Link Building: The Art of Networking

If you think of your website as a person and their audience as their friends, link building is networking.  You want to make a connection and ultimately get that website to talk to their friends about you. In order to do this you need to be worthy of bringing up. What is going to incentivize your new connection to talk about you?

networking

Just as you tend to seek out friends with similar interests think the same way about your website. You want to find similar websites who complement your interests. Getting a link on a automotive blog is great if you’re a mechanic but kind of pointless if you’re a bookstore.

And finally remember “you are who you run with” so keep yourself in good company. Avoid low-quality sites, a few good friends is much better than 100 bad ones.

As you embark on building new connections I’ve compiled just a few of my favorite tactics to help you with your link building efforts, but there are plenty more out there:

  • Become A Source

Press Requests are one of my favorite link building tools because it’s all about connecting people.  A few sites, such as HARO and Source Bottle,  will connect you with journalists who are looking for you or your client’s insight on whatever they may be writing on. Matthew Barby has a great article on it which you can check out here.

  •  Give Credit Where Credit Is Due 

Look for unlinked mentions. My favorite way to do this is to set-up a Google Alert. If your brand is mentioned somewhere on the Internet Google Alerts will send you an email of the mention. Oftentimes it may be a mention in an article that mentions your brand but does not link to your site. From there you can reach out to the author, webmaster or editor to ask if they would include the link in the mention.

  • Exclusive Discounts

Everyone wants a friend who works for their favorite brand – that means access to discounted merchandise! You need to become that friend. Offering discounts can definitely catch the eye of a blogger who might want to promote the discount to their loyal readers. However it’s importance to keep relevancy in mind. The more relevant your discount to the blogger the more likely they are to want to promote it. A simple way to do this is having a custom promo code for that blog that this blogger can offer to their audience.

  • Go Back To School

A school website is often a very authoritative site on the internet, they have plenty of traffic, provide strong content, and have domain authority. Going back to our earlier analogy, educational websites are like a friend who has been in the industry over 10 years and has tremendous influence. There are some different ways to go about this one obvious way would be offering a scholarship. For instance you may offer $1000 essay scholarship contest and reach out to educational institutions to promote it. However, you can take the same idea from the third tip and apply it here. Plenty of colleges showcase student discounts on their websites. Giving a special discount to students adds value to their site and gets you a link on your site (not to mention a new audience).

college

All of this said, even after you get your link keep in mind that websites are people. Building a good relationship with a particular site is just like keeping up a friendship (it takes work).

Happy networking and hopefully your site turns out alright when Google decides to free the Penguins sometime soon. 🙂

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What Happened In Google On June 16th, 2015?

Moz just released this month their MozCast year in review infographic which does a really good job breaking down some of the most volatile days in search over the last two years. I highly recommend checking it out!

Before we proceed any further it’s important to give some background on exactly how MozCast tracks things and what “volatile” means in this context. MozCast tracks a set of 1,000 keywords every 24 hours and pulls the top 10 organic results. MozCast then compares those set of kewyords to the top 10 keywords from the previous day. The hotter the temperature on MozCast the larger the change in those rankings. The bigger the change the more volatile the algorithm is that day.

One thing that may surprise you is while some of the higher temperature days (70 degrees being the average) do correspond with confirmed updates there are plenty of days where there was clearly some sort of change occurring in the search algorithm but no confirmed update. As Gary Illyes points out frequently, as seen in this tweet below, Google makes hundreds of changes to their algorithm.

Takeaways

Getting back to the infographic, some of the things I took away from this informative infographic were:

  1.  There appear to be a lot more confirmed updates in 2014 versus 2015.
  2.  I was pretty surprised the most volatile day June 16th 2015 was not attributed to a confirmed update. In fact the year before the closest date that was as volatile was May 19, 2014 which was the Panda 4.0 update. As a refresher, this update hit low-quality content. Some of the so-called losers of this update included popular sites like Retailmenot.com and Ask.com.

So what was the June 16, 2015 update?

We may never know definitively but there were some good theories. Gary Illyes came out and dismissed the theories that this was a Penguin or Panda update. Moz’s Dr. Pete had a good theory that it might have something to do with HTTPS but Gary from Google also dismissed that theory. So what was it?

One interesting part of the Dr. Pete’s theory was that Wikipedia was during this same time frame switching their site over to HTTPS. Could one very large site trigger tons of search term movement? Personally, I believed this theory originally only because if you think about it a lot of Wikipedia content is pulled into top search positions as well as the knowledge graph. Since MozCast is focused on the top 10 organic results it seems completely likely that a site that shows up in the majority of top organic results could be catalyst for all of this. However, this theory wasn’t quite accurate either.

