Posts by Jon Clark:

10 SEO Plugins for WordPress to Make Your Life Easier

10 SEO Plugins for WordPress to Make Your Life Easier

WordPress is one of the most popular and widely used content management systems (CMS) on the web, used by over 40 percent of all sites. Known for its user-friendly interface and an array of over 30,000 plugins to extend its functionality, WordPress is something most SEOs encounter on a daily basis. For many larger enterprises, a more complex and intricate CMS is needed, but for blogs and small to medium-sized businesses, WordPress meets most of a webmaster’s needs.

Whether you are working with clients who use WordPress as their CMS, or you yourself use it for your own corporate site or blog, navigating WordPress is an important skill for SEOs to have. Luckily, the extensive database of plugins offers a slew of great tools that will make optimizing the site that much easier.

Check out these 10 SEO plugins you should be using!

1.) WordPress SEO by Yoast

WordPress SEO by Yoast is a comprehensive plugin that not only allows you to optimize for all the technical aspects of your page, but also helps you write better content. By forcing you to choose a focus keyword for each particular page, the plugin acts as a guide, steering you towards better and more Google-friendly content. It has a highly advanced Google XML sitemap functionality, and it allows you to control all the Meta data of your page, from title tags to Meta descriptions. The plugin even analyzes your pages and tells you which elements are missing so you can ensure each is completely optimized.

2.) W3 Total Cache

Site speed is an important ranking signal for the Google algorithm, and this plugin is designed to optimize user experience and page speed. W3 Total Cache increases server performance to reduce download times and provide transparent content delivery network integration. An important plugin for SEOs, particularly to address the site speed implications of transitioning to HTTPS.

3.) Google XML Sitemaps

Having an XML Sitemap is key to ensuring your site is properly indexed by search engines. This plugin is easy to use and will generate a complete XML sitemap for your entire website that will make it easier for search engines to crawl your pages. Google XML Sitemaps also alerts search engines of updates to content.

4.) Squirrly

Considered ideal for non-SEO experts, Squirrly allows you to optimize content as you’re writing it, and is compatible with other SEO plugins such as Yoast or the All-In-One SEO Pack. Squirrly works in real time, offering advice for optimizing content while you’re editing the page, and indicating (via green lights) when a page is properly optimized. It helps you find and target keywords, and can audit your site on a weekly basis to provide key insights into performance and areas of weakness.

5.) Simple URLS

Simple URLs allows you to manage all the outbound links from your site using custom post types and 301 redirects to avoid performance issues and permalink conflicts. With this plug in you can create, edit, delete, and track outbound links.

6.) SEO Friendly Images

This plugin optimizes your site’s images by automatically updating them with the proper ALT and TITLE attributes.

7.) RB Internal Links

Internal linking is crucial to the architecture of any site, helping you establish a page’s authority within the website. RB Internal Links eliminates the need to manually link to other pages, let alone try to remember unwieldy URLs. The plugin uses shortcodes that are converted into the current permalink on the render of the page you’re editing, and the links update automatically if ever you change your link structure.

8.) SEO Ultimate

SEO Ultimate gives you total control over all elements of your page, from title and Meta tags to 404 errors, rich snippets, Open Graph, autolinks, canonical links, and more. Edit keywords and Meta descriptions, rewrite title tags, and integrate Authorship into your content. SEO Ultimate allows you to set canonical links to point search engines to specific content, and you can even automatically link specifically designated anchor text every time the chosen text appears on your site.

 9.) All-in-One SEO Pack 

The All-in-One SEO Pack is one of the most popular and widely used plugin of its type. Similar to WordPress SEO by Yoast, the All-in-One SEO Pack allows you to optimize your page for search engines by  giving you control over all Meta descriptions, title tags, Meta keywords, and advanced canonical URLs. It also automatically generates all of this for you, making it highly useful for beginners.

10.) WP Social

This is an important plugin for integrating social media, optimizing your site’s Social SEO by integrating Facebook Open Graph, Twitter Card and Google Rich Snippets to your site. WP Social includes all the different kinds of microdata supported by Google, and automatically adds the proper Meta tags across each social media platform supported by the plugin.

As you well know, a lot goes into optimizing a site for SEO. Fortunately, there is an extensive community of SEO experts and professionals who recognize the need for tools that make search engine optimization more manageable. What SEO plugins for WordPress are in your toolbox?

HTTPS Everywhere: Where is it Now?

HTTPS Everywhere: Where is it Now?

HTTPS

It has been almost a month since Google announced that it would begin using HTTPS as a new ranking signal. While the announcement, which was made on August 6, 2014, was long-rumored, it was met with questions as to what affect HTTPS would have on sites. This new factor in rankings is not part of an algorithm update. Unlike Panda or Penguin, it is its own separate signal, which begs the question: how strong is the signal?

SEOs and webmasters are working to balance the logistics of the migration of a site from a regular connection (HTTP) to a secure connection (HTTPS), which can be costly and labor intensive, with the urgency to make the move. For now, it seems as if the changes are minimal, but it is still important to prepare for the possibility that HTTPS will begin to play a larger role in how your site ranks.

What is HTTPS?

HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol and is essentially the way websites communicate—the connection through which data is transferred between websites. Most web traffic goes through HTTP connections, which are non-encrypted, and can therefore be read by the server. This is how we are able to glean data on site visitors that help us determine user intent, search queries, and other potentially identifying information.

