An Essential Guide to Writing Blogs That Win by @JuliaEMcCoy

An Essential Guide to Writing Blogs That Win by @JuliaEMcCoy

I’m going to predict it: 2017 will the be the year when blogging will be more important than ever before.

But here’s the catch.

Thanks to unprecedented levels of content saturation and an influx of new material every day, it’s not enough to just publish a blog and hope for the best.

Not even close.

Instead, you need to be strategic, intentional, and highly targeted in everything you do.

Today, blogging isn’t the informal method of communication it once was, at least not if you want to be good at it. Instead, it’s a skilled type of content that can offer unparalleled success if you know how to do it well. Authority level well.

In this post, I’m going to give you a complete guide for writing blogs that win in 2016.

Blogging, By The Numbers

Today, the internet virtually runs on blogs.

By providing quality information, giving readers material to connect with, and providing a point of interest for readers in various niches and categories, blogs do several jobs at once.

  • According to Impact Branding & Design, websites that blog have an average of 434% more pages indexed by Google. Every blog you write gives Google one more page to index which, in turn, helps your clients find you online more quickly.
  • As it stands today, 45% of marketers report that blogging is the most critical piece of their entire content strategy. B2B marketers who view blogging as important produce 67% more leads than those who choose not to blog, or who blog only minimally.
  • Marketers who make blogging a priority are 13 times as likely as their competitors to produce a positive ROI than their competitors.
  • When a company blogs, it earns an average of 97% more inbound links to its website than its non-blogging competitors.
  • When searching the web, a whopping 70-80% of all users ignore the paid advertisements displayed in Google and opt to interact with organic content, instead.

How To Write Blogs That Win in 2016, 2017 & Beyond: 10 Steps

The statistics above make it clear that blogging is critical, but how do you create good blogs that return a genuinely positive ROI? Here are ten steps:

1. Your Focus Should Be on Solid, Long-Tail Keywords

While keywords aren’t the driving force of blog rankings that they once were, they still play a significant role in providing structure and cohesion for a blog. Before we dig into this, though, keep this in mind: keyword density doesn’t matter as much as it used to. In fact, you barely need 1% density these days, so don’t trouble yourself counting keywords.

Unlike yesteryear, when the purpose of keywords was to fill your content like an overstuffed Thanksgiving turkey, the keywords of today exist to provide the “bones” of your content in a natural and organic way, which helps support semantic search.

How do you find the best long-tail keywords, you ask? Great question.

One of the best tools you can use for modern keyword research is SEMrush. Ideal for determining the monthly search volume, cost-per-click, competition, and difficulty of a given long-tail keyword, SEMrush is the perfect tool for building a keyword strategy to inform and shape your blogs.

Check out these SEMrush results for the keyword “online marketing tips and tricks”:

SEMrush screenshot 1

Screenshot of SEMrush 10/20/16

SEMrush screenshot 2

Screenshot of SEMrush 10/20/16

In addition to gaining insight into a given keyword, SEMrush also allows you to compare the difficulty of various keywords and determine which long-tail phrases will be ideal for your blog.

As you research your keywords, keep in mind that keywords don’t matter as much as the level of engagement, research, and expertise present in your blogs and that reliable and trustworthy content is more important than keyword inclusion. This brings us to the next point.

2. Write Your Most Authoritative, Trustworthy Content

While authoritative content has always been good for the reader, it’s good for search engines, as well. This biggest piece of evidence to support this is Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines. After a portion of the document was leaked last year, Google released the entire 160-page PDF to the public and shortened it to 146 pages this year.

The document, which Google designed as a training and guidance manual for its search quality evaluators, dives deep into what makes good web content and what Google doesn’t like. While most of it is pretty standard – queries with multiple meanings, etc., one of the largest and most outspoken pieces of the document is the concept of EAT and YMYL.

These two acronyms, standing for Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness, and Your Money or Your Life, respectively, both refer to the qualities of a good web page. EAT, for example, indicates that high-quality pages must possess a high level of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.

Check out this screenshot from the guidelines themselves:

Evaluator Guidelines Screenshot

Screenshot taken 10/20/16 of Google Search Quality Guidelines

YMYL, on the other hand, indicates a unique quality standard of web page, called a Your Money or Your Life page. These are pages that feature content that has a potential to negatively impact a reader’s health, wealth, or personal wellness if it is not expert and authoritative. Examples include pages with medical or financial information.

According to Google’s guidelines, high-quality pages must have a large amount of expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness, and a satisfying amount of professional, high-quality content.

With that in mind, taking the extra time to write authoritative and expert-level content is essential. Pages that lack these attributes may be down-rated by Google and are at risk of providing a poor user experience for readers.

3. Craft Unique, Well-Written Meta Descriptions

While many bloggers and marketers overlook meta information altogether, it’s an essential piece of writing a quality blog.

Metas are the organic search world’s PPC, and, as such, they’re critical to ensuring a high CTR for your blogs.

Unfortunately, many people don’t understand how to write meta content. So, first things first, what is a meta description?

A meta description is a form of HTML tag that helps visitors determine what your site is about so they can choose the right result from a search page. Here’s an example of what a meta description looks like (indicated by the red arrow) in the Google SERPs for the query, “how to start running,”

How to start running metas

Screenshot taken 10/20/16

And another for the query “Design your own Nikes.”

Design your own Nikes

Screenshot taken 10/20/16

In its raw form on your website, a meta description looks like this:

<meta name=”description” content=”Your page’s description goes here.”/>

While Google has said that meta descriptions don’t affect ranking, it’s still essential to write them so that they can be coherent, useful, and relevant to Google searchers. Why? When your meta descriptions are good, they improve the click-through-rate of your site. This, in turn, boosts your search ranking.

3 Easy Guidelines for Meta Descriptions

  • Keep them short: Meta descriptions should be roughly 155 characters or less. Don’t go over 160 or you risk getting truncated by Google.
  • Include relevant keyword phrases: Keyword phrases help show that your page is relevant to a searcher’s query, and, when used naturally, can help boost your CTR.
  • Keep them original: Duplicate meta tags can damage your ranking and cause viewers to skip over your page, viewing it as spammy. Write a new meta for every page you create.

In addition to meta descriptions, you’ll also need to learn to write good meta titles. Also known as the SEO title, the meta title is the title that a search engine like Google displays to users just above your meta description.

Here is the meta title in the same “Design your own Nikes” query:

Meta title screenshot

Screenshot taken 10/20/16

While both forms of metas are critical for user experience, it’s arguable that your meta title makes a larger impact, since 80% of people read headlines, and only 20% click through to read the body copy.

3 Guidelines For Meta Titles

  • Keep them the correct length: According to Moz, Google typically displays full text when meta titles are between 50-60 characters, after that, they risk being truncated. For best results, keep your metas 55 characters or shorter.
  • Include primary keywords: As is true with meta descriptions, you’ll want to include relevant keywords in your meta title for optimal search rankings.
  • Make them compelling: Again, more people will read your headline than will read your body content. Be sure it’s worth their while.

While writing a good meta title may seem like an unnecessary pursuit, it can make all the difference for the click-through-rate of your blogs.

4. Flesh Out Your Blogs with Quality Images

While 90% of the battle of writing a winning blog is crafting the text, visuals are more important to an excellent blog than they’ve ever been before. In addition to illustrating key points, like the screenshots in this blog are doing, visuals help inspire audience interest, which can make your blogs more readable, and more shareable.

