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How to Write SEO Friendly Content

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Editor's Note: Sarah Robinson is a blogger and SEO enthusiast. She joins us today to explain how SEO friendly content improves your website performance, and how to optimize your content for search engine exposure.

 

Whether you’re writing a landing page for your website, or a blog post, it’s important that all of your content is SEO friendly. SEO friendly content has a tremendous impact on your ranking in search engines (i.e, Google), and the better you follow the conventions of SEO, the higher your content will rank on search engines.

The higher your website is ranked by search engines, the more visible it will be. This also leads to more website traffic and conversions. Your content is also more likely to provoke reader engagement and shares on social media if it is highly visible. Bottom line: you can write amazing content, but unless people see it, there’s no point.

Thankfully, producing SEO friendly content is not as difficult as it may seem. By following the steps outlined below, your content will be more interesting, grab attention and rank higher in search engines without excessive effort. Let’s dive in!

1. Research

Individuals and SEO companies should do at least some research before writing anything. Even if you are an expert on an issue, you should not forego this step. Not only does research provide you with the data you need to make a well-reasoned point, but it also helps you to find the key terms that your audience is looking for. By incorporating these terms into your content, you make it much more SEO friendly for casual browsers.

The research step is especially important for the heading (title) of your content. The heading is the first thing readers encounter, and it therefore determines whether they will click away, or stay on to read more. Your title should be well structured, to-the-point and relevant to common search terms.

A high quality heading will help search engines understand what is on your page, and it will assist in gauging relevancy when a user searches for certain keywords. A headline will also determine whether your newsletter subscribers want to open and read your content.

How do you create a title that engages? To start, it’s a given that you should take a dive into SEO keyword research to find the terms which readers are looking up. But keeping your headlines short and catchy is also important. List articles (‘listicles’) attract attention by outlining the structure of an article in the title, so readers know what to expect before reading.Just take a look at recent BuzzFeed headlines to get a feel for what attracts readers. Here are some examples taken from the website:

2. Unique and original content

It is important that the content you produce is unique and original. This doesn’t mean you have to be a pioneer in your industry and propose something completely new or revolutionary. But if you say the exact same thing as everyone else, in the exact same way, content that is otherwise SEO friendly can still fail. Everyone has a unique spin or view on an issue, and in good content, you must be prepared to offer yours.

While this advice may or may not seem obvious, the point is worth stressing. For SEO-optimized content, it’s vitally important to avoid plagiarism. Plagiarism, in this case, means copying large chunks of text from existing websites or even entire articles without the right permission or HTML attribution. Not only is it unethical to do this, but your website can get penalized for these methods by search engines, which will bring down your site’s ranking considerably.

This doesn’t mean you can’t use sources to back up your argument and make your content more credible. In fact, you should be using other sources - but rather than offering extensive and direct quotes from existing content, summarize, and cite the important facts while providing a link. Being lazy will sink you like a brick - Google knows, and you will never get away with it.

If you are working hard to keep your content original, but have to use quotations, there are many places you can go to find out whether search engines will get suspicious. Copyscape is a great way to quickly check if there are any copies of your website content on other sites, or whether original content will trigger red flags to search engines. When in doubt, check first!

3. Images

Firstly, yes you should absolutely include relevant images with your content. And secondly, they can and should be optimized both for readability, and SEO.

Images are important to your content because they visually establish the context of an article, and give readers’ eyes a rest. Have you ever gone on to a webpage and there was just all text on the page? Was it inviting and enjoyable to read? Probably not: no one likes impenetrable chunks of text, so it is important to break it up with images. Images also help to make your content more shareable on social websites; if you use interesting images, you can quickly attract attention.

Images, like the text in your content, will also impact your search engine rankings. You can add keywords to an image’s file name, and captions, tags and alternative text when relevant. It is also important that you check the size of your image, and compress or resize them when appropriate. Images need to be big enough so they aren’t blurry, but not so big that they slow down the loading time of your webpages.

4. Make the text interesting

Just because you have added lots of images to your content doesn’t mean you are done making it attractive! You can (and should) make the actual text more interesting to read by formatting it elegantly.

There are multiple ways to make content pleasurable for reading, and it’s important to implement these methods whenever possible, because Google has quality guidelines, and it checks to see if sites are following them.

By changing up the size and style of font as well as underlining the right words, or putting them in bold/italics, you can direct a reader’s eye to the most important things; content is more interesting to look at when all words aren’t the same.

HTML subheadings to organize your content are also important. Not only do they help to give your content structure and improve readability, but they also show search engines that your web-pages are detailed and useful.

All this being said, it’s easy to go overboard changing up the look of your text. If you change too much, too often, the results can appear unprofessional and distracting. Remember, you want to draw readers attention to the most important parts of your text. Focus, and retain a balance between the mundane and the stylized.

5. Content length

The right length for content depends on your genre, audience, and how much you have to say. Follow common sense in this regard: a blog post should be long enough to be informative (anywhere between 500 and 2000 words). But depending on the subject, you may need a lot more, or a lot less.

Word count does not factor into SEO as much as people sometimes think. 300 is a good minimum, but beyond that, it is more important that you post content consistently. Realistically, if you make content-writing difficult, it will be difficult to read, and you will probably find excuses not to do it. By sticking to a reasonable word limit,content writing becomes more enjoyable, which increases the likelihood that you will continue to produce content in the future, which will also raise the ranking of your website.

Summary

Making your content SEO friendly is crucial if you want it to be seen. You may have great content but if you haven’t properly optimized it, you won’t get readers or leads. There’s no wrong way to start, so if your content isn’t SEO optimized yet, pick something that stands out, and get your site to the top of Google!

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Convert More Website Visitors into Customers: Best Practices for Usability and Analytics

Fundamentals of Social Media for SEO

Creating and Curating Content People Love

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.

 


How to Choose the Perfect Images to Improve Content Engagement

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Editor's Note: Jane Hurst is a business writer and regular OMI contributor. Today, she joins us to discuss how well-selected images can improve content engagement on your blog or website.

