Category Archives: Online Advertising

What is the SSL Effect on SEO?

In August, Google announced that having a HTTPS site will help your site’s SEO. Further information revealed that this new SSL ranking signal would be slightly less significant compared to quality content. In response to this announcement, Raven Tools co-founder Jon Henshaw has encouraged internet marketers to test this switch before jumping into a fully HTTPS site.

Making the transition from HTTP to HTTPS is not as simple as adding an extra letter to the URL. It requires adding a SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), which is generally found on e-commerce sites or others that offer secure transaction pages. Switching a site to HTTPS has some heavy SEO obstacles.

Henshaw gives nine steps to follow in transitioning a WordPress site to HTTPS. Outside of the difficulty of obtaining private keys and certificates, there are a number of other obstacles to hurdle over in maintaining SEO. It’s important to first understand that HTTP sites and an HTTPS sites are considered to be different sites, not extensions of one another. Next is the need to redirect traffic from the old HTTP site to the new HTTPS site. Enter the wonderful process of de-indexing. The old HTTP pages will need to be removed, which luckily, Google will do once your new redirects are set up. This will take care of the regular HTTP, or non-secure, pages.

One last tip from Henshaw is that he doesn’t recommend switching to an HTTPS site if your site is performing well and bringing in a large volume of conversions. This secure site SEO factor is another best practice to be added to a lengthy list that online marketers need to address, or at the very least be aware of.

What does this mean for your site?

Don’t panic if your site is not entirely HTTPS. As with many other changes to SEO best practices, which change constantly, you won’t want to jump straight on the wagon. Take some time to evaluate the process involved in switching from a site in HTTP to HTTPS. Make sure any kinks are worked out of the process if you decide to switch. Have a plan of action (see above steps from Jon Henshaw). How intensive will it be for your site? If your website is new, you may want to go ahead and start the transition as this change would be easier to make, and you won’t have to make the change once your site is established in organic Google searches.

I agree with Henshaw when he makes a point about successful sites with high traffic and goal completions not needing to make an immediate switch. Though being proactive is not a bad thing:

  • Are you creating a new signup feature? Make sure it is secure.
  • Are all of your e-commerce transaction pages already HTTPS? If not, that’s a change you need to make.

How does SSL effect SEO?Security needs for your site are directly related to how much information you are collecting. If the main goal of your site is only to push content, you have much less of a need for security additions; however, if you are collecting a range of personal information or credit card info, you absolutely need secure pages.

Be sure to watch your website’s statistics in the coming months. Is there suddenly a sustained loss in organic traffic? Have you noticed a dip in overall site performance? If you are having these issues, it would be worth evaluating the switch to HTTPS.

Image Source URL: http://www.softsystemsolution.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/HTTPS-Secure-Socket-Layer.png

3 Ways to Tell a Marketing Company is Smoke and Mirrors

Smoke - Mirrors_700There are a lot of reasons for a business to outsource online marketing duties. Whether it is manpower, talent or the idea of the Google algorithm that makes your brain want to explode, we get it. But before you sign on the dotted line, do your homework.

There are some marketing companies out there who do a good job of using confusing jargon and the phrase “we’re working on behind the scenes stuff, you don’t need to worry about that” to glaze over a client’s eyes. When you hire a marketing firm, you should be hiring into a partnership. You should expect the same type of communication and back and forth that you would get from your employees. Here are three ways to tell that the marketing company you’re working with is all about the smoke and mirrors.