According to HubSpot, including colored visuals in a blog boosts a person’s willingness to read it by 80%, and content that includes relevant images earns an average of 94% more views than text-only content.

With this in mind, grab some in-depth screenshots to add to your blog, hire out a custom infographic, or include some beautiful (free) stock photos from any one of the best stock photo sites on the web.

Visuals don’t detract from your text – instead, they enhance it and make it more exciting and relatable for readers.

5. Enlist Blogging Support

Perhaps one of the best blogging tips of all time is to reach out for help. As your company and content demands grow, it’s critical not to be the sole person in charge of your blogging. While many marketers think they can do this, the fact of the matter is that shouldering the entire burden of your content leads to mistakes, and this, in turn, leads to alienated readers and a less-than–ideal content strategy.

While content is critical for your online presence, blogs take a long time to create, and it can be difficult to create good blogs while also managing all of the other aspects of your business. Because of this, every business needs a blog writer, and many find that hiring one was one of the best things they’ve ever done for their content.

If you’re considering hiring a blog writer to help you create winning content, look for the following traits:

  • Experience with multiple content formats: The best content strategy is a diverse content strategy, and the blogger you hire should also be well-versed in social media, web content, and the importance of visual material. By finding a professional who checks all of these boxes, you can ensure that your blogs go way beyond a surface level.
  • Knowledge of current SEO standards: SEO changes on a regular basis and the best blogger you can hire is one who understands what Google wants at any given moment. From optimal meta description lengths to best practices for pop-up ads, your blog writer needs to have his or her finger on the pulse of everything that is online marketing and SEO. Without this knowledge, you put yourself at risk of receiving Google penalties or just missing out on the ample SEO opportunities that exist for you and your company.
  • Quality references and happy customers: You don’t want to take the time to train someone to be a web blog writer. In addition to taking too long, this is an approach that is bound to lead to mistakes and disappointment down the road. Instead, look for someone that already has experience in the industry.

In addition to making your content creation process easier, hiring content help also ensures high-quality blog material your readers will love.

Winning Content Starts With You

While writing winning blog posts can seem challenging, these tips – from crafting professional meta content to finding the best long-tail keywords for your topic – can help to improve your blogging on every level. From SEO, down to the experience of every person navigating a single blog on your site as a first-time reader.

Get focused, and create a blog strategy with value that stretches from today far into the future.

 

Featured image (c) Express Writers

via Search Engine Journal Read More…

Complete guide to keyword research for SEO

Complete guide to keyword research for SEO

Keywords are the backbone of SEO.

They represent all the phrases which you type into Google search box when surfing the net. Having this in mind, you can quickly establish that SEO is a user-oriented profession.

In fact, expert’s proficiency can be measured by their ability to discover trending keywords and rank for them. In other words, SEOs ability to perform keyword research.

Similarly to any commercial products, there are two main things that should concern us – the strength of our competition and the demand for a certain keyword.

By using SEO terminology, we can say that two main factors of keyword research are:

  • Search Volume (number of monthly searches)
  • Keyword Difficulty (competitiveness of a keyword)

Unfortunately, unlike a classic economy where everything is quantifiable, things get a bit troublesome in the world of SEO. We usually rely on stats provided by the Google Keyword Planner tool which is based on PPC (pay per click) or paid search. It is really hard to establish the real state of things and it usually comes down to approximation.

But, we will discuss that later on in the article so stay tuned. For now, let’s start with the basics.

What type of keywords should I pursue?

There are two types of keywords that you should consider during your keyword research:

  • Those that can bring you profit (so called “money” or commercial keywords)
  • Those that can bring you traffic and links (also known as informative keywords)

Most websites exist so they could make a profit. In the majority of the cases, the products are directly sold through the website and shipped all over the country/world. This is why it is necessary to rank for keywords that will lure potential customers to your website and increase your sales.

Whenever you create some content, you have to consider your potential clients. What kind of a keyword will they use when searching for a product? These phrases will usually include descriptive words such as buy, cheap, affordable, etc.. They will help your customer pinpoint just the thing they need.

Unfortunately, as keywords become more commercially oriented, they will also become more competitive. For example, phrases with “buy” and “cheap” in them are among hardest ones to rank on the Internet.

Nevertheless, you still have to try and rank for them as they are the best way for you to remain profitable. On the other hand, you can search for keywords that will attract additional traffic.

Why would I do that, you might ask?

Line concept for search engine optimization

Simply put, unless you have enormous amount of money to spend on an aggressive marketing pay-per-click campaign (such as the one performed by Amazon), you will have to build your website from the ground up which will ultimately bring a lot of organic traffic.

You will require more links and shares to get to that point and the best way to get them it by writing about things that will interest larger audience. Here, I am not only referring to potential clients but also news websites, popular blogs within your niche and industry experts.

Let’s use this example. You are selling tractors. One of the first articles which you posted on your blog is about different types of tractors. Naturally, you are trying to promote your own tractors by linking to your product pages. If the piece is awesome, you might get several links and a nice bunch of shares.

As an alternative, you can create an awesome article about new agricultural measures. It may elaborate something that everybody is talking about and ultimately, it will give your website a lot of buzz.

The drawback of this second method is that your website won’t be making any profit. Yes, there will be a lot of visitors on your website but this will not be commercial audience. When it comes to selling your tractors, the conversion rate will be minimal. However, this is a good initial step towards building your brand and online presence.

For short-term goals, money keywords should be prioritized. For long-term, you need both types. Bear in mind, no matter what you do, you will have to use commercial keywords as a way to keep your website afloat.

Structure of a keyword

The structure and length of a keyword is one of the crucial things that are directly correlated to its difficulty and volume.

As I previously mentioned, there are certain types of keywords that are significantly more difficult to rank for. On the other hand, there are those that constantly have high or low volume or may even fluctuate. A Good example is “Summer Olympics”.

Length of a keyword is another factor that is important for volume and difficulty. As you can presume, volume becomes lower for longer keywords and vice versa. Based on their length, we can differentiate three types of keywords:

  • Short-tail keywords (1 to 2 words)
  • Medium-tail keywords (3 to 4 words)
  • Long-tail keywords (longer than 4)

When it comes to structure, we can differentiate:

  • Head (main word or a phrase which is the centerpiece of the search)
  • Modifier (a word which can be substituted for other words in order to change a single aspect of the keywords meaning)
  • Tail (all other words used to describe or explain our query)

Short-tail keywords are the simplest formation. They only have a head word. Generally speaking, it is nearly impossible to rank for such a phrase due to extensive competition. However, they do bring an enormous traffic.

Medium-tail keywords are just the thing we are looking for. As you can presume, 3 to 4 word phrases are extremely sought after. They definitely do not have the same volume as short-tail keywords but with them, you stand a chance of ranking.

Long-tail keywords are longer phrases than four words. Even though they are really easy to rank for, they are often neglected due to their low volume. However, long tails can also be quite powerful when you rank for a lot of them at the same time.

Basically, when you perform research, you should focus on phrases that have medium volume and low or medium difficulty (thus medium-tail keywords). But, there is a catch. Keyword research doesn’t stop when you find such a phrase. Instead, you need to focus on those medium-tail keywords that are performing better than the rest.