 

While text is the most prominent feature of long-form content, if you don’t use images effectively in your blog posts and marketing, you aren’t attracting nearly as much traffic as you could be. Images grab attention because humans are visual creatures: when they see a lot of text without visual stimuli, they will often click away pretty quickly. People need to see something that is visually appealing to capture their attention, but at the same time, you can’t haphazardly slap some photos on and be done with it. You need to research your target audience, and use visuals that will appeal to them in order to raise your content engagement. Here are some tips that will help you do this:

Use Images in Blogs

Studies show that blogs with featured images get a lot more attention than those without visual content. First, it is a fact that we tend to remember things in terms of visual rather than verbal memory. You must therefore utilize images that are tailored to the content you have prepared for your target audience to build a better connection with them. You want readers to read and digest a post, then comment, so you can interact with them and make conversions.

Bottom line: if you want to be remembered and make an impact on your readers, you need to use images that will really stand out in their minds.

Don’t Forget SEO

Many people don’t realize that images are an important part of search engine optimization. Photographs can be optimized so that search engines deliver your photos when the right keywords are searched. Optimizing your images for search engines is not hard. Basically, you just have to use the right keywords in the:

  • Image title
  • Description
  • File name, and
  • Alt text

It is also important to ensure that the dimensions of the image you upload are the same as the size used on your page, so that image searchers aren’t disappointed when they are forwarded to your website. Because a lot of people don’t realize this, many bloggers miss out on a great marketing opportunity. It only takes a few minutes to make sure that your images are properly sized, and coupled to the right keywords. Take advantage of this, and get more hits on your page.

Match Your Brand

When you are choosing images for anything, you need to think about some key factors, including your brand’s voice, mood, and style. Remember, you are trying to appeal to a specific audience, so you are marketing to them. Don’t choose images just because they appeal to you; they may not appeal to others, and that is what what matters. Be sure to study your target audience to find out what appeals to them most. Then, use imagery that will make them eager to visit your site and buy your products. This may take a bit of trial and error, but if you really pay attention to what your customers are saying and doing, you will get it right.

Use Relevant Images

If you are creating guides, you should use images that are relevant to what you are demonstrating in the guide. For instance, if your guide is about resumes, you don’t want to use photos of books: illustrate successful resume samples, add images of people writing resumes, as Uptowork did in their How to Write a Resume Guide:

Source

Before creating any type of guide, you need to think about the types of images that are going to get your message across most effectively. Pictures say so much, and if you are not using the right pictures, there is no sense in using images at all. Take the time and effort to do it well; you will be much happier with the results, and so will your visitors.

Let Images Stand Alone

Most people don’t like blogs that are heavy on text and low on visual content. In most cases, visual content is easier to understand, because it can be seen and apprehended in seconds, and doesn’t require reading time. Your visual elements should summarize what you are trying to say in the blog or on your selling page. For example, GadgetSalvation used two images to visualize the Sell Your Macbook page: when readers see the photo, they immediately understand the message, and read on to learn more.

Source

Imagery is one of the best ways to get information across quickly, so you can do more with less effort. The fewer characters you write between images in content and on product pages, the more engagement you are likely to receive from your audience.

Use People in Images

People connect with those who have the same tastes, desires, etc. as themselves. You need to build that connection with them, and to do this, you should feature images of human beings. You also need to know how to use people in images. For instance, a candid photo will generally attract more attention than one that is posed. Studies show that the majority of people prefer images that have just one person, and they also prefer to see subjects looking away from (rather than directly at) the camera. There is a reason why these shots are more popular: when all the factors are added together, viewers feel that the image could be of themselves.

Get Authorization before Using Images

It is vitally important that you have full authorization to use any of the images you display with your content. This doesn’t mean you have to produce the images yourself, but, you do need to gain the permission of those who produced the images or own them to use them for marketing purposes. Using stock photos is one popular option, in which you pay websites like Bigstock for the rights to use a particular image but this should not be your go-to for photos since stock images are often widely disseminated and sometimes overused. If you pull random images off the Internet, you will also need permission to share this content. If you share image content to social media, your audience should be able to share and use them, since this is a way of promoting content engagement and gaining exposure across a wide audience. Be sure to spell out the terms of these permissions in the “Terms and Conditions” page of your site or blog so your images can go viral.

Be Careful with Stock Photos

It is okay to use stock photos once in awhile when you need them. But they are not something you should rely on exclusively, since a lot of readers will easily be able to tell the difference between a stock photo and one that has been created or commissioned for a single campaign. While the stock photos may be excellent in quality, they could also end up turn some potential customers off. The more time and effort you put into your imagery, the more it will be noticed, improving your content engagement, and raising your bottom line.

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

B2B Social Visual Storytelling on Instagram, Pinterest & Tumblr

Turn Website Visitors into Customers via Conversation Optimization

How to Create a Content Segmentation Plan

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.

 


Five Customer Retention Strategies That Really Work

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Editor's Note: Samantha Prowell is a marketing strategist and educator, who joins us today to explain the importance of customer retention for your business, and how to implement customer retention strategies into a business plan.

 

Customer retention is an element that no online or traditional business can afford to ignore. Unfortunately, many business owners focus exclusively on customer acquisition, ignoring existing clients and reducing the chance of repeat sales. Good customer retention strategies build trust and loyalty, and customers who trust your business will improve your profitability by spreading the word about your brand. This builds in the long-term to a lasting fallback strategy should traditional acquisition methods ever fail. To help you retain customers and gain new ones through word of mouth, we’ve compiled five customer retention strategies that work every time they are tried. Let’s get started!

Know Your Customers

Forbes says that business associates who know their customers well succeed more often than those who treat them like any other client. According to behavioral psychologists, people tend to remember a particular service positively when they are not rushed or ignored. These studies demonstrate that you should get to know your customers better to enhance their loyalty. In a brick-and-mortar setting, ask your customers questions when possible to clarify needs. Let them tell you about what they want to build and accomplish. Tell your customer service representatives to spend a little bit more time with clients in order to understand them better.

It’s equally important not to make assumptions regarding customer preferences and beliefs. The behavior of consumers changes over time, so avoid judging your clients based on previous experiences.

For online businesses, getting to know customers better is more tricky, since it is impractical (but not impossible!) to communicate with all of them one-on-one. That being said, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are excellent ways to interact with your customers and get to know their preferences and personalities better.

