SEO

On-Site Factors That Matter In 2015

Photo Credit: Search Influence (cc)
The world of SEO is forever changing.
Google, Bing, Yandex— every year, they all add new features and functionalities to their indexing algorithms and their guidelines.
And alas, much of what used to work in the past is now surefire way to get your website in pretty poor conditions in the search index.
However, most of what worked on-page is there to stay— it only changed a bit, in the better.
In this post is a list of these old (but upgraded for 2015) on-site SEO techniques and my advice on how to implement them.
Your Page Title
Google reduced word count for titles to 70 characters.
Bing supports up to 58-60 characters.
That means you have to play it smart with your headlines— at least for search engines (your users may appreciate longer titles).
Keywords Matter… Always
Keyword research is an evergreen SEO practice.
Keep proximity in mind, don’t use keywords verbatim— they won’t make sense for the reader and search engines don’t like them either.
Neil Patel from QuickSprout wrote an interesting post on 5 keyword research methods to uncover hidden gems for your content. I recommend you read it and put it to use right away.
Long Content is Better than Short Content
It’s proven that the longer the content, the more time users will spend on your website, which will not just lower your bounce rate, but also help your readers create a relationship with you and your website.
There is not much room to convey who you are and give others a reason to interact with you when you only post short write-ups, right?
And longer content is link bait, too! Nothing attracts good backlinks like detailed, helpful guides and tutorials.
Don’t Ignore Your Images Alt Text
Your images alt tags is not just helpful for SEO, but especially for UX, as visually impaired users rely on alt text to know what the image contains (through their text-to-speech readers).
So don’t stop to keywords in the alt tags, describe your images for users!
Mind your site speed and design
Use PingDom’s Site Speed Test to find out about your site loading speed.
Ideally, your website should load within 3 seconds or it means there are scripts and images slowing down the loading process.
The tool will show you a grid of your site elements and their loading speeds, so you wil know exactly where to put your hands to optimize your site speed.
Also, keep your website design clean and uncluttered. Of all search engines, Google is the most sensitive to the quality of your design for its manual reviews.
In addition to that, users love websites where they know how to move around and not websites where they wind up feeling more confused than when they clicked on your link.
Mobile Optimization
The number of mobile users has grown considerably in 2015, so optimizing your website for mobile is almost a must (I say ‘almost’ because, as always, there are exceptions and your user experience should always come before SEO).
HREF Lang Helps
If you run a multi-language website, the HREF Lang tag will come to your rescue and help with indexing the correct language in each country-specific version of Google.
I wrote about this tag in detail recently here at Bosmol, so refer to that post for tag implementation details.
Link Out to Trusted Webmasters
Linking out is what websites are made for— you link to others, others link back to you. It’s the one action that gets fruitful relationships started.
And your traffic flowing, as well as giving signals that you are an active element of the Web community.
From a SEO point of view, linking out to trusted webmasters is a sign that you make optimal editorial decisions and search engines will trust both you and your neighborhood.
Keep Your Homepage OBL Low
While linking out is good, to clutter your homepage with links to other website is a bad idea.
It’s bad for the users, who should be able to focus only on navigating your website and not to undergo continuous visual stimulus that will distract them from their goal.
It’s bad for your SEO because it makes search engines suspicious that you might be selling links or run a spammy, low quality website.
Controversial: HTTPS or Not?
The truth is: it’s your choice, even though Google pushes for it. Use it of you have at least a shopping cart on your site, don’t use it if you run a simple blog or forum-based website.
The ranking boost from Google for HTTPS websites is not relevant enough to justify the time and money switching to HTTPS requires, but you can still switch if you believe it will benefit you and your users in the long run.
There is an interesting post at SEO-Theory.com about this controversy.

Advertising in 2015: How to Strike the Balance Between VOD and Television

In a modern, sensationalist media driven world, one industry or another always appears to be on the verge of extinction.
Last year it was the traditional SEO industry, which was deemed to be moribund in the face of constantly evolving Google algorithms and the proliferation of content marketing. While the boundaries of SEO may have changed to become more content- focused, however, it is arguably more important than ever as a strategic marketing tool.
Now it conventional television that is under the microscope, with the most recent Nielsen report revealing that viewership figures for this medium fell by 4% during the final financial quarter of 2014. In contrast, the figures for online streaming and video on demand (VOD) increased by 60%, crystallizing a trend that has evolved over the course of the last decade.
When Two Mediums Collide: How to use VOD and TV Advertising as part of an Integrated Campaign
While these headline statistics are used to prove the reported declining appeal of television advertising, they should be placed in their proper context. After all, the average American still watches more than 141 hours of live or traditional television each month, and while the total number of hours spent watching streamed content during the same period has risen it remains comparatively low at just 11. So while VOD and online viewership may eventually supersede television in the next decade, both mediums will be forced to co-exist with one another for the foreseeable future.
This is something that modern businesses cannot ignore, and it is crucial that entrepreneurs are open to using both VOD and television advertising as part of an integrated, online marketing campaign. To achieve this, you will need to understand both mediums while learning how and when to use each effectively: –
VOD: The Platform for Non-premium and experimental Marketing
In basic terms, the rise of VOD and online streaming continues to be exponential, with YouTube alone boasting more than one billion unique users on a monthly basis. When you also consider that there is also a host of additional viewership resources such as Vimeo, VOD is clearly a growing concern with huge potential.
It does not yet have the mainstream presence of television, however, meaning that it has some shortfalls and restrictions when it comes to marketing. It is not necessarily ideal for promoting high-end premium products, for example, as the cost of manufacturing and retailing these often demands a high volume of sales if they are to be profitable. VOD may also be unsuitable for relatively staid products or services, as the heavily populated and competitive nature of this medium means that content must have an engaging hook and the potential to go viral if it is to truly succeed.
In this respect, VOD should be primarily used to market non-premium products or host experimental campaigns, particularly those that can make a striking visual impact during a 20-30 second online slot. Costs are usually determined per one thousand views, so this provides an affordable medium that can minimize the risk of marketing cheaper or unconventional projects. On a final note, you can also consider using VOD in an auxiliary role that supports mainstream campaigns through short and memorable online slots that are shared online.
TV Advertising: A Selective Medium for Premium Campaigns
The appeal of television is enduring, and while it may be on the wane it remains a crucial marketing medium in 2015. Its high cost is beyond the budgets of many small and independent ventures, however, while its supposedly diminishing returns may also deter larger brands from investing in television airtime. Even allowing for this, there is no doubt that television remains a key battleground for premium brands and products while it can highly effective so long as marketers are selective in terms of their content and activity.
To understand this further, it is important to look at the costs associated with procuring airtime. While it can cost as little as $500 to produce and develop a 30-second advertisement for local television spots, for example, this can rise to nearly $350,000 for national exposure. In terms of securing airtime, the cost of a peak or prime-time television slot can range between $400,000 and $500,000, which instantly prices many smaller businesses out of the market. This is why television advertising is such an extreme and challenging medium, as while the cost of peak slots are prohibitive they are considered by many to be the only viable way of executing a successful TV marketing campaign.
If you do have the capital to invest in a sustained assault on the prime-time television airways, you need to ensure that you select the right product and channels to ensure a profitable campaign. Customer profiling plays a huge role in TV advertising, as each channel (and there are many of them) has its own viewing demographics and commands a regular audience. You must therefore be able to align your premium product of choice with a specific target market, choosing the most suitable channels to engage your audience.
This type of detailed approach will help you to calculate the potential profitability of your campaign and estimate your ROI before making a final decision.
As you can see, both mediums have their merit in 2015 and this will remain the case for the foreseeable future. Combining both within a selective and integrated campaign is crucial for well-resourced businesses, in particular, as it optimizes their market reach and enables them to execute targeted and ultimately profitable campaigns.

