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  1. How Super Bowl Searches Revealed Bing’s Knowledge Graph Rival

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    Bing has been closing the gap between its search engine’s capabilities and those of its dominant rival, Google, for the past several years, and the biggest sporting event of the year just gave them the opportunity to show off some of the things they’ve been cooking up to close that gap even further. For years, Bing has struggled to achieve the same level of visibility and reputation as the undisputed powerhouse of the search world, Google, but they went all-out for their Super Bowl search results, and for search marketers everywhere, it’s intriguing—if not exciting.

    Mirroring the layout of the popular Google search feature known as the “Knowledge Graph,” Bing offered a detailed breakdown of Super Bowl XLIX in the days and hours leading up to the big game for any queries related to the event. While this functionality appeared to be a standalone development, it does give us a strong indication of Bing’s goals and potential future as a formidable search competitor.

    How the Knowledge Graph Is Changing Search

    articleimage848 How the Knowledge Graph Is Changing Search

    To understand the potential impact of Bing’s new developments, you first need to understand what Google’s Knowledge Graph is, and how it’s changing the search world. Debuting back in 2012, the Knowledge Graph has been slowly growing and expanding to cover more ground as an instant source of information. In traditional Google searches, users would input a query, view a series of links with information related to the query, and peruse them until they found what they were looking for. The Knowledge Graph essentially cuts out that middle step, attempting to provide direct information to users without the need to peruse a list of links.

    Visually, the Knowledge Graph appears on the right-hand side of the search results page, providing consolidated information on the subject that has been searched for. Currently, the Knowledge Graph offers structured data on specific types of searches, such as searches for politicians, movies, or physical locations, giving a general overview of the subject with a handful of specific dates, facts, and related terms. This information is pulled in from authoritative websites, who provide the information to Google in a specific Schema.org markup.

    The Knowledge Graph is an important development in the search world. For users, it’s an incredibly handy tool, cutting out an entire step of the traditional search process. But for search marketers, it’s a game-changer. If users can get information instantly without visiting a site, the entire purpose of information-based content marketing is jeopardized, and all websites will see slightly less organic traffic as a result.

    Bing’s Encroaching Rivalry

    articleimage848Bing’s Encroaching Rivalry

    Bing’s revelation of a Knowledge Graph competitor is just the latest in a series of one-ups and imitations that have allowed Bing to improve its structure and offer stronger competition to their main rival. Mirroring Google’s Panda and Penguin updates, Bing released updates refining its processes for determining site authority and search rank. Responding to Google’s constant refinement of its search display, Bing updated its overall design multiple times over the past several years.

    The impact is making a difference. Already, third competitor Yahoo decided to start using Bing’s back-end engine to fuel its own searches, effectively increasing the amount of reach Bing’s search engine has. Yahoo itself has been growing in total search volume, in addition to Bing, furthering Bing’s status as a major competitor. All the while, Google has remained a dominant force in search, with nearly two-thirds of all searches falling to it, but that dominance is slowly ebbing away. It’s unlikely that Bing will overtake Google anytime soon, but they are getting closer in both functionality and reputation.

    Super Bowl Search Results

    articleimage848Super Bowl Search Results

    Bing’s results for “super bowl” and related queries made their intentions very clear; Bing wants to offer even more information and a better user experience than Google’s Knowledge Graph can offer. Near the top of the screen, Bing offered some basic information about the game, including the Super Bowl number and the teams involved (along with their associated records). But Bing went a step further, detailing a specialized “Bing Predicts” entry that predicted a 51 percent chance of the Patriots winning, as well as a section of “Predicted Game Changers,” “Passing Leaders,” and profiles of other significant members of each team. The information included players’ names, faces, and historical averages.

    As if that information wasn’t enough, Bing also included a separate column that compiled information from Wikipedia and ESPN, analyzing the game. For each team in the game, the search engine featured a “How they can win” section, a big question, and an “X factor” that could shake up the game.

    What This Could Mean for the Future

    It seems unlikely that one major move could finally put Bing on the same level as Google, but nevertheless, it appears that Bing is slowly inching closer. If Bing keeps up this pace and continues to innovate and refine its approach to online search, in the next few years, it could truly even the playing field. It also seems strange that Bing’s massive Knowledge Graph interface was demonstrated for only one major event; it remains to be seen whether Bing will attempt to offer detailed information on this scale for other sporting or similar events, or whether this was just an isolated incident in an effort to gain more visibility.

    Even if Bing doesn’t grow to compete with Google on a one-to-one level, its Knowledge Graph developments will push the technology forward and increase its influence on the development of search. Be prepared for the Knowledge Graph on both platforms to become more advanced, offering more detailed information on more abstract concepts in an effort to provide users with the best possible search experience.

  2. The 5 Big Myths of Personal Branding

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    Personal branding has grown in popularity over the past several years, as the widespread adoption of social media marketing and the encroaching distrust of massive corporations have created a perfect condition for entrepreneurs to brand themselves. Of course, personal branding isn’t just limited to entrepreneurs, but the process of creating an authoritative identity for yourself in an online environment can increase your reputation, get you more work, and improve the standing of your business.

    Unfortunately, millions of people have jumped onto the personal branding bandwagon without fully understanding the scope of the strategy. There are a number of misconceptions about what personal branding is and how it can be used, so before you proceed with your own personal branding, it’s important to address them.

    Why Personal Branding Is Important

    Personal branding is the process of creating and maintaining an identity for yourself, similar to a corporate brand but built upon your own unique personality. Originally, personal branding was used by job applicants as a way to build their reputation, gain more visibility to potential employers, and ultimately increase their chances of getting hired.

