Negative reviews from ex-employees are finally against Google’s guidelines

Google recently updated its review policies to clarify that reviews left by former employees are considered to be in violation of its guidelines. Columnist Joy Hawkins explains that this was (unfortunately) necessary.

Joy Hawkins


I hear complaints from business owners and marketers all the time that the Google My Business guidelines are often ambiguous, and I tend to agree. It can be easy to read a guideline and interpret it incorrectly.

I have learned that the key to understanding the guidelines is through time and experience. Seeing what Google will and will not act on can provide insight into what things they really care about, and this can help you read between the lines.

Until recently, I had always assumed that reviews from former employees were considered to be in violation of Google My Business guidelines. This was based on the following two passages from their review policies page:

  1. “Make sure that the reviews on your business listing, or those that you leave at a business you’ve visited, are honest representations of the customer experience. Those that aren’t may be removed.” This is the golden rule at the heart of Google’s guidelines, which is why the company usually removes peer reviews or reviews you got your friends to write for you. (Note that a reviewer doesn’t technically have to be a customer, but they do need to have had customer intent — for example, if someone leaves you a negative review because you never called them back, that would still be considered a legitimate review because they intended to hire you and you exhibited poor customer service.)
  2. “Conflict of interest: Reviews are most valuable when they are honest and unbiased. If you own or work at a place, please don’t review your own business or employer.”

My interpretation here was that reviews left by any employee — current or past — would not be in line with Google’s review policies. After all, how on earth is an employee’s point of view an honest representation of a customer experience? An employee is not a customer.

However, when I tried to assist business owners in getting negative reviews from former employees removed earlier this year, I discovered that Google only considered reviews from current employees to be against its guidelines.

Stupid, right? I have tried to wrap my head around this, and I can’t understand what possessed Google to come up with that policy.

Here is a recent example. In this thread on the Google My Business forum, a business owner was trying to get a review from a former employee removed. They stated that the employee no-showed on her shift three times and was let go. In the review, the user states:

“Yes I am an ex employee. My opinion of [omitted] was the same while I worked there as when I stopped working there.”

She continues to argue that her opinion is the same as the customers’ and starts comparing them to one of their competitors.

In another example, an ex-employee reviewed a preschool and made negative comments about the business owner and mentioned that their inability to run the school well is why they can’t keep staff.

How Google considers these reviews reflective of a customer experience is beyond me. Yet in both cases, Google refused to remove the reviews and clarified that it’s not against their guidelines because the employee doesn’t currently work there.

The good news, however, is that Google updated their review policies on December 14, 2017, and it looks like reviews from former employees are finally now able to be removed. The new guidelinesare now in the Maps help center (they used to be under Google My Business), and they note that “posting negative content about a current or former employment experience” is no longer allowed, as it is considered a conflict of interest.

If you were one of those unfortunate businesses that had experiences like the two examples above, now is the time to contact Google My Business and ask them to remove the reviews. Hopefully, this time, you’ll get an appropriate response!

Going organic: Our top SEO columns of 2017

Search engine optimization saw another exciting year as readers consumed content on everything from video optimization tips to research on the latest ranking factors.

Jessica Thompson


Another year has come and gone, and as usual, SEOs had their work cut out for them. Many issues were top of mind for SEO practitioners in 2017, from concerns about the impact of an unannounced algorithm update to speculation about the impending mobile-first index.

Our most popular SEO columns this year encompassed a wide variety of topics, suggesting that our readership wasn’t overly focused on any one particular trend. From illustrative case studies to detailed tactical guides — from YouTube optimization to technical SEO audits to the interplay between SEO and web design — our experienced and insightful columnists on Search Engine Land covered a lot of ground in 2017.

Wondering which organic search columns garnered the most attention from readers this year? Read on for our top 10 SEO columns of 2017:

  1. YouTube SEO: How to find the best traffic-generating keywords by Sherry Bonelli, published on 5/30/2017.
  2. How we hijacked Google’s SEO guide search rankings by Dan Sharp, published on 3/6/2017.
  3. Google site search is on the way out. Now what? by Paul Shapiro, published on 3/22/2017.
  4. How to check which URLs have been indexed without upsetting Google: A follow-up by Paul Shapiro, published on 1/27/2017.
  5. SEO Ranking Factors in 2017: What’s Important and What’s Not by Jessica Thompson, published on 10/25/2017.
  6. The complete guide to optimizing content for SEO (with checklist) by Nate Dame, published on 4/12/2017.
  7. 5 must-do technical SEO audit items in 2017 by Aleyda Solis, published on 6/22/2017.
  8. 5 massive SEO and content shifts you need to master right now by Jim Yu, published on 5/17/2017.
  9. SEO case study: Zero to 100,000 visitors in 12 months by Andrew Dennis, published on 7/5/2017.
  10. SEO & website design: Everything you need to know by Marcus Miller, published on 4/19/2017.

Google again showing third-party reviews in local results

Program has been in place since 2016 and involves direct, opt-in integration.

Greg Sterling on December 28, 2017 at 11:26 am


Google is integrating third-party reviews into the Knowledge Graph for hotels. It apparently has been happening since 2016 and is entirely opt-in for the provider.

Google works directly with the third-party review source (e.g., TripAdvisor) to integrate the content. In the example below, TripAdvisor reviews for Southern California hotel Terranea are available under the “view Google reviews” link in the Knowledge Panel.


Google got into trouble roughly seven years ago for “scraping” and incorporating third-party review content from sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp into Google Places without permission. Yelp saw the move as a kind of antitrust “extortion” and mounted a vigorous campaign against it.

One of the provisions of Google’s 2012 antitrust settlement with the FTC was that the company would allow publishers to block Google from including third-party reviews in “vertical search offerings” without their being excluded from the general index. According to the FTC statement announcing the settlement:

Google also has promised to provide all websites the option to keep their content out of Google’s vertical search offerings, while still having them appear in Google’s general, or “organic,” web search results. The FTC investigated allegations that Google misappropriated content, such as user reviews and star ratings, from competing websites in order to improve its own vertical offerings, such as Google Local and Google Shopping.

The settlement expired on December 27. However, in a letter to the FTC, Google said it would continue to adhere to the main terms, including enabling publishers to opt out of having their content being displayed in Google’s vertical results:

The commitments cover two main areas. First, Google agreed to remove certain clauses from its AdWords API Terms and Conditions. Second, Google agreed to provide an opt-out mechanism for websites to opt out of the display of their crawled content on certain Google web pages linked to in the United States on a domain-by-domain basis. We believe that these policies provide additional flexibility for developers and websites, and we will continue them as policies after the commitments expire.

As mentioned, this reviews program involves Google directly working with publishers to include their content. It’s not clear whether this will expand to other categories such as restaurants or local services; however, I expect that it would over time.

Social media trends in 2018: What do the experts predict?

By Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

In 2017, Instagram reigned supreme, while sponsored content and ad transparency became big brand priorities. So, what’s on the agenda for the year ahead?

Here’s what our esteemed experts predict will be trending in the world of social media in 2018.

For more, check out these additional resources:

Trouble ahead for Twitter?

Will Francis, co-founder and creative director, Vandal:

I’m sad to say that 2018 may be the year Twitter’s cooling off turns into terminal decline. Their product increasingly lacks focus and is unwelcoming to newcomers, whilst stagnant user growth and internal issues remain signs of trouble ahead.

The recent doubling of the character limit is a classic tech product death rattle, achieving nothing more than further blurring of the proposition.


Greater focus on messaging apps

Joanna Halton, founder, Jo & Co:

Chatbots/OTT messaging are coming of age. The last year or so has been all about the hype and innovators, but now businesses are seriously working out what value they can offer them and how they can incorporate them into their current systems and processes.

The results may be less sexy than some of the fun campaigns we've seen previously, but big players are banking on the technology making them big savings, especially from a customer service perspective. Juniper research forecasts that that this technology could save businesses $8 billion annually worldwide by 2022, up from $20 million this year.

Tom Pepper, head of marketing solutions UK, LinkedIn:

I think 2018 will bring something of an advent in the way marketers use messaging apps. We’ve already seen a growing trend for social media messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger - and even a rise in chatbots - but next year some of those tools are likely to be completely reinvented, giving brands a route to effectively communicate with audiences throughout every step of the marketing funnel.

Ephemeral content 

Will Francis:

As more people and brands adopt Instagram Stories and Snapchat, these fleeting photos and videos become increasingly the default language in digital. 2018 may be the year that ‘traditional’ social media posts start to feel stiff and corporate - just another marketing channel - whilst disposable content is where brand personality is crafted and true love and engagement earned.


Augmented Reality

Joanna Halton:

We're going to see a lot more from AR next year. Not just from the likes of Snapchat's dancing hot dog that got more than 1.5bn views. But brands starting to look how they can use the technology in a way that suits them and their customers.

An example of this is BMW's latest foray where users could see what a new X2 would look like on their driveway without having to visit a garage. When the newest Apple devices incorporate special features and promote their ability to support a technology, like they have with AR, it's worth keeping an ear to the ground about where it's going.

Depesh Mandalia, founder and CEO, S M Commerce:

The two big waves to ride in 2018 are influencer marketing, which has seen a continued year on year rise in importance for brands, and potentially augmented reality taking video to the next level. Instagram and Snapchat are investing heavily in the video experience.

This opens up opportunity for brand engagement in more novel ways, putting control into the hands of the end user to create new, rich, immersive experiences.


Platforms and publishers working together

Tom Pepper:

Looking ahead to the coming year, I believe that we’ll continue to see social media platforms using assets like live streaming and original content to keep users hooked. In particular, I’m excited to see more partnerships formed between social media platforms and publishers.

Alignment with IoT

Depesh Mandalia:

In an ideal world I'd love to see social media converging with the internet of things to create an intelligence that's connected across your life. Imagine asking Alexa or Google Home for ideas of what food to order for home delivery, and recommendations based on your social connections or what others have recently ordered in your local area.

The potential implications are huge for both the end user and for brands. Perhaps this is where we may see AI converging right down the middle to give us faster, better options to the age-old question of what to eat tonight.

Better measurement

Tom Pepper:

Measurement is the word on everyone’s lips at the moment but, beyond that, we really need to help marketers truly exhibit the great work they’re doing.

I’d love to see marketers step outside their comfort zone and not just measure what they know through traditional marketing metrics, but focus their efforts on measuring business value too. Doing so will allow marketers to prove the impact their activity has on a business’s bottom line.

