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Get them there, keep them there. Effective landing pages immediately engage your audience and effectively “scratch the itch” that has led them to your site in the first place. But they also go beyond: they entice visitors into staying, exploring what else you have to offer. They create new itches. How can you create landing pages that manage to do all of this effectively?

Some tips to get you started:

  1. Create more landing pages. Studies show that when companies increase the number of landing pages from 10 to 15, their conversion rates increased by 55 percent. That is too significant to ignore. Every offer or every campaign should have its own landing page. Otherwise, visitors land on your homepage and may not be clear on what you want them to do.
  2. Clear CTA. Again, feature one CTA, or call to action, per page. If you have multiple CTAs, you risk confusing the visitor. “What do they want me to do?” Perhaps “confused,” is the wrong word: they might just not care anymore. Craft a very clear CTA that explicitly and clearly explains what you want the visitor to do (Click here to download free report; Buy now! Sign up for our newsletter). Make sure your CTA is uncluttered and the color contrasts with the background and other elements. You want it to stand out like a beacon.
  3. Incorporate your logo. Who are you? The visitor shouldn’t be guessing, certainly not if you want them to complete a desired call to action. At the top of your page, add your business logo. Again, make sure it is not cluttered with extraneous imagery or text. Keep it clean.
  4. Add social validation. What “proof” can you offer your visitors that you are an authority in your niche? Try embedding tweets from happy visitors or satisfied customers or ask a Facebook fan if you can quote a positive message they’ve left on your page. If you have a whitepaper, a report, an ebook, or another type of content, mention how many people have downloaded it.
  5. Create urgency. Buy now or you’ll miss your chance and forever regret not completing our call to action! Well, word it more succinctly, but the basic point is to create a sense of urgency and immediacy in your visitors. CTAs never say, “Take your time; browse at other sites; sleep on it.” They say, “Only one left! Buy now!” or “Offer ends on X day” or “Last chance to save.” Amazon does this like the pros they are: “Buy in the next 2 hours and get it by tomorrow,” or “Only 1 left in stock.”

Landing pages need to convert. That’s their purpose. When you incorporate these tips and keep your design clean and simple, you’ll see an uptick in your conversion rate

Seo ConceptWhile local SEO has always been important for many businesses, the incredible rise in the use of mobile devices has made it a critical part of attracting new customers and helping existing ones find the information they need. In our last post, we talked about a few tips to get your local SEO efforts started. Now we’ll dive into social media and how it can help you shine a spotlight on your business.

Get Social

Creating and managing an active social media presence allows you to reach your audiences where they are and where they turn for information. That might, depending on your target customers, be Facebook; it might be Pinterest, Twitter, or LinkedIn. In any event, do some customer research to determine where you need to concentrate your efforts. Other steps you can take:

  • Add social sharing buttons to your site. Target the ones your customers are most likely to use. Make it easy for them to share your content with others who might find it relevant and useful. It’s all about convenience: a simple button-click encourages people to take action.
  • Optimise your Facebook profile for local users. While not every audience uses Facebook (teens, for instance, are starting to veer away from the social network), it does have a tremendously wide and deep user base. It makes sense for most businesses to spend some time here. When you create a page for your business, select the “Local Business or Place” category. If you have already created a page, go back to the Admin Panel. Select Manage > Edit Page > Basic Information. In the Category box, select “Local Business or Place,” and then choose the correct subcategory to specify which type of business you operate.
  • Try Twitter. Include your location and local-optimised keyword phrase in your information. Find local users (Twitter Grader and TwitterCounter can help) and start following local discussions with Twitter Advanced Search. Become an active part of your community; people don’t want to hear sales pitches. They want to engage and have their questions answered. Doing so positions you as an authority. Participating in a conversation positions you as a real person, not a faceless entity.
  • Get Googling. Google+ may not have the mass of Facebook or even Twitter, but it does have the weight of the world’s largest search engine behind it. Google weighs this content heavily, and being active can help you appear more prominently. Make sure your profile is visible to the public and use the Google+ search to find local users that may be interested in your business. Create a dedicated circle so you can develop and disseminate targeted communications. As with Facebook and Twitter, the key is being active in the community. Answer questions – but feel free to ask them. You can be an authority without being a know-it-all! And it makes you more approachable and likeable. Why not? Those are good qualities in a business!
  • Track your efforts with Google Analytics’ Audience Demographics data. You can see bounce rates, time spent on site, and pages per visit. Are you local visitors spending more time on the site? If not, how can you optimise your content or social presence to encourage more engagement?

