David Leonhardt’s SEO and Social Media Marketing

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The 5 rules of blogger outreach

May 18, 2015 - filed under guest post 10 Comments
 

Want to get the attention of a blogger? Here are five rules, along with a little insight into my own reactions to the non-stop spam I get from people like you.

Almost every day, somebody emails me offering to write a free post for this blog. Sometimes they offer a list of titles. Sometimes they tell me to name the topic, and they’ll write something for me. Sometimes they are not even in my niche. They obviously don’t read my blog.

And that is the first rule of blogger outreach. Know your target audience. Read the blog.

If people were to read this blog, they would understand that I don’t publish same-old, same-old drivel. I publish opinionated analysis of the state of online marketing. That’s right, my opinions; this post is a fine example of how I write for my own blog. I occasionally do publish a guest post, but it is certainly not from a stranger taking a pot shot and hoping that something sticks. Stay tuned and I’ll tell you the two ways to become a guest blogger here.

The second rule is to be very, very respectful.

Whether you come begging or pushing a wheelbarrow full of gold, you are seeking a favor from the blogger. You are hoping to be published, to get exposure, to build a link, to build traffic, or to get Austin Moon’s attention by posting something on my blog. Well, maybe not get Austin Moon’s attention on my blog – that’s would be someone else’s niche.

If you send me a spammy form email, that doesn’t show respect. That doesn’t say, “Wow, your blog is so wonderful, I just gotta get something going with you.” That shows that how very little you care about my blog. And I am happy to reciprocate… [DELETE]

I have been on both sides of the blogger outreach relationship. There are times when I don’t have time to build a relationship on behalf of a client. And there are times when the client doesn’t offer me what I would have needed for the next rule. But taking time to explore the blog and showing deep respect has helped me at least get an audience in some places. But most often I have needed to employ the third rule.

Blogger outreach done wrong

The third rule is to come with a wheelbarrow full of gold.

Now, I’m not saying that gold will guarantee you get a guest post on my blog. But it will guarantee that I won’t just hit [DELETE] right away. I do accept sponsored posts, and I am happy to announce that they are sponsored. But don’t ask me for a NoFollow link because you have weak knees. I don’t do NoFollow, and here is why.

Which brings us to the fourth rule. The blogger sets the terms as far as what he or she is willing to say, how to say it, how to format the post, etc.

It is OK to ask for specific anchor text. It is OK to specify that you will pay only for a favorable review. It is OK to set the conditions under which you will pay money. But ultimately, it is the blogger’s call, and you either hand over the money or take it somewhere else. Any blogger worth his salt will want the post to conform to his regular formatting specs. Seriously, if you absolutely need a post formatted to your own specifications, why not just put it on your own blog?

And if by some chance you get a blogger willing to accept your guest post for free or for only a token payment, you have no business specifying anything. Sorry, but they’ve already done you a huge favor just opening your spam…er….I mean your email.

Rule number 5 is this: Who cares if you think your product is amazing? If the blogger doesn’t like it or does not want to be associated with it, too bad. It’s her blog. Move on.

There are some things I won’t write about, even for $10,000 in gold (as I mentioned earlier). Hmm. Actually, hold on. That’s a whopping lot of gold. Nobody has ever (sadly) offered me that much. Let me get back to you on that.

Want to break the rules?

OK, let’s suppose you want to break the rules above and just spam as many bloggers as you can and see what sticks. After all, it’s less work and you can even delegate it to an offshore virtual assistant working for you on slave wages. Surely if you send out thousands of spam emails, a few will say, “Sure, why not? I need more content on my blog.”

Some of those emails will stick. Congratulations. You’ll get nothing but [DELETE] from A-list bloggers, but you will catch the attention of some ZZ-list bloggers.

Here’s why:

  • A-list bloggers love to blog. They don’t need more content. ZZ-list bloggers need your crap. Did I just say “crap” on my blog? Oops.
  • A-list bloggers value quality over quantity. Your email condemns you. ZZ-list bloggers can’t recognize the difference between good and bad quality.
  • A-list bloggers are inundated with guest blogging requests. ZZ-list bloggers are not.

Is gold really necessary?

Now the question you’ve been dying to ask: Can you still get a guest post on my blog without a wheelbarrow full of gold.

And the answer is: No. But somebody else can.

Guest posts you read on my blog are usually the result of me reading something somewhere, usually on a friend’s blog, and saying to myself, “Hey, I’d like them to write about that on my blog, too.” In fact, that’s how most of my guest posts begin. I don’t get too many offers of gold, but I do sometimes want people to write about something specific. If you’ve seen the movie Inception, you now know how to get me to publish your guest post without a wheelbarrow of gold.

That’s just me. On some other blogs there are forms to fill in to guest post. On other blogs, you might get a chance if you have been engaging with the blogger on social media for a while.   On still other blogs, you simply can’t – not all blogs accept guest posts.

You might be wondering why the gold is necessary. I mean, if you do all the work writing… yeah, right! Let’s assume that you write an amazing post that I don’t have to rework for quality (Very few people write that well, but let’s suppose we dispense with that portion of the work just for argument’s sake).

I still have to format the post and create an image.

I still have to proofread it, no matter how good you say you are.

And I spend at least two hours promoting every post.

Even if I don’t write the post, even if I don’t have to rework it, I still spend about three hours in publishing and promotion. That’s a lot of work you are asking me to do, all for the thrill of giving you a link, some traffic or whatever else you are looking for.

If you are asking for a product review, that takes even more work. It means I have to actually use your product, which is a small amount of extra work if your product is edible, but much more work if it’s a software suite.

Are there bloggers who really will be thrilled to give you that link and that traffic? Sure, if your target audience is ZZ-list bloggers, keep on spamming, and you will get exactly what you deserve. But if you want to get the attention of quality bloggers on quality blogs, ones that actually get traffic and social shares, you need to step up your game with a strong display of quality and an ongoing relationship with the blogger. Or gold.

 


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Redden up your website

Apr 22, 2015 - filed under web design 1 Comment
 

Red is a powerful color, evoking passion and warnings, excitement and action. But is it a color you would want to identify your business? Would you want your logo in red? Would you want your main website colors to include red? Would you want to brand yourself red?

In many cases, the answer is yes. In other cases, the answer is not. Let’s look at the psychological meanings of red and see if the color is right for you.

SPOILER ALERT – if red is not an ideal main color for your business, you still should use red in one specific case – even if red is the worst possible color for your business. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s first look at red as a main color for your brand.

Vision

Let’s start with the easy and generic. Red is a color of vision. I don’t mean thoughtful vision of our future, but simply vision of our eyes. Red stands out. That does not necessarily mean that red should be the main color of your website or your logo. maybe it should, maybe it shouldn’t. It does mean that even if it is not the main color, it might make a very good accent color amid the blues and yellows and blacks.

However, there are times when you need your logo to stand out and be seen. If no other consideration prevents you from using red, it is a good color to use. Orange is, too. So is yellow. These hot colors are the most easily seen, which is why emergency vehicles are always painted in these colors.

Heat

Red is the color of heat. Yes, so is yellow. So is orange. These are all “fire” colors, and they all are considered hot colors. But none is as hot at red. There is an interesting collection of red logo designs here, and even a quick glance shows you how many of them are aligned with the words “hot” or “heat”.

Red doesn’t signify just temperature, but also spiciness, which is another form of heat. Not surprisingly, a couple of those logo designs featured red hot peppers.

If one of the main attributes of your brand that you want to get across is heat, then red should definitely feature on your pallet. It’s a good color for a number of ethnic food products or restaurants, or for warm, sunny destinations.

