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Two Guys Walk Into a Bar… and Learn Something New About SEO?

written by Duncan Lowe

Assorted Beers in a Flight Ready for Tasting

A few weeks ago I was standing at a bar on Divisadero street discussing SEO with a friend – not my typical Friday night. “SEO is dead!” he shouted. My friend had consumed a few IPA’s so I took what he said with a grain of salt. I didn’t believe that SEO would ever be irrelevant but our conversation stuck with me for most of the weekend.

On Monday morning I immediately consulted Liz O’Donnell about my friends over-zealous claim. Liz is our in house expert for SEO and all things digital and as a Boston local, is a straight-shooter. “Is SEO really dead?” I asked her. “Definitely not,” she answered. But she’d noticed a few recent articles about Google updating its page ranking metrics. She forwarded the articles my way and here’s what I discovered:

Google’s search engine exists for one reason – to connect people with information. It’s really that simple. The more effective Google is at connecting users with relevant information, the better the user-experience and ultimately the more people will trust Google as a search tool. Because self-publishing has become so prevalent, there’s a superfluous amount of information all over the web, making it increasingly more important for Google to be able to sort the good from the bad and feature the most quality results at the top of the page.

Why does Google’s search engine matter? Because in the U.S., users conduct over 12 billion web searches a month and out of those 12 billion searches, 33% of total users click on Google’s top ranked search result – meaning Google page ranking is extremely relevant when it comes to connecting people with businesses and brands.

Maybe this is common knowledge – so why the blog post? Because Google recently updated its algorithm for ranking websites. Dubbed the “The Phantom Update” by digital experts, Google activated the update without announcing it publicly and still hasn’t released specific details about the change. However, Google made one thing clear – the updated logarithm reflects Google’s growing emphasis on quality content.

But isn’t quality content a subjective assessment? Great question but not the time to indulge in a philosophical debate. For now, we should consider the following criteria when creating content for a web site:

–         Are you producing original content? Or just repurposing what’s already out there?

–         Clean up your page! Avoid clutter and anything that detracts from the user-experience.

–         “Keep focusing on building out a better web site, aimed at your users and overall quality.” – Barry Schwartz

–         Avoid ads above the fold and popups, self-starting videos, duplicate content, thin content and poor design.

More than ever before, Google will prioritize web sites designed to give users a positive experience. Any site that continues to post thin content, or sites littered with pop-up ads and self-starting videos, will see tangible results from Google’s quality update. Search Metrics has already reported that sites like Examiner.com, Rotten Tomatoes, Answers.com and WikiHow.com have experienced lower page rankings on Google.

In my opinion it is a bit frightening to recognize that Google can quietly change its algorithm and cause tangible changes in web hierarchy and website traffic. But despite a recent logo change, Google is not undergoing a re-brand. Since Google’s first iteration in 2000, the company has prioritized quality results and stayed constant to its mission –  connecting users with relevant content. What has changed? By updating their algorithm, Google can link users with relevant results with greater efficiency and accuracy.

So, no SEO is not dead. Far from it. It’s still important to pay attention to keywords, hyperlinks and other tools for making sure that users can find your website. But is it possible that Google’s recent update signals a collective re-prioritization might be taking place online where SEO matters less and quality is king? Potentially. For now, start worrying less about how people will find your website and start investing more time creating fresh, original content. You accomplish this and Google will be your friend.

 Sources:

–         The Content Strategist

–         How Google’s Algorithms Are Making SEO Seriously Simple

–         Return of the Phantom: Google’s Phantom II Update

Build a Business Blogging Strategy: 9 Tips

3D rendering of a forming puzzle with the word Blog

A company’s blog, hosted on a its own website, is the heart of all its content marketing efforts. Publishing an article is one of the most cost-effective ways to promote your business leading to more sales, establishing you as a leading authority in the industry and giving you a chance to broaden your reach. Plus, it’s great for search engine optimization (SEO). Below are 9 recommendations for developing a business blogging strategy:

1) Look at the big picture.

Your customers (and potential customers) are your readers, so write for them. Your blog posts should focus on solving their business problems – what information are they searching for, what frustrations do they have, what are they struggling with?

Create interesting content that isn’t directly related to your product, but craft articles that provide real value for your readers, gives them new, useful knowledge and help them take action. This will help you be seen as an expert in your industry and it’s a really simple way to attract traffic through social media and SEO. If your content is valuable, your readers will share it and Google will rank it at the top of its search results.