    Today, personal branding is more often used as a leverage point for professionals attempting to make connections, forge partnerships, or find work. It can be used individually, by freelancers or independent entrepreneurs, but more often it is used as a tie-in to a larger, corporate brand. Because today’s audience is far more likely to trust an individual than they are to trust and organization, personal branding forges a more personal and therefore, more effective relationship with individual audience members.

    The Big Myths

    Problems begin with misconceptions, and there are a number of popular misconceptions around the concept and execution of personal branding.

    These are five of the most common myths I’ve seen:

    1. Personal Branding Is Only Useful for Freelancers and Consultants.

    articleimage803Personal Branding Is Only Useful for Freelancers

    This one is usually purported by salespeople, or other individuals working for a corporation who believe that the only people who can use personal branding effectively are those who are sole proprietors.

    Certainly, freelancers and consultants have an advantage when it comes to personal branding. Because their entire enterprise is tied to their personal identity from the beginning, it’s easier to make the jump from a personal interaction to a business interaction.

    However, individuals working for a business can use personal branding in the same way. They can build their reputation by working with their current client list, getting involved on social media, and really showing off the credentials that have made them successful in their position. Then, once a reputation has begun to manifest, these individuals can start making new connections—ones that could lead to a sale (if the individual is a salesperson), or ones that can lend advice and experience to advance one’s skills or career path. Those connections can be funneled to the corporate brand as you see fit, and eventually, connections will start coming to you uninitiated.

    2 . Personal Branding Means Inventing an Identity.

    articleimage803 Personal Branding Means Inventing an Identity

    Some professionals are discouraged by the idea of creating and maintaining a personal brand because they realize the importance and the amount of effort it takes to create a corporate brand. Some companies spend hundreds of man-hours crafting the perfect logo, the perfect tagline, and the perfect branding plan.

    But while personal branding does require some attention paid to your niche and your target audience, it isn’t a matter of creating an entire new identity—at least, not unless you want it to be. For most people, a personal brand is going to be an extension of the self. Your personality and your identity will be your own, with an increase in professionalism and more targeted updates and comments to zero in on your area of expertise.

    If your major concern is creating a new identity for yourself, try not to think about it too much. Just be yourself, talk about what you want to become known as an expert in, and let the rest develop naturally.

    3. Creating a Personal Brand Is Simply a Matter of Claiming Your Social Profiles.

    articleimage803Personal Branding Is Only Useful for Freelancers

    This is a myth typically followed by people who have become obsessed with the term “personal branding” because it has grown in popularity. They have a misconception that personal branding is exclusively tied to social media, as if simply being on social media is enough to constitute the development of a personal brand.

    In today’s world, social media is an absolute essential for creating a personal brand. The potential audience you have access to through social media is unmatched by any other channel. However, that doesn’t mean it’s the only thing you need to find success. In order to develop your reputation, you’re going to have to learn more about your industry, get involved in conversations on a regular basis, write new material, guest post on outside blogs, and even attend events in person in order to get your face and name out there. If you’re truly committed to making a great personal brand, you’ll need to do a lot more than post an occasional social update.

    4. Personal Branding Is Only About Making Sales.

    Whether you’re personal branding as an individual or on behalf of a larger corporation, you might believe that the strategy is inherently focused on sales. Entrepreneurs and freelancers, especially, are often fixated on getting the greatest amount of revenue and personal branding can help both types of professionals close more deals. Similarly, the entire motivation of personal branding on behalf of a company is to gain a potential customer’s trust en route to an eventual sale.

    However, personal branding is useful for far more than finding and closing leads. If you’re looking for a job, it can open you up to new opportunities—and serves as insurance in case your current position falls through. If you’re trying to earn a promotion or a raise, improving your online reputation can assist you in proving your professional development. And of course, you can use personal branding as a learning opportunity, meeting similar professionals and learning more about the scope of your industry.

    5. Personal Branding Is a Short-Term Strategy.

    Personal branding isn’t a duct tape fix that can turn around your sales strategy, nor is it something to “play around with” over the course of a few weeks. It’s a long-term strategy that pays off exponentially over time. Since your existing contacts will help you make new contacts, the process of reputation building is slow to start but has virtually limitless growth. If you want to take advantage of that parabolic curve, you need to understand that personal branding is a future-focused strategy that will require months, if not years, of continuous effort.

    You can use personal branding in almost any element of your career—whether that’s finding a new position, meeting new people, increasing your company’s visibility, or making new sales. It is as flexible as you need it to be, subject to the type and volume of work you put into it. Like with any marketing strategy, its results are largely dependent on the amount of time you spend on it, so be patient, work hard, and eventually that time will pay for itself.

  3. 10 Content Strategies to Win More Email Subscribers

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    Email marketing is still a viable medium, though many business owners have abandoned it for the flashier alternatives of social media. Email is still a big part of our lives, and if you can harness the email-reading segment of your audience, you’ll get countless new opportunities to market your products and reward your most loyal customers.

    The big problem for most companies is building a reliable list of potentially interested parties. Getting users to sign up for an email blast is tough, but if you use your content strategy to cultivate new subscribers, you’ll be left with a list that’s bigger and more relevant for your business.

    Try these 10 content-based strategies to make it happen:

    1. Offer a signup incentive.

    articleimage574Offer a signup incentive

    One of the most straightforward content-related email signup strategies is simply offering your readers an exclusive, detailed piece of content in exchange for some of their information. The most traditional way of doing this is offering a detailed whitepaper through a pop-up ad or specific landing page, in exchange for a user’s name and email, with consent to receive emails from you in the future. This tactic is valuable because it instantly gives users two means of engaging with your authority: through the content of the whitepaper and top-of-mind content in regular email blasts. Select a subject for your content that hasn’t been overdone and is truly valuable to your customers.