Variety within video

Joanna Halton:

It shouldn't come as a shock to anyone, but video is going to continue to grow as a predominant medium across social and digital overall. The predictions vary, whether it's Cisco's 80% of internet traffic by 2019 or Mark Zuckerberg's estimation that 90% of Facebook's content will be video-based by 2018.

Further supported by the launch of Facebook Watch and the success of Live. But either way, it's becoming the main way users prefer to consume content - especially mobile video. Marketers should consider that, according to the latest GlobalWebIndex report, mobile has now taken over as the primary way to access social media.

Brands will need to work out how they can use the variety of different video formats effectively as part of their content marketing plans.

10 Free Templates Every Small Business Needs in 2018




Written by Carly Stec


Owning or working for a small business can be extremely rewarding.

You have a good view of the business operations, your work is visible, and you have an opportunity to make a big impact during the company's critical growth years.

But then there are the less glamorous aspects -- from tight budgets and limited resources to lack of direction and leadership -- that can really start to weigh on you.

Use the free HubSpot Invoice Template Generator to create professional invoices in minutes.

It would be nice if someone would throw you a bone every now and then, right?

That's why we took some time to round up 10 completely free templates that you can lean on to streamline your workflow, save time, and get more done.

10 Free Templates Every Small Business Needs in 2018

1) Professional Bio Templates

Let's face it: Writing about yourself can feel, well, awkward.

The good news is we've created 40+ fill-in-the-blank bio templates that you can use to put together an impressive, professional narrative that you'll want to share.

Use these professional bio templates to give your team page a refresh. We recommended collaborating with a couple of colleagues you work closely with as you fill these out to ensure you're speaking to all of your awesome skills.

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2) Invoice Templates

For larger businesses, investing in paid invoicing software is a good way to keep your payments organized, but for small to mid-sized businesses, paying for a solution isn't always an option.

If you're looking for a cost-free way to stay on top of your billing, check out these free invoice templates for Microsoft Word. These invoice templates come in different colors and styles, so you can pick one that best suits your business.

Small Orange Invoice Template Example2.png

*Bonus* We also just launched a free invoice template generator that allows you to create professional invoice PDFs in just a few clicks. Check it out here.

3) Company Newsletter Template

Want to keep your contacts and customers engaged and informed about your business? Try sending a monthly company newsletter.

This clean and concise template makes it easy for you to plug in things like updates, accomplishments, awards, and upcoming events to share with your community.

You can also adapt this template to use internally for an employee newsletter featuring new hires, promotions, culture events, and changes in existing policies.

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4) Employee Timecard Template

Keeping tabs on employee hours is a really important part of running a business. Aside from ensuring your employees get paid (and get paid on time), having a log of hours can also help to resolve conflicts, evaluate employee engagement, and plan quotes in service-based industries.

With the help of this timecard template, you can keep all of your employee hours organized by week, month, and year. And don't worry about busting out that calculator: the template takes care of totaling each line for you.


5) Business Letterhead Templates

An on-brand letterhead, while it may seem like a small detail, can go a long way when it comes to establishing credibility and trust through written communications.

In many cases, your letterhead serves as a first impression to potential customers, so you want to make sure it represents your business well. Additionally, your letterhead typically houses valuable contact details, so you'll want to convey that information in a really clear and concise way.


6) Email Templates

Think about how much time you spending crafting emails on any given day. One hour? Two hours? More than five hours?

Aware that email can be a serious time suck, we created 15 email marketing templates to simplify all of your marketing and sales needs -- from PR and blogging outreach to customer reference emails.

These fill-in-the-blank templates are especially helpful when it comes to reducing the time you spend on emails that you're sending on a repeat basis.

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7) Meeting Agenda Template

We've all been in our fair share of meetings that have gone off the rails. But unproductive meetings suck up valuable time that could be better spent on impactful projects.

To keep things on track, try using a simple meeting agenda template.

Fill out this template a few days ahead of your meeting and send it out to all of the participants. Doing this in advance will give folks time to prepare for the meeting accordingly -- and ultimately eliminate any confusion.

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8) Infographic Templates

When you work at a small company, design resources can be hard to come by. But that doesn't mean your content creation efforts need to suffer as a result.

These free infographic templates can be used by designers and non-designers alike to create quality inforgraphics right in PowerPoint or Illustrator.

Use these infographic templates to visualize your latest research report, create a shareable blog post, or promote a piece of gated content on social media.

9) Social Graphic Templates

With the help of these Canva templates, you can create stunning social media images for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and more.

These templates are designed to meet the dimension requirements for each network, so you can spend less time hunting down accurate aspect ratios and more time boosting your social media engagement.


10) Small Team Status Board Template

If you're working on a really small team -- let's say 1-10 people -- you might find this status board template useful.

The template provides a column for each member of your team where they can add high-level status updates. This can be updated daily, weekly, or monthly to keep everyone on the same page about priorities, progress, and opportunities for collaboration.

Not to mention, the handy color-coding system allows you to determine the current standing of the task (good, needs attention, waiting on someone, etc.) at a quick glance.

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Does Business Blogging Still Get Results in 2017? New Data from 1,000 Bloggers [Infographic]


2017 marks the fourth consecutive year Orbit Media Studios has tapped the insights of 1000+ business bloggers to publish a research report on blogging statistics and trends.

In some cases, the annual blogger survey reflects subtle developments, but in others it reveals some significant changes. However, with four years of data in the books, a theme has clearly developed:

"Bloggers are reporting stronger results from content marketing," says Orbit Media’s co-founder Andy Crestodina.

"When asked to report on the effectiveness of their efforts, almost 30% of respondents reported 'strong results.' The vast majority of bloggers are seeing rewards from their efforts and meeting their goals, whatever they might be."

Click here to download our free ebook on how to start a successful blog for your business or project.

Each year, Andy delivers the survey’s findings in a meaty post detailing the data and expressing his conclusions. This year, the survey breaks down into 11 questions across three categories:

  1. Changes in the blogging process
  2. Blog content trends
  3. The promotion and measurement tactics business bloggers employ

Andy and I also collaborate each year on an infographic (see below) to present the most interesting findings in simple terms.

At the risk of reducing the suspense, the answer to the headline above (and headline of the infographic), “Are bloggers still getting results?” is …


85% claim their blog delivers strong results or some results. The number represents a 6% increase compared to the year prior.

Peruse the infographic below to discover more about the tactics business bloggers used in 2017 and how it compares to years past.

blogger-survey 2017-infographic-final.png

PopSugar, Complex Team Up for Ad Deals

By Benjamin Mullin

As tech giants tighten their grip on online advertising, digital publishers are working together to sell ad campaigns


In a digital advertising market dominated by Google and Facebook, publishers are teaming up to leverage their combined reach to win campaigns from major advertisers.

PopSugar and Complex, digital media companies that focus primarily on millennial women and men, respectively, agreed earlier this year to team up to jointly develop and sell branded advertising. The first example of that partnership is a campaign for the clothing retailer Banana Republic designed to run across both of their properties.

The branded campaign, called “From Where We Stand,” includes three documentary-style videos featuring celebrity couple Bryan Greenberg of HBO’s “How to Make It in America” and Jamie Chung of Fox’s “The Gifted” discussing how their different points of view fit into a shared identity. 

  • A Strategic Approach to Pricing

    Pricing is a sophisticated but underused lever for increasing profitability and gaining competitive advantage. It’s also increasingly important as new technologies and business models upend industries. In this first article in a two-part series, Tom Nagle, senior adviser to Deloitte Consulting LLP, and Georg Müller, managing director, Deloitte Consulting LLP, discuss highlights from the latest edition of their book, “The Strategy and Tactics of Pricing.”

Please note: The Wall Street Journal News Department was not involved in the creation of the content above.

In addition to running on and, the video ads are also appearing on the company’s YouTube pages and social feeds, including Facebook and Instagram. The publishers are splitting revenue from the campaign, which began in late November and is running until early December.

In recent years, several media companies have forged alliances to sell advertising across a broader swath of properties in order to compete with the enormous reach wielded by platforms such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook. Concert, a joint initiative from NBCUniversal and Vox Media launched in 2016, allows advertisers to buy advertisements across both companies’ digital properties. That same year, media companies including Gannett, McClatchy, Tronc and Hearst launched Nucleus Marketing Solutions to provide marketing services to customers in their collective advertising markets.

“In general, the marketplace consolidation that’s being driven by major platforms is creating an atmosphere where independent media companies need to present advertisers with novel ideas,” said Geoff Schiller, chief revenue officer at PopSugar.

Although he declined to provide a specific dollar figure for the Banana Republic campaign, PopSugar Chief Executive Brian Sugar said advertising alliances with other publishers have their trade-offs. On the one hand, he said, partnering with another publisher significantly increases the possibility of closing a deal because advertisers can reach a larger, more diversified audience for their buck. On the other hand, each publisher is left with half of the total price of the ad campaign.

The deal between PopSugar and Complex is their latest foray into branded content, which has been one of the few bright spots for publishers in digital advertising. Although branded content is difficult to scale, its bespoke nature allows publishers to differentiate themselves from tech platforms, charge a premium for campaigns, and appeal to advertisers who are trying to craft a tailor-made message.


“What we look to from digital publishers is a way to get original content developed in a disruptive way that is authentic,” said Mary Alderete, chief marketing officer for Banana Republic. 

PopSugar and Complex—which drew 34.2 million and 47.3 million visitors in October, respectively, according to comScore—both plan to pursue joint branded content campaigns with retailers next year. 

For PopSugar, branded content now represents roughly 60% of its total revenue, with advertising from retailers up 25% so far this year compared with the same period a year ago. Branded and sponsored content, which comprised 12% of Complex’s total revenue in 2016, will represent between 30% and 32% of the company’s total revenue in 2017, said Rich Antoniello, the founder and CEO of Complex.


“I think it’s really important to not try and just win on scale alone,” Mr. Antoniello said. “I think that’s where a lot of people make mistakes. The way to differentiate yourself and provide value to the advertiser is to bring storytelling and content development to the mix.”

Corrections & Amplifications
Mary Alderete is the chief marketing officer for Banana Republic. An earlier version of this article incorrectly described Ms. Alderete as the chief marketing officer of both Gap and Banana Republic. (Dec. 4, 2017)

7 Ways You’re Screwing Up Your Email A/B Tests

FACT: Email is an amazing channel for attracting, winning and retaining customers. Not to mention generating repeat business.

But there is one problem; it is really hard to get emails right for the first time.

What you consider an engaging subject line, recipients see as a dud. A call to action you believe would compel them to click, spurred no action whatsoever.