The “S” in HTTPS stands for “secure”. HTTPS sites use an SSL 0248-bit key certificate to establish a secure connection. SSL—or Secure Sockets Layer—certificates encrypt the connection so that user data cannot be read. It is a means of establishing trustworthiness and protecting the privacy of users. An HTTPS site is a site that uses an SSL certificate to encrypt data from visitors to their site.

HTTPS Everywhere

Google’s consideration of HTTPS as a ranking signal comes as part of an overall strategy to promote security and user safety across the Internet in general. Earlier this year, Google called for “HTTPS Everywhere”, urging webmasters to consider adding SSL certificates to their sites and alluding to the possibility that HTTPS might become a ranking signal at some point down the road. Google already uses HTTPS encryptions for most of their own services, such as Search, Gmail, and Google Drive, and is now encouraging others to follow suit.

HTTPS: Now or Later?

There has been much debate as to when webmasters should act. The migration from HTTP to HTTPS is an involved and complicated process, as each HTTPS is not site-wide. Each URL must me migrated from HTTP to HTTPS using 301 redirects, and such a large number of redirects can negatively impact rankings. The upside of this, however, is that you can migrate your site in sections—allowing you to prioritize pages and test the effects of the migration.

SSL certificates are also costly, so migrating to HTTPS may be cost prohibitive for smaller businesses. Google has, however, expressed that the rankings boost is minor—for now, at least—and that it is only affecting a very small amount of searches. According to Google:

For now it’s only a very lightweight signal — affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content — while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS. But over time, we may decide to strengthen it, because we’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.

For SEOs, HTTPS should, for now, play a limited role in your overall strategy, and for webmasters, there is time to make the switch. In fact, in the weeks since the announcement, it has come under debate whether or not this new ranking signal has even taken effect. SearchMetrics said they have seen no discernible change in rankings since Google made the announcement—that there is no data to support that HTTPS is even a factor. However, this could be because the ranking signal is so light, or because such a low percentage of global search queries are being affected.

Whether or not the rollout has not taken effect, or its impact is still too minor to be measured, the fact of the matter is the announcement is only a few weeks old, and it will take time before we are able to really measure the data. The important thing is that there is time. There is time to weigh the pros and cons of HTTPS, decide how to go about the transition, and actually implement the migration.

12 Completely Appropriate Responses to Google in GIFS

12 Completely Appropriate Responses to Google in GIFS

Google is constantly changing; this summer alone, there have been several major updates. It’s all in a day’s work for SEOs, and Google does a pretty good job keeping us on our toes. Don’t get whiplash trying to keep up with all the algorithm updates: stay cool, roll with the punches, and when in doubt, react accordingly:

The morning when you notice a change in traffic that indicates an unnamed update and you think you’ve figured Google out. Figuring Google Out


When diving into your site’s traffic to investigate said unnamed update, and you see a significant jump in traffic…. Increase in Site Traffic


….or a significant drop. Decrease in Site Traffic


Trying to evaluate your keyword performance, but everything is (not provided). Keyword Not Provided


When Google rolls out another Panda update… Panda Updates


…or a Penguin update. Penguin Updates


The day Google announced Hummingbird Google Hummingbird


When Google limited the number of characters displayed in title tags… Title Tag Character Length


…and when they dropped Authorship photos.  Authorship Images Dropped


Last week, when Google announced the HTTPS/SSL update, using site encryption as a ranking signal. HTTPS:SSL


What Google’s really saying when they tell us our sites won’t be affected if we’re using white-hat SEO tactics. White Hat SEO Tactics


5 Tips on Optimizing for Semantic Search

5 Tips on Optimizing for Semantic Search

The Hummingbird update to the Google algorithm in the fall of last year was, and continues to be, a game changer for SEO. Unlike the Penguin and Panda updates to come before—both partial updates to the existing algorithm—Hummingbird was a completely new algorithm that changed much of the way that search functions. Known for its focus on providing intuitive search results based primarily on user intent, Hummingbird understands the relationship of keywords or phrases to one another and uses this to rank websites relevant to what the user has searched.

Semantic Search

Semantic, or conversational, search existed before Hummingbird, although the new algorithm is the first to integrate it so completely into its ranking system. Semantic search allows users to search entire sentences or phrases and receive results based on the collective meaning of the keywords in those phrases. While there are many other features of Hummingbird that SEOs should keep in mind, semantic search is important as it changes the way we think about keywords.

Almost one year after the unveiling of Hummingbird, SEOs are still discussing how to optimize for semantic search. Here are five tips to keep in mind:

1.)  Revise Your Keyword Research Strategies

“’Semantics’ refers to the meaning or interpretation of a word or phrase”, according to Search Engine Journal. With that in mind, keyword research is the best place to begin. How will a page on your site’s keywords be interpreted when Google crawls it? By taking a holistic approach and breaking your keywords into three tiers, a well-rounded list that accounts for variations in user intent can be presented to the search engines.