Searchmetrics‘ founder Marcus Tober came out with what I consider to be the leading and best supported theory. It appears that news sites specifically such as Time.com and Techcrunch.com came out with better rankings after June 16, 2015. See this chart below via Searchmetrics as evidence of the increase in search visibility for Techcruch.com

techcrunch-visibility-searchmetrics-1024x588

via Searchmetrics

Interestingly enough, Google Trends had a relaunch on June 17th, one day after all of this activity in the search engine. It appears this update allowed Google to immediately update based on the trending topics. For instance if a certain news event broke and this led to more searchers typing a query into Google the search engine could immediately serve up the most relevant content, both new articles and old articles about that same topic.

Personally, I have to wonder if this update had something to do with when RankBrain started to take a larger part in Google’s algorithm.

I think the big takeaway here is that the algorithm is quite literally always changing and we should by no means only pay attention to the Penguin, Pandas and Mobilegeddon updates.

Smart Goals In Google Analytics

I was excited to find out Google has announced and started rolling out  smart goals last week. This new feature is a valuable tool for many small to medium sized businesses who don’t have a way of tracking conversions on their website.

Smart goals are a type of goal within Google Analytics. So what’s so smart about these goals? For some websites you may not have a thank you page or any sort of goal that you can set. This is where smart goals are valuable. Smart goals use machine learning in order to pull data from other websites to determine which visits to your site would likely convert. By pulling data from those thousands of websites (which by the way are anonymous at this time) Google is able to determine what behavior on the site correlates with users converting. An example of this might be a user spending over 10 minutes on your site while also navigating to 4 or more pages.

Another aspect of this new feature which makes it incredibly compelling is the fact that it is relatively easy to set up by setting it up within Google Analytics (please note smart goals are only eligible in your account if you have your Adwords account linked to Analytics). There is no need to add a piece of code to your site, a task that might hinder many small businesses from being able to track conversions in the first place.

One you have smart goals set up you can then pull the data into Adwords and optimize for smart goals as your conversions.

In my opinion, smart goals are a win for Google in two respects. First, by being able to show some form of conversions Google gives many of those small and medium business advertisers a chance to see the return on their ad spend (potentially for the very first time).

Second, indirectly Google is further aiding businesses in improving their user experience on the site. Even if a small business owner doesn’t change a single thing on their website if they know that their existing landing pages convert better on 5 specific keywords out of the 100 keywords they have in their campaigns, that advertiser is likely to focus future spend on those 5 terms. This in turn drives the most targeted traffic to their site, which at the end of the day is what Google wants for users clicking on ads.

It’s also good to see such a valuable feature ,aimed at benefiting mainly small business owners, roll out not long after the not so local-friendly Google+ update around Thanksgiving.

4 Facebook Advertising Strategies For Local Businesses

Facebook Advertising is an ideal platform for local business owners because of its low cost and local targeting capabilities. Furthermore, Facebook friends tend to live and work near you. Therefore, for the most part, your Facebook newsfeed is a “main street” of sorts in your town’s digital world. Similar to putting up a billboard on a local highway, Facebook Advertising can allow a small business owner to quickly get his or her brand in front of a whole community.

But wait – what about investing in pay per click ads in which you can go after people already looking for your service? While Facebook can definitely target users a great deal, it is a different platform than a search engine. People go on Facebook to connect and share with their friends. As a result, people are spending more time on Facebook: currently, the national average is 40 minutes per day. Therefore, it’s completely possible that your ad could appear multiple times on an individual’s Facebook page, each of those times building your brand awareness in a similar fashion to that billboard you see every day on your way to work.

You may, in fact, be showing your ads to someone who already has a barber they go to, but then again… would that same person likely be looking for a barber in a search engine? With a compelling FB ad, you can get your brand in front of that potential customer who would not have found you otherwise.

After working with dozens of local small businesses as well as a few national brands, I’ve noticed what works for a national client doesn’t always work for the local ones. In order to create that compelling Facebook ad, I’ve compiled 4 strategies to help a local business owner.

  1. Take Advantage of Local Awareness Ads

Local Awareness Ads were really one of the first methods in which Facebook truly made it clear that they were an advertising platform for local small business owners. This ad objective – which is actually titled “reach people near your business” in Facebook Ads Manager – is definitely one worth taking advantage of if you are a local business.

The greatest advantage comes from the fact you can make your targeting hyper-local, targeting Facebook users as close as within 1 mile of your business. In contrast, traditional Facebook advertising location targeting only lets you get as granular as targeting a particular city.

