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The Top 3 SEO Ranking Factors in 2017

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Top 3 SEO Ranking Factors in 2017

“Good SEO work only gets better over time. It’s only search engine tricks that need to keep changing when the ranking algorithms change.”

– Jill Whalen, Transformational Consultant at whatdidyoudowithjill.com

 

 

SEO strategies are constantly influx. This is the very nature of the practice; perpetual evolution.

In 2016, webmasters had to be in flow with updates like Penguin 4.0 while the Possum algorithm update shook up local search results.

Because of SEO’s dynamic and uncertain nature, business owners need to regularly brush up on the discipline’s latest best practices and most important ranking factors.

To help keep you up-to-date, here are the three most important ranking factors for your business to be focusing on right now.

1. Content

Surprise! Content is still one of the most important ranking factors. This was confirmed by Andrey Lipattsev, Partner Development Manager at Google, in a Google Q&A session.

There is no revelation here. Content has topped the list of ranking factors for a long time. What has been evolving in this realm, however, is what Google looks for in great content.

There has been a shift away from keywords while greater emphasis has been placed on natural language and intent.

That doesn’t mean that keywords are dead. Keywords and their variants should still be included in the title of publications, meta descriptions, H1 tags, and in the body of the content. While the power of keywords is dwindling, they still need to be used.

When it comes to article length, there are no real guidelines here as Google has stated that, “. . . the amount of content necessary for the page to be satisfying depends on the topic and purpose of the page.”

This translates as: Don’t worry about length. Worry about comprehensiveness and satisfying the user’s intention.

Google’s RankBrain (which is part of the Hummingbird algorithm) is partially responsible for establishing which search results display high user satisfaction metrics.

This means that you should focus on seeking to meet the needs of searchers; this will often end up developing more comprehensive pieces, which will likely be lengthier and full of great keywords and variants.

2. Mobile-Friendly User Experiences

Again, no Earth-shattering news here. If you have been keeping up with SEO at all, you should know how important mobile-first everything is to Google.

This year, the search giant made of one the biggest and most monumental changes in the company’s history by announcing that it would shift its ranking focus toward mobile-first indexing. This means that your mobile site needs to be top-notch because this will soon take precedence over the desktop experience.

Because of Google’s aggressive push toward small-screen sovereignty, mobile optimization should be one of your company’s top priorities. This includes ensuring that your primary content is available and responsive on the mobile version of your site, serving structured markup across both desktop and mobile, as well as adhering to other guidelines Google expressed in its webmaster blog announcing the move to mobile-first indexing.

It’s critical that your brand prepares its online presence for the impending future that mobile will dominate. As of late 2016, Google noted that, “. . . 85 percent of all pages in the mobile search results now meet this criteria and show the mobile-friendly label.”

If your site isn’t one of them, make sure it is very soon.

It is important, however, that you don’t launch a mobile site for the sake of getting it out there. According to Google, if you release your mobile site before its finished, this could be harmful to your rankings.

3. Various Technical Elements

In addition to content and mobile-friendliness, there are numerous technical aspects to keep an eye on if you hope to rank well in the SERPs.

The first aspect to focus on is encryption. Various studies are still finding positive correlations between the use of HTTPS encryption and first page placement. While Google confirmed this as a ranking signal way back in 2014, those that have yet to adopt are being labeled as downright unsafe in Google Chrome. This label will have a significant impact on traffic.

The next component to be mindful of is your site’s anchor text. While exact-match anchors are still power players in influencing rankings, if they appear unnatural in any way, you run the risk of getting hit with a Penguin penalty. Always make sure that your anchors are organic, even if they aren’t an exact match.

The final element that I will touch on here is your site’s pop-ups and CTAs. As Google continues to emphasize the importance of mobile-friendliness, the company has been focused on providing a prime user experience. This means Google doesn’t take too kindly to intrusive pop-ups.

As of Jan. 10, Google has made it clear that, “…pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as high.”

If your mobile site employs any elements that obscure content with an ad or CTA, be sure to remove that immediately or risk getting hit with a penalty. There are some exceptions to this rule, however, so visit the company’s blog to gain a deeper understanding.

SEO is always in motion, but great content is also always in style. While it can be hard to keep up with the SEO updates, making this a cornerstone to your marketing efforts is one of the smartest commitments you can make to your brand’s success.

3 Powerful Ways to Drive Traffic from Reddit

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Reddit

“The day I woke up and Reddit was working on its own was just the most incredible feeling.”