    2. Create and promote “email exclusive” content.

    articleimage574 Create and promote “email exclusive” content

    Another popular option is to provide exclusive content after the user already subscribes, in the form of recurring content that users can only get through your email. It’s not quite as enticing as the immediate gratification of the first option, but the recurring frequency will ensure that your readers actually open and enjoy your email blasts for months to come. The only real problem here is that your content has a much more limited audience, and you’ll have to work extra hard to maintain that line of engagement. Base your posts around a theme, or use a content series to maintain user interest.

    3. Use onsite content as a lead-in to an email blast.

    If you’re already engaged in an onsite content marketing program—which you should be—take advantage of your current content as a means of recruiting new email subscribers. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; at the end of your article, suggest that your readers can learn more about the subject or get special offers by signing up for your newsletters—and of course, include a link to the signup page or embed a popup. Vary your language, but feel free to include this method in several, if not all, of your blog posts.

    4. Feature an email signup embedded in the blog.

    If your blog is already seeing a lot of traffic and you don’t want to fluff your content up with an obvious call-to-action at the bottom, you can go the more subtle route and include a small email signup form that stays with users on the blog, no matter what they click into or how much they scroll. You can embed this form in the corner of the screen, on the side bar of the blog, or even have it in the center of the screen until your users opt to close it out.

    5. Reserve portions of your articles for subscribers.

    articleimage574 eserve portions of your articles for subscribers

    You can also unite your email subscriber list with a list of users of your website, and hide portions of your content so that only registered users can read it. Tease users with an excellent introduction, but make the juicy second part of your most valuable articles only readable once people have submitted their information. It can be annoying for some users to have to sign up, but if they’re genuinely interested in your content, they won’t mind handing over some valuable information. Do be sure to retain at least some 100 percent public content for those wary of signing up.

    6. Tease email exclusive promotions via social media.

    Social media is a great tool to capture impulsive urges of those “passing through” your newsfeed. Use that to your advantage by posting teases about upcoming special offers from your email blasts. For instance, if you plan to offer a promotional code for 20% off in your latest email, tease it a few days ahead of time by saying “later this week, we’ll be rewarding all our loyal email subscribers with a  one-of-a-kind deal! Sign up now to be a part of it!” Be sure to include a link to a signup page to make it easy for your followers.

    7. Use blogs as previews for larger works.

    You can use your blogs as previews for much larger pieces of content, like “definitive guides” or whitepapers. You can do this either by using each successive blog post as a chapter in the defining piece, or use them as tactful lead-ins to a much broader subject. Either way, at the end of each respective piece, you can allude to the fact that it’s only a small window into a much more valuable resource—and then deliver that resource exclusively through an email blast. It builds anticipation and shows people the value they’ll be receiving.

    8. Guest blog with a call-out to sign up.

    Building a diverse email list is easier when tapping multiple channels, but as a marketer you traditionally only have access to your own mediums. Guest blogging allows you to tap the audiences of a related organization, vastly increasing your total signup potential. Use any of the other tactics listed here to complement your guest blogging efforts for email signup potential.

    9. Spotlight an email subscriber.

    If you really want to demonstrate your appreciation for your email subscribers, ask your email recipients for stories or reviews about their experiences with your company. Then, write up a post on your blog or social media profile showcasing that user and possibly rewarding him/her with a special offer or giveaway. It will greatly increase that customer’s loyalty and make all your other potential email subscribers eager to get involved in the email blast.

    10. Publish the results of your email competition.

    First, you’ll have to announce and publicize a competition through your email blasts. Encourage users to respond in some way, and enter them in a drawing for free products or massive discounts. Then, once you have a handful of winners selected, publish the results on every medium available to you. It will make non-subscribers interested in subscribing, and show them how much you care about your most loyal followers. Allude to future, similar giveaways to increase signups and post details about the submissions that ended up winning.

    It will take some time to build up a sizable list, so don’t be discouraged if your new subscribers tend to trickle in gradually. Change up your strategies regularly to encourage new facets of your audience, and measure the impacts of each different angle to determine which strategies are most effective for your business. Keep your users interested in your email blast by rewarding them with exclusive content and promotional offers, and be sure to pepper in plenty of opportunities for conversion along the way.

  4. The Beginner’s Guide to Infographic Marketing

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    Infographics have grown to become one of the most efficient and lucrative forms of inbound marketing, giving businesses a chance to show off their knowledge, create something pretty, and attract dozens (if not hundreds) of natural backlinks for SEO in a single go. To someone new to the world of infographic marketing, the strategy may seem like a gimmick built around a buzzword, but the data doesn’t lie. People strongly prefer visual content, and infographics take advantage of that opportunity.

    However, infographic marketing isn’t as simple as creating a piece and posting on your website. If you want to get the best results for your infographic and maximize your chances of making it go viral, you’ll need to put some work into it.

    Why Infographic Marketing Is Important

    articleimage465Why Infographic Marketing Is Important

    Infographic marketing is valuable both as a short-term means of attracting visitors and as a long-term brand strategy:

    • Infographics increase your brand authority. Your brand is your company’s identity, and infographics are the perfect way to promote that identity. You’ll have a chance to show off your branding and your personality in the wording and design of the infographic, but your subject matter is what really counts. Depending on the depth of research you do, you can prove yourself as an industry leader and establish yourself as a major authority. It makes people trust you and value you more.
    • They attract natural backlinks to your site for SEO.Search engine ranks are largely dependent on the quality and volume of backlinks pointing back to your site. However, if your links appear to be built unnaturally, you could face a penalty from Google. Infographics are beneficial because they naturally encourage people to share and re-post the digital material with a link pointing back to your site. You get all the links you could ever want, and you don’t have to worry about them appearing to be artificially built.
    • They increase click-through opportunities for raw web traffic. Finally and perhaps most obviously, the presence of your infographic will entice people to click through to your website. That means a greater number of relevant visitors from around the web as your infographic circulates.