Juanitas Hot Shop red logo

Passion

“Hot” has another meaning – romance, passion, sexual attraction. Red is the color of seduction and lipstick. If you run dating services, you should be in red. It is not a coincidence that

If you are trying to arouse sexual passion or even other forms of passion – excitement of any sort, red is the color to do it. Red gets people’s blood pumping and adrenalin flowing. Red is the color of excitement.

If you run an adventure travel company, red is an ideal color. Performance vehicle sales? Red. Anything to do with sports? Go for red.

Please visit our sponsor: DesignCrowd for a truly original design idea.


Power

Red is also a color of power. Of course, power goes hand in hand with passion, as we tend to get energized with our passion. Red is not just the color of sports, but more specifically power sports. Think engines. Think race cars. Think muscle-building supplements. Use red to stir both passion and a craving for power in your customers.

Red Bull Energy Drink logo

If you provide power, perhaps batteries of electrical generator or solar panels, red is your color.

Danger

But be careful, red is also the color of danger – so much depends upon the context. This might be because red is the color of blood, or it might be because your body energizes, builds power and gets “excited” in a sense when you suddenly sense danger. Stop signs. Stop lights. Red stops people. It warns of danger.

There are some sectors where you do not want to get your customers excited. That might seem anathema to most marketers, but the fact is that in a number of sectors, you want to instill a sense of trust and security. You want to calm their anxiety.

For example, red is a very bad color to associate with insurance. Or with funeral services. Or with investment advice.

Or with any safety-related product. Well, maybe that could be a false assumption. Do you want to create a sense of danger, so as to sell a safety solution? Maybe red is a good color for a safety related website or logo. After all, fire engines are red, and they exist as a safety solution to a danger problem.

Anger

Red is also the color of anger. No surprise, anger is perhaps the strongest emotion, the most passionate of all emotions, and one that evokes a sense of power. It is no coincidence that the fist is a symbol of both anger and power. And it is no coincidence that both the fist and the color red have been used in protest posters.

Red for anger is generally not a great color for your business. After all, what business wants angry customers? The one exception to this is protest movements. They like to get people riled up, angry, passionate against whatever they are protesting.

Action!

Red is the color of action. It doesn’t matter what your brand is, eventually you want action. Yes, your insurance business needs to make people feel calm and safe by signing up, but you do need them to take action. You brand is solid – navy blue, perhaps deep green – but your call to action should still be red. “Click here”.

An arrow. A “submit” button. These items on your website should usually be red, no matter what your business.

You might think that green means “go” and red means “stop”, so shouldn’t green be the color for better click-throughs? Not so. A Hubspot test showed red outperforming green by 21 percent.

Red beats green for action

Just how much does color inspire people to take action? A 2015 study on what gets shared most on Pinterest showed that red, pink and purple promote sharing, whereas blue and green suppress sharing.

Red is a critical color in marketing and in branding. For some brands, red is a color to embrace. For others, it is a color to avoid. But for all brands, a red call to action will get, well, the action they need from their customers.

This leaves us with only one unanswered question: Why is Santa Claus red?


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Interview with Mike Ellsworth about social media for B2B

Apr 08, 2015 - filed under social media 1 Comment
 

Today we are interviewing Mike Ellsworth, a partner in Social Media Performance Group and one of the people who really “gets” social media.  He is one of three authors of  The Infinite Pipeline: How to Master Social Media for Business-to-Business Sales Success.  It’s not just about getting shares on social media; it’s about doing business on social media, and by “business”, I don’t mean just selling.  And that’s where we ask Mike…

What motivated you to write the book?

My business partner, Robbie Johnson, has had great success using social selling techniques in his business. Back in 2011, when the first version of the book was written, social selling was not as well known as it is today, and we thought that a book would be a good way to help sales people understand how social media could drastically improve their sales results. As we got into the writing, it occurred to me that just learning how to use social media for business-to-business sales might not be enough to ensure that company sales efforts would be successful. That was when we combined social selling techniques with internal and external social business communities, a concept we’d written about before, in our Be a Person series.

Social Business Communities

What’s the difference between internal and external social business communities?

The Infinite Pipeline concept involves creating communities and adopting organizational changes to enable sales people and sales management to make social selling sustainable. In the Infinite Pipeline, not only do sales people get trained on social selling techniques, but the company creates two communities: an internal, sales-oriented community for everyone who touches the sales effort (like marketing, communications, product management and so on); and an external, problem-solving community to help customers and prospects resolve their issues.

The internal community foster communication about sales opportunities, customer problems, and encourages anyone in the company to contribute leads and information about possible sales influencers.

The external community is just about solving customer problems. A company may want to ensure their sales support and customer service people are heavily involved in this community along with sales people.. The idea is that, if the company becomes known for solving problems, sales will follow. Typical selling behavior is prohibited in the external community.

The book contains a long list of external B2B communities developed with the tremendous help of Vanessa DiMauro of Leader Networks, who is experienced in setting these communities up.

Have you found this to be successful?

Without the organizational commitment that Infinite Pipeline requires, we expect inconsistent application and success with social selling techniques. In fact, we predict that in five years, fewer than 20 percent of sales organizations will have realized the benefits of social selling.

Sales people, as a rule, aren’t early technology adopters. Their skill set is more on the relationship side, and so that’s what we emphasize in the book. We compare and contrast old-style sales techniques like Eat What You Kill and Farming to the Infinite Pipeline and show how our system can work with each.

We’re readying for publication two more Infinite Pipeline books: a sales executive version that goes deeper into how to lead the social selling change, and a deluxe sales executive version that has lots more practical implementation advice.

Why did you go with three authors?

Social Media Performance Group has three principals and all three of us contributed in some way to the book. I am the primary author and worked closely with Robbie, the subject matter expert, and Ken Morris, who helped give a sanity check based on his extensive experience as an HR executive.

Is there a real-world example, a company that has followed your process?

There is no company that has followed our process as of yet. There are plenty who have implemented external communities, and we have a list of them in the book. The list was created by us in collaboration with Vanessa DiMauro of Leader Networks, who is an experience community builder.

There are plenty of companies that have internal communities, many of which are dedicated to sales, and some of them have done social selling training. A good example is Oracle, where our contributing author Jill Rowley let a social selling transformation a couple of years ago. She used Jamie Shanks’ Sales for Life social selling curriculum to train hundreds of Oracle sales people and used Oracle’s internal communities to reinforce, along with Shanks’ standard training followups.

But the innovation proposed in the book—our Infinite Pipeline Relationship Development Process combined with both and internal and external community—has yet to be implemented fully anywhere.

What tasks would the internal, sales-oriented community typically undertake?

One key to the internal community is to leverage the relationships company employees already have. So a sales person might ask a question such as, “I’m looking to engage Hugh Bigend of XYZ Corp. Anybody know him or an influencer?” Employees might also volunteer information about target companies and people they know who work there.

Another use of the internal community is to solve customer support issues. I wrote a blog post on transforming the help desk, that talks about integrating social media into customer support processes. An issue could come in to the external problem-solving community and be taken care of there by customer service people. They could alternately turn to the internal community to elicit the help of other parts of the organization, such as product development, production, or marketing.

The internal community also offers a collaboration space where sales people can ask marketing for materials to curate to their customers and prospects or to jointly work on messaging based on what sales people find in the field. We’re under no illusions that just having a space like this will end the war between sales and marketing, because that’s the biggest transformation that we propose in the book, and one that requires a revamping of compensation for all parties involved in influencing sales.

A fourth use of the internal community is to keep everyone up to date with the latest in their industry, in social media or social selling, and in what people are saying about the company by contributing the results of social listening.

What tasks would the external, problem-solving community typically undertake?