Steve Huffman, CEO of Reddit

If you have an Internet connection, you probably know what Reddit is.

For those who don’t know much about this edgy community, Reddit is a multilingual social news and entertainment platform that calls itself “the front page of the Internet.”

Reddit is the eighth most popular website in the world, according to Alexa, drives roughly 1.5 billion unique visits a month, and houses more than 250 million active members.

When leveraged correctly, Reddit can be an incredibly powerful source for driving massive amounts of traffic to your website. For instance, Eddy Arza was able to increase his site’s daily visitors from 41 to 4,266 literally overnight. Similarly, Ryan Stewart was able to grow his traffic by 33 percent  by learning the ins and outs of the platform.

It is extremely necessary to become familiar with how Reddit works before you start trying to plug your brand because the community’s members (called Redditors) are sometimes known for ruthless behavior; particularly toward outsiders.

Part of why Reddit is such an effective tool for increasing blog readership, sales, and overall traffic, however, is that the site is essentially one massive aggregator.

For the most part, Redditors submit outbound links to various niche communities called subreddits. There are a seemingly infinite number of subreddits, so I’ll cover this more in a bit.

Before we dive into how to drive traffic from Reddit to your site, a quick public service announcement:

You Must Participate Before Plugging!

The first step to leveraging Reddit is the most vital and the most time-consuming: You must participate within communities – a lot – before posting anything about your brand or website.

Truthfully, Reddit hates marketing.

If you just create a new account and try to promote your site, prepare to be eaten alive. Redditors are notoriously suspicious of new accounts and they can sniff out an advertisement like digital bloodhounds.

To gain the trust of Redditors, you need to start off by posting relevant (non-promotional) materials and engaging in various discussions.

Here are three ways to leverage Reddit to drive tons of traffic to your website.

1. Engage the Right Subreddits

As stated earlier, Reddit has tons of niche communities called subreddits.

While not all will be relevant to your cause, you are likely to find dozens that are. Before you start targeting specific communities, however, ask yourself:

  • What is my target audience interested in?
  • What is my expertise?
  • What value can I provide potential followers?

The answers to these questions will help you develop a blueprint in selecting which communities to join. If you fail to conduct this short exercise, you’re more likely to join subreddits that don’t provide you much value to you, and vice versa.

While this may seem to conflict with the above paragraph, you may also want to consider some smaller, more overlooked communities as these folks tend to be highly engaged. This is the exact strategy that Gfycat used to build its audience and become the largest user-generated GIF platform in the world in a mere two years.

To find subreddits that will be valuable for your brand, search relevant keywords that your audience would use to find information about product or service like yours. For instance, if you run a gaming blog, you might join the r/Games subreddit whose goal is to, “. . . provide a place for informative and interesting gaming content and discussions.”

Depending on what your brand does, you might want to join subreddits that are a little more marketing-friendly such as r/deals where you can post discounts, coupon codes, and all sorts of other offerings for savvy consumers.

2. Use Reddit As a Source for Content Creation

Content is one of the top Google ranking factors. While creating a wealth of great content is necessary, it certainly isn’t easy.

Reddit provides content marketers with an endless pool of inspiration for great content. By engaging in conversations and mining comment threads for hot topics, pain points, curiosities, etc., business owners can gain an abundance of quality topics to write about and then post back to those same communities, effectively driving traffic to their site.

Additionally, there are often individuals within subreddits who share interesting insights or perspectives on certain topics. Depending on how informative the individual seems, you might want to consider reaching out to them for a podcast or interview that you later craft into a blog post.

Alternately, businesses can uncover some common themes of what users desire and run content within a subreddit, driving traffic to a dedicated landing page on their site. Prizes should be relevant to the community’s wants and needs. You could offer products or services from your business, Reddit Gold, or various other payoffs.

Before utilizing this tactic, however, be sure to reach out to the subreddit’s moderators and gain their approval. Otherwise, you could be banned from the community.

3. Host an AMA Session

This strategy should be saved for after you have developed something of a name for yourself within the subreddits you subscribe to so that users know who you are and that you have value to offer.

AMA stands for Ask Me Anything. AMA’s are essentially interviews where the whole of the reddit community can ask you, well, anything.

These are often a prime opportunity to share information about your business without coming off too promotional.

The key to these group conversations is to provide the community with lots of in-depth, valuable knowledge. Think about things like behind-the-scenes stories, struggles and solutions that most would never consider and other intimate details that only an industry insider would know.