    A Final Checklist for Your Infographic

    articleimage465 Final Checklist for Your Infographic

    Before you start syndicating your infographic, it’s a good idea to run through a final checklist of must-have qualities:

    • Make sure your branding is visible and recognizable. Include a watermark if necessary to make sure the infographic can only be attributed to you.
    • Double check your reference list. People want infographics they can trust, so make sure all your reference links are accurate and working properly.
    • Create an embed code, or include a link to your site in the infographic itself. This will ensure that people can quickly and easily share your infographic with the accompanying link.

    Where to Syndicate

    Once you’re all set with your infographic, it’s time to syndicate. Through syndication, you’ll offer your infographic up to as many sources as possible, putting it into the hands of the users who will repost it and spread the word for you. Let’s take a look at all the syndication options you have for your infographic:

    Social Media

    Social media is usually the first syndication channel people pick when marketing their infographics, and for good reason. Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are radically popular, giving you a wide audience, and they offer easy methods of sharing visual content, giving you a virtual highway on which your infographic can successfully travel. Depending on the size of your current following, Facebook and Twitter are decent places to start. On Facebook, you can specifically ask your users to share your infographic and watch as it starts to circulate the web. On Twitter, you can benefit from the concise immediacy of the platform.

    But Facebook and Twitter are no longer the power players in terms of visual content virality. You want to make sure your infographic reaches the largest possible relevant audience, and for that you need a platform that specifically caters to visual content. Instagram is an up-and-coming new option for that, but the real superstar here is Pinterest. Pinterest is custom-made for sharing images, making it perfect for circulating your infographic, and it sees more web referral traffic than almost any other social media platform.

    It’s a good idea to post your infographic on every social media platform you can. Don’t worry about redundancy; your goal should be making your infographic as visible as possible.

    Press Releases

    It’s also possible to submit your infographic as part of a press release. This is especially useful if your company conducted some proprietary research as the basis for the infographic, and you’re interested in publishing the findings. Like with all press releases, it’s important to ensure that your topic is truly newsworthy and not just an opportunity to talk about your company. Press release syndication channels are ever-watchful for rank manipulators and fluff-ridden articles, so take the time to construct a press release that will actually matter to the consumer.

    That being said, distributing your infographic along with a press release will instantly win you more brand authority, and you’ll get the benefit of extra backlinks pointing back to your site from every news site that picks up the story.

    Infographic Directories

    Visual.ly, Daily Infographic, Infographics Archive, and Cool Infographics are just a handful of the infographic directories available to the public for free. There are literally hundreds of them. These sites exist for the sole purpose of collecting, distributing, and popularizing different infographics, so take advantage of them. You’ll instantly get a free backlink for every directory that publishes your piece, and you’ll get visibility amongst an audience that loves reading new infographics.

    This will take some extra time to manually process, but it’s worth it.

    Guest Blogs

    It’s also possible to include your infographic as an attachment to your regular guest blogs. Guest blogging is still a valuable strategy for increasing brand awareness and encouraging brand mentions, and including an infographic along with your post can increase click-through rates and engage your audience even more than usual.

    It’s still a good idea to adhere to best practices for guest blogging. Don’t post an excessive number of links pointing back to your site from any one source—instead, use the rel=nofollow tag to block those links from being seen by Google, or use non-linked brand mentions to subtly build your authority. Your goal with using infographics in guest blogging should be to increase the value to your readers rather than explicitly building links.

    Keys to Success

    articleimage465Keystosucess

    As you continue to syndicate your infographic and watch your audience grow, there are a few important points to keep in mind. Remember, your goal with infographic marketing isn’t explicitly to build links. It is to provide a value to your target demographic, and enable them to do the dirty work of sharing and reposting. Don’t be aggressive with your syndication, and make sure your posts are focused on quality.

    It’s also important to take measurements of your campaign. Use social media analytics, Google Analytics, and other forms of analytics to track and project the overall success of your campaign. Over time, you’ll learn which channels and strategies are the most successful to your brand, and you’ll be able to adjust your future infographic marketing strategies accordingly.

    Are you in need of an infographic? Let us handle it!

  5. 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

     

  6. When Will Google Start Considering Likes for SEO?

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    In the last few years, social media signals have been having an increasingly strong influence over search engine optimization factors, and this trend is likely to continue as Google and other search engines look for more ways to verify the credibility of a particular site or brand online. To a certain extent, optimizers have more trouble manipulating social media signals than they might have manipulating other off-page SEO techniques involving backlinking.

    articleimage329The current impact of Facebook likes

    The current impact of Facebook likes

    Online marketers tend to give conflicting opinions on whether specific social media signals such as Facebook likes influence search engine rankings. Yet repeated experiments among marketers seem to indicate that- while a site that ranks well is likely to have accumulated a great deal of Facebook likes- the link between Facebook likes and organic search engine rankings is due to mere correlation rather than causation.

    articleimage329According to Google

    According to Google

    In fact, statements from Matt Cutts seem to verify the lack of causality between Facebook likes and organic rank. Earlier this year, the prominent Google engineer was quoted as saying that Google will not EVER directly use social media actions like Facebook likes to rank websites. Cutts alluded to previous attempts at incorporating this data into organic search, reflecting that it was too complicated and difficult to work into the Google algorithm and the Google SERPs.