Depending on your business, social media is not the only method of customer-interaction. For instance, Regions online mobile banking service invites experts to engage and retain their customers by using emails to touch base with clients on a monthly basis. This strategy has helped them to get quality engagements and build long-term relationships. While not everyone can use this method, it shows that being creative can build opportunities that your customers will appreciate.

Set Customer Expectations

Interacting with customers is a great way to build positive experiences, but it’s also important to avoid creating negative ones. Even if repeat clients have done business with you hundreds of times, one or two bad transactions will stand out in their memory like a sore thumb. It is therefore vital to set expectations for your customers early on so they are fully aware of your processes, and won’t undergo any nasty surprises. Everyone on your team should be aware of what your clients expect, and what you have promised to deliver. Prioritize the fulfillment of these expectations to minimize the chance of accidents or mistakes.

Your business should set expectations at every point in the sales funnel, from marketing, to product descriptions, to shipping terms, etc. A classic and highly effective strategy is to underpromise and overdeliver on the expectations you lay out. This streamlines your business plan by ensuring that customer retention is built into the very fabric of the way you do business, and helps to establish key performance indicators which can be used to judge the success of a particular period or campaign.

Be an Expert in Your Industry

Entrepreneur Magazine claims that nine out of ten customers will switch to competitors if they don’t get the right solution to their problems. Customers want to create long-term engagements with businesses they believe can provide long-term solutions that will last.

While it’s always nice to have a corner in your market, nobody starts there: you will always be competing with other businesses that do the same thing you do. As such, it’s important that you stand out among your competitors to prevent customers from going somewhere else for their needs. One effective way to do this is becoming an expert in your field, thereby giving customers value they cannot get anywhere else.

Become your customers’ most reliable adviser to build loyalty and trust. If you are selling electronic accessories, become the street smart equivalent of an MBA who knows the ins and outs of every electrical gadget in the market. Demonstrate this expertise by publishing content and advice that is relevant to your customers’ interests. Be ready to give your opinions when asked, and always be there when customers need support.

Give Discounts and Promotions

Customers always look for companies that reward them once in awhile. Regular promotions and discounts are primary reasons that people start to follow brands, especially online, and if your competitors don’t have special offers, a promotional program will grant you a tremendous and obvious advantage in the minds of consumers. It doesn’t hurt to occasionally give away free products and samples, or sell at discounted prices. Make sure to use the element of surprise rather than announcing special offers in advance, since this creates a lasting, positive impression on your clients: people will remember when you surprise them in a good way.

While giving away something of value may seem like a net loss for your business, research proves that it’s an investment - consumers are 30% more likely to shop with businesses that offer discounts, so this is a retention strategy you can’t afford to ignore.

Create Trust Through Shared Values

Building shared values entails developing an interest in your clients and their daily occupations. Do research to determine what your clients love to do as a demographic, what causes they support, and the media they consume. Using this information strategically in content, branding, and product development strengthens the image of your business tremendously for existing customers by tying your company with the things they care about.

Conclusion:

Customer retention should be a key goal for your business, whether online or traditional. It is the foundation for expanding sales volume in the long term, and acquiring more clients in the short term. Hopefully the information listed here will help you to create and implement an effective customer retention plan!

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Improve Relationship Marketing Using Social Media

Top of the Funnel Tactics for Inbound Marketing

Content Marketing Implementation: Executing a Winning Content Program

 

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.

 


How to Engage Your Customers with Sensory Branding

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Editor's Note: Anna Cruz works with LD Products to promote sensory branding through multi-sensory marketing. Today she joins us with an exciting overview of the reasons why businesses should take sensory marketing seriously, and how to do it.

 

Sensory branding involves curating a powerful physical connection to a product or brand by engaging the senses of prospective customers on every level. Since a growing number of consumers search for experiences and emotions that go beyond the mundane, more advertisers try to incorporate sensory cues on branded media with multisensory marketing.

According to research commissioned by brand consultant Martin Lindstrom, media that appeals to more than three senses can increase brand impact and engagement by over 70 percent. That may seem like a big number, but it makes a lot of sense when you consider how we're wired. In recent years, researchers studying the human brain discovered several new ways that senses - especially smell - are tied to memory and emotional experience. Harvard Business School cites research on pencils treated with tea-tree oil: respondents were given treated pencils and untreated pencils, and asked two weeks later to recollect specifics about each. The researchers found that,

"those given unscented pencils experienced a 73% decline in the information they could recall two weeks later, [while] subjects given tea-tree-scented pencils experienced a decline of only 8%."

There’s one important element that subjects tended to remember: brand name.

This evolution in media poses a challenge for marketing managers, especially those who don’t have the budget to build technology that makes multisensory marketing possible. What can you do? One channel that is both affordable and disarmingly low-tech is print. While print is often perceived as a static and strictly 2-dimensional medium, advancements in print technology have opened up doors to manipulate traditional print in fascinating ways that utilize senses besides sight. Let’s go over a few.

Touch

Readers often prefer physical books to virtual ones, because books have texture and weight. The sense of touch also has a big impact on consumers: we can identify luxury products by examining their weight and texture to judge their quality. This is especially true for paper - different kinds and characteristics are imbued with tradition and social significance. Heavy and lightly textured cardstock is associated with formal occasions like wedding invitations or other formal announcements. Smooth-textured cotton stock is associated with sophisticated affairs, and using it in advertisements endows your brand with prestige.

Beyond traditional paper stocks, printing options that were once out of reach for advertisers are now widely accessible and affordable thanks to the Internet. Print vendors like 4colorprint, Creator Print, and the Business Card Shoppe offer a wide range of specialty printing techniques like embossing, foil stamping, spot coatings, die cut, letterpress, and color edging. Each can be applied to standard or unconventional card stock such as silk, cold foil silk, suede, and cotton. For marketers who rely on cards to curate an image, this is a great way of bringing sensory branding to your efforts.

image001

Cold foil silk cardstock adds incredible visual depth and texture not common in typical business cards

image002

Letterpress combined with debossing on cotton cardstock results in a pillowy look that nobody can resist touching

When looking to accent the feel of your materials, don’t just stop at paper. Consider alternative print materials like fabric, plastics, or aluminum, which create a whole new sensation to pair with your aesthetic.

