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Category Archive: SEO

  1. 10 Strategies to Build Ranks Without Keywords

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    Keywords are dead in the water. Search engine optimization (SEO) used to be synonymous with keyword optimization, the process of including targeted keywords at a precise frequency in the body of onsite content and as anchor text for external links. A series of Google updates and changes in industry thought have gradually diminished the power of keyword-based strategies, but now they’re practically useless. Thanks to Google’s new semantic search—which analyzes the intent behind a user’s search query instead of the words and phrases that constitute it—stuffing your site or your content with keywords will now net you nothing more than a penalty.

    So instead of trying to build your ranks with keywords, try one of these ten keyword-free SEO strategies:

    1. Improve Your Site Speed and Security.

    articleimage661Improve Your Site Speed and Security

    This is usually a simple fix that can subtly improve your rankings. If you haven’t already, make sure your site features SSL encryption (it’s what denotes the HTTPS, rather than the HTTP at the beginning of your URL). That added layer of site security is beneficial for your users, and it also gives you a slight ranking boost. Then, clean up your site speed by consolidating any and all plugins you have, clearing up your caching, and making sure all your onsite images are optimized for speed. There are several free tools online to help improve your site speed, especially for WordPress sites.

    2. Post Often with Multiple Mediums of Content.

    Google likes to see sites that update their blog and news sections often. With the sheer volume of content available online, new and interesting content takes priority over older, more detailed content. Simply posting a few times a week rather than once a week can make a drastic difference in your search rankings. It’s also important to use multiple mediums when posting—post blogs, news articles, infographics, images, videos, or anything else that can round out your strategy. Posting in multiple formats will keep your readers engaged and improve your search visibility at the same time.

    3. Answer Potential User Questions.

    articleimage661 Answer Potential User Questions

    One of the best content strategies around is proactively answering your users’ questions. Users frequently rely on search results for the answers to their questions, and since Google’s new semantic search algorithm analyzes user intent and populates the best possible results accordingly, providing the answers can get you more visibility for your target audience. Get as specific as possible to cover questions with the least amount of competition, and conduct regular surveys or questionnaires to determine what kinds of questions your users are currently facing. Including images or how-to videos can also help you get higher ranks for these articles.

    4. Check Your NAP Across the Web.

    Your NAP is a group of specific information about your company—its Name, Address, and Phone number. These bits of information are used by Google to consolidate and understand information about your business around the web, so it’s vitally important that all of your NAP information is identical. That means no variations—if it says “Maple Street” on your website, it needs to say “Maple Street” on Yelp—not “Maple St.” Check any instance of your website on the web, including any of your external links, your professional partners, your social media profiles, and your profiles on third-party review sites. Correct any mistakes you find immediately.

    5. Attract Positive Online Reviews.

    After Google’s Pigeon update earlier this year, online reviews have become an important ranking factor. The more reviews you have for your company, and the more positive they are, the higher you’re going to rank for relevant queries. While soliciting and even directly encouraging reviews is a direct violation of most service agreements of third-party review sites like Yelp, there’s nothing stopping you from announcing your listings and subtly suggesting how much you appreciate positive reviews. Just a handful of new reviews every month can accumulate to make a big difference for your ranks.

    6. Write and Syndicate Press Releases.

    articleimage661Write and Syndicate Press Releases

    Press releases have been a great SEO strategy for years, and as long as you’re not using them as shady opportunities to stuff keywords, they are still a fantastic strategy. Write press releases that are actually newsworthy—not just some fluff you’ve thrown together for the press attention. Submit your press releases wherever you can—you never know when you might earn a link from an authoritative national news provider. These links are some of the most powerful you can get, and you can always benefit from the extra visibility and press attention.

    7. Use Social Media Regularly.

    While it isn’t completely clear how or why social media signals factor into your ranks, the more frequently you post on social media and the more active your following is, the better you’re going to perform. As a result, you should claim all the social media profiles you can and update them regularly with high-quality content in order to generate a larger following. Keep your audience engaged, post several times a day, and you’ll start earning higher search ranks in addition to the extra social traffic you’ll generate.

    8. Build Links and Brand Mentions on High-Quality Sources.

    Onsite content is still valuable and important, but don’t neglect your offsite strategy. It’s still important to build external links pointing back to your domain in order to improve your authority and increase your chances of ranking for various queries. However, the recent additions to Google’s Penguin update have made the limitations on link authority even stricter. Over the course of your strategy, be sure to include a diverse range of links on a diverse spread of sources, and include non-linked brand mentions as well.

    9. Build Relationships with Inbound and Outbound Guest Blogging.

    Guest blogging is another strategy that can drastically improve your visibility as well as your domain authority. Attract outside guest bloggers to your blog by making public callouts and attracting influencers with direct messages on social media. You can also find high-quality outlets for your own guest blogs (making sure they are relevant for your industry), and post occasionally with a link or two pointing back to your main site. Do this regularly, but avoid relying on the same sources over and over.

    10. Attract Links with Infographics and Videos.

    Instead of building all the links yourself, let your audience build the links for you. Use infographics and entertaining videos to engage and inform your audience. They’ll be more likely to share it on their own outlets, and link back to you naturally as the authority. Alternatively, you can sponsor a drawing or a competition that gets people to post testimonials or video reviews of your products—in this case, you’ll simultaneously improve your online reputation on hundreds of external networks and benefit from the links generated by the process.

    Today, the bottom line for SEO is user experience. If you give your users a great online experience, you’ll make them happy, and by proxy, you’ll make Google happy and you’ll climb in the ranks accordingly. Keep in mind that no SEO strategy can rocket you to the top of SERPs immediately; it will take weeks or even months before you start to see results, and only after you work consistently and diligently to improve your campaign.

  2. Questions and Answers for Greater Search Visibility

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    SEO is a cost-efficient, valuable strategy, but every business in the world with an online presence knows it. It’s a competitive landscape out there, and you’ll need to improve your optimization strategy if you hope to rank.

    Google’s prerogative is to give users the best possible online experience, and that means giving users exactly what they’re looking for. Most of us use Google to find information, so the businesses that provide the most valuable and relevant information are the ones who will earn the highest rankings. Rather than stuffing your posts with keywords or trying to cheat the system by tweaking individual words and links on your site, it’s more effective to simply provide more information that your audience is looking for. One of the easiest ways to do that is to find questions that your users are asking (the more specific the better) and provide in-depth answers to those questions.

    Keywords Are Dead

    articleimage644Keywords Are Dead

    If you’re thinking about this strategy in terms of keywords, stop. After several years of updates and adjustments from Google, keyword-based optimization is practically dead. While Google will look at your words to determine the overall message behind them, it will not measure the frequency of their appearance, and it will not pair the keywords on your page to keywords in a user’s query.

    For example, if your goal is to answer the question “How do I thaw a frozen lock?”, your article should be a thorough examination of the ways to thaw a frozen lock, not an excuse to fit the exact phrase “how do I thaw a frozen lock” into your content three or four times. Keyword stuffing is no longer an acceptable practice, and will do more harm than good for your campaign.