Pay-for-Performance SEO vs. Monthly SEO Services

SEO is hard.
It can be difficult for seasoned vets, much less some noob hoping to get to Page One on the cheap. SEO takes time. It takes knowledge and a strategy in order to make it to the top.
But here’s where it gets really difficult: choosing the right SEO service.
Beyond the tactics used, the pricing structure of SEO is about as consistent as a contradiction. You can pay by the hour, by the project, monthly or based on results.
Most people pay monthly for SEO services, but a growing number of companies offer customers the ability to pay AFTER their rankings go up.
What Is Pay for Performance SEO?
Pay for performance SEO is exactly how it sounds: you pay for results. If you don’t see an increase in rankings, you don’t pay.
This new pricing model can be a bit intimidating for those in the SEO industry, particularly companies that do not have the capability to scale. The value proposition for consumers is huge, but many an SEO will be quick to tell you:
Pay for performance is BS
Pay for performance is too good to be true
Pay for performance is black hat
You get the point.
Most of the people yelling these battle cries (not surprisingly) offer SEO services that are in direct competition to the model they are speaking out against. Is that to say that one beats out the other? Not entirely.
How Pay for Performance SEO Really Works
Do you know what Moz, Ahrefs.com, Raven Tools, and Majestic SEO all have in common?
No, they’re not part of a clandestine SEO power circle laughing maniacally in smoke-filled backrooms, cigars in hand, plotting their next Google takeover.
Still can’t figure it out? I’ll give you a hint: data.
They build tools to take search data (keyword traffic, rankings, and fluctuations in the SERPs) and turn it into actionable insights for their customers. By gathering this data over time they are able to make educated inferences into how Google ranks web pages. Do they have a blueprint to Google’s algo? Of course not. Do they have enough data to recognize patterns and signals that contribute to rankings? Without a doubt.
Does your SEO company do that? Probably not.
What Google, Moz, Ahrefs and Raven Tools have in common with real PFP companies — analyzing SERPS and logging data.
As much as SEO is an art, effective pay for performance SEO is data-driven. Google updates its algorithm at least once per day. It’s in constant flux. While pay for performance SEO might not make much sense to an independent consultant or small firm, a company who has been doing SEO for years can always approach things differently.
Here’s how to spot the real PFP companies from fake ones.
They have years of data and experience. Experience is critical, but data even more so. Measuring the correlation between SEO activities and rankings helps build processes that earn higher rankings. In turn, those processes create a more efficient way of getting results.
They have worked with hundreds of customers. A reputable pay for performance SEO provider typically has been in the industry for years and served hundreds, if not thousands of customers. No SEO tool or blog article can ever give you insights like these.
Pay for Performance SEO: Cleaning Up The Misconceptions
#1 – Pay for performance SEO is blackhat.
Invariably, the most common complaint you hear against pay for performance SEO is that rankings are manipulated using shady tactics so the client can be billed.
Are there performance-based companies that will blackhat your rankings and take your money? Absolutely. Are there SEO companies that will charge you every month and still not get you any rankings? You bet.
The pricing model is not the culprit. This is a problem that exists in the SEO industry, just as every industry has its own bad apples. I have a friend that is the most generous person I’ve ever met. Want to know what he does for a living? He sells cars. Generosity is not the the first thing that comes to mind when you’re talking about someone who sells cars now, is it?
#2 – Performance-based companies guarantee rankings.
This has been stated a million times on the internet, but for the sake of consistency I will repeat it one more time: never trust a company that guarantees rankings in Google.
However, this should not be confused with a guarantee that you will not pay unless your rankings increase. If you are using a performance-based service, you absolutely should have a guarantee that you won’t be billed unless your rankings go up!
#3 – Your rankings won’t last.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Success compounds. When you do things right, your site goes up in authority, rankings follow, and so does traffic. Once you rank for a keyword, it’s much easier to sustain those rankings. The real battle is getting there.
Pay for performance companies have a vested interest in maintaining your rankings because they can keep getting paid. If your rankings drop, you pay less or end up paying nothing at all.
So Is Pay For Performance SEO Better?
It depends. For most small businesses or first time SEO investors, performance-based SEO can make a lot of sense. Even more so if you are on a shoestring budget.
On the same token, the scope of work performed under pay for performance SEO is very controlled for obvious reasons — we have to balance getting results for clients and ensuring profitability for the company. Essentially, the “business risk” is transferred from you (as a customer) to us (as your SEO company).
Now, if you can afford to invest thousands of dollars into SEO per month, it makes much more sense to invest in inbound marketing. When you pay upfront and sign a contract this allows the agency you choose to allocate time and resources to give your campaign success. More times than not you’ll also get help with content and social media when taking this route.
That being said, if you are a local business on a shoestring budget, a reputable pay for performance SEO company can help you see ROI from organic search with out you having to pay upfront.
Would you rather pay monthly or for results?
This article was originally published on RankPay.