SAP is a great example of using external communities to solve customer problems and also to enable customers to help find solutions. We use SAP as a key case study in the book because they’ve been doing this for 12 years. Here’s the case study from the book:

Infinite Pipeline CoverIn the B2B space, since 2003, SAP has pioneered using external communities to create and prototype new products with their Idea Place and SAP Research Prototypes communities. Their framework integrates their third-party social presence with their community presence.

A key to succeeding with Infinite Pipeline external problem-solving communities is to ensure that your goals for the community support your company’s goals. SAP’s strategic goals include:

  • Build and Harness Communities—of prospects, users, developers and partners
  • Amplify awareness and purchase consideration—to bring SAP into purchase consideration set
  • Enhance demand generation—by enhancing lead gen and nurturing programs
  • Accelerate adoption and end-user nurturing—via richer and proactive engagement of end-users
  • Extend market coverage—by enablement of developer & reseller partner community

As you can see, this is a mature strategy. SAP has laid out the following goals that support this strategy:

  • Awareness—evangelize SCN
  • Immediacy—real time
  • Reach—broaden audience
  • Engagement—connections
  • Reputation—social media leader
  • Conversion—to contributor, customer

SAP has successfully involved thousands of members from their customers in rich, problem-solving communities.

You can tell these guys have been working on this stuff for more than 10 years by the complexity of their vision. The communities have paid off, yielding:

• 2.4 million members from 200 countries in 2011

• 2,500+ Top Contributors in 2011

• 2 million topic threads and 7 million messages in 2011

• 100 SAP Mentors

• 7,180 ideas contributed, with 183 turning into actions
SAP gets results from their community, including 750+ SAP solutions sold and also lots of little victories for their customers:

• “Siemens resolves NetWeaver-related technical problems using SDN 50% faster than through other channels.” Richard Hirsch, Senior Portal/SAP NetWeaver® Consultant, Siemens

• “SAP EcoHub is an easy to use single source that will streamline the process for identifying trusted, relevant solutions that meet our business needs and work within our existing SAP installations.” Matt Stultz, Vice President, Global Information Technology, NewellRubbermaid

• “SCN offers SAP partners like us the opportunity to get connected with 2 million members of the SAP ecosystem, who live and breathe SAP, to exchange know how and to demonstrate our thought leadership. It’s a great way to connect directly with SAP customers, partners and SAP employees.” Ross Moris, Director of Alliance Sales, Sabrix

The idea of the external community is simple: Solve customer and prospects problems and they’ll naturally gravitate to your products. Don’t be salesy or you’ll scare them away.

Another great example of an external community is SPS Commerce’s Retail Universe. SPS does EDI and other electronic communications infrastructure that help companies communicate with their supply chain. They got the brilliant idea to set up a community where partners could find one another. So a big retailer could find someone to drop ship a special order from China, for example.

The only requirement to join this community is to sign up and be vetted by SPS. You don’t need to be a client or use their network. But naturally, it leads to sales for SPS because small suppliers or retailers who don’t have an EDI solution are naturally going to consider SPS. They do no selling on this community. It just solves problems.

This is only for B2B sales…what if a B2C company picked it up? Would they find it useful? Are there parts they could benefit from?

Most B2C companies have a B2B component. They generally have trading partners or suppliers or other type of purchasing that is B2B. So that’s a natural fit.

Beyond that, many of the concepts of the Infinite Pipeline can be adapted to work with consumers. A company may want to create an external community for their consumer customers. In the book, we recommend caution for any company wanting their own community. Just because you create it, doesn’t mean people will use it. You need to determine that your customers need a place online to communicate with each other and with you. In many cases, B2C companies will opt for public social media communities like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.

TEASER ALERT!

However, we have a case study in the upcoming executive edition of the book about GM that illustrates the change in mindset needed to have an effective external community.

If you haphazardly approach this task, you can spin your wheels without gain. No one will hear your message. And you might conclude, as some companies have, that social media doesn’t work.

That’s what General Motors concluded in May 2012 when they pulled their $10M a year ad budget from Facebook, initially indicating that their ads weren’t giving them the return they expected. But check GM’s Facebook posts even today. They’re mostly self-congratulatory, “Look at our new Chevy” types of posts. How likely are fans to engage with this old-style advertising approach?

They’re treating Facebook as just another channel for their advertising and marketing messages.

Don’t make the same mistake with your external Infinite Pipeline community. You’ll want to keep the salesy promotion to a minimum and tie your implementation ideas directly to your external social media goals.

GM is a great example of a company that we would call B2C, since the people who buy their cars are consumers. But in reality, GM sells to dealerships, which are businesses, and thus they’re really a B2B company.

It’s the same with food companies like General Mills. They sell to wholesalers, not you and me. Both companies, though, drive consumption via B2C media. We talk more about marketing with social media in our Be a Person book series.

Mike Ellsworth

Who should be reading The Infinite Pipeline?

This version of the book is targeted at sales people. We hope these sales people will pass the book along to their management, or recommend that their managers get the executive version, our next book, which is all about leading the social selling change.

Ultimately, the transformation of the sales force to using social selling techniques is inevitable. The value proposition is just too compelling. Here are some stats from the book:

i. In 2012, Aberdeen Research measured the effectiveness of social selling and found a 15 percent increase in team attainment of quota.

ii. LinkedIn reported a result from an IDC study that showed social media use actually increases with the seniority of the buyer— 84 percent of decision makers at the VP level or higher use social media when making a purchasing decision.

iii. LinkedIn research shows that 86 percent of buyers would engage with sales professionals if they provided insights or knowledge about the industry.

1. PayPal

a. Achieved almost 3000 percent ROI

b. Reduced sales cycles by 25 percent

c. Multiple threading allows access to several key contacts within a company

2. WeightWatchers

a. Achieved 100 percent ROI in one month

b. Tripled database of leads in the first six months

c. Response rate increased to 20 percent with improved conversion rate

3. Epicor

a. Achieved greater access to companies in their target market, 500-1000 employees

b. Enhanced credibility

c. Dramatic growth in networking

As we know, change is hard. And salesforces are an even harder sell for new methodologies. That’s why we predict it will take many years for the majority of salesforces to transform into social selling organizations. Infinite Pipeline lays out the roadmap for this change, but it will take commitment and investment for a company to complete the transformation.

So is this book of interest only to large companies?

We feel that the concepts in the book are useful for any size company. Smaller companies may not be able to execute all the strategies in the book—such as creating the communities. But any company with sales people can benefit from using the Infinite Pipeline Relationship Development process.

And that ends our interview

Social selling is a topic I expect we’ll all be hearing more of, probably too much of, in the years to come. Companies who do it right will not be “selling”, as much as networking, as suggested in The Infinite Pipeline. How many companies will follow this advice? Let’s not ask GM.


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SEO Fundamentals – Some things never change

Feb 02, 2015 - filed under SEO 10 Comments
 

The more things change, the more they remain the same. That is in large part true with SEO. Here are some fundamentals to grasp for long-term SEO success.

OK, everybody panic. Google just changed its algorithm again.

Just kidding.

But it is believable, because Google is constantly changing its algorithm, and websites wax and wane in the wake of the changes. Panic is often what you hear in chat rooms and mastermind groups and forums – wherever website owners and bloggers congregate.

SEO fundamentals remain the same

In such an atmosphere of anxiety and ambiguity, one might be tempted to assume that SEO (search engine optimization) techniques change vastly each year, perhaps even on a weekly basis. Well, they don’t. The fact is that there are some trends over time, but if you were doing good SEO in 2010, or even in 2005, very little is different in 2015. So much is still the same. Not much of what I wrote in my SEO FAQ back in 2010 would I change today.

Let us pause for a moment to reflect on this to the melody of Bob Seger.

 

Some things have changed, no doubt about it. But much remains the same, and that is the subject of this blog post.