  1. They talk in code (sometimes literally). Reading a report from your marketing company shouldn’t require Rosetta Stone. Sure, there are some terms that marketers might need to throw out here and there, but they should also come with an explanation. If your reports appear to be written in Sanskrit with no translation, someone might be pulling the wool over your eyes.
  2. Everything is a secret. You hired the firm and you should expect transparency. These are your dollars being spent, so you should be privy to how many hours you are being billed for, how long certain projects take, and what end product you received. And speaking of projects, don’t be afraid to ask for a project timeline or how the company tracks and bills work hours.
  3. There are no numbers to back up the results. “The campaign is doing great! You should be seeing leads now. Your phone must be ringing off the hook!” Those things very may well be happening, but are they the result of the work of your marketing company? Your monthly reports should come with real numbers … numbers that you have access to view using a Google Analytics account. The great thing about web marketing is that just about any click on your site, email blast, or PPC ad can be tracked. Ask for numbers and educate yourself by taking a high level crash course on Google Analytics (shameless plug, something that TKG offers periodically).

Just remember, before you sign into a marketing contract, ask some questions. Learn up front what kind of reports you can anticipate seeing and don’t be afraid to ask them to cut the jargon!

Image Credit

5 Ways to Take Your Instagram Account to the Next Level

So you’re using Instagram for your business. Good idea! Instagram, like Pinterest, is doing wonderful things visually for businesses and brands.

But to really stand out from the crowd, it’s not enough to simply snap a photo, slap a filter on it and hope for the best. In fact, this approach has the potential to harm your brand more than help it. Remember, you’re competing for “double taps” (Likes) along with professional photographers, celebrities, and brands that aren’t afraid to go to extremes.

So here are 5 ways to take your Instagram account to the next level.

  1. Include your account in your content calendar

To make the biggest impact with Instagram, always incorporate your images as a part of your regular content calendar. While one-off, spontaneous photos are always an option with the platform, having at least a general idea of the kind of content you want to post will help direct and guide your photographers throughout a week or month.

Take, for example, Saturday Night Live’s Instagram account. During the week, they take photos of the general arc of the show: first big pitch meetings, then writers working hard on sketches, then costumes and sets in progress, then celebrity rehearsal sightings. Come Saturday night, it’s all behind the scenes photos of performers running backstage, changing costumes, or joking around between sketches. All day Sunday they post follow up photos of big moments backstage, after party candids, or what performers do on their day off.

nbcsnl

Your business may not have a similar weekly arc, but you likely have certain sales cycles, big events or other promotional efforts that you can align content around.

  1. Use the advanced editing tools

Anyone can take any old photo and choose a filter, but to truly make photos outstanding, it behooves you to use the advanced editing tools first before using filters.

To use these tools, simply click the wrench after taking or choosing your photo from your library. Many of the adjustments available here can either fix minor flaws (low light), enhance detail, or make colors pop.

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  1. Use other apps to add a different dimension to your product or brand

If you want to add something outside the Instagram “norm” to your photos, you’ll need to edit or enhance through other apps. Aviary, Camera+, Afterlight and Snapseed bring even more advanced editing options to the table. PicStitch, WordSwag, FontCandy and Party! Party! are fun apps to bring photos together, add text or easily create .gifs. You’ll need to edit or deck out photos in these apps first, then send to Instagram.

youcan_run

  1. Use video to tease other content or showcase products or services beyond stills

Instagram offers the use of up to 15 seconds of video on the platform. Some of the best uses of video are often when teasing or promoting other content (giving a short clip of a story to promote an upcoming podcast) or showcasing something that just can’t be shown in a still photo (acro yoga or hand-balancing to promote an upcoming class). Video is a powerful tool on Instagram; think carefully through how you can use video to enhance what you’re already doing with photos.

beachyogagirl

  1. Monitor analytics

There’s no point in putting in all the work into any content without determining if it’s actually effective. While you could splurge on a robust tool like Simply Measured, some free tools can give great insights into how photos are performing on the platform. Iconosquare (formerly Statigram), is a free tool that gives insight into follower engagement, spread rate, filter and hashtag impact and account growth. You can use other tools like Klout to cross reference which content seems to be resonating best with your audience, as well.

filter_impact

Once you are monitoring your Instagram content regularly, adjust your tactical approach as necessary. If fans are responding well to certain filters or hashtags add more into the mix, while phasing out content that has lower likes or engagement.