10 SEO Lessons I Learned The Hard Way

I graduated from college with high hopes. I was going to dominate the marketing world. Yes, I was truly confident, of course, I understood the value of hard work and I knew that I had to work my way from the bottom up.
I was confident in my training, my background, and fundamentals in marketing. I was ready to apply the 4Ps of marketing – product, place, price, and promotion. Much to my surprise the promotional aspect of marketing taught in my marketing classes were much more different from the technical aspects of digital marketing needed today.
Luckily in my first job, I got the chance to learn as much as I could on the job, and in time, I understood the basics of digital marketing and SEO. I soon realized that was not enough, I needed to dig further and get more technical. While the basics of SEO involves keyword targeting and the ability to prove relevancy in SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages), I realized that, in order to truly be an SEO professional, I needed to understand the technical aspects of the web, and to some extent have some web development skills.
Equipped with this newfound curiosity, I embarked on my journey to learn how to code HTML and CSS, JavaScript and now, PHP. In my journey as a digital marketer and SEO professional, I’ve had to learn by doing a bit of “try and error.” After all, there isn’t really a class that can teach you digital marketing all at once, especially, when everything keeps changing at lightening fast speed.
Here Are The 10 SEO Lessons That I’ve Learned Along The Way

1. Meta-Tags Is Part Of The Fundamentals Of SEO But Not The Be It All
If you read any SEO material from the past, you will notice the significance that is placed on Meta-tags: the title, description and keywords. In the not too distant past where things were much “simpler,” most SEOs had to focus on using keywords in the title and description tags as many times as possible to improve ranking on a search engine result pages.
I remember the times when I would spend days if not weeks tweaking Meta-tags to try to outrank my competition. Interestingly enough it sometimes worked. SEO today, however, involves a little bit more of a complete content marketing plan due to Google’s algorithm updates such as the Hummingbird, where emphasis is placed more on relevancy and connecting conversations.
While the evolution in search engine ranking factors, has led to a shift in focus from optimizing Meta-tags alone. This is not to say that Meta-tags should be ignored completely. They still form an important aspect of SEO, but it shouldn’t be seen as the main indicator for search engine result page rankings.
2. Clients May Have Unrealistic Expectations
Clients without a full understanding of how SEO campaigns work, may expect SEO professionals to provide results quickly. However, most SEO campaigns especially ones that are focused on more broad and competitive keywords take a longer time to see results. It’s important to explain to clients how SEO campaigns work to help set realistic expectations. There might also be the need to focus on long-tail keywords at the beginning to see faster results, while taking into account the overall SEO strategy to rank for more general keyword.
For instance, a nationwide dental practice trying to rank nationally for the keyword “dentist” might have better results, running micro local SEO campaigns concentrated on ranking each local office for the keywords that local searchers might use such as; “dentist in Chicago.”
It’s also important to note that, SEO campaigns should be focused on conversion results rather than just ranking results. Sometimes, zeroing in on more targeted keywords might get you better results.
3. Beware Of Link Builders Who Promise Great Ranking Results In No Time
I’ve written about this before, I’ve seen many SEO professionals who respond to projects promising first page results for certain keywords within less than a week. Whenever you talk to an SEO company or professional who makes such wild guarantees especially, without even knowing your specific keywords, you should be weary. I’m not trying to say that every SEO Company that’s able to give you quick results is employing black-hat SEO strategies. However, most white-hat SEO strategies that are usually well thought-out campaigns that play into a bigger inbound or content marketing strategy. While these types of campaigns may not get you ranking results overnight, they build a more sustainable foundation for generating leads and increasing online visibility. Additionally they also avoid the possibility of getting penalized by search engines for using black-hat SEO strategies.
Think about building SEO strategies that can help your business in the long-term, rather than the short term. And always ask questions about how your SEO professional will get you the results that he/she is promising. If you are not presented with a concrete plan beyond spam link building, you are probably better off going with someone else.
4. Start With Long-Tail Keywords That Optimize Conversions
Long-tail keywords are keyword phrases that are much more specific, usually at least three words long, that show a user’s intent to purchase. This is different from more broad and more widely searched keywords that may not necessarily show a user’s intention to buy. Going back to my previous example, an example of a long-tail keyword that the dental practice could target is; “find a local dentist near me.”
Starting with long-tail keywords helps you to not only see ranking results quickly, but also helps you achieve your sales goals as well. As usual, targeting long-tail keywords for conversions may only be effective when it’s combined with compelling landing pages or posts.
5. Focus On The User Experience With SEO Content And Everything Else Will Follow
It’s very easy to get caught up with keywords, ranking results, and search engine algorithms and even forget about the most important aspect of website optimization—the end user. Even though, keyword search results and overall SEO strategies should play into your website optimization strategy, it’s also important to keep the user experience first. Think about it this way, let’s say you spend all your time focusing on just SEO metrics and somehow manage to get to page one on Google for your targeted keywords, there still aren’t any guarantees that you will get the results that you seek. If your landing pages are not built to give users a great experience that keeps them engaged and motivated to convert, a number one ranking on Google for your desired keyword, may not do you much good.
6. Technical Aspects Of SEO Cannot Be Ignored
The recipe to having a successful SEO strategy, can sometimes be overly simplified especially now that there are many SEO tools out there that claim to quickly help with SEO rankings by making a few changes to meta tag titles, descriptions etc. SEO professionals today, have to understand both the technical aspects of SEO such as algorithms, keyword ranking factors, web page structures, URL structures, how to use robot.txt to help crawlers navigate a website, having the right canonicalization, among others, as well as, the non-technical aspects of SEO. If you decide to do things yourself, don’t underestimate the importance of investing some time and energy into understanding the back-end aspects of SEO and if you find opportunity cost of investing time into this not worthwhile, then you might be better served investing in an SEO professional.
7. Google Search Console Should Be Your Friend
Google Search Console, formerly known as Google Webmaster tools, is a free and easy tool to help you monitor website crawl issues, user experience, and generally help you ensure that your website is found on Google. When integrated with Google Analytics, it can also help you find out actual search queries that users are using to find your website currently on the web. Google search console should be monitored regularly to find, fix, and enhance website issues with the aim of increasing online visibility.
8. Use Google Analytics To Help You Map Out Your SEO Strategy
Google analytics is another free tool from Google that can help improve your SEO strategy. Other than helping you monitor website visitor activity, Google analytics is also able to track website visit sources, landing pages and keywords that get you conversions.
In addition to helping you monitor keyword performance, Google analytics can assist with improving visitor experience, and conversions when you analyze visitor drop-off points, and make improvements accordingly. You can also run A/B tests with Google Analytics.
Sometimes you work with clients who start off by saying “hey, I will like to rank for this keyword because I think that that’s what people are looking for.” To help me discover related long-tail keywords, I would go into Google analytics to find out if the client is getting impressions for the keywords that they desire. It’s sometimes interesting to find that, you may have keywords that you are already getting found with that might even be getting you conversions that you may not think about. The obvious keywords are not always the “money makers.” Keywords that are already getting you impressions, clicks, and conversions, are much easier to optimize and sometimes should be the low-hanging SEO strategies that you start with.
9. SEM And SEO Strategies Should Compliment Each Other
At some point in the past SEO was defined as a subset of SEM – Search Engine Marketing. It was then, determined that SEM should refer only to paid search engine marketing campaigns such as Google Ads and the like. The mere fact that SEO and SEM definitions were so intertwined with each other should tell you that both mediums have very strong similarities.
Think about it this way – SEO is more organic, you work towards trying to rank for certain keywords but you don’t necessarily “pay” each time you rank for that keyword. And I use pay cautiously, because if you are spending time optimizing your website to improve your SERP ranking then, you are investing some amount of money into SEO since time is money.
SEM campaigns are amplifications to your SEO strategies. Whereas with SEO you may have to wait for weeks or even months to see significant results, with SEM you can start ranking for a keyword right away. Every time you run SEM campaigns you should strive at using the “instant” keyword results to improve your existing SEO strategies.
10. SEO Should Be A Part Of A Bigger Inbound Or Content Marketing Strategy
I can’t stress how important it is. SEO projects should not to be looked at in isolation, different form other content marketing or inbound strategies. I am a big proponent of integrated marketing optimization – the concept of using all marketing channels to enhance each other. Your SEO projects shouldn’t be any different. If your content marketing strategy is to capture leads at different stages of the buying cycle with content that speaks to the different journey levels, then it’s essential to create an SEO strategy that fuels this bigger strategy.
Instead of looking at SEO projects as a one-off project, it should be looked at as a discovery or promotional channel for all your marketing efforts, either inbound or outbound. That way, you can better utilize your resources, and gain well-rounded campaign results with your SEO endeavors.
In the end, every day is a learning experience for me as digital marketer. You experience successes and challenges but through it all, it’s important to keep reinventing your strategies, make analytical data driven decisions to stay ahead of the curve.