Social media is an invaluable set of tools that you can use to boost your local SEO efforts and see greater results.

 

 

Black HatOne of the buzziest buzzwords in 2014 is, unfortunately, negative SEO. Recently, Forbes’ contributor Jayson DeMers chronicled how his small company was targeted by scammers. They demanded he pay them US$250 (£151.56); if he didn’t, they’d flood his website with inbound links – and not the high-quality, authoritative links that Google likes so much and which visitors trust so much either. Are schemes like this common, and, if they are, can you protect your website?

What is Negative SEO?

Prior to the Penguin update, the more links, the better. Link farms, link schemes, you couldn’t buy enough of these things.  With this major update, Google told websites in no uncertain terms that poor-quality, spammy links would not be tolerated. Infamous JC Penney and Overstock.com penalties, which caused both retailers to drop precipitously in the search engine results pages, emphasised just how serious Google was.

Now, while this was a great move for searchers – and quality, legitimate websites – it did have an unsavory consequence. It opened up a side industry in negative SEO, where “mercenaries” like those who targeted DeMers, thrive by threatening sites with spammy links.

In addition to bad links, negative SEOs can:

  • Copy your site’s content and distribute it over the internet.  Bam…duplicate content penalties for you.
  • Point links to your site using such reputable and estimable keywords as “Viagra.”
  • Developing false social media profiles in your name or that of your website or business.
  • Removing your high-quality backlinks.
  • Hacking into your website and having free run over your content and backend workings.

Should You Worry?

Yes and no. Yes, it could be devastating if your site were targeted, but no, it’s not that likely. Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team, says:

In my experience, there’s a lot of people who talk about negative SEO, but very few people who actually try it, and fewer still who actually succeed. I know that there’s been a lot of people stressed about this. Whenever we dig into what’s actually going on, there’s been a lot of discussion but very little in ways of actually people trying to do attacks.

It is best to run your website, do your white hat SEO, and produce quality content as usual – but remain aware and take steps to keep your site – and your online reputation – intact. How?

  • Log into your Google Webmaster Tools account and enable email alerts. Google will let you know if your pages are not indexed, your site is attacked by malware, or if you’ve received a manual Google penalty. Simply click on Webmaster Tools Preferences. Enable email notifications for All Issues and click Save.
  • Monitor your backlink profile. See what types of sites are linking to your sites to ensure they are legitimate. You can ask a reputable SEO firm to help you develop and monitor your profile or use a tool such a Majestic SEO, Ahrefs, or Open Site Explorer.
  • Use a tool such as CopyScape to monitor for duplicate content, and keep an eye on your site speed. A sudden and marked slowdown can indicate that spammers or negative SEOs have attacked it.

If you do find bad links:

  • Contact the webmaster and request they remove the links.
  • Use Google’s Link Disavow tool. If you’ve taken every step possible to remove bad links, you can request that Google ignore them when assessing your site.

Like Matt Cutts reminds us, there is likely nothing to “stress” about. So don’t. Just be on top of your link profile and content to spot trouble before it can take root.

ThermometerTo stay healthy, it’s best to make the annual trip to the doctor, get checked out, say “Ahhh.” In the meantime, there are a host of steps you can take to maintain your health on your own – eating right, exercising, getting proper rest, etc. The health of your website is the same: once a year, you should have a professional audit, a thorough checkup to maintain optimal site performance. But in the meantime, there are steps you can take to ensure you stay healthy.