If a keyword has lower volume, it needs to compensate by being easier to rank for. On the flipside, if it has medium difficulty, it needs to have higher search volume to justify the effort.

lying books in a stack

Finding keyword ideas

In order to do keyword research properly, we need a lot of initial ideas that will lead us during the process. Based on the previous chapters, you somewhat understand what is required from you. Now, let’s find a way to detect all those phrases that can have a positive impact on our sales.

It is usually recommended that you start from your main product or service which you are offering. Commercial keyword research is much more limited. You already know what you have to focus on and you will do everything to optimize around that phrase. On the other hand, if you wish to boost website’s stats, you are able to create different content.

Always have in mind that besides your own industry, you can also tap into niche markets. They include all the topics that are somewhat related to you but are not exactly what you are offering. We can call them shoulder niches.

How to find keywords

Let’s review all the tools and approaches you can us to get keyword ideas:

1) Google auto-suggest and searches related to

Google itself is a keyword suggestion tool. For example, when you start typing in a phrase the search engine will start completing your sentences, giving you 10 suggestions as you go.

google search

At the same time, on the bottom of every page there will be “Searches related to” section. Here, Google will give you eight additional suggestions that are closely related to your topic.

However, due to its limitations, the biggest search engine can only be used as a way to get basic understanding of the topic. Nevertheless, it is a solid starting point.

2) Wikipedia 

Oftentimes when we look for something on the internet, we turn to Wikipedia as a source of extensive knowledge. Even though there are better sources for particular topics, this website is still considered as the best and most comprehensive encyclopedia.

By entering your main keyword in its search engine, you will get a page with a description. Here, in the table of content, you can get other relevant topics and sub-categories.

Most of these sub-categories are really extensive and they can be used as source to additional research. We refer to them as shoulder niches or niches that are in some way related to our own niche.

3) Quora, Yahoo! Answers and forums

For some time now, Quora and Yahoo! Answers have been the two best places for finding answers to all your questions. Nevertheless, every industry has its own forums that are recognized as good source of information.

quora

Now, here is the general idea. If someone has already looked for something on forums, there is a high chance they will use the same (or similar) phrase in Google search bar. By using these platforms, you can easily learn what are the trending topics, what are people interested in and subsequently, what is going to bring most traffic to your website.

BoardReader.com is a forum search engine that can be extremely useful when it comes to collecting keyword ideas from forums and online boards. Simply enter your keyword in its search box and you’ll be given lots of keyword ideas directly from forums which you won’t be able to find anywhere else.

4) Google Trends and Google Correlate 

As I mentioned, search volume for keywords is not static. It fluctuates. If you are an SEO expert, you should recognize rising and falling trends and act accordingly. This is why many experts like to use Google Trends as the initial point of their research.

If the number of searches per keyword is rising, this means that we have a chance of creating awesome content before the topic becomes too popular and hard to rank for. Furthermore, Google Trends can show you from where the majority of the traffic is coming from and give you some additional keyword ideas.

google trends explore

Google Correlate is part of Google Trends. It uses as a scale of 1 to -1 to show you the level of correlation between your starting keyword and all the other phrases. To rephrase, it shows the search patterns where some keywords are likely to rise or fall together with your main keyword.

5) Google Keyword Planner

Google Keyword Planner is one of the most commonly mentioned tools when it comes to keyword suggestions and there is a good reason for it. This tool is based on AdWords system where search engine is able to calculate volume, competitiveness and price for each keyword.

keyword-planner

Unfortunately, when it comes to volume and competition, it is based on paid search not the organic one. As of late, Google focused on using it primarily for PPC. So, unless you invest some money in paid campaign, you cannot get good results.

Nevertheless, it is still a good tool for getting keyword ideas. First, you need to access “Search for new keyword and ad group ideas” option.

Then, you are interested in two things:

  • Ad group ideas (suggested keywords are categorized into potential ad groups)
  • Keyword ideas (a list with keywords that are closely related to your main keyword)

Although you can only use keyword ideas, I strongly recommend that you also use Ad group ideas. It will widen the scope of your search a lot.

For example, if you use “cat food” keyword, you will instantly get several suggested phrases consisting of both “cat” and “food”. They will have volume, suggested bid, competition and other stats. However, if you use Ad group ideas before Keyword ideas, you can get a list with all the other related groups of keywords such as “cat toys” and “pet food”.

As you see with Ad group ideas you not only get suggestions based on your main keyword but also semantically related words and phrases that your competition might not even know they exist.

6) Keyword Shitter

This rather simplistic keyword suggestions tool is considered as one of the most comprehensive tools of its kind on the internet. Besides the fact that it is easy to use, it provides amazing results.

All you have to do is type in a keyword and this program will give you a huge list of suggestions. To refine search, you can use positive and negative filters that will include or exclude certain word or phrase.

This tool needs some time to retrieve all the results but it is more than worth it. Word of caution – after a while it will start giving unrelated results. Because of it, you will have to be careful when assessing them.

After your list is complete just head back to Google Keyword Planner, copy-paste the list of results Keyword Shitter got you add the most lucrative keywords to your list.

7) io

Another great free SEO tool on our list, Keyword.io is pretty solid when it comes to extracting keyword from various sources. You can use Google, Bing, YouTube, Amazon and other search engines and add suggestions to your list.

For example, you can add several suggestions from Google and then start browsing Bing and add several suggestions from Bing. What makes this tool so special is the fact that it doesn’t only give you words to add before and after your main keyword, but it does this for every letter in the alphabet.

For example, if your main word is “organic food”, Keyword.io will give you ideas like “best organic food” or “organic food delivery” for every letter from A to Z.

At the end of the process, you can export all these results to use later on in Google Keyword Planner of some other tool of your choice.

8) SEMRush

When it comes to reverse engineering your competitors’ SEO, SEMRush is definitely the tool which you always have to have in your arsenal. Its unique advantage lies is its ability to show very accurate organic and PPC data for almost every website.

This great program can be used to spy on your competition and check out their keywords (among other things). Just enter the URL of your main competitors in SEMRush and see exactly where their organic traffic is coming from.

It will give you pretty accurate data allowing you to copy the strategy of your competition. SEMRush shows all the ranking keywords of a website and their current positions in Google together with the percentage of traffic they bring and many other useful stats. It is a great way to get some fresh keyword ideas that no other tool can show you.

Assessing the keywords and your competition

You probably have an extensive list of results in front of you by now. That’s great!

Now, you need to examine all of them and find just the right keyword that has greatest potential.

education book with science icons

If I wrote this article a couple of months ago, I would definitely suggest using Google Keyword Planner. Due to the significant changes that Keyword Planner undertook, it is no longer an option that’s free for everyone. Google wanted to place emphasis on PPC users that spend money on AdWords . As an organic user, you won’t get the full scope of things.

But, there are other tools which can be used. During this part of research, you have to determine search volume and keyword difficulty of a keyword. You also need to see how much work it will take to reach top rankings in Google which can be done by analyzing the links of your competitors as well as the strength of their websites.

How to use your keyword research tools

Some things can be done quickly and painlessly without having to invest a cent. But, during this stage, it is recommended to invest some money in tools.

Have in mind that you are able to perform the entire research without spending any money. But, for optimal results, you might consider getting some of the keyword research tools from the list.

Now, let’s see what kind of programs you need.

