Domain Authority scoring. Members have advice to Moz support services, as well as industry experts in a Mozinar. Benefit from knowledge sharing about Domain Authority scoring and reap the most rewards from reporting of domain performance against competitors.

    For more information about Moz Domain Authority Scoring and other Moz software products, visit: www.moz.com

  8. 5 Spam Backlink Cleanup Tips from Professionals

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    If you have any experience with search engine optimization (SEO), then you probably know how vital it is for your website or blog to have backlinks. For search engines like Google and Bing, backlinks serve as proof that your website or blog contains reputable and useful content. Therefore, many website owners seek out backlinks, because backlinks increase page rank as well as rankings in search results.

    However, not just any backlinks will do when it comes to search engine optimization. One must acquire quality backlinks from reputable, popular websites if they want to benefit. Unfortunately, many people make the mistake of acquiring backlinks from anywhere, including spammy, blacklisted websites.

    While backlinks are definitely useful, spam backlinks will give the exact opposite of the intended effect. These backlinks will decrease your website or blog’s ranking and search engines and a lot of spam backlinks may cause Google to blacklist your own blog or website.

    Whether you made the mistake of acquiring spam backlinks, or had the unfortunate luck of purchasing a domain with many spam backlinks, there are things you can do in order to “clean up.” Here are five spam backlink cleanup tips from professionals that you should enforce to get your website or blog back on the good sides of search engines.

    1. Use a Backlink Checker

    articleimage547Use a Backlink Checker

    Your very first order of business should be to use a backlink checker. It’s pretty much impossible to effectively get rid of spam backlinks if you have no idea where they are coming from and how many your website or blog has. Fortunately, there are many free backlink checkers online that will provide you with a backlink profile.

    Some excellent backlink checkers you should consider using are as follows: BackLinkWatch, Ahrefs, Analyze Backlinks, Majestic SEO, as well as Open Site Explorer. You can also use Google’s Webmaster Console in order to see all of your site’s backlinks.

    Once you have a list of all your backlinks, you need to identify the low-quality ones, so you don’t end up removing backlinks that are actually helping your website or blog. Typically, spam backlinks come from domains that are very new, domains with little to no traffic, from pages that have many, many external links, from pages with many ads, and from websites that have a page rank of zero or N/A.

    2. Request for a Link Removal

    articleimage546 Request for a Link Removal

    One thing you can do is visit every single backlink and find the contact information of the webmaster. With their contact information, you can send them a request to remove a backlink from their website. Ideally, you shouldn’t simply demand that they remove it, especially if you were the one who put the backlink there in the first place.

    If there’s a spammy backlink in a comment and you weren’t the one who placed it there, mention that in your request. However, if you were the one who placed it there, you can mention that Google is penalizing websites (Sprint, for example) for spam comments. Also, if there website really does look spammy, you can mention that you’ll have to use the disavow tool for any backlinks that aren’t removed, which may end hurting their website.

    Requesting for a link removal can be very tedious, especially if you have many, many spammy backlinks leading to your website or blog. If you have the money, you can go to a website like Odesk and outsource the task of requesting link removals. There are also programs that will aid you with the task, if you’re willing to buy them.

    3. Use the Disavow Tool

    articleimage547Use the Disavow Tool

    Fortunately, Google recognizes that spammy backlinks aren’t always to blame on the webmaster. If a backlink is hurting your website, and removing it is completely and utterly out of your power, you can use Google’s disavow tool.

    One can use the disavow tool to request that Google not take low-quality backlinks into consideration when assessing a blog or website. However, ensure that you put in a lot of effort to remove low-quality backlinks before resorting to the disavow tool.

    There is a chance that Google may give you a manual penalty if you use the disavow tool without any evidence of you actually trying to remove the spam backlinks yourself. Overall, just use the disavow tool as a last resort, and you’ll be fine.

    4. Move Content

    If most of your spam backlinks aren’t linking to your site’s homepage but to a regular page, then consider deleting that page and moving the content to a new page or 404-ing the page. If a page becomes a 404 or 410, then the links to that page won’t be considered by Google at all.

    However, there are two major drawbacks to this method. The first drawback is that you might not be able to afford to remove the page with many spammy backlinks, as you may actually want to rank the page in search results. Also, your website or blog won’t be very SEO friendly if it has 404/410 pages, which may defeat the entire purpose of 404/410-ing the page.

    If you have thousands of spammy backlinks, it may be best to simply start a new website or blog on a new domain. While a hundred or so spammy backlinks are manageable, albeit tedious, thousands of spammy backlinks are not. You will waste countless hours of your time just to make a tiny dent in your website or blog’s recovery.

    In such a case, it is better to abandon your website (perhaps temporarily) and start a new one on a new domain. However, don’t delete your old website as a Penguin refresh may revive your website in the future.

    5. Prevention

    Of course, the number one way to deal with low quality backlinks is to have never had them in the first place. Typically, you can easily prevent spam backlinks by not placing them there yourself, because that is how most low quality backlinks are established in the first place.

    Don’t link to websites that probably have a bad reputation, like illegal websites and porn sites. Avoid buying backlinks because search engines like Google only like natural backlinks. In fact, speaking of Google, the company made it crystal clear that they consider buying and selling backlinks as spam and that they will treat it as such.