    The Hummingbird Update and Semantic Search

    articleimage644The Hummingbird Update and Semantic Searc

    Google has continually refined its ranking algorithm in order to weed out black hat practices like keyword stuffing and link spamming. The Panda update, back in 2011, did a lot of good to fight back against the unnatural overuse of keywords in onsite content. But it wasn’t until the Hummingbird update, in 2013, that keywords stopped being relevant altogether.

    Hummingbird introduced a concept to the search world that is becoming increasingly more familiar: semantic search. Semantic search is a search strategy that attempts to understand the meaning behind a user’s inquiry, rather than picking the query apart into individual words and phrases. For example, an older algorithm might dissect a complicated phrase into three or four chunks, and seek out material that happens to include those same three or four chunks. Through semantic search, a computer will work to understand what the intention of that complicated phrase is, and then find content that meets that intention. Put simply, the search algorithm is smarter, and it’s going to find the most appropriate content for incoming user search queries no matter how many keywords it contains.

    Domain authority, external link profiles, and social media activity are still important factors that play into what Google determines to be the most relevant articles, but if you’re going to be found by searchers, you have to first present information that answers their questions.

    Finding the Right Questions to Answer

    articleimage644 Finding the Right Questions to Answe

    The best articles on the web are the ones that are valuable and unique. Valuable articles will earn you the greatest amount of traffic possible, while unique articles will eliminate your competition. Therefore, to achieve the greatest working efficiency, you have to provide answers to questions that are both valuable (attracting large volumes of search queries) but also unique (so users aren’t bombarded by hundreds of articles serving the same purpose).

    Let’s consider two articles as examples of what not to do. The title “how to tie a tie” answers an important, common question, so writing an article from it may seem like a good idea. However, a search for “how to tie a tie” returns more than five million results. This is an example of a question that is valuable, but not unique at all. Your article would get buried in the millions of similar articles that already exist.

    On the other hand, the title “how to perform backflips while submerged in jello” has the opposite problem. It’s a unique question which won’t face any competition whatsoever, but at the same time, there won’t be an audience to search for it.

    Your goal is to find questions that strike a middle ground—questions that serve the needs of the many while still distinguishing themselves from the rest of the field. It can be hard to find such questions, but there are a handful of strategies that can help you brainstorm.

    Research your competitors

    What are your competitors writing about? What kinds of questions are they answering? Obviously, you don’t want to copy your competitors’ strategies directly, but you can and should draw inspiration from them. For example, maybe they answer a great question about how to care for a young bearded lizard, but they neglect to follow-up with an article for how to care for an adult bearded lizard. It’s an opportunity for you to swoop in with a related but unique piece of content.

    Log onto industry forums and see what people are talking about

    Look for threads with uncommon titles that have only generated a handful of responses. These tend to represent customer concerns that are significant enough to post about (or write about), but ones that haven’t generated much attention yet (making them perfect opportunities for a unique perspective).

    Ask your customers directly

    Finally, you can go the easy route and just ask your customers directly what they’d like to read about. Ask your followers on social media what kinds of topics they’d like to see, or conduct regular reader surveys to highlight customer interest and see if there are any specific questions they’d like to see answered on your blog.

    Complementing Your Article With Images and Videos

    Once you’ve got your editorial calendar full with questions you’re going to analyze, you can start writing. Remember to adhere to all the best practices for traditional content posts, including writing a strong title, breaking down your article to be easily skimmed, and keeping it an appropriate length. In addition, you’ll also want to post an accompanying image or video, possibly documenting the answer to the question you’ve posed. There are several benefits to this.

    Higher relevance

    First and foremost, your post will be seen to have a higher relevance. Google views articles with accompanying images and videos with more authority, so if you’re competing against a similar article that doesn’t have any visual aids, you’ll likely outrank it with ease.

    More click bait

    If you host your video on YouTube or if your image is tagged with an appropriate phrase, your visual content could be shown off along the top ranks, before your content is even seen. It serves as an extra channel to generate clicks, giving you more visibility and a higher click through rate.

    External link attraction

    Finally, posting valuable images and videos about an important subject is bound to attract external links. Competitors and businesses in related fields will cite your work to support their own content, giving you credit in the form of backlinks which will naturally and effectively increase your own domain authority. Ultimately, that means you’ll rank higher on each of your posts and you’ll have a new route for traffic to come back to your site.

    If you’re still using keywords as the basis of your blogging strategy, it’s time to abandon ship. Instead, write articles that answer the important questions your users have. If you create articles that provide valuable, unique information to your users, you’ll get the search visibility you want, and you’ll even get the added bonus of improving your reputation as an authority in the field.

  3. What Happened to My Rank? 5 Reasons Your Keyword Ranking Dropped

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    It’s happened to everyone at some point. You take a snapshot of your current keyword rankings and discover, to your horror and confusion, that you’ve dropped significantly for at least one query. It isn’t the end of the world, of course—in most cases these inexplicable drops are only a few ranks at a time—but it’s significant enough to bear an impact on your inbound organic search traffic, and it’s frustrating because you can’t immediately pinpoint the reason behind the drop.

    Fortunately, the world of search rankings have become much more logical. While the inner workings of Google’s search algorithm are still draped in secrecy, the day-to-day fluctuations of rank are usually the result of an explainable change.

    If you’ve noticed one or more of your keyword rankings have significantly dropped, it’s probably the result of one or more of these motivators:

    Google Released a New Update or Data Refresh

    articleimage645Google Released a New Update or Data Refresh

    The most likely culprit is actually the simplest explanation. Google has released a new algorithm update or a new data refresh that reevaluated the rankings of businesses for a particular query (or the way that the evaluation takes place). As a result of the update, you’re ranking lower.

    Google releases updates from time to time, though only a handful warrant widespread attention. For example, Panda 4.1 and Penguin 3.0 were massive algorithm updates in the past year that received great amounts of attention and instigated major shakeups in page rank, but these aren’t the only type of updates that Google unveils. Google regularly applies data refreshes to its index in order to keep its ranking predictable and in line with its current standards—so one of these data refreshes, while small in scale, could easily disrupt your previous rank.

    Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to reverse the effects of one of these updates. If it’s a data refresh, there’s practically nothing you can do. If it’s a larger update, and Google has made adjustments to some of its ranking factors, learn which factors were affected, and adjust your strategy accordingly to compensate for those changes.

    There Are Recent Content Issues with Your Site

    articleimage645There Are Recent Content Issues with Your Sit

    Even the best content marketers aren’t always perfect. Writing well-written, appropriate, in-depth, relevant topics on a weekly or daily basis is quite a challenge, and a couple of slips in that consistency are all it takes to cause a temporary slide in your online rankings.

    There are some usual culprits for this. First and foremost, if you post a piece of content that’s a duplicate of one you’ve already posted, or a copy from something that already exists on the web, you could have inadvertently triggered a slight content-based penalty. Scan your site for any pieces of duplicated content, and get rid of them or use redirects to mask one iteration in favor of the other.

    Irregular posting of content could also interfere with your page rank. If you usually post three times a week, and you stop for a month, Google’s algorithm could detect the change and dock you for the lapse of new content.

    If you’ve recently changed topic focus or hosted an abnormal guest blog, the sudden alteration in authority could slightly interfere with your rank as well. For example, if you usually write about hamburgers, and you suddenly start posting about steak, your keyword rank for hamburger could potentially see some downward momentum.