That is why it is important to A/B test your emails to find new techniques or elements that improve conversions.

Unfortunately, many companies launch split tests hoping for the best. They disregard the rules of A/B testing and commit some major mistakes rendering their efforts useless.

So, if you have been split testing emails but see no viable results, keep on reading. I am going to show you the most common A/B testing mistakes sabotaging your efforts.

Before we begin though…

Why You Should Always Start by Testing Concepts Not Elements

As it turns out before you even begin testing various email elements, you should identify a general strategy your audience responds best to. 

In other words, before you start fine-tuning the template, testing subject lines or modifying the call to action, you should first test two different marketing strategies against each other.

For instance, you could test two different ways to convert recipients – via email form or social media login. Or sending people to a landing page vs. allowing them to purchase the product directly via email.

And only when you have identified the winning strategy, should you start testing individual elements to improve conversions.

However, when you do, make sure you don’t commit any of the mistakes below:

Mistake #1. Testing More Than One Element at Once

By far and away, this is the most common mistake of them all.

You have so many ideas on how to improve email conversions. But the last thing you want is spending weeks to test every one of them in turn. And so, to speed things up a little, you decide to analyze them all at once.

You send different template variations under various sender names, using different subject lines, and including different copy in each test.

This results in so many email variations that, in the end, you can’t even tell if any of your ideas worked.

Time-consuming as it may be, you should always test only one element at a time.

Mistake #2. Checking Results Too Early

Since the majority of email platforms start delivering campaign results within 2 hours after sending, it is tempting to start analyzing a test’s performance right away, right?

However, by doing so, you miss out on some important data.

For one, users have different reading habits. Some open the email right away, flick it and either act on it or forget about it. Others put important messages aside to check out later. And as a result, might come back to your email a couple of days later.

And so, by analyzing results too early, you might miss important traffic and usage patterns, affecting the actual test results.

From personal experience, I can attest that the best time to start going through test results is about 2 weeks after launching the campaign.

Mistake #3. Ignoring Statistical Significance

80% of your test results are worthless. It is no different for almost anyone else split testing their emails.

And so, the challenge is to draw conclusions based only on the remaining 20%.

One way to achieve it is by identifying statistically significant results and weeding out those caused by pure chance. 

One way to do it is to use a statistical significance calculator. Personally, I use the one developed by Visual Website Optimizer, but you could use just about any similar app out there.


Mistake #4. Focusing on Too Small Sample Size

The number of recipients you include in the test affects the outcome. The smaller change you want to test, the greater sample size you might need.

For instance, let’s assume that you developed a hypothesis stating that using emojis in the subject line should help increase the existing 15% open rate by 10%. To conduct such analysis, you need to test this hypothesis on 8,000 people.

Using a smaller sample size will deliver statistically insignificant results.

So, before you launch the test, you need to calculate what sample size you need to receive viable feedback from. To do so, use the Optimizely’s sample size calculator.



Mistake #5. Failing to Develop a Proper Hypothesis

A hypothesis is a proposed statement made on the basis of limited evidence that can be proved or disproved and is used as a starting point for further investigation. I am sure you have heard this definition already.

However, in email split testing, a hypothesis must have one other characteristic:

  • It must be applicable to different campaigns. 

So for instance, a statement such as “emails with animated pictures generate a higher CTR” would work as a hypothesis. Once proven right, it could be applied to many different campaigns.

On the other hand, assuming that a particular subject line will fare better than another would not work. It applies to a specific campaign only and cannot scale to your other email efforts.

The lack of understanding of this important email hypothesis characteristic leads to conducting tests de facto without a hypothesis at all. Or in the best case scenario, using a weak hypothesis to try and improve conversions.

To avoid making this mistake, use the industry’s approved hypotheses. Jordie van Rijn collected 150 of them in this post.  

Mistake #6. Not Testing Segments

We all know that different audience segments might respond to your message in their own unique way. And thus, a hypothesis improving conversions in one segment might deliver no results in another.

Just take cultural differences as an example. Spanish recipients might have no problem with a high frequency of emails. However, emailing a couple of times a week might prompt subscribers from other countries to abandon your list.

And so, segment your tests to analyze different user behaviors.

Mistake #7. Sending Each Variation at a Different Time

To receive viable results, you should analyze no more than one variable at a time.

And yet, I see many companies unknowingly adding another factor to the mix: time. How? By sending each variation at a different time.

With this method, half of the subscribers might receive one variation at a time they are not busy and thus, susceptible to opening marketing messages. The other half, however, might get it in the middle of a busy day, resulting in many ignoring or even overlooking it.

As a result, the data gets skewed by different recipient behavior, depending on the time at which they received the email.

So, to guarantee the validity of the test, always send both variations at the same time to ensure that no other factor interferes with the test.

5 Super Quick Ways to Get More Messages on Your Facebook Business Page


You’ve probably heard some buzz about Facebook Messenger of late, but most brands still don't understand how to leverage it effectively. With 2.4 billion messages exchanged between businesses and people each month, it's time to make the most out of the channel.

After all, 53% of people who message businesses say they are more likely to shop with a business they can message. And 67% of people say they plan to increase their messaging with businesses over the next 2 years. And, messages you send through Messenger will appear on a user’s locked phone screen -- so your odds of reaching a user are greatly increased from sending a follow up email.

Click here to download our free guide to attracting customers with Facebook.


So, how can you make the most of this network? We're outlining five quick wins you can start using today.

5 Ways to Get More Messages on Facebook

1) Optimize your page for messages. 

Having a Facebook page that encourages users to message your page is the first -- and easiest -- way to encourage visitors on your business page to message your brand. It seems overly simple, but just optimizing your page to point users towards messaging you can have a huge impact on the number of messages you receive from interested or curious potential customers.


  1. Setting your default Facebook Page CTA to Message Us.
  2. Prompting visitors to message your page with the copy in your business description.

2) Setup response assistant.

Response assistant is Facebook’s own version of a “baby-bot” and can help you field incoming messages -- even when you aren't around to catch them personally.

Response assistant allows you to: 1) set instant replies 2) stay responsive when you can’t get to your computer or phone and 3) set a messenger greeting. In each of these you can use personalization tokens and greet those who message your page with a personalized message. You can also include a link to your contact us page, FAQ, or even your phone number in these messages.

3) Comment on posts with your link.

Facebook has a new feature that allows you to comment on posts with your brand’s messenger link. If you run a Facebook ad that people are asking questions about, be sure to reply with this link to continue the conversation within Messenger.

4) Run a “Send to Messenger” ad.

Messenger Ads are Facebook’s newest ad type. They allow you to target audiences just like any other ad, but you can encourage them to message you directly from the Ad. Keep in mind, you’ll want to have your inbox modified to ensure it is money well-spent. But, as this is a new Facebook Ad type -- the best time to experiment with these ads is now.

5) Commit to actually using it daily. 

The best way to make the most out of Facebook Messenger is to monitor the channel just like you would monitor your own inbox, or your favorite Slack channel. The nature of the conversational channel encourages on-demand action, so the more responsive you can be, the better.

Finally, keep it light on the channel, after all, it is conversational. Messenger is a great opportunity to showcase your brand’s personality using GIFs and emojis that appeal to your audience.

How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did

Kashmir Hill

Every time you go shopping, you share intimate details about your consumption patterns with retailers. And many of those retailers are studying those details to figure out what you like, what you need, and which coupons are most likely to make you happy. TargetTGT +0.52%, for example, has figured out how to data-mine its way into your womb, to figure out whether you have a baby on the way long before you need to start buying diapers.


Charles Duhigg outlines in the New York Times how Target tries to hook parents-to-be at that crucial moment before they turn into rampant -- and loyal -- buyers of all things pastel, plastic, and miniature. He talked to Target statistician Andrew Pole -- before Target freaked out and cut off all communications -- about the clues to a customer's impending bundle of joy. Target assigns every customer a Guest ID number, tied to their credit card, name, or email address that becomes a bucket that stores a history of everything they've bought and any demographic information Target has collected from them or bought from other sources. Using that, Pole looked at historical buying data for all the ladies who had signed up for Target baby registries in the past. From the NYT:

[Pole] ran test after test, analyzing the data, and before long some useful patterns emerged. Lotions, for example. Lots of people buy lotion, but one of Pole’s colleagues noticed that women on the baby registry were buying larger quantities of unscented lotion around the beginning of their second trimester. Another analyst noted that sometime in the first 20 weeks, pregnant women loaded up on supplements like calcium, magnesium and zinc. Many shoppers purchase soap and cotton balls, but when someone suddenly starts buying lots of scent-free soap and extra-big bags of cotton balls, in addition to hand sanitizers and washcloths, it signals they could be getting close to their delivery date.

Or have a rather nasty infection...

As Pole’s computers crawled through the data, he was able to identify about 25 products that, when analyzed together, allowed him to assign each shopper a “pregnancy prediction” score. More important, he could also estimate her due date to within a small window, so Target could send coupons timed to very specific stages of her pregnancy.

One Target employee I spoke to provided a hypothetical example. Take a fictional Target shopper named Jenny Ward, who is 23, lives in Atlanta and in March bought cocoa-butter lotion, a purse large enough to double as a diaper bag, zinc and magnesium supplements and a bright blue rug. There’s, say, an 87 percent chance that she’s pregnant and that her delivery date is sometime in late August.

via How Companies Learn Your Secrets -

And perhaps that it's a boy based on the color of that rug?

So Target started sending coupons for baby items to customers according to their pregnancy scores. Duhigg shares an anecdote -- so good that it sounds made up -- that conveys how eerily accurate the targeting is. An angry man went into a Target outside of Minneapolis, demanding to talk to a manager:


Target knows before it shows.

“My daughter got this in the mail!” he said. “She’s still in high school, and you’re sending her coupons for baby clothes and cribs? Are you trying to encourage her to get pregnant?”

The manager didn’t have any idea what the man was talking about. He looked at the mailer. Sure enough, it was addressed to the man’s daughter and contained advertisements for maternity clothing, nursery furniture and pictures of smiling infants. The manager apologized and then called a few days later to apologize again.

(Nice customer service, Target.)

 Target's Andrew Pole

Target's Andrew Pole

“On the phone, though, the father was somewhat abashed. “I had a talk with my daughter,” he said. “It turns out there’s been some activities in my house I haven’t been completely aware of. She’s due in August. I owe you an apology.”

8 Digital Marketing Trends Set to Expire by 2018


Written by Jasz Joseph

When it comes to marketing tactics, unfortunately there is no "Best if Used By" dates. But that doesn't mean what worked last year -- or even last week -- will work today. In fact, some of the most popular digital marketing trends have reached the end of their shelf life and are well beyond their expiration dates. 