This feature is great to capture individuals who may be dining near your business, working near you, or even traveling in the area. In the above ad, we call out the fact that the user is nearby. The user’s proximity to your business makes the ads automatically personalized to your user at that exact moment. G/O Digital surveyed users and found that 60% of users looked at a local business’ Facebook page before they visited that local business. This indicates there were quite a few users looking on Facebook prior to visiting a particular location.

One critique of local awareness ads is the lack of more robust targeting segmentation, which is often praised as one of the strengths of the Facebook Advertising platform overall. The lack of more robust targeting segmentation is in reference to the fact that, at this point, you are not able to specify beyond gender, age, and location whom your ads will show to for Local Awareness Ads. While it is true this targeting is missing, it stands to reason your audience size for an ad like this would be incredibly small.

Additionally, unlike the other Facebook ad objectives available, the ad objective for Local Awareness Ads is to go after people near your business. The local targeting is the main objective of the ad itself; therefore, it would be deviating from the point of the ad to include interest-based or behavior-based targeting.

Local Awareness Ads also allow you additional call-to-actions, namely “Get Directions” and “Call Now.” The reason the calls-to-action are a little different with this ad objective is because you are reaching customers who are nearby, oftentimes on a mobile device. In the example below, I included a “Call Now” button and indicated that the potential customer could call and book their service appointment within the ad text.

facebook local awareness ad example

 

  1. Use Images Of Your Storefront In Your Ads

When it comes to Facebook Advertising, images really are a crucial part of your ad. A lot of my clients obsess over what image they should be using in their ads. A few spend a great deal of money on graphic designers to bring to life what they think is the perfect image often times including a great deal of text. However, most of my local clients simply don’t have the resources to spend on creating a custom image.

One engaging image you can use without the help of a graphic designer – and one that most local businesses have – is a picture of your storefront. If you are targeting local customers, whether through a Local Awareness Ad or simply a city, chances are that the person has passed your business at some point. Seeing your storefront in the ad should immediately look familiar to them. Just as you scroll through Facebook and stop to look at a picture of your friend in front of a new car they just bought, you’ll immediately stop and look twice at an ad with a familiar place in the image.

This is one of those advantages that not all national brands can leverage and one that a local business owner should consider adding into their Facebook ad.

It’s also worth noting that Facebook actually has a 20% text rule for their ads. This means that if your image has over 20% text on it, it cannot be used in your ad. This rule exists because Facebook wants you to use engaging images not covered in text. They want this so much that they even provide stock photos within their ads platform. So don’t worry about all the text in your images – a high-quality photo is worth a 1,000 words.

  1. Provide Local Context In Your Ad Text

While you may be ditching text in your images, you can convey your message in your ad copy. In a Facebook ad, there are a few places to include ad copy, depending on which ad objective you choose.

What makes a local business unique is your proximity to your market. Leveraging this information in your ad copy is a no-brainer, but you don’t have to just take my word for it. A recent study found that 4 out of 5 consumers want ads customized to their immediate surroundings.

Consider including the name of the shopping center your business is situated in or even local landmarks near your business.

  1. Leverage Videos In Your Ads

Earlier this year Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg outlined the benefit in video ads specifically for small business owners. Sandberg spoke to the fact that video ads on Facebook present an opportunity for small business owners who might not have the resources to hire a film crew and buy a television ad. Sandberg has a point. Facebook, much like television, is a form of entertainment that has a large captive audience. Getting in front of that captive audience with a video that is engaging is a new ad format worth exploring.

But can a video ad on Facebook viewed on your mobile phone really compete with a television commercial on a 50-inch television? An interesting study, released this past June, actually examined the neuroscience behind viewing ads on a smartphone versus a television. The study found that people were more attentive and tended to feel more positive towards information presented on a mobile phone. I suspect part of the positive impact on those viewing the ads may simply be because the ads shown to users on Facebook may be more targeted to that specific user.

In order to begin introducing video ads to your local businesses’ Facebook advertising campaign, it’s good to go back to a point that Sandberg made reference to earlier: that you do not have to hire a film crew to put an ad on Facebook. Video ads can be completely unique to your business. A car dealership might highlight the inside of a vehicle in a video ad, whereas a bakery might show footage from the kitchen of a variety of pastries being made.

Keep in mind that this ad is showing up in someone’s newsfeed; therefore, you want engaging content that is going to catch a user’s eye. While you can include sound with your video, it’s important to note that 65% of Facebook video views occur on mobile phones. So take a second to think about where your users might be if they are on their mobile phone, such as waiting in line at Starbucks or taking a break at their desk at work. The user may not be able to listen to audio. That being said, having a video that can convey your message without sound is incredibly important.