Get into your target market’s head

The very first step when you set up a website and want to capture the leads that search engines might send you is to get inside your target market’s head. You want to figure out how they think at the moment when they are about to search. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What words do they use? Would they tend to use “home” more, or “house”. Never mind what keyword research says nationally or even regionally, you should know your audience well enough to know what word they use most. If not, the best keyword research you can do is to get out of the office and meet some customers.
  • Are they more likely to search with plurals or singular? Again, you should know your customers. If you don’t, you can always test this using an A/B split test with Adwords.
  • What qualifiers might they use? Would they be more likely to search for “buy house” or for “house for sale”?

Don’t rely on keyword research for this. What the public does when searching matters less than why the rubber chicken crossed the road; the words your target market searches with is what really counts. This was true in 2005 and it was also true when I took the Tardis back to 2025.

What really matters in SEO

Do keyword research

OK, so I lied. What the public does matters. For instance, if you find that 80 percent of searchers in your city use the word “home” rather than the word “house”, there’s a pretty good chance that your target market does, too.

When you do keyword research, just be careful about the sample size. The more local the search and the more long-tail the keyword, the less reliable the data. As a rule of thumb, if you don’t have at least 100 results pointing the same way, it’s pretty sketchy data. Even if you have more, take it with a grain of salt.

Keyword research is good to give you a general idea of what to optimize for. It might not tell you for certain which is more popular, “homes” or “houses” if one gets searched only 15 percent more than the other, but it might tell you whether people are searching for “condos” or “property” at all.

Once again, keyword research has always been an important task to take with a grain of salt. That has not changed.  There are a couple good explanations of keyword research here and here.

Use the keywords

Now that you have your keywords – the terms you want to optimize for – you need to use them on your page. You need to include them in your title tag and your meta description tag and your H tags and in the body of your text, bolded if possible.

Nothing has changed.

Don’t overdo it. In 2005 we erroneously called it over-optimization. Now people don’t even talk about it; the keyword stuffing that got people amazing, but ephemeral, results in 2005 are now understood to be toxic.

Position still counts

The title tag is still the most valuable SEO spot on the page. H tags still come in second place and bold text is still a very important spot to include keywords. These are the words that jump out at readers, so these are the words the search engines value most to determine what your page is about.

As Nate Dame put it last year, “The search ranking factors that have stood the test of time are typically those that do, in fact, benefit real users, and we can only expect that those are the factors that will continue to deliver a return over the long haul.”

Over the years, the search engines have grown smarter, incorporating more signals today than in 2005 to determine the topic of the page, but the basics have not changed.

Above all, make sure there is some text on your page. Yes, some sites get by without any text, just images, but that is a huge ranking disadvantage. Text with keywords deftly weaved into the wording makes a big difference, just as it always has.

Write for visitors first

I remember back in 2005, and even to some degree in 2010, how many people in the SEO community failed to understand this very simple concept. If you stuff keywords all over the place and you do manage for a while to trick the search engines, you will win that pot of gold.

Yes, you will win the pot.

But somebody else will walk away with the gold that should have been in it. Stupid SEO wins the pot of gold; smart SEO wins the gold in the pot.  Which do you prefer?

SEO gold or just the pot?

What is the point of ranking at Number One if your stilted language turns off all those visitors that the search engines send your way? It’s fine if you want to collect a bunch of empty pots. Hey, who am I to question your goals? But if you want to win yourself some gold, you have to write for your visitors. That is something that has not changed. It was as true in 2005 as it is in 2015.

And you still want to make sure your keywords are there for psychological continuity. The visitor searched Google for “buzzing dog collar”, Google sent them to your website, so they subconsciously expect to see “buzzing dog collar” prominently displayed on the page. That’s how they intrinsically know they are in the right place, and are therefore more predisposed to buy from the moment they arrive. That basic psychology has not changed over the years.

Variety is the spice of SEO

If your page about “suitcases” never uses the singular “suitcase”, that is a dead give-away that you are purposefully trying to game the search engines. How could someone possibly have a page of text about suitcases that never mentions “suitcase” or “travel” or “baggage” or “bag” or “luggage”.

The importance of natural writing cannot be stressed enough. Write for the reader, and make sure you have variety, or else you will bore the reader – and Google doesn’t like to send people to boring web pages. Google wants to send people to useful pages. If there are 100 pages about “suitcases”, and and some mention “luggage” and “travel” while others don’t mention either of those words, which ones will Google think are most relevant to a search for “suitcases”?

Historically, most webmasters have not thought this way. It’s OK, I’ll wait while you think it through.

The search engines have become much more adept at playing the word association game, so that has changed to a great degree. And it is true that in the early days, variety was not needed to rank well. But by 2010, the Web was all abuzz about semantic search, as synonyms and plurals and variations had already become a significant aspect of good SEO.

Get top quality links

I must concede that in 2005 one could rank their website quite well by article blasting to hundreds of article directories and by massive link exchanges, even automated ones in many cases. That has changed; today that would be like feeding yourself untreated sewage for breakfast. But it only worked back then because so many competitors were also building crappy inbound links. Remember that SEO is a competitive sport.

If your website was getting regular links back then from USA Today and Harvard, you can be sure that competing websites getting links only from “links.html” pages and article directories were not ranking above you. Quantity might have counted for a lot back then, but quality did, too. Quality links count more now than ever.

Still the same

I still have Bob Seger’s tune playing in my head as I close off this article. Much has changed over the years, but most of the fundamentals are still the same.

By the way, one other thing that hasn’t changed since last century is the panic, as slide 34 in this deck will attest to.

There are surely many other things that have not changed since 2005, or have changed only to a small degree. However, these seven SEO basics remain the same. Ground yourself in these fundamentals, and I’ll see you still at the top of the SERPs when I land my Tardis in 2025.


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The Newbie’s Quick-start Guide to Success on Tsu (or any other social network)

Nov 10, 2014 - filed under social media 8 Comments
 

So you sign up for Tsu (or any other social network) and you don’t know what to do next.  Maybe you don’t know anybody.  Maybe you don’t know how to find great content.  What do you do?  Here is my 5-step process to not only find your way, but zip waaaaay ahead to the front of the pack before you know it.

Create a follow-worthy profile

Whatever your reason for being in a social network, the key to success is to have a big network.  But nobody will want to friend you or follow you if you look like a spammer or your account looks inactive.  It stands to reason that you should have as complete a profile as possible, but there are three crucial elements that make the biggest difference:

  1. Your profile picture or avatar.  This is critical.  Without a profile picture, you are a ghost, a void, a non-entity.  Get that up first.
  2. A header picture.  Not everyone puts up a custom header image.  If you do, you are telling the world that you are for real, that you are here to stay, and most likely a top quality user.  You are immediately much more followable.
  3. Start posting good content to your wall. Never mind if nobody sees your first few posts.  You will need to have multiple items on your wall before there is any point to attracting people to check you out.

Invite old friends

This is important on any social network, because friends are a great seed for your eventual larger network.  On Tsu, inviting friends is even more crucial because they form your family, and you will earn money for their activity as well as for your own.  If you don’t care about the money for financial or entertainment reasons, then this step is no more important on Tsu than anywhere else (but it is still important).

Join Tsu

Ask for help from the person who invited you

The person who invited you already knows people on the social network, so they can make introductions.  They will probably be happy to do so, just to be neighborly.  On Tsu, they have added incentive; if one of their “children” (somebody they invited, such as yourself) is successful, they share in the monetary benefits.

I am happy to help my children – those who sign up through my invitation.  One thing I have been doing is to feature profiles of some of my more active children.  This gives my other followers a chance to get to know them and hopefully they will gain a few new followers and friends as a result.