    There Have Been Major Changes to Your Backlink Profile

    Your backlink profile is a collection of links on the web that help Google analyze your authority on the web. If the constitution of that back link profile suddenly changes, your rankings could drop as a result. If you’ve slipped up and posted an irrelevant link, or a link on a low-quality source, or any kind of link that could be considered spam, you could see a drop shortly thereafter.

    Backlink profile changes aren’t always at the fault of the webmaster, however. It’s possible that one or more of your existing high-quality links were removed by an external webmaster. If your link profile is diverse enough, this shouldn’t be enough to move you, but if several of your links or a majority of your links disappear overnight, you could easily experience a significant ranking drop accordingly.

    Additionally, negative SEO attacks are rare, but possible. In a negative SEO attack, a competitor or other malicious entity would intentionally post bad, spammy links to your domain in an effort to lower your authority. If you are concerned about this, or if you just want to audit your current backlink profile, try using Moz’s free tool, Open Site Explorer, to check your external links.

    A New Competitor Is Emerging to Threaten You

    articleimage645A New Competitor Is Emerging to Threaten Yo

    Competitors can be sneaky, and even niche companies can face the emergence of a highly similar rival. Search engine rankings take time to build, so it’s unlikely that a new competitor could completely catch you off guard, but it isn’t unheard of. Take a look at the new company profiles of the businesses now outranking you. Have any of them made massive changes recently in order to improve their ranks? Have any of them been rising up slowly from the back pages? If so, it’s possible they have simply overtaken you because they’re spending more time and effort building their authority on the web.

    In order to fight back against this emergence, you’ll either need to step up your effort to match and exceed theirs, or shift your focus to specialize in a different niche and overtake them in a tangential strategy.

    There Has Been a Sudden Decrease in Your Indexed Pages

    Google produces its ranks based on the information it crawls on the web. If there isn’t enough information on your site for Google to crawl, the result will be a lower rank. Ordinarily, all of your internal pages should be crawled and indexed by Google’s bots, but there are cases when some of your pages suddenly stop being indexed, and your rank suffers as a result.

    Pages could be de-indexed as a result of a manual penalty, but it’s more likely that something easily fixable is causing their disappearance. Check your pages for any 404 errors, nofollow tags, or any other quality that could make them invisible to search engines. You can also log into Webmaster Tools and check your site for any crawl errors or de-indexed pages—this is a great way to analyze your current sitemap and fix any glaring errors preventing your pages from being seen.

    Now that you understand the reason (or reasons) behind that once-inexplicable ranking drop, you can take action to correct the anomaly and correct your processes so it doesn’t happen in the future. It’s impossible to guard against everything all the time, so don’t be too concerned if you see more ranking drops in the future. As long as you use them as opportunities to investigate your current processes and make a significant improvement, any ranking drops you face will only be temporary.

    If you’re having trouble pinpointing the exact cause for your ranking drop, contact us—we specialize in figuring out why your search engine rankings have declined and working with you to get them back where they belong.

  4. 5 Steps to Start a Content Marketing Strategy from Scratch

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    You’re behind the times, and you probably already know it. Maybe you were reluctant to start a content marketing campaign because you were concerned it was just a fad, or because you were worried about its ability to generate a high enough ROI to be worth it. Or maybe you realized the benefits of the strategy, but just never took the time to sit down and chart a course for execution.

    No matter why you haven’t yet started a content marketing campaign, the good news is there’s always time to start one. And if you’re reading this article, you’ve probably already made the decision.

    Let’s get started.

    Step One: Find Your Niche

    articleimage640Find Your Niche

    Your niche may seem only marginally important, but it’s going to dictate the direction of your strategy and the level of competition you face. You cannot select an entire industry as your niche; if you do so, you’re going to lose out to a competitor who’s been driving at the topic for years. Instead, try and whittle your focus down to a very specific topic or range of topics. Having a platform for a niche expertise will give you a competitive advantage in the field, making you the default go-to authority if nobody else has already capitalized on the niche.

    For example, let’s say you run a home improvement store. It wouldn’t make sense to start a blog on general “home improvement.” It would take forever to build your credibility in any subject, and you might never catch up to the most valuable players in the home improvement industry. Instead, you could focus on a very specific category, such as “electrical improvements to old houses,” and eliminate most of your competition immediately.

    Remember, you can always expand the range of your topics at a later date, once you’ve established an audience and some degree of authority in your original niche. But having a highly specific niche to start out in is essential in order to start building an initial readership.

    Step Two: Build Your Brand Voice

    articleimage640Build Your Brand Voice

    If you already have an established brand, this should be pretty easy for you. You’re going to take the core elements of your brand personality, infuse a layer of conversation to it, and use that as the basis for your brand voice. Blog posts are typically less formal than most other forms of brand communication, such as annual reports or professional emails. You need to have a personal, welcoming appeal if you want readers to keep coming back for more, and a unique factor that differentiates your brand from those of your competitors.

    You also want to make sure that your brand voice appeals directly to your target readership; for example, if most of your readers are experienced entrepreneurs, don’t waste your time explaining basic terms or toying around with the fundamentals of business ownership. Use your blog as a platform to give your audience members what they want.

    Experiment with your brand voice by visualizing your brand as a person. What type of person would your brand be? How would that person speak? Why is this person appealing? Imagine that personality while writing in voice.

    Step Three: Choose Your Outlets

    Writing and posting entries on your blog is only the first step of the process. If you want to generate an audience for your material, you need to have a syndication process that makes your posts publicly available for consumption. For most businesses, the easiest and most worthwhile syndication channel is social media.

    Select the social media platforms that are most relevant for your business, and start fleshing out your profiles for them if you haven’t already. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are all traditional standbys which will serve almost any business well. Other platforms have more of a niche use; for example, Pinterest is especially useful to businesses that plan on producing a lot of image-based content.

    When you’ve chosen your ideal platforms, start sketching out a loose outline of how often you intend to post. At the very least, you should post an update on all platforms whenever you’ve published a new blog. You should also plan on making at least one update a day per platform in order to stay active and maintain your audience’s interest.

    Step Four: Create an Editorial Calendar

    Now that you have the fundamental components of your content marketing campaign in place, it’s time to chart a direction for the first several weeks of posts. Your editorial calendar will serve as a master template for the direction of your campaign, collecting all your planned topics and dates into one place for your reference.

    Brainstorming for topics might be intimidating at first, but you’ll get the hang of it soon enough. Start by reading news posts on industry-related news sites and blogs. Get a feel for what’s going on in the world, and think about how you could position some of the news items in a new way; for example, you could explain how this affects your niche, or express your opinion on a controversial subject. It’s also a good idea to regularly peruse your competitors’ blogs. You don’t want to steal any of their ideas, but you can use their material as a jumping-off point; which of their posts could use a follow-up or a differing opinion? What aren’t they talking about that you could be?

    Collect a handful of title to get yourself started, and work on a regular time to brainstorm for new topics (usually once a week or so). Keep your editorial queue full, and you’ll never have to worry about running out of topics.

