SEO News

Download Onscreen ButtonSEO, and search engine visibility, is just the first step. Conversion rate optimisation is focused on keeping visitors on your site and ensuring they complete the desired call to action, whether that is purchasing a product, signing up for a newsletter, or answering questions on a survey. Are your CTAs effective?

Calls to action tend to be relegated to afterthoughts on most websites. A small scale study of businesses presented by Small Business Trends found that 70 percent do not optimise CTAs on their home pages. More – 72 percent – do not have CTAs on their interior pages, and still more – 82 percent – do not mention their social media profiles. Most do not include vital information, such as phone numbers or email addresses; and if they do, they are not featured prominently.

A compelling call to action is essential but how do you go beyond “Contact us”?

  • Learn from the mistakes of these small businesses. Place CTAs in prominent locations and in interior pages. Make them noticeable: contrasting colors for your banners and buttons work. There is some conjecture that different colors – such as yellow and orange– are more eye-catching and apt to convert. You can get into A/B testing to determine that, but in the meantime, make sure they are highly visible.
  • Pair your CTA with your content. “Buy now” is often your ultimate goal, but does that make sense on an information or educational page? A more effective call to action would center around learning more, contacting you for further information, or downloading an ebook or whitepaper.
  • “Learn more” can be ambiguous. Make sure that your CTA tells the visitor exactly what action you would encourage them to take (which will be to their benefit, of course!). Make that value proposition clear. JetSetter does this: they may have a tidbit about an Italian vacation with a CTA button that reads, “Plan a trip like this.” The visitor knows what will happen when he clicks through, making it more likely that he will do so.
  • Inject some urgency. You need to do this now! Is the message, but how to word it? Spotify does a great job with this one: “Music is for every moment.” Then, under,  “Get Spotify for free.” It is inspirational – we have moments! We want music for them! Our very own soundtracks! – and it’s free. That never hurts.
  • Be very clear in your wording. “Buy now” is not earth shattering, but if visitors are on a product page, it only makes sense. When the tried and true works, use it.

Businesses tack on CTAs after carefully working through content strategies. This is a mistake. Spend time crafting your CTAs wording, design, and placement – and then track your analytics to see the difference it makes.

Film Reel Series

YouTube is a juggernaut of video and brand power; over 6 billion hours of video are viewed each month; 100 hours are uploaded every minute, and YouTube reaches more people than any cable network. It has global reach, immense power, and unlimited content. And in the billions of hours of video, where are you? How can you ensure that the right audience can find you? You don’t need to go viral in order to be successful with YouTube. Here are a few useful tips that can help you become more visible?

You know you should write descriptive titles and descriptions. Here are some other “musts.”

  • Improv is fun and spontaneous! But it can also be difficult to pull off in a video for your brand. In most cases, having a script is the best way to go because you can be sure to get your message articulated fully and effectively. And, another benefit, you can add the script to the description. Google will index this, and you’ll improve your visibility.
  • Don’t use a generic video file name. Use a targeted keyword in your file name. YouTube – and, hence, Google, notices. Be sure that the keyword directly relates to the content of the video.
  • Add closed captioning. You will be able to reach viewers who are hard of hearing or deaf, and you will be providing Google and YouTube with indexable, crawlable content. If you follow your script, you can simply upload that as your transcript. If not, you can use Google Voice to create your captions.
  • Use what you have. Your website, blogs, and social media presence should be interconnected, so cross-promote your videos. Simply posting a video on YouTube is unlikely to bring you the success you want, but tweeting, Facebooking, and blogging about it, posting it on your website, and creating a link from YouTube to your site are effective techniques for seeding your video content.
  • Create a YouTube channel. Again, this will interconnect with your other platforms, and it will provide viewers with easy access to other interesting content. Your channel also gives you the chance to write descriptive titles and descriptions for greater visibility.
  • Try Annotations. This feature allows you to create an interactive video experience.  You can add background information or link to relevant content. This could be a big opportunity because a lot of videos either do not use these or don’t use them well. Get creative.

YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine. When you optimise your videos, you have a much better chance at standing out from the crowd.

Paper Chain In The DarkProducing quality, relevant content is an ongoing task for website owners, bloggers, and businesses. In addition to producing our own written, video, and image content, we can employ additional methods to ensure we give our audiences the material they want and need. Curating is one way to do this, as is using the words, images, and thoughts of our audiences themselves. Leveraging user generated content (UGC) can be an effective technique to enhance our websites.