Some aspects to review during your DIY audit:

Crawling and Indexing Issues

Ensuring Google properly crawls and indexes your website is critical. Log into your Webmaster Tools. ON your dashboard, click Google Index > Index Status > Basic. This will tell you how many URLs Google has indexed. Click Advanced  for more information on how many URLs Google has ever crawled and if any have been blocked by robots. Check your robots.txt file to ensure that any blocked URLs are, indeed, blocked by your choice to enhance your strategy (such as to not have Google crawl or index duplicate content).

Look for an increase in the number of crawled and indexed pages. A decrease may mean that Google cannot properly access your content.

Sitemaps

Your sitemap is just that: a map of your content for Google. Make sure it follows the established protocol and that it is formatted correctly. Compare the URLs that Google has crawled to your sitemap and update if necessary.

Links

It is essential that you keep an eye on your link profile. Do you see any spammy or questionable links? Are there high-quality reputable links? With the rise of negative SEO, it pays to stay on top of your profile, and to cultivate great links from authoritative sources.

On-Page SEO Elements

Now you’ll want to examine your tags and metadata. Quickly:

  • Do you have unique title tags for each page? Do you have any duplicates? Are they relevant and keyword-optimised? Are they between 40 and 69 characters?
  • Do you have solid copy for your meta description tags? Is it relevant to searchers and provide the information they need? Are they 200 characters or fewer?
  • Do you have alt image tags? These help visually impaired searchers, and they play a role in your search engine visibility. Make sure they accurately describe the images.
  • Do you have H tags in the proper places? Do you have H1 for the main headline and subheaders as H2?
  • Do you have relevant, interesting content? This applies to your site copy, as well as to blogs, whitepapers, and other “long-form” pieces.

Speed

Site speed is huge this year, especially with mobile users. Make sure your site is running on all cylinders. Google’s PageSpeed tools are helpful here. When you identify issues, create a strategy to address them and boost performance.

This, of course, is not an exhaustive audit, but you should keep your eye on these types of issues continually.  A professional audit will fill in the gaps and give you a great foundation on which to build over the year.

Old KeysWith the move towards contextual search, SEOs and businesses have to be much more concerned with the intent behind the query. When someone enters “Italian food,” for instance, do they want restaurants? Recipes? Diets? Targeting the intent with long-tail keywords can help websites improve their SEO strategies, increase relevancy, and pull in visitors.

Long-tail keywords are usually 3-4 words in length, as opposed to “head” keywords. In our example, “Italian food” is a head keyword, and completion is fierce. How can you ensure visitors find you because your site is relevant to their needs? By:

  • Using very specific search terms. Italian food restaurants in London, Italian recipes for family dinners, Italian and Mediterranean diets. Someone searching for a good eatery will find you using these targeted terms. Hit Google AdWords Keyword Planner to determine which terms your audience is searching for and plan a strategy.
  • Using keyword search tools, such as Ubersuggest and Google (just enter in your keyword and see what it suggests). Ditto that for Bing. Also try Bing’s Suggester.
  • Using Google to search potential keyword phrases. Ideally, you’ll see that there’s not a lot of competition and that the phrase appears in niche sites, Q&As, and forums. Don’t get too granular, though. You don’t want to narrow down so much that you rank first for your keyword – but no one is searching for it! Think like a searcher.
  • Including the keyword into your title tag. Make sure it is compelling and encourages readers to click through.
  • Using 3-4 long-tail keywords for each new post – and make sure posts are fresh. Publish content regularly. Google likes it; so do searchers. Remember, as with any keyword, never stuff. Place them organically into your content.
  • Optimising existing content with the targeted keywords. Again, natural is the key to keywords.

Search queries are increasingly specific, many times even in full question form. Capitalise on what people are actually searching for by including long-tail keywords. You’ll be able to show searchers that you’re relevant and can answer their questions.

Film Clapper 4Move over, blogs. Well, they’ve moved over a while ago as internet users’ tastes and preferences changed. Vlogs, though, remain a relevant and effective method to reach a wide audience. How wide? Consider a few YouTube states: there are more than 1 billion unique users to the site each month, and over 6 billion hours of video are watched each month. Over 100 hours of video are uploaded every minute. With the glut of content, how can you be sure you stand out?