In Conclusion

Whether you employ all or just one of these local Facebook advertising strategies, you will help your local business build brand awareness in the populous digital highway that Facebook has become.

 

5 Chrome Extensions You’ll Need In Online Marketing

The famous philosopher, Confucius, once said “The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools.” While Confucius lived centuries before computers or the Internet ever existed he had a point that is still completely valid, we all need to sharpen our tools every now and then.

Chrome extensions might be one of the most undervalued tools we have at our disposal, and every once in a while it’s good to see what extensions you could be using to a greater extent. Especially if you spend all day on a computer and happen to work in online marketing. There are so many extensions out there but I have a few which I find truly helpful on weekly basis. I’ve outlined 5 of my favorite Chrome extensions that help me do my job in online marketing. Hopefully, they can help you “sharpen your tools”:

google tag assistant extensionTag Assistant (Google)

One of the most frustrating things a PPC manager can deal with is an improperly placed tag of any sort. I’ve been victim to far too many Webmasters who either didn’t place a tag or failed to properly implement my conversion codes and remarketing tags. The good news is Tag Assistant from Google will save you from all that by allowing you to quickly check your pages for your tags. It goes one step further and actually troubleshoots any issues with the tag so you can identify problems quickly.

MozBar 

Are you really an SEO Manager if you don’t have the MozBar extension? Alright, maybe that’s too harsh, but seriously this extension is a big time saver when it comes to doing a lot of the research I find myself doing as a SEO manager. MozBar is capable of quite a bit for just an extension. For starters, you can quickly check out SEO metrics right on the search engine results page. Speaking of search, another valuable feature of MozBar is the ability to create custom searches with modifiers like city, state, and even search engine. Then you can take it one step further an actually get an analysis of your on-page elements such as title, meta description, headers and more.

mozbar tool

Facebook Pixel Helper 

If you’ve ever done a FB ad… you will understand how valuable this tool is for your advertising campaigns. This is essentially Tag Assistant for Facebook Pixels (custom audience pixels or conversion tracking pixels). You can quickly see if the pixel is placed on the correct page and also see if there happen to be any issues with it that you may need to troubleshoot.

Bit.ly

This nifty extensions allow you to quickly shorten links to share wherever you please. Since you are signed into your bit.ly extensionBit.ly account it saves all of them so you can still go back and check out your latest stats on links you’ve recently shared. So if I come across an article I love and I want to share on social media I can select the extension and right there on the page copy my shortened url to share.

Eye Dropper

Eye Dropper is pretty much the perfect extension for a graphic designer or an online marketer who occasionally needs to function as one. I’m relatively new to Eye Dropper, but I already like it a lot because it allows you to quickly pick a color from any website and save it for later. It’s very much like the eye dropper tool in Photoshop except now you can do it all while surfing the web without having Photoshop open at all.  You can save it to use in photoshop or in presentations you might be working on. In particular, I find it useful when creating custom infographics or social content for clients and wanting to use their company’s colors in it.

Pin It Button

This one is more of a personal favorite, but I originally found it two years back when I was purely a social media manager so it is still completely applicable. To get things started you download the Pin It Button and  sign in to your Pinterest account. From that point on when you’re browsing the web and you see a pair of boots you want to check out later you can hit your Pin It button and it will pull the image and link to web page into a pin and pin it to your board of choice all while not even leaving the webpage. I use it as a way to save gift ideas or just create a dream board of things I want on Pinterest. You can also use it to save articles to go back and read later. It’s a visual way to bookmark pages you want to check out later.

What are some of your favorite Chrome extensions? I always love finding new ones, so comment below!

Competitor Research In Adwords

Want to know how you stack up against your competition when it comes to Adwords? There’s actually a handy report easily accessibly in Adwords that will tell you JUST that.

Here’s how you get to it:

Select the “Details” dropdown menu on the all campaigns dashboard view after logging into your Adwords account and select all under “Auction Insights.”

auction insights

Once in the Auction Insights Report there are some pretty interesting insights. First, you’ll see who Adwords considers your competitors based on the keywords you are bidding on. In this example (screenshot below), the competitor sites are blurred out, but in your account you’ll have actual URLs of competitors. You may find you have some competitors you weren’t even aware of who are running on the very same keywords as you.

There are some terms in the report that are familiar to you if you’ve been running ads already such as “average position” this is the average position of your ads. However, the rest of these columns may be new to you, so I have written out explanations below:

auction insights

Impression share: shows you how often you are showing up for your keywords. The higher this is the better you’re doing at this. (We’re getting close to 94% of the impression share in the above example which is great!)