And of course, never be afraid to try something new and creative by showcasing your brand, product or service from a unique angle. Instagram users are hungry for great content to consume and tell their friends about!

5 Un-Tapped Content Resources in Your Own Business

We get it. Sometimes content creators are departments of one. Even if you have a few more on your team, constantly creating new content can be a challenge for small marketing and content departments.

Fortunately for smaller departments, it’s likely that you have untapped content resources right in your own business. Here are five you can seek out today:

  1. Your Boss

    What vision does your CEO, boss or founder have for your company this year? In five years? In ten? What did he or she dream about before taking this role or position? What does he or she believe will never change about the core values of your company?It might be difficult to get a fresh blog post from a busy supervisor or leader each week, but think of creative ways you can use your boss’ voice in your communication with your customers. Key leaders within your company likely have a bigger picture of your products or services. How can you use this picture to supplement your content?

  1. Your Co-Workers

    Whether you simply highlight your co-workers in an employee spotlight feature, or whether you identify natural content creators in other departments, your fellow employees can be a great help in your content efforts.We often conduct content ideation sessions with a cross-section of employees from the entire company. We’ve found that while marketers have their finger on the pulse of company messaging, other employees bring a unique perspective of the company based on their day to day dealings with customers, other employees or your product and service. How does your administrative assistant view the company? How about one of your repairmen who takes customer calls?

    These individuals are key components to how your company runs, and can bring ideas you may not have thought of to your content offerings.

  1. Your Customers

    We often advocate on TKGenius that you poll your customers to get content ideas, or even ask your customers to supply you with content themselves. So, how are they using your product? Are they taking photos of themselves getting a haircut in your salon? Did they recently enjoy one of your events and tell their friends about it on Social Media?Not only will your customers give you great ideas for content, they are often great content creators without even knowing it. One of our clients asks customers to submit photos of themselves or their children enjoying the brand’s snack foods, then features these customers on their Facebook page. These posts are always fun, and are often the most liked and shared on the page. All the administrator needs to do is post the photo and write a quick caption.

    Bottom line: your customers can save you time and give you the inside scoop on which content best suits them.

  1. Your History

    #tbt! Does your company keep copies of old newsletters? What about old photos, past versions of your products or old videos? All of this content can be resurrected to serve your current content efforts.For example, one of our clients has been in business for over 100 years. We regularly help them publish their vintage advertising campaigns, past photos and previous product iterations on both Social Media and their website. Customers appreciate these glimpses into the past, because they know they’re getting a quality product with a long history of success.

  1. Your Processes Your Processes

    How are your products made? Are there aspects of your production you could show customers? What about how you take calls? What part of “behind the scenes” might your customers like to know and understand? Do you have an interesting inter-office culture you could showcase? What about a specific event or charity your employees like to support?Transparency, when possible, is a powerful way to build trust with your customers. While you may not be able to show exactly how a product makes it from point A to point B, you might be able to show what it looks like when you pack a box to ship, or how a salesperson greets a customer.

    One of our clients will sometimes show through photos what a window installation looks like on a home. Customers appreciate this insight of the service because it both shows how knowledgeable our client is, and takes some of the mystery out of the service itself.

    Want more ideas on how to generate content for your business? Sign-up for our next Breakfast Bootcamp on Content Ideation!

    photo source

SMX East 2014 – The Value Part 2

SMX East LogoSMX East has come and gone and as The Value Part 1 promised in June, we’re back from the event and ready to evaluate! Our goal is to help you decide whether to attend in 2015.

Over the course of three days, I attended 12 sessions devoted to various aspects of online marketing. Fellow TKG marketer, Kyle Crocker, attended 12 separate sessions. If a third member of the TKG team would have attended, they too, could have attended 12 completely different sessions. Topics included competitive research, remarketing, keyword research, Bing advertising, link building, structured data, and more.

As a recap, here’s what we hoped to gain from attending this year:

  • Actionable Ideas
  • Latest Online Marketing Trends
  • B2B and Small Business Insights

Each item will be rated on a scale of 1-5.