Sight

Believe it or not, sight is the most challenging of the five senses to grab and sustain for any amount of time. Competing with digital screens and the stimulus of the surrounding world is tough. Visual storytelling is one very effective way to draw the eye and engage the mind, as illustrated in Lisa Buyer’s B2B Social Visual Storytelling seminar.

While unique paper stock and production techniques have a lot to do with the success of your print, they will do much more when coupled with a well orchestrated visual hook, a strategic sense of hierarchy and smart use of typography. All visual and mental elements should come together if you want to keep a viewer intrigued. Canva, a resource-packed hub for everything design, is a great jump-off introduction to design concepts for marketers. Even if you are working with a professional graphic designer, learning the visual elements of style will help you to gauge the quality of your materials.

There’s also a very futuristic way to grab your viewer's eye: holograms. Several print companies can produce remarkable holograms at an affordable cost, and according to Petapixel, holograms can even be printed at home with a good old inkjet printer! Gizmodo pulled together some great examples of what you can create with nothing more than a commercial printer and a little creativity.

Smell

Graphic Arts Mag calls our sense of smell one of the most primitive and emotional senses, partly because of the way aromas are built into our neural pathways through our recollections of the past. Advertisers have already incorporated smell into print for years: we’ve all received catalogs with scratch and sniff perfume samples, for instance. But that was years ago, and today’s technology allows you to get more creative.

But before we jump on the tech, remember that successfully tapping into the power of smell starts with a well thought out strategy for utilizing a particular scent to enhance your message. How can you make your particular brand memorable through smell? The key may lie in the element of surprise, which usually comes when your readers don’t need to do anything (like scratch and sniff your ad).

Applying scent to paper is easy, but knowing what scent to use isn’t always. If you want to be remembered, you need to serve your readers something unexpected but still relevant to your message. If you’re printing cards to promote your spa, why not infuse the smell of pine trees to suggest forest-bathing, or infuse the smell of lemons and fresh cut grass onto print ads that are meant to evoke joy or positivity?

Once you’ve figured out what scent to use, how do you infuse aromas onto print? There are two common ways to do it: scented paper, or scented inks. ScentSational Technologies offers a wide range of options for infusing scents onto packaging and ads. They offer touch-activated scents and, scented inks/coatings to name a few. Sixth Scents is another scent marketing company with similar offerings.

Some printers have also started developing personalized smells for clients. Scent marketing companies can create new aromas, much in the way perfume designers do, or tweak a range of ready-made smells for custom purposes. Scents range from conventional fare like coffee and chocolate to less common scents like rotting flesh and vomit, presumably for those with...unusual enterprises.

Hearing

Paper naturally creates a broad range of sounds when ripped, folded or crumpled. Think of the sound that tissue paper makes coming out of a gift box, or the exciting sound of opening a package. People connect with these sounds, and unconsciously associate them with a feeling.

We’ve come a long way from the original singing birthday cards, which were clunky, and produced tinny sound. New technology allows us to manufacture affordable chips, speakers, and batteries that are small enough to integrate with print. Similar to incorporating the sense of smell in your print, think of how an element of sound can create a memorable experience to the reader. What kind of sound is relevant to your message and compliments your brand? Jingles are an old way to associate a pleasant tone with a brand name, but what other avenues are there for marketers?

When you let creativity take the wheel, technology will find a way. A great example are these printed Midi DJ Decks designed for DJ QBert. This perfectly demonstrates how incorporating sound with print can create truly wild interactive experiences.

Taste

Taste and smell are closely associated. Food and beverage advertisers in particular are wise to take advantage of the synaptic cross-traffic between these senses whenever possible. Anyone who crosses paths with a bakery during their walk to work can attest to the power smell has on drawing out taste memories (and tummy rumbles, too).

Finding creative ways to apply taste to paper are a gamble - chances are, no one will want to lick a direct mail flyer, just because it claims to taste like jerky. One workaround for justified consumer anxiety about licking strange objects is First Flavor’s Peel and Taste System, which involves removing a thin dissolving edible strip similar to Listerine’s Breath Strips.

Conclusion

When it comes to advertising, you can't underestimate the power of sensory branding. In future years, refinements in technology will further the perceptive dimension of products and advertisements to a more interactive experience. Associating your brand with sensory cues can bury your branding into the unconscious memory of consumers, where it can revive months or years down the road. While there is a lot of progress to be made in designing multi-sensory ad products, we’ve already come a long way, and brands should be prepared to take the opportunity seriously.

About the LD Products Team

The LD Products Team researches and writes about the ways individuals and businesses can cost-effectively utilize printer technology for improved efficiency at home and in the office. They also stay on top of the latest printing tech to provide insider information that may be valuable to consumers.

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

B2B Social Visual Storytelling on Instagram, Pinterest & Tumblr

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.

 


How to Choose the Right Hosting for Your Website

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Editor's Note: Jane Hurst is a business writer and regular OMI contributor. Today she joins us to explain the factors marketers should consider when picking the right hosting provider.

 

Having a great website is a very important step for any online business. However, choosing the right hosting is equally important: without it, your site will suffer from lag, crashes and downtime which can put a huge dent in your sales. In order to get the most out of your website, it’s vital that you find a great web host. So in this article, we’ll explain the different kinds of hosting plans you will come across, and how to choose wisely. Let’s get started!

Types of Web Hosting Platforms

There are three types of web hosting platforms:

  1. Individual Plans – Many companies will sell you a slot on servers they own and operate. This is the cheapest option, and it’s great for those who are just starting out on limited budgets. For example, an introductory package at HostGator is only $3.96 a month if you sign on for a three-year package. There are a few drawbacks: you can usually have only one domain, features may be limited, and bandwidth/data storage are lower than what you’d get on more expensive options.
  2. Dedicated Servers – These plans are much more expensive (they can be $139 or more each month), but if your business is growing, this may be a better option for you. Just make sure that your provider offers individual plans and dedicated servers so you have the option to switch if necessary.
  3. Reseller Accounts – Reseller accounts are way cheaper than dedicated servers, and in terms of functionality, they lie between individual plans and dedicated servers. With these, you can host multiple domains and websites on a single account. This is a good option for businesses that run a number of websites. You can expect to pay between $10 and $20 monthly.

