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  1. Which Pages Should I Make HTTPS on My Website?

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    HTTPS, a marker of SSL encryption on a webpage, is getting more attention due to a recent announcement by Google that indicates a greater search engine preference toward HTTPS sites. SSL encryption is extremely important for certain sites on the web, and if you haven’t already considered enabling it on your site, it’s time to assess your situation. If you aren’t sure whether your site needs HTTPS, or which pages of your site actually require SSL encryption, this article will point you in the right direction.

    Why HTTPS Is Important

    HTTPS is distinct from HTTP because of the way data is transferred between a user’s Internet browser and a website’s host. The “S” indicates the presence of an SSL certificate, which is a purchasable add-on that encrypts information that is exchanged between different sources. It is extremely important for user privacy on the Internet, because without encryption, foreign users can view what data is being transmitted and steal it for their own purposes.

    In short, HTTPS and the SSL certificates that accompany it, exist in order to protect online users’ privacy by scrambling and masking their data. Sites that handle sensitive information, such as credit card numbers and other personal data, need SSL encryption to make their users feel safe and prevent the risk of a data breach.

    A New Impact on SEO

    articleimage412A New Impact on SEO

    HTTPS may be rising in importance, if you read into Google’s recent announcement that HTTPS is now a ranking signal in their search algorithms. For now, the impact on SEO is relatively minimal—according to the official statement, the change is only going to affect one percent of all search queries. But Google likes to roll things out slowly, and when they make a decision about a new web standard, they tend to stick with that decision.

    SSL encryption won’t give you a rank boost right away, at least not a significant one, but Google will likely increase the favoritism it gives to sites with SSL encryption in the coming months and years in an effort to improve user privacy and overall user experience online. Eventually, it’s reasonable to suspect that every site will need SSL encryption to meet Google’s standard, but for now, it’s a secondary priority unless your site already needs SSL encryption.

    Which Pages You Need to Upgrade

    articleimage412 Which Pages You Need to Upgrade

    When you purchase an SSL certificate, it’s going to apply to one whole domain. For example, if you operate a site called superduperwebsite.com, your SSL certificate will protect all pages within that domain, such as superduperwebsite.com/blog, superduperwebsite.com/about-us or your ordinary superduperwebsite.com. As such, you won’t need to worry about picking and choosing which pages within your domain the SSL certificate will cover. However, if you operate with subdomains, you’ll either need multiple SSL certificates or one wildcard certificate that can cover multiple domains.

    Now, let’s take a look at which types of pages actually require SSL encryption. For now, let’s ignore the new SEO benefits of SSL encryption and focus solely on which web pages require encryption strictly for user protection. If any one page of your site requires SSL encryption for user protection, you should purchase a certificate for the entire domain.

    Pages That Collect Personal Information

    Any page or popup on your website that collects personal information of any kind requires SSL encryption to protect your users. For example, if part of your website requires a user to input their name, address, and credit card information, you’ll want to encrypt that communication. Almost any type of e-commerce platform will require HTTPS encryption throughout the site for the safety of your users, but the requirement also extends to pages that collect private information for other purposes. If you store this data for future use, it’s imperative that you protect that information on your servers in addition to having HTTPS protection—but that’s a different article.

    Pages That Require a Login

    If any pages within your site require a login from your users, it’s a good idea to get SSL encryption. Even if you run an online forum that doesn’t require the collection of any personal information other than a username and a password to log in, SSL encryption will protect that information from being intercepted. If a user goes against standard practices and uses the same username and password across the web, they could be vulnerable to identity theft from something as innocuous as an unprotected forum login page.

    Pages That Lead to a Third Party Payment Process

    If your e-commerce platform doesn’t take any personal information from your users, but instead directs them to a third party payment checkout, such as with PayPal, you don’t necessarily need an SSL certificate, since users’ personal and payment information will be protected by the third party to which you are connecting. However, if you do accept any information before or after making that third party connection, you’ll need an HTTPS upgrade.

    Pages Under a Subdomain

    As I mentioned above, if you have multiple subdomains within your website, you’ll either need separate SSL certificates or one “wildcard” SSL certificate to serve as a master between your subdomains. If, for instance, you have an e-commerce platform, such as store.superduperwebsite.com that collects personal information and a blog extension at the original superduperwebsite.com that does not collect any such information, it is possible to get an SSL certificate that only covers the e-commerce subdomain. However, for a consistent user experience, you might as well get a certificate that will cover all your subdomains.

    How to Upgrade Your Website

    articleimage412 How to Upgrade Your Web

    If you’re ready to upgrade to HTTPS, the easiest way to purchase an SSL certificate is through your domain registrar (such as GoDaddy.com). In many cases, your hosting provider will be able to offer a “shared” SSL certificate that covers multiple domains under one umbrella at a reduced rate. There isn’t a lack of protection that comes with a shared certificate, but you will want to thoroughly test your connection to make sure you aren’t getting any errors before you depend on that protection.

    If you’re interested in buying an SSL certificate directly, the process is relatively simple. For the best results:

    • Select the proper format for your certificate, appropriate for your domains (single-domain, multi-domain, and wildcard)
    • Use 2048-bit encryption (which Google recommends)
    • Use relative URLs for all pages within one domain, and protocol relative URLs for other domains

    Setting Priorities

    Before you get too excited and purchase an SSL certificate for your entire website, take a step back and evaluate your priorities. Are you purchasing an SSL certificate because your site captures some kind of personal information? Good. Are you purchasing an SSL certificate because you think it’s going to give you a huge SEO boost? You might want to reevaluate your decision. If you’re going to invest money in your SEO campaign, you’re going to see far better results with well-written content and organic backlinking than you would by upgrading your website to feature SSL encryption.

    In time, Google’s standard will grow stricter, and you may find upgrading to HTTPS to be a worthwhile investment even if your users never provide any information on your site. For now, the question of SSL comes down to how badly your users need protected and how proactive you want to be.

  2. Switching to HTTPS Can Increase Your Rankings

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    Recently, Google made an official announcement that they would be making a change to their ranking algorithm to favor pages with HTTPS encryption over those without it. While they described the change as “lightweight,” initially affecting less than one percent of all search queries, it’s an important change to note because it could signal an intensifying pattern of changes to come.

    If your site currently does not feature HTTPS/SSL encryption, or if you aren’t sure what that means, keep reading. It’s a perfect time to learn the benefits of upgrading your site’s security. If your site is already fully encrypted, you can sit back and enjoy the benefits of a significant—if initially lightweight—ranking boost.

    What Is HTTPS?

    articleimage412whatishttps

    You should be familiar with the http:// and https:// prefixes that signal the start of a URL. HTTP stands for “Hyper Text Transfer Protocol,” while HTTPS stands for “Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure.”  Without getting into too much detail, HTTP and HTTPS are both means of data transference between two locations.