Here are a couple examples of profiles I have featured:

TSU profile

By the way, I am not doing these just for my children.  I am also doing profiles of other high quality users in my wider network – people I am proud to recommend to others for following or befriending.  This is social media, and part of being social is supporting others. Which leads us nicely to the next section.

Make new friends

There are good ways and bad ways of making new friends.  A whole bunch of people have already had their accounts banned for doing it the bad way.  They were dropping comments on people’s posts that were nothing more than hashtags like #follow4follow  or #followback or otherwise begging for follows.  Seriously, if you show yourself to be a spammer, is that really what will motive people to follow you?

There are some very specific tactics you can use to earn followers and friends:

  • You can comment on people’s posts.  “Cool.” or “Nice post” won’t probably get you much attention.  But a thoughtful response of substance usually will.  People will check you out, and if they like what they see (remember how important your profile is?) they will follow or friend you.
  • You can share or reshare their posts to your own wall.  People love it when you do that.
  • You can send a friend request the official, non-spammy way by pushing the button that says “Add Friend” on Tsu.  On other social networks there are official ways to add people, too.

Draw the crowds

Once you have “completed” all the steps above, you are ready to draw the crowds.  I put “completed” in quotation marks, because you never really complete those steps.  You want to keep inviting old friends and making new friends.  But once you have some friends, you have some visibility, and you can get likes, shares and comments to your posts.

The better your posts, the more shares you will get.  The more shares you get, the more new people will see your content.  The more new people see your content, the bigger your network will grow.  It’s a wonderful circle, as long as you keep coming up with amazing content.  From my experience, there are three types of content that people want to share:

  • Cute or funny viral stuff.  People love to share jokes and memes and funny GIFs, as well as pictures of cats, dogs and babies.
  • Motivational stuff.  People seem to really like to share motivational images with a message about being strong, chasing your dream, staying positive and such.
  • Authoritative stuff.  If an issue is hot, and everybody else is posting short messages about it, the person who really goes into detail and gets to the crux of the matter gets shared.  If you can establish yourself as an authority in an area, your stuff on that topic will get shared.

By the time you reach the fifth step, you are no longer a newbie.  You have a following to interact with and a base on which to grow.  It’s building that initial base that’s often the toughest for most people.

The Newbie's Quick-start Guide to Success on Tsu


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How a TSUnami might drown FaceBook

Oct 28, 2014 - filed under FaceBook, social media 10 Comments
 

FaceBook is under attack. Can its hegemony stand against up-and-comers like Tsu and Ello?

Of course, the answer is…maybe. FaceBook might seem like a Rock of Giberaltar, solid and unmovable. But so was the Soviet Union (for you younger readers, that’s what they called Russia and a number of its vassal states before the fall of the Berlin Wall ended the Cold War).

Tsuccess - success on Tsu social network

There was a time before Google, too, when Lycos and Alta Vista and Excite and Looksmart ruled the Web.

And FaceBook itself displaced MySpace in the social networking space, which in turn displaced Friendster. The question is not if FaceBook will be replaced, but rather when and by whom?

2014 has seen the launch of two contenders with a better chance than most so far.

Ello is the media darling, which launched in beta mode early this year with its promise never to sell user data or to post ads. It has positioned itself as the anti-FaceBook and has attracted some good capital funding to stake its claim. But it is still in beta and you still need an invitation, so I will report on Ello some other time.

Tsu is less than a month old, and distinguishes itself from FaceBook by sharing its revenue with users. Like Ello, it appeals to people’s sense of fair play: you put content on a social network, you should share in the profits.

Each of these social networks has a captivating Unique Value Proposition. The question is whether either of them will displace FaceBook, or at least make a stand side-by-side with FaceBook.

I use FaceBook and there is nothing specific that bothers me about the site, at least not enough for me to quit. Nothing specific. But there is something just a little shifty about the changing terms of service, the blocking posts from users that we want to see, the privacy concerns… It’s like that guy you meet who always seems to have something to hide.

So I have signed up for Tsu and I am committed to being active there; I am closing in on 500 friends in under a week. I do not expect to get rich from Tsu, but I do spend time on social media. If that time can be converted into a couple extra pizzas each month, that’s a nice little bonus, right?

Tsu has the basic layout and functionality of FaceBook, but feels more fun – the community is somehow more like Google Plus (and that is a good thing). Tsu has hit the ground running, going public before all the features are live, the opposite strategy from Ello. To be viable, at very least Tsu will need some form of groups or communities, so we can assume that will be coming shortly. To compete with Google Plus, Tsu will probably need something like circles and hangouts, or something else uniquely its own.

How you can be be successful on Tsu

  1. Share awesome content – things that are useful, entertaining or newsworthy.
  2. Build a large network of friends, so that your content gets seen and shared.
  3. Be sociable – comment and like other people’s posts, and share them when you really like them.
  4. Forget about the money. Seriously, you need to be social because you have reasons to interact for fun or to build a community for your business.
  5. Be an early adapter. This is key to the whole making money part. Invite people. This is the ONLY thing you should do for the money. A year from now, thousands of people will be banging their heads on the wall for not getting in right away and inviting their friends.

Tsu early adapter

The more people you invite, the more “children” you will have and the bigger your “network” will be. Tsu will share with you its revenue based on your activity and the activity of your children and grand children, so it is important to invite A) lots of friends and B) active friends.

I can’t stress enough the “active” portion of all this. You are not paid for the number of people you recruit; you are paid for the activity you and they generate. Being an early adapter means that you have a better chance of inviting active people who have not yet joined.

This brings us full circle to “forget about the money”. Invite people and encourage them to be active. Then, just go ahead and do what you would be doing on FaceBook or Google Plus anyway. Did you notice that those first three points are the same as for any other social network? Yes, Tsu is much like any other social network in that respect, just that you get a share of the revenue that your activity generates.

If you try too hard, you’ll become a spammer. And as I pointed out in the Social Media Sun, nobody wants to share their revenue with a spammer. Spammers will not get far on Tsu.

Already Tsu has taken measures to prevent spamming and encourage quality sharing. Anyone posting or sharing “Share this to earn more money” posts will have their accounts terminated. And there are daily and weekly limits for posting and friend requests, to keep spammers from running amok.

I hope Tsu stays vigilant on the matter of spamming, even if it makes things occasionally inconvenient. That is what makes it a great place to be – good quality content with a really fun atmosphere.

HOMEWORK: Join Tsu today, then invite three social media friends to join, too. You will sooooooo thank me for it later.


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Google Authorship – the 3 reasons why it failed

Sep 30, 2014 - filed under Google 7 Comments
 

Google intended Authorship photos in search results to convey trust. The average Joe didn’t buy it. Here’s why.

There are so many theories floating around the Internet about why Google Authorship was canned, but let’s begin this article by quoting right from the official announcement:

“Unfortunately, we’ve also observed that this information isn’t as useful to our users as we’d hoped, and can even distract from those results. With this in mind, we’ve made the difficult decision to stop showing authorship in search results.”

In other words:

A) people were not clicking more on search entries with little author pictures attached, and;
B) in some cases people were clicking away from search entries with little author pictures attached

And this was predictable from the start. Hindsight is 20/20 vision, so let’s put on our hindsight goggles and review the three reasons.

  1. Trust and authority differ for different types of searches.
  2. People trust institutions more than strangers.
  3. People select between news and opinion.

The 3 reasons Google Authorship failed

Trust and authority differ for different types of searches

To really discover how the faces in the search results affected the average Joe (not us webmasters and online marketers), we have to reverse engineer it back to the actual searches and their intent. There are various reasons people search

  • They search for something to buy
  • They search for entertainment
  • They search for information

Let’s look at each of these three searchers one at a time.