What to Look for in a Hosting Plan

While you obviously need something affordable, price is not the only thing to consider when looking for a hosting plan. Free web hosts are never a good choice. Sure, they sound great, but you get a lot of on-site advertising, and not a lot of features. Other things to look for in a hosting plan include:

  • Customer Reviews – See what other users are saying about the host before you sign on and end up wasting your money. Look for multiple reviews from both current and past customers, and don’t base your judgment on a single review, positive or negative.
  • Customer Support – If the host doesn’t have great customer support, move on to one that does. You need to know that there is a dedicated staff you can depend on in case anything goes wrong. The best hosts will respond to queries 24/7, because the Internet never sleeps.
  • Storage and Bandwidth – Many plans offer unlimited disk space and bandwidth, so you probably don’t have to worry about this too much, but you still need to make sure that the host offers what you need.
  • Script Support – Make sure your host has built-in support for web scripts you will be using. For instance, if you plan on using WordPress, look for a host that makes installing the platform quick and easy. Some hosts limit MySQL databases which are necessary for running WordPress.

Know Your Hosting Needs

Once you have decided that you need a host, make sure you understand your requirements well. That way, you will know that you are not going to end up with features you will have to pay for but won’t ever use. If you don’t need WordPress, there’s no point dishing out extra money because a host will install it for you

Assess the following factors when making your decision:

  • The type of website you are building (entertainment, e-commerce, news?)
  • The need for WordPress or other common features
  • Whether you’d prefer a Linux or Windows based platform
  • Special software like Ruby, and up to date versions of special software like PHP
  • Anticipated traffic volume

Investigate Host Reliability and Uptime Guarantees

It is vital that your web host operates 24/7, and has a powerful server and stable network connection. If the score is less than 99%, you don’t want it. For obvious reasons, you should not trust what a server says about itself. You can get accurate uptime info by reading reviews, or tracking your web host with server monitor tools like Alertra.

Research Web Host Upgrading Options

Make sure that you research all of your upgrade options, because you may end up lacking what you need when you are ready to upgrade. You should have no problem using a shared web host which can handle a WordPress blog with up to 40,000 visitors monthly. But you may need more accommodation down the road, and you should have peace of mind that your host can manage the switch - if you expect to grow quickly, look for a web host that will grow with you.

Choose Hosting Based on the Site Engine

Unless you have a dedicated web design team, you’ll likely begin with a common site engine. Some hosts are better suited to these engines than others, so you can narrow down your selections by researching compatibility. For instance, WPBeginner has a great list of WordPress hosting providers, and HostingAdvice has a good list if you want to use Joombla.

Check Domain Options and Hosting Space

You should consider your host’s domain options and the size of its hosting space. Domains are cheap, and it can often be hard to have just one. In fact, a good number of site owners have more than five domains, and others have over 50. To manage this, you need more hosting space, so make sure that your hosting account will let you run multiple domains. Don’t make the mistake of signing up for a host that will only accommodate one domain.

Check Prices on Both Sign-Up and Renewal

Before you choose hosting, look at the prices for both sign-up and renewals. Sometimes web hosts suck you in with cheap sign-up rates, and then you are stuck with expensive renewal fees. This is a normal thing, but if you do your research, you can dodge this trick and avoid paying a small fortune in the long run.

Check Hosting Control Panel

A very important factor to consider before you choose a host is its control panel: it must be user-friendly and fully functional. You can use cPanel, Plesk, or a proprietary control panel such as the one used by GoDaddy. While IX Web Hosting is very inexpensive, the custom control panel is generally considered poor, and what you’ll save in money, you may pay for in the time it takes to get things done.

Conclusion:

The right web host takes a back seat to your website, runs consistently with little downtime, and adapts flexibly to your needs as your business expands. Hopefully this article has given you an idea what to look for, and what to take account of so you can find a host that will put your website first, and create a smooth experience for your company and visitors.

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Building Digital Destinations & Customer Experience

B2B Website Design

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.

 


Infographic: How to Get Sales with Facebook Advertising

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Editor's Note: Ted Chong is a Business IT expert and director at Ice Cube Marketing, where this infographic was first published. Today he joins to share his insight on using Facebook advertising to generate leads.

 

It’s statistically safe to assume you are a Facebook user and you don't buy every single item advertised on the social media platform. In fact, you may not have ever purchased something advertised on Facebook. This is largely because, although it presents an incredible opportunity for targeted marketing, many companies fail to use Facebook effectively by correctly tailoring their ads to an ideal audience.

Advertisers sometimes forget that Facebook is primarily a social network, rather than a commercial platform. As advertisers competing in a content barrage with endless cat videos and selfies, we need all the tricks we have to stand out.

In this infographic, we summarize the most important factors in Facebook advertising. By following good strategy, you can take advantage of Facebook's diverse audience, and reach the people who matter most.

Here are some key takeaways:

  • When choosing your audience, remember that Facebook has more data about them than you can imagine. Make sure you go beyond broad interests, and select nuanced criteria.
  • The best results on Facebook occur with low-commitment, foot-in-the-door offers with subsequent upsells. For the B2B market, free demo/consultations/eBooks/trials work very well. For B2C, events/workshops/samples/discounts/contests can do magic.
  • In your ads, using feeble words just doesn't cut it. Use power words that short-circuit the brain and demand attention.
  • If you hope to generate leads, go for website clicks or conversions as objectives that Facebook's algorithm can optimize for.

 

fb101

A case scenario: I gave away a free SEO checklist to my audience and it attracted around 200 opt-ins from Facebook. Some of them ended up buying my service, and I made 3-4 times my adspend - not to mention that I got to build my email list at the same time!

There's no one-size-fits-all foolproof strategy. Everything from your offers to your ads hinge on your audience's wants and needs; the winner is the one who understands her audience better than her competitors. By taking the time to learn, strategize and focus your criteria, Facebook advertising can be a very lucrative boost to your business.

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Facebook Advertising and Targeting

Fundamentals of Facebook Marketing

7 Elements of Highly Effective Facebook Marketing

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.