The UK’s Guardian has recently launched a digital platform which enables users to upload video, photos, and text content to its journalists via apps or the website. They call this “GuardianWitness,” and they’ve leveraged it to allow up-to-the-minute, man-on-the-street coverage of major news events. This is just one example of brands leveraging UGC. Retail-based and service-based brands can also benefit: Brisk Ice Tea, for instance, crowdsourced a special edition label to fans of the beverage, using Instagram for help. The potential is enormous; how can you encourage and use UGC effectively?

  • Let users know you want their words, pictures, etc. Solicit user feedback, reviews, and ratings. Make it easy for your customers to leave feedback and share their experience via social media. Sharing buttons, review buttons, and/or a “Most Recent Reviews” sections on your website can be invaluable.
  • Give them something back. UGC is a favor from your audience to you – now give them something in return.  A gift card, free product, free sample, free shipping, and other perks are fairly inexpensive for you, and your users’ content may help draw in additional visitors (and customers!). This makes it a smart investment.  If a free sample doesn’t work for your business or site, why not feature a user each week or month? Post the content prominently on your site.
  • Create hashtags and ask your audience to tweet or post to Instragram. Lulumon did this with #sweatlife, and yoga-enthusiasts posted 40,000 pics of themselves in various yoga poses – and in Lulumon clothing. People like to feel a part of the community, and at the same time, they’re creating great content for you.
  • Ask loyal customers to be your testers. Give them a free product in exchange for a thorough review of said product. Amazon does this with its wildly popular Vine program, and the mega-retailer’s UGC is an indispensable part of its online brand.
  • Get current on the laws and restrictions surrounding UGC. If, for instance, a user modifies a copyrighted video or image, it can violate copyright laws and you might be complicit in displaying that content. Also, you’ll want to make sure your contests conform to the rules of the social platforms they appear on and winners should sign an agreement that their content can be used by your brand.

UGC can be an integral, vibrant part of your content creation strategy. Have you used UGC? If so, how?

 

Ye Old Typewriter 2

Writing great content can be a challenge. Writing great content day after day after day is most certainly a feat. Content tools are not designed to write content for us; we want to leave that for the humans. What they do, however, is help us map out what we need to cover, when, and how. They can help give us a spark of inspiration when the muse has cut out early or when a meeting has left us dull. What are the best ones to use?

Ubersuggest. Sometimes all you need is an idea, especially on a slow news day. Ubersuggest allows you to enter in a word or phrase and troll through Google Suggestions for trending and related topics. You can find ideas, resources, and other content-starters on topics that are of interest to your audience.

Scrapebox. Ok, we know. This one does not have a sterling reputation. It is often connected with those spammy comments you see on blogs, and it can be used for that purpose, to be sure. It can also be used completely legitimately, white hat-approved, as a content tool. Much like Ubersuggest, it scrapes content and can help you find related topics on which to create content. Some even say it is more powerful. Just don’t use the spam-comment feature. If you’re concerned, there are a number of great articles from reputable sources on using it this way. Again, do not use the spam or link features.

Audacity. This is a free recording/editing tool that will help you create audio content. It is important to have a mix of content (text, images, video, audio) to appeal to your audience’s diverse learning styles. Record your thoughts on a topic, or interview an industry authority. Get “man on the street” feedback or do an audio Q&A. There is a lot of possibility here.

Evernote. With this program, you can keep track of notes, recordings, images, webpages, etc., and access it via the cloud from any device. This is great when the inspiration strikes on the train and you only have your phone. It can be a repository for content ideas, and best of all, it is collaborative. Share it with colleagues so they can add to it or use it themselves.

Feedly. This is a Google Reader successor. The magazine-style reader allows you to access, organize, and read content from across the web easily and efficiently.

Slideshare. Surprised? Don’t be. Slideshare can be a powerful tool for building your authority and visibility. Slide decks are informative, sharable, and great for appealing to a variety of users.

As always, you can use resources like Quora, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and other news aggregators to find topics on which to create. The key is to keep it organized with a program like Evernote and then create a content calendar so you can keep on top of your game and deliver fresh, relevant, strategic content.

Hand Over KeyboardContent curation has become a hot technique to use in content production because it provides (or should!) value to our readers and helps us put out fresh content. But like any content marketing, SEO, SMO, CRO, acronym-of-your-choice technique, there are big caveats to its use. Content curation can be a helpful tool, or it can impact your rank. How do you know if it is going to help or hurt you?