    Step Five: Write Your First Post

    articleimage640Write Your First Post

    Your first post is going to be the hardest, but once you’ve finished, you’ll officially be on your way to a full-scale content marketing strategy. Your individual goals might require a few adjustments, but for the most part, you should write a post between 400 and 1,000 words, and include links to both external, authoritative sources and internal pages that are relevant to the topics. Once complete, publish your first post on your blog page, double check for any errors, and start distributing your material on your syndication channels of choice. Mark the post off of your editorial calendar and congratulate yourself—you now have the makings of a high-quality, long-term content marketing strategy.

    While there are only five steps to starting a content marketing strategy, don’t be fooled by its seeming simplicity. In order to be effective with your strategy, you need to remain committed to producing the most relevant, accurate, engaging material possible, and you need to do it consistently. Publishing a handful of blog posts and calling it quits is only going to be a waste of time.

    Think of it this way; you can’t plant a single seed in a field and hope to get a good crop yield. You need to plant dozens, if not hundreds of seeds, and tend to them regularly with water, fertilizer, and adequate shelter from any disastrous elements. Only then, and only over time will you see the benefits of all your hard work. Remember that the hard work has to come first.

  5. 5 Predictions We Have for SEO in 2015

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    Search engine optimization (SEO) is always on the move, trying to keep up with the technological and cultural changes fronted by Google, Apple, Microsoft, and the other leading authorities in the tech space. Every time search marketers feel like they have their strategy down, there’s a new type of mobile device or a new algorithm update around the corner that shakes things up and forces search marketers to revisit their sacred strategies.

    2014 was an exciting year for SEO—we got a sneak preview at the dawn of smart watches, we saw the Pigeon update revolutionize local search, and we saw the new updates Panda 4.1 and Penguin 3.0 revise and enhance some of the biggest algorithm changes in Google’s history. But as big as 2014 was for the search world, we have it on good authority that 2015 will be bigger.

    Here are five predictions we’re making about the shape of things to come for SEO in 2015:

    1. The Knowledge Graph Will Start to Creep.

    articleimage639he Knowledge Graph Will Start to Creep

    The Google Knowledge Graph is the system that generates that little box of information you see on the right side of the search results, showcasing factual details about people, places, and things from user queries. Today, it’s just a nifty value-add that increases convenience for users who are only looking for a handful of specific details, such as the release date of a movie or the age of a public figure.

    We’re predicting that 2015 is going to change that. Google released the Knowledge Graph to improve user experience, and the system is still in its infancy. So far, reception has been almost unanimously positive, and Google will undoubtedly continue to refine and improve the system. As a result, the Knowledge Graph will start to expand to new categories, and the physical space that the Knowledge Graph box occupies will creep into the other search results areas.

    That means you might see a slight drop in organic traffic if one of your primary strategies is offering raw information. Since the Knowledge Graph will offer users such information before they ever need to click, that could mean fewer total visitors as a result of searches. It would therefore mean the traffic you do get will be more refined and more interested in your services.

    It’s also possible that the increasing influence of the Knowledge Graph will result in some form of Graph-specific paid advertising. Google knows it has a good thing going, and you can trust it hopes to monetize it in the near future.

    2. Smart Watches Will Make an Impact on Local Search.

    articleimage639Smart Watches Will Make an Impact on Local Search

    The announcement of the Apple Watch solidified suspicions that smart watches would become the next big trend in mobile technology. Now that the tech juggernaut is on board, you can expect to see every major brand come out with their own variation of smart watch, and wearable technology will start to explode.

    Since more users will be relying on mobile devices on the go to figure out things like directions or the best place for coffee, you can expect to see local search start to change in 2015. Smart watches will have the ability to track a user’s exact location, and proximity will start to play a key role in generating search results—instead of simply recognizing the city or region where a business resides, Google will start indexing hyper-specific local information, probably down to the city block, in order to generate accurate proximity-based results on the go.

    Also, user preferences will start to shape search results more than ever. Personalization will start to play a big role in user preferences—people will seek out the content, businesses, and applications that cater to their individual needs. As a result, smart watch search technology will take certain user preferences into account when generating results for a given query. For example, if a user has a history of visiting taco restaurants and searches for “restaurants” in general, the smart watch may generate a specific list of taco restaurants to cater to the user.

    3. Web Pages and Onsite Optimization Will Decline in Significance.

    articleimage639 Web Pages and Onsite Optimization Will Decline in S

    Apps and webpages have held a peaceful coexistence for several years, but apps are starting to make their move to replace webpages altogether. The dawn of the smart watch era will accelerate this change, as users will find it much easier to access applications for their needs than to type information into a tiny search bar.

    Google is already making its position on the matter clear. The search engine giant is starting to incorporate functionality and data from several third party apps into its search results. For example, you can now make OpenTable reservations directly within Google Maps. And when generating local search results, Google uses information found on Yelp and similar local directories to rank the significance of local businesses.

    As we enter 2015, it’s likely that Google and other technological powerhouses will start incorporating the data found on third party applications about businesses just as much as—if not more than—the actual company websites themselves. That means you’ll need a much more diverse, apparent overall online presence, and a decline in focus on your online optimization strategy.

    4. External Links Will Take Another Hit.

    Penguin 3.0 rolled out toward the end of 2014, and it made another stride in reducing the power and authority of bad backlinks. The definition of “bad” backlinks expanded—rather than focusing on spammy backlinks, Penguin 3.0 is honing in on more sophisticated indications of irrelevant link building, such as excessive guest blogging or questionable anchor text.

    Additionally, 2014 witnessed the rise in importance of brand mentions, a kind of alternative to traditional backlinks. Now, search engines will recognize any mention of your brand, even without a hyperlink, as a medium for passing authority.

    Because of these changes, we anticipate more activity on the link-scouting front in 2015. While Penguin 4.0 may or may not be on the horizon, there will undoubtedly be some kind of update or refresh that continues to reduce the power of most types of external links.

     5. Semantic Search Will Take Another Step Forward.

    The Hummingbird update in 2013 introduced a new technology to search algorithms: semantic search. Rather than breaking apart search queries and interpreting them based on their words and phrases, semantic search algorithms discern the meaning behind a query, and attempt to find the best results for it.

    Smart watches will likely introduce the adoption of voice-based search, which already exists but is rarely used because users are accustomed to typing searches. The increased use of voice-based search will then inspire Google to continue to refine its semantic search capabilities, driving a final nail into the coffin of keyword-based optimization, and instead favoring sites with more semantic clues and colloquial phrases. Hummingbird 2.0 is a possibility, but we’re expecting a more gradual change over the course of 2015 and beyond.

    Of course, these predictions are only based on some of the historical trends we’ve witnessed, and the new technologies and advancements that are on the slate for the coming year. We know that Google won’t spend a year sitting idly by—so naturally, there will be updates in some form—but it’s impossible to make any guarantee about the nature and timing of those updates. Nevertheless, we’re fairly confident in the general scope of these predictions, and we’re excited to see them potentially unfold.

    Come back next year and see how close we were to the mark!

