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Archive: Sep 2014

  1. The Top Google Search Rank Factors in 2014

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    by Ayaz Nanji

    To achieve good ranking positions in Google organic search results, publishers need to include high-quality content on pages rather than simply rely on traditional SEO tactics, according to a recent report from Searchmetrics.

    Pages that rank well tend to have a number of qualities in common, including comprehensive coverage of topics, easy-to-understand language, more images and videos, and larger word counts, according to the analysis of US organic search results for 10,000 keywords and 300,000 websites.

    However, big brand websites still rank in top positions without having to fulfill many of the criteria that Google seems to require from other sites, the analysis also found.

    Overall, the presence of relevant words on a page (i.e., not just an exact match with the search term) has the strongest correlation with positive search rank. Social signals (Google +1s, Facebook shares, Pinterest pins, tweets, etc.) also tend to have very positive impact on search rank, as does the number of backlinks.


    Below, additional key findings from the report.

    Page Content

    Google has been been tying rank on search engine results pages (SERPs) to content quality for years, and the analysis found this trend accelerated significantly with the Hummingbird algorithm update last fall.

    With a few exceptions, content factors that Google views as proxies for page depth and quality—such as sentence count—are now more highly correlated with good rankings than they were last year.

    Technology/SEO Tactics

    Google does not seem to favor pages that meet certain traditional SEO criteria, such as fast load times and short URLs, the analysis found; rather, it is the absence of those criteria that seems have a negative effect on the ranking.

    Put another way: The presence of certain factors is now a basic requirement for a ranking well, rather than an advantage over competitors.


    The presence of keywords in a site’s domain/URL has dropped from being positively correlated with search rank in 2012 to now being zero/slightly negatively correlated.

    The overuse of keywords in page content also has a negative effect on rankings. As the report puts it: “The days of ‘keyword density’ are over.”

    However, keywords do remain positively correlated with search rank in the case of headers, titles, and descriptions. They are also still valued by Google in the page body to help determine subject matter.

    About the research: The report was based on an analysis of US search results for 10,000 keywords and 300,000 websites.

  2. Three Good Reasons Why Google Authorship Still Matters

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    by Andy Crestodina

    It’s a search engine. It’s a social network. Google is a lot of things, and its parts are interconnected.

    First, some background

    The same month that the Google+ social network was launched, Google announced a new way to link writers to content they create: Google Authorship. Along with personalized search results, Authorship became a second direct connection between the social network and Google search results.

    Until June 24, 2014, on its search results pages, Google showed author pictures (taken from the Google+ profile page), the name, and the number of G+ circles the author had been added to.

    It looked like this:

    Researchers found that when an author’s picture appeared next to a search result, the clickthrough rate for the search result went up. The “rich snippet” for Authorship was increasing traffic. One study showed a lift of 35%. Authorship was suddenly a way to get more traffic from the same rankings.

    On August 28, Google removed the author’s byline as well, so that the same search result looked like this:

    No picture? No byline? Then what’s the point?

    Obviously, the interest in Authorship dropped. To most bloggers, it was all about seeing their face and name.

    But there are three good reasons to still use Authorship. They all relate to visibility.

    1. Author pictures are still there in personalized results. Anyone who is logged in and hasn’t turned off personalized search results will see your picture and byline, as long they’ve added you to a circle.
    2. Drive traffic to your Google+ profile. Creating another path from Google search to a social profile is a good thing.
    3. Author authority may eventually affect rankings. Google patented the ability to use author information as a ranking factor way back in 2005 in the now-famous “Author Rank” patent. It seems committed to using author information to determine quality. Statements from Google indicate that connecting authors to content is still its goal.

    Authorship is a digital signature. If you’re interested in personal branding or thought leadership, then you’ll want to keep signing your name. It’s good for visibility, which is good for networking.

    Google Authorship is simply best-practice for any writer. And it’s not difficult to set up.

    Here’s how to add your digital signature

    The best way to digitally sign your work is with the “two link method,” which involves linking from the authored page to your Google+ profile and vice versa.

    Note: There is also a “three link method,” but it is used mostly by large multi-author blogs. It involves linking from an authored page to an author bio page on the same site, and then from that bio page to a Google+ profile.

    There are two steps in the two-link method.

    Step 1: Link from your Google+ profile to your content

    On your  G+ “About” page, in the “Links” section, in the “Contributor to” area, add the URL for the site where your content has been published. There’s no need to link to the specific article. Just add the link for the homepage of the site. Indicate that you are a “current contributor” to the site.

    If you contribute to more that one website, add each site to this list. (Authorship is great for guest bloggers!)