  • Level 1 – Core Keywords: This list is comprised of keywords closely related to your initial target keywords. They should be variations of your targets close enough in meaning so Google can consider your site if any one of the core keywords are searched.
  • Level 2 – Thematic Keywords: Whereas the keywords in List 1 are somewhat synonymous with one another, thematic keywords are further removed from your initial targets, yet are conceptually related. If your target keyword for a page is “manhattan realtors”, a list of thematic terms like “new york city apartments” can help you potentially rank for the query, “low rent new york city apartments”.
  • Level 3 – Stem Keywords: Your third level should include keywords that answer users’ questions. These keywords anticipate the information users need after they have found your page, and should be integrated into the content to naturally provide answers. Once a user has found your page by searching “low rent new york city apartments”, it is likely they are seeking information on “finding low rent new york city apartments” or “renting affordable new york city apartments. Your Level 3 Keywords may be some variation of “rent new york city apartments” or “new york city apartment listings”. 

Ideally, keywords from all three levels should be incorporated into your content.

2.)  Create a Robust Content Outline

This isn’t new to Hummingbird—its just good SEO. But with Hummingbird focusing on user intent, pages that rank are pages that, in addition to being optimized, provide relevant content.

Keyword stuffing has never been best practice. When optimizing for semantic search, it is important that your keywords are well placed, organically integrated into your content, and not overused. Create content around the questions and searches your keywords seek to answer. Outline which keywords are targeted for which pages, and how the content on each page will meet the user’s needs. From there, build out your content to be robust and to directly relate to the keywords you’ve delegated to that page.

3.)  Integrate Social Media

Social media is a significant component of Hummingbird’s personalization of search results. Google can now provide more refined, intuitive results pulling from personal data in users’ social media profiles. Search Engine Land had a great article on the topic that stated:

This suggests that paying attention to social search is becoming more and more critical, and that social media is playing a larger role in search results, sending strong signals to the search engines. Leveraging (and discovering) your target audience’s interest graph is key to producing content that will bring them to your website.

Essentially, fully integrating social media into your marketing strategy—creating content that reflects your audience’s social interests and sharing that content on your networks—is a large part of optimizing for semantic search.

4.)  Structure Your Data

Semantic search depends on structured data. Information on your website needs to be properly tagged, marked up, and organized in order for search engines to crawl your page. More than ever before, SEOs must be well versed with the back end technical details of a website that search engines recognize as indicators of a page’s relevancy. Working closely with webmasters, or familiarizing yourself with HTML markups will ensure that your site is easily crawlable. Schema.org provides a collection of templates and markups that Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and Yandex rely on.

5.)  Continue What You’re Doing

Since the launch of Hummingbird, Google has maintained that not much should change day-to-day for SEOs. While there are some specific things SEOs should keep in mind when optimizing for semantic search, that statement is, for the most part, true. Hummingbird rewards SEO best practices, and actually penalizes sites that use black hat tactics. A poorly optimized page will simply not rank. But pages that are properly marked up and focus on user intent will benefit.

Lastly, cross-pollination is important: collaborate with social media and other disciplines in search marketing, like SEM. Search engines are becoming more intelligent and responsive to users, and SEOs also need to think about how to anticipate what users ultimately need out of their search.

DuckDuckGo: What SEOs Need to Know About the Search Engine

DuckDuckGo: What SEOs Need to Know About the Search Engine

DuckDuckGoUPDATE: On September 9, 2014, Apple announced the release of the iPhone 6, the highly anticipated new generation of the iPhone. When the iPhone 6 is released on September 19th, the device will run on Apple’s new operating system, iOS 8 (launching on September 17th). One key feature of iOS 8 is the ability for users to set DuckDuckGo as their default mobile search engine. With Apple’s inclusion of DuckDuckGo, the search engine will be exposed to millions of new users, making it very important for SEOs to keep on our radar. New DuckDuckGo features, in addition to those listed below, include a customizable interface and !Bangs, which allows you to search other sites from the search engine.

From a consumer standpoint, DuckDuckGo, the search engine that emphasizes privacy above all else, is the ideal option for search. Unlike other search engines, namely Google, DuckDuckGo does not track or store IP addresses or log user information. The site claims to be completely secure, and search results are not filtered by preferences, search history, location, or any other identifying data. This means that everybody sees the same results for a search query, with is intended to preserve the quality and relevancy of results.

Furthermore, DuckDuckGo pulls its results from what it claims to be the best sources as opposed to the most. Yandex, Wikipedia, Yahoo!, Wolfram Alpha, Bing, and about 50 other sources including its own web crawler (DuckDuckBot) comprise the search engine’s sources. The site also filters websites with excessive advertising and “content mills” with high volumes of thin, low quality content.

This past May, DuckDuckGo unrolled a newly redesigned version that boasted a slew of new features, including:

  • Images and videos
  • Local search
  • Smart answers
  • Recipe search
  • More meanings for ambiguous terms
  • A sleeker and more user friendly interface

History

DuckDuckGo has been around since 2008, when founder Gabriel Weinberg set out to find an alternative to spam in search results. If the search engine is nearly six years old, why is this something SEOs should now be paying attention to? As an emerging trend in search, DuckDuckGo is something you should always have on your radar, although it  is recently that the search engine has gained massive traction.

Search Engine Land reported last week that things are going “swimmingly” well for DuckDuckGo. In 2013 alone, the platform saw 1 billion searches, a tremendous spike in activity that many attribute to the scandal surrounding Edward Snowden. Once the former NSA employee blew the whistle on the government’s top-secret PRISM surveillance program, people became obsessed with protecting their privacy and avoid tracking.