  6. SEO in 2015: What to Expect

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    articleimage636SEO in 2015 What to Expect

    2014 is coming to an end, and search marketers are already looking forward to the changes on the horizon for the upcoming year. Tech giants Google and Apple are the frontrunners in shaping the new context of mobile user experience, and the evolution of search technology is soaring to new heights. If you want to stay ahead of the game and get the attention of thousands of new users, it pays to be prepared for the changes in store for SEO in 2015.

    Wearable Technology Will Influence Search Engines

    As the Apple Watch and other smart watches begin to influence the shape of mobile technology, search engines like Google will evolve accordingly. Wearable technology, which takes the mobility and user engagement of smart phones to the next level, will demand real-time search results, and greater usability for users on the go.

    It will probably take a few years for these changes to roll out completely, but you can bet that 2015 will see the first generation of them, and the early adopters will be rewarded with higher visibility and access to more users.

    Proximity-Based Searches

    Over the last few years, local search has grown in significance because of the sheer number of local businesses online, Google’s commitment to refining local search results, and the emergence of aggregated local directories like Yelp and TripAdvisor. Already, companies are scrambling to locally optimize their pages and get the most consistent, positively reviewed online presence possible.

    As wearable technology starts becoming the norm, local searches will start to be performed on the fly. Rather than consulting a mobile device before leaving one point for a potential destination, users will rely on a wearable device to guide them to a destination en route. Google will start refining their system of local information, classifying businesses within a region, city, neighborhood, and even down to the block. Users will have a more integrated, proximity-based experience, with very specific results based on their location—which means search marketers will need to gain an edge by ensuring their business is optimized for such an experience.

    It remains to be seen how, exactly, Google and other search engines will attempt to categorize, index, and display these results, but a massive change is inevitably on the horizon.

    Spoken Searches

    Smart phones are easy to use, but their small screens make it difficult for many users to type information. Wearable technology will shrink screen sizes even more, making it practically impossible to type into search engines easily. As a result, voice search—a technology that already exists—will start to become more popular.

    Search engines have traditionally relied on written text to formulate results; old versions of Google’s algorithm would identify strings of letters as words, and look for those words in context on the web. Even today, voice search functions by translating spoken words into written words to formulate results. But Google’s technology is growing more sophisticated—instead of identifying words and phrases and looking for instances of them on the web, Google’s semantic search recognition tries to figure out what the user’s intentions are, and formulate results that are most relevant for those intentions.

    Voice search will require even more semantic understanding. People naturally speak much different than they type, and they’ll learn to start searching for things much differently through voice than through typed words. As a result, search marketers will need to adjust their strategies to include even fewer keywords, and more phrases that are colloquial and conversational.

    App Integrations and Dying Web Page Formats

    articleimage636 AppIntergration

    The latest update to Google Maps reveals a new potential strategy for the search engine giant: integrating external applications in order to provide the best overall user experience. In the latest update, Google integrated functionality from OpenTable to allow users to place restaurant reservations without ever leaving the Maps app, as well as functionality from the Uber app to estimate the fare of a given ride. Combined with the fact that Google is using information from more third-party local directory apps like Yelp, it’s apparent that the search engine giant is willing to work with other niche specialists in order to present the most relevant information and functionalities for users.

    The Apple Watch’s small screen will make it virtually impossible for users to navigate a traditional web browser window, and other wearable devices will probably have the same dilemma. As a result, more users will rely on information found in the context of applications instead of written on static web pages.

    The change will, of course, be gradual, and there will always be users who prefer traditional web pages. However, the physical properties of wearable smart devices and Google’s app integration strategies will make it necessary for businesses to find new ways to make their information crawlable—beyond just a website.

    Greater Influence from Google’s Knowledge Graph

    Google’s Knowledge Graph has already rolled out in full force, making it easier than ever for users to find what they’re looking for. Rather than forcing users to scroll through pages of search results, Google now offers consolidated information in the form of a box, which provides common answers to common queries—for example, if you search for a movie, the Knowledge Graph will tell you information like the release year, runtime, director, cast, and so on.

    Users will begin to rely on finding this information, and the Knowledge Graph will expand to include more archetypes of information to present. As a result, web traffic for top ranking sites might start to decline. It’s unclear how the evolution of the Knowledge Graph might affect the significance of page ranking, but it will start to disrupt the SEO game in 2015.

    For now, webmasters should take advantage of the Schema.org microformatting that Google uses to find and interpret such complex information (if they haven’t already). Doing so will make your information more crawlable, and will increase your authority at the very least.

    New Content Will Rise in Significance

    Users have been demanding newer, more immediate, more concise content on an increasing basis since the rise of the Internet. That trend will continue well into 2015, and Google will reward businesses that make an active effort to provide the newest content. As the content available online increases exponentially by the day, the value of “unique” content will diminish in comparison to content that is new.

    Content marketers can prepare for this impending change by doing everything they can to post new content on a regular basis. Recycling old content and newsjacking articles that are already weeks old will become obsolete strategies, and Google will reward the sites with the greatest commitment to featuring new, fresh material.

    Social Signals Will Evolve

    articleimage636 Social Signals Will Evolve

    It’s not entirely clear how interactions on social media currently affect your site’s authority, but it is clear that social signals are significant. In 2015, as the world of social media becomes more complex—both with an increased number of social media platforms, and a more sophisticated way of interacting on them with wearable technology—social signals will likely evolve as well. Find new ways to interact with your audience, and experiment with different approaches to determine the best strategy for your business.

    In 2015, the gold standard for search engine significance will still be user experience. Give your users the best experience, and you’ll be rewarded with greater visibility. But wearable technology, semantic search capabilities, new information formats, and increasing online competition are all drastically changing the way that users experience the web. Be prepared for these changes going into the new year; the companies who adapt the fastest will earn a significant head start as the technology deploys.

  7. 5 Ways Smart Watches Could Impact Local Search

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    Smart watches have been on the horizon for years, sometimes seeming like a joke and other times seeming like the next big thing. Now that Apple is on board with the Apple Watch and tech companies at every level are looking to get on board with the technology, it appears inevitable that the age of smart watches will soon be upon us.

    At first glance, the change may not seem significant; early prototypes of smart watches appear to function just like smart phones, except attached at the wrist and with a smaller screen. But the age of technology that smart watches are influencing will soon grow to disrupt traditional search marketing strategies, and if you want to avoid getting left behind, you’ll have to start adjusting your campaigns accordingly.

    Local search appears to be the area of search most susceptible to changes from the smart watch trend. Since users will start wearing technology on the go, users will demand more efficient, more relevant, and easier-to-interpret results for their local queries.

    As you start to refine your strategy, consider these five potential ways that smart watches could revolutionize local search:

    1. Proximity Will Become a Factor.

    articleimage632Proximity Will Become a Facto

    Proximity already matters. When a user logs onto a laptop and starts a search, Google will recognize the general location of the user and generate results accordingly. For example, the search engine may detect that a user searching for “great burgers” is in Dallas, and populate some of the most well-reviewed burger restaurants in the city.

    Smart watch users will demand more specific results, and search engines will be happy to give them. By tracking a user’s exact location (and storing the exact locations of known local establishments), smart watches would conceivably give more accurate proximity-based results, giving users the closest burger restaurants to them with up-to-the-minute adjustments for moving targets.