Overlap rate: the percentage of times that your ads show WITH your competitor’s ads.

Position above rate: this is the percentage of times that a competitor is ranking above you.  Perhaps you have a competitor who is ranking above you a good amount of time. In this screenshot below I have one competitor who is ranking above me over 70% of the time. Crazy right? Don’t freak out just yet. Take a look at the overlap rate, we only overlap on terms under 9% of the time. So while looking at this report, focus on your main competitors and don’t get caught up in trying to out bid every competitor on every term.

Photo 4

Top of page rate: another interesting metric calculates the percentage of times you or your compeitior’s ads are showing up in the top three ads on a page.

Outranking share: this one is a bit of formula which I’ve written out below,

Number of times your ad ranked higher in an auction than a competitor (plus) the number of times your ads showed when your competitor’s did not (divided by) total number of ad auctions you participated in.

The auction insights report is incredibly simple but a great resource to use to see how you stack up against the competition.

Google Analytics For Social

Understanding the impact your social campaign is having on your overall website traffic can be difficult if yoSocial - Analytics (Photo 1)u’re not sure where to look. Did you know that Google Analytics has a whole section devoted just to social? Below I’ll take you through it!

First, how do you get there? The social section sits right under Acquisition (see screenshot). Once you’re there I recommend starting first on the overview section. Please keep in mind that this section  is really only helpful if you have goals set up in analytics (goals=conversions). Otherwise you have no conversions to track. Not familiar with goals? Check out how to set up goals in analytics here.

Overview

While in overview, you’ll see just that, an overview of conversions that your social channel is driving (the social channel can encompass multiple social networks). The circle graph shows your total conversions, contributed social conversions and your “last interaction” social conversions.

Social - Analytics (Photo 2)

 

Before we dive any further let’s define these three terms:

Conversions: A conversion happens  when someone takes an action that you’ve defined as valuable to your business, such as an online purchase or filling out a form on your site.

Contributed social conversions: The number of conversions that any of the social networks in the social channel assisted in converting. This happens whenever the social channel appeared anywhere along along a customer’s conversion path except as the final channel.

Last interaction social conversions: This is the number of conversions that the social channel completed. Another way to think of this is this was the last channel that a customer interacted with before converting.

This is valuable because by looking at this chart along with the breakdown on the side of sessions and conversions you’ll start to see exactly how much your social channel is helping you not only drive customers to your site but also convert your customers.

Tip: I would recommend also checking out  “shared URLs” to see some of your most popular content on social.

Conversions

While we are on the topic of conversions let’s hop down to the conversions tab of this social section. Here, by clicking on Assisted vs. Last Interaction Analysis we can zoom in further on assisted or contributed conversions and last click or direct conversions. Keep in mind in this particular screenshot below we are looking just at Facebook. I see there were 2 assisted conversions and 1 last click conversions on this network in the selected time frame.

Social - Analytics (Photo 3)

In the final column I can see a ratio of Assisted/Last Click Conversions. If this number is over 1 that means that this social network, in this case Facebook, is more effective at providing assists than last click conversions.  So why is this valuable?

If you know Facebook is a more of a “first click” interaction as opposed to a “last click” interaction you can better target your social messaging to those new customers who have little to no knowledge of your brand.

Network Referrals

The network referrals section is interesting because it provides a side by side chart of your overall sessions (in orange) with your sessions from social referrals (in blue). This is a great way to quickly identify a post that did really well on social and resulted in a lot of sessions. Additionally, I like how down below all of this it breaks out the different social networks and the average time on site from each network. This might be a good way to identify which social network is driving your ideal customers to your site.

Social - Analytics (Photo 4)

User Flow

The one thing I don’t like about the user flow functionality in Analytics is how much traffic there is condensed into one large chart. That being said, the social channel only user flow is neat because it is only a portion of your overall sessions (just those from the social channel) and breaks it down by social network.

Social - Analytics (Photo 5)

 

Even though I didn’t go through everything in this post I would highly encourage exploring the other parts of this social tab in analytics. If you’re active on any of Google’s Data Hub Partners, there’s a whole section for that called Data Hub Activity.  The one Data Hub Partner that most of us are familiar with is Google+. This functionality allow you to dive into specific social “conversations” about your site. Beyond that, the landing pages tab is incredibly helpful as you can take a closer look at the most popular landing pages from your social channels.

Those are just a few of the tools in Analytics to help you dive deeper into your social analytics. Hopefully, a few of them can be helpful.