Market Share

Within days after the PRISM story broke, DuckDuckGo nearly doubled its total number of searches to ever come before, and while the spike has tapered off, the search engine continues to see sustained growth. Another huge boon to DuckDuckGo’s success came in June, when Apple unveiled that it would make DuckDuckGo available as a search option for users in its forthcoming iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, demonstrating a further move towards  an emphasis of private search.

While DuckDuckGo still receives only a small fraction of Google’s daily (let alone, monthly) traffic, the site continues to grow. It is still making headlines, as argued by a July 2013 Search Engine Land article and reaffirmed by the recent announcement from Apple. It may be a while before DuckDuckGo constitutes a viable threat to Google, but it is nonetheless a site that SEOs should keep an eye on.

If anything, DuckDuckGo’s model rewards the refocusing of SEO best practices to emphasize relevant links, great content, and strategic keyword targeting. FAQ pages are conducive to the site’s smart answers feature, and so are mentions from other relevant and reliable sites. One interesting tip that Forbes offers in its “5 SEO Tips for DuckDuckGo” is to link to Wikipedia. These are generally considered to be quality links, although Wikipedia is also one of the primary sources from which DuckDuckGo pulls its results, which makes it even more relevant to optimizing for this search engine. But essentially, if a site ranks well on another search engine, it will also rank well on DuckDuckGo—it just won’t appear in the top rankings as a result of the user’s search history or preferences. In this regard, DuckDuckGo’s privacy model just goes to prove that, at the end of the day, good SEO is good SEO.

Ready, Set, Blog! Why Blogging Matters to SEO

Ready, Set, Blog! Why Blogging Matters to SEO

Blogging for SEO

Picture from Social Media Today

To blog, or not to blog? That is the question businesses and web marketers frequently ask themselves as they work to refine and strengthen their online strategy. Lately, however, it seems as if more and more people are arriving at the same conclusion: yes. Blogging matters.

Brand Marketing

Maintaining a blog is crucial to brand marketing because it is an essential part of building your actual brand. A strong brand (online) typically goes hand in hand with quality content. With Google’s continued algorithm updates that focus on quality content, you could say that a company’s brand has become important to its Google ranking.

Who blogs, and why? The truth is, blogging matters to everyone: whether you’re a freelance writer looking to increase visibility or an entrepreneur looking to broaden your small business’ reach. Even large corporations and media outlets blog to reinforce their brand and maintain a relationship with their audience.

Successful SEO

Keywords are no longer the defining method of effective Search Engine Optimization. While they definitely still matter, a well-developed content marketing strategy is just as important. As a way of adding relevant and timely content on a frequent basis, blogging comprises a large part of content marketing.

SEO as a whole is so integral to online marketing that Forbes named a lack of SEO knowledge one of seven reasons a business can fail. Successful SEO incorporates a range of tactics. Here are some reasons why blogging is such an important one of those SEO tactics.

A Blog is the Platform on Which You Build Your Brand

Your brand is your business or your product’s identity, and so much goes into building a brand that it is difficult to determine the single most important factor. Offline, traditional marketing tactics—word of mouth, physical advertisements—and your person-to-person interactions with clients, vendors, consumers, and others establish your brand. Online, your website reinforces your brand. It is the interface between you and an even wider pool of potential customers. It’s the medium through which you promote your products or services.

To provide your audience with a robust brand image, your website must be equally robust. The content you publish is the way to do this. Blogs are an excellent way to consistently feed your audience quality content. You can only have so much static content—that is, the pages that lives in fixed locations on your website—before people get lost in it all. Blogs are current, concise, and can be published on a rolling basis. In this way, you can build a vast and varied portfolio of content that really tells people who you are.

Become a Voice People Will Listen To

Static content on your site may, and should, speak directly to you or your business. The blog, however, gives you a chance to spread your wings. Always keep your blog in line with your brand’s messaging, but don’t be afraid to get creative. Speak to various issues to become an authority in your space.

A wealth of content helps you become a thought leader, and people trust someone who’s opinions are influential and valued by their peers. You can stay specific to your vertical and still provide a variety of information on a particular topic. If you are a car dealer, compare different models of cars, or offer useful consumer information. If you are a realtor, discuss the housing market and give your readers advice. Break news. Provide commentary. Review related products, or interview other thought leaders. It is always recommended to integrate various media—Infographics, videos, gifs—into your blog as well.

Content is the Basis for Web Marketing

Multiple facets of your online marketing strategy—from social media to SEO—depend on content. We’ll talk about quality content in a little bit, but essentially, content has become vital to the way you optimize your site for search engines. It must be well written, properly formatted, and must utilize targeted keywords. Your static pages give you only so much content to optimize, but blogs give you a continuously revolving repertoire. You can focus blogs on specific keywords to broaden the keywords you target, and also have a wider variety of pages to choose from for link building. Not to mention the amount of organic traffic that is driven to your site as you blog more consistently.

 Blogs are pivotal to your social media strategy as well. Effective engagement on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and other social networks is not just about re-sharing other people’s content. Original content is not only more interesting, it also promotes your brand. Search Engine Journal writer Neil Patel says, “A blog allows you to build a fuller picture of who you are. Most people will meet you through other places…but if they like what they read on Twitter, then they’ll follow you back to your blog and find out more about who you are.”