For an Ask Me Anything session, you can target the dedicated AMA subreddit, or you can simply conduct it within one of the subreddits you subscribe to — most will allow for these types of conversations.

Holding the talk within a subreddit that is relevant to your audience might be the best option. This increases the likelihood that you’ll have an interested and engaged audience.

Reddit is a goldmine for generating awareness and traffic for your website. Familiarize yourself with the platform, its lingo, and interact with the right groups before promoting your brand. If you do this prior to leveraging the tactics listed above, you stand a far greater chance of achieving the outcome you desire.

4 Metrics Google Uses to Score Your Content

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Metrics Google Uses to Score Your Content

We’ve been waiting for this for quite a while, haven’t we? That moment when we can say that we know for sure what Google bots like about our website and what they don’t like.

Well, the following metrics aren’t exactly coming from Google, but close enough. The Moz experts think they have unveiled the mystery. If you have anything to do with SEO, you already know that the closest you can get to Google is Moz.

This edition of Whiteboard Friday was filled with epiphanies and confirmations of things I already suspected. So I decided to resume it for you. Here it is:

Top 4 metrics you should care about (because Google does!)

The Moz experts assume that the organic ranking metrics are somewhat similar to the AdWords quality score, the algorithm that Google uses to rank ads and determine costs. Of course, the organic ranking algorithm itself has to be quite sophisticated, but I think the simplifications below can help a lot of businesses and SEO writers.

1. Actions taken on your website

They came, they read, then what? According to Moz, Google loves to see people click a button on your website after reading or scanning one of your pages. If they do nothing, then Google assumes your website wasn’t all that interesting.

What to do: Add CTAs to each of your posts. You may think it is common sense for people who love what you write to go to the contact page and ask for a price quotation. But it’s not. We tested this on multiple websites for our clients and on our own website. Irrespective of how many clicks they got and how well they ranked organically, blog posts with no CTA gathered very few (if any) leads.

2. Bounce rate

You already know that a huge bounce rate isn’t something to be proud of. Google doesn’t like it either.

Think about it: People search for something and arrive on your website. Then they immediately bounce back to search results. What does that signal? Obviously, that they didn’t find what they were looking for. In other words, that your website isn’t very relevant for the keyword in question.

What to do: CTAs can help guide people to deep clicking aka browsing a lot of pages on your website. Inbound linking also helps to keep people engaged.

3. Time spent on page

Are you starting to see a pattern here? Good.

You may think that you can fix all of these through the bounce rate. But it’s not exactly the same thing. People could spend a few seconds on a page, be distracted by a link at the top and click on it. This tells Google that your website may be interesting (given your low bounce rate), but that particular webpage is not.

According to a recent study, people scan webpages, they don’t read them word for word. So what can you do about it? Can you change behaviors? Of course not; but you can offer them something to scan for longer periods of time and captivate them.

What to do: Avoid clutter at all costs. Don’t be afraid of the white space and add as many photos or videos as you can to break down the text. Subtitles, spaces between paragraphs and bullet points are also must-haves. If people see a huge wall of text, they will most likely move on. But if they are interested in the topic, they will at least scan the text (when written and formatted properly).

4. Links to your website

This one is confirmed by a Google representative (finally). The more links you have on your website, the better you will rank.

Why?

It’s quite obvious: when people cite you, it means that you are doing a good job. Andrey Lipattsev, the Google representative in question clearly stated that content and links are very important for ranking. Which gives us an idea about how to tackle this.

What to do: I’ve said it in many of my articles here: great content is your gold mine. If you create it, links will come. Not overnight, but they will. One of the greatest joys for me is receiving e-mails from clients who tell me they discovered tens of new links to the blog posts we wrote for them.

Similarly, I love it when our clients are asked for permission to translate their articles in other languages or use parts of them by complete strangers. This is the link building power of great content. Oh, and if you were thinking about buying links, forget about it – they have absolutely no value. Influencer outreach and guest blogging are much better solutions when you’ve just launched your website and have very little traction.

Wrapping things up

If there is one thing all these metrics have in common, it’s content quality. Write good content and people will stay on your page longer, they will click more to get to other pages or articles and they will link to your blog because it will be a trustworthy source.

In a nutshell, write it and they will come.

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6 Smart Ways to Win at Facebook Live

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Ways to Win at Facebook Live

“We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in.”