Actionable Ideas (4 out of 5)

During the three days, I jotted down five full pages of notes. The more action items I can come away with, the better the show and SMX East did not disappoint! I have designated 27 bullets from my notes as needing specific action for clients. For perspective, when I attended Internet Retailer years ago, I came back with about half as many action items. Several of the sessions also included links to recommended tools, both free and paid, that assist with analytics, competitive research, and social monitoring.

Online Marketing Trends (5 out of 5)

SMX East had entire sessions devoted to specific topics online marketers should be familiar with regarding current online marketing trends. A few I really enjoyed include:

  • Structured Data
  • Hummingbird and the Google Knowledge Graph
  • Remarketing

While none of these topics are considered cutting edge overall, there are plenty of specific elements within the more broad discussions that were brand new to me.

B2B and Small Business Insights (3 out of 5)

This was the one area where SMX East was a little lacking.  There were very few examples during show targeted specifically toward B2B websites or small businesses. Instead, many of the speakers were from large agencies using examples of what they were able to accomplish with budgets much larger than a small business would be able to invest. Fortunately, many of the sessions focused on general tips and tricks that apply to any website. Principles such as keyword research, link building, and competitive analysis can be easily scaled up or down depending on resources.

Closing Thoughts

Hearing Danny Sullivan, Founding Editor of Search Engine Land, respond to questions from the audience was a highlight of the show. He’s very well respected in our industry and has his finger on the pulse of all things digital.

Overall, I recommend SMX East for anyone interested in staying sharp on the latest SEO and SEM trends. If you are responsible for digital marketing at your company, I highly recommend attending SMX East in 2015.

Image Credit

5 Unique Ways to Jump Start Content Creation

Maybe you’re neck deep in creating your 2015 content calendar, or maybe you’re creating a calendar for the first time. Either way, mapping out content for six months to a year can be a daunting task (here’s hoping you’re not trying to get it done in one fell swoop!).

As you look for inspiration to plan and create your content, it’s easy to run out of ideas, especially when you are immersed in the day to day activities of your brand and business.

Here are five unique ways to jumpstart your content creation when things start to feel a little rote and routine.

  1. Move
    Research shows that movement and exercise helps boost creativity. So when was the last time you got up from your desk and walked around your office? Take time to notice things around your business that seem interesting.Are there facts about your building or physical structure your audience might find interesting? What about people in your organization that are new that you could profile? Or does your company have employees that have worked for a record amount of time? Does your business have a specific culture? Special days, holidays, or employee milestones you observe?

    Not only will getting up from your area help get the blood flowing to your brain, it will help you notice things about your business you would never see from your office.

  1. Use Your Audience
    If you are not mining your audience for content, you are missing a huge opportunity to not only connect with them, but to also create content you know will land and resonate. Informal Social Media polls, your audience’s frequently asked questions, and even more formal surveys help to give you better insight into the kind of content they want to consume.If your audience is particularly creative or active on Social Media, you can ask them to contribute their content directly to you in the form of a contest (Instagram is a great medium for this tactic), or simply as a way to highlight how they are enjoying your product or service.
  1. Mind Map
    Content Ideas - Mind Mapimage source 

    I still regularly mind map for clients, friends and even myself if I want new ideas or a new perspective on a topic or problem. Mind mapping is particularly effective if you are looking to create new categories for content.The best thing about mind mapping, though, is that it’s a simple exercise to complete on your own or with a group. If using a group, invite people outside of your content department to join you…you never know what perspectives about your business they can bring!