How To Pick Blog Categories and Tags That Grow Traffic and Rankings

Blog content is typically organized by publication date, categories and tags. The meaning of publication date is self-evident. Categories and tags, not so much. The way they’re used seems to be pretty haphazard as well, sometimes resulting in visitor frustration and delays.
This post defines blog categories and tags. It recommends best practices for their implementation and use and draws a link between blog categories and tags and search engine optimization (SEO). Understanding that link will help you keep visitors happy and grow your website traffic and rankings.
Blog Categories and Tags, Garlic and Copper
John Haydon at Social Bright draws an analogy between categories and tags and grocery store aisles and ingredients.
Categories are like the aisles or sections in a grocery store. Tags are like the ingredients contained in foods within those aisles. There is only one ethnic food section in the store for example, but garlic (an ingredient) can be found there, in the fruit and vegetable aisle, in the spice aisle, and in the frozen dinners section.
The same parallel can be drawn with a home improvement or hardware store. Categories are like the aisles in a home improvement store. Tags are like the ingredients contained in products within those aisles. There is only one plumbing section in the store for example, but copper (an ingredient) can be found there, in the doors and windows section, the electrical aisle, and the lighting and ceiling fan department as well.
Blog categories are a convenient way of grouping posts that all deal with similar and broad subject areas like meats, fruits and vegetables, driveway maintenance, and building materials.
Tags are more specific. They reference narrow topics that might cut across multiple broad subject areas. Think of them as being like an index for your blog or an ingredient list for your menu or building project.
How To Pick Blog Categories
The first thing to remember is categories are primarily for your readers. They’re supposed to help website visitors find what they’re looking for quickly and easily. When you’re thinking about how to pick blog categories and tags, think about what makes sense for your visitors, not you.
By Paul [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia CommonsYou also shouldn’t overwhelm readers with too much choice. Less is more. Just like restaurant owners like to categorize dishes on their menu by the day of the week, meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner) or both, you should categorize your blog content around the broad subjects your audience cares most about.
Blog categories should be simple and easy-to-understand. They should be few in number and mutually exclusive.
A good rule of thumb is to try to group your posts into 7 ± 2 categories – the number of objects an average human being can hold in working memory.
Blog Category Examples
Here are examples of how some very successful blogs have grouped and categorized their content:
Social Media Today is a popular content marketing blog that creates and curates conversations around marketing, technology and social networking. They group content into four main categories (seen at the top of the page): social networks, marketing, technology and media, and social business. I commend them for being so disciplined in their approach to categorizing their vast content.
Sprout Social, a social media blog for business, uses seven: advertising, analytics, community management, customer care, mobile, product updates, and sprout engineering.
Business2Community creates “an open community where business professionals can establish their thought leadership, increase exposure for their business/organization, and network with others”. They use seven categories as their main menu choices at the top of the site.
Hubspot, an inbound marketing company and sales platform, uses nested categories. There are only four at the highest level: marketing, sales, insiders, and opinion.
B-SeenOnTop (the author of this post’s blog) groups content into five categories including content marketing, organic SEO, local SEO, search engines and social media.
In all these examples, blog creators resisted the temptation to create a long list of topics. Instead, they thought about their audience’s information wants and needs in advance, and grouped content according to those broad subject areas. You should do the same.
How To Pick Blog Tags
Tags, like categories, should make it easy for people to find what they’re looking for. They should be short (one to three words), unique and self-explanatory.
There is no magic number of tags you should try to keep within, but the smaller the number you can keep it down to the better. It makes it much easier to ensure you’re not creating redundant or overlapping tags that would confuse and slow down your readers.
Blog Tag Examples
Image complements of commons.wikimedia.org
I use a couple of dozen different tags on my posts. They are words that represent a mix of topics including goals (authority building, link bait and stickiness), tasks (video optimization and blog promotion), tools, templates and deliverables (keyword research and SEO audit). They are all short, unique and self-explanatory.
One of the best places to get ideas about which tags to use for your blog, is by reviewing popular blogs in your industry.
You can find popular blogs in your industry by searching for “top”, “popular” or “best” and “industry blogs” replacing the word “industry” with a commonly used word or phrase from your own industry. You can also look at buzzsumo, a tool that identifies and filters top content by date and type. Just search for some of the more popular keywords used in your industry and filter by articles. Then visit the blogs that get the most shares.