    Despite Cutts’ seeming confidence on the issue, search engine marketers know better than to take Google’s statements to the search community as the Gospel truth. Even Cutts’ remarks seem to leave open the possibility that Google would directly incorporate social media signals like Facebook likes if methods of doing so that were more practical and feasible were to be developed.

    articleimage329 The benefits and drawbacks of Facebook like data

    The benefits and drawbacks of Facebook like data

    Google and other search engines might benefit from making their algorithms capable of taking such social media factors into account. Looking to a website’s Facebook likes might help validate the authority and popularity of a site.

    Yet Google is no doubt aware of the vibrant market for social media services flourishing on websites such as Fiverr that makes it fairly simple for a website owner to rack up thousands of likes in no time. If Google were to allow Facebook likes to influence organic rank, it would perhaps be necessary to filter out the impact of phony likes from inactive or fake Facebook accounts. Cutts statements and the existence of methods for manipulating some social media signals shed some light on the apparent complications inherent in the task of using social media signals as search engine algorithm data.

    Social media and personalization of search

    One aspect of search that has been growing in significance in recent years and could possibly rely heavily on social media signals as it develops further is personalization of search. Google has already apparently been using Google+ activity to influence search results.

    For example, if a Google+ user runs a search, any +1s from that user’s contacts my influence the organic search results that he or she sees. Likewise, Bing has reportedly used Facebook activity in a similar way in search results. It is quite possible that- if Google were to begin incorporating like data into organic results- it would be done to personalize search rather than boost a site’s ranking overall.

    Leaving optimizers guessing

    When will Google start considering likes for SEO? Possibly, Google will never opt to exert the effort required to develop a method for using like data in ranking sites. If it ever happens, it will happen when Google both determines that it’s worthwhile to do so and develops techniques that make it practicable to do so.

    Perhaps algorithm engineers at Google will become capable of reliably analyzing such information for practical application in the coming years. However, it seems unlikely that the search engine would do so before developing a method of ignoring fake likes or even perhaps penalizing sites that have attempted to boost their online influence with fake likes.

    Unfortunately, those who work in the search industry can only ever rely on speculation and experiment when it comes to drawing conclusions about how Google’s algorithm works. It’s clear that likes are currently not directly influencing rank, but this could potentially change at any moment. One thing is certain: As soon as optimizers see that Facebook likes are impacting site ranking, webmasters and optimizers will immediately begin scurrying to rack up Facebook likes and analyze how they can use likes to catapult their sites to page one ASAP.

    Social media indicators that currently have an impact

    For now, an optimizer’s best bet is to stick with the tried and true factors for promoting websites in organic rankings via social media. Although likes are clearly not directly causing sites to rank well, there are some social media factors that many optimizers think are directly helping. Any efforts to boost social media exposure of a website will lead to increased page likes, so webmasters who focus on social media factors that will currently help them out will be prepared if Google ever does begin incorporating like data.

    The following are some social media signals that are widely recognized as directly influencing organic search rank:

    • Link building with social shares- Social media can help generate links to a site in a variety of ways. A particularly effective way of generating links through social media is creating a viral piece of content that gets shared among many different site members.
    • Sharing content- Social media is an important part of a website’s content marketing strategy and can provide additional platforms for disseminating content that will hopefully increase awareness of a site’s brand and products.
    • Connecting with the online audience- Every social media profile a business creates adds an additional channel of communication between the company and prospective clients. Some consumers do a lot of research and shopping using a particular social media platform like Facebook or Twitter, and website owners will reach such consumers much more effectively by being present on that particular platform.

    Recap

    Regardless of Google’s attitude towards Facebook likes, likes are and will remain important figures that indicate a page’s popularity and- to some extent- influence. Even if likes don’t boost your ratings, they do lend a certain authority to your site among visitors, and you enjoy free publicity every time a Facebook user likes your page. Website owners need to engage in efforts to boost their like count even if it won’t directly impact organic search results.

    As off-page SEO strategies, social media tactics remain significant. While it is still uncertain whether or not Google will ever begin to directly incorporate likes into organic results, it is highly probable that likes and similar social media signals from Google+ will exercise a growing influence on personalized search results.

    While Google has stated that it will never look to Facebook like as direct factors in determining search engine rankings, the unpredictable and rapidly changing nature of the world of search engine optimization makes it difficult for any absolutes to hold true for long when Google is adjusting its algorithm hundreds of times per year.

     

  7. Three SEO Friendly Strategies to Fix 404 Errors

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    Website 404 errors are inevitable. Google is aware of that fact. These errors do not cause a website to be deindexed. Decrease in rankings does not directly result from 404 errors. Google does place delivering quality results of organic search as its main priority. If Google bots crawlers continually find non-existent page links, it will eventually become evident to Google that maintaining a user-friendly experience is not a concern of the website owner. Simply put, if Google cannot crawl a website, it won’t. Lack of traffic to the site results.

    articleimage328googlewebmastertool

    Google Webmaster Tools

    Determining the number of links pointing to a missing page is among the best approaches to use in handling 404 errors that are new. The broken links can come from a number of sources. Some sources include search engines results, marketing materials, email messages, other websites or the owner’s own website

    To access information of all server requests that return a 404 error, register the site with Google Webmaster Tools. Google Webmaster Tools is highly recommended because error reports are sent directly from Google. Google Webmaster Tools alerts a website owner when a sharp increase in the number of 404 errors occurs. Regular weekly or monthly monitoring allows redirects as the 404 errors occur.