1) io – assessing keyword volume 

Maybe Google Keyword Planner changed but Keywordtool.io hasn’t. The tool is based on the same data which can be found in Google Keyword Planner. In fact, it extracts all the info from it. So, even though Keyword Planner is no longer an option, you have a suitable replacement.

It provides three basic types of data:

  • Volume (total number of monthly searches in Google)
  • CPC (cost-per-click or the amount of money that bidders pay for that particular keyword)
  • AdWords Competition (number of people bidding for that keyword)

Although this data is based on PPC, it does show us how competitive and popular a keyword is. Be cautious though because this is only an approximation. It doesn’t show the real state of organic traffic.

Similarly to Keyword Shitter, you have a positive and negative filter which allows you to include or exclude certain words to your liking. On top of that, you can further filter your search by looking for data either in Google, YouTube, Bing, Amazon or App Store. As you can presume, Keywordtool.io is also good for getting new keyword ideas.

2) Moz Keyword Explorer – assessing keyword difficulty

Next step of the process is determining the difficulty of your keyword. Although Keywordtool.io is great at accessing the volume, it doesn’t evaluate keyword difficulty. Instead, you should use Moz Keyword Explorer. This tool is by far the best way to assess how difficult a keyword is.

The three basic stats that this tool provides are:

  • Difficulty (how difficult it is to rank higher than the articles which are already ranking)
  • Opportunity (estimated organic click-through-rate)
  • Potential (combination of previous scores)

Together with the previously mentioned tool, Keyword Explorer can help us understand what to expect from a keyword. Its algorithms that assess difficulty are quite precise and I would full-heartedly recommend them.

The fact that this is a freemium tool makes it that much better. Just register an account with Moz and you’ll get five free searches per day.

Besides this basic data, it also shows you other keyword suggestions, SERP analysis and keyword mentions. It is a very practical way to analyze the first page of results and check your competition.

moz keyword planner

3) MozBar – Assessing domain authority

MozBar is something that every blogger should have regardless of whether they are performing keyword research or not.

This nifty extension is completely free and you can get it through Google Web Store. It shows you the PA and DA (page and domain authority of websites).

Whenever you search for a keyword in Google, you will get a list of all the top competitors. With this extension, you can see page and domain authority score of each one of the top 10 ranking websites without having to click on every page individually.

With that, we come to our next point.

4) Manually checking the first page

People tend to forget that the process of keyword research isn’t exclusively based on tool usage. Human factor also plays a role as you go to the first page of results and check all the competitors with your own eyes (also known as eyeballing).

No matter what you do, I always suggest that you start by checking keyword’s volume and difficulty. It is a necessity that will save you a lot of time later on. But, the numbers can only tell you so much. You need to eyeball each result on the first page and check all the competitors yourself.

Are there too many authoritative websites on page one? Do these results have extensive, high quality articles? If so, there is a slim chance of ranking.

On the other hand, if you notice a lot of sites with low PA and DA scores, forum results, pages on free blog platforms like wordpress.com or blogspot, it may indicate that the search is lacking quality sources.

By creating your own high quality long article, you can easily beat the competition and rank on page one. Don’t forget to build links as you go too which takes us to the last tool.

5) Ahrefs – Assessing links’ power and quantity

For now, everything seems ok. You have assessed the stats and your competition doesn’t look too stiff. Awesome! But, there is another, last step of the way. You need to check top 10 competitors’ backlinks.

Links still remain the most impactful ranking factor. That being said, you always have to check the links of other pages and see if you can beat that score. I would recommend using Ahrefs as the best tool for this particular purpose.

Ahrefs is pretty quick to notice new backlinks. On top of that, it is rather precise when doing so. The biggest issue with this tool is the price. But, if you are serious about keyword research, it is better if you get it.

Without assessing the links of your main competitors, you can never know whether you can actually rank for a keyword. Getting links can especially be problematic for brand new websites. As a result, all your efforts may be in vein.

There are two things that need to be considered:

  • Quantity of the links
  • Quality of the links

When it comes to backlinks, more is not always better. One link from a highly authoritative website can easily trump dozens coming from weaker blogs.

Again, it’s all based on free assessment. If a website has a certain number of links that doesn’t necessarily mean that we need the same number to overtake him. There are numerous additional ranking factors that have some impact. But, if the first few results have around 100 links each with average DA over 50, it can tell us where we stand and if the keyword is too difficult to penetrate.

Conclusion

SEO is not an exact science. It has never been. At best, it can be called a profession of educated guesses. Same goes with keyword research. But, similarly to other professions that are rather intangible (such as stock trading) we need a starting point which can reduce the risk of failure. In the end, there is no point in randomly selecting keywords, right?

Keyword research is a process that can be costly. At the same time, if you know the tools, you will be able to perform it for a much lower price. With this detailed guide, I hope you’ve got some basic understanding what can work and what is a complete waste of time. Let me know in the comments below.

via Search Engine Watch – Category: seo Read More…

How to Get Around Google’s New Local Business Review Guidelines

How to Get Around Google’s New Local Business Review Guidelines

google-local-review-guidelines

On August 29th, 2016, Google significantly updated their requirements for adding review rich snippets to local business schema markup. The updated guidelines make it much more difficult for local businesses to use review rich snippets since all reviews must be directly produced by the website and can’t use a templated sentence from automated data.

If you’re using a 3rd party service like Shopper Approved, which can sometimes use local business schema markup for reviews, you might find yourself with a handful of now-illicit reviews—which could spell trouble for you.

Here is a solution you can use to get around Google’s new local business review guidelines. This is a perfectly legitimate method, so don’t worry about Google getting after you for using it.

How To Get Around Google’s New Guidelines

The new guidelines for local business reviews take a firm stance on who can post reviews, as well as what the reviews actually say about your site. You can read them all here, but here are some of the big, important ones:

  • Review snippets can’t be written by the business/site provider unless they’re genuine, independent, and/or unpaid
  • Reviews must allow both positive and negative sentiments
  • Only include reviews directly produced by your site (no reviews from third-party sites/syndicated reviews)

Google’s new guidelines only affect local business markup, so the obvious solution is to use alternative structured data such as Store, Service, or Product schema since the new guidelines are not yet targeting these schema types. Here’s how you do it:

Service Microdata:

<span itemscope itemtype="http://ift.tt/1AFTylC">
<span itemprop="name">Service Name</span>
<meta itemprop="url" content="https://www.example.com"/>
has a rating of
<span itemprop="aggregateRating" itemscope itemtype="http://ift.tt/GXOCyu">
<span itemprop="ratingValue">5.0</span>/<span itemprop="bestRating">5</span>
based on <span itemprop="ratingCount">10</span> ratings and reviews
</span>
</span>

Service JSON-LD:

<script type="application/ld+json">
  {
    "@context": "http://schema.org/",
    "@type": "Service",
    "name": "Service Name",
    "url": "http://ift.tt/KIwo0Y",
      "aggregateRating": {
        "@type": "AggregateRating",
        "ratingValue": "5.0",
        "bestRating": "5",
        "ratingCount": "10"
        }
  }
</script>

So rather than a rich card showing the review for the site itself, you can get the card to show a specific service or product you offer along with the reviews. It’s important that your Service or Product schema stay separate of the scope of any local business markup for address or business information, otherwise you may still be affected by the new guidelines.