    Step 2: Link from the article to your Google+ profile in your author bio

    This part is a tiny bit trickier. You’re going to link from your author bio to Google+, but you need to add a tiny bit of code to it.

    Your bio likely already has a link or two in it. One of those links is going to be to your Google+ profile.

    In the code for that link, you’re going to add a special tag: rel=”author” We’re going to add it in two places. So rather than this…

    <a href=”>Google+</a>

    The code for the link will look like this…

    <a rel=”author” href=”Google+”author”>Google+</a>

    That’s it! It didn’t hurt a bit, did it?

    Tip for WordPress users: There are plugins, such as Author Box Reloaded, that will add the markup for you. These tools also create nice author boxes that include your picture and icons for all of your social networks.

    Tip for guest bloggers: If you contribute content to other blogs, I recommend sending over the HTML for your entire bio when you submit your final draft. This is a way to make sure the tags go into the right place. It also makes it simple for the blog editor to add. Here’s an example of what that might look like:

    Andy Crestodina is a co-founder of <a href=””>Orbit Media</a>, a Web design company in Chicago. Connect with Andy on <a rel=”author” href=”” target=”_blank”>Google+</a> and <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Twitter</a>.

    Check results

    You’ll have to wait a few days to see if your name shows in personalized Google search results. To check, make sure you’re logged into Google+ and you search for the entire title of the article or a long sentence from the body text. When you see it in the search results, look for your name/link in the snippet.

    If it didn’t work, try the following:

    • Enter the address of the authored page into Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool. It should say “authorship is working for this webpage.”
    • In your “Contributor to” links, link directly to a specific post, rather that the website homepage.
    • Check the HTML for the authored page and make sure there aren’t two links with rel=”author” tags going to different locations. You can add only one digital signature!

    The future of search is social

    Google Authorship doesn’t make you rank higher. It doesn’t show your picture. But if you wrote it, why not sign your name to it?

    The Web is always becoming more personalized and more connected, and rel=”author” is one of hundreds of little tags that are changing how the Web works. If you’re a marketer, creating a direct connection between you and your content is definitely a good idea.

  3. The Five Must-Have Traits of an Optimized Business Blog

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    by Hayley Mullen

    If you’ve been following the rise of content marketing, you know that it can be a bit of a roller coaster. One minute “content is king,” and the next minute we’re fearing the “content shock” that threatens to take us all down. It’s enough to make any marketer wonder: Is content marketing worth investing in, or is it just a trend waiting to be replaced by the next big thing?

    Fear not: Content marketing is here to stay. In fact, the term “content marketing” is becoming redundant as content becomes integral to any marketing strategy.

    But with widespread adoption comes fiercer competition: The honeymoon period—when businesses could simply create great content and call it a day—is over. Good content marketing is no longer just about great content, it’s about the entire content experience you’re giving your audience.

    In a speech at the Edinburgh Television Festival, Kevin Spacey said of viewers, “Give them what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in.” (He was talking about Netflix’s controversial decision to produce and release the first season of House of Cards all at once—a decision that paid off big time in the age of binge-watching and personalized TV schedules.)

    In a nutshell, if you work with people instead of trying to make them work with you, they’ll reward you with their time, attention, and loyalty. The same is true for your content—and, more specifically, your blog. Except instead of just time and attention, you’ll get more leads (and more customers) too.

    So, that said… What makes a great content experience?

    1. Content That’s Targeted… Like, Super-Targeted

    There’s so much content out there now that it’s easy for anything you publish to disappear into the abyss of “10 Ways This Sloth Is Amazing You Won’t Believe What Happens Next Plus Babies.” So forget about creating content that competes with what’s out there. Instead, focus on whom you want to reach and what it is they want, and need. Start by creating your buyer personas, then make sure every blog post you write is targeted to at least one of them.

    For content that clicks, take advantage of the knowledge that surrounds you. The sales team is an often-untapped resource for inspiration, and who knows better about what potential customers want than the people who speak to them every day? Similarly, your customer service or support team has invaluable insight into customer inquiries and pain points that you can address in your next blog post (hey, content marketing is as much about retention as acquisition).

    Also make sure to use the data at your disposal to constantly iterate your blog strategy. At Uberflip, we use our platform’s metrics to see which topics are resonating with our audience and ditch the ones that aren’t. But you can just as easily use Google Analytics to keep an eye on your blog post performance. Doing so ensures that you’re consistently creating content that’s relevant to prospective customers and will bring in qualified traffic instead of a bunch of useless hits.