    Keeping an eye on the logs will let the website owner know if a sudden surge of 404s appears. The errors being fixed by the owner is preferable to letting users fill out broken link forms. It is not the job of visitors to notify the owner about broken links to a website.

    articleimage328 Customize a 404 Error Landing Page

    Customize a 404 Error Landing Page

    As part of the overall SEO strategy, 404 errors are a piece of importance. They usually do not get the attention they deserve. The average visitor does not know what a 404 error message means. Default messages are often too technical. They are poorly constructed for the most part. Visitors are left frustrated. These are the best arguments for constructing 404 error landing pages.

    Creating a custom 404 error page is highly recommended. This will facilitate visitors’ ability to continue the search with less hassle. Customize 404 Not Found errors to reflect the website brand being attempted to navigate. The design of the error page should match the website. Important navigational components of the website such as footer, header, and sidebar should be included. Users are able to navigate easily to other website pages. The search box from the website should be included. Instructions to type relevant keywords should be given.

    Providing 404 header status on the error page is important. If the 404 header status is not provided, search engine problems are created. Pages that have 404 server header status that return a 404 are also the only ones trusted by search engines. If 404 is not being returned, those pages are unable to be removed from the search engine index of Google.

    Here are some suggestions for an effective, yet compact look for the landing page. Simplicity is important. An explanation of why a user landed on the 404 page instead of the intended page should be present. Some sort of apology that recognizes the importance of the user’s time should be made. When creating a landing page the ‘404’ does not have to appear on the page. Words that subtly tell visitors the requested page no longer exists are all that are necessary. A too little and too much information balance must be reached. Showcasing the entire site navigation will doubtfully be very helpful. If the number of links presented overwhelms an already lost user, those links are futile.

    Link building opportunities are provided when users land on a 404 error page. Links to similar pages being attempted to visit should be provided. The 404 error page headers and footers should include service or product landing pages. Similar page links should include only important product, category, or page links to the website. Provide a home page link and links to recent articles and popular searches. If a blog exists, a link should be provided for it.

    The landing page can be funny, creative, or unusual. Google provides guidelines for customizing a 404 page. Regardless of the material put on the landing page, making the page useful to visitors should be kept in mind.

    An alert of 404 error on a website can be fixed by finding the mistyped link source and performing an edit. A 301 redirect can also be put in place. The 301 redirects the incorrect link toward the web address that is correct. Not putting a 301 redirect in place may cause a business to lose customers. People who have bookmarked a page or used another website to link to it will not be redirected if a URL for the website is changed or if a page is deleted or moved. Ensuring customers end up in the right place is important. A 301 redirect also passes along link equity that Google has assigned to a page.

    An SEO strategy using 404 link reclamation begins with crawling competitors’ sites and looking for 404 errors. Find the links for the error pages. If similar pages or resources do not exist on the owner’s website, they should be created. The webmasters of sites linked to the 404 pages should be contacted and informed of the broken page. An offer of a link to the owner’s website instead of the broken page should be made.

    There are types of material that should not be placed on the landing page. Advertising should not appear on a 404 error landing page. Neither should there be complex script or anything that makes a call away from the page. The requested resource is in risk of not being returned timely, which could lead to platform integrity loss. A server may crash. Because of low volume traffic, advertising is not beneficial. Significant impressions are not going to be generated. The overall ad value and yield will be driven down because of low click-through rates generated by the inventory.

    Automated widgets should not be inserted in the landing page. When crawled, they can create a loop that returns another 404 error page. The crawler can be hurt. It may avoid a site in the future. The website owner’s server can be harmed.

    articleimage328sitemap

    Sitemaps

    Websites that currently do not have site maps need to create them. They are visual outlines of pages found within the site. A quick way to assess the structure and size of the website is appreciated by many visitors. With one or two clicks, they can access wanted information.

    A similar benefit is provided as an SEO strategy. Websites are crawled by search engine robots regularly. Pages within the site map are often missed because of poor hyperlink and navigation structure. A site map, created and submitted to search engines, allows search robots the opportunity to spider and index entire sites using a few clicks. This is a cost-effective SEO strategy.

    The benefit increases when a site map is implemented on a 404 error page. Instead of getting an error message, a table of contents that has been navigationally optimized appears. A sale or conversion can result. Search engine placement is soundly solidified. A site map also directs users to detailed site navigation, in a way, that does not make the page appear cluttered.

  8. Give Your Affiliate Marketing Some Rocket Fuel with Video!

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    One of the best and fastest ways to make money on the Internet is through affiliate marketing. This marketing approach is being used by some of the most successful sales gurus, so it comes very highly recommended. There are lots of ways to do affiliate marketing, but the most effective is video marketing.

    Almost all the top online marketers swear by video marketing; they recommend that every marketer give it a try. That’s because these experts have seen what online video has done for their business. By and large, they’ve earned better money this way than by any other marketing strategy they’ve employed.

    There are a number of reasons that online video empowers you to generate more revenue than most other online marketing strategies. These days, Google and other top search engines accord more value to online videos. In fact, for a lot of search keywords, video search results turn up up highest in the rankings.

    Another reason video gets better results is because people these days are more visual. After several generations raised on television, many of whom progressed to viewing films and television shows on computer screens and even iPads and smart phones, most consumers are fully acclimated to respond to video on a small screen.

    That has made us more engaged by video. We also tend to believe something more readily when it occurs before our eyes in the form of physical action rather than mere text.

    The greatest thing about online video marketing is that it’s still a relatively small segment of the market on the Internet. Relatively few affiliate marketers are actually aware of its power and are taking advantage of the opportunities video marketing has to offer. That’s why now is the best time to get involved and have a shot at cornering your market.