Not everyone uses categories and tags. Not every one uses them effectively. It’s common to see people using too few, too many, or fuzzy, overlapping tags.
Survey popular blogs. Learn from their mistakes. Make your blog better.
Take your time when picking categories and tags. It’s a lot of work to reorganize them if you decide to take a different approach later. Err on the side of using too few rather than too many. It’ll help streamline any clean-up efforts down the road.
A Word About Style
Categories and tags are case-sensitive. That means if you create a tag with the unique identifier “garlic” and then another one labeled “Garlic” (with a capital “G”), they’ll be considered separate and distinct, two non-identical tags. Same goes for plurals and misspellings.
Again, it’s easy to see how this might confuse visitors. If you use “garlic” on some posts and “Garlic” on others, all of the related posts won’t be linked together. Visitors will have to conduct two searches and view two sets of tag posts to see all related content. There’s also a good chance that your visitors won’t notice the discrepancy and you’ll have missed the chance to expose them to more of your content or they’ll leave frustrated, not having found what they specifically came looking for.
Pick a single style for your tags and use it consistently. I recommend using plurals and title case (shown above right) where you capitalize the first letter of each word.
The SEO Connection
By now, you might be wondering “what does any of this have to do with SEO”. It’s a good question.
image complements of David Goehring and creative commons on Flikr–
To rank highly in search results, your content has to be deemed relevant and popular by search engines. Popularity is measured, in part, by links, repeat visitors and the number of pages and amount of time they spend on your site.
Using categories and tags increases site stickiness – the number of pages and amount of time visitors spend on your site. It does so by making it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for. If they land on a post that talks about the health benefits of garlic, for example, and see that you have a category or tag that groups a bunch of articles on the same topic, they might just want to stick around a bit longer and peruse those as well.
Satisfied visitors are going to be far more likely to bookmark, link to or share your content. Bookmarks increase the potential of repeat visitors. Links are like votes for your site popularity, and sharing gets you more exposure.
Plan Ahead
Blog content is typically organized by publication date, categories, and tags. When you’re thinking about how to pick categories and tags for your blog, think strategically and plan ahead to achieve the best possible outcome – repeat, long staying visitors that bookmark, link to, and share you content so you can earn high rankings, visibility and exposure for your blog and business.
Understand that your blog will evolve. People rarely know everything they want to post about when they’re first starting out. Nor can you possibly anticipate all the feedback and reactions you might receive from your posts. The goal should always be to provide the information your audience wants and needs, and to present it in a way maximizes its relevance and usability. Make it easy for readers to find what they’re looking for and you’ll go a long way toward achieving that goal.
If you have any additional tips or suggestions, please share in the comments below. Comments, as well as questions, are always welcome.
This post was first published on B-SeenOnTop and was republished with permission.

Tech Tools and Trends: Part III (SEM Tools)

What is SEM?
Search engine marketing (SEM) is “the process of gaining traffic and visibility from search engines through both paid and unpaid efforts.”
To better understand SEM, let’s break it down into two buckets – PPC and SEO. Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising purchases online traffic through paid listings, including sponsored social media posts, Google AdWords, and Bing and Google ads. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the organic efforts to boost unpaid digital traffic acquisition. SEO efforts include keyword research, backlinking, website audits, and more.
Pay to Play (PPC)
PPC increases traffic leads or sales immediately … if you have the budget and an appropriate strategy. This concept is similar to the old-school print advertising that used a headline and call to action to promote a product or service. The only difference is that you can actually track results such as an increase in website visits, form fill outs, and online purchases. It’s an effective way to expand brand awareness, quickly. The downside to PPC is you pay to play. Following are some tools that can help you get the most out of your PPC Campaign.
1. Google Analytics
Google Analytics has an array of packages that can benefit any size business. The standard package is free and provides robust reporting. It helps you track measure sales and other types of web conversions. It also provides insights on your visitor traffic, what paths they take or what type of device they use to reach your site. The good news is that it measures anything and everything, but that can be overwhelming. Don’t get lost in the data. Pick some meaningful data points to track that really impact your business.
2. WordStream
While Google AdWords is extremely informative, it can get a bit tedious when collecting data.WordStream simplifies the Google AdWords process.
The software does a lot of the heavy lifting and saves you a great deal of time by conducting an audit on keywords you are currently using in your AdWords account. It then makes recommendations for keywords, ads, bids and even negative keywords which are important to improve click-through rate. Plus, the user-friendly interface makes it easy to set up campaigns and ad groups.
Another great perk is WordStream offers free keyword tools for those without a paid subscription. You can access their keyword generator, keyword niche finder, and keyword grouper tools without dropping a dime.
3. Optmyzr
Optmyzr is a fairly similar SEM tool to WordStream. However, in comparison with WordStream, Optmyzr is for more seasoned PPC pros, offering a better AdWords script.
The software taps into your AdWords account and looks at your overall quality score, analyzing account and AdGroup levels. They extricate AdWord scripts—the code commanding your account to do or not do something—that run in your Google AdWords account. Optmyzr then generates this data into weekly or monthly reports to deliver to your email.
This one-click optimization tool is a huge time saver. The really cool thing is they offer a free 14-day trial so you can try before you buy.
Slow and Steady (SEO)
SEO is an ongoing effort. It requires constant website improvements and tech updates. SEO is much more complicated than just choosing the right keywords – content marketing, ranking, and semantic searches must all be considered. A potential setback arises when Google changes their algorithm. Since it takes much longer to see SEO results than PPC, you run the risk of Google changing their algorithm, requiring you to rethink and rework your SEO efforts before your website ever had the chance to rank on the first few search engine pages. Below are a few tools that help maximize your SEO strategy.
1. SEO PowerSuite
One of our favorite tools is SEO PowerSuite, a nice alternative to enterprise SEO software.
The free version of the tool offers substantial SEO services, with a few limited capabilities. The software breaks things down into four core products. However, there’s one bonus service offering from within one of the core products that I want to share with you.
WebSite Auditor – Examines your website and makes recommendations for technical and on-page fixes.
Rank Tracker – Analyzes relevant website keywords and tracks progress of these keywords over time. Progression can vary from 3 to 9 months.
SEO SpyGlass – Inspects your website’s backlink profile and competitors’ backlink profiles. If you have a competitor with much more authority and domain trust, you can look at their backlink profile and analyze the types of links they are getting. You can then mimic that strategy in your backlinking efforts.
LinkAssistant – Similar to Spyglass, the difference is you can connect with other webmasters and share relevant data.
BuzzBundle – A part of LinkAssistant, BuzzBundle is a social media tool with similar offerings to the social media tools we identified in part 2 of this series
2. Raven Tools
Raven Tools is a dashboard that houses digital metrics tools. Some features include website audits, backlink research reports, SEO competitor research reports, and SEO content audits.
It offers a full range of SEO tools that are great for entry-level to intermediate webmasters. However, this tool does not go as in-depth with keyword research in comparison with other SEO tools on the market. If you’re looking for a simple place to track, research, and optimize your SEO campaign, look into Raven.
What’s your favorite SEM tool? Share in the comment section below.
Look out for part 4 of the 4-part blog series: Tech Tools and Trends: Part IV (CRM).