Why Does This Matter?

It’s possible that Google will ignore review rich snippets within local business markup, so you likely wouldn’t benefit from any markup violating their guidelines in the future.

On the other hand, it’s also possible that if Google catches you violating their structured data guidelines for local business reviews that you could get a manual Structured Data penalty. Since we don’t know how harshly Google will treat offenders, it’s best to play it safe for now and not do anything that will violate their guidelines.

The whole reason for the update is to improve user experience. Google wants your reviews to provide an honest impression of your site, so that when users visit they enter with a clear, impartial outlook. A rich card that shows both positive and negative reviews from actual users will set their expectations accordingly.

Give the Service or Product schema a shot, and make sure your site obeys Google’s new guidelines.

Hand-Picked Related Articles:

* Adapted lead image: Public Domain Dedication (CC0) Public Domain, pixabay.com via getstencil.com

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What to Do in the Face of an Ugly Social Media Crisis

What to Do in the Face of an Ugly Social Media Crisis

What to Do in the Face of an Ugly Social Media Crisis | Social Media TodayNo brand wants to find themselves caught up in a social media crisis, but every brand needs to be prepared for it.

It’s one of those “hope for the best, prepare for the worst” type things. Like insurance.

You can’t let yourself and your communications team go in denial and pretend it could never happen.

One viral, “didn’t think it through” tweet.

One screenshotted SnapChat.

One employee logging into the wrong account.

That’s all it takes to have a crisis on your hands, my friend. And if it happens, you need a game plan, and you need one bad.

Here’s what it should include.

1. Determine whether or not it’s a real social media crisis

First of all, is the situation really a crisis? There’s a big difference between a sticky situation and a full-blown disaster.

Sure, both are bad, but the variance between them dictates how your brand needs to react, so you obviously want to make sure the crisis is real and you’re not overreacting. No one likes a drama queen.

Ask yourself: will this have a real, lasting impact on our brand? Will it impact business results, or is it just talk?

We’ve all seen it: a Facebook friend getting totally outraged and going on a tirade about a brand for something that’s not even a big deal. And we all have that friend who needs a brand to be angry at all times in order survive on social media. It’s who they are, and we love them anyway.

With how easy it is for people to become keyboard warriors, and how quickly something can go viral, not every sticky situation will have an impact. It’s perfectly possible to just move on from most without going into full-on crisis mode.

When things get more serious, however, is when a situation really will drive away customers and have other lasting impact on your business, your employees, etc.

Only your brand knows your customers well enough to determine that about a social media disaster, but when people start angry tweeting you on social media, take a look at who they are. Are they your customers, your audience?

Basically, who cares?

And I don’t mean that like, “Ugh, who cares?” I actually want you to answer that. Are the people angry with your brand actually your target audience or an important audience to you, or are they people outside of your important markets?

It’s never nice to annoy people, but if they’re not your audience or customers, it may not be a crisis.

2. Pause your scheduled posts

If you’ve determined that something is a crisis, the first thing you need to do is go into “crisis control” mode. That means not asking people to buy from you when the whole internet is mad at you. Timing is everything, after all.

Press “pause” on any campaigns and content you’d planned to put out on social media, and you may want to consider altering your schedule on other online channels, too.

The benefit here is two-fold:

First of all, as mentioned before, a crisis is not a great time to be marketing and selling. People aren’t happy with you, and people need to be happy to buy.

Secondly, this frees up your whole team to focus 100% on getting the crisis under control. It should be your number one priority, not a marketing campaign that will fail if everyone hates you, anyway.

3. Publicly acknowledge what’s going on

Staying in contact with your audiences during a social media crisis is so, so important. Beyond effectively communicating updates, you already need to comfort people by showing them you’re there and you care.

As soon as possible, acknowledge your brand’s problem or crisis on social media. Even if you don’t have a solution or real updates yet, put something out that tells your audience that you’re aware of what’s going on.

This lets people know that you’ve jumped on the issue quickly and care about solving it, and where they can go for more updates.

At this point, it doesn’t need to be anything more than a short post on each important channel. You may want to consider reposting it a time or two within the same time frame to ensure your followers see it.

4. Create a social crisis action plan

Once you’ve checked in with your audience and let them know what’s up, it’s time to go into problem solving mode. It’s time to put your crisis communications plan into action.

Part of being prepared for a crisis means in addition to learning these 10 steps today, you’re also starting to work on them. You need a crisis communications plan long before a crisis every happens, since it guides your team in responding.

Basically, you want to decide what steps your team will take during a crisis, which team members will perform each task, and how you’ll communicate with each other and your public.

5. Inform your team

In addition to giving a heads up about the situation to your audience, you also absolutely have to consider any other stakeholders at the company.

Executive leadership obviously needs to know what’s going on, as they do with anything big happening to the company. Additionally, they might have to field questions from people about it and should be primed with a response.

Any support or customer-facing positions should be pulled into the loop as well. They may have customers and prospects coming to them with questions that they should feel confident in answering.

6. Work quickly but thoroughly

A social media crisis is not the time for perfectionism. You have a fire to put out, and the longer you wait, the more it will breathe and spread.

Your crisis communication plan should be lean and minimal. Once the crisis is over, you can focus on the lower priority parts of crisis management – now’s the time for high, DEFCON 1-level to-dos.

Work quickly, but also carefully and accurately. The last thing you need to do while dealing with one crisis is start another.

I won’t lie, this aspect is tough. Toeing the line between “fast but effective” and “sloppy and confusing” can be quite the balancing act.

7. Give your audience frequent updates

It’scritically important to stay in close touch with your audience in the middle of a social crisis.

For one, social media is real-time and your posts “expire” quickly in terms of reach. Someone may not have seen your tweet from a few hours ago, for example, but they’re online now.

But also, keeping them in the loop can help pacify anyone angry or upset. Apologize continuously, let them know what steps you’re taking to remedy the company’s problem, and thank them for their patience.

When you don’t have any actual news to update them with, it’s best to keep it short and sweet.

If you’re providing them with crucial news, it’s best to communicate the essential or most important facts on social, and link to a web page with more information. When it comes to this, it’s better to over-communicate than not share enough, and this lets you have a central location for the more detailed info.

8. Individually reply to concerned audience members

In addition to sending out blanket statements from your company to its whole audience, you’ll also want to address anyone that reaches out directly on social media.

Obviously, don’t waste your time engaging with trolls and such, but crisis management tools can help you find people who are legitimately concerned, the customers whose relationships you’re in danger of damaging.

If it’s a general angry or concerned tweet, let the user know they’re heard and instruct them on how they can stay updated. If they raise something specific, address that topic directly as best you can. And if you can’t answer the question, be honest, don’t just try to sidestep it.

And for the love of social media, do NOT use automated or canned responses in a social media crisis.

9. Post a long-form response on your website

Remember that central location I talked about previously? Let’s talk about it a little more.

You want one “hub” that people can go to for information, so that you don’t have to only provide updates 140 characters at a time. This can be a blog post that you update as you have more information, or a static page.

Add new updates and details as you have them, creating a timeline of the crisis which you can direct social media users to. You can even embed social media posts to let people see all channels in one spot.

10. Let the dust settle

Once you’ve performed steps five through nine, it’s kind of a matter of rinsing and repeating. You’ll go through them with each update you communicate to your audience.