 


5 Easy Ways to Find The Right Keywords For Ads

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Editor's Note: Roy Dopaishi writes about content marketing and advertising for Paidtraffic. Today, he joins us to share the best methods for finding great keywords to use in content and PPC campaigns.

 

An AdWords campaign is driven by keyword research. Target the right keywords, and your ads appear at just the right moment when prospects are searching for the products and services your business offers. But if you target keywords that are too broad or narrow, you run the risk of failing to reach customers and wasting your adspend.

This is why it’s so important to identify the right keywords before launching your campaign. But what’s the best way to do it?

There are many tools to help you with this vital task. Google’s Keyword Planner is often cited as a useful start - in addition to giving keyword ideas, it uses analytics to make predictions and improve suggestions.

The problem with Google’s tool is that thousands of others use it, so there will most likely be plenty of competition for your target keywords. Relying solely on this tool also restricts your reach, as it only provides limited keyword samples.

Fortunately, there are many other methods of finding the right keywords to target. Implementing these can give your AdWords campaign a major competitive advantage, since most advertisers don't bother. Let’s get started!

  1. Question and Answer Sites

Quora is an excellent way to find common questions that prospects are asking.

A search for “kitchen remodeling” yields the following results:

quorasample

Browsing through Quora results provides rich keyword suggestions that you may have otherwise missed. These queries can then be plugged into Keyword Planner to generate even more ideas.

For example: if your business does kitchen renovations, then after reading related conversations, you might include keywords such as “cost of kitchen remodel” or “finance a kitchen remodel” in your ad groups. These are also excellent topics to create blog posts around.

Yahoo Answers is another popular question and answer site you can use to find keyword ideas.

  1. Google Keyword Suggestions

When typing in a search query, Google displays keyword suggestions in the search box.

keywordsuggestions

This is another way to find related keyword ideas based on your initial search query. Entering in different letters of the alphabet displays additional results. However, typing in each letter and copying the results can be rather tedious.

KeywordTool.io is a free keyword research tool that uses Google Autocomplete and other search engines including YouTube and Amazon to generate a comprehensive list of keywords. This tool parses the results so you can easily select relevant keywords and export them to a spreadsheet.

keywordtool

Here is an example of Google Autocomplete results:

autocomplete

And results from Amazon:

amazonresults

One thing to keep in mind is keyword intent and type. Simply adding every single keyword to your ad groups is a recipe for disaster. Instead, think about the intention behind your keywords and whether they apply to your business.

  1. Competition Research

There is one source you should never overlook: your competitors.

Competitors in your industry are more than likely using AdWords to bid on relevant keywords, so keeping an eye on your competitors can provide additional keyword ideas. Identify competitors by searching for your target keywords and entering their URLs into SEMrush.

Here is an overview of top organic keywords for trekkinghero.com:SEMrush

And top paid keywords:

SEMrushtop

 

Note that the tool only provides limited keyword data. To see a full report, you need a paid subscription to the site, but you can perform basic keyword research for free.

  1. LSI Keywords

Search engines are getting increasingly sophisticated.

LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords are phrases semantically related to your main keywords. For instance, if a page contains keywords like “Apple”, “Macbook”, and “computer”, Google knows the page is about technology rather than fruit, and won't deliver it to the wrong people.

Use tools like LSIGraph to generate a list of LSI keywords:

LSIGraph

These keywords can not only be added to your campaign, but included within the content on your page to help it rank better in organic search results.

  1. Your Own Search Data

If you have a Google AdWords campaign running, then you already have potentially valuable keyword data at your fingertips.

You can view actual search terms that have triggered your ads from the Campaigns menu. Simply click the “Keywords” tab, and then click the “Search terms” button:

adwordsmenu

 

The Search Terms report shows queries that are triggering your ads.

This information is valuable for two reasons, as you can:

  • Identify search terms with high profit potential
  • Identify irrelevant terms to add as negative keywords

Be sure to regularly comb through your own data to find more valuable keywords to add to your PPC campaign.

Conclusion

Finding the right keywords is essential to gain measurable results, and it doesn’t take much effort. Less than half an hour of your time can dramatically increase the effectiveness of your ads, so there simply are no downsides to doing the research. Take advantage of your new knowledge, gain an edge on your competitors, and get started today!

Learn more with these related OMI classes:

Fundamentals of Measuring Search ROI

Creating and Curating Content People Love

SEO For Business Owners

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.

 


How Storyteller Marketing Can Build Your Brand

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Editor’s note: Josh R Jackson is contributing editor at BestMarketingDegrees.org, where an earlier version of this piece first appeared.

 

People would rather be told a story than be told what to do.

That’s why instead of shelling out for traditional advertisements that simply tell us what to buy, organizations from almost every industry have also been using storyteller marketing to frame their purpose, scope, and reach. This is showing rather than telling, and it just so happens that more industries than usual are using this method today, from automotive, to education, to online media, to manufacturing, to construction.

Why? Because good marketing is storytelling. In drafting a message, marketers intrinsically testify to a brand’s value for its audience. Simply put: every time a brand markets something to us, they are telling and selling us a story that is meant to persuade us that their brand is worth our time, money, and attention.

Brands also engage in storyteller marketing because the practice is one of the best, most surefire ways to build brand identity, and secure the trust of discriminating prospects.

So how can your brand harness the power of storyteller marketing? The answer is simple: understand and imitate the greatest minds in storyteller marketing history, and take a page out of their books.

Book 1: The Bill Gates Story

On January 3rd, 1996—over a year after the Internet was privatized—Bill Gates published a column on Microsoft’s website, decreeing “Content is King.” In what would only take a few short scrolls, Gates declared (in “Hear ye, Hear ye” fashion) that the Internet would soon become a boon to publishers everywhere, predicting that on the information superhighway, the value of “information and entertainment” would reign supreme, and that “Those who succeed [at monetizing its value] will propel the Internet forward as a marketplace of ideas, experiences, and products—a marketplace of content.”

What happened over the next 20 years bore out his prophecy. While the private Internet initially served as a two-dimensional billboard for advertisements that were based predominantly in brick-and-mortar businesses, it soon became a multi-dimensional space for the exchange of goods, services, and ideas: an online marketplace based on the concept of creating a global village where any transaction could take place.