The Evolution of SEO: From Keywords to Content

Part of Google’s renewed emphasis on content is the use of Authorship to determine the authority of a page. You can read more about Google Authorship here, but essentially, it entails integrating Google + into your site to attribute each post to the person who wrote it. This is Google’s way of making sure your content was written by someone who knows the subject and can speak to it reliably. Blogs give you more content to attribute to authors, and as Google sees more and more posts written by the same person, the credibility of both the writer and the posts increases. This can potentially lead to higher search rankings for a properly optimized blog.

If you have one person writing your blog, attribute all posts to them so that their author profile (linked to their Google +) is featured on each. If you have multiple writers, even better, just make sure posts are attributed appropriately, and whenever possible, have each person stick to a particular subject or category of blogs. This asserts their area of expertise, which Google takes into consideration when determining authority.

Was SEO Ever Dead?

A recent article by Alan Boyce from The Guardian, SEO Loopholes Are Out: Good Content is the Answer, attributes Google’s updates to the resurgence of SEO credibility. “Peak SEO”, as Boyce calls it, was that which relied on keyword stuffing and unsustainable link-building tactics. The series of updates that began with Panda and continued with Penguin and Hummingbird have all but eliminated those tactics by penalizing them for their unreliability.

Relevant and quality content therefore became key to ranking for search terms, and the renewed focus of SEO. Boyce says:

“These trends have led many commentators to claim that SEO is dead… far from being dead, SEO has evolved into something far more benign… The updates’ cumulative effect has been to rule practice after practice out of bounds, so that search results reflect whatever it is users really have in mind when they run a search… SEO today, then, is something like zen archery: to hit the target, ignore the target. Focus instead on the beauty of aligning with your audience’s intentions.”

The evolution of SEO, then, has been to focus on what the audience truly needs, and then reinforce that relevant content with the targeted keywords, meta data, and page formatting.

The aforementioned Search Engine Journal article (while still relevant) is from 2012, but even then, experts were acknowledging the importance of blogs to SEO. That was the beginning of a trend that continues to this day. If you don’t have the bandwidth or people to write your own blogs, consider hiring a freelancer. Source blogs however you can, always keeping quality and authority in mind. Content matters, and blogging is the fastest, most reliable way to consistently publish timely content.

Content is Contagious: Is There a Secret to Viral Content?

Content is Contagious: Is There a Secret to Viral Content?

Viral Marketing - Word of MouthContent is King

This popular saying has always been understood to be one of the fundamental tenants of online marketing. For a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the necessity to strengthen your brand through reliable, trustworthy, and engaging content, a solid marketing strategy seems to revolve around quality content. With static pages on your website, your content is quite literally your brand: the way you talk about yourself, your product, your services, and communicate the essentials of your company is done through content. Blog posts, infographics, Facebook shares, tweets, and other timely pieces of content are the ways your brand interacts with your audience and other thought leaders in your vertical. Google’s growing emphasis on authorship only proves that search engines, now more than ever, are caring about who writes your content because that gives insight into it’s authority.

Like any other king, content–in addition to being high quality–needs to have a wide reach. While not every piece of content needs to go viral in order to be effective, virality is certainly a fast and easy way to create visibility for your content and get people talking. Popular content that is widely shared by individuals on social media, picked up by large media sources, and reposted on other websites can be a huge boon to your site. From a link building perspective, it’s a goldmine. And from a brand perspective, viral content establishes you as a relevant and reputable participant in whatever conversation your content contributed to.

Viral Content

The question is: how do you make content go viral? Many experts have weighed in with their own opinions and techniques for creating and curating viral content. In February, HubSpot published How to Make Viral Content: 9 Tips from the Greatest Viral Content Genius on the Planet, an intriguing piece where Neetzan Zimmerman, a blogger for Gawker who created 9 of the site’s 10 top posts of 2013, shared his secrets. At The Guardian, Buzzfeed’s editorial director shared his three best strategies for viral content. Fox Business even shared their five tips. There have been countless posts on viral content, and they are all worth reading, if only to pick up on the common threads and patterns that people are talking about. The following five tips are those which most experts have agreed upon; commonly occurring suggestions that are generally accepted as ways to make your content go viral.

Please note: the following tips are not pulled solely from the three aforementioned examples, but from a variety of posts on the subject, demonstrating that they are widely agreed upon.

  1. Appeal to Human Emotions: One of the most widely espoused techniques for going viral is the need for people to connect with the content they share. In his presentation for Hubspot, Neetzan Zimmerman calls emotion the “bread and butter” of viral content, saying “stories that evoke primal emotions work best.” If you want people to share your content, they need to be moved by it. They need to feel something so that they are compelled to get others to feel the same way. Content that evokes positive emotions, such as a feel good or inspirational story, is more likely to go viral than content that evokes negative emotions like anger or sadness. However, any emotional content, positive or negative, is more likely to be shared than content that evokes no response whatsoever.

  1. Curate, Don’t Just Create: You don’t necessarily need to create every piece of content that you want to go viral. Upworthy has become one of the largest mediums for sharing viral stories entirely by finding videos, graphics, and other media they know will strike a chord with people. Depending on your goal (whether you’re looking to become a prominent voice in a conversation or if you’re trying to raise visibility for your own content), you can search for existing content that is relevant to your audience.