Some tips for spreading the word about your vlog:

Hashtags: They’re not just for Twitter anymore. The ubiquitous # is a useful tool for helping audiences share and discuss your videos. Reach out to those who do not currently follow you on social media and provide them with this easy route to your vlog.

Social Media: Speaking of social media, branch out from the usual suspects – Facebook and Twitter – and try Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and other platforms. Use them to announce new videos, highlight favorites from the past, and seed upcoming content. Remember, with social media, you don’t have to be everywhere: you have to be where your audience is. Do some consumer research to find out their social preferences, and get active in those communities.

Fan Finder: Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a free, easy way to reach new fans? Wish granted. YouTube’s Fan Finder allows you to create a short video ad for your channel. They show this to potential fans (based on user preferences), and, hopefully, your channel is flooded with interested and eager viewers. Create a 30-60 second video – a 30-60 second eye-catching, enticing video!

Commenting: Be a good internet citizen! Find videos, vlogs, blogs, and websites that relate to your niche and become an active participant. Say that you are a personal trainer who wants to drum up some more business. You may visit a health and wellness lifestyle blog, a YouTube video channel dedicated to nutrition and cooking, and a site that promotes exercise. Read, watch, and comment. You can mention you own channel or site – but don’t be spammy. Even if you aren’t blocked by moderators, you’ll alienate other sites and their audiences.

This works well because when people are interested in and passionate about a topic – whether health, fitness, business, or hobby car mechanics – they want more information from a variety of sites.

IRL: Why keep your expertise and quality content online? Promote it in person. If you’re at an industry event, for instance, why not pass out business cards with your website or channel name and URL? If business cards don’t do it for you, try fun decals or stickers. Put your web information on your newsletters, on correspondence, and on other communications that happen “in real life” or on old-fashioned paper.

A vlog can be a great way to issue high-quality, relevant content to your audience. As YouTube stats tell us, billions of people love a good video! The interest is there; the tools and platforms are there. Are you?

SEOFoot traffic and paper directories just don’t cut it anymore.  A confluence of events – from the meteoric rise of mobile to the emphasis in many communities on supporting local establishments – means that local businesses need to create a lively, optimised online presence to engage their customers. Over 46 per cent of shoppers use their mobile devices to research local products and services. Will they find you? Here are a few targeted tips for being on top of the local game.

  • Set up your Google Places space. Run, don’t walk. You can control the information you provide to Google, and to your audience. Use this opportunity to disseminate the essentials: hours, contact information, images, and a keyword-optimised description. After you fill this out, all you have to do is verify your account via phone or mail. Bing and Yahoo also have “Local” services for businesses, so if you want to target these engines as well, follow their specific procedures to get your account set up.
  • Get social with Google+ Local. Here, you can connect with your customers and others related to your specific industry using Google+ circles. You can control the information and the “story” your business tells.
  • Use a real address and phone number. People who search for local products and services want a “real” address, not a virtual one. Not only does it tell them where to go if they want to visit the brick-and-mortar location, but it lends your business greater credibility. Same goes with the telephone number. Adding a map is another nice touch that will help visitors feel more comfortable visiting either in person or onine.
  • Encourage customers to leave reviews and ratings. These are terrific for boosting your online authority and profile. Make it easy and convenient for them. Try printing a link to a review site on a receipt or adding one to an email communication to solicit feedback. If you should get some negative comments, address them immediately! Stay respectful, positive, and helpful – remember, these things can go viral.
  • Make sure your site is mobile-ready. While people do search for local businesses from home, it’s a mobile world. Is your site optimised for smartphones and tablets? If not, work on creating a responsive website or creating a separate mobile experience.
  • Don’t forget SEO. Keywords, site speed, metadata – all critical in local search campaigns.

Customers are out there, searching for quality local businesses. Make sure they find you by implementing these SEO strategies.

Flying Books 1

Content developers face a challenge every time they develop ideas and start to put pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard or touchscreen. How long? We have a message – but what’s the best format in which to present it to our audience? In a social-media dominated landscape, 140-character messages, snappy, pithy sentences seem to rule. But does longer content have a place? What is the ideal length for copy?