    2. Navigation That Makes Sense

    Your visitors don’t want to have search for content; you don’t want them to have to, either. Creating a clear path that allows people to discover more content that’s relevant to them (instead of hoping they stumble across it) means deeper engagement, more time on site, and an audience that just plain loves you back.

    Create categories around topics that your buyer personas are interested in so that someone reading a blog post on, say, “10 Lures No Fish Can Resist” will have “You’ve Got Worms: Why Mother Nature’s Bait Is Best” right there waiting for them.

    Even better, try to include different types of content so they can consume a variety—e-books, videos, SlideShare presentations, whatever you have to offer that meets their needs—without much effort.

    People aren’t necessarily looking for an e-book vs. a blog post so much as they’re looking for an answer to a question or more information about a specific topic. It’s up to you to show the many ways you can provide value to them. After all, a blog isn’t just a blog anymore, but also a “learning center.”

    For example, when we started reorganizing the menu of our content hub for using Uberflip and HubSpot together, our knee-jerk reaction was to divide everything up by format: blog post, webinar, e-book. After giving it a little more thought, we arranged everything by both content type (like a stream dedicated to webinars) and general topics (streams with relevant blog posts, presentations, videos, etc.) to make it that much easier for people to find what they’re looking for.

    3. Easy Sharing for Maximum Caring

    When I’m reading a blog post and have to comb through the page to find sharing icons (or they’re not even there—sacrilege!), it burns me up a little bit (maybe because my job revolves around social media).

    People are busy! If they took time out of their day to read your blog post, don’t ask them for more effort just because they’d like to share it—especially since they’re choosing to basically promote you for free.

    Make it as instantaneous as possible for someone to go from thinking, “Hey, this is interesting,” to clicking that Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ button and sending their social seal of approval out to the world. (We use AddThis on our hub because it’s easy to implement and offers many sharing options.)

    You can also use nifty tools like ClickToTweet to make specific parts of a blog post—such as interesting facts or a quote—shareable. The more ways you can facilitate sharing of your content, and find ways to do the work on behalf of the reader, the better. And keep the details in mind, such as including your business’s Twitter handle in any automatic tweets so you can gain followers and monitor mentions, or hashtagging relevant keywords where you can.

    4. Content That Works Anywhere

    How many screens have you looked at today? In January of this year, 55% of all Internet usage in the United States was conducted via a mobile device. That’s a lot of people on a lot of devices… and if your blog isn’t optimized for mobile, it’s also a lot of missed opportunities for audience engagement and potential leads.

    The amazing content experience you’re providing your readers should extend to wherever they are, and more and more that’s on the go (or sitting on the couch, eating popcorn for dinner, and playing with their phone even though their laptop’s right there… Sound familiar, anyone?).

    Therefore, responsive design is an absolute must for a blog or website now that people are accessing content from a range of devices at any given time. No matter how incredible your latest blog post is, only a tiny portion of your audience will bother scrolling, zooming, and swiping to read it properly. The rest will leave, and do so with a bad taste in their mouth.

    5. The Right Calls to Action, in the Right Place, at the Right Time

    A lot of attention is paid to optimizing CTAs, with marketers agonizing over whether an exclamation mark converts better than a period, which color schemes trigger certain emotions, and whether button corners should be sharp or rounded.

    Not to say those aren’t important. They are. But the one thing that’s often forgotten about—as simple as it is important—is the context of the CTA.

    When creating a CTA, put yourself in the readers’ position and think about whether it’s truly relevant to them. It’s natural to want to focus on what you’re promoting at the time or to go for the hard-sell to prompt them to sign up for your product or service; but even the most tried-and-true copy will fall flat if what you’re offering doesn’t resonate with the readers. Ask yourself why they’re reading this post and what else you can offer them that will provide real value and turn them into a lead.

    In our hub’s SlideShare stream, for instance, we’ve placed a CTA to download a series of SlideShare templates we created. We’ve also placed overlay CTAs (also known as pop-ups) on each of our blog posts to subscribe to our Hub, but they appear only after the viewer has had the page open for 60 seconds—to give them time to read part of the post before deciding whether they’d like to keep hearing from us.

    If the CTA is contextual, it puts you that much closer to a conversion.

    What other tips do you have for optimizing your blog? Share the wealth in the comments!

  4. #SocialSkim: Fresh From Apple, Instagram for Couponing, Twitter ‘Buy’ Button, More!

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    Get the latest on Apple’s freshest products (and less-fresh promo vid), plus a retailer’s use of Instagram for creative couponing, Twitter’s “buy” button experiments, and a Tinder for marketers and agencies. Skim to taste the buzz!