  1. Re-Purpose
    No need to re-invent the wheel if you already have a great cache of content. Instead, go back through some of your most popular pieces of content and determine if you can present the content again in a new and fresh way. Can a great blog post be turned into a script for a new video? Can a popular video be re-imagined into an infographic? Can an informative infographic be the basis for a new white paper?Use your imagination and see how you can present content that worked in your past as content that works in your future.
  1. Get Inspired
    That’s right, Pinterest ain’t just for weddings! Keep boards full of photos, articles and videos that inspire you. Pin what your competitors are pinning. Follow your competitors and other companies in your niche or industry.Already Pinterest addicted? Use tools like Feedly to keep tabs on industry articles, blogs and keywords. Or use your walls or whiteboards to gather great photos. And of course, don’t shy away from simply taking in a great concert, art show or inspirational video. Sometimes our brains just need a taste of someone else’s creativity to spark our own.

    Want more help creating great content for your business? Check out our upcoming Breakfast Bootcamps!

Don’t Be Content With Your Traditional Content

So what is content, anyway?

And I’m not talking about the state of peaceful happiness and satisfaction. Though, I suppose good content should support that.

Content has been the buzzword of the marketing world lately, as the businesses and brands work to better engage with their audience.

Recently I spent the better part of a week with about 2,600 marketers from around the country who are all working to get better at content marketing. Content Marketing World, a conference developed by the Content Marketing Institute, is the largest event of its kind and seeks to educate marketers and continue to advance the industry.

I could have asked each person at the conference to define content and received a different answer. In my eyes, therein lies the key to developing great content.

It comes in many different forms and is consumed in many different forms. And there isn’t one right answer in how to do it well.

Among several quotes that stuck with me from CMWorld came from Scott Stratten, the president of UnMarketing, in his keynote talk: “Sometimes content is just giving a damn.”

Well, duh, right?

As easy as it sounds, it’s really a fundamental switch from brands just talking at their audience. Or toward their audience. Or kindof near their audience. Or, let’s face it, throwing something out there and hoping it sticks with their audience.

Stratten’s keynote drove home the message that good content needs to be a dialogue between a brand and a consumer. It needs to connect with your audience on a personal level and start a meaningful dialogue that isn’t necessarily about selling your product. It comes down to understanding your customer’s needs – and remembering that your product isn’t the solution – what your product does is the solution.

Gone are the days of traditional marketing, where strategies focused on print or broadcast media. Effective marketing now needs to occur across multiple platforms, be customized to your audience and delivered fast. And, above all, it needs to be accurate.

Audiences are looking for a relevant conversation (umm, content!) about your product that means something to them. Great content can allow you to connect with your audience in a way that is practical and engaging without needing to sell them. “Every occasion isn’t a selling occasion,” Stratten said.

With my journalism background, his message particularly resonated with me because it isn’t far from that world. Marketing shouldn’t be about spin and PR. Much like journalists report the most important elements of a news story, as marketers we should report the most important elements of our brand and get that information out in a manner that is timely, effective, honest and real.

It’s as easy (and as difficult) as that.

Google AdWords: Should you use Sitelinks for your Campaigns?

I had the opportunity to chat with a Google AdWords representative this week regarding a paid campaign we’re running. While I can’t go into the details of the specific campaign, it was a good opportunity to get a refresher on some of the features that you might not always think about. One of the features we discussed was using sitelinks for your campaigns.

Let’s start with a refresher of what sitelinks are:Sitelinks

If you’re not familiar with them, you’ve probably seen these sitelinks in ads before and wondered how they got there. Well, it’s super easy. Either at the campaign or ad group level, you have the opportunity to add this feature in. It essentially doubles (or maybe quadruples, depending how you use them) the space your ad takes up, which can be really powerful for catching someone’s attention and getting the click.Extensions

When you’re looking at your campaigns, click on “Ad extensions” and then use the dropdown to select “Sitelinks Extensions”. From there, you can click the extension button button and go to town!

Google recommends adding in at least 4 extensions for your campaign or ad group and it can link to any page on your site.New Sitelink

Just like when you’re writing other ads, this is kind of like writing a mini-add for the specific page. You have the option of adding link text (25 characters), a link URL (doesn’t display, so it can be as long as it needs to be), and a description (2 lines, 35 characters each). The description is optional. The dog food ad, for example, opted not to use it, instead just letting the link text tell the story. And, you can schedule it. Maybe you only want to run sitelinks on the weekend when things are more competitive and you want that extra edge, for example.