The takeaway? Like Gates, pay attention to cultural trends that your brand can not only participate in, but drive. Write strong opinions that are based on the direction your brand is pushing the market, and work to ensure that your brand is consistently pushing the market in that direction—not just through marketing, but through investment and action.

The reason Bill Gates seemed to predict the future in 1996 is not because he was a prophet, but because he worked to tell and sell a story that many people at the time either believed or were already working to make a reality. Gates saw that the market was headed for the industry of communication and technology, and explained that direction in terms that anyone could understand. Then he worked tirelessly to ensure that story became a reality: Microsoft was an early adopter of the World Wide Web, and used the platform to build a website rich with content to promote both their products and their brand.

Book 2: The Content Marketing Story

A few years after Bill Gates’ declaration of the content monarchy, banner advertising gave way to paid content, while new and complex software became a hot commodity. Online businesses were starting to need people who could explain the purpose of their product, software, or service to those who weren’t tech-savvy. They started needing people to tell their stories, and they started needing a new medium with which to do it.

What they got initially was news coverage, like a CBS story from 2005 on a little startup called Facebook. Along with Google, Facebook quickly became one of the largest Internet companies in the world, and a medium that online brands would find indispensable for spreading their story.

Online businesses began to hire full-time, in-house brand managers to explain the value of their company. Creative role titles like Chief Storyteller, Explainer in Chief, and Content Manager were coined to refer to someone who tells a company story. It would be the job of these professional explainers to condense and simplify a company’s message into a few short sentences that were so easy to understand, even a five year old could get it.

The takeaway? Use every medium you can to tell your brand story. If budget permits, hire talent to accomplish this. That talent doesn’t have to be a seasoned storyteller with degrees in journalism, new media, and marketing—they just need to be a clear communicator.

The reason brands need this level of media engagement and talent is not only to earn a seat at the table. It is because, as communications guru Carmine Gallo has written, “no rhetorical tool is more effective than the story,” which means that working to spread a brand story with maximal talent carries a guaranteed return on investment.

Book 3: The Revolutionary Story

Five years after Facebook, four years after Twitter, and the same year as Instagram entered the scene, an industry had grown up that fed demand for creating and telling a brand’s story. By 2013, even small startups were grooming themselves to join the ranks of new media publishing companies that were participating in what has been called the “content marketing revolution”: the marketing movement in which storytellers have come to play the most important role, telling an informative story with every word, image, and video on this side of the screen.

As Alexander Jutkowitz tells it, this movement “signals more than a mere fad.” Indeed, it is a turn of the page to “a new chapter in the history of business communications,” the new chapter of “corporate enlightenment.”

The takeaway? Telling brand stories has become an art form. Do it in a way that places your brand firmly within the context of broader social, political, and ethical movements. Do it in a way that is artistically relevant.

The reason this type of marketing works is not because “all the cool kids are doing it.” If it were, all brands would be the same, and arguably none of them would be cool.

Storyteller marketing works because we’ve entered a new era of marketing history, and it’s become necessary for every brand to illustrate that it is different. A brand must prove itself to be more socially, politically, and ethically aware of its surroundings than its competitors are, or might have been in a previous day and age.

So What’s the Big Story?

The art of telling a brand story has become not only popular, but essential to surviving as a business in the twenty-first century.

The rest, as they say, is history.

How will you tell your brand’s story? Consider taking stock of your brand’s purpose, scope, and reach, and take a class on what makes for an effective storytelling strategy.

Learn more with these related OMI classes: 

Storytelling in the Digital Age

Best Digital Branding Practices for Small Businesses

Creating and Curating Content People Love

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space.

 


Top 10 Ways to Boost Your Paid Traffic Conversion Rates

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So you’ve got your Google AdWords or other PPC advertising up and running, but now what? Unfortunately, the work is far from over if you want to achieve optimum results.

In fact, the hard slog begins as soon as your campaign goes live. By this we mean optimization. More specifically, conversion rate optimization (CRO). And when it comes to perfecting your paid traffic, there’s always room for improvement.

What is CRO and why is it so important?

So you might be getting the traffic, but what good is that if you’re not generating any decent leads yet? CRO is about changing things up on your site and applying different tactics to enhance the user experience, and ultimately turn visitors into customers. It’s an effective way to improve your conversion rate without having to increase your overall adspend.

Over to our proven top 10 CRO tips.

1. Match your message

It’s absolutely imperative your ads align with what’s marketed on your website. Be genuine and don’t make overzealous claims about your product or service that could mislead your visitors.

Make sure the landing page you’re sending them to has the content they’re looking for. High bounce rates can account for visitors clicking through from your ad, only to be presented with a landing page that doesn’t deliver the goods.

2. Optimizing your Landing Page?

bounce-rate

The readability and relevance of your landing page is another big factor that can determine whether your visitors stay or jump ship.

What kind of user experience are you creating for your visitors once they click through to your landing page? On a very basic level, landing page optimization can be boiled down to 2 key factors - matching intent and testing different ad sets.

Check out this class to learn more about optimizing your landing page to improve conversion.

3. Tweak your headline

As in other forms of advertising, your headline is the attention grabber. So take the time to refine your hook. Adding numbers to a headline is always a useful trigger, but make sure they are relevant.

4. Review your call to action (CTA)

Just as important as your headline is your CTA. Ensure you are clear and direct about the desired outcome. What is it that you want your visitors to do? The copy and design of your CTA can make a big difference to your conversions. If you have a text link CTA, consider using a button to make it stand out more. Creating a sense of urgency in your copy will also go a long way.

5. Add videos and images

The buzzword for 2016 was video and this still holds true. Including a video on your landing page is more likely to spur interest and engagement from your visitors than text. Among the different types of videos, Introductory, review and explainer videos tend to provide good results.

Don’t overlook image selection either. Choosing the right image can evoke the kind of emotions that will turn visitors into customers. On the flip side, the wrong image might send them off in the opposite direction. Never underestimate the power of an image!

6. The proof is in the social pudding

We all love a recommendation - it’s why word of mouth is so effective, followed closely by social proof. Including proof of your brand likes, shares, customer reviews, testimonials and product ratings will influence purchase decisions, and also build trust.