    Tweets of 9/11 past. Feeds were packed with memorials marking the 13th anniversary of the attacks of 9/11. On Thursday, former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who served under George W. Bush, livetweeted  his experiences of the 2001 tragedy as it unfolded, creating a layer of informational intimacy that we didn’t have before. We relived those first moments of learning the news as he describes the President’s reaction to hearing it… while in an elementary school classroom he was visiting. The livetweets include both video and images. See more on his Twitter account, @AriFleischer.

    Memorial-tweet with caution. Not every 9/11 mention was met with positive attention, and one Twitter user in particular spent much of the day sarcastically responding to brands who recognized the day. Many of those tweets are funny and reflect how people feel when they see a brand get involved in what people consider a marketing no-go zone. An event this emotionally charged is often a losing proposition for brands: Is the best position non-promotional reverence, silence, or a charitable act? Whatever you decide, be ready to assume both positive and negative responses, and avoid acting out of character, which quickly attracts derision.

    Got the time? Apple does. Apple’s announced a bigger, slimmer iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, and an Apple Watch that’ll go on sale in 2015. iOS 8, built to support your new must-have phone, comes out later this month—so don’t download that update unless you want a way slower iPhone than you already have (until you buy the new hardware. Flashback to The Oatmeal’s take on [what it’s like to own an Apple product between the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, and here’s how the Apple Watch will change your fitness regime (Apple hopes).

    Below is “Perspective,” the three-minute film that Apple screened for its event. Packed with optical illusions, it bears an uncomfortable resemblance to an OK Go video that the band created after pitching its concept to Apple first, hoping for a collaboration. Not surprising: the same production company, 1stAveMachine, made both. But the OK Go version already has 10 million views.

    What’s topping the Viral Charts? Not so ironically, it’s IKEA’s “bookbook”, a super-clean but tongue-in-cheek plug for its latest catalog, created in the style of a typical Apple ad. Minimalist? Check. Packed with hyperbolic ways to describe simple functionality? Check. Effective? Double-check (9.6 million views since last week!).

    Hey, my Netflix feels slow. It may be psychological, but it’s just as powerful. On September 10, a slew of top sites, including Netflix, Etsy, Tumblr, and Grooveshark, feigned slower service (by depicting a spinning loading icon) to push the FCC to enact stronger protections for Net neutrality, a principle that means no online content is prioritized above others (in terms of speed). As a handy example of life without Net neutrality, ISPs could block or slow down sites that don’t agree to pay them a higher or “premium” fee. The FCC is currently considering new rules since a federal court struck down previous enforcements of Net neutrality in January. Apart from waiting longer for your Etsy homemade bunny site to load, a less neutral Net would easily trickle down to higher costs and less visibility for young sites that don’t have Netflix-sized budgets. To weigh in, submit your comments to the FCC by Monday.

    Coupon-clippers use Instagram, too. Swedish retailer Ahlens promoted its summer collection, and courted a new market of younger shoppers, with an Instagram promo combining gamification, hashtagging, and discounts. In a series of separate Instagram videos (example here), a number of Ahlens products flashed by. If you were fast enough to grab a screenshot of one and share it with the right hashtag, you’d get the item at half-price when you showed up with the proof at the store.

    When a Bud’s as easy to share as a Like. For a special birthday promotion this week, Bud Light partnered with gift-delivery and fulfillment firm Gratafy to enable people to give Facebook friends vouchers for Bud or Bud Light. Anheuser-Busch VP of consumer connections Lucas Herscovici justified the campaign by calling beer “the original social network.” (Guess that wasn’t bars, then.) The campaign was good for Denver and Chicago-based users (over 21, obviously).

    Big personal news: I’m getting married! Not really. Marguerite Noriega, director of social media at Fusion, found that by incorporating hot phrases into a Facebook post, she could trick Facebook’s algorithms into prioritizing it on her friends’ News Feeds. The post in question, packed with handy “life milestone” keywords, headlined her friends’ News Feeds for four days. (Looks like exclamation points help a lot, too.) We’re not sure whether it’ll work for marketing posts, but if you can wiggle “I’m engaged!” into your campaign posts in a clever and relevant way, more power to you—until the algorithm is adjusted, anyway.

    Hey, is that expensive production? No, it’s Hyperlapse! Fallout Boy used the free Instagram tool, which lets you make super-stable (and super-cool) timelapses for instant sharing, for its latest video, “Centuries.” To create it, the band’s agency sent a videographer out into Chicago to create clips, which were later brought together as a tribute to the city. It’s already clocked over a million views in just a couple of days, proof of how Hyperlapse, which launched in August, can lend quality-production clout to your creative efforts.

