Posts By: Rob

Utilizing-your-blog-effectively-for-SEO

Utilizing Your Blog More Effectively for SEO

We deal with a lot of blogs at Trafficado–some are done really well, but most are not meeting their full potential (including our own at the moment). Writing content is one of those things that comes naturally for a few, but is quite difficult for many people. If you are having trouble getting started with writing, read this post for tips to get you started writing a blog.  Assuming you have begun writing and are at least comfortable publishing your thoughts, here are some characteristics of a blog that will help take your blog to the next level and increase your website’s benefit from SEO.

Ideas for posts

There are a ton of sources of inspiration for writers. Conversations, real world problems, articles or other blog posts, reviews of products, wandering minds, and a million other sources. But that doesn’t mean that you’ll be flowing with topics to write about and it also doesn’t mean you’ll write about topics your readers will be interested in. Many struggle with this. Throughout the day you may come across several different ideas but don’t think to write down your thoughts or you forget the topic when you sit down to write. To help with this I like to keep a note file on my phone (or a notebook and pen–if you still own those things) and I constantly refer to it throughout the day. This helps me think about topics to write as well as remind me to record those ideas when I come across them. And then when I sit down to write I can review those and start crafting an actual post. Usually I just add drafts with thoughts and then over time work those into a published post. Another way to generate great ideas for your blog is through the use of analytics. As you look through where your traffic is coming from you  can identify what people are looking for. You can identify what they wanted to know and see if you addressed what they were looking for sufficiently.  To do this more effectively you can use HitTail to help automate the process and come up with a systematic solution for post ideas that will help you gain additional organic traffic. They will give you recommendations for topics based on your existing search traffic and their algorithm to identify the best opportunities. The beauty of HitTail is that uses your analytics but is geared towards helping you target blog content so you don’t have to filter through a lot of other information to get keywords that you should be targeting.

 Rel Authorship/Publisher

Another step to taking your blog to the next level is setting up rel authorship. This is the process by which you verify your identity as the author of specific posts with Google. The idea is that Google will favor authors who create high quality content and social engagement. They will also show your image in the search engine results which can help catch the attention of those searching and lead to a higher click through rate. You can do this individually as the author, and then also set up a “publisher” to identify the content coming from your company. Rel Author SERP ImageThere are many posts on how to implement authorship, so I won’t do it here. Check out the following posts:

Search Engine Land: Guide to Google Authorship

Search Engine Journal: How to Setup Google+ Authorship

 

Invite Guest Bloggers

One common problem with blogs is trying to get enough content published to keep readers coming back. For SEO, the more content you have the better your site will rank for long-tail keywords. But if you can’t produce much content yourself it can be hard to get that additional organic traffic. So one thing that helps is to invite guest bloggers to your site. The goal is to provide consistent high quality content on a variety of topics targeted towards your audience. You probably will need to start off reasonably small inviting people you have good relationships with, but as your blog becomes more authoritative you will have an easier time convincing people to write for you. You may have to explain the benefits of SEO and blogging depending on your industry and guest authors understanding, but most people will understand when you tell them that your site gets traffic and the post they write will link back to their site or social profile to help them gain exposure. Make sure you review posts before they are published (at least until the writer(s) prove themselves if they are going to be writing on a regular basis for you) so you can weed out spammy posts and focus on high quality guest posts that provide real value to your readers.


Utah Governor Sports Contest: Is it Rigged?

I got an email this morning asking me to go vote for the First Annual Governor’s State of Sport Awards for Utah. Being a big sports fan in Utah I was curious who was nominated so I headed over to vote. I did this on my phone and immediately noticed a weird interface. There were three candidates, but only two “VOTE” buttons. This is what I saw:

Utah Governor State of Sports Awards

Now you can click on the individual BIO and then vote for them but it takes an extra click, and I would expect quite a bit of drop off for those who don’t know who they are and don’t care to spend the extra few seconds to find out.  Also, having the “VOTE” buttons in between two players led me to second guess who I was actually voting for.  Other than it being a pretty bad mobile user experience I didn’t think much about it until I got to work and went back to see if the experience was better on desktop.