    The “S” that distinguishes the two protocols is what is important here. An HTTPS connection uses a digital Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Certificate to mask, or encrypt the user’s session. Seeing an “S” at the beginning of a URL is an indication to the user that they are on a secure site that is using SSL encryption (Firefox and Chrome also display a lock as an additional symbol of security). This SSL encryption works by hiding the data that is normally transferred between the website host and the Internet browser, preventing any interception of that data from outside sources. As a possibly oversimplified explanation, think of SSL encryption as a curtain that obscures an outsider’s vision while you change your clothes.

    So far, only about small percentage of websites are using this encryption. Up until now, it wasn’t vital for every site. Websites that exchange vital information about a user, such as e-commerce platforms and banks, have always used HTTPS encryption as a standard, but less intrusive sites, like simple blogs, have found that level of encryption unnecessary.

    What Is Google Changing?

    articleimage412 What Is Google Changing
    Google doesn’t always like revealing the details of its algorithm changes, in an effort to reduce the number of people who might take advantage of the change to favor their personal ranks. But in this case, they’ve been surprisingly open. On August 6, 2014, Google openly disclosed that they were testing and implementing an algorithm feature that uses HTTPS as a ranking signal. As mentioned above, this ranking signal will only affect about one percent of search queries—so other factors, like high-quality content, will still take precedent.

    So why is Google making this change? In short, they want to make the Internet a more secure place for the common user. They’re essentially setting a new web standard. By rolling out a change that only affects a small number of queries, Google is giving webmasters time to make the upgrade at their own pace.

    Google is a straightforward practitioner of its own philosophy. In recent months, they’ve already taken efforts to spruce up the security of their own products. Anybody using the basic Google search engine, their Gmail account, their Google+ account , or really anything associated with Google, can rest assured knowing their connection is secure. Google has also taken measures to help website owners who have had their sites hacked. Google’s intentions are to make every website follow a similar “HTTPS by default” practice.

    Is It Important for My Website?

    articleimage412s It Important for My Website

    This is the tricky part. HTTPS is already extremely important for certain websites—as a general rule, anything dealing with money or personal information should have an SSL Certificate to protect their users. But in most cases, it’s a little more difficult to determine whether HTTPS is a necessity.

    One thing is certain: Google knows what they’re talking about. In most cases, we tend to agree with them on whatever new policies they come up with (and even if we don’t, we pretend to for fear of getting penalized). If Google has decided that HTTPS is an important feature for all websites, then it’s true, and that means HTTPS is important for your website. While SSL encryption may not directly influence the majority of your visitors, and may have no bearing on your search rankings for the time being, if Google thinks it’s important for you to have—it’s going to be, sooner or later.

    A Question of Urgency

    So which is it—sooner or later? One percent is a pretty small number. The chances of getting penalized for not having an SSL Certificate are so low that they’re practically negligible. If you’re the proactive type, or if you’re building a new website and you want to stay ahead of the curve, definitely opt for an SSL Certificate as soon as you can. The same goes if you’re a large-scale operation, if for no other reason than to demonstrate you’re on top of the latest web trends. However, if you run a small- to medium-sized site without an immediate need for protecting user data and you don’t feel like making the upgrade right now, don’t sweat it.

    Instead, it’s more worthwhile to focus on the more important elements of search engine optimization: high-quality, regularly posted content, natural backlinking, and social media marketing.

    Making the Migration

    Let’s say you’re ready to make the migration to HTTPS. If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t worry. You’re not alone.

    Fortunately, making the switch is relatively easy. If you don’t know whether or not you have SSL encryption, visit your website. If you see an “https” instead of an “http” in the URL bar, you’re already set for that page. If not, it’s time to make the upgrade.

    The easiest way to get an SSL Certificate is to purchase one (usually from your domain registrar). While every site is unique, you can get a feel for your needs with these basic tips:

    • The three main types of certificate are single domain, multi-domain, and wildcard. You only need one of these types (dictated by the type of site you operate)
    • Select 2048-bit encryption (in accordance with Google’s standards)
    • For pages on the same domain, use relative URLs
    • For all other domains, use protocol relative URLs
    • In order to make sure Google can view your new URLs, check out their guide on moving your site, and do not use a robots.txt file to block crawlers

    HTTPS/SSL encryption is not a straightforward issue with an identical solution for everyone. Since the algorithm update is only affecting one percent of search queries, it’s highly likely that your site will be unaffected in the short term. In addition, some sites handle more consumer data than others, creating a gray area for when you need to update.

    However, this change is a representation of Google’s resolve to help make the web more secure. And since Google calls the shots in the digital world, it’s a good idea to get on their side as soon as possible. In short, don’t lose sleep over your short-term choice in the matter—no matter what you decide—but do keep Google’s stance on encryption in mind in the months and years to come.

  3. The Ultimate Guide to Outsourcing Your Client’s SEO

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    If you’ve tried your hand at search engine optimization for your clients but you haven’t quite gotten the results you hoped for, it may be time to start thinking about outsourcing the work. Every SEO firm is unique in terms of service, experience, and price, so if you want the best possible results for your budget, it’s important to understand why outsourcing is beneficial, and what types of firms tend to see the most success.

    Throughout this guide, we’ll help you understand the main motivations for outsourcing your client’s SEO, the considering factors for choosing a firm, and best practices for working with a firm moving forward.

    Critical Questions to Ask Before Outsourcing

    articleimage389 Critical Questions to Ask Before Outsourcing

    First, let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking yourself before you decide to hire an outside firm. Outsourcing your work isn’t always the best option, and before you choose a firm, you should know exactly why you’re looking for one in the first place.

    • How long have you been working with your client? SEO is a long-term strategy. If you’re frustrated at not seeing results after a month of work, it might be a little too early to escalate your campaign by outsourcing.
    • What type of results have you seen so far? If you’ve already spent a significant amount of time optimizing for your client, what progress have you seen? There are many ways to measure the success of an SEO campaign, and one of the most common is also one of the least valuable. Many SEO amateurs measure success in terms of keyword rankings, when in reality, the better measure of your success lies in traffic—after all, ranking high for a set of keywords doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll see more web traffic, and it certainly doesn’t mean those visitors are buying what your client is selling.
    • What is your budget? Outsourcing your SEO will cost extra money, and cheap SEO services tend to do more harm than good. Make sure you have the cash to support your outsourcing efforts sufficiently.
    • What is your timeframe? Again, SEO is a long-term strategy. If you’re interested in finding a way to quickly or temporarily boost your client’s rankings, outsourcing may not be a good idea. However, if you’re looking for a several month or several year strategy to build a healthy authority, outsourcing is a fantastic option.

    Setting Your Long-Term Goals

    articleimage389Setting Your Long-Term Goals

    Before you get any further, it’s time to consider what your long-term goals for the campaign are:

    • What metrics are you most interested in? Keyword rankings aren’t always the best measure of your SEO results. Are you interested in generating more organic traffic? Or are you interested in generating more relevant traffic, such as people who are more likely to buy your clients’ products?
    • What level of competition are you facing? An SEO firm might be able to help you answer this question, but it’s important to consider before you start looking. Is your client a local business, or are they competing with national enterprises?