2) Choose a catchy headline.

Out of all the people who read your headline, only 20 percent will read your post. A modern online article headline is tricky – it needs to be SEO keyword friendly, but also should be unique and creative. The end result needs to be a super clickable, irresistible headline. To get you started on a hit title, here are a few go-to templates:

  • How to
  • X Ways to
  • Little Known Ways to
  • X Reasons You Should
  • Here’s the Quick and Simple Way to
  • The Secret of
  • What Everybody Should Know About
  • Do You Wish                        ?
  • The Most Effective Way to Get

Here are some keywords to get you started:

  • Reasons
  • Ways
  • Tips
  • Ideas
  • Tricks
  • Secrets
  • Statistics
  • Methods
  • Techniques
  • Strategies
  • Facts

If you want your headline to look appealing in Google and prevent it from being cut off, make sure your headline stays under 70 characters.

Finally, address readers in second person. While writing in second person is awkward, it’s the perfect form for headline writing and immediately grabs the attention of readers by calling them out.

3) Write an intro (and make it captivating).

If you lose the reader in the first paragraph, they’ll stop reading even before they’ve given your post a fair shake. You can do this in a number of ways:

  • Tell a story or a joke.
  • Share an interesting industry fact or statistic.
  • Empathize with your reader and tell him/her that he/she is not the only one struggling with a specific problem.
  • Promise your reader your advice will make his/her life better.
  • Reassure your reader that your tips are easy—everyone loves shortcuts, simple tricks and straightforward formulas.
  • Then focus on equipping your target market with useful content. That’s how you build a relevant following—and it’s key to creating a community of new customers.

4) Remember, content is king/context is queen!

To create a must-read blog, you need to stand for something. You need to become an inspiring and motivating authority in your field. Write about what you already know, and if necessary, do additional research to gather more information, examples and data to back up your points. The key to a successful business blog is to provide your readers with valuable content and problem-solving ideas. It’s a way of establishing your business website as a leading authority in your industry. A few additional recommendations:

  • Quote industry experts in your posts. It shows you know your field.
  • Avoid jargon. Explain your ideas in simple words.
  • Use examples and case studies. This will show your in-depth understanding of a topic, and they liven up your content. 
  • What is the ideal length for a blog post? It’s about 6-7 minutes of reading, which is equivalent to 1,000- 1,500 words.

5) Show, and tell.

As social networks treat content with images more prominently, visuals are now more responsible than ever for the success of your business blog. Make sure you choose a visually appealing and relevant image for your post. Photos, graphs, infographics and videos have the power to communicate in a different, more instant, way than words. Images draw an audience in and provide an additional point of interest to your posts.

6) Declare a call-to-action.

Inspire your readers with your final paragraph. At the end of every blog post, you should have a “Call-to-Action” (CTA) that indicates what you want the reader to do next – implement your ideas, subscribe to your blog, download an ebook, register for a webinar or event, read a related article, etc.

Typically, you think about the CTA being beneficial for the marketer. Your visitors read your blog post, they click on the CTA, and eventually you generate a lead. However, the CTA is also a valuable resource for the person reading your content — use your CTAs to offer more content similar to the subject of the post they just finished reading.

7) Grow your audience.

Links are the lifeblood of the internet, so make it easy for your readers to share your blog. The easiest way to do this is by using share icons. These are social networking icons that make it easy for people to share your post and consequently, drive traffic and potential sales to your website. Hook up your blog with your social networks so that people can easily share your content.

The below tactics can additionally help increase your readership:

  • Start an email list. Over time, your email list will probably drive the most traffic to your blog.
  • Optimize your content for SEO discovery and conversion.
  • Invite guest bloggers to help grow your audience. This is the quickest way to raise your profile and gain an audience.
  • Invite employees to read and interact with you in your blog comments section. It’s a great way to increase your blog engagement and also helps empower employees to share ideas that they might not have otherwise.

8) Build an editorial calendar.

Develop and stick to a publishing schedule. An editorial calendar will help you stay focused. Be sure to plan it so that it works for you and for your readers. Don’t overstretch yourself. You don’t have to publish daily.