What I found was everything looked the same.  As I was showing the guys in the office the poor experience, one of them pointed to a small red arrow that revealed an entirely new candidate (as well as the original missing “VOTE” button).  The first time I went through the candidates and voted I missed 25% of all of the candidates.  It was probably largely because I was on a smaller mobile screen, but I didn’t notice it at first when looking on a desktop browser either.  Here is what the desktop looked like (same as mobile):

Utah Sports Awards Poor User Experience

I’ve highlighted the arrow that I missed the first time around:

Utah Sports Awards Fail

 

Which leads to this:

Utah Sports Awards Poor Hidden Candidate

 

I’ve got to believe that there are plenty others like me who completely missed the fourth candidate on each page. Luckily for me, there wasn’t any “hidden candidate” that would have won my vote, but for the Real Salt Lake fans and a few other athletes, they are fighting an uphill battle to win enough votes from the casual voter. What started as a poor user experience turned into a poor administration of the contest.

As a marketer, the main lesson to be learned is helping users achieve the desired result. Pay special attention to the site layout and the user experience.  If you have a product you are selling on a site that isn’t easily found, chances are very good that it won’t be sold. Most people will scroll down to see more content on the page before they notice a small arrow leading to additional page content off to the right of the page.  It also would be a good practice to have someone else  (or a lot of other people) go through the experience on your site (including a mobile version) to see where the potential flaws and pitfalls are. While I doubt it was the intention of the Governor or whoever actually administered the contest, the poor administration leads to a biased contest.  For this contest, chances are pretty good that the “hidden candidates” lose the contest simply because according to most users they weren’t actually ever in the running.


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Replacing Your Laptop with a Tablet

Over the last year or so tablets have become a fairly commonplace gadget. As they improve on both the hardware and software they are becoming a realistic replacement for a laptop–at least in certain situations. I rarely take my laptop home from work (except on the weekends) instead taking the much smaller and lighter iPad. As I’ve started to make this switch I started to find more and more apps and accessories to help me in my transition and actually make it happen. As a disclaimer, I do have a spare laptop and a desktop at home if I really need to do something that the iPad can’t do–because hey–if I really need to get something done sometimes the iPad doesn’t cut it.  But in most instances a tablet can replace my laptop for what I do at home. So what are some of the things that made my life easier?

Apps: Most of what has made my life easier is getting the right apps.

Dropbox: At Trafficado we use Dropbox a lot. So I need to be able to access files wherever I go. And that means I need to be able to view them at home on my iPad. So this app is a must have for me. The thing I don’t like about the app is that I can’t edit the files and sync them with Dropbox–but recently I came across CloudOn which lets you sync with your DropBox account and then edit and re-save files. I haven’t been using it for very long, but so far it’s worked well to edit Word and Excel files straight from the iPad from DropBox.

Social Media Manager (Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, etc.): I use Hootsuite for managing my social media for work so having the app helps me easily view my streams and schedule tweets and Facebook status updates.

Raven: Need to check some rankings or traffic levels before you send off an email? Need to add a link or check your link manager? Do so from the handy dandy Raven app. It’s another necessity for an internet marketer working from the iPad. It takes a little getting used to at first to feel like you can get where you want, but once you do it’s a breeze.

RSS Reader (I use FeeddlerRSS): I catch my favorite marketing blogs via my reader, and the bulk of blog reading is done at home on the iPad. I use FeeddlerRSS to access my Google Reader feed and then either email or mark as starred anything that I want to pay attention to later.

WordPress: I use the WordPress app to check on sites, make quick edits and to write blog posts for sites. I don’t love certain things about it (mainly blog post formatting issues) but it’s great for getting posts in and saved as drafts where you only have to add an image or tweak some headers or something before you push it live.  And if you have to send it live from the iPad, you can do it.

Google: I use G-Whizz and iMailG to access Google Docs, Google Talk, and some of the other Google services that they don’t have in their own Gmail app.  G-Whiz is pretty comprehensive and it works just fine, but I have multiple Gmail accounts that I use and I don’t like switching between accounts in one app, so I use two different apps (really 3–but only occasionally) to stay on top of those items.

Go To Meeting: I don’t participate in tons of webinars, but it’s nice to have the app for when I need to on the go. And the app is a breeze to use.

Skype/Video Chat: For those times when you want to meet “face to face” the Skype app is handy to have and is simple to use.

 

Accessories

The main accessory that I love is my Zaggfolio keyboard. It makes typing a breeze and almost as fast as a laptop. If you’re doing any significant amount of typing, this is a must.