    Proximity would also be a factor for local businesses looking to take advantage of smart watch technology. For example, a local coffee house could feasibly send out a discount coupon to smart watch users who enter the perimeter of the restaurant at a specific time, essentially producing a form of proximity-based promotion.

    Companies that take advantage of these proximity-based features will likely be rewarded in two ways: first, they’ll be more likely to show up in relevant searches because they’re optimized for location, and second, they’ll generate more foot traffic from early adopters looking forward to cash in their location-based coupons.

    2. Users Will Rely on Voice Search.

    articleimage632Users Will Rely on Voice Search

    Voice search is a technology already in use, but for a number of reasons, it has yet to catch on. Users are still accustomed to typing in their search queries, and many users don’t even know voice search exists on Google. Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant, has helped to popularize the possibility of implementing computer functions with vocal prompts, but the inefficiency of the system has led to many people avoiding it entirely.

    However, virtual assistants and semantic voice recognition have evolved over the course of several years. The technology is capable of giving users much more relevant results, dissecting the intent behind the spoken message and fetching results accordingly.

    Smart phone screens are already small and difficult for some users to type on, and smart watches will only make those screens smaller and more difficult. Users will be almost forced to rely on voice search to execute their queries.

    This shift in user adoption will force a change for search marketers in two ways. First, search marketers will need to include more phrase-based messaging on their web pages, including more colloquial and conversational language. People speak differently than they type, and search marketers will need to adapt to a new common input. Second, search marketers will have to contend with multiple search engines—the voice search functions of major search engines like Google as well as personal assistants like Siri.

    3.Alerts and Shorter Messages Will Become the Norm.

    articleimage632alertandmessage

    Smart watch screens will be smaller, and since the technology will be attached to a user’s wrist, it will be more difficult to play with. As a result, the technology will demand shorter, more immediate forms of communication with its accompanying user. Messages will need to be shorter, and concise, immediate alerts will take precedence over any other medium of communication.

    As a result, search engines will begin to show preference toward businesses with short streams of message content instead of long-form, detailed content. Users themselves will also prefer to follow and engage with companies who offer concise, valuable alerts and content instead of longwinded or cumbersome messaging. Tech giants will start to favor apps and integrations that offer convenient user alerts, and businesses that submit to those changes will earn more visibility.

    The proximity-based offers I mentioned above are a part of this potential system; businesses can give special offers to customers who visit locations in-person, or design an alert system to let users know of recent changes.

    4. Wearable-Specific Content Will Become Relevant.

    Some companies might attempt to optimize their content to be visible on any format, including desktop, mobile, and wearable technologies, but the next step of content evolution is personalized content, which seamlessly integrates real-word and digital-world experiences. Wearable technology will start to serve as the gateway that allows such a world bridge to form.

    For example, when users are eating at a restaurant, wearable technology could theoretically alert users to the various stages of preparation that their meals go through, integrating a digital experience into a traditional one. Pizza chains already offer a form of this technology online, and QR codes have already attempted to start a trend of using real-world establishments to spark digital experiences, but wearable devices will serve as the first generation of technology to solidify that world.

    As a result, companies will need to begin offering wearable-specific content and wearable-specific experiences. Search engines will favor establishments who have taken the steps necessary to push that trend, and users will gravitate toward the businesses that offer the best overall experience.

    5. Web Pages Will Wane in Significance.

    Already, users are starting to abandon the old formats of online experience. Instead of relying on a browser window and a URL bar, users are relying on individual apps and integrated experiences to accomplish their goals and work. Google is starting to promote this trend by integrating third party applications into its broader network—for example, it recently integrated OpenTable and Uber functionality into its Maps application, and it increased the page rank for third party local directories like Yelp and TripAdvisor with the Pigeon update earlier this year.

    If you want to stay relevant for search engines, you’ll need to find an alternative way to get your business online. It’s unlikely that traditional web pages will disappear overnight, but gradually, they will decline in significance. As a search marketer, you need to start hedging your bets and increase your visibility in as many ways as possible.

    These paradigm shifts will be gradual, especially considering only a small portion of the population will be early adopters of smart watch technology. However, the local businesses that adapt the fastest will earn the fastest, most significant rewards. Stay ahead of your competition by refining your strategies early, and preparing for the inevitable shakeups that smart watch technology will cause.

  8. 7 Ways the Knowledge Graph Could Change SEO Forever

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    The Google Knowledge Graph is a feature that started rolling out back in 2012 in order to improve the amount of information available online and the speed at which users could find it. It sounds like an amazing initiative—after all, the faster users can find relevant information, the better online experience they’ll have. However, the future of the Knowledge Graph could completely disrupt the world of search engine optimization, and decrease the value of the strategy altogether.

    Today, the Knowledge Graph exists in a relatively straightforward form. When a user sends a search query for a specific entity, Google will scour the web to pull and analyze properly formatted information about that entity, and display it in an organized fashion on the right side of the screen. For example, if a user searches for “Barack Obama,” the Knowledge Graph will display important biographical information, such as his birthday, full name, and of course, the fact that he’s the 44th president of the United States.

    Google gathers this information by dissecting and interpreting information found on external authoritative sites. This information is efficiently readable if it is entered in a specific microformatting template, like those found at Schema.org for various categories. Currently, the Knowledge Graph only covers a handful of categories of information, but as it expands, it could offer more information on more topics.

    The Knowledge Graph doesn’t have much impact on search as it stands today, but as it grows in both sophistication and user acceptance, it could have significant consequences for search marketers:

    1. Fewer Visitors Will Find You When Looking for Information.

    articleimage633Fewer Visitors Will Find You When Looking for Infor

    Google is trying to simplify the process of obtaining information. In the old way of searching, if you wanted information on a subject, you would type the query into Google, then sort through the results until you found what you were looking for. The Knowledge Graph immediately cuts out the last step of that process by providing such information directly to web searchers.

    That’s a good thing for most web users because it ultimately saves time, but many companies have fought hard to earn the top ranks for those search results, and they depend on the information-seeking traffic as a huge component of their overall web traffic. Their content strategies are based on providing information and positioning themselves as an authority, and as a result, they get thousands of visitors seeking information. Theoretically, the Knowledge Graph could dramatically reduce that traffic.

    2. You’ll Have More Targeted Traffic.

    articleimage633 You’ll Have More Targeted Traffic

    There is a positive side to that dramatic traffic reduction. Let’s say a user is intentionally searching for information on a specific movie, and your site provides that information. If the user reaches your site and finds the information he/she is looking for, he/she will likely leave immediately afterward. You may be getting a thousand hits from people looking for information, but those thousand hits are leaving after they get what they wanted out of you.

    The Knowledge Graph will filter out that traffic by providing them with that information right away. You’ll be left with more specific, targeted traffic—the people who want to visit your site for reasons other than basic information. The Knowledge Graph will also force users to type more specific queries, bypassing that initial wave of information in order to dig deeper and get more specific results. That means as long as you provide niche content to meet those queries, your conversions could actually increase.