Once they’ve done their jobs, it’s time to let the dust settle. Move on, but don’t forget. You don’t want to keep people’s attention on the social media crisis any longer than it needs to be, but you also shouldn’t avoid the topic if someone else brings it up.

At each stage of your social media crisis, there’s a different main focus. By following the steps in this post in the order they’re laid out in, you can make sure you’re dealing with things as they’re most urgent.

The post What to Do in the Face of an Ugly Social Media Crisis appeared first on The Mention Blog. Main image via Pixabay.

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3 Easy Ways to Increase Your Social Media Followers

3 Easy Ways to Increase Your Social Media Followers

Ask any marketer – or better yet, any person – what one thing they would change about their social media accounts if they could. More often than not, the answer will be the same: 

More Followers.  

Increasing your social media followers is a continuous battle, but there are ways to make it easier. In this post, I’m going to list 3 easy ways to increase your social media following that you may not have thought of.

1. Share the Love 

A great way to increase your following is to show an interest in other people’s social media accounts. If you like, comment, and retweet people’s posts, they’ll notice you, and some of them, in turn, will follow you. 

When using Twitter to get noticed by a wider net than your followers and your followers’ friends, search for hashtags that are relevant to your brand:

3 Easy Ways to Increase Your Social Media Followers | Social Media Today

Initially, you’ll receive the ‘top’ results – these are the most liked/retweeted posts, so you may not see much of a response by interacting with posts like this. However, if you look to the left-hand side, you’ll see related searches which may help you find more posts to like.

If you click the ‘latest’ tab, you’ll see the posts that feature your chosen hashtag in real-time. 

3 Easy Ways to Increase Your Social Media Followers | Social Media Today

By liking and commenting on these posts, you’ll have a better chance of being noticed and gaining new followers, because there is a high chance that these users are still active on the platform.

Another way to get noticed by sharing the love is to post the content of others to your social site and tag them in it. Like this:

3 Easy Ways to Increase Your Social Media Followers | Social Media Today

Just as people hate users that only promote themselves, they love users that promote others – it shows off your social nature.

2. Follow Others

One of the best ways to look authoritative on social media is to have a higher number of ‘followers’ than you’re  ‘following’ –  like this:

3 Easy Ways to Increase Your Social Media Followers | Social Media Today
Having said that, it might seem a little counter-intuitive to encourage you to follow others, but the only way to build your social media following is to interact with like-minded people.

When looking to build your audience, you should follow people that are a good match for you, users that are likely to follow you back. 

To track and manage your followers, you can use an app like Crowdfire. With Crowdfire, you can access data relating to your Twitter and Instagram accounts. You can see things like your recent followers:

3 Easy Ways to Increase Your Social Media Followers | Social Media Today

And unfollowers:

3 Easy Ways to Increase Your Social Media Followers | Social Media Today
This helps to provide a better understanding of who you should and shouldn’t be following. 

The Crowdfire app has lots of additional ways you can use to find and follow the right people. For example, you can copy the followers of any particular user:

3 Easy Ways to Increase Your Social Media Followers | Social Media Today

Similarly, you can use a keyword to find suitable followers:

3 Easy Ways to Increase Your Social Media Followers | Social Media Today

3. Hide Facebook Trolls

So far we’ve only really talked about Instagram and Twitter, but you can’t write an article about social media without mentioning Facebook. Facebook is the most well-established social media site around – in fact, over half (51%) of users told Publi.sh that the number one social media platform they couldn’t live without is Facebook. 

Of course, not everyone on Facebook is there to spread joy and happiness, there are a lot of trolls around too.

Trolls can ruin a good atmosphere and bring unwanted negativity to your Page, which could hinder your efforts to increase your social media followers. But there are ways to hide trolls from the rest of your Facebook community without causing unnecessary conflict. 

You can block comments and posts that feature certain words by heading to page settings and clicking on ‘Page Moderation’: 

3 Easy Ways to Increase Your Social Media Followers | Social Media Today

Whenever a banned word is used, the comment is hidden from everyone but the person who posted it and their friends.

Another way to manage trolls is to simply ‘hide’ their comments. You can do this by clicking on the dropdown at the top-right hand-side of the post: 

3 Easy Ways to Increase Your Social Media Followers | Social Media Today

Again, this means that only the person who commented, and their friends, can see the post.

Now, you may be thinking “Why not simply block these trolls? Or delete their comments?”

There are a couple of reasons. First – if you delete comments then you set yourself up to receive even more irate criticisms about freedom of speech and so on. Similarly, if you block trolls then you’ll probably receive messages from them wanting to know why. This can cause more admin work for you, and provide trolls with more fuel for their hostility. 

By hiding comments, the trolls don’t know that their post is hidden – and even troll comments add to your engagement factor. So every hidden troll comment increases the number of times Facebook displays your post, which ultimately increases your reach and contributes to increasing your social media followers.

Final Thoughts 

Everyone wants to increase their social media followers, but not everyone knows how. The three tips noted in this article should help you to increase your followers in ways you may never have considered.

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How To Make Your Very Own WordPress Website or Blog [Infographic]

How To Make Your Very Own WordPress Website or Blog [Infographic]

With its almost unlimited number of plugins and functional yet visually attractive themes to choose from, WordPress is arguably the best place to start when you’re looking to build your own website.

That being said, a lot of people are still hesitant to make their own WordPress site, despite the fact that it’s the most user-friendly CMS available in the market today. The reason for this is that many people are still under the impression that building your own website requires intense coding skills, or deep knowledge about complex elements, like web hosting and analytics. 

And while some internal functions of WordPress do still require coding skills, the platform’s main user interface is very intuitive – so much so that let even novice users can build great sites through the platform, including all the various elements you’ve come to expect in the modern online experience. With its low learning curve, most can get the hang of WordPress in just a couple of days. 

If you’re planning to take your business to the next level, then introducing it into the world wide web is the most sensible step you need to take. To help you do that, here’s an infographic from WP Shrug that covers all the basic steps on how you can build your own WordPress site.

How To Make Your Very Own WordPress Website or Blog [Infographic] | Social Media TodayThis post originally appeared on Irfan Ahmad’s blog.

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Changes To LinkedIn Company Pages [Tutorial]

Changes To LinkedIn Company Pages [Tutorial]

Have you noticed when logging into your LinkedIn Company Page an invitation to review the new design of your page?

LinkedIn has once again done a revamp to the user interface and you’ll want to understand what’s new and what, exactly, has been changed.

Changes To LinkedIn Company Pages [Tutorial] | Social Media Today

And while these changes are not yet fully completed and integrated, you’re able to get a fairly clear idea of what your LinkedIn Company Page will look and function like going forward.

Here’s a breakdown of the currently accessible LinkedIn Company Page changes, to help you adapt quickly and effectively.

Changes To Your LinkedIn Company Page

Right away you will notice that LinkedIn has completely redesigned their Company Page, with a feel somewhat similar to the redesigned LinkedIn Groups and Privacy & Setting areas as well as the upcoming full redesign of LinkedIn.

Changes To LinkedIn Company Pages [Tutorial] | Social Media Today

When you first visit the page, a popup will appear with a welcome message:

Changes To LinkedIn Company Pages [Tutorial] | Social Media Today

Updates Page

Upon further inspection of the admin view of the Updates page, you’ll find your engagement analytics for the last 7-days located front and center in a box on the left, including likes, comments, shares and new followers (with increase/decrease percentages over the previous week).