I’ve also been eyeing the ASUS Transformer Prime which has a pretty slick tablet/keyboard combo that rivals the iPad/Zaggfolio combo–but I haven’t been able to play around with it much yet so I can’t make a recommendation either way yet. However, I’m pretty convinced that you should keep your phone/tablet on the same operating system, so unless I made the change to an Android phone I probably wouldn’t seriously consider switching to a non-iOS tablet.

Apple iPad2 with Zaggfolio compared with Asus Transformer Prime

Overall, I’m becoming more and more reliant on my iPad and use it for more and more in both my personal and work life. But the key is finding the right setup for you to make sure that you aren’t caught in a tough spot needing to get something done that your tablet can’t do.  And that has been getting easier and easier recently–but let’s just say that I’m not replacing my laptop at work anytime soon with my iPad.


writers-block

Getting Started With a Blog: Developing Confidence

One of the best tools for increasing your stature and visibility on the web is a well maintained, quality blog. Google loves to see fresh, unique content and a blog is usually the easiest way to accomplish that. There are a lot of things that make it difficult but for a lot of people simply getting started as well as having the confidence to write (and having your writings available to the world) is a big hurdle.  A big part of this is also feeling like you have something important to say. So how do you get over this and get started?

There are a couple of things to help you get started. First, just get started writing.  You don’t have to publish your first few articles if you don’t like them (I still have some unpublished blog posts for the Trafficado blog), but just start identifying your voice and getting a feel for writing. It needs to sound authentic. One of the great things about a blog from the readers perspective is that they feel like they start to get to know you and then they want to hear what you have to say.  If it is just too big of a hump to get over having your name attached to the blog you can use display only your first name on the posts, but just get started.

As you start writing you should identify various topics that you are going to be writing on. This is definitely fluid and can change, but it will help you get started by identifying categories. These topics/categories you are writing on should be something you have some expertise in and is also interesting to your target audience. So identify what people want to know in topical area of your blog and write down questions they might have. Start with the basics to get the creative juices flowing, then think about things that people seem to misunderstand on the topic where you can contribute a simple answer (or more easily clarify the answer). From there offer your unique perspective on various issues. One place to always be watching is current events that relate to your topic. Current events are a great way to get new ideas about writing.  Another place to look for ideas is to ask others what they would like to see on the blog–see what questions they have and write answers to those questions.  As you get going you should be able to write down enough ideas to get started–and from there it gets easier.

Make sure you plan ahead by outlining a content schedule. It could be as simple as “write and publish one post per week”, or it could specifically state which posts you have and when you are going to post them–or which categories you are going to write about on which days. Put it on your calendar and plan time to write. It won’t ever happen if you don’t make it a priority, so planning time makes sure you have time to do it and you are reminded about it.

Keep something (notepad, phone with a note about blog thoughts, etc) with you to write notes and thoughts wherever you are. Ideas writing blog postswill come from a variety of sources and you need to capture the thought whenever and wherever it comes. And when they do come try and write down the context for the idea so you can re-create the thought and run with it when you actually sit down to start writing.

If you’re having problems coming up with ideas yourself, search the web for other blogs on your topic and see what they are writing about–then see if you can offer your own unique perspective on the topic–or if there is something you feel is missing from those blogs then fill in the gaps. Use personal experiences to identify topics and add a personal perspective to your writing as well.

All of this will help get over your lack of confidence in writing, but in the end you have to decide that this is something that you are going to do. If you aren’t committed, it won’t happen. And if you are truly committed to your search engine marketing you should be committed to blogging.


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Google Personalization or Mind Reading?

The trend in search is moving towards personalization–it has been for a while. But it also seems like it’s trying to move towards  clairvoyance at the same time. Google specifically is putting steps in place to attempt to read your mind. Under the claim of personalization in search, the Freshness update last November was a large step forward. The update impacted approximately 35% of searches (almost 3x the impact of Panda).  The update was all about fresh content–they mask the attempt at clairvoyance by claiming that you are interested in more recent events and care less about history. While this is largely true it is another step by the search giant to attempt to read your mind. Is this a positive trend, or are there concerns about this? For a search marketer, it makes it increasingly difficult to operate in the industry–but this trend isn’t new. Long gone are the days where meta keywords could catapult your site to the first page for random keywords. Now search and social are moving closer together and your task as an online marketer is moving towards increasing visibility through relationships. Links are still important–and will be for a long time. But now you also have to make Google think that your site is what everyone thinks they want.  Google Plus launched “Find My Face” in December which allows Google to use facial recognition to auto-tag photos. Is this simply convenient for users that they can learn to recognize the faces of over 50 million  current users (with an estimated 400 million users by the end of 2012) or is it additional information that Google can use to identify information about people and what they think and what they want. Probably both. Another