SEO Benefits in Layman’s Terms

If you have a hard time getting your head around the benefits of SEO or search engine optimization, a desert analogy might help.
I was scanning discussions on Moz’s Linkedin page earlier today. I saw Christopher Jan Benitez, a virtual assistant at PortPrep, ask how to explain SEO benefits to non-SEO people. He wanted a brief, 3-minute-or-less explanation.
A website without SEO is like a shop in the desert.
It doesn’t matter what the store sells, if no one knows about it, it’s not going to earn you any business.
You Have To Be Visible
If you want people to know about your desert shop, you need to get on a map and do some advertising.
It’s the same with a website. If you want your website to earn business for you, it’s going to have to be easy to find. Find where? According to Retailing Today, eighty-one percent of consumers go online before heading out to a store. Where do they go online? Statistica, one of the leading statistics companies on the Internet, says seventy-seven percent of search engine users go to Google.
If you want people to be able to find you, you have to be visible on Google.
Google’s Index
Google’s equivalent of a map is their index. When you search on Google, you’re not actually searching “the Internet”; you’re searching Google’s index or inventory of Internet content.
Google’s index is similar to the index you find in a book. A book’s index contains the words in the book and the page numbers on which the words appear. Google’s index contains the words on the Internet and the address of web pages on which they appear.
By Francis C. Weigl (Collection Kuhn) [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsIf you’re not in Google’s index, you won’t show up in Google search results.
Rankings
The other thing you have to worry about is rankings. It’s not enough to just get indexed by Google. If you want your website to satisfy your goals and objectives, you’re also going to have to earn a page one ranking.
There’s tremendous value in having a page one ranking. Google only displays 10 results per page and the vast majority of people – 48 to 95% – click on a page 1 result.
Earning that page 1 ranking isn’t easy. The search engines use ranking algorithms that change daily and there can be boat-loads of competition. The Indexed Web contains at least 4.79 billion pages (September, 2015). Not everyone is going to try to rank for the same search topics, but in a competitive industry, it can take years to achieve a page 1 ranking.
Let’s look at our desert shop as an example. Assuming our shop sells Prada handbags, a Google search for “Prada handbags” returns over 11 million results. If we want our shop to earn a decent Internet business, it’s going to have to be indexed by Google and work towards outranking 10.99 million other pages, all while the rules are shifting underfoot.
SEO Benefits
SEO or search engine optimization can help with both indexing and rankings.

SEOs know how Google works. They know what a website needs in order to be found and indexed by Google. They can ensure your site is designed and built for search engines using best practices that mitigate the impact of future algorithm changes.
SEOs know what it takes to rank well on Google. They can help you figure out what needs to be done and work collaboratively with you to enable it.
High rankings are of no value unless visitors convert. SEOs know how people search and what it takes to encourage positive outcomes. They will help you set goals and measure progress so you can see improvement over time.
So that’s it. A website without SEO is like a shop in the desert. If you want people to know about your shop, you need to get indexed and ranked highly by Google. SEOs can help you do that and more.
This article originally appeared on the B-SeenOnTop Small Business SEO Blog and has been republished with permission.

Inbound Marketing: A Tale as Old as…10 Years Ago

Once upon a time, about ten years ago, a new concept was born. It was an innovative concept, groundbreaking some said, and those that brought it to life knew that they were looking at the face of revolution. The concept was called inbound marketing.
As soon as it came to be, inbound marketing started shaking things up. It took long-standing, traditional marketing ideals, and turned them on their heads. See, traditional marketing had relied on one way communication, which meant that consumer input mattered little. Customers were sought out in aggressive ads that didn’t provide any value other than perhaps a cute commercial jingle. The marketer didn’t care about helping the customer–just about getting their product out there.
But inbound marketing did care. It wanted the relationship between customer and company to be interactive. It recognized that consumers could better control what information they received by simply searching for it online, and wanted to put companies in the position to give them that information. It brought to life the idea of educating customers, and providing them real-world value through content that targeted their needs and pain points. It focused not on pushing its way into consumers’ faces, but instead on earning their trust, and bringing the customer to the company.
People throughout the world embraced inbound marketing and its targeted approach to attracting consumers. For a while, companies had been seeing the decline in customer engagement through traditional marketing efforts, and had been seeking a way to keep up with shifting consumer behavior. Further, many had long valued the interpersonal relationships they built with their customer base, and traditional marketing methods seemed to discount those.
Inbound marketing provided a solution. It encouraged companies to tell their stories through the sphere of the industry, and put those stories in a place where people were looking–online. It told them to connect with their customers by sharing their expertise with the people who were directly seeking it. It gave them the power to educate their prospective customers, not only so that their product could be presented as the solution, but also to build trust with their audience, and turn them into long-term, high-value relationships.
In short, inbound marketing rode in on its white horse of innovation, and transformed company marketing efforts from harassing to helpful.
Inbound also brought with it all the best practices to achieve these goals. Premium offers like long-form e-books, white papers, and webinars designed to give customers value they could see. Frequent blog posts on myriad topics related to the company and their industry that not only strengthened SEO, but also the perception of the brand’s expertise. Continuous and targeted social media presence. Automated marketing outreach that feels personalized.
Marketers took these tools and built full cohesive strategies around their execution. They built their clients’ marketing plans around the inbound methodology: attracting visitors, converting them into leads, and nurturing them into customers that keep coming back for more–and tell their friends to do the same.
And so it was that inbound marketing strengthened and grew, and continues to do so today. Ten years after its inception, it is embraced not just by marketers, but by industries who recognize the benefits to this targeted, personal approach to online marketing. Companies have been saved and careers made because of this innovation in marketing and consumer relations.
Inbound marketing has changed the core of these companies, and as a result, their revenue will live and increase happily ever after.