Craig Davis, co-founder and CMO of Sendle.com.

 

Small business owners have a variety of marketing tools and tactics at their disposal. Two of the most powerful options are content and social media.

In the social realm, Facebook is the obvious frontrunner with more than 1.3 billion daily active users.

As far as content is concerned, nothing comes close to competing with video anymore. While blogs, infographics and other content formats still have their place in the ecosystem, today’s consumers crave video content and engage with it at insane rates.

This means that platforms like Facebook Live can be potential engagement juggernauts for business owners.

Since its release in April of 2015, Facebook Live has exploded in growth, with search popularity skyrocketing by an astonishing 330 percent.

No matter if you own a digital storefront or a local boutique, you should be leveraging Facebook Live to generate awareness, engagement, traffic and sales because this tool makes all of the above possible.

But if you are going to outshine your competitors, you’re going to need to get clever about your content.

Here are six smart ways your brand can flex its creative muscles on Facebook Live.

1. Get to Know the Staff

Unfortunately, so many businesses seem to treat customer service as an afterthought. Just ask anyone who’s recently been on an airplane.

This is a preposterous notion considering that when customer service is done right, it can elevate a brand’s following to cult-like status; Zappos is the epitome of building a diehard following on the platform of stellar consumer experiences.

If your business has a team of employees, you can craft that personal connection between consumers and staff members by introducing your customer base to them. This allows people to become familiar and friendly with the people on the other side of the screen or counter, instead of seeing them simply as a business drone.

You can do this in an employee of the month format, or just walk around the office and see who you run into. These videos don’t need to be long either; anywhere between five and 10 minutes is plenty of time for a few key questions.

2. Make Every Friday Black Friday

If there’s one thing that consumers are hard pressed to pass up, it’s a good deal.

Using Facebook Live, retail stores and digital shops alike can highlight special sales only available to those who tune in.

With this method, you can walk through your store showing off items that you are slashing prices on just for the day. If you have an online existence only, you can (using Facebook Live for desktop) display screenshots of sale items from your store with special discount codes.

To help generate the most viewership possible, be sure to build some buzz before you start the broadcast by posting a cryptic update or sharing a custom image post that let’s folks know that discounts will only be available through the Live broadcast.

If you do this on a consistent basis, people will start to catch on to your weekly sales bonanza and start tuning in.

3. Teach Your Followers a Skill

Facebook Live doesn’t solely need to be used as a tool for directly promoting your business; it’s also a powerful platform for positioning yourself as a thought leader within a community.

Provide your followers with substantial value and show off that big brain of yours by teaching viewers a useful skill via live courses.

Courses vary from industry to industry, but a few examples would be:

  • A music shop giving a free series of guitar lessons.
  • An artist teaching basic drawing tips and tricks.
  • A blogger showing how to design a website.
  • A life coach teaching people to meditate.

During these free courses, you can engender engagement by asking your audience if they have any questions, problematic areas, and to share the video with someone they think would benefit from the free knowledge.

4. Address Blog Comments

If you have a website, it’s fairly likely that you have a blog too, because content and SEO are intrinsically linked.

A great way to deepen your relationship with your audience and expand upon blog topics is by answering user questions or comments through a Facebook Live broadcast. This provides those who have read the blog with a reason to tune in, and can pique the interest of viewers who have yet to read your blog, effectively driving them to your site.

5. Grab a Group’s Attention

Back in April of 2016, Facebook added the ability for users to Live stream video to Groups.

If you have a Group that you manage, this is a much more engaging form of content than just another text-based post. You can also spark conversations in other Groups this way, though if you are not the owner, you will need to gain permission from the admin.

6. Recap an Event

If your business held a local event, it’s always a great idea to broadcast Live during the big moments because this can generate a lot of interest around your brand.

As a small business owner, however, you likely don’t have time to stream the entire event — you’re too busy running it. This is when broadcasting a recap video can prove to be engaging and fun for viewers.

If your event had anything to do with fundraising or another noble cause, you can share how much money was accrued. If your business was holding a learning-based event, you can share the top three lessons from the day.

Facebook Live is a beast of a tool considering the fervent nature with which people are consuming video online. Select a few of these tactics to apply to your business’s social interactions and you can likely drum up enhanced amounts of engagements, website traffic, sales, and new followers.

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Why & How a Blog Matters to Your SEO Presence

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Why & How a Blog Matters to Your SEO Presence

Your SEO presence is not just a big deal – it’s a HUGE deal.