    Here are some ways by which you can dominate your market using video.

    1. Connect to the videos your affiliate merchants have up on their site

    articleimage601 Connect to the videos your affiliate merchants have up on their site

    Most affiliate merchants use video. They either provide videos directly to their affiliates or they have videos up on their sites that you can download and use as your own.

    Before you use them, however, find out if your merchant allows for its videos to be used freely by affiliates. If it does, go for it. You will be surprised to find out that video has the power to increase click-throughs and even conversions.

    But what if your affiliate merchants don’t have a ready-for-use videos?

    2. Devise your own video using resources provided by your affiliate merchant

    articleimage601 Devise your own video using resources provided by your affiliate merchan

    It’s often the case for many affiliate marketers that their partners don’t video clips handy for use, but that shouldn’t be a cause for concern. You see, most affiliate merchants provide enough raw resources to use in building a video, such as text and images. You can actually use these in your online videos.

    But again, you must first clarify whether the merchant allows for its resources to be used in such ways.

    3. Upload your affiliate videos on major video sites

    articleimage601Upload your affiliate videos on major video sites

    You should promote your video primarily on YouTube. Most marketers do. That’s because YouTube is the biggest online video-sharing site in the world.

    However, there are lots of other big video-sharing sites out there, including DailyMotion, Vimeo, and Videofy.me. Each of these sites has a hefty following, and they all have the potential to provide you with very highly targeted traffic.

    4. Post links to your video on social bookmarking sites

    It’s not enough to make your videos available for viewing on video-sharing sites. They deserve more exposure through social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and social bookmarking sites like StumbleUpon and Reddit. These are all great marketing channels that can get you access to highly targeted traffic.

    That’s because traffic that originates on social bookmarking sites comes from people with very specific interests.

    Conclusion

    It used to take about six months for a newbie marketer to see his first affiliate sale. But all that has changed, mainly because of video. Running an affiliate marketing strategy with video is one of the best and fastest ways to make money online.

    Start using video marketing now as part of your affiliate marketing strategy. For help setting up a solid marketing strategy for your affiliate marketing business, drop us a line to discover your options.

  9. Copywriting 101: 9 Quick Tips for Powerful Headlines

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    When you set out to write content that attracts like a magnet, you should start with the headline. Copywriting experts agree that the headline is the most crucial task of writing an effective copy.

    Headlines have one simple goal: to attract the readers’ attention. Without a good headline, the copy is as dead as last year’s turkey. Headlines are that important.

    Headline writing is one of the oldest persuasive tools that is still in use today, but it’s often taken for granted by novice online marketers. In the world of online marketing, the headline could make or break your business — just as it would in the off-line world, where the profitability of magazines, newspapers, and ads depends on cleverly crafted headlines.

    While it’s a fact that headline writing might spell the difference between going bankrupt and growing profitable, some online marketers tend to shy away from trying to master this very important skill. They are either intimidated by the fact that great copy headlines are crafted only by marketers highly skilled in human relations, or they simply assume they can get away with mediocre headlines.

    The truth is that learning how to write great headlines should be a top priority for marketers who are looking to gain massive traffic and conversion.

    With a great headline, your content will attract more attention. More importantly, it will help to draw readers into your content and could open the door to creating businesses for you.

    Are you a novice copywriter struggling to learn the art of headline writing? Whether you are a blogger looking to attract massive readership or a video marketer hoping to draw a sizable number of eyeballs for your videos, here are some tips on writing effective headlines you can use.

    Make an offer immediately
    Right away, your headline should make an offer. Offers are irresistible, and if it’s the first thing readers see in your headline, they’ll read on. The headline “Free $50 Credit When You Sign Up Today” will probably make your readers want to read on and find out “what’s in it for me?” or “what’s the catch?”

    If you are appealing to the right audience, who happen to be looking for exactly what you’re offering in your headline, chances are they’ll read right through to checkout.

    Convey a sense of urgency
    Some of the most powerful headlines are those that are time-bound. You’ll get people to respond more readily when you convey a sense of urgency. Headlines such as “Only For The Month Of November…” will have readers scrambling to learn more about your offer.

    However, you should be careful when using this type of headline. If you say that an offer is good only for a month, make sure this is indeed the case, unless you have a very good reason to extend it. Otherwise, you run the risk of ruining your reputation because you tried to dupe people into buying your product or idea.

    Remember KISS — Keep it Simple, Stupid
    People love simplicity and brevity, because long sentences and big words tend to . . .  well, ain’t nobody got time for that. The rule of thumb for simplicity is to use words that even a 10- or 11-year old can understand.

    Lean toward writing short headlines and avoid fluff. Long headlines tend to dilute the point you are trying to drive home. Keep in mind the scanners and skimmers. These are people who want to get the point in a single brief glance.

    Use power words
    Use common power words to appeal to emotions. Words such as guaranteed, astonishing, revealed, mind-blowing, and boost are examples of words that plumb the emotions better than many others.

    Take the word “revealed.” It implies that what you are about to show your readers is a heavily-guarded secret that only a few people know, but you’re about to let out into the open.

    Be very specific
    There’s power in precision. Specificity is one of the most important elements of a great headline that captures people’s attention like a magnet. Instead of saying Lose Several Pounds In A Few Weeks, give your readers solid figures. Consider the following headline:

    Lose 5 Pounds In Just 2 Weeks!

    Statistically, specific headlines guarantee more opened emails and closed sales than headlines that try to get by with vague promises.

    Try not to be overly humorous
    Injecting humor into your headline is fine, but don’t push too hard. Not all people will get the same jokes. If you’re at all unsure of the effect an idea will have, it’s best to stay away from it — instead of trying to pull it off, only to have it backfire on you.