10 Simple Steps to Writing The Perfect Blog Post

You probably already know you should be blogging. You’ve heard companies that blog are 13 times more likely to achieve positive ROI and that 82 percent of those that blog daily acquired a customer through the blog, right?
When it comes down to actually writing, though, it’s easy to make excuses.
We just don’t have time.
We don’t have anything new or interesting to say.
We’re professionals at what we do, not professional writers.
Wait, is anyone even reading our blog?
Those are all legitimate concerns but, at the end of the day, they’re cop-outs. Don’t have the time? Enlist the help of someone who does, whether it’s a content marketing agency, other members of your team, or a freelance writer.
Nothing interesting to say? As someone who routinely writes about manufacturing excellence, quality control, and other “made for TV” topics, I feel I’ve earned the right to call you out on this one. What’s interesting is in the eyes of your readers, and anything that helps them solve a problem or be better informed will certainly be interesting to them.
And if you’re great at what you do, people will be interested in what you have to say. Don’t worry about your writing abilities or how many people are going to read your post. If even one person reads it and thinks of your company the next time he or she has a need, it’s well worth the effort. However, if you keep postponing your posts, you’re missing valuable opportunities to connect with potential customers.
If you’re just getting started or you need some help overcoming your writer’s block, follow these 10 simple steps to writing the perfect blog post.
1. Choose A Compelling Topic

Write with your readers in mind, always considering what will be most valuable to them. If you can’t answer the question, “Why should my readers care?” then you need to keep brainstorming.
Not sure what to say? Here are some questions to help you get started:
What have you been spending a lot of time on lately?
What questions have your clients been asking?
What news have you read recently that you can add a new angle to?
What are your competitors or peers talking about that you can put your own spin on?
2. Do Your Research
One of the biggest roadblocks to blogging is assuming you have to say something that’s never been said before. That’s not necessarily true; you just have to find a way to say it better. The fact that you’re still in business should be a testament to the fact that you have something unique to offer. Is it your process? Your people? Your experience?
Think about what you want to say, and find out what’s already been said. Then consider what questions are left unanswered, or how you can bring your own insights to the topic. This is your opportunity to shine!
3. Create An Outline
Often it helps to think through the direction of your post and get a clear understanding of how it will be organized before you begin writing.
Consider your audience and what you want to offer them:
Inspiration?
Thought leadership?
Insight into trends?
A step-by-step tutorial?
Look for common themes as you research the topic can help you figure out 3-7 main points. These will be your subheads. If you can, write these first.
4. Write An Attention-Grabbing Intro
Think of a short (3-4 sentence) story, a metaphor or an interesting example that illustrates the need for what you’ll be discussing. Consider how Kuno Creative brand journalist Carrie Dagenhard starts this post on personalization:
Have you ever received a really awful gift? I mean, a gift so inconceivably terrible, so obviously not you that you had a difficult time concealing your surprised disappointment? It would be ungrateful and selfish to admit you didn’t like a gift another person went out of her way to purchase, wrap and present to you, so you graciously accept, oohing and aahing over the unwanted item.
It’s a story we can all relate to, yet it doesn’t ramble or take us off track. Instead, it draws you right into the main theme.
5. Write a Strong Nut Graph

This is the critical paragraph where you get right to the point following your intro. It sets the expectation for the reader by telling them exactly what they’re going to learn. It should also carry over the theme of your intro; in this case, gift-giving:
When you fail to use personalization, that’s precisely the sort of question echoing in the minds of your customers and prospects. But use personalization well, and your customers will light up like a child on Christmas morning — and trust your brand to deliver the software solution they can trust to meet their needs. In fact, a study released by Demand Gen Report shows personalized experiences can increase sales by as much as 20 percent.No matter how successful your company, everyone is looking for a final-quarter bump. Let’s look at a few of the ways you can use personalization to boost sales — fast.
6. Look for Linking Opportunities
As you write, look for opportunities to link to service pages, previous blogs or landing pages. Aim for at least two internal links per post. Check to make sure the phrase you use matches the url you use for the link. For example, the phrase “recruiting software” should link to a page with that same title.
7. Tie It All Together With a Strong Conclusion

You’ve come this far…don’t leave your readers hanging now! Take the time to summarize the main point of your post, circle back to the story you started and remind them of how following your advice will benefit them. For example:
Walking through these six steps to communicate your high-impact data may seem daunting, but it’s worth the effort. Making sure your targeted audiences understand the full depth of your messages will have long-term benefits. You’ll be better able to share important information, impress customers and partners, win business, and make smarter data-driven business decisions.
8. Create An Intriguing Headline
Here’s a reality check for you: 8 out of 10 readers will never read past your headline. That means it better be exceptional.
Stumped?
Think of the topic you’ve chosen and the keyword phrase that makes the most sense to describe it. (Ex., “manufacturing marketing strategy”)
Use the following formula as a guideline: Number + Trigger Word + Adjective + Promise
Ex., 6 Ways To Kick Your Manufacturing Marketing Strategy Into High Gear
Your headline should be no longer than 70 characters.
9. Find or Create Strong, Relevant Images