THE BUYER is looking for a product.  In most cases, the only “authority” on that product is a known brand name.  A face next to a search result means nothing to a buyer.  If he pays any attention to it at all, it is to skip over somebody’s opinion of the product or somebody’s report on how they used the product to play a prank or make Thanksgiving dinner.  Google Authorship kindly flagged your blog post as unhelpful, so that people could skip over it. The buyer is looking to buy.

Unless, of course, the buyer is looking to first research the product, which is the case sometimes when:

  • The product is fairly unknown
  • The product is fairly expensive
  • The buyer is picky or indecisive

The fact is that most people won’t even research a real estate agent before trusting her with their most valuable possession.  Most shopping searches are not looking for reviews.  But some are.  Are they looking for one guy’s opinion, or are they looking for several people’s opinion in one place?  Yes, the big LAZY in all of us searches for a forum thread or a review site like TripAdvisor or ePinions where we can quickly see what several people have to say.  All those search entries with a single face next to them look like a whole lot of extra work for nothing. Google Authorship kindly flagged your blog for people to skip over and save time.

But wait!  What if you saw a trusted face that you recognized?  Someone you knew to be an expert on that product?

Exactly.  How many trusted experts on birdhouses or cookware or hose extensions or bedding or winter boots do you know?  I suppose if you saw Oprah’s face or Martha Stewart’s face or Consumer Reports face…  But two of those are true celebrities, and the other is an institution.  People don’t know your face, so your opinion means nothing to them.  The average blogger’s face in Google search results means nothing to 99.9 percent of searchers.

STOP THE PRESSES!

Who qualifies as a trusted source that most people would click on?  At very least it needs to be someone they know.  Here is a good first triage step: if their name is not in Wikipedia, most people don’t know them.

But even if their name is in Wikiepdia, that does not mean the average person knows them. How many country music stars are listed in Wikipedia? Now how many of them would you recognize if you saw their face in passing among the search results?  (If you are a big country music fan, feel free to replace the words “country music” above with “gastric bypass” or “LEED certification” or “contract negotiations”.)

You see?  There are very few people who are so famous that they are universally known outside of their field, and even fewer whom people might consider to be an authority on a given subject.

RESUME THE PRESSES!

Nobody cares what some blogger or journalist has to say, except those few people who actually know that blogger or journalist. Google Authorship kindly flagged those blog posts for people so they could skip over them.

THE RELAXER  is looking for a video, for humor,  for something to entertain her and help fill some down-time.  She does not want to think.  She does not want to read about entertainment.  She wants to be entertained.  If the faces next to a post are not Lady Gaga or Jimmy Fallon or Scarlett Johansson, it’s just some irritating blah-blah-blah clogging up the search results.  Nothing irritates someone in the mood for a party more than somebody who wants to just talk about partying. Google probably had to dump Authorship just to avoid being called a party-pooper.

THE RESEARCHER is looking for information.  There is some overlap with the other two categories here.

She might be researching to buy something, in which case (as I have already mentioned), she wants good, solid information from the company itself, from a trusted source like Consumer Reports, or from a review site where there are multiple user reviews at once. She couldn’t less what some unknown blogger has to say, and Google Authorship kindly flagged your blog so she would not waste any time clicking on it.

The researcher might be looking for information about entertainment.  Perhaps he loves watching Jimmy Fallon, but right now he wants to know the latest gossip on him.  If that gossip is coming from another well-known entertainer or from Perez Hilton, the face might stop quite a few searchers, and they might click through.

But if they don’t know you (Remember the Wikipedia test?), your face in Google’s search results just flags for them that this is something they can feel free to ignore, since they don’t know you and therefore don’t give a hoot what you have to say.

Many people doing research are not seeking information about entertainment or about products.  Many people just want information, and they want the most accurate and quickest information they can get.  Typical searches for information, and this list is far from complete,  might be:

  • for a recipe
  • about symptoms they are having
  • about nutrition
  • for fitness tips
  • how to build, repair or maintain something
  • for translation or definitions
  • for the latest in a current event (such as a war or a natural disaster or proposed legislation)
  • to fix a computer or software issue

If I am looking for a specific recipe or a recipe that combines certain ingredients or what spices go well with something, I want a recipe site, where there are multiple options all in one place.  I do NOT want to go through a dozen blogs about different people’s personal experience with the ingredients.  Google Authorship kindly flagged those pages, saving me the time I would have wasted clicking on them.

I will skip the one-by-one review of searches about medical information and how to build or repair things and updates about current events, etc.  I assure you that it will get repetitive.  People want solid information that they can trust, and to understand how Google Authorship repels researchers, let’s get straight to the second reason that Authorship failed…

Does a stranger's face convey trust?

People trust institutions more than strangers

You can say that you distrust institutions.  Most people do.

They say don’t trust government.  Yet, they are more likely to believe government information than information from an unknown source.

They say they don’t trust the media, that you can’t trust something just because you read it in the newspaper or see it on TV.  But if they do read it in the newspaper or see it on TV, most people will just automatically assume it’s true.  In fact, there is a whole “As Seen On TV” retail sector based on this simple premise.

They say they don’t trust big business, but ROI on advertising proves them wrong.

On the one hand, people distrust big institutions because they suspect there might be a hidden agenda.  And there often is. On the other hand, they assume that anything big institutions say is based on testing and experiments and scientific proof. And it often is.  At the same time, they assume what some random person says is not based on science or fact, but just some fool mouthing off.

Here would be an interesting experiment (Google, are you listening?):

Imagine a split test in the search results, for a few articles from USA Today or The New York Times. Half of searchers are served up results that include the journalists’ faces.  The other half are served up results with the New York Times or USA Today  logo next to them.  Everything else is random; the actual search queries, time of day, geography, etc.

I wonder how many more people would click on the logo article than would click on the face article.  Remember – it’s the same article, only the visual image would change.

Back to Google Authorship and how people reacted to it, let’s look at an example from the list of information searches in the section above. For medical information, whom would I trust?  I’ll bet you some people would recognize Doctor Weil. Or Doctor  Oz.  Or Doctor Phil.  And many of those people would therefore trust them. I’ll bet you that more people would recognize each of their names than their faces (so the picture probably doesn’t really help increase clicks to their own named websites).   And I’ll bet that many people would not clue in even on their names, much less their faces, so the picture might even detract from them.

As for anybody else, like some health blogger or health reporter for a daily newspaper, would you trust the unknown face over:

  • The Mayo Clinic?
  • A government department with the word “health” in it?
  • A university site with the word “health” in it?
  • A site with the word “doctor” in it?
  • A site with the word “clinic” in it?

Most people will look for some sign of authority, and an unknown face just doesn’t count as a medical authority.

People select between news and opinion

The same goes for other searches, such as updates on current events.  It might be very handy to pull up the results of that New York Times research project I suggested in the previous section. Although I am quite sure I know which of the two identical entries would get more clicks, the important question is who would click more on the entry accompanied by the New York Times logo, and who would click more on the entry accompanied by the journalist’s face?  And, lucky for you, I look into my crystal ball and I know the answer.

Drum roll please….

  • People searching for the latest news – the hard facts – of what happened, will click more on the entry accompanied by the media outlet’s logo.
  • People curious about what the latest developments mean, what the implications might be, what political slants there might be – opinion and analysis -  will click more on the entry accompanied by the journalist’s face.

How do I know this?  Because we have decades of training on how to read newspapers.  The Internet might be a new medium, but we take online our assumptions passed down in the offline world. We have always looked to newspapers to deliver us the news, and we will read the headlines and some of the articles to get the information we want.

There are never any faces attached to those articles.