As you are updating your inbound marketing strategies for 2018, consider tossing out these overused, under-performing marketing trends to make room for strategies that increase brand awareness, capture qualified leads, and help your sales teams increase revenue.

Click here to download our free guide to digital marketing fundamentals.

Check out the infographic from the folks at Kuno Creative below.


How to Get Started With Paid Search [Free Guide]



In 2016, 96% of Google's revenue came from paid search (or pay-per-click) advertising. Clearly, marketers are taking advantage of AdWords, but what does a great PPC campaign even look like? How do you ensure it drives ROI for your company? How do you even do a Google AdWords campaign?

To help you get started the right way, we're breaking down the basics of how to use paid search below.

The following is an excerpt from the ebook How to Use Google AdWords, just one of the resources included in The Ultimate Free Google AdWords PPC Kit we created with our friends at SEMrush. The kit includes the full ebook, a template, and a checklist -- everything you need to manage keywords, campaigns and ad groups successfully. If you'd like to access the full kit, click here.

How to Use Paid Search

All too often, companies -- small businesses especially -- think that if they just pay to be on a search engine, they don't have to invest time and resources in search engine optimization to rank higher organically. 

It's important to make clear that paid search is not a replacement for anything, but should instead be used to complement other inbound marketing strategies. Paid online advertising takes a lot of time and effort, a lot of resources, and a lot of management, and it's something you really need to invest in.

Let's take a look at some of the useful things you can do with paid search.

Landing Page Testing

One great way to use paid search is for testing and optimizing your landing pages. So, for instance, here's the search engine results page for "cat food for older cats", and you see some paid results for this specific search query:

EBOOK - How to Use Google AdWords 2.jpg


You can take that one ad and actually set it to go to two different destination URLs, and therefore, to two different landing pages.

So for a cat food ad, you could have one ad going to a page with one offer (a guide on feeding techniques for your older cat), and the other to a page for another offer (an actual product page for cat food).

You could also have the ad go to two different landing pages that are for the same offer. For example, if you wanted to test a feature of your forms, you could have two versions of the same landing page, each with a different form layout, and send the ad to each of those. This is called A/B testing, a very important and highly recommended practice for optimizing your landing pages.

Paid search is a great way to do landing page A/B testing because it allows you to direct traffic to your choice of pages, split this traffic to different pages, and ultimately find the pages that convert at the highest rate.

Finding New Keywords

In addition to landing page testing, you can also use paid search to find new keywords for your campaign. Google AdWords generates a Search Terms report that displays all of the keywords for which your ad has been displayed.

In other words, if you are bidding on the keyword "red shoes", Google might serve your ad when someone searches "red tennis shoes." Even though you did not bid on the exact word, the keyword "red tennis shoes" will be included in this report because that's what the user searched. The report also contains information about the performance of each of the keywords, so you can determine if it's worth adding that keyword to your campaign.

Below is a sample Search Terms report. On the left hand side is the list of keywords. The ones that show the green "Added" box next to them are the ones that are already in this paid search account.

EBOOK - How to Use Google AdWords2 2.jpg


The keywords that don't say "Added" next to them are not currently included in the account. Again, this is a list of the keywords that people are actually typing into the Google search, so it is extremely valuable information.

Take, for instance, the keyword "search engine optimization tutorial'" from the list above. That is an excellent keyword for my campaign, and I'm not buying it yet. Not only that, but I wouldn't have known about that keyword unless I had generated this report! And to top it all off, I'm able to see that when somebody searches for this keyword and clicks through to my ad, they convert on one of my offers at a rate of 21%.

Now, this high conversion rate tells me not only that I should be buying this keyword, but also that maybe I should consider using this keyword for search engine optimization as well. Maybe I should make a landing page geared toward this keyword, or an offer built around this keyword.

You should use the information in these Search Terms reports, and also in Google AdWords' Keyword Planner, to discover new keywords that will help you further optimize all of your SEM campaigns. For more information on keyword research, check out this blog post: How to Do Keyword Research for SEO: A Beginner's Guide and the Ultimate keyword research checklist.

Getting in the Game

Another great way to use paid search is to, as we say, "get in the game" and rank higher than your competitors. Let's look at, which holds the number one ranking in the organic search results for the phrase "cat food".

For the phrase "dog food", they don't rank number one, but they're still above the fold, meaning that you don't have to scroll down to see the result when the page comes up. This is great, of course, but their high rank for these keywords does not mean they shouldn't bother running any paid search ads.

If you do a little research, you'll find that "pet food" is also a big keyword in this space, and PetSmart ranks far below the fold for it. On top of that, they're not running a paid search campaign with Google AdWords either. But their competitor, Petco, does have a paid search campaign, and so their ad appears on the results page, while PetSmart does not. So this is a sample instance where running a paid search campaign makes a lot of sense.

EBOOK - How to Use Google AdWords4.jpg

Paid Search Can't Stand Alone

When you think about how you should use paid search, one of the best ways to think about it is to use it as a complement to your inbound marketing efforts. You can use paid search to maximize your coverage on the search engine's result page (SERP).

For instance, here we have the search term "inbound marketing." You'll see that there's an organic search listing for HubSpot that ranks second on the page (just after Wikipedia), but we're also buying the keyword "inbound marketing," which displays our paid search ad for it.

So now we have that natural search ad, the paid one, and, if you scroll down the page, you'll find yet another organic search listing for HubSpot via SlideShare. This widespread coverage on the search engine results page for "inbound marketing" helps to establish HubSpot as an authoritative figure for inbound marketing, and drives more traffic to our pages.

The good news is -- you can do this for your business as well! Take the opportunity to establish your company as a leader in your industry by increasing your presence on search engines with paid search campaigns.

10 thrilling digital marketing stats we’ve seen this week

By Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

It’s that time of the week when we regale you with some glorious digital marketing stats.

This week’s roundup includes news about ecommerce reviews, CRO, AI, and digital payments. Be sure to head on over to the Internet Statistics Compendium for lots more.

Let’s get down to businesss.

Facebook native videos generate 530% more comments than YouTube

Quintly’s latest study involves the analysis of 187,000 Facebook profiles and over 7.5m Facebook posts from January to July 2017.

Alongside the discovery that 92% of these profiles used native video, it was found that Facebook native videos resulted in 530% more comments than YouTube videos.

Cementing the power of the platform, Quintly also found a 477% higher average share rate for Facebook native videos, and a 168% higher average interaction rate compared to YouTube videos.



Majority of consumers think AI in marketing should be regulated

On the back of Blade Runner 2049’s release, a survey by Syzygy has revealed US and UK attitudes about artificial intelligence.

It found that the majority of respondents think AI in marketing should be governed by a key principle from the movie – i.e. that it should be illegal for AI to hide its real identity and impersonate a human. 85% of Brits agree with this sentiment, as do 79% of Americans.

The survey also found that 43% of Americans believe AI poses a threat to the long-term survival of humanity, while 17% feel anxious about the rise of the technology.

Meanwhile, 92% of Brits believe there should be regulation with a legally-binding code of conduct, while 75% think brands should need explicit consent before using AI in their marketing.

Negative reviews rise in November and December due to delivery issues

Trustpilot has analysed data from over a million online reviews left in November and December in both 2015 and 2016.

Results show that delivery was the biggest cause of complaints. The most common two-word phrases in one-star reviews were “customer service,” “days later,” and “still waiting” during October to December 2016. The appearance of “delivery” in one-star reviews rose to more than 19% in December – a 13.27% increase since October.   

Finally, there were more negative reviews left on 20th December than any other day of the year.



Conversion rates on desktop more than double that of mobile

A new study by Qubit has found that mobile commerce still lags behind desktop when it comes to discoverability, conversion, and revenue.

In the analysis of data across 35 fashion and cosmetics brands since January of this year, it found traffic to each channel to be about the same – 45.87% on desktop and 44.7% on mobile. However, there are stark differences in other areas.

Conversion rates on desktop were found to be 3.35%, while conversion rates on mobile were 1.61%. Similarly, revenue per visitor (RPV) is more than double on desktop – £6.10 vs. £2.66 on mobile.

Lastly, the average number of products viewed per customer was also far higher on desktop – 17.99 on desktop and 13.65 on mobile.

Music improves the customer experience in-store

A study by Mood Media and Sacem suggests that music can improve the customer experience in-store, even in more ‘serious’ sectors such as banking.

When measuring the difference music makes in locations where it was not previously used, it found that 70% of customers had a more positive perception of a business’s image when music was playing, and 65% agreed that music helped to differentiate the business from its competition.

When sectors like banking and pharmacy were silent, only 33% of customers initially thought adding music would feel appropriate. However, 76% of customers agreed the music was a good addition once it was introduced.

Interestingly, customers in banking felt more comfortable having confidential conversations when music was playing in the background.



Global digital payments predicted to reach 726bn transactions by 2020

Capgemini’s World Payments Report says that global digital payments volumes are predicted to increase by an average of 10.9% in the run up to 2020, reaching approximately 726bn transactions.

This is said to be heavily influenced by retail customers, who are increasingly willing to use online and mobile channels to adopt next-generation payment methods.

The report also revealed that by 2019, it is estimated that around 50% of transactions carried out using a credit or debit card will be made either online or via mobile.

Fewer marketers see CRO as ‘crucial’ to success

Econsultancy’s Conversion Rate Optimization Report, in association with RedEye, has revealed a dip in the perceived importance of CRO. 

In a survey of 800 marketers and ecommerce professionals, 38% of respondents said they still see it as ‘important’. However, just 50% now see it as ‘crucial’ – a decline from 55% in 2016. 

This percentage has fallen even further since 2013, when 59% of professionals cited CRO as ‘crucial’.



Subscribers can download the full report here.

More consumers predicted to shop online this Black Friday

A survey by Market Track suggests that more consumers will choose to make online purchases this Black Friday, favouring digital commerce over traditional brick and mortar stores.

Out of 1,000 people surveyed, 40% of respondents said they expect to shop in physical retail stores on Black Friday. Meanwhile, 30% said the same for Thanksgiving compared with 50% last year.

In contrast, 80% said they are likely to purchases from Amazon this year – an increase of 6% from 2016. And while in-store shopping is likely to decline, Walmart came out on top as the top retail destination for the holiday season.

Snapchat is top social platform for US teens

Despite reports that Snapchat usage is declining among top influencers (with a 33% decrease in usage over the past six months), Piper Jaffray suggests US teens still can’t get enough of the platform.