    You should also consider whether you’re interested in outsourcing the entire SEO campaign, or just a fraction of it. If you already perform some tasks yourself, you should outline a list of services you’ll need from an outsourced firm, such as:

    • Keyword research and competition analysis
    • Onsite writing and optimization
    • Web structure optimization
    • Local optimization services
    • Blog and content marketing
    • Backlink building
    • Press release writing and syndication
    • Social media marketing
    • Ongoing reporting and measuring

    Finding a Great Fit

    articleimage389findinggreatfit

    Once you have a loose idea of your main goals and needs, you can start looking for an SEO agency that can help you get the work done.

    First and foremost, you need to find a firm that offers all the services you need to have performed. Not all SEO agencies are full-service, meaning there are some firms who specialize in content marketing or exclusively deal in backlink building. For the average outsourcer, a full-service firm is usually the best option, since it covers the full scope of work needed to achieve the best results, but for an account manager who already has specific services covered, a specialty firm might be the better choice.

    Next, you want to consider the cost of outsourcing. You probably already have a general idea for your budget, but it’s important to make sure you get a good deal and spend enough money to get a quality service. SEO firms that advertise themselves as extremely cheap generally deal in poor practices, such as spamming backlinks or writing low-quality keyword-stuffed content. These obsolete SEO strategies could actually harm your campaign in the long-term, so it’s important to invest money in a quality firm. More money doesn’t always mean better service, so do some research, ask for some client references, and find the best firm you can for your target budget.

    Finally, you want to get a feel for your firm’s expertise and working relationship. Any SEO firm that guarantees a specific result, such as a number one ranking by a specific date, is probably lying in order to get your business. With the ambiguity of Google’s algorithm, constantly arriving new updates, and the unpredictable factor of competition, it is impossible to make any accurate prediction or guarantee of results for an SEO campaign. If you’re outsourcing your client’s SEO, you need to find a firm that understands this and knows what type of results are the most valuable for businesses. You also want to find a firm that’s easy to work with, and one that has your client’s best interests at heart.

    Working Together

    Once you’ve selected a firm to work with, it’s a good idea to go over a few things at the beginning of your working relationship to ensure a positive and mutually beneficial path forward. Make sure all of your expectations and goals are clear in the beginning. Some topics you’ll want to cover include:

    • The main goals and needs of the campaign, including which services will be necessary and how much you’re willing to pay.
    • The measures of success for the campaign. You may have a different expectation than your service provider, in terms of metrics to measure as well as a timeline, so it’s important to agree on terms upfront.
    • The frequency of reporting and reviews. Some people want to meet on a weekly basis while others would rather not meet at all. Different procedures work for different people, so make your desires clear from the beginning.
    • The amount of posts, links, and other measurable activities you can expect. Several blog posts and dozens of backlinks per month is base requirement for most campaigns. No matter what your goals and budget are, make sure you get a firm idea of what level of work you can expect.

    Outsourcing a client’s SEO isn’t the best strategy for everybody, but if you’re looking to get better long-term results and you have the budget to support the transition, go for it. Finding a trustworthy, reliable partner to build your client’s search engine dominance might take some time, but once your partnership is established, you’ll be in a much better position to help your client grow.

  4. The Anatomy of a Natural and Google-safe Backlink

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    articleimage388anatomyofnaturallink

    Google’s Panda and Penguin updates have made the process of backlinking more complicated and more demanding, but for good reason: it’s almost impossible to spam links these days without facing some sort of consequence for it.

    Still, the hardworking business owners trying to build more links for their site’s authority are finding it harder to define exactly what makes a link “natural” and safe from potential penalties. Fortunately, we can analyze the qualities that make a link seem valuable in Google’s eyes, and provide direction on how to execute a linkbuilding strategy that is safe for the long term.

    Location of the Link

    articleimage388 Location of the Link

    There are good places and bad places to post links. Watch out for article directories, which are low-quality sites designed to aggregate links from all over the web. Since their sole purpose is to collect and exchange links, Google views these types of sites as ugly and irrelevant, and any links you post there will be counterproductive for your campaign. However, there are some industry-specific directories you can use to build links. Just make sure the directory appears to be a high quality site within your specific niche, and ensure your link is relevant to the thread, conversation, or topic where you post it.

    The best places to build backlinks are these industry-specific sites, industry forums, and other resource sites that allow guest bloggers. The closer a website is to your industry, the more likely it is that your links will be seen as relevant and natural.

    One easy way to find quality places to build your backlinks is to take advantage of the competitors who have already done the work. Moz offers an excellent, free tool to search for existing backlinks. Search for your main competitors’ URLs and find out where they’ve been posting. As long as they’re in the same industry as you are, it’s highly likely that those same sites will allow you to post your links as well.

    Type of Link

    articleimage388Type of Link

    When you post a link, it’s important to make sure it is relevant to the conversation. For instance, if you’re posting in a forum thread about solar panel installations and that’s only one of your service offerings, it’s better to link to your “Solar Panel” page than it is your homepage. Linking to various pages deep within your site is a solid strategy to diversify your link portfolio and improve your chances of being seen as “natural.”

    One option for backlink builders is using a “no-Follow” link to drive traffic without interfering with Google’s algorithms. The HTML tag “Rel=nofollow” tells web crawlers not to follow the link that follows it, turning it into a “no-follow” link. The advantage here is that users will still be able to see and click your links. No-follow links are useful because you can essentially use as many of them as you want without fearing consequences from Google. Essentially, you’ve made your links invisible to them, while still generating traffic to your website.

    Relevance of the Link

    The relevance of your link is extremely important, not just for Google, but for the owners of the site you’re using to post. Any links that are deemed irrelevant to the conversation will be flagged as spam, and could get you banned from the site or penalized by Google. For example, if you own a restaurant and you post links to your site on a forum about movie production, it will be an obvious cue that the link’s sole purpose is to improve your page rank.

    To ensure your link is relevant, first make sure you are posting or commenting on a site that is relevant to your industry. There are hundreds of niche industry-specific sites available for this purpose. Second, make sure your post is relevant to the conversation or to the themes present on the site. The best way to do this is to read the content that has led up to your post and respond to it in a natural way. Don’t link back to your homepage every time; instead link to an internal page of your site that best fits with the conversation. The greatest rule of thumb here is to post links when they’re actually going to be helpful for your audience.

    Content Surrounding the Link

    Your link should be a part of a well-written piece of content or comment, and should never appear by itself. Google can detect natural language use, so if you’re writing fluff for the sole intention of throwing words around your link, Google will notice and could penalize you as a result. Your content, whether it’s a guest post or a comment, should be interesting and engaging to the people reading it, and should explain why you’re providing the link as part of it. This will make the link appear natural to users as well as Google.

    You also want to make sure your links and the content surrounding your links are not repeated. Some business owners try to cut corners by copying and pasting the same link and comment multiple times on different sites, or by using their guest post across multiple blogs. This is a bad idea because Google can detect the use of repeated language, and could penalize you for spamming the same message. Vary the language you use, even if only slightly, every time you post a link.