    Having backlinks from high page rank websites is obviously a good thing, but it isn’t the only thing you should be striving for. If a website or blog happens to only have backlinks from high quality websites, it won’t look authentic at all.

    Another method of prevention you should enforce is checking the backlinks of a domain before buying it, especially if it’s a quality domain. It would be terrible to spend hundreds of hours on a website only to discover that its domain is plagued with spam backlinks.

    As you can see, there is no reason to panic and lose hope immediately if your website happens to have many spammy back links, no matter if you are to blame or not. If you follow the above five spam backlink cleanup tips from professionals, your website or blog will most likely be on the road to recovery in no time.

  9. The 5 Best Tools for Measuring Social Media Performance

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    Social Media ToolsSocial media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google+ have become the epicenter of marketing campaigns for many businesses. According to Social Media Examiner, “83% of marketers indicate that social media is important for their business.” While the act of posting content and interacting with followers is important, it’s even more important to measure the performance of your overall campaign. Doing so should ultimately help fine-tune your efforts, minimize mistakes and increase exposure. Here are some techniques and useful tools to accomplish this.

    Google Analytics

    Perhaps the best way to get an overarching idea of how well or poorly each network is performing is by using some basic features of this platform. Google Analytics is free to use, and is the choice of many marketers because of its extensive features. Clicking Traffic Sources > Social > Overview will provide a rundown of all social networks that are bringing traffic to your site. This includes the number of visits via social referral in comparison to total visits, the number of visits from each network and the percentage of traffic from each network. Reviewing this data will give you a rough idea of how well each social media network is performing in relation to other networks.

    For instance, Facebook might be bringing in 40 percent of traffic, Twitter is bringing in 20 percent, Google+ is bringing in 10 percent and all others are combining for 30 percent. Clicking “Network Referrals” will provide a bit more information, like total pageviews, and average visit duration of pages per visit. Clicking “Visitors Flow” is another feature that shows which pages on your website visitors are landing on and from which social networks. Understanding this data is important because it’s a clear indicator of which networks are working, which need some attention, and which ones may be worth scrapping altogether.

    HootSuite

    One of the main indicators of how big your presence is throughout the social media realm is how many mentions your business gets across social media networks. This buzz is also known as social signals, which are a rising factor in search engine algorithms. Hootsuite is an effective way to track those mentions and streamline your social media campaign. It’s also one of the most popular platforms, and currently has over 600 million users. There are several other statistics that can be monitored, such as how many people have added your business to their circles on Google+, how many followers you have across major social networks, recent user activity, and daily growth.

    When it comes to Facebook, you can determine who your fan base is by analyzing their demographic according to region, language and posting source. Hootsuite also makes it easy to absorb data by offering over 30 different modules with a variety of charts and graphs. Since it’s available on mobile devices, this can be a great platform for keeping up with data while you’re on the go.

    SproutSocial

    This has become the go-to social media management platform for many businesses. SproutSocial offers a plethora of features that cover pretty much every aspect of the social media process along with high-powered analytics. From the dashboard, you can keep track of:

    • The number of incoming messages and sent messages
    • The number of new followers across the different social media networks
    • How many brand mentions you have received and the number of unique users
    • The number of impressions your messages have received

    In terms of published content, you can easily determine how many clicks and responses each message received, as well as the number of people each message reached. This is helpful because it’s possible to identify which types of content are creating the most buzz, so you can rinse and repeat later. It’s also possible to determine how well your brand is faring against other competitors. This is done by creating social scores based on engagement and influence, and measuring them against the competition. By producing presentation-ready reports, it’s easy to track the long-term progress of a campaign across various social networks.

    Simplify 360

    If you’re looking for comprehensive data to spot trends, brand reputation and where your company stands against competitors, this is a platform worth considering. According to Simplify 360, they “provide you with a much needed tool to listen to what your customers are saying about your brand on social media and a means to act on it. Be it Facebook, Twitter, blogs, YouTube, news sites or online forums, you will never miss out on any conversations that are relevant to your brand.”
    When it comes to features, this software provides the basic,s like information regarding your demographics, the volume of traffic from various social media sites, and competitor tracking. There are also numerous other sophisticated features such as:

    • The Alexa rank of blogs that are sharing your content
    • Industry trend monitoring
    • Audience intelligence
    • Real-time performance tracking of posted content
    • Ability to compare the performance of different social media accounts

    Like Sprout Social, Simplify 360 produces engagement and influence scores in order to tell how your brand stacks up against competitors. It also has a detailed analytics system with numerous reporting options.

    RowFeeder

    This is another platform designed to measure performance that has caught the attention of notable media companies like Tech Crunch, BBC and Mashable. Their slogan is “social media monitoring and analysis made easy,” and their concept revolves around searching for hashtags or search terms. The data can then be exported to a spreadsheet, charts, or graphs for convenient viewing.