Google's Attempt to Read Your Mind

step was taken towards this trend last week with the “Search Plus Your World” update by Google.  Again, increase in personalization by offering . . . you guessed it . . . personalized results. Perhaps, to accomplish this personalization Google simply needs to attempt to read your mind in an algorithmic way.  They are still trying to guess what you want to see–in this case they are trying to decide if your friends know what you want more than traditional search results.

So in order to provide all of the personalization, Google has to get more and more information about you and your family and friends. Then they need to be able to process the information within their search algorithm and spit it back out in a meaningful way.  But the important factor for users is the amount of data necessary to be able to provide any meaningful results.

In the end, when people start to think that Google is invading their privacy, most people will probably scream foul just like they did with Facebook over and over, but will ultimately accept it, move on and thoroughly enjoy the completely customized search results because Google did such a great job identifying exactly what they were thinking. Nobody really wants to think about all the information that Google has access to, and while it might be scary to think about, few people are willing to give up the benefits of allowing them to have it.


450px-Best_Buy_in-store_pickup_parking_space_sign_at_the_location_on_Tustin_Avenue_in_Orange_California

Why Companies Fail and How to Avoid the Trap

During some leisurely reading this morning, I was reading this article on Forbes, I began thinking about how so many businesses fail because they lack a simple understanding of good business.  The article talks about how Best Buy is failing, and not because of the standard reasons regarding their fight against online retailers. They are losing because they fail to understand good business–namely quality customer service. As I was reading the article, it reinforced the fact that it doesn’t matter whether you are online, have a physical location, or both–you need to be focused on your customers. You need to understand what they want and how you can get that for them. This is the great secret in business–provide something that your customers want–and do it well. And there are so many tools available to help us get a better understanding of what our customers want and how we can provide them (think: Social Media).

In the article, the author talks about how Amazon has taken their weaknesses (namely the lack of a “show room”), and turned it into one of their strengths by offering expert content on subject matter that can replace a visit to a store. You no longer have to visit a physical location because you can tell everything about the product by visiting the website. And that includes user and expert reviews about the product so you can see what other people like and dislike about the products.

The basics of good business don’t change when you work online, you just have to use different methods to implement them. You still

The volume rocker of the Amazon Kindle 2

need to identify a need and fill that need better than everyone else. Identify your weakness and see how you can turn that into a strong point for your company. There are inherent advantages and disadvantages to doing business online or offline, but if you can innovate and out-think your competitors you can offer a great experience either way.

As you think about your company and how you can offer the best experience for your customers, don’t overlook one the best ways to get this information–simply ask your customers–find out what they think and really listen. Using social media to find this information is a perfect way to identify how your customers (or would-be customers) can be made happy–and then (like Amazon does well), do your best to go above and beyond!

If you do this well you can provide an experience that your customers will come back for. Everyone is looking for a quality experience with their shoppers and everyone is critical and skeptical of almost everyone in the beginning–with so many companies out looking to squeeze every dime out of you for a mediocre product, if you can make customers feel like you really want them to have a positive experience and enjoy a quality product, you will have a loyal customer.  And loyal customers share their experiences with others (as do those who have highly negative experiences). Use this to your advantage–but it has to be a philosophy that you truly believe in–otherwise it won’t work.  You might get burned by some who take advantage of you, but I truly believe that most people are looking for a positive experience, and if you can provide it you will have a loyal customer base who will spread the word about your company–they just need a little help from you. In the end, the customer is always right!


2011 Year in Review

2011 was a memorable year for many reasons. Some good, some not.  The 10th anniversary of 9/11 and the killing of Osama Bin Laden, Steve Jobs passing away, Japan tsunami, iPad2/iPhone 4s/Siri, Occupy Movement, and much more.  It’s always fun to look over the past year and look forward to the possibilities and opportunities of next year.

 

See also the top searches of 2011.