    Optimizing a keyword phrase by embedding a hyperlink in it used to be a valid means of improving your rank for that specific keyword. However, now that Google is straying away from keyword-dependent ranking algorithms, it’s better to include links plainly or as part of a more natural phrase.

    Examples of Opportunities for Backlinking

    Now that you know the qualities that are responsible for determining whether or not a backlink is seen as “natural” by Google’s algorithms, let’s take a look at some examples of high-quality, Google-safe backlinks:

    • Links within guest blogs. Many companies and organizations invite guest bloggers to post on their site—it’s a mutually beneficial strategy since it provides content and link power to both participants. Feel free to post a link or two back to your site within the body of your post, but make sure it’s well-written and relevant for the site’s audience.
    • Links within forum or blog comments. These are best used as answers to questions, or as elaborations to an existing conversation. The more value you can add to the thread, the better, and keep your links as specific as possible.
    • Links within press releases. Be sure to keep the focus of the article on real, relevant, newsworthy content. The link should only be a secondary priority. If your press release gets picked up, you’ll benefit from the link power of some very authoritative sites.

    Another great way to build links pointing back to your site naturally is to create something that naturally encourages links. For example, you could create a unique infographic for your industry, or an entertaining video with the chance to go viral, and share that visual content on your social media channels. If you put effort into it and time it right, your followers, customers, and similar businesses will all value your creation and link to it on their own. Sometimes, the best way to build natural links is to let it happen naturally.

  5. 6 Reasons You Shouldn’t Syndicate Website Content

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    Great content is the foundation for any content marketing or search engine optimization strategy. In an effort to achieve a wider reach for that content, smart marketers use methods like guest blogging or social media distribution, but not all methods of content distribution are equal. While most methods are valuable in creating more brand visibility, supporting a domain with more backlinks, and creating more opportunities for clicks and conversions, some distribution methods are actually counterproductive.

    Take, for instance, the process of content syndication. While the word “syndication” can be used to describe any process of reposting a piece of content, in the context of this article we will consider web content syndication to mean the reposting of a given article on your site, word for word, on another site. It seems like a great strategy on the surface, but there are several reasons why direct content syndication on external sites can be harmful:

    1. Google Frowns Upon Repeated Content.

    articleimage401oogle Frowns Upon Repeated Content

    Repeating your content word-for-word on a different page is considered “duplicate content,” and it’s something Google considers negative when used as a deceptive practice. Google does admit that some duplicate content can be beneficial, because it provides users with the information they need in multiple locations, but when dealing with a potential penalty, safer is the smarter strategy. Instead of trying to skirt around Google’s ruling on repeated content, focus on guest posting or creating more unique posts for your own site.

    2. Excessive Backlinking Can Be Grounds for a Penalty.

    articleimage401Excessive Backlinking Can Be Grounds for a Penalty

    Syndicating your content usually involves several links pointing back to your site in an effort to increase your page rank and attract more direct web traffic. However, backlinking too excessively or using similar content to link to your site from multiple external sources can be seen as a manipulative practice, and can be penalized by Google. It’s far better to build backlinks through natural means, such as relevant blog and forum comments, than it is through syndicated content.

    3. Users May Associate Your Content With Someone Else.

    Depending on where you try to syndicate your content, you’ll probably earn a few lines of recognition—a short blurb at the top or bottom of the article that says “this post was written by ___.” Some people will take the time to read this, learn more about you, and discover that you’re a reliable source for similarly great content. But unfortunately, most people will only read your piece at face value. And since the first place they saw it was an external site, they may associate your content exclusively with that external site.

    4. It Can Get Expensive.

    It’s possible to syndicate content on your own, and many people pursue this option by tracking down individual external sites in their industry and specifically requesting a guest spot. This is a time-intensive process that requires individual submissions, reducing the efficiency of the syndication process and limiting the quality of links pointing back to your site. Instead, many people prefer to syndicate using a larger, higher-quality syndication channel that submits to hundreds or thousands of sources simultaneously. While this will get you some links from higher authorities, it doesn’t solve the “duplicate content” problem, and more importantly—this kind of syndication is expensive. Over time, those costs add up.

    5. Your Users Might Lose Interest in Your Site (and Your Brand!).

    articleimage401Your Users Might Lose Interest in Your Site

    Your onsite content marketing strategy is designed to get users familiar and interested in your business. Your job is to give them a unique experience they can’t get anywhere else. If you give them that exact same experience, but on a different site, then what reason do they have to stick around on your site? In some ways, syndicating your content on other sites undermines your authority as an expert in your niche. A user who stumbles upon an identical article of yours on an external site may lose faith in the idea that you are an individual thought leader.

    6. You Can Get Outranked.

    This is a serious danger, especially for new or low-authority sites. Imagine you create a blog post called “How to Make a Strawberry Milkshake” and syndicate that on several sites that have a higher authority than yours. True, their larger audience volume means you’ll get an instantly wider reach and a huge opportunity for new readers, but if someone searches for “how to make a strawberry milkshake,” your syndication hosts could show up at the top of the SERP, with your site buried at the bottom. There’s a chance you’ll still get some of their traffic, but why give them that top spot when you don’t have to?

    These detriments illustrate content syndication as a purely harmful process, but there are efforts you can take to turn it into something positive. Take these strategies, for example:

    • Write fresh content instead of reposting your own.

      Posting on external sites is a great strategy. But you cannot do it with duplicated content and hope to be successful. Instead, write a series of guest posts for those external sites. You can maintain your same voice, style, topic focus, and expertise, but you can take a different angle or explore new ideas on those external sites. You’ll be able to build your authority and get some additional traffic without the danger of alerting Google to a piece of repeated content.

    • Use Nofollow links to mask your backlinks from Google.

      To make up for the potential heavy backlinking problem, use “rel=nofollow” tags on your links to ensure that Google doesn’t read them. This will allow your links to function normally for each user, thereby generating referral traffic, but will prevent the possibility of getting noticed for a black hat backlinking process. Even so, it’s still a good idea to make sure each instance of your content is unique.

    • Make sure your brand is clearly visible on the sites you use.

      You don’t always have full control over this, but do what you can to get your brand visible whenever you post a guest blog or syndicate your content. Most sites offer a blurb or a couple of lines to show that a post was provided by an outside source, but ask if it’s possible to feature a stronger brand callout, such as a logo or a more prominent author bio.

    • Use syndication only as a secondary strategy.

      This is the key takeaway here. Syndication, whether you try to repeat a post multiple times or use guest posting, should be a secondary strategy to your primary content goals. A solid marketing strategy needs a firm base in great written content, and that content should be on your site with your name and your brand. Any other posts you make should complement and enhance this strategy, not compete with it.

    When tempered correctly and carefully monitored, content syndication can work as a part of your overall marketing strategy. But in general, guest blogging, social media posting, and social bookmarking are all far superior, safer strategies that achieve the same goals of increased visibility and greater backlink opportunities. If you’re interested in growing your search engine rankings and achieving higher web traffic, the more consistent, long-term strategies are your best option.