There’s a strong case to be made for longer pieces:

  • Google sure does like them! serpIQ analyzed search engine results for 20,000 keywords, focusing on length. The top-ranked pages were those with more content, or more specifically, more words. The top of the top 10 had more than 2450 words.
  • They generate more inbound links.
  • They receive more social shares.
  • They have higher conversion rates than short-form content.
  • Google now includes PDFs and other long-form content in the search results.
  • LinkedIn just started allowing some members to post long-form content.
  • Sites like Longreads and Longform are devoted to curating the best long-form content, and sites like Buzzfeed are stepping up production of longer pieces.
  • Audiences like them. Sure, we all skim but when we really want to dig into a topic for research and information, we want an authoritative – and yes, longer – piece.

So, does this mean you should write 2000 word articles and eschew 400 word posts? No. It’s best to have a good mix of short and long. Blog guidelines have long informed us that 300-600 words is optimal, and we do need those quick snippets. Longer pieces, though, appeal to a different audience – or, rather, the same audience who has different motivations for reading and researching. Whitepapers, articles, PDFs, and other long-form content help attract these visitors and keep them engaged with the site.

Some tips:

  • Answer questions and serve a purpose with your long-form content. This is a forum in which you can tackle your audience’s concerns in an in-depth way. Provide examples, anecdotes, and thorough explanations.
  • Claim your articles with the Authorship Markup. You should be doing this anyway! Get on it! It helps build your reputation as an authority and expert.
  • If you split your article into multiple pages, make sure you paginate them correctly.
  • Markup your article to ensure Google is able to accurately index it and serve it to searchers.
  • Take your long-form content to YouTube. Viewers still like the quick videos – especially of cats doing adorable things or scary zombie babies terrifying passersby – but 1/3 of YouTube view time is attributed to videos 20 minutes or longer. That’s a significant chunk of time!

There you have it: a short post on the power and importance of long-form content. While social media is short and snappy, Google, curation sites, and audiences are starting to lean towards longer content. Get on board and start producing some lengthy, meaty, substantial pieces. Not everything you publish needs to be epic, but a few integrated into the mix can only help with rankings and audience engagement.

Blank Notepad 5

A recent Hubspots/SmartInsights survey found that one of the top challenges faced by European marketers is producing enough quality content. Why? How hard can it be to write a couple of articles, maybe a whitepaper, craft some infographics, and do up some tweets? Easy peasy, as they say on Pinterest. It is! But producing all of this content all of the time – there’s the rub. Here are some tips to help out.

  • Take stock of your current content. What do you have? Look at your analytics as well: which pieces are most popular? Why? What types of information do you cover, and in what format? Which pieces have high bounce rates or low engagement with your visitors? Again, look at the topics and the formats to determine why your audience gives these the cold shoulder.
  • Brain storm relevant ideas. Fortunately, you have a host of tools at your disposal to help. Use Google’s Keyword Planner, for instance, allows you to search for keyword ideas. Look through LinkedIn groups for professional discussions, Quora for trending stories and hot questions, and Ubbersuggest for keywords. Even sites like Pinterest can help you gather, and organize, great ideas.
  • Organize everything. All these ideas, snippets, and stories can create chaos. Organize it all with a program or app. EverNote is a good example, but far from the only available – and free – option! You can jot down thoughts, store all sorts of content, and use the search function to find it all again. With cloud access, you can do this anywhere, anytime so you never lose an idea for great content.
  •  Schedule your content. Create a content calendar so you have a schedule. You can build a bank of articles, infographics, images, and other content to release at specified dates so you always have a steady stream of relevant goodies for your audiences. It also allows you the flex to respond to news stories and current events. You can use Excel or find a free template online.

Taking a methodical approach to content development ensures that you have relevant articles, whitepapers, editorials, infographics, and video when you need it. You don’t need to depend on the muse; you need to depend on your schedule! And you need to make scouring the world for new, fresh ideas a daily activity.

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