In the center of the page is the feed with your recent updates. For each update you can quickly and easily see your engagement metrics for each post.

Changes To LinkedIn Company Pages [Tutorial] | Social Media Today

You can also easily spot any content you’ve sponsored. At the top of any boosted posts, beside the date, you’ll see Sponsored Content. Additionally, down in the analytics area of each post it breaks down your Organic Reach and Gained Sponsored Reach so you have a clear idea of how each post has performed.

Changes To LinkedIn Company Pages [Tutorial] | Social Media Today

Just above the updates feed is the share box, where you can add new updates to your page.

Changes To LinkedIn Company Pages [Tutorial] | Social Media Today

Click the camera icon to load an image from your computer. To add a link, you can click the link icon and add it in the box or simply copy the link into the status update area and type in your comments.

Changes To LinkedIn Company Pages [Tutorial] | Social Media Today

Company Profile Bar

At the top of the page you’ll find your navigation options.

Changes To LinkedIn Company Pages [Tutorial] | Social Media Today

In the top blue bar, there’s an Admin Tools dropdown menu and a link to Go to member view ->.

Under Admin Tools you can click on Manage Admins or Help Center.

If you select Manage Admins, a popup will appear with the ability to add new admins or manage current ones.

Changes To LinkedIn Company Pages [Tutorial] | Social Media Today

Clicking Help Center will open LinkedIn’s help page Editing Your LinkedIn Company Page in a new window.

If you click the link Go to member view -> this’ll take you to the version of your Company Page that the general public sees.

At the top of the page is your cover image and a box with your logo, basic company info, follow button and a link to any jobs tied to the company.

Just below this is a collapsible About us box with your most recent update located to the right.

Changes To LinkedIn Company Pages [Tutorial] | Social Media Today

The next box shows any personal connections you have within the company and the ability to easily message them.

Below this is a box with a list of your Showcase pages.

Changes To LinkedIn Company Pages [Tutorial] | Social Media Today

At the bottom you’ll find Company updates, with your update feed on the right and a small box to the left with your number of updates, followers and a button people can click to follow your LinkedIn Company Page.

Changes To LinkedIn Company Pages [Tutorial] | Social Media Today

Navigation Bar

Just below the Company Profile Bar is the navigation bar. Here you can access:

  • Updates
  • Overview
  • Analytics
  • Notifications

The Updates page is the page you begin on. The Overview page is where you can edit your company page.

The editing page is set up similar in look to your public Company Page.

A great place to start is by adding a new cover image. Your cover image which should be 1536 pixels wide X 768 pixels high.

Changes To LinkedIn Company Pages [Tutorial] | Social Media Today

Additionally, you can click on Analytics or Notifications, which currently will take you to the existing analytics and notifications pages.

Wrapping Up

The newly updated LinkedIn Company Page now more closely resembles other recently updated areas on LinkedIn like Groups and the Privacy & Setting page to create a more user-friendly, streamlined experience. The focus of the redesign seems to be on ensuring admins are able to easily check the performance and engagement of their updates and providing the public with a brief, easy to scan overview of your company.

What do you think of the updated LinkedIn Company Page? What do you like most and least about it? Let me know in the comments below.

The post Changes To LinkedIn Company Pages [Tutorial] appeared first on Top Dog Social Media.

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5 Serious Social Media Marketing Mistakes to Stop Right Now

5 Serious Social Media Marketing Mistakes to Stop Right Now

5 Serious Social Media Marketing Mistakes to Stop Now | Social Media TodayThe verdict is out – recent research shows that 82% marketers now believe that marketing via social media can earn them a substantial ROI. If you haven’t experience real benefits from your social media efforts as yet, you could be making one, or several, of these costly mistakes. 

1. Being you-centric

By definition, a business is born out of solving problems, and it makes sense to reiterate that purpose on your social feeds, as opposed to using it as a channel to blast out your latest ads.

By focusing on the problem(s) that your business solves, you put the focus on your audience and their needs, which is one of the best ways of expanding your reach and resonance on social platforms. Based on patterns of what your audience likes, fill your content calendar with curated content from trusted industry sources using a curation software

How you present your services to your audience can make all the difference. Don’t put the spotlight solely on your offerings, make your potential customers the heroes instead and focus on serving them the best you can. 

2. Isolating social from other media 

Social media marketing isn’t a thing, it’s simply marketing on social media. Yes, social is different, due to its audience and environment, but in essence your social marketing should be part of a larger scheme of things. If it isn’t, you’re seriously limiting your potential reach and impact. 

Imagine you’re running a social media contest. If you restrict contest announcements to a few posts on your social media feed, you would reduce your impressions. If you also mention the contest on your website, blog and in your newsletter, you would cast a larger net for potential participants. The same goes for blog post promotions. Promote your post on social and via email, and add social share/follow plug-ins on your blog and in your newsletter. 

Integrating your media helps build a unified traffic system that can help you keep the traffic you earn. 

3. Ignoring content feedback

Do you check your social media content for feedback? Content maybe a push strategy, but unless you monitor what you’re pushing, you can’t improve its effectiveness.

Social media reactions tell you if your audience likes your content or not, and tracking response patterns to your content can help refine your overall strategy. 

What works for some companies may not work for others – while you can initiate your efforts based on case studies and what your competitors are doing, you may want to tailor those tactics to best fit your audience and your brand. To do that, it’s necessary to invest in tracking and analyzing content feedback. Study engagement metrics and see what the comments on your posts say to assess the effectiveness of your efforts. 

4. Misjudging your social audience 

Audience research is a serious part of social success – unless you know who you’re talking to, what interests them, concerns them and what makes them tick, you can’t be sure of what to post. Guesses and assumptions will lead you nowhere substantial, the longer you delay audience research, the more time and effort you lose to inept content strategies. 

Understanding your audience is key in getting them to respond. Incidentally their social media activity and behavior patterns is what will decide when you post, and will affect how often you post. If Millennials are your target audience, you may want to focus on building a micro-influencer marketing strategy because they’re more heavily influenced by recommendations from friends and family. If Baby Boomers are who you’re targeting, you may want to focus on thought-leadership and brand credentials. 

5. Spamming audience feeds 

There is such a thing as over promoting content. Have you tried promoting your content several times in the same day? If it hasn’t earned you extra-traffic, you’re probably causing more damage than earning benefits. 

If the same link ends up on a social platform too many times in a given time period, your audience may develop an irritability towards your brand. While iteration is important for a message to resister in your audience’s minds, too much of it can also make them immune to it. Create a content promotion plan that includes some variety, value and doesn’t saturate your social following.  

The idea is to build an integrated marketing strategy that’s audience-centric. Share what connects with them, at a frequency that’s regular enough to reach most of your followers, and make sure to keep an ear out for feedback. This is how you succeed on social. 

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How Millennials Are Changing The Way Brands Market

How Millennials Are Changing The Way Brands Market

How Millennials Are Changing The Way Brands Market | Social Media Today

Running a successful business is easy, right? You create a product, display some advertisements and people come flocking to buy it. Except it’s never been that simple. And just when companies and advertisers were starting to get a handle on how to sell their products and services, the Millennial generation has arrived to throw off the entire system.