To make your blog stand out, you’ll need a strong feature image. Avoid something with words or a lot of distractions, since the title of your post will appear over this image. Here are some good sites to find free stock photo
Unsplash
Magdeleine
Picography
Im Free
Death to the Stock Photo
If you use someone’s photo from another site, check to make sure it’s free and available for commercial use. Don’t forget to give credit where credit is due. Next, look for a few photos to use throughout your post.
Think screenshots, quotes (use Canva.com to dress them up with imagery) or relevant images that illustrate a process (feel free to take them yourself!) A good rule of thumb: Aim for one image for every 300 words. Make sure to save it with the main keyword phrase you use in your post, NOT a description of what the image actually is. This is known as alt text.
Good alt text example: healthcare_marketing_strategy
Bad alt text example: smiling_doctor
Finally, size it appropriately. The dimensions will depend on the formatting of your blog, but if it’s too large, it will impact the load time of your page. Ideally, your image should be 72 dpi.
10. Proof, Publish and Share!
If you’re using a good content optimization system (COS), this part should be a breeze. The HubSpot COS is particularly helpful because it tells you exactly what you need to do to optimize your post for search. But no matter what platform you’re using, pay attention to these SEO best practices as you input:
Make sure you’ve used your main keyword phrase and any other keywords at least once throughout the body of your post and linked them to a relevant internal page
However, don’t use the same keyword too many times; repeating the same words five or more times could make your post look spammy
Write a meta description that’s 150 characters or less and includes the main keyword phrase. This is what your reader will see when your post appears in search results and, when written well, it helps them confirm they’ve found what they’re looking for.
One you’re confident your post is optimized for search, take the time to preview it to check for any formatting issues, like inconsistencies in the font. Then have someone proof it. Don’t skip this step! If your post is peppered with typos, you’ll lose credibility with readers.
Finally, be proud of what you post and share it with the world. Don’t just Tweet it out once and forget about it. Share it on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and any other social network you use, remembering to customize your post for each one. If you use Hootsuite or another social media management tool, you can even auto schedule your post to be distributed on Twitter several times in the week, or schedule it far in advance. Include it in the lineup of content you post from now on, rotating it in with newer pieces from time to time. Link back to it from other posts when you can. Revisit it a year from now and consider updating it with new information.
Although the time you spend writing your blog may be fleeting compared to everything else you do, the best thing about a blog is its long lifespan. The Internet never forgets, which is bad news for some but great news for you. By writing your blog, you’ve created a new indexed page for your website that will continue to drive traffic for years to come, long after you’ve moved on to a new topic.
Your blog is often your first introduction to a potential customer. Make a great first impression, and it will pay off!
For more tips on how to continue building a relationship with buyers after they’ve found you, check out our lead nurturing guide.

10 Free Tools to Help You Grow Your Business

“Most businesses actually get zero distribution channels to work. Poor distribution—not product—is the number one cause of failure.” This Peter Thiel quote should be heeded by every startup founder reading this. Honestly, I’ve made this mistake myself, in my previous failed entrepreneurial experience.
And how many times you’ve seen friends, co-workers or teams pitching their ideas, where there’s a fantastic team, a brilliant product but zero effort on understanding how to distribute the whole package.
Without an excellent distribution model, your business will fail. If you build it, they won’t come. Marketing is at the heart of any good distribution framework, and as a fledgling startup, it’s critical that your company finds cost-effective tools to help amplify your network as quickly as possible.
That’s where this list comes in. Each tool is free to use at least for a “freemium” plan, and will make a genuinely positive impact on your company.
1. SEMrush: From doing competitive analysis, to SEO keyword research, SEMrush is an incredibly powerful tool that will empower you and your colleagues to appraise your company’s online performance in minutes. Their free-to-use starter plan provides insightful data that other company’s would make you pay to see. It’s a must use platform, without a doubt.
2. BuzzSumo: If you’re interested in harnessing the power of content marketing, but don’t know where to begin, BuzzSumo is the tool to use. Simply enter a URL or keyword, and this social media monitoring tool will show you the 10 most-shared articles for free. While you have to pay to see other highly shared articles, a top 10 list associated with a specific keyword or website will help you jump-start your content marketing strategy.
3. Canva: Gone are the days where you needed to rely on an Adobe Illustrator expert to create a great looking logo, blog post header, or social media background. Canva is an incredibly intuitive design tool that empowers business owners to quickly create professional graphics.
4. Google Analytics: Probably no introductions needed here. Stop wondering how many people are visiting your website, from where, via what method. Google Analytics provides users a set of rich information, perfect for a new startup interested in analyzing user behavior. Use the “behavior flow” tool to see what pages most of your visitors view first, and to see how visitors explore your website from there. That’ll help you to better optimize their site for UX.
5. GetSocial: Virality is a startup founder’s best friend. You can’t create it without highly clickable social share buttons. That’s where GetSocial comes in, with its social media app store that helps websites improve their traffic, shares, followers and conversions. Also, they’ve optimized the whole mobile social sharing experience.
6. Buffer: Becoming an influencer on social media has never been so easy. Buffer allows you to schedule 10 Tweets, LinkedIn posts or, Facebook posts and tracks all key metrics. Plus, the platform will suggest relevant content for you to share, so that you can grow your audience by providing valuable and relevant content. Buffer is one of the best social media monitoring platforms around and is a must use for founders.
7. Trello: This task management platform is free to use, and will help you stay organized as a business and as a marketer. You can create segmented columns with Trello, which will help you stay on-top of various marketing initiatives like blog posting, social media, and email marketing. Plus you can share Trello boards with your team, that way everyone will be aligned on what needs to get done. On a side note, I use Trello for everything: from shopping list, to finding an apartment to rent, to our day-to-day product management. I also love the use case from the guys at Uservoice.
8. Hubspot Marketing Grader: Hubspot is an all-in-one marketing automation system. While it costs quite a bit to actually use Hubspot, the company offers the Hubspot Marketing Grader that will analyze the overall performance of your marketing strategy online. Use insights from Hubspot to understand what is working and what needs to be fixed if your business is to scale.
9. MozBar: Learn why various website are ranking on Google with the MozBar. This Chrome and FireFox extension shows users ranking factors like page authority, and social media performance as they browse the web. It’s an ideal free tool for founders interested in better understand their competitors and SEO in general.
10 Headline Analyzer: Whether you’re writing a blog post, titling a new page on your website, or editing your pitch deck, headlines have a huge impact on the overall performance of a written marketing initiative. That’s where Co.Schedule’s Headline Analyzer Tool comes in. Simply paste your headline into the tool and it will grade your headline on an F to A scale for virality.
While creating a product that customers can’t resist is a critical component to building any successful startup, building a marketing machine is another key component to creating a business that scales quickly. These 10 free to use marketing tools are sure to make it easier for any founder to grow his or her business quickly.