 

 


linkedin-logo

Using LinkedIn Effectively

A few months ago I decided to get a little more out of my LinkedIn page.  I’ve been on LinkedIn for a few years now and use it similarly to any other social network–I like to see status updates, help me remember names and faces (and where I know people from), and check on other people to see what they are up to. However, once I decided to use it more effectively, I started to become more involved with it and started to change the way that I used it. Overall I feel like I was getting more out of the service. It’s not Facebook–it’s not even really a Facebook for business–it is a unique social networking site that can enhance your business and can be a solid tool that can help you with your business.

First off, in order to have a real LinkedIn effort, you have to make sure that your profile is complete. Go through and spend some time updating your experience, specialties, and expertise. Have a good picture so people can identify if you’re the person they are looking for. But also make sure that your profile is interesting and conveys your personality. Consider it a form of your resume and put your best foot forward (but make sure it’s still “your foot”). Having more connections is better (if they are real). It’s not a popularity contest, but if you’re only connected to your dad and best friend you aren’t going to be able to use it for much. So build connections. As you meet people send them an invite and a note indicating when you met them and follow up on anything that you talked about when you met. One of the first places I looked for new connections was high school and college classmates. I don’t talk to many people from high school anymore so I had no idea what a lot of them were up to. When I started looking them up I came across several that were in the internet marketing industry. I began to reach out and “catch up” with these people to see if there were any help we could offer each other.

Next, I began looking through contacts of people I knew well.  I found people I knew that I wasn’t connected to, but I also found people I wanted to get to know, but didn’t know (or didn’t know well). I reached out to my contact that I knew well and explored the opportunity for introductions. It provided a unique opportunity to meet people that I wouldn’t have been able to connect with otherwise. As I went through I also was able to see what some of my connections were up to. Some had changed jobs and some had been

promoted within their same company. It gave me an opportunity to reach out to them and offer congratulations or ask questions about how things were going. I re-kindled some relationships–not just for work, but also personal friends that I hadn’t talked to in a while. Running a small business, this information is very helpful in utilizing contacts and tools properly. We had one person I knew that was in between jobs and we reached out to him to see what he was up to. We ended up being able to offer him office space for a few weeks and in return got some advice and consulting from him on a project we were working on.

Some other ways LinkedIn can help:

Industry News: LinkedIn offers “Top Headlines” in your industry. You can follow various industries and get news and information specific to your industry. This is yet another way to stay on top of what’s going on. There are a lot of ways you can get this information, but for some people, bringing it together with other business tools can be helpful.

Set up a company page: use your company page to build exposure for your business. You can have your blog posts pushed out and build your reputation and exposure for your company.

Groups: You can join groups that allow you to get in contact with people in a similar space to share ideas or connect with–even if you

LinkedIn

have never met them personally (make sure that you have meaningful interactions and specify how you know them when asking to connect–and don’t ask to connect to anyone you don’t actually know–it’s bad form). It allows virtual networking to occur–and can be a highly valuable resource for people in a particular space.  Position yourself as a resource and contributor, in addition to asking questions. Offer your opinion on questions and make it valuable by using personal experience and expertise.

Hiring: Sure you can post jobs and do your recruiting on LinkedIn. You can use the Advanced Search option to search for people by expertise and a host of other options. But you can also use it to learn more about people who you are looking at hiring or working with in another capacity. Find out what they where they have worked in the past, what specialties and expertise they have and who they know. If you have connections in common you can contact that connection to get additional information about them.

Conference Prep: We used LinkedIn as a core part of our Trafficado Hardcore PubCon Prep to make sure we were getting the most out of our conference experience.

Leverage your expertise: LinkedIn has an “Answers” section that allows you to help others get information and give you more exposure. You can share your expertise with others and build your reputation as an expert. This will help build your company profile and can help with referrals and build your credibility.

Lastly, don’t forget to look at how you can help others. I was able to focus on reciprocal help–things I could offer to other people and things other people could offer to me. It can’t be one sided–you need to be able and willing to offer help to others.  As you start using LinkedIn for more it can be a powerful tool to help you in several ways.  You can learn about people, companies, grow your exposure individually and as a company, and increase your reach to build reciprocity benefits.  Make sure that you are approachable and offer help in addition to seeking out help from others.  The relationships you build are what makes LinkedIn valuable–so make sure to build them properly.