Millennials now represent the largest sector of U.S. consumers and will soon make up more than half the population. That means if you’re ignoring the Millennial consumer, you might as well put a for sale sign on your door. To make matters worse, you can’t just sell products to Millennial buyers. This generation of consumers is one of the most educated in history, so they can see directly through traditional marketing schemes and ad pitches.

Millennial consumers don’t put as much emphasis on a great deal as the older generations, instead they focus on the values associated with the product or service. Brands that can tap into Millennial values are the ones that will have staying power within this buying group.

Let’s take a look at a few ways companies are already winning at the Millennial marketing game. How might you apply these principles to your own marketing efforts?

Solving Their Problems

Millennials are constantly on the lookout for products and services that make their daily lives easier. Hate hailing a cab and then fumbling through your wallet to find cash? Uber took care of that. Measuring caps full of detergent for every load of laundry was a drag… until Tide Pods hit the market. In every situation, there’s a problem. For every problem, successful brands offer an innovative solution. Millennial consumers want you to find a way to fix their problems, even if they didn’t know it was a problem in the first place.

Focusing on Mobile

If you want to reach Millennials, just look in their hands. Over 85 percent of Millennials own a smartphone, and they are constantly tethered to their devices. Optimizing your website for mobile is absolutely critical to seeing success in the Millennial market. It’s important to understand that Millennials value their time and demand convenience. They don’t like to wait for long load times or fumble through poor navigation. If your site isn’t mobile optimized, user-friendly, and easily navigated, they will move on quickly.

Additionally, Google will downgrade your search engine rankings if your website isn’t optimized for smartphones and tablets. Creating responsive websites is simpler than ever, so there’s no excuse for not keeping up with mobile.

Encouraging Loyalty with Rewards

There is a common misconception that Millennials aren’t loyal to brands. That’s not necessarily true. Millennials have a tendency to be loyal to brands who reward them for their loyalty. Rewards programs can be successful among Millennials, especially in the travel industry.

The Millennial consumer likes quality, but doesn’t want to spend a fortune on it, either. They’re chic and savvy. They like status. So when it comes to things like hotels, they want 5-star accommodations at a 2-star price. That’s where loyalty programs are effective. You can convince a Millennial to stay loyal to your hotel brand – and maybe even pay a little more – if they’ll be rewarded with perks such as a free room or a complimentary meal.

Practicing Transparency

Millennials are inherently distrustful, especially of big corporations. To get in touch with young consumers, companies need to open the door and let them in. Show them what you’re all about. Explain how you take care of your employees and encourage their individual success. Share your efforts in your local or global community. Create a blog where team members share their thoughts and ideas on the industry.

Toms Shoes is a perfect example. The company’s “buy one, give one” business model – where with each TOMS purchase, the company provides shoes and other services to people in need – struck a chord with Millennials and they helped turn it into a Fortune 500 company. Millennials want to know that they are spending their money with a company that cares about more than dollar signs.

Promoting the Experience

The Millennial generation at large doesn’t want to just buy and use a product or service – they’re looking for a full customer experience. When someone goes to an Apple store, for instance, it’s not typical for a customer to simply choose their product, pay for it and walk out. In most cases, there’s not even a traditional cash register in sight – instead, the store is designed in a way that encourages customers to test drive the products on display. There’s also easy access to in-person technical support at the Genius Bar. Even after they’ve left the store, all Apple products are synced, so each purchase adds to the value of other products the buyer might already own. This all adds to the buying experience and build impressive long-term loyalty among Millennials to the Apple brand.

Companies who can create this buying experience also create makeshift communities among its customers. Consumers identify with other people who have bought the same product or brand. It’s these types of experiences that keep Millennials coming back.

Customers Are The Best Brand Ambassadors

Companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising campaigns each year, but the best advertising any company can have is word-of-mouth – meaning your existing customers are the best person very best salespeople your brand can get. This is especially true for Millennial consumers. As a rule, they don’t buy something just because it was advertised to them. Instead, they conduct their own market research – they ask their friends, scour social media, search Yelp. To Millennials, the opinions of fellow consumers are far more valuable than the words of the company trying to sell to them.

If a Millennial customer truly loves a brand, they’re going to tell their friends about it and convince others to try it. Companies that have great customer service or are actively engaging with their customers on social media are best positioned to create those brand ambassadors. Southwest Airlines, a popular low-cost airline among young travelers, is known for connecting with travelers through an active social media presence, where they share photos and respond to customer concerns.

What You Can Do Right Now

Are you ready to revitalize your brand’s marketing strategy to better appeal to Millennials? Start these steps right now to improve your sales with this growing sector of young, digital-savvy consumers.

  • Optimize your brand’s website for a better mobile experience. Make sure Millennial customers can quickly access important information – such as your business’s address, phone number, and pricing – even while on the go.

  • Give customers a behind the scenes look at the inner workings of your business. Knowing that your products are ethically sourced and that you treat your employees well goes a long way toward gaining favor with Millennials.

Renew focus on your customer experience. How quickly do you respond to customer questions or complaints online? How easy is it for customers to purchase your product or make returns? By creating positive customer experiences, you will turn your existing customers into brand ambassadors who do the selling for you.

The post How Millennials Are Changing The Way Brands Market appeared first on Cox Blue.

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The Importance of Authenticity in Influencer Marketing

The Importance of Authenticity in Influencer Marketing

The Importance of Authenticity in Influencer Marketing | Social Media Today

As a social media storyteller, I shed a virtual emoji tear when I think about the lack of genuine content that lives in my Instagram feed. At this year’s Advertising Week conference in New York City, I had the pleasure of attending a panel with like-minded people, and I was able to learn more about how utilizing influencers as creators “can create more authentic, impactful marketing by freeing each person’s storytelling potential.”

Here are my five biggest takeaways from the event.

“If a brand is telling you how cool they are, they’re not that cool. If your peers are, it sticks.” – Jon Wexler, VP, Global Entertainment and Influencer Marketing, adidas

When you put your business objectives before the people, your followers won’t be fooled. All branded Instagram content should be community-first, with a subtle hint of your marketing message in the background. 

“There’s not a gap for content because I’m living my life.” – Robin Arzon, @RobinNYC

Stay away from pay-to-play influencer marketing. You can’t change people to fit your brand, but if the partners you seek out are already living that lifestyle day-to-day, your followers won’t be able to tell their lives apart from your ads, resulting in a truly authentic connection and brand affinity.

“Tools like Boomerang and Hyperlapse let anybody be a creative.” – Taj Alavi, Global Brand Marketing Lead, Instagram

Let your influencers create. Content doesn’t have to live in a studio setting; it’s okay to film with an iPhone. Think more about where the content will live and less about producing a premium feel. 

“People can help the brand more than the brand can help itself.” – Jon Wexler

Don’t be afraid if your company can’t keep up with a once a day cadence – find ways to push your brand to the next level by utilizing those who are already familiar with it. Start thinking of UGC as influencer marketing, because it’s more important to find content that resonates with your fan base than to rely heavily on one partner’s follower count.

“My most vulnerable posts do the best.” – Robin Arzon

Use your influencers’ voices to tell your brand’s story, not to sell a product. The most successful people and companies have struggled and persevered, and that is why they are respected. 

This post was originally published on the Likeable Media blog. Image originally published on AdvertisingWeek.com.

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