In a survey of 6,100 US teenagers across 44 states, it found 47% of respondents cite Snapchat as their favourite social media platform – almost twice as many as those who prefer Instagram.

Just 9% of teens said they favour Facebook, while 7% said Twitter, and just 1% said Pinterest.



Interactive video ads boost viewing time by 49% 

According to Magna, interactive video ads result in a 47% increase in time spent watching compared to non-interactive ads. 

What’s more, when consumers interact with a 15-second ad, brands can reportedly triple their time spent with consumers. 

6 Technical On-site SEO Hacks to Improve Crawlability and Increase Organic Traffic


SEO is all about improving organic traffic to generate more sales. We often spend more time increasing the number and quality of backlinks (a major component of OFF page SEO) and forget to improve the technical aspects of the website.

This article will shed light on some extremely useful technical SEO hacks that can gain more qualified inbound traffic and improve the crawlability of a website. Let’s start! 

1. Optimize the Google Crawl Budget

Googlebots regularly crawls the existing and new pages on your site in the same manner as a regular human searcher might. This helps Google to understand the performance of the website as a slow loading time or a 404 page might degrade the user experience. 

What is a Google Crawl Budget?

The number of pages that Google visits on your site during a single connection is referred to as the crawl budget. This crawl budget is different for different sites. An increased crawl budget means Google is interested in knowing more about your site which in turn can improve your search ranking positions (remember, rankings have over 200+ factors and crawl budget is just one of those).

Here is how Google defines crawl rate:

“Crawl rate limit Googlebot is designed to be a good citizen of the web. Crawling is its main priority, while making sure it doesn’t degrade the experience of users visiting the site. We call this the “crawl rate limit” which limits the maximum fetching rate for a given site. Simply put, this represents the number of simultaneous parallel connections Googlebot may use to crawl the site, as well as the time it has to wait between the fetches. The crawl rate can go up and down based on a couple of factors: Crawl health: if the site responds really quickly for a while, the limit goes up, meaning more connections can be used to crawl. If the site slows down or responds with server errors, the limit goes down and Googlebot crawls less.”

We can say that crawl limit is an excellent way to estimate the performance of a website in the search results as a better crawl budget leads to more organic traffic because it increases the importance of a website in the eyes of Google. In the words of Google ”An increased crawl rate will not necessarily lead to better positions in Search results.” The use of the word necessarily means that crawl rate indeed has an impact on the search performance and can be considered as a ranking factor.

How to Check Google Crawl Rate?

Login to the Webmasters search console and click on crawl stats under the crawl menu as displayed in the below screenshot:



This will give you a clear idea about the number of pages that Google crawls per day along with the amount of time Googlebot spends in downloading the page.

Here are some of the ways through which you can optimize the Google crawl budget:

  • Increase the speed of the site as making a site faster improves the user experience and also increases the crawl rate. Efficient crawling automatically leads to better indexing and improved rankings.
  • Regularly monitor the crawl error report and keep the number of server errors to as low as possible.
  • Ensure you have proper AMP pages on your site so that it takes less time for Google to crawl such pages to improve the mobile performance of the website.
  • Reduce the excessive page load time for dynamic page requests. Dynamic pages take too much time to load resulting in time-out issues.
  • Make use of virtual private servers to improve the server response time.
  • Optimize images and reduce unnecessary JS and CSS.
  • Ensure to take the mobile-friendly test and fix any mobile crawlability or design issues that your site might be having.

2. Use HTML Tables for Direct Answer Queries 

Google loves to give direct answers to the searchers.

In this context, if your web pages provide direct answers to the commonly searched user questions related to your niche then you have an excellent chance of diverting lots of traffic from the direct answer box results returned by Google.

Here is what Google returns when the user types the query: MacBook Pro price



The site is ranking in the answer box on top of the regular search results because it uses proper HTML tables to give direct answers. Google loves HTML tables likes these, and this is the reason Apple gets defeated and wasn’t included in the answer box.

The crux of this experiment is, you need to first identify the question-based search queries then you can prepare answers in a tabular form by making use of HTML tables and structured data so that it becomes easier for Google to understand the content of the page and display it directly in the search results.

3. Leverage the Power of Internal Links

Internal linking still remains one of the most powerful SEO tactics. An internal link connects one page of a website to a different page on the same website. 

Proper internal linking helps to pass link juice more efficiently across the inner pages. Following the below tree structure for directories, subdirectories, and pages helps. 



 Here are some of the ways through which you can improve the power of internal links: 

  • Create lots of actionable, authoritative, and high-quality content. When you have lots of content, then you can easily create a lot of internal links.
  • Do not always link to the home page. Instead, link out to deeper pages that otherwise have fewer links. The more internal links you have to your important pages, the better chances you will have to get them ranked higher up in the search results.
  • Follow Wikipedia if you are looking for an inspiration for relevant internal links. Contextual internal linking is far better than linking done at the bottom of the content.
  • Use breadcrumbs, as it aids in navigation and also raises the importance of inner category pages especially in the case of an e-commerce site.
  • Use relevant, natural, and do-follow links. Unnatural links that are not beneficial to the users but created for the sole purpose of internal linking will have a reduced CTR and time on page thereby reducing the overall importance of the website.
  • Diversify your anchor text when doing internal linking to remain safe from the penalties of Penguin. You can make use of tools like Internal Link Analyzer to check the current status of your internal links. 

4.  Increase the Word Count of Blog Pages to 2500-3000 Words 

If you want to rank for an informative search query like “how to improve WordPress SEO”, then make sure that you have at least 2500 words of content in your page.

Snapagency did a survey and found that blog posts having a word count of 2500 words or more received the maximum social shares.



Similarly, pages having a word count between 2200-2500 words received the maximum organic traffic.



Hence, the best blog post length that you should always aim for is 2500 words. Simply find out all the informative search queries based on Google Micro Moments that will help the customer to reach the end of the funnel. After that, create content that provides actionable and interactive text to help the user find answers to their problems or confusions. 

5. Optimize Your Site for Mobile Web Crawling 

Google has now moved to a mobile first index. While doing a technical site audit, it is crucial to review whether Google Smartphone crawler is able to properly indexthe contents of the website.

Here are some of the ways to have a mobile friendly site: 

  • Conduct a mobile friendly test and use the “Fetch as Google” option from Google to check for any issues.
  • Check the mobile usability report under the search console to check any mobile usability issues detected over time.
  • Make use of Tools like Screaming Frog to simulate mobile bot search behavior and ensure that the mobile pages are rendered properly.
  • Perform a log analysis and block spam bots so as to allow easy access to search engine crawlers. 

6. Regularly Update Your Sitemap 

As per Google,

“A sitemap is a file where you can list the web pages of your site to tell Google and other search engines about the organization of your site content. Search engine web crawlers like Googlebot read this file to more intelligently crawl your site. Also, your sitemap can provide valuable metadata associated with the pages you list in that sitemap: Metadata is information about a web page, such as when the page was last updated, how often the page is changed, and the importance of the page relative to other URLs in the site.”

Here are some ways to ensure that your sitemaps are proper and crawlable:

  • Update your XML sitemap every time you add a new page on your site.
  • Remove duplicate pages, non- canonicalized pages and improper redirected pages.
  • Use consistent and fully qualified URLs.
  • Do not include session ids.
  • Ensure the sitemap file is UTF-8 encoded.
  • Check the sitemap errors regularly under the Search Console.
  • Keep the sitemap size to less than 50,000 URLs so that the important pages gets crawled more frequently. If you have multiple sitemaps, then use a sitemap index file.
  • Have an optimized mobile sitemap. You can download the elements specific to mobile from here.

Follow the above technical SEO tips and you can instantly notice the difference.

Remember, both on-page and off-page are integral parts of an effective SEO strategy. Which on-page SEO hack has given you the maximum benefit? Please let me know in the comments below.

14 ways to get smarter with your content and SEO

Jim Yu

Contributor Jim Yu uses the SMART framework to prescribe a formula for SEO and content marketing success.


Despite the many ways Google has changed the search game over the last five years, one truth remains: content is the vehicle that drives your consumer interactions, engagements, experiences and, ultimately, conversions.

However, only 41 percent of marketers think their organization is clear on what an effective or successful content marketing program looks like, according to the Content Marketing Institute (CMI).

Marketers aren’t just lacking confidence in their efforts; these are real and measurable deficits. In fact, only 20 percent of B2C and 50 percent of B2B content earns any engagement at all, my company’s research has found.

That’s a lot of wasted effort and resources invested in content that ends up just floating around the web, winning zero business benefit for its creators.

In this post, we’re going to take a look at content through the SMART lens. SMART is a goal-setting framework in which S stands for Specific, M for measurable, A for achievable, R for relevant and T for timely.

Below is my variation that explains how to apply search engine optimization (SEO) to your content within a SMART framework, giving you 14 concrete ways to make your marketing more effective and to win you more business.

S —  Specific content wins every time

Content is not about what your marketing team wants to say. It is about providing insight and information that your audience actually wants to hear.

SMART content is designed for a specific audience, based on your understanding of their needs, preferences and intent.

  1. Get to know your audiences.

There’s much more to this than keyword research. Where do your consumers live online? What’s their intent when performing certain types of searches or engaging your brand in social? What action are they most likely to take at that point? Understanding the audience you’re writing for is the foundation on which SMART content is built.

  1. Discover opportunities through topical research.

How well do you understand the competitive environment in the verticals for which you’re creating content? Today, you’re competing for eyes and clicks. Your competitors may be other companies, but you could be competing for space in the SERPs against media brands, bloggers, influencers and more. Without that bigger-picture, bird’s-eye view of relevant search and social spaces, you’re flying blind.

Evaluating the content gaps not covered by your competition provides you with opportunities to create engaging content that speaks to people in the key moments that matter.

  1. Choose content formats wisely.

Which media will you incorporate to best illustrate your message, engage your audience and reach people across platforms?

Don’t limit yourself; a single piece of content can incorporate several types of media, including socially shareable images, quick video clips and embedded media, like SlideShares.

This gives you various ways to convey your message, but it also allows you to appear in different types of search results (like Google Images) and on different search platforms (like YouTube or SlideShare’s internal search), as well.

M — Measurable content delivers on the metrics that matter

Content marketers are getting better at proving the business value of their activities. Just two years ago, only 21 percent of B2B marketing respondents to CMI’s annual content marketing survey said they were successful at tracking ROI. Now, in 2017:

  • 72 percent are measuring their content marketing ROI.
  • 51 percent are using a measurement plan to provide both insight and progress toward the business goals.
  • 79 percent are using analytics tools.