When scheduling posts, be sure to balance out your topics to make it more varied and interesting for your audience. It can take months to build a loyal base of readers when you create a blog. Plan to make business blogging a regular part of your communication strategy for at least a year.

9) Stick with it.

Blog audiences don’t grow overnight. Consistency, quality and volume are the name of the game. Commit to your blog for the long term and you will see the rewards.

Ready to start blogging? Ask us about our business blogging program.

9 Tips for Guests on Podcasts

iStock_000017090211_MediumIf you are invited to be a guest on a podcast, may we suggest your answer be, “Yes.” Podcasts are a great way to reach an audience because people can listen to them on their own schedule. They are a great anchor for a content campaign; podcasters can add graphics and text to their show notes and guests can embed the show link into blog posts, tweets and emails.

To help you prepare for a podcast interview, here are nine things to consider:

  1. Stay silent until you are sure the host is done with his/her intro. Then give an enthusiastic hello.
  1. Have a good phone connection. Land lines are preferable.
  1. Do the interview in a quiet room. Make sure your emails don’t ding and your cell phone is on silent.
  1. If you are using notes, keep them on a single page so listeners won’t hear papers rustling.
  1. Keep your answers to 3 minutes or under. Two voices (dialogue) are more interesting to listeners than one.
  1. Highlight key points – pause, just slightly, between points, and use words such as “let me underscore that point.”
  1. Use inflection in your voice. Don’t be monotone.
  1. Ask for questions from the host in advance so you can prepare.
  1. Many hosts ask for a final thought/point. Prepare one in advance just in case.

7 Rules for Following People on Social Media

follow meDo you think there’s no strategy to who you should follow on social media? Think again. The company we keep matters – in the real word and online. Here are some guidelines for who to follow on social media.

  1.  A follow reads like an implicit endorsement. If you’re an organic food company, don’t follow McDonalds. Need to monitor the market? Set up a separate account to follow the other side, or track via a social measurement tool.
  2. Following people on social media is like dressing for success. Just like you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have, so too should you follow the brands and people you admire and aspire to be.
  3. That said; do NOT ignore your peers. Don’t be a social media groupie. The first two commandments of social media are engagement and reciprocity. Talk to your peers and your customers/fans. Do not ignore them in hope of some kind of social media celebrity status.
  4. Follow your best customers and business partners.
  5. Mind the math. You’re follower/following ratio shouldn’t be equal. No one respects someone who auto follows anyone who follows them. Likewise, people who follow less than 50 percent of the number who follow them seem egotistical and uninterested in engagement.
  6. Use a tool like Manage Flitter to find people who share your interests and weed out the dead beats.
  7. Don’t go on a follow frenzy. (In other words, don’t be Taye Diggs.) Take it slow and don’t follow more than 100 people per week.

The bottom line when it comes to who to follow is be authentic. Follow the people who interest you. Engage in meaningful conversations with them. Remember, behind every social account is a person. (Unless it’s a bot in which case BLOCK that bugger!)

Social Media Doesn’t Work: 5 Ways to Change That Fact

#FAIL“Social media doesn’t work.” We hear it all the time from prospects, and they are right. Social media doesn’t work – if you don’t use it. The  biggest naysayers of social media are the people and brands that don’t use it, or, the people who tried it but quit too soon to reap the rewards. So we agree, if you don’t invest in social media, you won’t see results. No argument here.

If however, you want to join the legions of people and brands who have realized tremendous benefits from social media marketing, keep reading. Here are five ways to make sure social media works.

1. Build before you blab. So often, we meet marketers who hope to use social platforms to reach their target audiences. So they start a Twitter or Instagram account as part of their launch strategy. They tweet. They post. And four people see it. You’ve got to build a following before your social presence will work. If a tree falls in a forest…

2. Build trust first. Speaking of building, trust should be your number one objective when you embark on a social strategy. You must build trust among your followers in order for social to pay off. And you build trust by listening before speaking, responding to your followers, being authentic and transparent. A social media account, on any platform, is not a megaphone. It’s the digital version of two cans and a string, with a speakerphone and web conferencing. It’s designed for you to connect with people.

3. Mix it up. Those brands you envy on social? Chances are they didn’t earn it all. Savvy marketers are mixing earned strategies with paid posts because a good social strategy blends earned efforts with paid promotion. Social media is no place to separate church and state.