That is, only if you want more traffic, more leads, more conversions and more sales.

Leads. Conversions. Sales. Do I have your attention yet?

Here’s the deal, though: To get those three covetables, you need a good SEO presence. A solid SEO presence. And how do you build that?

With a blog, of course.

Blogging is one of the ultimate ways to rank in the SERPs (search engine results pages). If your SEO presence is a huge deal (and it is), having a business blog is an even HUGER deal.

Here’s why.

Why You Should Blog Your Way to Better Business

Blogging is perhaps the No. 1 way to boost your visibility on search engines. It will also drive organic traffic to your site (read: traffic you didn’t pay for with advertising).

That’s right, it helps drive traffic to your site for free. Is anything better than free?

Here are some other great reasons blogging helps your business:

1. One of Google’s First Ranking Factors Is Content

Google loves pages with good content – it’s one of the search engine’s major ranking factors. And, whatever Google loves gets closer and closer to a first-page ranking, the holy grail of SEO.

Of course, good content has defining features. When you have a blog, you can strive to hit all of them in every post. This will boost your individual page ranking and your site ranking.

Here’s what your content should strive to do to rank:

  • Be relevant. The topic you write about should fit into your industry, but also be relevant to what your customers need. Relevance, of course, also means you should be using keywords and key phrases in your content. It’s no longer about keyword density, though. Rather, it’s about placement in the right areas (H1s and H2s, for instance) and using them naturally throughout your blog posts.
  • Hit the right length. The word count of the blogs you post has an effect on the amount of traffic you get. Hit the sweet spot regarding length, and you could see a lot more page visits, leads, and conversions. According to HubSpot, it’s best to go longer. In a study they did of their most successful posts, the ones that got the highest engagement were between 2,250 and 2,500 words:

  • Be comprehensive. Along with length, your posts should go in-depth on relevant topics. Don’t skim the surface – explore the nooks, crannies, and facets of your subject, and come out with golden pieces of wisdom for your readers.

Here’s a piece of an infographic from Social Media Today that simplifies how beneficial blogging is for driving traffic:

2. Blogging Is a Great Conversion Tool

Once you optimize your posts to drive in traffic, your blog can also convert those visitors into solid leads. You can do it by adding a call-to-action at the end of every blog post.

If your blog intrigues your audience and they enjoy reading it, your CTAs can become tempting, too. Wherever your call-to-action takes them – to a landing page where they enter their e-mails for an offer, or to one of your sales pages where they’re prompted to do business with you – if they follow through, you’ve captured a lead through a blog.

The best part: If you’re blogging regularly, you’ll have tons of different lead-generating tools out there that search engines are indexing and people are finding.

This leads into our next point…

3. Blogging Gets You Steady, Long-Term Growth

Creating a blog and keeping it updated generates content. Each post is an optimized tool that helps search engines find you, rank you and present your link to users in the SERPs.

As you generate more blogs, you drop more and more of these seeds into the soil of the Internet. Your posts take root as search engines note how you’ve optimized each blog. They also analyze how much content you put out, how fresh your site is, and the quality of the sites that are linking back to you.

The more seeds you have out there, the better your content crop will fare. A time passes, the first seeds you planted will grow from sprouts to saplings to full-grown trees. They’ll have wide, spreading branches that will fan out all over the Internet.

Gif via Slate

Here’s a great blogging stat that backs that up: Business websites with 401-1,000 pages on their sites regularly get six times more leads than business websites with only 51-100 pages.

More blogs, more pages. More pages, more leads. More leads, more conversions. You get the idea.

It takes time and patience, but it works. If you want a content forest that can get you noticed, start a blog.

Bottom Line: A Blog Can Be Your Number One SEO Tool

A high-quality blog can take your brand from zero to hero, much like that wimpy Greek teenager who hones himself (with help, according to Disney) into Hercules.

Why? Because a blog is great for search engine optimization.

Other blog benefits:

  • They’re really easy to start. Like, stupidly easy. All you need is a good blogging platform for your domain, such as WordPress.
  • They’re fun. They add an element of personality and life to your site, and they invite engagement, discussion, and sharing.
  • They position you as an expert in your field. You’re sharing knowledge you’ve gained from hard work, experience, and effort – that’s a worthy task.

If you’re convinced, it’s time to get blogging. After all, there’s no time like the present to improve your SEO presence.

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