7. Speed up your site

It’s the little things that count. Site speed can make a huge difference, so you should at least check to ensure your website is running at its best. No one wants to visit a site that takes ages to load - who has time for that? You can lose dozens of prospective customers thanks to a few milliseconds of lag.

8. Show your scarcity

For e-commerce sites in particular, scarcity is a powerful tactic. Including the limited number of stock available for certain products will create a sense of urgency for a visitor, and instigate an immediate purchase response. Why would they want to miss out if there’s only “2 left in stock” or if you’re running a limited time deal?

9. Include contact information

Prominently including a phone number, email address or other means of contact on your homepage adds more credibility to your site. Just knowing they can talk to a real person if they need to makes visitors feel more comfortable and raises trust of your products/services.

10. Test it out & analyse

You won’t know what works best unless you test. Running A/B split tests on important variables like your landing page copy, sign up forms, color palette, images and CTA will help towards improving your conversions.

Heat maps are also a great way to understand what attracts your visitors’ attention, by clearly showing where their eyes are drawn on a page. Based on the data you receive from a heat map, you can add or remove details from your page accordingly.

We don’t suggest you start implementing all of these tactics at once; you may find that one small change will go a long way. This is where it’s handy to have a dedicated Google AdWords expert to advise you on best CRO strategy can be helpful. Whatever you do we hope these tips will help pave the way to higher conversion rates for your campaigns!

A version of this article first appeared on Paidtraffic

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Here are some relevant classes: Turn Website Visitors into Customers via Conversation OptimizationCreating and Curating Content People Love, Social PR

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space. Ready to start learning? Sign up here!

 


8 Tools for Managing Your Online Presence

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In order to be a digital marketing success, you must understand how to build your online presence. Why does that matter?

Without a good presence, it’s difficult to prepare your prospects for a sales pitch. After putting hours of hard work into building an online business, you want to make a great impression, and convert your leads into customers. But there's no need to go it alone: this list of tools will help increase your online presence, and boost success in your marketing efforts. Let’s get started!

1. Cyfe

Cyfe is an all-in-one dashboard for social media, analytics, marketing, sales, support, infrastructure, and a whole lot more. You can use this app to monitor all of your business data in one convenient location. Features include the ability to monitor individual departments and multiple websites, pre-built widgets, custom data sources, real-time reporting, historical data, data exports and interface customization. Users can set up dashboards from scratch using pre-built and custom widgets. To gain a better sense of how it works, check out this example of a Cyfe-powered web analytics dashboard. This tool will help you not to waste time and energy tracking data, so you can worry about the more important aspects of your business.

2. Brand24

If you want to know what people are saying about your brand, this tool is just what you need. Brand24 will immediately notify you of any online mentions so you can reach out to sales prospects, brand champions and disgruntled customers right away. Learn what people are really saying about your brand and use this information to improve on anything that isn’t working well, so you can improve your bottom line. Brand24 is also a great way to find publicity opportunities, and learn what your competitors are up to.

3. Wisestamp

Wisestamp generates professional email signatures that can help to grow your business. More than 650,000 professionals are using Wisestamp, and there are hundreds of signature templates to choose from. Whatever your field of work, there are enough templates, apps, and designs to find what you need to stand out and represent your business well. This tool can increase your reach across social networks, boost generated leads through the “Schedule A Meeting” app, and draw in more email replies simply by adding a photo: and this is all for free. The PRO version has even more functionality to generate clicks and website visitors

4. ClickMeeting

Webinars are a great way to generate interest for your business, and this tool enables you to create them quickly and easily. Using ClickMeeting, you can customize your webinars, analyze and follow up with attendees, and track the success of every event. These webinars can dramatically increase traffic to your site and boost sales. In conjunction with ClickMeeting, you can use your social media accounts as channels to keep traffic coming to your website, generate leads, and get your business more sales. While you have to pay for indefinite access, there’s also a considerable free trial period without any contracts. You have nothing to lose, and a whole lot to gain, so get started today and get those webinars out there to the world!

5. Brandwatch

Brandwatch is another tool that will give you insight into what your customers are saying about your brand, and what they want from your business. This information is invaluable for building a direct marketing strategy that will speak to your audience and raise conversions. Brandwatch gives you instant access to customer conversations as they occur, so you are always up-to-date on the latest trends. You will also be able to identify threats as they arise, learn how to deal with them, and react smartly to anything that might impact your business. While the service is not cheap (starting at $500), it easily pays for itself depending on the size of your business, and if you aren’t sure, a free demo can help to assess whether it's right for you.

6. Kissmetrics

This tool allows you to segment your audience so you can target visitors by how they got to your site. Using Kissmetrics, you can set triggers to engage with customers based on their actions, and choose the behavior that visitors should display before you bother showing them your campaign. This process helps to identify and target viable prospects while weeding out those who just aren’t interested. Kissmetrics is easy to use, and provides five design templates to jumpstart your optimization. You can visit the site to request a demo and see for yourself how automated segmentation can help your business.

7. OptinMonster

If you want to convert website visitors into email subscribers, you need to start using this tool: OptinMonster allows you to create and A/B test awesome lead capture forms without having to bother with a developer, and the lead generation software will bring big results quickly. Features include the OptinMonster Builder, multiple form types, exit Intent technology, A/B split testing, page level targeting, and built-in analytics just to name a few. This tool works with all major email marketing services, as well as CMS and eCommerce platforms. Everything you need to grow an email list can be found right here, and it will only take you a few minutes to build high converting forms instead of several hours.

8. Mention

Use Mention to monitor your online presence from any location. You will enjoy real-time monitoring of brand mentions from social media and around the web. Track all of the important outlets including social media, blogs, forums, and more, so you can really focus on your brand and learn about your competitors. This tool will help you to attract new customers, build awareness, and improve your overall online reputation while allowing you to engage your audience and react to mentions right away. This tool will help you to handle a crisis when it arises, create reports, study your competition, and a whole lot more. Mention has iPhone and Android apps, and prices start at $29 a month.

Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Here are some relevant classes: Social Media Marketing Best Practices for SMBsEmail Newsletter Foundations: A Roadmap for SuccessCrisis Management with Social Media

Visit the Online Marketing Institute to browse over 400 classes in the digital and social media marketing space. Ready to start learning? Sign up here here!