    3. There Will Be Greater Demand for Contextual Clues.

    In order to attract more targeted traffic, your blogs and web pages will need to become more specific. It’s no longer enough to write posts that cater to specific keywords—like “Barack Obama.” Instead, you need to do more to ensure that the specific topic of your post is easily understandable to Google. For example, if your blog post is specifically about Barack Obama’s greatest accomplishments, you should spend less time covering background information on the president and more time showcasing the specifics.

    Doing so will help you avoid the problem of overcrowding in search results pages and rank for the hyper-specific pages your users will soon demand. It’s a less predictable strategy, but if you’re consistent, you’ll be rewarded with a greater, more relevant flow of users.

    4. Information Will Be in Less Demand.

    articleimage633 Information Will Be in Less Demand

    I covered this partially in point two, but the demand for information will rapidly decrease once people get used to the Knowledge Graph. If information is immediately available after briefly typing the topic into a search bar, why would users need to rely on the authority of a specific blog to get their information?

    All information-based content strategies will require a major overhaul. While it’s fine to provide some baseline information about these topics, your users will demand something more from you, and if you want to stay relevant in search results as well as with your audience, you’ll have to step up your game. More interactive, personalized content with walkthroughs, guides, case studies, examples, and engaging collateral features are all going to become more important, especially as Google starts adding more categories to their already-impressive Knowledge Graph repertoire.

    5. Knowledge Graph Ads Will Become a Viable Strategy.

    The Knowledge Graph will likely attract considerably more attention than the remainder of the SERPs, and Google realizes this. While right now, the Knowledge Graph is dedicated only to providing accurate, relevant information to the searcher, don’t be surprised if Knowledge Graph ads emerge as a Google products offering in the near future.

    It’s not certain how much these will cost in comparison to traditional PPC ads, but their visibility and click through rates will probably be superior. If you want to guarantee yourself some search visibility, consider investing in the strategy when it starts to emerge.

    6. The Gap Between Authoritative and Non-Authoritative Sites Will Widen.

    It’s difficult to make yourself stand out as an authority on anything, but Google has already made its mind up on the authoritative influencers for most Knowledge Graph categories (such as people and places). Most of its entries are heavily based on information found on Wikipedia and Freebase. At this point, it’s highly unlikely that the most authoritative sites on the web will ever be overthrown, meaning it will eventually become nearly impossible to emerge as an informational authority. Experience will matter more than information, but the inability to cultivate authority from information is a serious blow to some strategies.

    7. Users Will Demand More Immediate Experiences.

    The Knowledge Graph will likely tie into wearable technologies like Google Glass and smart watches to give users immediate results and information. As a result, users will start to demand even more immediate experiences, losing patience for any system that requires hunting and analyzing to find something they need. As a result, the winners of the search war will eventually be the ones who can provide that immediate experience, whether that’s in the form of an incredibly specific and helpful website, an integrated app, or an affiliate partnership with Google. Eventually, people may no longer rely on searching for traditional websites.

    It might be a little too soon to start worrying that the Knowledge Graph will destroy SEO as a strategy, but it is important to be wary of its potential impact. For now, implement microformatting throughout your site, work on providing the most relevant, accurate information for your customers, and hedge your bets by investing in inbound strategies other than basic SEO, such as social media marketing.

  9. How to Leverage the Holidays in Your Social Media Strategy

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    For most consumer-focused brands, the holiday season is the most important, and of course, the most stressful. Customers are eager to spend, and it’s your last chance to push for big sales figures before the end of the year.

    Stepping up your social media marketing efforts is one cost-efficient way to gain more followers for the holiday season, and increase conversions in your year-round follower base. But harnessing a holiday-focused social media strategy is about more than just posting a picture of Santa Claus and calling it a day. If you’re serious about increasing conversions throughout the end of the year, you’ll need to apply some bold new tactics to your existing strategy.

    Maintain Your Voice

    articleimage620maintainyourvoice

    You’ll want to make some adjustments to your strategy over the course of the holiday season, but your roots need to remain the same. If your content voice suddenly transforms with the onset of the holidays, it could disrupt your audience. Remember, you’re speaking to the same audience, and you’re still the same brand. All the elements of your brand personality need to be evident in everything you post; for example, if your brand is formal and conservative, it wouldn’t make sense to post about “fun candy cane crafts for the family.”

    Keep Your Content Evergreen—but Decorate It

    articleimage620Keep Your Content Evergreen

    You might be tempted to write blog posts centered around holiday themes. For example, if you sell car accessories, you could write about “car accessories that make great Christmas gifts.” However, this isn’t always a valuable strategy. Having such content onsite will give you a higher propensity to rank for seasonal phrases, but the content is dead in the water the moment January hits. Essentially, you’ll be writing content that’s valuable for one month instead of all twelve.

    “Evergreen” content is content that stays valuable regardless of seasons, years, or any other changes with time, and it’s important to continue writing evergreen content even through the holidays. However, just like with real evergreen trees, you can decorate them for the season; you’ll just be using social media syndication instead of ornaments.

    Let’s take the example above. Instead of building off a title like “car accessories that make great Christmas gifts,” you can simply eliminate the word “Christmas” and write a post around car accessories as any gift idea, which will last all year. Then, to take advantage of the season specifically, you can promote the post using seasonal content, such as “If you’re looking for an awesome Christmas gift idea, look no further! We have just the gift for your special someone” with a link to the otherwise evergreen content.

    This type of strategy allows you to take simultaneous advantage of the permanence of your blog and the temporariness of social media.

    Tease Reminders of the Season

    articleimage620 Tease Reminders of the Season

    As the season approaches, you can gently remind your audience of the impending holidays. If you start early with the intention of following through the actual dates, an obvious strategy is to start out slow and gradually build pace; for example, post once-a-week reminders that Christmas is coming through November, and escalate to once-a-day comments once December hits.

    This is especially useful for e-commerce sites and other enterprises that rely on increased demand and purchasing decisions during the holidays. Playful comments like “only 20 shopping days until Christmas” will serve as a seasonal greeting, but have a subconscious effect that makes people think about all the shopping they still need to do.

    One modicum of advice, however: your customers already know that Christmas is coming, and by mid-December, people are bombarded with holiday-themed messaging. If you hit the seasonal comments too heavily, you might actually turn some of your audience away.

    Showcase Your Seasonal Items—or Make Your Items Seasonal

    Not every company will be able to take advantage of this strategy, since it depends on having a line of products to sell. But if you’re a B2B company with no tangible products, you probably aren’t reading this article anyway.

    Take a look at your product lines and pull out all your seasonal items—the obvious choices are holiday-themed items, like Christmas sweaters or reindeer toys. Somewhat less obvious choices are winter apparel and other seasonal items not specifically tied to a holiday. Even less obvious choices are any items that might make for good gift ideas, even if they have no significance to the holidays or winter in general.

    Going through your products to find these candidates might take some time, but it’s important to have a functional working list. If you have an e-commerce site, it’s also a good idea to set up a separate product category for “Seasonal Items” or “Gift Ideas.”

    This is a perfect opportunity for you to post pictures of popular seasonal items and frame them in creative captions that highlight their practicality and seasonal appropriateness, such as: “These earrings make the perfect gift for any high schooler” or “Don’t forget our toy selection is twenty percent off through Christmas.”