  6. 5 Ways to Get Better at Your Website’s Content Creation

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    According to the Content Marketing Institute, more than 58 percent of marketers plan to increase their content marketing budgets in 2014, and it’s no surprise—since its initial rise to popularity, more and more marketing professionals are realizing that content marketing isn’t some buzz-driven gimmick. It’s a real strategy that leads to real results when executed well. According to a survey by Marketing Land, 48 percent of marketers credit their content marketing strategies with a real-life engagement, and 41 percent are seeing a general increase in brand awareness as a result.

    As a marketer in your own right, you might see some of these statistics with a degree of skepticism. Maybe you’ve tried content marketing in the past to no avail, or maybe you’ve never given content marketing a serious attempt. Or maybe you see these statistics as validation of your own efforts, but you’re interested in seeing even stronger results. No matter what the case is, it’s possible to become better at content marketing through a few simple tricks and a few strategic refinements.

    Try these strategies to improve your website’s content creation and improve the results of your content marketing campaign:

    1. Read Your Competitors’ Blogs.

    articleimage400Read Your Competitors’ Blogs

    First things first. If you want to get better at writing, you have to get better at reading. There are no shortcuts, tricks, or exceptions to this rule. Fiction writers live or die by this rule, but business content creators need to follow the same advice.

    Content marketing in your industry is a living environment, with diverse strategies, multiple angles, and a steady stream of new ideas interacting in a loose, interdependent way. When an industry news channel releases breaking news, almost every major business following them will respond with a piece of content expressing their opinions on it.

    Read as much as you can within your industry. It will clue you in to the latest news and events and give you a bigger perspective on your business. Plus, it will give you a chance to see what tactics your competitors are using, and respond accordingly. Sometimes, it might be advantageous to mimic your competitors’ strategies. Sometimes it’s better to go against the grain and pose a differing opinion. But you won’t be successful at creating new, engaging content unless you read, learn new information, and see new perspectives on a regular basis.  

    2. Listen to Your Followers.

    articleimage400listentoyourfollower

    We’re content experts. We can tell you about the technical factors that lead to great content, best practices for formatting and syndicating your articles, and what things to avoid as you get deeper into your overall strategy. But we’re not the ones who determine whether or not your content is successful. Your readers are.

    Listening to your readers and followers is the fastest way to learn what’s most important for your content strategy. After all, readers know what they like to read, and most of them are happy to share that insight with you. All you have to do is listen.

    At the end of your blog posts or in your social media messaging, encourage your followers and readers to engage with you. Ask questions that get people thinking and debating. Pose a challenging argument that invites dissenting opinions. Do whatever you can to get your readers to speak up and share their own opinions—it’s the only way to get a true read on your audience’s preferences, beliefs, and interests.

    By reading comments, reviewing conversations, and seeing which pieces of content seem to attract the most positive reception, you can fine-tune the types of content you write and eventually master the art of writing for your specific audience.

    3. Measure Your Efforts.

    If you aren’t measuring the impact and success of your content marketing strategy, you need to start immediately. While subjective comments can guide and refine the philosophy behind your strategy, only objective data can give you an accurate, provable picture of your results.

    There are several ways to measure how successful your content is. First, you could take a peek into Google Analytics and see which articles are attracting the most traffic (especially if you’re syndicating your content on your social media channels). Second, you can look on the individual blog pages to see how many people have left comments as an objective measure of how engaging that content is. Third, you can delve into your social media channels to see how many likes, retweets, favorites, or comments your article attracted when you sent out the link.

    These metrics, when examined together, should help you conclude which types of content are objectively the most successful. If you notice that your opinion pieces tend to be extremely popular but your news items seem to falter, consider spending more time on your opinion pieces and halving your effort on the news front.

    4. Explore Something New.

    If your content creation seems to be lagging, or if you’re stuck and you aren’t sure what to write about, try exploring new ideas. That may seem like an obvious bit of advice, but it’s a key opportunity for you to become an expert in a unique niche related to your industry.

    Your “new idea” doesn’t have to be some revolutionary new approach or a spectacular innovation. It can be as simple as a new take on an old system, or a specific perspective applied to a series of familiar industry challenges.

    As an example, if a piece of news breaks and your competitors are all posting their opinions on it, do something different with the new information. Make an infographic or a short video that shows how the news affects your industry. Or, conduct a survey of your current customers to get their thoughts on the matter. Or, you could explore how that piece of news affects various aspects of your business. The key is to do something you’re not used to doing in order to keep your content creation fresh.

    5. Get Your Entire Company Involved.

    articleimage400Get Your Entire Company Involved

    While the actual blog writing should be left to an individual, in the brainstorming process, the more minds are involved, the better. Getting your entire company involved in your content creation strategy is an invitation to new ideas, fresh perspectives, and a much more expansive thought engine. Instead of one person trying to come up with a dozen new ideas, a dozen minds can each come up with one. Working together with experts, specialists, and other creative minds is one of the best ways to guarantee a collection of diverse topics and interesting material for your customers.

    It’s also a good idea to work with other content marketers to get some new ideas for your campaign and see how you measure up. Content marketing can get competitive within specific industries, but for the most part, sharing ideas is a mutually beneficial exercise. Offer to exchange guest posts and enrich each other’s web presence and build a more valuable, more attractive content platform for your combined customer base.

    If you’re familiar with content marketing already, you know nothing happens overnight. Implementing these strategies is not a quick fix that will instantly promote you in search engine ranks or attract thousands of new followers to your brand. But when executed consistently over time, your content momentum will build exponentially, and your company will see the benefits manifested as brand awareness, engagement, and revenue.

  7. 5 SEO Strategies That Your Competitors Aren’t Using

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    With millions of websites and companies clamoring to get to the top rank in Google, search engine optimization is becoming an insanely competitive marketing channel. If you’re looking to rank on a national scale, it could take years of hard work to build a solid foundation. Even so, SEO is one of the most cost-effective and worthwhile digital marketing channels available, and if you strategize efficiently, you can get the edge over your competition.

    The fundamentals of SEO (i.e., a keyword-rich content strategy, backlink building, social media syndication, etc.) are pursued by almost every business with a web presence, but there are some excellent strategies your competition is likely neglecting:

    1. Competitive Research.

    articleimage382Competitive Research

    Okay, so your competitors are probably doing a bit of competitive research on their own. But what you research and how you research it matter in the world of SEO. Your competitors might be looking at certain keyword phrases to monitor the level of competition for each, then selecting the least sought-after terms to go after. You can take this level of research a step further by delving deep into your main competitors’ content and SEO strategies.

    Start by taking a look at the title tags and meta data on your competitor’s site. The title tag present on the home page likely contains the main keyword idea they’re trying to go after. Also take a look at the type of content they publish. How often are they publishing? What subjects are they writing about? What types of users are responding with comments? You  not have  considered before. The better you understand your competitors’ strategies, the more you can   do to outperform  them.