Eric Enge of Search Engine Watch writes in a recent post, “Content curation could be a very risky practice for you.” Why? It depends on your site’s authority. As Enge explains, if you happen to be the New York Times, you will be fine. You have a recognizable, authoritative brand. The editorial practices make it difficult to get content published in the NYT – it has to offer real value. As well, it has a profile of high-quality links and both publisher and individual author authority. Curated content will not hurt the NYT because it has these factors in spades.

You don’t have to an internationally-known brand to use curation – it helps though! If you have a good link profile, authorship (use your authorship tag!), and a solid, reputable site, curation is, indeed, a useful too. And let’s not forget the real value: giving something of relevance to your audience. If a curated list will help them, publish one. But again, there is a caveat.

Google doesn’t have to index your site. It may regard your curated lists as search results, and they don’t want your results to compete with theirs. What you can do to avoid the problem but still curate is to put noindex tags on curated content. So, make sure you have some sort of brand, site, authorship authority, do a link audit, use noindex. Are there any other content curation best practices to help you use this technique effectively?

  • Use curation judiciously. Offer a mix of content to your audience: create, curate, and use user-generated content. This can be a winning formula.
  • Publish across platforms. You have Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and other sites available to you. Find out which are most appropriate to you, and get active.
  • Point your readers to reputable, high-quality sources, and give credit where credit is due.

When you make content curation part of your content plan, you can see great results. Don’t use it simply because you don’t know what to write about on a given day! Provide value to your readers.

Questionnaire 2Website audit should be a regular event for any webmaster or business owner. You need to get a look under the hood and see what could be improved, and, no matter how good you are, there are usually errors present and elements that can be fixed. But what about your social media presence? Many of us neglect to conduct an audit of this essential part of our marketing and branding strategies. Why should you do a social media audit, and how do you go about it?

Taking the time to assess your social media strategy and performance is critical in helping you stand out from competitors, improve visibility, engage your audience, and create fresh, relevant content. It will help you target a strategy that will work for your brand goals and reach consumers more effectively and efficiently.

Start by asking yourself a series of questions about why you are in social media:

  • What are you hoping to accomplish?
  • Which goals or strategies do social media help you achieve?
  • What is our target audience interested in? What are their wants/needs, and are we fulfilling them with our social media presence?
  • Are we in the right place? Is our audience on Facebook or will Twitter be a better use of our focus? You do not have to be everywhere; you have to be where your audience is.

You can use analytics programs to track your engagement. Facebook, for instance, offers Insights to let you track your page’s performance, and Twitter recently unrolled their own “Analytics” tool. Take advantage and see what the numbers are telling you.

Go through each of your social accounts and check for the basics: is the “About” information complete? Do you have your address, phone number, and hours (critical if you are a local business)? Do you have a good profile picture, avatar, or logo?

You want to check to make sure that the nuts and bolts of your presence are in place, and then you can move on to integration. Do you make it easy for a Facebook visitor, for instance, to navigate to your website? On your website, do you have social sharing buttons? Do you make it easy to share content? Ideally, you want a cohesive, seamless online presence.

Checking in with your social media presence every quarter or so is good practice because you stay connected and can spot issues early on. Improvement is always possible, but you need an audit first.

AnchorThe SEO and search landscape is changing so rapidly that once-valuable and completely white hat techniques are now targets for penalties. Your anchor text is one of them. This used to be a major ranking factor, but given the ease of manipulating anchor text, Google’s Penguin update downgraded its importance and even penalises sites that utilise exact match anchor text. What do you need to know before you “name” your links?

First, the basics: anchor text is the text that you use to indicate a link to another page, whether internal or external. “Click here” has gone out of fashion because it simply does not give your website users – or search engines – any real information. Websites then started to use targeted, exact match keywords in their anchor text. That is, they use the exact keyword they’re trying to target. What’s the problem?

From both a Google and user perspective, exact match anchor text looks spammy. A natural link, on the other hand, is placed to offer the user more information. For instance, we could link to an article on the Penguin update. This would be completely natural and would provide the user with additional, helpful information. It is not placed here so we rank for “Penguin Update.”  Natural links get more clicks: it is that simple.

Google may look at exact match anchor text as an attempt at link building, and they penalise sites that use the technique too much. So if you happen to use an exact match for your link, will it bring down the wrath of Google? If you did it because it leads to a page that gives the reader useful information, and if you do it sparingly, then, no. You should be fine. Google looks at different factors when judging whether it thinks you’re trying to game the system.