    Use numbers
    Using numbers creates a sense of curiosity among readers. It also sets their expectations properly. In addition, numbers make your headline easier to read and look more impressive.

    Consider using “6 Ways to Lose Fat Fast” as opposed to the vague alternative “Great Ways to Lose Fat Fast.”

    Help readers understand they won’t have to give up anything
    Going back to the previous example, “6 Ways to Lose Fat Fast,” you can make this headline more powerful by including a phrase that lets your readers know they won’t have to lose anything else (other than body fat).

    People just love convenience. We tend to want to stay within our comfort zones and avoid doing a little extra for something we like. That’s why phrases like Without Spending Time At The Gym or Without The Painful Diets will make your headlines more powerful and magnetic. Consider the combined example below:

    6 Ways to Lose Fat Fast Without Spending Time At The Gym

    Doesn’t that appeal more to the lazy guy in us all?

    Test and re-write
    Some of the best headlines have been tested and rewritten not just twice, but more than a dozen times. The most veteran copywriters may take the trouble to devise several hundred versions of a single headline to make sure they get it right.

    Conclusion
    It takes a lot of practice and testing to get headline writing down. Just keep at it and you have a better shot at appealing to the right emotions with the perfect set of words. For more information on our copywriting strategies for small businesses, drop us a line and we’ll happily discuss it with you.

  10. Get Visual: Driving Traffic with Google Images

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    You work hard at creating helpful content for your site visitors. You do your keyword research, monitor your industry, and provide timely information. Your visitors love your stuff!

    That’s terrific. But what if you could drive even more visitors — targeted visitors — with the same content, without really doing any extra work?

    If you’re creating good content, then surely you’re using images and videos with it … right? If you simply optimize the use of your images, you could tap into a whole new world of search traffic: image search.

    So how do you do that?

    Image Type
    When you’re choosing which image to use, look at what kind of file type it is.

    You want to choose JPG images. For some reason, they just seem to perform better with image search and end up ranking higher. One reason may be that JPGs are readable by any kind of browser a user might be searching with.

    Or it may be that it’s easier to compress the size of JPG images. You don’t want tiny images; you want them to be clear and represent the idea behind them. But large images increase load time, which is never good.

    Using and Choosing Keywords
    The first thing you want to do is give each photo a clear, easy-to-read, and relevant title. Don’t use gibberish that tells the search engine nothing about the image.

    For example, don’t stick with AG133NOV.jpg. This might help you with organizing which file is where, but it will do you NO favors in terms of image search or SEO.

    Next is the Alt tag. Fill this in with relevant (but brief) information and keywords to help search engines understand what is contained in the image. Someone who is visually impaired may visit, and this tag will tell them what’s in the image too. (They use special browsing equipment that reads text for them.)

    Lastly, put the description to good use. This isn’t completely necessary, but it doesn’t hurt. Here you can elaborate a bit more about what’s depicted in the image.

    Be Original
    Whether you Photoshop unique, creative images for your blog or you take photos of your products, you want your images to be unique. It’s also been shown that using multiple images will usually help them rank better, as long as you follow all the rules for each image.

    Tip: With the new Google Trends, you can research a wealth of information about any search term.

    This can help with image search, too. When you go to Google Trends, enter your search term and click Explore. As soon as you do, a whole lot of things load on the screen. Click on “Web Search” to the left (see below).

    Screenshot of Google Trends

    A menu will open to the right. Click on “Image Search.” That will open a chart of how many times people have searched for that term with image search. (Note: this number isn’t exact; it’s relative to searches as a whole.) You can also see other related search terms being searched for on image search.

    Okay, so now you have the basics of driving more traffic just by optimizing your images. But if you want to get the most out of this, there’s still more you can do.

    Fix The iFrame Roadblock
    When people click on an image in Google Images, they’re taken to a special page that features just your image. They don’t necessarily come to your page and see all the glorious content you’ve worked so hard to put together.

    The image actually shows in an iframe and visitors have to keep clicking to get to your real page, which some of them won’t necessarily do. So let’s fix that, shall we?

    There’s a good chance you’re running WordPress on your site. If so, you’re lucky: that makes things very simple. You just need to install a new plugin. Either of these should work:

     

    After you install and activate one of these, users will be redirected from that iFrame page to your actual page.

    If you aren’t using WordPress, you’ll need to copy and paste some code into your site. Place the following code into either the header or footer locations in your site’s code. If you’re putting it in your header, look for

    /head

    Type it in just before that. If you’re in the footer, do the same thing. Look for

    /footer

    and put it just before that. Here is the code to copy and paste in:

    [message_box title=”” color=”red”]

    <script type=”text/javascript”>
    <!–
    if (parent.frames.length > 0) { parent.location.href = location.href; }
    –>
    </script>

    [/message_box]

    Once you start receiving this new, free traffic, you’ll want to monitor the traffic. After a few months, you can analyze which types of images are bringing the most traffic, and what kind of keywords do the most business, and you’ll know where to focus more of your energy.

    Here are a couple of places that have guides to help you do just that:

    http://www.sebastienpage.com/2009/05/06/google-analytics-trick-see-the-full-referring-url/

    http://jrom.net/google-images-in-google-analytics

     

    Conclusion
    Always look for new opportunities to bring in traffic. As the saying goes, “Never put all your eggs in one basket.” You never know what kind of new business you might be missing out on.

    Taking advantage of Google Images within the content you’ve already created is one of the many ways you can do just that. Contact us if you want to expand your reach or you need help with implementing any of the above.

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