    Drive Conversion More Than Engagement

    For most of the year, your primary goal in social media should be engagement—increasing familiarity with the brand, building great relationships with your customers, and establishing trust with your followers. Conversion, or getting your customers to sign up or buy something, is secondary to that.

    But the holiday season is characterized by an increase in consumer spending above all else, and you need to take advantage of that to get the most for your company. Accordingly, your conversion goals can take temporary priority over your engagement goals.

    Don’t alienate your users with overabundant ads or pressure to buy items, but if you focus on engagement for eleven months out of the year, you’ll have earned enough trust and respect to increase your sales efforts. Push discounts and promotional offers frequently, and don’t be afraid to break one of the fundamental rules of social media marketing—never directly selling to the consumer—as long as you wrap your sales effort in a holiday-themed message.

    Remember That Holidays Are Holidays

    Finally, bear in mind that while sales are up and consumerism is rampant, the holidays are still a time for people to enjoy their families and friends. As the actual celebration days approach, tone down your sales rhetoric, and replace it with more compassionate, calming, and welcoming messaging. Few people will access social media on Christmas day, but those that do will want to see a heartwarming wish for a happy holiday, not a self-serving brand promotion. Temper all your sales and marketing efforts with a healthy dose of human emotion, and take the time to thank all your customers for their loyalty throughout the year.

    Applying these strategies through November and December can help you take advantage of the increase in consumer spending associated with the holiday season. For the most part, you’ll want to keep your overall social strategy consistent, with a similar voice and posting frequency. But your individual posts should cater to people who are looking for gifts and enjoying the holiday season. Wrap your core posts in a shell of holiday spirit, and you’ll reap the rewards of greater conversion rates and of course, a greater stream of revenue to propel you to the end of the year.

  10. Do You Need an Agency for SEO? How You Can Tell

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    If you own a business that depends on brand visibility, you need a search engine optimization strategy. Through SEO, you’ll be able to improve user experience, increase the visibility of your site for new and repeat customers, and ultimately drive more traffic to your business. The fundamentals of SEO are actually quite simple, leading many entrepreneurs or webmasters to believe they can handle it completely in-house. Doing so can save on short-term costs, but it might also decrease the overall impact your campaign can have.

    Agencies, on the other hand, can be expensive or difficult to work with—so how do you know if one is right for your situation?

    The Problem with Do-It-Yourself SEO

    articleimage618The Problem with Do-It-Yourself SEO

    The notion of keeping your own SEO in-house is appealing; theoretically, you can get results while still keeping full control over your work and save money by not paying an agency. However, there’s a significant problem with that idea: available expertise.

    You can hire yourself an SEO expert who is well-versed in what’s necessary to gain momentum in an SEO campaign, but that doesn’t always translate to working efficiency or even ground-level experience. SEO involves many working parts, from the creation of original content, the following-building elements of social media, the design and structuring of your site, and the posting of offsite links, to name a few. Finding an individual who is an expert in all of those roles is extremely difficult, and hiring a full team with split roles is ridiculously expensive.

    By working with an agency, you can gain access to a full team of experts who truly are experts in their respective fields. That expertise translates to more effective, meaningful work, with a wider reach and fewer holdups. Narrowing your scope of work to the talents of one expert (or worse, one person who only knows the fundamentals) could end up costing you far more money in lost time and inefficiency.

    The Fear of an Agency

    articleimage618 The Fear of an Agency

    There are two main fears keeping people from pursuing agencies: money and control.

    The money factor is simple: agencies are expensive. But if you’re already planning on paying the salary for one person, why not take that capital and invest it in a full team of experts? Most agencies also offer several tiers of plan options, so you can almost always find something that aligns with your budget and your goals.

    The control factor is a bit more complicated. Some entrepreneurs prefer to keep their SEO development in-house simply to have more transparency into the process. Once the work is handed off, it becomes a mystery, and the agency starts directing the process. Though you’ll always have to abandon some level of control, most agencies fully report their efforts and the rationale behind them, and are flexible enough to accommodate most special requests.

    Surefire Signs You Need an Agency’s Help

    If you’re weighing the options, as you should, you may find yourself struggling to objectively determine your need for an agency. Fortunately, there are a handful of surefire signs that you’ll need an agency if you want to gain momentum in your campaign.

    You don’t have—or understand—the right tools

    What tool do you use to audit your backlink profile? What features of Webmaster Tools do you use on a regular basis? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, or if you don’t have a readily available list of tools to help you with your SEO campaign, it could be a sign that you don’t know what you’re doing.

    You’re overwhelmed with the number of tasks involved

    Managing an SEO campaign seems simple up front: post lots of content and build good links. But there’s a seemingly infinite number of tasks that goes along with those core onsite and offsite strategies. The work can quickly pile up, especially if your SEO manager has other responsibilities. It might be too expensive to hire another person, or there might be too much work to internally delegate, but at some point, you may need to enlist the help of an agency to reduce the workload.

    You aren’t involved in multiple mediums

    Do-it-yourself SEO professionals sometimes get tunnel vision. They get stuck in using a set range of mediums—like a blog and a Twitter account—and they keep rehashing the same old strategies. They’ll still get results, but nowhere near the results that a full-blown, multifaceted, diverse campaign could bring. Take a look at how many channels you use to operate, and ask yourself how many you’re missing.

    You aren’t seeing the results you want

    This is the simplest, but perhaps most important sign that you need to enlist the help of an agency. If you’ve been going strong for a few months, adjusting your strategy and trying your best, but you still aren’t seeing the results you wanted, an agency might be able to take you to the next level. At the very least, they can analyze your campaign and figure out what’s going wrong.

    The Importance of Choosing the Right Agency

    articleimage618The Importance of Choosing the Right Agency

    Going with an agency isn’t enough. There are hundreds, if not thousands of SEO agencies out there, and each one of them is unique in terms of plan offerings, team composition, specialization, and even working relationships. There are several factors to consider when you start making your selection.

    Specialty

    Your needs are unique, and you need to find an agency that suits them perfectly. For example, if you have nobody in-house that can handle SEO tasks, you’ll need the help of a full-service agency that can help you from start to finish. However, if you have an in-house writer that takes care of your content strategy, you might consider enlisting the help of an agency that has more specialty in offsite optimization.

    Price

    Price is always an important factor for business owners. If you have a strict budget, it’s important to choose a plan that fits within those limitations. However, you also don’t want to go too cheap with SEO; some firms may offer an irrationally low price because they practice shoddy work that could leave you with a penalty. Find a middle ground that will net you a white hat expert without breaking the bank.

    The Human Element

    Too often, decision makers neglect one of the most important qualities of their SEO firm: the human relationship that characterizes it. When you work with an SEO firm, you should have an account manager or professional contact who truly cares about your business, and is available to answer your questions, give you insights, and make you an integral part of the process. When vetting candidates for your SEO firm, take your impression of their people into consideration. A good personal relationship at the core of your professional relationship can make all the gears move more smoothly.

    Choosing to go with an agency is not a decision to take lightly, but it is financial viable and highly efficient for most small- to mid-sized businesses. If you’re wondering what options are out there, or if you feel lost with your own internal SEO efforts, why not contact us? We’ve been there, and we can help you make the right decision for your business.

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