    Impulse-buy while tweeting. Twitter’s announced plans to test a “Buy” button on select tweets from its test partners. The button will appear for a small percentage of US users; depending on how the tests fare, that percentage will increase over time. Once you click “Buy,” you’ll get product details and be prompted to enter shipping and product information, which is sent to the relevant merchant for delivery. Partners include Fancy, Gumroad, Musictoday, and Stripe.

    A faster way to an agency short-list. You’ve heard of Tinder , which helps local singles hook up fast by scrolling through photos and starting up a chat. Now there’s Pitcher, an app that lets marketers do the same with agencies. To ensure you cover relevant ground, upload a pitch, complete with title, brand category, campaign type, budget, and number of agencies ideally involved. The app will then scroll through Amsterdam’s top 80 agencies and provide a shortlist, depending on the agency’s specialty, past clients, and media experience. Pitcher is currently available only for the Amsterdam market, but you can test it on Android or iPhone.

    How to pitch a ho-hum product. HubSpot’s gathered five campaigns that cleverly promote products considered boring. The list includes well-knowns such as Tipp-Ex’s “A Hunter Shoots a Bear” and Virgin America’s foot-tappin’ safety video, but it also includes Esurance’s #EsuranceSave30 campaign. You don’t need to spend a lot to score big on social, but you might want to doodle out a few brainstorms to ensure you’re hitting the right buttons and staying on-message. (Incidentally, Doodle Revolution founder Sunni Brown has great tips for that.)

    Don’t let a great post become a one-hit wonder. Boot Camp Digital’s got an infographic that explains how to promote content, then re-promote it weeks or months later to optimize your reach. Tips include Pinning infographics 4-6 times one month apart, and setting reminders that tell you when it’s time to repromote.

    We’ll wrap with some quirky pop culture. In this bitingly funny video, video creator Paul Gale “reveals” why Starbucks baristas might often (and imaginatively) spell your name wrong. The video’s already scored 2.4 million views by triumphant people who actually seem thrilled to discover the “secret”; more interestingly, it riffs off a Starbucks quirk, which can be perceived as negative, in a way that endears people more to the brand and its people. That isn’t easy work, but it’s social media gold—and Starbucks is laughing along with him.

  5. Blog and Social Media Usage by Fortune 500 Companies

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    by Ayaz Nanji

    Currently, 157 companies on the Fortune 500 list (31%) have public-facing corporate blogs, a decrease of 3% in the number of blogging companies from 2013 levels, according to according to recent research conducted by Nora Ganim Barnes, PhD, at The Center for Marketing Research, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.

    Companies that blog include two of the top five corporations on the 2014 Fortune 500 list (Wal-Mart and ExxonMobil), leaving the other three (Chevron, Apple, and Berkshire Hathaway) without a public-facing blog.

    In 2011 the same study found only 23% of Fortune 500 companies had a public-facing corporate blog. In 2012, this increased to 28%, and then to 34% in 2013 before dropping a bit this year.

    Most companies that choose to blog do so regularly and effectively: 78% of the public-facing blogs from Fortune 500 companies are kept current, take comments, have RSS feeds, and take subscriptions, the analysis found.


    Blog use varies widely by industry: For example, 44% of specialty retail companies have a corporate blog, whereas only 7% of companies in the mining/crude-oil production vertical have a blog. Industries with no public-facing blogs include tobacco, pipelines, and railroads.

    Below, additional key findings from the report.

    Social Media Usage

    • 83% of Fortune 500 companies have corporate Twitter accounts with a tweet in the previous 30 days, a six percentage-point increase over 2013. Seven of the top 10 companies (Wal-Mart Stores, Exxon, Chevron, Phillips 66, General Motors, General Electric, and Ford Motors) consistently post on their Twitter accounts; Berkshire Hathaway, Apple, and Valero Energy do not tweet.
    • 80% of Fortune 500 companies are now on Facebook, a 10-point increase over last year. All of the top 10 companies (Wal-Mart Stores, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Berkshire Hathaway, Apple, Phillips 66, General Motors, Ford Motors, General Electric, and Valero Energy) have corporate Facebook pages.
    • 67% of companies have a YouTube channel, a 2-point decrease from last year. Every company ranked in the top 10 has its own YouTube channel.
    • 97% of Fortune 500 companies have a corporate presence on LinkedIn, the highest adoption rate of any social media platform.

    About the research: The report was based on an analysis of the public-facing blogs and social media accounts of the companies on the 2014 Fortune 500 list. The research focused on the primary/listed corporation and did not examine segments/subsidiaries which may have their own digital presences.