    RowFeeder is a bit simpler than the previously mentioned platforms, and can only be integrated with Facebook and Twitter. Nonetheless, it’s helpful for tracking your campaign in detail and seeing how your brand is performing against the competition. Businesses primarily use RowFeeder for:

    • Brand Monitoring – tracking what your audience is saying about your brand, products, and competitors
    • Campaign Measurement – analyzing factors like reach, participation, and engagement
    • Contests & Promotions – tracking Twitter contests that use hashtags
    • Market Research – monitoring the conversation for a specific topic, market or multiple topics

    Social Share Buttons

    Finally, a simple way to determine how much your content is getting shared on various social media sites is by installing social share buttons. For WordPress-based websites, there are many plugins available, which only take a few seconds to install. Once set up, you can see how many times a piece of content has been shared on different networks. More social shares translates to more exposure, and can be a litmus test for determining what sort of content or topics are popular among your audience.

    Conclusion

    With access to numerous social media performance measurement platforms, businesses have the ability to unearth detailed information that simply wasn’t possible a few years ago. By utilizing the right metrics, you can avoid making the same mistakes and improve all areas of your social media campaign. Over time, this should put you in the position to better understand your audience, improve engagement, and generate more leads via social networks.

    If you’re ready to launch your social media marketing campaign, see my article “How to Determine Which Social Media Network Fits Your Business” for a great starting point. Do you have any other tools you prefer to use for measuring social media performance? Let us know in the comments below!

  10. Essential Software Tools for eCommerce Websites

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    How’s your e-Commerce website doing? That may depend to a large extent on how well you are using the tools for search engine optimization (SEO) that are available to all e-Commerce practitioners. Let’s start with the services that are available for free.

    Google Analytics

    Google Analytics is a basic software application available to anyone with a Google account. It will not only count your website hits but analyze them in myriad useful ways. If you want to move beyond Google, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) may offer an analytics program as well. Just be sure you’re aware of all of the freebie possibilities before you move up to a paid analytics service.

    Ecommerce websites

    Adwords

    The next step will be to set up an Adwords campaign. Adwords is Google’s name for it, but all of the main search engines offer an advertising program that gives you the opportunity to create “featured links.” These are those links that appear on the right side of the page, or nowadays sometimes at the top of the page, in internet searches.

    Featured links also appear on websites one accesses, usually at the right side, or at the bottom. Typically, you, the e-Commerce practitioner, write the text of the link, and provide a graphic if desired. Then you select a daily budget (how much you are willing to spend per day to push this link), and list a series of targeted websites where you would like the links to appear.

    The search engine’s featured link site will give you an enhanced analytics page that monitors links, click-through rates, conversion rates, and other useful information. Cost is minimal, and if the campaign is cleverly mounted, rewards can be substantial.

    AdSense

    Programs like Adsense enable you to select other ads to place beside your content. These programs enable you to align yourself with like-minded e-Commerce practitioners and get commissions on their click-throughs and conversions from your site. Other search engines have similar programs.

    Want more?

    More is available, but the price goes up, of course.

    There are tools for analyzing your competitors and their web performance on the search engines. These can be invaluable if you’re involved in a rivalry with a similar marketer. Choose your keywords in a way that will give you a competitive advantage over the others in your field.

    This can be done completely ethically. Keyword research tools can help you find the best keywords, and sometimes even analyze their potential performance before selecting them. Most who have done any SEO have run into machine-generated keyword suggestions that are off the mark because the machine that’s generating them doesn’t understand your situation at all.

    Social networking tools are becoming increasingly essential. It’s no longer just a way of posting your family photos for your friends around the country, and around the world, to see. It has become a powerful marketing tool, something an e-Commerce concern just can’t afford to be without. Use a tool to maximize its positive impact on your e-Commerce venture.

    Here are some of the best tools available for eCommerce businesses, serving a variety of needs:

    • Get Satisfaction: Get Satisfaction allows you to figure out what your clients think of your business and the way they interact with it. The feedback is incredibly extensive, providing a proper mechanism for customers to send in questions, concerns, comments and so on. Timely praise is also an option – so if your business is doing extra good (or poorly), you’ll be sure to know about it.
    • Basecamp: Web-based project management solutions are popular between business owners, but Basecamp allows many kinds of business management tasks to be properly handled. How does this help your ecommerce business? Well, it’s not specific to ecommerce business, but project management (and timely fulfillment of orders) sure is. That’s what Basecamp aims to streamline.
    • Cloud Hosting: Online businesses, especially those focused on eCommerce, need proper hosting. Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (or the EC2) is suited for eCommerce businesses, as is Windows Azure. Both have incredible uptime, wonderful reliability options, and redundancy for your services.
    • CrazyEgg – This tool helps you figure out exactly how many clicks, scrolls and hovers (and other user actions) happen on your website. Why is this relevant? Well, if you’re selling products and your users are frustrated are confused by your website’s design, it’s important for you to know about it.

    There’s virtually no end to the many online tools available to e-Commerce marketers. The field of internet marketing is changing so rapidly that it’s difficult for enterprises or individuals to keep up. But with the help of tools, you can keep apprised of the latest developments and enhance your performance with state of the art apps.

    Ready to start? Go ahead! Get into the fray. It’s not as difficult as you may think, and there’s going to be help along the way.

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