  1. Post as Much as You Can: Not everything you post will go viral. It’s often difficult to find the right piece of content that will blow up. You must stay timely and relevant, emotionally engaging, and visual (pictures, graphics, and videos are more likely to be shared than lengthy text) to catch your audience at the precise moment when they are looking for the kind of content you have to share with them. It requires time, effort, and patience, but posting often shows that you are actively engaging with your community, and increases your chances of something being a success. This is not to say, however, that you should post just anything. Don’t spam your readers. Make each post count and ensure  that you are only sharing quality content.

  1. Study the Data: Delve into the numbers of everything you post to figure out what works and what doesn’t. How many people did your content reach? Was there a significant increase in traffic? When? How many shares and likes did it receive? Examining the data ensures that you are learning from each post, and gaining insight into how your content is received will help you refine your strategy.

  1. Engage Influencers: There’s a reason almost everything Upworthy shares goes viral. Upworthy is a prominent voice in the online space, and people pay attention when they speak. Whether it is a post that was submitted to them or that they found, Upworthy is influential enough that the post will be noticed. Think about who your content is targeting, and figure out who the thought leaders are in that space. Is it a human rights piece? Is it an entertainment piece? Look at the kind of content notable sites and figures have shared historically, and refine your content to appeal to them. Getting your content shared by even a single influencer in a relevant vertical elevates it to a whole new level. It reaches a wider audience, and its credibility is strengthened by the fact that it’s being shared by an active thought leader. This will compel people in their audience to share it as well.

In short, it doesn’t seem as if there are any surefire secrets to viral content. The experts each have their sets of best practices, and while there is often a lot of overlap, there are also a lot of differences in their strategies as well. A lot of the techniques for making your content go viral also vary depending on the specific nature of the content itself. You wouldn’t share an emotional video the same way you would share a humorous op-ed, nor would you target the same audiences to share or repost those pieces. The advice of these and other experts is valuable, and you should definitely read what they have to say. It’s just important to take from each the pieces that best suit your goals and create a viral strategy that works for your own particular content.

7 Important SEO Conferences to Look for in 2014

7 Important SEO Conferences to Look for in 2014

SEO ConferencesAttending conferences is a vital component for professional development in any industry, particularly Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Marketing as a whole is continuing its transition to online and digital media, so the practice of optimizing a website’s content to rank highly across search engines is becoming crucial to successful marketing strategies.

This makes SEO one of the frontrunning fields in the overall marketing vertical.

As search engines evolve to ensure the trustworthiness and authority of high-ranking websites, so too does the science of mastering search engines. New trends, developments, and innovations in SEO arise almost daily, and to be an effective SEO professional, you must stay ahead of the curve. This is why conferences are so important; they provide you the opportunity to connect with and learn from the most important thought leaders in the space. If you are a marketer who oversees a team of SEO analysts, consider sending them to conferences, and if you are an SEO professional, consider encouraging your employer to incorporate conferences into your professional development.

The following are seven important SEO conferences to keep your eye on in 2014.

SMX Advanced

Hosted By: SMX Advanced
When: Wednesday, June 11, 2014–Thursday, June 12, 2014
Where: Seattle, WA

According to their site, SMX Advanced is “the only search marketing conference designed exclusively for experienced internet marketers.” This popular conference features over 30 fast-paced sessions that tackle a plethora of SEO and overall internet marketing topics. Attendees are able to participate in Q&A sessions with every speaker, and data driven and intense to promote active critical thinking and learning. Register here.

SES Conference

Hosted By: Search Engine Watch
When: Multiple events, the next being SES Atlanta: Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Where: Atlanta, GA

Brought to us by Inclusive Media and Search Engine Watch, SES Conference is the “original search marketing event.” Beginning in 1999, SES focuses on educating marketing professionals in the latest industry trends, while also integrating networking sessions and additional events for attendees to connect with one another and share their own experiences. The upcoming event is SES Atlanta, which will focus specifically on paid search tactics and effective marketing campaigns. Register here for SES Atlanta, and visit the SES homepage for additional conferences in 2014.

MozCon

Hosted By: Moz (formerly SEOMoz)
When: Monday, July 14, 2014–Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Where: Seattle, WA

When it comes to SEO, Moz is one of the first names that comes to mind. Beginning in 2004 as an SEO consulting company, and evolving into an influential voice in SEO, they host an annual conference in Seattle that is promised to be “not your typical marketing conference.” Each year, MozCon brings together dozens of speakers for “forward-thinking, actionable sessions” that allow attendees to personally interact with important industry thinkers. SEO, social media, community building, content marketing, analytics, and conversion rate optimization (CRO) are just some of the areas explored at MozCon. Register here.

SearchLove

Hosted By: Distilled
When: Thursday, September 11, 2014–Friday, September 12, 2014
Where: San Diego, CA

SearchLove is a conference hosted by Distilled: a company begun in 2005 as a web development agency until 2011 when it transitioned completely into online marketing, both organic and paid. The conference is attended by a diverse range of speakers, and is targeted at advanced and experienced marketers. In-house SEO professionals, agency professionals, marketing managers, and business owners can all benefit from the highly interactive seminars and engaging marketing events. Register here.

Inbound

Hosted By: Inbound
When: Monday, September 15, 2014–Thursday, September 18, 2014
Where: Boston, MA

“Come together. Get inspired. Be remarkable.” Inbound is an all-encompassing conference that covers the entire spectrum of inbound marketing, which includes SEO as well as content marketing, social media marketing, and other strategies. Inbound brings together an impressive roster of speakers for bold sessions, roundtable discussions, and demonstrations that provide attendees with a comprehensive overview of inbound marketing. Register here.

