Back Back Back It Up: Why Backlinks are Vital to Your SEO Strategy

All marketers should be aware of how important SEO is to your organic and local rankings. About 20% of your SEO efforts will be on-page optimization. So, what’s included in the other 80%?  Well, there’s citations, backlinks, content, mobile, page speed, etc. The list goes on.

Backlinks have always been an important Google ranking factor. As time has progressed and Google has updated their algorithm, they’ve learned to weed the good from the bad. Yes, link quantity is good, but link QUALITY is becoming even more important.

Are you still asking yourself why you should care about backlinks when it comes to SEO? How about this, backlinks are the top 3 of Google ranking factors. Convinced now? Awesome. Let’s dive in.

What are backlinks?

Backlinks, also known as Inbound links, are simply links that are directed to your website. The number of backlinks you have can be an indication of the popularity or position of your website. Google, Bing, and other search engines will give more credit to websites that have quality backlinks. This is because they consider those websites more relevant to the search query.

Notice the word QUALITY above. This is key. Not only should the referring domain having high authority and a high trust score, the site should also be relevant to your industry. Wouldn’t you find it strange if a dog food website linked to a travel site? So would Google.

As I mentioned previously, Google doesn’t weigh all backlinks equally. There are some types of backlinks you want to avoid when working out your backlink strategy.  Article directories, $5 Fiver gigs that promise tens of thousands of backlinks, irrelevant link exchanges. All of these can cause a huge spike in backlinks and Google will see that as spammy black hat tactics and penalize your site.

So, what should my backlink strategy consist of?

  1. Set goals: It can be difficult to prove a link building campaign is successful, even when it hits certain goals. Because of this, marketers have to not only set realistic goals but to make sure that the goals they set are more than build X number of links. The goals need to tie into organizational goals and have a positive impact on the bottom line of the business. Like all good marketing, focus on long-term gains, not overnight quick-wins.
  2. Identify your assets: What is it you’re going to use to attract and get links? Some examples of assets can be blog/article content, products, services, people, and or data. Be sure that the assets you create are relevant to the audience you’re wanting to attract.
  3. Identify types of links you need: Do you need links to your home page? May links to an interior page like a product or service page. You can also have links to keywords you’re targeting.
  4. Identify your sites: make sure you find sites that are not only authoritative but relevant as well. These can be news sites, government websites, educational websites, community websites, charities and other businesses. Remember, quality links so do press releases, reach out to suppliers and sponsors. Tap into communities that your customers frequent (such as Reddit, StumbleUpon, forums, and blogs).

SEO strategies are not set it and forget it. It takes a long time to build authority especially if a site is new. Don’t expect to rank #1 overnight. Want that coveted position 0 on Google? You’ve got to work for it. Stay tuned for more blogs from me on how to rank on Google. Want to learn more about how we can help in your SEO plan? Contact us today.

Boosting Your Creative Confidence

If you work in a profession that relies on your creativity, you have probably experienced a halt in your abilities to come up with crafty content.

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Is Content Still King?

content

Just last week, we talked about the social media royal family, with content as the king and community management as his queen. But what if content isn’t king? No one ever notices content. No one walks out of a concert, thinking “wow, what great content!” and no one thinks of Shakespeare as a great “content creator.” In Greg Satell’s recent article, he talked about how most marketers have yet to learn how to create content that is actually engaging for their audience.

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Introducing The Social Media Royal Family

Content is king. This is true, especially when it comes to social media. But a kind can’t rule a kingdom alone. He needs a queen. And that queen is community management.

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Three Steps to Make Your Social Media Content Strategy Amazing!

In a previous blog I talked about Jay Baer’s unique content strategy approach in his book YOUtility. Jay’s main theme in YOUtility is that content can be amazing or it can be useful. Having amazing content is difficult, while having useful content is more obtainable and engaging. I won’t argue that part of your social media strategy should be having useful tips and tricks for your audience. I will say that having amazing content is not only possible, but also quite valuable. I believe that graphics, promotions and special events can be amazing if a content producer is willing to try.

content strategy, social media strategy

Is your content strategy strong or a little soupy?

Graphics can be the bane of your existence when you’re coming up with an amazing content strategy. After all, graphics are time consuming and expensive. If you’re getting them out-sourced, that money is coming out of someone’s pocket. If you’re trying to do them in-house or on your own, a lot of time and energy will be spent on trying to find or create the right visual—perhaps without the skills needed for the task in the first place.

  • TIP: Make graphics amazing by hiring someone with the right skills and experience. If this is in-house, invest the time and money to hire a stellar graphic designer. If you’re outsourcing, go with the best agency or freelancer you can find and afford. You will save yourself so much time and agony by just spending the money on a professional. It’s also important to make sure you have a clear vision between your graphics person and yourself or your client. Amazing content will not come from miscommunication.