When crafting text for your links, follow the same principles that you do for content creation. Just write for your audience. If you want to point them towards more information, do so naturally.

Folder

An .htaccess file is a configuration file that allows you to have greater control over elements of your website, such as security and performance. You can use this file to, for instance, create redirects or change your default connection to “keepalive.” If you don’t have access to your server’s config file, you can create your own .htaccess to manage your website and make changes. How do you create such a file, and…then what do you do with it?

Let’s start with creating it. It’s a simple text file – and you may have one already. Your webhost should give you the option to “see hidden files” when you open your file manager. If you do so, and do not see .htaccess, then you don’t have one! You may also see that there is more than one. If you have one in the root level, or www folder, you’re good. If not, you’re still good, but you have a bit more work to do!

Open a text program, such as Notepad, and save an empty pave as .htaccess. Notepad will name it .htaccess.txt. Remove the .txt, or other extension if you’re using another text program. Just right click on the file and rename just .htaccess. If you don’t do that, you can’t add directives to the file. Well, you can, but no one will listen.

Editing your .htaccess file is simply a matter of opening this file and making your changes. With a big “but.” Changes you make to your .htaccess file can have an impact on your entire website. Some bad code or some wonky arrangement can really do some damage. Before you edit, make a copy of your file. If you do make one of those types of mistakes, simply go back to the file, delete, paste your old copy in, and your website will go back to normal.

It’s also a good idea to check your changes as you go. When you make a change, go to your website, refresh, and see if it is displaying correctly. This way, you don’t make 50 changes and have to backtrack to figure out what the problem is – or waste time making 50 changes only to have to delete them all and go back to the old copy (which you should always have because the old copy is way better than no copy!).

So, now that you know how to access or create and then edit your .htaccess file, what can you do with it? We’ll take a look at some edits that will help your SEO efforts in our next post.

Index Box

An .htaccess file can help you make important changes to your website. Last time, we looked at creating and editing your file – now, what can you put into it? Let’s take a look at some of the options available to you.

  • 404 errors. Generic 404 pages might not alienate visitors – but they might. They also don’t do anything for you. Several sites have had great luck creating funny, entertaining, and informative 404 pages. Our suggestion is that you be one of them! Design an attention-getting 404 message and page, and then edit your .htaccess file to ensure it is displayed to visitors.
  • Authorization. You can have control over who sees your site. You can either block certain IP addresses or domains (to avoid things like spambots) or add a password option.
  • Enable keepalive. This command keeps the connection open between a server and browser for a specified period of time. This way, the browser does not have to make multiple, separate requests for content, and the page can load faster.
  • Redirects. If you’ve moved, you can keep visitors and search engines up to date as to your whereabouts without impact your search rankings.
  • Allow SSI, or server side includes. SSIs are directives in HTML pages that let you add content to an existing page. Say you include a daily quote on your website. With SSI, you can add a directive to include the quote without having to get into the programming of your site.

There are a number of tutorials and online resources dedicated to helping you navigate your .htaccess files. This is just a rundown because books can – and have – been written! As always, make a copy of your .htaccess file before making any changes!

Network Neurons 2

Slow-roasted coffee is wonderful; a slow stroll through the park is relaxing; a slow competitor in a race is just great luck. But slow websites are a huge obstacle to your success. Seventy-five percent of web users will bounce out of a site if it takes longer than four seconds to load. Reducing your load time can help you keep users engaged and on your page.  One way to do that is to enable keepalive. How does it work?

When a webpage loads, the browser sends a request to the server to dish up the content. The server responds and sends the file. The browser has to ask for the HTML file, read it, and then request other files (webpages are typically made up of multiple files).  Now, imagine if this “conversation” had to take place for every single file. This would reduce the speed at which a page could load.

That is exactly what happens when keepalive is not enabled. It is like ordering a meal. Your server comes and you order a drink. Then he goes away, comes back, and you order your appetizer. Then he goes away, comes back, and gives you your nachos. Then he goes away and comes back and gives you the cheese that goes on your nachos…you get the idea. It would take forever to eat, and as a diner, you’d “bounce” away from that restaurant. This is what your website audience will do when your browser has to make multiple, separate requests of the server.

Keepalive keeps the connections open. Essentially, you are allowing the server to deliver content without having to make multiple requests.

The default for HTTP connects is keepalive enabled, but the server might close connections to allow for faster, more efficient performance. It is worth your time to check to see if your connection is keepalive enabled. If not, we’ll show you how to do it in part 2 of this post.

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