    2. Zagging Content.

    We use the term “zagging content” here to define content that proverbially “zags” where other content “zigs.” You can do this as a complement to your competitors’ strategies, or as a dissenting opinion to a popular view.

    As a crude example, if your competitors are writing all about hamburgers, you can write about hot dogs. Both are popular,similar American-style food items, so the audience base will be similar, but they’re different enough to capture different  segments within the population. Since your hot dog content “zags” against the “zig” of hamburger content, you won’t be directly competing, but you’ll still be capturing a similar section of your shared target audience. It will also help you optimize for long-tail keywords that would otherwise go neglected.

    You can also offer content that presents opinions or ideas that aren’t necessarily popular. As another food-based example,consider content that focuses on hot dog toppings. Thousands of people will have written about ketchup and mustard, but  how many people have written about ranch dressing on hot dogs? It’s a viable option that most people haven’t considered. This type of dissenting content is powerful for two reasons: one, it demonstrates a strong opinion, which is always valuable  for gaining attention, and two, it’s different, which will help your content stand out in your industry.

     3. Forum Participation.

    articleimage382ForumParticipation

    Forum participation is a strategy that incorporates elements of standard backlinking and social media marketing. It takes some time and extra effort to find and actively participate in forums related to your industry, but odds are your competitor aren’t investing the time.

    Participating in a forum as a regular contributor can help your campaign in two ways. First, it gives you frequent opportunities to post links pointing back to your site in a natural way. Look for topics that are relevant to your business,and include links to articles on your site that are relevant to the conversation. You don’t want to be flagged as a spammer, but as long as you are posting relevant, engaging comments, you should be fine. You can also include links back to your home page in your signature block. These aren’t seen as high quality links, but every bit of help counts.

    Second, you’ll be building a community. Forum participants may not be involved in social media, and therefore represent a unique section of your audience. Forum members are often looking for expert advice, and if you can be that expert when  your competitor isn’t even trying, you’ll win a ton of new business.

    4. Directory Management.

    Local directories are becoming increasingly important for local businesses. Directories like Yelp and TripAdvisor recently received a massive ranking boost from Google’s Pigeon Update, in some cases ranking directory review pages above the individual sites for the companies they review. For businesses that depend on local web traffic, this represents a new avenue for building web traffic from search engine results. If a Yelp page is the first thing your customers will find when looking for your type of business, you need to make sure you have a stronger Yelp page than your competitors.

    To effectively manage your listings in local directories, first you’ll need to claim your page on as many outlets as possible. This includes sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Urbanspoon, and any other industry-specific directories you can find. Fill out as much information as you can, and make sure your name, address, and phone number information is exact and consistent  across each platform. Then, encourage your customers to find you and post positive reviews—the more, the better. Don’t pay for reviews or post fake ones; you’ll get caught and penalized. But do encourage review posting as much as you can to get the edge over your competition.

    5. Video Community Building.

    articleimage382videocommunitybuilding

    Videos are an important type of content in any content marketing and SEO strategy, but you can do more than just posting a handful of videos on your own YouTube Channel. With video community building, you can create a tight network of backlinks and mutual support with your vendors and partners.

    If you use a certain product in your business that you love, make a short and personal testimonial video and offer it to company that makes that product. Companies love to receive testimonials, especially in video form, so if you’re lucky, they’ll post it on their site as a blog post or on their Testimonials page. Include a link back to your site if you can. It’s an easy  and natural way to diversify your link building strategy, add more videos to your repertoire, and increase your brand visibility all in one brilliant tactic. You can even reciprocate by encouraging your customers to post video reviews of their  own pointing back to your site.

    Implementing these strategies may not be the magic bullet that puts an end to your competition and puts you on the fast track to a number-one ranking, but it will give you a competitive edge. When working in tandem with other consistent SEO best practices, eventually you’ll see some pretty impressive results.

    Of course, if you’re new to the world of SEO, this is a lot to take in. Not only do you have to worry about making sure your onsite and offsite strategies are in order, you also have to stay on top of the ever-changing adjustments to Google’s ranking algorithms and respond to the moves your competitors are making. Fortunately, our SEO programs and Resource Library can get you on the right path.

  8. 10 Types of Link Building Companies to Avoid

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    Link building is an essential part of the search engine optimization (SEO) process. In order to find success in increasing your ranks in Google, you need to have a solid onsite optimization strategy (including proper site structuring and ongoing content marketing) and offsite optimization (including backlinks pointing to your site). When you boil it down, the more links you have pointing to your site, the more authority your site has, and the more authority your site has, the more likely it is to rank for a given keyword or keyword phrase.

    Unfortunately, link building itself is not that simple. Google treats different types of links differently; for example, a link to your site from an established university is far more valuable than a link to your site from some shady corner of the web. Rack up too many low-quality links and Google will penalize you for spamming.

    Most business owners struggle to link build consistently. It takes a lot of time and research to post the best quality links, so many turn to link building companies to support their offsite optimization efforts. However, not all link building companies are the same, and there are several types of link building companies you should steer clear of entirely:

    1. The Paid Link Builders

    articleimage383thepaidlinks

    Paid links are exactly what they sound like. You pay a set amount of money per link pointing back to your site, or you pay a regular fee for your link builders to have them pay for offsite links in the same way. Google is explicit in its policy about exchanging money directly for links. You cannot do it. This includes buying or selling links, so if a company tries to convince you they’re selling links at a fixed rate—they’re already in violation of Google’s policy and will probably get you penalized.

    2. The Article Directory Link Builders

    articleimage383The Article Directory Link Builders

    Article directories used to be awesome for SEO—that is, until Google caught on to the scheme. With article directories, you used to be able to pop out an article filled with fluff, submit it, and see it published all over the web with links pointing back to your site. However, Google now checks against duplicate content, making the tactic completely useless, or even counterproductive. If your link building company uses article directories, ditch them now. It’s a one-way ticket to a penalty from Google.

    3. The Link Swappers.

    Companies that practice link swapping are all too common, and you need to make sure to avoid them. Swapping links seems innocent enough: You post a link to their site and they post a link to yours. Unfortunately for these low-quality link builders, Google’s algorithms are sophisticated enough to notice when such a scheme is being implemented by detecting patterns in mutual link pointing. The risk of a penalty is lower than what you might face from paying for links directly, but it’s still not a good idea to rely on a company who uses link swapping as their main strategy.

    4. The Low-Quality Directory Link Builders

    Back in the old days of SEO, when Google could be easily taken advantage of, free directory sites were gold mines. You could easily post as many links as you wanted on these sites and reap the benefits almost immediately. However, Google has completely de-indexed most of these sites entirely. There are a small number of industry-specific directories that can be used to build your authority with occasional links, but you’ll want to watch out for any link building company who tries to post links using low-quality free directories.