Promotions can be quiet troubling for content strategy. Jaded content producers will roll their eyes and try to repeat the same tired tweet or email newsletter about a new product. Uninspired social media strategies will involve repetitive contests because they tend to work, despite creating diminishing returns as followers get sick of the same old Facebook app.

  • TIP: Make promotions amazing by focusing on your intended outcome or asking more questions of yourself or your client. What do you/they want to gain from this particular promotion? Are you/they trying to sell a particular product, or just get people in the door? Those two desires require an entirely different content strategy. For example, if you’re trying to sell a particular brand of bourbon, you don’t want to do a Facebook contest where people name their favorite cocktail. People can post about any kind of alcohol they like. Focus is important for promotions.

Special events can be incredibly fun in social media strategy. They’re easy to talk about, fun to plan for and most followers are going to be interested by default. This built-in interest can be a curse for content producers, though. Easiness breeds stagnation, and even the best special events can lose attendance without diligence.

  • TIP: Make special events amazing by trying new things. I hate the phrase think outside the box. Forget the box. Throw the box away. If you have never tried to reach out to local news organizations for your special events, try it now. Perhaps you haven’t bothered with Facebook ads before. Now is the time to try. If you execute social media on behalf of a client, you also want to make sure you have all available information from them, because they can often help you find new and interesting ways to approach the subject.

In case you didn’t notice, communication is the central theme here. Know your brand inside and out, and if you work with clients, then mine as much data as possible from them or your content strategy won’t be amazing.

Do you have any special tips for creating amazing content? Let us know in the comments below!

Jargon: The Dark Side of Blogging

Your voice might be the most important thing about your writing. Let’s face it, anyone can write a blog. According to Domo, over 340 new blogs are created every minute—and that’s just on WordPress. One of the most valuable ways to make yourself stand out in the wall of social media noise is to have an interesting voice. Simply put, your voice is the unique way you write things. For me, that usually means writing about myself and geeky stuff.

The problem is that sometimes you can’t write about Star Wars or your favorite holiday (mine is Life Day, by the way). Sometimes you have to write about marketing automation or space heaters. That can involve a local of industry jargon. Buried in the acronym purgatory of BTU, SMB and SaaS, your style of writing can become further buried. Suddenly, you’re marking off a list of specs instead of telling a story.

And that simply will not do. We’re marketers; we have a product to share and we have to present that product in an interesting, creative way to potential customers, no matter what it is. So how can you balance your own voice with all of the jargon and product features? I have a few simple suggestions that help me when I’m in the blogging trenches.

Brand-Voice

Be Authentic. That means not only being genuine to yourself, but to your readers as well. If you are selling space heaters, you can be sure you’re selling them to other human beings. That means you need to sound like a human being and you need to connect with your reader on a basic level. That will not happen if you’re just spewing facts instead of building a narrative about your subject.

Bad Idea: The L57 Space Heater comes with real time Thermo 5V sensors that can adjust temperatures between 1 and 8 degrees, if properly programmed with 5-82 remote.

Good Idea: If you need both hands free while at your workbench, our space heater can be programmed to adjust heat output for maximum comfort!

Be Accurate. While it is good be genuine with your readers, you don’t want to swing too far into buddy territory. You aren’t talking to your friends, after all. Avoid generalizations and overly excited prose. You don’t want to bore your audience, but you also don’t want to talk down to them.

Bad Idea: As we all know, the L57 Space Heater is really good, and it can be used pretty much anywhere!

Good Idea: The L57 has been proven to outperform other space heaters in a non-biased heating test performed by Strata College. The L57 is also water and dust-resistant.

Be Honest. While it’s important to avoid jargon for the sake of clarity, it can also be used to make the ignorant seem educated. We’ve all seen (and cringed at) the writer who jumped on a topic with no knowledge, or just enough knowledge to get him/her into trouble. Be honest with your audience and never try to sell a product you know nothing about. The truly educated will always sniff you out.

Bad Idea: The L57 Space Heater is a very good product based on the BTU generation of its fan, which must produce heat through force.

Good Idea: At the time of this writing, we were not sure about the BTU output of the L57. Look for an update in the future, or feel free to contact our sales staff directly at this link.

People come for your content but they stay for your voice. Your unique take on things is what will grow your audience and keep them coming back. Please don’t ever cheapen your talent with false or misleading information.

Have any questions about how to build or grow your own voice in your writing? Or maybe you think something important was missed here? Maybe you’re just lonely want to talk about Star Trek. Feel free to comment below or message me on Twitter.

How Ben and Jerry’s Increased Brand Awareness by 17%

Love them or hate them (and by the look of it, people hate them) Instagram ads are here to stay. As of now, the ads are only available to a select group of advertisers and Instagram has yet to reveal any pricing structure. That being said, these few ads have been looking very favorable from the companies.