Inbound Marketing Summit (IMS)

Hosted By: Inbound Marketing Summit
When: October 2014
Where: Boston, MA

IMS is described as a series of “networking events for marketers, thought leaders, and innovators to celebrate the practice of digital marketing.” It is an opportunity for SEO professionals and other marketers to connect and learn about the best and latest practices in digital, mobile, and social media marketing. IMS Boston is the signature event, though due to its popularity, IMS has launched a new series of IMS Executive Summits specifically geared towards marketers at the executive level (vice presidents, chief marketing officers, etc.).  The next IMS Executive Summit is in Atlanta, and will be held in mid-to-late June 2014. Register here for IMS Boston.

PubCon

Hosted By: PubCon
When: Tuesday, October 7, 2014–Thursday, October 9, 2014
Where: Las Vegas, NV

Celebrating its 15th year of innovation, PubCon is considered by Forbes to be a “must-attend” conference. PubCon gathers an international conglomerate of speakers, businesses, and innovators to educate marketing professionals on the latest trends in social media, organic marketing, SEO, and digital advertising, with a particular emphasis on the trajectory of the field and future technologies. These three days are packed with an array of multi-format events, including labs, master classes, breakout sessions, networking opportunities, and more. Register here.

Google Authorship: Humanizing Your Content to Increase Rankings

Google Authorship: Humanizing Your Content to Increase Rankings

Though Google+ has grown rapidly since its launch in 2011–reaching 540 million active users this past October–Facebook remains the world’s largest social network (Google+ is the second). Nonetheless, the relevance of Google+ as an engaging social platform, and its importance to web marketers as a Google-owned property, cannot be debated. Described by Google itself as a “social layer”, the purpose of the tool is to act as an interlay, allowing users to interact socially with google-enhanced websites and services.

One way that Google is doing this is through Google Authorship, which Forbes is calling one of the Top 7 SEO Trends Dominating 2014. Google Authorship is an important factor in the Google algorithm that aims to surface quality content in search rankings based, in part, on who authored it. Content is no longer enough to help a website rank for search terms. Google’s algorithm is continually evolving to highlight websites with content that is authoritative, engaging, diverse, and, just as importantly, written by an expert in the field.

With more and more businesses implementing Google Authorship in their marketing strategy, it is important to know the basics so you can determine if it is relevant to your business. Chances are, it is.

What is Google Authorship?

Google+ and Google Authorship go hand-in-hand. The wide integration of Google+ profiles into Google’s other properties, including its search engine (and, consequently, search results), has essentially humanized, or socialized, the way we search. According to The Huffington Post, Google Authorship was created “with the goal of allowing writers to claim their content, as well as allowing search engine users to find more content written by the same writer.” This allows users to see the face behind the content they’re reading, and adds to the trustworthiness of the website. If a user can see that one person is writing on the same topic across different sites, it establishes that person’s reputation as an expert in the space.

Authorship does not only allow users to find content created by a reputable writer; it also allows Google to do the same. The concept was implemented to reduce spam and improve the quality of content, and, by extension, of search results. As the algorithm evolved to incorporate social media more actively into search results, Google+ became an important tool for sites to improve their rankings. That is exactly how Authorship works: by creating a solid Google+, writers can link their profiles to the content they create, allowing Google, and the user, to infer authority through their social presence.

With Google+ allowing authors to “claim their content”, how do businesses ensure that their content is written by an authority figure? While not every business is in the position to source expensive content externally from prominent figures in their space, Forbes suggests “designating a person within your organization to take ownership of contributing great content to leading online publications…to become your true thought leader.”

What Author Rank Means for Your Page Rank

Google Authorship implies that eventually Author Rank will become as much, if not more, relevant than page rank. As an author’s web presence becomes more prominent through the sheer amount of content they have authored, and the number of sites to which they contribute linked to on their Google+, they become an authority. Ultimately, their rank will factor into search results. It is even speculated that websites that have not implemented Google Authorship will eventually be phased out of search results entirely (though that is just speculation at this point).

An excellent infographic by Internet Marketing Inc. (included below) highlights the importance of Author Rank. Author Rank is directly impacted by the writer’s social activity on Google+ and other social media platforms. The amount of engagement on Google+, including frequency of posts, number of connections, the number of shares and +1’s their posts receive, and comments all factor in. And since Author Rank is tied directly to the writer’s content, not the site on which it is posted, Google’s continued emphasis on Authorship means that the value lies in the writer, not necessarily in the site. Your page rank will always matter, but you will benefit directly from the writer’s Author Rank.

Because the content matters as much as the page on which it is hosted, Internet Marketing Inc. recommends guest posting as a way to improve Author Rank, in addition to active social engagement. Linking a writer’s Google+ to their content means that a snippet of their profile, including their picture, is included in search results. It has been proven that Authorship can increase click-through rates by 30% to 150%, all by humanizing your content. A friendly face can do wonders for the trustworthiness of your site, and the frequency of clicks.

Check out The Huffington Post’s Complete Guide to Google Authorship for a thorough breakdown of how to effectively set up a Google+ profile, and scroll down for the full infographic from Internet Marketing Inc.