But there are faces attached to regular columns on politics, international affairs and other topics.  We expect a less”journalistic” style when we read these.  We expect to be challenged to think about the news, not to just read it and accept it.

Flash forward to 2014 (before Google canned authorship, of course) and people searching for news would be predisposed to click on an entry that appeared to be from a trusted news source, such as CNN or BBC or The Globe and Mail. People searching to dig deeper – those prepared to invest some effort thinking about what it all means – will be predisposed to click on an entry with a face.

Big caveat: there are many other factors that will lead people to click through to a given result, including the title and the domain/URL of the article.  But in aggregate, Google authorship would have helped people choose between news and opinion.  Whether it would have done so accurately, I cannot tell.

And whether more people would have chosen to click on news, without the faces, I cannot tell (although I suspect that more people would search for news from a trusted media outlet than opinions of people they don’t know, even if they are interested in opinions).

If my suspicions are correct, Google would have incorrectly seen this as a failure of Authorship.  They likely assumed that faces are not helpful if fewer people click on articles with faces, rather than seeing this as a means of triage helping both news-seekers and opinion-seekers better find what they want.

The Future of Authorship

The real future of Authorship, should there in fact be one, lies in Google better understanding how people view authority for different types of sources.  You and I do NOT have authority beyond out limited niches and networks.  But some people do.  And many institutions do.

I did say a short time ago on a UK marketing blog (My Online Marketer) that:

“Unless Google creates a new “Opinion” search (like the News, Videos and other searches), I suspect that authorship is dead. “

I might not have been completely accurate at the time. If Google can harness this understanding of what “authority” means for various searches and flag individual author expertise and institutional expertise accordingly, it might still be able to help people find the most trusted authorities for a given search.

Or here’s a novel idea: Google could do what it is already doing: trying to float the most trustworthy authoritative pages to the top of its results, where people tend to click through the most anyway.  The face, or the logo, would not give the entry authority – it’s ranking would (and does).

 


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How will Google’s new HTTPS and SSL rules affect WordPress websites

Sep 08, 2014 - filed under SEO 13 Comments
 

Google shook the webmaster world with its HTTPS announcement. Guest blogger John Feeney tells us what WordPress site owners should do to take advantage of Google’s announcement.

Google is constantly changing its algorithm to reflect what it believes to be the best ranking signals for websites in the search results. The search engine understands how important search traffic is to marketers, and in turn Google wants those marketers to use the best techniques available to promote their content.

So when Google told the search engine marketing world that the presence of HTTPS and SSL would now be used for ranking sites, this obviously rankled a few feathers and motivated some website owners to get off their butts to get it done. After all, Google asked nicely.

Google loves secure sites.

What Is HTTPS and SSL?

Before we get into how these new ranking factors affect search results, let’s take a moment to explain the terms.

HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure. This strengthens a website’s privacy and adds an extra layer of security to the Web.

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. This encrypts the link between a website server and a client. An SSL certificate secures the site, so your website shows as an https site.

HTTPS: The Good!

Let start off with the best part of this idea. By using HTTPS and SSL, your website is technically safer for users. That’s another good thing to tell people when they come to your site. “Hey! Glad you got here from Google. Due to our new HTTPS protocol, you will not be hacked. Even better, with our SSL certificate you can safely purchase products from our site.” Yeah!

HTTPS: The Bad!

Switching over can cost money. While the prices are not exorbitant, they do add up. GoDaddy pricing on SSL certificates start at $69. HostGator’s SSL certificates start at $39.95. Shop around to make sure you have the best certificate for your website’s needs. Remember if you have more than one site, you will spend more on the certificate.

Furthermore, the site’s speed does decrease slightly. Also some parts of the site can become more difficult to access.

HTTPS: The Ugly

Google immediately implemented this new change. However, they do not have a way to change the address of the website from HTTP to HTTPS. Right now, they are telling webmasters to use 301 redirects. However, why implement something without giving a way for web developers to quickly move their site over to the new standard?

In fact, many sites have seen a slew of SSL errors since Google made the changes to the algorithm.

How To Switch From HTTP To HTTPS

Are you ready to make the switch to a secure website? Then you’ll need to know how, and this part of the article helps you do that if you have a WordPress website. While the process is not as hard as it seems, sometimes snags do come up along the way. If you need some professional help with moving your site, contact a digital marketing agency like us (Shout Web Strategy).

Below we discuss three different ways to change a WordPress website’s security. While some of these strategies might work for other websites, keep in mind that the syntax and the process might vary from this.

First, you will need to get an SSL certificate. Most major hosts have SSL certificates available. While you might not want the cheapest one out there, you can get a good certificate for $20-$50.

Second, you have three options to change the links on your site to the new, secured website.

  1. Change your WordPress settings link
  2. Create an .htaccess redirect
  3. Use WordPress Plugins

WordPress Settings Link

The easiest way to change the links on your website is to go through WordPress General Settings. Go to your settings in the admin area. Then open up the General settings. You will see the default URL for your site. Change both the WordPress address and the Site Address by adding an “S” at the end of http. Reginald Chan has a simple explanation of how to do this on his Smart Internet Lifestyle blog.

.httaccess redirect

If you have the slightest amount of coding chops, you can copy and paste the redirect code for your new https access to your server. Below is the code from StackOverflow.Com. Remember that you need access to your .htaccess files, either through your cPanel or via FTP access (Filezilla, for example).

#redirect all https traffic to http, unless it is pointed at /checkout

RewriteCond %{HTTPS} on

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} !^/checkout/?.*$

RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://mydomain.com/$1 [R=301,L]

WordPress Plugins

A few WordPress plugins do exist to help you. Specifically, WordPress HTTPS and Yoast SEO both can help you move your site from HTTP to HTTPS. Note: Yoast, while a stable plugin, is not reliable for moving over your site. Double check that it went through.

The ultimate outcome of the new security standards

The reality is that Google is making it tougher for websites to be listed on the first page of their website. Using an updated security profile is just one in a string of changes to ensure the highest quality sites get access to Google’s golden goose of traffic.

The HTTPS and SSL addition just make it easier for them to separate the winning from the losing websites in an ever changing battle of quality and rankings.

Furthermore, websites who use this standard have a higher rate of confidence from their readers – readers who care and search for secure payment. In that sense, Google only sped up the transition.

Guest blogger John Feeney is an employee of Shout Web Strategy. They believe that SEO is essential to every businesses success. Priding themselves on being Australia’s leading digital marketing agency, they can help grow your business by delivering more targeted traffic to your website. For more information visit www.shoutagency.com.au.

 


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Could your Twitter buddy be a bot?

Aug 08, 2014 - filed under social media 2 Comments
 

Bots are making their presence felt on social media. But can you tell a bot from a real person?

Anyone who’s been playing the social media game for a while should know that not all of their followers bleed when they are cut. In fact, many followers don’t even exist – they are just bits and bytes.

Bots.

“Bot” is short for robot, in much the same way “shroom” is short for mushroom. A bot on a social network is no more than a virtual presence created by a set of automated instructions.

The bots are following you.

And, more than likely, you are following some of them, too.

Does any of this matter to you? Some people really don’t care. The more the merrier, whether human or otherwise. Others care a great deal, sometimes being quite consumed over whether a follower is a real person or not.

I am in between. I don’t really care who follows me, but I am a little pickier about whom I follow.

So it was with interest that I read an MIT story about the bot named lajello, who (Can I say “who”, or should I say “that”?) became the second most popular “person” on the Italian social network aNobii. A quick glance at the “Italian” social network, which is all in English, makes me wonder if the whole community is made up of bots, but that is not the point of our investigation today.

Today’s investigation is how to tell if you are following a bot, or more to the point, how to recognize a bot or fake account on a social network like Twitter before accidentally following it.