Levi’s had a nine-day campaign which it was specifically targeting to 18-34 year olds. In that time frame, they were able to reach 7.4 million users. As of today, the ad has over 93,000 likes and almost 2,000 comments. The photo Levi posted before the ad had a total of 2,748 likes and 14 comments, and the photo posted after had only 3148 likes and 15 comments.

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“Not only were we able to reach a larger audience with our ads on Instagram, but the metrics clearly show we engaged with them in a memorable and authentic way. We’re pleased with these results.”  –Julie Channing, Director of Digital, Levis

In another instance, the popular ice cream company Ben and Jerry’s promoted four different ads. The first one was an ice cream cone right under a cloud, making it look like ice cream. This ad received 386,546 likes and over 5,700 comments. The next three ads they posted had an average of just over 290,000 likes before dropping back down to the 25-30,000 range. The photo they posted right before the ads had only 20,000 and 324 comments.

One of the ads had the benefit of being associated with the extremely popular viral campaign for the movie “Anchorman 2.” For the movie tie-in, they introduced their new flavor “Scotchy, Scotch, Scotch.” Their ad received over 250,000 likes and over 6,000 comments while reaching 9.8 million people. Because of the sponsored ad, 17% more people became aware of the new flavor.

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“Since its launch, Instagram has provided us with an amazing platform to connect with our fans and tell our story visually. Ads on Instagram let us reach and engage with more fans about our flavors, fun and values.”  –Mike Hayes, Digital Marketing Manager, Ben and Jerry’s

One of the reasons these companies achieved success is because ads on Instagram are a novelty as of now. But it’s not all roses and sunshine when it comes to these ads appearing on a person’s timeline. There is a lot of hatred and with most cases regarding social media, people are not afraid to express how they really feel.

With the success of the ads from these companies you can be sure Instagram ads are here to stay. What are your opinions on these ads? Do they bother you or do you even notice them right away?

 

Branding Fought the Law (And the Law Won)

The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office received some national attention last week. The Georgia public office didn’t stop a daring robbery though. Instead, the Sheriff’s Office unofficially cancelled Valentine’s Day.

Oconee Blog 1

 

While also being really funny, this Facebook post served as a reminder that Oconee County was suffering from an unusually heavy ice storm. The post received 1,199 Likes, 170 comments, and 1,693 Shares. The story also ran on the LA Times, Fox News and various local publications.

If you’re a social media manager, you dream about this sort of engagement. But some of you are probably chalking this up to a random event or luck. That’s where you would be completely wrong. Just a quick look at the Oconee County Facebook page tells you that these fine officers could teach people a thing or two about social media. Below are some of the best things on the Sheriff’s Office Facebook page. Be prepared to laugh!

Oconee Blog 2

 

Whimsy: The personnel at Oconee County are funny and that goes a long way. But more than that, this Georgia Sheriff’s Office is approaching their content in a very fun, engaging way. Trust me, I looked at other public and governmental Facebook pages, and most of them were drier than the last piece of leftover Valentine’s Day chocolate. Instead of presenting their content with a “just the facts, ma’am” approach, the officers at Oconee County are adding a bit of whimsy to their content and that’s helping with their brand.

Oconee Blog 3

 

Engagement: Who hasn’t used the old “post your winter pictures here” status on Facebook? The difference between success and failure is how Oconee County presents their call to action. They already have a built-in following due to their humor and they included the ever-so-tempting second sentence: “ACE News would like to see…” What Facebook Fan could resist possibly getting their own content put on national TV? This is a brilliant way to get more engagement.

Oconee Blog 4

 

Content: Not everything Oconee County posts is funny (although quite a bit of it is). This is the online mouthpiece for a Sheriff’s Office, after all. They post about murders and disappearances when they happen. There are also earthquakes and fires. But this little government department manages to show some personality in every post. There are also statuses about officers lost in the line of duty and you can feel the humanity there as well. I’m sure most officers feel this way, but Oconee County shares that insight with their fans, and they are rewarded with engagement and positive feedback for it.

It’s hard to find a post on this page that has less than 10 Likes or Shares. That’s pretty impressive for a local brand, no matter who you are. As of today, Oconee County Sheriff’s Office has 11,201 Facebook Fans in a county with a population of 33,619.

Is your local government’s social media amazing or terrible? Have you found incredible engagement in an unlikely place? I’d love to hear about it. Comment below or tell me about it on Twitter.

Invisible Marketing is Smart Marketing

What makes an effective marketing strategy? In my opinion, one of the most effective marketing strategies being implemented right now is being done by a company called GoPro. If you’re not familiar with the brand, GoPro makes “video cameras that turn ordinary people into stars of their own self-shot action movies.”