4. Get off the island. Do you work in a company with a smart, integrated marketing program? Where advertising, PR, direct and other disciplines are coordinated and synergistic? Great. But then there’s the digital team. Those “young kids” doing that “social stuff” and they sit by themselves and work alone. That’s a recipe for failure. Social should be integrated in the marketing mix.

5. Measure what you treasure. During standardized testing season, my kids come home from school and tell me, “We measure what we treasure.” They sound like little robots as they playback what they heard from the principal. If you want to see a payoff from your social media efforts, get robotic about measuring your work. Almost every social media platform has built in analytics – use them.

Follow these guidelines for social success. Or, tweet us @DoubleFortePR and tell us again how social doesn’t work. You know tweet. 140 characters. It’s a message on Twitter. That’s a social networking site.

Just call us. We can explain.

 

Why You Need a Content Audit (featuring Vince Vaughn)

Successful applauding executives sitting at the table

By now we all agree, don’t we, that a content strategy is key? It’s key to search, key to owning your message, key to lead generation, key to your overall communications strategy. We think Vince Vaughn would agree. But do we all know that every content strategy should start with an audit?

A content audit is an excellent way to identify what you need from your content strategy. Before you can plan what you need, you need to know what you have. And, you need to know how well your existing content is performing for you. A content audit will tell you which pieces of content are driving leads, how your existing content is moving your audience through your website, and ultimately through your sales cycle, and whether or not you have the right mix of content for your various business objectives and target markets.

Here are the four basic steps to conducting a content audit.

1. Determine what you will classify as a piece of content. Potential sources include blog posts, contributed articles, case studies, white papers, videos, presentations.

2. Catalog your existing content. Make sure to track if you have the rights to the content, what format the content is in (text, video, infographic, audio recording), when it was created.

3. Assess the effectiveness of each piece of content based on Google analytics, downloads, or social shares. Determine what, it any, next steps you need to take. Does the content need to be fixed, updated or deleted?

4. Determine if you have the right mix of content by type, format, audience, and if you are sharing it with the right frequency, and in the appropriate voice. Be sure to compare your content to your competitors.

Once your audit is complete, your ready to plan your content strategy.

For more information on how to get your audit started, ask us. We think Vince Vaughn would want you to.

Social Media Cheat Sheet

You know you need a social strategy for your brand, but how do you choose which platform is best? Here is our social media cheat sheet for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google+. We cover who’s using which platform, best times to post and pro tips.

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 6.57.38 PMFacebook

Still the most popular social network

Photos and videos perform well

Share stories, let people tell their stories

Who’s there?

  • 4 billion users
  • Dominated by 35-54 year olds, with 50+ million users under the age 25
  • 77% of users are women

Best time to post

Thursday and Friday from 1:00 – 3:00pm

Pro tips

Follow the 70/20/10 principle. 70% of a client’s posts should build its brand through relevant, interesting content; 20% should come from curated sources; 10% on brand promotions.

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 6.58.45 PMTwitter

Ideal for breaking news and to establish expertise

People on Twitter want to interact (Don’t forget the #hashtag.)

 

Who’s there?

  • 285 million users
  • Predominantly male, younger market (18-29) and college-educated
  • More than 60% of the user base makes over $50K per year

Best times to tweet

Monday-Friday during normal business hours for breaking news/influencer comments; Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday at noon, 5:00pm and 6:00 pm (for B2C)

Pro tip

People love images so post them often and tag people to create mini-albums, generating more engagement.

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 7.00.17 PMInstagram

A fun and effective visual marketing platform

Designed to be used as an app

Posting to Twitter and Facebook is very easy

Who’s there?

  • 300 million users
  • 53% of young adults ages 18-29 now use the service
  • Quickly growing among tweens/teens who prefer it to FB and Twitter
  • Women, Hispanics and African-Americans, and those who live in urban or suburban environments

Best times to post

Engagement stays consistent throughout the week with a nice spike on Monday’s from 3:00-4:00pm

Pro tip

Go behind the scenes. Use professionally-taken and “amateur” photos to show what it’s like to work at your company or how a service comes into being.

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 7.01.38 PMPinterest

The place for visual, curated content

An excellent platform for referrals, second only to Facebook

Holiday and themed content does very well

 Who’s there?