Could your Twitter buddy be a bot?
Check out their smile

The most obvious way to quickly do triage between bots and real people is to check out their smile.  If they are smiling, there is a good chance they are real.  If they are frowning, they are likely real, too, although they might just be real trouble.

But if they are not smiling because they have no head, that’s another matter.  Real people don’t walk around without heads.  If you see a generic icon for an avatar, chances are the account is a fake.

What if you see a company logo for an icon?  Real, although it might not be just one person, but rather a team of company staff – sort of like a virtual group hug for profit.

What if the avatar is something else, such as an animal or a famous character?  Could still be real.  Or it could be fake.  Best to check out other factors, which you should do anyway, because there are fake accounts with real faces (ah, the wonders of modern virtual face surgery!).

Check out their elevator speech

Every account has an elevator speech – a short summary of who they are or what they do.  If that little snippet includes a link to a blog or company website, they are probably real.  If there is something meaningful written, it is probably real.

If the snippet tries to sell you Twitter followers or FaceBook likes, who cares if it’s real?  You don’t want to follow an account selling fake followers, even if the account itself is real.  You could end up being a bot by association.

If the snippet is just a quote or a pithy saying that looks like it took no effort to create, that is another clue that the account might be fake.  If the snippet is left blank, there is an even greater chance that it is fake. The again, some people don’t have much imagination and just leave it blank.

Do a quality assurance check

Check the tweets of the account.  If they are all ads or all promotional or all meaningless or all just don’t feel right in some way or another, don’t follow them.  Many accounts will have some meaningless tweets; most people post some drivel. Many will have sponsored tweets, because they get some money for that.  Many will pitch products and services.  All of that is fine.  But if that is all they do…well, it’s up to you to decide whom you wish to follow.

Check out whom the account is following.  If the “person” is following all real-looking accounts, then it is probably a real person.  But if the account is following a fair number of fake accounts, you might want to stay away from them.  Bots follow bots, and you probably don’t want to tag along at the end of a bot konga line.

Check out who is following them.  This is less accurate, since even a good account can be followed by lots of bots.  But it can give you one more signal as to the quality of the account.

Follow me on Twitter.  I’m not a bot!

Ultimately, there is no way to be 100 percent certain that an account is real, unless you came to the account from someone’s blog post, from their email or from some other place where you know they are real.

And all these guidelines still might erringly identify your next door neighbor, who hasn’t added a pic or a blurb to his profile, as a bot.

Don’t feel bad if you discover that one of your online buddies really is a bot.  As the MIT story says:

It is not hard to see the significance of this work. Social bots are a fact of life on almost every social network and many have become so sophisticated they are hard to distinguish from humans. If the simplest of bots created by Aiello and co can have this kind of impact, it is anybody’s guess how more advanced bots could influence everything from movie reviews and Wikipedia entries to stock prices and presidential elections.

 


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What if email isn’t dead?

Jun 24, 2014 - filed under email 13 Comments
 

Mark Twain is famous for saying “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”  The same could be said for email marketing, and here is why…

It’s a refrain you might have heard a lot of recently (actually, going back at least to 2009): “Email is dead”.  After all, the evidence is all around us:

  • Today’s youth are texting instead of emailing.
  • People message each other on FaceBook
  • Students want to tweet their professors.
  • People “chat” through Skype and iMessage and other chat tools.

Obviously, email is in decline, right?

But wait.  Email marketing is flowing faster than ever.  How can this be?

Email marketing is flowing faster than ever.

Perhaps the “evidence” above is misplaced.  Could we be comparing apples to pineapples?  Texting is a form a chatting – a two-way conversation where several messages go back and forth, often in less than a minute.  FaceBook and Twitter messages are also “real time” messages, that can also be quite rapid-fire.  Similarly, Skype and iMessage are instantaneous.

While messages in some of these formats can be saved for the long term, they are all meant to be instantaneous.  They tend to share the following characteristics:

  • Instantaneous communication.
  • Optimal for short messages.
  • Not ideal where attachments are needed.
  • Not ideal for storing over the long term or for keeping track.

In short, these tools are ideal for conversations, not for correspondence.  Email, however, is ideal for correspondence, not conversations.  Yes, some conversations take place by email, but the lag between one person posting and the other person downloading makes it less than ideal.  However, email can easily be filed and tracked.  It is ideal for long messages and for attachments.

If email has replaced a lot of paper correspondence of days gone by, texting has replaced phone calls, not email.  The headlines should not read “Email is dead”.  They should read “phone calls are dead”.  This could herald in the prospect that we might someday use our phones for every purpose except as phones.

As Brett Moneta reports in Digital Pivot:

“Everything has its purpose and place. If you’re sending a timely social message, you’ll send it as a text. Need to be clear? You’ll probably call. Social messages that don’t need an immediate reply go as social media. And finally, when you need to send an official message, it goes as email. The younger generation isn’t doing heavy business yet. That’s why they prefer texting.”

Social media certainly is not replacing email.  If anything, more social media usage means more email usage.  I know when somebody has commented on one of my G+ posts or wants to message me on FaceBook or DMs me on Twitter because I receive an email telling me so.  If there is a login issue, I need an email address to send a reset-password URL to.

Email as a marketing tool

As marketers, one lingering question might still remain. If people are communicating more by texting and messaging, are they still reachable by email?  Does the younger generation care about correspondence at all?

Numbers don’t lie.  Email marketing continues to grow. A 2013 study by Custora reveals that email marketing is the fastest growing customer acquisition channel, quadrupling from 0.88% of customers acquired in 2009 to 6.84% in 2013.

Email marketing is becoming more sophisticated, more targeted.

As email marketing continues to grow, it also remains an effective way to deliver messages. According to a 2013 GetResponse study, the ROI on email marketing is $28 for each $1 spent.  In the growing mobile marketing segment, 41% of emails are open on mobile devices.  Simon Grabowski, CEO of GetResponse email marketing services, says:

“Email marketing is becoming more sophisticated, more targeted.  We see continued growth as more and more businesses are realizing that a website is not enough to be ‘online’, that they also need some means of communicating with customers.  Email is usually the best way to do that.”

There is some compelling evidence that people still want email, and especially that once they start their own households it will become increasingly important to them. Even in a “paperless” society, documentation is still required.  Nothing demonstrates this better than the delivery of utility statements.  As utilities try to eliminate paper statements and bills, they are giving consumers incentives to receive them by email.

In fact, any elimination of paper almost universally requires a replacement of some form of electronic documentation, and email is still the most assured and effective medium available.

So consumers can still be reached by email, even if other platforms are also being used. And email is still the best way to reach individuals personally.  You can broadcast your latest special on Twitter, but you can send a “Dear Justin” personalized message via email.

To reach business customers, email is even more important that to reach consumers.  Businesses don’t chat; they send documentation.  Email remains their chief electronic means of communication, so for a business audience, email will likely be your most effective means of marketing.

In fact, a 2014 survey found that on average, companies attribute 23% of their total sales to email marketing.  That is up from 18% in 2013. That same survey found that email marketing gives the best bang for the buck, edging out SEO for best ROI, and well ahead of affiliate marketing, offline direct marketing and other channels.

Steve Chou agrees.  He teaches people how to make a living selling goods online, and he teaches them that email marketing is essential.  A few months ago, he revealed his own success with email marketing in an article entitled How I Made Over $300K These Past 2 Years With An Email Autoresponder.  He says:

“Email is definitely not dwindling.  It is an essential tool to any business that wants to succeed online in 2014, and for many years to come.”

Here are a few additional statistics about email marketing from Wolfgang Jaegel that you might want to consider:

Email markiting stats

So next time you hear that email is dead, you can say, “Email is dead.  Long love email!”

 


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