The rep that I spoke to indicated that the use of sitelinks actually plays into the algorithm of how ads are displayed, with Google favoring sites (somewhat) that are using them. (Don’t go getting too excited! It definitely didn’t sound like sitelinks is the only way to do well in the AdWords algorithm. You still need to do all of the other things you’ve always been doing!)

And that’s where things got a little murky for me.

On the one hand the bit of an algorithm edge you might get makes deciding whether to use sitelinks a no-brainer! Of course you want any up you can get in the algorithm!

But, the more I started to think about these campaigns, I remembered that we’re also running really tight campaigns, targeted to very specific products… and there really isn’t another page that I want paid visitors to look at.  I want them to be searching for the product we are selling, and convert on that page. Sure, there are other pages on the site I could add to siteilnks (mostly other products), but that’s not what I’m trying to sell in that campaign. So… are sitelinks really a good idea for this client?

In the end I decided to pass on this feature for this client at this time. In the future we might build out additional content that would be a valuable sitelink, but for now, it simply doesn’t make sense for them.

But that’s not to say that sitelinks aren’t a valuable tool for other campaigns. What do you think? Have you used them for an AdWords campaign? How did it go? Did they improve your performance? Should I reconsider? Tell me in the comments!

On the Case: Is GoodSearch.com Legitimate?

After my research to determine if Banner Topper was a scam, I decided to keep the detective hat on and turn my attention to GoodSearch.com.good search homepage

The Question: Is GoodSearch Legitimate?

The Claim: One cent for every search you conduct using Goodsearch.com is donated to the charity of your choice.

The Catch: There are exclusions.

A quick look at the frequently asked questions section reveals a laundry list of searches that don’t contribute to your cause. Let’s run through each, along with our best guess as to what they mean:

  • Image Searches: Any search the user makes from the image search tab.
  • Video Searches: Any search the user makes from the video search tab.
  • Search this Site: Searches using the internal search on a website with a custom search box.
  • URL Searches: Search terms ending in .com, .org, .net, .edu, etc.
  • Searches for Popular Sites: Any search for a site with a well-known URL such as Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, ESPN, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc.
  • “Also Try” Searches: After a search is conducted, these are suggested terms that appear above the results with similar search phrases.
  • “Trending” Searches: After a search is conducted, these are suggested terms that appear on the left of the search results page.
  • “Related Searches: After a search is conducted, these are suggested terms that appear at the bottom the search results page.
  • Fraudulent Searches: Any searches generated from fraudulent use of the site. No further detail was provided but all search engines are faced with similar issues regarding users or bots trying to overload their systems with invalid searches.
  • Same Term Searches: A searches for the same term within a 24 hour period. Once a logged-in user searches for the term, all subsequent searches for the same term that day will not count toward the search total.

According to a GoodSearch representation, Word Definition Searches and Stock Quote Searches, which are also listed as exclusions on the FAQ page, are now valid search types.

The most concerning exclusion is “popular sites” such as Facebook. According to Google’s keyword tool, there are approximately 277,000,000 searches each month in the U.S. for Facebook. Another popular site, YouTube, receives over 83,000,000 searches a month.  GoodSearch does not publish the criteria for sites deemed as “popular” and a comprehensive list has not been provided. When asked, the GoodSearch representative noted that this exclusion includes, “the top 20 or so most popular sites.” This leaves the door open for GoodSearch to subjectively exclude any high traffic sites they choose which could dramatically decrease the volume of donations if the list grows.

Our other concern is that this search engine is powered by Yahoo. If you prefer using Google for your day-to-day searches, you’ll likely notice different types of search results that some would argue are less relevant.

Aside from the “popular sites” exclusion, GoodSearch appears to be a legitimate way for an individual to raise a modest amount of money for their preferred charity.