    5. The Bad Press Releasers.

    If your link building company promises an inordinate amount of press releases, consider it a bad sign. Press releases are fantastic for SEO, but only when their composed with well-written, relevant news. Most legitimate online press release syndication channels feature multiple quality checks to ensure the release is newsworthy and not a keyword-stuff excuse to build an external link. If you suspect a link building company would submit too many press releases or press releases of a low quality, avoid that company.

    6. The “Too-Good-To-Be-True” Builders.

    If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, and that rule applies to link building companies as much as anything else. Some link building companies will go out of their way to promise the world to you, guaranteeing an insane amount of links in a ridiculous timeframe, or making a promise of a specific rank by a certain date. Nothing is guaranteed in the SEO world, so if a link building company is making hefty promises, it’s best to avoid them entirely.

    7. The Dirt-Cheap Builders.

    Going along with the “too good to be true” theme, if your link building company is offering you insanely low rates for their service, consider it a red flag. As a consumer, you should do your research and shop around for the best deal, but cheap link building usually means bad link building. Your link building strategy is an investment. If you buy a used car for $100, you can expect that car to break down on you in a relatively short timeframe. Frugality doesn’t always pay off.

    8. The Pyramid Schemers.

    Link pyramid schemes and their relatives, link wheels, are cheap tactics used to artificially transfer page rank across several layers of links. Some link building companies are still using this strategy to build ranks quickly, but ever since the Penguin 2.0 update, Google has been specifically hunting these types of schemes down. A link pyramid might get you a quick boost in ranks, but that boost will be short lived once Google discovers your company’s ruse.

    9. The “Click Here” Types.

    articleimage383clickherewebsite

    If you see a link building company advertising with a flashing, poorly designed “CLICK HERE NOW!!!” style banner ad on a website, that probably isn’t the link building company for you. If a company is willing to resort to such low-quality cheap tactics for their advertising, they’re probably willing to pull a similar stunt in their link building process. Instead, look for a link building company with a solid reputation and an apparent attention to detail.

    10. The Link Building Exclusives.

    If a company “specializes” in link building, it might be a bad sign. Odds are, their “specialists” are busy posting hundreds of links to all kinds of sites, with little regard for the quality or relevance of the links. Link building is just one piece of the SEO puzzle, and if your link building company is exclusively working in link building, there’s a high chance they don’t fully understand the scope of modern SEO and they won’t give you the results your business deserves.

    If your main goal is building quality links to support a long-term optimization strategy, your best bet is to work with an agency with experience in all areas of search engine optimization. Working with a qualified agency will allow you to consolidate your onsite and offsite strategies and eliminate your chances of being penalized by Google over a sketchy “black hat” practice. It might cost a little more than one of the scheming link building companies listed above, but in the world of SEO, you get what you pay for

     

  9. How to Build a Safe and Natural Backlink Profile

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    Backlinks have always been valuable for businesses trying to improve their ranks in major search engines, but the ways backlinks can be used are constantly evolving. Immature search engine algorithms straightforwardly favored sites with more links pointing to them over sites with fewer links, but to improve the web experience for the average user and curtail the practice of backlink spamming, Google has developed a much more sophisticated algorithm.

    Backlinks are still a vital component of search engine optimization, but in order to build your authority without suffering a penalty, it’s important to ensure a safe and natural-seeming backlink profile.

    Backlink Practices to Avoid

    articleimage384Backlink Practices to Avoid

    First, let’s take a look at what you should not be doing. If you can avoid the most common “dangerous” backlinking practices, you’ll be halfway to building a backlink profile that is safe, natural, and valuable for your brand.

    • Don’t believe companies who promise cheap or a huge number of backlinks. In the SEO world, you get what you pay for, and if a backlink building offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.Cheap backlink companies have a habit of building links from low-quality sources, which can get you penalized and take your campaign back to square one.
    • Don’t pay for your links directly. Google’s official policy is that buying or selling backlinks for the purposes of improving page rank is a violation of their Webmaster Guidelines.
    • Don’t exchange links with another company—at least not too often. It’s fine to exchange a link or two with another company when it’s relevant, but if you have too many links reflecting each other, Google will take notice and penalize you.
    • Don’t rely on directories. Some directories, like very specific industry-related ones, are okay to use as part of your strategy, but avoid article directories or anything that looks like it’s low-quality.
    • Don’t repeat your “signature” all over the web. Google detects instances of repeated language, so if you use the same company description or author bio to accompany all your backlinks, you won’t build as much authority.

    Types of Sites to Find

    Now that you have an idea of what to avoid, you can start looking for some high-quality sites to use for your link building. One of the most important factors for your backlink profile is going to be diversity. If you only have one or two different sites pointing to yours, or if you only backlink using industry directories, eventually you’re going to find problems. Instead, focus on using a wide range of different sites for your backlinks.

    The most authoritative sites to use tend to be official sites and trustworthy education sites, such as those that end in .edu or .gov. However, as you might imagine, it’s somewhat difficult to find backlinking opportunities on these sites. It’s worth a bit of extra effort to link on sites like these, but don’t shy away from other opportunities. As mentioned above, it’s wise to avoid low-quality link directories, but look for niche-specific directories. They’ll give you ample opportunities to post meaningful, quality links.

    The best sites to use, in general, are ones directly connected to your line of work. Any forums, resources, directories, or community pages that are relevant to your industry are perfect places to start building a backlink profile. Just be sure to vary it up by using multiple sources.

    Types of Links to Build

    articleimage384Types of Links to Build

    The key to building a good link is to make your build relevant, with unique high-quality content. If you repeat the same phrase or use the same link over and over again, Google will take notice and penalize you. Instead, make sure all your links are:

    • Relevant to the conversation or topic. Don’t shove your link into a comment just because the thread is somewhat relevant to your industry. Make sure it fits naturally into the conversation.
    • Uniquely written. You should never use the same phrase twice, even if it’s a brief description of your business.
    • Varied in direction. Instead of linking to your homepage, do some deep linking. Link to pages and specific posts within your site.

    Keeping these points in mind, there are some key types of content you can use to structure and support these links:

    • Guest posts are solid opportunities because they give you a chance to demonstrate your expertise, give you a semi-permanent place on the web, and also give you multiple chances to link back to your site. Guest post for different sources, but feel free to post regular articles on any given external site. Search engines favor consistency, so long as you’re producing well-written content, so establish your authority by writing on a regular schedule.
    • Comments are another chance to post relevant links, especially in a forum-style discussion. Make sure your comments are on topic and are not blatantly promoting your site—you could easily be flagged as spam otherwise.
    • Press releases and social opportunities are peripheral means of link building. Your press releases should be comprised of well-written content about a newsworthy event (i.e., don’t make something up just to have an excuse to syndicate a press release). Any time you write or post relevant content, make sure to share it on social media as well.

    Diversity is valuable here too; don’t backlink using any one strategy exclusively.

    Timing and Frequency

    In the world of backlinking, patience is vitally important. Posting hundreds of links as quickly as you can was how you built ranks quickly back in 1999; today, that spike of activity almost guarantees a penalty. There’s no objective rule for how many links you can post within a given timeframe, especially when each company has a different budget and a different set of goals. However, it’s important that your efforts are seen as reasonable by major search engines. For most businesses, that means a handful of guest posts per week, and a few comments per day.