How can you make your content marketing efforts measurable?

  1. Choose metrics that matter and align with your business goals.

Which KPIs tell the true story of your content’s success? Ideally, you’re going to measure your content’s performance through the entire funnel, right from lead generation and audience-building to nurturing, conversion, sales and right on through post-sales to retention and evangelism.

Site traffic, lead quality, social shares, time on site and conversion rates are among the top metrics used by B2B marketers to determine content success. Priorities are similar for B2C marketers.

  1. Make search engine optimization a core component of content creation.

Improve your visibility and key metrics like engagement, time on site, sharing and conversions with strategic content optimization.

Apply readability standards and optimize title tags, meta descriptions, subheadings, images and text in line with current SEO standards.

Keep visitors clicking and engaged with smart internal linking that both improves user experience and resurfaces your most popular, highest-converting content.

  1. Accelerate with automation. 

Machine learning is growing in importance in search, especially where data sets are large and dynamic. Identifying patterns in data in real time makes machine learning a great asset to understand changes in your customer base, competitor landscape or the overall market.

Ideally, your content automation system will include reporting to tell you not only how each piece is performing but also make recommendations to help you focus on your most valuable opportunities.

Automation allows you to manage routine tasks with less effort so that you can focus on high-impact activities and accomplish business goals at scale.

A — Actionable content is always on & ready for activation

By actionable content, I mean that which is ready to answers users’ questions but also is valuable way beyond the initial period of promotion after publishing.

  1. Empower your content creators with technical SEO support.

Last month, I wrote about the importance of balancing technical and non-technical SEO within your organization. If you want your content to perform its best, you need to support your creative team with a technically sound, optimized online presence.

Site structure and hierarchy, meta data, mobile readiness, internal linking, site speed, coding errors and other technical SEO factors can all affect your content’s ability to rank.

Further, they can affect readers’ ability to access and enjoy the content and then take next steps. Get your technical and non-technical SEO in order to set your content team up for success.

  1. Optimize for activation across multiple channels.

Search engine marketing is the second-most commonly used paid content promotion tactic, next only to social advertising.

Push your content to social channels like Twitter and Facebook, but don’t forget other channels like LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram and Google+.

Ideally, you’re going to have some understanding of your audience on each platform and which channels will be most receptive to each new piece. Make sure you’re optimizing your social posts for the platform on which you’re posting — cutting and pasting the same post across all channels doesn’t cut it.

R — Resonate with content promotion in relevant channels

Even if you build it, they will not come until attracted. The competition for eyes and minds is fierce; increase the efficacy of your organic efforts and promotional spend by targeting the right people in the right places at the right time.

  1. Amplify in social channels for early traction.

Low spend minimums on channels like Twitter and Facebook make it affordable to run experiments against different audience segments and see where your content resonates best.

Plus, that initial boost of activity gives your content authority and appeals to the social networks’ ranking algorithms, helping you get more organic reach.

If you are tracking and measuring correctly, you can see which audiences are not only engaged, but converting. That’s where you want to allocate your content-promotion budget, rather than having some predetermined amount of spend per channel that runs its course regardless of performance for each piece.

  1. Syndicate and use paid promotion to reach targeted audiences outside your existing network.

Syndication takes content you’ve already published on your site and republishes it elsewhere, exposing you to another publication’s audience. You might be able to find organic syndication opportunities, and there are plenty of paid syndication services like Outbrain, Taboola or Zemanta.

If you’re looking at large-scale syndication, read Danny Sullivan’s caution on using links in syndicated piecesfirst to stay on the right side of Google.

  1. Don’t forget email!

Your consumers want to hear from you. In fact, 86 percent want to receive emails at least monthly from companies they deal with, a MarketingSherpa survey found in 2015.

Make your call to action (CTA) to click through and read the content crystal-clear. Avoid placing competing CTAs in your email, and resist the urge to try to sell in every communication. Your content is designed to do the work of helping them take the next logical step.

T — Tangible business results are derived from SMART content

KPIs like social interactions and site visits give you a great idea of how well your content performs in search and social, but you need tangible business results to prove value.

  1. Make content profitable with CTAs that drive performance.

What action would you like readers to take? Which of your site’s conversion pages is currently converting best and generating the highest-quality leads? These insights will help guide your CTA selection, but remember, your CTAs should also match the consumer intent you’re targeting with each piece. Don’t forget to include embedded performance tracking for both site traffic and conversions.

  1. Incorporate elements that support multiple business functions.

Make your content multidimensional with elements to build brand authority, inspire or educate on product (or service), encourage engagement and more.

Incorporate testimonials into your content, where they can serve the purpose of providing social validation within the context of an existing consumer experience. Develop author personas to give your content greater authority and build the profiles of key employees and executives.

  1. Improve ROI with ongoing content management and optimization.

How much content does your organization have sitting on-site and around the web? Each piece is an opportunity for ongoing traffic and lead generation, but only if it’s kept in line with constantly changing SEO standards.

Updating your entire catalogue of content every time Google releases an update would be a task so astronomical in scope that it’s not even worth considering doing manually.

Bringing it all together

Intelligent marketers are beginning to move the needle on content performance by embracing SEO and content as one. While it is true that both disciplines have high degrees of specialization (for example, technical SEO or branded content), the most prolific and tangible results come from a combination of both.

SMART content is always on, always optimized, and — most importantly — profitable.

22 Facebook Statistics that Every Marketer Must Know in 2017

Brad Smith

Size matters online.

Here’s why:

At the start of 2017, more than 65 million local businesses had a Facebook page.

Because bigger and better.


There’s no shortage of Facebook case studies to follow (or copy).

But with great amounts of case studies comes great amounts of migraines.

So skip the series of Google searches.

In this article, you’ll find the 22 Facebook statistics that you absolutely can’t-do your job without.

These stats will cover everything you need to know before you launch your next campaign, from audience demographics to Relevance Score to ad engagement. Curious to see them all? Here they are:

  1. At the start of 2017, more than 65 million local businesses had a Facebook page.
  2. 79% of online adults use Facebook.
  3. 42% of consumers do not follow brands on social media.
  4. 42.2% of people like or follow a page so they can get an exclusive offer.
  5. Every Facebook user has more than 1,500 stories competing for a spot in their newsfeed at any given time.
  6. However, only about 300 of those stories are chosen to appear in the newsfeed.
  7. 40.5% of people say they prefer ads that are directly related to their interests.
  8. Ads with a Relevance Score of 3 cost about 73% more than those with a score of 8.
  9. They are 167% more expensive than ads with a score of 10.
  10. Ads with a score of 8 have a 77% higher CTR than those with a score of 3.
  11. Ads with a score of 10 have a 158% higher CTR than those with a score of 3
  12. 34.7% of people who unfollow a brand on Facebook do so because of low-personality or uninteresting posts.
  13. 57.5% of people who unfollow a brand do so because of an excessive amount of promotional posts.
  14. Shorter Facebook posts get 23% more interaction than longer posts.
  15. Posts with photos receive 179% more engagements than other posts.
  16. Videos are the most shared post type, with 89.5 average Facebook shares
  17. The average number of videos posted by a page was 24 per month.
  18. The average length of a Facebook video was 3 minutes and 48 seconds.
  19. The average person only watched a Facebook video for10 seconds.
  20. 85% of Facebook videos are watched with the sound turned off.
  21. People are 1.5x more likely to watch video on a smartphone instead of a desktop.
  22. Square video takes up 78% more space in a mobile newsfeed than landscape video does.

You can Jump straight to the one that picks your curiosity or keep reading! We’ve got one down and another 21 Facebook stats to go.

Facebook Users: Who is on your page?

Who exactly is on Facebook, to begin with?

The easy answer is pretty much everyone. Here are a few Facebook user statistics that may surprise you.

79% of online adults use Facebook

For every five adults who use the internet, four of them are using it to check Facebook. This should give you a good idea of how many people are on Facebook. In a recent study, the Pew Research Center goes on to break things down a bit:


(Image Source)

So, that’s the thorough answer to our prelim question.

But of course, all these people don’t like your business page specifically. Which has more to do with them than you.

42% of consumers do not follow brands on social media.

Some people just aren’t very liberal with their likes. Many of us tune out messages from brands we don’t recognize.

But that doesn’t mean you can give up. We’ll talk more about how to reach this group later.

First, let’s explore why your loyal fans clicked Like in the first place.

42.2% of people like or follow a page so they can get an exclusive offer.

They say it because it’s true.

Offering incentives to customers, like special deals for Facebook fans or access to online contests, increases your number of likes.

But that’s not the only way to attract fresh faces to your page. There are plenty of other things you can try, too.

Ever put up a winning post that really spoke to people?

Ever felt a small part of yourself perish as that post moved further down the page due to new posts taking up the top spot?

Well, get ready for a good old-fashioned resurrection.

Try pinning your greatest post to the top of your Facebook page, so new visitors will always see it.

Hubspot’s Facebook page pinned a fun video that really grabs a visitor’s attention:

Your whole goal with new visitors is to get something out of them.

You need a click, comment, like, or view. (Because you can use that to re-target them later.)

Pinning top content is literally the lowest hanging fruit you can imagine.

And the longer the post stays pinned to the top of the page, the more those numbers will grow.

Faking social proof at its finest.

Pinning posts can get newbies engaged with your cream-of-the-crop content straight away. But how do you draw said newbies in the first place?

Like a moth to a flame or a blinding light? (Except, without the whole bang, zap, dead, part.)

As the numbers said, many people hesitate to like a brand at all.

You can combat this by running your best ads for the people who need them most. Or, at least, are most likely to need them most. Lookalike audiences.

These are tailor-made Facebook audiences made up of people who share important traits with your current fanbase. The only major difference is that they’ve yet to take the plunge.


With lookalike audiences, you’re not targeting randoms who’ve never heard of you. You’re only targeting customers who are likely to be interested in your product.

You can stand out to these people right away by acknowledging the fact that they may have no idea who you are. Yet. 

Fashion company Tobi does this well:


(Image Source)

(Yes, I’m up with the fashion game. Don’t judge me.)

This ad displays another great benefit of lookalike audiences: you can use them to offer exclusives only to the hard-to-get leads you’re trying to draw in.

Facebook Demographics: Who finds your ads relevant?

If you had 1,500 emails in your inbox, you wouldn’t answer all of them.

I know I wouldn’t. The delete button would be soon to follow.

If you did want to answer some of them, you’d prioritize. You would answer the emails that were most important to you and ignore the rest.