Facts Behind Google Author Rank & Authorship [Infographic]

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Is Facebook Limiting Your Page’s Reach? What to Know About How Facebook Controls What Your Audience Sees

Is Facebook Limiting Your Page’s Reach? What to Know About How Facebook Controls What Your Audience Sees

Facebook Limits Organic ReachHow would you adapt your social media marketing strategy if only one to three percent of your Facebook audience saw your page’s posts? If you’re a brand with a larger following—say 100,000 Facebook fans—that leaves you with a relatively sizeable audience of 1,000 to 3,000 people.But assuming your page’s fans are in the thousands, or even tens of thousands, that means only a few dozen to a few hundred people see your posts.

While this may seem a grim exaggeration of the limits Facebook places on a brand page’s organic reach, reports say we may not be too far away from this. Valleywag recently published an article contending, “A source professionally familiar with Facebook’s marketing strategy, who requested to remain anonymous, tells [us] that the social network is “in the process of” slashing “organic page reach” down to 1 or 2 percent.”

Facebook has always limited organic reach, last disclosing in 2012 that pages only reach 16% of their audience on average.  But Time reports that as of February, pages now reach about six percent. An analysis of over 100 brand pages put forth by Social@Oligavy, Facebook Zero: Considering Life After the Demise of Organic Reach, shows the steady decline of organic reach from approximately 12% in October 2013 to roughly six percent in February 2014. Are we nearing the drastic one to three percent reach predicted by Valleywag?

To Pay or Not to Pay: Is Facebook Pushing Us Towards Paid Advertisements?

Many argue Facebook is trying to push companies towards buying ads and paying for distribution of content on what is otherwise a free platform.  Ad Age was one of the first to report on the sharp decline back in December, a month after Facebook announced the drop-off. According to Ad Age, “In the document, titled ‘Generating business results on Facebook,’ the paragraph in which the impending drop-off in organic reach is revealed concludes with an ad pitch; marketers are told they should consider paid distribution “to maximize delivery of your message in news feed.’”

Paid advertisement is not a foreign concept to marketers. While the emergence of Facebook Pages seemed to provide a free avenue for building an audience of potential customers, social media was always meant to be just one component of a well-rounded marketing strategy. If anything, this shift is a reminder that Facebook fans are not a network for free content distribution as much as a targeted audience for more effective advertising.

As both Time and Ad Age say, the best way for distributing content will always be paid advertisement. Experts have also weighed in, embracing the necessity to temper organic reach with a paid strategy. John Clark, Fuze SEO, Inc.’s founder, recently told lonelybrad, “Previous to the change, we used to have a set budget to help promote specific posts for campaigns, events, etc. Now, we are giving everything we post an incremental dollar amount — at this point in time that amount happens to be $50/post. We have found this approach to be successful in helping to get initial shares, likes and lifting the content out of the abyss…we are actually seeing improved organic reach even after the funds are depleted.”

Why now? Opponents maintain Facebook is merely seeking to increase. However, it’s easy to understand how Facebook would be motivated to improve user experience. As the sheer volume of content available to users continues to increase, brands are in competition for limited space on peoples’ Newsfeeds. This can lead to an abundance of spam content—memes, duplicate posts, “like-baiting”—all vying for fans’ attention.

Facebook continually updates its algorithm specifically to penalize spam posts, to ensure users see only relevant content on their Newsfeed. Whether or not the company is trying to increase ad revenue, they are encouraging pages to post high-quality content that engages fans.

Work With What You Have: How to Engage Your (Limited) Audience

Paying to promote your page is becoming more of an inevitability, but what about those six percent of fans you can still reach organically? How can you get the most out of your organic reach?

  1.  Make Every Post MeaningfulIf only a fraction of your audience sees your posts, every post must have an impact. The Social@Oligavy report offers some valuable insight into the type of content you should share. News, current events, and trending stories are encouraged by Facebook, as these establish the quality of a page’s content. “This model establishes the value of brands acting as publishers,” says the report.Not only will sharing quality, timely stories maximize your reach, but it establishes your brand as a trusted source of information in the eyes of your fans.
  2. Engage Your AudienceYour fans shouldn’t just see your posts—they should interact with them. While Facebook is penalizing posts that solicit “likes”, you can still encourage people to engage with you. Treat each post as a catalyst for conversation. If you post a news story, share your brand’s thoughts and pose insightful questions that foster discussion.Social Media Explorer suggests encouraging people to share your stories. Your posts become theirs, and as a story shows up in their newsfeed, it reaches their friends as well. Their share becomes a recommendation, an endorsement of your brand that gets your page in front of even more people.
  3. Encourage People to Visit Your PageEven if you reached 100% of your audience, posts only live in their Newsfeed for a limited amount of time. The best way to ensure people see your posts is to encourage them to visit your page. You can share content in a series of posts (such as a developing news story) that encourages visitors to check your page again for the next post. When promoting your page outside of Facebook, as opposed to using a widget for people to “like” your page, share a link to your page so they have to visit it directly to become a fan.
  4. Balance Your Marketing Strategy
    One of the most important things to remember is that organic marketing should only be a part of your overall strategy on Facebook. If you want to increase your reach, you will eventually need to bite the bullet and pay for advertising. Paid and organic reach complement one another, and a well-rounded approach ensures every avenue is covered. Shift Communications offers some useful tips on budgeting your paid advertisements on Facebook.