If you’ve seen a GoPro advertisement, you probably didn’t even realize you were watching a commercial. Their marketing strategy as a company is not considered traditional marketing. They are great at building brand loyalty by utilizing user-generated content for their marketing. Head over to their Facebook page and you will notice how they showcase their customers by hosting a video and photo of the day. They have conquered crowdsourcing for content! With at least one GoPro video being tagged, titled and uploaded to YouTube every minute, GoPro will remain the king for quite some time.

04_basich_white_jacket

 

Take a little break from your day and watch this 14 minute video about “The Lion Whisperer.” Around the 40 second mark, you will realize just how great of a marketing piece this is for GoPro! No other camera would be able to get a shot like that.

On Instagram, GoPro has uploaded a mere 747 videos but has amassed a following of over 1.5 million followers. When you search the hashtag #GoPro, there are almost 2 million hits. Their YouTube channel has 1.5 million subscribers with over 14 million views.

How can you learn from GoPro’s success to market your company?

Stand behind your product and customers – Regardless of what your business does, you can highlight success stories by showing people using your product/service to their benefit. Highlight that content on your social media channels.

Grow your customer base – GoPro was created to capture surfers in action but now parents are using their camera to film their children in everyday situations. This video shows off a child’s first experience with snow. Even GoPro’s Super Bowl commercial last year was geared towards parents in the clever yet simple ad:

GoPro: Dubstep Baby – Super Bowl Commercial 2013 from GoPro on Vimeo.

Content is KING – The way they highlight a video and photo each day guarantees fresh content all the time, and their fans are constantly coming back to GoPro’s social media platforms to share their statuses. Think of ways people can use your product without thinking they are using your product. Have you seen Inception?

What are other companies do you know that have an almost invisible marketing strategy? Are you already a GoPro fan, and if so, what is your favorite video? Tweet at me or leave a comment below!

Blogs You Should Stop Writing in 2014

We’re already halfway through January, and we have already lived through the Best of 2013 lists. Now the “Things to Watch For in 2014” lists have all but sent us out into the streets armed with improvised month-old fruitcake weapons. January 17th is Ditch Your New Year’s Resolution Day, meaning that this Friday will be the best time to get rid of something annoying. With that in mind, let’s start with some blog posts.

blogpicSeriously, still? That’s right, I’m looking at you, fellow bloggers. Sometimes you create less-than-stellar blog posts, but you can still avoid the biggest sins. These are the big five when it comes to social media blog posts.

  • Obvious optimization techniques: You mean I can really just pay Facebook to boost a post? Well, thank you so much for that tip! Social media marketing is still a new and innovative environment, but it’s hardly the Wild West anymore. We all know to check Facebook Insights for optimum post times.

Solution: Share something that you personally do to improve your social media management. Perhaps you’ve made Twitter lists for all your competitors. Share that. It may not work for everyone, but at least it’s something new.

  • Insanely long list blogs. Hey, I know lists are our bread and butter for content. But the truth of the matter is the average adult’s attention span is only about five minutes. Worse still, less than half of the online audience reads anything beyond 100 words on a website. And less than a third of all viewers of this blog (28%) will finish it. With such short focus, do you really want to test their patience with 57 More Ways to Attract Your Audience?

Solution: Don’t repeat yourself. Be brief. If you really do have 57 pieces of useful content, do everyone a favor and make a series about it.

  • Explaining Social Media Platforms: This one is really about knowing your audience. Anyone that has sought out your blog probably knows what Twitter is. The most recent case of this was the Edward Snowden coverage. Every other blog post re-explained who he was and why the reader should care about the situation, despite the meat of these stories being about something very specific or current.

Solution: Get to the point. If you have someone relevant, just say it. All of your readers have access to Google; they’ll look something up if they aren’t familiar with it.

  • Social Media is like… Please stop trying to say social media is like everything. It’s not. You’re not Forrest Gump, and it’s not inventive anymore. Sure, I’m a little guilty of this, but I was at least a little clever about it. I also didn’t stretch the metaphor like a pair of two year old skinny jeans.

Solution: Ask yourself, does this really fit? Because if you have to work too hard on the connection, it’s not. You went on a cave diving trip and we’re glad for you. You can always do some social media research on the way home. Don’t torture it into a blog post.

  • Exaggerating Your Optimization: If you have a foolproof way to get all of your readers a million Twitter followers, I doubt you’d be writing a free blog about it. Exaggerating the usefulness of your content seems unprofessional and spammy.

Solution: Be honest and show your work. If you’ve had real luck with using text-only Facebook posts, tell your readers how much that has helped you (in numbers) and perhaps show an image of how many fans it reached.

Social media marketing is going to get very crowded in the near future. Trying to get past the wall of noise will be hard enough for someone with useful content so don’t clog up the pipes even more with these posts. Think outside the blog and come up with something cool.

What blog posts are you sick of seeing? Comment below or message me on Twitter at @mendal187.