And then you would take a very long vacation.

The moral of that story is that Facebook is a lot like you. It thinks in terms of importance, or relevance.

And it won’t bother a user with an irrelevant post.

Every Facebook user has more than 1,500 stories competing for a spot in their newsfeed at any given time.

That’s a lot. Right? Too many, in fact.

Which is why…

However, only about 300 of those stories are chosen to appear in the newsfeed.

Those 300 are the “relevant” posts, according to the Facebook algorithm.

But that word “relevant”… what exactly does it mean in Facebook-speak?

Many many things. For starters, it means an ad or post is connected to someone’s interests.

Why does that matter?

40.5% of people say they prefer ads that are directly related to their interests.

That’s more than double the amount who would prefer to see unrelated ads.


(image source)

When people see ads that speak to what they care about, they engage.

And engagement matters on Facebook.

It increases your ad’s Relevance Score, for starters.

A higher Relevance Score means you’re paying less for engagement with your ad.

But how much less? Get ready for a data-dump:

Ads with a Relevance Score of 3 cost about 73% more than those with a score of 8

(Much too much.)

They are 167% more expensive than ads with a score of 10

(Multiply that against your Cost Per Lead.)

Ads with a score of 8 have a 77% higher CTR than those with a score of 3

(Getting warmer.)

Ads with a score of 10 have a 158% higher CTR than those with a score of 3



As you can see from the graph above, even one extra point can increase CTR significantly.

So how do you increase your Relevance Score?

First, check what your Relevance Score is in the first place. It could be 10, for all you know.

It could also be less than 10. A lot less. (It’s most likely a lot less than 10.)

And if it’s lower than you were hoping, your next step is to ask why.

Don’t assume that Relevance Score is a direct reflection of your ad copy. Even the best-written ad can get a low score if it’s run for too broad of an audience.

Exhibit A: this ad.


When we ran this ad for a broad audience, Facebook gave it a whole 2.9 points.

Little did the folks at Facebook know we were testing them.

And the test continued when we narrowed down the audience. Now, the ad only ran for users who had visited the our site in the past 90 days.

And the results were dramatic.


The Facebook custom audience increased the ad’s relevance across the board.

One of the reasons Facebook custom audiences work so well is because they allow you to make your ads more specific.

People don’t like to be treated like a name on a giant list. By narrowing down your audiences, you can say specific things in your ad that only apply to a small group.

You gots to segment.

The result: an ad that speaks to an individual and not the whole wide world.

Here’s an example from Best Buy:


(Image Source)

This ad retargets customers who abandoned their cart. It’s giving them the final push they need to convert. It’s not generic. And that’s what makes it effective.

Great tactic, but unfortunately, not all of your ads will be retargeting ads like this one. In these cases, it’s helpful to have buyer personas.

Good buyer personas. Detailed buyer personas.

Try filling out this very detailed template from Blogger Sidekick to see if your buyer persona has what it takes:



(Image Source)

Know your customers better than you know yourself. Turn bits and pieces of basic info into a guide on that customer’s feelings and thought process during the buyer’s journey.

Those feelings could be very different for your different personas. Use that to your advantage.

By playing to those unique feelings in each ad, you can create a campaign that’s relevant from start to finish.

Facebook Ads: What makes an ad interesting?

There are two sides to every Like button.

When someone clicks the Like button the first time, that means Like.

But when they click it a second time, that means Unlike.

Confuses me too.

Convincing customers to Like your page is a day one thing. Convincing them not to unlike your page is an every other day thing.

34.7% of people who unfollow a brand on Facebook do so because of low-personality or uninteresting posts

(Show some sass, people.)

57.5% of people who unfollow a brand do so because of an excessive amount of promotional posts

That’s why it’s your job to make every post and every ad as interesting as possible.

Easier said than done? A little bit. Not everyone will find the same posts interesting.

That said, there are some tricks that’ll never fail you. That’s why cliche sayings like “less is more” exist.

Speaking of which:

 Shorter Facebook posts get 23% more interaction than longer posts.

If interaction measures how interesting a post is, the results are unanimous. Longer posts just aren’t as interesting as shorter ones.

TrackSocial quantified this in a recent study. The graph below illustrates their findings.


(Image Source)

Note the 1500+ point difference in response score between “tiny” posts (0 to 70 characters) and “large” posts (231 characters or more).

70 characters may seem a little light. But with the right words, you can keep all the important info in your content while cutting half the characters.

Start by editing out unnecessary words. For example, change “you can submit your application online” to “apply online.” Anywhere you can cut a word, get snipping.

(Meet concision: the most important lesson you’ve never learned.)

Meanwhile, you can also make your posts more interesting by posting about the things people are already interested in.

Create content that relates to your business and a trending topic.

There won’t be a clear connection between your company and every trending topic, but when there is it, take advantage of the opportunity before it slips away.

For example, Target doesn’t make a specific post for every individual product they sell. However, they do highlight products that they know people care about, like Taylor Swift’s new album:


(Yes, I’m also a Swiftie. Quit hating.)

It can be tricky to figure out what to post. But thankfully, it isn’t tricky to figure out if you failed or not. If something isn’t getting the engagement, move that strategy to trash and switch it out with some surefire ways to make your posts interesting.

Chances are, you’re already familiar with some of them. For example, you know to post pictures when you can.

Posts with photos receive 179% more engagements than other posts.

However, videos still reign supreme.

Facebook Videos: How popular are they?

Let numbers talk the talk.

Videos are the most shared post type, with 89.5 average Facebook shares.

Of course, videos are complicated. They deserve their own subset of stats.

That subset is brought to you by Business 2 Community. They analyzed 500 pages that posted Facebook videos in the first three months of 2017.

Here’s what they found:

The average number of videos posted by a page was 24 per month.

The average length of a Facebook video was 3 minutes and 48 seconds.

The average person only watched a Facebook video for 10 seconds.

So Facebookers are missing a good deal of these videos.

Lengthwise. And sound-wise.

85% of Facebook videos are watched with the sound turned off.

Consumers are watching your video during college classes and office meetings, after all. Having the sound on would just be rude.
And very conspicuous.

Desktops tend to be conspicuous as well, which is why so many of us watch Facebook videos on our phones:

People are 1.5x more likely to watch video on a smartphone instead of a desktop.

In light of that last handful of stats, check out these best practices to spice up your next video post.

First things first: optimize for mobile.

The Jane Goodall Institute recently ran a test on their Facebook page to find out which mobile video format sparked the most engagement. They created the same video in both square and landscape formats, and then they tested them against each other.

The square video won this round. By what we like to call “a landslide.”

It received twice the likes and thrice the shares as the landscape video.

Square video takes up 78% more space in a mobile newsfeed than landscape video does.

Here’s an eye-catching square video from New Scientist:


Make sure your video has enough space to shine in the newsfeed by putting it in a square format.

Now that you’ve got the format covered, it’s time to talk about time.

You don’t want your fans to miss the best part of your video. And they probably will, if they’re scrolling away with more than three minutes to go.

Just as text posts are best kept short, shaving time off your video is essential to getting your entire message across.

Don’t tackle too many things at once, though. Focus on one story per video to make sure your viewers actually watch it until the credits roll.

Toms has mastered this concept. Every so often, their page posts a “We Are What We Do” video. These videos provide short stories about one person who relates to the company:

Typically, they’re short. As in, 15-seconds-short.

One of the ways Toms keeps the videos so short is by including the bare minimum of info in the video. Then, they link to explanatory pages in the text part of the post:

Note that they also include a quote in this area, instead of including the quote only in the video. This way, Toms makes sure that even the people who watched without sound will see the quote.

You may also choose to include subtitles in your video.

Finding the right font, font size, and font color to ensure your subtitles are legible can be tricky. One way to get around this is to leave a space for subtitles at the bottom of the screen, like this CollegeHumor video does:


As a result, the subtitles are easily visible and the message of the video is clear.

Even to those viewers stuck in a boring meeting.


Facebook has obviously become essential. But that means there’s more competition for the same eyeballs, too.

Start adjusting your strategy now to stay ahead of the game. Now that you know the numbers, you know how you can get them on your side.

Use pinned posts and lookalike audiences to encourage unfamiliar users to like your page. Increase your Relevance Score with target audiences and buyer personas. Avoid Unlikes by including videos, trending topics, and as few words as possible in your posts.

The Facebook stats are already out there. They’re not just for pretty infographics or automated tweets.

They’re to inform. They’re to guide your decision-making and strategies.

So that you do exactly what people are interested in to get more of what you’re interested in.

5 easy-to-miss SEO mistakes blogs make

Kristopher Jones 

Is your content great, but not ranking? Columnist Kristopher Jones shares some of the more common SEO errors bloggers and content marketers make.


The digital marketing landscape has evolved significantly over the last two decades. And between Google’s ever-changing algorithm and the deluge of misinformation floating through the digital marketing sphere, it’s easy to lose sight of basic practices we should be employing in our own SEO and content marketing strategies.

With every new algorithm update and technological shift in search, we become obsessed with how the field of SEO will enter a wholly new paradigm, and we shift our focus to reflect this. Yet as much as the medium may change, the core principles remain the same — and it’s time to get back to the basics.

We all understand the secrets and best practices of SEO, so why do we often fail to leverage these tactics? Let’s explore five common blogging mistakes you may be making right now.

Unoptimized keyword structure

Despite the rise of semantic search and machine learning technology, keyword research should still take precedence when modeling an internal content marketing campaign. All on-site content should be thematically linked by topics and keywords to your overall business objectives.

If our content is simply covering topics and not keywords, how do we know what users reallydemand? Without keyword research, how can you truly know who your audience is and who you are writing for?

Keywords serve as the bridge between user intent and informational/transactional content. Keyword-optimized content helps to position individual web pages to rank higher organically and drive impressions for targeted searches. This effectively makes blog content a lead generator.

For on-site blogs, the focus should remain on informational long-tail keyword phrases. Common examples include question phrases beginning with how, what, when, where and why.

Other keyword ideas could include actionable phrases that are often searched for, such as the top “tips” and “hacks” to improve upon some process.

Bloggers often fail to optimize their headers, meta tags and content with targeted keyword phrases. Consider the fact that specific keyword phrases will often be bolded within the meta description of a SERP listing, potentially increasing your click-through rate.

Inadequate keyword research runs deeper than failing to optimize your header structure (e.g., title, meta description). Many bloggers fail to leverage semantic SEO, or similar keyword phrases with the same meaning. Semantic SEO allows bloggers to create more thorough and readable content that can drive impressions for multiple keyword phrases, answer more user questions and qualify your content to be a featured snippet — think of the rise of voice search.