  • 70 million users
  • 80% are women (20% of all women that use the internet use Pinterest)
  • Mothers are 3x more likely to share Pins than other users

 Best times to Pin

Saturday’s from 8:00-11:00pm

Pro Tips

Only pin large, high-resolution images. They’ll receive more repins, which extends the longevity and virality of the pin.

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 7.03.13 PMLinkedIn

41% of visits are from a mobile device

A new member joins LinkedIn every two seconds

 

Who’s there?

  • 335 million users
  • Platform with the oldest users – 100 million members are over 50
  • More than 60% of LinkedIn members make over $75k a year
  • Primarily for the professional crowd
  • Men and women use this platform equally

Best time to post

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday during normal business hours with a spike during lunch

Pro tips

One of the easiest ways to improve his/her page is to include a photo. There’s an 11% increase that the page will get viewed because it includes a visual.

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 7.04.14 PMGoogle+

The fastest growing social network

Considered the best for SEO

Offers  the opportunity to interact with customers in real-time through Google+ Hangout

 

Who’s there?

  • 343 million users
  • Millenials (28%) and Generation X (23%)
  • Predominately early-adopter types
  • Male between the ages of 25-34

Best times to post

Monday-Friday from 9:00-11:00am

Pro tips

Ask company “friendlies”/influencers to demonstrate and/or offer tips related to how they use your client’s product/technology in a Hangout. Record the session and share it on YouTube and other channels.

 

How to Use #Hashtags for Marketers

hashtagsThanks to Chris Messina, #hashtags have become an effective way for marketers to drive engagement on Twitter (and Facebook, Intagram and Pinterest), provide context to tweets, search for topics and join conversations. 

Earlier this week SimplyMeasuredin an article that called out our client CLIF for the effective use of its hashtag #meetthemoment, wrote, “There are three keys to ensuring you get the most of out your hashtag:

  • Make it unique to your brand
  • Keep it simple
  • Use it everywhere.”

Here are some other things marketers should think about when using hashtags:

  • Hashtags work well when people can live tweet them.
  • Hashtags with action words perform better than non action-oriented hashtags.
  • Hashtags are an opportunity for brands to include messaging in a tweet. Ex. #MyFirstVolvo
  • Hashtags that can be used on multiple occasions are great for brands. Ex #Iwanttoinvent from GE.
  • Hashtags must be vetted.  Remember Susan Boyle’s unfortunate #susanalbumparty?
  • Hashtags can be co-opted. That’s what happened to #McDStories. So before you ask people to join your conversation, make sure you’re ready to hear what they have to say.
  • Hashtags shouldn’t be overused. But go ahead and have some fun with them. After all #YOLO.

This post was brought to you #fromtheforte.

 

Top 5 Social Media Trends to Watch in 2015

2015 social trendsAs you finalize your plans for 2015, factor these social media trends into your marketing blueprint for your best year ever.

  • Emphasis on Content Marketing. Content marketing may not be a new concept, but it will be a focal point in 2015. Expect to see brands creating more original content to better tell their story, engage customers, and create a unique experience.
  • Increased Visuals. With the popularity of apps like Vine, Instagram and Pinterest, it’s important to note the role that visual elements play in social media. Research overwhelmingly shows that images generate more engagement from social media fans and followers.

Quick visual tips for the New Year:

– Only post images that you’ve created or that you have a right to publish.

– Mix up different types of images (e.g., banners, infographics, photos, memes, etc.).

– Take impromptu photos on your smartphone and post them in real time.

– Share “Caption This” photos – post a funny picture on your page and ask fans/followers to offer their best caption for the photo.

– Avoid “selfies” unless you’re posing with a celebrity.

– And of course, remember to include relevant links with your images, to ensure that you’re sending all that traffic back to your company’s website.

  • More Mobile Options. Not only is mobile more convenient for the on-the-go lifestyle that Millennials have made standard throughout our culture, but being plugged in at all times is becoming essential, and the most effective way to do that is with a mobile device. Make sure all of your online efforts are mobile responsive.
  • Shopping on Social and Mobile. Expect e-commerce and social media integrations to deepen in 2015. Think gamification, special offers and integrated e-commerce and content sites.
  • Measure, Measure, Measure. More, More, More. The top social analytics companies in play include Hootsuite, Google Analytics, Buffer, Radian6, Topsy, Sysomos and Sprout Social.

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