    It’s also important to space your efforts out. Instead of posting all your links within a short timeframe, make link building a long-term strategy. Your backlink profile will appear to be much more natural if it grows steadily over a period of time.

    Letting Others Build Your Links for You

    articleimage384Letting Others Build Your Links for You

    One of the best ways to help your backlink profile appear natural is to let others take care of the work for you. By leveraging the power of viral content and social media, you can make people actively want to link back to your site. Use your blog to write consistent, compelling content, and use social media channels to syndicate it to the masses. Once people are hooked, they’ll start linking to you as an authority—and you won’t have to lift a finger.

    Similarly, you can work on an infographic or an interesting video. It might cost some money up front, but if you create a visual piece that’s highly shareable, you’ll attract hundreds or even thousands of potential linkers.

    Overall, successful and natural link building comes down to three things: relevance, diversity, and patience. Your back links should be spaced out in terms of both timing and location, and your content should mean something to your audience. Keep your strategy consistent, don’t go overboard, and eventually you’ll establish a perfectly natural,Google-safebacklink profile that will boost your rankings and authority for years to come.

  10. How to Use Social Media to Build Your Email List

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    Email has a long-standing reputation as one of the most valuable assets an online business owner can have. And rightfully so. It’s one of the few things that you actually own. What I mean by this is you don’t own your tweets. A great social media campaign is important, too, but it’s always a good idea to put the majority of your effort into something that — at the end of the day — you can walk away with owning one hundred percent.

    Since you need to be on social media, it’s a good idea to leverage your time spent there for building your email list. How is this possible? Not to worry, we’ve put together a few easy-to-implement tips for you that’ll get your social list building started off right:

    Integrate Sign-up Forms Into Your Social Profiles

    If you’ve got a decent social following, it’s time to use that fact to your advantage. This means prompting your followers to sign up for your list. Of course, coming outright and stating it that way — especially over and over again — can be downright annoying. A good approach on Twitter and Google+ is to simply include a link to the sign-up form in your bio. It’s non-intrusive but still present, which gives people who genuinely like what you have to say the opportunity to keep tabs on what you do.

    Lead Cards

    articleimage379Lead Cards

    Another way you can encourage more email list sign-ups on Twitter is to use the Lead Generation Cards. These do cost some money to implement, so you’ll need to dip into your advertising budget a bit. But the potential here is massive. You see, the card allows your followers to sign up for your email list without having to open a new browser tab, leave Twitter, or leave your profile. The Card expands down to reveal a sign-up button — much like Multimedia Cards expand to reveal videos or images. Just focus on crafting a really compelling call-to-action in the accompanying tweet and you’re golden.

    Facebook Tab Apps

    Facebook displays a series of tabs across the top of your Page. These often say things like Photos or Notes. However, you can actually add more apps here to customize what appears on your Page. There are several apps for integrating your other social profiles into tabs on your Facebook Page. But you can also add an email sign-up form into one of these tabs. Pretty cool, right? With some rearranging, this tab can appear right at the top of your Page for as long as you want, always offering a prompt to sign-up to interested visitors.

    Several different newsletter services offer Facebook Signup Apps, by the way, so your options definitely aren’t limited. We’re talking MailChimp, iContact, and ConstantContact to name a few.

    Include a Sign-up Link on Every Page of Your Site

    No, it’s not technically on your social media profiles, but that doesn’t change the fact that you absolutely need to include a link to a sign-up form on every single page of your site. When you’re engaged with people on social, they’re more likely to click through to your website. And if they happen to miss that sign-up form link in your Twitter bio, they’re definitely not going to miss it on your website. If you make sure it’s there, that is.

    Much of the time, your social media traffic will point to internal pages on your site. Your followers will click links that you post. They usually aren’t going directly to your homepage. So, if you only have the sign-up form on your homepage, these social followers are going to miss it. Don’t let that happen! It’s easy to integrate a sign-up form into your sidebar or directly within your blog posts.

    Share Exclusive Content That Links to a Landing Page

    Another way to get some email sign-ups out of your social following is to link directly to a landing page that includes the sign-up form. You should do this in your bio section as described above, but you also need to link to it directly within your social content. No, I don’t mean post, “Sign up for my newsletter!” every day. That would just be annoying. What you can do, however, is offer something to your followers in exchange for their email addresses.

    Free giveaways and exclusive content are an excellent way to encourage people to sign up. We’re talking free ebooks, infographics or premium article series here. This kind of content captures people’s attention and makes them want it — so much so they’re willing to input their email address to get it.

    Once you’ve created this outstanding content. Share tidbits of it on your social channels. Think of it as a teaser. Then, make it very clear that your followers can gain access to the entirety of the content if they sign up. You should see a significant boost in sign-ups, especially if your content is really good. At the end of the day, people love to get stuff for free, so it’s in your best interest to take advantage of that fact.

    Offer Discounts and Coupons for Sign-ups

    articleimage379Offer Discounts and Coupons for Sign-ups

    Again, people like to get stuff. And the less it costs them, the better. So, you can always bait people into signing up for your email list by offering discounts on your products or services or coupons to use at their convenience in your social posts. It’s a quick way to get people engaged with your brand, too. Of course, this isn’t something you can offer all the time as it’ll lose some of its power. Still, it’s a good option to boost sign-ups quickly.

    Hold a Contest on Your Social Channels

    articleimage379Hold a Contest on Your Social Channels

    Contests are one of the best ways to build your email list on social media. It’s a really great way to boost your subscribers quickly, especially if you’re still in the early stages of a marketing campaign. You’ll simultaneously increase sign-ups, improve brand visibility, and expand your reach because people love to share contests with their followers.

    You can host a contest in any number of ways. On Facebook, you can include a contest app in a tab. You can also promote it directly in your timeline. Several great apps exist that actually make signing up to your email list as a method of contest entry. Such apps include Rafflecopter, Fan Appz, and Offerpop to name a few. You can cross-promote these contests on your other social networks as well like Twitter and Google+.

    Another way to enter the contest — you can often opt to allow people to enter multiple times — is to allow people to share your contest with their followers. That way, your followers will sign up to your list, then share the contest with others, who will then sign up and share, and so forth. It’s a really great way to get some attention for your brand and build a subscriber base quickly.

    A word of warning here: There are some people that create social accounts for the explicit purpose of entering contests and giveaways, so be mindful that not every subscriber will be a prospect. But there’s safety in numbers here. The key is offering a really great prize that’s directly related to what you do.

    And don’t forget to cross-promote the contest. That is, you can tweet about the contest, even if it’s based in a Facebook tab. Spread your reach as wide as you can for the best effect.

    All of these above strategies work well for making use of social media to build a healthy email list. You’ll likely find using them all in conjunction works best. Just make sure your primary focus is creating and sharing high quality content. Your list building efforts will be best received when you offer something of use to your target audience.

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