On the other hand, over-optimized content could cross a dangerous line as well. Keyword stuffing, or possessing a high keyword density, will qualify your content as spam. Keyword stuffing also obstructs your content’s readability, which results in poor user signals.

Following SEO best practices, it’s still important to optimize all relevant site elements, such as URLs and meta tags, with targeted keywords to categorize and rank individual web pages. And aside from signaling to search engines the main focus of your on-site content, keywords also serve an important function for your site architecture.

Inconsistent internal links

Internal linking is probably one of the most overlooked aspects of SEO optimization, and issues with internal links frequently occur on SEO agency websites themselves!

There are many functions of proper internal linking for SEO:

  • Establishes paths for users to navigate your website.
  • Opens up crawling to deep linked web pages and increases crawl rate.
  • Defines site architecture and your most important web pages to search engines.
  • Distributes “link juice,” or authority, throughout your website.
  • Indexes linked-to web pages by the keywords used in the hyperlink anchor text.

While backlinks remain the gold standard of search engine ranking factors, their magic can be amplified through strategic internal linking.

Ideally, you’ll want at least three to five internal links per blog post, and a drop-down or navigation menu on your home page to provide deep links to inaccessible web pages. Just because a piece of content is posted to your blog, it doesn’t mean Google or Bing can automatically access it.

Conduct a thorough internal link audit and record which web pages have the most authority. Simply insert internal links on these pages to other high-value internal pages to distribute authority evenly throughout your domain.

Many websites display featured posts in a drop-down menu or on the home page to distribute authority to their blog posts. A blogger’s home page will be his/her most authoritative. Limit the number of links between each blog post and your home page to evenly distribute link juice throughout your domain.

Don’t overlook the importance of a sitemap, either. This will ensure all web pages are properly crawled and indexed — assuming URL structures are clean and keyword-optimized.

Finally, optimize all anchor text to categorize and drive impressions for linked web pages. Be sure to use varying anchor text phrases for each link so that you can rank your web pages for multiple search queries.

Poor page copy

As we often say in digital marketing, it’s important to write for readers and not search engines. Keep content light, don’t try to show off knowledge with excessive jargon, and write for readers on an eighth-grade reading level.

In most cases, on-site content is not about publishing, but building awareness around a need. I always suggest placing actionable tips in informational content to provide value.

Content marketing is as much a branding exercise as it is a marketing tactic. Consistent content production establishes your brand’s ethos and also creates your voice as an author. In turn, this establishes you as an authority in your niche.

Don’t sacrifice this authority with poor body copy.

Look over your blog post as a whole. What does a reader experience when they first encounter your web page? Consider the fact that the average attention span is estimated to be eight seconds. Optimize your header structure and meta tags to encourage easy scanability and communicate a clear purpose.

Leverage a powerful headline to pique reader interest, and nurture this interest with a strong introductory paragraph. Always insert clear transition phrases, and consider using animated GIFs and videos to give users a mental break between long chunks of paragraphs. These will also increase your average user dwell time.

Make your content visually appealing by utilizing white space properly and inserting images after every 400 words or so. This essentially chunks content and prevents information overload.

Finally, edit fiercely. Many writers live by the rule that about two-thirds of writing should be editing and reworking. Use tools such as Grammarly and the Hemingway App to create concise and clean body copy.

Unoptimized images and videos

Speaking of poor page copy, most bloggers still ignore image and video optimization. Unoptimized image file formats and sizes are the most common load time mistakes that deteriorate SEO performance.

All on-site images should be formatted as .jpg, and all vector images as .png.

Always optimize image alt text to position it to rank in a targeted keyword image search. The alternative text is what’s displayed when a browser fails to actually display the image and tells search engines the content of your image. (It’s also used to describe images to those with screen readers.)

When optimizing video files, host all of your video files in a single folder and create a video site map for search engines to index your videos. You should optimize the meta description of all video pages with targeted keywords for indexation. Leverage a call to action in your meta description and video annotations.

Video marketing can be distributed from multiple channels, as well as your blog. According to a recent survey by HubSpot, 43 percent of consumers want to see more video from content marketers.

Poor content promotion

This leads us to probably the greatest error that plagues bloggers and stumps small businesses. We’re told that a good piece of content should serve as a natural link magnet and even rank highly based on the merits of the writing itself. To be candid, from experience we’ve discovered this isn’t always true.

Consider the idea that a 10-hour project totaling 3,245 words, featuring exquisite content and imagery, is just as useless as a poorly written 400-word listicle if it doesn’t drive conversions or traffic. This is what I refer to as potential energy. Without a proper technical structure or any content promotion strategy at work, your awe-inspiring content is a dud.

What if, after writing his Theory of Relativity, Einstein had simply posted his theory on his front door and waited for someone to discover it? Content distributed over a blog on a young domain won’t gather backlinks or social shares without promotion.

Leverage your connections, and follow these strategies to promote content and allow it to compound over social media:

  1. Have influential members of your organization share and promote a piece of content.
  2. Contact influencers over social media to share content.
  3. Request a quote from an industry thought leader to place in your content; advertise this in your rich snippet on social media channels.
  4. Repurpose content into a video or infographic for greater shareability.
  5. Contact websites that have linked to similar content in the past.
  6. Submit your content to replace relevant broken links on authoritative sites.
  7. Run a paid advertisement campaign over social media to place content directly in front of targeted audience members.

Content promotion involves thorough audience analysis. Segment audience members into one of three boundaries based on habits, demographics and psychographics. Investigate what social media channels each audience segment uses the most and the points of time when they are most active.

Understand which pieces of content perform best over specific social media channels. The most viral content examples include:

  • “How-to” tutorials
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • Listicles
  • “Why” articles

Content serves as an effective pull marketing tactic and inbound lead generator. Yet, if content is simply sitting on the shelf and gathering dust, it’s a lost investment.

Social and user signals factor greatly into organic ranking. Essentially, social promotion will draw users to your content, which will determine — based on their engagement — the efficacy of your content.


SEO agencies and content marketers often tell clients about technical and onsite errors they may be making. But sometimes it takes a little realism to take a step back and analyze our own campaigns for greater success in the long run.

Hopefully, you’ll take the news that your SEO content strategy is imperfect in the right way. It’s an opportunity to refine and improve.

Trending Keywords and How Google Populates Results

Chad Kodary


How Does Google Populate Results?

There is this old joke in the internet marketing community: “Where do you hide a dead body? On the second page of Google.”

There is certainly a lot of truth to that as most internet marketers will only focus and fight for the top spots in the search results. But I was recently doing a deep dive for a keyword to see just how deep the rabbit hole can go and be surprised to see that by default, it doesn’t go very far at all.

For example, I was recently looking up the new Avengers movie “Infinity Wars” and was running through the pages almost mindlessly when I got stonewalled around pages 14-18.

The default search result wouldn’t let me proceed past these pages citing:

“In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries similar to the 162 already displayed. If you like you can repeat the search with the omitted results included.”

This makes sense, they are focusing on user credibility above anything else, but this led me to an interesting analysis of how Google is choosing these results.

How Much Content, on Google’s Search Engine, is Similar Enough to Be Omitted?

Following through on the number from before. I got to page 16 of Google and was shown 162 search results before Google determined that all other pages are similar enough not to merit population.

But when we look at the initial search results, it claims that there are about 5.1 million results. For the search term: “Marvel Infinity War.”

This was alarming information to me because any keyword tool that we use typically moves up to the 200-page rank and we can track our emergence of new keywords based on numbers similar to that. But if the search results are skewed and combined around 160-170 then we should be tracking for that number instead.

To test this, I went ahead and checked for moving companies and saw that I can go well into page 30 and beyond and still reveal that there are over 63 million results for that phrase.

This led me to believe that it must be about emerging news and get coverage. So I decided to do a query on Donald Trump, and sure enough, you can’t view past the 16th page.

This must have to do with trending content and keeping information as relevant as possible.

Testing Google Trends against the Outer Limits of the Search Results

So I checked out Google Trends to see if any more results came up and here are my search in order, not categorized.



** = Two Anomalies came up when populating the results. At first, I went to page 17 and received no results followed by going back to 14 and getting no results; then I got to page 18.

What Do These Results Say About Google’s Prioritization of Trending Keywords?

Clearly, there is a need and desire to populate trending news and emerging content first. This is clearly to deliver as much important information as possible before doing anything else.

So while there may be countless results regarding a topic, they won’t populate mundane or referential information over breaking information.

But What About Trending Results and the First Page?

Additionally, we are going to look at how Justin Bieber plays a role in the search results. The trending story was how he recently hit a paparazzo with his truck.

The Top Stories showed CNN, TMZ, and Etonline as the top three stories on the matter. Though it appears that the story broke with 13 hours before these other news stories.

So while the company that broke the story first has the highest organic search result, the breaking news stories have their rich snippets appear above the original story.

For The Record:’s Domain Authority is 91, TMZ is 93, and CNN is 99.

So while they are respecting what might be the source of the story, they are also opening up a separate stream for the latest details in regards to the story.

How Can This Be Integrated Into SEO and Content Marketing?

The most important rule to follow regarding this information is to not keyword stuff or try and create content that doesn’t contribute to the story. But with this, we can extract information about Post Styles, Referential information, and Trade incorporation.

Post Styles – In regards to the information about Justin Bieber, both TMZ and CNN keep their post date in the article. So we can see that TMZ and CNN both posted articles today (7/27/17) in these circumstances the information might be better for deploying information.

Referential Information – Additionally, in the event of breaking news, posts and pages with referential information might be moved from their original rankings in favor of breaking news. So updating a post or a page to include information about the breaking news might be a good way to keep the post live.

Local Coverage and Trade Incorporation – Additionally, if you are looking for an interesting spin or angle on the topic to include on any website, try taking a trade specific look at it. If you are an internet marketing company that writes for a construction company in Ohio, try getting a professional opinion and statement from the owner on what they think might have gone wrong with the roller coaster ride. This sort of information will be great follow-up material for people who want to learn more about the story, and it increases the chances of the company being picked up by local news and circulated.


Google Trends can be a powerful tool for those who are near trending events. With the proper contribution to the discussion and incorporation into your company, you can potentially bring a surge of traffic to your site by giving unique perspectives on news stories that are otherwise being regurgitated by news outlets.

In the age of breaking news and being the first or most reliable first word on the matter, having subjective, speculative opinions of locals is a great way to add genuine information to the discussion.